Friday, 29 May 2009


Pieter Bottelier

Asia Times, May 29, 2009

Since People's Bank of China governor Zhou Xiaochuan's proposal for reforming the international monetary system was published on March 23, there have been new developments with regard to the international use of the Chinese currency, the renminbi, also referred to as the yuan.

The historical context of governor Zhou's proposal and the prospects for the international use of the renminbi are interrelated. In spite of the generally negative press reports in the United States, Zhou's proposal was couched in careful, professional and non-provocative language. Although the proposal may have been partly motivated by domestic politics, it does reflect deep-rooted concern in China that the international financial crisis and subsequent US responses to it could undermine the purchasing power of the dollar.

Since most of China's US$2 trillion plus reserves are invested in dollar-denominated financial assets, Beijing's concerns are understandable. While some in the United States argue that China should not fret about excessive dollar exposure - because that is the result of its controversial exchange rate policy - it should be recognized that China's worries about the future of the US dollar are widely shared and that Zhou's proposal appears to have been well received in many quarters around the world.

(...) [artículo aquí]

Thursday, 28 May 2009


The New York Times, May 28, 2009

Erratic, frightening and hugely self-destructive. Those are the words we would use to describe North Korea’s behavior. First it defied the United Nations Security Council’s cease-and-desist orders and tested both a nuclear device and half a dozen missiles. Now it is threatening to launch military strikes against South Korea and may have resumed production of nuclear fuel.

Given all of that, and the fact that no one is sure who is calling the shots in the North’s capital, Pyongyang, it is tempting to throw up one’s hands and say that there is no point in trying to negotiate. But there is no military option here. Diplomacy — backed by stiff sanctions — is the only hope for walking North Korea back from the brink. And for now, China — not Washington — is the prime player.

It is time for China (host of the six-party talks scuttled by Pyongyang) to exercise the leadership it has long shirked. As the North’s main oil and food supplier, it has more leverage than any other country. We understand that China is worried that too much pressure could topple the government, pouring refugees over the border.

Beijing should be able to calibrate that pressure. If not, North Korea will end up with a nuclear arsenal that could pose an even greater threat to China and the whole region. Already some in Japan and South Korea are arguing for their own weapons.

(...) [artículo aquí]

Wednesday, 27 May 2009


Michael Forsythe

Bloomberg, May 28, 2009

China has the ability to cripple North Korea by cutting off shipments of food, fuel, and luxury goods that Kim Jong Il doles out to loyalists. Kim’s nuclear detonation may put that leverage in play and test its impact on the leadership.

China is increasingly frustrated by North Korea’s defiance of United Nations resolutions designed to curb its atomic and missile programs and is concerned that a nuclear-armed government in Pyongyang could spark a new arms race in Asia, analysts and a person familiar with the Obama administration’s policy said.

Until now, China has rebuffed U.S. and Japanese calls for tougher economic penalties against North Korean leader Kim, agreeing only on narrow UN sanctions aimed at regime-run companies and arms imports.

“China may be reaching a point of understanding that Kim is going too far,” said Dennis Wilder, a former Asia director for the White House National Security Council.

Should the Chinese leadership shift against North Korea, it isn’t clear what levers would be used or whether economic clout would translate into political influence over a regime in a possible succession battle, according to the person familiar with administration policy and experts on China and North Korea.

(...) [artículo aquí]

Tuesday, 26 May 2009


Pablo Bustelo

El País, 27 de mayo de 2009

Pese a las alarmas que han encendido, las pruebas nucleares y de misiles realizadas por Corea del Norte no son una sorpresa. Suponen la culminación de la creciente beligerancia desplegada por el país asiático desde hace meses.

Para Pyongyang, el objetivo expreso de su segunda prueba nuclear es, como ya dijo en 2006, fortalecer su capacidad de disuasión para la autodefensa, pero la tesis no se sostiene. De hecho, le sobran medios de disuasión con su Ejército (más de un millón de soldados, el cuarto mayor del mundo), sus misiles (que pueden llegar a Tokio) y su artillería (que puede bombardear Seúl). En realidad obedece a causas bien distintas: protestar por las sanciones impuestas en abril, llamar la atención de la Administración Obama, ocupada en asuntos más serios (como Afganistán, Pakistán o Irán), mantener vivo el chantaje nuclear de los últimos años y consolidar la posición política de Kim Jong-il y de su familia dentro de Corea del Norte.

