Pakistan’s exit from FATF list puts India on the spot

US Acting Asst Secy of State Alice Wells  met Pakistan’s Interior Minister Ijaz Shah, Islamabad, Jan. 20, 2020 The media reports that in the Indian estimation there is “a 75 per cent chance” of Pakistan exiting the ‘grey list’ of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) at the plenary of the international body on February 16 … Continue reading “Pakistan’s exit from FATF list puts India on the spot”

US plotting return of ‘strongman’ in Iraq

The departure of the former Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani is beginning to be felt in Iraq. The two meetings that the US President Donald Trump had with the leader of Iraq’s Kurdish Regional Government Nechirvan Barzani and the president of Iraq Barhem Saleh in Switzerland on Wednesday on the sidelines of the World Economic … Continue reading “US plotting return of ‘strongman’ in Iraq”

India’s neighbourhood first policy crumbles

Massive anti-CAA rally at Kochi, Kerala, on New Year Day Two of South Asia’s most prominent national figures have made critical remarks regarding India’s Citizenship Amendment Act CAA) and related issues. The criticism is striking not only because it is unprecedented but both Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and former Afghan President Hamid Karzai have … Continue reading “India’s neighbourhood first policy crumbles”

China, Myanmar to build shared future. What’s there for India?

Chinese President Xi Jinping held talks with Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi in Nay Pyi Taw, Jan. 18, 2020. The state visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping to Myanmar on January 17-18, the first of its kind in nineteen years, has been a transformative event in regional politics from the perspective of China-Myanmar … Continue reading “China, Myanmar to build shared future. What’s there for India?”

Trump, the deal maker, blinks before China

US President Donald Trump and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, sign the China-US phase-one economic and trade agreement in a ceremony at the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, January 15, 2020. The signing ceremony of the China-US phase-one economic and trade agreement at the East Room of the White House in … Continue reading “Trump, the deal maker, blinks before China”

Russians are coming — to the Indian Ocean

The Cold-War hypothesis that the Soviet Union was hoping to “wet its toes” in the Indian Ocean was in reality an extension of the geopolitical construct known as the “Anglo-Russian Question” that was written about by Lord Curzon, onetime viceroy of British India (1899-1905). We now know that the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan was due … Continue reading “Russians are coming — to the Indian Ocean”

Iran: Nothing is forgotten, nothing is forgiven

Satellite images show extensive damage to Ain Al Asad air base in Iraq which was hit by Iranian missiles on Jan 7, 2020 President Trump’s credibility is so low that it is difficult to contest the perception that he blundered into the recent confrontation with Iran by ordering the killing of Qassem Soleimani, the head … Continue reading “Iran: Nothing is forgotten, nothing is forgiven”

A forlorn hope in US-Iran confrontation

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei leading the prayer before the coffin of Qassem Soleimani, Tehran, Jan. 6, 2020. To his right, President Hassan Rouhani, Speaker of Majlis Ali Larijani and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Commander Gen. Hossein Salami. A new dynamics is forming in the week since the assassination of the charismatic Iranian … Continue reading “A forlorn hope in US-Iran confrontation”

Iran loathes Pompeo’s Chabahar gift

India-Iran Joint Commission meeting co-chaired by Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif (L) and Indian counterpart S. Jaishankar (R), Tehran, December 22, 2019 Sometimes a crisis is needed to judge the efficacy of a country’s regional policies. The US-Iran confrontation is one such moment for Delhi.  In retrospect, the India-US meeting of foreign and defence ministers … Continue reading “Iran loathes Pompeo’s Chabahar gift”

An unsung hero of US-India nuclear deal

Biographies stand apart as literary genre for three reasons. One, they are a branch of history and yet are literary works in their own right. Two, biography is a craft rather than art where general rules of testing evidence apply.  Three, importantly, reading a biography can be an intensely personal journey as it holds the … Continue reading “An unsung hero of US-India nuclear deal”

