Traditionally competitors for influence in neighboring Nepal, China and India are now signaling readiness to join forces to pull the Himalayan nation out of its chronic political instability. The contours of a formal cooperation framework are yet to emerge. But academic and media circles in China and India suggest a growing convergence of interest in preventing instability from spilling across Nepal’s borders. Politics remain volatile in Nepal, where mainstream parties and former Maoist rebels cooperated to abolish the 240-year-old monarchy in 2008. But political infighting since has resulted in five prime ministers in as many years. Despite repeated extensions, an […]

Late last month, more than a decade of indecision over the so-called Southern Gas Corridor linking Caspian reserves to European Union markets finally came to an end with the selection of the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) by the Shah Deniz consortium of gas producers in Azerbaijan. TAP was selected over the much more widely recognized and operatically named Nabucco pipeline, which had captivated the energy industry and shaped the geopolitics of the Black Sea-Caspian region for years. Shah Deniz consortium members, which include BP, Statoil, Total and Azerbaijan’s national energy company SOCAR, insist that the selection was based almost entirely on […]

The Gezi Park protests in Istanbul’s Taksim Square, which shook Turkey at the end of May, represent a turning point in Turkey’s contemporary political history. Although their main target was Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his style of government, the protests, in combination with developments in Syria’s civil war, will have significant consequences for the ongoing peace process with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). At the same time, the need to effectively address the Kurdish issue could accelerate recent shifts in Turkey’s stance on the Syrian crisis. Though the Turkish-PKK peace process currently appears deadlocked due to natural mistrust […]

During the first-ever business and commerce conference of the Indian Ocean Rim-Association for Regional Cooperation (IOR-ARC) in July, Indian Commerce Minister Anand Sharma called for an institutional mechanism to facilitate business interaction among members. Though the IOR-ARC has existed since 1995-1996, it has so far failed to emerge as a common economic platform, and India’s trade ties in the IOR region have progressed chiefly along bilateral lines. But with China’s economic overtures increasingly frequent and backed by commercial heft, India finds that it can no longer take its geo-economic position in the region for granted. To counter China’s commercial bilateralism, […]

The recent floods in northern India are a stark reminder of the extent of destruction wrought by natural disasters. Year after year we hear of the same hazards seemingly striking in the same places, be it floods in northern India or Pakistan, droughts in the Horn of Africa or typhoons in the Philippines. Yet, far from the media glare, localized and low-intensity recurrent disasters wear down the resilience of communities around the world through displacement and the loss of livelihoods. Unlike in the aftermath of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the 2005 Pakistan earthquake or the 2010 Haiti earthquake, no […]

On June 26, Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev formally signed a law “annulling” the country’s agreement with the U.S. to host an air base in his country. The true significance of the law is unclear, and it could be a bargaining ploy to gain more favorable terms for a new agreement on the base, which has been the United States’ most conspicuous presence in Central Asia since being established shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks. Regardless, the passage of the law has highlighted how U.S. interest in Central Asia is destined to diminish as the U.S. extracts itself from Afghanistan. In […]

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) swept this past weekend’s House of Councillors elections. Although it was unable to secure a two-thirds majority, the LDP won 65 seats of those contested, which, along with the 11 seats gained by its coalition partner the New Komeito, means the ruling party now holds 135 seats in the 242-seat upper house of parliament. This is good news for Abe. With a majority already in the lower house, the LDP win at the polls eliminates Japan’s “twisted Diet” and provides Abe an opportunity to advance his political agenda. Yet Abe should […]

After nine months in Havana, Cuba, negotiators are making slow but steady progress toward ending the conflict between Colombia’s government and its largest leftist guerrilla group, the 49-year-old Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The talks are now at the second of five agenda points, and a growing segment of public opinion believes that this peace process—the fourth in the past 30 years—may end in an accord. But the FARC are not Colombia’s only leftist guerrilla group with a national presence. The National Liberation Army (ELN), like the FARC, was founded in 1964. The ELN differs from the FARC in […]

