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Tehran loses patience with Modi government’s hide and seek

By M. K. BHADRAKUMAR | Indian Punchline | November 18, 2019

Historically speaking, the India-Iran relationship had its ups and downs during the decades of the Shah’s rule. The Lowest point was reached when, during the 1965 and 1971 wars with India, Pakistani Air Force jets were stationed in Iran to gain ‘strategic depth’ vis-a-vis the IAF.

However, after the 1979 Islamic revolution, Iran adopted an explicitly anti-Western foreign policy and began viewing India as a natural ally. The ideology-based regime rooted in the principles of justice, freedom and resistance was greatly attracted by India’s freedom struggle, non-aligned policies, and the sheer grit to preserve its strategic autonomy. This perceived affinity withstood the changes and shifts in Delhi’s foreign policy outlook in the post-Cold war era.

Tehran was not unduly perturbed when the India-US relationship took an upward curve in the nineties during the Bill Clinton administration or when the 2008 nuclear deal was concluded — or, even when Washington and Delhi began chanting their ‘defining partnership of the 21st century’ during the Barack Obama Administration.

Tehran remained confident about India’s DNA anchored on the country’s strategic autonomy. This confidence took a beating when India voted for the first time in February 2006 in favour of a West-led resolution in the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which reported against Iran to the UN Security Council — and, again, in November 2009 when India voted in favour of a resolution spearheaded by the US at the IAEA censuring Tehran over its controversial nuclear programme and demanding that it stop uranium enrichment.

Nonetheless, life moved on. There was no apparent rancour. This much needs to be recalled to put in perspective the highly critical remarks by Iran’s foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif recently, while meeting a group of visiting journalists from New Delhi, regarding the Modi government’s pusillanimous attitude under American pressure to roll back cooperation with Tehran.

Zarif said Tehran had expected the Modi government to be “more resilient” in the face of Washington’s bullying. Zarif speculated that India probably “did not want to agitate” the US by being a sanctions spoiler and he added with biting sarcasm, “People want to be on the right side of President Trump” but the problem is “he hasn’t got a right side.”

Equally, Zarif regretted that the Modi government was dragging its feet on the Chabahar Port project, which has far-reaching implications for regional connectivity, stability and security.

Iranian state media widely reported Zarif’s remarks, which most certainly reflect deep misgivings at the highest level of the Iranian leadership that India’s capacity or political will to pursue independent foreign policies is increasingly in doubt.

To be sure, Zarif’s remarks must also be seen in the backdrop of the Modi government’s fawning attitude toward Saudi Arabia lately. There is no empirical evidence to suggest that Riyadh laid pre-conditions for Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s embrace of PM Modi. In fact, Saudi-Iranian rivalry is far too complex to be reduced to zero-sum mindset. After all, Riyadh is robustly advancing cooperation with Russia and China despite these two countries having thriving strategic partnerships with Iran.

Indian analysts tend to link the Modi government’s dalliance with Saudi Arabia and the deepening chill in Indian-Iranian relations. Indeed, the Modi government has relegated cooperation with Iran to the back burner. It is no secret of course that Washington encourages third countries to replace Iranian crude with Saudi supplies.

The Modi government is pinning hopes on massive Saudi investments in India. During the Crown Prince’s visit to India in February, he forecast Saudi investments to the tune of $100 billion during the next two-year period. The Indian side has been daydreaming since then about big Saudi investments in the Ratnagiri petrochemical project and in Reliance Industries. While the Ratnagiri project is in limbo, Reliance is keeping its fingers crossed. Modi’s recent visit to Saudi Arabia can be viewed in this context.

How realistic are the Indian expectations? Clearly, Saudi Arabia itself needs to attract outside investment. Lackluster oil prices have caused the country’s budget deficit to widen. The budget deficit would be in the region of $36 billion in 2018 and 2019, and may widen to $50 billion in 2020. Saudi Aramco’s IPO itself is for raising money for funding the Crown Prince’s ambitious program of economic and social reforms (‘Vision 2030’).

CNBC recently featured an interview with ex-CIA chief General David Petraeus (who presently heads the KKR Global Institute, which provides consultancy to American companies active in the Middle East) regarding Saudi Arabia’s economic malaise. Some excerpts are worth noting:

“It’s a fact that Saudi Arabia is gradually running out of money, they’d be the first to acknowledge that the sovereign wealth fund has been reduced, it’s somewhere below $500 billion now.”

“The (budget) deficits each year, depending on the price of Brent crude, can be anywhere from $40 to $60 billion depending on some of their activities in countries in the region.”

“The bottom line is that they need the money, they need that outside investment that is crucial to delivering ‘Vision 2030’ which cannot be realized without outside investment, this is just one component of a number of different initiatives that they’re pursuing to try to attract that outside investment.”

The prospects aren’t bright for Reliance and Ratnagiri to pin hopes on Saudi investment. The Crown Prince’s priority is ‘Vision 2030’ — and it remains a hard sell. Period.

Put differently, neglecting India’s cooperation with Iran, especially Chabahar Port development, for the sake of a chimerical Saudi bonanza can only find the Modi government falling between two stools eventually. India cannot, should not and need not substitute Saudi Arabia as a preferred partner to Iran — or vice versa.

Why keep at arm’s length a regional power in our extended neighbourhood who is manifestly eager to foster cooperation with India? Such an attitude is illogical, myopic and cramps India’s diplomatic options in the Persian Gulf.

