India’s quest for Arctic ice

ARCTIC OCEAN – The Canadian Coast Guard Ship Louis S. St-Laurent ties up to the Coast Guard Cutter Healy in the Arctic Ocean Sept. 5, 2009. The two ships are taking part in a multi-year, multi-agency Arctic survey that will help define the Arctic continental shelf.  Photo Credit: Patrick Kelley, U.S. Coast Guard

Photo Credit: Patrick Kelley/U.S. Coast Guard

By Suvi Dogra, Research and Liaison Officer, Geo-economics and Strategy Programme

From the Antarctic to the Arctic?

Over 30 years ago, India surprised the world with its expedition to the Antarctic. It may have surprised once again by securing observer status at the Arctic Council – a grouping of Arctic States (Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the US). For months, the Arctic Council has been debating the issue of admitting observers to its gatherings. Last week the Council decided to admit six new observers  ̶  China, India, Italy, Japan, Singapore, and South Korea. Interestingly, the EU has not yet been admitted.

While the observers have no say in the decision-making process, this inclusion is significant, because it shows the Arctic Council is no longer defining itself in geographic terms and has factored in geo-economic elements. The economic rise of China and India is bound to impact on the Arctic region, both through global warming and their widening maritime footprint and interest in the Arctic’s vast oil and gas resources.

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The power of five for China and India

Manmohan Singh meets Xi Jinping Photo Office of the India Prime Minister

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.

Read the full story at Project Syndicate


Controversy in the pipeline

Iran-Pakistan Pipeline Photo Office of the Iranian President

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.

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Nuclear escalation in South Asia

India-Pakistan border from space. Photo NASA

India’s presumed ‘Cold Start’ doctrine posits limited incursions over the border into Pakistan

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.

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Decoding Manmohan Singh’s red lines

Manmohan Singh meeting soldiers on National Army Day, 15 January. Photo: Office of the India Prime Minister

Manmohan Singh meeting soldiers on National Army Day, 15 January.

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.

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What new Japanese PM Abe means for India

Shinzo Abe and Manmohan Singh

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).

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A nuclear pact just right for India and Pakistan

Reagan and Gorbachev sign the INF treaty in 1987

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.

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Global perils for India Inc.

The airport in Male, capital of the Maldives

Indian diplomats are having to navigate a tricky course in supporting Indian businesses in the Maldives and elsewhere

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.

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ASEAN: India’s other neighbours

Phnom Penh: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with others Head of States  pose a group photo during a 10th ASEAN-India Summit  at Peace Place in Phnom Penh, Cambodia on Monday. PTI Photo by Kamal Singh

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.
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US move to ‘friend’ Indian Ocean nations

The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) transits the Indian Ocean.

The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) transits the Indian Ocean. Photo Credit: US Navy/Colby K. Neal

The IISS’s Suvi Dogra has a piece in the Financial Express today looking at the United States’ wish for closer engagement with countries around the Indian Ocean. She reports that Washington has asked to become more closely involved with the 19-member Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Co-operation (IOR-ARC). The move seems to be part of the US’ renewed engagement with Asia and the Indian Ocean, but it also underlines the IOC-ARC’s growing relevance in the region, where it could play a key role not only in trade and economic cooperation, but in security matters.

The IOR-ARC, launched in 1997 as an international organisation focusing on regional trade cooperation and development, began its 12th Council of Ministers meeting today in Gurgaon, India, where it will consider the US request, among other issues such as trade in the food processing industry and piracy in the Indian Ocean.

The US’ request to become a ‘dialogue partner’ is likely to be approved, even though Iran is part of the association and is expected to oppose it. News reports suggest that India welcomes the move, while the US will find strong endorsements for its request from African member states, as well as from other Indian Ocean states such as Australia, Singapore and Indonesia. The IOR-ARC already has five dialogue partners – China, Japan, Egypt, France and the UK – who sit in on open discussions but are not part of the body’s decision-making.

Read the full article.


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