CIA Director Leon Panetta is currently engaged in the latest round of talks in Islamabad, arriving the day after the head of the Pakistani Army, General Ashfaq Kayani, attempted to win back some respect from the Pakistani population by urging the US to divert some of its US$3 billion-a-year aid to “help the common man” while also advocating a forceful re-assertion of Pakistan’s sovereignty. These concerns would be heartening if they were not so transparent. Kayani’s concern for the “common man” must have been conspicuously absent when arming his 500,000 man army using American aid dollars.
I was first wowed by Japan’s major highlights, Tokyo and Kyoto, over four years ago. My long-awaited return this time had been planned - with friend and fellow Japanophile in tow - to focus on the more rustic flavours of the country, as far and wide as possible. Then the earthquake struck. Suddenly, our friends and family expressed concern verging on incredulity as our departure neared. I struggled to reconcile my excitement with the vague unease the British media seemed to delight in evoking.
The Iranian President is a rare gift to journalists and analysts of foreign policy. He talks, a lot. Often candidly, in a way that few politicians at his level do; at least in the ultra-polished and spun Western world. In a true to form display of such candour, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad noted in late 2009 that America under President Barack Obama had not changed from the America of George W. Bush in its foreign policy application in the Middle East.
Turkey’s rapid recent progress appears to refute the notion that political change, hampered by immovable bureaucracy, tends to take a long time. Ankara was perceived to be a basket case but a decade ago, suffering from severe structural weaknesses. It was constantly on the brink of economic collapse and the unyielding bras de fer between Kemalist and Islamist political parties led to political instability and social unrest. Yet modern-day Turkey has managed to overcome these adversities and is turning towards a promising, dynamic future.
Democracy is tough to achieve. These words remind us of the people currently risking their lives for a chance of democracy in Yemen, Libya and Syria. In comparison, there is a small nation on the other side of the world which seldom appears in western media: Bhutan. This country holds an extraordinary and quite unique story that deserves our attention. It represents a remarkable and peaceful attempt of transitioning into democracy wherein the democratic challenges facing this nation have been quite the opposite of what we are currently witnessing in North Africa and the Middle East.
The Third Annual US-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED), a round of bilateral talks that are meant to improve relations and cooperation between the two largest economies in the world, was held on 9-10 May 2011 in Washington, DC. For as much lip service as has been given to China as the nation to restore bipolarity to the world order, it seems more and more that the two countries are far too economically co-dependent to truly be opposite forces outside of their own bilateral relations. What was most interesting about this year’s round of talks was China’s open concern for its significant investment in the US Treasury, and how willing it is now to use its influence.
As a women’s rights activist, I have always felt strongly that sexual assault and rape, referred to collectively as sexual violence, are unforgivably wrong. I have spent the majority of my life in a comfortable cocoon of white, upper-middle class, suburban privilege. It was not until I ventured to Tajikistan for work that I realised sexual violence is beyond unforgivable. Sexual violence is suffocating, it is stunting to the point of personality change, and it is problematic to the core. The idea of sexual violence incites violent rage inside anyone that has not normalised such behaviour, particularly women’s rights activists.