Iran N-programme not US responsibility: Pranab

April 23rd, 2008 - 8:42 pm ICT by admin  


New Delhi, April 23 (IANS) Advising the United States not to take upon itself the task of determining whether Iran was pursuing a nuclear weapons programme, India Wednesday pointed out that it was the responsibility of the International Atomic Energy Agency and should be left entirely to it. External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee said: ” The US should not take responsibility upon itself to determine whether Iran is making nuclear weapons or not.” He pointed out that Iran, a signatory to the nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT), will have to abide by IAEA guidelines.

Mukherjee’s remarks can be seen in the context of the latest round of brinksmanship between India and the US on the Iranian issue before the arrival April 29 in New Delhi of President Mahmoud Ahmedinijad. The Iranian president is scheduled to be here only for about eight hours - but his brief stay in the Indian capital has already sparked off a series of comments from the US and India.

In yet another remark that can also be seen as directed largely at the US, the external affairs minister also made it clear that India will not participate in any military exercises that were directed against friendly countries. “We will not support war exercises against friendly countries,” Mukherjee said.

He was speaking before a large number of journalists at the Parliament Library Wednesday afternoon. An “Orientation Programme” for media persons covering the Lok Sabha proceedings had been organized by the secretariat of the Indian parliament’s lower house. The minister first spoke about India’s foreign policy objectives and later responded to queries from journalists.

The US State department spokesman Tuesday told newsmen in Washington that the US expected India to raise the Iranian nuclear programme issue during talks with Ahmedinijad and use its influence to make Iran stop its uranium enrichment. By the same evening, his Indian counterpart, Navtej Sarna responded by saying that India and Iran were capable of conducting their bilateral relations without guidance from anywhere else.

Iran has never sat easy in Indo-US relations. The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government had come under severe criticism when some years back it supported a US-sponsored resolution at the IAEA board of governors’ meeting against Iran’s nuclear programme. A large number of people in India, particularly the left parties, were of the view that India was going out of its way to accommodate the US on Iran to ensure that the Indo-US nuclear deal does not get scuttled.

Though Ahmedinijad was elected as the Iranian President in the summer of 2005, so far he had not been invited to visit India. The invitation to him to stop by at New Delhi on his way back from Sri Lanka comes at a time when there are indications that the UPA government might make yet another serious attempt to push the Indo-US civilian nuclear deal through in the next few months.

The tough talk on the Indian government’s part to the remarks made by the US on Ahmedinijad’s visit can, therefore, be seen as an attempt to assure the left parties and others that India was not giving up its sovereign foreign policy - but space was perhaps being created to push the nuclear deal through without much opposition from its allies.

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