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ISLAMABAD: Timely parliamentary elections and a stable and credible government are crucial for Pakistan to obtain fresh external funding and address its dwindling foreign exchange reserves.

 

By Anuradha Rai The whole world is watching Pakistan with anticipation, hoping for a successful democratic transition -- amid fears of a threat to its upcoming general election. Incidents such as the Canadian-Pakistani cleric Tahir ul Qadri’s march and the Supreme Court’s verdict against the Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf underline this fear. It is even speculated that the military establishment is behind the spread of such a fear psychosis. The fear of military involvement was underscored when a close aide of the Prime Minister, Fawad Chaudhry, remarked: “The military can intervene at this moment as the Supreme Court has opened a way for it.” However, the military was seemingly not involved, and there is no strong evidence to prove otherwise. After the Qadri issue was successfully resolved by a historic consensus among all the political parties – with all of them supporting the democratic government and rejecting demands to include the military and the Supreme Court in the transitional government -- belief in the democratic system was restored. This was further cemented when the Supreme Court denied Qadri’s demand to reconstitute the Election Commission. There are several vital reasons why Qadri’s demands would be detrimental to the democratic transition of power in Pakistan. Important among them is that the Pakistan Army is busy fighting the insurgent group Tehreek-E-Taliban (TTP) and has little time to engage in the internal politics of the country. On external matters, on December 23, 2012, the news agency Reuters and others reported that the powerful army chief had made reconciliation with the warring factions in Afghanistan and promoting peace with the Taliban his top priority. There is a signal that the army, under the leadership of General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, is changing its attitude towards involvement in the political process of the country. Arguably, Pakistan’s most powerful man, he has earned a reputation as a thoughtful commander who has curbed the military's tendency to intervene overtly in politics. In a speech to officers in Rawalpindi in November 2012, Kayani indicated that the army’s conception of its role in Pakistan and the region was changing, arguing, “As a nation we are passing through a defining phase… We are critically looking at the mistakes made in the past and trying to set the course for a better future.” Kayani has also supported Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar in holding repeated rounds of discussions with her Afghan counterparts. Moreover, against the backdrop of consultations within the ruling coalition on dissolving Parliament ahead of the next general election, expected to be held in May 2013, Kayani had a two-hour meeting with the Prime Minister on January 31, 2013, most likely to indicate the army’s support to the democratic process of Pakistan. Pakistan’s Supreme Court has passed many judgements that have threatened the stability of the government. The court seems determined to resolve the issue of President Asif Ali Zardari’s involvement in corruption cases, but at the same time has realised that any strong measures against the current government could create a vacuum of power and heighten lawlessness, leading to state failure. It has, however, kept the issue of corruption charges against Zardari alive, as demonstrated in the dismissal of former Prime Minister Syed Gilani on charges of contempt of court. Also testimony to this are the court’s directive to reopen the NRO case on July 12, 2012, and orders to the new Prime Minister to start investigations in the case by writing a letter to the Swiss authorities. It had even ordered the arrest of Ashraf in a Rental Power Projects case on January 14, 2013. However, with the current developments and the government’s move to appoint an interim government in the coming days, the Supreme Court seems more concerned for the success of the upcoming elections. In a bid to quell unease in the country that democracy may be derailed, the court on January 30, 2013, restrained the military and civilian high commands from doing anything that might delay the upcoming general election. Another reason for the possibility of a peaceful transition of power is the willingness of the opposition parties. The ruling and opposition parties have agreed on the issue of strengthening the democratic system of the country, and a democratic transfer of power. They acknowledged that any conspiracy against the ruling government will put the democratic process in deep trouble. This mutual understanding of the parties helped resolve the crisis that started with rejecting Qadri’s demands and showing support to the ruling coalition. The conciliation between the political parties was an important move. According to the ‘Islamabad Long March Declaration’, the government agreed to dissolve the National Assembly before its term ends in mid-March, giving 90 days until elections are held. These are significant developments that show that Pakistan is capable of democratic transition, a peaceful first in its history of 65 years. With the legislature, clergy and army supporting transition, aided by the political parties, history is being written. (Anuradha Rai is a Senior Research Fellow, Centre for International Politics and Disarmament, JNU. To leave feedback or contact the author please contact southasiamonitor1@gmail.com)

 

The testimony of Joseph Yun, Acting Assistant Secretary, Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs in his Statement Before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific in Washington, DC on February 26, 2013 

