The latest assault in Mumbai has brought fresh tensions to fragile India-Pakistan relations at a time when the Pakistani government had made unprecedented friendly overtures toward its traditional rival. The attacks — which at latest count claimed more than 170 lives, while injuring over three hundred — took place just three days after Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari proposed a “no first nuclear strike” policy with India. According to early news reports, one of the captured attackers revealed under questioning that he was from Pakistan’s Punjab province, belonged to the banned extremist group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), and had been trained in […]

The terrorist carnage in Mumbai resulting in more than 170 deaths draws attention to the role of Pakistan, which India instinctively accuses of responsibility. The fedayeen-type attack singled out Americans and Jews as targets, which smacks of an al-Qaida game plan. Delhi initially distinguished between terrorist groups in Pakistan and the Pakistani authorities as such, but that distinction is getting blurred. Islamabad stubbornly rejects imputations of involvement. Reflexes are hardening on both sides. In the competitive environment of domestic politics as India heads for general elections in the next six months, it will be suicidal for the ruling party to […]

KAMPALA, Uganda — When I got off the small plane chartered by the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) that had whisked me from Kampala, Uganda, to a small town on the border with eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, I had less than half a day to conduct interviews, take photos, and file content for major Western news agencies. I looked around at what had become typical sights: women carrying everything they own on their backs, children with nothing to do, lounging men glancing suspiciously at the influx of journalists, and everyone visibly tired. Tired of running, tired of violence, tired […]

TORONTO — Major media organizations operate as devout, if secular, institutions. Think of churches, mosques and temples, stripped of their religious content. What remains is the faith, however, both in the mission of journalism and the audience’s ability to appreciate it. This belief system is often accompanied by heavy doses of public sanctimony. Consider the approach of these organizations when confronted with the abduction of their own correspondents. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), upon learning that Mellissa Fung had been snatched in Afghanistan, requested an embargo on information from all Western media outlets in the country. The corporation, citing advice […]

ASHKELON, Israel — There is a hint of political schizophrenia in the Middle East peace process. Even as outgoing Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert declares that Israel and the Palestinians are tantalizingly close to a peace deal, rocket fire from Gaza is reaching deeper than ever into Israel. The latest Israeli community now enduring life under regular rocket attacks is this Israeli coastal city, Ashkelon, whose targeting by militants raises the stakes in the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians of Gaza. Israeli negotiators and Palestinian Authority leaders may well be making progress in their peace talks, but a major […]

KOTA KINABALU, Malaysia — Malaysia has followed through on promises to deport illegal immigrants, sending more than 10,000 Filipino refugees back to their war-torn homeland. The move came as Philippine President Gloria Arroyo sought to reassure the U.S. that Manila will restart talks with Muslim separatists seeking to establish a homeland in the country’s troubled south. The numbers were well short of expectations after authorities boasted more than 100,000 could be sent packing, but were enough to raise eyebrows among regional analysts who believe forcing impoverished civilians back into a zone shattered by civil war, Islamic militancy and terrorism will […]

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Against the backdrop of starvation and warfare, there are signs that Somalia’s decline might soon turn around. At this point in Somalia’s tortured history, the country’s fortunes are tethered to its resurgent Islamist groups. In early November, one of southern Somalia’s major ports fell to an advancing Islamist army. The U.N. had been using the “beach port” at Merka to deliver thousands of tons of food aid to refugee camps on the outskirts of Mogadishu. With its fall to the Islamists, there was concern that food shipments might be disrupted. But Pete Smerdon, a U.N. spokesman in Nairobi, Kenya, told […]

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — Members of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) party held a three-day meeting in Johannesburg this past weekend that left them considering either moving forward or delaying the country’s elections, which were initially set for April 2009. The ANC, which does not want the elections to fall in the “busy Easter period,” seems more content with calling for snap elections — possibly on March 25 — than delaying the voting. “President Kgalema Motlanthe should decide on the final election date, but the ANC — as the party which deployed […]

The National Intelligence Council (NIC) released Global Trends 2025: A Transformed World last week, with its avowed purpose to “stimulate strategic thinking about the future by identifying key trends, the factors that drive them, where they seem to be headed, and how they might interact.” The release of the report was more specifically timed to inform the thinking of the incoming Barack Obama administration about the broader strategic challenges and opportunities it will confront upon assuming office on Jan. 20, 2009 — and before officials of the new administration become overwhelmed by their daily inboxes. The authors of Global Trends […]

