After a month of investigation, India’s central counterterrorism agencies recently concluded that the Quds Force of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) was behind the bomb blast which targeted the Israeli Embassy in New Delhi on January 29, 2021. A low-grade improvised explosive device (IED) caused the low-intensity blast outside the Israeli Embassy on Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam Road. The blast coincided with the completion of 29 years of diplomatic ties between India and Israel. As per the latest news reports from New Delhi, the investigating agencies also revealed that the IED was planted by a local Shiite cell. The blast occurred against the backdrop of India’s attempts to improve economic engagement with Iran.
In February, the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs handed over the Israeli Embassy bomb blast probe to the National Investigation Agency, and later a team from Israel’s Intelligence Agency Mossad joined the investigation with both agencies exchanging information. As per sources acquainted with the investigation, the initial joint probe indicated Iran’s involvement in light of preliminary evidence.
Initial investigations indicated that the low-grade IED was thrown near the Israeli Embassy from a moving vehicle, in addition, the forensic teams found that the IED used ammonium nitrate-fuel oil and was stuffed with ball bearings as shrapnel. India’s Central Forensic Sciences Laboratory also examined the remnants to conduct a detailed analysis of the blast scene. One of the most important pieces of evidence pointing to Iran’s hand was a letter left at the scene. It said that the blast was revenge for the killing of Qassem Soleimani, Abu Mahdi al Muhandis and Mohsen Fakhrizadeh. As per news reports, New Delhi’s police said that the materials used to produce the IEDs “were locally sourced” and “the envelope that was found at the blast site has revealed the Iranian connection to the blast.”
Those who planned the blast tried to mislead investigators by deliberately leaving behind false-flag cyber markers indicating the involvement of ISIS. The counterterrorism agencies are certain that the IED blast was part of the asymmetric warfare of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard against Israel. A senior Indian government official said, “deliberate efforts have been made to firewall the real perpetrators behind the terror incident with false flags and deniability built into the attack that obviously was carried out at the behest of Iran.”
Several newspaper reports indicated that the New Delhi Police Special Cell had identified two Iranian nationals for their role in the blast. They are residents of Zakir Nagar in South Delhi. Upon identification of the two Iranian nationals, the Iranian Embassy in New Delhi responded by denying all allegations and said that such speculation is nothing but “sinister intentions of the enemies of Iran- India relations.”
India’s Minister of External affairs Subrahmanyam Jaishankar spoke with Israel’s Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi in the aftermath of the blast, assuring him that India’s central investigating agencies were undertaking all the necessary investigative steps to trace those responsible. Furthermore, India’s Foreign Secretary Harsh Shringla spoke with his Israeli counterpart Alon Ushpitz and India’s National Security Adviser Ajit Doval spoke with Israel’s National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat. Israel’s Ambassador to India, Ron Malka has repeatedly called the blast a terrorist attack and has also said that he was not surprised by the blast as alert levels were raised weeks prior to the blast in light of intelligence information. While responding to a question regarding Iran’s link to the blast, Malka said, “Those non-state actors that are striving for destabilization in the region and the world don’t like what is happening between Israel and India, that are striving for stability and peace. It might be a threat for them.”
In 2012 a similar blast near the Israeli Embassy in New Delhi injured an Israeli diplomat’s wife and some others who were accompanying her. The 2012 attack was concluded to have been plotted by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and reports mentioned it was in response to the killing of Iranian scientists. The geopolitical situation is different now as India in recent years has strengthened its ties with Israel across several spheres including counterterrorism and intelligence sharing, whereas, India continues to have troubled relations with Iran. Hence, Iran remains wary about India’s growing ties with Israel and the recent blast has resulted in further tensions between Iran and India against the backdrop of ongoing attempts to improve their bilateral interactions. Moreover, India is concerned that its improvement in relations with Israel and other Middle Eastern countries may result in regional rivalries extending to its territories, like what we see in Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan.