Commentary Magazine


Topic: New Delhi

How Obama Can Win in Copenhagen

Barack Obama has a golden opportunity next week at Copenhagen in the form of the U.S.-India Civil Nuclear Agreement. If by the end of the conference Obama settles with New Delhi the details to implement the agreement, he will win on three crucial issues: (1) he will please business, (2) he will substantively contribute to international environmentalist efforts, and (3) he will reinforce American friendship with India at a time when the relationship has been strained.

Both India and the United States have applauded the agreement since its passage by both countries’ lawmakers last year, but details to address security, nonproliferation, and liability concerns have kept anything from actually happening on the ground.

The climate-change debate has often pitted economic interests against environmental ones, as the upset in Australia this week has shown. Here’s a chance for Obama to show that the two can be reconciled. The U.S.-India Business Council has said that the agreement will create a $150 billion business for civilian nuclear technologies over the next 30 years. The council’s president predicted the agreement will create up to 27,000 “high-quality” jobs in the United States over the next 10 years. Obama has acknowledged that the agreement increases American exports to India. And the CEO of General Electric has noted that the agreement “opens up prospects for U.S. companies to supply potentially billions of dollars worth of reactor technology, fuel and other services to India.”

Not only does the agreement please business; it also allows India a way to cut carbon emissions. Nuclear power, vastly underused in India, does not let off carbon dioxide, which has long been seen as the leading culprit in global warming. Worst for carbon emissions is coal — which now accounts for more than half of India’s energy. Some estimates even say India could avoid 130 million tons of carbon dioxide per year by switching from coal power to nuclear power — a substantial savings. “For comparison, the full range of emission cuts planned by the European Union under the Kyoto Protocol will total just 200 million tons per year,” wrote David G. Victor in 2006. Demand for energy in India will only grow as it develops. By simply implementing an agreement already approved, Obama can take credit for a significant role in India’s energy future.

Nailing down the details of the agreement accomplishes both economic and environmental goals while also reinforcing good relations with India. And relations with India under Obama have already endured one misstep. New Delhi bristled at a portion of the November U.S.-China Joint Statement that implied greater meddling from Beijing in Indo-Pakistani relations, especially offensive considering the recent border tensions between China and India.

But since its passage under the Bush administration, the nuclear-energy agreement has been hailed as a monumental diplomatic reset. It was the first time the U.S. engaged in nuclear cooperation with New Delhi since India’s first test of a nuclear bomb, in 1974. The former nonproliferation policies toward India did nothing to deter the pursuit of nuclear weapons or lessen Indo-Pakistani tensions. Instead, they isolated India, a crucial country in the region. Both the United States and India have recently emphasized how they are “natural partners,” not least of all because they are both democratic regimes. This agreement is crucial to India’s perception of its relations with the U.S.; in fact, in 2005, Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that “India has made this the central issue in the new partnership developing between our countries.” By settling the details of the agreement, Obama would show the Indians good faith and prove that they are a priority.

The negotiations over specific details have taken a long time, partly because of justifiable security concerns. But much more procrastination will send the wrong message to India. On the other hand, next week is a prime opportunity for Obama to act on an American promise and also address environmental and economic communities. If he’s wise, he won’t squander it.

Barack Obama has a golden opportunity next week at Copenhagen in the form of the U.S.-India Civil Nuclear Agreement. If by the end of the conference Obama settles with New Delhi the details to implement the agreement, he will win on three crucial issues: (1) he will please business, (2) he will substantively contribute to international environmentalist efforts, and (3) he will reinforce American friendship with India at a time when the relationship has been strained.

Both India and the United States have applauded the agreement since its passage by both countries’ lawmakers last year, but details to address security, nonproliferation, and liability concerns have kept anything from actually happening on the ground.

The climate-change debate has often pitted economic interests against environmental ones, as the upset in Australia this week has shown. Here’s a chance for Obama to show that the two can be reconciled. The U.S.-India Business Council has said that the agreement will create a $150 billion business for civilian nuclear technologies over the next 30 years. The council’s president predicted the agreement will create up to 27,000 “high-quality” jobs in the United States over the next 10 years. Obama has acknowledged that the agreement increases American exports to India. And the CEO of General Electric has noted that the agreement “opens up prospects for U.S. companies to supply potentially billions of dollars worth of reactor technology, fuel and other services to India.”

Not only does the agreement please business; it also allows India a way to cut carbon emissions. Nuclear power, vastly underused in India, does not let off carbon dioxide, which has long been seen as the leading culprit in global warming. Worst for carbon emissions is coal — which now accounts for more than half of India’s energy. Some estimates even say India could avoid 130 million tons of carbon dioxide per year by switching from coal power to nuclear power — a substantial savings. “For comparison, the full range of emission cuts planned by the European Union under the Kyoto Protocol will total just 200 million tons per year,” wrote David G. Victor in 2006. Demand for energy in India will only grow as it develops. By simply implementing an agreement already approved, Obama can take credit for a significant role in India’s energy future.

Nailing down the details of the agreement accomplishes both economic and environmental goals while also reinforcing good relations with India. And relations with India under Obama have already endured one misstep. New Delhi bristled at a portion of the November U.S.-China Joint Statement that implied greater meddling from Beijing in Indo-Pakistani relations, especially offensive considering the recent border tensions between China and India.

But since its passage under the Bush administration, the nuclear-energy agreement has been hailed as a monumental diplomatic reset. It was the first time the U.S. engaged in nuclear cooperation with New Delhi since India’s first test of a nuclear bomb, in 1974. The former nonproliferation policies toward India did nothing to deter the pursuit of nuclear weapons or lessen Indo-Pakistani tensions. Instead, they isolated India, a crucial country in the region. Both the United States and India have recently emphasized how they are “natural partners,” not least of all because they are both democratic regimes. This agreement is crucial to India’s perception of its relations with the U.S.; in fact, in 2005, Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that “India has made this the central issue in the new partnership developing between our countries.” By settling the details of the agreement, Obama would show the Indians good faith and prove that they are a priority.

