Achieving Disarmament: Strengths and Weaknesses of International NGOs

The author stresses the importance of NGOs working collectively to reduce risks associated with nuclear weapons proliferation, and highlights how one program, the Strategic Concept for the Removal of Arms and Proliferation (SCRAP), can effectively create the needed synergy between all such NGO’s, while complimenting other existing campaigns to end the risks associated with nuclear weapons proliferation.

By Akhshid Javid,6th December, 2015

The Rise of the Global Movement for Disarmament 

Since 1945, nuclear disarmament has been a concern for many organizations around the world.  Moreover, there have been strong waves of public support for disbandment of nuclear weapons across the globe over the last 50 years.

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South-South Technology Cooperation: The Case of Brazil and China’s Wind Industry

In a piece prepared especially for the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA), the authors look at the “South-South” relationship between China and Brazil to understand the extent, drivers and lessons from their technology cooperation.

By Hyosun Bae & Zoraida Velasco, 7th May, 2014.

Cooperation in the fields of technology is under the constant pressure of global competition. Countries are finding themselves in a race to increase their innovation capacity. This is particularly the case for emerging markets like Brazil and China. This race includes significant multi-dimensional commitments from government towards industry development and collaboration in an effort to develop mutually benefitting opportunities. Fully utilizing their growth in financial and technological capacity, Brazil and China have expanded their collaboration on renewable energy technology. Technology cooperation is a way to develop opportunities for reciprocal knowledge-sharing and investment. Through the use of case study and literature review, this paper analyses the bilateral cooperation between Brazil and China on wind power technology. It focuses on the public and private sectors’ research and development (R&D) of wind technology between the two countries.

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Kyrgyzstan: dangers from outside and inside threaten stability

Kyrgyzstan has recently experienced an upsurge in tensions around the issue of pollution in the Kumtor Gold Mine, which it has not known since the ethnic riots of June 2010. Oppositional nationalists are using this tension to put Kyrgyzstan again on the edge of stability, at a moment when Islamist are growing strong in the region and Afghanistan is going through a security transition that could affect the rest of Central Asia.

By Alejandro Marx, 8th September, 2013

Since its independence in 1991, with the dissolution of the USSR, Kyrgyzstan has known stability until the ‘Tulip Revolution’ in 2005 when its first president Askar Akayev, elected in 1990 was succeeded by Kurmankek Bakiyev. Bakiyev left Kyrgyzstan in April 2010 as a result of violent street protests, followed soon after by ethnic riots. After the transitional presidency of Roza Otunbaeva, Almazbek Atambaev was inaugurated president  in December 2011. Atambaev is the leader of the Kyrgyzstan Social Democratic Party, which has 26 out of 120 seats in parliament. He previously held the post of prime minister in the governments of Bakiyev and Otunbaeva. His party rules an unstable coalition with the other parties, apart from the nationalist Ata-Jurt party.

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Pyongyang’s Quandary

The provocative rhetoric coming from North Korea could hide a faint sense of desperation.

By Gulshan Roy, 3rd April, 2013

On Saturday 30th March, a statement released by the highest North Korean command warned that it was entering “a state of war” with its feuding southern neighbour. As Koreans on both sides watched the unfolding drama being broadcast on every major international television news channel, Mr Kim Jong-un managed to conjure an even more spectacular artifice by releasing photographs of him discussing with his senior commanders under the backdrop of a ‘Plan to Hit the U.S Mainland’ written in bold. News channels are not often presented with opportunities for such great TV. Yet, Mr Kim’s moment of teeth-showing turned into bathos once it reached its intended audience: instead of injecting any sense of panic on the other side of the Pacific, the images received in Washington were swiftly turned into material fit for some banter over bourbon.

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Iran: The Waiting Game

As talks have resumed over Iran’s nuclear program in Almaty, the failure of the sanctions regime raises serious questions about mainstream diplomatic commonplaces. Far from being the favour it is portrayed to be, the rapprochement effort towards Tehran from the P5+1 is borne out of necessity.

By Gulshan Roy, 8th March 2013

“Iran won’t retreat one iota from its nuclear program” was Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s declaration on Iranian national television on the 9th of November 2011. The Iranian President is used to defiant flourishes as evidenced by his repeated promises to ‘finish off’ Israel. To his credit, however, his resolve not to sink in the face of gradually increasing pressure from the West has been steadfast. His country is weathering a deadly sanctions regime that has all but crippled the Iranian economy. Last week, the two sides met in Almaty, Kazakhstan in a desperate attempt to salvage the worsening situation. And as a beaming Mr Ali Baqeri (Iran’s deputy chief negotiator) left the fruitless round of negotiations with the P5+1 (the five permanent Security Council members and Germany), sanction-fanatics in the West were uncomfortably loosening their ties and scratching their moist foreheads. They ought to.

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‘Iranian Mothers for Peace’ Alert the World on Sanctions and Shortage of Medicines

“The right to health and access to medical treatment and medication is one of the fundamental human rights anywhere in the world. Please do not allow the killing of our sick children, beloved families, and fellow Iranians from the lack of medicine, caught in instrumental policies of coercion and power.”

“Iranian women for Peace”, a human rights organisation in Iran have written an open letter to Ban Ki-moon, the UN Secretary General, and Dr Margaret Chan, the Director General of the World Health Organisation alerting them to the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Iran as a result of the shortage of vital medication due to US/EU led sanctions. In this letter by Farid Marjai and Mehrnaz Shahabi, the intentions of Iranian Mothers for Peace are explained as well as the plea to the UN to respond.

by Farid Marjai and Mehrnaz Shahabi, 4th February 2013. Continue reading

Deja vu: The French Intervention in Mali

On January 11, 2013, French President François Hollande sent a military expedition to rescue Dioncounda Traoré’s government from the “imminent terrorist threat”. Camille Maubert, a security analyst, explores this turn of events. 

By Camille Maubert, 16th January, 2013

Five days after the French “surprise” intervention in Mali, it is – to say the least – not clear what operation Serval is all about. Brandishing UN Article 51 (which proclaims the individual and collective right to protect a member subjected to armed aggression), French President François Hollande sent a military expedition to rescue Dioncounda Traoré’s government from the “imminent terrorist threat”.  750 ground troops, 30 tanks and several Rafale combat planes have thus been mobilised to strike Islamist strongholds in the North and West of Malian territory, making, according to “security sources”, important damage to the groups’ bases and leadership.

However, doubts are rising as to what the ins and outs of the intervention are in a context where reliable information is scarce. Indeed, most of the information publically available relies on two sources. On the one hand there are the official communiqués published by the various actors’ communication outlets which are often politically biased, and which are therefore unreliable and/or contradictory. For instance, while French defence spokesperson announces 60 terrorist casualties, the Malian army increases their number to “hundreds” and Islamic groups refuse to make any statements. On the other hand, the local press predominantly relies on witness accounts from the population and “local officials”. The weakness of such sources is patent, as they are based on what people saw, or think they saw, and therefore produces subjective and incomplete interpretations.

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Resolving Iran’s nuclear stand-off with the west

By Alireza Ahmadian, 7th August, 2012

The two days of talks in Moscow between the representative of P5+1 (US, UK, China, France, Russia and Germany) led by Catherine Ashton, the European Union High Representative and Dr. Saeed Jalili, Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, ended with no major breakthrough and the possibility of further negotiations in Istanbul in July. “It remains clear that there are significant gaps between the substance of the two positions,” commented Ashton.

Concerned about uranium enrichment in Iran and the possibility of weaponization of its nuclear programme, the United Nations Security Council has imposed four sets of sanctions, resolutions 1737, 1747, 1803 and 1929 on Iran asking the country to “suspend all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities.” Moreover, The US House of Representative passed a resolution on May 11, 2012  asking for “the full and sustained suspension of all uranium enrichment-related and reprocessing activities.” Jalili, on the other hand, has repeatedly stated  that “enrichment of uranium for peaceful purposes in all levels is an inalienable right.”

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Iran Should Not Allow the Talks to Be a “Success” If …

In this post, Shirin Shafaie offers a policy recommendation paper for Iran ahead of the Moscow talks between the P5+1 and Iran.

By Shirin Shafaie

Iran should not allow the Moscow talks (18 June, 2012) to be announced, declared or referred to as “successful”, “positive”, “constructive” or even “promising” by the other party or the Western media in the absence of absolutely concrete and tangible concessions from the West in terms of sanctions relief and normalisation of Iran’s nuclear file in the IAEA. I explain why.

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Addressing the Asymmetry in Negotiations between Iran and P5+1: a critical review of Oxford Research Group’s briefing

In this article, the author presents a critical review of the briefing, “Iran´s Nuclear Impasse: Breaking the Deadlock”, published by the Oxford Research Group on 1 May 2012. As negotiations over Iran´s nuclear programme stall, the author criticises the lack of neutrality of the briefing by the Oxford-based think tank, and calls for a review of the same in order to avoid some of the mistakes of the past, when pro-war think tanks played a key role in manufacturing consent for the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

By Mehrnaz Shahabi, 10 July 2012

The Oxford Research Group’s briefing, Iran’s Nuclear Impasse: Breaking the Deadlock (1 May 2012) [1], published before the second round of negotiations between Iran and P5+1 (permanent Security Council and Germany) in Baghdad on 23 May, whilst proposing some positive principles for a successful outcome of the negotiations – such as Iran’s right to enrichment, “reciprocity”, “defining endgame”, and “taking regime change off the table” – suffers serious drawbacks, which have become even more glaringly clear with the result of the recent Moscow negotiations.

