United Nations: A day after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad triggered a US-led Western walkout from the UN General Assembly with a combative speech, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh met him in a reiteration of their close ties regardless.
"The previously planned meeting basically focused on our bilateral relationship," Indian Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai told reporters Friday when asked if the meeting with Ahmadinejad coupled with Indian support for Palestine would have an impact on New Delhi`s ties with Washington.
The two leaders did not discuss Palestinian President Mahoud Abbas`s speech making a historic bid for UN membership bid for an independent state of Palestine earlier Friday, but they both "reiterated their support for the Palestinian attempt to seek membership of UN," he said.
In fact, during this meeting between the two leaders after a long time, Manmohan Singh accepted in principle Ahmadinejad`s renewed invitation to visit Iran. The dates of prime minister`s visit are to be worked out, but Lok Sabha speaker Meira Kumar will be visiting shortly, Mathai said.
Though the two leaders did not discuss the proposed Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline, another issue of divergence with the US, "they discussed a whole series of projects between the two countries, including potential cooperation in the field of hydrocarbons," he said.
But Mathai was quick to reassure that Manmohan Singh`s meeting with the Iranian leader and India`s support for Palestine and the absence of a meeting with President Barack Obama did not reflect a cooling of ties between India and the US.
Like other Indian officials before, he too attributed the reason for Manmohan Singh not meeting Obama to "the fact that the Prime Minister arrived after the President left."
But India and the US are planning a meeting between External Affairs Minister SM Krishna and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, possibly Monday, after Manmohan Singh leaves for home.
In his speech blasting the US Thursday, Ahmadinejad questioned whether Islamist terrorists were behind the Sep 11, 2001 attacks on the US.
Blaming the West for a list of ills throughout history, from slavery to the two world wars and the global economic crisis, he also criticised the Obama administration for killing Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.