Vinod Mubayi



Despite the travails of the UPA (United Progressive Alliance) regime in India, which makes it appear as a battered boxer barely hanging on to the ropes, it has discovered a rare backbone in itself by adopting an independent stance geared to India’s interests with regard to the crisis brought about by the sanctions imposed on Iran by the U.S. and Western Europe coupled with Israeli threats to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities.


Iran supplies India with almost a fifth of its oil imports, and imported oil fulfils almost three-quarters of India’s annual oil needs. Driven by an agenda of ostensibly preventing Iran from enriching uranium and giving it the resources needed to fabricate a nuclear bomb, the Western countries have imposed extremely onerous sanctions that will bar Iran from the international banking system; in effect, make it impossible for Iran to be paid for oil exports, its main economic resource.


China and India are two major importers of Iranian oil who are resisting the pressure from the U.S., U.K., and France, unlike Japan, another significant importer, who has meekly succumbed.  It appears that the principal political goal of the western countries is more likely regime change than to simply enforce the edicts of the so-called non-proliferation policy.  India’s relations with Iran are multi-faceted and involve both economic and political components, for example, formulating sensible policies towards regional issues such as the conflict in Afghanistan.  India’s decision to look to its own national interest instead of tailing the interests of the U.S. and European Union is a wise one.  Not only is India searching for mechanisms, such as rupee trade, that will allow it to circumvent the international banking sanctions regime that goes through Europe, it is also attempting to enlarge the sphere of economic relations that will allow its growing industrial economy to supplant the European manufacturers who dominate Iran’s imports.  To this end, India recently sent a large delegation of leading Indian companies to Teheran to explore opportunities for cooperation.


Notwithstanding these steps, India, and indeed the rest of the world, must cope with the crises being created daily by repeated Israeli threats to bomb Iran, a military action that would inevitably draw in the U.S. and cause a worldwide conflagration.  Like a schoolyard bully who is enabled by the support he receives from the school authorities, Israel has behaved as a bully in its neighborhood for half a century due mainly to the unstinting and generous support it receives from the world’s superpower, the U.S.  Israel’s action in threatening Iran because the latter may have an intention of developing a nuclear weapon is deeply hypocritical; after all, Israel developed its own nuclear weapons capability in a completely clandestine fashion and is now known to have over 200 nuclear bombs, the only country in the Middle East to do so.  Beyond issuing threats, Israel has also resorted to assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists, including several academics in Iran.  If these actions had been undertaken by any other country in the world, they would immediately lead to widespread protests by scientific and professional associations in the West and sanctions by the UN Security Council if not harsher measures.  In an election year in the U.S., where politicians for some curious reason vie with each other to be more loyal than the king in offering uncritical and irrational support to whatever policy Israel chooses to adopt, there is a grave danger of a miscalculation that could start a regional war, which could then balloon into a wider conflict.  There is no doubt that India would be very significantly impacted by such a conflict.  It is heartening that India, along with many other countries, has warned against military action to resolve the issue.  In fact, saner voices in the west also, have warned against military measures also.


In a recent article in the March 2012 issue of the Atlantic Monthly magazine “We Can Live with a Nuclear Iran,” Paul Pillar argued:


“Those in the United States who genuinely yearn for war are still a neoconservative minority. But the danger that war might break out—and that the hawks will get their way—has nonetheless become substantial. The U.S. has just withdrawn the last troops from one Middle Eastern country where it fought a highly costly war of choice with a rationale involving weapons of mass destruction. Now we find ourselves on the precipice of yet another such war—almost purely because the acceptable range of opinion on Iran has narrowed and ossified around the “sensible” idea that all options must be pursued to prevent the country from acquiring nuclear weapons.


Given the momentousness of such an endeavor and how much prominence the Iranian nuclear issue has been given, one might think that talk about exercising the military option would be backed up by extensive analysis of the threat in question and the different ways of responding to it. But it isn’t. Strip away the bellicosity and political rhetoric, and what one finds is not rigorous analysis but a mixture of fear, fanciful speculation, and crude stereotyping. There are indeed good reasons to oppose Iranian acquisition of nuclear weapons, and likewise many steps the United States and the international community can and should take to try to avoid that eventuality. But an Iran with a bomb would not be anywhere near as dangerous as most people assume, and a war to try to stop it from acquiring one would be less successful, and far more costly, than most people imagine.


…As for Israel, it is impossible to ignore how much, in American politics, the Iran issue is an Israel issue. The Netanyahu government’s own repeated invocation of an Iranian nuclear threat has several roots, including the desire to preserve Israel’s regional nuclear weapons monopoly, the usefulness of having Iran stand in as the region’s “real problem” to divert attention from the festering Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and simple emotion and fear.”


India’s decision to steadfastly oppose a military solution in Iran is in consonance with its own national interests as well as with wider interests of world peace and security.  Despite its other domestic misadventures, India needs commendation for the firmness it has shown recently, despite earlier hiccups, on the Iran issue.

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