Putin’s Russia, twenty years on

Twenty years ago, on December 31, 2019, resigning Russian President Boris Yeltsin (R) tapped then Prime Minister Vladimir Putin (L) to be his successor.  When I left Moscow after completing my second assignment in the Embassy at the end of 1989, I never imagined that I was leaving the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics for … Continue reading “Putin’s Russia, twenty years on”

US reminds Iran of red line on Iraqi turf

Debris at the headquarters of Iran-backed Kataib Hezbollah militia after the US airstrike, Qaim, Iraq, December 30, 2019 The “precision defensive strikes” by the United States at five targets of Iran-backed Kataib Hezbollah militia in Iraq and Syria on Sunday night can be seen as a new vector of Washington’s “maximum pressure” approach to Tehran. … Continue reading “US reminds Iran of red line on Iraqi turf”

Saudi placates Pakistan. What about India?

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan received Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan in Islamabad on Dec.26, 2019.  The one-day visit to Islamabad on December 26 by Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan bin Abdullah aimed at a reset of the Saudi-Pakistani relationship. What emerges is that Saudis are going the extra league … Continue reading “Saudi placates Pakistan. What about India?”

Eastern Mediterranean is big enough for Turkey, Russia

Libyan National Army forces commanded by Khalifa Haftar prepare to advance to Tripoli, November 2019, File photo. Libya’s call seeking military assistance from Turkey and the latter’s prompt announcement on Thursday of its readiness to meet the request as early as next month is no doubt a carefully choreographed sequence of events.  Tripoli and Ankara … Continue reading “Eastern Mediterranean is big enough for Turkey, Russia”

Afghan peace process annoys Modi govt

A soldier deployed to NATO base in Kabul posing for a picture with a Santa in the base cafeteria, December 24 2019 The Modi government’s approach to the transition in Afghanistan bears an uncanny resemblance to the situation thirty years ago, in end-1989.  A great power that intervened in Afghanistan was retreating after a bloody … Continue reading “Afghan peace process annoys Modi govt”

Why Hindutva is a pariah in world opinion

PM Narendra Modi waits for a meeting with Portuguese PM Antonio Costa, New Delhi, December 19, 2019. Photo: AP This has been an extraordinary period in India’s equations with the international community. The mass agitation against the Modi-Amit Shah plan of action to impose the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and its follow-up, the National Register … Continue reading “Why Hindutva is a pariah in world opinion”

US-India: Why 2+2 may not always be 4

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (2nd R, Rear), U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper (1st R, Rear), Indian External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar (2nd L, Rear), Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh (1st L, Rear) attended a press conference following their second “2+2 Ministerial Dialogue”, Washington D.C., December 18, 2019. To what extent External Affairs … Continue reading “US-India: Why 2+2 may not always be 4”

Rajapaksa’s ‘nyet’ on Mattala is a bitter pill to swallow

Prime Minister Narendra Modi (R) with newly-elected Sri Lanka President Gotabaya Rajapaksa (L), New Delhi, 29 Nov. 2019 Since the setback in Nepal three years ago when the Indian diktat on the contents of a new constitution for that country was brusquely dismissed by that country’s communist leadership, Modi government faces a similar rebuff from … Continue reading “Rajapaksa’s ‘nyet’ on Mattala is a bitter pill to swallow”

Pakistan at crossroads. Turkish footfalls beckon.

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan (L) and Turkish President Recep Erdogan (R), Ankara, Oct. 2019. File photo.  The Indian establishment, including the political leadership, is running into a strange predicament. Never before has India’s image looked so visibly sullied in comparison with Pakistan’s as much as in the most recent years under the present government.  … Continue reading “Pakistan at crossroads. Turkish footfalls beckon.”

