Elevated Expectations: India Under Modi

Narendra Modi sworn in as Prime Minister of India. May 27, 2014. (Narendramodi/Flickr Commons)

On May 26, 2014, Narendra Damodardas Modi was sworn in as India’s 15th Prime Minister. In his inaugural address, he outlined India’s “shining” future under his command. But, not all are convinced. His role as a Hindu Nationalist and leader during the 2012 Gujurat riots, which claimed the lives of over 1000 Muslims, leaves many skeptical of his agenda. I posit, however, that despite his past and potential shortcomings, Modi’s leadership will be a boon for the country and the region.

Modi won the national elections in a landslide partly due to his successes as Chief Minister of Gujurat (a position he retained for 13 years). Under Modi’s leadership, Gujurat became an economic powerhouse. Although the province accounts for only 5% of India’s population, it produced 16% of the entire nation’s industrial output and 22% of its exports. While the rest of the nation’s economy stagnated, Gujurat’s economy boomed, winning praises from business leaders and politicians alike. Modi’s pro-business stance brought, among other benefits, electricity to nearly every village in his province. To the common man’s eye, Modi was a politician who ‘got things done’.

Modi’s prime ministerial campaign – which embodied his energetic style – brought these local successes to the national spotlight. Over six weeks, he travelled over 200,000 miles and spoke at 500 rallies. He appeared at 800 more as a live hologram, solidifying his reputation as a tech-savvy, modern leader. Ultimately, Indians believed in Modi: a record 66% of citizens—urban and even rural, once the Congress Party’s electoral stronghold—voted in his favor.

Modi’s success can also be read as the Congress Party’s failure. The Gandhi family focused their campaign on ‘stopping Modi’, rather than promoting their own agenda. Yet, even if they had, victory was unlikely. Voters were tired of the high inflation rates, stagnant growth, ineffective leadership and corruption that defined the pro-Gandhi administration. Modi’s predecessor, Dr. Manmohan Singh, left office with his tail between his legs.

Though Modi won, a contingent of detractors believes that he, like other Indian politicians, has no substance. The Times of India published an article in late 2012 highlighting his “ten broken promises” that were made ahead of the 2007 state election. Despite public criticism, Modi kept his seat then and won the Prime Minister seat this month. The validity of these claims is now irrelevant, for the electorate has made its decision. The real question is what future Modi will bring for India.

Businessmen are heavily expecting a prosperous one. On May 22, after election results were known, the Indian stock market shot up into the top 10 of the world, surpassing Australia. The MNI (Market News International) India Business Indicator shows that ‘business confidence’ reached an all-time high this May, as the country began eagerly preparing for what it anticipates will be an economic boom.

The expectations of India’s general populace are, unsurprisingly, exceptionally high for Modi. His leadership style, I suspect, will be direct and decisive—a welcome improvement over Manmohan Singh’s decidedly quiet and ineffective one, which left the nation to the whims of corrupt officials. Yet, a potentially authoritarian, right-leaning and religious nationalist does lead one to wonder about India’s relationship with Islamic neighbor and long-time rival, Pakistan. Surprisingly, however, tensions seem to be easing gradually. Modi offered Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif an invitation to the inauguration, and Sharif accepted. The two later met and even agreed to begin trade normalization talks. As a gesture of goodwill, Pakistan released 151 Indian fishermen imprisoned for unknowingly crossing the border; the Sri Lankan government quickly followed suit.

Narendra Modi met with Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif (right) at his inauguration. May 27, 2014 (Narendramodi/Flickr Commons).

Caption: Narendra Modi met with Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif (right) at his inauguration. 2014. (Flickr Commons/Narendra Modi)

Modi’s rhetoric to and concerning Pakistan also seems to send a clear message to the US and the West. In a recent interview, Modi suggested that India and Pakistan could face the enemy of poverty together if the two nations can establish mutual trust. Additionally, a new relationship is possible if Pakistan can effectively stop harboring terrorists. In both statements, Modi appears to suggest that India can manage Pakistan on its own. Furthermore, Modi hinted at a shared strategic objective between India, Pakistan and the US to reduce terrorist activity in Pakistan. Thus, US-India relations should only improve in the coming years. Modi’s pro-business, pro-foreign investment stance should not only bolster the Indian economy, but also invite more US companies to take advantage of untapped markets and decreasing economic protectionism.

