Launched in 1991 by then-Prime Minister Narasimha Rao, India’s “Look East” policy was long regarded by many as lacking in vision and substance. Yet as India and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) prepare to mark two decades of formal relations later this year, there is much to celebrate. Given the recent advances New Delhi has made in its relations with its Southeast Asian neighbors, as well as with ASEAN as an institution, both parties can proudly toast the progress achieved thus far. But they should also use the anniversary as an opportunity to strengthen ties further. India has […]

The 13 months since Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak stepped down have been turbulent and chaotic for the country. But it is only now, with a presidential election scheduled to begin in eight weeks and a committee being put in place to write a new constitution, that full-on political crisis seems to be looming. In recent days, the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF), which took power when Mubarak resigned and has been overseeing the transition process, has found itself in conflict with the Muslim Brotherhood over the powers and responsibilities of the recently elected parliament. At the same time, secular […]

Peruvian Justice Minister Juan Jiménez’s appearance before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights last week marked the latest challenge to President Ollanta Humala’s strategy of marrying mining-based growth with social development. Jiménez faced the commission Saturday to dispute a law proposed last year by local organizations concerned about environmental impacts from the $4.8 billion Conga gold and copper mine. Later this week, the country’s Constitutional Tribunal will also consider the constitutionality of a decision by the president of Cajamarca province, where the Conga mine is located, to declare the project “unviable.” Local communities argue that the mine will empty several […]

After months of aggressive debates over the Middle East, the U.N. Security Council is starting to calm down. Last week the council released a statement supporting Kofi Annan’s peace plan for Syria — which calls for a U.N.-supervised cease-fire and an “inclusive Syrian-led political process” — signaling the change of mood. The Western powers reached consensus with Russia and China on the text, toning down and cutting controversial passages, after Moscow called for daily cease-fires to let humanitarian aid reach suffering Syrians. The contrast with the mood at the United Nations in February, when the Chinese and Russians vetoed a […]

Serious threats require serious action, and there is broad nonpartisan agreement that nuclear terrorism remains one of the most daunting threats of the 21st century. That is why national leaders from more than 50 countries will meet this week in Seoul, Korea, at the second Nuclear Security Summit to address nuclear terrorism. The 2010 Nuclear Security Summit in Washington helped catalyze new commitments by states to secure loose nuclear materials, and today more than 80 percent of these commitments have been accomplished. But these measures only go so far, because there is no globally agreed-upon standard for securing nuclear material, […]

Editor’s note: This is the second of a two-part series on China’s geopolitical interests in the Mekong River Basin. Part I examined the politics and impact of hydroelectric projects on the Mekong River Basin. Part II examines the security challenges to China’s efforts toward economic integration of the Mekong River Basin. Beijing’s ambitions for China-led economic integration in the Mekong River Basin have encountered several setbacks in recent months, highlighting the limits to China’s ability to use its economic power and control over the headwaters of the Mekong to its geopolitical advantage. In particular, Beijing’s plan to expand the navigational […]

On March 24, Central American leaders will take a decisive step toward opening the debate on drug decriminalization by convening in Antigua, Guatemala, to discuss alternatives to the foundering war on drugs. The meeting, proposed by Guatemalan ex-general and newest member of the Central American presidents’ club Otto Pérez Molina, follows a five-country tour by his vice president to rally support for frank dialogue. It also comes on the heels of regional visits by U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and Vice President Joe Biden to reinforce the United States’ commitment to anti-crime cooperation and rebuff the possibility of […]

Editor’s note: This is the first of a two-part series on China’s geopolitical interests in the Mekong River Basin. Part I examines the politics and impact of hydroelectric projects on the Mekong River Basin. Part II will examine the security challenges to China’s efforts toward economic integration of the Mekong River Basin. Two decades after the Paris Peace Accord that ended the proxy war in Cambodia, the Mekong Basin has re-emerged as a region of global significance. The rapid infrastructure-led integration of a region some call “Asia’s last frontier” has created tensions between and among China and its five southern […]

NATO’s military intervention in Libya once again showed that the alliance’s internal cohesion can quickly become a center of gravity in any out-of-area operation. Moreover, the strategic position adopted by the United States, now widely known by the unfortunate moniker of “leading from behind,” has put the role played by European member states into sharp relief. Given Germany’s continued reluctance to participate in out-of-area operations, Franco-British relations are now decisive in both regards. Ahead of the NATO Summit in Chicago in May, and one year after the beginning of the Libyan crisis, the strategic relationship between the U.K. and France […]

