Amid preparations for a new round of nuclear talks, Iran’s top nuclear negotiator used a speech at an Indian think tank Wednesday to rail against US-led negotiations with the Taliban and what he decried as American double standards on terrorism and a “selective approach to the nuclear rights” of nations.
Saeed Jalili, the secretary of Iran’s national security council, spoke to an invitation-only crowd at a New Delhi think tank Wednesday while on a three day official visit to India before traveling to Afghanistan. But the immediate focus of Jalili's India visit, at the invitation of his counterpart Indian National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon, seemed to have more to do with shared Indian and Iranian concerns about prospective US-led negotiations with the Taliban that could give Pakistan greater sway in Afghanistan, rather than the nuclear file, Indian analysts said.
“The good news is that Iran is as uncomfortable as India on the back-room developments with regard to Afghanistan as the United States-led international community seems hell bent on 'good' Taliban taking over the land-locked country in the post-2014 scenario of withdrawing American forces from Afghanistan,” Indian analyst Rajeev Sharma wrote.
Jalili, in his speech to the Observer Research Foundation, “completely avoided specifics and focused on themes – despite very specific questions being asked, he focused on American double standards and US exceptionalism,” an Indian foreign policy analyst who attended the talk told the Back Channel by email Thursday.
He “refused to engage on Afghanistan or other thorny issues such as the nuclear question,” the scholar said.
“Just as Iran feels obligated to act within the framework of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) regulations and in line with the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), it is adamant on asserting its rights within the same framework,” Jalili said Wednesday, Indian media reported.
“We don't accept less rights nor more duties,” he said, criticizing a “selective approach to the nuclear rights of nations.”
Jalili told reporters after the event that Iran welcomed resuming nuclear negotiations with six world powers “very soon,” but that agreement on venue and timing was still being worked out. Deputy nuclear negotiators spoke by phone December 31st to work on arranging a new round of nuclear negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 soon, a spokesperson for European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said Wednesday.
As to whether India might prove an effective third country mediator on the nuclear issue, the Observer Research Foundation’s Sunjoy Joshi said Iranian-Indian relations, while historically sympathetic, are strained.
“While at all bilateral meetings India and Iran have periodically stressed their historical ties India has always been a reluctant power and has aligned itself with the international community on the nuclear issue,” Joshi, the director of the think tank, focused on energy and environmental issues, told the Back Channel by email Thursday.
“Given the ties between India and Iran it may have been hypothetically possible for India to play the good cop…in strategic negotiations, however, Iran does not trust India completely in this regard,” he said.
India, like Pakistan and Israel, is a nuclear power that is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The United States during the Bush administration dropped sanctions imposed by Congress on India and Pakistan following their 1998 nuclear tests.
US officials did not respond to queries about whether any US envoys had sought to have contacts with Jalili or his team on his travel abroad.
Last month, Mostafa Dolatyar, the head of an Iranian foreign ministry think tank IPIS, that liaises with foreign NGOs, also spoke in India on Iran’s nuclear negotiations with the P5+1. Regarding a key international demand that Iran halt is higher level 20% enrichment work, Dolatyar said Iran was looking for the end game.
“You cannot take something as pre-decided, everything could be subject to negotiation,” Dolatyar told reporters in New Delhi December 14th. “It depends on the framework of negotiations and the end game.”