The China hand in Saudi-Iran diplomacy

Source: This post is created based on the article “The China hand in Saudi-Iran diplomacy”, published in Indian Express on 13th March 2023.

Syllabus Topic: GS Paper 2, Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests

News: Recently, the Saudi Arabia and Iran entered a deal, which was brokered by China.

Both countries re-established their relations, seven years after breaking off ties.

Under this deal, Iran and Saudi Arabia will reopen their embassies, revive a 2001 security pact, and a 1998 agreement to build economic, commercial, scientific, cultural and sports ties. China is also a signatory to the deal.

Why both countries have tilted towards China?

Saudi Arabia: In 2019, Houthi rebels, backed by Iran, made the drone attacks on its oil facilities in 2019. However, US led by Trump declined to help Saudis. Similarly, Biden administration also signalled decreasing interest in the region.

Iran: Trump pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions on Iran. Furthermore, US carried out the targeted killing of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard chief Qassem Soleimani.

Significance and implications of this deal

First, this agreement may resolve the ongoing conflicts between 2 countries in Yemen, Syria and Lebanon.

Second, it establishes China’s dominance in the region, which was a US turf, until now.

Third, it may rebuild the China’s image as an international peacebuilder, from the earlier image of a territorial aggressor and a loan shark.

Fourth, China has been trying to improve relations with both countries for a long time. In 2021, it signed a strategic cooperation pact with Iran. It has been in contact with crown prince Mohammed Bin Salman, when US was reluctant to maintain its relationship.

What are its implications for India?

First, it makes China, an important geopolitical player in the Persian Gulf, where India has been continuously strengthening its ties.

Second, India has also been strengthening its relations with US. Now with US weakening in the region, it won’t be able to help India.

Third,I2U2 (Israel-India-UAE-US) or “quad of the middle east” may render dysfunctional with the isolation of UAE and Israel.

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