Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Indonesia to be Harvard lab for peace-building studies 2007-11-10 14:54:41

JAKARTA, Nov. 10 (Xinhua) -- Indonesia's success in ending conflicts and creating peace has led Harvard University to propose using this country as a laboratory for its study into peace processes, local press said Saturday.

The Harvard Program on Humanitarian Policy and Conflict Research plans to work with Paramadina University (UPM) in Jakartato develop studies looking at past and ongoing peace processes in Indonesia.

"Indonesia is a fascinating country to study," program director Claude Bruderlein was quoted by local newspaper The Jakarta Post as saying.

"Lessons learned here are very telling, very informative."

Paramadina Rector Anis Baswedan said peace is now taking root in places once plagued by bloody conflicts, such as Ambon, Aceh and the Central Sulawesi district of Poso.

"There are lessons here that could be useful to the peace processes in other countries," he said.

Bruderlein said the UN had cited studies of peace processes in African countries, the Middle East, Nepal and Sri Lanka.

"Yet, our research finds that Indonesia has been one of the most successful countries in peace-building endeavors."

The Harvard program has been primarily active in the Middle East, particularly in the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Bruderlein said there is a need for professionals in peace-building activities to exchange notes and experiences, which would allow them to develop a methodology and standards as well as vocabularies. "There is very little literature on peace-building at the moment," he said.

Indonesia makes an ideal laboratory for peace-building studies because it offers simultaneous examples of all three phases as the nation tries to integrate security, justice and development, he said.  

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The Re-emergence of an Australian Nuclear Weapons Option? Implications for Indonesia and the Asia Pacific

By Richard Tanter

The question of whether or not Australia should acquire or develop nuclear weapons has been off the policy agenda for many years. From the 1950s onward the Democratic Labor Party argued the case publicly, though to no great policy effect. Yet, as a number of detailed studies by historians and comparative analysts of nuclear proliferation pathways have clearly established, successive Liberal-Country party coalition governments in the 1950s to the early 1970s were committed to either acquire or develop a nuclear weapon.[1] Public advocacy was always restrained, but in the crucial period from the late 1950s and early 1960s a strong coalition of bureaucratic and military interests, including the civilian nuclear establishment, pressed the issue behind closed doors. While this bureaucratic coalition was largely opposed by other parts of the bureaucracy, in particular the Treasury and the Department of External Affairs, for more than a decade, it was successful in determining Australian policy in secret. The most recent studies of this largely intra-bureaucratic policy struggle have emphasized the extent to which this movement down the proliferation pathway was in fact motivated less by rational threat assessment and more by a combination of institutional self-interest and a surprisingly potent nationalist sense of identity and fantasy within those institutional complexes.[2]

The Whitlam government and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) put an end to two decades of Australian nuclear weapons planning. However residues of that secret history remain evident today. One manifestation is the F-111 fighter bombers, soon to be retired from the Royal Australian Air Force, which were ordered in the expectation that they would be available to deliver nuclear bombs on urban targets in Indonesia. It is hardly surprising that another residue of this covert policy is the memory of Australian nuclear planning held by members of the Indonesian political and military elite.

Since then, public advocacy of Australian nuclear weapons acquisition has been limited to the further fringes of the right of Australian politics.[3] There have been no reports of a revival of nuclear advocacy within either the bureaucracy or the nuclear establishment.[4] On the contrary, Australia has, until recently, been a very strong supporter of the NPT regime, especially following the influence of the very large anti-uranium and nuclear disarmament movements of the 1970s and the 1980s. The Hawke and Keating Labor governments, especially under the Foreign Affairs stewardship of Gareth Evans, ultimately responded to these potent civil society movements by establishing substantial Australian bureaucratic capacity to press arms control and disarmament policies robustly in a number of global policy forums.[5] The creative high point of that government reflection of massive civil society rejection of nuclear weapons was the establishment by Keating and Evans of the Canberra Commission on the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons in November 1995.[6] The incoming Howard government ignored the Commission’s recommendations. Yet by outlining a practical pathway for the implementation of a nuclear abolitionist position in what was correctly seen as the unique circumstances following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Canberra Commission paved the way both politically and analytically for the Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission chaired by Hans Blix, which reported in 2006.[7] Two notable members of the Blix Commission, for Australian concerns, were the architect of the Canberra Commission, Gareth Evans, and the national security advisor to former Indonesian president B.J.Habibie.

The first public crack in Australian political elite repudiation of nuclear weapons since the Canberra Commission, if not the signing of the NPT itself, has come from a surprising source. Martine Letts, a former advisor to Gareth Evans and formerly a disarmament policy specialist in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, opened a recent discussion of “Creative and uncomfortable policy choices ahead” for a Rudd Labor government. In a pre-election essay for the Lowy Institute for International Affairs, Letts suggests that [a]n incoming Australian government will need to assess the changed global nuclear environment and develop strategic policy options to protect and project our interests. Some of these options may be controversial and unpopular.[8]

Nuclear proliferation, nuclear terrorism and the global demand for nuclear energy (“a significant, if partial, solution to the global problems of climate change”) make up a quite new and threatening context, Letts argued, within which a Rudd government should conduct a full review of Australian nuclear policy. “Australian nuclear policy was shaped by the strategic circumstances of the 1970s”. Accordingly, Letts suggested, such a post-election review of nuclear policy should include examination of “our own decisions on the role nuclear weapons will play for the future security of Australia.”

After a brief, apparently tough-minded tour of the bleak nuclear proliferation policy horizon, Letts concluded with a call for a Rudd government to consider the circumstances under which an Australian government should revive the nuclear weapons option:

A thorough nuclear policy review should also consider which strategic circumstances might lead to Australia’s revisiting the nuclear weapons option. As extreme as this may sound, failure to sustain and strengthen our current non-proliferation regime may force us to consider such an option. In the current strategic circumstances, no government could leave such an eventuality entirely out of mind.

This surprising conclusion from a disarmament specialist appears to derive from deep pessimism about the NPT regime - a regime “too rigid and inflexible to deal with today’s strategic realities”, perhaps able to be “modernised” by creating by creating a new category of Protocol states for India, Pakistan and Israel”.

As a former Australian Deputy Permanent Representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna Letts is pessimistic about the ability of the official global disarmament and non-proliferation machinery to halt the gathering rush to nuclear possession, and inevitable nuclear next use.[9] This tough-minded pessimism leads Letts to posit an implicit worst case scenario for an arms controller: if proliferation cannot be stopped, what then? It would appear that for Letts, an ethic of responsible policy advice, in the context of a hard-headed assessment of the real world, leads her to the unpalatable recognition that there are some circumstances in which Australia should acquire nuclear weapons. After all, there is no point in recommending a review of such circumstances if one believes that they could never exist.

There are a number of difficulties with Letts’ position. The first is that this recommendation is not a matter of hypothetical speculation in an ivory tower. This is realist – if not realistic – policy advice to a government-in-waiting, and Letts expects to be heard. In a policy world where the source of the policy recommendation – a former ambassador and senior government disarmament specialist – matters as much as the content of the recommendation itself – Letts’ claim is that there are foreseeable and proximate strategic conditions under which she would feel obliged to recommend that a Rudd government begin the process of acquiring nuclear weapons. As her closing words put it, “In the current strategic circumstances, no government could leave such an eventuality entirely out of mind.”

The second limitation is that Letts’ approach to a Rudd government nuclear non-proliferation policy is at odds with that of the Labor Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, Robert McClelland. In a speech to the United Nations Association of Australia and the Medical Association for the Prevention of War (MAPW) earlier this year McClelland agued that a Rudd Labor government should and would go well beyond the conventional arms control agenda to embrace the agenda of practical steps towards ultimate nuclear abolition recommended by the Canberra Commission, the Blix Commission and the Middle Powers Initiative launched in October 2005 by the Article VI Forum.[10] That forum aims to identify the legal, political and technical requirements for the elimination of nuclear weapons…" and to undertake "informational and preparatory work on the development and implementation of the legal political and technical elements and the exploration of ways to start negotiations on disarmament steps leading to a nuclear weapons convention or a framework of instruments for the abolition of nuclear weapons.

This is, argued McClelland, "precisely the sort of agenda that an Australian government working as a responsible middle power could and should progress”. In an era where even state-centred realist policy analysis recognizes the importance of soft power, the Canberra Commission, and a genuine, even-handed approach to both arms control and disarmament become palpable resources for a government seeking to contribute to the de-escalating of nuclear proliferation pressures. Such initiatives also create the possibility of re-building policy links with regional allies like Malaysia and Indonesia, which have been stretched more than is usually recognised by the virulence of Australia’s support for US policy in Iraq and Afghanistan.

McClelland’s brief analysis of the nuclear landscape differs from Letts’ by focussing on a realistic assessment of the risks of nuclear next use in a strategic picture where nuclear deterrence theory is increasingly implausible. His reading of the US institutional landscape is clearer, stressing the attempts by a gathering body of former US nuclear hawks to press the case for the military inutility – to say nothing of their inherent genocidal qualities - of nuclear weapons on both Republican and Democrat candidates.[11] Whoever wins the November 24 election will be dealing with a different environment in Washington, in the aftermath of the strategic failures of the Bush administration.

The third issue with Letts’ analysis is its partiality and incompleteness. Nuclear power is to be promoted to help with global warming. Australia should take back nuclear waste, “for which Australian geological structures are highly suited”. Uranium should be exported to India. Iran and North Korea should be prevented from moving further down the nuclear pathway, but India, Pakistan and Israel given a ticket of leave. This is as much obeisance to alliance maintenance, virtually identical to Bush administration policy and its Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP), as “a careful cost benefit analysis”.

As with much tough-minded, "let’s face facts”, realism, the full context of such decision-making is ignored. The consequences of such blatant, if commonplace, application of double-standards on regional thinking about proliferation does not enter into the calculations. Since for Japan the most important barrier to nuclear proliferation, should the US door be opened (as seems very possible[12]), is the opprobrium it would draw on itself in leaving the NPT, such collusion in the erosion of the NPT in the name of saving it by an Australian government would seem almost wanton.

