Quantcast

Editor’s Introduction

At World Affairs, we look for points of interest in the familiar and the remote, in the collision between received wisdom about the international scene and facts our writers find on the ground. Some of the truths our writers find are arcane. Some seem to have been staring us in the face for a long time. This is certainly the case with India, as Shehzad Qazi reminds us in his excellent tour d’horizon of our developing relationship with the second most populous country in the world—and increasingly audacious competitor to China, the first. The transformation of India into a key potential American ally, a topic du jour among policymakers, has been happening steadily, although often silently and in slow motion, for decades. As Qazi notes, late in his administration President Clinton travelled to India for a five-day visit where he called the US and India “natural allies” in a speech to Parliament. At the time, the statement had a startling ring because for most of the previous two generations, India had served largely as the Soviet Union’s proxy in the region. But it was not mere hands-across-the-water rhetoric. Clinton departed New Delhi and travelled to Pakistan, India’s neighbor and rival—but also, at the time, America’s traditional lead ally in the region—where he reinforced his words to Indian lawmakers by staying in Islamabad for a mere five hours.

A few years later, after the attacks of September 11th, President Bush moved decisively to give substance to President Clinton’s “natural ally” message by significantly deepening ties with India in the economic, defense, and energy sectors—most significantly in 2006 by consummating the US-India civil nuclear deal. This, even though Pakistan’s cooperation loomed large in America’s counterterrorism strategy in Afghanistan. More recently, in November 2010, President Obama visited India for three days and, while there, announced mega-billion-dollar business deals—referring to the US-India relationship as “the defining partnership of the twenty-first century.” The president bypassed Pakistan altogether on this trip, which had elements of a recessional marking the highly consequential realignment of influence and partnership in the region.

There are major defense, economic, and energy interests at stake in South Asia. And it will not surprise readers of World Affairs that much of the strategy, planning, and execution of this realignment with India unfolds in parallel with the so-called US “pivot” in Asia (the policy equivalent of the slow but methodical change of course of a giant ship), which is being executed in large part in response to a rising, threatening, and potentially hostile China. Yet the forces at play in the region are subtle, not blunt, and they don’t yield easily to historical determinism. In another essay in the present issue, Neil Padukone finds that prospects are not altogether dim for gradual reconciliation between the two rivals who figure so large in US strategy—the increasingly unstable and China-friendly Pakistan and the increasingly prosperous, America-friendly India. And in a sidebar to these ruminations on this real-life chess game between global and regional powers, Aurangzaib Alamgir takes us to Balochistan, the largest of four Pakistani provinces—a little-discussed but highly volatile region with “profound strategic importance” because of its location, size, and vast mineral and energy wealth—where he introduces us to a determined insurgency fighting for its independence.

Examining another transformation that has uncertain consequences for US policy, the Pulitzer Prize–winning former New York Times foreign correspondent Joel Brinkley reports on South Korea’s under-thirty set—urbane, educated, comfortable, and bored by their parents’ fears of a nuclear-armed and bellicose North Korea that have defined the country’s politics, and its foreign and defense strategies, since the state’s inception in 1948. Lacking a sense of urgency about the evil empire of Kim-ism in Pyongyang and impatient with the large footprint left by the US military over a more than fifty year presence in the country, it’s no wonder that anti-Americanism—fueled by high-profile rape cases and other crimes committed by American soldiers stationed in the country—is on the rise. With a presidential election scheduled for Seoul in December, and left-leaning parties that are openly hostile to America coming to the fore, readers can expect to see the Korean peninsula step into America’s front pages once again.

Also in this issue, Wladimir van Wilgenburg and Aliza Marcus provide insightful reports on the Kurds—spread across Armenia, Iraq, Iran, and Turkey—whose fortunes and long-held aspirations for autonomy are mired in Baghdad’s byzantine political maneuvers and in Ankara’s kangaroo courts. And we feature a dispatch by Ann Marlowe on Libya’s prospects for a democratic future, which now seem so darkened by the murder of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and the anti-Western “rage” whipped up by an opportunistic radical minority bent on asserting its strength and reach—and its totalitarian vision.

There’s more—on the prospects for a China-Russia love affair, the growing reach of the European Court of Justice, and a new book on revolution and youth. Read on, ponder the way our world spins, and please tell us what you think.

James S. Denton

OG Image: 
US