 

 

Testimony Joseph Yun Acting Assistant Secretary, Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs Statement Before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific Washington, DC February 26, 2013 Share on facebookShare on twitter   Mr. Chairman, Mr. Faleomaveaga, and Members of the Subcommittee, thank you very much for inviting me here today to testify on the importance of the Indian Ocean and South Asian region to our strategic rebalance to the broader Asia-Pacific region, as well as for the chance to outline key elements of our engagement in the region. I would also like to take a moment to commend this subcommittee for its role in building a bipartisan consensus on the importance of engaging the Asia-Pacific region and advancing U.S. interests there. Our partners in the region pay close attention to Congressional views, and it is vital to demonstrate the bipartisan nature of our commitment to enhancing our regional engagement.   It is increasingly important that the United States views the Indian Ocean region and East Asia in a coherent and integrated manner. The current organization of this subcommittee to include both South Asia and East Asia is an important recognition of this strategic imperative. I believe that, going forward, this new vision will help the United States address the key challenges and opportunities that will arise in this part of the world.   Home to nearly half of the world’s population and over half of global trade and economic output, the Asia Pacific has witnessed very strong rates of economic growth and poverty reduction. Over the past decade, Asian nations have also increased their profile on the world stage and continue to increase their role and clout in addressing global challenges. Their views and decisions on transnational concerns, such as climate change and financial architecture, among others, will have consequences that will reverberate far beyond Asia, to Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America.   Our strategic “rebalance” to the Asia-Pacific region therefore reflects a deep recognition that the United States must substantially increase its political, economic, development, and defense investments in the Asia-Pacific given the region’s fundamental importance to our future prosperity and security. We are bound to Asia through our geography, history, alliances, economies, and people-to-people ties, which will continue to grow in importance over the next decade. Over the last four years, we have made a deliberate and strategic effort to broaden and deepen our engagement in the region. Continuing and strengthening our engagement and our commitment to the region are essential for both seizing future opportunities and confronting challenges to build partnerships and a more secure and prosperous future. Given geographic, historical, and economic ties, South Asia will play a critical role in this endeavor.   At the core of our approach is an understanding that diplomatic, security and economic relationships in the Asia-Pacific region are mutually supportive. Growing numbers of American companies are investing in and exporting their products and services to rapidly expanding East Asian markets. Asian-Pacific businesses are increasing their profiles in the United States and providing jobs for American workers. Record numbers of American citizens now live, work and study in this part of the world. These connections help underscore that we have a significant stake in the region’s stability and prosperity; that is, our security and economic interests are intertwined.   Our multifaceted approach to the Asia-Pacific region reflects this reality. We have sought to amplify our political and security ties as well as our economic engagement. We are moving ahead in strengthening and modernizing our long-standing alliances with Japan, the Republic of Korea (RoK), Australia, Thailand and the Philippines that have for decades underpinned the region’s stability. That stability created the conditions for robust market and trade expansion that have formed the basis for the region’s growing prosperity. Our alliances leverage our presence and enhance our regional leadership at a time of evolving security challenges.   As we renew our alliances to meet new demands, we are also working to build new partnerships throughout the region that can help solve shared challenges. Given the strategic importance and collective significance of Southeast Asia and the Pacific, we have increased our engagement with Indonesia, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei, New Zealand, and the Pacific Islands. Our efforts with China, which include an unprecedented number of high-level and people-to-people exchanges and interactions, aim to build a stable, multifaceted bilateral relationship that is grounded in reality, true to our principles and interests, and focused on results. We understand that countries in East Asia, South Asia, and the Pacific seek good relations with China, and we encourage them to do so. A China that plays by established rules and norms, actively cooperates in addressing regional challenges, and is a source of global economic growth benefits all of us.   And beyond our bilateral relationships, the United States is committed to continuing our high -level engagement in helping to develop effective and results-oriented multilateral institutions, not only with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), its affiliated institutions, and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, but also through fora such as the Pacific Islands Forum and through mini-lateral dialogues aimed at building regional cooperation like the Lower Mekong Initiative.   