Iran takes goodwill tour to India
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad stops in India Tuesday after visiting Pakistan and Sri Lanka on a trip aimed at inking energy deals and curbing the West's influence.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is taking Iran's outreach strategy to South Asia this week, with high-profile visits to Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and India aimed at making energy deals and curbing Western influence.Skip to next paragraph
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Mr. Ahmadinejad and Pakistani leader Pervez Musharraf said Monday – during the Iranian leader's first stop – that no barriers remained to signing a $7.6 billion pipeline deal that will provide both energy-starved Pakistan and India with natural gas.
But the biggest challenge on Ahmadinejad's latest goodwill trip to counter US influence and rekindle diplomatic friendships would be in India.
"India is very short on energy, so there are economic reasons for India to maintain a working relationship with Iran," he adds. "However India's long-term and strategic relationship is definitely with Washington, and I think that has been made very, very clear."
Although India has long been friendly with Iran, its policies have turned increasingly pro-American since the Bush administration began work on a substantial nuclear energy package in mid-2005, giving US nuclear equipment and fuel to a country that secretly developed nuclear weapons and never signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Old friends, new differences
Earlier this year, India launched a spy satellite for Iran's archfoe Israel that was designed to more closely monitor Iran's nuclear program. And officials, according to The Times of India, in October last year seized 1,150 kg of nuclear graphite, a proscribed dual-use material that an Indian company had bought from China and was shipping to Iran.
Still, diplomatic niceties between the US and India disappeared in the run-up to the official visit.
A public State Department call for India to encourage Iran to suspend uranium enrichment in its controversial nuclear program – as required by three Security Council resolutions – was met with a stiff reply.
"India and Iran are ancient civilizations whose relations span centuries," said India's foreign ministry. "Neither country needs any guidance on the future conduct of bilateral relations as both countries believe that engagement and dialogue alone lead to peace."
Officials say they are nearing agreement on the stalled project called the "Pipeline for Peace and Progress," which is meant to deliver 30 million cubic meters of Iranian gas daily each to Pakistan and India.
Washington opposes the pipeline because of what it brings to Iran, despite benefits also for US allies India and Pakistan, which have fought three wars since they were partitioned in 1947.