Category Archives: South & Central Asia

Crisis in Paradise: How a Political Confrontation in the Indian Ocean has sown the seeds for Asia’s coming Geopolitical Conflict


By Will Marshall, a 2nd year IR student at King’s College London and our very own in-house, Middle East and North Africa Editor. 

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Newly elected Maldivian President Ibu Solih took advantage of the opportunity provided by his inauguration on Saturday 17th November to advocate for closer ties with the Indian Government, in a significant departure from the pro-Chinese policy pursued by previous administrations and raising the potential for a diplomatic showdown between the two Asian superpowers over the tiny island nation. Solih took the opportunity offered by his inauguration speech to announce the pursuit of an ‘India First’ approach to foreign affairs, making a personal appeal to Indian PM Narendra Modi for increased bilateral cooperation over mutual security, commercial and developmental interests across the Indian Ocean region.[1]

Whilst traditionally a close allies, bilateral relations between the Indian and Maldivian Governments have been strained in recent years as the island nation has undergone a series of domestic political crises. In 2013, Former President Abdulla Yameen came to power amidst widespread allegations of electoral fraud and corruption. Since then, Abdulla came come under fire resulting from claims of democracy erosion, political repression and jailing of opposition leaders. Indeed, even ex-President Mohamed Nasheed, renowned internationally for his work in promoting climate diplomacy was imprisoned in 2015 as a result of terrorism charges his supporters declaimed as spurious.[2] Perhaps the former President’s most significant move however, came from his abandonment of traditionally close Indo-Maldivian relations in pursuit of an aggressive pro-China policy.

The island nation, despite its size occupies a key geostrategic position straddling major shipping routes between the Far East and Persian Gulf thus making the archipelago an attractive target for Beijing and Xi Jinping, seeking to consolidate the country’s economic arteries via the ambitious ‘Belt and Road Initiative’. As a key partner in the so-called ‘maritime’ belt and road, the Abdulla administration coveted the extensive investments, numbering in the hundreds of millions of dollars, offered by Beijing in order to pursue an ardent programme of infrastructural development. Nevertheless this policy came at a cost, saddling the tiny nation with an enormous $3bn worth of debt to Chinese creditors leading to claims the Maldives were at the receiving end of a neo-colonial ‘land grab’ by Beijing, similar to those pursued by the Chinese Government across Africa.[3] This exercise of Chinese economic and soft power is only one of a number of examples of similar incidences across the region in recent years. Last year, Beijing obtained a 99-year lease on the Hambantota deep-water port in Sri Lanka after the country was unable to repay loans amounting to $1.4bn having already elicited similar deals to construct port facilities capable of holding military grade vessels in Ryaukpyu, Myanmar and Gwadar, Pakistan.[4] This is further evidence of a trend worrying to both Western and Indian policymakers; where the tendrils of Chinese economic and soft power spread, the expansion of military interests is likely to follow. Having successfully militarised territorial disputes with its southern neighbours in the South China Sea, Beijing is now seeking to expand its influence across the Indian Ocean, connecting China’s arc of influence to its commercial interests in Africa and the Persian Gulf. Such a move is undoubted to elicit a reaction from China’s rival to the south as New Delhi seeks to respond to what it views as an unacceptable encroachment on India’s traditional sphere of influence.

Whilst the shock success of Solih’s Maldivian Democratic Party, gaining a solid majority with 58% of the vote during September’s elections has allowed New Delhi to regain and reconsolidate its traditional position of influence over the Maldives, Beijing is unlikely to give up such a geostrategically significant asset without a struggle. Although India may have the upper hand for now it is probable Beijing will seek to offset these losses by pursuing closer bilateral relationships with other partners in the region, for example the Seychelles with whom Beijing has already expressed a strong interest in developing economic ties, cultural and educational exchanges or a deepening in China’s presence in Sri Lanka.[5] Whatever the strategic calculations of both capitals, it is evident is that Sino-Indian relations have hit a new, and dangerous sticking point as Beijing seeks to expand its influence into the Indian Ocean. Only time will tell whether Asia’s two emerging giants can find grounds for cooperation and compromise.









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A Return to East of Suez? The Royal Navy and the South China Sea

By William Reynolds, a third year War Studies undergraduate. From a British Armed Forces background, William follows the military capabilities of the West and the security issues in the Middle East with great interest, placing special emphasis on COIN and the experiences of individuals on the ground. William has worked as a Research Fellow for Dr Whetham in the Centre of Military Ethics and is a spammer of many articles on the King’s Middle East and North Africa Forum.


HMS Queen Elizabeth enters Portsmouth harbour for the first time

Back in late July our current Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, stated to a crowd of reporters and defence officials in Australia that the UK would send at least one of the new QE class carriers on a Freedom of Navigation (FoN) patrol through the South China Sea. [1] While news of a Royal Navy (RN) patrol through the region was not particularly surprising, the UK has been pushing a more ‘global Britain’ post-Brexit after all, the fact that it would be conducted by a Strike Carrier (CVF) took many by surprise. This article hopes to articulate why such a move would be wrong from a military standpoint, as well as outlining some possible reasons for the UK’s announcement of the deployment. This article will not cover the diplomatic effect this deployment would have, nor will it discuss the response it would incur from China.

The Royal Navy and East of Suez

Before delving into the nitty gritty of RN maritime deployments in the South China Sea, one must first understand why a CVF being deployed is such a major shift in RN strategy. The Harold Wilson government of 1964 took stock of the economic climate and decided in 1968 to effectively pull the Royal Navy out from East of Suez in order to focus on a more European anti-submarine warfare (ASW) role within NATO. [2] Without entering into a completely different debate, it is worth noting that this 1968 move was as a result of the UK being incapable, or being unwilling, to pay for five new CVA-01 type carriers that had been on the drawing board. Without carriers, the RN could not operate independently in a power projection capacity East of Suez.

