M A I N   N E W S

On sticky turf, India treads cautiously
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 15
As Israel and Iran continued to play an intense blame game over Monday’s car bomb attack in Delhi, India for the second consecutive day today did the proverbial tightrope walk trying hard to manage its two important strategic partners.

Dubbing Iran as the world’s biggest exporter of terror, the Israeli government from Day 1 has been blaming Tehran for having perpetuated the attack.

On Wednesday, New Delhi reiterated that it has found no evidence to link the Israeli embassy car blast to Iran. Spokesperson for the Ministry of External Affairs Syed Akbaruddin said: "As of today, we have no evidence to find any individual, entity, organisation and country being involved in this incident.”

Sources indicated that India would want to tread carefully in the matter as it has valuable ties with both countries and cannot afford to be seen taking sides. While Tehran supplies a large chunk of crude oil, it also provides port facilities at Chabhar. This gives New Delhi a land route access to oil, gas and mineral wealth of Central Asian countries located north of Iran. This port also facilitates movement into Afghanistan, a land route which is used extensively by India.

On the other hand, Israel is a major player in defence and security cooperation with India. Israeli Ambassador Alon Usphiz this evening called on External Affairs Minister SM Krishna and discussed the incident, including the progress in the investigations so far.

Usphiz also informed Krishna that his country wants to send a team, including forensic experts and others, to which the minister said India would welcome them. Emerging from the meeting, Usphiz said "The meeting was another example of support, friendship and intimacy (from India) that we have seen in the last 48 hours since this vicious terror attack”. Usphiz, who within hours of the attack, had blamed Iran, said: “We will continue to do whatever we can to promote the bilateral ties with India”.

On his part, Iranian Ambassador to India, Seyyed Mehdi Nabizadeh, virtually threw the ball back at the Israelis, pointing out that the Indian security agencies have so far not linked the blast to Iran. He refused to "accept" or "deny" his country’s role in the bomb attack. "We are not accepting or denying this. I don't know how can we assume so quickly who has done this," Nabizadeh told reporters on the sidelines of a function here. He added if India’s security agencies blame Iran for the attack, Tehran will have to verify the charges.

“The attack happened in India and if security agencies here say something (to blame Iranian nationals), we have to verify,” Nabizadeh said.

“Till now their (India’s) final reaction has not come. We hope it will come," he said, promising full cooperation. “India and Iran have good relations. Both governments will cooperate,” he added.





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