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CASS INDIA ANALYST

 

INTRODUCTION

The Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), currently being developed by HAL and DRDO in which Indian Air Force is a partner and a lone customer, should be given top priority for mass production and export. The LCA, which has taken enormous time and had undergone immense technological changes, is a potential platform for IAF. Therefore even if there are shortcomings and delays, the project should be taken to a logical conclusion.  Right from the beginning the project was facing complications as India had all the parameters to make a fighter jet except a credible engine. Now this engine component should be seriously pursued so that the LCA can be a world class fighter in its own segment and truly indigenous.


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The One Belt One Road mega event known as Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)in Beijing concluded with much fanfare which has marked a journey for China into global stage as a big power. It could be a step towards achieving China’s long cherished dream to get back that lost glory of Middle Kingdom. The BRI has signaled China’s intention for future. It appears Beijing is ready to dump BRICS and other initiatives, intends togo solo. Although BRI is going to be a flagship venture for China, the Communist Party of China would be the main beneficiary than the Chinese state. The grip of the CPC in power will be harder and Jinping’s statesmanship could be compared with that of Deng Xiaoping, if all goes well.
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As the status of Kashmir is once again being debated due to changing geopolitics and economic interests, the British are back at the game. Recently, the British Parliament has passed a resolution criticizing Pakistan’s plan to annex Gilgit and Baltistan as part of its fifth province. This move, many Pakistani experts feel, could legitimize its territorial claim and supremacy of Pakistan constitution to govern the region legally. This will in turn keep Indian argument of GB as a disputed territory at bay. It appears that Pakistan has done it after some advice from the Chinese.If this was the case in the beginning that Pakistan wanted to annex GB as part of its fifth province, the job would have been done long ago.
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While United States, under the presidency of Donald Trump, is looking for revitalizing its prowess and attempting to regain lost glory, China is in a hurry to attain the new global superpower status by showing off its military and economic strength. The catching up time between China and US may not be too long before they can be near equals at least at some levels. Earlier it was predicted that by 2040 China can be equal to US in four strategic parameters such as military, economic, political and cultural. But the fast pace of technological innovations and ever sliding geopolitics can make it happen much faster.
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The US president elect Donald Trump is going to alter the geopolitics in near to medium term paving the way for China to grab the vacuum space. This was perhaps longdue and change never waits for any approval. Like the fundamental forces of nature, change has its own dynamics. Therefore, global order will witness a massive change leading to confusion and chaos. This is not only going to alter the strategic thinking but realignment of forceswill also occur. A series of new calibrations will be made by US partners, friends and allies.
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The entire region of South Asia and adjoining areas could soon witness their path to development may get overpowered by growth of terrorism. To tackle this is a huge challenge by itself. But if states get into sponsoring such activities it can be far more dangerous. The Asian regions most of them are smaller countries are looking for better life for their citizens and opting for a strong economic growth. Only a handful of them, which includes Pakistan, are not very comfortable with such ideas of collective growth and mutual respect for peaceful existence. To say that all the problems the region is facing can be a leftover of history appears to be naïve.

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The recent verdict given by the Permanent Court of Arbitration has changed the geopolitics in the entire Asia-Pacific region as well as the whole of Asian continent. The verdict may be a legal one but it has enormous political and strategic implications for global geopolitical order. All through the history change often starts with small. In comparison to China’s might, the Philippines was too small to withstand any Chinese move in the arbitration issue which involves South China Sea. Yet, the verdict went in favor of Manila at a time when Beijing is looking for a greater global role. China has arrived on the stage of global power play for all practical purposes.

