Issue :   
September 2018 Edition of Power Politics is updated.         September 2018 Edition of Power Politics is updated.
Issue:August' 2018


India’s Oil Diplomacy under strain

S. Narendra

Indian foreign minister Sushma Swaraj (R) and Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif (R). Indian interests in the Iran nuclear deal revolve around possible US sanctions that would slow down the development of the Chabahar port. The US president Trump’s decision to scrap the Iran nuclear deal and reimpose stringent sanctions against Iran,unless the latter accommodates Washington’ s new demands, has put India in a tight spot.
The US sanctions bar any of its trading partners from business and financial dealings with Iran.From November, the sanctions will cover India’s oil imports from Teheran, a major supplier to India. India had been officially warned by Washington to ‘rethink its ties to Iran’. On the other hand, Iran has offered increased reliable oil supplies.
Iran is India’s third largest crude supplier (about 12 % of total). Reliance refinery in Jamnagar heavily relies on such supply. The MCFLtd mainly depends upon Iranian supplies. Among the Middle East suppliers, Teheran has offered India the best terms.In addition to crude oil supplies, India has investment in Iranian offshore exploration as well in developing the Chabahar port that gives access to Central Asia.
The American sanctions on Iran,according to IEA, could disrupt international oil supplies when the demand is likely to grow next year from 110000 mbp day to 1.5 million bp day. Possibility of shortage has heated up the crude oil prices. In a pre-election Indian calendar, this is bad news for the government. India is delicately navigating in the global oil diplomacy by diversifying its energy suppliers. According to statistics, India had doubled its oil imports from US,making it the sixth largest supplier. .Also, India is trying to import LNG from USA and relaxing shipping rules that require most imports to be transported in Indian vessels.
Like China’s policy to store up 90 days oil supplies (over 1000 mb), India has embarked on creating major oil storage as a cushion against global supply disruption. India faces greater problems than China in securing supplies.This is so because China is the second largest oil market after Japan; it has developed stronger trade and transportation links with suppliers in former Russia,Central Asia, US Africa, and others. China has also made heavy offshore investments in oil extraction in almost all supplier countries. The economic cooling of in Europe and in China itself has led to reduction in global demand for oil. That makes oil exporters to court China more, especially because a hitherto major importer like US has become a net exporter.

Another incentive is to prevent a shift from fossil fuels to eco-friendly alternative non-fossil energy sources.
The US sanctions complicate not only New Delhi’s oil diplomacy but also its ties with the Middle East .
Washington, Israel,Saudi Arabia are working in tandem in shaping the region’s politics and turn it in favour of Sunni Islam.Riyadh is asserting the latter’s leadership, in opposition to Teheran that is aspiring for Shia Islam leadership. The ripples of this conflict tends to touch the Indian shores.That is because India’s large Muslim population encompasses both the Islamic sects. For this as well as other important reasons the Indian government has to maintain harmonious relations with the two great rival Islamic powers in Arabia.
More than $40 billion remittance comes from Indian workers in the Middle East.That’s another reason India has to tread carefully .
So far India had been given a waiver under the US sanctions.The Trump administration may or may not continue such a waiver.In the event of US granting such a waiver, it would extract very heavy Indian concessions -trade and others.

INDIA-BAITER 􀀀As Assistant Secretary of State, Robin Raphel took on the Narasimha Rao govt by questioning accession of J&K and the Shimla Agreement

What’s Robin Raphael up to ?

