A NEW report by the Strategic Foresight Group of the Mumbai-based International Centre for Peace Initiatives draws three global scenarios that could arise in the near future, post-US military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and co-relates their impact on the price of oil.
It also explores the political and economic upheavals that are likely to follow in Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and Pakistan - `Undefined Asia' - as the report refers to the region, and the future role the US will play here.
`Shifting Sands: Instability in Undefined Asia', brought out by the economist, Mr Sandeep Waslekar, and his group maintains that the US action in the region could have long-term implications for terrorism and peace. It argues that ``the principal motive for the US engagement in the region is neither combating terrorism, nor ensuring inexpensive oil supplies... it is primarily to establish long-term strategic superiority, especially at this time when China and Russia are relatively weak.''
The report explains away the oft-held view of the US interest in cheap oil as the primary motive for aggression, by pointing out that the US depends on Saudi Arabia and other OPEC countries for less than 15 per cent of its needs. Besides, it reiterates, that there is a gradual shift from oil to natural gas in the world energy sector. Hence, though members of President Bush's team are known to have close links with the oil industry, the oil motivation is only partial.
The fallout of the US action on `Undefined Asia', according to the report, could impact several political and economic dynamics, including an internal power struggle in the Saudi Royal family, the contest between reformers and hardliners in Iran, the stability of the Karzai government in Afghanistan and the Musharraf government in Pakistan.
The five countries of `Undefined Asia', according to the report, have a male population of 50 million in the age group of 15 to 35. With a 20 per cent unemployment rate and at least 10 million of them unemployed, there is a possibility of many of them turning to religious extremism or terrorism.
The three scenarios presented in the report are titled `Where Eagles Dare', `Where Crescent Shines' and `Where People Smile'.
The first, Where Eagles Dare, is based on the assumption of a dominant US role driving change in the region. This means pro-West governments across the region by 2004 with them receiving liberal foreign aid, but low foreign direct investment.
However, religious extremism could grow in the rural areas but oil prices would remain at the current rate.
The second scenario, Where Crescent Shines, envisages the rise of radical Islamism in the region, with the establishment of Islamic leaders in all the countries. Here relations with the US will cease, terrorism will increase, foreign aid and investment will stop and oil prices will increase.
The third scenario, Where People Smile paints a picture of a separation between State and religion, introduction of political reforms in the countries, liberal foreign aid and investment, crack-down on drug trade, a pro-West engagement and stable oil prices.
The report, however, does not offer the implications each of the scenarios will have on India. But it does warn of likely terrorist attacks if scenario two prevails and likelihood of Pakistan-India tensions, even conflict, if things are not resolved.