February 2008, Vol. 3, No. 2

The Future of Indian Foreign Policy

Indian Grand StrategyEveryone agrees that India is rising—but rising to what? "Policy makers seem to have come to believe that just because the economy is growing at 8 per cent, they don't really need a serious foreign policy, that they can afford to get by with ad hoc responses or grand finger-wagging," writes Harsh V. Pant. In this month's feature, commentators consider what India should do with the tremendous economic and political opportunity before it. Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee, speaking at the Asian Security Conference this month, said that India's record on terrorism and nuclear proliferation made it a credible world power. For Brahma Chellaney, the key issue is to create "shared norms and values" to sustain Asia's economic advance. Others focused on the diplomatic challenges facing India; within Asia, between India and Europe, and between India and the U.S.

Read more.

In this Issue:

  1. Feature: The Future of Indian Foreign Policy

  2. Carnegie Events and Analysis
    Events: The Pakistani Army and Post-Election Scenarios; Pakistan--More Effective Counterterrorism; Afghanistan's Situation and its Impact in the Region and the World

    India's Trade Policy Choices: Managing Diverse Challenges

  3. Views from South Asia:

    Foreign and Domestic Politics

    N-Deal Endgame; Kidney Thieves; The UPA's Election Prospects; Fighting Terrorism in India; India in Space; Inter-cultural Marriage; Bird Flu; North Indians and Raj Thackeray

    Economics and Energy
    Eurasian Energy; Employment; Development Woes; Manufacturing Reforms

    Back to the Barracks?; Meddlesome Foreigners; Benazir's Voice from the Grave; Class Conflict; Swat

    Sheikh Hasina Cleared of Corruption Charge; Rice Shortage; Election Commission; Tasneem Khalil

    "Inevitable" Elections; Foreign Aid

    Independence Day Violence; After the Cease Fire

Editor's Note

As South Asian Perspectives was going to press, news broke that Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf's party had conceded defeat in the parliamentary elections. Musharraf’s supporters were defeated by both Pakistani People's Party and the Pakistan Muslim League-N. However, politicians from the winning parties had yet to settle on the form that a ruling coalition would take. Next month's issue will examine the results of the election in depth.

South Asian Perspectives is soliciting feedback from readers. Would you read a South Asian Perspectives blog, that’s updated four or five times a week to better track developments as they happen? Should we publish every other week rather than once a month? What are issues we’re not covering that you’d like more analysis of? Please let us know—email your comments to

This month, in Views from South Asia, we present two articles about Raj Thackeray, a politician from Mumbai, who made headlines this month for his derogatory comments about north Indians. The controversy sparked scattered violence, protests as far away as Bihar, and a conversation about India’s ethnic and linguistic divisions.

Also in this issue, the editorial pages of The Hindu and The Times of India consider the case of Amit Kumar, an Indian physician, who was arrested for his role in an elaborate kidney transplant operation that involved paying or forcing poor Indians to donate their organs.

Sam McCormally
Editor, South Asian Perspectives

MukherjeeThe Future of Indian Foreign Policy
Everyone agrees that India is rising—but rising to what? In this month's feature, commentators consider what India is to do with the tremendous economic and political opportunity before it

The political and economic rise of Asia places a burden on India to fight terrorism and prevent nuclear proliferation, said Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee in a speech at the 10th Asian Security Conference. Mukherjee also said that though India is not a signatory of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, “we have strictly abided by all the basic obligations enshrined in this treaty as they apply to nuclear weapon states.” (Rediff India, February 6, 2008).   

Video from the conference is posted here.

India has been enjoying brisk economic growth and amicable relations with all the world’s major powers. But, writes Harsh V. Pant, India risks squandering that potential if it can’t formulate a coherent strategic vision for its foreign policy. (Outlook India, January 31, 2008).

