Indian Decade

India in the Hot Seat

With fingers pointing at Iran as being behind a bomb attack in New Delhi, India is in an awkward position.

By Tridivesh Singh Maini for

In the aftermath of the United States’ imposition of sanctions on Iran, India has apparently taken the line that it can’t snap economic ties with Tehran on account of its economic interests, mainly oil imports. But even though India has made its intentions plain, New Delhi still faces a precarious situation as ties between Iran, Israel and the West grow increasing tense.

 The recent Delhi bomb attack on an Israeli diplomat has put India in an awkward position. With Israel blaming the attack on Iran, India risks being sucked into a major international crisis. India will need to do what it can to ensure that its ties with Iran, based on economic interests and cultural linkages, remain intact. It also needs to see that its improving ties with both the United States and Israel don’t suffer. While Israel was quick to blame the attack on the Iranians, the U.S. was more hesitant to draw quick conclusions.

India, for its part, has been extremely cautious in its response, and has taken special care to not publicly link the attack with Iran. This was clear from the statements of Home Minister P. Chidambaram and Home Secretary R.K. Singh. Chidambaram, speaking to journalists on Tuesday, a day after the attack, stated: “At the moment, I am not pointing a finger at any particular group or any particular organization,” while adding that the attack was carried out by a “very well-trained person.” The home secretary echoed this view, saying that: “We have no evidence to name any country. It’s premature to take any country’s name.”

The Indian government also stated that no external organization, including Mossad, would be allowed to carry out an investigation. On Wednesday, however, Israeli Ambassador Alon Ushpiz called on Indian Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna and conveyed his country’s desire to send a team, including forensic experts and others, a request to which the minister responded positively.

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While the investigation is continuing, it’s imperative that India flesh out a clear strategy to deal with the enormous ramifications of increasing tensions in West Asia, especially in the aftermath of the Delhi blast. This will become all the more necessary if investigators find an Iranian hand in the blasts.

With Iran claiming Wednesday to have made significant advances in its nuclear program, pressure to snap ties with Iran will only increase on India. New Delhi has some tough decisions in the coming days and weeks ahead.

Tridivesh Singh Maini is an Associate Fellow with The Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi.