Then there is R. Madhvan’s character who as a writer observes the entire interplay of emotions that Amudha goes through. He is involved as the father but yet works more as a detached writer looking at his story subject. But then in the last scene this consciously cultivated detachment fades away.
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
Then there is R. Madhvan’s character who as a writer observes the entire interplay of emotions that Amudha goes through. He is involved as the father but yet works more as a detached writer looking at his story subject. But then in the last scene this consciously cultivated detachment fades away.
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
Future developments in Afghanistan will have long term implications for the security of the region.
‘Good’ Taliban and ‘Bad’ Taliban?
The London Conference saw the first public declaration of the policy of ‘reconciliation and rehabilitation’ with the Taliban. The talk of dealing with the ‘good’ Taliban has been doing round with the American and British security establishment. The main aim of the policy is to identify ‘moderate’ elements among the Taliban and deal with them and accommodate them in the power structure. Till now there is no clarity of what is meant by ‘good’ or ‘moderate’ Taliban.
This new development clearly reflects the growing frustration and impatience in the Obama Administration’s Afghan Policy. The war effort in Afghanistan is going no where, there is no exit in sight and with the promise of quick end to war, it is obvious that USA will be in search of quick-fix solution.
This new strategy has greatly increased the importance of Pakistan. USA is banking on Pakistan to provide a gateway to the ‘good’ Taliban and strike a deal with them. All these new developments have created new difficulties for India. But rather than whining about it, India should utilise these changes to reorient its Afghanistan policy.
A Proactive Afghan Policy
After the fall of Taliban, India has invested heavily in infrastructure building, social and political capacity building in Afghanistan. India enjoys tremendous goodwill among the common Afghans. Some opinion polls rate India as the most popular country among the Afghan population (Popularity data- 70 % for India, 2 % for Pakistan). But India should not remain the country that enjoys high level of good will, but is considered irrelevant in the strategic game.
India should brace itself for a situation when the Western troops withdraw from Afghanistan. In that scenario, the Hamid Karzai’s government (for he is likely to continue to be in power for the next few years atleast) will have stand up to the pressure of the resurgent Taliban. India should step in actively in this scenario.
India should now go much beyond building roads and dams. It should increase its military commitment to Afghanistan. India should train Afghan troops (some of it is being already done), provide weapons and play an active role in building a strong Afghan defence force. Everything should be done, apart from sending troops there like the current US presence. Sending troops should be kept as a last option and preferably should not be exercised. India should take steps to neutralise the Pakistan policy of using Afghanistan as a ‘strategic depth’.
The ‘Great Game’ in Afghanistan is about to enter its most interesting phase, and if India does not act now and not act decisively, it will jeopardise its strategic interests. Rather than depending on USA for a favourable position in Afghanistan, India has to create on its own space. And this would involve some creative thinking and tremendous risk taking on the part of India’s foreign and security policy establishment.
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
It took a long for me to update my blog. The major part of last year was spent in preparing and appearing for the Civil Services (Mains) Exam. And then along with my research work, I have also taken up a teaching assignment- so all this leaves much less time for the blog. But no more excuses, I have got a quite a few articles from various journals to review and summarise for the blog, and some other posts also…… Hopefully, I will not disappoint, the readers of this blog henceforth…
The Indian security establishment is abuzz with the possible appointment of Shiv Shankar Menon as the National Security Adviser (NSA). The other contender is Shyam Saran. It is significant that career diplomats (ex-IFS) are the main contenders. The current shift in NSA has to be seen in the larger context of the structural changes being introduced in the Home Ministry.
India currently faces grave threats to its security both internally and externally. Though related, these two are distinct areas and require the concerned expertise. Over the last two years, internal security has dominated the NSA’s efforts.
The institution of NSA, since its inception under the NDA regime, has emerged as an extremely powerful centre. Under its purview came both- internal security and external security. Adding to its power was the personality of the individual NSAs, especially Brajesh Mishra and the later ones.
