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, recently wrote an op-ed for the New Indian Press on the presidential election in Afghanistan. She argues that Afghanistan’s unpredictable neighbor, Pakistan, remains a “wild card” for the new Afghan president, as Pakistani terror attacks continue to pose a threat to the country’s stability:
New Afghan president must deal with an unpredictable neighbour.
By all accounts, the much-awaited presidential election in Afghanistan was a success, at least in terms of the turnout and voting process. As we wait for official results to see whether a run-off is necessary, in the event that no single candidate receives more than 50 per cent of the votes, it is worth considering the looming question — Afghanistan’s post-election prospects. A pivotal actor in Afghanistan’s fortunes is not the Afghan voter, Taliban fighter, former warlord or even the new president. It is Afghanistan’s next-door neighbour Pakistan, which can only be characterised as a “wild card”.
It is hard to describe Pakistan as anything else when, even after 13 years of waging war together in Afghanistan, US officials and analysts on South Asia are not able to assess the Pakistan government’s “real” intentions towards Kabul after American withdrawal. Instead, they tend to offer two very divergent interpretations, an optimistic scenario and a pessimistic one, thus leaving this critical question unanswered.
Although the takers for an optimistic scenario are decreasing, it is perhaps understandable from a diplomatic viewpoint that a dire prediction is not a desirable policy option for the US: it would highlight just how little has been achieved even as it departs, and just how little can be done even if it wanted to change the equation with Pakistan. (more…)Continue Reading →
Dr. Mike Mochizuki, Identity and Power in Asia project co-director and associate dean of the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University, and Brooking’s Michael O’Hanlon recently co-wrote an op-ed in The National Interest on healing Asia’s “wounds of history.” The authors discuss nationalist tendencies by China as well as U.S. allies and suggest actions the United States and countries in Asia can take to seek reconciliation on these tensions. Mochizuki and O’Hanlon stress that the “stability of Northeast Asia in coming years could hang in the balance”:
As President Obama prepares for his trip to Asia in two weeks, tensions are remarkably high in a part of the world that was supposed to be smart enough to focus on getting rich even as the Middle East remained bogged down in conflict. Although much of the problem originates in China, American allies sometimes play a role too—including the government of Shinzo Abe in Japan. His visit to the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo are one big reason. Mr. Obama, like other American officials, will probably ask him to desist from future visits when the two heads of government meet in Tokyo. But in fact, Obama should concentrate on a more realistic agenda—asking Abe to redefine and transform the shrine, rather than stop visiting it.
The wounds of history are profound in East Asia. Simple repetition of the official Japanese apology first articulated by Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama in August 1995 will not suffice to promote historical reconciliation. And as Abe demonstrated by his visit to Yasukuni in December 2013, Japanese political leaders like their counterparts in other countries naturally feel compelled to honor their country’s war dead. The Yasukuni Shrine memorializes millions of rank-and-file Japanese soldiers who died for their country, not just the fourteen Japanese leaders who were convicted of “Class A” war crimes or who died while on trial for such crimes. (more…)Continue Reading →
Allen Carlson, Associate Professor in the Department of Government, Cornell University, discusses the implications of the Kunming Terrorist attack for China’s national identity and ethnic conflict.
In Emily T. Yeh’s excellent new book, Taming Tibet (Cornell University Press, 2013), one of her interlocutor’s darkly warned, “China will have its terrorists, its September 11” (p. 57). Unfortunately, the March 1 Kunming train station terrorist attack proved this observation to be all too prophetic as the incident is now widely viewed by many Chinese as their version of America’s 2001 experience. Even if this comparison might be considered by some to be over-blown, the fact that it has taken root within China speaks to three significant and troubling trends within the country.
First, the attack underscores the deeply fractured state of relations between the majority Han Chinese and minority populations now living within the People’s Republic of China (PRC). To be clear, not all non-Han peoples in the PRC are contesting the political status quo within the country. However, in recent years, two of the most important of such groups, the Tibetans and Uyghurs, have quite openly expressed their discontent with Chinese rule. The Tibetans took the lead on this score when violent protests erupted in Lhasa in March of 2008. In Xinjiang the Uyghurs followed suit with the July 2009 Urumqi riots. Subsequently, Tibetan areas have been rocked by a wave of self-immolations, and Xinjiang has been roiled by repeated incidents of Han-Uyghur violence. In other words, the Kunming attack placed a violent exclamation mark on a development that was already well underway.
Second, it elicited an unprecedented flood of popular condemnations within Chinese social media. This blunt commentary denounced the perpetrators of the attack, and, more broadly, disparaged the Uyghurs as violent, dangerous, threats to the Chinese nation. In this sense, the virulent online response to the attack demonstrated the extent to which some in China have grown impatient with the perceived slights the Han Chinese have suffered at the hands of the country’s minorities. On the other hand, much of the online activity also admonished Beijing for its inability to discipline such groups. This backlash reveals just how contested Beijing’s orthodox narrative of a singular Chinese national identity, one that encompasses both Han and non-Han peoples, has become, and not just by those on the country’s territorial periphery. Such an understanding of ethnic relations is the product of a burgeoning sense of pride among Chinese netizens in a narrower understanding of what the Chinese nation is (Han rather than multi-ethnic).
