(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
If there is one country besides Pakistan which draws hiss and roar from India, it is Turkey and a series of unprecedented measures by New Delhi in recent times lends credence to such a startling impression.
Not only India has put off a scheduled visit of its prime minister Narendra Modi, it has also shelved a mouth-watering Indian navy contract with a Turkish company. It has issued an advisory to Indian tourists to exercise “utmost caution” while touring Turkey and it mouthed fire when Istanbul put boots in northern Syria last month.
What’s wrong between the two countries which historically stood by each other in the past? It was Turkey which gave refuge to Indian clerics when colonialists Britain cracked down on India’s war of independence in 1857. A half century on, Mahatma Gandhi took up the Khilafat movement on behalf of the Ottoman Empire as it was being cut to pieces by the British in 1919. Turkey was one of the first nations to recognize India on its independence in 1947. Indeed, there are over 9,000 words which are common in the language of the two countries.
Fast forward to present times: Turkey was one of those rare nations who used the United Nations platform to internationalize the Kashmir issue this year. India hit back by snuggling up to leaders of Armenia, Cyprus and Greece which have long-standing border disputes with Turkey. The bilateral trade, which grew by one-third between 2016-2018, is reeling as the two bare teeth at each other. The chill befuddles the innocent for Turkey is a geographical marvel, straddling East and West and India is an economic candy which has the world lining up on its door. Both have ample reasons to find each other attractive.
The timeline of discord
The timeline of discord would show that it all began at the beginning of the Cold War when Turkey and Pakistan joined the Baghdad Pact, or CENTO (Central Treaty Organization), initiated by the United States and India assumed the leadership of newly-freed Colonial outposts, the Non-Aligned group, under the benign protection of Soviet Union. The wheels came off in due course with Turkey standing firmly behind Pakistan on the issue of Kashmir and thwarting India’s bid for membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) for a long time.
It would appear Turkey has given India a clutch of reasons to worry about, as a wounded deer would about encircling wolves. It all stems from president Recep Tayyip Erdogan endlessly gazing in the mirror and watching the heir of Ottomon Empire, the saviour of Muslim civilization, peer back at him. It makes him take up the causes from Palestine to Kashmir to Xinjiang, build mosques from Asia to Africa to Latin America and spend a fortune in restoring Ottoman heritage around the world.
India, hosting 200 million Muslims in its bosom – the third largest such concentration in the world after Indonesia and Pakistan – and is a natural target. Turkey thus takes up the Kashmir cause with gusto, openly siding with Jamaat-e-Islami, a Pakistan-based Islamic fundamentalist party, which has notorious Hizbul Mujahideen as its militant wing that causes unending cycle of violence and terror in Kashmir Valley. No wonder Turkey is a cause célèbre among Kashmiri separatists such as Hurriyat and Erdogan’s victory in presidential elections last year led to huge celebrations in Kashmir.
Turkey plays host to extremist Indian Muslim preachers such as Zakir Naik who delivered a speech to an Islamist group, run by Erdogan’s son Bilal, in 2017. Naik had fled to Malaysia after his name cropped up after a ghastly terrorist attack in a Dhaka cafe in 2016 which left 29 dead. Modi has made a personal request to Malaysia for Naik’s extradition to India.
Turkey further runs the South Asia Strategic Research Centre (GASAM) with an aim to export Erdogan’s Islamist ideology to his audience of millions of Muslims in Pakistan and India. Erdogan thinks he has a headstart over arch-enemy Saudi Arabia on Indian Muslims: One, both Indian and Turkish Muslims are not Arabs; Two, both follow the Hanafi school of Sunni Islam which is different from Wahhabism, the forte of Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia and Muslim leadership
Turkey doesn’t need much to woo Pakistan. It already has Pakistan eating out of its hand as it saves the latter from international sanctions such as FATF (Financial Action Task Force), gives a global platform for its Kashmir pitch and firms up its economy. That Pakistan is also the only Islamist country which is a nuclear power helps. Pakistan further pays its dues by siding with Turkey as the latter looks to take over leadership mantle from Saudi Arabia in the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).
