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China has signed a series of currency swap agreements since 2008, most recently with New Zealand and Uzbekistan. In an email interview, Daniel McDowell, a doctoral candidate in International Relations at the University of Virginia specializing in International Political Economy, discussed China’s currency swap agreements. WPR: Why is China pursuing currency swap agreements? Daniel McDowell: There are two reasons for these agreements. First, China is concerned about dependence on the U.S. dollar, which is used to settle about half of the world’s international trade transactions. When China accepts payment in dollars, it uses some to buy foreign goods and invests […]

The Saudi intervention in Bahrain has upped the ante in the Saudi-Iranian cold war, crystallizing it into a wider Sunni-Shiite schism in the Muslim world. Saudi Arabia has reportedly invoked a treaty with Sunni-dominated Pakistan to secure troops to stabilize both Bahrain and its own oil-rich eastern provinces. Riyadh has also asked Turkey to make it clear to Iran that interference in the Gulf states will not be tolerated. At the other end of the spectrum, Shiites worldwide are enraged at what they see as Western duplicity in not stopping Saudi heavy-handedness in Bahrain, while showing solidarity with anti-regime protestors […]

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Since the morning of April 22, Thai and Cambodian troops have waged a series of heated firefights along sections of their shared border. The two sides have now traded artillery and small-arms fire for a week, leaving at least 13 soldiers dead on both sides and forcing the evacuation of tens of thousands of people from border areas. The initial skirmishes were confined to areas close to Ta Krabey and Ta Moan, two Angkorian temple ruins lying close to the border, but the fighting quickly spread to Preah Vihear, a cliff-top temple some 93 miles to […]

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s April 15-16 visit to Kazakhstan marked an important step forward in India’s ties with the rising Central Asian nation. Relations between the two countries have gained momentum since January 2009, when Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev was the chief guest at India’s Republic Day celebrations. India and Kazakhstan established diplomatic relations in February 1992, with then-Indian Prime Minister Narasimha Rao paying a visit to Kazakhstan in 1993. Prior to his 2009 visit, Nazarbayev had visited India in 1996 and 2002. In a positive development, Singh and Nazarbayev signed a “Joint Action Plan” on furthering the strategic […]

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With drone attacks, CIA activities and a lack of progress in Afghanistan widening the rift between the United States and Pakistan, the delicate counterterrorism alliance forged between the two after Sept. 11 is coming under increasing scrutiny. “It’s a mistake to presume the U.S. and Pakistan were ever entirely on the same page,” says Stephen Tankel a visiting scholar in the South Asia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington. Tankel, who spoke with Trend Lines this morning, explains that, initially, the U.S. was rather narrowly focused on targeting al-Qaida, and was careful not to push then-Pakistani […]

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Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov recently met with Chinese Premier Hu Jintao in Beijing, where the two pledged to increase trade and strategic cooperation. In an email interview, Florent Parmentier, an academic adviser and lecturer at Sciences Po, discussed China-Ukraine relations. WPR: What is the extent of diplomatic and trade relations between China and Ukraine? Florent Parmentier: Ukraine’s interest in China is relatively new, and vice versa: The boom in trade dates back only to 2008. Yulia Tymoshenko, then prime minister of Ukraine, was the first to develop connections with Chinese leaders and notably met with Chinese Vice Premier Zhang […]

Representing around 40 percent of the world’s population and nearly a quarter of its economic output, Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — the so-called BRICS countries — came together last week for a leaders summit to show off their growing global heft. The joint statement produced by the one-day meeting on China’s southern resort island of Hainan underscored the need for a realignment of the post-World War II global order based on the untrammelled supremacy of the U.S. The governing structure of international financial institutions, the statement said, “should reflect the changes in the world economy, increasing the […]

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The Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, has made a visit to Pakistan to meet with his military counterpart in the nation. According to this report by the U.S. Defense Department’s own news channel, military relations between the U.S. and Pakistan remain strong.

