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Conflict fuels child labor in India
Parents in India's Chhattisgarh state who fear their children may be forced to fight for Maoist insurgents are inadvertently passing them to child traffickers in an attempt to "save" them, with many ending up as unpaid laborers or in the sex industry. Because the government doesn't want to admit the problem exists, the traffickers rarely face justice. - Stella Paul (Apr 17, '14)

Baloch separatists follow Taliban footsteps
Talks between the Pakistani Taliban and the government in Islamabad have increased the prospect of some sort of peaceful settlement, after terror attacks forced the government to the negotiating table. The slaying of innocents in southwestern Balochistan province shows that as separatists there take their cue from the Taliban, Islamabad would be wise to support Baloch nationalists who favor the ballot box rather than to up the ante with military action. - Syed Fazl-e-Haider (Apr 17, '14)

New China-India era no shoo-in under Modi
Indian prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi's investor-friendly image, nurtured while overseeing a boom in Gujarat state, likely appeals greatly to Chinese firms frustrated by India's opaque regulations and labor laws. However, while a victory for Modi could usher in a new bilateral era when the country's voting ends in mid-May, there's a chance that nationalism could sabotage that opportunity. - Santosh Pai (Apr 15, '14)

Time to end subcontinent's family feud
Anyone who thinks that Pakistan and India can never be at peace should look at the example of Britain and the United States. They spent a century as mortal enemies, yet once they decided to resolve their differences something like brotherhood quickly followed. The key was cultural similarities, which also exist on the subcontinent and are a way out of the present madness. - Arshad M Khan (Apr 11, '14)

India stands at electoral crossroads
Opinion polls are predicting a landslide victory for the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party and Narendra Modi in India's general elections, which started on Monday and last until May 12. However, 814.5 million votes must be placed across 23 states and 543 parliamentary constituencies - and pundits have gotten it wrong in the past. - Raja Murthy (Apr 8, '14)

Rich can help BIMSTEC poor bloc
The countries in the South and Southeast Asian bloc BIMSTEC include some of the world's poorest, making its goal of cooperative development vital. Some solid steps were taken at a recent group summit, but more needs to be done, including an expansion eastward from the Bay of Bengal to encompass Asia's richest and most capable nations. - Vibhanshu Shekhar (Apr 8, '14)

Rankings tell a tale of two Indias
As long as people and institutions compete, there will be rankings to determine their place in the pecking order. And India's climb up certain wealth and development indexes in recent decades is something the country can feel justifiably proud of. Unfortunately, other metrics paint a picture of vast human misery that persists despite the advances. - Samir Nazareth (Apr 7, '14)

Afghan vote count underway
Ballot boxes from Afghanistan's 34 provinces are being transferred to Kabul for final counting in the wake of the country's presidential election - after a first counting of the same ballots in local polling stations. At least one set of votes will not tally - a truck carrying full ballot boxes was struck by a roadside bomb, killing three people. (Apr 4, '14)

Ethnicity still key to Afghan elections
Afghans go to the polls this weekend to elect a president to succeed Hamid Karzai. The voters represent a patchwork of ethnicities, and the candidates and their running mates reflect these blocs - and often little else, say critics. This may be changing as younger Afghans start to demand a politics based on issues instead of sectarianism. - Giuliano Battiston (Apr 3, '14)

Nepal's data won't hold water
Although Nepal is blessed with abundant water, most of it comes from seasonal monsoons, and needs to be managed throughout the year. Unfortunately, the country doesn't collect enough scientific data on its water resources to do so. And the effects of global warming will make solving this problem even more vital. - Mallika Aryal (Apr 2, '14)

India a nation failing to emerge
India's main political parties are presenting the electorate with contrasting nationalist models ahead of this year's general election. While the ruling Congress party bases its message on Mahatma Gandhi's teachings, the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party forwards the "Undivided India" concept. Since both are elitist models, neither addresses the caste problem that continues to limit India's development. - Meena Degala (Apr 1, '14)

UN vote shows strains in Delhi's diplomacy
India last week abstained on voting on a UN resolution approving a probe into alleged war crimes during Sri Lanka's 2009 civil war. New Delhi opted out of the vote partially to try to rebuild good will with Sri Lanka, while also being driven by the necessity to placate India's fractious states. It all adds up to a foreign policy that has become increasingly inconsistent and Pavlovian. - Ramesh Ramachandran (Mar 31, '14)

Indian rupee catches Modi election fever
India's currency is back in favor, strengthening over the past month after a long period of sliding against the US dollar. Rupee bulls may be pinning too much hope on the outcome of May's general election. - Kunal Kumar Kundu (Mar 28, '14)

Turtles thrive thanks to Indian efforts
Fishing curbs and late-night vigils at nesting sites at the mouth of eastern India's Rushikulya river, which each year hosts half of the world's population of Olive Ridley sea turtles, have helped swell the numbers there of the endangered species. While most villagers appreciate the turtles' environmental importance, fishermen say the conservation efforts are threatening their livelihoods. - Manipadma Jena (Mar 28, '14)

Pro-Taliban narrative threatens Pakistan
The Pakistani people believe, contrary to their leaders in Islamabad, that America's war is against the population in tribal areas - not the militants there. Seemingly unaware that this disconnect has resulted in widespread tolerance for the Taliban, the elected leadership persists with appeasing terrorists interested only in spreading violence and undermining state authority.- Deedar Hussain Samejo (Mar 28, '14)

'Sex symbols' a poor proxy in Sri Lanka
Inclusion of a movie star, a beauty queen and a popular model on ballots for provincial elections in Sri Lanka on Saturday has led to accusations that political parties are pushing "sex symbols" in the name of women's representation. This year's campaign has planted seeds of resistance among Sri Lankans who are challenging the old guard more than ever. - Eve Aronson, Marlijn Meijer, Eleonora Maria Mazzoli and Filiz Dagci (Mar 28, '14)

Fighting a 'losing' war with the Taliban
Imran Khan, head of the Pakistan Tehreek Insaf (PTI) party, has renewed pressure for stalled talks with the Taliban to resume after coming under fire for claiming that the army chief had told Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif military operations cannot root out terrorism. While some politicians say Khan underestimates the military, others say military operations in tribal areas only provoke the militants into more brutal acts. - Ashfaq Yusufzai (Mar 27, '14)

Islamic party defies Bangladesh ban
Bangladeshi Islamic party Jamaat-e-Islami has performed strongly in sub-district elections despite being banned from parliamentary votes due to its sectarian underpinnings, challenging perceptions that Jamaat is backward, misogynistic and enjoys no public support. Critics are now raising concerns that the ban was part of alleged efforts by the ruling Awami League to manipulate voting. - Mohammad Hossain (Mar 27, '14)

Printers cash in on Afghan vote
An Afghan government directive that all campaign materials for April 5 elections must be produced domestically has led to a business boom in Kabul's printing houses. With nine presidential candidates and thousands of provincial hopefuls, the potential rewards are great. However, rising rent and utility costs and red tape have forced some firms to outsource production. - Frud Bezhan (Mar 27, '14)

Racism on the rise in India
Youths migrating to major Indian cities from northeastern states increasingly encounter discrimination due to their more pronounced East Asian features, with young women reporting sexual taunts and one teenage boy killed simply for looking different. Meanwhile, specific anti-hate crime legislation is being held back at its drafting stage by a "racism" versus "regionalism" debate. - Bijoyeta Das (Mar 26, '14)

Pakistani Taliban tactics spread silent fear
Pakistani Taliban leader Mullah Fazalullah has built on his predecessor's ruthless use of violence to exacerbate the country's sectarian divides. By targeting both minority Shi'ites and Sunni scholars who disagree with the group's ideology, the militants have created an atmosphere of fear that is encouraging Pakistani citizens to act as "insiders" in suicide bombings and armed assaults. - Hussain Amir Hamza (Mar 26, '14)

