Why is India so tolerant of Venezuelan and Iranian tyranny?

In case Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani were worried about the next round of sanctions coming their way, they received some good news this week. One of their biggest trading partners (and petroleum customers) has announced that they won’t be “pressured” into any new sanctions by President Trump and will only follow sanctions agreed upon by the United Nations. India is taking a rather combative stance against the United States in this case and it’s something of a mystery as to why. (Associated Press)

India will keep trading with Iran and Venezuela despite the threat of fallout from US sanctions against the two countries, Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj said Monday. Swaraj, asked at a news conference whether US action against Iran and Venezuela would damage India, said the country would not make foreign policy “under pressure”.

US President Donald Trump this month withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal and ordered the reimposition of sanctions suspended under the 2015 accord. Washington has also tightened sanctions against Venezuela over the controversial re-election of President Nicolas Maduro.

Both countries are key oil suppliers to India and the United States has warned that foreign companies which deal with Iran could themselves be punished.

India’s Foreign Minister made these comments right before heading off to a meeting with the Foreign Minister of Iran who had been invited to New Delhi for the occasion. This is a complicated situation and there are at least a few reasons why India wouldn’t want to damage their relationship with Iran, despite the latter’s support for terrorism and opposition to democracy. Trade is one reason, given the robust market India provides for Iranian oil. But they’re also in the middle of a deal to help build up the Chabahar port on the southeast coast of Iran.

The Chabahar deal isn’t so much a sign of India’s love of Iran as it is a way to develop an independent shipping route which cuts Pakistan out of the loop. While India may not be huge fans of Iran, they’re extremely antagonistic towards Pakistan and that works out to be a win for them. With that in mind, it’s not that hard to see why they don’t want to follow Washington on the path to more sanctions.

What’s more of a puzzle, though, is why they continue to support Venezuela. Yes, they buy oil from them also, but the Venezuelan oil supply has become sketchy at best under Maduro. Also, India has their own history of conflict and experience with countries that fall under socialist or communist dictators in their part of the world. India has a thriving, democratic form of government and the Indian people enjoy many freedoms not seen under tyrants. Condemning Maduro seems like it would be the most natural thing in the world for them and they could always make up their oil supply issues by coming to us.

All of this shows why we’re going to have such a tough time putting additional pressure on some of the worst nations on the planet. Venezuela still maintains the support of Russia, China and now India. With friends like that, Maduro could remain afloat indefinitely no matter how many sanctions the United States puts on him.