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The US Pivot Asia-Pacific Strategy requires India and Australia

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The post Cold War realignment of international relations on Asia completely changes the balance of power in the Asia-Pacific region. The more the West imports from China had pushed the world order towards the east. To demonstrate its strength, China had accommodated even the small islands.

The Chinese leadership visited Sri Lanka more than the Indian prime minister’s visit to the Island nation. New unprecedented but expected relationships were established which may display a moment of possibility in the current international politics. The best exemplar would be the US engagement with Cuba. While India now giving tacit welcome to the US military presence, but China tries to push the US as much as possible away from the Pacific may be due to its domestic instability. However, it also exposed China’s assertiveness in the Asia-Pacific region. Hence, the US pivots Asia-Pacific strategy getting significance.

Has the new era demonstrating the declining the power of the US? It is a serious question. However, the US is the only sole superpower in the world that can deploy its military for any confrontation. The resent US involvements in the Middle East (ME) and North Africa (NA) did not demonstrate its defeat but indicating that the US alone cannot win a war against non-state actors. In this light, the US demands more partners. The interesting thing would be – on one side the globe is facing religious based terrorism and the other by the expansionist attitude of China. In the Asia-Pacific region though the US is having small partners, India and Australia would be the real strength for its Asia-Pacific strategy in balancing China.

Firstly, North Korea’s efforts in revelation of its missile have rising doubts and other side increasing concern of its motive. All its threatening statements against the US witness its links with Beijing. However, while the dragon simply caution on the demonstration of North Korean assertiveness would not taken to be rest easy. What would be the intention of North Korea? Why China does not concern over the behaviour of North Korea? Would China be caution if South Korea displays a warning against her? Then how would be possible for China to be muted while its neighbour threatening the US? Lot of question are rising without any answer.

Secondly, the resent statement by the Chinese President Xi Jinping, “We will resolutely contain Taiwan independence secessionist activities in any form” over the post-defeat of Kuomintang (KMT) in the resent president election.

Thirdly, China’s claim of South and East China Sea with its neighbours are demanding serious invitation to the international community to sort out any conflict before it breakout. The Chinese approach in the disputed area spread vibration to the surrounding countries particularly the Vietnamese and Philippines directly encounter this. Thus the Asia-Pacific region gradually moves toward a hot boiling point.

David Kaplan says the 21 century global politics will be played out by the major power in the Indian Ocean. The meeting of democratic nations under the US in the Pacific feel threaten to China but unwilling to give away its strategy in the South and East China sea should be closely noticed by the IR scholars described as the indication of Chinese uncomfortable posture. This can be compare with the anxiety of Russia while the US backyard the NATO reaching out to the Ukraine.

What next for the US Pivot Asia Pacific strategy? This would be a real question which hanging on the US election results. Already the US does have its shared vision document with India and other likeminded countries to maintain peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region. However, it has not taken off due to India’s reluctance at present. India is facing Chinese encirclement in the Indian Ocean keeping New Delhi to think twice to take any policy shift in the Asia-Pacific along with the US.

The largest navies in the Asia-Pacific region India and Australia should support the US initiative in the region. The geostrategic location of India and Australia connects Indian Ocean and the Pacific. India’s resent transformation on its relationship with Australia raises many questions. Hence, the US relations with India and Australia get more attention. This cooperation with India and Australia in the region mutually invite the US to maintain the region safer. The US along with India and Australia would not be a threat to a third party; however, a posture of deterrent to others who disturb the stability of the region.

Safeguarding the maritime security and ensuring freedom of navigation would be India’s priority in the Asia Pacific region. Hesitation by India and the US witnesses the inability to articulate the policy which they have consensus with each other. Last Jan 2015 the visiting US President Barak Obama and Prime Minister Narendra Modi had signed the shared vision on Asia-Pacific. Now it was almost more than a year any kind of materialization of the vision document could not been seen. The failure at the start up stage demonstrates its weakness or determined hesitation. The continuous burning rift in the South China and the East China Sea demonstrated by China triggered tensions in the India-Pacific could not been realized by India’s security engagements would be perceived as the form of non-alignment nature still persist in the nature of India’s foreign policy formulation. It could have thought that the resent happening in the South China and the East China Sea would not be a irritant for India’s security. It is pity that still India could not perceive China already spreads its security net in the Indian Ocean targeting India in the name of ‘string of pearls’.