November 18, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , | 1 Comment

Kashmir after India’s unilateral move: A story of fear and hopelessness

By Shahana Butt | Press TV | Nov 15, 2019

Indian-Administered Kashmir – More than 100 days have passed since India stripped Kashmir of its autonomous status and divided the state into two federally-ruled territories. The region has been observing a protest close down ever since; with shops, businesses and schools shunned by the people in protest against New Delhi’s move.

Although India has promised the return of normalcy in the region through equal rights and development; rumors are moving the other way round.

The return of check posts and eruption of new security bunkers across the Muslim majority region has pulled back the horror scenes of 1990’s in Kashmir and has all together made it more difficult for the people living in the world’s largest militarized zone.

In the past 100 plus days hundreds of bunkers have been built in addition to the existing security vigil; the prevailing circumstances have further silenced the people of Kashmir.

Press TV spoke to a cross section of people in Kashmir to know how they see this new Kashmir and what they faced in the past 100 plus days.

Since august 5 people of Kashmir are living in a controlled communication zone; with no internet facilities and limited cellular network that was provided after the intervention of India’s top court and international criticism.

In the absence of international concern and given New Delhi’s ‘not so clear’ Kashmir agenda people of Kashmir are caught in skepticism, doubt and fear.

Sooner or later so called ‘normalcy’ might return to the valley of Kashmir. But India’s unilateral move and the world’s turning a blind eye to the issue has left a deep-rooted impact on the lives of people here. This has added to the existing alienation of Kashmir, where people accuse both India and Pakistan of playing the Kashmir card for political and strategic gains.

Video Report

November 15, 2019 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , | 1 Comment

India top court rules in favor of Hindus in dispute over mosque land

Press TV – November 9, 2019

India’s top court has ruled in favor of the construction of a Hindu temple at the site of a mosque that had been demolished by Hindu mobs three decades ago.

In a unanimous judgment on Saturday, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Hindus regarding a plot of land in Ayodhya in northern India, where a 16th Century Babri mosque stood before it was demolished in 1992 by Hindu extremists.

The five Supreme Court judges said that the mosque was “not built on vacant land” and had displaced a previous temple.

They allocated a separate “prominent” five-acre piece of land, not far from the contested site, to the Muslim community to construct a mosque.

The court also ruled that the demolition of the mosque was against the rule of law. The destruction of the mosque triggered religious riots in which about 2,000 people died, most of them Muslims.

A representative for the Muslim litigants said that they were not satisfied and would decide whether to ask for a review after they had read the whole judgment.

Authorities deployed thousands of police patrols in the city ahead of the verdict. They also arrested hundreds of people in the city.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and some other officials have appealed for calm. The premier hailed the verdict, saying it had “amicably” ended a decades-old dispute.

“The halls of justice have amicably concluded a matter going on for decades. Every side, every point of view was given adequate time and opportunity to express differing points of view. This verdict will further increase people’s faith in judicial processes,” Modi tweeted.

Hindus and Muslims have been locked in a conflict over the site for 150 years. On the site of the demolished mosque, Hindus constructed a tent that resembles a temple.

The ruling party of Prime Minister Modi, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), rose to power on a wave of Hindu nationalism.

In a recent move, his government revoked the semi-autonomous status of Kashmir. The decision sparked a wave of tensions throughout the region, which is divided between India and Pakistan.

New Delhi also imposed restrictions on people’s movements and communications in Kashmir to curb unrest there, calling it an internal matter and criticizing countries that have spoken out against the move.

The Muslim majority region has been split between India and Pakistan since their partition in 1947.

November 9, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , | Leave a comment

Russia, China & India to set up alternative to SWIFT payment system to connect 3 billion people

RT | October 28, 2019

Members of the BRICS trade bloc Russia, India, and China have decided to connect their financial messaging systems to bypass the SWIFT international money transfer network.

Russia’s financial messaging system SPFS will be linked with the Chinese cross-border interbank payment system CIPS. While India does not have a domestic financial messaging system yet, it plans to combine the Central Bank of Russia’s platform with a domestic service that is in development.

The new system is expected to work as a “gateway” model when messages on payments are transcoded in accordance with a certain financial system.

According to Izvestia, the parties involved will work on a single platform, without experiencing any difficulties with transactions.

Russia began development of SPFS in 2014 amid Washington’s threats to disconnect the country from SWIFT. The first transaction on the SPFS network involving a non-bank enterprise was made in December 2017.

“We have an opportunity to connect both foreign banks and foreign legal entities to the SPFS. Today, about 400 users are participating in the system. Agreements have already been concluded with eight foreign banks and 34 legal entities,” Alla Bakina, the director of the Bank of Russia’s national payment system, was cited as saying by Vesti.

Bakina explained that traffic through the system has been growing and currently accounts for around 15 percent of all internal traffic, up from 10-11 percent last year.

The EAEU (Eurasian Economic Union) countries are currently working with the Bank of Russia on technical options for connecting to the SPFS. Iran, which has officially joined the Russia-led free-trade zone (EAEU) this month also seeks to develop a joint alternative to SWIFT. Last year, SWIFT cut off some Iranian banks from its messaging system.

SWIFT is based in Belgium, but its board includes executives from American banks with US federal law allowing the administration to act against banks and regulators across the globe.

Instead of SWIFT, a system that facilitates cross-border payments between 11,000 financial institutions in more than 200 countries worldwide, Moscow and Tehran will use their own domestically developed financial messaging systems to conduct trade.

