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India not to toe US line on Iran: Ronen Sen
August 03, 2007 15:40 IST
India should not be expected to toe Washington's line on Iran in return for the civil nuclear agreement, India's Ambassador to the United States Ronen Sen said on Friday.
''Linking this agreement with any other issue -- today it may be Iran, tomorrow it can be some other issue -- will be counter-productive,'' he told Outlook magazine in an interview.
A key member of the Indian team that negotiated the deal, Sen said it would be totally unrealistic to expect a large and vibrant democracy like India to give up its independence of judgment and action.
The pact, which has yet to be approved by the US Congress, would allow India to access US nuclear fuel and equipment for the first time in 30 years.
The American parliament has shown strong bipartisan support for the deal but some lawmakers have expressed concern over India's friendly ties with Iran.
But Sen strongly opposed those who want New Delhi to toe Washington's line with regard to Iran, saying India should not be pressurised into taking its decision.
About the challenges encountered during the negotiations for the 123 Agreement, he pointed to the opposition from non-proliferation and Iran lobbies in Washington.
''Over here (Washington) there are various lobbies that have been very, very active. You can't change their way of thinking. One is the non-proliferation lobby. Second, there is a constituency that feels Iran more than Iraq should be the principal focus of attention of the Bush administration."
Sen also asserted that the process of negotiating the nuclear deal was more open than India's agreement with any other country. In a veiled allusion to the previous NDA government's track record on conducting negotiations with foreign countries, he said.
''The NSSP (Next Steps in Strategic Partnership) was not discussed in Parliament before it was announced. Nor were a number of agreements with Pakistan, including those having an important bearing on our security.''
About those critical of Indo-US relations and the nuclear deal, Sen said, ''Given the background of Tarapur, given the cumulative background of old mindsets, questions are being raised -- can the Americans be trusted, have they got their own agenda, is this a Trojan horse, what does it really mean?''
He said there were those who just could not believe what was happening and they were trying to minimise its significance by saying one should not link Indo-US relations to these developments.
''There are, of course, some in both countries who are Pavlovian in their negative responses, but they constitute a minority,'' he observed.
He also said India's dedicated reprocessing facility was meant not just for US-origin fuel, but for all safeguarded fuel and that safeguards at this ''facility will be no different from those at other facilities but will be somewhat more complex.''
The deal, if it secures the approval of the US Congress, will help India meet its galloping energy needs. The framework of the deal was first agreed in principle two years ago and approved by Congress last December.
Some US officials and lawmakers have publicly urged India to distance itself from Tehran and not push projects such as the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline as Washington accuses Iran of pursuing a covert nuclear weapons programme.