30-Sep-2005

A Principled Stand?

Then there is this article by TK Arun in TOI's sister in which he tries to retrofit principles on the Iran vote. Why is this necessary? He argues that the interesting question which is getting overlooked in the whole Iran vote criticism is this: how India’s voting serves India’s interests, rather than Washington’s or Teheran’s. He blames the Left for ignoring this point and blames the government for allowing this side-stepping of the interesting point to occur. The government (he says) should have plugged a good nuclear doctrine acceptable to the political class and the people. If only they had done that then (according to him) the above question would've been addressed. Then we would have had a debate, or so he seems to sugggest.

He then presents a principle to serve this purpose passing through some impossible hoops in the process:
What can be a principled position on Iran’s nuclear programme? There is no quibble over a peaceful, energy programme. But should India endorse Iran’s sovereign right to develop its own nuclear weapons? How can India oppose such a right, after having become a nuclear power itself?

India stayed out of the non-proliferation treaty because India stood for universal disarmament and was not willing to accept asymmetrical rights of certain nations alone to have nuclear weapons. Universal disarmament remained a dream. India is too large a nation and too complex and diverse a polity to become anyone’s client state. So it developed/ is developing its own nuclear capability, both bombs and delivery vehicles. This is not all that absurd.

Second-best options are, at times, radically different from the best possible solution, rather than its close approximations. The way to the unchanged goal of universal disarmament probably lies in effective deterrence constituted by dispersal of countervailing force in a number of power centres that together provide equipoise, enabling gradual roll-back. Proliferation will only hinder, rather than help this process.
Boiling it down over a medium flame for 20 minutes we get this:
India wanted universal disarmament once upon a time. But it was a dream. We thought it was not right that only some nations should have nukes and not others. And we were too proud to become anyone's client state. So we developed nukes. Agreed, this is not anywhere close to universal disarmament, but now we've changed our minds. Now we think it is better that certain select countries have nukes (of course including us). This will make it possible for everyone to start rolling back towards nuclear disarmament. If countries other than us get nukes it will make things difficult.
That does not make sense to me. It suggests to me that if a country believes in nuclear disarmament and is proud it can go right ahead and develop nuclear weapons. I mean, disarmament is still a dream - a far bigger one if I may say so. A nightmare in fact.

As for Iran in the current context specifically:
Iran is a signatory to the non-proliferation treaty. It has signed away its right to develop nuclear weapons.
So what if Iran walks out of the NPT like North Korea did? He has an answer to that too:
And it is not in India’s interest for another country in its neighbourhood to develop nuclear capability.
Two close friends of ours have nukes and we share a border with one and are at a stone's throw distance from the other. How would Iran getting nukes be different? And we are supposed to be friends! Get real sir.

No, the only justification for the vote is what someone in this newspaper's editorial (no link, they don't put the edit out on the web) today had the sense to suggest:
We need the nuclear fuel because we are getting crippled without power. If the nuclear deal is aborted we will feel much pain.
Also, there is some spin being spun, that we prevented the immediate referral of Iran to the Security Council. This is a Reuters report from the days before the vote. It says the EU backed away from immediate referral on account of pressure from Russia and China. The report may not be fully accurate, but I heard no news to the effect that India prevented that thing from happening. (Note: No news until after the vote itself I meant).

Note 2: I'm not sure if it wouldn't be the best thing the govt can do - to actually explain the vote in terms making the power situation better. Makes a forceful argument. But there is always the issue of how to explain it away if the US still refuses to play along.

Note 3: Worth noting once again what The Hindu wrote about the resolution: "It is possible that it is designed to short-circuit the prospect of a negotiated solution, and to push the world towards another major confrontation...The U.S. and its allies want to rewrite the rules so that they will be able to control both the nuclear fuel cycle and the commerce around nuclear fuel and reactors". Now mull this: The nuclear industry has donated $8 million to Bush and his party since the 2000 elections.

Note 4: And this too:
India's position on the Iranian nuclear question at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) appears to have been one of the key conditions to the successful negotiation of the India-U.S. nuclear deal on July 19.

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