Friday, January 16, 2009

Geopolitical Insights from "The Economic Times" (today's print edition)!

The following analysis is from the January 16, 2009 print edition of The Economic Times (Bennett,Coleman & Co Ltd.).

On Page 02 you see the report titled "Pranab will settle for Pak trial now". Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee is now willing to accept a transparent trial in Pakistan for those who have committed crimes against India, viz. the perpetrators of the Mumbai terror attacks. What Pranab Mukherjee actually said, and he is quoted in the paper is: "Indian fugitives should face Indian justice. Others who have committed crimes against India should also be extradited. But if for some reason that is not possible, then there should be a transparent trial in Pakistan." The author correctly sees this as very different from the earlier Government of India demand that the terrorists should be "handed over to us to face trial".

On Page 19, there is a small block titled "Pakistan might opt out of IPI gas pipeline project". 'An unnamed Petroleum Ministry official' (in Islamabad) has told the Economic Times journalist that with Iran seeking an exorbitant $10 to $11 per mmBtu of gas from Pakistan, Pakistani authorities might recommend to their Parliament to abandon the proposed $7.4 billion tripartite Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline project.

India has been uninterested in having any agreement with Iran over this proposed project for quite some time now. Remember that the earlier Petroleum Minister of India, Mani Shankar Aiyar stepped down from his portfolio and Murli Deora became the new Petroleum Minister precisely because the Government of India was not interested in having either a petroleum pipeline, or a petroleum gas pipeline built from Iran through Pakistan to India. Mr. Mani Shankar Aiyar was a career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service who was posted in the Middle East for a long time.He later won election to the Parliament and was an aggressive proponent of the Iran-Pakistan-India oil pipeline project. The United States plan is to have a new pipeline built southwards from the Caspian Sea through Afghanistan to an Arabian Sea port in Pakistan.

The report today that Pakistan hasn't yet finalized their decision on the project, but that they now might not go for it, is therefore representative of some kind of a shift on this issue.

The two reports are obviously linked. The United States Department of State, behind the scenes, is brokering a deal here. The deal is simple. Pakistan shouldn't co-operate with Iran. They should go for the US-backed pipeline project instead. Then the Department of State friends in India won't go after the Zardari regime to extradite their henchmen, who conducted the Mumbai terror attacks.

This post should also indicate to you good methods to use while reading the financial press. It's important to separate facts from interpretations made by the authors. It's even more important to acquire a contextual awareness, either by reading over time, or by reading related materials when you come across something new. You're advised to cultivate the ability to link various reported developments (that you consider as facts) and understand the evolution of the unfolding themes. It's a very good habit to check data from different sources to be sure that what you think are facts are supported by various commentators.

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