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The Coming U.S.-India Train Wreck

MBI Munshi

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Iran is the crisis of the hour in Washington, and for the first time in recent memory talk now routinely turns to military action. In an effort to forestall Tehran’s pursuit of a nuclear weapon, the United States has launched a worldwide effort to limit Iran’s oil exports and increase the economic stress on the Iranian regime. Where sanctions on Iran were once seem as a somewhat quixotic American campaign, they are about to go worldwide; the United States will soon sanction firms that do business with Iran’s Central Bank, which now processes a large percentage of oil transactions. The European Union, meanwhile, is poised to embargo Iranian oil and Asian countries, including South Korea and Japan, are enlisting in the effort to economically isolate Iran.

As this effort proceeds, Americans will inevitably look to India, the fourth-largest importer of Iranian oil. But they will see a view of Iran that looks very different in New Delhi than it does in Washington. This difference over Iran poses a genuine problem to the two countries and, unless it’s bridged, it could throw a tremendous spanner into the machinery of U.S.-India relations.

It’s difficult to overestimate the importance of the Iranian nuclear threat in the minds of most American policymakers. They see in Tehran a regime that pursues an atomic weapon capacity at the same time that has aided American enemies in Iraq and Afghanistan, supports Hizbollah, Hamas and the thuggish regime in Syria, allegedly tries to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States, and threatens to close the Strait of Hormuz, all while denying the Holocaust and threatening death to America. An Iranian nuclear weapons capacity, many policymakers fear, could hand Tehran a deterrent behind which to pursue an even more aggressive drive for regional domination, set off a regional arms race, and threaten the stability of the Middle East.

In New Delhi, the picture looks very different. India imports roughly 12 percent of its oil from Iran, and because Pakistan blocks Indian commerce through Afghanistan to Central Asia, Iran forms a key transit Indian transit route. Indian Shia comprise a relatively small percentage of the population, but represent an important swing vote in elections. India and Iran have long cultural and population ties, and in 2006, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh went so far as tell an American interviewer that, “Our relations with Iran, we cherish a great deal.”

Yet this has begun to change around the edges. The talk of cherishing ties has faded, and India has begun increasing its purchases of Saudi oil. Singh has said explicitly that India opposes an Iranian nuclear weapon, and New Delhi voted to censure Iran at the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Still, the new U.S.-led sanctions push may put Washington and New Delhi on opposite sides of this critical issue. Asked about America’s new sanctions, Indian Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai said this past week: “We have accepted sanctions which are made by the United Nations. Other sanctions do not apply to individual countries. We don’t accept that position.” Indeed, he went further, noting that an Indian delegation would travel to Iran to “work out a mechanism for uninterrupted purchase of oil from Iran.” And India and Iran have reportedly agreed to settle some of their oil trade in rupees to avoid restrictions on dollar-denominated trade.

Thus far, Washington and New Delhi have chosen to emphasize the areas of agreement – the IAEA votes, their shared opposition to an Iranian nuclear weapon – and downplay the disagreement on how to achieve that objective. But with the issue heating up in Washington and other world capitals, and with the new U.S. sanctions poised to go into effect, there’s the danger of a real impasse. Members of the U.S. Congress will be dismayed if India appears to stand outside a concerted international effort to press Iran at a critical inflection point. Members of the Indian parliament, for their part, will not particularly appreciate being publicly goaded to get tough on Iran.

The collateral damage could be the U.S.-India relationship. A falling out over Iran could infect other elements of the budding strategic partnership, and make everything else – from trade to defense cooperation to diplomatic coordination – more difficult.

The United States and India should urgently seek ways to bridge their differences over Iran. A genuine partnership on this issue might see India using its unique role to carry messages to the Iranian leadership and provide insights about Iranian behavior to the American side, while the United States works with New Delhi to pressure Iran on a variety of fronts. For the sake of preventing a nuclear-armed Iran and for the solidity of the U.S.-Indian relationship, the two nations’ respective leaders should engage on Iran, and soon.

The Coming U.S.-India Train Wreck | The Diplomat
 
Nov 17, 2010
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There seem to be widely divergent views on Iran even in America. With the American elections looming large, I don't see too much happening on the Iran front in America.

Obama knows that the American people, not talking of the parties, do not want another war.
 

Developereo

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It's worse than that.

India and Israel enjoy a match made in heaven when allying against Pakistan, but the Iran factor puts strains on the India-Israel relationship also. As for the India-US relationship, it has been in the honeymoon period so far. At some point -- especially if Republicans come in power -- the US will start demanding some real payback.
 
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It's worse than that.

India and Israel enjoy a match made in heaven when allying against Pakistan, but the Iran factor puts strains on the India-Israel relationship also. As for the India-US relationship, it has been in the honeymoon period so far. At some point -- especially if Republicans come in power -- the US will start demanding some real payback.
It was the republicans themselves who took the Indo-US relationship to the next level. As it t=is, the American relationship with India has so far been a mutual one. Unlike their previous relationships with other countries.

BTW, When it comes to India, Americans will have to decide as to which country they perceive as a bigger and a more serious threat to their global dominance, Iran or China.
 

Developereo

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It was the republicans themselves who took the Indo-US relationship to the next level.
Yes, and my point (to paraphrase Shakespeare) is that Bush pushed the relationship 'not because he loved India more, but because he loved China less'.

BTW, When it comes to India, Americans will have to decide as to which country they perceive as a bigger and a more serious threat to their global dominance, Iran or China.
Part of being a real superpower is being able to juggle more than one 'enemy' at a time. India has been milking the American paranoia of China, but superpowers generally don't enjoy being played for a fool.
 
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Yes, and my point (to paraphrase Shakespeare) is that Bush pushed the relationship 'not because he loved India more, but because he loved China less'.

