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Showing posts for "Alyssa Ayres"

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 »

Where’s India on the Trans-Pacific Partnership?

by Alyssa Ayres
U.S. President Barack Obama shakes hands with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during their meeting at the United Nations General Assembly in New York on September 28, 2015 (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters). U.S. President Barack Obama shakes hands with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during their meeting at the United Nations General Assembly in New York on September 28, 2015 (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters).

The United States and eleven other countries have concluded negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a trade pact that will cover 40 percent of global trade spanning Asia and the Pacific Rim, including some Latin American countries. It represents a subset of the countries in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, and one can anticipate that other APEC members may elect to join the TPP in the future. While China, the largest economy in Asia, has not been part of the negotiations, it has “welcomed” the agreement. The Japanese prime minister has indicated that Chinese membership in TPP would aid “Asia-Pacific regional stability.” Back in June, President Barack Obama said that Chinese officials had been “putting out feelers” about joining. Read more »

What’s New in the U.S.-India Strategic and Commercial Dialogue

by Alyssa Ayres
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry participates with Indian Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj (L) and U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker (R) at the U.S-India Strategic and Commercial Dialogue plenary session at the State Department in Washington on September 22, 2015 (Gary Cameron/Reuters). U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry participates with Indian Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj (L) and U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker (R) at the U.S-India Strategic and Commercial Dialogue plenary session at the State Department in Washington on September 22, 2015 (Gary Cameron/Reuters).

Yesterday U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker co-convened, with their Indian counterparts External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Commerce and Industry Minister of State Nirmala Sitharaman, the new U.S.-India Strategic and Commercial Dialogue (S&CD). India and the United States have been convening a strategic dialogue since 2010, so the change this year elevated discussion of economic and commercial issues to the cabinet level alongside the central matters of security and global diplomatic concerns. Read more »

How Americans See India as a Power

by Alyssa Ayres
A supporter holds up U.S. and Indian national flags as he assembles with a large crowd of people in Times Square to watch the speech by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on September 28, 2014 (Reuters/Carlo Allegri). A supporter holds up U.S. and Indian national flags as he assembles with a large crowd of people in Times Square to watch the speech by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on September 28, 2014 (Reuters/Carlo Allegri).

How do Americans see India as a power on the world stage? It’s a difficult question to answer, in part because sources of data are scattered and insufficient. Public opinion surveys have provided a good sense of how Americans see India as a country, and its importance to the United States, but those lenses do not necessarily offer insight into American views about India on the world stage. The just-released 2015 public opinion survey from the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, however, for the first time contains some insights sure to surprise on how Americans see Indian power. Read more »

Pakistan: You Have One Job

by Alyssa Ayres
Hafiz Saeed (C), head of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa organisation and founder of Lashkar-e-Taiba, waves to his supporters as he leads the rally to mark Pakistan Day (Resolution Day) in Islamabad March 23, 2014. (Mohsin Raza/Courtesy Reuters) Hafiz Saeed (C), head of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa organisation and founder of Lashkar-e-Taiba, waves to his supporters as he leads the rally to mark Pakistan Day (Resolution Day) in Islamabad March 23, 2014. (Mohsin Raza/Courtesy Reuters)

Over the weekend, Pakistan’s national security advisor, Sartaj Aziz, called off planned talks with India’s national security advisor after a series of public disagreements escalated to the point of no return. Islamabad and New Delhi failed to agree on the scope of the agenda, despite a clear joint statement issued by Prime Ministers Nawaz Sharif and Narendra Modi during their meeting last month in Ufa, Russia, which had set the parameters for India-Pakistan dialogue in coming months. Most press accounts indicate that Pakistan sought to expand the NSAs’ agenda from the single subject of “terrorism” agreed upon at Ufa to include discussion of Kashmir. Compounding things, India reiterated its redline, developed by the Modi government last summer, against Pakistani officials meeting with separatists from Jammu and Kashmir on the margins of Indo-Pak talks. The Pakistani High Commission in New Delhi invited Kashmiri separatists to a reception, so between the redline and the soiree invite grew an impasse. Read more »