Lubricating a US-Iran rapprochement

India should signal its willingness to play mediator between the two antagonists

It is heartening to see that K Subrahmanyam believes that India could offer to become a mediator between the United States and Iran.

The North Koreans used a nuclear test and nuclear weapon making effort successfully to deter threats of externally induced forcible regime change to persuade the US to negotiate directly and to obtain much-needed aid. Iran is in a somewhat analogous situation with US threatening regime change and military action. In the case of North Korea, China acted as a successful intermediary. There does not appear to be an intermediary to facilitate an Iran-West dialogue which can lead to the resolution of the issue. In a sense, India is in a position to play that role. China made it clear that it did not favour North Korean nuclear weapons and that did not prevent China playing the mediatory role. In this case, one cannot be confident whether such an offer will be acceptable to Iran and the US. But India does not lose anything in making that offer. [IE]

This is the question I asked Stephen Cohen recently:

Q: Is it possible for India to play a bridging role between America and Iran, much like the role played by Pakistan between China and America?

A:I don’t think so. It is largely our problem, a psychological one to be more specific, that goes back to 70s and the hostage crisis. Too many Americans are still wrapped up in that. We have an obsession and we cannot get rid of it. So it is hard for India to play that kind of role. By the way, there are other countries that want to play that role also.

Indian is caught between all kinds of contesting powers. I am not sure if India wants to play any role at all. I know one Indian diplomat who has said that India is better off not being a permanent member in UN Security Council. If it were a permanent member, then it would have to take a position on every issue. Historically, India is best off by not taking positions, given its fragile domestic politics and the loss of a foreign policy consensus. There is room for creative Indian diplomacy on Iran, but they have to take Pakistan along. I think India ought to go with Pakistan to the US and say ‘look we understand your concerns about Iran but pipeline is more important to us’. [Pragati Issue 15 | June 2008]

The hurdles Dr Cohen refers to might be collapsing. Barack Obama, the Democratic presidential candidate, has signaled his willingness to engage Iran’s top leadership directly. Even if he doesn’t make it to the White House, the fact that he is advocating such a stance indicates that those psychological barriers are coming down.

Second, as Mr Subrahmanyam’s op-ed suggests, India might not only be willing to play this role, but it might be one where India’s geopolitical interests and the diktats of its domestic politics are in some alignment.

Other countries might well want to play the role, but not all of those have the requisite capability to even attempt such a thing.

The main resistance to a US-Iran rapprochement will come from Pakistan, China and to some extent, from Saudi Arabia. Pakistan is unlikely to prefer another of its Western neighbours to be on good terms with the United States, and China would like nothing better than for the US to be tied down in as many Middle Eastern knots as possible. So it is unlikely that India can ‘take Pakistan along’ on this one.

To the extent that a US-Iran rapprochement will diminish its influence in the region (and strengthen the Shia arc), Saudi Arabia will be against the plan. But Saudi Arabia is unlikely to want a nuclear Iran or indeed see another war in its neighbourhood. Also, winning Russia’s support will be key.

But this is a diplomatic project that is worth India’s effort.

24 thoughts on “Lubricating a US-Iran rapprochement”

  1. If indeed, such an offer is to be made, the the next few months are crucial.

    If India does move forward quickly, one can foresee the following scenarios during the process:

    A) Iran’s continuation of its nuclear program precipitates into an successful(significant/complete destruction) attack by Israel. This will quickly change so many equations in the middle east and elsewhere that an India led effort may get lost in the “torrents of confusion, rhetoric and animosity”.

    Then,some questions are: Can Indian diplomacy maintain a positive momentum in such an environment? What course would India’s politicians take keeping in mind the internal political situation and Muslim reaction? Add to that a political change in DC.

    B) Iran eventually acquires nuclear weapons. The policy response towards this happening is still uncertain at best in DC. So is the question of how to go about preventing from letting this happen in the first place. Add to that, the change in the white house and all the policy streamlining after that. Again, how will India be able to maintain the initiative of building bridges. Also, strategic implications of a nuclear Iran are still woefully understudied in India.
    How is India respond to such a change is an open question.

    C) There is an unsuccessful strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities. This is the most complicated scenario, in my opinion, as many unknowns like degree of success, Iranian response etc will come into the play. Not to mention the roadblocks form scenarios A and B.

    If an initiative to build the bridge is undertaken, I see following pre-conditions for success:

    1) Conducive governments with well defined,compatible goals in both New Delhi and DC.
    2) That Israel/US not attack Iran.
    3) Iran accept that it is weaponising and stop it during the “bridge building” process. (If Iran doesnt do this, we will face either of the above scenarios)

    In my judgment, the chance of all this happening together is remote. Also, China had at least some leverage with N Korea. Does India have similar leveragee with Iran?
    If yes, then is it willing and able to use it to a sucessful end in the process?

    But as K Subrahmanyam notes, “India does not lose anything in making that offer”. Then the only Indian question is: is India is willing to take the risks. Even an unsuccessful attempt may have a few positive (maybe unintended) consequences.

    There are many questions but time (or the lack of it) may prove to be the most important factor.

    Vivek

  2. Nitin,

    >> This is the question I asked Stephen Cohen recently:

    really?!! you think Pakistan played the kind of role which China did between US and Korea and the one Subramanyam advocates for India between US and Iran?

    seems, you asked a stupid question (you make sense in your post here though) and Stephen Cohen gave an arrogant answer.

