Intro: The conflict can have a telling effect on the economy and that’s not a good news for the Narendra Modi government.
The dramatic announcement of an 'Islamic Caliphate' by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has left the media in a questioning mode. As The Asian Age (July1) saw it what has happened “is a stark reminder of the comprehensive failure of the US-led western military and political intervention in West Asia in the last two decades”. The toppling of Saddam Hussein, the paper said “was a low point of US policy which had unintended consequences that are before us today”. The paper pointed out that “Washington’s systematic removal or attempted removal of West Asian relations who had provided stability in a difficult region…. produced first, armed Islamic anarchy in Iraq which has now transitioned into the dark prospect of Iran being overwhelmed by the ISIS.” If further noted that “it appears that West Asia has been destabilised and its traditional security architecture and catechism look like dissolving.” “The West” said the paper, “looks a picture of confusion.” And it added: “An ill wind is blowing” and “the very existence of India’s policy toward the Arab world looks suspect….”
The Telegraph (June 27) believed that “although the US has promised ‘intense’ support to Iraq, it has no intention of getting bogged down in another military adventure.”As it saw the situation “Iran has never had a more direct and welcome change of intervention in the regime than it has now.” Also, said the paper, “if the world gets too dependent on Iran to preserve regional stability, it could have a fair chance to retain its nuclear prerogative.” That apart, the paper felt that “with Shias and Sunnis the world over earnestly filling up forms to join the battle in the region, Iran could become the world’s largest sinkhole of human conflict.”
The Hindustan Times (June 18 ) warned that with Iraq in turmoil New Delhi must prepare for the worst. The paper said with the existing government in Iraq “seemingly clueless about what to do, the prospect of peace and normalcy returning to the war-torn West Asian country in the near future are slim.” The paper was doubtful about the United States sending troops to Iraq and wondered what talks it is having with Iran “to overcome this crisis”. It noted that India’s concern lay mainly in two areas: safety of Indians living in Iraq and probable rise in oil prices. If the unrest escalated, said the paper, it will affect oil prices which in turn will exert pressure on the rupee.
Writing in The Hindu (June 18 ) Praveen Swami pointed out that 57 per cent of India’s crude oil imports come from four states directly threatened by the looming crisis in West Asia and long wars in the region could disrupt supplies and raise oil prices undermining India’s hopes of an economic revival. He added: “For India to succeed in protecting its vital interests in Western Asia, it will need the focused application of all elements of its national power, military and also diplomatic and economic. Further he said: “Hard as it may be, New Delhi have to find ways to work with China and Japan, the two other Asian states powered by West Asian oil.”
Interestingly different ideas are being expressed by different scholars of repute. Thus, writing in The Hindu (July 3) Vijay Prasad pointed out that what is happening in Iraq and Syria today “is not an age-old conflict” but “a modern one, over ideas of Republicanism and Monarchy, Iranian influence and Saudi influence”.
One of the best analysis is offered by G Parthasarathy, writing in The Indian Express (July 6). According to him, “the conflict itself is the product of a deep Shia-Sunni divide in Iraq where the two holiest cities of Shia believers, Karbala and Najaf are located.” As he saw the situation ever since the end of World War I, Iraq with a Shia majority has been ruled by Sunni Arabs and the invasion of Iraq changed this equation and led to Shia majority rule.
Parthasarathy added: “The Shia-Sunni bloodletting in the background of Iranian-Saudi rivalries has mercifully not spilled into India with a Shia population estimated at around 30 million, thanks to the restraint and wisdom shown by all concerned. India should not become a battleground for rivalries elsewhere in the world.” One presumes that the Government of India is fully aware of the situation. One good thing it has been able to do is to bring back Indians who want to return to India.
(The writer is a senior columnist and former editor of Illustrated Weekly)