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Disarmament is more practical than we are conditioned to think

In this article, the authors build on a recent piece appeared on Open Democracy titled ‘Restarting Disarmament’. Disarmament, the authors claim, is more practical than we are often conditioned to believe.

By Dan Plesch and David Franco, 14th May, 2012

In a recent article on the progress of the nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament talks now under way in Vienna, Rebecca Johnson notes that the newly formed coalition of pro-humanitarian states has the potential to become a game changer. Of all that has happened thus far in Vienna the most exciting news is the statement ↑ by a coalition of 16 non nuclear weapons states, including Switzerland and Norway – an ally of the nuclear weapons states, that nuclear weapons and programmes have catastrophic humanitarian consequences and that they should be abolished.

This initiative is the first involving western states to apply to nuclear weapons the thinking that has moved humanitarian disarmament on land mines, cluster munitions and the arms trade. President Obama’s ↑ cry for nuclear disarmament in Prague in 2009 may have had more effect than skeptics and critics believe. But more needs to be done as disarmament has long suffered from some kind of lethargic paralysis. Paraphrasing Richard Moyes and Thomas Nash, if disarmament were like an old PC it would need to be restarted. Indeed, restarting disarmament is a must, and not only at the nuclear level. The consequences would be immense, including a boost to democratic development as highlighted by Andrew Lichterman ↑ .

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Non-Proliferation: Are we heading in the right direction?

In this article, the author reports from the first session of the Non-Proliferation Treaty Preparatory Committee conference being held in Vienna, Austria. The international community, including Iran and the US, have gathered at the IAEA headquarters to discuss next steps while non-participants Israel, India and Pakistan follow the progress of the conference from the comforts of distance.

By David J. Franco, 2nd May, 2012

Ignored by the mainstream media, the world’s nuclear weapons and energy problems are being tackled by the international community gathered in Vienna. Attended by a gallant but tiny band of NGOs the meeting witnesses states from Iran to the US engaged in the debate, while the non-participants Israel, Pakistan and India cast a shadow over the proceedings.

On Monday, Ambassador Libran Cabactulan, of the Philippines, declared open the first session of the Preparatory Committee of the 2015 Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference. Ambassador Cabactulan led a successful process that culminated in the 2010 NPT Action Plan agreed with the consensus of all states parties to the NPT. After his opening statement, in which he emphasized the need to build upon pass success, Ambassador Cabactulan declared elected Ambassador Peter Woolcott, of Australia, as the Chair-designate for the first session of the 2015 NPT review conference cycle.

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Time to reframe the debate on the Iranian nuclear programme

In this article, Paul Ingram* argues it is time to reframe debates on the Iranian nuclear programme. If we want to solve the current impasse, we need to move from a pervasive rhetoric based on security threats and mutual accusations to a cooperative framework more apt for negotiations. 

By Paul Ingram, 25th April, 2012

All too often the story around the Iranian nuclear issue is framed as our effort to contain the wild ambitions of a delinquent revolutionary state that with nuclear weapons given half a chance will threaten the stability of the world. This frame sticks for two key reasons: firstly because it plays into some of our greatest fears, and second, because there is enough of a hint of truth to it that people forget the qualifications, the underlying causes and the contrary evidence. In short, we fail in the face of complexity to understand the challenge, and the role of both sides in creating it. And in fact, many of the accusations made against Iran are mirrored in Tehran in things said about the West.

Western intelligence agencies continue to confirm that there is no strong evidence to back up the claim that Iran is engaged in a technical sprint to fulfil an ‘ambition to attain nukes’. Postulating reasons why Iran might want such capabilities is all very well, but such approaches are fraught with analytical and cultural traps. There are equally persuasive explanations for Iran’s programme that it would be equally dangerous to depend upon, such as the idea that Iran is caught up in an effort to demonstrate its modernity through the development of cutting-edge technologies, or that it is pursuing an energy-mix that both brings in foreign exchange and provides for an ever-increasing energy-hungry economy. The truth probably includes a balance of many explanations, including the fact that its technology development gives the administration a future option for nuclear deployment that may be seen as valuable in itself.

The talks in Istanbul last weekend between the E3+3 and Iran were best summed up by Guardian journalist Julian Borger as a play for a score draw, at least for now. Emerging without recriminations was in itself an achievement. But of course the challenge is how we get beyond this to reaching more substantive agreement in Baghdad on 23 May, when there have been so many factors in the way. Over the coming months, Iran faces some pretty severe additional sanctions, on top of crippling ones recently imposed. When previously people may have accused them of playing for time this is no longer be the case. In fact if anything it was Catherine Ashton, lacking a mandate, who last Saturday was playing for time when Jalili was looking for a deal that would soften impending sanctions. The best way of securing stocks of material in Iran is by negotiating access, not by threats, which only provide Iran an incentive to continue. Israeli protests over Iran’s increasing ‘immunity’ to attack ignores the fact that Iran has every right to protect themselves against illegal military threats. As Peter Jenkins, former UK Ambassador to the IAEA puts it, Iran bought itself immunity from attack by being a member of the United Nations and a signed up member of the NPT. Israeli military threats only make it more difficult for Iranian politicians and diplomats to sell any deal to their constituents.

There are plenty of frameworks out there to negotiate on that take the parties step-by-step in the direction of a technical agreements whilst the underlying trust essential to lasting improvement can be built up. Indeed, this is the only approach that holds any promise of working in negotiations. It will require parties to drop preconditions and talk with a view to understanding the other side’s perspective. Each step will need to involve net gains for both sides, as well as a clear sense of where the process is going. There will need to be maximum exploitation of common interests in other security areas – such as counter-terrorism and counter-narcotics activities. Positive signals such as those given recently by both President Obama and Ayatollah Khameini will need reflection, and negative, hostile rhetoric scaled back.

But we will also, in parallel have to tackle some of the deep-seated fears and attitudes that prevent progress. One such on the western side is a deep-seated exceptionalism around sovereignty that pervades the majority view. How much do we all share the attitude that we have a right to demand unlimited access and control over others’ nuclear programmes whenever we have our own suspicions? We have every reason to develop international systems based upon agreement and universal application, but we cannot force others into agreements, and certainly not those we are not willing to submit ourselves to. As a nuclear weapon state Britain is unwilling to seriously consider abandoning the highly expensive practice of keeping a nuclear submarine at sea at all times, or to share such a practice with France, for example, because we have such a powerful attachment to the concept of British sovereignty based upon the ability to threaten massive retaliation against any other state on the planet. This is bound to drive proliferation, sooner or later. Regionally, the inconsistent focus on Iran without any clear plan to address Israeli possession of a nuclear arsenal cannot be justified by a legalistic appeal to Israel’s non-membership of the NPT. As non-signatories the Israelis may not be directly breaking the law, but if we are to claim that the health of the international community depends upon a strong ethic of non-proliferation, then Israel cannot remain an out-law.

We cannot continue to have partial approaches to dangerous technologies. Did you know that India’s successful missile test this week broke a UN Security Council resolution, just as North Korea’s failed one last week did? Few have reported it.

On the Iranian side, it’s time they evolved the rather male pig-headed pride so ably illustrated in last year’s prize-winning film ‘the Separation’, an approach that too often characterises (though not uniquely) Iranian diplomacy and politics. Standing on one’s rights or maintaining an inflexible position can harm one’s own interests in fundamental ways, and destroy one’s position within the community, international or otherwise. International communities require trust, empathy and reassurance. They also depend upon a level of transparency and responsibility. Iranians have to recognise that for a variety of reasons they have a long way to go to build the trust of their neighbours, the sort of trust that will enable them to overcome the isolation they have suffered, isolation that threatens to deepen as the Syrian government goes down and their allies in Lebanon and the Occupied Territories start to look elsewhere for sponsorship in the context of the Arab Spring.

But the deeper choices lie in the international community’s relationship to nuclear deterrence, and how power has in the past been mediated by possession of nuclear arsenals. If we cannot break free from Cold War theologies that place such magical powers in the possession of nuclear weapons, we will only have ourselves to blame when the weapons spread, and those we fear most acquire the magic we have sought to invoke in defence of our privileged positions.

The views expressed in this article solely reflect Paul Ingram’s personal perspective.


*About the author: Paul Ingram is Executive Director of the British American Security Information Council (BASIC) where he develops BASIC’s long-term strategy to help reduce global nuclear dangers through disarmament and collaborative non-proliferation, coordinating operations in London and Washington. He is also a weekly talk-show host on Iranian TV. This article was first published in Open Democracy on 23 April 2012 (the original article can be accessed here).

Will Iran be accorded its rightful place in the world?

In an inspiring analysis, Peter Jenkins analyses the current state of affairs over Iran’s nuclear file in advance of the April 14 meeting in Istanbul between members of the international community (the P-5 + Germany and the EU) and Iran. Jenkins warns that the scope for any process on nuclear talks with Iran to founder on distrust, misunderstanding and political in-fighting in both Tehran and Washington remains formidable. Furthermore, he sees the wider political realities surrounding the Iranian case as ‘disturbing’ and calls for a more active role from the BRICS, especially India, in helping resolve the conflict. Iran’s nuclear programme is a symbol of a geostrategic shift, he argues, and the global family has an interest in Iran’s neighbours according Iran a say in the affairs of South West Asia.

This article was first published by Gateway House: Indian Council on Global Relations on 10 April under the title ‘Iran: An opportunity for BRICS‘.

