On September 14, the United States and Russia reached a sweeping deal that called for Syria’s chemical weapons to be removed or destroyed by the middle of 2014, ending a political gridlock over American airstrikes that severely divided Washington and the international community. In this Policy Alert, we examine commentary from Russia, China, India, Japan, and South Korea on the U.S.-Russia agreement and Russia’s role in the negotiation process.
Earlier in the month, President Putin’s New York Times op-ed to Americans on the Syrian crisis and U.S. Senator John McCain’s response to Putin in Russian newspaper Pravda evoked a flurry of analysis and opinion. (more…)Continue Reading →
Following alleged chemical attacks on Syrians last month, U.S. President Barack Obama has called for punitive military strikes against Syria, generating enormous debate in both the United States and the international community on how to respond. In this Policy Alert, we examine commentary from Russia, China, India, Japan, and South Korea on the implications of possible U.S. military action against Syria.
Opposing U.S. military strikes against Syria without UN approval, the Russian government urged Syria to place its chemical weapons under international control, stressing the need for a diplomatic, political solution. Commentators generally supported the government’s decision to seek a diplomatic solution, but were at odds over whether negotiations will succeed.Continue Reading →
Timothy Westmyer, research and program assistant on the RPI Nuclear Debates in Asia project, and Yogesh Joshi, Ph.D candidate at Jawaharlal Nehru University and recent visiting scholar at the Sigur Center, wrote a recent article in The Diplomat recommending that nuclear weapon advocates in South Korea take a look at the uneasy experience of new nuclear weapon states in South Asia before committing to building a nuclear arsenal:
India and Pakistan are again at loggerheads, with five Indian soldiers and two Pakistani soldiers were killed on the Line of Control (LOC) in the disputed Kashmir region earlier this month. Since then, the LOC has seen a rapid escalation in cross border exchanges of fire, bringing the sustainability of the 2003 cease fire agreement between the two neighbors into doubt. Earlier, in January, India had accused Pakistani Special Forces of killing two Indian soldiers, claiming one of them was beheaded. These provocations come as progress is stalled in the prosecution of the alleged Pakistan-based masterminds of the 2008 attacks in Mumbai. New Delhi remains unable to influence Islamabad’s policy on state-sponsored terrorism, despite the presence of nuclear arsenals in South Asia since the 1990s.
Something similar is visible on the Korean Peninsula. North Korean provocations have persisted since its first nuclear weapon test in 2006. Seoul, like New Delhi, has vacillated between diplomacy and military threats to no avail. South Korea’s current state of strategic frustration has convinced some leaders in Seoul that their country needs an indigenous nuclear capability. In the lead-up to President Park Geun-Hye’s inauguration, members of her own Saenuri Party encouraged a nuclear build-up. Rep. Shim Jae-Cheol argued the “only way to defend our survival would be to maintain a balance of terror that confronts nuclear with nuclear.” In June 2012, former Saenuri Party chairman and presidential candidate Chung Mong-Joon called for a “comprehensive re-examination of our security policy” that should give Seoul “the capability to possess” a nuclear arsenal. At a conference earlier this year in Washington, DC Chung leaned heavily on the U.S.-Soviet model: “The only thing that kept the Cold War cold was the mutual deterrence afforded by nuclear weapons…The lesson of the Cold War is that against nuclear weapons, only nuclear weapons can hold the peace.”
These proliferation optimists cite the U.S.-Soviet Cold War model of nuclear deterrence to claim that a South Korean nuclear arsenal would prevent future aggression. The experience of new nuclear weapon states in South Asia, however, suggests that South Korean nuclear weapons will not prove tremendously helpful to this end. (more…)
On August 12, India launched its first indigenous aircraft carrier INS Vikrant, joining the United States, the United Kingdom, France, and Russia in the elite club of nations capable of building similar ships. The INS Vikrant, along with progress on India’s indigenous nuclear submarine fleet, supports India’s broader naval strategy toward a blue-water navy. In this Policy Alert, we examine commentary from India, China, and Japan on the implications of these developments for international security across the seas in Asia.
