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The Iran Nuclear Deal: Advantage India: Some Observations

Paper No. 5909                                Dated 07-Apr-2015

By Dr. S. Chandrasekharan

It is a sad reflection of our foreign policy that one has to give the title as “advantage India” after the recent  framework that was signed on 2nd April between P5 plus one and Iran on a nuclear deal.  This in due course is supposed to be translated into a final agreement by June 30.

This advantage was there for years.  India not only chose not to use it but go against it in voting against Iran three times in the last few years.

India’s purchase of Iranian oil was considerably reduced out of pressure and in the month of March it is said that it was almost nil.  Now with great alacrity India was sending its Commerce Secretary Rajeev Kher to Tehran to “boost bilateral commercial ties” after the deal!

Repeated gestures and initiatives from Iran were ignored.  One has only to see the map to realise the geo strategic importance of Iran and its significance to Indian strategic interests.  Yet the development of Charbahar and the opening to northern Afghanistan and to Central Asian Republics which would have been a game changer for Indian strategic interests were being done at snail’s pace.  It looked as if some anti-Iranian forces in the South Block were at work to delay the development!

It is known that India’s policy was fashioned specifically due to pressure from USA and to a lesser extent Saudi Arabia.

 India must have been aware that US was carrying on an informal dialogue for many years at multilateral levels with the Iranian diaspora to come to a settlement.

As for Saudi Arabia, with all oil prices falling its “oil clout will be considerably reduced. Its recent involvement in Yemen is going to affect many other countries and create more complications in places where sectarian conflict is already in the critical stage.  It is said that Saudi Arabia has spent around 100 billion in recent decades to spread an extremist ideology, a hybrid of wahabism ad salafism, two versions of Islam supposedly to purify it from foreign influences.  (See new age Islam.com - article “Time to left Veil on Saudi Arabia’s Hijacking of Islam . . .)

No one would admit it- but one sees that the Islamic State is only following the laws followed in Saudi Arabia.

Before we go into some of the details of the agreement- some points need attention:

* It was generally agreed by intelligence sources that since 2007 Iran had not only mastered the nuclear fuel cycle but had the scientific, technical and industrial capacity to produce nuclear weapons if it chose to.

* Iran would have gained nothing by exploding a device, once its objective of getting the “know how” to make the bomb was reached.   It was prudent to go for negotiating an agreement rather than incurring the wrath of the whole world.  The surprise was that it took Iran such a long time to come to an agreement!

* It is also made out that the sanctions on Iran had worked and that but for sanctions Iran would not have come to the negotiating table.  This was not the position and if Iran wanted it, nothing could have prevented the Irnians from making the bomb.

The agreement briefly involves the following-

1.  Iran will be restricted to use only 6000 centrifuges- 5000 in Natanz and 1000 in Fordow- Iran is said to have at present 20,000 centrifuges.

2.  Iran is allowed to enrich uranium up to the strength of 3.67 percent only.

3.  Iran is permitted to have a stockpile of only 300 kilograms of enriched Uranium from the present stock of 10,000 kilo grams.  (There are differences on how to dispose off the surplus and this will have to be discussed again.)

4.  Sanctions will be incremental. (There is a problem here as the understanding in Iran is that sanctions will be lifted once the agreement is signed on June 30.  No time has been specified by the negotiating team of P5 + 1, but US State Secretary indicated a time of two years from the date of signing the agreement.)

5.  Iran can use its facility at Fordow as a nuclear research laboratory, but no fissile material will be allowed.  It is said that US is objecting to Iran developing faster and more sophisticated centrifuges.  This goes against the principle already accepted by Iran of restricting itself to 3.67 percent enrichment.  It is like the traffic rules where the speed limit is restricted to say 10 KM an hour.  Does it matter whether one uses a small car like the Indian Maruthi Alto or the powerful BMW to keep this speed? 

6. The Plutonium plant at Arak is barred from producing weapon grade Plutonium but can make energy grade plutonium.

7.  The IAEA will have powers for an intrusive inspection that will cover nuclear sites, Uranium mines and mills, centrifuge plants, nuclear supply chain as also monitor dual use technologies.  IAEA can inspect suspicious sites.  Here again the IAEA Inspectors could be nasty as had been the experience in India.  Analysts in India are also amused by the presence of China under the P5 as those in India who have dealt with nuclear proliferation know that China was the world’s greatest proliferator!

To me it looks that it is the best that the West could have got from Iran and the opportunity to go ahead with the June 30 deadline for final agreement should not be lost. It is a win- win situation both for the West and Iran.

The Director of Non Proliferation policy for the Arms Control Association said that if the agreement is implemented, it would take for Iran to amass enough bomb grade uranium for weapons for about 12 months and for all practical purposes it will effectively block Iran’s potential to produce plutonium for weapons.  Unless Iran has bomb grade plutonium hidden, it will take more than one year to produce a bomb and one has to have at least two bombs to test one!

A group of 30 leading nuclear non-proliferation specialists, primarily from the United States, issued a joint statement just two days ago assessing the framework deal announced by the P5+1 and Iran on April 2 as a "vitally important step forward" for non-proliferation and international security.

"When implemented, it will put in place an effective, verifiable, enforceable, long-term plan to guard against the possibility of a new nuclear-armed state in the Middle East," the statement read.   

The "Parameters for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action regarding the Islamic Republic of Iran's Nuclear Program" announced April 2 would establish long-term, verifiable restrictions on Iran's sensitive nuclear fuel cycle activities, many of which will last for 10 years, some for 15 years, some for 25 years, with enhanced International Atomic Energy Agency inspections under the Additional Protocol and modified code 3.1 safeguards provisions lasting indefinitely.

Nothing more need be said on the nuclear agreement.

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