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Sri Lanka – Small Steps Forward

Sri Lanka: Small Steps Forward

Photo by Caramel, Flickr, 5443200902_992ddda12c

March 31, 2011: Sri Lanka’s appearance in the World Cup cricket finals in Mumbai on April 2 will make hearts beat faster all over the island. In South Asia, cricket is given extraordinary power to symbolize and even foretell larger trends. So the World Cup finals put a glow in Sri Lanka’s mood, contrasting with what many Sri Lankans see as the world’s sour reception of their victory over the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in May 2009. We offer you a brief snapshot of some recent developments, under three headings: tackling Sri Lanka’s ethnic polarization; rebuilding bridges to the West; and pursuing the economic peace dividend.

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Diplomacy in Public – The India Cables

 Diplomacy in Public – The India Cables

March 23, 2011: The latest best seller on the Indian political scene, The Hindu’s daily dose of “India Cables” from Wikileaks, paints a depressing picture of the seamy underside of Indian politics. It also shows how American diplomats carry out the basic tasks of diplomacy – how they report, analyze events, assess their impact on U.S. interests, make recommendations to their government, and advocate U.S. positions both to foreign officials and to people who have influence on policymaking.  

Both in the India Cables and in leaks from other countries disclosed earlier, the most titillating revelations and the greatest embarrassment come from reporting messages sent by diplomats who are simply doing their job. Read more

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After Davis: US-Pakistan crisis eases, long term tensions remain

March 18, 2011: Our last blog certainly got the timing wrong: on March 16, Ray Davis was suddenly released from a Pakistani jail and immediately flown out of Pakistan. As we wipe the egg off our faces, however, we note that the package deal leading to his release was based primarily on the ingredients we and others had expected: a substantial compensation payment to the families of the two men he killed, and a new understanding between CIA and Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI). The first made the release legally feasible; the second made it acceptable to ISI; and the Pakistan government and army together are managing the popular fallout. So far, the public protests have been widespread but not massive.

What comes next? We will learn more in the coming months, but here are some preliminary thoughts.

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Pakistan’s Broken Economy

Teresita Schaffer comments on the impact of Pakistan’s economic troubles on the country’s urban population.

Pakistan-watchers tend to focus on political and security issues. But they need to start thinking as well about the economy, the outlook for  which is grim over the next several years. Some of Pakistan’s problems were spawned by the epic floods of the summer of 2010, but most have resulted from the long-standing failure of the Pakistani government to invest in its people, or from more mundane mismanagement of vital sectors, such as energy. Pakistan’s economic problems will weigh especially on the urban population, adding to the country’s political woes. It is the impact on the towns and cities – 36 percent of Pakistan’s people, but growing at 3.5 percent a year, three times the rate of the rural areas – that presents the most acute political danger.

This article was published in the The AfPak Channel on March 15, 2011. Click to read full text.

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The Ray Davis Case: Kicking the Can, Again

The Ray Davis Case – Kicking the Can, Again  

Lahore High Court, by Omer Wazir (Flickr)


March 14: The much anticipated deadline the Lahore High Court set for the Pakistan government to clarify its position on the diplomatic immunity of CIA contractor Raymond Davis has come and gone, and once again Islamabad has been unwilling to take a stand. Six weeks after he shot two Pakistanis he accused of trying to rob him, Davis remains in a Lahore prison and faces trial for murder.

In this fresh episode of its continuing effort to kick a dangerous can down the road, the government reportedly told the high court that its foreign ministry had not clearly stated that Davis was entitled to the immunity Washington has outspokenly insisted he enjoys. In another instance of can-kicking, the high court then ruled that the immunity issue could be decided by the lower court that tries him. Read more

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India: Politics Drowning Policy

Teresita and Howard Schaffer report March 7, 2011 on their findings in India:

In a two-week swing through India in mid-February, we found a government overwhelmed by sweetheart deals and scandals and an economy still strong but with a worrisome softening of the investment market. Foreign policy is proceeding in a workmanlike fashion. The upshot of the scandals, however, is that the government will be even more cautious in making policy decisions, especially those that involve legislation.

Read the full story: Politics Drowning Policy

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India’s Global Challenges

Howard and Teresita Schaffer spoke to the Emerging India Summit at Emory University about India’s global and regional challenges, February 24-25, 2011.

See video recording.

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Requiem in Pakistan


Requiem in Pakistan  

March 6, 2011: Two assassinations in Pakistan: in January, Salman Taseer, governor of Punjab, by one of his bodyguards; last week, Shahbaz Bhatti, Minister for Minorities, outside his Islamabad home, with the Pakistani Taliban claiming responsibility. Both had called for changes in Pakistan’s blasphemy law, passed to put the power of the State, including capital punishment, behind a ban on offense to Islam, but frequently used to settle scores and otherwise oppress non-Muslims or, more generally, opponents. Read more

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The Davis Firestorm – The Schaffers’ Impressions from Pakistan

In a visit to Lahore and Islamabad in late February, Howie and Tezi Schaffer spoke with senior media representativeds, retired generals, former diplomats, military analysts, business people, politicians, academics, students and others. The conversation was “All Davis, all the time.” This incident has caused a crisis comparable to the ones that collapsed the U.S.-Pakistan relationship twice in the past. Both governments initially handled things badly but now want to step back from the brink. They have their work cut out from them.

To get the full flavor of our discussions and our analysis, click on Davis Case final.

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India’s Kashmir Policy

Howard and Teresita Schaffer’s comments on the Indian government’s latest initiatives in Kashmir. February 27, 2011.

After a summer of anguish and unrest in Kashmir, punctuated by an eloquent plea from the prime minister to “give peace a chance,” the Indian government in October appointed three non-officials to serve as “interlocutors” with all shades of opinion in Kashmir… Long-time observers of Kashmir argue that after the traumatic developments of last summer, people in the Valley are looking for ways to move forward toward more acceptable political arrangements. But they also caution that further incidents such as those that sparked last summer’s clashes could again inflame the situation. It is important in this context that the Indian government not again delude itself into thinking that the quieter atmosphere means that meaningful steps are no longer urgently needed.

Read the full commentary.

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