August 01, 2007

India said to have intelligence posts in Iran: Report

India-Iran Relations

India said to have intelligence posts in Iran: report
By Khalid Hasan: Daily Times, August 1, 2007

WASHINGTON: India has developed intelligence outposts in Iran, including the Indian consulate in Zahedan and a relatively new consulate in Bandar Abbas, which provides India significant power-projection advantages in any future conflict with Pakistan, according to Christine Fair of the US Institute of Peace.

She writes in the current issue of Washington Quarterly “in the past, India helped Iran develop submarine batteries that were more effective in the warm-weather Persian Gulf waters than its Russian-manufactured batteries and is planning to sell Iran the Konkurs anti-tank missile.”

The South Asia scholar is quoted in an article by Bret Stephens appearing in the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday. He is unimpressed by US undersecretary of state Nicholas Burns’ defence of the 123-Agreement recently concluded between the Indian and US government. Burns argued, “Unlike Iran...India has not violated its nuclear obligations”. Stephens points out that on March 19 DefenseNews ran a report about an Indo-Iran agreement, “which follows the broader strategic partnership accord the two countries signed in 2003, emerged from high-level talks held here during the March 4-9 visit of Rear Admiral Sajjad Kouchaki Badlani, commander of Iran’s Navy”. In September 2004, the US imposed sanctions on Chaudhary Surendar and YSR Prasad, both former chairmen of India’s state-run Nuclear Power Corporation, “for allegedly passing nuclear secrets to Tehran”. Though the sanctions on Dr Surendar were later dropped, they remain in force against Dr Prasad, who is believed to have passed on “the technology needed to extract tritium from heavy-water nuclear reactors”. Iran is currently building such a reactor in Arak. Tritium can be used to boost the yields of atomic bombs.

Stephens notes that last year, the State Department slapped sanctions on two Indian companies for selling Iran precursor chemicals for rocket fuel and chemical weapons. In April, the Department of Justice released a 15-count indictment against two Indian individuals “on charges of supplying the Indian government with controlled technology,” including “electrical components that could have applications in missile guidance and firing systems”. Advocates of the US nuclear deal with India recognise these facts, but they argue that they are largely driven by India’s need for energy, which explains the 700-mile gas pipeline being built between India and Iran.

Stephens believes that India’s relationship with Iran is driven as much by the desire to encircle Pakistan and gain access to Afghanistan as it is by energy concerns. Then, too, nuclear power, which can only provide base load electrical demand, cannot by itself supplant the need for hydrocarbons. “Any time you increase the base load generating capacity of a country, you generally must increase the amount of peak load capacity to match it,” according to non-proliferation expert Henry Sokolski. “And the most efficient peak load generators are natural-gas fired.” Put simply, it’s hard to see how building nuclear power will reduce India’s interest in Iranian natural gas, Stephens points out. He concludes, “But if Congress is going to punch a hole in the NPT to accommodate India — with all the moral hazard that entails for the non-proliferation regime — it should get something in return. Getting India to drop, and drop completely, its presumptively ceremonial military ties to Iran isn’t asking a lot.”

For complete article of Christine Fair in Washington Quarterly, click here

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