The topic of Afghanistan dominated the May 2012 NATO Summit in Chicago. The majority of the discussion revolved around the specifics of NATO’s withdrawal of combat troops in 2014 and the need for continuing aid, training and funding for the Afghan National Security Forces. The problem of illegal drugs was largely ignored.
The Chinese hard power juggernaut is moving in all directions and not even tiny neighbours are out of its ambit these days. In the latest instance of China’s hyperactive diplomacy, Beijing is vigorously pursuing one finger of its so-called “five finger policy” – Bhutan. The other four fingers are Arunachal Pradesh, Ladakh (both parts of India), Nepal and Sikkim; while the palm is Tibet. The Chinese objectives in Bhutan, a country with which it has been having a protracted border dispute, pose a major foreign policy and security challenge for India.
Pakistan is increasingly discarding its role as an ally in the war on terror that it used to get arms and funds from the West and has now launched a campaign of defiance, even as the US finalized its plans to quit Afghanistan at the NATO Chicago Conference on 21 May. In a display of brinkmanship and responding to aid cut by the US Senate, it has even resorted to heaping insults, almost daily, on the US.
The Founding of a Republic, a Chinese state-sponsored film celebrating the founding of the People's Republic of China and the victory of communism over the Kuomintang, is a rather spectacular production. Jackie Chan as well as every nationally and internationally renowned Chinese actor and actress was recruited to raise its profile through minor cameos. Its greatest achievements, however, are firstly the beautifully texturised accuracy of the historical rendition, and most importantly how it avoids discussing the essence of communism.
Most people are familiar with the periodic table from secondary school, though few have ever paid much attention to the elements in the top row of the separate box on the bottom left. These 15 lanthanides, plus scandium and yttrium, are known as the rare earth elements (REE). They are vital to a broad range of technologies, from mobile phones and LCD monitors to hybrid car batteries and missile guidance systems. Like the dragon's pearl that allowed the dragon to ascend to heaven in ancient Chinese mythology, REE are crucial for China's economic rise.
On 10 January 2012, a predator drone killed five presumed terrorists in Pakistan’s North-Waziristan region on the border with Afghanistan. This attack signalled the resumption of drone strikes in Pakistan for the first time since late November 2011, when such actions were curtailed following a misguided NATO airstrike which resulted in the deaths of at least 24 Pakistani soldiers in the country’s north-east.