La prueba nuclear no es grave por sus implicaciones militares inmediatas, puesto que los norcoreanos no saben miniaturizar cabezas nucleares para colocarlas en misiles (aunque, a este ritmo, quizá lo acaben consiguiendo). Pero supone una violación directa de la resolución 1.718 de Naciones Unidas, aprobada en 2006, y, sobre todo, es un paso más en la nuclearización del país. Tal cosa aumenta los peligros de eventuales accidentes en instalaciones vetustas y, sobre todo, los riesgos de proliferación activa, esto es, de transferencia de bombas, material o conocimientos nucleares a otros Estados y, lo que es más preocupante, a grupos terroristas. Además, da argumentos a quienes, en Tokio o Seúl, reclaman que Japón o Corea del Sur se doten también de armamento nuclear, lo que podría provocar así una proliferación pasiva.

(...) [artículo aquí]


Glenn Kessler

The Washington Post, May 26, 2009

President Obama came into office saying he wanted to demonstrate that engagement with hostile nations is more effective than antagonism, but North Korea's nuclear test now leaves the young administration with critical choices about its response.

Does it ramp up the pressure with new and tougher sanctions? Does it not overreact and essentially stand pat? Or will it, like the Bush administration after North Korea's first test in 2006, shift course and redouble efforts at engagement and diplomacy?

A key variable is an assessment of what North Korea is hoping to gain. Is it ratcheting up the pressure to win new concessions from the United States and nations in the region? Or should the United States take its rhetoric at face value -- that it is aiming to become a full-fledged nuclear power, no matter what the cost in diplomatic isolation?

Top officials in the Obama administration have only begun to grapple with those questions and have not reached any conclusions beyond seeking condemnation by the U.N. Security Council with "consequences," officials said yesterday. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton hit the phones urging a "strong, unified" approach from other nations while President Obama said the North was "deepening its own isolation and inviting stronger international pressure." He vowed to "work with our friends and our allies to stand up to this behavior."

(...) [artículo aquí]

Monday, 25 May 2009


David Alexander

Reuters, May 25, 2009

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - World leaders condemned North Korea for carrying out nuclear and missile tests and U.S. President Barack Obama said Pyongyang's actions were a reckless challenge warranting action from the international community.

As nations prepared for emergency U.N. Security Council talks Monday (2000 GMT), European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana branded the test a "flagrant violation" of a Council resolution which required "a firm response."

China, Russia, France and Britain -- which with the United States are the permanent Council members -- expressed alarm at the hermit state's test that Moscow said was as powerful as the U.S. atom bomb dropped on Nagasaki in World War Two.

South Korea called an emergency cabinet meeting.

(...) [artículo aquí]

Sunday, 24 May 2009


Mia Bloom

The Washington Post, May 24, 2009

It took a pitched two-hour gun battle with Sri Lankan special forces. Then a rocket launched into his armor-plated ambulance. But last Monday, death finally came to Velupillai Prabhakaran, leader of the Tamil Tigers separatist group.

Also gone are Prabhakaran's son and heir apparent, Charles Anthony, and as many as 300 cadres. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), one of the most dangerous terrorist organizations on the planet, has been essentially wiped out.

But the Tigers' legacy remains intact. Their perfection of suicide bombings, their recruitment of women and children, their innovation in IEDs, have been emulated by other terrorist groups worldwide, from al-Qaeda to Hezbollah. Though they considered themselves superior to jihadi terrorists -- who regularly target civilians -- the Tigers opened the door to terrorism as a strategy of liberation and resistance to an unwanted government or occupying force. And they reached a standard of deadly efficiency envied by U.S. enemies and terrorists around the globe.

