Fabian Blog
November 15th, 2018

How The Largest Air Evacuation in History Unfolded

A distinguished diplomat who handled the evacuation of 176,000 Indians, narrates how Air India carried out this task.

how-the-largest-air-evacuation-in-history-unfolded-_-madras-courier2 On 2nd August 1990, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein decided to have a ‘picnic’ in Kuwait by sending in his army across the border. He had massed troops at the border for weeks, and on 25th July 1990, the US Ambassador April Glaspie encouraged him to have the picnic, wittingly or unwittingly, by declaring that her instructions were to strengthen relations with Iraq; the US did not want to take any side in ‘intra-Arab’ disputes, a clear reference to the mounting tension between Iraq and Kuwait. Saddam Hussein foolishly concluded that he could invade Kuwait and get away with it. Little did he know that the US wanted him to invade Kuwait so that the Pentagon could have a permanent presence in the region.

I was then Joint Secretary (Gulf) in the Ministry of External Affairs. The first phone call I got, around 6 AM on 2nd August, was from a friend in Kuwait city who said that she could see Iraqi tanks on the road. Later, our ambassador in Kuwait, AK Budhiraja called. Read the rest of this entry »

October 26th,2018   category: International Affairs : Articles |    No Comments

The Jamal Khashoggi Affair

the-jamal-khashoggi-affair-_-institute-for-defence-studies-and-analysesSeventeen days after the October 2 “disappearance” of Jamal Khashoggi, Saudi Arabia officially stated that he was killed in its consulate in Turkey when he went there to collect papers permitting him to marry his Turkish fiancée Hatice Cengiz. The marriage had been fixed for October 3.

Cengiz had waited for hours in vain for Khashoggi to come out of the consulate and informed Reuters about his ‘disappearance’ on October 3. The same day, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) told the US news agency Bloomberg that he did not know where the journalist was and that consent would be given to Turkey to conduct an investigation inside the Consulate if it were to ask for one. MbS added that he ‘had nothing to hide’.

On October 4, the Saudi Embassy claimed that the journalist had left the consulate and that it was trying to ascertain his whereabouts. Reports emerged on October 7 that Khashoggi was killed in the consulate, the veracity of which Saudi Arabia angrily denied. The next day, the Saudi Ambassador in Washington, Prince Khalid bin Salman (brother of MbS) sent an unsolicited WhatsApp message to a journalist claiming that Khashoggi had left the consulate. The same day, unnamed Turkish officials told Reuters that Khashoggi had been killed inside the consulate.

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October 24th,2018   category: International Affairs : Articles |    No Comments

Reality Check: Where Is The ‘56-Inch’ Chest?

India fending off the US on oil imports from Iran and on buying arms from Russia

narendra-modiNow that the Modi government has done more than four years and we still do not know as yet whether Modi will succeed in his plan to succeed himself as Prime Minister following the 2019 general election, it is time to draw a balance sheet of India’s ‘Modified’ foreign policy with its emphasis on a “56-inch chest”. Prime Minister Narendra Modi invited the South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (SAARC) heads of state/government for his inauguration, a gesture that was almost universally praised by the media and the academia with none pointing out that it was an attempt to project himself as the ‘new emperor’ of South Asia. If the intention was, as advertised assiduously, was to improve relations with the neighbours, the current state of disrepair in relations with Pakistan and Nepal shows that Modi has been floundering.

As to do full justice to the theme would require a series of essays, or better still, a book, this article will confine itself to two topics about how India under Modi has dealt with the US. Dealing with the US is, for most countries, the most important part of foreign policy despite the fashionable talk of our living in a multi-polar world. That we live in a financially unipolar world dominated by the US dollar with US imposing sanctions on other states, either through an obedient UN Security Council, or otherwise, is often ignored. The first topic for us is US’ sanctions on Iran, and the second is US sanctions on states entering into ‘significant’ defense deals with Russia in the context of the deal with Russia on S-400 anti-missile system.
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October 24th,2018   category: Uncategorized |    No Comments

Trump And The Iran Nuclear Deal: Geopolitics And Financial Unipolarity – Analysis

trumpOn 8 May 2018, US President Donald Trump, true to his style and ‘America First’ philosophy, walked out of the Iran nuclear deal, technically known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). A fortnight has elapsed and it would be pertinent to examine the geopolitical implications of Trump’s decision.