  3. As always, good job. I’ve been thinking about how many of these so-called ‘experts’ (like Cohen and Subrahmanyam) reason things out. A good place to start is with Cohen’s own book, India: Emerging Power (2001). There are many gems by Indian analysts as well, but more about them when the time comes ;).

    One often gets the impression in these books that the author wants to convey an idea of certitude – of how things work and what the future will look like. I find that naive, so say the least. Moreover, they tend to parrot cliches without bothering to check if they make sense in the context. To take Cohen’s excerpt from his Pragati interview:

    * Cohen cites an inductive argument to prove his case: Holding no position in international politics worked for India in the past; hence it will also work in the future. What makes him think so?

    * Coming to his cliched ‘consensus-on-foreign-policy’ theory, he should know better that Indian politics was dominated by one-party (in fact mostly one one family) for most of the time since 1947. Where does consensus come in? And speaking of today, I would like to know which national party of importance opposes our current direction of foreign policy.

    I think only a scholar living out his past glory in his twilight years can talk such nonsense and still get away with it.

  4. Balaji,

    There’s nothing stupid about that analogy. Do read up on the history of US-Pakistan-China relations, especially in the period 1969-1971. But it might appear stupid if you are ignorant and are are confused by analogies.

  5. Photonman,

    We should use the opinions of scholars as ‘feedback’ on how the world sees us, which may be quite different from what we think we are, which may again be different from what we are. There is no guarantee, for example, that policymakers in the US will see India any more correctly than the academic experts.

    I think the problem comes when we consume the certitude (and the claims to certitude) they have to offer. Rather than seeing their arguments and conclusions as certitude, we should see them coming from particular perspectives, stemming by particular interests and motivated by a particular agenda.

  6. Nitin,

    Couldn’t agree more with your first point.

    Coming to the second, I find this interesting:

    ‘…we should see them coming from particular perspectives, stemming by particular interests and motivated by a particular agenda.’

    Sure, analysts have their perspectives – but often I find this based on factual errors/cliches. I would argue that perspective comes from an in-depth study, and not a casual glance. I find it sadly lacking in many cases. Case in point: the so-called ‘lack of consensus’ on foreign policy that Cohen talks about.

    While it’s true that we all often make mistakes, the sheer lack of coherence that some of these guys can get away with is quite amazing.

    If they are indeed promoting an agenda, they aren’t doing a good job. This is quite clear even to laymen like us!

  7. Photonman,

    A side note on “which national party of importance opposes our current direction of foreign policy.”

    If you would reframe to
    ” which X parties that are in a position to pull down governments oppose our current direction of foreign policy ”

    I suspect you have answers already. X= national /regional /communal / casteist whatever doesnt matter as much as ability to swing government and ability to unseat a government is *importance enough* IMHO.

    rgds,
    Jai

  8. The middle east situation presently is very fluid with both sides gauging each other. If the Iranian persist with their plans, Israel would act for their own survival and self-preservation.
    An attack on Iran would lead to a blow-up in the entire middle east.

    Any mediatory role by India or anyone in such circumstances would only lead to the creation of new enemies.

  9. Nitin,

    I do know about the Nixon/Kissinger saga. That is precisely the reason why I found your analogy wrong. A better analogy would be what India did during the Korean war. In the Nixon era, Pakistan was the guinea pig for their experiments on China. If you present India as the guinea pig to Stephen Cohen, you’ll only get the kind of arrogant answer that he gave you.

    Ofcourse having destroyed our relationship with Iran because of this senseless pursuit of the nuclear deal, Iran and US might as well treat us with the kind of contempt we deserve.

  10. Balaji,

    Not quite sure how Pakistan was the ‘guinea pig’ in Nixon/Kissinger’s ‘experiments’ with China. Perhaps you could give some more info.

    You also talk of a ‘senseless pursuit of the nuclear deal’. What makes you think so? And what makes you think that we’ve destroyed our relationship with Iran in the process? In fact, if one goes by what’s happening:

    * We’ve successfully gained de-facto recognition as a military nuclear state without signing the NPT or CTBT, barely 10 years after the world condemned us for our nuclear tests. In fact, after the NSG approval, it is countries like France and Russia who will be our major suppliers, not the United States. One can gauge this success from the fact that the only countries opposing the deal are Pakistan and China!

    * Coming to Iran, it needs India as much as India needs them. From Iran’s perspective, India is the only major energy-deficit nation in it’s neighbourhood to which the Iranians can lay a (short enough) oil pipeline, without crossing too many land borders and unstable states. In fact, it is also in Pakistan’s interest to have such a pipeline, both for commercial and strategic reasons. No wonder the pipeline is being discussed since 2001. So deal or no deal, Iran would still want the pipeline. Period.

  11. Nitin,

    1. >> Not quite sure how Pakistan was the ‘guinea pig’ in Nixon/Kissinger’s ‘experiments’ with China. Perhaps you could give some more info.

    In the late 60s, US needed to improve its relations with China both in the context of Vietnam and also not to spread its resources thin when the primary enemy was still the Soviet Union. US used Pakistan as a mediator not b’cos Pakistan had the ability to bring about a rapprochement but simply b’cos it was a lackey of China. US supporting Pakistan in the 1971 war against India was yet another instance of US trying to earn China’s trust. In todays Iran-US context that lackey could be Syria not India.

