(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.
Be ready to see from tomorrow our newspapers painted red with India’s “freedom” brigade outraged at the denial of visa to Dolkun Isa.
The first stone will be cast in the Indian Parliament–having just begun its session–where the issues of drought and natural disasters, jobs and economy will be cast aside as our elected representatives will fall over each other at the terrible “intolerance” of Modi government on Isa affair.
A few predictions: Barack Obama or Melinda Gates would express concern; British parliamentarians would plan to send a delegation on human rights to India; and European Union would worry over what has come over Gandhi’s land. You already know who would “condemn,” “criticize” and “allege” against Modi in screaming headlines on front pages tomorrow on.
No one would bother to check a few basic points: (a) Isa has an Interpol alert against him; (b) his visa application had flouted the norms and (c) India could have been seen as supporting terrorism.
There’s no reason to bait China who has never pricked India with conferences of Maoists, Naxalites and northeast rebels in its cities.
And what’s such a big deal about blocking “Azhar” being termed a terrorist at the UN forum? UN has blacklisted many terrorist organizations but neither their funding nor recruitment has been affected.
More than symbolic gestures, it’s important to understand the geopolitical reality. China desperately needs Pakistan and its Gawadar port for secure supply of its energy resources from the Middle East. It has a legitimate ground on the Dalai Lama issue, if not the NorthEast border disputes. It hasn’t hosted our “rebels” or “Hurriyat” leaders.
There’s a lot to gain if India and China build bridges and align themselves on major issues to save Asia from imperialist designs which comes in the form of “free trade” these days. That China and India agree on the point of Isa is unacceptable to Western powers and its captive, servile media.
Want an evidence? Just google search on “Isa and denied Indian visa.” You would squirm with unease on lengthy stories in New York Times and big digital outposts such as The Wire. Most media “heavyweights” have not only written thousands of words on the matter but have also been able to dial Isa for his reactions.
Most media outlets, including Indian media, have been able to phone Isa and get his reaction. A great PR agency has clearly been working round the clock on behalf of Isa to international press. Who’s behind such well-oiled publicity machine is easy to guess.
That alone ought to tell you the jitters in the West at the slightest hint of India and China drawing closer to each other. The forums of BRICS and SCO is simply unpalatable to them. A great game is being played in Asia and at stake is the hegemony of the world’s superpower.
Silly me to have presumed that you already know about Dolkun Isa issue. Mr Isa, 48, is a leader of the World Uyghur Congress, a Munich-based group that wants independence for Xinjiang, a region of western China, home to a large population of Uyghurs, mostly Muslim ethnic minority. He now lives in Germany. Isa feld China in 1994.
And here’s the punch: In all this chest-thumping and anguish on Isa, no newspaper has bothered to inform us about the exact nature of conference in Dharamshala. Well, here it is: it’s being organized by a Washington-based (sigh) NGO, “Initiatives for China,” which is run by Yang Jianli, Harvard mathematician and a prominent Chinese pro-democracy leader.
Do you see the connection? If not yet then start writing down the names of all those who hit out against the Modi government and whom you read from tomorrow on in our newspapers. These would be the politicians, academicians and journalists who are paid in cash or kind to subvert the nation.