But since the Mumbai terror attacks of November 2008, it became clear that the NSA was burdened with too much of tasks. The current proposal of making internal security solely the mandate of Home Ministry is a welcome step. This will help in better coordination of various agencies involved in maintaining the internal security.
The NSA now should mainly focus on the external dimension of India’s security. The new profile of the NSA should be more concerned with securing India’s strategic interests in the neighbourhood and the larger external environment. At present, India’s neighbourhood is in a fluid state. Afghanistan is yet to stabilise, and with the proposed Obama’s plan of withdrawal, India will have to rethink its strategic role in vis-à-vis Afghanistan. Related hotbed is Pakistan, where India has too cautiously deal with the multiple power centres. Similarly the changing political scenario in Nepal has to be dealt delicately. And the most important strategic challenge is how to deal with the rising Chinese might. All these questions of the immediate neighbourhood have be interlaced with our relations with the other major players, especially the US. As K. Subhramanyam in his article in the Indian Express (dated 18 Jan, 2010) has argued that the NSA should function like a think-tank providing a long term strategic vision. This could be an apt profile for the new NSA. The NSA’s office should while looking at the immediate security concern, should mainly coordinate with various agencies-internal and external- to evolve a coherent and comprehensive strategic policy for India. Also important to new NSA's agenda would be the challenge of redefining India's Nuclear Doctrine.
The proposed changes in the profile of the NSA are welcome, but a lot will depend the ability of the National Security Council to think in long term strategic interests of the country.
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
BRIC brings together the most unlikely of the countries having very few commonalities; but with much deeper set of differences. Each country of this group is following a different growth strategy and has its own approach towards the world order. Hence it is a bit naïve to expect the BRIC countries in total concert with each other when it comes to deciding the new world order.
Russia is a declining power. Its economy is in shatters- totally dependent on oil and gas supplies. Putin’s efforts to diversify the economy have failed. The Russian army is rusted and Russia is pale shadow of the actual role it seeks for itself. China while being the fastest growing economy, is intricately linked to the US economy. If US economy sinks, China will go down with it. Hence it is China’s interest that US economy not only survives but also booms. Brazil and India while have maintained a growth momentum, still have a long way to go to emerge as makers of the new world order.
On the other side, the G-8 solely cannot revive the world economy. So at present, the world finds itself in a precarious yet interesting situation. Unlike the past, there is no single super-power or alliances of countries that can put the world economy in order and manage it successfully. Every crisis throws up two sets of powers- the one that is/ are declining and the other that is/are emerging and are ready to assume the leadership role.
E.g. USA took over the leadership of world political-economic order with the end of Second World War as UK’s power faded.
But this economic crisis has created a dilemma. The USA is no longer the leader or hegemon (as per the Realist tradition in International Relations); and at the same there is no country or a group of countries that emerge as leaders and decide the norms of the new world order. The current world order or rather disorder is in a state of flux. And this state of flux will continue for a long time to come.
Norms of the new world order:
Any successful world order should be based on principles which are acceptable to its stakeholders. Any differences will erode the efficacy of the order to enforce itself and command obedience.
The post-Second World order was the Bretton Woods order based on the norms agreed by USA and its European allies. This order was a liberal-capitalist multilateral order coupled with an active state performing welfare and regulatory functions. So, while the international trade and economic system was to be based on free-trade and market principles; the domestic economic system of individual countries was centered around a welfare and active state. This arrangement was referred to as embedded liberalism- a term coined by John Ruggie. There was a broad acceptance to this norm. This consensus wad reflected in the various international economic institutions like- the World Bank (WB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF).
But what about the present crisis? Bretton Woods order has nearly crashed, its stakeholders are in deep mess (USA, UK, France, Germany) and its institutions (WB, IMF) are fast losing their credibility. So what should be way out? What should be the architecture of the new political-economic order? The answers to these questions also depend on the future of capitalism. There is no doubt that capitalism as we know it now will change. But it is unlikely that the world will turn towards socialism or any of its past variants.
