On the 70th anniversary of Partition, intellectuals, analysts, writers, artists and engaged citizens seem driven to try to understand 1947, to make sense of the bloodshed and trauma, to explore the legacy of Partition, and to uncover the personal stories that were far too often sidelined in favour of grand state narratives on both sides of the border.The first Partition Museum is being inaugurated in Amritsar this month while the 1947 Partition Archive, the largest repository of Partition interviews, has just moved forward to release the narratives for public consumption.
Category Archives: Asia
Perhaps the best way to overcome the fear of North Korea’s military threats is to live where the beast is the closest – South Korea. I live in “the Seoul region”, the area including and surrounding the capital, where about half the country’s 51 million people are concentrated.I also live less than 200km from Pyongyang, North Korea’s capital city, and less than 300km from Yongbyon, where a major nuclear facility is located. In other words, Seoul is well within reach of North Korea’s nukes and missiles, many of which have been decorating the headlines with increasing frequency in recent years.Yet when North Korea fired another long-range ballistic missile on 28 July – its 12th test in 2017 alone – most South Koreans hardly batted an eyelid. Friday night continued on the streets of Seoul with no visible sense of urgency (unless you were a journalist, in which case your night would have been ruined by having to exasperatedly call the defence ministry).
While the Trump administration’s policy on North Korea is gyrating in all directions—mostly bad—someone in Washington is keeping hope alive. Namely, despite escalating tensions which appear to be approaching a violent breaking point, there might be a peaceful way out of what some pundits are calling a “slow-motion Cuban missile crisis.”Reports emerged last week that American and North Korean diplomats were holding secret meetings in New York City. In fact, the “New York” channel between the United States and North Korea has existed since the early 1990s. For decades after the Korean War, there were no official contacts between the two countries as Washington pursued a policy of isolating Pyongyang. The Reagan administration shifted gears in the late 1980s and began a policy of limited engagement with North Korea because of concerns about its nascent nuclear weapons program and a desire to support South Korea’s policy of reaching out to Pyongyang. American and North Korean diplomats in Beijing held occasional meetings to discuss important issues. But as the crisis over Pyongyang’s nuclear program mounted at the beginning of the Clinton administration, the U.S. decided that it was more convenient for executive branch officials to hop on an airplane shuttle for the short ride from Washington to New York to meet North Korean diplomats at the United Nations than to endure the grueling 14-hour trek to Beijing. Those New York sessions often took place in isolated, dingy basement rooms at UN headquarters beyond the prying eyes of reporters.
In a normal world, every politician in Washington would be alarmed if the U.S. president threatened to use nuclear weapons to destroy another nation, as President Donald Trump did on Tuesday. “North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States,” he said during a photo op at his Trump National Golf Club in New Jersey. “They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.” To someone who had just awoken from a years-long coma, his remarks would have suggested that the world was on the brink of nuclear war. Indeed, historians in search of a rhetorical precedent had to go all the way back to President Harry Truman’s 1945 announcement of the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima.
Strange structures start to appear all around as one drives toward the Korean Demilitarized Zone from either side of the border. There are overhead signs and what appear to be bridges connecting nothing at either end, roadside concrete blocks stacked like Brutalist totem poles, beach ball-sized steel orbs rusting on stumpy pedestals and other odd varieties. Some look like old ruins. Others could be mistaken for art.
How did Trump really end up clashing with North Korea? By pursuing two contradictory foreign policies at the same time
The looming military conflict between the US and North Korea contains a double danger. Although both countries are for sure bluffing, and not anticipating an actual nuclear exchange, rhetoric never functions as mere rhetoric but can always run out of control. Furthermore, as many commentators have noticed, the weird thing is that Trump decided to occupy a position symmetrical to Kim Jong-un, raising the stakes in the game.
This escalation more and more resembles the struggle for recognition between the two subjects described by Hegel, the struggle in which the winner is the one who proves his readiness to die rather than make a compromise on behalf of life. Trump thereby inadvertently got caught into a game which does not become a true superpower – something that can be understood as a strategy of North Korea, a small and weak country, is simply ridiculous in the case of the US where a discreet stern warning would be enough.
Beware the dogs of war. The same intel “folks” who brought to you babies pulled from incubators by “evil” Iraqis as well as non-existent WMDs are now peddling the notion that North Korea has produced a miniaturized nuclear warhead able to fit its recently tested ICBM. That’s the core of an analysis completed in July by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). Additionally, US intel believes that Pyongyang now has access to up to 60 nuclear weapons. On the ground US intel on North Korea is virtually non-existent – so these assessments amount to guesswork at best.
General ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis is the only one who can stop North Korea and US tensions from getting out of hand
Donald Trump’s talk of annihilating North Korea with “fire and fury likes of which the world has never seen” – a threat delivered from his golf resort in New Jersey – was by far the most aggressive rhetoric used by a US president in difficult dealings with the East Asian country.
In effect, it mirrored the routinely florid and bellicose statements made by Kim Jong-un and it was hardly surprising that the response from Pyongyang was also belligerent, declaring that it would launch an attack on the American military base in Guam.
At one level this could be viewed as the loud emoting of two rather strange and comical characters in which the only escalating exchanges would be of hot air. This, however, is taking place in a volatile scenario in both East Asia and Washington and one of the men is the commander of the most powerful military in the world. The danger faced is the law of unintended consequences.
So, once again it’s down to a face-off in the Himalayas. Beijing builds a road in the disputed territory of Doklam (if you’re Indian) or Donglang (if you’re Chinese), in the tri-junction of Sikkim, Tibet and Bhutan, and all hell breaks loose. Or does it?The Global Times blames it on an upsurge of Hindu nationalist fervor, but selected Indian officials prefer to privilege ongoing quiet diplomacy. After all, when Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi met on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Astana last month, they struck a gentleman’s agreement; this dispute is not supposed to escalate, and there’s got to be a mutually face saving solution.The tri-junction drama is actually a minor tremor in the much larger picture of the ongoing geopolitical tectonic shift in Eurasia. The major subplot occurs in the conjunction between the inexorable momentum of the New Silk Roads, aka China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy’s push, these past nine years, to assert itself as a major naval power in the Indian Ocean.
A remote corner of the Himalayas has become the unlikely scene of a major power standoff between China and India. Now entering its seventh week, the standoff centers on the tri-junction border shared by China, India, and Bhutan referred to as Doklam in India and Donglang in China. Neither side is spoiling for a fight, nor are they ready to back down anytime soon considering the security concerns, domestic political pressures, and regional reputational stakes. A series of quiet diplomatic interactions has not restrained the brinkmanship or ultimatums and the risk of a major armed clash between two Asian heavyweights remains. China and India have sparred along the Himalayan border for decades, including a brief war (and clear Chinese victory) in 1962. In areas like Aksai Chin or Arunachal Pradesh, long-standing disputes still play out in regular diplomatic arguments. Yet until recently there seemed to be a settled status quo in the comparatively peaceful tri-national border area, which has special strategic significance, lying as it does above the 14-mile-wide Siliguri valley, or the “chicken’s neck,” that connects northeast India to the rest of the country. As it turns out, both sides had very different visions of just what that status quo was.