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Lantos hails India's vote on Iran

By Aziz Haniffa in Washington DC
Last updated on: September 26, 2005 23:52 IST
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Congressman Tom Lantos, California Democrat, and the highest ranking Democrat on the House International Relations Committee, has hailed India's about-face in Vienna in aligning itself with the United States and the European Union and voting to refer Iran to the United Nations Security Council for alleged nuclear nonproliferation violations.

Lantos had launched a blistering attack on India at the hearing on the US-India nuclear cooperation agreement early this month where he even ridiculed Indian External Affairs Minister Natwar Singh as 'dense' and warned that if India doesn't change its policy toward Iran in sync with US policy, the relationship would 'go down the tubes'

In a statement made available to, Lantos said, "I am pleased that New Delhi clearly heard the message that I and other members have been emphatically trying to convey." He noted, "India's support this past weekend and next November, when Iran should finally be referred to the UN Security Council for action, will go a long way to cementing our new partnership."

"These actions will certainly promote positive consideration in Congress of the new US-India agreement to expand peaceful nuclear cooperation between our two countries," he added.

At the hearing earlier this month, Lantos, who was given wide latitude by the chairman of the panel, Congressman Henry Hyde, to speak for a long as he wanted, declared,"My concern does not relate to the Administration. My concern relates to the insensitive thinking that I see coming out of New Delhi."

He asserted that 'it is incomprehensible to me that people as sophisticated and as knowledgeable as our Indian counterparts should not be aware of how significant their position,vis-a-vis Iran is to this Congress, and, I hope that this hearing will make them aware at least tangentially that this may be destroying far more significant relationships than they are having with Tehran unless they become sensitive to our view on that subject.'

Lantos said, "Iran is the single most international threat. We face a reckless Iranian government proceeding arrogantly with the development of nuclear weapons."

"Only an imbecile would believe that they are developing a nuclear program for peaceful purposes only and it is an insult to the intelligence of Congress that they keep repeating this," he added.

"But they do what they do, but to have the Indian Foreign Minister with respect to his recent meeting with the Iranian to say they really don't care what we think, shows the real denseness that occasionally very intelligent people are burdened with," he had said.

Lantos said, "They are brilliant and they are dense. They are brilliant,which is obvious, but they are simply dense because they are incapable of comprehending that other countries have their important concerns."

"My bottom line is that I do not oppose the Administration's policy (toward India). I support it. But I believe the Administration will have to make a maximum effort and we offer, at least some of us offer our services to help you to make the Indians aware of the fact that nothing will fly in this body unless they become as sensitive to their concerns as we have been to theirs."

Lantos said he found the Indian Foreign Minister reported statement in Iran 'sickening, literally sickening, this Stalinist rhetoric which we don't accept from the Indian Foreign Minister. Singh is reported to have said during his meeting with the new Iranian president that India 'supports resolution of Iran's nuclear issue within the IAEA framework but opposes sending the file to the UN Security Council'.

Singh is also reported to have lamented the inclination to infuse injustice in international relations, reiterating that India's relation with Iran is not predicated on positions and views attributed to some goverments, which Lantos said was clearly a reference to the US.

India Ambassador Ronen Sen told at the time that as soon as he read the transcript, he had called Singh and the latter had denied he had every said anything Lantos attributed to him and had described it as 'absolute nonsense'.

Lantos, at the hearing, had warned that 'this pattern of dealing with us will not be productive for India and they have to be told this in plain English that this great new opening, which I support, which we all support, is predicated on reciprocity. In this case, they are not only opposing our views, they are opposing the views of the Brits, and the French and the Germans.'

He said if India persists in this, 'this great dream of a new relationship will go down the tubes', and reiterated that if New Delhi does not support Washington's efforts to ostracise Iran, 'the goodwill will dissipate'.

"They will pay a heavy price for a total disregard of US concerns vis-a-vis Iran. It just will not fly in this body and they need to be told that in plain English, not in diplomatic English and I know there are people in this room who will carry this message," he added.

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Aziz Haniffa in Washington DC