Saturday, March 10, 2012

Why China, India Clash, my article in The Diplomat


Here's an article of mine of India-China relations, published in The Diplomat. While the prevailing view is that it is the border issue which is the most contentious issue between the two countries, I would argue that border issue is only a symptom of the larger problem that exists between India and China.

India-China relations are often seen through the prism of their bilateral disputes. Indeed, the border dispute between the two is generally seen as the biggest hurdle to improving ties. But it could be argued that disagreements such as that over the border in Arunachal Pradesh are only a symptom of the larger problem that exists between these two Asian giants, namely the inevitable and increasing competition between two rising powers.

For the full article, click here.

While the simultaneous rise of powers need not always result in a clash, the four major powers in Asia – established powers Russia and Japan, and newly rising China and India – have had troubled historical relations, contributing to deep-rooted mistrust and mutual suspicion. With the exception of India-Russia and India-Japan relations, the baggage of history is weighing on almost all bilateral relations. It may be true that this century will be an “Asian century,” but it can’t be said with certainty that it’s going to be a stable and peaceful one.

India and China have certainly gone through their share of ups and downs in their relations over the last six decades. Currently, their relations are probably on an upward curve, but one based on trade and raw economics. And while their bilateral trade has climbed to $60 billion, there has been a simultaneous rise in tensions. Improved economic relations don’t necessarily mean better ties overall, as has been demonstrated with U.S.-China relations, as well as those between Japan and China and Taiwan and the mainland.

So, if improved trade ties haven’t resulted in better political and strategic relations, what are the key issues that are holding the two back? Historically, it used to be the border issue, China’s relationship with Pakistan and the rest of South Asia in general, and China’s policy on Jammu and Kashmir specifically. But over the past decade, the emerging Asian strategic framework and the global role for each of these rising powers has been an important factor.

Sadly, this is only likely to get worse. As India’s influence increases within Asia and beyond, there are bound to be problems between Beijing and New Delhi as the two are seen competing for influence and resources. For instance, China is increasingly wary of India’s closer engagement with Japan, South Korea and some Southeast Asian countries. The Chinese leadership appears equally wary of India’s “Look East” Policy as it seems to believe that this will dilute Chinese influence in the region. India has improved its trade ties with Japan, South Korea and ASEAN countries, and there appears to be an increasingly strategic component to relations.

On the other hand, India has remained concerned about China’s ever-growing reach into South Asia, particularly in Pakistan. Of all the South Asian countries, it is Islamabad that most closely shares China’s strategic interests, and their interests vis a vis India have been crucial in cementing relations between the two. For Pakistan, Kashmir is an unfinished item on the agenda of the partition of the subcontinent. India’s sensitivity over Kashmir is matched by China’s worries about Tibet. China believes that New Delhi has ulterior motives regarding Tibet, and the very fact that the Dalai Lama and as many as 150,000 Tibetan refugees live in India continues to irk Beijing. For a country that’s actively engaged in image building as a responsible power, the shortcomings of China’s ethnic policy isn’t something China likes to be reminded about.

Complicating India’s relations with China was the fact that the George W. Bush administration saw a greater role for India and Japan in the emerging Asian strategic framework. The U.S.-India Nuclear Deal in 2005 furthered China’s anxieties, and the fact that the United States took the lead in altering the global rules so that India could engage in international nuclear commerce wasn’t well received by Beijing.

Ultimately, it’s India’s increasing role and influence that’s the crux of the issue. Although India and China both acknowledge the role of the other in the emerging Asian strategic order, they have different conceptions over how this will all pan out. India has continued to adopt an accommodative and inclusive approach in shaping this new architecture, while China has followed an exclusivist approach that appears to be directed against India, Japan and the United States.

Beijing has argued that its rise is peaceful, but as China’s military and economic strength grows, India may not be prepared to see an Asian order dominated by any single power. Given such trends, it’s likely that competition for influence between these new powers will be a significant feature of the Asian century.



Saturday, March 3, 2012

U.S. Backs Efforts to Draft Space Code, article in Arms Control Today


Here's an article on the US effort in drafting a space code in the latest issue of Arms Control Today, quoting me ....

The United States will join with the European Union and other space-faring countries to develop an international code of conduct for outer space activities, but will not sign on to the EU’s current draft of a proposed code, U.S. officials have said.

“The long-term sustainability of our space environment is at serious risk from space debris and irresponsible actors…. A Code of Conduct will help maintain the long-term sustainability, safety, stability, and security of space by establishing guidelines for the responsible use of space,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said in a Jan. 17 press release. U.S. officials have discussed whether to support the EU’s draft of the code since the original version was circulated in December 2008.

Taking the effort forward, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Space and Defense Policy Frank Rose said the EU will take the lead on negotiating an international code and plans to host a series of experts meetings over the next several months. The United States “plans to actively participate in those discussions,” which aim “to develop a consensus text that could become an eventual international code,” he said.