October 28, 2019 Posted by | Economics | , , , | 2 Comments

Imran Khan ‘Puzzled’ Over Vast Media Coverage of Hong Kong and ‘Disregard’ of Kashmir Issue

Sputnik – October 11, 2019

Ahead of last month’s UN General Assembly (UNGA) summit, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan raised various concerns while travelling to New York, accusing world leaders of avoiding the Kashmir issue and the alleged humanitarian crisis in the Kashmir valley.

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan took to Twitter​ to say how “puzzled” he is over the sharp contrast in international media coverage of the situations in Hong Kong and Kashmir while squarely blaming the press for not highlighting the situation in Kashmir properly.

He claimed that the media paid much attention to the ongoing Hong Kong protests while surprisingly avoided giving importance to the “dire human rights situation” in Indian-administered Kashmir.

Khan, who returned from China on Thursday, chose to highlight the issue hours ahead of the crucial second Informal Summit to be held between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

China has already extended its full support to Pakistan on the Kashmir issue. In a joint statement, it has said: “The Kashmir issue is a historical dispute, and should be properly and peacefully resolved based on the UN Charter, relevant UN Security Council resolutions and bilateral agreements.”

China has already expressed its opposition to India’s unilateral action on 5 August to strip the special status of Jammu and Kashmir state and split the region into two federally administered territories. It has said the decision scrapping the special status of Jammu and Kashmir “complicates the situation”.

Pakistan Prime Minister Khan in his Tweet has said the communications blackout and curfew in Kashmir since 5 August is a growing humanitarian crisis.

“For over two months there has been a complete blackout of communications, thousands imprisoned, including the entire spectrum of political leadership and children, and a growing humanitarian crisis. In Indian administered Jammu and Kashmir 100 thousand Kashmiris have been killed over 30 years of fighting for their right to self-determination,” he added.

India and Pakistan have been at loggerheads over Kashmir since they attained independence from British Colonial rule in 1947. While the two neighbours both claim the entire territory, they administer separate parts of Kashmir.

October 11, 2019 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , | 1 Comment

Winston Churchill Starved 3 Million Indians to Death in the Man-Made Bengal Famine of 1943

By Marko Marjanović | Checkpoint Asia | December 22, 2016

Churchill’s Secret War: The British Empire and the Ravaging of India during World War II is a book by a science journalist Madhusree Mukerjee. It tells of British policy in India in the Second World War and how it relates to the Bengal Famine of 1943.

Mukerjee reminds the reader that before the British conquest India was a rich land. Certainly the conquerors drawn to Bengal in the 18th century were of the opinion they were adding a magnificently wealthy possession to their empire. Under colonial rule, however, Bengal soon became a synonym for poverty and a frequent setting of famine.

During the Second World War the colony was made to contribute heavily to the British war effort. India’s industries, manpower, and foodstuffs were made to serve requirements of the war the empire had involved itself in.

This was merely the latest escalation in a long lasting exploitation of the colony. The British deemed their unwanted presence in India a service and therefore extracted “payment” for it in the form of the Home Charge. As the British obstructed the expansion of manufacturing in India lest it provide competition for their domestic industry, the export of agricultural produce presented the only way of realizing this transfer.

Finally, since the empire set the transfer so high so much grain was extracted for export that the colony — which continued to produce more food than its need through the 19th century — was artificially kept in a condition of chronic malnutrition.

Unsurprisingly, there was strong resistance to colonial rule that could only be overcome by large scale repression. As part of the August 1942 crackdown against the Quit India Movement alone, more than 90,000 people were locked up and up to 10,000 were killed.

Short on manpower the British at times resorted to attacking crowds with aircraft. In particularly rebellious districts authorities burned down homes and destroyed rice supplies. British India was not unlike an occupied land.

The book exposes the manifold causes of the Bengal Famine. To begin with mortality rate in Bengal under British rule was atrocious even in a normal year with some of that attributable to malnutrition.

The immediate reasons why conditions deteriorated beyond this “normal” state of semi-famine was the catastrophic Midnapore Cyclone and the Japanese capture of Burma.

The Cyclone storm and subsequent floods disrupted life and ruined crops. The loss of Burma severed links with an important source of rice imports to India. These two factors which were outside British control, were probably enough for a disaster on their own, but subsequent British policies made the crisis far worse than it needed to be.

Anticipating the possibility the Japanese could advance further, the British carried out a scorched earth policy in coastal Bengal, seizing rice stocks, motor vehicles, bicycles and boats. Seizure of boats was particularly disruptive as they normally represented the primary means of transporting rice crops to the markets.

The loss of Burmese rice imports to India was not made up by imports from elsewhere, nor was India’s obligation to supply British Indian troops abroad lessened. Instead, India was made to cover the loss of Burmese rice imports to Ceylon, Arabia and South Africa even though these territories were already better provisioned with food than India.

Albeit in the years before WWII India had become a net importer of food, importing at least one million tons of cereal per year — a figure that was not actually sufficient to cover its needs, but represented what it could afford to import after paying the Home Charge — the British now undertook to export food from India.

Anticipating food shortages that were certain to follow, colonial administration moved to protect the strata of society most useful to the British Empire — administrators, soldiers and industrial workers. It set out to buy up huge quantities of grain and store it for their use. It would pay for these stocks in the same way it acquired supplies for the war effort — by printing money.

