https://thewire.in/diplomacy/on-iran-an ... hard-placeOn Iran and Trump, India Has Landed Between a Rock and a Hard Place
If India aspires to be a 'leading power', it may soon have to choose between its strategically autonomous goals, and those which the Trump administration has in mind for the region.
For some years now, India has liked to think of itself as a “leading power” rather than simply a “balancing power”. But if the Modi government’s response to Donald Trump reneging on the Iran nuclear deal is anything to go by, India may find itself being classed among the craven powers.
It is not surprising that in the run-up to the decision, Trump met French president Emmanuel Macron and German chancellor Angela Merkel on the issue and spoke to British prime minister Theresa May. He didn’t speak to Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin because China and Russia’s stands are well known. But he did not bother to consult Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the leader of a country which is a close ally of the US and stands to lose a great deal from the decision. This is because Trump knew he could take India for granted; after all, the Modi government’s weak-kneed approach was evident when it avoided substantial comment on the US shifting its embassy to Jerusalem.
India’s official statement on Trump’s Iran decision began with the non sequitur that Iran’s right to peaceful uses of nuclear energy should be respected, that the issue should be resolved through dialogue and diplomacy. “All parties should engage constructively to address and resolve issues that have arisen with respect to the JCPOA,” the MEA said, using the acronym for nuclear agreement’s formal name, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. There was, unlike the Chinese statement, no expression of regret that an international agreement which had the mandate of a UN Security Council resolution and whose termination has profound implications for the stability of a region which is, arguably, the most important external region for India, had been terminated so wantonly.
The issue is not about Iran’s right to the peaceful uses of atomic energy, but about ensuring that it does not develop nuclear weapons. The JCPOA is not some treaty that is under negotiation, but as the Russian statement pointed out, it is “a key multilateral agreement approved by the 2015 UN Security Council Resolution 2231.” In other words, it has the force of international law. The US which frequently swears by the “rule of law” now says it is “withdrawing”, not “violating” the JCPOA because it goes against its strategic interests. Mind you, this is a treaty in which the then Obama Administration was the lead negotiator. National security adviser John Bolton declared, on May 8, that “any nation reserves the right to correct a past mistake.” To this end he cited the Bush administration’s withdrawal from the 1972 ABM Treaty, which he said the Americans abandoned not because the Russians were violating it, “but because the global strategic environment had changed.” The Trump administration earlier withdrew from the Paris climate accord, presumably because it does not serve its strategic interests.
This, of course, is a catch-all which can justify China trashing the arbitration award on the South China Sea under UNCLOS in 2016, or any future Indian decision to scrap the Indus Waters Treaty of 1960, or for the Iranians to simply walk out of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty as the North Koreans did in 2003.