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Vineet R. Olakara asked: Why have the negotiations in restarting the Iran deal stalled? What are the implications for India?

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  • Deepika Saraswat replies: In March 2022, Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany (P5+1) agreed on the broad outline to revive the Iran nuclear deal, formally called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). However, talks were stalled as a result of a last minute demand by Russia for written guarantees from Washington that the sanctions imposed on it over the Ukraine crisis will not harm its economic and military-technical cooperation with Iran.

    Russian concerns were resolved after it received guarantees on protecting its involvement in Iran’s sole nuclear energy plant in Bushehr. The lack of agreement on Iran’s ‘red lines’ on lifting the ‘foreign terrorist organisation’ (FTO) designation of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and other demands relating to verifiable lifting of all US sanctions, ending the investigation of the International Atomic Energy Organisation (IAEA) into Iran's past nuclear activities, among others, however, led to an impasse in the talks. 

    Enrique Mora, the European Union’s (EU) lead negotiator, in an attempt to find a compromise on the IRGC issue, travelled to Tehran in May 2022, but the US has maintained that the issue is extraneous to the JCPOA. Iran’s enrichment to 60 percent U-235 and failure to provide credible explanation on possible undeclared nuclear materials and activities from the pre-2003 period led the US and the EU-3 (Britain, France and Germany) to move a censure resolution at the June 2022 IAEA Board of Governors (BoG) meeting. India abstained from voting on this resolution along with Pakistan and Libya, while Russia and China voted against it.

    In August 2022, a compromise proposal floated by Joseph Borrell, EU foreign policy chief, failed to overcome these issues. After protests broke out in Iran in September 2022, Iran’s Western interlocutors have argued that talks are not a priority. The IAEA passed another censure resolution in November 2022.

    The Iranian foreign ministry spokesman noted on 23 January 2023 that the absence of official negotiations does not mean a halt to interaction or the exchange of messages and views. For India, apart from the tough diplomatic decisions that it has to make on Iran’s nuclear issues in the IAEA, the continued sanctions on Iran have had a direct bearing on its oil import bill and act as a drag on its key infrastructure project in Chabahar.

    Posted on 25 January 2023

    Views expressed are of the expert and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Manohar Parrikar IDSA or the Government of India.