Project Director for South Asia, International Crisis Group
Adjunct Senior Fellow for India, Pakistan, and South Asia, Council on Foreign Relations
Director, Carnegie India, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
Executive Deputy Director, Center for South Asian Studies, Peking University
Former Assistant Secretary for South Asian Affairs, U.S. Department of State; Adjunct Professor, Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies
Senior Vice President, Director of Studies, and Maurice R. Greenberg Chair, Council on Foreign Relations
Experts address current transformations of Asia’s strategic landscape, and how the return of geopolitics affects regional peace and security.
This symposium is made possible through the generous support of the MacArthur Foundation.
LINDSAY: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to the Council on Foreign Relations. I am Jim Lindsay, senior vice president and director of studies here at the Council. It is my great pleasure to open today’s symposium on The New Geopolitics of China, India, and Pakistan. It’s a crucial issue. And I want to thank all of you for taking the time to be here today.
I want to give an extra-special thanks to everyone who had to take more than a car ride or a Metro ride or a cab ride to get here, particularly to our speakers, five of whom traveled all the way from Asia to join in the conversation. Having just recently come back from Singapore, I know it’s quite a hike to make that trip. So I hope the jet lag isn’t kicking in at this moment.
I’d like to remind everybody that today’s event is on the record. As Stacy (sp) mentioned, we will be streaming it online to all those people who are watching us from their computers and laptops. Hello. Welcome. After we conclude today, the video will be available on CFR’s YouTube page. And you are welcome—actually, you’re encouraged to live-tweet today’s event using the hashtag #NewGeopolitics.
Now, today’s symposium comes at a time of increasingly complex and fraught relations among China, India, and Pakistan. Tensions have been rising throughout Southern Asia, raising concerns about the eruption of conflict. So today’s panels will examine current regional flashpoints with an eye toward steps each of the countries, as well as the United States, could take to dampen tensions and advance regional stability.
But Southern Asia isn’t just a place about potential conflict. It is also a place where the benefits of cooperation are potentially immense. So today’s panels will also be assessing opportunities to improve regional economic integration and exchange.
Now, today’s symposium caps a two-year collaborative project examining the evolving relationships among China, India, and Pakistan. Today’s event, as well as the larger project, has been made possible through the generous support of the MacArthur Foundation. On behalf of the Council, I’d like to thank the MacArthur Foundation for its continued support of our work and for making today’s symposium possible.
I also want to recognize and thank three of my colleagues in CFR’s Asia Studies program for running the project and designing today’s panels. They are Alyssa Ayres, senior fellow for India, Pakistan, and South Asia—she directed the project; Elizabeth Economy, who is the C.V. Starr senior fellow and director of our Asia Studies program; and Dan Markey, our adjunct senior fellow for Pakistan and South Asia. They have done a terrific job shepherding the project overall and pulling together today’s event. So I want to say thanks to them.
Thanks are also due to CFR’s meeting team, especially to Dexter Ndengabaganizi, as well as to Ashlyn Anderson in the studies program, for all their hard work in planning today’s symposium. I also want to thank CFR’s events team, which is led by Rachel Lumpkin, for making everything run so smoothly. And I think you’re in for a very good event today.
We are lucky to begin with a keynote panel of former ambassadors who can tell us in very practical terms what the opportunities and challenges look like on the ground. And again, given the incredible speakers we have here today, I have no doubt that this will be a productive and informative series of discussions.
And so, with that, I will turn it over to Ambassador Rick Inderfurth, former assistant secretary of state for South Asia, who will moderate our first session, which is Major Flashpoints in Southern Asia.
Rick, over to you. I invite everybody to come up to the stage.
INDERFURTH: Good to see you, Jim.
LINDSAY: Good to see you.
INDERFURTH: Well, good morning, everyone. Thanks to Jim for his introductory remarks about the symposium and our panel this morning. As he said, I am Rick Inderfurth. I’m also formerly known as Karl. I apologize for the confusion. I actually answer to both. So that’s the case. I am very pleased to be a part of this great panel that we have this morning.
We have certain time limits, so we’re going to move rather rapidly through this. I think we will be ending at 9:45. So we’re going to try to march through this and get as much of an exchange as we can.
Our topic is Major Flashpoints in Southern Asia. And our focus will be on current transformations of Asia’s strategic landscape and how the return of geopolitics affects regional and peace—regional peace and security issues. Now, that’s a lot of terrain to cover in a short period of time, but I think that fortunately we have four panelists, excellent panelists, who will be able to make the most of the time we have together.
I’d like to give you a brief introduction of our four panelists.
Samina Ahmed is project director for South Asia for the International Crisis Group. Her focus is on the risks of extremism, terrorism, internal conflict, and war. To paraphrase Samantha Powers’ book, these truly are the problems from hell. So I sympathize.
Daniel Markey is a senior adjunct fellow here at the Council for India, Pakistan, and South Asia and a research professor at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. Previously he served at the State Department on the policy planning staff. And I think, Dan, that’s where you and I first crossed paths. So good to see you again.
Raja Mohan is our next panelist. He is the director of Carnegie India and is one of India’s leading strategic thinkers. Fittingly, when he was here in Washington at the Library of Congress, he held the Henry A. Kissinger chair in foreign policy, who also, as we know, is another great strategic thinker. You’re in good company, Raja. Raja is also a member of India’s prestigious National Security Advisory Board.
And Wang Xu is executive—our final speaker—executive deputy director of the Center for South Asian Studies at Peking University. Dr. Wang has spent a lot of his time living and working in Pakistan and has devoted considerable attention to the Chinese One Belt, One Road initiative. I’ve often wondered if perhaps one day the One Belt, One Road initiative might intersect with the U.S. Silk Road initiative, but I guess we’ll have to see if that takes place.
So those are our panelists. You have their fuller bios in the material in your packets.
So I’m going to start off with a conversation for approximately the next 20, 30 minutes with our panelists, posing three various questions to them. And then we will begin the open conversation with the members here until 9:45.
So to start, to start—a little bit early in the morning for a broad geopolitical discussion, but I think we will—hopefully you’ve got enough coffee here to get you awake and moving. I’d like to start with a, as I said, a broad question, the 20,000-foot question to begin. And I’d like to direct this to our panelists from India and China, Dr. Mohan and Dr. Wang.
