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April 1, 2013

Foreign Tourists Now Avoiding India

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Tourism has fallen sharply in India for the first three months of the year, according to a survey of Indian tourism industry participants. Foreign visits have dropped 25 percent and the number of female tourists has dropped 35 percent.

As the Guardian reports, these industry figures contrast with official Indian government statements which claimed tourism had increased and that the widely publicized gang rape in Delhi had had no adverse impact on foreign travel to the country.

Sexual violence in India has become a major international story of late following the brutal gang rape and eventual death of a woman in Delhi. Just last month, a Swiss tourist was gang-raped while biking through central India and a British woman jumped out of a third story hotel room to avoid an assault from the hotel manager.

Complaints about sexual assault have sky-rocketed since the Delhi case, the Guardian notes:

Delhi police figures show a dramatic rise in reported crime since 1 January, with molestation cases up by 590.4% over the same period last year and rape cases up by 147.6%. The front pages of Sunday's newspapers carried a story about the gang rape of an 18-year-old male Delhi University student who had gone out to meet a Facebook friend.

(AP Photo)

February 15, 2013

Corruption in India Has Reached Shocking Levels

India is widely praised in the U.S. as being a model democracy. But an eye-opening investigation by the BBC reveals a darker underside -- a country where corruption and criminality are pervasive among the country's political elite.

How bad is it? According to the BBC, almost one third of India's elected politicians are under investigation for criminal charges. Some of those charges include rape and murder. In the state of Uttar Pradesh, that figure climbs to 50 percent of politicians.

These are absolutely staggering figures.

India ranks 94th out of 176 nations in Transparency International's corruption perceptions survey.

February 13, 2013

How Will Obama's Nuclear Cuts Play in Asia?

During his State of the Union address, President Obama pledged to further cut America's nuclear arsenal. The exact figure wasn't specified, but it's been reported that the goal is to reduce the force from the current 1,700 "deployed weapons" down to 1,000, provided some kind of deal can be reached with Russia.

While China's nuclear arsenal is tiny in comparison, it has been undergoing a process of modernization and C. Raja Mohan argues that China will continue to stand aloft from any disarmament talks for the time being:

This approach leaves Beijing much leeway in responding to Obama's latest nuclear initiative. It allows Beijing to hold the high diplomatic ground on supporting the long-term goal of global zero, promising to join multilateral talks on nuclear reductions when it is convenient, and leaving room for its nuclear weapon modernisation in the interim.

Mohan argues that while most of America's close allies in Asia may be worried that America's "extended deterrence" would be weaker with a smaller arsenal, one major player is likely to be heartened by Obama's reductions:

In contrast to some in East Asia, India has every reason to welcome Obama's plans to negotiate deeper nuclear cuts with Russia. Like China, India has seen deep cuts in the US and Russian arsenals as an important first step on the road towards nuclear disarmament.

February 6, 2013

In India, a Rash of Unscrupulous Womb Removal Surgeries

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The BBC's Jill McGivering found a village in India where an unusually high number of women were having their wombs removed:

When other local women crowded round, I asked how many of them had undergone hysterectomies. More than half raised their hands at once. Village leaders said about 90% of the village women have had the operation, including many in their 20s and 30s.

The doctors generally charge around $200 for the operation, which often means the families have to sell cattle and other assets to raise the money.

(AP Photo)

January 30, 2013

Gandhi's First Video Interview Now on YouTube

The Internets have brought forth an interesting historical moment: Mahatma Gandhi's first appearance on film. It occurred in 1931.

Via: Motherboard

Update: To honor the 85th anniversary of his death, The Hindu has republished their editorial on Gandhi's assassination:

The death of Mahatma Gandhi last evening at New Delhi at the hands of an insensate assassin in circumstances too tragic for reiteration has cast a deep gloom over the country from the effects of which it will not be easy for it to recover. For, as the Prime Minister of India has suggested in his broadcast, at no time in the long and chequered history of this great country were Gandhiji’s wise counsel, courageous guidance, unexcelled foresight and imperturbable patience in the face of events the most calamitous more necessary than to-day. It will be universally accepted that but for his steadying direction, unerring judgment, and a determination which accepted no defeat, the turmoil which befell us in the wake of the partition of the country would have continued to menace us in an ever-increasing measure.

January 29, 2013

How India Will Battle Rape: With Apps

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India was recently shaken by the brutal gang-rape of a 23-year-old woman from New Delhi. Now, R. Jai Krishna reports that the country's tech sector is at work trying to engineer solutions to India's rape crisis:

Nasscom, a trade group that represents Indian technology companies, Thursday announced a contest to develop such applications, saying it aims to get companies to focus on areas such as safety for women.

This came just a day after a government-appointed panel recommended the development of downloadable mobile phone applications that can help women in trouble, such as a one-touch function which can send a distress signal and the location of the phone to the police.

There is currently an app marketed by the Indian tech firm CanvasM dubbed "FightBack" that uses a panic button to send a caller's location data and a pre-set message to a number of contacts stored in the phone.

