[Indepth] Iran-Israel conflict: Background, Impacts, India’s Stance

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The Iran-Israel conflict has escalated to new heights, with the latest developments marking a significant shift in the nature of the long-standing shadow war between the two countries. In recent weeks, tensions have risen dramatically, with Iran launching a massive missile and drone attack on Israel from its own territory, and Israel responding with a series of targeted strikes on Iranian assets. The situation has raised concerns about the potential for an all-out war between the two nations, and the international community has called for de-escalation and restraint. The conflict has also affected regional stability, with Israel engaged in conflicts on two other fronts against Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon, both allies of Iran. The situation remains tense, with both sides showing signs of willingness to fight each other directly rather than through proxies, which could lead to a more widespread conflict.

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This topic of “[Indepth] Iran-Israel conflict: Background, Impacts, India’s Stance” is important from the perspective of the UPSC IAS Examination, which falls under General Studies Portion.

Historical Background


  • Iran recognized Israel and established initial relations
  • Iran was the second Muslim country to recognize Israel after its 1948 Declaration of Independence
  • The Trans-Israel pipeline, a joint venture between Israel and Iran, transported Iranian crude from the Red Sea port of Eilat to the Mediterranean port of Ashkelon
  • Iranian students protested against the United States and Israel in 1978


  • The Islamic Revolution led to a shift in Iran’s stance towards Israel
  • Iran viewed Israel as a tool of the United States and a colonial power
  • Iran continued to supply weapons and intelligence to Iran during its war with Iraq, seeing Iran’s Persian population as natural allies in a majority Arab region
  • Tensions escalated in the 1990s
  • Key events and turning points in the conflict include the development of nuclear technology, funding of Islamist groups, and alleged involvement in terrorist attacks
  • The conflict has played out in various ways, including through support for opposing factions in conflicts in Syria and Yemen

Proxy Conflicts and Support for Opposing Factions

  1. Iran’s support for groups like Hezbollah and Hamas
    • Iran has provided financial and military support to Hezbollah since its formation in the 1980s to fight Israel’s occupation in southern Lebanon
    • Hezbollah has been sending rockets into northern Israel since the beginning of the Gaza war
    • Iran also supports Hamas, the armed Palestinian group that led the October 7 attack on southern Israel
    • Iran has provided support to Houthi rebels in Yemen, who fired ballistic missiles at Israeli resort town on the Red Sea
    • Iran backs the Syrian regime of President Bashar Assad, and Israel says Tehran uses Syrian territory to ship missiles and other weapons to Hezbollah in Lebanon
  2. Israel’s support for groups like the People’s Mujahedin of Iran and Jundallah
    • Israel has supported Iranian rebels, such as the People’s Mujahedin of Iran
    • Israel has conducted airstrikes against Iranian allies in Syria and assassinated Iranian nuclear scientists
    • Israel has provided support to Iran’s war effort during the Iran-Iraq War, including the bombing and destruction of Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor in Operation Opera
  3. Conflicts in Syria and Yemen
    • Iran’s influence in Iraq increased following the US invasion of 2003 and the fall of Saddam Hussein
    • Iran’s strongest influence is through its paramilitaries’ presence in Iraq’s security apparatus, but Iraq has also exhibited some political independence from its neighbor and maintains financial leverage over Iran
    • Iraqi paramilitaries operating as part of Iran’s ‘axis of resistance’ have also attacked US forces in Iraq, who responded with reprisals of their own
    • The increasing risk of a wider war imperils the relative stability Iraq has enjoyed over the past few years and the country’s fledgling role as a regional mediator

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Cyberattacks and Nuclear Programs

  1. Stuxnet and other cyberattacks on Iran’s nuclear facilities
    • The Stuxnet virus was discovered in computers at the nuclear plant in Iran’s Bushehr city in June 2010
    • Stuxnet destroyed at least 1,000 centrifuges in Iran’s Natanz enrichment facility
    • Iran accused Israel and the US of being behind the virus attack
    • Other cyberattacks include the Stars virus in April 2011, Duqu in November 2011, Wiper in April 2012, Flame in May 2012, and a new generation of Stuxnet in October 2018
    • These cyberattacks have caused varying degrees of damage to Iran’s nuclear facilities and other infrastructure
  2. Iran’s nuclear program and Israel’s stance on it
    • Iran’s nuclear program has been a source of concern for Israel for many years
    • Israel has accused Iran of developing nuclear weapons and has threatened to take military action if necessary
    • Iran has denied that its nuclear program is for military purposes and has stated that it is for peaceful energy production
    • The international community has imposed sanctions on Iran to try to halt its nuclear program
    • Israel has reportedly conducted cyberattacks on Iran’s nuclear facilities and has assassinated Iranian nuclear scientists

Recent Escalations and Responses

  1. The April 19, 2024, attack on Iranian soil
    • Israel’s drones reportedly struck near Isfahan, Iran, in response to Iran’s assault on Israeli territory involving over 300 drones and missiles
    • The attack marked a new chapter in the conflict between Israel and Iran, raising concerns about further escalation
  2. Iran’s response with drones and missiles on April 13, 2024
    • Iran launched a retaliatory attack involving over 300 drones and missiles targeting Isfahan and Tabriz in response to Israel’s actions
    • The offensive, though large in scale, did not cause significant damage, but it highlighted the direct nature of the conflict between the two countries
  3. Global reactions and calls for de-escalation
    • The international community, including the US, has urged for de-escalation and restraint in the face of the escalating conflict between Israel and Iran
    • Ceasefire talks between Hamas and Israel have stalled, further raising tensions in the region and prompting calls for peaceful resolutions to the conflicts
    • The risk of a wider war and the potential implications for regional stability have prompted global actors to advocate for diplomatic solutions and efforts to prevent further escalation