By Peter Jenkins*, 12 April, 2012

The winter months saw the controversy over Iran’s nuclear programme become dangerously heated. Western media were encouraged to interpret recent International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) findings as proof that Iran is bent on making nuclear weapons, despite the assessment of the U.S. intelligence community remaining that a weapons decision has not been taken and is in no sense inevitable.

The U.S., UK, and European Union (EU) used the concern aroused by media reporting to justify a further sharpening of their attack on the Iranian economy, while Israel pressed for a different sort of attack, to wipe out Iranian nuclear facilities before the programme enters a so-called “zone of immunity”. Iran reminded its adversaries that it could retaliate by closing the Straits of Hormuz to oil and gas shipments.

As spring has come, passions have cooled. U.S. President Barack Obama seems to have felt able to tell Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu that a military attack is unnecessary at this juncture, even though the U.S. President is vulnerable to Israeli influence on U.S. public opinion in an electoral year. The five Permanent Members of the UN Security Council, the EU and Germany have agreed to talk to Iran’s nuclear negotiator despite the latter’s failure to commit Iran to full implementation of the resolutions passed by the UN Security Council since 2006 (Notably these require Iran to suspend all production of the enriched uranium that can be converted into reactor fuel, but which Iran could divert to military use if it decided to withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty [NPT], or to ignore its NPT obligations).

There are signs that the U.S., UK and Germany, if not France under President Sarkozy, are moving towards the Russian and Chinese position of accepting Iranian enrichment as long as Iran offers the best possible guarantees that all its nuclear material will remain in non-military use.  Public diplomacy has moderated rude aggression yielding to civility and reason.

The risk of disruption to oil and gas shipments has receded – for the time being at least – although recent U.S. and EU measures are causing problems for some of Iran’s traditional customers, and are hurting consumers everywhere through their effect on prices.

So it is not irrational to hope that when the eight parties – Britain, China, France, Russia and the U.S., the permanent members of the UN Security Council, plus Germany, the EU and Iran – meet on 14 April in Istanbul, they may find some way of launching a process that can, over time, lead to agreement. At long last, perhaps there can be concurrence on handling Iran’s nuclear ambitions in accordance with the treaty to which Iran is a founder-party, the NPT.

An NPT deal would recognise Iran’s right to enrich uranium and would accept its taking advantage of that right, in return for Iran placing all nuclear material in its possession under IAEA safeguards and renewing its commitment to refrain from manufacturing or otherwise acquiring nuclear weapons.

In one sense, the West approaches these talks from a position of weakness. The Iranians have shown no sign of buckling under the pressure of ever-tighter sanctions. They know that the West’s military option is deeply unattractive to any of sane mind.

In another sense, the West has many good cards in its hand.  Sanctions are hurting Iran and it has an interest in having them lifted provided the price is not intolerable.  Abandoning its enrichment plans would be intolerable; volunteering full access to IAEA inspectors, and other measures that can allay the concerns aroused by the clandestinity of some of its past nuclear activities, need not be.

To say that hope is permissible is not to say that the odds on yet another disappointment are long.  In 2007 a promising opening vanished when Iran’s chief negotiator clashed with President Ahmedinejad.  In 2009 it was President Ahmedinejad’s turn to be thwarted by domestic rivals; and President Obama, under pressure from hawks, withdrew his negotiators rather than wait for the Iranians to sort out their differences. In 2010, the timing of Iranian assent to a confidence-building proposal brokered by Turkey and Brazil cast doubt in Western minds on Iran’s sincerity.

In other words, the scope for any process to founder on distrust, misunderstanding and political in-fighting in both Tehran and Washington remains formidable. Equally disturbing are the wider political realities.

Since 1992 both leading Israeli parties, Likud and Labour, have sought to convince Washington that Iran is a mortal threat to U.S. interests in South West Asia. This they have done in order to maintain Israel’s value to the U.S. as an ally in a post-Cold War Middle East and to avert a thaw in U.S.-Iranian relations that they fear might entail a cooling in U.S.-Israeli relations.  For these Israelis, Iran’s nuclear programme, and especially its undeclared activities prior to 2003, has been a gift from heaven.

Iran’s transgressions are a matter for persuading Americans that Iran is bent on acquiring nuclear weapons, that these weapons will be used to destroy Israel, they say. Iran’s programme, if left unchecked, will precipitate nuclear proliferation in an unstable region, leading Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey to acquire similar capabilities. U.S. conservatives, in thrall to dreams of re-shaping the Middle East and regime-change in Iran, have been eager echoers of these (highly questionable) arguments.

These constituencies, Israeli and American, have no interest in the normalisation of the Iranian nuclear case through an NPT deal.  On the contrary, they have every interest in making it as politically difficult as possible for any U.S. administration to arrive at such a deal.

Saudi Arabia has been even less transparent than Israel.  It is not obvious that the Saudis have been poisoning the wells of American opinion to thwart a deal with Iran.  But Saudi-Iranian rivalry, multifaceted and acute since the advent of an Islamic Republic that challenges the legitimacy of Saudi occupation of the Holy Places, seized from the Hashemites in 1924, and which shows up the undemocratic nature of the Saudi monarchy, is well-documented.  There have been veiled threats that Saudi Arabia will ignore its NPT obligations if Iran is left in peace to exploit nuclear technology that the Saudis themselves are decades away from mastering without outside help.  Saudi Arabia too has an interest in thwarting any deal that leaves Iran in possession of enrichment plants.

There are additional factors.  Ever since the NPT opened for signature in 1968, U.S. officials have found it hard to accept that the treaty allows non-nuclear-weapon states (NNWS) access to technologies that can serve both civil and military purposes. There’s been a 44-year itch to close what Americans see as a loop-hole, despite all the evidence that many NNWS are unready to concede a back-door renegotiation of a carefully-balanced instrument.

There is also in the U.S. a tendency to blind self-righteousness that can lead Americans to treat non-Americans as miscreants when the latter err. Iran’s failure to respect its NPT safeguards commitments prior to 2003, ill-disposes American officials to accord Iranian representatives the respect the latter crave.  There’s a risk Iran’s negotiators will be made to feel like criminal suspects invited to engage in plea-bargaining.

For their part, the Iranians have a tendency to give way to the temptation to retaliate when instead keeping a stiff upper lip would be wiser. For instance, they retaliated for the 2006 reporting of their IAEA non-compliance to the Security Council by ceasing to allow the IAEA the access it needed to arrive at the conclusion that there are no undeclared nuclear activities or material in Iran.  They retaliated for recent UK sanctions on financial dealings by trashing the British embassy in Tehran, an act of vandalism ill-calculated to make it easier for the British government to accept their enrichment activities. Will they be able to resist the urge to retaliate if some indignity is inflicted on them while negotiations are underway?

These wider factors suggest that India, Brazil and South Africa could play a part in resolving this controversy if they chose.  They could act as auxiliaries of their BRICS partners, Russia and China, whose role in a negotiating process will be to help narrow differences.  India could use its influence in Washington and European capitals to urge patience and the turning of deaf ears to special pleading from Israel and Saudi Arabia. It could draw attention to the way in which Western slowness to accept evidence that the Iranian nuclear threat had been exaggerated, has damaged Indian economic interests.

India could also stress the unacceptability of any attack on Iran that has not been authorised by the Security Council, both on legal grounds and on account of its probable consequences for Indian living standards. It could draw on 2,500 years of cultural affinity with Iran to offer advice on Iranian sensibilities: the dos and don’ts that matter in any negotiation.

The underlying need is for the BRICS to make their voice heard on this issue, to counter-point the tunes composed by the West’s Middle East allies. The BRICS are qualified to argue against seeing Iran’s nuclear programme in isolation. They can point out that the programme is a symbol of a geostrategic shift: Iran is slowly returning to the ranks of Asia’s greater powers.

This shift is unwelcome to some of Iran’s neighbours, it seems.  They have sought to prevent it by distorting Western perceptions, by encouraging Western governments to assume the worst of a state whose intentions the West finds it hard to fathom, and by playing on the negative prejudices that are the legacy of past clashes with Iran.

But this kind of shift cannot be prevented without a conflict that would entail hardship or suffering for most of mankind. So the global family has an interest in Iran’s neighbours accommodating what can hardly be prevented, and according Iran a say in the affairs of South West Asia – what the Iranians see as their rightful place in the world.


*Peter Jenkins is a former British diplomat who worked on the Iranian nuclear issue when ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna (2001-06).


Can the American and Pakistani Positions on Islamic Militancy be Reconciled?

In this article, the author delves into the relationship between the United States and Pakistan in context of the Islamic Militancy in the extended region of Afghanistan-Pakistan. 

By Camille Maubert, 10th April, 2012

In 2001, Pakistan allied itself with the US on the grounds that it would assist in the War on Terror’s effort to tackle terrorism. At the time, the two countries’ interests seemed to coincide, as they had a common target – Al Qaeda and foreign fighters. Yet, from 2003 onwards, the expansion of the American war against the Taliban and its increased pressure on Pakistan to act against the Islamic militants who use the Afghan-Pakistani border to provide the Taliban with safe havens put the Pakistani leadership in a difficult situation. The unpreparedness of Pakistan to answer the US’s demands to repress these groups led to the current diplomatic standoff whereby there seems to be no alignment of strategic interests, let alone coordination between the US and Pakistan, and their respective policies remain fundamentally adversarial.

