Iran’s silence on Jadhav baffling

While balancing ties with India and Pakistan, Tehran is unhappy over Delhi’s growing ties with GCC

Updated - April 16, 2017 11:35 pm IST

Published - April 16, 2017 10:57 pm IST

Kulbhushan Jadhav

Kulbhushan Jadhav

The lack of investigative support from Iran on the Kulbhushan Jadhav case has raised questions about the overall state Tehran-New Delhi security cooperation, say experts. Iran is a strategic partner in India’s outreach to Afghanistan and Central Asia, but its silence on the Kulbhushan case has baffled many.

“Iran has nothing to gain in getting involved in the case of Kulbhushan Jadhav and perhaps that is why they have not responded to our request for information on how he was nabbed by Pakistan,” said the former Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran.

No response to request

Tehran’s silence became clear when the External Affairs Ministry said it had not responded to India’s request for investigation in the case.

“We have informed the government of Iran last year about this matter. As to the progress of investigation, if they are conducting and where it is, I don’t have any information at this stage,” said Ministry spokesperson Gopal Baglay. India has maintained that Kulbushan Jadhav had been engaged in “legitimate business” in the Iranian port of Chabahar and was kidnapped by Pakistani agents. However, this part of the Indian narrative can be corroborated only if Iran comes forward with an investigation.

After years of cooperation, the port of Chabahar received more attention during the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Tehran last May when both sides signed a trilateral agreement with Kabul to develop the port and connect it with Afghanistan.

Proximity to Saudis

Mr Saran said Iran understands well that its careful balancing of ties between Pakistan and India would be affected if it were to support India with detailed information that would implicate Pakistan or put India in an uncomfortable position.

“Iran always feels that India balances the Arab Gulf countries with Tehran, but the fact is that Iran also balances its ties with Pakistan with its India connections,” Mr. Saran said.

Iran and Pakistan had also clashed over alleged Indian espionage from Chabahar during President Hasan Rouhani’s March 2016 visit to Pakistan.

Pakistan had aired the video of Kulbhushan Jadhav’s alleged confession on disruptive activities in Pakistan during Mr. Rouhani’s visit and linked it to Chabahar, which drew a strong response from Iran’s envoy to Pakistan.

Commentators also believe that Iran is uncomfortable with India’s growing proximity to Saudi Arabia and the UAE and its non-cooperation on the case of Mr. Jadhav is indicative of a larger bilateral problem.

“India’s growing ties with GCC states are naturally viewed by Iran with some concern. India should try to upgrade strategic ties with Iran especially since they have been steady security partners since the late 1980s,” said Parvez Nayeri, an Iranian commentator.

He also pointed out that bilateral energy ties were also not in the best shape because of Iran-India disagreement over the Farzad-B gas field which Iran had promised to India. Following pricing issues over the gas field, India has begun to cut gas imports from Iran.

Mr. Saran said Iran was choosing to be prudent in avoiding the problems over espionage between India and Pakistan, as the benefits of being non-cooperative far outweigh the gains.

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