Constructive Engagement: India-Pakistan Foreign Secretaries Talks

Although talks between India’s Nirupama Rao and Pakistan’s Salman Bashir in the last week of June 2011 did not produce a major breakthrough, the fact that these were viewed positively by both the sides and were described as constructive and cordial makes the talks special. This is because nothing more than the reiteration of known positions on the resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute and on the export of terrorism into India had been anticipated in both the countries. The talks focussed on peace and security, including terrorism and nuclear and military confidence bldg measures; the Kashmir issue; and, the promotion of people-to-people contacts as well as friendly exchanges.

During the talks, India sought early closure on the trial of Pakistani terrorists who were involved in the planning and execution of the Mumbai terror strikes in November 2008 and pointed out that there cannot be any meaningful discussion on Kashmir under the shadow of the gun. Calling for an end to the “shadow of the gun and the violence it has unleashed”, Ms Rao expressed concern over continuing infiltration into Kashmir. She said at a joint press conference that the “ideology of military conflict should have no place in the paradigm of our relationship of the 21st century… Instead, this relationship should be characterised by the vocabulary of peace, all-round cooperation in the interest of our people, growing trade and economic interaction, as well as people to people contacts — and, all this, let me emphasise, in an atmosphere free of terror and violence.”

The issue of terrorism figured prominently in the joint statement: “The foreign secretaries noted that both countries recognize that terrorism poses a continuing threat to peace and security and they reiterated the firm and undiluted commitment of the two countries to fight and eliminate this scourge in all its forms and manifestations. They agreed on the need to strengthen cooperation on counter-terrorism.”

Both the sides agreed to make efforts to expand trans-LoC trade, increase the frequency of the Srinagar-Muzzafarabad bus service and to examine the feasibility of starting a bus service between Kargil and Skardu. Frank talks were held on the issue of peace and security between India and Pakistan. Discussions on CBMs included the establishment of contacts between the training establishments of the armed forces of the two countries, including India’s National Defence College and Pakistan’s National Defence University. New nuclear CBMs and measures for better coordination between India’s Coast Guard and Pakistan’s Maritime Security Agency were also discussed. India had presented a draft agreement to prevent “situations at sea” involving vessels of the two countries at a previous meeting. The Pakistani side agreed to examine the document.

A suggestion for contacts between defence and security think tanks, including the holding of seminars and conferences, was also taken up for discussion. Both the sides agreed that hostile propaganda should not be allowed to cloud the relationship. The two countries decided to constitute a group of experts to discuss conventional and nuclear CBMs to “discuss implementation and strengthening of existing arrangements, and to consider additional measures, which are mutually acceptable, to build trust and confidence and promote peace and security.”

Unlike the frosty talks between India’s External Affairs Minister S M Krishna and his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi in 2010, the Foreign Secretary talks resulted in some forward movement. Krishna and Pakistan’s new Foreign Minister – to be appointed shortly, will meet in July 2011 and take up these issues where the two Foreign Secretaries have left off. If they succeed in building on the gains made at Islamabad, the India-Pakistan rapprochement process will once again begin to gather momentum.

The Surge Recedes

President Obama’s announcement of far larger and more rapid withdrawals of U.S. forces from Afghanistan than many had expected affects Indian security interests and the U.S.-India relationship in significant ways. While it is unfair to characterize the decision as a rush to the exits, it is clear that a deliberate pace is being set.

Obama Speech

Beyond the immediate numbers and timetables involved, the speech’s most memorable line – “America, it’s time to focus on nation building here at home” – signals a new era in South Asia’s geopolitics. U.S. involvement in regional security affairs has oscillated between deep engagement (as in the 1950s, 1980s and the post-9/11 decade) and relative indifference (the 1960s-1970s, and the 1990s). Mr. Obama’s remarks confirm that the pendulum has now begun its swing toward the latter position.

