Gareth Price

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A man walks by a vandalized mural depicting a group of women on 14 August 2022 in Kabul, Afghanistan. Photo by Nava Jamshidi/Getty Images.

One year after the Taliban’s ascent to power in Afghanistan, the plight of Afghans is worsening. The economic situation is dire, malnutrition rates are increasing, women’s rights are being curtailed, there is continuing migration and internal displacement, and the health care system is crumbling – the already high maternal mortality rates are thought to have increased four-fold.

Since seizing power, the Taliban claim they have achieved full territorial control, established security and removed ‘islands of illegitimate power’. However, while physical security has improved by some measures – aid agencies report enhanced access to some provinces – a significant rise in attacks by the Islamic State Khorasan Province (IS-KP) targeting Shia and other minorities is one of many reminders that Afghanistan is far from secure.…  Seguir leyendo »

Harvesting the wheat crop on the occasion of Baisakhi at a village on the outskirts of Gurugram, India. Photo by Vipin Kumar/Hindustan Times via Getty Images.

Despite South Asia being one of the least connected regions in the world, its economies do share numerous similarities – and the fact that Sri Lanka, Pakistan, and Nepal are each currently facing a mixture of economic and political crises reflects replication rather than contagion.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, coming as it does two years into a global pandemic, has led to soaring prices of fuel and wheat – the latter to a level last seen in 2008 which was a factor in triggering the Arab Spring.

This time it is South Asia’s turn to be the first region to undergo political and economic turmoil because of rising commodity prices, on top of a combination of economic mismanagement and the impact of the pandemic.…  Seguir leyendo »

Russian President Vladimir Putin (L), Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (C) and Chinese President Xi Jinping (R) pose for a group photo prior to their trilateral meeting at the G20 Osaka Summit on 28 June 28 in Osaka, Japan. Photo by Mikhail Svetlov/Get

Since the war in Ukraine began, India has abstained from various procedural votes relating to the conflict, along with the early March resolution censuring Russia for its military actions. India, along with China and 33 other countries abstained; five countries including Russia opposed the motion while 141 supported it. What lies behind India’s stance on Russia and its invasion of Ukraine?

As Russia invaded Ukraine, India’s immediate concern was the safety of the approximately 20,000 Indian students in Ukraine. This issue presented both political risk and opportunity. India has a long and commendable record of evacuating its citizens, and those of other countries.…  Seguir leyendo »

A Myanmar protester wears a facemask of the National League for Democracy (NLD) party during a demonstration near Sule Pagoda in Yangon against the military coup. Photo by Myat Thu Kyaw/NurPhoto via Getty Images.

Whichever angle it is viewed from, it is clear the situation in Myanmar has significantly worsened one year on from the Tatmadaw military coup – and the military itself appears to have badly misjudged the degree to which the population had changed after enjoying a decade of relative freedom, underestimating the level of resistance it would face.

The Tatmadaw has been attempting to brutalize the population into submission with reports estimating almost 1,500 killed by the military – many of them allegedly tortured to death – and 12,000 arrested, has instead only resulted in radicalization rather than acquiescence, but this resistance is having devastating effects.…  Seguir leyendo »

Local villagers carry coal from an open-cast mine near Jharia, India. Photo by Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images.

The Indian delegation won many plaudits in Glasgow – demanding sufficient climate finance for developing countries, updating its nationally determined contributions (NDCs) for the first time in six years, and setting its first ever net-zero target for 2070, a date with ample room to be brought forward.

But, in the final moments when the text of the agreement was thought to have been agreed, India revised it with Chinese backing and the pledge to ‘phase out’ coal became one to only ‘phase down’ its use instead. Many countries – especially island states such as the Maldives facing existential threat – were palpably furious at this late move.…  Seguir leyendo »

US marines patrol the Kote Tazagul area in the Marjah district of the Helmand province, Afghanistan. Photo by MASSOUD HOSSAINI/AFP via Getty Images.

The creation of a façade of a state in Afghanistan which melted away the moment international support was withdrawn has been interpreted as showing that nation-building is a fool’s errand and, in the case of a country already nicknamed the graveyard of empires, over-ambitious if not downright naïve.

Reconstructing Afghanistan carries with it inherent difficulties, with the most important being geographical. Afghanistan is land-locked and borders Pakistan – the main backer of the Taliban and Iran – whose leaders see an opportunity to embarrass the US as trumping any desire for stability next door.

International attempts to persuade the neighbourhood that stability is preferable to chaos failed because Afghanistan is essentially secondary to other foreign policy priorities, most notably Iranian tension with the US, Pakistani tension with India, and its ongoing fear of a pro-Indian government in Kabul.…  Seguir leyendo »

Members of the Mumbai Press Club remember their colleague Danish Siddiqui, killed while covering a clash between Afghan security forces and the Taliban near a border crossing with Pakistan. Photo by Anshuman Poyrekar/Hindustan Times via Getty Images.

