South Korean President Park Geun-hye’s mid-January visit to New Delhi marked the steady elevation of her country to the top tier of India’s “look east” policy priorities. India and South Korea are drawing closer because of their complementary technological and industrial strengths, which promise to improve each country’s competitive standing in its emerging regional markets. Indeed, while bringing to the table manufacturing strengths similar to those of Japan and China, South Korea is hamstrung by neither Japan’s nuclear pacifism nor China’s border issues in its engagement with India. In this context, a major irritant in bilateral ties—the long-delayed approval of […]

With the adoption of a new constitution last weekend, Tunisia became the first post-revolutionary country in the Arab world to forge a political settlement accepted by the broad mass of its people. The process has hardly been swift, but the passage of the document by an overwhelming majority—200 delegates in favor and only 12 against—is a significant achievement. At a time when the other Arab countries that saw popular uprisings in 2011 have been dragged down by polarization and violence, Tunisia provides an example of political compromise overcoming broad national differences. Tunisia’s path to this moment has often been precarious. […]

Last week’s special session of the board of governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), convened primarily to secure emergency funding for enhanced safeguards activities in Iran, provided an acute reminder of both the IAEA’s importance and its precarious financial situation. The international community demands ongoing high performance from the agency, while chronically failing to replenish resources perilously close to exhaustion. And yet, given the agency’s central role in key nuclear nonproliferation and security efforts, the stakes could not be higher. The IAEA is integral to international efforts as diverse as implementing the interim nuclear deal—and any potential follow-on […]

In the coming months, Brazil will host the World Cup and hold elections across all levels of government—all while its once-strong economy shows growing signs of a slowdown, hobbled by the country’s suffocating public sector, trade protection and inflation. Brazil’s GDP shrank in the third quarter of last year, its first contraction since 2009. The current outlook is a far cry from the exhilarating days of 2006-2007 when then-President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, in office 2003-2011, oversaw a massive oil discovery in the Tupi field off Brazil’s southeastern coast and successfully wooed FIFA, international soccer’s governing federation, for World […]

Since October, when President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner had surgery to remove a blood clot in her head, Argentina has been on tenterhooks as people worried about the president’s future, who might be secretly running the country in her stead and mounting evidence that the country is once again headed toward economic collapse. In the most alarming sign of what the future may hold, police officers in Cordoba province went on strike in December to protest their low pay. With no one walking the beat, impromptu gangs formed. Riots then erupted across the country, including in the outskirts of Buenos […]

More than two years after the December 2011 withdrawal of U.S. military forces from Iraq, the United States is no longer the key foreign player in that country. Today, the Islamic Republic of Iran is arguably the most influential foreign force in Iraqi politics. The 2003 U.S. overthrow of Saddam Hussein had already led to the empowerment of Shiite parties closely aligned with Iran. The Iraqi central government is now dominated by Shiite parties as are, to some extent, the Iraqi military and security forces. Iraq’s estrangement from the Sunni-majority Arab world, especially Saudi Arabia, and the sectarian upheaval in […]

The inhabitants of Michoacan, a state on Mexico’s Pacific coastline, must feel a grim sense of deja vu regarding recent developments surrounding organized crime-related violence in the region. Seven years ago, then-President Felipe Calderon launched the Joint Operation for Michoacan, through which the Mexican federal government essentially took over responsibility for security enforcement from regional and local authorities. The operation began shortly after La Familia, a criminal organization based in Michoacan, publicly announced itself as a new force to be reckoned with. The law enforcement response then marked the beginning of the Calderon administration’s so-called “war on drugs.” Although La […]

When it joined the European Union in May 2004, Poland was experiencing troubled times. Although its GDP growth was satisfying—5.4 percent in 2004, compared to 3.9 percent last year—its unemployment rate had hit 20 percent. Instead of perceiving EU membership as a chance to boost living standards, many Poles thought membership would widen the gap between Poland and the West. Thousands left the country seeking jobs abroad, mainly in Germany, Britain and Ireland. Populist parties exploited these fears. Ahead of presidential and parliamentary elections in 2005, they based their campaigns on euroskepticism and protection of national interests. Lech Kaczynski, the […]

