Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Pardee Center Holds Experts Panel on South Asia 2060

Professor Mattoo called for a change in focus from the territory of Jammu & Kashmir to the people of Kashmir to find a lasting and sustainable peace in the conflict-ridden valley. Speaking at a panel discussion in the 12th Sustainable Development Conference organized by Sustainable Development Policy Institute in Islamabad he said that efforts should be directed at fostering organic institutions across the Line of Control (LoC), warning that heavy militarization was severely undermining the political space needed for reconciliation. He was optimistic and argued that the LoC can be converted into a Line of Peace (LoP) but also cautioned, "We are at a tipping point.We could go in the direction of paradise or descend into hell."

Friday, December 18, 2009

Book Review: Wisdom of the East

There is no other living leader, it can be comfortably asserted, who has played a greater role in shaping his country's destiny as has Singapore's Lee Kuan Yew. Singapore is, with its abundance of good, a little bad, and traces of the ugly, LKY's vision translated into reality. Whatever title he may hold, prime minister, senior minister or minister mentor, LKY has greater influence on this "tiny dot" in the Indian Ocean than any other elected or nominated official in the country. During an interaction once with university presidents, LKY disclosed that he had a simple objective for his country once it separated from Malaysia in 1965: to convert it into a first world oasis in a third world desert. And he did succeed. LKY also held a vision for India and for the bilateral relationship. In this, however, success was achieved after nearly 40 years of frustration, disillusionment and even anger. Sunanda K. Datta-Ray's Lee Kuan Yew's Mission India is a masterly chronicle of the India-Singapore relationship built on the grand old man's vision and persistence. The USP of the book is clearly the eight conversations that Ray was able to have with LKY himself.
Why did LKY believe in India long before Indians began to believe in themselves? He always believed that Southeast Asia needs India to deal with China. In the 1960s, the focus was on India militarily balancing China, but today the focus is on economic cooperation. ASEAN, he believes, cannot alone "contend with China's growing might" but the ASEAN plus India "commands impressive weightage". But as Ray points out, "Like Manmohan Singh, however, Lee believes that Asian stability demands competition and cooperation, not confrontation, between the two giants… leading to an arc of advantage and prosperity across Asia and an Asian economic community." In a conversation with JRD Tata in 1974, he had warned that if India did not emerge, Asia would be submerged. In his geostrategic thinking, Lee was greatly influenced by the great Indian historian, K.M. Panikkar, who coined the term Southeast Asia for what had been known until then as Farther India.
For many years, Lee was rebuffed by India and Indians. In the '60s, he had called for a military partnership. Indeed "within moments of proclaiming" Singapore's independence, he wrote to Indian prime minister Lal Bahadur Shastri "seeking military assistance". India, predictably, ignored the appeal. Singaporean fishing vessels were routinely arrested for straying into Indian territory; the request to use the Nicobar Islands for training was rejected. LKY saw India's descent into socialist autarchy and corrupt governance with dismay. His prescription called for "clean politics, secular egalitarianism, a unifying language… economic opportunities, and an honest, efficient and impartial administration". For decades, this never happened. And LKY began fearing that an enfeebled India shackled by a Hindu rate of growth and wracked by caste and communal conflict would never match the grandeur of his dreams. It was only after the Narasimha Rao Manmohan Singh combine brought back the region into focus that Singapore became New Delhi's first stop on the road to America. Today, India and Singapore share one of the closest bilateral economic, military and societal relationships. And in many ways, this is a deserving tribute to LKY, and Ray's fine book brings this out with great finesse.

(Source: India Today)

