CFR Presents

Asia Unbound

CFR experts give their take on the cutting-edge issues emerging in Asia today.

India’s Tragedy

by Evan A. Feigenbaum Wednesday, September 7, 2011

A nurse tries to assist as a policeman carries a woman, who was injured by a blast outside the High Court, towards a hospital for treatment in New Delhi September 7, 2011. A powerful bomb placed in a briefcase outside the High Court in New Delhi killed at least nine people and injured 45 on Wednesday, a senior official said, prompting the Indian government to put the capital on high alert. Reuters/Vijay Mathur.

Today’s bombing outside New Delhi’s high court building is a stark reminder of the painful realities Indians have to live with every day of the week. And since it comes just days before the tenth anniversary of “9/11”—America’s own day of tragedy, when New York and Washington came under attack—it’s worth reflecting for just a moment on the bonds that bind together these two open and pluralistic societies.

Buckets of ink, not least in the Indian media, will be spilled in coming days about today’s bombing:  Is India sufficiently prepared?  What’s the state of Indian intelligence and coordination, especially in the wake of reforms introduced by Home Minister P. Chidambaram after the November 26, 2008 Mumbai attacks?  Who was responsible for today’s bombing, and how should India pursue justice?

Today, however, I think it’s worth simply standing with the people of India.

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What Is Suu Kyi’s Role in Burma Today?

by Joshua Kurlantzick Tuesday, September 6, 2011
Aung San Suu Kyi talks to reporters after meeting Tomas Ojea Quintana, U.N. special envoy on human rights in Myanmar, at Suu Kyi's home in Yangon August 24, 2011.

Aung San Suu Kyi talks to reporters after meeting Tomas Ojea Quintana, U.N. special envoy on human rights in Myanmar, at Suu Kyi's home in Yangon August 24, 2011 (Soe Zeya Tun/ Courtesy Reuters).

As Burma’s new president, Thein Sein, appears to be embracing reforms, including launching a dialogue with Aung San Suu Kyi, Suu Kyi’s role in a potentially transformed political landscape has become a major point of debate. Should she try to rebuild the National League for Democracy, get the party legalized, and prepare it – and her – to contest future elections? Should she play a broader, elder stateswoman role, dealing with poverty, environmental destruction, rights abuses, and potential ethnic conflict?

In The New Republic, Hunter Marston and I address the question of Suu Kyi’s role today, and propose pragmatic ways she can play a major role, without endangering herself and her party.

You may read the piece here.

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South Korea’s Contradictory Approach to Economic Engagement With the North

by Scott A. Snyder Tuesday, September 6, 2011
Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev (R front) and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il (L) smile during their meeting at the "Sosnovyi Bor" military garrison in Siberia's Buryatia region August 24, 2011.

Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev (R front) and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il (L) smile during their meeting at the "Sosnovyi Bor" military garrison in Siberia's Buryatia region August 24, 2011 (Ria Novosti/Courtesy Reuters).

All signs in recent weeks are pointing to an easing of inter-Korean tensions and a return to dialogue with North Korea: the inter-Korean foreign ministers’ meeting on the sidelines of the ARF in Bali, DPRK Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye-gwan’s visit to New York for talks led by Special Representative Stephen Bosworth, the Medvedev-Kim Jong Il meeting in Siberia and renewed discussion of a pipeline connecting Russia and South Korea that would transit the North, Lee Myung-Bak’s selection of former Chief of Staff Yu Woo-ick as Unification Minister, replacing Hyun In-taek, who clearly rubbed the North Koreans the wrong way, and ROK presidential contender Park Geun-hye’s article in Foreign Affairs, which essentially signals that the overall South Korean public debate over policy toward the North will be focused more on how whether than when to engage the North, especially economically.

One troubling aspect of this shift is that North Korea has thus far provoked with impunity, and the Lee Myung-Bak administration’s efforts to impose accountability on North Korea have failed.

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Central Asia Celebrates Independence

by Evan A. Feigenbaum Sunday, September 4, 2011

A general view of the Kalyan ensemble in Bukhara, Uzbekistan, which dates as far back as 1127. Reuters/Shamil Zhumatov.

With Central Asian countries celebrating the 20th anniversary of their independence, it seemed like a good time to repost a comprehensive report on U.S.-Central Asia relations.

Issued in February by the bipartisan Central Asia Study Group and published by the Project 2049 Institute, the report, Strengthening Fragile Partnerships, was premised, in part, on a concern that U.S. policy toward the region had become swamped by the war in Afghanistan.  Put simply, our group sought to articulate a vision of U.S. policy in Central Asia that was, (1) not derivative of the war, (2) premised on some enduring U.S. interests that date back at least to independence in 1991, and (3) will outlast 2014, when the U.S. military commitment in Afghanistan begins to wind down in earnest.

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Is Japan’s New PM a “Nationalist” or a “Moderate”?

by Sheila A. Smith Thursday, September 1, 2011
Japan's next prime minister Yoshihiko Noda attends the lower house of parliament in Tokyo August 30, 2011.

Japan's next prime minister Yoshihiko Noda attends the lower house of parliament in Tokyo August 30, 2011 (Toru Hanai/Courtesy Reuters).

Yesterday, my colleague Elizabeth Economy raised an important question in her blog post about Japan’s new prime minister Yoshihiko Noda. I had characterized him as a moderate, yet for many in China and Korea he is a right-wing nationalist. So which is it?

Noda is both a moderate, and a nationalist. At home, in the context of Japan’s leadership politics, he is a self-described “middle of the road” politician. In an essay in Bungei Shunju this month, Noda outlines his governance vision and firmly places himself in the moderate middle of the policy agenda—a comfortable place for those wishing to bring divisive factions together.

As I wrote in ForeignAffairs.com, Noda’s domestic agenda is full. Yet, diplomatic challenges abound—and particularly this coming year in Northeast Asia—as the politics of transition make every nation in the region sensitive to the reactive nationalism that is so often triggered in political campaigns and leadership transitions.

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