Trump And PM Khan Might Have Just Ruined Iranian-Indian Relations

By Andrew Korybko
Source

The American and Pakistani leaders independently took two very important and uncoordinated moves at almost the exact same time that might coincidentally have the same effect of ruining Iranian-Indian relations.

Iranian-Indian relations might be about to enter their worst-ever period in modern history as a result of two very important and uncoordinated moves undertaken at almost the exact same time by the American and Pakistani leaders. PM Khan just paid his first visit to Iran where he and his hosts announced that they’ll enter into a new era of anti-terrorist cooperation that geopolitical analyst Adam Garrie comprehensively analyzed in his recent piece on this breaking news event. The ball was indeed in Iran’s court to stop India’s anti-Pakistani Baloch terrorism like I wrote the other day, and to Tehran’s credit, its leadership finally understood this and decided to expand its military partnership with the global pivot state of Pakistan. This will greatly complicate India’s Hybrid War capabilities in clandestinely using Iranian territory to carry out terrorist attacks against Pakistan by proxy as it obsessively seeks to sabotage CPEC, meaning that PM Khan’s visit will have far-reaching and long-term geostrategic security consequences in the New Cold War.

In parallel with this, Trump decided that the US won’t renew its Iranian oil sanctions waivers and that Washington’s GCC partners of Saudi Arabia and the UAE will help the Islamic Republic’s energy customers replace their imports with Gulf resources instead. India was very vocal last year about its intent to defy the US’ unilateral sanctions against Iran, but as I wrote in my piece at the time about the “Indian Illusion“, all of this was just rhetoric to hide the fact that New Delhi was quietly implementing its new American patron’s will. Trump just put Modi on the spot, however, and it might augur negatively for the Indian leader during the ongoing month-long electoral process if he publicly capitulates to the US’ demands and replaces Iranian resources with Gulf ones like I suspected he’s been planning to do since late last year after his summit in Argentina with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman. As such, this American move might also be yet another “bad cop” tactic against Modi to get more strategic concessions out of India.

It therefore wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that Trump and PM Khan might have just ruined Iranian-Indian relations for good when considering the combined effect of their latest moves to that relationship. The Pakistani leader exposed India’s Hybrid War terrorist plot during his talks with the Iranian leadership which probably explains why the two neighboring nations decided to take their military cooperation with one another to the next level, while the American leader is forcing India to stop importing Iranian oil under the threat of potentially crippling “secondary sanctions” and to replace its resources with those from the Islamic Republic’s hated GCC foes. Although Iran and India still have shared strategic interests in the Chabahar Corridor and North-South Transport Corridor, the trust that formerly defined their relations is broken and their ties will never be the same. The end result is beneficial to the US and Pakistan for different reasons and might even interestingly be a tangential outcome of their recent diplomatic cooperationin Afghanistan.

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India’s Ambassador To Russia Lied About Rejecting International Mediation

By Andrew Korybko
Source

The Chinese Foreign Ministry, the Emirati Ambassador To India, and several unnamed US diplomatic sources all released statements around the same time disproving the Indian Ambassador to Russia’s previous on-the-record statement that “no country has offered to mediate between India and Pakistan” and that his government “will not accept” any such offer even if it was made, making one wonder whether New Delhi’s highest-ranking diplomat in Moscow lied as shamelessly as he did in a desperate attempt to “save face” for shockingly shooting down Russia’s mediation interest despite secretly accepting other countries’ diplomatic assistance in this respect instead.

America Cracks The Whip

The Indian Ambassador to Russia was just caught red-handed shamelessly lying to his host country after he went on record a few days after Foreign Minister Lavrov expressed his interest in having Russia mediate between India and Pakistan to shockingly shoot down the peacemaking proposal by what his government misleadingly portrays as its closest international partner, saying in no uncertain terms that “no country has offered to mediate between India and Pakistan” and that his government “will not accept” any such offer even if it was made. It’s now been revealed that Ambassador D. Bala Venkatesh Varma wasn’t telling the truth after Reuters released a report this weekend citing several unnamed US diplomatic sources who alleged that Washington intervened to crack the whip and get its new military-strategic ally to back down from its threat to launch missiles against Pakistan and escalate the unprovoked crisis with its neighbor to the dangerous level of risking a nuclear war.