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A Treaty To Nowhere

Almost every week for the last few months, a star-studded international conference has been organized to garner support for the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. The venue of the conference may change (New York, Helsinki, Amman, Vienna or Beijing) but the message is the same: the NPT is needed to prevent an apocalyptic nuclear nightmare. The reason for this flurry of activity is simple. In May 2010, the NPT will be reviewed by its nearly 190 members, and there is growing apprehension within the NPT-approved nuclear-weapon states (N-5) that a revolt is waiting to happen. After 40 years of submitting themselves to the double standards, bad faith, arm-twisting and even humiliation by the United States of America, Russia, the United Kingdom and, more recently, France and China, a critical section of the non-nuclear weapon states may finally have had enough. And even the charisma of President Barack Obama and his vision of a world free of nuclear weapons may not be enough to save the treaty.
But the plot is getting more curious. Late last month, at Washington’s Mayflower Hotel, the American secretary of state, Hillary Rodham Clinton, delivered the second Dean Acheson Memorial lecture sponsored by the US Institute of Peace. Much of the lecture on nuclear non-proliferation was predictable, but it was towards the end of the programme — during the question and answer — that she threw the audience of largely non-proliferation ninjas off balance. She declared that President Obama’s administration was looking forward to working with India to come up with a 21st-century version of the NPT. Whether Clinton had carefully thought over this idea or had merely let her passion for India take over, the reality is that the secretary of state had underlined a significant reality.
The NPT, as it stands today, is an illegitimate entity born of a secret liaison between Moscow and Washington. The NPT is out of tune with world realities and has failed its own charter, and any attempt to resuscitate it will only further erode the objectives of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. It is time to think of a new nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament architecture and it is critical that India takes the lead in this venture.
The NPT was, in essence, created in a rare moment during the Cold War when the Soviet Union and the US got together to prevent those outside the N-5 from acquiring nuclear weapons. They presented a fait accompli to the Eighteen Nation Committee on Disarmament (the designated multilateral negotiating forum on arms control, and a precursor to the Conference on Disarmament) and put into force a treaty that reflected their interests and their view of global stability. The NPT divided the world, almost permanently, between nuclear ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’.
The NPT rested on three pillars, and all three are on the point of collapsing.
The first pillar is non-proliferation. Nuclear-weapon states, party to the treaty, committed themselves not to supply nuclear-weapon technology to non-nuclear states. And non-nuclear states pledged not to acquire nuclear weapons. This is a farce. China supplied nuclear weapon technology to Pakistan, even after signing the NPT. The US, at the very least, benignly allowed Israel to acquire nuclear weapons. North Korea, a member of the NPT, had a clandestine nuclear weapons programme, and withdrew from the treaty once it was discovered. And Iran is arguably even today moving towards nuclear weaponization even while being a member of the treaty. And, of course, because the NPT refuses to recognize — due to its arbitrary cut-off date — that India, Israel and Pakistan are nuclear weapon states.
The second pillar was civilian nuclear energy. Non-nuclear weapon states had an inalienable right to research, develop, produce and use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. Further, the treaty declared that the peaceful applications of nuclear explosions would be made available to non-nuclear-weapon states on a non-discriminatory basis. The treaty has failed even on this count, with non-nuclear weapon states getting virtually no access to the civilian benefits despite the so-called nuclear renaissance. Moreover, because the popular low-cost light nuclear power station uses enriched uranium fuel, states must be able either to enrich uranium or purchase it in the international market. Neither is being allowed. In addition, NPT countries are being virtually coerced to accept additional safeguards.
The third and arguably most important pillar was nuclear disarmament. Each of the parties to the treaty undertook to pursue negotiations in good faith for cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and for nuclear disarmament. Despite considerable cuts in Russian and US nuclear arsenals since the end of the Cold War, and Obama’s desire to move towards a nuclear-free world, the fact is that there seems to be no real commitment on part of the N-5 to truly move towards a Global Zero, to use a term popularized by a nuclear disarmament campaign. It is believed that the nuclear posture review being conducted by the US scientific and defence establishment will ensure that nuclear weapons remain an integral part of American security plans.
What, however, has inflamed many of the NPT members, including those in Latin America and the Middle East, is the impunity with which assurances, decisions and resolutions arrived at in previous review conferences have been disregarded. The NPT initially entered into force for 25 years in 1970. It was reviewed and extended indefinitely in 1995 only after a series of commitments were given, including on negative security assurances and especially explicit assurances over the Middle East. None of these commitments has been kept. In 2000, a series of 13 steps was agreed upon, but progress on many of these steps has been tardy. In 2005, there was uproar at the review conference, but not a rebellion. In 2010, however, as said earlier, a revolt is waiting to happen.
Not surprisingly, at a recent meeting in Beijing, all three chairmen of the NPT review conferences in the past, the ambassadors Jayantha Dhanapala of Sri Lanka, Serge Duarte of Brazil and Muhammad Shakhar of Egypt, felt betrayed by the manner in which the treaty was undermined, primarily by the US and other nuclear-weapon countries. The time has come now to push the treaty to where it rightly belongs: the dustbin of history. The time is also ripe for New Delhi to take the lead in suggesting a new nuclear architecture that will accommodate the nuclear realities of the world, create a better balance of rights and obligations between nuclear and non-nuclear states and address the most dangerous possibility of non-state actors getting access to nuclear technology and weapons. This framework should, of course, be founded on a larger credible plan for nuclear disarmament which builds on the action plan for nuclear disarmament put forward by the former Indian prime minister, Rajiv Gandhi, in 1988.
 (The Telegraph, 2/12/09)