(AP Photo)

August 1, 2012

India's Electrical Generation Compared

India is currently suffering through a massive blackout. Our newly launched Data Engine lets you compare countries by how they rank across a number of vectors, including electricity generation. Check it out:

April 25, 2012

Who's Spamming Your Inbox? Indians

According to cyber-security firm Sophos, India leads the world in generating spam email. The U.S. comes in second, South Korea third and Indonesia and Russia are tied for fourth. Italy is the leading European spammer in fifth place.

April 20, 2012

China-India Media War

Chinese media has reportedly mocked India's recently-tested Angi V long-range missile as a "dwarf." The Hindustan Times takes on the story with its own provocative headline. I guess it's still better to jaw, jaw...

March 15, 2012

How to Blow Up the Obama Administration's Pivot to Asia

In one simple step:

India has failed to reduce its purchases of Iranian oil, and if it doesn’t do so, President Barack Obama may be forced to impose sanctions on one of Asia’s most important nations, Obama administration officials said yesterday.

A decision to levy penalties under a new U.S. law restricting payments for Iranian oil could come as early as June 28, according to several U.S. officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.


I imagine this is going over well in New Delhi.

February 20, 2012

Is India Being Irresponsible?

Nicholas Burns is unhappy that India is not doing what it's told acting irresponsibly by not agreeing to embargo Iranian oil:

There’s a larger point here about India’s role in the world. For all the talk about India rising to become a global power, its government doesn’t always act like one. It is all too often focused on its own region but not much beyond it. And, it very seldom provides the kind of concrete leadership on tough issues that is necessary for the smooth functioning of the international system.

I imagine if I were an Indian official, I'd be a bit peeved to learn that acting "responsibly" means privileging the interests of the United States over my own country. Nevertheless, Burns has a point. After all, India may rely on Iran for 12 percent of its oil imports, but look at what the United States has been willing to do for India:

Presidents Obama and Bush have met India more than halfway in offering concrete and highly visible commitments on issues India cares about. On his state visit to India in November 2010, for example, President Obama committed the U.S. for the very first time to support India’s candidacy for permanent membership on the U.N. Security Council.

I don't know about you, but if the U.S. was asked to forgo 12 percent of its oil imports in exchange for another country's endorsement for a seat on a multilateral forum, I'd make the trade. I mean, c'mon, 12 percent? The U.S. gets about that much from the Persian Gulf - and we barely pay that area any attention at all...

And look, Burns is making a very solid point. If India wants a good relationship with the United States, they shouldn't do business with America's enemies. After all, the U.S. has certainly held itself to that standard with India's enemies. Right?

February 8, 2012

What Indian Ministers Do When They're Bored

Not the people's business:

Three Indian politicians from a morally conservative party, including a women's affairs minister, resigned on Wednesday after being caught watching pornography on a mobile phone during a session of state parliament.

News channels broadcast footage showing Karnataka state Minister for Cooperation Laxman Savadi sharing a porn clip with his colleague C.C. Patil, the minister for women and child development, while sitting in the state assembly.

February 7, 2012

India Riskier Than China?

Stephen Roach thinks so:

Yet fears of hard landings for both economies are overblown, especially regarding China. Yes, China is paying a price for aggressive economic stimulus undertaken in the depths of the subprime crisis. The banking system funded the bulk of the additional spending, and thus is exposed to any deterioration in credit quality that may have arisen from such efforts. There are also concerns about frothy property markets and mounting inflation.

While none of these problems should be minimized, they are unlikely to trigger a hard landing. Long fixated on stability, Chinese policymakers have been quick to take preemptive action....

India is more problematic. As the only economy in Asia with a current-account deficit, its external funding problems can hardly be taken lightly. Like China, India’s economic-growth momentum is ebbing. But unlike China, the downshift is more pronounced – GDP growth fell through the 7% threshold in the third calendar-year quarter of 2011, and annual industrial output actually fell by 5.1% in October.

But the real problem is that, in contrast to China, Indian authorities have far less policy leeway. For starters, the rupee is in near free-fall. That means that the Reserve Bank of India – which has hiked its benchmark policy rate 13 times since the start of 2010 to deal with a still-serious inflation problem – can ill afford to ease monetary policy. Moreover, an outsize consolidated government budget deficit of around 9% of GDP limits India’s fiscal-policy discretion.

January 4, 2012

Indian Army's High Tech Toilets

Over the years, America's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has yielded a number of practical technologies, most famously, these here Internets. India's equivalent to DARPA, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has also gotten into the game:

The "bio-digester" toilet conceived by a DRDO unit in the city of Gwalior, works by mixing self-multiplying bacteria with human waste in specially-made tanks, resulting in the production of methane gas and water.

It was meant for Indian combat troops deployed on Siachen, a 6,300-metre-high (20,800-feet-high) glacier in disputed Kashmir where temperatures can fall up to to minus 50 degrees Celsius (minus 58 degrees Fahrenheit).

According to AFP, a number of these units are already slated for use in a housing development and a "tropical" unit for warmer climes is also in train. Then, we have this:

The DRDO also has high hopes for its "Heat Stabilised Narrow Fabrics and Cordages for Improved Elastic Recovery Property" which military boffins believe could be used in bras.

