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

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Schools of thought in China’s foreign policymaking – How should the US respond?

China is a conflicted rising power with an increasingly pluralized foreign policymaking process, characterized by multiple viewpoints across different actors and institutions. What then are the implications for US foreign policy toward China? This question was addressed by a panel of China experts at a symposium on “Worldview of Rising Powers: Domestic Foreign Policy Debates,” held on April 25th at George Washington University.

David Shambaugh, Professor of Political Science at GWU, outlined seven schools of thought in China’s foreign policy discourse and recommended corresponding U.S. policy responses:

  • Nativists are populists and nationalists who distrust the outside world and fiercely criticize the West. The US should be aware of them, but not overstate their influence. They can be ignored.
  • Realists place a premium on building up a strong state that can navigate its own way in the world and resist outside pressures. In short, they want to strengthen China and challenge the United States. For the US, strategic hedging would be the response to this semi-revisionist tendency in China.
  • Major Powers proponents are those who advocate a focus on relations with the world’s major powers and blocs. In other words, they are interested in working with the US, which complements an engagement approach in US foreign policy.
  • Asia First proponents, as the name implies, have a regional focus. They seek to compete with the US and undermine American influence in Asia. In response, the US should maintain its presence, alliances, diplomatic partnerships and soft power in Asia. Read more of this post

Military intervention in Libya: perspectives from China, Russia and India

China, Russia and India abstained on UN Security Council Resolution No. 1973, which authorized a no-fly zone over Libya and the use of force to protect civilians. As military intervention in Libya enters its sixth day, what are the Chinese, Russian and Indian views and reactions?


CHINA

Officially-sanctioned views, as reflected in the People’s Daily, lambast the military intervention in Libya and cast it as a Western initiative.

  • How humanitarian is Western intervention in Libya?” asks one op-ed. “This so-called ‘humanitarianism’ is actually just the first step toward overthrowing of another country’s political power.”
  • They point to Libya’s oil resources as the underlying motive. “The military involvement of Western coalitions in the Middle East is closely associated with oil reserves and strategic interests. Iraq was invaded for oil. Now it is Libya.
  • It is noteworthy that the criticism is generally directed at the “West,” and not specifically at the United States, since “the U.S. withdrew to the second line this time.” The U.S. position is understood to be “a compromise between the realism of the secretary of defense and the idealism of the secretary of state.” Read more of this post

Foreign policy debates in Russia, India and China

How do the domestic policy debates within rising powers such as Russia, India and China help us understand current political developments and foreign policy behaviors of these countries?

As part of an ongoing outreach to the policy and media communities, the Rising Powers Initiative held a briefing on March 2 to present expert analysis of domestic debates and recent policy developments in Russia, India and China. The event took place at the Elliot School of International Affairs, and was sponsored by the Carnegie Corporation.

To understand the foreign policy behaviors of major countries in Asia and Eurasia, the main approach of the Rising Powers Initiative has been to focus on the domestic debates taking place within these countries. These debates reflect a certain intellectual orientation in a country, or its “intellectual DNA,” which is then reflected in that country’s foreign policy, explained Henry R. Nau, who moderated the panel as co-director of the Rising Powers Initiative and Professor of Political Science and International Affairs at The George Washington University.

Moreover, domestic debates matter most when the external geopolitical environment is relatively stable, said Nau. For the past twenty years, international relations have been characterized by the unipolarity of the United States, and any shift in the international order is gradual. This brings into focus the domestic interpretations of such shifts, and how those interpretations shape the overall direction of a country’s foreign policy.

In Russia, the predominant intellectual orientation has seen a “a lot of volatility” in the past twenty years, said Andrew Kuchins, Director and Senior Fellow of the Russia and Eurasia Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Beginning with the short-lived “Liberal Westernizers” of 1991-92, Russia’s political landscape then shifted to “Great Power Balancers / Realists” in the 1990s and early 2000s, who were disappointed in the West and believed in a more balanced, multi-vector foreign policy. Read more of this post

Egypt and East Asia: drawing lessons from each other

By Amitav Acharya

Many people wonder if the crisis in Egypt, leading to Hosni Mubarak’s resignation on February 11, might spur similar popular upheaval for regime change in Asia. Asia has no shortage of potential candidates, including the biggest of them all: China. Then there are also Vietnam, Burma and North Korea.

In East Asia, one finds many recent assertions of ‘people’s power’ that one saw in the streets of Cairo: the Philippines in 1986 and 2001 when surging crowds ousted presidents Marcos and Estrada respectively, and Thailand in 2008, when protests ended the remnant of the Thaksin Shinawatra regime. But the situation in Asia is quite different. Asia has already seen more transitions to democracy than the Middle East. Although many Asian countries are not paragons of liberal democracy, outright dictatorships in the region have fallen in number relative to the past and to democratic or semi-democratic governments.

At 30 years, the Mubarak regime held power far longer than any regime in Asia under the same leader. The leader’s persona matters, as change of the top leader may mitigate popular anger even if the regime remains in place. China and Vietnam have replaced their top leadership before they became lightning rods for popular anger. Read more of this post

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