Tag Archives: Cold War

Why is the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) still relevant?

Even before the XVIth Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement commenced in Tehran, there were fervent discussions and passionate discourses about the role, potency, and relevance of a movement crafted in a furnace so vehemently fueled by the Cold War. After the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the USSR, the naysayers’ upped their ante on the prediction of doom of gloom for this still nascent movement. The experts speculated and suggested that the Movement has outlived its usefulness; it lacked clear vision; ailed from tentative and confused leadership; has achieved very little by way of tangible and palpable results, and ran parallel to the ground realities of the present world.

In keeping with these stark notional judgments of the past and present, the build-up to the Summit in Tehran was also marred by claims that the Non-Aligned Movement could be hijacked by the Syrian crisis or the nuclear standoff between Iran and the UN et cetera. There were also apprehensions that the Summit would be used as a propaganda tool for the Iran regime to cement its position domestically while it presents the successful staging of the Summit as a show of defiance and strength to all its perceived adversaries.

Accusation also floated around that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad wanted to use the Summit as a plank for showcasing to the world that Iran’s allies stood shoulder to shoulder with them–although reluctantly so –even as the world was on an apparent crusade to marginalize them. Supposedly, Iran also wanted to make it evident that its diplomatic machinery is in the pink of health, and that all those sanctions, bans and restriction haven’t broken Iran’s morale and spirit to achieve whatever goals it had set out for itself. Owing to these factors, the Non-Aligned Movement Summit was paraded as an exercise in futility and supporting rogue intents even before it started – and though it is too early to comment on how the Summit went – things were certainly stacked against it.

These notwithstanding, many contentions still pesters regarding whether a group constituting 120 nations that represents a major chunk of the human population should be brushed aside so nonchalantly and treated so indifferently. Should its raison d’etre be put in doubt because some nations in its midst are considered, “unstable or fragile” – and whether in a multi-aligned world, does one need to write-off one of the oldest and most peaceful gatherings of nations at a time when member nations within the Movement – supported by “the powers that be” – need to work together and sort out issues that it was confronted with?  The question also remained whether the Group’s past leanings and performance should be considered as a precursor to what it could achieve going forward? Wouldn’t it have been worthwhile to work with the Group to explore probable solutions by creating a sense of acceptance and camaraderie? No matter what the answer may be, it is certain that the Non-Aligned Movement is capable of and is poised to play a pivotal role within the political and economic sphere of the developing world. It holds great promise in encouraging world equality in every meaning of the word and the only question is when the dystopian theorists and pessimistic leaders realize it and make amends.

As a result of the tirade against the Summit, the early casualty of all the negative publicity was a certain nullification of the positives that the Movement had committed itself to and what formed the crux of its founding principles, which meant that the Summit made news for all the wrong reasons. The good intention of the Summit was in sharp contrast highlighted by the speech that India’ s Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh gave to the gathering of NAM leaders that spoke of global peace, all-round development, promoting democracy, pluralism; combatting terrorism and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction; tackling the menace of maritime piracy, the threat of cyber security; pursuing ecologically sustainable development while ensuring energy, water and food security – which were in essence stymied by all the hype and hoopla surrounding the rampant negatives rants.

Throughout the history of NAM, many critics have pointed out that the Movement still has to overcome its colonial and polarized mentality – which analysts see as primarily anti-West and mainly targeted against the U.S. – and is one of the reasons the Group is seen as regressive and ineffective. This is where India comes into the picture. India has established strong relationships with some of the oldest and strongest groups/entities in the world as part of its, ‘multi-aligned,’ approach as stated by Shashi Tharoor in his book, Pax Indica: India and the World of the 21st Century. Today India is part of the G-77, G-20, G4, IBSA, BRICS, RIC, BASIC, WTO, NAM et cetera as part of India’s flourishing, “Look East” and “Look West” policy, which puts it in an ideal position to make the NAM work – maybe not in a leadership role but from more of a coercive facilitator perspective.

