Correcting a tilt

Correcting a tilt

Saudi Arabia cannot be blind to the fact that rampaging sectarianism can, in the long run, consume the Kingdom.

Given the circumstances, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia could not have arranged for a higher level representation at the Non Aligned Summit in Teheran.

His son, deputy foreign minister, Prince Abdulaziz bin Abdullah, attended instead of the King who, according to the royal court in Riyadh, is out of the country for medical treatment.

King Abdullah has already had major back surgeries in 2010 and 2011.
Crown prince Salman bin Abdulaziz, who took over after crown prince Naef’s death in June, is himself ailing, as is foreign minister Saud bin Faisal.

Abdulaziz’s meeting with president Mahmud Ahmedinejad on the margins of the summit, presumably followed up on the understanding his father, King Abdullah, built with the high powered Iranian delegation led by Ahmedinejad to the August 14 Mecca summit.

It was clearly not lost on the Indian delegation, led by prime minister Manmohan Singh that some careless drafting at Mecca was not on evidence in Teheran. The Mecca communiqué has a paragraph: Solidarity with other member states. It says “the summit reaffirms its solidarity and full support for Sudan, Somalia, Afghanistan and Jammu and Kashmir etc...” the Indian spokesman, Saiyid Akbaruddin was sharp in his rebuttal: There is an erroneous and factually incorrect mention about an integral part of India by the OIC...This is wrong, unacceptable and we reject it.”

In its drafting, the OIC is a careless outfit. Postures struck decades ago are sometimes left uncorrected in documents. The Jammu and Kashmir gaffe at Mecca could be one such instance.

The real danger, of course, has its sources in the way New Delhi adjusted to recent history. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, New Delhi developed an amnesia about the esteem in which it was held in all major West Asian capitals continuously since the days of Nehru.

A narrow-focus policy centred on Gulf remittances and oil was devised which bent New Delhi in one direction like the tower of Pisa. The GCC, Saudi Arabia, Israel and above all, the US, were all crucial but who said these relations would wither should India emerge in any profile on matters of moment if they were even remotely contentious? New Delhi’s acquiescence in western unilateralism, the west’s blaring amplification on the ‘right to protect,’ funnelling arms and money to help the opposition in Syria and so on.

The world was largely silent when India was being plagued by cross border terrorism in Kashmir since 1989. Shocking that we almost helped refine cross border terrorism in Syria by our topsy turvy UN votes.

Navigational corrections

Frankly, it seemed that Non Alignment Movement in its earlier incarnation was our only outreach to the Muslim world. End of history having been written by Francis Fukiyama (some nerve) we had to make navigational corrections. But we did not merely change; we scrambled. It was an unseemly scramble too.

Prescient thinkers like Zbigniew Brzezinski had written exactly a decade before Lehman Brothers: “In the long run, global politics is bound to become increasingly uncongenial to the concentration of hegemonic power in the hands of a single state.

Hence, America is not only the first, as well as the only, truly global superpower, but it is also likely to be the very last...Economic power is also likely to become more dispersed. In the years to come, no single power is likely to reach the level of 30 per cent or so of the world’s GDP that America sustained throughout much of this century, not to speak of the 50 per cent at which it crested 1945.”

Given the rapidly shifting backdrop from the Berlin wall to what Joseph Stiglitz calls the ‘West in Freefall,’ Manmohan Singh could not have found a better platform than at the NAM to steady himself, straighten the leaning tower. After all, the time he came on the global scene in 1990, more prominently in 2004, non alignment lay in the dust bin.

Some Indian intellectuals, not without official nudge, put together a document in January 2012: Non Alignment: 2.0. It was something of a debut for the prime minister at a NAM summit which, he said in his speech, represents a “large majority” of mankind and which will be “a powerful force for the promotion of global peace”. He was direct, and no dilly dallying as at UN votes: “We should urge all parties in Syria to recommit themselves to resolving the crisis peacefully through a Syria led inclusive political process.”

Since he is primarily more a man of consensus than of aggressive assertion, I believe his delegation must have collected inputs from important capitals like Riyadh before handing him the speech. My guess is that Riyadh is thawing towards Teheran. Saudis cannot be blind to the fact that rampaging sectarianism can in the long run, consume the Kingdom itself even as the right wing in Israel slaps its thighs and laughs its head off.

I am not for a moment suggesting that Syria will be allowed to lose its macabre, telegenic appeal until the presidential elections in the US are over. Switch off the cameras on Syria, and the great Afghan army, trained by the Americans will be shown turning viciously upon the trainers.

These very trainers have been promised by their president that they will return home by 2013-14. The new Green-on-Blue twist will become riveting fare, more gripping than any that the opposition can devise to embarrass the incumbent in search of a second term.