South Asia

What to Expect from U.S.-India Relations in 2016

U.S.-India ties are heading in the right direction, finds India’s Former Foreign Secretary Kanwal Sibal, but much work lies ahead to make the relationship a “defining one” in the 21st century.

India-U.S. ties have been transformed in recent years, best exemplified with the newly declared global strategic partnership between the two countries. Yet, what is the reality of the partnership in terms of achievements on the ground? And, what could be future expectations?

For starters, the Pakistan policy towards the U.S. remains a problematic issue. The objective of the two countries to advance regional security together is impeded by the continuation of U.S. military aid to Pakistan. This is done through presidential waivers to overcome the provisions of the Kerry-Lugar legislation, which require Pakistan to act verifiably against terrorist groups on its soil before U.S. aid can be released.

Furthermore, the U.S. does not consider the Taliban as a terrorist organization. The U.S. is, in reality, engaged in an effort to accommodate the Taliban politically in Afghanistan in a Pakistan-brokered deal, which is a risk to India’s security. It is thus difficult to see how, in these circumstances, the counter-terrorism partnership between India and the U.S. can be a defining one for the 21st century.

U.S. President Barack Obama’s affirmation in 2010 that “the United States looks forward to a reformed UN Security Council that includes India as a permanent member” was viewed as a major evolution in the U.S. position. Yet up to now, the U.S. has not clearly defined its position on the expansion of the United Nations Security Council, due to the fact that U.S. openness to India’s hope for permanent membership on the council remains at a declaratory stage.

Similarly, while past joint U.S.-India statements have repeatedly spoken about India’s membership in the four export control regimes, and, India has been declared ready for Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) as well as Nuclear Supplier Group (NSG) membership, so far no tangible progress has occurred. Breakthrough understandings at the governmental level on national tracking and liability issues have removed political roadblocks in the way of civilian nuclear cooperation.

However it is now for the U.S. companies to take a call, as the larger question of the commercial viability of U.S. supplied nuclear reactors remains. With India ratifying the Convention on Supplementary Compensation, an international nuclear liability regime governed by the International Atomic Energy Agency, it appears that the decks have been cleared for progress within a year on the project to supply six Westinghouse nuclear reactors to India. Nevertheless General Electric, another supplier, continues to hold out. Without a strong U.S. leadership role, progress is unlikely to happen early.

In the past, the U.S. had virtually no defense ties with India. Today, apart from a renewed Defense Framework Agreement, the U.S. has become a large supplier of defense equipment to India, and even the biggest in the last few years, with contracts worth almost $13 billion. In addition, the largest number Indian joint military exercises are with the United States.

Robust language has appeared in joint India-U.S. statements in 2013, 2014 and 2015 on defense cooperation. However, so far, less than expected progress has been made in the area of defense manufacturing under the so-called Defense Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI). During President Obama’s visit to India, four “pathfinder” projects under the DTTI rubric involving relatively minor technologies were announced. Contacts between the two sides under this U.S. initiative continue.  Two other projects of note, one on aircraft carrier technology and the other on jet engine technology, are also under discussion.

U.S.-China tensions are growing, and, India too has longstanding disputes with China. The 2015 U.S.-India Joint Strategic Vision for the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean Region specifically addresses maritime territorial disputes involving China and, among other things, affirmed the importance of safeguarding maritime security and ensuring freedom of navigation and freedom of the air throughout the region, especially in the South China Sea.

U.S. trade and financial relations with China are vast; India too seeks stable and economically productive ties with China. India has the difficult task ahead of managing the China threat by both engaging closely with the United States and reaching out to China. At the same time, the credibility of the U.S. rebalance to Asia and the Pacific is yet to be tested.

As part of closer India-U.S. understandings on the Indo-Pacific region, India and the United States have decided to include Japan in the bilateral India-U.S. Malabar naval exercises. The trilateral India-U.S.-Japan political dialogue has also been raised from the official to Ministerial level.

However, India’s problems with China are principally related to ongoing border disputes arising from a boundary disagreement and Beijing’s deepening relationship with Islamabad. In both cases, India cannot count on the United State to take a position supportive of India. This points to the limits of the strategic partnership as such a partnership falls short of supporting India’s territorial sovereignty.

