NATIONAL

Iran not just an energy supplier: Ansari

Hamid Ansari  

Iran ensures overland connectivity between Eurasia and India and it is not just an energy supplier, former Vice-President Hamid Ansari said here on Friday.

Mr. Ansari, who served as India’s Ambassador to Iran during the early 1990s, said the government should take into consideration the “totality” of India’s ties with Iran, while responding to U.S. President Donald Trump’s demand to cut down drastically energy imports from that country.

“Our relationship with Iran has been built carefully and thoughtfully by all past governments as Iran for us is not just an energy supplier from the Persian Gulf region. We have to look at Iran from a different point of view. For us, Iran is a land power on the other side of Pakistan that provides us with an alternative route to Afghanistan,” said Mr. Ansari, reminding the government that Iran is a geopolitical entity in its own right.

He pointed out that Iran has borders with a large number of countries that India could not access because of the barrier that Pakistan posed to India’s overland connectivity plans.

The note of caution came a day after Mr. Trump’s envoy to the UN, Nikki Haley, conveyed the message that India should adhere to the November 4 deadline given by the Trump administration and drastically reduce energy imports from Iran.

However, Mr. Ansari argued that Iran and India had many other compelling linkages that the government should not neglect.

Alternative access

Mr. Ansari said Iran provides alternative access to Afghanistan, which was a strategic necessity for Delhi and therefore India should view this relationship with special care.

“We have to view relations with Iran in totality and not let only one dimension like energy to define our ties. Our infrastructure-building activities in Afghanistan is done with support from Iran. Iran has the port of Chabahar where we have invested because access to Afghanistan is crucial for us,” Mr. Ansari said.

He said India maintained relations with countries strictly on the basis of bilateral dynamics and in this context, Iran’s importance had remained undiminished over the past several decades. Mr. Ansari also said that at times, India disregarded political inclination of the government in Tehran with an eye on the overall necessity of the country for India’s strategic security. “During the war of 1971, the government of Shah was pro-Pakistan, but we maintained ties with that government and that relationship helped us address energy security,” he said.