In his Independence Day address, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh applauded “the Navy on its successes.” While the Vikrant is not expected to be battle-ready before 2020, some commentators praised the launch as a major step forward for India’s naval strategy:
- At the launching ceremony, India’s Defense Minister, A.K. Antony declared “the need for astrong and vigilant Navy” and that the launch “marks just the first step in a long journey, but at the same time, an important one.”
- In a Business Standard column, Premvir Das, a former Commander-in-Chief of the Eastern Naval Command, wrote that these “watershed events in the life of a Navy” were a “matter of great pride for our countrymen” as these new “capabilities at sea” will be necessary in India’s future security.
- Writing for the Nationalist leaning The Indian Express, Manu Pubby called Vikrant a “37,500-ton defense statement” that can carry 36 aircraft as India demonstrates its “self-reliance in this field.”
Others threw cold water on this optimism, citing gaps in India’s naval capabilities and the rising capabilities of its neighbors. Besides, India’s submarine fleet ended up experiencing both a success and a tragedy in August. On August 10, the INS Arihant’s nuclear reactor reached criticality – a significant step to becoming battle-ready – helping to replace India’s aging fleet of conventional diesel-electric submarines. But on August 14, kilo-class submarine INS Sindurakshak suffered a series of explosions that killed 18 sailors in India’s worst peacetime naval accident.
- Business Standard editorialized that the “Navy’s plan to field three aircraft carriers remains a pipe dream.” The paper continued that “when INS Vikramaditya gets here from Russia, it will be more than five years late. The vintage INS Viraat is to be decommissioned by 2018-19” and the “Navy continues to dither over the specifications of the Vikrant’s successor.”
Great-Power Realist C. Raja Mohan in his Indian Express column looked beyond INS Vikrant and warned about the end of India’s monopoly over naval airpower in the region. As Australia, China, Japan, Russia, and South Korea expand their airpower capabilities, Raja Mohan expected “much jockeying for positions of advantage in the waters of Asia.”
- T.S. Subramanian, Associate Editor for the left-leaning/Nationalist Frontline, opined that the INS Arihant means New Delhi “can assert that it has mastered the technology of developing and manufacturing nuclear propulsion for driving submarines” and will soon acquire “the status of a blue-water navy.”
Several outlets commented on how the Sindurakshak submarine tragedy could impact India’s naval ambitions:
- Quoted in the Liberal-Globalist leaning The Times of India, India’s Defense Minister, A K Antony, pronounced the accident as the “greatest tragedy in recent times.” Chief of Naval Staff Admiral D.K. Joshi said “a dent” was left in “Indian Navy’s submarine capabilities for the time being.”
- In the Liberal Globalist Economic Times, Akrun Prakash, former chief of the Indian Navy, argued that “chronic deficiencies in our defense planning and management” are responsible for the accident, including the Indian military’s dependence on imported weapons and lack of expertise on defense matters in government.
- Sushil Kumar, another former Indian naval chief, wrote in The Times of India that the accident highlights the “unacceptable depletion of the navy’s force levels, particularly its submarine arm which is the most potent component of any blue-water navy globally. (more…)
Sudha Mahalingam, a participant in the RPI Worldviews of Aspiring Powers project, an independent energy analyst, and former member of India’s Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board, wrote an op-ed in The Hindu on policy recommendations for India to meet its rising energy demands through liquefied natural gas:
A decade ago, three Indian companies — Reliance Industries Ltd. (RIL), Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) and Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation (GSPC) — independently announced substantial gas discoveries in the Krishna-Godavari Basin in the Bay of Bengal. For a fuel-starved country, these discoveries were harbingers of hope and optimism. While crude imports would continue, we believed we could finally turn our back on polluting coal and transit to natural gas-based electricity generation. In fact, in Andhra Pradesh, four CCGT-based (combined cycle gas turbine) thermal generation plants came up in the wake of the announcement. Abundant domestic gas supplies also meant enhanced food security, since gas is the main feedstock for manufacturing fertilizers.
