India’s new Prime Minister Narendra Modi has already scored his first diplomatic coup by receiving the heads of state of all the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) countries, including Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, at his swearing-in ceremony Monday. Although Sharif took some time to accept the invitation, the fact that he finally came, in spite of reservations expressed in various quarters in Pakistan, shows that he is willing to stand up to the hard-liners in the Pakistani establishment in an effort to normalize relations with India. For his part, Modi may be better positioned than his predecessor […]

Ukraine’s new president-elect, Petro Poroshenko, has promised to open talks with Moscow on repairing the frayed Russia-Ukraine relationship. With fighting continuing in the eastern parts of the country, the economy headed toward collapse and Western rhetoric of support unmatched by concrete deeds and dollars, Poroshenko and his team might want to consider learning from how another mid-sized Eurasian state has managed its relationship with the Russian bear. This week, in a ceremony in Astana overshadowed by the events in Ukraine, Kazakhstan’s president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, signed the agreements formally creating the Eurasian Economic Union, along with the presidents of Russia and […]

On May 21, after a decade of arduous negotiations, Russia finally signed a gas deal with China. The agreement foresees the delivery of 38 billion cubic meters (bcm) of Siberian gas a year to China for 30 years, starting around 2018. Media commentators have been quick to call the deal “historic,” and Russian President Vladimir Putin trumpeted it as “the biggest contract in the history of the gas sector of the former USSR.” With the deal’s value of $400 billion and the involvement in it of two major non-Western powers, one might be tempted to see the agreement as an […]

The confirmation process last week for David Barron, a former Obama administration lawyer nominated to the federal judiciary, reopened a debate about the justification for what has come to be known as the U.S. “targeted killing” program. But as the politics of the issue heat up, the administration and its critics seem to be relying on different interpretations of the terminology at the heart of the debate, and their underlying disagreement speaks to broader questions about the future of the American war on terror. For many critics of the administration’s approach to counterterrorism, the term “targeted killing” has come to […]

In the aftermath of the Indian elections, President Barack Obama expressed his desire for rejuvenating the U.S. relationship with India, which is still seen as a linchpin for America’s rebalance to Asia. But at present Obama is not scheduled to meet with India’s newly elected prime minister, Narendra Modi, until the East Asia summit in Myanmar in November, and again at the G-20 conclave later that month in Brisbane, Australia. But if last year’s G-20 meeting in St. Petersburg is any guide, the U.S. president will have a full dance card at these two multilateral meetings and will not, in […]

Russia and India are reportedly considering a $30 billion oil pipeline that would transit through China’s Xinjiang province. When seen in the context of other bilateral hydrocarbon initiatives between India and Russia, the discussions, first reported in late March, show that Russia is cultivating India in addition to China as part of its accelerated move away from dependence on European markets amid the ongoing Ukraine crisis. For its part, India, which has been on the lookout for stable sources of hydrocarbons outside the Middle East, finds a natural fit in Russia, given the two countries’ traditional ties and Russia’s vast […]

The electoral earthquake that just shook up India is stirring up great excitement in, of all places, Israel, where Indian voters’ dramatic move to sweep away the ruling Congress Party and bring to power the opposition is making outsized headlines. By all indications, the victory of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its leader, Narendra Modi, is about to rapidly accelerate a trend that was already in place, creating much closer and much more productive ties between Israel and India. Modi was famously described months ago by an Indian journalist as “Israel’s best friend in South Asia.” The […]

A recent wave of violence in China attributed to members of the Uighur ethnic group, including a knife attack at the Kunming railway station in March that left 29 dead and an explosion at the Urumqi railway station in late April that killed 3, has brought international attention to China’s domestic security policies. China’s northwestern province of Xinjiang has been the scene of simmering ethnic and separatist tensions between the province’s mainly Muslim Uighur majority and the Han Chinese. As the China analyst Kendrick Kuo wrote in WPR in March, the source of the conflict is disputed, with Chinese authorities […]

The dynamics of triangular interaction among South Korea, Japan and China have constituted a central security paradox in Northeast Asia since the late 19th century, with South Korea cursed by its geographical position at the conflux of great power interests in the region. But the division of the Korean Peninsula and the aftereffects of Cold War rivalry, replaced in the post-Cold War world by the U.S.-North Korea nuclear standoff, have served both to obscure Sino-Japanese tensions over the Korean Peninsula, and to spur periodic trilateral and multilateral cooperation aimed at resolving the regional Cold War hangover caused by Korea’s division. […]

