Tag Archives | Foreign Policy

India needs a Guccifer of its own to play in the big leagues

Russian influence campaign against US 2016 elections shows the need for India to develop its own information warfare capabilities, not only to protect itself from foreign influence, but also to launch offensive operations to protect its national interests.

During the 2016 US Presidential election race, Wikileaks leaked over 19,000 emails and 800 attachments from the members of the US Democratic National Committee (DNC), the governing body of the US Democratic Party. The leaked information shed light into the some of the DNC member’s “corrupt and bias” nature of their actions acting against Bernie Sanders while in support of Hillary Clinton. Consequently, four of the DNC members, including the Chairperson, resigned their positions due to their involvement in the scandal.

The DNC leak was the smoking gun that significantly influenced public trust in the democratic process of the country, pushing away lot of educated voters from voting for Clinton.

The hacker Guccifer 2.0 was behind the data theft and penetration of the DNC email networks. The name Guccifer 2.0 is named after a legacy left by a Romanian hacker called Guccifer, currently serving sentence in US prison, who victimized numerous US politicians and celebrities with many scandals. The list included Colin Powell, George Bush’s sister, Sidney Blumenthal (the former aide to Bill Clinton), and members of Council on Foreign Relations.

Per the recent joint Intelligence report by CIA, FBI & NSA, leaking DNC’s sensitive information was part of the Russian sanctioned influence campaign to interfere with the 2016 US elections, and get Trump elected. In addition to the data leak, Russia supposedly deployed anti-Clinton propaganda via its international media channels and social media, mostly via RT news and Sputnik, to sway public opinion.

In other words, Russia launched a massive information war interfering with the US elections, and helped Trump, who is supposedly pro-Russia, get elected. This level of foreign interference in other countries’ governance systems isn’t something new. The whole of cold-war can be simplified as an information warfare between US and Russia to attain global dominance. The US itself has been behind many military coups and regimes changes post World War II, notably Iran, Guatemala, and Chile.

This shows the significance and the need of enhancing one’s information warfare capabilities. Not only to protect oneself from foreign bias and interventions, but also to be able to launch offensive operations that protect our national interests, economic development and international relationships.

Hence, as India emerges as a global economic power, we need to step up our information warfare capabilities. We need our own Guccifers that can launch sophisticated cyber operations and gather information on our counterparts. We need our own RTs and Sputniks that can bolster our image and neutralize foreign bias against us.

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Data story: Lines of Credit supported by India

A brief overview of India’s lines of Credit to other nation-states

by Pranay Kotasthane (@pranaykotas)

India’s relationship with Mongolia has been in the news recently. After the Dalai Lama visited the Buddhist country, China suspended ongoing talks to grant a $4.2 billion loan and made Mongolia’s Foreign Minister apologise for permitting the visit. When Mongolia’s ambassador urged India to raise it’s voice against the Chinese overreaction, India’s response was as follows:

We are closely working with the Mongolian government to implement the credit line in a manner that is deemed beneficial to the friendly people of Mongolia by its leadership. We are aware of the difficult budgetary situation that Mongolia is facing due to various factors including high cost of servicing of debt raised by them in the past.

The credit line being referred to was the US $1 billion committed to Mongolia during PM Modi’s visit in May 2015. Meant to finance the ‘development of railways and related infrastructure projects’, this was the second-largest single line of credit by India since the programme started in 2003-04. This data point got me interested in this creature called Line of Credit. This post gives a basic overview of India’s Lines of Credit.

What is a Line of Credit?
A LOC is a ‘soft loan’ (not a grant) provided at concessional interest rates to developing countries and has to be repaid by the borrowing government. Besides serving the foreign policy aim of increasing India’s presence in critical geographies, LOCs are meant to promote exports of Indian goods and services — they come with a conditionality that a minimum of 75% of the contract value must be sourced from India.

One important factor to consider while looking at LOC figures is that the utilisation rates are typically low (the mean utilisation rate currently stands at 42%).  There are primarily two reasons: one, demand side issues such as inadequacies of recipient nation’s importers, insecure conditions, or lack of statutory clearances by the recipient government. Two, because of supply-side issues such as incompetence of Indian exporters, customs restrictions,  or lack of clearances from the Indian government.

Because a LOC is a soft loan (not a grant) and suffers from slow utilisation, regardless of the size of the amount approved as part of a LOC, it merely counts as an attempt to change the recipient country’s incentives at the margin. Which means, if a country is extremely critical to India’s national interest, it would require the government to do a lot more than announce billions of dollars worth of credit lines. Especially because China can match any LOC figure that the Indian government attempts — a direct outcome of continuous economic growth.

