Today's Paper

Was anti-Iran commitment given in July?

`Reciprocal' assurance clinched deal with U.S.

R. Ramachandran

NEW DELHI: India's position on the Iranian nuclear question at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) appears to have been one of the key conditions to the successful negotiation of the India-U.S. nuclear deal on July 19.

The detailed transcript of the hearing of the House International Relations Committee (HIRC) on September 8, eleven days before the crucial IAEA Board of Governors (BoG) meeting, suggests this.

Notwithstanding the alleged remarks by the Indian External Affairs Minister, Natwar Singh, in Teheran in early September — which the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) later denied — the nuclear deal seems to have been clinched only after India gave, inter alia, a "reciprocal" assurance — if not an absolute commitment — of its support at the IAEA on the Iran issue.

Consider the following remarks that Mr. Nicholas Burns, the U. S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, made as one of the witnesses at the hearing on September 8: "we negotiated for the four days prior to the Prime Minister's arrival with the expectation that the barriers between us for an eventual agreement were too high ... until the very last moment, it was not clear to us that we would be able to reach an agreement. We actually reached this agreement largely through discussions that Secretary Rice had [with External Affairs Minister Natwar Singh] the day prior to the visit and the morning of the visit. And the last piece of this was the reciprocal piece that Congressman Lantos mentioned in his remarks, and that is that we are not willing to enter into an agreement unless we had a visible and verifiable set of commitments that the Indian Government was willing to take. And we achieved those just a few hours before the President sat down with the Prime Minister." (emphasis added)

So what were Representative Tom Lantos's remarks at the hearing?

"I am particularly concerned," Mr. Lantos stated, "over the recent remarks of the Indian Foreign Minister that India will not support the U.S. drive to refer Iran's nuclear weapons effort to the U.N. Security Council. This position is contrary to what we understood the administration was trying to achieve in forging this arrangement ..." (emphasis added)

The above suggests that Mr. Lantos was privy to the U. S. administration's behind-the-scene efforts at securing India's support on the Iran question as one of the key reciprocal measures to the nuclear deal. This seems to have been the "last piece" that Mr. Burns referred to in his statement.

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