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India, Iran pledge to combat terrorism 

New Delhi: India and Iran announced here on 28 June an agreement to fight terrorism in the region. The joint statement came at the end of a four-day visit by Secretary of Supreme National Security Council of Iran, Hasan Roohani.

Roohani met India’s national security adviser Brajesh Mishra, foreign minister and defence minister Jaswant Singh, and prime minister Atal Behari Vajpyee. The two sides also stressed the need for a comprehensive UN convention on terrorism. 

Iran and India expressed satisfaction over the end of Taliban and vowed to support the new dispensation in Afghanistan. At this point commentators revived the old idea of an India-Iran-Russia-China axis ostensibly to contain US hegemony. However, the shallowness of this idea is evident enough for most observers who dismiss it as a pipe dream. 

The hollowness of an axis becomes evident when one thinks of Russia’s complete dependence on the US for financial and technological assistance. It knows that US would not brook Russia being part of any such axis for a second. China too is busy expanding its business with the US and accelerating its economic growth with Western cooperation. It knows it cannot be seen to be a part of the proposed axis and still hope to grow economically. As far as India is concerned, there is no question India would compromise its growing relationship with the US and Israel for the sake of Iran, which the US and Israel regard as a pariah state. That leaves Iran holding the baby. 

There is yet another limitation to India’s ties with Iran – India would not alienate Saudi Arabia by getting close to Iran, Saudis’ regional rival. Which means that much of Friday’s exercise was merely pious declaration. The talk about fighting terrorism too has its limitations. Iran itself is considered a terror-sponsoring state – part of Bush’s “axis of evil” – by Israel and the US, India’s too closest allies. The two countries’ commitment to fight terrorism is not equal. For instance, Iran would be interested in suppressing the anti-Shia Taliban in Afghanistan but continue to back Hezbollah in the Middle East, a group Israel regards as terrorist. India would, on the other hand, like to prevent reemergence of Taliban in Afghanistan but steer clear of Hezbollah.

Almost as an afterthought, the two countries have pledged to continue their principled support of the Palestinian cause, whatever that means.

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