book review

Chapter in ORF publication: “The Global Economic Meltdown”

Samir wrote one chapter in the new ORF publication “The Global Economic Meltdown”. Book Cover
Please find here the original link

Please find here the full document (PDF version): Deconstructing India’s Inclusive Development Agenda

The Global Financial Crisis (GFC) of 2008 is widely recognized across the globe as the most severe economic downturn since the Great Depression. The prolonged global economic slowdown has stymied the US economy, brought the Eurozone to the precipice, and continues to retard growth momentum throughout the world. Even developing economies that were previously thought to be crisis-averse are now experiencing the rough waters after an economic tsunami.

The writers in this compendium address the many complexities of the GFC and present a holistic overview of its background, how it unfolded and how many nations sought to respond to it. This publication is unique in its approach of the crisis from a global perspective, with pieces focusing on India, Europe and the United States. Furthermore, the book provides a thorough examination of the economic, political, environmental and social implications of the crisis and offers glimpses of the road ahead, replete with policy recommendations for a more stable and prosperous future.

Institute of Peace and Conflict studies reviews “South and Southeast Asia”

by Tuli Sinha, Research Officer SEARP, IPCS
2011
Link to original website

This book marks the success of the initiative taken by two extremely renowned research institutes of India and Southeast Asia. The Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS) and Observer Research Foundation (ORF) assembled in Singapore to discuss the crucial issues emerging in South and Southeast Asia. The first Dialogue was held in New Delhi in 2006 and it focused on the Political and Security Dynamics of South and Southeast Asia. This book is the culmination of papers presented in the second Dialogue held in Singapore in 2009, which concentrated on Changing Geo-Political and Security Challenges in South and Southeast Asia. With a world engulfed in the aftermaths of financial meltdown and the uncertainty pertaining to the future trajectory of Asian geo politics and Asian regionalism, the dialogue efficiently selected themes to suit the changing power dynamics in South and Southeast Asia.

The book is divided across five major themes. First, on Major Power Dynamics in South and Southeast Asia, this incorporates the works of Dilip Lahiri and Daljit Singh regarding these two regions. The two essays examine the shifts in the dynamics of the super power relations in India and Southeast Asia. The changing role of the United States and China is explained in the context of end of Cold War and present day scenario in both the regions. Also, an effort is made to predict the future conflict or conditions of a peaceful co-existence among the super powers in the Asia-Pacific.

The second theme focuses on the Rise of Asian Maritime Power and its Implications on Southeast Asia. This section contains essays by Vijay Sakhuja and Admiral P S Das, which gives a detailed account of the rising Chinese naval strength and Indian concerns on maritime security issues. Their work brings forth the direct implication of a strong Chinese naval base for Southeast Asia and India. The phenomenal rise of China as a regional power in terms of maritime might is a matter of concern for Southeast Asian and Indian security as the seas are and have always been the fundamental source of trade and energy explorations.

The third section of the book deals with Security Issues in Southeast Asia by Ian Storey, Carlyle A Thayer and K Yhome. These works revolve around the central issues of concern in Southeast Asian context. The South China Sea Dispute is examined in context of the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties.  The other chapter in the section is on Myanmar, which is one of the most dynamic and strategically located countries of Southeast Asia. The chapter argues that given the context of rising geo strategic importance of the region, it becomes imperative to assess the current situation and the future prospects of Myanmar in particular. With unlimited avenues of energy and other economic and commercial opportunities, this region is eventually looked upon as the hub of economic activities by the external powers. Despite prolonged conditions of political turmoil and instability, the region has managed to carve a niche in the eyes of China and the United States for future engagements which is highly commendable.

The fourth theme deals with the Evolving Asian Regionalism and comprises essays by Rodolfo C. Severino and K V Kesavan. These works primarily discuss the role of regional institutions amidst the rise of East Asian regionalism and India’s position. They have exquisitely explained the formation and significance of ASEAN and its several offshoots that have emerged over the years. There is also a detailed mention of the concept of Look East Policy of India and its future with regards to maritime and nuclear security concerns.

Finally, the last theme assesses the extremely recent and most critical concern of the world through the chapter on Non-Traditional Security Challenge: Climate Change; it assesses the implications for South and Southeast Asia. This section incorporates the works of Lee Pon Onn and Samir Saran, which presents an extensive account of climate change and issues regarding globalization. Amidst the nuances of the Copenhagen Summit held in 2009 and rising concerns about climate, this chapter holds great significance and is central to the title of the book. Besides climate change, several other significant issues such as water, agriculture, forestry and health in the regions have also received deserved attention.

Summing up, the book is an excellent amalgamation of issues of strategic importance to South and Southeast Asia in the current geopolitical scene. The strength is in coherent showcasing of diverse viewpoints of the scholars from both the regions of South and Southeast Asia. The work stresses upon the major power shifts in this region, in context to the super power relations in the region. Collectively these eminent scholars have discussed the probable effects of such a power shift in varied sectors of Asia-Pacific. The essays forcefully bring forth the argument of an increasing cooperation between India and Southeast Asia validating the notion of the successful India’s Look East Policy. The identification of the themes is deft and presents a detailed historical background to each study to forge better understanding. With regard to the recent developments in Traditional and Non-Traditional security aspects, the work unravels the myriad connotations of several initiatives in the area of climate change, energy security, terrorism and water and further examines the future role and prospects in the region.