I want to take you back to a report by the National Intelligence Council, the U.S. National Intelligence Council, in 2004, entitled “Mapping the Global Future.” In that report, the NIC, as it’s called, made this prediction, and I will quote it. It said, “The likely emergence of China and India as new major global players”—and now get this point—“similar to the advent of a united Germany in the 19th century and a powerful United States in the 20th century, will transform the geopolitical landscape with impacts potentially as dramatic as those in the previous two centuries.” That’s quite a statement.
It’s now been 12 years since the NIC made that prediction. And so that leads me to my first question for Dr. Mohan and Dr. Wang. The question is, is this transformation of the geopolitical landscape in Asia, as predicted by the National Intelligence Council, taking place? And, if so, in what ways? And what impact is it having on regional peace and security issues?
Raja, why don’t we start with you? Good.
MOHAN: I think what was a prediction then is a reality now, certainly with respect to China, which has, over the last decade, has emerged as the second-largest economy. And consequentially its weight in the region has dramatically increased. It’s nearly now the largest trading partner for all of South Asia, if not for much of the world. It’s also begun to replace U.S.-led institutions. They’ve certainly created new ones; for example, like the Asian Infrastructure Investment bank. Along with India, they have the new development bank under the BRICS formula.
So on the economic side, today China’s weight in the region is quite significant compared to—for example, you mentioned the intersection between Clinton’s proposal of a new Silk Road and the China’s OBOR. There’s no intersection. I mean, China has just overwhelmed the American proposal, because the U.S. has a proposal but there’s no money to back it, while the Chinese today are bringing in money and can deliver projects in two years, three years, short order, depending on how cooperative you might be with the—with the Chinese companies and institutions. So I think it’s really transformative in terms of what they’re doing, in terms of the connectivity within the region.
There’s also backlash to it in some places, like Sri Lanka, where some of the projects have been challenged for their financial conditions, et cetera. So, but, for good or bad, China’s economic impact is quite dramatic.
Second thing I would say, the fact that the U.S. talks about a pivot to East Asia but is eager to work with the Americans in Afghanistan tells you the relative weight of the Chinese influence in the region. It tells you that even as you compete with them elsewhere, you’ve got to work with them within the region. So both on the political and economic side, there is—the Chinese weight today is quite significant.
India’s rise has been less dramatic, less consequential than the Chinese. But there is a growing agency for India today, that India can actually shape quite a bit of the outcomes within the region.
I’ll conclude by saying that 25 years ago, at the end of the Cold War, it looked like U.S. has the authority, power, and the resources to define the environment in the region. Today, that capacity is being questioned, both because of the will in Washington as well as the capacity to do things there, and that China and India today can do a lot more to shape the regional environment from a time when we were merely passive players to one today, what we do will make a difference to what the U.S. does.
WANG: Both China and India has two promising new economy. Definitely there will be huge expectations on China and India when they are transforming about geopolitics in the region. But I’m afraid that, according to my humble understanding, both China and India, as my friend Raja Mohan just mentioned, I mean, a little bit overestimated about our influence. I think, at current state, both China and India could be more influential on the regional issues.
Second point I want to mention is that I think both China and India, the engagement—more engagement or more close agreement between India and China could help the regional stability a lot. For example, we have—both our new governments have this strong political willingness for betterizing our relations. But given some historical issues, it still needs a long way to have a more better relation. But still, we are focusing, as you just mentioned, about the Belt and Road initiative. I think it’s not like China buying something. But, for example, everybody knows that in now, China, we have a slowed-down Chinese economy. We have the new norms.
But, at the same time, India has a promising potential rapid economic growth. So why not, let’s say, converge the Chinese industrial cooperation with India and make these two huge both manufacturers and also two big consuming markets to be a better future, regional economic integration? That will help a lot.
The third point I want to mention, that more engagement between China and India might be a (rising-sum ?) thinking or concerns. But given the lessons learned from the last, we have several rounds—more than seven rounds of the counterterrorism dialogues between India and China. And also we have several rounds of the border discussions. So I think that it could help at least—even if we can’t solve the problems in short time, but we can have a better crisis management, so that we can help the regional stability a lot.
INDERFURTH: Good. Let me just pursue a couple of things, because this focus on this panel is on the major flashpoints in Southern Asia and the question of the transformation of the geopolitical landscape of rising China and India on the issues relating to peace and security. I’d like you both to comment a little bit more about that from the standpoint of the two.
We all know that in 1962 there was a defining moment of the Sino-Indian border war, which is still a lingering legacy today in the relationship. And more recently we have—and I’m not Raja’s book agent, but we have this wonderful account that Raja has written on Samudra Manthan, Sino rivalry—Sino-Indian rivalry in the Indo-Pacific. Both countries are moving forward with naval modernization, a blue-water navy, the whole issue of not only the Indian Ocean but the South China Sea. You knew this was coming, I’m sure. There will be many questions during the audience participation on that, I would expect.
But where is the—in terms of transforming the geopolitical landscape in the security realm, where is that heading right now? Raja, do you want to start as—
INDERFURTH: And do you want to explain the title of your book? I’ve often said this is one of the best titles that I’ve seen. Using a Hindu fable as a title of a book is pretty good.
MOHAN: My wife always scolded me, saying that nobody’s going to understand that. (Laughter.) IT’s not really said, so.
But nevertheless, I think it talks about the churning of the oceans. So that is the fable where actually the angels and the demons tried to fight for the kind of nectar or whatever it is. And in that fight, actually a third party, the lord himself, intervenes and it tilts to one side. Some people have accused me of comparing the god to the United States, but a lot’s happened since then. (Laughter.)
But the fact is this. I mean, the—I think the key point there is, as a rising economic power—powers, if you will—both India and China are going to build large navies. I think, whether we like it or not—I mean, it’s not a—it’s like all the great trading powers of the past, that China and India today are going to build navies. Much like Portugal, Netherlands, France, Britain, and the United States, who came to the Indian Ocean, the Chinese are going to come to the Indian Ocean, whether we like it or not. So it’s inevitable. The only thing is they’re coming from the other direction. Instead of coming from the west, they come from the east.
And India is going to build its naval capabilities, seek to consolidate its primacy in the Indian Ocean, and we’ll also try and go in partnership with the Americans and the Japanese to the Pacific Ocean. And China, meanwhile, is creating partnerships. They’ve just announced the construction of some new bases in the Indian Ocean. There was a time when we used to say, look, bases—remember Diego Garcia and all that stuff? But we love to do it ourselves these days, because I think it’s in the scheme of things. If you want a big navy that must operate beyond your shores, you need facilities. You need special relationships. You need access.
