- Iran – China – India: Diplomacy
- A Nuclear Accord, 15 Years Ago
Focus: GS-II International Relations
Why in news?
- Recent reports that Iran launched the track laying programme for the long rail link between Chabahar and Zahidan last week sparked concerns that India was being excluded from the project.
- Iran has since clarified that it is NOT the case and India could join the project at a later stage.
- This keeps the door open for Ircon International Limited (IRCON) which has been associated with the project even as India continues with the development of Chabahar port.
Connectivity for Afghanistan, India and Iran: The Timeline
- Providing connectivity for Afghanistan through Iran in order to lessen its dependence on Karachi port has enjoyed support in Delhi, Kabul and Tehran since 2003.
- Chabahar port on Iran’s Makran coast is well situated but road and rail links from Chabahar to Zahidan and then further on to Zaranj in Afghanistan, need to be built.
- With Iran under sanctions during 2005-13 there was little progress.
- India concentrated on the road to connect Zaranj to Delaram on the Herat highway, completed in 2008.
- Things moved forward after 2015 when sanctions on Iran eased with the signing of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or the Iran nuclear deal.
- A memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed between India and Iran in 2016 to equip and operate two terminals at the Shahid Beheshti port as part of Phase I of the project.
- Another milestone was the signing of the Trilateral Agreement on Establishment of International Transport and Transit Corridor between Afghanistan, Iran and India.
U.S. in the Equation
- A special economic zone (SEZ) at Chabahar was planned but re-imposition of U.S. sanctions has slowed investments into the SEZ.
- India was given a waiver from U.S. sanctions to continue cooperation on Chabahar as it contributed to Afghanistan’s development.
- Despite the waiver, the project has suffered delays because of the time taken by the U.S. Treasury to actually clear the import of heavy equipment such as rail mounted gantry cranes, mobile harbour cranes, etc.
- Tensions in the region have been growing since 2019 with missile strikes in Saudi Arabia claimed by the Houthis and a U.S. drone strike killing Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) chief General.
- Recently the U.S. announced that it wanted the UN Security Council (UNSC) to continue the ban on Iranian acquisition of conventional weapons.
- Just as it has been a tricky exercise for India to navigate between the U.S. and Iran to keep the Chabahar project going, Iran has found it a difficult balancing act to manage the hardliners at home while coping with Trump administration’s policy of ‘maximum pressure’.
- Russia and China are the only countries to veto the U.S.’s moves in the UNSC.
Iran and China
- In 2016, just as sanctions were eased, Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Tehran and proposed a long-term comprehensive, strategic partnership programme that would involve Chinese investment in Iranian infrastructure and assured supplies of Iranian oil and gas at concessional rates.
- China and Iran are close to sealing an ambitious deal on an economic and security partnership, a move that has caught the attention of policymakers in India and across the world.
- The deal will facilitate the infusion of about $280 billion from Beijing, which wants to buy oil from cash-strapped Iran.
- China will also invest into Iran’s transport and manufacturing infrastructure, thus giving it inroads into major sectors in Iran including banking, telecommunications, ports and railways.
- Iran is already a signatory of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), and this is in line with China’s “debt-trap diplomacy”.
- The deal has come under criticism from Iran’s political actors, including former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Stakes for India
- While India watches China with concern, what is alarming for New Delhi is that Beijing is also concluding a security and military partnership with Tehran.
- It calls for “joint training and exercises, joint research and weapons development and intelligence sharing” to fight “the lopsided battle with terrorism, drug and human trafficking and cross-border crimes”.
- Initial reports in Iran have suggested China will deploy 5,000 security personnel to protect its projects in Iran.
- With a growing Chinese presence in Iran, India is concerned about its strategic stakes around the Chabahar port project that it has been developing.
- The port is close to Gwadar port in Pakistan, which is being developed by China as part of its China-Pakistan Economic Corridor that links it to the Indian Ocean through BRI.
India’s Position: Tightrope walk
- India finds itself caught in the geopolitical rivalry between the US & China over Iran.
- While India got a waiver from US sanctions for development of the port — on the grounds that it will help access Afghanistan bypassing Pakistan — it is still not clear whether railway and other projects are exempt from sanctions.
- India’s dilemma also stems from the fact that robust support from the US is essential when it is locked in a border stand-off with China.
-Source: The Hindu, Indian Express
Focus: GS-II International Relations
- The visit of Indian Prime Minister to U.S. in 2005 was heralded as a new beginning in the US-India partnership by both the countries.
- The highlight of the summit was an agreement to cooperate in civil nuclear power.
- It upended the US (and international) focus on rolling back India’s nuclear weapons capabilities, and implicitly acknowledged India’s status as a nuclear weapons power.
How the Nuclear deal played out?
- Although the US-India partnership did not begin in 2005, it certainly found its breakthrough moment that year.
- There were people who warned that cooperation with a country which had not signed – and did not intend to sign – the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty would encourage other countries to develop nuclear weapons.
- The US-India relationship has continued to grow since 2005 but not in the way the agreement had intended.
- There has been no great cooperation in civilian nuclear energy.
- Russia and France are the major nuclear suppliers to India.
- Today solar and other renewable energy sources are attracting more attention and investment.
- There has not been a similar grand step forward in US-India relations since 2005.
Role of China in India – U.S.
- The rise of China was part of the US administration’s rationale in 2005 for building a stronger relationship with India.
- At that time, India was happy to share intelligence and policy views but took the position that it did not care to be played as a card in some larger Asian strategic game focused on China.
- Over fifteen years, China’s increasing global power as well as its territorial ambitions in both the Himalayas and the South China Sea have significantly worsened China’s relations with both India and the US.
- After border clashes in recent years in Doklam and now Aksai Chin, India seems less hesitant about a partnership explicitly aimed at containing China.
- In addition to new arms sales, there is a renewed commitment to the “Quad”, the informal mechanism for security discussions and more between Japan, the US, India and Australia.
- The current US administration would be delighted to have India buy in more completely to its Indo-Pacific strategy.
- The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, commonly known as the Non-Proliferation Treaty or NPT, is an international treaty whose objective is to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology, to promote cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, and to further the goal of achieving nuclear disarmament and general and complete disarmament
- The NPT is often seen to be based on a central bargain: “the NPT non-nuclear-weapon states agree never to acquire nuclear weapons and the NPT nuclear-weapon states in exchange agree to share the benefits of peaceful nuclear technology and to pursue nuclear disarmament aimed at the ultimate elimination of their nuclear arsenals.”
- The treaty defines nuclear-weapon states as those that have built and tested a nuclear explosive device before 1 January 1967; these are the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, and China.
- Four other states are known or believed to possess nuclear weapons: India, Pakistan, and North Korea have openly tested and declared that they possess nuclear weapons, while Israel is deliberately ambiguous regarding its nuclear weapons status.
- The Treaty has 189 States Parties, which is the largest number of any arms control agreement.
- However, India, Israel and Pakistan have not signed the NPT.
- North Korea announced its withdrawal in 2003, and further announced that it had conducted an underground nuclear explosion in 2006 and 2009.
-Source: Times of India