AFP: The United States is concerned over India’s ties with Iran but will not ask it to sever links with the Islamic republic in return for American civilian nuclear fuel and technology, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Wednesday. WASHINGTON, April 5, 2006 (AFP) – The United States is concerned over India’s ties with Iran but will not ask it to sever links with the Islamic republic in return for American civilian nuclear fuel and technology, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Wednesday.
“The United States has made very clear to India that we have concerns about their relationship with Iran,” she told a Senate hearing on the controversial US-India civilian nuclear deal.
“We’ve made clear to them we have concerns about the pipeline. We have made clear to them that we have concerns about their initial” reservations about bringing Iran before the UN Security Council over its nuclear program, Rice said.
“So, of course, we have concerns about the relationship with Iran,” she said.
Iran, which Washington accuses of trying to build a nuclear bomb and being a state sponsor of terror, is nearing an accord with India and Pakistan for a natural gas pipeline project costing more than seven billion dollars.
Despite its initial reservation, India voted for a referral of the Iranian nuclear program to the UN Security Council.
Several Senators during the hearing Wednesday expressed concerns over India’s military links with Iran, including New Delhi’s reported training of Iranian naval personnel.
Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer, citing a defence journal report, said it was “very disturbing” that India provided training to Iranian naval personnel at Kochi, the headquarters of the Indian Navy’s Southern Command, under a three-year-old military cooperation agreement.
Rice said two Iranian warships had just paid a port call on the Indian southern city and there was no military training involved.
“There have been Iranian ship port calls in India. The assertion, we understand, that they train Iranian sailors is not right. There have been and probably will be Iranian port calls in a number of countries in the world,” she said.
The chief US diplomat said it was unfair to single out India when there were many US allies which had links with Tehran although Washington had no diplomatic links with the Islamic republic.
Asked by Democratic Senator Bill Nelson whether the Indian military was cooperating in any way with the Iranian military, Rice said, “The Indians have told us that they have some, as they characterize them, low-level military-to-military contacts.
“I believe we’re not going to do better in pulling India toward us by insisting that they cut off relations with other states. I don’t think that’s going to work effectively,’ she said.
US President George W. Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on March 2 signed a civilian nuclear deal even though New Delhi has refused to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and has developed nuclear weapons.
But Rice pushed lawmakers to endorse the deal for energy-starved India to gain access to long-denied civilian nuclear technology in return for placing a majority of its nuclear reactors under international inspection.