All those claims turned out to be a lot of hot air, rather than methane. Neither ONGC nor GSPC is anywhere near monetizing their respective natural gas discoveries although that does not stop them from claiming further discoveries in the same basin from time to time. RIL had then dramatically announced that it could produce 80 million metric standard cubic meters of natural gas every day (mmscmd), a claim that sent its stock prices soaring then. Yet, it failed to produce even half that volume, and now production has plummeted to a sixth of that quantity. Whether the drop in gas production is due to technological challenges, geological problems or pricing battles with the government is immaterial as far as consumers are concerned. All the industries that came up on the promise of abundant gas availability were faced with huge shortages of gas. They had to either remain stranded or operate at a fraction of their name-plate capacities, that too using naphtha, a costly substitute for natural gas. (more…)Continue Reading →
Sudha Mahalingam, a participant in the RPI Worldviews of Aspiring Powers project, an independent energy analyst, and former member of India’s Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board, wrote a pair of recent op-eds in The Hindu on India’s energy policies.
In these articles, she discusses the Indian government’s efforts to meet its rising energy security goals through the acquisition of global fossil fuel supplies and pricing schemes on natural gas to incentivise domestic gas production.
Earlier this month, she wrote that India’s overseas oil assets would require better legal and managerial support if these efforts hope to contribute to energy security:
“Many necessary and sufficient conditions must be satisfied before equity oil of our national oil companies translates into energy security. Firstly, not all assets in which OVL has invested are producing assets. Exploratory acreages can contribute to India’s energy security only if and when there is an exploitable, viable discovery of hydrocarbons.
Secondly, even in the case of producing fields, equity participation is subject to certain contractual terms with the host government. Additionally, if you share your equity with other partners as in a consortium or joint venture, you would also be subject to the terms of the consortium or joint venture agreement or the operating agreement between parties. Both these must contain provisions that allow you to take your share of production in kind.” (more…)Continue 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 argues that the risk of nuclear escalation shouldn’t constrain India from threatening small-scale military retaliation to what he views as provocations from Pakistan:
In the aftermath of yet another Pakistani transgression, we are back to the tired old arguments about whether or not India should be talking to Pakistan. Proponents argue that nothing has been gained whenever India stopped talking to Pakistan, as it did after every major provocation. Their opponents argue that dialogue has not stopped Pakistan’s provocations.
Both sides are right and therein lies the simple truth that New Delhi refuses to acknowledge: dialogue or the lack of it has little impact on Pakistan. The reason Pakistan continues to provoke is that India has eschewed any retaliation for fear of nuclear escalation. Because Pakistan does not fear Indian retaliation, India’s deterrence is dead. To prevent Pakistani provocations, India needs to resurrect its deterrence and that requires considering using military force. (more…)Continue Reading →
GWU Rising Powers Initiative visiting Scholar Sudha Mahalingam recently participated in the 2013 Kolkata-Kunming BCIM (Bangladesh, China, India and Myanmar) Car Rally. About 80 participants from four partner nations embarked on an epic 12-day-long, 3,000-km journey. This rally was organized to boost trade and encourage people-to-people contact in the BCIM region.
Full coverage of the event can be found on pages 30-37 of India Perspectives May/June 2013 edition.Continue Reading →
If high-level visits were a positive indicator of the state of bilateral ties, India-US relations would be in fine shape.
American Vice-President Joe Biden arrives in India on Monday and it comes barely a month after Secretary of State John Kerry came for the India-US Strategic Dialogue. Last week Finance Minister P Chidambaram was in Washington, and in September Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will travel there.
Moreover, both sides have set an ambitious agenda for themselves, including untangling the nuclear commercial issues by the time the prime minister goes to Washington.