Robin Raphael Robin Raphael, the India hating American ex- diplomat is back in New Delhi’s neighbourhood, that is in Afghanistan. That may not be good news for India .
Raphael and another American former military intelligence official are in indirect talks with the Taliban for ending the 17 year conflict involving the US forces. While peace in Afghanistan, if and when it arrives, is welcome for the entire region, once again the attempt is to distinguish between ‘ good’ and ‘bad’ Taliban, and give the former a stake in the Afghan government.
This time the distinction that is sought to be made is between the Afghan Taliban and the foreign mercenary Taliban. The Taliban’s hardline Islam and savagery and lust for absolute power are well-known. Expecting the outfit to turn a new leaf is like expecting the leopard to change its spots.
The indirect talks have been held in Doha in Qatar, where the Taliban has its offices.The two Americans,with wide contacts with Afghan leaders consisting of disparate tribal chieftains and with Pakistan’s powerful army and intelligence officials who are backing the Taliban,have received informal support from the US government.
The significance of this new development lies in the fact that Washington has tacitly conceded to the demand of Taliban that it would negotiate only with US representatives, not with the government in Kabul. The Taliban seems to have given the signal that in the event of any final settlement, it may agree to the presence of American troops in Afghanistan,that was so far an anathema.

Thirty years back, Pakistan elected its first woman prime minister. On paper, nearly 70 per cent out of 342 member National Assembly are women. Such remarkable facts hide some unsavoury facts about women’s participation in Pakistan’ s elected democracy.

The talks are in their very preliminary stages and could take months and years to take a final shape. However, in deliberate leaks to US media, the efforts of Robin Raphael and co have been officially welcomed both by US military leaders and the state department. The present Afghan President, Abdul Ghani, has been making unsuccessful efforts for a truce with the Taliban and went to the extent of announcing a prolonged ceasefire beginning with the recent Ramadan season. The Taliban reciprocated with a limited time ceasefire but resumed attacks soon after in order to keep up its pressure. Another propitious development that could influence the talks is the election of Imran Khan as Pakistan’s new prime minister. Khan has consistently been in favour of the Taliban and seems to have had a good rapport with Robin Raphael in her earlier avatars. For those who are not very familiar with Raphael, she was in Delhi, Pakistan and Afghanistan as a US diplomat shaping Washington’s South Asia policy in the 1990s. She had famously called for the plebicite in J&K and after her retirement worked on a million dollar lobbying contract with Pakistan. Her presence now in Afghan peace negotiations should be a matter of concern to India because India perceives the Taliban as a terror outfit that has roots in Pakistan. Its return to power in Kabul in any form would tilt the balance of power in India’ s north west in an inimical way. Especially with Raphael paving the way for US to eventually disengage, India’s concerns about the Taliban and a future Afghan government that is pro-Pakistan may go un -headed.

Women in Pakistan

A 100-year-old woman contesting against Imran Khan in Pakhtunwha in the July national elections in Pakistan had made international headlines. The poll was beset with controversy and also attracted adverse media notice. A much noted fact was that for the first time one civilian government was handing over power to another without an army coup in between. But what was not noticed was that the July poll was conducted under a new and improved electoral law passed in 2017, that had led to protests. A far less noted feature of the new law and election under it was the law’s attempt for greater participation of women in the poll.
Thirty years back Pakistan elected its first woman prime minister. On paper, nearly 70 per cent out of 342 member National Assembly are women. Such remarkable facts hide some unsavoury facts about women’s participation in Pakistan’ s elected democracy. Although women form 42 per cent of national population, less than 10 per cent voted in 2013 elections. In some 17 districts the female voting was less than five per cent. Only seven women were elected members of the National Assembly; the mandatory 33 per cent quota for women had to be filled through nomination. Similar is the position in provincial assemblies. Women are unable to register for voting as most do not have the required national identity card. The ill-equipped National Identity Card issuing authority may take up to 18 years, given its current rate of application processing,according to a poll watchdog. Religious outfits routinely campaign against women voting. That is where the new law is pathbreaking. It has empowered the Pakistan Election Commission to nullify results in constituencies where women’s turn-out is 10 per cent or less. Now the poll body can act against r e l i g i o u s c a m p a i g n s banning women from voting but what that action should be has been left vague. A positive measure to e n h a n c e w o m e n ’ s participation as candidates is the requirement for political parties to field women candidates on at least five per cent of general seats for national and provincial assembly elections. The new law allows simultaneous registration for ID cards and voting through a computerised system. The poll body has been given more financial powers as well as regulatory power at par with the high court. In a country beset with rigid, faith-based terrorism, such reforms may surprise many.