Rose said the United States hopes to involve all space-faring nations in the meetings, but he highlighted five countries that should be a focus of EU efforts: Brazil, India, Indonesia, Nigeria, and South Africa. However, experts say China and Russia are the two countries that matter most because they are the biggest space-faring countries after the United States.

In a Jan. 26 e-mail to Arms Control Today, Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan, a senior fellow in security studies at the Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi, pointed to the fast-growing space programs in Asia and said that, “in the absence of an inclusive mechanism, the EU Code is likely to see a repeat” of the experience with the Hague Code of Conduct Against Ballistic Missile Proliferation, “where the majority of the Asian countries that contribute to the challenge of missile proliferation remain outside the mechanism.”

As Arms Control Today went to press, India had not come out with a formal position on the EU’s draft. However, India’s informal position is that the code lacks a provision for a legally binding mechanism, which has been “a long-standing demand from some of the Asian countries,” Rajagopalan said. Nevertheless, she said, India is “prudent” enough to “recognize that a legal framework may emerge much later” and legal frameworks often “are the by-products of normative exercises.”

To read the full article, click here.



The United States will join with the European Union and other space-faring countries to develop an international code of conduct for outer space activities, but will not sign on to the EU’s current draft of a proposed code, U.S. officials have said.

“The long-term sustainability of our space environment is at serious risk from space debris and irresponsible actors…. A Code of Conduct will help maintain the long-term sustainability, safety, stability, and security of space by establishing guidelines for the responsible use of space,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said in a Jan. 17 press release. U.S. officials have discussed whether to support the EU’s draft of the code since the original version was circulated in December 2008. (See ACT, January/February 2009.)

The EU released the latest draft of the code in 2010 after receiving feedback from other countries, including the United States. That document retained much of the language from previous versions, including a clause establishing a voluntary commitment to refrain from intentionally harming space objects, measures to control space debris, and mechanisms for cooperation and consultation. It added language to protect countries’ rights to self-defense under the UN Charter. (See ACT, November 2010.)

Despite the negotiations between the United States and the EU, Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Ellen Tauscher told reporters on Jan. 12, “It’s been clear from the very beginning that we were not going with the [EU] code.” When asked why the United States would not sign on to the EU draft, Tauscher said that “it’s too restrictive.”

Speaking a week later at the Stimson Center, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Space and Defense Policy Frank Rose said Tauscher’s comment was referring to the process surrounding the creation of the EU code more than the substance of the code. “Before you convene a multilateral ad hoc conference to sign the code, you need to develop a process in between to build consensus on a code,” Rose said.

In a Jan. 25 interview, Michael Krepon, co-founder of the Stimson Center and director of its South Asia and space security programs, said that “leaders from other space-faring countries not in Europe, like India, rightly complained that they didn’t have co-authorship of the EU’s draft.” The code “already has important partnerships, like Japan, Canada, Australia, and Europe, but the task now is to get the concept of a code of conduct greater international standing,” Krepon said.

EU reaction to the U.S. decision not to sign on to the current draft of the code was “rather mixed and quite negative from the senior officials,” according to an EU government official familiar with negotiations over the proposed code.

According to the unclassified summary of the U.S. “National Security Space Strategy,” released in January 2011, space “is becoming increasingly congested, contested, and competitive.” The clutter of manmade objects is exacerbated by actions such as the “irresponsible” 2007 Chinese anti-satellite test that created more than 3,000 pieces of debris, the report said.

Next Steps

At the Stimson Center event, Rose said the EU will take the lead on negotiating an international code and plans to host a series of experts meetings over the next several months. The United States “plans to actively participate in those discussions,” which aim “to develop a consensus text that could become an eventual international code,” he said.

Rose said the United States hopes to involve all space-faring nations in the meetings, but he highlighted five countries that should be a focus of EU efforts: Brazil, India, Indonesia, Nigeria, and South Africa. However, experts say China and Russia are the two countries that matter most because they are the biggest space-faring countries after the United States.

In a Jan. 26 e-mail to Arms Control Today, Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan, a senior fellow in security studies at the Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi, pointed to the fast-growing space programs in Asia and said that, “in the absence of an inclusive mechanism, the EU Code is likely to see a repeat” of the experience with the Hague Code of Conduct Against Ballistic Missile Proliferation, “where the majority of the Asian countries that contribute to the challenge of missile proliferation remain outside the mechanism.”

As Arms Control Today went to press, India had not come out with a formal position on the EU’s draft. However, India’s informal position is that the code lacks a provision for a legally binding mechanism, which has been “a long-standing demand from some of the Asian countries,” Rajagopalan said. Nevertheless, she said, India is “prudent” enough to “recognize that a legal framework may emerge much later” and legal frameworks often “are the by-products of normative exercises.”

