Disagreements of any state with the EU countries and the US, traditionally opposing Russia, do not mean that Moscow can rely on it or simply reach mutually acceptable agreements, regardless of its level of interest in economic and political partnership with the Russian Federation. This concerns not only Turkey, an example of which is most indicative, but also Iran, India, China or neighbors from among the former Soviet republics. No long-term interests, even based on objective factors, work in a world where personal likes and dislikes, immediate needs and internal political intrigues of statesmen dominate foreign policy.
The question of whether the currently emerging multipolar world is more comfortable and safe for Russia than unipolar, with US domination, does not yet have an answer. An example of what the system of world order on the planet is turning into - Turkey is a regional power that for a quarter of a century successfully balanced between its neighbors, the EU, the United States and Russia, developing the economy and strengthening the armed forces ... While its leadership’s revanchist-neo-Ottoman ambitions spoiled relations of this country not only with all adjacent states, but also with the main world centers of power, including China.
Beijing’s response to Ankara’s support of the Uigur radicals and the issuance of Turkish passports to them is not as noticeable as Moscow’s demonstrative response to the destruction of the Russian military aircraft, but no less tough. The current situation in a multipolar world is more dangerous than in a unipolar or past world, the confrontation of two ideological systems, since it is almost out of control.
The illusion of control over the state of affairs is equally supported by the State Department of the United States and domestic political scientists who believe in conspiracy theory. The reality looks much sadder: if such a conspiracy existed, Russia would have someone to negotiate with.
Turkey, whose relations with Brussels and Washington have deteriorated sharply lately, as evidenced by Ankara’s reaction to the Bundestag resolution recognizing the Armenian Genocide in the Ottoman Port and the unexpectedly interrupted visit of President Erdogan to the United States after refusing to turn boxer Mohammed Ali’s funeral decoration into his demonstration, demonstrates a reluctance to take into account anyone's interests, except their own. She not only refuses to comply with Moscow’s plea guilty claims, compensation and punishment for the murderers of the Russian pilot, but it also aggravates the conflict in Syria, supporting the terrorist groups under her Aleppo. A separate topic is the role of Ankara in destabilizing the situation in Central Asia - from Afghanistan to Kazakhstan.
On the Turkish example, it is clear that the differences of any state with the EU countries and the US, traditionally opposing Russia, do not mean that Moscow can rely on it or simply reach mutually acceptable agreements, regardless of its level of interest in economic and political partnership with the Russian Federation. This concerns not only Turkey, an example of which is most indicative, but also Iran, India, China or neighbors from among the former Soviet republics. No long-term interests, even based on objective factors, work in a world where personal likes and dislikes, immediate needs and internal political intrigues of statesmen dominate foreign policy.
It's not about the fact that the personality factor in stories dominates economic and political interests, and the need to take all these circumstances into account. Since neither Russia without Putin, nor the United States without Obama, neither Germany without Merkel, nor Turkey without Erdogan, nor Israel without Netanyahu, nor India without Modi would not be the states that we see today. This article, prepared on the basis of the materials of the experts of the Institute of the Middle East D. A. Karpov and A. A. Kuznetsov, is devoted to India, more precisely, to the country's long-term policy and current course in the Near and Middle East, which is illustrated by the visits of its Prime Minister to Iran, Afghanistan and Qatar. We leave Switzerland, Mexico and the USA, included in the program of the last tour of Narendra Modi, beyond the framework of this analysis.
Three themes for Tehran
During the official visit of the Prime Minister of India to Iran 22 – 23 in May, he met with the Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani of the country, and also signed a number of important agreements. This is the first visit of this level in 15 years. In 2001, Indian Prime Minister Attal Bihari Vajpai was the predecessor of Modi in visiting Iran. This is due to political reasons. In 90, the Iranian-Indian military-political partnership developed. Both countries collaborated with Russia against the Taliban, supporting the Northern Alliance. The American occupation of Afghanistan in 2001 gave rise to New Delhi’s hopes of expanding influence in that country with the help of the United States, which nullified the results of 90’s Iranian-Indian strategic partnership. In 2010, in exchange for American assistance in building the Indian nuclear power industry, accession to the sanctions against Tehran followed. Modi’s visit was a “reset” of Indo-Iranian relations.
The talks covered three main topics: regional security, economic cooperation, transport and infrastructure projects. The latter cause an increasing interest from the Indian side. Thus, in 2000, an agreement was signed between the governments of India, Iran and Russia on the development of the North-South international transport corridor. In 2002, it is ratified. The agreement provides for the transportation of goods from India to Iranian ports on the coast of the Persian Gulf with their subsequent transit through the territory of Russia to the countries of Scandinavia, Eastern and Central Europe, although it largely remained on paper. The free economic zone Bandar Anzeli on the Caspian Sea created under its implementation is idle.
