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Maibam Warish asked: Can India benefit strategically from the recent re-establishment of full diplomatic relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia?

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  • Deepika Saraswat replies: The China-mediated agreement between Iran and Saudi Arabia on restoring their diplomatic ties after seven years has been welcomed by New Delhi. Given these two countries are key actors in the region which India considers part of its extended neighbourhood, any calming of tensions or rapprochement between them is seen as furthering regional peace and stability.

    In geopolitical terms, India has maintained a policy of balance in engaging all key actors in the West Asian region, and has supported dialogue and diplomacy to resolve differences. If the restoration of relations between these two rival regional powers leads to bridging of wider geopolitical divides in the region, it may also create more room for India to deepen ties with both these countries as New Delhi’s outreach to one player may not invite distrust from the other.

    Saudi Arabia is a key supplier of crude oil to India, while Iran straddles the crucial waterway of Strait of Hormuz through which these energy imports have to transit. It is important to recall that amid the US ‘maximum pressure’ campaign against Iran and the spate of attacks on merchant ships and oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman in June 2019, the Indian Navy had commenced Maritime Security Operations, code named ‘Op SANKALP’, to ensure safe passage of Indian Flag Vessels transiting through the Strait of Hormuz. Also, Insurance costs for ships sailing through the Middle East increased by at least 10 per cent after attacks on two tankers in the Gulf of Oman in June 2019. Therefore, Iran-Saudi normalisation of ties is expected to have an overall positive impact for India’s energy security as well.

    Posted on April 13, 2023

    Views expressed are of the expert and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Manohar Parrikar IDSA or the Government of India.