While some of Afghanistan’s neighbours – China and Iran particularly, along with Russia – may enjoy the West’s discomfort, the Taliban’s takeover is unlikely to fill them with optimism for the longer-term.

All the neighbouring states have specific concerns regarding the threat of cross-border militancy, and each of them is known to have reached out to the Taliban as the US withdrawal approached, in the hope of strengthening their leverage.

Both China and India worry about Muslim minorities, in Xinjiang and Kashmir respectively, Russia worries about the threat to stability in Central Asia, Pakistan – despite nurturing the Taliban – fears blowback from the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), and Iran questions the extent to which the Taliban has toned down its hostility towards Shias.…  Seguir leyendo »

A man cycles with his son past graffiti in support of demonstrations by protesters against the military coup in Yangon on 12 April 2021. Photo by STR/AFP via Getty Images.

Myanmar faces a political stalemate. The threat of civil war, or at least rising levels of violence, looms large with neither protesters nor the military appearing willing to back down. Meanwhile, the military junta appears immune to Western criticism, and while China is happy to practice ‘non-interference’, prospects for a concerted international response are low.

Against this backdrop, there are few reasons for optimism. A handful of commentators have argued that comparisons with the civil war in Syria are overblown. For one, there is less availability of weapons and international actors have not begun arming numerous protagonists, as happened in Syria.…  Seguir leyendo »

A street vendor arranging facemasks at his stall in Hyderabad, India. Photo by NOAH SEELAM/AFP via Getty Images.

What is causing this crisis in India?

Perhaps this is the first time in the pandemic we have seen a major health system close to collapsing under the strain of so many people requiring hospital care, although maybe Manaus in Brazil was a similar example. The accounts of people dying in queues as they try to access life-saving care or dying in hospitals which run out of oxygen is terrifying and extremely concerning. The response from the national and state governments has been very mixed.

In many respects, this is a consequence of India’s chronically under-funded health system with just over one per cent of GDP spent on public health financing.…  Seguir leyendo »

Protesters ask businesses and shops to close and people to stay home in a 'silent strike' to shut down entire towns and cities in Yangon after Myanmar's forces killed a 7-year-old girl in Mandalay. Photo by Stringer/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images.

Whether China’s approach to Myanmar proves fruitful or not depends on the metrics used to consider success and on the outcome of the current stand-off in that country between most of the population, which voted for the National League for Democracy (NLD), and the military.

Much of the focus is on how China did not welcome the military coup and how it has improved relations with the NLD in recent years. But its actions since the coup – or in fact, apparent lack of them – suggest its approach to Myanmar purely reflects its own self-interest.

Any concerns China has about the coup seem to relate only to the resulting instability rather than the coup itself.…  Seguir leyendo »

An honour guard ahead of the US-Japan defence ministers bilateral meeting on March 16, 2021 at the Japan Ministry of Defense in Tokyo. Photo by DAVID MAREUIL/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images.

A week of highly choreographed and carefully sequenced diplomacy in Asia culminated with a meeting of the United States Secretary of State, the US National Security Advisor and their Chinese counterparts in Anchorage, Alaska. Chatham House experts analyse the outcome.

Defining moment in global divide between democracy and autocracy

Dr Leslie Vinjamuri

The Biden administration executed the week with laser precision to draw a circle around Asia’s leading democracies, deepen its alliances, underscore its commitment to democracy and human rights, and mount a defence of the rules-based order.

It has become crystal clear the global divide between democracy and autocracy is going to define America’s relationship with China, as well as underpinning the entirety of its approach to the Indo-Pacific region.…  Seguir leyendo »

People hold up images of Aung San Suu Kyi at a protest outside Myanmar's embassy in Bangkok, Thailand on 1 February, 2021. Photo by Lauren DeCicca/Getty Images

For two-thirds of the time since it gained independence in 1948, the military has directly ruled Myanmar. In 1990, the National League for Democracy (NLD) won a landslide victory but the military refused to acknowledge the results and the People's Assembly never convened. Perhaps ironically, this latest military takeover took place the day before Groundhog Day.

No elections were held from 1990 for 30 years until 2010 when the NLD boycotted a fresh election and the army-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) won a majority. Prior to the next election in 2015, the view that the NLD was something of a busted flush after decades of repression was relatively widespread, but this turned out to be wide of the mark as the NLD won a landslide victory.…  Seguir leyendo »

An information poster on preventing the spread of COVID-19 in Hanoi, Vietnam. Photo by MANAN VATSYAYANA/AFP via Getty Images.

While we must wait for the final reckoning of most successful national coronavirus responses, it does still appear those countries with memories of MERS and SARS - such as Singapore, Taiwan, Hong-Kong, and South Korea – led the way in being best prepared for COVID-19, with strong contract tracing and isolation measures.

Experience of previous outbreaks informed the containment strategies adopted by countries in East Asia in response to COVID-19. Vietnam reported its first case of COVID-19 in January but, over the following four months with rapid targeted testing, contact tracing and successful containment, only around 300 additional cases with no deaths were confirmed.…  Seguir leyendo »

Indian scientists work at the Tsunami Early Warning Centre of the Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS) in Hyderabad. Photo by NOAH SEELAM/AFP via Getty Images.