But the most serious consequence of Letts’ re-admission of the nuclear option to the Australian policy agenda must surely be registered amongst opinion leaders – and opinion makers - in the country with which Australia has the most to lose in the long run: Indonesia. In the light of Australia's almost two decades of secret pursuit of nuclear weapons until 1972, and the understandable residual Indonesian suspicion about Australia's real nuclear intentions, it would be hard to imagine a policy recommendation with greater risk of contributing to the strategic circumstances it seeks to avoid.

Realism is not synonymous with tough-mindedness, though as Australian foreign policy becomes more militarised, this may be less evident. In much the same way as recent Howard government statements of security policy[13] Letts’ would-be realist rationale for the reluctant opening of the door to Australian nuclear weapons is the product of an incomplete and one sided – and hence inadequately realist - assessment of the indeed frightening drift to nuclear next use.

Australian nuclear policy does indeed need to be reviewed. But such reconsideration of our current policy failures needs to be genuinely and comprehensively realist, informed by abiding commitments to the avoidance of nuclear next-use, and eschewing any suggestion that if our half-hearted arms control measures do not bear fruit, then Australia too will take the genocidal option, and once again and try to join the nuclear club.

This article was posted at the Australian Policy Forum on October 29, 2007 and at Japan Focus on November 5, 2007.

Richard Tanter is Senior Research Associate at Nautilus Institute for Security and Sustainability and Director of the Nautilus Institute at RMIT. A Japan Focus associate, he has written widely on Japanese security policy, including 'With Eyes Wide Shut: Japan, Heisei Militarization and the Bush Doctrine' in Melvin Gurtov and Peter Van Ness (eds.), Confronting the Bush Doctrine: Critical Views from the Asia-Pacific. He is co-editor with Gerry Van Klinken and Desmond Ball of Masters of Terror: Indonesia's Military and Violence in East Timor.

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Monday, October 22, 2007

The Turnaround in Sino-Indian Relations

Tarique Niazi

Many observers have recently argued that the newly forged Indo-U.S. alliance will work against its “intended aims of Chinese encirclement.” [1] Although India denies its part in any attempt at “Chinese containment” to the publicly acknowledged satisfaction of China, [2] the theory nevertheless persists. China’s response to the Indo-U.S. alliance is, however, quite creative. Instead of reacting with alarm, Beijing has gone on a charm offensive to draw New Delhi into a triangular entente among China, India and Russia. India, which has languished under foreign subjugation for centuries, has a visceral aversion to strategic alliances with world powers. Since its independence in 1947, it has followed what could be described as the “Third Way” in world diplomacy, which manifested itself in the birth of the Non-aligned Movement (NAM) in the 1950s. China is now building bridges to India based in part on the latter’s instinctive wariness of foreign influences, which is evident in India’s homegrown opposition to its nuclear deal with the U.S.

Most surprisingly, India has been warmly receptive to Chinese overtures to form a triangulation of regional entente. Since President Bush’s landmark visit to New Delhi in March 2006, which laid the foundation for exceptional cooperation between Washington and New Delhi in civilian uses of nuclear technology, India has received the highest-level visits by the Chinese President Hu Jintao in November 2006 and the Russian President Vladimir Putin in January 2007. If anything, these exchanges demonstrate that the Indo-U.S. alliance has brought China, India and Russia ever closer. As a co-architect of this entente, China has embarked on a threefold strategy to bring India into its fold. First, it is reordering its relationship with Pakistan that has long been seen in India as its counterbalance. Second, it is deepening economic ties and speedily resolving the lingering border disputes with India. Third, it is developing, with Russia in the lead, a triangulation of strategic alliance among the three nations to build a “multipolar world,” that is to check U.S. hegemonic impulses.[3] As will be spelled out below, Indians are appreciatively responsive to the Chinese threefold strategy.

Reordering Sino-Pakistani Relations

China’s relations with South Asia have long been frozen in the rivalry between India and Pakistan. With the turn of the millennium, however, Beijing has initiated a thaw. It has since warmed towards India, while at the same time maintaining its special relationship with Pakistan. Observers believe that Chinese President Hu Jintao is now taking Sino-Indian amity to the next level. His visit to India and Pakistan on November 21-26, 2006 epitomized the future shape of Sino-Indian relations, signaling a marked shift in Beijing’s long-held view of New Delhi as a potential rival. The first sign of Beijing’s changing vision became apparent when Hu chose India over Pakistan for his first stop during his week-long visit to South Asia. This was a stunning reversal in the 45-year-old tradition of Chinese leaders who have been making Pakistan their first destination on their official trips to South Asia. Also, the change in Hu’s itinerary helped defuse the sense of offense among Indians at the fact that Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao’s 10-day visit to the region in April 2005 took him first to Islamabad rather than New Delhi. Having swapped Islamabad for New Delhi, Hu recognized India’s place in the sun. This symbolic move heartened India’s nationalist elites, who often decry Beijing’s tilt towards Islamabad.

Beyond symbols, Hu took substantial steps to straddle the chasm between India and Pakistan and thus fashion a new approach to South Asia that is consistent with what he described as “the changing global scenario” and “the situation in the region.” [4] Three such steps that signal a shift, especially, in the Chinese approach to India stand out. First, Hu assured New Delhi that Beijing would not stand in the way if the former made a go at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) seat. Many Indians resent China’s putative obstructionist role to spoil their country’s prospects for a place on the UNSC. Yet just as many Indians attribute Beijing’s resistance to their country’s bid to India’s alliance with Japan, rather than to the Indian bid itself. [5] Hu’s renewed assurances of support for India’s future bid will infuse Indians of all stripes with new hope for their country’s entrĂ©e into the UNSC.

Second, during his stay in New Delhi and Islamabad, Hu carefully kept the K-word off his agenda. This was the first time in the past 45 years that a Chinese leader distanced himself from his country’s enduring pro-Pakistan position on the disputed territory of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), which continues to be contested between India and Pakistan. Indians certainly took heart at the omission of Kashmir from Hu’s statements and speeches. Hu, instead, offered to help broker peace in the region. A negotiated settlement of the Kashmir dispute will greatly unburden Beijing of the need for “balancing acts” – between India and Pakistan – while facilitating its diplomacy in the region.

Third, Hu did not sign a long-predicted nuclear cooperation deal with Pakistan, an omission that was evidently aimed at calming New Delhi, which has long been wary of such cooperation. China and Pakistan will, however, continue to cooperate in nuclear power production as per past agreements, which also permit the construction of the second nuclear power plant at Chashma in western Pakistan. Yet Pakistan will not receive the 6 additional power plants that it hoped for from China any time soon. [6] China’s self-imposed moratorium on further expansion of nuclear cooperation with Pakistan also went down well in Washington, calming its proliferation concerns.

The political Economy of Sino-Indian Relations

In particular, Hu celebrated the growing economic ties between China and India, whose two-way trade of $24bn in 2007 has already reached the current volume of Indo-U.S. trade. [7] It is now projected to grow to $40bn by 2010. [8] This dramatic growth in economic cooperation is helping ease the border tensions between Beijing and New Delhi as well. As of 2005, the bulk of Sino-Indian trade was conducted through maritime shipping, since overland trade was suspended in 1962 after the outbreak of hostilities between the two. The two nations have now agreed to reopen the Himalayan crossing after 44 years of closing, to begin overland trade. [9] This will further boost their bilateral trade.

As well, ever-expanding economic ties are likely to ease the lingering Sino-Indian border disputes. There are already visible signs that Indians are willing to exchange their claimed territory of Aksai Chin, which remains under Chinese occupation, for Beijing’s recognition of Arunachal Pradesh as Indian Territory. For its part, China is ready to concede almost all of Arunachal Pradesh to India -- except for the Tawang area [10] near the border with Tibet. The Chinese believe that the Sino-Indian border dispute is a legacy of “the western colonial powers,” [11] which was “imposed on the Chinese and Indian peoples when they were not masters in their own homes.” [12] China, however, cannot let go of Aksai Chin that is the only land link between its two turbulent western regions of Tibet and Xinjiang.

Having grasped the importance of Aksai Chin to China, India’s founding leader and the architect of Sino-Indian alliance in the 1950s, Jawaharlal Nehru, was inclined to “perpetually lease” it to China. [13] Since the ceasefire that followed the Sino-Indian border war of 1962, Beijing has repeatedly offered New Delhi a similar solution to the dispute. In addition, Indians are emboldened by the erstwhile Chinese recognition of Indian sovereignty over Sikkim, to which Beijing has long laid territorial claims. In his April 2005 visit to India, Chinese Premier Wen provided the Indian Prime Minister Man Mohan Singh with cartographic evidence showing Sikkim as part of India. [14]

Emerging Triangulation of Regional Entente

With growing economic ties and subsiding political disagreements, China is also moving fast to draw India into a regional web of security relations with the lead support of Russia, which is at the forefront of such efforts to forge a triangular alliance among the three nations. Russian President Vladimir Putin takes credit for instituting trilateral dialogue among China, India and Russia, [15] which is shaping a new geopolitical reality in the region. As part of the trilateral dialogue, the three nations’ foreign ministers held their first meeting in May 2005 in Russia. On February 14, 2007, they met in New Delhi for their first formal trilateral dialogue. Earlier, in July 2006, the three-way summit of the leaders of China, India, and Russia was held in St. Petersburg, where China and India were invited as observers to an annual G-8 meeting that Russia hosted.