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The new equations which are emerging out of intense rivalry by global powers to redefine the currentgeopolitics in Asia can change the present order in the world as a whole. Everything is going for a fresh start. Existing powers are in serious clash with the emerging powers to retain their preeminence. But change is the order of universe. Nothing stands as it is forever. Thus, existing powers which had emerged soon after the Second World War in the40s are exhausted and coming to a near finish. For example, Britain which still wants to be called as Great Britain is going to be a countryof unemployed in coming decades.
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The much awaited geopolitical change in the entire Middle East and North African region could create a big hole in the foreign policy of many Asian and African nations who could be caught unaware. The fallout of political instability and economic downturn can further create a new spate of problems for the MENA region which is already grappled with many disturbances. The left-over of history is also contributing as an added flavor to the current situation. Yet, the visible hope is that change ismore perceptible this time than any point of history. Among other problems, the MENA region is facing religious divide and sectarian divide.
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For a change, Pakistan is taking a very bold step to host a quadrilateral meeting on Afghan peace process in February. Although similar initiatives have been going on forsome time, each time the final result has set an abysmal record for itself due to lack of political will and coherence. Often, the interestsof state and vested interests within the military and elsewhere have succeeded in creating a deep mistrust. Even during peace talks there have been instances in which Taliban leaders were killed in fake ambush after being invited for talks. Now, there is another dichotomy to this in addition to what is going on in this theatre by a slew of stake holders that Pakistan military has also some friendly groups within the realm of conflict in Afghanistan.
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With the decision of the International Monetary Fund to keep Chinese Yuan in its global reserve currency basket, China has made it to the top, finally. Indeed, joining an elite club of global currency charter is not a small event to go unnoticed. There are many reasons to cheer about it as Yuan is going to be next international currency. At least, Asia has got an entry into theEuro Christian dominated global currency market. This is a great achievement for whole of Asia and also for Africa. For long time, countries in the region were looking for an escape from the heat of the Whiteman’s arrogance and economic muscle.
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The talk of India being admitted into UN high table in near future is gaining momentum due to text based negotiation circular issued by the UN Headquarters recently. But it has many pitfalls. Thus, India needs to recast its strategy whilelooking for a permanent seat at the UN Security Council. The more Indiawill press hard for it, this will enhance the bargaining capacity of others to push India back and extract their benefits. Big powers always do that to stay afloat and safeguard their interests. These days all theso-called P5 members are facing acute crisis both financially and politically. India, MINT economies and others are rising at the moment. Thus, the situation demands for more accommodation.

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Recent Chinese market crash can lead to a massive crisis as small economies will suffer badly. This is not to say that it will not affect big or medium sized economies but overall it will churn a new shadow about the prosperity of Asia. Indeed, Asia is the driver of world economy today. In the post-2008 financial crisis era, it is neither Europe nor America which is able to insert massive economic growth that is being expected. No doubt, if Europe fails it will have severe consequences. In case China fails or growth dips a nose dive, then Asia will be far worse hit. Ultimately, this may alter geopolitics in a big way. Economic growth will hit social progress. Social instability will give rise to political instability.

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Iran and top global powers who got into a complex deal to ease tension in global nuclear and political order yesterday will still have to wait for a spot verification of their actions and intentions. Signing an agreement merely reflects the wish of the situation but whether it can be implemented with the letter and spirit is a million dollar question. This has now divided nations, regimes and parties as whether Tehran will abide by what it promises or this is a mere wait and watch tactic in which either side or both can utilize the occasion to bolster their grand strategy to come back with vigor to defy the order.

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi has completed one year in office. The prospect is far better than where Congress led UPA had left the establishment. Upon his completion of first year, there is a lot of talkabout his report card. In democracy this is absolutely normal. But Delhi’s power circle whom the PM dislikes the most, is unhappy. They arequite upset that their business is going to face a dark prospect. That prompted them to undo what Modi has done or trying to do in future. Delhi is a city of dalals and this culture was created during Mughal rule. Subsequently the British used it to the fullest extent as part of divide and rule policy.

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Yemen is fast becoming a violent battleground due to the competing interests of many rebel groups and regional players. The crisis is so serious that countries are closing their embassies and evacuating their people. On the surface, it appeared to be a direct fight for power between Shia Muslims, better known as Houthi rebels in Yemen, and the government headed by President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, a Sunni. After rebel forces closed in on the President's southern stronghold of Aden in late March this year, a coalition led by Saudi Arabia responded to a request by Hadi to intervene and followed by air strikes on Houthi targets. The coalition comprises five Gulf Arab states and Jordan, Egypt, Morocco and Sudan.

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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will soon visit the Island nations of Indian Ocean region to reinforce India's foreign policy objectives as part of South Asian neighborhood diplomacy. This visit will be significant in many respects as he will be visiting Sri Lanka, Seychelles, Maldives and Mauritius, which can be great maritime partners for India in the strategically sensitive Indian Ocean region. Apart from strengthening relations, Modi government is planning to offer military and civil assistance to these island nations for capacity building to ensure maritime security in the region. Successive Indian government has long neglected these island nations and now the new Indian government is putting efforts to win some of the lost ground to enhance India’s strategic reach.

