Tag Archives | United States

Northeast Asia looks at India

The Geo-strategic significance of Northeast Asia dates back to the cold war  period  and continues to be relevant even in the current context. The region houses several important powers like China, Japan, the Koreas and there is a strong presence of United States in the region.

Economically vibrant region, Northeast Asia continues to attract the interest and attention of great powers. Though India is traditionally not a part of the region, today it is gaining relevance and credence an an important strategic player. This opportunity seems to be extremely critical, as the regional powers like Japan and South Korea sees India as potential player who could possibly alter the dynamics of the region.

Northeast Asia is becoming increasingly unstable with unresolved disputes and shifting alignment in the face of China’s growing presence in the region.  Though India-China relations is often seen in the light of cooperation and competition, the regional powers see India’s rise  probably as a swing in balancing China or leading to a multipolar order.

How is India seen as a vital player in Northeast Asia: 

India’s presence in the Northeast Asia is typically welcomed by South Korea, Japan and the United States. United States sees India’s presence as vital to the Northeast Asian security order. Unlike the past, US is today convinced of an expanded security role for India beyond the Indian Ocean Region. United States has made an ernest effort to conceptualise a strategic interconnection for India beyond the Indian Ocean and the Asia Pacific. A means to justify India’s role in Northeast Asia. Further United States has deliberately boosted politico-diplomatic engagement between India and the regional powers in Northeast Asia.  India has been welcomed in  the East Asian forums and institutions- probably a counter weight to China in the regionIn terms of security role, India has been involved in periodic naval exercises with the United states and Japan. The most recent has been the  Exercise conducted in Northeast Asia. Most of India’s allies in the Northeast Asia are formal and informal partners with United States. This strategic entente has brought India into the foray of partnership with Japan and South Korea.

Japan remains key to Asia Pacific, and  the recent interaction between India-Japan has strengthened the links further. The cold war politics drew India into an alignment different from that of most of the states of East Asia. and this created a sense of disjunct in terms of understanding each other.  The most complex of the India-Japan relation was the incomprehensible meaning on the  values and cultures that existed in both the countries.

However the perceived separation between the two countries are drawing to a close, the Japanese Prime Minster Shinzo Abe has called for a deeper, broader, action-oriented partnership with India. Both the Prime Ministers of Japan and India have unswervingly committed to a peaceful, open, equitable, stable and rule-based order in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond. Both the Prime Minsters have committed to an extended bilateral cooperation in spheres of security, stability and sustainable development. Several areas have been identified in terms of cooperation-people-to-people, tourism, infrastructure collaboration,civil nuclear energy and educational collaboration. Crucial areas in terms of transfer of Defence Equipment and Agreement concerning security measures for the protection of classified military information  further deepens the strategic ties between India and Japan. The participation of Japan in the India-US Malabar Exercise  has further forged the long term commitment with Japan and to deal with maritime challenges in the Indo-Pacific region.

India-South Korea relations is gaining credence in the recent years. Ideological differences through the cold war deterred the relationship between India and South Korea. But the recent “New Asia Diplomatic initiative” by South Korea and India’s “look East Asia Policy” has further elevated the relationship between the two countries.

While India and Japan have expressed concerns over North Korea’s continuous development of Nuclear weapons and have urged North Korea to comply with the international regimes. India is seen as a constructive  and viable partner in the security network in Northeast Asia. Is Japan, South Korea and Untied States subtly engaging India to contain China.

India at this juncture stands to benefit as this bilateral and multilateral engagement with North East Asia and United States is seen as a positive move towards India’s “Act East Asia Policy”.

Priya Suresh is a Research Scholar @Takshshila Institute. She tweets @priyamanassa.

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China’s interest in Southeast Asia: Implications for India

China’s interest in Southeast Asia:

China’s policy towards Southeast Asia can be termed as one of competition and colloboration. Traditional determinants like geography, cold war ideology, domestic and ethnic politics have been the binding factors in China-Southeast Asia relations. Placing the relations China had exerted its influence over the region and the principal manifestation was the tributary system, which reflected the subordinate status of others in the region.

