Iran’s Foreign Minister Dr Mohammad Javad Zarif delivered a special address on “Fighting against Terrorism and Extremism as a Global Menace” in New Delhi on Saturday before flying to Amritsar to participate in the Heart of Asia Conference.
Saying the “era of hegemony is now gone”, the Iranian Foreign Minister, during the address organised by Observer Research Foundation, in association with the Embassy of the Republic of Iran, cautioned the newly elected US leadership of the dangers of trying to make the country great once again.
The new leadership should not try to make the US great again, Dr Zarif said, noting that no country can now exercise hegemony either globally or in the region.
The Iranian Foreign Minister said there was a misperception in the west that America had won the Cold War, but the world had paid a heavy price in the past 27 years. “I hope nobody will revive that misplaced perception,” Dr Zarif said.
The foreign minister blamed the failure of nation states in the Middle East to meet the aspirations of the people for the spread of the menace of terrorism in the region. He said alienation, deprivation, lack of space to vent people’s anger, oppression and denial of respect led youth towards radicalisation.
He said America’s war against Iran, Afghanistan and now Syria forced people to take to violence to fight their oppression.
Dr Zarif also accused some nations of supporting perverted versions of Islam through their allies which led to spread of extremism and violence.
Dr Zarif said now it is the “transitional phase in international relations”. And “it is the era of power of individual”, he pointed out.
He said we are living in a world where you cannot gain at the expense of others. And unless we understand that, we will not be able to combat any global menace. Basically, all menaces these days are global in nature. But unless you understand and we all understand that, it is absolutely impossible to gain at the expense of others — whether it is the climate that we are talking about or economic prosperity or terrorism. Extremism we are absolutely incapable of making moves ahead of gaining while others are losing. “We all need to realise that there is no gain even short term from terrorism”, he said.
The Iranian Foreign Minister expressed his country’s willingness to mediate between India and Pakistan, if both countries wanted Iran to play a role.
“Pakistan and India, we have excellent relations with both India and Pakistan. Pakistan is a very close neighbor to us, India is a very close partner for Iran with whom we have historical ties, cultural ties, ties of literature. Many Indians and Pakistanis of a bit older generation than most of us here recite Persian poetry. We cannot lose that bond. That bond is too important for us to lose, both with India and with Pakistan. We hope for the best for both countries and if Iran can be of any help to any of them we stand ready. We are not volunteering. But we stand ready if anything is asked of us we will be there because these two neighbours are extremely important to us. We share common ideals, we share common vision for the future of international system. We believe that the future of international system is one that should be democratically governed, should be a place for the non-aligned where India, Iran, and Pakistan are all active members to have a major say in what happens in the future. So, we all hope that we move forward to a better relations between our two very dear friends in India and Pakistan,” Dr Zarif said.
He also hoped that the multilateral nuclear agreement between Iran, the US and other P-5 nations would continue despite the threats from the newly elected US President during the election campaigns.
“I think that nuclear agreement is a multilateral agreement, it is not a bilateral agreement between Iran and the United States. It is an agreement that came about after everything else failed. As I said, I really believed in the mantra that we diplomats make the right decision after having exhausted all the wrong decisions. Why did the nuclear agreement come about? What is that all of a sudden people became different species or because they found out that sanctions did not work simply. The sanctions did a lot of harm to Iran. I will never argue with the fact that economically sanctions had a huge impact. We went from a positive 7% growth to a negative 7% growth. But what did the United States gain from that. That is the question that needs to be asked. They gained a net total of 19800 centrifuges because when they imposed sanctions on Iran, we only had 200, and they were hoping to bring that to zero. When we started the negotiations with the Americans, we had 20000 centrifuges. So, the net gain for the United States from these sanctions were 19800 centrifuges. So, they have a choice actually, go back to that failed policy or see the benefits of an agreement that in our view is in the interest of everybody because it seeks to address a common problem in a common way, in a joint way rather than everybody doing it unilaterally. It is always possible to do it unilaterally but the result will not be better than before,” Dr Zarif said.
“I think people will learn from that experience. So, I believe that like the decision by the Senate a couple of days ago, these will undermine the credibility of the United States as a partner in any international setting, that this feeling of exceptionalism in the US pushes them to be actually exceptional. Everybody else will go their own way because as I said the era of hegemony is over. I think people will learn that after a few days or weeks or maybe months in office. So, I do not believe that the nuclear agreement is in jeopardy,” he said.
Dr Zarif said he did not think US has the capability of undermining the agreement because it is not the first time United States has tried to impose unilateral sanctions on Iran. “Last time it had the opportunity of creating and international consensus, I don’t believe that through intransigence they can create an international consensus. That does not work anymore,” the Foreign Minister said.
Earlier welcoming the Minister, Mr Sunjoy Joshi, Director, Observer Research Foundation said as the world today is witnessing events unfold in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Yemen it is also being made to see them against the backdrop of the results that democratic processes are repeatedly throwing up in Europe as well across the Atlantic.
“These more and more make it clear that increasingly it may fall upon regional powers such as ours to engage with each other and invest for the long term stability of the region,” he said.
Mr Joshi noted that security indeed cannot be a zero sum game because it is a common good and countries such as ours, have to become partners in the provisioning of that global good in this region by becoming the enablers for an integrated and inter-connected region …from Europe to India …and from Central Asia to the Indian Ocean…”
“Unfortunately, if any commodity has been in short supply in this region it has been security. …the rise of quasi-states as instruments of terror, the Daesh; the continued support of terror by some states and the globalised occurrence of radicalism – online and offline have become everyday news,” Mr Joshi said.
“We have seen two concurrent wars …..the War on Terror and the War by Terror …both feeding on and feeding off each other to become the two enduring realities that have taken centre-stage over the past few years…” he said.
Mr Joshi said the Heart of Asia conference has brought you to India. “But we all know that the heart of Asia will truly beat only when security, counter-terrorism and peace are taken up as the conditions precedent for trade and economics. Otherwise the lack of progress on this front will continue to dampen the potential of this multilateral initiative.”