January 30, 2001


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G Parthasarathy

Dealing with Dubya

As New Delhi ponders over the perspectives, preferences and prejudices of President George W Bush and of his key foreign policy advisers, some indication of current American perspectives on global developments has been provided by the CIA itself.

In a report, Global Trends 2015, the CIA has come out with a detailed analysis and assessment of major global and regional developments and challenges in the first 15 years of the new millennium. Policy-makers at South Block and elsewhere would be well advised to scrutinise this study if they are to respond effectively to Washington's perceptions and policies in the coming years. The report assumes added importance, as it has been prepared in consultation with a number of foreign policy experts and institutions, including such non-proliferation warriors like Joseph Nye and Jessica Mathews.

Outlining the situation in South Asia the report concludes: 'India will be the unrivalled regional power with a large military including naval and nuclear capabilities -- and a dynamic and growing economy. The widening Indo-Pakistani gap -- destabilizing in its own right -- will be accompanied by deep political, economic and social disparities within both states.'

The report predicts that despite challenges posed by growing regional disparities in India, with the northern states remaining relatively backward and dependant on subsidies and social welfare grants, and challenges posed to traditional secular values, Indian democracy will remain strong. The main challenges the country will have to confront are those posed by population growth, environmental degradation and shortage of essential resources including water. It has been stressed that with the largest English speaking population in the developing world, India is poised for rapid strides in high technology led growth, and significant progress in information technology and key sectors like pharmaceuticals.

In the eyes of the CIA, India's role is not going to be confined merely to the sub-continent, as some of our more myopic foreign policy pundits advocate. The CIA feels that given New Delhi's suspicions of China, India will look increasingly to the West. It sees the emerging dynamics of power in Asia being fashioned by emerging equations between the US and China, China and Japan, and India and China.

The report also notes that India would continue to build up its ocean going navy to dominate the Indian Ocean transit routes used for delivery of Persian Gulf oil to Asia. General Colin Powell had also recently spoken of India's growing role in the Indian Ocean region. It is important that South Block takes careful note of these assertions as it seeks to engage the new administration. What needs to be done is to devise strategies to engage the Bush administration in evolving a new partnership that would extend at least from the Straits of Malacca in the East to the Persian Gulf in our West.

India must not belittle itself by an excessive focus on India-Pakistan or sub-continental issues alone. Issues like co-operative approaches to energy security need to be focused on in detail.

The CIA analysis has some very candid comments about Pakistan and Afghanistan. It asserts that Pakistan will not recover easily from decades of mismanagement, divisive politics, concluding that our jihadi neighbour will become more 'fractious, isolated and dependant on international financial assistance.' It predicts that further domestic decline will benefit Islamic radicals and most significantly suggests that this could well alter the make up and cohesion of the Pakistan army, which it states 'was once Pakistan's most capable institution.' It predicts: 'In a climate of continuing domestic turmoil, the central government's control will probably be reduced to the Punjab heartland and the economic hub of Karachi.'

The report envisages that the turmoil in Afghanistan and Pakistan will spill over into Kashmir and other areas of the sub-continent. It is interesting that in comments made before she formally assumed office National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice stated the South Asia is 'a region that has many problems, that has a Pakistan encountering severe problems of internal control. You think about Afghanistan which is essentially not a state' and other Central Asian states and 'you have a kind of arc of crisis that we could use India's help in managing.'

It appears clear that the United States now acknowledges the strength and resilience of India's democratic and pluralistic society and institutions and is concerned about the growing turmoil to our west and at the economic and strategic uncertainties to our east. The CIA report notes that as India accelerates its economic progress, neighbours like Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal will be drawn closer to and increase their economic interdependence with India. But for this to happen, New Delhi will have to develop a coherent and long-term strategy of enhancing economic co-operation both bilaterally and sub-regionally with these neighbours and showing an increasing measure of understanding of their concerns and aspirations. We should certainly learn to be more generous in trade-related issues and developmental co-operation with countries in our neighbourhood, in whose stability and economic progress we have a vital stake. While our 'Look East' policies have shown commendable success in the past decade, we need to develop a similar framework for co-operation with the countries in the Gulf and Central Asian regions.

It would be naive to imagine that our relationship with the United States is going to be smooth and trouble free in the coming years. The CIA report notes that the threat of an India-Pakistan conflict will overshadow all other regional issues for the next 15 years. It would be unrealistic to presume that the US is going to be unconcerned about this scenario. Rice had recently observed, 'Before one thinks about (removing) sanctions, it would be helpful if India is more forthcoming about its plan for nuclear development. What precisely it sees as the end game. A promise not to weaponize further and so on and so forth.' Thus, while the CTBT may not be a source of continuing friction, differences on nuclear related issues are bound to continue. Washington would naturally have concerns about the impact of our nuclear policies on the security environment of its NATO allies.

Given President Bush's firm commitment to building a national missile defence system, it is obvious that there are going to be continuing uncertainties on how China will respond. Thus, if we do not know what the "end game" of China and others is going to be, will we be in a position to spell out our own "end game"? In any case, it must be reiterated to the new administration that given our wider security concerns there can be no question of our linking our nuclear policies merely to what Pakistan does or does not do.

We should point out that whether or not the composite dialogue process with Pakistan commences, we are prepared to finalise and implement nuclear risk reduction measures and other CBMs with our increasingly dysfunctional western neighbour. Al Gore was regarded as something of a "fundamentalist" on nuclear non-proliferation and environmental issues. But, New Delhi is going to inevitably encounter problems in dealing with the Bush administration on issues of climate change and the Kyoto Convention also, especially as and when as the United States seeks to defend itself against charges by its own allies that it is insensitive to global environmental concerns.

The assumption of office by the Bush administration provides us a unique opportunity to put our relationship on a new and enduring footing. But, we will have to remember the American saying that "it takes two to tango." Nothing can be achieved or gained if either side shows a lack of sensitivity to the security and economic concerns of the other. Hopefully, our coming engagement with the new US dministration will be conducted comprehensively and frankly, so that we can deal with each other free from the prejudices and mistrust of the past.

G Parthasarathy

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