Racial Attacks | Kansas Shooting

Few days ago there was a shooting incident in Kansas City on two Indians. It was termed as a hate crime/racial attack as the shooter shouted slogans such as “get out of my country” before opening the gun fire. Since the last few years, race superiority has gained prominence in American society. There is one more dimension to the problem i.e. due to immigration issues.

Although it is quite exaggerative on our part to paint the entire American society as racist as the attack can be due to individual frustration out of immigrants, it is not acceptable in a civilised society like that of America as a whole.

Emergence of Protectionism and Racism

  • As the United States is also a nation after all, so the primacy for domestic concerns is bound to arrive at a particular time oozing out of radical nationalism. The United States did follow a protectionist policy, especially during the time of Abraham Lincoln. It all depends on the economic context of the competitiveness.
  • By that logic even India has been following protectionist tendencies through import substitution. Communist China and all the rising powers are also having their own concerns about globalisation and so is the case with US. The US is a sovereign nation and it has every right to control the process of migration and oust illegal migrants because the concerns of the citizens are every government’s topmost priority.
  • For the Trump administration, the era of protectionism and building a wall between US and Mexico is the national interest and not identity politics.
  • Indian students had also faced the wrath of racial attacks in Australia few years ago which led to a dramatic decrease in the number of students opting Australia as their preferred destination for higher education. Observers point out that this trend might soon be replicated in the case of United States too. Acquisition of citizenship through legal means is not an issue for the Americans but the problem which becomes acute is the illegal migration. It is the right of the United States to curb such illegal immigrants from arriving and staying back at the US soil.

Immigration and Visa rules

  • President John F Kennedy administration liberally opened the immigration during 1965 via Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965. The result of it is that the United States is a nation now where the original inhabitants have developed a fear that they might become a minority soon.
  • In the world today whereonly 3% of the world population is categorised as international migrants, the remaining 97% of the population who are nationalistic and patriotic is feeling the pinch of immigration anxiety. It is vital on the part of the State to look after the welfare needs of this nationalistically charged population and accommodate their concerns. The Trump presidency is a reflection of this and the same is reflected in Europe also with Brexit and PEGIDA as significant examples.
  • It is being reported that President Trump wishes to bring changes in the H1B and L1 visa rules which will affect many Indians because more than 50% of the H1B visa quotas are used by Indians. No country has a claim over the international visa policies and every country can build their immigration and visa rules as per their self-interest. India may express its concerns if the policy is very abrupt but it cannot expect a definite action. Rather we should provide adequate employment opportunity to our qualified people and build the country forward to curb the brain-drain of the youth.

Conclusion

The relations between the nations are determined by mutual interests and shared concerns. The incidents of immigration, racial, identity politics does not have a bearing on US-India relations as they are linked towards internal and sovereign policies of our governments. If we look back to the effectiveness of American administration which is a modern state and a well-established democracy, we might expect that they will be able to address the problems quite well within their constitutional framework which has successfully continued for more than 200 years.

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India ASEAN – A 25 Year long Journey

In 2017, India ASEAN would observe 25 years of their dialogue partnership, 15 years of Summit Level Interaction and 5 years of strategic partnership.

India ASEAN | Background

  • As an important regional power, India had contacts with most of the South-East Asian countries from the earliest periods of history.
  • The earliest attempts at building an Asian unity was first made in 1947 during the Asian Relations Conference which was held in New Delhi in 1947.
  • One of the main objectives, as highlighted by Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru was to discuss various problems which are of common concern to all the Asian countries.
  • The ASEAN was established in 1967 with the objective of promoting intergovernmental cooperation and facilitating economic integration among its members. India had good bilateral relations with most of the ASEAN countries. It supported the Indonesian struggle for independence in the 1950s and also signed friendship treaties with Indonesia, Myanmar and the Philippines.

India ASEAN | The Journey

  • Both India and ASEAN are influential actors in Asia and as such, both of them share similar political and security interests. India became a sect oral dialogue partner of ASEAN in 1992 and was upgraded to full dialogue partner in 1996.
  • In 2012, ASEAN-India celebrated the 10th anniversary of Summit-level partnership with a Commemorative Summit in New Delhi under the theme “ASEAN-India Partnership for Peace and Shared Prosperity”. The summit endorsed elevating the partnership to a “Strategic Partnership”.
  • The ASEAN-India Plan of Action 2010-15 envisaged cooperation in a range of sectors in politics, economic, socio-culture sphere for deepening and intensifying ASEAN-India cooperation.

India ASEAN | India’s Act East Policy

  • The Narendra Modi government has emphasized on the Act East Policy (following on from the Look East Policy which was introduced in the 1990s) which is more pragmatic and proactive and seeks to highlight the importance of continuous engagement with the countries of the Asia-Pacific by addressing key strategic, economic and cultural opportunities.
  • As ASEAN looks to mark 50 years of its existence as a grouping, India is looking to commemorate 25 years of dialogue partnership with the bloc this year. Within the parameters of interests and actions of regional and great powers and security perceptions and interests within ASEAN, India and ASEAN need to shape the larger architecture of the regional environment.

India ASEAN | Security cooperation

  • In the new regional security configuration, there is the necessity to develop a common approach to regional security which would foster regionalism beyond the sub-ASEAN focus to include the broader region of the Asia-Pacific.
  • In the regional security architecture, the prospects of ASEAN-India collaboration to tackle threats like poverty, transnational health threats, environmental degradation, natural disasters and transnational crimes like terrorism, illicit drug trafficking, people trafficking, money laundering, arms smuggling, sea piracy, international economic crime and cybercrimes cannot be downplayed.
  • Security-oriented ocean governance architecture is also all the more necessary as the region has issues of piracy, terrorism, drug and human trafficking, territorial claims and overlapping disputes as well as issues of resource management and environmental degradation.