When it comes to deepening bilateral economic relations between the two countries, progress has been mixed. For one thing, U.S. businesses remain reluctant to invest in India because of their beliefs that the Indian government has not yet delivered on promises to ease doing business in India including taxation issues, and implement general economic reforms in the country.

Nevertheless, the IT sector has brought the knowledge economies of India and the United States closer together and it constitutes the strongest link Washington has with the drivers of India’s modernization and innovation. However, the United States is unfortunately targeting this sector with higher visa costs and increased restrictions.

What is the way forward when it comes to bilateral economic relations?

Among other things, the India-U.S. collaborative economic agenda should include co-production and co-development of defense products under the Make in India program, coal gasification technologies, and the issuance of a non-FTA country waiver in order for India to gain access to U.S. fossil fuel reserves.

The bilateral economic agenda should also extend to partnerships in the area of agricultural technology, the civil aviation sector, life sciences, infrastructure financing, and green financing, among others. Bilateral dialogues should also address visa issues in the IT/ITES (i.e. outsourcing services) sectors, focus on exporting synergies in the biotech and pharmaceutical sectors, and find means to support university and other skill development exchanges.

The India-U.S. relationship is being increasingly consolidated. However, like in any such relationship--especially between the world's foremost political, military, economic and technological power and a large developing country advanced in certain sectors of the knowledge economy, but beset with serious problems of poverty as well as at unequal stages of development internally-- differences are normal.

Much work lies ahead to make the India-U.S. relationship a “defining one” in the 21st century, but we are headed in the right direction.

To read this article on The Diplomat, click here



Anticipating China’s One-Belt One-Road in South Asia

EWI's CEO and President Cameron Munter discusses the potential for Chinese President Xi's One-Belt-One-Road project and its possible failure in this piece for EWI's new Policy Innovation blog. 

If general impressions are to be believed, Chinese President Xi’s One-Belt-One-Road project—at least as it plays out in Pakistan and its neighborhood—is either a major step toward Chinese projection of power outside its borders, or an example of the importance of domestic constituencies in Chinese foreign policy. The first camp believes that the hesitancy and inherent conservatism of China is finally giving way to a more muscular and confident role, and that Chinese claims that its investment in infrastructure to its west and south is “win-win” for everyone is actually cover for a new manifestation of its global role. The latter believes that the foreign implications of the plan are secondary to the real issue on the Chinese leadership’s mind: the domestic Chinese economic transformation that will see cheap labor producing mass exports replaced by higher value-added production that depends on technological savvy and education.

On the other end of the One-Belt-One-Road project, in Pakistan for example, there is the prospect of an opening of an economy long stagnant, unleashing Pakistan’s potential in its labor force, accessibility of goods, and role in international trade. That, of course, is what the government of Prime Minister Sharif states, expecting that the 48 billion dollars expected to pour into infrastructure projects in Khyber Pakhtunkwa and Balochistan will transform the country, alleviating much of the poverty that has been increased by the violence and insecurity of recent decades. But it could in fact do no such thing.  The economy of Pakistan has become more autarkic over time, as political elites defend their roles in traditional sectors like agriculture, textiles, and basic manufacturing, resisting the changes that have brought neighboring areas like Southeast Asia in to the world economy. Some suspect that the 48 billion, if steered toward political favorites and distributed in a non-transparent way, will simply reinforce the calcified system that favors traditional elites over innovation and flexibility.

Therefore, it’s worth watching how the One-Belt-One-Road initiative is implemented. If the Chinese administer it with an eye toward domestic constituencies, making sure that projects in places like Pakistan serve the needs of Chinese steel, cement, and construction industries, then the claims of a “win-win” system for its neighbors will ring hollow: it will be more an exercise in patronage than in gaining influence, and the focus on partners outside China will be more on what’s advantageous for key sectors of a faltering economy at home rather than what builds the basis for strong cooperation abroad for years to come.  

Similarly, if the way the Pakistanis administer their end of the cooperative projects amounts to making sure that the friends of people in power gain access to contracts whether or not they produce the best results or have the best ideas, the One-Belt One-Road will do more to keep things as they are in Pakistan than to serve as the agent of true development that pushes the country into the 21st century and allows it to reach its potential in the world economy. If the partnership engages in high-visibility but low-impact infrastructure projects that many believe are more monuments to vanity than development achievements, it will not bring the kind of change that will have a fundamental impact on Pakistan. If the Chinese, following traditions of non-interference in the affairs of neighbors, don’t demand the transparency and oversight that investments of this sort demand, the impact on both countries will certainly be less than hoped and, at worst, increase the sense of illegitimacy and waste that bother the leadership of both countries so much.

