Posts tagged ‘Pakistan’

Indo-Pak Peace Talks Resume

By , 11 February, 2011, No Comment

Big news out of the Subcontinent this week: India and Pakistan are resuming peace talks after almost two years’ stalemate. The talks, which Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao is calling the ‘comprehensive dialogue,’ will cover political, economic and security issues and will be structured not only around meetings between the two countries’ heads of state and foreign ministries, but also the ministries overseeing commerce, culture and natural resources. This structure will prevent, significantly, progress on any one area from being held hostage by stagnation on another.

Will these talks bear fruit? I’m skeptical, though not for the usual reasons. Read why here.

Ben Ali’s Rhetorical Alchemy, or How the West Was Duped

By , 15 January, 2011, No Comment

An opinionated post today at Foreign Exchange on the coup in Tunisia:

Like many journalists reporting on Tunisia this weekend, I’ve been dismayed by the response coming from France. To recap, the French government backed and defended Ben Ali’s regime throughout its tenure, including in the final weeks when his forces were clashing with protesters in the streets, and when other countries–notably the U.S.–were cutting their ties. Now the dam has burst, their statement to the press translates roughly to, ‘We’ll wait and see.’ Charmant.

So I am dismayed, yes, but not entirely surprised. It is not the first time that a major Western democracy has backed a dictator in the Muslim world and found their support meaningless in the face of popular revolt: the U.S. experience with the Shah in Iran and Musharraf in Pakistan are two important precedents.

In this case, as in those, two explanations are emerging for this behavior.

Don’t you desperately want to know what they are? Find out here.

Turmoil in Pakistan: Personal and Political

By , 4 January, 2011, No Comment

Tragic news out of Islamabad this morning–the assassination of Salman Taseer, a liberal giant and provincial bigwig in Punjab. I’ve got a post up at Foreign Exchange on Taseer, what prompted the attack and what it means for the already testy political situation in the country:

Taseer was a staunch progressive, an outspoken defender of the rights of women and minorities, and a telco tycoon who launched an English-language newspaper, and a TV station, to promote his liberal, secular politics. As such, he was a divisive figure: reviled on the right for his ideas, admired (but cautiously) on the left given his melding of money and political power.

According to the Ministry of the Interior, the killer told police after his arrest that he was seeking retribution for Taseer’s criticisms of the country’s blasphemy laws, which are illiberal enough as written, but are often abused to settle differences over property or other personal disputes…

Importantly, Taseer was a member of the Pakistan People’s Party, currently at the head of a government with dwindling political authority. While the PPP’s liberal members are no friends of the blasphemy laws, the tenuous nature of the party’s hold on power at the federal level has precluded picking the fight with the religious right that repealing the blasphemy laws would entail…

It is possible that the assassination changes things…

For the full picture, go here.

Disappearances in Pakistan

By , 30 December, 2010, 1 Comment

I’m vague and inconclusive over at Foreign Exchange again today, this time in response to an NYT story about disappearances in Pakistan.

I must admit the Times story doesn’t sit easily with my reporting in Pakistan…The Times makes two common foreign policy reporting mistakes–trying to fold an old local dispute largely ignored by the international community into a more recent narrative in which the West has a stake; and glossing over the conflicting interests of diverse factions within Pakistan (the courts, the President, the army). That’s a shame because ultimately, the competing centers of power in Pakistan are a much larger problem for its NATO allies than are these human rights violations, and in desperate need of elucidation.

Read it here.

China’s New Pakistan Strategy

By , 21 December, 2010, No Comment

Post at Foreign Exchange today looks at the geostrategic significance of some new investment MOUs between China and Pakistan. The post is a follow-up to a story I wrote for Forbes in the spring about Chinese investment in Balochistan, where I highlighted a mining contract gone sour under Chinese pressure. That contract finally fell apart last week, and the lessons I learned reporting on it hang heavily over my analysis of the new deals:

Throughout my travels in South Asia, I’ve heard stories about what it means to do business with China. The running refrain has always been that Chinese investors are politically neutral, that they protect their own material interests while doing their best to appease local leaders with a cut of any deal, but with very little concern for the day-to-day running of local life. This is always subtly (or not so subtly) contrasted to an American approach of promoting foreign investment as a mechanism of societal makeover. In much of South Asia, Chinese investment has proven appealing to those who would rather not be re-made. That was very much the theme of my time in Balochistan. This weekend’s deals do not fit that mold…

Want to know why? Read it here.

Thinking About Food

By , 17 November, 2010, No Comment

Latest at Foreign Exchange:

Lately, I’ve been perusing some new research into the global food crisis: the dramatic spike in prices in 2007 and 2008 and the price volatility, inflation, and hunger that has followed it in search of some cases to probe in longer-form.

