Monday, May 18, 2009

Weekend South Asia News Briefs

A lot happening in South Asia in the past few days. For those not paying close attention:
Good news:
1) Big win by the Congress party in Indian elections.
1A) Very positive response by Indian business community/stock market.
2) Tamil Tigers give up in Sri Lanka.
Bad news:
3) Thousands more internally displaced by Pakistan's "major offensive" against the Taliban.
4) Reports that Pakistan is producing new nuclear weapons as fast as possible. 
My thoughts:
1) A stronger government should enable India to make more progress and have to spend less time trying to keep far flung partners--such as the communist parties in the last parliament--in the coalition. Clearly the Indian people and investors seem to agree with the decision.
2) The conflict wasn't going to end well, so better that it end quickly. The Tigers had been one of the most brutal groups in the world during the civil war. They certainly popularized--if not invented--suicide bombing as a large scale technique, and in the most recent stand off they took hundreds of thousands of civilians as human shields/hostages. Now hopefully the world will send in help to deal with the humanitarian crisis.
3) Another humanitarian crisis. This one won't end quickly, nor is there a natural geography to chase the "rebels" into. Hopefully some of the U.S. aid will get there quickly--and not be diverted for other purposes.
4) Frankly I don't understand the logic. Why on earth would Pakistan need MORE nuclear weapons? The 80-100 they are assumed to have aren't enough to destroy India? Who are they planning on nuking or deterring? Or perhaps it's part of a plan to rely more on nuclear deterrence in order to pull more troops off the Indian border. We'll see. Based in Zardari's appearance on last week's Meet the Press I'd say it's another attempt to consolidate domestic support by appearing strong and attempting the classic Pakistani game of blaming others for your problems. 

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