"The technology is a heat-stablised narrow fabric and the elastic in it is more robust than materials used in commercial brassieres," a DRDO official added.

Progress marches on.

September 15, 2011

NATO Makes Missile Shield Offer to India

According to Manpreet Sethi, NATO has reached out to India to share ballistic missile defense (BMD) technology. And while India lives in a rough neighborhood, they may not be chomping at the bit:

BMD, therefore, has the potential to upset the deterrence stability in the two nuclear dyads of the region. In fact, the deployment of BMD will impel the adversary toward the development and deployment of countermeasures or advanced offensive capabilities against BMD. This will push the countries into an offence-defence spiral, leading to an arms race not just in earth-based systems, but also in space-based ISR and navigation capabilities as they try to increase the accuracy of their missiles, along with their manoeuvrability, in terminal stages to avoid interception. The automatic tendency, then, will be to develop ASAT capabilities and resort to pre-emption to degrade the space-based assets of the adversary. It therefore appears likely that uncertainties and insecurities will only grow rather than decrease with availability of BMD in all three countries.

As India grapples with finding the best response to its missile threats, the NATO offer to share the ‘technology of discovering and intercepting missiles’ is an interesting development. It comes at a time when the Indian BMD technology trajectory seems to be on an upswing, when the state of Pakistan’s stability is on a downswing, and ambiguities on China’s intentions are on the rise.

So is NATO now searching for relevance by wading into the budding great power rivalries in Asia?

August 11, 2011

Indian Attitudes Toward Terrorism

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A new poll (pdf) takes the pulse of Indian attitudes toward terrorism. Among the findings, 37 percent of Indians believe the government needs to take "stronger action" against Pakistan. Fewer Indians are satisfied with their government's counter-terrorism policy, with just 38 percent claiming to be satisfied.

(AP Photo)

January 12, 2011

A Growing Indian Waistline

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Amidst renewed concerns about a global food crisis, a new report in the UK medical journal Lancet indicates that the higher you go up the Indian socio-economic scale, the wider the waistline:

The study, released Tuesday, cited obesity and physical inactivity as being most common in individuals further up the income ladder and in urban residents, with 7.3% of India’s population overweight and 1.2% obese. That bucks what usually happens when people move up economically: It often encourages healthier living.

One in every five people across the country has at least one chronic disease like cardiovascular, respiratory and metabolic disorders, the study notes. Many of these killers result from leading increasingly unhealthy lifestyles.

The onslaught of new and cheaper motor vehicles, easier access to processed foods, and the influx of multinational food and tobacco companies all contributed to people taking up behavior harmful to their health, the study says.

(AP Photo)

January 11, 2011

The Great Green Race: China vs. India

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Alex Frangos reports that in a contest between Chinese and Indian consumers and businesses over who cares more about the environment, China wins:

Among consumers, 94% of Chinese say they will pay more for products that are certified as green, meaning they have some sort of energy or health and safety benefit. In India, it’s 72%, as it is in Singapore as well.

Businesses in China seem more attuned to marketing green products. Three out of five Chinese businesses think their customers will pay more for green products, while in India and Singapore, that percentage is 35%. Among Chinese food and beverage companies, 67% claim they trade or produce green products, compared to 16% in India. Clothing and footwear makers and sellers, it’s 41% versus 30% in India.

(AP Photo)

December 29, 2010

Human Rights & Rising Economies

A new report on human rights from the risk consulting firm Maplecroft finds backsliding in China:

Most significantly for business, given it plays a major role in supply chains, China has fallen two places in the ranking from last year to 10th. China joins DR Congo (1), Somalia (2), Pakistan (3), Sudan (4), Myanmar (5), Chad (6), Afghanistan (7), Zimbabwe (8), and North Korea (9) as the countries with the worst human rights records.

Russia (14), Colombia (15), Bangladesh (16), Nigeria (17) India (21), Philippines (25) and Mexico (26) have also seen their scores worsen and are featured in the ‘extreme risk’ category.

Interestingly, the report also singles out India for criticism:

India, which is important to the ICT, manufacturing and agriculture sectors, performs particularly badly in the area of labour rights protections. It is ranked joint first for child labour, forced labour and discrimination and 7th for trafficking, which includes the use of girls in bonded labour and sexual exploitation. Estimates of the number of child labourers varied widely. The government's 2004 national survey estimated the number of working children from aged 5-14 at 16.4 million. NGOs, however, claimed the number of child labourers was closer to 55 million.

December 1, 2010

Afghanistan & Indian Leadership

Our latest Gallup/RCW top five list looks at the countries who most approve of India's leadership. While the top five countries are clustered in Africa, Afghanistan comes in at number 6 (not in our survey but in the full Gallup survey on India here). It's not surprising, given the nearly $1.2 billion in aid that India has provided to the country after the U.S. invasion, but it is a reminder of why Pakistan, despite being on the receiving end of even more American generosity, is consistently undermining U.S. goals in Afghanistan.

November 22, 2010

Economic Optimism, Indian Edition

According to Gallup, economic optimism is on the rise in India:


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Standard of living perceptions have also been boosted - 44 percent of Indians say their standard of living has improved vs. 32 percent in 2009.