Uhm...not really. Apart for the Chinese angle, the Indo-US relationship has a business aspect too and that is extremely crucial to American businesses.

American businesses cannot afford to let go of a 1.2 billion people strong market. Apple's loss is Samsung's gain, so to speak. Americans cannot continue to be apatheic to the Indian market on the broader scale. Of late, it's thei business interests that seem to be shaping their India policy.

In the background, the Chinese 'cause' continues to linger.

Part of being a real superpower is being able to juggle more than one 'enemy' at a time. India has been milking the American paranoia of China, but superpowers generally don't enjoy being played for a fool.
On the contrary, India has never really used the China card. India has only used the 'market' card for the American businessmen and the American policy followed.

Westinghouse and ilk couldn't have afforded to lose to the French and Russians, you know.

By the look of it, both the Indians and the Americans seem to be loving their new-found 'relationship status'.
 

Roybot

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India will keep buying oil from Iran, just like we keep buying weapons from Israel and America. And stay the fck out of any confrontation in the middle east.

This is not our war, and we ll remain neutral. Am not sure what honeymoon think thank here is referring to, we got Civil nuclear deal, US got 20 Billion dollar(more to come) worth of arms export order.

America needs India just as much as India needs America.
 

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I have no qualms with India trading with Iran for oil.US is threatening Iran only because of the pressure from Sunni Saudis and the GCC.Saudi and its allies are the biggest terrorists and as such we see how Saudi Wahhabism has ###### up everything.Iran is a very sane nation compared to the Saudis and lets not forget all the terrorist activities that we see have been sponsored by them.And if a country like Pakistan can have nuclear weapons then maybe Iran is quite justified in nuclear pursuit.In our country also majority are shias who are peaceful people and so we should definitely stand by Iran and not warmongers like Saudi.
 

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And again...you missed another point...in this issue whole episode..India will should of course see who is providing the max benifit?
India Iran relation for Oil? Can Iran provide any other strategic advantage to us vis a vis Afganistan bypassing Pakistan? If not what else? Because it is good that India is buying oil from Iran? But what will happen in case Saudi Arab will tell India that SA is ready to fulfill India demand without any issue? In that situation, if Iran does not support India in couple of other statergic issues, then i don't find any reason to continue to support Iran? In one hand Iran will side with Pakistan to bash India and on the other hand India will keep on buying from Iran when the same can be provided by someone else? This does not make any sense to me from foreign policy point of view...

In business there is nothing personal or to be emotional...Even if Pakistan offers oil which is favorable to India then India should go for it...rather than thinking that pakistan is an enemy for us.
 

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I agree with you on your POV and maybe you have heard the "Lesser of two evils principle".The same can be applied over here and for me at present Iran seems to be the lesser devil.
 

Developereo

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Uhm...not really. Apart for the Chinese angle, the Indo-US relationship has a business aspect too and that is extremely crucial to American businesses.

American businesses cannot afford to let go of a 1.2 billion people strong market. Apple's loss is Samsung's gain, so to speak. Americans cannot continue to be apatheic to the Indian market on the broader scale. Of late, it's thei business interests that seem to be shaping their India policy.
The business aspect is much smaller than Indians make it out (Indian consumers are on par with Africa, per-capita wise -- Sudan, Ghana and Nigeria outrank India). In any case, American companies do business globally, regardless of the political ties. This discussion is specifically about the political dimension.

In the background, the Chinese 'cause' continues to linger.
There is nothing 'background' about it. The US has made it crystal clear India is at the forefront of its China containment policy.

n the contrary, India has never really used the China card.
Again false. The Indian media has gone ballistic in its China bashing precisely in tandem with the American courtship. India is saying loud and clear "We are with you on China" to American policymakers.
 
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The business aspect is much smaller than Indians make it out (Indian consumers are on par with Africa, per-capita wise -- Sudan, Ghana and Nigeria outrank India). In any case, American companies do business globally, regardless of the political ties. This discussion is specifically about the political dimension.
Per-capita wise? Logic of convenience.

Look at the urban centres.

There's a 350million strong Indian middle class in the urban centres and tows.

350million! That's larger than entire United States population.

...and it's growing at a staggering rate.

Keep your dislike of India aside for a moment and look at the facts as they stare you right in the face.

No businessman can afford to miss a market that big.

The market for automobiles.

The market for healthcare.

The market for energy.

The market for aviation.

The market for retail.

The list of endless.

Open your mind.

There is nothing 'background' about it. The US has made it crystal clear India is at the forefront of its China containment policy.
It takes two to tango, mate. India has made it amply clear that it's going to steer clear of any outside attempts to pitch it against China.

Again false. The Indian media has gone ballistic in its China bashing precisely in tandem with the American courtship. India is saying loud and clear "We are with you on China" to American policymakers.
That's a free media. They are free to say whatever they want to. They're free to run paid news.

...and the China bashing is for internal consumption. Not for American consumption.

Have you ever seen Iran bashing in Indian media for American consumption? Hell NO!

Just like the same Indian media was largely divided over the issue of FDI in retail.

They all do their thing their way. You're reading too much into it while choosing to conveniently ignore the facts.
 

Syama Ayas

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It's worse than that.

India and Israel enjoy a match made in heaven when allying against Pakistan, but the Iran factor puts strains on the India-Israel relationship also. As for the India-US relationship, it has been in the honeymoon period so far. At some point -- especially if Republicans come in power -- the US will start demanding some real payback.
:rofl:

Amusing you haven't considered the impact of Republicans coming to power on Pakistan, judging the current state of relations between US and Pakistan.

I guess Indo-phobic glee is more comforting than concerns about ones own misery.
 

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