(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
Iran has shown its hurt on India which has unilaterally stopped the import of its oil, unwilling to stand in the corner of the adversaries of the United States.
Ali Chegeni, Iranian Ambassador to India, didn’t mince his words in a press briefing in New Delhi on Tuesday, chiding India for succumbing to the “sanctions” of the United States.
The Donald Trump administration is going berserk in his attempt to destroy Iran, first pulling out of the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) despite Iran being faithful to the deal and piling on with economic sanctions without approval from its allies or world community in the form of United Nations.
India hasn’t imported oil from Iran for months now and couched its action as “reduced” and not “stopped” to suit its independent image. But now that Iran has gone public, India has been shown as having been arm-twisted by the United States.
Fans of India’s prime minister Narendra Modi and his muscular foreign policy could feel cheated as a multi-polar world—against the unipolar bullying of United States—is nearer to being a reality.
Russia and China, hit by sanctions and trade wars, are now joined at hips and Iran is a vital clog in their drive to keep Middle East, even Eurasia, out of bounds for the United States. European Union (EU) has created INSTEX (Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges) to keep trading with Iran without resorting to direct transfers of money between the two entities. India is seen as one final piece of jigsaw of the emerging multi-polar world which would signal the further unravelling of US’ hegemony.
To be sure, the United States is one hell of an economic power and throws its weight to bring nations under its heel. It’s the nerve centre of global economy. Be it goods or money; data or transportation, the world doesn’t move much without the express will of the United States.
The United States is the kingpin of globalization. It anchors International Monetary Fund (IMF). It controls over 50 per cent of the venture capital, all but 10 per cent of currency trade use its dollars. Tech and finance doesn’t move without its dollars; it could cripple phone-operating systems of the world; it controls the fund-management assets. As The Economist puts it: “Across the panel, it’s normal to use a Visa card, invoice exports in dollars, sleep beside a device with a Qualcomm chip, watch Netflix and work for a firm that BlackRock invests in.”
If a firm is blacklisted, no bank would touch you with a barge pole and you are put outside the dollar payment system. There is a law in place which controls the foreign investment into Silicon Valley—if you fall foul, you could virtually say goodbye to transactions in semiconductors and software, a virtual ruination in today’s world.
Economy isn’t the imperative though which has guided India’s change of course vis-à-vis Iran. India needs to hedge its bets. That’s the demand of the geopolitics reality. It neither can annoy the chief actors of the drama nor it can afford to align itself with either of the two groups: United States vs the Russia-China combine. If it snuggles up to the United States, it loses the strategic and military advantage of Russia. It provokes China to join hands with Pakistan and cause mayhem on its borders. If it slips into the arms of Russia-China, it must brace itself to the devastation which the United States could unleash, like the one they have in Hong Kong.
India thus follows the sensible policy of keeping its suitors interested. Both the United States and China need India. The United States in its existential mission to squeeze China and badly needs India. China wants to keep India dormant for the same reason. It can’t afford a naval configuration of United States-Japan-Australia-India to spike its waters.
India too needs to do a balancing act of its own. So it relents on South China Sea to ensure China doesn’t help Pakistan to the extent its borders are put under siege. It relents to United States’ demand on Iran to ensure its military purchases from Russia are unimpaired. It knows the mischief the United States is capable of. India internally is in an ideological churn. And the United States is expert in fishing in troubled waters. Kashmir could so easily go horribly wrong.
I suspect Modi’s India, in its heart, is for a multi-polar world. United States doesn’t follow rules, it isn’t friends with anyone. All it wants is servility. Those who are independent—like Cuba, Venezuela, Russia, China, North Korea or Iran—face its wrath. India is still some leagues away before it could trust China completely and dump the United States for good. India is pivotal to Project Eurasia but can’t afford to annoy either of the two blocs. It’s a watchful tread by them.
It’s just not the United States: India has also made a choice in warming up to Saudi Arabia-Israel in the Middle East. They are Iran’s sworn enemies. By drawing close to the Gulf Muslim nations, India has left Pakistan sterile. Pakistan’s fervent appeal on religious lines to Muslim nations has drawn a very tepid response on Kashmir. Instead we have the situation where Modi is being accorded the highest civilian honour in UAE and Bahrain. This comes in the backdrop of Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and Maldives conferring similar honours to him. It has isolated Pakistan on Kashmir.
