Give peace a chance in Afghanistan
My thanks to Rahimullah Yusufzai for his report on the Taliban and Afghan peace process. I’ve been following the process with great interest, and am grateful for the regular updates you’ve been publishing in this magazine. As an Afghan, it feels as if the world’s gaze has moved away from Afghanistan to new conflicts and actors, to Daesh, Iran and the Middle East. But if the world’s media has got tired of this conflict, it’s the Afghan people that are the most fed up.
We as a nation have grown so used to conflict that it’s become a way of life, so ingrained it is into our culture. From generation to generation we keep fighting. From old wars with old allies against old foes to new wars with new allies against new foes, the state of mind remains the same. It’s a constant sense of stress, of being ‘on guard’, in transit, not at home, not safe.
Like so many of my compatriots, we’re desperate to enter into a new era. We’re tired of fighting. Tired of constant war. As Yusufzai says, “it’s time to give peace a chance.” It will take hard work and goodwill from all parties – working together – to achieve this. We owe it to the next generation to give it our best.
Taiwan’s isolation is the world’s loss
The report on the outcome of the recent election in Taiwan (Asian Affairs, Feb 2020) provided a reminder than the island is a thriving democracy. The re-election of incumbent President Tsai Ing-wen was welcomed with a resounding sigh of relief by almost every country in the world.
Indeed, the only country that expressed concern was the People’s Republic of China. This reminds me of the truism, written by Oscar Wilde, that ‘you can always judge a man by the quality of his enemies’.
China has long sought to isolate Taiwan diplomatically by preventing the island nation of 23 million people from being represented in international organisations. Taiwan’s exclusion from the World Health Organization had devastating consequence during the initial phases of the coronavirus epidemic. I believe that when Taiwan – a democracy and a follower of the rule of law and respect for human rights – is denied a seat in important organisations and relevant committees, the world loses.
Taiwan’s involvement in international organisations is a moral imperative, as much as it is a health and humanitarian necessity. Taiwan is truly a part of the world, in a way that China can only dream about. It is time to make Taiwan’s aspirations a reality.
Iran longs to expel US troops from Iraq
Mark Almond’s piece on the on-going tensions between the United States and Iran, following the targeted killing of Qassem Soleimani, the erstwhile leader of the Quds Force, makes several very good points about why both sides have shown restraint in dealing with each other. Almond correctly notes the reasons why it is difficult for the US and Iran to move past the tensions we see today.
But one thing that is conspicuously missing from the article is a discussion of how the attack on Soleimani may have given Iran a strategic opening in one of the most important areas of US-Iranian contention – Iraq. For the Iranians, the US presence in Iraq is viewed as a very significant threat to their national security. The leadership in Tehran is convinced the US is bent on regime change. Thus, for Iran, expelling US forces from Iraq is a national security imperative.
The real revenge for Soleimani’s killing may not come from Iranian weapons but from Iran’s political push into Iraq to have US forces removed from the country. Iran has plentiful and powerful allies in Iraq’s Shia political elite; many more allies than the US does. The outrage caused in Iraq by the US killing of Soleimani just outside the Baghdad airport has put the political wind behind the backs of those Iraqis aligned with Iran and who are trying to get US forces out of the country. If Iran were able to achieve its goal of having US forces removed from Iraq, it would be viewed as sweet revenge. In fact, it would be a much greater perceived victory than any armed attack on US interests.
Professor Karl Kaltenthaler
Time for India to come clean
Great reporting from Nicholas Nugent in ‘Asia’s Coal Conundrum’ (Feb 2020). Modi’s government has the opportunity to take the ‘green lead’ in the region instead of joining the ranks of the excuse-makers, apologists or (even worse) climate deniers. If it does, it needs to steer away from its current path. Climate change, water management, population growth and economic growth need to be viewed holistically, not as separate issues to be exploited for political reasons. Let the shocking example of what’s happened in Australia be a warning.