No one should worry about Indo-Iranian ties: Menon

April 30th, 2008 - 4:52 am ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh

New Delhi, April 30 (IANS) Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad took the opportunity of his visit here Tuesday to pour scorn on the US and described it as a “bullying” power even as India tried to play down American concern over Indo-Iranian ties. “Bullying power can’t affect the determination of the Iranian people. They will not have any impact on the relationship between our two countries,” the Iranian president said while addressing a press conference Tuesday night after he finished a three-hour meeting with the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Not far from where Ahmedinejad was speaking, Indian Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon held a separate press briefing. “No one should worry about Indo-Iranian relations,” he said. “There has been no policy shift and it is part of an on-going engagement between the two countries.”

Menon chose to repeat India’s stand on Iran’s nuclear programme, which the US and others fear is for developing nuclear weapons while Teheran says its purpose is to develop “clean and cheap” electricity. “India supports Iran’s right for the peaceful use of nuclear energy. But Iran must fulfil its obligation to the International Atomic Energy Agency,” he said.

In his interaction with media persons Ahmedinejad admitted, perhaps for the first time, that Iran was indeed upset when India voted against it at the IAEA meeting in 2005. ” But it is a thing of the past. We have moved forward and our relations are now better,” Ahmedinejad said.

The Iranian President arrived for his “stop-over” visit to India an hour late from Sri Lanka, but made up for it as he delayed his scheduled departure from Delhi by at least three hours. He met President Pratibha Patil at the Rashtrapati Bhawan soon after arrival.

But his “substantial meeting” was kept for the Indian prime minister. Singh hosted a private dinner for him at his official 7, Race Course Road residence that was also attended by External Affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee, National Security Advisor M.K. Narayanan and the foreign secretary.

The Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline was one of the major subjects that came up for discussion at the meeting between the two leaders. India made it clear that the “security of the pipeline and continuity of supply” would have to be kept in mind while ensuring that the project, in which Iranian gas would be delivered to it through Pakistan, was “commercially and economically” viable.

It was decided that the oil ministers of the three countries would submit their reports within 45 days to their respective governments to finalize the $7.5 billion transnational project without further delay. “The discussions were positive and we hope that it will be finalized in the near future,” Ahmedinejad said in reference to the pipeline.

The pipeline and Teheran’s nuclear programme are both sensitive issues for the Congress-led UPA government. Its Left partners are keen that India finalizes the gas pipeline agreement with Iran and Pakistan without further delay. They also want India to keep its distance from the US stand on Iran’s nuclear issue.

India recently rebuffed the US for suggesting that New Delhi should take up the nuclear issue with Iran during Ahmedinejad visit when it told Washington that India and Iran could conduct their bilateral relations without “guidance” from others.

The Iranian President showed his appreciation over the Indian’s rebuff to the Americans.” Indian officials gave a very good and appropriate response to this,” Ahmedinejad said.

The Indian foreign secretary said Ahmedinejad’s visit gave the two sides the opportunity to review the entire gamut of their bilateral relations. ” A number of important regional issues like Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Middle East were also discussed,” Menon said.

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