Observer Research Foundation Human Rights and US Foreign Policy: Implications for India and China
Ayjaz Wani and Kashish Parpiani

Human rights issues have been a cornerstone of US foreign policy since the end of the Cold War. This paper examines Washington’s human rights focus on India and China under former President Donald Trump, and identifies trends under the current Joe Biden administration. The paper notes an emergent US bipartisan approach to refocus on Beijing’s human rights record following a period of policy dissonance owing to concerns to protect its economic interests. It outlines a parallel renewed focus on India’s Kashmir policy. The paper makes recommendations for India’s engagement with the US given Washington’s human rights concerns, and underlines New Delhi’s own position on China’s human rights record.



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Observer Research Foundation Chapter on Biden's 'Diplomatic Hail Mary' in Afghanistan, for ORF Special Report on 'From War to Peace: The Regional Stakes in Afghanistan's Future'
Kabir Taneja

The May 1 deadline for the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan is fast approaching, and President Joe Biden faces a challenge that stems from his predecessor’s foreign policy of retrenchment. While analysts anticipated Donald Trump’s fait accompli on Iran or North Korea to immediately preoccupy the Biden administration, his plan to extricate the US from Afghanistan has assumed precedence.

Biden is the fourth US President to commit to ending the war in Afghanistan, which is now in its 20th year and has cost 2,400 American lives and over US$ 2 trillion of the public coffers. However, Trump’s deal with the Taliban, which was signed in Doha in February 2020, poses a quandary as peacetalks between the Afghan government and the Taliban have stalled. Without a buy-in from both, a withdrawal of troops could lead to Afghanistan drifting into a civil war and becoming a terror haven once again.



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Observer Research Foundation India’s Purchase of the S-400: Understanding the CAATSA Conundrum
Kashish Parpiani, Nivedita Kapoor and Angad Singh

The first Indian military team has left for Russia to commence training on the S-400 air defence system,[1] deliveries of which are expected to begin in end-2021. This event has once again thrown into sharp focus the friction that India’s enduring defence relationship with Russia creates with India-US bilateral ties. Days before the Indian team headed out, sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) were applied to Turkey for procurement of the same system.

Yet New Delhi appears determined to proceed with the $5.2-billion deal, having concluded that the S-400 was cost-effective and will be efficient in meeting India’s defence needs as compared to rival systems. The Indian government has stressed that negotiations were already underway before CAATSA came into being in 2017, with the Inter-governmental Agreement (IGA) for its procurement having been signed in 2016 during the 17th India-Russia summit in Goa. The contract for its supply was concluded in 2018, and in recent years, India and Russia have signed a number of additional defence deals across domains, including guided missile frigates, T-90 battle tanks, and lease of a nuclear-powered attack submarine.

This special report offers a comprehensive view of the issues involved in the debate around the purchase of the S-400, and the threat of CAATSA sanctions. The report examines the rationale behind India’s choice of the S-400 and outlines the legacy of India-Russia defence ties while acknowledging the challenges posed by CAATSA to this bilateral engagement. It underscores the ever-present spectre of CAATSA sanctions against India, owing to the continued utility of the legislation in US President Joe Biden’s foreign policy.

Given the breakdown of relations between the US and Russia, any decision on the matter under discussion will be an either/or choice for the US: between playing hardball with Moscow, and preserving its steadily growing ties with New Delhi. Amid this conundrum, even as the Biden administration signals its continued commitment to the Act, this report underlines reasons – military, political, economic and strategic – that ought to make India eligible for a waiver, the Russia factor notwithstanding.



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Observer Research Foundation Chapter on Donald Trump's response to the BRI in 'Mapping the Belt and Road Initiative: Reach, Implications, Consequences'
Harsh V Pant and Premesha Saha

Under the ambit of America’s “great power competition” with China, former US President Donald Trump honed a constructive record in the Indo-Pacific. To begin with, his administration defined America’s vision for the region, by calling for a “free and open Indo-Pacific”. Contrary to his ‘America First’ worldview’s abhorrence for an activist US foreign policy, Trump even defined the US’ aim to shape the region as “a place where sovereign and independent nations, with diverse cultures and many different dreams, can all prosper side-by-side, and thrive in freedom and in peace.”