However, this is not to say that the RN just disappeared from the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Deployments continued in the Gulf, with the Armilla patrol around Iraq becoming a permanent fixture until the Gulf War. Further east the RN continued to operate in a more limited capacity. Currently there are five standing deployments being conducted by the RN around the Indian Ocean. [3] Though said deployments may only consist of a singular vessel being deployed, say a Type-23 frigate, Type-45 destroyer or Royal Fleet Auxiliary supply ship, this does not detract from the UK still taking upon responsibility to uphold Maritime Law and Security. Most of these deployments are of anti-piracy or humanitarian nature. It is for this reason that the deployment of a CVF RN group deep into East Asia would be a large departure from the norm. Though, any carrier deployment since the scrapping of HMS Ark Royal (of the Audacious Class, R09, 1979), to be fair, would be momentous for the RN.

As of writing this article the UK has just announced another RN deployment into the Far East alongside the Japanese in 2018. [4] HMS Argyll, a Type-23 frigate, will be the first non-US military vessel to operate alongside the Japanese in their home waters.


HMS Argyll, a Type-23 Frigate


Why Now?

So why has such a deployment been announced now? The announcement coincided with the meeting of both Foreign and Defence secretaries from both Australia and the United Kingdom. [5] This may indeed highlight a growing closeness and cohesion between Australia and the United Kingdom through the avenue of security. The announcement of such a large deployment may have been to display a firm UK presence in Asia.

Of course, the Brexit twist can also be spun here. Though entirely speculative, a cynic may state that this is a somewhat ungainly attempt to align the UK alongside Anglo-speaking states in the face of increasing isolation from Europe. Indeed, this coincides with increasing calls for a Commonwealth style ‘freedom of movement’ between Canada, Australia, the UK and New Zealand. [6] Security ties are always amongst the strongest on the international stage. This could simply be a UK reaffirmation of these ties with Australia.

A final factor, and in the opinion of this writer, is the Type-26 Global Combat Ship. The new ‘City’ class Frigates, for which the steel has just been cut, have always been hoped to be a powerful unit on the export market. A mass-exported British-made frigate brings back nostalgic memories of the ‘Leander’ Class for many ‘Cold Warriors’. Both Canada and Australia are being specifically targeted as potential procurers of the Type 26 to fill their new frigate requests. [7] The platform by itself is a strong contender. Its ASW capabilities, which have been lacking in NATO since the end of the Cold War and the GIUK Gap, are certainly near the top of world capabilities. Indeed, with a growing Chinese sub fleet of not only diesel boats but now nuclear ones too, Australia has placed ASW capabilities as a top priority on its shopping list. [8] Yet, the UK cannot solely rely on the Type-26’s perceived capabilities. It has yet to be made and seen in action, and the French have offered a strong and viable contender. Thus, the deployment of the RN into East Asia could ease minds in Australia that the UK is pursuing further deployments in the region. Further deployments equals more cooperation and cooperation always works best when platforms and equipment are similar. RN engineers could quite easily aid in Australian Type-26 maintenance and Royal Fleet Auxiliary Ships who would have worked alongside British Type-26’s could do the same for the Australians. The UK has benefitted from RN personnel working on US CV’s in order to ‘work up’ both crew and Fleet Air Arm to a standard ready for the QEC’s. A similar thing could potentially be open to Australian personnel on British Type-26’s. Thus, it could be for this very reason that the UK has decided to send a CVF through the region.


A CGI Impression of the new Type-26 Global Combat Ship

What Will Actually Happen?

This part is merely speculative, so feel free to turn off at this juncture. Boris Johnson quickly back-pedalled on his statement, implying that he either received a very strongly worded email from the First Sea Lord, or that the UK has yet to develop a strategy for the Asian theatre in terms of hard power. [9] The latter would not surprise me.

The CVF is currently on a rather sketchy timetable. The first F-35’s are confirmed to arrive on deck for 2018, but a fully worked up and operational Carrier strike force will probably not be around until 2022. [10] Without getting into a different debate, it should be noted that this is not particularly new. Large ships take a long time to work up to spec, especially when they are part of a rejuvenated capability that has not been around for 40 years. Thus, this would place a deployment to the South China Sea around 2023. A lot can happen in that space of time.

One must also wonder why a CVF would be deployed for such an operation. Carriers tend to be deployed on what is coined as ‘Naval Diplomacy’ (think Gunboat Diplomacy with a twenty-first century name) as a show of force to remind the recipient that not only can said state afford to utilise a carrier in such a role but that it has the full attention of the acting state. James Cable would define this as ‘expressive force’, that being “…the use of warships to emphasise attitudes, support other unconvincing statements or to provide an outlet for emotion.” [11] While it pains to admit it, the Royal Navy, and thus the UK by extension, can no longer field fleets to a sufficient size to really play this sort of game.

Furthermore, a CVF would not be the right tool for the job in this particular geographical location. Around the straits of Malacca and the South China Sea, there is little room for manoeuvre, and the proximity to the Chinese coast negates the advantage of the stand-off weapons in the form of CV air groups. The modern term for operations in close proximity to land is ‘Littoral operations’. [12] Carriers do not perform well where they are in easy range of coastal artillery/anti-ship missiles. This is not to say that one should view Naval Diplomacy through the prism of what is militarily sound, after all, as previously mentioned, carriers do provide a big statement. But with that avenue already discounted for the UK, why bother?

Thus, what is likely to occur is the deployment of a Type-45 Destroyer. These anti-air platforms are not be confused with the destroyers of the mid-twentieth century. They tower over their Type-23 frigate cousins and indeed act as an imposing statement by themselves. Furthermore, while not designed as a general-purpose combat ship, this actually works in their favour. They still possess a formidable forward gun, but more importantly their capability to track aerial targets is arguably second to none. The Type-45 is able to track over a thousand air movements an hour, which essentially means they can sit in the Thames in London and track all take-offs and landings from Heathrow, Gatwick, Birmingham and Charles De Gaulle airports. [13] This in conjunction with its Sea Viper system, which can hit a cricket ball sized target at Mach 3, makes it more than able to defend itself against the Chinese main threat, that being anti-ship missiles. [14] Indeed, for the military nerds among you, in 2006 it was even claimed that the Type-45 could intercept the dreaded Chinese SS-N-27 ‘Carrier Killer’. [15] As a result, the Type-45 ticks all the necessary boxes for a Freedom of Navigation patrol. It has the imposing size to act as a physical reminder to the Chinese of Maritime Law, it has the capability to track and defend itself against any possible threats, and we have enough of them to deploy quite quickly. Ultimately, if this fails to convince the hard-core carrier lovers among you, simply look at the Americans. The US has rarely deployed CV’s into the South China Sea for the explicit purpose of a Freedom of Navigation patrol. Instead they use the Arleigh-Burke Class destroyer. If it is good enough for the Americans, it should be more than good enough for us.


