Archive for the ‘Topics’ Category

21
Feb

Decoding two sets of surprising Asia peace talks

Written on February 21, 2014 by Waya Quiviger in Asia, Foreign Policy

Is there something in the water?

Suddenly peace, or at least peace talks, are breaking out in the most unlikely places. In Asia, entrenched enemies – China and Taiwan, North and South Korea – have agreed to sit down at the table.

In an effort to decode the surprising developments, CNN’s Christiane Amanpour spoke on Tuesday with Kurt Campbell, former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, who is widely credited with being the key architect of America’s “Pivot to Asia.”China and Taiwan are holding their first-ever official face-to-face talks since Mao Zedong’s communists won their civil war in 1949 – a “quite significant” turn of events, Campbell said.“Over the course of the last 30 years, people thought that the most tense situation in Asia was between China and Taiwan, but in recent years the relationship has improved substantially – commercially, economically, and now politically.”What both sides are getting out of the talks, he told Amanpour, is “a greater sense of predictability.”

China does not recognize the independence of Taiwan, and Taiwan is not a U.N. member state, but the island is self governing and generally conducts itself in terms of bilateral relations as an independent country.Over the years, Taiwan and China have built a thriving commercial relationship, with hundreds of billions of dollars in trade.Some sectors, he told Amanpour, think of Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou as “pro-Beijing,” but that view is “probably simplistic.”

“I think he is actually a Taiwan nationalist. I do believe he thinks that closer economic and commercial ties are just the wave of the future, and that Taiwan has few other options, and that to stand against the giant just across the Taiwan straits in a sort of militaristic pose makes no sense.”

Another surprise set of Asian talks, between North and South Korea, has grabbed attention in diplomatic circles.North Korea offered talks with South Korea, and “high-level” officials are set to meet on the two countries’ border on Wednesday.“I do not believe that it holds the same hope that we’ve seen between China and Taiwan. If anything, North and South Korea are more estranged than ever,” Campbell said.The talks come ahead of planned reunions between Korean families estranged by the Korean war more than half a century ago.

“These family reunifications and meetings have taken place over a period of decades, and they almost always get abruptly cancelled at the last minute or abbreviated,” Campbell said.Indeed, Pyongyang said last week it may back out of the reunions of the families if South Korean forces participate in annual joint military exercises with the United States later this month – Campbell said such exercises “will not” be cancelled.

“It’s really North Korea playing on the heartstrings of the South Koreans.”“South Korea has had almost no contact with this new government, and now suddenly North Korea dangles what really matters a lot to South Korea, which is the family reunifications.”The talks, Campbell said, will not lead to a significant “warming.”“On every issue – whether it’s the territorial issue, the islands, the manufacturing that’s on-going inside North Korea – tensions abound.”

Published on Feb. 11, 2014

By Mick Krever, CNN http://amanpour.blogs.cnn.com/2014/02/11/kurt-campbell-north-korea-south-korea-taiwan-china-talks/

14
Feb

Local leadership key in Arab world

Written on February 14, 2014 by Waya Quiviger in Democracy & Human Rights, Middle East, Op Ed

It’s popular these days to say the Arab Spring has gone badly awry. It’s a bit early to make these judgments – think of what America looked like in 1779, three years after its revolution – but if you were to compile a mid-term report, Syria would get a failing grade, Egypt’s revolution has faltered badly, Libya is a mess. But there is one spark of hope for the revolutions of the Middle East, and it’s a country that could be a model for all the others: Tunisia, which was the birthplace of the Arab Spring.

What has Tunisia done right?

Well, let’s start with history. Tunisia has been quite different from Egypt and its neighbors for centuries. It was the first Arab state to develop a modern constitution, all the way back in 1861. Over time, Tunisia has developed stronger civic institutions than its Arab neighbors, including a human rights league that was founded nearly four decades ago. About a fifth of the government’s budget has been allocated to education. And the demographics are largely homogenous: while Syria and Iraq are divided along sectarian lines – Shia or Sunni – some 98 percent of Tunisians are Sunni Muslims.

But perhaps more important than all of these historic differences are the choices that modern Tunisians have made.

