Thailand and France are reportedly set to sign an agreement next month on joint development of high-speed rail in Thailand. In an email interview, Lieven Jacquemyn, founder and managing director of the Singapore-based infrastructure investment and development firm Plektics, explained Southeast Asia’s infrastructure needs and infrastructure’s impact on regional integration. WPR: What are some of Southeast Asia’s most pressing unmet infrastructure needs, and what are the primary obstacles to infrastructure development? Lieven Jacquemyn: The emerging economies in Southeast Asia have seen impressive growth, and in order to sustain this growth, the general consensus is that energy and transportation infrastructure needs […]

On June 26, Mongolians will go to the polls to elect their next president, with incumbent Tsakhia Elbegdorj predicted to return to office with a renewed mandate. His principal challenge comes from B. Bat-Erdene, who maintains a strong base of populist support in Mongolia’s rural areas. The third candidate, Natsag Udval, is a staunch supporter of former President Nambar Enkybayar, currently serving a two-and-a-half year jail term on corruption charges. According to Julian Dierkes, a Mongolia expert at the University of British Colombia, Udval is unlikely to gain more than 5 percent of the vote, but her candidacy is noteworthy […]

Counterinsurgency theorists and stability operations specialists concur that developing competent local police forces is an absolute imperative to stabilize a fragile state. Yet, the U.S. government frequently seems to honor this principle in the breach. Indeed, the United States lacks the ability to effectively train and develop what is arguably the most important component of a state’s internal security forces. This gap was clearly illustrated by the American experience with police-building during the decade-long interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq, with significant consequences in both countries. A survey of those efforts makes it clear that the development of effective indigenous police […]

In his speech yesterday at the National Defense University, President Barack Obama offered a detailed and comprehensive vision of how he plans to wind down the global war on terrorism. Perhaps inspired by the continued and growing criticism from his political base that his maintenance—and expansion—of executive powers inherited from the George W. Bush administration was setting troubling precedents for future chief executives, Obama announced his interest in limiting the legal basis for any future president’s ability to wield vast national security powers. He also outlined a “second go” at closing the facility at Guantanamo Bay; his first effort, heralded […]

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is well-known for being firm toward Pyongyang and demonstrating solidarity with Washington. More than any other politician, he has made retrieving Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea his political mission. Moreover, during his summit with President Barack Obama in January he declared, “The trust and the bond in our alliance is back.” But something happened last week that seems unlike Abe. Isao Iijima, a special adviser to the prime minister, made a secret trip to Pyongyang for reasons unknown, although many are speculating he is trying to advance dialogue on resolving the abduction issue and […]

This week, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang visited India in his first official overseas trip, vowing to enhance bilateral trade relations and ease tensions in the wake of a recent border dispute between the two countries. In an email interview, Arvind Panagariya, a professor of economics and Indian political economy at Columbia University, explained the recent trajectory of India-China trade relations. WPR: What is the current state of trade relations between India and China, including the value of bilateral trade, balance of trade and major sectors, as well as the priority both sides place on bilateral trade? Arvind Panagariya: Bilateral trade […]

As President Barack Obama learned during his whirlwind trip to Mexico in early May 2013, President Enrique Pena Nieto, like his predecessors, is eager to lessen his nation’s security, economic and trade dependence on the United States. During the visit, the U.S. chief executive discussed economic cooperation, education, border infrastructure, migration and the drug war. “We’ve done a lot of work with the previous Mexican administration on security issues and on economic issues. But sometimes the relationship gets characterized just as being about borders or just about drug cartels,” Obama told the Spanish-language network Telemundo. Proximity, joint assembly ventures, and […]

U.S. President Barack Obama welcomed President Thein Sein of Myanmar to the White House on Monday, praising Thein Sein’s leadership in moving his country “down a path of both political and economic reform.” That progress, Obama said, has allowed for the recent “shift in relations” between the U.S. and Myanmar. Vikram Nehru, a senior associate in the Asia program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told Trend Lines the visit underlines how far the Southeast Asian country has come. Nehru said the progress in Myanmar is real, but that the country’s leaders have so far delivered more political than […]

