Contrary to public perception Sushma Swaraj was not trolled for her role in the passport row. The real reason was something else. She was targeted for her opposition to US sanctions on India for not dumping Iranian oil.
In the later days of June this year Union minister Sushma Swaraj was trolled viciously on social media and otherwise regarding an inter-faith couple’s complaint alleging harassment by a passport official in Lucknow. The puzzling part was that the trolling came from her own party who incidentally choose to keep mum on the issue rather come to her rescue. Troubling as it is, none in the Indian media was able to see through this obvious juxtaposition, thereby reducing the issue to a merely communally driven hate campaign.
Contrary to public perception Sushma Swaraj was not trolled for her role in the passport row. The real reason was something else. She was targeted for her opposition to US sanctions on India for not dumping Iranian oil. When the United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley was specifically sent to rein in Swaraj, defying US pressure she retorted that, “We do not make our foreign policy under pressure from other countries. We believe in UN sanctions but not in US sanctions.”
Maybe Swaraj didn’t realize she was playing with fire. Nonetheless from the American perspective, she had to be nudged. But then, why should this nudging come from the Indian administration? It is common knowledge by now that these trolls are the administration’s pet army or ‘digital yoddhas’ if you may. But then, why were trolls from the establishment unleashed against one of their own for protecting India’s interests? If this troll army was unleashed by the establishment, what does it say about India’s foreign policy? Regardless of who trolled Swaraj, if any of the office bearer or minister is trolled and targeted in such a manner thereby trying to influence the working of the ministry, shouldn’t there have been an official inquiry into the matter? More so when that official belongs to the Foreign Ministry?
Now the flip-side to this question is even more scary. If the troll army was not unleashed by the administration as they say, then who controls Indian trolls? Have the administration lost control over their own trolls or are they being controlled from somewhere else by someone else? Are the troll armies created by Facebook’s secret unit Facebook Global Government and Politics Team in various nations including India also being utilized for influencing Indian foreign policy?
Even as US imposes sanctions on Iran, the first container ship of India destined for Afghanistan from Indian port of Kandla is berthed at Iranian southeastern port of Chabahar. But there is more than meets the eye and Sushma Swaraj is right in the crossfire. “At some point demands for policy change become regime change. US policy toward Iran is at this point. This is 21st century siege. What will matter most is the degree to which India and others are willing to buy Iranian oil and risk U.S. wrath and sanctions”, explains Richard Haas, President of the Council on Foreign Relations.
Now amidst this crossfire the Iranian President visited India with an amazing (long-standing) offer – buy Iranian oil in Rupees instead of Dollars! It was amusing to see how none in the Indian mainstream media nor the guardians of Indian interests deemed this crucial piece of information newsworthy. Allow us to explain gravity of this Iranian offer.
In 1973, a deal was struck between Saudi Arabia and the United States in which every barrel of oil purchased from the Saudis would be denominated in US dollars. Under this new arrangement, any country that sought to purchase oil from Saudi Arabia would be required to first exchange their own national currency for US dollars. In exchange for Saudi Arabia’s willingness to denominate their oil sales exclusively in US dollars, the United States offered weapons and protection of their oil fields from neighboring nations.
As India’s dollar deposits are needed mostly to pay for petrol our deposits are Petrodollar deposits. If we shift payment to Rupee or Gold like how China did then INR/USD slide will automatically go making Rupee stronger against the dollar. Infact, the Reserve Bank of India had talked about this plan years ago but its powers were reduced and transferred to Finance Ministry. Meanwhile Iraq, Libya were invaded after they demanded Euros or Gold for their sale of oil. Venezuela and Iran were designated terrorist countries as they started own Oil Bourse. At this juncture as well, Iran was ready to accept INR for its oil. But then President of Venezuela Hugo Chavez was assassinated.
Ironically when the US itself is dependent on OPEC, Americans started lobbying India to dump Iranian oil for US oil. Sure we did comply with US plan. In Oct 2017 India received its first ever 1.6 million barrels crude oil shipment from US in Odisha. And what did we get for dumping Iran for US oil? A dirty waste product fuel that US can’t get rid off!
When Americans themselves are opening doors to Russian gas supplied by a French company, how stupid of Indian policymakers to ditch Iran on US advice? And what did we get in return? A dirty waste product fuel that US can’t get rid off. Petroleum coke, banned in the NCR, is a leftover from refining Canadian tar sands crude; it releases more carbon and health-damaging sulphur than coal does. Since US oil refineries are unable to sell this dirty, fuel waste product at home, they are exporting vast quantities of it to India instead. What kind of diplomacy is this, literally choking of American waste?
Now that the American President Donald Trump has already set the countdown to November 4 for this Oil War to begin, it would be interesting to observe the response from Indian ministers. Already fearing sanctions, the State Bank of India has refused refiners to pay for Iranian oil if sanctions are imposed on India, leaving them to identify another bank that can be used to channel Iranian oil payments. Even the Shipping Corporation of India has halted voyages to Iran fearing US wrath. Nonetheless, Iran is providing its own vessels from the National Iranian Tanker Co (NITC) as well providing insurance cover enabling Indian refiners to continue purchases of its oil despite the non-availability of cover from Western insurers due to the restrictions imposed by Washington.
Sanctions are a way of weaponizing the Dollar which is already pegged to Saudi Oil. What Sushma Swaraj did was refusing to fight this Anglo-American war against Iran, Russia, China, Turkey for which she was trolled into silence. To oversee this compliance, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Michael Pompeo will be travelling to New Delhi on September 6 for a High-Level 2+2 Dialogue with Sushma Swaraj and Nirmala Sitharaman amidst falling rupee and rising oil prices to influence Indian ministers to cancel their $6 billion S-400 anti-aircraft missiles deal with Russia and stay away from Iranian oil.
Trump has set a deadline. Come November. Oil War begins. Will Sushma Swaraj nudge?
Shelley Kasli is the Co-founder and Editor at GreatGameIndia, a quarterly journal on geopolitics and international affairs. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org