Currently, India’s interest in the Iranian ports on the Persian Gulf coast has revived. This is especially true of Chahbahar, around which the free economic zone is deployed. Given the tense relations with Islamabad, New Delhi cannot use the shortest route for goods to transit through Pakistan and the Khyber Pass to Afghanistan. An alternative is provided by the Iranian way of transporting through Chahbahar, and from there via Iran to Afghanistan (via Herat) and the post-Soviet states of Central Asia. As a result, during the visit of Modi, an agreement was signed between the leaders of Iran, India and Afghanistan on the development of the port of Chahbahar.
The Indians expressed their intention to invest 500 million dollars in the Chakhbakhar FEZ. In addition to the port, the region provides for the construction of a plant for the production of mineral fertilizers, a metallurgical plant and petrochemical enterprises. By developing cooperation in the transport sector with India, the Iranians are doing this not to the detriment of Pakistan, whose partnership has recently become an important element of their foreign policy.
Not far from Chahbahar, on the coast of the Arabian Sea, is the Pakistani port of Gwadar, which Islamabad seeks to turn into the largest in the region, not inferior to Dubai transport hub. China is showing interest in it, having expressed its intention to invest a billion dollars in the 42 economy of Pakistan within the framework of the One Belt, One Road Project. And Chahbahar is seen as a potential rival to Gwadar. Iranian Ambassador to Islamabad Mehdi Honardust made a special statement in this connection. He noted that Tehran initially invited Pakistan and China to the implementation of the Chahbahar project, but since they were slow to respond, cooperation with India began. In his opinion, Chahbahar is not a competitor to Gwadar, since the distance between the ports is 70 kilometers and they can form one transport hub. According to Honardust, the Chakhbakhar project is not finished and Tehran is waiting for new investors, inviting to participate in it the “fraternal neighbor of Pakistan and China, the great partner of Iran.” “We are ready to cooperate with any regional countries that can benefit our peoples. At the same time, we separate politics from business and trade, ”the Iranian diplomat emphasized.
It should be noted that the port of Chahbahar is located on the territory of the troubled province of Sistan-Baluchistan, where Iranian security officials are fighting the Salafi terrorist group "Jundallah". Islamabad began to pay more attention to Iranian requests for cooperation in the fight against extremists. At the same time, they fear that the presence of India in Chahbahar will serve the penetration of this country's special services to Pakistan. There, receiving a delegation of Iranian security officials in late May, they raised the issue of the “exposed Indian spy network” in Chahbahar.
With increased energy
An important aspect of Iranian-Indian relations is cooperation in the energy sector. During the visit, it was agreed that New Delhi will resume investment in the Farzad B gas project at the South Pars field. As for the supply of Iranian oil, this topic was not the main topic at Modi’s negotiations with Rouhani. In 2008 – 2009, the share of Iran in the Indian import of “black gold” was 16,5 percent, but now Iran is the fifth largest supplier of oil to India. Last April, India received 22 percent of crude oil from Iraq, 18 percent - from Saudi Arabia and 7,4 percent - from Iran (versus 4,5% in April, 2015). The main factor that caused a reduction in imports from Iran were the sanctions imposed on it. But a few weeks before Modi’s visit to Tehran, Indian refineries paid part of their debt for Iranian oil, which amounted to 6,4 billion dollars.
The projects of cooperation of the two countries in the gas sector seem promising. According to experts, India’s demand for natural gas will double by 2021 and amount to 517 million cubic meters per day, and by 2030, the country will become the second largest consumer of gas in the world. With this in mind, in January 2016, the construction of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline began, but the possibility of completing the project is questionable. It must pass through the territory of South Waziristan, the most volatile region of the Pakistani Tribal Zone, where the influence of the Taliban and Al-Qaida is strong.
Based on this, in New Delhi they are looking for an alternative TAPI option. Due to the fact that the plan for the continuation of the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline to India has failed due to disagreements over pricing, a project is being considered to hold a gas pipeline from Iran to Oman, and from there along the bottom of the Arabian Sea to the coast of the Indian state of Gujarat. It was called the Middle East-India Deepwater Pipeline (MEIDP). Its length is estimated at 1200 kilometers, and the approximate cost is 4,5 billion dollars. The pipeline is capable of pumping 31,5 million cubic meters per day.
Fighting for the Taliban
The events of the last six months show that Iran’s eastern neighbors, China, Pakistan and India, show great interest in cooperation with this country. In turn, its leadership, preoccupied with attracting investment in the economy, pursues a policy of “looking to the East” and sees in this direction special prospects for development. But Tehran is pragmatic, trying to balance participation in the Chinese project “One Belt, One Way” with large-scale cooperation with India. The latter, competing with Pakistan and developing economic relations with the PRC against the background of the historical confrontation with this country, sees Iran as an important partner, especially since its interests in Afghanistan require rapprochement with Iran.
The international tour of Narendra Modi, which began on June 4, talks about his ambitions. Afghanistan is of particular importance to the Indian leadership from both an economic and geopolitical point of view. New Delhi plans to expand trade ties with the republics of Central Asia, bypassing its main regional competitor - Pakistan. Islamabad seeks to implement a plan for the reconstruction of the Great Silk Road together with China. Despite all the technical differences between these projects, the essence of them is the creation of logistics hubs and chains from China and the republics of Central Asia to the seaports. In this case, the fundamental difference lies only in which, namely, the Indian or Pakistani ones.