India’s Secret Diplomacy Deliberately Snubbed Russia

Evidently, it seems that while the US probably greenlit India’s dramatic but ultimately fake “surgical strike” stunt against Pakistan in a bid to improve Modi’s reelection prospects and send negative fake news signals about the viability of CPEC, it didn’t approve of New Delhi responding to the epic humiliation of the Pakistan Air Force shooting down one of its counterpart’s “vintage” (but possibly upgraded) Russian jets by irresponsibly taking tensions to the next level, suggesting that Modi might have “gone rogue” from even his American handlers and seriously considered starting World War III for a brief moment. Before National Security Advisor Bolton’s reported intervention, it’s now known from the Emirati Ambassador to India that Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Zayed “had a telephonic conversation with Prime Minister Modi and the Pakistani PM Imran Khan” “on the day of the huge escalation”, and the Chinese Foreign Ministry officially said that it “pro-actively promoted peace talks” between the two nuclear-armed rivals.

All of this proves beyond any credible doubt that the Indian Ambassador to Russia was lying when he said in early March a day after Wing Commander Abhinandan’s release and the consequent de-escalation of the crisis that “no country has offered to mediate between India and Pakistan” and that his government “will not accept” any such offer even if it was made despite it now being known that New Delhi had secretly accepted other countries’ diplomatic assistance in this respect instead, even including its chief geopolitical rival China’s though stunningly not its “bhai” (“brother”) Russia’s. This suggests an attempt on the part of India’s permanent military, intelligence, and diplomatic bureaucracies (“deep state”) to deliberately snub Russia after Lavrov unintentionally “offended” them by challenging the ruling BJP’s self-assumed supremacist stance against Pakistan by treating the two countries as international equals by expressing an interest to mediate between them. Curiously, New Delhi seemingly didn’t care that others did this too and only singled out Russia.

Bhadrakumar’s Insight Into The Indian “Deep State”

The reason why it was “unforgivably offensive” for Russia to hold this implied position as opposed to any other country doing the same is because India assumed that it could “buy off” Russia’s support through multibillion-dollar arms deals and therefore get it to sacrifice its geostrategic interests in the global pivot state of Pakistan as a result. This isn’t just the author’s own interpretation but it also reflects the one that career diplomat, Indian “deep state” insider (especially regarding the attitude of his government’s multipolar-leaning faction towards Russia), and well-known columnist on international affairs Mr. M.K. Bhadrakumarrecently wrote in his article for The Tribune about “The big let-down”. This highly respected expert has an extensive track record of Russian-friendly analyses but suddenly switched his tune in the aftermath of “The Latest Kashmir Crisis Proving That India, Not Pakistan, Is The Real Rogue State” by lashing out against the Russian people for what he disrespectfully described as their “notorious avarice”:

“What comes as a total surprise is in regard of the Russian attitude. Moscow’s mediation offer is not the point here, but its demonstrative attempt to be ‘neutral’. The mega multi-billion dollar arms deals that the Modi government presented to Russian vendors, defying the threat of US sanctions, have apparently not placated the Kremlin. Curiously, the Kremlin-funded news channel RT featured a half-hour interview only last week with former Pakistani foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar fulminating against Modi, Indian media and politics, and Hindutva meta-nationalism. Why are Russians so mighty upset? It must have something to do with money. Is it about Essar Steel not going to the Russian bidder? Or, about Saudi Aramco likely trumping Gazprom in the race for the highly lucrative Indian retail energy market? Or, about some pending arms deal? No matter the notorious Russian avarice, Moscow’s choice to ‘balance’ between India and Pakistan when Delhi needed its support most is the unkindest cut of all.”