India ASEAN | Economic ties

  • Establishing better connectivity will help in increasing trade ties and business potential between India and the ASEAN countries. Today, India and ASEAN share deep economic ties. ASEAN is India’s 4th largest trading partner, accounting for 10.2% of India’s total trade. For a more robust economic engagement, complementarities must be realised between the two regions.
  • The role of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Cooperation (RCEP) in further strengthening cooperation and economic integration in the region can be highlighted as also the ASEAN-India Free Trade Area (FTA) which provides a great opportunity to expand trade and economic ties.
  • They can exploit opportunities in emerging marine industries like marine biotechnology, minerals, marine ICT, development of new drugs, cosmetics etc. Development of joint projects on ocean tourism presents huge potential for jobs and economic growth.

India ASEAN | Way forward

  • For the deepening of India ASEAN relations, there needs to be an arrangement of programmes and mechanisms to promote cross-cultural dialogue and people-to-people contacts.
  • More attention towards educational and cultural exchanges, development of science and technology, innovation and entrepreneurship would take the relationship to a qualitatively different level.
  • Given the fact that both are major players in the regional and global economy and are important contributors to the future development of Asian regionalism, cooperation would help in the creation of a more stable, peaceful and prosperous Asia. This requires seizing key opportunities with vision and dexterity.

India ASEAN | Conclusion

ASEAN, unlike the EU, is politically diverse. Its members range from one-party communist-ruled Vietnam to quasi-military ruled Myanmar, the increasingly Islamist-leaning kingdom of Brunei and the raucously democratic The Philippines. To be successful, the community also requires a tremendous amount of political backing from both internal and external sources. India is exploring collective as well as bilateral engagements with the ASEAN members which is a sign of pragmatic and proactive approach towards diplomacy.

United States Policy Shift in Afgan-Pak Region

The United States under the Trump Administration seems to be undertaking a review of its Afghanistan-Pakistan policy. The top military commander of US and NATO troops in Afghanistan, General John Nicolson Jr. has called for a holistic policy review towards Pakistan. While President Obama had declared that the official combat mission in Afghanistan was over in 2014, roughly 13,000 international troops, of them about 8,400 US troops remain in that country. However, General Nicolson has hinted the need to deploy a few thousand more troops of the US in Afghanistan if the war against terrorism is to be won. Up till now, hardly any specific details have emerged regarding the possible change in the stance of the US strategy towards Af-Pak region. What could be the reasons of a rethink of such policy? What are the factors shaping the new policy?

Will there be a change in the policy of the United States towards Afghanistan and Pakistan?

There are three concerns which are important pillars to address this rethink of policy. The first two concerns are intertwined, while the third remains a standalone due to its significance for the Americans.

  1. Is the Taliban ready for peace with Kabul? Are they willing to adopt some accommodative approach with Kabul under the leadership of Haibatullah? There are no definite answers to it yet.
  2. Is Pakistan ready to re-evaluate its basic thrust towards Afghanistan? It is about Pakistan having a preponderant influence over Afghanistan’s external policies, especially with India.
  3. What are the plans of the Russians and Iranians in the region? General Nicolson indicates in his testimony that they are embedded with the Taliban now and Taliban is carrying alien weaponry now.

Pakistan’s role in the Taliban issue

The contemporary policy of the United States simply caters to a combination of a hard-line approach with incentivising Pakistan in the name of curbing extremism in Afghanistan.

The United States has to rethink if it can ever win its fight against Taliban if Pakistan does not end its support to the Taliban militant groups and other externally sponsored groups in Afghanistan. These groups retreat back to the safe soil in Pakistan after launching terrorist attacks in Afghanistan. These groups target foreigners, diplomatic and consular missions in order to gain attention and legitimacy in the terror business.

Pakistan is recalibrating its policy towards Taliban by regulating the ‘Ishaqzai’ faction of Taliban, due to strong factionalism prevailing in the Taliban regime. These elements hold considerable influence in the Taliban regime today amidst the growing despondency in the otherwise disintegrated terror module.

Pakistan is also trying to bring several powerful factions together to establish a stronger force of Taliban which would present long-lasting effects on the peace aspirations of Afghanistan and the region beyond it. Moreover, it is not a big secret anymore that all the factions of the Taliban are having linkages with Pakistan as they are based in Quetta (Pakistan). Pakistan can squeeze the Taliban regime on any day of their choice even to the extent of suffering a little backlash then.

What are the interests of the United States in the region? Are they limited to counter-terrorism?

NO, the interests are not confined to counter-terrorism alone. The primary interest of the United States is to ensure the stability of Pakistan because it is a nuclear weapon state and a fragile, if not a failing state. These concerns have crippled the American policy on Afghanistan since 2001.

President Trump has cast aspersions on the Russian and Iranian rapprochement towards the Taliban, whereas he is also concerned about the growing influence of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). He is concerned about the growing export of radical extremists to the Islamic State militants in Syria by the TTP grouping.

What does a holistic review of American Af-Pak policy (as per General Nicolson’s terms) could actually mean?

Before addressing this question, let us understand that there are two main groups of Taliban which are active now – Mullah Rahim group and the other is Sirajuddin Haqqani network. The latter one lies low at present with a small presence in the east Afghanistan. But Mullah Rahim group is powerful in Helmand province and North and West Afghanistan.

Most ostensibly, the ‘holistic view’ would mean a hardening of the American stance to dismantle the Haqqani network, which is directly supported by Pakistan. But Pakistan seems to be not anxious about this position and it thinks that it is a business as usual for America to seek such favours. Defence Secretary General Mattis testifies that the US needs to engage with Pakistan and incentivise those responses, which is an ‘old wine in a new bottle’. At the most, there could be some muscle flexing and rhetoric to secure Pakistan’s cooperation, but it has already been done by the previous administrations.

Is there a possibility of more US troops in Afghanistan?

The war in Afghanistan is costing $13 million to the US taxpayers. The public is also against the United States playing the role of world policeman. But, General Nicolson has advocated maintaining a balance in the region by not letting the situation to get adverse to the Kabul authorities. He suggests that combat assistance is required at this time apart from following the training procedures. Given the strategic importance of the region, the US Congress may approve a few more thousand troops without much hassle.

How can America make costly for Pakistan for supporting Afghan Taliban?

