7 congressional leaders warn India of illicit activities, ties with Iran
By Khalid Hasan: Daily Times, July 26, 2007
WASHINGTON: Seven congressional leaders, both Republican and Democratic, have protested to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India against a “significant violation” by New Delhi of US export control laws when several individuals were indicted by the Pentagon, including a member of the Indian embassy in Washington, for the “illegal” procurement of “sensitive technology for India’s ballistic missile programme.”
The seven congressional leaders – Tom Lantos, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Howard Berman, Gary Ackerman, Mike Pence, Edward Royce and Brad Sherman – said the illegal activity had occurred in April 2006. They also expressed deep concern about India’s increasing cooperation with Iran, including the exchange visits between high-level officials, enhanced military ties and negotiation of agreements to establish closer economic relations. The two countries had also formed a “joint defence working group” that is to meet later this year in Tehran to pursue broader cooperation in defence, including the training of Iranian military personnel.
The seven congressional leaders wrote, “Such cooperation raises renewed questions about the possible diversion of sensitive technology to Iran, for which Indian entities have been sanctioned in recent years, including US-origin technology provided to India in the context of civilian nuclear and space cooperation..”
The congressmen also expressed concern about the proposed natural gas pipeline from Iran to India through Pakistan. India has also signed an LNG supply agreement with Iran, they pointed out. They warned, “We must point out that these ventures could be subject to US action under the Iran Sanctions Act.” They pointed out that “far more serious” was the fact that these steps by India would undermine the international community’s efforts to impose financial and other constraints on the Iranian government to persuade it to stop its programme to acquire a nuclear weapons capability.”
The congressmen said India’s increasingly broad cooperation with Iran is “especially disturbing” in terms of its impact on the United States because of Iran’s role in Iraq. “More broadly, Iran is seeking military domination of the Persian Gulf and continues to arm and support terrorists in Iraq, Lebanon and other countries,” they alleged. They said it is difficult for them to fathom why India would want to enhance security cooperation with the “world’s most active state sponsor of terrorism.”
They also stressed to the Indian prime minister that India’s pursuit of close relations with Iran “appears to be inconsistent with the letter and spirit of the July 18, 2005, announcement by you and President Bush of the establishment of a ‘global partnership’ between our two countries.’” It was also contrary to the pledge that India would play a leading role in international efforts to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons.
The congressmen warned that the subject of India’s strengthening relationship with Iran would inevitably be a factor in the consideration of the 123 Agreement (the Indo-US nuclear cooperation treaty) when it is presented to Congress. They urged Manmohan Singh to “provide assurances that India will cease illicit procurement activities in the US, sever military cooperation with Iran, and terminate participation in the development of Iran’s energy sector.”