Though the book impressively portrays the crucial issues of concern in both the regions, it has certain limitations. First, the book tends to focus on the United States and China relations in South and Southeast Asia and comes across as a China centric study. Second, several other countries as Indonesia, Thailand of this region have not received a thorough engagement in the work. It merely discusses the case of Myanmar, India and ASEAN as other countries have been bypassed. Third, the sporadic reference to terrorism, nuclear proliferation and energy in particular, is unable to do justice to such issues of vital concern in history as well as in years to come.  Further, though every essay provides a detailed explanation of changing geopolitical and strategic security challenges, they fail to raise abundant burning questions regarding the future possibilities and prospects of the same. Also, the inclusion of theoretical base to the study of power play in Southeast Asia and India would have enhanced the qualitative dimension.

This combined effort of such expert scholars and K V Kesavan and Daljit Singh in particular, as the editors, is certainly an asset to the available literature on geostrategic issues for scholars and researchers in the relevant field. It provides an excellent assessment of the super power play in the regions and how it has paved the way for several opportunities and challenges simultaneously. It is gratifying to note the various global, regional and inter-regional initiatives that have been started in order to address security concerns and the efforts being made in numerous dimensions, aptly dealt with in the essays of this volume. This book is definitely among the best works in the subject which discusses different regional perspectives on the dynamic geopolitical scenario in South and Southeast Asia and adds to the existing facts as well as sets the base for further research work in years to come.

Navigating the Near: Non-traditional Security Threats to India, 2022

Sunjoy Joshi, Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan, Wilson John, Lydia Powell and Samir Saran
19 April 2011

National Security is most often thought of in terms of political and military threats to the State-either from other States or geo-strategic alliances. Given such a framework, both the challenges as well as the responses have for long been viewed in terms of military force or coercive ability of the adversary.
Events unfolding in today’s highly networked and globalised economies show the futility, and danger, of relying on such a simplistic template. Threats to national security are today multi-dimensional and call for a deeper study and understanding of a wide variety of factors to create a credible and deterrent response mechanism.Navigating the Near seeks to bridge this paradigm shift by studying non-traditional threats facing contemporary India. The study, with its sight on the next decade, evaluates how traditional threats confronting India are likely to be influenced in large measure by a range of factors and trends, both external and internal, that have, till now, remained on the fringes of security studies.

Link to Observer Research Foundation website.

Book review on “South and Southeast Asia”, The Hindu, November 2010

Emerging geo-political and security challenges
by V. Suryanarayan
November 2, 2010

This compendium of 10 essays, presented at an interaction in 2009 among scholars of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore, and the Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi, covers a wide range of subjects related to the political and security trends in South Asia and Southeast Asia.. They include: the role of extra-regional powers and their growing naval presence in the Indian Ocean; the evolving Asian regionalism; India’s ‘Look East’ policy; the political situation in Myanmar; and the non-traditional security challenges to Asian security.

Since the end of World War II, the pattern of international relations in the two regions has undergone a radical transformation. This is particularly true of the role of external powers in Southeast Asia. Though the relative clout of the United States and Japan has declined, the ruling elite of the region would like Washington to maintain a high profile. The growing economic linkages between China and the United States and between India and China have a momentum of their own. However, China’s recent assertive postures in the Indian subcontinent and the South China Sea have created a sense of unease and have even given rise to suspicion about its intentions and objectives.

In South Asia, profound changes are taking place. The nuclearisation of India and Pakistan has added a new dimension to the troubled region. The struggle for democratic rights, the fight for justice by the ethnic minorities, and the secessionist movements, with covert support from external powers, pose grave challenges to the stability of South Asia.

Given the space constraints that preclude coverage of all the essays, only a limited review touching upon a few of the striking contributions is attempted here. In his analytical piece, “Major Powers in South Asia: What is their game?” Dilip Lahiri projects the scenario that is likely to emerge, one that will have profound consequences. Despite their divergent national interests, the U.S., India, Japan, South Korea, and Australia are likely to come together to ensure that the rise of China is non-threatening and does not disturb the peace and stability of the region. Admiral P.S. Das and Vijay Sakuja examine the roles of China and India as growing maritime powers. China’s deepening ties with the member-states of ASEAN and their consequences are highlighted. Equally interesting, the authors pinpoint the strengthening of the links China has established with India’s immediate neighbours — Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, and Sri Lanka. In this context, India’s ‘Look East’ policy assumes great significance. As Admiral Das points out, “looking East” is no longer an economic jargon; it is descriptive of the totality of India’s relations with Southeast Asia.

STRATEGIC UNEASE

Discussing the major powers vis-à-vis the security concerns of Southeast Asia, Daljit Singh makes the point that, while China’s image and standing in the region has “improved a great deal”, there is also a “strategic unease” about China on account of its “[huge] size, proximity, growing power, and uncertainty about its long-term intentions.” China’s bilateral relations are driven solely by considerations of realpolitik and strategic interests. Witness Beijing’s continuing support to the military regime in Myanmar, its military aid to Sri Lanka during the fourth Eelam War, and its covert support to Pakistan’s nuclear programme.

From India’s point of view, there is concern over a perceived shift in China’s position vis-à-vis Jammu and Kashmir. Hitherto, it had recognised India’s de facto control of J&K, while, at the same time, advocating a peaceful resolution of the contentious issues with Pakistan through bilateral negotiations. The recent denial of visa by China to Lieutenant General B.S. Jaswal is held out as a pointer to this subtle shift. Many scholars are so blind in their admiration for China and its remarkable achievements that they do not want to see any signal or be reminded of any historical evidence that shows it in a negative light. Such an approach will be detrimental to the interests of India. The essays — contributed among others by diplomats, naval officers and academics — are scholarly, absorbing and stimulating.

Link to original publication.