 

Nevertheless, how do India’s LOCs stack up? The summary is in the image below (click to expand the image). The data used to create these infographics can be downloaded from here.
locs

Also read: My colleague Pavan’s excellent Pragati Infographic: Foreign Aid going out of India.

Pranay Kotasthane is a Research Fellow at The Takshashila Institution. He is on twitter @pranaykotas

 

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Locating the paradiplomacy of Indian states

Currently, the space for Indian states to play a role in foreign policy is largely in the economic realm.

One of the growingly popular frameworks to analyse how sub state actors can play a role in foreign policy is paradiplomacy. According to Adam Grydehoj, paradiplomacy is a political entity’s extra-jurisdictional activity targeting foreign political entities.

Andre Lecours looks at how states participate in foreign policy in Europe and North America. He believes that they participate in three layers based on their geopolitical aims or behavior.

Political Issues of Paradiplomacy- Andrew Lecours

Political Issues of Paradiplomacy- Andrew Lecours

Lecours believes that paradiplomacy has been successful only because states have constitutionally granted powers to work in the foreign policy space. They have then proceeded to set up mechanisms by which states can play bigger roles in international relations. Belgium which is one of the best example of sub-state diplomacy provides all its regional actors with a veto on matters pertaining to international relations. Canada has set up communication and sectoral channels (so that the sub state authorities can approach relevant departments or ministries, share information and coordinate) apart from specific bodies devoted to bringing all domestic stakeholders on the table to discuss relevant international policies.

However, it will not be possible for all countries to follow this sort of paradiplomacy. Lecours acknowledges that in developing countries, sub nationalism may threaten sovereign identity or even result in the lack of national coherence. Therefore, paradiplomacy is viewed with suspicion by developing countries which generally have unitary governments.

Debates about participation of states in foreign policy eventually lead to debates on federalism. The Indian Constitution has placed foreign affairs (all matters which bring the Union into relation with any foreign country) in the Union List. The Central Government also has sole authority over diplomatic, consular and trade representation, war and peace, foreign jurisdiction, citizenship, extradition and so on. This has structurally left the states little space to intervene in policy issues.

Any discussion about states in foreign policy in India goes back to how regional parties have pressured the Centre- with Tamil Nadu and West Bengal as the primary examples. States with land or sea borders have interacted beyond the Indian subcontinent much before Independence. Therefore, they have a natural interest in foreign policy. Since liberalization, states have started looking beyond the Union Government for sources for revenue. An overwhelming number of states now organize a Global Investor’s Summit to woo foreign investors. As I have argued earlier, states are also stepping up their game on NRI affairs because the importance of remittances has grown.

If we try to look at Indian states in Lecours’ layers, then it becomes immediately evident that states fall under the first layer in some capacities. Some states have actively pursued foreign investment to boost the state economy. The most striking example, of course, is the erstwhile Andhra Pradesh state under Chandrababu Naidu who actively courted investments in a bid to convert Hyderabad to the IT capital of the country. Telangana has recently come into the news for wooing large international companies like Amazon, Uber, Ikea and Apple to set up offices in the state.

Few states fall under the second layer. Tamil Nadu has held ‘World Tamil Conferences’ to reach out to Tamil Speakers and enthusiasts all over the world at regular intervals. While cultural associations emphasizing regional identity like the Kerala Sangam have been set up, these are non-profit initiatives set up by diaspora in various parts of the world.

The third layer is interesting because it is representative of why the Union Government would like to have authority over foreign policy. As India is an amalgamation of regional identities, the emphasis on political distinctness does not bode well for a coherent foreign policy. However, even this form of paradiplomacy has few takers simply because States see it as an infringement of their sovereignty.

India, states will increasingly pursue paradiplomacy for economic issues. While Lecours’ model may work well for developed countries, Indian states will find a way to maneuver foreign policy with the help of the centre. After all, the aim of foreign policy is to further India’s national interests which states also share.

This post is the part of a series of blogposts on ‘States in Foreign Policy’.

Hamsini Hariharan is a Research Scholar with the Takshashila Institution and tweets at @HamsiniH

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The Trumping of Marrakech

The 22nd Conference of Parties (COP) to the UNFCC negotiations at Marrakech have barely been in the mainstream Indian news simply because it is hard to find the media space between the withdrawal of the Rs.500 and Rs.1000 notes and the U.S Presidential elections. The COP 22 negotiations were to represent the optimism of a hard fought climate deal and design the implementation strategy for the Paris Deal. However, they have been largely overshadowed in light of contemporary geopolitics.

On November 4th, the outcome of the 2015 Paris negotiations came to fruition as 176 countries (the largest number to sign an international instrument since UNCLOS) deposited their instruments of signature at the United Nations. India had jumped on the bandwagon by ratifying the climate deal on the symbolic date of Gandhi Jayanti.