Tibetan roots of 1962 Sino-Indian war
Australian author Neville Maxwell has ruffled feathers in India by making public part of a classified report on the 1962 border war with India. But Maxwell's account of that war follows the report - and its erroneous conclusions about the conflict's causes. The real key to the 1962 conflict was China's invasion of Tibet, and India's failure to understand its implications. - Abanti Bhattacharya (Mar 26, '14)

Sri Lanka prepares for Geneva showdown
Sri Lankan officials say international pressure over the government's human-rights record, which is facing further scrutiny as the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council considers whether to investigate, often ignores progress in post-conflict reconciliation and rebuilding infrastructure in war-torn areas. Critics say the Rajapaksa administration's efforts are purely cosmetic. - Amantha Perera (Mar 25, '14)

Gains for China, India in new cold war
China and India stand to gain significantly from the crisis in Ukraine if they can cherry-pick advantages presented by competing courtships of the United States and Russia. Both must, however, avoid the temptation to gather low-hanging fruit, when with careful climbing, quality produce can be harvested from higher up the tree. - M K Bhadrakumar (Mar 25, '14)

Brazil-India partnership would be win-win
As BRICS partners and rising world powers, Brazil and India are characterized by a mix of astounding growth and lingering poverty and underdevelopment. By joining forces in areas as diverse as education, entertainment and disaster management, both countries can play to their strengths and shore up their weaknesses. - Abhismita Sen (Mar 24, '14)

Injecting HIV into Pakistan
Although Pakistan has fewer than 10,000 officially confirmed AIDS cases, the real figure may be much higher - and growing. Health experts say that a surge in intravenous drug use, fueled by the easy availability of heroin from Afghanistan, risks causing a huge increase in the prevalence of HIV/AIDS. - Ashfaq Yusufzai (Mar 24, '14)

Saudi grant kills Iran-Pakistan pipeline
Saudi Arabia's recent US$1.5 billion "gift" exactly matches the funding gap Pakistan needs to complete its portion of a gas pipeline with Iran, a link that could help solve Pakistan's energy shortages. Strings attached, however, prevent Islamabad from using the donation for that purpose even if it wanted to - and effectively sink a project forever mired in geopolitics. - Syed Fazl-e-Haider (Mar 21, '14)

Money men can't make Modi a sure bet
India's financial establishment has given its full backing to the leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Narendra Modi, in upcoming elections. But despite this and the poor performance of the Congress Party since the last polls, India's voters may only give Modi a weak mandate. This would disappoint markets and have predictable consequences for the country's growth. - Daniele Grassi (Mar 21, '14)

Past crimes haunt Afghan progress
Some Afghans feel the government to be formed following April 5 elections must swiftly address the country's legacy of human-rights violations, while others say "transitional justice" must wait until a stronger, functioning leadership can be formed. All seem to agree that a real reconciliation process will be better than Kabul's current "head in the sand" approach to past crimes. - Giuliano Battiston (Mar 18, '14)

India, Pakistan need to get serious
Recent discussions between India and Pakistan focused on some of the issues that make travel and trade between the two countries difficult. Both sides need to show that they are serious about increasing the connectivity of their sometimes tense border regions, and not just ticking the right boxes. - Tridivesh Singh Maini (Mar 17, '14)

Bleak outlook for Afghan drug war
That the US anti-narcotics effort in Afghanistan has failed - even with massive funding and a strong military presence - suggests the war on drugs won't stand a chance after American troops withdraw. Yet Kabul can take up the strain and succeed if it replaces the punitive model of drug prohibition with one emphasizing public health and socioeconomic development.
- Alex Pollard-Lipkis (Mar 14, '14)

US butts in on India-Iran tango
Washington is trying to limit the Indian-Iranian ties through efforts such as pressuring New Delhi to curb oil imports. The truth of the relationship is that it has atrophied in the recent years in almost direct proportion to rising US-Iranian tensions and is nowhere near its full potential. India is unlikely, however, to take the arm-twisting forever. - M K Bhadrakumar (Mar 14, '14)

Women doctors say what ails Pakistan
Pakistani women far outnumber male counterparts in domestic medical colleges, but social pressures and intolerance mean few go on to work as doctors. A new generation of doctors who've experienced equality in the United States say it's time, for the health of the country, that the discrimination is quashed. - Beena Sarwar (Mar 12, '14)

Stateless in Nepal
Laws in Nepal that mean citizenship can only be granted to those who can prove both parents were Nepali citizens have left some 16% of the population lacking the right documentation. The legislation was created to protect sovereignty and national security, especially in relation to the open border with India. Instead its raises the risk of Nepalis falling victim to trafficking and abuse. - Mallika Aryal (Mar 11, '14)

Sun shines on forest women
The Koya and Konds tribes in the Eastern Ghat mountains of southern India have for centuries made a living from the forest and its products, including leaves, edible herbs, medicinal plants, fungi, seeds and roots. Now, cooperatives are tapping the sun that shines through it to make their businesses grow. - Stella Paul (Mar 10, '14)

Kerala fish harvest drying up
The backwaters of Kerala, in southwest India, have long been a popular tourist destination as well as a rich fishery. Now local communities suffer a dwindling fish catch, worsening water quality and the usurpation of landing-points by tourism operators. - Keya Acharya (Mar 7, '14)

India fights a tougher TB
Lack of proper diagnosis and interrupted dosages of medicines in India are increasing the resistance of tuberculosis to available drugs. South Asian country now accounts for the greatest increase in multi-drug resistant strains of the disease, with about 64,000 new cases in 2012. - Bijoyeta Das (Mar 6, '14)

'Cloud' may save education in India
The dismal state of education India's state-funded schools for children up to the age of 14 has shown no improvement in the four years since the Right to Education Act came into force. Fortunately, help is at hand in the shape of "Schools in the Cloud". - Swati Lodh Kundu (Mar 6, '14)

Afghanistan opportunity for Pakistan
The drawdown of US and allied forces from Afghanistan offers a rare opportunity for Pakistan to reshape the relationship with its conflict-ridden neighbor. Rather than dwelling on the past, Islamabad should develop new ties, based upon the notion of mutual respect, non-interference and mutual prosperity. - Tahir Nazir (Mar 4, '14)

Pakistan strains Iran's patience
Pakistani authorities have done little to stop terror attacks against Iran by groups operating from their soil, and instead offer soothing words in response to the anger emanating from Tehran. Despite reported plans for Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to visit Iran, a return to close relations is unlikely. However, as Pakistan eyes the financial lure of the Gulf states, there is still good reason to treat Iran with more caution and respect. - Shireen T Hunter (Feb 28, '14)

Nationalism blots India's copybook
The publisher that withdrew an alternative history of Hinduism in India following a religious group's objections insists tough libel laws forced its hand, but perhaps it sensed changing political winds as the Bharatiya Janata Party takes pole position for a general election due in May. If the BJP pursues Hindu nationalism with the same vigor as splinter groups, not only authors face stormy times ahead. - Daniele Grassi (Feb 28, '14)

Smuggled drugs save lives in Pakistan
Many Pakistani doctors and their patients have come to depend on contraband Indian-made medicines, with the sick in the northwest the biggest beneficiaries as drugs purchased by Afghanistan under a trade agreement with India are smuggled across the border. - Ashfaq Yusufzai (Feb 28, '14)

Sun smiles on a cold desert
Solar panels are spreading across the high arid plateau in Ladakh, in India's northern state of Jammu and Kashmir, among the world's most-promising areas for the development of solar power. Where Ladakhis have been using diesel generators for lights, and kerosene and firewood for cooking and heating water, the solar network has the potential to produce power for other regions in India. - Athar Parvaiz (Feb 25, '14)