Hudson Institute has called for a reevaluation of the United States policy towards Pakistan. It said that the Trump Administration should make it more and more costly for Pakistani leaders to employ a strategy of supporting terrorist proxies to satisfy regional strategic goals.

It is of prime importance to reign in the Haqqani network which is the brainchild of the Pakistani establishment. Another significant development could be driving the Afghan Taliban to the negotiating table. There could be a harsher approach in the following terms –

  • Reduction of economic and military support.
  • Increasing number of drone strikes on the Af-Pak border.
  • Sanctions against Pakistan-based entities and individuals who are responsible for terrorist activities in the region.
  • Moving towards declaring Pakistan, as a state sponsor of terrorism.
  • Extending the travel ban to Pakistan or at least forbidding certain individuals of Pakistani State authorities from entering the US soil.

These measures might not be adopted in the immediate future, especially in the context of the Hudson report. But the Trump Administration possess an enormous scope for embarrassing the Pakistani State for their immoral activities around the world.

But the concerns of America regarding Pakistan revolve around the Chinese support for Pakistan and Pakistan’s ability to sabotage American interests in a wider Islamic world. Hence, the room of manoeuvring for the Americans is severely constrained by such considerations. In symbolic terms, there could be some actions oriented towards embarrassing the Pakistani State, but in substantive terms, the choices are limited to raise the actual costs for Pakistan for its support to the terror dens.

What are the interests of the Russians in supporting the Taliban regime?

Trump administration should also keenly observe the developing nexus of Russia, China and Pakistan which could present a serious challenge to American authority in the region.

Some factions of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan have morphed into Islamic State or Wilayat Khurasan inside to the eastern Nangarhar (Afghanistan). These elements could displace towards some disturbed regions of Chechnya in south-west Russia. Therefore, the strategic thinkers portray that this support for these groups is more of a quid-pro-quo than a direct support for oscillating terrorism on Afghan soil. But this policy is myopic because if you want to control the TTP, then the Russians should have contacted the Pakistanis because TTP is a Pakistan-based group, operating in Pakistan itself. Hence, it is compelling to believe that it is a large design of President Putin to take on the Americans in the same Afghan quagmire that fuelled the disintegration of USSR.

How does the United States Af-Pak policy concern India?

America has been welcoming towards India’s initiatives of helping the National Unity Government of Kabul in both economic and military terms. Any such policy would stay away from the Kashmir issue because the Americans have realised it historically that the experience of meddling in the internal affairs of India has not been fruitful in strategic terms. Moreover, the content of this change in approach has not yet come out of the box, so the crystal ball gazing might not be effective in addressing this critical issue through the lens of India.

Conclusion

After President Trump came in, there were speculations that he would wield more sticks than the carrots towards the Taliban regime in general. As discussed earlier, before jumping to any conclusion or speculation, a lot more is to be seen in the Afghan theatre and how the opera directed by multiple actors plays out in the theatre before the Americans start puppeteering the stage.

Agreements/MOUs exchanged between India and Abu Dhabi | PIB Summary

List of Agreements/MOUs exchanged during the State visit of Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi to India 

S. No Name of Agreement/MoU Details
1 Agreement on Comprehensive Strategic Partnership between the Republic of India and the UAE This is a general framework agreement which highlights the areas of bilateral cooperation identified under the comprehensive strategic partnership as agreed upon in the high level joint statements issued in the August 2015 and February 2016
2 MoU between the Ministry of Defence of the Government of the Republic of India and the Ministry of Defence of the Government of UAE on cooperation in the field of Defence Industry This MoU aims to establish cooperation in the identified fields of defence manufacturing and technology, including through studies, research, development, innovation and cooperation between public and private sector institutions of the two countries. The two sides will cooperate in areas of armaments, defence industries and transfer of technology
3 MoU between the Government of the Republic of India and the Government of the UAE on Institutional Cooperation on Maritime Transport This MoU provides a framework for enhancing bilateral maritime trade ties through facilitating maritime transport, free transfer of monies between contracting parties and reciprocal recognition of ships’ documents.
4 MOU between the Directorate General of Shipping, Republic of India and the Federal Transport Authority- Land and Maritime in the UAE on Mutual Recognition of Certificates of Competency as per the provisions of the Standards of Training, Certification and Watch-keeping Convention (STCW78) and amendments thereof This MoU aims to deepen the maritime economic activities in general by establishing a framework for Mutual Recognition of Certificates of Competency of marine officers, engineers and crews
5 MoU between the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways of the Republic of India and the Federal Transport Authority, Land and Maritime of the UAE on Bilateral Cooperation in the Road Transport and Highways Sector This MoU aims to establish cooperation in the sectors of Highways and Road transport through sharing of technologies, systems and best practices in freight logistics, warehousing and value added services
6 MOU between the Government of the Republic of India and the Government of UAE on cooperation in prevention and combating of human trafficking This MoU aims to enhance bilateral cooperation on the issue of prevention, rescue, recovery and repatriation related to human trafficking, especially of women and children expeditiously
7 MoU for the cooperation in the field of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and innovation between the Ministry of Economy of United Arab Emirates and Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MoSMSME) of the Republic of India This MoU aims at promoting cooperation in MSMEs Sectors, including in joint projects, R & D and related activities
8 MoU between the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare of the Republic of India and the Ministry of Climate Change & Environment of UAE in agriculture and Allied sectors This MoU aims to develop a framework for cooperation in various agricultural fields of mutual interest, including through enhancement of cooperation in food processing and transfer of technology in cultivation methods
9 MOU between the Government of the Republic of India and the Government of UAE on mutual exemption of entry visa requirements to the holders of Diplomatic, special and Official Passports The agreement allows holders of diplomatic, special and official passports visa free travel between the two countries
10 MoU between Prasar Bharati, India and Emirates News Agency (WAM), UAE for cooperation in programme exchange This MoU aims to strengthen ties between Prasar Bharati and Emirates News Agency (WAM), UAE through cooperation in the field of broadcasting, mutual exchange of programmes, news and best practices
11 MoU between the Ministry of Commerce and Industry of the Republic of India and the Ministry of Economy of United Arab Emirates on trade remedial measures to promote cooperation in areas of mutual interest This MoU aims to enhance cooperation in the field of anti-dumping and allied duties through exchange of information, capacity-building, seminars and trainings in mutually indentified areas related to trade remedial measures.
12 Agreement on Oil Storage And Management
between Indian Strategic Petroleum Reserves Limited and Abu Dhabi National Oil Company
This agreement aims to establish a framework for the storage of crude oil by Abu Dhabi National Oil Company in India and to further strengthen the strategic relationship between the two countries in the field of energy
13 MOU between National Productivity Council and Al Etihad Energy Services Co. LLC This MOU is on Cooperation in Energy Efficiency Services
14 MOU between National Security Council Secretariat of India & National Electronic Security Authority of the UAE This MoU is on technology development and cooperation in cyberspace