Saudi Arabia reads the riot act to Imran Khan

Rohingya refugees in prayer at the Kutupalong camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, November 2019  The KL Summit 2019 hosted by Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur on December 18-21 was originally conceived as a landmark event in the politics of the Muslim world. It still is, albeit on a wet wicket struggling … Continue reading “Saudi Arabia reads the riot act to Imran Khan”

The fine print of US-China trade deal

The US-China trade deal is harbinger of even harder talks, but apparent pragmatism on both sides is a positive sign. The agreement on the terms of the first phase of a trade deal between the US and China broadly envisages that Washington would reduce some tariffs on Chinese goods while Beijing would boost purchases of American farm, energy and manufactured … Continue reading “The fine print of US-China trade deal”

Afghanistan, Bangladesh deserve our respect

The Kart-e-Parwan Sikh Gurudwara in Kabul, Afghanistan  This had to happen: The friendliest and the closest neighbour that India ever had since its independence, Afghanistan, has cast aside diplomatic niceties and unmistakably conveyed its indignation and sense of hurt over the churlish imputation by the Indian leadership of alleged religious / racial persecution of minorities … Continue reading “Afghanistan, Bangladesh deserve our respect”

Howdy Modi has an enduring legacy

Prime Minister Modi (R) and President Donald Trump (L) on stage for Howdy Modi event, Houston, September 22, 2019 The scathing attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the recent weeks by two prominent writers in the US — the Washington Post’s Max Boot (here) and the New Yorker magazine’s Dexter Filkins (here) — is … Continue reading “Howdy Modi has an enduring legacy”

Rumours of NATO’s death are greatly exaggerated

NATO leaders assemble for customary group photo at Leaders’ Meeting’ in London on Dec 5, 2019 amidst much finger-pointing and discord The decision to “downgrade” the NATO’s historic summit meeting in London on the 70th anniversary of the alliance to a mere “Leaders’ Meeting” implied that no joint declaration or communique would need to be issued … Continue reading “Rumours of NATO’s death are greatly exaggerated”

Colombo draws the red line for India

Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa receiving ceremonial welcome on state visit, Delhi, Nov 29, 2019 Sri Lanka is a role model for the dictum of diplomacy being the extension of a country’s national policies. Sri Lanka’s performance must be commended since it also grapples with an unresolved nationality question in which its big neighbour India … Continue reading “Colombo draws the red line for India”

Does Japan grow onions?

India brings home onions from Turkey to ease prices which in retail market stood at Rs 80-120 per kg. The 2+2 format in inter-state relationships is an exotic thing — the raison d’être of foreign and defence ministers forming a caucus with their foreign counterparts as template of bilateral diplomacy. The United States has a … Continue reading “Does Japan grow onions?”

US gatecrashes into Libyan endgame. But Russia stands in the way

Libya’s strongman Khalifa Belqasim Haftar visits Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov off Libyan coast, January 2017. File photo.  The United States has alleged that Russia’s presence in Libya is having an “incredibly destabilising” impact. Washington is stepping out of the shade and making way to the centre stage of the Libyan conflict.  David Schenker, the … Continue reading “US gatecrashes into Libyan endgame. But Russia stands in the way”

The ballad of India’s Kashmir and Israel’s Palestine

Palestinian children play outside their dwelling in al-Eizariya town in the Israeli-occupied West Bank with the Jewish settlement of Maale Adumim in the background.  “I believe the security situation will improve (in J&K), it will allow the refugees to go back, and in your lifetime, you will be able to go back … and you … Continue reading “The ballad of India’s Kashmir and Israel’s Palestine”

US primes NATO to confront Russia, China

The December 3-4 summit of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) in London resembles a family reunion after the acrimony over the issue of military spending by America’s European allies.  The trend is up for defence spending across European Allies and Canada. Over $100 billion is expected to be added to the member states’ defence … Continue reading “US primes NATO to confront Russia, China”

Bereft of soft power, India stands diminished in Hindu Kush and Central Asia

Bagh-e Babur (Garden of Babur) in Kabul, Afghanistan The dichotomy between the regime policy and public opinion is nowhere near as sharp as in the world of diplomacy. And nowhere in the contemporary situation is this maxim so sharply visible as in the dalliance of the West Asian oligarchies with Israel. The romance began at … Continue reading “Bereft of soft power, India stands diminished in Hindu Kush and Central Asia”

Russia dials back peace talks with Japan

Map of the Kuril and Russo-Japanese borders The Russia-Japan territorial disputes surged at a meeting of the foreign ministers of the two countries, Toshimitsu Motegi and Sergey Lavrov, at Nagoya, Japan, on November 22 on the sidelines of a G20 foreign ministers’ gathering.  Lavrov publicly threw cold water on the Japanese spin that Tokyo is … Continue reading “Russia dials back peace talks with Japan”

Who stands to gain from unrest in Iran?

