March 26th, 2012
06:00 AM ET

Zakaria: India, please stand up

By Fareed Zakaria, CNN

India is America's friend, Israel's friend and Iran's friend. Amid all the talk of an Israeli strike on Iran, how is India managing to stay friends with everyone? What in the world is going on?

India is being criticized here in America for continuing to trade with Iran despite coordinated sanctions on Tehran. The Wall Street Journal recently ran a staff editorial calling New Delhi "the mullahs' last best friend." It also criticized India for casting its lot with Moscow and Beijing "for a handful of rupees."

Let's get some perspective.

New Delhi's defense is this: Iran is the world's 4th largest oil producer. It's biggest customer is India, which happens to be among the world's largest oil consumers and importers. The type of crude best suited to India's needs happens to be Iranian oil.

So there's an economic argument here - India needs Iran's oil as much as Iran needs to sell it. There have been reports the two countries reached a trade agreement to circumvent sanctions. Iran can't trade in dollars, so it is selling oil to India for rupees and bartered goods instead.

But there are also geopolitical concerns. India lives in a rough neighborhood, with an intense rivalry with Pakistan. Pakistan has for decades believed that it needed to limit India's influence in the region, particularly in Afghanistan. Islamabad has supported the Taliban against the Indian-backed Northern Alliance. And who helped India by siding with the Northern Alliance as well?  Iran. The Iranians have always been hostile to the Pakistan-Taliban axis.

Outside of what it views as core interests, India is nowadays inactive on foreign policy. It has rarely been a force for good in the region or around the world. When the Maldives recently had a coup, New Delhi remained passive. During years of unrest in Myanmar, India rarely took a firm stance against the country's brutal military junta. And so on with other crises in the region in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and more. Compared to the clout it wants to have, New Delhi has paid only mild attention to its foreign policy. The Economist recently pointed out that India, with its population of 1.2 billion, has fewer diplomats than New Zealand, with a population of just 4 million!

Americans tend to believe that all good things go together. They befriend India, another democracy, so they will have identical views of foreign policy - the same friends and enemies. But India has different economic and geographic interests. Indians, for their part, think they can be free-riders on the international system, exploit the stability and security of the current set up and narrowly pursue their own interests. But for the world's largest democracy, that's an unworthy mission. India does have a tryst with destiny - and it isn't to buy cheap oil from whomever and damn the consequences.

For more of my thoughts throughout the week, I invite you to follow me on Facebook and Twitter and to visit the Global Public Square every day. Also, for more What in the World? pieces, click here.

Topics: Foreign Policy • India • Iran • United States • What in the World?

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soundoff (688 Responses)
  1. Abhishek

    I will not question that Fareed has honest intentions. however, I think it is unfair to ask India to stand up for democracy. America is the worlds most powerful country. India and China have had a lot of tensions. Will America openly take the side of India vs China? Also, remember that America considers the terrorist state of Pakistan an ally!! If America can be friends with Pakistan and China and India, why cant we be friends with Iran and Israel? Let us also remember that America is also a very close ally of Saudi Arabia!!

    This is not an indictment of America, it is only an acceptance of realities in the world. In the last 2 years or so, India-China relations have been on an upward path. The Chinese seem to want friendship with India and India has jumped at the opportunity. India has always had deep ties with the Russians and will continue to do so. And of course, Indians value their alliance with the United States very much.

    India is not anti-Western, India is not anti-Chinese or anti-Russian. We are pro-India. We are proud that we do not create problems in this world and we wouldnt have it any other way.

    And as a side note to Americans on this board, this current Indian policy is simply an emulation of American policy until 1940. And that model served Americans well, didnt it? The Indian republic is merely 62 years old and needs time to increase its capabilities. Most Indians look forward to the day we can contribute positively to freedom across the world, but that day is not today.

    March 29, 2012 at 8:52 pm | Reply
  2. D'Souza

    Food for thought. For example, Indians thinking Jews are true friends of Hindus need to just look at how they treat Christians in Israel.