Iran has shown it can’t wait for India interminably. It doesn’t want to be a minor player in India’s international diplomatic games. It’s a perfectly legitimate response given how Iran and its’ proud people are waging a war for survival. Modi government though is in the thick of its own war with internal and external enemies. One hopes, through the backdoor diplomatic channels, India and Iran remain warm to each other. Till the time is ripe.
It’s good for the world.
(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
It would be a hectic two days for Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan (June 13-14). The flight detour through Oman and Iran too wouldn’t have helped. Then there is this little matter of bilateral talks with at least five heads of states: Xi Jinping (China), Vladimir Putin (Russia), Hassan Rouhani (Iran), Ashraf Ghani (Afghanistan) and Sooronbay Jeenbekov (Kyrgyzstan) besides the actual SCO Summit.
Modi’s diplomacy in Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) isn’t just about his time. It’s also about the long shadow of United States which would follow his every move and not just with China, Russia, Pakistan and Iran—all in US crosshair for one reason or the other. Modi has the image of a tough leader, engaging the world but never aligned to any particular bloc. Much of it would be tested by Friday.
Modi, of course, can’t overlook the probing audience of a billion and a half people in India and Pakistan. There would be photo-ops with Pakistan’s prime minister Imran Khan. Every nuance of arched eyebrows, warm or cold smile, firm or limp handshake, would be dissected in reams of papers. A hug though is as good as ruled out.
In many ways SCO would be about optics. Its’ stated goal is to fight against the three evils of terrorism, separatism and extremism. But Pakistan would be spared this embarrassment. Our troublesome neighbour is making its debut in SCO since its formal induction in 2017—as is the case with India. This powerful Group of the East has had always China behind the wheels. Modi can enjoy the ride but can’t change the course. China is friends with Pakistan for nothing.
Meanwhile, India and Pakistan have chosen to embarrass each other on the eve of the 19th SCO Summit. India first sought a free airspace for Modi’s passage to Bishkek. However once it was granted, wisdom prevailed and Modi opted to decline the offer. Pakistan, or its propped-up separatists in Jammu & Kashmir, then killed 5 CRPF jawans in Anantnag on Wednesday. Be ready for some tough pictures from Bishkek.
It isn’t to say that SCO is without merit for India. US needs India for its Asia strategy and by appearing shoulder-to-shoulder with Putin and Xi, Modi would keep Donald Trump sober when the two meet in a fortnight’s time in Osaka for G20 Summit (June 28-29). Modi’s bilateral with Rouhani in Bishkek would further force Trump’s hands. That the host in Osaka would be Japan’s Shinzo Abe, who is outreaching to Iran later this week, is no little matter.
India also needs to have the right thermostat to keep matters with China from running too hot or too cold. Modi’s recent visit to Maldives must have prodded the wounds of China. Bishkek would be a good place to straighten out the ruffled feathers since the two leaders, Modi and XI, are slated for a summit in October, a la Wuhan style.
There is no gain denying India sees a friend in Russia. It was Russia which facilitated the entry of India into SCO which, to begin with, was primarily a Central Asia lobby that needed an axis after Soviet Union exploded in 1991. Modi and Putin aren’t taking any steps back on S400 missiles or their growing defence cooperation and Bishkek would afford the two leaders a moment to align themselves against the evil eye of US.
SCO is as good a moment as any to keep Afghanistan in India’s good books. The mountainous country could be fuming for having been not invited for Modi’s oath ceremony last month. Kabul is insecure for more than one reason—Taliban, fostered by Pakistan, is gaining international currency; and US is vowing a retreat of its armed forces. India has always been an all-weather friend and Bishkek couldn’t have come at a better time.
India also needs access to information and intelligence from the Tashkent-based RATS (Regional Anti Terror Structure). China’s push for Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) also can’t be allowed a free goal. India also can’t afford to be hemmed in by Pakistan and China on its two flanks. A global economy can’t be known as only a South Asian behemoth. India needs physical access over and above its northern borders into Eurasia and SCO affords an excellent opportunity. A rising India is critical to all big powers and it must keep all its suitors on tenterhooks. A stronger and more empowered Modi by his people would only help.
