The growing presence of China and India in the Persian Gulf indicates the prospects of power relations between regional, continental, and global actors in this region
Although both countries have emphasised the need to expand bilateral, regional, and international cooperation, the reality shows that the trend of cooperation has become less colourful today than what it used to be earlier.One of the proposed ways to improve the level of cooperation between Iran and India was to let India take the initiative and play a mediating role to improve the relations between Iran and its southern neighbours. Considering India’s historical role and presence in the Persian Gulf region and owing to the country’s diplomatic capabilities to advance political dialogues between the two sides of the Persian Gulf—both interested in cooperating with India—it could create new capacities in the relations between India and its western neighbours. However, in recent years, India has tried to draw on such new initiatives as I2U2—a grouping of India, Israel, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States, an Indo-Abrahamic construct, and the India-Middle East Food Corridor to pave the way for the expansion of its economic, political, and security cooperation from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean coast. The investments in the port facilities at Haifa in Israel and the expansion of cooperation with Egypt shows India's interest in increasing its role in the Mediterranean region. The Indian foreign policymaking system has tried to define Iran’s position within the Central Asian complex and approached Chabahar Port as a route to have exclusive access to the North (including Afghanistan, Central Asia, the Caucasus, and Russia). It should be considered that Iran, apart from being able to play a key role in the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC), has always been the bridge connecting the East and the West for centuries. The country's connection with the Indian Ocean on the one hand and land links with Iraq and Türkiye, as well as historical links with some countries in the region such as Syria and Lebanon, have enabled Iran to act as a link.
The investments in the port facilities at Haifa in Israel and the expansion of cooperation with Egypt shows India's interest in increasing its role in the Mediterranean region.Undoubtedly, China wants to be present in the Persian Gulf region to secure access to energy and to maintain its economic presence in the regional markets. Besides these two issues, China also wants to expand its transportation routes from east to west. China’s new approach in the Persian Gulf region and efforts to re-establish the broken ties between Iran and Saudi Arabia, somewhat representing the US doctrine of “Two Pillars” under Richard Nixon’s Presidency in the 1970s, indicates that to have a stable presence and secure access to resources, markets and routes in Southwest Asia, it is still necessary to assume an exclusive policy and to recognise all the powerful actors in the region. In recent years, India has tried to take the leadership of cooperative ideas among the countries of the Global South. Moreover, this great power has had the ability to provide the grounds for the establishment of dialogues between the world’s North and South in various areas. Throughout the history of India’s contemporary relations with the countries of the Persian Gulf region, New Delhi has also had a balanced policy towards Iran and Iraq during their eight-year war in the 1980s. The historical presence of millions of Indians on both sides of the Persian Gulf, from the provinces of Khuzestan, Bushehr, and Hormozgan in Iran between the 1900s and 1980s to their presence in the southern countries of the region since the 1970s is also indicative of the social ties between the Indian people and West Asian societies. Accordingly, India seems to have the capacity to play, once more, a stabilising role in its neighbouring region by taking new and comprehensive initiatives.
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Mandana Tishehyar is a faculty member at the Department of Regional Studies Allameh Tabataba'i University Tehran Iran. She holds a PhD from Jawaharlal Nehru University ...Read More +