« August 2007 |
| October 2007 »
Sanctions. The answer to everything. Impose sanctions on Burma, the international community says, and everything will be fine.
Wrong. One only has to look at the plight of Iraq in the 1990s to confirm that, under some circumstances, economic sanctions actually hurt the people you are trying to help.
Yes, one could say that sanctions had an effect on South Africa, but the regime at the time had links to the global economy that it couldn't afford to lose. That's not the case in Burma, and in fact sanctions would only increase the desire to rebel. After all, the current crisis was triggered by a doubling of fuel prices, which would surely occur again under sanctions.
It's well known that, with their energy interests, China and India are the key players here. But neither would really benefit from the sustained rule of the junta. No successor government, presumably led by Aung San Suu Kyi, is going to back out of the energy deals already made with China and India - indeed, they'll be vital in rebuilding Burma as a nation again. So why support the dictatorship?
Just for a moment, let's think the unthinkable. If China fails to act, then the revolution has little hope. But there is one thing that the West can do - supply arms. The jungles of Burma are filled with guerilla groups itching for a fight, and were the ordinary people be able to contribute too then the military would topple rapidly. Yes, a lot of people will die, but no more than will die anyway under sanctions and repression.
There is a danger of Burma becoming a proxy war between China and India - because India would have to be the major supplier, as it was back in the 1950s when it support the Tibetan independence movement - but with the Beijing Olympics approaching China probably wouldn't want to get too involved.
There would also be potential for Burma to descend into inter-ethnic confrontation too, and thus the supply of weapons may exacerbate tensions. But with a leader of the symbolic strength and legitimacy of Aung San Suu Kyi in place, that prospect would be unlikely and a disciplined UN mission from the very start would hold things together during the reconstruction period.
Most of the revolutions of 1989 were, thankfully, bloodless. Not so in Romania, but the students fought back and Ceausescu fell. In Tiananmen Square, however, there was little the students could do. Moreover, the Bosnian conflict dragged on for ages due to Western reluctance to help the Muslims fight back.
So much for my arch geopolitics. War is a terrible thing, but if it can be over swiftly then it may be the lesser of two evils.
Comment is free: Let's get serious
Beijing wants the killing to stop, not in the name of human rights but for the sake of stability. But China and Russia do not want to see any regime change - either the eventual toppling of the Burmese generals or an implosion of the junta. A triumph of Buddhist-inspired people power might encourage Buddhists in Tibet and Falungong militants in China to defy the communist party control and Beijing's repression.
Still, China is in a bind as Burma conjures up memories of the Tiananmen Square killings just Beijing is preparing to host the Olympics. A repeat of the 1988 massacre in Rangoon when at least 3,000 pro-democracy activists were gunned down in the street, would cast a dark shadow over China's desire to be treated as a responsible global power.
While China will not back any sanctions, it is open to increasing diplomatic pressure to stop the killings, and the junta can ill afford to ignore the anxieties of its number one benefactor.
The US and the EU have many avenues to pressure both China and Asean, even up to the point of threatening a boycott of the Beijing Olympics. A simple threat by Beijing to suspend all arms supplies to Rangoon would deliver the only kind of message that the generals might finally understand.
The time of western countries and Asean paying polite lip-service to human rights and release of national heroine Aung san Suu kyi, still languishing under house arrest, is over. The coming weeks will soon demonstrate how many governments will put human rights and the plight of the Burmese before commercial advantage, trading priorities and comfort zone diplomacy.
It's not just the moment of truth for Burma. It's a moment of truth for China, and that by implication affects all of us.
The question is: is China now a responsible stakeholder in the international community, or simply a nation concerned only with self-interest at the expense of human rights - both within its own territory and elsewhere?
It is no longer acceptable to trot out that tired old phrase: "We do not interfere in other countries' internal affairs". With the Olympics approaching, if Beijing really wants to be seen as an equal partner then it cannot let its coming-out party be overshadowed by its negligence of well-established international norms.
A former Burmese student leader just appeared on the BBC, insisting that the UN has "failed" his people and that it is no longer time for sanctions. He is right. Sanctions are slow and ultimately will only hurt the Burmese people, not the military elite. So, in a sense, it's a moment of truth for the UN and its ineffectual new chief, Ban Ki-Moon too.
