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Report of Talk Programme on Geostrategic Shift in Asia: Response of German Security and Foreign Policy

Organized by the Institute of Foreign Affairs (IFA)and Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES)

15 February 2013 Kathmandu, Nepal


A talk programme was organized in Kathmandu by the Institute of Foreign Affairs (IFA) in cooperation with Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES), Nepal on "Geostrategic Shift in Asia: Response of German Security and Foreign Policy" on February 15, 2013. Three Members of Parliament of Germany- Hon. Mr Johannes Pflug, Member of Parliament (Bundestag), Member of Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy, Hon. Ms Karin Evers-Meyer, Member of Parliament (Bundestag), Member of Defence Committee and Budget Committee, and Hon. Mr Holger Ortel, Member of Parliament, Committee on Food, Agriculture & Consumer Protection took part in the talk programme. The programme was chaired by Prof.

Dr. Sridhar K. Khatri, former Executive Director, Institute of Foreign Affairs.

The talk programme began with the welcome remarks made by Mr Khus Narayan Shrestha, Officiating Executive Director of the Institute of Foreign Affairs. Mr Shrestha stated that "global power has been shifting to Asia with the beginning of the twenty-first century". He elaborated the statement by saying that China has emerged as an economic power and with that its ability has increased to restrict the US's role in the Western Pacific region. He also mentioned that the response of the US to the rising power of China was reflected in the last year's statement of the US President Barak Obama in which he laid emphasis on US focus on the Asia-Pacific region. He was of the view that Nepal could not remain in isolation when shift of global power to her neighbourhood was taking place.

Thereafter, Prof. Khatri, as the Chairperson of the talk programme, welcomed the Members of German Parliament and the participants to the programme. He also mentioned about the emerging powers of today with special reference to the new block of BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) and stated that in Nepal people are trying to figure out the possible implication on Nepal of the growing powers of China and India. Having made his introductory remarks, the Chairperson invited Mr Johannes Pflug to make presentation on the theme of the talk programme.

Hon. Mr Pflug commenced his presentation by saying that Germany was not interested in Asian affairs until 2001. "After the 9/11 terrorist attack of 2001 on the US, Germany was requested to take part in military action against the terrorists in Afghanistan", he said. "We showed our solidarity with the US, as we wanted South Asia to be stabilized. Afghanistan is still in problems. There is increased insecurity in South Asia: India is a nuclear power, and Pakistan also has more than 50 nuclear weapons", he further said.

Mr Pflug highlighted the problems faced by the people of North Korea by saying that they are revolting against the government. He also touched upon the problem of Kashmir, while mentioning that "Asia is a huge region".

Mr Pflug was of the view that China was on its way to becoming the second superpower of the world. "China has also realized its duty as a superpower", he said. He further said that given the rising power of China "The US is surrounding China. It has concluded agreements with Myanmar, pushing China-Myanmar relations back. Its bilateral relations with Vietnam, Korea and Taiwan have been enhanced. It has strategic relations with Japan and South Korea". In his statement, Mr Pflug expressed the view that though the US will remain in Afghanistan for some time, its direction will be towards China and the Asia-Pacific region, as it has added six aircraft carriers and 60 percent of its marine forces in the region.

While touching upon North Korea's recent nuclear test, Mr Pflug saw the danger of it along with the possibility of huge refugee outflux from North Korea into China. He viewed that conflict would continue with mistrust in between Beijing and Pyongyang. "Reform is unlikely under the new leader in North Korea", he mentioned, "China will have to further pressurize Pyongyang, which has been not been enough at present". He suggested for a puppet government in North Korea supported by Beijing.

After the conclusion of the statement of Mr Pflug, Hon. Ms Karin Evers-Meyer was invited by the chair to speak. During her speech, she made succinct remarks. She began her statement by stating that Asia had a unique character. She unfolded the policy of Germany which appreciated different cultures, languages, views, religions, and ways of life. She expressed the view that "Germany makes its weight felt for peace and a trustworthy partner." "In the current international scenario, the US demands more responsibility and a larger share of burden from Germany", she said. She continued, "Germany does not sense pressure from the US and from any country." On military engagement, she mentioned that the UN mandate is the ground for it.

On conclusion of the statement of Mr Johannes Pflug and Hon. Ms Karin Evers-Meyer, the Chairperson Prof. KLhatri summerized the ideas expressed by the speakers. He said that "Europe is rebalancing the power in the new context though its influence is weakening due to financial crisis". He was of the view that Asia-Pacific region is currently mired in conflict over the territory of some islands in the South China Sea, which needs diplomatic efforts for its prevention. He also highlighted on the upcoming alliance by saying that the South East Asian states will be forced to choose between the US and China. He foresaw the upcoming situation in which the US would place its priority on the Middle-East and North Africa and would lose influence in South America whereas Chinese investment and trade would grow in Latin America. He advised Berlin to play a proactive role and not to wait for policy decisions from Brussels. "There should be a right balance between hard and soft power and between regional and global institutions", he stated. Having said this, he opened the floor for questions and answers. A number of questions were raised by the participants as follows:

Mr Rajan Bhattarai: How do you see the shifting balance of power? Powerful countries do not want to lose and emerging powers want share of it. What's Europe's role? China is rising, but there are flashpoints around its borders. What's Europe's response to it?

