Oil derricks on the Caspian Sea beyond the Bibi Heybat Mosque in Baku, Azerbaijan, March 3, 2006 (AP photo by Mikhail Metzel).

Russia’s assertive approach to reclaiming a sphere of interest in the post-Soviet space has highlighted the security dilemmas facing Eurasian countries that find themselves outside of any regional military alliance. Although recent attention has focused on Georgia and Ukraine, the Caspian littoral countries have for several years considered themselves vulnerable to renewed Russian assertiveness and have complained about declining U.S. and European engagement in their region. In response to these challenges, as well as in pursuit of new opportunities for regional energy cooperation, Azerbaijan has partnered with Turkey and, at various times, Georgia, Iran and Turkmenistan in recent years to […]

Indian Foreign Secretary Subrahmanyam Jaishankar speaks with his Pakistani counterpart Aizaz Chaudhry during a meeting at the foreign ministry in Islamabad, Pakistan, March 3, 2015 (AP photo by Aamir Qureshi).

Earlier this month, Indian Foreign Secretary Subrahmanyam Jaishankar went on a whirlwind tour of all seven nations of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). The objective was to discuss the implementation of reforms, ranging from developing infrastructure to combating terrorism and improving governance, which member states agreed to during last year’s SAARC summit in Nepal. Strengthening the SAARC to boost South Asia’s economic integration and development has been a key foreign policy objective of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, but beyond that regional agenda, Jaishankar’s trip to Pakistan was also a chance to restart dialogue on bilateral […]

New York University’s Abu Dhabi campus, March 23, 2012 (photo by Flickr user yuwenmemon licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic license).

Earlier this month, a professor from New York University was barred from entering the United Arab Emirates, where the school recently opened a new campus, after he criticized the country’s labor practices. In an email interview, Stephen Wilkins, director of the integrated doctoral program in business and management at Plymouth University and the former director for professional management programs at Dubai University College, discussed the challenges facing satellite campuses of Western universities. WPR: What are the motivations for establishing satellite campuses of Western universities in places like China and the Persian Gulf, both for the schools and the host countries? […]

People working in the Mekong River near Luang Prabang, Laos, March 2, 2012 (photo by Flickr user wileyb-j licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic license.)

Last year, Laos announced it would go ahead with the second of two massive, controversial dams on the Lower Mekong River, over the strong objections of its downstream neighbors, Vietnam and Cambodia. Despite the contentious decisions to build the Xayaburi and Don Sahong dams, however, the widespread and well-founded fear that a series of dams along the Mekong is fated to destroy a uniquely productive ecosystem may be overly pessimistic—not because the impact of the dams themselves has diminished, but because there are more reasons to doubt whether all of them will actually be built at all. Up to 11 […]

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif walks into another negotiating meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry over Iran’s nuclear program, Lausanne, Switzerland, March 18, 2015 (AP photo by Brian Snyder).

As negotiators in the Iran nuclear talks strive to meet the March 31 deadline for a framework agreement, which is supposed to be followed by a more detailed implementation package by June, critical external players like Israel and the U.S. Congress have been expressing loud opposition to a deal that they perceive as too lenient on Tehran. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius’ expression last week of similar concerns highlights the fact that differences exist even among the six powers—the U.S., France, Britain, Germany, Russia and China—that are negotiating with Iran. In this context, the quiet if conditional support offered by […]

Chinese workers walk past the No. 1 reactor at the Ningde Nuclear Power Plant in Ningde city, Fujian province, China, April 18, 2013 (Imaginechina via AP Images).

In February, China’s State Council announced the approval of two new nuclear reactors at the Hongyanhe nuclear power plant in the northeastern province of Liaoning, underscoring Beijing’s intention to move forward with an ambitious nuclear power plant construction program despite the 2011 Fukushima nuclear accident in neighboring Japan. In the wake of that accident, when other players slowed and in some case scuttled nuclear development, China limited itself to holding off on approving new reactors while safety procedures throughout the country’s nuclear facilities were reviewed. However, none of China’s 24 nuclear reactors already in operation were shut down, and ongoing […]

View of Dushanbe, Tajikistan, Nov. 3, 2012 (photo by Flickr user pricey licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic license).