    March 29, 2012 at 9:19 pm | Reply
    • Jinnah

      Good point. Orthodox jews with no tolerance will not do any better than fundametalist Islam or for that matter any other fundametalist organization.

      March 30, 2012 at 4:17 pm | Reply
  3. Amit-Atlanta-USA

    And to those of my Pakistani and Indian friends who think that Mr. Zakaria is anti-Pakistan & pro-India, he clearly is NOT, HE IS JUST FERVENTLY PRO-MUSLIM…. at all times!

    In that sense he’s staunchly Anti-West (for support to the Jewish nation, intervention in Muslim lands), Anti-India (Kashmir), Anti-Russia (Chechnya) plus perceived discrimination against Muslims being common with all of them… in short he’s Anti-All things non-Islamic!

    While he does oppose ALL WEST LEANING ISLAMIC REGIMES, he’s careful NEVER to comment on the people and medieval Islamic societies which elect them in the first place, or directly/indirectly support their regimes’ actions.
    On the contrary several forward looking reputed, highly enlightened Pakistani Muslims/columnists themselves (e.g. Irfan Husain, Nadeem Paracha, I A Rehman, Kamran Shafi columnists for Pakistan’s #1 daily Dawn, and Pervez Hoodbhoy) bitterly criticize DECAYING, INTOLERANT, FANATIC Pakistani society and hold them responsible for most of the country’s ills. Just look up Dawn and read any of these enlightened Muslims’ articles be it on Islam, Pakistani/US/Indian societies, treatment of Minorities, Misuse of America’s freedoms by Muslims, Ground Zero Victory Mosque controversy, Muslim corruption/backwardness etc. and you know what’s ailing Islamic societies, in SHARP CONTRAST to the free societies of the West and India.

    This is relevant here given the BARRAGE OF ARTICLES Mr.Zakaria has penned directly/indirectly in favor of Islamic Iran's Nuclear program.

    March 29, 2012 at 9:58 pm | Reply
  4. Karim

    Amit-Atlanta,
    Well, good for us that YOU ARE NOT a professional journalist like Mr. Fareed Zakaria.

    Your writing and logic stinks. And all you have been doing is demeaning Islam and Muslims like an old broken record.
    Get something new now.

    March 30, 2012 at 9:14 am | Reply
    • Jinnah

      Fareed – a professional journalist.... is that your attempt at crude humor.

      March 30, 2012 at 11:07 am | Reply
  5. Amit-Atlanta-USA

    Dear Friend Krm007:

    You said:

    “India has become a dinosaur. A Smithsonian specimen. Like humpty dumpty even the USA and Israel is having a tough time holding it together. Living in the shadows of China, defined by Pakistan, haunted by Kashmir and punctuated by Bangladesh....India is struggling to find a meaning for its existence and a place in the new world order. How can it stand up,Fareed? Certainly not on its feet .....perhaps on its knees to seek redemption for double crossing USA in Iran. Typical of Indian DNA.”

    CONGRATULTATIONS…………..Actually I love it, b’coz it’s 100% factual…..if you do a SIMPLE TRICK…..Replace “INDIA” with “PAKISTAN”

    Let’s try:

    “Pakistan has become a dinosaur. A Smithsonian specimen. Like humpty dumpty even the USA, its NATO allies, and the entire free world are having a tough time holding it together. Living in the shadows of China, defined by “progressive mighty” India, haunted by Kashmir and punctuated by the “long lost” Bangladesh....Pakistan is struggling to find a meaning for its existence and a place in the new world order. How can it stand up, Fareed? Certainly not on its feet .....perhaps on its knees to seek redemption for double crossing USA in Iran. Typical of Pakistani DNA.”

