25 May 2015

Pushing the envelope in foreign policy

SRINATH RAGHAVAN
May 25, 2015

PTI“Mr. Modi has been exceptionally clear in articulating India’s interests and trying to leverage the relationship with the U.S. and China.” Picture shows the Prime Minister at the G20 Summit in Brisbane, Australia, in 2014.

Narendra Modi’s foreign policy has been continuous with that of his predecessors but he has also sought to push the boundaries of certain engagements much further.

Foreign policy is all about securing permanent interests. As such, it may be best judged in the long run. Nevertheless, since foreign policy has been so prominent during the government’s first year in office, an interim assessment may be useful. What are the areas of continuity and change, the successes and blind spots?

Since the early 1990s, the overarching goal of our foreign policy has been a stable and conducive external environment for India’s internal economic transformation and a larger international profile. Towards these ends, successive governments have sought simultaneously to preserve India’s key security interests and to deepen its ties with the global economy. From this standpoint, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s foreign policy has been continuous with that of his predecessors. Yet, Mr. Modi has also sought to push the boundaries of certain engagements much further. This is not just a question giving a fresh vim to foreign policy, although the vigour is palpable.

The U.S. and China

Best poised to deliver results

SUHASINI HAIDAR

Reuters“While Mr. Modi’s invitation to Mr. Sharif to his swearing-in ceremony had been hailed as a ‘masterstroke’, the strokes played since have puzzled many in both Islamabad and in New Delhi, including the government’s supporters.” Picture shows Mr. Modi and Mr. Nawaz Sharif at the opening session of the SAARC summit in Kathmandu in 2014.

Mr. Modi has been proactive and successful in foreign relations but has stalled in Pakistan. It is time he scripted a new narrative.

In the one year of his government, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s travels to five continents have been marked by one common motif: that he is on the front foot. To borrow a phrase, he has boldly gone where many PMs have not gone before, with a first visit to Mongolia, and the first stand-alone visits to Sri Lanka, Canada, Fiji, and the Seychelles in decades. The government has taken up challenges abroad and pursued them unequivocally despite the possible backlash domestically: ratifying the Land Boundary agreement with Bangladesh, pressing ahead with the nuclear deal with the U.S., the announcement of defence buys in Paris, disregarding the security establishment by offering e-visas to China, and several other steps. However, Mr. Modi’s dealings with Pakistan are the one exception to his otherwise proactive style. With Pakistan, the NDA government has appeared indecisive and risk-averse, in sharp contrast to Mr. Modi’s first bold move of inviting Mr. Sharif to his swearing-in ceremony a year ago.

One year of Modi Government: Us versus them

Written by Bruce Riedel
May 25, 2015

Modi’s year in power has seen the hardening of a bipolar alliance system in South Asia, with America and India on one side, and China and Pakistan on the other.

Modi and Obama announced a joint vision of the future. On the other screen was Pakistan’s chief of army staff, General Raheel Sharif, meeting in Beijing with Chinese leaders. They announced that their alliance was all-weather, deeper than the ocean and taller than the Himalayas.

A year after Prime Minister Narendra Modi was inaugurated, the bipolar alliance system in South Asia has hardened. While the alliance system remains completely informal, the United States and India have come closer to each other, and China and Pakistan have come much closer together. The current alliance structure has its origins in events dating back to 1962, but it has accelerated dramatically in the last year.

Peasants and professors - Neo-liberalism and the peasantry's distress

Prabhat Patnaik

When I first started teaching at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in July 1973, the starting basic salary of an associate professor was Rs 700 per month. Nowadays the starting basic salary of an associate professor in a Central university is about Rs 47,000 per month. The take-home pay, of course, is always larger than the basic salary, and there are certain benefits in kind, such as campus housing, which accrue to some. There is, however, no reason to believe that the ratio of take-home to basic salary is any lower today than it was then; in fact, if anything it is distinctly larger. Likewise, there is no reason to believe that the ratio of kind benefits to the monetary remuneration is any lower today than then; again, if anything it is larger. It would be no exaggeration to say, therefore, that the nominal income of an associate professor in a Central university now is almost 70 times what it was then.

So much to talk about

By A G Noorani
May 25, 2015

Pakistanis are exercised over the “Cold Start” doctrine. India is worried about the induction of tactical nuclear weapons by Pakistan. Does it make sense to hold seminars on such issues?

The present standoff in India-Pakistan relations is at once unreal, wasteful and dangerous. Unreal, because it has far exceeded the reasonable limits of resentment that it was supposed to express when talks between the foreign secretaries were called off last year. Wasteful, because it does not serve any national interest. On the contrary, talking points are piling up relentlessly. And it is dangerous because a long impasse can precipitate developments that neither side expects or desires.

