India Pledges to Curb Greenhouse Gas Growth

Renewables will help the country power up with less pollution

By Lisa Friedman and ClimateWire| October 2, 2015

India has pledged to slash its emissions intensity relative to economic growth and make a massive push on clean energy by 2030 as part of its formal submission to the United Nations ahead of landmark global warming negotiations in Paris.

A solar-powered pump in India.

Ajay Tallam/Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

India’s vow to unconditionally cut emissions intensity 33 to 35 percent below 2005 levels and boost the share of non-fossil-fuel energy sources more than threefold as long as it receives assistance from Western countries was widely praised by the environmental community, even as some said the world’s third-largest emitter could do more.

Referencing yoga, ancient Sanskrit texts and Mahatma Gandhi—on whose 146th birthday the plan is being formally unveiled today in New Delhi—the submission argues that India’s right to pull itself out of poverty is not necessarily incompatible with protecting the environment. At the same time, it lays out some hard-as-coal truths.

“In order to secure reliable, adequate and affordable supply of electricity, coal will continue to dominate power generation in future,” India’s intended nationally determined contribution (INDC) reads.

“One of the important areas of global collaborative research should be clean coal and fossil fuel, energy management and storage systems for renewable energy. Given the current stage of dependence of many economies on coal, such an effort is an urgent necessity.”

The blueprint outlines an action plan for decarbonizing energy-intensive sectors like transportation and building. It vows to create an additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion metric tons of CO2 equivalent through additional forest and tree cover by 2030. It also details what India must do to protect water, agriculture and communities’ health and physical safety from floods, droughts and other increasingly devastating impacts of climate change.

Not part of the target but highlighted as a major undertaking was India’s current goal of expanding its current 35 gigawatts of clean energy capacity to 175 GW by 2022, while responding to a fourfold energy consumption growth.

The price tag for its clean energy efforts: around $2.5 trillion between now and 2030. The INDC does not say how much of that should come from the international community, but argues that “meaningful and adequate” finance will be key to achieving the targets.

“If the world indeed is concerned about its new investments to be climate friendly, it must consider the opportunity provided by a country like India,” the report argues. Wealthy countries, it admonishes, “can certainly bring down their emission intensity by moderating their consumption, and substantially utilize their investments by employing them for development activities in countries housing a vast majority of people barely living at subsistence level.”

‘This is a different India’
India’s down-to-the-wire submission at the end of the final day available to countries to file their plans to the United Nations makes it one of the last major economies to effectively take responsibility for tackling climate change. Among Group of 20 countries, only Saudi Arabia has now failed to turn in a plan for curbing greenhouse gas emissions.

The INDCs from 120 countries, including the 28-member-state European Union, will collectively make up a new global climate change accord that leaders hope to broker in Paris in December. India, long viewed by the United States and Europe as an obstructionist in the negotiations, is expected to play a key—and, activists insist, increasingly positive—role.

“This is a really significant step for India,” said Anjali Jaiswal, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s India Initiative, said of the INDC. She acknowledged that the government’s emissions intensity target could have been more ambitious—a target of 40 to 45 percent had been floated in the media. But, she noted, under the stated plan, India’s economy will grow seven times larger by 2030, while emissions will triple, rather than a typical 1-to-1 ratio.

“The targets are very important in that they make a big step to reducing emissions intensity while also allowing India’s economy to grow,” Jaiswal said. “We think this is a really strong step for India.”

Harjeet Singh, ActionAid International’s global climate policy manager, who is based in India, agreed. He called the INDC “extremely comprehensive” and said, “reading it, what came to mind is, this is a different India.”

Singh described India’s approach as making note of the historical responsibility of wealthy countries that have been polluting the atmosphere for decades while also going beyond the old rich-poor divide.

“It’s solution-oriented,” he said of the INDC. “It talks not just about national circumstances, but how energy needs are going to grow and the number of initiatives we have to make sure of a low-carbon pathway.”

India’s INDC is markedly different from China’s in both style and substance. Unlike China, India offers no peak year for halting emissions growth. Energy experts said that comes as no surprise, given the nearly 400 million people still living without electricity in India. It also was released on Indian soil, timed to the birthday anniversary of the leader of the country’s independence movement. Chinese President Xi Jinping, by contrast, made China’s two major climate change unveilings while standing shoulder-to-shoulder with President Obama, first in Beijing last year and later in the White House Rose Garden.

“India in some ways is the man in the middle. It’s an emerging economy, but it’s not a developed economy,” said Jaiswal.

Samir Saran, a senior fellow and vice president at the Observer Research Foundation, a leading think tank in India, praised India for coming up with what he called a “positive and novel” approach to fairness—or, as it is known in the U.N. climate negotiations, “common but differentiated responsibilities.”

Rapid economic growth raises questions
“India has demonstrated leadership in sharing common responsibility … through a differentiated proposition on action that seeks global partnership on the means of implementation,” he wrote in an email.

Others were less impressed. Greenpeace India called the non-fossil target a “step in the right direction.” But, the group added in a statement, “India’s continued commitment to expand coal power capacity is baffling.”

Meanwhile, the goal of ramping up non-fossil energy to 40 percent also raised questions. Without hydropower, several energy analysts pegged India’s current levels at 12 to 14 percent. With large hydropower, however, the country is already at 30 percent non-fossil energy, making the jump less significant. The INDC does not specify what sources it is including—or if the projected growth also includes nuclear energy.

Paul Bledsoe, a former Clinton White House climate staff member, said the plan “predictably” emphasizes growth through coal expansion, and called on India to truly show its commitment to climate action by agreeing to restrict hydrofluorocarbon gases (HFCs), a potent contributor to climate change, under the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer.

“India must also do more to encourage private-sector investment in solar and other clean energy, including by reforming their notoriously corrupt and inefficient government bureaucracy, or investors will stay away and throw serious doubt [on] their laudable renewable energy goals,” Bledsoe said.

Varun Sivaram, Douglas Dillon fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, said India is in a difficult position. Without moving away from coal and enacting major structural reforms in the utility sector, he noted, it’s unclear if even meeting the 175 GW of renewable energy goal would do much to reduce India’s emissions.

“If they meet it, it will be a miracle. But even if they meet it, they will have to produce a lot more power from coal plants just to keep up with a 7 percent growth rate,” he said. “It’s not clear that just investing in renewables will result in a 1-to-1 reduction of emissions.”

Reporter Gayathri Vaidyanathan contributed.

Reprinted from Climatewire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. www.eenews.net, 202-628-6500


India Vows to Cut Carbon Intensity in Paris Pledge

OCT. 2, 2015, 11:16 A.M. E.D.T., The New York Times

Original link is here

NEW DELHI — India’s long-awaited pledge for a global climate pact shows how the world’s No. 3 carbon polluter is making significant efforts to rein in the growth of emissions linked to its fast-surging demands for energy, analysts said Friday.

India vowed to reduce its emissions intensity by 33-35 percent by 2030 from 2005 levels, primarily by boosting the share of electricity generated by sources other than fossil fuels such as coal and gas to 40 percent.

That means India’s emissions will continue to grow as its economy expands, but the increase relative to economic output will be lower than it is now.

“Our every action will be cleaner than what it was earlier,” Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar told reporters Friday, insisting that Indian traditions and culture are already “at one with nature.”

India was the last of the major economies to present its offer for the U.N. climate deal that’s supposed to be adopted in December in Paris.

Javadekar said India held its submission back so it could coordinate its filing with the Indian holiday celebrating the birthday Friday of the country’s forefather, Mohandas K. Gandhi, an ardent environmentalist.

As of Friday, 146 nations accounting for 87 percent of global carbon emissions had submitted their pledges.

Environmental groups following the U.N. climate talks welcomed India’s offer.

“India now has positioned itself as a global leader in clean energy, and is poised to play an active and influential role in the international climate negotiations this December,” said Rhea Suh, president of the New York-based Natural Resources Defense Council.

Some said the carbon intensity target was conservative and projected that India would exceed it if it meets its renewable energy goals.

“This shows that key economic and infrastructure ministries have been closely engaged in formulating climate policy, which is an important break from the past,” said Navroz Dubash of the Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi.

Climate analyst Samir Saran at the Observer Research Foundation, a New Delhi think tank, also described India’s targets as ambitious and “rooted in Indian reality,” given the fact that at least 300 million citizens — a fourth of the population — still have no access to electricity at all, while hundreds of millions more make do with just a few hours a day.

India’s submission also made that point, noting that “it is estimated that more than half of India of 2030 is yet to be built.”

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made manufacturing and job creation a key promise of his administration, and has implored foreign companies and governments, with the slogan “Make in India,” to help.

India also promised aggressive reforestation efforts, with enough new trees to absorb up to 3 billion tons of carbon dioxide by 2030, and laid out plans for adapting to changing weather and temperatures.

“This is a positive and novel Indian approach,” Saran said, adding that India was effectively sharing responsibility for taking action to protect the climate while seeking global partnerships on implementing those plans.

India plans a fivefold boost in renewable energy capacity in the next five years to 175 gigawatts, including solar power, wind, biomass and small hydropower dams.

Even with a major boost in renewable energy, India is also planning to expand coal power — the biggest source of emissions — to satisfy its energy needs. Coal-fired power plants account for about 60 percent of India’s installed power capacity.

By 2030, the government said its installed capacity from “non-fossil fuel-based energy resources” would grow to 40 percent. Currently non-fossil sources account for about 30 percent — half of it solar and wind power and the other half large hydropower and nuclear.

India said boosting its renewables would require help with transfer of clean technology and financing — two of the crunch issues before the Paris deal, which is supposed to apply to all countries but also include provisions for rich countries to help poor countries fight climate change and adapt to its consequences.

Scientists say the heat-trapping carbon emissions released by the burning of fossil fuels — coal, oil and gas — are a key driver of rising temperatures that could lead to potentially catastrophic impacts, including flooding of island nations and intensifying droughts.

China and the U.S. are the only countries with higher emissions than India. As a bloc, the 28-nation European Union’s emissions are also higher.

Like other developed countries, the U.S. and the EU committed to absolute reduction targets, while China pledged that its emissions would stop growing by 2030. India, with hundreds of millions still living in poverty, wasn’t expected to offer a peak year because its emissions are projected to increase for decades as energy demand rises along with economic growth.

Javadekar said industrialized countries should be setting even more ambitious targets than what’s been pledged so far.

“The developed world has polluted the world, but we will help even though we are suffering,” he said.

Two climate research groups this week said the pledges put forth before the Paris conference would slow global warming but projected that temperatures would still rise by between 2.7 and 3.5 degrees C (4.9 and 6.3 degrees F).


Ritter reported from Stockholm.


This report has been revised to correct quote from Javadekar.


Brexit – what would happen if Britain left the EU?

Original link is here

The Guardian, London, May 14, 2015

Katie Allen, Philip Oltermann, Julian Borger and Arthur Neslen in Brussels

Growth, trade, immigration, jobs, diplomacy: what would the impact be if a 2017 referendum pushed UK towards the exit?

Going it alone: some argue that freedom from EU rules would make Britain more prosperous.

Going it alone: some argue that freedom from EU rules would make Britain more prosperous. Photograph: Alamy

David Cameron’s electoral triumph has brought the prospect of a British withdrawal from the EU one step closer. The prime minister has vowed to reshape Britain’s ties with Europe before putting EU membership to a vote by 2017.

But what would “Brexit” – a British exit from the 28-nation EU – look like? Eurosceptics argue that withdrawal would reverse immigration, save the taxpayer billions and free Britain from an economic burden. Europhiles counter that it would lead to deep economic uncertainty and cost thousands, possibly even millions, of jobs.

Our writers have drawn on the best available expertise to assess what Brexit would mean for growth, jobs, trade, immigration and Britain’s position in the world.

The broad economy

There have been a few attempts to quantify what an exit from the EU would do to the size of the UK economy, despite the obvious pitfalls of trying to put a figure on a hypothetical situation that has a number of variables – such as what sort of trade deals are negotiated post Brexit (more of that below). Given the range of potential post-Brexit circumstances there is a broad range of estimates. Some argue the economy will suffer permanent losses on the back of weaker trade and investment. Others say freedom from the rules, as well as the costs, that come with EU membership would make Britain more prosperous.

