A tide of domestic political opposition, more from its allies than opponents, could force India's government to backtrack its position on the Iran nuclear issue when the International Atomic Energy Commission Board of Governors meets on 24 November.
At the board's last meeting in September, India backed a European Union-sponsored resolution against Iran that condemned it for "non-compliance" with the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty. The resolution was passed 21-1 with 12 abstentions, and India was among its most notable and controversial supporters.
Describing India's vote against Iran as a "shameful surrender to America and its stooges", a bevy of speakers at a public rally in New Delhi on Saturday asked the government to "correct its mistake" and "abstain from voting the next time as a face saver".
The rally was organised by a 61-member Left bloc in parliament whose support keeps the Manmohan Singh-led United Progressive Alliance government in the saddle. Two other centrist parties with 40 members in the 545-seat parliament also participated in the rally.
"The rally is not to defend Iran but to defend India's national interest and its place in the developing world," said Communist Party of India (Marxist) General-Secretary Prakash Karat.
"In national interest alone we cannot afford to oppose Iran with whom we have an agreement in place for five million tons of gas over the next 25 years," said Karat, adding that Iran had not breached any IAEA norms and was fully cooperating with the international community.
Referring to the Indo-US civilian nuclear energy transfer deal signed last July on whose basis the Singh government justifies its pro-American stance, Karat remarked, "America cannot meet even 10% of our total energy needs."
Warning the nation against what he called the "hegemonic designs of America to control the oil and gas reserves in the world, especially in west Asia and the Arab nations", Karat underlined. "Whoever does not comply with America will become its military target."
"America has already occupied Iraq and is now gunning for Iran, Syria and Lebanon, in that order."
Iran had not breached IAEA
norms, said Prakash Karat
Other speakers accused the government of "betraying Iran" and "hurting India's prestige as a non-partisan leader of the developing world".
Accusing the government of "taking an about turn in foreign policy", Samajwadi Party leader in parliament Rampal Yadav said. "Antagonising the oil-rich countries would choke India's economy."
The vote against Iran, he also said, "smacks of the worst political immorality".
"Iran has supported us through thick and thin, and even when Pakistan tried to build an Islamic lobby against us, Iran stood by us; how can we betray one of our best friends and that too at the behest of a traders' nation called America?" asked Yadav.
Speaking in the same vein, Communist Party of India General Secretary AB Bardan expressed shock at "India's abject surrender to America, totally out of tune with its stature and foreign policy".
"I am dismayed that a nation of one billion people cannot stand up to America when a small country like Cuba refuses to succumb to America's bullying."
The anti-US cry is bound to gain pitch over the next three weeks as the Left parties plan to take their campaign to the state capitals including Lucknow, Mumbai, Kolkata and Hyderabad.
"We will force the government to withdraw the vote against Iran, not just for the sake of that country, but also to restore our prestige in the developing world," said Bardan.
On Friday, the Left parties organised a seminar to mobilise support for Iran and to ensure that India toes an "independent" foreign policy. Eminent scientists, intellectuals and foreign policy experts participated in the seminar.
"We will force the government to withdraw the vote against Iran, not just for the sake of that country, but also to restore our prestige in the developing world"
Communist Party of India
India's former ambassador in Tehran, MK Bhadrakumar said: "Viewing India's vote through the nuclear prism is a very limited view." The 24 September IAEA resolution, according to him, "lacked justification" and he asked the government not to "tamper with its bilateral ties with Iran."
Hamid Ansari, former Indian ambassador to the United Nations, said America did not really need India's vote and pressurised it just to make a point that it could bend India's will. The vote, he added, was also the US way of "throwing a spanner in Indo-Iran ties."
Former Atomic Energy Regulatory Board Chairman A Gopalakrishnan said India must come up with a "multilateral approach" to resolve the nuclear issue between Iran and the West.