Post 1949 China emulated  the role of a crusader and a champion of third world freedom and assisted revolutionary communist movements and insurgent groups. With the Sino-Soviet rivalry in late 1960s,  China  had to reassess its ideological leanings. The death of Mao Tse Tung  and the ascendancy of Deng Xiaoping to power, brought in  a paradigm shift in China-Southeast Asia relations.

China’s assurance to the Southeast Asian countries after the 1997 financial crisis, refurbished China’s image amongst the Southeast Asian Country. China’s emphasis on economic modernisation and regional stability, assured the Southeast Asian countries that China would no longer be a threat in the region. An ernest effort undertaken by China to re-assure and re-emphasise its position with the Southeast Asian countries.

Thus Southeast Asia house great powers competing  for economic and strategic benefits. This has constantly compelled the ASEAN countries to choose between the regional challenger and the dominant power.The Southeast Asian countries often are tossed between the heavy weights, nevertheless they are coping with their own strategies and interest in identifying and engaging with India, Japan, US and China.

Asymmetry in relationship between China and Southeast Asia exists. China’s exerts high influence in the Mainland Southeast Asia which comprises of Myanmar, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand. All these countries in some form or the other  is dependent  and remain a  soft underbelly of China. China maintain unique relations with each of the countries in the region.

Myanmar is critical from the perspective of “client state”, While in the case of Cambodia and Laos, China plays the role of a dominant external actor. Vietnam-China relations continues to remain complex and there are completing claims between the two countries. Vietnam has protested the recent deployment of advanced missile system on a disputed South China Sea island and  has condemned this  erroneous action of China.

China rarely resonates historical tributary system with maritime Southeast Asia.Interestingly the maritime countries in Southeast Asia Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines, Brunei, Indonesia of these several of them enjoy the patronage of Untied States thus posing a constant challenges to China. Competing and overlapping claims continues to exist between China and maritime Southeast Asian countries on the issue of South China Sea.

Countries in dispute have wrangled over the territory for centuries and there is a steady increase of  tension. China by and large have claimed the largest portion of the territory. The recent  deployment of China’s advanced missile system which  is claimed  purely as a self-defence mechanism is not viewed as a benign advancement. United States has called for tangible steps to  reduce tension in the region.

How could India strategies its Southeast Asian Interest:

India’s engagement  in Southeast Asia was accelerated with the announcement of India’s Look East Policy in the 1990s. With increased bilateral operation in areas of trade and commerce, people to people contact and capital flow. India-ASEAN partnership has been upgraded to areas of strategic partnership. The enhanced India’s engagement in the region is welcomed by the Southeast Asian countries, as a counter check against growing China’s assertiveness in the region. India’s Act East strategy is an initiative to expand Indian diplomacy and an initiative to involve the large Indian diaspora present in the region.

The Look East Policy was an initiative started by the Late Prime Minister Narasimha Rao which focused on economic engagement with ASEAN countries and India.  Southeast Asia connects Indian and the Pacific Oceans that includes vital maritime chokepoint and hence extremely critical from India’s geo-strategic interest and hence India works to evolve a peaceful regional order. India has interestingly maritime borders with three Southeast Asian countries Myanmar, Thailand and Indonesia. Interestingly India has no unilateral or hegemonic policy towards the region.

US President  Obama has urged India to an Act East  Asia policy .  Several   joint statements have been released both by India and Untied states  calling for  safeguarding maritime security, freedom of navigation and  countering piracy and maritime terrorism.  The ASEAN countries along with United States have welcomed India’s participation in there region. They have legitimised India’s status as a great power in Asia and looks forward for India’s support in maintatining the regional order and stability

The Southeast Asian countries see India as a great power and calls for more proactive engagement from the Indian side. This is indeed a great opportunity for India,  how much will the political leadership encapsulate the opportunity to shape Asia is something that has to be seen.

Priya Suresh is a research scholar @Takshashila Institute. She tweets@priyamanassa

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What is Pyongyang’s goal

As the UN Security Council condemns the North Korean act of aggression, several countries including South Korea, United States have condemned this dastardly action. North Korea on several occasions had committed to abandon its nuclear programme. But despite the commitment North Korea has continued to keep the international community on tender hooks.