India fluent in the language of violence
The banning of books in India and incidents in parliament involving weapons suggest that despite the country's sweeping diversity of ethnic groups and religions, there is an inherent feeling of insecurity among certain sections that is increasingly being expressed through threats or acts of violence. While hardly appropriate for a free country, violence is just proving too effective a tool. - Samir Nazareth (Feb 24, '14)

Literature clashes with the law in India
Penguin India has been accused of failing to protect its authors after a court case launched by a Hindu group forced it to pulp US author Wendy Doniger's "alternative history" of the religion. The publishing house insists tough libel laws left it will little choice, and similar tussles in recent years over everything from books to nude paintings suggest it has a point. - Anindya Rai Verman (Feb 21, '14)

Andhra Pradesh: A new low for India
The voice-vote in the Indian parliament that has just split the country's fourth-largest state, Andhra Pradesh, was far from transparent. As representatives of the state's minority bemoan "the murder of democracy", the questionable ethics behind the split should be a cause of concern for all Indians. - Meena Degala (Feb 21, '14)

Pakistan's constitution conundrum
Peace talks between the Pakistani government and the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan have ignited fierce debate over the legitimacy of the country's constitution. While Islamabad argues that the law-making process upholds the state's religious underpinnings, in key areas of governance Pakistan is very different to what an Islamic state should be. Meaningful change is needed. - Muhammad Asim (Feb 21, '14)

India's interim budget a case of force-fitting
India's fag-end government has come up with an interim budget for the next 12 months that, unsurprisingly, glows with optimism, not to mention irrelevance. Its budget for the fiscal year now ending is almost equally removed from reality. - Kunal Kumar Kundu (Feb 21, '14)

Dark future for India's energy poor
Thousands of poor people in New Delhi lack access to electricity due to corruption, bureaucratic ineptitude and paucity of political will, illustrating aptly how energy shortages are holding back developing countries. Denied the clean, modern energy resources that abound elsewhere, the world's "bottom billion" are relying on wood-burning stoves that degrade their and the planet's health. - Brendan North (Feb 20, '14)

Books, not guns, needed in Pakistan
Terrorist atrocities are still rocking Pakistan on a daily basis despite a dialogue that has started between Islamabad and the Pakistani Taliban, with anger at US drone strikes continuing to fuel the root cause of the insurgency - extremism. Rather than unleashing a mass military offensive in tribal areas, Islamabad would do better to launch a sweeping education and development program there. - Syed Fazl-e-Haider (Feb 20, '14)

Keyhole diplomacy doesn't suit India
For a variety of reasons, Singapore has come to be a "moderator" of India's foreign policy discourses in the recent decades. For that reason, the K Subrahmanyam Memorial lecture recently in Delhi, titled "Can India be Cunning?", by the Dean of the Lew Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University in Singapore, Professor Kishore Mahubani, becomes an event of interest. - M K Bhadrakumar (Feb 19, '14)

Students take on Pakistani army
Students from Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas are demanding an end to army operations against militants on their native soil, with a student leader saying they "are sick of military action" as it has killed innocents while failing to eliminate the Taliban. - Ashfaq Yusufzai (Feb 18, '14)

Pakistan kidnaps drones critic
Pakistani journalist Kareem Khan has since late 2012 been seeking justice through his country's courts over a drone strike that killed his son and brother. This month, five days before he was due to meet European parliamentarians to discuss the negative impact drones are having on Pakistan, he was kidnapped in Rawalpindi by 15-20 uniformed men. He has not been seen since. - Medea Benjamin (Feb 14, '14)

Peace, not prosperity, after Sri Lankan war
Students in Sri Lanka's Northern Province achieved spectacular results in national examinations for a region wrecked by three decades of sectarian conflict that ended in May 2009. But a good education is no guarantee of a job, despite government spending on the rehabilitation of the former conflict zone. - Amantha Perera (Feb 13, '14)

Pakistan Taliban eye Afghan-style takeover
The Pakistani Taliban's undermining of both the government and the army's grip on national security through terrorism strikes suggest they may wish to emulate the 1992 ouster of Mohammad Najibulla by their Afghan counterparts. By luring Islamabad into public talks seemingly doomed by pre-conditions on sharia law, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan have gained a platform to present themselves as a solution to the chaos. - Tanveer Jafri (Feb 13, '14)

India's gay voices crackle to life
Bitter, sad and happy stories about India's gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community are being brought to life by the spirit of radio in Bangalore, the country's technology hub. But as issues of sexual identity in a country where gay sex is illegal are explored over the FM airwaves, radio shows struggle for funding and outside validation. - Stella Paul (Feb 12, '14)

Nepali leader faces unity challenge
That newly elected Nepali Prime Minister Sushil Koirala faced a power-sharing dispute in the country's ruling coalition just hours after taking power on Monday underlines the fractured political landscape he has to unite to draft a new constitution. With Maoists asserting their views on federalism and another opposition party seeking the monarchy's return, Koirala has his work cut out. - Kamal Dev Bhattarai (Feb 12, '14)

US undercuts Karzai's contacts with Taliban
Afghan President Hamid Karzai has kept his word that there will surely be a political transition in Afghanistan following elections in April. Former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah's election campaign launch with a high-voltage CNN interview speaks volumes - as does Washington's bid to undercut Karzai's nascent contacts for a tough but necessary reconciliation with the Taliban. - M K Bhadrakumar (Feb 10, '14)

India's split personality
As the ruling and opposition parties in India team up to target yet another minority group with legislation to divide Andhra Pradesh, the real issue is not about tensions between the integrationists and separatists of the southeastern state. The real issue is about whether personal and cultural rights have a place in a country where the federal model of government has run its course. - Meena Degala (Feb 10, '14)

Indian doctors resist deadly vaccine
Pediatricians in India blame the introduction of a "five-in-one" vaccine, banned in the West and other Asian countries, for a sudden spate of infant deaths and are calling for stronger evaluation of new vaccines before they enter the national immunization program. The doctors claim the "pentavalents" vaccine bypassed an advisory mechanism and are taking legal action to have it struck off. - Ranjit Devraj (Feb 10, '14)

Islamabad hides behind Taliban talks
Aware that a large-scale military offensive in tribal areas would drain Pakistan's ailing economy and deplete finite military resources, the government is pointing to the advantages of a dialogue with the Taliban that appears doomed by preconceptions. While the insurgents see Islamabad as American stooges, the ruling elite would never accept a Taliban-sanctioned interpretation of Sharia law that threatens their riches. - Shams uz Zaman (Feb 7, '14)

Government restraint key to RBI rethink
A report by a special panel of the Reserve Bank of India calls for a rule-based conduct of monetary policy and use of consumer rather than wholesale prices for gauging inflation. All very well - but only if the government shows some spending restraint. - Kunal Kumar Kundu (Feb 7, '14)

Karzai connives to remain relevant
Hamid Karzai is building a house near Afghanistan's presidential palace, which under the constitution he must vacate after this year's election. The location of his new home is symbolic of his desire to stay close to power after 13 troubled years of rule - a desire that may explain his current bout of belligerence towards the United States and his ingratiating outreach to the Taliban. - Ahmad Shayeq Bakhshi (Feb 7, '14)

India cuts its elderly adrift
Medical advances and lifestyle changes are helping numerous Indians to live longer, but the country's lackluster infrastructure and healthcare provision are struggling to keep pace with its demographic shift. Unless a clear plan is developed towards long-term inclusion of the aged in society, a large section of the elderly population faces extreme poverty and isolation. - Samir Nazareth (Feb 6, '14)

