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MEA's note asking for curbs on Iran may fuel new row
May, 28th 2008

The recently passed UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1803 (2008) is designed to prevent proliferation of nuclear weapons by imposing sanctions on Iran, but it may also have the potential to upset, if not shatter, the uneasy calm between the Congress and Left over India's foreign policy.

In an inter-ministerial meeting, convened recently by the foreign ministry's UN Political (UNP) division, a set of guidelines was framed to ensure that all precautions, as necessitated by UNSCR 1803, are taken in dealing with Iran. These include asking the finance ministry to take necessary action in dealing with banks domiciled in Iran including Bank Melli and Bank Saderat and also to keep a check on cargo arriving from Iran.

A note from the UNP division on the action taken states that an advisory should be issued to Indian banks and financial institutions to exercise vigil over the activities of these banks.

UNSCR 1803, which was passed in March this year, calls upon member states to exercise restraint in dealing with individuals and entities involved in Iran's 'proliferation' of sensitive nuclear technology. It also lists a number of individuals and entities involved in Iran's nuclear programme and calls upon states to avoid dealing with them.

It was further decided that the Central Board of Excise and Customs and the Department of Revenue would issue instructions regarding inspection of cargo to and from Iran by aircraft or ships owned or operated by Iran Air Cargo and Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Line, provided there are "reasonable grounds" to believe that the aircraft or ship is carrying the 'proscribed' goods.

"In cases where inspection on such grounds is undertaken, a written inspection report is required to be submitted to the Security Council through diplomatic channels, within five working days of the inspection," states the UNP division. It remains to be seen how the Left, which is opposed to the Indo-US nuclear deal, reacts to this. In the past, Left has often accused the government of not having an independent foreign policy vis-a-vis Iran.

It had also criticized the government's decision to vote against Tehran at the IAEA in 2005 and 2006. CPI's A B Bardhan recently said that if the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline doesn't go through, it would mean India doesn't have an independent foreign policy. While the foreign ministry's guidelines stem from a UN resolution, the response of the Left, which views Iran as a victim of a US-led conspiracy, could still be interesting.

Asking all ministries involved to send a compliance report urgently, the UNP division note adds that the home ministry has to blacklist all individuals and entities named in UNSCR 1803.

The UNP division also calls upon the Department of Financial Services to take necessary action regarding freezing of funds, assets and economic resources owned or controlled by persons or entities listed in the UNSCR. Lastly, it was also decided in the meeting that this was a sensitive issue and that all ministries should exercise due caution and discretion in dealing with officials of other countries on it. "Any query or clarification sought by any embassy should be redirected to the UNP division," it states.

UNSCR 1803 is the latest among three legally binding resolutions designed to keep a check on Iran's nuclear programme without imposing harsh sanctions which would affect its people.

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