With the growth of India’s economy and its growing stature around the world, the world has become more welcoming and receptive to India’s active engagement, and has since encouraged India’s participation in resolving issues that are crucial to maintaining a peaceful and stable climate for every country to grow and flourish in. Thus far, India has been a reluctant leader, choosing not to meddle in external matters as long as it doesn’t affect it, but the fact remains that the world would much rather prefer India – which takes great pride in calling itself the largest democracy in the world and a pacifist nation– to an aggressive imposer with possible clandestine motives. India could be the link that brings NAM into the new age and break the clichés that has tarnished its image over the years.

Now, the partnership between India and the United States is also very crucial to bring the rest of the world together with NAM and make them work for the greater good of all. The flourishing Indo-US relationship and India’s current working relationship with Iran, its understanding with members states of NAM, along with its rapport with other countries around the world, could well prove to be the elixir that the, “all but doomed negotiation,” with Iran and the UN Security Council lead agencies – made worse by Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei slamming the ‘overt dictatorship’ of the UN Security Council – needs in order to get things back on track. Eminent states of the NAM, along with India, US, and the UN, can also play a constructive role in the deteriorating situation in Syria, and help in taking the stalled negotiation for a Palestine homeland forward in urgency among many other prospective area of collaboration.

India also attaches great strategic importance to a safe and flourishing Iran vis-à-vis India’s growing energy needs. India is safeguarding its interest in the region through the development of the Chabahar port in Iran to help facilitate Indian logistics through to Afghanistan and Central Asia — and in apropos – developing the infrastructure needed therein. All these unravel into nothing if any conflict arises that might destabilize things so close to India’s borders, which is a very real possibility as things stand now. India, along with key NAM nation, could play the role of an impartial friend who acts as a go-between in the negotiations concerning the Iranians and the Security Council; the Syrian government and its people; and be a voice of support for the Palestine people et cetera, which will turn out to be a win-win situation for all concerned parties. It will allow space for a foolproof plan to be implemented in due course as per the will of the masses. This will therefore bring long-term closure to disputes in an amicable and acceptable manner.

In closing and before making any calls on NAM’s future, we would perhaps do well to remember that nations within the Movement have a great stake in what transpires in the world and should be looked at as a facilitator rather than a hindrance. NAM can be the umbrella under which all the parties — in its area of influence — that currently don’t look eye to eye can work together. India’s political diversity and growing stature means that it has to take the most just and equitable stance – and with NAM, India, the US, UN and other eminent nations putting peaceful resolution first – the threat of a Israel versus Iran, Islamic versus non-Islamic, Sunnis versus Shias, republicans versus monarchy conflicts can be averted – which I think is ultimately the whole point of today’s diplomacy and defines world politics in its simplest form.

So, for those who are keen on downplaying the importance of NAM – there could still be some use for the Non-Aligned Movement yet.

Stand by democracy in Pakistan, Mrs. Clinton!

If the U.S. is floundering in a region hosting some of the world’s most dangerous religious extremists, a leading cause is the tribe of “South-Asia experts” nestling comfortably in think tanks, government agencies, and university departments across the U.S. Almost all of them have been apologists for the Pakistan army, as even a cursory reading of their published works during the previous three decades would testify. For years, these analysts and scholars have fed off the disinformation abundant in the ISI trough. Even after 9/11, when the BJP-led government then ruling New Delhi offered Washington an alliance against Wahabbi terror, these “experts” ensured that the offer got spurned, and that once again, the Pakistan army was entrusted with the job of guarding the chicken coop. Unfortunately for U.S. interests, the Clintons’ share with the Bushes’ and the Cheneys’  enormous faith in the “South-Asia” experts who evolved from the crucible of the Cold War, when India leant towards the USSR while the Pakistan army was an alliance partner, albeit on its own terms.

 What those in charge of the formulation of policy towards Pakistan have consistently failed to factor in is the contradiction between a stable Pakistan and a strong military.”South-Asia” experts in the U.S. have been voluble in their claim that it is the military that is imparting stability to Pakistan, and have been dismissive of the few who have pointed out that the reverse is the case. That instability in Pakistan is caused by the bloated power of the military, principally the army, which controls domestic and foreign policy within Pakistan to the same degree as the junta in Myanmar did before the last election.

