North Korea Crisis | RSTV Summary

North Korea has considerably upgraded its nuclear weapons arsenal and capability which is increasing tensions in the Korean peninsula. It has conducted the intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) tests. President Trump has strongly reverted back by pointing that the American Government can reply using the analogy of fire and fury. This situation is compared to the Cuban missile crisis of 1962.
Analysis

  • North Korea-USA relations are antagonistic in nature since the Korean War. Since the Korean War of 1950s, the US has regularly maintained a strong military presence in South Korea and Japan.
  • North Korea maintains a huge military force as per its ‘military-first’ policy. It ranks third after the US and Russia in the possession of nuclear weapons.
  • North Korea has been testing nuclear weapons since 2006. The latest tests have launched missiles that flew over Japan and ultimately it threatened the US territory of Guam.
  • President Trump has warned of signalled his intention to send the US Carl Winson super carrier and its carrier strike group to the Korean peninsula.

Impact of a future war –

  • Causalities and financial losses will be immense including the losses to world economy.
  • Rise in debt levels of US and ripple down effects to the whole world impacting the global supply chains.
  • In case of entering of war in South Korea, it being one of the largest hubs of electronics manufacturing, would create shortages across the world.
  • There would be a large scale migration of refugees from North Korea to China, Japan, South Korea and other Asian countries.

Conclusion –
It would be better if some diplomatic resolution is adopted to freeze the war. China holds the key to this diplomatic resolution as it is the largest trade partners of North Korea (DPRK). US should put more pressure on China and Russia who possess some leverage on the rogue state of North Korea.

Promo Codes: Waitr Promo Codes,  WSOP Codes

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India and China propose joint project at WTO | PIB

Recently (on 18 July 2017) India and China jointly submitted a proposal to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) calling for the elimination – by developed countries – of the most trade-distorting form of farm subsidies, known in WTO parlance as Aggregate Measurement of Support (AMS) or ‘Amber Box’ support as a prerequisite   for consideration of other reforms in domestic support negotiations.
Significance –

  • This is an important proposal by India and China in view of the ongoing negotiations for the upcoming 11th Ministerial Conference of the WTO to be held in Buenos Aires in December 2017.
  • It counters the efforts by some countries to target the subsidies of the developing countries while letting the developed countries retain their huge farm subsidies.

Details –

  • The joint paper reveals that developed countries, including the US, the EU and Canada, have been consistently providing trade-distorting subsidies to their farmers at levels much higher than the ceiling applicable to developing countries.
  • Developed countries have more than 90% of global AMS entitlements amounting to nearly US$ 160 bn. Most of the developing countries, including India and China, do not have AMS entitlements.
  • Listing the most heavily and frequently subsidised products by the US, the EU and Canada since 1995, the paper calls for elimination of such subsidies. The numbers reveal that subsidies for many items provided by the developed world are over 50% and some even more that 100% of the value of production of the product concerned, while developing countries are forced to contain it within 10% of the value of production.
  • In other words, while developed Members have access to huge amount of AMS beyond their de minimis (these are the minimal amounts of domestic support that are allowed even though they distort trade — up to 5% of the value of production for developed countries, 10% for developing.) in contrast most developing Members have access only to de minimis resulting in a major asymmetry in the rules on agricultural trade.
  • Elimination of AMS, India and China believe, should be the starting point of reforms rather than seeking reduction of subsidies by developing countries, some of which like India provide a subsistence amount of about US $ 260 per farmer per annum compared to over 100 times more in some developed countries.

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Astana Summit 2017 and Beyond

After being an observer in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) since 2005, India finally gained entry to the multilateral grouping during the Astana Summit 2017 held in June.

Background | Astana Summit 2017

India had applied for the full membership in 2014 after weighing very judicially the opportunities and challenges that might be presented to it after its accession to the SCO.

Significance of SCO | Astana Summit 2017

  • Undoubtedly, the SCO has evolved over the years as a very significant regional organisation for forging cooperation amongst its members in diverse fields.
  • With both India and Pakistan becoming members the profile of SCO has been further enhanced as the group now represents close to half the humanity of the globe and 23 percent of the world’s GDP.
  • Besides the Central Asian Republics (less Turkmenistan) it brings together three major players in Asia- Russia, China and India on a shared platform.

The Russia-India-China trio

Besides Russia-India-China (RIC) forum, Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa (BRICS) and the G-20, the SCO will provide another platform for regular interaction Russia, China, India and other members to discuss mutual concerns, interests and find solutions for moving forward on cooperative endeavours.

India-Pakistan rivalry in SCO | Astana Summit 2017

  • There is a possibility that major powers like Russia and China might be tempted to mediate between the India and Pakistan. But such a step would not be welcome by India as New Delhi’s policy on the issue has been to resolve the India-Pakistan issues bilaterally i.e. without the intervention of any third party.
  • Pakistan would be more inclined to bring up the bilateral issues directly or indirectly. This kind of propensity on the part of Pakistan needs to be discouraged by the other SCO members and in any case, the SCO charter does not allow bilateral problems to be aired on the multilateral platform.
  • The regular top leadership and ministerial meetings around the SCO imply that both Indian and Pakistani officials at a senior level from Prime Minister and head of state meetings to Health Ministers, Foreign Ministers and Interior Minister Meetings would have the opportunity to meet each other at least once a year. This will provide another platform where the two countries would have an opportunity to interact.

India-China cooperation in SCO |Astana Summit 2017

  • Both leaders discussed economic cooperation, trade, investment and connectivity issues, the establishment of industrial parks, cooperation in railways. Discussions also revolved around security and defence issues including counter-terrorism cooperation, security cooperation and defence exchanges.
  • Thus, the SCO would become an additional platform between India and China for regular exchange of views on a wide range of issues in the SCO from investment and connectivity to joint counter-terrorism exercises both on the multilateral and bilateral basis.

