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NAM Summit: Is India & Iran Coming Closer: Civil Services Mentor Magazine October 2012

NAM Summit: Is India & Iran Coming Closer

NAM Summit: Is India & Iran Coming Closer

Amid the 16th Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) conference, the biggest gathering of international dignitaries in the Islamic Republic’s 33-year history, northern Tehran has become a ghost town. The 16th NAM (Non- ligned Movement) summit was held at Tehran, Iran on 30-31 August 2012.The theme of the summit was Lasting Peace through Joint Global Governance. At the Tehran Summit , the Chairmanship of NAM was passed on from Egypt to Iran in accordance with the NAM’s practice of regional rotation. The NAM meeting in Tehran was held in three phases: preparatory senior officials meeting on 26-27 August, ministerial level meeting on 28- 9 August, and the summit on 30-31 August. Heads of the government from over 100 countries participated in the Tehran Summit to discuss the new global challenges. At the end of the summit, the outcome documents were adopted which put emphasis on peace. Participants called for fundamental changes in global governance and collective management of the world as the precondition of establishing peace, and all of them expressed the call for avoiding conflicts in the world. Venezuela was selected the host for the 17th NAM Summit in 2015 and two nations, namely Azerbaijan Republic and Fiji, were accepted as the new members of the organization.The NAM was founded in the former Yugoslavia in 1961. It represents almost two-thirds of the UN members and about 55 percent of the world population. India expressed support for popular aspirations for a democratic order in Syria while cautioning against external intervention. India urged NAM to take a clear stand on Syria. Iran condemned the West’s policy of intimidation against other nations and sought NAM’s support to end tough West-sponsored sanctions against it over its nuclear programme, as officials from 120 countries, including India, gathered here for the 16th NAM summit. “We believe that adopting worn-out policies based on intimidation and humiliation is not only unjust and unjustifiable but also weakens international cooperation for the materialisation of the goals and objectives of the UN charter,” Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said.

Iran is facing a series of tough UN and Western economic and financial sanctions crippling its oil and gas industry over its nuclear programme, which it calls peaceful. However, West accuses Iran of attempting to develop nuclear weapons. The officials from 120 NAM member states met to work on the agenda of the heads-of-state summit to be held later. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh attended the  Summit, which was preceded by crucial bilateral talks with Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Sayyed Ali Khamenei and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Also on the sidelines of the meeting, India, Iran and Afghanistan hold a strategic trilateral meet in which key issues, including regional security and economic situation and best utilisation of Chabahar Port, a significant commercial venture, were discussed.

India, Iran and Afghanistan hold talks on giving India greater access to landlocked Afghanistan, a move that could ease Iran’s isolation in the region. The three countries will meet Sunday to discuss how best to use the southeastern Iranian port of Chahbahar and develop road and rail links from there to Afghanistan, Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai told reporters. As troops from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization prepare to withdraw from Afghanistan in 2014, India fears the possibility that the country would fall into the hands of a Taliban-led regime, endangering many of India’s interests. India has been one of the largest contributors of development aid to Afghanistan. Over the past decade, it has spent more than $2 billion to help build infrastructure, including roads, power projects and hospitals.

For India the shortest and most economical route for sending supplies to Afghanistan would be by road through Pakistan, but its decades long rival has denied New Delhi road access to Kabul, making the route through Iran all the more significant. Iran also hopes to develop an industrial zone near Chahbahar and wants to attract foreign investment to set up industries there, Mr. Mathai said. The talks came days ahead of a nonaligned summit meeting hosted by Iran in which leaders of some 120 countries were expected to participate. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who will be in Tehran to attend the summit, is to meet with Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.


Venezuela was one of the 120 countries from three continents - Latin America, Africa, Asia - sending delegates to the 16th summit meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) in Iran, which took place from the 28th to the 31st of August 2012. The organization was founded in Belgrade in 1961. The founding fathers were the “Big Five”: Abdel Gamal Nasser of Egypt, Ahmad Sukarno of Indonesia, Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Jawaharlal Nehru of India and Josip Broz Tito of Yugoslavia. Fidel Castro, another illustrious member, stated in a speech in 1979 that NAM supports “the national independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and security of nonaligned countries in their struggle against colonialism, imperialism, racism and all forms of aggression, domination or occupation” by foreign states.

