OPINION | The Nuclear Order Challengers: India and Iran
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OPINION | The Nuclear Order Challengers: India and Iran

By Kanica Rakhra

OPINION | The Nuclear Order Challengers: India and Iran

The Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) holds special significance in international politics as it has dominated debate for more than four decades. In 1968, the NPT brought in the nuclear order, dividing the world into nuclear haves and have-nots. This order helped reduce the number of weaponized states in the world and promoted peaceful usage of nuclear technology, under the watchful eye of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). While most states around the world understood the magnitude of devastation a nuclear weapon could bring and agreed to be a part of the skewed treaty, there were few who felt cheated. India, Pakistan, Israel and South Sudan became the outlier states that did not sign the treaty. There were a few, such as North Korea and Iran, who protested against the treaty at later stages. Despite the fact that North Korea decided to leave in 2003, Iran chose to be a part of the treaty as the theocracy was against nuclear weapons.  

India and Iran, as two of the challengers to this nuclear order, fought against the biased nature of the treaty in very distinctive ways. While India refused to sign a treaty which did not cap the stockpiles of the nuclear states, Iran raised objections to Israel not joining the treaty. Iran also felt discriminated against as it was supported in its pursuit of peaceful nuclear energy at a later stage. Both states, however, managed to surpass the partial treaty by using their nuclear programs as a bargaining chip and eventually got nuclear deals that were tailored to their requirements.

The paths chosen by the two states may not have been similar, but they have had a common purpose. These states have had a subtle yet undying quest for higher status. Nuclear programs have acted as a tool for power projection around the world and by attaining an indigenously developed nuclear program; India and Iran were aiming for the same. Additionally, both states derive a strong sense of identity from their ancient civilizations. Providing security to their identity, this civilization history also inspires them to seek the success the states experienced during the era of their grandeur. 

Similar goals, nevertheless, do not denote that paths taken by these states were also the same. With a status-quoist approach, India has always respected the rules of the international bodies. It has never invaded another state and consistently fought against the NPT by bringing out disarmament options to the world. Most importantly, the state has upheld the principles of the NPT by not participating in any proliferation networks. While on the other hand, Iran, one of the first signatories to the treaty, has consistently maintained the non-use of nuclear weapons. However, its nuclear activities leave more to be desired. Iran continued to be a part of the NPT and followed its dictates, if only within a legal framework. Even though, it tried to flex its muscles within the parameters of the Treaty and was involved in the A.Q. Khan Proliferation network, the Islamic Republic neither left the NPT nor completely disregarded it in order to fulfill its ‘supposed’ nuclear ambitions like North Korea.

Challenging the nuclear order, though, led to sanctions for India and Iran. Being in an economically viable position, India was relatively prepared for the isolation, whether in 1974 or 1998. The moratorium did not last long with the second round of sanctions as there was a tacit acceptance of India’s weaponization by the western powersIran, on the other hand, had to buy arms from the black market during the Iran-Iraq war, saw the value of its currency, Rial, fall miserably and underwent tremendous hardships to survive the economic blockade.

Chart Attribute: Iran Sanction Impact / Source: EIA.gov via  Iran Primer

Chart Attribute: Iran Sanction Impact / Source: EIA.gov via  Iran Primer 

The nuclear negotiations, which aimed to ease the sanctions on the two states and integrate them further into the international economy, were remarkably long. Indian, Iranian and American leaders had to fight against the hardliners in their respective states for the deals to fall through. Both the Indo-US Nuclear Deal and the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action managed to lift the nuclear embargo and opened the economies of India and Iran. However, the implicit understanding that was provided to India in 2000 could not be replicated with Iran in the next decade.  India’s military programme was exempted from verification, while Iran has to regularly reassure the international community on the non-development of the military dimension of its nuclear programme.

Whether it was a zero proliferation record or its decision to respect the international borders during its wars, India has been seen as a responsible state.  However, since 1979, American relations with Iran have suffered due to multiple crises such as The American Embassy siege, subsequent statements of leaders with slogans such as ‘Death to America’ and ‘Death to Israel’ and the Iran Contra Affair. Secondly, Iran was added in the "So called" Rogue State list on January 19, 1984 which was a little after a bombing attack on the U.S. marines in Beirut. 

India was seen as a non-cooperative state at worst and an ally at best. Iran, on the other hand, almost went to war with the United States. India, with its approach, had managed to win over the trust of the international community while Iran failed to achieve this goal. The Islamic Republic’s markers of behavior, such as signing of the Additional Protocols and allowing the  IAEA inspectors into its nuclear facilities, led to positive reviews, but were unable to take away the mistrust of the past.

With its nuclear deal, India was given back door entry into the nuclear suppliers group and was recognized as a nuclear state. With the implementation of the Iranian Nuclear Deal, Iran will be free of sanctions but will still be under to watchful eye of the IAEA. The Checks would act as a reassurance to the international community regarding the military intentions of its nuclear programme. Thus, India was successful in building trust with the international community, an aspect lacking by Iran. Official recognition of its technological prowess that lead to the development of its nuclear programme eludes Iran with the focus of the deal being on limiting of the military development of the programme. Thus, as challengers to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, India was successful because its behavior was credible, while Iran was unable to earn credibility from the international community. 

About The Author:

Kanica Rakhra (A-8162-2016) is a PhD candidate at The Centre for International Politics, Organization and Disarmament (CIPOD) at Jawaharlal Nehru University. She is also an Early Career Committee Member of the International Society for Political Psychology (ISPP). Twitter handle: @Kirarakanakh

Cite This Article:

Rakhra, Kanica. "FEATURED | The Nuclear Order Challengers: India and Iran " IndraStra Global 02, no. 01 (2016): 0071. http://www.indrastra.com/2016/01/OPINION-Nuclear-Order-Challengers-India-and-Iran-002-01-2016-0071.html

AIDN0020120160071 / INDRASTRA / ISSN 2381-3652