Sunday, April 15, 2007

India, Pakistan Defy United States Over Iran Gas Pipeline

The more I read stories like this, the clearer it becomes that the rapidly growing economic centres of the world - China, Russia, India - are leaving the United States behind, as they push forward in setting the scene for how most of the world's key energy supplies - natural gas and oil - will be transported across the globe in the coming decades.

China, India, Iran, Russia, no longer appear to wilt before US economic and trade threats, or promises of denial of key energy technologies or arms sales, if they don't comply with the wishes of the fading superpower.

A remarkable story from 'The Australian' details how India and Pakistan are only days away from settling terms on a 2600km long natural gas pipeline that will stretch from Iran, through Pakistan territory, all the way to India.

Pakistan will access some of the gas, and will be paid by India for 'hosting' the pipeline. This deal, long in the making, pleases China and Russia. They view the rise of India as a future superpower as a major positive, and they see few negatives in growing ties between Iran and Pakistan. The only long face in the international is that of the United States'.

At the same time, Pakistan is pushing back against growing criticism from the United States and Australia that it isn't doing enough to stop Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters entering Afghanistan from Pakistan territory, or its border regions.

Pakistan's President Musharraf has already threatened to quit the international 'War on Terror' if the pressure doesn't ease. And Musharraf has made it vividly clear to the United States that Pakistan will play no part whatsoever in any attacks launched against Iran, nor will he allow any flyovers of Pakistan territory by US bombers.

The United States is now trying to claim that doing a deal with Iran over the pipeline will help it in its alleged ambitions to gain nuclear weapons. It's a pathetic, and stupid, claim to lay on India and Pakistan, who are clearly wanting the pipeline so as to wean themselves off their own imported oil addictions, as US President Bush continually warns Americans they must do as well.

Should the US try to air its claim that the pipeline will help Iran with its nuclear ambitions in the United Nations Security Council, many will have a hard time trying not to laugh out loud.

Iran is doing deals for its natural gas and oil worth hundreds of billions of dollars (over the next two decades) with China, Russia, India and Pakistan. Pakistan is about to begin construction on a port and another pipeline that will give China a gateway to Gulf oil. Included in all these deals will be the weapons systems and arms sales needed to secure the sea transit lanes to deliver oil to China, for example, and to keep safe key energy pipelines, like the one that will stretch from Iran to India.

But where is the United States in all this action? Standing on the sidelines, trying to order the new power players around and shouting for attention. It's a sad fact of the changing international order that mega-states like China, Russia and India appear to be less interested in listening to what the United States has to say.

From 'The Australian' :
Dispute between Washington and its two major South Asian allies is intensifying as India and Pakistan dig in their heels over building a highly strategic, $10 billion gas pipeline stretching 2600km from Iran.

Despite pressure from the US, which has linked the pipeline to Iran's nuclear ambitions, New Delhi and Islamabad are thumbing their noses at Washington. Together, they are about to put the finishing touches to their deal with Tehran, with potentially far-reaching political and security implications.

Many South Asian analysts see this as a telling comment on Washington's failure to line up enthusiasm outside the industrialised and developed world for its attempts to isolate Iran.

Though India has voted against Iran's nuclear plans in global meetings, South Asian nations have generally paid little heed to calls for the country's isolation.

Tehran won a significant victory at this month's eight-nation South Asia Association for Regional Co-operation summit in New Delhi when, despite strenuous US lobbying, it was recommended for observer status within the organisation as a forerunner to full membership in the future.

Indian and Pakistani officials have been meeting to finalise the Iran-Pakistan-Indian pipeline (IPI) deal, with final approval expected within weeks and construction to start almost immediately.

This is despite the US dropping all pretence at politeness in its efforts to dissuade India from building the pipeline, with Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman, on a visit to New Delhi, insisting that the plans amount to New Delhi helping Iran's nuclear program.

"We believe that Iran is seeking to develop nuclear weapons and anything that will support that endeavour (such as the IPI) is something that we oppose," Mr Bodman said.

He reminded the Indian Government of its need for US co-operation in developing a civilian nuclear energy industry. Yet within days Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart, Shaukat Aziz, had pledged to "sincerely and seriously pursue the project to its successful completion".

Officials in energy-starved India, which produces only half of the natural gas it needs to serve its population of more than 1.3 billion, and whose requirements will double over the next 15 years, are adamant they will go ahead with the IPI project.

This story is important, and included on this blog, because it clearly sets the scene for growing tensions in the new international order, and possible military, or covert, action by the United States in the future to stop the pipeline from becoming a reality.

Go Here To Read The Full Story

China Secures A Gateway To Gulf Oil, Via Pakistan


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