Type-45 HMS Daring (Far Left) posing for a PHOTOEX with USS Abraham Lincoln

In Conclusion

Ultimately, it is welcoming to see at least the consideration of a small return to the Pacific. Whilst I would never advocate for the return of the ‘Pacific Fleet’ with five RN Carriers patrolling the Asian seas, the UK should do all in its power to uphold maritime law, which was set up and based around the Anglo-American tradition. The announcement of a carrier deployment should be seen more as an affirmation of the importance the UK government places upon the Asian region rather than a purely military thought process. After all, the UK has been without a strike carrier capability for forty years now and the first deployments of HMS Queen Elizabeth should be seen as prioritisations. If not by the Admiralty then certainly by the UK political caste. However, as has been discussed, this author does not believe that the Far East is the place for British carriers anymore. With only two to operate with, and even then it is debatable if they will both be at sea at the same time, closer theatres such as the Gulf or the Mediterranean may be better selections for their deployments. Rather, as has been laid out, vessels in the escort fleet are no slouches in combat and their presence would still go a long way in enacting naval diplomacy in the region. Indeed, the main beneficiary of this whole series of announcements may be the Royal Navy itself. As the government continues to use ships as tools of diplomacy and posturing, rather than Squadrons or Brigades, it may become quite apparent that a British maritime strategy, and thus budget increases for the Royal Navy, should become a priority.

The basis of the Navy’s case remains that, for a country like Britain, with its traditions and its modern circumstances, a relatively small but very wealthy nation reliant on globalisation and global trade, naval forces – perhaps more than any others – provide the greatest range of possibilities, options, and flexibility in deciding whether, when and how to exercise influence…” – Nick Childs [16]




[2] Duncan Redford & Philip D.Grove, The Royal Navy: A History Since 1900, (London: Tarris & Co., 2014), p. 257.









[11] Ian Speller, Understanding Naval Warfare, (London: Routledge, 2014), p. 79.


[13] Nick Childs, Britain’s Future Navy, (Barnsley: Pen & Sword Maritime, 2014), p. 108.

[14] Ibid, p. 108.

[15] Ibid, p. 109.

[16] Nick Child, The Age of Invincible: The Ship that Defined the Modern Royal Navy, (Barnsley: Pen & Sword Maritime, 2009), p. XV.




With IMF trimming India’s growth rate from 7.6% to 6.6%, has the demonetization movement really costed India’s economic outlook?


By Baani Gambhir, a first year sudent from India studying International Relations at King’s College London.

Withdraw 86 percent of the country’s currency in one full-swoop, add a pinch of rhetoric, mix with an economic and moral reasoning like ‘flushing out the black market’ and wrap it up with nationalism- and your recipe for disaster is ready to cause unprecedented damage to the world’s largest and fastest growing economy. Still want more? Keep on high flame for about two months or more, and you have the growth rate cut down by a full percent.

A little over two months has passed since the Narendra Modi government’s ensnare on its own currency. Not only has this manoeuvre costed India’s economic outlook but apparently has resulted in the death of one hundred people.[1]This brings to focus a pressing question, if mass misery is great, why haven’t protests broken out?

The answer lies here: the debate over demonetisation, instead of being about logic or evidence, is framed as a challenge between two beliefs: If you are pro-demonetisation, you are patriotic; and if you are against it, you are not only ‘anti-national’ or ‘Pakistani’ but also corrupt and support criminal activity. By turning criticism of demonetisation into an unpatriotic and corrupt act, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has destabilised the ability of political parties and NGOs to organise protest. [2]

Indian Nobel laureate and Bharat Ratna awardee, Amartya Sen said “decisions like these get taken in China based on the vision of a small group of people, while in a democracy like ours, things move only when there is a public demand for it.” [3]

“Our political decisions, however, in contrast have to involve the public,” he said, comparing our situation with China and going on to mention the demonetisation exercise as an aberration from such a convention. Furthermore, he termed note ban as an unguided “missile” fired “unilaterally” by the government without adhering to the democratic conventions. “…every now and then we get missiles fired by the government unilaterally. Demonetisation one fine morning is of course just such a missile where there are reports coming in of hardships and suffering though it is not quite clear where the missile has landed,” Sen said. [4]

Two leading macroeconomists: Harvard’s Kenneth Rogoff and Lawrence Summers have also spoken about India’s recent demonetisation. Both are well-known for their opinion that in the US and Europe, high-denomination notes mainly aid tax evasion and crime, are of little usage in normal transactions, and should be banned.[5] Though Rogoff does not out rightly disregard the long-term benefits of India’s demonetisation, he is surprised by the introduction of a Rs. 2,000 note, even as a Rs 1,000 note is being scrapped on grounds that it encourages illegal cash hoarding. He adds that an overnight outlawing, as opposed to a phased decommissioning, entails too much “collateral damage” [6]

“Basically agreeing, Summers adds to this reasoning a basic utilitarian principle that it is better to let a few criminals go free than hurt so many innocent people — 93 per cent of India’s labour force, after all, is in the informal economy. Additionally, Summers thinks the costs of such a policy exceed the likely benefits.” [7]

Simply put, the ‘Modi demonetisation scheme’ does not follow the established logic of a currency ‘stabilisation’ measure; the Indian economy is hardly suffering any hyperinflation to even remotely authorise such a move. Demonetisation would haphazardly lead to extraordinary monetary tightening, with nearly Rs 15 lakh crore worth of currency being withdrawn overnight from circulation. This untimely, and probably unintended, ‘stabilisation’ has the potential to create a full-blown recession.