During his recent visit to India on Jan. 25-26 this year as the guest of honor on India’s Republic Day, Putin discussed what he described as trilateral cooperation with Indian Prime Minister Singh. It is worth noting that Prime Minister Singh went beyond the call of protocol to receive President Putin at airport. [16] Later, Putin standing shoulder to shoulder with Singh told a news conference in New Delhi, “We want to resolve regional problems in a way acceptable to all sides. We therefore think that there are good prospects for working together in a trilateral format.” [17] Indians who have long been beholden to Russia seem to embrace Putin’s trilateral initiative, while remaining skeptical about the Indo-U.S. alliance. “Russia has seen India as a key to Asian stability for the past 50 years, some four decades before George W Bush’s team reached that conclusion,” [18] K. Subrahmanyam, India’s foremost observer of strategic affairs, noted with a tinge of sarcasm. In a realist mode, he advised the Indian government: “In a balance of power world, India has to learn to deal simultaneously with all major powers to enhance its own national interest.” [19]

The emerging triangulation has, however, internal dynamics as well. Internally, all three nations have been facing the triple menace of what Chinese describe as “extremism, separatism, and terrorism” (EST). China’s sore points are the Buddhist autonomous region of Tibet and the Muslim-majority autonomous region of Xinjiang; India has its trouble spots in Jammu and Kashmir and the Maoists-dominated Northeast (the latter is a cluster of several states); and Russia has its nemesis in Chechen separatists in the north. Although all three nations acknowledge, in varying degrees, the presence of domestic discontent behind their separatist challenges, they openly blame external powers for the flare-up. These internal and external dynamics are conflating into a tripartite regional entente.

To promote military cooperation in the battle against EST, India and China, China and Russia, and Russia and India have already conducted joint military exercises. These exercises, however, have been overshadowed by the “Malabar 07-2” in the Bay of Bengal in which Australia, India, Japan, Singapore and the U.S. participated with 20,000 military personnel and 25 ships. The stated aim of the joint naval exercises is to counter terrorism and piracy, which are threatening the Strait of Malacca, an 805-km-long strip of sea between Malaysia and Sumatra, through which 60% of the world’s energy is shipped. Yet anticipating China’s reaction to “Malabar 07-2,” India publicly rejected suggestions that China is “the focus of the war games,” and that India intends to “set up a new security alliance.” [20] India’s assurance was backed up by its planned first-ever joint army exercises with China itself, which are slated for October this year. The Sino-Indian drills are also aimed at counterterrorism. They were planned after a landmark visit to China by the Indian army chief Gen. J.J. Singh to China in May this year. Later, Indian Prime Minister Man Mohan Singh met with Chinese President Hu Jintao in Germany, where the two traveled to attend the G-8 meeting this year and further assured him: “Our government and people, regardless of their political affiliations, want the strongest relationship with China.” [21] India plans joint military exercises with Moscow as well.

To institutionalize long-term cooperation between China, India and Russia, India was brought into the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), which, among other things, seeks to neutralize the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) advance into the region. [22] China and Russia seem to be ready to accept India as a voting member of the SCO, which will be an upgrade on India’s current status as an observer. The SCO will eventually culminate in formal trilateral alliance that would bind China, India, and Russia into a regional and global entente. [23] This triangulation seeks to guarantee India’s due place in the South Asian region and to prevent it from engaging in security alliances with external powers. Yet China and India both agreed to “play their respective roles in the region and beyond, while remaining sensitive to each other’s concerns and aspirations.” [24]

To further boost their security relationship, China also signed a civilian nuclear cooperation deal with India in November last year. It is pertinent to note that Beijing’s reluctance to offer Islamabad such a deal was partly attributed to the latter’s close alliance with NATO nations, whose tens of thousands of troops are fighting Taliban insurgents in China’s neighborhood in Afghanistan. [25] The state-run Press Trust of India (PTI) news agency gushingly billed the Sino-Indian nuclear agreement as “a major advance,” in which “China and India agreed to promote cooperation in nuclear energy consistent with their international commitments.” [26] To caution potential proliferators and to display their credentials as responsible nuclear power states, both further reiterated that “international civilian (nuclear) cooperation” should be conducted in keeping with “the global non-proliferation principles.” [27]

Although Sino-Indian nuclear cooperation is not of the same magnitude as the Indo-U.S. nuclear deal that will yield a $100-billion-deal for the U.S. nuclear industry, it will help India through the hurdles at the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) for such key supplies as nuclear fuel. China and Russia sit on the NSG as members. The Chinese offer of nuclear cooperation with India was taken in step with Chinese acceptance, however reluctant, of the landmark Indo-U.S. nuclear deal. The Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee took upon himself to break the news that “China has endorsed the Indo-U.S. nuclear deal.” [28] In reciprocity, Mukherjee said, “India would not object if China signed a similar nuclear deal with Pakistan.” [28] In the same vein, Russia has offered to sell India 4 light water nuclear reactors and an arsenal worth $10bn. [29] Indians affectionately spell out PUTIN as “planes, uranium, tanks, infrastructure, and nuclear power.” [30]

Indian Response to Chinese Overtures

Indians are receptive to Chinese overtures, especially Hu’s deft diplomacy at reaching across the schism between India and China’s protagonist Pakistan. Indians, however, remain deeply divided over the China question. Its current government led by the Indian National Congress and motley regional parties seems open to reaching a broad accommodation with Beijing while pursuing cooperation with the U.S. The Congress’s predecessor, the Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP), which subscribes to an ultranationalist ideology of Hindutva, however, took a harder line on the future shape of Sino-Indian relations. Soon after India conducted nuclear tests in 1998, the BJP Minister for Defense identified China as “India’s Number One problem.” Shortly after his intemperate statement, however, the pragmatic BJP showed the Minister to the door.

Sumit Ganguly condenses the diversity of Indian public opinion on “the rise of China” and Sino-Indian relations into three groups, “…there are those who appease and muddle through, those who advocate strategic engagement, and those who take a confrontational approach.” [31] He puts the Indian National Congress and the Indian Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) in the first category, the Hindu nationalist BJP in the second, and an amorphous minority, whom he describes as “the lunatic fringe,” in the third. [32] Ganguly, however, overstates the Indian National Congress’s “appeasement” of China. The Congress, which has vigorously pursued Indian interests in befriending China in the 1950s and yet fighting it in the sixties, can hardly be described as “China’s appeaser.”

Historically, the Congress was born of Indian nationalism, and as such it has pursued independent foreign policy without allying itself with any of the power blocs. It is for this reason that Congress and its allies in the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) coalition government diverge from the U.S. in their vision of global security. It was due to this divergent vision that India politely declined to be involved in policing Iraq and Afghanistan. Similarly, President Bush’s vision of the “axis of evil” was not automatically transferred on to India, which continues to have an estimated $40 billion worth of oil and gas interests in Iran and with which it is in talks for the construction of an additional $10bn gas pipeline, despite U.S. objections. India’s huge investments in Iran, combined with its desire to be assertively independent in its diplomacy, were the reason that India, which sits at the 35-member board of governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), was reluctant to report Iran to the UN Security Council for the latter’s nuclear program. The U.S. had to lobby it so hard that the very landmark Indo-U.S. nuclear deal was threatened to be shelved indefinitely. India finally voted with the U.S., but only after China and Russia led the path.

India also has a vibrant peace movement and the growing Indian Left which is pressing for deeper Sino-Indian relations. Praful Bidwai, long an advocate of Sino-Indian amity, is the latter-day Gandhi of the Indian peace movement. Many realists such as Kuldip Nayar, one of the elder statesmen of the Indian National Congress, often oppose the Indian Left on Sino-Indian relations. Nayar, however, has recently advised the Indian government against totally allying with the U.S. “It suits us (India) to keep America guessing whether we would ever be a counter force to check China,” he wrote in a syndicated op-ed piece. [33] At the same time, he argued that the Indo-U.S. alliance has instrumental value for India to squeeze a better deal from China on the Sino-Indian border dispute: “Not that America’s friendship is crucial to us, but our equation with it will help us get a better offer on the border (dispute) from China.” [34]


The Indo-US alliance is unlikely to break India apart from China, let alone set the two on a collision course. If anything, it seems to have nudged Beijing and New Delhi ever closer. India’s growing economic ties with China, marked by a trade surplus of tens of billions of dollars, will further deepen their diplomatic relations. Unlike Sino-Japanese history of colonialism, China and India are unencumbered of such a baggage. That is why they do not share a past of antagonisms to poison their present. Even the 1962 war and the Chinese security relationship with Pakistan, which long embittered Sino-Indian relations, are a far cry from the legacy of colonial relations that continue to mark Sino-Japanese relations and stir visceral emotions in both nations. Yet in significant ways, China’s economic diplomacy appears to overtaken political disagreements with Japan, of which it is now the world’s largest trading partner. The underlying assumption of Chinese emergent diplomacy is that economics trumps politics as China’s experiences with ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Japan, Taiwan, and the U.S. amply demonstrate. China has modeled its relations with India on the same economic logic of its regional and global diplomacy. To address its political disagreements with India, China is going a step further by calling for a swap of “land for peace with India.” While the issues are not yet fully resolved, this is evident in its conceding of Sikkim and almost all of Arunachal Pradesh to India.

Above all, China is creating entente in South Asia to recognize India’s dominant position in the region. Its changed stance on Kashmir, scaled-down nuclear cooperation with Pakistan, and shelving of Islamabad’s request for an upgrade on its observer status on the SCO are substantial steps towards Chinese recognition of India’s looming presence in South Asia. Russia, which has become the nucleus of the emerging triangulation of strategic cooperation -- between China, India and Russia -- is further helping along Sino-Indian relations. Russia’s central role in the trilateral dialogue has already helped calm strategic competition between China and India.

This calm is evident from China’s measured reaction to India’s nuclear tests in May 1998 and its subsequent landmark nuclear deal with the U.S. China and India, in fact, are so sure of their future relations that they have struck a nuclear deal of their own. Furthermore, China has pledged to drop its opposition to India’s bid for the UNSC. For its part, India has pledged to further deepen its relations with China and make “irreversible” the positive progress it has already achieved in forging such relations. [35] To calm mutual suspicions, Hu expressed his country’s appreciation of Indian Prime Minister Singh’s statement in 2005 “that India would not be part of any containment strategy against China.” [36] This statement, however, has to be tested against the emerging shape of Indo-U.S. relations and their impact on the triangular relationship between China, India and Russia.

