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  Iran and India  


By: Dipak Basu
April 08, 2006
iews expressed here are author’s own and not of this website. Full disclaimer is at the bottom.


In Washington Post recently on 24th January, one article was published analyzing the opinion of the Iranians on international matter. One of the Iranian has pointed out from the ruins of Persepolis a sculpture depicting barefooted Indian bringing gifts for the Emperor Darius and said,” they have nine nuclear power but we have none”. Similar derogatory remarks can be heard from the Iranians about India, particularly when they are all very proud about the conquest of India by Nadir Shah.

That summarizes basically the attitude of the Iranians about India and the hostility towards India based on their usual idea that India is land of beggars and starving people. This attitude is not restricted among the Islamists, but widespread. Shah of Iran was not an Islamist, but he had offered the entire air force of Iran to Pakistan during the Indo-Pak war in 1971 and had threatened India with dire consequences if India would try to take away any more parts of Pakistan after the fall of East Pakistan. Given this history it would be surprising that India would not oppose Iran’s attempt to obtain nuclear weapons. However, there is another side of this dispute.

India’s foreign policy makers during the BJP administration, people like Jaswant Singh or Brajesh Mishra, were intoxicated with anti-Russian obsession that had blinded them from reality. People close to Man Mohan Singh have similar anti-Russian obsessions. They try to reduce India’s dependency on Russian oil by developing independent relationship with central Asian states through Iran and bypassing Russia. By doing so, they forgot the threat Iran creates towards India.

Iran is dedicated to the Islamic revolution throughout the world, which would not be restricted to any geographical area. American invasion of Iraq has eliminated a secular government of Saddam Hussein and the most likely outcome for Iraq, due to its demographic characteristic, is a Shia-Muslim government, same as in Iran. There are sizable Shia population in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia as well. Thus, American occupation of Iraq has strengthened the Shia-Muslims and their ability to project their power throughout the Middle East and beyond. Although Iranians are opposed to the Arabs and Shias are opposed to the Wahabi-movement of Saudi Arabia, they can collaborate, as they did against Afghanistan from 1978 to 1992, as their world-view is the same. Both of them want to create Dar-Ul-Islam throughout the world.

While Saudi Arabia is supporting Islamic movement, violent or nonviolent, in a number of countries, so far Iranians are restricted their supports only for their co-religious organizations like Hamas in occupied Palestine and Syria, which undermines the secular liberal Al-Fatah movement of late Yasser Arafat. If Iran is going to have nuclear weapons it will be in a position to support its version of Islamic revolution in a world scale.

So far the relationship between India and Iran is cordial, due to the fact that Iran needed India to obtain its vital imports and to obtain scientific and technological experts particularly in the field of nuclear energy. India already made a deal to build a nuclear energy plant in Iran. However, the equation has changed recently for the worse for India. Russia has already built a nuclear plant in Iran. China is building another nuclear plant. Both China and Russia are now a solid source of technology for Iran. China also is the source of most manufactured products Iran imports. Thus, Iran does not need India anymore but India still may need Iran, if India wants to reduce its dependency on Russian oil. It is not possible for India to import oil and gas from Central Asia without the cooperation of Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan, unless India wants to use the Russian route.

India’s support so far to Iran, however tangential, emerges from that ambition of India to have direct link with central Asian oil and gas resources. The route through Afghanistan is impossible without the cooperation from Pakistan. The land route from Iran to India also has to pass through the most volatile area of Pakistan, Baluchistan, which is in revolt. The submarine pipeline from Iran to India also needs cooperation from Pakistan. India needs to think seriously whether the direct link either via land or submarine pipeline is at all feasible given the political situation in this area of the world and the changing international scene in Central Asia.

Central Asian states have now realized that the US will not leave Afghanistan or Iraq in near future but will have permanent military bases in both of these countries to control the oil and gas resources of both the Middle East and the Central Asia. USA is also trying to promote its version of government in the central Asian states as it did already throughout Eastern Europe and Georgia recently by organizing and financing public demonstrations against the established governments there. Most central Asian countries are now afraid that they would be the next targets for the US organized demonstration to change the regimes.

As a result, they are getting closer and closer to both Russia and China, who are both more than willing to resist any attempts by the US and NATO to have military bases in Central Asian states. Russian oil and gas companies, Gazprom and Lukoil, already revived the exiting oil and gas pipelines between Turkmenistan, Kazakstan, and Russia to supply Central Asian oil and gas to the consumers in Western Europe. A new oil and gas pipeline network between Russia and Norway is about to be completed as well. That will bypass all East European states, particularly hostile Poland and Ukraine to supply Russian and Central Asian oil and gas directly to Western Europe. In that case whether Turkmenistan will be interested to supply gas to India via Iran is the main question when it will obtain enormous market in Western Europe. Besides, as explained before land-based pipelines through Baluchistan or submarine pipelines through Pakistan’s territorial water have high risk both financial and strategic.

