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India and Pakistan: Low Expectations

Ajmer Shrine, photo from http://www.flickr.com/photos/ajmer/4478622642/sizes/m/in/photostream/

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 http://www.flickr.com/photos/travlr/104367309/

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, http://www.flickr.com/photos/ari/8114647325/

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: http://www.flickr.com/photos/48722974@N07/5034342298/sizes/m/in/photostream/

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

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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, http://www.flickr.com/photos/oddwick/3449534019/sizes/m/in/photostream/.

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: http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/ .

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Book reviews: Boo, Inskeep and Berenschot on South Asian Cities

Mumbai, from Flickr, http://www.flickr.com/photos/cactusbones/4392053621/sizes/m/in/photostream/

Katherine Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers is an unforgettable walk through the Annawadi neighborhood, next to Mumbai’s airport. Ward Berenschot’s Riot Politics links the ever-present search for patronage in India’s cities to the grisly communal violence that breaks out there from time to time . Steve Inskeep’s Instant City weaves together the ethnic stew, political infighting and scarcity that make up Karachi.

To whet your appetite for all three, see Teresita Schaffer’s review. 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: http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/ .

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The U.S. and Pakistan: “Divorce”?

From Flickr, http://www.flickr.com/photos/dogpong/7536096438/sizes/m/in/photostream/

Pakistan’s colorful former ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani, created a flutter of excitement in a recent presentation by calling for a “divorce” between the two countries – and urging them to find “friendship outside the marital bond.” His analysis of this dysfunctional relationship tracks well with our book, How Pakistan Negotiates with the United States: Riding the Roller Coaster. Our preferred solution would be different, however: we focus more on the content of the new friendship. As a new U.S. ambassador prepares to arrive in Islamabad, the United States needs to build up aspects of its relationship that do not revolve around Afghanistan, while developing an Afghanistan strategy that is realistic about Islamabad’s goals. These differ sharply from Washington’s.

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India and the U.S.: Expanding Strategic Partnership

Photo by Aquaview, flickr, http://www.flickr.com/photos/28017840@N08/4121286487/

The most important result of the India-U.S. strategic dialogue is the expansion of serious bilateral conversations about problems outside the immediate South Asian neighborhood. The two countries need to extend this strategic conversation, especially to difficult issues like Iran and Pakistan.

Read our op-ed article, published in The Hindu June 26, 2012.

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India and China: Still Unmatched

Gwydion M. Williams, http://www.flickr.com/photos/45909111@N00/4435389518/sizes/m/in/photostream/

Indian Foreign Minister Krishna’s visit to Beijing is showcasing the positive in India-China relations. A recent visit to Beijing and Shanghai after a long absence gave us a more complicated picture of how the rise of India and China, so central to U.S. strategic thinking, looks from the east. India is taken more seriously in China than ten years ago, but is still not seen as an equal. The United States accepts India’s global ambitions; China dismisses them as “dreams.” China works best with India on global issues, the reverse of the U.S. experience, where bilateral ties are best and global collaboration weak.

Read our article published in The Hindu June 7, 2012.

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