The United States has a robust economic agenda that recognizes the importance of the Asia-Pacific region. We are working to accomplish the objectives of our economic agenda through multiple avenues, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a comprehensive high standard trade and investment agreement that will boost U.S. economic growth and support the creation and retention of high-quality American jobs. And at a broader level, we continue to work through APEC, which we hosted in 2011, to strengthen regional economic integration and promote trade and investment liberalization among the twenty-one member economies. More recently, at the U.S.-ASEAN Leaders meeting this past November, President Obama and the Leaders of the ten ASEAN states announced the launch of a new initiative, the U.S.-ASEAN Expanded Economic Engagement (E3), which is a new framework for economic cooperation designed to expand trade ties between the United States and ASEAN, creating new business opportunities and jobs in all eleven countries. At the East Asia Summit (EAS) last November, the President announced a new initiative called the U.S.-Asia-Pacific Comprehensive Energy Partnership, which cuts across ASEAN, APEC and other Asian regional forums to promote the development of new and sustainable energy markets in the region.   Of course, the Asia Pacific’s remarkable economic growth over the past decade and its potential for continued growth in the future depend on the security and stability that has long been guaranteed by the U.S. military. The United States has a vision for the region where freedom of navigation is assured, disagreements are managed cooperatively, and the Korean Peninsula is free from nuclear weapons. A peaceful and prosperous Asia-Pacific benefits the peoples of the United States and the region, who can enjoy the jobs and opportunity that come from unhindered shipping and trade; and who can raise their children without the specter of conflict. We continue to assess our force posture and presence in the region that can better respond to non-traditional security threats, protect allies and partners, and defend U.S. national interests.   Across the Asia-Pacific region, the United States is seeking sustained adherence to democratic practices and improved governance, quality health and education, strengthened disaster preparedness/emergency response, and increased natural resource management, which will contribute to greater human security, stability, and prosperity, as well as deepen U.S. ties in the region. Our commitment to advancing freedom, democracy, and the rule of law has manifested itself in our steadfast support for reform and opening in Burma, known by many as Myanmar, where positive developments on a range of concerns of the international community have allowed us to open a new chapter in bilateral relations. The opening of a USAID Regional Office in Papua New Guinea after an absence of 15 years has helped strengthen the U.S. commitment to the Pacific Islands. Similarly, we will continue to press for improvements with those governments that fall short on human rights and democracy issues while supporting those fighting for the values we share. In doing so, we recognize that the Asia-Pacific is home to some of the world’s largest and most vibrant democracies. Democracy and human rights are increasingly part of the fabric of the Asia-Pacific.   Each element of this strategy is mutually reinforcing and is intended to advance peace, prosperity, and security in the Asia-Pacific strategic environment. And thus far, Asian states have welcomed with enthusiasm our efforts to reinvigorate our engagement. The most frequent message to the United States has been the same: The United States’ role in Asia is critical, and we want to see you even more engaged on all fronts - diplomatically, militarily, and economically.   Our Asia-Pacific interlocutors, however, are quite attuned to developments in domestic American politics. They are concerned about the possibility of decreased U.S. engagement in the Asia-Pacific region and a reduction in foreign assistance for Asia. They hear talk of sequestration, growing calls for slashing foreign assistance, and they see the comparatively larger amounts of resources devoted to U.S. engagement elsewhere in the world. In some quarters, doubts continue to linger, particularly regarding our financial ability and political will – given pressing security challenges elsewhere in the world – to maintain a long-term regional presence. We believe it will be increasingly vital for U.S. officials to continue to underscore – in concrete terms – our firm and unwavering commitment to the Asia-Pacific region.   On the original question of how South Asia fits into the rebalance, we need to remember that the cultures of the Indian subcontinent have influenced Southeast Asia for millennia and are visible across the region. South Asian traders and merchants have long been sailing to what they called the Suvarnadwipa, or “Golden lands.” Similarly, China’s maritime presence at its height once extended to the coast of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. In fact, when one looks at the Asia-Pacific and the wider Indian Ocean region, it becomes readily apparent that there are imprints from historical East and South Asian civilizations.   The rapid economic growth that has taken place in East and South Asia is a catalyst that is reenergizing these patterns of engagement. The increasing economic integration of South and East Asia has strengthened the strategic significance of the Indian and Pacific Oceans as a continuous throughway for global commerce and energy. Approximately 90 percent of globally traded merchandise travels by sea. China, Japan, RoK, and others in East and Southeast Asia depend upon the secure access of energy imports from the Persian Gulf and natural resources and other materials from Africa to fuel their economies and ship their exports to important markets in the Middle East, South Asia, and Europe. As much as 50 percent of the world’s container traffic and 70 percent of global energy trade now transits the Indian Ocean. Similarly, as India’s trade with East Asia and North America grows, India has a growing stake in the security of the Straits of Malacca and the South China Sea, through which half of the world’s tonnage flows.   