It would be a much better option for India to develop refineries in Russian coastline, to have liquidified natural gas to be transported by sea to India. This option is virtually risk free. The natural gas from Turkmenistan, now under the Russian company Gazprom, also can be available to India, if India maintains its traditional good relationship with Russia.

China is building nuclear plant in Iran and is now the most important trading partner for Iran. In the competition between China and India for the Iranian market India has little chance to overpower Chinese exports, which are both cheaper, due to wise exchange rate policy of China, and of great variety. China also can supply missiles fitted with nuclear weapons as it did already to Pakistan and North Korea. India cannot do that, as India has no missiles fitted with nuclear weapons. Also, Indian missiles came from Russia (Soviet Union in 1989) originally, thus India cannot export these without the permission from Russia.

As a result Iran will enhance its trade relationship with China than with India. China has become the most important importer of oil from Iran already and got the contract to develop one large oil field in Iran. Thus, India has little importance for Iran.

As a result, India’s vote for or against Iran in the International Energy Agency or in the U.N has little importance for Iran. India cannot stop Iran developing nuclear weapons; India cannot help Iran either. Thus, neutrality for India towards Iran is perfectly justified given the national interest of India.

India has failed to understand the reason why the United States is so interested to stop Iran developing nuclear energy and weapons while it has accepted nuclear weapons of North Korea, who has already violated the rules of the NPT (Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty) but USA never took any action against it. American ally Israel already is a major nuclear weapons state. Brazil very soon can have nuclear weapons as well. USA is not worried about them. The reason is pure economics.

Iran threatens the US Dollar and its present status as the sole currency of the world for trade in oil and gas. It costs nothing for the US to import anything from the rest of the world or to keep vast American military bases throughout the world, as payments can be made by Dollar, which costs only the paper on which it would be printed. However, Dollar is required for every oil- importing countries of the world; and that it is reason central banks of most countries keep their reserves of foreign exchange mainly in Dollar.

That explains why USA is so powerful militarily and can import so much while it has little money to improve the living condition of the American poor, who now depends on the charity from Venezuela.

The recent sufferings of the American people after the devastations caused by the cyclone in New Orleans has exposed the terrible poverty in USA. About 20 percent of the children in the US go hungry everyday, about 34 million people are homeless and about one- fourth of the population cannot afford even the most elementary medical treatment. The same country can spend billions to subjugate other nations because it can just print Dollar and get what it likes outside the US.

That special status of Dollar can be threatened if the oil producing countries switch from Dollar to Euro for trade in oil and gas. From March this year, Iran has the intension to do just that, which Venezuela already did and Iraq wanted to do just before it was invaded.

As a result, Iran can seriously undermine the demand for Dollar in the world market. If other oil exporting countries follow Iran, Dollar will collapse along with the US economy. That is the reason for the urgency of the US to take punitive action against Iran and if possible to control the oil wealth of Iran by occupying the country, as indicated by the US Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld. North Korea has no oil; thus, it does not matter for the US whether North Korea has nuclear weapons or not. In fact, it is beneficial for the US that North Korea, and China, have nuclear weapons. That will keep Japan afraid and Japan will go on lending money to the US, as it did already to the tune of $400 billion.

Thus, by supporting USA against Iran, India cannot act according to its national interest but in effect India is supporting the US design to control the oil and gas resources of the world from which India has nothing to gain. Western oil companies has artificially increased the international price of oil by about 300 percent within the last two years to increase their own profits and to strengthen US Dollar. As a result India is having once again serious balance of payment deficits and increasing rate of inflation. It would get worse if Iran would be invaded. The combined profit of the major Western oil companies is now more than the national income of 134 countries of the world and more than the combined national income of Russia, Taiwan, Mexico, and India. If they can control the oil wealth of Iran, their ability to increase the price of oil will be strengthened and as result India will be at their mercy as it was 1960, when all western oil companies refused to supply any oil to India when India was trying to establish the Oil & Natural Gas Commission. At that time Indian economy was rescued from total collapse by Iraq and the Soviet Union, who had supplied both the oil and the technology for oil exploration. Iraq is now colonized by the U.S and the Soviet Union does not exist any more. Thus, India is on its own and vulnerable.

By supporting USA, India cannot do any justice to her national interest or to India’s international prestige! No matter what India would do to please, USA will support Pakistan militarily and China economically. USA also does not want India to have nuclear weapons or missiles or any advancement in space research. So far India has achieved everything in these fields, despite of objections from the US, because of the Soviet Union and Russia. USA is now making every obstacle so that India would have to give up its dream of achieving technological self-sufficiency in these vital areas.

Thus, there is no reason for India to supply diplomatic weapons to the US, so that it can take over Iran as well as Iraq. India cannot support Iran, a die-hard Islamic country, to have nuclear weapons either. Thus, India should not take side in this matter, which would have grave implications in near future.

Dipak Basu

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