India–Iran relations

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India–Iran relations
Map indicating locations of Iran and India


Diplomatic mission
Embassy of Iran, New DelhiEmbassy of India, Tehran
Iranian Ambassador to India Ali ChegeniIndian Ambassador to Iran Gaddam Dharmendra

India–Iran relations (Hindi: भारत-ईरान संबंध; Persian: روابط هند و ایران) refer to the bilateral relationship between the Republic of India and the Islamic Republic of Iran. Independent India and Iran established diplomatic relations on 15 March 1950. During much of the Cold War, relations between India and the erstwhile Imperial State of Iran suffered due to their differing political interests: India endorsed a non-aligned position but fostered strong links with the Soviet Union, while Iran was an open member of the Western Bloc and enjoyed close ties with the United States.[1] While India did not welcome the 1979 Islamic Revolution, relations between the two states strengthened momentarily in its aftermath. However, Iran's continued support for Pakistan in the India–Pakistan conflict and India's close relations with Iraq during the Iran–Iraq War greatly strained bilateral ties.[2] In the 1990s, both India and Iran supported the Northern Alliance against the Taliban in Afghanistan, the latter of which received overt Pakistani backing and ruled most of the country until the 2001 United States-led invasion. They continued to collaborate in supporting the broad-based anti-Taliban government, led by Ashraf Ghani and backed by the international community, until the Taliban captured Kabul in 2021 and re-established the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. India and Iran signed a defence cooperation agreement in December 2002.[3]

From an economic perspective, Iran is the second-largest supplier of crude oil to India, supplying more than 425,000 barrels per day; consequently, India is one of the largest foreign investors in Iran's oil and gas industry.[4] In 2011, the US$12 billion-worth annual oil trade between India and Iran was halted due to extensive economic sanctions against Iran, forcing the Indian oil ministry to pay off debt through a banking system via Turkey.[5][6]

From a geopolitical perspective, despite the two countries having some common strategic interests, India and Iran differ significantly on key foreign policy issues. India has expressed strong opposition to Iran's nuclear program and while both nations continue to oppose the Taliban, India supported the presence of NATO-led forces in Afghanistan, unlike Iran.[7]

According to a World Service Poll conducted by BBC at the end of 2005, 71 percent of Iranians viewed India's influence positively, with 21 percent viewing it negatively—the most favourable rating of India for any country in the world.[8]

Current relations[edit]

Empress Farah Pahlavi and Emperor Mohammad Reza Pahlavi met India's Prime Minister Indira Gandhi during a state visit to India in 1970.
The Iranian Navy Band playing the Indian National Anthem during a ceremonial parade at Bandar-e-Abbas port; 28 August 2015

India and Iran have friendly relations in many areas, despite India not welcoming the 1979 Revolution. There are significant trade ties, particularly in crude oil imports into India and diesel exports to Iran. Iran frequently objected to Pakistan's attempts to draft anti-India resolutions at international organisations such as the OIC and the Human Rights Commission.[9] India welcomed Iran's inclusion as an observer state in the SAARC regional organisation. A growing number of Iranian students are enrolled at universities in India, most notably in Pune and Bengaluru. The clerical government in Tehran sees itself as a leader of Shiites worldwide, including India. Indian Shiites enjoy state support such as a recognised national holiday for Muharram. Lucknow continues to be a major centre of Shiite culture and Persian study in the subcontinent.

In the 1990s, India and Iran supported the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan against the Taliban regime. They continue to collaborate in supporting the broad-based anti-Taliban government led by Ashraf Ghani and backed by the United States. The two countries signed a defence cooperation agreement in December 2002.[3]

In 2010, Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, appealed to Muslims worldwide to back the freedom struggle in Jammu and Kashmir. India in turn, summoned the acting Iranian ambassador in New Delhi to lodge a formal protest.[10][11][12]

In August 2013, while carrying oil in the Persian Gulf, Iran detained India's largest ocean liner Shipping Corporation (SCI)'s vessel MT Desh Shanti carrying crude oil from Iraq.[13] Iran was resolute, and insisted the detention of the tanker was "a technical and non-political issue".[14]

On 22 May 2016, Prime minister Narendra Modi paid an official visit to Iran.[15] The visit focused on bilateral connectivity and infrastructure, an energy partnership, and trade.[16]

Just before Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Israel in July 2017, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, urged Muslims in Kashmir to 'repudiate oppressors'.[17][18]

Economic relations[edit]