The government acquired some grain by requisitioning, but for the most part it simply bought it. Some purchases it made on its own, others it contracted out to private traders. Big merchant companies were given advances of vast sums of money and instructed to purchase grain at any price for the government.

The price of already precious grain skyrocketed and the Bengal peasant was priced out of the market. Between the purchases of the Bengal administration, the Government of India, the army and the industries which were recipients of government largesse, grain was sucked out from rural areas. Departments of government and industries crucial for the war effort secured huge stocks of grain — part of which would end up rotting as millions starved.

What made the looting of the countryside to this extent possible was that the transfer of purchasing power away from the peasant and to the government and those the government made business with that money printing entailed.

In the course of the war the money supply increased by between six and seven times, so that the British worried they were “within sight of collective refusal to accept further paper currency”. This confounded the problem of food scarcity since some cultivators understandably held onto their grain rather than release it to the market, as it was seen a better store of value than the rapidly depreciating currency.

The reason government purchases were so devastating for Bengal peasants was that most families owned tracts of land too small to sustain their families on their own.

Even in a normal year such families were not in position to store enough of their harvest to sustain them until the next one. They were not sellers of crops, they sold their labor to the big landowners and bought food.

Except now buying food meant competing with a government that could print money at will.

Prevalence of effectively landless peasants in Bengal in itself was the result of British policies in India which had created the landlord class from what had been tax collectors before the conquest.

Albeit crop failure and the loss of Burmese imports was enough to create a serious food deficit for India, there was actually no food problem for the British Empire taken as a whole. In fact London claimed that Bengal could not be fed — not for a lack of food, but for a lack of ships — supposedly shipping was so scarce that grain, which was available, could not be taken to India without disrupting the British war effort.

Prioritizing its war over the bare lives of three million of its subjects would have been bad enough, but Mukarjee shows that shipping was nowhere as scarce as London claimed, albeit it was certainly being mismanaged. For example there was shipping and food enough to build up a stockpile in the Eastern Mediterranean for the purpose of Allied invasion of the Balkans that would never come about. Also there were always ships aplenty to build up an enormous and ever growing stockpile of food in the British Isles that the London government was actually building up for post-war use.

In reality the biggest obstacle to secure food for famine-stricken India was not a lack of means, but the lack of will to allocate the resources necessary. Such readjustments would have clashed with the interest and the intent of the British Empire under Winston Churchill to exploit its colony for its purposes to the greatest extent possible.

To their credit, not every Brit was of a mind with the London government personified in Winston Churchill.

Many officials, including high ranking ones like the Secretary of State for India, Leopold Amery and the Viceroy of India, Field Marshal Wavell repeatedly called for a decisive effort to relieve the famine. Governments of Australia, New Zeeland and Canada offered grain for India if United Kingdom, which had taken control of their shipping, would transport it there.

British soldiers on the scene defied orders not to help famine refugees often handing over food from their own rations.

In addition to showing how the British Empire helped cause the Bengal Famine of 1943 and then denied it famine relief Churchill’s Secret War also provides the context for these two stories.

Mukarjee recounts a fair bit of the dynamic between colonial metropolis and the colony centering on exploitation and resistance, explains the consequences of British wartime policies for the political future of the colony — partition and independence — and paints a picture of famine and repression as seen from the ground by offering vivid first hand accounts by people who were affected.

It is a book rich in content, but probably the one thing to take from it is the way in which the famine was made worse and its victims selected by government abuse of paper currency.

British reaction to food shortages in Bengal was to protect the cities and industries at the expense of the peasants. Like the Soviet Union which had faced a food crisis of its own a decade earlier the British Empire figured it was up to it to decide who would live and who would die.

Only where the Soviet method of robbing the countryside of grain in 1932-33 was requisition, the British method of choice in India was money creation. It was a more elegant method, but no less deadly, and more difficult to effectively resist.

If the famine in 1932-33 in the Soviet Union was a requisition famine, the Bengal Famine of 1943 was a printing press famine.

October 10, 2019 Posted by | Book Review, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Malthusian Ideology, Phony Scarcity, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , | 3 Comments

No Freedom for India’s Kashmir Valley Politicians, Jammu Counterparts Released

Sputnik – October 2, 2019

The Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir on Wednesday released all politicians that had been held under house arrest in Jammu since India scrapped the region’s special constitutional status at the start of August.

Jammu region politicians have been released from detention ahead of local block development council elections scheduled for 24 October. Eight politicians were released from house arrest, including Devender Singh Rana, Raman Bhalla, Harshdev Singh, Chaudhary Lal Singh, Vikar Rasool, Javed Rana, Surjit Singh Slathia and Sajjad Ahmed Kitchloo.

However, the state administration did not free politicians under house arrest in the Kashmir Valley as the situation there is still sensitive from a security point of view. Former chief ministers Farooq Abdullah, Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah remain under house arrest.

Administration officials said the Jammu region is peaceful, and therefore, a decision was taken to release politicians detained before or on 5 August after India’s Parliament passed a law to revoke the quasi-autonomous status of the state.

The state is to be divided into two federally-administered territories – Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh from 31 October.

On 30 September, Jammu and Kashmir’s chief electoral officer announced that block development council elections would be held in October.

Meanwhile, several pleas were filed before the Supreme Court of India challenging the Central government’s 5 August decision to bifurcate the state into the federal government administered territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh. On Tuesday, the top court gave the Central government a month to file its response to the pleas.

The court made it clear that if needed it would direct the government to produce all relevant documents pertaining to its decision to scrap Article 370.