A road to Central Asian Republics | Astana Summit 2017

  • Insofar as the relationship with CARs is concerned, its potential remains underexploited even while India considers them as part of India’s extended neighbourhood and strategically and economically significant for forging closer ties. These countries also view India as a benign balancer in the ongoing power play in the region.
  • The SCO will provide a good forum to expand on issues such as the economy, trade, connectivity and counter-terrorism cooperation which are key objectives of India’s policy in this region.
  • Central Asia’s desire for diversifying hydro-power and energy export routes would correspond with India’s quest for diversifying imports.
  • The membership of SCO will likely provide greater accessibility to gas and oilfields in the region.
  • India, Russia and Iran are also founding members of International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) which has been in works for quite some time and which seeks to connect India to Central Asia through Iran and beyond to Russia and Europe.
  • Moreover, India is in the process of joining Ashgabat Agreement which the Indian government approved last year; the agreement provides for a transit corridor across Central Asia and the Middle East through linkages between Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Iran before reaching the Persian Gulf and into Oman. This will facilitate India’s trade with Central Asia and the Eurasian region and it builds upon the INSTC.
  • With Russia as a member and Iran as an observer, there is a possibility of cooperation with China and other SCO members to support connectivity projects and the development of INSTC.

Counter-terrorism agenda | Astana Summit 2017

  • It is expected that engagement with the SCO countries will provide a higher degree of clarity and coordination of policies on this important country which has implications for regional security.
  • SCO platform would provide an opportunity to the members to coordinate and configure their approaches on the regional security issues including Afghanistan.
  • India’s participation in SCOs Tashkent-based Regional Counter-terrorism Structure (RCTS) is likely to increase levels of intelligence sharing, as well as help the others develop counter-terrorism strategies based on India’s long experience of it.
  • The SCO and the UN secretariats have also signed a joint declaration on cooperation in countering international terrorism in 2010 in Tashkent which forms the basis for the interaction between the two organisations. Thus mutual exchanges on counter-terrorism issues would be beneficial for all the stakeholders.

Conclusion | Astana Summit 2017

Overall, India’s membership of SCO is a positive development and New Delhi needs to take advantage of the same by being proactive on the platform. India also needs to enhance its economic relationship with CARs which has been far below the potential. Connectivity woes also need to be addressed through fast implementation of projects and by pushing several existing joint projects. Mutual Complementarities of connectivity projects in the region also need to be explored.

Pak-Saudi Security ties in a Churn (RSTV Debate)

Pak-Saudi Security relationship seems to be undergoing a reset. Last year, former Pakistani Army Chief General Raheel Sharif was selected by Riyadh as the commander of the Saudi-led alliance of Muslim majority countries, ostensibly aimed at counter-terrorism. The alliance is meant to essentially target the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen who are active on the Saudi borders. Then came the news last week since denied that Pakistan would send a brigade strength of combat troops to Saudi Arabia for deployment along its southern borders in the ongoing conflict with Yemen. Islamabad and Riyadh have had a close security relationship. Not only does the Pakistan army regularly train the Saudi soldiers, experts estimate that there are as many as 70,000 Pakistanis serving across the Saudi military services. Pakistani combat troops have been sent to Saudi Arabia in the past also in 1979 after the attack on the Grand Mosque Complex of Mecca and during the First Gulf War when the Saudis feared an attack by Saddam Hussein. In 2015, Saudi Arabia requested Pakistan to join an Arab-military coalition against the Houthi rebel movement in Yemen. However, the Pakistan Parliament voted to remain neutral in the conflict. Let us see if the Pakistanis are reconsidering its position on joining the Riyadh-led alliance against the Houthis and if so, why is there a churning in Pakistan on this issue and what does it mean for the Gulf region?

What are the factors that have shaped and continue to shape the Pak-Saudi Security Relationship?

Pakistan and Saudi Arabia enjoy a very close relationship to the extent that at one moment there was a suspicion that Saudi Arabia is financing the nuclear programme of Pakistan (members of the Saudi Royal Family are the only ‘foreigners’ who are allowed to visit the nuclear facilities of Pakistan). In the 1980s, when Saudi Arabia procured the Chinese CSS-2 missiles, the speculation was rife that this procurement is senseless unless they are armed with nuclear weapons. Hence, it was argued that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons would be made available for Saudi Arabia in the time of crisis. Pakistani troops have also served in Saudi Arabia to accord protection to the Saudi Royal family. Saudi Arabia has recognised Taliban regime and financed Madrasas (a college for Islamic instruction) all over Pakistan to spread Wahhabism (identified as the main source of global terrorism by European Parliament).

Today Saudi Arabia is constrained heavily in its fight against the Houthi-rebels of Yemen (allegedly supported by Iran). In fact, there have been instances of serious attacks along the southern borders of Saudi Arabia by the Houthis. Saudi Arabia’s army is incapable of fighting a serious war effectively (forget the Guerrilla warfare) and it exists only on papers. Therefore, Pakistan becomes very valuable in this regard.

Pak-Saudi Security | Why Saudi Arabia selected General Raheel Sharif as the commander of the alliance of Muslim countries?

It could be regarded as a precursor to Saudi Arabia’s hope of obtaining combat troops from Pakistan in its fight against the Houthi rebels. Although there are some inhibitions inside some quarters of Pakistan over General Raheel Sharif taking over the job offered by the Saudis, there is no rejection/acceptance till now.