Russia seems to keep pushing Sino-Indian relations in the direction of mutual amity. It commands India’s utmost confidence that is rooted in the Indo-Russian longest and friendliest history of military and nuclear cooperation. Their past relations have further enriched with Moscow’s growing economic fortune from its energy resources. As a result, contemporary Russia, after a long time, is expanding its economic reach into India. In turn, India is eying Russia’s foreign exchange reserves of $1trillion, one of the world’s largest funds, for developing its decayed infrastructure. In the like vein, India needs to be shouldered by China and Japan for its due place on the proposed East Asian Community (EAC) to further boost its economy.

Indo-Japanese relations are already robust. Japan anticipates that its relations with India will surpass “Japan-US and Japan-China relations” in 10 years. [37] Despite this inter-state bonhomie, Indo-Japanese relations came under greater strain due to the Indo-U.S. nuclear pact. Japan, which is an ardent advocate of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, is hard pressed to swallow the transfer of nuclear technology to a country that is neither a signatory to the NPT (Non Proliferation Treaty), nor is willing to bring all its nuclear facilities under the IAEA’s (International Atomic Energy Agency) inspections. China, on the other hand, appears to have given India a free pass on all such concerns by endorsing the Indo-U.S. nuclear pact and striking a nuclear deal of its own.

Yet India seeks deeper relations with the U.S. to help modernize its economy, strengthen its military, and make needed advances in science and technology. The Indo-U.S. nuclear deal addresses all these concerns. Above all, India needs the U.S. to step onto the world stage as an emerging world power. To achieve this end, India will heed Subrahmanyam’s advice “to learn to deal simultaneously with all major powers to enhance its own national interest.” [38] India will do so even if it has to play off competitive tensions between China and the U.S. to its advantage as described by an Indian statesman, Kuldip Nayar: “It suits (India) to keep America guessing whether we would ever be a counter force to check China…. Not that America’s friendship is crucial to us, but our equation with it will help us get a better offer on the border (dispute) from China.” [39] Chinese and Indians have come to recognize this reality by agreeing that they both will “play their respective roles in the region and beyond, while remaining sensitive to each other’s concerns and aspirations.” [40]

Tarique Niazi is an Environmental Sociologist at the University of Wisconsin at Eau Claire: ( He thanks Mark Selden for his extensive comments and extremely helpful suggestions on the early drafts of this paper. Tarique Niazi wrote this article for Japan Focus. Posted on October 9,2007.

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Monday, September 17, 2007

Indonesian Government Moves to Reduce Disaster Risks

By David Hollister

Indonesia is one of the most hazard prone countries in the world. In the last decade it has experienced a continuous onslaught of disasters. The resulting loss of life, damage to Indonesia's towns and cities, infrastructure and setbacks to its economic growth have become a normal part of daily news resulting in a national reassessment of the root causes of these disasters. Some, like the Aceh tsunami and earthquake, have been closely scrutinized internationally as well.

This has caused both the Indonesian public as well as its new, democratically elected leaders to realize that the previous focus on relief and response after a disaster has only partially addressed the issue of how best to deal with sudden-onset disasters.

The obvious setbacks to social, physical and economic growth caused by these disasters have led to a growing realization by much of the general public and the countries leaders that a lack of attention to potential disaster threats during the development decision making process lies at the heart of the cause for the recent extensive disaster damage. This important shift to understanding the link between development and disasters, wherein development decisions themselves either increase or decrease future disaster risks, is necessary -- in fact essential -- in a country as highly disaster prone as Indonesia.

Therefore, the emerging consensus seems to be that a nationwide reorientation must be made by every family, community or organization that makes reducing the risks of potential future disasters a normal part of all development decisions. This means building houses and schools that won't collapse in an earthquake killing the occupants.

It means fostering planning processes that result in villages, towns, districts or provinces that are more resilient to annual flooding or other hazards that might affect them. I also means assessing what effect environmental degradation and the climate change induced sea level rise will have on the coastlines of Indonesia's 17,000 islands and then adapting to the anticipated environmental and physical changes. Equally important is the development of disaster resilient infrastructure standards so investments in infrastructure reconstruction programs won't have to be repeated after the next disaster.

How is it that development decisions came to be made in a disaster prone country like Indonesia without considering the potential impact of inevitable disasters? Indonesia actually has a long history of disaster mitigation made evident by undamaged 100-year-old houses surrounded by collapsed contemporary houses in earthquake stricken Yogyakarta, the local wisdom of traditional coastal communities that for decades have had in place their own tsunami early warning systems and evacuation plans, flood preparedness and food security decrees of Sultanates of old, and even more ancient Islamic teachings such as "Trust in Allah, but don't forget to tie up your camels".

However, for some reason, in the last 60 to 70 years of modernization this wisdom and traditional knowledge has not been transferred forward and made a normal part of the contemporary development process as it historically once was. Instead, here in Indonesia as well as in most other countries in the works, disasters came to be seen more as a "condition to be dealt with" after the fact rather than, as was done in the past, treating the root cause of disasters as an integrated part of a communities growth and development.

The Government of Indonesia has recently taken several very important steps to bolster disaster risk reduction efforts among communities that started with passing the new, visionary National Disaster Management (Risk Reduction) legislation that is now being made operational. The Government's National Development Planning Agency (BAPPENAS) and the National Disaster Management Coordination Agency (BAKORNAS PB) have also initiated a long-term, intergovernmental, public/private national dialogue to establish a practical, working National Action Plan for Disaster Risk Reduction, based on the internationally agreed United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction Hyogo Framework. This national strategy is now being taken further by the preparation of Local Action Plans for Disaster Risk Reduction in partnership with local governments and communities such as in earthquake affected Yogyakarta and Central Java. Further, the Annual Government Work Plans for 2007 and 2008 contain substantial budgets and programs for pre-disaster risk reduction based on the link between development practices and disasters.

The current window of opportunity to integrate disaster risk reduction (mitigation) into development decision-making (which also includes adapting to the effects of climate change) must now be seized and expanded upon. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) with initial funding from the United Kingdom is positioned to help in the process by bringing international experiences and expertise to Government disaster mitigation programs. To this end on Tuesday, the Government will be launching a new programme called "Safer Communities for Disaster Risk Reduction in Development" (SC-DRR) to further realize its intent to make disasters a critical part of national and local level development decision making.

This new program will help strengthen and expand the current policy, legal and regulatory frameworks to further enhance the growing supportive regulatory environment for disaster risk reduction actions by individuals, businesses, local governments and national government agencies. It will also help establish and/or strengthen institutional systems and partnerships that support decentralized disaster risk reduction integrated with local level development. Further, it will support the development of education and public awareness programs to make development/disaster linkages better understood and practical solutions to reduce disaster risks more widely known. Finally, the programme will fund the implementation of a wide range of disaster risk reduction demonstration projects that will show how disaster risks can be reduced in communities along Indonesia's coastlines and in its villages, towns, cities, districts and provinces.

With the successful implementation of this programme and other disaster risk reduction initiatives, Indonesia will soon be well placed to become a world leader in long-term disaster risk reduction along with other forward looking nations in the region such as Japan, India, Australia and New Zealand. Given the high levels of damage and loss of life that have been setting back Indonesia's development over recent decades, these important new initiatives and the direction that the Government and people of Indonesia have set should be recognized and applauded.

The writer is Disaster Risk Reduction Advisor, UNDP (Source: The Jakarta Post)

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Friday, September 14, 2007

Indonesian International Role: Weighing its Potential Assets

By Perry PADA


There have been many gloomy predictions and worst case scenario assumptions made by many ´analysts’ for Indonesia’s future since the economic crisis in 1997, the fall of Soeharto in 1998 and the new initiation of democratic elections in 1999. To the contrary, Indonesia is currently putting all of its efforts to upgrading its national development record while improving its role in the international arena. It is unquestioned that between 1999 and 2004 the country faced its most difficult domestic challenges as it initiated its reforms. Beginning with 2004 up to the present, the new administration, began its domestic democratically rooted capacity building, fulfilled its international obligations while simultaneously improving its international image.

The new face of Indonesia in international relations demonstrates the effectiveness of its fledgling democracy. For others, Indonesia has politically remained a volatile country that at any time can erupt into social unrest thereby jeopardizing the political stability of the nation. The reason behind this pessimism is clear and simple; the democratic foundation remains weak. For socialist critiques, Indonesian democracy is baseless since it is not developed from the grass roots of society but is merely the changing of the ruling regime. Regimes come and go, with various small policy changes but the people remain as huge spectators. At this stage, I have assumed that economy and education are likely the most crucial sectors for Indonesia to maintain its democratic stability while prudently achieving its national goals.
The above briefly stated assumption will further links domestic sources to the development of the nation’s international relations. The main theme of this short essay is to demonstrate that Indonesia’s ability to successfully overcome its domestic challenges clears the way for its new international role. The fall of authoritarianism and its replacement with representative democracy, and all that entails, is the key to this new international profile

Domestic Sketch

Domestically, the current Indonesian Administration has a positive image due to its successful and peaceful political transformation from military authoritarianism to a civilian regime. Indonesia has been claimed as the third largest democratic country in the world due to its successful national, provincial and municipal elections. Since the wind of reformation has blown for merely nine years the democratic restructuring of state institutions, most especially the military has been arduous, but worth the price as the country no longer carries a negative Human Rights burden. The residual human rights issues in East Timor and Aceh have been peacefully managed and solved. The latter has actually augmented Indonesia’s image in the eyes of international society.