The negotiations over specific details have taken a long time, partly because of justifiable security concerns. But much more procrastination will send the wrong message to India. On the other hand, next week is a prime opportunity for Obama to act on an American promise and also address environmental and economic communities. If he’s wise, he won’t squander it.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Obama drops below 50% approval in Gallup.

The cap-and-trade bill is so bad even John McCain opposes it. “McCain refers to the bill as ‘cap and tax,’ calls the climate legislation that passed the House in June ‘a 1,400-page monstrosity’ and dismisses a cap-and-trade proposal included in the White House budget as ‘a government slush fund.’”

A Democrat breaks with the White House on trying KSM in civilian court: “The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee expressed opposition today to Attorney General Eric Holder’s decision to give civilian trials to the 9/11 plotters. Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) penned a letter to Holder and Defense Secretary Robert Gates suggesting military trials would be a more appropriate venue for the accused terrorists. ”

Another slighted democratic ally: “Days before India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is to be welcomed in the White House for his first state visit with President Obama, two perceived missteps by the Obama administration have concerned Indian officials that New Delhi suddenly has been relegated to the second tier of U.S.-Asian relations.” When is it that we start “restoring” our standing in the world?

Sen. Jon Kyl wants answers from the Justice Department regarding the NIAC.

Trouble in the “permanent majority“: “The Democratic Party’s broad ruling coalition is starting to fracture as lawmakers come under increasing pressure from the left to respond to voter anger over joblessness and Wall Street bailouts. Tensions boiled over this week, with an angry party caucus meeting Monday in the House, and black lawmakers Thursday threatening to block legislation in protest of President Barack Obama’s economic policies.  . . The squabbling is turning up pressure on the White House and Democratic leaders in Congress to respond, a challenge when their focus is on passing a health-care overhaul.” What a difference a year of one-party Democratic liberal rule makes.

Democrats insist that 2010 won’t be another 1994. However, “danger could lurk if turnout is low, factors that hurt Dem GOV candidates in NJ and VA this year.” In other words, if things keep going the way they have been, a lot of Democrats will be in trouble.

She must not have gotten the new script. This week we are being supportive of the Afghan government: “Calling Afghan President Hamid Karzai an ‘unworthy partner,’ a key Democratic leader warned Friday that Congress cannot fund an expanded military mission without a reliable ally in Kabul. Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House of Representatives, said moreover she did not think there was political support for sending more US troops to Afghanistan, as President Barack Obama is contemplating.”

The Obama team may not be able to give Big Labor card check but they haven’t run out of goodies: “The National Mediation Board, which oversees labor relations in the air and rail industry, this month moved to overturn 75 years of labor policy. The board plans to stack the deck for organized labor in union elections. Under a proposed rule, unions would no longer have to get the approval of a majority of airline workers to achieve certification. Not even close. Instead, a union could win just by getting a majority of the employees who vote. Thus, if only 1,000 of 10,000 flight attendants vote in a union election, and 501 vote for certification, the other 9,499 become unionized.”

Obama drops below 50% approval in Gallup.

The cap-and-trade bill is so bad even John McCain opposes it. “McCain refers to the bill as ‘cap and tax,’ calls the climate legislation that passed the House in June ‘a 1,400-page monstrosity’ and dismisses a cap-and-trade proposal included in the White House budget as ‘a government slush fund.’”

A Democrat breaks with the White House on trying KSM in civilian court: “The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee expressed opposition today to Attorney General Eric Holder’s decision to give civilian trials to the 9/11 plotters. Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) penned a letter to Holder and Defense Secretary Robert Gates suggesting military trials would be a more appropriate venue for the accused terrorists. ”

Another slighted democratic ally: “Days before India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is to be welcomed in the White House for his first state visit with President Obama, two perceived missteps by the Obama administration have concerned Indian officials that New Delhi suddenly has been relegated to the second tier of U.S.-Asian relations.” When is it that we start “restoring” our standing in the world?

Sen. Jon Kyl wants answers from the Justice Department regarding the NIAC.

Trouble in the “permanent majority“: “The Democratic Party’s broad ruling coalition is starting to fracture as lawmakers come under increasing pressure from the left to respond to voter anger over joblessness and Wall Street bailouts. Tensions boiled over this week, with an angry party caucus meeting Monday in the House, and black lawmakers Thursday threatening to block legislation in protest of President Barack Obama’s economic policies.  . . The squabbling is turning up pressure on the White House and Democratic leaders in Congress to respond, a challenge when their focus is on passing a health-care overhaul.” What a difference a year of one-party Democratic liberal rule makes.

Democrats insist that 2010 won’t be another 1994. However, “danger could lurk if turnout is low, factors that hurt Dem GOV candidates in NJ and VA this year.” In other words, if things keep going the way they have been, a lot of Democrats will be in trouble.

She must not have gotten the new script. This week we are being supportive of the Afghan government: “Calling Afghan President Hamid Karzai an ‘unworthy partner,’ a key Democratic leader warned Friday that Congress cannot fund an expanded military mission without a reliable ally in Kabul. Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House of Representatives, said moreover she did not think there was political support for sending more US troops to Afghanistan, as President Barack Obama is contemplating.”

The Obama team may not be able to give Big Labor card check but they haven’t run out of goodies: “The National Mediation Board, which oversees labor relations in the air and rail industry, this month moved to overturn 75 years of labor policy. The board plans to stack the deck for organized labor in union elections. Under a proposed rule, unions would no longer have to get the approval of a majority of airline workers to achieve certification. Not even close. Instead, a union could win just by getting a majority of the employees who vote. Thus, if only 1,000 of 10,000 flight attendants vote in a union election, and 501 vote for certification, the other 9,499 become unionized.”