    2. >> * We’ve successfully gained de-facto recognition as a military nuclear state without signing the NPT or CTBT, barely 10 years after the world condemned us for our nuclear tests.

    Wrong, we have now defacto signed not just CTBT but also NPT. The nuclear apartheid by NSG asks us to forego weapons for fuel. If today we think, we don’t need any more tests, wonder why we couldn’t have signed NPT in the 80s. When US itself has not ratified CTBT we are being pretty naive committing to “never conduct nuclear tests again”. We may not need tests ofcourse, but are chaining ourself with these kind of commitments. See what Iran is going thru b’cos of the commitments it made in the past.

    3. >> In fact, after the NSG approval, it is countries like France and Russia who will be our major suppliers, not the United States.

    Why, whats wrong with getting reactors from US? Elementary mistakes again. Let the market forces decide our suppliers. The single biggest bargaining chip we have is the multi-billion dollar nuclear energy business here. If we had played hard-ball a little longer, energy companies would have lobbied their governments to relax their proliferation rhetoric.

    What is our energy policy? Shipped fossil fuels and peanut nuclear energy for ever? A better strategy would have been

    1. ‘begging’ for uranium to meet immediate needs. Bush, Putin or Sarkosy could have given us a ‘one-time’ supply sighting the global oil crisis.
    2. domestic/piped gas in the medium term.
    3. domestic uranium and thorium in the long term.

    We have just destroyed our medium and long term energy security. We can forget any gas pipeline from Iran and Burma. TAPI was anyway too ambitious. Imagine US and European companies investing billions of dollars in the indian nuclear energy industry and then letting us develop indigenous thorium reactors and throw them out of business. Remember energy from these imported reactors is gonna be prohibitively expensive. (Dabhol anyone?)

    People like Kalam who have seen their life time’s work being thrown away b’cos their achievements were substandard compared to whats available on the market (Barak missiles etc) should stop preaching about Thorium.

    4. >> Coming to Iran, it needs India as much as India needs them.

    Who are you kidding. IPI is dead and buried. And are you saying that in the upcoming > $200 a barrel future, there won’t be any buyers for Iranian Gas?!!!

    Its only a matter of time before US normalizes its relationship with Iran. Any Iraq exit strategy would require Iran’s blessings. And US would be too stupid to antagonize Iran if its seriously plans to taken on China in the longterm. We are being pretty naive rubbing Iran the wrong way and would be left high and dry when Iran mends its relationship with US.

    And yes, the pipeline project will then be revived again, but it’ll go to China not India! You throw Iran under the bus and still expect it to give you gas?!

  12. Balaji:

    I suppose your post was addressed to me, not to Nitin. My replies are point-wise.

    1. The guinea pig: What exactly was the experiment Pakistan was subjected to? You don’t seem to be clear here. What was the inherent risk to Pakistan at that time, as is implied by calling it a ‘guinea pig’?

    2. We have only declared a moratorium. What’s more, to turn the market forces argument (the one you make in point 3) on its head, opening up our large civilian reactor market is our biggest insurance against sanctions. In fact, even if the US were to impose sanctions, other countries would be too willing to chip in. Witness what happened post-1998. That’s precisely the game China plays today; it plays Europe against the US vis-a-vis defense procurements.

    3. Why not US? Of course why not. But then who has a thriving nuclear power industry? France (that gets 80% of its power from nuclear reactors) or the US (how many reactors were built after the Three Mile Island incident)?

    4. True. There will be buyers. But then why take the trouble of wanting to build a pipeline, if you can always sell it in the spot market? You seem to miss the point completely. Pipelines are a way of ensuring guaranteed markets. There are many commercial and strategic benefits to the supplier.

    Finally, I find some of your claims interesting:

    1. Why do you think Bush/Putin/Sarkosy would have obliged us with ‘alms’, and with no strings attached? How will that be any different from the terms in the nuke deal?
    2. Did you think of the viability – both from a commercial and security perspective – to lay a pipeline from Bandar Abbas to China (probably into eastern China, where most Chinese industry is)? Compare that to laying it to Gujarat.

  13. Balaji,
    You grossly over-estimate the importance of Iran. The US is not exactly going to “normalize” relations with Iran any time soon. You dont “normalize” relations with a country that acts to directly harm your interests in an enery rich portion of the world, whether it be Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine etc.. Also, you need to get up todate with what is happening in Iraq. There is no “exit” from this region, not any time soon – Obama has already started talking about “refining” his plans to get US out of Iraq. this is wiggle room that he is trying to create if in case the Iranians are not going to give up their nuclear weaponization plans.

    And guess what – the Iranians did not come this far to abandon their plans. The enormous leverage that Iran gets once it has nuclear weapons is some thing no sane person can overlook. What is most likely is that a full court press against Iran is going to happen with the help of the EU. If this does not work, Israel will not hesitate to strike at Iran, come what may. For them it is an existential threat – for the US, a nuclear armed Iran is a nightmare and a loss of power in the Middle East – a loss that has far reaching implications for US and world politics.

    If push comes to shove, the US would not hesitate to obliterate Tehran. Once Iran becomes a nuclear weapon state that scenario becomes only more and more likely. Yes, it would cause a temporary hike in oil prices but the consequences of having an Iranian nuclear weapon state under the control of radical Islamic fundamentalists are too much of a security risk to the US that it would consider it to be worthwhile to take a short term hit on the economy and go for an all out attack on Iran or openly support Israel.

