It has for long been suspected that Iran’s nuclear programme had military dimensions. On Tuesday, the International Atomic Energy Agency released a report which gave ample hints that this is indeed the case.
The report details not only the activities to get nuclear materials, but also “acquisition of nuclear weapons development information and documentation from a clandestine nuclear supply network”. Iran has also worked on developing an indigenous design for a nuclear weapon. While not overtly nuclearized, there is little doubt that Iran is well-along the way to get a nuclear weapon.
This has, predictably, stirred a hornet’s nest in the Middle East and in Western countries. There have been calls in Israel to attack and destroy Tehran’s nuclear weapons. Israel has in the past—with Iraq in 1981 and possibly Syria in 2007—destroyed nuclear facilities it has suspected of creating nuclear weapons in its periphery. This time, however, the surprise element is gone and Iran is, to put it delicately, a “different country”.
It is simply too late in the day to stop the Iranians from getting a nuclear weapon and the military option is no longer realistic. That is possible when a country is some years away—technologically and materially—from a nuke, not when it is just a screw’s turn away from it.
Sooner or later, the matter will head to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). It is possible that Western countries will seek a mandate from UNSC to coerce Iran into giving up these weapons or, failing which, take military action against it. India is, at present, a non-permanent member of UNSC. Under no circumstances should it vote with countries seeking to punish Iran militarily. If anything, it should vote against such a measure.
Iran’s nuclear dynamics have a lot to do with its rivalry with Saudi Arabia and other complicated factors in the Middle East. It has been a friend of India for long. Geographically, it is not distant from Indian shores and it neighbours Pakistan on its south-eastern part. It also has a large border with Afghanistan. If only due to geopolitical factors, India needs to support Iran.
One failure of Indian diplomacy in recent years has been its inability to play the role of an effective intermediary between the US and Iran. Both countries are friendly to India, and Iran, especially, trusts India. India has left the space open for other countries (Turkey and Brazil come to one’s mind) to play a creative diplomatic role with Iran. It needs to reclaim that space.
Illustration by Jayachandran/Mint
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