It’s an issue whose significance did not come home to me until I was reporting on sugar shortages in Pakistan. It was clear that the shortages were a political risk for the government, and that they were indicative of a much wider spectrum of economic mismanagement. But at a more basic level, I got the sense that hunger, even more than poverty, was the index against which people measured their suffering. That’s when I started reading up food and water in earnest.

Here’s the thing: we in the business press have a tendency to cover commodities like these in two ways, first as fodder for this-or-that futures market, and secondly, as raw materials for biofuels. We don’t spend nearly enough time on food and water as the nuts and bolts of subsistence. And yet, to me, the most exciting thing about following wheat prices or sugar prices or water management is that these are data points that cut vertically and geographically across the global economy. It is one of the few things I’ve covered that feels like I’m scratching at the edge of something universal. I’m still looking for the story that will let me communicate that. But in the meantime, here’s the picture of the crisis I have so far:

For the details, read the whole thing.

India and Its Neighbors

By , 9 November, 2010, 35 Comments

I’ve got a piece in today’s Christian Science Monitor on India, China and the battle for South Asia.

China is certainly flexing its muscle. Last month, it sought to restrict exports of rare earth minerals to Japan, made overtures to a secession movement in southern Sudan, and wrestled with the G20 over its currency and trade imbalance.

Nowhere has China been more assertive than in South Asia. In a strategy it calls the “string of pearls,” China is building ports and infrastructure in Bangladesh and Pakistan; digging up minerals in Pakistan and Afghanistan; and refining hydropower in Nepal and Afghanistan.

According to the International Monetary Fund, China’s trade with India’s neighbors totaled $16 billion in 2008, growing at 14 percent annually. India’s regional trade was barely holding steady at $11 billion.

Yet China’s success in the Subcontinent reflects India’s own foreign policy blunders.

The takeaway: if India doesn’t improve its own regional relationships, it will not only lose South Asia to China, but it will be prevented from exercising power elsewhere. Don’t believe me? Read the whole piece.

Some Thoughts on the Wikileaks

By , 18 August, 2010, 5 Comments

When the massive data dump that was the Wikileaks Afghan War Logs showed up on my screen three weeks ago, I did what–apparently–no one else had yet done: read the whole thing. At the time, this seemed like Journalism 101. But by the time I finished [at the end of the week], I was more bored and overwhelmed than stimulated or enlightened. Because, as others had concluded by then, there really isn’t that much that’s earth-shattering in the logs. And I’ve been pondering what to say ever since .

Read More →

ICapp Exclusive: Sherry Rehman Slams Punjab’s “Total Insanity”

By , 19 June, 2010, 4 Comments

In the wee hours of the morning, I got word that Pakistani politician Sherry Rehman was circulating an op-ed statement against the Government of Punjab, Pakistan’s largest and wealthiest province. Think of it as the Midwest (farms, mills, and traditional values) meets New England (history and culture and more tradition). It’s where the army recruits from, where the most federal funds go, and where the tourists want to visit. In other words, it’s the establishment.

Rehman was outraged because Punjab has just decided to give some of those federal budgetary funds to Jamaat-ud-Dawa, an Islamic charity considered to be the political arm of Lashkar-e-Taiba, a militant organization focused primarily on the ‘liberation’ of Kashmir and its establishment as an Islamic state. Unlike the militant groups in the Western part of Pakistan (who focus on destabilizing Pakistan itself) or those militants exiled in Pakistan due to the US/NATO operations in Afghanistan (who focus on fighting Western forces), L-e-T targets Pakistan’s major rival, and as such, has historically received support from Pakistan’s military elite, and a blind eye from its government.But, says Rehman, direct financial support from civilian leaders is a new step, and a bridge too far. “It’s total insanity,” she shouts, when she speaks to me from her home in Karachi.

Read More →

China’s Pearl

By , 29 April, 2010, No Comment

My latest story is up, on Chinese investment in Balochistan, a Pakistani province that borders Afghanistan, Iran and the Persian Gulf. As others have reported, China is building up investments in Central and South Asia in a strategy it calls the “string of pearls,” in a way that contains/constrains India. My piece looks at how China goes about staking its claim and what the strategy, as applied in Pakistan, means for the United States.

“Beijing is willing to play hardball to protect its position in Balochistan. That’s a lesson learned the hard way for Tethyan Copper, a joint venture between Canada’s Barrick Gold ( ABXnews people ) and Chile’s Antofagasta. In 2006 Tethyan signed a deal to survey, and then develop, the Reko Diq reserve in Balochistan, estimated to hold $70 billion in copper and gold…

In January the Baloch government, struggling politically and looking to appease separatist hardliners, announced it would cancel Tethyan’s license and force investors to absorb a $3 billion loss. Almost immediately the U.S. intervened, putting pressure on the Pakistani central government to dissuade Quetta from doing this. U.S. diplomats believe the sanctity of the Tethyan deal is essential to its efforts to encourage Western investment in Pakistan as a counterterror tool.

For China, however, American intervention was an alarm bell…”

To find out what happened next, read the rest (and comment!) here.