    India stood up to the bullying of the US in the Cold war, so your suggestion that it is going to suffer consequences for “throwing Iran under the bus” is laughable to say the least. Who thinks that Iran is an ally of India to say that we “threw them under the bus” ?

    And yeah, neither Russia nor China would be too thrilled about a nuclear armed Iran in the long term no matter how much they think they can gain vis-a-vis US in the short term.

    The EU has been making diplomatic efforts to make sure that nothing catastrophic happens in the region. But if Iran is recalcitrant, that is exactly what is going to happen to Iran and the region – a catastrophe.

  14. Photonman, NS,

    1. Pakistan as Guinea Pig:

    Pakistan has indeed suffered the consequences. It was the false promises from US/China that kept its macho high in the run up to the 1971 war and eventually led to its dismemberment.

    2. Buying reactors from France:

    Yes, yes. We should ofcourse buy reactors from countries which have the expertise. But that is not gonna be easy if we tie ourselves in knots by making US the guardian of nuclear proliferation behavior. What has happened in the 126 multi-role aircraft purchase? Aren’t we stalling it for about 4 years now, bcos we want to create an impression that US is still in the race.

    3. Why would Sarkozy help India with fuel?

    Our approach to securing nuclear fuel is pretty flawed right now. We should have tried to keep the three aspects 1. foreign policy, 2. nuclear energy and 3. nuclear tests separate at all costs. Why are we allowing US to club our stand on Iran and further nuclear tests with procuring fuel?

    We should have pursued nuclear fuel for existing reactors and the need for nuclear reactors/dual-use-technology independent of each other. We can convince even the most die-hard proliferation activist that India running its nuclear reactors at less than half capacity and merrily burning fossil fuels is a recipe for global disaster.

    The strategy ideally should be,

    1. Short Term: Get the US democrats, france, russia and even australia to see the merits of running Indian reactors at full capacity. Hence get NSG to remove the shackles on fuel supply to India. Throw open all but BARC and Kalpakkam to IAEA inspections.
    2. Medium Term: Invest heavily in the energy sector in India. Throw open nuclear energy production to private Indian companies. Avoid Dabhol like fiascoes. When we have a formidable and competitive energy industry, make the US energy companies to vie for a pie of our nuclear energy industry.
    3. Long Term: Never ever make commitments on foregoing nuclear tests or ganging up against Iran or China for that matter. Making such huge commitments for nuclear fuel sounds like selling ancestral property to buy popcorn!

    4. Iran:

    India should no problem with Iran acquiring nuclear weapons. Infact a nuclear Iran is the best recipe for peace in the middle east. Exit strPhotonman, NS,

    1. Pakistan as Guinea Pig:

    It indeed suffered the consequences. It was the false promises from US/China that kept its macho high in the run up to the 1971 war and eventually led to its dismemberment.

    2. Buying reactors from France:

    Yes, yes. We should ofcourse buy reactors from countries which have the expertise. But that is not gonna be easy if we tie ourselves in knots by making US the guardian of nuclear proliferation behavior. What has happened in the 126 multi-role aircraft purchase? Aren’t we stalling it for about 4 years now, b’cos we want to create an impression that US is still in the race.

    3. Why would Sarkosy help India with fuel?

    Our approach to securing nuclear fuel is pretty flawed right now. We should have tried to keep the three aspects 1. foreign policy, 2. nuclear energy and 3. nuclear tests separate at all costs. Why are we allowing US to club our stand on Iran and further nuclear tests with procuring fuel?

    We should have pursued nuclear fuel for existing reactors and the need for nuclear reactors/dual-use-technology independent of each other. We can convince even the most die-hard proliferation activist that India running its nuclear reactors at less than half capacity and merrily burning fossil fuels is a recipe for global disaster.

    The strategy ideally should be,

    a. Short Term: Get the US democrats, france, russia and even australia to see the merits of running Indian reactors at full capacity. Hence get NSG to remove the shackles on fuel supply to India. Throw open all but BARC and Kalpakkam to IAEA inspections.
    b. Medium Term: Invest heavily in the energy sector in India. Throw open nuclear energy production to private Indian companies. Avoid Dabhol like fiascoes. When we have a formidable and competitive energy industry, make the US energy companies to vie for a pie of our nuclear energy industry.
    c. Long Term: Never ever make commitments on foregoing nuclear tests or ganging up against Iran or China for that matter. Making such huge commitments for nuclear fuel sounds like selling ancestral property to buy popcorn!

    4. Iran:

    India’s stand on Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons is pretty naive. Iran acquiring nuclear weapons is in India’s interest. It’ll put Pakistan in its place and also improve Iran’s standing in OPEC and Muslim nations in general. And ofcourse Iran is our best friend in the entire Islamic world. A nuclear Iran would also bring much needed stability to the middle east.

    5 US exit strategy in Iraq:

    Whether US pulls out in few years or stays there for ever, Iran’s help is absolutely crucial. Nobody expected Obama to pull out immediately. He of all people will make sure Iran takes the lead position in bringing stability to Iraq.

  15. Balaji:

    1. The guinea pig:

    If I understand correctly, the US did do all it could to save Pakistan from disintegration. It ignored human rights abuses in East Pakistan, flouted its own laws to supply weapons etc. You only need to read about the happenings of the 1971 war. Indira Gandhi (for all her flaws) was smart enough to go on a carefully planned PR tour before the war. The tour ended with a military pact that effectively got the Russians on board. This prevented China from getting too adventurous, since they already had a simmering border problem with Russia.

