Indian foreign minister seeks deeper regional cooperation in Gulf tour

Indian foreign minister seeks deeper regional cooperation in Gulf tour

Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj arrives in Bahrain today where she will discuss a wide range of issues—including health care,

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and his Indian counterpart Sushma Swaraj walk after a photo opportunity in New Delhi

Photo: Reuters/Altaf Hussain

Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj arrives in Bahrain today where she will discuss a wide range of issues—including health care, economics and security—with his Bahraini counterpart Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa.

The visit comes as New Delhi straddles relations with bitter rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia. India is friendly with both; it is the biggest importer of Iranian oil after China while Riyadh is its fourth-largest trading partner.

US actions, however, stand to disrupt the balancing act. Iranian oil exports to India declined by 16% from May to June and they could fall even further when the US reimposes sanctions on Tehran. The subject of Iran could even arise during today’s visit as the US recently designated al-Ashtar Brigades, an Iranian-backed Bahraini insurgent group, as a terrorist organisation.

Expect New Delhi to try to remain on the best possible terms with both Tehran and Riyadh. But, if Washington steps up its measures against Iran, it could push India away from the Islamic Republic, though Saudi Arabia’s support for Pakistan will likely keep India from fully embracing Riyadh.

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