Be realistic in the age of realism

With geopolitical game in West Asia reaching new heights, powerful players bid to secure their interests

By Author Samudrala VK   |   Published: 30th Sep 2020   12:00 am

To understand the geopolitics of the world in a simpler way, there is a law, not in Political Science but Physics, which helps even a naiver to get a clear picture of this complex whole. In the age of realism, every nation tries to gain a comparative advantage over its adversaries in political, economic, technological and cultural spheres.

To make it more understandable, let’s assume there are two countries, A and B. If A has 20 weapons in its military basket, then B fights tooth and nail to get more than A. Thus, if A initiates action, correspondingly B reacts and vice versa. Thus, the great game of geopolitics is characterised by a series of actions and reactions. If B fails to attain the capabilities that are more or equivalent to A to strike back, then B looks at another player (C) to checkmate A.

Newton’s Third Law

Many groups around the world have been formed based on military, ideological, religious, cultural and political factors. In this case, groups rather than individual players resort to tit for tat. It is Newton’s third law of motion, which states that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Driven by avarice, superiority and insecurity, this confrontation between and among the players is perpetual as long as the international system is centered on nation-state concept.

Eurasia, especially West Asia, has become a new theatre for this hegemonic kerfuffle. With the geopolitical game in West Asia, a resource-rich region, is reaching inexorably new heights, powerful players in and outside the region are bidding to secure their interests. The political imbroglio between Iran, a regional power, and the US, a de facto superpower, has been spinning out of control.

Although the Iranian economy is down at the heels, thanks to the “maximum pressure” policy of POTUS, Tehran’s intransigent approach seems to be a shock to the US. Iran is weathering the storm successfully and has been trying to bring anti-US forces on its side. The assassination of its major general Qasem Soleimani in a drone attack was the last straw and forced Tehran to come out more openly to get even with the US.

realism

Trump’s Policy

Trump administration’s foreign policy, loaded with megalomania and vulpine motives, has proved disastrous both for its allies and the US itself. The unilateral exit from the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) is an egregious error on the part of the US when other parties to the deal are satisfied with the progress being made by Iran on nuclear commitments. As long as its nuclear installations are open to inspections of the International Atomic Energy Agency and the nuclear stockpile is well within limits, it is preposterous to assume that Iran is misleading the world.

Recently, the US faced a humiliating defeat at the UN following its proposal to extend arms embargo on Iran. Dissension over the question of Iran in the UNSC has flummoxed the US administration, especially when its European allies have turned a deaf ear to Trump’s warnings to extend arms embargo on Tehran.

The proposed 25-year strategic pact between Iran and China, which reflects the growing convergence of the interests between the duo, is an epitome of Tehran’s anti-American stance. The deal is a win-win for both players as Iran is yearning to relieve its economy reeling under the decades-long sanctions and is in search of a reliable market to its oil and gas exports. China, the world’s largest crude oil importer, is looking to diversify its energy basket rather than depending on Saudi Arabia, its largest crude supplier. Being an all-weather friend of the US, Saudi Arabia might stop its supplies to Beijing if contention between Washington and Beijing goes beyond trade and commerce.

It is important to mention that Iran got a second wind in the form of China’s $400 billion investment plan covering economic, infrastructural and technological aspects, not to mention military. Beijing’s bear hug with Tehran cannot be seen solely as a bilateral affair but a larger manifestation of unfolding Moscow-Tehran-Beijing nexus. Apart from the strong aversion towards the west, the trio also have commonalities with regard to regional security and stability. Beijing has been trying to engage with anti-American players across the Eurasia as part of its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

Catch up Game

Many nations in Asia and Africa have been struggling on shoestring budgets. Therefore, to meet the growing demand for infrastructural needs, there is no way other than cuddling a generous partner who can lend the wherewithal and provide technological know-how on liberal terms. Resultantly, these countries jumped on the BRI bandwagon. China, with its economic clout, has a desire to capitalise on resources of these nations. The concern over the lack of transparency, environmental degradation and sovereignty in the BRI is construed by these players as a ploy by the US to derail their economic progress.

Japan is trying to catch up with China by unveiling similar programmes like Partnership for Quality Infrastructure, Partnership on Sustainable Connectivity and Quality Infrastructure to meet infrastructural needs in Asia and Africa. In addition, Blue-Dot network (BDN), a joint initiative of the US, Australia and Japan, is being perceived as a counter to the BRI. The BDN is a rating agency, rather than a lending body on the lines of the BRI, which certifies infrastructural projects based on financial feasibility, quality, environmental aspects and sustainability. A project that receives nod from the BDN is deemed as economically sustainable which would attract investment, thereby propelling economic growth.

The quality component, which the BRI has neglected so far, has occupied a prominent place in this trilateral initiative. It remains to be seen whether the standards and practices set by it will be accepted as global standards by other countries, especially Russia and China. Following China’s cheque book diplomacy to placate nations across Eurasia could cost the BDN players an arm and a leg. The US has been impelling other players like India to join the BDN bandwagon, given the latter’s animosity with China.

India’s outlook towards Iran is futile and unclear. In addition to the growing appetite for oil, the crucial component of its energy security, and given the high stakes involved in the region, India need to design an independent and pragmatic policy in dealing with Tehran rather than kowtowing to the diktats of the US.

(The author is Director, Samudrala VK IAS Academy)


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