Singapore’s Defense Minister Dr. Ng Eng Hen (right). Photo: U.S. Pacific Fleet/flickr.
In international relations, there exists diplomatic theater and diplomatic facts. A recent example of theater is the agreement between China and the United States to expand their military exchanges and bilateral scientific contacts. The reality, however, is something quite different. The US Department of Defense, for example, continues to comply with the National Defense Authorization Act of 2000, which forbids any contact with People’s Liberation Army (PLA) staff members that might result in the “inappropriate exposure” of key US operational plans, dispositions or activities. China’s astronauts, in turn, remain banned from the International Space Station and, more recently, its scientists were prohibited from attending an academic conference at NASA’s Ames Research Center.
At the heart of these prohibitions is the US Congress. Over the past few years it has thwarted the funding for joint Sino-American projects; it has voiced concerns about the potential theft of US space technology; and it played a key role in terminating an exchange program that helped facilitate Sino-America dialogue on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). Unsurprisingly, leading American scientists are upset about the missed opportunities that these restrictions represent. Yes, they include missed chances for collaborative research, but they also represent a lost opportunity for each country to gain deeper insights into the long-term strategic interests of each other. » More
Photo: US Federal Government/Wikimedia Commons.
TOKYO – When Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Tokyo’s controversial Yasukuni Shrine last month, Chinese leaders predictably condemned his decision to honor those behind “the war of aggression against China.” But Abe was also sending a message to Japan’s main ally and defender, the United States. Faced with US President Barack Obama’s reluctance to challenge China’s muscle-flexing and territorial ambitions in Asia – reflected in Japan’s recent split with the US over China’s new Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) – an increasingly desperate Abe was compelled to let both countries know that restraint cannot be one-sided.
For China and South Korea, the Yasukuni Shrine’s inclusion of 14 Class A war criminals who were executed after World War II has made it a potent symbol of Japan’s prewar militarism, and Abe had long refrained from visiting it – including during his previous stint as prime minister. He may well have maintained that stance had China not established the ADIZ, which set an ominous new precedent by usurping international airspace over the East China Sea, including areas that China does not control. (Abe does not appear to have considered the possibility that his pilgrimage to Yasukuni might end up helping China by deepening South Korea’s antagonism toward Japan.)
Flags flying in Pakistan on the occasion of Independence Day. Flickr photo by Ejaz Asi, CC BY-NC 2.0
As Pakistan enters its 66th year of independence, -it is a good time to take stock of the country’s internal security dynamics in order to understand how these impact upon the overall security and stability of South Asia.
According to the Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies’ (PIPS) Pakistan Security Report, 2011 [pdf], while the country continues to rank “among the most volatile regions in the world”, there has been some improvement in its overall security situation, especially since the later part of 2011. The report states:
“The last half of the year 2011 was a period of comparative peace in Pakistan in terms of internal armed conflict, acts of terrorism and the consequent casualties. A decrease in the number of suicide attacks and drone strikes were the major contributing factors… the security situation is slowly improving as violence has decreased 24 percent in the last two years.” » More
Pakistan Army rescue operation at the world’s highest border in Siachen. Photo by Mohsin Hassan © Copyright Demotix (April 8, 2012)
On April 7, 2012, a deadly avalanche hit a Pakistani military camp in the Gayatri Sector, 30km west of the Siachen glacier, killing over 130 people, most of them military personnel. The scale of the tragedy once again brought into focus a long-standing conflict between India and Pakistan over Siachen, often referred to as “the world’s highest battlefield.” » More
Turkish civil-military cooperation teams from the ISAF’s Regional Command provide aid at Kabul airport. Photo: isafmedia/flickr.
The new grand bargain went into its next round. On 14 June 2012 the Heart of Asia group gathered in Kabul to push forward the Istanbul Process on Regional Security and Cooperation for a Secure and Stable Afghanistan. The real potential for regional security and cooperation, however, remains a contentious issue. Some observers disregarded the gathering as yet another useless meeting which failed to take concrete steps towards a regional security architecture. Others like UN-Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon praised it as “real progress on the path to security and broad-based development”. » More