Hillary, Delhi agree to disagree on Iran
New Delhi, May 8: Hillary Clinton today "welcomed" India's moves to cut oil imports from Iran while pressing for "continuing progress" as Washington stuck to its stand on the nuclear-ambitious West Asian nation but appeared to appreciate Delhi's strategic limitations as well.
India said its relations with Iran shouldn't be viewed only through the prism of energy needs, with foreign minister S.M. Krishna emphasising Delhi's "vital stakes" in peace and stability in the region.
Sources said it was just an instance of two strategic partners agreeing to disagree on an issue, giving the standard South Block explanation to anyone pointing at the increased differences between Delhi and Washington.
The US secretary of state and her counterpart, however, seemed to agree on much else, such as the reduction of investment barriers and the need for Pakistan to crack down on terror.
Clinton said the US saw India "as a partner in the broad international effort to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons".
"The best way to achieve this diplomatic solution that we all seek is for the international community to stay united and to keep the pressure that has brought Iran back to the negotiating table … until we reach a peaceful diplomatic resolution," she told a joint media interaction with Krishna.
According to a US law, any financial entity involved in trade with Iran will come under American sanctions, to be enforced from June 28. India does not support economic sanctions not mandated by the UN.
But Clinton came across as less harsh than yesterday, when she had asked India to "do more" to scale down oil imports from Iran.
At the media interface today, she said she "welcomed" the steps India was taking but hoped "to see continuing progress".
"We commend India for the steps its refineries are taking to reduce imports from Iran and we have also been consulting with India and working with them in some areas on alternative sources of supply," Clinton said.
Delhi is Tehran's second-biggest crude oil customer and the US hopes India's reduction of oil imports will pressure Tehran into curbing its alleged nuclear programme. In recent months, Indian refineries have cut imports from Iran by around 15 per cent.
Krishna said India's desire for a peaceful resolution of the Iranian issue sprang not just from its energy needs. "Iran is a key country for our energy needs but we have to look at the Iran issue beyond the issue of energy trade," he asserted.
The minister said he had "conveyed" to Clinton India's "vital stakes in peace and stability in the Persian Gulf and the wider West Asian region, given the six million Indians who live there and the region's importance to our economy".
He said Indian exports to the region amounted to $100 billion, while its oil imports from West Asia accounted for 60 per cent of its crude purchase. Krishna said "our stand on this (Iran) has been clear and consistent," but added that "the issue was not a source of discord" with the US.
On Pakistan, Clinton said Islamabad needed to do more to ensure that its territory was not used as a "launching pad" by terror groups for attacks. She also said that Lashkar-e-Toiba founder Hafiz Saeed was one of the "principal architects" of the November 2008 Mumbai carnage.