The US, the UK and Australia reach out to India with updates on Russia providing weapons and military expertise to Iran

New Delhi: With India planning to use the opportunity provided by the G-20 presidency to play the role of a “peacemaker for global good”, the growing concern in the US, the UK and Australia, key members of the group, about Russia providing an “unprecedented level” of military and technical support to Iran is likely to snowball into a major issue that New Delhi will have to deal with. The Joe Biden administration has said that Russia is extending military support to Iran in exchange for Tehran supplying weapons for the war in Ukraine.

The US, the UK and Australia are of the view that the partnership between Russia and Iran poses a threat not just to Ukraine but to Iran’s neighbours in the region. Diplomatic sources told The Sunday Guardian that the US has shared this information with India, expecting New Delhi to intervene using its sound relations and rapport with Moscow. The UK and Australia have, according to sources, also reached out to India, expressing their apprehensions about this “dangerous” Russia-Iran partnership. “In fact, all these countries have high expectations from Prime Minister Narendra Modi who is being looked at as a peacemaker ever since the Ukraine war broke out,” sources told this newspaper. “Even though Iran is not a member of G-20, Russia being the group’s member, the issue of formidable military ties between Moscow and Tehran would be brought up during the summit and meetings by the US and the UK. They also look forward to PM Modi’s intervention in the matter,” a diplomat said.

“With Iran being in the extended neighbourhood of India, New Delhi cannot shut its eyes to the development either,” sources said. Diplomats familiar with the development told The Sunday Guardian, “PM Modi is already being updated on all that is happening in Tehran and Moscow. The concerns expressed by the US, the UK and Australia have been shared with him as well.”

The White House has said that the relationship between Iran and Russia is transforming into “a full-fledged defence partnership” with weapons and military expertise flowing in both directions. “This is the cause of concern not only for the neighbouring countries but for the entire international community,” diplomats here said, quoting the officials of the Biden administration. “Such issues do have potential to divert the focus at the multiple G-20 conclaves that will be taking place during the next one year,” a source said.

With this in view, India will have to work hard to maintain focus on the main agenda amid the issues like this, sources added. What is important to note here is that the Ukraine conflict and resultant tensions have also tremendous potential to overshadow the G-20 conclaves and final summit. The Bali summit witnessed how the Ukraine issue took a major chunk of time during discussion. PM Modi, who is not ready to allow any upsets during the G-20 Summit during India’s presidency, is set to interact with External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, NSA Ajit Doval and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on the development, sources said.

US National Security Council Spokesman John Kirby said Russia is giving an unprecedented level of military support. There are reports that the two countries are considering joint production of lethal drones, he added. Kirby further said that a partnership between Iran and Russia to produce drones would be harmful to Ukraine, Iran’s neighbours and the international community.

Australia has already hardened its position, sanctioning three Iranians and one Iranian business for supplying Russia with drones to use against Ukraine. UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said that Iran had become one of Russia’s main military supporters and that the relationship between them was threatening global security.

The UK agreed with the US that Iranian support for the Russian military would grow in the coming months as Russia tried to get hold of more weapons, including hundreds of ballistic missiles. Penny Wong, Australia’s foreign minister, has said “The supply of drones to Russia is evidence of the role Iran plays in destabilising global security. This listing highlights that those who provide material support to Russia will face consequences.”

Analysing the statements from top ministers and officials from the US, the UK and Australia, diplomats in India conclude that this gives a strong indication that these countries, to be joined by more western nations, would raise this issue in a big way, expecting New Delhi to address it. “Washington, London and Canberra have already reached out to New Delhi, sharing all inputs they have on the development,” a source said.