Washington/ New Delhi, Jan. 27: The state department has unequivocally distanced itself from US ambassador David Mulford’s fatwa to India to vote with the Americans for referring Iran to the UN Security Council or let the Indo-US nuclear deal of July 18, 2005 die on Capitol Hill.
Faced with a volley of questions on the controversy created by the ambassador’s interview to PTI, state department spokesman Sean McCormack said India’s vote on Iran at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the nuclear deal were separate issues.
“We deal with the Indian government on these two issues as separate issues,” McCormack clarified. “Certainly, they come up in the same conversations, I’ll tell you that' Ultimately, how India votes on this matter is going to be a decision for the Indian government.”
McCormack said Mulford “was giving his personal assessment of how Congress might react to such an action by India” in voting against any initiative by the US and the three European countries, which have been negotiating with Iran, to haul up Tehran before the Security Council.
“We have got three separate branches of government here. We are in the executive branch. And Congress and Senators and Representatives will have views of their own. And I think what ambassador Mulford was doing was expressing an opinion about how the Congress might react, given that outcome.”
Question: So what is the executive branch’s view on that as far as the understanding'
Spokesman: Our view is that we would certainly encourage and we would hope that India would vote for a referral to the Security Council.
Asked what would happen if India did not vote with the Americans, the spokesman insisted that the Bush administration will continue to work with the Indian government on implementation of the nuclear agreement.
Going a step further, he said: “We would certainly hope that we would be in a position to ' before or as part of the President’s visit to India ' make progress on this issue. Part of making progress on this issue is for the Indian government to present a workable plan that would separate the Indian civilian and military nuclear programmes. We are still talking about that issue with the Indian government and I expect that those discussions will continue.”
The brush with controversy is not the first for Mulford, who has built quite a reputation for putting his foot in the mouth. In the past, he has courted trouble by suggesting that Naxalite violence in Andhra Pradesh would affect foreign investments, offering help directly to the Assam chief minister to probe blasts in the state and calling for a rise in the foreign direct investment cap in insurance.
The ambassador, who was summoned by foreign secretary Shyam Saran in the middle of Republic Day ceremonies yesterday and told that linking the nuclear deal with the Iran issue was inappropriate, evaded the public eye today. He was scheduled to appear at the World Book Fair in Delhi, but skipped the event.
With the IAEA meeting only a week away, Delhi said it favours working out a mutually acceptable solution by avoiding confrontation. It said Iran’s right to develop peaceful uses of nuclear energy, consistent with international obligations, should be respected. Finally, Iran’s willingness to work with the IAEA to remove any outstanding issues about its nuclear programmes should be welcomed.