It is the irredentist adventurism of the Pakistan military and its nurturing of terrorism as a strategy of war that has combined with its Wahabbi outlook and its huge demands on the economy to steadily bring Pakistan to the edge of collapse. Although the “experts” favored by successive U.S. administrations may not be aware of this, the reality is that the Pakistan army is involved in a host of criminal activities, including the transport and refining of narcotics, counterfeiting of currency, and the training of extremist groups. Sadly, all this has been facilitated by the U.S. policy of (effectively) unconditional support for the Pakistan army.

 This is not the occasion to recite a litany of the policy errors made by the Clinton administration in South Asia, except to point out to a grievous error of judgment made by the Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in 2009, when she secretly joined hands with the Chief of Army Staff Parvez Ashfaq Kayani in forcing the Zardari-Gilani civilian government in Pakistan to reinstate the dismissed Chief Justice of Pakistan, Iftikhar Choudhury. At that time, this columnist had warned that this move would neuter the efforts of the Zardari-Gilani duo to establish civilian supremacy over the military. And unless this is done, there is zero prospect of a “stable” Pakistan. The military is the wild card in the pack that has ceaselessly fomented a jihadist mentality within Pakistan society, and has created conditions that have led to contempt for democracy within the establishment in that country.

 Secretary of State Clinton has not hidden her antipathy for the President of Pakistan, nor her backing of the Chief of Army Staff.

Perhaps the “South-Asia experts” she relies on for guidance have not told her that General Kayani comes from a fundamentalist background: one that is almost completely Wahabbi. Or that throughout his career he has been a votary of the Zia Doctrine of the unity of jihadis with the Pakistan army. In contrast, while President Zardari shares with Bill Clinton a propensity for making overtures towards seductive females, he comes from a Sufi background, one where there is zero space for religious extremism. Indeed, the ethos of the Zardari family is even more moderate than that of the Bhuttos, whose apparent lack of fundamentalist beliefs cloaks a vacuum in religious attitude that was filled by a pseudo-western lifestyle. The Zardaris are religious, but in the Sufi rather than the Tablighi tradition favored by Kayani

This being the case, Asif Ali Zardari has from the start shown his willingness to take on the Pakistan military and cleanse it of extremists and their sympathizers. Instead of assisting him in this task, the Obama administration drove a dagger into its heart by conniving at the re-instatement of Iftikhar Choudhury as Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) in 2009. While there has been a much effusive comment about the “corruption-fighting” credentials of the CJP, what the U.S. “South-Asia experts” have failed to mention is the fact that Choudhury has not a word to say against an institution that is among the most corrupt in South Asia, which is the Pakistan army. The generals, as also lower-level staff, wallow in graft, to be met by a Nelson’s eye from the Chief Justice, who is equally indulgent towards Mian Nawaz Sharif of the Pakistan Muslim League, whose family leapfrogged from poverty to plenty within a generation by use of methods that defy characterization as ethical or legal. The U.S.-facilitated re-instatement of Choudhury has turned out to be a disaster for democracy in Pakistan, because of the CJP’s obsession with ensuring the dismissal of the elected PPP-led civilian government in Pakistan. Once Kayani got his man in as Chief Justice, and forced through an extension to his tenure as COAS (again with help from Washington), he became even more open in implementing the policy that has been his signature tune since the time he took over as chief of the army.

