UPA kept Iran talks alive out of poll pressure

Indian Government had lost all hope of ever seeing the Indo-Iranian gas pipeline come into existence, but kept up the pretense of negotiations to keep Muslims and the Left happy, according to a US assessment.

According to a cable sent in early 2007, the ministry of petroleum and natural gas headed by Murli Deora (described as being in close touch with the Americans) had more or less written of the chances for any such gas pipeline from Iran.

“.. the MPNG [ministry of petroleum and natural gas] has told us that they do not expect a final agreement to be reached due to Iranian unreliability and Iran changing the terms of the June 2005 agreement to sell India LNG from its South Pars field for 25 years,” the cable, released by Wikileaks, noted.

“.. although the GOI [government of India] privately doubts Iran’s reliability as a potential source of natural gas by pipeline or of liquefied natural gas, it continues negotiations with Iran to appease Muslim and left-wing voters and Members of Parliament,” Geoffrey Pyatt, the then in-charge of the American Embassy at Delhi wrote in a briefing for US Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman’s March 2007 visit to India.

He also pointed out that the Congress was in a very difficult situation, in 2007, after a string of defeats in several state elections. The unease among Congress leaders made things tougher for the US as well, Pyatt pointed out.

“..some are advocating that she [Sonia Gandhi] jettison Prime Minister Singh — whose message of rapprochement with Pakistan has been criticized by the BJP — and put a more saleable political face at the head of the government.

“Others are urging that the Congress hunker down and play it safe on the budget, inflation, economic reform, and foreign policy — including the nuclear deal — to minimize the negative impact on UP voters, many of whom are Muslim and take a dim view of the United States,” he added.