Starting with the estimates that leaving would be a net loss to the UK economy, one analysis often cited is from researchers at the National Institute of Economic and Social Research in 2004. They found an exit from the EU would permanently reduce UK GDP by 2.25%, mainly because of lower foreign direct investment. That estimate is now old and, as the thinktank’s current head, Jonathan Portes, has pointed out, the world economy has changed considerably in the past decade.

Another analysis by economists at the Centre for Economic Performance (CEP), part of the London School of Economics, calculated the UK could suffer income falls of between 6.3% to 9.5% of GDP, similar to the loss resulting from the global financial crisis of 2008-09. That is under the researchers’ pessimistic scenario, in which the UK is not able to negotiate favourable trade terms. Under an optimistic scenario, in which the UK continues to have a free trade agreement (FTA) with the EU, losses would be 2.2% of GDP.

Overall, the authors state:

Our current assessment is that leaving the EU would be likely to impose substantial costs on the UK economy and would be a very risky gamble.

There have also been attempts to collate various pieces of research on how much a Brexit would cost, and come up with an educated guess of what is at stake. This was the approach of business group the CBI, which has lobbied for the UK to stay within a reformed EU. It said in November 2013 that by aggregating research already available it has came to a “conservative” estimate that the benefits of EU membership amount to 4-5% of GDP, or as much as £78bn a year, making each household £3,000 better off.

In between those who see a net loss or a net gain from Brexit, are those keen to stress the economic consequences could go either way. The thinktank Open Europe noted in March, for example, that an exit might boost UK GDP under certain circumstances. It said:

On the one hand, UK GDP could be 2.2% lower in 2030 if Britain leaves the EU and fails to strike a deal with the EU or reverts into protectionism. In a best-case scenario, under which the UK manages to enter into liberal trade arrangements with the EU and the rest of the world, while pursuing large-scale deregulation at home, Britain could be better off by 1.6% of GDP in 2030.

There is similarly a more nuanced analysis from economist Roger Bootle in his book, The Trouble with Europe (2014). His perspective is that the EU is not worth staying in without fundamental reform. But Bootle cautions against boiling the argument on either side down to numbers. His useful analysis on the UK money flowing to Brussels underlines that warning.

In 2012, the UK economy made payments of £16.4bn, just over 1% of GDP , to EU institutions, says Bootle. On the other hand, the UK government received a rebate on its contributions to the EU budget of £3.1bn and £0.9bn in other receipts. The private sector received £2.9bn from EU institutions. So overall, the UK paid a net £9.6bn into the EU, about 0.6% of nominal GDP. He concludes:

These are not the sort of sums on which the fate of great nations depends – nor on which momentous decisions about EU membership should be made.

The pro-Europe thinktank, the Centre for European Reform (CER), says that although the UK is a net contributor to the EU, after Brexit the country would face pressure to replace EU regional funding and agricultural subsidies with domestic spending. There would also be a dent to the public finances if immigration is cut upon exit, given migrants are large net contributors to the Treasury and rejuvenate Britain’s ageing population, according to a report by a CER commissionlast year.

Finally, there are the voices noting the costs to the UK of EU regulations.

Tim Congdon, economist and runner-up in Ukip’s 2010 leadership election, publishes an annual report for the party on what he sees as the costs of being in the EU. His latest edition again highlighted the “damage that excessive and misguided regulation is doing to British business, particularly to small- and medium-sized businesses” and concluded:

The UK is roughly 11.5% of GDP – about £185bn a year – worse off because it is a member of the EU instead of being a fully independent sovereign nation.


The Liberal Democrat leader, Nick Clegg, has been quick in debates to reach for a jobs number when arguing for the UK to stay in the EU. He has in the past claimed that 3m jobs depend on British membership of the EU.

As the Guardian has reported previously, in a detailed reality check of Clegg and Nigel Farage’s radio debate last year, the Lib Dems said the EU safeguards British jobs because it provides access to a market of 500 million consumers and because Britain’s membership attracts foreign firms keen to be part of that market. Then like now, those politicians supporting EU membership cite business bosses who say they may take their companies out of the UK in the event of a Brexit.

Firms that have contemplated scaling back in the UK in the event of a Brexit include food maker Nestlé, car companies Hyundai and Ford, and US investment bank Goldman Sachs.

Two sectors get particular mention: the car industry and financial services.

On the first, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) has argued Europe is fundamental to the success of the UK automotive industry, a sector employing more than 700,000 people and accounting for 3% of GDP. A report for SMMT by consultants KPMG last year argued:

The attractiveness of the UK as a place to invest and do automotive business is clearly underpinned by the UK’s influential membership of the EU.

In the broader manufacturing sector, business leaders make the case for the boost to UK businesses, and therefore employment, from EU money that funds research and development here. The manufacturers’ organisation EEF says the EU invests £11bn a year on innovation programmes, of which 15% is invested in the UK.

Production line of the Nissan Qashqai

The Nissan Qashqai production line at the Japanese motor manufacturer’s Sunderland plant. Photograph: Christopher Thomond for the Guardian.

In financial services, 250 foreign banks employ 160,000 people in the UK, according to lobby group TheCityUK 2014.

Its chairman, Gerry Grimstone, said alongside TheCityUK reports into EU membership last year:

Our research clearly shows that leaving the EU would seriously damage economic growth and jobs in the UK. But the EU can and must be improved. It must not interfere in things which it does not need to do and it must make a better job of doing the things it has to do. We need to continue saying this loudly and clearly. London is Europe’s financial centre so there is a strong national interest in getting this right.

But a large dose of caution is needed. First, even though company bosses have raised this as an issue, there are no guarantees they would leave in droves. Second, talking about a certain number of jobs being dependent on the EU is misleading. Implying millions of jobs would simply disappear is downright mischievous.

The free market thinktank, the Institute of Economics Affairs, makes this point in its paper The EU Jobs Myth. Author Ryan Bourne comments:

Politicians who continue to claim that 3m jobs are linked to our EU membership should be publicly challenged over misuse of this assertion. Jobs are associated with trade, not membership of a political union, and there is little evidence to suggest that trade would substantially fall between British businesses and European consumers in the event the UK was outside the EU.

He also notes the UK labour market is dynamic and so would adjust:

It would adapt quickly to changed relationships with the EU. Prior to the financial crisis, the UK saw on average 4m jobs created and 3.7m jobs lost each year – showing how common substantial churn of jobs is at any given time. The annual creation and destruction of jobs is almost exactly the same scale as the estimated 3-4m jobs that are associated with exports to the EU.


This area is fraught with assumptions that are so broad as to have fuelled a chain of claims and counter-claims on what a Brexit would mean for the UK’s exports.

Nigel Farage makes the argument that by withdrawing from Europe, the UK frees itself from EU rules and regulations, and will make its way in the world as a strong, independent trading nation, looking to faster growing markets such as Brazil and India.

Those most passionately opposed to a Brexit, meanwhile, say leaving the EU would shut the UK out of its most important market (the EU) and from other markets around the world that have trade agreements with the EU (but not with the UK in isolation).

Again, the most likely outcome is somewhere in between these scenarios. Much depends on what a UK government could negotiate once outside the EU.

The latest survey of about 3,500 businesses by the British Chambers of Commerce highlights this. More than half of businesses (57%) believe that remaining a member of the EU, with more powers brought back to Westminster, would be positive. However, 28% of firms also view withdrawal combined with a formal UK-EU free trade agreement as a positive scenario. But only half that proportion, 13%, view withdrawal without such an agreement as positive. This chart sums up responses:

Business attitudes to EU options

Positive impact on business?

The British Chambers of Commerce asked businesses whether various scenarios would have a positive impact on them. More than half of businesses (57%) believe that remaining a member of the EU, with more powers brought back to Westminster, would be positive. However, 28% of firms also view withdrawal combined with a formal UK-EU free trade agreement as a positive scenario. Only 13% view withdrawal without such an agreement as positive. The group received about 3,500 responses for the survey, conducted in November and December last year. Illustration: BCC

Before considering how a post-Brexit trade picture might look, it is worth getting an idea of how things stand now.

Office for National Statistics data show that goods exports to the EU were worth £147.9bn in 2014, compared with £154.6bn in 2013. Goods exports to non-EU countries were £144.9bn in 2014, down from £152.2bn in 2013.

The UK’s top six export trading partners are the US, Germany, Netherlands, France, Ireland and China, according to the latest figures [spreadsheet download]on goods exports (for the three months to the end of February 2015).

But considering only goods trade, on which figures are more readily available, overlooks the importance of services – the UK’s dominant sector. The UK’s trade in services, which covers areas such as IT and accountancy, ranks second behind the US in terms of its share of global exports, according to a report from the forecasting group EY ITEM Club.

In The Trouble with Europe, Bootle tries to assess what this all means for the UK economy. Looking at goods and services exports as well as what the UK earns on overseas investments, the proportion of total receipts from abroad that come from the EU is just over 40%, Bootle says. Although this probably exaggerates the true importance of the EU in British trade, says the economist, given distortions to the figures from factors such as UK companies exporting to ports in the EU only to re-export beyond the region.

Shipping containers at Felixstowe Container Port, Suffolk.

Shipping containers at Felixstowe container port, Suffolk. Photograph: David Levene for the Guardian

On what would happen after a British exit from the EU, Bootle is quite upbeat. The UK is the rest of the EU’s largest single export market, he notes, something that increases the chance of the UK securing a free trade agreement with the EU. Failing to get such an agreement would not be disastrous, he adds.

It would place the UK in the same position as the US is currently in, along with Indian, China and Japan, all of which manage to export to the EU relatively easily.

Some argue that the UK would get a boost from re-focusing its exports on faster-growing, emerging economies outside the EU. This was the position taken by Iain Mansfield, the winner of last year’s €100,000 IEA Brexit prize (which asks entrants to submit a blueprint for Britain outside the EU). He said that after an exit, the UK should pursue free trade agreements with major trading nations, deepen its engagement with organisations such as the G8, G20 and OECD and in Europe, and secure open trade relations. Mansfield found fewer regulations, coupled with greater trade with emerging economies, could provide an overwhelmingly positive outlook for an independent Britain.

He concluded:

Although the years immediately surrounding the exit are likely to feature some degree of market uncertainty, if the right measures are taken the UK can be confident of a healthy long-term economic outlook outside the EU.

But the UK’s ability to negotiate favourable trade deals is not a given. The Centre for European Reform warns trade costs would rise after a Brexit and the UK would have less bargaining power for trade agreements than it does as part of a bigger entity, the EU.

Business for New Europe [pdf], a coalition of business leaders pushing for the UK to stay in a reformed EU, is similarly sceptical about post-Brexit bargaining clout. It says:

There are a number of free trade agreements currently being negotiated by the EU, including with the US and Japan. The UK with 65 million consumers would not have anywhere near the negotiating power that the EU with its 500 million consumers would have.

The CBI foresees tricky negotiations if the UK wants to keep its current trading conditions after an EU exit.

The business group’s deputy director general, Katja Hall, says:

While we could negotiate trade deals with the rest of the world, we’d have to agree deals with over 50 countries from scratch just to get back to where we are now, and to do so with the clout of a market of 60 million, not 500.

Katie Allen

Ukip’s 2015 manifesto claims leaving the EU would allow Britain to “take back control of our borders”.

But would it? For a start, fewer people come to live and work in the UK from within the EU than from the rest of the world. 624,000 people immigrated to the UK in the year to September 2014, up from 530,000 the year before. The majority of them – 292,000, up by 49,000 – came from outside the EU and would already have been subject to complex visa restrictions. Some 251,000 people moved to Britain under the EU’s looser free movement rules, an increase of 43,000 over the previous 12 months.

Until it is clear what kind of new arrangement with the EU will replace the current terms of memberships, it is hard to say how the latter group can be “controlled”. Many experts view it as likely that British access to the single market will come at the price of a free movement arrangement similar to the one that is in place now. Norway, which is not in the EU but is a member of the European Economic Area, serves as a warning to enthusiastic “outers”: as a recent study by Open Europeshowed, in 2013 Norway was the destination of more than twice as many EU migrants per head as the UK.

Yet until such a replacement arrangement is put in place, migration in and out of the UK could theoretically be regulated purely by British national law. In such a scenario, moving to Britain would become considerably harder than it is now: EU citizens would face the same kind of long queues and border checks upon entering the UK as “third party” nationals.

