Fabian Blog
December 16th, 2017

Triumphant Trump and American Foreign Policy

United States
President Barack Obama, in his last official overseas tour to Greece, Germany, and Peru, reassured Europe that there would be continuity in American foreign policy under President-elect Donald Trump. While Obama tried to convince his interlocutors about continuity in US policy, Trump’s statements during the campaign brought alarm and concern to America’s allies. Obama himself had called Trump as ‘unqualified’ to be President and a peddler of ‘wacky ideas’, while touring Asia in September 2016. Even if a good part of Trump’s rather colorful choice of words was meant to attract voters, his remarks have set off alarm bells in world capitals. What then could be the impact of the Trump victory on US foreign policy?

Relations with Russia

While Obama could have handled President Vladimir Putin better, his persistent demonization of the Russian President and inability to establish a rapport with him painted US policy into a corner. Even if Putin annexed the Crimea in brazen disregard for international law, the US played a key role in creating a situation in Ukraine that justified Putin’s fears about being encircled by NATO. Obama should have taken into account the fact that Russia had a naval base in the Crimea since 1784. In the aftermath of his victory, Trump and Putin have agreed to mend the US-Russia relations.
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November 22nd,2016   category: International Affairs : Articles   | tags: , , |    No Comments

The Chilcot Report on Blair and the War on Iraq

Sir John Chilcot

Sir John Chilcot. Image credit: hangthebankers.com

Sir John Chilcot has finally come out with his 2.6 million-word report that was actually due in 2010. It will take a person seven days to read the report in full, if read non-stop. In terms of length, the report is three times the size of the complete works of Shakespeare. We might assume that none outside the Chilcot Inquiry might have read it in full so far since its publication on July 7. Perhaps, none in the Inquiry Committee too – four others in addition to Chilcot, including Baroness Prashar of Indian origin – might have read the report in full. The hard copy costs Pound Sterling 767 and we do not know whether the families of the 200 British citizens killed in the war might get a copy gratis.

Let us see what British democracy has done after coming across enough evidence, before and after the 2003 war, that Prime Minister Blair had unnecessarily, unwisely, and immorally taken the nation into a war, which almost destroyed Iraq and begat the deadliest terrorist organization known as the Islamic State, especially when Iraq had posed no threat to the United Kingdom.

The BBC carried a report by Andrew Gilligan in July 2003 to the effect that the Prime Minister’s office had ‘knowingly embellished’ a dossier on Iraq’s military capabilities. The report was based on a conversation with Dr. David Kelly, a scientist and an authority on biological weapons working for the government. The BBC did not reveal the name of the scientist, but the government deliberately leaked it out. The government denied the veracity of the report and Kelly was questioned aggressively by a House of Commons Committee, which summoned him to appear before it on 15 July 2003. Kelly was subsequently found dead on the 17th.

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The Middle Path

jawaharlal-nehru-addressing-non-aligned-summit-conference


Nehru’s pragmatic diplomacy gave a newly independent India a stature in world affairs much above its economic and military power and guided it deftly in a world being polarised by the Cold War

THE PEOPLE OF INDIA HAVE GOOD reason to be upset about the manner in which the 125th birth anniversary celebrations of Jawaharlal Nehru have begun, marked as they were by petty partisanship and unseemly attempts at settling of scores. Most people would have expected the political leadership to rise above inter-party differences and to unite and celebrate in a mature manner an anniversary of such national importance. Sixty-five per cent of Indians are under 35 years of age and for them it might have been rather puzzling that their elders should find it difficult to behave in a mature manner on an occasion like this.

A good part of the electronic media, with their debates where often more than one person speaks, or rather, the persons involved shout at each other with the anchor not able to enforce minimum courtesy levels, has only enhanced confusion in the minds of the viewers. Nehru, if he were to come back today, would have been appalled at the level of discourtesy displayed in such debates. He had a quick temper, but he was always courteous. Perhaps the debaters and anchors can consider paying a tribute to Nehru by taking a pledge to be courteous to each other from now onwards as their contribution to the ongoing celebration.

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December 20th,2014   category: International Affairs : Articles, Politics |    No Comments

Genocide in Gaza and Israel’s tunnel vision – analysis

Gaza school shellingHumanity heaved a sigh of huge relief when UN and US together announced that both Israel and the Hamas had agreed to a 72-hour cease-fire starting from 8 a.m. local time on Friday Aug 1 and that the negotiations between the two sides mediated by Egypt would begin in Cairo the same day. Alas, the relief was short-lived, only 90 minutes. The Israeli airstrike on Sunday (Aug 3) on a UN-run school only confirms the fragility of hope.