The address will set in motion a train of momentous events for all of Afghanistan’s neighbors. And it is noteworthy that Mr. Obama’s decision was driven more by the exigencies of domestic politics than by a careful assessment of U.S. security objectives in South and Central Asia. As the Washington Post comments , Obama “failed to offer a convincing military or strategic rationale for the troop withdrawals.” The debate inside the administration was reportedly intense but brief, and White House political operatives have not even tried to disguise the fact that the President ignored his top Pentagon advisers.

Parallel to the troop drawdown, President Obama sounded the end to U.S. nation-building efforts in Afghanistan, stating that “we won’t try to make [it] a perfect place.” He underscored Washington’s burgeoning disenchantment with Hamid Karzai’s government in Kabul by once again prodding it to “step up its ability to protect its people, and move from an economy shaped by war to one that can sustain a lasting peace.” Both objectives, however, will prove impossible in the absence of strong U.S. support. A new report by the Democratic majority staff of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee offers a very bleak assessment of Afghanistan’s economic viability in a post-withdrawal era. Yet a day after Obama’s remarks, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton gave notice that the “civilian surge” – which dispatched a thousand U.S. officials to work on governance and development projects in Afghanistan – has likewise peaked.

Karzai’s antics have played a role in this fundamental shift in Washington, with one analyst concluding that “the United States has now clearly washed its hands of the Karzai government.” Tellingly, there was nary a word of praise in Mr. Obama’s remarks for the Afghan president, and one wonders how committed Washington will be to his regime’s survival in any political settlement with the Taliban.

Of course, this is the same government in which New Delhi has invested so much over the last decade. Only six weeks ago, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh traveled to Kabul with the aim of broadening India’s engagement in Afghanistan . He unveiled a significant expansion of Indian aid, with a further commitment of $500 million over the next few years. He and Karzai also issued a joint declaration that the two countries intended to move towards a strategic partnership. According to one analyst , Singh’s purpose was to demonstrate that, unlike Washington, New Delhi has no “exit strategy” in Afghanistan.

The diplomatic process leading to a possible political settlement of the Afghan conflict is only just beginning. But as it unfolds, it is likely that key differences will emerge between the United States and India. Looking towards the exits, Washington may not be too picky over the settlement’s exact details, while New Delhi will be all too focused on how the strategic terrain in its neighborhood is shifting.

Speaking of political settlements, Obama assured all that “the light of a secure peace can be seen in the distance.” But he was virtually silent on the principles he would pursue in the diplomatic endgame. What would constitute such a peace and how the United States would seek to effect it were items left unmentioned. Nor did Obama address how the Taliban and its Pakistani benefactor could be persuaded to support such an outcome when he has so plainly telegraphed America’s disengagement from Afghanistan.

The coming period will witness an intensified regional scramble for influence in a post-withdrawal Afghanistan. India has strong strategic interests in ensuring that any government in Kabul is strong enough to be a bulwark against Pakistan as well as a gateway to trade and energy links in Central Asia. Both goals would be undermined if a Taliban-dominated regime were to come to power. Yet India’s own capacity to shape the course of events is quite limited in a country with which it shares no borders. For this reason, India will seek to move closer to Iran, whose interests in Afghanistan are roughly congruent.

Indeed, this process has already started. A year ago, Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao (now slated as India’s new ambassador in Washington) highlighted the “unique” civilizational ties and “the instinctive feeling of goodwill” between India and Iran. She spoke of how links with Tehran are a “fundamental component” of New Delhi’s foreign policy and how there has been a recent “convergence of views” on important policy issues. Regarding bilateral cooperation in Afghanistan, she argued that India and Iran “are of the region and will belong here forever, even as outsiders [read the Americans] come and go.” A senior Indian official described the outreach to Iran as a policy “recalibration” necessitated by the “scenario unfolding in Afghanistan and India’s determination to secure its national interests.”

