Indian PM Narendra Modi is once again breaking down old barriers in foreign policy, this time with Iran. An Indian national security advisor described the accord that was reached with Iran and the P5+1 powers as the “best deal available.” India has been cautiously sending various ministers to Iran for months now, including its national security advisor, transportation minister and foreign secretary, and Narendra Modi and President Hassan Rouhani met briefly for talks on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Ufa, Russia two weeks ago.
Indian cooperation with Iran likely hinges on the enormous access to energy that Iran provides, considering that just a few years ago before the sanctions, some 17% of Indian oil imports were from Iran. This additionally opens up another can of worms with the long-dormant Iran-Pakistan pipeline which was supposedly crushed by an offer from Saudi Arabia to dissuade the Pakistani government from participating in the project. Indeed, there has been talk of an Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) pipeline to more closely tie together the two countries’ economies.
However, India has been courting multiple options for its energy needs. While no one thinks of the TAPI as a short-term alternative to India’s energy problems, the SAGE pipeline (or South Asia Gas Enterprises consortium project) also seeks to provide gas from Oman and Iran to India. With sanctions relief expected in roughly six months, according to the latest statements by US Secretary of State John Kerry, India is moving fast to secure its position as Iran’s customer.
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- The Former Foreign Minister of Russia from 1990-1996, Andrei Kozyrev, wrote an op-ed in today’s New York Times about probability of regime change in Russia. The opinion piece treads familiar ground, criticizing Kremlin narratives of encirclement by NATO and economic recovery while showing that much of the Russian economic growth since the ’98 default was driven by a combination of high energy prices, commodity booms, and the differential of the dollar. Kozyrev notes that so far, the inner cabal of ministers and oligarchs have seen only one dissenting voice – that of former finance minister Kudrin, who proposed an early Duma election to facilitate faster economic reforms. Kozyrev stated that the West’s firm stance on Ukraine will check the unrestrained aggression of the Putin regime, and will result in a “constructive dialogue.” Read more here.
- A former Uzbek official has been arrested in association with his role in the investigations of Gulnara Karimova, daughter of Uzbek dictator Islam Karimov. General Hayot Sharifhojaev was in charge of corruption investigations as the deputy of the National Security Service, but it is unclear as of yet if the moves are in connection with the Karimova case. Sharifhojaev was arrested on corruption and embezzlement charges (what else?) and the general’s younger brother has already been found guilty in a supposedly unrelated trial and sentenced to four years in prison.
- The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has begun military exercises and drills in Western Ukraine, courtesy of an invitation by Ukraine’s defense ministry. More ceremonial than actually militaristic, Russian officials came down hard on the exercises in the press, with Russian NATO liaison Aleksandr Grushko saying that the maneuvers will “disrupt” the process of implementing the Minsk II accords that are aimed at preventing fighting between separatists and government troops in eastern Ukraine.
- The French Foreign Minister, Laurent Fabius, is set to visit Tehran next week to discuss “all subjects” and will be meeting with members of the senior leadership in the Rouhani administration, including the President himself and mainstays of the Iran nuclear negotiation team like Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi. Germany’s Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel is already present in Tehran as of yesterday, discussing future economic cooperation and opportunities.
- The BRICS bank, widely seen as a competitor to Western financing development organizations like the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, has opened its doors in Shanghai. The BRICS nations, which consist of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa have dubbed the bank the “New Development Bank,” and its opening comes after the inauguration of the BRICS summit two weeks ago by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Initial seeding for the fund stands at $100 billion, but it is feared that China sees the bank as less important than its own development organization, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).
- The ongoing diplomatic flap between Kyrgyzstan and the US has escalated, with the US State Department warning that the deterioration of relations could threaten many of the US aid programs in the country. The source of the dispute is that the US 2014 Human Rights Defender award was placed on Azimjon Askarov, a journalist and activist in Kyrgyz civil society, which the Kyrgyz government said was a “threat to civil peace and stability in society.” This breakdown in relations comes just as Kyrgyzstan is drawn deeper into the orbit of Russia.
- National Norwegian oil company Statoil has announced its intention to leave the TAP (Trans-Adriatic) pipeline project, leaving Azerbaijan as the supplier of oil and gas on the project out in the cold. However, SOCAR representatives announced that there is a company which is ready to buy stake in the project, and the TAP pipeline is part of a larger project o transport some 16 billion cubic meters of gas from Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz II field in the Caspian to Europe. The pipeline will connect with the Trans-Anatolian Pipeline (TANAP) across Turkey and Greece. TAP shareholders are BP, SOCAR, Statoilk, Fluxys, Enagas, and Axpo.