Moreover, in purporting that vision to be in marked contrast with Chinese propositions, the Trump administration criticised the Belt and Road Initiative’s (BRI) funding of regional infrastructure projects. Notably, the Trump administration called it “a made in China, made for China" initiative. Furthermore, it alleged that China was employing “debt diplomacy” to further its strategic aims. In his 2018 speech on the administration’s policy on China, Vice President Mike Pence warned that the country’s takeover of Sri Lanka’s Hambantota port will lead to its conversion into “a forward military base for China’s growing blue-water navy.” Subsequently, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that Chinese “bribe-fueled debt-trap diplomacy undermines good governance and threatens to upend the free-market economic model.”

In arguing the US to have “a better option” over BRI’s propositions, Pence noted, “We [the US] don’t drown our partners in a sea of debt. We don’t coerce or compromise your independence. The United States deals openly, fairly. We do not offer a constricting belt or a one-way road. When you partner with us, we partner with you, and we all prosper.” Consequently, under the “economic pillar” of its Indo-Pacific strategy, the Trump administration announced its approach to be wedded to “anti-corruption, fiscal transparency, democracy assistance, youth development, media freedom, and protecting fundamental freedoms and human rights.”



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Observer Research Foundation US Engagement in the Indo-Pacific: An Assessment of the Trump Era
Harsh V Pant and Kashish Parpiani

There is no dearth in analyses that sound the alarm on the current United States (US) administration’s policy in the Indo-Pacific. This paper conducts an evaluation of the US’ engagement in the region, and finds it to be contrary to alarmist predictions. President Donald Trump’s administration has reaffirmed commitments towards traditional allies, built on the predecessor president’s courtship of nascent partners, and encouraged partners to be more vocal with their policy positions. Moreover, as an exception to the president’s ‘America First’ rhetoric, his administration has embraced development finance and multilateralism to promote the development of regional infrastructure. It has also worked to bridge the destinies of the Indian and Pacific oceans by resolving policy divergences with India and supporting the latter’s capacity-building in the naval domain. As it reorients US national security around ‘great-power competition’, the paper notes, the Trump administration has put China under pressure on multiple fronts.



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Observer Research Foundation A Primer on US & EU Response to India’s Abrogation of Article 370
Kashish Parpiani and Abhimanini Sawhney

This paper outlines the responses of the US Congress and European Union (EU) parliament to the Indian government’s abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution and the surrounding events, including the communications lockdown in Kashmir. It notes contrasting responses: the US Congress showed a binary reaction of moderate and extreme calls to action, and the EU parliament honed a more expansive approach to address India’s apparent “democratic backsliding”. The paper argues that even as the responses of the US Congress and EU parliament differed, they risk India’s most consequential ties with the Western world. It offers recommendations for India to navigate the diplomatic fallout of its actions in Kashmir, as reflected in American and European apprehensions.



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Observer Research Foundation India-US Defence Trade Continuity Under Trump
Kashish Parpiani

This brief explores the factors informing the Donald Trump administration’s continuity on the US’s defence trade with India. The administration’s impetus to maintain US-India defence trade stems from factors like the ‘reverse revolving door’ policy that has increased the influence of US defence contractors, its ‘Buy American’ policy to boost US arms exports, and defence trade being construed as an incremental means to correct the bilateral trade imbalance. Further, in the Trump administration’s attempt to iron out policy divergences with India over the Indo-Pacific construct, this brief notes an evolving focus on Indian maritime surveillance capability in US-India defence trade. Given India’s interest in guarding against rising Chinese activity in the Indian Ocean, the brief makes recommendations for New Delhi to actualise gains.