The premise of this study is to challenge the current understanding of the situation, which is overwhelmingly based on perceptions and representations rather than real insight into Islamic militancy.

Islamic Jihad or Pakistani Nationalism?

Despite the consensus on the decisive role played by militant organizations like the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and the Haqqani network in providing safe havens, logistical support and training to Taliban fighters, important questions like “who are the militants, who is supporting them and why?” are overlooked.

There is a strong argument that the reason why Islamic militants have such an overwhelming presence in the Afghan-Pakistani border region is because of the radicalisation of the population by madrassas and its sympathy for the jihadi ideology. Such an approach is flawed as it conveys a stereotypical understanding of the militant reality, and overlooks the deeper psychological and political fault lines underpinning it. Indeed, Islamic militants are fighting a revolutionary jihad for ideological purposes, to reform the state and impose a radical version of Islam. Conversely, most Pakistanis practice a more moderate version of Islam and thus do not support radical groups out of sympathy for their ideological agenda. Rather, those who join militant groups put forward reasons that stem from collusion, misinformation, support for the Afghan jihad and, mostly, Pakistani nationalism. Indeed, invasive American actions (drone strikes) have propped up support for militant groups out of patriotic sentiment. In other words, militant organisations have hijacked the nationalist concept of jihad as used during partition, and widely supported by Pakistanis, to justify violent action (against American infringements on Pakistani sovereignty and denounce the subordination of Pakistani leaders to American will (A 2009 Gallup Survey reveals that 59% of Pakistanis consider the US as the biggest threat, while only 11% chose the Taliban). As a result, support for Islamic militants spreads more easily through the various layers of Pakistani society, as they claim to act in the defence of the Muslim nation from external domination.

Therefore, it is the failure of Western analysts to make the distinction between ideologically motivated militants and nationalist Pakistanis that makes cooperation difficult. In the US, the post 9/11 environment and the need to mobilise people against terrorism promoted an unsophisticated understanding of what Islamic militancy is about by having the media “fuse shots of Osama Bin Laden, veiled women, (…) and riots in Kashmir and Palestine, thereby lending the visual impression that the West is confronted with a crazy, irrational faith” (Majid 2010:101). This securitisation of Islamic militancy is intrinsically flawed because it promotes an all-encompassing understanding that merges ideological and nationalist agendas into the same threat, making its targeting indiscriminate and, ultimately, counter-productive. Conversely, the Pakistani approach to Islamic militancy recognises that some elements – the Pakistani Taliban – do represent a threat, but it also acknowledges that it cannot crack down on those organisations as most jihadi groups historically enjoyed state sanction to wage jihad against the state’s enemies in the name of Islam and the Nation. Therefore, it is necessary to explore the relationship between the Pakistani state and Islamic groups in order to understand its reluctance to implement direct military action against them.

Islamic Groups as Pakistan’s Strategic Asset

Were the Pakistani civilian government willing to cooperate with the US, such commitment would only be a shallow promise if it proves to be unable – or unwilling – to convince the military and Inter-Services Intelligence to abide by its will. Not only is Zardari’s government unable to do so – given the historical weakness of Pakistani civilian governments – but it will not, as this would undermine the Pakistani strategic doctrine as a whole. Indeed, Islamic militants have been and remain the most reliable linchpin for Pakistan to project power where it matters; Kashmir. Since Partition, Islamic radicals and the army have teamed together to construct and secure Pakistan’s sovereignty and identity through the tactical use of guerilla warfare in Pakistan’s border regions.

Therefore, the reason why Pakistan does not – and will not – act against Kashmiri-based groups is that its whole foreign policy is founded upon issues of (Muslim) national identity, meaning that it uses militancy to challenge the Indian regional domination. Since this discourse informs Pakistan’s very identity narrative and exercises a powerful hold on the national imagination, it is impossible for Pakistani leaders to renounce it, especially as its influence has been reinvigorated by the fight for (Muslim) freedom in neighboring Afghanistan.

Similarly, Afghanistan is an aspect of Pakistan’s Indian policy. Indeed, Pakistan’s actions in Afghanistan are determined by its entrenched fear of encirclement and the necessity to limit Indian influence at its Western flank. Successive governments have therefore maintained strategic links with Islamic groups in Afghanistan and supported a proxy war aimed at undermining Indian assets. Interestingly, the post 2001 security environment increased the links between Kashmiri and Afghan groups, thereby strengthening the legitimacy of local groups and undermining the ability of the state to identify and target specific individuals.

However, this apparent predicament serves Pakistani interests in the long term; Aware of the need to preserve strategic depth against India and a friendly government in Afghanistan, Pakistan has no interest in withdrawing support to Afghan Islamic militants and the Pakistani groups that prop them up.

Questions like “how much support these groups truly get from the army and the ISI, and how much of it is provided by independent individuals”, remains unanswered. Yet what is clear is that the problem to which Pakistan is confronted with regards to Islamic militancy is one of control. Pakistan is in a situation where the state created organisations on the basis of identity for (geo)political purposes but has lost control over them as they were reinforced by traditional values and developed a life of their own. In effect, not only are Islamic organisations attractive to some sections of the population, they also are ingrained in the state apparatus – they recruit retired personnel from and have relatives working for the army. Given the kinship base of the Pakistani society, this makes them extremely difficult to root out. Consequently, Pakistan understands that disarming the militants would cause more damage than turning a blind eye, as it may lead to an internal conflict of interests within the army between pro-Western and nationalist elements. Such situation, it has been argued, would provoke the collapse of the only strong institution able of holding the state together.

Furthermore, the areas in which militancy is highest are those where the state doesn’t exert authority or governance – North West Frontier Province, Balochistan, Kyber-Pukhtoonkhwa. In these areas, the pre-eminence of Islamic organisations is all the more important that they fill the power vacuum and provide the population with social services that the state is failing to supply. The most notable example is that of LeT’s charity wing Jamaat ud-Dawa (JuD). After the 2005 earthquake and 2010 floods, JuD provided immediate relief to the population and further integrated itself at the grassroots level. As a result, LeT has been increasingly able to act independently from state sponsor, another reason for Pakistan not to provoke any rupture. What is needed, therefore, is a solution that acknowledges the structural weaknesses of the Pakistani state, the strength of its society, and promotes negotiation rather than coercion.

A Path to Reconciliation?

The difficulty with both US and Pakistani positions is that they are directly reliant on the states’ narratives. In that sense, finding a solution implies that they would have to compromise on those narratives. This is unlikely to happen since, on one hand, the American demands are based on the deeply entrenched ideological principles of the War on Terror, and, on the other hand, the Pakistani reluctance to comply is rooted in the certitude that militants are necessary to its regional strategy – and to an extent its national identity.

These discursive incompatibilities are reinforced by the process of securitisation at play. By framing Islamic militancy as a security threat, the US – and some pro-Western Pakistani civilian leaders – has promoted a military solution, which limits are becoming more visible. The protests steered by drone strikes and the backlashes met by the Pakistani army in Federally Administrated Tribal Areas and North West Frontier Province demonstrate that the use of force is ultimately inefficient as it increases anti-Americanism, steers sympathy for militants, and further disturbs Pakistan’s unstable political landscape.

As observed above, the reason why cooperation has so far failed between the two allies is the mismatch of each other’s vital interests. While the US demands are informed by the short-term requirements of its Afghan strategy, the Pakistani position is determined by a long-term approach to militancy and regional security. In addition, the securitisation process has led to a situation where the US promotes an all-encompassing definition of the militant threat which pushes for the elimination of all organisations linked to Islamic militancy. But what it fails to understand is that Islamic militancy is deeply rooted in the Pakistani society and state apparatus and, as such, it cannot simply be isolated or suppressed.

Therefore, any solution to the problem posed by Islamic militancy would have to acknowledge that it is not only a security threat but rather a socio-economic and nationalist phenomenon. Additionally, it would have to recognise Pakistan’s structural weaknesses and its lack of capacity to impose its will on some sections of the population. Pakistan is a negotiated state, which means that coercive measures from the top-down are unlikely to be successful if they are not supported by local stakeholders. In finding a solution, Pakistan itself has a role to play, as it would have to acknowledge its need for a consistent strategy against its home grown militants – which it lacks so far – to ease cooperation with the US and start to positively engage the militants.

There is a growing understanding that soft power is ultimately more likely to successfully change militant behaviours and counter the growth of violent extremism as it impacts directly on the grass roots level. Indeed, long-term American engagement in issues like education and development would decrease its perception by the population as a security threat and help diffuse more positive representations. Tactical attempts have mostly proven to be successful, as shown by the American help in flood relief in 2010. However, this policy so far happens to be unsuccessful on the strategic level as its positive contribution in winning Pakistanis’ hearts and minds is outbalanced by the negative impact of drone attacks. Therefore, in order to decrease the scale of Islamic militancy, Pakistan would have to restore its sense of sovereignty, which means that the US would have to cease its activities across the border. At the time of writing, such evolution is yet to happen. This is due to the intense climate of mistrust that characterises the relationship between the US and Pakistan, whereby neither side seems to be willing to tone its rhetoric – and demands – down for fear of being thought to make concessions on its narrative.

Islamic militancy highlights the complexity of the US-Pakistan bilateral relation by confronting their intrinsically different strategic and identity narratives. One demands a rapid military solution, the other prioritises its long-terms interests, and both are informed by domestic pressure and ideological discourses. Only when those uncomfortable realities are acknowledged will dialogue be possible. Ultimately, the militant challenge puts the ability of the two allies to engage in a long-term partnership to a test as it will show whether conflicting demands can be complemented by common goals.