People rallied in the northwestern Iranian city of Tabriz to denounce the violent unrest in the country, Nov 19, 2019 I once had an animated conversation with the Middle East correspondent of a leading Indian newspaper regarding the resilience of the Iranian political system. The year was 2001. The conversation took place in the backdrop … Continue reading “Who stands to gain from unrest in Iran?”

With eye on India, Pakistan strengthens military ties with Iran

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani (R) met visiting Pakistani COAS General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Tehran, Nov 19, 2019 The low-key coverage by the Pakistani media on the 2-day visit of the army chief General Qamar Bajwa to Iran notwithstanding, the event signifies a surge in the tempo of ‘mil-to-mil’ exchanges between the two countries.  The Iranian … Continue reading “With eye on India, Pakistan strengthens military ties with Iran”

Tehran loses patience with Modi government’s hide and seek

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif received a group of Indian writers and journalists, Tehran, Nov 10, 2019 Historically speaking, India-Iran relationship had its ups and downs during the decades under Shah’s rule. The Lowest point was reached when during the 1965 and 1971 wars with India, Pakistani Air Force jets were stationed in Iran … Continue reading “Tehran loses patience with Modi government’s hide and seek”

The return of the ‘strongman’ in Sri Lanka

Winner takes it all: Gotabaya Rajapaksa storms to power in the Sr Lankan presidential election on Nov 17, 2019 The thumping victory of Gotabaya Rajapaksa in the Sri Lankan presidential election on Saturday, trouncing his nearest rival Sajith Premadasa by a margin of over 1.3 million votes — 52.25 percent of votes polled against 41.99 … Continue reading “The return of the ‘strongman’ in Sri Lanka”

Russia-Ukraine relations take leap of faith

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky (L) to have first face-to-face encounter in Paris on December 9, 2019  The relationship of the famous Ukrainian oligarch and billionaire Ihor Valeriyovych Kolomoyskyi with President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky lends itself to various interpretations. Both Kolomoyskyi and Zelensky (rather, his spokesperson Iuliia Mendel) are … Continue reading “Russia-Ukraine relations take leap of faith”

Tehran taunts US with Fordow; pokes at Trump with Agent Levinson

Satellite imagery of Iran’s underground Fordow uranium enrichment facility north of the city of Qom Tehran announced on November 7 that it has begun refining uranium at Fordow, a secretive site built inside a mountain to the north of the holy city of Qom, apparently to protect it from any aerial bombardment, and one that … Continue reading “Tehran taunts US with Fordow; pokes at Trump with Agent Levinson”

40 years after Berlin Wall

Berlin Wall at the Brandenberg Gate, November 9, 1989  The 40th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall has turned out to be a sombre occasion. Certainly, the euphoria that Europe witnessed on November 9, 1989 has evaporated. The impetus for deeper European integration, manifest in the 1992 Maastricht Treaty, which established a framework … Continue reading “40 years after Berlin Wall”

A Brandenberg Gate at Dera Baba Nanak

The Kartarpur complex and Gurdwara Darbar Sahib. The corridor connecting the Dera Baba Nanak shrine in India’s Punjab with Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur in the Narowal district of Pakistan’s Punjab province, will be thrown open to the pilgrims on November 9, 2019 with the two countries set to hold separate ceremonies to mark the occasion.  … Continue reading “A Brandenberg Gate at Dera Baba Nanak”

The endgame begins in Yemen’s war

Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman and AbuDahbi Crown prince Mohammed bin Zayed witness the signing of the Riyadh Agreement between the Yemeni government and the Southern Transitional Council, Riyadh, November 5, 2019  The power-sharing agreement signed in Riyadh on November 5 between the Saudi-backed Yemeni government headed by Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi and UAE-backed southern … Continue reading “The endgame begins in Yemen’s war”