The nature of the future world order can be found in the causes of the present crisis. The unbridled and unregulated global financial system has led to this present crisis. The banking, insurance and stock markets are the epicenter of this crisis. These sectors are now totally globalized. States have little control over the flow of finances. What are required now are not just national regulatory mechanisms but global regulatory mechanisms and rules. And there is the catch. Getting the countries to agree to global financial regulations will be difficult (the stalemate in WTO, Climate Change is an ample indication of the deep-rooted disagreements).In this context, BRIC seems awfully lacking to set the contours of the new world order. There is no doubt that individually the member countries of BRIC will play a major role in the future world order, but as group it does not have the cohesion that US and Western European countries had managed in post-1945 period.
This post does not intend to undermine the role of BRIC, but it just wants to caution the unrealistic optimism and expectation surrounding BRIC.
Monday, April 6, 2009
Undoubtedly, Afghanistan remains the biggest foreign policy challenge for Obama. He made all the right noises about it just after his elections, and appointing a seasoned troubleshooter- Richard Halbroke as the special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan (or Afpak as the term was devised then) was the first and possibly the last right step in dealing with the Afghanistan problem.
The much-hyped Afpak policy, which was unveiled last week, betrays any sincerity of purpose and lacks creativity. The new policy is based on an extremely faulty understanding of the situation. By stating that there is convergence of USA’s and Pakistan’s interests in Afghanistan, the Americans have began on a wrong track. While for the Americans stabilizing Afghanistan is the main goal; Pakistan still nurses its dream of having a ‘strategic depth’ in Afghanistan. And Pakistan would be fine with having a fundamentalist Islamic regime in Afghanistan. The Americans are either unable to see this divergence or they are choosing to ignore it. In both cases, it is a dangerous thing for
the stability and security of the entire region.
Outsourcing the policy:
The other element of the ‘Afpak’ strategy was the massive 7.5 billion dollars aid that USA will give to Pakistan, and along with the additional military aid in terms of resources and hardware. This clearly, is outsourcing of the Afghanistan policy to Pakistan. It is amazing to see to Pakistani establishment has consistently managed to fool the Americans while dealing with Afghanistan. The Pakistanis are able to extract huge aid without delivering anything concrete. And this time also, Obama with all his tough talk seem to be hoodwinked by the Pakistanis.
The American policy in Afghanistan needs a major overhaul. The first crucial mistake was committed by Bush, when he abandoned the war in Afghanistan to go after Saddam Hussein. This indicated that America was not very serious about stabilizing Afghanistan. The already jittery Hamid Karzai government was weakened further, and it rapidly lost any credibility that it ever enjoyed.
Any policy towards Afghanistan will have to give an important place to political solution. The distinction made by Obama administration between ‘moderate Taliban’ and the ‘extremist Taliban’ is too immature and simplistic. A comprehensive political strategy has to be evolved, and the excessive dependence on Pakistan has to be reduced. As of now, the Americans seem to be merely engaging in semantics, with no serious consideration of the ground realities.
Saturday, January 24, 2009
Regulating Globalisation: Critical Approaches to Global Governance
Pierre de Senarclens and Ali Kazancigli (eds); United Nations University Press, 2007
A vast amount of literature is produced on the issue of Globalisation. But most of it ends up limiting itself to either being a votary of globalisation or takes a critical view of globalisation and argues in favour of the wider category called the ‘anti-globalisation’ movement. The book Regulating Globalisation: Critical Approaches to Globalisation moves beyond this limitation. It undertakes a rigorous theoretical engagement with Globalisation and its interface with the categories of state, citizenship, regionalism, governance and global governance.
At the outset, the title of the book appears paradoxical. How can something as widespread, diffused and free-flowing thing like globalisation be regulated? But the paradox is resolved as we go through the various essays in this book. The book does not question the process of globalisation, it rather sees it as an inevitable phenomenon. Based on this assumption, it argues that the root of globalisation is political. And it is through ‘politics’ that globalisation can be ‘managed’, the inequalities that it creates can be mitigated. This forms the main argument of this book.