Three Myths about China and its Relationship with the US

In this article, the author busts three myths about China and its relationship with the United States. 

By Mikael Santelli-Bensouda, 5th March, 2012

Many things have been written regarding the relationship between China and America, most of which is founded upon a sense of speculation that emerges from a state of fear. The general assumption is as follows: China is acting unilaterally and belligerently to undermine and overtake the US, initially through economic means and later through traditional military means. This is not the case. The China threat perception has been, in recent times, blown out of proportion. This can be verified by examining what’s really going on between these two behemoths.

Myth 1

What we are told: China manipulates its currency at a low rate to provide it’s exported goods with an unfair advantage in the international arena. This leads to the assumption that the Chinese are callously stealing American jobs as part of a long-term strategy to control the entire US economy through debt absorption. Akin to a puppet master, China is positioning itself to both dominate and manipulate the American economy.

What’s really going on: Contrary to popular sentiment, $1.175 trillion of America debt in Chinese hands, does not necessarily leave America in a weak position. By holding such an absurd amount of debt, China too is exposed to an enormous risk. The much-sighted scenario’s regarding this toxic wealth largely unfolds like this: The Chinese recall their investment and the US economy crumbles. This will cause a chain reaction that severly impacts the global economy from which China’s export based economy will be hit hard. However, there is also an alternate, and more likely scenario; The US either refuse to pay the debt or default on the amount, leaving Beijing with a financial whole over $1 trillion dollar. Regardless of how cash rich China is, losing $1.175 trillion is a moral blow to any powerful nation. The most reassuring thing is that neither scenario is likely. Largely, this is because both nations understand the necessity of current state of affairs and there is a pragmatic acceptance that they are equally reliant on the other economically.

Talk of a currency war, especially during the republican candidate election is one of the foremost contentious issues in the relationship. The argument put forward is that the Chinese have pegged the Yuan to the Dollar to keep its value low and consequently manage Chinese exported goods uncompetitively low. Without question, this is true. It is also not illegal nor against ‘the rules’ of the international markets. In fact, the reason there has been so much furore regarding the matter is that this policy facilitates continuous Chinese economic growth in a time of American stagnation, much to Washington’s frustration. A simplistic reading of capitalism suggests that production will move to where is cheapest to maximise gains. This naturally will incur casualties and in America there have been plenty. Intriguingly, however, there is a strong argument to be shared that would question why should China readjust its currency at present? Especially given the historical precedent of Japan who did exactly that, allowed the Yen to float against the Dollar after a period of exceptional growth only to be outclassed by the Dollar and end up in perpetual economic stagnation. Beijing is aware that allowing the Yuan to rise will reduce the competitiveness of their exports and ultimately slow economic growth. This not only has a detrimental affect for China but also the US, who, as already explored, is dependent on Chinese cash to sustain it’s debt-laden hypercapitalist system. It borders on farcical to suggest that the argument boils down to expectations for China to ‘play fair’, after all, nobody really believes that capitalism equates to fairness.

So, given the necessity of economic cooperation, it is no stretch of the imagination to suggest that the two nations are economically symbiotic. They both share (in differing capacities) benefits and risks. Accordingly, greater cooperation and integration has been mooted as a viable option. An increased exchange of foreign direct investment (FDI) and bilateral trade that can form a foundation to increase bilateral economic productivity has been occasionally undermined by incidents that suggest, in fact, China is not the unfair, protectionist player it is so widely claimed to be. The much under publicised case of the UNOCAL incident, wherein a Chinese firm was agonisingly close to acquiring a large US energy company only to be federally overruled at the eleventh hour. The rationale for the move was for the preservation of state interests.

Essentially, this is the same rationale adopted by China and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). The CCP’s raison d’etre is to ensure continued economic growth in order to sustain the ‘legitimacy’ it fractionally holds in China. This equates to pacification of large sections of the Chinese population (namely the burgeoning middle-classes) through participation in a, politically numbing, consumerist culture. Should the economy falter, it is not only the Chinese bank balance that takes a knock as the very political system is likely to come under intense pressure to reform and largely expected to democratise. The crux of the relationship between China and the US is based on this very fact: the CCP needs continued growth to sustain its fragile monopoly over authority whilst the US needs China to continue to fund its ever extravagant life-style.

Myth 2

What we are told: China is a revisionist player. Beijing has a deep-rooted interest in destabilising the current international system with the desire to supersede American hegemony and establish a new world order with Beijing assuming the helm. This is to be achieved through the establishment of alliance blocs comprising of both ‘rogue nations’ and the developing world.

What’s really going on: It seems illogical to suggest that China would benefit from the demise of the current international system. China, like many other emerging powers, benefits immensely from the systems relative stability. The US is heavily invested in ensuring the prosperity of global markets and undertakes security operations, which includes providing physical protection for energy shipments from the Persian Gulf and combating piracy in the Gulf of Aden. These actions leave Beijing free to pursue its own agenda without the burden of sacrifice and disruption. Restructuring the system would expose Beijing to a number of security and political headaches that, frankly, it is ill equipped to deal with. Additionally, an overhaul would require the CCP to renege on their key guiding principles of international relations. As already examined, China’s political preoccupation is to ensure sustained economic growth and this is evidently achieved under the current paradigm.

Additionally, to consider China as politically expansionist in the international arena (Taiwan and issues pertaining to ‘sovereignty’ should be considered a separate issue) is misguided, as this overlooks the CCP’s preoccupation with consolidating their domestic authority. Questions pertaining to Tibet and Xingjian provide a deep threat to the legitimacy enjoyed by the Chinese political party and cases of social discontent have proven, time and again, that they require immense policy consideration. Thus, this dictates that China is largely unable to divert attention away from its domestic concerns for fear of losing control in the fractious territories and by extension also have the potential inspire nationwide uprisings. In the perspective of Sino-US relations, no political issue is more controversial than Tibet. Constant claims of brutality, censorship and human rights abuses emanating from Washington are perceived from Beijing’s perspective as an attack on the legitimacy of the CCP by externally undermining its authority. This sentiment is exacerbated when American leaders meet with the Dalai Lama, who is considered an existential threat to the Chinese establishment. In America this is seen as a noble defence of human rights but to the Chinese it embodies a rather sinister undertone as it is considered both antagonising and undermining.

By and large, China has attempted to keep a low profile on the international stage. This is in accordance with its key principles, which pedestal mutual issues such as non-interference and respect for sovereignty, for it is these principles, accompanied with the active pursuit of securing state interests, that have directed its international interaction. Recently, China has been much scrutinised for its veto on the Syrian resolution in the UN Security Council (UNSC). As with any political action, it must be analysed within the wider framework of Chinese foreign policy and equally important, not judged alone. If the Chinese choose to exercise their right to veto a resolution based on protecting self-interest or in disagreement with the direction of the plan, it remains their choice. Understanding the motivational factors are a prerequisite for analysis and selective criticism should be avoided at all costs as it serves only to fan the flames of international friction between China, America and the West. Beijing could quite rightly point to the numerous examples of American acts of self-interest in the UNSC in defiance of humanitarian issues (as in the case of the recent veto for the Palestinian state).

Additionally, condemning China for conducting business with nations such as Iran and Venezuela is hypocritical, especially as it hardly encourages international instability. For Washington, the Saudi regime, both wholly repressive and undemocratic, is an acceptable business partner but democratic Venezuela is a rogue nation. China, as previously mentioned, is driven by the need to secure business opportunities and resources to sustain its hyperbolic growth. Accordingly, Beijing will court any suitable partner to secure their needs regardless of political persuasion. Whether it’s the United States, the European Union, Venezuela or Iran the central issue for the Chinese is based on national gains. China is simply pursuing a pragmatic business engagement that differs little from American policies.

Myth 3

What we are told: China is belligerent. The Chinese army is big, scary and will one day attempt Asian, then later world domination.

What’s really going on: Explicitly, China stands to gain little from starting or partaking in any act of conflict. Although the People’s Liberation Army is the largest standing army in the world, its technological capability remains years behind that of the United States. Again, the much sighted increased military budget, a substantial 12%, still pails in significance to the monumental US military budget. As a direct consequence, the parameters of the China threat are not manifest physically but oscillate around challenges to US strategic interests in the Pacific and Central Asia. What is largely missing in the security debate is Beijing’s perspective and the view from the Middle Kingdom is markedly different.

Beijing sees that permanent American military bases surround the Middle Kingdom, whether by sea or land and allies of Washington, dubbed the ‘democratic axis’, further acts to consolidate the feeling of encirclement; Huge military presences in Korea and Japan, bases throughout bordering Central Asian Republics, Vietnam and Australia’s emergence as vocal allies of Washington and a very powerful nuclear alliance across the Himalayas. It is clear that, with the exception of China’s northern border a tangible American presence can be felt in all directions.

