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International Relations Security Foreign policy

Asia’s New Security Trifecta

Indian Navy ships, courtesy of Michael Scalet/flickr

NEW DELHI – Winter is India’s diplomatic high season, with the cool, sunny weather forming an ideal backdrop for pageantry, photo ops at the Taj Mahal or Delhi’s Red Fort, and bilateral deal-making. But this winter has been particularly impressive, with leaders from Japan and South Korea visiting to advance the cause of security cooperation in Asia.

The first to arrive was South Korean President Park Geun-hye. Despite a strong economic foundation, the bilateral relationship has long lacked a meaningful security dimension. But China’s recent assertiveness – including its unilateral declaration last November of a new Air Defense Identification Zone, which overlaps about 3,000 square kilometers of South Korea’s own ADIZ, in the Sea of Japan – has encouraged Park to shore up her country’s security ties with India.

Categories
International Relations Security Foreign policy

Arming the Elephant

Indian Air Force Embraer EMB 1451, courtesy of PL Tandon/Flickr

NEW DELHI – The rise in US arms sales to India is being widely cited as evidence of the two countries’ deepening defense relationship. But the long-term sustainability of the relationship, in which India is more a client than a partner, remains a deep concern for Indians. Does the recently issued Joint Declaration on Defense Cooperation, which establishes intent to move beyond weapons sales to the co-production of military hardware, mark a turning point, or is it merely a contrivance to placate India?

The factors driving the strategic relationship’s development are obvious. Since 2006, bilateral trade has quadrupled, reaching roughly $100 billion this year. And, over the last decade, US defense exports to India have skyrocketed from just $100 million to billions of dollars annually.

Categories
Foreign policy Defense Regional Stability

Asia’s Game Without Frontiers

Chinese and Pakistan border guards at Khunjerab Pass, Karakoram Highway. Source: A. Maw / Wikimedia Commons

NEW DELHI – Nowadays, many people seem to be more relaxed than ever about nationality, with the Internet enabling them to forge close connections with distant cultures and people. But states remain extremely sensitive about their borders’ inviolability. After all, territory – including land, oceans, air space, rivers, and seabeds – is central to a country’s identity, and shapes its security and foreign policy.

States can respond to territorial disputes either by surrendering some aspects of sovereignty, thus weakening their power and influence, or by adopting a more robust national-defense strategy aimed at fending off current challenges and precluding future threats. Today, many Asian countries are choosing the latter option.

Consider the territorial disputes roiling the Indian Ocean and other East Asian regions, sparked by China’s repeated – and increasingly assertive – efforts to claim sovereignty over vast maritime areas. As China’s incursions reignite long-smoldering disagreements and threaten to destabilize the regional status quo, countries throughout Asia are reconsidering their strategic positions.

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Government Culture Elections

India’s Change of Guard

PCoE students at AICTE Regional Office in Mumbai. Source: Intelligentguy89/Wikimedia Commons

SINGAPORE – In August, Raghuram Rajan was appointed Governor of the Reserve Bank of India. On one level, this was a routine announcement that many had anticipated – after all, Rajan is arguably the best-known Indian economist of his generation. On another level, however, his appointment can be seen as part of a broader generational shift. Rajan, just 50, will be the first RBI governor born after India became a republic in 1950.

Similar changes are taking place in all walks of Indian life, including politics, the arts, sports, and social development. And India will be better for it. Although the country is one of the youngest in the world, with an average age of just 26 years, until recently aging stalwarts incongruously dominated most fields, from politics to the arts and even business and sports.

But now younger entrants are rising everywhere, bringing with them energy and new ideas. In politics, as the country prepares for next year’s general election, the leading contenders to replace 81-year-old Prime Minister Manmohan Singh are the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Narendra Modi, 62, and Rahul Gandhi, who is just 43. Either man would be the first prime minister who was not born in the British Raj.

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Security

India and the Nuclear Grey Zone

Agni-II missile
Agni-II missile. Photo: Antônio Milena/Wikimedia Commons.

India’s status as a military power is underlined by its possession of nuclear weapons. Nevertheless, India’s nuclear weapons program is not permitted under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), and New Delhi has elected to remain outside of the formal non-proliferation regime. This ambiguous position has become increasingly accepted by members of the regime, but it represents a challenge for global non-proliferation, because there is no incentive for the country to engage in disarmament or to stem proliferation while this status quo continues. Moreover, India’s place as an accepted nuclear weapons state outside of nuclear regulatory frameworks could significantly impact global non-proliferation efforts.