Iran under pressure

IRAN finds itself in a tight corner. After three weeks of intense negotiations, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council have managed to agree on what is called a presidential statement. It demands that Iran take the steps required by the IAEA to build confidence in the exclusively peaceful purpose of its nuclear programme and to suspend all enrichment-related activities. The IAEA has been given 30 days to report if Iran has complied with these demands. While Tehran has been left with no options by the non-binding statement, the document does not spell out the consequences for Iran in case of non-compliance. The US had been insisting on including in the statement a provision for imposing sanctions in case of non-compliance. It has had to compromise on the issue by dropping this demand. It also had to extend the period within which the IAEA would report on the matter — initially it was to be 14 days. But this statement will not resolve the crisis. It will at the most postpone the confrontation which is inevitable if the two sides do not change their positions.

Iran’s stand is technically correct. It claims that under the NPT it has the right to enrich uranium for research and peaceful purposes. Tehran has also proclaimed repeatedly that it has no intention of manufacturing nuclear weapons. The IAEA that has been monitoring Iran’s nuclear programme has also confirmed that its inspectors have so far not found any proof that nuclear weapons were being manufactured there. But as things stand today, we know that the issue has gone beyond the realm of international law and legal technicalities into that of political and military policy. The US is determined to halt Iran’s nuclear programme even if that calls for the use of force. Economic sanctions that were to be included in the Security Council statement were designed to be the first step. Russia and China have stalled this move because they do not agree with the hardline stance being adopted by the West. Both the erstwhile communist bloc members have extensive economic and strategic ties with Iran and would not want to forego them.

So what we have on hand is an impasse. The IAEA is gradually being sidelined. If better sense prevailed, both sides could attempt to reach an agreement on a compromise solution. Iran has rejected the Security Council’s demand describing it as an “angry precedent” and has vowed to continue its nuclear programme. But it should not ignore the consequences of its defiance, the support of Moscow and Beijing notwithstanding. Tehran must also agree to negotiate. It has proposed a “regional consortium” for uranium enrichment which could be taken up as a starting point for a dialogue. It is also important that the IAEA is drawn back into the negotiating process. The need is to avert a military confrontation although that is the course the Bush administration appears to be set on. Another war in the Middle East would be disastrous not just for the region but also for the world. It is also time Washington weighed the pros and cons of its bull-headed approach to Iran. It must recognize the new centres of power that are emerging in the world and will find itself isolated in international politics. By devising an arrangement which pre-empts Iran’s capacity to enrich uranium unilaterally, the US could achieve its proclaimed aim without upsetting the apple cart.

Structural shift in economy

SPEAKING at the ground-breaking ceremony of a steel mill in Karachi, President Pervez Musharraf said that the focus of the economy would gradually shift from agriculture and textiles to engineering and heavy industry so as to promote a significant rise in exports. The traditional view held by economists is that while Pakistan has abundant resources in agriculture in terms of cultivable land, an extensive irrigation network and relatively cheap labour, its potential for exports is limited given that most agricultural goods do not have a high value-added content. In addition, this sector suffers from low yields and productivity. Hence, for quite some time now, there has been an emphasis on developing industry and manufacturing. This ties in with the historical trend the world over, where a developing country, in order to become developed, experiences a change in the structural composition of its economy; moving from agro-based to manufacturing and services sectors.

While there is a need to develop the economy’s industrial potential, this should not necessarily be at the expense of the agriculture sector. Agriculture continues to play a crucial role in Pakistan’s economy and is a major employer as well. Besides, in terms of geography, land and climate, Pakistan has an advantage over many other countries in growing various crops, so much so that the strategic goal of becoming self-sufficient is quite within its reach. Two things need to be done. Productivity in agriculture needs to be raised through the use of better seeds and fertilizers, increased mechanization, a more efficient irrigation network and better water management, providing modern crop-growing techniques to farmers and by improving the skill levels of farm labour. If done properly and if agricultural productivity rises, the output of the sector could then be used in manufacturing — to produce goods that are high in value addition. For example, instead of exporting wheat, bread or other bakery goods could be produced and exported. Similarly, instead of producing milk solely for domestic consumption, cheese, butter, ice cream and other dairy products could be made and exported. This way the agriculture sector could complement the manufacturing and industrial sectors, something that has been achieved with great success and positive results in many developed countries.

