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The full transcript of the House International Relations Committee on the Indo-U.S. nuclear deal surely provides a key part of the backstory to India’s astonishing vote against Iran in the International Atomic Energy Agency last week.
Despite the open threats and insults hurled at the Indian leadership — Congressman Tom Lantos abused the Indian foreign minister for making what he considered were pro-Iran statements during a visit to Tehran in the beginning of September — New Delhi finally caved in. “Dense”, “sickening” and “Stalinist” were some of the epithets used against the Indian minister. My prize for the most revealing quote is a statement by Dana Rohrabacher, the Republican Congressman from California, who said of countries like India, “They are going to choose either to go independently of the United States, and perhaps against the United States, in their overall relationship in the world, or they are going to be on our side, and be our friends.” The “strategic partnership” India has entered with the U.S. is such that it will not be allowed independently to structure its relationship with the world. If you’re not with the U.S. on everything, you’ll be against them.
Postscript: Lantos has obviously tasted blood. On 1 October he told another House panel:
“There was a tremendous hop-up in the Indian media, and the government reacted strongly. But last Saturday, India voted with us in Vienna because it decided that it is more important to maintain its relationship with us than accommodate the Ayatollahs in Tehran. This is an abject lesson. And I think it’s important for all of our friends and other countries abroad to understand that there will be a growing emphasis on quid pro quo in US foreign policy… The age of naпve idealism, I think, is over…”
I don’t think we’ve seen the last of him yet.
1 October 2005
India, Iran and the Congressional hearings on the Indo-U.S. nuclear deal
In the wake of its vote against Iran in the International Atomic Energy Agency, the Indian Government said “nothing could be further from the truth” than the suggestion that there was any “linkage” between its decision and the Indo-U.S. nuclear deal. The two issues got explicitly linked for the first time at the House International Relations Committee hearings, on the July 18 agreement, in early September. Though some remarks of Congressmen like Tom Lantos were reported at the time, the full transcript of the September 8 hearings has only recently become available. The Hindu reproduces excerpts:
REP. TOM LANTOS (D-CA): When the administration called me asking for my support for the issue we are now about to discuss, I gave it, and I continue to do so. But there is a degree of reciprocity we expect of India, which has not been forthcoming.
The policy of India towards Iran is a matter of great concern to many of us, as is the policy of Russia towards Iran. [T]he United Kingdom, France and Germany, along with us, are prepared to refer the issue to the United Nations Security Council for action. Russia has publicly stated they will object to that. I would not like to see a similar set of developments with respect to India whereby we agree to undertake a tremendous range of path-breaking measures to accommodate India, while India blithely pursues what it sees should be its goal and policy vis-à-vis Iran. There is quid pro quo in international relations. And if our Indian friends are interested in receiving all of the benefits of U.S. support we have every right to expect that India will reciprocate in taking into account our concerns.
So to repeat in a nutshell, I support the policy, as will be apparent in a minute, but I expect India to recognise that there is reciprocity involved in this new relationship, and without reciprocity, India will get very little help from the Congress. If we are turning ourselves into a pretzel to accommodate India, I want to be damn sure that India is mindful of U.S. policies in critical areas such as U.S. policy towards Iran. India cannot pursue a policy vis-à-vis Iran which takes no account of U.S. foreign policy objectives.
I am particularly concerned over recent remarks by 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. I want the administration to hear clearly from this committee. New Delhi must understand how important their cooperation and support is to U.S. initiatives to counter the nuclear threat from Iran. That includes supporting our efforts to refer Iran’s 18 years of violations of the NPT to the U.S. Security Council. Anything less than full support will imperil the expansion of U.S. nuclear and security cooperation with New Delhi. It is reportedly the intent of the administration to assist India in becoming a great power. But with great power comes great responsibility. India must decide where it will stand: with the ayatollahs of terror in Tehran or with the United States.
REP. ROBERT WEXLER: There’s one aspect of this that troubles me, and I’d be curious if you could respond. Here we are taking this enormous step with India. If my understanding is correct regarding India’s position relative to our policy regarding Iran, and potentially the referral of that scenario to the U.N. and the Security Council, how is it that we embark on such a positive policy with India, and at the same time, possibly India be opposed to what seem to be our goals regarding Iran? Is it improper to couple the two? Should we expect India to support our objectives? I’d be curious to hear your thoughts.
UNDERSECRETARY NICHOLAS BURNS: I think it’s a fair question. I believe India does not wish Iran to become a nuclear weapon state, and I believe the Indian government has gone on the record to say that. We have had, over the last several weeks, and specifically the last few days, a series of conversations with the Indian government about the best way to achieve that, to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear weapon state. We continue to discuss this with the Indian government. I can’t speak for the Indian government. But I can say that this is an issue where we intend to have further discussions with them next week at the U.N. General Assembly in New York. I know that Secretary Rice will be raising this with the Indian Foreign Minister. I will be doing so with the Indian Foreign Secretary.
UNDERSECRETARY ROBERT JOSEPH: Let me just add that at last month’s meeting of the board of the IAEA India did join in the resolution on Iran, which expressed serious concerns about Iranian activities, specifically, the resumption of work at its conversion facility at Isfahan, and also called on Iran to stop that activity. Since then, there have been a number of disconcerting statements made not only by India, but by a number of other governments. Again, it’s — it’s an uphill battle for us. But we are fully engaged, as Undersecretary Burns says, in winning that battle.
Attack on Natwar
REP. LANTOS: I want to commend the administration for new thinking vis-à-vis India. My concern does not relate to the administration. My concern relates to the insensitive thinking that I see coming out of New Delhi.