Multilateral negotiations for the climate deal saw India change its stance from a disrupter to a norm follower- a stance it has echoed in other multilateral negotiations including nuclear proliferation and the WTO negotiations. India had resolutely refused to sign any climate deals that did not involve Western nations in pulling their weight. Indian diplomats had claimed that in order to allow their citizens dignity of life through economic development, they could not commit to energy cut back of the scale required and insisted that countries responsible for the emissions take the lead.

However, this was not a viable position for long. Once China, the world’s largest contributor to carbon emissions joined with the US to cut down on emissions, India would have found its disruptive stance an even more unpopular and isolated position. India has shifted its stance and declared its Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC). However India’s new stance also stresses on its reliance on the rest of the world in bridging its energy needs through technology and help. Over the last year, steps have also been taken within the country to support its stance at the COPs. By streamlining its civil aviation rules and signing the CFC cutdown treaty, India has shown its willingness in combating climate change.

However, all of that now stands to change. The biggest shadow over the Marrakech COP is the US Presidential elections. While hyperbole has shown anti-Trump supporters protesting even at Marrakech, Donald Trump’s record on climate change shows little promise. He has repeatedly dismissed climate change and global warming as hoaxes and even gone on record to state that climate change was a conspiracy pioneered by the Chinese to reducing American manufacturing potential. Trump has stated that he would roll back the Paris Agreement. But speculation about Trump’s potential climate policy will lead us down a road that goes nowhere.

The Paris Agreement was ratified by President Obama on the sidelines of the G20 summit. In a show of US-China alignment, leaders of both countries deposited the Paris deal together is Hangzhou. The Paris Agreement also does not allow countries to withdraw from it for a period of three years. Therefore, there is little danger of Trump rolling back the Paris deal.

However, it is important to remember that INDCs are, at the end of the day, voluntary mechanisms based on good faith. They are non enforceable and bear little penalties in international law though the effects of climate change may seem apparent to everyone but Trump supporters. What is possible is that Trump will not prioritise the INDCs or fund the Clean Energy Plan, the brainchild of the Obama Administration. This is particularly important in terms of signalling for other countries. Countries like Saudi Arabia whose economies depend on conventional sources of energy could take the lethargy of the United States as a signal to disregard the Paris Deal. This would mean that the hard won negotiations of the last seven years have come to nought. Trump’s disregard for climate change will also stir the Chinese to take the lead on the issue. Already, Chinese officials have stated that they are committed to their climate change declarations despite political changes in other countries. China has also set up its national carbon emission trading market and has reportedly reduced its carbon intensity by 20% between 2011 and 2015.

What does this mean for India? India directly faces the effects of climate change as much of its agriculture is contingent on the monsoons. It has shifted its stance from norm disrupter to norm follower as a way to break out of the climate chakravyuh. However, if the United States will not stick to its INDC and China will, which path will India choose? Several commentators are already questioning India’s stance considering its close ties with the US. However, a comprehensive definition of security would require India to stick to its INDCs as the country is vulnerable to the effects of climate change. India needs to exercise its strategic autonomy and continue with tackling its INDCs.

Hamsini Hariharan is a Research Scholar with the Takshashila Institution and tweets at @HamsiniH

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SAARC: A Sunk Cost

Following the Uri Attacks, the 19th SAARC Summit that was due to take place on the 15th and 16th of November has been postponed. India refused to attend the summit, placing the blame on cross border terrorism perpetrated by a single country. Soon, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan also chose to opt out of the summit meeting which was due to take place next month. Pakistan placed the blame on India for derailing processes of regional cooperation and reiterated its commitment to the SAARC charter. For now however, the seven heads of South Asia will not be meeting until India and Pakistan have simmered down tensions.

The Indian media has been quick to attribute the postponement of the SAARC meeting to the success of Modi’s diplomacy. However, SAARC meetings have always been susceptible to bilateral tensions. While the group is supposed to meet annually, it concedes that the regional organisation meets only once in a year and a half or so. No wonder SAARC’s initiatives have been characterised by failure: the countries cannot fulfill commitments to meet but intermittently.

