Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, left, and Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin attend the launch of the Malaysian Education Blue Print, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, April 7, 2015 (AP photo by Joshua Paul).

Since the end of 2014, Malaysians, normally living in one of the most stable countries in Asia, have witnessed an extraordinary political spectacle. Although the same ruling coalition has run Malaysia since independence five decades ago, 89-year-old former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad recently launched a fusillade of public attacks on the current prime minister, Najib Razak, his longtime political protégé. In articles and in speeches, Mahathir has accused Najib of allowing vast sums to disappear from 1MDB, a Malaysian sovereign wealth fund; of evading questions about the suspicious murder of a Mongolian translator who allegedly had information about corruption in […]

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry addresses the 2015 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), U.N. headquarters, New York, April 27, 2015 (U.N. photo by Loey Felipe).

The monthlong 2015 review conference of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which began yesterday, will put a spotlight on a number of priority issues on the nonproliferation agenda. Of these, the potential deal between Iran and the P5+1—the United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia, China and Germany—on Tehran’s nuclear program, which would bring Iran back into compliance with its NPT obligations, is likely to attract the most attention. However, the current arms control stalemate among the U.S., Russia and China, which has endured since the previous NPT review conference in 2010, will also shape the conference’s outcome. This stalemate results from […]

A Pakistani Honor Guard at the Army’s Martyr’s Monument, Rawalpindi, Pakistan, Jan. 21, 2010 (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Jerry Morrison).

Last week, Pakistan agreed to send ships to help enforce a U.N.-approved arms embargo against Houthi rebels in Yemen, but declined a request by Saudi Arabia to send attack aircraft or troops to join the Saudi-led coalition there. In an email interview, Ayesha Siddiqa, an independent security analyst in Pakistan, discussed Pakistan’s military capabilities. WPR: What are the Pakistani military’s size, training priorities, capabilities and operational strengths? Ayesha Siddiqa: The Pakistani military is a volunteer force and the seventh-largest military in the world. It is primarily dedicated to conventional warfighting. There are 617,000 active duty personnel in the Pakistani military, […]

A Pakistani police officer walks pasts billboards showing pictures of Chinese President Xi Jinping, Pakistan’s President Mamnoon Hussain and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Islamabad, Pakistan, April 19, 2015 (AP photo by Anjum Naveed).

When Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Pakistan this week, the reception was something to behold. The welcoming committee greeted him in midair, with eight Pakistani fighter jets in formation solemnly escorting the Chinese leader’s plane from the moment he crossed into Pakistani airspace. It was one more dramatic element underscoring the significance of a visit during which both sides were remarkably unrestrained in their exuberance. Islamabad was dotted with photographs of Xi and signs proclaiming that “Pakistan-China friendship is higher than mountains, deeper than Oceans, sweeter than honey, and stronger than steel.” Xi reciprocated, declaring that he feels as […]

Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj shakes hands with North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Su Yong, New Delhi, India, April 13, 2015 (AP photo by Manish Swarup).

Last week, North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Su Yong was in New Delhi for talks with Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj on North Korea’s nuclear program and to request additional humanitarian assistance. In an email interview, Ankit Panda, an associate editor at The Diplomat, discussed India’s ties with North Korea. WPR: How extensive are India’s ties with North Korea, and what are the main areas of cooperation? Ankit Panda: India and North Korea do not have the closest relationship by any means, though New Delhi remains a reliable partner and an important source of exports and aid for Pyongyang. India […]

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se and Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida during the 7th trilateral foreign ministers’ meeting, Seoul, South Korea, March 21, 2015 (AP photo by Ahn Young-joon).

Foreign ministers from China, Japan and South Korea gathered in Seoul last month to discuss ways to restore trilateral diplomacy in the triangle of Northeast Asia. This was the first high-level trilateral meeting in nearly three years, the chasm between all three countries fueled in large part by the toxic state of bilateral relations between Tokyo and Beijing over their territorial dispute in the East China Sea. Compounding tensions are long-standing, historical grievances around World War II and the perception, widely held in Seoul and Beijing, that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is bent on revising the traditional narrative of […]

Martin Anderson, a Ghanaian national who is on death row after being convicted of drug offenses, is escorted by armed police officers at South Jakarta district court, Jakarta, Indonesia, March 19, 2015 (AP photo by Tatan Syuflana).

Indonesia’s Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected the final appeals of two prisoners from France and Ghana currently on death row for drug smuggling. In an email interview, Gloria Lai, a senior policy officer at the International Drug Policy Consortium, discussed Indonesia’s zero-tolerance approach to drugs. WPR: What factors are pushing President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo to continue Indonesia’s strict anti-drug policies? Gloria Lai: When Indonesia passed new drug laws in 2009, introducing measures to divert people who use drugs away from prison and toward drug treatment programs, the government showed signs of shifting toward a health-based approach to drug use. However, […]

U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter meets with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Tokyo, April 8, 2015 (DoD photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Sean Hurt).

Earlier this month, Ashton Carter concluded his first visit to the Asia-Pacific region since becoming U.S. secretary of defense. In Japan and South Korea, Carter delivered several speeches underscoring the region’s importance and explaining the logic of U.S. President Barack Obama’s “pivot” to Asia. Carter will return to visit Singapore and India in a few weeks, a sign of how pivotal a player he has quickly become in the administration’s policy of “rebalancing” America’s strategic priorities toward the region. Carter’s recent trip, which began April 7 and ended April 12, aimed to reassure the two countries he visited, Japan and […]

Afghan security personnel gather at the site of a suicide attack, Kabul, Afghanistan, April 10, 2015 (AP photo by Rahmat Gul).

