Following intensifying media and lobby-group pressure here on India’s relationship with Iran, the Indian embassy in Washington has hit back with sharply-worded and rare retort to allegations “which have presented a distorted picture by basing their conclusions on speculation and inaccurate information.”

Arguing that such reports had generated concerns among some members of the U.S. Congress, the embassy clarified through its spokesman Virander Paul that India’s relationship with Iran was neither inconsistent with non-proliferation objectives, nor contradictory to the relationship India had with its friends in West Asia or with the U.S. and Europe.

In addition to media reports recent weeks have seen a lobby group directly petition Ambassador Nirupama Rao and suggest to her that New Delhi was “attempting to take advantage of sanctions adopted by like-minded nations.”

In a letter to Ambassador Rao the group drew attention to alleged comments by Indian Commerce Secretary Rahul Khullar that “a huge delegation” of Indian business representatives would soon travel to Iran to capitalise on opportunities created by European withdrawal from the Iranian market. It hinted that India could seek to source its energy needs from other West Asian nations but not Iran.

Mr. Paul’s statement stoutly refuted the allegations, pointing out that “Allusions in the media that India’s overall oil imports from Iran are increasing just because its monthly uptake of Iranian oil reportedly increased in January this year are based on selective use of information, misrepresenting the fact that in aggregate terms, crude imports from Iran constitute a declining share of India’s oil imports.”

At the macro level, India has scrupulously adhered to the multilateral sanctions against Iran as mandated by the United Nations, and remains fully engaged with the U.S. administration and Congress on this issue, the embassy added.

However dispelling any notion that India could be pressured into forsaking an important “civilisational” relationship with Iran, the embassy’s statement noted that not only were there six million Indians in the Gulf region, but Iran was also India’s only corridor for land access to Afghanistan, and it was through Iran that most of India’s development and reconstruction assistance to Afghanistan was routed.

On the core question of Iran’s importance in helping India meet its energy needs, the Indian embassy argued that with more than 400 million Indians lacking access to commercial energy at home “an automatic replacement of all Iranian oil imports, is not a simple matter of selection, or a realistic option.”

Even as the crescendo of war drums intensifies with growing concern over the possibility of an Israeli strike again Iran’s nuclear facilities, the embassy cautioned that India “firmly believes that the situation concerning Iran should not be allowed to escalate into a conflict, the disastrous consequences of which will be in nobody’s interest.”