In other words, the One-Belt-One-Road initiative, as it’s conceived between China and Pakistan, has the potential to have significant impact on both countries, burnishing China’s credentials as a subtle and generous partner to its neighbors and contributing to the much-needed transformation of the Pakistani economy from what some still call a feudal system. But if the interests of domestic constituencies in both countries override these broad goals, and the investment by the Chinese in the road and rails and ports from Baltistan to Gwadar turns out to be an exercise in spreading wealth to powerful friends, then today’s problems in both countries could instead get worse.  

If, as the Chinese and Pakistanis claim, the One-Belt-One-Road investment will not be limited to bilateral aid but in fact welcomes outside investors as well, the best way to draw in those investors would be to ensure transparency and strategic coherence in planning. Other investors, thus confident of the mission, could be the greatest validators of what could then turn out to be a significant contribution to prosperity in the region.

To read this article on The Diplomat, click here



India-Japan Relationship Enters New Phase

EWI Board Member Amb. Kanwal Sibal discusses Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit to India from December 11 to 13 and the potential for closer Japanese-Indian relations in this piece for BusinessWorld

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit to India from December 11 to 13 has reinforced the India-Japan relationship in its economic and strategic dimensions. The most important strategic outcome of Abe's visit was the nuclear agreement signed by Prime Minister Modi and Abe. It will be formalised after the completion of some legal and technical procedures on the Japanese side, which will be timed according to Japan's parliamentary agenda.

The Joint Strategic Vision for Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean regions signed with the US when Obama was chief guest at our R-Day celebrations in 2015 visualises Japan as a partner. During Abe's visit we have underscored more robustly than ever that peace, stability and development in the Indo-Pacific region are indispensable to our national security and prosperity, and that close cooperation between Japan and India is the key to achieving peace and stability in the region. With China's challenge in the East and South China Seas in mind, Modi and Abe have underscored the importance of international law including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and peaceful resolution of disputes without use or threat of use of force; freedom of navigation and overflight and unimpeded lawful commerce in international waters. Noting the critical importance of the sea lanes of communications in the South China Sea for regional energy security and trade and commerce, the two Prime Ministers have called upon all States to avoid unilateral actions that could lead to tensions in the region, which is a message to China.

Increased strategic understandings between India and Japan must have a stronger defence ties as a component. While no decision was announced on the US-2 amphibian aircraft, we have signed two defence related agreements during Abe's visit, one on Transfer of Defence Equipment and Technology and the other on Security Measures for the Protection of Classified Military Information. These foundational agreements open doors for a defence partnership. Even if actual defence co-development and co-production is not for tomorrow, the fact that these agreements have been signed shows how far Japan has travelled in its defence outlook, especially with India.

Other steps taken on the defence front with Japan is a decision on Japan's regular participation in the India-US Malabar exercises in order to "help create stronger capabilities to deal with maritime challenges in the Indo-Pacific region". The joint statement mentions the full utilisation of '2+2 Dialogue'( the Foreign and Defence Ministries together on both sides), Defence Policy Dialogue, Military-to-Military Talks, Coast Guard to Coast Guard cooperation and Air-Force to Air Force talks.

Complementing the decisions on defence, a trilateral Japan-India-US dialogue at Foreign Ministers level in September this year and the inaugural Japan-India-Australia dialogue at secretary-evel too took place. This presages a reconstitution of the Quad arrangements comprising of US, Japan, Australia and India at some point in the future. Both these are being projected as part of a stable security architecture in the Indo-Pacific region. Australia, significantly, is eager to join the Malabar exercises.

The joint statement mentions potential in areas of infrastructure, manufacturing and high technology, including advanced transportation systems, civil nuclear energy, solar power generation, space, biotechnology, rare earths and advanced materials. Both sides are seeking a synergy between India's "Act East" policy and Japan's "Partnership for Quality Infrastructure", that could help develop connectivity within India and between India and other countries in the region. The Memorandum of Cooperation on the hi-speed rail system (the Shinkansen system) on the Mumbai-Ahmedabad route and the highly concessional yen loan Japan has offered is path-breaking. The ODA figure for FY 2015 would be 400 billion yen, the highest ever accorded to India.

