October 21, 2014
October 16, 2014
October 14, 2014
PTI IN STEP: "The expectations on the personal front between Mr. Modi and Mr. Obama were more than met given their interactions and the particularly poignant visit to Martin Luther King Jr's memorial." Picture shows them at the memorial in Washington.
None of the unfulfilled expectations of Narendra Modi's visit to the U.S. takes away from his substantial achievements in restarting relations that had been in cold storage for months
"I do not think Prime Ministers visits actually produce nickel and dime outcomes," former National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon said at an event in Washington this week when faced with questions about specific outcomes of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to the United States. "I do not think that's the purpose. The purpose is to push relationship as a whole forward, which was achieved," he added.
Mr. Menon, the key official who has been squiring India-U.S. relations for the past decade — first as Foreign Secretary and then as National Security Advisor — can certainly not be faulted for his conclusions. Mr. Modi has won applause all around for his five-day visit to New York and Washington. Yet as the dust settles on the Prime Minister's travels, it is important that some amount of stocktaking or "nickel and diming" also be done in order to assess the real costs and benefits of the visit, as it represents a major point in Mr. Modi's foreign policy.
The visit to the U.S. came in unprecedented circumstances. The past year has seen a sudden free fall for India-U.S. relations, symbolised by the extreme reactions to the Devyani Khobragade incident on both sides. Added to that was the awkwardness with which the U.S. handled ties with Mr. Modi, who was a clear front-runner in the elections. The late reachout to him over the visa ban had to be compensated for in a very short period of time after he was elected. As a result, Mr. Modi's U.S. visit cannot be compared with the first visits of previous Indian Prime Ministers. Atal Bihari Vajpayee, for example, had another sort of welcome because of the big thaw he brought in relations between the countries in 2000, as did Manmohan Singh when the nuclear deal was announced some years later or when he visited in 2009 — a year after the Mumbai attacks — as U.S. President Barack Obama's first state guest.
Nor can Mr. Modi's visit to the U.S. be compared to his visits to other countries given the high stakes, the importance of the India-U.S. relationship to his plans for the economy, and the pitch to the massive Indian-American community in the U.S. The visit then must be graded on the expectations raised on both sides. While the expectations on the personal front between Mr. Modi and Mr. Obama were more than met given their interactions and the particularly poignant visit to Martin Luther King Jr's memorial , the specifics or "nickels and dimes" do not add up on several other fronts.
Mr. Modi's assurances to U.S. businesses already invested in India have gone a long way in securing their interest in the Indian market In Washington, expectations were clearly enunciated — the administration hoped for support for the U.S.'s coalition against the Islamic State and a rethink on India's decision against the Trade Facilitation Agreement at the World Trade Organization. Even as Mr. Modi flew into New York, Mr. Obama made an impassioned appeal at the United Nations for a global effort to join the 40 nations who had joined the coalition to "degrade and destroy" the IS. The White House said publicly that Mr. Obama would discuss with Mr. Modi "current developments in Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq, where India and the United States can work together with partners towards a positive outcome." Officials said privately that "outcome" didn't have to be anything more than moral support, as the U.S. didn't require logistical support and already had enough ground support from Gulf allies. However, for India, even this would have been a departure from policy. Only in 2001 did the country back a U.S.-led rather than a U.N.-led coalition. Mr. Modi went a step further in rejecting the coalition request, criticising the U.S. for failing to include all countries (pointing to Iran and Syria at the U.N.), and chiding the U.S. over Afghanistan during an interaction at the Council on Foreign Relations, saying it shouldn't "pull out early" as it did in Iraq.
On the economic front, India insisted that no WTO deal could be allowed until a "food security" agreement also went "hand in hand." For Mr. Obama, however, as a beleaguered President, an agreement would have been something he could have touted as a success, not just domestically, but also internationally, ahead of the G-20 summit in Australia in November. It was for this reason that Secretary of State John Kerry, Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, and Acting Deputy U.S. Trade representative Wendy Cutler made India's support for the TFA the highlight of their trips to Delhi in the past few months, with Mr. Kerry even saying the government's reversal was "the wrong signal to the world." When Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said the "WTO deal wasn't dead," many U.S. officials took that to mean a deal could still be hammered out in time for the Washington summit, but were proven wrong.
