Thursday, January 26, 2006

Background Noise

When we first read US Ambassador David Mulford's threat to India, our first instinct was to call for an Indian abstention on the vexed Iran matter at IAEA.

Not that we like the thugs running Iran these days; who'd want them to have a nuclear capability. And, if Iran's extremism threatens our natural allies in US & Israel, why shouldn't we call out Iran at IAEA?

In any event, all this is a complex dance going nowhere fast.

But David Mulford has waded in and queered the pitch. If this strongly pro-US blog is infuriated, most US-baiters in India are likely apoplectic.

Mercifully, we have learned to check ourselves when in rage. As we thought more about Mr. Mulford's threat, we realized it is essentially background noise.

Of similar quality are statements from Iranian official Ali Larijani who astonishingly compared his country's nuclear program to India's. His statement allowed India to distance itself from Iran.

Mr. Mulford quickly erased this advantage to his own country -- and placed India in a very tough spot.

The Indian left has unsurprisingly weighed in. It seeks a Government commitment that India will not vote against Iran. The Indian right is upset as well.

What is the Government to do? The answer is clear. This is hardball territory where sages, fools, and madmen all have something to say. It's good theater but our focus should remain on national interest.

It's clearly in India's national interest to get the nuclear deal. So, lets ignore background noise, drive a hard bargain, and move on with life.

After that, there's an eternity to settle petty scores with Mr. Mulford and everyone else.


cynical nerd said...

Mulford's statement is no accident. Last evening it was reconfired by an embassy official before he bucked. I suppose some highlevel calls must have gone through Blackwill/Rice.

I too arrived at the same conclusion as yours though admittedly less charitable to the US.

Primary Red said...

You're right, CN -- there's a bit of the ususal American game of good cop-bad cop going on here. Whatever it is, it is theater -- an inept one at that. Hopefully, this will not be given more weight than this.

Best regards

libertarian said...

PR, CN: This theater serves little purpose except making a relatively simple (though not easy) decision even more difficult. Quite similar to Shyam Saran's tough talk in Washington.

cynical nerd said...

libertarian: No one here wants a nuclear Iran. But many observers think that neither sanctions ($200 a barrel, food crisis, corruption like Oil for Food a la Iraq) nor military action (even liberal Iranians will join with the Mullahs against US/Israel) is not an option.

In any case, like I argued in my post, it is West which is isolated vis-a-vis Iran.

Given the gravity of the comments from the Ambassador, I think the Indian response was quite restrained yet firm. Had it happened with PRC, they would be demanding for the recall of Mulford. I think India should work towards that after Bush's visit.


Anonymous said...

[CN] - I agree that we should press for a recall of the ambassador at this very point in time. If we need the nuclear deal, US also needs the deal to go through so that their companies can get lucrative contracts in India worth billions of dollars. If Rice can throw some verbal punches, we surely can hit their bottom-line.

And why stop at that? Threaten to yank the Boeing deal, that should set alarm bells ringing in DC also. Maybe a knee-jerk reaction but something that will put the administration to notice.

Soothsayer said...

Mulford's and Washington's play by play is obviously just to try and ruffle India's feathers with the good cop bad cop routine. While I had no doubt India was always going to vote against Iran, I was amazed at how adept we are at foreign policy (albeit after years of mistakes) especially with the Middle East and the US. The deal with the Saudis in the last few days is going reduce the pressure off India.

Apollo said...

foot in the mouth disease it seems :-). looks like mulford has some political ambitions of his own and was playing to the gallery. can some of u ppl in US throw some light on this. things don't seem the way it is.

Anonymous said...

It doesnt quite seem like it was not sanctioned. I dont quite see an ambassador mouthing off, rather telling the host country which way to vote without official sanction.

I am wondering why the USA would want to scuttle the nuclear deal and/or make it tough for the Govt to vote against Iran? Why score a self-goal unless the real target was to scupper the nuke deal?


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