The first time the SAARC Summit was derailed was in 1989 when Sri Lanka protested against the delay of the IPKF’s withdrawal from the country. The 7th Summit in 1992 was pushed by a year because of the Babri Masjid riots. A year later, India-Pakistan contentions impacted SAARC processes and the 8th Summit was pushed to 1995. The period between 1998 and 2003 saw repeated postponement of the 11th Summit because of a number of low intensity conflicts between India and Pakistan (from the Kargil War in 1999 to the Parliament Attacks of 2001). The 12th Summit was derailed because of the coup in Nepal and the Dhaka bombings.  After the 26/11 Attacks, the summit was again pushed by a year because of contentions between India and Pakistan. 2012 Summit

The postponement of the SAARC Summit is not a victory of Indian diplomacy but a feature of the SAARC mechanism. Unlike organisations like the ASEAN which have managed to keep channels of communication open even during times of conflict, SAARC’s history remains intertwined with the Indo-Pak power politics. It is unable to accomodate power dynamics of the region and allows for bilateral contentions to easily derail any processes. Even if the SAARC summit had taken place, what would have the result been? SAFTA is dead while the South Asian Economic Union is a pipe dream; regional trade remains at a meagre percentage.

At the 2014 Kathmandu Summit, hullabaloo was created about the launch of a SAARC satellite and cooperation of forces to deal with disasters. The Kathmandu Summit had taken place in the first year of the Modi rajya and there was much talk of the neighbourhood gaining importance- a move indicated by Modi’s unprecedented invitation to the heads of South Asian States to attend his swearing in ceremony. Two years later, bilateral ties between India and the remainder of the South Asian states (the case of Pakistan is debateable) are definitely on the upswing, however, the SAARC remains as ineffective as it has always been.

India needs to acknowledge that this multilateral initiative is not a success and direct its attentions towards the external neighbourhood. It needs to de-hyphenate itself from being merely a South Asian power and look at a larger region such as the Indo-Pacific. India is gradually improving ties with countries in South-East Asia and West Asia, which is the way to go. Maybe it is time to recognise that SAARC is a sunk cost and invest those resources in a more fruitful venture under the larger Asian security architecture.

Hamsini Hariharan is a Research Scholar with the Takshashila Institution and tweets at @HamsiniH

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India’s Stance on Export Control Regimes

An analysis of India’s positioning towards various Multilateral Export Control Regimes displays a trend of norm creation- norm adherence and agenda setting.

By Hamsini Hariharan (@HamsiniH)

India has low reserves of uranium required for its civil nuclear energy programmes. While India has been attempting self reliance in the field by substituting thorium as the primary nuclear fuel in its three stage nuclear cycle, it still suffers from lack of uranium in its reactors. India would also benefit from nuclear technology that it did not have access to during the Cold War because of its isolated road to self sufficiency.

India did not sign the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and detonated a nuclear device, ‘Peaceful Nuclear Explosion’ outside the NPT norms in 1974. Restitution was quick as the London Club (which then became the Nuclear Suppliers Group) was formed in order to restrict nuclear supply only to countries that have signed the NPT. India relied on indigenously built nuclear facilities for the next three decades until it tested its nuclear device in 1998. India faced harsh criticism for the tests and countries like Japan and the United States even imposed sanctions on the country. However, the world’s opposition to India’s nuclear stance was to change. In 2005, the US-India Civil Nuclear Deal was a pathbreaking deal as it changed the US approach towards India’s nuclear programme. This was instrumental in providing India with an NSG waiver in 2008. India was to be considered a defacto nuclear power and allowed to trade with the Nuclear Suppliers Group. In 2010, the Indo-US Joint Statement outlined India’s case for multilateral export control regimes (MECRs). Since then, India has taken intensive efforts to synchronise its export control mechanism with those of different regimes.

While the MECRs all focus on curtailing the supply of sensitive technology, India has focused on improving its own proliferation record, by streamlining its export controls with those of various international regimes. The Foreign Trade (Development and Regulation) Act No. 22 of 1992 or FTDR is the principal legal basis for India’s strategic trade control system. The Indian government uses its own export control list known as the Special Chemicals, Organisms, Materials, Equipment, and Technologies (SCOMET) list. It has also identified some groups as being more important than others: Currently, the diplomatic efforts are geared towards the NSG and the MTCR because entry into the Wassenaar Arrangement and the Australia Group both hold entry into the former groups as a precursor.

The following is an analysis of various export groups and India’s relationship with them:

Name of Export Control Regime Nuclear Suppliers Group
Stated Aim of the Regime “Non-proliferation of nuclear weapons through the implementation of restrictions on nuclear exports and nuclear-related exports.”
India’s Position Applied to NSG on May 10, 2016.

India has been keenest on NSG membership because the 48 member group contains supply of nuclear fuel. The NSG was formed in the aftermath of the Indian Peaceful Nuclear Explosion in 1974, and was one of the instruments used to isolate India in the nuclear domain. In 2008, it did provide India a clean waiver to allow it to engage in nuclear commerce. However in 2011, the NSG went back on its 2008 India- specific waiver by instituting new guidelines. The implications of the new guidelines are that it has made the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) even stronger and wants India to join the Treaty.