Earlier this year, India’s national security advisor, Shivshankar Menon, visited Tehran seeking to shore up strategic ties. In early June, the deputy secretary of Iran’s National Security Council was in New Delhi to continue the talks. New Delhi now has even less incentive to go along with U.S. economic sanctions directed against Tehran, and both countries may go so far as to revive their cooperation during the 1990s that provided critical support to the non-Pashtun militias battling the Taliban regime. The Americans will surely grumble about the cozying up with Iran, but the geopolitical logic of the Obama withdrawal leaves New Delhi little choice.

As the United States progressively takes leave of Afghanistan, its dependence on the (epically dysfunctional) security relationship with Pakistan that the 9/11 attacks brought about will correspondingly lessen. The impact of this development on India is variable. The drawdown in U.S. forces will decrease the logistical requirement to run critical supply lines through Pakistani territory. And as the commando assault on Osama Bin Laden and the marked ramp-up in drone strikes testify, Washington is increasingly willing to do without Pakistani cooperation and conduct military operations on its own.

As the need for Islamabad’s collaboration diminishes, Washington will begin to pull back on the significant military assistance – nearly $20 billion so far – that has caused so much consternation in New Delhi. The Bush administration’s “de-hyphenation” policy – one that pursued relations with India and Pakistan independent of the other – will also re-emerge. Seeing Pakistani cooperation on Afghanistan as a function of addressing its acute security anxieties, the Obama administration put the policy on hiatus and started making noises about the Kashmir issue and discouraging New Delhi from too deep an involvement in Afghanistan . With Washington’s solicitude vis-à-vis Islamabad’s sensitivities coming to an end, the U.S.-Indian security partnership will more and more run on its own dynamics.

On the other side of the ledger, however, the Pakistani military establishment could try to offset the loss of U.S. support by entering into an even tighter security alliance with China. This prospect, which would exacerbate India’s strategic concerns, cannot be ruled out, though Beijing so far has shown a reluctance to be encumbered by Pakistan’s deep internal problems . The rather bizarre trip Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani undertook to Beijing in late May is a case in point . Despite Gilani’s profession that Pakistan and China “are like two countries and one nation,” Beijing appeared discomforted when Islamabad put out the word that the Chinese navy was welcome to take up residence in Gwadar, a strategic port at the mouth of the Persian Gulf.

A more worrisome possibility is that U.S. strategic disassociation with Islamabad will also be expressed in a sharp reduction of economic assistance, leading to even greater volatility in Pakistan. In that event, India would find that Pakistan as a failed state is much more of a security headache than it ever was at the peak of its national power.

As the United States markedly reduces its presence in regional security affairs, some hard choices await New Delhi policymakers.

Can Immigration Policies Become More Open?

While immigrants and employers deal with the daily reality of overcoming immigration policies aimed at restricting, rather than promoting, migration, there are those who have called for liberalizing the world’s policies on the movement of people. In their book Exceptional People: How Migration Shaped Our World and Will Define our Future, authors Ian Goldin (Oxford), Geoffrey Cameron (Oxford) and Meera Balarajan (University of Cambridge) call for a fundamental change in immigration policies.

The authors argue that freeing up migration around the world would reap benefits. The authors note that according to the World Bank, “Increasing migration equal to 3 percent of the workforce in developed countries between 2005 and 2025 would generate global gains of $365 billion.” More radically: “Completely opening borders, some economists predict, would produce gains as high as $39 trillion for the world economy over 25 years.”

The authors are realistic enough to note that nothing like complete open borders is going to happen anytime soon. Their detailed history of migration around the world explains that until about 100 years ago, “open borders” was mostly the policy around the globe. The advent of World War I, nationalism, and the increase in modern transportation made such policies politically untenable.

Yet Goldin, Cameron and Balarajan explain that even if borders were not completely open, more migration, particularly if it was done in an orderly, legal way, can achieve positive results: “A small increase in migration would produce a much greater boon to the global economy and developing countries than free trade and development assistance combined.”

