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

Ten years after 9/11: What are key Asian states saying?

This past weekend, the U.S. commemorated the ten year anniversary of the September 11 attacks. Across the globe, other countries also took a moment to reflect on this day.  In this post, we examine views from Russia, India, China and Japan.


InRussia, commentators asserted thatU.S.unilateralism in the “war on terror” has interfered in the internal affairs of sovereign countries. At the same time, they concede that the Kremlin also lost an opportunity to deepen U.S.-Russian relations in the 9/11 aftermath.

  • The Russian Foreign Ministry stated that although the 9/11 attacks were “provocative and cruel,” they also led to broad international cooperation that has helped to bring global counter-terrorism cooperation to a higher level. The Foreign Ministry emphasized thatRussia supports an international coalition of nations, as opposed to some form of unilateralism, as the best mechanism for battling against the specter of terrorism.

Multiple commentaries described the 9/11 tragedy and subsequent global fight against terrorism as a missed opportunity for the Kremlin to boost ties with the West:

  • The Moscow Times, which tends to express opinion that the Rising Powers Initiative characterizes as Pro-Western Liberal, favoring modernization and integration with the West, noted that although U.S.-Russian cooperation got off to a strong start after 9/11, it quickly fizzled. “Moscow was counting on getting something in return fromWashington…butWashington simply tookMoscow’s assistance for granted, interpreting it as a response that any civilized country would have taken to support a partner hit by a major terrorist attack.”
  • RIA Novosti military commentator Konstantin Bogdanov remarked, “If there’s anything that the ten years of the ‘war on terror’ have demonstrated, it’s that the world leader is incredibly isolated. America is stubbornly and methodically trying to impose its own designs on a desperately recalcitrant world.” As the state news agency, RIA Novosti’s views are close to the current government position and reflect what the Rising Powers Initiative has identified as the Great Power Balancers viewpoint—those that seek great power status in relations with U.S. and China.


In India, 9/11 was an occasion to reflect on the country’s own problems with terrorism, in the context ofAmerica’s war on terror over the past ten years.     Read more of this post

Asian reactions to the death of Osama bin Laden

How is the Asian region responding to the death of Osama bin Laden? In this blog post, we examine the domestic viewpoints of India, Iran, Russia, China and Japan, especially their reflections on terrorism, U.S. presence in Afghanistan, and the role of Pakistan.


In India, most commentaries focused on India’s relations with Pakistan and Afghanistan, while some reflected on the ongoing democratization processes in the Middle East.

  • The Hindu described the revelation of bin Laden’s presence in Pakistan as a “moment of truth…similar to the discovery that the 2008 Mumbai attacks were launched from its territory,” but it nevertheless urged restraint in Indian diplomacy: “While it may be tempting to see bin Laden’s killing at Abbottabad as confirmation of India’s worst fears, New Delhi must resist the temptation to crow, and must push ahead with the peace process with the civilian government of Pakistan.” The Indian Express had a similar view, saying “India has to continue to be innovative and largehearted in engaging with as large a section of the Pakistani establishment as it can.
  • The Times of India wondered whether the U.S. would accelerate its troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, and expressed deep worry that this could “easily lead to chaos with serious security ramifications for the region, including India.” The Indian Express urged more cooperation with the U.S. on Af-Pak peace: “The death in Abbottabad is a reminder of the realism needed to negotiate the new great game being played for Afghanistan after the drawdown of American troop presence….Given its limited leverage within Pakistan, India must also be engaged with the US and the international community on steps towards Af-Pak peace, to prevent the re-emergence of Afghanistan as a hotbed for extremism and also to enable political stability in Pakistan.
  • Other commentaries in the Hindustan Times, Economic Times, and Indian Express all noted that al-Qaeda had originally sought to overthrow the regimes of Egypt and Saudi Arabia, but now the pro-democracy movements of the “Arab spring” are showing the region’s disenfranchised youth an alternative to religious radicalism in pushing for political change.


An analysis by Semira N. Nikou of the United States Institute for Peace notes that the general reaction in Iran “discounted Osama bin Laden’s death while at the same time calling for a faster U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, since the pretext for going to war was eliminated.”

  • Ramin Mehmanparast, the Iranian foreign ministry spokesperson, said the “US and their allies have no more excuse to deploy forces in the Middle East under pretext of fighting terrorism.” In a similar tone, defense minister Ahmad Vahidi emphasized the casualties from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, commenting that Americans had “inflicted much damage to the region to kill only one individual.”  Read more of this post

Obama’s India visit: Beyond strategic symbolism

By Deepa M. Ollapally

Before India’s political pundits write off President Obama’s visit as nothing more than symbolic, they would do well to consider US- India relations under the Obama administration in its entirety. But in order to do that, they need to first shed their single minded focus on strategic affairs.

There is growing apprehension in India (and among some US analysts) that Indo-US relations have reached a plateau, and that no big strategic breakthroughs are on the horizon. First of all, it is unrealistic to expect strategic transformations at every summit.

Obama’s two predecessors were able to make history after the end of the Cold War by changing the course of US-India relations from one of decades-old disaffection to solid cooperation. Obama has inherited an excellent foundation for relations between the two countries, and there is little question that the US president has embraced India. Read more of this post

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