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Following article on ”Iran Nuclear crisis and its impact on India-Iran relations ” is part of our series on general awareness:
Independent India and Iran established diplomatic links on 15 March 1950 and since then both have friendly relations except for the last decade when both the countries could not agree over two issues- Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline and Iran’s nuclear programmes. Both the issues have genuine reasons for Indian disagreement. In the former case, non-reliable nature of Pakistan was the sole cause of disagreement while in case of Iran’s nuclear programme; India is already have two nuclear powers and cannot afford to have one more nuclear power in the South Indian region. India already have not so friendly relations with China and Pakistan so nuclear Iran is definitely a threat for the security of South Asia.
Background of Iran’s nuclear programme
•The nuclear program of Iran was launched in the 1950s with the help of the United States as part of the Atoms for Peace program.
•Iran signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 1968 and ratified it in 1970, making Iran's nuclear program subject to IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency ) verification.
•In 1978, Iran and the USA signed a nuclear agreement in which Iran agreed to implement safeguards beyond NPT requirements. In return, the US granted Iran the "most favored nation" status for reprocessing so that Iran will not be discriminated against when seeking permission to reprocess spent nuclear fuel supplied by the USA.
•However, following Iran's Islamic revolution, the US stopped supply of highly-enriched uranium for the Tehran Research Reactor.
•In 1985, with help from China, Iran opend a nuclear research center at Isfahan. Later, Russia also agreed to rebuild the war-damaged Bushehr nuclear power plant for Iran. This lead to the widening of differences between Iran and USA.
•US opposed Iran's nuclear energy program under the assertion that Iran had sufficient oil and gas reserves for power, and work on the nuclear reactor is indirectly contributing to the weapons program.
•In 2000, US President signed the Iran Nonproliferation Act, which allows the USA to sanction individuals and organizations providing "material aid" to Iran's nuclear, chemical, biological and ballistic missile weapons programs.
•In 2002, US President George Bush described Iraq, Iran and North Korea as an "axis of evil", warning of the proliferation of long-range missiles being developed in these countries. The speech caused outrage in Iran and was condemned by reformists and conservatives alike.
•Later in 2002, The National Council of Resistance of Iran (an exiled opposition group) alleged that Iran is building two secret nuclear sites - a uranium enrichment plant at Natanz, and a heavy-water production plant in Arak. President Khatami publicly acknowledges the existence of Natanz and other facilities. He invited International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to inspect them. IAEA inspectors found small traces of highly enriched uranium at Iran's Natanz nuclear plant. Iran said that traces had come from imported equipment. The IAEA gave Iran 30 days to prove it is not building nuclear weapons.
•In 2004, Iran acknowledged having secretly bought nuclear reactor parts from international sources and but insisted that its goal was electricity production, not nuclear weapons. Later, Iran was rebuked by the IAEA for failing to fully cooperate with an inquiry into its nuclear activities.
•In 2006, Iran broke open the IAEA seals at its Natanz nuclear research facility. UN Security Council voted to impose sanctions on Iran's trade in sensitive nuclear materials and technology.
•In 2007, IAEA held that Iran could develop a nuclear weapon in three to eight years.
•In 2011, Iran's first nuclear power plant, Bushehr I reactor was officially opened. In November 2011 the IAEA released its latest report on Iran's nuclear programme, presenting new evidence suggesting that Iran is secretly working to obtain a nuclear weapon. Iran has dismissed the claims as fictitious.
In an effort to thwart Iran’s nuclear program, the United States and the European Union took significant steps to cut Iran off from the international financial system, announcing coordinated sanctions aimed at its central bank and commercial banks. In addition, the United States also imposed sanctions on companies involved in Iran’s nuclear industry, as well as on its petrochemical and oil industries, adding to existing measures that seek to weaken the Iranian government by depriving it of its ability to refine gasoline or invest in its petroleum industry. In retaliation to the sanctions, Iran vowed to block the Strait of Hormuz, a vital oil transit point.
The February 2012 IAEA report showed that Iran was preparing to install thousands more centrifuges based on an erratic and outdated design, both in its main enrichment plant at Natanz and in a smaller facility at Fordow buried deep underground. However, in March, 2012, Iran gave permission to inspect a site at Parchin, a place where the IAEA claimed that high-explosives research pertinent to nuclear weapons had taken place. Later, EU and US announced that they had accepted an Iranian offer to resume negotiations that broke off in stalemate more than a year before.
It is quite evident that, some form of nuclear programme is taking place in Iran and because of this perception, despite close relations and convergence of interests with Iran, India voted against Iran in the International Atomic Energy Agency in 2005. Main reasons responsible for vote against Iran were-
ï‚·Like the US and Israel, India has its reasons to be concerned over Iran's nuclear programme, which is following the same path as Pakistan's. The late Zulfiquar Ali Bhutto and Zia-ul-Haq used to project Pakistan's programme as totally peaceful, but they secretly developed a military nuclear capability. Iran probably clandestinely procured its uranium enrichment capability and technology from Pakistan’s A Q Khan, with the knowledge and connivance of Pakistan's Army.
ï‚·India worries for the danger of the fundamentalists coming to power in Pakistan and taking control of its nuclear arsenal. She should be more worried about Iran, where the fundamentalists are already in power. Pakistan's sponsorship of cross-border terrorism in India is somewhere under the impression, that its nuclear arsenal has given it immunity against possible Indian retaliation. Neither India nor the US or Israel want this to be repeated in Iran.
Though India’s vote against Iran at IAEA didn’t go well with Iran but it didn’t led to the deterioration of relations as both the nations continued to engage each other in economic, political, cultural development. India has always opposed to any military solution of Iranian crisis.
The Iran nuclear issue poses a serious policy dilemma for India where on one hand it had to co-operate with the international community in preventing the emergence of another military nuclear power with security implications for India, while not allowing our traditional good relations with Iran to be jeopardized. A nuclear Iran will disturb the stability and a balance of power in the region. This instability naturally means dramatic fluctuations in oil and gas prices that are detrimental to consumers as well as producers. A military solution is not advisable to the issue as it may temporarily weaken the nuclear weapons program, but a strike could also convince the Iranian political elite and Iranian citizens that they should pursue a more secretive, resilient nuclear program to protect themselves from the West. We now live in a world where it is impossible to stop any sufficiently committed country from developing a weapons program. Therefore the best response would be to engage in dialogue.
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