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Grappling with the Iranian Nuclear Imbroglio

S. Samuel C. Rajiv

Edited by Arun Vishwanathan and Rajaram Nagappa
Pentagon Press, New Delhi, 2013, pp. 139, Rs. 703.00


The slim volume under review is the end-product of a round table organized by the National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS), Bangalore in May-June 2012. It is one of the very few book-length attempts that try to grapple with the complex issues surrounding the Iranian nuclear imbroglio and its implications for India. Given the decade-long dispute and the significant points of contention bedevilling the issue along with its attendant implications, a more thorough examination with greater rigour in providing the sources for the material presented was definitely required. The nine authors and the ten short chapters inclusive of the Introduction and the Conclusion though provide a glimpse into the nature of the problem.   The book’s longest chapter, by Rajaram Nagappa and S. Chandrasekhar, deals with Iran’s evolving missile capabilities. Even here, one has to note that most of the cited works date back to 2009/2010. Considerable international concerns have enveloped Iran’s attempts to develop longer-range solid-fuelled missiles like the Sejjil, which was first tested in November 2008. The authors note that Iran has the capabilities and the facilities to produce Sejjil class of missiles which will eventually replace the liquid-fuelled Shahab-3/Ghadr in its inventory.   The authors however do not seem to acknowledge alternate analyses like that by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) which in July 2012 assessed that sanctions have played a key role in disrupting Iranian attempts to develop such long-range ballistic missiles. The IISS for instance noted that Iran has not tested the Sejjil since February 2011, which in turn was conducted after a long gap of 14 months from the previous test in November 2009.   In the chapters dealing with Iran’s nuclear contentions per se, Arun Vishwanathan explores the ‘demand-side’ drivers behind Iran’s nuclear decision-making. These include Iran’s security challenges shaped by its difficult history, the threats posed by Israel, the US encirclement, as well as the perceived difference in treatment meted out to North Korea (which possesses nuclear weapons) and Libya and Iraq (which did not) on the other hand.   On the ‘supply-side’, L.V. Krishnan examines the country’s ability to sustain its nuclear intentions including its capabilities in the fields of uranium enrichment, reprocessing and the building of heavy water plants. He notes that Iran’s low-efficiency centrifuges won’t be sufficient to meet the commercial fuel requirements for plants like Bushehr though they could potentially sustain ‘a small-scale weapons programme’.   Krishnan ...

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