While the plummeting economy was the fissiparous force inside Iran, the uncalled-for assassination of the former head of Quds force, Qaseem Soleimani, by the United States of America (USA) acted as a unifying force inside the country.
People who had, a few months back, gathered to protest against the rising inflation, unemployment, and the ominous future, have gathered once again, this time, reportedly, furiously chanting “Death To America.” The anger among the Iranians is pretty much understandable. Proxy wars are different, but the killing of an army commander of a sovereign nation is a flagrant violation of the sovereignty of the country.
Not only did the USA defile the sovereignty of Iran by killing one of its respected leaders, but it also breached Iraq’s sovereignty by using the latter’s region to attack the commander.
While the oil prices have soared with the speculation of a full-fledged war between the arch-rivals, a war, in any case, will not only be dastardly for the rivals, it will also have a serious impact on India and Indians there.
The first and foremost concern of the government will be the safety and security of around eight million Indians working in the Gulf region. In the case of war, ensuring their safety and relocation will be an enormous challenge. Not only this, but the resettlement of so many people in such a small time frame will be extremely difficult to handle.
The prices, especially the prices of essential commodities will go up and the economy will become more difficult to manage. Apart from that, the remittance that is sent by these Indian workers stationed in Gulf might just collapse, which will have an enormous impact on the Forex Reserves with the RBI. Albeit, we have sufficiently Forex Reserves, but, an instantaneous decline in remittance would show its impact.
Oil imports, that form a major chunk of India’s current account deficit, might become difficult. The crude oil prices have already soared by nearly two percentage points only on the eventuality of the war. One can assume the impact on prices if the war actually accentuates. Not just the price, but availability itself will become precarious.
Politically, even though we have been an ally of America, it will be difficult to make an unambiguous choice in favour of the USA. In case the USA does go to war, and worse, during Trump’s tenure, the latter will coerce India to side with the USA.
India then will have an extremely hard task ahead to relinquish her non-partisan policy in third world affairs. Indian access to Afghanistan, through Chabahar will be impacted, which in turn, would impact the humanitarian access and the political goodwill, that India earns, and can earn, in Afghanistan.
While Iran’s response to the USA seems inevitable, the degree of retaliation is that something has to be seen. No country would tolerate any foreign country’s assassination of her army commander and Iran, a traditional foe of the USA is no exception.
While a full-fledged war is in nobody’s interest, in Trump’s era, only Trump’s interests matter. And for India, and her diplomats, it will be a challenge to persuade the administration of both the countries to thaw cold relations.