Traditionally competitors for influence in neighboring Nepal, China and India are now signaling readiness to join forces to pull the Himalayan nation out of its chronic political instability. The contours of a formal cooperation framework are yet to emerge. But academic and media circles in China and India suggest a growing convergence of interest in preventing instability from spilling across Nepal’s borders. Politics remain volatile in Nepal, where mainstream parties and former Maoist rebels cooperated to abolish the 240-year-old monarchy in 2008. But political infighting since has resulted in five prime ministers in as many years. Despite repeated extensions, an […]

In Cambodia, the ruling Cambodia People’s Party (CPP) claimed victory in the elections held Sunday, but the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party is rejecting the results and calling for an investigation into alleged election irregularities. The experts who spoke with Trend Lines said that whether or not the opposition is successful in challenging the results, the election was in some ways a victory for the Cambodian opposition and for Cambodian democracy more broadly. “The CPP still has a majority and will still have the dominant voice. But the results will likely mean a more vocal opposition and perhaps lay the […]

There have been many diplomatic efforts to end the Syrian war, and few if any are worth commemorating. But this week brings the second anniversary of one attempt that, despite making no difference on the ground, offered some evidence of how the international system is evolving. On Aug. 3, 2011, the Security Council agreed a statement calling for an immediate halt to violence in Syria. This was the council’s first significant declaration on the already six-month-old crisis. But it was also notable because of the three countries that championed it: Brazil, India and South Africa, all temporary members of the […]

During the first-ever business and commerce conference of the Indian Ocean Rim-Association for Regional Cooperation (IOR-ARC) in July, Indian Commerce Minister Anand Sharma called for an institutional mechanism to facilitate business interaction among members. Though the IOR-ARC has existed since 1995-1996, it has so far failed to emerge as a common economic platform, and India’s trade ties in the IOR region have progressed chiefly along bilateral lines. But with China’s economic overtures increasingly frequent and backed by commercial heft, India finds that it can no longer take its geo-economic position in the region for granted. To counter China’s commercial bilateralism, […]

While much of the world’s attention was focused on the birth of Britain’s Prince George, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden was visiting India, in an attempt to get the bilateral relationship between the world’s oldest and largest democracies back on track. New Delhi is understandably wary of the Obama administration. India’s policymakers are concerned about a possible U.S. “rush for the exits” in Afghanistan after 2014, especially if it involves a deal with the Taliban that would allow the militants to exercise real authority in the country and undercut Indian interests. Moreover, while India has real issues with China, including […]

The recent floods in northern India are a stark reminder of the extent of destruction wrought by natural disasters. Year after year we hear of the same hazards seemingly striking in the same places, be it floods in northern India or Pakistan, droughts in the Horn of Africa or typhoons in the Philippines. Yet, far from the media glare, localized and low-intensity recurrent disasters wear down the resilience of communities around the world through displacement and the loss of livelihoods. Unlike in the aftermath of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the 2005 Pakistan earthquake or the 2010 Haiti earthquake, no […]

On June 26, Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev formally signed a law “annulling” the country’s agreement with the U.S. to host an air base in his country. The true significance of the law is unclear, and it could be a bargaining ploy to gain more favorable terms for a new agreement on the base, which has been the United States’ most conspicuous presence in Central Asia since being established shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks. Regardless, the passage of the law has highlighted how U.S. interest in Central Asia is destined to diminish as the U.S. extracts itself from Afghanistan. In […]

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On Monday, Afghanistan’s lower house of parliament voted no confidence in Interior Minister Ghulam Mujtaba Patang. The lawmakers advocated his ouster on the basis of, among other things, worsening security on several of the highways that link Kabul to the surrounding provinces. The vote was not terribly noteworthy for the predictable standoff it provoked between parliament and Karzai, who said he’d refer the matter to the Supreme Court for “advice.” As Gran Hewad and his coauthors point out at Afghanistan Analysts Network, Karzai and the legislature have had a testy relationship ever since Afghanistan’s first post-Taliban parliament was elected in […]

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) swept this past weekend’s House of Councillors elections. Although it was unable to secure a two-thirds majority, the LDP won 65 seats of those contested, which, along with the 11 seats gained by its coalition partner the New Komeito, means the ruling party now holds 135 seats in the 242-seat upper house of parliament. This is good news for Abe. With a majority already in the lower house, the LDP win at the polls eliminates Japan’s “twisted Diet” and provides Abe an opportunity to advance his political agenda. Yet Abe should […]