North Korea nuclear test

There seems to be clear cut violation of North Korea’s commitment to abandon its Nuclear programme. The recent launch of missile which North Korea claims as peace observation satellite has sparked several questions as to how much has  Pyongyang developed its ballistic missile programme. So far each of its test Unha, Taepodong and Nodong Ballistic missiles seems to hasten the development of Inter Continental Ballistic Missiles (ICBM) and the test on Sunday resulted in Kwangmyongsong 4 satellite entering the polar orbit. The Sunday’s testing further intensifies the rate of missile testing. Has this test boosted North Korea’s nuclear capability.

North Korea after its test in early January this year and had made claims to test in the future.  The international community had clamped North Korea’s test as a dastardly act and breach of its commitment to abandon its nuclear weapon testing. What is the reaction of United States and China. China has advocated dialogue with North Korea as an act would further provocative and add tension to the stability of the region. China is very clear that the region has to be denuclearised and nuclear proliferation to be stalled to bring order and peace in North East Asia.

Despite severe condemnation and calling the act as breach of security, North Korea is clear in its mission and intends to continue rocket carrying satellite to space. Committed to its vision and mission North Korea is bent on launching more man made satellite into the space. US claims that this is an tacit approach to develop North Korea’s capability to attack United States. A reality check is often required, North Korea continues unswervingly in building its capability targeting the United states.

Series of testings have been carried by the North Korean Government over a period of time. North Korea claims this as a peaceful purpose but with the clandestine approach there seems to be a major ambiguity in what it is claiming. Is this just the right to develop a peaceful program or boosting its power capability and equation is something that has to be carefully watched. North Korea’s move remains very speculative and unsure, what would Kim Jung-un do, remains a big question and challenge.

Priya Suresh is a Research Scholar at the Takshashila Institute. She tweets @priyamanassa.

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China building indigenous second aircraft carrier

China has confirmed the building of its second aircraft carrier, but the first carrier in the indigenous category.  Military observers say that the second aircraft would be completely different from the country’s first carrier Liaoning a Soviet designed carrier purchased in 2012. The new carrier will be built with a brand new propulsion system, and the IHS Jane first noted the new hull under construction. Further the carrier would be  designed to accommodate the native  developed J-15 fighters and an  upgradation from the first aircraft carrier Liaoning.

 

aircraft

The image shows an overview of the Dalian shipyard in Northern China where China is building its indigenous second aircraft carrier.  White Paper entitled “China’s Military Strategy” is an endeavour to rejuvenate China’s capability. As the White Paper testifies it is important and relevant that China develops its maritime forces in way that it safeguards China’s national interest. The second aircraft carrier is a move toward this direction. Enhancing China’s blue water naval capability as a means to contain the US pivot in East Asia is an important directive towards this interest. China is currently working on the aircraft capability that would be on par with the USS Nimitz class super carriers. It is also speculated that the Chinese aircraft could be much smaller than the aircraft used by United States. There is also a good possibility that the new aircraft carrier might be stationed at a new facility on Hainan Island near the South China Sea. A  showcase of China’s might over the South China Sea.

The most critical objective of the program is the visualization of a blue water navy that could be operable beyond the first and second island chains. Beijing is keen to bolster its naval capabilites  as means to safeguard its maritime security. Further with China embroiled in conflict over East and South China Sea and the presence of United States in the region, convinces China to further enhance its deterrent capability. A raison d’être for China’s military expansion which is more global in nature rather than just looking at homeland defence.

Is China’s military expansion a tactics to  counter US primacy in the region or  stratagem of    reaching the Oceans, a part of its maritime strategy. Further it could be a modicum to  protect its Sea Lanes of Communication (SLOC) vital to China’s modernisation drive.  Despite several factors have been attributed to China’s expanded maritime interest, there is an interesting theory that unfolds China’s motivation. With China embroiled in maritime conflict in East Asia with Japan, the presence of United States a long time ally of Japan poses a major challenge to Chinese supremacy and rise. Further there is also a growing triple entente between Japan-United States-India which could be used to counter weight China.  Though India unlike the United States is not a traditional partner in East Asia, but today it is making a concerted effort to drive its economic, military and foreign policies eastward. There is a strong possibility that a Quadripolar Structure could emerge thus reframing the geo-strategic order of East Asia.