Krepon said that any involvement by India to help draft an international code would be “a change in its strategic culture, which is currently to be an outsider and to complain,” citing India’s reluctance to participate in the UN Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) on Space and its absence from the Hague Code of Conduct.

The GGE, which was established by UN General Assembly Resolution 65/68 in October 2011 to examine transparency and confidence-building measures, is scheduled to start in July 2012 and is expected to finish by July 2013. The GGE process is separate from the one that Rose proposed and is not a formal negotiating process. It is not clear whether the GGE process will include discussion of a code of conduct.

China and Russia have proposed their own space agreements, most recently a draft Treaty on the Prevention of the Placement of Weapons in Outer Space, the Threat or Use of Force Against Outer Space Objects (PPWT). Rose stressed that the U.S. position is not to negotiate on the PPWT. The United States sees the code “as a pragmatic and responsible alternative to the PPWT,” he said. U.S. officials, including Rose, have said that the PPWT’s language is weak and lacks an effective mechanism for verification.

Domestic Politics

Four congressional Republicans expressed their support of the State Department’s decision on the EU code in a Jan. 28 letter to President Barack Obama, but said they were concerned about the administration’s plans to negotiate an international agreement similar to the EU’s draft.

“Such an international agreement could establish the foundation for a future arms control regime that binds the United States without approval of Congress,” said the letter signed by Reps. Michael Turner (Ohio) and Joe Heck (Nev.), and Sens. Jeff Sessions (Ala.) and Jon Kyl (Ariz.). Turner, Heck, and Sessions hold senior positions on their respective chamber’s armed services or intelligence committees; Kyl is the Senate minority whip and a leading Republican voice on national security issues.

At the Jan. 19 Stimson Center event, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space Policy Gregory L. Schulte said nothing in the code would keep the United States from developing, deploying, or testing land or space ballistic missile defense systems. He said that any code would not be a legally binding arms control agreement, but a set of nonbinding “guidelines” that countries would follow.

The four lawmakers said in their letter that although “it is worth considering whether a non-binding arrangement for outer space activities could be in the interest of the United States, we are not comfortable that all policy and operational impacts of doing so have been assessed.” They went on to say that Republicans “are deeply concerned about the unknown consequences such limitations would have on future military or intelligence programs given that the draft Code appears to be of unlimited duration.”

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Space Code of Conduct Debate: A View from Delhi, my article in Strategic Studies Quarterly


Here's an article of mine on the space code of conduct debate, a perspective from Delhi published in the latest issue of Strategic Studies Quarterly, published by Air University, US Air Force.

While India has interests in drafting rules of the road on space issues, the EU has lost out an ideal opportunity to rope in India as a major spacefaring power to shape the debate. The “Not Invented Here” syndrome characterises, at best, India’s position on the EU Code. If the EU had to do this exercise all over again, it might be relevant to adopt an inclusive approach, bringing together all the spacefaring countries to debate and shape an instrument that is widely acceptable. India’s interests in writing the rules are driven by the fact that it has been one of the earliest space powers and therefore it should have been part of the debate. In addition, it also has interests in formulating rules that would affect and curtail certain space activities. Indian interests are also to do with the Indian economic growth story that is increasingly dependent on space utilisation.

Also certain measures, by way of narrowing down the differences, have been suggested including the idea whether states around the world can agree to an “IPCC model of experts” on space; mulling over new initiatives along the lines of International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).


For the full article, click here.

Finally, what's the way around?

Can states around the world agree to an “Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change” model of experts to address space issues? Given that space debris or an arms race in space are universal problems confronting every nation-state, the idea of constituting a panel of experts under the aegis of the United Nations may be a good starting point. his may be the kind of inclusive mechanism India should aim for while making an effort to enlist the support of other key space-faring countries.

Obviously space traffic management is at the core of the entire issue. Countries could mull over new initiatives along the lines of the Inter­national Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). Letting technical experts handle issues is one way to reduce political salience and competition.

Also, is the Conference on Disarmament (CD) still a relevant forum to discuss and debate space security? More than a decade has passed since the CD debated and moved forward on important security issues. Given such a track record, it is time to consider alternate venues to tackle these challenges. he ICAO model may be appropriate, since overcrowding,
industrialization, and weaponization of space and management of space traffic have become critical issues. One has to think of new platforms outside the CD, given the problems with the consensual decision-making process in the CD. Can there be
a major grouping of space-faring powers similar to the P-5 who are the nuclear weapon countries recognized by the NPT? Such a grouping might be keener on making decisions and moving forward than any other conceivable forum.

Finally, the EU has to recognize that geopolitics has significant value in determining and shaping norms and establishing practices. In this regard the geopolitical weight of Asia may be in a position to dictate new terms and conditions in formulating these norms and practices. Getting as many Asian countries as possible on board would be a major plus if the EU is keen on pushing an agenda. his is also important considering the increasing trend toward securitization of geopolitics in Asia. Therefore, the EU must listen and understand the Asian realities and concerns.