India-US trade talks recommence, but the US still looking at arm-twisting India

India complied with the US directives to stop importing oil from Iran after American waivers granted to eight countries still buying the oil expired in the first week of May. Coerced by the US, which is aiming at the Government change in Venezuela, India has also ended oil import from Venezuela, increasing further its dependence on Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and the UAE.


Significantly, while the US deadline for importing oil from Iran was expiring in the first week of May, the US on 5th March 2019 gave a 60-day withdrawal notice to India on the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) benefits extended by the US, thereby bringing the deadline around the same time when the deadline for oil purchase from Iran was expiring.


The message was clear! Though the Parliamentary elections in India stalled the process for a short-while, India was left with no choice but to comply. It complied on Iran and it complied on Venezuela, without for a moment considering its own trade loss and the threat to eroding of relations, particularly with Iran, which existed long before the US was even discovered.


As India-US trade talks commenced again today, the US is still playing headstrong even though India has given reasonable arguments from its side to come to some agreement. India has to decide till when it will continue to pay heed to adamant, constantly changing the stance of the US, keeping only its political and trade benefits in mind and unmindful of all the rest of the world.


While not paying heed to India’s heavy oil dependence from abroad, the US didn’t even bring into consideration India’s concerns related to its geopolitical interests in the area when it recommenced talks with the Taliban, who it itself had branded as a terrorist organization while sidelining the present and previous heads of elected Government, viz. Hamid Karzai and Ashraf Ghani. During the last five years, Afghanistan had become the second-largest recipient of Indian foreign aid and had invested heavily on infrastructure, including hospitals, roads, and dams, and contributing to the fabric of a democratic nation-state through various programs.


These investments were aimed at preventing Pakistan from setting up a friendly government in Kabul again, like in the 90s when the Taliban were in control, and also at avoiding the return of Jihadi groups like Al-Qaida from striking in India again, as they have done in the past. How laudable it would be that the US is seeking assurances from Taliban itself, designated as a terrorist organization, that it will not use Afghanistan to set up bases for terrorist attacks, in case the US leave the country, handing back the reins of power to the Taliban!


The US is also unmindful of India’s heavy investments in Chabahar, which are on the verge of getting wasted, due to the US sanctions against Iran. Chabahar investments too were in India’s interest, as they provided an unhindered trade link, bypassing Pakistan, not only with Afghanistan but also in reaching out to other Central Asian countries, including the former Soviet Republics. This Port is vital to India’s geopolitical interests for many reasons; it gives India an alternative to CPEC (China-Pakistan Economic Corridor) and provides India an avenue to expand its trade and access to energy resources, in the Central Asian region.