As US-Iran relations nosedived over accusations of meddling over Iraq and Tehran’s nuclear program, India, Pakistan, and Iran seemed to have agreed on a price to transport natural gas to India over the Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline project.
National Iranian Oil Company officials were quoted saying that “an
understanding” on “a pricing formula” could be reached if the three sides after
having arrived at a formula will get approvals from their respective
governments. While the natural gas deal should not affect US efforts to contain
Iran, the increased economic activity may infuse life into the Iranian economy
and Washington feels that encourages Tehran’s bad behavior. Already, the
US Anti-Proliferation US Law to inflict punishment on nations that proliferate and those which collaborate with those that proliferate.
Earlier this year, there were news reports of a joint
Israeli and US plan to strike Iran
but that also has been discounted. While there has been no proof to
proliferation from Iran, Western sources have variously leaked stories that talk
collaboration between North Korea and Iran. At the recently concluded Davos meeting, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Direct El Baradei has said that there is no proof of such a connection and warned that any stroke on Iran would have "catastrophic consequences.”. Another news report originated quoting an Iranian Parliamentarian that Tehran plans to deploy 3000 centrifuges but has since been deprecated. It is not clear if these are theories that are being paraded as news or manufactured disinformation to add pressure on Tehran to stand back from the brink.
US lawmakers paranoid of Indo-Iranian discussions have been nervous about continued interactions between the two nations at variance with stated American positions. US lawmakers have taken extreme positions on Iran even holding captive Iranian diplomats based on speculative information and authorizing attacks on Iranian nationals suspected of anti-American activities. However, to its credit, the US Administration has pointed out to them that since even NATO allies such as France has large-scale relations with Iran, expecting a friendly nation to follow the American line is “disingenuous.” But New Delhi has to be prepared for increased pressure from Washington to abandon if not tone down relations with Tehran.
With the US Presidential campaign already in motion, New Delhi should also expect grandstanding demands from some quarters in the US to abrogate the Indo-US Civilian Nuclear deal because of India’s continued relations with Iran. However, barring extremists elements in the US, the majority of the US lawmakers will not adopt such a position unless relations between Washington and Tehran take a deep turn for the worse taking the region down with it. While New Delhi needs to be empathetic to American concerns on the safety of their troops with running Shia revolt and Sunni insurgency in Iraq. However, it cannot be tied down with an inconclusive war that it did not want a part of.
At the same time, New Delhi should also realize the brinkmanship approach of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
is causing a major split in Sunni-Shia relations. In a recent television interview, Saudi Arabia King Abdullah accused Iran of trying to “promote Shiaism” and warned that the “dangers” that Iran “could fall into” will fall on the whole world.
Therefore, the right strategy for India is to develop a
person-agnostic relationship with Iran
broad non-country specific relationship with the US to deal with global issues. As energy starved nation, India needs to diversify its energy sources that could include natural gas from Iran and Myanmar, oil from West Asia and Russia, and nuclear energy with the support of the US. Of course, the long-term strategy is for the nation to develop indigenous technologies in parallel that will reduce dependence on other nations.