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Obama’s India Blunder

When Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visits the White House next week, Obama and his administration would do well to employ their much-practiced skills at making nice. New Delhi rightly fears outside meddling after this week’s U.S.-China Joint Statement, which contained a sentence widely interpreted as an affront to India:

The two sides [China and the United States] welcomed all efforts conducive to peace, stability and development in South Asia. They support the efforts of Afghanistan and Pakistan to fight terrorism, maintain domestic stability and achieve sustainable economic and social development, and support the improvement and growth of relations between India and Pakistan. The two sides are ready to strengthen communication, dialogue and cooperation on issues related to South Asia and work together to promote peace, stability and development in that region.

The Joint Statement’s timing was particularly bad considering the recent India-China border dilemma. Both countries have reportedly increased troop presence near the blurry border, and the Dalai Lama’s visit to Indian territory that is still claimed by China did little to improve the relationship. China has emphasized that its “more pronounced” territorial issue is its border dispute with India. So New Delhi has good reason to be nervous about Chinese prying at Washington’s behest.

A spokesman from the Indian Ministry of External Affairs quickly commented on the Joint Statement, stating that “a third country role cannot be envisaged nor is it necessary” regarding India-Pakistan relations.

Already, both China and the United States are trying to downplay the significance of the Joint Statement reference.

China’s Foreign Ministry denied that a discussion took place between Obama and Chinese heads of state about U.S.-India nuclear cooperation, and its statement emphasized Beijing’s support of regional stability. The spokesperson added that China “values its friendly cooperation with” India and Pakistan and “hopes to see relations between the two continue … improve and grow.”

But India can hardly be blamed for frustration at the Obama administration’s mixed message. Yesterday, Robert Blake, the assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asia, said the United States welcomes China’s participation in stabilizing the India-Pakistan region. But he also added, “We have always said, in terms of Indo-Pakistan relations, that’s really up to India and Pakistan to decide how and when and the scope of that.” Also yesterday, William Burns, undersecretary of state for political affairs, declared that better relations with China do not necessarily come at the cost of India.

One can only hope that the ill-considered phrasing of the Joint Statement won’t hinder next week’s discussions. No doubt Obama will want Prime Minister Singh’s support on nuclear proliferation, terrorism, and security in Afghanistan and Pakistan, not to mention climate change. That Singh is the first head of state to visit the Obama White House in itself highlights the importance of Indian cooperation. If the mix-up is merely linguistic, it can be overcome. But if the lack of clarity lies within Obama’s foreign policy itself, expect a rocky summit. Obama’s diplomacy and eloquence will be tested as he attempts to please both India and China.

When Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visits the White House next week, Obama and his administration would do well to employ their much-practiced skills at making nice. New Delhi rightly fears outside meddling after this week’s U.S.-China Joint Statement, which contained a sentence widely interpreted as an affront to India:

The two sides [China and the United States] welcomed all efforts conducive to peace, stability and development in South Asia. They support the efforts of Afghanistan and Pakistan to fight terrorism, maintain domestic stability and achieve sustainable economic and social development, and support the improvement and growth of relations between India and Pakistan. The two sides are ready to strengthen communication, dialogue and cooperation on issues related to South Asia and work together to promote peace, stability and development in that region.

The Joint Statement’s timing was particularly bad considering the recent India-China border dilemma. Both countries have reportedly increased troop presence near the blurry border, and the Dalai Lama’s visit to Indian territory that is still claimed by China did little to improve the relationship. China has emphasized that its “more pronounced” territorial issue is its border dispute with India. So New Delhi has good reason to be nervous about Chinese prying at Washington’s behest.

A spokesman from the Indian Ministry of External Affairs quickly commented on the Joint Statement, stating that “a third country role cannot be envisaged nor is it necessary” regarding India-Pakistan relations.

Already, both China and the United States are trying to downplay the significance of the Joint Statement reference.

China’s Foreign Ministry denied that a discussion took place between Obama and Chinese heads of state about U.S.-India nuclear cooperation, and its statement emphasized Beijing’s support of regional stability. The spokesperson added that China “values its friendly cooperation with” India and Pakistan and “hopes to see relations between the two continue … improve and grow.”

But India can hardly be blamed for frustration at the Obama administration’s mixed message. Yesterday, Robert Blake, the assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asia, said the United States welcomes China’s participation in stabilizing the India-Pakistan region. But he also added, “We have always said, in terms of Indo-Pakistan relations, that’s really up to India and Pakistan to decide how and when and the scope of that.” Also yesterday, William Burns, undersecretary of state for political affairs, declared that better relations with China do not necessarily come at the cost of India.

One can only hope that the ill-considered phrasing of the Joint Statement won’t hinder next week’s discussions. No doubt Obama will want Prime Minister Singh’s support on nuclear proliferation, terrorism, and security in Afghanistan and Pakistan, not to mention climate change. That Singh is the first head of state to visit the Obama White House in itself highlights the importance of Indian cooperation. If the mix-up is merely linguistic, it can be overcome. But if the lack of clarity lies within Obama’s foreign policy itself, expect a rocky summit. Obama’s diplomacy and eloquence will be tested as he attempts to please both India and China.

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Iran in India

Today, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrived in New Delhi on his first official visit there. On the agenda is the 1,625-mile gas pipeline that will connect supplier Iran to consumers India and Pakistan. Yesterday, the Iranian president was in Islamabad, where he and his Pakistani hosts said they had resolved “all issues” regarding the proposed link.

Iran is making headway in implementing its “Look East” strategy, and in India Tehran has found a willing partner. The Bush administration, to put pressure on Iran, has opposed the pipeline, but New Delhi, famed for its independence, is pushing back. “India and Iran are ancient civilizations whose relations span centuries,” the Indian foreign ministry said last week. “Neither country needs any guidance on the future conduct of bilateral relations.”

