India defends ties with Iran

Washington: Amidst increasing pressure from the US to reduce its dependence on Iranian oil, India today said its ties with Tehran is neither inconsistent with non- proliferation objectives nor is in contradiction with its relationships with the West.

"Our relationship with Iran is neither inconsistent with our non-proliferation objectives, nor is it in contradiction with the relationships that we have with our friends in West Asia or with the United States and Europe," visiting Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai told a think-tank here.

Speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Mathai said India`s position on the question of Iran`s nuclear programme is well known. "Our votes in IAEA speak for themselves," he said amid pressure from the Obama Administration, US lawmakers and influential policy makers to stop purchasing oil from Iran.

"We believe that while Iran has rights to peaceful uses of nuclear energy, it must also fulfill its international obligations as a non-nuclear weapon state under the NPT. We would like to see the issue resolved peacefully through negotiations," he said. "We hope that negotiations between P5+1 and Iran would resume soon and contribute to a positive outcome," he said.

"Iran is our near neighbour, our only surface access to Central Asia and Afghanistan, and constitutes a declining but still a significant share – currently under 10 per cent – of our oil imports. For us, there are also broader and long term geo strategic concerns that are no different from what we face elsewhere in the Asia- Pacific region," Mathai said.

He stressed that peace and stability and a climate of moderation in West Asia are absolutely vital for India. "We not only have strong political and economic ties with countries in the region, but also enjoy a warm relationship with their people," he said.

"India has always had and will remain sensitive to the interests, aspirations and rights of the people in West Asia. We do expect that their governments, too, will respect their rights and respond to their aspirations," Mathai said.

"However we look at the developments there, we are all united by the desire for peace and stability in the region and we must seek to forge the broadest possible consensus on our collective response," he added.