By Kiran Hassan, Research assistant, South Asia Programme
Can a third-time prime minister rescue a nation in trouble? This is a question being asked about Nawaz Sharif since his party won the most number of votes in historic elections in Pakistan last weekend.
The poll – in which one elected Pakistani government succeeded another for the first time since independence in 1947 – leaves Sharif and his Pakistan Muslim League–N (PML–N) in charge of a country plagued by terrorist attacks, corruption and daily power outages. Sharif has already made it clear that the economy will be his top priority, but his campaign promise to force the United States to cut back drone attacks on Pakistani soil – albeit now softened – remains in the news.
Sharif and the PML–N saw off a plucky challenge by former cricketer Imran Khan and his Pakistan Movement for Justice (PTI), and should now be able to govern alone without needing to form a coalition.
Pakistan’s youthful population meant there were 36 million registered new voters among a total 86m; and voter turnout was substantial, at 60%, including a large proportion of women. Although more than 100 people lost their lives in election-related violence, the Taliban failed to significantly disrupt the vote.
However, Sharif’s two previous unpopular terms in the 1990s hang over him, and his party’s victory in this election rests almost entirely on its success in Punjab, Pakistan’s most populous province.
There is something about the number five in Sino-Indian relations, writes IISS Director for Geo-Economics and Strategy Sanjaya Baru, in a new piece looking back at the recent BRICS summit in South Africa. There, Asia’s two giants had a chance to improve their relations when the Chinese and Indian leaders met on the sidelines.
The two countries’ relationship has long been defined in terms of the five-element ‘Pancha Sheela’, involving mutual respect for each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty; mutual non-aggression; mutual non-interference in each other’s internal affairs; equality and mutual benefit; and peaceful co-existence.
‘Now China’s new leaders have enunciated a new Pancha Sheela’, writes Baru, ‘with President Xi Jinping offering a “five-point proposal” for Sino-Indian relations. The updated principles would maintain strategic communication and healthy bilateral relations; harness each other’s strengths and expand cooperation in infrastructure, investment, and other areas; deepen cultural ties and increase mutual understanding and friendship; expand coordination and collaboration in multilateral affairs to safeguard developing countries’ legitimate interests and address global challenges; and accommodate each other’s core concerns and reconcile bilateral disagreements amicably.’
Baru says India would be happy to embrace these principles, but the fifth point is tricky, because it leaves China’s ‘core concerns’ undefined. Traditionally, these were Tibet and Taiwan, but Chinese officials have recently referred to their claims on the South China Sea as a ‘core interest’ as well. And this has opened up a Pandora’s box.
Meanwhile, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has his own five principles for the Sino-Indian relationship.
By Kiran Hassan, Research assistant, South Asia Programme
Pakistan is heading for an historic election on 11 May, in which one democratically elected government is due to succeed another for the first time in the country’s existence. President Asif Ali Zardari finally called the election on 20 March, after criticism from Imran Khan and other politicians that he was delaying the process. In fact, the PPP (Pakistan Peoples Party) government headed by prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf completed its full five-year term on 16 March, necessitating the appointment of a caretaker administration in the run-up to the poll.
Retired senior judge Mir Hazar Khan Khoso, from the strife-torn province of Baluchistan, was sworn in as caretaker prime minister this past Monday. The 84-year-old was chosen by the election commission, after Pakistan’s main political parties failed to agree on a candidate.
The day beforehand Pakistan’s former military ruler, General Pervez Musharraf, had flown into Karachi airport after years of self-imposed exile in the UK and the UAE. Musharraf, who ruled Pakistan from 1999 to 2008, intends to run in the upcoming poll. However, he faces conspiracy to murder and other charges in Pakistan, and needed to arrange a ‘protective bail’ order to prevent being arrested upon his return.
By Dr Pierre Noel, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah Senior Fellow for Economic and Energy Security
Last week, the presidents of Iran and Pakistan inaugurated the final leg of a controversial pipeline enabling Iran to export gas to energy-hungry Pakistan. The US, which has long opposed the much-delayed project, is warning that if it ‘actually goes forward’ the pipeline could breach the sanctions regime against Iran’s nuclear programme and trigger US sanctions against Pakistan.
China’s partial funding of the pipeline complicates the geopolitical implications of the deal.
Lengthy power blackouts are a regular occurrence in Pakistan, causing street protests and undermining the economy. By December 2014, Iran and Pakistan hope to start delivering 21.5 million cubic metres of gas per day to Pakistan from Iran’s giant offshore South Pars field in the Persian Gulf. Islamabad plans to use Iranian gas to generate about 20% of its electricity.
By Mark Fitzpatrick, Director, Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Programme
During visits to New Delhi and Islamabad last week, I was disheartened by some of the discussions I had on nuclear doctrine. In both capitals, a dominant theme was the perceived need to restore credible deterrence, with seemingly little consideration for the implications of sparking a nuclear war.
In New Delhi, leading members of the strategic community insisted that the restraint India had shown after terrorist attacks in 2001 and 2008 linked to Pakistani officialdom only encouraged further attacks. They argued that when Pakistan-based terrorists struck again – and without doubt the question was when, not if – India would have to respond forcefully ‘to teach them a lesson’.