Women fighter pilots

FRIDAY’S news of the four newly inducted female fighter pilots in the air force provides one with good reason to cheer. Not only will this prove inspirational for millions of women who previously felt that this would be impossible but inducting women into combat positions will hopefully also change attitudes in the heavily male-dominated armed forces. All over the world women put their lives on the line by joining traditionally male-oriented jobs like the police or military and willingly go into combat positions where they run the risk of being killed or taken prisoner. So far in Pakistan, women in the military served only non-combat positions — usually in the medical corps which is where Pakistan’s first female general came from — and one hopes that other armed forces will take heed and pave the way for women to join them. Training in the armed forces is tough but it has not deterred many women from joining — which proves that they are up for any challenge. It is therefore important that they be given the opportunity to prove their mettle alongside men, who gradually, will also learn to shed their own prejudices against women.

Because of patriarchal attitudes women have to work twice as hard to progress in their chosen fields. So any form of encouragement will be important if they aspire to be inducted into traditionally male-oriented spheres. That women could some day pilot commercial planes may have once been unthinkable but it is a reality today and proves that if the talent is tapped and encouraged, anything is possible. The four female fighter pilots should be hoisted up by the air force and encouraged to speak at various forums to inspire other women into joining the armed forces and serve their country.

The emerging profile of India

By Tayyab Siddiqui


PRIOR to the advent of new millennium, political pundits and economic experts had predicted that the 21st century would be the Asian century. The judgment was based on the tremendous potential and phenomenal progress achieved by Japan, China and the Asean nations. The economic tigers posted a growth rate of 10 per cent for over a decade, giving rise to a new paradigm of stability and influence.

India has now joined the race. The vibrancy of its economy and resilience of its democracy has ushered in a new era of India’s regional leadership, and growing role in global politics. In a recent press conference Chinese premier Wen Jiabo alluded to this role calling it the ‘Sino-Indian century’.

India is going through a remarkable transformation both internally (in terms of rapid and high economic growth) and externally (with its growing political importance). The major powers are wooing India as never before. The US is committed to help it become a “major world power in the 21st century,” while China, France and Russia are keen to enlist India as a strategic partner. The US strategic engagement is based on growing economic links, shared values of liberal democracy and India’s being a “responsible nuclear power”.

India’s growing world stature and geo-political role is primarily due to its economic growth and political stability. India’s economy is poised to take off with a consistent GDP growth of six per cent and a population growth rate that has reduced to 1.3 per cent. According to the Indian Planning Commission, poverty has declined by 10 per cent both in the rural and urban areas. India’s imports and exports as a share of its economy have increased from 13 to 23 per cent in the last decade. Foreign direct investment is increasing at a phenomenal rate. India’s software exports are growing at a rate of 50 per cent per year, thanks to its expanding information technology workforce. Almost $9 billion investment has been made in 2005 by major international conglomerates Microsoft, Intel Corp. and Cisco Systems.

India is today the world’s fastest growing major mobile phone market, with 72 million mobile users. A recent Goldman Sachs study has predicted that in 10 years India’s economy would be larger than Italy’s and in 15 years, it would have overtaken that of Britain’s. In the next 40 years, India’s per capita income will increase 35 times. The explosion of technical research schools with international standards have fuelled the economic miracle. In 2005 India produced 200,000 engineering graduates, three times as many as the US and twice as many as the whole of Europe. Last year, India enrolled 450,000 students for the four year engineering degree courses.

These developments have given Indian leadership an unprecedented confidence in the country’s future and its capacity to play an influential role on the world stage. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, in his enunciation of India’s foreign policy on February 25, 2005, stressed India’s “inclusive, open, multiethnic and multilingual society” that was “ready to defend these values abroad”. Business and commerce were identified as the anchor of relations with Europe and the US, and in the neighbourhood, the policy of ‘look East’ became the driving force of forging close relations with China, Japan and Asean.

The most impressive breakthrough has been made in its ties with the US. Manmohan Singh’s Washington visit in July last year was a watershed in bilateral relations. The joint statement spelled out the landmark nature of the visit with unprecedented cooperation in the spheres of economy, technology, energy and defence. The two leaders agreed on a wide-ranging cooperation as “global partners” building on “their common values and mutual visions and joint objectives as strong longstanding democracies”, taking their relations to a qualitatively unprecedented higher plane.

The centrepiece of US-India strategic ties is the agreement signed during President Bush’s visit under which the US agreed to accord India the “same benefits and advantages as other nuclear states”, indirectly recognizing India as a nuclear weapon state. In return India would identify and separate civilian and nuclear facilities in a phased manner, and voluntarily place its civilian facilities under IAEA safeguards.