But only China, with its massive investment in Burma's economy via the logging trade and various energy deals can make a real difference. India, I'm afraid to say, is impotent on the matter and is disappointingly reflecting the Chinese sovereignty line.
The CCP is in a difficult position. If it condemns the impending crackdown and acts on Burma, whether in the UNSC or bilaterally, then it opens itself up to a round of internal re-examination of the events of Tiananmen square - which themselves occurred just after a brutally repressed democracy movement in Burma in 1988. Though news of events of Burma is restricted in China, via the Internet, unlike in 1989 people will get to know about them.
In the next 48 hours, there are only two things that can happen. Either the junta relaxes control, frees Aung San Suu Kyi and enters negotiations with the UN. Or the guns begin to fire while the UN, as always, stands by. The world is watching. It's up to China.
International Crisis Group - Myanmar: Time for Urgent Action
Only China, India, and, to a lesser degree, ASEAN have any influence on the military regime. China has very close economic and political links with Myanmar, while India has developed strong military ties. Both would suffer from worsening instability there, as they did after the violent August 1988 military crackdown. In the past, the military junta has fired on peaceful protestors or used vigilante groups to attack them. Demonstrations in recent days have reached a country-wide scale where such action could cause massive loss of life.
China, India and ASEAN should communicate to the military that a repeat of the 1998 violence would be unacceptable and would lead to serious consequences, including action by the UN Security Council. China and Russia should warn Myanmar that they would support full consideration of the situation there by the Security Council, as well as a possible adoption of a Security Council Resolution, if the military use force against protestors.
Even the US is stepping up support for the current protests in Burma (Myanmar), with a call for added sanctions in the hope of buckling the already-pressured Junta. But like in Sudan, notes Isabel Hilton in The Guardian's Comment is Free, the country that really matters is China:
China has sustained the Burmese military with generous support; Chinese aid has built transport infrastructure and dams; Chinese investment gives Beijing a stake in key sectors of Burma's economy; Chinese immigration has produced large Chinese populations in Burma's cities; and Chinese support has rendered US sanctions against the regime ineffectual. Why, then, is China now being cited as a restraining influence?
China's default diplomatic position is that it does not "interfere" in the domestic politics of other countries - one might add, especially where supplies of energy and natural resources or strategic issues are involved. Beijing is averse to lectures on human rights and democracy at home, so naturally disinclined to deliver them abroad.
But China is now faced with the fact that the high diplomatic profile that goes with greater global power exposes it to new pressures to uphold international standards, and that if the country is to continue to sell her ascent to global superpower status as unthreatening, close partnerships with unsavoury regimes can produce undesirable blowback. China's previous intransigence on Darfur melted when campaigners married the Beijing Olympic games to China's support for the Sudanese regime to produce the slogan "Genocide Olympics". China suddenly found it convenient to send an envoy to Sudan and to play a more constructive role in multilateral efforts to resolve the crisis. A similar pressure is building over Burma.
And inevitably, fears of another Tiananmen square crop uo too. But this author is correct to note that 18 years on from 6/4, the PRC's position is very different. It is now supposed to be a responsible stakeholder in the international community, and cannot be seen to be supporting the Myanmar regime at this moment.
On the other hand, should Beijing encourage a transition to democracy and the return of Aung San Suu Kyi, what kind of message would they be sending to their own people? There's no doubt that, state censorship aside, the Chinese have more access to outside media than ever and many of them must be watching this closely:
For Beijing, the sight of tens of thousands of citizens in peaceful street protests led by Buddhist monks is little short of a nightmare, since China has its own potentially explosive combinations of religious and civil dissent: Buddhist monks in Tibet, Muslims in Xinjiang, even Falun Gong practitioners at home - all lay claim to the moral authority to challenge a corrupt and self-seeking autocracy. The sight of mass civic demonstrations in pursuit of political reform recalls both 1989's Tiananmen Square and 1979's Democracy Wall.
A bloodbath in Burma, given China's close identification with the dictatorship, would resonate like a Tiananmen Square massacre by proxy, just as Beijing is polishing the silver for next year's Olympics. For China negotiation is infinitely preferable to bloodshed and the instability that could result.
Finally, it's worth considering the implications for India too. Like Pakistan, Burma is a state pivotal to both regional powers' political and economic interests. India must be concerned about potential movements of refugees should things get violent, and along with China it has energy interests vested in the current Myanmar regime.
