Unilateral Strikes in Pakistan

Thomas Barnett says of the WaPo article describing recent American missile strikes against Taliban targets inside Pakistan: Scary combination: we step up unilateral strikes inside another nation because we fear their new leadership will back away from such commitments. Does that sound sustainable to you? The obvious answer is, No. But this also brings into stark relief the tension between the two pillars of President Bush’s Pakistan policy, namely national security/counter-terrorism on the one hand, and democracy promotion on the other. You’ll recall that it’s in the name of these two policy goals that President Bush was authorized by Congress […]

KATMANDU, Nepal — Despite high hopes for Nepal’s “historic” April 10 vote, the early campaign period has indicated that elections will not be free, will not be fair and certainly won’t be fast. Instead, expect ongoing violence between political parties, widespread voter intimidation and a result around, say, two months after election day. That’s not to say the months of planning and millions of dollars will be a complete waste, but the vote probably won’t herald the birth of a “New Nepal,” as so many have hoped for after 10 years of civil war and half a decade of dubious […]

Pakistan’s Aid Waiver

In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, Congress granted the President the authority to exempt Pakistan from prohibitions on foreign aid to countries where the elected head of state has been deposed by military coup. The bill, subsequently renewed each year since, stipulates the conditions under which the power be invoked: if the President determines and certifies to the appropriate congressional committees that such waiver — (A) would facilitate the transition to democratic rule in Pakistan; and (B) is important to United States efforts to respond to, deter, or prevent acts of international terrorism. Yesterday, President Bush once again invoked the […]

U.N. URGES AFGHAN ACTION ON RIGHTS — United Nations officials are urging Afghanistan to address rampant human rights abuses and an accompanying culture of impunity for those who commit them. “At a minimum, there needs to be the space for a national dialogue that acknowledges the injustices and suffering that have occurred. The voices of victims need to be heard,” Norah Niland, chief human rights officer for the U.N.’s Afghan mission, said March 18. “Building an environment that is conducive to respect for human rights is fundamental to a peaceful and democratic society.” A top priority, U.N. officials said, is […]

KATMANDU, Nepal — The founder of modern Nepal, King Prithvi Narayan Shah, famously described the country as “a yam between two boulders” — China and India. Now, as the biggest protests in 20 years unfold in the Chinese-controlled Tibetan Autonomous Region, China appears to be leaning on Nepal to quash protests in Katmandu and to clear Everest during the Olympic torch rally in May. Nepal is home to at least 20,000 Tibetan refugees and each year a further 2,000-3,000 Tibetans make the dangerous journey across the Himalayas to Nepal, en route to the home-in-exile of the Dalai Lama in Dharamasala, […]

NATO’s Bitter Pill

To get a sense of just how badly things are going for NATO in Afghanistan, consider the following. Just over two weeks from now at the alliance’s summit in Budapest, about the only pieces of good news likely to be announced are that the French will deploy more boots on the ground to ease the strain on Canadian forces, and the Russians will allow logistical supplies to transit its air and ground space. You got that right: France and Russia are coming to NATO’s rescue. Of course, it’s not the threat of a military defeat, but that of a political […]

NASHIK, India — On a recent afternoon, Seetabai Atthre heard a faint cry from the edge of a vineyard her family has cultivated for more than 40 years on the arid plains of northern Maharashtra state. Searching through the furrows, she found her husband, Vishal, smoldering on the ground next to an empty can of kerosene. He died in a local hospital three days later from severe burns. The Atthre farm had not turned a profit in more than two years, and 65-year-old Vishal could no longer secure loans from local banks to pay off the interest on the $5,600 […]

India Roundup

The Times of India reports that the government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is unlikely to jeopardize its ruling coalition by greenlighting the US-India nuclear energy deal over opposition by India’s Communist party. So it looks less and less likely that India will meet the July timeframe that three visiting American Senators (Biden, Kerry and Hagel) recently pushed for. In other India news, the Center for Defense Information posted a brief piece last week by Todd Fine explaining why offering missile defense technology to a country engaged in a regional arms race (with a recent emphasis on delivery systems) is […]

Rights & Wrongs: Sri Lanka, Uganda, Women’s Rights and More

OBSERVERS QUIT SRI LANKA MISSION — A group of 11 international observers assigned to oversee a Sri Lanka presidential inquiry into 16 human rights cases resigned en masse March 6, citing undue government interference in the process, on the same day Human Rights Watch released a scathing report branding Sri Lanka as the disappearance capital of the world. “The proceeding of inquiry and investigations have fallen far short of the transparency and compliance with basic international norms and standards pertaining to investigations and inquiries,” the panel said in a statement released to the press. Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa invited […]