The Tigers, who claimed to represent Sri Lanka's Tamil minority, sought independence from Sri Lanka and its Sinhalese majority. Their popularity among Tamils resulted in part from the Sri Lankan government's ethnic cleansing campaigns and from their spectacular headline-grabbing terrorist attacks.

(...) [artículo aquí]

Saturday, 23 May 2009


Somini Sengupta

The New York Times, May 23, 2009

NEW DELHI — In a hall adorned with paintings of battle, an understated economist named Manmohan Singh was sworn in Friday evening as prime minister of India for a second five-year term. His own battle promises to be twofold: how to restore high rates of economic growth at a time of a worldwide downturn and to push for effective government services that reach India’s legions of the poor.

Mr. Singh’s party, the Indian National Congress, scored a surprisingly decisive victory in the election that concluded last week, defying worries of a fractured coalition government and offering hopes for a stable administration at a time when India faces daunting challenges at home and abroad. Congress alone won 206 of 543 seats in Parliament, and, with its coalition partners, stitched together a comfortable majority.

Shashi Tharoor, a former United Nations official and a first-time Congress member of Parliament from southern Kerala State, invoked the party’s symbol — the palm of a hand, held up as if to offer a blessing, or to stop a car in its tracks — to describe the Congress-led government’s delicate challenge.

“It has to avoid being a heavy hand at the macroeconomic level, at slowing down the engine of the economy,” Mr. Tharoor said. “But it has to be a helping hand for the poor, who are a majority. It has to deliver on such basic services as food, health, water, roads.”

(...) [artículo aquí]

Friday, 22 May 2009


Leaders Pressed On Treatment of Tamil Civilians

Emily Wax

The Washington Post, May 22, 2009

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka, May 21 -- Every 15 minutes, Sri Lankan state television halts its normal programming to broadcast patriotic images of women in lush tea fields at sunrise, workers building power lines and troops standing guard, all accompanied by a soaring anthem in which a young beauty calls for the country's president to be crowned king.

On the streets of the capital, billboards proclaim, "King Mahinda Rajapaksa: He saved us," beneath a photograph of the president hugging his brother Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, Sri Lanka's defense minister, and apparently glorying in the military victory that this week ended more than a quarter-century of war with the Tamil Tiger separatists.

"Everyone's heartbeat is just like my song and the billboards," said Saheli Rochana Gamage, 21, whose rendition of the anthem has made her a celebrity in this small Indian Ocean island nation. "He should be our president forever. We are happy with a king who can protect our country. Elections don't matter."

(...) [artículo aquí]

The ratings agency points to early warning signs that indicate asset quality is deteriorating

Daniel Inman

Finance Asia, May 22, 2009

This year, China's banks have opened the floodgates of credit: between January and the end of April, $757 billion worth of new loans were dished out, equivalent to 17% of the GDP in 2008. As such, China's banks are enjoying a rate of growth that their Western peers would kill for. The increase in lending is the government's doing, since it has given banks the task of financing the infrastructure spending that forms a large part of China's stimulus package.

Looking to the medium- to long-term, however, analysts are beginning to air concerns about what effect such a rapid increase in lending could have on the quality of the banks' loan portfolios.

A report released yesterday by Fitch Ratings highlights issues with the banking sector's $4.2 trillion corporate loan portfolio. The worry arises from the fact that China's banks are increasing their corporate exposure at a time when corporate profits are declining.

"Ordinarily, falling corporate earnings are met with tightened lending, but in China precisely the reverse is happening," said the report. This illustrates that "despite years of reform Chinese banks still retain an important policy function in upholding local enterprises".

(...) [artículo aquí]

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Before the end of this year, China will become the world's second-biggest economy, replacing Japan about 10 years ahead of schedule.

Professor Shujie Yao

The Telegraph, May 21, 2009

This should ring alarm bells for traditionalist investors.

Traditional thinking is that China is an emerging market economy – usually a small, high-risk part of investor portfolios; Japan the stable, mature economy worthy of significantly greater exposure.

But this turnaround in the global gross domestic product (GDP) league tables should also, arguably, trigger a turnaround for many investors. First, China. There is no doubt China has been hit by the global recession.

