‘Both India and the U.S. share the same fundamental goal'

A senior U.S. official on Monday said Washington did not want to jeopardise India's energy security by asking it to reduce its dependence on Iranian oil, but made it clear that New Delhi was expected to join the West's attempts to pressure Tehran into accepting conditions on the nuclear issue.

Maintaining that up to a point the U.S. also wanted a diplomatic solution, U.S. Under Secretary for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman said it was up to India to fulfil its international obligation with respect to Iran.

Her comments come days after BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) warned in a joint communique that any attempt that resulted in a conflagration with Iran would be disastrous for the region.

“Both India and the U.S. share the same fundamental goal,” Ms. Sherman said, delivering a lecture at the American Centre here. She acknowledged that Iran was crucial to India as a substantial source of energy and as a gateway to Afghanistan and Central Asia “but we should accept that there are serious and legitimate concerns about the nature of Iran's activity. India has voted four times at the International Atomic Energy Agency on resolutions expressing concerns about Iran's activities. We are serious about diplomatic resolution of the issue but the time and space for diplomatic activity is not unlimited…We are not putting pressure on India…It can take whatever way to fulfil its international obligations.”

Strategic talks

Ms. Sherman held talks with Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai in preparation for the annual foreign minister-level strategic dialogue in June which will see some ballast being added to the bilateral ties. She will also be visiting Nepal and Bangladesh in the coming days.

With over a dozen initiatives that address interests of both sides having been launched since Mr. Mathai visited Washington in February last, Ms. Sherman and the Foreign Secretary largely focussed on the preparation for the strategic dialogue, said official sources.

“The discussions were held in a friendly and candid manner. They included a review of important developments since Mr. Mathai's visit to the U.S. and covered all regional and international issues of interest to both sides,” the sources added.

Since Mr. Mathai's visit, there have been several meetings such as the Defence Policy Group, the Women's Empowerment Dialogue, the Joint Technical Group in Defence and Consular Dialogue, besides visits by the U.S. Commerce Secretary, the Deputy NSA, the NSA and Assistant Secretary of State Robert Blake.

The two sides have launched the first Infrastructure Debt Fund, begun discussions between the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd. and U.S. suppliers, especially Westinghouse, and are reported to be making good progress on resolving administrative issues, including staffing and property matters.

Ms. Sherman said the intention behind her visit was to take stock of the state of bilateral ties two years after U.S. President Barack Obama visited India.

She also listed the joint engagements coming up in the coming days. She pointed out that this was not a “formula for alignment,” as is feared in some quarters here, but to form the basis for a sustainable partnership.

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