For the purpose of attaining public approval, this move, has instead, been projected as a ‘structural reform’, directed at restructuring public approach towards currency with a vision to move towards a cashless economy. However, in a country with less than 75-80 per cent literate, with another 25-30 per cent barely literate, with poor connectivity and ambiguous laws about privacy, the idea of a cashless economy might turn out to be an outrageous fantasy. Like Modi, Rogoff also favours cashless exchanges, but for him, it is viable only in a rich economy, where most economic exchanges are in the formal sector. It can trigger an economic blow in an overwhelmingly informal economy, like India.

The Modi government has said that the withdrawn Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 denomination notes will be replaced with new currency with enhanced security features.” But that’s easier said than done. To start with, printing itself — the total demonetised banknotes numbered 2-300 crore pieces — may take 5-6 months, according to various estimates. Even after printing, the new currency has to be delivered to bank branches and ATMs not just in Delhi and Mumbai. [8]

Dubbing the government’s claim that demonetisation would weed out black money and corruption as “hoax”, former Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram has also criticised the Centre for not knowing the printing capacity to churn out new currency notes to cater to the demands of the people.

As it turns out, not only was the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) not ready with an appropriate amount of substitute currency, it will take substantial amount of time to do that. To deal with the short-run liquidity crisis, it rationed note distribution from banks, which will continue, though with a higher daily ceiling. The RBI has also tossed and turned, sometimes within a day, which makes a mockery of the economic principle that short-run monetary consistency is essential for financial trust. This creates serious doubts about the political autonomy and independent functioning of the RBI and raises serious doubts such as: Has the RBI become an arm of the political executive?

In the final analysis, demonetisation has caused serious economic distress in India, raised reservations about the wisdom of the government’s decision in achieving its said objectives vis-à-vis the costs to the people and abridgement of their rights and has costed India its economic outlook, due to a sharp decrease in trade.



[1] Worstall, Tim. “India’s Demonetisation Kills 100 People Apparently – This Is Not an Important Number.” Forbes(Forbes), December 8, 2016.

[2] Varshney, Ashutosh. “The Indian Express.” January 5, 2017. Accessed January 29, 2017.

[3] “The Indian Express.” January 28, 2017. Accessed January 29, 2017.

[4] Varghese, Roy. “Amartya Sen Urges Healthcare for All.” January 29, 2017. Accessed January 29, 2017.

[5] “The Indian Express,” “Post-Truth demonetisation,” January 5, 2017, accessed January 29, 2017,

[6] “India’s cash bonfire is too much too soon” in “Financial Times”, December 9, 2016, accessed: January 15, 2017, available at:

[7] “India’s cash bonfire is too much too soon” in “Financial Times”, December 9, 2016, accessed: January 15, 2017, available at:

[8] “Why Narendra Modi’s demonetisation move is unprecedented” in “The Indian Express,” January 21, 2017, accessed January 29, 2017,















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The geopolitical enigma of India-Pakistan

Ammar Yasir Nainar is a first year student studying BA.International relations in the Department of War studies. He is currently a research analyst at the KCL Crisis team 2016-2017 and has also worked as a research volunteer for Mr.Maroof Raza (Consulting Strategic Affairs Editor Times Now) news channel in India. He follows the south Asia region with particular importance towards India-Pakistan relations and Sino-Indian strategic relations.


The world is increasingly being aware of the rivalry which exists between India and Pakistan. All the way from Pathankot to the killing of Hizbul Mujahedeen leader Burhan Wani to the Uri attacks and surprisingly the much debated surgical strikes conducted by India on PoK (Pakistan Occupied Kashmir), these events have led to a conclusion: India-Pakistan relations are at their nadir. For someone who follows the South Asian region and in particular India-Pakistan relations, these events are not something new.

Tracing the origins of this rivalry

The India-Pakistan rivalry seems to be rooted in the historical narrative of the formation of Pakistan in 1947. The Quaid-E-Azam (Father of Nation) of Pakistan Muhammad Ali Jinnah used Islam as a political tool to bargain a separate nation for the Muslims in India. Once Pakistan was established, the state was unified on a tri colon which is succinctly put forth by Hussain Haqqani- a renowned Pakistani diplomat and author in his book “Pakistan: between Mosque and Military” where he argues “Islam, hostility towards India and the Urdu language were identified as the cornerstones of this new national ideology”. Thus, Pakistan since its inception has always had resentment towards India which explains the intensity of this rivalry.


What has India done?

The Indian national security establishment has always been in pursuit of a well-focused and robust policy towards Pakistan’s acts of state sponsored terrorism. Let it be the 2001 attack on the Indian parliament or the 26/11 Mumbai attacks or even the 1993 Bombay serial blasts, the Indian national security establishment has had vast number of debates on what should be India’s posture towards Pakistan? India always looks to mobilize international opinion for condemning Pakistan’s state sponsored terrorism and diplomatically isolate Pakistan which the South block (Ministry of External Affairs, India) has recently been upping the ante on. Likewise, India has called off its participation in the SAARC Summit scheduled to be held during November 2016 in Islamabad. This strongly conveys India’s anger through recognized diplomatic channels.

Surprisingly, this has never motivated Pakistan to alter its foreign policy towards India or they aren’t even diplomatically isolated in the world. The Chinese have vested interests in Pakistan especially with the USD $46 billion for the China-Pakistan Economic corridor and the Gwadar port. Therefore, the Chinese are systematically trying to prevent Pakistan’s isolation in the world by vetoing many UN resolutions proposed by India which aim to declare Pakistan as state sponsor for terrorism.

The divergence of options:

Nevertheless, the recently conducted surgical strikes on terror launch pads in POK have signaled the world that India is no more “pussy-footing” on its policy towards Pakistan, perhaps it is going to adopt a muscular posture which could bring Pakistan to its knees for exporting terror on Indian soil.

I feel India has a spectrum of options in its hat for achieving this objective. Though the nuclear dimension of both nations discourage them from waging a conventional war like that of 1947, 1965, 1971 or 1999, it has certainly motivated India to look out for other innovative methods which could help accomplish its objective. Therefore, I am going to throw light on one such option which is the Cold Start Doctrine.

