ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Pragmatic Turn

India-Iran Relations

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The rhetoric that followed the conclusion of the prime minister's visit to Iran lived up to the euphoria in evidence before the trip. The visit was hailed as a turning point in Indo-Iranian relations, re-emphasising the ancient civilisational links between the two countries. Also, an Indian prime minister was going to Teheran after seven years. The PM's visit to Iran was the culmination of an exchange of high-level delegations between the two countries. It came close on the heels of foreign minister Jaswant Singh's trip to Saudi Arabia and highlighted the government's foreign policy thrust towards the Islamic world, after a period of hesitation and lack of enthusiasm.

India-Iran relations took an amicable turn in the mid-1990s under the moderate leadership of Hashemi Rafsanjhani. The isolation of Iraq in the aftermath of the Gulf war, the Soviet collapse, the growing threat of terrorism and the rise of the Taliban in the early 1990s had all prompted a shift in alignments and the emergence of newer power-centres in west Asia, prominent among which was Iran. The new thrust in Indo-Iranian relations, however, was perhaps driven more by trade and economic interests. 1996 saw an exchange of trade delegations and in the following year an important agreement on transit trade among India, Iran and Turkmenistan to use the Caspian Sea as a trade corridor was signed. And yet relations between the two countries remained clouded by the influence of entities such as the Organisation of Islamic Nations (OIC) and by the Pakistan factor.

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