More radical outfits to proxy wars: What India should beware of after the Iran nuclear deal

The framework deal between Iran and P5 + 1 (five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany) is an international game changer and if everything follows the script and it becomes a done deal by 30 June it will drastically change the international power matrix.

The framework deal announced in Lausanne, Switzerland, will affect an amazing web of international power equations. The list of bilateral relations that the Iran deal will directly impact is fairly long: Saudi-US, US-Israel, Saudi-Iran, Israel-Iran, Iran-Yemen, Iran-Iraq, Iran-Syria, US-Iran, Iran-Russia, Iran-China, to name just a few.

 More radical outfits to proxy wars: What India should beware of after the Iran nuclear deal

Representational image. AFP

Before we touch upon this intricate web of international politics that will inevitably go through a tailspin in coming weeks and months, let’s first spare a thought about the event’s likely impact on India.

It is a universally known fact that the Shia Iran and the Sunni Saudi Arabia have been engaged in a long-drawn power struggle to enlarge their strategic footprints across the continents, not just the Islamic world. Thus far the sanctions-hit Iran was lagging behind Saudi Arabia but after the Lausanne arrangement is formalised by 30 June the international sanctions on Iran will be lifted and Iran will nose ahead of the Saudis.

Iran has been losing $1.6 billion a month in oil revenue alone because of sanctions. A resurgent sanctions-free Iran would suddenly see huge monies pouring in. One shouldn’t be surprised if Iran gets anywhere between 50 to 100 billion dollars extra per annum after the international sanctions are lifted.

This would mean that in a matter of years Iran would become a mirror image of Saudi Arabia, having deep and long pockets and courted by every power in the world.

An immediate impact of this will be that Iran will inevitably get into two activities that Saudi Arabia has been doing for decades: exporting its brand of Islamic ideology by bankrolling foreign institutions and conducting limited and localised wars through proxies.

The Iranian attention and money will definitely zero in on India’s immediate neighbourhood: Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Thus far the region was getting convulsed only by the Saudi export of extreme Wahabism. But now India and the world will have to cope with a new source of radicalism funding – Iran. Obviously Iran will play catch-up with the Saudis in this aspect. The result: newer radical outfits will mushroom in the region, this time of Shia variety.

And one must not forget that India is currently home to the second largest Muslim population in the world after Indonesia and is poised to edge past Indonesia in this respect by 2050. Also, of the 200 million Shia population in the world about one-fourth of that is in India. Therefore, India too won’t escape unscathed if Iran decides to mirror the long-practiced Saudi strategy.

One must not lose sight of strong reactions from Saudi Arabia and Israel, both of which feel terribly threatened by the Iran deal.

While officially Saudi Arabia has reacted cautiously and expressed the hope that the deal would strengthen the stability and the security of the world, the Saudis have hinted that they too would be pursuit of nuclear weapons as the Iran deal has left a small window open for Iran to pursue its nuclear programme which many feel may yield a nuclear weapon.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu remarked thus in a statement after speaking to US President Barack Obama on telephone: "A deal based on this framework would threaten the survival of Israel. Such a deal would not block Iran's path to the bomb. It would pave it."

India has been having very close relationship with each of the three powers in the volatile region: Iran, Saudi Arabia and Israel. None in this triangle has an easy relationship with the other two.

India can be sucked into this explosive triangle if it does not play its cards cleverly. It will be a headache for Indian diplomats as each of these three powers will inevitably be demanding more ‘loyalty’ from India and painting an ‘us-versus-them’ kind of scenario.

Pakistan is already experiencing this difficulty as Riyadh has asked Islamabad to lend military support to the Saudi-led coalition of ten nations for its war against Shia rebels in Yemen who are widely believed to be backed by Iran.

This is the price you pay when you become very close to one power. Pakistan is being torn asunder on this count as it cannot say no to the Saudis and at the same time if it lends military support to the Saudi war in Yemen it incurs the enmity of a resurgent neighbour like Iran with which it shares border.

India will have to be wary of these kinds of diplomatic pitfalls in near future. This is the diplomatic fallout of the Iran deal for India.

The writer, Firstpost Consulting Editor, is a strategic analyst who tweets @Kishkindha.

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Updated Date: Apr 03, 2015 22:12:23 IST