The Cold Start Doctrine:

The cold start doctrine was founded in 2004 post the slow mobilization of forces during Operation Parakram in 2001-2002 following the attacks on the Indian parliament by militants from Jaish-e-Muhammad and Lashkar-e-Taiba.

The cold start doctrine embodies India’s limited war capabilities and allowed India to obtain an offensive posture vis-à-vis its usual defensive posture towards Pakistan. Dr. Walter Ladwig describes the Cold Start doctrine as

The goal of this limited war doctrine is to establish the capacity to launch a retaliatory conventional strike against Pakistan that would inflict significant harm on the Pakistan Army before the international community could intercede, and at the same time, pursue narrow enough aims to deny Islamabad a justification to escalate the clash to the nuclear level.”

Emphasizing on the military jargon of the cold start doctrine the Indian army’s offensive power would be restructured into eight small division sized “integrated battle groups” that have the capability of launching multiple strikes into Pakistan from different areas (Ladwig). The Indian air force and naval aviation is also expected to pitch in and give close air support to the integrated battle groups which could literally bring Pakistan to its knees.

A very famous book “Not War, Not Peace?” written by Toby Dalton and George Perkovich also do throw light on the significance of the cold start doctrine to be a “provocative strategy” which could eventually compel Pakistani military and the rogue ISI intelligence organization to act on such terror groups whom they have been nurturing since the very formation of Pakistan. The cold start doctrine is an operational asset of the Indian army where even the UN Envoy to Pakistan Maleeha Lodhi has been on record to say that “India’s cold start doctrine should be contained”.

What lies ahead?

This arch-rivalry does seem quite enigmatic and complicated. However, looking at the current dynamics emerging in this relationship and certain assets of India like the Cold Start doctrine, I would like to conclude by saying that India does have the wherewithal to keep Pakistan at the bay.








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What the West Fails to See About the Qandeel Baloch Case


by Kiyomi Ran, a Chinese-Japanese-American International Relations student, who is currently interning at the Embassy of Pakistan in Japan.



No one denies what happened to Qandeel Baloch was an act of horrific tragedy that no women should ever go through. The Pakistani celebrity who walked a thin line between being provocative, being fresh, and being disrespectful to the country met a fate no one imagined – or at least, no one in the west did. But to suddenly attack Pakistan’s seemingly-backward policies towards women’s rights like many of the people and news outlets did is also simply wrong, as it only exaggerates Pakistan’s failures. Instead, it is important to remember that this act of honor killing is a cultural practice and like any cultural practices is met with resistance when the voice for change is raised. Of course, that does not mean it should be justified, but with this case, once again the international has denounced the women’s rights activism in Pakistan. And yes, while Pakistani society has systemically subordinated women, there are cultural limitations that exist that are unknown to the outside.

In fact, Pakistan has a huge rich and poor, urban and rural divide. The women in more modernized cities like Lahore and Karachi enjoy more freedom than before. Yet, most of the 182 million people in Pakistan live in the rural, tribal areas where violence against women exist the most. This divide is a major issue in Pakistan, as the difference in the level of modernization makes changes forceful if the government seeks to implement and execute laws in the tribal areas.

In a country that carries numerous problems, the government needs the support of the people in the tribal areas in combatting other issues like terrorism, poverty, and literacy. This gives the government difficulty in trying to implement change while also gaining respect and trust from the people. For example, the jirgas – or traditional assembly of tribal leaders – in these areas that convene on matters of territorial security and terrorism organized by the national military are still only limited to men, though there is a reason to that. According to Colonel Zulifqar Bhatty, Army and Air Adviser at High Commission of Pakistan in London, the Pakistani government need to recognize and respect these traditions first in order to gain trust, which can then lead to a better, collective solution to terrorism. In fact, the north-west border of Pakistan has been perhaps one of the only successful attempts to eradicate terrorist threats owing to these efforts.

Pakistan is a faith and culture-oriented country with diverse groups; many developed countries have wiped away culture, but it would be unfair to radically demand that to Pakistan, so the problem of women’s rights should not focus on how “malicious” the culture is and how to change the culture, but rather on what else can be done to improve the issue.

And like many developing countries, important infrastructure like roads and hospitals and social programs such as healthcare and education, are still limitedly available to over 100 million rural population of Pakistan, which pose a problem in trying to enforce and change the mindset on gender subordination. While non-governmental organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch denounce the increase of honor killing cases in Pakistan, this is because more cases have been reported due to the better infrastructure and technology. In fact, there has been a decrease of violence in places where infrastructure has been developed as it gives easier access to law enforcement. Furthermore, education can be the key to decreasing the number of violence. Education can not only teach young children a changing mindset, but also allow them to possibly travel to more urban and developed areas of Pakistan to see the change themselves. Education can also alleviate poverty in a society in the long-run. Development in healthcare can help the victims with both physical and psychological traumata to not continue the negative cycle of violence providing them with support groups and safe havens.

This proves that if the western media really wants to see change, they should invest more on these infrastructures rather than simply condemning the government’s inability. If they don’t want to, that’s fine too – changes are more effective when they come from within anyways.

Apart from making sensible cultural considerations and developing infrastructure, there also needs to be a stricter application of law. In Pakistan, there are already many laws that protect women from all kinds of violence. For example, the Acid Control and Acid Crime Prevention Bill was signed into law in 2011 unanimously by the Parliament holds acid attackers to face life in prison.

The Punjab Protection of Women Against Violence Act 2015 passed in 2016 marked a great victory for women’s rights activists in Pakistan, where the country’s most populous province vowed to respond to any form of abuse towards women. Recent initiatives include setting up a direct helpline, increasing female protection officers, creating housing for victims, and providing financial support to these women. There is also a movement to rewrite the law on honor killings with the loophole allowing the killer to be acquitted if the family forgives him. These bills serve as an important step towards prevention of violence against women in Pakistan.

But again, there were far more articles written on Qandeel Baloch than on any bills that support internal changes in women’s rights.