Sources : PIB

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The Aleppo War – Before and After

AleppoAfter 5 years of Aleppo War, the city of Aleppo has been recaptured by the Syrian Government forces. Since the civil war began, this marks the biggest victory for the government of President Bashar-al-Assad. With the fall of Aleppo, the hopes of anti-Assad forces of militarily capturing Damascus and overthrowing the Assad regime has been dashed. Their position on the negotiating table also stands diminished. While the Assad regime holds most of the urban centres of Syria, it still controls only 1/3rd of the country’s territory. The success of Aleppo War is likely to embolden the Syrian army to redouble its effort to end the war with military means. Whether this is the best way to end the civil war in Syria is another matter.

Let’s discuss if the liberation of Aleppo marks the beginning of the end of civil war in Syria. Could it represent a new opportunity for peace talks and could the recapture of Aleppo usher in a new geopolitics in the West Asia.

Aleppo War| Introduction

After the liberation of Aleppo, President Bashar-al-Assad said, History is not the same before and after … I think after liberating Aleppo we will say that not only the Syrian situation, but also the regional and international situation, is different,”. This statement makes it evident that the victory in Aleppo War is monumental. But why is it monumental?

There are two reasons for it -:

  • Firstly, during the two years of uprising against the Syrian regime, there was no demonstration in Aleppo whatsoever.
  • Secondly, this is a geopolitical gain for Syrian regime and its allies. (Aleppo is the commercial capital of Syria.)

There are few arguments that with the fall of Aleppo, the political and geo-strategic project of anti-Assad forces has been buried in the rubble of Aleppo. This argument has a merit because it is unforeseeable for now that how the foreign powers who launched a project for regime change would overthrow President Bashar-al-Assad, after the liberation of Aleppo. Secondly, it is slightly visible now that the war in Syria is actually a war against Syria, and not a civil war. It is an open secret that this war against Syria was launched by the United States along with the allies like United Kingdom, France, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. It can be argued that this situation would not have arisen if these countries would not have orchestrated the war against Syrian regime.

 Aleppo War | The lost road to peace in Syria?

‘balkanisation’ of SyriaA clear answer to that question is ‘NO’ because the Gulf Cooperation Council countries and Turkey are still committed to bringing disturbances in Syria through manufacturing political turmoil in the region. Hence, what you see in Syria is actually a multinational proxy war. The original objective of ‘balkanisation’ of Syria has hit a brick wall after the liberation of Aleppo. In this game of conflict escalation, President Bashar-al-Assad needs strong support from his allies like Russia and Iran, otherwise, he would not be able to survive. It should be noted that Russia and Iran are fighting this war because it is under their belly and they know that if Syria falls, next would be Iran and after Iran, it would be none other than President Putin himself.

It is possible that the new battlefronts would open in Idlib and Homs. The war in Syria is also presented as a war against terrorism by President Bashar-al-Assad supporters. Therefore, if the war has to come to its logical end, it is important to root out the terrorists from the rest of country. But the victory in Aleppo is dented a bit by the fact that Palmyra has fallen under the captivity of Islamic State terrorists. Russian Foreign Ministry has alleged that the United States has deliberately moved the Islamic State in Palmyra to distract the attention of the Syrian armed forces. The desert region from where the 5,000 Islamic State militants came to attack Palmyra was being patrolled by the United States and other coalition aircrafts. How could they have missed such a big movement in a desert? But if the recent advancement of the Syrian army is to be seen, this fall of Palmyra is temporary and the Russian and Syrian forces would be able to recapture Palmyra soon.

Aleppo War | Replication of Stratergy

ISIS

It can be replicated in Palmyra with slight modifications. But it seems unlikely at the moment that the Syrian Government would be able to recapture whole of Syria and liberate it from the rebels and terrorists. It is a well-known fact that the paradox in Syrian political game is that everybody wants to fight ISIS but everybody wants to use the ISIS against the Syrians. Idlib (west of Aleppo) is a rebels controlled territory and all the anti-Assad forces are allowed to gather there with a possible support from their well-wishers already in line for them. Hence, the country might remain divided for quite some time now.

Even if we assume a hypothetical situation where the Syrian forces have recaptured Palmyra and Idlib, the forces of President Assad would not be controlling the entire country. The Syrian forces would be thinly spread over the region. Given that the war is likely to continue and the Syrian forces are thinly spread, hence, the Russians and the Iranians would press for peace negotiations. Although the negotiations are still undergoing under the ‘Security Council Resolution 2254’, it is still an off and on affair.

Aleppo War | President Trump’s Role in future

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United States under President Donald Trump might understand the criticality of the situation in Syria. He has himself conveyed that he wants to partner with Russia in the fight to root out the Islamic State out of Syria and he has also legitimised the Assad regime by saying that regime change in Syria is not a good idea because Assad forces are most effective in fighting against the jihadi groups. Therefore, the election of Donald Trump is actually a good news for Syria. But it is to be seen if the American establishment or their intelligence system would permit him to roll back the earlier policies. Moreover, President Trump’s position on Iran nuclear deal is the only disconcerting chord in this whole scenario, therefore, it is also to be seen if it would be modified to suit the larger objective of a perpetual peace in Syria.