Brahma Chellaney says that’s Asia’s economic rise needs to be accompanied by the development “shared norms and values.” But “with only 16 of the 39 Asian countries free, according to Freedom House, creating common norms is a daunting task.” Chellaney suggests beefing up Quadrilateral cooperation between India, Japan, Australia, and the U.S. (The Hindustan Times, February 12, 2008).

In a speech in New Delhi, French President Nicolas Sarkozy lamented India’s absence from the G-8 and the UN Security Council. Sarkozy “allayed apprehensions that international backing for India's 21st century aspirations was solely an American enterprise that had left 'Old Europe' cold,” writes the Daily Pioneer. (The Daily Pioneer, January 28, 2008).

U.S. diplomats, too, have quietly been advocating for the inclusion of India in the G-8 and the Security Council, but that support has not crystallized when push comes to shove, writes Dr Adityanjee, who advocates for broad U.S.-India strategic cooperation. (SAAG Paper 2579, February 8, 2008).

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Carnegie Events and Analysis
The Pakistani Army and Post Election ScenariosThe Pakistani Army and Post Election Scenarios
In advance of Pakistan’s February 18 election, Carnegie’s Ashley J. Tellis explored the Pakistani military’s possible reactions to various post-election scenarios with Dr. Ayesha Siddiqa from the University of Pennsylvania, and Pakistani journalist and author Shuja Nawaz at an event at the Carnegie Endowment on February 13.
video Click here for event video and transcript.

TellisPakistan: More Effective Counterterrorism
On January 25 at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) in London, Tellis presented the findings of his Carnegie report, Pakistan and the War on Terror: Conflicted Goals, Compromised Performance. In the immediate follow-up to President Pervez Musharraf's keynote speech at RUSI, Tellis and Carnegie Visiting Scholar Frederic Grare provided first-hand commentary on Pakistan’s political environment, the February elections, relations with the United States, and greater regional implications, including the campaign in Afghanistan.
video Click here for event video and transcript.

Click here for a follow up interview with Tellis on BBC World, and here to read a conversation between Tellis and Bernard Gwertzman from the Council on Foreign Relations on Pakistan's counter-terror operations

AbdullahAfghanistan's Situation and its Impact in the Region and the World 
On January 18, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, former Minister of Foreign Affairs for Afghanistan, discussed some of the challenges currently facing Afghanistan and how they may be addressed. According to Abdullah, the people living in dangerous areas of the country have no choice but to turn to the Taliban for protection, and cannot cooperate with other actors for fear of retaliation. The discussion was moderated by Carnegie President Jessica T. Mathews.
videoClick here for event video and transcript.

India's Trade Policy ChoicesIndia's Trade Policy Choices: Managing Diverse Challenges
A major new report by a team led by the Carnegie Endowment reveals both the promise and perils that increased engagement with the global economy holds for India’s farmers, firms, and workers. Continued trade liberalization could contribute modestly to India’s growth and development. However, the country could lose more than it gains if prices of key commodities such as rice and wheat continue to swing sharply.
Click here to read the report.

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Views from South Asia
INDIA - Foreign and Domestic Politics
N-Deal Endgame
M. R. Srinivasan, former chairman of the Indian Atomic Energy Commission, writes that the U.S.-India nuclear deal should be seen as a normalization of nuclear relations between the two nations rather than as the beginnings of a strategic relationship. “India has not compromised, and will not compromise, its independence in foreign policy.” (The Hindu, February 9, 2008).

The Times of India’s editorial board encourages the Congress not to worry about inflaming the tempers of the left-leaning members of the coalition, and to ratify the nuclear deal as quickly as possible. “As Lok Sabha elections approach the Left will distance itself from the Congress, deal or no deal.” (The Times of India, February 14, 2008).

Amit Kumar

Kidney Thieves
Indian doctor Amit Kumar was arrested for his role in a ring of forced and exploitative kidney transplants. The Hindu argues that transplants should remain “voluntary, altruistic, unpaid,” but adds that the country could consider passing a “presumed consent” law, that assumes a deceased person would have consented to donating their kidney unless they specified otherwise. (The Hindu, February 8, 2008).