Afghan men speak up on domestic violence
The number of reported incidents of domestic violence in Afghanistan in which men were the victims is on the rise, according to a report that serves to remind the world that the overwhelming majority of victims in domestic-violence cases is still women. - Farangis Najibullah and Mujib Rahman Habibzai (Feb 5, '14)

Arvind Kejriwal grows in light and shade
Arvind Kejriwal is less than a month into his term as chief minister of Delhi, yet the anti-corruption activist who grew from the shadow of Anna Hazare's failed movement like a banyan appears to have sights set on national leadership this year. The Aam Admi Party chief may do better to get Delhi and his own house in order, lest epiphytes within take his light and steal his thunder. - Bipin Shah (Jan 30, '14)

EU lets down Bangladeshi opposition
A European Union resolution that accuses the Bangladesh opposition of provoking violence and of being political allies with Islamic "extremists" has dismayed supporters expecting a clear condemnation of the ruling Awami League's handling of January elections. The use of such labels, says the opposition, suggests Brussels is more interesting in listening to secular urban elites than ordinary citizens. - Mir Rashedul Hasan (Jan 30, '14)

Bangladesh stares at anarchy
Political and sectarian turmoil in Bangladesh has worsened since Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's Awami League claimed an overwhelming victory in elections that went ahead despite a mass opposition boycott. Although post-election violence and strikes are having a dire impact on the economy, notably on the pivotal garment industry, the ruling party is unwilling to hear opposition demands. - Anshuman Rawat (Jan 30, '14)

India, South Korea take "middle" path
The kind of networking achieved last week between Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and South Korean President Park Geun-hye is laying the ground for more countries to punch beyond their geostrategic weight. Such "middle-power cooperation" protects them from the profound changes that are occurring as the US falters and China becomes more assertive. - Sukjoon Yoon (Jan 29, '14)

India's moral compass swings violently
Narendra Modi, Rahul Gandhi and Arvind Kejriwal are the politicians likely to slug it out as prime ministerial candidates in India's general election this year. While the backgrounds, philosophies, and experience of the men Indians pin their hopes upon are widely different, the trio have one thing in common: they are products of a swinging moral compass that is in dire need of a reset.
- Samir Nazareth (Jan 29, '14)

Nepal's Maoists face ideological crisis
Pressure is rising on the leadership of Nepal's former ruling Maoist party after it came a disappointing third in elections last November, with an internal debate raging over its ideological outlook and organizational structure. some factions are seeking a return to "cadre-based politics"; others simply want to blame India.
- Kamal Dev Bhattarai (Jan 28, '14)

India, Japan walk Chinese tightrope
India cemented ties with Japan by making Shinzo Abe the first Japanese prime minister to be chief guest at its Republic Day parade. Yet as Tokyo seeks to rope in Indian support over what it terms "recent Chinese provocative actions", New Delhi's pan-Asian take is not quite what Japan is looking for. - Narayani Basu (Jan 27, '14)

Delhi ill-set for war with China
The Indian military's focus on Pakistan, Kashmir and insurgencies has eroded its capacity to meet China in a full-blown conflict, an outcome that could yet be prompted amid the difficult transitions of both countries towards great power status. As China's army races ahead, India's refuses to take painful steps such as cutting troop numbers and reinvesting in technology and armory - Bhartendu Kumar Singh (Jan 27, '14)

US urged to rethink Af-Pak conflation
A Washington think tank hasis urging the Obama administration to drop the term "Af-Pak" and regard Pakistan relations as more important strategically than a current focus on the Afghan security question. The Council on Foreign Relations, noting the label is seen in Pakistan as degrading, says a revised view as the end-2014 deadline for the US withdrawal from Afghanistan approaches would advance US interests in Asia. - Ramy Srour (Jan 24, '14)

A way forward for Pakistan's army chief
Pakistan's incoming army chief General Raheel Sharif faces the challenge of clawing back the legitimacy of a position undermined by his predecessor's weak acceptance of repeated US provocations. While the challenges are great, strong clear-eyed leadership could see Raheel reset the relationship with both America and restive tribal areas. - Atif Salahuddin (Jan 24, '14)

Musharraf's trial smells of revenge
Few Pakistanis have sympathy for former military ruler Pervez Musharraf, but even his critics are concerned by the way Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the judiciary are handling his trial for high treason. A guilty verdict may dent chances of another military coup, but the trial is eroding the nation's soul by pursuing revenge rather than justice. - Syed Fazl-e-Haider (Jan 24, '14)

Playing cricket, praying for peace
Afghanistan is rediscovering the joy of cricket through the opportunities the sport presents as a tool of progress, a means of entertainment, and a way to wean youth away from violence in a country that has been ravaged by conflict for more than 30 years. Yet most of the players in the nascent national side developed their passion in Pakistan. - Ashfaq Yusufzai (Jan 22, '14)

Pakistan a land of institutionalized anarchy
A flawed separation of powers at Pakistan's birth in 1947 created institutions that are locked in a constant struggle with each other for influence and resources. The ideological vacuum this has caused is easily exploited by religious radicals who benefit from destabilization, and Pakistani society has had to pay the price. - Deedar Hussain Samejo (Jan 22, '14)

Keep the vampires out of Indian politics
Large salaries and a bevy of perks enjoyed by Indian politicians have created a culture of greed in high office that Aam Admi Party founder and anti-corruption activist Arvind Kejriwal is taking up as a cause. As loopholes in graft laws, overburdened judiciaries and a political-bureaucratic nexus have made fiddling parliamentary expenses an almost risk-free enterprise, public and media pressure must be mobilized to cleanse the polity. - Romi Jain (Jan 21, '14)

India-US chasm opens over Bangladesh
Open Indian interference in Bangladesh elections marred by violence, boycotts and vote-rigging allegations underline New Delhi's growing disconnect with the West over the ruling Awami League. While the US and Europe seek a democratic transition that reflects the true will of Bangladeshi people, India appears more interested in securing economic favors from a ruling party desperate to keep power. - Hasan Mir (Jan 21, '14)

Karzai keeps US on tenterhooks
Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai, aware of American impotence in dealing with Pakistan and the Taliban, is delaying a post-withdrawal deal until his regional allies' role in the endgame becomes clearer. South Asia will likely suffer the regional destabilization that typically follows US interventions, but Karzai can still prevent his country being the epicenter of the instability. - Bipin Shah (Jan 21, '14)

Delhi fails to hear common Kashmiris
A proposal by India's Aam Aadmi Party that the Indian Army be withdrawn from Jammu and Kashmir gave Indian politicians an opportunity to prove their nationalistic credentials by rejecting any demilitarization. Though the debate grabbed national attention, the perspective of ordinary Kashmiris - who say the army indulges in daily human-rights violations - is yet to feature in it. - Aijaz Nazir (Jan 17, '14)

Everyone is guilty of India's graft
An "us versus them" sentiment in India that is helping anti-corruption movements such as new the Aam Aadmi Party flourish ignores that acts of corruption are often initiated by ordinary Indians asking government officials to turn a blind eye - and offering them bribes. The same false sense of victimization that for decades saw colonial powers blamed for all ills is now being harnessed for political gain. - Samir Nazareth (Jan 16, '14)

South Asia taps into water cooperation
South Asia faces increased challenges regarding the availability and quality of water, exacerbated by a lack of cooperation that fuels tensions among neighboring countries. Two recent alliances run counter to this norm, presenting an opportunity for joint development and management rather than confrontation. Pakistan is notably absent from these new tie-ups. - Ebba Mortensson and Silvia Pastorelli (Jan 16, '14)

Power-sharing wrangle rocks Nepal
Disagreement among Nepal's major parties over power-sharing in the newly formed Constituent Assembly has raised fears that the body will fall victim to the same in-fighting that saw its predecessor descend into chaos. Although the turmoil is among domestic politicians, Maoists say Western interference is a factor behind the failure to reach consensus. - Kamal Dev Bhattarai (Jan 16, '14)

