Plucky Pakistan puts India to shame

By an indian author:

The contrast couldn’t be sharper between India and Pakistan. India is a mature, functioning democracy and an ‘emerging power’ with an independent foreign policy, whereas Pakistan is a moth-eaten country tottering on the abyss of failure as a dysfunctional state lacking in self-respect. At least, this is how Indian propaganda presents things.

Yet, hardly 72 hours passed since the Indian establishment began sensitizing the domestic opinion that it is ending all oil imports from Iran and Pakistan takes a tumultuous step toward the realization of the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project.

The formal inauguration of the $7.5 billion 1500-kilometre project took place at a ceremony earlier today, which was attended by the presidents of the two countries. Clearly, whereas Indians chickened out in the face of sustained American pressure, Pakistan is thumbing the nose at Washington.

The Indian leadership decided to end the Iranian ’sweet’ crude imports despite long-term agreements because the Americans do not like the transaction. But the ‘weak’ Pakistani leadership knows what is in the country’s core interests and is determined to pursue the objective no matter what it takes.

What is all our tall claims to being a regional power worth if our leaders lack spine? The spluttering Indian economy can certainly do with the assured supplies of Iranian crude. This is particularly important because our fertilizer industry is highly subsidized and our government has pledged to do away with subsidies incrementally in its passion to cut the budget deficit.

No doubt, Pakistan too faced enormous pressure and blackmail from the US not to proceed with the Iran gas pipeline project, but the country faces acute energy shortage and decided that it makes eminent sense to import gas from next-door neighbor. Period.

Now, what can we expect in the downstream?. Let me anticipate. Only last week the US state department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said, “If this deal is finalized for a proposed Iran-Pakistan pipeline, it would raise serious concerns under our Iran Sanctions Act. We’ve made that absolutely clear to our Pakistani counterparts.”

Obviously, the US threats didn’t work. The US regulations stipulate that transactions involving gasoline or other fuels can trigger American sanctions. But to my mind, the US dares not impose any sanctions against Pakistan.

How can you sanction a country and then drop down on your knees and beg for its cooperation so that you can evacuate thousands of your troops and their equipment through Karachi Port? No, Sir, you simply can’t. One thing at a time, Sir.

And the Americans are pragmatic in such situations. So, they will come up with a face-saving formula by saying that the sanctions will be imposed in due course when Pakistan opens the tap and actually draws the gas supplied through the pipeline — and not at this stage.

Second, to be sure, Iran will now take matters one step further and redeem its pledge to build an oil refinery in Gwadar as well, which will mesh with the Chinese plans to build an ‘oil city’ in the Pakistani port (which now China manages).

Clearly, today’s ceremony commencing the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project is an event of momentous significance for the geopolitics of the region. From this point, China is just a step away from sourcing Iranian energy through pipelines via Pakistan.

By the way, today’s ceremony was held in Chah Bahar — yes, Chah Bahar, which our mandarins cite as India’s gateway to Central Asia and Afghanistan, ‘bypassing’ Pakistan. Sure thing, these Iranians and Pakistanis have a quaint sense of humor.

In the bargain, they have exposed our officials who keep bragging that India is about to get ‘connectivity’ with Central Asia (via Iran ‘bypassing’ Pakistan); and, with Russia and Eurasia through a North-South Corridor (again, via Iran ‘bypassing’ Pakistan); and is planning to make a multi-billion investment in Afghanistan to extract iron ores which will be transported to our country (yet again, via Iran ‘bypassing’ Pakistan).

Our relations with Iran being in tatters, India might as well stay put in South Asia, It has no big role in Central Asia or Afghanistan. That is the honest truth, whereas, the latest yarn being spun for the consumption of our gullible public is that India is going to get connected with Kazakhstan, of all places, and with Russia eventually via an oil pipeline.

Make no mistake about it, all that the Indian leadership is really interested in are the LNG imports from America (once Uncle Sam agrees, of course). Washington has sought a quid pro quo — if our leadership ends the crude oil imports from Iran, the US will lift the ban on LNG exports to India. But then, you might ask why it is so terribly important to import LNG from the US. Good question. It’s the shale gas, Stupid! Own a shale gas company in the US today, and you’re going to hit the jackpot. Got it?

However, sometimes I wonder whether it really could be the pressure tactic by Washington and/or our corporate lobby or whether it is also the wink from the Sunni oligarchies of the Persian Gulf, which is coaxing our government to roll back the ties with Iran. It seems a combination of all three. Don’t overlook that the Saudis have their conduit to the Indian political elites, especially in regions like Uttar Pradesh or Kerala.

But then, Pakistan is also a major Sunni Muslim country and it also has a terrific relationship with Saudi Arabia. In fact, the two countries have shared interests over many strategic issues. They have been the mentors of the Taliban.

How come Pakistani diplomacy is able to manage Islamabad’s relations with Riyadh and Teheran simultaneously? The contrast is so striking.

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