There was an ‘anger’ in Pakistan regarding Saudi’s request for combat troops in 2015 was not only on substantive grounds (non-meddling in the Saudi-Iran affairs) but also on procedural grounds. The procedure in which Saudi Arabia requested Pakistan to send combat troops to Yemen forced few sections in Pakistan to feel the vassal status of Saudi Arabia vis-à-vis Pakistan.

Pak-Saudi Security | Would Pakistan send troops to Saudi Arabia? What could be the consequences of such an involvement?

A newspaper in UAE leaked the Saudi-Pak plan to cooperate via troops in combating the Houthi problem which has reached to the doors of Saudi Arabia. Defence Minister of Pakistan has denied the reports of such cooperation. Pakistan may be hedging in this arena taking into account the Iran factor.

Even if the troops are sent for ‘emergency deployment’ in Saudi Arabia i.e. to play the defensive role and protect the vital security interests of Saudi Arabia’s territory, the sole purpose would be to extract money via grants and soft loans. Saudis would be happy to do the same, especially when they are getting cheap sources of security at the time of dwindling economy as compared to the costly Western forces in the region.

The implication of such an involvement of Pakistan would be that it would find itself enmeshed in the Sunni-Shia conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Shias in Pakistan are being already targeted by the Sunni extremist groups and it cannot afford to alienate a large section of its population (Shias hold significant positions in Pakistan Army also) further by entering into such an alliance. But the relations between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia-UAE grouping have already deteriorated in the past few years, so it is in a dilemma over its future course of action.

Pakistan is also unsure of gaining gravitas in American calculus as a regional power by what they perceive to be serving the strategic goals of the United States in the Gulf region.

Pak-Saudi Security | Why Saudi Arabia needs Pakistani troops when it can get mercenary contractors from the West?

One of the reasons could be the diversification strategy on part of the Saudi Kingdom to divert away from their security dependence on the West and look for cheaper alternatives to it. The sheer competence of Pakistan Army in the region could be another factor for Saudi shift towards Pakistan in this situation of war. As discussed earlier, this relationship also goes back to decades of security cooperation. This close security cooperation makes it imperative for the Gulf to prefer Pakistani troops in the event of a security need.

Pak-Saudi Security | Repercussions on Iran-Pakistan relationship

If Pakistan decides to send the troops to Saudi Arabia, it could disturb the relationship between Iran and Pakistan. It is doubtful if Pakistan can afford to lose a significant partner like Iran in the proposed China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

Pakistan became the surrogate of Saudi-Iran proxy war through the sectarian conflicts in the 1990s and this is the real danger that Pakistan perceives to be repeated again, in the case of its involvement in the Yemen affairs.

Pak-Saudi Security | India factor in Pakistani calculus

Pakistan is worried about the closeness developing between the Gulf countries and India in the last few years with respect to economic and security interests, especially with the UAE and Saudi Arabia. Pakistan has a traditional policy to isolate India and complicate its relationship with these countries. Contrary to the popular perception, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has managed to penetrate the Gulf region with his skilful diplomacy and secured a strategic leverage vis-à-vis Pakistan in terms of a developing security relationship with the region. Gulf countries have successfully managed to put the predominance of Islamic factor behind the contours of their relationship with India and are managing to cooperate effectively with India as against their traditional position. Gulf countries and most importantly the UAE is seriously looking towards India for defence and security cooperation to signal Pakistan that they may end the monopoly of Pakistani security umbrella in the region.

Pak-Saudi Security | Conclusion

It would be interesting to see how Pakistan decides to sail across the Arabian Sea to reach the Gulf of Aden through a tightrope diplomacy. Would it be able to prepare an effective solution to escape out of the zero-sum game between Saudi Arabia and Iran?

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French Presidential Election

The second round of French Presidential Election poll is on May 7th. In the first round, the far-right candidate Marine Le Pen and central-left candidate Emmanuel Macron have come out on top. The top two spots have gone to protest candidates as they are both critical of traditional elites, even though from different perspectives. They are being called outsiders despite Emmanuel being France’s former economy minister and Le Pen being a current member of European Parliament. This is the first time that the two mainstream parties, the Socialist Party and the Republican Party are out of the Presidential race. The road ahead for the next President of France would be tough, given that the French electorate’s scepticism about its political leadership, worries about unemployment, the effect of globalisation on country’s economy and identity and their attitude to Europe, have taken a front seat. The French Presidential election is on May 7th, it is not a referendum on the European Union, however, its outcome will have a serious implication on the future of EU. Le Pen’s position is anti-European Union, while Macron is an ardent pro-European. As of now, the opinion polls show that Macron is ahead of Le Pen for the final round.

French Presidential Election | Fragmented mandate

The electorate of France forwarded a fragmented mandate where the four leading candidates garnered between 19 to 24 percent votes. A simple breakdown of vote shares reveals that both the proponents and opponents of globalisation are equally divided in the elections. Curiously enough, the French far-right and the far-left are in agreement with respects of dealing with the European Union. The choice may not be as easy as it seems for the French electorate. The lead between the two, which was initially projected as 60:40 (Macron: Pen), is now narrowing down due to Pen’s consolidation of support from various quarters.

Emmanuel Macron does not have any mainstream party behind him and he is totally inexperienced, so he might find it very difficult to forge a centre-left coalition in his favour. On the other hand, the far-right candidate Marine Le Pen’s positions could lead to ‘Frexit’ and she could turn the relationship of France with Germany upside down and revive pre-war positions, to think in worst terms. Therefore, either way, it is not a good augur for the future of both France and Europe.