In addition to their growing energy and renewed arms trade, another sign of the strengthening Russia-China relationship was their recently concluded bilateral naval exercise. The drills were larger and more sophisticated than those held last year. But they are still far from establishing a Russia-China capacity for joint maritime combat operations, which does not appear a goal of either government in any case. The active phase of the maneuvers took place July 8-10 in the waters off of Vladivostok. Twelve Russian vessels from the Pacific Fleet participated in this year’s drill, compared to seven warships and support craft in 2012. […]

Despite unfolding disasters in Egypt and Syria and the damage to American security from the bizarre Edward Snowden episode, Afghanistan, which had begun to seem like last year’s news, is grabbing headlines again. The Obama administration is undertaking yet another review of its options following the planned drawdown of U.S. military forces in 2014. Reports are that the administration, frustrated with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, is considering a “zero option” that would leave no American troops in Afghanistan. But before wholesale disengagement is even officially on the table, opposition to it is flaring. Angry at the idea, House Armed Services […]

During Secretary of State John Kerry’s trip to China in April, the U.S. and China issued a joint statement on climate change and agreed to undertake actions that would set an example for the rest of the world. In June, Presidents Barack Obama and Xi Jinping agreed to address the production and use of hydrofluorocarbons, a type of superwarming, short-lived greenhouse gas. While the two countries have plenty of issues to deal with on the bilateral agenda, climate change can be one of the least contentious, and further announcements are expected in the future. Announcements are good, but action is […]

Last week the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a comprehensive hearing devoted to assessing the post-2014 U.S. transition in Afghanistan. A central issue was the question of whether the Obama administration is genuinely considering a “zero option,” as news reports suggested last week, that would withdraw all U.S. military forces from the country by the end of 2014. While many oppose this option, the hearing made clear that it might happen if the Afghan government fails to hold free and fair national elections next year. The Obama administration has yet to announce how many U.S. troops it will maintain in […]

The alliance between the United States and South Korea arose from the postwar liberation of southern Korea by U.S. forces and then the subsequent attack on the newly independent country by North Korea, backed by the Soviet Union and Communist China, in June 1950. U.S. forces have remained in South Korea ever since, though their numbers have fluctuated over time. During its first decades as an independent country, South Korea’s policy with regard to Pyongyang focused on being able to repel another North Korean invasion in partnership with the United States. The longer-term aspiration was to exploit the anticipated eventual […]

Prior to 1992, Philippine-U.S. security relations were framed by several bilateral defense arrangements. The two countries became formal allies in 1951 upon signing the Philippines-U.S. Mutual Defense Treaty. Both countries also became members of the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization in 1956. However, the most important of these bilateral defense arrangements predated the collective defense treaties binding the two countries: the 1947 Philippines-U.S. Military Bases Agreement, which facilitated the hosting of major American naval and air facilities in Philippine territory. The U.S. military bases in the Philippines, including the Subic Bay Naval Base and Clark Air Base, extended vital logistical support […]

During the Cold War, the U.S.-Japan alliance was variously described as the cornerstone and the linchpin of U.S. Asia strategy, but over the past decade the role of this strategic alliance has come under increasing scrutiny. New dynamics in the Asia-Pacific region have prompted a rethinking of U.S. priorities in Asia. China’s rise has called for a more complex assessment in both Tokyo and Washington of the circumstances under which the alliance might be tested. Japan’s struggle with slow economic growth and a rather unpredictable effort at political reform has made strategic adjustment difficult. Similar concerns in the United States […]

With the rapid expansion of China’s regional and global interests, it is inevitable that Beijing will increasingly utilize its armed forces, police and civilian security agencies to protect and advance those interests. This trend is readily apparent in Southeast Asia, China’s strategic backyard. But while China’s cooperative security overtures have been welcomed, the assertive use of its military and paramilitary forces in the maritime domain continues to fuel concern among its nearest neighbors. The use by China of elements of its state security apparatus in Southeast Asia last month provides a good illustration. In mid-June, the Chinese navy’s hospital ship […]

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