The arguments made in this book become all the more relevant in the current financial crisis. When the G20 convened in December to deal with the financial crisis, two diverse views dominated the proceedings. The EU, led by the enthusiastic French President Nicholas Sarkozy, argued for creating global regulatory mechanisms that would help curb irregularities in financial matters (specifically in case of capital movement). The other view was espoused by USA, which was averse to any global regulatory mechanism and wanted national regulators to deal with the financial matters in their respective countries. Between this debate are the core concerns regarding the role of state, the growing importance of non-state actors and rising dominance of private capital. In all this the ‘global’ space is becoming less and less democratic, common citizens are being left out.
This is dealt by Virgile Perret in his essay- ‘Financial Globalisation, “global governance” and the erosion of democracy.’ He argues that ‘global governance’ discourse is used to conceal the erosion of democracy.’ Perret argues that the ‘embedded liberalism’ that emerged after the Second World War slowly gave away to a ‘internationalisation of banking’ fuelled by the 1973 oil shocks. This process was accompanied by ‘disintermediation, securitisation and the rise of private institutional channels of credit.’ Disintermediation refers to the decline of the traditional role of the banks as intermediaries between borrowers and lenders, whereas securitisation broadly describes the process by which financial intermediation has been moving banks to capital markets. Specifically, securitisation refers to transformation of traditional bank assets like mortgages into marketable instruments- this rings the bell of the origin of the current financial mess, the sub-prime crisis in USA. In such cases the role of rating agencies becomes important, and this business is dominated by handful of firms, the main being Moodys and S&P. All this has aided financial globalisation, and this given ‘structural power’ to private bodies argues Perret. States now compete with each other to attract capital and thus get dictated by private capital interest- more so the developing countries. The short term movement of capital undermines the roots of democracy. Moreover, the market forces privilege the already privileged-the elite. Perret makes a forceful and theoretically sound argument to expose the ‘undemocratic’ nature financial globalisation.
The decline and modification of the state as an institution forms an important part of studies on globalisation. The liberal approach to International Relations has even termed state sovereignty as anachronous, challenging the basic realist postulate of primacy of state in world affairs. The growth of NGOs, MNCs, Inter-Governmental Organisations (IGOs) and the overwhelming power of 3 Ms- Market, Money and Media have severely encroached on the jurisdiction of the state. The essay by Kazancigli challenges this view without taking the realist position. He categorises states as regulatory states (prioritising social issues), competitive states (prioritising market forces) and failed states (lacking regulatory and competitive capacities). Kazanciglis argues that states –regulatory and competitive- have retained their internal and external capacities to exercise their sovereignty as they participate in global governance. The capitalist system and subsequent globalisation were driven by the state. The global space now is structured around two spaces- interstate space (ISS) and the transnational public space (TPS), these two spaces share a dynamic relationship.
The ISS comprises of sovereign states-as the principle agents and intergovernmental organisation as dependent agents. The TPS is a newly emerged heterogeneous space comprising of MNCs, NGOs and other bodies of global civil society. This space is characterised by questions of legitimacy, high degree of inequality and issues of representation. Both ISS and TPS work in cooperative and conflictual manner. Kazancigli after thorough analyses of these two spaces argues that multilateralism as developed in post-1945 phase is no longer relevant. He calls for a transformative approach rather than reformist approach to make global governance more effective and democratic. The transformative approach would entail involvement of actors (from ISS and TPS) at various levels- sub-state, state and regional level.
Kazancigli’s suggestions of a transformative approach are based on sound theoretical framework. But seem a bit vague when we seek them to apply. Global Governance is based on three factors – norms, institutions and mechanisms. Norms organise, facilitate, constraint and determine the interaction among the actors. Institutions in global governance work at different levels- from sub-state to regional to global. These include IGOs, NGOs, MNCs, the sovereign states and local networks at the sub-state level. Mechanism refers to how actors interact in accordance with the norms. Kazancigli’s proposition does not dwell about how the ‘transformative approach’ will incorporate these three factors.