India’s membership to the NSG is thus important because it allows India to be a part of future norm making in the nuclear domain. As geopolitics always trumps international law, it is possible that the rules of the group can be changed in the future. By being within the rulemaking mechanism, India can ensure that the norms are aligned with its national interests.

 

Name of Export Control Regime Missile Technology Control Regime
Stated Aim of the Regime “Voluntary partnership to curb the spread of delivery systems, particularly proliferation of missile and unmanned aerial vehicle technology capable of carrying a 500 kg payload for at least 300 km.”
India’s Position Acceded to MTCR in 2016

The main benefit of the MTCR is that it controls missile technology, particularly drone technology that India could potentially gain access to. India’s Brahmos missile, made in conjunction with Russia has a range of 290 km, just under the limit of the MTCR. In the 1990s, the MTCR had protested against the sale of Russian cryogenic engines to India as it supposedly flouted group norms (Russia was a part of the MTCR) and put political pressure until the sale was dropped. Joining the MTCR could prevent similar political pressure against technology transfer. However, an important caveat is that missile technology transfer does not depend on the MTCR alone. Member Countries have traded despite flouting MTCR norms as they are voluntary and non-conforming. Therefore, India does not necessarily need to be part of it to conduct trade but it does add to its political capital.

 

Name of Export Control Regime Wassenaar Arrangement
Stated Aim of the Regime “Promotes transparency of national export control regimes on conventional arms and dual-use goods and technologies.”
India’s Position India has been streamlining its SCOMET list with the Wasenaar Arrangement

Members of the Wassenaar Arrangement have to maintain rigorous national export control systems and have to be members of or be acting in accordance with the NPT, MTCR, CWC, and the UN Register of Conventional Arms. While the group is said to be easier to gain membership than some of the other export control regimes, India is looking to gain membership only after it gains entry into the NSG and the MTCR. India has been streamlining its SCOMET list, its FTDR and also passed the WMD Act in 2005. Membership in the Wassenaar Arrangement presents one less political hurdle in getting access to sensitive technology. It is important for India’s soft power to be seen as a responsible exporter of technology.

Name of Export Control Regime Australia Group
Stated Aim of the Regime “Through the harmonisation of export controls, seeks to ensure that exports do not contribute to the development of chemical or biological weapons”
India’s Position India became a dialogue partner in 2015

The Australia Group looks at harmonization of international export controls on chemical weapons precursor chemicals. As India’s chemical and biotechnology industries grow in size and stature, being a member of the Australia Group would provide India’s commercial ventures with political legitimacy as well. However, it has few other benefits.

 

Name of Export Control Regime Arms Trade Treaty
Stated Aim of the Regime “To prevent and eradicate the illicit trade in conventional arms and to prevent their diversion to the illicit market, or for unauthorized end useand end users, including in the commission of terrorist acts.”
India’s Position India abstained from signing the Treaty in 2013

While India was an integral part of negotiations on the Arms Trade Treaty, it did not sign the treaty because India’s sovereign right to trade in arms could be impinged by the regime. It also wanted stronger action on illegal arms trade. It also contends that the ATT limits itself to arms sales rather than transfers which creates an inherent loophole for countries to take advantage of. India is the largest importer of arms in the world and is thus, any treaty on arms trade need to take the country into consideration. Illicit arms trade, particularly in the neighbourhood is a worrying factor and the Arms Trade treaty is an important step in regulating it. However, unless the Treaty is made stronger in essence, it will not be in India’s national interest to sign it.

 

Name of Export Control Regime Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC)
Stated Aim of the Regime “To exclude the possibility of the use of chemical weapons”
India’s Position Signed the CWC on 14 January 1993 and ratified it in 1996

India has been an active proponent of the CWC and in 2009, it became the third country to destroy its stockpile of chemical weapons. While India has been accused by Pakistan of using chemical weapons, the accusations did not bear fruit. Indeed, India’s chemical industry is expansive and India has demonstrated its intent to be a part of counter proliferation of chemical weapons by aiding the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

An analysis of India’s participation at various multilateral export control regimes shows India’s proactive efforts in being perceived as a responsible nuclear player. India has been an integral part of the norm creation process by participating in negotiations. However, it does not enter into treaties or join organisations which do not comply with its core interests such as the Arms Trade Treaty. On the other hand, even if India lies outside the regimes, it has followed international norms either by passing domestic laws such as the WMD Act of 2005 or setting up its SCOMET. Now, India is using its position to be join regimes which will provide it a seat at the agenda setting table. In this way, it will make sure that the norm making mechanisms in the future will be in conjunction with India’s national interests.