Narendra Modi’s reputation is one of an uncorrupted and effective domestic leader who seems already able to navigate the international arena. His past is, admittedly, somewhat spotty and his relationship with the Hindu Nationalist group, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), somewhat concerning. Yet, the Indian public has elected to move past this in hopes of gaining a leader who will prioritize development over cronyism. Modi has raised expectations, promising anti-corruption efforts, modernization and good governance. He must deliver on his promises and fulfill these expectations, for if he fails, the dreams of millions of people will be shattered and the nation will be left lost.

The views expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect those of the Glimpse from the Globe staff and editorial board.

No, America’s War in Afghanistan Was Not Worth It

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Nathaniel Haas argues against America’s War in Afghanistan in this “Face Off” edition (Photo by author). Please see J.T. Blakely’s “Face Off” article for a counter opinion.

Mousa: “This is Afghanistan…Alexander the Great try to conquer this country… then Genghis Khan, then the British. Now Russia. But Afghan people fight hard, they never be defeated. Ancient enemy make prayer about these people… you wish to hear?

Rambo: “Um-hum.”

Mousa: “Very good. It says, ‘May God deliver us from the venom of the Cobra, teeth of the tiger, and the vengeance of the Afghan.’”

-Rambo III, 1988

Kabul during the First Anglo-Afghan War 1839-42

“Afghaunistan (1839-1842),” a lithograph by Lieutenant James Rattray, shows the British army before its “total annihilation” near Kabul during the first Anglo-Afghan War. (The British Library/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain).

With the full withdrawal of coalition forces from Afghanistan set to be completed by the end of 2016, Barack Obama is gearing up to join Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, Lord Auckland and Leonid Brezhnev in a club that appears to add a new member every few decades: the club of world leaders who have miserably failed to successfully reshape Afghanistan, a country that historians have come to call “the graveyard of empires.” Reflecting on this withdrawal, it is clear that America’s War in Afghanistan has not been worth the cost, measured in terms of the loss of human lives, financial resources and international credibility.

American engagement began with airstrikes in October 2001. By May 2003, President Bush declared the end of major combat and NATO assumed the responsibility of managing the transition to a civilian Afghan government. In 2004, for the first time, Afghanistan democratically elected Hamid Karzai, who subsequently announced a partnership with President Bush on the War on Terror. He opened bases in Afghanistan to US soldiers in exchange for training the Afghan national army.

In 2006, violence erupted again. In December 2009, Obama announced a troop surge, which sent 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan and officially stamped his application to the graveyard of empires club.

13,000 Afghan soldiers, 3,440 coalition soldiers and almost 20,000 civilians have died to date in Afghanistan. Accounting for the future cost of medical care and fighting, a Harvard Kennedy School of Government study estimated the cost of Iraq and Afghanistan combined at $4-6 trillion.

Less quantifiable in terms of dollars and body counts, but equally as significant is the cost of the war on the United States’ image in the world. The Karzai regime’s refusal to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement, which would allow continued US presence in the country after 2014, speaks to the lack of credibility in the American war machine, namely due to the use of drones and night raids that have a dismal history of civilian casualties. These problems make it not only impossible to negotiate with Afghanistan, but will also directly hamper allied cooperation in the future.

The United States should also commit to end the indefinite detention of detainees at Guantanamo Bay and abroad, which was established during the first months of the War in Afghanistan. Guantanamo Bay and covert rendition programs have come to be seen by Americans and our allies as the most egregious manifestation of America’s post-9/11 foreign policy. The Germans may have raised a diplomatic fuss over the tapping of Chancellor Merkel’s cell phone, but I would bet her data plan that they took much more seriously the unlawful detention and alleged torture of Turkish citizen Murat Kurnaz, a German resident who was captured in Kabul by US forces.

The kicker is that for all of the aforementioned costs, we have gained almost nothing.

