It was almost as if a miraculous alignment of the stars favoured the making of deals. Not only did the USA and Iran lead the way to a resolution of the Iranian nuclear programme, but there was also an agreement on the programme that Greece had to follow to remain within the Eurozone. This came just before the first Taliban-Afghan government talks took place in Murree, which ended in an agreement to talk more. However, this tale of successful talks broke down in Ufa, where the meeting on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit of Indian and Pakistani Prime Ministers did not end in a resolution of the issues between the two countries. Only if one is to assume the resumption of talks as a success did the Ufa meeting succeed.

Both the Murree and Ufa meetings were succeeded by second thoughts and explanations. The Murree meeting was followed by Taliban chief Mullah Umar’s Eid message, which seemed designed to allay the doubts of many Taliban commanders about the talks. Though Mullah Umar chose to give a theological justification, the concern addressed is whether the talks might not be premature. Similarly, PM’s Foreign Affairs and National Security Adviser Sartaj Aziz found himself obliged to talk in more depth about the Ufa meeting, apparently to answer domestic critics, who did not say so, but were apparently angered by Mian Nawaz Sharif not having thrown Narendra Modi to the ground and then punched him in the face and stomach until Modi yelled ‘Uncle.’ However, the stumbling block remained the same: Pakistan wants the Kashmir issue resolved, India does not want it even talked about, saying that it is an internal Indian matter, not subject to bilateral discussion. It was noteworthy that the Afghan talks took place in Pakistan, but not too much must be read into it. Talks have taken place already in Qatar, Urumqi and Oslo. Apart from Urumqi, the talks have all occurred in countries with which the USA has close military ties.

The settlement of the Greek problem was not sufficient a solution, for it did not put Greece beyond any future crisis. At the same time, Spain and Italy were forewarned that they too would not be allowed to leave the euro the way Greece would have. The averting of the collapse of the euro did not just affect Greece, or even Europe, but the whole world, because the euro is a global reserve currency. The failure of the Syriza government to avert the reform measures, will have serious implications for it, and it is possible to see the proto-fascist New Dawn party making progress in future, as it exploits the misery that will continue to be visited on the Greek people by the troika of the European Central Bank, the European Parliament and the IMF in the name of austerity measures. It also seems uncertain how the deal will affect Turkey, whose application for EU membership, and of the euro, is pending. Greece has a hostile relationship with Turkey, but has been roped into NATO along with it by the USA. The reason for this, the USA’s rivalry with the USSR, is being revived by the conflict in the Ukraine. The Greek deal also involves the whole Middle East, for not only is Turkey deeply involved in the region, but the euro looms larger in it than other currencies except the US dollar, which is not just the currency of oil but also the global trading currency.

More is expected of the nuclear deal with Iran, and it is expected that it will mean a revival of old Western ties with Iran, which have been off since the fall of the Shah in 1978. It comes after the USA has been fought to a standstill in two attempts to topple the regime that replaced him. The Iran-Iraq War failed, and so did the recent protests. However, though the regime remains in place, it has apparently led to the election of a President who was willing to do a deal. It is instructive that the main opponents of the deal are Saudi Arabia and Israel (as well as the large and strong pro-Israel lobby in US Congress). Saudi Arabia is a direct competitor with Iran for influence, while Israel is already a nuclear power, and would not like to see another emerge in the region. Both are also close allies of the USA. If Iran was to turn from an enemy into an ally, their positions would be threatened.

Saudi Arabia also sees that Iran has been jostling with it for influence in the region. Iran is backing not just the Houthis in Yemen, but also the Alawite Assad regime in Syria. It is often assumed that they are fellow Shia, but Iran has serious theological differences with both. Iran once had close relations with Israel, having had diplomatic relations with it in the time of the Shah; thus the nuclear deal averts Israel from attacking it. If Iraq’s example is any indication, an Israeli attack on nuclear installations is a prelude to a US attack. A logical extension of the nuclear deal would see Iran and the USA working for a Mid-East settlement that would keep Assad in power while preserving Israeli influence. While the agreement should lead to Pakistan resuming its gas pipeline project from Iran, the way is now also opened for a revival of the original project, in which India was included. Iranian gas has become all the more important for Pakistan because it has to replace the dwindling supplies of indigenous Sui gas, as well as power the thermal generation vital to an energy-starved economy.

However, this gasline requires Pakistan and India to resolve their differences. Pakistan may well agree to a resumption of talks, but so long as India keeps trying to keep Kashmir from being discussed, those talks will not bear the fruit they are supposed to, of Indo-Pak amity. The conventional wisdom was that it required the BJP to be in power in India and the PML-N in Pakistan for peace to be made, but the problem was that this happened in 1998-2000, and the only result was the 1998 nuclear explosions. There has been an Indian rapprochement to the USA, though it has made it a zero-sum game involving Pakistan. That has meant that Pakistani policymakers, who had long been so committed to the US relationship should realize that their state would always come second for the USA.

Another complicating factor in the Pak-India equation is China. Iranian gas is important to it, because it needs it, via Pakistan, to develop Xinjiang, which is both restive and central to the New Silk Road. At the same time, the USA would not like Chinese development. US-China and Indo-China settlements need not precede a Kashmir solution, but they will have to accompany it if it is to take place at all. Therefore, it seems almost as if the one agreement that has not occurred, between India and Pakistan, is the one which is the cornerstone in ensuring that the others have meaning.