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April 1, 2010

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Takshashila’s Af-Pak round-table

In a round-table discussion on Afghanistan organised by The Takshashila Institution, it emerged that although New Delhi viewed the US presence as ideal to its own security calculus, it had little leverage in ensuring a continued presence. Washington’s and New Delhi’s interests in Afghanistan were mostly related to the security angle and the economic angle—in terms of Central Asian gas reserves—was less prominent.

New Delhi draws a strong distinction between re-integration of the Taliban—socio-economic accommodation of the foot-soldiers—which it is in favour of; against reconciliation—a political role for the Taliban leadership in Kabul—which it is against.

In the wake of the targeting of Indian personnel in Afghanistan, New Delhi is unlikely to quit, but also unlikely to scale up its security presence. It is considering expanding its current economic assistance programme to include micro-finance in partnership with Bangladesh.

There is a catch

BHARAT VERMA, editor of the Indian Defence Review paints a pessimistic picture of an Asia in 2020 engulfed by authoritarian regimes such as Islamic fundamentalists, communist dictatorships, military junta and non-state actors who would then redraw international boundaries. In an article, “Unprepared and Unwilling”, he states that the situation was a Catch-22 with neither the West nor India could prevail without each other’s assistance, and calls for India to provide boots on the ground in Af-Pak in exchange for a change in US focus towards Islamabad. Otherwise India would be faced with a simultaneous threat on two-fronts and an internal insurgency.

Two to tango

NIKOLAS GVOSDEV of the US Naval War College posits that although the US intelligence community have agreed that multipolarity would be the future, Washington policymakers have not made the strategic choices necessary to guarantee continued US global leadership, such as wooing emerging powers such as Brazil and India that were not currently aligned either with the Euro-Atlantic West or with China. In an article in World Politics Review, “Shaping the Multipolar World”, he questions the prevailing assumption that at the end of the day, such powers would automatically align with US interests absent a US effort to nurture the relationship.

Dial 311 for deterrence

JAMES WOOD FORSYTH, B CHANCE SALTZMAN and GARY SCHAUB JR discuss the diminishing returns with nuclear weapons and state that a small, secure nuclear force had the effect of ‘sanctuarising’ the states that possess them.

In an article for the Strategic Studies Quarterly, “Remembrance of Things Past The Enduring Value of Nuclear Weapons”, they argue that the United States could have nuclear security with a small force of only 311 nuclear weapons in their force structure while continuing to maintain stable deterrence irrespective of the behaviour of competitors such as Russia or China. They also express scepticism over the practicality of a nuclear zero arguing that nuclear weapons socialise statesmen to the dangers of adventurism and constrained their behaviour resulting in a relationship tempered by caution despite the rhetoric of the leaders.

India’s strategic role against global jihad

WALID PHARES, Director of the Future Terrorism Project at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies states the global salafist jihadi network would continue to expand, co-ordinate and assist each other against their foes most of whom were constrained by a lack of similar co-operation against jihadi terror as well as confusion regarding separatist conflicts which were often construed as resistance movements and not terrorism. In a speech to the Asian Security Conference 2010 at New Delhi, “The Future of Terrorism: Jihadi threat in the Indian Subcontinent”, he proposed internationalisation of the counter-jihadi strategy where India could play a significant part in integrating the resources of democracies in the region and eventually of all jihadi-targeted countries.

SCO comes of age

DAVID SPEEDIE, director of the Global Engagement Program at the Carnegie Council states that the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) could no longer be dismissed as a sub-regional force given its toehold in Central Asia and potential to exert influence over 20 percent of the world’s proven oil reserves and 40 percent of natural gas resources. In a Carnegie Council article, “Good Neighbours? The Shanghai Co-operation Organisation” he concedes that a potential inclusion of Iran in the SCO would result in the organisation being seen as an anti-American alliance and echo NATO’s eastward expansion in the 90s and calls for increasing NATO’s engagement with the SCO.

Liberal bloc

MARK LEONARD, director of the European Council on Foreign Relations states that Beijing’s diplomacy could be characterised as defensive multilateralism, where it joined international organisations such as the UN and the WTO to protect its own interests rather than to support the broader goals of those institutions. This approach has been relatively successful in changing the global order and reducing international pressure on states such as North Korea, Myanmar and Iran.

In an op-ed in the Süddeutsche Zeitung,”How to deal with a more assertive China?”, he calls for a more assertive Western approach that would preserve the liberal bias in the international system with the EU and the US acting in concert to break up illiberal international coalitions and focus on integrating states such as India, Indonesia, South Africa and Brazil into the liberal bloc.


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