By M.V. Kamath
Iran has a problem. So have some of its friends. And what is the problem? Iran has signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Under the treaty Iran cannot manufacture nuclear bombs. That much is clear. But Iran has been working on the enrichment of uranium on the grounds that it needs that for its civilian reactors. That is fair enough. But it is common knowledge that enriched uranium can also be used for making nuclear weapons. Under the NPT, Iran is obliged to let the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) know of its uranium enrichment programme. But that it didn?t. Iran admitted to it only when the IAEA found out what Teheran was up to. It has naturally enraged a country like the United States, which suspects Iran'smotive.
What is Iran trying to do: Make nuclear weapons surreptitiously, without IAEA'sknowledge? Iran'sargument is that it has no such designs, but nobody is believing it. The reason, again is simple. EU-3 (three members of the European Union, namely France, Germany and Britain) took the stand that if all that Teheran wants is nuclear fuel for its civilian use, they would be happy to provide it. Iran has felt insulted. Its argument is: ?Why don'tyou trust us when we say that we are using enriched uranium fuel strictly for civilian use?? To that, the EU-3 says: ?In that case why didn'tyou tell the IAEA of your plans? Why did you hide that fact from IAEA scrutiny?? Good question.
It is quite possible that Iran has plans to make nuclear arms for security reasons. Iran knows that the United States has no principles whatsoever. Whatsoever Washington does is out of pure self-interest.
When Mussadeq nationalised his country'soil wells, at Britain'scost, both the United Kingdom and the United States jointly conspired to get rid of him. The Shah was installed as the King and was given right royal treatment reserved only for bootlickers. He was received at the White House in great style. But when the Shah was forced to quit by Ayatollah, he became persona non grata to Washington. It refused even to let him come to New York for medical treatment when he was literally dying and the poor man had to go to Egypt where he died in Cairo.
When it comes to its self-interest, the United States has no scruples. It will cheerfully treat today'sfriend as tomorrow'senemy, without batting an eye-lid. Teheran has every right to ask how come the United States lets Israel and Pakistan to make nuclear weapons and only objects when Iran wants to walk in Islamabad'sfootsteps? For Iran, it is obvious, this is a matter of national self-respect.
When Mussadeq nationalised his country'soil wells, at Britain'scost, both the United Kingdom and the United States jointly conspired to get rid of him.
But now arises another problem. Iran, clearly, has broken regulations as member of the NPT. What if the IAEA takes the matter to the Security Council and compels it to enforce sanctions against Iran? If a resolution comes up before the UN Security Council calling for economic and other sanctions against Iran, India will be placed in a difficult situation. According to one source, the United States has told India in very plain terms that both abstention and voting against such an expected resolution would have an adverse impact on the US promises of July 18, to lift legal sanctions against Delhi having access to US civil nuclear technology. At the same time Iran has told India that any Indian vote in favour of a Security Council resolution will be considered as an ?unfriendly act?. Both the United States and Iran are, in a sense, trying to blackmail India into siding with them. Anyone who has been following international affairs would readily agree that both Iran and US are in the wrong.
Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh does not hold a brief for Iran; nor does he hold a brief for the US. Indeed Dr Singh seems to have no doubt about the sincerity of President Bush to implement the July 18 Accord for ending India'snuclear isolation. So what India is trying to do is use diplomatic methods to persuade Iran to climb down from its stand. And that is not going to be easy. India'sproblem is that it cannot afford to hurt either the US or Iran. Iran has natural gas which it is willing to give to India; it is an energy source, which India requires desperately; India has no quarrel with Iran. The problem is that it is now being forced to take sides on a fight between US and Iran with both of which India wants to remain friends. What, in the circumstances, should India do?
Bush may want to be nice to India, but even he has to listen to the US Congress where India has ?enemies?. One of them, Congressman Lantos, highest ranking Democrat in the US House International Relations Committee, recently went to the extent of condemning India'sstand, calling our External Affairs Minister Natwar Singh as ?dense? and implying that he is also an ?imbecile.? It has infuriated the External Affairs Ministry and India'sAmbassador to the United States, Ronen Sen has been quoted as saying that ?it is below our dignity? to comment on the intemperate language used by the Congressman.
Not all US Congressmen are known for their good manners. On India most of them, in the first place, are ignorant. The arrogance of some of them is simply unbelievable. But should that turn India against the US and towards Iran? That has been India'sdilemma. Prime Minister Singh has been quoted as saying that having another nuclear weapons power in India'sneighbourhood ?is not good.? At the same time, India wants ?maximum scope? to be given to Iran to mend its ways. And that is not going to be easy.
Iran has no respect for the United States. In a 29-minute address to the U.N. General Assembly, Iran'sPresident Mahmoud Ahmadinejad accused the US of practicing nuclear apartheid and threatening other nations with nuclear weapons, ?relying on its power and wealth to try to impose a climate of intimidation and injustice over the world.? Unfortunately, that is true enough.
But what, then, is the answer? This is where India can play a role. It has to talk both with President Bush and with Iran'sPresident to come down from their high pedestals. Teheran'sself-respect must be honoured. And Teheran must be told that its honour will in no way be impaired by agreeing to give up on uranium enrichment. These things cannot be achieved overnight. It will take time.
President Bush has also to be told in no uncertain terms that his bullying tactics will only be counter-productive. There can'tbe one law for Pakistan and another law for Iran. True, Iran has plenty of oil and gas resources and at least, for the present, it does not require nuclear energy. But that is not how Iran sees the situation.
Iran will never listen to the US but it might listen to India and this is where Indian diplomacy will be sorely tried. The problem confronting all may yet be solved, but one can only keep one'sfingers crossed.