Priya Suresh is a Research Scholar with the Takshashila Institute. She tweets @priyamanassa.

 

 

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North Korean Nuclear Detonation: China’s Reaction

 

The recent thermonuclear detonation by North Korea has evoked a great concern amongst the international community and with no exception China has firmly opposed the nuclear test. This nuclear  explosion has brought the reclusive country to a diplomatic limelight whilst generating skepticism over the test. The fourth North Korean test after 2013, probably could be a modus operandi to showcase its ability to destabilize the region, and an effort to strengthen its nuclear status before the US Presidential election. Probably an impending demand for the withdrawal of US military alliance from South Korea which is envisioned as a threat to the sovereignty of the region. The North Korean test has not left anyone surprised but lots of speculations run high as there is no conclusive reason why this  test has been conducted despite Kim Jong-un’s assurance to stop the future testing.

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Geographical proximity, cultural and ideological affinity have defined China-North Korea relations. Tracing the past history, China had signed a Treaty of Friendship and alliance with North Korea in 1961 which is intact even today. In 1990 the King Jong II regime adopted the so called first military policy driving the economy to shambles. China economically and diplomatically supported North Korea. For China, North Korea acted as a valuable buffer between South Korea where US soldiers were stationed. Thus almost for a decade survival of North Korea was in the imminent interest of China.  China apparently during Kim Jong Ils period was committed to safeguarding and protecting North Korea. Thus China waded Kim Jong-un of North Korea to consolidation of power.

During Hu Jintao’s leadership, China prioritized the survival of the new regime in North Korea.   The changing approach of Kim Jong-un’s regime and his defiant action such as testing of ballistic missiles created a lot of apprehension for China thus changing its friendly overtures towards North Korea. China is becoming more firm in its approach towards North Korea. The honeymoon retro no longer continues between the two countries.  China’s strong signal hs displeased North Korea. Tough stand by the UN followed by the UN Security Council Resolution 2087 which was well supported by United states and China. This resolution and action testified a strong signal to Pyongyang not to conduct another nuclear test. In spite of the brewing tension in the region, it looks like China is far from ready to abandon North Korea. China is committed to seeking a solution through dialogue probably an attempt to return to the Six Party talks rather than punishing North Korea.

Despite global opprobrium, North Korea continues its act of aggression. These events is making China slowly drift  from apart its one  time socialist ally North Korea.  The traditional ‘lip and teeth’ relation as pronounced by Mao is possibly loosing its relevance. However caution is restrained by China on its  approach towards North Korea, as there is an alluring fear that the collapse of the regime in North Korea could get US to China’s border, testifying US government’s foreign policy pivot to Asia.

China is sending a mixed signal on its stand on North Korea. China sometimes soft pedals North Korea while at other times it is very stern in its approach. At this juncture and the aftermath of the test, the Chinese Foreign Ministry is getting tougher and   in conjecture with United States, has refused to recognize North Korea as a nuclear armed state. North Korea’s provocative detonation of thermo nuclear weapon has increased the danger of a war in the Korean Peninsula. This probably can embroil China in an unwanted war with United States and its allies. A risk averse China now does not want to get entangled in any conflict that would deter its own interest. Is  Xi Jinping recalibrating China’s policy towards North Korea moving forward or does he see North Korea as an unnecessary albatross burdening China with its poor reputation.

Priya Suresh is a Research Scholar with the Takshashila Institution. She tweets @priyamanassa.

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An analytic framework for the net neutrality debate

Developing an analytical framework to talk about policies around net neutrality and why it is so hard.

By Soren Dayton

It is very easy to see telecommunications policy in local terms, as it is an industry that is literally grounded in a particular place. Indeed, speaking as someone who has been a consultant to US telecommunications companies, a remarkable amount of time and energy is spent, at least in the US, focused on issues like siting towers, getting access to particular places to lay cable, etc.