French Presidential Election | Road ahead for Macron

Macron does not have an established political party, so he has to pitch his appeal at a different level where he shows himself as centrist but his foreign and economic policies are liberal. Moreover, Emmanuel Macron was the Economy minister in Francois Hollande Government for less than two years. Hollande has become extremely unpopular, hence, the anti-incumbency that Hollande currently holds is somewhat shared by him with Macron because of his earlier involvement in the Government.
Most of the traditional politicians, including Francois Hollande have endorsed Macron for the position of President of France. In terms of winning the elections, naturally he will gain public support, but in terms of his image in long term, he will face a major hurdle because a fragmented Parliament would present a roadblock for Macron to realise his reformative ambitions for the French economy and its relationship with the EU.

It is to be seen if En Marche (Macron’s political party) is a political movement or a political party. In case it is merely a political movement, then it is inevitable that the 577-member Parliament will continue to be dominated by the Socialists and Republicans, the two mainstream parties.

French Presidential Election | Marine Le Pen v/s the moderates

In 2002, when Marine Le Pen’s father Jean-Marie Le Pen made it to the second round, all the traditional parties came together to roundly trounce him. But this time, his daughter Marine Le Pen has transformed the National Front party and she is trying to poach some of Francois Fillon’s support base, besides mobilising her own support base, so that it turns out to be a large number.
Marine Le Pen has been successful in rebranding her party in the sense of moving it away from pro-Nazi and anti-Semitic image. She has succeeded in mainstreaming the National Front to a fair extent. In the three major issues that dominated the French elections, i.e. terrorism, migration and unemployment, Marine Le Pen has been successful in presenting a kind of nationalist or conservative perspective back to the French politics, which has actually helped her in her rebranding exercise.

French Presidential Election | Future of the European Project

Besides the result of the French elections, the upcoming elections in Germany (in September) would hold a key to the European project. If the elections in both France and Germany goes on a development oriented plank i.e. in strong support of ‘Europeanism‘, then the issues like Brexit and relationship with US and Russia would be effectively dealt by the European Union.

French Presidential Election | Conclusion

The reality test conveys us that it is immaterial who wins the Presidential elections in France because both Macron and Le Pen faces the same issue of inability to secure a majority in Parliament. The traditional political parties are not losing their grip over the legislature anytime soon. Hence, the face-off will continue and ultimately the people of France would lose the opportunity of ‘good governance’ that they seem to be voting for this week.

US Russia Rivalry in Afganistan

Moscow and Washington seem to be heading for a face-off in Afghanistan. Last December, Moscow initiated a regional dialogue on Afghanistan. It has held three meetings of the group which contains Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, China, India and a few Central Asian republics. The US declined the invitation to attend the last meeting saying that the agenda of the meeting was unclear. The US sees the Russian initiative as a counterweight to its influence in Afghanistan. US President Donald Trump is still in the process of shaping his Afghanistan policy. Last week, he sent his National Security Adviser General H.R. McMaster to Kabul, Islamabad and New Delhi to take stock of the situation. On April 13th, the US dropped its largest non-nuclear bomb in the Nangarhar province of Afghanistan, ostensibly to destroy some caves being used by the Islamic State fighters. This happened on the eve of the third multinational meet on Afghanistan conveyed by Russia. It also preceded General McMaster’s visit to the region. As Russia begins to reassert its influence in Afghanistan and the Trump administration is yet to formulate its Afghanistan policy, what does the Russia-US face-off in Afghanistan would mean for the Afghan region?

US Russia Rivalry | Is Afghanistan the next theatre for Russia-US rivalry?

Historically, the US has used Afghan Mujahideen to dislodge the Soviet Union from Afghanistan during the cold war era. Most probably this situation would not be recreated again to settle current rivalries.

Russia is allowing the northern route to operate in Afghanistan for supplies to the region. They also realise that the United States has a role to play in circumscribing the ambitions of Islamic State in the region, but it simultaneously doubts the intentions of the US in manipulating these extremist groups to its advantage. This American support for Islamic militancy in Afghanistan would destabilise Central Asia with spill-over effect on the Russian federation.

Apart from taking action against the drug trafficking business emanating from Afghanistan borders, Russia has not taken any significant political stance on Afghanistan yet. But with the emergence of Islamic State extremism in Afghanistan, it is bound to take a concrete initiative in Afghanistan to secure its strategic interests in the region. But this does not necessarily imply a ‘face-off’ between the Americans and the Russians again.

US Russia Rivalry | Credibility of Islamic State threat in Afghanistan

Russia has been permeating a belief that Islamic State is gradually gaining ground in Afghanistan and it would subsequently affect the Central Asian republics and the Russian federation in the future. Whereas, the US is alleging that Russia is sharing critical intelligence inputs and military hardware with the Taliban groups to safeguard itself against the onslaught of Islamic militancy in the region.

But the boots on the ground confirm that the threats posed by Islamic State in Afghanistan are nowhere close to the threat of Taliban. Afghan ISIS consists of Pakistan-backed Taliban, Pakistani terrorists, Afghan Taliban, a few local criminals and an omnipotent force of Salafists in Kunar and Nangarhar provinces of Afghanistan. Hence, it might be premature to conclude that ISIS will pose a direct threat to the region beyond Afghanistan itself.

But the people who are following the Islamic State militants very closely in Syria confirm that the second most spoken language in the ISIS is Russian. This means that a number of people from the Central Asian republics who speak Russian language and Chechen rebels are growing in ISIS. Once they are squeezed in Syria by a strong attack on Raqqa initiated by the anti-ISIS forced, they will possibly gravitate to another ungoverned territory, most probably, Afghanistan. Hence, the Islamic State militancy at the doorstep of Central Asia is not a non-serious threat for the Russians.

US Russia Rivalry | Russian peace initiatives in Afghanistan

Apparently, the Russian peace initiative in Afghanistan undermines the efforts of NATO in the region. NATO wishes to keep the pressure high on Taliban to improve the security situation and streamline Taliban into the political process.

