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India’s road to Hajigak passes through Iran

The good news drifting in from Kabul suggests that the Indian diplomacy has scored masterly success in securing the rights to develop three blocks (out of 4) of the Hajigak iron ore concession, which holds an estimated 1.8 billion tonnes of ore. What I like even more is the low-key diplomatic style that our embassy in Kabul adopted – being effective on the ground but not to brag about it. The news first came from a Reuters dispatch based on briefing by the Afghan government! 

This last part of being thoughtful is very important, as the Indian project at Hajigak must be sequestered from the ‘great game’. China’s approach is useful to follow : Let the United States and NATO handle the political part of ‘stabilizing’ Afghanistan, while Beijing concentrates on the long-term, because Afghanistan is not going to disappear and it is going to be an important neighbour for China. 
Similarly, India should have the self-confidence to let Pakistan handle the political part of ‘stabilizing’ Afghanistan, which it believes it is good at,  and there is no harm if the US concedes the central role to Pakistan in this noble enterprise. India, on the other hand, should play a role it is eminently qualified to play, namely, tapping into the enormous reservoir of goodwill in Afghanistan and on systematically building up a long-term edifice of bilateral cooperation of mutual benefit which puts accent on the people-to-peole ties and Afghanistan’s growth and development. 
Hajigak is just the kind of project that India should focus on. It helps Afghanistan’s industrialisation, it is cost-effective for India as it is related to India’s growing needs for resources while showcases Indian expertise and skills and promotes engineering exports, it helps create jobs (in thousands) in Afghanistan and it occasions the creation of infrastructure such as rail links that go a long way to improve India’s long-term connectivity with Afghanistan (and Central Asia). It is a dream come true. I am reminded of the far-sghtedness with which Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev offered to build Bhilai in India. 
The aspect of long-term connectivity brings me back to underscore the highest importance that Delhi must attach to the relations with Iran. Unfortunately, the coming period is going to be turbulent in the Persian Gulf as a US-British-Israeli axis is bent on precipitating confrontation with Iran. The negative fallouts for regional security are plain to see. All the three countries in the ‘axis of evil’ – US, Britain and Israel – are also India’s ‘strategic partners’. 
India has choices to make. The Indian regional diplomacy has been sub-optimal. Persian Gulf is a test case of the efficacy of BRICS as a grouping of emerging powers who claim to be ‘stakeholders’ in regional stability. (Which is why, any last-minute postponement of the annual India-Russia summit meeting on December 16 will be highly unwise.) Be that as it may, the construction of the rail link through eastern Iran connecting Afghanistan becomes a high priority. 

Posted in Diplomacy.

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