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Three Big Shifts in mid-2019 -- Arindam Mukherjee

Interesting things happening all around guys!smiley

PM Modi begins his second innings – and brings Jaishankar along. Which is being hailed by a lot of guys as a good thing, because JS has this, JS has that, and so on. Fact is that there are some major shifts taking place (or would soon take place) that might need a very very careful scrutiny. And a Western hand like JS and Orient hand like Gokhale could be a good combo to have. (And whoever’s thought of that is one clear-headed dog.) One challenge would be to get the two of them to gel; and I am hoping there would be some plans for that too.

Shifts… let’s check them.

Shift Number 1 – Uncle has expressed concern over Iran’s health. Scrooge has made clear his intent is neither war, nor a regime-change, but a halting of Iran’s nuclear capacity. Just the other day he said things like Can’t you see these guys are bleeding because of sanctions? Can’t you see that they want to sit and talk? And lets bloody do that! Sit and talk. Let them halt their nuclear drama, and we go back to being friends. I don’t like to see them bleed like this.

How much of truth is here? Difficult to say really. There are three levels in this game. Grade one is dismantling of nuclear capabilities, grade two is regime change, and grade three is war. Uncle Scrooge is looking at the beginner’s grade. The stakes would remain static or move up depending on how crucial Iran remains to his re-election.

And… that puts a few question marks on Iran’s recent overtures to Pakistan. Would that continue? My guess is that they would. They do have a certain amount of common grounds there. Baluchistan is one. And that’s one name that’s sure to pull in China as well. And that would be good for Iran. With India toeing the Uncle-line, a partner in a new business is pretty cool; sanctions have weakened them economically.

The regime however, is stable. A lot of them thought that Iranians would revolt en masse. Uncle thought that too but was quick to recalibrate on that assumption (perhaps they also considered their dismal Regime-Change performance during the last 2-3 years; but that’s another topic).

So anyway, this Uncle and Iran inching to a common ground might take some steam off the recent Iran Pakistan China gig. Like, if Uncle really gets to sit and chat, India might go back to buying oil again (and in INR – as I have been told). That would be an interesting watch!

Shift Number 2 – Remember Bibi said something like Oh I am getting Russia and Uncle to sit together to decide on Middle East? Well, he wasn’t bluffing. And in what could be a MAJOR MAJOR game-changer, you have Russia, Israel, and Uncle all set to sit together and talk a few rounds on the fate of the Middle East. Right in Jerusalem.

You must be thinking, then what happens to Iran? Israel is not exactly best buddies with them, and Russia willing to sit like this with Bibi and Scrooge… Well, yes. Iran is in some trouble. Not only with sanctions and Israel, but with Russia too. You see, Iran has been trying to militarize certain pockets of influence along a Syrian port. Not a good thing to be doing – for a number of reasons (the reasons are not important individually). There are a couple of other things too that are being whispered along the forest… the crux of it is that if Iran is trying to do a Lebanon in Syria, then those who were thinking that Iran-Russia bond is a given should start thinking about fresh things. Like Cricket World Cup?

And while you are at it, do take some time to think about the advantages that Russia opens up for itself with this shift, when that happens. Ukraine has a solid Jewish lobby, so has Russia. Then there is this chance to get ‘legitimized’ in Middle East. Finally, there is the man with a fat white moustache. Not saying that he would go all chocolaty on Russia and all, but it would be good to at least initiate an engagement with him. So.

Shift Number 3 – Modi’s behaviour towards Pakistan. This sure is ‘bring on the pop-corn’ stuff guys.

Let’s get two things absolutely clear here: 1. One of the major reasons why Modi came back is due to his Pakistan stance, and 2. he and his team knows that bloody well. So, this new attitude (one that clearly reflected in the absence of Imran Khan) is going to underline most engagement that India has with Pakistan in the coming future. Imran’s comment on how Modi being back in power would make it easy to proceed with stuffs could be because of only one reason: that their intelligence had the prior idea that the man was coming back (don’t forget that Beijing knows a lot of things these days). But there sure is a lot of difference between Modi coming back and facing a strong opposition, and Modi coming back by mopping the floor with his opposition. So things not quite ok in Pindi right now.

On a related note… If I were a gambling man, I would bet on some major AND sustainable developments at around 2023-24. Just before the elections.  

Happy weekend folks!

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