If the reports suggesting Russian material help to Taliban is correct, then it would only complicate situations which would finally benefit Pakistan as the pot keeps boiling. Russia sees the current political dispensation in the form of division of powers in President and Chief Executive of Afghanistan as a more US-oriented system. Russia has been wishing to reinstall former Afghan President Hamid Karzai to the leadership position as evident from his recent visits to Moscow in the last few months.

Russia wishes to replicate the regional collaboration strategy in Afghanistan by aligning with Iran, China, Central Asia and India to establish peace in the region. The same strategy has been followed by the Russians in Syria where they have aligned with Iran and Turkey to defeat the Islamic State militancy and anti-Assad rebels. The biggest drawback in this strategy is the absence of Russian assets on the ground in Afghanistan unlike in Syria. Therefore, this report of aligning with the Taliban could be an effort in this direction by the Russians.

US Russia Rivalry | Are the fears of the Russians justified in Afghanistan?

Russians believe that Islamic State is gaining ground in Afghanistan and it could be another arena for conflict between Islamic State fighters and the Russians. However, the experts believe that these concerns are exaggerated and the Salafists ideology is marginal in Afghanistan. Taliban is driven and stretched for so long due to the philosophical underpinnings of the ‘Deobandi’ movement.

As far as the issue of drugs is concerned, Taliban does not control poppy cultivation in Afghanistan, except once when they acted as ‘market stabilisers’ due to excess cultivation in Afghanistan. During that period, Taliban enforced ruthless market stabilisation techniques under the leadership of Mullah Omar, who is absent today and the leadership vacuum makes Taliban a weak force to be easily dealt with in Afghanistan.

There is no issue in opening channels of communication with the Taliban to secure one’s strategic interests, but the outright military support to them could boomerang to the Russians similar to the Americans in the last decade.

US Russia Rivalry | American response to Russian peace initiatives

The US has described the Russian initiative to Afghanistan as a ‘unilateral’ attempt to assert influence in the region, even when it is in practice a multilateral initiative to find solutions for the conflict. Americans do not find it constructive at this point because of their own strategic calculations.

The meeting of the Russia-led peace initiative in December was third in such direction. While the previous two meetings were low key, the third meeting in December was planned at a higher level of government participation from all the multiple stakeholders, yet it excluded Afghanistan from the talks. Therefore, it created a range of controversies and raised questions about the Russian initiative.

The American position is justified in the context that it has boots on the ground and with such presence, it wishes to utilise the present stalemate in peace negotiations to strengthen Afghan soldiers to prepare them for the future war of struggle of power.

US Russia Rivalry | Confusion in American strategic calculations about Afghanistan

America continues to be suffering from a basic dilemma of ‘how to contain Taliban’, even after close to two decades of entanglement with the Afghan affairs. Moscow has been alerting the Americans that until the safe havens in Pakistan are destroyed, Taliban will continue to flourish in Afghanistan and this quagmire would only get deeper with every thrust on Afghan soil by the NATO or even Russian forces.

The military aid given to Pakistan is being used to flourish Taliban in madrasas of Pakistan. Until these sanctuaries are destroyed, the issue cannot be resolved. The Americans understand it, yet they prefer to surrender themselves to Pakistan for petty contemporary interests.

US Russia Rivalry | India’s strategic realignment

Under the Modi Government, India has shown the political will to meet Afghanistan’s request for lethal supplies in the form of combat helicopters. The US has requested India to continue its military and developmental assistance to Afghanistan as both have been astoundingly successful in its objectives so far in Afghanistan.

Among the Afghan National Army, the Special Forces Division is actually capable of giving a tough blow to Taliban. Hence, there is a need to strengthen this small 17,000 men division to ensure a peaceful post-NATO period for Afghanistan. India has been actually training this division on Indian soil to manage a rapid action force to secure Afghan sovereignty over its territory.

US Russia Rivalry | Conclusion

India should make a discreet contact with the Taliban but we should take the Afghan Government in the loop to ensure stability and peace in the region. Each stakeholder already has established contacts with the Taliban at different levels, India should maximise its channels of communication with most of the Taliban factions. It is high time for the Americans and the Russians to realise that a Pakistan engineered Taliban would be deplorable for not just India and Afghanistan, but for the rest of the world too.

UK Begins Brexit Process | RSTV

Brexit is a commonly used term for the United Kingdom‘s planned withdrawal from the European Union. British Prime Minister Theresa May formally began her country’s divorce from the European Union recently after reiterating that there was no turning back. As a result, PM May notified EU Council President in a hand-delivered letter that Britain would quit the block which it joined in 1973. Unlike last year’s unease during the referendum, the triggering of Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty did not worry the India much this time. Although it is still early days to gauge its real effects, Indian companies and sectors such as automobile, metal, Information and Technology, tours and travels, and education that have a notable exposure to the region are likely to see the considerable impact in the days to come.

Brexit | Analysis

Companies are looking to hedge their bets because Britain was a centre for significant financial activities. Easy access to markets in Europe enabled London to emerge as a flourishing centre for trade and investment services. Following this trend, companies from India have heavily invested in the UK such as the Tata Group which invested both in steel and automobile sector.

It would be interesting to see the future trade relation among EU nations and the UK now. If there is a free flow of goods and services through the proposed Free Trade Agreement, then there might not be much problem for Indian exporters as they would not lose the access to European markets. But in the case of a hard Brexit, where UK is unable to export to EU countries on the similar terms, then the picture might get different. For instance – Currently, Bangladesh has a significant advantage over India in textiles sector because of the tariff preferences which it receives in the European Union because of tariff concessions by Britain. After Brexit, this will be an open question whether Britain would continue to grant Bangladesh those tariff concessions or not. If Britain reverses this policy, it would be advantageous for India as the exports from India would get on par with Bangladesh, at least on input cost (tariff) fronts.

