India to US: India, Iran old friends, no lectures please (Lead)

April 22nd, 2008 - 9:39 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh

New Delhi, April 22 (IANS) Ahead of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahamdinejad’s visit here next week, India Tuesday asked the US not to give unsolicited “guidance” on the course of its centuries-old relations with Iran and advocated dialogue to resolve the impasse over the Iranian nuclear programme. “Neither country needs any guidance on the future conduct of bilateral relations as both countries believe that engagement and dialogue alone lead to peace,” external affairs ministry spokesperson Navtej Sarna said in response to prescriptive comments made by the spokesperson of the US State Department.

“It is important that the genius of each nation living in a particular region is respected and allowed to flower to meet the expectations of enriching relations with neighbours,” Sarna stressed, registering India’s displeasure at the perceived attempt by the US to meddle in its foreign policy, specially in the context of its ties with Iran.

“Both nations are perfectly capable of managing all aspects of their relationship with the appropriate degree of care and attention,” he said while stressing on civlisational ties between India and Iran which span centuries.

“The situation in the region has always drawn the attention of both the nations and it can be seen perfectly well that these have been managed through continuous dialogue and exchange of delegations at various levels,” he said.

The remarks of US state department spokesperson Tom Casey asking India to use its influence with Iran to persuade the latter to suspend its uranium enrichment activities have also not gone down well the Indian political establishment.

“This is America’s interference in our country. It’s nothing but direct interference,” Communist Party of India- Marxist leader Sitaram Yechury said here.

With the Left parties putting the government on the defensive over the Iranian nuclear issue, the government is keen to underline independence of its foreign policy and will focus instead on building a more durable economic and energy partnership during the first visit of Ahamadinejad to India April 29.

Energy will be high on the agenda. The meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Ahamadinejad will focus on giving a political push to the Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline that is mired in differences over the pricing of the Iranian gas.

The Iranian issue may also be discussed when US Undersecretary for Democracy and Global Affairs Paula Dobriansky meets Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon and other officials Thursday for the US-India global issues forum.

The US would also “encourage” India to ask Iran to end its “rather unhelpful activities with respect to Iraq, with respect to support for terrorism, including organisations like Hezbollah and Hamas, and to otherwise become a more responsible actor on the world stage, Casey said in Washington Monday.

Washington, however, made it clear that it was “up to every country to determine for itself how it’s going to organise its bilateral relations.”

It is not that India is not concerned about the course of the Iranian nuclear programme, suspected of developing nuclear weapons. Advocating Tehran’s right to peaceful uses of nuclear energy within the framework iof its international obligations, Manmohan Singh has made it clear many a time that another nuclear weapon state in India’s neighbourhood is not in New Delhi’s national interest.

India is opposed to sanctions against Iran and has advocated dialogue to resolve the Iranian nuclear standoff.

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