The five principles of NAM are:

  • mutual respect for each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty;
  • mutual non-aggression;
  • mutual non-interference in domestic affairs;
  • equality and
  • mutual benefit and peaceful coexistence.

These ideals are upheld by all NAM members, including Iran, which has assumed the presidency from 2012 to 2014. Venezuela will be next in line, from 2015 to 2017. The presidency rotates among all NAM member states every three years. Socialist Venezuela, with President Chávez at the helm, certainly belongs to these new powers playing a significant and worthy role in the world. The Bolivarian Revolution introduced participatory democracy in Venezuela, basic grassroots democracy with equality for all strata of society. Why should only a few selfchosen “elites” rule a country or the whole world? This seems to be anachronistic in the new millenium which calls for an egalitarian world order. Hopefully, by 2015, some of the existing problems today will be solved in a peaceful and humanitarian way.

India–Iran relations Relations between India and Iran date back to the Neolithic period. The existence of several empires spanning both Persia and northern India ensured the constant migration of people between the two regions and the spread and evolution of the Indo-Iranian language groups. As a consequence, the people of Northern India and Iran share significant cultural, linguistic and ethnic characteristics. India and Iran have friendly
relations in many areas, despite India not welcoming the 1979 Revolution. There are significant trade ties, particularly in crude oil imports into India and diesel exports to Iran. Iran frequently objected to Pakistan’s attempts to draft anti-India resolutions at international organizations such as the OIC and the Human Rights Commission. India welcomed Iran’s inclusion as an observer state in the SAARC regional organization. There is a small Indian community in Iran. There is a Sikh Temple (Gurdwara) located in Tehran, as well as small Hindu temples in Bandar Abbas and Zahidan. They were built in the 19th century by  Indian soldiers in the British Army. There are also small communities in India who trace their ancestry to Iran.

A growing number of Iranian students are enrolled at universities in India, most notably in Pune and Bangalore. The growing Iranian film industry looks to India’s Bollywood for technical assistance and inspiration. The clerical government in Tehran sees itself as a leader of Shiites worldwide including India. Indian Shiites enjoy state support such as a recognised national holiday for Muharram. Lucknow continues to be a major centre of Shiite culture and Persian study in the subcontinent.

During much of the Cold War period, relations between the Republic of India and the erstwhile Imperial State of Iran suffered due to different political interests—nonaligned India fostered strong military links with the Soviet Union while Iran enjoyed close ties with the United States. Following the 1979 revolution, relations between Iran and India strengthened momentarily. However, Iran’s continued support for Pakistan (an arch-rival of India) and India’s close relations with Iraq during the Iran–Iraq War impeded further development of Indo–Iranian ties. Relations between the two countries warmed in the 1990s when India collaborated with Iran to support the Afghan Northern Alliance against the Taliban.

In the 1990s, India and Iran supported the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan against the Taliban regime. They continue to collaborate in supporting the broad-based anti- Taliban government led by Hamid Karzai and backed by the United States. Economic relations Iran’s trade with India crossed US$13 billion in 2007, an 80% increase in trade volume within a year. Via third party countries like UAE this figure touches $30 billion.  

Oil and gas

In 2008–09, Iranian oil accounted for nearly 16.5% of India’s crude oil imports. Indian oil imports from Iran increased by 9.5% in 2008– 09 due to which Iran emerged as India’s second largest oil supplier. About 40% of the refined oil consumed by Iran is imported from India.

In June 2009, Indian oil companies announced their plan to invest US$5 billion in developing an Iranian gas field in the Persian Gulf.

In September 2009, the Mehr news agency reported a Pakistani diplomat as saying “India definitely quitted the IPI (India-Pakistan-Iran) gas pipeline deal, in favor of Indo- US civilian nuclear agreement for energy security. Iranian officials however said India is yet to make an official declaration.

