Nuclear Iran Good for India?
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Nuclear Iran Good for India?


India has consistently maintained that a nuclear Iran isn’t in New Delhi’s interests, for a number of reasons.

One reason is that India, having been accepted as a de-facto nuclear power after the signing of the Indo-U.S. civil nuclear agreement, perceives any further proliferation in nuclear weapons as against both its own interests, and those of the wider non-proliferation regime of which it is now an active member. 

Second, if Iran crosses the nuclear threshold, India will find itself in a diplomatic bind with the United States, Israel and Gulf countries as it has strong relations with Iran. In addition, a nuclear Iran would become of increasing strategic interest to India’s regional rival, China.  And, while India would undoubtedly be constrained by expectations from Tel Aviv and Washington, Beijing could find ample diplomatic space to cut deals with the beleaguered Iranian regime.

It’s likely with all these issues in mind that India has largely supported the international community against Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Since 2006, India has voted in favor of sanctions imposed by the United Nations Security Council on Iran in order to halt its weapons program and to pressure Tehran to help the International Atomic Energy Agency with its investigations.

However, India’s own nuclear history demonstrates that a determined nuclear proliferator can hardly be stopped by sanctions. The more hardship the Iranian nuclear program goes through, the more convinced the country’s leaders become that it needs to be a nuclear power. And, given the IAEA’s recent report on the progress of Iran’s nuclear program, it’s not hard to imagine that a new state will soon join the global club of nuclear powers.

From Tehran’s point of view, there’s probably a very clear lesson from the fall of the Gaddafi regime in Libya: nuclear weapons save authoritarian states from regime change. With Iran increasingly determined to hold onto its nuclear options, the question for India is whether a nuclear Iran can be harnessed to its strategic benefit?

As far as Pakistan is concerned, then a nuclear Iran might actually benefit India strategically. Sunni-dominated Pakistan and Shia-led Iran don’t always see eye to eye, and a nuclear Iran would mean Pakistan was flanked by nuclear powers. Pakistan has also traditionally been aligned with Saudi Arabia, while Pakistan’s support of the Taliban has ruffled feathers some feathers in Tehran. All this suggests that Pakistan may feel more constrained by a new nuclear-armed neighbor.

But a nuclear Iran not only helps constrain Pakistan, but would also open diplomatic space for India in the Middle East. For a start, it would force Israel and to negotiate “nuclear red lines.” Second, with U.S. efforts at preventing Iran acquiring nuclear arms having failed, a new round of diplomacy would ensue on dealing with a nuclear Iran.

India, which maintains good relations not just with the United States, but also Iran, Israel and Saudi Arabia, could play a key role in both scenarios. India would get an opportunity to demonstrate its diplomatic skills, while its geographic detachment from the region makes it appear a more impartial mediator.

It’s becoming increasingly clear that Iran’s steady progress towards a nuclear weapons capability won’t be halted by economic sanctions alone – India’s own experience is testament to this fact. Given Iran’s ambitions, then, it might be prudent for New Delhi to start planning for a world in which Iran possesses nuclear weapons. 

Yogesh Joshi an M.Phil candidate at the Center for International Politics, Organisation and Disarmament, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.  

July 5, 2012 at 21:25

Mr Asim,
               Even Pakistan's best friend China did not want to fund the gas pipe line, no bank in the world come near that project, more over India and Pakistan were never close to a transit fee since Pakistan wants more money than the gas itself. Iran will never be close to Pakistan as long as you slaughter Shias. Iran did not want to import wheat from Pakistan.

Harry Khan
December 9, 2011 at 21:55

The writer is an M.Phil student from India,thanks the diplomat!

Asim Hussain
December 7, 2011 at 09:40

To say that Security over the IPI Gas Pipeline was the reason behind India pulling the plug over the project is quite incorrect and ignores some of the geo-political pressures put on India by the US Government in favour of its own nuclear deal with India. In fact the Iranian Foreign Minister made these comments when addressing the media on the failure of the IPI Gas Pipeline.

One must also not forget, despite pressures from the US Government that Pakistan will continue with the Gas Pipeline project and will endeavour to provide a network to China in the near future.

December 7, 2011 at 05:47

@Asim Hussain

Well derailment of “IPI Gas Pipeline” cannot be put on India’s head as India only India was to pay for the gas it receive after passing from Pakistan. This is required as India understand the risk to the supply from unstable pakistan. Also Pakistan doesn;t provide any financial security to the supply thus create risk for India as the supply can be exploited by terrorist and ISI to hurt India’s interest and Pakistan goverment will say “this was done was non state actors” and we are not responsible for gas supply or loss faced by India.
For India energy is vital and IPI was a good project only if the above said concerns are taken care of.
As far as India Iran relations are convern, they are more then just nuclear issue.
December 7, 2011 at 04:32

India has to take a different opinion on Iran. There are concerns of having being in the middle of a nuclear sandwich (China on the east and Pakistan Iran on west). However, we have seen that sanctions do not stop anything. They merely delay things to a future date. Heavy sanctions on Iran might delay its nuclear programme to a future date but can not stop it from pursuing it.

The problem with Iran is two fold. First its false and repressive regime, which works against the will of its own people. Second, being isolated by the international community for a long time. There has to be a change in either of this.

Yang zi
December 6, 2011 at 21:32

The auther spend the whole article talking about how India can Benefit from a nuclear Iran, then saying India is an partial mediator, sounds weird.

Asim Hussain
December 6, 2011 at 18:38

I certainly wouldn’t go as far as saying that a nuclear Iran would tilt towards India, Tehran hasn’t forgotten India’s derailment of the IPI Gas Pipeline nor its support for sanctions against Iran.

Although relations between Iran and Pakistan have been strained over the years, they have substantially improved over the past few years and will continue to do so as it seems likely Pakistan decides to import gas from Iran.

shahriyar Gourgi,....shahin
December 6, 2011 at 18:23

Speaking of which… NSN Update: Amid Tensions with #Iran, “No Need For Hysteria and Panic” #AEIIran

What is the threat posed by a nuclear armed #Iran? Find out here on the FAS Take Action Blog.

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