Turkey and Saudi Arabia of course are sworn rivals. It’s a rivalry steeped in history. It were the Ottoman Turks who engineered the fall of first Wahhabi empire in the 19th century. Ottomon Empire itself was dismantled, 100 years later. The Saudi crown prince Mohammad bin Salman, on his part, referred to Turkey as a triangle of evil, along with Iran and Islamic extremists. That Saudi Arabia is now a trusted and productive ally of India hasn’t served to dilute Turkey’s antagonism.
Thus India and Turkey have a long bridge to mend but both are kept apart by the rapids of toxicity which runs between them. Both have reasons to erect fences but not one motive to share the couch over a hot cup of coffee.
(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).
I am not a stockbroker but if I was I would bet big against Donald Trump unleashing a war against Iran.
I mean he heads a country which needed half a million of its servicemen to tame a small Kuwait and prepared six months to arrange for its logistics. How would do you do against a large territory like Iran?
His country United States can’t fight two medium-sized wars and can it really afford to free up Far East and China who would strangulate Taiwan the moment it’s off-radar?
And please don’t give me this Nuclear-muscle nonsense. It works best before you use it. You can nuke a Hiroshima or Nagasaki but you can’t nuke the whole of Iran.
It’s also as if Trump doesn’t know that Pentagon would give a damn to his command for war. US can only declare war if its army wants so—as was the case with Vietnam and Iraq. The military generals of the US have already rejected the notion of abiding with the President’s order for an illegal war.
We know the US, the adolescent that it is of only 200-odd years, makes some silly mistakes (Remember the hostage crisis of the 70s: Jimmy Carter’s helicopters couldn’t fly over Iran at a low height because its filters got clogged with sand). But a war with Iran would be worth an Oscar of the Absurd.
For one, if you don’t allow oil out of Iran to the world; Iran would stop any oil to go out of the Middle East (see picture). Shias are everywhere: 60% of Iraq is Shia; 80% of Bahrain is Shia; the majority in Kuwait is Shia; the oil in Saudi Arabia is controlled by Shia. Iran would damage tankers and make sure the blame doesn’t come its’ way. In the last one month itself, four tankers anchored near Fujairah in UAE were damaged. Two tankers with petrochemical products were attacked in Gulf of Oman this week. No traces were left. It would become a routine. Saudi refineries could go up in smoke. Iran has strategic partners in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen and even Afghanistan.
We also know that the US’ Iran policy is based on a single agenda: Change of Islamic revolutionary regime in Iran. This agenda is unfulfilled even after 40 years. This is a country which unlike a France or England could survive on half a bread. Threat of a war, doesn’t open up the factional feuds in the country. Instead it draws them together—as Western-oriented parties and hardliners are hugging each other at the moment.
It’s also as if the US doesn’t know that its’ tough stance would probably make Iran a nuclear-powered regime in six months. Iran announced on June 17 that it would start withdrawing from compliance with the 2015 nuclear agreement. But if the US pulls out of the deal unilaterally and the other signatories of the pact—China, Russia, France, Britain and Germany—hold their silence, what options Iran is really left with but to press on the raw nerve which inked the pact in the first place?
In this week itself, Iran would exceed the limit on enriched uranium which the 2015 deal had stipulated—only 300kg of uranium hexafluoride enriched to 3.67 per cent, or it’s equivalent, for 15 years. If Iran adds a few thousand extras of centrifuges, it would reduce the time Iran needs to arm itself with a nuclear weapon.
And how do you think Iran’s opponents would face up to the Persians? Saudi Arabia is so pathetic it can’t even bring tiny Yemen to submission. They can’t do anything to Houthi. A war would only make Turkey stronger. Iran is already being wooed by Russia and China. A common bank is being set up by Syria, Iraq and Iran to facilitate trade between these countries.
If anything a war would break up the United States. By mid-2020, oil prices would hit the roof. Insurance premiums on tankers would be prohibitive. Consumer prices of oil products would multiply. If oil prices exceed $100 per barrel, it would hit China, Europe and the US. If the oil prices are doubled, the US would be in ruins. It is the biggest consumer of electric power. It doesn’t matter where it gets its energy from, be it Texas, Siberia or Saudi Arabia: if it’s 150% per barrel, US is destroyed.