Syria might become the new Afghanistan (of 1990s i.e. post-Cold war battleground) in the next two years if there is no reconciliation of Syria, because it has its own ‘Pakistan’ in its neighbourhood in the form of ‘Turkey’. But President Erdogan is trying to mend its relationship with Russia and it is quite possible that it would fall in line.

Aleppo War | Time for negotiations

Presently, President Assad has a strong hand over the Syrian situation and it would be advisable for him to come at the negotiating table to get a good deal. Counter pressures on him would be built through Palmyra on him to weaken his hand but it is definite that the regime change objective is out of the question now.

Aleppo War | Conclusion

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Syria desires a Syrian solution for the Syrians and it hopes that the upcoming year 2017 would see a reconciliatory and transitional momentum towards the peace process in Syria. It is not a home of Salafists or Wahhabists and the recent efforts indicate that the Syrian regime is wiping out this fanaticism from its land. But the realpolitik says that the fate of Syria would not be decided in Geneva on the negotiating table but it would be decided on the battlefield. The anti-Assad foreign powers have not yet given up on their objective of regime change of Bashar-al-Assad. It is possible that these foreign powers having their boots on the ground might work towards establishing a ‘Sunni’ state in Raqqa, independent of Syria. It is to be seen if the Kremlin would let it happen. The pull and push for the establishment of a Sunni state next to Syria would invite more bloodshed and future war. We’ll have to see who would win this tug of war in the next few years.

Post Brexit India and UK Relations

Before we look into Post Brexit relations between India and United Kingdom we need to look at the background of the relations between these two countries. India and the United Kingdom have been close allies for a long time. The bilateral relationship between the two countries were upgraded to a strategic partnership in 2004, and were further strengthened by former PM David Cameroon’s visit to India in 2010 and 2013.

PM Modi’s visit to the UK in November 2015 took the relationship to new heights. The situation has changed since June 2016 when nearly 52% of the population of the UK decided to leave the European Union, reversing the decision taken in 1975 to join the common market.

Post Brexit | Trade relations

Post Brexit UK and India trade relations are fantastic

The UK continues to be among India’s major trading partners.

  • Trade relations between the two countries continue to flourish and more recently so with the visit of the PM Theresa May in November this year. Bilateral trade between India and the UK was $ 14 billion in FY16, which was slightly lower than the previous year’s total trade of $14.33 billion.
  • During FY16, the UK ranked 12th in the list of India’s top 25 trading partners moving up six places from 18th in 2014-15.
  • Despite the global economic slowdown and the Eurozone crisis, India-UK bilateral trade has been resilient. In fact, the UK’s share in India’s global trade has gone up from 1.89% in FY15 to 2.18% in FY16.
  • On the same lines, the EU is also India’s largest trading partner with 13% share in 2015. India was EU’s ninth largest trading partner in 2015 with 2.2% share.
  • UK continues to be the third largest investor in India after Mauritius and Singapore with a cumulative FDI investment of $23.10 billion between April 2000 to March 2016.
  • UK also ranks first among the G20 countries and accounts for around 8% of all FDI into India for the period April 2000 to March 2016. Its two-way traffic as India is also one of the largest source markets for FDI projects in the UK.
  • India received $24.91 billion in FDI equity inflows from EU between April 2012 and May 2015. Thus, the EU along with the UK both remain important to India.

Post Brexit | Why UK matters?

  • UK’s membership of the EU has often been cited as an important reason for companies investing in the UK, the UK being their ‘Gateway to Europe,’ giving investing companies – especially Indian, Japanese and Chinese companies -access to the common market.
  • While other EU members have equal access to the common market, investors see the UK as their preferred investment destination vis-à-vis other jurisdictions in the EU because of its resurging economy, a robust legal system, the English language, ease of doing business, and liquid capital and equity markets.

Post Brexit | Impact

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  • The impact on Indian FDI to the UK could potentially be over two time periods: the short-medium term and the long term. The short-medium term covers the interim period before the referendum and it saw FDI decrease temporarily, the deterrents being the potential financial instability and a legal regime overhaul. 
  • An EY survey of 406 investors (31% of those surveyed) suggested that they would “reduce or freeze” potential investment until 2017. 2017 is a conservative estimate, since investors will be wary of investing in the transitory period after the referendum as well, waiting till the market shows confidence in the new investment regime.
  • As the UK has voted to leave the EU, FDI may fall in the long-term as well. As a member of the EU, the UK benefits from tariff-free trade in goods and services to the 28 member states, which it will lose if it leaves the EU, making other EU countries – like Germany – possible alternatives.
  • The European political landscape with Greece’s recent default and referendum on being part of the Eurozone, has landed the EU in murky waters. This is likely to make European markets unpredictable, a trend evident since the onset of the Greek crisis. The effect of this has been felt even in Germany, the most financially resilient EU member, with business confidence falling for the second consecutive month, and business expectations dropping for the third consecutive month.
  • With the Brexit further pushing Eurozone crisis, Euro would fall further.  The Indian Rupee has pared back losses against the Euro in the last year moving from 81.56 to 69.99. Indian investors looking to repatriate profits to India will worry that the Euro depreciation can cut into profits.

Post Brexit | Benefits to India?

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  • From a trade perspective, the UK may benefit from its freedom to negotiate FTAs or other trade agreements with non-EU nations on its own terms. The EU regulates trade with non-EU members on a pan-EU basis. This prevents the UK from negotiating trade agreements with other nations.
  • With the UK looking to attract FDI from emerging markets, Brexit would allow the UK to negotiate bilateral trade agreements in lieu of that objective, without stringent EU regulation. Indian investors will benefit from lower regulation (hence cost) and more access than they currently have.

Post Brexit | Conclusion

It is difficult to predict the outcome of Brexit on Indian FDI because of other competing factors like the unstable European markets, a tumbling Euro and possible disintegration of the Eurozone, all tugging in different directions.

Political drive and willingness on both sides to keep the relationship strong and reach further heights would certainly outweigh the uncertainties arising from Brexit. There is immense potential for enhancing not only trade and investment between the countries but several opportunities in other areas of cooperation as well.

 

Chinese Debt Trap

Chinese Debt Trap over Sri Lankan economy is growing with Chinese stranglehold over Sri Lankan strategic assets.

