Faced with attack from Left allies and the opposition for supporting an International Atomic Energy Agency resolution on Iran's nuclear issue under US pressure, the government on Monday set in motion a damage-limitation exercise saying India's decision was based on 'very careful consideration' and aimed at averting a 'major confrontation' between Tehran and the international community.
"We saw the EU-3 (comprising Britain, France and Germany) initiative vis-à-vis Iran as giving a way out for a possible compromise, a reasonable compromise on what is a sensitive issue," Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran said.
Left allies CPI-M and CPI had on Sunday accused the government of 'surrendering' to US pressure and going back on its stated stand.
Former external affairs minister and senior BJP leader Yashwant Sinha charged that the UPA Government had made India a 'client state' of the US.
Denying that India acted under US pressure in voting against on Iran's nuclear programme at IAEA, Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee said New Delhi's stand gave more time for diplomacy.
"We took a stand that Iran should be given more time for peaceful resolution of the issue. The issue should not be sent to the Security Council ...but to the Board of IAEA," he said. "What we wanted has been taken care of," he added.
Seeking to allay apprehensions of a change in stand, the foreign secretary said India has 'no reservations' about Iran's right to peaceful uses of nuclear energy.
"There is certainly no implication that India has any reservation about Iran's pursuit of a peaceful nuclear energy programme consistent with global non-proliferation norms. That is something on which there is no ambiguity," he said.
"We do not believe that the time has come for this matter (Iran's nuclear issue) to be remitted to the Security Council," he said, emphasising that India did not consider that the current situation consituted any kind of threat to international peace and security. Saran said India's objective all along has been to be 'as helpful as possible with Iran with which we enjoy very close, cordial and friendly relations'.
He disagreed that India had voted in favour of the resolution because it had some problems with Iran on other issues.
"That is certainly not the case. This was a judgment made after a very careful assessment of the pros and cons and in pursuit of a policy of avoiding confrontation and having enough time available to us to work out an acceptable compromise," he said.
Saran said those abstaining on this resolution had, in a sense, agreed to its passage. Only one country had sought a vote. Otherwise, as per tradition, it would have been passed by consensus, he said.
Asked whether India's decision would affect energy cooperation programmes with Iran, Saran said, "I see no reason why there should be apprehensions in this regard." India, he said, has been playing a role that has been supportive of Iran.
Reference of the nuclear issue to the Security Council would have been a major setback to Tehran and India had prevented this from happening. On how Iran has responded to the resolution, he noted that Tehran has said it will continue to cooperate with IAEA. "So, the door is open for further consultations and negotiations," he said.
About US concerns being factored in the decision taken by India, he said, "We know what the American position was. On this issue, we were dealing with EU-3 and some of the other key countries.
"The judgement we made for vote on this resolution was a judgment made after very careful consideration of all the issues involved."
Pointedly asked whether there was a change in India's stand, he said, "I don't think you should interpret India's position as aligned on the left or the right or aligned with this group of countries or that group of countries.
"India has all along taken decisions on issues of concern to it on the basis of its own assessment and on the basis of its own national interest. The question of this representing a shift in India's policy does not arise."