A $12 billion facility to support Japanese companies investing in India has been announced. India should become the plus one in Japan's China plus one economic strategy. In our briefings we have mentioned that the two sides are looking at 13 big infrastructure projects, including the Western Dedicated Freight Corridor, the Ahmedabad Metro Project, the modernization of ship recycling yards in Gujarat, the Mumbai trans-harbour link, the peripheral ring road around Bengaluru, the Chennai Metro project, the Tuticorin outer harbour project, Ganga rejuvenation, and road connectivity projects in the North-East. These projects will implement the commitment made by Abe during his visit last year to invest US $ 35 billion over the next five years in India. Abe has appreciated creation of a "Core Group" chaired by Cabinet Secretary to ensure that investments from Japan as envisaged in India-Japan Investment Promotion Partnership are facilitated. At the multilateral level, Japan has expressed support for our membership of APEC.

There is an understanding that 10,000 Indians would be visiting Japan as students and as trainees in various capacities in the next five years. There are some question marks about how this system of internship is actually being implemented in Japan and therefore should be looked into so that the programme meets our needs. India has decided that Japanese visitors in all categories could avail of a visa on arrival from March, 2016, the first country to be offered this arrangement. Japan needs to reciprocate by making visa delivery easier for Indian visa-seekers, which is not the case so far.

The India-Japan relationship has begun to discover its full potential.

To read this piece on BusinessWorld, click here

Afghanistan in 2016: Ashraf Ghani's Case for Cautious Optimism

EWI Distinguished Fellow James L. Creighton and Amb. Martin Fleischer, vice president and director of the Regional Security Program, discuss the challenges Afghan leaders will face implementing recent long-term growth strategies in this piece for The Diplomat.  

In 2015, the Taliban made gains in Afghanistan–a not quite unforeseeable chain of events–but less expected were gains made by the Islamic State. In addition, in 2015 tthe economic consequences of coalition forces’ withdrawal began to be felt. However, there is an astounding optimism within the Afghan leadership. Is this optimism justified?

News from Afghanistan remains pessimistic. The litany of challenges facing the country has mounted as the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) fought through a tough fighting season. Despite these daunting challenges, President Ashraf Ghani maintains a positive vision of Afghanistan in the future. This might seem counter intuitive but there are opportunities for Afghanistan to engage regionally, in order to capitalize on the progress made in the last 13 years and take advantage of both the resources left behind by the coalition expansion and the natural resources that are readily available in the near term. Focusing on what can be done while working toward more aggressive objectives may be a way to keep Afghanistan slowly on a positive path.

The withdrawal of coalition forces left ANSF leaders with fewer critical combat systems they had come to rely on, such as close air support, medical support and coalition intelligence systems. The Army performance on the defense has been spotty at best. However, as the loss and subsequent retaking of Kunduz demonstrates, when they turn to the offense, they have been much more successful. The police force has been severely tested in Kabul and more recently in Kandahar. While the ability of the Taliban to attack in large cities has created a bunker type mentality where leaders and foreign representatives stay largely behind “Texas Wall” compounds, the Afghan National Police have been able to respond in good order to restore the peace.

The ANSF has a long way to go in order to be a completely effective fighting force, however; they have been good enough to keep the Taliban and emergent Daesh (Islamic State) threat at bay in the major cities and much of the rural areas.

The attacks from the Taliban have not been as successful as they could have been. This might be due partially to the announcement of their long-time leader, Mullah Omar’s death which has caused in-fighting and jockeying for leadership in the organization. However, the attacks that have occurred – or more exactly the political signal launched by these – were strong enough to have given rise to an increase in capital flight and a brain drain. Obviously, the reduction of these vital ingredients of growth diminishes the potential for economic growth and recovery.

Unchecked expansion of the drug trade continues to fund Taliban activity, destroys local communities and hinders trust building efforts with neighboring countries. The long term impacts of poppy cultivation on national health, education and social fabric stand in the way of long term legitimate economic growth.

