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 S.M. 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.
(Arun Kumar can be
contacted at email@example.com)