Hamsini Hariharan is a Research Scholar with the Takshashila Institution and tweets at @HamsiniH

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Rebel No Longer

India’s stance on nuclear norms is changing in order to keep up with the trends of the time.

By Hamsini Hariharan (@HamsiniH)

Until 2010, India was the norm breaker of international nuclear negotiations. However, the Indo-US Civil Nuclear Deal saw India take a different approach to nuclear negotiations. Now, in order to gain access to nuclear fuel and technology, India is lobbying hard to be a part of export control regimes. This endeavour is just a step for India to become part of the international rule-making mechanisms on nuclear issues.

During the early years of the Cold War and its existence as a new democracy, India vociferously supported the cause of nuclear disarmament. As national security was the primary objective of India’s grand strategy, and nuclear weapons could lead to mass destruction, a nuclear weapon free world was a moral but also realist stance. Jawaharlal Nehru famously called for a standstill agreement on nuclear testing. However, as negotiations underway for a non-proliferation agreement, India found the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) discriminatory and unbalanced towards countries that had not detonated a nuclear device. India did not sign the NPT and the succeeding Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) or the Fissile Material Cut off Treaty (FMCT) because of the lack of commitment towards disarmament.

India’s Peaceful Nuclear Explosion (PNE) in 1974 and finally its nuclear test in 1998 both faced criticism at the global stage. The PNE spurred the formation of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) which aimed at reducing proliferation through the implementation of restrictions on nuclear exports and nuclear-related exports. The control of supply of nuclear fuel and technology left India to indigenously develop technology for its nuclear programme. The 1998 tests faced sanctions from the United States and Japan and huge global outcry that India was “nuclearising” South Asia.

Since the 2005 Indo-US Civil Nuclear Deal however, India has changed its position gradually. The India-specific waiver by the NSG to engage in nuclear trade and commerce meant that India’s proliferation record were taken cognisance of.  India has also made efforts to be seen as a responsible power committed to non-proliferation. It harmonised its export control lists along the lines of international norms and has made sure that its non-proliferation track record is impeccable.

Recently, India attempted to gain membership in the NSG and the MTCR -the latter proved successful while the former is proving to be a formidable diplomatic task. India has also been an active participant of the Nuclear Security Summit, the most relevant forum for negotiating nuclear affairs currently. India’s attempt is to become part of the rule making mechanism rather than act as a rule-breaker. This would ensure India becomes an integral player in the future nuclear discourse. This is important because of India’s unique nuclear programme- uncomparable with any other in the world.

India is no longer rebelling against the international nuclear norms. This is also a result of the changing dynamics of the nuclear debate. Non-proliferation is not the main agenda anymore; the discourse is moving towards counter-proliferation, anxieties over nuclear security and nuclear terrorism. As India is trying to establish itself  a responsible nuclear power as it shares the concerns of the other countries in the world. To this end, the way is within nuclear security architecture and not outside it.

Hamsini Hariharan is a Research Scholar with the Takshashila Institution and tweets at @HamsiniH

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The G-20 Report Card

 The G-20 proved successful as a exigent mechanism post the 2008 Financial Crisis but hasn’t been able to provide solutions to global issues. The 2016 Summit in September will show if the grouping will become yet another defunct multilateral forum or if it can revitalise decisionmaking in the international system.

By Hamsini Hariharan (@HamsiniH)

In the aftermath of the 2008 Financial Crisis, the G-20 was thought to be the most effective institutional response to the crisis. Since then, the multilateral forum has been struggling to stay relevant to the changing geopolitics. Delivering more structural, longer-term solutions to create a more balanced global economy requires more far-reaching actions at domestic level, often needing the approval of national parliaments, which effectively makes advancing the G-20 agenda more difficult.[1] Since 2008, economic changes have been rapid and unpredictable. The Chinese reminbi was admitted into the SDR basket of currencies in 2015 but the Chinese economy in the same year went through a number of shocks and had to devalue its currency. Thus, China which hosting the 2016 Summit, faces a completely different context from the earlier years because of its own economic problems. The Summit, to be held in September 2016 will show if the grouping will become yet another defunct multilateral forum or if it can revitalise decisionmaking in the international system.

The G-20 is an interesting group for analysis on three different levels: On one hand, it shows the wrangling of the US which has been declining in stature in the international system, unable to cope with the pressures of the system unilaterally. On the other hand, it also sees the diplomatic maneuvering of China on an ascent, keen to reform the international system in its favour. The third level sees middle power countries around the world that are pushing for their own national interests as well as the agenda of developing countries.

