Anti-India campaign gains ground in US

Piggybacking on the anti-Iranian sentiments, an anti-India campaign seems to be gaining ground in the United States.

Updated: Feb 17, 2012, 22:35 PM IST

Washington: Piggybacking on the anti-Iranian
sentiments, an anti-India campaign seems to be gaining ground
in the United States.

This comes amidst escalation in tension between Iran
and Israel and the United States slapping additional sanctions
on the Iranian regime.

The anti-India lobby, which was lying low for the past
several years in the aftermath of the historic Indo-US civil
nuclear deal, is using the opportunity to portray New Delhi as
a "villain" which is providing an escape route to the Iranian
regime from international sanctions.

This week alone, the Indian Ambassador to the US,
Nirupama Rao, has received two letters -- one from two key
lawmakers and other from the powerful Israeli lobby in
Washington -- against India`s relationship with Iran.

Friends of India at the Capitol Hill and the Obama
administration believe that this might gain momentum in the
coming days as the anti-India lobby wants to capitalise on the
popular anti-Iran sentiments here and vilify the India-Iran
oil trade, quite ignorant of the fact that India`s purchase of
oil from Iran has come down in last few years.

India, in 2008-09, purchased 21.8 million tonnes of oil
from Iran, which dropped to 21 million in 2009-10, and 18.5
million tonnes in 2010-11. Even percentage wise too, there has
been considerable drop in India`s reliance on Iranian oil from
16.5 per cent in 2008-09 to 13 per cent in 2009-10 and 11 per
cent in 2010-11.

Latest figures estimate that it has further dropped
to 10 per cent.

However, the anti-India lobby here does not seem to take
note of these publicly available figures and instead wants
India to cut-off all its oil purchase from Iran; which experts
say would plunge India into a deep energy crisis.

Obama administration officials note that they are
oblivious of the fact. This is the reason why, both the White
House and the State Department have gone on record several
times in the past one week that the US does not want to
implement Iranian sanctions in a way that hurts its allies.

"The US is implementing sanctions on Iran in a way that
had the desired effect just to pressure and isolate Iran
further, and did not have unintended consequences for any of
its allies, or more broadly, for the international oil
market," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told
reporters on Wednesday.

A day earlier, State Department spokesperson Victoria
Nuland asserted that trade with Iran in food; medicines and
other humanitarian commodities would not attract sanctions.

"We`ve said regularly that our own sanctions are not
designed to prevent food, medical equipment, those kinds of
things going to Iran," she said.

However, given the anti-Iran sentiment that is currently
prevailing in the US and with political leaders here trying to
encash on this during an election year, the Obama
administration, which itself appears to have shown an
understanding of India`s position, might find it difficult to
handle the situation.

"We call on India to cancel its planned trade
exploration trip to Iran, stop buying Iran`s oil, and join the
international effort to isolate the regime," said United
Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) as it urged lawmakers to ask India
to stop its oil trade with Iran and not to send its trade
delegation to Tehran.

India is sending a trade delegation to Iran to explore
the possibilities of increasing bilateral trade so that it can
make payments for the oil purchase.

"Now is not the time to neither explore future trade
opportunities with Iran nor increase business ties," said
Congressmen Steve Israel and Richard Hanna in a joint letter
to Nirupama Rao.

A few days before that Rao also received a letter from
the American Jewish Committee (AJC).

Referring to the recent announcement by Commerce
Secretary, Rahul Khullar, that a "huge delegation" of India
businesses is going to Iran soon, AJC, in its letter to Rao,
said this reflects that New Delhi is taking economic advantage
of the current situation.

"This suggests that New Delhi is attempting to take
advantage of sanctions adopted by like-minded nations for the
explicit purpose of preventing nuclear proliferation by a
dangerously aggressive regime -- and which could, in turn,
trigger an escalating arms race -- in a highly volatile
region," AJC president Robert Elman and its executive
director David Harris said in the letter.