As the Taliban launches its spring offensive and begins to control larger territories, the thousands of Afghani citizens who have been displaced over the past ten years say little progress has been made. Gaetan Drossart, the chief of the Kabul branch of Medecins sans Frontieres, has treated such refugees for years and observed the violence that has gripped the country. “The truth is there is no such success story at all,” Drossart told RT. “The international forces are leaving the country so they need a reason and they need also a rationale to explain to their population why now they can leave.”

Beyond the Taliban, Afghanistan will continue to suffer from the potent attacks of the Pakistan-based Haqqani Network. In a book out this year, Anand Gopal, who covered the war for the Wall Street Journal, recently wrote in her book, No Good Men Among the Living: America the Taliban, and the War Through Afghan Eyes, that the War in Afghanistan was misguided from the start. Though almost no insurgencies existed in mid-2002, the war, through faulty alliances with Afghani drug lords and power brokers, created the very enemies it sought to eradicate. Haqqani and his network were two of them. “By classifying certain groups as terrorists, and then acting upon those classifications, the U.S. had inadvertently brought about the very conditions it had set out to fight,” Gopal commented.

When this counter-terrorism evolved into a full-fledged counterinsurgency and nation building, the war efforts in Afghanistan fell prey to the concept known as mission creep – the phenomenon where a mission of limited scope morphs into one much more complex. Though the most tangible accomplishment of the war is the establishment of the Afghan National Security Forces and the success of a democratic election that will be completed by the end of the year, proponents of the war should ask themselves: couldn’t we have done that in the first 6 months of conflict? Did it really take 12 years (the longest war in American history), a few trillion dollars and over 2,000 soldier lives to train 350,000 Afghani soldiers and hold an election? We aren’t even out of the woods – the instability and accusations of corruption in the election to select President Karzai’s successor demonstrates it has come at too high a price.

Three-star Army lieutenant general Daniel Bolger, whose 35 years of experience culminated in extensive work in Afghanistan and Iraq, is publishing the first after-action report on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. In the book, aptly titled “Why We Lost,” Bolger argues that the mission creep described above sacrificed the key gains made within the first six months of each war. Like the Gulf War, Bolger argues that after the removal of the hostile government (in Afghanistan’s case, the Taliban), the United States should have packed up and gone home. Instead, perpetual war and nation building that will take decades longer than the US (and the public) is willing to commit to have created more enemies than friends.

The failure in Afghanistan certainly won’t kill the American empire, but like Rambo, America hasn’t escaped Afghanistan unscathed. Afghanistan, like Vietnam, has exposed the limitations of the US war machine for all to see, and made the leaders and nation behind it less credible in the process. That doesn’t bode well going forward—just ask Colonel Trautman, Rambo’s mentee: “You expect sympathy? You started this damn war, now you’ll have to deal with it.”

The views expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect those of the Glimpse from the Globe staff and editorial board.


Yes, America’s War in Afghanistan Was Worth It

J.T. Blakely argues in favor of America’s War in Afghanistan in this “Face Off” edition (Photo by author). Please see Nathaniel Haas’s “Face Off” article for a counter opinion.

This week there will likely be a terrorist attack in Afghanistan – an attack that, like the recent one that left 15 dead, will target civilians, Afghan police, and/or NATO peacekeepers. In the same time period, the number of US soldiers killed in action will likely rise from 2,170 to 2,180. These events will occur as US officials assess Afghanistan’s ability to fend off insurgencies amid seemingly unending bombings, kidnappings, and wavering support for the war both at home and abroad. If, after 12 of years fighting, these are the meager results of thousands of lives lost and trillions of dollars spent, one may wonder: “was it worth it?”

Typically, the answer is an assessment of the War in Afghanistan through a security perspective – how safe is the US from terrorist threats or how stable is the Afghan government from Taliban insurgents? But this approach ignores a critical angle I’d like to address: the Afghani people.

13 years ago, Afghanistan was in the midst of conflict – a conflict that began with a communist coup in 1978, was precipitated by the Soviet invasion in 1979, and was furthered by a decade of civil conflict starting in 1992. America’s intervention in 2001, if even for questionable reasons, reduced unending violence and allowed for the first serious reconstruction efforts since 1978.