Of course, again it is hard to enforce laws in rural areas where these crimes occur the most, as there is less information and less access to these regions, and the western media doesn’t really report these positive changes. But the historical Act passed in 2016 has already been received by much public praise, though was very limitedly reported outside the country, and it will take some time before the full effect finally sinks in. Pakistan needs time to adopt, to adjust, and to enforce.
Cultural considerations, infrastructural development, and law application are all initiatives that could bring positive change to women’s rights in Pakistan – and they all indeed come from within Pakistan. With the recent Qandeel Baloch case, Pakistan was once again under international scrutiny for its failure to protect its women. Yet, these outside outlets give only a negative rapport to the country’s image and does not give enough credit to the positive aspects.

For example, there are more females represented in the Parliament than many developed countries such as Japan, the United States, and Liechtenstein, and the highest ranked female general in Pakistan has more stars than in the United Kingdom. The country has also recently created an initiative to increase the number of female police officers in the most conservative part of the country. Then, to blatantly say that Pakistan has horrible women’s rights is misleading. Like any developed country, Pakistan is struggling to cope with the division among the people, and it has done so much to try to amend it. The international scrutiny is nothing but another punch to Pakistan’s confidence, as it only deprecates the changes the country has tried to instrument. Therefore, changes can only come from within, as it is more effective coming from those who actually know the limitations in trying to modernize. One thing for sure, is that the women’s rights in Pakistan is only moving forward, and never backward.

Image source:

Part 5 | Strategic partners with caveats: China & Russia

Dean Chen is a Chinese first-year BA International Relations student at King’s College London.


In his recent visit to Russia on March 11th, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said China is ‘fully confident’ in her relations with Russia, while his Russian counterpart stated that cooperation with China is the Russia’s major foreign policy orientation.[1] This demonstration of optimism seems to indicate that China’s threat perception of Russia is a false proposition—indeed, Sino-Russian relations is classified as the only ‘comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination’ (the highest tier of inter-state relations in China’s foreign policy).[2] According to official interpretation, ‘comprehensive’ means Sino-Russian cooperation encompasses all realms: economic, political, cultural, and military. ‘Strategic partner of coordination’ implies that the two countries not only cooperate, but also coordinate their stances in international affairs and mutually support each other. [3]

In all aspects, China-Russia relationship seems to be in a good state. Diplomatically, China vetoed three UN resolutions about military intervention in Syria in conjunction with Russia, while Russia is one of the few countries that shows support for China’s claims over the South China Sea islands. Economically, Russia exports large amounts of crude oil and natural gas to China, while the two countries pledged to align China’s ‘One Belt One Road’ (OBOR) Initiatives with Russia’s Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) project. Politically, the two countries not only have close bilateral ties (the two presidents met each other five times in the past year), but also engage in close cooperation in multilateral international organisations such as the UN, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), and within the BRICS framework (the recent establishment of the BRICS Bank is a good example). Militarily, the two countries hold the joint bi-annual military exercise ‘Peace Mission’, while China benefits from Russia’s advanced weapons systems and military technology transfers.

But this seemingly cordial relationship might not be as rosy as it seems. Although the importance and positive direction of Sino-Russian relations is commonly acknowledged among China’s policy makers and policy analysts, there has been frustrations about, and even caution and suspicion regarding this relationship. Despite the grandiose projects developed by the two governments, bilateral trade was worth merely an annual $90 billion by the end of 2015, while the investment amount remains at a minimal level.[4] More importantly, hidden historical grievances still form a part of threat perception, and there are diverging interests and priorities between the two.

An often neglected fact is that not long ago, the two countries were bitter rivalries: starting from the late 1950s, China and the Soviet Union were embroiled in ideological conflict; the USSR withdrew all its aid to China in the 1960s and as tensions continued to escalate, armed conflicts broke out at Zhenbao Dao on the Sino-Russian border in 1969. Tracing history back to the 19th century, the Russian Empire forced China to sign a series of unequal treaties, resulting in the annexation of Chinese territories in the Far East and Central Asia. In the Manchurian crisis of 1931, the USSR recognised the proxy regime of Manchukuo (a Japanese protectorate) and sold the China Eastern Railways to Japan, which is seen as a ‘stab in the back’ against China. In the Yalta Agreement of 1945, Stalin reached a secret agreement with the US and Britain without consulting China: the USSR would declare war on Japan and send troops to Manchuria to help defeat the Japanese in exchange for the recognition of independence of outer Mongolia, which has been Chinese territory throughout most of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912).

For China, Russia’s expansionism and bellicosity form a part of her memory of ‘a hundred years of humiliation’, an integral part of the Chinese government’s narrative of national rejuvenation: the Chinese nation suffered from foreign invasion and humiliation starting from the Opium War in 1840 to the end of WWII in 1945, and China is to be powerful and never submit to foreign suppression again. Russia, as a great power with the largest territory in the world that shares a 3645-kilometre-long border with China, is always, more or less, a pressure for China. Russia’s hegemonic behaviour and ‘betrayals’ in the past contribute to the shaping of the Chinese perception of Russia: caution and vigilance is always needed when dealing with this northern neighbour. Although China and Russia have settled their border disputes, this impression still exist among the Chinese people, which can be seen from time to time in opinions published on the media and discussed on Chinese internet.

In addition, competition between China and Russia exists alongside cooperation and coordination. Although both countries have the common interest of promoting multipolarity of the international system and containing American hegemony, they are competing for influence and leadership. This dynamic is evident in Central Asia. China has extensive economic interests in the former Soviet republics in Central Asia, especially in terms of energy and infrastructure. Since 2009, China’s trade with the five Central Asian countries exceeded that between Russia and the Central Asian countries.[5] Central Asia is also an important part of both China’s OBOR Initiatives and Russia’s EEU project. With different visions for the region’s future, this overlap might intensify the competition for influence in Central Asia between China and Russia. Russia’s approach emphasises more on a new form of regionalism in which great powers hold hegemonic control over their own exclusive spheres of influence. China, instead, seeks to promote the ‘Silk Road Spirit’: “peace and cooperation, openness and inclusiveness, mutual learning and mutual benefit.”[6] She seeks to deepen regional economic cooperation institutions that benefit all participating parties, which is to some extent in conflict with Russia’s vision of regionalism as ensuring spheres of influence. China seems critical of the EEU project for its exclusive nature and as a ‘cutting off China from Central Asia’.[7]  However, in May 2015, the two countries signed an agreement on cooperation between the OBOR Initiatives and EEU project, signalling Russian concessions to China, indicating that China’s strong economic advantage in Central Asia has convinced Russia to show cooperative rather than confrontational stance.