Chinese Debt Trap | How serious is the issue?

china_debt

  • The total debt of Sri Lanka is about $70 billion and over $8 billion is owned by China,
  • Sri Lanka’s debt to GDP ratio stands currently at around 75%.
  • Over 95% of all government revenue is going for debt repayment and more than 1/3rd of it is used to serve Chinese debts.
  • Much of the debt came up during last President of Sri Lanka Mahinda Rajapaksa’s tenure during which he initiated several large scale and extremely expensive infrastructure projects with Chinese loans. This has led Sri Lanka being pushed to the brink of bankruptcy, prompting an IMF bailout.
  • Current Government under President Sirisena has made a U-turn by swapping the debt of China with equity, lending a permanence to Chinese presence in Sri Lanka.
  • Sri Lanka has reversed the suspension of Chinese controlled ‘Colombo Port City’ project. The area given to China on a 99-year lease has also been increased and the Chinese companies involved have been offered lucrative tax breaks.
  • China has also been given 80% ownership of the Hambantota port in the south. The ‘Mattala Airport’ ($300-400 million Chinese loan and $100-120 million operational charges per annum being spent by Sri Lanka itself) at the Hambantota has also been given to a Chinese firm to manage and operate. A 15,000 acre Chinese led industrial zone nearby has been revived.
  • Economists say that if the Government debt is around 100% of GDP, then an economy is in trouble. Sri Lankan debt is close to 89% of GDP. Moreover, it cannot print its own currency too for clearing the debt.
  • Around $35 billion of the debt is serviceable because it carries low interest rates, most probably being forwarded by multilateral institutions like the World Bank.
  • The $8 billion Chinese debt is a high cost debt. It carries an interest rate of about 8-9%. Therefore, China is arm twisting Sri Lanka to either clear the debt or ‘defer’ (not cancel) the debt through strategic favours.
  • It might be unsustainable for Sri Lanka because the contracts signed with China are heavily one-sided in favour of China, so Sri Lanka should push for renegotiation of the contracts.
  • Under the new Government, despite having no big projects initiated, the domestic debt grew by 12% and foreign debt grew by 25%.
  • The only Chinese project which is doing well in Sri Lanka is the ‘Colombo Container Terminal’

Chinese Debt Trap | Relationship between the two countries

Immediately after the BIMSTEC meeting in India, Sri Lanka handed over the equity control of the Hambantota Port to China whereby the Sri Lankan Port Authority would develop the port with Chinese credit. The relationship between Sri Lanka and China has been upgraded to what is being called “all weather partnership”. More than a relationship of trust, it is seen as a relationship out of compulsion.

Chinese Debt Trap | Hambantota Project
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  • It is worrisome for India if Sri Lanka fails to service its debt on Hambantota, considering its strategic location and a supporting air field, which is being handed over to China. China is ready to take 80% of its equity.
  • It is located within 1300 kilometres from India’s two strategic naval bases (Vishakhapatnam and Andaman and Nicobar) in the Bay of Bengal.
  • Sukhoi base in Thanjavur is also located nearby from the Hambantota project.
  • Sri Harikota is also located in the region which is our military and space vehicles launching port.
  • Therefore, India should draw a red-line for China in case it starts using the same as a dockyard for submarines or other military assets.

Chinese Debt Trap | Why China is investing so heavily in Sri Lanka?

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  • China is deliberately parking its investment abroad to avoid service costs and no-interest regimes of the developed world (western world). It cannot park the funds in China because it may lead to hyperinflation.
  • In Hambantota project, China extracted 90% of its returns from Sri Lanka in the form of raw materials.
  • This parking of funds earns Sri Lanka strategic leverage, higher return on investment and reciprocity and permanence in foreign policy objectives from the targeted countries.
  • Chinese labour, Chinese machinery and thereby Chinese manufacturing sector gets a boost from such investments.
  • Most importantly, China has global ambitions in the form of controlling the communication routes to Eurasia.
  • And of course, the strategic aim to contain India has always been there.

Chinese Debt Trap | Indian Approach

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  • We don’t have resources to match with China. Hence, we shall join hands with our friendly countries such as Japan and OECD to work in tandem with them to ensure that none of our neighbouring countries become exclusively or overly dependent on China.
  • We shall engage the donor and the recipient bilaterally to work out a viable alternate combination and help the recipient secure a soft way out of this debt trap.
  • India should not be alarmed by such situations because anyhow the projects China has managed to secure in Sri Lanka are unviable in both economic and up to some extent in strategic terms too.
  • Chinese policy is clear – overall dominance of Asia, and both India and Japan share this view. India should deal this with the least confrontational but the most effective manner.
  • India should also improve its track record in project implementation in case of ‘some’ projects such as Kaladan Multimodal Project, Chabahar Project etc. to earn a respectable share of strategic assets in our regions of interest.
  • India is having a very high level of economic and diplomatic expertise by which it has managed to avoid non-viable projects since independence. It should also communicate its neighbours regarding the ways to secure a viable deal with China and other powers which milk them in the long run but look lucrative in the short run.

Gen Bajwa and India

Gen Bajwa was appointment of the new Army Chief in Pakistan replacing General Raheel Sharif on November 29th the Indian media drooled over the appointment. There are many predictions going on our side from various analysts which may be superficial.

Let us see the concrete repercussions of this change of guards.

Gen Bajwa | Background of the new Army Chief

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  • General Qamar Javed Bajwa is a second generation infantryman from Baluch Regiment, like three previous Chiefs, Yahya, Aslam Beg and Kayani.
  • He has just served as the Inspector General Training and Evaluation, virtually the DGMT of the Pakistan Army.
  • The General is called apolitical by the Pakistan media which is also being repeated by the Indian media.
  • He is from the Oct 1980 batch of the Pakistan Military Academy, Kakul.
  • Internationally too he has greater experience having commanded a Pakistan Army Brigade in South Kivu in Congo as part of the UN mission there.
  • He has also handled extensive operations in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir which makes him an obvious choice due to the current tensions in the region.

