Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Sink the ship to stop the leak

Sink the ship to stop the leak
Saeed Naqvi
Dated: 05.06.2010

The Israeli attack on the Aid ship killing atleast 10 has, at long last, moved even Indian human rights and political groups to brave the sizzling heat and march to the Israeli embassy. It was an impressive show.

The Indian Foreign office condemned the Israeli action. After so long has the MEA been moved to anger, that the statement came as a huge relief.

Such a statement was not altogether unexpected, after External Affairs Minister, S.M. Krishna attended the meeting in Teheran last week in which President Lula of Brazil, Prime Minister Erdogan of Turkey and President Ahmedinijad of Iran signed an agreement to transfer Iran’s low enriched uranium to Turkey.

In fact all of this is only the tip of the iceberg.

On Wednesday, May 12, Turkey agreed to let Russia “build and own” a $20 billion power plant in a deal which gives an enormous new opening to Russia’s expanding energy industry.

Sergei Kiriyenko, head of Russian nuclear giant Rosatom, signed the agreement to build four reactors on Turkey’s Southern Mediterranean coast. Interestingly, the Turkish agreement is smaller than the 16 reactors Russia intends to build in India. But circumstances in which the deal was signed has imparted to it all the drama of International cut throat.

Actually, in October President Obama had mooted the idea of Iran transferring nuclear material to third countries. But the great cultural divide between Iran and the US always leaves a huge gap which neither side is willing to leap over.

Since one of the countries where Iranian fuel might have been transferred was Russia, Rosatom was in the loop from the very outset.

This, and other deals, were on the anvil at a time when American activity was touching fever pitch to contrive a tough draft for sanctions (checking of ships, for instance) announcing which Hillary Clinton was determined to have Moscow and Beijing standing behind her, their fists clenched.

Ahmedinijad and the Brazilian President met on Sunday, May 16 in Teheran, exactly a month after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, President Lula, President Dimitry Medvedev, President Hu Jintao had all secretly discussed in Brasilia the issue of Iran nuclear fuel. The absence of Indian contribution to these deliberations must be attributed to bureaucratic modesty.

A day before the BRIC summit in Brasilia, President Lula spoke of his lack of faith in “sanctions” against Iran. He was keen to embark on a more constructive route. He discussed these issues in detail with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. (And not a question on the issue was asked at the Prime Minister’s press conference.)

Hillary’s sanctions orchestra was rising to a crescendo by Tuesday, May 18. But before the sanctions could be announced, Lula, Ahmedinijad and Erdogan punctured the project by signing an agreement Americans could not have may quarrels with. The broad outlines of the deal were, after all, part of an earlier note by President Obama. Hillary was left waving a draft which meant little.

The surprise was the choice of the destination where Iran’s nuclear fuel would be diverted – Turkey.

Iranian spiritual leader, Ali Khameini, twisted the knife further by saying: “America is angry over the proximity of independent countries like Iran and Brazil.”

It has all been a bit of an unusual drama. Here you have the Secretary of State of the World’s most powerful nation clearing her throat to announce punitive sanctions against Iran. Just then, without even a day’s time gap, Brazil, Turkey and Iran (backed by Moscow) announced a brand new deal for transfer of Iranian fuel as per an earlier suggestions made by President Obama.

It is impolite to mention such facts, but what galls nations like Israel (and a host of EU members) is the fact that the recipient of Iran’s low-grade fuel would be a “Muslim” country!

Consider this near hysterical response by the iconic columnist Indian media stars fawn over: “When I first saw the May 17 picture of Iran’s President, Mahmoud Ahmedinijad, joining his Brazilian counterpart, Luiz Inacio Lula Da Silva and the Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, with raised arms – and their signing of a putative deal to defuse the crisis over Iran’s nuclear weapons programme – all I could think of was: “is there anything uglier than watching democrats sell out other democrats to a holocaust – denying, vote-stealing Iranian thug just to tweak the US and show that they too can play at the big power table? Now that’s about as ugly as it gets.” The columnist in question happens to be God’s gift to global journalism – Tom Friedman. I would have been sacked for intemperate writing from newspapers I was trained in.

So much for Ahmedinijad. Now he turns on Lula. “Lula has been great for Brazil but terrible for his democratic neighbours”. Lula’s other faults?

“He supported the thwarting of democracy across Latin America.” He regularly praises Venezuela’s strongman Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro, “the Cuban Dictator”.

This is the same Friedman who approved the invasion of Iraq as the greatest democratizing enterprise ever undertaken, recommended Ayatuallah Sistani for the Nobel Prize and carried messages from the state department for the Saudi King.

But such is the obsequiousness of Indian journalism that over the past two decades American and British columnists appear sometimes in four or more newspapers on the same day.

So, we have our leaders flit between Teheran, Brasilia and Washington but duck into a low profile on issues that might displease the West. Little wonder our editors publish western points of view in bold relief as our very own. It is the same tendency from top to bottom.

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