Border Force officers

UK Border Force officers check the passports of passengers arriving at Gatwick airport. Photograph: Oli Scarff/Getty Images

Border staff would need to establish whether new arrivals meet the requirements for entry, requiring proof of income, intention to return and lack of intention to work. Those planning to stay for longer would need to present proof of employment – posing as a major disincentive for those in industries with low job security, such as the arts. At universities, EU nationals would have to pay full tuition fees and would have no access to student loans.

Britain draws up its own list of countries whose citizens need a visa to enter the country. In theory, it could make poor Bulgarians and Romanians fill in lots of forms before arrival, while allowing rich French and Germans to visit the UK relatively hassle-free. The problem with this, as Steven Peers, a professor of EU law at the University of Essex, points out, is that the EU has its own joint visa list:

The general rule is that if a country like Britain were to cherrypick and discriminate against individual EU member states, the EU would at least threaten to retaliate.

Potentially, Brits would end up having to apply for visas every time they travel across the Channel. Brits already living in other EU countries such as Spain may face integration rules, such as a requirement to speak the language of the host country, before gaining long-term residency status.

Within Britain, the border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic would by default become the obvious “back door” for entry into the UK from the EU, and some Irish commentators have said this would inevitably lead to the introduction of stricter passport checkpoints and customs controls on one of the most politically sensitive dividing lines in the country.

Philip Oltermann

A consensus holds that a Brexit would diminish the status of the UK and EU alike, by varying degrees.

If the dominant mood in Brussels remains “one of extreme irritation with Cameron, almost bordering on contempt”, as Roger Liddle argued in The Risk of Brexit – as seems inevitable – few favours will be offered.

A relatively rich offshore supplicant knocking on the doors of the single market would be ripe for caricature along the penny-pinching, antisocial and racist lines that Eurosceptic sentiment inspires.

Jacques Delors and Pascal Lamy may twinkle at the thought of an Efta-style free trade agreement with Albion, but the terms would probably be prescriptive. In that case, a need for new scapegoats in the UK could further erode its reputation,Fabian Zuleeg, head of the European Policy Centre, believes.

A more optimistic scenario sees the UK overtaking Germany as the most populous country in Europe by the 2040s, and channeling transatlantic influence as one of the EU’s biggest trading and political partners. But even Tim Oliver of the Center for Transatlantic Relations at Johns Hopkins University, who advances this vision, says the UK would be a junior partner, dependent on the caprices of European institutions, trying to negotiate bilateral free trade deals from a position of weakness.

An EU summit in Brussels

David Cameron watches while Luxembourg’s prime minister, Xavier Bettel, left, speaks with Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte, second left, and Belgian prime minister, Charles Michel, centre, during a roundtable meeting at an EU summit in Brussels. Photograph: Geert Vanden Wijngaert/AP

The UK is one of Europe’s “Big Three” states and routinely punches above its weight – in the climate field, winning everything it wanted from the 2030, shale gas, tar sands and Hinkley debates, for example. Its size, imperial history, ceremony, financial clout and involvement in Europe over centuries bestow gravitas in Brussels. Its loss of influence, coupled with ongoing financial obligations for single market access and so forth would be stunning. Comparisons with other non-EU members such as Switzerland and Norway in this context are false and unhelpful.

But in terms of post-Brexit relations, it’s worth noting that, unlike Norway, the UK has little hard energy to export. Unlike Switzerland it has no land borders or linguistic connections with its neighbours. Unlike Iceland, it has consolidated enmities over decades of treaty negotiations. English is a lingua franca, and British music, literature and popular culture will doubtless still exert a pull on young Europeans. But with fewer opportunities to live and study there, this too may diminish over time.

David Marquand argues that a post-Brexit Britain would be a cross between a greater Norway and a greater Guernsey, abiding by EU norms without political influence to shape them. He posits “a market society, governed by a market state, presiding over a glorified tax haven and financial services hub”. With inequality, individualism and civic distrust rampant, Marquand hopes that a phoenix of post-imperial self-awareness might eventually rise from flames of national dissolution.

This perhaps neglects the degree to which the UK has succeeded in injectingderegulatory logic and free market imperatives into the corporatist heart of EU policymaking. It is fair to ask whether a UK exit would really change the austerity dynamics that underpin national standings on both sides of the channel. In an ageing continent incrementally losing its global market share and political reach, managing decline is not a purely British phenomenon.

Arthur Neslen

The dominant view among foreign policy analysts around the world is that a British exit from the EU would diminish rather than enhance the country’s standing and influence.

It is a view shared in Washington and Beijing, but it is not universal. Perceptions in countries such as India that have had longstanding historical – mostly colonial – relationships with the UK would be less affected, even if trade declined.

On the whole, however, voices from abroad give little comfort to the view that Britain would somehow regain a unique and resonant voice in world affairs once it breaks away from a collective European identity.

Ivo Daalder, a former US ambassador to Nato who is now president of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, said:

The idea [the UK] could have influence in the world outside the EU is risible. Its power and effectiveness is from being a strong leader in Europe.

As seen from China, the UK is significant on its own as a financial centre. But as a world political and trading power its significance is seen as proportionate to its role in the EU.

Feng Zhongping, the assistant president of the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, said:

I think from China’s point of view we don’t think that the UK, or France or Germany or any single European countries can play a global role. But the EU is different. It is the biggest market, and China’s biggest trade partner. The EU is seen as a major power in the world. If the UK left, it would hurt the UK much more than the EU.

India is the most significant exception to the consensus of a lesser Britain outside the EU. For Delhi, Britain has many stronger associations than merely as an EU member, although those associations are not necessarily good ones, as Samir Saran, a political analyst from the Observer Research Foundation in Delhi, pointed out:

We have always been more comfortable dealing with countries individually than as part of a club. We don’t see the UK as part of the EU, but as a distinct identity because of its history and the Indian diaspora. So it plays a different role in the Indian psyche, a unique case. It is not always positive but it is always distinct. And some of the most strategic elements in foreign policy cannot be conducted through a club like the EU, but as part of a bilateral relationship.

The existence of a strategic relationship between the UK and India, made up of defence and hi-tech ties, is another element underlying a different approach to British identity. China, lacking those ties because of trading restrictions, is more prone to viewing the UK as little more than part of a larger European trading bloc. Washington maintains an intensely strategic relationship with the UK but has grave doubts about a British exit for other reasons. In American eyes, anything that fractures the cohesion among its allies is a bad thing.

Julian Borger


Indian court rejects ban on ‘offensive’ Internet messages

KATY DAIGLE, March 24, 2015
An Indian man sits on a hospital stairs and looks at his smartphone in New Delhi, India, Tuesday, March 24, 2015. India’s top court reaffirmed people’s right to free speech in cyberspace Tuesday by striking down a provision that had called for imprisoning people who send “offensive” messages by computer or mobile phone. The provision, known as Section 66A of the 2008 Information Technology Act, says sending such messages is a crime punishable by up to three years in prison. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)

NEW DELHI (AP) — India’s top court affirmed people’s right to free speech in cyberspace Tuesday by striking down a provision that had called for imprisoning people who send “offensive” messages by computer or cellphone.

The provision, known as Section 66A of the 2008 Information Technology Act, had made sending such messages a crime punishable by up to three years in prison.

In its ruling, the Supreme Court said the provision was “clearly vague” in not clarifying what should be construed as offensive. It also said the provision violates people’s freedom of speech and their right to share information.

“The public’s right to know is directly affected,” the judges said in deeming the provision unconstitutional.

A law student who filed the challenge in 2012, Shreya Singhal, applauded the court’s rejection of a provision she said was “grossly offensive to our rights, our freedom of speech and expression.”

“Today the Supreme Court has upheld that, they have supported our rights,” Singhal said. “I am ecstatic.”

The law has been invoked in at least 10 recent cases, most often involving criticism of political leaders.

In 2012, a chemistry professor and his neighbor in Kolkata were arrested for forwarding a cartoon that made fun of West Bengal’s top elected official, Mamata Banerjee.

Police arrested a man last year for saying on Facebook that Prime Minister Narendra Modi, then still a candidate, would start a holocaust in India if elected to office.

unnamed (1)

An Indian man sits on a hospital stairs and looks at his smartphone in New Delhi, India, Tuesday, March 24, 2015. India’s top court reaffirmed people’s right to free speech in cyberspace Tuesday by striking down a provision that had called for imprisoning people who send “offensive” messages by computer or mobile phone. The provision, known as Section 66A of the 2008 Information Technology Act, says sending such messages is a crime punishable by up to three years in prison. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)

And last week, police in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh arrested a teenage student for posting comments on Facebook he attributed to a top state minister.

The student, jailed for two days before being released on bail, told reporters he was happy the provision was scrapped, though he was still recovering from “a very rough time.”

Former finance and home minister P. Chidambaram welcomed the court’s ruling, although his son had filed a police complaint in 2012 against a businessman for allegedly disparaging him in Twitter messages.

“The section was poorly drafted and was vulnerable,” Chidambaram said of the law, which was passed while his Congress party was in power. “It was capable of being misused and, in fact, it was misused.”

Cyber analysts said the ruling marked a positive step in ensuring that the Internet would be governed by the same norms and laws as newspapers, TV commentary and other forms of communication as India’s Internet users increase from today’s 100 million online.

“This sets the tone for the future of India’s democracy and participation in this medium,” said Samir Saran of the New Delhi think tank, Observer Research Foundation. “It’s the ethos around freedom of expression that is being reaffirmed. It tells us that arbitrary executive infringements of the constitution will be struck down.”

He and other analysts said, however, that there was still more work to be done in guaranteeing the Internet was governed fairly, including a provision that allows the government to block websites without announcing or explaining its decision to do so. The Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld that part of the law.

“That’s wrong. That’s bad,” Saran said, calling for a review to decide criteria for “why something should be blocked and when it should be blocked.”




Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto, November 4, 2014

Original link is here 


Nehruvian strong handed centralization coupled with bureaucratic despotism will be the future of India under the newly elected Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi. Despite being, what many would say, the antithesis of a secular Jawaharlal Nehru, Modi has demonstrated several tendencies of Nehru-like micromanagement during his first hundred days in office. These thoughts were expressed by Sameer Saran, Vice President and Senior Research fellow at the Observer Research Foundation, while delivering an emphatic talk on ‘Narendra Modi and his Foreign Policy Objectives’, hosted by the Centre of South Asian Studies at the Munk School of Global Affairs onOctober 2, 2014.

Restoration of a strong executive space and empowering of the bureaucracy, characteristic of Nehru’s India, will mark the return of the Babu – a metaphor for technocrats that historically constituted India’s bureaucratic steel framework. Saran holds the belief that Modi’s superstar persona (as seen in his recent drawing of several thousand members of the Indian Diaspora at the Madison Square Gardens), will suffice to press the ‘reset button’ on the prevailing negative investor confidence surrounding India. This can be largely accredited to Modi’s approach towards ensuring neo-liberal economic space, creating market access and ensuring a creation of jobs – a far cry from the garland of communal Hindu nationalism he adorned during his time as the Chief Minister of the Indian State of Gujarat.

A larger section of Mr. Saran’s lecture centred around India’s Foreign Policy aspirations given its role as an emerging regional and global power. Modi’s drift towards realpolitikin internal governance is also manifested in his external relations strategy. The policy of ‘India First’ – implying a clean up the internal mess first – however has not curtailed India’s global ambitions. A recent visit by the Chinese premier opened several new avenues of cooperation. Moreover, India has begun to see its neighbourhood in an extended sense. Enhancing investment in the ASEAN region; conceding to Bangladesh in an old water dispute; recent visits to Nepal and Bhutan; and newfound enthusiasm in interacting with Japan and Australia, are all parts of Modi’s efforts to have India assert itself regionally. India, under Modi, has also demonstrated flexibility in dealing with the BRICS, by understanding the value of accepting Shanghai as the economic headquarters. Modi’s Pakistan policy however remained ill-defined, with a seemingly unchanged plan to maintain the status quo. Some of the greatest anti-Pakistan vitriol emanates from his own party, and if Modi is to challenge the bilateral stalemate with Pakistan, a shift in opinion within his own ranks is necessitated.