It is China’s interest to advance the “strategic cooperation partnership of coordination” with Russia. But at the same time, it is also important to ensure that Russia does not get overly powerful to the extent that can revive the threat that the USSR posed to China during the Cold War. With the current intensifying confrontation between Russia and the West, as well as Russia’s deteriorating economic situation, China is actually in a favourable position in Sino-Russian relationship. Russia’s present primary foreign policy concern lies within Europe and the US: she needs to ensure that NATO and the EU do not expand further in Eastern Europe, and confirm her status as an equal power vis-à-vis the US. In Asia-Pacific, it has to depend on China’s economic clout to alleviate pressure from western sanctions and cooperate with China to contain American power. In conclusion, despite historical grievances and competing international visions and policies, China does not perceive Russia as posing significant threat at least in the short term.


[1] “China confident about relations with Russia,” Xinhua, March 12, 2016, accessed April 17, 2016,

[2] “Sino-Russian Relations: Renewal or Decay of a Strategic Partnership,” last modified October 7, 2011,

[3] “中俄发布深化全面战略协作伙伴关系联合声明(全文)” [China and Russia released joint statement of deepening comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination (full text)],, May 9, 2015, Accessed April 17, 2016,

[4] Jindong Yuan, “A Sino-Russian Alliance? Rationales and Realities,” China Policy Institute Blog on April 15, 2016, Accessed April 17, 2016,

[5] “China’s Great Game: In Russia’s backyard,” Financial Times, October 14, 2015, accessed April 17, 2016,

[6] Christopher Marsh, “Chinese Perspectives on Events in Ukraine: Implications for Sino-Russian Relations,” China Policy Institute Blog on April 12, 2016, Accessed April 17, 2016,

[7] Natasha Kuhrt, “Russia and China: Competing or complementary priorities?,” China Policy Institute Blog on April 14, 2016, Accessed April 17, 2016,

Mehbooba Mufti’s election in Jammu and Kashmir: real evolution for women or familial inheritance?

by Justine Guérin, 1st year International Relations Student from France


Located in the very north of India and sharing its borders with Pakistan and China, Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) is a highly politicised and conflictual region of India. It has been at the heart of the territorial animosity between India and Pakistan since 1947. Deeply rooted in a patriarchal tradition, the region has always been governed by men until April 4th when Mehbooba Mufti, a 56 years old Muslim woman, was elected as Chief Minister (CM).

Mehbooba Mufti’s predecessor was her father Mufti Mohammad Sayeed who passed away in January 2016 after years as politician in J&K and at the national level. He was indeed, Home Minister in India from 1989 to 1990. He was a significant figure in J&K due to his long lasting investment in the political struggle of the region. He therefore had a strong footprint in the politics of Jammu and Kashmir, as a strong advocate of the re-establishment of dialogue between India and Pakistan, Sayeed helped by his daughter, founded his own political party the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 1999 which he presided until his death in January[1]. With his party he was elected CM twice in 2002 and 2014.

The region Mehbooba Mufti is now responsible of, is a very diverse one in which communities are highly pronounced. Indeed, Jammu’s population consists of 66% of Hindus and 30% of Muslims whereas the Kashmir valley is mostly inhabited by Muslims (95%). There are two main political parties in the region, Mufti’s party, the PDP which supports a reinforcement and appeasement of relations between India and Pakistan. And Prime Minister, Narendra Modi’s party the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party). Since the general elections of 2014, both parties form an unstable coalition, in which Mehbooba will have to obtain consensus and to maintain cooperation in order to avoid a split and a destabilization of the region’s politics. Furthermore, as most of India, Jammu and Kashmir are embedded in a patriarchal society where the place of women is perceived through their gender role as mother, sister and daughter[2].

With a woman holding the reins of such a patriarchal region as J&K, does Mehbooba have the possibility to improve the conditions of women in the area? How far can she go? And last but not least, is the population concerned with the resolution of gender based discriminations or does it perceive other issues as more urgent?

Who is Mehbooba Mufti?

Elected to succeed her father on April 4th as Chief Minister of J&K, Mehbooba Mufti’s first plans of career were not to represent the citizens of J&K as an elected CM but rather to evolve in the domain of law and justice. According to herself, she entered politics “by accident” encouraged by her father. He, indeed, convinced her to be involved in politics in order to help him. Consequently, in 1996, she was convinced by Mufti Mohammad Sayeed to run the elections of Bijbehara (town in the South of Kashmir) which she won. Her commitment to politics grew as time flew by and after having helped the foundation of her father’s party, she was elected in the 2004 and 2014 general elections in the Lok Sabha (the National Assembly’s low Chamber). She has political experience permitting her to build a strong image in the region.

Mehbooba’s qualities have convinced the local population as she has always been devoted to help citizens. In fact, it has been reported that she was a significant support for families of victims and especially women who lost children or husbands in the armed conflicts animating the Kashmir region[3]. In addition, after the floods that struck the region in 2014, she was very concerned about the post-flood management and drew the attention of the Prime Minister to provide financial and humanitarian help, she obtained economic support for relief and rehabilitation measures.[4] Her closeness with the population has helped her built a strong relationship based on trust and help. In the eyes of her father, his daughter’s involvement has proved successful, he said that “she built the party and she is better connected with the masses. I think she is talented enough to run the state”[5]. Her father’s dream has been accomplished and she now runs the state.

What are the implications of a woman ruling a patriarchal state? Mehbooba is, according to her daughters an “emancipated woman” who always promoted freedom in the house, she is a divorced woman strongly committed to her job and who loves her role in the society. Even her personal life differs from the tradition animating the country has she does not depend from any man. This is a true revolution for a woman to be elected at the head of a region in such a country as India where human rights are often baffled and where the place of women is dictated by a masculine figure.