 Given his international experience, good academic record with exposure abroad and the record of service in Kashmir Gen Bajwa was a natural choice as Chief for the Pakistan Army. The General, has had three tenures in Pakistan’s 10 Corps; as Chief of Staff at the Headquarters, GOC Force Command Northern Areas (FCNA) which also looks after Pakistan’s glaciated terrain opposite our deployment in Siachen and Saltoro ridge, and as GOC 10 Corps (Pakistan’s Kashmir Corps).

Moreover, if we shall set parameters for an Army General, it should be kept in mind that the maturity of a General is displayed when he does not play to the galleries.

Gen Bajwa | Status of Pakistan Army

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  • Right from 1977 when Gen Zia ul Haq spelt out his demonic plan for ‘retribution against India’ as the core of Pakistan Army’s existence, it has always been in the dominant position that must be occupied in Pakistan’s polity, either directly or indirectly. Therefore, it is an exercise in futile to assume that the change of guards might bring some hopes for India.
  • The Pakistan Army is professional and extremely strategic in its orientation. It prime concern is itself and its power. It is not going to give a Prime Minister the space to rejig himself into a dominant position to dictate to the Generals. So General Bajwa is nobody’s man but his own and that of the Pakistan Army.

Gen Bajwa | Challenges 

Gen Bajwa comes at a time when equations and axes are also changing –

  • General Raheel Sharif’s positive legacy has been the manner in which he went after the Lashkar e Jhangvi (LeJ) and TTP even as he tried to cleaning up the mess in Karachi. These organizations are not down and out and would be looking to rearing their heads again. They would be assessing the commitment, understanding and energy that General Bajwa brings to the appointment. 
  • Chinese are increasingly looking at the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) with a more serious intent. They would not want Gilgit-Baltistan in greater tension, neither Baluchistan. But if the current tensions with India only get worse India is going to play both cards; diluting of tension in J&K is therefore in Pakistan’s interest.
  • US appears to be ignoring Pakistan as its strategic interests shift. With President Elect Trump’s likely isolationist policy Pakistan’s significance will further dilute. It is only nations with whom economics and business will be strong, that US is likely to strengthen relations and India is one of them. Despite the recent telephonic conversations between Prime Minister Nawaz Shareef and President-elect Donald Trump, no concrete assurances of cooperation were being communicated in return for the Pakistani overtures. General Bajwa has to manage an isolationist United States, which the former Army Chiefs have milked beyond their force, in the name of fighting terrorism.
  • Pakistan’s relationship with Afghanistan is not improving and the Taliban in Afghanistan are under no one’s control. That means continuation of Pakistan’s dwindling strategic space and India’s continuing influence. This would also have serious implications on Afghanistan peace process and deliberations with the Taliban.
  • Although a positive step in the emergence in the context of improving relationship with the Russians and feasibility of some weapons and equipment from that source, the Russians too may not be too happy to see their weapons in use against India with whom it still has a strong strategic relationship.

Gen Bajwa | Concerns for India

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  • Much weightage is being given to his Kashmir record because of the current impasse along the LoC and the possibility that he will follow a very proactive approach towards Kashmir. It is to be seen what the Rawalpindi under his nose plans to do in relation to India, especially in Kashmir and the region beyond that.
  • There are large scale rumors of an Ahmadiya connection with General Bajwa which puts him in line with former army chiefs belonging to the ‘minority’ and ‘suppressed’ communities of Pakistan. In 1974 Pakistan passed a constitutional amendment declaring Ahmadis a ‘non-Muslim’ minority. In 1984 Pakistan passed another law which made it a criminal act for Ahmadis to identify as Muslims. India always possess this ‘trump’ card to play at the opportune time to create factions within the society. (Realpolitik)
  • If reports are to be believed and the limitations in international space of Pakistan (as discussed above) is concerned, the new Army Chief has no option but to instil a faith in relationship with India. General Bajwa may after initial briefings and unbiased review realize the above. If offered tactical escape routes without loss of pride, we could yet see the LoC tension drawing down. The need may be to reduce rhetoric from our side too to allow this to take place.

Conclusion

India needs to give some time to explore the response from the new General Qamar Bajwa to make his assessment, send messages through the hotline that Pakistan may wish to re-appraise its policy in context of the LoC and Kashmir issue. A diligent response is awaited and hoped for in the power circles of North and South Block to overturn the past inadequacies in the rebuilding of trust amongst the two neighbours.

China Pak Friendship – The whole story

China Pak relations began in 1950 when Pakistan was among the first countries to end official diplomatic relations with the Republic of China on Taiwan and recognize the PRC.

China Pak | History

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  • Given its geo-strategic location, China has been keenly interested in the Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) for long.
  • After the Sino-India war in 1962, according to the border settlement agreement of March 1963, Pakistan conceded 5,180 km of Indian Territory to the Chinese.
  • In the late 1960’s, China began constructing the Karakoram Highway (KKH) to link Kasghar in Xinjiang Autonomous Region (XUAR) of China with Abbottabad in Pakistan, through the Khunjerab Pass.
  • China has always treated Kashmir as a disputed territory between India and Pakistan and doesn’t consider Kashmir as an integral part of India.

China Pak | Joint Patrol

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  • The first China-Pakistan joint patrolling in the Pakistan occupied Kashmir (POK) took place in the border region on 21 July 2016. Nevertheless, Chinese troops had been patrolling this region since 2014
  • The region is included in the sphere of the PLA’s new Western Theatre Command that also includes Afghanistan, POK, India, Nepal, Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam, the Central Asian Republics and part of Mongolia.
  • The immediate reason cited for the patrolling was fleeing of Uyghur’s from the Xinjiang province to join the ISIS.