Mr. Saran’s lecture portrayed Narendra Modi as the provider of much needed salvation for India. While Modi’s dynamism and pro-business and anti-corruption attitude may provide India some impetus after nearly half a decade of stagnation, transforming a country of 1.3 billion people may not be a task as easy as making populist electoral promises. With just over a hundred days in office, whether Narendra Modi can make a Nehru out of himself is yet to be seen.

-written by  S. Taha H. Shah, a third year student in the Contemporary Asian Studies Program

This article is part of  a series of articles written by undergraduate students affiliated with the Asian Institute about events hosted by the Asian Institute.  


Row over Hamlet remake Haider shines light on India’s culture wars

Contemporary version of Shakespeare play has become focus of battle between religious conservatives and creative artists

in Mumbai, The Guardian, 28 November, 2014

Original link is here

Pic 1

Shahid Kapoor stars in Haider the controversial film remake of Shakespeare’s Hamlet

The tone is uncompromising. The language is harsh. The sovereignty and integrity of India has been attacked with impunity, the court documents claim. The unity of the nation has been undermined.

But the source of the alleged threat to the world’s largest democracy is a somewhat surprising one: a cinematic remake of Hamlet.

Shakespeare’s great tragedy has always provoked strong emotion but it is rare that anyone seeks to ban productions of it on the grounds of national security.

On Friday, a court in a northern Indian state will hear that a recently released film of the play in a contemporary local setting should be banned to preserve the emerging economic powerhouse and its 1.25 billion inhabitants from further harm. The lawyers bringing the case are from a group calling itself “Hindus for Justice” and claim to be acting on behalf of the 80% of citizens who follow the faith.

The film has now finished its run, so the move to ban it is largely symbolic. But the case in Uttar Pradesh is being closely watched, seen as yet another skirmish in a long-running cultural war pitting conservatives who say they are defending India’s culture, security and identity against creative artists who argue that they should be free to express themselves.

The film – called Haider – is set in Kashmir, the former Himalayan princedom where separatist insurgents have fought Indian security forces for 25 years. Scenes showing the Indian army committing human rights abuses and the use of a temple for the “play within a play” sequence performed by dancers wearing shoes, are “anti-Indian … divisive [and] hurt the sentiments of Hindus”, the legal petition says.

“Every artist has the right to express whatever they want but … without hurting the sentiments of any community,” said Ranjana Agnihotri, secretary-general of the group bringing the case. “We definitely represent the Hindu community and we feel confident and strong.”

Some commentators say the new Indian government, in power since May and led by a prime minister, Narendra Modi, whose political origins lie in a hardline Hindu revivalist organisation, has inadvertently encouraged an intolerant atmosphere. Others argue the new administration is simply caught in the middle.

“It wouldn’t surprise me if certain elements misappropriated the [new government’s] mandate … for their virulent ways of living and thinking … but they will be disappointed,” said Samir Saran of the Observer Research Foundation, a Delhi-based think tank.

Liberal commentators and writers were targeted through social media during the heated atmosphere of the election campaign and some say they have detected a new edge in recent months.

Sonia Faleiro, a prize-winning Indian journalist, said that abuse was becoming more direct and more overt.

“It is the most startling thing. Some are not even trying to hide their identity. I think there is a sense of empowerment. It is as if there is no reason to pretend any more.”

Ramachandra Guha, a liberal commentator and historian who is himself regularly the target of abuse, said most was aimed at people who were seen as both influential and a threat.

“I’m seen as an apostate, a Hindu who should know better. But the most debased and vulgar abuse is directed at women, particularly liberal and secular women, and especially women who are not Hindu,” Guha said.

The abuse – and attempts to ban the Hamlet film – appear part of an upsurge of efforts to protect what a hardline fringe deem to be “Indian values”.

Pic 2

Indian Bollywood actors Shahid Kapoor, left, and Shraddha Kapoor at a promotoional event for Haider in July 2014. Photograph: STRDEL/AFP/Getty Images

Pramod Muthalik, leader of a group based in the southern state of Karnataka calling itself the Shri Ram Sena, the Army of (the deity) Ram, said the film “encourages terrorism”.

The organisation also mounts expeditions against what Muthalik and other extremists call “love jihad”, the alleged systematic seduction of Hindu women by Muslim men.

“It is a serious problem. There are 30,000 cases in Karnataka alone,” Muthalik said. His members regularly launch “operations” in parks, one of the few spaces in conservative India where unmarried couples can spend time together, usually sitting chastely together on a bench or walking holding hands.

“Sexual activities in public places may be all right in America or Germany or UK but this is [India],” Muthalik said.

Though lacking broad popular support, such groups are a challenge for the government. The BJP has its origins in the nationalist and religious revivalist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), or National Volunteer Association, but has tried to distance itself from the more hardline elements in recent months. Rajnath Singh, the home minister, has said allegations of love jihad are baseless. Modi said last week that terrorism has no religion.

“That many ministers are from the RSS is reality, but that does not mean [the organisation] has an undue influence on policy … We are simply following up on our electoral pledges to bring development, prosperity to all Indians and to fulfil all Indians’ aspirations,” said Nalin Kohli, a spokesman for the BJP.

Singh last week described the relationship rather differently, explaining that because so many members of the government were from the RSS, there was no need for the organisation to interfere. “When we ourselves are from the RSS, then what influence will it have to wield? One could have understood the argument of any organisation influencing the government if it had a different identity, a different ideology,” the home minister said.

Observers point to evidence of a careful balancing act as Modi, who spent decades as an RSS organiser, looks to convince hardliners within the Hindu nationalist movement that he is protecting local industries and agriculture and taking a strong stand against neighbouring powers.

Guha said: “It’s yet to settle. There’s an ambivalence. Modi wants to present himself as a reconciler and a moderniser but has to give his pound of flesh to the RSS because they won him the election. He’s made clear that on economics and foreign policy he will not listen to the Hindu right but has been less clear on cultural issues.”

In recent elections in the state of Maharashtra, which includes Mumbai, Modi campaigned on the same platform of governance and economic development that won him the national polls in May while a longstanding alliance with the local hardline rightwing Shiv Sena party was broken.

Saran said Modi, 64, was “steering towards a centre-right position. He is not an agnostic prime minister. He is a Hindu prime minister and will follow his belief system … But he knows that if he wants to be a 10-year prime minister he needs to reach out.”

Clashes over culture have long been part of India’s raucous democracy. In February, conservatives forced a book on Hinduism by well-known US academic Wendy Doniger off the shelves, claiming it was insulting to the faith. An editorial in the Times of India at the time condemned “the growing power of bullying self-appointed censors” displaying “a Victorian hangover with a Taliban temperament”.

In the same month, a press conference held in Mumbai by a band from Pakistan which plays rock influenced by traditional Islamic devotional music was disrupted by Shiv Sena members. The group regularly targets such events.

A spokesman for the group last week said their protest was justified. “We’ve plenty of bands here in India. Why bring one from Pakistan when they are cutting off the heads of our [soldiers],” he told the Guardian.

Other faith communities have also sought to limit freedom of expression. Sale of the Salman Rushdie’s 1988 novel The Satanic Verses, remains proscribed and its author was unable to appear at the Jaipur literary festival in 2012 after Muslim organisations protested.

Politicians too have sought to ban or restrict the sale or production of books. In 2010, MPs loyal to Sonia Gandhi threatened legal action to stop the sale of a “fictionalised biography” of the Congress party leader.

Last year, the government of the southern state of Tamil Nadu blocked the release of a film after complaints that it portrayed the Tamil Tigers, the violent Sri Lankan separatist group, as “terrorists”.

Many of the recent efforts of the Hindu groups appear prompted by rapidly-evolving social behaviour in a fast-changing nation. Some of the conservatives’ objections to Haider, the Hamlet remake, might have been familiar to contemporaries of the author of the original. In the play, one of the hero’s principal grievances is his mother’s hasty marriage to his recently deceased father’s brother.

Ranjani Agnihotri, of Hindus for Justice, said the film gave a bad impression of local women, portraying them as lacking modesty. “That a widow should remarry so quickly is really very shocking,” she said.


Modi party tightens grip on power with Indian state election wins

Bharatiya Janata party of Indian prime minister expected to form state governments in Maharashtra and Haryana

Original link is here

Agence France-Presse in Mumbai
The Guardian, Sunday 19 October 2014 15.03 BST

BJP celebrations in Mumbai. Photograph: Rafiq Maqbool/AP
The Indian prime minister Narendra Modi’s rightwing party claimed victory in elections in two key states on Sunday, tightening its grip on power after winning national elections in May.

The Bharatiya Janata party (BJP) was leading in Maharashtra, of which the financial hub Mumbai is the capital, beating its centre-left rival Congress party which has ruled the western state for 15 years.

“BJP will definitely form the government in Maharashtra,” the BJP’s state president, Devendra Fadnavis, told reporters in Mumbai as the vote count continued.

The BJP also won in northern Haryana, which borders New Delhi, after 10 years of Congress rule of the state. The state’s outgoing chief minister, BS Hooda, said: “Like the Congress earlier got the mandate, now the BJP got the mandate and will form the government.”

Modi campaigned doggedly for the elections held last week, and the victories are likely to encourage him to push ahead with promised reforms. He won the general election on pledges to revive the ailing economy and clean up endemic corruption, but many of the reforms have yet to be introduced.

On the eve of the state results, Modi’s government lifted controls on diesel prices, aiming to give market forces greater influence on the economy, attract investment and cut subsidies.

The victories will strengthen the party’s power in the national parliament’s upper house, crucial for the passing of contentious laws. The BJP currently lacks a majority in that chamber, whose composition is based on seats won in regional assemblies.

The Delhi-based political analyst Samir Saran said the victories “allow greater space to Modi to accelerate his reforms agenda. In many ways the results signify the continuing rejection of the brand of politics on offer from the Congress and its allies at the centre and in the states. It also is confirmation of Narendra Modi as the leader with momentum.”

The BJP is expected to fall short of an outright majority in Maharashtra and could need a partner to form government. It is expected to mend ties with its ally of 25 years in Maharashtra, the far-right Shiv Sena, after deciding to campaign alone following an acrimonious split.

“I hope that the old alliance is restored once again in a crucial state like Mahrashtra,” the BJP veteran leader LK Advani said.

The BJP had won or was leading in 120 seats in Maharashtra, in tallies on the election commission’s website, while Congress was trailing with 43 in the 288-seat state assembly. Shiv Sena was leading in 59 seats.

In Haryana, the BJP was ahead in 49 of the 90 seats up for grabs, while Congress was leading in 15.

In the News, Non-Traditional Security

Fledgling anti-corruption party puts wind up India’s old order

Original link is here

Nicola Smith, Delhi Published: 23 February 2014

Shazia Ilmi, a former TV presenter, says the nation has had enough (Hindustan Times)
Shazia Ilmi, a former TV presenter, says the nation has had enough (Hindustan Times)

A NEW anti-corruption movement threatens to disrupt India’s mainstream political parties in May’s general election by tapping into the urban middle class’s weariness with fraud and nepotism.

The Aam Aadmi, or Common Man party (AAP), was formed only in November 2012 but up to 50,000 supporters are expected to flock to a rally with which it is kicking off its election campaign in Haryana, near Delhi, today.

Shazia Ilmi, a member of the party’s national executive, claimed last week that it was already a “game changer” in Indian politics.

“The AAP is making waves and capturing people’s imagination,” she said.

Ilmi, 43, a former presenter with Star News, is typical of the well-educated urban Indians who are turning to the party as an alternative to Congress and the Bharatiya Janata party (BJP), which have both become watchwords for corruption, nepotism and inefficiency.

“Every time I read about [political] scams I felt that we as a nation are being taken for a ride,” said Ilmi, who has become a poster girl for the new party and is considering running for a seat in Delhi.

Explaining why she had joined the AAP, she said: “I felt enough is enough, I’m going to jump in.”

The party is banking on the votes of the aspirational middle classes whose hopes are regularly thwarted by corruption and bureaucracy.

“We’re talking about some very serious issues which other parties aren’t — how pricing is done, how policy-making is done, why there should be transparency,” she said.

“We’re questioning crony capitalism, which no other parties are. So we stand out.”

Fighting corruption in politics lay at the heart of all the party’s policies, she said.

