Leaders of more than 40 countries are gathering in Washington for a summit beginning on Monday to control the spread of nuclear weapons. Iran for obvious reasons is not invited, but it has announced a conference of its own soon after the Washington meeting. It's called ‘Nuclear Energy for All, Nuclear Weapons for None, and among those who have agreed to attend are India, Pakistan and China.
While the level of representation to the Teheran meeting is not at the same level as Washington for all three countries, the fact that they have chosen to attend seems to be a signal to the Obama administration just as it is trying to isolate Iran for its suspected nuclear weapons programme. India's presence in particular has raised the question if it is starting to re-assess ties with Tehran that have in recent years been allowed to slip in the pursuit of a strategic relationship with America.
As The Hindu newspaper noted the Tehran conference is a "red rag" to Washington and it has been quietly discouraging countries to attend. For New Delhi to agree to send its ambassador to the meeting can only be a signal that it is looking to expand its diplomatic space in the region as differences emerge with Washington over its Afghan strategy weighted towards Pakistan, Indian experts say.New Delhi really should be re-energising links with Tehran if it wants to maintain its reach in Afghanistan, they say. Without a geographically contiguous border and a hostile Pakistan in the middle, Iran remains the only corridor to Afghanistan.
India must join a natural gas pipeline that the Iranians have been pushing for that will run through Pakistan., argues journalist Atul Arneja in widely flagged piece also in The Hindu. For years India has resisted Iranian overtures in large part because of reservations over the pipeline passing through Pakistan, but also because of upsetting Washington. Arneja argues that India can involve China and Russia too in the project to increase its sense of comfort over the pipeline traversing through Pakistan.
So much for India, what about Pakistan ? Why is it going to Tehran to attend the summit at a time when ties with Washiugton are on a more even footing than can be said even a few months ago ? Pakistan has actually gone ahead and signed the natural gas pipeline deal with Iran and the foreign office said this weekend Islamabad will act according to its national interests. "US diktat on Iran pipeline not to be entertained", read a headline in The Dawnreferring to the U.S. State Department's remarks that it wasn't the right time to be conducting such a transaction with Iran. Despite the improved ties, Pakistan has its own issues with Washington, nuclear energy one of them. Denied a civilian nuclear deal of the kind that the United States has sealed with India,. the Pakistanis are essentially saying theywill explore all options to meet their energy needs.