The Indian government’s defense is that it relies on Iran for 12 percent of its oil imports and cannot afford to break those trade ties. But India has had years to adjust and make alternative arrangements. Ironically, the US has had considerable success on the sanctions front in recent months. The European Union has decided to implement an oil embargo on Iran, the US is introducing Central Bank sanctions, and even the East Asian countries, such as China, have imported less Iranian oil in recent months.
That makes India’s recent pronouncements seem so out-of-step and out-of-touch with the new global determination to isolate and pressure Iran to negotiate in order to avoid a catastrophic war.
There is a larger point here about India’s role in the world. For all the talk about India rising to become a global power, its government doesn’t always act like one. It is all too often focused on its own region but not much beyond it. And it very seldom provides the kind of concrete leadership on tough issues that is necessary for the smooth functioning of the international system.
The Indian government has supported the four UN Security Council resolutions passed since 2006. It says Iran should give up its nuclear ambitions. But India has not stepped up to a leadership role in the negotiations and has resisted the option of being a bridge between the Iranian government and the West. It has, instead, been largely passive and even invisible on this critical issue.