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Archive for the ‘Asia’ Category

Tuesday evening, journalist and author of the new book To Live or to Perish Forever, Nicholas Schmidle joined the Council and Marines’ Memorial Association to discuss his experience in Pakistan. During a period when President Pervez Musharraf’s power was waning, and the Taliban’s was growing, Schmidle lived and reported in the country for nearly two years, covering this very turbulent period of Pakistan’s recent history. The son of a high-ranking US military officer, the experience provided him the opportunity to speak with countless government officials and regular Pakistanis, including very uncomfortable meetings with high-ranking members of militant groups and the Taliban. Find the full program recordings at our online archive.

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The construction of the Nabucco pipeline, slated for completion in 2012, is part of the effort to reduce European dependence on Russian gas amid concerns and fears that Russia, the supplier of between 30 and 40% of Europe’s natural gas, will use its economic leverage for political gains. However, recent developments in Turkmenistan, China, Iran, Turkey, and Europe itself, raise many questions and uncertainties regarding the future of the Nabucco pipeline. What are the new implications of and aims for building such a pipeline? Is continued construction necessary? What are the benefits and dangers of using the Nabucco pipeline—or rather the promise of its discontinuation—as a political bargaining chip? Steve LeVine, foreign affairs and energy correspondent for BusinessWeek and author of The Oil and the Glory and Putin’s Labyrinth, joined the Council and the Young Professionals International Forum (IF) last night to share his thoughts and insights into pipeline politics and Russia’s new energy diplomacy. Full program recordings will be available soon at our online archive. 

For more on pipeline politics, check out this article from Deutsche Welle on the recently signed agreement between Russia and Turkey to build the South Stream pipeline, a new rival to the Nabucco pipeline.

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Award winning photojournalist Paolo Woods joined the Council last night to share a stunning visual account of the economic, social, and environmental impact of Chinese investment in Africa. His photographs, published in the recently translated book China Safari: On the Trail of Beijing’s Expansion in Africa, reveal a lesser-known story of Chinese economic success and uncover how “Made in China” has become increasingly synonymous with “Extracted in Africa.” Woods’ photographs also highlight Chinese contributions to infrastructure and development across the continent where colonial powers before them had failed. Perhaps the most intriguing photographs in the series are those that capture everyday life of Chinese in Africa. Despite the success of economic cooperation, social and cultural isolation persists. A full video recording of the program, including Paolo Woods’ complete series and commentary, is now avaliable here on our online archive. Below is one of the amazing photographs from China Safari and a quick video clip of the event.

Mr. Wood was born in Shanghai in 1948 and arrived in Nigeria at the end of the 70¹s were he stared an industrial empire that includes today about 15 factories with more then 1600 workers, construction companies, hotels and restaurants. He is an official adviser to the president and has obtained the title of African chief and the authorization to use police cars as his own which helps in the monstrous Lagos traffic jams. He uses as well the police as private bodyguards, like here on the construction site of 544 villas built at record speed on the Lekki peninsula near the headquarters of the Chevron oil company.

Mr. Wood (pictured above) was born in Shanghai in 1948 and arrived in Nigeria at the end of the 70's were he stared an industrial empire that today includes about 15 factories with more then 1600 workers, construction companies, hotels and restaurants. He is an official adviser to the president and has obtained the title of African chief and the authorization to use police cars as his own, which helps in the monstrous Lagos traffic jams. He uses as well the police as private bodyguards, like here on the construction site of 544 villas built at record speed on the Lekki peninsula near the headquarters of the Chevron oil company.

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Having returned from Islamabad only a month ago, Asia Foundation expert Jon Summers shared some of his knowledge and insights into the current situation in Pakistan with Council members last night. He laid out myriad challenges facing Pakistan, from governance and counterinsurgency to the economy and education, and he suggested potential strategies to deal with some of these issues. Despite the predominance of US media reports of violence and insurgency in the country, Summers noted that Pakistan indeed possesses many assets, from a strong human resource base to vibrant civil society.

For more on Pakistan, watch or listen to the recording of last night’s program with Jon Summers, or check out a couple of the articles and studies mentioned in the lecture (links below).

In Refugee Aid, Pakistan’s War Has New Front
A July 2nd New York Times article on the two million displaced people in Pakistani refugee camps and the fight between the United States and hard-line Islamist charities for their allegiance.

Power Dynamics, Institutional Instability and Economic Growth: The Case of Pakistan
A study, supported by The Asia Foundation, which analyzes economic development in Pakistan in the context of power and institutions in the country. It examines the causes of continuing development challenges, and it identifies seven strategic “Drivers of Change” that could address these root causes for a major impact on development in Pakistan.

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Helene Cooper of The New York Times just reported that former Ambassador to Iraq, Afghanistan and the United Nations, Zalmay Khalilzad, may assume a position near the top of  Afghan President Hamid Karzai‘s government. The news of this proposal comes on the heels of Ambassador Khalilzad’s appearance at the World Affairs Council in San Francisco last week. To access full audio and video recordings of the program, visit our online archive.

Read the full article on the implications of this appointment at Ex-US Envoy May Take Key Role in Afghan Government.