Earlier this month, Tajik opposition leader Umarali Kuvvatov was shot dead in Istanbul. In an email interview, Lawrence Markowitz, an assistant professor at Rowan University, discussed the state of the opposition in Tajikistan. WPR: What is the current state of the Tajik opposition, both within Tajikistan and in exile? Lawrence Markowitz: Tajikistan’s political opposition has been significantly marginalized over the past 15 years. When the country’s civil war ended in 1997, a power-sharing agreement was struck that provided opposition groups 30 percent of the top positions in the central leadership and guaranteed competitive elections for seats in Majlisi Namoyandagon, Tajikistan’s […]

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani talks with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif during a cricket match, Islamabad, Pakistan, Nov. 15, 2014 (AP photo by B.K. Bangash).

Reports over the past three months suggest that Pakistani military leaders and Afghan officials are renewing efforts to open direct talks between the Taliban and Kabul. Though these steps show signs of promise and should be supported by U.S. policymakers, expectations about the talks’ prospects for a swift resolution to the Afghanistan War should be measured, given the history of breakdowns of past efforts and the potential for spoilers on all sides to derail them. The last bid for peace talks, supported by the U.S. State Department and facilitated by Qatar, was abandoned in 2013 after Afghanistan’s then-President Hamid Karzai […]

Vietnamese guards of honor march in Hanoi, Vietnam, June 4, 2012 (AP photo by Na Son Nguyen).

Earlier this month, the director general of Israel’s Defense Ministry was in Hanoi to discuss boosting defense ties with the Vietnamese defense minister. In an email interview, Alvite Singh Ningthoujam, a doctoral researcher at the School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, discussed Israel’s defense relationships in Southeast Asia. WPR: How established are Israel-Vietnam defense ties, and what initiatives are planned or underway to expand them? Alvite Singh Ningthoujam: Defense ties between Israel and Vietnam have been growing significantly, particularly since then-Israeli President Shimon Peres’ visit in November 2011. Given Vietnam’s large army and its obsolete Soviet-era […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping during a welcome ceremony for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Economic Leaders Meeting, Beijing, China, Nov. 11, 2014 (AP photo by Ng Han Guan).

How do the crisis in Ukraine and the political situation in Russia look when viewed through the prism of Chinese media? The familiar Western narrative of Russian President Vladimir Putin as a dictator responsible for destabilizing Ukraine and snuffing out domestic dissent takes on a far different coloring. The appeal of the Chinese version of events elsewhere in the world could help explain why U.S. and Western efforts to marginalize Putin and Russia on the world stage have met with little success. At the Naval War College on Monday, Christopher Marsh, professor of national security and strategic studies at the […]

Supporters of former Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed participate in a rally calling for his release in Male, Maldives, March 13, 2015 (AP photo by Sinan Hussain).

Last week, former Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed was convicted on terrorism charges. In an email interview, Maryiam Shiuna, the executive director of Transparency Maldives, discussed the impact of Nasheed’s conviction on the Maldives’ domestic and foreign policy. WPR: What is the background to the current case involving former President Mohamed Nasheed? Mariyam Shiuna: President Nasheed was elected following the historic presidential election in 2008—the country’s first free and fair election. Despite the gains following the democratic transition, authoritarian enclaves continued to exist within institutional frameworks, and Nasheed’s administration was faced with numerous economic, social and political challenges. Protests in January […]

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena walk after paying homage to Sri Maha Bodhi, Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka, March 14, 2015 (AP photo Eranga Jayawardena).

