The media’s fixation with the protracted death of former President Suharto, who ruled Indonesia for 32 years, from 1967 until he was forced to resign in May 1998, has obscured the fact that Indonesia has progressed well beyond the Suharto era. In some areas, such as the government’s support for political democracy and regional autonomy, this movement has been largely positive. In other dimensions, such as the rise of religious extremism after the collapse of Suharto’s secular regime, the results have proven more problematic. Indonesia dominates Southeast Asia geographically, demographically and potentially economically. In addition, the country has emerged as […]

DENPASAR, Indonesia — One year has made a lot of difference in the sleepy town of Poso, in the Indonesian province of Central Sulawesi. Poso gained media attention as Indonesia’s new front in the war on terror in January 2007, when two police operations left 17 Islamic radicals dead. At that time, the town was an operating hub for regional terror group Jemaah Islamiyah. (See “Indonesia’s Latest Front in the War on Terror.”) Twelve months on, Poso is a much safer place, and although sporadic pipe-bombings persisted through mid-year, just two small incidents were reported during the second half of […]

SEOUL, South Korea — The White House is holding back from removing North Korea from the U.S. list of State Sponsors of Terrorism, citing the Kim regime’s failure to live up to a denuclearization agreement reached last year. Earlier this week, the State Department announced the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) had met the technical requirements necessary to be dropped from the blacklist, which carries with it a wide range of sanctions. Cuba, Iran, Syria, and Sudan are the only countries presently on the list. To qualify for de-listing, a state must be free of involvement with terrorist-related activities […]

On Jan. 15, the government of Kazakhstan ended months of uncertainty in world energy markets by announcing that KazMunaiGaz, the country’s national oil and gas company, would assume a lead role in developing the Kashagan oil field, one of the world’s largest. The decision marks the latest instance of a government strengthening control over its valuable national resources by pressuring foreign firms to revise production sharing agreements (PSAs) negotiated years earlier. A press release issued by KazMunaiGaz concerning the new memorandum of understanding stated that it “seals the consent of all commercial participants in the consortium to transfer a stake […]

“When Benazir died, I started calling her by the nickname we used all those years ago: Wadi Bua, which in our dialectic in [the] Sindh [province] is a term of endearment for father’s elder sister. I don’t know. It was just natural, spontaneous. All of a sudden, she stopped being the political opponent of recent times and went back to being the Wadi Bua of my childhood games, when I was five and she was thirty-five. They tell me she was killed by a bullet in the neck. Just like my father Murtaza, her brother. I’ve sort of suspended judgment. […]

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In examining the Bush administration’s Plan B for Pakistan in the wake of the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, we noted previously in this space that the new chief of staff of the Pakistani army, Ashfaq Kiyani, figures prominently among those who are viewed to be forces for moderation and stability. Our own Roland Flamini was among the first to note that Kiyani’s name was being mentioned hopefully in Washington. Today, in a column for the Washington Post, David Ignatius reports U.S. Navy Adm. William J. Fallon, commander of U.S. Central Command, views Kiyani as a positive force as well: Fallon’s […]

While much of the region is busy analyzing the aftermath of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s high-profile visit to China this month, one fragile nation finds itself squeezed harder in the middle. For nearly two years, leading political parties and former Maoist rebels in Nepal, sandwiched between the Asian giants, have been precariously following a New Delhi-brokered roadmap to peace. Amid the uncertainty, China has stepped up its role in the tiny landlocked Himalayan nation. The future of Nepal, including whether it becomes a republic or retains some form of monarchy, seems inextricably linked to its neighbors. Reconciling them will […]

Although Western attention has focused on the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) as a potential threat to Western influence in Eurasia, another institution, the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), currently represents a more serious near-term challenge. Last October, the leaders of the CSTO convened one of their most important summits in Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan. The assembled presidents and senior staff reached several important decisions that testify to the CSTO’s expanding regional security ambitions. First, they adopted procedures formally authorizing members to conduct joint peacekeeping operations. Second, by reaffirming Moscow’s willingness to sell arms to its CSTO allies on a […]

This past summer, prior to his sudden departure from office, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh announced a partnership agreement that surpassed the previously established levels of economic and security cooperation between the two countries. The timing of this August roadmap could not have been more perfect, given that 2007 is Japan-India Friendship Year. The new momentum in relations between the world’s largest democracy and its second-largest economy deserves attention, in part because these relations have historically lacked both depth and breadth. Nevertheless, while recent efforts reflect a positive trend toward deeper engagement between Japan […]