Gallup and RCW surveyed the top five most economically optimistic countries here.

November 8, 2010

India on the Security Council

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President Obama's declaration that India should have a permanent seat on the UN Security Council is being hailed as an overdue move to modernize an institution that has labored to reform itself to better reflect late 20th and early 21st century power realities. It's also, as Mark Leon Goldberg points out, not gonna happen anytime soon, if ever, thanks to China. Which just goes to show that the Council isn't a very effective body to begin with and will be seen as increasingly irrelevant by rising powers who are being excluded from the club.

In fact, this may already be happening. Eric Voeten argues that the G20 is becoming the forum dejour for today's great powers:

There is some evidence that the G-20 is increasingly becoming a place where security issues are discussed. The G-20 does not vote on resolutions with legally binding effects but it may increasingly become the place where the actual bargaining is done. If this practice evolves, then the pressures for reform could evolve with it.

(AP Photo)

October 22, 2010

Indian Views on U.S., Pakistan

In anticipation of President Obama's November trip to India, Pew Research reports on the findings from their spring survey on global attitudes:

Among the 22 publics included in the spring 2010 Pew Global Attitudes survey, only the Chinese and Brazilians are more satisfied with their economic situation. Still, Indians believe their country faces a number of major challenges, including crime and corruption. And nearly two years after the deadly Mumbai attacks, 81% say terrorism is a very big problem.

Moreover, a plurality of Indians characterize Lashkar-e-Taiba, the group widely blamed for the Mumbai attacks, as the greatest threat facing their country. One-third name Pakistan as the greatest threat -- and overwhelmingly Indians believe there is a link between these two threats: 58% say the Pakistani government actively supports extremist groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba, while another 21% think it at least tolerates them. And if these groups were to conduct another terrorist attack against India, most would support military action against them in Pakistan....

The United States enjoys a largely positive image in India. Nearly two-thirds (66%) express a favorable opinion of the U.S., although this is down from 76% last year. By contrast, only 51% rate Russia favorably, and even fewer feel this way about the EU (36%) or China (34%).

October 18, 2010

The Great Game 2.0

I'm not going to pretend to be an expert on the foreign policy of Imperial Britain in the 19th and early 20th centuries, but what little I know of it makes me dubious of this argument from Thomas Barnett and, by extension, Robert Kaplan:

Where do Afghanistan and Pakistan fit into this "new Great Game," as Kaplan dubs it? They stand between, on the one hand, India and China and, on the other, all the energy that pair of rising behemoths needs to access in the Persian Gulf and Central Asia. So the current effort in Afghanistan is not a case of America imposing globalization's connectivity on places where it was never meant to go. Instead, it represents -- like in Iraq -- another situation where the U.S. is making dangerous places just safe enough for Asian powers to access much-needed energy and mineral resources.

As I understood it, Britain waged its "Great Game" against Russia for influence in Central Asia and the outskirts of the Ottaman Empire because Britain wanted to protect the trade routes it had between England and India. In other words, there was a clear strategic rationale for why Britain played the Great Game and the aim was to benefit Britain. Barnett argues that the U.S. should continue nation building in Afghanistan on behalf of India and China. But what's in it for the United States?

Barnett argues that we'd be a "stabilizer" between two rising powers, but one has to wonder how much of a role Western troops fighting and dying in Afghanistan should really play in that balancing effort.

October 12, 2010

Was Stuxnet a Chinese Attack on India?

Stuxnet, the computer virus that wrecked havoc with Iran's nuclear facilities, may have been a Chinese virus cooked up to attack India:


The deadly Stuxnet internet worm, which was thought to be targeting Iran's nuclear programme, might actually have been aimed at India by none other than China.

Providing a fresh twist in the tale, well-known American cyber warfare expert Jeffrey Carr, who specialises in investigations of cyber attacks against government, told TOI that China, more than any other country, was likely to have written the worm which has terrorised the world since June.

While Chinese hackers are known to target Indian government websites, the scale and sophistication of Stuxnet suggests that only a government no less than that of countries like US, Israel or China could have done it. "I think it's more likely that China is behind Stuxnet than any other country," Carr told TOI, adding that he would provide more details at the upcoming NASSCOM DSCI Security Conclave in Chennai in December.

This is the first I've heard of such accusations and there doesn't appear to be any other experts making similar claims. But still, an intriguing twist.

October 1, 2010

India Rising

The Economist has a good piece on why India will over-take China, putting them at odds with the recent swooning over China's efficient authoritarian/capitalist model. They write that India's demography is more favorable to long-term growth than China's, which has been stunted by its "One Child" policy. The second driver of Indian growth, they argue, is its democracy:

The notion that democracy retards development in poor countries has gained currency in recent years. Certainly, it has its disadvantages. Elected governments bow to the demands of selfish factions and interest groups. Even the most urgent decisions are endlessly debated and delayed.

China does not have this problem. When its technocrats decide to dam a river, build a road or move a village, the dam goes up, the road goes down and the village disappears. The displaced villagers may be compensated, but they are not allowed to stand in the way of progress. China’s leaders make rational decisions that balance the needs of all citizens over the long term. This has led to rapid, sustained growth that has lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. Small wonder that authoritarians everywhere cite China as their best excuse not to allow democracy just yet.

