Sunday, March 20, 2011

India's Foreign policy and Malayali Interests

National Security adviser S.S. Menon was in Tehran on March 8, the eve of the Persian New Year. Attempted flattery went awry as President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s office let Mr Menon’s view be known that the President’s predictions of global economic and political developments were prescient.

The national security adviser’s Tehran sojourn was perhaps based on the following assumptions:
  • a convergence in concerns about post-US Afghanistan; 
  • Iranian worry over Gulf Cooperation Council-Saudi Arabia and the Iran stand-off over Bahrain’s street uprising by the majority Shia population; 
  • and the Indian United Nations Security Council membership till 2011-12. Such reasoning subsumed that Iranian national imperatives have remained static over the last decade. 
In fact, as Iran’s external environments evolved so did its polity and tactics. Mr Ahmadinejad, a hardliner, replaced the urbane Mr Khatami. The Vilayet-e-Faqih model created by Imam Khomeini was conditioned on the Supreme Leader balancing the interests of the clergy, the Revolutionary Guards and their off-spring, the Baseej and the Bazaar, or the business class.

The 2009 election has upset this balance.
China has replaced India and Japan as investor in oil and gas and technology sources. Iran has worked out a modus vivendi with the Taliban as the US is a common foe. The US is perceived as a retreating power, no longer a military threat. President Hosni Mubarak’s exit was followed by two Iranian naval vessels transiting the Suez Canal, a first in decades. Even the Taliban may want to reduce their dependence on Pakistan. Sa’di, the 13th century poetic voice of Shiraz, has this advice on revenge:
Wait rather till fortune blunts his claws
Then pluck out his brains amidst friends’ applause.

The Arab world is in turmoil, which can lead to a renaissance or chaos. India’s Gulf policy stands outsourced to sectional Malayali interests. Its West Asia policy is in induced sleep. Iran is leafing through its Sa’di poems. The Manmohan Singh government, with its mono-thematic focus on the India-US civil nuclear deal in UPA-I and Pakistan in UPA-II, needs new advisers and a wider spectrum foreign policy. The only Arabist secretary at headquarters in the ministry of external affairs deals with Europe. Otherwise its fate shall be of the partridge in the Persian poet Hafiz’s couplet:
O gracefully walking partridge whither goest thou? 
Stop Be not deceived because the ‘devious cat’ has said its prayers

K C Singh in The Asian Age. More Here.

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