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The Day Afghanistan Changed Forever

Hamidullah Bamik

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The ongoing war in Afghanistan began 18 years ago by the United States and NATO, and apparently, the September 11 was one of the main reasons for the US attack on Afghanistan. This war began with the aim of the fall of the Taliban regime and the elimination of al-Qaeda’s bases in Afghanistan. Although the US and NATO forces defeated the Taliban in the early days, the Taliban’s defeat in 2001 was temporary and the Taliban began its war operations in different parts of the country soon. Now, it has become stronger than the early of days of the twenty-first century over the past 17 years. Insecurity has spread from the south to the northern regions of the country, and now much of the territory of Afghanistan is outside the control of the government.

During the Jihad against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, thousands of Arab fighters fought alongside the Afghans against the Soviet Union, and subsequently, they were sheltered by the Mujahidin under the leadership of Mr. Rabbani, the second president of the Islamic State of Afghanistan after the fall of Democratic Republic of Afghanistan regimes. Then, when the Taliban dominated more than 90 percent of Afghanistan’s territory, including al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, a number of Arabs who had been living in Afghanistan since 1996, supported the Taliban groups in Afghanistan.

With the occurrence of September 11, 2001, that members of the al-Qaeda network were accused of taking part in the incident, the United States attacked Afghanistan and began a bloody war in the country after the fall of the Taliban regime. Osama bin Laden was in Afghanistan, and President George W. Bush announced on September 20, 2001, his stance against the Taliban government as following:

I.All al-Qaeda leaders should be handed over to the United States;

II.All foreign prisoners in the Taliban’s custody should be released and submitted to the United States;

III.All the terrorist training camps should be closed in Afghanistan;

IV.And the Taliban regime should allow the United States to have full access to Al-Qaeda camps for inspection.

The Taliban government stated through its embassy in Pakistan that the United States has not yet provided any evidence of Osama bin Laden’s involvement in the September 11 attacks. According to Taliban ambassador Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeif in Islamabad, the Taliban government made great efforts to verify the incident, but the United States did not retreat from the decision to invade Afghanistan. According to him, the September 11 attacks were not accidental, but the United States had already planned military presence in Afghanistan in order to secure its long-term interests in the region. The Taliban three times offered Osama bin Laden’s trial to the US government for the September 11 events, rejected by the United States every three times.

On October 07, 2001, the US air strikes began, and on October 31, the United Nation’s Forces joined Kabul with the help of US air strikes, and the Taliban regime was overthrown. On November 25, the Bonn Conference on Afghanistan was held, and within 10 days, it established a temporary administration headed by Hamid Karzai. These successive accidents occurred rapidly that surprised everyone in Afghanistan. People were dancing and singing on the streets and roads celebrating the defeat of the Taliban and welcoming the United Nation Forces led by the US. But unfortunately, the positive changes and bestowed joys were temporary. By elapsing year, the situation of Afghanistan was getting worse than the previous year. Afghans were encountering challenges and problems that were rare in their nature and severity. This paper aims to analyze the events after the overthrow of the Taliban regime that changed the feature and situation of Afghanistan forever.

The Challenges that Afghanistan Rarely Experienced Prior to 11/9 Attacks

Roaming of regional and international terrorist groups into Afghanistan: After the fall of the Taliban’s regime in Nov. 2001, the number of terrorist groups increased in Afghanistan. It is said that there are 21 terrorist groups fighting with the Afghan Armed Forces and international forces stationed in Afghanistan. These groups include Tehreek-e-Taliban Afghanistan and the Haqqani Network, Jamaat al-Dawa al-Quran, ISIL, al-Qaeda, al-Qaeda in southern Asia, al-Mujahideen party, Taliban militant, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, Islamic Movement Movement, Movement Al-Jihad Bangladesh, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Jash Mohammad, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Tariq Guider’s group, Jamaat-e-Alahar, Jondallah, Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, Islamic Movement of Turkmenistan, Islamic Jihad and Qods Force.

