Be careful this week about buying wholeheartedy into any G20-related spin about supposedly savvy, free-spending Britain and America doing more to combat the world economic crisis than supposedly stubborn, overly cautious Germany and France. The actual figures show it is much more complex than that.
from Pakistan: Now or Never?:
Memories seem to be short in the British government when it comes to Kashmir. Foreign Secretary David Miliband stirred up a diplomatic row over the region during his visit to India earlier this month. As this piece in The Times says, Miliband angered Indian officials by giving what they described as "unsolicited advice" on Kashmir, over which India has three times gone to war with Pakistan since independence from Britain in 1947 and over which it is in no mood to be lectured by outsiders, let alone the former colonial power.
It was on a visit to Pakistan and India in 1997 to mark the 50th anniversary of those two countries' independence that the then British Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, also got into trouble over Kashmir. Cook, who also served the Labour government, was forced to row back from suggestions that Britain might help resolve the long-running dispute. His intervention cast a serious shadow over the visit by Queen Elizabeth, who was at one point forced to cancel a long-planned speech.
The visit, during which the queen was accompanied by Cook, went downhill after that, and at one point a senior British diplomat was seen sitting, head in hands in despair, on the pavement outside Chennai airport. There were even suggestions, denied of course, that the British High Commissioner might be recalled. Tony Blair, then prime minister, had to patch up ties by assuring his Indian counterpart, Inder Kumar Gujral, that London would not meddle in Delhi's dispute with Pakistan over Kashmir.
One wonders whether Miliband was reminded of all this before he went to India, and if he was, why did he walk into the Kashmir minefield once again. Or maybe he wasn't, which poses a different set of questions about competence and institutional memory at the Foreign Office.
from Global Investing:
If there's one thing you don't want to be, it's the next Iceland.
Since its currency, colossally indebted banking sector and economy collapsed in spectacular fashion in October, the country has become a byword for an economy that has truly hit the rocks.
An old Chinese proverb states that it is better to take many small steps in the right direction than make a giant leap and fall back. Judging by the number of bank lending initiatives announced over the past three months, British policymakers are taking this to heart.
The year 2008 has been filled with unprecedented events and all-time lows, a financial system overhaul and global turmoil. Could the New Year herald positive re-evaluation and a positive turnaround? And in what has been a year of sleepless nights for many, will a nation steeped in debt start to curb excess?
Rate cuts figured high on the news agenda as banks undertook radical measures to stabilise the economy. Within the space of one week, Britain saw the lowest base rate since the mid-1950s, the ECB took its rate to a two-and-a-half year low, the U.S. Federal Reserve aggressively slashed rates and a 175 point reduction was made by Sweden’s central bank.