Posts Tagged ‘ Center for Land Warfare Studies ’

America and India: The Almost-Special Relationship

By Jim Yardley for The New York Times

At a panel discussion last week on relations between India and the United States, Strobe Talbott, the former American diplomat, told an audience of Indian business leaders that he had learned a valuable lesson about India: Do not hyphenate it. As in Indo-Pak. (Or, in a close cousin of a hyphen, as in Chindia.) The audience smiled at his epiphany: India matters because it is India.

In a nutshell, President Obama is trying to deliver the same message during his three-day visit to India, the first stop on a broader Asian tour. Both countries are eager to build on their improved ties and set up a unique, special relationship, given that together they represent the world’s richest and largest democracies. Faced with a rising authoritarian China, and an economically wounded Europe, a weakened United States is casting about for global partners. India would seem a nice fit.

“This is the time to be ambitious about this relationship,” said Shivshankar Menon, India’s national security adviser, speaking on the panel with Mr. Talbott.

And yet eliminating the hyphen is not easy, especially given India’s fraught relations with its neighbors in what is perhaps the most politically complicated region on earth, one in which American lives and treasure are at stake in Pakistan and Afghanistan. And India’s evolving relationship with another neighbor, China, is also a prime concern for America. Indeed, the decision to focus Mr. Obama’s India trip on India was itself not easily achieved; some senior administration officials lobbied the president to put pressure on Indian leaders for a conciliatory gesture toward Pakistan, in hope that such a carrot might entice the Pakistanis to do more to help America against the Taliban.

These sorts of political equations have long tangled the U.S.-India relationship: The Americans, at different times, have pushed the Indians to cut a deal with Pakistan over the disputed region of Kashmir, but the Indians have bristled at any interference. The Indians still want the Americans to sponsor India for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council. Not such an easy thing, the Americans reply, since America alone can’t do this and it creates issues between America and China. It has sometimes seemed like a relationship built around one country asking the other to do something it considers against its self-interest.

Moreover, the economic relationship between the two countries often has been a source of friction. High unemployment in America has renewed complaints that outsourcing to India hurts American workers. Indians complain that American protectionism is hurting Indian companies and that American export restrictions on technologies that can have both military and civil uses are outdated and unnecessary in a relationship between putative allies.

Mr. Obama’s trip is an attempt to reboot or refocus the relationship away from these disputes and de-emphasize the tangible goodies (for example, contracts) that politicians call “deliverables.” Instead, the two sides are discussing how they can partner on education, clean energy, agriculture, technological development and military cooperation. The thematic emphasis of the visit is on shared democratic values — a pointed dig at China — and what the two countries say are shared opportunities. American officials say that an expected $4 billion deal for India to buy military transport aircraft — yes, a goodie — will provide thousands of American jobs. Indian officials emphasize that trade between the two countries is basically balanced — unlike with China — and that the anger over outsourcing is misplaced, especially since some Indian companies are investing and creating jobs in the United States.

Some Indian commentators have groused that all the diplospeak about shared opportunities obscures the fact that the trip lacks a “big idea” to excite or elevate the relationship, even as big, unavoidable problems are seemingly being avoided. In 2000, former President Bill Clinton spent five days in India on a door-opening visit that was credited with righting what had been a stalled relationship. Then former President George W. Bush made the most dramatic gesture by pushing through an agreement to cooperate on civilian nuclear projects; the move effectively legitimized India as a nuclear power and lifted a 30-year moratorium on nuclear trade with India even though India had not signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. By comparison, Mr. Obama seems not to be offering much.

“The jury is out,” said Shekhar Gupta, editor of The Indian Express, speaking of how India’s political establishment views Mr. Obama.

But Ronen Sen, who recently retired from India’s diplomatic corps after serving as ambassador to the United States, says the focus on a “big idea” is misplaced. Given the litany of difficult problems between the two countries, Mr. Sen said, Mr. Obama’s approach was a reasonable way to build trust and broaden a bilateral relationship that, while greatly improved, had not yet fully matured.

“It has not yet reached a critical mass where it can be self sustaining,” Mr. Sen said.

Indeed, even the landmark civil nuclear deal remains a subject of dispute as the two sides still squabble over fine details of how American suppliers could begin doing business in the lucrative Indian market. The Americans say that rules recently approved by India are inconsistent with accepted global practice, which exempts foreign suppliers from liability in cases of accidents, leaving it solely with local operators. A senior American official said “intense discussions” were underway to find a solution. If one is found, Mr. Obama may get a nice “deliverable” — an open door through which American firms, as originally expected, can sell nuclear equipment to India and provide jobs at home.

