Hamshahri Interview with Minister of External Affairs Yashwant Sinha on Diplomacy Based on Economy (Excerpts)

December 21, 2003

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  • Iran

Q. What is the main message that you delivered in this visit?

A. The main message is one of friendship, good will and sincerity. As you know I came here for the joint economic commission and most issues are economic. Therefore in this visit and in the visit with your Min. of Foreign Affairs, economic co-operations, trade and co-operations in energy and agriculture were discussed. Also there were discussions on defense and other issues. We have given a credit of $200 million to Iran which was announced last year during the visit of President Khatami to India. We discussed using this credit which is mainly for substructure projects. A group of rail roads is present in my delegation. They negotiated on renovation of Iranian rail roads with their counterparts. In the energy sector there are two issues of interest for us: participation in oil production in Iran and participation in renovation of refineries in which we have the technical know-how. The gas pipeline was also discussed.

Q. Were there any developments in its constructions?

A. Presently we have a feasibility study regarding sub-sea route of the pipeline and it has not finished yet. There is a working group which regularly holds meetings on the project. The group will propose its findings for decision-making. In our negotiations with Mr. Rafsanjani and Kamal Kharrazi, I proposed that we are interested in organizing activities that would ultimately facilitate a free trade zone with Iran. But this zone will not be complete without the presence of Pakistan. So my proposal was that we can think of a free trade zone with Iran, India and Pakistan, in other words a free zone modeled on similar zones in other countries. India has entered such mechanism with other countries including ASEAN, countries, Thailand and Sri Lanka. We are also working on the same with Singapore. Primary negotiations have started with SARC and Mauritius.

Q. Doesn't the presence of Pakistan make formation of this zone more difficult having in mind current sensitivities of Islamabad and New Delhi toward one another?

A. It should not be so. Trade should not be sacrificed for politics. Economic issues should have their own rhythm, and not the bargaining chip for political disputes. This is our approach. I have proposed this thought and I hope Iranian officials will consider it. We also decided to form smaller groups including ambassadors of the two countries, relevant DGs and ministries of foreign affairs and interior to speed up progress on some vital issues. This 4-member group will meet once in a while to study progress and development of affairs and will inform us of any obstacles so that we can make proper decisions.

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Q. Last winter president Khatami visited India. At the end of his trip there was the Delhi Declaration which emphasized on strategic co-operation of the two countries in order to have a safer, more stable and more developed region. What effect did this declaration have for the development in relations of the two countries?

A. This was the road map that Mr. Karrazi and I signed. Issues that need mutual considerations are included in it. Some major issues that I mentioned before like co-operation on technology, energy, agriculture, trade and investment are included in that.

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Q. India is an atomic power. How do you assess the way Iran was treated regarding its nuclear activities?

A. The difference between Iran and India is that we were armed with nuclear weapons in 1998. We did not sign NPT. Iran has. Therefore it has some obligations. We decided to have nuclear weapons because of our security worries and now we have our nuclear weapons policy according to which India will not use its nuclear weapons against countries without nuclear arms. Also India will not be the first country that will use it.

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Q. There are worries in Iran about development of India-Israel relations. How can you assure Iran?

A. India has its own independent policy on different issues including foreign policy. Our relations with Israel are within this context. I should mention that India will never establish or strengthen relations with any country for the purpose of threat.

Q. How do you predict future Iran-India relations?

A. Very well. You mentioned the Delhi Declaration that was signed at the end of President Khatami's visit to India. The Declaration specifies the main guidelines of relations between the two countries which are in fact limitless. Specifically, on economic side, they can potentially expand. I think that we can achieve new strategic heights in these relations.