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Book review: Thieves of State – Why Corruption Threatens Global Security March 27, 2015

Posted by nishankmotwani in : Afghanistan, Guest authors , comments closed

Mark Beeson

Once in a while, a book comes along that forces you to rethink some basic assumptions. I had come to believe that corruption didn’t really matter that much because economic growth seemed to happen anyway.

In some circumstances, it seemed corruption might even have a functional purpose. China was the quintessential exemplar of this possibility. Having read Thieves of State – Why Corruption Threatens Global Security by Sarah Chayes, I can now see how complacent and ill-informed some of those assumptions actually were.

Under former president Hamid Karzai, Afghanistan was little more than a ‘vertically integrated criminal organisation’, according to a new book. EPA/Parwiz Sabawoon

Under former president Hamid Karzai, Afghanistan was little more than a ‘vertically integrated criminal organisation’, according to a new book. EPA/Parwiz Sabawoon

Thieves of State has two great merits over and above its important central thesis about why corruption threatens global security. First, much of the analysis is based on first-hand observations of the pernicious impact of corruption in pivotally important states such as Afghanistan.

Second, Chayes writes with a journalistic eye for detail that enlivens what might otherwise be a worthy but unread scholarly treatise. The book ought to be read and Chayes’ accessible prose ensures it will be.

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US-Pakistan relations deteriorate as Washington looks to India for new regional support June 21, 2012

Posted by nishankmotwani in : Future Directions International, India, Pakistan , comments closed

Andrew Manners

Background

US-Pakistan relations are currently ‘the worst they’ve ever been’, according to a senior US official.  The tumultuous relationship continues to be hampered by an impasse over NATO supply routes to Afghanistan and the perceived reluctance of Pakistan to crack down on militants in its northern tribal areas. As US military aid to Pakistan remains suspended, there are now signs that the US is looking toward New Delhi, rather than Islamabad, as its key regional ally.

Comment

While the US has traditionally viewed Pakistan as its key regional ally in the War on Terror, recent events have seen the relationship hit a new low. In particular, the two remain at loggerheads over Pakistan’s six-month blockade of NATO troop supplies meant for Afghanistan and its supposed harbouring of militants in the northern tribal areas.

U.S. Secretary of Defence, Leon E. Panetta inspecting the Guard of Honour in New Delhi

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Pakistan: Gilani ‘cops it sweet’ – for now June 20, 2012

Posted by sandygordon in : Afghanistan, Gordon, Sandy, Pakistan , comments closed

Sandy Gordon

The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) has apparently decided to accept the Supreme Court’s decision to dismiss Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani and to try to avoid calling new elections. The job now is to choose a new Prime Minister and keep the minor coalition partners on side. As it is, elections are not scheduled till early next year. The Electoral Commission (EC), which has 90 days to make its own ruling under the Constitution, has come in early and endorsed the dismissal, which is backdated from the time of Mr Gilani’s conviction (26 April). Rule of law apparently pertains, at least for now.

It seems the PPP had little option but to comply once the EC came out in support of the Court. Unless backed by the powerful military (which it is not), the PPP would have had a difficult time in defying the Court. To take to the streets would have, effectively, meant taking to the streets against itself. (It could not have done so against the military, which is not nominally in control; nor against the Court, which would have meant defying the Constitution, further weakening the slender hold of civilian government). If it had called a fresh election it may well have lost, given Pakistan’s chronic power shortage, which is occurring during a time of recession and summer heat. So it will appoint a new Prime Minister and try to hang on till next year’s general elections. (more…)

India: which way will the ‘swing state’ swing? June 8, 2012

Posted by sandygordon in : Afghanistan, Gordon, Sandy, India, Pakistan, Uncategorized , comments closed

Sandy Gordon

According to a leading article in The Times of India, India now finds itself in the enviable position of being courted by both the US and China, thus confirming its status as a ‘swing state’ of Asia.

Two recent meetings highlight India’s emerging role in Asian security.  On 6 June, American Secretary for Defense, Leon Panetta, told a think tank in New Delhi that India is a “linchpin” in America’s re-engagement with Asia.  He also promised India access to significant military technologies.

Following that meeting, Mr Panetta bypassed Islamabad and warned from Kabul that the US is “losing patience” with Pakistan.

Meanwhile, in the wings of the meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in Beijing, Chinese vice premier Li Keqiang – widely expected to be China’s next premier – told Indian foreign minister S.M. Krishna that Sino-Indian ties would be the most important bilateral relationship in the twenty-first century. According to The Wall Street Journal, in return Mr Krishna made a strong pitch for full membership of the resource-rich SCO.

US Defense Secretary Panetta and Indian Defence Minister Anthony from 'The Hindu'

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Indian Ocean ‘strategy’: don’t make China nervous March 30, 2012

Posted by southasiamasala in : Weigold, Auriol , comments closed

Auriol Weigold

To borrow from an earlier piece published here at the start of this year (8 Jan 2012), I cited President Obama’s Defence Strategy Review, (5 Jan 2012) in which it was stated that “we will of necessity rebalance towards the Asia-Pacific Region …”, and I take this as an element in raising Chinese concerns.

