Obama’s Iran Deal

Washington Finds another War Unaffordable

Iran has recently concluded a stunning nuclear deal with US and five other big powers much to the chagrin of Israel and Saudi Arab even as Washington hopes to fish in the troubled waters of the East China Sea where Japan and China are locked in a dispute over eight small uninhabited islands.
Even though the deal between Iran and US and other big powers is an interim accord and tough negotiations will now go on over the next six months to give it the shape of an agreement, it has come as a welcome breather for Iran and it has also signalled the fact that the that the US could not possibly afford another war and that the people in advanced capitalist countries would not brook war-mongering while the global recession was busy eating jobs and eroding wages. After Syria, the Iran deal signals another moral victory for the international anti-war campaign. India must now revive the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline project and stop serving US foreign policy goals in Asia.

While welcoming American retreat on Syria and Iran – Obama seems to have rediscovered the merits of diplomacy to settle international disputes – we must ask Washington not to try and fish in the troubled waters of East China Sea. The stand-off between Japan and China over the eight small uninhabited islands, known as the Senkaku in Japan and the Diaoyu in China, is a bilateral dispute that China and Japan should settle peacefully between themselves and the US has no business to meddle. Or is Washington’s going ‘slow and soft’ on Syria and Iran meant only to allow it to pay ‘greater attention’ to its currently number one foreign policy objective of ‘containment of China’?

Political Violence and State Repression in Bangladesh

More than 100 people have died in police firing and political violence in Bangladesh in the week since the death sentence against Jamaat-e-Islami leader Abdul Quader Mollah was carried out. Mollah had been convicted by a war crimes tribunal for war crimes committed during Bangladesh’s 1971 war of independence. Predictably, violent protests followed, with police firing in its wake.

The victims have included ordinary people - bus drivers, schoolchildren, bystanders. An observer (Maher Sattar, Al Jazeera) writes: “While outside fortress Dhaka – with 15,000 officers deployed almost daily – the real bloodshed is taking place, and people are seeing neighbours, friends, relatives die. Political activists are allegedly cutting up rivals from opposition parties, and there are rumours of security forces raiding the homes of activists and shooting them down.”

Anu Muhammad, Professor of Economics, Jahangirnagar University, Dhaka, writes, “We need to note that, no other country carries unfinished tasks like trial of war criminals even after 42 years of liberation war. No other country has experience of upside down equations of major parties with the party of leading war criminals in different phases. In Bangladesh, patronization by military regimes, and alliance making by both the Awami League (AL) and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), strengthened the social and political base of the war criminals and their party Jamaat-e-Islami.”

Under intense US pressure, feuding Awami League and Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) opened talks on 11 December to resolve their differences over Bangladesh’s upcoming general election but so far nothing has come out of it.

India too is continuing with the old carrot-and-stick policy towards its Western neighbour. A peaceful resolution of the political crisis and a free and fair election in Bangladesh (which is due on January 5, though still shrouded in uncertainty) is desirable. But that can be achieved only through free dialogue among political forces in the country and certainly not through interference by the global superpower and the regional big brother.

Commonwealth Summit in Colombo

The Commonwealth summit held in Colombo, quite understandably, generated tremendous mass opposition in Tamil Nadu against India’s participation. Sections of democratic opinion elsewhere in the country also wanted New Delhi to stay away from the Colombo summit to press for a credible international probe into the war crimes committed by the Sri Lankan state. The UPA government chose an opportunist middle path of sending the external affairs minister to Colombo while the Prime Minister stayed away. The message that got conveyed was that India had to respect the overwhelming sentiment of Indian Tamils and not that there must be a probe into war crimes coupled with effective post-war rehabilitation of Sri Lankan Tamils.

The issue of war crimes however overshadowed and dominated the Colombo summit, and ironically it was the British Prime Minister David Cameron whose proposal for military intervention in Syria was defeated in the House of Commons and whose predecessors were notoriously complicit in war crimes perpetrated in Iraq and Afghanistan by US and its allies, who emerged as the champion of the campaign against war-crimes with his widely publicised visit to Jaffna and interaction with war survivors.

The Indian policy response to war crimes in Sri Lanka remains muted and constrained, partly because of the legacy of extreme fluctuations in Indian position vis-a-vis the Sri Lankan Tamil question and partly because of India’s own shocking human rights record in Kashmir and North-East.