Walking & Chewing Gum
In preparation for his trip, Biden gave a speech a few days back on US foreign policy priorities that was focused on Asia and he devoted considerable attention to India and China. He reiterated President Barack Obama’s characterisation of the India-US relations as the “defining partnership” of the century and dismissed any talk of conflict between the US and China, calling it instead “competition” that was “good for both”.
New Delhi should be happy with the level of attention that Biden gave to India in that speech. But if they have to keep up the positive momentum of these visits, both sides will need to resist the pressure of other priorities in the coming months. In New Delhi, the coming general election is likely to prevent significant initiatives on all fronts, and foreign policy is no exception.
Considering that most analysts expect a split verdict at the polls, it is unclear how important foreign policy will be for the next government in New Delhi, irrespective of who heads it. This is all the more reason to put some momentum in the relationship now. Washington has its own problems.
Earlier this month, a jury in Florida acquitted George Zimmerman in the 2012 shooting death of 17-year old African-American Trayvon Martin. The contentious trial and long-awaited verdict roused a range of opinions by the international press with much of the commentary focused on the role of race in the shooting and ensuing response. In this Policy Alert, we examine commentary from China, India, and Russia on race relations in the United States.
- The South China Morning Post editorialized that while “eliminating racism may never be possible,” the United States should focus on practical changes in its gun laws to ensure that “gun-toting citizens who appoint themselves law enforcers have no place.”
China’s own unique demographics – over 50 ethnic minority groups, though Han Chinese comprise around 91 percent of the population – provide an interesting perspective on race relations:
- In an April 2012 Global Times op-ed, Rong Xiaoqing noted that racial tensions in the heterogeneous United States are often more complex than they appear at first glance. Unlike “Hollywood movies where good guys and bad guys are so clearly labeled,” he wrote that a multitude of factors mean the real world “isn’t a question of black and white, but of shades of grey.”
- Covering racial tensions in Los Angeles today, Xinhua acknowledged progress in easing conflict but declared “there are still problems that need to be addressed at a communal level 20 years after the Los Angeles riots.”
- Xinhua reported on a recent Gallup opinion poll that showed over half of African-Americans felt“dissatisfied with the societal treatment of their race” in the United States. Xinhua indicated, however, this view has significantly improved since Barack Obama was elected president.
Media outlets in India commented on legal structures in the United States and the raw emotional impact of the verdict on African-American families:
- The Hindu led off its editorial on the Zimmerman verdict by declaring “race has once again torn a deep gash through the conscience of the United States.” Citing statistics on the experience of African-Americans interacting with law enforcement and the courts, The Hindu concluded “there is literally not a square inch of ground for [black Americans] to stand on.”
- In an op-ed for International Business Times, Palash Ghosh empathized with the sadness and deep emotions he saw at protests in the United States after the verdict. He wrote that for “black people, particularly for black parents with sons, the tragedy of Trayvon Martin strikes at the very heart of their worst insecurities, fear and anxieties.”
Russian commentary on the Zimmerman verdict was largely silent due to preoccupation with U.S. fugitive Edward Snowden, but some outlets contrasted protests in the United States with recent demonstrations in Moscow:
- Natalia Antonova, editor-in-chief of The Moscow News, remarked that protests in the United States following the verdict were “an amazing show of self-restraint – as opposed to the nationalism-fueled protest that took place on Manezhnaya Square in Moscow when football fan Yegor Sviridov was shot dead by a man from Russia’s North Caucasus region following an argument on the sidewalk.”
- The death of Kimani Gray in March 2013 – an African-American teenager shot by two NYPD officers – elicited strong criticism in a Russia Times op-ed, pointing to Gray’s death as evidence of the imperfect model the United States sets as a global leader. “Kimani Gray’s murder has become a symbol of America in the ‘Age of Obama’ – a country that presents itself as the protector of justice and righteousness while perpetrating injustice and genocide at home and abroad. Whether killed by a New York cop or a Predator drone, a neighborhood watch coordinator or a U.S. Marine, countless innocents are being killed by the United States and its machinery of death and oppression.”