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U-Iran tension: India will have to balance its ties with all parties – editorials


Iran and the United States (USA) appear to be locked in a spiral climb following the US drone strike that killed Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the outer operations arm of the Revolutionary Guard Corps al-Quds Force Islamic Iran. The latest indication of this is US President Donald Trump’s belligerent message to strike 52 “very hard” Iranian sites if Tehran attacks Americans or U.S. interests in retaliation to Soleimani’s murder. As Mr. Trump has been nothing more to do, he announced his plans via Twitter, just the platform for diplomacy, and said he would not hesitate to attack targets that are important to Iranian culture. Any retaliation by Iran, most experts and observers in West Asia acknowledge, is a fact, although it remains to be seen what form it will take. There are fears that Iran may use its representatives to retaliate in Syria, Lebanon or Israel, or attack the interests of Saudi Arabia, a key U.S. ally, or even launch cyberattacks, at least to save the face due to the status of Soleimani within the hierarchy of power in Tehran.

While Soleimani’s murder may have met the parameters of U.S. law, Washington appears to be skating on thin ice when it comes to international law. Again, it seems that Mr. Trump has not thought about the consequences of his decision to retaliate against recent attacks on U.S. assets in Iraq or the interests of partners like India. Mr. Trump’s claim that the Iranian general was eliminated because he was planning “imminent” attacks has been questioned by extensive US media and experienced intelligence hands, who have said little information has emerged to support this claim.

An immediate consequence of the tension in West Asia is that India is in a very difficult position, given its strong relations with all key players. The United States and Israel are pre-eminent strategic partners for India, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq and crucial to the country’s energy security, but Iran is central to India’s plans to access Afghanistan and Central Asia through Chabahar. The fate of some eight million Indian expats in West Asia is also at stake. India’s economic and strategic interests will have an impact if there is more instability or tension in the region.

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