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Barack Obama, who will be the first US President as Chief Guest for India’s Republic Day, is looking forward to cooperate and strengthen bi-lateral relations with India. Under the strong leadership of Indian PM Narendra Modi, the US has started considering India as an important player and a strong pillar in maintaining peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region. Further, Modi, a man of strong will and who believes in walk the talk, is also trying to utilize the potential of US to realize the common goals which will be mutually beneficial for both the countries. The US, which was earlier skeptical about its relations with India under UPA rule, has started to believe that Modi’s policy, vision and decisive mandate can make India the best possible partner for the US. However US also knows that it needs India more than India needs United States.
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China's President Xi Jinping, who arrived on his maiden visit to India, may have experienced the great Indian hospitality, but he has also realized that now India is not an easy country to make inroads. Though there is no denial that as the world’s two largest populated countries, China and India, share a strong common interest in upgrading their national economies, but the boundary dispute and transgressions by Chinese troops will always affect the relations. Yet, Modi has clearly indicated to China that now there is a slash to be put into. What was going on for last 10 years along the LAC must stop now. Indeed, Xi's visit was being closely followed by Japan and United States-both of whom are keen to develop stronger ties with India to counter China’s rise in the region.
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The recent visit of Indian Prime Minister to Japan has created a new synergy in the relationship between the two countries but it has raised many eye brows in China which perceives it differently. The Chinese leadership distrustful of Japanese Prime Minister thinks Tokyo has played a tactical game to limit Chinese influence in Asia. China is still studying the whole development and might adequately respond when Chinese President visits India this month. Beijing is expanding its influence and trying to assert its preeminence in a manner it has angered many Asian neighbors. But most experts feel India-Japan burgeoning relationship may be a natural response to China’s assertive rise.
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The fast advancement made by the Al-Qaeda inspired rebel group - Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) - is creating a chaotic situation for the whole region and the world. They are advancing terribly fast while capturing major cities of Iraq, a country which is already in a shattered state. The ISIS, driven by Sunni sentiments and Islamic ideology, aims at setting up a new state stretching across the Syria-Iraq border. The ISIS has already caught the imagination across the Sunni world, especially among young Sunni men in bordering countries. But the bigger impact of such act will be seen in coming days.

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With the change of power center in India, India’s rise to attaining a great power status may now prove to be unstoppable. Under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India is all set to instill the confidence which was missing in the entire tenureof UPA-II. Modi will take India to that height which most powers may not have been anticipated in the past. However, it needs lot of hard work and sincerity, along with fast adapting to the task. Otherwise the mission will remain incomplete despite having other elements in place. No doubt it is a great challenge. Modi will succeed. Yet, if Modi fails then India will fail. The whole purpose will be lost.

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The recently concluded ASEANsummit in Myanmar has ended in a bitter note. Myanmar, being a close ally of China, did not raise the most potential issue involving South China Sea dispute in the event which lead to heated exchange among ASEANmembers. Although some ASEAN countries who have a high stake in this regional dispute were expecting a way forward to the CoC, the ground reality was quite different as Myanmar wanted to avoid the same. Being the Chair of ASEAN, it was great opportunity for Myanmar to address the SCS issue at some level. But ignoring it could be disastrous for ASEAN in the long run.

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Now that the P5+1 countries have struck an interim nuclear deal with Iran which has temporarily eased off sanctions against it, India feels relieved from the frustrated pressure of Western sanctions that had disabled India and Iran to enhance their indispensable bilateral relations. They have already begun talks to enhance ties in trade, particularly in the energy sector. Indeed, blooming bilateral ties between India and Iran can be a highly strategic game-changer not only for the region, but also for the broader strategic calculations with respect to US, Pakistan and Afghanistan’s future.

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As the conflict in Syria enters its third year, all hopes for any reconciliation in the near future appear grim. Even the imposition of international sanctions, suspension from the Arab League, inspection and destruction of WMD and subsequent failure of peace talks with rebels has not pushed Assad regime to take well-meaning measures. Instead, with every passing event, it is becoming evident that Syria is playing a calculated game wherein on one hand it is managing to mitigate external threats so that there is no direct threat at the same time it is prolonging credible resolution with the domestic opponents. If this continues, the ramifications could devastatingly impact the entire region.

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The democratization process in Nepal has been volatile since its initiation. Although the gruesome ten years of civil war ended in Nepal, the anarchic democratic machinery prevails till date. Absence of a new constitution for Nepal, constant hostility between the multiple political parties, especially escalated by the Communist Party and the failure to uphold the Comprehensive Peace Treaty are reasons to indicate absolute failure of the democratic processes in Nepal. Although the high rate of participation in the recently held elections seems optimistic, whether political stability would be instituted and prevailed is a precarious question.