Since 2001, life expectancy in Afghanistan has risen by as much as 18 years per person while GDP has increased tenfold and billions of dollars of foreign aid have been unlocked. Similar improvements can be observed through other metrics such as infant mortality, which despite seeing little improvement during the 1990s, dropped by 50% after the Taliban’s fall.

Additionally, it is difficult to ignore the swell of liberties and political rights acquired by the average Afghan since America’s invasion. In the Taliban’s Afghanistan just 13 years ago, women were oppressed on historically unprecedented levels while everything from parakeets to public laughter was outright banned. Public beatings, shamings, and executions were not uncommon and though enforcement of laws was often uneven and arbitrary, these laws suffocated economic activity. Discriminatory policies and mismanagement of public facilities resulted in the ineffectiveness of many accommodations, most notably medical services.

Moreover, when in power, the Pakistan-funded Taliban showed no regard for Afghan culture or history as it deemed countless invaluable cultural artefacts sacrilegious. Just several months before Operation Enduring Freedom began in October of 2001, the Taliban demolished a pair of Buddhist statues known as the Bamiyan Buddhas despite fierce international objection. The two statues, built 1500 years ago, were registered UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

America’s war in Afghanistan has also made way for a new democratic system. The elections in 2004 were the first Afghanistan had seen in decades and the 2014 elections have marked the first time that power was transferred democratically in Afghanistan. And though Afghanistan’s first two elections were marred by controversy (something not uncommon in countries so poor) this year’s election has seen few issues aside from the threat of Taliban violence. Record turnouts rates have shocked the world.

America’s war itself has not wrought the destruction many seem to think it has. In the period between 1978 and the present, over 2 million people were killed in Afghanistan. However, nearly all of these deaths occurred before the 2001 invasion. Of those deaths since 2001, three-quarters were attributed to the Taliban. Meanwhile increased access to aid and medical services has saved countless lives among Afghanistan’s poorest residents.

So in addition to deposing a sacerdotal tyranny, allied forces in Afghanistan have offered the country an end to decades of conflict, have established a representative government, and have given Afghanistan a chance for reconstruction. The Taliban is gone and, given new data suggesting that only 35% of Afghans have any sympathy for armed resistance groups like the Taliban, it seems unlikely to return. Three-quarters of Afghans claim to be better off now than during Taliban rule and the same number feel satisfied with the current government’s performance. So as American military officials plan the troop withdrawal later this year, Americans may argue over whether the war was worth it for the United States, but there’s no debate that it was for Afghanistan.

The views expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect those of the Glimpse from the Globe staff and editorial board.



A New Grand Strategy for a Changing World

American political thinkers en masse have not engaged in meaningful debates on American grand strategy since George H. W. Bush’s proclamation of the ‘New World Order’ in the early 1990s. There have been sincere yet misinformed attempts to change America’s role, including the globalization prophets of the Clinton years, the Terror Warriors of the Bush years, and the liberal re-setters of the Obama years. However, no major faction of thinkers has articulated a practical and influential foreign policy capable of protecting America and the liberal international order in our changing world.

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The reverse side of The Great Seal of the United States. ‘Novus Ordo Seclorum’ is Latin for ‘New World Order,’ the main theme of George H. W. Bush’s successful foreign policy. This order has been called into question in recent years. September 20, 2009 (U.S. Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons)

Remodeling America’s grand strategy will be difficult. In the near future the necessary lights will return to the foreground and shape the debate towards the best possible ends. At the moment, though, it would be beneficial to examine what coming paradigm shifts may look like to prepare us for the shock.

First, the supposedly transcendent norms of democratization and liberalization that swept the globe and led to a new world order over the last two decades are, in fact, not false illusions, but rather social and political constructions whose dissemination has been made possible only by the geopolitical situation of the Post-Cold War world. American hegemony, an interconnected international economic order focused on the United States, Europe, and China, the political bankruptcy of Communism, and the lack of dominant powers in any of the non-North American regions of the world created an environment wherein general interstate peace, the deepening of trade flows between the world’s major economic hubs, the spread of Western-encouraged democratization and liberalization, and multilateralism as standard diplomacy seemed to be basic forces of history rather than historically-contingent phenomena. The success of internationalism and American ideals blinded American political players to some of the unfortunate realities of international political life.