From Jan. 13-15, Manmohan Singh undertook the first visit by an Indian Prime Minister to China in five years. During his stay in Beijing, Singh met with Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, President Hu Jintao, and other Chinese political and economic leaders. The summit showcased the improving Sino-Indian economic ties, but did not appreciably reduce the two governments’ political-military “trust deficit.” Furthering economic ties was an important objective of Singh’s visit. A delegation of 20 Indian business leaders accompanied Singh and Indian Commerce Minister Kamal Nath on the trip. The prime minister delivered a keynote address at an India-China Economic, Trade […]

NEW DELHI – With less than two hours before the close of the 2008 Indian Auto Expo, crowds were still thronging into exhibition hall 11 to catch a first glimpse of the Tata Nano, the world’s cheapest car. They filed past the latest sports coupe prototypes and the attractive showgirls, jockeying for position to snap pictures with cell phone cameras of the jellybean-shaped vehicle as it spun on a dais to the blare of American rock music. “This is a good day for India,” said Rajesh Bindal, a paint salesman. “Now everyone can afford to travel safely in comfort, to […]

CHINA UNDER FIRE FOR ACTIVIST DETENTION — While Hu Jia is not the only human rights activist to face detention in recent months, his Dec. 27 arrest has garnered special attention from human rights groups and governments, which are attempting to use the upcoming 2008 Olympic Games to press China to improve its human rights record. The European Parliament and U.S. State Department have joined calls for Hu’s immediate release. Chinese authorities maintain Hu is being investigated for subversion in accordance with Chinese law. Hu, a longtime environmental and rights activist, rose to prominence due to his advocacy on behalf […]

Ask anyone in Kabul who Tulsi is and you’re sure to see eyes light up. “Tulsi? Of course! She’s the victim. Her daughter-in-law hates her and her two-timing husband has a younger woman. She was right to leave home with her three kids,” people will tell you with a huge grin of satisfaction. Then passersby will get dragged in as the discussion shifts to the latest episodes of Afghanistan’s best-loved TV serial. The title is a tad tortuous, but it translates roughly as: “Because the Mother-in-law Was Once a Daughter-in-law Too.” It’s the latest trend in Afghan popular culture: Indian […]

SEOUL, South Korea — Two weeks after North Korea failed to meet a Dec. 31 deadline to denuclearize, Washington is refraining from setting any new timetables, but has reiterated calls for North Korea to live up to agreements it made in October as part of six-party talks. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, the top U.S. envoy to North Korea, has returned to Washington after making stops in the capitals of the states involved in the six-party talks with North Korea and the United States: Japan, South Korea, China and Russia. He did not meet with nor visit any Pyongyang […]

DENPASAR, Indonesia — Some want him pardoned and remembered as the “Father of Development.” Others say his name should forever be linked to the crimes he committed. Almost 10 years since he was deposed by a student-led movement, former dictator Suharto still divides Indonesia. As he teeters on the edge of death in a hospital in Jakarta, the battle over his legacy has begun. The result of the battle will be a strong indicator of the current state of democracy and the rule of law in Indonesia. Suharto reigned over a brutal and corrupt military regime that kept Indonesia under […]

Beijing likely will interpret the overwhelming victory of Taiwan’s opposition Nationalist (Kuomintang) Party in this weekend’s nationwide legislative elections over the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) as confirming the wisdom of continuing China’s atypically moderate pre-ballot approach toward the island. The results, combined with other developments, could reduce the risks of war across the Taiwan Strait. Such a confrontation would wreak havoc on world markets and could escalate into a direct battle between the Chinese and U.S. militaries. According to Taiwan’s Central Election Commission, the Kuomintang (KMT) won 81 seats, the DPP secured 27, and independents and representatives of minor […]

SARKO ON THE RECORD — Eat your heart out, President Bush. Around 600 media types from 40 countries attended French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s press conference last week. That’s more than twice as many as a normal White House presidential press conference. Predictably, the real news was swamped by coverage of what Sarko had to say about his relationship with Italian girlfriend Carla Bruni. But Sarkozy was living up to his campaign promise to change France. He talked of making the three national television channels commercial free, financing them by raising taxes on independent channels and mobile phones, and by taxing […]

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