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As US prepares to exit Afghanistan, the resumption of the strategic dialogue between Pakistan and US signals as an attempt by PM Nawaz Sharif to recast the US-Pakistan ties. Pakistan also wants to move away from the image of a ‘terrorist hub’ and seriously thinking to focus on economic development for which it needs US assistance. Earlier, Pakistan needed US for terrorism funding, once that dried up now there is another attempt to showcase prospects of trade and energy plums from Central Asia for which Pakistan can be a corridor. With the recent developments in Pakistan, it has become clear that PM Nawaz Sharif has a special idea to give Pakistan a much needed U-turn, from terrorism to trade. But that plan comes with opportunities as well as risks.

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India has hosted Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as the guest of honor at its prestigious Republic Day Parade, an honor bestowed on the leaders of those countries with which India attaches special importance. As the leaders of the two countries enhanced cooperation in strategic and economic spheres of bilateral relations, the idea became indispensable that an Indo-Japan partnership has the potentiality to radically alter the imbalance of power in the Asia-Pacific region. While it is a win-win situation for both India and Japan, it sends a clear signal to China that such a partnership can strategically limit China’s capabilities in the region.

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Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai’s wish-list for India to have deeper involvement in Afghanistan’smilitary and security sector has indeed put India in a dilemma. If India gets involved militarily in Afghanistan, it may face the risk of increased regional tension and provide Pakistan the legitimacy to continue to support the Taliban. Conversely, if India denies military hardware help then the ANA will not emerge as a potent force to fight the Taliban. Either way, time is running out for India to make a quick decision for peace and security in the region. But Afghanistan should beclear in its thinking what exactly it needs to defend itself and ensurepeace in the war ravaged country.

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Thailand is no stranger to political unrests and the current agitation against the Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra is a political deadlock that is underminingThailand’s democracy, economy and tourism. While the present unrest could largely be a domestic fight between the ruling Pheu Thai party andthe opposition Democratic Party, the role of external elements influencing the ongoing unrest in Thailand cannot be ruled out. As always, the Royal Palace will have to intervene to calm down the tensionand PM Yingluck will have to be more accommodative without which Thailand may lose out benefits of ASEAN economic integration.

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After intense speculation, Premier Nawaz Sharif has finally appointed Lt Gen Raheel Sharif as the Chief of Army Staff. Although he is being portrayed as an apolitical anda thorough professional, only time will tell what the system makes him of. History is evident that in Pakistan there is always a lack of balance between the real functioning of military and civilian government. If Nawaz Sharif truly wants to bring a change in Pakistan, he must restructure Pakistan’s security apparatus even at the cost of his personal interests. The new CoAS has some special quality as he has studied military leadership in Germany, apart from UK and Canada, but not exposed to US paw which is popular among Pakistani generals.

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Maldives has been gripped bypolitical instability ever since it experienced a shift from a thirty year autocratic rule to democracy. After much political drama, the country escaped a constitutional crisis and finally elected a President.However, the mismanagement of transfer of power highlighted the teething problems faced by the Indian Ocean Archipelago to transform from an autocracy to a democracy. After such a bitter experience, the Maldivian government should strengthen its democratic institutions so that such unfortunate situations can be averted in the future.

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With elections due next year, the two political dynasties in Bangladesh have begun fighting a political war to consolidate grip over power in a country that has long been plagued by violence, corruption and poverty. The government has repeatedly rejected the opposition demands to quit and put in place a caretaker government instead, but this political crisis, accompanied by the controversial judgment on the 1971 war crimes is not helping the country emerge out of its violent history.

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Publicly it is being discussed that the Border Defence Cooperation Agreement (BDCA) undertaken by India and China would prevent the ugly situation along theLAC from catapulting into a full blown crisis. The BDCA is a protocol that can de-escalate tensions along the LAC through new confidence building measures. However, preventing face-offs is still not within theambit of the BDCA. The ambiguity in certain clauses could further increase the differences of perception like the
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While trade was high on the agenda at the APEC and East Asia Summit, the power struggle between China and US took center stage as both extensively lobbied for their geo-strategic interests. After US’ military and economic pivot towards Asia, China has also stepped up its engagement in the region. However, for US, the road to success in the region will be smoother than that of China, as Beijing will have to be much more willing to accommodate and compromise on sensitive issues like the South China Sea and Senkaku dispute, if it wants to reestablish its influence as an Asia-Pacific power.

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The United States increasingly finds a military confrontation with the Islamic Republic of Iran a difficult proposition. With the change of regime in Iran, Washington finds an alternate means to engage Iran in a political dialogue and potentially trap it later. At the same time, Iran finds it convenient to end its isolation by resuming talks with P-6 and enhance its influence. Thus, the signals of peace talks sent to each other are part of a recasting of the rules of engagement.

