Mangaluru: The Department of Political Science, St Aloysius College (SAC) organized a lecture on “Regional Look at Security in South and Central Asia” by Prof Stephen Tankel, assistant professor in the School of International Service at American University, at SAC Teletorium here, on Aug 21.
The programme began with an invocation by the students of II year BA. Principal of SAC, Fr Swebert D’Silva SJ expressed his happiness over the programme and certainty that the students would be enlightened in Indo-US relationship and security issues of the region through this lecture. He also said that he desired that the students must have global competency and this lecture would help them to understand and relate to others globally.
Prof Tankel remarked on the college campus, terming it a “beautiful campus” that has “the right environment for learning”, before commencing his lecture in which he expressed his personal views on the security and defence issues in South and Central Asia, which according to him is a critically important region for the US. He categorised the topic into 3 sub regions, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.
He conveyed the importance of the Northern Distribution Network, consisting of alternate supply routes to move supplies into Afghanistan through Central Asian countries, and said that counter terrorism is increasingly on the radar scope, due to concerns about militant spillover from Afghanistan, with militants trying to extend their footprint in Central Asia and Counter-narcotics since this area where drug trafficking exists which concerns all of the countries in the world.
Speaking on Afghanistan, he said that Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s strenuous efforts to build Afghanistan’s relation with Pakistan looked promising but due to the recent increase in violence in Afghanistan by militants coming from Pakistan, their relationship has soured. He said that it was no secret that the US and many other players in the region were concerned about Pakistan’s provision of sanctuary to many terrorist groups, including those aligned against the Afghan government, resulting in Afghanistan also harbouring groups that have interests against Pakistan like Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which is an alliance of militant networks that was formed in 2007 to unify opposition against the Pakistani government, causing the situation to go out of control.
While there has been no evidence of India supporting the TTP, the presumption in Pakistan is that India is supporting the TTP, he said. Increasing TTP attacks could lead to not only more Pakistan-Afghanistan conflict, but extend it to India-Pakistan relations as well. Noting the effect of the Islamic State (IS) in Afghanistan-Pakistan relations, he said that though IS is not a strategic player in the region, it does have a strategic effect.
He also spoke on the change in US policy towards Pakistan in regard to the Coalition Support Fund (CSF) with the US deciding not to release the annual USD 300 mn under the fund due to Pakistan’s failure to act against the Haqqani network. The CSF was developed after 9/11 to reimburse coalition partners for logistical and military support to US military operations. The US has reimbursed USD 13 billion to Pakistan since 2001. “Pakistan will remain an important, if frustrating country for the United States. If two countries want to have a normalised relationship with one another, then one country reimbursing to the other is not how normalised countries behave,” he said.
Speaking about India’s position in the security of the region, he said that the trajectory for this region was different. The US is very enthusiastic about the US-India relationship and India receives more attention atleast on the defence side than any other country that is not in a crisis. He said that the first reason for this enthusiasm is that US sees India’s rise a net positive in and of itself. Because of India’s behaviour and readiness to abide by international laws, the US sees India as a “force for stability and good in the world”, evident in the manner in which India settled its maritime dispute with Bangladesh. Commenting on China’s way of settling territorial disputes in the South China sea, he said that it was the type of behaviour that the US seeks to discourage. “Which is to say, the United States doesn’t see India as a counter or imbalance to China, rather the Unites States sees India as the type of country that we are keen to encourage and model for the way in which countries should rise. The United States would like to see China as a force for stability in the world in the same way that it sees India”. He also commented on US-India military exercises that are becoming increasingly complex from the last 10 years and Exercise Malabar, a bilateral naval exercise involving the United States and India, that will have Japan as a participant this year which shows India’s growing engagement with partners in East and South East Asia. The US is also prepared to do co-production and co-development with India as part of the wider “Make in India” campaign and transfer technology to India as well to enable indigenisation of production in the country. All these show the potential that US sees in the US-India relationship, he added.
Thereafter, a Q&A session was held and many individuals, from the staff, students and the media, voiced their queries to Tankel.
Ariel Pollock, Public Affairs Officer in US Consulate at Chennai, thanked the institute and said that the consulate was working to build people-to-people ties between the two countries and apprise the people of the US-India relationship through various engagements and public programmes like this which shed light on various topics of mutual interest.
Reiterating, US Ambassador Richard Verma’s statement of India-US relationship being a “Strategic Plus Partnership”, she said that it is so because India-US relationship is one that goes beyond just mutual strategic interests and covers a very broad array of issues. She also said that the consulate was working on more than 80 different initiatives that have spawned out of Barack Obama’s visit earlier this January. “We are working on everything from health and development to economics and trade to climate change…and regional security and defence to make real the vision that President Obama and Prime Minister Narendra Modi have for our two countries and that’s a vision that sees that when US and India are working together, it not only benefits our two countries and the people of our two countries but it can benefit the people of the world. We welcome and support India’s rise on the global stage.” Addressing the students, she said, “You are the future leaders and commenters on foreign relations and so we encourage you to stay interested, informed and involved on these issues.”
Dr Rose Veera D’Souza (HOD of Political Science, SAC) welcomed the guests and the gathering. Alwyn D’Souza, Political Science faculty, SAC, delivered the vote of thanks.