Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrives at the India Africa Forum Summit, New Delhi, India, Oct. 29, 2015 (photo from the website of the Indian Prime Minister).

This week, India hosted representatives of 54 African countries for the third India-Africa Forum Summit in New Delhi, with security, investment and U.N. reform on the agenda. In an email interview, Elizabeth Sidiropoulos, the chief executive of the South African Institute of International Affairs, discussed India’s Africa outreach. WPR: How has India’s economic engagement in Africa expanded in recent years, and in what sectors and countries has India invested the most? Elizabeth Sidiropulos: Indian companies have been present on the continent for many decades, particularly in East Africa where, historically, there has been a large Indian diaspora. However, the relationship […]

Two of the Royal Australian Air Force’s Air Task Group's F/A-18A Hornets during a mission into Syria, Sept. 14 2015 (Australian Department of Defence photo).

Although far removed from Australia’s traditional areas of interest in Southeast Asia and the South Pacific, the Middle East continues to be a focus of Australian foreign policy and military strategy. But its own security interests in the region have nearly always been defined in terms of its security relationship with the United States. One of only four countries to have participated in the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, Australia was more recently among the first countries to follow Washington’s lead in offering renewed military assistance to Iraq after the fall of Mosul to the self-proclaimed Islamic State in June […]

A villager taps a rubber tree, Lubuk Beringin village, Bungo district, Jambi province, Indonesia (Photo by Tri Saputro for the Center for International Forestry Research).

Editor’s note: This article is part of an ongoing WPR series on the impact of falling oil and commodities prices on resource-exporting countries. A prolonged commodities slump has caused Indonesia’s economy to slow drastically. Last year, Indonesia saw its slowest growth rate since 2002; the currency lost 11 percent of its value; and trade levels were at their lowest since the Asian financial crisis in the late 1990s. In an email interview, Arianto Patunru, a fellow in the Arndt-Corden department of economics at the Australian National University’s Crawford School of Public Policy, discussed Indonesia’s economy and its dependence on commodities […]

Indian Muslim activists shout slogans against Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a protest against the killing of a Muslim farmer in New Delhi, India, Oct. 6, 2015 (AP photo by Manish Swarup).

On Sept. 28, in the village of Dadri in the state of Uttar Pradesh, barely 50 miles from India’s capital of New Delhi, a Hindu mob beat a Muslim laborer, Mohammed Akhlaq, to death. The mob had attacked Akhlaq at home in the belief that he had slaughtered a cow to celebrate the Muslim holiday of Eid. The horrific absurdity of the crime was further accentuated when subsequent forensic examination of the meat taken from Akhlaq’s refrigerator demonstrated that it was actually mutton. The killing generated understandable anger and profound dismay within India’s vast civil society. However, it took a […]

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi pose before a meeting in New Delhi, India, Oct. 5, 2015 (AP photo by Saurabh Das).

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s visit to India in early October was the second summit-level meeting she has had with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the span of a month. These talks have themselves been preceded by a flurry of other high-level exchanges. Both sides seem keen to dispel any notion of a lack of momentum in bilateral relations, a view that has arisen ever since Modi failed to meet Merkel in Berlin during his trip to Germany last year. Germany is eager to take advantage of Modi’s renewed push for economic growth through clean energy initiatives and manufacturing. Germany has […]

Maldives President Yameen Abdul Gayoom addresses the nation, Male, Maldives, Oct. 25, 2015 (photo from the Maldives President's Office).

Maldivian Vice President Ahmed Adheeb was arrested Saturday in connection with a speedboat explosion targeting President Abdulla Yameen on Sept. 28. In an email interview, Fathima Musthaq, a doctoral student at Indiana University, discussed politics in the Maldives. WPR: How common is political violence in the Maldives, and what does the attempt on President Abdulla Yameen’s life reflect about the island’s political environment? Fathima Musthaq: Violence as a means of intimidation has become commonplace. The explosion on the president’s speedboat on Sept. 28 is the latest in a series of politically motivated attacks in the country. Just three weeks before […]

U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron welcomes Chinese President Xi Xinping, London, Oct. 21, 2015 (10 Downing St. photo by Georgina Coupe).

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to the United Kingdom this week has largely attracted the wrong kind of headlines. Reactions from experts and officials in the United States and across Europe have been scathing, ranging from the bemused to the disturbed. Many contend that Britain’s China policy, at the instigation of Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, has been reduced solely to matters of commerce. Not only do strategic matters in Asia, human rights concerns, and threats to democracy in Hong Kong appear to be virtually absent from the U.K.’s considerations, the British government gives the impression of believing that […]

U.S. soldiers in the Nawa Valley, Kandahar province, Afghanistan, May 25, 2014 (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Whitney Houston).

A few years ago Afghanistan seemed on the path to success. The economy was doing relatively well. The Taliban were losing ground to Afghan security forces, the U.S. military and units from other partner nations. The new president, Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, seemed more willing to tackle Afghanistan’s deep political problems than Hamid Karzai, his erratic predecessor. By all indications, things were looking up. Sadly this has proven to be an illusion. Ghani has not gotten a handle on Afghanistan’s crippling corruption, cronyism and ethnic strife. The country will not be able to function without massive economic assistance far into the […]

A Vietnam People's Navy minesweeper during a search and rescue exercise with the U.S. Navy in the South China Sea, April 12, 2014 (U.S Navy photo by Chief Fire Controlman Steven Newberry).