No doubt a strong central government would have given India a less chaotic Commonwealth games, but there is more to life than badminton and rhythmic gymnastics. India’s state may be weak, but its private companies are strong. Indian capitalism is driven by millions of entrepreneurs all furiously doing their own thing. Since the early 1990s, when India dismantled the “licence raj” and opened up to foreign trade, Indian business has boomed. The country now boasts legions of thriving small businesses and a fair number of world-class ones whose English-speaking bosses network confidently with the global elite. They are less dependent on state patronage than Chinese firms, and often more innovative: they have pioneered the $2,000 car, the ultra-cheap heart operation and some novel ways to make management more responsive to customers. Ideas flow easily around India, since it lacks China’s culture of secrecy and censorship. That, plus China’s rampant piracy, is why knowledge-based industries such as software love India but shun the Middle Kingdom.

September 24, 2010

India's Quest for Energy Security

The Hindu has a good interview with Mani Shankar Aiyar - a former Petroleum and Natural Gas minister on India's quest for energy security in a booming Asia.

September 7, 2010

India's Singh on China

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India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh chatted up the editors of the Times of India:

"China would like to have a foothold in South Asia and we have to reflect on this reality. We have to be aware of this," he said. He, however, also said that it was his firm belief that the world was large enough for India and China to "cooperate and compete" at the same time.

After his meetings with the Chinese leadership, including with President Hu Jintao and Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, Singh said he was of the feeling that Beijing wanted to sort out the outstanding issues with India. "However, this leadership will change in two years. There is a new assertiveness among the Chinese. It is difficult to tell which way it will go. So, it's important to be prepared."

One reason we shouldn't treat a U.S.-China Cold War as inevitable is that China's geostrategic environment is a lot more constrained than the Soviet Union's was.

(AP Photo)

August 10, 2010

The Worst Place in the World to Die

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The Economist Intelligence Unit ranked end-of-life care in 40 countries. India came out the worst. The UK came out of the best. See the full results here.

(AP Photo)

June 21, 2010

Afghan Diplomacy

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Earlier last week, the London School of Economics released a report documenting Pakistan's extensive ties to the Taliban and related militant groups giving America grief in Afghanistan. The revelations - which weren't exactly news but were nonetheless significant - underscored the problematic nature of the American mission in Afghanistan. Despite years of cajoling, threatening, and bribing, the U.S. has been unable to stop Pakistan from nurturing Islamic militants in Afghanistan as a "hedge" against India. And so long as Pakistan keeps hedging, it will be impossible to keep the Taliban out of Afghanistan.

Peter Feaver, formerly of the Bush administration's national security council, offers his thoughts on a diplomatic gambit that could salvage Washington's position in Afghanistan:

But the thing Pakistan cares about almost as much as (and perhaps more than) a nuclear deal is the Indian file. For nine years we have tried to get Pakistan to see in Afghanistan what we see, a dangerous problem of safe-havens for militant Islamist terrorist networks. Instead, when Pakistan looks at Afghanistan, it sees India -- that is, a possible two-front conflict in which India conducts mischief in Pakistan's backyard. That is why so much of Pakistan's efforts in Afghanistan have been counterproductive. Maybe it is time to leverage that largely unfounded but deeply entrenched view. Maybe it is time to offer them some help on specific asks they have on their India file: say further restrictions on Indian activity in Afghanistan (even though it is benign), or perhaps reinvigorated efforts to deal with environmental and water resource issues related to the Kashmir, or perhaps reinvigorating regional confidence building measures with an expanded U.S.-sponsored Track II dialogue on conventional war doctrine.
Feaver goes on to suggest that the U.S. should be prepared to support an Indian seat on the UN Security Council, loosen technology transfers and offer "confidential assurances" regarding a rising China.

Considering past U.S. efforts with India and Pakistan, it's unlikely that such an approach could work (and Feaver acknowledges as much). Nevertheless, it may be worth trying - it's difficult to see the U.S. escaping from the morass of Afghanistan without attempting to reach a modus vivendi with India and Pakistan over an end-state in that country.

Relatedly, Michael Cohen passes along this piece in Orbis (pdf) detailing what a scaled down "counter-terrorism" approach to Afghanistan would look like in practice.

(AP Photo)

June 10, 2010

How India Sees Iran

The Indian paper Rediff explores the U.S.-Indian "understanding" over Iran:

Washington is confident that New Delhi will support any action against Teheran when it comes to sanctioning Iran for its refusal to abide by the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, but with an understanding of India's refusal to isolate Iran diplomatically and economically considering the long-standing strategic and civilizational India-Iran ties.

The entire piece is a worth a read.