“In India everything is very politicised. We won’t get ahead if we don’t fix this. Everything stems from politics, whether it’s roads or sanitation or education.”

The AAP has received nearly 9,000 applications from prospective candidates over the past six weeks after it announced plans to challenge for more than 350 of the 545 Indian parliamentary seats being contested in May.

Political analysts believe the party is shaking up Indian politics to the point where it poses a serious threat to Narendra Modi, the leader of the opposition BJP, who is the current favourite to become the next prime minister.

The AAP was born on the back of anti-corruption protests in 2012, in which thousands of middle-class Indians took to the streets in support of Kisan “Anna” Hazare, 76, who had gone on a hunger strike in a bid to clean up politics.

Arvind Kejriwal, 45, Hazare’s former protégé, set up the party, which shocked the political classes with a decisive victory in the Delhi elections last December.

Many believe Kejriwal is an astute politician who has gained instant popularity by tapping into the national disillusionment with mainstream politicians. Others dismiss him as an inexperienced rabble-rouser.

After being elected chief minister of Delhi last month, Kejriwal made radio broadcasts urging the public to record corrupt officials secretly with their mobile phones.

He made headlines by sleeping on the streets and resigned after just 49 days in office having failed to see through his promises to cut electricity and water tariffs.

A poll last month by the news magazine India Today found that 38% of voters wanted Kejriwal to be prime minister, second only to the BJP’s Modi.

Samir Saran, a fellow at the Observer Research Foundation, a Delhi think tank, said Kejriwal was “running circles” round the main parties in message and in strategy.

“Modi should be terrified, because assuming the AAP gets 20 or 30 seats, then half of them are going to come from the gains the BJP would have made,” he said.

“Those are gains that could be decisive in whether Modi becomes prime minister.”

In the News

Divided Asia: Implications For Europe

World Economic Forum on East Asia in Bankok, June 2012
World Economic Forum on East Asia in Bangkok, June 2012.

Asia isn’t interested in Western-style multilateral security institutions or methods, argues Francois Godement. If Europe really wants to increase its influence in the region, it needs to build up its arms trade with Asian states, and thereby play a more central security role in the region.

By Francois Godement for European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR)


This Policy Brief was originally published by the European Council on Foreign Relations.


As China’s economic and military power increases, security in Asia looks set to find a new foundation. With trade integration on the continent growing through the implementation of “mega-FTAs”, relationships between Asian countries are becoming as important as US military guarantees in ensuring that Asia’s amorphous conflicts do not erupt into violence. The US military presence confirms the status quo in the region, but America has done little to resolve the continent’s territorial disputes. Even so, live conflicts are rare. China’s mixture of coercive action and self- control has enabled it to probe its neighbours’ weaknesses while avoiding open warfare. The European approach to Asia is out of step with the continent’s own trends. Asia is not interested in Western imports of multilateral security institutions and international arbitration, and the EU should abandon its efforts to transfer its own post-war solutions to the Asian situation. Instead, it should focus on rewarding compromise and build on its growing arms trade with the region to take a more central security role. As the US switches from a bilateral approach to a regional trade strategy, Europe should follow suit. It should create a value proposition of its own, to match the US-backed Trans Pacific Partnership. Otherwise, it risks losing its chance to increase its access to the region’s opening markets.

When they think about Asia, Europeans often focus solely on China. On the one hand, they see it as an attractive economic juggernaut: European officials, media, and public opinion are increasingly concentrated on the economic opportunities and risks that China presents. On the other hand, however, they see it as a dragon blowing its hot breath on a powder keg that is close to explosion: Asia’s historical disputes, its national rivalries, and its territorial conflicts seem to be growing more serious.

One thing is clear: China is on the rise. It has the largest market potential in Asia and also maintains by far the largest defence budget on the continent. But China must be viewed in its regional context, and in the region, economics are distinct from politics. Commercial integration among Asian economies is increasing, even without an institution like Europe’s single market. Meanwhile, the region’s fragile balance of power is based on historical grudges and rivalries – not all of which are focused on China. The only thing that keeps this precarious situation from erupting is the enduring pre-eminence of the United States as a naval power in the Pacific Ocean.

Europe and Asia have adopted opposite approaches to trade and security co-operation in the region. On trade and economic issues, Europe deals bilaterally with its Asian partners. It has not taken part in region-wide economic initiatives, such as the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum (APEC) or the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) free-trade agreement (FTA) negotiations. Even its negotiations on an FTA with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have been suspended. On security, Europe falls back on a well-worn dictum for the region as a whole, advocating a law-based multilateral system that mirrors, if not quite replicates, Europe’s post- war model.

For its part, Asia has in the past relied for its security neither on the kind of multilateral framework put forward by Europe nor on other Western-derived legal tools. Instead, it has largely moved away from a multilateral approach to security. But, on trade and economic issues, it is moving towards a competitive multilateralism: the “spaghetti bowl” of bilateral agreements, which sidelined the World Trade Organization (WTO) and its Doha Round of trade talks, is now giving way to several concurrent regional initiatives.

Europe’s outlook on the region also suffers from a kind of “G2” fixation. It tends to see China and the US as the only important movers in the Asian space, as if other stakeholders had been crowded out of a Pacific that is “large enough for two”, as President Xi Jinping told Barack Obama in June 2013. [1] But what if Asia’s security were to be based on relations between Asian nation-states rather than on US guarantees? Observer Research Foundation Vice President Samir Saran has said that “in the next ten years, the movement and agency in the region will be run for the first time ever by Asia itself”.[2] What if regional trade integration became a game with multiple players, shaped by a competing set of “mega- FTAs”? This commercial form of “minilateralism”, to use the jargon of political scientists, would not look much like the European ideal of collective security built on economic interdependence. And neither would it fit the bilateral approach to trade that Europe has taken since the failure of the WTO’s Doha Round.

This brief will examine the dynamics of Asia’s security landscape and its linkages with economic trends, taking into account historical factors, the current rise of China, and the role of the US, which is still Asia’s most significant external partner. It will consider whether and how Europe can address Asia’s emergent conflicts. It concludes that a “Trans Eurasian Partnership” on trade and investment might be exactly the reset for which Europe and Asia should aim.

The nature of Asia’s security landscape

Europe’s foreign policy and security approach to Asia, although it has given rise to plenty of meetings and statements, is largely underpowered and misdirected. Some EU member states have formulated foreign-policy positions on Asia and maintain security ties with the countries in the region. In spite of the Lisbon Treaty, the EU has far less control over foreign policy and security than it has over trade. So, true European capacity is split between the member states and the EU, with the result that neither the states nor the EU seem to have much control over guiding foreign policy and security.

It is impossible to address the efficacy of the EU’s policy approach to security in Asia without attempting to understand the region’s underlying dynamics. The post-World War II order in the Asia-Pacific region is based on temporary solutions and suspended conflicts rather than on collective or co-operative security, or even on simple confidence-building measures. An American-backed peace has not contributed to a regional settlement on which all parties can agree. Even so, live conflicts in East Asia are scarce. The states in the region avoid taking serious risks that could lead to military action. And the protracted territorial conflicts in the region have more to do with symbolic competition than with the pursuit of any vital economic or strategic goal. National and ideological divides have in fact protected states and regimes that would have fallen apart if they had had to face a democratic peace or regional integration. The overall level of conflict in Asia remains minimal, in inverse relation to the explosion of military budgets and arms procurement across much of the continent. However, the massive military buildup, which includes the acquisition of long-range projection weaponry, has greatly increased the potential for incidents that could escalate into a sudden large-scale conflict.

Many of the continent’s disputes can be explained by Asia’s legacy of unsettled borders and punctilious nationalism. The Western imports of international law and international institutions have failed to address this legacy, dealing poorly with Asia in general and even, at times, sanctioning the division of nations. Most Asians only rely on international law to uphold sovereignty and do not accept the legitimacy of legal resolution of disputes and international arbitration. China is by no means the only country in the region that has made spurious claims to vast maritime spaces, nor is it the only one that has tried to use its past history to legitimise its territorial claims.[3]

The alternation of periods of regional trade co-operation with periods of conflict goes back a long way. As Japanese political scientist Eichi Fujiwara says, “Historically, under the Chinese Ming dynasty there was flourishing maritime trade between Korea, Japan, and China – an early form of regional co-operation. Invasions destroyed this potential.”[4] Others have noted the introduction of nationalism by the West: as National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies Professor Shinichi Kitaoka says, “Before the West entered Asia, the concept of absolute sovereignty did not exist in Asia. The West introduced statehood in the Westphalian sense to Asia, with all the negativity this brought with it.” [5]

It is important to make an accurate assessment of the real threat of conflict. So far, those who have predicted major conflicts have been proved wrong. Asia’s conflicts are dormant volcanoes rather than imminent disasters. Open war, as opposed to minor skirmishes, has not happened in Asia since 1979, the year in which Chinese defence spending took off and began a new shift in the regional power balance.

Insufficient attention has been given to the reasons why conflict does not occur more often. But the implications of Asia’s quarrels and divisions are clear enough. The low level of conflict exists in contradistinction to the rapid expansion of defence budgets and weapons procurement on the continent. Asia accounted for 47 percent of global arms imports in 2012. China’s defence spending has grown by more than 10 percent per year since 1979, with the exceptions of 1998 and 2009. China’s military spending is now more than twice that of its closest competitor, Japan, although Japan’s military spending has increased in 2013 for the first time since 2002. India’s defence budget is consistently rising at a pace of 5 to 8 percent per year. [6] At this rate, with $100 billion of weapon purchases scheduled for the next three years, India’s defence spending will overtake the UK’s in the coming years. South Korea’s defence budget is set to reach $43.3 billion by 2017. [7] By then, it will have overtaken France’s defence spending, which is to be frozen at €31.4 billion for three years starting in 2014.[8]

In all four Asian countries, weapons development is mainly focused on submarines and missiles. Each country is at the moment developing supersonic anti-ship missiles (including the BrahMos, ASM-3, Hyunmoo-3, and DF-21D programmes; China’s DF-21D is hailed as the world’s first ballistic anti-ship missile). These programmes create the potential for sudden conflict escalation. China has installed 60 to 70 advanced DF- 17 or DF-21 nuclear missiles in Qinghai and Tibet, aimed at India. India has planned 15 new airfields and 10 advanced landing grounds to enable it to make an offensive strike deep into Chinese territory. The rise of asymmetrical nuclear forces throughout the region (India–Pakistan, India–China, North Korea–United States), as well as the existence of a virtual nuclear power (Japan) and of two potential nuclear powers (South Korea and Taiwan), create an “arc of unstable deterrence”, according to Fabrice Pothier, Head of Policy Planning at the NATO Secretary-General’s Office.[9]

The alternative to crisis containment is hard to imagine. Could Europe’s past be Asia’s future? Is the continent, as Aaron Friedberg has suggested, destined to endure a period of interstate rivalry – or even war?[10]

The roots of conflict in Asia

The protracted territorial conflicts in the Asia-Pacific region are about much more than the islands and rocks that supply them with pretexts. Even the economic and strategic value of the surrounding maritime space is not the true cause for rivalry. The conflicts are symbolic of a wider competition among Asian nation-states, even though the states are not prepared to take serious risks in the pursuit of this rivalry.

Should Asia’s expanding maritime disputes been seen as the unfortunate consequence of a pre-Westphalian state culture, combined with postcolonial and post-1945 ambiguity towards borders? The travels of the Buddha were not constrained by borders, nor did the sailors and merchants of Asia recognise any national borders before the West’s involvement in the region. Tributary relationships were based on people rather than territory. With few exceptions, neither the Dutch, the Portuguese, the French, nor the British were concerned with delineating sea borders when they left the region.

Much of Asia shares two cultural traits: identity-based or even ethnicity-based nation building, and a lack of the historical guilt usually associated with postcolonial societies. Together, these traits are a dangerous combination: the result is a sort of nationalism without guilt. Only Japan, in spite of its very strong identity, has acquired since 1945 a culture of guilt and of mainstream pacifist discourse, and both these qualities are now being challenged in the country’s public debate. Asian nation-states have been constructed on narratives of humiliation and dispossession. Competing claims over largely empty space are based on previous exploration as a substitute for legal possession, rather than on successful development or on any kind of “civilising mission”. Empires such as Meiji Japan or Qing China and postcolonial nationstates such as Vietnam and Indonesia have also carried out forms of “internal colonisation”, assimilating minorities or neighbouring populations into their space.

