What will India get from America for abandoning Iran?

The United States has just assassinated General Soleimani, who was often described as Iran’s most charismatic leader. India has come out with a most anodyne statement after the assassination. It doesn’t condemn the assassination. In fact it does not even call it an assassination. It calls it a killing, as if an ordinary man was killed.

And then it advocates restraint, without specifying who should exercise restraint. Clearly the statement is very pro-American.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei has recently criticized Indian actions in Kashmir. But it was Iran, in 1994, who at India’s behest had killed an Organization of Islamic Cooperation anti-India resolution on Kashmir at the UN. I don’t believe any OIC member state has ever supported India on Kashmir the way Iran supported us in 1994.

Pakistan won’t allow India land access to Afghanistan and thence the Central Asian Republics. India, undeterred, has developed the Chabahar Port in Iran at close to a cost of $100 million to reach Afghanistan and the CARs. Because of Chabahar, Indian-Iranian-Afghanistani trade and investment is scheduled to cross $20 billion. This is perhaps the most ambitious project that India has ever undertaken overseas.

The Americans have decided for over a decade to exit from Afghanistan. Ever since, they have been asking Pakistan to “do more”. Facilitate their exit, help strike a deal with the Taliban, prop up the pro-American Ghani regime, you name it. Pakistan does a little, and gets something in return from the Americans. Most recently, it was billions in dollars from the International Monetary Fund, which is controlled by the Americans. Or repeated assurances from Donald Trump that he would try to intervene in Kashmir, much to India’s chagrin.

Although India has substantive trade with the U.S., Trump has started squeezing India on trade. Indian Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar just stated that he had counseled Trump not to constrict “talent” from coming to America from India. I presume he meant H1-B visa holders and students, many of whom represent the best and the brightest of India.

So it is official now, that the Indian government wants some of its best talent to leave the country. One would think they would be trying to retain the talent within the country as well as attract that which has already left.

By taking America’s side so clearly after Soleimani’s assassination, India has put Chabahar and all associated trade and investment with it at risk. Iran will obviously become very unhappy with India’s stance. Earlier, because of U.S. sanctions, India was forced to suspend all of its oil and gas imports from Iran, which clearly hurt our economy.

Pray, one may ask, by bending over so obviously to America’s side, what has India got from the U.S. in return? Will Trump give India a good trade deal, good as in for India. PM Modi was courageous in unstintingly stating India’s cause in Kashmir at the Howdy Modi event in Houston right in front of Trrump. No outside mediation in Kashmir, he made it amply clear. Trump, who had been espousing Pakistan’s stance on Kashmir for weeks, was left red-faced.

From showing such guts then, the Indian government seems to be buckling under American pressure now. India seeks a fair trade deal with the U.S., it seeks a perma-UN seat, it seeks membership of the nuclear supplier’s group. All three are within Trump’s power to help India get. But will an announcement to the effect be forthcoming?

We may not like the Pakistanis, but even finding their backs to the economic wall today, one must admire the way they are always able to extract some quid pro quo from America. We seem to live in la la land as far as the hard nuts and bolts of diplomacy are concerned.

DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.

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