Exports fell for the sixth month in succession in April, the Shanghai Stock Exchange suffered worse drops than most other leading world stock markets in 2008, when it fell by 65pc although it has recovered since, and GDP growth has slowed from double figures in 2007 to a likely 8pc this year.

(…) [artículo aquí]

Tuesday, 19 May 2009


M K Bhadrakumar

Asia Times, May 19, 2009

India's parliamentary election, held over a month across the far-flung country of a billion-plus people, has produced dramatic but sophisticated results.

Belying the widespread estimation of a "hung" parliament and a possibly wobbly coalition government ensuing, the voters - more than 700 million were eligible to cast a ballot - have dealt a thoughtful, mature verdict in favor of continuance and stability, electing the Indian National Congress and its allies to power for another five-year term. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who is set to continue as the head of government, noted, "The people of India have spoken, and spoken with great clarity."

It is a landmark event in many ways. With 206 seats in the new 543-parliament, Congress on its own has crossed the 200-seat mark for the first time since the "coalition era" began in Indian politics some two decades ago. After Jawaharlal Nehru in 1961, Manmohan becomes only the second prime minister in independent India's 62-year history to remain consecutively for a second term as prime minister.

Congress, a largely centrist party, is showing definite signs of regeneration after a steady decline through the past quarter century. That alone holds immense consequences for Indian politics. Equally, the parties of the Right (Bhartiya Janata Party - BJP) and the left (communist parties) have suffered a major setback, squashing their high hopes of running a new coalition government.
(...) [artículo aquí]

Monday, 18 May 2009


Somini Sengupta

The New York Times, May 18, 2009

NEW DELHI — Eleven years ago, when she took over as president of India’s oldest political party, Sonia Gandhi was seen as India’s most improbable politician: a foreigner with a shaky command of Hindi, reclusive to the point of seeming aloof, a wife who had fought to keep her husband from joining politics and who lost him to an assassination.

Today, Mrs. Gandhi, 62, is credited with having scored a stunning political coup. Her Indian National Congress party made its best performance in 25 years in the parliamentary elections completed last week, picking up 205 of 543 seats on its own, and with its coalition partners coming only 12 seats shy of an outright majority. All it needs to do now to form a government is stitch up alliances with a handful of independents and small parties.

No longer would it be beholden to the many small party bosses that it needed during the first five-year term a Congress-led coalition was in office. Most important, for the sake of foreign and economic policy, it would no longer have to rely on India’s Communist parties to stay in power, as it had for most of that time.

(...) [artículo aquí]

Thursday, 14 May 2009


Nouriel Roubini

The New York Times, May 14, 2009

THE 19th century was dominated by the British Empire, the 20th century by the United States. We may now be entering the Asian century, dominated by a rising China and its currency. While the dollar’s status as the major reserve currency will not vanish overnight, we can no longer take it for granted. Sooner than we think, the dollar may be challenged by other currencies, most likely the Chinese renminbi. This would have serious costs for America, as our ability to finance our budget and trade deficits cheaply would disappear.

Traditionally, empires that hold the global reserve currency are also net foreign creditors and net lenders. The British Empire declined — and the pound lost its status as the main global reserve currency — when Britain became a net debtor and a net borrower in World War II. Today, the United States is in a similar position. It is running huge budget and trade deficits, and is relying on the kindness of restless foreign creditors who are starting to feel uneasy about accumulating even more dollar assets. The resulting downfall of the dollar may be only a matter of time.

But what could replace it? The British pound, the Japanese yen and the Swiss franc remain minor reserve currencies, as those countries are not major powers. Gold is still a barbaric relic whose value rises only when inflation is high. The euro is hobbled by concerns about the long-term viability of the European Monetary Union. That leaves the renminbi.

(...) [artículo aquí]

Wednesday, 13 May 2009


Brian M Downing

Asia Times, May 13, 2009

The United States is entering a new phase in the war in Afghanistan. This approach to fighting the Taliban is based on counter-insurgency thinking: building indigenous police and military forces, providing services to villagers, and winning support from fence-sitters and insurgent sympathizers. It is hoped that in this way, years of neglect can be made up for.