In fact, The Times of India points out, at times New Delhi's line sounds eerily reminiscent of Beijing's:
India's interests in Myanmar are rooted in energy, security, keeping insurgents in check and countering China's overpowering influence on India's doorstep.
Myanmar is also important to an India seeking to extend its power into southeast Asia, politically and militarily, standing as it does at the mouth of the Malacca Straits. These interests have kept India and China engaged with the unpopular military regime in Yangon. As recently as 10 days ago, foreign minister Pranab Mukherjee was subjected to public questioning by British and American diplomats in Bangkok on India's Myanmar policy. Mukherjee stuck to India's line that it did not interfere in internal developments in any country.
Days later at the APEC summit in Australia, member countries decided Myanmar could only be tackled through India and China. Neither country responded.
So much for democracy's domino effect. But what happens over the next few days will indirectly prove where China and India really do stand in the modern world.
Will need to check this guy out in more detail...
QUOTES: Paul Feyerabend
It is conceited to assume that one has solutions for people whose lives one does not share and whose problems one does not know. It is foolish to assume that such an exercise in distant humanitarianism will have effects pleasing to the people concerned. From the very beginning of Western Rationalism intellectuals have regarded themselves as teachers, the world as a school and 'people' as obedient pupils. In Plato this is very clear. The same phenomenon occurs among Christians, Rationalists, Fascists, Marxists. Marxists no longer try to learn from those they want to liberate; they attack each other about interpretations, viewpoints, evidence and take it for granted that the resulting intellectual hash will make fine food for the natives.
Against Method, 1975
I would say, for most of the misery in our world, wars, destruction of minds and bodies, endless butcheries are caused not by evil individuals but by people who have objectivised their personal wishes and inclinations and thus have made them inhuman.
Farewell to Reason, 1987
As if Musharraf didn't have enough problems already, what with Bhutto and Sharif snapping at his heels and the lawyers conspiring against the legality of his rule, now there's this bloke too:
Bin Laden to declare war on Musharraf, al-Qaida says | Special reports | Guardian Unlimited
In what was the third message from Bin Laden this month, he described Gen Musharraf as an infidel, condemning the president's closeness to the US.
He said the decision to send the military into the Red mosque in Islamabad in July had "demonstrated Musharraf's insistence on continuing his loyalty, submissiveness and aid to America against the Muslims ... and makes armed rebellion against him and removing him obligatory".
The message added: "So when the capability is there, it is obligatory to rebel against the apostate ruler, as is the case now."
We learn two facts from this. One, OBL (if indeed it is he) is alive and well and gets the Pakistani papers. Secondly, Al Qaeda recognises the pivotal position of Pakistan in the geopolitical map and wants a piece of the action. Here we go.
Some bland comments from the Indian external affairs minister. But in the long run, can India really balance the tensions in its relationships with the US and the PRC? The problem for New Delhi is that (aside from Russia, perhaps) it's the only major power that has to live under both US global hegemony and Chinese regional hegemony. And India doesn't wield the economic and political power that Moscow can now boast due to its energy resources. Non aligned movement aside, one day it may just have to make the call.
The Hindu : Front Page : Strategic partnership with China will mature: Pranab Mukherjee
Asked about the possible impact of the emerging U.S.-India equation on China’s ties with New Delhi, Mr. Mukherjee said: “There is no question of cooperation between India and the U.S. to act as some sort of containment of any country, including China.”
Trade and investment “are the great drivers of the new relationship” between India and China.
“The leaders of both countries recognise that co-existence and cooperation is the wise course of action; and sensitivity to mutual aspirations is the underpinning for building confidence and trust. There is enough space and opportunity for both of us to grow and develop and to bring benefit not only to us but also for other partners in Asia.”
Differences, including those over the border question, “did not stand in the way of investment and trade.”
A lengthy but sobering and informative analysis of the crackdown on the Internet in China, specifically at bloggers in the days leading up to the party conference. It sounds much like the situation has deteriorated dramatically since I was blogging in China myself: at that time the authorities were only just wising up to the dangers of people speaking freely on a forum such as the web, and attempt to control them were limited though sometimes effective. One has to ask what the situation will be this time next year after the Olympics have closed down.
