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Does US road to better relations with Iran pass through India?

On her trip to New Delhi next week, Secretary Clinton seeks a new strategic partnership. But congressional critics see India as an enabler of the Iranian regime.

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When Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton unveils an anticipated US-India strategic partnership with her Indian counterpart in New Delhi Monday, she'll be six years behind India's signing of a similar cooperation pact with another power in the region: Iran.

India's deep and established ties to Iran were already cause for an occasional stumble in otherwise expanding US-India relations under the Bush administration.

Now, continuing resentment in Washington over the warm Delhi-Tehran connection – primarily in Congress – could still unsettle a new partnership the Obama administration envisions with one of the emerging powers of the 21st century.

Specifically, some in Congress see India as a key enabler of the Iranian regime – Indian exporters provide about 40 percent of the gasoline that keeps Iran moving – and are proposing measures targeting those Indian exporters but designed to hit the Iranian economy.

But at the same time, President Obama's preference for diplomacy over confrontation to address differences with Tehran, especially concerning its advancing nuclear program, earns the Obama administration high points in New Delhi.

Obama's stance has effectively pulled the wind out of the sails of forces in Washington alarmed over the India-Iran ties, some regional experts contend.

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