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India under US pressure to stop Iran gas pipeline

New Delhi, August 1, IRNA - India's relationship with Iran has come under the US scanner in the wake of the 123 agreement, with the government now under open pressure not to conclude the gas pipeline ontract or implement the joint agreement with Iran for defence cooperation.

The Indian Navy has planned an ambitious program of naval exercises in West Asia, but has taken care to exclude Iran despite a broader strategic partnership worked out between the two governments at high-level talks in 2003.

The Indian naval ships will carry out exercises as well as port calls in West Asia, involving Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Iran is not on the list and when asked about this assistant chief of naval staff looking after foreign cooperation and intelligence, Rear Admiral Pradeep Chauhan, said, "We have not been able to generate an exercise schedule from Iran", reported Asian Age.

The Indian Navy will also carry out passage exercises during its West Asian program with the navies of the UK and France, although the former is seen by the people of the region as an "occupying force" in Iraq.

Asked about the strategic impact of this decision, Rear Admiral Chauhan said that the Navy was conscious of the sensitivities of the region and had planned the exercises not to disrupt, but to enhance foreign policy initiatives.

Petroleum Minister Murli Deora, who was to visit Pakistan this month for further discussions on the gas pipeline that the Iranians want to conclude by September, has not scheduled his visit.

Sources had said that the visit was to seal an understanding between Delhi and Islamabad on the transit fee, after which the three countries would be ready to sign a trilateral agreement.

The US concerns about the India-Iran relationship have been recorded in the briefings to the media by both US undersecretary Nicholas Burns and the envoy to India, David C. Mulford.

The American media have been carrying critical reports of India's relations with Iran after the 123 agreement was finalized, with the Wall Street Journal going as far as to say, "getting India to drop, and drop completely its presumptively ceremonial military ties to Iran isn't asking a lot" as the least that could be expected if "the (US) Congress is going to punch a hole in the NPT to accommodate India".

Deputy chief of mission in Washington Raminder Jassal is reported in the newspaper as saying, "We are aware of our responsibilities and we know the danger of an Iran with nuclear weapons."

He further said, "We know how to calibrate our relationship (with Iran) without compromising on essentials."

... Payvand News - 8/1/07 ... --

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