MANAGUA, Nicaragua — Amid allegations that the ruling Sandinista party rigged the Nov. 9 municipal elections in their favor, the Nicaraguan opposition is backing a proposal in that country’s Congress that would annul the results and set up new elections. But President Daniel Ortega calls the proposal “illegal” and announced a decree last Friday that he says would block the opposition’s allegedly unconstitutional maneuver. He announced the decree after nearly two weeks of violence that broke out in the capital and other cities upon allegations of electoral fraud from opposition leaders. “I hope that this returns everything back to normal,” […]

In a speech last Thursday, NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer announced that the alliance’s relationship with Russia will no longer be “business as usual,” while stressing the need for a multidimensional approach towards relations with Moscow. With relations between NATO and Russia greatly strained, Scheffer argued against framing the issue as a choice between Russia and Georgia, declaring that, “No, we will not choose.” If acted upon, Scheffer’s call to action could mark the beginning of a new approach towards Russia. The multidimensional approach, according to Scheffer, includes “a broad cooperative framework embracing virtually all the countries on […]

TOKYO — At last week’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, Japan and Russia had been expected to announce plans for a visit by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to Japan by the end of this year. But the decision to instead postpone the visit until early next year is a fair reflection of the state of political relations between the two nations — technically still at war — in recent years. “Relations have remained stunted,” says Joseph Ferguson, adjunct professor at the University of Washington, who argues that political relations currently lag some way behind economic ties. Ferguson, author of “Japanese-Russian […]

ISTANBUL, Turkey — This past July, the president of Turkey, Abdullah Gul, spoke to an assembled crowd of Shiite Turks, known as Alevis. The speech, calling for unity and acceptance of minorities, came less than a month after Gul’s Islamist-oriented Justice and Development Party (AKP) was spared closure by the constitutional court for anti-secular activity. Much of the Turkish press hailed the moment as a new beginning, the start of a more inclusive and tolerant atmosphere in the country. However, three months later, with the Kurdish dominated southeast alight with riots and the Alevis holding a 50,000-strong demonstration in Ankara […]

BOGOTÁ, Colombia — Venezuelans will take to the polling stations over the weekend in nationwide elections that are being seen as a litmus test for the future of President Hugo Chávez and a golden opportunity for the opposition to regain its presence in local government. The local elections, which include 22 state governorships and over 300 mayoral posts up for grabs, are the first real test of Chávez’s popularity following his narrow defeat in a referendum on constitutional reform — which would have allowed Chávez’s indefinite re-election — last December. Four years ago in the last local elections, pro-Chávez candidates […]

NO JOY AT THE SUMMIT — To French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s disappointment, Barack “One-president-at-a-time” Obama stuck to his word and refused to meet with any of the world leaders who attended last week’s economic summit in Washington. The French pressed hard, arguing that as current president of the European Union Sarkozy had hoped to be the first transatlantic leader to meet the American president-elect. Throughout the week-end, Sarkozy had a plane on standby to leave for Chicago at a moment’s notice. But no summons came from the Windy City. Meanwhile, there was no sign in Washington of the warm relations […]

JERUSALEM — Political posters are beginning to appear on Israeli streets, sending early signals to voters in advance of next February’s parliamentary election. In Jerusalem, discreet posters show Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu touting his pledge to “Watch over Jerusalem.” In more progressive parts of the country, the ever-serious visage of Kadima’s Tzipi Livni, the current foreign minister, highlights her pragmatic vow to do “What is good for Israel.” With three months to go, the tight contest is shaping up as a duel of personalities between Netanyahu and Livni. Livni, who failed to form a coalition after Ehud Olmert announced his […]

MADRID, Spain — Spain is on high alert for a possible terrorist attack following the arrest on Nov. 17, of the head of the Basque terrorist group, ETA. Mikel Garikoitz Aspiazu Rubina, known by his nom de guerre, Txeroki (Cherokee), was detained along with another ETA suspect in a pre-dawn raid by French police in the southern French Pyrenées region, near the Spanish border. Aspiazu, 35, who is believed to be behind several recent attacks, including the bombing of the Madrid airport in 2006, is the second key ETA leader to be captured within the last six months. In May, […]

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