The results of Pakistan’s parliamentary elections provide a genuine opportunity for Pakistan and the United States to rebalance their relationship. For Pakistan, they are a chance to re-establish representative government. For the United States, they are a chance to demonstrate support for Pakistan’s democratic institutions. And for both countries, they are an opportunity to initiate a much healthier long-term relationship. Despite his recent appeals to European and American audiences for support, the Musharraf era is over. President Pervez Musharraf once could claim to rule Pakistan with the support of the public, the Army and the Americans, but not anymore. His […]

DENPASAR, Indonesia — When the U.S. ambassador to the Philippines, Kristie Kenney, visited the camp of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on Feb. 19, she made modern history. In fact, the last time the highest American official stationed in the country talked directly with the Moros was in the early 20th century, during the American colonial period in the Philippines. Moro is the term used to define the native Muslims and tribal people who reside in Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago. The MILF is the Philippines’ largest Islamic rebel group and the one spearheading the decades long fight for […]

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Yesterday I mentioned that India had successfully test-launched an undersea missile. Today the head of Pakistan’s navy declared that the test would trigger a regional arms-race. (There are some doubts as to whether China has already mastered the technology.): “We are aware of these developments, and these developments are taking place with a view to put nuclear weapons at sea and it is a very, very serious issue,” the state news agency quoted him as saying. Of course, having tested three nuclear capable missiles in the past year, Pakistan is hardly in the position of pointing the finger.

The headlong rush in many parts of the world to replace oil with biofuels (ethanol and biodiesel) illustrates how the best of intentions can run afoul of the law of unintended consequences. While positive effects have been elusive — and, in fact, are unlikely with current policies — starvation and malnourishment are becoming worse among the poorest of the poor. The European Union has announced that it wants to replace 10 percent of its oil consumption with biofuels by 2020. President George W. Bush announced last year a goal of replacing 15 percent of domestic gasoline use with biofuels over […]

SEOUL, South Korea — The world-renowned New York Philharmonic has added another country to its list of international concert stops. On Tuesday, America’s oldest orchestra played to a full house at the East Pyongyang Grand Theatre in North Korea. But the real star of the show, North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, was nowhere to be seen. There had been speculation that Kim, who is said to be a music aficionado, might show up at least during the intermission. The philharmonic’s repertoire for the evening included Antonin Dvorak’s “New World Symphony” and George Gershwin’s “An American in Paris.” The 105-member orchestra […]

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Via Secret Défense comes the news that India’s defense ministry today announced the successful test-firing of an undersea missile, adding India to a very exclusive list of countries that have mastered the challenging technology. That the news coincides with Parag Khanna’s WPR article on the challenges facing India’s emergence as a modern economy strikes me as a poignant reminder of where so much of the wealth of the “second world” that could go into raising living standards and developing infrastructure will eventually be diverted. The launch is the latest in a tit for tat sequence of test firings between India […]

On the Uttar Pradesh-Bihar frontier, the chungi system is alive and well. One of the most unnecessary legacies of British colonialism, no less than five kilometers of trucks — those colorfully decorated and melodically horned belching beasts, overloaded with everything from steel beams to sacks of flour — sit idle, waiting to show their permits, sales tax chits, and other sheaves of documents to corrupt officers. My mother and I are on a nostalgic road trip from Delhi to Calcutta, driving on both emperor Akbar’s famed Grand Trunk road and its newest incarnation, the much touted “Quadrangle” project of major […]

NOBEL LAUREATES CALL FOR ACTION ON BURMA — Eight other Nobel laureates joined with South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu earlier this month to call for an international arms embargo, supported by the United Nations Security Council, against Burma’s military junta. Despite international anger and pressure to reform in the wake of the regime’s October 2007 violent crackdown on demonstrations led by Burma’s monks, the ruling junta has largely continued with business as usual – denying basic human rights to Burmese citizens. Several countries, including China, Russia and India, continue to sell military equipment and arms to the regime. “Despite decades […]

A U.S. warship prowling the Pacific Ocean has officially ushered in the Missile Defense Age, firing an SM-3 missile-killing rocket to destroy a satellite tumbling toward Earth. “The intercept occurred, and we’re very confident we hit the satellite,” Gen. James Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, calmly reported. Like the Rocket Age, which terrified Americans when Sputnik orbited the globe and then transfixed the world when Armstrong took his giant leap on the lunar surface; like the Jet Age, which turned the skies over Korea into a killing field and then opened the way to inexpensive, high-speed […]