Afghanistan’s allies and neighbors have committed to a strong Afghanistan in words often not followed by deeds. Pakistan showed positive inclinations toward full support in April 2015 but by September 2015 the warming of cooperation had turned cold due to continued mistrust and accusations of support to insurgents on both sides. While Pakistan fights a fierce war against its “own” Taliban it still falls short of adopting a more decisive stance against the Afghan Taliban who find shelter on Pakistani soil. Also Iran is determined to have a stable Afghanistan as a neighbor but is accused of hedging its strategy by supporting both the Ghani government and Taliban leaders in the north and west of Afghanistan. Central Asian countries desire a peaceful southern neighbor but have not committed the resources for investing in Afghanistan and, what is worse, refuse to recognize that countering Islamic extremism requires cross-border cooperation. Conflicting signals come from China: Though, at Ghani’s foreign visit to Beijing November 2014, a  “long-term partnership” was declared, the latest version of President Xi Jinping’s new silk road vision (“One Belt, One Road”) bypasses Afghanistan in the North (and uses Pakistan mainly as corridor to the sea).

The United States and its allies committed to another year of military support but only after long negotiations and so far only for one year. The fits and starts of limited U.S. and NATO commitment undermines President Ghani’s ability to project near-term confidence and long-term vision. A region not fully committed to Afghan prosperity combined with unreliable outside support, is unlikely to become a catalyst for rapid development.

The same holds true for the slow domestic process and the lack of good governance. The cabinet ministers have taken over a year to be confirmed while the parliamentary elections have faced numerous delays. The inability to establish confirmed government leaders quickly has prevented progressive policies from being created and implemented. The immediate challenge was to create a politically and tribally balanced through coordination between the President and the Chief Executive Officer, Abdullah Abdullah, in order to strengthen he unity government while addressing, head on, corruption at all levels. The government is now moving more rapidly to congeal and has appointed some new, young, educated and energetic professionals to begin the process of improving the efficiencies in many of the most important ministries.

As a result, the Afghan government has to fight near-term internal battles and external ones with the Taliban and now Daesh, and to struggle with sustaining support from its neighbors and allies at the same time. Yet, even with a multitude of daunting challenges, President Ghani keeps his eyes on a positive long-term future for Afghanistan. He asserts that a regional economic growth strategy is vital to long-term prosperity. The president emphasizes the need to capitalize on what exists in terms of infrastructure, resources and a more educated youth capacity.

The Afghan government is seeking inventive ways to raise capital in order to fund critical projects already planned and accepted.  Reforming land ownership laws and policies required to secure collateral for loans.  Improving banking laws and trust and confidence in the banking system and improve savings and loan potential.  Renegotiating existent contracts so that they are compatible with local market standards has freed up capital for other projects and enabled more efficient project completion.  The government is working to slow capital flight by improving the investment climate.  There is an effort to explore public private partnerships to help companies realize a profit for major infrastructure requirements. These actions all represent a recognition that capital is needed to realize project completion.  The coalition’s draw down and diminishing foreign investment support has amplified this effort.

Afghanistan recognizes that it does not have the capacity to grow by itself. Regional cooperation and allied support is vital long term success. The government has adapted a policy of taking advantage of opportunities that can be quickly realized while continuing to work on building trust and overcoming historical obstacles. Taking advantage of recent frequent government outreach to Turkmenistan and Tajikistan, there has been progress made on implementing both the TAPI pipeline and CASA-1000 from their northern originating points while continuing to work toward overcoming implementation obstacles with Pakistan. To account for continuing challenges with improving trade and transit through Pakistan to Karachi, Afghanistan as dramatically increased the flow of goods through Iran and Turkmenistan. Membership in the World Trade Organization and other regional and global organizations will help improve confidence in Afghanistan’s ability to become a viable economic partner.

Recognition of existing infrastructure, resources and capacity will help to create near term opportunities for growth. The thousands of miles of roads built over the last 13 years, while not perfect, provide the basic network needed to utilize the thousands of trucks left idle by coalition departure. Likewise, the airfields, construction capacity, cement plants, and hard infrastructure left behind offer opportunity for entrepreneurs. Combined with the vast oil, gas and mineral reserves, Afghanistan is primed for near term successes if security concerns can be reduced and the government can create a more efficient business environment.