US holds the Indo-Pak line of control
Indian hegemony looms over South Asia unless Pakistan can identify an approach in Eurasia that is bigger and better than a present course that enables Delhi's dominant US-supported regional role. The consequences of Pakistan's policy being subsumed in US "pivot" goals are already apparent as India builds defenses on its disputed border with Pakistan. - Majid Mahmood (Jan 15, '14)

Russia needs the US in Afghanistan
Russia's need to ensure that Afghanistan remains a buffer state between it and the Islamic world will see unprecedented support lent towards American plans to remain encamped there. Moscow knows US bases can be used for running spies and influencing Afghan policy, but the specter of Islamic insurgency - glimpsed in recent suicide blasts in Volgograd - leaves it with little choice. - Salman Wattoo (Jan 15, '14)

Managing Pandora’s ballot box in Nepal
After a contentious and disputed election, Nepal's centrist parties are struggling to reach an accord with the Maoists who helped bring down the country's monarchy. The next months will be crucial for the maturing of political stability.
- Tiago Faia (Jan 13, '14)

Constant scramble for power in Pakistan
Greed for power in Pakistan since its creation has seen the country become defined by a constant and violent struggle between ethnic and religious groups. While the state claims its the sole legitimate actor in the perpetual conflict, its strategies have failed to nurture the identity needed for a homogenous nation. - Luqman Saeed (Jan 13, '14)

China faces barriers in the Indian Ocean
The Indian Ocean is a major element in China's grand project to transform itself into a great world power, both to project its naval and continental presence and as a route for energy supplies. However, while the United States has both real allies and partners in the region, China has neither, save for an increasingly dysfunctional Pakistan. - John Lee and Charles Horner (Jan 10, '14)

Hoodwinked, jobless, and back in India
Indians, the largest expatriate community in Saudi Arabia, have been hit hardest since the country began enforcing a naturalization rule making it mandatory for private firms to recruit at least 10% Saudi nationals. With 134,000 workers forced to return home, many are jobless, feel hoodwinked, and are in need of government compensation. - K S Harikrishnan (Jan 8, '14)

Pakistan a crook's paradise
The Pakistan government is reaching out to anyone with a tidy sum to invest, with no questions asked about the source of their minimum quarter-million-dollar bounty. Rather than opening the doors for kidnappers and bank robbers to launder their ill-gotten gains, the government should start getting the rich to pay taxes on their income and wealth, a far more sensible way to cure the country's malaise. - Kashif Ahmad Khan (Jan 8, '14)

India's new party brings hope and danger
The stunning success of the newly formed Aam Aadmi Party in the Delhi elections brings the possibility for a new voice and less-corrupt politicians emerging from the national election in India this year. It also increases the risk of a darker presence coming to power, in the form of the BJP's Narendra Modi. - Samir Nazareth (Jan 7, '14)

Li's turn to try the Modi,
Manmohan juggling trick

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and wannabe premier Narendra Modi say their policies have encouraged growth and benefited their people - though closer examination undermines such claims. China's Li Keqiang is now setting out to try the same difficult trick of juggling social well-being with liberal economic policies. - Samir Nazareth (Dec 23, '13)

India can weather Fed's taper, but then ...
India's economy, with some thanks to Reserve Bank of India governor Raghuram Rajan, appears able to weather the impending taper of the US Federal Reserve's quantitative easing policy. That good work will then have to survive the aftermath of India's general election next year. - Kunal Kumar Kundu (Dec 20, '13)

Destination Afghanistan? Write a will ...
Facing the Taliban by Anoja Wijeyesekera
The risks involved in the author's 1997 posting to Taliban-ruled Afghanistan as a UNICEF worker were driven home to when she was advised to write a will before leaving home. Anoja Wijeyesekera's account of her experiences not only savages hardcore Islamic fundamentalists but also lambastes the United States for indiscriminate bombings that killed many civilians. - Thalif Deen (Dec 20, '13)

Congress hatchet job on Modi fails
The corruption scandals and economic failures that have hit India's ruling Congress Party are undermining its efforts to remind the public of opposition presidential candidate Narendra Modi's flaws. Far from just an anti-incumbency figure, rising momentum behind Modi is also likely influenced by massive shifts in demographics. - Bipin Shah (Dec 20, '13)

Elitism and the Jodphur blues
The victimization and subjugation perpetuated by the Indian caste structure appeared alive and well at this October's Rajasthan International Folk Festival in Jodphur. From the turban-wearing helpers and self-styled maharajas to the racist landladies, there was a spirit of blue-blooded elitism that suggested there has been no social progress since independence. - Samir Nazareth (Dec 20, '13)

Doctor abductions hurt Pakistan's patients
Suspected Taliban kidnappings of senior Pakistan doctors in the frontier provinces of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan are leading to hospital closures, with dire consequences for patient treatment in the restive region. With specialists such as surgeons and ophthalmologists commanding ransoms of some US$500,000, fearful medical professionals have no choice but to relocate to the West. - Ashfaq Yusufzai (Dec 19, '13)

When NATO leaves Afghanistan
People in Afghanistan are deeply divided over whether President Hamid Karzai should sign a security pact with Washington that will allow US military operations to continue after international forces withdraw in 2014. While some view the agreement, which Karzai has refused to sign, as important for stability, others say it could enrage insurgents and antagonize countries like Pakistan and Iran. - Giuliano Battiston (Dec 19, '13)

India deflects Israel's Iran warnings
In India, reports of a thaw between Iran and the United States were almost immediately followed by speculation that New Delhi and Tehran could revive historic cooperation on everything from energy to arms deals. While Israel has cautioned that this risks blossoming defense ties, spurning the opportunity would contradict the trail-blazing foreign policy instinct that saw New Delhi first embrace Tel Aviv. - Alvite Singh Ningthoujam (Dec 19, '13)

In search of new life for Pakistan
Pakistan is trapped in a bubble of political, social, economic and strategic entanglement by corrupt politicians more answerable to outside forces than to their own citizens. With little hope for solving the problems of daily life under the current system, the debt-burdened country needs a new beginning, free of failed politics. - Mahboob A Khawaja (Dec 17, '13)

Pakistan stung by Iran pipeline blow
A sudden u-turn by Tehran on helping Pakistan build a gas pipeline from Iran - canceling a US$500 million loan and threatening Islamabad with severe penalties if it is not built next year - could reflect the dismal state of Iran's economy. It also plays along nicely with Washington's own plans and concerns for the region. - Syed Fazl-e-Haider (Dec 17, '13)

Pakistan wins EU's GSP Plus status
Pakistan's textile sector faces a brighter future thanks to securing tariff-cutting GSP Plus status from the European Union. The benefits are at risk if it falters on human rights and fails to address energy shortages and cut production costs. - Syed Fazl-e-Haider (Dec 13, '13)

The implications of Modi's rapid rise
A rout of India's ruling Congress party in state elections has intensified speculation that opposition candidate Narendra Modi can become prime minister after next year's national elections. Modi's supporters say he will replicate nationwide supposed successes in Gujarat; this ignores a predisposition towards social engineering that threatens the fabric of the Indian state itself. - Jiwan Kshetry (Dec 13, '13)

Exploring Afghanistan's 'Iran option'
Afghan President Hamid Karzai knows a security pact with the US is perhaps necessary to avoid a precipitous post-withdrawal descent into chaos, but in the long-term, security and trade will be better served by growing closer to Iran. Amid a tentative thaw in Iran-US relations, Tehran could have started playing this bigger role. But Washington believes the strategic pitfalls are too great. - Frud Bezhan (Dec 12, '13)