Tunisia’s military has stayed out of active politics. Contrast that with Egypt, where the military controls anywhere from 10 percent to 40 percent of the economy and business. Four of Egypt’s last five presidents came from the military. And the one that didn’t – Mohammed Morsy – was toppled by the military.

Another factor behind Tunisia’s relative success is the foresight of its civilian leaders.

Three years ago, Tunisia had a similar trajectory to Egypt. Both nations voted for Islamist leaders whose movements had either been suppressed, banned, or exiled. Look at what happened next. In Egypt, when a fresh spate of protests began, President Morsy battened down the hatches and refused to reach out to his detractors. He was removed by force. On the other hand, in Tunisia, the coalition government actually stepped aside of its own accord, handing power to a temporary government. Now that is how democracy is supposed to work – by making painful compromises.

In Cairo, people didn’t make those concessions. Egypt’s Islamists wanted to push through a constitution that would be unacceptable to liberals, and then to rule by presidential decree. Tunisia’s new constitution – which was approved overwhelmingly by a majority of Islamists – is being hailed as the most progressive constitution in the Arab world, with equal rights for women and minorities.

Last month at the World Economic Forum in Davos, with top leaders from the Arab world, Tunisia’s Rachid Ghannouchi explained why his party, the Islamist party, willingly stepped down from government last year in Tunisia. “We had two choices,” he said. “Either we stay in power and we lose democracy … or we gain democracy and give up power.” He chose the latter. It was a selfless choice, but also a savvy one: It wouldn’t be surprising if he and his party are back in power later this year.

The Tunisian model is not flawless, but it has powerful lessons for the rest of the Arab world. This is a country that has learned the most difficult lesson of democracy: how to be inclusive and how to compromise. It has learned this lesson without the West, without aid money, without compromising on its religious ideas (remember, the new constitution firmly enshrines Islam, but alongside women’s and minority’s rights.) So before we start blaming Washington or the West for not doing enough in the Arab world, let’s learn from Tunisia that local leadership is the key – and that right now there is little of it in the Arab world.

BY GPS editor, Jason Miks

Published on Feb. 9th, 2014 http://globalpublicsquare.blogs.cnn.com

12
Feb

india-japan-game-changer-china.siThree major concrete deliverables emerged during Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s state visit to India, and in all three China is revealed to be a Shakespearean Banquo’s Ghost in the India-Japan discourse.

First and foremost, the India-Japan Global and Strategic Partnership, which hitherto was largely confined to Japanese assistance in infrastructure projects in India, is now set for a push in the political aspects of the bilateral relationship with security and strategic overtones. This is clear by the decision of the two prime ministers – Abe and his Indian counterpart, Manmohan Singh – to have an institutionalized mechanism of regular consultations between the two sides’ national security advisors. Unlike India, Japan does not have a post of National Security Advisor; therefore, the Secretary-General of National Security Secretariat of Japan (the equivalent of India’s NSA) will be the point person for holding talks with the Indian NSA.

Two, India has taken an unambiguous position for the first time on the recent Chinese policy of declaring an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ), which has been stiffly opposed and defied by powers including Japan, South Korea and the Philippines. A joint statement released at the end of delegation-level talks between Singh and Abe in New Delhi on January 25, clearly stated: “The two Prime Ministers underscored the importance of freedom of overflight and civil aviation safety in accordance with the recognized principles of international law and the relevant standards and recommended practices of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).”

This is a bold foreign policy move by the Indians, especially when China had clarified shortly after its introduction of the ADIZ dispensation that India was out of its ambit. It shows that New Delhi has finally mustered enough gall and courage to side with Japan at the expense of China on the ADIZ controversy. In a sense, this is India’s way of squaring up with the Chinese for the discriminatory Chinese policy of issuing stapled visas for Indians domiciled in the Indian states of Jammu and Kashmir and Arunachal Pradesh. By the stapled visas policy, the Chinese had taken sides with Pakistan at the expense of India.