Of course. There are many reasons why New Delhi wants to improve ties with Tehran. Among them are New Delhi’s desire to show that it is not dependent on Washington, India’s need for Iran’s energy, and the Indian government’s concern about the country’s Shiites, who look to Tehran.

Fortunately for Washington, Iran and India have yet to settle their differences over the pipeline. Among the outstanding problems is something that Tehran has no power to solve: New Delhi’s concern about relying on energy that has to travel through archrival Pakistan. Nonetheless, some believe construction on the US$7.6 billion project could begin next year. Consequently, the Bush administration does not have much time to figure out how to keep India from joining Iran.

I don’t think the solution for Washington to this particular problem can be found in New Delhi, however. As the Indians see it, they cannot afford to help the Americans in opposing the Iranians as long as the Iranians retain the support of the Chinese. This same dynamic drives India’s unattractive policy of assisting the junta in Burma-it does so to counter China’s influence there.

So if Washington wants to stop Iran with diplomacy, it will have to work magic in Beijing. If it fails to do so soon, the pipeline will reach India and extend crucial support to the mullahs-and their nuclear weapons program.

Today, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrived in New Delhi on his first official visit there. On the agenda is the 1,625-mile gas pipeline that will connect supplier Iran to consumers India and Pakistan. Yesterday, the Iranian president was in Islamabad, where he and his Pakistani hosts said they had resolved “all issues” regarding the proposed link.

Iran is making headway in implementing its “Look East” strategy, and in India Tehran has found a willing partner. The Bush administration, to put pressure on Iran, has opposed the pipeline, but New Delhi, famed for its independence, is pushing back. “India and Iran are ancient civilizations whose relations span centuries,” the Indian foreign ministry said last week. “Neither country needs any guidance on the future conduct of bilateral relations.”

Of course. There are many reasons why New Delhi wants to improve ties with Tehran. Among them are New Delhi’s desire to show that it is not dependent on Washington, India’s need for Iran’s energy, and the Indian government’s concern about the country’s Shiites, who look to Tehran.

Fortunately for Washington, Iran and India have yet to settle their differences over the pipeline. Among the outstanding problems is something that Tehran has no power to solve: New Delhi’s concern about relying on energy that has to travel through archrival Pakistan. Nonetheless, some believe construction on the US$7.6 billion project could begin next year. Consequently, the Bush administration does not have much time to figure out how to keep India from joining Iran.

I don’t think the solution for Washington to this particular problem can be found in New Delhi, however. As the Indians see it, they cannot afford to help the Americans in opposing the Iranians as long as the Iranians retain the support of the Chinese. This same dynamic drives India’s unattractive policy of assisting the junta in Burma-it does so to counter China’s influence there.

So if Washington wants to stop Iran with diplomacy, it will have to work magic in Beijing. If it fails to do so soon, the pipeline will reach India and extend crucial support to the mullahs-and their nuclear weapons program.

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A Summit with Singh

Yesterday, the Foreign Ministry in Beijing announced that Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will begin a three-day visit to China on January 13. There are long-running border disputes and fundamental disagreements between the Chinese and the Indians. Not one will be settled during the brief moments when Singh actually sits down for talks with his counterparts.

Although the itinerary has yet to be announced, it’s clear that the visit will be filled with a series of high-profile events and made-for-television handshakes. In short, Singh’s sojourn in the Chinese capital will resemble the smiles summit that the Chinese staged for Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda late last month. For example, Singh, if early reports are correct, will also address Chinese students at one of Beijing premier universities.

There is no such thing as coincidence when it comes to Chinese diplomacy, at least when relations with China’s big-power rivals are involved. So we need to ask ourselves why Beijing is engaging in content-less diplomacy at this moment. Optimists, of course, will say that the country’s foreign policy is maturing and Beijing wants harmonious relations while it hosts the Olympics. Pessimists—I prefer to call them “realists”—might think that the Chinese are covering their flanks in preparation for misadventure elsewhere in the region. For example, Beijing may be thinking of intensifying pressure on Vietnam—the two countries are already involved in an especially nasty phase of their long-running territorial dispute over the Spratly and Paracel islands in the South China Sea. Or perhaps the Chinese are thinking of taking a bite out of Taiwan, such as a quick grab of its outlying islands.

In any event, China is undoubtedly trying to woo Tokyo away from Washington and prevent New Delhi from getting even closer to America. To the extent that China has any grand strategy at this moment, it is to push the United States out of Asia and make itself the unquestioned hegemon there. That means, at a minimum, Washington, in addition to problems elsewhere, needs to think about the next steps toward consolidating its relationship with India. The problems in the Middle East are important, of course, but superpowers never have the luxury of concentrating all their attentions on just one problem or region.

Yesterday, the Foreign Ministry in Beijing announced that Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will begin a three-day visit to China on January 13. There are long-running border disputes and fundamental disagreements between the Chinese and the Indians. Not one will be settled during the brief moments when Singh actually sits down for talks with his counterparts.

Although the itinerary has yet to be announced, it’s clear that the visit will be filled with a series of high-profile events and made-for-television handshakes. In short, Singh’s sojourn in the Chinese capital will resemble the smiles summit that the Chinese staged for Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda late last month. For example, Singh, if early reports are correct, will also address Chinese students at one of Beijing premier universities.

There is no such thing as coincidence when it comes to Chinese diplomacy, at least when relations with China’s big-power rivals are involved. So we need to ask ourselves why Beijing is engaging in content-less diplomacy at this moment. Optimists, of course, will say that the country’s foreign policy is maturing and Beijing wants harmonious relations while it hosts the Olympics. Pessimists—I prefer to call them “realists”—might think that the Chinese are covering their flanks in preparation for misadventure elsewhere in the region. For example, Beijing may be thinking of intensifying pressure on Vietnam—the two countries are already involved in an especially nasty phase of their long-running territorial dispute over the Spratly and Paracel islands in the South China Sea. Or perhaps the Chinese are thinking of taking a bite out of Taiwan, such as a quick grab of its outlying islands.

