Nepalese policemen disperse ethnic Madhesi protesters in Gaur, on the Indian border, Nepal, Dec. 20, 2015 (AP photo by Gautham Shreshta).

Nepal stands on the brink of an economic crisis, after what it alleges is an India-imposed blockade of its borders for the past three months. Pushing back, Nepali leaders are vowing to work toward economic self-reliance and ease their dependence on India, to the advantage of New Delhi’s rival, China. “Nepal-India relations are at their lowest ebb right now,” says Yubaraj Ghimire, a Kathmandu-based commentator. The blockade of this landlocked nation began on Sept. 23, three days after Nepal officially adopted its new constitution. Critics argue the charter does not give fair political representation to two ethnic groups, the Indian-origin […]

An activist at a demonstration near the Eiffel Tower, Paris, Dec. 12, 2015 (AP photo by Thibault Camus).

Looking back on the past year, it would seem from merely scanning the headlines that the world is becoming a deadlier, more violent place. The year began with a series of bloody massacres by the Nigerian terrorist/insurgent group Boko Haram, which has become the deadliest such group in the world. Next came the Charlie Hebdo and Hyper Cacher attacks in Paris, after which the violence seemingly continued without pause. The Sanaa mosque bombing in Yemen killed 142 people; the al-Shabaab attack on a university in Kenya took another 147 lives; the massacre perpetrated by the self-declared Islamic State in Kobani, […]

Pakistan, Afghanistan and other countries' delegates at the Heart of Asia conference, Islamabad, Pakistan, Dec. 9, 2015 (Pool photo via AP by Aamir Quresh).

Over two days last week, senior diplomatic officials gathered in Islamabad to participate in the Heart of Asia conference, a forum of Afghanistan’s neighbors and major international supporters that has been held annually since 2011. Despite domestic criticism over his outreach to Pakistan, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani attended the meeting, where participants, including Pakistan, China and the United States, voiced their support for the resumption of peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban. Also in attendance was India’s foreign minister, Sushma Swaraj, marking the highest-level visit by an Indian diplomatic official to Pakistan since Indian Prime Minister Narendra […]

Sam Rainsy, leader of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, greeting supporters, Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Aug. 16, 2015 (AP photo by Heng Sinith).

The politically motivated prosecution last month of opposition leader Sam Rainsy was a rude interruption to Cambodia’s so-called culture of dialogue, the name for the political settlement Cambodia’s government and the opposition reached in 2014 after contested elections. The interruption to this rapprochement was not very surprising: Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen is Asia’s longest-serving ruler, and he has not achieved this feat by acting benignly toward his political opponents. As Stephanie Giry documented in Foreign Affairs, over the course of his 30 years in power, Hun Sen has “coaxed or cowed, corrupted or co-opted, defanged, sidelined, or otherwise neutralized […]

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi with newly elected lawmakers of her National League for Democracy party, Nov. 28, 2015, Yangon, Myanmar (AP photo by Khin Maung Win).

In this week’s Trend Lines podcast, WPR’s editor-in-chief, Judah Grunstein, joins host Peter Dörrie in the Briefing to discuss the issues dominating global politics this week, including Cuba’s migrant crisis, the COP21 climate conference and France’s military strategy in Africa. For the Report, Sebastian Strangio joins us to talk about the challenges of Myanmar’s ongoing democratization. Listen: Download: MP3Subscribe: iTunes | RSS Relevant WPR coverage: Obama’s Cuba Policy Triggers Unintended Migrant Crisis Sidetracked: Obama’s Cybersecurity Legacy Is COP21 Climate Change Deal Multilateralism’s Swan Song? France’s Overstretched Military Not Enough to Stabilize the Sahel Great Expectations: Will Myanmar’s Election Bring Real […]

Supporters of Myanmar's Aung San Suu Kyi at a general election campaign rally, Yangon, Myanmar, Nov. 1, 2015 (AP photo by Gemunu Amarasinghe).

On Nov. 8, an estimated 30 million people took part in Myanmar’s first free national election in a quarter-century. From the shores of the Andaman Sea to the Himalayan uplands, many lined up in the pre-dawn gloom before voting stations officially opened at 6 a.m. Vying for citizens’ votes across some 1,171 constituencies were 6,189 candidates from a total of 93 parties. For most voters, however, it came down to two. On one side was the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), the drab political proxy of the powerful Tatmadaw, Myanmar’s military, which has ruled the country for more […]

Afghan soldiers during a ceremony to mark the security transition from U.S. and NATO forces to Afghanistan's, Helmand province, Afghanistan, Jan. 12, 2015 (AP photo by Abdul Khaliq).

The New York Times reported Sunday that, in the face of significant Taliban gains in southern Afghanistan’s Helmand province, the United States is once again committing troops and air power to the fight. According to the Times, “the extent of the American role has been kept largely secret, with senior Afghan officials in the area saying they are under orders not to divulge the level of cooperation.” Pentagon officials are allegedly concerned that the ramped-up U.S. involvement “may suggest” that the U.S. combat role in Afghanistan, which was supposed to have ended, is going far beyond the “train, advise and […]

A coal mine near Gunnedah, 280 miles northwest of Sydney, Australia, Sept. 11, 2012 (AP photo by Rob Griffith).

