India needs to walk a tightrope when it comes to US sanctions and the need for resources, weapons and trade deals
In one of the better moments for Indian foreign policy in the past few weeks, India managed to secure an exception to American sanctions on Russia when it was given an exemption to acquire the powerful and capable S-400 Air Defence System from Moscow. One might ask why the Americans are hellbent on imposing sanctions left, right and centre but the fact is that with the breakdown in relations between the White House and the United States Congress after Trump’s ‘secret’ talks with Russian Premier Vladimir Putin recently in Helsinki, the sanctions were a formidable hurdle in New Delhi’s quest to modernise her creaking Air Defences. Thankfully, India’s work in the Washington D.C Beltway paid off, and in a world where there are few American friends, India was able to persuade power-brokers that it needed this exemption much to the consternation of those who wined and dined with convicted felon and Pakistani agent Ghulam Nabi Fai. It did help that the United States has become a major arms supplier to India in the past few years and that in a future conflict, whether armed or not, with China, India will play a major role.
But India has another problem, how to deal with Iranian oil. Iran has become India’s second-largest supplier of crude oil. And here the problem is that Donald Trump himself is in a shouting match on Twitter with Iran’s Ayatollahs. Trump has already said that the ‘Nuclear Deal’ that Barack Obama and five other powers will be dismantled and the risks of a war starting in Persia under Trump’s watch. India and Iran have a very complicated relationship, India has been an exporter to Iran, including refined petroleum products. India wants to develop a port at Chabahar and eventually a highway and pipelines to Azerbaijan, the rest of Central Asia and Russia. Yet, India is wary of American sanctions here, as it is several Indian companies have reduced their presence in the country after Trump’s ‘tough love’ talks. But India can do little to diversify her crude supplies currently and with petroleum demand skyrocketing, India’s foreign policy makers are caught between a rock and a hard place. And this is before India’s relationship with Israel comes into the picture, as Israel and Iran have been daggers drawn for decades and as Iranian-supported Hezbollah regulars advance in Syria, there might be an escalation of matters there.
Whatever India does now, it has to deal with some amount of fallout and some ruined relationships. That said, global geopolitics as fluid as it is in current times imitates real life, fiends today can be enemies tomorrow and best friends forever next month. Like some other folks across the world, some policymakers and advisors are waiting for the November mid-term elections in the United States to see how the Trump doctrine will evolve. But while waiting and watching is not an unsound strategy, it does not mean that work should stop.
Writer & Courtesy: The Pioneer