    So Pakistan’s becoming a guinea pig is of its own making: It antagonized the local population, and grossly underestimated the enemy’s political skill and military might.

    2. About making the US the guardian of non-proliferation behavior.

    What makes you think so? If you’ve been observing past events, it was the US that threw the spanner in the works, when it comes to nuclear commerce with other countries. Remember that no agreement between nations is a legal contract; Our immediate purpose is to get the US to agree – this even includes statements on Iran. As I said, our market is the biggest insurance against possible sanctions. Now that you raise the fighter aircraft issue, I suspect that is simply to keep the US in good humor. Not that I rule out India buying them, of course.

    3. Fuel:

    You’ve not answered my question: Why should France (or for that matter any other country) be willing to help us out with no strings attached? Remember, we consume just about 3% of the world’s oil, compared to China’s 8% and US’ 25%! So the argument that that they’re actually doing themselves a favor by selling us fuel is, well, not too logical, right?

    4. Iran:

    Requires more attention…

    a. ‘Iran is India’s friend’

    What makes you think so?

    b. ‘Iran acquiring nuclear weapons is in India’s interest’

    Iran (or for that matter any country) acquiring nuclear weapons is not in India’s interest. Plain common sense.

    c. ‘improve Iran’s standing in OPEC and Muslim nations in general’

    Saudis’ standing will improve next, followed by the Syrians – and Israel already has that standing. This’ll turn the whole of Middle East into a nuclear powder keg. Oil prices will hit the roof – or haven’t they already? How would you like nukes used by Iran-supported Hezbollah/OBL?

    Consequently, I don’t see how your stability claim holds.

  16. Balaji,
    You really are mixed up about Iran – whether over stating the importance of its role in Iraq or it being a “friend” of India. There are no friends in international politics, only alliances of convenience. Also Iran being a nuclear armed state will be an absolutely negative influence on the entire region – Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt are not going to sit by idly.

    Not to mention Iran as a nuclear armed state would have enormous leverage in blackmailing the US and Israel towards making its influence in Palestine, Iraq and Lebanon bigger.

    The US and Iraq are close to signing a status of forces agreement that is precisely to counter Iran – Iran is dead set against this agreement and Maliki is going to sign it anyways. Tell me now, who needs whose help in Iraq ? If chasing out Al Sadr and his thugs from Basrah, Baghdad has not opened your eyes to what is going on in Iraq, I dont know what else will.

    Out of curiousity, Balaji i need to ask two questions – i hope you dont mind in answering them.

    A. Do you live in the US ?
    B. Where do you get your news about Iraq?

    I have found often from my observations (on what people think about Iraq), that the view is way gloomier than the situation merits. This is not to say that every thing is hunky dory in Iraq, but we are not exactly headed towards doomsday either.

    Also, here’s some thing to chew on – Iran’s economy is on shaky grounds to put it lightly – inflation is at its highest INSPITE of the high oil revenues. Ahmedinejad is facing the limits of his populist shtick – his rival Larjani is now the Speaker of the Parliament.

    I still think that a full court press from the US and EU brings Iran to its knees -if they still refuse to dismantle their nuclear program, Israel will go ahead with its plan to attack Iran. Iran’s biggest trump is in “threatening” countries to the point that they get their enemies to settle with them – if the threat goes too far, and push comes to shove, they will be show that after all they are Iran – nothing more, nothing less

  17. Photonman, NS,

    >> If I understand correctly, the US did do all it could to save Pakistan from disintegration. It ignored human rights abuses in East Pakistan, flouted its own laws to supply weapons etc.

    yes. They did it to humor China. But when it come to shove, it was Pakistan which faced the music. For US, Pakistan was neither an ally nor the respected mediator, which it would want to go to war for. Imagine not defending your ally when its dismembered …

    >> Remember that no agreement between nations is a legal contract

    yeah, break the agreements and make thieves out of a billion Indians just bcos Manmohan Singh is a moron who cannot negotiate.

    >> Why should France (or for that matter any other country) be willing to help us out with no strings attached?

    Many countries including US have provided us fuel even in the recent past. No reason why they won’t do it in the future if we negotiate. We can ofcourse accept reasonable strings w.r.t reprocessing spent fuel, IAEA inspections etc.

    >> Iran (or for that matter any country) acquiring nuclear weapons is not in India’s interest. Plain common sense.

    plain old rhetoric. as I said, a nuclear Iran would put Pakistan and Saudi Arabia in their place. that can only be in India’s interests.

    >> This’ll turn the whole of Middle East into a nuclear powder keg.

    this is plain old american fiction-style rhetoric. its as if other countries aren’t already trying and would suddenly acquire them if Iran goes nuclear.

    >> Israel will go ahead with its plan to attack Iran.

    With the psychological and to some extent military thrashing they have got from Hisbollah, Israel would not even dare attack a dog outside Palestine, for some time to come. anyway shouldn’t the world and India be better off, if Israeli and Jewish war mongering capability is reduced with Iran’s nuclear weapons?

