Archive for June, 2013

RPI Author Rajesh Rajagopalan on India-US Strategic Priorities


U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry meets with Indian External Affairs Minister Khurshid before the U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue in New Delhi, India on June 24, 2013 (Source: State Department)

Rajesh Rajagopalan, a participant in the RPI’s Nuclear Debates in Asia and Worldviews of Aspiring Powers projects and professor in International Politics at Jawaharlal Nehru University, recently wrote an op-ed for The Economic Times. He argues that the United States and India must void “talking past each other” in their Strategic Dialogue and better understand what should be the centerpiece of their partnership:

Whatever adjectives are being used to describe the state of India-US ties – as Secretary of State John Kerry comes visiting – it is clear that the relationship is not where it should be or where it was expected to be. New Delhi has to share a significant part of the blame because in the years after the India-US nuclear deal, it has seemed much more uncertain about what it wants from the relationship and much more skeptical about its benefits.

These opinions are now being echoed in Washington. As the US withdraws from Afghanistan next year and the national election campaign kicks off in India, the prospects for any immediate improvement are dimming. It is time both sides returned to what is truly strategic in their relationship. (more…)

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POLICY ALERT- Disclosures on U.S. Surveillance Prompt Reactions from Asian Powers

snowdenEarlier this month, The Guardian UK reported on classified U.S. intelligence gathering operations that collected information on phone records and other internet user data around the globe. Edward Snowden, a former contractor working for CIA, revealed himself as the source of these reports, provoking a diverse set of reactions within the U.S. and international press. In this Policy Alert, we examine commentary from China, India, and Russia on these disclosures.


While China’s foreign ministry declined to comment directly on Snowden’s case due to diplomatic sensitivities, Chinese media outlets expressed a range of views on the story.

Some praised Snowden as a whistleblower exposing the ‘hypocrisy’ in U.S. criticism of China’s cyberspace activities:

  • Xinhua columnist Xu Peixi called PRISM – one of the NSA internet surveillance tools – thebleakest moment yet in the history of the Internet.” Xu added that Snowden “offers us a rare chance to reexamine the integrity of American politicians and the management of American-dominant Internet companies” such as Google, which provided the NSA with data on its users.
  • The Chinese military’s official newspaper, the People’s Liberation Army Daily, termed PRISM“frightening” since it refuses to accept the privacy of non-U.S. citizens. The editorial added that”U.S. intelligence agencies are habitual offenders with regards to network monitoring andespionage.” Global Times also pushed its leaders to “explicitly demand a reasonable explanation from the U.S. government” on its monitoring operations against China. The editorial declared that “China is a rising power, and it deserves corresponding respect from the U.S.”

Several stressed that these reports may hamper efforts to improve Sino-U.S. relations:

  • In Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post, Wang Xiangwei wrote that a top foreign policy adviser to the Chinese leadership hinted “Beijing would handle the Snowden case discreetly and had no interest in turning the event into a political case.”
  • Global Times argued that “diplomatically, Snowden has cast a shadow over the new Sino-US relationship right after the Xi-Obama meeting. The sooner the incident is wrapped up, the better the ties between the two countries will be.”

Others defended the surveillance operations as appropriate intelligence gathering tools:

  • In a letter to the South China Morning Post, Oren Tatcher and Sheung Wan contended that PRISM is a “perfectly legitimate program of self-defense” and that critics “don’t seem to understand” the “nature of electronic intelligence gathering.”
  • China Daily opined that President Obama should work to “convince the American people as well as global Internet users that the spying is a must and helps in a direct way to safeguard public safety from clear and present dangers.”

Finally, several debated the appropriate course of action for dealing with Snowden:

  •  “The optimal solution” would be for China to “provide necessary assistance for Snowden to go to a third country,” wrote Wang Xiangwei.
  • Xu Peixi argued that “China, despite the fact that it does not have a good reputation as far as Internet governance is concerned, should move boldly and grant Snowden asylum.” Global Times conceded that “China’s growing power is attracting people to seek asylum in China. This is unavoidable and should be used to accumulate moral standing.” (more…)
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Iranian Foreign Policy After the Election: Realists and Islamic Idealists Face Off

A supporter of Iranian presidential candidate Saeed Jalili holds his picture after a rally in Tehran June 12, 2013. (Yalda Moayeri / Courtesy Reuters)

A supporter of Iranian presidential candidate Saeed Jalili holds his picture after a rally in Tehran June 12, 2013. (Yalda Moayeri / Courtesy Reuters)

In today’s Foreign Affairs, RPI authors Farideh Farhi and Saideh Lotfian analyze Iranian foreign policy after the election using the schools of thought outlined in the RPI’s Worldviews of Aspiring Powers edited volume:

“As Iranians head to the polls today, much of the world is focused on the country’s domestic politics, particularly given the unrest that followed the last presidential election. A question that has gotten less attention is how the choice of president will impact the country’s foreign policy. But in Iran, like in other countries, domestic politics play a big role in foreign policy. The election has exposed the choices available to decision-makers and the political limits they face.

As we wrote in Worldviews of Aspiring Powers, two basic tensions underpin almost all the foreign policy perspectives in Iran. The first tension is between Iran’s outright rejection of the current international order and its desire to improve its own position within that order. The second tension is between the country’s sense of importance as a regional and global player and its impulse to emphasize Iran’s insecurities and strategic loneliness. The one guiding principle of Iranian foreign policy that is in no way up for debate is nationalism, specifically an emphasis on national sovereignty in the face of global arrogance.

These three broad forces shape the boundaries beyond which political players cannot step if they wish to remain relevant. Those seeking improved relations or accommodation with the global order, for example, need to walk a fine line between being seen as promoting the national interest and falling prey to sazesh (collusion). Meanwhile, those advocating resistance to the West and self-sufficiency have to be mindful of the country’s official desire to be the region’s technological and economic leader. And, one way or another, everyone must package their positions in a wrapper of nationalism.

In short, there is near consensus on the broad objectives of Iranian foreign policy: enhance Iran’s role in the Middle East and maintain the country’s Islamic identity despite the adversity of global powers. Where there is room for debate is over the scope of Iran’s foreign policy and the means through which it might achieve these objectives. It would be a mistake to reduce these discussions to a contest between hard-liners and ideologues on the one hand, and those who want accommodation with the West on the other.”

Read the full article here.

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Nuclear Recount: New Report on Asia’s Nuclear Stockpiles

sipri-2013Several nuclear armed countries in Asia have expanded their arsenal over the past year according to a new report. China, India, and Pakistan added 10 to 20 nuclear weapons to their stockpiles and made qualitative improvements to their delivery systems. Last week, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) – an international security think tank based in Sweden – published their latest SIPRI Yearbook, a helpful and comprehensive reference guide on global armaments.

Data from SIPRI Yearbook, 2010-2013. Estimates from January of year listed.

Data from SIPRI Yearbook, 2010-2013. Estimates from January of year listed.


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