Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Iran & India's options

Perhaps if India wasn't an ostrich in its foreign relations. Perhaps if we weren't afraid to take a stand. Perhaps if we didn't define the national interest as 'what's the least we must do to get by'.

Perhaps our neck of the world would be a different place.

And that brings us to Iran. Because after years of benign neglect on our part, the world's biggest foreign relations headache today is now at ours too.

What can India do, then, at this late stage? A few things actually. But that must begin with defining our national interest. So what is our national interest in this case?

I'd wager to define it like this:
1. Keeping our oil supplies secure
2. Maintaining a route into and out of Afghanistan.
The former can be achieved without Iran, albeit at a higher cost. The latter cannot. A war between Iran and the West will doom both these goals.

What can India do then?

1. Call for a 'Delhi Dialogue' round. Bring representatives of the six parties to talk in our capital. Maybe even just Washington and Tehran.
Why would the parties trust ans Indian initiative? Because despite our laziness, we can still be trusted as an honest broker. We have an interest in a robust Iran that... most importantly... does not have nuclear weapons. Ostensibly, at least, Iran doesn't want them.

2. Take a 'no-regret' approach to our energy interests. We must immediately begin the process of upgrading key oil refineries so they can process non-Iranian oil if need be. Currently some can't, thus restricting us from switching to other sources.
This will cost us for sure, but it will also do three things.

First, we can be assured of energy security in the future as we will be able to import & process oil from any source.
Second, it will signal to Iran that there will be costs to bad behaviour. If Tehran behaves, we can continue importing from them.
Third, it will signal to the West that we are prepared to take decisions to ensure everyone plays to the rules.

It is imperative that Iran gets this 'tough love' message. It cannot assume it can get away with bad behaviour because the West is wary of more war.

There must also be no ambiguity that Delhi will tolerate a 'nuclearised' Iran. The earlier that message goes out, the better.

We've wanted years doing nothing. There is still time to act. We have considerable national interest at stake.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Be respectful to others here or your comment will be deleted.