India readjusts ties with Iran
New Delhi has recalibrated relations as Iran became the litmus test for India's ties with Washington. So while the Indian government would have preferred to pursue unimpeded diplomatic, trade and energy ties with Tehran, it has opted to diminish its dealings with the Islamic Republic. - Sunil Dasgupta (Dec 12, '13)
This is the second part of a four-part series.
Part 1: Iran and Pakistan's balancing act

Genocide and the 'national interest'
The election this year of new leaders in Iran and Pakistan opened a new chapter in the two countries' efforts to cooperate and compete with each other. Both men seem committed to improving bilateral relations, but Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in particular faces a delicate balancing act. - Jeff Bachmann (Dec 10, '13)

Iran and Pakistan's balancing act
Two new leaders were elected in Iran and Pakistan, opening a new chapter in the two country's efforts to both cooperate and compete with each other. Both men seem committed to improving bilateral relations, but Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in particular faces a delicate balancing act. (Dec 10, '13)
This is the first article of a four-part series

India and security in the Gulf
India's long-standing ties with the Gulf and its reputation as a benign power could prove useful in convincing rivals such as Saudi Arabia and Iran of the importance of launching a regional security dialogue. Battling terrorism and securing oil shipping lanes are in all Gulf countries' interests, but New Delhi is likely the best-placed interlocutor to remind them. - Rajeev Agarwal (Dec 10, '13)

Modi faces Indian political currents
Supporters of Indian opposition premiership candidate Narendra Modi say victory would let him replicate at a national level a "small government" model that's credited with generating economic progress in Gujarat, the state he rules as chief minister. Such optimism ignores the increasing ease with which smaller parties are holding political process hostage in the center. - Subrata Majumder (Dec 5, '13)

Electorate chooses a road less rocky
As Maoists look back on their rout in Nepal's elections and declare the vote fraudulent, close examination of the reasons for their defeat shows a mature electorate was just as ready to reject the radical right as it was to reject the extreme left. The Nepali public has chosen the path of evolution, not revolution. - Manish Gyawali (Dec 3, '13)

Old munitions wrecking Kashmiri lives
For nearly 50 years, accidental detonation of unexploded shells from Indian Army artillery exercises have resulted in heavy causalities and maimed hundreds of people in a Kashmir Valley meadow, adding to the toll of death from the bloody conflict over the disputed area between India and Pakistan. That it why it has become a rallying point for villagers who want to stop the army extending its lease. - Athar Parvaiz (Dec 3, '13)

Nepalese voters make their demands
The high turnout in Nepal's November elections signaled a belief that democracy still offers the best route out of post-conflict political turmoil. While the resounding victory for liberal parties underlines cynicism over the Maoists' limited tolerance for culture and their unholy compromises to grab power, the trick now lies in ensuring that the Constituent Assembly finally lives up to its name. - Gyan Basnet (Dec 3, '13)

New Pakistan army chief faces hard task
General Raheel Sharif has assumed command of the Pakistan Army at a crucial time for the country. A ruptured peace process with Taliban militants, policy and strategic headaches caused by growing criticism of US drone strikes, and the impending withdrawal of international combat forces from neighboring Afghanistan form the battleground ahead for the experienced soldier. - Syed Fazl-e-Haider (Dec 2, '13)

India squanders education potential
India's record on educating its young people is dismal and worsening. While the government may be able to boast of curbing its fiscal deficit, this will come at the cost of the future of India's youth and the country's wealth. - Kunal Kumar Kundu (Dec 2, '13)

Drone victims become political fodder
While militant groups hold up the examples of civilians killed by drone strikes in Pakistan's tribal areas as evidence of the government's weakness, activists exploit the deaths to gain media attention and funding. Debate over the strikes is increasingly dividing the country, but it seems no one is working to ease the plight of the victims' families. - Kiran Nazish (Dec 2, '13)

A 'Modi-fication' of Indian politics
Gujarat chief minister and premiership candidate Narendra Modi's rise continues despite the questionable socio-economic fundamentals of his state. To ordinary Indians and big business, his role in a 2002 religious pogrom and increasingly political gaffes are non-issues; what is more important is what he represents - a nose thumbed at authority. - Samir Nazareth (Nov 27, '13)

The drone victim and Malala
Nabeela Rehman, a nine-year-old Pakistani girl who visited the US Congress to testify about the day a drone killed her grandmother, has received little press attention nor the award nominations of Taliban shooting victim Malala Yusufzai. The contrast will likely intensify Pakistani claims that Malala's story is becoming a tool for Western political interests. - Mohammad Pervez Bilgrami (Nov 27, '13)

Red Mosque wounds divide Pakistan
When Pakistan's former president General Pervez Musharraf ordered troops to storm Islamabad's Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) in 2007, he drove a wedge between the military and an Islamic clergy whom the army had quietly been politicizing to boost their strategic hand in Afghanistan. Following the siege, the soldier-clerics recruited to fight the Soviets would finally turn their anger on Islamabad. - Shahab Jafry (Nov 27, '13)

Polls invert Nepal's political landscape
The Maoists misplaced belief that they had won the hearts and minds of the Nepali people has come crashing down with the results of last week's general election. A swing to the right and greater Indian dominance look inevitable after the Nepali Congress's landslide victory, and the Maoists and regional parties have lost their say in the vital question of state restructuring. - Jiwan Kshetry (Nov 26, '13)

Afghan spies take fight to Islamabad
Afghan intelligence concerns that Pakistan Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud would enter talks and reach a peace deal with Islamabad - risking an alliance that its agents had quietly been cultivating - led Kabul to arrange his assassination, say Pakistan officials. Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence believes such Afghan maneuvers are part of a deeper conspiracy involving Indian and US intelligence agencies. - Shahab Jafry (Nov 26, '13)
This is the first part of a series. Tomorrow: Red Mosque wounds divide Pakistan

Imran Khan blocks NATO supply lines
The ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) administration in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province has begun a blockade of supplies destined for international forces in Afghanistan in protest at the expansion of the US drone campaign in Pakistan. PTI leader Imran Khan, however, has yet to convince the federal government to extend the ban. - Syed Fazl-e-Haider (Nov 25, '13)

Karzai throws cold water on US-Afghan pact
Endorsement of the US-Afghan security pact by a grand tribal assembly in Kabul was supposed to have cleared the last big hurdle for the Afghan parliament to send the deal on for President Hamid Karzai's signature. Instead, Karzai has ignored the assembly's recommendation and imposed new conditions for the US to fulfill. - Frud Bezhan (Nov 25, '13)

India an alternative to China
monopoly in Central Asia

China's promotion of its "Silk Road" vision in Central Asia has eclipsed Washington's version, yet the US can still promote trade relations between Central Asia and Afghanistan with India to the benefit of all, while helping to avoid a Chinese monopoly. - Umida Hashimova (Nov 25, '13)

The democratic occupation of Afghanistan
If Afghan President Hamid Karzai approves a planned Bilateral Security Agreement with the United States, he is guaranteeing his country will retain the dubious status of being the world's most convenient battleground for the war on terror. A post-2014 partnership may ensure the short-term political survival of leaders gorging on American ghost money, but it will also delay peace for all Afghans. - Khalid Sekander (Nov 22, '13)

Kerry, Karzai agree pact before jirga
US Secretary of State John Kerry says that he and Afghan President Hamid Karzai are fully agreed on the text of an agreement covering US forces that will stay in Afghanistan. It includes no apology for US behavior to date, and curbs on targeting civilians in their homes. Now a Loya Jirga of local dignitaries and elders must give approval. (Nov 21, '13)

