Global News Journal

Beyond the World news headlines

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Obama and his South Asian envoy

There's much talk about President-elect Barack Obama possibly appointing Richard Holbrooke as a special envoy to South Asia. The New York Times says it's likely; while the Washington Independent says it may be a bit premature to expect final decisions, even before Obama takes office on Jan. 20.

But more interesting perhaps than the name itself will be the brief given to any special envoy for South Asia. Would the focus be on Afghanistan and Pakistan? Or on Pakistan and India? Or all three? The Times of India said India might be removed from the envoy's beat to assuage Indian sensitivities about Kashmir, which it sees as a bilateral issue to be resolved with Pakistan, and which has long resisted any outside mediation. This, the paper said, was an evolution in thinking compared to statements made by Obama during his election campaign about Kashmir.

Before last year's Mumbai attacks, Obama had suggested that the United States should help India and Pakistan to make peace over Kashmir as part of a regional strategy to stabilise Afghanistan. In this he was supported by a raft of U.S. analysts who argued that Pakistan would never fully turn against Islamist militants threatening the U.S. campaign in Afghanistan as long as it felt it might need them to counter burgeoning Indian influence in the region. Obama's suggestion raised hackles in India, and broke with a tradition established by the Bush administration which had tended to be -- publicly at least -- hands-off about the Kashmir dispute. 

But since the Mumbai attacks, India has argued that any attempt to link these to the Kashmir dispute would be to reward what it has called cross-border terrorism from Pakistan. Pakistan, which denies involvement in the Mumbai attacks, has in turn insisted that the best way to resolve tensions with India would be to seek a solution on Kashmir. So the brief given to a South Asia envoy could turn out to be one of the first clear tests of how successful Indian diplomacy has been post-Mumbai in trying to convince the United States to see Pakistan, rather than Kashmir, as the problem. 

Three little words that kept Europe in the cold

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The difference between Europe having Russian gas as normal and not having it came down, in the end, to three words. They were hand-written next to what looks like the signature of Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Hryhory Nemyrya and they were: “With declaration attached”.

That was enough to undercut a deal hammered out by Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek, whose country holds the rotating EU Presidency, to deploy monitors along the gas pipeline route — Russia’s condition for turning the taps back on.

Bono writes op/ed ode to Sinatra

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U2 lead singer Bono dropped the mike to take up the pen.

The Irish rocker’s first opinion column for The New Times appeared on Sunday, and it wasn’t about debt, poverty or Aids in Africa — causes on which he has long been outspoken.

No, his initial incursion onto the op/ed pages is an ode to the Chairman of the Board.

from Africa News blog:

How far will South Africa’s ANC shift?

Given that the leaders of the world's most firmly capitalist countries are splashing around unprecedented billions to nationalise banks, prop up industry and try to get economies moving, it might seem churlish for anyone to question South Africa's ruling ANC for planning to spend a bit more freely.

This weekend, the African National Congress set out its election manifesto priorities of creating jobs and improving education and health - promises interpreted by many as marking a generally leftward shift under the leadership of president in waiting Jacob Zuma.

Half-baked men, hooligans and other insults from North Korea

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By Jon Herskovitz

The end of the Bush administration will likely bring an end to one of my favourite guilty pleasures of reporting on North Korea, which is the verbal battle between Washington and Pyongyang. Prickly North Korea will undoubtedly fire rhetorical volleys at Barack Obama’s team but it may be hard to match the vitriolic language it has levelled at the administration of outgoing President George W. Bush, which in North Korean parlance is “a bunch of tricksters and political imbeciles who are the center of a plot breeding fraud and swindle”.

The Bush administration came into office pledging to take a tough line toward Pyongyang to force it to end its nuclear weapons programme, stop threatening its neighbours with ballistic missiles and halt human rights abuses that are regarded as some of the worst in the world. North Korea bristles at any criticism of its leaders or its communist system. It unleashed its first insults directed at Bush weeks into his presidency in 2001, after his team labelled the North a dangerous state.   

Two weeks under fire in Gaza

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By Nidal al-Mughrabi

Voices get loud and excited over the radio Reuters news crews use in Gaza to call in the latest information. Some people complain there are no “Western reporters” inside. But we all work for Reuters, a global agency that sets the international standard.

After two full weeks of bombardment we are all worried about our families but we work and work the story. We hope it will stop.

from Africa News blog:

Forgiveness in paradise?

If you lived on an archipelago that defined paradise with palm-fringed white sand beaches and emerald green waters, you would expect a relaxed, lazy pace of life.

