February 22, 2024

Iran, China and Russia Triad in the emerging multipolar world order

The focus of the growing relations among the Russia, China & Iran triad is to be seen as raising a challenge to the dominance of the US.
Keywords: Triad, Russia, China, Iran, Alliance, partnership, Influence, Development, Nuclear, War, peace 
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China has been emphasizing a multipolar world order as a necessity of contemporary times. In simpler words, Beijing wants to do away with the unipolar system in which the US dictates terms. After WW II, the US immensely increased its power and influence globally. The significant development is that the US has been able to enroll the European states under its banner, which gives it added strength.

The sudden rise of China as the new economic power and economic leader of the world has made the US uneasy. The reason is that the economy-savvy Chinese have successfully extended their influence and reach in large parts of Central, South and South East Asia, the Middle East and the African continent. China is now eyeing Latin American countries also. 

China and Russia are on good terms. A few days back, Chinese President Xi Jinping was on a three–day visit to Moscow where he issued a joint statement with the Russian President, Vladimir Putin. The joint statement again reiterates the concept of ‘multilateralism’ and strongly argues that creating multilateral hubs of power would ensure world peace. The joint statement is an indication that a new world order is in the offing in which anti-US forces will be joining hands.

Iran has lately become an active partner in the Sino-Russian world order concept. The reasons why Iran is going to throw her lot on the side of new multilateralism are not difficult to seek. The Iranian nation can be described as having a split personality. As heirs to a strongly well-knit and active Zoroastrian society in pre-Islamic times, Iranians have not been able to shed the pre-Islamic mindset. Iran’s hatred of Israel is not only caused by political and ideological reasons, it also reflects an obsession to demonstrate to the Arab world that an ‘Aryan’ nation can be more Islamic than the Arabs. It has an ethnic angle also. Iran’s quarrel with the US is that Washington is tilted more towards Arab oil-rich states and secondly the Jews dominate the US financial, media, law-making, and enforcement agencies.

Why does Iran allegedly want to make a nuclear bomb? It is also to convey that Iran is ahead of Arab states and has the power to deal with Israel. Tehran has repeatedly denied wanting to build a bomb but it wishes to evince that it has the capability of doing so.

As Israel tries to mend fences with the Gulf states, even with Saudis Arabia, Iran has long been rather isolated. Additionally, the US has imposed sanctions on her, not once but twice, and her economy has gone through a rough time. Iran is looking for space and recovery of her political personality. The new world order conceptualized by China and supported by Russia suits Iran. 

The three pioneers of the new order envisaged are China, Russia, and Iran. President Xi of China is the architect in collaboration with President Putin. Sometime back, President Putin paid a visit to Tehran and met with the supreme religious head Ayatollah Khamenei. He was warmly received. We can imagine what must have transpired between them.,  

Earlier this year, Iranian President Raisi visited Beijing on 14-16 February with a large delegation. The visit came about despite some differences between the two sides after the China-Gulf Cooperation Council summit. The official statements reflected their commitment to deepen and upgrade the Iran-China strategic partnership.  It was Raisi’s first visit to China and he was the first President to visit China in two decades. Interestingly, apart from senior officials of various ministries, the Iranian delegation included Ali Bagheri Kani, the chief nuclear negotiator of Iran.

Among other things, the Chinese President assured President Raisi of China’s support for Iran’s sovereignty and independence, territorial integrity, and national dignity. The mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party – the Global Times – stated that Beijing and Tehran’s relationship has grown “by overcoming interference and sabotage by the US”. Xi expressed to Raisi his willingness to strengthen communication and coordination with Iran on multilateral platforms such as the UN and SCO to practice true multilateralism and safeguard the common interests of developing countries. China also assured Iran of support for the resumption of negotiations on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

China and Iran have signed a 25-year “strategic cooperation pact” according to which China will invest billions of dollars in Iran’s oil, gas and infrastructure sectors, in exchange for supplies. According to observers, the real significance of the Iranian President’s visit to Beijing lies in the boost to strategic relations intended to resist and oppose the US. Raisi said in his remarks that the strategic dimension of the bilateral talks was especially important. Iran’s foreign ministry stated, “Despite the opposition of the enemies of the Islamic Republic of Iran and China to the consolidation and development of the relations between the two countries, these relations have taken great steps with the favorable management of the two sides.” Mohsin Salehi, a member of the parliament’s economic committee told IRNA that Iran can “challenge the unilateralism of the US” as an influential country alongside Russia and China.

It must be recollected that in a recent speech, Putin said “an anti-west movement is emerging.” Evidently, in his mind, there was a trilateral agreement on the need for multilateralism. The focus of the growing relations among the triad is to be seen as raising a challenge to the dominance of the US. 

Russia has taken some steps to deepen relations with Iran, particularly since the outbreak of war in Ukraine. President Putin visited Tehran in July 2022. The visit manifested the willingness of both sides to deepen bilateral relations, in response to the sanctions imposed on Iran and Russia. The two leaders claim to have similar views on regional issues such as the conflicts in Ukraine and Syria. Iran and Russia agreed to pursue measures or frameworks to reduce their vulnerability to Western-led financial sanctions. They also agreed to accelerate the operationalization of the multi-modal International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC).

There may be a trilateral alliance in the making. Though it is still informal and the initiators expect more non-European countries to join as partners, it is evident that there is a wave of support for multilateralism to replace the existing system. The Ukrainian conflict has become the catalyst for the multilateralist movement but China and Russia have said repeatedly that the concept of multilateralism does not disregard but instead reaffirms the role and importance of the United Nations. All that they ask for is its restructuring in a manner that does justice to all the member countries and that their dignity and interests as members of the international community are not compromised.

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K N Pandita

K N Pandita has a PhD in Iranian Studies from the University of Teheran. He is the former Director of the Centre of Central Asian Studies, Kashmir University.

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