Saturday, November 16, 2013

The 'Manmohan Singh Doctrine'

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh gave a speech recently to the annual conclave of Indian Ambassadors in New Delhi.  It was notable because it set out the principles of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's foreign policy doctrine.  His speech was commented on by Sanjaya Baru in Indian Express but outside of that, it seems to have passed without notice.  That's a shame because there are important pointers to the underlying assumptions of India's foreign policy in the speech.  And I would suggest that these are assumptions shared broadly in New Delhi, which makes it all the more important.  My critique of these basic principles was published by Economic Times last Monday (November 11).  I am posting it below.

The snag in the Manmohan Singh’s Panchsheel Doctrine

One of the central problems with the Indian foreign policy has been its refusal to understand the role of power in international politics. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's speech at the meeting of Indian ambassadors about the five principles of India's foreign policy shows that this unfortunate tendency continues.The PM correctly pointed out that the "single most important objective of Indian foreign policy has to be to create a global environment conducive to the well-being of our great country". The problem, of course, is how we go about creating it. The prescription from the prime minister was economic integration at the global and the regional level.  

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Avner Cohen on Israel's Nuclear Decision, October 1973

A nice essay by Avner Cohen on the Israeli decision-making during the 1973 Arab-Israeli war.  The general sense until now has been that, facing an increasingly difficult situation on both the Egyptian and Syrian fronts, Israel readied its nuclear arsenal.  There was always some doubt about whether this was because Israel feared that it was about to lose the war and wanted to Arab states down with it if it came to that or if it was a signal to the US to come to its assistance.  Cohen suggests, based on interviews with insiders to the decision-making process and declassified minutes of key meetings, that with the exception of Moshe Dayan, the Israeli cabinet exercised restraint.  Dayan's proposal for a nuclear 'demonstration' was not followed through. What exactly that demonstration would have been is not clear, though Cohen speculates that it could have been a nighttime high-altitude nuclear airburst that would be visible from key Arab cities.  Though I have no expertise on Israeli nuclear issues, as an option, such a demonstration would appear to have been politically quite difficult.  Though Cohen discounts it, a more credible demonstration would have been an underground nuclear test.  But Cohen's essay also outlines some of the problems of oral history as also the absolute necessity of such research tactics especially where state secrecy on a subject matter is so great.  Anyway, a great essay by the key chronicler of the Israeli nuclear establishment.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

PM Manmohan Singh's visit to Russia and China

I am posting this almost two weeks after it was published, unfortunately.  This is essay in Economic Times of October 21, 2013 on the PM's visit to Russia and China.

Too many unclear policies in PM Manmohan Singh's holdall

Over the next few days, PM Manmohan Singh will summit with the leaders of Russia and China.  Along with his recent meeting with US President Barack Obama, it completes a trifecta of sorts. Unfortunately, in this great power trifecta, India appears to have neither skill nor luck. At the end of his term, the PM has the unenviable task of trying to climb out of the strategic hole into which we have dug ourselves.