Most days in March, pairs of young men mounted Honda 125 motorbikes to ride out of a mud-walled compound in the town of Muslimbagh, in Pakistan’s province of Baluchistan. Turbans wrapped around their faces to ward off the dust, they headed for the Afghan border, 50 miles away. These young men, recruits from the marginalized Pashtun communities of the borderlands, were riding off to be fighters for the Taliban. Most of their peers who have not taken up arms toil as casual laborers for the meagerest of pay. By joining a dilgai, or Taliban armed group, the young Pashtun men […]

Women working at a silk factory near Dalat, Vietnam, Aug. 26, 2008 (Flickr photo by chiccops licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic license).

A weeklong strike by tens of thousands of Vietnamese workers at the Taiwanese-owned Pou Yuen footwear factory in Ho Chi Minh City earlier this month exposed the severely eroded authority of Vietnam’s ruling Communist Party, which is failing to keep the lid on a rising tide of labor disputes even as it promotes Vietnam as Asia’s next manufacturing hub. It was more than a rare challenge to the party. The strike extracted a concession from Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung’s government, with authorities agreeing to workers’ demands to amend a new social insurance law that would have restricted lump sum […]

Chinese President Xi Jinping at a signing ceremony in the Great Hall of the People, Beijing, China, March 31, 2015 (AP photo by Feng Li).

This year’s annual gathering of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund will be unlike any other in the two institutions’ history. As representatives of hundreds of countries converge in Washington this week, the event will prove historic and remarkable—not for what goes on in the official meetings, but for the intrigue, anguish and anticipation that will unfold on the sidelines. As the official speeches and parties take place, top officials in the hallways and private meeting rooms will come under pressure from both the United States and China. The reason: The fledgling but already formidable Beijing-based Asian Infrastructure […]

Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani is welcomed by Indian President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, New Delhi, India, March 25, 2015 (photo from the website of the Prime Minister of India).

In late March, Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, became the first head of state from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to visit India since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took office last year. The visit came at a time when India is looking to renegotiate its long-term gas contracts with Qatar, given the opening up of other sources of supply around the world. Qatar is still India’s primary liquefied natural gas supplier and also hosts 600,000 Indian nationals, most of whom work as migrant laborers, which in recent years has led to India extending security guarantees to its […]

South Korean President Park Geun-hye delivers a speech at Gyeryongdae, South Korea’s main military compound, Gyeryong, South Korea, March 12, 2015 (AP photo by Chung Sung-Jun).

South Korean President Park Geun-hye left Thursday for Colombia, the first stop on her weeklong tour of Latin America, which includes stops in Peru, Chile and Brazil. In an email interview, Juan Felipe Lopez Aymes, a researcher at the Regional Center for Multidisciplinary Research at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, discussed South Korea’s ties with Latin America. WPR: Who are South Korea’s main partners in Latin America, and what are the main areas of cooperation and investment? Juan Felipe Lopez Aymes: Trade and investment between South Korea and Latin America has increased in the past decade. Mexico is the […]

U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro shake hands at the Summit of the Americas in Panama City, Panama, April 11, 2015 (AP photo by Pablo Martinez Monsivais).

One of the most salient criticisms of U.S. President Barack Obama’s recent overtures to Iran and Cuba is that neither country, as a condition for engagement, has agreed to undertake fundamental reforms of their internal political systems or alter the general direction of their foreign policies. Indeed, the leaders of both countries have claimed victory in defying those types of demands. In theory, this need not be a setback. When Richard Nixon traveled to China in 1972, Mao Zedong did not repudiate his ideology, release any political prisoners or make any commitment to pursuing liberal political or economic reforms. Nixon, […]

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev meets with Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, Hanoi, Vietnam, April 7, 2015 (photo from the website of the government of the Russian Federation).

Like the United States, Russia has been pursuing its own more limited version of a Pacific pivot. Most often President Vladimir Putin has led this campaign, with frequent visits to the region, but Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev took charge of the effort last week with a pair of two-day visits to Thailand and Vietnam. In its approach to Asia, Russia has strived to strengthen relations with China while also pursuing other partnerships to maximize Moscow’s bargaining leverage and hedge against problems in any one relationship. Russia has long-standing ties with India and has sought to improve relations with Japan, although […]

Chinese President Xi Jinping and leaders of other countries line up for a photo at a ceremony to mark the decision to set up the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, Beijing, China, Oct. 24, 2014 (Pool photo by Kyodo News via AP Images).

The golden age of American economic primacy has ended. Two years ago, China surpassed the United States as the world’s top trading nation, and late last year it also surpassed the U.S. to become the world’s largest economy in purchasing-power terms. China is an economic titan, but until recently, its impressive rise had not been accompanied by a vision to reshape the global economic order. However, this is beginning to change. Rather than accepting the status quo as given, Beijing is slowly working to revise foundational elements of the U.S.-led economic order. First, it has called into question the desirability […]

Afghan women attend a literacy course supported by the United Nations Children’s Fund, Bamyan, Afghanistan, April 29, 2008 (U.N. photo by Sebastian Rich).

When Afghanistan’s new president, Ashraf Ghani, met with U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House in late March, he suggested that “one day we’ll see an Afghan woman president.” His remarks came only a few days after a scene of horror had unfolded in Kabul. A 27-year-old Afghan woman and theology student named Farkhunda had been tortured in an ordeal that lasted for two hours. Hundreds of people watched, including the police, who stood by without intervening. The enraged crowd accused her—falsely, as it turned out—of having burned a Quran. They ultimately set her on fire and tossed her […]

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