Having made a considered decision last week in Vienna to ask Tehran to abide by its nuclear obligations, India should not allow Iranís brinkmanship to force second thoughts. Nor should India overreact to the threat of energy blackmail. As a major power, India needs to demonstrate its political will to stay the course. That the Iranians were twisting Indiaís arms on the eve of the vote at the IAEA was well known. The prospect of Iran being upset and reacting negatively was also factored into the Indian decision. Responding to Tehranís statements that it might downgrade economic ties with countries that have voted for the resolution at the IAEA as well as Indian media reports that Iran might cut off energy contracts with Delhi, the Foreign Office has rightly underlined that cooperation between the two countries is of mutual benefit; it is not a favour from one to the other.
As a sovereign nation, Iran is free to choose any response to Indiaís action at the IAEA. Contrary to the propaganda from a section of the Left that the denial of Iranian cooperation will undermine Indiaís energy security, Delhi has many alternative options. The Left might not understand the geopolitics of energy, but Iran surely does. Despite the current high oil prices, the natural gas market is a buyerís one. If Iran chooses to back out of the proposed long-term contract to supply natural gas, which the two countries signed in June, there will be other suppliers eager to step in.
No wonder, then, that the Iranian Ambassador to India who called on Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran on Tuesday did not repeat the threat to tear up energy contracts. Even more clearly, senior Iranian officials have denied Indian media reports that energy cooperation with Delhi is being switched off. While Iranís disappointment and diplomatic posturing is understandable, the noisy Left reaction to the vote has not been entirely responsible. Criticism of the government from a leading component of the ruling coalition might have led Iran to miscalculate that it could browbeat India into changing its position at the IAEA. Sensing how badly the threat would play in Delhi, Tehran has quickly backtracked. India, in turn, must reassure Iran of its commitment to address the nuclear debate in Vienna on its merits as well as to a positive engagement with an important neighbour.