I think both of us are doing that, and I think that’s going to bring some friction. I mean, the Chinese submarines show up in Sri Lanka, so there is delegates upset. Indians are training the Vietnamese submarine crews, so that upsets the Beijing. But this is going to be just the beginning of a—of a friction that this book talks about. But the question is, we need to live with that. We need to learn to manage that. And the question is, can we work together to limit some of the damage? That is a big question.
But in the interim, the Chinese partnership with Pakistan on the naval side is of great concern to India. You know, India is concerned about Chinese navy tying up with some of her neighbors. So those issues are going to come to the fore. We’re just not there yet. But I think it’s a question of time.
So the book talks about a security dilemma. The question is, then, do we find ways to manage it? But I think the maritime dimension remains to be explored, because we’ve been so obsessed with the Himalayas, both in India, Pakistan, China, and the United States, that I think it’s time to focus on what’s happening in the seas and how that has a bigger potential to shape the regional environment in Southern Asia.
INDERFURTH: Dr. Wang.
WANG: I think this question is quite interesting, because as we just mentioned, that back in China—I’m not speaking for the government, but definitely I will say something about this. For example, we have—we have another thinking of the—not zero-sum games. We believe that the writing of the Chinese—even the military power is not as threatening to the peace of the world, but to keep the world at more peace.
Secondly—(chuckles)—secondly, I think you mentioned about very complicated issues between China, Pakistan, and India. I think what our new leadership has described as—our President Xi made a speech in—(inaudible)—during his visit in 2014. He (restated ?) the strategic importance of India to our—Chinese policy towards South Asia. At the same time, we still want our old friend Pakistan to be satisfied with our progress with India, more engagement with India. It is not, let’s say, China-India better, China-Pakistan worse. No, it’s a—(inaudible)—better harmony, we call this, or we call this a community of common destiny.
The second point I want to mention is that we have a large oversea(s) investment nowadays, and we have a large population of the tourists. So definitely, back in Beijing or back in China, it is very natural or very rational, logical concern about how the Chinese government to protect at the same time when we have a big economic power. So the government has to think more about the responsibility of protecting overseas investment, also the personnels.
So definitely the existence or the appearance of the Chinese navy in Indian Ocean should not be regarded as a threat to, let’s say, the Indian people or something. (Inaudible)—I think we are—as I just mentioned, that we are more focusing on geoeconomic purpose. But in South Asia, we are facing quite security threats; I mean, the nontraditional security threats, either the piracies or the terrorist attacks.
So on the—maritime cooperation between China and India could help this region, even the Indian Ocean region, to be a more stable one.
MARKEY: Yeah, if I could, just on this point, because it relates very directly to one of the projects or one of the sub-projects that’s a part of this MacArthur project as a whole.
I worked on a research agenda which was really focused on the question of could we see a China-India flashpoint in the relative near term, say, the next 12 to 18 months? And there generally the take-home was this is a relationship that, in that timeframe, is actually remarkably stable. I think a lot of the kind of cooperative dynamics that Dr. Wang has pointed out dominate certainly in this timeframe. But as Raja has pointed out, if you look out further, a lot of the competitive instincts on both sides may come to the fore.
So the conclusion of this piece was there were basically four potential flashpoints that could come up in the near term. Not one of them on its own was likely to bring India and China to blows. But if you had to put your finger on one, it would be the land border. But if you had a compounded crisis—that is, more than one crisis looming at roughly the same time—then things might become less manageable.
And so the potential candidates there were upheaval related to Tibet, a maritime dispute related to Raja’s point, and a potential India-Pakistan crisis that took place at roughly the same time as a China-India crisis. If you saw this merger of crises, then you could begin to get into some very dangerous territory even within the next 12 to 18 months. But still, at the end, we had to put this in the category of plausible but quite unlikely.
INDERFURTH: Great. Wonderful segue to the second question I’d like to pose to all of our panelists regarding a major flashpoint in Southern Asia today, and that is Afghanistan. As we know, Pakistan, India, and China all have stakes in what is currently taking place in Afghanistan, and especially what comes next in Afghanistan.
China for some time now has been playing a more active and direct role in promoting reconciliation talks between the Afghan government of President Ghani and the Taliban. Unfortunately, I regret to say there’s not been much success in bringing those parties together. But there’s no question that the stakes are high there. And I’d like to ask our panelists to give their thoughts on this flashpoint and where it’s heading. And I would like to begin with Samina, and then we’ll just go down the line.
AHMED: As we speak, the spring offensive has started in Afghanistan at a time when there was talk about the Taliban holding direct talks, direct negotiations, with Kabul in March. Quite obviously the attack, the most recent attack in the capital, which has been the worst since the international intervention, has changed Afghan perceptions on the utility of talks, not necessarily President Ghani’s, but even the president will find it difficult now to justify direct negotiations unless he sees the other three partners who were in this process of helping bridge the gaps—the United States, China, and Pakistan—more effectively convince the Taliban into abandoning violence. The stakes are way too high. The political stakes are way too high.
So whatever happens in the next few weeks—we’re not even talking months anymore—in Afghanistan will determine two major issues—one, the relationship and the directions of the relationship between Islamabad and Kabul. How much worse can it get? Second—and this is equally important—is the internal political dynamics within Kabul and the tensions within a national unity government stitched together by the United States, where there are different perceptions on the utility of negotiations.
So where Afghanistan stands today, I think, is—should be a matter of concern. And quite obviously Pakistani policy and the Afghan reaction, to a considerable extent, is going to be dictated by U.S. policy choices in particular—and I know this is an issue that’s going to be talked about—whether the U.S. troop presence is going to be reduced by the end of the year or sustained, and what the role of the other major actors is going to be in dealing with the Pakistani-Afghan relationship.
MARKEY: I just had a chance last week to go to Brussels, to NATO headquarters, and participate in a series of conversations about Afghanistan. And it was interesting. It was revealing in part because there were some at least serious conversation about whether Afghanistan would hold even through this summer. Now, I wouldn’t say that that was—reflects any kind of a consensus. But the fact that that was even being raised in quite so dire terms, I thought, was important. That’s my first point.
My second point would be, with respect to the reconciliation dialogue, it is probably at this point the right way to go. It is probably the only way to go, from a U.S. perspective, for U.S. policymakers. There aren’t a lot of other great options on the table. But it has always been an unlikely thing to work. And right now the dynamic is one in which the United States appears, pretty much from every perspective that I can see, to be the only party that is as desperate for a deal in the short term as would be necessary to actually see serious and rapid progress.
