India unhappy with US comments on Ahmadinejad visit

April 22nd, 2008 - 8:22 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh

New Delhi, April 22 (IANS) Indian officials are not too happy with remarks emanating from Washington asking New Delhi to talk to Tehran about its nuclear programme just a week before Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad comes here on his first visit that will be largely focussed on economic and energy ties. “We are familiar with the US position. These comments are nothing new. But we are not happy with the timing of the remarks,” an official source, speaking on condition of anonymity, told IANS.

With the Left parties putting the government on the defensive over the Iranian nuclear issue, the government will be keen to underline independence of its foreign policy and focus instead on civilizational links between India and Iran and its efforts to form a more comprehensive energy partnership with Tehran.

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 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 a week before the Iranian president comes here on his first visit have also not gone down well a section of 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.

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 in the external affairs ministry 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. 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.

National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan Sunday underlined “close civlisational and economic ties” between the two countries and asked Western powers not to exclude India in the search for a negotiated solution of the Iranian standoff.

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