The global geopolitical situation has certainly changed over the last two decades, particularly with the assertiveness of China and the adventurism of Russia over the last six years. The resurgence of other political and economic centers of power, particularly in Russia, China, and Iran, and to a lesser extent India and Japan, has threatened American hegemony. Economic troubles in the US, Europe, and Japan, coupled with resurgent economic nationalism, have stalled the progress of the global commercial and financial order, proving globalization to be a double-edged sword. The ugly offspring of ‘democracy’ in Egypt, Libya, Myanmar, Pakistan, and other developing nations, as well as the local mutation of American-style liberalism in East Asia, Latin America, and even Western Europe of all places, have threatened formerly ‘universalist’ liberal values. Russia’s forays into Georgia and Crimea, China’s posturing with Vietnam, the Philippines, and Japan, and Iran’s manipulation of the situations in Syria and Iraq have brought the phantasmal ideals of perpetual peace, the triumph of multilateralism, and the end of interstate war to an ironic stalemate.

Moreover, innumerable trends in areas beyond the economy and politics are demanding a fundamental rethinking of how we manage foreign policy. Exponential technological advancement in fields as diverse as information technology, biotechnology, communications, energy, transportation, and manufacturing are restructuring societies, militaries, and economies. The ‘New Medievalism’ – a localization of many political units and the transition of duties formerly embraced by the state to various non-state actors such as corporations, non-governmental organizations, stateless nations, cartels, and insurgent groups – has resulted in a new anarchic political dynamic that cannot be managed by traditional statecraft alone. Environmental change, demographic shifts, and other unpredictable historical forces will continue to shape international and domestic politics in the coming decades.

How can the principles of liberal world order, American pre-eminence, and the balance of power be maintained in a world where increasingly assertive regional powers bolster their presence along their frontiers while developing societies crumble in the face of insurmountable domestic odds?

To start, the United States should determine whether or not maintaining the balance of power in every critical region of the world is feasible. Preventing the Russians from dominating Eastern Europe, the Iranians from intervening in the Greater Middle East, and the Chinese from bullying East Asia has certainly kept America the predominant power in those regions. At the same time, it has cost America blood and treasure, alienated three potential partners, and prevented those states from crafting local political orders that might be far more effective at stymying anarchy than the internationalist pretensions of the Western elite, who are proving to be far too incompetent at handling their own problems to be trusted with the affairs of others.

Balancing the Indians and Pakistanis, the Iranians and Israelis, the Japanese and the Chinese, and the Russians and the Europeans has perpetuated regional rivalries and conflicts and prevented the emergence of other hegemons. These rivalries serve America’s strategic interests in preventing the rise of challengers, but in light of present shifts in the balance of power, it is not clear whether the United States has the resources or will to perpetuate such situations and serve as the global lever. While allowing the emergence of regional hegemons is nowhere near ideal, it may be worthwhile to have go-to strongmen in the world’s critical regions who would be, if not dependable, at least predictable. Such a global concert system, populated by regional leaders as Germany, Russia, China, Iran, Turkey, Japan, and Brazil, and maintained by the United States, would certainly provide a more orderly international system than the vaguely law-based equality of all states existing on paper today.

Geopolitics South Russia

This geopolitical map of the South Russian frontier depicts some of strategic movements the Russians have been making in recent years. March 6, 2014 (Spiridon Ion Cepleanu/Wikimedia Commons)

Now, it may be worthwhile to stymie potential challengers. But if current political, economic, and demographic trends are to be trusted, it appears that this will ultimately be a futile endeavor, as developing nations transition into middle-class economies, their subsequent power may be too much for us to keep in check, and our attempts at policing will certainly invite contempt.

America would benefit from maintaining a liberal world order through control of the seas and dominance in military and economic might wherein fellow developed nations would come to the table, manage their own affairs, solve mutual problems, and generally strive to keep order around the world. American values could be promoted, but it would not be wise to export them and seek to impose them on our fellow states. And if the world trended towards war, it would be far easier to manage such a crisis in a world of developed states with mutual understandings, rather than a polarized world of the decadent West and the resurgent rest.

