Archive for May, 2012

The NATO Summit and Afghanistan’s Future: Comments from Russia, India and China

Last week, leaders of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization met in Chicago to discuss the future of NATO’s role in Afghanistan. This post highlights commentary on this topic from the Russian, Indian and Chinese press.

RUSSIA

Commentary in Russia generally called for greater Russian integration into NATO structures, while encouraging continued dialogue on NATO’s European missile shield plans.

  • The state-run Itar-Tass news agency took an optimistic view of Russia-NATO relations in a review of the 15 year partnership, praising the continued growth of “mutual understanding and openness” between Russia and NATO.

On Afghanistan however, Russian views were highly critical. Several commentaries called for an increased role for the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) in Afghanistan. The CSTO, headquartered in Moscow, is a military alliance made up of seven former Soviet republics: Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

  • “Another NATO Summit, trying to find solutions for a destabilized Afghanistan,” lamented  Pravda “Why is Afghanistan destabilized? Because NATO destabilized it…the more NATO rears its demonic head, the greater the need for an enlarged and effective CSTO.” 

INDIA

The main theme in Indian commentary was Pakistan’s role in hindering NATO efforts to stabilize Afghanistan:

  • C. Raja Mohan argued that ” the US should play hardball” with the Pakistani army, and outlined four possible ways the US might “confront [Pakistan’s] double-game in Afghanistan.” Expressing a great-power realist viewpoint, Mohan said that the US, despite its weakening position in Afghanistan, still has enough levers to compel Pakistan to stop supporting the Taliban.

Another concern was India’s relationship with NATO. An op-ed in the Indian Express lamented the absence of any structured engagement between India and NATO:

  • “Given that the [NATO] alliance was built on principles and values that its members ostensibly share with India, there are no reasons why India’s defense establishment should not be considering similar opportunities for interaction. India is certainly not interested in a formal partnership, but shared interests and realms of activity…lend themselves, at the very least, to an agenda for consultations and dialogue.”

CHINA

The officially-sanctioned press cast NATO as   increasingly marginalized but also overly aggressive in recent military ventures. The People’s Daily argued that NATO “should not maintain its unsustainable life by exaggerating others’ military threats.” A commentary published by Xinhua pointed to various post-Cold War NATO missions and said that “NATO warmongering has triggered many disputes in the international community and even within the alliance itself.”

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Blind Chinese Activist Chen Guangcheng’s Case: Views from China and India

Earlier this month, Washington was riveted by the escape of blind Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng to the US Embassy in Beijing and the intense US-China negotiations that ensued. In this Policy Alert, we highlight how the Chinese press has covered and commented on these events, and note some contrasting reactions from India.

CHINA

Significant coverage and commentary in the officially sanctioned Chinese media portrayed Chen Guangchen in a very different light from Western media accounts.

On China-US relations, the China Daily echoed the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s stance that the US had violated international law and should apologize, but also cast Chen as a “one-man show” who was “just a distraction.”Regarding the concurrent Strategic Dialogue with the US, editorials stressed the problem of strategic mistrust between the two nations:

INDIA

Indian coverage of Chen Chuangchen drew mostly from Western news agencies and media organizations such as the New York Times, though there was some domestic commentary:

  • Sreeram Sundar Chaulia, professor at the Jindal School of International Affairs, wrote in the Times of India that “A country which spends more on internal surveillance than on its military defence, and which has the largest number of political prisoners in the world has a lot to hide…The saga of Chen Guangcheng is thus not only a prickly issue in the US-China diplomatic relations but also a mirror of the distortions and myths imposed on Chinese society under a long spell of dictatorship.”
  • An article in the Hindustan Times drew attention to  several other imprisoned dissidents in China, and noted that “as the leadership of the Communist Party of China gears up for a once-in-a-decade change of leadership this autumn, the government seems to be increasingly sensitive towards critical opinion.”
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Experts debate policy implications of Asian identities

How do Asia’s rising powers perceive their security environment and the role of theU.S. in regional politics? Have the divergent historical experiences of Asian countries shaped their identities and consequently the range of options they consider in their foreign policies? These questions were debated by an expert group of American and Asian scholars, as well as current and former government officials, at a recent Rising Powers Initiative conference held on April 16, 2012 inWashington,D.C.

Whereas Americans “have come to see security issues in predominantly military and coercive terms,” Asian countries may have a very different view, said Chas W. Freeman, former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs. In his keynote address to the conference, Ambassador Freeman pointed out thatU.S. military presence in Asia “is only one aspect of national security and influence,” and that “concepts of both power and security in and aroundEurasia are far less uni-dimensional.”

Understanding these concepts of power and security has important implications for formulating policy and for exploring the possibilities of regional cooperation. For example, said former U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Thomas Hubbard, “In Korea there are two states and what both sides continue to see as a single nation. And this has played itself out very much inKorea’s foreign policy and domestic policy over the last several years.”

Altogether, the conference examined these questions with regard to India, Japan, South Korea, China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. The agenda, speaker biographies, and audio recordings of the presentations and discussions are available here. The conference was supported by a generous grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

We welcome our readers to continue the discussion with us by posting your reactions and comments on this blog.

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Nonalignment 2.0: A Realist Critique of An Establishmentarian Perspective

By Rajesh Rajagopalan

One of the most significant problems that India has faced in its foreign policy is the lack of adequate debate about the underlying premises on which it is based. Now, for the first time ever, a group, which includes scholars as well as former officials, has attempted “to identify the basic principles that should guide India’s foreign and strategic policy” in a Report titled Nonalignment 2.0. This, by itself, is an important exercise. While the Report has garnered its share of both praise and criticism, it has also generated a significant debate around the core principles of India’s foreign policy.

The Report provides a Nehruvian/Liberal perspective on foreign policy, which is, by and large, the establishment perspective on foreign policy issues. Thus there are no great departures from what current Indian foreign policy is, though it sets out in somewhat greater detail an intellectual logic for policy. In the interest of continuing this debate, I outline a Realist critique of this perspective and its consequences for policy.

From a Realist perspective, the key problem with a Nehruvian/Liberal approach to foreign policy is that it misunderstands power and ignores the centrality of balance of power politics in interstate relations. This, in turn, leads to questionable analysis and doubtful policy prescriptions. (more…)

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North Korea’s Failed Rocket Launch Draws Reactions from Asian Powers

Earlier this month, North Korea announced with much fanfare its plans to fire a rocket into space, only to fail abysmally on the day of the launch. This post examines the domestic commentary from major Asian powers on what this says about the North Korean regime, and implications for Northeast Asian security more broadly.

SOUTH KOREA

In South Korea, officials condemned Pyongyang’s actions, while commentators speculated on whether North Korea might be more likely to conduct a new nuclear test following its rocket launch failure.

In the days following the failed launch, Seoul and Pyongyang exchanged volleys of unusually strong threats.

  • Cho Min, a senior analyst at Seoul’s state-funded Korea Institute for National Unification, stated, “The failed rocket launch has drastically undermined the North’s negotiating power with the U.S.and made it concerned over internal relaxation of its regime due to doubts over its young leader.”
  • An editorial in the Hankyoreh Sinmun added that North Korea “needs to understand that itsemotional response in no way helps the stability of its regime or the development of inter-Korean relations. We hope North and South alike exercise restraint so that the war of words does not escalate into a physical clash.”

Multiple editorials stressed the increasingly narrow set of options North Korea faces as a consequence of its actions: (more…)

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