Siddharth Varadarajan

Journalist | Writer | Analyst

Dateline Beijing: Despite U.S. pressure, India still committed to Iran pipeline

The American embassy in Delhi issued a demarche before the last round of talks between India, Pakistan and Iran expressing its displeasure at the proposed pipeline project. And Condoleezza Rice has once again stressed the explicit link between the U.S. offer of civilian nuclear cooperation to India and its demand that New Delhi cuts its energy ties with Iran. However, the Indian government appears to be sticking to its own plans. For now, at least.

14 January 2006
The Hindu

‘India fully committed to pipeline project’
Aiyar denies media reports of withdrawal


Siddharth Varadarajan

BEIJING: Firmly denying media reports that New Delhi had decided to withdraw from the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline project, Petroleum and Natural Gas minister Mani Shankar Aiyar on Friday said the country was “fully committed” to the venture.

“It is completely wrong to suggest that I or anyone else in authority has advocated India’s withdrawal from the project.” The reports circulating were false.

Factual position

Describing the factual position, the Minister said the three parallel tracks of bilateral negotiations between India and Pakistan, India and Iran and Pakistan and Iran led to a situation where the three countries were now contemplating trilateral discussions. As the February 2005 Cabinet decision, authorising preliminary discussions on the project, envisaged only bilateral working groups, Cabinet clearance was needed for participation in trilateral talks.

India was still reviewing the project structure and various options would be taken to the Cabinet for approval. “While advocating a series of other options, my Ministry is obliged to recall the already authorised option of purchasing Iranian gas at the border without being involved in the project itself,” Mr. Aiyar said.

Officials said that as the three countries moved to give concrete shape to the pipeline proposal, the level of opposition from the United States administration had perceptibly increased. Last December, just before the final round of bilateral meetings in New Delhi between India and Pakistan and Iran, senior U.S. Embassy officials visited the Oil Ministry to hand over a demarche opposing the project.

On January 6, seeking to justify the July 18 Indo-U.S. nuclear cooperation agreement to a domestic audience, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice explicitly linked Washington’s offer of civilian nuclear cooperation to its insistence that India back off from Iran.

“We can’t say to the Indians, on the one hand, `you can’t — we’d rather you weren’t engaged in energy relations with, for instance, Iran, but by the way, civil nuclear is closed off to you,” she said.

© Copyright 2000 – 2006 The Hindu

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3 comments on “Dateline Beijing: Despite U.S. pressure, India still committed to Iran pipeline

  1. Nas
    January 23, 2006

    Oh look. It’s Pennathur back with his spammed articles. “India’s relationship with Beijing is marked by naivete”? That’s not only laughable but a favored propaganda trope of India nationalists–the Bollywood myth of India innocence and naivete. This is the same India that stabbed Iran in the back with the recent IAEA vote, even as it tries to push for a energy pipeline from Iran. Such is the nature of India naivete.Now India is opportunistically cozying up to the West and America as this rising Axis of Empire wages its phony “war on terrorism” to seize and steal energy resources around the world–all under their Big Lie of promoting “freedom and democracy.” Indeed, this war is an example of how a global power like America and its self-proclaimed democratic allies exploit “other countries’ natural resources, spoiling the global environment, making economic deals but looking away from serious government mistreatment of its citizens.” One can start with how the West has carefully “overlooked” India’s democratic repression of Kashmir, Gujarat, and Manipur as exemplary of their great concern for human rights. All the while, American and Indian foreign policy shills cynically posture as budding democrats, liberals, and even enviromentalists (!) to ideologically attack their opponents. When capitalist nations from America to India, their Big Business think tanks (like the infamous Council on Foreign Relations), and corporate media try to front themselves as environmentalists, you know how Orwellian the Free World has become.Apparently, India’s expansitionist ambitions of creating “Akhand Bharat” die hard, no matter how much it tries to disguise them.