May 27, 2010

Poll: Kashmiri Attitudes

According to the UK think tank Chatham House, there has been no "systematic attempt" to judge the attitudes of Kashmiris on either side of the line of control between India and Pakistan. It's remarkable, when you think about it, given the international implications of the conflict post 9/11. Now, Kings College and Ipsos Mori, under the auspices of the Qadhafi Foundation for Charity Associations & Development have undertaken a comprehensive study of Kashmir opinion. Some of the findings:

Independence: In aggregate 44 percent in AJK and 43 percent in J&K said they would vote for independence. However, while this is the most popular option overall, not only does it fail to carry an overall majority, on the Indian side of the LoC it is heavily polarised. In the Kashmir Valley Division, commonly regarded as the core region of Kashmiri identity and of demands for its political recognition, support for independence runs at between 74 percent and 95 percent. In contrast, across Jammu Division it is under one percent. In Leh it is thirty percent and Kargil twenty percent.

Joining India: Twenty-one percent overall said they would vote to join India. However, only one percent on the Pakistani side of the Line of Control said they would vote for this, compared with 28 percent on the Indian side. In the Vale of Kashmir support for joining India was much lower, down to just two percent in Baramula. Only in Jammu and Ladakh Divisions was there majority support for joining India, rising to as high as eighty percent in Kargil.

Joining Pakistan: Fifteen percent overall said they would vote to join Pakistan. Fifty percent of the population on the Pakistani side of the LoC said they would choose to join Pakistan, compared with two percent in J&K, on the Indian side of the LoC. Badgam, in the Kashmir Valley Division, had the highest percentage vote for joining Pakistan at seven percent.

One conclusion is clear: a plebiscite along the lines envisaged in the UN resolutions of 1948-49 is extremely unlikely to offer a solution today.

You can read the whole report here.

May 4, 2010

Nonproliferation as Team Sport

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No one worries about British or French or American nukes. Nor should anyone worry about Israeli nukes — as long as Israel doesn’t face annihilation, they will never be used.

That’s because countries like the U.S. and Israel have democratic systems with checks and safeguards against capricious use of the ultimate weapons. The problem with Iran is that it has no such safeguards. If it were to acquire nukes, its weapons would be in the hands of millenarian religious fanatics who jail or kill anyone who criticizes them. - Max Boot

If the administration wants to prevent proliferation and/or an arms race in the region, there is only one place on which it needs to focus its attention: Iran.

But since the administration refuses to turn up the heat on the regime, it has gotten nowhere in confronting the actual nuclear threat in the Middle East. So, instead, it is inventing a new threat and dealing with that one. In this case, we’re back to the laughable idea that the United States can extract good behavior from bad regimes by setting an inspiring example of self-abnegation, especially one in which we refuse to show any “favoritism” to our allies. - Noah Pollak

Once upon time, Washington's Iranian ally was an "island of stability," fully deserving of American nuclear know-how and material. The reason the Shah even signed the NPT in the first place was so that he could develop and expand his country's nuclear energy program. Fast forward 40 years, and that one little signature is essentially the spine of the international community's charge of nuclear malfeasance against Iran and its current regime. Without it, Tehran's behavior would legally be no different than India and Japan's, and in fact less "rogue" than Israel's. Without that little signature, we wouldn't even be having a debate over "targeted" multilateral sanctions vs. "crippling" sanctions. There'd be no hand-wringing over Chinese waivers and watered-down measures, because the case for punishing Iran's nuclear behavior would have zero international basis.

All of this is important, because it demonstrates how unbiased and fair global policy can serve a more static, long-term purpose. Alliances change and turn, which is why the case for democratic nuclear entitlement put forth here by Boot and Pollak makes little sense to me. I agree with Pollak that it's not entirely fair to target Israel and Israel alone for its nuclear program, but let's be fair - if Obama were to advocate a more consistent policy of "self-abnegation" and include, for example, India, then the choruses of Indo-American decline would only become louder and more profound.

And Boot seems to confuse democratic transparency for nuclear security. India is indeed a developing and promising democracy, but it's also a divisive and sectarian one; fraught with internal, regional conflicts. Can Boot really call India an island of stability just because it's a democracy in 2009? Is India immune from regime upheaval? Is any nation - much less one accounting for roughly one-sixth of the world's population - immune from such change?

Can he say unequivocally that Israel's undeclared and unmonitored nuclear weapons program will never produce the next A.Q. Khan?

April 17, 2010

India Debunks the Currency Hawks

Perhaps the most common refrain from the folks in Congress and the punditocracy who are demanding a drastic appreciation in China's currency (the RMB) is that the revaluation is absolutely necessary to reduce the "dangerous" US-China trade deficit.  These currency hawks' underlying reasoning is simple: China's allegedly undervalued currency makes Chinese imports to the US cheaper and American exports to China more expensive, thus creating a woefully-distorted bilateral trade imbalance as compared to a situation in which both the RMB and USD "floated" based on market conditions.  (See here and here for examples of this rhetoric.)

Assuming for a moment that the RMB is significantly undervalued, and that the bilateral trade deficit (or any trade deficit) is a problem for the US economy, there remains a very serious question of whether any sort of RMB appreciation, based on market factors or otherwise, will actually affect the US-China trade balance.  The currency hawks certainly think so (it's their raison d'etre), but many scholars (and your humble correspondent) disagree, pointing to the recent history of the RMB and the US trade deficit, the past experiences of Japan's currency appreciation versus the dollar, and, of course, lots of economic analysis and modeling of structural factors in both the US and China - all of which strongly argue against the theory that RMB appreciation is some sort of "silver bullet" for the bilateral trade deficit.  Indeed, a very interesting new study released by the Centre for Economic Policy Research provides even more such evidence (and a lot of other good stuff).