In any event, China is undoubtedly trying to woo Tokyo away from Washington and prevent New Delhi from getting even closer to America. To the extent that China has any grand strategy at this moment, it is to push the United States out of Asia and make itself the unquestioned hegemon there. That means, at a minimum, Washington, in addition to problems elsewhere, needs to think about the next steps toward consolidating its relationship with India. The problems in the Middle East are important, of course, but superpowers never have the luxury of concentrating all their attentions on just one problem or region.

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China and India, Hand-in-Hand

Today, the two giants of Asia start their first joint military exercises. Code-named “Hand-in-Hand, 2007,” the event brings Chinese and Indian forces together for five days in China’s Yunnan province. The two countries are, in the words of a statement from the Ministry of National Defense in Beijing, promoting “the strategic partnership for peace and prosperity.” Furthermore, they are enhancing their capabilities against “three evil forces:” separatists, extremists, and terrorists.

Is that so? What China and India are really doing is keeping an eye on each other. Neither government will say so, but each of them wants to find out how much progress the other has made since their border war more than four decades ago. “In 1962, India was defeated mainly because of the low standard of the soldiers,” says a Shanghai-based military expert speaking anonymously to Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post. Since then, the Russians and the Japanese have helped train the Indians, and the Chinese want to find out how much improvement has occurred. And the Indians for their part are curious about how much two decades of modernization have improved the People’s Liberation Army.

This decade, these two nations have slowly begun to cooperate in the military sphere, especially since conducting joint naval search-and-rescue exercises in 2003. The Indians say they will hold another joint maneuver with China next year in India.

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Today, the two giants of Asia start their first joint military exercises. Code-named “Hand-in-Hand, 2007,” the event brings Chinese and Indian forces together for five days in China’s Yunnan province. The two countries are, in the words of a statement from the Ministry of National Defense in Beijing, promoting “the strategic partnership for peace and prosperity.” Furthermore, they are enhancing their capabilities against “three evil forces:” separatists, extremists, and terrorists.

Is that so? What China and India are really doing is keeping an eye on each other. Neither government will say so, but each of them wants to find out how much progress the other has made since their border war more than four decades ago. “In 1962, India was defeated mainly because of the low standard of the soldiers,” says a Shanghai-based military expert speaking anonymously to Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post. Since then, the Russians and the Japanese have helped train the Indians, and the Chinese want to find out how much improvement has occurred. And the Indians for their part are curious about how much two decades of modernization have improved the People’s Liberation Army.

This decade, these two nations have slowly begun to cooperate in the military sphere, especially since conducting joint naval search-and-rescue exercises in 2003. The Indians say they will hold another joint maneuver with China next year in India.

But the United States, Japan, and the other Asian democracies need not worry too much about an alliance between Beijing and New Delhi. China and India, simply stated, are natural rivals. Yes, there may be increased military contacts, but the ongoing exercises just showcase the problem between them: China has the world’s largest armed forces (2.5 million men and women in uniform) and India the third (1.13 million), but each side is contributing just about a hundred soldiers to the Yunnan drill.

Although the Indians do not want to become part of any “anti-China” coalition, the fact is that they do not have much choice. China, after all, armed India’s mortal enemy, Pakistan, with nuclear weapons, China competes with India for investment capital flowing to the developing world, and China is the other Asian land power. The two countries still maintain claims to the same lands, and this year the Chinese have escalated the tension by unilaterally demolishing Indian military fortifications, intruding onto territory India claims, and escalating rhetoric. So where can India turn for help?

America is the perfect offshore balancer for New Delhi, especially because the two countries share a language, ideals, and even a little common heritage. When Americans finally realize that neither China nor Pakistan can become a reliable ally in the foreseeable future, they will see that the world’s largest democracy and its most powerful one should work together for a stable international system.

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Sally Quinn: Gee, There’s This Thing Called Religion!

Newsweek and the Washington Post are celebrating the first anniversary of their joint website, “On Faith,” which is billed as “A Conversation on Religion with Jon Meacham and Sally Quinn.” And therein hangs a tale.

Meacham is the managing editor of Newsweek and perhaps the only serious student of religion among the top editors in the mainstream media. Quinn is another story. She became famous first for a disastrous stint as the co-host of a morning news show in the 1970s and then as the star snark writer of profiles during the heyday of the Washington Post’s Style section in the late 1970s and early 1980s. After that she wrote several trashy bestsellers about D.C. life.

I tell you all this because Sally Quinn has written a post on the website on the occasion of its first anniversary that is one of the most dumbfounding documents I have ever read. It is like Augustine’s Confessions, if Augustine’s Confessions had been written by a combination of Helen Gurley Brown and Britney Spears.

You really have to read the whole thing to get the full flavor, but I will here provide you with some choice excerpts:

When we started this I knew practically nothing about religion or the internet. I was not a believer (Jon Meacham is an Episcopalian, a practicing Christian) so I felt secure that I had his experience and knowledge to give us the grounding we needed. Even so it was such an unlikely subject for me to get involved with that even my husband was in shock. My friends still report people sidling up to them at cocktail parties and saying, “What’s with Sally and this religion thing?”

When you really think about it though, it’s not all that surprising. I’m a journalist. I always want to know everything about everything. Curiosity is a driving force with me. In fact I remember when I was eleven, meeting this really cute guy whose mother brought him over to our house one day. I began asking him questions about himself and he finally turned to me and said, “Gee, you’re nosy. ”I was devastated. I had been genuinely interested and wanted to know more about him….