Third point, I would want to highlight something that Raja said about the Chinese involvement in the region and the Chinese involvement in reconciliation dialogue. This should not be taken lightly, although I don’t see evidence that the Chinese have made moves that will determine or make more effective these talks in the near term. But the very fact that they have been involved is unprecedented.
And I think it does, if we broaden out a little bit, reflect what I think will be the new reality of what I would call China’s western periphery or Western Asia, where the United States will have to take into account very seriously Chinese diplomatic moves in much of what it does, whether it’s in South Asia, Central Asia, and I think increasingly, if we’re willing to look further afield, into the Middle East as well.
China is going to have to be consulted. And in some cases there will be utility in bringing China in directly in ways that American diplomats have been unfamiliar with for—well, forever. So that’s a big change.
MOHAN: Rick, I think three points. I mean, I think, one, I wouldn’t be honest if I don’t share my skepticism of the flashpoint model that kind of is very common in Washington. The idea somehow the U.S. is removed and there is a dynamic in the region, and that U.S. can, you know, define policy choices that will define outcomes—you know, often it’s defined in public good—you know, international terrorism norms, nonproliferation, all this stuff, you know—but the fact is, the U.S. has been in the gutter with us. So it’s not as if U.S. is above and we’re all players moving around, and the U.S. can fix solutions for that.
The choices the U.S. made in the Cold War in the late ’70s vis-à-vis Russia—Soviet Russia at that point—the choices it made vis-à-vis Pakistan and Afghanistan since then, they—so they shape—they produce the reactions from the others. So therefore, you are very much part of the mix. So it’s not something you stand about and can fix the problem. You’re very much part of it. And your domestic politics is going to play a big role in what happens in the—in the outcome.
The second point, I think, is the—is the fact that the international occupation—or shall I put it more simply, the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan—is going to be a failure, a failure writ large today. This administration would want to keep it just standing so that when January 21st it will be somebody else’s problem. And if we heard this president right, who said, look, he’s not going to play by Washington’s playbook in the Middle East, my sense is the next president—one of them certainly is not going to play by Washington playbook on Afghanistan. So you—so you have, actually, considerable uncertainty in terms of what the U.S. does.
That opens—I think that brings me to the third point. There is going to be significant, substantive regional jockeying for position in Afghanistan. The Chinese are just the one part of it. Iran, I think, will play a much bigger role than India in terms of—because of their religious-ethnic connection to Afghanistan. They’re going to play a much bigger role. But my sense is India, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Russia, China, everyone is going to be jockeying around. Of course, the U.S. can have a lot of fun just stepping back and watching it, but I suppose that won’t be the policy line. But the fact is, the agency of the regional powers is going to grow, and I think how this plays out is going to be important.
Lastly, the point—Pakistan is the Hamlet in this play. They are the principal players. They’ve inherited the legacy of the British Raj, someone who’s going to extend influence on the subcontinent into Afghanistan. But the tragedy is Pakistan is not the Raj. It doesn’t have the resources of the Raj. So it has the—its grasp—its ambition is beyond its grasp. That is, it wants to have a special controlling partnership in Afghanistan, but it doesn’t have the resources or the political vision to construct an arrangement that would legitimize it.
INDERFURTH: Dr. Wang, could you tell us a little bit about the evolution of Chinese thinking about Afghanistan? Because I dealt with China back in the 6+2 process, and China was certainly concerned about Afghanistan but was not—it was basically at arm’s length. But there does seem to have been, over the number—last number of years and last number of months a greater Chinese direct involvement, not only on the economic side and the copper realm and the rest, but also in the diplomacy and the security side. Could you talk a little bit about that?
WANG: There are different arguments back in China. So I can just speak on my own because, as always, I’m quite skeptical always of Afghanistan, the future, even at the current stage. Number one is that I’m quite skeptical about these peace talks, because both the Kabul regime cannot reach consensus about the negotiation and how the target they will achieve; and on the other side, the Taliban, they’re also—because they needs also a reorganizing process of the Afghan Taliban nowadays, so it is also difficult for them to reach the consensus of how much they could bargain. So it’s hard to say about this.
Even China, for example, we have the QCG, Quadrilateral Coordination Group, and these four-party dialogues; many high expectations about that. But I’m always, always very skeptical, because the key issue is that—at least of QCG—is that if we can’t persuade the Afghan Taliban back to the negotiation table, what the option B we could have? And what practical measures we could have to persuade or by other means to bring the Taliban back to the table? That is the key issue with the QCG nowadays.
Second is that I’m more concerned about not peace talks. As I always mentioned, that enhancing the capability or stability of the Kabul regime should be on the top of the list—the list of the top, because you see the NUG government is dual-head, and the—it is not China who brokered the last deal. It is the United States, and with the help of the international community made a deal. But two years has come already, and they repeatedly postponed off the parliamentary elections and the unformed loya jirga. So it will be a concern, a natural concern about if this government could collapse, if Abdullah Abdullah and Dr. Ghani couldn’t make the further consensus of maintaining the government.
The second point is that about the economy, because people never mention—seldom mention about the economy. We observed last year a significant declining of the Afghanistan GDP growth. It’s negative or minus 0.5, just, and also the high rate of unemployment, almost more than 50 percent. So how could you expect, in such a circumstance, the government could maintain stable? And how more leverage they could have on the negotiation table if Taliban got back into the government? Sorry, to the negotiating table.
The third point I want to mention is that even if, because of the rise of the IS in Afghanistan, we observe the—I almost describe as three-three. Three is that—the first three that there’s three types of militants or the forces or terrorist groups in Afghanistan. Namely, that’s the Afghan Taliban, the al-Qaida, and also the IS.
The second three is that they are fighting against—for example, the Taliban is not only fighting against the government. The Taliban is also fighting against the IS. And the Taliban, they are fighting against themselves, like the Mullah Mansoor and Mullah Rasool. So it’s quite confusing.
And also, there are different areas which focusing—also three areas: east part, the northern part, and the southern part. How could the government, or with the help of the international community, along with China, India, and all the regional players, could help the Afghan government, and particularly the ANSF, to maintain a relatively stable Afghan security situation? So that is my key point.
I think, although I am quite—always very much pessimistic about Istanbul process—in my understanding it’s dying process, but still they need to inject some (robust ?) in this. So the interesting thing is that, two years back, the third round of Istanbul process in Beijing, we initiated about the direct peace talk between Taliban and the Kabul regime. Last year, in Islamabad, they initiate about this Quadrilateral—QCG negotiation. And this year, India will be host for the next round of Istanbul process.
