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India: Modi’s International Profile

Photo from Al Jazeera English, http://www.flickr.com/photos/aljazeeraenglish/3479447773/sizes/m/in/photolist

December 9, 2013: In the tremendous buzz that has attended Narendra Modi’s emergence as the BJP’s candidate for prime minister in India’s 2014 elections, foreign policy has been almost entirely absent. Modi’s rare foreign policy statements suggest that his approach will center on economics, India’s cultural heritage, and a tough regional policy. It’s too early to tell what this is likely to mean in practice.

For the United States, a Modi victory would bring pluses and minuses in terms of his policies. But regardless of the outcome of the national election, the U.S. cannot afford to continue restricting its contacts with a politician of Modi’s importance to a relatively low level.

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Afghanistan: The Negotiating Minefield

Photo from flickr, http://www.flickr.com/photos/34956641@N03/10287359243/in/photolist

October 24, 2013: Secretary of State John Kerry’s surprise visit to Kabul wound up, 24 hours later, with two smiling figures facing the cameras and declaring success. After last June’s abortive talks with the Taliban, U.S. predictions of gloom at the prospect of missing an October 31 deadline, and months of tough talk from Afghan President Karzai, this was an unexpected finale.

But it’s not a finale, at least not yet. This latest twist in the tangled story of U.S.-Afghan relations illustrates at least three of the key explosives buried in the negotiating minefield. The path to success, if there is one, will involve focusing creatively, on the substantive differences, and not being trapped by traditional negotiating processes.

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Five books on South Asia – 2013

Photo from flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jm3/4683685/sizes/m/in/photolist

Teresita Schaffer reviews five books about South Asia:

  • Muslim Zion, by Faisal Devji, traces the ideas behind Pakistan’s national Islamic identity and situates them in the history of political thought.
  • From the Ruins of Empire, by Pankaj Misra, recounts the careers of Asian intellectuals Jamal al-Din al-Afghani, Liang Qichao, and Rabindranath Tagore.
  • Aspiration and Ambivalence, by Vanda Felbab-Brown, describes the challenge of governance in Afghanistan.
  • Samudra Manthan, by C. Raja Mohan, analyzes the strategic rivalry in the Indian Ocean between India and China.
  • Transforming India, by Sumantra Bose, sketches the role of local and regional identities in India’s conflicts and governance.

Click here to read the review.

This is a preprint of an article submitted for consideration in Survival: Global Politics and Strategy ©The International Institute for Strategic Studies. Available online at: http://www.iiss.org/publications/survival/.

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Manmohan Singh and Obama Play “Small Ball”

Photo from flickr, http://www.flickr.com/photos/csisponi/4882127963/sizes/m/in/photolist

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s White House visit September 27 was workmanlike and cordial, but the sense of barely meeting low expectations was hard to miss. The two governments put out a long list of accomplishments. They announced a few new items, notably new defense framework statement and a preliminary contract between Westinghouse and the Indian nuclear authorities regarding construction of a nuclear power plant in Gujarat. The discussions were wide-ranging. But those who were looking for a dynamic re-launch of the relationship were destined to be disappointed. In American baseball language, they were playing “small ball” – a game of small moves and modest, hopefully steady, rewards.

Read the full article, published in The Hindu October 7, 2013.

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India’s Sagging Economy – Strategic Consequences

Photo from flickr, http://www.flickr.com/photos/8458252@N05/3425108634/in/photolist

September 20, 2013: Two decades of rapid economic growth and surging international trade gave India the economic and strategic heft to go with its world-wide vision and voice. The current slump threatens to bring back the lowest economic numbers in twenty years. This sagging performance will burden both India’s domestic politics and its global strategic goals. Manmohan Singh’s visit to Washington will provide some short term relief, but all India’s contenders for political power need to be thinking about how to get India’s economy humming again.

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India: The Long Road to Nuclear Trade

By Hendrik Tammen (Enricopedia), http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Nuclear_power_plant_blue.svg

July 5, 2013: The Indian press recently carried several stories reporting some forward movement toward sale of U.S. nuclear reactors to India. A closer look at the state of play suggests that we are indeed inching forward toward the nuclear trade made possible by the India-U.S. Agreement on Civil Nuclear Cooperation, but the finish line is still agonizingly far.

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Kerry in India: Steady Steps toward Partnership

From Wikimedia, Dept of State photo, Secretary Kerry and Minister Khurshid

June 25, 2013: On his maiden voyage to India as secretary of state, John Kerry put his own stamp on an ambitious agenda for reinvigorating U.S. – India ties and strengthening the staying power that this high-maintenance relationship requires.  The next few months will feature further high-level contacts: in July, the Indian ministers of commerce and finance will visit Washington and Vice President Joe Biden will go to New Delhi; Prime Minister Manmohan Singh travels to Washington in September. The challenge for the United States will be to build on the issues that Kerry stressed – the economic relationship, but also Afghanistan and Pakistan, and furthering our engagement in East Asia. This series of action-forcing events should reinfuse the India-U.S. partnership with more of the “can do” spirit that brought about the 2008 nuclear deal.

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B. Raman: Realpolitik in the Service of India

Indian post near Chinese border, http://www.flickr.com/photos/ahinsajain/3933851341/sizes/m/in/photolist

June 16, 2013: The news that Indian political and security analyst B. Raman had succumbed to his years-long battle with cancer came as a jolt on a quiet Sunday afternoon. We were among his many avid readers, and had last seen him early in 2012, over a cup of tea and his usual acerbic conversation, in Chennai. He was characteristically harsh in his judgments of both the U.S. and Indian governments over the Maldives, the topic of the hour. And, equally characteristically, he was unwavering in his conviction that India needed to define and pursue its interests – realistically and, if necessary, cold-bloodedly. His firm views, which he set out in briskly drafted, numbered paragraphs that reflected his long career in government, were always insightful and often unorthodox. We often disagreed, but he was always worth reading.

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Nawaz Sharif’s New Government: First, Focus on Pakistan

http://www.flickr.com/photos/mc_masterchef/3497931960/sizes/m/

Nawaz Sharif’s swearing-in as prime minister on June 5 represents yet another “second chance” both for Pakistan and for him. Unlike many of the analyses coming from the world outside Pakistan, we believe that the most important question is how he follows through on the promises of prosperity and governance that he made in his first speech to parliament. Accordingly, we will examine his domestic prospects here. His domestic track record will affect his freedom of action on foreign policy; we will explore this in a second essay. One theme that runs through both is that the United States needs to focus more of its attention on Pakistan as Pakistan, rather than viewing the country as a sideshow of the Afghan drama.

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When India’s Foreign Policy is Domestic

South Block, http://www.flickr.com/photos/ahinsajain/6216604388/sizes/m/in/photostream/

March 31, 2013: In the past six months, passionate domestic politics have twice taken over India’s foreign policy process, complicating its relations with neighboring countries. The most recent case involved a resolution on Sri Lanka adopted by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), which led an important coalition partner to leave the government. The earlier crisis, in September 2011, scuttled two major features of India’s proposed expansion of relations with Bangladesh. When India’s foreign policy becomes domestic, decisions tend to escalate, coalition politics intensify, and the fallout affects both politics and policy.

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