Mr. Bhadrakumar’s ad hominem attack against the same people with whom he spent a large portion of his entire career building bridges was apparently triggered by his “total surprise in regard” to “[Russia’s] demonstrative attempt to be ‘neutral’” in spite of “the mega multi-billion dollar arms deals that the Modi government presented to Russian vendors”, which actually shouldn’t have been unexpected at all for a man who served in Russia for slightly less than half as many years as I am old had he been following the many articles that I’ve written about this topic and which I compiled in my recent piece about how “Russia Officially Returns To South Asia By Offering To Host Indo-Pak Peace Talks” that was released a full half-month before his “big let-down” article. It’s not that Mr. Bhadrakumar isn’t aware of my work either since he wrongly speculated about the intention of one of my older pieces, which I clarified last year.

“The Unkindest Cut Of All”

Mr. Oleg Barabanov – a programme director at the Valdai Club (Russia’s most prestigious think tank), a professor at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO, which is run by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs), and a professor at the Russian Academy of Sciences – raised a very relevant point earlier this month in his recent analysis about “Russia and the Search for Balance Between India and Pakistan” when he wrote that “Sometimes the Indian expert community expresses mistrust of Russia because of what they consider the excessively close Russia-China partnership, as a result of which Russia is losing its independent political image in India. Obviously, viewing Russia exclusively through the prism of Indo-Chinese divergences does not promote trust. Thus, US policy in the region (and probably the potential Indo-US link) serves as an additional external impetus for Russia-Pakistan dialogue.” As Mr. Bhadrakumar’s words prove, Mr. Barabanov was entirely right, but even more so than he could have imagined.

Bearing in mind the Valdai Club expert’s piercing insight into one of the many recent US-encouraged problems plaguing Russian-Indian relations and recalling how “Russia Regards The ‘Indo-Pacific Region’ As An ‘Artificially Imposed’ Pro-US Concept” to “contain” China, “the unkindest cut of all” (to channel Mr.Bhadrakumar) is that the Indian Ambassador to Russia shamelessly lied to his host country about the apparent absence of any previous mediation proposals when shooting own Moscow’s own informal one despite having already secretly relied upon the diplomatic services of the US, the UAE, and even India’s chief geopolitical rival China. There couldn’t be any stronger signal from India to Russia that their Soviet-era “brotherhood” is over and that their strategic partnership is now purely transactional after losing the “romantic allure” that it once held for decades in the minds of both of their “deep states” (contrary to whatever “feel-good” rhetoric they might each espouse during this “sensitive” time).

Concluding Thoughts

There’s no doubt that India will continue to be one of Russia’s priority partners for the indefinite future by virtue of its enormous market size and the billions of dollars’ worth of military deals that they agreed to in the past six months alone, but the mutual trust that they enjoyed during the Old Cold War days of “Rusi-Hindi Bhai Bhai” (“Russians and Indians are brothers”) is forever lost after New Delhi succumbed to the pressure of its new American patron by deliberating snubbing Russia from the international mediation process with Pakistan. Even worse, the Indian Ambassador to Russia flat-out lied about the secret diplomatic assistance that his country received from others in this respect, with it later being revealed that even India’s chief geopolitical rival China played a role in the same process that New Delhi denied its “bhai” Moscow a chance to participate in. In response, Russia is expected to “recalibrate” its regional “balancing” strategy in the direction of its newfound Pakistani strategic partner.

India’s Hand in The 2020 US Presidential Election

By Adam Garrie
Source

While many believe that the Russian government worked to achieve the victory of Donald Trump in the 2016 US Presidential election, those concerned with foreign governments interfering in the political processes of other states ought to investigate the relationship between Tulsi Gabbard and the India’s BJP government of Narendra Modi. Whilst Donald Trump did not meet the Russian President prior to his election in the US, current Democratic presidential candidate Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard first met the Indian Premier in 2014.