The Bush visit covered an ambitious agenda, the areas of cooperation included energy, agriculture, science and technology, health and environment, befitting a “strategic partnership” built upon, in the words of President Bush, “our common values, our two democracies, respect for religious pluralism and the rule of law.” The US shift towards India reflects the US belief that as an emerging Asian superpower India may serve as a counterweight to China, though it has been expressed in terms of “our common principles and shared national interests. “

Besides its geo-strategic importance, India has been discovered as an important investment destination with good prospects for major US multinationals particularly in IT. Microsoft committed $400 million in 2002 and $1.7 billion last year. US exports to India have increased by 30 per cent annually. Two-way trade is now in excess of $26 billion, up by 88 per cent since 2000.

Politically, India’s clout and influence in the US has increased phenomenally during the last few years. The Indian caucus in the US Congress has 120 members in a house of 435. There are two million Indians living in America and about 80,000 Americans in India, mostly working for US firms doing business there.

The transformation of Sino-India relations is equally dramatic. Relations between the two nations had been characterized by mutual suspicion and hostility since the last many decades. Since the India-China war of 1962 relations remained cool until 1988, when after a lapse of 25 years Rajiv Gandhi paid a visit to Beijing. However, the real breakthrough came in April 2005, when Chinese premier Wen Jiabao visited Delhi.

In a rare display of flexibility and pragmatism, India decided to move forward and agreed to “meaningful and mutually acceptable adjustments” on the border issue. The joint working groups have been asked to settle the issue in a spirit of “friendship and cooperation”. It was also decided to increase the present level of $14 billion trade. India decided to designate 2006 as the “year of friendship with China”. Another potential area of cooperation is in joint biddings for energy resources to eliminate competition as both desperately need energy resources to meet their ever-increasing requirements for their expanding economies.

India’s growing interest and involvement in South East Asia, reflected in its membership of Asean Regional Forum and as a dialogue partner of Saarc, is a manifestation of its ‘look East’ policy to widen the scope of its economic and political interests in the region. India also looks upon East Asia to expand its navy’s blue water capability.

Russia has been a traditional friend and trusted partner since the early years of Indian independence. It had close political and strategic relations with India. These relations flowered in all directions during the Soviet Union days, also because Indian relations with the US in those Cold War days were limited in scope.

India has joint defence projects with Russia for manufacturing SU-30 fighter jets and T-90 tanks and Brahmos anti-ship missiles. India is also considering investment in energy sector, particularly oil explorations in Siberia and Sakhalin-3. Other agreements signed allow India the use of the Russian navigation system made up of 14 satellites, known as Glonass. India has also entered into negotiations with Russia for the supply of four nuclear reactors of 1000 MW each for its Koondun Kalam power plant.

Moscow and Delhi have also agreed to hold their joint military and naval exercises every year and the 1996 defence pact has been upgraded, to permit the sale of nuclear reactors, after the Nuclear Suppliers Group has cleared the US deal. Russia supported India’s bid for a permanent seat in the Security Council and favours its request for permanent membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization — a regional grouping of Central Asian states, Russia and China.

Relations with France received a major boost during President Jacques Chirac’s visit (Feb 19, 2006). A number of agreements were signed, including one on defence cooperation and the use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. The French president’s visit after seven years is being regarded as an extremely important event. Chirac was accompanied by five key cabinet ministers and 30 CEOs of major French companies.

To give political substance to its ambitions, India, which is emerging as a global power, is working hard to get a permanent berth on UNSC and joining the G-8, to establish its credentials as a big power. According to US under Secretary Nicholas Burns, “India is a rising economic confluence of power in the international system. It is emerging as a potentially very stabilizing and positive force in international politics. India is a rising global power. Within the first quarter of this century, it is likely to be numbered among the world’s largest economies. It will soon be the world’s most populous nation and it has a demographic structure that bequeaths it a huge, skilled and youthful workforce.”

The growing partnership between the US and India, in the years to come, will bear a very critical influence on the region. While critics are sceptical of the nuclear deal going through there are strong US economic interests that will eventually prevail. Regardless of the outcome of the nuclear deal, mutual stakes will continue to grow. It was not without reason that Manmohan Singh exulted at the joint press conference with Bush on March 2, “We have made history today.”

The writer is a former ambassador



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