Nonetheless, security tensions between China and the US remain relatively low. Only a couple of key areas, including the external influence in Pakistani-Indian affairs and the North Korean question, threaten to raise tensions. But nothing has the potential to boil the blood of the Chinese more than the issue of Taiwan. The generally accepted discourse on the matter is that Taiwan is an independent nation that needs protection from an aggressive behemoth who constantly espouses bellicose statements and threatens on regular occasion to illegally re-conquer the island. Characteristic of the Sino-American relationship, there is more to the story than just the American angle. For Beijing, Taiwan is an essential part of its territory stolen during its ‘century of humiliation’ and forms the final piece of the One Nation Policy. The completion of this policy, whether justified or not, has become almost insurmountable due to one simple fact: Taiwan has a military capability that is on par with European powers, which originates from the US. Arms sales between Washington and Taipei have increased in recent years culminating in the $6.4 billion deal by the Obama administration, which signals that the US are no longer adhering to the arms sales reduction agreements they agreed to in the 1982 Shanghai Communiqué. Make no mistake, in Beijing this is perceived as an act of both aggression and defiance. Nonetheless, due to rising levels of confidence in China, the CCP have begun exerting pressure on matters of integral importance, such as Taiwan, by leaning on the mutually dependent ties between Beijing and Washington.

The current state of affairs between China and the US is far from troublesome. Granted, they disagree on a number of issues from how to engage Syria to the most effect methods to combat climate change, but that does not mean they are on a course for destruction. After all, no relationship is perfect. It is also the case that China is less belligerent than conventionally assumed and that the US bares responsibility for some of the inconsistencies that are present in the relationship. To this end, both China and America are, at present, partners as much rivals and the general impression of the relationship between the two behemoths is highly misconstrued.

Reporting from the United Nations – The dilemma of the Conference on Disarmament: to be or not to be.

In this article, the author reports on the first plenary meeting of the 2012 session of the Conference on Disarmament.


By David J. Franco, 15 Feb, 2012


On 14 February 2012, representatives of the states parties to the Conference on Disarmament (CD) gathered at the UN headquarters in Geneva for the opening of the first plenary meeting of the 2012 session. Following the opening statement of this session’s Presidency (held by Ecuador) we heard the statements of several delegations including those of Croatia, Mexico, Switzerland, Colombia, Chile, Egypt, Iran, Syria, and the US. There were no substantive surprises as states sticked to their well-known, longstanding scripts. However, perhaps the most positive notes derived from the Presidency’s efforts to overcome the current impasse and from the UN Secretary General’s statement and message that either the parties reach an agreement on a way forward or the General Assembly will consider alternative routes for disarmament.

The impasse

His Excellency the Ambassador of Ecuador Mr Luis Gallegos, who held the Presidency for the first time, opened the session highlighting that this year is of crucial importance for the future of the CD and that parties to the CD have a moral responsibility in finding the way to unlock the existing impasse (since 1996 the CD has not reached agreement on a single substantive issue). Thus, he placed the debate of the paralysis of the CD top of this year’s agenda and further called the parties to exercise political flexibility in order to overcome fifteen years of sterile negotiations.

The Debate

The floor was then given to delegations and one by one these read their readily prepared statements. Here we heard a mixture of opinions. Whilst most of the delegations agreed that 2012 is of crucial importance for the future of the CD, their position with regards to the causes and solutions to the current impasse often differed to the extent that one could sense, grosso modo, the co-existence of two blocks of states: those who believe that the current impasse is due to the procedural characteristics of the CD (in other words to the fact that the adoption of decisions in the CD is procedurally based on the principle of consensus), and those who believe that the lack of progress is due to the lack of political will and flexibility of some states parties to the CD. Depending on which of the two blocks states find themselves in, their proposed way forward also differs: hence, those in the first block call for substantive changes in the structure and procedural elements of the CD, while those in the second block call for more political flexibility and less radical changes.

The Statements

Of the statements of the various delegations, some are worth highlighting here. The Mexican delegation, for instance, reminded the conference of the work undertaken by Mexico on the occasion of the signature of the Treaty of Tlatelolco more than forty years ago, which established a nuclear free zone for Latin America and the Caribbean. In this regard, the representative of Mexico highlighted the organic relationship between peace and disarmament and argued that the establishment of free zones, while extremely important for the disarmament regime, should not be seen as goals in themselves but rather as stepping stones towards the ultimate goal of freeing the world of all nuclear weapons.

The representative of Syria, on the other hand, highlighted the lack of progress and pointed to the lack of political flexibility as its immediate cause. Further, without mentioning at any stage the name of Israel, the Syrian delegate indirectly referred to that country as the most destabilizing element in the Middle East. In this regard, the Egyptian representative referred to the importance of working towards the establishment of a Middle East Free Zone of Nuclear and other Weapons of Mass Destruction and stated that he has started to see things holistically, as opposed to seeing disarmament from the standpoint of a state party, as a result of the fact that he now sits in the podium next to the Secretary and the current Presidency (Egypt follows Ecuador in the Presidency and therefore now sits in the podium of the CD).

As per the Swiss delegate, he emphasized the need to overcome the current impasse and called for the elaboration and proposal of alternatives capable of leading the parties to progress. Further, the Chilean delegation intervened in similar terms and the Colombian delegation expressed the view that with increasing political flexibility parallel work in two directions is possible: that is, work towards the adoption of a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT) and work on the adoption of Negative Security Assurances (NSAs). Finally, the US delegate emphasized the willingness of her government to work towards finding a solution to the CD’s current deadlock and to further work towards the ultimate goal of freeing the world of nuclear weapons as stated in numerous occasions by President Obama.

Message of the United Nations Secretary-General

Towards the end of the plenary session, the Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva, Mr. Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, delivered a message of the UN Secretary-General, Mr. Ban Ki-moon. Mr. Kassym-Jomart started his speech by emphasizing past achievements and reminded the parties present at the plenary that the CD has a great record despite its current longstanding deadlock. Nevertheless, his speech contained a clear message: one that, it could be argued, amounted to a clear threat (as far as words are concerned): ‘In 2012, the future of the Conference will be under the spotlight as never before. Lamenting the constraints of the rules of procedure or the “absence of political will” can no longer suffice as explanations for any further lack of progress. The General Assembly is seized of the matter and, if the Conference remains deadlocked, is ready to consider other options to move the disarmament agenda forward’.

Concluding remarks

The session ended with the closing remarks of the Presidency who made it clear that this year’s top priority is to reach consensus on the way forward. In other words, the CD is confronted with a serious dilemma: to be or not to be. For all the achievements of the past, the CD now faces its own extinction precisely at a time where the tide of disarmament is high in the agenda, at least rhetorically. On a more theoretical level, one is left wondering if consensus is the right way forward in a polarized world in which large groups of states have clear vested interests in preserving the status quo: fifteen years without reaching substantive agreements is a long time and if the CD fails to overcome its paralysis in 2012 the world should not fear the extinction of this forum in favour of existing or newer fora based on majority rules or coalitions.

Changes are often for the better and what may be seen as a threat to the existing disarmament agenda may in fact be seen as an opportunity to explore new venues. As a final remark, the Presidency discussed the issue of the involvement of civil society in disarmament matters generally and in the CD in particular, and pointed that several delegations have expressed their wish to increase civil society participation in the proceedings (as is more the case for example with the NPT and the First Committee of the General Assembly). However, upon discussing this particular issue with one delegate I was left with the impression that here, too, consensus is failing once again.

The Israeli Embassy Vehicle Attack in New Delhi – Reactions in India

In this article, the author explores the reaction among the media, the government and the people over the attack that took place on the Israeli Embassy vehicle on the 13th of February, 2012. 


By Siddharth Singh, 15th Feb, 2012

In the aftermath of the bomb blast targeting an Israeli embassy car in central Delhi, the reaction of the people and the press has largely revolved around three themes: one, outrage that yet another attack has taken place in India and the condemnation of the current government over its inability to stop such attacks. This perception is strengthened by the “weak” verbal responses by the concerned Indian ministers. Two, pointed criticism that the government couldn’t prevent an attack which is a stone’s throw away from the Prime Minister’s residence. Three, surprise – by people mostly – that Iran is in any way related to this attack. Bomb blasts in India have so far been popularly and officially blamed on home grown terrorist groups and those supported by or originating from Pakistan.

The First Theme: Outrage over the attack and ridicule of the official response

The near-universal condemnation of the United Progressive Alliance government under Dr. Manmohan Singh is a recurrent theme that follows every bomb blast in a big city in the country. While it is true that India is a rather large country with multitudes in a politically and socially unstable neighbourhood, it is equally true that the government can do a lot more to improve the security situation in the country without resorting to the controversial measures such as the U.S. government has. Indeed, the government has failed to put in place effective counter-terror and law-and-order mechanisms.

For instance, the Ministry of Home Affairs is overburdened with non-security related tasks such as “implementation of the official language” – Hindi – and welfare of freedom fighters from the pre-Independence era. The long proposed Internal Affairs Ministry has not been set up yet, even though it is an idea accepted by officials on Raisina Hill. Comprehensive police reforms too haven’t seen the light of the day in spite of being on paper for several years.

Additionally, the establishment of an Internal Security University – which would provide long term research and analysis on the internal security scenario in India, apart from providing better trained policemen and administrators – has not been established yet, in spite of being passed by the Cabinet years ago. Currently the officials in the ministry are over burdened with day-to-day crisis management and do not have time to research and plan for the longer run.

The image of the government as an ineffective unit, however, largely comes from the lack of effective communication from the government, in particular its ministers. While the government response is typically greeted with disdain, this time around, it was met with ridicule. One of the reasons is that unlike previous attacks, this one did not result in deaths, making mockery acceptable. The people and media resorted to ridiculing the government over what they referred to as a “cliched, disinterested and monotonous” official statement. This time around, they got to see on their favourite prime time news shows on TV – in the form of Israeli ministers, including Prime Minister Netanyahu – give decisive statements on how such attacks cannot be tolerated and the perpetrators will be hunted down. The Israeli administration was also hasty in blaming Iran for the attack, at a time when the Indian officials were sticking to the story of an “incident” caused due to “unknown circumstances.” The reaction to the blame on Iran will be addressed later in this article.