In his excellent piece  “Indian Ocean: don’t militarise the ‘great connector’”, (29 Mar 2012) Sandy Gordon set out the security dilemma in the Indian Ocean region, and argued against any proposals, whether Indian ‘commonalities’ with the US in terms of strategic outlook, or borne of the US-Australian alliance, that make China nervous.

India, he has argued, is in a strategic ‘box seat’ in the Indian Ocean. Another view is that Australia is also in a box seat in the Indo-Pacific region. As a middle power able, if it chooses to do so, to take an independent stance in its own national interest – including its long-term engagement with China that is much broader than trade – and on its relations in the Indian Ocean region, notably with India and the US. (more…)

Pakistan and Russia seek enhanced cooperation March 24, 2012

Posted by southasiamasala in : Afghanistan, DeSilva-Ranasinghe, Serge, Future Directions International, India, Pakistan , comments closed

Serge Desilva Ranasinghe

This post first appeared on Future Directions International on 21 March 2012.

Background

As part of its changing foreign policy focus, Pakistan’s rapprochement with Russia is one of its most significant attempts to shape the post-2014 geo-political order in Afghanistan. Islamabad is looking to alternative strategic partners to counterbalance India’s rising influence in Afghanistan, Central Asia and the Middle East and its own strained ties with the US. In this context, the recent visit to Moscow of Pakistani Foreign Minister Ms Hina Rabbani Khar on 7-9 February is symbolic of the rapidly transforming relationship between Islamabad and Moscow.

Comment

Such bilateral interaction is a significant departure from the acrimonious 1980s and 1990s, when Pakistan heavily supported the Afghan Mujahadeen against invading Russian forces in Afghanistan and accused Russia of covertly supporting Baluchi separatists. Similarly, Russia had also accused Pakistan of providing support to Islamist insurgents active in Chechnya and Tajikistan.

In Moscow, the Pakistani Foreign Minister relayed her country’s growing interest in developing stronger ties with Russia through trade and investment, especially in the areas of joint co-operation in Pakistan’s energy sector. The visit is indicative of the vastly improved bilateral relations between the two countries over the last decade. For example, according to the website of the Consulate-General of Russia in Karachi, two-way trade between Russia and Pakistan increased from a minute US$92 million in 2003, to US$441 million in 2006 and US$630 million in 2008.

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NATO attack on Pakistani border post: what it means November 28, 2011

Posted by sandygordon in : Afghanistan, Gordon, Sandy, Pakistan , comments closed

Sandy Gordon

The raw facts are known. A long-standing Pakistani military base just within  the northern border of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) was attacked by helicopters and possibly fixed-wing NATO aircraft on 26 November and at least 25 Pakistani officers and men killed. Since then, Pakistan has reacted by “indefinitely” closing border traffic for NATO goods from Pakistan into Afghanistan and giving the US 15 days to vacate its UAV base at Shamsi.

What is less well known is what prompted the NATO night attack. NATO is investigating. But it is possible that firing came from the base in support of a Taliban training facility, which was being concurrently attacked by US special forces. Or it may simply have been the result of a mix-up – all too easy in night fighting in the complex tribal area.

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India’s reprocessing revisited: the NSG’s new guidelines July 21, 2011

Posted by southasiamasala in : India, Weigold, Auriol , comments closed

Auriol Weigold

The forty-six member Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) agreed on 24 June to strengthen its guidelines on the transfer of enrichment and reprocessing technologies (ENR) that, at first glance, may affect India’s nuclear agreement with the United States.

The NSG aims to prevent nuclear exports for commercial and peaceful purposes being used in nuclear weapon making.  To this end a raft of regulations bar the transfer of enrichment and reprocessing equipment and technology to states that have not signed or do not comply with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), and do not allow the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) full inspection rights and safeguards to be put in place.  India has IAEA approval for its commercial nuclear program, but remains outside the NPT although its nonproliferation record has NSG recognition.

Then US Secretary of State Rice introducing the 123 Agreement

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China refutes Gwadar naval base conjecture June 7, 2011

Posted by southasiamasala in : DeSilva-Ranasinghe, Serge, Future Directions International, India, Pakistan , comments closed

Sergei DeSilva-Ranasinghe

This article first appeared in The Sunday Leader.

The Pakistani Defence Minister Ahmed Mukhtar has affirmed that Pakistan is appreciative of China’s willingness to operate Gwadar port.

It is also keen to see that “a naval base is constructed at the site of Gwadar for Pakistan.” Predictably, the remarks attracted international attention. They reinforced existing views among foreign commentators, who believe that China has intentions to build a series of naval bases in the Indian Ocean, which have been referred to as the “string of pearls.” Nonetheless, it should be equally emphasised that any analysis of Gwadar should be seen as a microcosm of China’s wider relations and interests with Pakistan and the region, which often tend to be understated.

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