Wednesday, May 29, 2024
HomeAmericaMove over Israel, it's time for Iran

Move over Israel, it’s time for Iran

By M K Bhadrakumar

Half a dozen good reasons can be given to expose that the South Block’s lukewarm response to the Iran nuclear deal is wrong and cannot further India’s interests in the developing regional scenario.
But the fundamental question here is why the Indian foreign-policy establishment has to be more loyal to the “cause” than the neocons in America themselves. It boggles the mind. By all means, be “pro-(neocon) America”, be “pro-Israeli”, but should it be at the cost of being “pro-Indian”?
The South Block’s primary loyalty should be towards India, not towards the neocons in America or to Israel.
Only a moron will fail to comprehend that the Iran nuclear issue went much, much beyond the issue of that country’s nuclear program. If the nuclear issue were the real problem, Israel should have been the prime target in West Asia. (By the way, India never speaks about Israel’s stockpiles of nuclear weapons.)
Iran has been a victim of the US sanctions all through its history since the Islamic revolution in 1979. The nuclear issue merely provided the alibi to tighten the sanctions and to entangle the world community in the web of the US’ enmity toward Iran and its aversion toward all that Iran’s revolutionary ideals upheld  nationalism, justice, resistance and so on.
The US’ containment strategy toward Iran was inevitably couched in terms of “values”, something that the US is good at doing, but it turned out to be one of the most grotesque manifestations of America’s “exceptionalism”.
Of course, the US’ strategy floundered when it became clear that it was nearing dead-end and was weakening America’s own capacity to handle the crisis in the Middle East. Engagement followed.
Did the Barack Obama administration consult the UPA government before engaging Iran in direct talks? No.
Did it tell Delhi it preferred Oman as the go-between instead of India with which it claims a “defining partnership of the 21st century”? No.
Did Obama keep India in the loop over the ensuing negotiations with Iran lasting nearly two years? No.
Did he take Prime Minister Narendra Modi into confidence last weekend before concluding the deal? NO.
Did Obama include Modi at least at the bottom in his priority list of world leaders to phone up to brief the details of the deal? Well, he forgot.
That being the case, why are the South Block mandarins pontificating today about the Iran deal  that they want to see the text of the agreement before opinionating?
Pray, what happens if they find the text inadequate? Will they will propose that Modi picks up a quarrel with Obama and pushes him to renegotiate with Iran? Pathetic, indeed.
The fact of the matter is that the Indian foreign policy establishment is in a dilemma. It has no choice but to “welcome” the deal, because the entire world is celebrating. Yet, it cannot celebrate, either, when Israel is in deep mourning, when the necons in America (who were your comrades-in-arms over the 2009 nuclear deal) are hopping mad.

America_Iran Interaction
Nay, it goes beyond that. The fatcats in the Indian establishment are beholden to Israel from where we buy billions of dollars worth weapons. We may never know how thick was the creamy layer in all those arms deals by way of kickbacks, but it must be very substantial, considering that the Indian and Israeli elites are both notoriously corrupt.
Put differently, vested interests have formed within the Indian establishment and like the monkey in the old fable, no one in our capital city today wants to say, hear or speak a bad word about Israel. Even the corporate media have caught on.
Thus, the Israelis wield so much “back channel” influence today that they can nudge India to abandon its longstanding policies on Palestine (and go against the mainstream world opinion) and make the mandarins in South Block sulk over the Iran deal.
But, pray, where do the country’s own interests lie? One, Iran is India’s natural ally in the fight against terrorism. Unlike Israel (which is backing al-Qaeda affiliates in Syria and Iraq to counter Iranian influence), Tehran is almost alone in the barricades in the war against the Islamic State.
Two, once the sanctions are removed, Iran is potentially a much bigger regional power than Israel can ever hope to be. Its market is manifold the size of Israel’s, its mineral resources are vastly more than that of Israel and it makes a much more absorbing economic partner. The complementarity between the trade and industry in India and Iran is at once obvious.
Three, Iran is a vital partner for India’s long-term energy security in a way Israel can never be. It is a next-door neighbor that can supply India with oil and gas for decades to come  probably, till the end of this century.
Four, Iran’s geography is critically important for the furtherance of India’s regional strategies in Central Asia and Eurasia.
Five, Iran is a major player in the Islamic world and yet it has stood by India on issues of vital interest such as the Kashmir problem on the forum of the OIC. Not a single Kalashnikov held by the insurgent groups in Kashmir was ever traced to Iran, not a single Kashmiri militant was spotted as having received training in Iran all through the past 25 years  although there is a fond notion in Iran of Kashmir being a “Little Iran” from where Imam Khomeini’s family came.
Six, Iran, unlike Israel, stands on its feet without dole-outs from benefactors abroad, which makes it a serious regional power to be reckoned with once its integration with the world gains traction. Iran’s industrial and technological base, its military technology, its military-industrial complex, its immense wealth, its intellectual resources and trained manpower  all indigenously developed in the teeth of decades-long sanctions  will make that country potentially by far the strongest regional power anywhere in India’s extended neighborhood.
Seven, it is now a matter of time before India and Iran sit down together under the canopy of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, cogitating on the core issues of regional security. The two countries share similar concerns over the situation Afghanistan and they have a history of working together in the Hindu Kush.
Aren’t these sufficient reasons already to engage Iran meaningfully?
Why should South Block dilute the good beginning that Prime Minister Narendra Modi made at Ufa just last week with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani?
One can see that Israel is pulling all stops to ensure that Modi sticks to the pathway that L. K. Advani and Jaswant Singh created during the NDA government, leading to Israel. But, really, is it such an opportune moment for External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj to visit Israel?
India’s interests lie in an early visit by Modi to Iran, to pick up the threads of the discussion at Ufa. The “top-down” political culture in Iran demands a good understanding between the two leaderships so that our business houses can draw strength out of it.
Subject to Iran’s convenience, it should be possible to schedule a visit by Modi to Iran while on his way to Antalya in November to attend the G20 summit. Let Israel wait in the ante-room until then. Isn’t it enough for the present that we have already had Modi meet “Bibi” and Rajnath Singh touring Israel in a rare visit abroad?
The ties with Iran have been deliberately atrophied by the previous leadership of Manmohan Singh, who for incomprehensible reasons almost waged it as a personal crusade. These ties need to be restored to their full potential at the earliest opportunity.
This is not at all to say that India should abandon its relations with Israel. But, our relations with Canada can never be a substitute for our relations with the US, can they be? Simply put, Iran and Israel belong to different leagues. Israel will probably remain a prosperous country, but it is a very small country and it can only exhaust itself ultimately if it punches above its weight instead of adjusting to the new reality. as the GCC states are doing already.
Most certainly, India could have said a nice word expressing happiness over Iran’s “comeback” to the world community; India could have expressed the hope that relations with Iran can now be restored to its potential; India could have heaved a sigh of relief that regional security and stability may benefit; we could even have reiterated Modi’s desire for an early visit to Iran (which he conveyed to Rouhani.)
But India did nothing of the sort. Instead, the South Block statement (which, too, was not spontaneous but merely was compelled into making “in response to a question”) confined itself to reacting in bureaucratic terms to a historic development that is surely the most significant event impacting regional and international security since the Berlin Wall came crashing down in 1989.
‘Courtesy Redif Blogs’



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