To achieve this goal requires stability in Afghanistan, through which the main routes must pass. The main foreign sponsors and players involved in the implementation of this scheme, in theory, want stability, but it does not occur because Islamabad and New Delhi have different scenarios for achieving the goal. The question is with which of the leaders of the Taliban movement will they ultimately need to negotiate stability. In this situation, Modi’s visit to Kabul is symbolic, since his relations with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani are flourishing. They have the same views on the future partner for peace talks in Afghanistan on the part of the Taliban - this is the head of the military wing A. Kayyum.
4 June Indian Prime Minister and Afghan President jointly opened the Salma Dam in Herat Province on the Afghan-Iranian border, which personified the successful completion of a project worth 250 million dollars, providing 250 electricity to thousands of homes and irrigating 640 land plots. This joint Indo-Afghan project began in 2002. During the visit, Modi received from the hands of the President of Afghanistan the country's highest civilian award, the Order of Emir Amanullah Khan, and spoke on Afghan television. Moreover, one of the theses was the articulation of "New Delhi's concern over the prospect of strengthening the Taliban under the command of the new leader of the H. Akhunzada movement". The latter is the creature of Islamabad, and New Delhi is thus in solidarity with Kabul's position.
Less than a month ago, the elimination of the predecessor H. Akhunzada of mullah Mansur with an American drone, illustrates the fact that Washington is taking the side of the latter in the competition of the PRC's regional players - Pakistan and India. In the economy, such a regional alignment may mean a failure of Pakistan’s plans to establish a convenient order of things in Afghanistan. In order to prevent this from happening, Islamabad flirts with Tehran: smashing the infrastructure of the Jundall terrorist group in Balochistan, which was used by the KSA General Intelligence Directorate to organize subversive activities inside Iran, sends Mullah Mansur to Iran to organize interaction between the Taliban and The IRGC, speaks out against the policy of the KSA on the Syrian track and is in favor of maintaining the current regime in Damascus.
The tripartite alliance of Washington, New Delhi and Kabul can seriously complicate Islamabad’s plans. That is why the Taliban loyal to him are conducting a demonstration of force in Pakistan: the mass detention of buses began with the filtering of passengers and the shooting of suspicious persons, which blocks the message in a country where there are no other means of transport communication. Moreover, given the Pakistani security forces ’experience in using radical groups to their advantage, this is nothing more than the beginning of the next round of rivalry for control over Afghanistan. The events there leave no room for doubt in the unfolding from its territory of the “Central Asian spring” aimed at destabilizing the situation in the post-Soviet countries of the region.
Trend - Multi-Vector
The second item on the June Modi voyage program was Qatar. And this is due not only to the economy, although its significance prevails here. In this case, New Delhi plays the role of a mediator between Kabul and Doha, which is behind the emergence of the Afghan version of the Islamic State banned in Russia, trying to prove its right to participate in the development of the political architecture in the country. For India, one aspect is important in this case: the supply of hydrocarbons. By 2040, 90, India will cover its demand for oil with imports, which, as stated above, puts on its agenda the creation of a multi-vector system of suppliers of raw materials and minimizing foreign policy risks.
Qatar in 2015 year became the largest LNG exporter to India. 6 Jun Modi and Emir of Qatar Tamim Bin Hamad signed seven memorandums of understanding. Among other things, the emirate has pledged to invest in the National Infrastructure Fund. Qatar has already invested a billion dollars in the Indian telecommunications company Airtel and is going to increase its participation. Moreover, it is wrong to talk about the priority policy of India exclusively in relation to Qatar. New Delhi is trying to build a multi-vector policy in the Middle East direction. Hence the visits of Modi to Iran and Saudi Arabia, as well as the growing cooperation with Israel in the military-technical field. However, despite all the difficulties that persist in relations with Pakistan and China, visits and top-level contacts with the leadership of these two countries became a distinctive feature of his government, contrasting with the times when the Indian National Congress was in power in New Delhi for decades.
A part of the Russian expert community is jealous of India’s policy, which also develops relations with the United States and Israel in the military-technical field, to the detriment of cooperation with Russia. But to influence this country is as unreal as Iran, China or Turkey. The crisis in Russian-Ukrainian relations demonstrates that we should not overestimate the possibility of influence not only on external partners, but also on our closest neighbors, and this is not only our problem. The European Union was unable to influence Turkey in the migration crisis, the end of which is not visible, despite all the agreements reached earlier by Brussels and Ankara. The USA is on the same Turkey (practically in all disputable issues - from the occupation of Northern Cyprus to the situation in Iraq and Syria) and India (trying to limit Israeli military exports to its own advantage). China - to North Korea, despite the dependence of Pyongyang on Beijing. The trend is evident. So Russian-Indian relations are no exception ...