Japan is the only Asian state that has carried out its expansion using Western international law as a tool. Its neighbours view Japan’s adherence to Western legal frameworks as a sign of hypocrisy rather than a source of legitimacy. Japan’s pre-1905 acquisitions were not challenged by the victors in 1945, with the exception of Taiwan, which was conquered by force. Japan had also used pan-Asianism as a basis for its territorial expansion, claiming that it was liberating Asia from Western colonialism and setting up a competition with the West. Defeat, occupation, and democracy largely brought an end to Japan’s Asianist ideology, resulting in a tradition of guilt for the post-war generation and explaining the prevalence of pacifism in Japanese public opinion.

Other Asian nations have not experienced the same disillusionment. From Korea to Malaysia to India, a young nationalism emerged as each state claimed equal rights through political or military struggle. Schooled against the West in the anti-colonial era, predisposed against America by communism or Third Way neutralism, this nationalism is now coming home to roost in East Asia, turning one nation against another. The South Asian subcontinent was an early indicator of the trend, as indicated by the endless Indo-Pakistani rivalry that began after partition. And Southeast Asia saw its own confrontation between Indonesia and Malaysia in the 1960s, not to mention the war between Cambodia and Vietnam that began in 1979 and went on for more than a decade. Meanwhile, in China, the end of the revolution has seen a shift from anti-imperialist to nationalist rhetoric. The continuing uncertainty surrounding border delineation, as well as the resurgence of assertive nationalism, has rekindled unresolved territorial disputes.

Western international institutions have no Asian foundation

Western imports of international law and international institutions, from the League of Nations to the United Nations, have not dealt well with Asia. They have even on occasions accepted the division of nations. So, legal resolution of disputes and international arbitration is very unattractive to most Asians.

The region’s modern history shows that conflicts in Asia have rarely, if ever, been resolved by Asian multilateral or legal frameworks. It was Australia and France, not Asia, which came up with a peace settlement for the Cambodian conflict in 1989–1991. East Timor’s independence conflict was solved by a UN intervention, using essentially Western means. The Korean armistice is still sustained today by a UN mandate in which the US plays the leading role. In the South China Sea, the few settlements (Indonesia–Malaysia and Malaysia–Singapore) that have been made between ASEAN members have been bilateral and decided by the International Court of Justice (ICJ). Vietnam and China’s limited border deal, on the land border and the Gulf of Tonkin, was achieved on a bilateral basis. In Northeast Asia, a bilateral deal between Japan and Russia on the Southern Kuriles/Northern Territories seemed possible in 1956 and in 1993. A settlement again seems on the cards after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to Moscow in April 2013, and Japan and Russia signed a defence co-operation agreement, to include naval exercises, on 2 November 2013.[11] The turnaround is remarkable, after decades during which Russia was considered the main threat to Japan’s security. Likewise, on China and India’s disputed borders, only bilateral talks have ever been on the table. The UN Security Council’s Resolution 47 on Kashmir, passed in 1948, has been ignored since it was made. And China will allow no internationalisation of the Taiwan cross-straits issue, with the result that the reality of close economic and human interaction by the People’s Republic of China (PRC) with a strong de facto state has drifted far away from any legal description of the two countries’ relationship. So, the most striking feature of the post-war order in the Asia-Pacific is that it is based more on temporary solutions and suspended conflicts than on collective or co-operative security or on confidence-building measures.

Events in recent years have also evidenced a general unwillingness on the continent to resort to international institutions. Japan does not usually recognise the existence of claims to its territory. However, it announced in August 2012 that it would seek a resolution by the ICJ of the Dokdo/ Takeshima dispute with South Korea.[12]South Korea treated this appeal to international mediation as worse than Japan’s claim on the islands itself. In the words of Hahm Chaibong, President of the Asan Institute for Policy Studies, “in Europe, seeking out a legal solution is seen as a prudent choice. But in Asia, it is an admission of wrongdoing.”[13] If Japan were to go to the ICJ over the Senkaku/Diaoyu issue (as the Philippines has done over the Scarborough Shoal dispute), China would see it as a form of dispute escalation. Divided nations such as Korea or pre-1975 Vietnam have little trust in multilateral institutions or in international law. Taiwan exists outside the international system, although it has the tacit acknowledgement of most of its members. Taiwan’s burst of maritime activism over the Senkaku/Diaoyu dispute with Japan, and over the Spratly/Nansha islands dispute with the Philippines, is a way to become or to stay indispensable in any regional settlement in spite of its formal diplomatic isolation, and to increase its value as a regional “card” in China’s policy. Were Taiwan to give up its claims, China would interpret it as a move away from the Republic of China, the PRC’s partner, towards Taiwanisation of the island. The high-profile position adopted by Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou on maritime issues goes hand in hand with improved cross-straits relations, increasing Taiwan’s leverage in the region. Taiwan was even able to conclude a lucrative fishery agreement in April 2013 with Japan, which is concerned about a China–Taiwan alignment on the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands.

International institutions have even at times inadvertently contributed to Asia’s conflicts. The 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) has considerably raised the stakes by creating an entirely new category of disputes around Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) and extended continental shelves. China’s submission to the UN in May 2009 of the famous nine-dotted line, appearing to claim the entire South China Sea, was preceded by an earlier joint submission by Vietnam and Malaysia, themselves driven by the need to respond to an UNCLOS deadline for submitting claims. UNCLOS has also created a worldwide rush to claim extended continental shelves beyond the EEZs, which is now a point of contention in the area surrounding the Ryukyu Islands and Okinawa. UNCLOS, which aims at multilateral dispute resolution and arbitration, has in fact fostered a retreat into bilateral claims and disputes in the area. And it does not offer a formula for delineating maritime boundaries in cases where there are multiple claimants.

China’s regional tactics: maintain ambiguity

“The Middle Kingdom” is at the centre of many of Asia’s potential crises, raising fears of an Asian dragon that could set off a chain reaction that would engulf Asia. But China’s actual strategy is much more refined, a remarkable mix of coercive action and self-control. Indian security expert Srikanth Kondrapalli says that “China behaves multilaterally at the global level, but bilaterally at the regional level”. [14] China’s stated and implied claims are maximalist, which makes them well-suited to future bargaining. For several decades, with the important exception of Vietnam, a fellow socialist country bereft of allies, China has not used direct violence to enforce its territorial claims.

On the other hand, while the Chinese navy has avoided provocative action, paramilitary, law enforcement subsidiaries, and well-organised Chinese trawlers have all raised the Chinese flag over ever-widening areas. In April 2001, a daring fighter pilot collided with a US surveillance plane off the coast of Hainan, dying in the process but forcing the US plane to land. A reportedly drunk Chinese fishing captain (twice) rammed a Japanese customs boat in the contested waters off the Senkaku/Diaoyu in 2010. The captain was arrested and subsequently repatriated to China following a short diplomatic crisis, after which he was immediately forgotten.

Perhaps the closest China has come to armed conflict was the Scarborough Shoal incident in the spring of 2012. The Philippines dispatched a decommissioned US-made frigate against Chinese paramilitary boats and a tense standoff ensued. China blinked, agreeing to pull back its vessels rather than risk escalating the conflict. It has since returned to the region, surrounding the contested atolls in what a Chinese general has aptly called a “Chinese cabbage”: layers of intimidating non-military law enforcement naval agencies that effectively deter any civilian Filipino boat from entering the area. [15]

To some Chinese observers, the Scarborough Shoal incident and its outcome forms a precedent for changing policy on disputes such as the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands. When viewed together with the case of China’s 39-day military patrol inside Indian Kashmir territory, which was followed by a discreet withdrawal, the Scarborough Shoal incident reveals a distinct pattern. China blusters, probes for weaknesses, and runs out the clock, enabled by its perceived geopolitical rise. China’s exploratory manoeuvres at times extend a long way, right up to the farthest borders of China’s “ninedotted line”, as was the case with the incident in March 2013 near Natuna Island in Indonesia’s EEZ.[16] That incident is particularly interesting since Indonesia claimed that it had obtained assurances from China on the area in July 1995. In these limited disputes, China does not fully lose even when it backs down. Instead, it merely reverts to the status quo, having made its point – as it did in 1996 in the Taiwan Strait, when it halted major military exercises after US aircraft carriers appeared in the area.

So far, China has neither engaged nor let itself be engaged in actual conflict. Intimidation alternates with incrementalism, with China often claiming to be simply reacting to an act by the other party. The posture has been described as one of “reactive assertiveness”. [17] It chimes well with China’s selfconceptualisation as a victim. At the moment, China seems to have returned to the stance it took until 2009: never quarrel with more than one neighbour at once. After agreeing to a hotline with Vietnam in June 2013, China signed an agreement in October 2013 that includes joint exploration and peaceful negotiation of maritime disputes. This is not the first time that this has happened – a similar declaration was made in 2011 – but it provides the two countries with a welcome respite from tension, as well as serving to isolate the Philippines. Also in October 2013, President Xi Jinping revived the idea of agreeing a Code of Conduct with ASEAN on territorial issues, and proposed a “maritime Silk Road” in the region.

By staking and enforcing outsized claims, and then lifting the threat of enforcement (if not the actual claims) from some of the parties involved, China effectively sows division between neighbours that are focused on bilateral issues. At the APEC summit in October 2013, Xi opened a new front by calling on Taiwan to open political negotiations and stating that “we cannot hand those problems down from generation to generation”. [18] Meanwhile, incidents with Japan are growing in number, and now involve unmanned Chinese drones and naval manoeuvres in the vicinity of Okinawa.

Other regional actors, on the defensive towards China or locked into their own maritime disputes, have not shown the same self-control and tactical ability. Violence has broken out among China’s smaller neighbours – not including Japan – over fishing areas around what are often “uninhabited and uninhabitable” islets, as former National Security Council adviser Jeffrey Bader described the Senkaku/Diaoyu. [19]

Taiwan’s customs boats, not those of the PRC, have hosed their Japanese counterparts. North Korea, whose aggression towards South Korea and the US-led UN contingent at the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) has steadily declined since the late 1960s, shot a South Korean tourist in 2008. In 2010, North Korean forces sank a South Korean navy boat, killing all 46 sailors on board, and shelled a civilian island in the Yellow Sea. South Korean coastguards killed two Chinese fishermen in a 2010 tussle; Filipino coast guards killed one Taiwanese fisherman in 2013. Vietnamese and Filipino forces have traded shots on numerous occasions, and the Filipino navy engaged Chinese vessels in 1996.

China’s balancing act: coercion without force

China maintains a balancing act between confrontation and restraint. In the six decades since the PRC was founded, China’s inclination to engage in conflict or to compromise over territorial issues has varied considerably. According to the best-researched study on China’s behaviour at its borders, published in 2005, the PRC has been more likely to compromise in disputes where no Han population is involved. [20] From Ladakh in India to the East China Sea, the PRC’s territorial disputes are now focused on uninhabited areas, thus limiting risk to civilian populations. Vietnam is an important exception: in July 2013, China created a prefecture, which implies a population centre, on the main Paracel island. Xi expressed in July 2013 China’s attitude in unusually cautious terms: he spoke of the need to “plan the two overall situations of maintaining stability and safeguarding rights as a whole”. And Foreign Affairs Minister Wang Yi said that resolution of the issues would “take time”.[21]

China’s tactics keep its neighbours on their toes. Time is on China’s side, since its economic strength is steadily growing, as is its capacity to project force. By slowing down, limiting its assertiveness, and choosing bilateral talks over multilateral resolution, Beijing diminishes its neighbours’ incentive to form coalitions against it. At the same time, it reduces the chances of a serious American military pivot that would be extremely costly and unhelpful in dealing with other potential crises. Therefore, it is safe to say that tension over maritime issues is here to stay, as other stakeholder nations continue to base their national calculus on guesses about China’s long-term attitude. For its part, China will predictably maintain some unpredictable behaviour. It will carry out minor skirmishes and symbolic acts to safeguard its right to make irredentist claims in the future. China is not reckless, but it does not accept the European standard of guaranteeing borders as the foundation of regional peace. Without then West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl’s declaration in June 1990 guaranteeing in perpetuity the Oder–Neisse border with Poland, Europe would be a different place today. Asia might be facing a very long time living with a rising power that is not prepared to grant this kind of guarantee to its neighbours.