It also said it will not entertain fresh petitions on the issue.

The bench said that it would allow a week for petitioners to file their replies to the Central and state governments’ counter-affidavits.

October 2, 2019 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Subjugation - Torture | , , | Leave a comment

Modi-Rouhani meeting is a morality play

By M. K. BHADRAKUMAR | Indian Punchline | September 27, 2019

Prime Minister Narendra Modi began his 6-day long visit to the US with a bang — a stunning stage appearance with President Trump at the Howdy Modi in Houston last Sunday.

But on Thursday, he ended up with a hastily arranged meeting with Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani in New York just before the latter’s departure for Tehran. The symbolism is at once obvious.

Only 4 days earlier, in a famous remark at the Howdy Modi, Trump thrilled the Sangh Parivar audience with a stirring call that the US and India should jointly fight “radical Islamic terrorism.” Modi and the audience cheered in the mistaken belief that Trump was condemning Pakistan, but only to be told the next day by POTUS himself that he was only referring to Iran.

However, if photo journalism is any indicator, Modi looked subdued at the meeting with Rouhani. It must have been a difficult meeting. The Iranian report was rather taciturn. The primary purpose seems to have been to break the ice.

The India-Iran relations have been on a roller-coaster under Modi’s watch. He gave high hopes to Rouhani when they met for the first time on the sidelines of the historic Ufa summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in June 2015 by proposing multi-billion dollar investment plans in Iran’s economy spanning the industrial and infrastructural fields.

Rouhani took the idea seriously and fast-tracked the contract for India to develop and operate one of the container terminals in the strategic Chabahar Port in the Sistan-Baluchistan province, ignoring Pakistan’s disquiet over such an Indian presence hardly 80 kms from its restive border regions.

Rouhani upset the Pakistanis further by accepting the Indian offer to build a railway line connecting Chabahar with Zahedan on the Iran-Afghan border further north.

Indians were jubilant that in geopolitical terms, India’s cooperation in regional connectivity with Iran matched China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

All that is history, of course. Iran’s ambassador to India Ali Chegeni regretted recently that India not only buckled under American pressure to stop its oil imports from Iran but also slowed down its project work at Chabahar. The tensions are showing. Iran has taken a critical position on the situation in J&K.

Yet, it was Iran which in 1994 had helped India to prevent an OIC resolution on the human rights situation in J&K from being tabled at the UN forum, breaking the IOC consensus and demanding that Kashmir is a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan.

Yes, Iran played a helpful role in ensuring that the Shia-dominated Kargil region of J&K stayed out of the Pakistan-sponsored insurgency in the early nineties. The Narasimha Rao government allowed the then Iranian Ambassador to India Sheikh Attar to visit Kargil when the region was closed to the international community and foreign media.

Yes, it was the same Iran with which India also had cooperation at the level of intelligence agencies in the early nineties.

What explains the present crisis? Succinctly put, India’s policies in the Persian Gulf have come under the influence of the Israel-Saudi-UAE axis. Indian diplomacy is quite adept at balancing the relations with Iran on one side and the Israel-Saudi-UAE troika on the other. But the present ruling elite abandoned that policy and began identifying with the troika.

Conceivably, the US encouraged this shift. But the main factor has been the bonhomie that has come to exist at the leadership with Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu and the Crown Princes of Saudi Arabia and the UAE. If a marker is to be put on the downhill slide of India-Iran relations, it must be Modi’s extended 5-day visit to Israel in July 2017.

India-Iran relations suffered as a result of Delhi’s gravitation toward the the orbit of what Iran calls the “B Team” of the US. Iran never stood in the way of India keeping diversified relationships in West Asia, including with its adversaries such as the US, Israel or Saudi Arabia, but the plain truth is Delhi simply cooled down on the relationship with Iran.

How the B Team worked on the Indian leadership remains a mystery, but the Israelis, Saudis and Emiratis played their cards well, knowing exactly which strings to be pulled among the movers and shakers of the present ruling dispensation in Delhi.

Suffice to say, Modi’s meeting with Rouhani on Thursday was an act of atonement. India is in a chastened mood today. Delhi dumped Iran as a major supplier of oil (on concessional terms) and instead opted to buy from the US and Saudi Arabia and the UAE (at market price), but there has been no quid pro quo.

Trump is deepening the US-Pakistan relations and has waded into the Kashmir issue. As for the Sheikhs, they probably had no intentions to make big investments in India. Meanwhile, Netanyahu, one of Modi’s closest friends in the world circuit, lost the election and if he fails to form the next government, may lose his immunity from prosecution and end up in jail.     

Without doubt, Modi has done the right thing by calling on Rouhani. India does not have many friends today. The Modi government’s image is very poor in the Muslim world. India’s march toward Hindu Rashtra and the lock down in J&K have generated negative opinion internationally.

Even “time-tested friends” like Russia are getting disillusioned with our “Chanakyan” diplomacy. How long can India remain ambivalent? Our credibility as a dependable partner is plunging.

It may seem an uphill task to repair the damage to India’s relationship with Iran. But on the contrary, it is easily undertaken if only there is political will. Tehran attaches high importance to India and Delhi needs to reciprocate that goodwill. The prospects are simply seamless to build a relationship of mutual benefit.