Iran's trade with India exceeded US$13 billion in 2007, an 80% increase in trade volume within a year.[citation needed] Via third party countries such as UAE this figure reaches $30 billion.[19]

Oil and gas[edit]

In 2008–09, Iranian oil accounted for nearly 16.5% of India's crude oil imports.[citation needed] Indian oil imports from Iran increased by 9.5% in 2008–09 due to which Iran emerged as India's second largest oil supplier.[20] About 40% of the refined oil consumed by India is imported from Iran.[21] In June 2009, Indian oil companies announced their plan to invest US$5 billion in developing an Iranian gas field in the Persian Gulf.[22] In September 2009, the Mehr news agency reported a Pakistani diplomat as saying "India definitely quitted the IPI (India-Pakistan-Iran) gas pipeline deal",[23] in favour of the India–United States Civil Nuclear Agreement for energy security.[24] Iranian officials however said India is yet to make an official declaration.[23] In 2010, US officials warned New Delhi that Indian companies using the Asian Clearing Union for financial transactions with Iran run the risk of violating a recent US law that bans international firms from doing business with Iranian banks and Tehran's oil and gas sector, and that Indian companies dealing with Iran in this manner may be barred from the US.[25] The United States criticises the ACU of being insufficiently transparent in its financial dealings with Iran and suspects that much of their assets are funnelled to blacklisted organisations in Iran such as the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.[25] The United States Department of the Treasury also believes that Iran uses the ACU to bypass the US banking system.[25] On 27 November 2010, the Indian government, through the Reserve Bank of India, instructed the country's lenders to stop processing current-account transactions with Iran using the Asian Clearing Union,[25] and that further deals should be settled without ACU involvement.[26] RBI also declared that they will not facilitate payments for Iranian crude imports as global pressure on Tehran grows over its nuclear programme.[27] This move by the Indian government will make clear to Indian companies that working through the ACU "doesn't necessarily mean an Iranian counterpart has an international seal of approval". As of December 2010, neither Iran nor the ACU have responded to this development.[25] India objected to further American sanctions on Iran in 2010. An Indian foreign policy strategist, Rajiv Sikri, dismissed the idea that a nuclear armed Iran was a threat to India, and said that India would continue to invest in Iran and do business.[28] Despite increased pressure by the US and Europe, and a significant reduction in oil imports from Persian oil fields in 2012, leading political figures in India have clearly stated that they are not willing to stop trade relations altogether. To the contrary, they aim at expanding the commodity trade with the Islamic republic.[29]

Renewed increase in oil imports[edit]

While overall, India's total volume of imported crude has only been rising slightly from 3.2 million b/d in 2009–10 to 3.44 million b/d in 2012–13, imports from Iran have basically been fluctuating around 250,000 b/d from 2012 to 2013 and thus rising proportionally due to a halt for Iranian exports to Europe.[30] The recent detainment of an Indian tanker by Iranian officials is unrelated to the oil embargo,[13] but in an effort to save over US$8.5 billion in hard currency, and realising a 180-day waiver from US sanctions, India plans to increase Iranian imports by 11 million tons for 2014, in addition to the two million tons of crude oil shipped from Iran by June 2013, up 21.1% from last year.[citation needed]

Iran's Nuclear Interests[edit]

Embassy of India in Tehran

India, despite close relations and convergence of interests with Iran, voted against Iran in the International Atomic Energy Agency in 2005, which took Iran by surprise. A "welcoming prospect" Ali Larijani was reported as saying: "India was our friend".[31] Stephen Rademaker also acknowledged that India's votes against Iran at the International Atomic Energy Agency were "coerced":[32]

"The best illustration of this is the two votes India cast against Iran at the IAEA. I am the first person to admit that the votes were coerced."

The USA considers support from India – which is on 35-member board of Governors at the International Atomic Energy Agency – crucial in getting a sizeable majority for its proposal to refer the matter to the Security Council for positive punitive action against Iran. Greg Schulte, US ambassador to the IAEA, said "India's voice will carry particular weight...I hope India joins us in making clear our collective concerns about Iran's nuclear program". Schulte did not deny that the Indo-US nuclear deal was conditional to India supporting the US on the Iran issue. Appraising of the situation vis-a-vis Iran, a senior US official told the New York Times that The Indians are emerging from their non-aligned status and becoming a global power, and they have to begin to think about their responsibilities. They have to make a basic choice..[33] The Bush administration, however, recognized India's close relations with Iran and tempered its position, stating that India can "go ahead with a pipeline deal involving Iran and Pakistan. Our beef is with Iran, not the pipeline".


