March 11, 2013: Pakistan lame-duck Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf’s brief private visit to India March 9 accomplished nothing of substance, but it put an unintended spotlight on the troubled state into which India-Pakistan relations have fallen in the past few months. The causes of the downturn are many and varied – trouble in Kashmir and along the Line of Control, concerns about post-2014 Afghanistan, a stalling of their encouraging trade opening, and perhaps most importantly impending elections in both countries. A State Department spokeswoman welcomed Ashraf’s visit and confirmed Washington’s interest in the two nations talking to one another. But such long-standing U.S. cheerleading from the sidelines is unlikely to have any meaningful impact. Significant progress seems unlikely until parliamentary elections are held in both countries, Pakistan’s this May, India’s probably in early 2014. Read moreLeave a reply
Archive for the ‘Regional’ Category
A series of increasingly violent, interlocking political confrontations have gripped Bangladesh for more than a month. The conflict threatens the country’s fragile democratic institutions and its remarkable export-oriented economic progress. As we found in a recent visit, many observers fear that the fundamental issues that underlie these confrontations cannot be resolved within Bangladesh’s constitutional framework. Some worry, as we do, that in the absence of some form of compromise among the main political parties, especially on the hot-button issue of the conduct of the upcoming parliamentary elections, the Bangladesh Army will again step in, as it has many times before in the country’s forty years of independence.
The United States, for its part, should privately warn political leaders of the dangers Bangladesh’s democratic institutions face – and they with them. But as the experience of one of us as American ambassador in Dhaka in the mid-1980s suggests, any effort by Washington or other friendly foreign powers to intervene more directly is likely to fail. The only country that might effectively do so is China, but it avoids such roles.Leave a reply
The October 22 debate between Romney and Obama presented a badly distorted view of U.S. foreign policy. Their discussion does offer a perceptive glimpse of the most urgent short-term international worries of the American electorate.
The defining image from the October 22 debate between President Obama and presidential hopeful Mitt Romney is of the two candidates passionately disputing their prescriptions for the U.S. domestic economy. The moderator, veteran TV journalist Bob Schieffer, caught the spirit of the evening with his final words before inviting the debaters to make their closing comments – “I think we all love teachers.” A visitor from Mars might be forgiven for not realizing that this was a debate on foreign policy.
Read our article in The Hindu, October 27, 2012.Leave a reply
Two very different, but quite compelling, books on the military problems of the region: Stephen Tankel’s Storming the World Stage traces the history of Lashkar-e-Taiba and its complex relationship with the Pakistan army, concluding that this is unlikely to change; and Srinath Raghavan’s War and Peace in Modern India recounts in elegant detail the diplomatic and military history of the conflicts that peppered the first fifteen years of India’s independence.
Read both – but to get more of the flavor of them, read the review by Teresita Schaffer.
This is a preprint of an article submitted for consideration in Survival: Global Politics and Strategy ©. The International Institute for Strategic Studies; Survival: Global Politics and Strategy is available online at: http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/ .
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Katherine Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers is an unforgettable walk through the Annawadi neighborhood, next to Mumbai’s airport. Ward Berenschot’s Riot Politics links the ever-present search for patronage in India’s cities to the grisly communal violence that breaks out there from time to time . Steve Inskeep’s Instant City weaves together the ethnic stew, political infighting and scarcity that make up Karachi.
To whet your appetite for all three, see Teresita Schaffer’s review. This is a preprint of an article submitted for consideration in Survival: Global Politics and Strategy ©. The International Institute for Strategic Studies; Survival: Global Politics and Strategy is available online at: http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/ .
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May 11, 2012: After the tumult that surrounded her visit to Beijing, when Chinese dissident activist Chen Guangcheng’s defection stole center stage, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s 20-hour stopover in Dhaka must have been a welcome change of scene. The visit provided a highly successful public diplomacy spotlight on U.S.-Bangladesh relations and showed Hillary Clinton at her most engaging. It also provided an opportunity for quiet discussions about some of the problems that are likely to intensify as Bangladesh navigates an increasingly turbulent and controversial pre-election period. Read moreLeave a reply
April 10, 2012: Four months ago, Pakistani president Asif Zardari’s trip to Dubai for medical treatment sparked intense rumors of a military coup. Last weekend, Zardari lunched in Delhi with Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh and was photographed wearing a flamboyant turban at a renowned Sufi shrine at Ajmer in Rajasthan. What happened and what does it mean?
No one, least of all two longtime observers of the South Asia scene like us, expected to see India-Pakistan relations transformed by this Easter Sunday luncheon in New Delhi, the first meeting in a bilateral setting between the top leaders of India and Pakistan in seven years. But the brief summit session usefully highlighted the accelerating strengthening of ties over the past year or so. It also raised hopes that further progress can be achieved if the two sides persist in the sensible, unspectacular approach they have recently followed. Read moreLeave a reply
At the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, the Sri Lankan and U.S. governments are facing off this week over a resolution that the U.S. has proposed but neither side wanted. Sri Lanka’s response to the events at the end of its toxic war – the subject of that resolution – has become the driving issue in Sri Lanka’s relations with the United States. The resolution may not have much impact on the reconciliation process that is so critical for Sri Lanka’s future. For the sake of Sri Lanka, the region and indeed Washington, it is important that reconciliation actually take place.
Read Teresita Schaffer’s article published in The Hindu March 22, 2012.Leave a reply
On the day after Christmas 2004, a powerful 9.0 magnitude earthquake under the Indian Ocean off of northern Sumatra sent massive waves crashing against the coastlines of countries as far away as Kenya and Madagascar. This tsunami killed or left missing some 226,000 people and displaced an estimated 1.7 million more in fourteen Asian and African countries. Damage to property—infrastructure, residences, government buildings, and commercial establishments—was enormous. Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, and the Maldives were the most seriously affected. The catastrophic tsunami boosted on efforts to bring about a negotiated settlements of the insurgency then raging in Aceh, Indonesia; it had the opposite effect in Sri Lanka.
Read full report by Howard Schaffer, released by the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy.Leave a reply