My post yesterday “Once a bully, always a bully” on the American pressure tactic to stifle India-Iran oil trade needs updating already. The state of play, as they say, has radically changed overnight. Israel has now jumped into the fray. The US-Israeli axis to pressure India is a legion among informed circles in Delhi and it is as ancient as the hills, but it seldom surfaces so blatantly. Israelis are meant to be smart cookies, who generally operate from the sub-soil in the dark so that they don’t get the flak. But here they are making a rare exception. And, it shows this is a big ticket item.
Anyway, Israelis have launched a blistering tirade against the Indian-Iranian arrangement to transfer payments for oil trade via the German bank EIH. Jerusalem Post and a Jewish-American website Ynetnews have picked up the story. Well, well, the lengthy New York Times dispatch which I quoted yesterday was after all a genuine ‘foreplay’ intended to kickstart a nasty controversy at the political and diplomatic level and get Berlin to fall in line to close down EIH and thereby derail the newfound Indian-Iranian oil trade payment mechanism. Israel knows that Germany is extremely sensitive about the temper tantrums of the Jewish lobby – a guilt complex dating back to the Holocaust. (Read Gunter Grass novels?) The Israeli calculation is obviously to embarrass the German government and to force it take action on political grounds against EIH even if there is no case legally for doing so.
The Jewish website Ynetnews carries a piece by a former US Treasury Department official, which directly criticises India for buying oil from Iran when “there are many other sources around the globe”. <www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4050554,00.html> It does seem some oil major is salivating! India-Iran oil trade is currently worth over 12 billion dollars annually. No small amount, isn’t it?
Jerusalem Post quotes Israeli officials and hints that PM Benjamin Netanyahu and FM Avigdor Lieberman may take up the matter with German leadership during their forthcoming consultations in Berlin. Israelis are like locusts, they won’t easily let go the field till they have thoroughly ransacked – in this case, until India and Iran are read the riot act. Quite clearly, Washington and Tel Aviv are working in tandem with an agenda to finish off even the residual India-Iran bilateral ties that survived the historic US-India nuclear deal of 2008.
The way out for the UPA government will be to accept the suggestion by Iran to have a bilateral arrangement. Initially, Tehran showed willingness to accept payments for oil exports to India in Indian Rupee. But Indian side apparently didn’t warm up to the idea. There seems to be no alternative – that is, if the Indian government has the political will to withstand the US-Israeli pressure tactic and to tell Washington and Tel Aviv to back off. Of course, that is a big ‘If’. If the WikiLeaks are anything to go by, US and Israel have probably made their homework in this case and concluded that it ultimately pays to pressure Delhi.
– April 1, 2011