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Observer Research Foundation Towards an India–US consensus on counterterrorism cooperation
Kashish Parpiani and Prithvi Iyer

This paper examines the environmental and policy-level challenges to the actualisation of US-India counterterrorism cooperation. Indeed, despite their seeming convergence on the imperative of effective counterterrorism, there has been limited cooperation between the two countries. While the US’ sense of “American exceptionalism” and its hegemon status purports a utilitarian notion of the adversary, India’s regional power status makes its threat perception of terrorism more defined and region-specific. This divide manifests on the policy level as an incongruent understanding of regional terror organisations’ links to transnational terror networks. Moreover, continued American utilitarianism impedes any change in its outlook towards Pakistan. This paper offers recommendations to unite these divergences by exploring a new counterterrorism consensus in the Indo-Pacific matrix.



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Observer Research Foundation Understanding India–US trade tensions beyond trade imbalances
Kashish Parpiani

The United States (US) has revoked India’s benefits under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) and imposed Section 232 tariffs on Indian steel and aluminium. In response, India announced retaliatory tariffs. This brief probes the ongoing trade tensions between India and the US, despite a reduction in the trade deficit. It discusses the heightened influence of the office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) and outlines its apprehensions against the three big issues plaguing India–US trade: insistence on data localisation, price caps on pharmaceutical imports, and certification of dairy imports. Finally, the brief recommends ways of de-escalating tensions between the two nations.



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Observer Research Foundation Cultivating the Bipartisan Consensus on India in the 116th US Congress
Kashish Parpiani

Amidst the current climate of intense polarisation in the US, the bipartisan consensus on India has largely remained as a rare point of convergence between Republicans and Democrats. This paper discusses the seminal role of the US Congress in the cultivation of US–India ties, and how crucial legislations—led by the India caucuses in the US House of Representatives and the US Senate—have paved the way for greater strategic cooperation between the two countries. This paper argues that India must adopt a pointed approach in its engagement with the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, to develop the bipartisan consensus beyond the House and Senate India Caucuses.



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Marine Corps University Journal Prescribing an American Grand Strategy for the Era of Renewed Great Power Competition
Kashish Parpiani

Donald J. Trump’s declaration of the reemergence of “great pow-er competition” comes at a pivotal juncture in American history. The Trump administration has borne traits of activist grand strategies toward preserving American primacy with the announced great power competition against China and Russia. This article prescribes a tempered approach for America to pursue its primacy while also addressing the pitfalls of the current system, which coun-terintuitively accentuate Russian and Chinese insecurity to feed their revisionist approach to the liberal order. The United States must sustain its military edge and challenge Chinese and Russian transgressions, but it must also reform in-stitutions, recalibrate partnerships, and reinstate credibility of the liberal order.



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Rising Powers Correlation between American policy schizophrenia with China, and Indian Funambulism on Integrating with the U.S.-led Liberal Order
Kashish Parpiani

In recent times, Indo-U.S. relations have steadily progressed –– mainly in the realms of defense trade and defense interoperability. However, India –– to U.S. policymakers’ frustration, has not transitioned into fully engaging with the U.S. –– and integrating into the U.S.-led liberal order by extension. Instead, New Delhi has pursued ties with nations adversarial to the U.S., and even invested in parallel institutions that seek to challenge the U.S.-led liberal order. Indian policymakers often attribute this diversification of its foreign policy stock to its quest for “strategic autonomy”. However, one may argue the same to also partially stem from a degree of insecurity over American policy incoherence vis-à-vis China. In responding to China’s rise, the United States has alternated between a liberal internationalist prescription of engagement, and a more unilateralist primacy-driven containment agenda. Given this policy schizophrenia, Indian policymakers and commentators often deem the U.S. to be an unreliable partner. This has stoked Indian insecurity, to spur abandonment or entrapment concerns (à la Glenn Snyder) on either being shortchanged in face of a prospective US-China grand bargain, or chain-gained into an American conflict with China. The Trump administration’s approach to China however, may dampen that correlation holding back India’s integration into the liberal order.



