CFR Presents

Asia Unbound

CFR experts give their take on the cutting-edge issues emerging in Asia today.

Posts by Author

Showing posts for "Alyssa Ayres"

Three Takeaways on U.S.-India Defense Ties

by Alyssa Ayres
WASHINGTON (Aug. 29, 2016) Secretary of Defense Ash Carter hosts Indian Minister of Defense Manohar Parrikar at the Pentagon, Aug. 29. DoD Photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Tim D. Godbee licensed under CC BY 2.0. WASHINGTON (Aug. 29, 2016) Secretary of Defense Ash Carter hosts Indian Minister of Defense Manohar Parrikar at the Pentagon, Aug. 29. DoD Photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Tim D. Godbee licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Indian Minister of Defense Manohar Parrikar came to Washington today for his sixth meeting with U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter.  Secretary Carter noted in his opening statement of their joint press conference that he has spent more time with Minister Parrikar “than with any other counterpart.” He did not qualify the statement further, and did not limit his remark to convey “any other non-NATO” counterpart or a similar formulation. For me, that gives us takeaway number one about U.S.-India defense ties: The time Carter and his counterpart, Parrikar, are investing in this venture illustrates the opportunity they perceive in a deepened strategic relationship—but also underscores the hard, time-consuming work required to find a way for the defense systems in both countries to learn to work together more seamlessly. Read more »

Olympic Grit in India

by Alyssa Ayres
Gymnastics - Olympics Qualifier - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - 18/4/2016 - Dipa Karmakar of India performs during her vault in the women's apparatus final (Sergio Moraes/REUTERS). Gymnastics - Olympics Qualifier - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - 18/4/2016 - Dipa Karmakar of India performs during her vault in the women's apparatus final (Sergio Moraes/REUTERS).

Since the Rio Olympics began, I have been glued to the television during primetime, cheering for the American athletes who have already made history—the women’s gymnastics team, Katie Ledecky, Michael Phelps, and women’s volleyball, just to start. Performing at this level, breaking world records and achieving scores or times untouchable by the runners-up, requires years of dedicated practice, and as importantly, a family and national infrastructure that supports developing world-class sports talent. Read more »

Bangladesh and Global Terror

by Alyssa Ayres
Relatives and friends leave after attending the funeral prayer of the victims who were killed in the attack on the Holey Artisan Bakery and the O'Kitchen Restaurant, in Dhaka, Bangladesh, July 4, 2016 (Adnan Abidi/REUTERS). Relatives and friends leave after attending the funeral prayer of the victims who were killed in the attack on the Holey Artisan Bakery and the O'Kitchen Restaurant, in Dhaka, Bangladesh, July 4, 2016 (Adnan Abidi/REUTERS).

News continues to emerge about the terrorist threat in Bangladesh, a majority-Muslim country of 160 million, and it is alarming for two reasons: one, the apparent international dimension, more significant than previously imagined, and two, the profile of the terrorists themselves. Read more »

Joining the Club: India and the Nuclear Suppliers Group

by Alyssa Ayres
A member of Denmark's delegation (C) takes a picture with his phone while seated next to India's Prime Minister Narenda Modi (R) at the start of the second plenary session of the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington April 1, 2016 (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters). A member of Denmark's delegation (C) takes a picture with his phone while seated next to India's Prime Minister Narenda Modi (R) at the start of the second plenary session of the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington April 1, 2016 (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters).

Last week the forty-eight “participating governments” of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) met in a plenary session in Seoul. Among the subjects of discussion: how to consider for membership countries that have not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Discussion of membership for non-NPT signatories was the result of India’s application for membership, an application the United States has vocally supported. Read more »

Namaste, World! India Amps Up its Yoga Diplomacy

by Alyssa Ayres
Students practice yoga during a training session ahead of World Yoga Day in Ahmedabad, India, June 16, 2016. (Amit Dave/Reuters) Students practice yoga during a training session ahead of World Yoga Day in Ahmedabad, India, June 16, 2016. (Amit Dave/Reuters)

Tuesday, June 21, marks the second year of “International Day of Yoga,” a UN designation enacted in December 2014 through a General Assembly resolution introduced by India. It came about after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s September 2014 address to the assembly, where he spoke about yoga as a potential solution for many of the world’s challenges, including climate change. Since then, Modi has continued to reference yoga’s benefits in a variety of speeches, including most recently his address to a joint meeting of the United States Congress. While this concern might appear esoteric to outsiders, Modi, and the government he leads, is one hundred percent serious about expanding the framework in which people around the world think of yoga and its role. Read more »

India, Global Governance, and the Nuclear Suppliers Group

by Alyssa Ayres
Supporters of India's Congress party celebrate the approval of the U.S.-Indian nuclear energy deal in the western Indian city of Ahmedabad on September 6, 2008 (Amit Dave/Reuters). Supporters of India's Congress party celebrate the approval of the U.S.-Indian nuclear energy deal in the western Indian city of Ahmedabad on September 6, 2008 (Amit Dave/Reuters).