Brexit | Implications for India

  • Due to high volatility surrounding the GBP (Pound), it is expected that Indian stock exchange might feel the punch and Indian businesses in Europe might be at risk. This volatility in currency might also have an adverse impact on investment and movement of professionals to the UK.
  • The uncertainty surrounding the Brexit process might affect India’s flagship IT sector. In the case of a hard Brexit, Indian IT companies will have to establish separate offices and hire different workforce for the Britain and the EU.
  • Currently, Indian firms have their base in Britain because they avail a border-free access to the rest of Europe. This was one of the main reasons for Indian companies to establish their business in Britain itself. With this lucrative option gone post-Brexit, the investment decisions of Indian companies in Britain might see some change.
  • Shunned from the Europe, British companies would look towards emerging markets which may also lead to greater investments by the British companies into India. This will increase the overall outflows of the domestic market of Britain, hence, disturbing the British economy further.
  • As one can see through the recent moves by the British Government, Britain is willing to woo investors from India in terms of tax breaks, lesser regulation and other financial incentives which might be beneficial for the existing as well as future investors from India.
  • India can explore significant opportunities in the pharma sector of British market due to rising health concerns In the case of larger government procurement of generic medicines from India, Indian pharma companies would find a big market for their exports.

Conclusion

The secession of Britain from the European Union does weaken the whole block at one level. It also reflects anti- immigrant or xenophobic sentiment sweeping across Europe and America in particular. Although it is premature to make assumptions about the course of Brexit negotiations, much will depend on the terms that are negotiated under Brexit. If the history is to be believed, the process of Brexit might not get complete within the next two years itself.

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Madhesi Unrest | RSTV

Nepal’s Terai region “Madhes” is burning again. The residents of Terai region Madhes, known as ‘Madhesis’ are protesting against the plan to hold local body elections (Village Panchayats, sub-metropolitan areas and the Municipal Corporations of the Metropolitan areas) before their demand for amending the constitution are met. Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal had formed his government with the support of the Madhesi parties and the Nepali Congress. He came to power on the promise that he would amend the constitution to address the grievances of the country’s Madhesi population and the ‘Janjaatis’. He did introduce a constitutional amendment bill proposing the establishment of a second province in the Terai region of Nepal and to address three other key issues – citizenship, representation in the upper house and recognition of languages spoken in various parts of the country. However, he is in no position to ensure a safe passage for the bill as the proposed amendment does not have a two-thirds majority support in the Parliament. Meanwhile, the Government has announced that the local body elections would be held in the country on May 14th. This has seriously upset the Madhesis of the Terai region and they have given the Prime Minister Dahal, an ultimatum of seven days to postpone the local body elections and warned him that they could withdraw support from the Government.

Why is the ruling class unable to address the demands of the Madhesi population?

Nepal has been ruled by the Brahmin (upper-caste) elite and the Nevaris of the Kathmandu valley for decades and the Madhesis have been treated like the colonised people. After the abolition of the monarchy and the introduction of the new constitution, the Madhesis were expecting some power-sharing mechanism in the constitutional structure. This has been belied by the elite groups because they are unwilling to share power with them. Madhesis are looked upon very derisively.

Why did Prime Minister Dahal introduce the bill to recognise Madhesi rights?

PM Dahal introduced the bill as a part of his promise to the Madhesi population before forming his Government with their support. There are multiple issues with the clearing of the bill. First, there is a stiff opposition from the UML (Communist Party of Nepal) with respect to the reorganisation of the provinces in the Terai region. Secondly, there are elements within the Nepali Congress who are inspired by the ‘Hill nationalism’ i.e. upper-caste rule and non-accommodation of Terai demands. Therefore, the Prime Minister is sandwiched politically between the two compulsions of the constitutional amendment and constitutional implementation.

Prime Minister Dahal assumed the office on the understanding that he would run the Government for nine months and then he would hand over the charge to his counterpart in the Nepali Congress, Mr Sher Bahadur Deuba. During this period of nine months, PM Dahal has assumed the responsibility of conducting the local body elections; and the national elections which are to follow in the next nine-month period would be conducted under the Prime Ministership of Mr Sher Bahadur Deuba. The problem is that the elections to these local bodies (numbering nearly a thousand local bodies) lose credibility in the absence of the constitutional amendment which is necessary to demarcate the federal boundaries. Unless the federal boundaries are demarcated according to the demands of the Madhesi, the local body elections would pose a severe threat to their struggle as they would have a direct impact on the grassroots level politics of the provinces.

Why there is opposition to accommodating Madhesi demands by several parties in Nepal?

There are twenty districts which border India (collectively known as Terai region) and out of these twenty districts, eight districts have been put together to establish a ‘Madhes-dominated’ province in the eastern part. The constitutional amendment proposes further consolidation of few districts on the western side to establish a ‘Madhes-majority’ province. In this way, two provinces would be established through this constitutional amendment to accommodate Madhesi demands.

If there is any united Terai province under the Madhes domination, then it would give political power to the Madhesis, otherwise, they are splintered. As per the present constitutional arrangement, the various divisions of Nepal have been made to ensure that there is a Madhesi component in every province, to weaken the otherwise unified community. Therefore, geographical boundaries are made in order to ensure that the Madhesis are splintered and fragmented and their control over the natural resources stay weakened.

The emergence of xenophobia

The Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) is provoking xenophobic fears among the people in the hill region and stoking ultra-nationalism under the guise of anti-India political rhetoric to consolidate upper-caste elite opinion. The UML is aware that they have already lost their limited constituency in the Terai region, so they are polarising the public opinion on xenophobic lines to assimilate elite opinion against the Madhesi community who is regarded as retrogressive by the ‘Hill elite’.