Ultimately each of us is searching for some kind of meaning. Whether we are Christians or Jews or Hindus or Muslims or Buddhists or Wiccans or Atheists or whatever, we are all looking for a way to understand why we are here and to find our own happiness and contentment.

When I announced to Jon several years ago that I was an atheist he challenged me. He said I should not define myself negatively, for one thing, and that if I was really serious about not believing in God that I should at least have some knowledge about what it was I didn’t believe in. At that point I was completely illiterate on the subject, having been disdainful and contemptuous of religion all of my life. But I took what he said to heart and began to read some of the books he suggested. Once again my curiosity got the best of me.

All I can say is that I was shocked and embarrassed at how little I knew, and ultimately ashamed of myself for proclaiming myself an atheist when I really didn’t know what I was talking about.

I also began to realize that so many people in this world who call themselves religious were just like me. They not only knew nothing or little about their own faith but were just as close minded and hostile to other religions as I was to all religion.

The more I read the more I wanted to read and the more obsessed I became with the subject.

Finally in March I took a trip around the world to study the Great Faiths. It was a private tour and we started in Rome. From there we went to Jerusalem in Israel and Bethlehem in Palestine, Kyoto, Japan; Chengdu, China; Lhasa, Tibet; Varanasi, New Delhi and Amritsar in India; Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; Cairo, Egypt; Armenia; and Istanbul, Turkey. When I told my friend, “On Faith” panelist and religion scholar Elaine Pagels, about the trip she asked how long I had spent. “Three weeks ‘”I replied. “But,” she said in astonishment, “you can’t do that trip in less than three years!.” She was right, actually….

What for me, was the most enlightening thing about my trip was how similar the basic tenets of all religions are. There are some scholars who might argue that point but I felt that ultimately, if you take away all of the evil that has been done in the name of religion (and that’s what I had concentrated on most of my life) you will find that exhortation by Confucius, “What you do not wish for youself, do not do to others,” is really the basis of most world religions. It is the practices and interpretations of that where the faiths diverge.

The trip bolstered my belief in what Jon and I were doing. I felt even more strongly that it was vitally important for people of all faiths and no faiths to understand each other and that we must do everything we could do to foster that understanding….

This country was founded on the concept of separation of church and state. There is a huge difference between understanding and respecting the faiths of others and trying to impose your faith on others. The more we understand about other faiths, I believe, the less likely we will be to try to coerce others into believing as we do.

That is our goal.

Remember: This is the woman who is the co-editor of a religion website co-managed by one of the nation’s two most important newspapers and one of the nation’s two most important magazines. Neither organization, it’s safe to say, would allow a person as gleefully ignorant and simultaneously archly portentous as Quinn to co-host a site about, oh, sports with the level of knowledge and interest she possessed before taking on “On Faith.” And who, after a year’s thin study, feels herself competent to speak with surpassingly confident banality about the differences and commonalities of the world’s major religions.

Newsweek and the Washington Post are celebrating the first anniversary of their joint website, “On Faith,” which is billed as “A Conversation on Religion with Jon Meacham and Sally Quinn.” And therein hangs a tale.

Meacham is the managing editor of Newsweek and perhaps the only serious student of religion among the top editors in the mainstream media. Quinn is another story. She became famous first for a disastrous stint as the co-host of a morning news show in the 1970s and then as the star snark writer of profiles during the heyday of the Washington Post’s Style section in the late 1970s and early 1980s. After that she wrote several trashy bestsellers about D.C. life.

I tell you all this because Sally Quinn has written a post on the website on the occasion of its first anniversary that is one of the most dumbfounding documents I have ever read. It is like Augustine’s Confessions, if Augustine’s Confessions had been written by a combination of Helen Gurley Brown and Britney Spears.

You really have to read the whole thing to get the full flavor, but I will here provide you with some choice excerpts:

When we started this I knew practically nothing about religion or the internet. I was not a believer (Jon Meacham is an Episcopalian, a practicing Christian) so I felt secure that I had his experience and knowledge to give us the grounding we needed. Even so it was such an unlikely subject for me to get involved with that even my husband was in shock. My friends still report people sidling up to them at cocktail parties and saying, “What’s with Sally and this religion thing?”

When you really think about it though, it’s not all that surprising. I’m a journalist. I always want to know everything about everything. Curiosity is a driving force with me. In fact I remember when I was eleven, meeting this really cute guy whose mother brought him over to our house one day. I began asking him questions about himself and he finally turned to me and said, “Gee, you’re nosy. ”I was devastated. I had been genuinely interested and wanted to know more about him….

Ultimately each of us is searching for some kind of meaning. Whether we are Christians or Jews or Hindus or Muslims or Buddhists or Wiccans or Atheists or whatever, we are all looking for a way to understand why we are here and to find our own happiness and contentment.

When I announced to Jon several years ago that I was an atheist he challenged me. He said I should not define myself negatively, for one thing, and that if I was really serious about not believing in God that I should at least have some knowledge about what it was I didn’t believe in. At that point I was completely illiterate on the subject, having been disdainful and contemptuous of religion all of my life. But I took what he said to heart and began to read some of the books he suggested. Once again my curiosity got the best of me.

All I can say is that I was shocked and embarrassed at how little I knew, and ultimately ashamed of myself for proclaiming myself an atheist when I really didn’t know what I was talking about.

I also began to realize that so many people in this world who call themselves religious were just like me. They not only knew nothing or little about their own faith but were just as close minded and hostile to other religions as I was to all religion.

The more I read the more I wanted to read and the more obsessed I became with the subject.