Sri Lanka, shook to the bone because of terror attacks of Easter Sunday, has asked its people to be without veils. It has upset Indian Express greatly. For two successive days now, it has front page and edits on how it has upset the local Muslim community and that it goes against the fundamental rights. “Why are women being asked to shoulder the burden (of terror attacks)?” the newspaper asks indignantly in its editorial today.
So being freed of veil is a burden for Muslim women. Look at umpteen photos of the 1970s in Baghdad, Tehran, Damascus, Kabul or Cairo (like in the image above and below) and you would see Muslim women in shorts and skirts. Barely anybody had her face covered on those streets. They did their hair, wore skirts above the knees, and often outdid their western sisters. They must be being envied by their daughters today for they had so much freedom.
So what changed? Pretty little. There are still 14 countries which have banned hijab or naqab. It’s not a law for women to veil themselves in Afghanistan. Turkey doesn’t allow it, nor does Syria or Tunisia. Lebanon doesn’t enforce it; Tajikstan is against it. Cameroon, Chad and Gabon etc ban it.
The focus of this article is not who does and who doesn’t wear veils. The idea is to pin down the narrative and zero on who could be behind these damage-control operations. Why as soon as Muslim jihadists cause violence our newspapers start portraying Muslim community as victims? Why headlines such as “son of a school teacher” start making rounds? (Remember the Pulwama attack: as soon as it happened Lutyens Media started spreading fake stories about Kashmiris in other parts of India being made to flee).
So in Sri Lanka, as soon as the terror strikes happened, our newspapers reported how it was Muslims only who pointed out the terror hideouts to police. How they were helping out the state apparatus. Now for two days the narrative is fixated on Muslim veils as if it is a religious assault. (It’s another matter our newspapers, fed by Communist and Saudi patronage, would never call out China for its ban on Muslim veils).
You wouldn’t be told that it’s a temporary measure in Sri Lanka. That the island nation is under Emergency which automatically means restricted freedom. There won’t be insightful discussions on what drives the ideology of Islamic State (IS) and thousands of rapes they justify in the name of their doctrine. Where are feminist icons? The flagbearers of freedom of choice and expression? Who ask women to fight for freedom and equality even as they tell Muslim women its’ okay to cover their shameful bodies?
You won’t be told of surveys which reveal 99 per cent of Egyptian women report being sexually harassed; that up to 80 sexual assaults occur in a single day. That in Iraq not too long ago there was a proposal to lower to nine the legal age of marriage for girls. That UNICEF estimates more than 125 million crimes of female genital mutilation have been reported from Africa and Arab nations. That immigrant communities to Europe and North America carry such practices with them.
The fact is nowhere in Quran women are asked to cover their bodies completely. While the Quran calls for modest clothing and for women to cover their hair, the holy book doesn’t ask for women to cover their faces.
However, cooked narratives serve up a totally different course on the table. We all have heard that devout Muslims go to paradise but what happens to women? Is there a mention that they too go to paradise?
To go back to my original question why our newspapers compete to replace “Violent Muslim” with “Victim Muslim” narrative? It’s not a one-off thing—there is a pattern. It’s an agenda. Who enforces this agenda? Such agenda could only run on the fuel of funds. Who supplies funds? Who gains by white-washing Islamists/Jihadists crimes? The logical corollary is the Wahabbi doctrinaires. Do they have Left as its accomplice? Or why our Leftists newspapers would peddle in such an agenda?
(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
For someone like United States which created terrorism in the 1990s that has destroyed the world– think about it: the wreckage of Yugoslavia, paid mercenaries to drive Soviet Union out of Afghanistan in the late 80s, the 9/11, the disastrous Iraq War, the nurturing of Al-Qaeda and Islamic State (IS), the transportation of terrorism to our own Kashmir, the wreckage of Middle East where leaders like Muammar Gaddaffi and Saddam Hussein were thrown off only because they chose to be independent, the muscle which allowed Saudi Arabia to wreck Yemen, Egypt (Arab Spring), Ukraine, you name it—is being egged on by extensions of this “deep state”—your international news agencies and closer home their lackeys in Lutyens’ Media—to stay on in Afghanistan and Syria. Why? Because US presence–in their worldview of brainwashing citizenry of the world– is necessary to curb terrorism!!!