The significance of Istanbul process I want to mention is that it’s—already it’s lack of implementation. But the problem—the question is that it is the only regional security cooperation or the cooperation mechanisms by Afghan-led and Afghan-owned process. So the key solution for this is that, without sitting aside and looking at its dying, but let’s say the further implementation of the CBMs, and also more concentrating about, for example, the more coordination between the supporting—leading states and the supporting countries—to make more cooperation between these two parts, to have further real implementations of the CBM without just all promising too much.
INDERFURTH: A lot of what they’ve just said, I hope that your questions will sort of pick up on some of these remarks, including I just heard a reference to ISIS and its concerns about ISIS. And Samina, during the Q&A hopefully you’ll address that about the degree to which ISIS is extending itself into Southern Asia—Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the rest; also more on the subject of India’s concerns about the direction that Afghanistan is heading.
I want to just throw out one more subject as a final question, which we’ll try to do very quickly, and that is another major flashpoint deals with the bomb. All three countries have nuclear weapons, lots of them. You could say actually that Southern Asia is the most nuclearized region of the world. All three countries are also modernizing their nuclear assets. It’s estimated that Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal may be on track to become the world’s third-largest after the U.S. and Russia.
So the question is, what do we make of this? Clearly each state is looking over their shoulder at the others. It’s called the cascading effect. The question is, is there any possibility of the three beginning a dialogue about their nuclear futures? And so my question is to each of the panelists very quickly, how serious is this challenge? What do you think can be done? Because clearly it’s not going to go away. Samina.
AHMED: There are very few chances of any kind of a dialogue between Pakistan and India on what to do about the bomb, their bombs, and the way they perceive each other’s bombs. What we do see—and I completely agree with you—this is no longer an arms crawl. This is an arms race, a nuclear arms race in the region. It’s hugely destabilizing. But if neither New Delhi nor Islamabad understand the importance of putting some restraint on developing their nuclear arsenals and then dealing with each other—I mean, you know, the concepts of deterrence are very odd. Let me put it this way. They don’t quite understand the concept.
Given the fact that there’s such mutual mistrust and their ambitions, and they have nuclear weapons, and there’s such short response times, and they have disputed borders, that is, in my understanding, the major flashpoint in South Asia.
MARKEY: Yeah, I would agree with the pessimism. I see very little opportunity for a traditional arms-control approach to the challenge of nuclear weapons in South Asia, in part because, as you mentioned, you do have this broader dimension, which is South Asia is not limited to South Asia. India is not looking simply at Pakistan. It’s looking at China, and I think increasingly so. And it’s looking both at a nuclear China but also a major conventionally armed China.
So when India makes its calculations, it invariably will have to make them with both China and Pakistan in mind, which leads it to build accordingly, which then leads to Pakistani insecurity. And it reinforces—and, of course, you can’t subtract us from the equation because China is, of course, not just thinking about India. It’s thinking principally about us.
So when you play all these pieces together, you don’t get to a simple unraveling. And even if the United States were to take a leading role in an arms-control effort, you come back to the fundamental insecurities particularly felt by Pakistan and its sense that conventional plus sort of the asymmetrical use of militant proxies is still not sufficient. And its leaders believe that the nuclear dimension is absolutely essential and that continuing to invest in that is necessary. Some efforts by local think tanks to convince Pakistanis otherwise, to suggest that enough is enough, that they have a minimal credible deterrent, have fallen on completely deaf ears. And I gather that similar approaches by the U.S. government have as well.
So the moment is, as they say, not ripe for this conversation, even though the concerns are very real.
MOHAN: Rick, three quick notes. One, I don’t think this is such a big deal as the Americans make it out to be, the nuclear flashpoint in South Asia. If you see what’s going on in East Asia right now, you have a presidential candidate who’s saying if the Japanese don’t want to pay for it, they’re on their own; and if they’re on their own, I don’t mind their getting nuclear weapons.
Now, you’re talking about a scale of a transformation in Asia which is going to be far more consequential and powerful than the flashpoint argument of South Asia. We’ve kind of been at it for the last three decades or more. We’ve been—all of us have been part of that debate, which has actually not moved an inch since we started the debate, since ’87.
And second part is it is—one is what happens to U.S. extended deterrence in East Asia is going to be a big issue. That’s going to come to haunt us in the next coming years. And second, the question of what’s happening between U.S. and China? I mean, what happens between India and Pakistan is a picnic if we see—if the doctrine of the Third Offset strategy the Americans are talking about, the Chinese say we’re not going to let the Americans operate too close to our shores, you’re talking about a tension out there between American forward military presence, the role of nuclear weapons and extended deterrence, and the capacity of the Chinese to push the Americans further away.
That is the flashpoint. But that’s a flashpoint nobody wants to talk, because it’s a work in progress. I’m sure it’s a matter of time that hopefully, within six months with the new president here, a lot of that is going to come (here ?). So I would say we have to wrack our brains with that.
The second: In the subcontinent, the problem has not been with the nuclear weapons, but the imaginative use to which Pakistan has supported. I must give credit to our Pakistani friends where it is due, that Pakistanis did not think like other nuclear powers—that the nuclear umbrella provided Pakistan with the leverage to put India on the defensive. That is the purpose of Pakistani nuclear weapons. And I think it didn’t matter whether they had a thousand or 5,000 or 10,000 or just one, because Amritsar and Lahore are barely 40 kilometers away from each other.
This idea that it is the structure of the nuclear arsenal that creates the problem in subcontinent, which Washington is obsessed, the entire think-tank community here—the problem is this: I mean, that Pakistan is not building this arsenal to—it has the capacity to put India on the defensive. And that using sub-conventional conflict under the rubric of nuclear deterrence, that is the genius, evil or otherwise. That is the difference.
And I think, till we address that question—how those sub-conventional conflict or terrorism fit into this equation, which Americans and Russians never thought about it—but today, in this context, how that plays out, that is the key issue. And I think that problem is not going to be solved by merely talking, getting the laundry list out of the conventional wisdom and then trying to impose it on South Asia. It’s not worked. And we figured out, both Indians and Pakistanis, how to manipulate Washington, because every time Pakistanis come here and say, hey, look, our problem, it’s the Indians’ limited war. I mean, you ask the Indian military, we’re nowhere near it, but that gives an excuse to the Pakistanis. And then everybody here jumps up and down.
