SearchChabahar Milestone: US must drop undue belligerence towards Iran

Chabahar Milestone: US must drop undue belligerence towards Iran ...
blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com 06/12/2017 Politics

Keywords:#2015, #Afghan, #Afghanistan, #Arabia, #Asia, #Chabahar, #Chabahar_port, #China, #Chinese, #Crown_Prince, #Delhi, #Donald_Trump, #Gulf_of_Oman, #Hassan_Rouhani, #Hezbollah, #Houthis, #India, #Iran, #Iranian, #Islam, #Israeli, #Kabul, #Lebanon, #Mohammed_bin_Salman, #New_Delhi, #Oman, #Pakistan, #President, #Rouhani, #Saudi, #Saudi_Arabia, #Sunni, #Syria, #Tehran, #Trump, #Turkey, #US, #Washington, #Yemen, #al-Qaida

December 6, 2017, 9:15 am IST Rudroneel Ghosh in Talking Turkey | India | TOI
The inauguration of the first phase of the Chabahar port in Iran — which is being jointly developed by India — marks a significant milestone in the security matrix of the region. Sitting on the Gulf of Oman, Chabahar could be the lynchpin of India’s connectivity ambitions in Asia and beyond. There’s no denying that building transnational connectivity infrastructure is the new strategic game. Not only is this supposed to boost global trade and open up new markets, but also accrue to stakeholders significant strategic gains.
In other words, those investing in and building transnational connectivity infrastructure can expand their strategic influence over the recipient countries. Needless to say the investors and builders would expect preferential treatment in terms of access to the infrastructure so built. The biggest example of this today is China’s One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative of building transnational connectivity infrastructure. The flagship project is not only China’s answer to boosting Chinese trade — especially from China’s inland provinces — and reducing internal debt, but also a way of increasing China’s geostrategic influence.
Similarly, India too desires to boost its own trade and geostrategic influence through transnational infrastructure projects. And it’s in this context that Chabahar needs to be seen. The Iranian port will not only enable overland trade between India and Afghanistan, but also allow New Delhi to do more for Kabul strategically. In fact, the relationship between India and Afghanistan forms a key component of New Delhi’s western flank strategy. This is precisely why Pakistan — which views Afghanistan as its own strategic backyard — will go to any lengths to deny India land access to Afghanistan. But Chabahar breaks Pakistan’s strategic stranglehold over Afghanistan. India can now ship goods to the port and then transport them via a road and rail network to Afghan shores.
And since the new Donald Trump administration in the US wants India to be more involved in Afghanistan, the Chabahar route will hold New Delhi’s strategic interests in good stead. However, there is one catch. The Trump administration appears to be fixated on sanctioning Iran over its civil nuclear programme. Despite the historic 2015 Iran nuclear deal that lifted sanctions on Tehran in exchange for certain caps on its nuclear activities, Trump appears to be going by the Saudi-Israeli line that the Iranians are out to destabilise all of West Asia.
True, Iran has several proxies in the region like the Houthis in Yemen and the Hezbollah in Lebanon. But the Saudis have played this game too by funding and training a plethora of Sunni Islamist groups from al-Qaida to the rebels in Syria. Hence, both sides deserve blame. Today, however, both Iran and Saudi Arabia have leaders — President Hassan Rouhani and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman respectively — who are trying to change the old policies. While Rouhani is following the path of moderation and wants to open up Iran to the world, Prince Salman has declared that he will finish radical Islam, revamp the Saudi economy, and direct Saudi society towards the genuine moderate tenets of Islam.
In such a scenario, Trump would do well not to choose sides between Saudi Arabia and Iran, and adopt an even-handed approach. But where he should direct his energies towards is Pakistan. The latter today has emerged as a hub of Islamist extremism which threatens international security. Hence, under the current circumstances, Pakistan is the biggest international headache. And to tackle this the US must work out a modus vivendi with Iran. At a practical level, this means not being unduly suspicious of or harsh on Iran. Thus, Washington would do well to give its blessings to connectivity projects like Chabahar that depend on Iranian goodwill and further America’s and its allies’ security interests in the region. It’s time to discard the ‘Iran bad, Saudi good’ formula for a more rational approach.
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author's own.
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