Global Impacts of the Conflict

  1. Political Consequences
    • The Iran-Israel conflict escalated significantly in 2024, transitioning from a proxy war to direct confrontation, marked by Israeli airstrikes on Iranian targets in Syria and reciprocal Iranian strikes on Israeli territory. This direct engagement has heightened tensions in the Middle East, leading to fears of a wider regional conflict.
    • The assassination of Iranian officials by Israel has further inflamed relations, with significant retaliatory actions by Iran, including attacks involving drones and missiles.
    • In response to escalating military actions, several Middle Eastern countries preemptively closed their airspace, indicating widespread regional concern over the conflict potentially expanding beyond Israel and Iran.
  2. Economic Impact
    • The conflict has impacted global commodity markets, particularly oil and metals. Iran’s involvement in global oil supply, accounting for about 3.3% of production, places substantial risk premiums on oil prices. Precious metals like gold and silver have shown fluctuating prices due to investor uncertainty driven by the conflict.
    • Economic sanctions have also been targeted towards Russia, affecting the supply and trading conditions of industrial metals, which could indirectly impact global markets due to the interconnected nature of economic sanctions and military conflicts.
  3. Military and Strategic Repercussions
    • The conflict scenario includes a theoretical escalation to nuclear engagements. Simulations suggest that while initial self-restraint might prevent immediate nuclear catastrophe, the potential for such an outcome remains a dire possibility under continued escalation, complicating international peace efforts.
  4. Cyber Warfare and Propaganda
    • Iran has significantly ramped up its cyber warfare operations, targeting Israeli infrastructure and spreading propaganda. This includes AI-driven fake news broadcasts aimed at disrupting media narratives and influencing public opinion internationally.
    • These cyber operations have expanded geographically, indicating Iran’s strategic approach to widen its influence and operational targets beyond Israel, affecting nations perceived as Israeli allies.

Impact of the Conflict on India

Political and Diplomatic Concerns

  • India has expressed serious concerns regarding the escalating conflict between Iran and Israel. The Indian government is actively monitoring the situation, maintaining close contact with the Indian community in the region through its embassies, and has held discussions with foreign ministers from both conflicting nations to advocate for de-escalation and diplomacy.

Economic Implications

  • The conflict poses risks to global oil prices, which are particularly significant for India given its heavy reliance on oil imports. The region’s instability could lead to fluctuations in oil prices, affecting India’s economic landscape.
  • Historically, Indian stock markets have shown sensitivity to geopolitical conflicts, typically reacting negatively to increased tensions before eventually stabilizing. The current conflict could similarly impact financial market performance in India.

Safety and Security of Indian Nationals

  • Approximately 18,500 Indians reside in Israel, and around 4,000 in Iran. The Indian government has issued travel advisories and is considering evacuation plans should the situation deteriorate, underscoring the potential risk to Indian nationals in the conflict zones.

Broader Geopolitical Stakes

  • India’s strategic interests in the region are extensive, involving both diplomatic relations and economic ties with Israel and Iran. The conflict could necessitate a reevaluation of these ties and strategies depending on the progression and outcome of the hostilities.

India’s Role in the Conflict

  1. India’s stance on the Iran-Israel conflict
    • India has maintained a neutral stance on the Iran-Israel conflict, urging for de-escalation and peaceful resolutions
    • The Ministry of External Affairs expressed “grave concern” over the escalating tensions and emphasized the importance of preserving peace and stability in the region
  2. India’s diplomatic and economic relations with both countries
    • India has strategic ties with both Iran and Israel, balancing its relationships between the two nations
    • India’s deep strategic relationship with Israel in defense and security has grown significantly in the past decade, with public support offered during times of crisis
    • India has maintained a strategic relationship with Iran, a major supplier of crude oil, despite setbacks due to sanctions, and both countries share concerns about terrorism emanating from neighboring regions
  3. India’s position on regional security and stability
    • India plays a crucial role in the region’s security and stability, given its strategic ties with both Iran and Israel
    • The conflict between Iran and Israel has occasionally impacted India, causing discomfort and diplomatic challenges
    • India’s strong trade links with the Middle East, including oil imports and business interests, make regional stability a key priority for the country


  1. The current state of the conflict and its implications for the Middle East
    • The Middle East is afflicted by a notable dearth of norms of warfare and dispute resolution mechanisms
    • The region is convulsed by regional turbulence, with ongoing civil wars in Syria, Yemen, Libya, and Iraq, and regional power struggles such as the rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran
    • The regional balance of power has been highly uncertain following the 2011 uprisings and the aftermath of the 2003 U.S invasion of Iraq
    • The Middle East suffers from a notable dearth of norms of warfare and dispute resolution mechanisms in comparison with other regions
  2. Possible future developments and potential resolutions
    • Conflict resolution in the Middle East is a complex process that requires comprehensive approaches beyond the dominant strategies of negotiation and mediation
    • The Arab-Israeli peace process has dominated the agenda of policymakers and academics for decades, but broader dynamics have made these conflicts particularly long and ugly
    • The Middle East is a dynamic region that has witnessed countless endeavors dealing with managing, resolving, and preventing conflicts from even emerging
    • The conflict resolution process should include track-two diplomacy, the role of culture and gender in conflict management, and the emerging interest in the nuclear negotiations with Iran
    • Conflict resolution approaches should consider the specificities of each conflict and the interests of the intervening parties

Practice Question

Assess the role of India in the Iran-Israel conflict and its implications for regional security and stability in the Middle East. (250 words)

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