Amit Baruah

Senator Tom Harkin moves amendment to bill passed on Friday

  • "More support needed from a partner like India"
  • Expresses worry over gas pipeline from Iran

    NEW DELHI: It is Iran again. American legislators don't seem satisfied with India's record in "containing" Iran, so they've introduced an amendment to the Senate Bill passed on Friday that seeks to bind New Delhi further on its policy towards Tehran.

    The amendment, moved by Senator Tom Harkin, makes the waiver authority of the U.S. President (under Section 104 of the Bill) contingent upon a determination that India is fully and actively participating in U.S. and international efforts to dissuade and contain Iran from its nuclear programme.

    Clearly, American Senators are not impressed with India's two anti-Iran votes at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in September 2005 and February 2006. So, they have chosen to make the President's waiver authority to allow for civilian nuclear cooperation with India contingent to what Washington thinks New Delhi's policies are towards Tehran.

    `Greater regional support'

    In a statement on his website, Mr. Harkin said: "As we move forward in our effort with the international community to deal, contain, and if necessary, sanction Iran for its defiance of international demands to halt its sensitive nuclear activities, we will need greater support from a regional partner like India."

    A variety of Government and media reports indicated India had a robust relationship with Iran, he stated. India actively engaged in military-to-military cooperation with Iran, and the two countries had a significant trade relationship.

    The Senator was also worried that India planned to build a gas pipeline from Iran through Pakistan, and India's leaders saw Iran as a "diplomatic partner" on many issues. As a result of the Iran-Syria Non-proliferation Act, the U.S. Government, he stressed, had sanctioned Indian companies for transferring WMD technologies and materials to Iran and other countries.

    Controversy

    In India, the references to Iran in the House of Representatives version of the Bill have already raised a major controversy, with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh clarifying his Government's position on August 17.

    When Left parties said they could not accept restrictions on Indian foreign policy to be imposed such as on Iran, Dr. Singh said: "[The] Government is clear that our commitments are only those that are contained in the July [2005] joint statement and in the separation plan. We cannot accept introduction of extraneous issues on foreign policy. Any prescriptive suggestions in this regard are not acceptable to us."

    "Sovereign" foreign policy

    "Our foreign policy is and will be solely determined by our national interests. No legislation enacted in a foreign country can take away from us this sovereign right."