India's wish list
On the Indian side, the list of expectations was far longer, but perhaps more realistic than the one the U.S. had. This was discernible from the moves the Modi government had made in the run-up to his visit. For example, the government's step to uncap the prices of drugs was criticised by several health NGOs, as it raised the prices of life-saving treatments manyfold. But this failed to elicit any relaxation from the U.S. on market access for Indian companies. The joint statement issued also referred to a "high-level" group that would deal with Intellectual Property Rights issues — a group that has even been criticised by advocacy groups in the U.S. On nuclear issues, U.S. companies GE and Westinghouse remain inflexible on India's supplier liability law, even as the joint statement referred to a dialogue on "all implementation issues." On renewable energy, the government had hoped for big technology partnerships, especially on solar and wind energy, as it had only recently scrapped an anti-dumping law in a move aimed at helping U.S. businesses. Yet all that was announced was the facilitation of loans to the tune of a relatively modest $1 billion from Exim bank. A much-touted education agreement for 'edX' or online education never materialised. On visas, despite Mr. Modi's announcement that U.S. nationals would be granted 10-year visas barring "exceptional circumstances," the U.S. was not forthcoming on the relaxation India had demanded on the H1B visa. Difficulties for IT companies remained unsolved. When asked about this at a briefing for journalists after the visit, a senior Indian government official only said that visas are no longer "linked to reciprocity." Finally, there was no mention of the specific plans for co-production in defence on missiles and naval equipment that had brought a flurry of U.S. officials — from Vice President Joe Biden and Senator John McCain to Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel and Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns — to India in the past year.
Tuesday, October 14, 2014 - 03:00 Stratfor By Sim Tack
As student protests in Hong Kong continue, memories of the 1989 Tiananmen Square demonstrations naturally spring to mind. Less iconic but no less notable were the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, which began as a student movement; the 2007 Venezuelan protests, which started with a group of students demanding constitutional reform; and the 1929 protests in Paris, which challenged the role of churches in education.
Of course, each student movement is unique; the one underway in Hong Kong concerns Hong Kong affairs, not widespread democratic reform in China proper. And yet all such movements share characteristics that transcend borders, making them an ideal phenomenon through which to study geopolitics.
Student protests lay bare the social and cultural layers that move beneath the surface of geopolitics, much like subsurface currents flow beneath the waves of the oceans. Human geography forms the foundation of society and thus the systems that govern it. Even if we regard the state as the highest level of global policymaking and interaction, these social undercurrents are what move the generations, ideologies and cultural changes that shape the constraints under which states operate.
From ethnic and religious sects to socio-economic divisions, human geography is as important to a state as the physical topography and resources that constitute it. Human geography exists in all states, and as with physical geography, revelatory, even educational, patterns emerge over time.
The way in which the ruled rise up against the rulers is one such pattern. These kinds of movements take a variety of forms, from peaceful demonstrations and strikes to violent insurgencies. Of these, student protests are perhaps the most intriguing because of the unique position in society that students occupy -- they are at the vanguard of a generation that often differs markedly from that of their forebears. It is at this fault line that competing ideologies and changing cultural identities collide.
That they are students means they are intellectually engaged, frequently espousing distinct political beliefs. But to be successful, student movements must galvanize the other areas of civil society. In that regard, they are often a good catalyst for change. Students are already grouped together at universities, often in urban areas, enabling student campaigns to evolve into broader protest movements. Of course, social media has made physical congregation somewhat obsolete, but proximity still simplifies the logistics of political action.
Even under ideal circumstances, student movements can fail, and indeed history is rife with failure. But more often than not, student uprisings tend to be part of longer-term social, cultural or political change. After all, when student protests disappear, students themselves often go on to become part of a more mature generation that retains much of its ideological conviction.
