Asian countries ′unlikely′ to support Iran attack | Asia| An in-depth look at news from across the continent | DW | 09.03.2012
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Asian countries 'unlikely' to support Iran attack

South Asian experts say there is a lack of Asian support for a possible US or Israeli attack against Iran as it could destabilize the whole region and jeopardize its energy needs.

As the war rhetoric against Iran amplifies in Israel and the US, Iran's neighboring countries like China, India and Pakistan have expressed their disapproval of a new conflict in the already turbulent region.

The United Nations' atomic agency, the IAEA, has reported irregularities in Iran's controversial nuclear program, and has hinted that the recent enhancement in Iran's uranium enrichment capabilities may mean the Islamic country is trying to develop a nuclear bomb.

Western countries have long accused Iran of secretly building a nuclear bomb, which they fear could be used against Israel.

Recently, in a meeting with US President Barack Obama, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that time was running out for the Iranian regime. Although the US president downplayed the war talk, he did not rule out a military option to stop Iran from getting atomic weapons.

Lack of support for a 'new war' in Asia

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, center, at the Natanz Uranium Enrichment Facility

The West says Tehran's nuclear program is for military purposes

Dr. Gulshan Sachdeva, professor at the Jawaharlal Nehru University of Delhi, told Deutsche Welle that India would not like to get involved in the conflict.

"Any kind of attack on Iran, or any sort of disturbance there, will have long-term energy security problems for India because it imports a significant amount of oil from Tehran," said Sachdeva. He was of the opinion that New Delhi would like to see a peaceful solution to this problem.

"It would be a very difficult situation for India but it all depends on how this conflict evolves."

In an interview with Deutsche Welle, Dr. Naeem Ahmed, international relations expert at the University of Karachi, said that despite Beijing's growing economic relations with Europe and the US, its military and strategic compulsions in the region would not allow China to support an attack on Iran.

"China supported the Afghan war against the Taliban. In the case of Iraq, Beijing openly opposed war. In my opinion, China would not want Israel or the US to undertake a military action against Tehran," said Ahmed.

Spillover effects on Pakistan

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, left, shakes hands with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh

India and Iran have good economic ties

According to Ahmed, things are probably more complex for Islamabad than other countries in the region, as it relies enormously on the US military and civilian aid, but supporting an attack on Iran would anger the majority of its population.

"Pakistan will be directly affected if Israel or the US attacks Tehran because it shares a long border with Iran. The Pakistani people, in particular those who subscribe to the Shiite version of Islam, are definitely going to oppose it. Even the Sunni population would react negatively to such an attack because when it comes to Israel and America, Pakistanis are pretty much against both of them."

Ahmed, however, was of the opinion that many Arab states would indirectly support an attack on Iran, or at least a regime change, to increase their own influence in the Middle East. That in turn means that countries like Saudi Arabia, one of Islamabad's biggest allies and donors, would influence Pakistan's future decisions vis-à-vis Iran.

Energy needs versus military ties

Energy needs, according to both Ahmed and Sachdeva, would most likely influence Indian and Pakistani policies toward Iran.

"China can deal with the situation more independently than India. The problem for India is that for the past decade it has developed very close relations with the United States. At the same time it needs oil from Iran," said Sachdeva. Thus New Delhi would rather remain non-aligned in the US-Iranian conflict.

"Both Islamabad and Tehran want to go ahead with their (joint) energy projects,” said Ahmed adding, “the US has objected to these projects a number of times. Obviously, in this scenario, the economic sanctions on Iran will also affect Pakistan. The main thing is to see how Pakistan is going to resist US pressure and for how long."

Islamabad looking for new allies

From left: Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari

Pakistan says it will not abandon energy projects with Iran

US-Pakistani relations are at their nadir since al Qaeda's former chief Osama bin Laden was killed in a US Special Forces attack in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad in May 2011.

Farooq Sulehria, a Pakistani journalist and political activist based in London, told Deutsche Welle that because of evolving circumstances, Islamabad was "desperate to look for new allies in the region." It would, however, be "a difficult task for Pakistan to forge a partnership with Tehran."

Sulehria was also of the opinion that Islamabad's engagement with Tehran would not go down well with the Sunni militant groups in Pakistan and its number one ally Saudi Arabia, which oppose the Shiite-majority Iran.

According to Sulehria, "Pakistan fears that Western nations might impose sanctions on its nuclear program in future. These, in my view, are precautionary measures undertaken by Islamabad to put pressure on the US."

Author: Shamil Shams
Editor: Sarah Berning

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