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Observer Research Foundation Chapter on US-India Ties
Harsh V. Pant and Kashish Parpiani

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Observer Research Foundation Institutionalising India-US defence ties in American legislative precedents
Kashish Parpiani

This brief probes the role of the current 116th US Congress in strengthening India-US relations in the realm of defence trade and technology transfers. The analysis is done in the context of the Trump administration’s relaxation of arms export policies, as well as a rise in conservative nationalism which abhors arming partner nations that prolong US conflicts overseas. Furthermore, as the Democrat-majority House of Representatives appropriates a stronger role in foreign policymaking, there will likely be stricter oversight on the US’ global arms trade and a tightening of technology transfer processes. The brief offers recommendations for India’s diplomatic engagement with the US in this climate.



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Observer Research Foundation India-US Relations Under Trump: Guarding against Transactionalism by Pivoting to the US Legislature
Kashish Parpiani

The dynamics of the India-US relationship under the Trump administration bear significantly on the two countries’ security partnership. This relationship, however, is being challenged by President Donald Trump’s increasingly apparent transactional worldview. As witnessed in the case of the United States’ relations with its allies and partners across Europe and Asia, Trump has often linked US defence commitments and partner nations’ security dependencies with trade imbalances and immigration issues. In exacting “fair” deals, this transactional approach risks hampering the otherwise positive dynamic of the Indo-US relationship. This brief observes an ongoing shift in the division of power and responsibilities between the legislative and the executive branches of the US government on the conduct of its foreign policy. New Delhi must capitalise on this shift and use a tempered approach to dampen the prospects of President Trump linking security issues with inconsistencies on trade and immigration fronts.



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The Institute for National Security Studies Egypt Rearms (Coauthored with Lt. Col [retd.] Yiftah Shapir)
Yiftah S. Shapir and Kashish Parpiani

On June 26, 2016, the Egyptian navy’s new Mistral amphibious attack ship, Gamal Abdel Nasser, arrived in the port of Alexandria.1 Her sister ship, Anwar el-Sadat arrived on October 6, 2016.2 These arrivals marked another step in Egypt’s drive in recent years for massive rearmament. It also marked a major step in Egypt’s attempt to diversify its weapons sources and to relieve itself from exclusive dependence on the United States. This paper reviews this trend and analyzes its ramifications for Egypt and the region.



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International Relation and Affairs Group Perils of Proximity
Kashish Parpiani

This paper addresses the paradox that lies in advocating greater proximity between policy maker sand the intelligence community. In view of the scholarship that has been produced on this subject, scholars that prefer distance over closeness have been labeled ‘Traditionalists,’ where as those who prefer closeness over distance have been labeled ‘Activists.’ The activists’ argument is centered on the belief that politics and intelligence (community) must attain a symbiotic relationship. The paper employs the Government Politics Model (à la Allison & Zelikow) to argue that greater proximity instills comprehensive debates between the two factions to ultimately yield nuanced decisions and policies. The constructive role of intelligence in the American discovery of ballistic missiles in Cuba (in the prelude to the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962) is briefly recounted. On the other hand, the traditionalists’ stance is addressed by first highlighing the tendency of policy makers to perceive intelligence as enhancing uncertainty. Experiencing this pushback from policymakers, intelligence analysts then begin to engage in ‘analyses to please.’ With their objectivity compromised, the possibility of proximity breeding politicized intelligence is heightened. The findings of the ‘Report of the Select Committee on Intelligence on the U.S.Intelligence Community’s Prewar Intelligence Assessments on Iraq’ are recounted to substantiate the proximity-politicization link.

In conclusion, the paper purports that avoiding proximity is therefore imperative for the intelligence community to effectively fulfill its duty of ‘speaking truth to power’ and to keep its objectivity intact



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