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A breakthrough

Iran deal can transform Middle East. India must watch the rebalancing, utilise diplomatic openings

By: Express News Service |
Updated: April 4, 2015 12:00:57 am

Negotiations have finally led to a provisional nuclear deal between Iran and world powers. The framework agreement, announced after intensive talks extended beyond the self-imposed deadline of March 31, seeks to restrict Iran’s nuclear programme and prevent Tehran from making a nuclear weapon, in return for a phased easing of sanctions that have crippled Iran’s economy. The longstanding nuclear dispute between Iran and the West had entered a new phase when new Iranian President Hassan Rouhani called for the resumption of serious negotiations in August 2013, followed by a phone conversation between Rouhani and US President Barack Obama the next month.

An interim deal was announced in November 2013 but the road to the framework agreement has been long and winding. The P5+1 and Tehran now face weeks of detailed drafting, which must produce a final agreement by the June 30 deadline. Critical for the international community is the Iranian “break-out” time — the time needed to detect and respond to an attempt to subvert the deal and push for weapons-grade enrichment of fissile material. That period appears to be a year — better than the two-three month window that critics had feared.

The nuclear dispute has been part of the larger political confrontation between the US and Iran since the Islamic Revolution of 1979. A final deal promises to transform a Middle East facing newer threats to stability, such as the Islamic State, which is casting Washington and Tehran on the same side. It will not, however, resolve all outstanding disagreements between the two, a fact borne out by the conflicts in Yemen or Syria, for instance. For both Rouhani and Obama, the real challenge hereafter is to sell the deal to its opponents in Washington and Tehran. While Rouhani will have to battle the Iranian hardliners, Obama has the tougher job of convincing the Republicans, America’s Arab allies and Israel — all extremely hostile to the deal. He has been bold so far in constructing a new, realistic approach to the Middle East.

India has done well to immediately welcome the deal. It needs to support the process of rapprochement between the US and Iran, which will also open diplomatic space for New Delhi in the Middle East. Iran is intrinsic to Delhi’s concerns about energy security and Afghanistan. India must now prepare to deal with a rebalanced Middle East, a region that has not received adequate attention in the recent past. A prime ministerial visit to the region, long overdue, will help.

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First published on: 04-04-2015 at 12:00:54 am
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