The Group of Twenty was initiated in 1999 as a response to the Asian Financial Crisis on the suggestion of the G7: “the commitment to work together to establish an informal mechanism for dialogue among systemically important countries, within the framework of the Bretton Woods institutional system”.  The 2008 financial crisis exposed the fault lines in the global economic system particularly excessive bank credit, build up of private consumption based on uncollaterised loans and an inexorable rise in public debt. The group emerged partly as a result of political pressure on world leaders to ‘do something’ about the global financial crisis.  But it also was a response to the absence of international institutions where international coordination could take place quickly along a broad range of policy instruments.

The G 20 in the short term has achieved a status of one of the most important exigency contingents that allows for consensus building amongst powers of differing capabilities.  In the medium term, the G-20 could reflect and (possibly even help manage) a major reorientation in the relative standing of the world’s major powers.

The G-20 was envisioned as a forum to deal with financial crises beyond the capacity of advanced Western states. However, it has been transformed into an arena for world politics to be played out. Different forces of agenda setting have been played out within the G 20. For one, an America reeling from the impact of the 2008 Financial Crisis, initially set the agenda of the G-20 as the primary mechanism for crises management. However, the US has not been able to dictate processes or outcomes of the G-20.

China, as the rising power and expectant challenger to the power of the US, briefly aligned with the US. This led to fears of the two most powerful actors combining strategies to jointly dictate the agenda. However, China did not follow through with any sort of G 2 arrangement citing domestic concerns. G-20 is also the battlefield for developed countries grappling with the rise of emerging countries. While the G20 emerged as the major platform for global politics, the expansion of its agenda and its relevance amidst dynamic geopolitical and economic contexts in the future will determine its prospects.

The G-20 has other instrumental benefits, namely the formation of a new and updated concentration of power and has cross regional reach.  The growing strength of the G-20 as a forum however does not mean that G-20 decisions are effective. G-20 pessimists often cite lack of progress on curtailing currency wars and macroeconomic imbalances and repeatedly express disappointment over the outcome of the G-20 summits. Global governance, even with just twenty members and consensus based decision making, is an arduous task.

The G-20 demonstrates that in a multipolar world, emerging powers have to share the burden of leadership with great powers. However, it has realised very little since 2009 despite much talk. China’s assumption of presidency could provide the group with the push it needs to effect any major change. However, the agenda for discussions remains unclear thus making durable solutions to the problems of global governance implausible.

[1]  Marcin Szczepański and Etienne Bassot, “The Group of Twenty (G20): Setting the Global Agenda”,  European Parliamentary Research Service (Brussels: January 2015) p.8

Hamsini Hariharan is a Research Scholar with the Takshashila Institution and tweets at @HamsiniH

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No One Saw the Joint Statement

ASEAN adopted a rare tough stance on the South China Sea expressed in a Joint Statement and then immediately retracted it, indicating divisions amongst members.

by Hamsini Hariharan (@HamsiniH)

There was a statement and then there wasn’t. The China-ASEAN Special Foreign Minister’s Meeting, organised after a gap of three years, was convened on June 14th to discuss relevant issues before the ASEAN-China Summit to be held later this year. After the meeting, Malaysia released a Joint Statement on behalf of ASEAN. The statement was remarkable because ASEAN seemed to have strayed away from diplomatic niceties and had taken a stern stance on the South China Sea. AFP reported that the statement read,

“We expressed our serious concerns over recent and ongoing developments, which have eroded trust and confidence, increased tensions and which may have the potential to undermine peace, security and stability in the South China Sea…We emphasized the importance of non-militarization and self-restraint in the conduct of all activities, including land reclamation, which may raise tensions in the South China Sea…We articulated ASEAN’s commitment to maintaining and promoting peace, security and stability in the region, as well as to the peaceful resolution of disputes…This includes “full respect for legal and diplomatic processes, without resorting to the threat or use of force, in accordance with universally recognized principles of international law, including the UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea) and the UN Charter…”

While the ASEAN refrains from mentioning China by name, the statement is important because it conveys the institution’s anxiety about the tensions in the South China Sea. Generally, the ASEAN calls for all parties to conform to the 2002 Code of Conduct and attempt to solve the issue peacefully. ASEAN does not directly take part in the conflict. Instead, it tries to act as a facilitator to resolve the conflict as it affects the national interests of several of its members and has implications for the whole region. As the South China Sea is an important shipping route, countries around the world are interested in ensuring the freedom of navigation in the areas.