The authors call for an international body to help facilitate more open migration policies. Such calls are likely to fall on deaf ears. “So long as nationalism can legitimately trump more universal claims of international cooperation, world development, poverty alleviation, and human freedom, the project to advance an agenda for the liberalization of migration will be stalled,” the authors note.

Goldin, Cameron and Balarajan do not discuss the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), which has provided a degree of openness on skilled migration through a multilateral body. The United States, for example, committed, in essence, to maintain its policies on H-1B and L-1 temporary visas in exchange for greater market access in other sectors. To date, no cases have been filed against the United States for failing to honor those commitments, although it’s possible that could change.

The immigration issue is not going away. Factors beyond the control of elected officials propel both the issue and individual migration decisions. “A growing supply of migrants will result from greater pressure and propensity for people to move,” the authors note. “The pressure to migrate arises from the push and pull factors (whether economic, social, or political) that make migration attractive, whereas the propensity to migrate is related to individuals’ ability and willingness to bear the costs of moving.”

Goldin, Cameron and Balarajan conclude by placing their call for more open immigration policies in historical perspective: “Genetic and other evidence has placed the old arguments for ethnic purity in the dustbin of history. The ethical justification for discriminating on the basis of nation-states is also becoming moribund. While the world may still hold tightly to its national categories, as an excuse for restricting human liberties, they are being eroded by the tides of history. We contend that the idea of freer movement . . . will end up like the other big ideas that emerged from the margins of impossibility into the realm of the self-evident.”

China’s Defence Policy Speak softly but carry a big stick

As part of its efforts to appear transparent about its intentions and to dispel its image of a reclusive regime shrouded in secrecy, the Chinese government has been issuing White Papers on national defence every two years since 1998. The latest in the series, China’s National Defence in 2010, was released recently.

The crux of China’s national defence policy is to ensure a stable security environment so as to permit the unrestricted development of its economy and the modernisation of its military. The defence policy relies on military power as a guarantor of China’s strategic autonomy and is designed to ensure that China continues to enjoy unfettered access to critical strategic resources like oil and natural gas. China has apparently decided that its interests lie in projecting a positive, balanced and cooperative image to the international community. China’s growing economic and military power is gradually giving it the leverage to turn the perceived instability in its security environment into a newfound strength through bilateral and multilateral strategic partnerships, mutually beneficial trade and a cooperative attitude towards regional security arrangements.

China stresses that its national defence policy is essentially defensive in nature and that it is subordinate to the higher goal of building a prosperous China. The White Papers emphasise that China launches only counter-attacks in self defence. This is contrary to China’s fairly aggressive military posture and incursions into India, Russia and Vietnam over the last few decades. A significant recent development is China’s pro-active regional posture in diplomatic, strategic, economic and cultural spheres in parallel with China’s increasingly global posture. This is contrary to China’s claim that it “plays an active part in maintaining global and regional peace and stability.” Recent posturing on the Spratly Islands has been criticised all across South East Asia.

While China stresses the “purely defensive” nature of its defence policy, perceptive observers have noted the power projection capabilities that are inherent in China’s growing strategic reach and the increasing role that military power is paying in enhancing China’s comprehensive national power. Roy Kamphausen is of the view that the PLA is currently projecting military power throughout Asia by responding to crises, contributing to deterrence and enhancing regional stability using current capabilities. These efforts derive from and contribute to the building of comprehensive Chinese national power, which, in turn, serves to increase China’s stature in Asia, advance China’s foreign policy goals and even check U.S. influence.”

China continues to proclaim that it follows a “no first use” nuclear doctrine. However, the improvements in the quality of its nuclear-tipped missiles and the progressive increase in their quantity are conferring new options and spurring new thoughts among China’s national security analysts about the efficacy of its nuclear doctrine. Several of them have expressed the view that “under certain circumstances – such as an all-out attack against the country by conventional forces – China should use nuclear weapons.” As more sophisticated ICBMs like DF-31A and SLBMs like JL-2 enter service in larger numbers, China may be emboldened to review its no first use policy. Any Chinese move to discard the no first use policy will be inherently destabilising.