At the same time Australia also hesitate to join in these efforts. Australia is having strategic partnership with the US and trade relations with China. Further, it also part of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). India and China is not part of the TPP. The best reminder would be the failure of quadrilateral talks in 2007 under the George Bush Administration would not take off. This was perceived could be Australia’s concern over China’s protest.

At the same time India and the US have informal discussion on this issue on joint patrolling but denied that any kind of formal announcement on this regard. The US should take initiative in this regard to implement the shared vision on the Asia-Pacific along with India starting with the joint patrol in the region. If this effort takes off it would enable Australia to join further though they have no such agreement with the US like India on the Asia-Pacific.

While China reach out to the South China Sea vibrate the Asia-Pacific would affect the maritime security in the future. Articulating the TTP agreement Obama said, “We cannot allow China to write the rule of the world economy”. TTP would not alone balance the assertive China. However, sharpen diplomatic responds by the US along with India and Australia in the Asia-Pacific would communicate the language to China in maintaining peace and stability for the “just” shake of the international community.

Antony Clement is a Senior Editor (Asia-Pacific), Modern Diplomacy an online journal. He is a researcher in Indian Foreign Policy. He consults on academic development and he is currently working on two books - “Discover your Talents” and “Diplomacy in Tough Times”. His research centres on India’s diplomacy & foreign policy and extends to domestic politics, economic policy, security issues, and international security matters, including India’s relations with the US, the BRICS nations, the EU and Australia.

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South Asia

Dr. Lotay Tshering Premiership: A new beginning for India – Bhutan foreign relations

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Authors: Srimal Fernando and Siksha Singh*

Bhutan is the only democratic constitutional monarchy in South Asian region holding tremendous Geopolitical importance for Asian giants, India and China. Recently the Himalayan nation held its third Parliamentary election. In Previous elections like of 2008, Jigme Thinley of Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) party won and in 2013 Tshering Togbay’s People’s Democratic Party (PDP) formed the government. The 2018 election results unseated Prime Minister Tshering Togbay and installed Dr. Lotay Tshering of Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa (DNT) by winning 30 seats in the National assembly out of the 47-seat elected lower house of Bhutan’s Partliament.

The National council of Bhutan on the other hand has 20 seats out of which 5 seats are nominated by the King.  High youth unemployment, debt to the tune of 108.6% (World Bank), 114,000 postal votes and an extensive social media campaign were cited as the reasons for this anti-incumbency wave. Nevertheless the economic indicators were promising as the country’s GDP grew at a robust rate of 8% in 2017 (World Bank).The sector which contributed to this growth story include Bhutanese Hydro power in which India is a major trading partner. Bhutan also has a distinguished honor of being the world’s happiest nation according to Gross Happiness Index (GHI), the term ‘gross national happiness’ was first coined by the Fourth King Jigme Singye Wangchuck in the year 1972.

Dr. Lotay’s party won a historic mandate on the grounds that it would ameliorate the inequality by focusing on regions outside the State Capital Thimphu. To implement these new vision plans, a ten member cabinet was administered the oath by the current Prime Minister.

Bhutan’s bilateral relations with its neighboring countries like India have also faced some difficult times during this tenure. One of the key concerns that are challenging the bilateral relations between the two nations are Bhutan’s is hydro-electricity sector which the DNT party was campaigning during the 2018 elections. However, under the new Bhutanese government, both countries can work closely in resolving the hydroelectric projects as it contributes a substantial proportion to government’s revenues. A couple of months back, Bhutan also drew international media’s attention concerning Doklam, a disputed territory between China and Bhutan, which also holds strategic significance for both India and China due to its proximity to India’s borders. Bhutan got embroiled into this diplomatic crisis and subsequently the issue got resolved through diplomatic channels. India’s neighborhood first foreign policy is the key to keeping this bilateral engagement on the right track.