Even prior to that time, Gabbard was rallying for Modi’s cause in the United States. When Modi was Chief Minister of Gujarat, he fanned the flames of the sectarian Gujarat Massacre of 2002 and as a result, was prohibited from entering the United States. Modi’s pre-premiership ban from America was called “a great blunder” by Gabbard, one of Modi’s most consistent and loudest champions in the US Congress. This alone demonstrates Gabbard’s callousness regarding the thousands of casualties caused by the wave of anti-Muslim violence whipped up by the BJP and its then leader in Gujarat, Narendra Modi.

Since then, her ties with the BJP and its armed RSS wing have caused controversy among those following Gabbard’s controversial career. If Trump’s ties to Russia were ambiguous enough to require the lengthy Mueller investigation in order to determine whether he did or did not conspire with Russia to meddle in the 2016 US election, Gabbard’s links to India’s ruling party do not require a special investigation because they are all out in the open. It is not just that Gabbard has been alleged to have received funds from Hindutva organisations in the United States, but beyond this, Gabbard has exhibited hostility towards the same targets that Hindutva radicals in India attack in order to foment extremism.

Gabbard has publicly defamed Pakistan by accusing state authorities of harbouring and collaborating with terrorists. In addition to slandering Pakistan on Twitter, in 2016 Gababrd said:

“People within the Pakistani government continue to provide tacit and overt support for terrorism. This is not new – this pattern of attacks has been occurring now for the past 15 years, and it must end. That’s why I’ve continued working in Congress to cut back US assistance for Pakistan and increase pressure on Pakistan to stop this violence. In the past, the US government took steps to increase pressure on Pakistan, and it’s time to revisit that approach”.

In the same statement Gabbard said that “We stand in solidarity with India…”

Therefore it is clear to see that Gabbard has closer links with India’s ruling faction than Donald Trump may have had with Russia’s prior to his election victory. It is also clear that Gabbard is wiling, ready and able to articulate India’s position vis-a-vis neighbouring Pakistan far more forcefully than for example Donald Trump was able to articulate Russia’s position vis-a-vis Kiev in 2015 and 2016.

Thus, while it is not known whether India’s BJP government is actively supporting Gabbard’s campaign behind the scenes, the favourable coverage she receives from pro-BJP media outlets and her undeniable cultivation of pro-BJP public opinion means that it is almost certain that there is no candidate in the current US election that New Delhi would like to see in the White House more than Tulsi Gabbard.

If people were worried about Donald Trump and Russia, they should be incredibly frightened of Tulsi Gabbard and India.

Below is Eurasia Future’s report on the dangers posed by a would-be Gabbard Presidency in the United States

From the fake news candidate to the fake peace candidate 

Yesterday, much of social media across the US and among watchers of American politics was thrown into a collective fit of delusion due to US Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard declaring that she intends to secure the candidacy of the Democratic Party in the 2020 US Presidential Election. While Gabbard has painted herself as a peace candidate, recalling her military record in Iraq as a factor influencing her subsequent opposition to the US war in Iraq as well as the US wars in Libya and Syria, these anti-war sentiments in the Arab world obscure an extremist tendency in Gabbard’s politics that have seen her openly embrace the friendship of some of the most outrageously anti-Muslim political and paramilitary movements in Asia.

A trail of saffron blood

The year 2002 remains a watershed in the post-colonial history of India as it was then in Gujarat state that a violent pogrom was instigated against Muslims leaving up to 2,000 dead. Most worrying, the Chief Minister of Gujarat in 2002 was a man called Narendra Modi who is now India’s Prime Minister. Many witnesses to the violence in Gujarat continue to assert that Modi’s state government as well as police and other public authorities intentionally allowed the violence to spiral out of control when clearly it is the duty of any government to quash violence and enforce an orderly rule of law.