Climbing of poverty and unemployment: Afghanistan is one of the poorest countries in the world and is widely supported by the foreign countries, even though the country’s economic growth is said to be about 2.6 percent by the end of the year. According to a new survey issued in Afghanistan in comparison to a decade ago, poverty increased by 21%.According to the source, the poverty line has risen from 38% in 1391 to 54% in 1395. The level of poverty is growing in Afghanistan simultaneously with an infusion of billions of dollars by foreign countries into Afghanistan. The United States Agency for the Reconstruction of Afghanistan (SIGAR) articulates that the United States contributed to Afghanistan from 2002 to January 30, 2013, was about $ 1.4 billion more than the Marshall Plan budget for the reconstruction of 16 Western European countries after World War II.

Heavy human loss: studies and issued reports echo that the number of foreign military victims in Afghanistan since the start of the war in 2001 to 2018, in total, 3,546 foreign troops have been killed from 30 countries in Afghanistan, with 2408 from the United States, 455 from the UK, and 158 from Canada, had the highest casualties in war against the Taliban in Afghanistan. After the attack on al-Qaeda on September 11, 2001, the US-led coalition invaded Afghanistan on October 7th and overthrew the Taliban regime, but the war has continued so far, during which time Afghan security forces and civilians also suffered heavy casualties. As per the reports by the foreign independent researchers, since the fall of Taliban’s regime up to now, around 13,000 Afghan armed forces, including local police have been killed in the war against the insurgents.

According to a Brown University research report from the United States, the Afghan conflict since 2001, when the Taliban regime collapsed by US-led forces, has left nearly 100,000 dead and injured. The study, titled “War Expenditures,” conducted by the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University in the United States, addresses the casualties associated with war and displacement in Afghanistan and Pakistan from 2001 to 2014. The findings show that 26,270 Afghan civilians lost their lives as a direct consequence of the war and wounded 29,900 ones. The total death toll reported in this report includes civilian casualties, Taliban and other insurgent groups, US and coalition forces, as well as welfare workers and journalists.

Unprecedented natural resource losses: Afghanistan’s mineral resources, estimated at between $ 1 trillion and $ 3 trillion, have been an attractive potential for a long time. But the same mineral resources also fueled war and armed conflicts in Afghanistan. In a country like Afghanistan where formerly widespread corruption, an active insurgency, and scarcity of infrastructure and institutions have crippled it, mineral resources represent another potential source of instability. Millions of dollars go through pockets of armed groups, insurgents and armed forces through the extraction of illegal mines, while Afghan people benefit from only a small portion of the wealth generated from these projects. The Afghan government benefits little from its natural mines. It is estimated that there are currently about 1,400 illegal mine extractions in Afghanistan. According to the Global Witness report, 2016, “Military earnings of warlords and Taliban from a small Badakhshan region are equal to the total income of the Afghan Government’s natural resources sector.”In 2014, armed groups from two districts of the Diodara mine in Karan and the Manjan in Badakhshan province earned about $ 20 million. Illegal extraction of mines only undermines the impact of the Afghan security forces and the legitimacy of the state, but also it is a major obstacle to the development of the economy, including the mining industry.

Increasing violence against women: Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission’s statistics echo that violence against women has increased in recent years. For example, Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission’s 2017 annual report shows that violence against women in Afghanistan has increased by 8.6%.The report states that 5575 cases of violence have been registered in 2017. This figure was 5132 in 2016.It projects a huge increase in violence against women over the past years. Of the total recorded violence, more than 1,500 cases of physical violence, more than 360 cases of sexual violence, more than 1,800 verbal and psychological violence, more than 1,100 cases of economic violence and remaining violence have been reported in response to behaviors that are traditionally (social traditions) are disgraceful. In the reported physical violence section, more than 1,200 cases of beatings, 10 incidents, 57 injuries, 45 forced labor and 234 deaths were included. The Independent Human Rights Commission says that the statistics do not show the full reality due to the extent of this problem, and many cases of violence against women are likely to remain hidden for reasons of custom and lack of security.