Finally in March I took a trip around the world to study the Great Faiths. It was a private tour and we started in Rome. From there we went to Jerusalem in Israel and Bethlehem in Palestine, Kyoto, Japan; Chengdu, China; Lhasa, Tibet; Varanasi, New Delhi and Amritsar in India; Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; Cairo, Egypt; Armenia; and Istanbul, Turkey. When I told my friend, “On Faith” panelist and religion scholar Elaine Pagels, about the trip she asked how long I had spent. “Three weeks ‘”I replied. “But,” she said in astonishment, “you can’t do that trip in less than three years!.” She was right, actually….

What for me, was the most enlightening thing about my trip was how similar the basic tenets of all religions are. There are some scholars who might argue that point but I felt that ultimately, if you take away all of the evil that has been done in the name of religion (and that’s what I had concentrated on most of my life) you will find that exhortation by Confucius, “What you do not wish for youself, do not do to others,” is really the basis of most world religions. It is the practices and interpretations of that where the faiths diverge.

The trip bolstered my belief in what Jon and I were doing. I felt even more strongly that it was vitally important for people of all faiths and no faiths to understand each other and that we must do everything we could do to foster that understanding….

This country was founded on the concept of separation of church and state. There is a huge difference between understanding and respecting the faiths of others and trying to impose your faith on others. The more we understand about other faiths, I believe, the less likely we will be to try to coerce others into believing as we do.

That is our goal.

Remember: This is the woman who is the co-editor of a religion website co-managed by one of the nation’s two most important newspapers and one of the nation’s two most important magazines. Neither organization, it’s safe to say, would allow a person as gleefully ignorant and simultaneously archly portentous as Quinn to co-host a site about, oh, sports with the level of knowledge and interest she possessed before taking on “On Faith.” And who, after a year’s thin study, feels herself competent to speak with surpassingly confident banality about the differences and commonalities of the world’s major religions.

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The Primakov Triangle?

On Wednesday, the foreign ministers of China, Russia, and India met in Harbin, where they pledged “to strengthen trilateral pragmatic cooperation.” According to People’s Daily, the self-described mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party, it was the seventh such meeting of the foreign ministers of the three countries, and the first to be held in China. Will these three giants of Eurasia now finally form “the Primakov Triangle” to counter the United States?

In 1998, Yevgeny Primakov, then Russian prime minister, proposed that the trio form a “strategic triangle” to balance against Washington. At the time, the idea had great appeal in Moscow but little in Beijing. New Delhi was, not surprisingly, lukewarm. Today, the Russians remain enthusiastic and the Chinese are mostly supportive of the triangle. The Russian Federation and the People’s Republic are drawing closer to each other on a range of issues as they find common ground. In recent years, these two overly large autocracies have signaled the end of the Sino-Soviet split by inking a strategic partnership arrangement and, more substantively, a comprehensive treaty, signed in 2001. The State Department at the time dismissed the pact as a mere expression of friendship—what else could American diplomats say in the circumstances?—but it has all the markings of the beginning of a long-term alliance. In any event, the world’s two largest authoritarian states have been busy in recent years establishing military ties, reinvigorating trade, and settling border disputes.

But what about the third side of the triangle? Despite happy talk in Beijing and New Delhi and growing trade ties, there seems to be no substantial progress toward reconciliation. There are still-unsettled border disputes—talks are now in their third decade—and a host of strategic issues continue to separate the two. China is still not in favor of awarding to India a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. And even though the proposed nuclear deal between India and the United States appears to be falling apart, New Delhi and Washington quietly are strengthening cooperation across the board.

India undoubtedly will remain nonaligned, which means that it will always talk to the bad boys residing on the Asian landmass. Just because China is adept at turning out press releases, however, does not mean that New Delhi will agree to become part of any alliance, axis, or triangle. America shares ideals with India—and there are fewer issues today to divide them. That gives Washington an advantage in one of the most crucial strategic contests of this decade.

On Wednesday, the foreign ministers of China, Russia, and India met in Harbin, where they pledged “to strengthen trilateral pragmatic cooperation.” According to People’s Daily, the self-described mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party, it was the seventh such meeting of the foreign ministers of the three countries, and the first to be held in China. Will these three giants of Eurasia now finally form “the Primakov Triangle” to counter the United States?

In 1998, Yevgeny Primakov, then Russian prime minister, proposed that the trio form a “strategic triangle” to balance against Washington. At the time, the idea had great appeal in Moscow but little in Beijing. New Delhi was, not surprisingly, lukewarm. Today, the Russians remain enthusiastic and the Chinese are mostly supportive of the triangle. The Russian Federation and the People’s Republic are drawing closer to each other on a range of issues as they find common ground. In recent years, these two overly large autocracies have signaled the end of the Sino-Soviet split by inking a strategic partnership arrangement and, more substantively, a comprehensive treaty, signed in 2001. The State Department at the time dismissed the pact as a mere expression of friendship—what else could American diplomats say in the circumstances?—but it has all the markings of the beginning of a long-term alliance. In any event, the world’s two largest authoritarian states have been busy in recent years establishing military ties, reinvigorating trade, and settling border disputes.

But what about the third side of the triangle? Despite happy talk in Beijing and New Delhi and growing trade ties, there seems to be no substantial progress toward reconciliation. There are still-unsettled border disputes—talks are now in their third decade—and a host of strategic issues continue to separate the two. China is still not in favor of awarding to India a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. And even though the proposed nuclear deal between India and the United States appears to be falling apart, New Delhi and Washington quietly are strengthening cooperation across the board.

India undoubtedly will remain nonaligned, which means that it will always talk to the bad boys residing on the Asian landmass. Just because China is adept at turning out press releases, however, does not mean that New Delhi will agree to become part of any alliance, axis, or triangle. America shares ideals with India—and there are fewer issues today to divide them. That gives Washington an advantage in one of the most crucial strategic contests of this decade.