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. According to a recent report in the Financial Times, certain regions of Australia have been hard hit by the commodities bust and declining Chinese demand. In an email interview, David Meredith, an associate member of the history faculty at the University of Oxford, discussed Australia’s economy and the role commodities play. WPR: How important are commodities for Australia’s economy, and what effect have falling commodity prices had on Australia’s economic growth? David Meredith: Although Australia has other […]

Iranian navy troops march in a parade marking National Army Day outside Tehran, Iran, April 18, 2015 (AP photo by Ebrahim Noroozi).

In the years leading up to the Iran nuclear deal, Iran and China found their interests at times aligning and at others diverging. Since the late 1990s, China had reduced its defense ties with Iran under U.S. pressure. At the same time, espousing a discourse of peace and cooperation, Beijing did not want the West to go to war with Iran. Moreover, Tehran’s perseverance in the face of Western efforts to isolate Iran was a counterbalancing force against U.S. hegemony in the Middle East, which suited China’s strategic interests. However, the conflict with Iran over its nuclear program also indirectly […]

U.S. President Barack Obama and other leaders of the Trans-Pacific Partnership countries at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, Manila, Philippines, Nov. 18, 2015 (AP photo by Susan Walsh).

There is no other area of global governance—not climate change, not management of the oceans, not monetary policy, not peacekeeping—in which the nations of the world have agreed to cooperate more closely than on the rules governing international trade. But over the past half-century, each step toward greater trade cooperation has been a bit harder than the last. The fate of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement—the recently concluded mega-regional deal linking the United States, Japan and 10 other Pacific Rim countries—will likely decide whether the historic project of building better global rules for trade continues, or collapses under its […]

International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde during a news conference, Washington, Nov. 30, 2015 (AP photo by Susan Walsh).

On Monday, the Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) voted to add China’s currency, the yuan or renminbi, to a very short list of elite global reserve currencies. Next fall, the yuan will officially be added to the IMF’s Special Drawing Rights (SDR) basket of currencies, which presently includes just the dollar, euro, yen and pound sterling. In part, the decision reflects the undeniable reality of China’s economic rise. However, the decision is also a pragmatic, perhaps even savvy, move by the IMF and the United States to further incorporate China into an international financial order that largely […]

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull arrives at the 10th East Asia Summit, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Nov. 22, 2015 (AP photo by Lai Seng Sin).

Editor’s note: This article is part of an ongoing WPR series on the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the potential impact on members’ economies. Since the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade deal between 12 Pacific Rim countries, was agreed to last month, many in Australia have expressed concern over its intellectual property provisions. In an email interview, Leon Berkelmans, the director of the international economy program at the Lowy Institute, discussed the potential impact of the TPP on Australia’s economy. WPR: What economic benefits is Australia expected to see from its participation in the TPP? Leon Berkelmans: Agriculture is an area where there […]

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and U.S. President Barack Obama at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, Manila, Philippines, Nov. 17, 2015 (AP photo by Susan Walsh).

The military alliance with the United States has been a cornerstone of Australia’s strategic and defense policy since World War II. Recently, however, signs have emerged that Australia might more carefully weigh its options when it comes to dealing with China, the rising great power in Asia and Australia’s most important trading partner. Last month, only days after the U.S. guided-missile destroyer USS Lassen sailed within 12 nautical miles of an artificial island near Subic Reef in the South China Sea, which is claimed by China, two Australian Anzac class frigates conducted a live-fire exercise with Chinese warships. Moreover, a […]

Protesters gather at the Chinese Consulate to protest island-building by China in the South China Sea, Manilla, Philippines, Aug. 31, 2015 (AP Photo by Bullit Marquez).

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. The Philippines received its first new fighter jets in a decade over the weekend. The acquisition is the country’s latest move to strengthen its military amid growing tensions with China over disputed claims in the South China Sea. In an email interview, Aileen Baviera, a professor of Asian studies at the University of the Philippines, discussed the Philippines’ claims in the South China Sea. WPR: What are the Philippines’ territorial claims in the […]

Congolese police following an attack on Kinyandoni, North Kivu, DRC, May 13, 2009 (Photo by Spyros Demetriou).

Current ambitions to stabilize and reshape fragile states are of very recent origin. Most of the techniques and tactics that are now fashionable were unheard of a decade ago, and virtually none of them predate the end of the Cold War. As author and researcher Graeme Smith has noted, that makes international development and security assistance akin to pre-modern medicine, “when the human body was poorly understood and doctors prescribed bloodletting, or drilled into skulls to treat madness.” Of late, the patients of international intervention have not been doing well. In late 2012, a military coup in Mali made a […]