The international system is presently enmeshed in a period of great stress and tension, and a new method of thinking about politics will have to conquer the decadent contemporary orthodoxy. The statesmen of the future must engage in these discussions and seek dynamic and creative solutions – the fate of our nation demands nothing less.

The views expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect those of the Glimpse from the Globe staff and editorial board.

Affairs, Betrayals, and Accusations: The Shashi Tharoor Scandal

Shashi Tharoor WEF

Shashi Tharoor at the World Economic Forum (via Wikimedia Commons).

In what could only be described as a soap opera, an unbelievable scandal hit India and Pakistan this past January. The very public incident involved the Indian Minister of State for Human Resources Development, Shashi Tharoor, and his wife, Sunanda Pushkar. A Pakistani journalist named Mehr Tarar also played an important role in the drama that played out mostly on twitter. The “he said-she said” situation caused national outrage and confusion, some might even go as far as claiming national embarrassment on the part of the government. One thing is for certain, the incident served to highlight the ever present tensions between India and Pakistan.

Shashi Tharoor is a renowned politician who served as the United Nations Under Secretary General for Communications and Public Information where he undertook a large number of initiatives, including the United Nations’ first ever seminars on anti-Semitism and Islamaphobia. This groundbreaking legislation helped earn him a nomination for the Secretary General position within the United Nations. Although he wasn’t chosen, Tharoor returned to India where he rose to become a prominent government official. Both Tharoor’s celebrity and high-ranking position make him a desirable subject for many journalists, including one Mehr Tarar.

Mehr Tarar, a journalist for The Lahore, reached out to interview Tharoor last summer. A few months later, Tarar posted cryptic tweets about the new secret love of in her life, as well as tweets publically admiring Shashi Tharoor. Naturally, Tharoor’s wife began to suspect something unusual was going on. On January 15th 2014, Pushkar went onto her husband’s twitter and revealed, to his 2 million followers, the supposed private messages between Tharoor and Tarar declaring their love to one another. In response, Tharoor declared that his twitter had been hacked. Then, Pushkar confirmed that she wrote the tweets and began claiming that Tarar was stalking her husband and that she was an undercover ISI agent who was trying to infiltrate her marriage to gain political information.

This was a very serious accusation, with the implications involving deception and international government interference. Historically, there is palpable tension between the two south Asian countries. Decolonization and subsequent partitioning of India in the 1940s left bitter feelings of rivalry for many in the region. These feelings lead to conflict from time to time, especially in the hotly disputed Kashmir region, a location Tarar has visited many times for her employer.  With Pakistan’s nuclear power status in mind, an accusation like this could only exacerbate tensions. In short, a silly scandal could have very serious impacts on a region where stability is never assured.

Tarar quickly released a statement vehemently denying any affair or association with the ISI and expressed her belief that this claim would place her family in danger. Within 24 hours, Pushkar retracted her statements and released a joint comment with her husband stating that she did not write the tweets. The reality of an election year was likely the motivating factor for the sudden change in Pushkar’s story. It is clear that the back and forth public bickering between an important government official and his wife could only be a negative influence on public opinion.

However, things took a shocking turn the following morning on January 17th when it was announced that Pushkar was found dead in the hotel she and her husband had been sharing. In the wake of this tragedy, a large amount of attention was placed on Tarar and the supposed ISI connections that she had. An equal amount of speculation was placed on Tharoor and many theories from poison to government espionage have begun to surface with regards to Pushkar’s untimely death. The medical examiner ruled out foul play and there is an ongoing investigation into whether Pushkar committed suicide. However, this has not stopped India’s population from wildly speculating about the death of the chief minister’s wife. It is unclear what impact this incredibly public scandal will have on Shashi Tharoor’s chances in the national elections that are quickly approaching. The opposition has wasted no opportunity to criticize Tharoor and hammer him with accusations and condemnation. As is apparent in the United States, public opinion can make or break a national election. Only time will tell what impact this seemingly petty scandal will have on the Indian elections and the region as a whole.

