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Indian foreign minister 'dense': US Congressman

By Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC
September 09, 2005 19:08 IST
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Most observers and analysts were taken aback by the attack launched by United States Congressman Tom Lantos, the highest ranking Democrat on the House International Relations Committee, during the hearing on the US-India nuclear cooperation agreement on Thursday.

In the question and answer session, Lantos also ridiculed Indian External Affairs Minister K Natwar Singh as "dense" and warned with smug arrogance that if India doesn't change its policy toward Iran in sync with US policy, the relationship would "go down the tubes."

Lantos was given wide latitude by US Congressman Henry Hyde, chairman of the panel, to speak for a long as he wanted while strict time limits was imposed for other members of the panel.

"My concern does not relate to the administration. My concern relates to the insensitive thinking that I see coming out of New Delhi," declared Lantos, a California Democrat.

"It was incomprehensible to me that people as sophisticated and knowledgeable as our Indian counterparts should not be aware of how significant their position, vis-a-vis Iran is to this Congress, and, I hope this hearing will make them aware at least tangentially that this may be destroying far more significant relationships than they are having with Tehran unless they become sensitive to our view on that subject."

The nuclear deal

Referring to the Iranian government as "reckless" he added that Iran was the single most international threat faced by America and the Iranian government was proceeding arrogantly with the development of nuclear weapons.

"Only an imbecile would believe that they are developing a nuclear program for peaceful purposes and it is an insult to the intelligence of Congress that they keep repeating this."

"They do what they do, but to have the Indian foreign minister with respect to his recent meeting with the Iranians to say they really don't care what we think, shows the real denseness that occasionally very intelligent people are burdened with."

"They are brilliant and they are dense. They are brilliant, which is obvious, but they are simply dense because they are incapable of comprehending that other countries have their important concerns."

He said he supported the administration's policy (toward India) but believed the administration would have to make a maximum effort for which "we offer, at least some of us offer our services to help you make the Indians aware of the fact that nothing will fly in this body unless they become as sensitive to their concerns as we have been to theirs."

Lantos said he found Natwar Singh's reported statement in Iran -- "literally sickening, this Stalinist rhetoric which we don't accept from the Indian foreign minister."

Singh is reported to have said during his meeting with the new Iranian president that India 'supports the resolution of Iran's nuclear issue within the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency)framework but opposes sending the file to the UN Security Council.'

Singh is also reported to have lamented the inclination to inject injustice in international relations, reiterating that India's relations with Iran 'is not predicated on positions and views attributed to some governments,' which Lantos said was clearly the US.

He warned that this pattern of dealing with the US will not be productive for India and they (<India) have to be told this in plain English that this great new opening is predicated on reciprocity.

The Prime Minister's US visit

He said not only was India opposing America's views, but also those of Britain, France and Germany. And that if New Delhi did not support Washington's efforts to ostracise Iran, "the goodwill will dissipate."

"They will pay a heavy price for a total disregard of US concerns vis-a-vis Iran. It just will not fly in this body and they need to be told that in plain English, not in diplomatic English and I know there are people in this room who will carry this message."

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Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC