Indian and U.S. experts exchange mixed views on India as a global power

India’s foreign policy has become increasingly contested in domestic Indian politics, calling into question some of the assumptions and expectations that American policymakers may have about the future of US-India relations. This divergence in opinion was highlighted at the “India as a Global Power: Contending Views from India” conference, which took place on January 23, 2012 and was co-sponsored by the Sigur Center for Asian Studies and the Center for a New American Security.

Assessing India’s Threat Environment

The conference’s Indian speakers disagreed on a wide range of issues, one of which was the question of India’s threat environment. Bharat Karnad, Professor at the Center for Policy Research in New Delhi, identified China’s military build-up and proliferation activities as the top threats to Indian security. Former Indian Foreign Secretary Lalit Mansingh also expressed grave concern over China’s naval presence in the Indian Ocean, though he did not consider it an imminent threat.

In contrast, Mani Shankar Aiyar, Member of the Indian Parliament, was more optimistic that India could forge cooperative solutions with China on issues of common interest, such as freedom of the seas. He instead argued that Pakistan remains the most prominent threat to India. T.N. Ninan, Chairman and Chief Editor of the Business Standard, while concurring on both the Chinese and Pakistani threats, emphasized economic development as India’s top priority and said energy security and international pressure to act on climate change could hinder India’s growth trajectory. Read more of this post

Kim Jong-il’s Death Draws Major Reactions in Asia

The death of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il this week provoked a variety of reactions across the globe. Kim Jong-un, the late Kim’s third son, will succeed his father. In this post, we examine reactions to Kim’s death from Asia and what it means for North Korea’s future.

JAPAN

Given Japan’s proximity and interest in the Korean peninsula, reactions were markedly heightened. Many speculated on what the post-Kim era might mean for Japanese interests in the region.

Kim’s death triggered a flurry of responses from Japanese government officials, who emphasized their hope for continued stability while monitoring developments on the Korean peninsula:

A group of academics mulled over North Korea’s future and its relations with the rest of the world in aroundtable interview with the Asahi Shimbun.

  • Noting Pyongyang’s close ties with Beijing, Masao Okonogi, professor emeritus at Keio University, predicted that China’s leaders will support the Kim Jong-un regime, fearing the consequences of a North Korea plunged into turmoil. Okonogi also predicted that North Korea’s foreign policy will remain unchanged for the time being. Read more of this post

China and India React to Secretary Clinton’s Visit to Burma/Myanmar

US policy toward Myanmar is shifting from one of isolation to engagement, as underscored by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s three day visit to Myanmar in early December. In this post, we highlight how this change is viewed in India and China, two major Asian powers with potentially competing interests in Myanmar. 

INDIA

Of the diverse range of Indian commentaries on this topic, a generally shared opinion is that this liberalization of relations with Myanmar shows that India’s policy of engagement since the mid-1990s has been the right approach all along.

On the geopolitical implications of US engagement with Myanmar, many see this as an opportunity for India to counterbalance China through strengthened relations with Myanmar. See, for example,commentary by Shyam Saran, the former Indian ambassador to Myanmar.

  • The “Liberal Globalist” perspective is more optimistic about cooperating with the US. Sreeram Chaulia, Vice Dean of the Jindal School of International Affairs, argues that an “India-US team” with common geopolitical interests “can tilt Myanmar decisively away from authoritarianism and Chinese stranglehold.”

A critical question is whether India’s relations with Myanmar should take into account the country’s progress in political liberalization. Read more of this post

The US “Pivots” Back to Asia. How are the Region’s Major Powers Reacting?

In our previous blog post, we examined Asian reactions to the economic aspects of America’s “pivot” back to Asia strategy. Today’s post looks at what China, India, and Japan are saying about the geopolitical implications of US plans to strengthen its presence in Asia.

CHINA

Official commentary specifically on this topic was expressed by the Foreign Ministry spokesperson during a regular press briefing: “In handling Asia-Pacific affairs, one should comply with the basic trend of peace, development and cooperation upheld by regional countries, and respect the diversity and complexity of the region.”

Similarly, the press has stressed China’s commitment to peaceful development and coexistence with neighbors. Commentaries characterize US intentions as reflecting a “Cold War mentality” aiming to encircle China, then explain why such plans are likely to fail:

  • China may also retaliate economically at neighboring countries, such as the Philippines, for cooperating militarily with the US. The Philippines is “walking a very fine line,” warned a Global Timeseditorial that recommended economic “punishment” such as postponing the implementation of investment agreements and decreasing imports from the Philippines. In the meantime, “China should enhance cooperation with countries like Malaysia and Indonesia, allowing them to benefit more from the Philippine vacuum.”

For reactions by Chinese netizens, the Dutch nonprofit foundation Global Voices has a report here.

 

INDIA

Across the board, commentary in India is welcoming of America’s plan to strengthen its presence in Asia, and sees this renewed attention on the region as a chance for India to assert its strategic role. Read more of this post

Is There a Relationship between Political and Economic Integration?

By Nikola Mirilovic

Economic integration in Asia has progressed further and enjoys broader support than political integration. Whether economic integration requires political integration in order to survive, and the nature of the relationship between interdependence and conflict, remain open questions. That is the case in general as well as in the particular case of key contemporary rising powers: China and India. These questions will play an important role in understanding the prospects for conflict or cooperation in Asia. This Policy Commentary outlines the general debate on these questions and applies it to China and to India.

 The Interdependence Debate

 The main argument linking economic integration and peace is as follows. Increasing trade and international investment facilitates economic efficiency by allowing for economies of scale, and for countries to take advantage of the benefits of specialization and exchange. Once international economic links are established, governments do not want to interrupt them and suffer an economic loss. They consequently pursue stable and peaceful relations with their trading partners.

 The counterargument is that economic integration can increase the likelihood of conflict in two principal ways. First, integration can lead to trade disputes. For example, trade imbalances can lead to complaints by the country that is experiencing a trade deficit. Inflows of foreign investment can lead to concerns about excessive influence by foreigners. Read more of this post

Asian reactions to Gaddafi’s death

Libyan leader Colonel Moammar Gaddafi’s death last Thursday sparked heated reactions from major powers in Asia. In this post, we highlight the viewpoints coming out of Russia, China and India, many of which are highly critical of NATO’s role in Libya.

RUSSIA

Compared to China and India, reactions from Russia have been the most critical and extensive, including the official response. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said NATO actions preceding the death of Gaddafi should be scrutinized for their compliance with international law, and emphasized “they should not have killed him.”

Commentaries in the press have likewise been negative. A round-up of expert reactions was reported by the Moscow News:

  • Andrei Fedvashin, RIA Novosti political analyst: “No one gave NATO sanction to hunt Gaddafi and bomb the suburbs of Sirte under siege.”
  • Georgy Mirsky of the World Economy and International Relations Institute, however, thought that Russia was to some extent complicit in NATO’s actions in Libya: “If in March, Moscow did not abstain in the UN Security Council vote [that authorized the no-fly zone], then the colonel would still be in power now.”

Views on Libya’s future appear mixed:

  • Sergey Markov, director of the Institute for Political Research: the situation in Libya “will be more or less peaceful.” He expressed confidence that the new Libyan government would be able to unify the different tribal factions, including those who were dominant during Gaddafi’s rule.
  • Evgeny Minchenko, director of the International Institute for Political Enterprise, was less optimistic: “low-intensity civil war…is likely to continue for quite a while, same as…in Iraq and…the AfPak region.” Read more of this post
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