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.
(Page 2 of 2)
"There is a great deal happening between India and Iran which is not in the public realm," India's National Security Adviser M. K. Narayanan said last week. India would not take part in "conflict diplomacy," Mr. Narayanan said, adding that Iran has "tremendous influence" in the region and that "India is better poised, better placed than anyone else" to talk to Iran.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
US officials have refused to rule out military strikes against Iran's nuclear facilities. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates last week said Iran was "hell-bent on acquiring nuclear weapons," one part of a renewed array of US accusations against Iran that include Iranian meddling in Iraq.
IAEA inspectors continue to study several remaining allegations that Iran once pursued nuclear weapons, though a US intelligence assessment last December concluded that Iran stopped any such activity in late 2003.
Iran denies wanting nuclear weapons.
Shoring up support
The South Asia trip is the latest in which Ahmadinejad has acted as Iran's goodwill ambassador, previously patching up frayed relations with Arab countries that are wary of Iran's growing power and its nuclear ambitions.
Ahmadinejad last year became the first Iranian leader since the 1979 Islamic revolution to be invited by Saudi Arabia to attend the hajj (pilgrimage), and the first to join a summit of the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council – an organization first created to counter the spread of Iran's revolutionary ideology.
"A lot of it has to be seen within his overarching conflict with the West," says Ali Ansari, an Iran expert at St. Andrew's University in Scotland, noting recent speeches in which the Iranian president suggested that the 9/11 death toll was a hoax and that the power dynamic is changing.
"He said the post-1945 world order is coming to an end … that power is shifting to India and China, and this is what Iran needs to look at," says Mr. Ansari, author of "Confronting Iran."
In Sri Lanka, the start of Ahmadinejad's two-day visit on Monday was marked with posters showing him and Sri Lankan leader Mahinda Rajapaksa smiling over the words "The Friendly Path to Progress" and "Traditional Asian Solidarity," the Associated Press reported.
During a visit to Iran last November, the Sri Lankan president was pledged $1.9 billion in Iranian loans and grants for oil refining, irrigation, and hydroelectric projects.
By contrast, the US and European nations are strongly criticizing human right abuses in Sri Lanka's fight against the Tamil Tiger rebels.
"In Asia, we don't go around preaching to our neighbors and our friends," the AP quoted Sri Lanka's foreign affairs chief Palitha Kohona as saying. "This public naming and shaming process that seems so popular in the West is really not so accepted here."