Then why the hell is the US tightening its screws on Iran? And Donald Trump is increasingly sounding like John Wayne with holster unbuckled?
The short and sweet answer is: Trump wants to stoke up fears in the Middle East so that it could sell its military hardware to Iran’s opponents and fatten up its GDP. It never wanted a war, it never would. If the US wanted a war, it wouldn’t be looking the other way as Iran continues to sell 300 million cubic feet of gas to Iraq. Iran’s sale of oil in the region could go up to two million barrels of oil daily.
The trouble is, Iran knows the game and is upping the ante: It has given an ultimatum to remaining signatories of the 2015 Pact either fall in line by July 7 and help preserve the nuclear deal or face the music. It’s a classic case of the hunter becoming the hunted. Trump has climbed up a tree but doesn’t know how to get down.
Fun, I say.
(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.
Carnatic vocalist Thodur Madabusi Krishna has been thrust into national consciousness because Airports Authority of India (AAI) has ducked its responsibility of hosting his music in the Capital. Look at it anyway, this shows the Modi government in poor light.
Krishna’s credentials in the music world are unquestioned. Also beyond a shadow of doubt is his spite against upper caste Hindus and the alternatives he looks for in Christianity and Islam. You could differ from him; but muzzling him is no alternative. If anything, it would only give him more traction and a gathering mass.
Salman Rushdie is a living proof that suppressing a voice only makes it more attractive. His “Midnight’s Children” might have been a tour de force but his global appeal lies because of the fatwa on him by the fundamentalist Islamic forces on his “Satanic Verses.” Most haven’t read him but everyone knows him. He kind of became a rallying force for free speech and freedom around the world.
The fundamentalist Islamic forces had laid down a line in the sand: you cross it at your own peril. No questioning of our religion, our tenets or holy book. They didn’t realize it showed Islam as regressive to the free world. That its’ reactionary forces were relying on “fear factor” more than a voice to reason.
Not that it didn’t work. Hardly anyone stood up for Rushdie. All the free world, top politicians, intellectuals, writers and thinkers were guarded in their support to Rushdie. Most admonished Rushdie that he should’ve been more sensitive to religious sentiments of millions. But the masses turned resentful to Islam and its’ hardline practitioners. It didn’t help Islam—only Rushdie and his bank balance. Possibly endowing him with an enduring fame.
More recently, journalist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered allegedly by the Saudi Arabia government in its consulate in Turkey. If the idea was to silence a dissenting voice, the matter has backfired spectacularly for Saudi government. The world has risen as one, making Saudis change their stances on a daily basis and coming out the worst for it. For one Khashoggi dead, there are a thousand Khashoggis rising in its wake.
History has shown that governments have always feared a powerful liberal voice at crossroads with them. That’s why you have the adage: “Pen is mightier than the sword.” It usually pits them in conflict. It’s also true that authority is the only loser in this war.
Few have any doubts that Krishna was shut out because of his ideology. Few also doubt that trolls went for him. There is also little escaping that AAI developed cold feet. The government may or may not have had any role to play in this both tactical and ethical disaster. But the conclusion was inescapable: a government institution has backtracked and its bosses can’t escape the inference.
Renowned classical dancer Sonal Mansingh, who was due to perform in the concert, hasn’t helped the matter. She has written an edit piece in Indian Express today, suggesting the political agenda which masks Krishna’s music. She has recalled Krishna’s deplorable attacks on Narendra Modi in the past. That Krishna himself is on record of being not in favour of mixing music with politics. She has termed Krishna immoral and hypocritical for acting “as a vicious political activist and claiming the privileges of an artist.”
All this might be true but it still doesn’t address the central question in everyone’s mind. It’s fodder to critics of Modi and BJP and it embarrasses millions who term them progressive. All it has done is to make Krishna more attractive and a potential tool in the hands of liberal mafia. A self-goal if ever there was one.