The US’ Position

By now it is reasonably clear why Trump withdrew from the deal. He has failed to provide any rational argument against the deal for the obvious reason that there is none. The JCPOA is a 159-page document that prevents Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Trump and Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu—the foreign leader closest to him spiritually—have argued that unless sanctions are re-imposed, Iran will continue with its ‘destabilising’ policy in the region, and develop missiles endangering Israel’s security—and that therefore it is imperative to keep Iran permanently in a pariah status.

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May 25th,2018   category: International Affairs : Articles, Politics |    No Comments

The Mingled Light of Two Bleeding Moons

wahabiWahhabism is transforming Indo-Islamic civilisation. A scholarly yet accessible essay collection analyses the interface between West and South Asian Islam.

This book explores the religious interface between the Gulf and South Asia. By “Gulf” the editors mean West Asia, not just the 6-member Gulf Cooperation Council. South Asia has the largest Muslim population of any reg­ion in the world—500 million. In the course of Islamisation, which began with the 8th century invasion of Sindh by Muhammad bin Qasim, the region developed a distinct Indo-Isl­amic Civilisation culminating in the Mughal Empire. While paying lip service to the religious centres in the Gulf, including Mecca and Medina, this civilisation cultivated its own var­iety of Islam based on Sufism.

Over the last five decades or so, pan-Isl­amic ties between these two reg­ions  have intensified.  Eleven scholars from different continents have contributed to this volume which explores “the ideological, educational, and spiritual networks, which have gained momentum due to political strategies, migration flows and increased communications.” It also examines the “cultural proxy war” between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

Saudi-funded madrasas have reduced the hold of Sufi Islam. Pakistan’s ­government has no reliable figures for the number of madrasas, nor for the inflow of Saudi money.

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February 15th,2018   category: Book Reviews, International Affairs : Articles |    No Comments

Cracks in the council

kuwaitcityThe failed GCC summit points to a stalemate in West Asia that might last for a while, adversely affecting the economies of its members, and only a change in Saudi policy can reunite the squabbling kingdoms.

The aborted Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit in Kuwait scheduled for December 5-6 raises the question whether this regional integration project, until recently one of the more successful of such projects, has collapsed or not. When the GCC was formed in 1981, the main motivation was to address the perceived threat from Iran by raising the level of synergy among the member-states who had much in common. Even without hindsight it can be said that the threat from Iran was exaggerated.

It is paradoxical that Qatar, one of the founding members, has been compelled to embrace Iran owing to Saudi Arabia’s actions. In short, Saudi Arabia, while seeking confrontation with Iran in order to weaken its bete noire, has only strengthened it.

Let us look at what happened in Kuwait. The Emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah, 88, was working hard to reconcile Saudi Arabia and Qatar even before the blockade against Qatar was announced by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Egypt on June 5, 2017.

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January 7th,2018   category: International Affairs : Articles, Politics |    No Comments

Qatar deserves kudos for handling crisis with maturity and logic

qatar-doha-1844787_960_720Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Egypt had listed 13 demands on June 23, 2017, warning that there would be serious consequences if Qatar failed to yield by July 2. Qatar rejected the ultimatum and the four countries have not yet carried out their threats. Instead, they have softened their stand, vaguely signaling that it might be enough if Qatar were to accede to ‘Six Principles’. In short, there has been no escalation and we can clearly see a degree of de-escalation.

The June 23 demands were handed over in writing to Kuwait, the mediator, which then passed it on to Qatar. After the text of the demands was made public, the international community came to know about their unreasonableness. Doha has so far handled this crisis with admirable maturity and logic, scrupulously avoiding any action that can spoil its case. The world came to realise that the four countries wanted Qatar to surrender its sovereignty not just in the realm of foreign policy but also align its social, political and economic policies with that of the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) countries.