HONG KONG — Trouble is brewing in Hong Kong ahead of the vote on March 25 to choose the city’s next leader. A series of missteps have hobbled the one-time frontrunner in the race for chief executive, raising disturbing questions about whether he knows or simply ignores the laws he would be required to execute, and revealing how removed Hong Kong’s elite are from average people. The situation has put Beijing in a bind and raises the specter of a worst-case scenario involving mainland security forces deployed to restore order in the event of popular unrest following the voting. The […]

Sandwiched between OPEC members Ecuador and Venezuela, Colombia has for decades looked like an Andean misfit because it was not a major oil exporter. But when Venezuela’s foreign minister visited Bogotá in November, he reportedly asked his counterpart, “When is Colombia going to join OPEC?” Quietly, Colombia has become the fourth-largest oil producer in Latin America, after Venezuela, Mexico and Brazil. Today, Colombia produces nearly 1 million barrels of oil per day (bpd), almost double its output in 2005. By 2015, Colombia’s oil minister expects the country to produce 1.5 million bpd. Improved security is the most obvious reason for […]

BOGOTA — Government and economic think-tank estimates may differ on the potential economic benefits of the recently approved Colombia-United States Free Trade Agreement, but one of the FTA’s goals has already been achieved: It has allowed the United States to reaffirm support for the Colombian government, still waging a nearly 50-year-long civil war against the FARC guerrilla insurgency and a two-decade battle against drug cartels. Clyde Prestowitz, president of the Washington-based Economic Strategy Institute, described the trade agreement as “a geopolitical tool in the guise of an economic deal.” For Tim Stater, an economic counselor at the United States Embassy […]

Demands on the State Department may be growing but, if last week’s congressional hearings are any indication, the State Department’s coffers will not be. Even longtime champions of robust international affairs funding like Sen. Patrick Leahy have warned the secretary of state that the $54.7 billion diplomatic and development budget requested by the Obama administration — a modest increase over last year — is unlikely to win full funding. Though increased funding for foreign affairs may well make sense, its chances are remote at best. Merely doing more with less may seem like the best approach under conditions of fiscal […]

When President Barack Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009, Time magazine heralded it as the fourth Nobel award given “for not being George W. Bush.” While much of the world welcomed the departure of the American president many saw as a cocky cowboy, Chinese politicians quickly became nostalgic for the good ol’ days. Why do the Chinese prefer Bush to Obama? The reason, it seems, is that Obama is harder to read. While the U.S. continually calls for more transparency from China, the Chinese seek a clearer understanding of the Obama administration’s intentions toward China. Obama entered […]

For more than three years, China has been gradually implementing a strategic plan to internationalize its currency, the yuan, with a central element of this strategy being to increase the yuan’s role in China’s cross-border trade settlement. To date, these efforts have been strikingly effective, as the “people’s currency” was used to settle nearly 10 percent of China’s international trade in 2011, up from essentially zero in 2009. Last week, it was reported that China is poised to take another significant step in promoting the yuan’s use in global trade settlement by extending yuan-denominated loans to the other BRICS nations: […]

The past year could have been a disastrous one for U.N. peacekeeping. Twelve months ago, Côte d’Ivoire appeared to be on the brink of renewed civil war in spite of the presence there of United Nations and French forces. South Sudan’s vote for independence in January 2011 also had the potential to unleash mass violence. From Haiti to Liberia to the Democratic Republic of Congo, peacekeepers were charged with overseeing elections that might have resulted in significant instability. In Somalia, U.N.-mandated African Union (AU) forces were locked in grinding combat with Islamist al-Shabab rebels. The risk of one or more […]

As the fighting between the Tuareg rebels of the National Movement for the Liberation of Awazad (MNLA) and the Malian army enters its third month, there are few indications that the conflict will be resolved in the near future. On a military level, the advantage lies with the well-equipped and experienced Tuareg fighters, many of whom are veterans of earlier rebellions and the Libyan civil war. Using long-range guerrilla tactics, mainly surprise attacks launched over distances of hundreds of miles with four-wheel-drive pickup trucks, they have sacked at least seven Malian garrison towns so far, including one this past weekend. […]

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