Global Voices Online » China: Blogs ground down as National Congress gears up
Having claimed records of Department of Propaganda officials making statements in public like 'we'd be better off without the internet' spread across the internet, blogs and, at one point, even on a CCTV message board hasn't left much room for benefit of the doubt when one considers just how seriously authorities might actually agree with an utterance like that against the backdrop of other recent events.
In other words, if war were to be declared on bloggers, is the state of today's China's blogsphere what it would look like? Starting this month we've seen blog posts being deleted in places where they almost never used to, comment sections being closed out of fear, and the occasional blogger getting a jab in while they're at it - and outspoken bloggers like Wang Xiaoshan who had comments turned off to begin with now also deleting their own posts with no explanation.
If the first casualty of war is the truth, then its first omen is also linguistic. The French foreign minister's remarks on Iran and the IAEA's subsequent riposte are eerily reminiscent of the war of words that took place in 2002 between the UN's inspectors led by Hans Blix and the hawks in the Pentagon.
What is very unusual is that it's the French that are the hawks this time. That's quite a major shift in international relations. Up until this year, Blair and his predecessors would have been the swiftest to cosy up to Washington, while Chirac and his forebears would bang the drum of protest. Perhaps, with Gordon Brown visibly shying away from Bush, the French are seizing the opportunity to regain a world voice in the absence of a coherent EU foreign policy.
Whatever the case, with a UNSC meeting scheduled for Friday, the path of no return may already be opening up.
UN nuclear boss warns warmongers over Iran | Iran | Guardian Unlimited
"We have to prepare for the worst, and the worst is war," Bernard Kouchner told French TV and radio.
While talks over Iran's nuclear programme should continue "right to the end", Mr Kouchner said, an Iranian nuclear weapon would pose "a real danger for the whole world". France has taken a much harsher line towards Iran since the election of Nicolas Sarkozy to success Jacques Chirac as president.
So it would appear that General Musharraf will hang up his boots on 15 November and maintain his position as a civilian president. So he says, at least, and today's discovery of 18 dead Pakistani soldiers highlights the dangers ahead.
Whether or not the US is pleased or unnerved is uncertain: the BBC's sources seem to think that Washington would have preferred Musharraf to have remained army head. From Musharraf's own point of view, however, the surrender of his uniform is the last gambit in a bid to hold onto power in the face of rising domestic opposition. There does need to be a very strong structure in place, however, to keep Musharraf and Bhutto from fighting among themselves, while the Isamists look on. If it doesn't work out, what are the chances of a another military coup - perhaps secretly engineered by Musharraf and his cronies - in the mid-term so as to maintain a grip on stability?
BBC NEWS | South Asia | US struggles with Pakistan policy
There's a growing realisation that the US must not only have a partnership with Gen Musharraf and the army but also have a partnership with the people of Pakistan.
The aim now in Washington, many observers believe, is to treat not just Gen Musharraf but also the Pakistani nation as an irreplaceable ally and to bolster the perception that US would prefer to deal with a popular civilian government.
Interesting to see China advertising its humanitarian interest in Darfur, with a military show accompanied by a pledge to send peacekeepers to join the UN mission (though not combat troops, and an uncertain number). The People's Liberation Army (PLA) is the world's largest standing army and the PRC has sat on the UNSC since 1971, so it is about time.
The Washington Post is quick to note, however, that the promise to help Darfur comes under the cloud of possible boycotts of the Olympics, and the obvious fact that Sudanese oil is an important facet of China's energy security policy.
Of course, all countries have some kind of interest in UN peacekeeping missions, often financial, but with few obvious threats other than so-called Taiwanese 'secession' (as evidenced by this weekend's demonstrations calling for UN membership, unusually by both the DPP party and the Kuomintang), what does the PLA really exist for otherwise? Now that Tibet and Xinjiang are 'free', is there anyone else left to liberate?
QINYANG BASE, China, Sept. 15 -- The Chinese military put on a display of its first Darfur-bound peacekeepers Saturday, having troops throw up Bailey bridges and feign combat to dramatize Beijing's desire to be seen as a partner in bringing peace to the violence-torn corner of Sudan.
The training demonstration, by an engineering unit of the People's Liberation Army, was observed by foreign journalists as part of a new campaign by the Chinese government to show that it is cooperating with the United States and other nations to end the Darfur fighting, which since 2003 has displaced about 2.5 million people and contributed to the deaths of as many as 450,000 from violence and disease.