Unsurprisingly, currency hawks like Paul Krugman have brushed these sound criticisms aside, arguing that they fail to capture current market realities (or something).  A story in Thursday's Wall Street Journal, however, provides very strong support for the currency skeptics' arguments about the disconnect between nations' currency policies and their bilateral trade balances - this time from what is arguably China's largest competitor, India. 

Continue reading "India Debunks the Currency Hawks" »

April 15, 2010

Obama & India

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There is a growing chorus of voices warning the Obama administration that it is veering off-course with India. Evan Feigenbaum offers some advice:


The administration needs to ramp up its relationship with India now. After all, even if Obama does everything right–and many Indians believe he has gone badly wrong in Afghanistan and with Pakistan–there will still be constraints on the U.S.-India relationship. India has moved beyond nonalignment, to be sure, but it has yet to coalesce around a new foreign policy vision. And although New Delhi may ultimately settle on a strategy that is conducive to a more open and global partnership with the United States, that is not assured.

In the American Interest (sub required) C. Raja Mohan makes the case that India can become an expeditionary military power (as it was under the British) and partner with the U.S. in global security.

The idea of a strengthened U.S.-India alliance is very appealing for all the obvious reasons: they're a large democracy with a growing economy located in the heart of Asia. But our relationship with Pakistan, and the counter-insurgency in Afghanistan appear to be greatly complicating efforts. I don't know how - or if - there's a formula that can keep Pakistan happy while cultivating an alliance with India (and vice-versa). Tilt too far toward India, and Pakistan has every reason to nurture its ties to Islamist terror groups as a hedge, undermining whatever fragile progress we've made in Afghanistan. Tilt too far toward Pakistan, and we'll lose a most promising strategic partner.

(AP Photo)

April 6, 2010

Video of the Day

At least yesterday, the bloodiest insurgency was not in Afghanistan, Pakistan, or Iraq, but in India:

The Naxalites have been around for a long time and it looks like they are still going strong. This hearkens back to the days not so long ago when insurgencies were generally looked at as domestic rather than foreign problems.

For more videos on issues from around the world, check out the RealClearWorld videos page.

March 11, 2010

A Multipolar Mess?

Nikolas Gvosdev writes:

Two years ago, Washington was abuzz once again with the prospects for a “League of Democracies” that would support U.S. global leadership. But in the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis, which devastated Burma/Myanmar, a very clear rift opened up between the democracies of the advanced north and west, which advocated an intervention on humanitarian grounds, and the democracies of the south and east, which proved to be far more receptive to China’s call for defending state sovereignty. In the Doha round of trade talks and in the ongoing climate change negotiations, the leading democracies of the south and east—Brazil, Mexico, South Africa, India and Indonesia among them—have tended to line up with Beijing instead of joining Washington’s banner.

The entire National Interest piece is worth a read, but regarding this snippet I would argue that if it's a "League of Pliancy" Washington had hoped for, then perhaps it should start viewing the world the way Vladimir Putin does. A key tenet of President Bush's so-called freedom agenda was that a more democratic world meant a safer world. I'm sure that's true. But it also means a more pluralistic world; one with many voices, and many interests.

This world could be a great place to live, if there were actually an international system to help guide and support emerging democracies alongside the already ensconced ones. But this is one of the freedom agenda's key failings: more democracy means more interests, which of course makes it harder for countries, such as the United States, that are used to dealing with more pliant actors.

Interests and emerging democrats will continue to overlap and conflict in the coming years, which is why it's imperative that our public officials learn how to lead in an increasingly multipolar tug of war around the globe. From what we've seen so far, I wouldn't hold your breath for such nuanced understanding in 2010 or 2012.

UPDATE:

Larison adds his own thoughts to the multipolarity vs. exceptionalism debate, and calls a bluff on Obama's neoconservative critics:

To take their criticism seriously, we would have to believe that his critics accept the reality and inevitability of multipolarity, and we would have to believe that they also accept the relative decline in American power that this entails. Of course, they don’t really accept either of these things. For the most part, they do not acknowledge the structural political reasons for resistance to Obama’s initiatives, and they recoil from any suggestion that America needs to adjust to a changing world. They locate the fault for any American decline entirely with Obama, because he fails to be sufficiently strong in championing U.S. interests. “Decline is a choice,” Krauthammer says, and he accuses Obama of having chosen it.

March 9, 2010

The Costs of Dubai

Bob Baer, who knows a thing or two about covert operations, weighs in on the Dubai assassination and what it may have cost Israel:

If Netanyahu authorized the hit, though, the real question is whether he really considered the strategic implications. Look at the map. If Israel goes ahead and bombs Iran's nuclear facilities, it will need over-flight clearances from the Gulf Arabs. Antagonizing the U.A.E. in this way, leaving almost no doubt that Israel was behind Mabhouh's assassination, does not seem the best way to facilitate such clearances. Nor does it help build an Arab Sunni coalition against Iran and its Lebanese proxy, Hizballah.
The Islamic Republic imports about a third of its [gas] needs. And unfortunately, 75% of Iran's gasoline imports pass through the U.A.E. I would bet that, right now, Netanyahu is wishing that Mossad had been just a little better at covering its tracks.

