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India Soft Power: Iran Rapproachment 1NC Impact Module (1/4)

Indian soft power is critical to Indian global diplomacy – India is in a unique position to broker a US/Iran rapprochement
Neil Padukone (Visiting Fellow at the Institute of Security Studies, Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi) March 15 2010 “Can India Facilitate a US-Iran Rapprochement”, Centre for Land Warfare Studies, Issue Brief No. 15
Eight years of Indo-US amity, the stamp of which was the civilian nuclear deal, have raised expectations of a mutually beneficial bilateral relationship. But with America’s realignment towards Afghanistan, the financial crisis, and the ensuing moves towards Pakistan and China, many in India worry that the “natural” Indo-US friendship may soon become a thing of the past. If India is not considered necessary in global politics, it will be easily ignored. Therefore, to take the relationship forward, India must demonstrate that it is essential in the resolution of global challenges. One way for India to play a meaningful role, particularly as China has refused to cooperate on the issue,2 is to facilitate a US-Iranian rapprochement. US-Iranian Engagement With tribulations in Afghanistan, Iraq, the Levant and the nuclear realm, and a failed policy of confrontation, the Obama administration has opened the doors to engagement with Iran.3 But after 30 years of hostility, reversing course comes with challenges: each is waiting for the other to act, dismissing the others’ goodwill as empty talk. Although considerable turbulence remains in the wake of the controversial Iranian presidential election, imperatives on nuclear non-proliferation in particular, will compel the US back to the negotiating table. While Iran’s nuclear programme remains America’s central consideration vis-à-vis Iran, a number of other strategic imperatives would be well served by an Iranian rapprochement. As the United States draws down from Iraq, stability is contingent on the cooperation of the Iranians and their satisfaction that Iraq will not be used as a base to attack them.4 Meanwhile, as the United States has shifted its focus towards Afghanistan - and set 2011 as a cut-off date for beginning to withdraw troops - Iranian cooperation in Afghanistan would accomplish two important aims. First, greater coordination with Iran in western Afghanistan would aid in countering Baluchistan-based Taliban fighters and bringing the western Afghan warlords in Tehran’s sphere of influence into the political process. Second, a transport link through Iran to Afghanistan would reduce Western dependence on an unreliable Pakistan. Since 2001, more than 70% of NATO’s supplies and 40% of its fuel have passed through the mountains of northern Pakistan,5 a precarious supply line that has been repeatedly attacked by Baluch and Taliban insurgents.6 This is the only transport link between the Arabian Sea and International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) troops in Afghanistan, and as a result, the West is reliant on Pakistan and subject to attack from the anti-ISAF forces therein. An Iranian alternative to Pakistan’s unstable highways would diminish this reliance. Thereafter, the US would be at greater liberty to put pressure on Pakistan to end support for pernicious groups such as the Taliban.7 Iran’s geographic location, petro-power (the world’s second and third largest reserves of natural gas and oil,8 both of which have potential for greater development) and ties to Islamic organisations around the world (Hamas and Hizbullah in the Levant, Shi’a groups in Iraq and elsewhere) make Iran a de facto regional power. The ouster of the Saddam Hussein and Taliban regimes in Iraq and Afghanistan, respectively, removed Iran’s main regional threats, enhancing its strategic position. These strengths are often used in ways that counter American interests, more due to political enmity than innate geostrategic divergence. Many fear that an American détente will only solidify Iran’s regional power. Alternate American options for ‘dealing with’ an Iranian nuclear programme, however, remain untenable. First, with the politically impractical ‘economic’ solution, economic sanctions would not garner enough global support to sufficiently coerce Iran.9 Second, a strategically unviable military option may remove a few of Iran’s suspected nuclear sites, which would delay but not destroy Iran’s nuclear capability.10 The military option would provoke the regime to take countermeasures like mining the Strait of Hormuz11 or accelerating its nuclear programme, as well as fuel anti-Americanism throughout the Islamic world. Third, regime change by support for anti-Tehran groups—such as the Marxist Mujahideen-eKhalq and the Al-Qaeda-aligned Jundullah12—has failed for decades, except in further antagonising Iran. Since Iran’s economic resources and geostrategic strengths will enhance the country’s position regardless, it would only help the US to ensure this influence aligns with its own interests. This was the case at the beginning of both the Afghan13 and Iraqi14 campaigns, when Iran ensured the cooperation of its local allies and provided intelligence to the United States. Moreover, engaging with Iran would open up its 60-million strong population to US trade after decades of sanctions. A lack of US engagement with Iran, on the other hand, leaves the field open for US competitors such as Russia or China to fill the gap.15 US-Iran and India When it comes to bear, such a rapprochement would benefit India as well. In the 1990s, many saw a “TehranNew Delhi Axis” emerging through political, economic, and technological exchanges.16 As the US and India strengthened their partnership in the early 2000s, however, India sided with the US in opposing the Iranian uranium enrichment programme in the United Nations (UN) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). With these votes, India effectively chose Washington over Tehran, weakening the burgeoning Iranian connection.17 A US-Iranian rapprochement would reconcile the “Iran-or-US” bifurcation in India that has happened in the wake of the nuclear deal debates—a reconciliation that would give New Delhi more autonomy in its own strategy. If the United States ‘signed off’ on engagement with Iran, a number of opportunities would open up for India. In the 1990s, one of America’s aims in supporting the Taliban, which both Iran and India opposed, was to stabilise Afghanistan and develop Central Asian energy pipelines that circumvented Iran at any cost.18 However, with the United States on board under an Iranian rapprochement, oil and natural gas pipelines from Central Asia and the Caucasus could extend more efficiently and more cheaply through a stable Iran (compared with the Afghan and Pakistani alternatives) to the Arabian Sea, feeding India’s growing energy needs.19 At present, Islamabad does not allow India to move its goods and aid across Pakistan and into Afghanistan.20 An Iranian alternative would allow India, Afghanistan, and the United States to circumvent Pakistan altogether. This would lessen global reliance on Pakistan in the Afghan campaign, and give the West a freer hand in dealing with Pakistani links to nefarious groups such as the Lashkar-e-Tayyiba.21 A strong US-Iran-India understanding would also distance Iran from China and counter the Chinese ‘string of pearls’ strategy—in which China has courted Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and the Central Asian members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO)—with India’s own enhanced set of alliances. With China’s recently inaugurated Turkmenistan-UzbekistanKazakhstan-China pipeline22 and talk of an Iran-PakistanChina pipeline,23 this imperative is even greater. The Benefits for Iran A rapprochement with America—and the heightened relations with India that would follow—would also meet Iranian objectives. In Afghanistan, the opium trade from which the Taliban profits, has Iran as its key victim. With approximately 3 million opium users, Iran has “the world’s worst heroin problem,” according to Peter Reuter, a drug expert and professor at the University of Maryland.24 Not to mention, the Wahhabi-influenced Islamists in Afghanistan that threaten India, ISAF and the West, as well as Afghanistan itself, are anathema to Iran as well. After the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, the US has tried to counter the geographic, political, and cultural influence that Iran has in the western region of that country. Owing to hostility with the West after 2003, this influence has been aimed at destabilising western Afghanistan, through weapons trafficking and support for anti-ISAF warlords.25 However, by partnering with the United States and
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