TEL AVIV: Saudi Arabia and Iran have set aside mutual antagonism and ideological proxy wars by agreeing to a peace deal. More intriguing than the sudden declaration of the end of hostilities by these two regional rivals was the new mediator, China, known in West Asia largely for its deep dependence on the region’s oil and gas. It was this dependence (much like India’s) that also saw Beijing keep diplomatic distance from the State of Israel during the Cold War so as not to displease Arab and Muslim sentiments. West Asia has been primarily an American sphere of influence—the United States not only won over this region during the Cold War but also created strong bilateral ties with many of the regional heavyweights like Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait, Israel etc. It was only after the ‘war on terror’ that anti-American sentiments rose, which accidently benefitted China.
Shyam Saran, well known former diplomat and scholar, has argued in a recent article that China has emerged as “honest broker” by playing a key role in the Saudi-Iran peace of 2023. He thinks India “should welcome it and use it to seek a closer and enhanced relationship with Iran”. Can India really repair its once-close-ties with Iran is a critical question now and sadly missing from Saran’s analysis. India chose to side with the U.S. by voting a number of times in favour of resolutions calling the Iranian nuclear programme a threat to regional and international peace. The irony is Iran is going nuclear in the same way India did, against the wishes of nuclear powers like the United States....Read More