Archive for the ‘Regional’ Category

Hillary Clinton’s Whirlwind Visit to Bangladesh

US Government photo, http://www.flickr.com/photos/us_embassy_newzealand/5147456283/sizes/m/in/photostream/

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 more

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Manmohan Singh and Asif Zardari: A Hopeful Encounter

Photo by radicaleye, http://www.flickr.com/photos/moviemaverick/88581751/sizes/m/in/photostream/

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 more

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Sri Lanka and the United States: Post-Geneva Repair

Photo by Nimal, http://www.flickr.com/photos/nimal/4446877029/

The meeting in Geneva is over, leaving a sour taste in everyone’s mouth. It’s time to put Sri Lanka’s political rebuilding on track, and repair U.S.-Sri Lanka relations in the process.

Read Teresita Schaffer’s op-ed published in the Sunday Times, Colombo, April 1, 2012.

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Colombo, Geneva and Washington

Photo from flickr, http://www.flickr.com/photos/vikalpasl/6838061254/sizes/m/in/photostream/

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.

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Making Peace When Disaster Strikes: Sri Lanka, Aceh, and the 2004 Tsunami

Photo by S. Baker, http://www.flickr.com/photos/sarahbaker/214791736/sizes/m/in/photostream/

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.

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Afghanistan, Pakistan and Kashmir: A grand bargain?

Khyber Pass, photo from flickr, http://www.flickr.com/photos/zzzzz/157995919/

Kashmir, photo from flickr, http://www.flickr.com/photos/onthegotours/5038189835/

With U.S. relations in Pakistan at a low point and the two countries’ strategic disagreement over priorities in Afghanistan on full display, it is time to review U.S. strategic options. One that deserves a close look is a grand bargain: give Pakistan what it wants in Afghanistan – but on two conditions: Pakistan assumes responsibility for preventing terrorism out of Afghanistan, and Pakistan agrees to settle Kashmir along the present geographic lines. This is not a panacea, nor would it be easy to execute. But it addresses the principal stumbling block to the current U.S. strategy, and provides an incentive to settle the region’s longest-running dispute.

Read our article published on foreignpolicy.com October 20, 2011.

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Bangladesh-India: Great Expectations, Limited Results

Photo by Justin Brockie, http://www.flickr.com/photos/justinstravels/5993705461/

September 15, 2011: For diplomats like us, there are few things worse than a highly touted bilateral summit meeting between two friendly national leaders that at the last minute fails to meet either the expectations of the summiteers themselves or the inflated hopes of their publics. These setbacks are not supposed to happen. According to the “diplomatic rule book,” basic agreements are worked out in advance by subordinate officials. These are then ratified by the leaders, perhaps with minor changes.  If major outstanding problems are not ironed out before the summit begins, as sometimes happens, the two government try to limit expectations, not to encourage them.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s September 6-7 visit to Bangladesh is a case study of a summit whose preparation didn’t follow these rules. Read more

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South Asia After 9/11

Photo by cattias.photos, http://www.flickr.com/photos/newyork/6113249083/sizes/m/in/photostream/

The events of 9/11 had contradictory results in South Asia: in Pakistan, first the reestablishment of a big relationship with the United States after a 20 year hiatus, and then a crisis in relations owing to a strategic disconnect; in India, the continuation of the expansion in US ties that started at the turn of the century.

Watch interview by Teresita Schaffer and other Brookings scholars on “Meet the Press at Brookings”, September 8, 2011.

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India Next Door, China Over the Horizon

NBR, Cover of "Strategic Asia 2011"

Strategic Asia 2011-2012 examines the impact of the rise of India and China on the rest of Asia, and on global powers in ten chapters, each by a recognized expert. This is the latest volume in the annual Strategic Asia series put out by the National Bureau of Asian Research.

For Pakistan, the rise of India is a strategic nightmare, while the rise of China
is an opportunity to curb India’s advancement and reduce dependence on
the United States. Afghanistan sees its ties with India and China, as well
as with the U.S., as vehicles for blunting interference by its immediate
neighbors, especially Pakistan.

Read summary of Teresita Schaffer’s chapter on how the rise of India and China looks from the rest of South Asia.

See preview of table of contents, and order the book.

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Indian Ocean Rivals Better Served with Cooperation

Photo by MrDevlar, http://www.flickr.com/photos/mrdevlar/4921836185/sizes/m/in/photostream/

The Indian Ocean is the lifeline of the UAE – and of many other countries around the region and the globe. As old rivalries become more prominent in these waters, it is time to lay the groundwork for real collaboration on the issues that pose the greatest threat to Indian Ocean security. Stronger and broader anti-piracy cooperation would be a good place to start.

See op-ed published in The National, UAE, August 23, 2011.

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