Archive for the ‘Foreign Policy’ Category

India, Pakistan and the United States

Modi greets Nawaz Sharif,

By inviting the leaders of the other South Asian countries to attend his inauguration, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi sent a message of continuity and change. The continuity lies in India’s strategic commitment to maintaining primacy in the region. Every government of independent India has shared this determination; so did India’s imperial rulers. The change is primarily one of tone, but tone has a way of becoming substance. It adds up to a moment of opportunity for India, which the United States can encourage.

Read the rest of Teresita Schaffer’s essay, released by Brookings Institution as part of a collection on the challenges facing India’s Prime Minister Modi as he heads for the United States.

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India: Modi’s International Profile

Photo from Al Jazeera English,

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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Manhattan Breakfast: Manmohan Singh and Nawaz Sharif Meet

Photo from flickr,

October 2, 2013: Few were surprised when Prime Ministers Manmohan Singh and Nawaz Sharif made little headway in reversing the recent deterioration of India-Pakistan relations when they met in New York on September 29.  Nawaz’s election in May on a platform that included improving ties with India, especially in the economic sphere, generated rosy hopes. These were dimmed by an outbreak of serious violence in Kashmir and by the preoccupation of both governments with other pressing problems.  The weakening of Manmohan Singh’s Congress government by an economic slump and a series of high-level political scandals has also taken its toll.

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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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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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India and China: Still Unmatched

Gwydion M. Williams,

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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Manmohan Singh and Asif Zardari: A Hopeful Encounter

Photo by radicaleye,

April 10, 2012: Four months ago, Pakistani president Asif Zardari’s trip to Dubai for medical treatment sparked intense rumors of a military coup. Last weekend, Zardari lunched in Delhi with Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh and was photographed wearing a flamboyant turban at a renowned Sufi shrine at Ajmer in Rajasthan. What happened and what does it mean?

No one, least of all two longtime observers of the South Asia scene like us, expected to see India-Pakistan relations transformed by this Easter Sunday luncheon in New Delhi, the first meeting in a bilateral setting between the top leaders of India and Pakistan in seven years. But the brief summit session usefully highlighted the accelerating strengthening of ties over the past year or so. It also raised hopes that further progress can be achieved if the two sides persist in the sensible, unspectacular approach they have recently followed. Read more

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India and the Nonproliferation System

India and the United States have been at odds over nuclear issues for more than three decades, and yet both countries’ interests are powerfully affected by the spread of nuclear weapons. The Working Group on an Expanded Non- Proliferation System, chaired by Teresita Schaffer and Joan Rohlfing, President of the Nuclear Threat Initiative, set out to answer the question, “What would be necessary to have India and the United States work together as active participants in the international non-proliferation system?” The working group, which consisted of a dozen members from India and the United States, with each group drawn about equally from nuclear experts and senior foreign policy figures, recommended bringing India into the four major multilateral export control groups; its report recommends a number of other ways to enhance India-U.S. cooperation and help protect the world from nuclear dangers.

Read full report on NTI web site.

Follow links to the group’s working papers. (click on drop-down menu at top of page)

Read summary of seminar on the report and next steps in reducing nuclear dangers, at Brookings, January 5, 2012.

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