Prior to the Vietnam War, counter-insurgency thinking became a new and even adventurous way of defeating wars of national liberation. After the war it was seen as the path not taken that accounted for the United States defeat there, but the Pentagon avoided making it part of its doctrine.

Since the remarkable turn of events in Iraq, where a counter-insurgency program is said to have won over many Sunni fighters, the doctrine has recovered some of its talismanic qualities in the public and has become a new creed in parts of the US military. Although new thinking is needed in Afghanistan, counter-insurgency will face organizational problems there.

(...) [artículo aquí]

Tuesday, 12 May 2009


Daniel A. Bell

The New York Times, May 12, 2009

BEIJING — Twenty years ago, the biggest pro-democracy movement in China’s history was crushed in Tiananmen Square, and high-level political activism outside the confines of the Communist Party has been effectively shut down since then.

But it doesn’t follow that we should be pessimistic about China’s political evolution. Packaging the debate in terms of “democracy” versus “authoritarianism” may crowd out other possibilities that appeal to Chinese political reformers.

I recently attended a conference near Qufu, the birthplace of Confucius, hosted by local officials who spoke with pride about their efforts to revive Confucianism under the banner of “Chinese culture.”

It’s easy to forget that the 74-million-strong Chinese Communist Party is a large and diverse organization. Elderly cadres, still influenced by Maoist antipathy to tradition, often condemn any efforts to promote ideologies outside of a rigid Marxist framework. But the younger cadres in their 40s and 50s tend to support such efforts, and time is on their side. Part of the political debate is the effort to revive Confucianism.

(...) [artículo aquí]


Tina Wang

Forbes, May 12, 1009

China's exports plunge continues to be worse than expected, impeding recovery for the first major economy to emerge from the global slump. Marking the sixth straight month of declines, April exports tumbled 22.6% from a year earlier, compared with the market consensus forecast of 18.0% and March's 17.1% drop.

China is still banking on a recovery in Western demand next year, as domestic consumption cannot rise fast enough to make up for the exports shortfall. Though the worst of the exports slowdown appears to be past, China risks a "double-dip" in GDP growth next year if that Western rebound doesn't materialize, some economists say. Some of April's steep exports drop could be attributed to lingering effects of the Chinese New Year though, Goldman Sachs noted.

Meanwhile, fixed asset investment grew by 33.9% in April from a year earlier, compared with 30.3% in March. Infrastructure spending on the back of Beijing's stimulus package and record bank lending has been a key reason analysts now expect China to hit its official 8% growth target. But beyond railway expansion and housing construction, policy-driven investment could be propping up manufacturing and industrial capacity that the market doesn't want. The spring China Import and Export Fair, which ended last week, saw orders fall 17% from the fall fair, according to J.P. Morgan.

(...) [artículo aquí]

Monday, 11 May 2009


Selig S. Harrison

The Washington Post, May 11, 2009

To American eyes the struggle raging in Pakistan with the Taliban is about religious fanaticism. But in Pakistan it is about an explosive fusion of Islamist zeal and simmering ethnic tensions that have been exacerbated by U.S. pressures for military action against the Taliban and its al-Qaeda allies. Understanding the ethnic dimension of the conflict is the key to a successful strategy for separating the Taliban from al-Qaeda and stabilizing multiethnic Pakistan politically.

The Pakistani army is composed mostly of Punjabis. The Taliban is entirely Pashtun. For centuries, Pashtuns living in the mountainous borderlands of Pakistan and Afghanistan have fought to keep out invading Punjabi plainsmen. So sending Punjabi soldiers into Pashtun territory to fight jihadists pushes the country ever closer to an ethnically defined civil war, strengthening Pashtun sentiment for an independent "Pashtunistan" that would embrace 41 million people in big chunks of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

This is one of the main reasons the army initially favored a peace deal with a Taliban offshoot in the Swat Valley and has resisted U.S. pressure to go all out against jihadist advances into neighboring districts. While army leaders fear the long-term dangers of a Taliban link-up with Islamist forces in the heartland of Pakistan, they are more worried about what they see as the looming danger of Pashtun separatism.