September 27, 2019 Posted by | Economics, Wars for Israel | , , , , | Leave a comment

Beware of blowback from Afghan policies

By M. K. BHADRAKUMAR | Indian Punchline | September 25, 2019

During an exclusive interview with the Associated Press this week, the former Afghan president Hamid Karzai has severely questioned the rationale behind the presidential election which is due to take place in his country on September 28. Those who drive the Afghan policy in the Indian establishment should take careful note.

Karzai’s opinion runs completely contrary to the Indian stance. Delhi must be probably the only world capital that is enthusiastic about the Afghan presidential election. Delhi has exhorted Afghan people (“brothers and sisters”) to turn out in large numbers to cast their ballots

The Indian calculus is that by rigging the election, the incumbent president Ashraf Ghani and his group will be able to secure another 4-years in power. What brings the Indian establishment and Ghani’s group on the same page is their common interest in preventing the Taliban from holding the levers of power in Kabul, no matter what it takes. India has emerged in the most recent years as the main patron of Ghani’s group.

Ghani’s group comprising figures like the country’s security czar Amarullah Saleh maintain a policy trajectory that is hostile toward Pakistan, which helps Delhi’s hardline policies toward Pakistan. In this ‘Chanakyan’ thinking, India stands to gain if Pakistan is bogged down in a seamless war of attrition, sandwiched between its two hostile neighbours.

A hostile regime in Kabul will never compromise on the Durand Line, which implies that Pakistan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity will remain under challenge for the foreseeable future if Ghani and his group remain in power.

Delhi blithely overlooks that the Afghan situation also impacts regional security and stability and that India’s medium and long term interests lie in the stabilisation of Afghanistan. Hopefully, the views expressed by Karzai, who is a close and longstanding friend of India, would have a salutary effect on the Indian establishment and prompt it to rethink.

Karzai is spot on in his assessment that the prevailing politico-security situation in Afghanistan is not at all conducive to the holding of a free and fair election. Ironically, the security situation in Jammu and Kashmir is nowhere near as precarious as in Afghanistan and yet the elections in the Indian state have been postponed indefinitely.

The outcome of Saturday’s election will be severely contested by the other Afghan (non-Taliban) groups and we are going to witness a replay of the 2014 charade when Ghani’s ‘victory’ under extremely controversial circumstances marred by cheating on an industrial scale stalled the transition. Washington finally deputed then US senator John Kerry to Kabul to cajole the warring factions to accept the idea of a so-called national unity government.

The spectre that is facing Afghanistan is a highly problematic political transition. Considering that more than half the country is under Taliban control and that the Taliban are viscerally opposed to the charade of election on Saturday, Ghani’s legitimacy to rule for another term is in serious doubt. Delhi should ponder over the emergent scenario.

Only through an inclusive democratic process can the Afghan transition be peacefully managed. And that is only possible if the transition is predicated on a peace agreement with the Taliban, followed by inter-Afghan dialogue (including with representatives of Ghani’s ‘government’) on a political settlement, which would be put before a Loya Jirga for approval. The elections should be held only thereafter.

On the contrary, the US President Trump’s impetuous decision to call off the negotiations with the Taliban (although a draft agreement was initialed in Doha) has been seized by Ghani’s group to front-load the presidential election. This is like putting the cart before the horse.

What will happen now is that Ghani’s group will rig the election and win it and proceed to claim a mandate to rule for another 4 years, while other Afghan groups — Taliban and non-Taliban — will not accept Ghani and his coterie for a second term.

There are signs that even Washington has distanced itself from Ghani’s government by withholding assistance to the tune of $160 million. The US state department statement announcing this was highly critical of the Ghani government.

Equally, the USG-funded Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty in a commentary on Monday was frankly skeptical of the entire exercise of Saturday’s election. It sounded a warning that “many Afghans remain wary of the landmark presidential vote, fearing Taliban violence aimed at disrupting the vote and disillusioned at the widespread fraud and corruption that has tainted other elections since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001.

“Analysts say voter fatigue and safety concerns could depress turnout to undermine the legitimacy of the vote and give any winner only with a weak mandate to rule a country reeling from economic turmoil, an escalating war, and political infighting.”

Where does all this leave India? Clearly, Delhi’s backing for Ghani’s group is a cynical, self-serving attempt to exploit an unstable Afghanistan to India’s advantage. It does not constitute an Afghan policy. It reflects a pitiless mindset to keep Afghanistan in civil war conditions for as long as possible. It is indifferent towards the long-suffering Afghan people (here and here.) How is such a ‘policy’ any different from Pakistan’s?

Surely, the Indian embassy in Kabul would have reported on the meeting in Kabul on Monday of prominent Afghan political figures including Mujahideen leaders and erstwhile Northern Alliance stalwarts — former President Karzai, former Vice President Yunus Qanooni, former Balkh governor Atta Mohammad Noor, former Minister of Energy and Water Mohammad Ismail Khan, former National Security Advisor Rangin Dadfar Spanta and so on — which issued a formal statement calling for the deferment of the presidential election and an immediate resumption of the US-Taliban negotiations.

The statement highlighted that the Afghan people do not trust in the electoral management organisations to prevent “widespread manipulation” of the presidential election. It said, “There are many realities which show that the election will not reduce the crisis in the country, instead it will double the crisis, fuel division among the people, weaken institutions and affect the trust in democracy and political partnership.”

September 25, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , | Leave a comment

India pressing US for resumed oil imports from Iran: Report

Press TV – September 18, 2019

Indian authorities have renewed their efforts to persuade the United States to lift sanctions on imports of oil from Iran amid disruptions caused to supplies from Saudi Arabia following attacks last week that hit oil installations east of the kingdom.

