India wants to see a non-nuclear Iran: Powell

Washington: Differing with some lawmakers` views that India was defying American sanctions by continuing to import Iranian oil, US Ambassador-designate Nancy Powell has said New Delhi shared a desire to see a non-nuclear Iran.

At her confirmation hearing at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee yesterday, Powell, nevertheless, assured the lawmakers that implementation of the Iranian sanctions would be one of her top priorities when she is in New Delhi as the US Ambassador.

"If confirmed, I understand and appreciate that this is going to be a very important topic and one of those that I will be dealing with very seriously and very early in my tenure," 64-year-old Powell said.

However, she differed with the strong remarks made by Senator Robert Menendez that India seems to be rebuking the sanctions.

"Approaching it, I think, perhaps a little bit differently than you did, but to recognise that India shares with us a desire to see a non-nuclear state in Iran. They have supported us in the IAEA four times. We continue to have very important dialogue at the most senior levels of the US government.

"And I fully intend to be a part of that dialogue. I believe that making sure that there is clarity on what the legislation and the US sanctions mean, what their implications are for India is one step," she said.

"Also, looking to make sure that we understand what actions India is taking. Foreign Secretary (Ranjan) Mathai, in his public remarks, commented that there already appears to be a reduction in the percentage of oil that India receives from Iran out of its total imports. That would be a very good sign," Powell said referring to the remarks made by Mathai at a Washington-based think tank.

On domestic front in India, she noted that the country was witnessing assembly elections in some states presently. "I think India`s democracy is a thriving one… right now they are engaged in five states voting, with over 200 million residents in one of the states," Powell said.

Noting that India had enormous societal inequalities based on historic caste systems of economic differences, she said: "I take a lesson from my time as a teacher of American government and American history, of reminding myself that our Constitution starts with the words about forming a more perfect union. I think that India is in the process of doing that as well."