Mass migration and brain drain: the number of Afghan citizens who left the country in 2014 is more than those who left the country in 2001. According to United Nations statistics, since 2002, about 5 million immigrants have returned to Afghanistan, but the trend has fallen sharply over the past two years, and in 2014, only about 10,000 people have returned to Afghanistan. While in the first eight months of 2015, more than 122,000 Afghan citizens have requested asylum from European countries. Compared to the first six months of 2014, this figure that represents around 24,000 Afghan citizens who fled Afghanistan indicate a shocking increase in migration. Now the citizens of Afghanistan are the second largest refugee group in Europe. Among those who leave Afghanistan for other countries are mostly educated persons and professionals. The withdrawal of highly educated and highly trained people from Afghanistan is one of the bitter consequences of the war in that country. For sure, the withdrawal of human resources from Afghanistan will undermine its human resources. Many Afghan experts consider the deterioration of the security situation, the recession and the loss of labor opportunities and corruption in various organizations of the country as the main source of people’s frustration for the future.

Escalation of addicted persons and narcotics trade: in Afghanistan, drug addiction has become one of the most important health and social crises in recent years, and it can be said that due to the large volume of poppy production, on the one hand, the consequences of three decades of conflict, unemployment, and the weakness of strategic health programs, on the other hand, has heightened this dilemma its shadow every day. A recent study by the International Department of Counter Narcotics and the Law Enforcement of the US Department of State in cooperation with Afghan Ministries of Public Health and Counter Narcotics project that 11 percent of the Afghan population uses drugs. More surprisingly, according to some surveys, 12 to 41 percent of police forces are addicted to cannabis (New York Times, 2011). Similarly, in recent years, there has been an increase in drug use, and in particular, the use of drug injection throughout Afghanistan (Ted et al., 2009).This is due to the increase in the availability of and increased opium production in Afghanistan (UNODC, 2012), due to poor social and economic opportunities (Ted et al., 2009), the return of addicted migrants to Afghanistan (Hankins et al., 2002). The number of drug addicts in Afghanistan reached 920,000 in Afghanistan in 2005, according to Afghan Minister of Health 2005 report. The figure reached more than a million in 2009 and reached three million in 2014 that demonstrate a shocking increase.

Weak sovereignty despite granted billions of dollars by foreign countries: the US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction 2016 report demonstrates that the United States since 2001 up to now had contributed $ 59.8 billion to equip, reinforce and train the armed forces of Afghanistan (40.2 billion to the army and 19.6 billion to the police) excluding 2017 and 2018 and other international donors’ contributions. The report adds that the Afghan government is controlling just over 61 percent of the country’s land, which has 68.5 percent of the country’s population (22 million out of 32.1 million). However, according to the report, 28.4 percent of the country’s land, which is home to 22.7 percent of the population (7.3 million), is in conflict and more than 10 percent of the rest of the country’s land is home to two million and eight thousand people (8.7% of the population) are under the control of insurgents.

Conclusion

Some analysts believe that the reappearance of al-Qaeda, Taliban control over parts of Afghanistan and the emergence of ISIL in the country indicate that Afghanistan is on the downside in its security. Moreover, the national and international critics’ voice regarding Afghanistan’s reconstruction process after 2001 is rampant and gets more widespread every day. They are criticizing the mismanagement of reconstruction works, spending international aids, prevailing financial and administrative corruption, lack of fairness and transparency in political process such as election and so on. What is disputed is the magnitude and quality of the changes that have taken place in Afghanistan over the past years. Some analysts believe the changes that Afghanistan underwent could be more fundamental and constructive if the Afghan government’s leaders have had serious determination in rebuilding the infrastructures of Afghanistan after the fall of Taliban regime in Nov. 2001. However, still, there is time until the end of the presence of foreign troops by 2024 to change the situation in Afghanistan.

Hamidullah Bamik is a Fulbright Scholar, education policy analyst, and a social development researcher. His research focus is on girl’s education and women empowerment, gender equality, good governance, and socio-economic development in South Asia but particularly Afghanistan. He has worked with World Bank Capacity Building Projectsat Supreme Audit Office of Afghanistan from 2013 to 2018 as a capacity building consultant. Currently, he is working as a social development researcher at Asia Culture House, a non-profit cultural and art organization based in Kabul, Afghanistan. Additionally, he is a frequent contributor on sociopolitical, socioeconomic, and social developmentissuesto Outlook and Etilaatroz, the two leading Newspapers in Afghanistan, and Modern Diplomacy, a leading European opinion-maker with far-reaching influence across the Middle East, Africa, and Asia.