In our times, there is growing international unease at standoffs between important countries, particularly nuclear weapons powers carrying a heavy baggage of complaints and demands, like India and Pakistan. The trend is unmistakably towards resumption of dialogue without any unrealistic expectations of an immediate détente. Standoffs are old-fashioned.

Next Door Nepal: What Nepal wants

By: Yubaraj Ghimire
May 25, 2015

What can we do for you?” is a question almost every friend that earthquake-devastated Nepal has, is asking. Nepal is not being able say “No, thank you.” It is confused about what it wants its friends and donors to do. Finance Minister Ram Sharan Mahat told foreign mission chiefs that the government is facing a cash crunch. But in the absence of a clear blueprint for reconstruction — combined with the notoriety Nepal has earned for corruption, statelessness and lack of accountability — how much donors will offer in cash is debatable.

P.K. Mishra, a senior official in the Indian PMO, visited Nepal, assuring Kathmandu that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was willing to do anything and everything, provided Nepal was clear about what it wanted India to do. Apparently aware that the Indian embassy is not very popular with the Nepalese, Modi has dispatched top aides. Mishra was the third, after NSA Ajit Doval and Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar. Within hours of Mishra’s departure without a wishlist, the Chinese made the same offer. The US, meanwhile, has increased its aid volume unilaterally.

Pushing the envelope in foreign policy

SRINATH RAGHAVAN
May 25, 2015 

Narendra Modi’s foreign policy has been continuous with that of his predecessors but he has also sought to push the boundaries of certain engagements much further.

Foreign policy is all about securing permanent interests. As such, it may be best judged in the long run. Nevertheless, since foreign policy has been so prominent during the government’s first year in office, an interim assessment may be useful. What are the areas of continuity and change, the successes and blind spots?

Since the early 1990s, the overarching goal of our foreign policy has been a stable and conducive external environment for India’s internal economic transformation and a larger international profile. Towards these ends, successive governments have sought simultaneously to preserve India’s key security interests and to deepen its ties with the global economy. From this standpoint, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s foreign policy has been continuous with that of his predecessors. Yet, Mr. Modi has also sought to push the boundaries of certain engagements much further. This is not just a question giving a fresh vim to foreign policy, although the vigour is palpable.

The challenge from China

Gurmeet Kanwal
May 25 2015 

The challenge from ChinaAt mid-day on May 15, soon after the Indian and Chinese Prime Ministers had addressed the media together and the formal part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit was over, it was best described as high on optics, low on substance. Though the joint statement issued later in the day contained some important formulations that were a departure from the past, it was the PM’s speech at Tsinghua University that afternoon that made the visit historic.

The nation had been used to Indian Prime Ministers visiting Beijing and restricting themselves to mouthing diplomatic niceties. Several of them repeated the Tibet-is-part-of-China mantra without Chinese reciprocity. For the first time an Indian PM stood on Chinese soil and boldly and clearly articulated India's core concerns and misgivings. He deserves to be lauded for his courage. It would be fair to presume that the PM would also have flagged these concerns during his one-on-one meeting with President Xi Jinping at Xian on the first day of his visit. 

Overt impact of covert acts

V. Balachandran

Hersh’s story should be a tutorial for all those in India who reacted with a high degree of exuberance after the Abbottabad raid, that the US would rap very hard Pakistan’s knuckles for giving refuge to the greatest terrorist in the world.

Immediately after Independence we had a police chief in the old Bombay state who was very fond of sports hunting. Police officers soon learnt that the best way to please him was to arrange a hunt. During one such shoot they managed to locate a tiger in a forest, which was successfully shot by him. However, his detractors spread the story that the tiger was very old and blind and was chased by the local policemen to fall into a dry well where it was ceremoniously shot by the chief.

Seymour Hersh’s sensational 10,000-word investigative report in the London Review of Books on how the US special forces had killed Osama bin Laden in May 2011, rhymes with this old Bombay police story: “While Obama did order the raid and the Seal team did carry it out, many other aspects of the administration’s account were false”. Hersh claims that Pakistan’s intelligence agencies had captured Osama in 2006 from the Hindu Kush. He was kept a prisoner with Saudi Arabian support till 2010, when they decided to use him to bargain with the United States for resuming military aid and for a “freer hand in Afghanistan”.

Review: The Tears of the Rajas: Mutiny, Money and Marriage in India 1805-1905

By Nigel Collett
May 23, 2015

An excellent new book considers some of the less salutary aspects of Britain’s history in India.