Given the salience of the net neutrality debate in India, it might be helpful to step back a little and try to consider it both in comparative and more abstract terms. One of the features of the net neutrality debate is that while the top-level messages have stayed the same at various times and places — “every bit is equal” versus “don’t over-regulate and restrict business models” — the underlying technical and policy questions have shifted with both jurisdiction and contemporary technology. In fact, the constancy of those messages in the various contexts, when you consider what the underlying policy differences are, should give you pause about them.

Rather than try to define net neutrality, I want to provide an analytical framework to allow us to talk about policies around net neutrality and why it is so hard. This should help explain why, in spite of there being no rules mandating net neutrality there also haven’t been significant violations. This is why US Federal Communications Commissioner Ajit Pai has said that net neutrality, “a solution in search of a problem”. But it also shows why this might change.

So how should we understand net neutrality? I think it is helpful to focus, in schematic terms, on the changes of two numbers over time. The first is the cost of transmitting a given amount of data at a given level of performance (speed, latency, minimum speed, etc. — I would note that limiting to the total set of variables is hard, so this is just a sample). Think of it as: C (data, latency, average speed, minimum speed etc.)

The important thing to realise is that due to technical and economic innovation by the carriers, this cost should fall over time for any set of variables, assuming that there aren’t severe problems in policy such as spectrum scarcity or in competition.

At the same time, innovation by the application providers should drive another number up: the economic value that can be extracted from that data, which we will call V: V (data, latency, average speed, minimum speed, etc.)

When the internet was created, the costs of data connectivity were very high and commercial value was very low, so C > V. Since then, costs have fallen and companies have created new ways of extracting value. At some point in the future (this is schematic, so we don’t know when) V > C, that is the economic value created by the application logic will outweigh the cost of transmitting that data.

The whole debate about zero-rating and ‘freemium’ business models occur when C is very close to V. Facebook is willing to pay for your data costs when the activity you generate on Facebook creates more value for Facebook than the cost of that data.

This framework also explains why net neutrality was an abstract debate, “a solution in search of a problem,” when C > V. Internet access is being consumed as a leisure good.

This framework also explains why it is suddenly an interesting debate, as C and V get close. Because internet access generally creates value, there is a potential additional source of revenue for the carriers. Both the carriers and application providers are planning for the future, where the carriers are eyeing a future source of revenue and the application providers are trying to plan for and control their future costs.

Part of the conceptual problem of the net neutrality debate is that we are making policy in an environment when C is roughly equal to V about a world in which not only will V > C, but V – C will get larger over time. We are trying to make policy about a world that are aren’t in and have trouble really foreseeing.

If you accept this framework, the policy question in the future should be: what input should policy have in the distribution of V – C, especially as it grows? Net neutrality, as a policy, is really about putting the thumb on the side of the application provider to limit the amount of V – C that can go to the carrier.

The position of the application providers is, not unreasonably, that the market power is of the carriers will mean that they pocket an outsized amount of V – C. While the carriers point to the increasing size of the markets on the application side (and in the case of mobile, the device side).

My own instinct based on experience in the policy debates in the United States is that the growth of Apple and Google suggests that they have more leverage over the carriers than they care to admit and that we generally perceive. Indeed, one of the most remarkable demonstrations of the changing balance of power has been the ability of Apple to force the iPhone down the throats of carriers around the world. Any rich world telecom executive will tell you that being able to serve the iPhone is a major driver of profit. And, indeed, Apple has found technological innovations in the design of radios in their phones that means that they have nearly universal devices, allowing the phones to work on nearly every network, turning the network into a commodity.

Another way of stating this problem is, as V – C grows, should something that has always been a one-sided market become a two-sided market, and how should that be regulated? This is why Niranjan Rajadhyaksha has said that the economics of net neutrality is uncertain, referring to the work of Nobel Prize winner Jean Tirole. That’s why my own policy preference would be to keep a sharp eye on the question, but be slow to make policy, recognising that it will be made into a rapidly changing environment in which we don’t actually have good instincts about how the markets will work or even what the markets will be.

Now turning to real-world policy, you can see how the net neutrality debate might work in different places. In a place like India, where internet penetration is low and a primary objective of policy might be to get more people online, carriers might argue, in a way that is both self-serving and may align with the public good, that some of V – C should be reserved to get more people online. This is a generous understanding of the argument that Internet.org and Facebook make.

