NEW DELHI - Stressing that Iran is a geopolitical entity in its own right, Former Indian Vice President has cautioned Narendra Modi government that it should take into consideration the 'totality' of its ties with Tehran before succumbing to US pressure to curtail oil imports from the country.
"Iran ensures overland connectivity between Eurasia and India and it is not just an energy supplier, former Vice-President Hamid Ansari told The Hindu newspaper on Saturday.
Ansari who also served as an ambassador of India 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 drastically cut down 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 cannot access because of the barrier that Pakistan poses to India's overland connectivity plans.
The note of caution from the former Vice-President, who also served as a distinguished diplomat came a day after President Trump's envoy to the U.N., Nikki Haley, conveyed 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 have many other compelling linkages that the government should not neglect.
Mr. Ansari said Iran provides alternative access to Afghanistan which is 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," said Mr. Ansari.
He said India maintains relations with countries strictly on the basis of bilateral dynamics and in this context, Iran's importance has remained undiminished over the last 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 subsequently that relationship helped us address energy security. With the same attitude, we nurtured ties even when the Islamic Revolution took place in 1979," he said. said the former Vice President expressing hope that the current government of India will take all aspects of Iran-India ties while deciding on President Trump's demands.