Op-eds and Articles

Op-eds and Articles

Missed Connections


The following article originally appeared on the website of the Berlin Policy Journal on July 1, 2015. An excerpt is below, and the full text can be accessed here.

Narendra Modi’s tenure as India’s prime minister has been marked by incredibly active diplomatic efforts. In his first twelve months in office he visited 18 countries – including the United States, China, Brazil, Japan, and Australia – and hosted the presidents of the United States, China, and Russia.

But amid this flurry of foreign policy activity, Brussels was conspicuous in its absence. On Modi’s first trip to Europe this April, he visited Berlin and Hanover, Paris and Toulouse – indications of where India’s strategic and commercial priorities lie in Europe. Although the prospect of a one-day stopover in Brussels was floated, it did not come to pass. Three years have now elapsed since the European Union and India – the world’s two largest democratic polities – held a summit meeting.

The reasons for the latest missed connection vary depending on whom one asks. [Read more.]

Op-eds and Articles

Missed Connections

The following article originally appeared on the website of the Berlin Policy Journal on July 1, 2015. An excerpt is below, and the full text can be accessed here.

Narendra Modi’s tenure as India’s prime minister has been marked by incredibly active diplomatic efforts. In his first twelve months in office he visited 18 countries – including the United States, China, Brazil, Japan, and Australia – and hosted the presidents of the United States, China, and Russia.

But amid this flurry of foreign policy activity, Brussels was conspicuous in its absence. On Modi’s first trip to Europe this April, he visited Berlin and Hanover, Paris and Toulouse – indications of where India’s strategic and commercial priorities lie in Europe. Although the prospect of a one-day stopover in Brussels was floated, it did not come to pass. Three years have now elapsed since the European Union and India – the world’s two largest democratic polities – held a summit meeting.

The reasons for the latest missed connection vary depending on whom one asks. [Read more.]

Op-eds and Articles

Grexit and the Melian Dialogue

The following article originally appeared in E!Sharp on June 1, 2015. An excerpt is below and the full text can be accessed here.

The Melian Dialogue – the dramatization of a meeting between delegates from the city-state Athens and the island of Melos in 415 BCE – is one of the most famous passages of Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War. It has long been a favourite of students of politics and rhetoric and, more recently, of game theorists. Greece’s finance minister, the economist Yanis Varoufakis, is well-versed in the text, and even offered his own translation in a 1997 game theoretical discussion. It is all the more reason that the Melian Dialogue – with its ruminations on power, morality, and rational choice – should be required reading for European policymakers seeking a resolution to the Greek debt crisis, particularly given the failure of the recent round of dialogue between Greece and its creditors. Below is an abridged version, liberally updated for contemporary relevance:

The Greeks, who were increasingly friendly with Russia, would not submit to Brussels like the other Europeans, and had assumed an attitude of open hostility. Upon receiving the Europeans, led by three known as the Troika, the Greek representatives said: ‘These talks, in and of themselves, are unobjectionable. But your calls for austerity and structural reforms are too far advanced, as if you have already made up your minds. All we can reasonably expect from this negotiation is conflict or servitude.’

‘There is certainly no need to repeat how we got into this mess, nor harp upon your past follies,’ replied the Europeans. ‘But let us focus on what is now feasible. You know as well as we do that right and wrong are only in question between equals in power. The strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must.’ [Read more]

Op-eds and Articles

Grexit and the Melian Dialogue

The following article originally appeared in E!Sharp on June 1, 2015. An excerpt is below and the full text can be accessed here.

The Melian Dialogue – the dramatization of a meeting between delegates from the city-state Athens and the island of Melos in 415 BCE – is one of the most famous passages of Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War. It has long been a favourite of students of politics and rhetoric and, more recently, of game theorists. Greece’s finance minister, the economist Yanis Varoufakis, is well-versed in the text, and even offered his own translation in a 1997 game theoretical discussion. It is all the more reason that the Melian Dialogue – with its ruminations on power, morality, and rational choice – should be required reading for European policymakers seeking a resolution to the Greek debt crisis, particularly given the failure of the recent round of dialogue between Greece and its creditors. Below is an abridged version, liberally updated for contemporary relevance:

The Greeks, who were increasingly friendly with Russia, would not submit to Brussels like the other Europeans, and had assumed an attitude of open hostility. Upon receiving the Europeans, led by three known as the Troika, the Greek representatives said: ‘These talks, in and of themselves, are unobjectionable. But your calls for austerity and structural reforms are too far advanced, as if you have already made up your minds. All we can reasonably expect from this negotiation is conflict or servitude.’

‘There is certainly no need to repeat how we got into this mess, nor harp upon your past follies,’ replied the Europeans. ‘But let us focus on what is now feasible. You know as well as we do that right and wrong are only in question between equals in power. The strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must.’ [Read more]

Op-eds and Articles

Myanmar Is Pivoting Away from China

The following article originally appeared in Foreign Policy on June 15, 2015. An excerpt is below and the full text can be accessed here

Beijing’s effort at currying favour with Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD is borne partly of desperation, and indicates how swiftly Beijing’s stock in Myanmar is falling. China was Myanmar’s main backer and largest investor during its years of international seclusion, supporting strategic infrastructure projects such as oil and gas pipelines, ports, and dams. Between 1988 and 2013, China accounted for a whopping 42 percent of the $33.67 billion in foreign investment that flowed into Myanmar. But the nature of these projects — including concerns about forcibly-relocated populations, land confiscation, environmental hazards, and the inflow of cheap goods and labor — made China unpopular with the Burmese public (the extent of such sentiments is impossible to determine, in the absence of reliable public-opinion surveys.)