As is Washington, no doubt. Again I ask, is this how allies allegedly fighting the same war behave?

January 26, 2010

The Scott Heard 'Round the World?

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Over on Real Clear Politics, there has been plenty of speculation on the effect Scott Brown's election has had on domestic politics. However The Hindu reports that shock waves may be felt as far away as India. Both India and China are allegedly rethinking their decision to sign the Copenhagen Accord:

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has written to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon seeking a number of clarifications on the implications of the accord that India -- with five other countries -- had negotiated in the last moments of the Copenhagen climate summit in December, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“That letter, and the defeat of the Democrats in the Massachusetts bypoll, has forced the UN to postpone the deadline indefinitely,” an official said. “With the Democrats losing in one of their strongholds, the chances of the climate bill going through the US senate have receded dramatically.
“So if the US is not going to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent, which was a very weak target anyway, why should we make any commitment even if it does not have any legal teeth?” the official said.

I'm a treaty skeptic, especially of ones as difficult to enforce as carbon emissions. It seems highly probable that the Massachusetts Republican's victory is just an excuse for India and China to withdraw and blame it on a faction in the United States. Oddly, this could be a sign that China and India at least take these treaties seriously, since they are unwilling to sign if it would actually put them at a relative disadvantage to the United States.

(AP Photo)

January 22, 2010

Terror From Above

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Rediff is reporting that Pakistani terror group Lashkar-e-Tayiba has stocked up on paragliders from Europe to launch an aerial assault on India:


The IB says that there is a growing concern over the Lashkar's ability to launch an attack from the skies. It appears that the terror outfit is trying newer techniques to step on to Indian soil since they are finding it hard to infiltrate through land and sea owing to stepped up vigil.

From the looks of the paraglider above it seems logistically challenging to use it for a terror assault, to say the least. Rediff notes that Indian authorities see the move more as a sign of desperation than a menace, but it's a reminder, as we contemplate expensive full body scanners at airports, that terrorists will find ways around, or above, passive defenses.

(Photo via Wiki under a GNU License)

January 12, 2010

RCW Video of the Day

News that probably will not get a lot of play but may have far reaching consequences:

It is worth noting that Bangladesh is a primarily Muslim country, which actually used to be known as Eastern Pakistan. It was able to break away from that country as a result of Indian intervention which was part of the Indo-Pakistani war of 1971. It may be significant that India is able to warm ties to an Islamic country in South Asia.

For more videos on the latest issues from around the world check out the RCW video page.

November 19, 2009

Obama & India

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Whatever your impression of the Obama administration's foreign policy to date, it does seem the administration has not found its footing with respect to India. First, there was the blow-up over Richard Holbrooke's "AfPak" portfolio (he wanted it to include India, until the Indians reportedly spiked that idea). Now the Indian press is reporting on worry that the Joint Declaration signed by the U.S. in China this week will undermine Indian security:


The joint statement issued by US and China, after the talks between Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao, declared that both sides "support the improvement and growth of relations between India and Pakistan."

This created much confusion and suspicion in New Delhi.

"At a time when Indian public opinion was looking forward to fruitful results from the forthcoming visit of PM Singh to the US, reports from Beijing on Obama's visit to China would strengthen the impression that Obama is not well-disposed towards India," said strategic analyst B Raman.

America and China have named India and Pakistan in their joint statement after a decade -- but the last time US was furious over India conducting the Pokhran nuclear tests. This time, the joint statement has raised questions about Obama's understanding of India.

G Parthasarathy, former high commissioner to Pakistan, told rediff.com, "India has cause to be concerned when there is collusion or confrontation, rather than constructive cooperation, between the United States and China. The statements made during Obama's visit to China smacked of collusion, giving China the status of a regional hegemon -- that too just after China's role in providing nuclear weapon capabilities to Pakistan was made public in the US."

He added, "There is no room for a third chair on the table on India-Pakistan issues".

(AP Photos)

July 20, 2009

U.S.-India Joint Statement Text

The State Department released the text of a joint statement from the governments of the U.S. and India. The text is below:

Continue reading "U.S.-India Joint Statement Text" »

April 22, 2009

India Hearts Mein Kampf

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The Daily Telegraph reports that Indian business students are snapping up copies of Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf for its - wait for it - "self-improvement and management strategy."

Seriously:


"Students are increasingly coming in asking for it and we're happy to sell it to them," said Sohin Lakhani, owner of Mumbai-based Embassy books who reprints Mein Kampf every quarter and shrugs off any moral issues in publishing the book.

"They see it as a kind of success story where one man can have a vision, work out a plan on how to implement it and then successfully complete it".

Yes indeed. It all turned out all right for Hitler in the end there, didn't it?

Hat tip: Annie Lowrey.

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Photo via Wiki Commons.