Foreign Ministers of India and Germany on Wednesday declared a common interest in preventing Iran from going further on the path of nuclear proliferation. “For the sake of keeping Iran in the comity of nations, it is important to keep the dialogue going,” Salman Khurshid said. Mr. Khurshid is in Berlin ahead of the Indo-German Inter-Governmental Consultations between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Mr. Khurshid, who addressed a joint press conference with German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, said both countries were worried about the failure of the recent P5+ 1 talks in Almaty in Kazakhstan. The talks had ended with Iran announcing its intentions to open more Uranium mines and enrichment sites. Mr. Khurshid was asked whether India’s traditional ties with Iran and its dependence on that country for fuel meant that there was a divergence of views between India and Europe on containing Iran’s nuclear ambitions. The Indian Minister was categorical that this was not the case. “We have strong ties with Iran and do depend on Iran for fuel. But I say categorically that India and Europe have the same concerns on proliferation. Our tactics may differ but our objectives are the same.” In a background briefing to journalists in Delhi, a senior government official had said that while India would continue to source oil from Iran, its dependence on the Gulf state had decreased.

Mr. Khurshid said though what happened in Almaty was unfortunate, it was important to understand that the talks had not broken down. “We are hopeful that the dialogue will remain open and follow a timeline. “Endorsing the line, Mr. Westerwelle said the window of opportunity on Iran was still open: We have to prevent Iran from having nuclear weapons and for this sanctions are important.” He noted that India had already cut down on its fuel imports from Iran.

High mortality rates

A German journalist asked Mr. Westerwelle if Germany intended to take any steps about pressing India to act on the high mortality rates for women and children. He quoted annual death figures of 2 million for women and 1.7 million for children. The German Minister said the situation must be viewed in the context of India’s large size. “India has set out on the right path,” he said.

Mr. Khurshid said India was not happy with the situation but had put in place a whole gamut of programmes for improving the nutritional levels of women and children. He said Parliament was on the verge of enacting a Food Security Bill with a 65 per cent coverage.