Archive for February, 2015

RPI Author Rajesh Rajagopalan: The Aam Aadmi Party and Indian Politics: Winners and Losers

indiaelectionThe Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP) spectacular victory in the New Delhi state elections is a continuation of the churning in Indian politics.  It presents a warning for both the main national political parties but particularly to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which won equally spectacularly in the national elections last summer and in a series of state elections subsequently.  The AAP’s prospects beyond New Delhi are still unclear and its path is likely to be difficult, especially because this will depend at least partly on its performance in Delhi.  The AAP represents both the future and the past of Indian politics: it is responding to a politically weak but growing and restive middle class that has not yet found a political party home, while its ideology, especially on economic policy, represents a failed past.

The AAPs victory is not record-setting in the Indian political context, but it is close: its 67/70 seats result has been bested only twice, both times in Sikkim.  In 1989, the Sikkim Sangram Party won all 32 seats in the Sikkim state legislature, a feat repeated twenty years later in 2009 by the Sikkim Democratic Front.  But nonetheless, considering the importance of New Delhi, the fierceness of the campaign in which Prime Minister Modi himself took part, and the BJP’s performance in the recent national elections (when it won all seven seats from Delhi), the result was a clear defeat for the BJP. (more…)

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Policy Alert: Rising Powers Debate Ukraine Ceasefire Deal

ukraineAfter sixteen-hours of diplomatic talks in Minsk last week, leaders from Russia, Ukraine, France, and Germany reached a ceasefire agreement, which German Chancellor Angela Merkel described as a “glimmer of hope” for the longstandng military conflict in Eastern Ukraine. Although the ceasefire came into effect on Sunday, there have already been reports of fire by pro-Russian rebels in some towns. In this Policy Alert, we examine commentary from Russia, China, Japan, and India on the ceasefire agreement and the future of the Ukraine crisis.

RUSSIA

Russians took a cautious wait-and-see approach to the ceasefire, with some pondering the casefire’s implications for the global and regional order. (more…)

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Policy Brief: Return of Defensive Realists in Tehran

Nationalism has greatly shaped debates in Iran on what role the country should assume in the Middle East and in the world. How have these debates evolved under President Hassan Rouhani’s administration over the past two years? How do they differ from the debates that occurred during Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s presidency? These questions were addressed by Farideh Farhi, Affiliate Graduate of Faculty, University of Hawaii at Manoa at a Rising Powers Initiative conference on “Worldviews of Aspiring Powers: A Resurgence of Nationalism?” held this winter at GWU. The conference reconvened authors to update their findings in the book Worldviews of Aspiring Powers: Domestic Foreign Policy Debates in China, India, Iran, Japan, and Russia (Oxford University Press, 2012).

Undercurrents in Iranian Politics

The 1979 revolution weighs heavily in influencing Iran’s foreign policy debates and nationalism. Regardless of leadership change, several undercurrents remain constant in Iranian politics. The first undercurrent is the fear of external manipulation of domestic cleavages to undermine the theocratic regime. Though Iran was never colonized, it has been subject to external powers’ intervention in internal affairs. The second undercurrent shaping Iranian politics, particularly post-revolution, is Iran’s sense of loneliness and isolation. Despite its regional power status, Iran does not possess strategic allies. This is important particularly in the Middle East, where every country is very clear on where it stands. This loneliness has led to a sense of insecurity for Iran in a region where conflict is rife. Efforts by superpowers to contain Iran constitute another undercurrent in Iran. While Iran has attempted to engage in the global economy as an oil exporter, the United States and other Western powers have prevented Iran from integrating into the global economy and partake in the institutions governing it, largely due to fear of Iran’s rise as an aspiring power in the region and its nuclear power status. These factors contribute to and shape Iranian nationalism which in turn shapes Iranian foreign policy debates. (more…)

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RPI Author Deepa Ollapally: “Modi’s Worldview Is Not Easy to Read”

Ollapally Photo 2014Last month, President Barack Obama traveled to India—becoming the first president to have visited the country twice while in office—and held a summit with Prime Minister Narendra Modi to discuss a number of issues, from much awaited progress on India’s nuclear liability law, to the strengthening of defense ties involving technology trade, to U.S. $4-billion investment in Indian businesses, to counterterrorism and climate change cooperation, along with an expansive strategic vision for the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean region. Does this summit mark a breakthrough in the Indo-US relations, moving past incremental progress to transformational progress? If so, does the credit go to Modi’s leadership role in making sure that India’s entrenched bureaucracy fall in place? Or, is much of the success still hype without tangible outcomes? In an interview with India Abroad, Deepa Ollapally, Research Professor of International Affairs and the Associate Director of the Sigur Center for Asian Studies at the Elliott School of International Affairs, George Washington University, offered her views on the recent Indo-US summit:

I would characterize President Obama’s trip to India as more than transactional but much less than transformational. The optics were certainly grandiose, from the unprecedented scene of Obama sitting still in one place for over two hours of pomp and pageantry, to Prime Minister Modi pouring tea for Obama under a shamiana on the lawns of Hyderabad House. Of course the show itself holds some extra importance because I think it does demonstrate in no uncertain terms Modi’s own commitment to strong Indo-US ties going forward. Modi’s worldview is not easy to read and this gives us another marker of his thinking. (more…)

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Deepa Ollapally’s Op Ed on Modi’s Worldview–One Country at a Time

nmodiRPI author Deepa Ollapally discusses Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s worldview in the wake of U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit to India. This op-ed originally appeared in the Indian Express.

In the wake of US President Barack Obama’s visit to India, there has been no dearth of pronouncements about Narendra Modi, with the prime minister variously described as a problem-solver, a strategic thinker, a public relations master. Behind these appellations, however, lies a deeper question: what is Modi’s worldview? The series of high-profile summits with the Japanese, Chinese and American leaders in fairly rapid succession, and now Modi’s proposed visit to China in May, give us a better idea of his foreign policy worldview — one country at a time. Even the optics of these meetings is giving us markers of Modi’s thinking.

Modi’s own worldview has not been easy to read — his postures and policies have not gone according to the hard nationalist script that many expected, given his base. For hard nationalists, their main foreign policy goal would be to make India a global military power. Economic strength is important, but secondary; power is paramount, and diplomacy is just a weak appendage to power.

Modi, however, started off with a bold diplomatic gesture of issuing an unprecedented invitation to neighbouring leaders for his inauguration. Since then, whether it is pouring tea under a shamiyana for the American president, sitting and chatting on a traditional Indian swing in Ahmedabad with the Chinese president, or strolling the grounds of the famous Toji Buddhist Temple in Kyoto with the Japanese prime minister, it is hard to miss the diplomatic disarming. (more…)

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Policy Alert: President Obama’s Trip to India Prompts Reactions from Rising Powers

policyalert_93_ObamaIndiaTrip_thumbnailU.S. President Barack Obama’s three-day trip to India last week concluded with a lengthy, 59-paragraph-long joint statement containing agreements on a variety of issues, from much awaited progress on India’s nuclear liability law, to the strengthening of defense ties involving technology trade, to U.S. $4-billion investment in Indian businesses, to counterterrorism and climate change cooperation, along with an expansive strategic vision for the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean region. In this Policy Alert, we examine commentary from India, China, and Japan on the recent summit between President Obama and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

INDIA

Indian newspapers and critics welcomed President Obama’s visit as a “new chapter” in U.S.-India relations. (more…)

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