United States as a nation has lost thousands of its soldiers in this “pursuit” to end terrorism, which truth must be told is nothing but to benefit its Military-Industrial Complex—read it as “deep state”—that profits monstrously whenever chaos, anarchy, civil strifes and wars are lit by its own machinations around the world. The reconstruction of Iraq after Saddam Hussein is the costliest and biggest scam to have ever happened in human history. Their generation-long overstay in Afghanistan has institutionalized the smuggling of drugs around the world which passes the Gulf and in connivance with these desert kingdoms and Pakistan’s ISI, reaches long-forgotten Africa and destroys millions of youth either sides of Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Illegal drugs today is the third biggest trade in the world after oil and gas. You must doff off your hats to Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) for that. Don’t be deluded that the big cat called CIA is funded by the meagre funds of US Congress. It’s this illegal drugs trade which allows them the muscle to buy and destroy the world.
But trust our newspapers and news agencies to spin a completely different take on the issue. Ask them if you must that why they published with glee the pictures of Islamic State swords striking their handcuffed, face-covered victims on their front pages but reduced the news of disappearance of Islamic State, a few years down the line, as a snippet inside their news pages. Shouldn’t it have been a cause of celebration? The middle-pages spread? The distinguished edit-page writers? All those South-Pacific-Human Rights-blah-blah Foundations which plant expert pieces in our newspapers? And why we must not treat them as nothing better than extension of this “deep state”, funded and controlled by them.
The barbarity of Islamic State was perpetuated and highlighted to drive fear in the hearts of world citizenry and legitimatize the US-European NATO operations in the name of saving “liberty, freedom, democracy” of the free world. And who do you think were supplying Islamic State funds and arms by stealth? Who do you think were buying the oil that Islamic State sold from captured oil wells of Syria and Iraq? Every kid, each living soul in Middle East knows that Islamic State was put on run only after Putin’s Russia entered the fray and risked it’s all.
So when Donald Trump wants to put “United States First”—trying to haul out its thousands of military youth rotting in deserts, inhospitable conditions, facing disease trauma and death, conceding that these wars and occupations were never meant to liberate those people and lands but to feed the deep, insatiable pockets of its own military-industrial complex, and its allies, causing a financial ruin to the United States, all hell has broken lose. Newspapers are aghast: how could US abdicate its responsibility of policing the world and nailing terrorism? They wouldn’t tell you the answer if you asked them whether US involvement has increased or decreased terrorism in all these decades.
It is this delusion and sense of matrix which makes them deny the Brexit and emergence of Trump. Away from their propaganda, the faceless and powerless billions of this world are acutely aware they live in a world controlled by powerful monsters who rule even their own governments. These monsters wouldn’t mind if the world goes up in smoke – as long as the money keeps rolling in. It’s this faceless and powerless citizenry which has brought Trump to US Presidentship. It’s these faceless and powerless who punctured David Cameron and won the referendum on Brexit. Forces are at work to wreck both Trump and Brexit—like they are out to damage Modi, Putin and Xi – for they are shaping a world beyond this matrix of “deep state.” The saccharine calls for “Freedom, Liberty, Democracy” fools nobody in today’s connected world of social media.
Look at India’s English mainstream media of today. All are shedding copious tears and stoking fear that with US’ announcement of withdrawal from Syria and downsizing by half its forces in Afghanistan, India would be at peril from the horrors of terrorism. They won’t stop and question why US’ presence didn’t douse terrorism in the first instance over a generation. India would be just fine, as would be the world, if US doesn’t bestow itself with the role of interfering in the world in the name of “freedom and democracy.” And that too, without the sanctions of United Nations.
And now the twist. Do you really think the cat has caught too many mice and is willing to take a rest now? A long shot. Even as US has announced withdrawal from Syria and Afghanistan, it’s quietly ramping up its military presence in Kuwait. A secretive massive military drill is underway in conjunction with its Siamese twin, Israel. It’s again on boil on Russia and North Korea. The more things change, they more they remain the same. But if knowledge is power, let it be your only defence against these ruinous powers.
