IN­DIA-IRAN RE­LA­TIONS MUST MOVE BE­YOND SYM­BOL­ISM

Hindustan Times (Amritsar) - - Think! - ALI CHEGENI Ali Chegeni is am­bas­sador of the Is­lamic Re­pub­lic of Iran in In­dia The views ex­pressed are per­sonal

Un­der­scor­ing Iran-In­dia his­tor­i­cal and cul­tural re­la­tions has al­ways been the head­line of ev­ery bi­lat­eral meet­ing be­tween the of­fi­cials of both coun­tries. In my view, these in­her­ent ad­van­tages can­not be taken away, be­cause apart from the for­eign pol­icy agenda, these ties have pushed the re­la­tion­ship for­ward. These civil­i­sa­tional ties are the cor­ner­stone for draw­ing a mul­ti­di­men­sional and long­stand­ing re­la­tion­ship.

From San­skrit ties in the Vedic era and “Hindi Style” in Per­sian po­etry in the late me­dieval pe­riod to part­ner­ship en­gage­ments in con­tem­po­rary times, mu­tual in­ter­ac­tions have shaped an Indo-Per­sian cul­ture of which we have ev­ery right to be proud. Our mod­ern en­gage­ments have brought re­mark­able re­sults as In­dia and Iran have al­ways shared deep so­cial, cul­tural, eco­nomic and po­lit­i­cal re­la­tions. Our na­tions and peo­ples are bound by strong ties of friend­ship, mu­tual sym­pa­thy, trust, and re­spect for each other’s cul­tures, tra­di­tions and in­ter­ests.

How best can we move be­yond a sit­u­a­tion de­scribed as sym­bol­ism in the bi­lat­eral re­la­tions of both sides? I think the an­swer lies partly in Iran’s view on global and re­gional is­sues.

In this con­text, Iran and In­dia also have com­mon ground based on shared in­ter­ests, par­tic­u­larly in Afghanistan. The Is­lamic Re­pub­lic of Iran strongly be­lieves that pre­serv­ing the achieve­ments of the Bonn Agree­ment on Afghanistan, sup­port­ing the con­tin­u­a­tion of the demo­cratic process, strength­en­ing the cur­rent po­lit­i­cal or­der and struc­ture, and fa­cil­i­tat­ing the peace process within the Afghan­led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-con­trolled frame­work can help safe­guard sta­bil­ity and se­cu­rity of the re­gion.

To reach these goals, Iran and In­dia, with the as­sis­tance of the other coun­tries, must co­op­er­ate closely to im­prove the ca­pa­bil­i­ties of the Afghan gov­ern­ment, es­pe­cially Afghan se­cu­rity forces, and to en­hance com­bat­ing ter­ror­ism and il­licit drugs.

In an­other tran­si­tion, West Asia is mov­ing to Asian­i­sa­tion of its econ­omy in such a way that to­day East Asia and In­dia are the largest oil im­porters from the re­gion. Iran has also placed In­dia in its pri­or­ity in the line of Look East Pol­icy, the re­spect for which, the supreme leader of the Is­lamic revo­lu­tion has time and again ad­vised to suc­ces­sive Ira­nian gov­ern­ments. One can say with cer­tainty that there is con­sen­sus within Iran’s es­tab­lish­ment for strength­en­ing en­gage­ment and ce­ment­ing part­ner­ship with New Delhi. From our per­spec­tive, the rise of In­dia will be pos­i­tive in the path of mul­ti­lat­er­al­ism.

Many po­lit­i­cal and strate­gic is­sues could be listed to un­der­score the im­por­tance of both coun­tries for each other. In­dia, as one of largest economies, can be a part of Iran’s growth story. One of the most im­por­tant points of strength in bi­lat­eral ties is the geo­graph­i­cal close­ness of the two coun­tries that can gen­er­ate many op­por­tu­ni­ties for both sides, specif­i­cally in re­spect of eco­nomic and trade re­la­tions. Be­sides, In­dia and Iran en­joy po­ten­tial con­nec­tiv­ity as­sets in the re­gion. In my opin­ion, if both sides try to boost their eco­nomic pro­files, the strate­gic di­men­sion will en­sue soon.

Chaba­har port en­joys spe­cial strate­gic sta­tus and it is the gate­way to Afghanistan, Cen­tral Asia, Cau­ca­sus, Rus­sia and Europe. It should not be for­got­ten that Chaba­har is a free eco­nomic zone and given In­dia’s grow­ing ap­petite for en­ergy, it could turn into the largest in­dus­trial com­plex es­pe­cially on the down­stream and up­stream oil and gas sec­tor in the re­gion.

The In­ter­na­tional North–South Trans­port Cor­ri­dor (INSTC) is an­other axis of part­ner­ship. If cul­ti­vated prop­erly, this con­nec­tiv­ity project would be a game changer in the re­gion.

De­spite the fact that con­nec­tiv­ity and en­ergy will con­tinue to be the ba­sis of the re­la­tions, there are many op­por­tu­ni­ties in the non-oil sec­tors, di­rect in­vest­ment or joint ven­tures tar­get­ing the big mar­ket of the re­gion. We need some drivers and in­cen­tives in many ar­eas such as biotech­nol­ogy, IT, car man­u­fac­tur­ing and so on.

It is es­sen­tial to over­come bar­ri­ers such as bu­reau­cracy and third party. We have al­ready signed sev­eral MoUs in all the above ar­eas dur­ing the visit of Prime Min­is­ter Modi to Tehran in 2016 and Pres­i­dent Has­san Rouhani to New Delhi in 2018. We must trans­late these good in­ten­tions to ac­tions.

ONE CAN SAY WITH CER­TAINTY THAT THERE IS CON­SEN­SUS WITHIN IRAN FOR STRENGTH­EN­ING EN­GAGE­MENT AND CE­MENT­ING THE PART­NER­SHIP WITH NEW DELHI

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