Unlike in the era of the authoritarian regime when the parliament merely functioned as a rubber stamp body of the executive, the present Indonesian parliament has emerged as a powerful body in its own right. The most convincing illustration of this was the successful dismissal of President Gus dur. The Parliament may be seen by some as a super body but it has clearly demonstrated its role as a check on Executive power.

Another crucial domestic element is that Indonesia is the largest Muslim democracy in the world – and has developed a unique political and societal model that does not confront its religious minorities without turning them – or the majority - into extremists. Religious tensions occasionally flare – but at the very local level which is not unique to Indonesia. It is an excellent national asset with an accommodating Islam which potentially can have an impact on other Moslem societies.

International “growing” Profile

Indonesia’s geopolitical position is crucial to the stability of the ASEAN region. It has good relationships with its neighbors and has no outstanding regional or international security issues while actively involved in a modest way contributing to the solution of regional issues. Yes, there is some conflict of interests between and among its neighbors particularly on the border issue but they had been solving peacefully within the spirit of ASEAN.

Internationally, Indonesia is a founding father of the non aligned movement, therefore has a non-partisan, relatively independent view on many issues. It is a pillar of the group of 77 at the United Nation General Assembly, and generates much support from its members its potential relations with many developing countries, especially in Africa needs much attention in the present and future.

On the issue of the Islam, it is clear that the Muslim world is currently facing an unprecedented crisis, most evident with the lack of progress in the Middle East. The opposition, or lack of understanding, of the western world, leaves little space for moderate Muslims to have their views heard as they attempt to resist extremist tendencies that are finding an increasing resonance among a population that sees no alternative model.

Concerning the issue of combating terrorism Indonesia stands firm in its commitment to eliminating it in all forms. It has directly suffered from it in recent times. Indonesia had just recovered from the first terrorist attack on Bali Island three years ago, when in October terrorists struck Bali again. The success of Indonesian security organizations to track down the most dangerous terrorist in Southeast Asia, Dr. Azahari, was hailed by many countries. Indonesia through international cooperation has been working together to build capacity and capability through the sharing of technology, know-how, and intelligence information in the fight against terrorism.

In terms of international support, Indonesia has been the beneficiary of wide-spread support during its Post-Tsunami recovery. It enjoys a tremendous ‘sympathy capital’ on four continents. Relations with the western world are excellent, and also served for conflict resolution: the peaceful solution and reconstruction found for Aceh benefited from the 200 million euros donated by European and other countries. But as opposed to other Asian countries, Indonesia has no post-colonization traumas and/or specific affinities with any European countries – and no member of the P5, in particular.

Indonesia has a traditionally close relationship to China, and mutual understanding of the problems faced by such sizeable, multi-ethnic countries, and the risks posed by separatist tendencies. Economic/financial cooperation is also mutually benefiting. China is currently the engine driving the world economy. And it is the second largest external holder of the US Federal Bonds after Japan, therefore largely controlling the ‘dollar economy’ and a major countries’ stability. On China, Indonesia understands Chinese concerns of economic growth and the social transformation implied. With 9, 8 percent growth per year and 1, 2 trillion USD national reserve and the GDP around 3 billion USD, China is certainly becoming a locomotive engine of the emerging Asia pacific era. Indonesia should position itself to benefit from China’s achievements.

Due to its Muslim majority Indonesia is a perfect partner for the United States in search of a moderator capable of acting as a good will broker with Muslim societies. A recent visit of the Foreign Minister of USA to Indonesia had shown a good improvement of Indonesian links with the United States and can lead to a bigger role in the Middle East peace process. The resumption of Indonesia – USA bilateral defense cooperation is a clear good mark of this improved relationship. The recent visit of the British Prime Minister to Muslim institutions in Indonesia was also a clear indication that Indonesia remains a reference in balancing religious issues with temperance.

Indonesia relation with Russia now is at its peak. Russia now has the world's second-largest foreign currency reserves after China because of soaring prices for its vast stores of oil and natural gas. Just recently, Russian President Vladimir Putin witnessed the signing of a $1 billion arms deal, helping Indonesia to support its defence and military. "The visit opens a new era for Russian and Indonesian relations. With Russia almost out of its transition phase after the collapse of the Soviet Union, it is essential that it seeks to foster an alliance with Indonesia if it wants to balance the U.S.," said Hariyadi Wirawan, an international relations expert at the University of Indonesia (direct quoted from The Jakarta Post). To this point, Dr. Sam Noumoff, my academic supervisor from McGill University added that the relation with Russia is a positive development in Indonesia’s foreign policy of balancing external sources. The central advantage raised is the prospect of a technology transfer. The details of this are of critical importance.

At the United Nations itself, Indonesia now is a non permanent member of the Security Council. A quite reputable achievement since Indonesia will also impact the discussion on many important issues within this high body of the UN. In many important events, Indonesia has always kept a low profile but without disengaging from its responsibility. For instance, Indonesia has increased its military participation to peacekeeping operations, serving with notable success in Africa in particular. Now Indonesia is actively involved in the Lebanon peace keeping force. In terms of UN Staff, as opposed to other Asian countries, including India and Thailand, Indonesia does not have an over-representation in terms of UN staff – Indonesia is actually below its quota.

While it is yet to be tested in real circumstances, given the above sketch, it is largely dependent on Indonesia to make its diplomacy effectively and efficiently by making accurate calculations, weighing its strength and weakness prior to its action. It would be more effective if Indonesia enhance its relationship with a potential giant economy in its Asian circle. A lot of work remains, but we are clearly heading to the excellent point.

Cascais, Lisbon, September 2007.

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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Israel Lobby in U.S. Strategy

By George Friedman

U.S. President George W. Bush made an appearance in Iraq's restive Anbar province on Sept. 3 -- in part to tout the success of the military surge there ahead of the presentation in Washington of the Petraeus report. For the next month or two, the battle over Iraq will be waged in Washington -- and one country will come up over and over again, from any number of directions: Israel. Israel will be invoked as an ally in the war on terrorism -- the reason the United States is in the war in the first place. Some will say that Israel maneuvered the United States into Iraq to serve its own purposes. Some will say it orchestrated 9/11 for its own ends. Others will say that, had the United States supported Israel more resolutely, there would not have been a 9/11.

There is probably no relationship on which people have more diverging views than on that between the United States and Israel. Therefore, since it is going to be invoked in the coming weeks -- and Bush is taking a fairly irrelevant pause at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Australia -- this is an opportune time to consider the geopolitics of the U.S.-Israeli relationship.

Let's begin with some obvious political points. There is a relatively small Jewish community in the United States, though its political influence is magnified by its strategic location in critical states such as New York and the fact that it is more actively involved in politics than some other ethnic groups.

The Jewish community, as tends to be the case with groups, is deeply divided on many issues. It tends to be united on one issue -- Israel -- but not with the same intensity as in the past, nor with even a semblance of agreement on the specifics. The American Jewish community is as divided as the Israeli Jewish community, with a large segment of people who don't much care thrown in. At the same time, this community donates large sums of money to American and Israeli organizations, including groups that lobby on behalf of Israeli issues in Washington. These lobbying entities lean toward the right wing of Israel's political spectrum, in large part because the Israeli right has tended to govern in the past generation and these groups tend to follow the dominant Israeli strand. It also is because American Jews who contribute to Israel lobby organizations lean right in both Israeli and American politics.

The Israel lobby, which has a great deal of money and experience, is extremely influential in Washington. For decades now, it has done a good job of ensuring that Israeli interests are attended to in Washington, and certainly on some issues it has skewed U.S. policy on the Middle East. There are Jews who practice being shocked at this assertion, but they must not be taken seriously. They know better, which is why they donate money. Others pretend to be shocked at the idea of a lobbyist influencing U.S. policy on the Middle East, but they also need not be taken seriously, because they are trying to influence Washington as well, though they are not as successful. Obviously there is an influential Israel lobby in Washington.

There are, however, two important questions. The first is whether this is in any way unique. Is a strong Israel lobby an unprecedented intrusion into foreign policy? The key question, though, is whether Israeli interests diverge from U.S. interests to the extent that the Israel lobby is taking U.S. foreign policy in directions it wouldn't go otherwise, in directions that counter the U.S. national interest.

Begin with the first question. Prior to both World wars there was extensive debate on whether the United States should intervene in the war. In both cases, the British government lobbied extensively for U.S. intervention on behalf of the United Kingdom. The British made two arguments. The first was that the United States shared a heritage with England -- code for the idea that white Anglo-Saxon Protestants should stand with white Anglo-Saxon Protestants. The second was that there was a fundamental political affinity between British and U.S. democracy and that it was in the U.S. interest to protect British democracy from German authoritarianism.

Many Americans, including President Franklin Roosevelt, believed both arguments. The British lobby was quite powerful. There was a German lobby as well, but it lacked the numbers, the money and the traditions to draw on.

From a geopolitical point of view, both arguments were weak. The United States and the United Kingdom not only were separate countries, they had fought some bitter wars over the question. As for political institutions, geopolitics, as a method, is fairly insensitive to the moral claims of regimes. It works on the basis of interest. On that basis, an intervention on behalf of the United Kingdom in both wars made sense because it provided a relatively low-cost way of preventing Germany from dominating Europe and challenging American sea power. In the end, it wasn't the lobbying interest, massive though it was, but geopolitical necessity that drove U.S. intervention.

The second question, then, is: Has the Israel lobby caused the United States to act in ways that contravene U.S. interests? For example, by getting the United States to support Israel, did it turn the Arab world against the Americans? Did it support Israeli repression of Palestinians, and thereby generate an Islamist radicalism that led to 9/11? Did it manipulate U.S. policy on Iraq so that the United States invaded Iraq on behalf of Israel? These allegations have all been made. If true, they are very serious charges.

