Iran Stands Firm as India Folds in Front of The US

All the grandstanding vis-à-vis robust foreign policy for public consumption notwithstanding, the current political dispensation folded in front of Washington at the mere suggestion of pressure, says Saurabh Kumar Shahi

Prime Minister Modi’s robust and “independent foreign policy” didn’t really have a great time last week. After giving hundreds of speech on how his government has made India a force to reckon with in the international arena, and that he has restored the grace and muscularity that India’s foreign policy deserved, one would have thought that Prime Minister Narendra Modi would brush aside threats delivered by United States’ Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Nikki Haley. However, this was not to be. Haley, an ethnic Indian who is a darling of Zionist lobby in the US, had primarily come to India to threaten New Delhi of dire consequences if it did not drastically reduce the oil import from Iran. While the official spokespersons and spin doctors were still parroting the line India does not recognise unilateral sanctions outside the regimen of United Nations, quietly, New Delhi folded.
It became obvious by the very evening that Modi Government had little room to manoeuvre considering the amount of dependency India has over the United States, a situation that was brought by the present regime. Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA), a tinkered India-only version of the Logistics Support Agreement (LSA), which the United States has with many countries that are its strategic allies or near-vassal states, tipped the balance of relationship on the side of the Americans. There was a reason why Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, even after cajoling and threats from the then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, did not agree to sign on the dotted line. And if that was not enough, Prime Minister Singh had also categorically told Hillary Clinton that India will not be the shoulder from which West will fire on China. All that changed following the ushering of the current dispensation.
Under the circumstances, India could do little but to fold completely in front of Nikki Haley. For optics purposes, the strategic 2+2 Dialogues were postponed giving a signal to the voters that India was holding its ground, but it was evident by the very evening that things had not gone India’s way. Oil Companies and refineries were sent messages to look for alternative source of oil import as India agreed to toe the line.
“Nikki Haley won — hands down. What a spirited Sikh lady who read the riot act to Modi government in a short visit and got the job done — just like that! Now, countrymen, let us turn to plan for KumbhMela 2019 to make it a mega event ahead of the elections! Hasn’t someone said somewhere that religion is the opiate of the masses,” commented M Bhadrakumar, ex-Ambassador and foreign affairs analyst.
It was especially embarrassing because on the very day India asked its oil companies to look for other alternatives, Turkey, a NATO member, summarily dismissed US’ demand.
“The decisions taken by the United States on this issue are not binding for us. Of course, we will follow the United Nations on its decision. Other than this, we will only follow our own national interests. In addition, we will pay attention sothat our friend Iran will not face any unfair actions,” the official communiqué by Turkish MFA said.
Meanwhile, Iran has reacted angrily to India’s decision. It was particularly peeved on the speed with which India folded.
Writing in Tehran Times, a newspaper close to the ruling dispensation in Tehran, Syed Zafar Mehdi said, “Less than a month after Swaraj’s statement, India buckled under the overwhelming U.S. pressure, betraying national interest and confirming its status as a pygmy… it happened a day after U.S. ambassador to UN Nikki Haley visited India… Responsible nation states act responsibly without allowing anyone to bully or threaten them. By succumbing to the pressure of U.S., India has not only risked its age-old ties with Tehran but also demonstrated its weak diplomacy… However, the mood is Iran remains upbeat. Iranians are not panicking just because India has backstabbed them.”
Iran, on its part, has started to look for other options as well. There are several options that it can choose from at this time. While the US has asked Saudis and Russians to lack up crude production in order to offset the Iranian production, neither Russia nor the Saudis are in the position to do so in the short to medium term.
Also, since the crude price has gone up since that last time Iran was under squeeze, Iran is ready to cut the price in order to lure more and more countries to buy its oil, something neither Russia nor Saudis can manage.
“Thanks to four decades of relentless US embargo, Iran’s economy diversified and drastically reduced its dependence on oil income. Whereas Saudi Arabia’s breakeven oil price to achieve zero budget deficit in 2017 was $73.10, Iran can produce profits with oil prices at $20 to $40 per barrel. Thus, India’s oil bill will significantly rise if it stops oil imports from Iran. Besides, of course, it isn’t easy to replace the ‘sweet crude’ variety that Iran supplies for which some of our refineries are built,” adds Bhadrakumar.
It is expected that the US will offer a waiver to many of its allies including South Korea and Japan who import a substantial portion of their oil from Iran. If that happens, India’s capitulation will look more pathetic.