Last week was an auspicious time for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to culminate his three-country tour around the Indian Ocean with the first visit by an Indian leader to Sri Lanka in three decades. Given the island nation’s shifting political landscape following the surprising defeat of its two-term president, Mahinda Rajapaksa, in early January, the milestone represented by Modi’s visit Friday and Saturday was further amplified by the trip’s geopolitical importance. Under Rajapaksa’s leadership, Sri Lanka ended a civil war that lasted nearly three decades. But his rule was plagued by corruption, nepotism, the centralization of power and increasingly […]

Indian coast guards ride on a boat near the Russian-built Kudankulam Atomic Power Project, Oct. 8, 2012 (AP photo by Arun Sankar K.).

Last month, India signed a nuclear energy deal with Sri Lanka. In an email interview, Saurav Jha, an independent energy consultant in India, discussed India’s civilian nuclear export industry. WPR: What is the extent (expertise, dollar value, market access) of India’s civil nuclear export industry, and how has that evolved since the U.S.-India civil nuclear deal? Saurav Jha: There are no Indian exports of nuclear power-generating equipment to any country at the moment, aside from a few components. The highest-value nuclear-related export by India currently is heavy water—India is the world’s top producer—to countries such as South Korea and the […]

Myanmar army soldiers patrol on a road in Kokang, northeastern Shan State, more than 500 miles northeast of Yangon, Myanmar, Feb. 17, 2015 (AP Photo/Eleven Media Group).

Since taking office in 2011 after decades of iron-fisted military rule, Myanmar’s quasi-civilian government has faced the challenge of opening up a country long closed to the outside world and delivering on the promise of domestic reform. But it faces major security obstacles, too, in the long-running ethnic rebellions on its borders with India and China, one of which escalated last month in clashes that killed more than 50 Myanmarese troops and 70 Kokang rebels in northern Myanmar. The Kokang and other ethnic rebels have fought for greater autonomy, federalism or control over natural resources in their corners of Myanmar […]

Titan 2 intercontinental ballistic missile, Titan Missile Museum, Arizona, May 7, 2007 (photo by Flickr user kingdafy, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic license).

The Ninth Review Conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which begins next month, promises to be much more contentious than the previous 5-year review conference held in 2010. However, with a good game plan both before and during the conference, U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration can limit the damage to U.S. interests and the nonproliferation regime. Such a game plan should include reaffirming Washington’s commitment to eventual nuclear disarmament; highlighting the United States’ NPT-related achievements in some areas, even if admittedly limited; focusing attention on long-term future possibilities rather than past failures; blaming the relevant responsible actors for missed […]

Bayterek Tower, Astana, Kazakhstan, June 7, 2012 (photo by Flickr user Mariusz Kluzniak licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic license).

A little over a year ago, Kazakhstan’s president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, weighed in on the most pressing political challenge facing Astana at the time: whether or not to change the country’s name. Before any consensus could be reached, however, unidentified men cropped up in Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, saying little and admitting less. Twelve months later, after Russia’s annexation of Crimea and amid an intermittent war in eastern Ukraine between Russian-backed separatists and the central government in Kiev, it’s clear that the status quo ante will not return. In just a year, Kazakhstan’s geopolitical environs have shifted more rapidly than at any […]

South Korean President Park Geun-hye cheers during a ceremony to celebrate the March First Independence Movement Day, the anniversary of the 1919 uprising against Japanese colonial rule, Seoul, South Korea, March 1, 2015 (AP photo by Ahn Young-joon).

Last month, Lee Wan-koo was confirmed as South Korea’s prime minister, despite allegations that he had dodged military service and was involved in suspicious real estate deals. This is just the latest in a series of scandals that have plagued the administration of President Park Geun-hye. In an email interview, Charles Armstrong, professor of Korean studies at Columbia University, discussed South Korean domestic politics. WPR: What have been the most damaging crises and scandals faced by South Korean President Park Geun-hye and her administration, and how effective has she been at navigating them? Charles Armstrong: The biggest single crisis was […]

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