    >> whether over stating the importance of its (Iran’s) role in Iraq

    peace and stability in Iraq helps the Shia’s to consolidate their power. its only reasonable that Iran would reign in mehdi army etc at this juncture. anybody who has been observing Iran would appreciate the strategic windfall it has received in recent times. Its worst adversaries, Taliban is wiped out of western afghanistan, al-qaeda is weak and fighting for itself in Pakistan, Saddan Hussein and the Sunni regime have been cleaned up, iran backed Hisbollah has become the first arab force ever to defeat Israel in a war … and the only thing you can think of is some petty economic issues when most economies of the world are in bad shape?

  18. Balaji,
    I am responding to some of your comments

    “plain old rhetoric.A nuclear armed Iran can only put Pakistan and Saudi Arabia in its place. That can only be in India’s interests.”
    I almost fell out of my chair laughing on seeing Pakistan. May be you are not aware of this, but it was the Pakistan military ( AQ Khan was just a tool) which sold centrifuge designs to Iran – a discovery which triggered the situation where the world’s powers tried to get to the bottom of the Iranian nuclear program.

    Granted that Saudis encourage terrorism all over the world, but i fail to see how any of this will change when Iran gets nukes – seriously, can you please explain what changes will happen in Saudi Arabia other than making them restless ? And how exactly is this “beneficial” to India ?

    “With the psychological and to some extent military thrashing they have got from Hisbollah, Israel would not even dare attack a dog outside Palestine, for some time to come.”

    Sorry but i didnt know that you were anti-Israel. You can make a point without resorting to unnecessary verbal abuse – “Israel wont dare to attack a dog outside Palestine” ? strong words of hate, i’d say. Some how the Israelis have persevered and thrived in a region sorrounded by enemies that would like nothing more than the destruction of the Jewish state for the last 60 years – but they wont dare attack Iran?

    When faced with an existential threat (Iran accquiring nukes would be a stage from which there is no rollback for Israel – they will have to be on high alert forever), Israel is not exactly going to sit back and watch what is going on. and hope that nothing happens. They may or may not succeed in shutting down the nuke program. One thing is for certain – they will most definitely try to do so. If attacking Iran before it becomes a nuclear weapon state is fraught with danger, what happens to Israel after they accquire it ?

    “Anyway shouldn’t the world and India be better off, if Israeli and Jewish war mongering capability is reduced with Iran’s nuclear weapons?”
    This is mere opinion based on your distinct anti-Israeli bias. The one who is actually war mongering is the radical islamic fundamentalist who is Iran’s president and who wishes to “wipe Israel of the world map”. I find those comments warmongering, to put it mildly – and its coming from the Iranian side.

    Even funnier is your argument that India would be better off with Iran being a nuclear armed state! India’s engagement with Israel has improved rapidly since the late 90’s – there are unconfirmed reports that one of the bombs detonated during Pokhran’98 was that of Israel. Our relations with Israel which were always held in blackmail by the leftists over palestine, have never been better.Our defense deals with them have grown a lot over this time period.

    “peace and stability in Iraq helps the Shia’s to consolidate their power. its only reasonable that Iran would reign in mehdi army etc at this juncture. anybody who has been observing Iran would appreciate the strategic windfall it has received in recent times.”
    Yeah, there we go again – The Shia’s consolidating power ! May be some one needs to remind you that these Iraqi Shias are Arabs. And Arabs and Persians, dont always get along well, to put it mildly.

    Also the Iranians were’nt exactly “reigning in” the Mahdi Army – these Sadr thugs fought tooth and nail with the Iraqi forces before being chased out of Basrah. And Sadr’s popularity or what ever remains of it lies in him being seen by the masses as an Iraqi nationalist – not some Persian stooge. But of course when people can buy into the Iranian spin, why even bother ??

    Have you ever asked yourself why exactly Iran has not done this “reigning in” like in 2005 ? Should it not be more to their advantage to keep US forces pinned down while they try to buy time and make their nuclear weapons? Does it even make sense to “reign in” their militias now ?

    I have to ask these two questions again – do you live in the US ? and what is the source of your news on Iraq ?

    If Maliki wanted to be Iran’s lap dog he would nt be negotiating a status of forces agreement with the US – this agreement is to make sure that Iraq will not be a client state of Iran, just like Lebanon being a client state of the Irani-Syrian axis. The Arabs have their own pride and sense of nationalism. Belonging to the same sect does not mean that Iraq is ready to kiss Iranian ass.

    If you were observing anything you would have seen how strenuously ayatollah Kameni was objecting to the Status of Forces agreement. And how Maliki is still trying to get it done. Or how Maliki’s adviser is now saying that Iraq does not need any one’s permission to sign this agreement.

    “Its worst adversaries, Taliban is wiped out of western afghanistan, al-qaeda is weak and fighting for itself in Pakistan, Saddan Hussein and the Sunni regime have been cleaned up, iran backed Hisbollah has become the first arab force ever to defeat Israel in a war … and the only thing you can think of is some petty economic issues when most economies of the world are in bad shape?”

    You see, petty economic issues are petty for you – especially when you are not in Iran ! Not to the Iranian people.

    Hizbollah defeating Israel ? Sheesh, you could do some PR work for Nasrallah !! Israel bombed most of Beirut back to the Stone Age. Hezbollah is exactly where it always has been in Lebanon – it is the strongest faction, but it still cannot out maneuver the Sunnis,Druze,Christians who are in power. If you have’nt observed even after Hezbollah’s “great victory” Faoud Sinoria is still the PM of Lebanon and Hezbollah still cannot throw him out of power.

    The Taliban had to be defeated after 9/11 – just so to stop from benefiting Iran, the US was not going to sit back and do nothing.

