Not much reprieve for you I presume, since I am back with my balderdash. Whatever, today we shall not discuss anything related to the quotidian matters concerning India. Rather, let us plunge into some glamorous issues. And what can be more glossy than discussing about India's foreign policy; and that too when the Americans are involved.
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Random Walk: The Persian Connection
There is no gainsaying that Indo-US bonhomie has been on the rise since the era of Bush-junior. Whatever speculations existed in the scholarly discourses regarding the Obama administration, have probably been assuaged to a significant degree by the recent overtures of the American President.
In this context, it is pertinent to explore
’s relationships with the so-called pariah states like India , Iran and North Korea since Myanmar ’s foreign policy regime vis-a-vis these countries may define the future trajectory of its bilateral relationship with India . In pursuance of that, today's discussion will delve into USA ’s diplomatic curves with India . Iran
Now, it is not at all unlikely for one to discover on a frequent basis anything similar to the following:
and the India have embarked on a campaign to strengthen their bilateral relations, as symbolized by the proposed U.S.-India civilian nuclear deal, it appears as though United States has similarly begun to pursue a more robust relationship with another major power: New Delhi . The two states have recently expanded cooperation in a number of key areas, including counterterrorism, regional stability, and energy security. What are the implications of this “New Delhi-Tehran Axis” for the Iran , and how should United States respond to growing ties between Washington and India ?” Iran
The afore-mentioned abstract was asserted in a background paper released in 2008 by the
. Harvard-Kennedy School
Now, it is quite natural for foreign analysts, especially Americans, to believe in the above manner as far as India-Iran relations are concerned. For instance, in a CRS report prepared for the Congress in August 2006, Alan Kronstadt and Kenneth Katzman echo somewhat similar concerns. Nevertheless, they sound positive as far as future Indo-US bilateral ties are concerned:
’s growing energy needs and its relatively benign view of India ’s intentions will likely cause policy differences between Iran and New Delhi . Given a clear Indian interest in maintaining positive ties with Washington , Iran is unlikely to abandon its relationship with New Delhi or to accept dictation on the topic from external powers. However, India-Iran relations are unlikely to derail the further development of close and productive U.S.-India relations on a number of fronts”. Tehran
However, the doubts regarding the “New Delhi-Tehran Axis” may be somewhat unfounded as Indo-Iranian ties can hardly be interpreted as ‘strategic’. In fact, that is what Indian analyst Harsh V Pant argues in his recent paper in The Washington Quarterly. This is the advantage I gain by being a member of the Strategy India Yahoo group. Someone refers to a particular paper, and I get hold of another one which is germane to my interests.
Let's go back to Dr Pant. He says that “ever since
and the India began to transform their ties by changing the global nuclear order to accommodate United States with the 2005 framework for the Indo-U.S. civilian nuclear agreement, India has become a litmus test that Iran has occasionally been asked to pass to satisfy India policymakers”. U.S.
He further states that: “Nascent Indian-Iranian ties have been categorized by some analysts as an ‘‘axis,’’ a ‘‘strategic partnership,’’ or even an ‘‘alliance,’’ which some in the U.S. strategic community have suggested could have a potentially damaging impact on U.S. interests in Southwest Asia and the Middle East”.
Such dialectics notwithstanding, it remains a reality that the US views India’s moves vis-à-vis Iran quite cautiously and on the other hand, India keeps the Iran card up its sleeve in a post-US Afghanistan scenario where its ‘childhood enemy’ Pakistan may become a potent player. A Sunni-radicalized
may not be a lively picture for either secular Afghanistan or a Shi-ite India . Iran
Already in 2005,
had signed a long term (25 year), $22 billion agreement with India for the export of liquefied natural gas (LNG). Furthermore, Iran also initiated another energy project; and that too with much fanfare. It was the construction of a 1,700 mile, $7 billion pipeline to carry natural gas from India to Iran via India . However both these projects have been stalled. Pakistan
About the latter, the Indian government says that it would pay for the gas only after it will be received at the Pakistan-India border. Also,
does not agree to New Delhi ’s demand to revise the gas prices every three years. Tehran
On the other hand, the LNG project is yet to proceed as the proposed plant would need American components, which might violate the US-Iran-Libya Sanctions Act (ILSA).
