Barack Obama. Photo: Steve Jurvetson/flickr.
In international relations, there exists diplomatic theater and diplomatic facts. A recent example of theater is the agreement between China and the United States to expand their military exchanges and bilateral scientific contacts. The reality, however, is something quite different. The US Department of Defense, for example, continues to comply with the National Defense Authorization Act of 2000, which forbids any contact with People’s Liberation Army (PLA) staff members that might result in the “inappropriate exposure” of key US operational plans, dispositions or activities. China’s astronauts, in turn, remain banned from the International Space Station and, more recently, its scientists were prohibited from attending an academic conference at NASA’s Ames Research Center.
At the heart of these prohibitions is the US Congress. Over the past few years it has thwarted the funding for joint Sino-American projects; it has voiced concerns about the potential theft of US space technology; and it played a key role in terminating an exchange program that helped facilitate Sino-America dialogue on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). Unsurprisingly, leading American scientists are upset about the missed opportunities that these restrictions represent. Yes, they include missed chances for collaborative research, but they also represent a lost opportunity for each country to gain deeper insights into the long-term strategic interests of each other. » More
The Arch of Reunification is a sculptural arch located in Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea. It was constructed in 2001 to commemorate Korean reunification proposals put forward by Kim Il-sung. Photo: bryanh/flickr.
What do student exchange programs have in common with prisoner exchanges; and what does the release of information on missing persons have to do with a game of soccer, or a joint-economic development project? They are all examples of measures that can be used for confidence building in peace processes (albeit in different contexts and conflict phases). Generally speaking, confidence building measures (CBMs) can be understood as “a series of actions that are negotiated, agreed and implemented by the conflict parties in order to build confidence, without specifically focusing on the root causes of the conflict.” In other words, by letting parties collaborate on something that is not strategically important to them, they build the trust needed to subsequently address the strategic issues. » More
Indian Army soldiers patrolling a street in Srinagar. Photo: Austin Yoder/ flickr
The Kashmir conflict is usually considered an interstate problem between Pakistan and India. In my opinion both governments should recognize that the matter is less about New Delhi and Islamabad – but about Kashmir. High-level talks are important but not enough. The key to stability lies in dialogue between the two central governments and Kashmiris themselves.
Many problems in Indian-Administered Kashmir are homegrown and can only be tackled at the domestic level, rather than the international one. At present, the situation is bizarre: in the first place, the Valley remains heavily militarized. The capital, Srinagar, looks as if it were under siege, and its commercial airport doubles as a military airfield. And curfews, arbitrary arrests, and police brutality all contribute to the atmosphere of mistrust, hatred and unrest. So what can be done?
In a recent article in Strategic Analysis, John Wilson — a senior fellow with the Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi — makes four suggestions for how the Indian central government could improve the overall situation in the Valley: » More