Hackles would be raised here by Hillary Clinton's testimony to a Congressional committee that the United States is having "very intense and very blunt" conversations with India (and China and Turkey) to reduce dependence on Iranian oil. America-baiters will see this as new evidence of its hauteur. Iran aficionados will jump into the fray.

Keep cool.

Privately, most world powers believe Iran has the bomb. Some of them also like to think Iran is using Israel as a blind to get nuke technologies and assistance from Muslim scientists but that the real targets are the Sunni kingdoms led by Saudi Arabia. As a nuclear power, Iran will gain leadership of the Muslim world.

There is a second related narrative. This is that Iran is convinced it can never become an Islamic overlord because a Shia power will always have limitations. But if it can reinvent itself as a Persian great state, returning to its pre-Islamic civilization that gave hard competition to the Greeks, then it may have a chance. A Persian power with nuclear weapons would bring splendid advantages. Or so the thinking goes.

But the great powers opposing Iran's nuke ambitions like to believe it has not crossed the nuclear threshold. At any rate, they think sanctions backed by the threat of war would push Iran on the backfoot. Whether Iran will abandon its weapons' programme under pressure is hard to tell, but the sanctions have begun to hurt. The attack on the wife of an Israeli diplomat in Delhi shows Iranian desperation. The Indian government may not wish to implicate Iran just now. But its hand in the attack is evident.

The point is that India can no longer bury its head in the sand and expect the Iranian crisis to blow over. In principle, India is opposed to Iran's weapons' programme. It has clearly stated that it does not want another nuclear power in the region, and especially not in the unstable Middle East. It has gone along with international action in the IAEA against Iran, getting Iran very cross. India cannot resile from this position.

What to do now? India has to follow its objections to Iranian nukes to its logical end. While it may not wish actively to participate in the sanctions regime imposed against Iran, it would have to support it passively. India has begun reducing its Iranian oil dependence, but it has to be terminated at some point. This has nothing to do with American pressure but constitutes a pragmatic pursuit of national interest.

See it this way. If Iran is forced to terminate its nuke programme (easier said than done), there is one less potential nuclear power in the region to deter. Don't be deluded that nuclear Iran won't pose a threat to India. On the other hand, if Iran does become a nuclear power, it won't thank India for not preventing it from becoming one. Gratitude does not exist in the lexicon of strategic competitors. So if the risk is equal in supporting or opposing Iran's nuke quest, opposing it makes sense.

There is some commentating to the effect that India must scorn the US stand on Iran because it did not prevent Pakistan's weaponization. That is silly. That is cutting off the nose to spite the face. Because the US has been wrong on Pakistan, it doesn't mean it is wrong on Iran, or that Iran is right. There is certainly no call on India to blindly follow the US. It never has and it never will. But equally, there is no place for bloody-mindedness in strategic affairs or emotionalism.

A stark analysis of the situation tells you this. Time is running out for Iran. It is no longer prudent to support its oil economy. Iran would be saved from war and annihilation if it steps back from the brink. Sanctions are an aid to that process. While India is more than clear that it opposes hostile action against Iran without UN approval, it must also realize that peace has a chance if the sanctions succeed. It must more willingly and swiftly take steps towards that end. It is the best of a bad bargain.