The largely unregulated nature of the Indian medical system is what allowed the kidney thieves to go about their business undetected for so long, writes The Times of India. In fact, at the moment, there is no law governing transplants in India. (The Times of India, January 29, 2008).

The UPA's Election Prospects
The Indian parliamentary elections are a year away, but Prem Shankar Jha already has a prediction: the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) will do poorly because it can claim little credit for what’s gone right during its tenure. (The Hindustan Times, February 10, 2008).

Fighting Terrorism in India
Indian law enforcement broke up two terrorist organizations planning attacks on Indian civilians—one in Goa, and the other in Bangalore. The Hindu lauds India’s improving domestic counterterror capability, but believes that if New Delhi is to stop attacks on civilians, it must address two other factors: the influx of jihadist personnel and expertise emanating from Pakistan, and the continuing alienation of Indian Muslims. (The Hindu, February 14, 2008).

India in Space
Rizwana Abbasi worries that India’s surging space program will gradually become more and more militarized, a threat both to Pakistani and Asian security. “The prevention of an arms race in outer space is necessary to save the world from an unspeakable disaster,” he writes. (The News, February 13, 2008).

Inter-Cultural Marriage
The shortage of marriageable women in New Delhi has led to a large number of arranged marriages between men from Haryana and women from the matriarchal state of Kerala. The ratio of girls to boys born to these inter-cultural couples is significantly higher than children born to parents who are both Haryanvi. Ravinder Kaur wonders if “a critical mass of women who are more empowered on conventional development indicators can drive a bargain that will moderate the patriarchy of Haryanvi society.” (The Times of India, February 14, 2008).

Bird Flu
The government of West Bengal temporarily banned the sale and transport of poultry as “a precaution against possible human infection,” according to The Times of India. But the measure came well after the worst of the epidemic was over, leaving many to question the efficacy of the government’s response. (The Times of India, February 6, 2008).

Northern Indians and Raj Thackeray
Raj Thackeray, founder and leader of the right wing Maharashtra Navnirman Sena party, criticized Mumbai’s north Indians for damaging Maharathi culture, disrespecting the law, and celebrating festivals from north India. He also attacked Bollywood star Amitabh Bachchan for building a school in his native state, Uttar Pradesh, rather than in his current city of residence, Mumbai.

Thackeray’s comments generated scattered violence against north Indians in Mumbai, and protests as far away as Bihar. “Raj Thackeray’s bigoted remarks about the city’s north Indian population in general, and Amitabh Bachchan in particular, is an attempt on his part to revive his political career,” writes The Times of India. (The Times of India, February 5, 2007).

Amaresh Mishra see’s Thackeray’s remarks about north Indians as a way of bridging the growing chasm between high- and low-caste Marathis by appealing to Mumbai’s past. But this view inaccurately characterizes both the history of the Marathi movement and of Mumbai itself. (The Hindustan Times, February 13, 2008).

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INDIA - Economics and Energy

Eurasian Energy
Prompted by climbing oil and gas prices, consumer nations have been angling for contracts in Central Asia. But India has stayed out of the fray, writes M.K. Bhadrakumar: “Our oil majors seem more interested in taking billion dollar stakes in Canada’s oil sands assets than in the pursuit of energy reserves nearer home.” (The Hindu, February 18, 2008).

South Asia had the world’s highest rate of job creation this year, but also the worst employment conditions: “77.2 per cent of those employed lack minimum social protection, fair wages, conditions for social dialogue, and the right to work, which puts this region at the bottom of the scale in these qualitative indicators,” notes The Hindu's editorial board. (The Hindu, February 6, 2008).

Development Woes
The Polavaram dam proposal highlights some of the shortcomings in the approval process for major development projects in India, writes The Business Standard. The National Environmental Appellate Authority did not hold public hearings in the two states most affected by the project, and as a result, did not consult with any of the projected 200,000 people who the dam will displace. (The Business Standard, February 13, 2008).