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Kashmir Issue at the UNGA and the Nuclear Discourse

Haris Bilal Malik

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The Kashmir issue has more significance in view of the nuclearization of South Asia as many security experts around the world consider Kashmir a potential ‘nuclear flashpoint’ between India and Pakistan. The revocation of the special constitutional status of Kashmir by the BJP government on August 5, 2019, also referred to as Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization Act 2019 and the subsequent lockdown in Kashmir has since considerably increased political and diplomatic tensions between India and Pakistan. India’s recent moves and actions in Kashmir have once again internationalized the Kashmir dispute. This was evident during the UN General Assembly’s 74th Session, where the Kashmir issue remained a crucial agenda item for several countries.

During this year’s session prominent leaders of the world condemned Indian brutalities in Kashmir. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan criticized the international community for failing to pay attention to the Kashmir conflict and called for dialogue to end this dispute. Malaysian Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohamad said that Kashmir “has been invaded and occupied” by India despite the UN resolution on the issue. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi also discussed the issue and called for a peaceful resolution of the dispute based on the UN Charter and Security Council resolutions. Based on the grave importance of Kashmir as a potential ‘nuclear flashpoint’ between India and Pakistan, Prime Minister Imran Khan, while addressing the UNGA warned the world community about the dangers of a nuclear war that according to him might break out over Kashmir due to Indian atrocities. The current situation appears to be the most critical time for both the countries and the region as both countries are nuclear-armed.

However, unfortunately, the Indian leaders and media perceived Prime Minister Imran Khan’s warning as a nuclear threat and termed it as ‘brinkmanship’. Contrary to this perspective, it is worth mentioning here that the Indian leadership itself is involved in negative nuclear signaling and war hysteria against Pakistan in recent months. For instance, the 2019 Indian General Election campaign of Prime Minister Modi was largely based on negative nuclear signaling comprising of several threats referring to the possible use of nuclear weapons against Pakistan. Furthermore, as an apparent shift from India’s ‘No First Use’ (NFU) policy, on August 16, 2019Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, while on a visit to the Pokhran nuclear test site paid tribute to the late former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and asserted that India might review its NFU policy. He stated that a change in future circumstances would likely define the status of India’s NFU policy. Since then there is no official denial of this assertion from India which indicates that India might abandon its NFU policy.

Moreover, India’s offensive missile development programs and its growing nuclear arsenal which include; hypersonic missiles, ballistic missile defence systems, enhanced space capabilities for intelligence, reconnaissance, and surveillance and the induction of nuclear-powered ballistic-missile-capable submarines clearly indicate that India’s nuclear weapons modernization is aimed at continuously enhancing its deterrence framework including its second-strike capabilities vis-à-vis Pakistan. This is also evident from India’s military preparations under its more recent doctrines such as the 2017 Joint Doctrine of the Indian Armed Forces (JDIAF) and the 2018 Land Warfare Doctrine (LWD)which are also based upon more proactive offensive strategies and indirect threats of pre-emptive strikes against Pakistan.

As evident from the above-mentioned developments, it seems likely that India aspires to increasingly project itself as a regional hegemon and a potential superpower. The BJP government under Prime Minister Modi inspired by the Hindutva ideology is taking offensive measures under the notions of ‘a more Muscular or Modern India’ based on strong military preparedness. In such circumstances, Pakistan’s threat perception would likely remain increasingly inclined towards its eastern border. Pakistan due to its economic constraints would also likely face considerable difficulties in competing with India toe to toe with respect to its military modernization plans. Pakistan is already punching well above its weight, and nuclear deterrence would be the only way through which Pakistan can maintain a precise balance of power to preserve its security. This could only be carried out by deterring India with the employment of both minimum credible deterrence and full-spectrum deterrence capabilities. This posture clearly asserts that since Pakistan’s nuclear weapons are for defensive purposes in principle, they are aimed at deterring India from any and all kinds of aggression.