(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
Centre has rushed tens of thousands of paramilitary forces to Assam lest violence breaks out in the north-eastern state after the second draft of National Register of Citizens (NRC) is released on July 30.
The first draft had embraced 1.9 crores out of 3.9 crores as legal citizens of the state. The second draft could take care of a few lakhs more. But what’s certain is that there would be many lakhs more who won’t have the papers to meet the cut-off date of March 24, 1971.
A majority of them are persecuted Hindus fleeing Bangladesh: informed sources put it to over 11 million Hindus between 1964 and 2013. There is also no insignificant numbers of economically-motivated Muslim migrants over decades.
Most have moved directly across the vast 272 km border which Assam shares with Bangladesh. Some have come from West Bengal. Being termed illegal overnight could’ve serious law and order consequences though home minister Rajnath Singh has stressed “it’s just a draft” and nobody is going into a “detention centre.”
Census figures over the years show that Assam’s population exploded by 36 per cent between 1951-1961; and by 35% over the next decade. In 2011 Census, it’s population was 31.2 million which was a 17.1% rise from 2001 figures. Most migrants are Bengali-speaking and Barak Valley is their stronghold. The Assamese-speaking population of the state are rooted in Brahmaputra Valley.
NRC is hardly a comfort to (a) an illegal Hindu migrant family who fears being sent back to Bangladesh where it fled religious persecution in the first place; or (b) Muslim migrants who in one stroke could find two of its generation stateless refugees; or (c) even indigenous Assamese who know NRC would make no difference to ground reality and that these illegal immigrants would multiply manifold if the Citizenship Bill 2016 is passed into an Act.
All things point to nothing materially changing for illegal migrants post release of second draft of NRC. One, India doesn’t have an agreement with Bangladesh in place (our eastern neighbours don’t even acknowledge influx of illegal migrants from its stable); Two, a porous border allows an extradited illegal migrant to return without hassle; Three, many lakhs of illegal immigrants are already spread all over the country, especially in metropolis such as Delhi, Bangalore and Mumbai. Who keeps tab on them?
It’s worth remembering that the present exercise of NRC is at the behest of Supreme Court. The Centre has got nothing to do with it. BJP can’t abandon illegal Hindu migrants—which would be a stick they would be beaten with– nor antagonize local Assamese who have given vote in their favour in 2016 assembly elections.
This makes nobody happy. Certainly not people. But Congress is sure to fish in troubled waters which is largely a making of their own indifference, if not mischief. Congress has ruled Assam for decades and benefited immensely from the political umbrella it provided to illegal Bangladeshi immigrants. Despite then-PM Rajiv Gandhi signing the 1985 accord with leaders of the Assam movement, it remains an embarrassing fact for the party that only 2442 illegal immigrants were expelled from Assam between 1985-2012.
Not to forget TMC and its head, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee who is already stoking the fire in Assam from her den in order to appease illegal migrants in her own state who arguably are her vote bank; or Left which in the past sabotaged one such move by Shiv Sena-BJP combine in Maharashtra to deport illegal Bangladeshis in 1998.
Sooner than later though, illegal migrants must be taken off the election rolls; ways must be found to give refuge to millions of fleeing Hindus (and other Indic minority sects) from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh with full citizenship status (without worrying about Rohingyas or Human Right Activists—for Hindus have only India to turn to while Muslims and Christians have dozens of own doors to knock around the world); and illegal migrants legally committed not to indulge in political or religious subversive acts.
(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
United States wants India to cut down its oil imports from Iran which stands as its third biggest supplier after Iraq and Saudi Arabia. President Donald Trump has followed his pre-election promise with withdrawal from the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan for Action (JCPOA) which had enabled China, Russia, France, Germany UK, European Union and the US itself to dilute the economic sanctions against Tehran. Now the sanctions are back in place with the deadline of November 6, 2018 and the world is in turmoil, no less India.
The Trump administration has chosen a new way to browbeat the countries which don’t fall in line. Last August, it introduced CAATSA (Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act) to scare those away from trade relations with “hostile” countries such as Russia, North Korea and Iran. International banks and companies which defy the sanctions would bear the brunt. Less oil imports from Iran would hike up the prices and import bills, not just of India but of many around the world. It would hit both inflation and Indian rupee. Since US dominates the re-insurance and payment gateways, bypassing them is difficult.
