Author Archive

B. Raman: Realpolitik in the Service of India

Indian post near Chinese border,

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

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,

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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India and the U.S., Batting Together in Asia

Hank Greenberg. From flickr,

On a table in the office of a senior Indian diplomat sits an unusual piece of memorabilia: a baseball bat. It is signed not by members of the official’s favorite baseball team, but by the U.S. officials who participated in the inaugural session of the now well-established consultations between India and the United States on East Asia, in 2010. This bat and the similarly adorned cricket bat kept by the Indian diplomat’s American counterpart are an apt symbol of how the United States and India have deepened their common understanding of the strategic stakes in this critical region. Now they need to deepen their economic ties across the Pacific. It’s time for the U.S. to facilitate India’s joining APEC.

No, this picture is not the Indian official, nor his American counterpart – it’s U.S. baseball great Hank Greenberg. See our article in The Hindu March 27, 2013.

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India and Pakistan: Low Expectations

Ajmer Shrine, photo from

March 11, 2013: Pakistan lame-duck Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf’s brief private visit to India March 9 accomplished nothing of substance, but it put an unintended spotlight on the troubled state into which India-Pakistan relations have fallen in the past few months. The causes of the downturn are many and varied – trouble in Kashmir and along the Line of Control, concerns about post-2014 Afghanistan, a stalling of their encouraging trade opening, and perhaps most importantly impending elections in both countries. A State Department spokeswoman welcomed Ashraf’s visit and confirmed Washington’s interest in the two nations talking to one another. But such long-standing U.S. cheerleading from the sidelines is unlikely to have any meaningful impact. Significant progress seems unlikely until parliamentary elections are held in both countries, Pakistan’s this May, India’s probably in early 2014. Read more

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U.S.-Pakistan: Breaking Up?

Photo from

March 8, 2013: Breaking up may not be “hard to do,” as Husain Haqqani has written in the March-April 2013 issue of Foreign Affairs – but his article doesn’t answer the key question about U.S.-Pakistan relations: what will the two countries expect of each other if they step back from their hopes for a close alliance?

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US Voters: Foreign Concerns are Short Term, Economic

By Steve Rhodes,

The October 22 debate between Romney and Obama presented a badly distorted view of U.S. foreign policy. Their discussion does offer a perceptive glimpse of the most urgent short-term international worries of the American electorate.

The defining image from the October 22 debate between President Obama and presidential hopeful Mitt Romney is of the two candidates passionately disputing their prescriptions for the U.S. domestic economy. The moderator, veteran TV journalist Bob Schieffer, caught the spirit of the evening with his final words before inviting the debaters to make their closing comments – “I think we all love teachers.” A visitor from Mars might be forgiven for not realizing that this was a debate on foreign policy.

Read our article in The Hindu, October 27, 2012.

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Trade and India-U.S. Relations

Mumbai port:

Trade and more generally economic relations have been a major driver of U.S.-India relations in the past decade. U.S. exports to India have grown nearly sevenfold. This makes the relationship important to both sides, and provides a degree of stability that was unknown in earlier times. This expansion is not unique to the United States: the two biggest growth stories in Indian trade are China and the oil producing countries of the Persian Gulf.

Growing trade has not eliminated trade problems, nor does it translate into easier dealings in multilateral settings. One way to address periodic frustration about stubborn trade problems would be to open the lens a bit, and work toward a more ambitious long term goal, such as a free trade agreement. It’s a difficult challenge, but steps along that path could be hugely beneficial to both countries.

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Pakistan: Escaping a Failing Orbit

In Why Nations Fail (New York: Crown Business, 2012), Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson argue that sustained growth depends primarily on “inclusive institutions” that bring pluralism into government. It is these political and economic structures, more than resource endowments, knowledge, financing, foreign aid, or a variety of other factors, that the authors believe account for a country’s prosperity or poverty. This paper looks at Pakistan through their lens. There is good evidence that Pakistan lacks the kind of institutions the authors associate with lasting prosperity. However, Pakistan’s troubles are compounded by some factors that the authors do not take into account, such as stubborn insecurity and ethnic fragmentation. Encouraging entrepreneurship and expanding the middle class may be the most effective long term remedy.

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Book Reviews: Lashkar-e-Taiba; Indian Military History

Photo by Todd Huffman,

Two very different, but quite compelling, books on the military problems of the region: Stephen Tankel’s Storming the World Stage traces the history of Lashkar-e-Taiba and its complex relationship with the Pakistan army, concluding that this is unlikely to change; and Srinath Raghavan’s War and Peace in Modern India recounts in elegant detail the diplomatic and military history of the conflicts that peppered the first fifteen years of India’s independence.

Read both – but to get more of the flavor of them, read the review by Teresita Schaffer.

This is a preprint of an article submitted for consideration in Survival: Global Politics and Strategy ©. The International Institute for Strategic Studies; Survival: Global Politics and Strategy is available online at: .


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