Washington’s reluctance to include Tehran unconditionally in talks to end the war in Syria was on full view this week. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s invitation to Iran to take part in preliminary peace talks at Montreux, Switzerland—quickly accepted—led to a diplomatic crisis after the U.S. insisted Iran had to embrace the agreement reached in June 2012 by the U.N.-backed Action Group for Syria, which among other things called for the formation of a transitional governing body. Syria’s main external opposition group, the Syrian National Coalition, also threatened not to show up to the talks if the Iranians were present. So […]

U.S. development aid has long been characterized by public sector funding of socio-economic, political and security projects in the developing and underdeveloped world. Over the past few years, however, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has begun a number of programs that are being financed by private capital. Among them, in 2011, USAID launched the Private Capital Group for Africa, aiming to generate more than $500 million in private investments to assist small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in sub-Saharan Africa, and the African Agricultural Capital Fund to invest $25 million specifically in agricultural SMEs in East Africa. Last […]

Despite its status as a poor, landlocked country in the midst of West Africa, Burkina Faso plays an important role in the region and for its international partners. During his 26 years in power, President Blaise Compaore has cast himself as an indispensible mediator, having brokered negotiations to end crises in Togo in 2006, Cote d’Ivoire in 2007 and 2011, and Mali in 2012, among others. With the diplomatic skill and networks necessary to negotiate the release of Westerners held by terrorist groups in the Sahel, Burkina Faso under Compaore has also become a “hostage whisperer.” In addition, Compaore has […]

Last week, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe finished a three-country tour of Africa with an aim to create new opportunities for Japanese companies on the continent, a promise of dramatically increased loans and a pledge to bolster Tokyo’s role in the maintenance of peace and security there. Abe’s visit, which took him to Cote d’Ivoire, Mozambique and Ethiopia, was the first trip to sub-Saharan Africa by a Japanese leader since former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi toured the continent in 2006. Abe’s renewed focus on Africa is driven by a range of factors but can be loosely characterized as an attempt […]

Recent U.K. government engagement with Asia has seen high-level visits to Japan and China, a growing role for London in the internationalization of China’s currency, the renmibi (RMB), and enhanced commercial diplomacy across Asia. This is in the context of a U.K. foreign policy that remains global in outlook. However, London’s continued focus on the Middle East in particular means that Asia’s relative importance in U.K. policy remains uncertain. The best place to start looking at the current U.K. government’s Asia policy is still the April 2012 speech given in Singapore by Foreign Secretary William Hague. The overall message of […]

The 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Single Aviation Market (SAM), dubbed the open skies policy, seeks to liberalize air services under a single and unified air transport market in ASEAN by 2015. Air travel is part of a larger discussion among the proposed ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), whose objective is to increase economic integration among members through the harmonization of trade and investment policies under a single market and production base. The AEC, also slated for 2015, will rapidly transform the region into a fiercely competitive, unified player in the world’s economy, boosting intraregional trade and investment flows […]

In the past month, events in the long, drawn-out process toward the dissolution of ETA, the violent Basque separatist organization, have taken a surprising turn. On Dec. 28, ETA’s prisoners—more than 500 of whom are dispersed across prisons in Spain and France, vastly outnumbering the few dozen militants who remain in hiding—issued a statement in which they distanced themselves from armed struggle and recognized the suffering and harm inflicted by decades of violence. They also pledged to pursue their release from prison through the Spanish legal system, abandoning their old demand for amnesty. A week later came the turn of […]

China’s Antarctic program has captured international attention in recent weeks amid the dramatic rescue of the trapped Russian research vessel Akademik Shokalskiy. China’s successful participation in the rescue, in which a Chinese icebreaker played a key role before itself getting trapped in Antarctic ice, made global headlines and brought a windfall of positive public relations for a country whose growing polar interests tend to arouse anxiety among traditional players in the Arctic and Antarctic. Meanwhile, on Jan. 10, China quietly released the draft environmental assessment report of its planned fifth Antarctic research station to the other consultative states in the […]

India, like any emerging great power, faces an array of strategic challenges. One that critically threatens both economic development and national security, but which so far has attracted surprisingly little attention, is illicit trade. The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) has awoken to this challenge. Within the past year, FICCI has published estimates shedding light on the extent of illicit trade for a number of legitimate business sectors. FICCI estimates that a quarter of fast-moving consumer goods, one in five mobile phones, a quarter of computer hardware and a third of auto components are from the […]

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