October 20, 2020
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Iran Controversy

'As Helpful As Possible To Iran'

"I do not think that there should be too much speculation about what are the reasons why India decided to vote for this resolution," says the foreign secretary on the Indian vote against Iran at the IAEA. CPM, BJP and many others disagree, calling it

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'As Helpful As Possible To Iran'
Relevant excerpts from the Press Briefing by the Indian Foreign Secretary on the events in UN and IAEA. What the foreign secretary did not spell out was that Iran's joining hands with Egypt to get the UN 60th anniversary document to incorporate a line demanding that NPT should be made compulsory for all countries may have played a part.

As you know, during the time that we were in New York the question of the Iran nuclear issue also came up. We were in touch with the Foreign Ministers of the EU-3, that is, Britain, France and Germany, concerning the deliberations which were taking place at that time in Vienna. The Iranian Foreign Minister was also in New York during this time. We had several occasions to also exchange views with him. I would like to give you a little background to the vote that took place in Vienna on a draft resolution put forward by the EU-3 on which India voted in favour.

First of all, I would like to point out that we have been all along very supportive of the EU-3 because we saw the EU-3 initiative vis-à-vis Iran as giving a way out for a possible compromise, a reasonable compromise on what is a sensitive issue. We supported the decision which was arrived at between Iran and the EU-3 on the suspension of conversion activity at the Iranian nuclear facility at Isfahan. Now, when this conversion activity, which was suspended, was resumed this obviously caused a degree of concern. The previous resolution which was adopted by consensus at the IAEA in August, I think it was on 11th of August this year, there was a consensus request made to Iran to go back to suspension of the conversion activity.

Now, because this matter had still not been resolved, there were intensive consultations which were taking place, firstly among the EU-3 and Iran. We ourselves were talking to the EU-3. At the level of the Foreign Ministers itself there were a number of interactions at New York. This was also the subject of discussions when the Prime Minister was in Paris for his bilateral visit and, as I mentioned to you, there were a number of meetings which took place with the Foreign Minister of Iran himself.

Our effort was focused on trying to find a way out of the kind of confrontation which seemed to be developing on this issue. The two elements which appeared to us, which would in fact lead towards that confrontation, were (1) the insistence on the part of the EU-3 and some of the other western countries to immediately take this matter to the Security Council, (2) the point that was being made by the Non-Aligned countries that we should not be in too much of a haste, that we should allow time for further negotiations and consultations to take place, especially because a new Government had taken office in Teheran. This was also something which was being resisted initially by the EU-3.

We felt that we had in fact made a successful effort in persuading the EU-3 to concede on these two matters because if they had not conceded on these two matters, then there was very much a likelihood of a confrontation developing. So, as a result of the great deal of effort made by us as also some other countries, the EU-3 finally decided in the draft that they presented which was voted upon that (1) there would not be an immediate reference to the Security Council and (2) also allow time for this matter to be discussed further and only subsequently for the Board to take a decision depending upon what had been achieved in the meantime.

The question has been raised by some people as to why India did not abstain like some of the other Non-Aligned countries. The reason for that is very simple. The reason is that we in a sense made a major effort with the EU-3 countries to dilute some of the provisions of the draft and to make them concede on these two points which are very important for Iran’s interests. Since they did concede these two critical points we were making, I think in terms of diplomacy, having got them to agree to what we wanted, then to say that we will only abstain on the resolution would not have been a correct position for us to take.

With respect to Iran’s right to peaceful uses of nuclear energy, that is something which we have ourselves no reservations about. This is something which was clearly spelt out in the explanation of vote by our Permanent Representative to the IAEA. That we do not believe that the time has come for this matter to be remitted to the Security Council is also a point that we have clearly made. We have also clearly stated in the explanation of vote that we certainly do not regard the current situation as constituting any kind of threat to international peace and security. But on balance, since our main objective was to prevent the referral of this matter to the Security Council, and (2) to have sufficient amount of time for further negotiations, for further consultations to take place, on balance we decided that we should vote in favour of the resolution.

I would like to make it very clear here that our objective all along has been to be as helpful as possible to Iran with which we enjoy very close and cordial friendly relations. There is certainly no implication that India has any reservations about Iran’s pursuit of a peaceful nuclear energy programme consistent with global nonproliferation norms. That is something on which there should be no ambiguity. And there is no sense that India decided to vote in favour of this resolution because we were having some problems with Iran on other issues, that is certainly not the case. This was a judgment made after making a very careful assessment of the pros and cons, and in pursuit of a policy of avoiding confrontation and having enough time available to us to work out an acceptable compromise. So, I hope our decision is taken in that light.

To conclude, I would also bring to your attention the fact that in abstaining on this resolution – that 12 countries who abstained on this resolution – in fact in a sense agreed to its passage. There was only one country which sought a vote on the resolution. If that country had not sought a vote on this resolution, in fact the tradition is of having resolutions on this issue being passed by consensus and that would also have been the case this time as well. So, I think please take an overall view of this matter. I do not think that there should be too much speculation about what are the reasons why India decided to vote for this resolution.

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