Foriegn policy is a topic which we don’t delve into in this blog. Nevertheless recent events have made us to write on this specific topic. It refers to U.S. ambassador to India David Mulford’s ‘warning’ to India to vote in favor of upcoming the resolution against Iran during the IAEA board meeting failing which the Indo-US nuclear deal will stand cancelled. This was quickly followed by a rebuttal from South Block mandarins and finally a late night semi-retractal from Mulford. Thus concluded the final step of the diplomatic faux pas. But was it really a faux pas or an intended move to rattle the Indian waters?
Let’s be clear on one thing: India is not Pakistan to outsource its sovereignty. Such blatant attempts in interfering with India’s foreign policy by His Excellency Ambassador means India will surely not toe the U.S. line in the upcoming IAEA meeting even if it intended to do so before. The best India can now be expected to do is abstain from voting. Which means the N-deal will stand cancelled. Now since we expect ultra-smart U.S. policy wonks to have anticipated the diplomatic fallout, why would they want the N-deal scuttled? Which puts a question mark on their original motive in the first place. We shall confront the two issues separately.
Firstly, the nuclear deal has been running into trouble since the American side has been shifting goal posts from day one. The basic demand was a separation of civilian and nuclear reactor facilities so that any American technology supplied for power reactors does not end up helping India’s weapons program. Fair enough. First it was about the CIRUS reactor in BARC, then the Fast Breeder Reactor in IGCAR with endless Congressional testimonies and visits by State Department officials. Despite the opposition from India’s own scientists working for the Deparertment Atomic Energy, it was believed by advocates of the deal such as K. Subramanyam that these issues will be sorted out after suitable give and take. Given India’s exemplary non-proliferation record, we too thought these demands as minor nitpicking to satisfy the non-proliferation ayotollahs. Nevertheless, serious reservations were expressed by top policy analysts like Bharat Karnad.
Secondly, the earlier vote of India against Iran in IAEA evoked strong protests from India’s Leftist parties. Internationally, the tension further escalated when Iran’s lunatic leader issued threatening statements towards Israel and broke the IAEA seal from its research ractor. The West’s plan to sanction is running into serious trouble both in Russia and China. After mounting diplomatic pressure including the first-use of nukes threat by Jacques Chirac, it now looks like Russia’s new proposal for enrichment in its territory has found acceptance both by Iran and the European powers. China, the other UNSC permanent member, in any case was always against sanctions against Iran having invested billions in its gas fields.
Besides the United States, the only other country sounding the alarm bell at present is Israel. Thus the West (esp. the U.S.) finds itself isolated as far as Iran is concerned. Going by the hawkish statements from Israeli Foreign Minister and senior U.S. politicians like Sen. John McCain, there might be unilateral attacks against Iran thus doing away with the prolonged diplomatic drama.
Which brings us back to the original question - why did they scuttle the N-deal?? We have good reasons to believe that the N-deal was all about India’s Iran vote in the first place. Now India has two options to take. One is to ask Uncle to “take a hike” and walk away from the N-deal like an angry Indian bride walking away from wedding due to dowry harrasement. The other plan is start playing Uncle’s game. That is linking the eventual (perhaps hypothetical!) support against Iran with a vast array of demands starting with stopping U.S. support and weapons supply to the terrorist-enabling Pakistani Army. In any case, they are not getting any tangible help from them as far as defeating Al-Queda is concerned. Is the South Block ready to play the Great Game? Interesting times ahead.