China Pak | Karakorum Highway

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  • Officially it is known as N-35 in Pakistan and China National Highway 314 (G314) in China. Built in 1978 with Chinese assistance, it is the only overland route connecting China to Pakistan. Much of it runs through Gilgit-Baltistan region.
  • It also cuts through the sector between Asia and the Indian subcontinent bringing China, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, India and Pakistan within 250 km of each other. The KKH is emerging as a relatively viable transit route.
  • The restoration of KKH is directly linked with the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
  • However, given its terrain and high cost of transit, the KKH is unlikely to become a major trade and energy corridor as billed; its value will be more strategic and military, than commercial.
  • Interestingly, if Gwadar has to become a reality the only land connection it has with China is the KKH.
  • It provides China with a window to the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean. Taking into consideration, the difficult terrain of the highway, the expansion of the KKH remains a challenge for China.
  • Against the backdrop of One Belt One Road (OBOR) the region has become very important for China as the ‘China Pakistan Economic Corridor’ (CPEC), flagship project of OBOR passes through this region.

China Pak | Companies in PoK

China Pak Economic Corridor

  • Apart from the strategic importance, POK is rich in resources. It has vast deposits of precious stones, abundant water resources, Indus and its tributaries flow through POK.
  • In 2009, Pakistan Railways and China’s Dong Fang Electric Supply finalised an agreement to build a rail link between Havelian in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Khunjerab Pass over Manshera district and the KKH.
  • The China Road and Bridge Corporation (CBRC) and Pakistan National Highway Authority are jointly working on the KKH project.
  • The Gilgit-Baltistan region is rich in both metallic and non-metallic minerals, energy minerals precious stones.
  • Shahzad International is coordinating with Chinese investors for digging uranium and gold in Gilgit-Baltistan.
  • Chinese miners have also obtained lease in Astore district for the extraction of high quality of copper.
  • Reports state that a $6 million investment proposal was submitted by Pakistan Surpass Mining Company, a subsidiary of China’s Xinjiang Surpass Mining Company Ltd, for mining in POK. It is also working towards setting up a hydropower station and Molybdenum processing plant in Chupurshan Valley.

China Pak | The Uyghur Issue

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  • The POK region is connected through the XUAR in China, which is infested with the problem of Uyghur separatist movement.
  • China is also concerned about the possibility of networks in the POK serving as conduit for the movement of Islamist terrorist elements that could establish links with separatist movement in XUAR.
  • In order to tackle the problem, on 15 June 2015, Zarb-e-Azb military operation was launched by Pakistan in NWA of Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) targeting in particular foreign soldiers who were assembled over the years by the Pakistan Taliban. However, it is still continuing and there are linkages with the ISIS.
  • The National Development Reform Commission (NDRC) in its policy document has identified Xinjiang as ‘geographic advantage and its role as a window of westward opening-up’ as paramount for the success of OBOR. Hence, a lot is at stake for China in the region and any anomaly in the region might prove detrimental for the CPEC success.

Conclusion

China has often stated that it is neutral towards toward the issue of Kashmir but the tilt is very obvious. The joint exercise has also given China an excuse to familiarise itself with the disputed terrain. The increasing activities of China in the POK, establishes the fact that it is bound to affect larger Indian interest.

Trans-Pacific Partnership

US President-elect Donald Trump’s has reiterated his campaign stance of withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement which might have serious strategic ramifications for India as well.

Let us look at it from a general perspective

What is Trans-Pacific Partnership?

Trans-Pacific Partnership | Implications for India

Trans-Pacific Partnership is one of the most ambitious free trade deal ever negotiated between developed and developing countries of the Pacific region and beyond.

Trans-Pacific Partnership | Ratification

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Member countries have two years to ratify the pact which involves higher labour standards, intellectual property rights, environmental rules among other issues. None of the 12 countries (except Japan) have completed the ratification process so far.

The text of the agreement has to be signed and then ratified by all 12 signatories. Details of how the deal will be implemented would be argued out in individual countries’ legislatures. To take effect, the deal has to be ratified by February 2018 by at least six countries that account for 85% of the group’s economic output. And this means that Japan and the US will need to be on board.

Why Mr. Donald Trump opposed this deal?

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Mr. Trump has campaigned very hard against this push for globalisation and adopted a protectionist yet populist stance for it. He believes that TPP will hurt American workers and US companies. He has been riding the wave of protectionism and xenophobia that has swept both sides of the Atlantic Ocean in the recent past, simply ignoring Obama’s pivot to Asia.

Trans-Pacific Partnership | Advantages 

The regional trade agreement unleashes the true potential of globalisation in the form of free cross-border movement of key factors of economic activity, such as goods, money, people and information. Hence, it has the potential to dramatically push the economic growth and people’s living standards in the member countries, especially in the developing countries.

Trans-Pacific Partnership | Criticisms

  • The TPP would have extensive negative ramifications for users’ freedom of expression, right to privacy and due process, as well as hindering peoples’ abilities to innovate.
  • There is an argument that TPP suffers from a serious lack of transparency, threatens to impose more stringent copyright without public input, and pressures foreign governments to adopt unbalanced laws.
  • Legal critics also claim that TPP paves the way for companies to sue governments under the arbitration laws, which threatens the sovereignty of member countries.
  • Opponents of TPP fear movement of jobs from the US to developing countries which is yet another boon for a protectionist voter of the United States. The TPP will also intensify competition between countries’ labour forces.

Trans-Pacific Partnership | Implications for India

Trans-Pacific Partnership

The demise of TPP threatens the US ‘pivot’ to Asia that carried India-Japan-US security cooperation too. Chinese economic gains at the cost of United States would turn the tables for both India and Japan in Asia.

  • TPP was an important instrument of realpolitik for India (non-member) as it sought to counter the rise of an assertive China both in terms of economic as well as security architecture.
  • In the rebalancing of its resources in Asia-Pacific, the US’ “Pivot to Asia” and India’s “Act East” policies coalesce. US saw India’s role as the “lynchpin” of its rebalancing strategy.
  • India was reinvigorating its ties with Asian powers like Japan and Australia that has rattled China greatly. All that goes into a limbo with an apparent fall of the economic angle to the US strategic rebalance towards Asia.

With the apparent fall of the TPP shield, India gets an upper hand in securing free trade deals with the member countries of the TPP. Moreover, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which is under negotiation should not adopt lackadaisical approach towards its conclusion, otherwise a good opportunity to reorder domestic laws according to the international standards and seamless trade among the member countries might get a miss.