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from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

And now the Chinese navy in Somali waters…

Chinese naval ships may soon be steaming into the Gulf of  Aden to join a growing fleet of international warships fighting  Somali pirates.

A first probably for a navy that has long confined itself to its own waters, the move is certain to stir interest in the strategic community stretching from New Delhi to Washington.

Chinese state media on Wednesday quoted Vice Foreign Minister He Yafei as telling a UN Security Council meeting that Beijing  was considering sending naval ships on escort duty in the troubled waters.

On the face of it, as Beijing would argue, too much should not be read into its naval deployment off the Somali waters. Theirs will be one of a number of navies patrolling the region such as
the United States, India, Greece, Saudi Arabia, France, Russia, Britain and Pakistan.

Besides, Chinese vessels have been attacked by the pirates in recent months giving them as much justification for escort duty as anyone else operating there. The latest was on Tuesday when a Chinese fishing vessel was seized in the Gulf of Aden, along with three other ships including a yacht.

Australia and its neighbours

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With the Rudd Labor government now in power for just over a year, it’s worth looking what at has changed in the country’s foreign policy and its security implications for the region. Is the region, particularly Southeast Asia, ready for Australia’s new advances?

 

Howard’s pragmatism and ‘forward defence’ doctrine over the previous dozen years was unashamedly aimed at garnering an image of being a “considerable power and significant country” (Downer, 2006). Howard’s loyalty to the United States, no-matter-what, was also aimed at banking up some credit with Washington on the security front. Given the concerns of the time over terrorism (in particular the attack on Bali which killed dozens of Australians), one could argue his staunchly pro-American policy was well founded. Moreover, Downer was quite dismissive of past Labor policy on developing a closer relationship with its immediate neighbours. In 2006, he said of Labor: “In effect, they argue for a retreat to regionalism.”

from The Great Debate:

George Bush and Iraq: ‘Shoe’denfreude?

Salim Adil is an author for Global Voices Online, a website that aggregates, curates, and translates news and views from the global blogosphere. The opinions expressed are his own and those of the bloggers he quotes.

gvWill this become one of those moments in history? In years to come will you recount to your grand children where you were when an Iraqi journalist, Montather Al-Zeidi, threw his shoes at the president of the United States? For me I was at home just getting my kids ready to sleep when my father called me insisting that I simply had to switch on the television immediately.

China, and the slowdown showdown

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America caught a cold and now China has one too. 

IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn said on Monday that the Fund could cut its forecast for China’s economic growth in 2009 to around  5 percent. To think that only last year China was galloping at a double-digit clip. It’s staggering, and it’s worrying.

Worrying, for one thing, because  - as the Heritage Foundation’s Derek Scissors puts it - ”the American economic slump is running into the Chinese economic slump, creating the conditions for a face-off between Beijing and the U.S. Congress, possibly leading to destabilization of the world’s most important bilateral economic relationship”. 

Two-shoe salute for Bush at farewell visit

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Not one but two shoes thrown at the president of the most powerful nation on earth! I will never forget those two or three seconds as those leather shoes — size 10s according to U.S.President George W. Bush — spun through the air, missing the president’s head by inches.

At news conferences in the Middle East, it is common for some less professional and obsequious journalists to leap up and sing the praises of a dignitary at the podium. But when Baghdadiya television journalist Muntather al-Zaidi lurched forward and threw the first shoe, I and everyone else in the room was stunned. There was silence, broken only by the shoe thrower calling Bush a dog. And then another shoe flew, and pandemonium broke loose.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

China, Pakistan and India

 

According to Pakistani newspaper the Daily Times, Pakistan's decision to crack down on the Jammat-ud-Dawa, the charity linked to the Laskhar-e-Taiba, came as the result of pressure from China. Jammat-ud-Dawa was blacklisted by a UN Security Council committee this week.

The Daily Times noted that earlier attempts to target the Jamaat-ud-Dawa at the Security Council had been vetoed by China. "It is the Chinese “message” that has changed our mind. The Chinese did not veto the banning of Dawa on Wednesday, and they had reportedly told Islamabad as much beforehand, compelling our permanent representative at the UN to assert that Pakistan would accept the ban if it came," the newspaper said. "One subliminal message was also given to Chief Minister Punjab, Mr Shehbaz Sharif, during his recent visit to China, and the message was that Pakistan had to seek peace with India or face change of policy in Beijing. Once again, it is our friend China whose advice has been well taken..."

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Assessing U.S. intervention in India-Pakistan: enough for now?

In the immediate aftermath of the Mumbai attacks, India's response has been to look to the United States to lean on Pakistan, which it blames for spawning Islamist militancy across the region, rather than launching any military retaliation of its own. So after U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice's trip to India and Pakistan last week, have the Americans done enough for now?

According to Pakistan's Dawn newspaper, Rice told Pakistan there was "irrefutable evidence" that elements within the country were involved in the Mumbai attacks. And it quotes unnamed sources as saying that behind-the-scenes she “pushed the Pakistani leaders to take care of the perpetrators, otherwise the U.S. will act”.

from FaithWorld:

Obama wants to address the Muslim world — but from where?

Now here's an interesting question. The New York Times reports that President-elect Barack Obama wants to make "a major foreign policy speech from an Islamic capital during his first 100 days in office." But from which one? As NYT staffer Helene Cooper explains, it's a question that's fraught with diplomatic, religious and personal complications. After a day of calling around Washington, she found a consensus:

It’s got to be Cairo. Egypt is perfect. It’s certainly Muslim enough, populous enough and relevant enough. It’s an American ally, but there are enough tensions in the relationship that the choice will feel bold. The country has plenty of democracy problems, so Mr. Obama can speak directly to the need for a better democratic model there. It has got the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist organization that has been embraced by a wide spectrum of the Islamic world, including the disenfranchised and the disaffected.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Curbing militants in Pakistan; a trial of patience?

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has urged Pakistan to cooperate "fully and transparently" in investigations into the Mumbai attacks, while U.S. Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell has pointed a finger at Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Pakistan-based Kashmiri militant group.

That's probably the kind of language that would go down well in India, which has been frustrated in the past by what it saw as the United States' failure to acknowledge the threat from Pakistan-based Kashmiri militant groups, instead preferring to rely on Pakistan as a useful ally in the region while focusing its own energies on defeating al Qaeda and the Taliban.

from FaithWorld:

U.S. ideology stable, “culture trench warfare” ahead?

The U.S. Democratic Party has gained a larger following over the past two decades but America's ideological landscape has remained largely unchanged over the past two decades, according to a new report by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. You can see the analysis here.

What is of interest for readers of this blog may be the implications of this "cultural trench warfare" -- with neither side gaining much ground from the other -- for red-hot social issues such as abortion rights and the future prospects for both the Republicans and the Democrats.

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