PM Modi should warn Tehran over its irresponsible behaviour: US group

New York: Ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Iran, an advocacy group in the US has said he should focus his efforts on pressuring Tehran to halt its "destabilizing and provocative" behaviour.

It also claimed that Iran should not be rewarded with lucrative business opportunities as there are "numeorous risks" for Indian companies in doing business there.

The United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI), one of the most influential anti-Iran advocacy groups in the US, said Iran's "irresponsible and belligerent" behavior is in complete contrast to Modi's "powerful and timely determination" to tackle terrorism and corruption.

Modi has a "special opportunity to focus his efforts on pressuring Iran to halt its destabilizing and provocative behavior, rather than prematurely rewarding the regime with lucrative business opportunities," UANI Chairman Senator Joseph Lieberman and UANI CEO Ambassador Mark Wallace said in a statement released ahead of Modi's visit to Iran on 22-23 May.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. AP

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. AP

Modi's strategically important visit, at the invitation of the Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, comes as India looks at stepping up engagement with the sanctions-free energy-rich nation. Modi will also meet Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei during the visit.

The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) had said in New Delhi that the visit will provide thrust to expanding bilateral cooperation in the wake of lifting of sanctions against Iran earlier this year.

"The visit of Prime Minister to Iran will seek to build on these commonalities by focussing on specific cooperation in regional connectivity and infrastructure, developing energy partnership, boosting bilateral trade, facilitating people-to-people interaction in various spheres and promoting peace and stability in the region," the MEA statement said.

"For these reasons, India's formidable economic and diplomatic power should not be used to further embolden and enable Tehran," it added.

The influential group warned that the "risks" of doing business with the Iranian regime are "simply too great and too numerous" for Indian companies and the larger global business community.

"World leaders cannot declare they are fighting terrorism and corruption around the world, while at the same time doing business with Tehran," it said.

Citing the tough stand taken by Modi against terrorism and corruption, UANI said his call to the international community to tackle terrorism together is "particularly relevant" to Iran, which the group described as the "world's leading state sponsor of terrorism".

"The Ayatollah and his regime continue to openly support Hezbollah and Hamas, and even recently welcomed a delegation from the terrorist organization Islamic Jihad," it added.

The group also pointed out the Iran fares poorly on global indexes on corruption and in this context Modi "should be mindful" of his statements about fighting terrorism and corruption.

UANI, an independent, not-for-profit, group, was founded in 2008 by Wallace, former US Ambassador to the UN Richard Holbrooke and former CIA Director Jim Woolsey.

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Updated Date: May 21, 2016 11:38:33 IST

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