Monday, July 28, 2014

The Strategic Consequences of Russi-Chini Bhai Bhai

The continuing tragedy of the MH-17 shoot-down shows no sign of abating.  But there are deeper strategic consequences too of pushing Russia too hard, forcing it into Beijing's hands.  The point has been made before: Dr. C. Raja Mohan had an essay in the Indian Express in the context of Prime Minister Modi at the BRICS summit.  In a slightly different context in the National Interest, Dimitry K. Simes made a similar point but castigating President Obama's policies.

I wrote in the Economic Times that this might have direct consequences for India.  The essay is reproduced in full below

Sino-Russian Bonhomie Brewing; India Should Be Wary

The tragic shooting down of the Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 over Ukraine is likely to lead to further American pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin. The increasing US-Russia antagonism will have consequences and they will undoubtedly impact India.

There is enough blame to go around for the slow escalation of the Ukraine crisis. Putin's attempt to control Russia's so-called "near abroad" and prevent the expansion of Western influence towards the Russian border has been one element. This is an objective that Russia has pushed with little finesse. The reckless support for the rebels in eastern Ukraine, including the supply of heavy arms and equipment and Russian military forces, was no doubt the immediate cause of the tragic shooting down of the Malaysian airliner (even if it was unintended).

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Absurd UNHRC Resolution on Israel -- And the Equally Absurd Indian Position

The UNHRC, that great defender of global human rights, has once again criticized Israel for the on-going war in Gaza, despite the fact that Israel has repeatedly accepted various ceasefires, while Hamas refuses to, even today.  But considering the general record of the UNHRC on Israel-related issues, this does not comes as much of a surprise.  And supporting the condemnation of Israel were some of the great defenders of human rights such as China, Cuba, Russia and Pakistan.  What was surprising, however, was the Indian position on the issue.  Though it was highly unlikely that India would have supported Israel directly by voting against the resolution -- such moral courage had long disappeared from our 'moral' foreign policy -- the hope was that there would be some adult supervision at the MEA under a Modi government and our diplomacy would not simply be about regurgitating our 1970s third worldist nonsense.  But the Indian statement does not even mention Hamas or the rockets raining down on Israel, hiding behind euphemisms such as 'non-state actors' who are supposedly 'creating obstacles to the peace process'.  Really?? Hamas rockets are just 'obstacles to the peace process'?  What was the 26/11 Mumbai attack? A traffic jam?? Even Navy Pillay -- no great supporter of Israel -- mentioned the Hamas rocket attacks on Israel in her statement.  India's spineless stand at Geneva has already come in for justified criticism.  The argument that the Modi government has not had sufficient time to revise policies is beginning to look increasingly thin.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The US-led Israel-Palestine Peace Process (2013-14) -- How (and Why) It Failed

Apropos my recent essay (previous post) on the war in Gaza, I had argued that Israel should do more to push the peace process with Palestinians, though I also argue that Israel is blamed disproportionately for the failure to reach a final peace agreement.  Now, in New Republic, Ben Birnbaum and Amir Tibon have written an excellent and fairly detailed account of last year's peace process in which US Secretary of State John Kerry tried hard to get the Israeli's and Palestinians to hash out a settlement.  They failed but once again there was plenty of blame to go around and I am sure partisans on all sides will argue for long about who was more to blame.  But they did seem to have come close and that makes the current situation even more tragic.  But this essay is essential reading for those who take simplistic positions on the crisis.

Friday, July 18, 2014

India, Israel and the newest Gaza War

The latest conflagration in Gaza has been accompanied by the predictable one-sided analyses of what is a very complicated problem.  Israel clearly has to do more to push the peace process but the reason why the process has not so far achieved a solution cannot all be laid at Israel's door either.  In this latest escalation in particular, Israel has been far, far more sinned against by any stretch of the imagination.  But those blaming Israel, including an essay in the Hindu by Vijay Prashad, are not above twisting the facts to make their case.  Prashad defends the terrorists of Hamas, writing that "[I]ts rockets fired after Israel began its aerial bombing of Gaza", a blatant distortion that even cursory research will disprove.

My essay on the crisis was posted on the Observer Research Foundation (ORF) website a few hours back. Posted below in full.  

India, Israel and the Gaza War

As the fighting in Gaza threatens to escalate further, the Indian government has taken the prudent and correct approach by refusing to be stampeded into foolish parliamentary resolutions that will do nothing to either help in resolving the crisis nor in advancing India's interests.

The Ministry of External Affairs had already stated that India was concerned about the situation, pointing to both the civilian casualties in Gaza and also the rocket attacks on Israel. Politicians might want to grandstand in the parliament for the benefit of domestic audiences by blaming Israel entirely for the current crisis. But
that would neither help Indian interests nor be accurate.

Monday, July 14, 2014

India and BRICS: Looking for Love . . . .

As Prime Minister Modi departs for the BRICS summit, I could not help recalling this old Johnny Lee country western song when thinking of Indian policy on BRICS . . .

But jokes aside, I was impressed that the Prime Minister's departure statement notably ignores some of the nonsense that usually finds its way into Indian foreign policy statements such as the mantra-like call for multipolarity.  The statement focused largely on economic issues, largely unobjectionable.
Now we need to see if PM Modi will push that pragmatism in the course of the actual discussions at BRICS, especially with Russia and China.  Both Moscow and Beijing have their own axe to grind with the US.  There is little reason why India should become part of their agenda.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Chris Ogden on Hindu nationalism and Indian security policy

The Book Review has just published my review of Chris Ogden's recent book on Hindu nationalism an Indian security policy.  The subject is under-researched though I know of at least two PhD's theses underway (including one of my students) on related issues and at least one other book also on a related topic in the works by a colleague in an Australian university.  Though I am somewhat critical of the manner in Ogden has used some of the concepts in his study, I do think that there needs to be more work on the substantive aspects of Indian foreign policy, both the making of it and in terms of explaining it.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

World War-1 and Asian Stability

In late June, SWP (Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik) and the Konrad Adenauer Foundation jointly organized their annual conference on Asian security, the Berlin Conference on Asian Security.  The theme this time was if the conditions that led to the First World War a hundred years ago are being replicated in Asia today.  The discussions were under the Chatham House rule, but Amitav Acharya, who was also present, wrote an essay in Economic Times on the same issue.  I wrote an essay in Economic Times too which appeared a couple of days after Amitav's piece.  We obviously disagree.  My essay is reproduced below.

There has, of course been a debate a long debate, ever since the early 1990s, whether Asian multipolarity was going to lead to conflict.  Aaron Friedberg fired the first shot arguing that Asia does not even have some of the advantages that Europe had to ameliorate potential conflicts and that it was therefore 'ripe for rivalry'.  Other including David Kang and Amitav Acharya disagreed, suggesting different reasons why Asia was unlikely to replicate European patterns.  While much of the evidence appeared to support the anti-Realist case so far, I would think that the developments over the past few years definitely support the Realist case for pessimism about the prospects for stability in the region.

Is Asia Heading Towards World War-like Conditions?

On June 28, 1914, the crown prince of the Austro-Hungarian empire Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in Sarajevo, starting a chain of events that directly led to the First World War a month later. The war had dramatic consequences, killing almost ten million, destroying several great powers, remaking the  global map, heralding the general decline of Europe and leading eventually to the rise of the US and the Soviet Union.