Iran’s Envoy Speaks: On A New Chapter In Foreign Policy

By Nilofar Suhrawardy, MMNS India Correspondent

NEW DELHI: “We believe that the peaceful use of nuclear energy is an inalienable right of every nation in the world and it should not be under the monopoly of countries which are seeking more than their due rights and are trying to have everything,” Iranian envoy Syed Mehdi Nabizadeh told journalists (February 9). Speaking at a press conference on the eve of 30th anniversary of Iran’s National Day, Islamic Revolution’s victory, he focused on factors, which have influenced Iran’s foreign policy during the last three decades.

The press conference signals the increasing role being played by media diplomacy in today’s era. It was convened apparently not only to mark the 30th anniversary of Iran’s National Day but more specifically to use the forum to express Iran’s stand on significant national as well as international issues.

“Concepts like elimination of tension, dialogue and cooperation have opened a new chapter” in the country’s foreign policy, Nabizadeh told media. “Iran has always stressed over improving its bilateral, regional and international relations with its neighbors and other countries,” he said. History was a “good evidence” that in “no page can one find a single stance of Iran’s invasion against any other country,” he pointed out. Iran, however, has been invaded many times by other countries and today faces many challenges, including terrorism. Since its establishment, Islamic Republic of Iran has “faced terrorist activities of internal and external groups losing a number of its officials and citizens to this sinister phenomenon,” he said. Iran has “always called for elimination of all possible forms of this shameful element (terrorism) in a principled and not a selective manner,” Nabizadeh asserted.

Iran also faces the danger posed by narcotic drugs, due to its neighbor Afghanistan being their main producer. Iran has “paid a heavy price in both human and financial terms in fighting the smugglers and distributors of drugs,” Nabizadeh said. The “presence of foreign military forces in Afghanistan,” he pointed out has “resulted in manifold increase in the production of opium products” there, which has led to Iran face “more challenges and pay even more price.”

Defending Iran’s peaceful nuclear policy, Nabizadeh elaborated on Tehran having agreed to “supervision by International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA,)” of the country’s peaceful nuclear program and “peaceful use of nuclear energy by the country.” “Tehran is being accused of pursuing a clandestine nuclear weapon program by certain countries which have actually used atomic weapons and killed innocent people and which cannot be washed away from memory of people and pages of history,” he said. Inspired by teachings of Islam, Iran opposes “concepts such as killings and mass killings,” advocates non-existence of nuclear weapons in its defense-military doctrine and calls for “a region and world free from all varieties of weapons of mass destruction (WMD),” Nabizadeh said.

The plan of Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is “to create a global front to establish peace and justice, which is now the common stand of freedom-seeking nations all over the world in the 21st century.” This, Nabizadeh said “is a manifestation of the emergence of Iran’s way of thinking in international politics.” 

“Dynamism and expansion” in development of Iran’s relations with India has been “quite evident” in the recent years, Nabizadeh said. The 15th meeting on Indo-Iranian joint economic commission in Tehran (November, 2008) has been among the most significant development in strengthening economic ties, he said.

When asked about Iran’s role in pressurizing Pakistan to take action against elements responsible for Mumbai terror attacks, Nabizadeh replied that the incident has been strongly condemned by the three countries (India, Iran and Pakistan). India and Pakistan should work towards solving the complex issue at the bilateral as well as regional level, without calling on “external forces” to step in, he said. Referring to the situation in Afghanistan, Nabizadeh pointed out that presence of foreign forces  “cannot bring peace and stability” there.

On possible impact that the new American President Barack Obama’s policy can have on Iran’s relations with United States and other diplomatic issues concerning Tehran, Nabizadeh said: “We have always said that we want friendly relations with all countries.” “But if he (Obama) tries to bring certain changes by trying to impose his own ideas in others parts of the world (including Afghanistan), than he cannot go far ahead.”

Iran was trying to make its Chabar port viable by declaring it a free trade zone and improving the logistical infrastructure, Nabizadeh said. A road or rail line from the port could take Indian goods to the Afghan border. Elaborating on the potential of this linkage, he told journalists, a 217-km India-built road from the Afghan border town of Zaranj will provide the last-mile connectivity to Delaram located on the “garland highway” of Afghanistan which connects most of its major cities, including Kabul, Kandahar, Herat, Mazar-e-Sharif and Kunduz. Some offshoots of this road, also called the North-South corridor, go into Central Asia.

To a question regarding the much-publicized Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline, Nabizadeh acknowledged that Delhi still has concerns regarding the security and price-factor, which can be sorted out. With Iran and Pakistan continuing their discussions on the pipeline, the agreement is being framed in such a way so that India can join in future, he said. “But we hope the delay will not be so long that there is no room for India. We believe the implementation of the project will help in the establishment of security in the region,” Nabizadeh said.


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