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Indian envoy questions US stance on Indo-Iran ties

Last updated on: June 30, 2009 19:42 IST

Meera Shankar, India's envoy to the United States, on Monday said there are 'double standards' in the US about the issue of India's ties with Iran.

Shankar said that while it is true that India has relations with Teheran, there are American companies as well who have ties with some sectors in that country, through their local subsidiaries.

Although she did not spell it out, Shankar's comment indirectly pointed out that those American companies' ties with Iran did not come under Washington's scanner.

"But singling out one country (like India) is not good. We also see that Pakistan and Iran have signed an agreement on a gas pipeline, but that does not figure as a condition for (American) aid to Pakistan,' she said while alluding to the US Senate's approval of tripling of the country's aid to Pakistan last week.

"So, there are double standards operating here," Shankar said in response to a question about India's ties with Iran and its possible impact on Indo-US relationship.

She was delivering special remarks at a conference on 'US-Indian relations in the Obama era', organised by the American Enterprise Institute in Washington DC.

Among those who addressed the morning conference included Robert Blake, assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asia affairs, besides two panel of speakers including George Perkovich, director of the nonproliferation programme at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington as well as Arvind Panagariya, Jagdish Bhagwati professor of Indian political economy at Columbia.

Danielle Pletka, who has served for ten years as a senior professional staff member for the Near East and South Asia on the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations before joining the AEI, posed a question about US aid to Islamabad to Shankar. She responded by stating that New Delhi shared the concerns of the US about stabilising Pakistan and Afghanistan and moving them towards the direction of stability and moderation.

So that the achievement of this objective can be best pursued, said Shankar, New Delhi supports the flow of assistance to Pakistan, particularly economic assistance, which is essential at this stage given the very precarious state of Pakistan's economy, but not so much the military assistance.

"As far as security assistance is concerned, we feel it should be focused specifically on building counter-terrorism capabilities rather than making provisions for conventional defence equipment," she said.

"And, of course we think that the pursuance of the objective that we share will certainly be easier, if there are benchmarks to ensure that the assistance is linked to deliverables on the ground and that there is both transparency and accountability in the process," Shankar added.

Asked if China was getting priority over India under the new US administration, Shankar said India does not compare its relationship with the US in terms of Washington's relationship with other countries.

"We hope that the US would give priority to India on its own merits. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is due to visit India in July and we hope that visit would provide the basis for a roadmap to take the India-US relationship to the next level," she said.

Shankar also fielded questions from the audience on terrorism from across the border with Pakistan and why the composite dialogue with Islamabad failed to take off. She said that even after the terrorist attack on Mumbai in November last year, launched by terrorist outfits from Pakistan, and the earlier attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul, in which there was direct involvement of elements from Pakistan's security agencies, New Delhi took a restrained view and continued dialogue.

She pointed out that even though the public opinion in India was against restraint, "we still did not take any retaliatory measures. Not even after the Mumbai attack. We have stressed that the perpetrators of terrorism have been brought to book and there are tangible signs of that," she said.

"I think it is important that there is some honesty and sincerity because in the absence of those, it would be extremely difficult to have a constructive dialogue. Terrorism and dialogue cannot go hand in hand. We would like to see honesty and sincerity from Pakistan on this issue," Shankar said.

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