The differing reactions in Israel and India to the recent six-power agreement with Iran highlight the only point of strategic divergence between the two long-time partners: the nature of engagement with a potentially nuclearizing Iran. While Israel has condemned the preliminary agreement and the potentially broader international rapprochement with Iran it signals, India has welcomed it with cautious optimism. More generally, while Israel perceives Iran’s nuclear posture as an existential threat, India sees it more as a geopolitical hindrance to increasing New Delhi’s strategic profile in Tehran.
In recent years India and Israel seemingly agreed to compartmentalize these divergences, as Washington’s continued pressure on Iran left India’s interaction with the latter stunted. Now, however, with Western pressure on Iran beginning to ease up, the level of India’s dealings with the Islamic Republic could become a matter of much bigger concern for Israel. India would argue that the increased geo-economic leverage resulting from engagement with Iran will only help nudge Tehran toward a more definitive settlement of the status of its nuclear program, as opposed to the temporary suspension that it has presently agreed upon.
But it remains to be seen if increased India-Iran ties impact Israeli-Indian defense cooperation. Israel has long been one of India’s primary sources of arms and technology, but India’s success at diversifying its defense partnerships has altered the dynamics of the relationship in recent years. Ironically, Israel’s ability to play the “Iran card” in New Delhi will depend to some degree on the extent of technological cooperation that develops between India and the United States.