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Rouhani’s visit a reality check for Iran-India relations

Trade connectivity overtakes energy as Tehran and New Delhi move to forge closer cooperation.

At first glance, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s recent visit to India made news for all the right reasons. The three-day tour Feb 15-17, his first state visit to India, revolved around furthering economic engagement between the two countries. The optics were great, and the announcements following his “substantive talks” with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi received praise. Close observers would have noted, however, that the visit did not break new ground. Rather, it laid bare the reality that both sides are hedging their bets based on the potential exit of the United States from the major powers' nuclear deal with Iran.

Indeed, Iran is once again wooing its Asian customers and partners as European investments continue to be held hostage to President Donald Trump’s rhetoric against the nuclear deal and, more broadly, Iran. India, though keen on the potential gains from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), now anticipates the fallout of a US exit and has recalibrated its investments and expectations accordingly. New Delhi has repurposed its to-do list on Iran, culling it to the absolute essentials key to New Delhi’s primary strategic interest in its neighborhood — namely, connectivity.

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