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What P-5 vote means for India

The consensus among the five permanent UN powers that the IAEA should pass its Iranian dossier to the Security Council should take the politics out of India's vote on Iran's nuclear programme. "It's on merit only now," argue diplomats.

india Updated: Feb 01, 2006 02:11 IST

The consensus among the five permanent UN powers that the IAEA should pass its Iranian dossier to the Security Council should take the politics out of India's vote on Iran's nuclear programme. "It's on merit only now," argue diplomats.

The IAEA will still meet on February 2 and pass a resolution on Iran's nuclear programme. It is likely that the resolution will ask, as the P-5 statement out of London says, the IAEA to "report to the Security Council its decision on the steps required of Iran."

If the 35-members of the IAEA board of governors agree to this unanimously, there will be no vote. However, there is a concern that grandstanding by Cuba could force a vote. Venezuela denied the board a consensus when it voted last.

India will then have to cast a ballot as to whether to refer Iran's nuclear issue to the Security Council. However, diplomatic observers in New Delhi and Washington say that the P-5 consensus on Iran has changed the political context of the IAEA vote.

With even Russia and China joining the Europeans and the US in seeing Iran as a nuclear rogue, almost no member of the IAEA board is likely to consider abstention, let alone a no vote. "In diplomatic terms, this is an international consensus," says one diplomat, noting how rarely the P-5 agree on anything.

At the heart of this development have been the generous compromises offer made by the Russian that, in essence, said to Iran" "Past sins forgiven and as much civilian nuclear fuel as you want if you don't pursue forbidden technology." As one West Asian observer noted, "Iran did not reject the offer, it just ignored them." At this point, Iran claim its nuclear ambitions were as pure as India's were no longer credible.

The options for India regarding the February IAEA resolution also narrow down to one choice: vote against Iran.

"Even an abstention would amount to isolation from the P-5," says one Washington observer. It would also ruin the "responsible nuclear state" image that India has so arduously cultivated for 30 years, let alone damage India's own ambitions for a permanent Security Council seat.

At this point the fact that an Indian abstention would mean the entire US Congress — including the India Caucus — would turn against the Indo-US nuclear deal would be only a marginal loss to the damage India would suffer.

All diplomats hold their nose at leftwing claims India would lose standing with the nonaligned world. "This ignores the fact the nonaligned world has never supported India's nuclear policies," said one official.

While an ill-timed statement by the US Ambassador to India, David Mulford, helped muddy the waters, the P-5 agreement allows the debate in India to return to basic national interests.

And they are clearly point to a vote against Iran.

First Published: Feb 01, 2006 00:47 IST