A Tuesday report on the website of The Mint, an Indian financial newspaper, showed that India had held fresh talks with the government of US President Donald Trump on renewed energy imports from Iran.

India stopped crude imports from Iran on May 2 after the White House toughened its sanctions on Iran and removed waivers granted to India and several other countries.

New Delhi used to be Iran’s second top buyer of oil before American sanctions were imposed in November with imports exceeding 20 million tons a year.

India’s External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said on Tuesday that resuming oil imports from Iran had never turned into a “static” issue and authorities were trying to find a solution to the problem.

“We are in dialogue with all suppliers including Iran,” said Jaishankar, adding that India wanted to ensure that supplies of energy into the country would remain predictable and affordable.

The remarks come after attacks on Saturday on key oil installations in Saudi Arabia’s Abqaiq cut the kingdom’s production in half.

The attacks, claimed by Yemen’s ruling Ansarullah movement, sent shockwaves across the global markets and caused a historic surge in prices while sparking serious concerns in energy-thirsty countries like India about the future of oil supplies.

While trying to revive imports from Iran, India has said it would seek a contract with Russia to secure a long-term supply of oil from the country.

September 18, 2019 Posted by | Economics | , , | 1 Comment

Are India and Japan Challenging the BRI in Russia’s Far East?

By Paul Antonopoulos | September 11, 2019

Although the Russian Far East has huge investment potential in the fields of raw materials, mineral resources, fisheries, forestry’s and tourism, it still remains a sparely populated area of only around 7 million people. With China, India, Japan, Indonesia and Russia projected to be some of the world’s biggest economies by 2030 according to many experts, the 21st Century has been dubbed as the “Asian Century,” and it is for this reason that Russian President Vladimir Putin has prioritized the rapid development of the Russian Far East.

The region is not only resource rich, but is also conveniently located in northeast Asia, bordering Mongolia, China and North Korea, while sharing a maritime border with Japan. It is so strategic and rich that only weeks ago French President Emmanuel Macron expressed his belief that Europe stretches from Lisbon on the Atlantic Coast to the Russian Pacific port of Vladivostok. Vladivostok has hosted the Eastern Economic Forum annually ever since its establishment 2015, in part to attract foreign investors to diversify from only Chinese investments in the Russian Far East. China has invested tens of billions into the region, making it easily the biggest foreign investor in the region.

However, with Indian Prime Minister Modi on the eve of Vladivostok’s 5th Eastern Economic Forum proposing a trilateral cooperation between India, Russia and Japan by jointly developing the Russian Far East, it appears that China’s economic influence in the region will be challenged. Although China emphasizes peaceful relations through mutual economic development and prosperity, it still has frosty relations with Japan and India. It is therefore unsurprising that India and Japan have opted to invest in the Russian Far East to challenge China’s economic might in a region that also shares a vast border with China.

India, Japan and Sri Lanka signed an agreement to build a new container terminal in the port of Colombo, demonstrating that New Delhi and Tokyo have experience in cooperating in a trilateral format. With India opting to be the only South Asian country not involved in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), India continues to show coldness to China as the latter continues to rapidly develop neighboring countries, especially with Nepal and rival Pakistan. With the BRI developing Sri Lanka, it appears India and Japan are creating a new economic duo to match China’s economic strength, and are now prepared to take this to a new front away from Sri Lanka and to the Russian Far East.

Japan’s investments in the Russian Far East’s economy already exceeds $15 billion and will continue to develop, according to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. And with India also expressing its interest, the Russian Far East has become a promising place for all prospectors. With Russian President Vladimir Putin offering free land handouts in the Far East to Russians and naturalized citizens in May 2016, it demonstrates that Russia has identified that if it wants to benefit from Asia’s rapid development and economic dominance in the 21st century, it needs to develop its regions in Asia.

With the development of the region naturally meaning increased trade and cultural exchanges with China, tens of thousands of Chinese citizens have now migrated to the region in search of opportunities and establish themselves as merchants and entrepreneurs. Whether we begin seeing Indian and Japanese merchants in the Russian Far East remains to be seen.

With India and China competing in Nepal and border issues on the Indian-Chinese frontier remaining unresolved in New Delhi’s eyes, it appears that India is now wanting to compete against China in a region that has had connections with China for millennia. Russia has been encouraging more and diversified investments in the Far East and Japan and India will take every opportunity to do this.

Russia and China remain strategic partners and are also pragmatic international players that continue to pursue a policy of non-interference. Therefore, although China has frosty relations with Japan and India, it can respect Russia’s ties with both countries. This pragmatism has now allowed India and Japan to engage in a friendly competition for economic influence over Russia’s resource rich region. Although both Japan and China invest in raw material and energy projects in the Far East, India will be a new player to this sector with Indian Oil and Gas Minister Dharmendra Pradhan expressing his long-term interest in the Russian coal and steel sector during his visit to Russia last week.

With India becoming increasingly energy hungry because of its enormous and growing population, alongside its economic development, it is easily seen why the resource rich Russian region is of critical importance to it. For Japan, the region presents unmatched economic opportunities. Most interestingly to observe is whether India and Japan will continue to work in trilateral formats to continue expanding their economic interests and challenge the BRI in other regions. It appears now that after their cooperation in Sri Lanka, their second step is to challenge the expansion of the BRI in Russia’s Far East by competing for lucrative contracts and opportunities that the region can offer.