Three, India and Japan decided to put a deeper emphasis on military-to-military exchanges and joint exercises and prepared an ambitious roadmap in this regard. Singh and Abe underscored the importance of such exercises and decided to hold these with increased frequency. Indian Navy (IN) and the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) held the second bilateral exercise in December 2013 off the coast of Chennai and will now have its next edition in the Pacific Ocean in 2014. The focus on the Indo-Pacific is unmistakable. Abe has been a vocal supporter of India’s increased presence in the Pacific – another red rag for China. Read more…

Published in http://rt.com on Jan. 29, 2014

10
Feb

Karzai’s Not-So-Crazy End Game

Written on February 10, 2014 by Waya Quiviger in Asia, Foreign Policy, Op Ed

Hassan Rouhani, Hamid KarzaiBy Fareed Zakaria

Is Hamid Karzai crazy? on the face of it, the Afghan President has said lots of odd, inflammatory and contradictory things. Over the past year, he has criticized the U.S., wondered whether its presence in Afghanistan has done any good at all, refused to sign an Afghanistan-U.S. security pact and called members of the Taliban his brothers. This week the New York Times revealed that he has been conducting secret negotiations with the Taliban. What can he be thinking?

Maybe Karzai is looking at what happened to one of his predecessors. In 1989 the Soviet Union withdrew from Afghanistan. The President it had backed, Mohammad Najibullah, stayed in power, but within months a civil war broke out, forcing him to seek refuge in a U.N. compound. In 1996 the Taliban rode into Kabul, captured Najibullah, denounced him as a foreign puppet, castrated him, dragged his body through the streets and then hung him from a traffic barricade. For good measure, they did the same to his brother.

That year was a gruesome replay of an earlier piece of Afghan history that Karzai also knows well. During their 19th century invasion of Afghanistan, the British put in place a local puppet, Shah Shuja, who was assassinated after their withdrawal. In fact, as the historian William Dalrymple has pointed out, Karzai comes from the same tribe as Shah Shuja–and the Taliban come from the tribe that brought down Shah Shuja in 1842.

Read more: Karzai’s Not-So-Crazy End Game – TIME http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2164821,00.html#ixzz2sdOKjjBH

Published in Time Magazine on Monday 3 February, 2014 http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article

7
Feb

The Geopolitics of Sochi

Written on February 7, 2014 by Waya Quiviger in Europe, International Conflict, Terrorism & Security, Op Ed

sochiThe founder of the International Olympic Committee, Pierre de Courbetin, had a vision that athletic competitions would attenuate geopolitical ones. Sport, he believed, could cut across cultures and thereby foster amity in the international realm. Accordingly, he worked for the revival of the athletic competitions of the ancient Greeks: the Olympic Games. To popularize the modern version of those games and build an intercontinental following, he championed the rotation of the games among different national hosts every four years. Today, as de Courbetin might have wished, the Olympic movement is a truly global phenomenon. Nations around the world strive to burnish their reputations through participating in the games, winning medals at them, and, above all, by hosting the games. When holding the games on its soil, a country takes the world stage to showcase itself.

Yet de Courbetin’s vision has been realized only partway. While the Olympic Games do generate goodwill and international good-feeling, they also occasionally aggravate international tensions by serving as a platform upon which countries play out rivalries and indulge their vanity, reveal their insecurities, and expose their grudges, as the 1936, 1972, 1980, and 1984 games illustrate. The Frenchman’s aspirations notwithstanding, the games sometimes exacerbate rather than ameliorate animosity.

The 2014 Winter Olympics, too, may well deepen international acrimony, and do so to the detriment of United States foreign policy. The 22nd Winter Games will take place next month in the picturesque port of Sochi.  A resort town on the Black Sea blessed with a subtropical climate and the presence of alpine mountains just thirty-seven miles outside the city, Sochi would seem a superb location for a winter sporting event. In addition, the games have the express and enthusiastic backing of the host country’s head of state. Read more…

Michael A. Reynolds, a Senior Fellow of the Foreign Policy Research Institute, is an Associate Professor in Princeton’s Department of Near Eastern Studies, where he teaches courses on modern Middle Eastern and Eurasian history, comparative empire, military and ethnic conflict, and secularism.

Originally published by the Foreign Policy Research Institute.

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