I am not sure why this should be so, but it is undeniable that the present time is providing something of an intellectual feast for those with an interest in India and its history. Writers and publishers seem to have realized at last that the sub-continent is a treasure house of unknown and exotic stories. Until now, few of these have been excavated from the archives and memoirs in which India is particularly rich, or exposed to the daylight of public consciousness.

Earlier generations of historians and biographers have tended to concentrate upon the big themes of Indian independence and its principal figures, upon accounts of conquest (and usually military glory) or upon analyses of economic exploitation and famine. For some fifty years after India’s independence, save for the older generation of colonial hands like Penderel Moon, serious British writers abandoned India as precipitately as had Britain’s colonial proconsuls. In this, perhaps, a reluctance to pick at the scabs of past colonial misbehavior joined with the prevailing popular revulsion against jingoistic imperialism to create a textual no-man’s land entered more often by novelists than historians.

Kabul’s Deepening Political Gridlock

May 22, 2015 

Nine months after its establishment, the National Unity Government of Afghanistan has not been successful in accomplishing its basic goals. 

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry sits with Afghan presidential candidates Abdullah Abdullah, left, and Ashraf Ghani, right, at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan on July 12, 2014, after he helped broker an agreement on a technical and political plan to resolve the disputed outcome of the election between them. (US Department of State

Following the establishment of the National Unity Government (NUG) under the leadership of President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, the Afghans were anticipating a genuinely better future for their country. The hopes were for social, political and economic security in a country that has been at war for more than three decades. The underlying assumption was that the NUG would be able to improve the economy, provide security and undertake serious measures against corruption that the new administration had inherited from the previous government of former president Hamid Karzai. 

What Bin Laden learned (and didn't learn) from Brookings

Brendan Orino and Jeremy Shapiro

On May 20, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released “Bin Laden’s Bookshelf,” a limited collection of documents seized by Navy Seals during the raid on Osama Bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan in May 2011. Writings by three Brookings fellows—Michael O’Hanlon, William McCants, and Paul Pillar—are among the non-classified materials retrieved.

As Bruce Riedel explains, the list offers a helpful window to understand Bin Laden. And it is quite a reading list—and bears a shocking resemblance to many a bookshelf at Brookings. Clearly, Bin Laden in hiding had a lot of time on his hands and lacked a decent cable television package. But the other than passing the time, just what was Bin Laden trying to learn? 

'This is not our city': Latest attacks bring the battle into Kabul's stately courtyards

Taran Khan

So much has changed since I first came to Kabul in the spring of 2006, living in a small guesthouse close to the target of last week's horrific attack that killed 14.

The name of Kolola Pushta, an upmarket residential area in Kabul, means "round hill". The term refers to a small peak visible on the horizon of the neighbourhood, with a fort on top. It is a pleasant sight, especially in spring when the dust of Kabul is briefly washed away by the rains, and the silhouette of the peak shimmers against a blue sky. When I first came to Kabul in the spring of 2006, I arrived at a small guesthouse in this locality. The place where I spent my first few weeks getting to know the city was close to the Park Palace Guesthouse, the target of last week'shorrific attack that killed 14. The Taliban have claimed responsibility for the attack as part of their annual “spring offensive”, a spate of fighting since April after the relative calm of the winter months. In the past three weeks, “Operation Azm” (meaning "resolve" or "determination") has unleashed five major attacks on the embattled capital.

Afghan President Being Pressured to Kill Intelligence Sharing Agreement With Pakistan

Ayaz Gul
May 21, 2015

Afghan President Under Pressure to Scrap Intel-Sharing Deal With Pakistan

Afghanistan and Pakistan’s recent ground-breaking agreement to share intelligence and resources to combat terrorism is getting a rocky reception from many people in Afghanistan. Former President Hamid Karzai, for example, is demanding that the national government in Kabul repudiate the accord, and many lawmakers in the Afghan parliament make the same point even more emphatically. Senior Afghan officials say the agreement will not be scrapped, but that discussions are underway on possible changes. The controversy has cast a shadow on President Ashraf Ghani’s goal of establishing national unity.

Former president Karzai said he has serious concerns about last week’s agreement signed by the Afghan National Directorate of Security (NDS) and Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency. Karzai is urging President Ghani to withdraw from the memorandum of understanding, on the grounds that it is against Afghanistan’s national interests.

A majority of lawmakers in the lower house of the parliament are taking a similar stand. During Wednesday’s session in Kabul they demanded that the intelligence agreement be scrapped immediately, and they summoned top officials of the NDS and Ghani’s national security adviser to appear before the House next week.

Is This Japan’s New Challenge to China’s Infrastructure Bank?