No Pakistanis Allowed

A police sign in Islamabad, Pakistan. (ayerscolleen via Flickr)

A police sign in Islamabad, Pakistan. (ayerscolleen via Flickr)

In Islamabad, Pakistan, people clamored for a reservation to sample the new and exclusive French restaurant in the heart of the city. The city is a hotbed for different cultures and people, where wealthy Pakistanis mingle with foreign diplomats and ex-pats, blurring lines and creating an international environment. ‘La Maison,’ a new hit with ex-pats, was being talked about around town. Excited at the prospect of sampling authentic French cuisine, the restaurant had reservations booked up to several days in advance. There was only one condition that had to be satisfied in order to gain entrance to the fashionable restaurant – proof that you weren’t Pakistani.

Philippe Lafforgue opened ‘La Maison’ in October 2013 with the idea of serving food for ex-pats working in the capitol city of Islamabad. Claiming that his foreigner-only policy was not discriminatory but rather culturally sensitive, Lafforgue argued that he did not want to be arrested for serving a Muslim customer an alcoholic beverage or a pork dish. Additionally, he claimed his dishes were not prepared in a halal manner with many menu items requiring the use of alcohol and that changing the ingredients of the recipes would compromise the authenticity of his French food. Like many Islamic nations, Pakistan has dietary laws imposed on its Muslim citizens, mainly, the ban of pork and alcohol. Although Lafforgue has a right to refuse serving Muslims alcohol, a policy found in many hotels throughout Islamic nations in the Middle East and Asia, he has gone farther than others by denying entrance into his restaurant despite hiring a Pakistani chef, bartender, kitchen and service staff.

In Pakistan, The restaurant has been met with criticism from both Muslims and non-Muslims alike. Journalist Cyril Alemida, who initially brought the restaurant’s discriminatory policy to light when he was rejected due to his possession of a Pakistani passport asked, “How does a foreigner run this money-spinning business out of the heart of the Pakistani capital, and not let Pakistanis in… And how does he get to ask me to produce my passport? He’s not an airport. He’s not an international authority. He’s not an embassy. How can he do this? Reserving the right to admission doesn’t mean an entire category of people [can be] written off.”

Many locals are crying foul and have reported the establishment to the police. “It’s absolutely ridiculous,” says Pakistani-American Bushra Mateen. “My family left their home, the country of their ancestors, and the home of all of their history, to start a new life free from oppression. We left, so that no one could reject us for our skin color or religion. And now this guy comes along and tells me I can’t eat in my own country. I am not a dog, I am not an Indian, I am supposed to be in my home.” Ms. Mateen refers to the “No Dogs and Indians” rule that was prominent in the region during the rule of the British Raj, which for Pakistanis, is reminiscent of the British Apartheid and the subsequent partition that forced many families to leave their homes.

Eventually, talk of the restaurant’s policy reached the ears of Yasir Afridi, an assistant to the superintendent of the Islamabad Police. Afridi attempted to make a reservation and found that, true to the talk of the town, he would be unable to dine at ‘La Maison.’ Following his rejection, he led a raid on ‘La Maison’ and discovered over 300 bottles of un-registered liquor. Although Lafforgue claims that as a foreigner he is allowed to serve liquor to other foreigners, he is not under any diplomatic mission and is not operating a diplomat’s exclusive club, and therefore did not have the necessary licenses for his liquor cache. As of now, the restaurant has been shut down. However, Lafforgue has not given up yet, claiming that he will find a way to operate once again.

Why U.S. Russia-Centric Nuclear Policy is Obsolete

This past month, President Obama put forth America’s new global nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament strategy in Berlin. In his remarks, the President included proposals for various initiatives including a new bilateral nuclear stockpile reduction plan with Russia, a pledge to initiate new treaties banning fissile material production, support of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, and the usual commitments to contain Iran and North Korea (Obama 2013). While these initiatives are productive for moving towards a nuclear-free world and containing short-term threats, the Administration’s new nuclear strategy fails to sufficiently address two pressing issues that represent great threats to long-term U.S. national and global security interests: the nuclear standoff between Pakistan and India, and the tactful development of China’s nuclear arsenal. It appears the U.S. is still operating in an immediate post-Cold War mindset where bilateral reductions between Russia and the U.S. remain the central theme of U.S. nuclear policy. However, if the U.S. is to ensure long-term global security, it should stop focusing on Russia and instead make Pakistan, India, and China top long-term priorities of global nonproliferation and disarmament efforts.