It is important to remember that U.S.-Israeli ties were not extraordinarily close prior to 1967. President Harry Truman recognized Israel, but the United States had not provided major military aid and support. Israel, always in need of an outside supply of weapons, first depended on the Soviet Union, which shipped weapons to Israel via Czechoslovakia. When the Soviets realized that Israeli socialists were anti-Soviet as well, they dropped Israel. Israel's next patron was France. France was fighting to hold on to Algeria and maintain its influence in Lebanon and Syria, both former French protectorates. The French saw Israel as a natural ally. It was France that really created the Israeli air force and provided the first technology for Israeli nuclear weapons.

The United States was actively hostile to Israel during this period. In 1956, following Gamal Abdul Nasser's seizure of power in Egypt, Cairo nationalized the Suez Canal. Without the canal, the British Empire was finished, and ultimately the French were as well. The United Kingdom and France worked secretly with Israel, and Israel invaded the Sinai. Then, in order to protect the Suez Canal from an Israeli-Egyptian war, a Franco-British force parachuted in to seize the canal. President Dwight Eisenhower forced the British and French to withdraw -- as well as the Israelis. U.S.-Israeli relations remained chilly for quite a while.

The break point with France came in 1967. The Israelis, under pressure from Egypt, decided to invade Egypt, Jordan and Syria -- ignoring French President Charles de Gaulle's demand that they not do so. As a result, France broke its alignment with Israel. This was the critical moment in U.S.-Israeli relations. Israel needed a source of weaponry as its national security needs vastly outstripped its industrial base. It was at this point that the Israel lobby in the United States became critical. Israel wanted a relationship with the United States and the Israel lobby brought tremendous pressure to bear, picturing Israel as a heroic, embattled democracy, surrounded by bloodthirsty neighbors, badly needing U.S. help. President Lyndon B. Johnson, bogged down in Vietnam and wanting to shore up his base, saw a popular cause in Israel and tilted toward it.

But there were critical strategic issues as well. Syria and Iraq had both shifted into the pro-Soviet camp, as had Egypt. Some have argued that, had the United States not supported Israel, this would not have happened. This, however, runs in the face of history. It was the United States that forced the Israelis out of the Sinai in 1956, but the Egyptians moved into the Soviet camp anyway. The argument that it was uncritical support for Israel that caused anti-Americanism in the Arab world doesn't hold water. The Egyptians became anti-American in spite of an essentially anti-Israeli position in 1956. By 1957 Egypt was a Soviet ally.

The Americans ultimately tilted toward Israel because of this, not the other way around. Egypt was not only providing the Soviets with naval and air bases, but also was running covert operations in the Arabian Peninsula to bring down the conservative sheikhdoms there, including Saudi Arabia's. The Soviets were seen as using Egypt as a base of operations against the United States. Syria was seen as another dangerous radical power, along with Iraq. The defense of the Arabian Peninsula from radical, pro-Soviet Arab movements, as well as the defense of Jordan, became a central interest of the United States.

Israel was seen as contributing by threatening the security of both Egypt and Syria. The Saudi fear of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was palpable. Riyadh saw the Soviet-inspired liberation movements as threatening Saudi Arabia's survival. Israel was engaged in a covert war against the PLO and related groups, and that was exactly what the Saudis wanted from the late 1960s until the early 1980s. Israel's covert capability against the PLO, coupled with its overt military power against Egypt and Syria, was very much in the American interest and that of its Arab allies. It was a low-cost solution to some very difficult strategic problems at a time when the United States was either in Vietnam or recovering from the war.

The occupation of the Sinai, the West Bank and the Golan Heights in 1967 was not in the U.S. interest. The United States wanted Israel to carry out its mission against Soviet-backed paramilitaries and tie down Egypt and Syria, but the occupation was not seen as part of that mission. The Israelis initially expected to convert their occupation of the territories into a peace treaty, but that only happened, much later, with Egypt. At the Khartoum summit in 1967, the Arabs delivered the famous three noes: No negotiation. No recognition. No peace. Israel became an occupying power. It has never found its balance.

The claim has been made that if the United States forced the Israelis out of the West Bank and Gaza, then it would receive credit and peace would follow. There are three problems with that theory. First, the Israelis did not occupy these areas prior to 1967 and there was no peace. Second, groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah have said that a withdrawal would not end the state of war with Israel. And therefore, third, the withdrawal would create friction with Israel without any clear payoff from the Arabs.

It must be remembered that Egypt and Jordan have both signed peace treaties with Israel and seem not to care one whit about the Palestinians. The Saudis have never risked a thing for the Palestinians, nor have the Iranians. The Syrians have, but they are far more interested in investing in Beirut hotels than in invading Israel. No Arab state is interested in the Palestinians, except for those that are actively hostile. There is Arab and Islamic public opinion and nonstate organizations, but none would be satisfied with Israeli withdrawal. They want Israel destroyed. Even if the United States withdrew all support for Israel, however, Israel would not be destroyed. The radical Arabs do not want withdrawal; they want destruction. And the moderate Arabs don't care about the Palestinians beyond rhetoric.

Now we get to the heart of the matter. If the United States broke ties with Israel, would the U.S. geopolitical position be improved? In other words, if it broke with Israel, would Iran or al Qaeda come to view the United States in a different way? Critics of the Israel lobby argue that, except for U.S. support for Israel, the United States would have better relations in the Muslim world, and would not be targeted by al Qaeda or threatened by Iran. In other words, except for the Israel lobby's influence, the United States would be much more secure.

Al Qaeda does not see Israel by itself as its central problem. Its goal is the resurrection of the caliphate -- and it sees U.S. support for Muslim regimes as the central problem. If the United States abandoned Israel, al Qaeda would still confront U.S. support for countries such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. For al Qaeda, Israel is an important issue, but for the United States to soothe al Qaeda, it would have to abandon not only Israel, but its non-Islamist allies in the Middle East.

As for Iran, the Iranian rhetoric, as we have said, has never been matched by action. During the Iran-Iraq War, the Iranian military purchased weapons and parts from the Israelis. It was more delighted than anyone when Israel destroyed the Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981. Iran's problem with the United States is its presence in Iraq, its naval presence in the Persian Gulf and its support for the Kurds. If Israel disappeared from the face of the Earth, Iran's problems would remain the same.

It has been said that the Israelis inspired the U.S. invasion of Iraq. There is no doubt that Israel was pleased when, after 9/11, the United States saw itself as an anti-Islamist power. Let us remind our more creative readers, however, that benefiting from something does not mean you caused it. However, it has never been clear that the Israelis were all that enthusiastic about invading Iraq. Neoconservative Jews like Paul Wolfowitz were enthusiastic, as were non-Jews like Dick Cheney. But the Israeli view of a U.S. invasion of Iraq was at most mixed, and to some extent dubious. The Israelis liked the Iran-Iraq balance of power and were close allies of Turkey, which certainly opposed the invasion. The claim that Israel supported the invasion comes from those who mistake neoconservatives, many of whom are Jews who support Israel, with Israeli foreign policy, which was much more nuanced than the neoconservatives. The Israelis were not at all clear about what the Americans were doing in Iraq, but they were in no position to complain.

Israeli-U.S. relations have gone through three phases. From 1948 to 1967, the United States supported Israel's right to exist but was not its patron. In the 1967-1991 period, the Israelis were a key American asset in the Cold War. From 1991 to the present, the relationship has remained close but it is not pivotal to either country. Washington cannot help Israel with Hezbollah or Hamas. The Israelis cannot help the United States in Iraq or Afghanistan. If the relationship were severed, it would have remarkably little impact on either country -- though keeping the relationship is more valuable than severing it.

To sum up: There is a powerful Jewish, pro-Israel lobby in Washington, though it was not very successful in the first 20 years or so of Israel's history. When U.S. policy toward Israel swung in 1967 it had far more to do with geopolitical interests than with lobbying. The United States needed help with Egypt and Syria and Israel could provide it. Lobbying appeared to be the key, but it wasn't; geopolitical necessity was. Egypt was anti-American even when the United States was anti-Israeli. Al Qaeda would be anti-American even if the United States were anti-Israel. Rhetoric aside, Iran has never taken direct action against Israel and has much more important things on its plate.

Portraying the Israel lobby as super-powerful behooves two groups: Critics of U.S. Middle Eastern policy and the Israel lobby itself. Critics get to say the U.S. relationship with Israel is the result of manipulation and corruption. Thus, they get to avoid discussing the actual history of Israel, the United States and the Middle East. The lobby benefits from having robust power because one of its jobs is to raise funds -- and the image of a killer lobby opens a lot more pocketbooks than does the idea that both Israel and the United States are simply pursuing their geopolitical interests and that things would go on pretty much the same even without slick lobbying.

The great irony is that the critics of U.S. policy and the Israel lobby both want to believe in the same myth -- that great powers can be manipulated to harm themselves by crafty politicians. The British didn't get the United States into the world wars, and the Israelis aren't maneuvering the Americans into being pro-Israel. Beyond its ability to exert itself on small things, the Israel lobby is powerful in influencing Washington to do what it is going to do anyway. What happens next in Iraq is not up to the Israel lobby -- though it and the Saudi Embassy have a different story.

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Monday, September 10, 2007

Russia, Indonesia Set $1 Billion Arms Deal, Moscow Seen Trying to Boost Clout in Asia

By Peter Finn
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, September 7, 2007; Page A14

MOSCOW, Sept. 6 -- During a one-day visit to Indonesia on Thursday, President Vladimir Putin witnessed the signing of a $1 billion arms deal that many analysts here see as part of a broader Russian effort to restore diplomatic and military clout in the Asia-Pacific region and make some money, as well.

Indonesia, which until 2005 was under a U.S. arms embargo because of human rights abuses, will purchase Russian tanks, military helicopters and submarines. Last month, Russia said it would sell six fighter jets to Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation, as part of the deal.

"The deals signed in Indonesia are part of a Kremlin strategy to expand its influence in Asia and the Middle East," said Alexei Makarkin, an analyst at the Center for Political Technologies in Moscow. "Russia is trying to pursue a multipolar policy in the world and considers itself to be one of its poles."