In a place like the United States where penetration is high and the limiting factor for further penetration is typically not cost but perceived need, the question is probably different. It is how to distribute V – C in such a way that the cost is optimal for consumers. Here, antitrust regulation would seem to be the preferred tool to ensure that the carrier’s don’t exert too much market power. The arguments for net neutrality in the US turn on the idea that antitrust regulation is too slow and that regulators are subject to capture.

Soren Dayton is a public affairs and political consultant from Washington, DC, on sabbatical and living in New Delhi. The views expressed are personal.

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Iran Nuclear Framework: What’s the Big Deal?

Key features, sticking points and next steps

By Sumitha Narayanan Kutty

Iran and the P5+1 countries have negotiated a framework agreement and are now one step closer to a nuclear deal that will limit the former’s nuclear programme. This framework, announced after its original deadline of March 30, spells out key parameters that will now be carried forward to the final deal (to be negotiated by June 30).

Contrary to expectations of a vague statement or verbal understanding, the terms that were jointly announced by EU foreign policy chief Frederica Mogherini and Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif were pretty detailed. These parameters have of course been extensively covered by the media and also accessible via a White House fact sheet. Most parameters last ten years, some longer.

Salient Features

  • Iran’s enrichment capacity (number of operating centrifuges) will be cut by half
  • Breakout timeline (currently at 2-3 months) will be increased to one year
  • Arak reactor will be reconfigured, Fordow facility will no longer enrich uranium
  • IAEA Additional Protocol will be implemented, providing greater access to facilities

The next three months focus on the more difficult part of the job – hashing out these technicalities.

Arms control experts seem to agree that the terms address proliferation concerns since the Iranians seem to have agreed to extensive monitoring and verification measures. In addition, the terms (surprising to many) actually favor the United States given the intrusive nature of these inspections.

It is however not surprising that Israel has voiced loud concerns over the ‘bad deal’ though it is interesting to note that the Arab nations, including Saudi Arabia, have remained cautiously silent. (US President Barack Obama has invited the latter group – the GCC countries – to Camp David to discuss the deal and assuage serious concerns on regional security.)

Sticking Point(s)

A major sticking point in this final round of talks was sanctions relief. This issue left the P5 delegates particularly divided, with France balking at the idea of quick reversal of UN Security Council Resolutions (sanctions) and Russia opposing the automatic “snapping back” of sanctions if Iran violated any condition.

After Thursday’s announcement, some confusion remains regarding the same. The press release put out by the Iranians seems to gloss over the conditions for reversal of UN sanctions while the White House fact sheet is quite specific on that Iran fulfill its commitments or face immediate penalties for non-compliance. Also, when and how these sanctions would be rolled back will need to be determined once all parties reconvene to hammer out the actual nuclear deal.

(It must be noted here that sanctions levied on Iran for human right violations and its support for international terrorism are not under consideration)

Next Steps

Obviously, the work does not stop here. The road ahead is tough for both the American and Iranian teams with each side now having to present the framework to political opponents and critics at home.

Tehran

The Majlis (parliament) is not required to vote on the agreement. The decision making chain is as follows –

Supreme Leader (SL)

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Supreme National Security Council

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Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Zarif and co)

Zarif has been in constant consultation with the SL and proceeded with the presser in Lausanne only after Khamenei’s thumb’s up. However, the possibility that Khamenei backs out as technicalities are further discussed cannot be ruled out.

Washington DC

Obama has already briefed the Congress leadership on the deal and his administration will continue to reach out to members through next week. Reports on this initial briefing seem to convey a sense of appreciation for the robustness of the framework, even from Republican members.

Obama has previously made it clear that he will veto any new sanctions (including most recent Corker legislation) that may damage the negotiations. Given the new framework, there is hope Congress will not undercut but give space for negotiations until June.

If Congressional oversight seems impossible, Obama will forge an executive agreement. Perhaps quite fitting.

It took an executive agreement for the United States to get out of Iran (the release of embassy hostages in 1981). It could take another (in a sense) to get back in.

Sumitha Narayanan Kutty is a Scholar at The Takshashila Institution.

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