India Used as a US Puppet Against Iran
By Prem Shankar Jha
DELHI, October 6: Dr Manmohan Singh must have known that a decision
to vote for a resolution censuring Iran for not living up to its
commitments under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty would shock
the Indian intelligentsia.
nothing could have prepared him for the storm that broke when
the news appeared the next morning. What was previously unthinkable
has happened—a marriage of minds between the BJP and the
Left. For the first time, therefore, it is beginning to look as
if Manmohan's government might not last its full term.
public outrage is justified, for, seldom in the 57 years that
India has been independent has any government taken a decision
that goes against the principles of natural justice.
The way in which an unsustainable case has been built against
Iran for censure by the IAEA board and referral to the Security
Council has been described more than once in these columns and
elsewhere. Suffice to say that while Iran is accused of violating
the NPT, it is actually the US, backed by the EU, that is violating
it by insisting that Iran renounce the right to produce its own
nuclear fuel. And while the US justifies this by depicting Iran
as a threat to peace, the real threats are emanating from the
Indian government was aware of all this. Explaining its vote,
it disagreed with the draft resolution's 'finding' that Iran was
'non-compliant in the context of Article xii-c of the Agency's
Statute'. It was, therefore, of the opinion that Iran could not
be taken before the Security Council for failing to comply with
its treaty obligations. India also disagreed with the 'characterization
(of) the current situation as a threat to international peace
and security'. Despite these reservations, it voted in favor of
explanation it gave for its vote: that it had secured more time
to explore 'all possible avenues to reach a satisfactory resolution
of the issues' convinced no one. Iran had already made it clear
that it would react to censure by further curtailing cooperation
with the IAEA. This was what the US had wanted it to do, for this
would give it the pretext it was looking for to drag Iran before
the Security Council. Even if the Council was unable to punish
Iran due to Russian and Chinese opposition, the US intended to
use the debate to legitimize a future resort to military means
to knock out Iran's nuclear capability.
world cannot, therefore, be blamed for concluding that India betrayed
the principles on which it had built five decades of foreign policy
to serve its immediate and narrow national interest. Yet, a close
look at the options that it faced shows that such a judgment would
be unduly harsh.
can be no doubt that national interest played no small part in
the decision. The US had mounted unprecedented pressure on India
to join it in censuring Iran. The deal it offered was brutally
simple. If it wanted civilian nuclear technology and access to
cutting-edge technology in other fields, it must vote with the
US and EU. One can only wonder how many countries, faced with
such a choice, no matter how repugnant, would have chosen otherwise.
India's claim that it did not entirely abandon Iran, cannot be
dismissed lightly. Apart from bargaining successfully to gain
more time for negotiations, India has, by voting for the resolution,
earned the right to stay in the game and influence the final outcome.
A 'no' vote, or an abstention, would have made its views irrelevant.
the coming weeks, Indian policy makers would do well not to underestimate
the role they can play. The US and the EU pressurized India as
they attached great value to its vote. This value stemmed from
India's size, its stability, its democratic government, and its
growing economic weight.But above all, it stemmed from the fact
that getting it to vote with them would prevent the vote from
becoming a north versus south affair.
can parlay all of these into getting a fair deal for Iran. No
agreement will be fair if it does not recognize Iran's right to
produce or process its own nuclear fuel under the mutually agreed
IAEA safeguards. This is not only a key clause of the NPT but
was conceded in para 7 of the Paris agreement, signed in November
2004 by the EU3 and Iran. It also reaffirmed as its 'inalienable
right' in the preamble to the very resolution that has censured
it for lack of transparency.
made Iran withdraw abruptly from its November agreement was the
sudden decision by the EU3—France Germany and Britain—to
renege on a clause in the Paris agreement that recognized its
right to manufacture its own fuel and back the US demand that
Iran should not make any enriched uranium or other nuclear fuel,
stop work on a heavy water research reactor, and buy all its nuclear
fuel in perpetuity from other countries. Iran correctly saw this
as a recipe for slavery and refused to give in. India must do
its very best to persuade the EU3 to respect all the terms of
the Paris agreement.
has an equally onerous task ahead of persuading Iran to return
to the Paris agreement, observe the enhanced protocol on safeguards
that it signed with the IAEA and not resume the making nuclear
the way to make sure that Iran is never tempted to make nuclear
weapons is not to threaten it with sanctions and bombing but to
address all of its security concerns. That, too, was foreseen
in the Paris agreement but was shot down by the US. In sum, India's
presence in the negotiations and its decision to work with the
EU can strengthen their hand in the search for a negotiated solution.
If India fails to secure fair treatment for Iran, that will be
the time to vote against a future resolution.
writer is a well known and respected Indian analyst. This comment
appeared first in Outlook Magazine