It was in 2002, that the the authorities in Washington denied Modi a visa to visit America due to his role in provoking the pogrom in Gujarat. Later it was none other than Tulsi Gabbard who called America’s decision not to welcome Modi to US soil “a great blunder“.

While Donald Trump has been accused of harbouring anti-Muslim sentiments, at best these sentiments (if they exist at all) are visceral rather than cerebral. While Trump has never actively courted support from bodies like America’s racist KKK, Tulsi Gabbard has courted a friendship with India’s RSS, a Hindutva (Hindu supremacist) paramilitary force that is considered by most to be the armed wing of India’s ruling Hindutva Bharatiya Janata Party (the BJP).

Modi’s rise from Gujarati strongman to Indian Prime Minister in many ways coincided Gabbard’s rise to fame as a maverick member of the US Congress. In fact, Gabbard entered national politics in the US in 2012, just two years before Modi rode a wave of hatred to become the Prime Minister of what is called the “world’s largest democracy”. But while India’s constitution guarantees secular law with an explicit prohibition against discrimination on the grounds of religious background, caste and ethnic identity, Modi’s government has effectively torn these pages of India’s constitution off and thrown them atop a giant saffron tinged bonfire.

This has not stopped Gabbard from sharing a very public friendship with Modi, a man who once called the secular opposition Congress party, “a party for Muslims only”. This is the same Modi who openly praises Hindutva’s ideological forefather VD Savarkar. Some of VD Savarkar’s more memorable contributions to the decline of India’s intellectual traditions include his thesis that rape is a justified political tool when used by Hindu men against female Muslims.

It is perhaps no wonder that a man like Modi who once declared VD Savarkar as an individual “worthy of worship” should be presiding over a rape epidemic in which members of his party openly declared their support not for the victims of one of the worst crimes known to humanity, but instead offer their public sympathy to the Hindutva rape gangs. It cannot be emphasised enough that the pro-rape tendencies among far too many BJP politicians and supporters are not isolated incidents but part of a wider trend by the BJP and RSS to systematically dehumanise and threaten Indian Muslims.

It is likewise under Modi’s BJP government that so-called cow vigilante mobs have beaten, lynched and mutilated the bodies of Muslims accused of eating or selling beef. In many cases, the Muslim victims of murder and vicious assault were simply targeted for being Muslims rather than for having anything to do with butchering cows, selling or eating beef.

The contemporary assault on Muslims in India however is not just limited to the mob violence which is clearly sanctioned by elements of the ruling party and their far-right allies. The historic city of Allahabad in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh has recently been the site of controversy after the BJP’s Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath decided to unilaterally rename the city Prayagraj. This is a clear attempt to erase the history of the Mughal Empire which incidentally was the pre-1947 independent sovereign entity which came closest to uniting all of what was now India in the early modern period.

One of India’s most internationally famous monuments, the Taj Mahal was built on the orders of Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan as an Islamic shrine for his wife. While Indian tourism associations promote the Taj Mahal as one of the country’s top destinations, the Archaeological Survey of India have now taken the decision to prohibit Muslim pilgrims from worshipping in the Taj Mahal’s mosque on every day of the week except Friday.

This attempt to de-Islamify one of the world’s most recognisable Islamic shrines is yet another attempt to erase Muslim history and specifically Mughal history from the collective consciousness of modern India.

But beyond the attempts to culturally cleanse Islam from India, it was recently reported that a Uttar Pradesh Assembly member of the ruling BJP just stated that he is ready to bomb minorities who claim that their safety is no longer guaranteed in India.