Pierre de Senarclens in his essay argues that reforming the United Nations offers the best chance to have democratic and transparent global governance. Most of the suggestions (like expanding the UNSC and better mandated Trusteeship Council) made by Senarclens have already been made by various UN reform committees, notably the reform suggested by Kofi Annan. But he does make some new points, like replacing the G8 negotiations with a new body called Economic and Social Security Council which will have representation on regional basis. The Council would be entrusted with the responsibility of increasing international liquidity, harmonize regional monetary systems, oversee balance of payment difficulties and manage the debt crisis. This recommendation echoes the views expressed at the recent meeting of G20. It is evident that G8 has been effectively challenged by G20, but setting up a Council in place of it would be politically difficult. Nonetheless, the idea of the Council, may be with some modifications is a valuable suggestion in wake of the current financial crisis.
L. Fawcett emphasises the role of regional organisations in evolving an effective structure for global governance. He argues that states tend to favour regional groupings instead of international bodies, as regional organisations provide them more manoeuvring space and also help them exercise better control. International Organisations can become unwieldy at times, paralysing the entire decision making process. Fawcett’s arguments have some validity to them, but regional organisations can end up being impediments to global governance. The constant failure of WTO talks and concurrent rise of regional economic agreements indicates that while states are uncomfortable with international norms and institutions, they are willing to cooperate with other states in a limited framework that regional groupings provide. Thus the path of reaching the goal of effective global governance through regional organisations may be slippery and protracted.
Jean-Marc Coicaud in his essay deals with the tricky of question of can and how can globalisation and its governance be made legitimate. He says that legitimacy requires coherence between norms and agency in global governance. And the criterion for this is human rights. Human rights are seen as benchmarks for good global governance and also as a framework for good policy making. Coicaud performs the crucial task of raising the question of legitimacy of globalisation and global governance. But the criterion he puts forward is bereft with problems. Various strands in liberal school of International Relations Theory have seen human rights as a universal principle and consider it as duty of humanity to safeguard them irrespective of the sovereign state system. Human Rights as a principle have often been viewed with suspicion by the non-Western world. The principle of human rights has often turned into a political tool of convenience.
Overall this collection of essays is one of the most theoretically sound work produced on globalisation. It attempts to bring out the subtle theoretical concerns of domestic-international divide, state-citizens relations, role of civil society and the question of legitimacy all in context of globalisation. This book contains ample material that will stimulate further research and this perhaps is the most important contribution of the book.
 The Commission on Global Governance defines global governance as involving intergovernmental relationships, NGOs, citizens movements, MNCs and the global capital market.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
After the initial euphoria of Obama’s victory had mellowed down, the foreign policy pundits began to analyse the implications of the win. Some Indian experts especially the ardent supporters of the Indo-US Nuclear Deal were sounding grave and extremely pessimistic about India-USA relations under the new President. This pessimism is unfounded. India-USA relations are no determined by individual leaders, though it was so as late as the later part of 1990s. Now India- USA relations are based on strong structural and systemic factors. The rising power of India, the declining eroding of USA, the changing security dynamics in Asia and the need to build a new world prompted Bush administration to engage with India as ‘strategic partner.’ Bush just walked on the path already determined by the changing nature of world politics.
While it is a bit too early to speculate about India-USA relations under Obama, as we still do not know his team in Washington; we still have a fair idea of what to expect and a possible response from India. The following are the areas which represent the new challenges and opportunities for the two nations:
Terrorism: If the nuclear issue was the main bonding factor between India and USA during the Bush administration, terrorism could well be the main area of strategic cooperation. As Obama will take charge on 20th January, he faces two major tasks- the financial crisis and the war against terrorism. He has already indicated that the ongoing war against terrorism will be introspected thoroughly. The focus will now shift from Iraq to Afghanistan. India is involved deeply in the nation- building process in Afghanistan. The attack on Indian embassy has raised stakes and threat perception for India there. Obama administration will need to take India onboard as it drafts a new policy of counter-terrorism in Afghanistan.
