For some time, America seems to be under the notion that other countries are a subordinate wing of US State Department. It has only strengthened under Donald Trump. Now the Trump administration has asked India to stop buying oil from Iran. They are particularly targeting India and China, as two countries ranking first and second respectively in the volume of crude oil lifted from Iran.
Given that China, which is already embroiled in a trade war with US, cannot easily be arm-twisted, greater pressure is being exerted on India. Apart from raising this demand at different levels, US has specially sent it envoy to the UN Nicky Haley to meet Prime Minister Modi.
The decision to postpone the US-India '2Plus2' meet between the foreign-defence ministers of both countries is also viewed by most observers as a pressure tactic. The demand is that by 4thNovember, India should be in a state of buying not a single drop of oil from Iran. And US has also made the threat that non-compliance with be met with punishment including embargo. But unfortunately the type of firm reply that any nation with dignity should give to such a bullying could not be heard from New Delhi. On the contrary, some contradictory reports have come out too: on the one hand some indications that India would not succumb to such threats and on the other some reports that it will budge. The best response of the lot was one that came from foreign minister Sushma Swaraj. She made it clear that India intends to continue its relations with Teheran as it is, and India will honour sanctions by the UN and not from the US.
Unilateral sanctions are not applicable to us. The Joint Secretary of petroleum ministry Sanjay Sudheer also has stated that India does not accept unilateral embargo. At the same time, Petroleum Minister Dhamendra Pradhan has not been prepared to take such a firm stance. Saying that we look at our interests, he also added that we can buy oil from anywhere, and that we will take a decision considering political circumstances. There are also reports that the petroleum ministry has asked refining companies to explore other sources other than Iran from where oil can be imported. Private companies including Reliance have already started reducing imports from Iran. The only thing clear is that the picture is not clear: foreign minister releases a statement as if we will not budge whereas petroleum ministry initiates everything required to yield.
This involves two crucial aspects. One is our self-respect as a sovereign nation. The other is the matter of our commercial-economic interests. As regards the interests as a sovereign nation, we do not have any compulsion to accept the advice from another country as to what our foreign policy and relations should be; not only that, we cannot even accept a situation where others feel that we are under such a compulsion. When Trump pulled out of the nuclear deal which was signed by US and five other countries together with UN in 2005, he had not consulted any others. And the reasons he cited for that decision are not truthful either. And other countries still stand firm in favour of the Iran deal. Therefore, the attempt to impose Trump's reckless decision - solely motivated by his egotistic stance - on India and others also amounts to questioning other countries' freedom and sovereignty. His simple diktat seems to be that America will decide, and we should abide by that. Our response to that should be one that upholds our self-respect.
Even in terms of trade interest, we cannot heed the warnings of Trump. We decided to import oil from Iran after we convinced ourselves that it goes in line with our trade interests. When Iran president Hassan Rouhani visited India last February, we decided to increase our oil imports from that country by 25 per cent, as it suited our interests. Yet another instance of cordial relations with Iran is the Chabahar port construction. Trump is now insisting that we back out of all the deliberations and planning we had made for those businesses, only to save his personal decision. What right does he have to decide our trade policy? Even when Iran faced comprehensive sanction, we had only reduced the import of oil from Iran. This time, sanction is neither by UN nor, in a strict sense not even that of US. It is a sanction only by Trump.
It is high time to correct the misunderstanding of Trump that he has unquestionable power and influence across the globe. We are not in any way bound by the frenzied nationalism of ‘America first' and its policy of Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA). . This is an era when even US dominance in UN institutions, NATO and IMF and is being challenged. Many countries have started to get rid of dollar transactions. It is a time when US needs other countries than they do US. It is Trump who isolates the US. We should not compromise our sovereignty and trade interests for his sake.