KABUL, Afghanistan—In a surprise move in mid-April, Germany announced it is ready to provide between 600 and 800 troops to the as yet undefined NATO training contingent that will replace the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission in Afghanistan after it comes to an end in 2014. It was the first such announcement by any country, including the United States. Washington is in the process of negotiating with Kabul the bilateral strategic agreement that should lay out the framework for a reduced but continued presence of American troops starting in 2015. Germany’s attempt to pull ahead of the pack is […]

The Philippine Coast Guard opened fire on a Taiwanese fishing vessel two weeks ago, killing a Taiwanese fisherman and provoking a diplomatic deadlock between the Philippines and Taiwan in a period of growing tensions over disputed waters in the region. “This proves again that accidents happen and so all the more reason to have mechanisms in place to address accidents before they spin out of control,” Richard Bush, director of Center for Northeast Asian Policy Studies at the Brookings Institution, told Trend Lines. Bush explained that because Taiwan found the apology offered by the Philippines for the incident inadequate, the […]

If I were a strategist sitting in Beijing, I would see the prospects of any U.S. intervention in the Syrian civil war as being very beneficial to China. This might seem counterintuitive, given that Beijing, following Moscow’s lead, has resolutely blocked any effort in the U.N. Security Council to authorize any sort of action in Syria. But while China is not interested in giving a green light to legitimize U.S. involvement, Beijing would quickly seize the opportunity to take advantage should the U.S. decide to entangle itself more closely in Damascus’ affairs. For one thing, China has a good track […]

The full motivation for China’s recent incursion into Indian territory along their disputed border in eastern Kashmir is as yet unclear. But the incident brings to the fore the issue of unpredictability in Chinese foreign policy implementation and Beijing’s frequent recourse to low-level aggression, often deployed to shape the backdrop to formal diplomatic negotiations. With specific regard to India, despite a general trend toward deepening cooperation, the incident lowers hopes that China’s new leadership would move to clear up uncertainty in bilateral relations and create a firmer basis for cultural and economic exchange. On April 15, in the Depsang Valley […]

The victory by the Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N), led by former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, in this weekend’s national elections offers the United States a timely opportunity to develop and execute a strategy for improving the deeply troubled relationship with Pakistan. Polling data show that Pakistanis have extremely negative views of U.S. policies and blame Americans for many of the difficulties bedeviling the country. In addition to irritation at Washington’s close ties to India and its use of drones on Pakistani territory, Pakistanis believe that U.S. policies contributed to the rise of militant Islamist groups within their borders, and that […]

Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is beginning talks to form a new government in Pakistan after winning the country’s general elections held over the weekend. Regional actors are already reacting to the results, with BBC News reporting that Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said he hoped for a “new course” in India-Pakistan relations. Shehzad Qazi, a research associate at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, spoke with Trend Lines about the foreign policy implications of the transition. “Sharif has come in at an interesting point in terms of the implementation of changed policy toward India and Afghanistan,” said Qazi, […]

Pakistan’s elections Saturday will be the first time in the country’s 66-year history that things are going according to plan: A democratically elected civilian government completed its five-year term, ceding power to a three-month caretaker government that will oversee another election. Nonetheless, political violence in the past few weeks has effectively restricted campaigning to a single province, Punjab. This will all but ensure that the increasingly unpopular incumbent Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), whose campaign has been curtailed by the violence in its electoral strongholds, is removed from power. But even if the PPP had not been kept from campaigning, it […]

Talk of America’s “pivot” toward Asia echoes around graduate school classrooms and foreign ministry corridors. The Obama administration believes the United States has overinvested in the Middle East and underinvested in the Asia-Pacific, where the bulk of its future opportunities and challenges lie. So now America is rebalancing its investment portfolio. A defense white paper from America’s most reliable ally in the region, Australia, should therefore be closely read in Washington. The message from the Australian Government’s 2013 Defense White Paper is that if the United States is rebalancing, then so is Australia. This white paper is very cautious in […]

Indian External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid visited Tehran last weekend to attend the 17th meeting of the India-Iran Joint Commission. Though the most surprising outcome of the visit was the agreement on a common diplomatic initiative for resolving the Syrian crisis, a number of other agreements, including for the expansion of the strategically important Chabahar port on the Arabian Sea, signal a closer alignment on a more critical geopolitical interest that the two sides share: ensuring long-term stability in Afghanistan. Clearly the scheduled U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan is driving a new diplomatic engagement between India and Iran. Contrast this […]

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