The art of leadership is built on the ability to resolve near-term challenges while remaining focused on the long-term goals and objectives. President Ghani clearly articulated a strategy to achieving long term growth while addressing the many near term obstacles in his path. The vision of a better solution with an effective government that capitalizes on economic opportunities while earning the trust of the population establishes a reasonable goal. The actions related to improving governance, education, regional cooperation and trust, and taking advantage of those readily available resources define the ways in which this vision can be achieved in the mid and long term. The means associated with residual coalition capacity, natural and human resources, and a dedicated search for capital are understood if not readily available.

It remains to be seen if President Ghani can solidify this strategy and galvanize his people and the regional and international community behind it.  Does he have the power to communicate his vision and strategy internally to the many tribal, religious and political constituencies as well as the international community. He has taken much of the burden on himself. It is unclear whether his government has the capacity or will to effectively take this burden from him and move forward toward his vision. The regional animosities remain a stumbling block that hinders both bilateral and multi-lateral cooperation needed to achieve Afghanistan’s ultimate goals. Afghanistan’s ultimate prosperity will be tied to President Ghani’s strategy, the question is whether or not he can build the momentum necessary to implement his vision, and also whether the international community will uphold its support at this crucial juncture.


To read this article at The Diplomat, click here

Japan Embraces India as China Looms

In an article for Al Jazeera America, EWI Fellow Jonathan Miller discusses the recent advancements in Japan-India relations and how they may impact the regional balance of power.

Last week Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe concluded a visit to India with an armful of key agreements and a solidification of Tokyo’s rapidly maturing relationship with New Delhi. During the summit, Abe and his Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi, agreed to a “special strategic and global partnership” premised on closer cooperation, economically and through stronger bonds on defense and security.

Japan’s approach to Asia — especially its relationship with India — has been reinforced by Abe’s hard line against Chinese assertiveness and his desire to tap into India’s rich investment opportunities. Ties with India have also blossomed because of the amicable personal relationship between Abe and Modi, who knew each other for years before taking their current positions.

The China-Japan relationship, despite some recent signs of improvement, has been toxic for the past several years as a result of the two countries’ territorial dispute in the East China Sea. Amplifying these tensions are Tokyo’s concerns about Beijing’s defense posture, cyberattacks and military modernization, especially in the maritime domain. India also has a complicated relationship with China and remains wary of its territorial claims in their disputed border region. Additionally, India is concerned with the growing security relationship between its traditional regional rival, Pakistan, and China.

There were three key takeaways from the recent Abe-Modi meeting, each of which will continue to shape the region’s geopolitical landscape. First, Japan won a lucrative $12 billion contract to help India build its first high-speed rail project. The massive investment deal will link Mumbai to Ahmedabad through the construction of a Japanese-style bullet train. The infusion of Japan’s high-speed rail technology has the potential to be an enormous boon for India’s transportation sector. Moreover, the pact follows up on Japan’s multibillion-dollar deal to help build Delhi’s new mass rapid transit system.

The high-speed train deal is also significant because it follows Japan’s failed bid to provide similar technological assistance to Indonesia, losing out to China, which made the winning bid to construct the Jakarta-Bandung high-speed rail line. Securing the rail deal with India has allowed Japan to recoup some of its losses and refocus its energies on the Indian transportation market.

Second, the two countries enjoy a budding relationship in the transfer of civilian nuclear energy and related technologies. After years of painstaking negotiations, both sides agreed to work toward completing their long-standing discussions on enhancing civilian nuclear cooperation. Japan’s strong nuclear nonproliferation commitments and principles collided with the notion of open nuclear trade with India, a state that remains outside the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Tokyo’s decision to relent and agree to a cooperation deal with New Delhi is a significant shift that provides benefits to both sides. Japan can profit through the sale of its nuclear technology to a booming market in India, and India benefits from Japan’s high level of expertise in the field and from its de facto recognition of India as a nuclear state.

Third, the two countries will step up security and defense relations. Earlier this year, Abe and Modi agreed to the establishment of regular national security consultations and the possibility of greater cooperation in the trade of defense materials. Symbolizing this increased security cooperation was India’s decision to invite Japan to take part as a regular member in the annual Malabar naval drills alongside the United States.