As these trends continue into the future, it becomes clear that any significant disruption of trade in the Indian and Pacific Oceans would have serious global repercussions, repercussions that would also be felt here at home by American businesses and workers. As our economic and strategic interests continue to span the breadth of the Indo-Pacific, we have an important stake in ensuring freedom of navigation, promoting respect for international law, and fostering greater cooperation and dialogue with and among the countries of both regions on maritime security.   Enhanced economic integration, while yielding immense benefits to the region, also means that regional instability in South and Southeast Asia – brought on by interstate conflict, terrorism, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and non-traditional security threats, such as pandemic diseases, climate change, and environmental degradation – can pose a threat to the entire global economy.   No country can address these challenges singlehandedly; multilateral cooperation is vital. This interdependence is why we have placed so much importance on strengthening our relations with the region’s burgeoning multilateral architecture. The Administration has taken important steps in building stronger ties with regional institutions such as ASEAN, the EAS, the security-oriented ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), and the ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting Plus (ADMM+).   As Southeast Asia connects both sides of the Indian and Pacific Oceans, we see a strong and integrated ASEAN as an important component in bolstering the security of the entire Asia-Pacific.   Following the signing of the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in 2009, the opening of the U.S. Mission to ASEAN in 2010, and the appointment of the first resident U.S. Ambassador to ASEAN, the Administration has elevated our relationship with ASEAN to a strategic level. We are working with ASEAN to build a strong ASEAN Secretariat capable of addressing pressing security and economic policy issues, to facilitate the development of an ASEAN Economic Community, and to strengthen ASEAN member states’ coordination and cooperation with regard to managing disasters, mediating and resolving conflicts, mitigating pandemic threats, combating illicit trafficking of persons and goods, and on other transnational security concerns.   As part of our overarching effort to strengthen regional cooperation in Southeast Asia and address the growing list of non-traditional security issues, we also have redoubled our efforts to broaden and deepen our engagement through the Lower Mekong Initiative (LMI), a U.S.-led effort to foster greater sub-regional integration and cooperation among Burma, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam in the areas of health, environment and water, education, connectivity, energy security, and food security. The LMI, along with Japanese, Korean, and other Mekong organizations that seek to promote greater cooperation among the lower Mekong countries, is helping to build greater East-West connectivity in Southeast Asia by encouraging Mekong countries to work more closely together on pressing transnational challenges, but also on enhancing their physical and institutional connectivity. In particular, the dramatic series of reforms that have taken place in Burma over the past two years have also opened the possibility for greater infrastructure financing and development in the country and for enhanced integration into the regional and global economy. Located directly at the crossroads between China, India, and Southeast Asia, an economically and physically integrated Burma that respects human rights and achieves national reconciliation with its ethnic minorities can provide a crucial land-link between East Asia and South Asia.   East Asia and South Asia are also linked in other important regional structures. India’s membership in the East Asia Summit and the ADMM+, and India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka’s membership in the ASEAN Regional Forum, also provide us an opportunity to engage both South Asian and East Asian nations in the same multilateral fora to address shared concerns and build tangible habits of cooperation.   India’s participation in the EAS is especially important in light of the expanding role and influence of the Summit. Since the President’s participation in the November 2011 East Asia Summit in Bali, the United States has actively supported efforts to shape the Summit into the region’s premier forum to discuss political and strategic issues, including non-proliferation, maritime security, and disaster management. As a Leaders-led forum, the EAS plays an important role in defining the agenda for other ASEAN related institutions such as the ASEAN Regional Forum, and the ADMM+. Accordingly, the EAS will guide those organizations to take concrete steps to address both traditional and non-traditional security challenges.   We see a strong role for Indian leadership in these fora and for greater U.S.-India cooperation on regional security in the Asia-Pacific and elsewhere. India shares many of our values, including a commitment to human rights and democratic government and adherence to the international system of norms and rules, including freedom of navigation and access to resources in accordance with principles of international law. Following the birth in 1991of its “Look East” policy, India has made considerable progress raising its profile in East Asia. India’s overtures to its eastern neighbors have been met with welcome enthusiasm, as various East Asian countries see India as a rising power that will contribute to the regional balance and it’s large and growing domestic market as an opportunity to diversify their economic engagement.   