Whether one is for or against the Indian decision to vote against Iran at the recent International Atomic Energy Agency meet, let us not pretend that this is anything else but a response to a situation created by the United States of America. Left to itself, India would never have sought to precipitate such a showdown and would have preferred to maintain wider options by not having to choose between upsetting the US or Iran.
To understand the whole story properly, one has to start not from evaluating what is in India's 'national interest' but from assessing what the most powerful player ' the US ' has been up to and why. And how does the NPT-IAEA come into the picture'
The non-proliferation treaty was a bargain in which non-nuclear member states signed up, agreeing to renounce acquisition of nuclear weapons in return for two carrots. The first was Article VI, whereby the three nuclear weapons states, the United Kingdom, Russia, the US (later joined by China and France), promised to take steps to ultimately disarm themselves. This carrot has long been thrown out the window.
The second carrot was Article IV, wherein the non-nuclear signatories would be helped to build up their own civilian nuclear energy establishments, albeit under IAEA monitored safeguards. Here, there has always been a basic contradiction inherent in the inescapably dual-use nature of civilian nuclear energy development. The NPT denies countries nuclear weapons, yet the same treaty helps them develop some of the wherewithal to become nuclear if they choose to at some future time. For decades this contradiction was never attacked by the nuclear weapons states or by India, which confined its criticism to the 'discriminatory' aspect of the NPT. The only sustained criticism of this contradiction in the NPT came from the ranks of those who not only opposed nuclear weapons but also nuclear energy development.
In more recent times, the Western nuclear weapons states did become uneasy about how the NPT might be helping certain signatory countries like North Korea and Libya to develop their potential on the nuclear weapons front. But it is only after September 11, 2001 that the US dramatically changed its approach to the NPT.
In the NPT 2000 review conference, the US, along with other nuclear weapons states, went along with the 'thirteen points' that were supposed to encourage the prospects of global disarmament. It agreed to give some face-savers to Article VI in order to reassure critics and enable that conference to be considered a 'success'. In the 2005 NPT review conference, the US insisted that the issue must shift from disarmament to non-proliferation and therefore from Article VI to Article IV, dealing with the provision of dual-use help for civilian energy purposes. This is the inauguration by the US of a new and much more determined process than ever before of suborning and manipulating the NPT and the IAEA to prevent (selectively of course) even the potential development of a nuclear weapons programme by its perceived enemies.
In short, it is not the detection of 'cheating' or 'duplicity' by Iran that is the dramatic and most important new development, but the duplicitous new course that the US has taken. So what are the principal aims of the US orchestration of this IAEA governing body resolution and vote'
One, to hamper, if not prevent, select enemies, most importantly Iran, from developing even the potential ' inherent though it is in any civilian nuclear energy programme ' to have a nuclear weapons system in the future.
Two, to promote and spread the falsehood that Iran is 'non-compliant' and 'cheating'. Many Indian observers in the media have swallowed this canard. Iran has clearly wanted to keep the nuclear weapons option open, even though it is far from actually having nuclear weapons or even from deciding that it must have them in the future. It has had a programme of building dual-use uranium enrichment facilities on this unstated policy basis for many years. But this was in no way cheating or non-compliance since Iran has never violated any of the clearly stipulated conditions of the IAEA with regard to such construction and equipping activity, which only eventually comes under formal IAEA inspection. Indeed, by voluntarily signing the additional protocol allowing much freer and frequent IAEA inspections, Iran has signalled that is in fact moving in the direction of narrowing the option to make nuclear weapons in the future. That the E-3, the US and the IAEA have nonetheless moved towards a resolution tabling 'non-compliance' and laying the ground for referral of the case to the United Nations security council is an expression not of Iranian duplicity but of E-3 and US dishonesty and IAEA suborning.
Three, that Russia, China and 10 others decided to abstain and not vote against this disgraceful resolution, which was obviously better than voting for it, is nevertheless a concession given to the US that also advances its overall project, and which the latter can now try and further build upon. The US can now more confidently hope that it can, through further abstentions at the IAEA November meet, get a majority to refer the case on Iran to the security council, and indeed avoid a veto from either Russia or China if the security council goes in for a sanctions resolution.
Four, to pave the way internationally for legitimizing a future US or Israeli military attack on Iran in the name of preventing a 'cheating' and 'irresponsible' Iran for going in for weapons of mass destruction. It must be understood that west Asia is the geopolitical pivot of the US project to successfully establish an informal global empire. And here the greatest strategic defeat that the US has ever suffered since 1945 was not the emergence of Iraq under Saddam Hussein but the overthrow of the Shah of Iran in 1979, a defeat that must be reversed.
Five, no empire can be achieved or stabilized on the basis of force alone. It must achieve legitimacy as widely as possible ' among client regimes and allies and their populations, among neutrals, amongst the populations of actual or potential rivals, amongst the populations whose governments are targeted. This requires covering up one's imperial project through ideological disguises. For west Asia, there are four important ideological banners behind which the US hides ' the war on global terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, humanitarian intervention, regime change to promote democracy. These banners either singly or in combination need to be repeatedly unfurled and endorsed by an 'expanding audience'. In short, the building of Empire needs consent and this can be active, passive or bought.
The best is active consent ' the absorption of the belief that what is good for the US government is good for the world. Passive consent ' the belief that one cannot really take on the US though one dislikes or hates what it is doing ' will do, since resistance is abandoned. Bought consent is what governments and their circle of supporting strategists call 'intelligent diplomacy', namely acceptance of US dollops in return for endorsement of US foreign policies which are then sold to the receiving country's population as the exercise of 'national interest'.
The US is delighted that in India, consent to its imperial project is not merely being easily purchased, but a pro-US elite in India is also in a myriad ways declaring that its acceptance is an active one. No matter whether we have a Congress-led or BJP-led coalition government at the Centre, the US is now assured (despite some dissidence) that the alliance of the two country's elites will be stable and enduring.