India’s Iran double-speak could shed light on its Libya muddle

March 26, 2011

India’s Congress-led government has a “flimsy” relationship with Iran, and holds a far more U.S.-centric view of Tehran despite a number of public statements clashing with Washington’s stance towards the country, a leaked U.S. diplomatic cable said.

U.S. President Barack Obama (R) toasts alongside India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during a state dinner at Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi November 8, 2010.   REUTERS/Jason Reed

The diplomatic double-speak alleged in the cable, obtained by WikiLeaks and published by The Hindu on Saturday, shows Congress’ ability to address diplomatic pressures while maintaining bigger geopolitical relationships, and could shed some light on India’s decision to abstain from supporting a no-fly zone to thwart attacks by Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi on civilians, seen by some as a rebuttal of Western influence on New Delhi.

The cable, authored by the Charge d’Affaires at the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi, describes a 2008 statement rejecting U.S. demands for India to urge Iran to suspend its nuclear programme as “mere tactics in the UPA’s domestic political machinations.”

“The reality remains that India and Iran have a flimsy relationship, which the Congress Party has attempted to spin for the benefit of its Left allies and Muslim voters, who continue to deride India’s two votes in the IAEA against Iran,” the cable says.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s Congress party was forced to win a no-confidence vote in 2008 after agreeing to U.S. support for India’s nuclear programme, and has been criticised by opposition parties and the left bloc for fostering closer relations with Washington.

But in a vote this month at the U.N. Security Council, India joined with China and Russia in abstaining from supporting a U.S.-authored motion authorising a no-fly zone in Libya, also a Muslim-majority country.

Local media and political analysts condemned the vote, and subsequent calls for an end to military action in the country by coalition forces, as naive and a diplomatic stumble.

But if Congress’ foreign policy advisers are thinking along similar lines in 2011 as they were in 2008, cables being penned today in the U.S. Embassy may well be describing a similar two-faced approach to sensitive global issues involving U.S. diplomacy in the Middle East.

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Hi Henry,

This may come as a surprise to you but most governments do this “double speak” you describe. What do you suppose are other embassies are writing about the intervention in Libya and decision not to enter other middle eastern states? Double speak is everywhere, it’s nothing new! India is in a neighbourhood which has Russia and China, all of whom go in the other direction of the US. What’s the benefit of sticking out all the time on these issues? Do you think India has enough clout to stick out on its own? Is the west going to embrace India with open arms if India stops the double speak? India has to work, and live in this neighbourhood. The Libyan situation has surely pointed the double speak that is present. Compare the press releases that come out for the Libyan situation versus the situations in countries which are friendly to the west. Therefore, India’s iran double-speak doesn’t shed light onto anything.

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