Plainly speaking, behind the garb of commercial losses that
is citing, it is the American-factor which is telling its tale. And this is no mere presumption which may be corroborated from the following facts. India
has repeatedly voted in favour of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) resolutions against India on grounds that a nuclear Iran is not in Iran ’s interests. However, India also stresses that it favors dialogue and diplomacy as means of resolving the Iranian nuclear crisis; in tune with the legacy of its Nehruvian foreign policy. New Delhi
On the issue of energy relations,
proclaims that India is an important partner as well as a significant source for hydrocarbon resources. Iran is also one of Iran ’s largest suppliers of crude oil, and India in turn is a major supplier of refined petroleum products for India . While the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolution does not directly affect Iran ’s oil trade with India , the Iran monitoring surely must have had an impact. Moreover, the Indo-US civilian nuclear deal, along with its caveat The Hyde Act, categorically mentions that US ought to toe the India line with regard to pariah states like US . Iran
However, such a weird Indian behavior with respect to
may not be totally blamed on Iran hegemony in a post Cold War era. It probably has some diplomatic basis pertaining to specific Indo-Iran ties. US
It will be worthwhile to reminisce that
was not supportive of the Indian nuclear tests in 1998. Moreover, it also backed the UNSC Resolution asking Iran and India to cap their nuclear capabilities by signing the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). Pakistan repeatedly has urged Iran for accepting the NPT regime. Furthermore, with the conclusion of the Indo-US nuclear deal, India warned that the pact had endangered the NPT and would trigger new ‘crises’ for the international community. Iran
has claimed that such an assertion was basically directed at Iran (which is also not an NPT signatory), the implications of that move could be seen in the recent diplomatic counter-attacks launched by Israel as far as India ’s nuclear programme is concerned. Iran
has been critical of how the Indian government's way of handling protests in Tehran Kashmir. This made to issue a demarche, expressing reservations against Iranian interference in India ’s domestic issues. India
In this scenario, it may appear prudent for
to follow the recommendation of the India . They postulate that “ Harvard-Kennedy School should distinguish sharply between India ’s nuclear position and other areas of cooperation. That is, while Iran needs to continue cooperation with India in pursuit of its own national interests, Iran should make it clear that it will continue to strongly support American efforts to bring New Delhi into legal compliance over its nuclear program”. Iran
Nonetheless, though such a recommendation appears to be fine on paper, it might be diplomatically unfeasible for
to pursue a dualistic foreign policy vis-à-vis the pariah states. For instance, standing by the India side in order to sternly monitor US ’s nuclear programme would make it quite difficult to go ahead with the gas deals; since such a move would evoke apprehensions in both the Iran as well as in the Iranian camps. US
’s position regarding the contentious issue of the Iranian nuclear programme is logical. India believes that since India is an NPT signatory, it needs to conform to NPT guidelines and clarify the doubts, if any, of the IAEA. Iran never denies the fact that India has the right to pursue nuclear energy program for civilian purposes. However, the existence of a stubborn political dispensation in Iran will not make matters smooth in this regard and Indo-Iran mutual camaraderie would be on tenterhooks. In addition to that, American and Israeli misgivings regarding Tehran ’s motive will not create any salubrious diplomatic ambience for Iran either. India
needs to perform the ‘balancing act’ to a level of precision. For that, it shall be natural for India to maintain the status quo regarding the gas deals with New Delhi , at least in the foreseeable future. That is, Tehran is most likely to procrastinate the gas deals by citing commercial problems and likely terrorist infringements. However, it is unexpected that it would outrightly scrap the deals altogether. However, it cannot be denied that New Delhi or no USA , USA and its homegrown terrorist network shall remain a perennial problem in the path of fructification of the gas deals. Pakistan
Nevertheless, any future sanctions against
would entangle Iran , at least tangentially because India is at present a non-permanent member of the UNSC. And if it seeks for a permanent position in the influential body, it needs to quickly solve the foreign policy conundrum toward the pariah states. India
Uddipan Mukherjee is a late riser. Still, he works 'very hard' to edit Indian Policy. By the way, he writes in diplostratics