The Western media true to its tradition of biased reporting basically said that both sides were accusing each other to be the first to break the ceasefire. This assessment does not tally with what Israel’s military spokesperson Peter Lerner has told the media. According to him, around 9.30 a.m. a small number of Israeli soldiers, possibly three, inspecting a tunnel in the Rafah area were attacked by Hamas militants coming out of the tunnel. One of them had a vest with explosives; he killed himself and two Israeli soldiers; the third Israeli soldier, Hadar Goldin, 23, was missing.

It is important to analyze what has happened and why. Did the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) expect the Hamas fighters to surrender meekly once they were spotted? Did the fighters know that there was a ceasefire? The most important question is: How did any one expect the ceasefire to last when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had made it clear that the operation of locating and destroying tunnels would go ahead despite the ceasefire? In other words, was it a ceasefire? It follows that the ceasefire promoters did not think through the implications of Netanyahu’s caveat about the tunnels. Read the rest of this entry »

August 11th,2014   category: International Affairs : Articles |    No Comments

Israeli impunity and global helplessness

gaza-011-1It is difficult, almost impossible, to envisage an early negotiated ceasefire to put an end to the unconscionable carnage in Gaza. US Secretary of State John Kerry has been working hard, but with his hands tied. President Barack Obama has spoken more than once to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the need for a ceasefire, but always deferentially.

In his public statements, President Obama starts with an endorsement of Israel’s right to self-defence in a manner implying that Israel alone has that right, and not the Palestinians. The US gives enormous support to Israel, financially, militarily and diplomatically. One might have expected that such support would enable the US to have some influence on Israel. But, the truth is that the more the US gives, the more Israel’s clout to influence US policy, and the less the US’s influence over Israeli policy.

Students of international relations cannot find another instance of such an asymmetrical relationship between the recipient and the giver. Hence, the principal cause of the delay in arranging for a ceasefire to be followed by negotiations is the lack of leverage of the US vis-à-vis Israel. Read the rest of this entry »

July 28th,2014   category: International Affairs : Articles |    No Comments

Can Iraq’s disintegration be prevented?

iraq-sunni-sia-kurd-statesAt present (July 2, 2014), it is difficult to see how the ongoing implosion of Iraq can be stalled and reversed. The world  started taking note of ISIL and its leader Abu Bakri al-Baghdadi, 43, who has been declared as ‘caliph’ of an  ‘Islamic State’  claiming sovereignty over a stretch of territory from Aleppo in north western Syria to Diyala in north eastern Iraq only when Mosul fell on June 20th. But, his forces had taken over Raqqa in Syria March 2013; and Falluja in Iraq in January 2014.

ISIL, a breakaway group from Al Queida in Iraq, is basically a part of the Sunni Resistance to the 2003 US invasion and occupation of Iraq. US had made unsuccessful, half-hearted, and not always judicious attempts to build an Iraq that could accommodate the three groups there, namely, Shias, Sunnis, and Kurds. But, Prime Minister Maliki, who got his office in 2006 thanks to support from US and Iran carried out a policy of alienating the Sunnis and the Kurds. His reckless partisan policies created the conditions for the emergence of a formation called Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) to grow and derive support from the Sunni population.

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July 2nd,2014   category: International Affairs : Articles |    No Comments

Where is Egypt going?

egypt-country-mapNow that three years have elapsed since the 2011 Revolution in Egypt, it is pertinent, nay, imperative, to ask the central question: Where is Egypt? Where is it going? On January 25, 2011 Egyptians shed fear of their repressive government that had deprived them of their human rights for decades and gathered in the world famous Tahrir Square to demand that President Hosni Mubarak resign. Mubarak, in office for thirty years, fell eighteen days later. Millions of Egyptians in Tahrir Square and elsewhere saw the exit of Mubarak as signaling the beginning of Egypt’s journey towards democracy. Three years later, it is painfully clear that Egypt has lost its way towards democracy; in fact, it is heading fast in the opposite direction. The police state under Mubarak is being restored; freedom of expression has been drastically abridged; dissent does provoke punishment; political prisoners total up to twenty one thousand; and political demonstrations need prior permission. Egypt is under military rule and a field marshal is soon going to be elected president. Read the rest of this entry »

February 20th,2014   category: International Affairs : Articles, Politics |    No Comments

Book Review: MANAGING INDIA’S NUCLEAR FORCES

Managing India’s Nuclear Forces
by Verghese Koithara
Routledge New Delhi, 2012
294 pages; Rs.795