India’s dilemma is apparent. Before 2005, it paid $12-14 billion annually to oil bills by Iran. But signing the 2005 Indo-US Nuclear Civil Deal, gave New Delhi’s leash in US hands. India voted against Iran in the IAEA General Conference in September the very year; dithered on the Iran-Pakistan-India Pipeline and sounded the death knell of Turkmenistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline project. By 2014, India had reduced the Iranian oil imports to $4 billion annually.
The US treasury methodically shut down the banking options for India who then began paying Turkey by cash which then converted it to gold bars and sent it across to Tehran. India was in no position to pay oil bills in US dollars. India did try the balancing act: while Reserve Bank of India (RBI) ceased dealing with Tehran-based Asian Clearing Union in 2010, it came to an understanding with Iran to pay half of its bill in Indian rupees in 2012.
But once the JCPOA came into being, India-Iran trade relations grew back to 2012 days. India also decided to pay out $6.5 billion it owed to Iran, held up due to sanctions. Modi government renewed the stalled Chahbahar port project. Its’ ministers made a beeline to Tehran with promises of oil and infrastructural projects. Iran obliged on its part by granting Oil and Natural Gas Commission (ONGC) the gas fields of Farzad B for exploration. The air of optimism only grew better when Iranian president Hassan Rouhani visited New Delhi this February with his oil minister Bijan Zanganeh. India pledged it would double its oil imports from Iran in 2018-2019. Iran, on its part, promised to cut down the freight by $1 per barrel. India pledged to increase import by 500,000 barrels a day.
But now comes the fresh US imposition. Even though foreign minister Sushma Swaraj has reiterated India would only abide by the mandates sanctioned by the United Nations (UN), it’s easier said than done. India and US have a booming trade of $140 billion which could take a grave hit, as well as around $31 billion of bilateral trade surplus advantage India has. Chahbahar port project, which could save millions in trade and increase Afghanistan’s tilt towards India, stands to lose steam. Besides, it just would give a bigger fillip to China to snug closer to Iran, shutting the doors on India.
India would be encouraged by the stand of UK, France, Germany who have expressed “regret and concern over Trump’s disruptive action. The Modi government meanwhile has started to flex its own muscles: in reaction to US postponing the 2+2 dialogue, India has declined US’ offer to host Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. India also seems steadfast in increasing its military deals with Russia which faces similar offensive sanctions from United States.
The one fall-out of all this, including trade barriers ratcheted up by both US and India, is Modi government swinging back appreciably into the China-Russia zone. India has this strategic advantage where countries are looking to wow India rather than the other way around. However, India-US relations for the moment are several notches down than they have ever been since Trump came to power.
For its commercial and political implications, the Chabahar Port deal with Iran marks the finest achievement yet of Narendra Modi’s global engagements.
The commercial implications are obvious—India was hemmed in by Pakistan’s intransigence to refuse direct trade between India and Afghanistan and China’s One Belt One Road (OBOR) vision had the potential to clamp manacles on India’s ankles.
In one stroke, India has freed itself from the curfew and it could now entertain visions of trade and infrastructure links with Middle East and Central Asia and still further with Russia and Europe.
Let’s take up the bare details before we look at the wider implications and how Pakistan, China and United States, the other key players in the region, would react to it—Afghanistan, as we know from the history of Hindu Kush in the colonial times, is a prized land. So far it was its geographical location but now is the promise of immense mineral wealth which, according to Geological Survey of United States, could be worth as much as $1 trillion, due to its iron, copper, cobalt, gold and lithium potential.
Afghanistan, unfortunately, has always attracted predators who couldn’t care less about the welfare of Afghan people; who could go to any length to destabilize it in order to retain a degree of control over the cursed land. United States, on one pretext or another, stays put in the name of eliminating terrorism while, as everybody knows, promoting the same in cohort with Saudi Arabia, and not long ago, Pakistan.
The birth of modern terrorism occurred in the wake of Soviet Union’s departure from Afghanistan as United States planted mujahideens, with Pakistan and Saudi Arabia providing men, resources and ground support. The country was soon in chaos, split between war lords of one camp or other, and the lure of illicit heroin trade, which by a conservative estimate is second only to oil and gas in volume, has kept them involved. They aren’t going to leave the country in our lifetimes.