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August 21st,2017   category: International Affairs : Articles, Politics |    No Comments

Triumphant Trump and American Foreign Policy

United States
President Barack Obama, in his last official overseas tour to Greece, Germany, and Peru, reassured Europe that there would be continuity in American foreign policy under President-elect Donald Trump. While Obama tried to convince his interlocutors about continuity in US policy, Trump’s statements during the campaign brought alarm and concern to America’s allies. Obama himself had called Trump as ‘unqualified’ to be President and a peddler of ‘wacky ideas’, while touring Asia in September 2016. Even if a good part of Trump’s rather colorful choice of words was meant to attract voters, his remarks have set off alarm bells in world capitals. What then could be the impact of the Trump victory on US foreign policy?

Relations with Russia

While Obama could have handled President Vladimir Putin better, his persistent demonization of the Russian President and inability to establish a rapport with him painted US policy into a corner. Even if Putin annexed the Crimea in brazen disregard for international law, the US played a key role in creating a situation in Ukraine that justified Putin’s fears about being encircled by NATO. Obama should have taken into account the fact that Russia had a naval base in the Crimea since 1784. In the aftermath of his victory, Trump and Putin have agreed to mend the US-Russia relations.
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November 22nd,2016   category: International Affairs : Articles   | tags: , , |    No Comments

The Attempted Coup in Turkey: What Next?

Turkey military Coup To the relief of most Turks and of most of the global community, the military coup attempt in Turkey failed miserably. But the coup attempt itself and subsequent events in Turkey raise a number of questions that are of concern to Turks and the well-wishers of that geopolitically important country. While the elected government of President Erdogan deserved to survive, it does not follow that, in that process, democracy in Turkey got strengthened. If the coup had succeeded, Turkey would have entered an unchartered and perilous territory. It now appears that Turkey is being led by Erdogan in a direction that is dangerous for the country.

To briefly recall the events in chronological order: When the coup started with rebel military units taking control over the Bosporus Bridge linking Asia and Europe at 10:29 p.m. local time on Friday, 15 July 2016, President Erdogan was holidaying in the beach resort of Mirmaris. The rebels took control of some airports and traffic hubs, bombed the parliament and deployed tanks in front of the palace of the President in Ankara. The rebels got the state television to read out their statement by 11:25 p.m., in which they claimed that they had taken over power and advised the people to remain indoors. Only a few minutes later, it became known that the army chief was under detention. By 11:47 p.m., Erdogan whose whereabouts was unknown, availed of his smart phone to address the people through private TV channels. He told the people that he was in charge and exhorted them to come out into the street and defy the ban imposed by the rebels. The mosques too got active and the faithful were told to be on the street to confront the tanks of the rebels. Hundreds responded, the rebels got cold feet, and many of them were beaten up by the enraged citizens. By 03:20 a.m., Erdogan’s business jet landed at Istanbul airport which had been secured by his supporters. By 04:00 a.m., Erdogan addressed the nation on television. By 06:39 a.m., he addressed a large crowd on the street. And by 06:49 a.m., the rebels guarding the Bosporus Bridge surrendered themselves to the police and the people, marking the collapse of the coup. In short, the coup started to collapse when Erdogan talked to the people through his smart phone and the collapse was completed in practical terms when the rebels surrendered at the Bosporus.

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July 21st,2016   category: Uncategorized   | tags: , , , |    No Comments

The Chilcot Report on Blair and the War on Iraq

Sir John Chilcot

Sir John Chilcot. Image credit: hangthebankers.com

Sir John Chilcot has finally come out with his 2.6 million-word report that was actually due in 2010. It will take a person seven days to read the report in full, if read non-stop. In terms of length, the report is three times the size of the complete works of Shakespeare. We might assume that none outside the Chilcot Inquiry might have read it in full so far since its publication on July 7. Perhaps, none in the Inquiry Committee too – four others in addition to Chilcot, including Baroness Prashar of Indian origin – might have read the report in full. The hard copy costs Pound Sterling 767 and we do not know whether the families of the 200 British citizens killed in the war might get a copy gratis.

