India says Iran has right to pursue civil nuclear programme

By Arun Kumar, IANS

Washington : Like India, Iran too has the right to pursue a civilian nuclear programme, but with obligations under the Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT), and problems with Tehran should be resolved through talks, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee has suggested.

Support TwoCircles

“We do not want another conflagration in our neighbourhood. Therefore, it would be better to resolve the problems through negotiations, however strenuous they may be,” Mukherjee said on the American TV show “Charlie Rose Show on PBS” Wednesday.

Asked if he believed Iran wants a nuclear weapon, Mukherjee said he was “discussing this” with them. “Even on Wednesday morning I had a discussion with the Iranian foreign minister, and we do believe that as we have every right to pursue a civilian nuclear programme for peaceful purposes, similarly, Iran has that right,” he said.

“At the same time, as a signatory to NPT, it has its obligations. It has its obligations to the international community, because Iran signed NPT voluntarily. India did not sign. That is the difference,” Mukherjee said.

He suggested that Iran “satisfy” the UN atomic watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency on its nuclear programme “in the interest of all of us”.

Rejecting suggestions that New Delhi’s closeness with Tehran will impact its relationship with the US, Mukherjee said: “Our relationship with one country does not depend on our relationship with other countries. It is independent of that.

“Our relationship with Iran is based on several issues. It is one of the important suppliers of energy to us. About four million expatriates, Indians, are living around that region. Not Iran alone, around that region,” he said.

But he did not think India’s relations with Iran posed a problem to the US, saying: “I do not consider it so. We have made it quite clear both to Iran and the US that our relationship does not depend on the relationship or closeness with the US, or it will be affected because of relationship with Iran. These are totally independent stands.”

On the proposed Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline, Mukherjee said the venture was purely commercial, adding that talks on concluding the deal have stalled over transit fees.

In reply to a question about Pakistan, the minister hoped that Islamabad would find a way out of its current problems because its neighbour’s stability was equally important for India.

“For the individuals concerned, I cannot give any guarantee that a certain individual A or B will continue. But what we want, what my desire is, I can tell you my desire with respect to Pakistan is that there be stability and prosperity in Pakistan. It is helpful to me for my own stability, for my own development, for my own prosperity,” he said.

Making another pitch for India getting a permanent seat on the UN Security Council as it has all the “ingredients” to have one, Mukherjee said the UN structure should reflect “contemporary realities”, as the international system has undergone changes since the world body was created in the 1940s.

“We do believe that India should get a seat in the Security Council because we believe that not only we, certain other countries should also have their place in the Security Council, because in 1945 when these institutions were created, since then the world has undergone major changes,” Mukherjee said.

“All over the world, changes have taken place. Therefore, in the functioning of the United Nations, in its structure and in its contents, it should reflect the contemporary realities,” he added.