(...) [artículo aquí]


Jyoti Malhotra

Far Eastern Economic Review, May 11, 2009

NEW DEHLI — A priest in a Shiva temple deep inside the Gir Forest in Gujarat made the news recently when he became the only man in India to vote in a polling station set up solely for him. The quirky and the sublime are all part of the great Indian election road show, now wilting in the face of incredible temperatures soaring across the Hindi heartland.

As many as 714 million men and women will end up voting when the five-phase election ends on May 13, but one thing is already clear in this massive exercise: The first, that despite the globalizing power of the fitful economic reforms that have been underway for the better part of 17 years (they began when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was finance minister in 1992), India largely remains inward looking. If the rest of the world is obsessed with the economic downturn, India is still largely consumed with stories as they unfold within.

All this while events evolve dramatically in India’s own neighborhood. In Pakistan the government has ceded political space to the Taliban, in Sri Lanka the pro-Sinhala government of Mahinda Rajapaksa refuses to allow humanitarian aid for Tamil noncombatants claiming it comes in the way of its war on the Tamil Tigers, in Nepal tensions between the new democrats and self-styled Maoists over the sacking of the army chief have reached a fever-pitch, and in Bangladesh the newly installed government of Sheikh Hasina has been gravely challenged by a barely suppressed mutiny within its paramilitary forces.

(...) [artículo aquí]

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Are fighters religious zealots, thugs or revolutionaries? The perceptions of the public, leaders and U.S. are at odds, but the overriding sentiment in Pakistan is that 'America created this problem.'

Mark Magnier

Los Angeles Times, May 10, 2009

Reporting from Islamabad, Pakistan — Islamic militants who burn schools and threaten women in the name of religious purity. A righteous force battling corrupt and venal officials. Or gun-waving gangsters who conceal their crimes under a banner of spiritual renewal.

Weeks of turmoil have made it appear as though a unified Taliban is on the march out of the wild northwest, staking out strategic ground for an assault on Pakistan's heartland.

But who exactly the Taliban is may rest in the eye of the beholder.

Many Pakistanis don't see the Taliban as much of a threat and are not eager for a confrontation. On the other hand, oversimplification may lead policymakers toward a one-size-fits-all solution that is ineffective -- or even counterproductive.

On Saturday, army helicopters and jets hit militant positions as a curfew kept more civilians from fleeing the violence-hit area. The military said up to 55 militants were killed and four soldiers were wounded, figures that could not be independently verified. Militants also reportedly fired rockets at an army base in Mingora, the biggest town in the Swat Valley.

After a half-hearted military operation in Swat in late 2007 and early 2008, the government tried to reach an accommodation, allowing the militants to impose Islamic law in the region. Only when the Taliban continued advancing toward the capital did the army act.

Among the most confusing elements of the conflict is whom, exactly, the army is fighting.

(…) [artículo aquí]

Saturday, 9 May 2009


Dan Bilefsky

The New York Times, May 9, 2009

PRAGUE — The European Union signed an energy agreement on Friday aimed at speeding up the construction of a long-delayed pipeline that would bring gas from the Caspian Sea to Europe and help offset the bloc’s dependence on Russian energy.

The agreement, signed by the leaders of Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkey and Egypt at a summit meeting in Prague, centers on the 2,000-mile Nabucco pipeline, which would bring Central Asian gas to Europe without passing through Russian territory. The European Union hopes the pipeline will start pumping gas to Europe by 2014. The pressing need to find an alternative to Russian supply was underlined in January when a pricing dispute between Russia and Ukraine resulted in a shortage of gas supplies in several European countries.

Turkey, whose cooperation is essential for the pipeline, has haggled for months over transit rules. It indicated on Friday that it was prepared to sign a transit deal by June. But Turkey’s president, Abdullah Gul, also made it clear that his acquiescence would depend on some progress in Turkey’s talks on membership in the European Union, which have stalled in recent months.