There are still many gaps in what is known about China’s defence policy and military power. There is much more that needs to be learnt about China’s ideas of statecraft, its approaches to the use of force, its perceived vulnerabilities and its preferred operational methods, as well as about the political and military organisations that work on military assessments and plans. Not enough is known about China’s actual military doctrine, command and control and capabilities such as logistics. Although China’s growing interest in coercion and pre-emption strategies and emerging methods of warfare – particularly the employment of missiles and information warfare – are now better understood, it is difficult to accurately assess how these developments will shape China’s overall military capability.

Immigrant-Founded Companies on the Fortune 500

A new study from the Partnership for a New American Economy shows immigrants and their children have played a significant role in starting key companies in the United States. The study found more than 40 percent of current companies listed on the Fortune 500 were founded by either immigrants or their children. (The study can be found here )

The Partnership for a New American Economy was started by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, along with the mayors of Philadelphia, Los Angeles, San Antonio and Phoenix, and the CEOs of Microsoft, Walt Disney, Marriott, Boeing and News Corporation. The study’s conclusion advocates changes to America’s immigration laws: “To compete, we must modernize our own immigration system so that it welcomes, rather than discourages, the Fortune 500 entrepreneurs of the 21st century global economy. We must create a visa designed to draw aspiring entrepreneurs to build new businesses and create jobs here. We must give existing American companies access to hire and keep the highly skilled workers from around the world whom they need to compete. And we must stem the loss of highly skilled foreign students trained in our universities, allowing them to stay and contribute to our economy the talent in which we’ve invested.”

Table 1 and Table 2 give a sample of the more than 200 companies in the Fortune 500 started by immigrants or their children. Some on the list may make you smile, such as Alexander Graham Bell, an immigrant from Scotland, the inventor of the telephone credited with founding AT&T, or Thomas Edison, a son of immigrants, who invented the light bulb and started General Electric.

There was only one Indian immigrant or child of immigrants on the list (Vinod Khosla, Sun Microsystems) for a simple reason: The Fortune 500 are the largest companies in America and it normally takes many years for a business to grow that large. The exceptions are some recent technology juggernauts, such as Google and eBay. Indian immigration to the United States remains relatively new, essentially post-1965. In another decade or two it would not be surprising to see a number of companies on the Fortune 500 that were started by Indian immigrants or their children.

Table 1

Immigrant-Founded Companies on the Fortune 500

Company Immigrant Founder Country of Origin
AT&T Alexander Graham Bell Scotland
Pfizer Charles Pfizer, Charles, Erhart Germany
Kraft Foods James L. Kraft Canada
Fluor John Simon Fluor, Sr. Switzerland
Kohl’s Maxwell Kohl Poland
Colgate-Palmolive William Colgate England
Sun Microsystems Vinod Khosla, Andy Bechtolsheim India, Germany
BJ’S Wholesale Club Max and Morris Feldberg Russia
EBay Pierre Omidyar France
Google Sergey Brin Russia

Source: Partnership for a New American Economy; companies had at least one immigrant founder.

Table 2

Fortune 500 Companies Started by the Children of Immigrants

Company Founder with Immigrant Parent(s) Country of Origin
General Electric Thomas Edison Canada
Ford Motor Henry Ford Ireland
IBM Herman Hollerith Germany
Boeing William E. Boeing Germany
Home Depot Bernie Marcus Russia
United Parcel Service James Casey Ireland
Apple Steve Jobs Syria
CBS William S. Paley Ukraine
Office Depot Jack Kopkin Russia
Harley-Davidson William S. Harley England

Source: Partnership for a New American Economy; companies had at least one founder who was a child of an immigrant parent or parents.