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Mainstream, Vol XLVI No 1

Urgent Need to Mend Fences with Iran

Tuesday 25 December 2007, by Mansoor Ali


On October 28 Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Mohamed EiBaradei said on CNN that there were no reasons to blame Iran for seeking nuclear arms. The head of the UN atomic watchdog also warned of a possible catastrophe in case of any military operation against Iran, stressing that negotiations and inspections of Iran’s nuclear installations were the only means to resolve the problems relating to allegations of Tehran’s clandestine moves to manufacture nuclear weapons. Speaking at the plenary of the 62nd session of the UN General Assembly ElBaradei pointed out that Iran had permitted the IAEA inspectors to check cleared nuclear materials and the Iranian authorities continued to provide access to their nuclear objects while informing the Agency of their previous experiments with plutonium. In September an agreement was reached between Iran and the IAEA regarding the work-plan of stage-by-stage clarification from the Iranian side of the remaining questions regarding Tehran’s nuclear programme.

It is against this backdrop that the speeding up of the process of adopting a new anti-Iranian resolution in the UN Security Council has the potentiality of undermining the aforementioned positive trend in Tehran’s ties with the IAEA.

IN this context it stands to reason that India actively strives to mobilise all states advocating a peaceful settlement of the situation around Iran’s nuclear programme. Experts are of the opinion that it is necessary to evolve a path of compromise based on the objective reality whereby the goal of non-proliferation is met on the one hand while Iran is not discriminated against in its quest to access nuclear energy for peaceful purposes on the other. This compromise will diminish the threat of destabilisation in the region—which could be sparked off by any military action that George W. Bush may be contemplating against Iran. (Needless to stress, any regional destabilisation would obviously run counter to Indian interests.) Such a compromise accord would offer New Delhi an excellent opportunity to help revive and develop its cooperation with Tehran in the petroleum sector.

Indeed a genuinely non-aligned India would do its best to facilitate such an eventuality by which all states in our region, including our country, would benefit in the long term. This course should in no conceivable way come in conflict with US interests too, though there is no reason why New Delhi should be excessively concerned over the Bush Administration’s “sensitivities” in our neighbourhood. George W. Bush’s latest stand on Russia’s commencement of nuclear fuel deliveries for Iran’s first atomic power station is a clear pointer to the White House’s inability to go the whole hog against the desire of the international community. But the moot question is: does India want to traverse the path shown by Moscow? Or does it want to allow Washington to twist its arms so that it jettisons the non-aligned course it has steadfastly pursued all through its post-independence history as a free nation seeking friendship with all without kowtowing to any power, big or small? The attitude of several government officials during Manmohan Singh’s recent visit to the Russian capital and lately the Naval Chief’s outbursts do not inspire much confidence in New Delhi’s approach in this regard.

Incidentally, Iranian Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki’s plainspeak during his meeting with Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon in Tehran gives a measure of the Iranian leadership’s sense of hurt at New Delhi’s Washington connection coming in the way of raising Indo-Iranian ties to higher levels. This should be an eye-opener for the UPA dispensation at the Centre and spur it on to repair the damage and mend fences with the Iranian leaders at the earliest. It cannot afford to adopt a different posture to placate Washington. For the political price of such a brazen pro-US stance on the international plane would be too exorbitant for comfort.

In the announcement of the Annual Number of Mainstream appearing on page 3 in the December 8, 2007 issue of the journal it was mistakenly mentioned that this special issue will mark the completion of fortyfour years of its publication. Actually with this issue Mainstream steps into the fortysixth year after completing fortyfive years of its modest existence.
This error is regretted. —Editor)]

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