In 2010, U.S. officials warned New Delhi that Indian companies using the Asian Clearing Union for financial transactions with Iran run the risk of violating a recent US law that bans international firms from doing business with Iranian banks and Tehran’s oil and gas sector, and that Indian companies dealing with Iran in this manner may be barred from the U.S. The United states criticizes the ACU of being insufficiently transparent in its financial dealings with Iran and suspects that much of their assets are funneled to blacklisted repressive organizations in Iran such as the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution. The United States Department of the Treasury also believes that Iran uses the ACU to bypass the US banking system. On 27 November 2010, the Indian government, through the Reserve Bank of India, instructed the country’s lenders to stop processing current-account transactions with Iran using the Asian Clearing Union, and that further deals should be settled without ACU involvement. RBI also declared that they will not facilitate payments for Iranian crude imports as global pressure on Tehran grows over its nuclear programme.

This move by the Indian government will make clear to Indian companies that working through the ACU “doesn’t necessarily mean an Iranian counterpart has an international seal of approval”. As of December 2010, neither Iran nor the ACU have responded to this development.

India objected to further American sanctions on Iran in 2010. An Indian foreign policy strategist, Rajiv Sikri, dismissed the idea that a nuclear armed Iran was a threat to India, and said that India would continue to invest in Iran and do business.

India’s nuclear vote with Iran India, despite close relations and convergence of interests with Iran, voted against Iran in the International Atomic Energy Agency in 2005, which took Iran by surprise. A “welcoming prospect” Ali Larijani was reported as saying: “India was our friend”. Stephen Rademaker also acknowledged that India’s votes against Iran at the International Atomic Energy Agency were “coerced”:

“The best illustration of this is the two votes India cast against Iran at the IAEA. I am the first person to admit that the votes were coerced.” The USA considers support from India – which is on 35-member board of Governors at the International Atomic Energy Agency – crucial in getting a sizeable majority for its proposal to refer the matter to  the Security Council for positive punitive action against Iran. Greg Schulte, US ambassador to the IAEA, said “India’s voice will carry particular weight...I hope India joins us in making clear our collective concerns about Iran’s nuclear program”. Schulte did not deny that the Indo- US nuclear deal was conditional to India supporting the US on the Iran issue. Appraising of the situation visa- vis Iran, a senior U.S. official told the New York Times that The Indians are emerging from their nonaligned status and becoming a global power, and they have to begin to think about their responsibilities. They have to make a basic choice.

The Bush administration, however, recognized India’s close relations with Iran and has tempered its position, stating that India can “go ahead with a pipeline deal involving Iran and Pakistan. Our beef with Iran is not the pipeline.”


A highway between Zaranj and Delaram (Zaranj-Delaram Highway) is being built with financial support from India. The Chabahar port has also been jointly financed by Iran and India.

Even though the two countries share some common strategic interests, India and Iran differ significantly on key foreign policy issues. India has expressed strong opposition against Iran’s nuclear program and while both the nations continue to oppose the Taliban, India supports the presence of NATO forces in Afghanistan unlike Iran. Despite the decline in strategic and military links, the two nations continue to maintain strong cultural and economic ties. Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh, India, continues to be a major center of Shiite culture and Persian study in South Asia. Iran is the second largest supplier of crude oil to India, supplying more than 425,000 barrels of oil per day, and consequently India is one of the largest foreign investors in Iran’s oil and gas industry.

In 2011, the $12 billion annual oil trade between India and Iran was halted due to extensive economic sanctions against Iran, forcing the Indian oil ministry to pay off the debt through a banking system via Turkey. India’s closer cooperation with Iran will likely irritate the U.S., which has been pushing the international community to punish Iran over its nuclear program. India has come under increasing pressure from Washington over its ties with Iran, but New Delhi needs Iranian crude-oil supplies to power economic growth. Iran supplies about 12% of India’s energy needs. India’s talks with Iran will explore ways to expand trade to improve the heavily skewed balance of trade between the two countries. Trade between the two in the past year totaled about $16 billion, of which Indian oil imports from Iran accounted for $13.5 billion. India would accept sanctions imposed by the United Nations, but would not heed those imposed by others, referring to harsher sanctions maintained by the U.S. and Europe. India has been cutting its oil imports from Iran, buying more from Iraq and Kuwait. But with nearly 70% of its oil consumption supplied by imports, rapid shifts are difficult.

Md. Israr