A highway between Zaranj and Delaram (Zaranj-Delaram Highway) is being built with financial support from India.[34] The Chabahar port has also been jointly financed by Iran and India. India alone plans to invest 20 Billion US dollars towards development of Chabahar port.[35] India is helping develop the Chabahar Port, which will give it access to the oil and gas resources in Iran and the Central Asian states. By so doing, India hopes to compete with the Chinese, who are building Gwadar Port, in Pakistan's Balochistan. Iran plans to use Chabahar for trans-shipment to Afghanistan and Central Asia, while keeping the port of Bandar Abbas as a major hub mainly for trade with Russia and Europe. India, Iran and Afghanistan have signed an agreement to give Indian goods, heading for Central Asia and Afghanistan, preferential treatment and tariff reductions at Chabahar.

Work on the Chabahar-Milak-Zaranj-Delaram route from Iran to Afghanistan is in progress. Iran is, with Indian aid, upgrading the Chabahar-Milak road and constructing a bridge on the route to Zaranj. India's BRO is laying the 213 km Zaranj-Delaram road. It is a part of India's US$750 million aid package to Afghanistan. The Chabahar port project is Iran's chance to end its US-sponsored economic isolation and benefit from the resurgent Indian economy. Along with Bandar Abbas, Chabahar is the Iranian entrepot on the north–south corridor. A strategic partnership between India, Iran and Russia is intended to establish a multi-modal transport link connecting Mumbai with St Petersburg, providing Europe and the former Soviet republics of Central Asia access to Asia and vice versa.

North-South Transport Corridor[edit]

North South Transport Corridor route via India, Iran, Azerbaijan and Russia

The North–South Transport Corridor is the ship, rail, and road route for moving freight between India, Russia, Iran, Europe, the Caucasus, and Central Asia. The route primarily involves moving freight from India, Iran, Azerbaijan and Russia via ship, rail and road.[36] The objective of the corridor is to increase trade connectivity between major cities such as Mumbai, Moscow, Tehran, Baku, Bandar Abbas, Astrakhan, Bandar Anzali, etc.[37] Dry runs of two routes were conducted in 2014, the first was Mumbai to Baku via Bandar Abbas and the second was Mumbai to Astrakhan via Bandar Abbas, Tehran and Bandar Anzali. The objective of the study was to identify and address key bottlenecks.[38][39] The results showed transport costs were reduced by "$2,500 per 15 tons of cargo".[39] Other routes under consideration include via Armenia, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan.


There are about 8,000 Iranian students studying in India. India provides 67 scholarships every year to Iranian students under ITEC, ICCR, Colombo Plan and IOR-ARC schemes. Every year around 40,000 Iranians visit India for various purposes.[40]

Kendriya Vidyalaya Tehran, the Embassy of India School, serves Indian citizens living in Tehran.