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Bush’s “Nothingburger”

Yesterday, just moments after President Bush finished his address to the U.N. General Assembly, Bill Kristol called the speech a “nothingburger.” The Weekly Standard editor, appearing on the Fox News Channel, was complaining that the Commander-in-Chief had said virtually nothing about Iran at a time when Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was lounging in the audience and Iranians were helping to kill Americans in Iraq.

The President’s silence on Iran was indeed troubling. But he nonetheless delivered an important message. “Americans are outraged by the situation in Burma,” the President declared. He announced that the United States would tighten economic sanctions, expand a visa ban, and continue to support humanitarian groups. He called on the U.N. and its member nations to help the Burmese people “reclaim their freedom” and put an end to a “nineteen-year reign of fear.”

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Yesterday, just moments after President Bush finished his address to the U.N. General Assembly, Bill Kristol called the speech a “nothingburger.” The Weekly Standard editor, appearing on the Fox News Channel, was complaining that the Commander-in-Chief had said virtually nothing about Iran at a time when Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was lounging in the audience and Iranians were helping to kill Americans in Iraq.

The President’s silence on Iran was indeed troubling. But he nonetheless delivered an important message. “Americans are outraged by the situation in Burma,” the President declared. He announced that the United States would tighten economic sanctions, expand a visa ban, and continue to support humanitarian groups. He called on the U.N. and its member nations to help the Burmese people “reclaim their freedom” and put an end to a “nineteen-year reign of fear.”

Bush’s words came at a critical moment. Hours after he left the podium in New York, government security forces in the capital of Rangoon, now known as Yangon, fired on protesters. At least five of them died. The generals ordered the crackdown after Beijing, apparently, gave them the green light to use force. They had been unable to quell more than a month of street demonstrations across the country. This week there have been protests numbering 100,000 in the capital. (In 1988, the junta killed an estimated 3,000 citizens participating in similar protests.)

The Rangoon generals, who have caused a long-term economic downturn, could not maintain themselves without material and diplomatic support from their neighbors. China has been their primary backer. This January, for instance, Beijing vetoed a U.S.-sponsored United Nations Security Council resolution on Burma, and in May the Chinese regime refused to join ASEAN in urging the generals to release Aung San Suu Kyi, the democracy advocate who was imprisoned immediately after her party won national elections in 1990.

The U.N. and Asian regional organizations have been hamstrung by Beijing—and to a lesser extent by Moscow and New Delhi. As a result, the generals in Rangoon have been able to maintain their repressive regime in the face of dissent at home and withering criticism abroad. Now it is up to the United States, the power of last resort in the international system, to provide the support for democratic change in Burma. So did President Bush serve up a nothingburger yesterday? Nothing could be further from the truth.

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If You Can’t Beat ‘Em…

Today, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her Indian counterpart Shri Pranab Mukherjee issued a joint statement that their two countries completed negotiations on the long-stalled nuclear pact, known as the “123 agreement.” Under this agreement, the United States will provide nuclear fuel and equipment to India for the first time in three decades. Before it can be implemented, however, the U.S. Congress, the International Atomic Energy Agency, and the Nuclear Suppliers Group must approve the arrangement, which was first announced by President Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh two years ago this month.

The agreement has aroused the opposition of proliferation experts because it sets a number of troubling precedents. India, for instance, is not a member of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The Indians will be reprocessing nuclear fuel from the United States, even though Washington is trying to prevent Iran, an NPT signatory, from enriching and reprocessing uranium. And New Delhi has made no promises about not testing nuclear weapons (India detonated a “peaceful nuclear explosive” in 1974 and five devices in 1998).

So the “123 agreement” marks a turning point: America has apparently given up trying to stop the spread of nukes, and is now trying to counter proliferators by enhancing New Delhi’s nuclear capabilities. Both Beijing and Moscow have stymied Washington’s nonproliferation efforts for decades, and the Bush administration has started playing their own game. The Chinese, of course, will be the big losers: the Indians have been their historic competitors in this arena.

Yet the nuclear deal with India represents much more than a momentous change in American proliferation policy. The pact symbolizes the growing relationship between the world’s largest democracy and its most powerful one. The United States and India could end up as the core of a loose alliance of democratic nations matched against the planet’s authoritarian ones. Which means that his administration’s handling of the “123 agreement” may become President Bush’s most enduring legacy.

Today, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her Indian counterpart Shri Pranab Mukherjee issued a joint statement that their two countries completed negotiations on the long-stalled nuclear pact, known as the “123 agreement.” Under this agreement, the United States will provide nuclear fuel and equipment to India for the first time in three decades. Before it can be implemented, however, the U.S. Congress, the International Atomic Energy Agency, and the Nuclear Suppliers Group must approve the arrangement, which was first announced by President Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh two years ago this month.

The agreement has aroused the opposition of proliferation experts because it sets a number of troubling precedents. India, for instance, is not a member of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The Indians will be reprocessing nuclear fuel from the United States, even though Washington is trying to prevent Iran, an NPT signatory, from enriching and reprocessing uranium. And New Delhi has made no promises about not testing nuclear weapons (India detonated a “peaceful nuclear explosive” in 1974 and five devices in 1998).

So the “123 agreement” marks a turning point: America has apparently given up trying to stop the spread of nukes, and is now trying to counter proliferators by enhancing New Delhi’s nuclear capabilities. Both Beijing and Moscow have stymied Washington’s nonproliferation efforts for decades, and the Bush administration has started playing their own game. The Chinese, of course, will be the big losers: the Indians have been their historic competitors in this arena.

Yet the nuclear deal with India represents much more than a momentous change in American proliferation policy. The pact symbolizes the growing relationship between the world’s largest democracy and its most powerful one. The United States and India could end up as the core of a loose alliance of democratic nations matched against the planet’s authoritarian ones. Which means that his administration’s handling of the “123 agreement” may become President Bush’s most enduring legacy.

Read Less




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