“When Benazir died, I started calling her by the nickname we used all those years ago: Wadi Bua, which in our dialectic in [the] Sindh [province] is a term of endearment for father’s elder sister. I don’t know. It was just natural, spontaneous. All of a sudden, she stopped being the political opponent of recent times and went back to being the Wadi Bua of my childhood games, when I was five and she was thirty-five. They tell me she was killed by a bullet in the neck. Just like my father Murtaza, her brother. I’ve sort of suspended judgment. […]

Ashfaq Kiyani: Pakistan’s Hope?

In examining the Bush administration’s Plan B for Pakistan in the wake of the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, we noted previously in this space that the new chief of staff of the Pakistani army, Ashfaq Kiyani, figures prominently among those who are viewed to be forces for moderation and stability. Our own Roland Flamini was among the first to note that Kiyani’s name was being mentioned hopefully in Washington. Today, in a column for the Washington Post, David Ignatius reports U.S. Navy Adm. William J. Fallon, commander of U.S. Central Command, views Kiyani as a positive force as well: Fallon’s […]

While much of the region is busy analyzing the aftermath of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s high-profile visit to China this month, one fragile nation finds itself squeezed harder in the middle. For nearly two years, leading political parties and former Maoist rebels in Nepal, sandwiched between the Asian giants, have been precariously following a New Delhi-brokered roadmap to peace. Amid the uncertainty, China has stepped up its role in the tiny landlocked Himalayan nation. The future of Nepal, including whether it becomes a republic or retains some form of monarchy, seems inextricably linked to its neighbors. Reconciling them will […]

This past summer, prior to his sudden departure from office, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh announced a partnership agreement that surpassed the previously established levels of economic and security cooperation between the two countries. The timing of this August roadmap could not have been more perfect, given that 2007 is Japan-India Friendship Year. The new momentum in relations between the world’s largest democracy and its second-largest economy deserves attention, in part because these relations have historically lacked both depth and breadth. Nevertheless, while recent efforts reflect a positive trend toward deeper engagement between Japan […]

NEW DELHI – With less than two hours before the close of the 2008 Indian Auto Expo, crowds were still thronging into exhibition hall 11 to catch a first glimpse of the Tata Nano, the world’s cheapest car. They filed past the latest sports coupe prototypes and the attractive showgirls, jockeying for position to snap pictures with cell phone cameras of the jellybean-shaped vehicle as it spun on a dais to the blare of American rock music. “This is a good day for India,” said Rajesh Bindal, a paint salesman. “Now everyone can afford to travel safely in comfort, to […]

Ask anyone in Kabul who Tulsi is and you’re sure to see eyes light up. “Tulsi? Of course! She’s the victim. Her daughter-in-law hates her and her two-timing husband has a younger woman. She was right to leave home with her three kids,” people will tell you with a huge grin of satisfaction. Then passersby will get dragged in as the discussion shifts to the latest episodes of Afghanistan’s best-loved TV serial. The title is a tad tortuous, but it translates roughly as: “Because the Mother-in-law Was Once a Daughter-in-law Too.” It’s the latest trend in Afghan popular culture: Indian […]

SARKO ON THE RECORD — Eat your heart out, President Bush. Around 600 media types from 40 countries attended French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s press conference last week. That’s more than twice as many as a normal White House presidential press conference. Predictably, the real news was swamped by coverage of what Sarko had to say about his relationship with Italian girlfriend Carla Bruni. But Sarkozy was living up to his campaign promise to change France. He talked of making the three national television channels commercial free, financing them by raising taxes on independent channels and mobile phones, and by taxing […]

Presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani joined many commentators earlier this month in making the case for doubling U.S. troop strength in Afghanistan from the current 27,000. He and others argue that more troops would address escalating violence in the country and hedge against the increasing fragility of neighboring Pakistan’s government. Such a large-scale U.S. troop increase, however, could be disastrous in the region, where maintaining a relatively light U.S. footprint and building a more significant allied one is the paradoxical key to defeating al-Qaida and the Taliban. Even the 3,000-man increase that U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is currently considering […]

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — The New Year in Sri Lanka began with an all-out confrontation between government forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), a terrorist group that has been battling the Sri Lankan government on and off for decades. An already fragile ceasefire accord between the two warring parties was irreparably damaged on Jan. 3 when the government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa withdrew from the agreement. This in turn rendered the presence of the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission, an independent body of international investigators observing and recording human rights violations on the island, obsolete. The fact that […]

Just Talking? Why Were Two European Officials Expelled from Afghanistan?

One story that appears to have largely fallen through the cracks of international news coverage during the holidays is the mysterious expulsion of two European officials from Afghanistan in late December. The Irishman Michael Semple and the Briton Melvyn Patterson are reported to have left Afghanistan in compliance with the expulsion order shortly after Christmas. Semple has been widely identified as the acting head of the European Union delegation in Afghanistan — although the site of the EU delegation, officially headed by German diplomat Hansj√∂rg Kretschmer, makes no mention of him in this capacity. Patterson is an official of the […]

THE GENERAL IN THE WINGS — The least desirable — but certainly not unlikely — short-term outcome of Pakistan’s post-Bhutto turmoil is the emergence of another military strongman to replace President Pervez Musharraf. In which case, the name most frequently mentioned in Washington is Musharraf’s recent successor as chief of the country’s powerful army, Gen. Ashfaq Kiyani. Unlike the blustering Musharraf, the general waiting in the wings is reclusive and at the same time popular with the army, but the apparent contradictions in his background make him hard to read. Before taking over as army chief from Musharraf, he was […]

Benazir Bhutto’s presumed assassination was a disaster waiting to happen: She had predicted it herself. After years of exile, she was welcomed home on Oct. 18 with a suicide bomb attempt, and there was no reason to suppose that her many enemies would be content with that failure. The likely prospect of her winning the now-postponed Jan. 8 parliamentary elections and becoming the prime minister of a non-religious government threatened, in different ways, the current leadership, Islamic fundamentalists, the Taliban and al-Qaida, and her old nemesis, the army. Her assassins, therefore, tried to make sure of a kill by first […]