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Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent visit to Iran and the subsequent signing of the strategic Chabahar port deal are huge strides towards what should be a beautiful friendship between the Islamic Republic and India.With India set to invest 0m for the trade transport corridor that would entirely bypass Pakistan, the deal, apart from helping India build closer ties with Iran and Central Asia, would also help it to directly compete with China’s growing influence in the region.

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That is why Iranian President Hassan Rouhani rightly proclaimed that “the agreement is not only an economic document but political and regional too.” India and Iran have had long and close cultural links, and their ancient and modern histories have been intertwined.

Since Indian independence, the relations have been essentially peaceful, friendly and empathic.

They have turned more fruitful and productive after the Iranian revolution of 1979, the war in Afghanistan and the tense Iranian-Pakistani ties.

Iranian authorities have accused Pakistan’s ISI of helping the Baloch separatist movement in Iran and its leader Abdulmalik Rigi.

As a result of this and the deterioration of Iranian-Pakistani relations after the political developments against the Taliban in Afghanistan, Iran’s interest in India as a potential regional partner has increased.

Furthermore, Iran’s non-ideological approach toward India, after the election of the reformist president Muhammad Khatami, has contributed to the political and economic rapprochement between the two countries.Interestingly, expanding strategic relations with India have had the support of all political factions in the Iranian nomenclature.The Islamic Republic has also kept its distance from Muslim-related issues in India, while promising proactive help to India in fighting al Qaeda and other forms of Islamist jihadism.The first step in Indian-Iranian regional cooperation was taken during the visit of then Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who was in Tehran in April 2000, followed by Muhammad Khatami’s visit to India in January 2002 (as a guest at the Independence Day function).They were boosted by the signing of the New Delhi Declaration which laid out the principles of cooperation in defence, including the training of Iranian military personnel by India.Moreover, the current bilateral trade between the two countries is about bn, while Indian exports to Iran were around .2bn in 2014.

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