    The US is now slowly gaining the upper hand in Iraq. In fact the Iranians are desparately trying to get the balance of power back in their favor and this nuclear drama is just a part of it. Nothing more nothing less.

    At the end of the day, there will be war if Iran remains re-calcitrant. If war is bad now, wait till war becomes inevitable when a nuclear armed Iran continues to destablize the Middle East and these raging lunatics who wait for the Hidden Imam to come back will stop at nothing when it comes to Israel or Iraq.

  19. Thanks NS for responding to some of Balaji’s rather incoherent arguments about my statements. Couldn’t have done a better job myself 🙂

    I am responding to the rest.

    Balaji:

    >>yes. They did it to humor China. But when it come to shove, it was Pakistan which faced the music. (on the US ignoring human rights abuses in East Pakistan)

    How will condoning human rights abuses in East Pakistan help China but NOT Pakistan? Are you sure you’ve quoted the right statement? 🙂

    >>yeah, break the agreements and make thieves out of a billion Indians just bcos Manmohan Singh is a moron who cannot negotiate.

    Breaking bilateral agreements doesn’t exactly make Indians ‘thieves’. There is no such thing as an an ‘international contract law’ and an ‘international court’ to enforce it in :). Agreements entered into by sovereign nations are just instruments of convenience based on the circumstances. You don’t seem to – or worse, don’t want to – understand this.

    >>Many countries including US have provided us fuel even in the recent past. No reason why they won’t do it in the future if we negotiate.

    Do you have any idea of the kind of terms that were agreed to with the Canadians and the US in 1960s? Or with the Russians more recently? Given our needs today, I don’t see how those terms will be any better than those of the nuke deal.

    >>plain old rhetoric. (about Iran’s acquiring nukes being in India’s interest and its effect MidEast’s stability)

    Rhetoric? Really? Do you, Sir, even know what the word ‘rhetoric’ means? I am not sure you do. NS has argued pretty well on this point, and I would like to add: sure, everyone wants nukes. They make good insurance. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t stop someone from getting them, if that’s possible.

    As an aside, you still did not answer the question: What makes you think it is as easy for Iran to sell gas to China as it is to India?

    You don’t provide evidence for the following beliefs:

    1. Iran is a friend of India. (Define ‘friend’ first)
    2. Israelis (but not the Arabs) are warmongers.
    3. Iran and the US will soon reach an agreement on Iraq.
    4. It is as easy for Iran to lay pipelines to China as it is to India.
    5. If India goes with the nuke deal, Iran won’t supply gas.

    I’d be interested to know where you get your news from.

  20. NS. Photonman,

    I don’t know how this helps, but I lived in US for many years and I now live in India. I’m getting tired of lack of independent thinking from both of you. Simple reading the news and repeating it doesn’t make an interesting discussion. Anyway I’ll respond to some of your comments and close my case in this post.

    1. Iran-China pipeline is more feasible bcos China will have no threat to its pipeline whereas India will have to think about its safety while passing thru Pakistan. Besides China cannot be bullied by US like India easily can be in not going ahead with the pipeline. And I wonder how the engineering aspect of constructing a pipeline is an issue in this day and age.

    2. Pakistan-Iran nuclear relationship: I wonder how Iran can be happy with Pakistan having the bomb and Iran not having it herself. Do not underestimate Iran’s capabilities just bcos ragtag states like Pakistan and N Korea have nukes while Iran is still struggling. Its just that China hasn’t helped Iran while it did so with the other two.

    3. Israel: Indo-Israeli military co-operation is mutually beneficial and I don’t see why I need reminding of that. To be frank: I do not think that Israel has the right to exist as a Jewish state. I would like it to be a unified (with palestine) secular state with both Jewish and Arab populations. I count several Jews among my friends and have even told them that I consider the Zionist movement and the Israeli state as immoral scapegoating of Muslims for the crimes of the Christians in Europe. Remember India was one of the 13 countries that voted against Israel’s declaration of a Jewish state in 1947 (at UN).

    But thats just academic. There is nothing that can be done about the demographics of the two states now. I do support the two nation theory and believe EU and US have made a serious mistake in not allowing Hamas to run Palestine even after winning a legitimate democratic election.

    4. Iraq: Iran ofcourse wants US to win in Iraq so that they can leave soon! Iran and US already have a ground level understanding in bringing stability to Iraq. I don’t know where you get your news, but AFAIK, its US which is insisting on a favorable Status of Forces agreement while Iraq is playing hardball on Iraqi control over American troops. Iraq is ofcourse hurrying for a deal just like Manmohan so that a favorable deal can be closed while Bush is still in office and hence stop the Democrats from pulling troops out before Iraq stabilizes. You may wanna check out this recent story on NYT or any news media that you think is credible.

    5. France supplying fuel to India: I have already said, restrictions on reprocessing spent fuel, IAEA inspections are reasonable. Agreeing to “never conduct nuclear tests again” and “ganging up against Iran” are all plain madness.

    This was my last comment and I do not begrudge you having your own opinions on the matter.

  21. Balaji:

    >>I’m getting tired of lack of independent thinking from both of you. Simple reading the news and repeating it doesn’t make an interesting discussion.

    Speaking for myself, the feeling is mutual.

    Adios.

  22. Balaji,
    Its kind of sad that you dont want to go any further – i love debating stuff. I have always learned a little bit more after having exchanges with people – but i will try to add my own closing post.