Let us see what British democracy has done after coming across enough evidence, before and after the 2003 war, that Prime Minister Blair had unnecessarily, unwisely, and immorally taken the nation into a war, which almost destroyed Iraq and begat the deadliest terrorist organization known as the Islamic State, especially when Iraq had posed no threat to the United Kingdom.

The BBC carried a report by Andrew Gilligan in July 2003 to the effect that the Prime Minister’s office had ‘knowingly embellished’ a dossier on Iraq’s military capabilities. The report was based on a conversation with Dr. David Kelly, a scientist and an authority on biological weapons working for the government. The BBC did not reveal the name of the scientist, but the government deliberately leaked it out. The government denied the veracity of the report and Kelly was questioned aggressively by a House of Commons Committee, which summoned him to appear before it on 15 July 2003. Kelly was subsequently found dead on the 17th.

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Posts

October 26th, 2018

How The Largest Air Evacuation in History Unfolded


October 24th, 2018

The Jamal Khashoggi Affair


October 24th, 2018

Reality Check: Where Is The ‘56-Inch’ Chest?


May 25th, 2018

Trump And The Iran Nuclear Deal: Geopolitics And Financial Unipolarity – Analysis


February 15th, 2018

The Mingled Light of Two Bleeding Moons


January 7th, 2018

Cracks in the council


August 21st, 2017

Qatar deserves kudos for handling crisis with maturity and logic


November 22nd, 2016

Triumphant Trump and American Foreign Policy


July 21st, 2016

The Attempted Coup in Turkey: What Next?


July 12th, 2016

The Chilcot Report on Blair and the War on Iraq


January 10th, 2015

Beyond the border - India China Boundary Issues


December 20th, 2014

The Middle Path


August 11th, 2014

Genocide in Gaza and Israel’s tunnel vision – analysis


July 28th, 2014

Israeli impunity and global helplessness


July 2nd, 2014

Can Iraq’s disintegration be prevented?


June 30th, 2014

V. K. Krishna Menon Memorial Lecture 2014


March 20th, 2014

Chess Game over Crimea


March 6th, 2014

Italy Erred in Dealing with Marines Case


February 20th, 2014

Where is Egypt going?


September 12th, 2013

Book Review: AN UNCERTAIN GLORY


August 15th, 2013

Book Review: INDIA’S FOREIGN POLICY


July 21st, 2013

Book Review: SAMUDRA MANTHAN


May 5th, 2013

Book Review: MANAGING INDIA’S NUCLEAR FORCES


July 30th, 2012

India’s diplomacy is textual, not contextual


March 18th, 2012

Handling terrorism, US style: The march of folly continues


March 7th, 2012

Will Israel attack Iran? It cannot be ruled out.


February 14th, 2011

DEVELOPMENT, JUSTICE, AND DEMOCRACY: SOME REFLECTIONS


November 10th, 2010

NIXON, INDIRA AND INDIA: Politics and Beyond


November 10th, 2010

Book Review: CHILDREN OF ABRAHAM AT WAR


November 10th, 2010

Book Review: A JOURNEY


July 7th, 2010

Book Review: JINNAH AND TILAK: Comrades in the Freedom Struggle


October 29th, 2009

Book Review: THE INHERITANCE


October 4th, 2009

Aristotle vs. Greenspan


October 4th, 2009

Book Review : JINNAH : India-Partition Independence


April 15th, 2009

President Obama: Plans and Impediments


March 5th, 2009

A talk about Mahatma Gandhi


March 5th, 2009

Book Review : The Lexus and the Olive tree: Understanding Globalisation by Thomas L. Friedman


March 5th, 2009

Most unpopular war in history


March 5th, 2009

Book Review: Hannah Arendt and International Relations


March 5th, 2009

India at sixty


March 5th, 2009

Commonsense on terror


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