By Mohammad Mazhari

U.S. role in West Asia has never been constructive: Indian professor

December 23, 2020 - 11:59

TEHRAN – An Indian academic says that Washington has never played a “constructive” role in the West Asia region.

“The U.S. role in the Middle East (West Asia) has never been constructive,” Ashok Swain tells the Tehran Times. 

Swain, a professor of peace and conflict research at the Department of Peace and Conflict Research from Uppsala University, believes that Washington has just been seeking its own interests in the region.

“Its interest has never been for the Middle East (West Asia)’s security and development, but for its own security and development,” the professor notes.

America lacked a coherent foreign policy in the last four years under Trump. There was no continuity, no vision, and even no plan. While some observers argue that the U.S. will repair its bad reputation under the incoming Biden presidency, others say that the United States has created havoc in the region to undercut the increasingly close alliance between China, Russia, and Iran in order to counter China's growing influence.

The Indian professor says, “It will be not only difficult but in many cases impossible for the Biden administrations to bring back the mask of a fair adjudicator, which the USA had been wearing for decades.”

The following is the text of the interview with Ashok Swain:

Q: How do you assess the status of China in global economy? How could China achieve such a status?

A: China continues to be the main engine of world economic growth for the last three decades and it has already replaced the USA as the global economic leader. China’s economic position looks likely to be further strengthened due to the Covid-19 crisis as it has come out much faster from it while the USA and Europe are still struggling with it.  

Trump’s decision in May 2018 to withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), better known as the Iran nuclear deal, was an extremely foolish decision, which not only pushed Iran to strengthened its relations with China, it also antagonized American allies which had economic relations with Iran. China’s rapid growth was possible due to a combination of various factors: A young, healthy and educated workforce, a state with strong institutions that managed internal stability and did not engage in external conflicts, the country’s joining the World Trade Organization in 2001, adopting trade liberalization policies, and receiving massive foreign investment in the domestic economy. 

Q: The last four years have been one of the most tumultuous periods in modern China-U.S. relations. Was it just because of Trump’s impulsiveness or a new shift in American strategy?

A: America lacked a coherent foreign policy in the last four years under Trump. There was no continuity, no vision, and even no plan. Trump adopted unilateral transactional approach vis-à-vis China resulting in regular flip-flops. In the last year of Trump’s presidency, while he became more confrontational with China, Xi’s China adopted an assertive and equally confrontational attitude as well. This has resulted in seriously deteriorating China-USA relations, and even public discourse in the USA towards China has become extremely bitter and suspicious. It will not be easy for the Biden administration to undo the damages which Trump has inflicted on China-U.S. relations.

Q: Do you think China can replace the U.S. in regions like West Asia? Does China have political and economic capacities to act as a key player in the region?
 
A: The USA has old and strong allies in the Middle East (West Asia). It still enjoys stronger political-military power in the region. However, Trump’s decision in May 2018 to withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), better known as the Iran nuclear deal, was an extremely foolish decision, which not only pushed Iran to strengthened its relations with China, it also antagonized American allies which had economic relations with Iran. This has resulted in China and Iran considering being in a 25-year strategic pact, covering comprehensive economic and military cooperation. However, the willingness of the Biden administration to revive the JCPOA is a welcome development, and that can potentially help to maintain the dominant position of the USA in the Middle East (West Asia) for some time.  

Q: How do you assess the U.S. role in the region? What is your analysis of the dialogue between the Trump administration and the Taliban?

A: Unfortunately, the U.S. role in the Middle East (West Asia) has never been constructive. Its interest has never been for the Middle East’s security and development, but for its own security and development. The Trump administration has completely exposed the destabilizing American policy in the region as it took several unilateral decisions, ignoring the history, ideology, and even concerns of its own allies.

It will be not only difficult but in many cases impossible for the Biden administrations to bring back the mask of a fair adjudicator, which the USA had been wearing for decades.Trump’s negotiations with the Taliban are like his negotiations with North Korea are now a big

It will be not only difficult but in many cases impossible for the Biden administrations to bring back the mask of a fair adjudicator, which the USA had been wearing for decades. unknown and the time will tell how the new administration will move it forward. Whatever it is that there is no doubt that the Taliban has become more powerful and has received legitimacy, thanks to Trump’s policies.  

Q: What is the role of Pakistan and India in the region amid the U.S.–China competition?

A: India and Pakistan had been trying to maintain a fine balance while dealing with the USA and China for many years. Gradually, Pakistan has become much closer to China though, at the same time, it has still maintained a working friendship with the USA as they both need each other in Afghanistan. On the other hand, with the increasing border hostility with China, particularly since May 2020, India has been left with no option but to openly ally with the USA. Due to the ongoing China-U.S. competition, the relation between India and Pakistan has not only become worse, but there is also an open alliance between China and Pakistan against India.    

Q: Do you think countries like India, Pakistan, and Iran can form a regional coalition?

A: Yes, that should be the priority at this time. India, Pakistan, and Iran need political stability and economic growth as their growing population needs better human security. They need to cooperate and work together rather than being a party to this emerging great power rivalry between China and the USA.

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