Ramachandra Guha and Harsh Mander began—and hopefully ended—“the minority space” series in Indian Express on Tuesday. On the Day of Judgment—for they would prefer such an option rather than the presence of Bhagwan Vishnu—the duo would be hard pressed to explain the deviousness of their heart; the venoms of their actions.
Over the last fortnight or so, Indian Express has almost daily pushed this “minority space” agenda on its edit pages. This stems from the fear of Left-Liberals that, God forbids, if Muslims—and Dalits—were able to recognize that BJP and Modi are their best friends, the last plank of their survival would sink and take them down too in the vast ocean of human junk and wastefulness.
The agenda of these two academic/activist charlatans is clear: Make Muslims fearfully conscious of their separateness from the Hindu majority so that they are further pushed into a seized mentality and a common ground with Hindus is never created. Create Hinduphobia so the Muslims are not able to see the deviousness of Congress, BSP, Left who have done practically nothing for the minority in the last 70 years. The idea is to deny Hindus and Muslims a common ground.
Guha and Mander would skillfully hide the fact that out of 125 Muslim-majority seats in Uttar Pradesh, 84 went to BJP in the last assembly elections. That BJP has 79 Dalit MPs, 549 Dalit MLAs and one Dalit president.
While they beat their breasts and bemoan Muslims being treated as second-class citizens in Hindu-majority India, you would never see them acknowledge that it was Muslims who plunged the dagger of partition into the heart of this nation. You would never find them question Asaduddin Owaisi as to when the latter swears by the sanctity of the Constitution, what problem he has with the protection it offers to cows; or when its core ethos ask for a Uniform Civil Code.
You would never see them encourage Muslims to let Hindus have their way with the Ram Janmabhoomi. After all, even in austere places like Saudi Arabia it is common to move Masjid out of the way, in case infrastructural or other such need arises. Why, just four years ago, there was even a proposal to move Prophet Muhammad’s tomb! After all, Quran ordains that Namaaz could be read anywhere, it doesn’t need a Masjid for the act. While Namaaz could thus be performed even on roads, there can only be one Ram Janmabhoomi. Guha and Mander would never ask Muslims to make this one small gesture and see the flood of goodwill which would emanate from the majority. Imagine how much strength and unity just one gesture could do to the idea of a unified and strong India.
Guha and Mander would never highlight the fact that the 1857 War of Independence was an act of revolt by the Hindus who nevertheless chose a Muslim—Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar—to be their leader in the struggle.
You would never see them making an appeal to Muslims to do meaningful reforms. After all, there is a great deal of truth that unlike Christianity went through a Reformation Age, and Hindus had the Bhakti Movement to cleanse the outdated practices, Muslims perhaps never quite clinically reevaluate if a few of Quran’s maxims needed a debate. You would never find Guha or Mander question the Muslim leadership on their lack of progressive agenda down the centuries to the present modern age.
Guha even bemoans that Hindus were once led by Nehru-Gandhi and now by Modi-Shah. He would never reflect if this change is because Hindus feel Nehru and Gandhi betrayed them and the nation during the Independence struggle by appeasing Muslims—which led to thousands of Hindus lives lost during the Khilafat movement and Direct Action Day– and causing the Partition.
Men like Guha and Mander would show a trishul as a sign of Hindu fundamentalism; they would never analyse why such a majority still treats three Khans as their superstars. Why an APJ Abdul Kalam is loved and respected by practically every educated Hindu.
Most tellingly, Guha and Mander are now marginalized voices because of their selective truths. Just look at the reactions Guha has managed on his twitter handle. By mid-day, it had barely touched 100 reactions. And most of them were scathing to his piece that has appeared in Indian Express on Tuesday.
A point about Indian Express too (And The Wire, predictably joined the chorus). While they pick up every major (Guha) and minor (Apporvanand) voice to create fear psychosis about “minority space”, why there is never an intellectual giant such as Subramaniam Swamy or Rajiv Malhotra being asked to present their viewpoints? Why stray incidents are picked and highlighted to paint the entire Hindu community in bad light?
Besides, who wins if India loses?
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.