Iran has said that it would welcome any peace initiative for de-escalating tensions with the United States. The two nations are in a state of confrontation owing to the killing of General Qassem Soleimani by the US and then a retaliation by Iran this morning in the form of missile strikes.

For now, there seems to be no end to the conflict and one would only expect an escalation in the days to come, which is a dangerous development. India could play an important role to de-escalate tensions.

Iran’s expectation from India:

The Iranian Ambassador to India, Ali Chegeni, said that India usually plays a very good role in maintaining peace in the world. At the same time, India also belongs to this region. We welcome all initiatives from all countries, especially India, as a good friend for years, to not allow escalation of tensions, the Iranian Ambassador also said.

Chegeni also said that they were not looking for war. We are looking for peace and prosperity for everybody in this region. We welcome an Indian initiative or any project that help peace and prosperity in this world, he also said.

The role India can play:

India has a very long standing relationship with Iran. Today, it is not only about oil. In fact in the year 2016, Narendra Modi became the first Prime Minister to visit Iran in 15 years. During the visit in May 2016, he had inked 12 pacts and the most important one was to develop the Chabahar port.

This port is crucial and India will have to chalk out its role carefully in such a scenario. With Pakistan’s attitude towards India, this port is extremely crucial. Former officer with the Research and Analysis Wing, Amar Bhushan told MyNation that this port is important for us economically. 

India will have to play the role of a moderator in the current scenario. The US and Iran are both important for India. Further the Shias in India are very favourable and are part of the mainstream political process. On the other hand, we also share very good ties with the US today and we cannot annoy them either. 

India can surely help iron the differences. It can convince both sides and play a balancing act. It would not be easy, but India can surely play a role, Amar Bhushan also said. 

Cleverly and carefully:

Amar Bhushan also said that the balancing act that India would play would be done cleverly and carefully. It could tell the US behind the scenes not to escalate tensions any further. India could also initiate a move in the United Nations to issue a statement for a halt.

India in this scenario would be a moderating factor. We have a lot to lose if tensions were to escalate.

In such a scenario, India would not please either countries too much. If we are seen only favouring the US, then we could lose out at Chabahar. Oil is not the first priority in this context and moreover there has been a slowdown on this front after the US sanctions. We have other issues such as trade and commerce to deal with when it comes to Iran, Bhushan added. In a nutshell, India could play a major role, but it would be all about moderation and balancing, Amar Bhushan said.

On Sunday, external affairs minister, S Jaishankar, spoke with his Iranian counterpart, Javed Zarif, and said that India remained deeply concerned about the levels of tension in the region. In a tweet, he later said, “Just concluded a conversation with FM @JZarif of Iran. Noted that developments have taken a very serious turn. India remains deeply concerned about the levels of tension. We agreed to remain in touch.” 

Following his meeting with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently, Jaishankar had said that energy security is part of the situation in the Gulf. However, there are other concerns as well about diaspora, regional security and trade, he added.

The importance of Chabahar:

India has a major stake in building the Chabahar port project in south-eastern Iran. Amidst the sanctions, the US had issued a waiver to develop the port. India and Iran had last month decided to accelerate Chabahar port cooperation during the visit by Jaishankar. 

This project is crucial for India as the port will allow India to bypass Pakistan and reach out to the global markets.

Further, it could also keep a check on China’s growing influence on the Indian Ocean. The Gwadar port, which is 100 kilometres away from Chabahar is being developed by China. The port will also help evolve bi-lateral investments in Iran. Further the rail line will help transport goods to Afghanistan.