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Antony’s Saudi visit is ill-timed

The pedestrian nature of the foreign-policy discourses in India surges to the surface with the near-complete lack of any serious discussion or pronouncements by the strategic community, especially the brigade of think-tankers in Delhi, about the government’s curious decision to vote for the resolution on Syria in the United Nations Security Council, which was masterminded by the West and tabled by the Arab League. (By the way, ‘Arab League’ is a misnomer insofar as at least 4 Arab states are known to disagree with the interference in Syria by Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Jordan — Iraq, Egypt, Lebanon and Algeria.) 

Now comes the news that the British and Qatari commandos are already operating inside Syria. The Israeli website Debkafile, which has links to the intelligence, first broke the news. Now a top Russian diplomat has confirmed the veracity of the report. 
The Congress-led government obviously fell for the charms of the ‘green money’ and the US pressure to fall in line with their strategy on Syria, where the West is seeking a regime change through intervention, as had happened in Libya. Therefore, Defence Minister A.K.Antony’s proposed visit to Saudi Arabia — first-ever such visit — and its timing coinciding with the heightened tensions carries much political symbolism. Antony’s visit is an expression of solidarity with Saudi Arabia on regional security issues. Will the Indian defence minister match it with a visit to Iran? No way. 
True, over three-quarters of Indian Muslims could be Sunnis. True, Saudi Arabia has strong nexus with the Indian ulema. True, the ulema carry clout during election time in north India. True, Saudi money has always mesmerised the Indian political elites. But, is it necessary for India’s West Asia policy to identify with the Sunni-Shia schism that forms the basis of the Saudi regional policies currently? Indian pundits have advocated that Delhi should prudently wait and watch and ensure it is on the wining side of history. Has the government already concluded that the US-Saudi-Israeli caravan is on the right side of history? Indeed, many troubling questions arise.
And the mother of all ironies is that Antony also proposes to explore the ways and means of collaborating with Riyadh in the war against terrorism. Whereas, Saudi Arabia and al-Qaeda actually go back a long way. Even in the Syrian situation, Saudis and al-Qaeda are finding themselves on the same side at the operational level. The Saudis certainly assisted the al-Qaeda in resisting the Shi’ite empowerment in Iraq. The Saudis certainly were the mentors of the Taliban, who in turn were patronised by al-Qaeda. 
Today the Saudis are bankrolling the Islamists in Egypt. The Saudi forces are violently suppressing the aspirations of the Shi’ite majority in Bahrain. The Saudis are blatantly interfering in Syria. What is the partnership that Antony can forge with his counterpart Prince Salman with regard to regional security? In any case, in today’s circumstances, Prince Nayef, the Crown Prince, would have the final word. And it will be extremely useful for the Indian defence minister to get to know Prince Nayef a little bit closer
What emerges is the complete absence of principles underlying India’s West Asia policy. The policymakers cover up saying everything is being done in India’s ‘self-interests’. But then, who decides these ‘self-interests’? Apart from the Communist Party of India (Marxist), no political party in India even voiced an opinion about the Indian vote in the Security Council on Syria. It is an appalling level of ignorance on the part of our political class. The result is that a clutch of bureaucrats within the deep bowels of the establishment — ‘deep state’ — decides what could be the country’s self-interests.

Posted in Diplomacy, Politics.

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