Indian Foreign policy games on Middle East with concern of Iran and Iraq

New Delhi, 17 June-2014, Rajeev Sharma: At around 7.15 pm on Monday, the Ministry of External Affairs came up with a statement on the Iraq situation. This was the first time when the Indian government came up with its take on the fast-paced Iraq developments since major cities in Iraq like Mosul and Tikrit fell to al Qaida-affiliated Fighters.

Indian Foreign policy games on Middle East with concern of Iran and Iraq


iraq (Photo credit: Army in Iraq)

The MEA statement, titled Security situation in Iraq, makes it clear that India is all for the unity and integrity of Iraq and against the activities of the terrorists belonging to ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria), also known as ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant).

Before we analyse the brief statement by MEA, here is the complete statement, unabridged and unedited: “The Government of India is deeply concerned with deteriorating security situation in Iraq, resulting out of recent attacks and taking over of some cities, including of Mosul and Tikrit by terrorist outfits since 8 June 2014, which is a direct threat to the security and territorial integrity of Iraq.

The Government of India strongly condemns such attacks and firmly stands by the Government and the people of Iraq in their fight against international terrorism and in their efforts to preserve the unity and territorial integrity of the friendly country of Iraq.” “India remains strongly committed to the emergence of a stable, peaceful, united and democratic Iraq, which is in the interest of regional and global peace and security.” “The safety and security of the Indian nationals currently in Iraq remains a matter of serious concern for the Government of India.

An advisory has been issued on 15 June, 2014 giving the details of a 24 hour helpline set up by the Indian Embassy in Baghdad for assistance of Indian nationals there.” By issuing a statement on the Iraq situation, the Indian government has conveyed its unequivocal stand on the Iraq crisis. This in itself is a bold move as the Iraq issue today has become a zero-sum game, a ‘with-us-or-with-them’ kind of situation.
In this statement, India has essentially said three things:
(i) pledged its support to the Iraqi government and for the unity and integrity of Iraq;
(ii) condemned terrorists; and
(iii) assured its 20,000-odd citizens living in Iraq that the Indian government is tracking their well-being.

The Indian statement has come even as yet another Iraqi city, Tal Afar, has fallen to terrorists. By throwing its weight behind Iraq, needless to say, India has also thrown its weight behind Iran because both are Shia-ruled countries. At this point of time when Iran is basking in the glory of a string of diplomatic successes, Tehran won’t like Iraq to go back to the Saddam Hussein days when the Shia-dominated country was ruled by Sunnis for decades .

The unfolding situation in Iraq presents India with a whale of an opportunity to get closer to Iran particularly when Tehran and the United States, sworn enemies for decades, are on the same page as far as the Iraq crisis is concerned. India cosying up to Iran at this time will not draw cold stares from the US. However, it will be a tightrope walk for India as it will have to be careful not to infuriate Saudi Arabia, a major Sunni nation which is inimical to Iran.

The relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran have become even more frigid in view of the fact that Iran has emerged as a serious contender to Saudi Arabia in the quest for leadership of the Muslim world.