Foreign Guests keep Krishna on toes

Discussion in 'Foreign Relations' started by ejazr, Jun 2, 2012.

  1. ejazr

    ejazr Stars and Ambassadors Stars and Ambassadors

    Oct 8, 2009
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    Hyderabad and Sydney
    Guests keep Krishna on toes


    New Delhi, May 31: India’s foreign minister and his bureaucrats were forced into daylong gymnastics today to ensure that the paths of three foreign guests did not cross as each of them visited Hyderabad House for some event or the other.

    The ministry was hosting the Bahrain crown prince, the Iran foreign minister and Microsoft chairman Bill Gates, and had its work cut out given the tensions between Iran and Bahrain and the distrust between Washington and Tehran.

    Foreign minister Krishna, therefore, called on Bahrain’s Salman Bin Hamad Al-Khalifa at his hotel at 11.15am before rushing to meet Iran’s Ali Akbar Salehi at Hyderabad House at 12.15pm.

    The two ministers addressed the media for about 45 minutes from 1pm, breaking for a hurried lunch as Gates, who had arrived at the building to keep his 2.15pm appointment with Krishna, waited in another room.

    Lunch over, the Indian hurried to keep his appointment with the American. In the evening, Krishna and his top officials were back at Hyderabad House to attend a banquet hosted by Vice-President Hamid Ansari in the crown prince’s honour.

    Hyderabad House, the 80-year-old mansion once owned by the Nizam, is now used for all state banquets and meetings.

    The ministry’s protocol minders scurried hither-thither to ensure that Gates and Salehi did not bump into each other as the American entered the building while the West Asian was yet to leave it.

    South Block also took pains to see that Bahrain’s crown prince, on a daylong visit to India, wasn’t at Hyderabad House during Salehi’s presence there.

    Shiite Iran and Bahrain’s Sunni monarchy, which rules a predominantly Shia population with an iron hand with the support of the Saudi monarchy, have strained relations. Iran considered Bahrain its 14th province till a few decades ago, while Bahrain’s rulers have accused Tehran of stoking last year’s anti-monarchy agitation.

    “The crown prince wouldn’t have taken positively to sharing Hyderabad House with any Iranian minister,” a source said.

    Ministry sources said that Salehi and Gates coming face to face would have embarrassed not just the two of them but also host New Delhi.

    As though to underline just that, Salehi, during his joint news conference with Krishna, accused the West of supporting or turning a blind eye to the “crimes” of Israel’s “Zionist regime” and cited the attack on Iranian computer networks by the virus Flame/Skywiper.

    South Block had been in a tizzy planning today’s events since Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad spoke of sending Salehi over to invite Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to this year’s Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Summit in Tehran in end-August. Salehi is to meet Singh tomorrow.

    After Ahmadinejad phoned Singh a fortnight ago, sources said, the ministry’s protocol minders racked their brains to relocate the venues of some of the Bahrain crown prince’s official engagements, planned a month in advance.

    In the end, Krishna and his team played the balancing act to perfection, protecting India’s strategic interests with Iran while factoring in US pressure to scale down its ties with Tehran, sparing a thought for the four lakh Indians working in Bahrain, taking into account good relations with Saudi Arabia, and agreeing to work with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in Africa.

    Krishna praised the foundation’s work towards AIDS awareness and the eradication of polio from India. He said New Delhi and the foundation would explore the possibilities of working together in Africa.

    Salehi took his opportunity to remind India of its role as the leader of the developing world and NAM, deny Tehran’s involvement in the February attack on an Israeli diplomat in New Delhi, and implore India to treat Iran as a reliable source of energy and reliable partner.

    He cited the similarities between the two countries’ culture and civilisation and quoted Jawaharlal Nehru: “You can rarely find any two countries in the world that enjoy so much commonalities.”

    “I do not feel I am in a strange country,” Salehi said. “I feel I am in my own country.”

    Krishna, though, seemed to be justifying India decreasing its oil imports from Iran, saying that given India’s growing demand “it is natural for us to try and diversify our sources of imports of oil and gas to meet the objective of energy security”.

    He, however, added that Iran remained “a key country for our energy needs and it remains an important source of oil for us”.

    Krishna reaffirmed that India would not support any economic sanctions on Iran that are not backed by the United Nations.

    Ministry sources said Krishna took up the subject of an Indian team of investigators visiting Iran to follow up on certain leads on the Delhi attack on an Israeli diplomat. Sources said the Iranian team promised that Tehran would consider the request positively.

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