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Asia

Last week, Professor Rehman Sobhan, Chairman of the Center for Policy Dialogue in Dhaka, Bangladesh, visited the UN Development Programme in New York City to discuss his most recent book. I had the opportunity to speak with Professor Sobhan about the motivation behind his work and learn about the years of field research that preceded it. Challenging the Injustice of Poverty: Operationalizing an Agenda for Inclusive Development Across Southeast Asia is a culmination of Professor Sobhan’s efforts to understand the roots of economic exclusion across 5 countries over the past 4 years. At its core is Sobhan’s uncompromising insistence on identifying the source, as opposed to merely addressing the symptoms of poverty. According to Sobhan, poverty is not a social …

On June 21, at the Manor Road Building, Oxford University, Daniel Large and Luke Patey discussed the role of China and India in Sudan’s oil sector. This industry is of particular interest today, as on the 9th of July the country will split into Northern Sudan and Southern Sudan. The recent border clashes illustrate the lack of agreement between the two sides about the sharing of oil revenues. The two speakers situate this issue within an international context by contrasting the involvement of China and India and discussing the long-term prospects of Sudan’s oil industry, among other interesting questions. China’s involvement in Africa has become a hot topic in media and political discussions. This has concealed that of other Asian …

Iver Neumann, an authoritative researcher of Russian affairs, claimed in his central work ‘Russia and the idea of Europe: a study in identity and international relations’, that Europe has always been an important ‘Other’ when it comes to how Russia constructs and sustains its identity. Whilst this still seems to be the case, it could be argued that Europe is only one Other in the story of Russia’s constant invention and reinvention of its own identity. After World War II, Russia’s favourite choice of Other became split. Europe became (and remains) the preferred Other in relation to Russia’s view of its internal organisation – state, society, and culture. However, the United States has taken the prime position in relation to …

Whichever way you look at it, the discovery and killing of Osama bin Laden in a comfortable house in Abbottabad within walking distance of Kakul (Pakistan Military Academy) and a short drive from the nation’s capital Islamabad, constitutes an abject humiliation for Pakistan. The options are limited. Either the Pakistani authorities did not know that bin Laden was there, apparently for several years. In which case their incompetence is so colossal that it should cause widespread panic, except that it beggars belief. Or the Pakistani authorities knew of bin Laden’s presence in their midst. In which case the worst cynics have been proved right. There are some tell-tale pointers as to which of these is more likely to be true. …

I first heard Madhusree Mukerjee talk about her research on British imperial policy and the Bengal famine of 1943 about three years ago when she was visiting Oxford to study the Cherwell Papers at Nuffield College. She talked about it over lunch with me at St Antony’s and it sounded like a most interesting line of enquiry. Her book Churchill’s Secret War: the British Empire and the Ravaging of India during World War II (Basic Books, New York 2010) appeared late last summer. A few pages into the book – and I knew this was a game-changer. I contacted my colleague Faisal Devji, who runs the South Asia History seminar. Faisal invited Mukerjee to speak and she gave her very …
Pakistan flag

Amidst a depressing assessment of the ruin wrought by Pakistan’s floods, The Economist nevertheless pronounced a vote of confidence in the country’s survival: “Pakistan is not about to collapse: a prospect first aired at its bloody creation and dusted off for every war, coup and calamity that has followed.” (Leader, 18-24 September 2010). Indeed, India, now much feted as an “emerging power” had also been written off by many at its amputated start. So had Bangladesh when it came into being in 1971, famously dismissed by Henry Kissinger as a “basket case”. All three have managed to survive endless conflict, poor governance and natural disasters, and some of their citizens have notched up world-class achievements in a variety of fields, …