(...) [artículo aquí]

Friday, 8 May 2009


Omar Waraich

Time, May 8, 2009

Although President Barack Obama on Wednesday pledged unwavering backing for Pakistan's government in its battle with extremists, his Administration has recognized the potentially crippling political weakness of President Asif Ali Zardari. That's why Washington has been quietly urging the leader of the opposition, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, to join his arch-rival Zardari in a unity government to lead the fight against Islamist militancy. The shift is hardly surprising given Zardari's perilously low approval ratings and Sharif's reemergence as Pakistan's most popular politician — but it caps a remarkable comeback for a man left for dead politically when he was ousted from power in General Pervez Musharraf's 1999 coup.

The coup forced the twice former Prime Minister into exile in London, as his party's parliamentary representation plummeted from a two-thirds majority to a mere 16 seats. Even when the U.S. brokered a deal with Musharraf to allow the return of Benazir Bhutto and her husband, Zardari, Sharif was left to stew in exile, mistrusted by Washington as too close to the Islamists. Eventually, he returned without a deal, his party finishing second to Zardari's in the election that ousted Musharraf — although the unity government they formed soon broke up in a fierce power struggle. But as Zardari's political fortunes have plummeted amid Pakistan's roiling security and economic crises, Sharif has emerged as an improbable savior. In the days before Zardari's Washington visit, Pakistan's media was filled with reports about U.S. efforts to persuade him and Nawaz Sharif to form a united front against the Taliban.

With Pakistan now facing multiple crises, "the perception is that Mr Zardari on his own cannot carry the country," says Najam Sethi, editor of the Daily Times newspaper. Analysts believe the military will only launch a concerted offensive to roll back recent Taliban gains if such a campaign has broad-based public support. That fact, together with the challenge of cooling ethnic tensions in Karachi, addressing the separatist challenge in the impoverished province of Baluchistan, and rescuing the basket-case economy whose decline fuels social tension, make a strong case for a unity government. Sharif's popularity could potentially generate support for a campaign against militancy, and he has lately spoken out strongly against the Taliban's advances. What's more, both leaders share a desire for peace with India, against which the bulk of Pakistan's military is focused.

(...) [artículo aquí]

Thursday, 7 May 2009


Zorawar Daulet Singh

Asia Times, May 7, 2009

NEW DELHI - The agreement by the finance ministers of China, Japan, South Korea and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN+3) last week to create a US$120 billion regional reserve pool "to address short-term liquidity difficulties in the region and to supplement the existing international financial arrangements" must surely be another milestone in East Asian geoeconomics.

This, however, is not an unsurprising development but part of a trend to integration that has characterized the political economy of the region. India remains disconnected from this geoeconomic space. For too long, the country's look-East policy has been based on rhetorical aspirations rather than on immersing India into the commercial networks that have entwined the nations of East Asia.

The popular images that animate any discussion on East Asia, such as those concerning the North Korean nuclear question, the naval dimension and sea-lane security, and disputes in the South China Sea, tend to emphasize the latent, potential and ongoing conflicts in the region while crowding out any meaningful conversation on the question of economic interdependence. This is partly a result in India of a security bias within the security establishment whereby it tends to project India's perspectives on China onto other actors in the region. For the major part, however, this is because India's own economic linkages with the East are relatively perfunctory.

It is worth highlighting the underlying dynamic that enables interdependence to operate. While some analysts have opined that the economic impulse in the region has a life of its own, and security considerations have been subordinated by geoeconomics, such a perspective does not address the reality that East Asian actors have made a conscious political choice to stimulate commerce.

(...) [artículo aquí]

Wednesday, 6 May 2009


Megha Bahree

Forbes, May 6, 2009

As the world's largest democracy goes to the polls, there are a bunch of impressive data that can be thrown around: 714 million registered voters, 828,804 polling stations, 1.36 million electronic voting machines, 6.1 million police and civil personnel on the job and candidates from a stunning 1,055 political parties.

In the midst of all that, the world is waiting for the outcome to see how India's foreign policy could change under a new administration. This is especially true for India's neighbors, China and Pakistan.