Hence, at the present India’s forceful annexation of occupied Kashmir and the resultant nuclear discourse at the UNGA has further intensified Pakistan-India tensions. Under present circumstances, the situation could easily trigger another politico-military escalation between India and Pakistan. Prime Minister Modi has bet his political reputation on his move to annex the region and his political career is on the line. The same way Pakistan’s politico-military establishment is equally unlikely back down from its stance on Kashmir. It would be difficult for both countries to come down from the escalation ladder because politico-military reputations would be at stake at both ends. Consequently, Pakistan might be forced to take action before India’s modernization plans get ahead and might respond even sooner.

The nuclear discourse in Prime Minister Imran Khan’s speech against the backdrop of the Kashmir crisis at such a high forum like UNGA would likely keep the issue internationalized. The situation demands the UN fulfill its responsibility of ensuring peace and to prevent billions of people from the dangers of a nuclear war. However, Indian blame game, aggressive behavior and offensive nuclear signaling against Pakistan all present a clear warning of nuclear war. It would greatly limit the prospects for international mediation especially by the United Nations whose resolutions on Kashmir clearly provide a right of self-determination to decide Kashmir’s future.  

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1.2 trillion rupees on the move: Modi’s greatest piece of purchase yet

Sisir Devkota

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Last week, the RBI (Reserve Bank of India) was taken aback by more than a surprise. Just when it was dealing with the uncomfortable series of events that led to the transfer of surplus 1.2 trillion rupees into the government of India; social media erupted. It quickly realized that losing the battle regarding the transfer would only add fuel to the hoax of closing down nine commercial banks. RBI enjoys considerable amount of autonomy and independence in the largest democracy, and still, it had to kneel down to Modi’s alleged quick fix.

The RBI would have to vouch for the government in times of need, it is primarily what is expected of the institution; but there was a great deal of discomfort in how the government justified it. A committee set up under the ex-governor, Mr Bimal Jalan, cited how central banks would not need so much of surplus to carry out their affairs. Effectively, it was an order, not a request, which became the underlying discomfort behind RBI’s hesitancy in adhering to the views of capital transfer committee. Not that anyone expected the central lender to protest longer, it did however, request Mr Jalan to reconsider the decision at the face of various consequences. To say the least, it was embarrassing for a premier financial institution to be put under the public eye. The social media hoax was another ridicule of the sickly RBI. In the tales of grand conquests, the victorious army steals the wealth from the losing party. Similarly, the BJP led government in India are redefining all forms of state tools in favour of their interests.

Stolen wealth is most often than not used to correct economic blunders. Just like in the tales of grand conquests, the decision to transfer national wealth from the reserve bank is nothing new. It is nevertheless baffling, that the money transfer is looping in the same direction. While the BJP government in India were imposing a comprehensive GST (Goods and Service Tax) policy, they would not have anticipated complaints from large industries over decreased consumer consumption. For a party that is now known to redefine the legitimacy of governance, falling prey to NBFC’s (Non-bank Financial Companies) incompetence or bankruptcy is a visible defeat. Unlike many other soaring economies, there are large group of subsidiary lenders operating in India. On hindsight, economic policies are barely creating tunnels through which the capital is getting recycled in the same loop. Revenues are not generating further revenues. It is merely closing down on its self-inflicted gap.

The Security and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) almost played with fire. Uncharacteristically, it proposed a framework to work together with the RBI in order to claim outstanding defaults from high value clients. The RBI was never going to agree with a defaming offer as such but the incident did fuel the argument of capital shuffling. It only makes the bluff look more real. A strategic plan to counter all measures that would have blocked the transfer of trillions. As Mr Jalan sheepishly implied how the importance of central bank and what is does is only limited to the public perception, RBI fought a fix in between larger or rather dangerous political agendas. Consolidating requests from SEBI to only fall into the whims of the government shows the lack lustre personality of the central funding institution. For the time being, Narendra Modi has his way, a theft of national treasure-like his opposition colleague Rajiv Gandhi expressed in the media. However, there will also be a far-fetched evaluation of Modi’s actions. A move of 1.2 trillion rupees in the same pot. Not by any means, a cunning cover up.