Less than three hours later, the statement was retracted by the Malaysian government who said that it was not the official statement but the media guideline. Singapore, Vietnam and Indonesia released individual official statements where they stressed the need for peaceful resolution of the dispute. Officials from Vietnam and Indonesia later said that the retracted statement was in line with the ASEAN standpoint.  The objection to the statement reportedly came from Laos (the current chairman of ASEAN) and Cambodia, both of whom share close relations with China. The episode evokes memories of the 2012 ASEAN Summit when the institution failed to release a joint communiqué for the first time in 45 years due to Cambodia’s objection to inclusion of the South China Sea issue in the statement.

ASEAN’s success as a multilateral institution lay in its unanimity and consensus based decision making. However for the last few years, arriving at the ASEAN consensus is becoming increasingly divisive, particularly on the issue of the South China Sea. The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei-Darussalem (along with Taiwan) all have contesting claims to the boundaries of the South China Sea, most of which has been claimed by China under its ambiguous nine-dash line. As China began projects of land reclamation, construction of artificial islands in the South China Sea, its military modernisation and increasingly assertive posture has worried the other claimants.

China is also using its bilateral relations with countries like Laos and Cambodia to undermine the multilateral consensus of the ASEAN. Some reports also debate if China’s ‘salami slicing strategy’ has now extended to Malaysia by leveraging its purchase of the debt ridden state entity, 1Malaysia Development Berhad (IMDB) reducing domestic pressure on Najib Razak in return for geopolitical payoffs. China denied the use of pressure either to influence ASEAN proceedings in this case or any others. The reasons behind the retraction of the rare tough stance taken by ASEAN remain unexplained. What it does indicate is that the ASEAN countries have failed to reconcile with a common viewpoint on the South China Sea issue.

The incident is also poignant because the Permanent Court of Arbitration at the Hague is set to deliver a judgement on the second round of hearings on the arbitration proceedings initiated by Philippines in 2013. While China contests the validity of an arbitration proceeding, the decision will be an important geopolitical marker, depending on how different countries respond to it.

Hamsini Hariharan is a Research Scholar with the Takshashila Institution and tweets at @HamsiniH

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India and the US—Pakistan partnership

How should India view the US—Pakistan relationship? What are the circumstances under which the US will cease its support to Pakistan’s military—jihadi complex?

by Pranay Kotasthane (@pranaykotas)

In my previous post, I had written about the 3 schools of thought on India—US partnership. Well, Pakistan is the main protagonist in one of the three strategies and hence it makes sense to look at the US—Pakistan equation in greater detail from an Indian perspective.

This Pakistan centred line of thinking goes as follows: why should India support the US when it continues to support and even encourage Pakistan’s military—jihadi complex (MJC), an irreconcilable adversary of India? This perspective has further found an availability heuristic too: our minds are fresh with the news of approval on the sale of F-16 to Pakistan, further confirming the bias that the US continues to play a double-game with India.

So, how should we view the US—Pakistan relationship? What are the circumstances under which US will cease its support to Pakistan’s MJC?

The US continues to mull over its relationship with Pakistan. The policy paralysis on this front was explained in this article. Suffice to say here that at present, Pakistan is important to the US national interest for two reasons. First, US still continues to see Pakistan as a part of the solution to the Afghanistan problem. There is no scenario in which US policymakers see a decline in threat from Taliban, Al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups in Afghanistan without an active role of Pakistan.

Second, Pakistan’s demand for war machinery, F-16s for example, serves the US military-industrial complex well. In fact, the optimal scenario from a US perspective is not the one where it blocks equipping Pakistan militarily, but a scenario where the US military-industrial complex can be a service provider to India and Pakistan, both. In that sense, a simmering localised conflict between India—Pakistan is not a particularly adverse outcome for the US.

Given that these are the two policy priorities for the US with regards to Pakistan, what will wean the US influence away from Pakistan? First, India has to demonstrate leadership in working with Afghanistan and other countries in restoring peace in that country. The US is desperately looking for alternatives but hasn’t managed to cobble up anything apart from an already faltering quadrilateral peace process. If this goal is beyond India’s capabilities, India will have to make peace with US—Pakistan cooperation on the Afghanistan issue in the near term. This also means a realisation that the co-operation will remain fungible—benefits accrued to Pakistan on its western front will, in turn, be used against India.

The second scenario in which the US might be forced to reconsider its Pakistan policy is when China becomes a major threat to US interests in East Asia and the Indian Ocean Region. In such a case, it would be in direct interest of the US government to ensure that India is focused on one common adversary only. It might then seriously reconsider its support to the MJC in the form of both arms and money. Whether India chooses to align itself with the US or chooses to be a swing power will then become an important question.

Until these two scenarios unfold, the US will continue to secure its partnerships with both India and Pakistan — and its support to the military—jihadi complex is a bitter reality that India will have to swallow.

Pranay Kotasthane (@pranaykotas) is a Research Fellow at the Takshashila Institution.

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