This was clearly evident in December 2012 when nine of ten ASEAN leaders travelled to New Delhi to take part in a Commemorative Summit celebrating 20 years of India-ASEAN relations. India has also sought to engage the countries of the lower Mekong sub-region through the Mekong-Ganga Cooperation initiative which focuses on enhancing connectivity among member countries. India has forged closer ties with U.S. allies like Japan and Australia and key partners such as Singapore, Indonesia, and Vietnam. India is also developing a cooperative relationship with China, through enhanced bilateral discussions and the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa), fully cognizant that the relations between these two economic and demographic giants will play an important role in shaping the regional, and indeed global, environment for many years to come.   Looking at India’s growing engagement leaves no question that there are significant areas of strategic convergence between India and the United States in Asia. This is why, in 2009, we launched the U.S.-India Consultations on the Asia-Pacific as part of an effort to ensure that our two countries exchange views on the development of this vital region. The consultations have offered us an important platform not only for discussing how we can better align our strategies to reinforce one another’s engagement, but also for discussing our disagreements openly. We continue to engage India through the U.S.-Japan-India trilateral consultation on regional issues that helps leverage our resources to strengthen the region’s multilateral architecture.   Lastly, I would like to address the importance of India’s growing economic engagement in the Asia-Pacific and the implications for U.S. policy of an India that is economically integrated with Southeast Asia. The rules-based system that the United States created after 1945 and our continued role as a major trading and investment partner underpin the region’s vibrancy. India shares the U.S. values of open societies. With its young and dynamic population, India presents an opportunity to sustain economic expansion in Asia, while Japan, RoK, and China face challenging demographic trends. Likewise, the U.S. and Indian economies will continue to benefit from deeper involvement in East Asia’s economic engine.   Like the United States, India is making efforts to deepen its formal engagement with East Asia. At the November EAS, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh acknowledged that India’s economic future is also tied to East Asia. During 2012, India finalized an agreement on services to complement the 2010 India-ASEAN Free Trade Agreement on goods. Indian-ASEAN trade is now approaching approximately $80 billion. Trade between India and ASEAN can be expected to rise even faster if and when countries in the region can overcome the considerable infrastructure and policy gaps that prevent the free and efficient flow of goods between South and East Asia.   India boasts a $ 2 trillion economy today. Experts anticipate that India’s economy will continue growing through the coming decades until India peaks demographically in 2060. At that time, India will represent one fifth of the global economy. For East Asia, the economic potential of enhanced trade with India is significant: India’s large and growing market is a destination for both high-value added and consumer goods. India’s prowess in the service industry complements China’s strength in manufacturing goods. Additionally, Indian companies offer a potential new source of investment for Southeast Asia. The Indian economy has been the leader in business process outsourcing (BPO) for many years, but as economies like the Philippines—with high educational standards and strong English skills—move up the BPO value chain, they stand to benefit from increasing investment opportunities in the BPO sector.   From a strategic perspective, our allies and partners in East and Southeast Asia also benefit immensely from increasing economic engagement with India. In particular, for the smaller economies of Southeast Asia, an East-West corridor can supplement their traditional North-South economic ties, offering an opportunity to diversify markets and hedge against future risks.   Creating an Indo-Pacific Economic Corridor between South Asia and Southeast Asia will require significant investment in physical infrastructure throughout the region: road, rail, sea and air connectivity between these two regions must be developed. While financing will necessarily come primarily from countries in the region and international financial institutions, U.S. companies are well-positioned to participate in connectivity projects and stand to benefit from some of the increased commercial opportunities that will result. Additionally, we have encouraged the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to identify gaps in the Indo-Pacific Economic Corridor that could be filled by public-private investment.   In this context, the United States also has strongly supported India’s commitment to invest $500 million in road connectivity between Northeast India and Burma.   In conclusion, Mr. Chairman, I would underscore that from a strategic perspective, as we continue to implement our strategic rebalance, we are acting in recognition of the emerging realities of the new Indo-Pacific world. Our commitment to the Asia-Pacific region is strong and irreversible, and we support and welcome the involvement of India and other countries of South Asia in the Asia-Pacific region as well. We face numerous challenges in continuing our involvement in the region, but the United States will also realize multiple benefits as well.   Thank you for giving me the opportunity to testify today. I am pleased to answer any questions you may have.   Courtesy- The State Department, United States Government.
 

