With Iran on Afghanistan or anything else; India makes no headway!
By Moin Ansari
Strategy and long term policy matters are discussed at the Presidential, and Prime Minister’s level. They are never discussed at the Deputy Foreign Minister level. The Bharati press is portraying Deputy Foreign Minister level talks as policy or strategy talks. The minister’s statements suggest that despite India’s attempts, Iran is a long way from supporting India. The LNG project put on ice by Tehran after the Indo-Israeli deals has not been resurrected.
Even these low level Indo-Iran talks failed. Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Mohammad Ali Fathollahi drove the final nail in the coffin, when he tersely informed his hosts that the Afghan Constitution would be the “basis and pillar for any action,”. In other words be emphasized the unity of Afghanistan and what the Afghan Jirga has already proposed–and “Pan Afghan solution” based upon talks with the Afghan National Resistance (aka Taliban Haqqanirs, Hikmatyar etc.). As if this wasn’t enough Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister clearly told the Bharatis that “in our regional strategy we believe in cooperation with Pakistan.”
This is what the Times of India says. Even as Fathollahi claimed that India and Iran had “close viewpoints” on Afghanistan, he said enough to suggest that the two nations may not be on the same page over the issue. “We are suspicious about the motive behind what has been revealed by Wikileaks because the issues raised are not new ones. We believe there are special objectives behind this leakage which has come at a time when things in Afghanistan are moving towards more stability and more constructive role for the Afghan government,” Fathollahi said.
To confirm our reporting, The Indian Daily Telegraph reports:
“But Iran does not share India’s concern that the Pakistani army and ISI might foist themselves on Afghanistan once the international security forces leave the region by 2014. Unlike New Delhi, Tehran wants the forces to leave Afghanistan as soon as possible.
However, the Iranian foreign minister said his government considered Pakistan an integral constituent of any regional strategy, including on Afghanistan, and has always believed in co-operating with Islamabad.”
The minister was asked specifically about ISI links with Taliban as brought out by the Wikileaks documents. When asked about Pakistan’s role in Afghanistan, the minister said only Pakistan could talk about that and “Iran always believes in cooperation with Pakistan”.
The minister’s remarks, coupled with Iran’s constant demand for immediate withdrawal of international troops from the region, are a complete antithesis of India’s stand on Afghanistan. One of the reasons for India stepping up engagement with Iran in the recent past has been the fact that, like India, Tehran too has shunned the idea of good Taliban.
“The heavy presence of military can’t be a solution to the problem. The Afghanistan government should be trusted and we must believe in its capabilities,” Fathollahi said. Times of India.
There has been much speculation about Chahbahar and Bharati desires to build a land link to Afghanistan via Iran. Mr. Fathollahi seemed to have have poured water on the Bharati wishes by stating in clear terms that this not possible under the present circumstances and this remains only a possibility—“In future there will be fundamental developments regarding the position of Chabar,” .
The Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister also threw cold water on resurrecting the Northern Alliance or dividing Afghanistan–“Northern Alliance is not separated from other parts of Afghanistan”.
Iran remain chagrined about Bharat not joining the Iran-Pakistan pipeline reminding his hosts that “If New Delhi is ready to continue negotiations then it is possible to join and link up to India”
The Iranians were very smart. They challenged Bharat to defy the sanctions and work with Iran on developing the Chahbahar Port–knowing fully well that Bharat could not help Iran on the port as this would be in defiance of US sanctions. The Hindustan Times reports. “Iran has sought Indian investments for the expansion of Chabahar port, leaving New Delhi in a tough spot as the demand comes in the wake of sanctions against Iran for their nuclear programme.
Though India has been stressing on accelerating the efforts to “fully realise the potential of the port as well as the associated railway lines”, Tehran’s plea for help comes in the context of the sanctions against them for their nuclear programme.
Channeling fresh Indian investments to Iran will not be appetising to many nations, especially the United States.”