Page last updated at 09:41 GMT, Tuesday, 17 November 2009

No India launch of Iran satellite

By Amit Baruah
Editor, BBC Hindi

Image from Fars News Agency purportedly showing Safir-2 rocket
Iran says its satellite will be used for research and telecommunications

India says it has no plans to launch an Iranian satellite, a move which would have angered the United States.

"We received a letter from the Iranians to launch a satellite for them some months ago. We don't plan to give them a response," top Indian officials said.

Any such launch would be a sensitive issue given that Western nations view with concern Iran's missile programme.

The remarks from Delhi came as Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki wound up a two-day visit to India.

Iran launched its first domestically-made satellite into orbit in February, insisting its intentions were peaceful. Western governments voiced concerns the technology used could lead to ballistic missile development.

Little progress seems to have been made on... bringing a gas pipeline from Iran through Pakistan into India

Any assistance by India in launching Iranian satellites could raise American concerns - the Bush administration, for instance, was dead set against an Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline.

India is also more than aware that Iran's nuclear programme is the subject of great international controversy.

'Common perception'

Delhi, however, gave due importance to Mr Mottaki's visit by granting him a meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday.

Mr Mottaki, no stranger to India having been a student here, held discussions on a range of issues. He also briefed Indian officials on the current state of play in negotiations relating to what Tehran says is a purely civil nuclear programme - Western governments suspect otherwise.

India and Iran seem to have forged increasingly common ground on the threat of militancy emanating from Pakistan following the 18 October killings of 30 members of Iran's elite revolutionary guards in the province of Sistan, which borders Balochistan in Pakistan.

"The two sides also took the opportunity for a detailed exchange of views on important regional and international issues, including the threat of terrorism confronting the two countries," a statement from India's Ministry of External Affairs said, without referring to Pakistan by name.

The Iranian foreign minister also discussed growing insecurity in Afghanistan. The two countries have had a long history of working together in Afghanistan, having propped up the Northern Alliance, along with the Russians, in the 1990s.

"We have a common perception with the Iranians about what is going on in Afghanistan. Where we differ is on the presence of foreign troops in Afghanistan. The Iranians see this as a big problem," Indian officials, who preferred anonymity, said on Tuesday.

Gas talks

Little progress seems to have been made on resuming a stalled dialogue on bringing a gas pipeline from Iran through Pakistan into India. "The issue did come up in the discussions, and we will discuss it further," the officials added.

India and Iran have been discussing a pipeline for years

India has long had security concerns about the pipeline passing through Pakistani territory and Tehran has taken an increasingly tough line on negotiations after Delhi voted against Iran at the International Atomic Energy Agency back in September 2005.

After the Indian vote, Iran also cancelled a $21bn deal to supply 7.5 million tonnes of liquefied natural gas by ship to India annually. That deal remains stalled.

In 2007, India's then foreign minister, Pranab Mukherjee, travelled to Tehran to make amends for the vote against Iran, telling President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that while India was no Venezuela, it would remain independent in its foreign policy decisions.

Mr Mottaki flew out of Delhi on Tuesday.

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