Pakistan: How to reset political darkness
Pakistani citizens do not need to look far to find enemies, having merely to hold up a mirror to see that its enemies are within, in a political elite that keeps most of the population in darkness. This sadistic political culture has to end, but another military coup will create more problems. Optimism for reshaping the country rests with an educated and intelligent young generation. - Mahboob A Khawaja (Nov 21, '13)

Poor paths lead to madrassas
Pakistan's poor northern provinces are desperately trying to enroll more children in schools to wean them away from madrassas widely seen as a breeding ground for terrorists. But in regions where acute poverty and militancy go hand in hand, the free education at Islamic seminaries draws those who cannot afford the cost of alternatives. - Ashfaq Yusufzai (Nov 21, '13)

Pakistan looks to fill Kiani's military boots
As General Ashfaq Parvez Kiani leaves his post as Pakistan's army in little over a week, civilian leaders are seeking a successor who can take the fight to the militants and generally steer clear of the political arena. The choice comes down to four contenders. - Abubakar Siddique (Nov 20, '13)

India rises above China 'space race' myth
Speculation that India's launch of its Mars Orbiter Mission formed part of frantic efforts to beat China in an emerging geopolitical "space race" ignores that India's over-achieving space program is more targeted at boosting national prestige and scientific expertise. While there is a rivalry, it is more over lucrative technology spin-offs in the commercial space industry. - Anand V (Nov 20, '13)

US immunity in focus at Afghan assembly
Delegates from all over Afghanistan converge on Kabul for a grand assembly on Thursday to discuss outstanding points of difference, including the vexed question of whether remaining American soldiers can be prosecuted after the US withdrawal next year. Critics of the gathering dismiss the entire process as a waste of time and money. - Mina Habib and Hafizullah Gardesh (Nov 19, '13)

An alternative reality for Afghanistan
The roots of Afghanistan's problems lie in Western attempts to impose a system of democracy alien to a land that has fought secularism and democracy since 1919. The solution is a return to historic Afghan governance models that stress a combination of religion, statehood and tradition. This will only work if the hardened kernel of corruption is rooted out. - Najib Mojaddidi (Nov 19, '13)

Treating terror victims leaves its wounds
All but a few of the victims of terror attacks in Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province end up at one hospital in Peshawar. There, the doctors and nurses in the accident and emergency department do what they can to sustain life, and suffer their own wounds from dealing with the constant stream of ripped-apart bodies. - Ashfaq Yusufzai (Nov 18, '13)

Fazaullah's rise bodes ill for Pakistan
The rise of Maulana Fazalullah to lead the Pakistani Taliban signals the beginning of a period of heightened violence that will penetrate urban centers beyond Pakistan's troubled northwest. The Taliban's reach can be countered only by inculcating security forces with the sense that their fight against the militants is a just war. - Sameera Rashid (Nov 18, '13)

Nepal as India's alter ego
Religious links between Nepal and India remain strong as in pop culture despite Kathmandu's growing political ties with Beijing. However, by focusing too hard on Hindi gods, movies and music, Nepal risks isolating micro-communities such as the Churaute Muslims and Newar Christians, as well as neglecting its rich Buddhist architectural and historical heritage. - Michael Patrao (Nov 18, '13)

India's god of cricket retires
As Indian cricketer Sachin Tendulkar plays in his final test match before retirement, plaudits are flowing for a "god" worshipped by everyone from ordinary fans to Western prime ministers. Tendulkar's success saw him blossom from child prodigy into an international star occupying the dizzying heights of sporting fame. Raja Murthy offers a personal assessment of a star who has never lost his level-headed approach to life. (Nov 15, '13)

India: An economy undone
Signs that the Indian economy may have bottomed out are all very well, but with inflation stubbornly high and an election round the corner, muddle and anemic growth are the best that can be expected before the polls. - Kunal Kumar Kundu (Nov 15, '13)

Who killed Nasiruddin Haqqani?
Whether the bullets flew as a result of a tribal feud or a grudge attack by the Pakistan Taliban, the killing this week of Nasiruddin Haqqani in Islamabad has prompted much speculation about who was behind the brazen assassination of one of the top leaders of one of the most lethal factions of the Afghan Taliban. - Abubakar Siddique (Nov 14, '13)

India as a terror model for Southeast Asia
Indian Mujahideen's personalized recruitment campaigns and harnessing of local grievances to elicit support could be mimicked as Southeast Asian terror outfits seek to regroup. What is lacking for Indonesian, Thai or Filipino militants is the kind of protection and support afforded to Indian Mujahideen from inside Pakistan. - Shanthie Mariet D'Souza and Bibhu Prasad Routray (Nov 12, '13)

India launches Asia's first mission to Mars
The Indian Space Research Organization packed scientific endeavor into Asia's first Mars mission, the Mangalyaan orbiter, which blasted into space on November 5. The mission follows the trajectory of four previous missions from Planet Earth and, in the Indian mystical tradition, some high hopes for human destiny. - Raja Murthy (Nov 8, '13)

New Pakistani Taliban chief rejects peace
Mullah Fazlullah, the fiery former Pakistani Taliban leader in the Swat Valley who went on to orchestrate the attack last year on teenage schoolgirl Malala Yousufzai, has been chosen to head the militant group after the death of its overall chief in a drone attack. His first act is to reject peace talks with Islamabad. - Syed Fazl-e-Haider (Nov 8, '13)

Pakistan drone strike served CIA revenge
The November 1 killing of Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud likely weakened the militants, as the US Central Intelligence Agency would have argued. But the back story of the episode is how President Barack Obama supported parochial CIA interests over the Pakistani government's effort to try a new political approach to the terrorism crisis. - Gareth Porter (Nov 8, '13)

Hell on the home front
They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return from America's Wars: The Untold Story by Ann Jones
Piercing the patriotic silence of US soldiers returning from Afghanistan, this unwaveringly human narrative reveals how physical and mental wounds mercilessly torment combatants and their families. No screed against US foreign policy, the book instead uses brutal examples of destroyed lives to highlight war's inhumanity. - Prashanth Kamalakanthan (Nov 8, '13)

Mehsud: A terrorist not a hero
By going further in its condemnation of the attack that killed Pakistani Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud than it has with other drone strikes, the Pakistani government, keen to cover up its lack of progress on peace talks, risks conflating the legitimate concerns of the people with warped perceptions of a killer. Mehsud was a terrorist, not a hero. - Tahir Mahmood (Nov 7, '13)

The wind beneath Malala's wings
Malala Yousafza gained global fame thanks to her courageous willingness to recount what it is like to live as a young girl seeking education in the shadow of the Taliban and to her recovery after a failed assassination attempt. Less well known are her remarkable parents, who "never tried to clip the wings" of a daughter, who, from her early days, "was meant to fly high in the sky". - Gandhara (Nov 7, '13)

Indians pay dear for drug reputation
India has garnered an international reputation, and considerable earnings, from the production of generic and domestically developed drugs. Less commendable, more than 2,500 Indians have died in the course of clinical trials in recent years, government figures reveal. - Ranjita Biswas (Nov 7, '13)

Shared goals draw India and Russia closer
Russia and India's shared interests in preventing radicalism and in limiting China's regional influence are seeing accelerated momentum in bilateral relations. If Delhi is to construct a regional role for itself beyond simply reacting to Beijing's rise, it should also study Moscow's success in resisting Western pressure on Syria and in rebuilding influence in East and Southeast Asia. - Zorawar Daulet Singh (Nov 6, '13)

Apprehension and hope over Nepal vote
This month's elections in Nepal are raise hopes of a new government that might induce cooperation between the major parties following years of political deadlock. However, if the individual ambitions and changeable alliances of the political class continue to influence the most important issues, the chances of the vote delivering stability and development will be greatly diminished. - Liam Anderson (Nov 6, '13)