The world's largest population of Zoroastrians are the Parsi community in India. During the Arab conquest of Persia, many Zoroastrians migrated to the western coast of India and as a result the country has the largest population of Zoroastrians in the world. In the modern era, the Parsi community have contributed significantly to India and Pakistan in the areas of politics, industry, science and culture. Prominent Indian Parsis include Dadabhai Naoroji (three times president of Indian National Congress), Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw, nuclear energy scientist Homi Bhabha, industrialist JRD Tata and the Tata family. The rock star Freddie Mercury (lead singer of the band Queen) was an Indian Parsi born in Zanzibar. Zubin Mehta, a conductor of Western classical music orchestras, is also a Parsi originally from Mumbai.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Nanda, Prakash (2007). Rising India: Friends and Foes. Lancer Publishers, 2008. ISBN 9780979617416.
  2. ^ Hunter, Shireen (2010). Iran's foreign policy in the post-Soviet era: resisting the new international order. ABC-CLIO, 2010. ISBN 9780313381942.
  3. ^ a b Zeb, Rizwan (12 February 2003). "The emerging Indo-Iranian strategic alliance and Pakistan". CACI Analyst. Retrieved 21 August 2013.
  4. ^ "Iran's major oil customers, energy partners". 7 June 2009. Retrieved 13 July 2017.
  5. ^ Solomon, Jay; Sircar, Subhadip (29 December 2010). "India Joins U.S. Effort to Stifle Iran Trade". Wall Street Journal magazine. Retrieved 1 January 2011.
  6. ^ "India paid $5 bn Iran oil debt in full: central bank, AFP, 4 September 2011". Retrieved 13 July 2017.
  7. ^ "India's Iran calculus". Foreign Policy magazine. Retrieved 1 January 2011.
  8. ^ BBC World Service Poll Archived 18 January 2007 at the Wayback Machine GlobeScan
  9. ^ Indian Council of World Affairs(ICWA): Iran-India Relations: Exploring Co-operation in Challenging Times Retrieved 6 August 2010
  10. ^ "Twice in seven-day, Iran talk of oppressed Kashmiri". The Times of India. Retrieved 5 July 2017.
  11. ^ "Iran's supreme leader Khamenei rakes up Kashmir bogey twice in two weeks". Retrieved 5 July 2017.
  12. ^ "For the First Time in Seven Years, Ayatollah Khamenei Rakes Up Kashmir". The wire. Retrieved 27 June 2017.
  13. ^ a b Aneja, Atul (15 August 2013). "Iran detains Indian tanker carrying crude, wants undertaking". The Hindu. Chennai, India. Retrieved 15 August 2013.
  14. ^ "Indian ship detention purely a technical issue: Iran". The Hindu. Chennai, India. 17 August 2013. Retrieved 18 August 2013.
  15. ^ Iran, and greater West Asia. Retrieved 22 May 2016
  16. ^ "India to sign contract on Chabahar port during PM Narendra Modi's Iran visit". Retrieved 20 May 2016.
  17. ^ TIMESOFINDIA.COM (5 July 2017). "As Modi embraces Israel, Iran's Ayatollah Khamenei urges support for "oppressed Muslims" of Kashmir". Retrieved 13 July 2017 – via The Economic Times.
  18. ^ "Iran's Ayatollah Ali Khamenei urges Muslims in Kashmir to 'repudiate oppressors'". 26 June 2017. Retrieved 13 July 2017.
  19. ^ [1] Retrieved 14 August 2009
  20. ^ India buys more Iran, less Saudi crude oil in '08/09, Reuters, 7 May 2009
  21. ^ Does US road to better relations with Iran pass through India?, Christian Science Monitor, 18 July 2009
  22. ^ OVL, IOC, OIL to invest $5bn in Iran gas field, Times of India, 25 June 2009
  23. ^ a b "India has quit Iran gas pipeline deal: Report". The Times of India. Archived from the original on 10 September 2009.
  24. ^ "The Iran-Pakistan-India Pipeline…Delayed (Again)". Energy Tribune. Archived from the original on 3 June 2009. Retrieved 8 September 2012.
  25. ^ a b c d e Solomon, Jay; Sircar, Subhadip (29 December 2010). "India Joins U.S. Effort to Stifle Iran Trade". The Wall Street Journal.
  26. ^ "Indian stock market daily morning report (December 28, 2010, Tuesday)". Stock Markets Review. Archived from the original on 31 December 2010.
  27. ^ "RBI stifles Iran oil imports, says won't clear payments". The Times of India.
  28. ^ Corey Flintoff (22 July 2010). "In India, Few Takers For Tighter Iran Sanctions". NPR. Retrieved 9 March 2011.
  29. ^ S. Mehdudia (March 2013). "India not to halt imports from Iran". The Hindu
  30. ^ Iran Oil Desk Rhodium Group. Retrieved 6 November 2013
  31. ^ "India was our friend". Retrieved 8 September 2012.
  32. ^ "India's anti-Iran votes were coerced, says former US official". Retrieved 13 July 2017.
  33. ^ Rajghatta, Chidanand (20 September 2005). "US-India nuclear deal under Iran gun". The Times of India. Archived from the original on 17 May 2012.
  34. ^ Pajhwok Afghan News, 100-km road asphalted in Nimroz with Indian assistance
  35. ^ India push for Iran's key port development Tehran Times – 6 July 2010
  36. ^ "Despite U.S. opposition, Iran to be transport hub for North-South Corridor". The Hindu. 31 May 2015. Retrieved 11 April 2015.
  37. ^ "Transport Corridor offers many opportunities for Indo-Russian trade". Russia & India Report. 29 November 2012. Retrieved 11 April 2015.
  38. ^ "Dry Run Study of INSTC Trade Route". Business Standard. 20 March 2015. Retrieved 11 April 2015.
  39. ^ a b "Iran deal spells good tidings for India". The Hindu. 10 April 2015. Retrieved 11 April 2015.
  40. ^ [2] Retrieved 6 January 2013

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]