Afghanistan thus has every reason to distrust Pakistan—after all its bête noire Osama bin Laden and Mullah Mohammad Omar were traced there—and by inference United States. It sure receives significant infrastructural aid from China but so tied are the fortunes of the Middle Kingdom with Pakistan that Kabul can’t ignore the political implications.
India has diligently nurtured its ties with Afghanistan. Since 2001, it has provided Afghanistan with $2 billion development assistance. In December last year, Modi inaugurated Afghan parliament built on India’s aid of 90 million dollars. It has contributed $300 million on Salma dam and hydroelectric power plant at Herat which Modi is expected to inaugurate next month. In 2009, India had built a 217-km highway costing $100 million that links Zaranj with Delaram, located on Afghanistan-Iran border. From there, the local road connects to Chabahar.
India has always worried over its energy supply, most of which emanates from the Middle East. It receives 57 percent of its crude oil from the Middle East which would only increase manifolds in the coming years. Saudi Arabia is its biggest supplier but knowing the close equation between the Arab kingdom and Pakistan, India has always been keen to get Iran on its side. The latter, for this very reason—after all the Middle East conundrum is largely a tussle between Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shia Iran for dominance in Muslim world—seeks a natural affinity with India. Both nations have close cultural and historical ties. Persian was the official language of the Mughal Empire in the 16th century.
Chabahar is located on the Gulf of Oman, just 80km away from Gwadar which is the cornerstone of China’s pivot to Pakistan. Chabahar is just 299km east of world’s most critical passageway for oil tankers, the Strait of Hormuz.
Iran urgently wants this port to work as 85 percent of its seaborne traffic is managed by its Bandar Abbas port in the Strait of Hormuz. However, this port can only handle 100,000-metric ton ships. Large ships first offload at the Jebel Ali port in the United Arab Emirates en route to Iran. In contrast, Chabhar is a deep-water port and could process large ships. Chabahar would also allow both India and Iran to access large parts of Africa, Asia, Arabia and Australasia.
India has so far committed $500 million on the Chabahar project. It’s also assisting the 500-km rail link between Chabahar-Zahedan-Zaranj. The free trade zone of Chabahar could also encourage investment by its industries in urea, smelter and aluminium etc. In 2012, India had already used the port to transport a 100,000 metric ton shipment of wheat to Afghanistan.
According to the JV plans, India will develop two berths in Chabahar, one to handle container traffic and the other a multi-purpose cargo terminal. The MoU includes the sea-land access route to Afghanistan. India has plans to build a road-railroad network from Chabahar to Milak in Iran which in turn would link up the Indian-built 223-km Zaranj-Delaram road in Afghanistan.
India has also allayed worries on Iran’s part over its pending $6.5 billion payment. It has begun the process of payment in Euros, as requested by Turkey’s Halkbank. A cash-strapped Iran urgently needs investment and repayment of dues.
It’s a win-win all situation for all three nations. Both India and Iran are surrounded by hostile powers; both need avenues to grow. Afghanistan would finally be able to access the Indian Ocean.
Don’t expect United States to sit and watch this alignment of India-Afghanistan-Iran to take shape. Already we hear of encroachment of Islamic State (IS) in Afghanistan. US could again find a reason to impose sanctions on Iran. India too remains handicapped by its financial and regulatory hurdles.
But such is the opportunity in front of India, Afghanistan and Iran that one expects Chabahar Port to be a reality soon enough. There sure would be hurdles and interventions, but the three must stand together for their own good.
Does Europe have a future?
The very question signifies a collective entity and in that sense, the answer is an emphatic NO.
The presumption that it also includes Russia and its borderlands—strictly Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan—was already a NO before the question was asked.
Physically, Russia and its borderlands are part of Europe but never considered such by Western Europe or for that matter United States. The subservient mass media ensured it remained the “other” Europe.
Know your Europe, folks.
But this official Europe—defined as a unit by European Union (EU) and Euro—is finished. You could have a chance to offer a formal digital condolence in years to come though within your heart you know its dead.