The King of Bhutan, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, will be the chief guest for the 64th Republic Day of India, on January 26, 2013. With this invitation Bhutan will be the second country whose leader has been invited four times as chief guest on Republic Day. France is the only other country enjoying such a distinction. In 1984 and 2005, King Jigme Singye Wangchuck, the present king's father, was invited as chief guest on Republic Day. King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck of Bhutan,the third druk gyalpo (king) of Bhutan, who began to open Bhutan to the outside world and began the process of modernisation and democratisation, was invited as chief guest in 1954.

  Strategic and diplomatic considerations are often behind the choice for Republic Day chief guests or for recipients of prestigious awards.  Take for example, the Republic Day chief guests from 2007 to 2009, all of which helped India advance its energy security goals, especially those related with nuclear power. In 2009 President Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan was invited as the chief guest on Republic Day and India signed a civil nuclear deal with Kazakhstan during Nazarbayev’s visit. In 2008 President Nicolas Sarkozy of France was invited and the two countries finalized a civil nuclear cooperation agreement. In 2007, President Vladimir Putin of Russia was invited and, during this visit, Russia formally acknowledged India as a nuclear weapons power and offered to set up four more nuclear reactors at Kudankulam. Even the 2005 invite to the former King of Bhutan was widely interpreted as a sign of gratitude by India for the ‘Operation All Clear’ launched by King Jigme Singye Wangchuck to flush out anti-India ULFA separatist cadres in Bhutan in 2003. Thus, the choice of dignitary for attending an important occasion in India is an example of Indian diplomacy at work by honouring a leader of a country that India has special or strategic ties with.   The invitation to King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck as the chief guest  this year is also not without ontextual implication. China’s increasing proximity to Bhutan, which was clearly manifested in the former premier Wen Jiabao and Bhutanese Prime Minister Jigme Thinley meeting in the Rio+20 Summit in 2012, has caused India to take cognizance of the possibility of formalization of diplomatic relations between the two nations. In a subcontinent fraught with turbulent political conditions and deepening Chinese economic and diplomatic incursions, both increasingly detrimental to India, Bhutan has remained a nation hitherto oblivious to either issue. India, no doubt, is channelling its efforts to remain Bhutan’s first choice in matters economic and strategic, or at least remain ahead of China, if the country were to seek aid or contracts with another nation.   There are several methods which India could use to continue its cooperative ties with Bhutan and ensure that it is not easily weaned away from India’s influence. The Republic Day invite comes at a critical juncture for Bhutan which is currently negotiating the amount of grant the Indian government would provide for its 11th plan. India is Bhutan’s largest donor since its first plan. Undoubtedly, Bhutan would welcome continued Indian investment but it would not shy away from accepting investments from China if offers were to be made. Growing Chinese investment in Bhutan would signal creeping Chinese economic inroads in Bhutan. The visit of the king provides an opportunity to India to showcase its interest in continuing as Bhutan’s largest donor and thereby undo any economic leverage that other nations could gain.   In assessing India’s concern about Bhutan, the most worrisome point is the disputed border between Bhutan and China. The areas coveted by China sit perilously close to the Siliguri Corridor which connects India's northeast region to the rest of the country. In case of an emergency or conflict between China and India, this region would become vulnerable to Chinese onslaught and may be severed from the rest of India, if China settles the border dispute with Bhutan on its terms. The unsettled border between Bhutan and China will continue to be a major issue for the Indian establishment in the near future.   Growing Chinese influence among India’s neighbouring states- Nepal, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Pakistan  - is fast becoming a major foreign policy challenge for India. Losing influence over Bhutan to China will only mean further loss of strategic space to China in the neighbourhood. India is required to leverage its multi-dimensional relationship with Bhutan to ensure that further strategic space in not ceded. Strategic and economic cooperation and cultural and religious linkages are characteristic of India-Bhutan ties. India is Bhutan’s main development partner and its largest trading partner. In 2011, 72% of Bhutan’s total imports and 85% of its exports were with India. India has agreed to provide assistance to Bhutan in developing the hydropower sector and to purchase 10,000 MW of power from Bhutan by 2020. Growing Chinese investment in energy and communications related projects is another area of concern. However, by far, India continues to be Bhutan’s number foremost trading partner, donor and partner in development assistance.   China’s overtures to Bhutan apart, most other aspects of India-Bhutan ties continue to be smooth, albeit a few issues, the most important being a spate of kidnappings along the Indo-Bhutan border. The 32-km stretch between Sarpang and Gelephu of Bhutan, which runs along the Indian border of Kokrajhar and Chirang districts of Assam, has witnessed a series of abductions, suspected to have been carried out by Indian militants. India and Bhutan have a long history of cooperating on tackling insurgency and unlawful activities and are cooperating with each other to end this menace of kidnappings along the border.   The multi-faceted nature of the relationship brings certain tenaciousness to India-Bhutan ties which need to be strengthened. The king’s visit as chief guest is an opportune moment to enunciate the profundity of bilateral ties and further secure the relationship. With both China and India vying with each other for a greater role in the subcontinent, Bhutan may end up the biggest winner of them all.   (The author- Obja Borah Hazarika, is a student of International Relations, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. She can be contacted at obja11@gmail.com)
 