Lazy would be a generous description of the Seychellois soldier’s wave at the entrance to State House as I arrived with my local colleague George Thande - who is admittedly a regular visitor here.

New world shapes up off Somalia

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The Somali pirates who released a Saudi supertanker got a $3 million reward, according to their associates. Good money in one of the world’s poorest and most war-blighted corners.But the waters off Somalia are getting ever more crowded with foreign ships trying to stop the pirates. As well as potentially making life more difficult for the hijackers, it has become a real illustration of the much talked about global power shift from West to East in terms of military might as well as economic strength.This raises a question as to whether this will lead to close cooperation, rivalry or something altogether more unpredictable.This week the United States said it planned to launch a specific anti-piracy force, an offshoot of a coalition naval force already in the region since the start of the U.S. “War on Terror” in Afghanistan in 2001.It wasn’t clear just what this would mean in practical terms since U.S. ships were already part of the forces trying to stop the modern day buccaneers, equipped with speedboats and rocket-propelled grenades. It was also unclear which countries would be joining the U.S.-led force rather than operating under their own mandates.The U.S. announcement came two days after Chinese ships started an anti-piracy mission in the Gulf of Aden. This is the first time Chinese warships have sailed to Africa, barring goodwill visits, since Ming Dynasty eunuch Admiral Zheng commanded an armada 600 years ago.As my colleague Sanjeev Miglani wrote last month, the Chinese deployment was being scrutinised by the strategic community from New Delhi to Washington.The Chinese had actually been catching up to other Asian countries. India already had ships in the region. So did Malaysia, whose navy foiled at least one pirate attack this month. Reasserting its might, Russia had sent a warship after the big surge in piracy in the Gulf of Aden between Somalia and Yemen. The European Union has a mission there.For Asian countries there is good reason to send warships. This is the main trade route to markets in Europe and their ships have been seized. Attacks on shipping push up insurance rates and force some vessels to use more fuel on the longer, safer route around Africa instead of taking the Suez Canal.But there certainly appears to be evidence too to back up the U.S. National Intelligence Council’s “Global Trends 2025” report late last year that highlighted the relative decline in Washington’s long term influence in the face of the rise of China and India.As well as being a chance for the world’s old and new powers to show their strength in terms of numbers, the anti-piracy operations off Somalia could prove something of a test of effectiveness.While the hardware the navies have will always outclass that of the pirates, the new powers may have an advantage in more robust rules of engagement. That might lead to mistakes, however. In November, India trumpted its success in sinking a pirate “mother ship”. It later turned out that a Thai ship carrying fishing equipment had been sunk while it was being hijacked. Most of the crew were reported lost.There is a lot of sea to cover, one of the reasons why naval forces have had so much difficulty in stopping the hijackings, but the presence of so many navies in the same area at the same time must raise questions over how well they are going to work together.Will this become a model for cooperation in a new world order? Or are there dangers? Might this also end up being a display of how little either East or West can do in the face of attacks by armed groups from a failed state with which nobody from outside seems prepared to come to grips? What do you think?(Picture: Commanding officer of a U.S. Navy guided-missile cruiser monitors the pirated ship off Somalia REUTERS/U.S. Navy/Handout)(Picture: Forces from French naval vessel “Jean de Vienne”, seen in this January 4, 2009 photo, capture 19 Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden. REUTERS/French Navy/handout)

from MacroScope:

Falling out of the euro zone?

The periphery economies of the euro zone are suddenly in the spotlight.  Credit rating agency Standard & Poor's has cut its outlook on Ireland's sovereign debt to negative. It worries that fiscal measures to recapitalise banks and boost the economy might not improve competitiveness, diversity and growth -- all making it harder to manage debt.

Next came Greece. S&P basically put the country on watch with a negative bias. The global financial crisis has increased the risk of a difficult and long-lasting struggle to keep the Greek economy on track, it said.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Is Indian “patience” paying off over Mumbai?

Shortly after the Mumbai attacks, I asked whether India faced a trial of patience in persuading Pakistan -- with help from the United States -- to take action against the Islamist militants it blamed for the assault on its financial capital. India's approach of relying on American diplomacy rather than launching military action led to some  soul-searching among Indian analysts when it failed to deliver immediate results.  But is it finally beginning to bear fruit?

Former Indian diplomat M K Bhadrakumar writes in the Asia Times that diplomatic efforts over the Mumbai attacks are entering a crucial phase. "After having secured New Delhi's assurance that India will not resort to a military strike against Pakistan, Washington is perceptibly stepping up pressure on Islamabad to act on the available evidence regarding the Mumbai attacks."

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