While every pundit agrees India will emerge with another coalition government, it's nearly impossible to say which party will hold sway. The voting process is staggered across a month and vote counting begins on May 16.

The two main national parties -- the Indian National Congress that leads the incumbent coalition known as the United Progressive Alliance -- and the Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party that led the previous coalition known as the National Democratic Alliance -- are feeling the heat from a new alliance of the Left wing and regional parties. Labeled as the Third Front, this could be headed by a Dalit leader, Mayawati, with the help of the left-wing parties.

(...) [artículo aquí]

Tuesday, 5 May 2009


Leo Lewis

The Times, May 5, 2009

Industry across Asia may be at risk from a sudden revival in Chinese manufacturing as the workshop of the world is lifted out of a nine-month slump with the help of a $600 billion (£400 billion) monetary and fiscal government stimulus.

Traders in Shanghai and Hong Kong have taken yesterday's manufacturing data as a clear sign of recovery for the world's third-biggest economy. New jobs have been created, output has returned to positive territory and factories across a broad range of sectors received new orders in April. This is in sharp contrast to the scene late last year, when tens of thousands of factories closed and 20 million migrant workers were laid off.

The revival in manufacturing was signalled by a striking bounce in the Asia-based brokerage CLSA's Purchasing Managers' Index for April — a closely watched monthly report viewed by many investors as a more reliable snapshot of the industrial status quo in China than the official figures produced by Beijing.

The survey of industry executives showed the index pushing narrowly back above the critical level of 50 for the first time since July last year. A number below that level — such as the dismal March figure of 44.8 — implies contraction in manufacturing; anything above it signals expansion. The recovery of the PMI to a level of 50.1 can be attributed to the country's vast stimulus package. according to CLSA's analsyis. Backed by record bank lending, the Government implemented measures designed to prevent the Chinese economy from tumbling too far below the politically sensitive GDP growth rate of 8 per cent.

“China's Government has been extremely successful in stimulating investment and, combined with a sharp improvement in export orders, this has pushed the PMI back into positive territory in April,” the report said, adding that the Government's spending should keep the PMI above 50 in coming months.

(…) [artículo aquí]

Monday, 4 May 2009

La violencia sectaria contra las minorías religiosas se recrudece ante la pasividad oficial - Los radicales imponen su ideología en las escuelas coránicas

Ángeles Espinosa

El País, 4 de mayo de 2009

Los problemas para ejercer la libertad religiosa han convertido a Pakistán en un "país de especial preocupación" para Estados Unidos. Así lo recoge el último informe de la Comisión sobre Libertad Religiosa Internacional, una agencia financiada por el Gobierno norteamericano para vigilar la libertad de conciencia, pensamiento y religión. Aunque el Departamento de Estado todavía no ha hecho suya esa recomendación, el texto hecho público el pasado viernes constata el aumento del peso y el alcance de los grupos extremistas religiosos en lo que va de año.

La citada comisión expresa su preocupación porque el Gobierno de Islamabad no actúa con la suficiente contundencia para frenar la violencia sectaria contra las minorías religiosas. Pakistán se suma así a un club en el que también están Irán, Irak, China, Corea del Norte, Arabia Saudí, Sudán o Vietnam, entre otros. Lo que es más grave, su informe recoge testimonios de observadores paquistaníes y extranjeros que vinculan a los servicios secretos tanto con los talibanes como con otros grupos violentos, tal que Lashkar-e-Tayba.

El texto denuncia que la ideología sectaria de que hacen gala esas organizaciones sigue enseñándose en muchas escuelas coránicas del país. Aunque, a mediados de 2005, las autoridades procedieron a registrar esas madrazas, apenas han tomado medidas para controlar sus currículos o sus fuentes de financiación.

Al final, esas enseñanzas son el fermento que está detrás de la mayoría de los incidentes violentos que sufren las minorías. Tanto chiíes (que suponen cerca de un 20% de la población), como cristianos, hindúes y ahmadis (que juntos apenas suman un 5%) siguen siendo objeto de amenazas y ataques por parte de fanáticos suníes que no aceptan credos distintos al suyo.

(...) [artículo aquí]