Finally, A More Humble America

By Snehal Manjrekar, India

Subject Matter/Language Editor: Chandrashekar (Chandra) Tamirisa, (On Twitter) @c_tamirisa

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United States, together with its Western allies, has imposed severe economic sanctions on Iran, making it difficult for Iranian companies to engage in economic relationships with its trading partners.

In the first part of the 20th century, in South Africa and South Asia, Mahatma Gandhi had championed civil disobedience or righteous indignation (satyagraha in Sanskrit).

As a methodology of political resistance, civil disobedience, since Henry David Thoreau’s Walden, was strategically used by Nelson Mandela to end apartheid in South Africa.

Revolutions in Central Europe and the Baltics after 1989 and the Occupy Movement in the United States now are all examples of the peaceful use of human rights, granted and not-granted by governments, to ensure individual liberty as natural rights.

Civil disobedience is now a convection current, percolating between the peoples of the world and their leaders. America is now experiencing a movement of foreign policy disobedience just as the British did since World War I.

In the decade gone by when the US allocated a whopping $4.7 trillion to defense expenditures, China amassed a gigantic surplus of $3.2 trillion through its trade-centric economic policies (mercantilism, similar to the West), engaging in trade and commerce as foreign policy with countries spanning Africa, Latin America, some parts of non-EU Europe, the US and Asia-Pacific, also known as South-South trade with the exception of US and Europe.

European Union (EU), at the same time, is battling a fierce crisis of confidence that has turned into an existential threat for the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU), though EU is more important that the euro.

The rise of Asian powers, India and China, in global trade and commerce at a time when the US is recovering from a debt-hangover driven by credit crisis and military misadventures in Iraq and Afghanistan – a consequence of the chronic failure of the Clinton administration during 1993-2000 after the World Trade Center (WTC) bombing and the lack of wisdom in the approach to war by the Bush administration after September 11, 2001 – has eventually led to foreign policy disobedience against the United States of America.

India and China, and to some extent the erstwhile all-weather ally of US – Pakistan – however, seem unfazed by US sanctions on Iran and are preferring to give greater precedence to their economic interests over the US-led sanctions on Tehran.

While China’s disobedience with Washington is public on a range of issues from rare-earth exports, yuan appreciation and conflicting maritime interests in South China Sea, in this article we look at the disobedience movement in Iran’s continental neighborhood – India and Pakistan, which have committed to increasing their bilateral trade volumes.

Despite Western economic sanctions in place, India, in the second week of March 2012, sent a delegation of traders to explore bilateral trade opportunities with Iranian companies. The delegation of 70 industrialists was led by the Federation of Indian Export Organization (FIEO). The Secretary General of Tehran Chamber of Commerce, Industries and Mines, Mohammed Mehdi Rasekh acknowledged the importance of collaboration between the two countries in various sectors such as automobiles, food processing, chemicals and materials, and medicine.

India-Iran trade should rise to $25 billion by 2015 from the current figure of $15 billion.

These developments have irked Washington and Tel-Aviv who expressed their displeasure with the evolving situation given Syria and Iran. It is imperative to note here that India’s foreign policy disobedience is not purely driven by the energy economics.

Last week New Delhi hosted the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) countries summit, one of the underlying themes being the promotion of trade among BRIC economies in non-US dollar currencies and a BRICS development bank that would finance key projects in the region, though their central banks can adequately perform the same function. BRICS development bank might be used to finance key projects, including Iran’s. Iran is being denied access to funds and technology from Western multilateral institutions and private corporations because of the economic sanctions.

The BRICS Summit also evinced a loud and clear support for engaging Syria and Iran through dialog, something that may not be perceived as being conducive to American interests, though it must be remembered that Barack Obama had held intensive discussions with India, South Africa and China in Copenhagen in 2009 during the 15th Conference of Parties (COP) meetings before he went to Oslo, Norway to receive his Nobel Peace Prize.

IMF head Christine Lagarde painted a gloomy outlook for the global economy in light of the US-led sanctions on Tehran that are likely to disrupt the supply of oil in the global oil markets. Lagarde, in a recent visit to New Delhi, evinced that a possible military action on Iran will have serious consequences for the global economy as oil prices could possibly rise by 30%: “clearly it would be a shock to economies if there was a major shortage of exports of oil out of Iran, it would certainly drive up prices for a period of time.”