India needs to think strategically about the next generation of Millennium Development Goals

At the end of 2012, India completed its seventh two-year term as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. In a period that proved unexpectedly challenging for the principal organ of the U.N. system, India was actively involved in debates over crises in North Africa and the Middle East. On the more mundane but no less fundamental issue of international development, however, New Delhi has sat largely on the sidelines, paying insufficient attention to opportunities for addressing domestic priorities and enhancing India’s standing in international affairs.   Disconnect   Indeed, there is a fundamental disjuncture between India’s overwhelming domestic imperatives of equitable growth on the one hand and the nation’s external policies on the other. Too often we are content to act the part of a powerful and technologically sophisticated nation without actually pursuing a foreign policy that might serve our basic developmental goals. Nowhere are such failures more evident than on the Millennium Development Goals (MDG). Signed into existence in 2000 by 190 countries, they represent a historic global framework and universal goals (with specific targets and indicators) in the areas of poverty, gender, health, education and the environment for all signatories to achieve by 2015. Powered in part by the MDGs, 600 million people have been lifted out of poverty, 56 million more children go to school and 14,000 children escape death each day.   Work on next goals   With the 2015 deadline approaching, the international community is now starting to develop a framework for the next generation of development goals. The U.N. Secretary-General has appointed a 26 member high-level panel to advice on the new framework. Simultaneously, the U.N. is facilitating national consultations in 100 countries (including India) to make the process as participatory as possible. The panel and consultations will feed into inter-governmental negotiations preceding the adoption of a new framework in September 2013.   This process is clearly important for both poor and rich countries, yet most members of India’s foreign policy establishment and the informed public remain oblivious to its significance. It is easy to dismiss a largely U.N.-driven negotiation that could set arguably unrealistic targets for all countries to meet. India is a sovereign nation that need not take direction from any constellation of international actors. The goals themselves are not immune to internal inconsistencies and contradictions, and will be variably relevant to India. Moreover, a fixed set of overarching goals may constitute an unwise approach to development policy in general.   What MDGs stand for   These critiques notwithstanding, the MDGs represent an unprecedented international consensus on priorities and targets for equitable growth. Developing the next set of MDGs affords the international community an opportunity not only to take stock of achievements since the turn of the millennium but also to establish norms and principles that will define and influence the next stage of global development. India can and should play a key role.   Two principal opportunities beckon India. First, in the domestic realm, significant efficiency gains would derive from aligning the next generation of global development goals with India’s goals, only some of which overlap with the MDGs. Rather than having parallel bureaucracies for the implementation of two different development agendas, the government can do more with less by influencing global post-2015 debates to reflect Indian concerns and priorities. This may be all the more readily achieved because India is widely seen as the ultimate laboratory for development. Moreover, many developmental challenges — for example, sustainability, financial inclusion, information and communications technologies — can no longer be effectively addressed within nationally circumscribed approaches.   The second major opportunity lies in the international realm. The post-2015 effort offers emerging powers, particularly India, an opening to shape the rules of the game at a critical juncture of global institutional development, which can be significantly influenced by a positive Indian vision for national and global economic and social progress. If we can establish our own international aid agency and trumpet the merits of Indian “soft power,” then we must also actively participate in the post-2015 process. As a rising power desirous of a seat at the global high table, India can accumulate influence through constructive leadership in international institutions, which often requires creating original solutions and forging consensus around them.   Three ways for India   As things stand, the Indian government could do more to engage with the post-2015 process. There are at least three ways in which the present level of involvement could be improved. First, the Ministry of External Affairs — the government’s first point of contact with the U.N. — should urgently consult the relevant line ministries and State governments and commission a white paper on its own recommendations that can then be deliberated in the public sphere. Second, to be genuinely inclusive, the government should go beyond traditional civil society to engage faith-based groups, trade unions and people’s movements in any discussion on development frameworks. Third, India should work towards building collaborations with other similarly placed countries in the international negotiations.   Whether India takes note or not, the global post-2015 MDG process has institutional momentum and will result in an outcome relevant to India. By not actively participating in its formative stages, we risk missing a vital opportunity to address key domestic challenges and to shape global norms in ways that protect our interests while projecting leadership in international affairs. In the final analysis, Indian diplomacy needs to think more seriously and creatively about India’s development.   (Shailey Hingorani is Advocacy Coordinator at Save the Children. Email: s.hingorani@savethechildren.in; Rohan Mukherjee is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Politics at Princeton University. Email: rmukherj@princeton.edu. The views expressed are personal.)   Shailey Hingorani and Rohan Mukherjee, The Hindu, 18 Jan 2013
 