Every now and again, Asia Times Online turns up an absolute tour de force of an analysis: this is one of them. It pulls together every thread in the Afghanistan war, from the significance of events on Pakistan to the options available to the local powers China, India and Russia.
The one major beef I have with it is, as before, whether it is truly possible to negotiate with the Taliban. Sure, you can talk to the heads of major Taliban groups, but what are the guarantees that one agreement is going to quell the whole bunch of them? Isn't it likely that large splinter groups that oppose any settlement will break off and carry on doing their own thing? Still, the author seems to think that talks are on the cards.
Below, I attempt a rough summary of all the points, in an actor-by-actor format.
- The Taliban: As NATO and the US tire, the chances of a settlement grow, especially in the light of potential instability in Pakistan too.
The UN: Growing acceptance of the idea of talking with the Taliban.
The US: Should seek intra-Afghan and intra-Pakistan dialogue with the aid of China, Russia and India.
Iran: The US quagmire in Afghanistan is succour to their ambitions for regional dominance.
Russia: Fears of 'Talibanization' will draw the Central Asian states closer into seurity frameworks such as the SCO.
China: Stay out of it, and leave the Taliban to the US.
India: Stick with the US, and hope that Pakistan doesn't regain influence in Afghanistan.
And here's the key:
Clearly, the continued disintegration of the Pakistani state widens al-Qaeda's support base among the Taliban. If US-Iran tensions escalate, the war in Iraq and the war in Afghanistan become intertwined. That means the Afghan war may take a new form rather than lead to peace.
The whole article is reprinted below: check out also Ahmed Rashid's sobering analysis in The Telegraph in which he describes his own land as "a failing state hovering over the abyss".
Continue reading "'Stan - The Big Picture" »
A lot of this Guardian article on the likelihood of US-Israeli strikes on Iran is purely speculative, and thus must be taken with a large pinch of sand. Neither the commentator quoted below, Patrick Cronin, and an ex-CIA source can offer any hard evidence, though both believe that an attack is imminent.
However, one prescient remark from Cronin is that, with elections coming up in November 2008, any action taken in the six months prior to the poll would be seen as 'political'. That would mean that if it's going to happen, it'll happen this winter. Just as with Iraq, it's highly probable that there are already plans drawn up to effect the mission, so all Bush needs is another plausible 'smoking gun'.
Proxy war could soon turn to direct conflict, analysts warn | Iran | Guardian Unlimited
"The proxy war that has been going on in Iraq may now cross the border. This is a very dangerous period," Patrick Cronin, the director of studies at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, said.
Iran's leaders have so far shown every sign of relishing the confrontation. The supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, declared yesterday that American policies had failed in the Middle East and warned: "I am certain that one day Bush and senior American officials will be tried in an international court for the tragedies they have created in Iraq."
In such circumstances, last week's Israeli air strike against a mystery site in northern Syria has triggered speculation over its motives. Israel has been silent about the attack. Syria complained to the UN security council but gave few details. Some say the target was Iranian weapons on their way to Hizbullah in Lebanon, or that the sortie was a dry run for a US-Israeli attack on Syria and Iran. There is even speculation that the Israelis took out a nuclear facility funded by Iran and supplied by North Korea.
The situation is particularly volatile because the struggle for influence threatens to exacerbate a confrontation over Tehran's nuclear ambitions.
A week is a long time in politics, and eight years is even longer. At least, however,we now have the date to watch for. Benazir Bhutto is behaving in an eminently sensible manner here; she has mitigated the risk of being instantly deported and making a shambolic and undignified exit as did Nawaz Sharif: she also gives Musharraf a chance to save face and be 're-elected' (the cut-off for that is 15 October).
Most importantly, she buys time for everyone: though on the other had, that also means that opponents will also have four weeks to get their acts together too. Something to be aware of is that Bhutto is still wanted for corruption charges, well detailed in Musharraf's autobiography (he accuses her, among other things, of having a penchant for expensive jewellery and keeping a private menagerie). It'll be important for Musharraf not to let this go - but with the legal fraternity now very much his enemies, I can see them achieving some kind of knockdown on the charges.
It'll be a date to mark in the diary, and will certainly have significant ramifactions for Pakistan's short-term future.
BBC NEWS | South Asia | Bhutto announces Pakistan return
This one's going straight on my blogroll. PostGlobal is a collaboration between The Washington Post and Newsweek that analyses global trends - the fall of America, the rise of China, energy, Islam etc..
