India Seeking Closer Ties with Iran to Balance Against Pakistan
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By 2010, India is poised to become the world's fourth-largest consumer of energy. As such, New Delhi has forged relations with countries that can assist it in its quest to secure adequate resources. It has even worked strategically with its age-old archenemy, Pakistan, in the international game of pipeline politics. India's relationship with Iran, however, goes beyond a proposed gas pipeline. Interestingly, Tehran yet again is the beneficiary of domestic and regional politicking. New Delhi too has both a commercial and military attraction to the clerical cadre in Tehran that has complicated India's decisions over Iran's nuclear flagrancies.For political, economic, religious, and energy reasons, political parties in India have encouraged relations with Iran. Principally, the Congress Party and Bharatiya Janata Party had sought closer ties with the theocratic Islamic republic to balance against Muslim Pakistan. Catering to the members of their domestic Muslim population who support their Iranian neighbors, the government has used this relationship to ingratiate itself with its Shi‘a constituency. India has the second-largest Shi‘a population in the world, and improving ties with Iran could send encouraging signals to the nearly 20 million Shi‘a in the country. Moreover, the Indian leftists see Iran as a vanguard challenging U.S. imperialism as members of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM).
India has growing economic ties with Iran and is investing heavily in its energy sector to provide a reliable source of fuel for India's growing economy. Strategically, while being careful not to upset its relations with the U.S. or the West, India also looks to Iran as a potential balance against Pakistan.