Editor’s note: This article is part of an ongoing WPR series on the South China Sea territorial disputes and the various claimant countries’ approaches to addressing them. Last week, Vietnam protested China’s construction of two lighthouses on the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, saying the construction violates Vietnam’s sovereignty. In an email interview, Gregory Poling, director of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, discussed Vietnam’s claims to the South China Sea. WPR: What are Vietnam’s territorial claims in the South China Sea, and with what other countries do they overlap or […]

View of Port Vila, Vanuatu, June 2, 2006 (photo by Flickr use Phillip Capper licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license).

Last week, when Vanuatu’s president, Baldwin Lonsdale, was out of the country, the speaker of Parliament pardoned himself and 13 lawmakers for allegedly accepting bribes to vote down the previous government. On Friday, 11 of the 14 pardoned parliamentarians were arrested. In an email interview, Derek Brien, the executive director of the Vanuatu-based Pacific Institute of Public Policy, discussed politics in Vanuatu. WPR: What explains Vanuatu’s historical political instability, and what impact has it had on the country’s governance and democracy? Derek Brien: The electoral system rewards personality politics and facilitates minority representation. It also complicates party dynamics, as candidates […]

Soldiers prepare a simulated casualty for transport as a UH-60 medevac helicopter lands nearby during live-fire training, Tactical Base Gamberi in eastern Afghanistan, July 2, 2015 (U.S. Army photo by Capt. Charles Emmons).

Backtracking on earlier plans for a withdrawal of U.S. forces, President Barack Obama announced Thursday that the United States will keep 9,800 troops in Afghanistan through 2016, before reducing the number to 5,500 by early 2017. “While America’s combat mission in Afghanistan may be over, our commitment to Afghanistan and its people endures,” Obama said during the announcement at the White House. The Obama administration originally planned to cut the number of U.S. soldiers in half by next year, eventually leaving 1,000 troops stationed at the U.S. embassy in Kabul by early 2017. But it changed course with the Taliban’s […]

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses the 2015 Sustainable Development Summit at the United Nations, New York, Sept. 25, 2015 (AP photo by Seth Wenig).

Does India still need the United Nations? Does the U.N. still need India? New Delhi and the New York-headquartered organization have always had a complex political relationship. India prides itself on having acted as a leading voice for the developing world at the U.N. in the era of decolonization. It remains a leading contributor of troops and police to blue-helmet peace operations. But there is little heartfelt warmth in the relationship these days. Indian officials have made very little progress toward their overarching goal at the U.N.: securing a permanent seat on the Security Council. New Delhi has been pressing […]

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena addresses the media in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Oct. 2, 2015 (AP photo by Eranga Jayawardena).

It has been a bad year for former Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his nationalist support base, which comes predominantly from the country’s majority Sinhalese ethnic group. Rajapaksa’s rout in January’s presidential election, followed by his August defeat in parliamentary elections, can be seen as nothing short of a mandate from the Sri Lankan people to distance themselves from his authoritarian tendencies and divisive policies and move toward political reform and reconciliation. Rajapaksa managed to secure a parliamentary seat in Kurunegala district, a stronghold of the United People’s Freedom Alliance in the Sinhalese heartland. But his dissident faction of […]

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe shakes hands with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at the U.N. Headquarters, New York, Sept. 27, 2015 (Photo by the Yomiuri Shimbun via AP Images).

During a meeting on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York last week, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani focused on economic ties. They agreed to work closely to conclude recent talks on a mutual investment deal that would facilitate Japanese companies investing in Iran. Abe held out investment as an inducement for Iran to comply with the agreement to limit Tehran’s nuclear program inked between Iran and the six world powers, known as the P5+1, earlier this summer. But Japan is also keen to resume the flow of energy imports from […]

Afghan security forces and volunteer militias rest on their way to Kunduz, Afghanistan to fight against Taliban fighters, Oct. 1, 2015 (AP photo by Naim Rahimi).

The Taliban’s insurgency in Afghanistan scored one of its biggest battlefield upsets last week when the group seized control of the northern city of Kunduz, in a sudden offensive that began on Sept. 28. The attack, coming just a day prior to the one-year anniversary of the formation of the embattled Afghan national unity government, was the first time a massed force of Taliban fighters has been able to seize control of a city of this size since the U.S. invaded Afghanistan to oust the Taliban from power in Kabul 14 years ago. While Afghan national security forces have since […]

An Afghan boy is fed as he recovers at a Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) hospital in Kunduz province, north of Kabul, Afghanistan, May 20, 2015 (AP photo by Rahmat Gul).

In the wake of the U.S. bombing of a hospital in Kunduz, there is a natural inclination to be critical of the entire U.S. military endeavor in Afghanistan. There is an even more natural inclination to want the United States to pull back from the fight there. But we should also interrogate such impulses: Is that policy best for the United States or even best for Afghanistan? Coming from me that might surprise some people. I have often harshly criticized the apparent reflex among some Washington pundits and policymakers to embrace the use of military force as a panacea to […]

The presidents of Armenia, Belarus, Russia, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan at the Eurasian Economic Union summit, Moscow, Russia, Dec. 23, 2014 (AP photo by Maxim Shipenkov).

Earlier this week, during his address to the United Nations General Assembly, Russian President Vladimir Putin touched on a topic that was easily overlooked amid his claims about Ukrainian and Syrian sovereignty. “Contrary to the policy of exclusiveness, Russia proposes harmonizing original economic projects,” Putin intoned, citing “plans to interconnect the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), and China’s initiative of the Silk Road Economic Belt.” Putin promptly turned to other topics, letting any further details about linking the troubled Kremlin-backed EEU—made up of Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Russia—with one of the two principal components of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s ambitious […]

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