    March 30, 2012 at 9:47 am | Reply
    • Jinnah

      If I may, I will add: Pakistan – double crossing USA in Afganistan and against Taliban/Al Qaeda. USA is worried that if it does not engage Pakistan, it will become China's puppet. So it has to sleep with the enemy.

      March 30, 2012 at 12:19 pm | Reply
      • krm1007

        Here"s Johnnnyyy!!

        April 1, 2012 at 7:28 pm |
    • krm1007

      Please be original and get away from the shadows of Pakistan....will ya? You hindus will always be defined by Pakistan....that is exactly my point and you proved it. Get a life.

      April 1, 2012 at 7:30 pm | Reply
  6. Sadar Vallabh

    Amit, ok agreed Muslims invaded India 1000 years back and we couldn't do anything. But right now Israel is trying to annihilate Iran and we will NOT allow it. This is happening right now and we will prevent it. Down with Israhell.

    March 30, 2012 at 1:14 pm | Reply
    • Jinnah

      Agreed – Israel should not be allowed to destroy Iran (honest I do not think it can). Also, if it could, India is in no shape to prevent it. Israel does to Palestianians what they do to Israel – both are pretty horrific but when you are divided by religion and you think you are superior than others, and others have no right to exist – sadly no one does. Islam will one day understand the ditch it has dug for itself. Israel is less fanatic and does better of the too – that's why their society is more developed. Having friend in USA also helps. Honestly, I will never friend anyone whose sole existence is to destroy me and that's what muslims think about us kafirs. Good luck to them – let's see how long they live in that fantasy world.

      March 30, 2012 at 4:15 pm | Reply
  7. Sadar Vallabh

    Israel is A TERRORIST APARTHEID nation and it has been killing Palestinian Muslims and Christians end grabbing their lands every day. we will not allow that to happen. Israel will be wiped off the face of the earth very soon. JaiHind.

    March 30, 2012 at 1:19 pm | Reply
    • Amit-Atlanta-USA

      Jai Hind..........are you serious?

      March 30, 2012 at 3:42 pm | Reply
  8. Sardar Vallabh

    Amit are you really that ignorant? Islam and Judaism both are not true friends of Hinduism. Jews are worse because most of them have their pride in being Whites as well, for example the Ashkenazis. So my friend if you think Jews really need our help, you are dead wrong, Jews are the most selfish people, ever!

    Jai Shri Krishna.

    March 30, 2012 at 7:01 pm | Reply
    • Jinnah

      You are right – neither Islam, nor Jewish religion are friends of Hinduism. Abrahamic religions are quite different than HInduism/Buddism etc. Islam is worse of the three (if you include Christianity) when it comes to tolerance and respect for others. Christianity has gotten better over time but in areas like Africa, Christianity and Islam still clash violently. Islam is a breed apart – not sure if it should even be called a religion. It is so primitive and barbaric, it is a black spot on human race.

      March 31, 2012 at 2:15 pm | Reply
      • Jonathan.SPR

        Depends on where look at things from. Our cultures consider Hindus as primitive, barbaric, polytheists, smelly, dark, oily, cow-worshipper, penis god lover, monkey god worshipper, fat elephant god's buttlicker, unhygienic uneducated, backwards, illiterate etc.
        It's is better to stop demonizing other religions and cultures and enjoy the upcoming beautiful summer.

        March 31, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
    • Jinnah

      Whatever Hindu's do, they are tolerant and do not kill others – so they are not barbaric. Also, Hinduism is one of the most advanced thought system – someday read Sankhya philosophy if your brain can handle it. Idol worship is Hinduism is Greek influence and I agree – it sucks big time. Arya Samaj criticizes Idol Worship just as anyone else would – but Hinduism was idol worship free until 500 AD. As far as doing strange things is concerned – have you not seen Christians do strange things in their churches and muslims beat themselve up with chains.

      BTW – I am not religious – I criticise Hinduism where it makes sense to do so. Any organized religion is a deterrant to creating a progressive society. You also have a nice and enjoyable summer.