It is incomprehensible to me that people as sophisticated and as knowledgeable as our Indian counterparts should not be aware of how significant their position vis-à-vis Iran is to this Congress. And I hope that this hearing will make them aware, at least tangentially, that they may be destroying far more significant relationships than the ones they are having with Teheran unless they become sensitive to our views on that subject.
The Iran issue is not a side issue for this Congress. It is the single most important international threat we face: a reckless Iranian government proceeding arrogantly with the development of nuclear weapons. Only an imbecile would believe that they are developing a nuclear program for peaceful purposes only. And it’s an insult to the intelligence of Congress that they keep repeating this. Every time they repeat it, they add to the number of members of Congress who are totally cynical of what they’re saying.
But they do what they do. But to have the Indian Foreign Minister — and I will find a quote here — with respect to his recent meeting with the Iranians say, “They really don’t care what we think,” to have the Indian Foreign Minister say this and expect support from the United States for permanent membership on the U.N. Security Council, which I think is long overdue, or legislative changes with respect to the nuclear issue that we are discussing, shows a degree of denseness that occasionally very intelligent people are burdened with.
They’re brilliant and they’re dense. They’re brilliant, which is obvious, but they are simply dense because they are incapable of comprehending that other countries have very important concerns. And my hope is, Mr. Secretary, that those of us who support the administration’s policy, as I do, will be able to assist you in bringing reality to Indian thinking.
My bottom line is that I do not oppose the administration’s policy. I support it. But I believe the administration will have to make a maximum effort — and we offer, at least some of us, our services to help you — to make the Indians aware of the fact that nothing will fly in this body unless they become as sensitive to our concerns as we have been to theirs. Now, may I ask you specifically, Mr. Secretary, what discussions have you had, or has Secretary Rice had, with the Indians concerning their Tehran policy?
MR. BURNS: Congressman Lantos, thank you very much. And I — we share your concern. I discussed this issue with the Indian government over the last two weeks on two occasions, and again yesterday with the Indian government. I’ll have another conversation tomorrow morning. I know that Secretary Rice will be meeting with both the Indian Prime Minister and the Indian Foreign Minister in New York during the UNGA meetings, and I’m sure she will raise this issue with him as well. [W]e believe that India shares our goal of preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear weapons power. And now, what we’re discussing with the Indian government this week is tactics: how do we do that.
REP. LANTOS: May I — I found my quote, and I will ask you to comment on it. The Indian Foreign Minister — this was three days ago at a meeting with the Iranian President, the new Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in a meeting on Saturday. The visiting Indian Minister of External Affairs said the following. His country supports resolution of Iran’s nuclear issue within the IAEA framework and opposes sending the file to the U.N. Security Council.
Singh lamented — I want to read this very closely because this is sickening, literally sickening. This is Stalinist rhetoric, which we don’t accept from the Indian Foreign Minister.
Singh lamented the inclination to infuse injustice in international relations, reiterating that, I quote, “India’s relations[hip] with Iran is not predicated on positions and views attributed to some government.” That’s you, Mr. Secretary. Now, the injustice that he refers to is the judgment of this country, both the administration and Congress, that given the record of cheating and lying on the nuclear issue by Iran over a protracted period of time, we won’t accept their statements at face value. At face value. The Indian Foreign Minister considers this injustice.
This pattern of dealing with us will not be productive for India. And they have to be told this in plain English, that this great new opening — which I support, I think we all support — is predicated on reciprocity. In this case, they are not only opposing our views, they’re opposing the views of the Brits and the French and the Germans. If they persist in this, this great dream of a new relationship will go down the tubes. I’d be grateful if you’d comment.
MR. BURNS: Thank you, Congressman Lantos. What I should say is that we have seen the same quote that you have. What I cannot know, given the vagaries of the international press, particularly coming out of Iran, is whether that’s an accurate statement. So what we have done is, we’ve registered our concern with the Indian government, of course. And we’ve said to the Indians that we hope that they will retain support for the decision that they helped us to take on August 11th in the IAEA board of governors. And we are working very hard to see that by September 19th we might have a united international community.
REP. LANTOS: The question is, if you fail, what will the Indian position be at that point? Because if India at that point will tell us, “Go fly a kite,” the goodwill will dissipate, and they will pay a very heavy price for their total disregard of U.S. concerns vis-à-vis Iran. It just will not fly in this body. And they need to be told that in plain English — in plain English, not in diplomatic English. And I know they have people in this room who will carry this message.
Either with us or against us
REP. DANA ROHRABACHER: The Indians need to know this is another time of choosing. In the past, they chose to be in a closer relationship with the Soviet Union during the Cold War. And this is a time of realignment again, and a period of choosing for them. They can choose to be in a closer relationship with this outlaw mullah regime in Iran and radical Islam, or they can chose to be in closer tie[s] with the people of the United States of America. That’s their choice. And I would hope that the Indians — now, we know that India needs energy. We know that it’s going to need oil and gas. And we know how much that’s playing on the Indian decision-makers. But we can make up with that, and that’s why this is such an important strategic move on the part of the administration to offer some help in the civilian nuclear energy field to help offset that need for energy from perhaps unsavoury regimes like that of Iran. So I applaud the administration for having the foresight and the strategic manoeuvre here of trying to make India less dependent on the mullahs for energy, and perhaps achieving the other goal at the same time.
MR. JOSEPH: In terms of being a time of choice, I couldn’t agree with you more. It’s a time of choice not just for India, but for many other states — for Russia, for China, for others who are on the fence right now on the issue of Iran, and specifically, referring Iran to the Security Council.
REP. ROHRABACHER: By the way, I don’t believe those countries are on the fence about Iran. They’re on the fence about the United States of America. That’s what this is all about. They are going to choose either to go independently of the United States, and perhaps against the United States, in their overall relationship in the world, or they are going to be on our side, and be our friends. That is what is being decided here.
MR. JOSEPH: I agree with that.
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