“Iranian” Journalist Arrested in New Delhi Bomb Attack Case

Crime scenePolice arrested an Indian journalist in
connection with last month’s bombing of an Israeli diplomatic vehicle in
New Delhi, authorities said Wednesday, the first apparent breakthrough
in an attack that Israel accused Iran of orchestrating.

Pictured: FILE
– In this Feb. 13, 2012 file photo, Indian police forensics experts
investigate the scene after an explosion tore through a car belonging to
the Israel Embassy in New Delhi, India.
(AP Photo/Kevin Frayer, File)


The Press Trust of
India said the suspect had claimed to work for an Iranian news
organization, a fact Indian police declined to confirm.

Though
Indian authorities have not implicated Iran in the bombing, any leads
that point in that direction could complicate India’s delicate efforts
to ward off growing Western pressure and maintain its strong economic
ties with Tehran.

Energy-starved India remains
a large market for Iranian oil, and those purchases could blunt the
effect of intensified sanctions being imposed by the United States and
European Union to force Iran to roll back its nuclear ambitions.

“India
finds itself between a rock and a hard place over Iran,” said Arundhati
Ghose, a retired Indian diplomat. “It’s a tough call for the
government, but one that New Delhi will have to confront eventually.”

Police
arrested Syed Mohammed Kazmi on Tuesday after investigations showed he
had been in touch with a suspect they believe may have stuck a magnetic
bomb on an Israeli diplomat’s car, police spokesman Rajan Bhagat said.

Police
said they searched Kazmi’s house over the past two days to gather
evidence that might link him to the Feb. 13 attack, which wounded the
diplomat’s wife, her driver and two other people in a nearby car. Police
did not say what evidence they found.

Kazmi,
50, was being questioned and was scheduled to appear in court Wednesday
before being handed over to officials of the investigating agencies for
further questioning, Bhagat said.

The New
Delhi blast came the same day a bomb was discovered on an Israeli
diplomat’s car in the former Soviet republic of Georgia. The next day,
three Iranians accidentally blew up their house in Thailand, and Israeli
authorities said the similarity between their explosives and the two
earlier bombs linked Iran to all three incidents.

Indian officials have refused to assign blame while the investigation continues.

Israel
has accused Iran of waging a covert campaign of state terrorism and has
threatened military strikes on Iranian nuclear facilities.

If
Kazmi’s arrest and interrogation leads to evidence of Iran’s
involvement – either directly or through its proxies – in the New Delhi
attack, the fallout could put India in a diplomatic quandary.

Iran is one of India’s major suppliers of oil, accounting for 12 percent of its energy needs.

So
far, India has fended off criticism for its growing economic ties with
Iran by saying it does not heed unilateral sanctions, such as those
being imposed by the United States and European Union.

“We
have accepted sanctions that are made by the United Nations,” Foreign
Secretary Ranjan Mathai told reporters in Washington at a recent press
briefing. “Other sanctions do not apply to us.”

Western
sanctions have made it harder for Indian companies to pay for Iranian
oil, with international banks unwilling to handle transactions from
Tehran without breaching the new American sanctions on Iran’s financial
earnings from oil.

Last month, India and Iran
agreed to an arrangement for 45 percent of the $11 billion in annual oil
payments to be made in Indian rupees, with the rest to be paid in a
barter system.

Tehran is looking to trade oil
for Indian-made machinery, iron and steel, minerals and automobiles,
while Indian companies plan to invest in infrastructure projects in Iran
including developing oil and gas fields, roads and railways.

India
brushed off the international outrage over the blasts and said it would
go ahead with a visit to Tehran this weekend by an Indian trade
delegation headed by the commerce secretary.

“India
needs the Iranian crude. It would be very difficult to find alternative
sources of oil that would be acceptable to Indian refineries,” a
commerce ministry official said on condition of anonymity because he was
not authorized to speak to the media.

Many of
India’s aging oil refineries are configured to use Iranian crude oil.
Retrofitting these refineries would be costly, the official said.

India
is also looking after its strategic interests in Iran’s neighbor
Afghanistan, which India hopes to prevent from falling under the sway of
its archrival, Pakistan, after the 2014 withdrawal of NATO troops.

India uses Iranian ports to send goods to Afghanistan as it scrambles to maintain influence there.

“India
is now in a panic over what lies ahead in Afghanistan. The Americans
are leaving Afghanistan; they are talking to the Taliban. India will
find itself scrambling for access in Afghanistan,” says K.C. Singh, a
former Indian ambassador to Iran.

To this end,
India is helping develop the southern Iranian port of Chabahar and a
rail link that will offer it direct access to Afghanistan.

New Delhi has not remained completely immune to sanction pressures and is slowly easing its dependence on Iranian oil.

Trends
show a gradual decline in Iranian oil imports, with a temporary spike
in January due to the bunching of earlier supplies that were delayed due
to payment hurdles.

India has also developed
close ties with Israel after diplomatic relations were established in
1992, and Tel Aviv has emerged as an important arms supplier.

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