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Updated: December 18, 2010 07:34 IST

U.S. tried to put the screws on India over Iran

  • Sandeep Dikshit
Comment (8)   ·   print   ·   T  T  
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The U.S. had pressured India in a variety of ways in an attempt to persuade it to downgrade its ties with Iran, according to several confidential cables from the New Delhi American Mission leaked by WikiLeaks on Friday.

In cables sent after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad briefly stopped over in India in mid-2008, the then U.S. Ambassador, David Mulford, told the then Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon that “Americans, particularly members of the Congress, will view Ahmadinejad's visit as India providing a platform for an enemy of the U.S.”

This was also the time when India was negotiating the civil nuclear deal with the U.S., and Mr. Mulford sought to link it with New Delhi maintaining close ties with Iran.

While in one cable Mr. Mulford served a mild warning, he later got told off by Mr. Menon when he sought to put the screws on. The telling-off led to Mr. Mulford concluding that “the India-Iran relationship does not need U.S. interference.”


A year earlier, several cables reveal how the U.S. harried India on one of its companies trying to supply graphite blocks to allegedly further the Iranian nuclear programme. The Americans served a demarche to India on the issue and forced New Delhi to cancel or withhold the shipments.

One cable also has a U.S. Embassy official complaining to South Block about a meeting between an official of the Indian company with a person they suspected of furthering Iran's ballistic missile programme. In the end, the U.S. was all praise for India's non-proliferation efforts by blocking the graphite shipment.

While the India-U.S. deal was being negotiated, Mr. Mulford told Mr. Menon that “the average American will wonder why the U.S. has gone out of its way to have a nuclear cooperation initiative with India, when India is so friendly to Iran. I cannot predict what the effect of this visit will be, but noted that he expected the Ahmadinejad stop to exercise those members of Congress who have gone out of their way on India's behalf [for the nuclear deal].”

Mr. Menon responded by observing that “there is nothing in this visit that should upset you,” and explained that the Indian government had little choice to say yes when the Iranian government requested a stop in transit. Moreover, he said India and Iran needed to talk about Afghanistan and energy issues.

“We can talk with him without affecting our other relationships,” Mr. Menon contended, and cited the strong India-Israel relationship that withstood India's flirtation with Iran. He also said that in his view, Mr. Ahmadinejad's criticism of the West was a “performance.”

‘No dictation from U.S.'

Mr. Menon later got tough with Mr. Mulford when he persisted with this line.

“Menon also cautioned the U.S. against telling India what to do, especially in public. This government has to be seen following an independent foreign policy, not responding to dictation from the U.S. He recognised that Iran presents a global problem, and the U.S. and India differ in how to fix the situation because of geography. For instance, Menon pressed, India must work with Iran to deal with Afghanistan,” the cable said.

‘Mild opinions'

The U.S. does not seem to have been mollified by briefings given by Mr. Menon after Mr. Ahmadinejad's visit. Mr. Menon's reading was that Mr. Ahmadinejad “voiced more mild opinions, and called for strengthening the governments in Afghanistan and Iraq.”

In another briefing, Mr. Menon said Mr. Ahmadinejad was “broadly ideological but mild on specifics.” He admitted: “I had not realised how ideological Ahmadinejad is, and noted that while Mr. Ahmadinejad did not attack the U.S. explicitly, he opined that the U.S. has destabilised Iraq and would withdraw soon.”

When asked about specifics, Mr. Menon said: “Ahmadinejad became relatively mild.” He highlighted Mr. Ahmadinejad's opinions on Afghanistan and Iraq wherein he noted that “there was no alternative to Hamid Karzai and called for strengthening the government in Kabul, and regarding Iraq, he called for greater law and order, but considered the Maliki government good. There was no fire and brimstone in the details.”

