India upset with hard-line Israeli lobby over Iran charges - The Times of India WASHINGTON: Smarting under charges that it continues to cozy up to Teheran in the face of US-led sanctions, an angry India on Tuesday accused the pro-Israeli lobby in America of presenting a ''distorted picture of New Delhi's foreign policy objectives and energy security needs'' by selective use of data about its imports from Iran. "India's relationship with Iran is neither inconsistent with non-proliferation objectives, nor do we seek to contradict the relationships we have with our friends in West Asia or with the United States and Europe," the Indian Embassy in Washington DC said in a lengthy explanatory statement, adding, in a sentiment that sought to echo President Obama's cautionary advise on Monday, that "as a responsible member of the international community, India...firmly believes that the situation concerning Iran should not be allowed to escalate into a conflict, the disastrous consequences of which will be in nobody's interest." The ostensibly reason for the New Delhi authorized statement from the embassy were reports in the US media, evidently inspired by the hardline pro-Israeli lobby in the US, that India had actually stepped up its oil imports from Iran despite its close ties with US and Israel. The statement, which did not directly name the lobby, maintained that "allusions in the media that India's overall oil imports from Iran are increasing just because its monthly uptake of Iranian oil reportedly increased in January this year are based on selective use of information, misrepresenting the fact that in aggregate terms, crude imports from Iran constitute a declining share of India's oil imports." The Obama administration has seized on such reports to turn the screws on India, demanding a certifiable halt to transactions with Iran. India's ambassador to the US Nirupama Rao has had to make New Delhi's case before Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who has warned players in the region, including India and Pakistan, of "consequences" if they continued to defy US-led sanctions. China and Russia, the major sanction-busters, escape U.S wrath on account of being permanent Security Council members. In a more aggressive mode, the Indian statement also cited the development imperative, explaining that the reports pillorying New Delhi's trading with Teheran overlook the necessity of India's dependence on oil imports from Iran to serve the energy needs of its people, more than 400 million of whom do not as yet have access to commercial energy. "Given the imperative of meeting the energy needs of millions of Indians, an automatic replacement of all Iranian oil imports, is not a simple matter of selection, or a realistic option," it said. The statement also rationalized India's ties with Iran and its regional policy on three other counts: the familiar one based on India's "civilization" ties with Iran; the presence of six million Indians in the Gulf region and the effect on them of a precarious security situation; and most recently and pertinently, the deep convergence of interests between India and US on the "historic mission" to aid Afghanistan. "Iran is also India's only corridor for land access to Afghanistan, through which is routed most of our development and reconstruction assistance to that country," it reminded hardline U.S lawmakers, some of whom have demanded greater compliance from India. The statement, while refusing to give Teheran the benefit of doubt over its nuclear quest, went on to elaborate that India has consistently said that Iran must cooperate with the IAEA to address and resolve all outstanding issues about its nuclear program, "issues that continue to raise understandable doubts in the minds of the international community." It said that India believes that while Iran has rights to peaceful uses of nuclear energy, it must simultaneously and rigorously fulfill the treaty obligations which it has acceded to. "Our stand in this regard has been, and remains, consistent, well-enunciated including in the IAEA, and perfectly clear," the statement said, adding that "India has scrupulously adhered to the multilateral sanctions against Iran as mandated by the United Nations, and remains fully engaged with the United States Administration and Congress on this issue."