Asia

The West continues to look for a country that proves Islam and democracy can coexist peacefully, the alternative – a billion people, many of them in big and strategically important countries, with whom we can never share any common values – being too grim to contemplate. The Arab Spring provided new hope, but the signs from Tunisia, Libya, and above all, Egypt, are not too encouraging. Things could still come right in one or more of those countries, but at this point we simply don’t know. So we fall back on Turkey as the default poster child for democratic and moderate Islam, but there too the hope is increasingly tinged with anxiety. [click to continue…]

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CNN reported yesterday that China may be on the verge of  banning human consumption of dogs and cats and imposing fines of as much as 500,000 renminbi (about $73,000) on shops and restaurants that serve the meat and up to 15 days in jail for their customers. The ostensible reason is cruelty: the animals are treated horribly and confined in tiny cages in deplorable conditions. But this can’t be the real reason. Plenty of other animals are treated as badly, or worse. The life of a pig prior to slaughter is no picnic either. The real reason seems to be that given by a certain Professor Chang Jiwen of the Chinese Academy of the Social Sciences, who is one of the law’s top campaigners. “Cats and dogs are loyal friends to humans,” he said. “A ban on eating them would show China has reached a new level of civilization.” [click to continue…]

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There is more to Pakistan than just suicide bombs.  Economic growth, and its distribution, is also important, and not just because economically marginalized people have a greater propensity to join up with the terrorists. Pakistan desperately needs foreign investment to overcome persistent budget and trade deficits, but flows have been hit hard by the triple threat of political instability, redoubled terrorist activity, and the world economic crisis. In the year to July 1, foreign direct investment (FDI) fell from $5.4 billion to $3.7 billion, and even the previous year’s figure is nothing to get excited about for a country with 175 million people. Nigeria, with around 150 million people and a lower per capita GDP than Pakistan, attracted $20 billion of FDI in 2008 – true, it does have oil, which Pakistan does not – and Egypt, a slightly richer country with just over 80 million people, took in $8 billion in the year to July 2009, down from $13 billion the previous year. [click to continue…]

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“In taking realms and administering kingdoms, although some things appear rational on the surface, one has to consider a hundred thousand things behind every act.” Babur, the founder of India’s Mughal Empire, wrote this in his epic autobiography, The Baburnama, some 600 years ago. It is worth paying attention to what Babur had to say. His armies took Kabul in 1504 and quickly conquered the rest of the country from Herat to Kandahar, and held onto the territory until 1540, ten years after his death. That is 25 years longer than the Russians and 30 years more than the British, who managed to hold on for only four years in the 1830s and another two years from 1878 to 1880. Babur, who pined for Kabul during his entire stay in India, did not return until nine years after his death, when he was put to rest in the Bagh-e-Babur garden with the Persian inscription on his tomb: If there is a paradise on earth, it is this, it is this, it is this! Kabul no doubt was different back in those days. [click to continue…]

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“The Vital Wave Consulting” blog has an interesting post from June 26 – “Is the Rest of the World Ready for a Unified BRIC?” - about last week’s summit in Moscow of the four “BRIC” countries: Brazil, Russia, India, and China. The article ponts out that trade among the four countries is too small to justify talk of a new trading bloc, but remarks that they have some common interests with respect to world trade, notably reducing reliance on the U.S. dollar. The BRIC countries are hard to overlook. Together they comprise about 43% of the world’s population and 15% of its GDP, and hold over 40% of the world’s gold and foreign exchange reserves. Their economies are growing at more than double the pace of developed economies. That they are holding a summit at all indicates that they are looking for ways to throw their combined weight around for mutual benefit. [click to continue…]

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