The two governments inked two key agreements concerning the transfer of defense equipment and technology and security measures for the protection of classified military information to allow for greater cooperation and facilitate greater intelligence and military information sharing. The growth in security relations between New Delhi and Tokyo has re-energized attempts to have a more meaningful trilateral relationship with the U.S. The three governments held their first trilateral foreign ministers’ meeting earlier this year on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

Tokyo’s approach to South Asia is critical, as it helps round out Abe’s strategy of reinvigorating ties with states on China’s periphery in order to bolster partnerships and balance Beijing’s influence. Japan has made significant inroads with other states in the region that traditionally have been more aligned with Chinese interests, such as Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal and the Maldives.

But Japan’s growing relationship with the region remains rooted in its ties with India. By building stronger economic and defense ties, the New Delhi–Tokyo partnership is demonstrating the potential for significant cooperation between two key players in Asia. The next step will be to ensure that the two sides live up to their commitments and navigate their way to a common strategic vision.


To read this article on Al Jazeera America, click here.

Afghanistan Reconnected - Advocacy and Outreach Mission to Afghanistan

Working Together to Unlock Regional Trade

An international high-level expert delegation, led by the EastWest Institute (EWI), discussed with representatives of the Ghani administration the regional economic growth proposals developed over three years of the Afghanistan Reconnected Process. The delegation’s visit to Kabul allowed it not only to advocate and update recommendations to unlock regional trade developed during previous years, but also to share the findings of the Missions to Pakistan, India and Tajikistan carried out by the institute over the course of 2015.

Download the report here.

The Heart of Asia

The Fifth “Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process” Summit jointly inaugurated by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Dec 9 in Islamabad counts as a major foreign policy success. 

Given the present situation in the Middle East and the connected problems in adjoining regions, this timely initiative to bring focus firmly on Afghanistan was badly needed. Efforts to revive the stalled Afghan peace talks between the Afghan govt and Taliban group must be encouraged.  

Seven foreign ministers are participants, including all the four neighbouring countries of Pakistan.  Visiting Islamabad for the second time this year, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, by Afghanistan’s Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani and unusually upbeat on arrival, India’s Minister for External Affairs Ms Sushma Swaraj with Iran’s Foreign Minister Jawad Zarif making his third visit in about four months.  High-ranking delegations from 14 participating countries, 17 supporting countries and 12 international and regional organisations included the former US Ambassador to Pakistan Richard Olson (now US Representative to Pakistan and Afghanistan), with senior representatives coming from Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Turkey, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and the UAE. 

An Afghanistan and Turkey joint initiative, the “Istanbul Process” provides a fresh agenda for regional cooperation by engaging the ‘Heart of Asia’ countries in sincere and result-oriented cooperation to secure a peaceful, stable and prosperous Afghanistan.  Political initiatives between land-locked Afghanistan and its near and extended neighbours will include a continuous and effective dialogue concerning all issues of common interest and importance. “Confidence Building Measures” (CBMs)  identified in the “Istanbul Process” document enhances the building of trust and confidence among the regional countries.  Existing regional organisations have an important role in strengthening and promoting of economic cooperation and integration, improved security and enhanced people-to-people relations. Not a substitute for existing efforts, this process complements the work of regional organisations, particularly relating to Afghanistan.

Following his inauguration, Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani had made a courageous outreach to Pakistan, this included a historic visit to Pakistan’s GHQ.  Hopes were raised very high, to quote my article of Nov 20, 2014, “The Making of History”, “Throwing aside diplomatic norms, the Afghanistan’s President visited GHQ immediately after landing at Islamabad. A foreign Head of State heading straight towards a military HQ on arrival carries a lot more than ceremonial importance, the Afghan President means business because he well understands where the real power concerning national security rests. Subsequently Ashraf Ghani described his discussions the next day with the Pakistani PM as “a shared vision to serve as the heart of Asia, ensuring economic integration by enhancing connectivity between South and Central Asia through energy, gas and oil pipelines becoming a reality and not remaining a dream. The narrative for the future must include the most neglected of our people becoming stakeholders in a prosperous economy in stable and peaceful countries, our faiths are linked because terror knows no boundaries. We have overcome obstacles of 13 years in three days, we will not permit the past to destroy the future,” unquote. 