Just this week, the BJP passed a law in the lower house of India’s parliament granting an amnesty to undocumented civilians in India unless they are Muslims. By contrast, while Donald Trump has temporarily banned travel to the US for citizens of a handful of majority Muslim countries (which also have in some cases substantial Christian minorities), Modi’s government has effectively rendered four million Muslims in Assam State as stateless individuals, in spite of the fact that most have known nothing by India as their home for most if not all of their lives. For a member of the American party that is supposed to be pro-migrant, Tulsi Gabbard has no problem supporting the BJP leader whose party seeks to deprive basic human rights to genuine Muslim refugees and their progeny.

With friend’s like Modi…

These are just some of the systematic, top-down anti-Muslim discriminatory measures pursued by the BJP, RSS and supporters of both. At this juncture, before turning back to Gabbard, one must make it clear that under Trump, the US has extended its Bush and Obama era pivot towards India and that Trumps specifically has spoken highly of Modi. On the other hand, the two cannot be described as friends, as Trump has openly insulted Modi. From Trump’s demeanour and record, it is clear that he sees India as a strategic tool in his attempts to provoke China, but little more.

By contrast, Gabbard has gone out of her way to court Modi’s friendship and that of his BJP colleagues and in the process has helped Hindutva extremists to whitewash their war against Islam. Gabbard has gone out of her way to promotethe normalisation of Modi in the US, thus playing an important part in his public revival since being unwelcome in America in 2002. Beyond this, Gabbard is on record defending India’s violence against the demonstrators of Kashmir who since 1947 have been denied their UN recognised right to exercise self-determination. Gabbard’s unflinching support for the occupiers of Kashmir has shown no signs of slowing down in spite of 2018 being the deadliest year for Kashmiris for a decade.

Trump as a friend of Muslims? 

While Trump, like many far more mild US politicians has jumped on the anti-Islamic bandwagon in terms of his rhetoric, Trump is ultimately a pragmatist who uses the rhetoric of extremism in order to garner attention. By contrast, Tulsi Gabbard wraps her support for Hindutva extremism in a veil of a pleasant, moderate sounding exterior that betrays an attitude towards Muslims that is clearly ideological motivated, calculated and dangerous.

Whilst Barack Obama could be accused of betraying his heritage (he had Muslim family members) by waging wars on Muslim majority nations and while one wouldn’t be surprised if George W. Bush knew nothing about the Muslim majority nations he bombed, Gabbard is far more dangerous a character because she actually knows what she is doing, knows who her friends are and is confident in advancing a pro-BJP agenda.

Beyond this, while Donald Trump was never photographed with Vladimir Putin prior to becoming president, Gabbard has been photographed with Modi on multiple occasions.

While some in the United States are waking up to Gabbard’s rhetoric of peace being out of step with her support for an extremist Hindutva government, for far too many, Gabbard’s calculated promotion of Hindtuva fits in with a United States that has been collectively brainwashed into thinking that somehow Islamic extremism is unique among the world’s fanatical religious movements. This is why it is all the more important to show ordinary Americans that while there is little direct evidence of Donald Trump conspiring with Vladimir Putin, there is plenty of evidence to demonstrate that Gabbard and Narendra Modi have a close if not too close public friendship that bears the same amount of scrutiny as do Trump’s alleged ties with Moscow.

Likewise, while Donald Trump’s “Muslim ban” was little more than a travel ban against countries with which the US has long had dubious relations at best, Gabbard supports a political movement in India that has made life for many of India’s 172 million Muslims, little short of a living hell and in some cases something even worse.

Conclusion 

For those still in the dark about the realities of Gabbard, one should remember that while Hinduism is a spiritual practice, Hindutva is a violent, extremist political movement. Therefore, criticisms of Gabbard have everything to do with her Hindutva and nothing to do with her Hinduism. Ironically, as Modi’s once electorally monolithic BJP is now facing a serious challenge from opposition groups led by the secular Congress party, one is now faced with the irony of Indians rejecting Hindutva politics just as Americans may be sleepwalking their way into promoting the most pro-Hindutva individual in the history of the US Congress as a potential future leader of the United States.