The foreign policy of India should look beyond the existing neighborhood foreign policy paradigm. Firstly it should look into the geographic locality of Bhutan to be a buffer country. Secondly the economic and hydroelectricity deals should be in favor of both Bhutan’s current government and people’s aspirations. Thirdly the bilateral trade volume has to be doubled in the coming years and the foremost priority for policy makers should be to solidify this relation with further economic engagements like the hydro-power projects which will benefit both nations especially Bhutan.

*Siksha Singh, scholar of Masters in Diplomacy, Law, International Business at Jindal School of International Affairs, India

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South Asia

The Outcome of Imran Khan’s visit to China

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The immediate outcome of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to China from 2nd-5th November 2018 may be termed as a “Successful Visit”. It is worth mentioning here that there was a lot of negative propaganda in the Pakistani and western media against Imran Khan, his political party PTI, CPEC & BRI. There existed a perception that Imran Khan was opposing President Xi Jinping’s visit to Pakistan in 2014, which eventually got delayed till 2015. There were speculations that Imran Government may not honor the CPEC agreements or re-negotiate them. There was a massive propaganda regarding CPEC being a “Debt Trap”. The Chinese mega initiative “BRI” was also under criticism.

Fortunately, all houses propagating negativism were disappointed when Imran Khan was greeted with open arms by the Chinese top leadership and was offered the highest protocols.  Prime Minister Imran Khan met President Xi Jinping, Vice President Wang Qishan, Premier Li Keqiang, Chairman Standing Committee NPC, Li Zhanshu, Senior Ministers, State Councilors, Senior Officials from Government and Corporate Sector.  He delivered a lecture in the Party Central School, a nursery for training and producing officers and leaders for the Government of China.  In addition to that almost 15 MoUs/Agreements were signed in various fields of cooperation between two nations.

PM Imran Khan has also attended the first ever held “China International Import Expo” (CIIE), as a guest of honor and delivered a keynote speech. He visited Pakistan-Pavilion along with President Xi and introduced him the Pakistani products on display. It is expected, immediately Pakistan can increase its exports to China by 1 billion US Dollars. This trend will grow in the following years and keep on increasing Pakistani exports to China year by year.

It was rated a very successful visit among diplomatic circles. It has provided an opportunity to understand each other and have face-to-face contact between the two leaderships. It has helped to cement the traditional ties between two brotherly neighbors. Regional emerging politics were discussed and a complete harmony was achieved on all outstanding issues. The visit has helped a great manner to understand BRI and CPEC. Comprehensive consensus was developed on the future unfolding of CPEC and the Social sector was also included in the CPEC projects.

PM Imran Khan has got a chance to learn more on Chinese experience to fight against Poverty and Corruption. This experience will be helpful for him to fight against Poverty and Corruption in Pakistan too.  Imran Khan has promised with the nations during his election campaign that he will fight against the curse of corruption and poverty, if the people of Pakistan elect him as Prime Minister of Pakistan. It is time for him to fulfill his promise with the nation.

In the media, there were speculations on economic cooperation, as Pakistan is passing through the worst economic crisis with a burden of 95 Billion US Dollars debt.  I think the negative and pessimistic minds fail to understand the nature of relations between China and Pakistan. We are “Iron Brothers” and stand with each other on all difficult moments in past and will stand firmly with each other in the future too, both understand each other’s needs precisely. But it is not Chinese character to publicize a lot. Chinese wisdom lies in more work and less talk. We are very much satisfied with our cooperation with China on the Economic front too.

It is standard practice that after the high-level visits, it needs a lot of follow-up and mutual visits of all levels down the stream. A lot of work has to be done in the coming days. The respective ministries and departments will meet and discuss the specifics of all issues and formalize the decisions or guidelines agreed by the leadership of the two nations.