Managing India's Nuclear Forces

Managing India's Nuclear Forces

VICE-ADMIRAL Verghese Koithara examines, critically and with clinical thoroughness, India’s nuclear doctrine and the management of its nuclear forces. He points out the shortcomings and proposes remedial measures. His style, free from jargon, is a study in plain, robust English. His logic is sharp and he never misses the big picture. India acquired nuclear weapons primarily to take care of its security needs. The political leadership of the day might have wanted to make a political statement or to derive domestic political advantages. But, the primacy of the security consideration cannot be questioned. If the nuclear weapons in India’s possession are to add to its security, it should manage the nuclear forces more rationally and coherently. This is the fundamental message of the book. It should be read by those who are responsible for India’s nuclear policy. The strategic community and the general public interested in security questions will find in it much food for thought. Koithara does not practise circumlocution even for a moment. “For a variety of political and organisational reasons, India is saddled with a nuclear force management system that is seriously inadequate for the work it needs to do,” he writes (emphasis added throughout). The author mentions two reasons for such a state of affairs.
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India’s diplomacy is textual, not contextual

Ambassador K.P. FabianUnderstanding the rationale behind India’s diplomatic decisions is essential for policymakers and citizens alike, so as to take better decisions in the future. Gateway House interviews former Ambassador to Italy, K. P. Fabian, to discuss how India’s assessment of policy values the spoken word over context.

In his book, ‘Diplomacy, Indian Style,’ Fabian writes that “according to Greek mythology, Athena came out of the head of Zeus, fully grown and fully armed. There is a popular notion that India’s foreign policy came out of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru’s head in a similar fashion. That notion is wrong.”

K. P. Fabian, former Indian Ambassador to Italy, shares his insights with Gateway House’s Rajeshwari Krishnamurthy on how the formulation of India’s foreign policies depends on the written word over circumstances.
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Handling terrorism, US style: The march of folly continues

Why do holders of high office so often act contrary to the way reason points and enlightened self-interest suggests?

Why do holders of high office so often act contrary to the way reason points and enlightened self-interest suggests?

CONTEMPLATING the ongoing US-led war on terror, one cannot help wondering whether Barbara Tuchman’s “The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam” should not be made compulsory reading for all policy-makers, including Heads of Government. She starts with a lamentation that has a contemporary resonance:

“A phenomenon noticeable throughout history regardless of place and time is the pursuit by governments of policies contrary to their own interests. Mankind, it seems, makes a poorer performance of government than of almost any other activity. In this sphere, wisdom, which may be defined as the exercise of judgment acting on experience, common sense, and available information, is less operative and more frustrated than it should be. Why do holders of high office so often act contrary to the way reason points and enlightened self-interest suggests? Why does intelligent mental process seem so often not to function?”
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March 18th,2012   category: International Affairs : Articles, Politics |    No Comments

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August 21st, 2017

Qatar deserves kudos for handling crisis with maturity and logic


November 22nd, 2016

Triumphant Trump and American Foreign Policy


July 21st, 2016

The Attempted Coup in Turkey: What Next?


July 12th, 2016

The Chilcot Report on Blair and the War on Iraq


January 10th, 2015

Beyond the border - India China Boundary Issues


December 20th, 2014

The Middle Path


August 11th, 2014

Genocide in Gaza and Israel’s tunnel vision – analysis


July 28th, 2014

Israeli impunity and global helplessness


July 2nd, 2014

Can Iraq’s disintegration be prevented?


June 30th, 2014

V. K. Krishna Menon Memorial Lecture 2014


March 20th, 2014

Chess Game over Crimea


March 6th, 2014

Italy Erred in Dealing with Marines Case


February 20th, 2014

Where is Egypt going?


September 12th, 2013

Book Review: AN UNCERTAIN GLORY


August 15th, 2013

Book Review: INDIA’S FOREIGN POLICY


July 21st, 2013

Book Review: SAMUDRA MANTHAN


May 5th, 2013

Book Review: MANAGING INDIA’S NUCLEAR FORCES


July 30th, 2012

India’s diplomacy is textual, not contextual


March 18th, 2012

Handling terrorism, US style: The march of folly continues


March 7th, 2012

Will Israel attack Iran? It cannot be ruled out.


February 14th, 2011

DEVELOPMENT, JUSTICE, AND DEMOCRACY: SOME REFLECTIONS


November 10th, 2010

NIXON, INDIRA AND INDIA: Politics and Beyond


November 10th, 2010

Book Review: CHILDREN OF ABRAHAM AT WAR


November 10th, 2010

Book Review: A JOURNEY


July 7th, 2010

Book Review: JINNAH AND TILAK: Comrades in the Freedom Struggle


October 29th, 2009

Book Review: THE INHERITANCE


October 4th, 2009

Aristotle vs. Greenspan


October 4th, 2009

Book Review : JINNAH : India-Partition Independence


April 15th, 2009

President Obama: Plans and Impediments


March 5th, 2009

A talk about Mahatma Gandhi


March 5th, 2009

Book Review : The Lexus and the Olive tree: Understanding Globalisation by Thomas L. Friedman


March 5th, 2009

Most unpopular war in history


March 5th, 2009

Book Review: Hannah Arendt and International Relations


March 5th, 2009

India at sixty


March 5th, 2009

Commonsense on terror


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