      March 31, 2012 at 6:53 pm | Reply
      • Jonathan.SPR

        Yea' don't gimme that crap – your whole concept of Dharma-Yuddha is "religious Wars". I have a PhD in comparative religions. Your whole Mahabharatha is nothing but war- your Hindu kings were killing each other before time immemorial – so don't act holier than thou. Hindus claim they can't kill life for eating (animals) but they are ready to kill Moslems & Christians in an instant.

        March 31, 2012 at 7:21 pm |
      • Jinnah

        If you have a degree in comparative religion – that must be from your church. Read history Mr. – and here is to get you started in comparative religion 101: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dharma. Good luck.

        March 31, 2012 at 8:34 pm |
      • Jonathan.SPR

        yea- you didn't have any answer so you divulge – why the heck are u in US? You are surrounded by 80% Christians. Go back to India.

        my qualm with you is you keep spouting religious hate and nothing else.

        March 31, 2012 at 9:03 pm |
      • Jinnah

        I am here to do the work that your sorry ass can't and get paid. So if you start doing your job, I will think about it ;-)

        BTW before you ask anyone else to go back to their country, ask your ancestors why they came here and also killed so many who were living here for thousand of years. You have some guts to tell others to leave this country when you can't even take care of it.

        March 31, 2012 at 10:06 pm |
      • krm1007

        Hinduism is a cult. Shiv Sena defines hinduism and makes Ku Klux Klan look like angels. Get the drift?

        April 1, 2012 at 7:17 pm |
      • Jinnah

        KRM1007 – You have not evolved beyond a langoor. Shiv Sena is a right wing party whose influence is limited to a few cities in Maharastra. It participates in democratic process and is less radical than Republican Party under Cheney that murdered thousands of innocent muslims in Iraq. Get some brain cells if you got none.

        And no one defines Hinduism than its members – it is one of the most inclusive and diseparate way of life on earth. You can believe in a god, in many gods or in none – it is a way of life. Not a pope trying to tell others what to do or priests raping children and hiding behind cross or Islam killing its own children like in Syria or Palestians celebrating after Al Queda killed innocent people on 9/11. You are too primitive to understand such a dharma. All you are capable of is being a sheep and following your religious leaders. Good luck with that.

        April 2, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
      • krm1007

        @Jinnah....you can take a rotten egg like hinduism and package it in easter colors but it will remain rotten to the core. Hindus have massacred millions of people and make WW2 Nazi Germany look like Shangri La. Who are you kidding? The world knows hindus, we know hindus and they ain't no peach? Kapiche?

        April 4, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
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  10. krm1007

    Forget the GDP, focus on these murder statistics.
    In India, millions of girls are strangled, slowly starved or simply tossed in the trash. Moreover, in India, at least 1,370 girls are aborted every day. As a comparison, some 250 Indians die every day in road accidents. Terrorists killed about six people, on an average, every day in 2009. In the last two decades of economic progress, 10 million girls have died as such in India.
    SHAME ON INDIA AND ITS BARBARIC AND MEDIEVAL CULTURE !!!
    Indians have killed more human beings (girls particularly) than Al Qaeda and Talibans put together.

    April 1, 2012 at 7:25 pm | Reply
  11. Sunil

    Fareed, it might help if you look into a little recent history and analyse the situation a little before coming up with what could have been a very effective article.

    The US ran into Iraq over:
    1. Oil being sold in Euros by Saddam Hussein – this might have caused problems for the USD so they invented a 'WMD' story and 'BOMBED THE PLACE FLAT' – following which there were statements (in hindsight) saying there were NO weapons of mass destruction, and that this is what the security agencies had repeatedly told the folks who pulled the trigger. Justification for destroying what was once a reasonably well-off country was a dictator who had committed humanitarian crimes.
    2. A large part of the US economy is defence – they were suppliers of arms to Iran, Iraq, Osama Bin Laden, the Taliban, Pakistan and quite a few other groups who were later 'recognised' as terrorist organisations/states. The war machine was kept going through war – and this one was convenient.