Myanmar’s military was even more reliant on China: Almost 60 percent of the country’s arms imports during that same period came from the Middle Kingdom. And until recently, the military remained favorably disposed to their northern neighbor. Yet Beijing appears to have ruined the one good relationship it had going in the country. The suspension of the Chinese-backed Myitsone dam on the Irrawaddy River in 2011 — a project initially agreed between Myanmar’s military junta and the state-owned China Power Investment Corp. in 2005 — hurt ties. But it was the killing of five Chinese citizens by Myanmar’s air force in March, while conducting raids on rebels along the border, and China’s response, that has significantly widened the rift with the military. Although Naypyidaw offered a grovelling apology, Beijing’s provocative decision to stage live-fire military exercises along the border in early June further tarnished relations with its one real constituency in Myanmar. [Read more.]

Op-eds and Articles

Myanmar Is Pivoting Away from China


The following article originally appeared in Foreign Policy on June 15, 2015. An excerpt is below and the full text can be accessed here

Beijing’s effort at currying favour with Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD is borne partly of desperation, and indicates how swiftly Beijing’s stock in Myanmar is falling. China was Myanmar’s main backer and largest investor during its years of international seclusion, supporting strategic infrastructure projects such as oil and gas pipelines, ports, and dams. Between 1988 and 2013, China accounted for a whopping 42 percent of the $33.67 billion in foreign investment that flowed into Myanmar. But the nature of these projects — including concerns about forcibly-relocated populations, land confiscation, environmental hazards, and the inflow of cheap goods and labor — made China unpopular with the Burmese public (the extent of such sentiments is impossible to determine, in the absence of reliable public-opinion surveys.)

Myanmar’s military was even more reliant on China: Almost 60 percent of the country’s arms imports during that same period came from the Middle Kingdom. And until recently, the military remained favorably disposed to their northern neighbor. Yet Beijing appears to have ruined the one good relationship it had going in the country. The suspension of the Chinese-backed Myitsone dam on the Irrawaddy River in 2011 — a project initially agreed between Myanmar’s military junta and the state-owned China Power Investment Corp. in 2005 — hurt ties. But it was the killing of five Chinese citizens by Myanmar’s air force in March, while conducting raids on rebels along the border, and China’s response, that has significantly widened the rift with the military. Although Naypyidaw offered a grovelling apology, Beijing’s provocative decision to stage live-fire military exercises along the border in early June further tarnished relations with its one real constituency in Myanmar. [Read more.]

The Indian National Interest, Op-eds and Articles

फायदा अठन्नी का और खर्चा एक रुपये का

कहानी विनिमय लागत (transaction cost) की  — प्रखर मिश्रा (@prakharmisra) और प्रणय कोटस्थाने (@pranaykotas) इस श्रृंखला के पिछले अध्याय में हमने अवसर लागत की संकल्पना को समझा । इस पोस्ट में हम एक और ऐसी लागत से परिचय करेंगे, जिससे हमारा पाला तो हर रोज़ पड़ता है पर हम उससे जुड़े कारण और अन्य पहलुओं को […]

The Indian National Interest, Op-eds and Articles

Words in budget speech

Budget speech usually proposes multiple ideas and it is essential for analysts to followup on the actuals – Varun(@_quale) As the current NDA government is about to finish first year in office, social media and traditional media is awash with analysis and comparisons with the previous government. The budget speech is usually a good barometer that indicates […]

The Indian National Interest, Op-eds and Articles

What does it mean to be employable?

Why autonomous universities are essential to harness India’s demographic dividend By Shobitha Cherian   India is currently in an extremely advantageous position, demographically speaking. Half of its burgeoning population of 1.27 billion people is comprised of individuals under the age of 25 and a quarter of the increase in the global working population between 2010 […]

The Indian National Interest, Op-eds and Articles

The devil is not in the detail

From an Indian standpoint, what matters is the big picture that emerges from the Seymour Hersh report controversy by Pranay Kotasthane (@pranaykotas) A report by investigative journalist Seymour Hersh has stirred up the proverbial hornet’s nest. Considering the speculative nature of the report, and the uncomfortable situation that it puts all the protagonists in, the […]

The Indian National Interest, Op-eds and Articles

Unionisation of the IT industry

Unionisation of the IT workforce can potentially cause the Indian IT sector to fall behind other emerging markets – Varun Ramachandra and Gopal Devanahalli In December 2014, Tata Consulting Services, India’s largest Information Technology (IT) services company, laid off 3,000 employees citing poor performance. This has triggered debates about unionisation in India’s IT & BPM […]

The Indian National Interest, Op-eds and Articles

Of third order enclaves and second class citizens

A Constitutional Amendment settling the land border issues between India and Bangladesh will allow the two nation-states to focus on more substantive issues. by Pranay Kotasthane (@pranaykotas) On 6th May 2015, the Rajya Sabha unanimously passed the Constitutional Amendment Bill, thus rolling out a process that will culminate in giving effect to the Land Border Agreement Protocol signed […]

The Indian National Interest, Op-eds and Articles

Hyper multi-objective optimisation: the bane of policymaking

Policies fail when they try to optimise for several objectives, ultimately creating a system that fulfils none of them. by Pranay Kotasthane (@pranaykotas) Multi-objective optimisation is that step in any design process which tries to make a system suitable for several objectives at the same time. This concept is applied in several branches of science like engineering, economics […]

The Indian National Interest, Op-eds and Articles

Entrepreneurship and public policy

The Indian media is awash with news about technology startups and the rise of entrepreneurial activity. However, the hallmark of successful startup ecosystem is the number of other successful startups that spawn out of the existing ones. Individuals who work in firms that successfully exploit new market opportunities are usually innovators or have the potential […]