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Beyond the World news headlines

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

On U.S., India and Pakistan: maybe some transparency would help

biden karzaiAccording to the Wall Street Journal, "President Barack Obama issued a secret directive in December to intensify American diplomacy aimed at easing tensions between India and Pakistan, asserting that without détente between the two rivals, the administration's efforts to win Pakistani cooperation in Afghanistan would suffer. "

"The directive concluded that India must make resolving its tensions with Pakistan a priority for progress to be made on U.S. goals in the region, according to people familiar with its contents," it says.

It also says there is a debate within the U.S. administration over how far to push India to improve relations with Pakistan, with the Pentagon lobbying for more pressure on New Delhi and the State Department resisting, arguing this could backfire.

The idea that resolving tensions between India and Pakistan is central to stabilising Afghanistan is not new. Its importance rose up the agenda during Obama's election campaign in 2008. And it never really went away despite successful Indian lobbying to keep any reference to India or Kashmir out of the title given to U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke in January 2009.  At the time, the truncated title was seen as not so much as a reflection of ground realities (Pakistan has always fixed its foreign and security policies in relation to India), but as a way of providing the space for discreet diplomacy to succeed where public pressure might fail.

from Afghan Journal:

Obama’s secret trip to Afghanistan

OBAMA-AFGHANISTAN

For a leader who has come to own the Afghan war, U.S. President Barack Obama's first trip to Kabul and the military headquarters in  Bagram since he took office 15 months ago was remarkable for its secrecy and surprise.

He flew in late on Sunday night, the blinds lowered on Air Force One all the way from Washington, and left while it was still dark.

from Afghan Journal:

Engaging the Afghan Taliban: a short history

(The niche that once held a giant Buddha, in Bamiyan. Picture by Omar Sobhani)

(The niche that once held a giant Buddha, in Bamiyan. Picture by Omar Sobhani)

For those pushing for high-level political negotiations with the Afghan Taliban to bring to an end to the eight-year war,  two U.S. scholars  in separate pieces are suggesting a walk through recent history  The United States has gone down the path of dialogue with the group before and suffered for it, believing against its own better judgement in the Taliban's promises until it ended up with the September 11, 2001 attacks, says  Michael Rubin from the American Enterprise Institute in this article in Commentary.

Rubin, who is completing a history of U.S. engagement with rogue regimes, says unclassified U.S. State Department documents show that America opened talks with the Taliban soon after the group  emerged as a powerful force in Kandahar in 1994 and well over a year before they took over Kabul. From then on it was a story of   diplomats doing everything possible to remain engaged with the Taliban in the hope it would modify their  behaviour, and that they would be persuaded to expel Osama bin Laden who had  by then relocated from Sudan.  The Taliban, on the other hand, in their meetings with U.S. diplomats, would stonewall on terrorism  but would also dangle just enough hope to keep the officials calling and forestall punitive strategies.

from Russell Boyce:

The politics of bowing in Japan – How low do you go?

By Michael Caronna, Chief Photographer Japan

In Japan nothing says I'm sorry like a nice, deep bow, and lately there's been a whole lot to be sorry for. Ideally the depth of the bow should match the level of regret, allowing observers to make judgements about how sincere the apology really is. Facing massive recalls Toyota President Akio Toyoda and Toyota Motor Corp's managing director Yuji Yokoyama faced journalists at separate news conferences.

TOYOTA/

Toyota Motor Corp's managing director Yuji Yokoyama (R) bows after submitting a document of a recall to an official of the Transport Ministry Ryuji Masuno (2nd R) at the Transport Ministry in Tokyo February 9, 2010. Toyota Motor Corp is recalling nearly half a million of its flagship Prius and other hybrid cars for braking problems, a third major recall since September and a further blow to the reputation of the world's largest automaker.      REUTERS/Toru Hanai

EU gets new Commission, but little to cheer yet

There was more a sense of relief than joy when the European Union finally got its new executive on Tuesday. These are difficult times for the EU and there is little to celebrate.

The new European Commission is taking office in a tough economic climate, with the 16-country euro zone facing its hardest test since the single currency came into being 11 years ago.

Obama, Susan Rice and the U.N. — The right approach or too cuddly?

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U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, briefs press at the White House.

When U.S. President Barack Obama came to power, he announced a “new era of engagement” at the United Nations. He appointed his longtime friend and foreign policy adviser Susan Rice to be his ambassador to the world body. He also raised her post to cabinet level, as some previous Democratic presidents have done, and made her a member of the powerful National Security Council

Interview with North Korea border crosser Robert Park

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KOREA-NORTH/CROSSING

 (Photographs by Lee Jae-won)

North Korea said on Tuesday it had  detained a U.S. citizen who entered its territory, apparently confirming a report that an American activist crossed into the
state to raise awareness about Pyongyang’s human rights abuses.   Robert Park, 28, walked over the frozen Tumen river from
China and into the North last Friday, other activists said. The Korean-American told Reuters ahead of the crossing that it was his duty as a
Christian to make the journey and that he was carrying a letter calling on North Korean leader Kim Jong-il to step down.

Park had an exclusive interview with Reuters last week before starting on his journey. The following are excerpts from the conversation. He requested that the comments be held until he was in North Korea.  

from Africa News blog:

Lessons for coup makers?

Guinea soldiers.jpgPresident Barack Obama’s decision to end trade benefits for Guinea, Madagascar and Niger shows some stiffening of Washington’s resolve to act against those seen to be moving in the opposite direction to demands for greater democracy in Africa.

But the fact that new benefits were simultaneously extended to Mauritania may also give a lesson in how would-be coup makers should best behave if they want to get away with it.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Can China help stabilise Pakistan?

forbidden cityWhen President Barack Obama suggested in Beijing last month that China and the United States could cooperate on bringing stability to Afghanistan and Pakistan, and indeed to "all of South Asia", much of the attention was diverted to India, where the media saw it as inviting unwarranted Chinese interference in the region.

But what about asking a different question? Can China help stabilise the region?

Obama’s linguistic high wire act

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obama

President Barack Obama’s Nobel acceptance speech gave equal weight to war and peace – as  shown in this wordcloud.

Did he carry it off?

obama word cloud

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