'Non-aligned' India trains Iran’s sailors
India has quietly authorised its navy to train Iranian sailors, showing that New Delhi has an independent foreign policy, reports Rahul Singh.Updated: Sep 05, 2007, 05:11 IST
The US may get a tad irritated, but India doesn’t mind improving its military ties with Iran — a country the Bush administration accuses of pursuing a clandestine nuclear weapons programme.
India has quietly authorised its navy to train Iranian sailors, showing that New Delhi has an independent foreign policy.
Consenting to Iran’s long-time request, the navy for the first time has allotted five vacancies to Iranian officers for training at its establishments. Defence Minister AK Antony confirmed in Parliament last week that 496 personnel from 25 navies, including that of Iran, were undergoing training in the country.
Given the US Congress’s growing opposition to India-Iran ties, the navy refused to comment on the Iranians. But sources said a number of foreign personnel were undergoing one-year courses in gunnery and missile operations, anti-submarine warfare and navigation.
The move has evoked mixed reactions. MK Bhadrakumar, an expert in West Asian affairs, said, “The government is trying to throw dust in the public’s eyes to show that it can withstand US pressure. Why is it not forthcoming with the details of the training?”
But Qamar Agha, a visiting professor in Jamia Millia’s Centre for West Asian Studies, said New Delhi continues to retain autonomy in foreign policy despite the 123 bilateral agreement. Strategic affairs expert Brahma Chellaney said India could act as a bridge between the US and Iran to ease tensions.