The 'Act' of Diplomacy

The new definition of virtue is not virtuous but it is ‘not being gravely sinful’. For that matter honesty at work has transformed to ‘working without harassing’ but open to lucrative deals or negotiations in return for work done smoothly as a mark of appreciation. It is no more integrity, equality or duty. The changing colours of ethical codes is seen in the entire spectrum of public life, be it personal, professional or political. Bias, favouritism and self-interest are the guiding principles of life. Especially when the international relations among different countries are dictated by what different nations can offer each other. The Indo-US nuclear deal was a major breakthrough. India is not a signatory to NPT (nuclear non-proliferation treaty), yet US manoeuvred to have an India specific clause to enable trade in nuclear technical knowhow, supply of raw material and so on. This was called the Hyde act. It did indeed hide the diplomacy played back doors. Diplomacy for diplomacy India later reciprocated with a couple of decisions in UN siding with US.

The recent lifting of waivers of sanctions by US on countries who traded in oil with Iran is a shrewd tactic of economic warfare. Domination is the new rule of business. US has recently lifted the waiver of sanctions on India for oil imports from Iran. The super power and the new slaves have emerged once again. To make Iran’s oil imports zero US has warned of sanctions on eight countries including India. The foreign diplomacy and worldly wise political heads could not comprehend that to please a friend in West they cannot shut the doors of close neighbours. This is short term, timid and unrealistic move to stop trade with the immediate neighbours. Firstly, we need new sellers in the vicinity or increase the supplies from the existing suppliers. Even if we find a new supplier, the distance and transportation cost will raise the price. The consequences of high oil prices, the gulf war, oil for food programme, the Volcker report and the scams that followed are all ripe in our memory. The waivers itself reflect the arm-twisting policies of US with anyone who messes with them. This is the diplomacy standard of the new world. Iran has shrugged off news about ban on countries trading in oil and is least affected. In return Iran has termed the entire US military as terrorists.

India’s relations with Iran were never hurt before. During Cold war period non-aligned India sided with the Soviet Union and Iran had close ties with US. Iran’s support to Pakistan and India’s support to Iraq further strained the relations between India and Iran. The relations between Iran and India were dictated by their common enemies or allies. Iran and India individually had no issues to be on the opposite sides. Then with the rise of the common foe in the Talibani regime of Afghanistan, the relations between the two countries strengthened. But the idea of the India-Pakistan-Iran pipeline did not see the light of the day. India also missed the opportunity to engage in China’s Belt and Road Initiative which could have eventually solved impasse over ‘Kashmir conflict’ by making it an enclave of the trade corridor. India’s support for developing the Chabahar port in Iran is again a move to counter China’s development of Gwadar port of Pakistan. Nevertheless, whether in chasing the enemy or tracking a lost friend India has stepped forward to trade with central Asia and Europe via Iran. India can reap huge benefits from access to the International North South Transport Corridor(INSTC) in the region.  The ship, rail and road route will connect Mumbai in India to St. Petersburg in Russia. This will also reduce the trade cost tremendously. The new trading stations on the way include Afghanistan, Armenia, Kazakhstan and Europe. India cannot miss this opportunity nor can it halt the process.

Surprisingly India voted against Iran’s nuclear program to please its western partner. The greater surprise is that this western power has now begun to dictate terms to India bluntly. The ban on oil imports from Iran which is more than 10% of the oil trade can be huge shocker not just in terms of trade but also the foreign relations will be affected. There are no permanent foes or allies in business as Business is a more powerful war than the territorial war today.

The crude oil suppliers of India are Iraq, Saudi Arabia, US, Venezuela, Nigeria and Iran. After US sanctions of 2010-11, the oil supply from Iran to India decreased and relegated to the seventh position as oil importer. This will amount to huge loss of supply to the robust emerging economy. India may increase the supply from the existing partners. But along with oil there is more lost in the bargain. Trade often affects political relations. Barter of goods is no more the norm today but the give and take, exchange of mutual intangible benefit still drives the trading blocs to break or block business. At this point of time India needs Iran to counter Pakistan and also for opening the Central Asian markets through ports and roads of Iran. This looks like a case of failed diplomacy on the part of India. It is unwise to be part of Western vengeance and rivalry with a middle eastern nation. India could have been assertive and not forget that India is basically a non-alignment fore founder. Especially when there is no direct threat or history of strained relations in terms of Iran, side stepping from doing business for the sake of appeasing US is totally a miscalculated move. War and enmity is a big business today. Many countries often pursue interests, be it rivalry or engagements to fulfill their needs. India cannot fight proxy wars in return of favours for such countries and turn friends into foes in the neighbourhood

The author is of Karnataka origin settled in Kashmir.