On the eve of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s arrival in Washington for a summit with U.S. President Barack Obama, the New York Times published an editorial that weighed in on a subject certain to feature on the leaders’ agenda: India’s bid for membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). The Times opined that the United States should not support India’s membership bid as, “Membership would enhance India’s standing as a nuclear weapons state, but it is not merited until the country meets the group’s standards.” The editorial advised Obama to “press for India to adhere to the standards on nuclear proliferation to which other nuclear weapons states adhere.” It added that the 2008 U.S.-India civil-nuclear agreement had “encouraged” Pakistan to expand its nuclear weapons program. Read more »

India and Pakistan After Pathankot: How Washington Can Help

by Alyssa Ayres
Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (L) walks with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi after Modi's arrival in Lahore, Pakistan, on December 25, 2015 (Reuters). Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (L) walks with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi after Modi's arrival in Lahore, Pakistan, on December 25, 2015 (Reuters).

Just eight days after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a surprise Christmas Day stop in Lahore to visit with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, terrorists attacked an Indian Air Force base in Pathankot, Punjab. The attack, only the latest strike after a thaw, follows a long-established pattern of spoilers jeopardizing positive openings between India and Pakistan. Since 1998, when both countries tested nuclear weapons, a possible conflict has become more dangerous for the region and the world. Meanwhile, Pakistan continues to harbor a plethora of terrorist groups, and the country’s pursuit of miniaturized “tactical nukes” fuels an already combustible situation. If Modi and Sharif can lead their countries to durably improve their relationship, even modestly, they will realize a goal that has eluded their predecessors. Read more »

The Top Ten Stories in South Asia, 2015

by Alyssa Ayres
Afghans listen to a radio broadcast run by the Islamic State militants, in the eastern city of Jalalabad, Afghanistan, on December 19, 2015. Islamic State militants in eastern Afghanistan have taken to the airwaves to win recruits as they try to build strength and replace the Taliban as the leading force in the Islamist insurgency. Officials have been increasingly concerned by the broadcasts, which encourage young people to find a sense of direction in the radical movement (Parwiz Parwiz/Reuters). Afghans listen to a radio broadcast run by the Islamic State militants, in the eastern city of Jalalabad, Afghanistan, on December 19, 2015. Islamic State militants in eastern Afghanistan have taken to the airwaves to win recruits as they try to build strength and replace the Taliban as the leading force in the Islamist insurgency. Officials have been increasingly concerned by the broadcasts, which encourage young people to find a sense of direction in the radical movement (Parwiz Parwiz/Reuters).

Each of the past two years, I’ve done a roundup of the developments and stories that mattered the most in South Asia. In 2014, India’s historic national election and the coming together of Afghanistan’s hard-won unity government topped my list. The year before, Indian women’s political activism, and Nawaz Sharif’s election in Pakistan’s first transfer of power from one civilian to another, were my top two picks. Looking back at those posts compared with the ten events I’ve selected for 2015, this year suggests a markedly less hopeful mood. The most chilling development has been the steady trickle of reports about the self-proclaimed Islamic State and its presence in the region, particularly in Afghanistan, border areas of Pakistan, and possibly in Bangladesh. Other developments in India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Maldives present a mixed picture of both progress and setbacks. Here is my selection of 2015’s most consequential stories in South Asia: Read more »

Fresh Upheavals in the South Asian Region

by Alyssa Ayres
Birgunj, Nepal: Madhesi protesters block the highway connecting Nepal to India in a general strike against Nepal’s new constitution on November 4, 2015 (Navesh Chitrakar/Reuters). Birgunj, Nepal: Madhesi protesters block the highway connecting Nepal to India in a general strike against Nepal’s new constitution on November 4, 2015 (Navesh Chitrakar/Reuters).

From the day he assumed office, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi made clear his priority on establishing strong ties across the South Asian region. His open invitation to the leaders of all the South Asian countries to attend his inauguration set the tone for a foreign policy focused on building economic ties and regional connectivity, a pragmatic bid to overcome South Asia’s longstanding problem as one of the least economically integrated regions in the world. Initial Indian diplomacy with Bangladesh and Nepal helped deliver gains toward a more consolidated South Asian region, at peace and focused on development and economics. Political change in Sri Lanka ended the divisive Rajapaksa era, one of increased tensions with India, and Colombo’s new government immediately expanded ties—with a strong trade component—with India. The South Asian Area of Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit in November 2014 resulted in region-wide agreements on transportation connectivity, an important infrastructure step to enhancing economic ties. Read more »

Pakistan Is Failing Its Citizens, and Washington Offers Fighter Jets

by Alyssa Ayres
U.S. President Barack Obama meets Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington on October 22, 2015 (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters). U.S. President Barack Obama meets Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington on October 22, 2015 (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters).

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is in Washington for long-awaited consultations with U.S. President Barack Obama. Press reports in the week preceding the visit flagged the possibility of a limited “civil nuclear deal” under discussion as a gambit to persuade Pakistan to stop developing battlefield tactical nuclear weapons, but that conversation ended when Pakistani officials told the media that “Islamabad will not accept limits on its use of small tactical nuclear weapons.” The strategic transaction from the Sharif-Obama meeting now appears, echoing the hoary past, to be another tranche of F16 fighter jets, only the latest in a long cascade of questionable hardware sales with unclear counterterror utility. Read more »