There is less talk of the chances of solving bigger problems, like differences between America and India in global negotiations on global warming climate change and trade. And the uncertainty over the most problematic hyphens — Afghanistan and Pakistan — looms over the visit. Even as Mr. Obama seeks a way to stabilize Afghanistan and get out, Indian officials dread the day America leaves. They worry about what will be left behind, since India cannot leave the neighborhood.

“Quite obviously, we have strategic stakes there,” said Brig. Gurmeet Kanwal, director of the Center for Land Warfare Studies, a military research institute. “We do not wish to have a government in Afghanistan or a government in Kabul that is inimical to Indian interests.”

He added: “We see the United States as a stabilizing influence in Asia.”

And so a political courtship will continue, problems and all. Governmental ties already lag far behind the people-to-people relationships. America remains the premier destination for Indian students studying abroad, and Indian immigrants in America have achieved disproportionate success in business, medicine and many other fields. It is this backchannel closeness that serves as a cattle prod nudging the governments to become closer, too.

K. Subrahmanyam, a leading Indian defense analyst, believes that India and the United States represent the inevitable and necessary partnership of the 21st century because China’s rise represents a threat to a global order based on democratic principles. He said that demographic trends, too, should bind the two countries together.

“If America needs a partner, Europe is aging, Japan is aging and China is going to age,” he said. “The only two major nations in the world who will not be aging, at least for the next 30 years, are the United States and India.”

No Change Seen in Pakistan’s View of India Threat

By Myra MacDonald for Reuters

The Pakistan army is unlikely to change its assessment of the threat from India despite heavy demands on its troops to provide flood relief while also fighting Islamist militants, a senior security official said.

The Wall Street Journal said this month Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency had decided — for the first time in the country’s history — that Islamist militants had overtaken India as the greatest threat to national security.

But the security official suggested this was a misinterpretation of the stance of the Pakistan army, which views the threat from militants and India in very different ways, rather than comparing them against each other.

“These are two mutually exclusive threats. The magnitude, the type, is quite different. One is an internal threat which is insidious, difficult to quantify. It is a clear and present danger. This is a very serious threat,” he said. “The other is a conventional threat. What has India done, politically and militarily, for this threat to have been reduced?”

Another official said the threat from India had if anything increased into both a conventional and unconventional threat, as it used its presence in Afghanistan to support those fighting against the Pakistani state in its western border regions.

India denies accusations by Islamabad that it backs separatists in Baluchistan province, which borders Afghanistan, saying it is interested only in promoting Afghan development.

With flooding which has uprooted some 6 million people further destabilizing a country already battling militants, the WSJ report raised the possibility the Pakistan army might revise its assessment of the threat from its much bigger neighbor.

It keeps the bulk of its troops on the Indian border.

INDIAN FLOOD RELIEF

India has promised Pakistan $5 million in flood relief and analysts there see no chance of it exploiting its nuclear rival’s current vulnerability by raising tensions on the border.

“At this time no one is thinking of anything other than how to help them get over the suffering and the damage,” said retired Brigadier Gurmeet Kanwal at the Center for Land Warfare Studies.

“The Pakistanis should feel free to pull out their troops for flood relief as and when they want. The Indian Army obviously cannot give any written guarantees but our DGMO (Director General of Military Operations) could reassure his counterpart that we have no intention of attacking them at such a time.”

The DGMO’s of the two countries talk by phone once a week, mainly to clear up misunderstandings over any ceasefire violations on the Line of Control dividing disputed Kashmir.

But the security official said that Pakistan’s military deployment was based on its assessment of India’s potential offensive strength. “The configuration of any defense force is based on enemy’s capabilities and not intentions,” he said.

Pakistan has taken more casualties in its battle with Islamist militants than in all its wars against India combined — the two countries have fought three full-scale wars since independence in 1947 along with other smaller conflicts.

Yet for Pakistan to drop its guard against India would require progress on political disputes, including over Kashmir, officials say.

India broke off a peace process with Pakistan after the 2008 attack on Mumbai by Pakistan-based militants and despite several attempts the two countries have been unable to get their talks back on track again.

And even while Pakistan fights militants on its western border with Afghanistan, it remains wary of sudden Indian retaliation should there be another Mumbai-style attack on India.

“This enforced attention to the western border has made the Pakistan army reassess its priorities,” said western military analyst Brian Cloughley, an expert on the Pakistan army.

“But it still does not wish to drop its guard to the east, especially as the there is still the threat of a swift and dramatic attack if a terrorist outrage in India is determined by India to have been planned in Pakistan.”

Pakistan has said it cannot guarantee there will be no more attacks on India, arguing that it too is a victim of bombings.

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