14 February 2012Israel, Iran and India!
New Delhi Has A Compelling Reason To Intervene
By Rajinder Puri
THE terror attack early this week against an Israeli diplomat in a car close to the Prime Minister’s residence should be a wake-up call to the government. The Israeli government has claimed that Iran was behind the attack. A similar terrorist attempt was made on the same day against Israeli diplomats in Georgia and failed. Investigations should reveal more about the perpetrators of the attack. But regardless of the truth that eventually emerges, the government should realise that it can no longer afford to adopt its ostrich-like approach to foreign relations. India has to be proactive and interventionist in its foreign policy in order to protect its vital national interests.
India has friendly relations with Iran. India has friendly relations with Israel. Iran and Israel are daggers drawn against each other. If the enmity between Israel and Iran persists and escalates India, despite its best efforts to avoid partisanship, will be compelled to choose one side over the other. Can India afford to lose the friendship of either Israel or Iran? If not, India must produce a peace formula that achieves a settlement between both nations. There is no country in the world that is attempting to do that. At best some governments are trying to avoid the outbreak of war between Israel and Iran. India is best placed, and has the biggest vested interest, in creating a peaceful settlement between Israel and Iran. How should India go about achieving this?
Both President Ahmadinejad and Prime Minister Netanyahu are hardliners advocating a rigid approach for their respective governments. However, there are strong restraining influences in both Israel and in Iran seeking a more conciliatory approach. This is what India must build on. For the first time in 33 years the Iranian parliament has summoned its President for questioning. President Ahmadinejad was grilled about his foreign and economic policies. The Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Khamenei, was behind the move. The President is on his back foot. Similarly in Israel there are influential voices in the media urging restraint in the Prime Minister’s approach.
The biggest immediate issue that divides both countries is Iran’s nuclear programme. If India were to take the initiative to defuse this dispute it would have gone a long way to achieve peace. Last year Ayatollah Khamenei stated: “Iran regards utilizing nuclear weapons as forbidden in Islam and it is incumbent on everyone to safeguard humanity from such weapons.” Does not this unequivocal statement create an opening? While Israeli concerns about a hostile and nuclear Iran are legitimate, Iranian concerns about a pre-emptive Israeli strike are no less justified. So, how might India intervene to everyone’s mutual advantage? I can do no better than iterate what I had suggested earlier in these columns. I quote:
“First, India and Pakistan should bring all nuclear weapons in both nations under the control of a common apex body representing India, Pakistan and Iran empowered to use the weapons in case of extreme crisis. This should be the Asian Nuclear Disarmament Association (ANDA). If Pakistan rejects efforts to eliminate the nuclear threat, continuing the peace dialogue with it should be abandoned. In that event Pakistan would be inviting self-destruction. With Iran as part of the apex body Tehran would have no excuse to hanker after nuclear weapons. Resolving Iran’s nuclear dispute would facilitate Middle East peace. A representative of IAEA should also be part of the apex body with the world body having full access to monitor all nuclear weapons in India and Pakistan.
“Secondly, if Pakistan and Iran are agreeable to the proposal the apex body should formulate a time-bound phased plan for total nuclear disarmament and present it to the United Nations. ANDA would retain the weapons and the right to use them for Asian security until all nuclear powers surrender their weapons to the UN. The world body would determine how many nuclear weapons to destroy and how many to retain. The UN would keep the retained weapons under its direct control. Meanwhile ANDA could mobilize public opinion across the world in favour of total nuclear disarmament.
“Thirdly, if ANDA is formed it should invite all the Asian nuclear and threshold nuclear powers in the continent to join the organization and become members of the apex body. China, Israel, North Korea and Japan should be invited. The nations that refuse to join would be free to seek isolation and censure by global public opinion.”
India’s quest for Iranian-Israeli accord would not arise from altruism but from hard headed national interest. India needs peace in its neighbourhood. India needs a climate of trust that allows fast progress. The recent terrorist attack compels India to intervene. New Delhi should not limit its intervention to addressing the allegations by Israel or the denials of Iran. It must address the heart of the problem as suggested by the initiative on the nuclear issue. And by doing that India would in fact defuse the biggest threat facing this nation. It was not without reason that two Indian prime ministers, Rajiv Gandhi and Atal Behari Vajpayee, proposed total nuclear disarmament in the United Nations. In a world of nuclear proliferating regimes and terrorism it is but a matter of time before there is a terrorist nuclear attack. And given its surroundings, location and system India is the most likely target for such an attack.
The initiative suggested on the nuclear issue might appear extreme to many. The situation we face is extreme. New Delhi should muster the courage and confidence to take it. Recently former Governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, was in Delhi. Addressing a TV audience he said that the secret of his success was that the word “impossible” did not exist in his dictionary. The government should draw a lesson. Nothing will be achieved until it dares. There is no challenge that cannot be surmounted. But if nothing’s ventured, nothing’s gained!
The writer is a veteran journalist