US regional strategy: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”

It could be argued that the US has not made much effort to solve the unfinished conflicts in Asia. It has neither acted as a major player in region building nor even advocated strongly for it. The Clinton administration is the only exception: it did work to promote APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, or “four adjectives in search of a noun”, as Australian statesman Gareth Evans once said). President Bill Clinton’s government initially had strategic objectives for APEC, hoping to create a security forum in which Taiwan would be a participant accepted by the PRC. It later shifted its focus to free trade across the Pacific, economic diplomacy that to this day remains one of the US’s central goals. President George W. Bush and his close aides largely ignored Asia, and in particular ASEAN, which his Secretary of State Colin Powell did not mention in his first public statement on Asia. [22] This US absence led Hillary Clinton, the new Secretary of State in the Obama administration, to proclaim in 2011 that “America is back”.[23] However, Obama’s repeated cancellation of trips to Indonesia – including, in October 2013, his absence from an APEC summit in Bali that coincided with the US government shutdown – illustrates that America is a reluctant participant in multilateral regional diplomacy. Even so, the US still forms the backbone of regional security in Asia.

Speculation about a US withdrawal from Asia is not new: in the early 1990s, with the first Bush administration cuts in military spending, people were already talking about the possibility of a “strategic hole” appearing in the region, or even that the US would become a mercenary power that sold its protection to the highest bidder. These speculations have so far been proved inaccurate. But the US has little advice to give on how to solve Asia’s regional issues. The Obama administration’s “pivot to Asia” has not changed things. Instead, the US continues essentially only to provide reassurance against any conflict escalation by China. US analysts generally perceive Asia’s maritime conflicts to be unsolvable. ASEAN itself has become known for the timehonoured method of sweeping issues under the rug. Filipino diplomat Rodolfo Severino, ASEAN’s former Secretary General, has termed the conflicts “intractable”, adding that any legal resolution would be inadequate because it would be “dependent on sovereign states for its implementation”. [24] By and large, the US advocates putting the conflicts back in the box. One exception was the position taken by Hillary Clinton in July 2010 at the ASEAN Regional Forum, and later in Hanoi, when she offered to facilitate talks among claimants. Following as it did a new and unusual US support for ASEAN claimants, this offer only raised eyebrows in Beijing.

Of course, the US approach also helps to preserve the US’s central security role in the Asia-Pacific as the guardian of a fragile status quo. The US has rarely proposed a specific diplomatic outcome or formula to solve an international conflict in Asia. Only twice has the US come up with something substantial to deal with regional Asian conflict: the Clinton administration’s 1994–1995 initiative to set up the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO), which sought to resolve a case of nuclear proliferation that had global implications; and the re-engagement of Burma in 2009, which led the Burmese junta to a managed opening two years later. For the most part, the US is in the business of managing regional conflicts in Asia, not of solving them.

This balancing act is reflected in the US refusal to endorse any territorial claim. The US Navy’s physical presence has effectively ensured stability and deterred any large-scale conflict in the decades during which the Pacific became an American lake. The duality of the US approach is evident in the case of Japan. The US–Japan Security Treaty covers areas under the control of Japan, but it does not sanction Japan’s possession of these disputed areas. The costs of maintaining this ambiguity are high: 60 percent of the US Navy is deployed in the Pacific. The “pivot to Asia” in fact overstated its military component. Basing US Marine highspeed catamarans in Darwin, 2,500 miles from China, and anchoring littoral combat ships in Singapore does not really look like the “encirclement of China”, or the so-called “lily pad strategy” that Beijing commentators often claim to see. [25] Yet the rising tension between China and Japan and the advent in Japan of a stable Liberal Democratic Party government headed by Shinzo Abe suggest a possible reinforcement of the US–Japan alliance. In November 2012, right before his re-election, Abe described a “security diamond” between Australia, India, Japan, and Hawaii, and he has argued for a renewed role for Britain and France in Asia’s security. [26]

Europe’s offering: a China shop in a region of elephants

In contrast to the underlying logic behind the US pivot, the EU’s December 2012 “Guidelines on the EU’s Foreign and Security Policy in East Asia”, a welcome expansion of an earlier 2007 policy document, are bubbling with good will and proposals. The proposals include an intention to “contribute to relevant confidence building, conflictresolution and post-conflict reconstruction activities”; “the embedding of political and security cooperation among the region’s major players”; to “encourage more military-tomilitary exchanges”; to “consistently promote transparent and rules-based international approaches”; to “embody closer cooperation on foreign and security policy objectives across East Asia in line with international norms”; “promoting outward-looking models which recognise EU interests and equities in the region”; to “look for opportunities to add value to regional organisations through direct involvement in the region with specific initiatives”; and to “share the experience of the EU and its Member States in relation to the consensual, international-law-based settlement of maritime border issues”. These are only some of the objectives in a wide-ranging but unspecific policy statement. Europe’s collective approach is rules-based and oriented towards solving issues within an open regional framework.

However, the guidelines repeatedly emphasise the need to partner with the US, which is described as “an important contributor to regional stability”. Thus, Europe hedges its bets. It often thinks in terms of a potential China–US “G2”. Whether adversarial or co-operative, or a mixture of both, this combination would crowd out any other policy actor. But what if Asia’s future were to be based on relations among Asian nation-states, moving away from a US-provided security or from an ideal convergence based on regional interdependence? What if neither US-led security provisions nor the building of regional institutions were to shape the region’s future? What if the key determinants were instead to be regional balances of power and relationships based on strength, if not on the outright use of force?

Europe is making a fundamental category mistake in stressing Asian regional institutions, multilateralism, and dispute settlement based on international law. The late Michael Leifer debunked a similar vision of ASEAN. Although ASEAN was the most influential of Asia’s regional groupings, Leifer argued that the body was created not to solve international conflicts but, “faute de mieux, with a role to contain regional tensions”. Unlike the European model, ASEAN’s aim was to “consolidate national sovereignty, not to supersede it”.[27] Leifer’s observation applies equally well to Asian co-operation more broadly, and it is becoming even more relevant in the context of today’s tensions and the rebirth of nationalism on the continent.

Basing European foreign and security policy in Asia on an alignment with US policy is misguided. US diplomacy is closely linked to US commercial goals in the region. European and US interests may coincide in areas such as encouraging Asia’s openness to free trade for goods and services. However, American and European firms are in competition in many other areas, such as in the fields of aerospace, transport equipment, public procurement, media and entertainment, and telecoms. Falling in line behind the US ensures that the US will find its way into Asian markets before Europe does, as well as allowing the US a better position to negotiate terms for market entry. America’s security stance in the Asia-Pacific remains cautiously conservative, with a strong preference for the status quo. The US is also using this rationale to justify disengagement not only from Europe but also possibly from the Near and Middle East. The US has not backed Japan’s 2009 suggestion by then Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama of an Asian community, which it saw as romantic or even anti-American. But neither does it fully back the 2013 Abe government’s defensive stance towards China. America’s defence posture in the Asia-Pacific aligns with Asian countries’ desire for a counterbalance to China, but the US will continue to offset this position by engaging with China, its largest creditor.

On Asian security issues, Europe should stop emphasising multilateral, law-based, and region-wide solutions as a substitute for the hard power it does not have. This approach does not increase Asia’s respect for the EU, which it sees primarily as a trading bloc. Europe should of course welcome and support multilateral legal solutions as well as arbitration if and when they arise. But the European effort to transfer the solutions that have been adopted on the European continent since 1945 is seen by Asian countries as overly didactic, and Europe cannot back its approach with enough hard security commitments to persuade Asia to accept its model.

Instead, Europe’s strategy on security in Asia should focus on the two types of policies at which it excels. It should encourage and even reward compromise among differing parties in Asia. For example, Europe is deeply invested in Asia’s success in locating within the region the energy resources it needs for its fast growth. Unlocking the potential of the South and East China Seas (or whatever their designation may be in the future) is essential. While the US may depend in the future on its own energy resources, Europe and Asia both have to rely on the Middle East, which is unstable at best, and on Russia, which is a difficult partner. Europe should prioritise enhancing energy security through common initiatives, from the limitation of the use of sanctions and boycotts to the creation of an agreement on rights of navigation (as opposed to freedom of navigation) and joint sharing of resources and surveillance of EEZs. Europe has plenty of experience to share, from the Baltic Sea to the North Sea, as well as a similar problem to solve in the Eastern Mediterranean, between Greece, Cyprus, Turkey, Lebanon, and Israel. The Indian Ocean, where France and the UK have maritime domains and hard assets, but where they co-operate with all riparian states on maritime security, may also serve as a model to solve EEZ claims east of the Malacca Strait. Creating a zone of shared maritime development and surveillance in the Indian Ocean could act as a model from West Asia for East Asia, with the help of European nations. France has similar interests in the South Pacific, while the UK maintains the Five Power Defence Arrangement with Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand, and Singapore. Both the UK and France would likely be involved in a Korean crisis contingency. Although co-ordination with the US remains fundamental, maintaining an independent satellite observation capacity – in other words, a “second opinion” – may matter to Asian countries, which already value having more than one provider of weapon systems. These trends of course are at risk from declining defence budgets. But member states should revive, from the bottom up, a European policy towards Asia that has become largely inactive.

The second priority that Europe should adopt concerns an issue that gets little attention: European arms sales to Asia. In this area also, EU-level policies remain poorly defined. The new EU Code of Conduct adopted in December 2012 creates guidelines for prohibiting weapon sales to certain countries, but it leaves real decisions largely to member states. This lack of unified policy is a key reason why the arms embargo placed on China in 1989 cannot be lifted, since it could potentially result in a free-for-all, with countries competing with each other to enter the newly opened market. Even so, arms sales to Asia have flourished, in large part thanks to the regional arms race. The volume of European weapons sales are even sometimes at the same level as US sales in the region.[28] Only China is excluded: because of the arms embargo, arms transfers from Europe to China are negligible, although accurate amounts are unclear, since figures are based on self-declaration by the vendors involved.

Arms transfers almost always involve security co-operation, whether in training, after-sales services, or continued upgrades. The UK, for example, initiated a Defence Cooperation Memorandum with Japan in April 2012, which also coincides with the establishment of a “Global Strategic Partnership”. [29] And France is not far behind. Europe is therefore a much more important security actor in Asia than it thinks it is, but the main thrust of weapons policy is developed by member states, with commercial considerations forming the most common factor. Even so, the implications go beyond the commercial sphere: Singapore has become France’s second-most important partner in military R&D. [30]

The UK is holding naval exercises with Japan, and France has three categories of joint exercises with India. Germany, which is not deeply involved in Asian security matters, has sold more submarines to Singapore than its own military operates. Europe cannot continue to focus only on a softpower approach at the EU level while its member states are security suppliers – with or without principles.

Europe and Asia’s global factory: trade agreements as strategy

Just a few years ago, the preferred model for international relations in Asia was “bandwagoning”. Asia was captivated by China’s increasing economic attractiveness, both as a final destination for exports and as part of the production chain on the way to Western markets. The rest of the continent was perhaps also seduced by China’s supposed soft power and non-interference norms. Even India, the subcontinental giant, ended its more than 30-year pause in economic and political relations with China with a meteoric comeback. China–India trade hovered around $250 million until the early 1990s, but reached $74 billion in 2011. Since 2008, China has been India’s most important trade partner.[31] Normalisation has taken place, and some Himalayan roads have been reopened for the first time since the 1962 war. China is also the main trade partner of Japan, Korea, and Taiwan, and trade integration between China, Japan, and Korea is greater even than intra-EU trade relations, in spite of the absence of a free-trade treaty.

On economic and trade issues, Europe has become more realistic, even if it has not become more daring. The rising giants of Asia, China and India, essentially killed the Doha Round of WTO trade talks. Between 2000 and 2013, 73 bilateral FTAs have been concluded in Asia. Europe has caught up with reality and has moved on to negotiating bilateral trade deals. An FTA with Korea was successfully finalised in 2011, and the EU is close to deals with India and Singapore, with another three potential deals in Southeast Asia under negotiation. Most importantly, the EU has now opened talks with Japan, the world’s third-largest trading nation.