The ‘Hill elite’ should realise that the dark days of economic blockade initiated by the Madhesis from the India-Nepal border to block the flow of goods from India to Nepal created havoc in the whole country. If the same strategy is adopted again by the marginalised Madhesi community, it could possibly become very destructive for the people of Nepal as a whole because the essential supplies from India are the lifeline for the economy and society of Nepal.

Conclusion

Throughout the process of Constitution making in Nepal, India has supported a federal, democratic, republican and inclusive Constitution.  India has been urging Nepal that issues on which there are differences should be resolved through dialogue in an atmosphere free from violence and intimidation, and institutionalized in a manner that would enable broad-based ownership and acceptance. This would lay the foundation of harmony, progress and development in Nepal.

To See the Full Debate on RSTV : Click Here

Indian Ocean Rim Association

Recently Jakarta (Indonesia) hosted the first summit of Indian Ocean Rim Association  (IORA)IORA was previously known as Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation (IOR-ARC) which was started in 1997 in Mauritius. 2017 marks the 20th year of formation of this organisation. Up till now IORA was focused more on economic integration and economic collaboration but the changing global scenario has shifted its focus towards security areas too. Currently, IORA has 21 members with members ranging from Africa to South East Asia.

Indian Ocean Rim Association  | Areas of Cooperation

It should be noted that the six areas where the member countries have been focusing today are trade and investment, maritime safety and security, management of fisheries, Science and Technology, disaster management and tourism.

Indian Ocean Rim Association  | Significance for India

India 80% of energy imports happen through the Indian Ocean and approximately 40% of the global trade traverse through it too. Therefore, security of it is of paramount importance. Up till now, the Indian Ocean Region is peaceful and there is no exchange of rivalry as compared to the other geopolitical arenas, with trade, transit and sea lanes being clear for navigation purpose.

But we shall not take this situation for granted, especially after the experience in adjacent South China Sea region. Hence, the security apparatus becomes a significant concern.

Indian Ocean Rim Association  | Focus on Security Issues

  • Ideally,IORA members must focus more on security issues in Indian Ocean Region because of the free navigation concerns simultaneously ensuring that there is no entry of foreign Navy in a manner to disturb the peace and tranquillity of the region; otherwise it would be tantamount to opening the region for competition which will eventually raise the cost for all the countries.
  • Interestingly, the international cooperation for anti-piracy activities has been one of the fine success stories. The issues of piracy arising out of Somalia and Gulf of Aden have now been contained.
  • There have been multipleaccords signed to cooperate against terrorism which necessitates the sharing of intelligence information between members. It should be noted that Pakistan is not the member of IORA but it has been indirectly influencing the security in Indian Ocean region because of Arabian Sea and the Gwadar Port. These two mouths to the Indian Ocean region should be watched closely by the member countries. We can also expect more Chinese presence in Gwadar port which would further jeopardise the security interests of the member nations of IORA.

Indian Ocean Rim Association  | Chinese presence in Indian Ocean

  • China has an ambition of developing a Blue Water Navy under which they already possess an Aircraft carrier. Chinese are having their presence in Pacific and Indian Oceans. The members of IORA wish for the peaceful rise of China which means that it should not become assertive and hinder the security prospects of the region.
  • China’s ambitious Maritime Silk route project is the project through which it wants to dominate the sea and trade routes passing through the strategic areas of their interest. In Sri Lanka for Hambantota port China gave $1billion as loan despite non generation of adequate revenue. Helplessly, the Sri Lankan government had to give the port to China on lease. It is the Chinese way of colonising small nations by first investing in projects abroad and then usurping the control over those strategic projects in case of non-repayment of debts
  • It is important that India should utilise the forum of IORA to enlighten the member countries who have embraced maritime silk route to understand the demonic policies of China. China does not adhere to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) rulings and rejects any global intervention in its strategic interests.
  • When India has been accepted as the net security provider in the Indian Ocean Region, we should try to project and enforce that role. Countries like Indonesia have many difficulties with China on issues like Nine Dash Line and India should take a decisive stand on the freedom of navigation and international laws of the sea.

Indian Ocean Rim Association  | Conclusion

All member countries of IORA must work together and come up with definite rules and regulations in the shape of code of conduct so that it becomes difficult for foreign powers to violate those rules. A lone effort may not materialise as this requires a collective effort, enhanced coordination among the member countries and if there are any security concerns in Indian Ocean region it should be addressed effectively and collectively.

Indus Water Treaty | New Updates

Indus Waters Commissioners from India and Pakistan are likely to meet later this month for their routine annual meeting. The meeting had been postponed after India had declared that blood and water cannot flow together after the Uri attacks in September. The Indus Waters Treaty was signed in 1960 as a river sharing agreement between India and Pakistan and has worked quite smoothly between the two otherwise hostile neighbours since the last 57 years. Under the agreement, the control of the three eastern rivers, the Beas, the Ravi and the Sutlej was given to India, whereas the control over the western rivers, the Indus, the Chenab and the Jhelum was given to Pakistan. The World Bank is the designated facilitator for the agreement. The Indus Treaty does not permit India to build storage dams on the western rivers i.e. the rivers meant for Pakistan but allows limited use of the waters for power generation through runaway river schemes. Pakistan has objected to the Baglihar run-of-the-river project as well as two other similar projects i.e. Kishanganga Hydroelectric Plant on the Kishanganga/Neelum river (a tributary of the Jhelum river) and the Ratle Hydroelectric Plant project on the Chenab river. Pakistan is seeking the help of World Bank for arbitration saying that these projects are not justified under the treaty. The Indus Waters Commission is mandated to meet annually or whenever either country demands it. If it is not met before March 31st this year, it could jeopardise the future of the treaty. Let us see why India has stepped back from its rhetoric on the Indus Waters Treaty and to discuss the cross-border sharing of waters between India and Pakistan.

