The sad demise of the Iranian president, Ebrahim Raisi, hasn’t caused the sort of consternation that might be expected from the sudden death of the head of government of an important geopolitical player like Iran. Raisi died when the extremely old helicopter he was flying in crashed in bad weather somewhere near the Azerbaijan border. These are the only three verifiable facts known about the crash. The rest is conjecture of no particular use. Therefore, in all probability the world will move on very quickly after the formalities are over.

As far as Iran is concerned, it is reasonable to expect that it will be business as usual. What will, however, be interesting to watch is the succession. Raisi was widely expected to succeed the current head of the Iranian state, the 85-year old Ayatollah Khamenei. Now no one knows who will succeed him. Nor does it matter very much because over the 45 years since the Iranian revolution of 1979 which replaced monarchy with an Islamic state, Iran had evolved into a remarkably stable state. True, there have been some upheavals but these have been far and few because of the extremely heavy hand with which the government has dealt with them. Many would even describe it as brutal. But it is what it is and what matters to the rest of the world is Iranian stability, if not policy continuity. Whether the two can be separated is not very clear. Probably not, because in spite of China bringing Iran and Saudi Arabia closer, there is no real change in the objective conditions on the ground, namely, the Shia-Sunni schisms and Israel.

Iranian policy towards the region and outside it has been shaped by two things mainly. One is its possession of huge oil reserves that make it a very rich country. The other is the existence of Israel which to Iran is what Kashmir is to Pakistan: a means of uniting the population behind the regime. Indeed, another resemblance between Iran and Pakistan is that even though there’s an elected government in both countries, real power resides elsewhere. There are other similarities, too. Like Pakistan, Iran is now close to China and Russia. Like Pakistan, Iran supports militant groups. In Iran’s case it is Hamas, Hezbollah and now the Houthis. Like Pakistan, Iran has an excellent and well-trained army that can fight. And last but not least, it’s nearly nuclear armed. The difference is the absence of US support which was present for Pakistan.

But Iran is also different from Pakistan in a very major way: it’s friendly towards India, for a whole host of well-known reasons. These friendly relations have stood the test of time and there is no reason to believe that they could or would deteriorate under a new regime. This is largely because India has always taken care to keep Iranian interests in view, even when under severe US pressure. The two countries have acted in their respective national interests which, happily for both, have converged.