Paul Antonopoulos is the director of the Multipolar research centre.

September 11, 2019 Posted by | Economics | , , , | 1 Comment

Asian Century bypasses Modi’s India

By M. K. BHADRAKUMAR | Indian Punchline | September 1, 2019

The stunning news that India’s GDP growth rate is hitting a six-year low figure of 5 percent in the past six-year period comes as reality check. Many economists even hold the view that in actuality, take away the statistical jugglery, India’s actual GDP growth figure could be somewhere around 3 percent.

Either way, it is a dismal scenario. As mostly the case, it is the poor people who will suffer from the decline in the GDP growth rate than the rich. There is going to be a significant decline in the employment rate and the number of people below poverty line could rise. Clearly, the 5-trillion dollar economy that Prime Minister Narendra Modi boasted about as his second term began 100 days ago, seems a pipe dream. Even to recall PM’s quote becomes a painful embarrassment.

In a Reuters poll of economists, analysts believe the slowdown could persist for two or three years while much needed structural reforms are put in place. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) said on Thursday a big push on infrastructure spending would be needed to revive consumer demand and private investment. Structural reforms were also required to ease the path for businesses in India, it said.

What causes such profound disquiet is that all this appears to go way beyond a cyclical slowdown. The economy has lost momentum.

To be sure, the government policy approach will need to be multi-pronged. But this is also fundamentally a crisis of India’s political economy. Watch former PM Manmohan Singh’s stern warning that the looming crisis should not be underestimated, as it is a combustible mix of many elements that aren’t easy to separate — deficiency in statecraft, populist politics, political vendetta, flawed economic measures, bad economic management, lack of accountability, authoritarianism, etc.

There is a crucial foreign-policy dimension to it — India is in critical need of a peaceful external environment so that it can prioritise the economy. Plainly put, the government needs to apply itself diligently to keep down tensions in relations with Pakistan.

All that talk by senior cabinet ministers about “nuclear first use” and of “taking back” POK and Northern Areas from Pakistan is hogwash. Standing on such emaciated legs, no country can wage a war. Just throw into the dustbin all that jingoism.

Misplaced national priorities have brought the economy to a cul-de-sac. Glance through the statistics of the top ten fastest growing Asian economies today: Bangladesh (8.13%) ; Nepal (7.9%); Bhutan (7.4%); China (6.9%); Myanmar (6.8%); Philippines (6.7%);  Malaysia (5.9%) Pakistan (5.4%); Indonesia (5.1%); India – 5%

Modi becomes the first prime minister of independent India to take the country’s GDP growth rate below Pakistan’s. This should be rude awakening and should prompt honest soul-searching.

What a wasteful foreign policy our country has been saddled with, focusing on vainglorious projects that have no relevance to the “real India”! How does it help India if PM worships at the Krishna temple in Bahrain or receives the highest national award of the Emirati nation?

Alas, the diplomatic calendar of the present government since it took over in May shows that we are still focused on dream projects to boost the image of the Leader in the domestic audience and to pursue a US-centric foreign policy.

The foreign-policy priority today is to somehow “lock in” the Trump administration by buying more oil and LNG from the US even if at a much higher cost than what Iran is able to supply. By succumbing to the US diktat, India is compelled to import phosphates — a vital input for farming sector — via enterprising Emirati middlemen rather than directly from Iran, at an increased cost of 30 percent! Who cares?

The government prioritises a mega energy conference in Houston, Texas, later this month so that we can buy more energy from the US — and also, explore proposals for massive Indian investments in the American energy sector. The idea is to substantially contribute to “America First” so that Trump is somehow kept happy and the long-term “Indo-Pacific strategy” aimed at containing China can be pursued without hiccups.

Of late, the thrust of Indian diplomacy lies in warding off the Pakistani challenge on the Kashmir issue. But the more we go on that track, the more work it generates for our diplomats to “counter” the Pakistani backlash. It is all turning out to be a Catch-22 situation.

Not all the waters in the Ganges can clean the accumulating filth of the comparisons being bandied about in the world media between Modi’s India and Nazi Germany. We are going to get even more of all that when the European Parliament meets tomorrow to exchange views on the situation in J&K.

Delhi got the tip-off that the POK Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider will be present at the European Parliament when it will discuss the Kashmir issue on September 2. So, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar gets through to Brussels post-haste in the weekend with tons of detergent powder to sanitise the lobby. Raja Farooq Haider versus Subrahmanyam Jaishankar: nothing could more graphically highlight the tragedy of Indian diplomacy today.

Forget about India attracting western businessmen as an investment destination in the prevailing setting. And, make no mistake, no one is yet accounting for the massive haemorrhage of resources in the deployment of a million troops in J&K till eternity. How many world economies can sustain such a futile enterprise?

Not even the US, the lone superpower. Trump has programmed his diplomats to delver on his stern demand that the American troop level in Afghanistan should be drastically reduced in immediate terms — from 14,000 troops to 8,600 troops. He thinks it is “ridiculous” and stupid that a great army trained to fight wars is deployed for police duties. Trump is pressing hard for a political solution.

Doesn’t some of all this rub on Modi when he converses with the leaders of Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan, the three top “Asian tigers”? Don’t they talk serious stuff when they get quality time with Modi — how well their countries are growing but how much better they still could if only India ceases to be a laggard in the neighbourhood?

September 1, 2019 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Economics, Illegal Occupation | , , | Leave a comment