This seed of destruction was sown in the hubris following the demise of Soviet Union in the 1990s. Both US and Europe wanted to run the world. Their democracy, institutions, trade rules, all stood vindicated. This model needed replicating. They thus sowed the wind and are now reaping the whirlwind.
This urge for prototypes led to the creation of European Union. Originally six countries had come together to produce and market steel and coal. But the Maastricht Treaty (1992) led to an overreach which now has 28 members in its fold. The creation of a single currency Euro followed before the 90s were out. The idea was to create a supranational entity with the vision of a political union somewhere in future.
This was the original mistake. European Union had been formed to ride over nationalism. But its new Eastern members had just been out of the Soviet Union umbrella. They wanted more of nationalism. Any decision could become victim of a single veto. Any progress was thus stalled from its very inception.
The EU bosses also hadn’t factored in the mood of citizens who could hold their governments in a bind. More than two-thirds of EU citizens were found by PEW Research Centre to distrust EU. Nearly 70 percent Europeans believed their voices didn’t count in EU.
Tigers and sheeps have an existential issue inside a wall. They never live in harmony, but for in Disney. Germany’s GDP is hundreds of times bigger than that of a Malta. Sweden and Latvia are no match. The hierarchy—and thus the distrust—became obvious. The notion of equality was shown the first door.
The creation of Euro was an original sin. It’s basis was the vision of a future political union–It wasn’t an economic decision by far. All the bosses wanted was a solid integration of history’s “bad boy” Germany into the fold. They also wanted to match dollar. But without political cohesion, it was a no-go from the start.
Ironically, the clever-by-half bosses felt a crisis could actually help forge the political union. They actually welcomed such a situation. Common banking and fiscal policies were thought to usher in a supra-central bank. They just believed a crisis would throw up a solution but had no idea what it could be.
Then came the 2008 financial meltdown. It’s been over seven years now. The deck is still on fire and attempt to douse it by papering over the Euro hasn’t worked. While they worked on saving the boat, a storm raged in not too far-away horizon of Middle East by way of wars and terrorism. Arab Springs, China, Russia, Syria all chipped away at the base. European capitals became unsafe, refugees came flooding in, paranoid and xenophobia bared its fangs.
The paralysis further eroded the confidence in Europe’s future. Germany first welcomed and then withdrew from the refugee problem. Hungary only wanted Christians. Fellow EU members (Croatia vs Hungary for instance) chirped away at each other.
This official Europe had further shot itself in foot on Ukraine. They offered moon to Ukraine but didn’t want to make allowance for Russia’s insecurity at its border. Ukraine almost has now turned into a failed state. As Henry Kissinger famously said: “both(East and West) want to make it an outpost for themselves—whereas it should’ve been a bridge”—or words similar to that effect.
Citizens again were in a disconnect on Ukraine. While Russia was drummed up as a threat, the polls showed that only 4 out of 10 Germans conformed to the viewpoint. And here’s the interesting bit: More than half in Germany, France and Italy believe NATO shouldn’t use weapons against Russia to defend other nations. As Stephen P Malt famously said: “It’s not a message you want to hear if you are an Estonian.”
Simply put, EU wants a European first and a French later. The public view is diametrically opposite. Schengen Visa, an admirable move, is in tatters. The demographic implosion is at hand. Europe’s population is declining at an alarming rate. So is the staggering 25 percent unemployment on average in Eastern and Southern Europe.
If another round of Greek crisis erupts in future—which it would given the austerity regime imposed on it—then all hell would break loose. If Greece quits, EU and Euro could unravel rather quickly. Europe, as it is, is rather uneasy at United States’ “Pivot to Asia.” Not to forget their preoccupation with Syria and Middle East. Their big daddy United State is unhappy on its own part given how eager France and Germany are to sell military hardware to Beijing. The track record of NATO—with its debris in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya—hasn’t boosted the morale either.
The biggest challenge above all is Europeans’ complete distrust of their current rulers. There are no bright leaders like Europe had in Konrad Adenauer and Charles de Gaulle when Europe was trying to stand on its feet after World War II. The rise of far right parties like National Front of Marine le Pen in France could reach a critical mass.
Yes, Europe has an outstanding ability to reconstruct itself. But to do so, it self-destructs itself regularly.