Archive for February, 2012

Rajesh Rajagopalan: New Delhi’s refusal to take cognizance of the fast changing situation in Iran leading to a ‘no-win strategic situation’

Can India sustain Iran policy?

Rajesh Rajagopalan
17 February 2012

As the situation in the West Asia careens towards war between Israel, US and Iran, India finds itself in perilous policy waters again. New Delhi’s refusal to take cognizance of the fast changing situation in the region, its return to an increasingly ideological foreign policy template coupled with a tendency for strategic procrastination is leading it into a no-win strategic situation.

Iran’s nuclear advances are reaching a stage where something has to give. A prominent essay published recently in the New York Times by the Israeli journalist Ronen Bergman suggested that Israeli leaders are coming close to a decision on attacking the Iranian nuclear programme. Indeed Bergman concluded after his interviews with Israeli decision-makers that Israel would strike Iran this year. Of course, as Bergman himself admitted in a subsequent interview, some of this might be strategic posturing by the Israeli leadership to put pressure on the US, but it is also true that Israel is increasingly feeling the pressure to act. Once Iran crosses the nuclear ‘capability’ threshold, it does not matter whether it actually builds nuclear weapons. And the favourite parlour games in capitals from Washington to New Delhi about whether Iran has the international legal right to walk up to the edge of the cliff is going to matter little because Israel’s worry is an existential one, and much more important to Israel than abstract points of law.

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Turmoil in Syria: Chinese and Russian views

Last week, China and Russia vetoed a UN Security Council resolution calling for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down. In this post, we examine Chinese and Russian views on the Syrian crisis.


Commentary in China was generally critical of the West and supportive of China’s UN veto on Syria as a stance consistent with its approach to international issues.

A number of Chinese state-run news outlets criticized the West for intervening in Syria’s internal affairs, adding that the rejection of the UN resolution reflects the will of Moscow and Beijing to counter Western influence.

  • At present, Syria has become “a game by and between great powers…that seek to set the template for resolving the crisis of a sovereign state,” declared the People’s Daily.
  • Xinhua editor Lu Hui argued that, “Behind the excuse of ‘for democracy and liberty of the Middle East,’ the real motive of the Western countries is to change the political landscape of the whole Middle East area for their own benefit.” He outlines two benefits the West hopes to gain via Syria:


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Indian and U.S. experts exchange mixed views on India as a global power

India’s foreign policy has become increasingly contested in domestic Indian politics, calling into question some of the assumptions and expectations that American policymakers may have about the future of US-India relations. This divergence in opinion was highlighted at the “India as a Global Power: Contending Views from India” conference, which took place on January 23, 2012 and was co-sponsored by the Sigur Center for Asian Studies and the Center for a New American Security.

Assessing India’s Threat Environment
The conference’s Indian speakers disagreed on a wide range of issues, one of which was the question of India’s threat environment. Bharat Karnad, Professor at the Center for Policy Research in New Delhi, identified China’s military build-up and proliferation activities as the top threats to Indian security. Former Indian Foreign Secretary Lalit Mansingh also expressed grave concern over China’s naval presence in the Indian Ocean, though he did not consider it an imminent threat.

In contrast, Mani Shankar Aiyar, Member of the Indian Parliament, was more optimistic that India could forge cooperative solutions with China on issues of common interest, such as freedom of the seas. He instead argued that Pakistan remains the most prominent threat to India. T.N. Ninan, Chairman and Chief Editor of the Business Standard, while concurring on both the Chinese and Pakistani threats, emphasized economic development as India’s top priority and said energy security and international pressure to act on climate change could hinder India’s growth trajectory.

Whether or not India could or should become a global power appeared to frame the debate on threats to national security. (more…)

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