While this author does not believe that hawkish statements are constructive in the aftermath of such bomb blasts, it is true that the government’s reaction is often trite, and are often replays of every official reaction after every major attack the country has seen in the past many years. This fits into the popular narrative of the government, which lacks effective communicators at the top of the administrative setup. The leader of the political coalition – Sonia Gandhi, the Prime Minister, Defence Minister and External Affairs Minister, among others, are not exactly known for their oratory skills. In a hyperactive news TV era, this has become a burden on the political establishment. The media and people in India yearn for effective communicators who can sell governance as much as they can effectively govern in the first place. Even though transparency has been legislated via the Right to Information Act and other instruments, there seems to be opacity in the verbal communication at the top of the administration.

This narrative is popular and cannot be easily undone by the government without a major cabinet reshuffle. It is an issue the government will have to accept and work around.

The Second Theme: Outrage over the location of the attack

The second theme of the reaction has been specific to this incident: the bomb blast took place on one end of Aurangzeb Road, which is a posh neighbourhood in the Lutyens Bungalow Zone (where all the ministers, officials, parliamentarians and chiefs of military reside) in New Delhi. The location of the attack was a stones throw away from the Prime Minister’s official residence at 7, Race Course Road.

Unsurprisingly, this became a talking point, and many commentators and the general public have lamented about the lack of security even in such a high profile area. One news TV host in partcular was at his hyperbolic best when he commented that even the Prime Minister could hear the bomb blast (adding later that it would have been possible only if the Prime Minister was home. The police eventually revealed that the blast wasn’t a loud one).

The Prime Minister’s residence is on the Race Course Road, which is open to the general public. Pedestrians freely walk along the sidewalks on the road, and motorists are free to use this road for their daily commute. This fact once brought praise by a friend from a subcontinental neighbour who lamented that common people in his country couldn’t even step in the neighbourhood of the most important ministers.

The entire Lutyens Bungalow Zone is fully accessible to the public, as it rightly must be. However, this also means that it is easy for a motorist to – say – bring explosives in close proximity of the Prime Minister’s home. The PM, of course, is safe in his multi layered security setup. In fact, he uses a different road (which is fully secured) from the other side of his home for his daily commute.

Lutyens Delhi cannot be made exclusive to the residents of the area. Not only does this area house the representatives of the people, it has the headquarters of the political parties, and several markets where the poor find employment. There is no practical way to fully secure this area. Commentary on this theme of the location of the attack is hence misplaced. The location is immaterial here: that it happened at all is the issue at hand.

The Third Theme: Surprise and confusion over Iran’s involvement

What has been more interesting, however, is the sense of confusion among people and a few reporters about Iran’s alleged involvement in the attack. The only foreign nation Indians are used to hearing get linked to attacks has been Pakistan. (To a much lesser extent, Bangladesh was once on this list too, but now makes headlines for partnering India in its fight against militancy).

Natanyahu’s assertion that Iran had a role in the attack even before the Indian authorities could confirm that it was an “attack” rather than an “incident” came as a surprise to many. Many in the media termed this as a hasty reaction without credible evidence to back the claim. A few in the public commended such naming tactics, recommending India do the same with Pakistan.

Importantly, however, this holds important implications on India’s foreign policy. In case Iran’s role is directly or indirectly established, it would mean that India will have to re-draft its policy in the region, which has so far been fairly neutral so far (barring for a few strategic decisions against Iran on the nuclear issue and the Iran-Pakistan-India Natural Gas Pipeline).

Historically, Iran has an image of a cultural “ally” in India. In recent years, the Ahmedinejad administration has brought criticism of official Indo-Iranian relations among those who advocate a more realist foreign policy. However, there is a general acceptance of Iran as an energy supplier nation which can help India meet its growing energy demand.

Indians are in general unaware of the growing tension between Iran and Israel. Reports on the stand off between Iran and the United States are often buried deep inside new papers and have nearly no mention on TV. For these reasons, the very mention of Iran has caught many by surprise. People still don’t fully grasp why India has emerged as a battlefield in the Iran-Israel stand off. The set of challenges for policymakers are profound, and it will be interesting to observe how the foreign policy and security discourse evolves from here.

Exploring the Sino-Indian Maritime Rivalry

In this article, the author explores China and India’s maritime rivalry in context of the recent skirmishes between the two nations in the South China Sea.


By Mikael Santelli-Bensouda, 10 Jan, 2012

In the dying embers of 2011 the sentiment between China and India regarding maritime activities became increasingly antagonistic. China explicitly warned India from any interference in the South China Sea, India demonstrated its increasing naval capability with the induction of its second aircraft carrier – two years ahead of schedule – and China beefed up its physical presence across the Indian Ocean. Emboldened by a sense of strength and necessity both nations are expanding their capability and presence beyond their immediate periphery, directly into the others ‘backyard’. What is the naval security state of affairs between Asia’s rising powers?

Competing claims to Asia’s waterways

As emerging Asian powers, both China and India’s vital security interests have dilated towards regional concerns. Their interests, particularly lie in the Indian Ocean. The strategic focus on the region is predominantly due to its proximity to the energy rich Persian Gulf, a vital transport route for Asia’s energy and commercial interaction with the world market. Specifically, it is the desire to ensure security over vital shipments that has dictated the growing Chinese naval presence in the region. This, in turn, stimulates India’s proactive response of increasing its naval capability whilst projecting their presence in the South China Sea. These parallel policies signal an overlap in their strategic spheres, as both nations aim to stretch their strategic footprint across coastal Asia.

Beijing’s rationale derives largely, but not exclusively, from energy security, as China’s energy import dependency leaves her vulnerable across volatile transport routes. To this extent, the Malacca Dilemma constitutes a potent threat perception. In the event of heightened Sino-Indian tension, India (due to its proximity to the Malacca Strait, of which 85% of China’s energy needs pass through) can physically blockade China’s energy supplies. This narrative is used to justify the Middle Kingdom’s proactive presence expansion into the Indian Ocean. However, Beijing’s expansion also serves to stifle Indian attempts at exercising domain dominance. India, by a coincidence of geography, is the dominant maritime power in the Indian Ocean. Accordingly, the region constitutes India’s sphere of influence wherein New Delhi widely sees that its task is to be the steward of the waterways, safeguarding transit vessels. It is this vital responsibility that many consider to be India’s breakthrough into the global elite of nations. As both nations aim to ensure their national interests, they are increasingly drawn into a competition for supremacy.

The China Threat: String of Pearls

Beijing’s interests in establishing a quasi-permanent presence in the Indian Ocean are contextualised through the narrative of energy insecurity. The desire to express self-determination is an essential characteristic in China’s ‘peaceful development’. Accordingly, China has employed mutually enforcing tactics to facilitate its policies. Firstly, to strengthen its presence, it is taking tempered measures, which consist of diplomatic, economic and military engagement across the ocean’s littoral. Described as the ‘String of Pearls’. Secondly, Beijing is continuing a traditional naval buildup to fully utilise and protect their growing interests.

The String of Pearls strategy has been used to describe the physical manifestations of China’s interests within the Indian Ocean. These ‘pearls’ consist of: the building of container ports and deep-sea facilities in Chittagong, Bangladesh; assistance in constructing Pakistan’s deep-water port of Gwadar; support for the projected construction of a twelve-hundred-mile oil and gas pipeline from a port near Sittwe in Myanmar; and the controversial investment in the construction of Asia’s own Suez Canal that would cut across the Kra Isthmus in Thailand, subsequently bypassing the Malacca Strait.

Supplementing this is a methodical and patient naval buildup. In August 2011 Beijing’s naval ambitions were significantly boosted as China’s first aircraft carrier, the Varyag, completed its maiden voyage. This is noteworthy as aircraft carriers denote strategic importance and subsequently improves China’s maritime deterrence and combat capability. This significant moment is a watershed in the process of developing a capable navy, one that will be able of projecting and defending the Middle Kingdom’s interests.

Such advancement has not gone unnoticed by India, as with any augmentation of military strength and presence expansion comes greater suspicion and acts of counter-balancing. Despite official Chinese rhetoric professing that its actions serve only to safeguard its national security, it does little to alleviate New Delhi’s perceived threat. China’s actions are viewed with suspicion and are widely described within Indian military circles as antagonistic and provocative.

However, from the Chinese perspective the advent of the String of Pearls strategy is itself misleading as it attempts to construct a narrative of the China threat to justify retaliatory and often aggressive means. Beijing claims that it is not in search of any permanent presence in the region and that it wants to ensure security of its energy supplies. Nonetheless, China’s geopolitical intentions cannot be naively overlooked. Beijing may be attempting to exercise power through ensuring its presence across the Indian Ocean. Supplementing this is also the desire to curtail the naval reach and capability of India, suggesting that China deems India a long-term adversary. In essence, Beijing may be exercising a policy of ‘nipping India’s navy in the bud’.

India’s manifest destiny

China’s encroaching presence in the Indian Ocean is cause for Indian ire. India’s interests in Asia’s waterways are a manifestation of its geographical reality; it is the central territorial feature of the Indian Ocean. This feeds India’s inherent naval desire to exercise dominance and hegemony over the Ocean. In an attempt to achieve this, India is consistently upgrading its naval fleet, which last month witnessed the advent of its second aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya and is soon to be followed by the third. This demonstrates how seriously India takes it perceived role by not limiting itself for future options of force.

