PM Modi makes historic visit to Tehran: Here's a look at India-Iran relations

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Iran served as a fillip to the traditionally warm bilateral relations between the two nations. He visited the country following a trip by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Minister of State for Petroleum and Natural Gas Dharmendra Pradhan in April 2016.

According to this piece by The Diplomat, India has sent a clear message of wanting to strengthen economic ties with Tehran through these visits. Both the nations have always maintained friendly relations despite the sanctions imposed on Iran. Tehran's alignment with Washington during the Cold War and New Delhi’s non-aligned position proved to be an ephemeral deterrent. India’s disapproval of the 1979 Iranian Revolution also temporarily soured ties between the two nations.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Iran President Hassan Rouhani in Tehran on Monday. Twitter @MEAIndia

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Iran President Hassan Rouhani in Tehran on Monday. Twitter @MEAIndia

However, the amity was restored after the end of the Cold War and death of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini.

The visit of Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif to India in August 2015 paved the way for India’s investment in the Chabahar Port. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is slated to sign the deal on 23 May during his maiden visit to Iran. It will open the Indian economy to Central Asia, specifically Afghanistan and will bypass Pakistan, as Moneycontrol reported.

Iran has the world’s second largest reserves of natural gas and it was India’s second biggest oil supplier until the US imposed economic sanctions on it. Despite the sanctions, India had been importing oil from the country through a rupee payment agreement. It is Iran’s biggest oil client after China, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal.

With the sanctions removed from Iran, India can liberally trade with the nation. India’s imports from Iran have nearly tripled since the sanctions were lifted, hitting 540,000 barrels per day, according to Genscape. Moreover, India can now pay $6.5 billion that it owes to Iran for crude oil purchases.

Apart from the minor hindrance that the sanctions posed for India-Iran relations, they have supported each other. In 2012 after the sanctions were imposed, then prime minister Manmohan Singh visited Tehran to attend the NAM Summit, somewhat displeasing western nations.

More recently, during her visit to Tehran, Swaraj was assured by Iran’s president Hassan Rouhani that his country would provide support to India’s oil and gas needs.

The only factor that might cast a shadow on the blooming relations between India and Iran is Iran’s growing closeness with Pakistan and China. Common interests in Afghanistan have brought Iran and Pakistan closer. On the other hand, China is Iran’s biggest importer of crude oil. China and Pakistan's growing bilateral ties with Iran have no doubt worried India.

Besides economic and cultural connections, India and Iran are also connected by a love for 'Shah Rukh Khan and lipsticks', according to a report by the BBC. Interestingly, the National Jewellery Museum in Tehran house is home to many diamonds from India.

Whether or not this resumption of warm relations translates into actual on-ground results (investment, cooperation etc), remains to be seen, but as Modi enters the third year of his premiership, signs look good.

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Updated Date: May 23, 2016 14:36:39 IST

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