    How about we apply the same concepts to Iran now? They've repeatedly said that they're not buliding weapons – there have been no WMDs found. They pose no threat to anyone at the moment since they've been pushed into a corner and pulled down quite a few notches already. They're a large source of oil. This is their main crime. There are sanctions against them for POLITICAL reasons. They're irritating their bully just that little bit more by selling their oil for currencies other than dollars.

    If you'd like to go down as one of the many 'propaganda' journalists stuck with the standard foot-in-mouth issue after the US bombs Iran flat and finds no evidence of WMDs, by all means go ahead and write some more articles along these lines. I do however object to you suggesting India bow down to pressure of the US schoolyard-bully and not talk to Iraq because they're denying that they have a gun in their schoolbag as the bully is suggesting to the entire school AFTER the headmaster has checked the bag and found nothing.

    April 4, 2012 at 1:31 pm | Reply
    • Bell the Cat/Bully

      Good job. Never easy to bell the cat or point a finger towards the bully. US foreign policy is – might is right. When they can't do it by themselves, they try and use UN and if that does not work – they roam around like cry babies threating others – funny thing is that they have realized that only so much can be achieved by threat.

      India is much harder to control as they do not go around bullying others. If USA had respect for democracies, India will be its long time ally, not UAE or pakistan or taliban.

      April 6, 2012 at 3:16 pm | Reply
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  13. an indian

    dr. fareed zakaria u said smthing abt foreign policy of india & america .... U.S.As foreign policy is 2 kill innocent ppl (like in iraq & afghanistan) on the name of weapons of mass destruction......... weapons of mass destruction is none other than u.s itself ...... & if india dont hv ample diplomats 4 such foreign policy .. then we indians are really gratefull that we our leaders r not so enlightened as yours are......... u called india "mullahs last best friend " then what is america supporting taliban , pakistan , indonesian dictator suharto & list goes on & on........ by not supporting america in his so clalled " war on terrorism " . india is only protecting herself from falling prey to americas policy of world dominance.....!!! how could u expect india 2 support america & israel against iran ...when we know that u supported pak 2 built taliban against india & iran.......... u.s.a & pak used osama & mullah omar & threw them when not needed ....... btw we r peace lovers we also respect islam & iran .....so u cant fool us wid weapons of mass destruction like american citizens...

    April 6, 2012 at 4:18 pm | Reply
  14. an indian

    and also india needs 2 first settle its own internal affairs ............ we hv to boom our economy first & feed 1.2 billion ppl , not to go into any war..... for the purpose iran is not an enemy but a friend ...... i think america should mind its own bussiness, only then world will become a peacefull place.......!!!

    April 6, 2012 at 4:25 pm | Reply
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  19. Bangla Natok

    Particularly i watch him every week. hey "Fareed Zakaria" your essay totally instructive. i think who will read this essay of course he will cant to know about many types of matter, i also think that you are a most intelligent person.
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  20. Peter

    Really, again an article without any factual basis. India remains a committed and very large contributor to the UN. peace keeping force missions all over the world. Has donated roughly $5 Billion to african nations, $2 Billion spent on re-building Afghanistan helping the U.S. Indian army intervened in Sri Lanka and provided refuge to the deposed Maldivian PM in Indian embassy. Check the facts before publishing, Mr. Fareed Zakaria. These articles reflect your muslim appeasing and anti-India agenda. CNN, pls. check what is published by Mr. Zakaria for facts as major historical events are simply ignored.

    November 13, 2013 at 3:07 pm | Reply
  21. Hussein

    I also like him and watch him every week, a very astute journalist, probably the best one on the shallow airheads we have here in the United States, but in this piece Zakaria looks like he is taking issue with India for trading and keeping relations with Iran.

    March 26, 2012 at 6:32 pm | Reply
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