Archive for February, 2013

India-European Union FTA Agreement

Wednesday, February 27th, 2013

India and the European Union may be reaching a conclusion on their six year long negotiations on a free trade agreement—the Bilateral Trade and Investment Agreement. India and the European Union have been negotiating a free trade agreement since June 2007. The agreement has been stalled over disagreements on duties on automobiles and wines, as well as political will.

In April, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and German Chancellor Angela Merkel will be meeting in Berline to try to come to an agreement on the duties and move forward with a free trade agreement . Political will be more difficult to achieve but is not insurmountable!

This meeting may be coming at a perfect time given that economic growth in India is set to slow down. In particular, growth was slower the last few years than predicted and ratings agencies are threatening to downgrade the country’s investment rating. There is also fear that the slow growth of India’s economy will drive away much needed investment- this would leave the Indian’s economy in an even worse economic situation and would run contrary to India’s goal of greater economic cooperation.

I think that a free trade agreement will be beneficial for India for two reasons. First, I think that the agreement will help to strengthen ties with the European Union. This economic agreement could spill over to broader cooperation on international issues. Second, I think the agreement will help to strengthen India’s economy. The agreement would open India up to new investment.



Iranian Speaker in India to explore communication links

Monday, February 25th, 2013

Senior leader and speaker of the Iranian parliament, Ali Larijani came to India for a four-day visit to discuss the future of India-Iran relations. The article mentioned that Tehran is looking to connect with its neighborhood and to establish stronger links between its neighbors. From the four day visit the most important meeting will be with National Security adviser Shivshankar Menon that will take place on Thursday (February 28).

In the meeting, they will discuss future payments that will be made by India for oil imported from Iran. They will also discuss the communication links between the two countries and Afghanistan and the new pipelines. The future of Iran-Indian-Afghan relation will depend on the P5+1 (Five permanent UNSC members + Germany) that will take place in Kazakhstan prior Larijani’s meeting with Menon.

The P5+1 meeting will discuss Iran’s nuclear program and their demands (the right to enrich uranium, removal of sanctions not authorized by the UN, and the West refraining from making threatening statements) and the West demands (Iran to stop its uranium enrichment, and the purchase of these materials from abroad).

The P5+1 meeting will put India in a difficult position as it will be forced to side with Iran or the west. In this particular situation, India is most likely to side with Iran for three main reasons: 1. Iran’s proximity in the region, 2. dependency on oil, and 3. the new relations with Afghanistan and pipelines to counterbalance Pakistan.

How will the decision to side with Iran affect India’s relations with the U.S?

US, Russia, EU are India’s Foreign Policy Pillers

Friday, February 22nd, 2013

On January 31, 2013, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid wrapped up a two-day visit to Brussels. During Khurshid’s visit he spoke with European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders. During these meetings Khurshid expressed is concern for a closer and deeper cooperation between EU and India not only on bilateral level but also on the international arena. Khursid continued by stating, “Relationships with the US, Russia, the ASEAN, Africa and the European Union (EU) are the pillars on which India’s foreign policy stands today.”

The initial statement Khursid made resonates with what we spoke about in class on Friday (February 22,2013) because Dr. Gupta mentioned that India was working on expanding it’s relations from bilateral to more multilateral relations among countries. It is important for India, being a regional hegemon  in South Asia to work with countries in the year to resolve regional dispute and work towards cooperation. It is just as important for India to work on a global scale with the US, Russia, European Union, etc for global cooperation and understanding. Therefore it is not surprising that Khursid said that these countries are the pillars of India’s foreign policy.  They have all had great influence in India for many years now and it seems like a natural fit for them to be involved in Indian Foreign Policy. Do you agree?


What, exactly, is the string of pearls?

Tuesday, February 19th, 2013

And is it, as it currently exists, a threat to India?

The phrase is meant to denote a series of bases stretching from Sudan in Africa, under the subcontinent, and continuing on to mainland China. These bases are thought to  threaten to contain Indian naval aspirations and provide the People’s Liberation Army Navy with staging points for operations in the Indian ocean. The term has been in the news these past days due to the transfer of management of the Pakistani port of Gwadar to the innocuously named Overseas Port Holdings Ltd., a Chinese state owned enterprise. The Chinese “bases” thought to threaten India are located in Pakistan (Gwadar), Sri Lanka (Hambantota), Bangladesh (Chittagong), and Myanmar (Kyaukpyu Y Sittwe).  Upon cursory examination one could be forgiven for  thinking that China has successfully encircled India. A closer examination of these bases, and the cost of using them to project hard power, gives lie to this interpretation.

These “bases” are really nothing of the sort, at least not in the way Americans tend to envision such things. Say “base” to an American and they will likely think of a leased area in a foreign state where their government exercises extraterritorial jurisdiction and has basing rights. Something along the lines of the bases at Guantanamo, Ramestein, and Futenma. This is not the form that China’s “pearls” have taken.

Gwadar is still simply a container port, one that is now operated by the Chinese government, but still just a container port. It cannot, at this time, service warships in a meaningful fashion. Furthermore, while Gwadar does have great strategic position, located at the entrance to the straights of Hormuz and with access to Somalia and Bab-el-Mandeb, it suffers because it is not well linked by either road or rail to the rest of Pakistan – thus making resupply of any base there rather complicated even in peacetime, much less during war. Moreover, the area in which it is located, Baluchistan, is beset by a persistent insurgency. Finally, the actual land on which it sits is shockingly exposed, an inverted “T” that juts into the ocean and leaves the ships based there vulnerable to both air and missile attack. Gwadar leaves a good deal to be desired as a military base.

Similar critiques can be made about most of the other “pearls” in the string. All of them are commercial in nature. Hambantota is a container port and oil refining and storage area. Chittagong is the main commercial port of Bangladesh. Kyaukpyu Y Sittwe is the Western terminus of a planned pipeline running from the bay of Bengal to China’s Western provinces.  This is fitting with the posture of commercial expansion the PRC seems to have adopted for the near to mid term. The string of pearls at this present moment is a bid not for military dominance but for markets and influence in South Asia and access to resources (read: Oil) in Africa and the Middle East.

The threat posed by the string of pearls to India is no less real for all of this, it is simply not military in nature. Instead, the PRC is wielding economic might as a weapon. The threat is that India may soon look to its near abroad and find that the PRC has established itself as a benevolent hegemon in South Asia, supplying infrastructure durable goods, and expertise to the region in exchange for support for a Sino-centric Asian order.

U.S.-India relations in Asia: balancing or enmeshing?

Friday, February 15th, 2013

Scholars and analysts in the United States often frame US-India relations in the context of a pivot with respect to China. They talk of balancing China’s rise in Asia. The question is: does India want to be seen in this role? What are India’s motivations in improving India-US relations? In a recent speech at Brown University, Nirupama Rao, India’s Ambassador to the United States, spelled out India’s priorities in the region. She carefully lays out what Asia and China mean to India and then offers opportunities for US-India engagement. What should the US read into this?