There is always a space for improvement in all visits and one must always keep on learning from previous experiences. Perfection is something which does not exist in this world. We hope, for the next such high-level visits, we need to do more homework, more preparation and have a better composition of delegation to make such visits more fruitful. As long as we understand China, understanding CPEC & BRI, and willing to take-off economically, China is always willing to assist Pakistan. It is important to mention here that, it is Pakistan, who has to work hard and stand on its own feet. China may teach us how to fish, not to eat fish only. Pakistan is a nation of 220 million and possesses all the potential to develop. China may be catalyst to speed us this process but ultimately it’s Pakistan which has to work-hard.

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South Asia

NSG: A Catastrophic Megalomania

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For past few months, international media was abuzz with news of intense nuclear diplomacy by India and Pakistan to build support for their respective cases for gaining Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) membership.

As both countries have applied for membership in the group that reinforces NPT’s core objective of preventing proliferation of nuclear weapons. However, choosing India-only preferential approach or admitting both (India and Pakistan) on the basis of specifically developed non-proliferation criteria is the biggest dilemma NSG is double squeezed with.

South Asian security dynamics and the NSG membership are closely inter-linked as the group was founded in direct response to India’s diversion of nuclear material from peaceful program to conduct nuclear test in 1974. So the formation of NSG was the result of Indian violation of peaceful use of nuclear material.

Nonetheless, NSG as a regime sacrificed its non-proliferation principle in fulfilling the commercial and geo-political interests by giving preferential treatment to a few member states. Also by granting an unprecedented and country-specific exemption to India has led the door open to have nuclear cooperation with NSG since 2008.

It is well established that NSG exemption was driven by U.S. interests to build India as a regional counter-weight to China. The peculiar strategy of using India as a counterweight policy of U.S. is in total disregards of how this NSG exemption would impact the regional stability in South Asia. This exemption to India also affected the credibility of NSG, to work as an effective non-proliferation institution.

The miserable and shambolic NSG exemption to India without compensating NSG’s standards has weakened NSG along with the broader nuclear non-proliferation regime. Interestingly, dominant non-proliferation experts have argued against bending rules in favour of India. With all this, numbers of key U.S. officials have also warned against the renewed arms race in South Asia in response to this preferential treatment being awarded to India. All it shows is that this exemption is not universally popular; there remains a great deal of unease with the India-specific approach.

The NSG race does not portend well for the whole Asian region. India’s presence in the NSG would cast a cloud over peace and stability in the entire Asia-Pacific region keeping in mind the scale of the power and ambitions. The group has to comprehend the motivations of India in quest of membership and assess whether they conform to its non-proliferation objectives.

For example, a meeting was held between counterparts from both sides (NSG and India).  Views regarding transfers related to sensitive nuclear technologies such as Enrichment and reprocessing (ENR) was discussed. Interestingly, Indian officials warned that the Proposed restrictions on transfer of sensitive nuclear items are a ‘derogation’, ‘rollback’ of U.S. commitments”. Officials from Indian side claimed that they won ‘clean waiver’ in 2008 from the cartels restrictive export rules, with full access to such technologies. Whereas, as per the revision of 2011 NSG guidelines, ENR transfers are not permissible to non-NPT states. It proves that the basic aspiration in getting the membership is to become a global power.

There is no doubt that India’s continuous rise to great and global power status is only aided by the United States (U.S.) to keep the global strategic balance in Washington’s favor. What kind of power is India today? Since it lacks serious extra regional power projection capabilities, does not decisively dominate its own region, and is not a system shaping power in either economic or military balance terms. But it is dependent on the blessings of what U.S. has been given them to rise as a great power.

Non-proliferation regimes has to get their strategy right as it seems that NSG and U.S. is playing: “UP, down, up, down, round and round the merry-go-round — on and on it grinds”. But it could be time to think about the things that may have to be changed around.

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