Linked to this is the comment made by Obama on Kashmir and the possibility of sending an envoy to resolve the dispute. India must firmly oppose this possibility. It must also the fact over the last few India Pakistan relations have improved and India is playing a responsible role in the region to maintain the security in the subcontinent.
The Nuclear Issue: This was another area of concern cited by the experts. Obama and the Democrats will surely push for conclusion of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and Fissile Material Cut-Off Treat (FMCT). While India is has always opposed the CTBT for its discriminatory nature, India supports the larger agenda of non-proliferation. India must impress upon the new administration in Washington that it is a responsible nuclear power and its recent inclusion in the nuclear order will strengthen the non-proliferation efforts.
The Economic Dimension: This could prove to be the toughest challenge. We have to see Obama’s stand on economic issues in the context of the current recession.
The first issue of concern is outsourcing, Obama has announced during his campaign that he will remove the tax cuts enjoyed by companies that outsource their work, and give those tax incentives to companies creating jobs within USA. The working class and the unions were among the most ardent supporters of Obama, so they would expect some policy curbing outsourcing. But the act is outsourcing is an innovation that makes businesses efficient. It is expected that the US corporate giants like GE, IBM will impress upon Obama on the need not to disincentivise outsourcing.
Out if the total outsourcing business that India gets, 60 per cent comes from USA, hence the concern of Indian IT firms is justified. They are already hit due to the recession and face intense competition from new players like China and Thailand. Indian firms will now have to look at Europe more actively for getting outsourcing business. And other important task would be to move up the technology ladder, i.e. to invest heavily in research and development of new technologies.
The second and related issue is of H1B visas. Here we need not worry much. The US economy is not able to meet its demand for skilled professionals from its own workforce, and it will continue to draw skilled professionals from other countries, with India being a major supplier. But one should expect a slowdown in the demand for Indian professionals basically due to the recession.
The third issue, though not prominently discussed, is that of protectionism. The Democrats are known for their protectionist views. With them occupying a majority of seats in the US Congress, Obama will face intense pressure from his party colleagues. A protectionist USA would does not augur good for the early conclusion of the Doha Round of the WTO talks. Ironically, the recession will prevent Obama from implementing his proposal of hiking the ‘capital gains tax’ (from 15 % to 20 %) on the US corporate companies.
The fourth and the most crucial issue is that of the current global recession. The G-20 meet next week will be embark on the path of building a new international order. Whatever is the shape of the new international order, one thing is clear that it will be decisively shaped by China, India and other emerging countries like Brazil and South Africa. The previous two economic orders Bretton Woods (1945-1975) and Washington Consensus (1975-2007-08) were essentially dictated by USA and the Western European countries. This is the first time that India will be involved in the making of a international order and it must contribute to it utmost seriousness, as it will have high stakes in the in the new order.
Climate Change: Obama’s views on Climate Change and response to it, broadly has three features: he believes in the ‘cap and trade system’, he has also called for a massive push for ‘clean technologies’ and finally he wants China and India to share more responsibility in tackling climate change, specifically in terms of curbs on emissions.
India should be perfectly ok with these three features. India is already a major beneficiary of the cap and trade system. The National Action Plan on Climate Change announced recently by Indian Prime Minister also calls for increasing investments in ‘clean technology.’ And most importantly, it is time that India assumed greater responsibility at the global level in efforts to tackle climate change. But this has to be done in the existing framework of ‘common but differentiated responsibilities.’
India should now stop worrying about how newly elected leaders of other global powers will impact her. Rather the aim should be to create opportunities to assume a responsible role at the international level. This is our first crucial step in our quest to become a global power.