So the problem is not the nature of the nuclear arsenal. The problem is the sub-conventional conflict. And Pakistanis use it to get attention here. We have sometimes used it to blackmail the Americans, too, I mean, which is in the—in the post-Cargill period in 2001. If we don’t do this, are we going to do something? So that’s now—we know how to play Washington. So you can keep doing what you want—(laughter)—but I think we know how to manage this.
INDERFURTH: Dr. Wang?
WANG: In very short, I don’t believe that in current circumstance could China, Pakistan, and the Indian state together in harmony a way for constructive or productive negotiation about the nuclear issues. Particularly, one, you have the civil nuclear deal with India, and also your rebalancing policies towards the Asia-Pacific. So there will be definitely more complicated issues between these three countries.
Secondly is that I believe that the stable South Asia is in line of our national interest. I don’t believe that our government could have that much thought that maybe we could use this as leverage towards either India or Pakistan. No, I don’t believe so.
The third point is that that is why we are focusing on (socioeconomic ?) cooperations. We are more focusing on that. So, on the basis of this, I think on nuclear issues we could have some sort of bilateral dialogues. (Let’s say ? ) we could have the civil nuclear cooperation with Pakistan. At the same time, we also extend our cooperation and hands to the Indian side when your prime minister visited China last year.
MOHAN: A civilian nuclear deal as well.
WANG: Yes. Yeah, yeah, about this. So I think about the future on this could be—we could have another thought, at least, on these civil nuclear issues.
OK. I think it’s time now to turn to members for your questions and joining in the conversation. I think that a lot has been said here. I hope that you pick up and pursue some of these as the follow-up questions.
Let me reiterate that this meeting is on the record. Also we have microphones located around the room. So please wait for a microphone. State your name and affiliation. Finally, please limit yourself to a brief comment if you want to make one, and only one question. And that does not mean one question with multiple parts. (Laughter.) I’ve been accused of doing that myself.
So let’s begin. Who would like to start? I think we have a person that might have something to say about Afghanistan back here, Barney Rubin.
Q: I do, but I’ll say it later. This is about something else. Barney Rubin, Center on International Cooperation.
In all my discussions with Chinese about South Asia and the possibility of U.S.-China cooperation over South Asia, I have found that the single issue on which we have the greatest disagreement and the greatest divergence of perception is Pakistan’s nuclear weapons in that the United States is and has been concerned for quite some time about not nuclear weapons per se, but the type of nuclear weapons, the turn toward conventional weapons, the doctrine of first use as a deterrent to conventional forces, and—whereas Pakistan, which says that stability of South Asia is so important to it, has never shared those—China, rather—has never—it says stability is so important to it—does not appear to share those concerns.
So I want to start with Professor Wang to comment on that.
WANG: My friend Barney has raised a very tough question about this. I will try my best.
According to my humble understanding, Pakistan use nuclear asset as a deterrence measures. I don’t believe that Pakistan will ever use this. Well, it depends.
Second point is that you are seeing China’s influence towards Pakistan about these issues. But I would like to raise another issue that, for example, a few days back we met our common Afghan friend, old friends. And he also raised another issue about how China asked Pakistan for this QCG mechanism more effectively. The question is that, how could you—how could you ask the—raise the issues which they do not willing to negotiate with your side?
Second is that I think I’m more concerning about not in the conventional warfightings using the nuclear, but I’m personally quite concerned about the terrorist threat to the nuclear asset in Pakistan. But, at the same time, the Pakistan government always promised that we have full protection of that, and we fully believe that the Pakistan government and the military could have the capability of doing so.
The question is that, how to prevent from the arm race in the region? Then I would say something my Indian friend might not—(chuckles)—pleased to listen. One is they could have less pressures from the eastern border or the western border. Then Pakistan could have another thought, or the arguments—even inside Pakistan if they have different arguments about the nuclear policies or strategies. But if they are still facing very strong pressures from both east side and the west side, so how could they have very natural logic thinking on their nuclear strategy?
MOHAN: Just two things. I mean, I think the arms-race idea, again, I think it’s, again, an overused metaphor. I mean, you see what—China did not follow the U.S. or the Russians. I mean, after 40 years of having—50 years of having nuclear weapons, they’re still at 400-plus. That’s not a race with anyone. India is a—is a lazy slob, I mean, that we’re not even reprocessing the material that we have lying around—you know, civilian things, which are unsafeguarded. So it’s not—if anybody says, look, India is crawling still, is not racing with anyone.
Pakistan, yes, has built a large arsenal. Much of it, I believe, is directed to the fears that the U.S. might do something about it. Because when the U.S. talks about, you know, preemptive, other stuff, that it’s a response to having such kind of actions rather than fearing a threat from India.
But as far as the east front being volatile, I thought it was the Americans who were dropping drones on the western frontier. I mean, we haven’t attacked Pakistan by any stretch of the imagination. Ever since Pakistan has had nuclear weapons, the eastern front has been relatively quiet. In fact, any questions are from the other side, though some of us might want to do it other way. But the fact is, which frontier has been volatile? I mean, it is the Americans who drop drones on Pakistan’s western frontiers. We don’t.
So I think this idea that somehow the eastern front is what drives Pakistan—I mean, I think the last 20 years, 25 years, 30 years, that India has had no option even to retaliate against Pakistan terror. To say Pakistan faces a threat—I mean, I think, look, at some point both the U.S. and China will have to start asking basic questions and not repeat the same mantra that you (conveniently think ?) that people have said for themselves.
INDERFURTH: Dan, quick comment.
MARKEY: Yeah, just—
INDERFURTH: Then we’ll turn to another question.
MARKEY: Just to pick up on this last point, the situation, yes, between India and Pakistan has certain aspects that have been the same for now a couple of decades. And Raja’s right to see some reason to expect that to persist. But there are two dynamic elements that have come up already. One is China’s evolving role with Pakistan and China’s increasing focus on Pakistan and involvement in Pakistan, which I think and I’m hopeful will make China—Chinese scholars, Chinese government officials—increasingly concerned about the development that Pakistan’s nuclear-weapons program is taking.
And that’s the other big development. It’s not the change, rapid change in India’s nuclear arsenal that gets people concerned. It’s the rapid development of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. So the two dynamic elements of this broader equation are right there—China’s involvement, Pakistan’s development. Those two things together have the potential to continue to be of great concern. Or we might begin to see the Chinese take a different approach, take a different view toward Pakistan’s program. Now, whether they would have then the leverage to do anything about it, that’s a separate issue.
INDERFURTH: Questions? Please. There’s one right—second table from the back.