  2. pennathur
    January 14, 2006

    Siddharth,Check this out. Clear headed and not at all naive.<>The Financial Express, 14 January 2006.Edits & ColumnsSaturday, January 14, 2006Missing statecraft in the Chinese theatreIndia’s relationship with Beijing is marked by naivete and a singular lackof coherenceV Anantha Nageswaran On a rain-swept holiday morning in Singapore on January 10, I woke up tosee two headlines on the Bloomberg news wire: ‘India, China need tocooperate on energy, Aiyar says’ and ‘Indian software companies risk edge bytraining Chinese rivals.’ To any Indian with vivid memories of Chinesebackstabbing in 1962, dealings with this nation, that has grand ambitionsand makes little effort to hide these, would be a matter of deliberation,caution and circumspection. But, political parties—across the divide—havebent over backwards to appease China in the incredibly naive hope that thiswould make China reciprocate. China does reciprocate, and how?• It has, together with Pakistan, worked systematically over the past twoyears to block India’s attempt to win a permanent seat at the UN SecurityCouncil• It has refused to unequivocally recognise the accession of Sikkim to India• It has made inroads into South Asian Association for Regional Co-operationwhile preventing India’s entry into the East Asian Summit• It has stirred the pot on India’s nuclear deal with the US by attemptingto strike a similar deal with Pakistan so that non-proliferation zealots inthe US would drive a stake through the heart of the Indo-US nuclear deal.Internationally, it has paid little heed to concerns about terrorism andnuclear proliferation by continuously supplying nuclear and missiletechnology to Pakistan and North Korea and by propping unsavoury regimes inthe world by purchasing their energy assets.• Past experience points to incompetent handling of affairs involving China• Mani Shankar Aiyar’s China overtures appear to be the cry of thevanquished• The need of the hour is a coherent stra-tegy to deal with the middlekingdomIn an article, ‘A rise that is not so win-win’, published in theInternational Herald Tribune on November 15, 2005, the award-winning authorof the book, The River Runs Black, that shone a spotlight on China’salarmingly rapid environmental deterioration, and the director of AsianStudies at the Council of Foreign Relations in the US, had this to say aboutChina’s peaceful rise: “…But if you look more carefully, here is what yousee: a rising power exploiting other countries’ natural resources, spoilingthe global environment, making economic deals but looking away from seriousgovernment mistreatment of its citizens and not delivering on promises.”Brazil has expressed regret, explicitly, for rushing to embrace China as amarket economy. It has seen dumping of Chinese manufactured goods in returnfor export of precious raw materials from Brazil, while promised investmentsfrom China have failed to materialise.It is in this milieu and context that India’s minister for petroleum iscalling for cooperation with China. It is not a gracious concession of thevictorious but a cry of the vanquished. China has been outbidding India inmost foreign countries where petroleum reserves are available to beexploited. China has, therefore, no reason to collaborate with India. TheIndian minister has charged that Goldman Sachs, that managed the sale ofPetroKazakhstan assets, had changed the rules of bidding in Kazakhstan afterthe bidding started, which led to India’s bid being rejected.Is it too much to expect his ministry to inform the honourable minister thatthe country-head of Goldman Sachs China is the daughter of Jiang Zemin?Fortune magazine, in its December 26, 2005 issue, profiles a Texas-basedbillionaire, Richard Rainwater. This gentleman worries that “a coalition ofCommunist and Islamic States might decide to stop selling their preciouscrude to Americans any day now.” It is this instinct for self-preservationthat has made them rich and it is this very instinct that India so willinglybarters away for nothing. In fact, India expects this very coalition ofcommunists and Islamic states to help meet its present and future energyneeds!India needs a coherent China strategy. India’s response to China has simplyranged from fear to adulation to capitulation, tinged all the time withnaive hopes of a simpleton. Governance internally and statecraft externallyare the urgent need of the hour. Of course, it is not going to be easy forthe Prime Minister, who is running a coalition government whose constituentsfight battles with each other in states while co-existing at the Centre.They are not accountable. Further, the previous government had set a badprecedent for the Prime Minister. It gave away its trump card (Tibet) inreturn for nothing and encouraged terrorism on Indian soil with its exchangeof terrorists for hostages in Kandahar. Consequently, terrorists strike atwill and at civilians everywhere and we celebrate our ability to wipe theattacks off our memories faster.His communist allies are not going to help either. Jerry Rao, a columnist inthis newspaper’s sister publication, The Indian Express, alleges that Indiancommunists are on the payrolls of Chinese capitalists (‘Year of Inflexion’,IE, January 2, 2006). They return from a trip to China and start demandingunionisation of IT-enabled services. Yet, if this Prime Minister cannot putIndia first, both in domestic economic and in foreign policies, future PrimeMinisters are neither likely to be willing nor able to do anything about it.The two major parties, by current reckoning, are unlikely to muster acombined majority in the next Parliament. A government led by a motley crowdof parties would be focused on self-preservation and self-aggrandisement,more than the present one.A safe and secure state is a minimum requirement for its citizens to pursuegainful economic activity without insecurity. That is the least governmentsin India could do for its citizens, who are probably the most resourceful onearth. Otherwise, 8% growth rates would be unsustainable. It is what ourenemies are seeking and that is what our governments are busy delivering tothem, for now.The writer is the founder-director of Libran Asset Management (Pte) Ltd,Singapore. These are his personal views.<>

  3. Nitin
    January 14, 2006

    Siddharth,I saw your article on The Hindu’s website this morning. In < HREF="http://opinion.paifamily.com/?p=1791" REL="nofollow">my opinion<>, this development is a severe if not fatal blow to the project.In fact, if the Iranians decline to move forward with this ‘bilateral’ structure it would show that when asked to put their money where their mouth is, the Iranians feel that the project is too risky. What I’m not sure is whether such an outcome was predetermined, ie India and the United States were playing good cop/bad cop, or whether it turned out to be this way.

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This entry was posted on January 14, 2006 by in Energy, Indian Foreign Policy, Iran.

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