Context:

China and Iran signed what was described as a 25-year “strategic cooperation pact”, during Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s on-going six-nation tour to West Asia.

Relevance:

GS-II: International Relations (India and its neighbors, Foreign policies and treaties affecting India’s Interests)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Lead up to the deal between Iran and China
  2. Iran and China relations
  3. Stakes for India in China-Iran relations

Lead up to the deal between Iran and China

  • The agreement comes amid a major push from China to back Iran, which counts on Beijing as its largest trading partner, as it deals with the continuing weight of sanctions re-instated following then U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to withdrawal from the Iranian nuclear deal.
  • Earlier this week, China and Russia called for the U.S. to “unconditionally return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) as soon as possible and revoke the unilateral sanctions against Iran” as their Foreign Ministers met in China.
  • The new deal is said to include “political, strategic and economic” components.

Iran and China relations

  • In 2016, just as sanctions were eased, Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Tehran and proposed a long-term comprehensive, strategic partnership programme that would involve Chinese investment in Iranian infrastructure and assured supplies of Iranian oil and gas at concessional rates.
  • China and Iran are close to sealing an ambitious deal on an economic and security partnership, a move that has caught the attention of policymakers in India and across the world.
  • The deal will facilitate the infusion of about $280 billion from Beijing, which wants to buy oil from cash-strapped Iran.
  • China will also invest into Iran’s transport and manufacturing infrastructure, thus giving it inroads into major sectors in Iran including banking, telecommunications, ports and railways.
  • Iran is already a signatory of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), and this is in line with China’s “debt-trap diplomacy”.
  • The deal has come under criticism from Iran’s political actors, including former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Stakes for India in China-Iran relations

  • While India watches China with concern, what is alarming for India is that China is also concluding a security and military partnership with Iran.
  • Chinese military partnership with Iran calls for “joint training and exercises, joint research and weapons development and intelligence sharing” to fight “the lopsided battle with terrorism, drug and human trafficking and cross-border crimes”.
  • Initial reports in Iran have suggested China will deploy 5,000 security personnel to protect its projects in Iran.
  • With a growing Chinese presence in Iran, India is concerned about its strategic stakes around the Chabahar port project that it has been developing.
  • The port is close to Gwadar port in Pakistan, which is being developed by China as part of its China-Pakistan Economic Corridor that links it to the Indian Ocean through BRI.

-Source: The Hindu

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