A reform push in Mexico that many have termed historic could get epic this fall. That’s when President Enrique Pena Nieto will introduce plans to reform the oil and gas sector and overhaul the country’s tax system. There’s a broad consensus among economists that Mexico’s growth and long-term vitality rely on the passage of these plans, interlinked because oil revenues constitute a substantial part—around one-third—of the federal budget. And there’s a general acknowledgment across much of the Mexican political spectrum that Pemex, the state-owned oil company, is in dire need of reform. Now in its 75th year, the company’s reputation […]

An increasing number of Southern Europeans are leaving their recession-ridden countries in search of work and opportunities in the North, especially in Germany, raising fears that these countries’ problems will be compounded by a brain drain should their economies not improve. Between 2009 and 2011, outflows of people from countries most affected by the crisis, in particular in Southern Europe, rose by 45 percent, according to a recent report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. And Germany, with its low rates of overall and youth unemployment—5.3 percent and 7.6 percent, respectively—is a prime destination for this new migration […]

In May 2010, while the rest of the Western world was busy picking up the pieces from the combined banking and real estate crises, a fiscal crisis hit Greece. The Greek government discovered it was unable to service the country’s soaring public debt, which stood at 129 percent of GDP in 2009. That year, Greece’s budget deficit was 15.6 percent of GDP, while its current account deficit was 15 percent of GDP. Soon the state coffers would be depleted, leaving the 20 percent of the country’s labor force that works in the public sector without compensation and numerous state-owned enterprises, […]

Since coming to office in January 2011, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has had to contend with annual economic growth slumping from 7.5 percent to 0.9 percent. Rather than introducing economic reforms—the president interpreted her mandate as one of continuing the policies set out by her predecessor, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva—Rousseff’s team blamed a strong Brazilian currency for slow growth and nagging inflation. So, given that the value of the Brazilian real fell 10 percent against the dollar from May to June, reaching a four-year low, one would expect the government to be celebrating the new opportunity to export Brazilian […]

During Secretary of State John Kerry’s trip to China in April, the U.S. and China issued a joint statement on climate change and agreed to undertake actions that would set an example for the rest of the world. In June, Presidents Barack Obama and Xi Jinping agreed to address the production and use of hydrofluorocarbons, a type of superwarming, short-lived greenhouse gas. While the two countries have plenty of issues to deal with on the bilateral agenda, climate change can be one of the least contentious, and further announcements are expected in the future. Announcements are good, but action is […]

Latin America holds lessons for understanding—and pointing the way through—the current upheaval in Egypt. As Egypt enters a new phase of polarization following the military intervention in the wake of massive protests against its elected leader, recent Latin American experience points to the risks of moving forward without addressing the roots of this polarization. It also shows some of the requirements for constructing a democratic bargain to overcome the social and political exclusion of important sectors of society. In Latin America, 13 leaders were forced to end their terms prematurely, without having been constitutionally impeached, between 1990 and 2009. Eight […]

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Last month’s appointment of former Sen. Russ Feingold as the new United States special envoy for the African Great Lakes region and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) signals an important surge of energy into American diplomacy in this troubled region. His appointment should be seen in the context of other recent positive steps, including the “Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Region,” a February 2013 agreement among 11 African states known as the PSC Framework. The framework aims at ending the decades-long instability, violence, multiple humanitarian crises and grave human […]

Last month, the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced plans to export up to 40 percent of the gas from Israel’s Eastern Mediterranean fields, with expected earnings of up to $60 billion over a 20-year period. This is, however, only the first step toward realizing export revenues from Israel’s gas reserves, a process fraught with complicated choices over the route and destination of those exports. Rather than aiming to use its gas for any great geopolitical gains, Israel currently seems happy to avoid unsettling interested parties while it reaps long-term economic gains from its gas bounty. Domestically sourced […]

In 2011 a revolution in Tunisia inspired a revolution in Egypt. Both countries subsequently elected Islamist governments. Egypt has now ousted its new rulers. Tunisia does not look set to do the same. The grassroots opposition movement Tamarod, which sparked the recent mass protests in Egypt, has struggled to make the same impact in Tunisia. Its petition to dissolve Tunisia’s National Constituent Assembly and scrap the constitution has collected fewer than 200,000 Tunisian signatures—representing barely 2 percent of the population. In contrast, Egypt’s Tamarod claimed to have gathered 22 million signatures for its own petition—more than a quarter of the […]

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