Washington, April 1: America’s powerful Jewish lobby is preparing to kill the Indo-US nuclear deal -- unless the Manmohan Singh government is ready to decisively end its flirtations with Iran and turn its back on the new Hamas government in Palestinian territories.
Foreign secretary Shyam Saran, who returned to New Delhi yesterday after a three-day visit to Washington, had a difficult time here convincing Jewish-American members of the Congress that India was not entertaining any special relationship with Tehran.
As the US Congress begins the process of dissecting a bill to facilitate implementation of the nuclear deal next week, an equally influential Cuban-American lobby is waiting to join this country's Jews in opposing the bill.
The anti-Castro Cuban-Americans, who control US foreign policy on the Western hemisphere, are closely watching if prime minister Manmohan Singh will travel to Havana for the September summit of the non-aligned movement (Nam) or give Fidel Castro enough support to make his chairmanship of Nam credible.
At a press conference yesterday, Saran, normally adept at nuancing, was clearly defensive about Indo-Iranian relations.
“The concern expressed was about a ship visit to one of the southern Indian ports, and somehow, somebody had given the impression that India is engaged in training the Iranian navy or there were some exercises that took place, which is completely misleading,” the foreign secretary said about his meeting with Congressman Tom Lantos, at which Lantos told Saran that the nuclear deal would be a casualty of growing ties between New Delhi and Tehran.
Saran told reporters that he had explained to Lantos, a holocaust survivor from Hungary, that the ship’s call was no more than normal activity and a goodwill visit. “So I pointed out to Mr Lantos that such apprehensions were completely misplaced.”
Another Congressman whom Saran met was Gary Ackerman, who maintains extensive links with Israel and has an umbilical cord with the Jewish lobby.
Ackerman is a hardened supporter of India, but his backing for the deal cannot be taken for granted unless demands from the Jewish lobby are met.
This lobby operates secretively, but its roots on Capitol Hill run deeper than the foundations of the 18th century US legislative building, which is a symbol of American democracy.
No American politician can hope to survive in public life after defying the Jewish lobby.
A few weeks ago, the Jewish lobby worked behind the scenes to scuttle a deal, sponsored by President George W. Bush, that would have allowed Dubai to manage several US ports, hugely embarrassing the White House.
After a sobering assessment that the nuclear deal has extremely narrow support as of now in the Senate and the House of Representatives, Saran was very circumspect in summing up his visit here.
At no stage did he claim widespread support for the US legislation, now before the Congress, insisting, instead, that there was “great support in the Congress for the economic relationship, the science and technology relationship and the energy relationship” with India.
The Indo-US energy dialogue goes well beyond the nuclear deal.
Saran said he “feels encouraged” after his meetings in Washington, but stressed that he was not here to negotiate the passage of the American legislation.