Manufacturing Reforms
In 1991, there were over 1,000 products legally reserved for production by small-scale manufacturers. By February 8, 2008, the list was down to 35 items. This is a good step, writes the editorial board of The Business Standard, but these reforms won’t necessarily produce a big boost in productivity unless they are accompanied by infrastructural adjustments. (Business Standard, February 11, 2008).  

The Times of India also lauded the reforms, adding that despite the removal of protections, employment for small-scale industries has continued to grow at 4.4 per cent a year. (The Times of India, February 15, 2008).

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Pakistan Back to the Barracks?
General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, the head of the Pakistani army, recently sent a letter to military officials demanding that they no longer meet with politicians, and relinquished control of the polls to the Election Commission, although the army will still provide security on election day. Rahimullah Yusufzai praises General Kayani for taking steps to keep the military from interfering with the upcoming parliamentary elections. (The News, February 10, 2008).

But Nirupama Subramanian wonders whether the generals “want to continue pulling the strings from the shadows of its apparent retreat.” (The Hindu, January 24, 2008).

Alizeh Haider pointed out a disturbing indication the General Kayani’s promises to disengage from politics many be an empty one. Speaking in Davos, President Musharraf told an audience that “His[General Kayani's] loyalty is personal to me.” (The News, February 10, 2008).

Meddlesome Foreigners
The perception that Musharraf is America’s stooge is seriously hampering counterterror efforts, writes Shaukat Qadir. In the interest of rebuilding the credibility of the Pakistani government and redoubling efforts against Al Qaeda and the Taliban, “any regime that emerges from the forthcoming elections must be allowed to establish its credentials domestically by asserting its sovereignty.” (The Daily Times, February 9, 2008).

Ali Abbas Rizvi, meanwhile, blames the U.S. for amplifying the problem of terrorism in Pakistan. After ousting the Taliban from power in Kabul, the U.S. “failed to mop up the remnants of the madressah force,” and proceeded to put the unprepared NATO troops in charge of the troubled southern areas of Afghanistan. (The News, February 11, 2008).  

Pervaiz Iqbal Cheema assesses the factors that have limited NATO’s effectiveness in Afghanistan, including an unwillingness of European partners to commit a sufficient number of troops. (Islamabad Policy Research Institute, February 12, 2008).

Benazir’s Voice from the Grave
Muzaffar Iqbal notes that Benazir Bhutto’s book criticizes the military at the intelligence services for subverting democracy and failing to provide her with adequate security, but fails to explain her near-deal with President Pervez Musahrraf. But Iqbal is more concerned with Bhutto’s assumption that “any kind of Muslim unity constitutes a threat to the west.” (The News, February 15, 2008).

Class Conflict
A certain type of middle class and non-resident South Asians "claim to be the harbinger and conduit of economic progress and modernity," writes Ayesha Siddiqa: “What the affluent classes do not understand is that people continue to vote for the same families and people not because they are half-witted or under the thumb of someone but due to their inability to get respite in their day to day problems without belonging to one power network or the other.” (Dawn, February 15, 2008).

In November, the Pakistani government announced that the Swat Valley had been “secured and reoccupied,” but the region remains a safe haven for the Taliban, writes Bill Roggio. “Without a comprehensive plan to address the rise of the Taliban and extremism, the recent military gains in Swat may be short-lived.” (The News, February 8, 2008).

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Hasina Sheikh Hasina Cleared of Corruption Charge
A Bangladeshi court cleared Former Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of corruption charges this month. The High Court division of the Supreme Court threw out the case because it had been filed under the military-imposed Emergency Powers Act, which the court found to be unconstitutional. Achintya Sen praised the decision: “it ensured the victory of the rule of law, the constitution and the people’s fundamental rights.” (The New Age, February 12, 2008).  