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Turkey, Afghanistan and Pakistan conducted a joint military exercise in Tuzla, Turkey, last month. The joint exercise had been decided on at a summit meeting in December under the auspices of the Turkey-Afghanistan-Pakistan Trilateral Forum. In an email interview, Ishtiaq Ahmad, the Quaid-i-Azam Fellow at St. Antony’s College, University of Oxford, discussed the trilateral forum. WPR: What is the background of the trilateral forum, and to what extent has it been formally institutionalized? Ishtiaq Ahmad: The Turkey-Afghanistan-Pakistan Trilateral Forum was launched in April 2007 as a regional effort to resolve the conflict in Afghanistan by fostering multifaceted cooperation among three […]

The Obama administration has begun talks with Afghanistan designed to quell the Karzai government’s fears about being abandoned by the West come 2014. Those talks are said to involve negotiations for long-term basing of U.S. troops involved in training Afghan security forces and supporting future counterterrorism operations. This can be seen as a realistic course of action, given our continuing lack of success in nation-building there, as well as our inability — although perhaps unwillingness is a better term — to erect some regional security architecture that might replace our presence. But there are good reasons to question this course. […]

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Vietnam’s defense minister traveled to China last week to meet with the vice chairman of China’s Central Military Commission, and the two countries signed a series of bilateral economic agreements later in the week. In an email interview, Brantly Womack, a professor of politics at the University of Virginia and author of “China and Vietnam: The Politics of Asymmetry,” discussed China-Vietnam relations. WPR: What is the current state of China-Vietnam relations? Brantly Womack: In the past 50 years China and Vietnam have been both bosom buddies and implacable enemies, which would suggest that the relationship is unstable. But China has […]

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The head of India’s navy, Adm. Nirmal Verma, recently met with senior military and civilian officials in Bangladesh, including Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and President Mohammed Zillur. In an email interview, Sreeradha Datta, a research fellow at the Institute for Defense Studies and Analysis in New Delhi, discussed India-Bangladesh relations. WPR: What is the recent history of India-Bangladesh relations? Sreeradha Datta: Although they began as friends following Bangladesh’s independence, India and Bangladesh quickly lapsed into indifferent if not hostile and antagonistic relations. The worst phase in bilateral ties occurred from 2001-2006. The two subsequently emerged again as friendly and supportive […]

The plight of the Indian freighter MV Asphalt Venture has added a new dimension to India’s fight against piracy in the Indian Ocean. In a first, a spokesperson for pirates based in Harardhere, Somalia, announced last week that they had reached a “consensus” decision to retain seven Indian sailors as hostages — even though the pirates had released the ship itself after receiving the full ransom from its Mumbai-based owners. The move is an attempt to achieve the release of about 120 Somali pirates currently held in Indian prisons following a series of Indian naval actions in the Indian Ocean […]

When the Arab uprisings started spreading across the Middle East, human rights and democracy activists around the world held high hopes that the peaceful push for reform would spread to the many countries where populations live under repressive leadership. After protesters succeeded in overthrowing Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, a British member of parliament declared, “I would like to see regime change in Zimbabwe and Burma.” The sentiment was optimistically echoed by exiles of repressive states and their supporters in many places. For a moment, it seemed as if the exultant Egyptian protesters might just unleash a wave of freedom that […]

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Kyrgyzstan recently moved to open membership negotiations with the customs union formed by Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus in mid-2010. In an email interview, Alexander Libman, a professor of international political economy at the Frankfurt School of Management and Finance, discussed the prospect of the customs union’s expansion. WPR: What are benefits of the customs union for Russia and the other countries that have joined? Alexander Libman: The three countries in the customs union (CU) — Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan — exhibit a relatively high level of economic interconnection, partly inherited from their Soviet past and partly created anew through the […]

BEIJING — Much has been written about China’s huge investment in alternative energy sources. China spends twice as much as the U.S. on clean energy, and critics of U.S. energy policy have claimed that Beijing is “steaming ahead” in the field. Beneath the headline figures, however, a more complex picture emerges, in which China is struggling to translate capital investment into tangible benefits. To begin with, it is worth noting that the reason for China’s superior spending on alternative energy is that its energy needs are far more acute than those of the U.S. and other major economies. China is […]

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