India's Positive Vote on Iran
Byline: THE WASHINGTON TIMES
India surprised even the most vigilant observers last weekend when it sided with the United States and the European Union in supporting a resolution that recommends referring Iran to the U.N. Security Council if negotiations on its nuclear program do not make headway. India's position at the International Atomic Energy Agency regarding Iran is encouraging and significant, illustrating that concerns over Iran's program do not emanate from Washington and Europe alone. The move also indicates that the young U.S.-Indian friendship is evolving.
All the same, it would be premature to conclude that India's vote is a definitive turning point, indicating that New Delhi will ultimately support referring Iran to the Security Council. The resolution at the IAEA does little more than diplomatically rap Tehran on the shoulder, since the IAEA board will not consider until November whether the Security Council needs to examine the Iranian program.
Tehran gives its nuclear program a high priority and appears willing to become a pariah to maintain it. While any agreement with Iran would require diplomatic negotiation and maneuvering, it would probably also require a willingness to confront Iran. It remains to be seen whether India will be willing to join the West in bringing that pressure to bear.
Indeed, U.S. officials were forced to do some tough bargaining with India in order to win its support for last weekend's vote. New Delhi had demonstrated it had no intention of voting for a resolution pressuring Iran. Energy-hungry India has been careful not to alienate Iran, on which it depends for fossil fuels. India, Pakistan and Iran have been holding talks over a potential deal to construct a $7.4-billion, 1,000-mile natural-gas pipeline from Iran, through Pakistan, to the Indian state of Rajasthan. Also, Iran agreed with India in June to export 5 million metric tons of liquefied natural gas, starting in 2009.
At the same time, the Indian government values its growing ties with the United States, particularly a July 18 proposal by the Bush administration to share civilian nuclear technology with India, which would also help the country meet its energy needs. …