M A I N   N E W S

News Analysis: Iran question
National interest alone should matter
K. Subrahmanyam

ALL of a sudden, a school of commentators and mediapersons in the country have discovered a new concept of independent foreign policy. This reminds one of the search for ‘genuine non-alignment’ in the seventies.

This idea of independent foreign policy is being canvassed with reference to our having to vote on the report of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Iran’s conduct in respect of uranium enrichment for reference to the UN Security Council.

India has three choices open: to vote for reference to the Security Council for further debate and a possible decision whether the Iranian behaviour calls for sanctions, to vote against such a reference and thirdly to abstain.

The US has told India that New Delhi’s support for the resolution is vital along with those of Russia and China to send a clear message to Iran that it should accept the compromise offer of European Union-3 (France, Germany and UK) and, in return, give up uranium enrichment.

The EU-3 have offered to provide Iran its required number of nuclear reactors, guarantee of enriched uranium fuel supply and a buffer stock of enriched uranium fuel in return for Iran giving up its enrichment programme under IAEA safeguards.

Iranians have told India that any Indian vote in favour of EU-3 proposals will be considered by Teheran as an unfriendly act. The third option is plain abstention.

The US has made it clear that both abstention and voting against EU-3 proposal would have an adverse impact on the US promises of July 18 to lift legal sanctions against India having access to US civil nuclear technology.

Implication in the advocacy of independent foreign policy is that voting along with Iran is the sign of independent policy while going along with the proposals of EU-3 and the US will be proof of absence of independence.

Sponsors of the so-called independent foreign policy would prefer India sacrificing its own national interests of getting access to US civilian nuclear technology in order to demonstrate our espousal of independent foreign policy. Evidently such an advocacy neglects the whole purpose of foreign policy in international relations.

Long ago speaking in the Constituent Assembly, Jawaharlal Nehru defined what foreign policy was about. It is about pursuit of national interests. He asserted that while India would try to keep out of wars, if it became absolutely necessary it would join the side which would serve its national interests.

Even non-alignment was not about independent foreign policy but about national interests. India did not vote against the Soviet action in Hungary in 1956, in Czechoslovkia in 1968 and in Afghanistan in 1980 because India chose to secure its national interest rather than demonstrate its independence in foreign policy. Similarly what is called for today is an exercise of a choice in terms of our national interest.

Only countries which are powerful enough and affluent enough not to have any expectations from any other country in the world can afford to exercise independent foreign policy.

Even China and Russia have not exercised their vetoes against the US on various issues with which they have not been in agreement. They had chosen discretion as the better part of valour and abstained from the use of veto in the Security Council especially in the ‘90s. In this case France and Germany which defied the US on the issue of Iraq have now come out in favour of a generous compromise which the US is prepared to endorse but Iran defies. Will India’s going along with EU-3 be an indication of lack of an independent foreign policy?

Let us look at the merits of the case. Iran is a member of the NPT and is, therefore, obligated to abstain from making and acquiring nuclear weapons. On this India has no reservations. Iran started its clandestine proliferation by dealing with Pakistan in 1987. Iran failed to inform the IAEA about its uranium enrichment as the regulations require. Only when IAEA discovered, on its own, Iran’s clandestine proliferation, Iran admitted it.

While Iran’s right to uranium enrichment technology, as part of its access to peaceful nuclear technology is undeniable, the European-3 have taken the stand that they would provide all the reactors and fuel needed if Iran would cease its uranium enrichment in view of the volatile proliferation situation in West Asia.

Therefore, India has to weigh the generous proposals of EU-3 countries against the present Iranian intransigence and its past record of - clandestine proliferation with the help of Pakistan. Iran earlier agreed to suspend its enrichment programme. It has now resumed it and insists on its NPT treaty rights.

The issue today is not just legal but political in view of the proliferation which arose out of China-Pakistan-Iran-North Korea networking. Therefore, India’s choice is between the generous compromise offer made by EU-3 countries and the legally valid but politically intransigent stand of Iran. Further, India also has to look at its own national interests. Should India sacrifice its access to US civil nuclear technology and also alienate not only the US but countries of the European Union?

Foreign policy is about interaction of national interests. Our own ancestors have talked of Sama, Dhana, Bedha, Danda (peace, purchase, dividing, punishment) as strategic components of foreign policy and not included in it sacrificing national interest for a mythical independence.

Even the US is learning that a country’s foreign-policy has various constraints and there is no such thing as an independent foreign policy. All foreign policies are about compromises and the choice is about making that compromise which benefits our country’s interests best. Dr Manmohan Singh has already demonstrated he would do the best for securing the country’s national interest. The country expects him to do the same this time.


HOME PAGE | Punjab | Haryana | Jammu & Kashmir | Himachal Pradesh | Regional Briefs | Nation | Opinions |
| Business | Sports | World | Mailbag | Chandigarh | Ludhiana | Delhi |
| Calendar | Weather | Archive | Subscribe | Suggestion | E-mail |