Q: Hi. Good morning, and thank you so much for the interesting conversation. My name is Louis Bergeron from Booz Allen Hamilton, which is the company that coined the term String of Pearls back in the mid-2000s, talking about Chinese energy routes and the Indian Ocean.
I’m just wondering if there’s an update on the string of pearls. We’ve heard a lot about developments in Djibouti for the Chinese PLA, the People’s Liberation Navy-Army, or Army-Navy, in Djibouti, and just wondering about India’s developments in maybe East Africa, the Middle East, and other bases in the Indian Ocean region, and also Chinese developments in that Indian Ocean region from East Africa through Southeast Asia.
INDERFURTH: Let’s do discuss that. I was hoping that would come up. I have heard a great expression that the Chinese are more interested in places, not bases, as their current strategy. India may be as well. So panelists, who would like to start?
WANG: I think this question should be already discussed. As I mentioned, the government—for example, there is a huge lesson that we learned from the Libya issues. One, there something happened, and we want to withdraw our labors and our projects—(inaudible). But we have a very limited capability of withdrawal. And in the end the government was under huge pressure. We have a huge public media. And the government was blamed for lack of responsibility and the lack of the capability of doing so.
And then we have some military existence in Indian Ocean, in Djibouti, or some—in Aden Gulf. Then we have the experience of Yemen issues, and we could send our warships to withdraw our workers. And at the same time, we also withdraw some other international foreigners who worked in Yemen. So that is a vivid example of how China’s rational logic of military existence or presence in the different areas.
Second is that how effective—how constructive a role China’s military existence could play for world peace.
MOHAN: I think Chinese have moved beyond a places-and-bases debate. I mean, I think have explicitly stated they’re building a base in Djibouti. And Djibouti has discovered the virtues of nonalignment. They’ve offered it to you. They’ve offered it to the Chinese. The Japanese have a little base as well. If you pay the right amount, I’m sure we’ll get one as well. So there is, I think, everybody, every little speck, every little island in the Indian Ocean today sees the opportunity that, look, China is emerging as a power; China will come to the Indian Ocean.
So I don’t think—there’s no point grudging that. I mean, I think Julie Manderno (sp), the Booz Hamilton—who did the report, I think, saw what was coming. And I think it’s inevitable. It’s a natural occurrence. So I think we have to deal with that reality, and I think India, too. I’m not—I don’t represent the government, but I think the Indian navy and the Indian government should be looking for exactly the same thing, which is bases, facilities. They already have some turnaround arrangements, I think, with some countries. And I think we need to do a lot more, because if you want to project power, you’ve got to have bases. I mean, I think it’s as simple as that. You can’t fax a navy.
So, therefore, whatever our rhetoric of nonalignment, blah, blah, blah, for 50 years has been, today as rising powers, we’re going to do what other great powers did. So the question is, managing that is the issue. And there I think some interesting things. I mean, if you noticed, we haven’t said a word about Diego Garcia for how many years? I mean, maybe 20 years. We don’t talk about Americans should get out of the Indian Ocean. Maybe you guys are supposed to leave at the end of this year, so maybe there’s other arrangements we can make with each other.
So there are going to be a huge number of possibilities, from Djibouti to India to Madagascar to Mauritius to Sri Lanka. Everyone is playing this game. So it is going to be—bases is going to be the name of the game in the Indian Ocean, and that game is going to be pretty active in the coming years.
INDERFURTH: Questions? We have two in the back. This gentleman’s in the center and then to the right.
Q: Andrew Small from the German Marshall Fund. Another question to Wang Xu to kick off with.
I wondered if you might elaborate a little bit on how China sees these plan B options of peace negotiations in Afghanistan fail. What role specifically does China see itself playing if peace negotiations don’t move ahead? And specifically within that, we saw the visit of Fang Fenghui, the chief of—PLA chief of general staff to Kabul. China’s been very reluctant traditionally in the past to expand its direct security and military cooperation with Afghanistan. What sort of scope for that do you now see, particularly in these kind of plan B scenarios?
WANG: The reason why I’m watching my watch is that I’m watching what date is today, because according to the last round of the QCG, the formal direct peace talks should be launched in early March. And actually, if you have observed that the MOU signed by that QCG or the announcement on that, they have the plan B or they have option B. Option B is a general principle, which means take all necessary means to bring the Taliban back to the—so, I mean, after almost one-half month, the four parties could not find possible, practical measures to deal with this. So that is the reason why I raised this question.
But I’m looking from another issue, is that, as you mentioned, about the military existence or the military engagement of China towards Afghanistan. I think it’s not a sudden change. Actually, if you notice that the public media from two years back we have sent some equipments for the Afghan police and also Afghan army, different range of that.
It’s a natural concern for our side. As I always mention, Afghanistan is very important for us, for our regional stability, and also for the west part of China—and also, more importantly, now for the Belt and Road initiative, because we have the Silk Road initiative crossing Central Asia. So the overflowing of the security threat from Afghanistan could be a huge threat for the energy supplies, from our road transportation of the energy supply for us.
So the question is that whether we have enough capability for the military engaging in Afghanistan. That is quite arguing nowadays back in China. And second thought is that, whether by military or by the force means, can you solve the Afghan issues or not? So I personally believe that only by political means we can solve Afghan issues at last. But, during the process of this, instead of rather more focusing on peace talks—which, I mean, I personally believe that it’s less hopeful in short term—why not we more focusing on concentrating the Afghan government so that you could have a more strong leverage or strong position in the negotiating table?
Second is that, when we talk about the IS issues, if the international community—because we saw a strong hesitation of the international community coming back again in Afghanistan to fighting against the IS. The problem with IS, the influence, is that at their current stage, the real existence of IS members mostly coming from the so-called—the local, regional, or extremist and terrorist rebranding of that. But the threat is that if we cannot defeat them at the very initial stage, then the peace talk between Afghan Taliban with the Kabul regime would be maybe just a paper work, because after that part of the Taliban would go to another side for fighting under the flag of the IS, so there will be another round of Afghan civil war. So what is the meaning of the current peace talk?
So that is the key issue that, instead of focusing on this less-meaningful peace talk, we should be focusing—more focusing on economic reform and political supporting to the Kabul government. That is my understanding.
INDERFURTH: Samina, do you want to mention something on the question of ISIS and plan B, Afghanistan and the rest?