S.P. Upadhyaya: You wish to be with the Afghan people but not with President Hamid Karzai. Why?

Ms Sherpa: What'll Germany do to persuade the US not to contain China? What'll EU and Germany do to address the Indo-Pak conflict?

Deepak Gajurel: What's the future of EU? A US publication of this year gives a gloomy picture of it. If Europe weakens, what'll be the relations between Europe and Euroasia and Himalasia?

Kul Chandra Gautam: Germany is already working as a de facto member of the Security Council. Will it play independently or as a second fidder of the US?

Lal Bahadur Yadav: What's the role of Germany and EU in Nepal being the victim of geopolitical situation. How do you overcome terrorism, security threats and human rights abuses?

Bhekh Bahadur Thapa: The history of world after the twentieth century has witnessed three waves. The first wave was the drive for reconstruction of Europe after the Second World War. The second wave was the fall of Berlin Wall. And the third wave is the wave of today in which multiple centres of influence have been created. In this period, how do we restructure the old institutions and have balance of power?

Prem: What'd be the future of the Philippinos and Malaysians when the US comes to that region?

Binod Bist: You said Kashmir can wait and the Indo-Pak relations can continue. Is it EU's position?

Ibrahim Gaffuri: The Arab spring was a major event for change in the Arab world. The US's response was quick for Libya's political change. But in Syria no one from the West has intervened. What's your view on Syria? In Bahrain the minority Sunnis are ruling. Why is there no voice from the Western countries for the majorities?

Gopal Pokhrel: By 2016 China is going to be the superpower. China has adopted the mixed economy. It is undergoing a democratic change. There is the feeling in Nepal that China does not intervene in Nepal's internal affairs.

Mr Johannes Pflug responded to the questions part by part after receiving them in different parts. He acknowledged China as a rising power. He told that China's main policy was focused on its neighbours for security and energy without interfering into their internal affairs. "Though China's economic growth is slowing, it is investing in Asia, Africa and East Asia", he said. He warned that China may become a dangerous country as it has been applying repressive measures against its people involved in over 12,000 conflicts inside the country. He suggested that the international community should persuade China to adopt inner state democracy.

On EU's policy towards external world, Mr Pflug categorically said that "EU has failed in articulating common foreign and security policy". According to him, it was because the politics in the member countries has become national. He suggested that focus on national interest by member countries should change in order to make EU a counter-balance to the US. But EU doesn't want to be that, he said. "EU wants to be a partner and a facilitator. EU also wants to be a partner for Asia".

About the role of Germany in global power game, he stated that "Germany can not be a political power; it may be an economic power. We can be a moderate power between several powers. In the past, Germany played the role of a facilitator". He informed the gathering that even in Germany, there are different voices as to whether Germany should be a permanent member of the Security Council. Expressing his own view, he said "Germany should seek permanent membership of the Security Council". Germany's aim, according to him, was to foster regional security and development.

Responding to the question relating to Afghanistan, he was of the view that Afghanistan needed free and fair election. He also mentioned that Germany will support Afghanistan if request is made from that country.

While touching upon the political situation in Nepal, Bangladesh and Bhutan, Mr JPflug stated that all three countries are under democratic exercises. He expressed the view that the three countries of South Asia can work together for regional security and deal with their neighbours-India and China. He stressed that dialogue has to continue for resolving the Indo-Pak dispute on Kashmir.

Mr Pflug was for the reform of the UN. He said that veto powers were against the expected reform of the international institution. He opined that small countries have to continue pressurizing the powerful countries for UN reform for which regional associations like SAARC and ASEAN could be important players. He pledged EU's cooperation for that drive.
On the role of the Western countries in the political changes in the Gulf region, he was of the view that democracy should be established not only in Bahrain but also in Saudi Arabia. He alleged that the US is not for democracy in those countries. He also spoke for transparency in financial flows.

"Russia is trying to regain its power", Mr Pflug stated. He further stated that EU needs Russia as a partner for which dialogue is going on. While expressing his views on the situation in the Middle-East, he said that occupation of Gaza by Israel should be condemned. "Behind Syrian government is Iran; and Saudi Arabia is backing Hamas", he said.
On questions relating to EU's role in Nepal, he said, "We're no missioneries in Nepal. You've to request your political parties for solution to political problems".

After the completion of the question-answer session, the Chairperson Prof. Khatri made the concluding remarks. He said that global rivalry for getting raw materials from Africa and Latin America is going on. While seeing danger in the rapidly changing world, he presented himself unsure as to whether India will balance China given the absence of such policy in India's national security doctrine and the policy of Non-alignment 2.0. He was of the view that China and India both need to fix their governance system in view of their rising global profile. He however expressed doubt as to whether the two countries would be able to continue their economic growth and development in the same pace as done in the past. He believed in EU's large degree of credibility due to its policy on democracy and human rights. He then declared the session concluded.

 
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