NEW DELHI: “China’s ties with Pakistan go back decades. If I’m sitting in New Delhi, a Beijing-Tehran strategic deal is a big geopolitical win and certainly not good news for India,” Alex Vatanka, the Director and Senior Fellow, Iran Programme, Middle East Institute in Washington, D.C. tells StratNews Global Associate Editor Amitabh P. Revi. Though India’s involvement in Iran’s economy gives Tehran “more options”, there has been “little commercial progress” which is “frustrating” Iran, he adds. The author points out that he “wouldn’t be surprised if Tehran reluctantly offers the Chabahar port to China in the near future” to add to its development of Gwadar in Pakistan, which is less than 200 kilometres away.
Alex also addresses reports of internal opposition and public anger in Iran with Chinese goods taking away livelihoods, saying there are questions over the “desperation” for the deal and over the reported “lucrative package being offered at discounts.” The reported $ 400 billion, 25-year agreement which still has to be formalised, he adds, is an “economic lifeline for Iran and is linked to the system’s survival.” Posting a reminder of “big Iranian strategic projects having had a bad history,” Vatanka, says the Iran-China deal’s purpose is to “poke a finger in America’s eye” and hasn’t taken into account the “long-term consequences.” The Kish Island lease report was so “humiliating” that Iran had to quickly “denounce” it. China will also have a “challenge to balance” its good relations with all other regional countries, Vatanka says, warning if there is a military dimension, it will “bring in a new bad competition cycle with a zero-sum game.” Also, Russia, despite its closeness to China, he points out is “aware it won’t come out stronger.”
President Donald Trump’s maximum pressure strategy has failed, he concludes, saying “American strategy needs to be more focused and pursued consistently, in terms of the key priorities, irrespective of who sits in the White House.”