 This is to do to NATO in Afghanistan what the Pakistan army did to the USSR during the 1980s, ensure defeat. It is no secret that China has entered the Great Game as a major player, or that Beijing is adopting the same strategy in Afghanistan that the U.S. followed two decades ago, which is to use the Pakistan army to ensure the defeat of rival militaries active in the Afghan theater. In 1998, this columnist first mentioned that China was more influential among the senior levels of the Pakistan military than the U.S. This and pointing out the Punjabi domination of the army earned him an effort from Pervez Musharraf to block him from writing in the Times of India. The Pakistan strongman complained to the former Times of India Editorial Director Dileep Padgaonkar about the unflattering comments (though accurate) being made about the Pakistan army and asked why “such writing was being tolerated by the newspaper”. Today, the most recent Kayani visit to Beijing, and his long meetings with Xi Jinping, Wen Jiabao, and other top Communist Party leaders have made clear that Beijing supports the brass in Pakistan in its struggle with the civilian establishment. After all, it is the Pakistan army that is expected to ensure that NATO leave Afghanistan in disgrace by 2014.

 This is the precise reason why President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton need to avoid repeating their 2009 mistake (of backing Kayani over Zardari), and instead support the civilian establishment in Pakistan. If President Zardari and Prime Minister Gilani are given backing from the U.S. and the rest of NATO, they can resume the task that was aborted in 2009, which is to de-radicalize the Pakistan army and make it a professional force that would battle terror groups rather than nourish them.

K Subramanyam and the Indo-US Relationship

K Subramanyam

On 2 Feb, K Subramanyam, often referred to as the Bhishma Pitamaha of the Indian Strategic community passed away. During his years of published writing, Subbu’s views and analyses swung from a consistent but measured anti-American stance to one favoring a joint US-India approach on most world strategic issues. This extraordinary u-turn was another measure of the greatness of the man – that in a changed world he was capable of changing his views and his conclusions on Grand Strategy. Many thinkers his age plodded on in their furrows, too inflexible or too frightened to change their outlook and their explanations on how the world conducted its affairs.

In the 1970s, much of what the U.S. did to apparently win the Cold War hurt India, and of course Subbu deeply. A great deal had to do with arming Pakistan, but Subbu was alone, raising a voice in panic alarm in the eighties as he saw Islamabad moving towards a bomb capability , unheeded by his own colleagues. He saw the U.S. as complicit as much as he saw the consequences of Pakistani state irresponsibility, once they had the bomb under their belt. His computer-like mind was never at a loss for precedents, incidents and promises that the U.S. had made, often going back a quarter century, to prove Washington’s unbroken anti-India stance. This cold blooded accuracy won him respect among his American critics because they saw they confronted facts and not sentiment.

All his disapproval changed in a few short years after the end of the Cold War and when the India-US relationship re-began, after both sides acknowledged how bad it had been. When Bush went out of his way to remove India’s technological isolation with the nuclear deal, Subbu saw that it signaled a seminal change in India’s status – a lift for India to help it on its way to a possible great power status. It wasn’t that Subbu had no sentiment; he did- even on behalf of his ungrateful countrymen who thought that lack of gratitude signaled high statesmanship.

Subbu soon pieced the new jig-saw puzzle together. There were many pieces to fit in. One was the Manmohan Singh reforms that jetted India into the 9% growth league and the possibility of greatness. A second was the huge, rich and successful Indian Diaspora who, by denying themselves luxuries, had clawed their way to becoming the richest ethnic community in the US, almost all of them as technological professionals. A third was Cancun, where Subbu saw the outlines of the next technological revolution which the world was demanding – to simultaneously live well, and yet not pollute the Earth. The fourth and final one was that which brought all these pieces smoothly together – The removal of the technological isolation would enable the brilliant Indians in the U.S. to be part of the next alternate energy revolution. The great final pieces of innovation would take place in the US, with India as the research supporting base. The resultant prosperity would halt the U.S. economic decline, and propel India forwards, even possibly past China, with the two democracies joined together in mutual success. What, Subbu would ask, was the alternative to the Democracies deciding how the world should be run?

When Subbu made his pronouncements, after careful analysis, the audience always presumed that it would, and must be brilliant. Few realized, what intellectual honesty was required for a man in his late seventies to make the U-turn that he did. But the ideas that Subbu came up with were worth the courage and clear headedness that he put into his U-turn, tyres smoking. As the world is challenged by the possibility of a rising but autocratic power, calling itself a Republic, it is well that the democracies and the real Republics, independently analyze their way into mutuality.