In a country like the US where it is still easy to win votes by offering a simplistic view of Islam based on the post-9/11 mass hysteria which still hasn’t fully evaporated from US political discourse, while Gabbard may be a long shot to win the White House, her anti-Islamic posturing could make her a surprisingly effective candidate.

Should Gabbard win the Democratic nomination for 2020, it has to be said that President Donald Trump with his big mouth and pragmatic streak would be a far sounder choice for Muslims and supporters of peace than a woman who hides her extremism behind a manipulative veil of moderation.

Why’d the US Issue a Sanctions Waiver for Chabahar?

Astute News

Many observers are wondering why the US issued a sanctions waiver for the Indian-built port of Chabahar in southeastern Iran and the railroad project that’s supposed to one day extend from it to Afghanistan, but the reason is that America sees this curious “Lead From Behind” arrangement as one of its last chances to retain its long-term influence in the landlocked country.

For as tough as the US promised that its reimposition of sanctions on Iran would be, it unsurprisingly went soft when it came to the issue of the Indian-built port of Chabahar in the southeastern part of the Islamic Republic. The State Department confirmed earlier this week that the US granted a sanctions waiver for this project, which simultaneously drew attention not only to the project’s significance, but also the special nature of the American-Indian Strategic Partnership if Washington thought it important enough to preserve at the expense…

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Why’d The US Issue A Sanctions Waiver For Chabahar?

By Andrew Korybko
Source

Many observers are wondering why the US issued a sanctions waiver for the Indian-built port of Chabahar in southeastern Iran and the railroad project that’s supposed to one day extend from it to Afghanistan, but the reason is that America sees this curious “Lead From Behind” arrangement as one of its last chances to retain its long-term influence in the landlocked country.

For as tough as the US promised that its reimposition of sanctions on Iran would be, it unsurprisingly went soft when it came to the issue of the Indian-built port of Chabahar in the southeastern part of the Islamic Republic. The State Department confirmed earlier this week that the US granted a sanctions waiver for this project, which simultaneously drew attention not only to the project’s significance, but also the special nature of the American-Indian Strategic Partnership if Washington thought it important enough to preserve at the expense of undermining its sanctions regime against Iran. The reason for this is that the US understands the long-term strategic ramifications of redirecting Afghanistan’s international trade away from Pakistan (and increasingly China) and towards the rest of the world market via the access that it obtains through Chabahar, which is why the railroad that’s supposed to branch off from this port to the landlocked country is also excluded from the sanctions regime.

Between A Rock And A Hard Place

The US isn’t just losing influence in Afghanistan on the military front after the Taliban’s recent spree of gains across the country, but also on the economic one as well after China’s recent inroads there, which America worries could soon have political consequences if Beijing succeeds in establishing new patronage networks with the internationally recognized Kabul elite. This could in turn make it less likely that the US can keep Kabul and the Taliban from striking a deal, especially one at its expense, which is why there’s such an interest in ensuring that America can still retain its control over Afghanistan’s permanent military, intelligence, and diplomatic bureaucracies (“deep state”). Suitcases full of cash aren’t sustainable, whereas the clinching of privileged business deals with China are, hence why the US had to urgently streamline a solution and realized that it was forced to rely on its newfound Indian ally.

No reasonable comparison can be made between China’s ability to exert influence in Afghanistan and India’s, but the two BRICS “frenemies” nevertheless did agree to cooperate in jointly training its diplomats. There’s also the possibility that they’ll pool their infrastructure resources together in turning the country into a shining example of the “China-India-Plus-One” framework that they unveiled before this summer’s BRICS Summit, thereby putting an end to the competition between the New Silk Road and the “Asia-Africa Growth Corridor”. On the surface, all of this should be appalling to America because of how much it risks undercutting its strategic ambitions in Afghanistan, but Washington is clearly wagering that mutual suspicions will persist between China and India which will in turn make the railroad a feasible opportunity for indirectly exerting influence through its South Asian “Lead From Behind” partner.