Negotiated bilateral reductions with Russia should no longer be the core of U.S. disarmament efforts. While the U.S. and Russia still maintain the greatest number of nuclear warheads- 7,700 and 8,500 total inventory, respectively- both sides have established command and control structures including advanced warning systems, vastly improved safeguards to prevent theft by transnational actors, and an established communication hotline to ameliorate any potential misunderstandings (Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation 2013). The former nemeses have learned valuable lessons from the Cold War and no longer represent a great threat to global security, especially as each state continues on a successful 20-year reduction in nuclear arms. The U.S. should instead direct its attention towards two countries that are engaged in a situation that may be much more dangerous than that of the Cold War: Pakistan and India.

Unlike the U.S. and Russia, both Pakistan and India are increasing the number of tactical nuclear weapons and lack the aforementioned communication and warning measures (Stockholm International Peace Research Institute 2013). Pair these alarming developments with Pakistan and India’s tumultuous history and a shared border, and the world has a serious threat of nuclear conflict. Indeed, a border skirmish or misinterpreted military training exercise could very well escalate to a nuclear conflict. In addition to the more traditional threat of nuclear war, Pakistan represents a dire nuclear proliferation threat. Some experts have asserted that Pakistan is the most dangerous country in the world due to the possibility of transnational actors gaining access to its nuclear material (Cirincione 2012). Indeed, the Nuclear Threat Initiative ranks Pakistan 31/32 out of countries that possess weapons-usable nuclear material in terms of nuclear materials security (Nuclear Threat Initiative 2012). India lacks sufficient safeguards as well and therefore has received a poor rating of 28/32 (Nuclear Threat Initiative 2012). The U.S. should be making this potential hot zone a top priority of its nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament policy, not the Kremlin’s more secure, declining nuclear arsenal.

As Russia and the U.S. work towards decreasing their nuclear stockpiles, China is the only one of the five original nuclear weapons states that is increasing its nuclear arsenal (Kristensen and Norris 2011). Expert assessments of the number of Chinese nuclear warheads vary dramatically due to the opaque nature of China’s nuclear program. While the majority of experts agree that China maintains at least 250-300 nuclear warheads (Center for Arms Control and Nonproliferation 2013), other reports indicates China maintains as many as 3,000 nuclear warheads (Wan 2011). China is also estimated to have produced enough plutonium and highly-enriched uranium for up to 1,660 warheads (Kristensen 2011). These estimates should be very alarming, but China’s growing arsenal is often under-addressed in public U.S. nuclear policy circles. Why? Certainly the entrenched economic relationship is a deterring factor from addressing China directly, but this should not prevent the U.S. from engaging China bilaterally and multilaterally on this issue. China is a party to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and can be easily brought into the disarmament conversation. Pakistan and India represent a greater challenge since they are not part of the NPT, but both countries could be included in the international nonproliferation regime through other less restrictive bodies, such as the Nuclear Suppliers Group, for further engagement aimed at encouraging peaceful development of their respective civilian nuclear programs in exchange for reductions in nuclear warheads.

Current U.S. nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament efforts are ineffective at addressing long-term nuclear concerns. The U.S. Government is taking positive steps by hosting international forums such as the Nuclear Summit every 5 years, but these chat shops are not enough. The situation between Pakistan and India demands immediate attention and China needs to be called out on its growing nuclear weapons arsenal. As part of its overall nuclear strategy, the U.S. needs to make a central shift away from Russia in order to bilaterally and multilaterally engage China, India, and Pakistan. This pivot will be tricky because of competing U.S. strategic interests in Asia, and because India and Pakistan are not members of many established nonproliferation treaties and agreements. However, the U.S. should recognize that its long-term security interests necessitate inoculating these problems in their early stages rather than waiting for a nuclear disaster in South Asia or the emergence of an even more heavily-armed China.

The author would like to thank Bradlee McAuliffe and Matthew Woo for their contributions to this piece.