In Islamabad, ‘plugging the deterrence gap’ was the reason given for Pakistan’s recent pursuit of battlefield nuclear weapons. India’s presumed ‘Cold Start’ doctrine (or ‘proactive strategy’ as it is now called) posits rapid mobilisation and limited incursions across the border into Pakistan. In Islamabad this was considered to be a fully resourced plan and a cunning way to attempt aggression without triggering a strategic nuclear response.
By Dr Sanjaya Baru, Director for Geo-economics and Strategy
Many eyebrows were raised in Delhi and around the world when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh asserted that ‘it cannot be business as usual’ with Pakistan after the recent incident on the Line of Control (LoC). Because these remarks came after the National Security Adviser briefed opposition leaders about the government’s approach to the issue, the leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha took credit for the prime minister’s tough stance, while welcoming it. However, it has since become clear that Singh was adopting a more nuanced approach, not the sledgehammer response that the Bharatiya Janata Party and hotheads in the media were seeking.
The many expressions of surprise, accompanied by gratuitous remarks about Singh’s ‘uncharacteristic’ toughness, ignore the fact that on vital national-security and foreign-policy issues, the prime minister has always drawn red lines and stuck to them. These red lines have been drawn both with respect to political parties and ministerial colleagues at home and foreign governments. When it comes to foreign policy, Singh has jealously guarded prime ministerial turf and defended the national interest.
By Dr Sanjaya Baru, Director for Geo-economics and Strategy
‘The Pacific and the Indian Oceans are now bringing about a dynamic coupling as seas of freedom and of prosperity’. With those words Shinzo Abe, now re-elected prime minister of Japan, launched into an historic address to the Indian Parliament in August 2007. A ‘broader Asia’, he said … ‘is now beginning to take on a distinct form. Our two countries have the ability – and the responsibility – to ensure that it broadens yet further and to nurture and enrich these seas to become seas of clearest transparence.’
To an audience that had not yet absorbed the full import of the historic shift that Abe was seeking in Japan’s relations with India, he added: ‘This is the message I wish to deliver directly today to the one billion people of India. That is why I stand before you now in the Central Hall of the highest chamber, to speak with you, the people’s representatives of India.’
Shinzo Abe is not just another prime minister in a country where prime ministers come by the dozen. He has pedigree and has acquired courage and a vision. And over the weekend he has also won a massive and historic verdict in favour of his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).
By Daniel Painter, Research Assistant, Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Programme
Twenty-five years after the signing of a landmark nuclear-arms agreement between the US and the Soviet Union, the world is facing a new atomic-weapons race in South Asia, where similar controls would be useful.
The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty inked by President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev on 8 December 1987 was the first such agreement to eliminate entire weapon systems, rather than to merely limit the size of nuclear arsenals. India and Pakistan, which both continue to increase their nuclear arsenals, have not engaged in arms-control negotiations. If they were, however, an INF-style agreement would be a good first step towards stabilising the region.
A couple of seemingly unconnected stories this week have more in common than expected, IISS’s Sanjaya Baru suggests in a new column in the Economic Times. Indian-born British tycoon Lakshmi Mittal has found himself at the centre of an attack by French politicians: he is accused of ‘lying’ and failing to keep his promises to France over plans to close blast furnaces owned by his firm ArcelorMittal. Meanwhile, a spokesperson from India’s ministry of external affairs set a new benchmark in diplomacy by publicly complaining about a decision by the Maldives government to cancel Indian group GMR’s contract for the upgrade and management of the airport in Male, the Maldives capital.
Both cases raise interesting questions about government backing for domestic businesses. In these instances, the businesses are Indian, but the phenomenon cuts both ways. Western governments have also often expressed concerns about their firms and brands being targeted by campaign groups in India. ‘More recently, even Chinese diplomats have had to step in to protect the interests of their firms in India,’ Baru writes.
The tenth summit between India and ASEAN (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations) is under way in Cambodia during the first half of this week – as part of the 21st ASEAN summit. And to coincide with the ASEAN-India meeting, IISS Director for Geo-economics and Strategy Sanjaya Baru has an article in the Hindu discussing the concept of India’s ‘neighbourhood’. He starts with the recently redesigned website of India’s External Affairs Ministry (mea.gov.in), which ‘has a link right on top of its home page, just below the photograph of the new Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid, to ‘India and Neighbours’.
‘Sadly,’ Baru continues, ‘the ‘neighbours’ listed are only her so-called ‘South Asian’ neighbours, the inhabitants of the Indian subcontinent. One cannot blame just those who have constructed this website for this myopic view of what constitutes India’s neighbourhood. The occupants of New Delhi’s Raisina Hill have for long seen only the Himalayas, the deserts and the Gangetic plains around them. When one thinks of the ocean as a barrier rather than a bridge one cannot come around to thinking of countries on the other side of the waters as ‘neighbours’.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has never been a victim of this common Delhi affliction. Why, only earlier this year he told the chief guest at India’s Republic Day celebrations, Thailand’s Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, that India and Thailand are ‘maritime neighbours’. That is a message that Dr Singh has proudly carried in recent years to Malaysia, Indonesia, Myanmar, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Oman.
However, in repeating that message to his hosts at the ASEAN-India Summit on Monday, Dr Singh must remember that India’s eastern maritime neighbours expect a little more attention than they are getting.
Read the rest of this entry »