The India Cables
India's Iran policy: designed for ‘domestic consumption'?
Feb 17, 2012 01:36 PM , By Hasan Suroor

The U.S. administration believes that India's Iran policy is meant for “public consumption,'' mostly to please the “domestic Muslim and Non-Aligned Movement audience,'' according to diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks and accessed by The Hindu.

In a series of communications, the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi gave a downbeat assessment of India-Iran relations, arguing that for all the public show of warmth towards Tehran, India's policy is based on a “hard-nosed calculation of its interests, not in public appeals to the historical and cultural ties between Tehran and New Delhi.”

One cable (195906: confidential/noforn), dated March 9, 2009 said: “Much of India's Iran policy is designed for public consumption by the domestic Muslim and Non-Aligned Movement audience. We can expect that India will continue an active dialogue with Iran through high-level visits and working groups, at times in ways that are likely to appear to us as too much ‘business as usual'.”

Two other “key factors'' behind India's interest in maintaining a positive relationship with Iran, it says, are “its energy needs and its desire to play well with others in the region, especially at times when India's relationship with Pakistan (which Iran also shares a border with) is increasingly contentious.''

Another cable (199213: confidential/noforn), dated March 27, 2009, quotes K.C. Singh, the Indian Ambassador to Iran, as telling a senior U.S. diplomat that there was “a misconception in the West that India has a close relationship with Iran''. On the contrary, there was “minimal trust between the two states.''

“Singh explained that the Indo-Iranian relationship has not been managed well in the last decade. He characterized India's inability to deal with both the U.S. and Iran simultaneously, without ‘upsetting' one or the other, as a failure of Indian diplomacy,'' the cable said, reporting discussions between the U.S. Acting Political Counselor in New Delhi and Mr. Singh.

Mr. Singh, who served in Tehran from 2003 to 2005, was reported as saying that India's leverage with Iran had “significantly decreased.'' He expressed “uncertainty at how much India would be able to accomplish with regard to Iran'' in future.

“Singh attributed this in large part to India's vote against Iran at the IAEA in 2005. Despite the common strategic interest shared by Iran and India in countering the Taliban in Afghanistan, there is minimal trust between the two states. The Government of Iran is suspicious of India's ruling Congress Party for its perceived pro-U.S. leanings and considers India's voting at the IAEA in past years as a betrayal, according to Singh,” the cable said.

It concluded that America had “the opportunity to work with India on Iran, but in order to do so, we must lay the groundwork to convince India of where our interests converge.''

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