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Delhi reaches out to lonely Tehran,may offer ISRO launch for satellite

New Delhi plans to woo Tehran with offers of greater intelligence sharing,revival of defence training and a possible launch of the...

New Delhi plans to woo Tehran with offers of greater intelligence sharing,revival of defence training and a possible launch of the latter’s satellite but will remain non-committal on the proposed Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline.

India’s objective,drafted a month after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad got a second term in July,is to engage more with Iran at a time when the West is treating it like a pariah over its nuclear programme.

“Increased isolation of Iran provides us with an opportunity… inviting the Iranian Foreign Minister to visit India at this juncture would be viewed as a big gesture by Iran,” an External Affairs Ministry official was quoted as saying during an inter-ministerial strategy meet.

A fresh invitation was sent following which Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki is arriving on Monday for a two-day visit to call on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and meet counterpart S M Krishna.

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While discussing terrorism emanating out of Pakistan,India will suggest greater sharing of intelligence on the movement of Lashkar-e-Toiba operatives who,according to electronic intercepts,move to Tehran or Zahidan. Last November,India had passed on “useful” information to Tehran on terrorist movement.

The issue of Indian Muslim students going to Qom for religious studies will also be taken up with Mottaki as these students are being targeted by Pakistani operatives for recruitment as militants against India.

On the agenda will be a visit by the topmost official of the Research & Analysis Wing,India’s secret service,to Tehran that has been delayed because of the formation of a new government in India and revamp of the intelligence set-up in Iran.

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Iran’s strategy on Afghanistan — that all foreign forces should leave it within a specified time frame — will also be taken up with the emphasis that Tehran should not just be bothered about consolidating the Afghan areas adjacent to it. The second concern on Afghanistan will be addressed by inviting an Iranian delegation from the Narcotics Control Board to cooperate on plugging the movement of narcotics to the two countries.

One “big gesture” by India at the talks will be an offer to launch Iran’s commercial satellite through an ISRO vehicle for which the technical details — sent by the Iranians in July — have been sent to Indian Space Research Organisation for “assessing the nature of the satellite”.

The Mesbah,designed to travel in low earth orbit to assist in data communication over three years,was first timed for a launch by a Russian Cosmos-3 satellite-carrier but that did not happen. Last week,satellite maker Carlo Gavazzi Space Company of Italy refuted Iran’s claim that it would be launching the satellite after March 2011.

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India would also use “softer defence options” to take forward their Joint Working Group on Defence Cooperation that has been dormant since 2005. It is proposed to invite more Iranians for defence courses and cooperation in limited dual-use areas. But there will be polite no to Iran’s request for a joint patrolling exercise in the Gulf — an “engagement of sensitive nature”.

On the IPI pipeline,India’s stance is that the 30 million standard cubic metres of gas per day being provided by Iran was “not a big amount” and that there were issues such as its delivery point,security through Pakistan and pricing which were yet to be resolved.

First published on: 16-11-2009 at 04:24:26 am
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