(IMF Head Christine Lagarde and Indian Finance Minister New Delhi, March 2012  Source: Deccan Chronicle)

This was a historic moment because for the first time an international multilateral institution made a statement that contradicted earlier statements released by US, EU and Saudi Arabia on how Iranian loss of supply to the world oil market can be covered by the Saudi and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) averting a global oil price shock.

Rampant power cuts in an energy-deficient Pakistan have irked its citizens at a time when the Pakistanis are already battling a severe home-grown economic and political crisis. Moreover, the selective persecution of Shiite Pakistanis by a largely Sunni Taliban and the asymmetrical Punjabi grip on power and influence is pushing the country onto the brink of a sectarian conflict.

Recent tensions with US forces because of the drone attacks that allegedly killed scores of Pakistani civilians and soldiers has angered Islamabad, and have led to Pakistan’s political and military authorities to disallow America from using Pakistani soil to organize and execute drone attacks on Taliban insurgents.

The recent source of mistrust between Washington and Islamabad is the proposed Iran-Pakistan oil pipeline. Even though the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) presumably backed out from financing and advising the project, Islamabad showed unwavering intent to continue with the proposed project that is likely to bolster Pakistan’s energy security. Russia showed interest in providing the required funding and advisory services through its crown jewel, Gazprom, should Islamabad award the contract to the Russian giant without a bidding process.

Pakistan’s Economic Co-ordination Committee discussed possible ways of securing funding and advisory support for the proposed 900 kilometer pipeline with an expected project cost of $1.5bn, which includes a consortium based funding model, Government-to-Government arrangement with Beijing/Moscow and/or Government-to-Government arrangement with Tehran. A Pakistani delegation will be visiting Moscow next week to discuss the potential involvement of Gazprom in funding and building the pipeline.

(Iran – Pakistan Gas Pipeline: Source, Inter State Gas Systems Limited, Pakistan)

The much less talked about reason for Islamabad to continue with the project is the impact of this project on the strife-ridden and economically disadvantaged region of Balochistan. The controversial nature of relationship between Pakistan and Balochistan has led to the deprivation of basic human rights, and development indicators have taken  a solid beating.

Balochistan, which separates Pakistan from Iran, is known to have large reserves of gas and mineral resources. Since the late 1940s Balochi leaders have accused the Pakistani Intelligence Agency – Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) – and the Pakistani army of inflicting pain and suffering on its citizens and suppressing the Balochi desire to establish an independent identity as a separate sovereign. The logjam has reduced the hopes for freedom, empowerment, prosperity and development of the Balochi people. Jobs are scant and opportunities perennially low for educated Balochis.

(Port of Gwadar, Balochistan)

Balochistan, besides its capital Quetta, is also home to the port of Gwadar which is the primary transit route for all the Persian Gulf oil that enters Pakistan and, hence, possesses immense strategic importance to Pakistan.

The Gwadar deep seawater port was built by the China Harbor Engineering Group Company at an assumed investment of $200 million. The Chinese interest in the Gwadar port stems from the fact that the neglected and troubled Chinese western provinces (Xinjiang) can be linked to the Gwadar port to unlock economic opportunities for the residents, thus keeping a tight lid over the potential eruption of social uprising. The port of Gwadar will also serve as a reliable transit hub to import Gulf and Central Asian oil and natural resources to feed China‘s energy-hungry and resource-burning economy.

Balochistan’s natural resources can help gainfully integrate Balochi separatists into Pakistan, contrary to the misplaced policies of former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf who had granted near-autonomy to the region, unable to deal with Taliban, Al Qaeda and the United States.

After the recent spate of mistakes of the US military, NATO must save Afghanistan but without the United States through a United Nations Peacekeeping mission with well-intended teeth (to attack only when attacked) in the face of mindless violence by the world’s autocracies.

(George Walker Bush Debating Albert Gore, Jr., In 2000)


About Chandrashekar (Chandra) Tamirisa
This entry was posted in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Mongolia, European Union, Foreign Policy, North America and Caribbean, Political Strategy, Politics, Russia and Eastern Europe, South Asia: India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Burma and Sri Lanka, Transformations LLC, Turkey, Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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