Few events in recent times have evoked the strong media sentiments, both pro-and con, than India'svote in favour of the International Atomic Energy Agency's(IAEA) resolution adopted on September 24 in regard to Iran'sinsistence on going ahead with uranium enrichments. According to CPM general secretary Parkash Karat whose full statement was published by The Indian Express, the resolution ?paves the way for the issue to be referred to the UN Security Council?.
Iran'sfirst reaction was one of anger. Commenting on this The Indian Express said that ?India should not allow Iran'sbrinkmanship to force second thoughts?. ?Nor?, it added, ?should India overact to the threat of energy blackmail?. Said the paper: ?That the Iranians were twisting India'sarms on the eve of the vote at the IAEA is well-known….(but) the Foreign Office has rightly underlined that cooperation between the two countries is of mutual benefit; it is not a favour from one to the other?. Noting that Iran has threatened to downgrade its economic ties with countries which had voted against it (including India), The Times of India said that ?warming Iran-India ties are not a favour to New Delhi? and that ?both countries benefit from the relationship?.
The paper said that Teheran will ?also have to understand and accept, that New Delhi has a serious stand against non-proliferation?, that ?India is the median point in the Washington-New Delhi-Teheran triad? and ?a good India-Iran relationship has benefits?. The paper further said that India ?will be buffeted by strains arising from compulsions? and that how it rode out those strains and managed them for its own benefit would determine the success of its foreign policy? adding that ?so far it is doing well?.
India'svote in the IAEA ?has predictably attracted fierce domestic flak? and ?the criticism at home may well have been softened had India, along with Russia, China and many NAM countries chosen to abstain rather than side so decisively with the US-led group bent on punishing Iran?.
Very restrained coment, indeed. The Hyderabad-based Deccan Chronicle noted that India'svote in the IAEA ?has predictably attracted fierce domestic flak? and ?the criticism at home may well have been softened had India, along with Russia, China and many NAM countries chosen to abstain rather than side so decisively with the US-led group bent on punishing Iran?. New Delhi'sexcuse that it has helped Iran by trying to ?delay a referral of the issue to the Security Council? said the paper ?is both feeble and untenable?.
The Bangalore-based Deccan Herald said ?India has committed a blunder by voting with the United States? adding that the decision ?is neither principled nor is it in India'slong-term national interests?. It went on to say that ?India'sbuckling to the US is a blow to its stature as a founder-member of the Non-Aligned Movement? and ?it has emerged smaller from the IAEA vote?. Added the paper: ?By getting India on its side, the US has miscalculated. India'svalue to the US in the Iranian nuclear crisis lay in India'sclose ties with Iran… ?By pressurising India to back its position, Washington has now lost a valuable interlocutor?. The Kolkata-based The Telegraph said that ?the world has changed?, that ?reality and national interests determine foreign policy?, that India'svote had behind it ?strong and practical national considerations? and considering that ?India stands poised to enter one of the world'smost exclusive clubs and be recognised as a global power in nuclear terms, it would be absurd to expect that these gains can be thrown away to keep in tune with some Cold War rhetoric?. It added : ?India'sfriendship with Iran is at best fragile and the vote in no way compromises the gas pipeline.
There are no substantial gains to be had from cultivating the regime in Teheran. The harvest lies in Washington. To deny this would be stupid?. The strongest and sharpest media criticism came from The Hindu which devoted a full column to its editorial, which described India's vote as ?shameful?. Not for a long while has The Hindu seemed more angry and upset. First it accused the US of ?imperiously? trying to prevent Iran from enriching uranium and wishing to ?strangulate Iran'soil and gas sector?. Then it charged the UPA government of compromising India'snational interest ?by helping to prepare the ground for another possible conflict in India'sown region?. Further it described India of practising ?double standards? considering that while it has itself refused to join the NPT and turned its back on accepting full-scope of IAEA safeguards, and besides has conducted six nuclear explosions and is a declared nuclear weapons state, it is joining in a ?proliferation indictment? of Iran! At stake, said the paper, ?is not the danger of proliferation?nobody has produced any evidence that Iran is pursuing or has ever pursued a nuclear weapons programme?but the right of a sovereign country to develop peaceful nuclear power as a source of energy and engage in the nuclear fuel cycle?.
Balancing The Hindu'sstrong criticism were comments by equally leading paper like The Times of India which said that ?nobody should be able to take New Delhi for granted?, that ?the days of reflexive Third World solidarity, no matter what the issue, are over? and that New Delhi ?should send out a clear signal that it is not in the boy scout'sleague any more?. It added: ?India'soffer to join the EU-3 in attempting to resolve the crisis is in the right spirit?. The Indian Express said that in voting as it did India ?has signalled a new maturity in its foreign policy? and that ?in one stroke India has told the world that it will follow its own interests in deciding on global issues?. Added the The Indian Express in no mean terms: ?India is saying it is not a mere protestor in the international debates on non-proliferation; that it means what it says when claiming to be a responsible nuclear power on the multilateral front, India'svote will now have to be earned.
It cannot be expected to come automatically as part of third world ?group-think?. All to the good?. Hindustan Times pointed out that two of the EU-3 members, France and Germany, are not stooges of the US, that India ?has done the right thing in upholding the EU-3 position? and that it is strange logic ?that New Delhi must protect and preserve Iran'snational interests and not those of India?. The paper wanted to know why the Indian communists ?are supporting a regime which fronts for a theocracy? and has ?denied democratic rights to the Iranian people… and ruthlessly decimated the Iranian Left?. The Asian Age said that ?by throwing an old and trusted friend like Teheran to the wolves, the UPA government has committed a betrayal which has not met with approval of either its right-wing adversaries or Left allies?. New Delhi, said the paper, should have abstained on the resolution, like Russia and China and even Pakistan. It added: ?It is true that foreign policy should not remain hostage to old mind-sets but in an effort to chart a new course, a delicated balancing act is needed?.