Syed Badrul Ahsan writes that it’s “mind-boggling” that “the legal luminaries of the government, of the Anti-Corruption Commission, did not know what people around the country already knew: the case against Sheikh Hasina rested on shaky legal foundations. (The Daily Star, February 8, 2008).

Rice Shortage
After Cyclone Sidr damaged much of Bangladesh’s rice crop the government sent a delegation to New Delhi to negotiate an exception to India’s ban on the export of non-basmati rice. A deal was struck, but on February 7, “over 350 rice-laden trucks were not allowed by the Indian government to enter into Bangladesh because the Indian government again re-imposed the ban on rice exports to all countries,” writes Sayed Kamaluddin. (The New Age, February 14, 2008).

Election Commission
The Election Commission, the body responsible for preparing the voter rolls and negotiating the terms of the elections scheduled for the end of the year, was made officially independent of the executive branch of government this month. The Daily Star hopes that the move will allow the body to work effectively for free, fair, and transparent elections by the end of the year. (The Daily Star, February 1, 2008).

Tasneem Khalil
In May 2007, Tasneem Khalil, a reporter for The Daily Star who had also worked on projects for Human Rights Watch and CNN was arrested and tortured for 22 hours, apparently for criticism of the military caretaker government.

Khalil’s case is representative of a larger pattern of state violence against dissidents in Bangladesh, according to a new report published by Human Rights Watch: “After one year, the state of emergency not only remains in place but is being used to limit political party activity and restrict freedom of expression and assembly, with torture a frequent consequence for those who do not toe the line and end up in the custody of the security services.” (Human Rights Watch, February 2008).

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Nepal "Inevitable" Elections
All the factors that made elections seems unlikely just a month ago are beginning to fall into place, writes Ameet Dhakal. Now, “the elections seem inevitable.” (Kantipur Daily, February 1, 2008). 

Paul Soren reviews the last year in Nepali politics. The inclusion of the Maoists into the mainstream and the abolition of the monarchy were key steps in bringing the country closer to democracy. But the process was disrupted by “misunderstandings between political parties and Maoists, and the continuing Terai problems on the Madhesh issue.”(ORF Analysis, February 1, 2008).

Foreign Aid
A Himalayan Times editorial charges that too much aid to Nepal has been “donor-imposed” rather than “demand-driven.” “Much of the aid has found its way back to where it came from—for instance, in the form of consultants’ fees, salaries and perks,” they write. “Expensive, and often unnecessary, seminars, travels and other unproductive things have often received priority.” (The Himalayan Times, February 5, 2008).

Bella Bird, head of the U.K.’s Department for International Development (DFID) responded, “Poor people are less cynical about aid than newspaper editors might be in Kathmandu, because they have been a real witness to the change in their lives.” But, she concedes, “This is not to say that we can’t do better.” (The Himalayan Times, February 8, 2008).  

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Sri Lanka Independence Day Violence
In the four days leading up the Sri Lanka’s 60th anniversary of independence, over 50 civilians were killed in bombings. Keysara Abewardena writes, “The bloody violence of Eelam War IV has come to stay.” (The Daily Mirror, February 6, 2008).

After the Cease Fire
“The decision of the government of Mahinda Rajapaksa to announce a unilateral withdrawal from the ceasefire agreement is based on the assessment that the LTTE has been cornered like never before,” writes B. Muralidhar Reddy: but “the Tigers, led by V. Prabakaran, however, have the capability to fight a war.” (Frontline, January 19, 2008).

As the government of Sri Lanka begins to confront the Tamil Tigers with renewed vigor, Jehan Perera notes that “The belief that a military solution alone might suffice to end the three-decade-long Tamil rebellion has regained the centre stage as it has at various times in the past.” That belief is deeply flawed, writes Perera. (The New Age, February 19, 2008).

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Editorial Staff

Sam McCormally, junior fellow, South Asia Program, Carnegie Endowment

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