Keeping India In Line

Iran will obviously receive some residual knock-on benefits from being the transit country facilitating Indian-Afghan trade (which, to remember, is intended to function as a more sustainable means of ‘buying off’ Kabul’s “deep state” than suitcases full of cash in the face of China’s New Silk Road competition), but the US is willing to turn a blind eye to that because of how comparatively insignificant those profits will be. After all, the US could always sanction individual Indian or Afghan companies that trade with Iran across this route instead of keeping their economic activities on a strictly bilateral basis (apart from paying transit dues and other unavoidable expenses that go into the country’s coffers), so the plan is at least conceptually viable and doesn’t necessarily subvert the spirit of Trump’s sanctions policy against the Islamic Republic.

It needs to be emphasized that the US is engaging in long-term strategic planning that won’t yield immediate dividends, but that it’s undertaking this approach because of the high level of trust that it’s established with India since the election of PM Modi in 2014. The US now regards India as a strategic partner, one which is indispensable to “containing” China, even though India itself is playing a “double game”  by working closer with China over the past few months through a cunning strategy that it regards as “balancing” (officially described as “multialignment” in its official parlance). There’s always the chance that India could disappoint the US, but that’s unlikely since it needs access to the US marketplace to continue its growth and is deathly afraid (whether rightly or wrongly) of having its domestic industries swamped by Chinese imports if it pivots towards the New Silk Road.

A Reason To Rethink The Hybrid War On CPEC

This strategic backdrop suggests that the Indian-American Strategic Partnership is here to stay and that the US will continue indirectly backing New Delhi’s efforts to circumvent Pakistan and trade with Afghanistan via Iran in spite of the Trump Administration’s sanctions against the Islamic Republic. Adding another wrinkle to this already complicated arrangement is that Pakistan might counterintuitively benefit in some respects from Chabahar’s success so long as this gets the US and India to stop destabilizing Balochistan out of fear that the resultant blowback could endanger the Afghan corridor that New Delhi is building. Terrorism could easily spill across the border and threaten the project, thereby harming the US and India’s long-term joint strategic interests, and Iran might also take serious issue with India’s covert sponsorship of these terrorists to make its continued hosting of this corridor conditional on New Delhi discontinuing its support for them.

Pakistan and Iran are on the same page regarding the role that third-party actors have in provoking occasional border problems between them through these means, so considering the increasingly strategic importance that both countries attach to their relations with one another, it follows that Tehran’s interests would be best served by leveraging its influence over the Chabahar Corridor to ensure security in the transnational Baloch space. This is the only scenario in which Pakistan could partially benefit from the Chabahar Corridor, so it’s incumbent on those in Islamabad to do everything that they can to encourage their Tehran counterparts to take every step in that direction. The US and India have obvious reasons for wanting to continue their Hybrid War on CPEC, but the argument can be made that their support of Baloch terrorism to this end runs an unacceptably high risk of blowback that could scuttle their joint plans for Afghanistan and the rest of Central Asia.

Concluding Thoughts

The prima facie impression is that the US must have had some reason or another for waiving its sanctions against Chabahar, but cohesive explanations for why this is have been far and few between. It sounds absurd that the US’ interests in Afghanistan are furthered by Iran of all countries and especially at this specific point in time, but that’s the reality as it presently exists. To be clear, Iran isn’t intentionally assisting the US with anything, but its hosting of the Indian-built Chabahar Corridor to Afghanistan could be instrumentalized by Washington through its strategic partnership with New Delhi to advance the US’ grand strategic interests. On the other hand, however, Iran isn’t a completely passive bystander to this process either, and could at the very least work directly with its Indian partner to ensure that neither it nor the US continue their destabilization of Balochistan through the Hybrid War on CPEC because of the blowback that it could cause for the Chabahar Corridor.

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