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Of Planes and Men: The U.S.-India Partnership

Photo by The Wanderer’s Eye, Flickr,

May 1, 2011: The world’s biggest international military aircraft deal in two decades has been moving slowly through the Indian government’s procurement process. After years of discreet and not-so-discreet lobbying by aircraft manufacturers, heads of state, and everyone in between, the Indian Air Force announced on April 27 that it was short-listing the two European entries and excluding from further consideration the remaining four contestants, including two from the United States: a Boeing-led consortium with the F-18 and Lockheed Martin with the F-16.

The announcement sent shock waves through Washington. This was by far the biggest potential military sale ever contemplated with India. It had been regarded in the United States not just as a commercial bonanza at a time of economic distress, but as the opportunity to introduce a new level of operational and strategic understanding into the growing India-U.S. defense relationship. In the five months between the high of the Obama visit to Delhi and, now, the low of the aircraft decision, what have we learned about how the two countries are managing their partnership and where it is headed?

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Book Launch: How Pakistan Negotiates with the U.S.

Tezi and I, then a married couple of three years standing, first came to Pakistan on diplomatic assignment 37 years ago. Our second son was born at our house in Islamabad. We’ve been following developments in the country with great interest, often mingled with anxiety, ever since….  What we’ve tried to do is to analyze the themes, techniques, and styles that have characterized Pakistani negotiations with American civil and military officials in recent years and to reach some conclusions about how these are likely to shape up in the future.

Our book, How Pakistan Negotiates with the United States: Riding the Roller Coaster, was launched at the U.S. Institute of Peace in Washington on April 12. We were joined by Stephen Cohen, Brookings Institution, and by Akbar S. Ahmed, Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies, American University.

Read what we had to say. Or, watch the video of the book launch.

Read Michael O’Hanlon’s review, published in; read review in Foreign Affairs.

Read review by former Pakistan ambassador to the United States Tariq Fatemi, in the Express Tribune (Islamabad), August 24, 2011.

See a short video of our comments on How Pakistan Negotiates with the United States: Riding the Roller Coaster.

Read short description of the book

Order the book

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India: Killing the Messenger, Ignoring the Message

India: Killing the Messenger, Ignoring the Message

April 9, 2011: Three recent episodes, seemingly unrelated:

November 29, 2009: Reuters reported that Indian officials were investigating the leak of a radioactive substance into drinking water from an atomic power plant in Kaira, south of Bangalore.

April 10, 2010: the Times of India reported that exposure to radioactive Cobalt-60 in scrap at a disposal site outside of Delhi had left four workers fighting for their lives. The scrap had not originated in a nuclear facility but from industrial waste. Over the next month, government statements reiterated that those who handled potentially toxic waste were supposed to follow “stringent procedures.

August 13, 2010: NDTV (New Delhi Television) reported that British researchers had found a super-antibiotic-resistant bacterium in India. The scientific community, which often follows the practice of naming bacteria after the place where they are first isolated and identified, has given this one the name New Delhi Metallo-1. On April 7, 2011, BBC reported that a group of scientists in Cardiff had found antibiotic-resistant bacteria in Delhi drinking water. It is not clear whether these were the same type of bacteria. In both cases, the Indian health authorities immediately dismissed the studies involved.

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India-Pakistan: Is there Life After Cricket?

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April 1, 2011: “Cricket Diplomacy” was the buzzword of the week in India and Pakistan as the national teams of the two countries squared off in the World Cup semifinals at Mohali, a town in the Indian Punjab conveniently close to the Pakistani border. The Indian and Pakistani media have been crammed with commentary debating how this shared sporting enthusiasm they inherited from the British Raj could forward their recently revived bilateral dialogue. Much was made of the fact that Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani had accepted Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s invitation to be his guest at the event.