In short, it's basically just like my blog, but with flash graphics, real cash backing, plus gurus like Fareed Zakaria on board. The only thing they lack is a decent subeditor, which does let it down a little.
What really caught my eye today was this introduction to 'midrange' trends over the next 36 months. Summary below:
A dramatic global realignment appears to be in progress (and quickening) as the result of several factors:
- The loss of US influence as a result of the Iraq war
- A view across the globe resulting from Abu Ghraib and range of missteps that the US has lost the moral high ground it had enjoyed for decades
- A feeling among global leaders that the US is without a coherent foreign policy strategy...a belief that has started feeding on itself and has emboldened US adversaries
- China's rise, its smooth diplomatic technique, its re-alignment with Russia and its aggressive, clever drive to form new alliances with nations extending from Asia and Africa to South America
- Russia's recent rise combined with Russian President Putin's domestic popularity and his reputation for effectively standing up to the West
- The rise of non-aligned nations emboldened by the inability of the US to effectively use the extraordinary power it possesses
- A view among key global leaders that the US will be bogged down in Iraq for many years (a view heightened by significantly by President Bush's September 13 Iraq speech), thus distracted and unable to respond effectively to key political moves by the range of international players
- A recognition by the international community that the Bush Administration not only hasn't been able to deal effectively with non-state actors (e.g. terror groups like Al Qaeda) but they are holding their own or starting to win
More excellent points culled from the article below.
Continue reading "PostGlobal" »
A balanced perspective from The Economist, which does look closely at the reasons for leaving: America no longer influences Iraqi politics; disaster has already befallen the nation. But the reasons for staying are even more compelling.
The Iraq war | Why they should stay | Economist.com
If the case for staying depended on extrapolating from the modest gains the general claims for his surge, it would be a weak one. The strong case is that if America leaves, things will get even worse. This can only be a guess, but it is more plausible than the alternative guess that America's going will nudge Iraq in the right direction. In the past two years, violence has tended to decline where American troops are present and to rise in the places they leave. There is no doubt that some Shia militias want to rid Baghdad of its Sunnis and that American troops are for now the only thing stopping them. Contrary to what foreigners think, most Iraqis say they oppose partition: in the BBC/ABC poll, 62% said Iraq should have a unified government and 98% said it would be a bad thing for the country to separate on sectarian lines...
If America could choose again, it would not step into a civil war in Mesopotamia. But there are worse reasons than preventing a bloodbath for a superpower to put its soldiers at risk. Having invaded Iraq in its own interest—to remove mass-killing weapons that turned out not to exist—America owes something to Iraq's people, a slim majority of whom want it to stay. It is hard to know how Iraq can be mended. At some point it may become clear the country has sunk so low it is simply beyond saving. But it is not possible to be sure of that yet.
Six years on from 9/11, and the main thing to report is that there is nothing to report. The newspapers are mercifully free of tearful tributes this time round, though I suspect that 2011 is going to see a whole new wave of hand-wringing. The only real news has been the re-emergence of Osama Bin Irrelevant in another of his Al-Jazeera video diaries.
On the other hand, flippancy aside, this has been a particularly bad year for Iraqi civilians, with the random violence surging out of control. Anyone who backs a withdrawal of US troops in the light of this fact is callous in the extreme, since in their absence the bombers will have a totally free reign to commit carnage. It's not about the right or wrong of the invasion any more: it's about the circumstances we have to deal with here and now.
And in Afghanistan, a stalemate appears to be emerging. As with all guerilla movements, the problem with fighting the Taliban is that you can't defeat them militarily. 'The Taliban' is just as nebulous a concept as 'Al Qaeda': in reality, it's a loosely-linked confederation of disparate groups that has no real central command that can opt to surrender or negotiate. For every dead Taliban, two more are growing up.
So it's an ambivalent stage in the GWOT, at which point things could go either way. The public are clearly tired of the shooting wars overseas, but fail to recognise that once in there's no easy way out. Meanwhile, what is never reported is the extent to which economic development is changing - or failing to change - the situation. The only way to defeat the extremists is by engendering long-term stability and prosperity, and that never makes the papers at all.