BANGKOK, Thailand — Three days after Burma’s repressive military regime announced a timetable for its self-styled roadmap to democracy Feb. 9, the generals were back to their old, undemocratic ways. They ordered that the deputy leader of the much-restricted opposition National League for Democracy be held under house arrest for another year. Tin Oo has been detained for almost five years, but aged 81 he hardly seems like a threat to the all-powerful army that runs the desperately poor, underfed country of 54 million, which was Asia’s biggest rice exporter during British colonial days. Tin Oo’s continued detention seems to […]

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As Jason Motlagh pointed out in a recent WPR piece, the US-India nuclear deal (known as the 123 Agreement) is being held up in India’s parliament by the communist members of Indian PM Manmohan Singh’s governing coalition. There are also some hurdles to be cleared with the IAEA regarding an “uninterrupted supply” clause which India insists on including in its IAEA agreement. Beyond that, the deal has its share of detractors in the non-proliferation community, who worry about its potentially destabilizing impact on the NPT regime. All of which makes it kind of odd to see Senators Biden and Kerry […]

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A U.S.-backed gas pipeline that would reduce Europe’s dependence on Russian energy supplies received a fillip earlier this month when German power giant RWE joined the project, but questions about where the Nabucco pipeline’s supplies will come from persist. “Nabucco has got the cart before the horse. It’s all driven by an increase in demand for gas in Europe and the drive to diversify supplies away from Russia,” said Andrew Neff, senior energy analyst in Istanbul, Turkey, with Global Insight, a London-based think tank. “Putting infrastructure in place has become a political animal more than a commercial venture.” Still, RWE […]

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There are still a lot of question marks in the aftermath of the Pakistani parliamentary elections. It’s still not clear, for instance, which parties will make up the governing coalition or who the Prime Minister will be. But the faultlines are beginning to come into focus, and one thing is already certain: the hot seat that President Pervez Musharraf has been occupying these past few months just got a bit hotter. Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Co-chairman Asif Zardari and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) chief Nawaz Sharif on Tuesday separately called for President Pervez Musharraf to quit after his allies were […]

When asked by reporters about the threat to his own safety following the assassination of his mother and Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto, 19-year-old Bilawal Bhutto Zardari cited a Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) saying: “How many Bhuttos can you kill? From every house a Bhutto will come.” But despite such defiant rhetoric, videos of the Oxford student at the Dec. 30 London press conference during which he was thrust suddenly into the spotlight of the Bhutto legacy — and into the shadow of the Bhutto curse — reveal a nervous boy trying his best to muster the courage to fill […]

The Pentagon’s decision to shoot down a failing U.S. spy satellite has prompted speculation about why the orbiter must intentionally be destroyed and has reignited debate regarding the military and diplomatic implications of using weapons in space. Last week, Pentagon officials said that a three-ship convoy just north of the Hawaiian Islands would track the satellite and shoot it down in the next two weeks using a modified SM-3 missile fired from an Aegis cruiser. The satellite, launched just over a year ago, experienced a technical failure almost immediately after reaching space and is currently circling in a low orbit, […]

AFRICA’S RAPE EPIDEMIC SPREADS — Rape has long been a tool of terror for military forces, but in Africa the practice is now spreading to civilian populations, with members of various ethnic groups using it as a weapon against women and young girls of other groups, UNICEF said Feb. 13. “Sexual violence is taking epidemic proportions and it is translating into the civilian populations, no longer only the military and the militia. It seems there is a license to rape when everything falls apart, in the sense that it becomes legitimate to do things that you otherwise never would do,” […]

DRUG TRAFFIC — On Feb. 5, Director of National Intelligence J. Michael McConnell told the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that “Venezuela has been a major departure point” for Colombian cocaine since 2005, and Venezuela’s “importance as a transshipment center continues to grow.” On March 1, the State Department is expected to address the same issue in its annual International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, one of those report cards about other people’s faults that State grinds out every year — this one, of course, about the anti-drug war worldwide. Three years ago, the Venezuelan government halted regular cooperation with the […]

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