India’s Policy towards Iran

Published date01 January 2017
Date01 January 2017
Subject MatterArticles
India’s Policy towards
Iran: Reflection of
Intentions, Ambiguities
and Complexities
Sima Baidya1
The article examines the ambiguities and complexities in India’s Iran policy.
This is an attempt to understand India’s relations with West Asia through the
prism of India’s Iran policy. This article hypothesizes that India’s Iran policy is the
prisoner of India’s ambitions and its relations with major powers vis-à-vis other
West Asian actors. In a multi-layered approach, the article captures tensions
between policy and politics. Prior to the signing of Iranian Nuclear Deal, Iran–India
relations suffered due to US pressure and India could not forge independent policy
towards Iran. At this point of time, situation is not much different. The article
is an attempt to understand why India has failed to maintain the fine balance
between different actors in West Asia’s political scape.
India’s Iran policy, India-Iran relations, post revolutionary Iran
Post-1979 Revolution, Iran has always been regarded as the ‘other’ in interna-
tional relations. Amalgamation of Islam and politics with strong currents of ideol-
ogy, sense of justice and its sustenance and survival against war and series of
sanctions have made Iran a different country today. Politics of Iran suddenly
changed due to cataclysmic effect of the Iranian Revolution in 1979. Amidst chaos
and concerns, world witnessed Iranian revolution and has taken into account the
International Studies
54(1–4) 144–161
2018 Jawaharlal Nehru University
SAGE Publications
DOI: 10.1177/0020881718790432
1 Centre for West Asian Studies, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University,
Corresponding author:
Sima Baidya, Centre for West Asian Studies, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru
University, New Delhi, Delhi 110067, India.
Baidya 145
emergence of another power in West Asian political scape. Iranian revolution and
subsequent establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) created a shock-
wave in the international politics, as well as West Asian political sphere. It is not
the fact that the world has not witnessed any revolution, which uprooted century
old ideas, system, clichés, economic and political relations; the world has actually
gone through and passed different phases of revolutions. The French Revolution
is deeply rooted in our consciousness, mind, ideas and thinking. The Bolshevik
Revolution strengthened people’s beliefs in ideology and change. In comparison
to earlier revolutions, the Iranian Revolution is certainly a new political event,
which overthrew Shah’s oppressive rule and established a mass rule in Iran.
Nevertheless, engagement with Islam is a new phenomenon. Islam deeply rooted
in post-revolutionary Iranian system insulated Iran from world community. In this
backdrop, the IRI had to establish new relations with each and every country.
Even if Iran and India have civilizational links, post-revolutionary Iran’s political
scenario was a total new experience to reckon with and India had to establish
entirely new relations with the IRI.
Post-revolutionary Iran
Post-revolutionary Iran changed its politics. Its diplomatic relations also experi-
enced a paradigm shift. It was a new country with new ideas, new political faith,
new political principles and new judicial system. Not only Iran became Islamic
Republic, but also Vilayet-e-Faqih has become the guiding principle of the state.
Islamic judicial system is new rule of law. Post-revolutionary Iran is a complete
reversal of Shah’s Iran. Putting Vilayet-e-Faqih as the core principle of Iranian
politics, Iran established its base as the Islamic Republic. Its external relations
also bear the sign of changing foreign policy behaviour. Now it is more complex.
After revolution, Iran is more univocal in support of oppressed class. If Iran is
being perceived as not being neutral, it is not without reason. Iran is no way
neutral, it is in support of the oppressed class. The Iranian Constitution clearly
says ‘it supports struggles of the oppressed for their rights against the oppressors
anywhere in the world’ (Article 154, Constitution of Iran). Shia concept of social
justice, along with Marxist–Leninist discourses of class struggle and anti-imperialist
struggle (Pesaran, 2008) made Iran different from other countries.
So far India–Iran relations are concerned, it is a fallacy to understand the
dynamics of Iran–India relations through one prism. Starting point and thereafter
pathways for two countries are different. Independent India started its journey in
1947 and post-revolutionary Iran came into being in 1979. Therefore, India had to
deal with Iran in two distinct phases, where politics is different as well as the
nature of the state.
Independent India established relations with Iran on 15 March 1950. Then Iran
was ruled by (pre-revolutionary) Shah. Shah’s closeness with the US was visible
in its policies. On the contrary, India’s was a staunch supporter of non-alignment
movement with good relations with the erstwhile Soviet Union. In that context,

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