Former high-ranking State Department official on air at Azeri.Today
Azeri.Today interviews Walter Andersen, ex-head of the Bureau of Research and Analysis in the US State Department, former political analyst at 5 US Secretaries of State (Alexandre Schulze, James Baker, Lawrence Eagleburger, Warren Christopher, Madeleine Albright), former US Special Assistant in India, American Academician.
- You held key positions in the State Department. How do you assess the US foreign policy on South Asia? What are the American geostrategic interests?
- The geostrategic policy of US in South Asia? The South Asian subcontinent occupies critical geostrategical space, dominating the Indian Ocean and at the place in the north where Asia and the Middle East come together. Therefore the US would be against any competitor country gaining a prominent place there (e.g. China) The US has developed a good strategic relationship with India, though India has a policy of strategic autonomy that opposes any military alliance. For the US an alliance is not necessary. What is important is a strong India to impede hegemony in Asia.
- Pakistan has long been considered a US ally in the fight against terrorism, but relations between the two countries have deteriorated significantly and Islamabad is more cooperating with China than with the United States. Why did it happen? Will the two former allies restore confidence in the relationship?
- On US relations with Pakistan, they have always swung up ad down and are now down, partly because of the radical Islamic presence in the country and partly because of Pakistan's efforts to develop a close relationship with China and partly because of Pakistan's poor relations with Afghanistan. Pakistan, much weaker than India, has always looked out for countries that could help it against India, initially the US and now China.
- As you know, India has boycotted the international form in China. New Delhi refused to participate in the "One Belt One Road” forum. Why is India against the Chinese project? What are Indians afraid of?
- On One Belt One Road, India is not supportive as one part of it goes through that part of Kashmir controlled by Pakistan but claimed by India. Moreover there were no prior consultations regarding the many complicated elements (like environmental issues). The effort was sold as a Chinese effort, and India was somewhat offended as it would expect something more collaborative. Moreover, India has its own equivalents (e.g. "Act East" with focus on Southeast Asia and Japan). Chinese concern to get Indian support is due to fact that a fast growing India has a huge market for the now slowing Chinese economy -- far more potential than Europe or the Middle East or Russia.
- Can rivalry for hegemony in South Asia grow into a serious armed conflict between China and India?
- There has always been some India-China competition in South Asia. India has always opposed another major country (like China) operating within the geographic contours of South Asia. It was similarly opposed to the US in the region militarily during the Cold War. As the Indian economy has grown dramatically since the mid-1990s, it plays a more significant role in drawing its neighbors closer to it due to its growing economic capacity. India relies on a hedging strategy in dealing strategically with China, drawing closer to the US and Japan and conveying policy of moving even closer if China takes steps considered threatening to Indian interests.
- We ask this question to all our experts. What do you know about the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict? How do you see the settlement of this problem?
- I don't have expert knowledge of the controversy. It is a problem left over from the collapse of the USSR. The Armenians have played the issue internationally as an assault on a region where they are the numerically predominant population and appealed to help from the international Armenian diaspora. My guess is that is an issue that will have to be resolved by negotiations that respects ethnic plurality of the region.
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