What few commentators have noted is that today's ejection of Nawaz Sharif is thick with symbolic overtones. Not only did Sharif choose the anniversary of 9/11 to stage his attempted comeback, but the debacle at the airport today was strangely reminiscent of the coup and counter-coup that saw Musharraf sweep to power in 1999 and Sharif packed off to exile.
So far so good for the General, since there has been no immediate civil unrest.
Pakistan's political crisis | Shove off Sharif | Economist.com
Mr Sharif’s arrest sparked a few protests in Rawalpindi but was more notable for the failure of his Pakistan Muslim League-N party to organise almost any gathering in Punjab, the country’s most populous province and the party’s stronghold. It did not help that General Musharraf’s agents had arrested most of the party’s leaders and, reportedly, 2,000 of its activists in recent days. Nonetheless, Mr Sharif has not yet raised enough of a clamour to trouble a military dictator.
What will happen once Benazir Bhutto comes in, however, is anyone's guess. And what will the Americans, Indians and Chinese think - after all, they all have major stakes in Pakistan's fragile polity. America and China will probably be secretly happy with a stronger Musharraf who can counter the resurgence of Islamism, while India may feel obliged to back Bhutto. That would set things up for a tense situation.
The last lines of the article are also well worth reprinting:
For his part, if there are no serious protests in next few days, General Musharraf might think he does not need Ms Bhutto. His supporters can muster the simple majority in Parliament that he needs to get himself re-elected president, while also retaining his job as army chief. If he is happy to defy the orders of the Supreme Court—which would probably take exception to this action—he would not need to rewrite the constitution in his favour, a step requiring a two-thirds majority in Parliament. Then he would not need the support that Ms Bhutto has all but promised.
In the short term, this draconian drift might just put a lid on Pakistan’s latest troubles. After all, Pakistanis are accustomed to the bit and bridle of military rule. But a solution that sustains an army dictatorship by smashing faltering institutions and democratic politicians, in a country where supremely undemocratic Islamist forces are seething, does not augur much stability.
Just as with Pakistan, India looks like it will lose out to China in the effort to find secure energy transit routes.
PINR - Pipeline Politics: India and Myanmar
India has clearly lost an important diplomatic initiative in the attempt to counter Chinese influence in Myanmar. Even after the deal was sweetened with US$20 million in "soft credit" and the proposed construction of a power plant in Myanmar, it would appear that Indian influence was quietly denied by the inevitability of China's international support for Myanmar. Beijing's use of its veto to keep Myanmar's human rights record off of the U.N. Security Council agenda turned out to be more important to the Myanmar junta than the economic incentives.
Missed this: Interesting development.
Asia Sentinel - China’s Pipeline Diplomacy
In securing approval to build a natural gas pipeline from northern Turkmenistan to China, PetroChina, the country’s largest oil company, has pulled off a move with striking geopolitical implications, providing an extra bloodline for the world’s fastest growing economy.
For its part, Turkmenistan regards the China deal, signed in July, as an opportunity to free itself from Russia’s stranglehold over its gas export markets. The country’s entire gas pipeline infrastructure to date was built during the Soviet era by Gazprom, the world’s largest gas exporter.
Amid reports that former Deputy Secretary of State, Richard Armitage, is criticising the Bush regime for its neglect of Asia comes this report. It is difficult to see India and China forming anything more than a perfunctory strategic relationship - their rivalries over the Indian Ocean region remain strong, especially where Tibet, Pakistan and Myanmar are concerned, but the point is that China is the nascent power these days.
India has to recognise this, and perform a careful balancing act with the US. Its longer term interests, however, may be better served by accepting a role as a partner to China's rise. At present India's fear is that it will be little more than a junior partner, but I suspect that Chinese officials would wish to downplay this and concentrate on economics and trade rather than security. The statement is also a clear rebuff to the American nuclear plan, so some planners in Washington must be reeling.
The Hindu News Update Service
Beijing, Sept. 4 (PTI): China will "vigorously" implement a bilateral agreement to upgrade Sino-Indian relations to strategic levels, Chinese Foreign Minister, Yang Jiechi, said while hinting that Beijing is open to civilian nuclear energy cooperation with all countries under the IAEA safeguards, sources said here on Monday.
Yang who met a joint delegation of members of the Eminent Persons Group (EPG) here on Friday told them that he had been instructed by the Chinese leadership that Beijing would vigorously implement the strategic and cooperative partnership for peace and cooperation agreed upon by the two countries.