Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh reiterated India's opposition to a nuclear Iran during a visit to France in October 2008. This is significant owing to the traditional Indo-Iranian friendship and the ongoing negotiations for a multi-billion dollar gas pipeline. However, in recent years, relations between the two countries have been eroding over delays in finalizing the pipeline agreement, the pro-Israeli/ American tilt of the Indian leadership and Iran's nuclear program.
India has embarked on a new relationship with the United States since the end of the Cold War, and has successfully completed a civilian nuclear agreement which would provide India with previously restricted nuclear fuel and technology. This agreement ratified by the Nuclear Supplier's Group in September, authorizes India (not a NPT signatory) to avail benefits available to NPT members. Iran, is a signatory, and therefore, entitled to obtain nuclear fuel from the international market for its civilian nuclear program. However, of late, there have been serious concerns that Iran has been deceiving the international community in attempting to develop nuclear weapons.
Iran's purported nuclear weapons program is strongly criticized by arch-foe Israel and other Western nations. The IAEA has repeatedly censured Iran for failing to disclose its nuclear program. With revelations that Iran was a beneficiary of the infamous AQ Khan proliferation network, even traditional allies such as China and Russia were growing skeptical. Launching a vitriolic tirade against Israel, including calls for its destruction, have further isolated Iran and magnified fears of its nuclear ambitions. In this environment, India chose to vote against Iran in 2005, and report it to the UNSC for violations of its NPT obligations.
The vote's timing, during negotiations on the Indo-US deal, and the preceding statements from American officials, including the American ambassador to New Delhi, relegated genuine Indian concerns of a nuclear Iran to the background. According to the ambassador, if India had not supported the censure of Iran, the nuclear deal would have been in trouble. This had raised the shackles of Indian officials, who did not wish to be seen as being bulldozed into voting in favor of the Western nations.
India strongly believes that a nuclear Iran is not in its security interests. With India projecting itself as an important world power, it realizes the implications of siding with a nation which has clearly violated non-proliferation ideals. India has long championed non-proliferation despite abstaining from the NPT, and therefore, does not wish to erode any goodwill its non-proliferation record has achieved. In fact, the nature of the Iranian nuclear program and India's friendship with Iran had resulted in a tough spot for Indian officials, who were hoping that a vote could be avoided.
A nuclear Iran opens up a frightening possibility of an arms race in the Middle East, especially with nations such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia already airing their apprehensions of growing Iranian influence in the region. Such instability would push oil prices significantly higher, and this would hurt the Indian government which relies on oil imports and subsidizes fuel prices in the country. Energy security concerns have been instrumental in pushing India to align with the United States to pursue nuclear energy. The Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline has been in negotiations for nearly a decade and is not considered feasible due to the security environment in Afghanistan and Pakistan. In order to pursue nuclear energy, India had to translate its strong anti-proliferation words into action, and this was witnessed when it banned the export of any dual-use technology to Iran.
Furthermore, with Israel facing an existential threat owing to a nuclear Iran; India's tacit approval of Iran at the IAEA would have complicated India's dealings with a vital military ally. Indo-Israeli military relations have been growing at a rapid pace, with Israel now the second-largest defence supplier to India. Indian bonhomie with Iran, during this period, would not be viewed favourably. Significantly, when the Iranian President visited India in April 2008, the government tried to downplay his visit, with the Indian Prime Minister declining a joint press briefing. An Israeli embassy spokesperson in New Delhi, spoke about India's role in restricting a nuclear Iran, saying, "it is a global responsibility in denying the Iranians the capability to develop nuclear weapons." India had earlier this year, helped launch an Israeli spy satellite, ostensibly to be used to monitor Iranian nuclear facilities. In the aftermath of the launch, the Iranian envoy decried the growing relations between India and Israel.
Addressing another aspect of a nuclear Iran, the Indian ambassador to the United States articulated the need to strengthen the proliferation regime, when he said "a combination of terrorism and nuclear weapons would be a nightmare for India, and therefore India would oppose another nuclear weapons state in the region." It is for these reasons, that the Indian Prime Minister has reiterated that Iran should fulfill its obligations as a signatory to the NPT. While India rejects a military solution to the problem, with negotiations at a stalemate, India would need to get involved in resolving this deadlock.