    1.”Iran-China pipeline is more feasible bcos China will have no threat to its pipeline whereas India will have to think about its safety while passing thru Pakistan. Besides China cannot be bullied by US like India easily can be in not going ahead with the pipeline. And I wonder how the engineering aspect of constructing a pipeline is an issue in this day and age.”

    Seriously i have lost my train of thought on this – why exactly are we talking about this pipeline ? How exactly is it relevant to the discussion on Iran’s nukes ?

    2.Pakistan-Iran nuclear relationship: I wonder how Iran can be happy with Pakistan having the bomb and Iran not having it herself. Do not underestimate Iran’s capabilities just bcos ragtag states like Pakistan and N Korea have nukes while Iran is still struggling. Its just that China hasn’t helped Iran while it did so with the other two.

    Iran wanting to get nukes has nothing to do with Pakistan – they are not exactly afraid of pakistan using this against them. This is meant to counter Israel and of course the US. And no one is underestimating Iran’s capabilities – if we were this entire conversation would be moot.

    3. Israel: Indo-Israeli military co-operation is mutually beneficial and I don’t see why I need reminding of that. To be frank: I do not think that Israel has the right to exist as a Jewish state. I would like it to be a unified (with palestine) secular state with both Jewish and Arab populations. I count several Jews among my friends and have even told them that I consider the Zionist movement and the Israeli state as immoral scapegoating of Muslims for the crimes of the Christians in Europe. Remember India was one of the 13 countries that voted against Israel’s declaration of a Jewish state in 1947 (at UN).

    Sorry Balaji but you were the one who was saying that Iran is a “friend” of India and we would be better off if Iran was nuclear armed. If India felt that way it should be extremely strange that we would be having this level of co-operation with Israel. Heck, a few months back we helped launch an Israeli satellite into space – i wonder if this is hovering over Iran ?

    Its not up to you or me to decide whether Israel should have the rights to be a Jewish state.Also you seem to think that Israel is in the way of peace and the Arabs are longing for peace – i dont have to remind you the number of wars the Arabs have fought or the terrorism tactics that they have used in trying to destroy Israel.

    Why is it that you seem to be so concerned about Israel ? India has been the victim of aggression from a variety of foreign actors. Heck, we have two nations Pakistan and Bangladesh carved out what was India – what do you have to say for that ? Do these two countries “deserve” to exist ??

    1947 is so 1947 – we live in 2008 now. India does not give a rats ass for Palestine, other than the nominal “we are so sorry for you” messages.

    4. But thats just academic. There is nothing that can be done about the demographics of the two states now. I do support the two nation theory and believe EU and US have made a serious mistake in not allowing Hamas to run Palestine even after winning a legitimate democratic election.

    If not for US insistence, there would not have been elections in Palestine -there would not be a Hamas Govt no matter whether the US is ok with them or not.

    5. Iraq: Iran ofcourse wants US to win in Iraq so that they can leave soon! Iran and US already have a ground level understanding in bringing stability to Iraq. I don’t know where you get your news, but AFAIK, its US which is insisting on a favorable Status of Forces agreement while Iraq is playing hardball on Iraqi control over American troops.

    Of course indeed -after all these years “of course” Iran wants US to “win”. How come Iran did not want the US to win between 2003-2007? How come they are sending in terrorists who target US troops with armor piercing EFP’s and are paying Shia militias to keep Iraq weak ? Is this the Iranian way to “let” the US win ? It’s rather strange, I should say.

    Iraq is playing hardball because it thinks it is in a position to do that- Maliki is playing his cards rather well. He does not want the country to become an outright ally against Iran. At the same time he does not want the country to be an Iranian stooge either. So he is trying to get the best terms for the deal. He is now calling for an explicit deadline.!!

    6.Iraq is ofcourse hurrying for a deal just like Manmohan so that a favorable deal can be closed while Bush is still in office and hence stop the Democrats from pulling troops out before Iraq stabilizes. You may wanna check out this recent story on NYT or any news media that you think is credible.
    Well. i find most of the MSM to be very very biased to put it bluntly. they have a liberal slant to the entire war and will never forgive Bush. Most of my news about Iraq comes from blogs like the ones by Bill Roggio, Michael Totten etc.

    The DEmocrats do want to pull out of Iraq – but i think this is going to be pretty tricky.

    7.France supplying fuel to India: I have already said, restrictions on reprocessing spent fuel, IAEA inspections are reasonable. Agreeing to “never conduct nuclear tests again” and “ganging up against Iran” are all plain madness.

    Actually, India is going to agree to no such thing. Those would be deal breakers for political purposes alone. India is not ganging up against Iran either – Ahmedinejad visited India a couple of months back – India wants good relations with Iran, but is against it becoming a nuclear weapon state – plain and simple.

    8.This was my last comment and I do not begrudge you having your own opinions on the matter.
    Neither do I. All I ask is, please back up your arguments with as many facts as possible. Your arguments about Israel clearly presented a personal bias. When bias enters debate so forcefully, it diminishes the strength and rationality of arguments. Thats all.

    5. France supplying fuel to India: I have already said, restrictions on reprocessing spent fuel, IAEA inspections are reasonable. Agreeing to “never conduct nuclear tests again” and “ganging up against Iran” are all plain madness.

    This was my last comment and I do not begrudge you having your own opinions on the matter.

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