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This discussion on the Hindu is so much better than frenzied discussions on Hindustan Times or Times of India !! Surely this has to do with the objective and dispassionate reporting by the Hindu, which attracts serious readership.

from:  Tadit Kundu
Posted on: Dec 23, 2010 at 11:21 IST

'Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline was good for us'. Yes, but did you consider security? Considering present realtions between India and Pakistan it's a best decision not to join in pipe line project. I think it was nothing to do with U.S. Everybody knows that US did supported Taliban during cold war. But can we stick to past and ignore present and future? We must pursue our relationship with other countries solely based on our national interest.

from:  Rao
Posted on: Dec 20, 2010 at 18:49 IST

Cables are transparent in revealing what any superpower would do to inhance its self interests.It micromanages Pakistan and macro-manages India. China seems to be only country now which is independent,holds US debts and here US and China are interdependent. It is amazing that US after even economic/finacial melt down, remains the most powerfull country.

from:  abdul jamil khan
Posted on: Dec 19, 2010 at 04:03 IST

Well said Abbas bhai. Why don't you start blogging. We are loosing good ties with Russia, Iran with many more because of USA. It's USA indeed responsible for all the chaos and mess that has been created. Unfortunately it's us who are paying for it.

from:  KK
Posted on: Dec 19, 2010 at 03:53 IST

Endorse the comments by Mr Ali specially the part about the need to be cautious while purchasing defense and other very high ticket equipment from other countires.

from:  Mohan t
Posted on: Dec 18, 2010 at 22:18 IST

The Americans have a knack of barking up the wrong tree, their main problem arises from the extremism promoted from the madrasas in Pakistan. If they have any sense, they would lay off Iran and let us get on with our lives without their ill-advised interference in our relations with other countries. The Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline was good for us, but they pressured us to abandon the deal, now they want us to ink the Tajik-Afghan-Pakistan-India gas, all going through one of the most dangerous insurgent infested territories. Before the Americans came in the picture, Iran, India, and Russia had joined forces to contain the taliban by helping the Northern Alliance of Ahmed Shah Masood. The taliban had overthrown the legitimate government of President Rabbani, for all their talk of democracy, we did not hear a cheep out of the Americans against the taliban. Why? they were being backed by their blue eyed boy Pakistan. Their antagonism against Iran is just because of Iranian support to the Palestinian cause, and against Israel which has been gobbling up Palestinian territories without any fear, hence tne Neo-conservatives and the pro-zionist lobbies in the USA who have a strangle hold on American Foreign Policy want to isolate Iran. There are many United Nation Resolutions which Israel (Resolution 242, and others) has thrown to the winds, nobody is sanctioning them!! Why should our government follow their whims and fancies anyway? The nuclear deal? So many Indian nuclear scientists have criticised the deal but the government did not listen to them. Our President Dr Abul Kalam put forward the proposal to use Thorium for the development of nuclear energy which is plentiful in India, but no, the govt did not agree.Another proposal was to purchase nuclear fuel from those countries who are not members of tne Nuclear Supplies Group, who don't have such a long list of restrictions; in fact these restrictions have done a better job than our signing the NPT, but no, the government did not agree. From what we read, the US have stopped manufacturing reactors for fuel for the last 30 years or so, if true, then they are going to land all their 30 year old junk which may or may not have been decommissioned yet in our laps. This sort of thing have happened before. The Westland Helicopters which the british dumped on us to stop the layoff of hundreds if not thousands of their workers. These helicopters were crashing with such sickening regularity, that the whole fleet was grounded. Not even the poorest of the third world countries were prepared to buy them in the end. They may still be lying in some godforsaken government hangar slowly rotting. If I remember correctly because of this the Indian company called Vayudoot came to be called 'Yamdoot'. Want to know more? Long ago, I think this bit of news came in Times of India newspaper;the russians delivered us 3 warships supposed to be 'upgraded and modernised' when the navy personnel checked them they were found out to be having little more than a freshcoat of paint! have written all this so that the readers in whatever field they are do their best to see that our government looks after our interests the same way the government of other countries look after their own. If we deal with the americans or for that matter, with any other country, we should be extra, extra, careful they don't shortchange us, swindle us, sell us down the river, sell us a white elephant, etc. We already have our own breed of top of the notch swindlers, scamsters, embezzlers, fraudsters, politicians, government servants, bureaucrats; (the long list of mega scams since 1990 are proof to the effect) to destroy us steadily and surely, (who needs terrorists to do us in?).

from:  Abbas Ali
Posted on: Dec 18, 2010 at 13:18 IST

If America can supply missiles,money and all other resorces to India's enemy, then why can't India have good relationship with Iran.

from:  sunil
Posted on: Dec 18, 2010 at 11:50 IST

It is ridiculous to say that some other person like US has to tell us what to do with Iran. Why? Iran itself is giving that opportunity by time and again talking in favour of Pakistan on the issue of Kashmir. So what is there for US to pressurise India !!.

from:  Babu
Posted on: Dec 18, 2010 at 11:49 IST
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