But unlike the former Soviet Union, he added, today's Kremlin is willing to ship arms only "to those countries who can pay."

Russia is helping Indonesia do that by providing a $1 billion line of credit, repayable over 15 years. Weighed down with foreign debt in the 1990s, Russia now has the world's second-largest foreign currency reserves after China because of soaring prices for its vast stores of oil and natural gas.
"We agreed to develop our cooperation in energy, mining, aviation and the telecommunications sector," said Putin, who stopped in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, on his way to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Australia. "There's also a good perspective in defense and military."

For Indonesia, the country's defense minister said, the deal comes with none of the strings that encumber similar purchases from the United States and Western Europe.

"Requirements for purchasing arms from Western countries are complicated, with preconditions attached, such as human rights, accountability, not to mention licensing," Juwono Sudarsono told reporters in Jakarta. "In our past experience with Britain, we were not allowed to use Scorpion tanks in Aceh, even though we were facing armed separatists."

In 2005, a peace agreement between rebels and the government ended three decades of conflict in that province. Since the lifting of the U.S. embargo later that year, Indonesia has mostly obtained spare parts and technical support from the United States, once its primary arms supplier.

Sudarsono said Thursday that he was glad to be able to "reduce dependence on the United States."

Under Putin, Russia has become determined to project its military, diplomatic and energy power into the Pacific, an area it neglected after the fall of the Soviet Union. Besides the arms deal, Russian companies have signed billions of dollars worth of deals in the mining and energy sectors with Indonesian companies, Russian officials said.

This year, Putin signed a $200 billion, seven-year rearmament plan for Russia's military. The package includes money for the Pacific Fleet, a major Pacific submarine base and new land- and sea-based intercontinental missiles. Last month, Russia resumed global patrols by its long-range strategic bombers, sending two of them far across Pacific Ocean waters to the vicinity of Guam island, site of a major U.S. base.

On Thursday, Britain and Norway scrambled jets to trail Russian bombers conducting the new patrols. The Russian Defense Ministry described the flights by eight strategic bombers as a "routine exercise" and said that although the aircraft had encountered planes from NATO countries, there were "no incidents."

Last month, Russia conducted a joint military exercise with China, one of its major arms customers. And it has made or is negotiating other arms deals across Asia, including with India, Malaysia, Burma and Vietnam.

Some observers remain skeptical that Russia will become a major competitor of the United States and, increasingly, China for influence in the region.

"In my view, what is happening is that when certain rough edges appear in relations between the USA and such countries as Malaysia or Indonesia, Russia immediately makes an attempt to squeeze in and fill this gap," said Alexander Golts, a military analyst and journalist in Moscow. "Its policy is developing these kind of niches. But we can hardly talk about any serious influence."

After a meeting, Putin and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said they had discussed Iraq, North Korea and Iran, among other subjects, and they obliquely criticized the Bush administration's approach to global issues.

"The two presidents strongly believe that international and regional conflicts . . . should be settled by peaceful means," they said in a joint statement. "The use of force is admissible as the last resort and only in accordance with the United Nations charter."

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Sunday, September 09, 2007

APEC: The Price of Success

By Bart Mongoven

Leaders of governments representing nearly 60 percent of the world's economy are meeting this week at the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Sydney, Australia. Despite APEC's growing clout, however, the summit is getting little attention from the world's leading nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and international institutions -- groups that have major stakes in the event's outcome.

It is becoming a cliche to say that the Atlantic no longer is the center of the world, but few major global policy institutions appear ready to grasp what it means for the Pacific Rim to be the Atlantic's replacement. This is evident in the fact that NGOs and international institutions still pay more attention to meetings of the G-8, World Trade Organization (WTO), World Bank and most other major global institutions than they pay to APEC. What these organizations, and others focused on the development of global public policies, are missing is that many of the most important rules for global commerce are being developed quietly at APEC. The question is whether they will figure this out before they have missed a critical time in the development of global policies.

APEC, founded in 1989 to promote free trade, is an organization of 21 Pacific Rim countries, including the three largest economies in the world: the United States, China and Japan. The organization, however, has faced criticism in recent years from those, especially business leaders, who say it is not fulfilling its mission. The critics say APEC once focused on big issues such as economics and trade but now also discusses a raft of security, political and policy issues.

In fact, this criticism is the price of success. APEC is more important now than ever, and though its role in some realms remains modest -- security is the most glaring example -- in other areas it is emerging as the global decision-making body. To that extent, APEC's growing power is most clearly on display when it tackles issues such as climate change and consumer product safety.

APEC's Growing Importance

At the time of its founding, at Australia's urging, APEC was seen as Australia and New Zealand's answer to the ongoing talks on the North American Free Trade Agreement and the creation of the European Union. Back then, the Pacific Rim was responsible for less than 50 percent of global gross domestic product (GDP), so APEC was widely seen as a small, but possibly important, trade bloc.

As Asia grew, so did APEC's importance. Its 1993 meeting served as a springboard for stalled global free trade talks, bringing together representatives from large industrialized countries such as the United States and Japan, large developing countries such as China and South Korea and a host of smaller developing countries. In 1994, the members pledged to work toward an APEC-wide free trade area. This pledge, the Bogor Goals, remains an ongoing concern, though progress on it has slowed.

Efforts toward an APEC-wide free trade area have stalled for a number of reasons, beginning with the Asian financial crisis of 1997 and the resulting U.S. disinterest in the region. The rise of China in the following years led to a re-engagement by the United States, although many Pacific countries now fear the United States uses APEC as a bulwark against successful regional economic integration.

Even as free trade talks have slowed, however, the region's global economic importance has grown. Thus, decisions made by APEC members have global consequences for commerce. This power has led to an increased focus on developing common languages and rules, which tends to overshadow the slow work toward trade integration.

APEC and Climate Change

APEC's power to set global public policy is most clearly evident in its role in the climate change negotiations. APEC climate talks, which have been going on for more than a year, are designed more to make a statement than to develop a specific policy -- though the statement APEC makes in the coming 12 months will dictate the future of global climate negotiations.

APEC's importance has grown because a new international climate treaty, to replace the Kyoto Protocol, is inevitable. In the United States, the political winds have changed and the next presidential administration will oversee a national climate policy. For the United States to meet whatever climate policy emerges, it will need to take part in an international regime -- one that offers a robust emissions-trading mechanism. For a number of reasons, the United States has not joined the existing Kyoto-based system. Instead, it envisions a Pacific-focused international climate regime, one that uses the APEC countries as its base.

The Sydney APEC summit will offer the first glimpse of U.S. President George W. Bush's proposed climate regime. It will likely include binding emissions-reduction targets for every signatory. The emissions reductions likely will be framed in terms of emissions per unit of GDP, with the objective being to promote economic growth that is less carbon-intensive than it otherwise would be. It also is likely to call for a continuation of the emissions trading system and Clean Development Mechanism developed under Kyoto. By defining the emissions cap in terms of growth and by keeping a clean development mechanism, the agreement would address the complaint by developing countries that climate change policies are a way for industrial giants to force poor countries to pay equally for damage done primarily by industrialized countries.

The APEC agreement on climate change is a severe challenge to the Kyoto Protocol and to the European Union, which favors Kyoto and envisions a new follow-on agreement that serves European needs specifically. However, other than Indonesia and occasionally Japan, APEC countries are not especially fond of the Kyoto Protocol, so the perpetuation of Kyoto is not a particularly popular idea. Furthermore, in the wake of Russian threats to shut off oil and natural gas to EU countries, the union needs to spur development of alternative energy paths far more than it needs the perfect climate pact. In the final analysis, the European Union is being forced by geopolitics to cut emissions, and it does not want to lose its competitiveness to countries whose emissions are not bound by international agreements. Therefore, it can least afford for there not to be a deal -- but the other countries necessary to make the system work do not approve of what the union is selling.

In the eyes of environmentalists, the only reason a Pacific-based climate system can effectively counter Kyoto is that the Pacific Rim is the center of global greenhouse gas emissions, so if avoiding disastrous climate change requires reducing carbon emissions, the APEC nations must be involved. More than two-thirds of the world's greenhouse gas emissions come from APEC nations. The world's leading carbon emitter, China, has an economy that (reportedly) is growing at 10 percent per year. The second leading emitter, the United States, has slower growth, but it has grown far more quickly since Kyoto was signed than has Europe, Japan or most other major greenhouse gas-emitting nations.

Product Safety

Another major APEC issue is product safety. The APEC draft on the issue was released the same day that toymaker Mattel announced a recall of an additional 800,000 toys manufactured in China, citing fears of lead in the paint used. The past two months have seen a number of scares about China's food and consumer products, and even Beijing is beginning to search for ways to solve the quality assurance problems. Other major manufacturers of consumer products in Asia are likely sighing in relief that China is the target because their manufacturers face many of the same problems as their Chinese counterparts -- primarily personal alliances that cement business relationships rather than competition on price and safety. In other words, although the world's attention is on Chinese goods, products from Vietnam, Cambodia and Indonesia likely have similar problems.

So the question for each of the major manufacturing countries is how to dramatically improve quality assurance while maintaining a level playing field in terms of costs. The APEC secretariat, multinational companies and some APEC governments see international standards as the answer to food and product safety, meaning either a regional quality assurance standard or a regional commitment to follow global standards. At APEC, the heads of state will agree on the creation of an APEC-wide "food safety cooperation forum" that will harmonize food safety with global standards, such as those offered by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO)'s ISO-22000 and the Codex Alimentarius Commission. Presumably, this forum will be designed to help both national regulators and corporations in the APEC region apply international standards to their operations. It likely will also help establish best practices for regulators working at points of export and import to help find flaws or safety hazards in goods.

