Watch | Israel-Iran strikes | Can India escape being caught in conflict?

Watch | Israel-Iran strikes | Can India escape being caught in conflict?

In this episode of Worldview, we discuss the impact of the Israel- Iran conflict on India

News breaking now of multiple strikes by Israel on bases and nuclear facilities in Iran are further driving up tensions in the region- while the two countries have had a shadow war between them for 45 years, we have not seen such openly direct strikes on each other thus far. Up ahead we will look at how this new turn will change the west Asian landscape, and seven ways India is impacted.

We have been covering everything that has happened since October 7- terror attacks by Hamas, Israel’s pounding of Gaza, but here’s is how the scene is shifting now.

On April 1: Israel launched strikes on Iran’s Embassy in Damascus, killing 7 military diplomats, including a senior General . Iran protested this was a violation of UN conventions, the Vienna conventions- many saw this as Israel’s attempt at broadening the war as its war on Gaza has gone into an impasse, and no progress of freeing Hamas-held hostages

Amir Abdollahian: No member state will remain silent on such an attack…diplomatic agents

April 12: Iran seized an Israel-linked ship MSC Aries- 17 crew members were Indian. While 1 has been sent back to India, the fate of the other 16 remains unclear.

On April 13: Iran launched 300-350 drones and missiles directly on Israel, the first time it has openly done so. The missiles, which were slow moving, were mostly repelled by Israel’s Iron Dome, but also with help from the US, Jordan, and reportedly with intelligence support from some Gulf States. Iran said it had 3 objectives: to deter Israel from further action, to showcase Iran’s missile capabilities and to demonstrate its ability to target vital Israeli military bases at will.

Netanyahu: We will take our own decisions, and the state of Israel will do what it needs to defend itself

On April 19: Israel has reportedly launched strikes on several targets inside Iran- believed to be bases, nuclear facilities and other strategic locations. This despite US President Biden expressly asking PM Netanyahu not to respond to Iran’s strikes.

India has also called on both sides to show restraint- External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar spoke to both Iranian FM Amir Abdollahaian and Israel FM Israel Katz, but both sides have high expectations from India

You can read more in this interview with Iranian Ambassador to India Iraj Elahi

On the diplomatic front, we have seen some major moves as well:

UN Security Council met over the escalating tensions, but did not come up with a resolution US, UK and others imposed new sanctions on Iran- targeting its drone capabilities 12 UNSC members voted in favour of making Palestine a full member state- the US vetoed it however, and Israel debated against it

Israel Amb: Granting the perpetrators full recognition is the vilest reward for the vilest crime

What’s next?

How will Iran respond to the Israeli strikes?

Will Iran now consolidate actions along with its proxies in the Gulf region

Hezbollah in Lebanon

Houthis in Yemen

Hamas in Gaza

Other militia

What is on the escalation ladder for Israel? Thus far Israel conducts covert targeted assassinations on Iranian officials and nuclear scientists- will the Damascus attack pave the way for more such open strikes Big worry over nuclear confrontation- neither country is a declared nuclear weapons power, yet the worry is that with this conflict deepening one or both might reveal their nuclear capabilities, further driving the crisis

Impact on India

1. Geopolitical impact- India has strong strategic ties with both countries, and this escalation makes it more difficult to maintain those ties. In its statements about Iran and Israel action, MEA has taken care to criticise neither side, to much disappointment in both capitals

2. Strategic impact: India’s connectivity projects with both Israel- under I2U2 and the proposed IMEEC are already in jeopardy, now the connectivity through Chabahar port and the INSTC corridor to Central Asia will be in trouble too

3. Oil impact- Even as elections get under way in India, the West Asia conflict will no doubt drive up the price of oil- already under strain with the Russia- Ukraine war- will India be forced to restart oil imports from Iran which it gave up in 2018 under threat from the US

4. Economic Impact- inflation of prices, jittery markets, interest rates are likely to be kept high

5. Trade impact- Cargo trade through the Red Sea and Hormuz is already under attack from Houthi groups, now shippers and insurers are likely to take longer routes around the region, given clouds of conflict

6. Travel impact: Flights will need to take longer detours as well, this will affect air ticket prices and travel times this summer. Air India has already suspended flights to Tel Aviv.

7. Labour Impact: While other Gulf countries account for about 8 million Indian labour and expatriate workers- Israel has only about 18,000 and Iran between 10-15,000 including a large number of merchant navy crew and personnel- caught in the crossfire right now- 6,000 Indian workers recruited for jobs in Israel are unable to leave, and questions about Indian crew on board various ships- with about 2.5 lakhs merchant navy personnel Indian, Indians rank 3rd in numbers

WV Take:

Given the numbers of Indians living and working in West Asia, a conflict between Israel and Iran, that bookend the region is a conflict in India’s immediate neighbourhood, and New Delhi cannot be immune to the escalation in tensions and on the ground- the immediate casualty, could also be India’s grand plans for connectivity which depend on both Iran and Israel as hubs for trade routes to the West.

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