Saturday, September 13, 2003, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

India not to dilute relations with Iran for sake of Israel
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, September 12
The deepening strategic ties between India and Israel and the on-the-cards trilateral axis involving these two countries and the USA will not in any way dilute New Delhi’s relations with Iran whom Tel Aviv and Washington regard as “enemy number one”.

The perception in the South Block here is that for the sake of its relationship with one country no country can forego its relationship with another country and the same applied to India.

This was clearly demonstrated today when the spokesman for Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), Mr Navtej Sarna, took an unequivocal position that India was not supportive of the Israeli Cabinet’s decision to expel the Palestine Authority President as such a move would go against the peace process.

Another development reflected India’s independent foreign policy. Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazzi called up External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha last evening, barely 24 hours after Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had left India.

This, diplomatic observers said, was reminiscent of Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf’s recent maiden visit to Russia. As soon as General Musharraf’s plane had taken off from Moscow, Mr Putin called up Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, sending signals of a strong Indo-Russian bond which could not be upset by any number of visits from Pakistan.

Officially, the MEA only said Mr Kharazzi discussed developments in the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) regarding Iran’s nuclear programme.

However, it is understood that the two foreign ministers reviewed the Indo-Iranian relations in the context of Mr Sharon’s India visit and Mr Sinha used this opportunity to brief Mr Kharazzi about the Sharon visit.

During this historic visit, Mr Sharon had made strong anti-Iran remarks and described Iran as Israel’s “enemy number one”.

What transpired yesterday was an unusually angry press statement by the Iranian embassy here wherein Tehran took exception to Mr Sharon’s anti-Iran remarks.

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