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Recently Japan flew fighter jets over the disputed Senkaku islands (as they are named by Japan) in the East China Sea, leading to raised concerns in China, which remains ‘highly vigilant’ of further Japanese move. Both the countries have been involved in such confrontations and flying fighter planes over the disputed territory as means of escalation of tensions, which makes the whole issue potentially explosive.

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After much speculation, the stage has been set for Indian Prime Ministerto meet his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif. Indeed, keeping communication channels open is the only way to negotiate their crisis-ridden issues. It is very important that the talks have a roadmapwithout which, they may be futile. The key is to take small steps towards resolution of disputes, starting from less sensitive issues liketrade and water-sharing mechanisms and gradually proceeding to more serious issues like LoC violations, terrorism and Kashmir. Good diplomacy means meaningful engagement while detachment could make matters worse.

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Myanmar's apparentrecovery from military rule to a flourishing democracy was accelerated by PresidentThein Sein when he declared that all political prisoners would be released bythe end of 2013 and that a ceasefire with ethnic groups could be possiblewithin weeks. Indeed, Myanmar has too much to lose if the domestic instability threatensits transitional efforts as it has taken the world a long time to trust its slowpace of reforms. Indeed, time has come to convert good will Myanmar has earnedwith hard work into a lasting peace for its people.



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While the US Congress waits it out to vote on the possibility of attacking Syria, the mere thought of such an action has sent shockwaves through the global politics and economy which has soared oil prices. In addition, the conflict between Shia and Sunni Muslims could tear the Middle-East apart and may get more violent as the civil war in Syria persists. Even if the US militarily intervenes in Syria, it can only make the matter worse as no one can predict how it will unfold once the hostility breaks out. It seems Israel can be an unintended victim.

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Egypt is burning. But the situation will not change forbetter dramatically in coming days. The country is passing through its mostdifficult time. Indeed, Morsi failed and the Army intervened. But the Egyptiansociety will get further divided and this will lead to violence. An unstableEgypt is bad for the whole region. Egypt is the only country in the region thatenjoys considerable influence in both Asia and Africa.


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India is optimistic about the future of its relationshipwith Pakistan as 14 years ago it was under Nawaz Sharif’s rule both Pakistanand India had initiated the process of normalizing ties. This expectation isnot entirely idealistic, but the government should approach Pakistan cautiouslyas Sharif’s ability to strengthen ties with India will depend on hisrelationship with the military, which still makes decisions for Pakistan’sforeign policy

 


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Articlenumber 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty states that an armed attack against oneor more parties of NATO will be considered an attack against them all and inresponse it can exercise military powers to restore and maintain the securityof the North Atlantic area.

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Mali has slipped into a total chaos after a couptoppled the democratic government in 2012 and was followed by the MNLA and theIslamic fundamentalist gaining control. French-led Mail troops have been tryingto suppress the Tuareg-led rebellion which is now being dominated by Islamicfundamentalism. To counter it, an African-led force is also coming in to tacklethe situation.

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The recent flare-up in tensions between India andPakistan, following the killing of two soldiers, including the beheading of one,which was preceded by low-grade exchange of gunfire leading to ceasefireviolations from both the sides, can be attributed to the failure of militaryleadership  of both sides in engaging inpurposeful talks to solve the local-level tensions.

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There is a lot of talk about Syrian government looking touse chemical weapons against its own people, in a last-ditch attempt by Basharal-Assad to hold on to power, or whether it is just a mere fear tactic by theSyrian government. In either case, Assad will lose ground, be it in the form ofan international response or rebel forces slowly gaining over Assad’s forces inSyria.

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No matter how eloquently a justification for the existence of an organization like CHOGM is presented, its vagueness and futility cannot be underestimated. No one has a clear idea, except Britain, why such a grouping exists well after the sun is set and what exactly it promotes. So far, CHOGM’s achievements are confined to promoting British interests, sometimes it turns out to be a profit-making venture as well. It has no connection with promoting democracy, freedom of expression, development and universal values, except selective rhetoric from time to time.

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Most top ranking global and regional powers are going to assemble in the South East Asian region next week for the APEC and subsequently for E AS to deliberate on series of critical issues facing the Asian region and the world. Although the expectations are placed at a low level as far as achievements are concerned out of such summits, the demand for a credible regional security architecture for Asia is gaining ground. Indeed, power rivalry is going to derail most of the achievements and push the region towards for a polarization, if there is no cooperative approach.

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