Condoleeza Rice was advised to tell Manmohan the issue could jeopardise nuclear deal.
On the eve of Manmohan Singh's meeting with George W. Bush and Condoleeza Rice in New York in September 2005, a cable (40501: confidential) from Ambassador David Mulford in New Delhi advised the U.S. Secretary of State to tell the Prime Minister that his government's failure to take “difficult steps” on Iran could jeopardise the civil nuclear agreement with Washington.
According to the cable, sent on September 13, 2005, Mr. Mulford complained to Dr. Rice about the unhelpful attitude of senior Indian officials and advised her to encourage the Prime Minister to “exercise leadership.” He wrote: “In my meetings with the Foreign Minister and Foreign Secretary [Shyam] Saran, I have found them reluctant to acknowledge that Iran could jeopardize both our nuclear initiative and India's regional security interests.”
He urged her to “sketch the real challenges we face in implementing legislative actions necessary for us to fulfill the civil nuclear vision of the July 18 Joint Statement, and to challenge India to take equally difficult steps on relations with Tehran and separation of India's civil and military nuclear facilities.”
The linkage Mr. Mulford made was surprising, for though India had agreed in that Joint Statement to separate its civil and military nuclear facilities, it had not made any commitments on Iran. Nevertheless, he advised Dr. Rice to use her meeting with the Prime Minister and the External Affairs Minister “to encourage the GOI to exercise leadership on this Iran issue, rather than hiding behind the NAM consensus, as happened on UN reform.”
Congressional hearings had already alerted India to the need to stop sitting on the fence on the question of Iran's ‘nuclear weapons program', he wrote. “New Delhi is trying to support us without alienating Tehran, on whom it depends for current oil supplies, future natural gas imports (pipeline and LNG), and access to Afghanistan and Central Asia,” the cable noted. Though India's attachment to Iran could weaken in the long run if it “is able to secure other energy sources (e.g., gas pipeline from Bangladesh) and alternative access routes to Central Asia (e.g., overland transit through Pakistan),” its leaders “must be made to recognize that Congress is watching India's role at the IAEA with great care, and the Indian vote in Vienna will have real consequences for our ability to push ahead on civil nuclear energy cooperation.”
Mr. Mulford said the looming Iran vote at the International Atomic Energy Agency was a “significant early test of India's readiness to exercise the responsibilities of global leadership.” The country felt “squeezed between admonitions from us and pressure from the Iranians.” Under the circumstances, “the Indian instinct will be to lie low and hope that discussions in New York avoid the unpleasant prospect of [an IAEA] vote on September 19. We need to give a clear accounting of these stakes, while also preserving the significant equity that we have built-up in the transforming U.S.-India relationship.”
President Bush and Dr. Rice met the Prime Minister later that day. None of the WikiLeaks India Cables provide a readout of that meeting. But shortly thereafter, instructions were sent to the Indian Ambassador in Vienna to vote in favour of the U.S. resolution at the IAEA censuring Iran.