The past came to haunt us when the last minute news of the death of Mullah Omar, the former spiritual head of the Taliban, was deliberately leaked, motivated by “spoilers” to not only derail the talks but raise serious doubts about Pakistan’s intentions.  With this huge setback the talks failed and Kabul witnessed several major terrorist attacks, forcing Ashraf Ghani to backtrack on his peace initiative, deciding to only resume talks when Pakistan was ready to talk “honestly” about peace in Afghanistan.  This week’s conference is a real opportunity for the two countries to work out their differences and negotiate a settlement. To quote former Afghan govt official (and now Consultant) Habib Wayand, “This Conference is a chance to out-flank the “spoilers” on both sides and produce a far-sighted vision for the region, producing strategies for achieving lasting peace and prosperity.” For its part Afghanistan needs to avoid pursuing irresponsible and irrational anti-Pakistan agendas, blaming Pakistan for every terrorist incident.  Kabul needs to concentrate on job-creation to prevent the exodus of young Afghans from the country and/or their being recruited by insurgent groups.

Peace in Afghanistan will create opportunities for greater economic links between Central Asia and South Asia.  Afghanistan has been conducting its foreign trade largely through Pakistan and could facilitate Pakistan for its trade with Central Asia and, more importantly, for bringing electricity and gas from Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan into South Asia. To quote my article of Dec 12, 2014 a year ago, “Reconnecting Afghanistan”, “Economic resurgence for land-locked countries requires facilitating trade to and through their territory.  The EastWest Institute (EWI), a New York-based leading US think tank, headed by Ross Perot Jr, initiated the “Abu Dhabi Process” — a cross-border trade dialogue co-funded by Abu Dhabi and Germany — between Afghanistan and the countries on its periphery. Hosted by the EWI, the recent Istanbul conference encouraged businesses in South and Central Asia to themselves take necessary initiatives to unlock trade and kick-start the war-ravaged Afghan economy.” 

Welcoming Ms Sushma Swaraj to Islamabad, Advisor to the PM Sartaj Aziz said that beyond the confines of the Conference itself, bi-lateral discussions between India and Pakistan focussed on resumption of composite dialogue between the two countries but included various matters.  He had earlier said, “The visit is part of efforts to restart peace dialogue plagued by militant attacks and distrust. This is a good beginning. The deadlock has eased to some extent.” Modi’s Govt seems set on a “course correction”, maybe PCB Chairman Shahryar Khan will not have to bend on his knees begging India anymore for resumption of cricket ties.

For Pakistan it was important to showcase the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), an economic force-multiplier for peace and stability in the region.  With its vast pool of skilled manpower to go with its enormous raw material reserves, this country has the potential of becoming one of the most powerful economic engines in the region.

Whether it is Paris, Mali, San Bernardino, Yemen, Libya or the Iraq/Syria virtual cauldron, the world is in a state close to undeclared world war where borders are of least (or even no) consequence given the rise of the “Islamic State” in the areas adjacent to Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey (with Kurdistan, a State that is not a State thrown in).  Every small step to contain such destructive and brutal forces is a giant step towards peace and stability in the world.  The “Heart of Asia” initiative is an appropriate epitaph for our brave soldiers who have selflessly shed blood giving the ultimate sacrifice securing Pakistan and making it peaceful.


Click here to read Ikram Sehgal's article "Reconnecting Afghanistan".

Click here to read EWI's report on "Afghanistan Reconnected: Advocacy and Outreach Mission to Tajikistan".

India-U.S. Cyber Crime Cooperation Features EWI Efforts

EWI's Cyber Initiative Promotes Success in International Cyber Crime Investigations

On December 7, India’s Economic Times's reported on cooperation between India’s Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the U.S. FBI. The article, "CBI & FBI join hands to reduce time required to fulfil requests on information and evidence," analyzes the sources of delay in the mutual legal assistance process that takes place when crime crosses borders.

As I told the Times, "On the Indian side, two issues sometimes cause delay. First, the request needs to come from the central authority in New Delhi - not from a state police official. Second, the details of the request are rather technical, and sometimes not all the information is provided in the correct manner. On the U.S. side, the process is also quite complicated."

To help address these sources of delay, the EWI breakthrough group on Modernizing International Procedures against Cyber-enabled Crimes is working with national and international law enforcement agencies and with private companies. The group’s most recent report, Convicting More Cyber Criminals, recommends key steps governments and companies can take to improve the rate of cyber crime convictions worldwide.

EWI supports the India-U.S. cooperation and looks forward to similar initiatives in many other countries. 


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