The Power of Size

APEC is responsible for more than half of the world's global exports. China has surpassed Germany as the world's leading exporter, while the United States is the world's third-largest. Food exports from Asia remain slight -- the United States imported only $8 billion in food from China in 2006 -- but the percentage of consumer products made in Asia is tremendous. While Asian governments have largely ignored ISO and Codex until recently, how Asian manufacturers and auditors interpret these standards will determine what these standards really mean.

Similarly, because it is the center of greenhouse gas emissions growth -- and because China has said it will not take part in a Kyoto system that requires emissions reductions but hinted it would join a U.S.-centered system -- opposition to the APEC climate process has been mild.

Still, it is unclear from either rhetoric or behind-the-scenes activity whether the major players in product safety debates or climate change advocacy understand the depth and breadth of the Pacific Rim's power. NGOs of all stripes have tickets and hotel rooms reserved for the November meeting in Bali, Indonesia, where the next treaty within the Kyoto system will be discussed. Few mention APEC or the successor meeting in September in Washington, hosted by Bush.

Similarly, while people are well aware that Chinese products are to blame for various scares in consumer products, few are calling for increased attention to Codex and ISO. Instead, they halfheartedly hope Beijing and Hanoi can develop better regulations to ensure safety.

APEC and the WTO

Finally, a side note in the documents being signed in Sydney is the vow by the various governments to continue to press for both an acceleration of the Doha round of WTO negotiations and for the continued work toward an APEC free trade pact. APEC agreed in 1994 to work toward the development of a free trade zone. While the move toward this has been slowed by the dramatic increase in the seriousness of APEC's role in the world, the mission continues.

Nothing makes this clearer than APEC's standing opposition to India's membership in the organization. The countries active in APEC view India as a major impediment to progress toward free trade, since India's government has long stood for economic nationalism and protection of indigenous industries. As much as APEC would benefit from the economic heft India would add, it is not worth the pain. It is clear, then, that as long as APEC keeps India out, the members still intend to follow through on the plan to create a free trade agreement.

The other issues being discussed in Sydney should highlight the message an APEC free trade zone would send to Europe and India. APEC's share of global output could reach 65 percent within 10 years, and it could create an economy that could easily exist without the rest of the world. As with climate change, the European Union might find that it needs the Pacific far more than the Pacific needs Europe. The region is becoming the most important place for trade and commercial policy development, and APEC is currently acting as the venue where this power is most clearly expressed. Before APEC can reach its full potential, however, its Asian members must begin to trust that the primary reason for U.S. involvement is not to hold back Asian integration. If the trust issue is resolved, Asian nations could see that the power they gain through policy and economic alliances with the United States makes continued pursuit of APEC's long-term goals a worthwhile gamble.

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Thursday, September 06, 2007

Russian Widens Its Asian Reach With Arms Deals

New York Times
September 6, 2007

HONG KONG, Sept. 5 — On the way to the annual summit meeting of Asia-Pacific leaders in Australia, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia has scheduled a brief stop in Jakarta on Thursday. High on his agenda: the signing of a $1 billion arms deal that includes supplying Indonesia with two Kilo-class submarines, the first of a small fleet of the vessels.

This item in Mr. Putin’s itinerary comes on the heels of other deals to sell advanced Su-27 and Su-30 combat fighters to Indonesia, Malaysia and other countries in the region, helping to entrench Russia’s place as the leading arms supplier to Asia.

After beating a strategic retreat from the region with the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, analysts say Russia is making a steady comeback with a more modern agenda for exercising regional military and economic power. The signs that the Russian bear wants to return to its old stomping grounds in East Asia and the Pacific have become increasingly apparent in recent times, analysts say.

On Aug. 8, in what looked like a rehash of a cold war script, two Russian strategic bombers flew provocatively close to a United States military base at Guam.

According to the Russian account, United States fighter jets were scrambled to meet the nuclear-capable TU-95 Bear aircraft in a ritual from past decades, with the opposing pilots exchanging smiles. American officials denied the interception took place.

The Russian regional resurgence is still in its early stages, but it could potentially have a significant impact on the strategic environment in East Asia and the Pacific in the next two decades.

The arms deals, for instance, are expected to increase. According to the most recent report on the global arms market by the Congressional Research Center, the United States is the world’s largest arms dealer, followed by France. Russia comes in third, but it is already the leading exporter of weapons to Asia and is aggressively promoting new arms sales. It has ambitious long-term plans to restore the strength of its depleted Pacific fleet and Far East forces. And it will become increasingly vital to Asia’s energy security as it directs a greater share of oil and gas exports to the region.

“The West and the Pacific community must come to terms with the fact that Russia is back,” said Alexey Muraviev, author of several works on Russia’s military presence in the region. “Russia no longer wants to be driven by a Europe-Atlantic agenda alone.”
Mr. Muraviev, a strategic analyst at Curtin University of Technology in Australia, said among the clearest manifestations of Russia’s aim to once again become a “formidable Pacific player” were the growing use of weapons exports for diplomatic and commercial gain and announced plans to significantly increase the firepower of its own military forces deployed in Asia.

Some aspects of the Russian role in the military affairs of the region are already well entrenched.

Between 1998 and 2005, Russia struck agreements for $29.1 billion in arms sales to Asian countries, accounting for about 37 percent of the market, according to a report to the United States Congress on arms transfers to the developing world by the Congressional Research Service. New arms deals signed by the United States during that period accounted for about a quarter of the market.

The consumption of Russian military hardware has been led by two traditional customers, China and India, as both spend billions of dollars to rapidly expand their military capabilities by buying Russian combat aircraft, warships, submarines and missiles. Russia has been deepening both those relationships by establishing joint-development programs of some weapons and agreeing to license the manufacture of others.

But it has also been aggressively seeking new clients.
In Asia, the congressional report said, “Russia’s arms sales efforts, beyond those with China and India, are focused on Southeast Asia.” It said Russia had agreed to flexible payment terms including “counter-trade, offsets, debt-swapping and, in some key cases, to make significant licensed production agreements” to make weapons deals more appealing to relatively poor customers.

The latest deal with Indonesia for Kilo-class submarines, jet fighters, helicopters and tanks hinges on access to a $1 billion Russian loan to be signed during Mr. Putin’s visit, the first to Indonesia by a Russian leader since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Mr. Putin, who will travel on to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum meeting in Sydney, Australia, this weekend, will be discussing several economic agreements with Indonesia, including a joint aluminum smelting project.

Russia has also expressed interest in building a joint satellite launching facility on the eastern Indonesian island of Biak.

But the spearhead for Russia’s engagement across the region has so far been weapons exports. According to the United Nations conventional arms register, Russia has in recent years exported advanced fighter aircraft, attack helicopters, missiles, tanks and artillery to countries including Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Laos and South Korea, usually on terms favorable to the buyers.
Payment terms aside, billion-dollar foreign contracts have helped sustain the cash-strapped Russian defense industry during times when domestic purchases of new hardware have been low.

Arms deals can also help Russia rebuild diplomatic relationships and gain leverage in the region. Indonesia, which was cut off from access to United States military equipment and vital parts for several years because of Washington’s objection to its human rights record, knows how effective arms sales can be as a diplomatic tool. The United States has since restored military ties to reward Indonesia for its cooperation in efforts against terrorism.

“The Russians are not indiscriminately selling arms,” Mr. Muraviev said. “Russia has pursued a policy driven by strategic design. If it creates a strong client base, that can later be transformed into a larger relationship.”

Some arms sales have put Russia at loggerheads with the United States and its regional allies. In 2005, Russia made a $700 million agreement with Iran for a surface-to-air defense system. For several years from the mid-1990s, Russia had an agreement with the United States not to sell weapons to Iran.

Similarly, Russia’s sale of the capable Kilo-class submarines to Indonesia might not be a welcome move for some of its neighbors.

Indonesia straddles two of the world’s most important waterways, the Malacca and Sunda Straits, with 75 percent of northeast Asia’s oil imports passing through the Strait of Malacca. The sale of the Kilo-class submarines would provide Indonesia with a significant new military capacity in these sea lanes. Currently, Indonesia has two submarines that, because of technical problems, have at times been unable to submerge.

Russia’s agenda to increase its regional influence goes well beyond the role of arms dealer. It has also announced ambitious plans to restore the might of its Pacific fleet and Far East forces, which declined sharply after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The Russian military plans to deploy a new detachment of upgraded Su-27 fighter aircraft and missiles to its Far East, starting next year.

It will also upgrade a submarine base on the Kamchatka Peninsula ahead of the launch of a new class of nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine in 2010.

In mid-July, Vladimir Masorin, the commander in chief of the Russian Navy, told the Russian news media of plans to build six aircraft carriers, with three to be based in refurbished Pacific naval ports.

Still, the ambition of restoring Russian military power in East Asia and the Pacific would be slow and expensive to realize. The aircraft carrier program would require a huge commitment involving the deployment of escort ships and a huge logistics base. Russia, which had two aircraft carriers based at Pacific ports during the Soviet era, now has only one carrier in its entire navy. Until recently, this ship spent two years in port because of a lack of funds to go to sea.

Admiral Masorin predicted the first new aircraft carrier could be in service by 2015, but the whole carrier program would take 20 to 30 years, the Russian newspaper Krasnaya Zvezda reported on July 10.

Peter Rutland, a specialist in Russia and its relations with Asia at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, said the Russian military would have to overcome numerous major hurdles, including a dire shortage of skilled manpower, if it wanted to reassert military power in the region.

“It’s in a very sorry state,” said Mr. Rutland of the Russian military.
“They just allowed the whole infrastructure to degrade.”

Mr. Rutland argued that Russian energy supplies hold the real key to its regional ambitions. He estimates that a much-delayed export pipeline for Siberian oil, together with projects on Sakhalin Island, would lift the proportion of Russian oil that it exported to Asia to 30 percent by 2020 from the current 3 percent.
That would be a boon to the energy security of Asian countries that presently rely on the Middle East for three-quarters of its oil supplies, transported along maritime routes that could be choked off in a conflict.

It would also significantly increase Russia’s influence in the area.

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