Americans, most of whom find cricket as unfathomable as it is tedious, are likely to wonder what all the fuss was about. Even those of us who have spent long innings in cricket-addicted South Asian countries Read more

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Sri Lanka – Small Steps Forward

Sri Lanka: Small Steps Forward

Photo by Caramel, Flickr, 5443200902_992ddda12c

March 31, 2011: Sri Lanka’s appearance in the World Cup cricket finals in Mumbai on April 2 will make hearts beat faster all over the island. In South Asia, cricket is given extraordinary power to symbolize and even foretell larger trends. So the World Cup finals put a glow in Sri Lanka’s mood, contrasting with what many Sri Lankans see as the world’s sour reception of their victory over the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in May 2009. We offer you a brief snapshot of some recent developments, under three headings: tackling Sri Lanka’s ethnic polarization; rebuilding bridges to the West; and pursuing the economic peace dividend.

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Diplomacy in Public – The India Cables

 Diplomacy in Public – The India Cables

March 23, 2011: The latest best seller on the Indian political scene, The Hindu’s daily dose of “India Cables” from Wikileaks, paints a depressing picture of the seamy underside of Indian politics. It also shows how American diplomats carry out the basic tasks of diplomacy – how they report, analyze events, assess their impact on U.S. interests, make recommendations to their government, and advocate U.S. positions both to foreign officials and to people who have influence on policymaking.  

Both in the India Cables and in leaks from other countries disclosed earlier, the most titillating revelations and the greatest embarrassment come from reporting messages sent by diplomats who are simply doing their job. Read more

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After Davis: US-Pakistan crisis eases, long term tensions remain

March 18, 2011: Our last blog certainly got the timing wrong: on March 16, Ray Davis was suddenly released from a Pakistani jail and immediately flown out of Pakistan. As we wipe the egg off our faces, however, we note that the package deal leading to his release was based primarily on the ingredients we and others had expected: a substantial compensation payment to the families of the two men he killed, and a new understanding between CIA and Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI). The first made the release legally feasible; the second made it acceptable to ISI; and the Pakistan government and army together are managing the popular fallout. So far, the public protests have been widespread but not massive.

What comes next? We will learn more in the coming months, but here are some preliminary thoughts.

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Pakistan’s Broken Economy

Teresita Schaffer comments on the impact of Pakistan’s economic troubles on the country’s urban population.

Pakistan-watchers tend to focus on political and security issues. But they need to start thinking as well about the economy, the outlook for  which is grim over the next several years. Some of Pakistan’s problems were spawned by the epic floods of the summer of 2010, but most have resulted from the long-standing failure of the Pakistani government to invest in its people, or from more mundane mismanagement of vital sectors, such as energy. Pakistan’s economic problems will weigh especially on the urban population, adding to the country’s political woes. It is the impact on the towns and cities – 36 percent of Pakistan’s people, but growing at 3.5 percent a year, three times the rate of the rural areas – that presents the most acute political danger.

This article was published in the The AfPak Channel on March 15, 2011. Click to read full text.

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The Ray Davis Case: Kicking the Can, Again

The Ray Davis Case – Kicking the Can, Again  

Lahore High Court, by Omer Wazir (Flickr)


March 14: The much anticipated deadline the Lahore High Court set for the Pakistan government to clarify its position on the diplomatic immunity of CIA contractor Raymond Davis has come and gone, and once again Islamabad has been unwilling to take a stand. Six weeks after he shot two Pakistanis he accused of trying to rob him, Davis remains in a Lahore prison and faces trial for murder.

In this fresh episode of its continuing effort to kick a dangerous can down the road, the government reportedly told the high court that its foreign ministry had not clearly stated that Davis was entitled to the immunity Washington has outspokenly insisted he enjoys. In another instance of can-kicking, the high court then ruled that the immunity issue could be decided by the lower court that tries him. Read more

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India: Politics Drowning Policy

Teresita and Howard Schaffer report March 7, 2011 on their findings in India:

In a two-week swing through India in mid-February, we found a government overwhelmed by sweetheart deals and scandals and an economy still strong but with a worrisome softening of the investment market. Foreign policy is proceeding in a workmanlike fashion. The upshot of the scandals, however, is that the government will be even more cautious in making policy decisions, especially those that involve legislation.

Read the full story: Politics Drowning Policy

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