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Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will be visiting India between 7th and 10th of April and plethoras of agreements are likely to be signed then. Among the various agreements, the two countries will be signing the defence cooperation agreement which  has been getting the most attention. 
 
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The Congress needs to come up with a more aspirational narrative than that of the BJP. The party doesn’t lack talent, but its leadership clearly lacks hunger and enthusiasm required for winning elections, writes Tridivesh Singh Maini for South Asia Monitor.
 
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 India should not hesitate in using both overt and covert means to bring its policies to successful fruition. Indian policy makers must be guided by the dictum that there is no permanent friend or enemy but only permanent interests, writes Adarsh Singh for South Asia Monitor.
 
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Society for Policy Studies in association with India Habitat Centre invites you to a lecture in the Changing Asia Series by by Prof. K. Srinath Reddy, President, Public Health Foundation of India on Health And Development: India Must Bridge The Disconnect Chair: C Uday Bhaskar, Director, Soci...
 
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spotlight image 'Covert military actions or surgical strikes against terror launch pads in Pakistan have limited utility that won't change the mind of the Pakistan Army or the ISI  which sponsor cross-border terrorism
 
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In Dutch politics, alliances are imperative to construct an administration. The post-election government formation is, therefore, a slightly time-consuming process. In due course, a coalition led by the incumbent Prime Minister, Mark Rutte, will surface.  
 
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Japan is a special country in several ways. For centuries, it remained isolated and disconnected with the outside world. But once it opened itself up to the West with the Convention of Kanagawa in 1854 by the use of force by Commodore Matthew Calbraith Perry of the United States Navy, Japan has never looked back. Japan is a spe
 
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Recently, under the leadership of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, and earlier under the late Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdallah bin Abdul-Aziz Al-Saud, Saudi Arabia has rolled out a series of women-friendly initiatives.  Recently, under the leadership of Custodian of the
 
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spotlight image No First Use as a nuclear deterrent without additional caveats should work well enough
 
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India remians the inflexible bête-noir for Pakistan, yet there are few books by Indian authors that have sought to interpret the prodigal neighbour in a holistic, informed and empathetic manner.

 
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The line that Mortimer Durand drew across a small map in 1893 has bled the Pashtun heart ever since. More than a century later both sides of that line remain restless. But the mystery behind what actually happened on 12 November 1893 has never ...

 
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What went wrong for the West in Afghanistan? Why couldn't a global coalition led by the world's preeminent military and economic power defeat "a bunch of farmers in plastic sandals on dirt bikes" in a conflict that outlasted b...

 
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What will be Pakistan's fate? Acts of commission or omission by itself, in/by neighbours, and superpowers far and near have led the nuclear-armed country at a strategic Asian crossroads to emerge as a serious regional and global concern whi...

 
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Some South African generals, allied with the British forces, sought segregation from the enlisted men, all blacks, after being taken prisoners of war. The surprised German commander told them firmly that they would have to share the same quarte...

 
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