Editor’s note: I have just changed the title.
By Fareed Zakaria, CNN
India is America’s friend, Israel’s friend and Iran’s friend. Amid all the talk of an Israeli strike on Iran, how is India managing to stay friends with everyone? What in the world is going on?
India is being criticized here in America for continuing to trade with Iran despite coordinated sanctions on Tehran. The Wall Street Journal recently ran a staff editorial calling New Delhi “the mullahs’ last best friend.” It also criticized India for casting its lot with Moscow and Beijing “for a handful of rupees.”
Let’s get some perspective.
New Delhi’s defense is this: Iran is the world’s 4th largest oil producer. It’s biggest customer is India, which happens to be among the world’s largest oil consumers and importers. The type of crude best suited to India’s needs happens to be Iranian oil.
So there’s an economic argument here – India needs Iran’s oil as much as Iran needs to sell it. There have been reports the two countries reached a trade agreement to circumvent sanctions. Iran can’t trade in dollars, so it is selling oil to India for rupees and bartered goods instead.
But there are also geopolitical concerns. India lives in a rough neighborhood, with an intense rivalry with Pakistan. Pakistan has for decades believed that it needed to limit India’s influence in the region, particularly in Afghanistan. Islamabad has supported the Taliban against the Indian-backed Northern Alliance. And who helped India by siding with the Northern Alliance as well? Iran. The Iranians have always been hostile to the Pakistan-Taliban axis.