Myths and reality in Saudi-Indian relations

King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud (L) received Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Riyadh, October 29, 2019 Indian analysts somehow feel they are obliged to praise Prime Minister Narendra Modi whenever he undertakes a visit abroad, no matter the actual outcome of the event. The recent visit to Saudi Arabia was no exception, as analysts … Continue reading “Myths and reality in Saudi-Indian relations”

Expectant hush in Delhi as Sri Lanka chooses president

Top presidential candidates Sajith Premadasa (L) and  candidate Gotabaya Rajapaksa (R) greeted each other at a chance encounter in Colombo, October 7, 2019   An engrossing presidential election is due to take place in Sri Lanka on November 16. Considering that this is the first major election in Sri Lanka following the ‘regime change’ in … Continue reading “Expectant hush in Delhi as Sri Lanka chooses president”

Europe’s gas alliance with Russia is a match made in heaven

Amidst the excitement over the killing of the ISIS chief Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, a development of much impact on international security passed by when Denmark made the innocuous announcement on October 30 that it would permit the proposed Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline to pass through its exclusive economic zone.  Copenhagen modestly explained that it … Continue reading “Europe’s gas alliance with Russia is a match made in heaven”

US intensifies geopolitical struggle over Syria

General Kenneth F. McKenzie, commander of the United States Central Command (R) called on Kurdish commander General Mazloum Kobani at unspecified location in Northern Syria in July 2019. File photo No one would have thought that out of the US president Donald Trump’s decision three weeks ago to withdraw all American troops from Syria, a … Continue reading “US intensifies geopolitical struggle over Syria”

Passage to the door opening to Kashmir Valley

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with a delegation of  European Parliament MPs, New Delhi,  October 28, 2019. The government’s initiative to sponsor the visit to J&K by a 28-member delegation of the members of the European Parliament (MEPs) is a belated step in the right direction. It is a modest step, likely tentative and probably intended … Continue reading “Passage to the door opening to Kashmir Valley”

Kashmir: Bipartisan consensus in US is in meltdown

For an Indian who ever had anything to do with the making or implementation of India’s Kashmir policy, listening to the 2-hour long Congressional hearing in Washington, DC, on October 22 would have been a scandalous experience.  There has never been such scathing criticism of our Kashmir policies in the recent decades voiced so openly … Continue reading “Kashmir: Bipartisan consensus in US is in meltdown”

Trump seeks grand bargain with Erdogan

The morning after a summit meeting often holds surprises. Turkey lost no time to follow up on President Recep Erdogan’s hugely successful but “difficult” talks with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Sochi on Tuesday.  On Wednesday itself, Ankara formally conveyed to Washington Erdogan’s decision that the Turkish military is stopping combat and is ending … Continue reading “Trump seeks grand bargain with Erdogan”

Deconstructing Putin-Erdogan MOU on Syria; this is how it looks.

Turkish President Recep Erdogan (L) and Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) held talks in Sochi, Russia, on October 22, 2019  The talks between the presidents of Russia and Turkey — Vladimir Putin and Recep Erdogan — at Sochi on October 22 relating to the Syrian question lasted close to seven hours and reportedly involved “difficult” … Continue reading “Deconstructing Putin-Erdogan MOU on Syria; this is how it looks.”

US stokes the fires of Turkish revanchism

Turkish President Recep Erdogan (C-L) and US Vice President Mike Pence (C-R) met in Ankara on Oct. 17, 2019 The extraordinary US overture to Turkey regarding northern Syria resulted in a joint statement on Thursday, whose ramifications can be rated only in the fulness of time, as several intersecting tracks are running.   The US … Continue reading “US stokes the fires of Turkish revanchism”

It’s curtains for US in Syria. Russia, Iran owe big thanks to Erdogan

Turkey’s Operation Peace Spring in Northern Syria has reportedly advanced to a 1000 square kilometers area. The scenario agreed on behind the curtains through months of confidential exchanges, often one-on-one, between the Russian and Turkish leaders regarding north-eastern Syria is entering a critical phase with the agreement between the Kurds and the Assad regime.  We … Continue reading “It’s curtains for US in Syria. Russia, Iran owe big thanks to Erdogan”