Tuesday, November 08, 2005

India: Iran could also be behind decision to remove Minister

Adnkronos International:
The Oil for Food scandal wasn't the only reason behind the removal of Natwar Singh from his post as India's foreign minister. Observers say the embarrassment that he caused the government when he suggested that New Delhi change its course of action with regards to the question of Iran and the United Nations could also be behind the decision to strip Singh of his post.

According to some, the statements made by Natwar Singh could have led to the Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh's decision to remove him from his post as foreign minister and to then take on the post himself until the visit of American president George W. Bush, which is scheduled for next year. Such a move would also neutralise any of the attacks on the government from the Indian opposition.

India's ruling Congress party intends to investigate the involvement of any Indian individuals and companies who have been accused in the Oil for Food scandal. According to the Indian television news channel, NDTV, the government has begun an internal inquiry into the scandal which will be conducted by India's finance minister and will be conducted parallel to the investigation by the former justice minister, R.S. Pathak.

The investigations are not aimed only at verifying the foundation for the accusations contained in the UN report put together by an international commission headed by Paul Volcker as well as the eventual fiscal violations that are connected to the scandal, but they are also aimed at the preventing such a report from becoming a weapon for the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), the opposition front which is led by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

In a statement, the NDA expressed its clear mistrust at the government's initiatives, claiming it "will attempt a cover up exercise rather than an honest probe into the matter, in view of the fact that the "the PM has already given a clean chit [slate] to his colleague," allowing Natwar Singh to remain in the government as a minister without portfolio.

With the Bush visit on the horizon, preceded by that of the Saudi King Abdullah and the French president Jacques Chirac, the first concern of the Indian prime minister is the desire to clear the field of any possible uncertainties or doubts around India's foreign policy, according to the Times of India. And this began precisely with the question of Iran.

In the past few days, despite having already raised a storm because of the Volcker report, Natwar Singh stated that he had recommended the government "revise our vote," if in the coming weeks the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) decided to refer Iran to the UN Security Council because of its nuclear programme.

Last month, India voted in favour of the European proposal which was presented to the IAEA to submit Tehran to a regime of special supervision of its nuclear material.

The Indian vote surprised the international community because of the historically friendly ties between New Delhi and Tehran, pushing many observers to interpret the move as an attempt by New Delhi to move closer to Washington after the US and India signed a deal for greater nuclear cooperation on India's civilian nuclear programme. READ MORE

The hypothesis of a change in the course of action has provoked perplexity in New Delhi, where the words of Natwar Singh were interpreted as a tense move to ensure the sympathy of the left, which supports government from outside and defends India's friendship with Tehran, in an effort to strengthen its own political position.