However, as revolutionary as her nomination is, it is important to bear in mind that Mehbooba does not come from the very bottom of the Indian society and that she entered politics under her father’s protection. She has not crossed the gaps dictated by the caste society but rather benefited from her dynastic origins[6].  Though it represents a true evolution as she has been elected by the popular vote of the citizens of J&K, her origins helped her to reach the political realm easily which would not be the case for every woman in India.

How can she, as an elected woman at the head of such a geopolitically significant state, change the rules of the society and improve the gender perceptions and reduce the men/women gap? Does she have scope to fundamentally modify the caste system and promote women’s right at the regional and why not national level?


Women’s rights in India

India is the largest democracy in the world, however, in the political realm, women are highly under-represented both as voters and as participants to the elections. Indeed, according to the think tank Delhi Policy Group, in the General Elections of 2009, “women comprised 6.9% of the total contestants out of which only 10.9% were elected”[7]. In addition, despite an increasing number of feminine voters, inequalities in absolute numbers are significant. There were at least 38 million more men than women registered in voting in the electorate in 2014[8]. Gender inequalities in political representation in India affect gender based discriminations at the national level. Indeed, as women politicians are lacking in the political scene, the patriarchal traditions remain and do not change. As a matter of consequence, India was ranked 144th in the World Rankings of Women in National Parliaments with 12% of women representation in 2016[9].

Despite attempts to improve the situation, the society is strongly settled in patriarchal traditions usually opposing or slowing projects of modernisation. For example, in 1999 was introduced the Women’s reservation bill. It was supposed to guarantee a 33% reservation for women in the Lok Sabha (the low Chamber) and state assemblies for 15 years which would have permitted an increasing presence of women in the realm of politics.  Though not guaranteeing parity the bill would have been a first step to desecrate the established place of women towards more representation and responsibilities. It would have opened the gate towards enhanced reforms on the place of women. However, fierce opposition to the bill emerged and it never passed. The Indian society is scared of crossing the threshold of evolution of the place of women as it remains highly dependent on the traditions and on masculine rule.

Established traditions and modernizing politics are often in conflict barring the road towards improvements and dismantling hopes towards a short coming equalitarian society. Indeed, the Mumbai high court granted women the fundamental right to enter temples in early April 2016 in the state of Maharashtra (West of India) considering that men as well as women have the right to worship everywhere. This happened after petitions and protests emerged in the state. Indeed, women are barred by the tradition to enter certain temples but recently a group of women called the “Women Warriors of Mother Earth” (Bhumata Ranragini Brigade) decided to march into temples and to exercise their right to pray[10].  However the ‘modern’ decision of the court to grant women the right to enter temples displeased some more traditional people. Following the authorisation of the high court, women attempted to enter the traditionally only opened to men temple of Shingnapur. Despite the law, villagers opposed their action which resulted in violence, interviewed by news channels, a villager declared: “our age-old tradition cannot be violated. Our village has decided that women cannot be allowed into the inner sanctum”[11]. The gap between traditions and modernity is not ready to be filled and women rights improvements are a second hand consideration.

Considering the recent events in the West of India and the general conditions of women in a male dominated society as India, how can concretely Mehbooba improve the situation in her region but also at the national level? Is it feasible? What role can she play in the improvement of female representation?

How can Mehbooba bring change to J&K or to India?

“I don’t think gender has anything to do with your capability to govern”[12] said Mehbooba Mufti. In an interview given in December 2015, she explained her vision of the improvements of women conditions in J&K and argued that “we are focused on providing various skills to females to make them employable and self-supporting”[13]. Mehbooba carries with her role as CM a real sense of hope for women to reach male dominated sectors. She believes that “only when we have women in governance will we be able to construct a system to help [women]”[14]. This exceptional nomination also brings hope among women within the society, therefore Rekha Chowdhary, a university professor states that “rather than remaining an individual achievement, this should be translated into a gender advantage” as well as “social, economic and political empowerment of women”[15]. The perspective of a woman leading the region carries enthusiasm and optimism for the coming years concerning the improvement of women representation and consideration in the Indian society.

However, several newspapers have interviewed J&K citizens about their expectations on Mehbooba’s governance and despite the real hope she represents, she is expected to resolve other issues dominating the political scene. Therefore, Mehbooba’s ascent to the reins of the region is perceived by Essar Batool, a writer and social worker as being “symbolic”[16] more than as a real solution to the male dominated society. Furthermore, issues of unemployment and corruption are more concerning for the population. Indeed, citizens argue that there is a need to build a “right atmosphere of trust”[17] in the region in order to improve the general life conditions. As a matter of fact, in 2012, J&K was one of the regions with the highest unemployment rates in India, reaching 5.3% of the population[18]. Therefore the population, already anchored in patriarchal perceptions more than in women’s right improvements, prefers Mehbooba to fulfil her duty and respond to economic issues to improve everyone’s life rather than just a portion of the society. Finally, even her daughters believe that “her election should not be viewed through the prism of gender but performance and rigor to fulfil people’s expectations”[19]. Despite the social threshold she crossed by being nominated, the population of J&K does not perceive it as a revolution but rather trust her for the potential benefits she can bring in improving the economic and social life in general.

As a conclusion, despite Mehbooba’s election as Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir in April and the hopes for women it carries in the region and at the national level, it is hard to believe that her nomination will really change the patriarchal framework of the region. Indeed, she has plans to improve women life but she also has other considerations dominating her mandate such as the crumbling of the political coalition with the opposite party and social and economic issues such as unemployment. However it is important to bear in mind that her nomination as a woman is a rare achievement and that it does somehow carry potential attempts to lower the influence of the patriarchal tradition if combined with national political decisions; as Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru said “you can tell the condition of a nation by looking at the status of its women”.








[7] Apoorva Rathod, “Women’s political participation and representation in India”, Delhi Policy Group, April 2014.

[8] Ibid.






[14] Ibid






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