Saturday, March 29, 2008

India and the Peace Pipeline

Will New Delhi sign onto the tri-national pipeline to transport natural gas from Iran to Pakistan and then to India, aka a peace pipeline because of its potential to diminish tensions between India and Pakistan? It is still in talks with Tehran over the gas price and with Islamabad over transit fees, but money, of course, is not the main reason why it has hesitated.

Economically speaking, India really needs gas from Iran:
India, Asia's third-largest economy, can produce only half the gas it needs to generate electricity, causing blackouts and curbing economic growth. Demand may more than double to 400 million cubic meters a day by 2025 if the economy grows at the projected rate of 7 to 8 percent a year, according to the oil ministry. (Manash Goswami, "India Plans Talks with Pakistan over Stalled Iran Gas Pipeline,", 28 March 2008)
However, the Indian government is under pressure from the United States, to stay away from the pipeline in exchange for a nuclear deal.
Although publicly New Delhi has maintained that it stands by the IPI pipeline, the reality is going to be different.

"The final deal [on IPI] is not going to happen in the near future as the project is no longer just about energy security, it's more about India's strategic position in the global community," a Foreign Ministry official told Asia Times Online on condition of anonymity.

"The project is in the radar of the Prime Minister's Office and unless there is a clear signal from there, it is unlikely that India's Petroleum Ministry will agree to any final arrangement," he added.

US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, during a recent visit to India, is believed to have recommended that Delhi not go ahead with the project. And subsequently Treasury Under Secretary for International Affairs David McCormick told reporters that the US hoped India would not move forward with the pipeline. He said "it would not be the right path during a time the world should be imposing greater discipline on its interactions with Iran". He added that India should meet its energy needs through the nuclear deal with the US that is now stalled in the Indian Parliament. (Siddharth Srivastava, "Iran, Pakistan Dump India on Pipeline," Asia Times, 15 November 2007)
The nuclear deal that Washington offered to India, however, is in fact no favor to the country. To the contrary, it's one that will subject Indian nuclear policy to whims of the United States:
Let us be clear then as to what this agreement entails: the U.S. openly gains the power to threaten to deny ongoing fuel supplies (and even the forcible removal of supplies previously given) in order to control future Indian policy. Is this a remote speculation? We must recall that in the 1970s the U.S. unilaterally cut off all fuel supply to Tarapur, in material violation of the previous "123" agreement between the U.S. and India of 1963. (Analytical Monthly Review, "The U.S.-Indian Nuclear Deal: An Unequal Colonial Treaty," MRZine, 12 August 2008)
Communists and other leftists in India are opposed to this deal. Often at odds with one another over economic policy -- Maoists and other leftists are rightly critical of the CPI(M)'s neoliberalism, most clearly expressed in its embrace of Special Economic Zones -- they probably have more in common with one another on this issue than any other.

Can the Indian Left veto the Indo-US nuclear deal and get India again on a path toward its own national development and regional security, based on the ideals -- Swaraj, Swadeshi, Satyagraha -- that inspired the Indians toward independence? If not, "China has told Pakistan it is ready to join a gas pipeline project to import Iranian gas if India decides not to be part of the multi-billion dollar venture" (PTI, "China Ready to Join Tri-nation Gas Project If India Opts Out," The Hindu 25 March 2008).

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