Iran, India must counter foreign powers in region: Iranian vice president (Interview)

May 1st, 2008 - 3:27 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh
By Manish Chand
New Delhi, May 1 (IANS) India and Iran should ensure the “exit of foreign powers” from their region, says Iranian Vice President Esfandiar Rahim Mashaee. The remarks are sure to upset Washington, which views Tehran’s ties with New Delhi with suspicion. “Based on their identical worldviews and cultural values, India and Iran should synergise their approach and ensure the exit of foreign powers from the region,” Mashaee told IANS, two days after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad came on a six-hour visit here.

“The presence of foreign powers in the region is contrary to the interests and security of the region,” Mashaee said, alluding to the presence of US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, which he stressed was spreading chaos and instability in the region.

“Very soon, they will have to leave the region,” said Mashaee, whose daughter married Ahmadinejad’s son recently.

The Iranian leader said the two countries should have a greater say in important decisions related to the region.

India and Iran signed a pact to forge strategic partnership during then Iranian president Mohammad Khatami’s visit to New Delhi in 2003. It included among other things cooperating to promote stability and reconstruction in Afghanistan.

“They should use their optimal power to combat any form of terrorism and terrorist activities in the region,” Mashaee said, while brushing off US accusation about Tehran’s alleged support for terrorist outfits like the Hamas and Hezbollah.

Hailing the visit of Ahmadinejad Tuesday, Mashaee stressed that the trip, although very brief, showed to the world “the will and determination of the two countries to strengthen and expand their ties.

“The visit was not an official one. It was a friendly visit by the Iranian president to see his friend in India on his way from Sri Lanka,” said Mashaee, who was handpicked by Ahmadinejad to head Iran’s Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organisation, an influential cultural body.

Mashaee, who inaugurated a week-long Iranian cultural festival here Wednesday night, was upbeat about growing cultural ties between the two countries. He called for more travel and tourism between the two countries.

“It’s important that people of the two nations become more familiar with each other. More travel and tourism will certainly help,” he said, pitching for more flights between the two countries and more facilities for visiting tourists.

Alluding to the $7.5 billion Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline project which dominated discussions between Ahmadinejad and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Mashaee said the project was “a symbol of peace and prosperity” and would bolster bilateral ties.

The bid by Iran to give a strategic touch to its ties with India is sure to upset Washington, which is opposed to the gas pipeline. The US fears that Iran may use oil revenues to fund its nuclear programme.

Washington has also made clear its distaste for New Delhi’s relations with Tehran.

Days ahead of Ahmandinejad’s visit to India, New Delhi brushed off Washington’s advice on its relations with Tehran saying the two countries didn’t need any guidance to manage their relations.

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