This shift then reveals the third main implication of the Kunming attack. In short, nationalism, when it is framed with reference to the outside world tends to bring many within China together against external foes. In contrast, when the primary antagonist to the Chinese nation is instead found within the boundaries of the PRC, in the form of Tibetan or Uyghur separatism, the situation is much more volatile (in regards to risks to the existing political status quo). First, the odds for inter-ethnic violence (rather than inter-state conflict) to escalate is all the more real and less easy for Beijing to control. Second, if the state does not do enough to protect Han Chinese in such situations, it may find itself labeled as anti-nationalist and subject to challenges to its legitimacy. Third, if it acts strongly in minority regions to quell unrest, it may only strengthen anti-Chinese sentiment there and fuel further uprisings.
As a result of these trends, China’s leaders are now between a rock and a hard place, with no easy way to satisfy either their country’s Han Chinese majority or minority nationalities. Therefore, unfortunately, it is all too likely that yet another incident of ethnic conflict will take place within the country’s borders in the future. It is sadly not a question of whether or not an incident will occur, but rather when, where, and how de-stabilizing it will be.Continue Reading →
Last week, world leaders from over 50 countries attended the third Nuclear Security Summit (NSS) in The Hague, Netherlands to discuss nuclear proliferation and nuclear terrorism while holding side meetings over the Ukraine crisis and other issues. In this Policy Alert, we examine commentary from Russia, China, India, Japan, South Korea, and Brazil on the outcomes of these diplomatic meetings.
RUSSIAContinue Reading →
Rajesh Rajagopalan, a participant in 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 where he explored the implication of Russia’s annexation of the Crimea region of Ukraine for Indian foreign policy. The events in Crimea were featured in the most recent RPI Policy Alert.
Rajagopalan noted the move as another demonstration “the great power consensus that defined the post-Cold War world appears to be disintegrating,” and India and other U.S. allies in Asia should question whether the United States is equipped and willing to manage this emerging new power dynamic.
The consequences of Vladimir Putin’s annexation of Crimea are likely to reverberate for some time. Not even traditional friends and anti-Western compatriots like New Delhi and Beijing are entirely comfortable with Putin’s initiative.
India’s default option – to side with neither side in a dispute – might be understandable, because on the one hand India does not want unilateral referendums to become an international norm, considering its own position in Kashmir, but on the other hand New Delhi’s natural political instinct is not to side with the West against anybody, especially a traditional friend like Russia.
But New Delhi also needs to include in the calculus the importance of its relationship with Washington as well as consider who is better equipped to help India deal with its long-term security concerns rather than let emotion guide policy.
Earlier this week, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the annexation of Crimea, two days after a referendum that declared the region’s separation from Ukraine. In this Policy Alert, we examine commentary from Russia, China, India, Japan, South Korea, and Brazil on the Crimea crisis.
On Thursday March 20, Russia’s lower house of parliament overwhelmingly approved a treaty to annex Crimea from Ukraine. Numerous officials and other public figures have voiced support for Crimea’s annexation, while others have remained cautious. (more…)Continue Reading →
Dr. Hui Zhang, a participant in the Rising Powers Initiative’s Nuclear Debates in Asia project and a senior scholar at Harvard University’s Project on Managing the Atom, wrote a series of articles on China’s nuclear policies ahead of this month’s Nuclear Security Summit. Dr. Zhang’s piece in the Science and Global Security journal was featured in the most recent Nuclear Debates in Asia Digest. This blog post offers highlights of his on-going research on nuclear security efforts in China. (more…)Continue Reading →
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, recently had an interview with The American Bazaar in which she discussed India-U.S. trade disputes.
Fundamental differences will continue to dog relationship: GWU professor.
By Sereen Thahir
WASHINGTON, DC: The past few months have seen a rise in rhetoric as well as actions between the United States and India especially in regard to their trade relations.
The United States has filed two cases with the World Trade Organization against India. One is in regard to the mandated quota of local creation of materials set by India to make solar panels in their developing solar industry, which the United States sees as a threatening trade barrier. The second case is in regard to intellectual property rights in the medicinal field. (more…)Continue Reading →
The hope for peace following the Sochi Olympics was overshadowed by mounting conflict in Ukraine after Russia sent its troops to Crimea, despite growing international pressure. In this Policy Alert, we examine commentary from Russia, China, India, Japan, South Korea, and Brazil on the Ukraine crisis.
Commentary in Russia expressed divided views on Russia’s involvement in the Ukrainian crisis. (more…)Continue Reading →
As Japan debates restarting its dormant nuclear reactor fleet, leaders in Tokyo are under intense international pressure to address Japan’s large stockpile of plutonium. According to The Japan Times, the United States asked Japan to return over 300 kilograms of weapons-grade plutonium transferred to the island nation for energy research purposes during the Cold War. The consolidation of this nuclear material in Japan, which could be used to produce forty to fifty nuclear weapons, is a major priority of the Obama Administration ahead of the March 2014 Nuclear Security Summit in The Netherlands. The impact of Japan’s substantial remaining stock of plutonium on nuclear security and non-proliferation continues to be a source of debate within the country and throughout the region. This latest Nuclear Debates in Asia Digest examines China’s reaction to Japan’s plutonium repatriation, the future of Japan’s plutonium reserve, and the direction of nuclear security in Asia. (more…)Continue Reading →