Think, for example, of the May 1968 movement that shook France and several other countries in Europe. Despite failing to achieve many of its goals as it occupied university buildings in Paris, the baby boomer generation later became part of post-graduate society, fomenting far-reaching social and cultural change throughout Europe as the ideas of the New Left continued to bleed into the mainstream.
When a student movement fails to create change, oftentimes it will join or be subsumed by an existing political movement, acting either as a force that advances change or one that that highlights the continuation of ongoing social trends. France's revolution in June 1832 is a prime example. The notion of popular sovereignty had been in place ever since the French Revolution ended the monarchy. The return of the monarchy in 1814, after Napoleon's fall, however, ultimately compelled students to take to the streets in what was essentially an extension of the very same social pressures that had dominated the internal evolution of France for more than three decades. These particular protests in 1832, eternalized in Victor Hugo's Les Miserables, were struck down. But the underlying desires of the masses persisted, culminating in 1848, when the "Year of Revolution" saw the final collapse of the monarchy in France and generated a broader wave of social change throughout Europe.
Student campaigns have by no means been relegated to Europe. The United States witnessed profound student activism during the late 1960s and early 1970s, when the anti-war movement brought about countless protests. At its core was a demographic shift -- the baby boom, which spawned the primary group challenging policy at the time. Of course, these movements did not end the war in Vietnam; they barely convinced Washington to end the draft. But they exemplified the trends of the time, namely, the introduction of a new generation with a distinct ideology.
When student movements emulate broader social unrest, the results can be dramatic. In 1979, the Iranian Revolution radically changed the political identity of the country, facilitated in part by students who stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. The ensuing hostage crisis united many sections of Iranian society in support of the revolution. Ironically, it was this generation of students that put down a later generation of students during the 2009-2010 Green Revolution.
A Society in Motion
Even prior to the current Hong Kong protests, China has had a rich history of student activism influencing society. In fact, the establishment of the People's Republic of China itself had its roots in student movements: Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai discovered socialism and began to organize politically as student leaders in the early 20th century. In 1919, the May 4th Movement, which grew out of student demonstrations, arguably ushered in what would become the beginning of China's contemporary history when it lashed out against Beijing's response to the Treaty of Versailles.
Students were also at the forefront of the Cultural Revolution in 1966. They helped reinforce the personality cult of Mao as Chinese citizens revolted against capitalism and traditional Chinese culture. It was student repudiation of university leaders accused of opposing the Chinese Communist Party that initiated the actual protests, which in turn started the Cultural Revolution -- something much larger than a student cause, to say the least.
Considering China's long history -- and the history of student movements -- the current protests in Hong Kong will not be the last time China faces social unrest. As a one-party state with immense geographic, social and economic diversity, China has faced significant calls for reform throughout the years. And the Communist Party will inevitably face more pressure as China changes. For China's is a society in motion: It is creating an urban middle class as its economy matures. Rising urbanization and private consumption have altered the interests and expectations of Chinese citizens, and as expectation rise, so too will pressure on the government to meet those demands.
Along with the emergence of a Chinese urban consumer class, there has been a veritable explosion in the number of students in China as higher education has expanded over the past decade. China is spending more money on higher education to create an educated work force better suited for the economy to which China aspires. But creating more students creates more opportunities for social unrest. The ability of these students to function the way China intends hinges heavily on the performance of the Chinese economy. If economic growth slows, the potential for unrest hastens.
It is difficult to gauge the ultimate effect of the protests in Hong Kong. Still, the student activism there reminds us why these subjects of society are well-suited to protest. Because of their position in the human geography, students will often be at the front of generational changes in their respective societies, even if they are not always the most decisive agents of change.
Editor's Note: Writing in George Friedman's stead this week is Military Analyst Sim Tack
Read more: Student Movements: A Subject of Human Geography | Stratfor
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