Iran unlikely to snap energy ties with India: analysts
NEW DELHI (AFP) Sep 30, 2005
Despite talk of retaliation after India voted for Iran to face the UN over its nuclear activities, Tehran is unlikely to risk endangering its valuable energy ties with New Delhi, analysts said.
The Hindu, an Indian daily newspaper, reported earlier in the week that Tehran was cancelling a 22 billion dollar deal to supply liquefied natural gas (LNG) to India, which was seen as important for India's energy security.
It said Delhi's ambassador in Vienna was given a message after India voted in favour of a resolution at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to refer Iran's nuclear programme to the UN Security Council.
But the report was quickly denied by Iranian officials, who said cancellation of the deal hadn't even been considered.
Aside from the LNG accord, energy-hungry India is busy negotiating a multi-billion dollar venture that will see gas being imported from Iran via a pipeline running through Pakistan.
"The energy market in Asia is limited and India is one of the biggest markets," said S.D. Muni, a professor at New Delhi's prestigious School of International Studies.
"Iran knows that (New Delhi's vote) was not a wilful choice but a careful effort to see India's interests are unharmed," he added, referring to a landmark nuclear cooperation deal India inked with the United States in July.
"There are only two major markets for oil in the region, China and India. I don't think Iran would like to withdraw from such a market."
The United States has accused Iran of hiding secret nuclear weapons work, allegations denied by Tehran which insists it has a right to pursue a peaceful civilian nuclear program.
India joined 22 countries in voting last Saturday in favour of a motion drafted by European negotiators Britain, Germany and France at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to refer Iran's nuclear programme to the UN Security Council.
The motion states that Iran is in "non-compliance" with the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, mainly for hiding sensitive atomic activities, an automatic trigger for taking the matter to the Security Council.
Referral would come only after a report by IAEA chief Mohammed El Baradei, expected in November.
Uma Singh, another professor at the School of International Studies, said the long-standing ties between India and Iran would help both countries to weather the storm.
"India had to do some tightrope walking but has tilted in favour of the US. The positive thing is that the India-Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project will not be affected because of historical ties," Singh said.
After the vote, Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi warned that Tehran would lodge strong objections with those nations that had supported the measure.
On Wednesday, the Hindu newspaper said that for New Delhi, the first casualty had been the LNG deal.
Ali Agha Mohammadi, spokesman for Iran's Supreme National Security Council, which is responsible for nuclear matters, however, quickly dismissed the report.
"That has never been on the agenda," Mohammadi said. "We have historic relations and widespread cooperation with India."
"We were suprised that India took such a stand. Not only we, but also people in India were suprised by the vote," he added.
Mohammadi said that the relations would not enter "a crisis because of a single gesture, but we look forward to India adopting a better attitude in the future."
However, he said that Russia, China and Brazil, which abstained in the vote, would be rewarded in terms of trade.
Another analyst, former Indian foreign secretary Shashank said Tehran should separate concerns over its nuclear programme from other bilateral issues.
"The reaction has been of some slight confusion and surprise that India did not go along with other non-aligned countries. But Iran knows the nuclear issue is complex and should not hold other ties hostage," said Shasank, who uses only one name.All rights reserved. © 2005 Agence France-Presse. Sections of the information displayed on this page (dispatches, photographs, logos) are protected by intellectual property rights owned by Agence France-Presse. As a consequence, you may not copy, reproduce, modify, transmit, publish, display or in any way commercially exploit any of the content of this section without the prior written consent of Agence France-Presse.