These bilateral deals are important in securing access for European goods and services in Asia. However, they do not directly address the fact that China plays an intermediary role in Asia’s export-oriented production as the exit door from the Asian value chain. China is now the most important commercial partner of two-thirds of the world’s nations. But 70 percent of the value of China’s exports is made up of intermediate goods produced abroad, mostly elsewhere in Asia. China’s trade surplus with Europe should really be called an Asian surplus. A case can be made that China has collected only a fraction of the proceeds. Other Asian economies use China as a stepping-stone to global exports. But in the future, given China’s move towards producing more high-tech goods and effective economic nationalism, China may reverse the relationship and use the rest of Asia’s FTAs as a step towards global markets. There are some signs that this is already taking place: in a 2010 survey, only 29 percent of Japanese firms made use of Asian FTAs, compared to 45 percent of Chinese firms.[32] For China, these FTAs involve ASEAN economies and “early harvest” trade liberalisation with Taiwan.

The US has begun to address this new reality by switching to a regional trade strategy and launching the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) proposal. If the US successfully commits China’s most advanced neighbours (and some of its competitors, such as Vietnam) to a higher level of trade liberalisation, this will diminish China’s pivotal role in the Asian export chain, which has largely been secured because of China’s continuing trade privileges as a developing economy. By proposing the inclusion of Taiwan, the US might even persuade China to join, under the old adage “if you can’t beat them, join them”. At the same time, ASEAN and its regional FTA partners are negotiating the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), aiming to cover 45 percent of the world’s population and a third of its GDP. These mega- FTAs or minilateralist proposals present benefits to those that join, but also come with a cost to economies that do not. A comprehensive FTA would be more advantageous to advanced economies, which would benefit from improved access for services and less red tape. A less comprehensive FTA would chiefly benefit the least developed partner, which could export its goods more easily. The decision by Europe in 2012 to open negotiations on an FTA with Japan is of course a response to these trends, since a Japan–EU FTA would complete the triangle begun by the TTP and the TTIP (the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, Washington’s other strategic initiative). But will this move be enough? Without a wider offer by the EU to the region, Europe’s limited negotiations might in fact prod China into being more open to the RCEP (of which it is already a member) and the TPP. Both trade groupings exclude Europe.

In spite of its robust bilateral trade approach, the EU could be forced into a defensive position by trade agreements that cover a widening share of global markets. The EU missed the boat on APEC in the early 1990s. Now, it has no comparable initiative to offer Asia on regional trade, services, and investment. The Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM), created in 1995 following a proposal from Singapore, is much too diffuse to become a useful strategic tool, even though it has come up with some good initiatives, such as people-topeople exchanges and the Business Forum.

With the appearance of these mega-FTAs, the EU’s laborious bilateral negotiations no longer seem to be the optimal strategy. The EU’s human resources are already stretched thin at the Commission’s DG Trade. And the body as a whole could soon be overwhelmed by the tension between, on the one hand, trying to compete in Asia only through bilateral negotiations, and on the other, negotiating the TTIP. As long as the Obama administration hesitated over trade issues during its first term, the EU seemed to be maintaining parity with the US. This is probably no longer the case. In terms of public diplomacy and discursive power, the US is back in the lead.

There are only three ways for the EU to recapture the initiative. In the first scenario, the TPP might flounder on its own accord and fail to meet its main targets. This would, by default, hand the initiative to the EU. But this outcome is unlikely. China’s neighbours have a renewed incentive to shore up their ties with the US. Japan in particular needs US support for the Abe government’s effort to kick-start the economy, especially given the quantitative easing and monetary devaluation that the Abe initiative implies. An incentive also exists for a CJK (China–Japan–Korea) FTA, and the RCEP may serve as a tool to extract more concessions from the US, which is not a partner.

A second way for Europe to increase its relevance would be to initiate a trailblazing trade and investment deal with China itself. Because of the scale of EU–China trade, its implications for other Asian suppliers, and China’s number one ranking in global trade from 2013, an agreement between the EU and China would go a long way towards addressing the core of the EU’s economic relationship with Asia. But China, which under current rules already has largely unfettered access to Europe’s markets, does not necessarily see a need to make concessions. That said, the prospect of successful outcomes for the TTIP and the TPP might be the only thing that could make China more amenable to further engagement and reciprocal concessions with Europe or the US.

Finally, the third option for the EU is to create a value proposition for the region, much as the US has done with the TPP. This would be much harder for the EU, which has to deal with 28 member states, each of which has a stake in guiding policy, if not in implementing it. By selecting only a few initial partners for the TPP, the US has created competition to join among prospective participants. Even so, some of these initial partners might welcome a concurrent offer from the EU, and they might appreciate it if the offer were explicitly inclusive rather than potentially exclusive. Could such a proposition emerge as a Trans Eurasian Partnership (TEP) or a Europe–Asia Partnership (EAP)?

A large part of the TPP and the TTIP concerns standards and norms, reflecting the US desire to export its own ways of doing business. Europe’s TEP or EAP should of course promote European norms, but it should also focus on investment issues. In spite of its reputation for protectionism, Europe is more open to foreign investment than any other region, a fact that even Chinese studies recognise.[33] It is therefore in a position to leverage its openness by emphasising investment and services with regions where investment liberalisation is still under way.

This should include private savings and companies, so as to unlock the region’s state economies. Europeans, who remain the world’s greatest aggregate private savers, should also gain greater access to companies and capital markets throughout Asia. The EU’s trade diplomacy and resources have served Europe well in achieving its goal of free trade in goods, which was the mainstay of global liberalisation in the past decades. Now it must be reinforced, both in volume and in competences, so as to better deal with the new strategic issue of region-wide FTAs, and with the responsibility for investment that has been vested in the EU by the Lisbon Treaty. The transition period, during which global trade diplomacy retreated from multilateral goals to a phase of bilateral anarchy, may be nearing an end. If Asia is to be the new battleground for expanded region-wide agreements, Europe should be prepared to take the field.


[1] “Chinese leader Xi Jinping joins Obama for summit”, BBC News, 8 June 2013, available at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-china-22798572.

[2] ECFR interview with Samir Saran, New Delhi, April 2013.

[3] Mark J. Valencia, “The South China Sea: Back to Future?”, East Sea (South China Sea)

Studies , 15 July 2011, available at http://southchinaseastudies.org/en/conferences-andseminars-/



[4] Author interview with Eichi Fujiwara, Tokyo, 16 April 2013.

[5] Author interview with Shinichi Kitaoka, Tokyo, 16 April 2013

[6] Laxman Kumar Behera, “Indian Defence Budget 2013–14”, Defence Review Asia, 6 May

2013, available at http://www.defencereviewasia.com/articles/216/Indian-Defence-


[7] Kim Eun-jung, “Mid-term defense program focuses on missile defense against N. Korea”,

Yonhap News Agency , 25 July 2013, available at http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr/natio


[8] French Ministry of Defence, “La loi de programmation militaire (LPM) 2014–2019”,

Ministére de la Défense , 14 August 2013, available at http://www.defense.gouv.fr/


[9] Author interview with Fabrice Pothier, 27 September 2013.

[10] Aaron L. Friedberg, “Will Europe’s Past Be Asia’s Future?”, Survival, Autumn 2000.

[11] Yoko Kubota, “Japan, Russia agree to cooperate on security as China rises”, Reuters,

2 November 2013, available at http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/11/02/us-japanrussia-


[12] “Press Conference by Minister for Foreign Affairs Koichiro Gemba”, Ministry of

Foreign Affairs of Japan, 17 August 2012, available at http://www.mofa.go.jp/


[13] Author interview with Hahm Chaibong, Seoul, 19 April 2013.

[14] Srikanth Kondrapalli, “China’s foreign policy at its borders”, Seminar, Asia Centre,

Paris, 20 September 2013.

[15] PLA General Zhang Zhaozhong, “China boasts of strategy to ‘recover’ islands occupied

by Philippines”, TV interview transcript by China Daily Mail, 28 May 2013, available

at http://chinadailymail.com/2013/05/28/china-boasts-of-strategy-to-recoverislands-


[16] See an account at Scott Bentley, “Mapping the nine-dash line: recent incidents

involving Indonesia in the South China Sea”, the Strategist, 29 October 2013,

available at http://www.aspistrategist.org.au/mapping-the-nine-dash-line-recentincidents-


[17] International Crisis Group, “Dangerous Waters: China–Japan Relations on the

Rocks”, Asia Report No. 245, 8 April 2013, available at http://www.crisisgroup.



[18] Xi meets Taiwan politician ahead of APEC gathering”, Xinhuanet, 6 October 2013,

available at http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/china/2013-10/06/c_132775470.htm.

[19] Shaun Tandon, “China says ready to talk if Japan admits dispute”, AFP, 20

September 2013, available at https://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALe



[20] M. Taylor Fravel, “Regime Insecurity and International Cooperation: Explaining

China’s Compromises in Territorial Disputes”, International Security, Vol. 30, No.

2 (Fall 2005), pp. 46–83, available at http://taylorfravel.com/documents/research/


[21] Cited in M. Taylor Fravel, “Xi Jinping and China’s Maritime Disputes”, Taylorfravel.

com, 15 August 2013, available at http://taylorfravel.com/2013/08/xi-jinping-andchinas-


[22] Colin Powell, “U.S. Looks to Its Allies for Stability in Asia and the Pacific”,

International Herald Tribune , 27 January 2001, available at http://www.nytimes.


[23] Hillary Clinton, “Back in Asia: The US Steps Up Its Re-Engagement”, Strategic

Review , 8 January 2011, available at http://photos.state.gov/libraries/


[24] Rodolfo C. Severino, “The South China Sea: Ten myths and ten realities”,

East Sea (South China Sea) Studies , 21 January 2013, available at http://



[25] See Asia Centre, “The End of Non-interference?”, China Analysis, October 2013,

available at http://ecfr.eu/page/-/China_Analysis_The_End_of_Non_interference_


[26] Shinzo Abe, “Asia’s Democratic Security Diamond”, Project Syndicate, 27 December

2012, available at http://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/a-strategicalliance-

for-japan-and-india-by-shinzo-abe. The article was written in November

2012, on the eve of Japan’s general election.

[27] Michael Leifer, “The ASEAN Peace Process: a category mistake”, the Pacific

Review , Vol. 12, Issue 1, 1999, available at http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/


[28] According to the SIPRI Arms Transfer database, European weapon transfers to Asia

in 2011–2012 reached 2,618 TIVs (trend indicator value, SIPRI’s index for the value

of these transfers) as opposed to 6,417 TIVs from the US in the same period. In 2011

alone, the ratio was much closer (1,701 to 3,554 TIVs, or 48 percent). See SIPRI Arms

Transfer Database, available at http://portal.sipri.org/publications/pages/transfer/


[29] Ministry of Defense of Japan, Defense of Japan 2012, (Tokyo: Ministry of Defense,

2012), available at http://www.mod.go.jp/e/publ/w_paper/e-book/2012/files/


[30] ECFR interview at the French Ministry of Defence, Paris, 14 November 2013.

[31] “China has become India’s largest trade partner in South Asia”, the Economic Times,

10 March 2012, available at http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2012-03-


[32] Masahiro Kawai and Ganeshan Wignaraja, “Free Trade Agreements in East Asia: A

Way towards Trade Liberalization?”, ADB Briefs No. 1, Asian Development Bank,

June 2010, available at http://www.adb.org/sites/default/files/pub/2010/ADBBriefs-


[33] Zhang Yunling and Rongyan Wang, “The case for enhancing regional and global rules

for investment”, in Richard Baldwin, Masahiro Kawai, and Ganeshan Wignaraja

(eds), The Future of the World Trading System: Asian Perspectives, (Geneva:

VoxEU, 2013), available at http://www.voxeu.org/content/future-world-tradingsystem-



François Godement is Professor of political science at Sciences Po in Paris, Director for strategy of Asia Centre, also in Paris (www.centreasia.eu), Senior policy fellow of the European Council on Foreign relations (www.ecfr.eu), and non resident Senior associate of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (Washington). He is also an outside consultant to the Policy Planning Directorate of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Editor’s note:

This Policy Brief was originally published by the European Council on Foreign Relations. It is also available in the ISN Digital Library.