While most people would agree that resilience - commonly understood as the ability to adapt and bounce back from adversity - is a good thing, the varied responses to COVID-19 have demonstrated that the concept is multi-layered and highly complex.

In many countries, policymakers are calling for increased emphasis on making systems and societies resilient against shocks, while some have already been incorporating resilience thinking into their strategies - either as a result of previous shocks or having understood the systemic challenges they face in being prepared for major shocks, usually following an audit.

Resilience is not just about preparedness for pandemics.…  Seguir leyendo »

Human rights activists hold placards during a protest against India's newly inaugurated link road to the Chinese border. Photo by PRAKASH MATHEMA/AFP via Getty Images.

One of the more serious recent military stand-offs between India and China took place in 2017. The following year, however, a summit between China’s President, Xi Jinping, and the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, appeared to change course back towards some kind of peaceful co-existence.

From the Indian perspective, views towards China have varied between strategic hawks and other groups – notably commercial – benefitting from engagement with China. The latter appeared to be in the ascendency.

However, a series of flare-ups along the border in May might be changing that calculation. Several reports of unarmed combat between soldiers have been reported at separate locations along the border.…  Seguir leyendo »

An Indian man wearing a protective mask sits on a bench, as India remains under an unprecedented lockdown over the highly contagious coronavirus (COVID-19) on 10 April 2020, in New Delhi, India. Photo by Yawar Nazir/Getty Images.

India’s first wave of economic reforms were triggered by an economic crisis during which economic growth fell to just 1.1 per cent in 1991. With some estimates suggesting that India’s economy will contract by a staggering 45 per cent year-on-year contraction for the current quarter, there are some signs that the current crisis could trigger a change of direction in terms of economic management – though in which direction is much less clear.

Since Narendra Modi was first elected in 2014 there had been expectations – perhaps more from external observers than domestic commentators – that he would undertake the ambitious economic reforms that had eluded his predecessors.…  Seguir leyendo »

A woman sits on the terrace of a damaged building following clashes between people supporting and opposing the amendment to India's citizenship law, in New Delhi on 27 February. Photo: Getty Images.

The outbreak of communal violence in Delhi this week is the worst in India’s capital for decades. It both reflects and will reinforce India’s polarization.

That polarization is between the view that India represents homogeneity, grounded on the fact that its citizens are overwhelmingly (around four-fifths) Hindu (the view of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party [BJP] of Narendra Modi), and the alternative that India represents diversity – its population includes hundreds of millions of non-Hindus and speakers of dozens if not hundreds of different languages.

India’s polarization is reflected in the reaction to the three days of violence in northeast Delhi, which left hundreds injured and, at the time of writing, 34 dead.…  Seguir leyendo »

India's delegation enters for the opening ceremony of the 2018 Commonwealth Games. Photo: Getty Images.

India’s approach to the regional groupings of which it is a member is self-evidently instrumentalist. With limited resources each of the organizations or groups which India promotes serve a particular economic, political or cultural purpose.

Thus, IBSA (comprising India, Brazil and South Africa) comprises a group of like-minded, Southern democracies, useful to align approaches in forums such as the UN. The BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) offered a means of showcasing not political alignment but economic potential. Regional forums – the Indian Ocean Rim Association, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation – each offer different means for India to develop or demonstrate its regional role.…  Seguir leyendo »

Hundreds of farmers sit in pits as a protest against government plans for land acquisition in October 2017. Photo By Vishal Bhatnagar/NurPhoto via Getty Images.

In 2016 India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, pledged to double farmers’ incomes by 2022. While the pledge may have been aspirational, reliant on good weather as much as government policy, the 2018/19 budget demonstrates the depth of the government’s commitment to the agriculture sector.

There’s clearly a political edge to any moves to bolster agriculture: any solace to rural India will be described as political opportunism until most people in India are not engaged directly or indirectly in the agricultural sector.

And with a number of state elections coming up this year and a general election next – suggestions that it will be brought forward have increased in volume since the budget – a politically-astute budget is unsurprising.…  Seguir leyendo »

A Kashmiri Muslim girl at Dal Lake in Srinagar, Kashmir. Photo: Getty Images.

Almost exactly 70 years ago, Indian troops arrived in Kashmir to support its ruler’s decision to accede to India. The subsequent division of Kashmir between India and Pakistan has sparked occasional conflict between the two countries, and since 1989 Indian Kashmir has suffered from an ongoing insurgency, reflecting both discontent among Indian Kashmiris at poor governance as well as meddling from Pakistan.

The grievances of Kashmiris are manifold – unemployment and corruption are major concerns – and over the years the state response to protests involved human rights abuses which have fed into the cycle of resentment. While successive Indian governments have recognized the need for a political dialogue – and some form of political settlement – they have been loath to start a dialogue while significant protests are taking place.…  Seguir leyendo »