India mourns the loss of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi: A tribute to his role in strengthening bilateral ties

India and Iran share a long and storied history that dates back millennia, characterized by deep cultural, linguistic, and economic exchanges.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed his deep sorrow over the death of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, who tragically perished in a helicopter crash on Sunday.

In a heartfelt message on X, Modi stated, “Deeply saddened and shocked by the tragic demise of Dr Seyed Ebrahim Raisi, President of the Islamic Republic of Iran. His contribution to strengthening the India-Iran bilateral relationship will always be remembered. My heartfelt condolences to his family and the people of Iran. India stands with Iran in this time of sorrow.”

The sudden demise of President Raisi marks a significant moment in the ongoing relationship between India and Iran. This bilateral relationship, rich in history and strategic importance, has witnessed numerous phases of cooperation and conflict, shaped by geopolitical dynamics and mutual interests. As India navigates the complexities of international relations, the bond with Iran remains pivotal, reflecting shared cultural ties, economic interdependence, and strategic collaborations.

History of India-Iran Relations

India and Iran share a long and storied history that dates back millennia, characterized by deep cultural, linguistic, and economic exchanges. The ancient civilizations of Persia and the Indian subcontinent were interconnected through trade routes and shared intellectual and artistic traditions. This historical legacy has laid a strong foundation for contemporary diplomatic engagements.

The Mughal era in India further cemented the cultural ties, as Persian language and art significantly influenced the Indian subcontinent. Persian was the court language during the Mughal reign, and many Mughal emperors, including Akbar and Shah Jahan, fostered close relations with Persian scholars and artists.

In modern times, diplomatic relations between independent India and Iran were officially established on March 15, 1950. Despite occasional tensions, especially during the Cold War when Iran was aligned with the Western bloc and India maintained non-aligned status, the relationship has generally been marked by cooperation and mutual respect.

The 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran initially caused a rift in relations, primarily due to ideological differences and Iran’s support for Pakistan in the India-Pakistan conflict. However, the two countries found common ground in the 1990s, especially with their shared interests in Afghanistan. Both India and Iran supported the Northern Alliance against the Taliban, highlighting their strategic alignment in the region.

In December 2002, India and Iran signed a defence cooperation agreement, further solidifying their partnership. This agreement underscored the importance of collaboration in maintaining regional stability and combating terrorism.

Economic Ties: Oil, Trade, and Investments

Economically, Iran has been a crucial partner for India, primarily as a significant supplier of crude oil. At one point, Iran was the second-largest supplier of crude oil to India, providing more than 425,000 barrels per day. This energy partnership is vital for India’s growing economy, which relies heavily on imported oil to meet its energy demands.

However, economic relations faced challenges due to international sanctions imposed on Iran over its nuclear program. Despite these sanctions, India found ways to continue trading with Iran, including using alternative payment mechanisms through countries like Turkey. This resilience in economic ties underscores the strategic importance of the relationship.

India has also invested in Iran’s infrastructure, notably the Chabahar Port, which is seen as a counterbalance to the Chinese-developed Gwadar Port in Pakistan. The development of Chabahar Port and associated infrastructure projects, like the Zaranj-Delaram highway, facilitates not only bilateral trade but also provides India with a strategic foothold in the region, enhancing connectivity to Afghanistan and Central Asia.

Geopolitical Dynamics and the North-South Transport Corridor

The North-South Transport Corridor (NSTC) is another significant initiative involving India, Iran, and Russia. This multimodal transportation network aims to reduce the time and cost of transporting goods between India and Russia, via Iran and Azerbaijan. The NSTC is expected to enhance trade connectivity and economic integration across Eurasia, demonstrating the strategic importance of Iran in India’s foreign policy.

High-level visits and diplomatic engagements have played a crucial role in strengthening India-Iran relations. Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Iran in May 2016 was a landmark event, focusing on enhancing connectivity, energy partnership, and trade. During this visit, multiple agreements were signed, including those related to the development of Chabahar Port and cooperation in the fields of energy and infrastructure.

PM Modi’s last meeting with President Raisi took place in August 2023 on the sidelines of the BRICS summit in Johannesburg. During their meeting, the two leaders discussed bolstering bilateral cooperation across diverse sectors, encompassing trade and investment, connectivity, energy, and counter-terrorism. This interaction underscored the continued commitment of both nations to deepen their strategic partnership.

Despite the strong foundations, India-Iran relations face several challenges. The geopolitical landscape, particularly Iran’s contentious nuclear program and its relations with the United States, impacts India’s diplomatic manoeuvring. India’s stance on Iran’s nuclear ambitions has been cautious, balancing its strategic interests with international obligations and relations with other key players like the United States and Israel.

The evolving situation in Afghanistan also poses a challenge. Both India and Iran have historically supported the anti-Taliban forces, but the Taliban’s resurgence in 2021 has necessitated a recalibration of strategies. Ensuring stability in Afghanistan is a shared concern, and coordinated efforts will be crucial in addressing this challenge.


The tragic demise of President Ebrahim Raisi is a moment of grief, not just for Iran but for its close allies like India. As Prime Minister Modi expressed, Raisi’s contributions to strengthening bilateral ties will be remembered. This moment also serves as a reminder of the enduring and multifaceted relationship between India and Iran, built on historical ties, strategic interests, and mutual respect.

As both nations navigate the complexities of the modern geopolitical landscape, the foundation of their relationship remains strong. Continued diplomatic engagements, economic cooperation, and strategic alignment will be crucial in shaping the future of India-Iran relations. In times of sorrow and in moments of collaboration, the bond between India and Iran stands resilient, reflecting a partnership that has withstood the test of time and promises a future of shared prosperity and stability.