Furthermore, India’s augmentation of its naval capability is not pursued exclusively unilaterally. Recently, New Delhi has actively participated and hosted naval exercises with Singapore, Australia, Japan and the US, tentatively signaling the formation of a democratic bloc alliance. Not only does this energise India’s aspirations but it is also intended to act as deterrent to the ever-watchful China. Certainly, a substantial part of India’s naval surge is undoubtedly responding to the perceived reality of the China threat. The China threat was first raised in the 2004 The Indian Maritime Doctrine claiming explicably that China poses a maritime challenge to India. It highlighted China’s “determined drive to build a powerful blue water maritime force” and the “imperative for India, therefore, [was] to retain a strong maritime capability in order to maintain a balance of maritime power in the Indian Ocean, as well as the larger Asia-Pacific region”. This indicates that not only has the China question has been an active defence consideration for some time but also effective measures are being taken, and have been taken, to address the concern.

Additionally, India has moved to balance China’s creeping influence with its own strategically targeted maritime presence in the South China Sea. This firmly locks them both into an intense zero-sum relationship, or put rudimentarily, a tit-for-tat encounter. New Delhi’s Look East Policy, a similar strategy to that of Beijing’s, is becoming critical for strategic deterrence against China and sustained presence in the South China Sea is a crucial national security imperative. The establishment of closer ties with Japan, Taiwan and Vietnam ensure that India holds some power of deterrence whilst enabling their military to project its presence into the heavily disputed Sea. Whilst China is frustrated with India’s newfound strategic relationship with all these nations, the most troublesome of late has been Vietnam. This is largely due to the increasing tenacity with which China is pursuing its disputed territorial claims, an issue it vehemently warns New Delhi should steer clear of.

As both nations aim to outmaneuver their rival in order to secure national interests by manipulating Asia’s waterways, it is clear that both are jostling for strategic space across Asia’s littoral. The active-reactive nature of the maritime rivalry between China and India dictates that the emergence of interests in opposing strategic zones increases the likelihood of confrontation; especially considering patrol boats and strategic relationship from both nations expand their Asian footprint. The wider implication of this rivalry is that it severely effects the fragile security situation across the continent, by engendering fractious responses to any future incidents.

From Fiesta to Siesta: Spain, Merkozy, and Neo-Eurosclerosis

In this article, the author analyses the Euro crisis by taking a look at Spain and fiercely criticises European conservatives’ obsessive focus on austerity, a trend that is inevitably leading the old continent towards a state of Neo-Eurosclerosis.


4 Jan, 2012

European politics is a tough game: on the one hand, there is the political struggle in which parties seek to win a domestic electorate with old-fashion programs covering issues such as the level of state intervention, economic growth, and social integration and protection. Here the talk is usually centred on taxes, employment, state regulation, and welfare programs. On the other hand, European integration and monetary union are forcing member states to strengthen their positions in an attempt to resist challenges to state sovereignty. Here the talk is usually centred on fighting back transnational forces and financial markets, enhancing national identity, and resisting the transference of sovereignty. Hence, political parties find themselves in the odd situation of having to win two battles: one with a domestic electorate, and one with the effects of European integration. Three battles if we include the struggle against financial markets that do not seem to respect boundaries of any sort. The 2008 economic crisis and subsequent sovereign debt crisis and crisis of the euro have only exacerbated these trends. The case of Spain comes in handy here.

When Mariano Rajoy of the conservative People’s Party was elected Spain’s President in November he stated that Spain “will stop being part of the problem and start becoming part of the solution”. Later, in his first address to Parliament he confirmed that he would not raise taxes as a measure to reduce public budget deficit (one of his electoral promises). Yet this week the government that Mr Rajoy presides announced the most severe measures since Spain turned into a democracy in 1978, including very large cuts in public expenditure and a significant rise in income tax rates. This, it was argued, is what Spain needs to do in order to meet the European budget deficit target of 4.4% by the end of 2012.

The current exact figure of Spain’s public deficit is a matter of serious debate. According to the outgoing socialist government, Spain’s deficit is of the range of 6% whilst the incoming conservatives estimate the figure is closer to 8% thus justifying extraordinary measures. But Spain is a semi-federal state in which a large proportion of the current aggregated national public deficit is dependent on the deficit incurred by each of the different autonomous communities. This means that the debate over the exact figure of public deficit is in turn cascaded down to the politics of each of the autonomous regions (the majority of which are now in control of the conservative government). In other words, numbers and figures are political. Those seeing things through red lenses believe the figures provided by the incoming government have been inflated; those seeing things through blue lenses claim that the outgoing government was too optimistic about the level of public deficit.[1]

Regarding the measures announced by Mr Rajoy, two points come immediately to mind. First, Mr Rajoy’s measures will tax employees and therefore hit the middles classes, and not big companies or the richest strands of society (despite the argument that he has chosen to raise taxes on income over taxes on consumption on the basis of the former’s equity and progressivity –however, there are already rumours that VAT, a tax on consumption, will be increased in or after March. That may explain, inter alia, what Mr Rajoy’s number two Soraya de Santamaría meant when she claimed that the measures announced this week are only ‘the beginning of the beginning’). Second, the conservative government has justified these measures on the grounds that resolving the debt crisis must be Spain’s top priority. Cutting public expenditure (in other words, social welfare) is not enough and so an additional increase in taxes is what Spain needs to do to achieve the paradisiacal budget deficit of 4.4%. This, according to the conservatives, will not worsen the economy and, if it does, their position is that reducing public deficit is more important than reactivating a stagnant economy. Yet reactivating the economy and creating jobs was the promise and the campaign slogan of the conservative party presided by Mr Rajoy (official data says Spain has 4.42 million unemployed).

So what has happened here? Have Mr Rajoy and his cabinet changed their minds or did they know the policies they would adopt and implement once they found themselves in power? I think any doubts in this regard may offend the reader. Spain is no movie like others, but the script is the same elsewhere in Europe these days: see Greece, (in that case though the government of Mr Papandreu lied about public accounts), Ireland, Portugal, and Berlusconi’s Italy where the new government has not even been democratically elected. Then came Spain, with Mr Rajoy making pacts with Merkel. In this regard, not only is the Franco-German axis abusing intergovernmental cooperation to worrying levels, bypassing regional integration and European institutions such as the Commission, but they are also increasingly perceived as dictating what other countries must do.

In an essay published in November by the Centre for European Reform the authors provide an excellent analysis of what exactly is going on in Europe. According to the authors, the principal problem is that the monetary union was never coupled with a fiscal union. The introduction of the euro therefore triggered a flow of debt from core, creditor countries in the North, to periphery, debtor countries in the South, ‘spurring the emergence of enormous macroeconomic imbalances that were unsustainable, and that the eurozone has proved institutionally illequipped to tackle’. But the Franco-German axis and North-European policy-makers, with the backing of conservatives elsewhere, do not agree with this interpretation and instead of acknowledging the institutional pitfalls of the eurozone, they blame the crisis on the behaviour of certain member states (the so called PIGS that Paul Krugman rightly prefers calling GIPS), namely on government profligacy and loss of competitiveness.

Hence, Spain is forced to apply stricter rules to emulate the virtuosity of creditor countries like Germany as if Germany itself had played no role in the run-up to the crisis (by lending money irresponsibly and far from innocently). Yet experts like Krugman are very clear about the impact that an obsession with austerity and low inflation is having on European economies: austerity in times of crisis inevitably leads to more recession and not necessarily to a decrease in bond yields. IMF’s Chief Economist Olivier Blanchard has backed this view by declaring that ‘some preliminary estimates that the IMF is working on suggest that it does not take large multipliers for the joint effects of fiscal consolidation and the implied lower growth to lead in the end to an increase, not a decrease, in risk spreads on government bonds’.

Krugman claims that nobody understands debt and he cites a quote by John Maynard Keynes that all governments, blue or red, should learn by heart: “The boom, not the slump, is the right time for austerity at the Treasury”. I think though that Krugman is making a very benevolent interpretation of the current state of play. Surely Mr Rajoy (and Sarkozy and Merkel) understand debt, but their lenses are blue. It was Roosevelt and not Hoover that led the US and the world to recovery during the last Great Depression, and he did so by injecting money in the economy, not by enforcing austerity. The eurozone suffers from institutional flaws that need to be sorted (such as the lack of ‘real’ fiscal union). Some experts believe the latest agreement reached by the 17 members of the eurozone on 9 December 2011 is a ‘fiscal union’ only in paper (this may explain the reaction of the financial markets which, after taking a brief break, are back on their feet ready to take on another victim).

The question therefore is whether there is anything that will satisfy the financial markets. In this regard the answer seems to lie in Blanchard’s statement according to which financial investors are schizophrenic because they first react positively to austerity and then negatively when they realise that austerity does not lead to growth. Which means that the key to this puzzle is as simple as it is old: financial markets want to recover their investments, and the way to guarantee such outcome is by generating growth, not by enforcing austerity. Mr Rajoy in the meantime, guided by European conservatives’ obsession with austerity, continues to hit the wrong button; let’s hope it will not be too late before European leaders realise that their lenses are leading Europe towards a state of Neo-Eurosclerosis.

[1] Blue is the colour of Spain’s conservative People’s Party but blue is later used throughout the rest of the article to refer more generally to conservatives across Europe