The United States’ decline as a superpower has begun with the war in Iraq, and the storm in the desert is a clear sign of that, said Kumar Ketkar, editor-in-chief of Marathi newspaper Loksatta.
Ketkar was one of the panellists in a discussion on the war on the occasion of the release of Strategic Foresight Group’s report ‘Shifting of Sand: Instability in Undefined Asia’ at Indian Merchants’ Chamber, Churchgate, on Thursday.
Ketkar said the US attack on Iraq was one of the most vulgar and obscene expressions of America’s show of strength. He said just as the world had seen the rise and fall of Romans, Commu-nists and the British, it would soon see the fall of the US empire.
Most panellists agreed that regime change in Iraq was a major reason why the US attacked Iraq and also concurred that the US was trying to realign the Arab world.
There was also a consensus among Indian panelists that the control over Iraqi oil was a crucial factor in the war. Air Commodore Jasjit Singh said while China and Russia has access to gas and oil in central Asia, the US doesn’t.
Dr Christopher Smith, director, South Asia Centre of London’s King’s College, said he was initially confused about the war but reached the conclusion that it was “a just war.”
This statement was sharply criticised by some in the audience, including Tushar Gandhi, Congress leader and grandson of Mahatma Gandhi. Salman Haider, former foreign secretary, also termed it as “unjust’’.
No one agreed with SFG’s view that the US-Iraq conflict could lead to a regime change in Saudi Arabia, where two factions in the royal family would come out in the open against each other.
S K Arora, convenor of the BJP’s Foreign Affairs Committee, said the US might persuade Saudi Arabia to cut down funding of madrasas as ‘‘a lot of this money is going to radical Islamists and eventually the terrorists.”
Haider and Ketkar held the view that the US was not going all out in its war against terrorism. Ketkar went on to add the US never waged any real war against terrorism. “It’s a great hype created by the western media.”
S K Lambah, former ambassador to Pakistan, Russia and special envoy to Afghanistan was also a panellist.
Krishna Bose, chairperson of Parliament’s Standing Committee on External Affairs, was chief guest on the occasion, while actress-turned-author Pooja Bedi was master of ceremonies.