India Calls on West to Treat Iran with Respect

A04090035.jpgTEHRAN (FNA)- New Delhi’s National Security Advisor MK Narayanan today asked the international community to treat Tehran in consonance with its “tremendous influence”.

Speaking at the first International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS)-Citi India Global forum in New Delhi, the senior Indian official announced Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad “will be visiting India shortly” before visiting Sri Lanka.

Since media reports have said that Ahmadinejad will arrive in Colombo on 28 April, he can be expected to be in New Delhi in the last weekend of April.

“Whatever happens to Iran or what others do to Iran has tremendous impact here (in India). We have the second largest Shiite population. So, it’s not only a foreign policy issue, but a domestic issue,” Narayanan pointed out.

Interestingly, he pointed out that there was a “great deal taking place between India and Iran which is not on the public realm”. But, Narayanan said that India had avoided “conflict diplomacy” with Iran and neither does it want to be part of any “compact” referring to the negotiations of the group of six nations with Iran over the nuclear issue.

“India is better poised, better placed than anyone else (to talk to Iran). We do not want to be part of a compact. We believe that we understand Iran better,” he said, referring to the long historical and cultural ties with the West Asian nation.

The top Indian official also made an appeal to the international community, saying, “Please do not treat Iran in the manner of any other country”. “It is a major country with tremendous influence. Please deal with them diplomatically…. with negotiations at the level of erudition and evolved mind,” he said.

The previous visit of an Iranian president to India was of Mohammad Khatami as the chief guest at the Republic Day parade in 2003. The last Indian head of government to visit Tehran was Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 2001.

Last year, external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee travelled to Tehran in February and Iranian deputy foreign minister Mehdi Safari was in Delhi in September.

India has traditionally taken the stand that Iran had a right to develop peaceful uses of nuclear energy, while fulfilling its international obligations. It has, therefore, diverged from the US stance of imposing sanctions on Iran and preferred an institutionalized dialogue to engage the major West Asian country.

Both countries have a lot of stands in common on regional issues, especially Afghanistan, where India is building a road linking the Afghan highways to the Iranian border. On the energy front, India has been keen to tap Iranian energy sources through a trans-national pipeline and LNG contracts.

Meantime, India on Saturday said that military action or sanctions against Iran would exacerbate the situation and that it favored a solution which involves Tehran.

“Sanctions or military action – none of them is a lasting solution and will only exacerbate the situation. We need to evolve something that involves Iran,” Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon said in an interactive session at the India Global Forum in New Delhi.

Menon said India has made its stand quite clear that while Iran may have the right to peaceful uses of nuclear energy it also has an obligation to various international commitments it undertook.

“Ultimately it is an issue of whether or not it is implementing the obligations it undertook. It depends on technical assessments which are best done by the IAEA,” he said.

Stressing on the need to change the world looks at non-proliferation, Menon favored new international consensus on the issue.

“We need to have in place a system to which Iran is a party,” he said adding sanctions and military action will only “exacerbate” the situation.

The United States and its Western allies have accused Iran of trying to develop nuclear weapons under the cover of a civilian nuclear program, while they have never presented any corroborative document to substantiate their allegations. Iran has denied the charges and insisted that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only.

Following heavy and continued pressures by the United States, the UN Security Council imposed three rounds of sanctions on Iran for refusing the Council’s demand to give up its right of uranium enrichment, a process needed for producing fuel for Iran’s under-construction power plants.

The US is at loggerheads with Iran over the independent and home-grown nature of Tehran’s nuclear technology, which gives the Islamic Republic the potential to turn into a world power and a role model for other third-world countries. Washington has laid much pressure on Iran to make it give up the most sensitive and advanced part of the technology, which is uranium enrichment, a process used for producing nuclear fuel for power plants.

Iran says it will only negotiate with the UN nuclear watchdog.

Washington’s push for additional UN penalties contradicted the recent report by 16 US intelligence bodies that endorsed the civilian nature of Iran’s programs. Following the US National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) and similar reports by the IAEA head – one in November and the other one in February – which praised Iran’s truthfulness about key aspects of its past nuclear activities and announced settlement of outstanding issues with Tehran, any effort to impose further sanctions on Iran seemed to be completely irrational.

The February report by the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, praised Iran’s cooperation in clearing up all of the past questions over its nuclear program, vindicating Iran’s nuclear program and leaving no justification for any new UN sanctions.

Tehran says it never worked on atomic weapons and wants to enrich uranium merely for civilian purposes, including generation of electricity, a claim substantiated by the NIE and IAEA reports.

Iran has insisted it would continue enriching uranium because it needs to provide fuel to a 300-megawatt light-water reactor it is building in the southwestern town of Darkhoveyn as well as its first nuclear power plant in the southern port city of Bushehr.

Meantime, the IAEA affirmed it has adequate knowledge of Iran’s nuclear program, despite allegations that Tehran engages in clandestine activities.

The UN nuclear watchdog is well informed on the current situation in Iran, International Atomic Energy Agency Chief Mohamed ElBaradei said in Berlin on Thursday.

ElBaradei noted that Iran has only 3,000 to 3,400 installed centrifuges, stressing the need to continue dialogue to resolve Tehran’s nuclear standoff with the West.

The Islamic Republic insists that as a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, it is entitled to use nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.

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