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Walking the tight rope: India’s Diplomatic Strategy in the Middle East

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India’s diplomatic corps have been resolutely articulating India’s stances and furthering its interests in the international fora where multiple challenges emanating from historical and contemporary contexts are being faced. One important factor which India’s astute foreign policy makers have faced is the complicated and crucial engagement with the Middle East. There are multiple facets to India’s engagement in the contemporary context that add to this complexity. One, India’s old adversary and neighbor Pakistan has upped the ante in its diplomatic blitzkrieg especially within the Muslim world. Second India’s has varied strategic interests in the warring Middle East factions. Third, the economic interdependencies and the crisis in the international trade in the Trump era has further complicated India’s position as an economic actor in the region. While there are various constituent elements of India’s Middle East outreach, the contemporaneous concerns relate more to its relationship with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Islamic Republic of Iran and the Republic of Turkey.

India and Saudi Arabia have historically engaged in deep and multi-dimensional political, economic, cultural, defence and strategic cooperation. Saudi Arabia has long been an important Indian trade partner; the Kingdom remains a vital source of energy for India, which imports almost a fifth of its crude oil requirement from Saudi Arabia. Enhanced security cooperation has added a new dimension in the bilateral ties between New Delhi and Riyadh. Recently, Indian PM Narendra Modi was conferred with the highest civilian award of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia even as the top leadership continues to send signals of deep comradarie and solidarity.

With the ascent of the crown prince Mohammad Bin Salman, various layers in this important diplomatic relationship have surfaced. This has happened in a particularly peculiar geopolitical and geostrategic context where both countries have faced tough challenges to their internal stability and international position. While Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is still emerging from the consequences of the massive attack in its oil fields as well as the widespread criticism of humanitarian crisis in Yemen at the international fora, India is grappling with international criticism and discourse about the situation in Kashmir in context of dilution of its political autonomy as well as prolonged information and communication blackout.KSA has had a mediating role in the Indo-Pak tussle since Pulwama and how this hyphenation has led to competitive photo-ops of diplomatic support. Even as KSA has stood by Indian leadership’s vital interests. However, the Pakistani leadership has been relentless in its attempts to appeal to the leader of the Islamic world for vital economic and diplomatic support, especially in context of the Kashmir situation. Even as Saudi Arabia has managed this delicate equation with deftness, it has given in to Pakistan’s economic demands while making a symbolic gesture of closeness by offering the private jet to Pakistani Prime Minister for his visit to the West.  It doesn’t help that the Indian economy is going through a rough phase. However, the audacious announcement to invest $100 Billion in the fledgling Indian economy is a bold testament of the veritable and vibrant economic partnership between New Delhi and Riyadh. It is pertinent to note that in the contemporaneous challenges that the countries face, Iran as well as Pakistan emerge as key actors that affect the bilateral engagement in a pronounced manner.

Iran is India’s historic ally and third largest supplier of crude oil. However, the India-Iran relationship transcends oil. India, with an investment of $500 million, aims to develop Iran’s Chabahar port as a transit hub for Afghanistan, Central Asia, and the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC). Additionally, India is developing two gas fields, namely Farzad-B gas field located in Tehran and the South Pars field located between Iran and Qatar. These projects clearly highlight India’s long-term engagement with Iran. However, India’s muted response to US pressure has been causing slight tension in the bilateral relationship. Even though the top-level bilateral meeting between Indian premier Modi and his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani was successful to diffuse tensions to an extent. The crisis in Yemen, oil trade and even India’s action in Kashmir continue to affect the relationship.

In this context, the challenges emanating from Turkey are also a sign of worry. Even as Turkey has remained an old ally of Pakistan and a supporter of the ‘Kashmiri’ cause, its open support for a rather lonely Pakistan should cause some worry in India’s strategic circles. This is because India has fine diplomatic relations with Turkey and has considerable economic and trade interests.

However, oil being an important consumer and agricultural good in India’s economy, it is important to secure its interests to have access to reliable and affordable Iranian crude oil. The trade negotiations and engagements with the US haven’t had any headway even as the threat of sanctions for buying oil from Iran continues. India could emerge as a trouble-solver in this context especially since this KSA-Iran conflict in oil supply context has global implications. PM Modi’s personal chemistry with the US leadership could be useful in this context.

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