Op-eds and Articles

Op-eds and Articles

Does 'South Asia' Exist?

The following article originally appeared on Foreign Policy's 'AfPak Channel'. An excerpt is included below and the full text can be accessed here

While a confusing construct, the term ‘South Asia' persevered in America's strategic consciousness, despite the inevitable dehyphenation of India and Pakistan. Among non-specialists in the counterinsurgency era, it was often used as a casual and more politically-correct synonym for AfPak, marginalizing not just India, but also Bangladesh, Nepal, and Sri Lanka, all important countries in their own rights. I recall reviewing the syllabus of a graduate studies course on South Asia at a major American university two years ago, and you could have been forgiven for thinking that the India-Pakistan border constituted South Asia's eastern frontier.

A real concern is that a conceptual resurgence of ‘South Asia' -- especially as an outgrowth of ‘AfPak' -- could be accompanied by the conscious or subconscious rehyphenation of India and Pakistan, and the prolonged side-lining of other states in the region. As the anonymous genius behind the Twitter handle @majorlyp has caustically written:

Indians are Indians and Pakistanis when caught in tight situations (like in Airports) are Indians too. In other circumstances they are South Asians. Being "South Asian" offers many advantages. Such as an overwhelming numerical advantage.
Example: When faced with the question "Is radicalization a problem"? South Asians can reply with a straight face "Only 170 million, or less than 10% of the South Asians are radicalized". Which sounds entirely reasonable.

The author writes in somewhat cruel jest, of course, but like the best parody, there is more than a grain of uncomfortable truth in what he says. Will U.S. discourse related to South Asia come to be dominated by the problems of terrorism, Islamist extremism, nuclear proliferation, and anti-Americanism at the expense of the incredible opportunities and challenges associated with dynamic economic growth, raucous democracy, immense social and cultural diversity, and broad support for a U.S.-led international system? Let's hope not.

Op-eds and Articles

Long Live the 'Pivot'

The following article originally appeared in The Business Standard on October 17, 2013.Ever since it was unveiled in October 2011 to much fanfare, the American policy described as the "pivot to Asia" has been beset by one problem after another. Two yea...

Op-eds and Articles

Long Live the 'Pivot'

The following article originally appeared in The Business Standard on October 17, 2013.Ever since it was unveiled in October 2011 to much fanfare, the American policy described as the "pivot to Asia" has been beset by one problem after another. Two yea...

Op-eds and Articles

The Weight of Expectations, The Perils of Complacency

The following article originally appeared in India Abroad on September 27, 2013. An excerpt is included below. The full text can be accessed here
In 2008, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh famously staked the future of his government on improved relations with the United States. But his visit to Washington — on what may well be his final trip to the United States as prime minister — will be clouded in a certain unshakeable sense of disappointment. Given the promising trajectory of US-India relations from May 1998 to December 2008, there has been a comparable lack of forward movement over the past five years. Not that there haven’t been any positive developments. US exports to India are booming. Defense commerce has grown and no longer elicits surprise or much comment in either country. Working level contacts between the two governments have improved, as have direct links between the Indian and American people. So, why the concern?
Today, the bilateral relationship faces two big problems. The first is expectations. The relationship now characterized by numerous dialogues, regular cooperation, and frequent official contact is unrecognizable from that of the 1990s, when India was a low strategic and economic priority for Washington and an outsider to the global non-proliferation order. But work clearly needs to be done as long as New Delhi takes umbrage at every perceived slight by the US government and Washington expresses it frustration whenever an Indian decision appears at odds with its wishes.
The second — and equally vexing — problem is complacency. In many quarters, there is now a sense that bilateral cooperation between India and the United States has reached its natural limits and that no further effort needs to be exerted on either side to improve ties. Those who call for more ‘realistic’ relations downplay the potential value of both countries to the other and underestimate the areas of true alignment. A basis of any strategy is a clear understanding of one’s goals. But better relations in and of themselves do not constitute a goal. So, within reason, what exactly are both sides’s objectives with regards to one another?

Op-eds and Articles

The Weight of Expectations, The Perils of Complacency

The following article originally appeared in India Abroad on September 27, 2013. An excerpt is included below. The full text can be accessed here
In 2008, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh famously staked the future of his government on improved relations with the United States. But his visit to Washington — on what may well be his final trip to the United States as prime minister — will be clouded in a certain unshakeable sense of disappointment. Given the promising trajectory of US-India relations from May 1998 to December 2008, there has been a comparable lack of forward movement over the past five years. Not that there haven’t been any positive developments. US exports to India are booming. Defense commerce has grown and no longer elicits surprise or much comment in either country. Working level contacts between the two governments have improved, as have direct links between the Indian and American people. So, why the concern?
Today, the bilateral relationship faces two big problems. The first is expectations. The relationship now characterized by numerous dialogues, regular cooperation, and frequent official contact is unrecognizable from that of the 1990s, when India was a low strategic and economic priority for Washington and an outsider to the global non-proliferation order. But work clearly needs to be done as long as New Delhi takes umbrage at every perceived slight by the US government and Washington expresses it frustration whenever an Indian decision appears at odds with its wishes.
The second — and equally vexing — problem is complacency. In many quarters, there is now a sense that bilateral cooperation between India and the United States has reached its natural limits and that no further effort needs to be exerted on either side to improve ties. Those who call for more ‘realistic’ relations downplay the potential value of both countries to the other and underestimate the areas of true alignment. A basis of any strategy is a clear understanding of one’s goals. But better relations in and of themselves do not constitute a goal. So, within reason, what exactly are both sides’s objectives with regards to one another?