 Is it pragmatic on part of India to step back from the tough stance on the Indus Waters Treaty?

The temperatures were high in India after the Uri attack and a view was presented before the Government of India that we cannot allow the existing treaty mechanisms to go on while everything else around it has changed.

India had followed a twin approach on the Indus Waters Treaty after the Uri attack – Firstly, the Prime Minister of India has never said that the Indus Waters Treaty is in jeopardy. He repeatedly said that we will use all the waters assigned to us under the treaty and for this purpose an inter-ministerial task force was set up under the chairmanship of Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, Shri Nripendra Misra. Secondly, the meeting which was held after eight days of the Uri attacks, ‘sources’ told the media that ‘blood and water cannot flow together’ and that the commission can meet only in an atmosphere free from terror.

Should such issues be kept out of politics?

India never had the intention to jeopardise the Indus Waters Treaty but it was necessary to signal Pakistan about a pawn in the game that India could play in case the troubles emanating from Pakistan are not exterminated. Moreover, the treaties do not get jeopardise in practice if the meetings are not held in time. The temporary postponement of the Indus Waters Commission meeting could also have been an attempt to deny Pakistan a bilateral grievance redressal mechanism.

Did the pressure on Pakistan work?

Primarily, the intended objective was to manage the domestic public opinion after the terrorist attack. The unease among the Pakistani media over the uncalculated consequences of the suspension of Indus Waters Treaty is certainly visible.

As a result, Pakistan wants to include Indus Waters Treaty negotiations under the composite dialogues. It has called the Indus Waters Commission under the Indus Waters Treaty as an ‘inefficient forum’ for resolving water issues.

 Impact on Pakistan if India implements the Indus Waters Treaty in letter and spirit

India is allowed to use 3.6 million acre-feet of the water of the western rivers (for non-consumptive purposes) which are otherwise under the control of Pakistan as per the treaty. Despite such an arrangement, India uses only about 4% of the assigned water from the western rivers.

Although the real issue in Pakistan is the mismanagement of waters from their share of the western rivers, Pakistan would be in serious trouble if India starts utilising its allotted space as per the treaty conditions. The structure of agriculture in Pakistan is such that it needs a continuous flow of water from Chenab and Jhelum for the irrigation purposes during ‘Kharif’ season. It should be noted that the Chenab, Kabul and Jhelum rivers are called the ‘early risers’ in Pakistan as they start getting water in the month of March itself which is the time of sowing of ‘Kharif’ crops such as sugarcane and cotton in Pakistan. If the waters from Chenab and Jhelum are stalled and Afghanistan also stores about 4.7 million acre-feet of waters from the Kabul river as per the Kabul river basin agreement, it will seriously impact the Kharif sowing season in Pakistan.

Why has the Indus Waters Treaty come under so much strain?

There are a number of reasons for this issue such as inefficient water management by Pakistan, climate change variables like melting of glaciers and alleged upstream consumptive use by India. Pakistan has nothing substantial to blame about the Indus Waters Treaty provisions as it already favours it substantially even to the extent of disfavouring India’s interests. But the treaty has become a domestic political football for Pakistan whereby it showers the blame of its water woes on India and not on its inefficiency in management of river waters. The political elite and strategic thinkers in Pakistan are aware that the treaty provisions favour the interests of the lower riparian interests i.e. the interests of Pakistan, in general.

Pakistan’s population in 1951 was 31 million and currently, it stands at about 94 million. By 2020, it is expected to touch a whopping number of 220 million. Therefore, to feed this exorbitant increase of population, Pakistan would require almost another two-thirds of another Indus river. The inefficiency of storage facilities in Pakistan is forcing the entire waters from Chenab to flow into the sea i.e. the wastage of about 30 million acre-feet of waters. It also has the most inefficient agriculture in the world and compounded with the rising water woes, it is playing the political football by blaming all its inefficiencies on India to save their face domestically.

Would it benefit India is the Indus Waters Treaty is renegotiated?

The current Indus Waters Treaty was premised on political considerations. The political consideration was shaped in the form of an assurance that India will not dry out Pakistan in the future. It was hoped that the waters of the Indus would bridge the gaps of hostility prevailing in the minds of Pakistani leadership towards India. Unfortunately, it never happened. The treaty is highly unpopular in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir because it is devoid of its river waters itself to favour the interests of Pakistan. Therefore, if the treaty is renegotiated, India’s claim will only increase and it is in India’s interest to push for renegotiation. Similarly, it is in Pakistan’s interest to adhere scrupulously to the current treaty provisions, but the voices for renegotiation are rising in Pakistan which is almost like music to the ears of Indian Government.

In the case of renegotiation, India should put up this fact on the table that Pakistan is an irresponsible state which allows more than 30 million acre-feet of water to get wasted into the sea and if Pakistan cannot make productive use of it, the waters of the Chenab should be placed under India’s control.

Conclusion

There is no explicit ‘exit clause’ to the treaty and it is doubtful that anyone would opt for it because, in the end, all water related issues are sensitive. India has already seen the examples of it during the inter-provincial water disputes. Quite pragmatically, the present Indian Government is allowing the dispute resolution mechanisms under the treaty provisions to function effectively, which would work in India’s favour. Indus Waters Treaty provides a cooperative mechanism and that spirit is important because, in the absence of it, there would be huge difficulties to proceed further on such a sensitive issue like that of international bilateral negotiation for river-water sharing.