What Iran’s tit-for-tat missile attack on US interests means for India
Iran fired more than a dozen ballistic missiles at al-Asad airbase in Al Anbar and another base in Erbil in retaliation for the killing of top Iranian General Qasem Soleimani in an American drone strike on Friday.Updated: Jan 08, 2020 13:04 IST
India remains focused on ensuring peace and stability in West Asia in view of its economic and security interests in the region, people familiar with developments in India said on Wednesday after Iran fired missiles at Iraqi bases housing US personnel.
Iran fired more than a dozen ballistic missiles at al-Asad airbase in Al Anbar and another base in Erbil in retaliation for the killing of top Iranian General Qasem Soleimani in an American drone strike on Friday. US and Iraqi officials said there were no immediate reports of casualties.
“India’s efforts remain focused on peace and stability in the region and this has been reflected in Prime Minister Narendra Modi and external affairs minister S Jaishankar’s outreach to all the key players in recent days,” said a person who declined to be identified.
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The people cited above referred to a statement issued by the external affairs ministry on Friday after the death of Soleimani, which spoke of the need for stability and restraint, and said this continued to reflect India’s position on the escalation of tensions in West Asia.
Friday’s statement had noted “a senior Iranian leader has been killed by the US” and said: “The increase in tension has alarmed the world. Peace, stability and security in this region is of utmost importance to India. It is vital that the situation does not escalate further. India has consistently advocated restraint and continues to do so.”
Since Sunday, Jaishankar has spoken to both US secretary of state Mike Pompeo and Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif and the foreign ministers of the UAE, Qatar, Oman and Jordan to discuss ways to reduce the tensions and to work for de-escalation. PM Modi has also discussed the issue with US President Donald Trump during a phone call on Tuesday.
India’s efforts are aimed at ensuring energy security and protecting the interests of some 8 million expatriates in West Asia, including more than 2.5 million in Saudi Arabia alone. Any confrontation between Iran and the US is bound to affect sea routes in the Persian Gulf and hit oil prices and supplies.
New Delhi has also been caught in a delicate situation in view of its good relations with both Tehran and Washington.
Following the Iranian missile strikes, the external affairs ministry issued a travel advisory that called on Indian nationals “to avoid all non-essential travel to Iraq until further notification”.
It said: “Indian nationals residing in Iraq are advised to be alert and may avoid travel within Iraq. Our Embassy in Baghdad and Consulate in Erbil will continue to function normally to provide all services to Indians residing in Iraq.”
Experts also warily welcomed what appeared to be signs by the US and Iranian leadership about a possible de-escalation.
“All is well! Missiles launched from Iran at two military bases located in Iraq. Assessment of casualties & damages taking place now. So far, so good! We have the most powerful and well equipped military anywhere in the world, by far! I will be making a statement tomorrow morning,” Trump tweeted.
The Iranian foreign minister tweeted his country had taken and “concluded” self-defence measures and did not “seek escalation”.
Zarif said: “Iran took & concluded proportionate measures in self-defense under Article 51 of UN Charter targeting base from which cowardly armed attack against our citizens & senior officials were launched.
“We do not seek escalation or war, but will defend ourselves against any aggression.”
Trump too has walked back an earlier threat to strike Iranian cultural sites following widespread condemnation of his remarks around the world.