Monday, September 22, 2014

New Book

I and Atul Mishra are proud to announce that our book Nuclear South Asia: Keywords and Concepts has now been published by Routledge.  This was several years in the works and at one point, I had even given up on completing it, until Atul came on board to rescue it.  The project started as a dictionary series, which I agreed to join with considerable reluctance and with good reason: a project like this requires great discipline and I wasn't sure I was up to it.  After some initial work, I realized that my original doubts were well founded: I would not be able to do this on my own and I was ready to junk it.  That was when Atul agreed to join the project and breathed fresh life into it.  This was a huge burden for Atul because he was still writing his PhD thesis and this was a subject way beyond his PhD thesis topic. Nevertheless he not only agreed to join but gave me sufficient hope that I could get back to working on it.  Once we were finished with our initial draft came the next obstacle: because most of the other authors contracted to write dictionaries on other topics in the same series failed to finish their manuscripts, the entire series was shelved by the publisher.  We understood the publisher's point of view -- you cannot have a series with just one manuscript, after all -- but this left us with a more or less complete manuscript and no publisher.  We had some interest from at least one other publisher, but they required significant additions and both I and Atul were too exhausted to consider it.  Eventually, after more than a year of sitting on the shelf, Routledge finally expressed an interest but because a couple of years had passed since we wrote the manuscript, it required significant updating.  After this long journey, I think it would be fair to say that both of us are at least as much relieved as excited that it is now out.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Handling Great Power Relations

The Asian security situation is slowly deteriorating, the consequence of both China's rise as well Washington's seeming fickleness that is sending its allies such as Japan looking for new allies in the region.  But its not just Japan that is feeling the effect of insecurity: Vietnam (where Indian President just completed a state visit) and Australia (whose Prime Minister Tony Abbot also was in Delhi recently) are also worried, as are others which have territorial disputes with China, such as the Philippines.  But China is taking efforts to prevent these Asian powers from coming together, primarily focusing on India and Australia.  That is smart and prudent strategy.  President Xi visit to India this week has to be seen in this light.

But from India's perspective, it has to be clear-eyed about how the game is played.  There is no reason to unnecessarily antagonize China by trying to create an Asian alliance against it, but neither should New Delhi let Beijing dictate how it plays the game.  In the long-term, India's strategic interests are not compatible with China.  Once this simple strategic truth is accepted, all else should fall into place. The reason why India's strategic interest are not compatible with China is because India, like other Asian and global powers, has no interest in seeing any one Asian power dominate the continent.  This becomes even more important if China's relative power continues to grow.  India, of course, has other serious disputes too with China, ranging for territorial issues to China's support for Pakistan. None of this means India should not talk to China or engage in trade or frequently exaggerate border incidents.  It does mean that India needs to both engage and balance.

President Xi's visit to India provided a good opportunity to write on some of these issues.  My essay was published in Economic Times, and reproduced below.

India needs to deftly deal with multiple strategic partners, and with China

Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit to India and Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to the US will cap a very busy three months for India's foreign policy. It has also been a heady period, with India being wooed by multiple strategic partners.

So, India faces a unique problem of plenty in strategic partners. This is a nice problem to have, but it's still a problem. While it is understandable that New Delhi might want to simply celebrate its newfound importance in the international arena, what it needs even more is clear and calculated longterm thinking to navigate this pitfall of opportunities.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Superb Essay on Obama, Bush and US National Security Decision-Making

President Obama's foolish foreign policy choices are finally coming home to roost.  The old saying about a stitch in time saving nine applies very well here: if Obama had provided better levels of support to more moderate Syrian rebels, the Islamic State terrorist might never have become the kind of threat it has in the region, which now requires much harder responses.  There is a lesson in here for Obama's larger foreign policy strategy of disengagement, which is that such disengagement can create conditions that are a lot more dangerous than engagement.  This is not to suggest that levels of engagement should not be carefully thought out, and disengagement might be appropriate under some circumstances, but that disengagement cannot be a doctrine -- especially for the world's most powerful state.

David Rothkopf, editor of the Foreign Policy group, has excellent essay on the decision-making styles of the Bush and Obama White House, which provides a very nuanced picture of the process in both White Houses and which, incidentally, is more objective in examining the Bush foreign policy especially in the second term.