By Prashanth Parameswaran
May 23, 2015

There is more nuance to Tokyo’s approach than some of the headlines suggest. 

On May 21, Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe announced at a symposium in Tokyo that Japan would inject $110 billion to help develop high-quality Asian infrastructure.

Abe’s announcement, made during a speech at the 21st International Conference on the Future of Asia, has been widely read as a direct challenge to the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). In reality, while there is little doubt that Japan is asserting its own role in Asian infrastructure development, it is also true that the idea that Tokyo is adopting a new and adversarial, zero-sum approach is somewhat simplistic.

Japan Ups Ante On AIIB


Shinzo Abe announces a big increase in infrastructure investment in Asia. 

“Anything you can do, I can do better.”

The famous line from the Broadway musical, Annie Get Your Gun, might also describe Japan’s response to the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), after announcing plans to up the ante on the China-led bank’s planned capital of $100 billion.

On Thursday, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told an international conference that his government and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) would jointly provide $110 billion for the financing of “innovative” infrastructure in Asia over the next five years, a 30 percent increase on previous funding and exceeding the AIIB’s $100 billion.

The South China Sea Showdown: A Tragedy in the Making?

Nicholas Khoo
May 23, 2015

Satellite imagery of the South China Sea has established that over the previous twelve months, China has expanded its presence there by up to 1500 acres. The Chinese have been actively reclaiming land at the following reefs: Cuarteron, Fiery Cross, Gaven, Hughes, Subi, and the Union reefs (Johnson South and Johnson North reefs). One perspective on this activity is that it represents straightforward, aggressive Chinese expansionism, requiring a robust response. Alas, the situation is far more complex than this view suggests, and the policy response needs to take this into account. A few points merit highlighting.

First, it is not entirely clear that any international law has been violated. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia Daniel Russel recently noted that Chinese “reclamation isn’t necessarily a violation of international law, but it’s certainly violating the harmony, the fengshui of Southeast Asia, and, its certainly violating China’s claim to be a good neighbor and a benign and non-threatening power.” Russel’s point is good counsel to the Chinese to ease up. However, one struggles to think of empirical examples to buttress his point. It is exceedingly rare for states on the periphery of any great power to view their neighbor as benign and non-threatening. Certainly, claims in the 1998-2008 period that China was viewed by its Asian neighbors as benign and unthreatening are now viewed as a far from accurate analysis.

Soros sees risk of another world war

By GREGROBB

George Soros said it is “worth trying” to link the U.S. and Chinese economic spheres and reduce the risk of armed conflict.

WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) — Billionaire investor George Soros said flatly that he’s concerned about the possibility of another world war

Much depends on the health of the Chinese economy, Soros said in remarks at a Bretton Woods conference at the World Bank.

If China’s efforts to transition to a domestic-demand led economy from an export engine falter, there is a “likelihood” that China’s rulers would foster an external conflict to keep the country together and hold on to power.

“If there is conflict between China and a military ally of the United States, like Japan, then it is not an exaggeration to say that we are on the threshold of a third world war,” Soros said.

Why the U.S. Needs to Listen to China

HENRY M. PAULSON JR. AND ROBERT E. RUBIN

And why China needs to listen to the U.S. The importance of the mutual economic criticisms between two major world powers.

The relationship between the United States and China involves cooperation and competition, but recently the latter has received more attention. Much of the mistrust between the two countries has its roots in geopolitical tensions—China’s assertive behavior in the East and South China Seas, for instance, or U.S. naval surveillance off China’s coasts. But economic tensions have played a large role as well.

Discussions of the U.S.-China economic relationship too often begin with a recital of each country’s grievances against the other. The usual litany of American criticisms includes China’s management of its exchange rate, subsidies that benefit state-owned enterprises, and barriers to American companies seeking to operate in China. Another prominent critique involves Chinese cyber-hacking of U.S. businesses’ intellectual property, and China’s failure to protect intellectual property more generally.

China’s Belt and Road Strategy ignores India’s concerns

LT GEN PRAKASH KATOCH
MAY 23, 2015

In March 2015, the Chinese Embassy in New Delhi put out a document titled “Vision and Actions on Jointly Building Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road” on behalf of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Commerce of the People’s Republic of China. The document highlights the initiatives of President Xi Jinping in building the ‘Silk Road Economic Belt’ and ‘Belt and Road’, latter denoting the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road. In 2013, China had expounded the Maritime Silk Road oriented towards ASEAN, to create strategic propellers for hinterland development. So, now accelerating the building of the Belt and Road is aimed to help economic prosperity and regional economic cooperation. The Belt and Road Initiative aims to promote the connectivity of Asian, European and African continents, and their adjacent seas.