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With a unique perspective on the challenges and opportunities in Iraq and Afghanistan, Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, former ambassador under President George W. Bush to the United Nations, Iraq and Afghanistan, joined the Council this past week for an in-depth discussion on the Middle East. At the outset, he humbly noted that during his time in public office, he “had the privilege of having to work in times of great change and challenge.” On Afghanistan, he discussed the challenges of setting up a government following the overthrow of the Taliban in a country that for the past 30 years had very few functioning institutions and very little existing infrastructure. On Iraq, he highlighted some of the early mistakes that took place following the invasion, including the dissolving of the Iraqi army, deep de-Baathification, and the way the new Iraqi security forces incorporated armed and violent militias. As a Muslim of Afghan descent, Ambassador Khalilzad emphasized that to succeed in the Middle East, one has to have a feel for the region, a feel for the culture, a feel for the customs. He noted that following 9/11 when there was a great demand for Arabic speakers and Middle East experts, too many people in the government had a background in Soviet and Russian affairs. More specifically, “during the post-9/11 world of policy, a lot of people around the president advising him were very smart people, most of them were my friends and are still my friends, but they were not trained [and] did not have significant experience in dealing with the broader Middle East, with the challenges of the Islamic world.”

Watch a highlight clip of the event:

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As violence and tension rises among Islamic militant groups and the Taliban, award-winning author, scholar of religions, and columnist for The Daily Beast, Reza Aslan, joined the World Affairs Council for a discussion on his new book How to Win a Cosmic War.  Examining the worldview of Muslim militant groups and the previous administration’s approach to the War on Terror, Aslan offered evidence that we are currently in the midst of an ideologically-charged religious war.  You can watch or listen to the full program with his insights and recommendations for the Obama administration here.

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Yesterday marked the 50th anniversary 0f the 1959 Tibetan demonstrations against China’s presence in Tibet – protests that sent the 14th Dalai Lama and thousands of others into exile in India.  In remarks made yesterday, the Dalai Lama harshly denounced the Chinese Communist Party  – saying that “through a series of repressive and violent campaigns” they have “thrust Tibetans into such depths of suffering and hardship that they literally experienced hell on earth,” as quoted by a NY Times article today.

Here at the Council last night, we heard from Tenzin N. Tethong,  a Visiting Scholar at Stanford University and former Chairman of the Tibetan Cabinet in Dharamsala. Update: He highlighted the geopolitical implications of China’s invasion of Tibet, and cited these as further reason why Tibet should be granted greater autonomy – not only for the sake of the Tibetan people and the preservation of Tibetan culture but to enhance Tibet’s ability to act as a buffer between China and India once again.  Although talks between the Tibetan and Chinese governments remain at a standstill, Tenzin imparted a real sense of hope among Tibetans for the future.  Their “human spirit is very strong,” he said, and they will not give up.

The program will be available soon in our audio/video archive, and you can read more about Tibet’s recent past in a Human Rights Watch report released yesterday.

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Pakistan released nuclear scientist Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan on Friday – the former head of Pakistan’s nuclear programme, and a man who has admitted to transferring nuclear secrets to other countries. According to a BBC article, the US continues to regard Dr. Khan as a “serious proliferation risk.”

Here at the Council, we recently hosted writers Catherine Collins and Douglas Frantz, formerly of the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times, as they detailed the sequence of events that allowed one man to lay the groundwork for Pakistan to become a nuclear-armed country. According to their book, The Nuclear Jihadist, the acquisition of nuclear technologies and expertise to assemble functioning bombs by Iran, Libya, North Korea, and Pakistan, can be traced to one source: Abdul Qadeer Khan. From his earliest days working in a Dutch research laboratory through his flight to Pakistan to spearhead its nuclear program, US and foreign intelligence authorities watched A.Q. Khan and could have stopped him from smuggling technology and blueprints to other countries, but were thwarted or ignored by political leaders who chose to concentrate on what they believed to be more immediate strategic priorities.  Watch the full program below, or click here to skip to different chapters.

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more about “Pakistan’s Dr. A.Q. Khan released“, posted with vodpod

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A post on The Daily Beast today highlights the decision made by Afghan officials to postpone elections for another four months to allow thousands of incoming US troops to improve security beforehand. The elections are now scheduled for August 20, 2009 – but could be pushed back even further, seeing as “the electoral commission is still far short of the $223 million required to hold the presidential and provincial council votes,” said Azizullah Lodin, the head of the Independent Election Commission cited by an article in the Associated Press.

Dexter Filkins, a Foreign Correspondent for the NY Times, has been covering the war in Afghanistan since the early 1990s, and published a new article just last week on the situation there. He spoke at the Council this fall on his widely acclaimed book, The Forever War, which tries to tell the stories of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars from the perspective of the people on the ground, living the conflict day-to-day. Watch his talk, accompanied with stunning photographs, in the video below.

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Roots of Peace, founded by Heidi Kuhn, is an organization that works to unearth dangerous landmines in war-torn countries, and then to build sustainable crops on the land once too dangerous to traverse. In so doing, they empower the local communities scarred by these inhumane weapons, and “transform the scars of conflict into the roots of peace.” Heidi Kuhn founded the organization in 1997 and serves as its CEO. She participated in our “Meet the Social Entrepreneurs” session at the Global Philanthropy Forum conference last April, where she partnered with other GPF-ers to expand her work in SE Asia. Heidi was also a 2006 Skoll Social Entrepreneur, and they feature her in their blog for the high praise Roots of Peace received this month from the Afghan government.

We look forward to watching them grow!

The video below shows highlights of Heidi’s work in Afghanistan with Roots of Peace, and of her meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

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The 74th Secretary of the Treasury, Henry Paulson has been on the front lines of the most significant global economic crisis in a generation. He joined the Council via webcast last week to offer remarks on US-Sino economic affairs.

The moderator, Mr. Timothy Dattels, is a Trustee of the World Affairs Council, and served as head of Investment Banking at Goldman Sachs for all Asian countries outside of Japan from 1996 to 2000.  He worked closely with Secretary Paulson during this time, and guides the conversation based on his experience.

Watch a video of the webcast here.

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