UN Security Council 311.
(photo credit: courtesy)
India’s recent electoral victory in winning a seat as a non-permanent member of
the UN Security Council will bring greater international scrutiny vis-à-vis its
response to the Iranian nuclear program.
For India, Iran is a vital
country – a traditional counterweight to Saudi influence in the region. With
Saudi-backed Wahhabism being the backbone of Islamic terrorism against India,
and with increasing reliance on Saudi oil, India was basically pushed toward
Iran. International dynamics, however, increasingly favor alignment with the
Arab states against Iran. An element of this would be the nuclear
Iran’s nuclear program brings Pakistani duplicity to the fore
in terms of engaging two rival camps.
For instance, it is reported that
Pakistan’s disgraced A.Q. Khan helped develop the Iranian nuclear program, with
support from Chinese companies. This occurred while Pakistan is purported to
have offered Saudi Arabia nuclear technology in exchange for financial support
to overcome the sanctions it faced in 1998.
Speculations of an extended
Pakistani nuclear deterrence involving West Asia have therefore added to Indian
fears of growing Pakistani influence. India will seek to use its greater
international standing in bridging the differences with Saudi Arabia and other
Arab states, not only as a means of slowing Pakistan’s influence but also of
gaining energy security in the event of a military attack on Iran by the US or
India’s neighbors, China and Pakistan, have played a role in
furthering Iran’s nuclear ambitions, and adding to regional volatility. India
would be deeply concerned over the possibility of this nuclear diplomacy
becoming an alliance, especially when seen in context of Chinese proliferation
Pakistan has publicly declared its intention to support an
Iran-Pakistan-China energy alliance, even though it has publicly opposed Iran’s
nuclear program; its intentions on nonproliferation are suspect. Meanwhile,
Iran’s march toward nuclear weaponization has seen strident statements against
India and in support of Pakistan.
INDIA’S DE facto recognition as a
nuclear state demands greater responsibility on matters such as nuclear
proliferation, given its desire to seek membership of export control groups such
as the Nuclear Suppliers Group. With documented evidence of proliferation
between Iran, North Korea and Pakistan, the role of India in advancing
nonproliferation in South Asia becomes greater. Acceptance into export control
regimes will require strong posturing, and the Iranian nuclear program offers
India such an opportunity.
India’s opposition to Iran would be to return
the favor in kind, since Iran has repeatedly condemned India and condoned
Pakistan’s nuclear program. For example, India’s 1998 nuclear tests were
condemned by Iran as contributing to regional instability, while Iran justified
Pakistan’s retaliatory tests on grounds of national
Furthermore, India’s pointed arguments against the Nuclear
Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), and the Indo- US nuclear agreement were opposed
by Iran. India’s opposition to Iran is, however, also based on documented
Iranian violations of the NPT, which Iran purports to defend.
relationship with the US would also be a significant factor in its dealings with
Iran. While India has repeatedly claimed complete autonomy in its foreign
policy, its burgeoning relationship with the US, with intimations of a strategic
alliance, would definitely play a role in India’s opposition to Iran.
a significant other, Israel (now India’s second largest defense supplier) faces
an existential threat from Iran, and would therefore also seek to influence
India’s view of West Asian geopolitics. Previous fears of being openly allied
with the West against Iran would not be a hindering factor, especially in light
of the widespread Arab opposition to Iran.
Iran’s nuclear program
requires India to revamp its role in West Asia; however, it cannot push for
stringent options on Iran, because of its dependence on it for energy
requirements and geostrategic relations, which includes, importantly, access to
Central Asia and Afghanistan. Thus, India’s opposition to Iran’s nuclear program
will likely not be strident, and its efforts to be nuanced will dictate tying it
to the Asian roots of nonproliferation. Proactive measures by India would also
indicate its active interest in a region where its interests are significant and
growing.The writer is a research officer at the Institute of Peace and
Conflict Studies in New Delhi.