Archive for April 2012
I’ve written a piece for the World Politics Review about the role of strategic forecasting in Indian foreign policy thinking and foreign policy making. It draws on the main works written in India over the past decade or so and assesses their main ideas, quality and utility within policy-making circles. Here are a few first paragraphs on what the main thesis was:
With its rich civilizational history and long tradition of argumentation, India is no stranger to grand strategy. In 300 B.C., Chanakya, better known as Kautilya, the main adviser to King Chandragupta during the Mauryan Dynasty, wrote “The Arthaashastra,” a treatise on statecraft, military strategy and economic policy still referred to by many strategists today.
Yet many foreigners and Indians alike have noted that this tradition of strategic thinking has not found its way into contemporary Indian foreign policy. In 1992, the American analyst George Tanham famously wrote (.pdf) that India had “produced little formal strategic thinking and planning.” Pratab Bhanu Mehta, an influential academic and current head of the Center for Policy Research (CPR) in New Delhi, has noted not only the lack of a “grand strategy” in Indian foreign policy thinking, but also the absence of traditional foreign policy drivers, such as the quest for power. The concept of nonalignment championed by India’s first prime minister, Jawarhal Nehru, which advocated preserving India’s freedom to act by not aligning it to any bloc or alliance, did serve as a guidepost for Indian foreign policy during the Cold War decades of superpower rivalry. However, the end of the Cold War left India without a clear foreign policy strategy for the dramatically changed global order that followed.
That has begun to change over the past decade or so, which has seen a proliferation of high-quality works devoted to Indian foreign policy strategy that provide a window on how India’s strategic thinkers view the world and India’s role in it in the next few decades. In more recent works, there has also been a concerted attempt to either conduct or draw upon rigorous strategic forecasting as part of the analysis and to integrate differing global scenarios into charting India’s future foreign policy strategy. A survey of what is being written and what is being said by Indian officials also suggests that foreign policy thinking by India’s strategic community is in the early stages of being integrated into the making and articulation of actual foreign policy. Though the extent of this congruency is difficult to measure and will probably be more visible only after another decade, these early signs are nonetheless promising.
You can read it on the WPR website here.
In his remarks yesterday before departing to Japan, South Korea, India and Singapore, US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell mentioned the importance Washington placed in encouraging India’s Look East policy, a strategy launched by former Prime Minister Narasimha Rao in 1991 to boost ties with East Asia which has been gaining steam over the last few years. Campbell said:
Part of the U.S. approach to the Asia-Pacific region is a deeper dialogue with India and encouraging India’s “Look East” strategy and so we will be talking about specific initiatives that we will be taking with Delhi to support that effort as part of our Asia-Pacific consultations with them.
Campbell’s comments are in line with what other US officials have been saying recently. In her visit to India in June last year for instance, US secretary of state Hillary Clinton encouraged India “not just to look East, but to engage East and act East”.
I’ve emphasized the importance of India’s Look East Policy and its increasing momentum in several previous pieces, most recently here, but also here and here. There has been and will continue to be a lot of commentary on it this year because 2012 marks two decades of India-ASEAN relations, and both parties are commemorating it with a series of meetings that will end with one in New Delhi later in the year.
Let me just briefly quote a few paragraphs from a recent article I wrote on where I see India’s Look East Policy going with respect to Southeast Asia.
Launched in 1991 by then-Prime Minister Narasimha Rao, India’s “Look East” policy was long regarded by many as lacking in vision and substance. Yet as India and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) prepare to mark two decades of formal relations later this year, there is much to celebrate. Given the recent advances New Delhi has made in its relations with its Southeast Asian neighbors, as well as with ASEAN as an institution, both parties can proudly toast the progress achieved thus far. But they should also use the anniversary as an opportunity to strengthen ties further.
Despite these successes over the past few years, there are still several ways that India and its ASEAN partners can enhance relations even further. While improving commercial relations with Myanmar is an important step, infrastructure development and trade will always be limited unless New Delhi finds a long-term solution to the ethnic insurgencies that plague India’s northeast. Only by addressing that issue will Myanmar emerge as a true gateway for India into Southeast Asia. Much more can also be done to enhance India’s trade with ASEAN nations more generally, which is expected to grow to a modest $70 billion…
WPR articles are often fully available only to subscribers, but you can read parts of it here.
For those who follow US-Southeast Asia relations closely, the recent controversy over the establishment of a joint liberal-arts college in Singapore between Yale University and National University of Singapore has been interesting to watch.
Though Yale trustees signed off on the project a year ago, the campus is set to open in 2013, and faculty members have don’t get a say on whether the initiative goes through or not, some are still lodging ‘symbolic’ protests over the partnership. Earlier this month, Yale University professors voted 100 to 69 to pass a resolution expressing “concern regarding the history of lack of respect for civil and political rights in the state of Singapore”. Prominent journalist Fareed Zakaria, a Yale graduate, recently dismissed such opposition as “parochialism bordering on chauvisism”, while Yale’s own president Richard C. Levin, opposed the move. The faculty’s protest has nonetheless stoked nationalist sentiments among some in Singapore.
In a piece in Today, a Singaporean newspaper, Yale graduate and former NUS professor Michael Montesano offers an interesting take beyond these polarizing perspectives. He attributes the controversy to Yale’s failure to engage a range of stakeholders before undertaking the initiative with NUS and Singapore. The result, in his view, is a crisis that could lead to Yale’s president possibly losing his job. Here are a few paragraphs from his piece:
Yale’s leadership entered into an arrangement with the Government of Singapore and into a partnership with NUS without adequately considering the need to build support for its Singapore adventure among stakeholders at Yale. This has proved a grave mistake.
Yale’s leadership has every formal right to enter into its partnership with NUS. But in disregarding the need to bring other interested parties at Yale along, it has nevertheless pitched the university into a deep crisis of governance and imperilled Yale’s ability to be a reliable partner for Singapore over the long run.
In the weeks ahead, as media attention to these errors leads Yale alumni to understand the magnitude of the commitments to Singapore that the university has made with so little explanation, this crisis may well grow even more serious. Already, some Yale alumni are sharing with one another the thought that his mishandling of the NUS tie-up should cost Yale’s president his job. This outcome would only further undercut Yale’s ability to serve as a reliable partner for Singapore.
I’d encourage those interested to read the full piece here.