The visit of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to India on Tuesday was a slightly low-key affair. But it throws up an interesting conundrum for the Indian government.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad looks on during his meeting with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in New Delhi April 29, 2008. REUTERS/B MathurJust how close can New Delhi afford to be to Tehran before it seriously angers Washington. In the end, will India be forced to choose — Iranian gas or American friendship?

Ahmadinejad was here to promote plans for a $7.6 billion pipeline to bring Iranian gas to Pakistan and India.

It is an ambitious project and there is still a lot of negotiation ahead to ensure it is commercially viable and secure from acts of sabotage.

But Iran and Pakistan do seem keen, and India is interested.

The problem, though, is that such a project would tie India into a long-term economic relationship with Iran, which Washington still views as part of the infamous “axis of evil”.