Interaction with Mr. Jon B. Alterman, Director Middle East Programme at CSIS
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Mr. Jon B. Alterman, who holds the Zbigniew Brezezinski Chair for global security and geostrategy and is Director of the Middle East Programme at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), visited the Foundation on September 05, 2012 for an informal interaction with a select group of security analysts and foreign policy specialists who are currently on the panel of VIF. The interaction primarily focused on the ‘Implications of US Rebalancing Strategy in Asia, in general, and West Asia, in particular’.

The interaction covered a broad spectrum of subjects, including the key drivers for the shift in the US approach to Asia, emerging security dynamics in the region, the future power trajectory of China, the situation in Af-Pak region and the issue of non-state actors with special reference to Pakistan. The VIF panel of experts was headed by Ambassador P P Shukla, Joint Director, and comprised, among others, General N C Vij, former Army Chief, Lieutenant General (retd) R K Sawhney, former Director General of Military Intelligence, Mr. P K Mishra, former Additional Director General (ADG) of Border Security Force (BSF), and Brig (retd) Arun Sahgal.

The interaction brought out clearly that Asia is undergoing a fundamental shift which could well set the trends for the extended region for the next half century. With the current US military engagements in Asia, Afghanistan in particular, expectantly coming to an end by 2014, the US has made its intentions known that it wants to remain engaged in Asia in a leadership role. Mr. Alterman however emphasized that the US’ rebalancing strategy in Asia should not necessarily be seen through the prism of encirclement of China, or to conclude that the US was attempting to increase its military presence in the region. On the contrary, the strategy appears directed more specifically towards setting acceptable norms of behaviour among states across Asia and working out consensual arrangements to uphold those norms.

The discussion that followed highlighted the view that keeping the trade and commerce routes, more importantly the energy supply routes in Asia, accessible to everyone is of paramount importance for the global economy. To that end, it needs to be ensured that Asia does not fall under any power’s hegemony.

It also emerged from the discussion that the US is keen to maintain its leadership in Asia, by strengthening the capacities of its partner countries. Multilateral cooperation as the lynchpin of the Asia pivot strategy however has wider implications for the regional countries, expressing their own skepticism over the US’s capacity to remain engaged in Asia in a sustained way. The stakes for India in the US rebalancing strategy in Asia came in for even sharper focus during the interaction. The Indian analysts expressed their surprise at the fact that despite Pakistan’s well-advertised role as a sponsor of terror, it was designated a major Non-NATO Ally. India’s and the international community’s efforts at stabilizing Afghanistan are facing stiff resistance from Pakistan. Even though most countries including Afghanistan want to see India play a more active role, Pakistan continues to deny India’s access to Afghanistan. This is why India is seeking to develop an alternative route through Iran. It was important for the west to understand and recognize this geographic compulsion.

The interaction, lasting over two and half hours, was marked by an increasing degree of understanding and appreciation of each other’s point of views and a desire to move jointly towards a higher degree of cooperation in meeting common objectives.

Report prepared by Sanjay Kumar

Event Date 
September 5, 2012
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