Last week’s visit of Gen. Fang Fenghui, China’s highest-ranking military officer, to the United States both testified to the improvement in bilateral military relations and highlighted the continuing differences between these two military powers. Fang, the chief of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) General Staff, initially spent two days in San Diego, where he met the head of the U.S. Pacific Command, Adm. Samuel J. Locklear, and toured the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, a littoral combat ship and the regional Marine Corps Recruit Depot. He then traveled to Washington to meet with his U.S. counterpart and official host, Chairman […]

For decades Japan has patiently fostered maturity and order in its relationships with its neighbors, expecting that time and deepening interdependence would yield behavior constrained by a set of mutually agreed rules—in short, that Japan and its neighbors would be waltzing in a formal ballroom setting. The past couple of years have been, instead, a slam dance of intentional collisions and growing frustration. Can the partners resume their orderly maneuvering, or will flying knees and elbows lead to a fight on the dance floor of East Asia? To perhaps push the metaphor too far, it will depend in large part […]

Nowhere else in Asia has the region’s ongoing tectonic realignment been more evident than in the China-Japan-South Korea triangle. The People’s Republic of China is emerging as a new center of geopolitical gravity within the region; South Korea is rising as an influential middle power; and Japan is experiencing relative decline. The three sets of bilateral relationships, the undisputed pillars of prosperity and stability in the region, are branching in different directions. Within this triangle, China’s strategic approach to both Japan and South Korea is driven by intrinsic factors, the most significant of which are historical grievances, economic interdependence and […]

Kachin leaders are intensifying calls for U.S. involvement in talks between the Myanmar government and the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO). At a meeting with State Department officials in Washington last month, Gen. Gun Maw, the KIO’s chief negotiator and deputy commander-in-chief of its military wing, the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), raised the possibility of the U.S. playing a more active role in resolving the decades-old Kachin conflict. Since the collapse of a 17-year cease-fire between the Myanmar government and the KIO in June 2011, hostilities have escalated dangerously. Several rounds of talks have taken place, but a breakthrough remains elusive. […]

While most Americans have been absorbed over the past month in the usual medley of celebrity scandals, from Donald Sterling’s racist comments to Jay Z’s family troubles, the Obama administration has quietly hinted at two changes in its approach to U.S. foreign policy that, if followed to their logical conclusion, signal a major reorientation in how Washington plans to conduct international affairs. The first, in response to the crisis in Ukraine, has been, as Peter Baker of the New York Times described it, to develop “an updated version of the Cold War strategy of containment” for dealing with Russia. The […]

Last week, Thailand’s Constitutional Court forced Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to step down. The decision, linked with her removal of the country’s security chief in 2011, has intensified the ongoing showdown that has gripped Thai politics and heightened uncertainty for the future of a key U.S. partnership in Southeast Asia. Yingluck is only the most recent Thai prime minister connected to influential exiled former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra—she is his sister—to have been removed by the courts since he himself was ousted in a 2006 coup. The events leave the United States in an awkward position with few options to […]

The United States has been active in its policies toward the smaller countries of South Asia in the Indian Ocean region. In recent weeks, the U.S. concluded its third annual security dialogue with Bangladesh and sponsored a resolution against Sri Lanka at the U.N. Human Rights Council (UNHRC) calling for an international investigation into alleged war crimes. Since early 2014, Washington has called for new elections in Bangladesh after much of that country’s opposition boycotted national polls, and last year the U.S. pursued a defense agreement with Maldives that would have allowed rights for U.S. military personnel visiting the country. […]

At a ceremony on the margins of last week’s Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) preparatory committee meeting in New York, the governments of France, the United Kingdom and the United States reversed their long-standing opposition and joined China and Russia in signing the protocol to the Central Asian Nuclear Weapon Free Zone Agreement. The regional nuclear weapons-free zone (NWFZ)—the world’s fifth—was established in March 2009, following ratification by Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan of the Treaty of Semipalatinsk, which they signed in 2006. The zone will officially enter into force once the protocol is ratified by the five states that […]

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