Sundeep Waslekar (42), president of Strategic Foresight Group (SFG), is one of the few persons in Mumbai who indulges in parallel diplomacy. He travels abroad extensively, networks with like minded people to lend a helping hand to conflict resolution. In fact, the SFG is part of the International Centre for Peace Initiatives which is the oldest conflict resolution institution in South Asia. The SFG has now prepared a report titled, “Shifting Sands: Instability in Undefined Asia”, which focuses on the future of Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. For seven months, Mr. Waslekar travelled to all these countries and had over 200 interactions with policy makers in the US and elsewhere to prepare the report that will be discussed by leading experts on March 27 in Mumbai. Excerpts:
What is the basic thrust of your report?
In October 2001, soon after the US attack on Afghanistan in retaliation for 9/11, I had predicted that Iraq and a few other countries in West Asia would be targeted by the US. In this report, we are trying to investigate what the long-term consequences of the US engagement would be in this part of the world and in South Asia.
Why exactly do you think the US is targeting Iraq?
The common perception is that the US is attacking Iraq for its oil. That is not the case. Saudi Arabia meets only ten per cent of US’ oil requirements while the rest of West Asia account for another three to four per cent. The US gets the bulk of its supplies from its own resources and from Canada and Venezuela. What Washington is trying to do is establish long-term strategic superiority in the whole of West and South Asia. The oil factor will come into play only in 2010 when China will become energy deficient and then the US will be able to influence oil prices globally.
The US claims that it is attacking Iraq to get rid of its weapons of mass destruction. Is there any truth to these claims?
If the US is sincere about weapons of mass destruction then it should focus on Pakistan and South Korea. The terrorism angle also does not hold water since the US plans to check global terrorism by capturing Afghanistan has failed miserably. In fact, a new terror axis has developed with the Taliban and Al Qaida regrouping under the auspices of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) with Gulbuddin Hekmatyar as the leader.
How does the China factor come in?
US intelligence experts visualise China emerging as a major challenge to Washington in the coming years. That is why the US is trying to get strategic footholds in different parts of the world with a view to checkmate Beijing.
The US has attacked Iraq ignoring the UN and world opinion. What prevents it from emasculating India of its nuclear weapons in future?
The US looks at India as a potential ally in its plans to contain China. It may ignore India's short-term concerns about Pakistan, but overall it wants to develop a positive relationship with India. It will not put undue pressure on New Delhi to roll back its nuclear weapons programme. In fact, the US might like to have India replace France, which is not toeing the American line on Iraq, as a permanent member of the UN Security Council.
The perception is that Gen Pervez Musharraf has been more successful vis-à-vis Washington than India. Please comment. India has only been focussing on cross-border terrorism which is of limited interest to the US. We have failed to look at the long-term terrorist scenario. In the Pakistan-Saudi Arabia belt, there are at least ten million jobless young men who are potential recruits for terrorist outfits. Following the US action in Iraq, there is every possibility of terrorism raising its ugly head the world over. That should be India’s concern. The Al Qaida has joined hands with the Lashkar-e-Toiba and this will have serious implications for India’s internal security.