AHMED: I think it is so overrated, this notion that the Islamic State is finding conducive territory and expansion, influence in Afghanistan. It’s not a matter of maybe they will in the future. It’s a matter of who are the major players in Afghanistan? The major player in Afghanistan is the Taliban. It is not IS. The infighting between the Taliban, I think that’s overrated as well, because, yes, there is factionalism. But the present leader, Mullah Mansoor, has fairly, I think, quickly consolidated his authority. And that’s largely because of the success of the military campaign.
IS is mentioned more, in fact, by Afghan politicians who are absolutely desperate that the international community remains engaged. And that’s the one thing that captures their imagination. And does it matter? I think we tend to forget that al-Qaida has a presence still in Pakistan, in Afghanistan. Al-Qaida in the Indian Subcontinent is now, in a minor way, but still; a presence in Bangladesh, in the jihadi landscape. That is a far more rooted group because it has links with local extremists, and longstanding links.
So the less we talk about IS, I think the more realistic we get about Afghanistan and what needs to be done there.
Will the Taliban talk? And here is where I completely agree with you. I think the focus there should not be necessarily on can we this year or in the next few months then once again make these promises of either Pakistan or the QCG convincing, cajoling the Taliban to come to the negotiating table? It’s far more important to look at the issue of political stabilization.
If that doesn’t—if that factor is taken out of play, what kind of a reconciliation process can you have in the first place? There are any number of issues at stake here, including the future of the national unity government. I mean, I think the U.S. has made it amply clear that, no, we weren’t talking about two years actually. And to be realistic, how could you have elections this year, which is what was supposed to happen? Can you have elections next year in Afghanistan, given the challenges that Kabul faces?
But what you can have is a dialogue, and a meaningful dialogue, between all the major Afghan actors on reform, whether—and whether it is political reform, electoral reform is a very central part of it; whether it is economic reform and what needs to be done as the war economy disappears and, you know, resources become scarce. President Ghani took over power promising reform. That was his agenda. And that’s what he needs to be focusing on.
INDERFURTH: This final question, so we will keep to our timing.
Q: Good morning. I’m from Djibouti embassy. I’m Mr. Jama (sp). And talking about Djibouti, I should intervene. (Laughter.)
I’m sorry for my poor English. English is not my first language, but I will try.
And, first of all, I would like to remind that Djibouti always work with the international community when crisis happen, locally or internationally. And when, after 9/11, the U.S. come to Djibouti to ask to settle the base, we accept. Now today we have NATO also. We have Japanese when the fight against piracy start. And we have also now the Chinese will come. And every country have their own interest coming to Djibouti. Djibouti never asked for that. And Djibouti have its own interests, too.
And the second point I would like to remind is, before coming to Djibouti, China invest a lot in the economy, in the infrastructure, either in East Africa—I’m talking about Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mozambique—all these Oriental coast.
And my question is to the Professor Mohan. How India see this growing presence of China economically, and now military? And that—and what is the response of the Indian government? Thank you very much.
MOHAN: Look, I think the scale and scope of Chinese activity in the Indian Ocean, I mean, both economic—not all of it is military. Quite a bit of it is, as you pointed out, huge amount of infrastructure investments. And I think a lot of has preceded the OBOR campaign by President Xi Jinping, so it goes back certainly to the last 15 to 20 years. As the interest in the natural resources have grown, the Chinese have come in a big way and I think have invested in east coast of Africa, in the Horn of Africa, in southern Africa.
So I think it’s part much like what we saw the European capitalist expansion in the 17th, 18th, 19th centuries, or even what British India did was to build these new ports in Hong Kong, in Singapore, the subcontinental ports in Madras, Bombay, Calcutta, Aden. So I think what we’re seeing is this dramatic expansion of Chinese capital and its global footprint is reflecting itself in this new infrastructure that they’re building. So in a sense it’s historically in tune with what’s happened before.
The challenge is not that the Chinese are bad and others were good. The fact is, today, the Chinese have that capability, have the resources. Some people say they have excess industrial capacity at home, so they’re really merely deploying it. Whatever the reason is, the Chinese presence in the economics of this region—that’s where we began our discussion—that’s a reality.
Now, what can India do about it? Look, India too—I think there was a lot of wariness, unhappiness in India in the past that—with the OBOR initiative, with other things. But the present government, I think, has come to a better judgment, in a sense. Look, we’re not going to oppose everything that the Chinese do in the region. In the case of China-Pakistan corridor, because the sovereignty of Kashmir is involved, India is opposed to it. But where Chinese—we are negotiating with Chinese on building a different corridor in the eastern part of the subcontinent, through Myanmar, Bangladesh, and India. So my sense is, where there is a potential for collaboration with the Chinese, I think India is quite open.
But more interestingly, I think what India is doing is India is working with Japan and the United States. If you look at the Obama-Modi statement, that they talked about an Indo-Pacific corridor. India and Japan are very eager to work together to develop the infrastructure in this part of the—in this part of the world. Those plans are in the—I would say far less advanced than the Chinese.
But I think what it does, this competition for infrastructure, actually gives options to countries like Djibouti that you can happily bargain. I mean, this was the original intent of, I think, the idea of nonalignment. I think that is a great recourse today, because I think the presence of the Chinese has given you options. And if you see what the Japanese have done—in fact, the Japanese initiative, because they don’t have a Japanese communist party running that country, so their campaign is not as good. But they have something called the PQI, I mean, if you can remember that—Partnership for Quality Infrastructure.
Abe has put $110 billion on the line. In fact, my sense is they’re going to bring much better terms. Like India, they’ve given this high-speed train. They’ve given us, what, billions of dollars, given at 0.01 percent interest rate, repayable over 50 years. There’s no way the Chinese are going to be able to match those terms.
So there is huge potential for developing alternate frameworks. So rather than opposing what the Chinese do, I think it is possible to construct alternate frameworks. And I think that will force the Chinese, I think eventually, to offer better terms.
So my sense is the game is on, so let’s take advantage.
INDERFURTH: I think Raja’s comment about the game is on could be a nice way to conclude. The game is on in Southern Asia. There is a transforming geopolitical landscape. Clearly the rise of China and India are a major part of that; the role that Pakistan plays.
One thing that I come away from this is I think we’ve had a good reality check on the major flashpoints. We’ve spoken of those that are most commonly referred to, whether it be maritime—South China Sea, Indian Ocean—nuclear issues, the question of the spread of ISIS. I think we’ve gotten a really good reality check on where these stand today, what our concerns should be.
So I want to conclude the session by saying, on behalf of the Council on Foreign Relations, thank you all for being here. And I think it only remains to express our appreciation to this excellent panel for all their comments and their time. So thank you all very much. (Applause.)