Afghan forces stagger through first test
Afghan police and military forces are counting record numbers of casualties at the end of a fighting season that saw them take responsibility for the security detail. While they succeeded in keeping the Taliban at bay in key areas, doubts over their ability to maintain order after the 2014 withdrawal of US soldiers have yet to be defeated. - Frud Bezhan (Nov 5, '13)

The most dangerous path to peace
An upsurge in violence in Pakistan has re-ignited a bitter debate on the issue of peace talks with militants. While strong arguments can be put forward for either for or against negotiating, the government's present position, of using a network of religious clerics rather than the forum of a parliamentary committee to pursue peace talks, is not the way to go about it. - Sameera Rashid (Nov 5, '13)

Drone strike hits Pakistan peace bid
The killing of Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud in a suspected US drone strike on Friday drew strong condemnation from Islamabad, which has termed the attack as the "murder of peace" in Pakistan's northwest. Militants, however, accuse Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of selling out a peace process that had been only just initiated. - Syed Fazl-e-Haider (Nov 4, '13)

South Asia's nuclear gamble
India and Pakistan, in their words and policies, have failed to create any confidence of being rational actors in the use of nuclear deterrence. To do so, they must must devise a robust escalation-control mechanism and avoid imprudent posturing. Definitive timelines for resolving festering issues such as the dispute over Kashmir would be a good start. - Shams uz Zaman (Nov 1, '13)

Pakistan takes u-turn on drone strikes
The Pakistan government's latest report on innocent civilians killed in US drone strikes in Pakistan puts the number of deaths at 67 since 2008. That is lower than previous data and suggests Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is leading a u-turn on policy towards the controversial hi-tech program to assassinate terrorist suspects. - Syed Fazl-e-Haider (Nov 1, '13)

Rajan holds firm on battle against inflation
Reserve Bank of India governor Raghuram Rajan is proving to be his own man when it comes to deciding that battling inflation has a higher priority than promoting growth in the run-up to next year's general election. - Kunal Kumar Kundu (Nov 1, '13)

How Indians keep themselves poor
Indians from the lower and middle classes blame official corruption for widespread poverty and regressive trends such as modern-day slavery. However, graft and government failings are only partly responsible. The people also bear responsibility for adapting too readily to stagnation, manifested in turning to alcohol and blind faith. - Jiwan Kshetry (Oct 31, '13)

Rana Plaza victims continue to suffer
Six months after the collapse of Rana Plaza, Bangladesh's worst man-made disaster, safety conditions in garment factories have a chance to improve. But not the lives of survivors or the victims' next of kin. - Robert Stefanicki (Oct 31, '13)

Afghanistan 'zero option' takes shape
With Washington and Kabul unable to agree a long-term security arrangement, a complete US troop pullout after 2014 is still possible as a "zero option" for Afghanistan. Given the vast US footprint, that would be a game-changer and worsen the already formidable security, financial, and regional challenges facing the Afghan government. - Frud Bezhan (Oct 30, '13)

Taliban terror fears grow for Pakistanis
For people on the Pakistan side of the porous border, the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan next year can only strengthen the position of militants in their midst. The small flicker of hope for peace a few months ago has been extinguished - and all many can see is the rising flames of Taliban terror. - Ashfaq Yusufzai (Oct 28, '13)

Drones row turns out to be Kubuki theater
Secret documents reveal Pakistan's collusion with the CIA-led program assassinate terrorists in the country. The evidence suggests that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's demand in Washington for the US to end drone strikes is merely a political maneuver aimed at appeasing an audience back home. - Ramy Srour (Oct 25, '13)

The Ganges to perdition
The River Ganges is forgiving of many human abuses, such as unchecked tourism growth that sees adventure seekers swarm in rafts over its expanses. However, catastrophic floods this year in the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand showed that it would no longer stand being clogged, choked and re-directed simply to feed India's thirst for electricity. - Raja Murthy (Oct 25, '13)

Lost in the deep woods of longing
Nida-e-Dil (The Voice of the Heart)
Talat Arzoo Butt
While this Pakistani poet's collection covers love and longing in a simple manner, overused phrases and symbols, and too much sermonizing denude its power. The messages come straight from the heart, though most of these poems are bones that require more flesh. - Stephen Gill (Oct 25, '13)

Drone strikes on Pakistan remain on radar
Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif failed to convince President Barack Obama to end controversial US drone attacks on Pakistan territory, despite the killing of civilians being labeled as war crimes. While their Oval Office meeting fostered an important personal relationship, a wall of mistrust remains. - Syed Fazl-e-Haider (Oct 24, '13)

India-Pakistan stereotypes begin to shift
Closer people-to-people contact between Pakistan and India's business, educational and research institutions could blunt false propaganda of sections of both countries' media. As young Indians realize that Pakistan too possesses an aspirational middle class, the stereotypes may begin to falter. - Tridivesh Singh Maini (Oct 24, '13)

Next Afghan president: A pen or bulldozer?
Afghanistan's 10 presidential contenders have chosen the symbols they will use to attract voters in the 2014 election race. The question of whether the next president will be a pen, a radio, or a bulldozer is not a frivolous one in a country where only 39% of the adult population can read. - Frud Bezhan (Oct 24, '13)

India cuts troubling mining probe short
The Indian government has ended a investigation illegal iron ore and manganese mining practices and industry finances before it could issue it final report. Campaigners claim the commission was digging up too many uncomfortable truths about companies' political links. - Ed McKenna (Oct 24, '13)

US drone strikes may amount to war crimes
Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif returns to Washington for his first official visit as the country's leader since 1999, the White House is under intense pressure to "come clean" and admit that its drone strikes in South Asia and the Middle East are killing innocents. - Kitty Stapp (Oct 23, '13)

Shocks to force Pakistan's hand on terror
Peace dialogue with Pakistan has not produced the result India desires; as the disabling of anti-India terror groups by the Pakistan government. However, short military operations across the disputed border combined with international economic sanctions might induce Pakistan to behave responsibly. - Anindya Batabyal (Oct 23, '13)

Low-tech stoves cut kitchen deaths
About 3.5 million deaths a year are attributed to breathing in toxic gases from cooking fuels such as wood and cow dung. Yet technologies offer an answer that is both low-priced and easy to use. - Charles Recknagel (Oct 22, '13)

The Afghan dead find a list
Afghans have welcomed the release of documents listing the names of those killed by the communist regime of 1978 and 1979, with relatives finally finding closure and rights groups praising the open debate over the subject. However, critics warn "selective engagement" with the country's bloody past could see former warlords exploit the spirit of reconciliation. - Giuliano Battiston (Oct 22, '13)

Officials blame Skype for Karachi's chaos
The government of southeastern Pakistan's Sindh says that as terrorists are using Internet call services such as Skype to plot attacks, particularly in the province's violence-wracked city of Karachi, that the service must be shut down for three months. For embattled rights groups and businesspeople, the ban seems more about censorship and repression than protecting national security. - Irfan Ahmed (Oct 21, '13)

Musharraf eyes a day in court
Pakistan's judiciary have former president Pervez Musharraf on the run after his arrests over historic incidents, most recently last week over a 2007 raid on the Red Mosque. But if the ex-commando can highlight weaknesses in the legal system to overturn the cases, a bloody stigma attached to him will be cleansed. - Irshad Salim (Oct 21, '13)

Alliances save Nepal from oblivion
Historic Nepali ruler Jung Bahadur Rana shocked local society when he travelled to Britain in 1850, and more so a few years later when he backed the East India Company militarily. Rana knew his country was no less sovereign through establishing cordial relations with the superpower of the day - a strategy that reversed Nepal's decline then and is still working today. - Manish Gyawali (Oct 18, '13)

Singh takes a lonely road on Pakistan
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's administration continues to negotiate with Pakistan in defiance of public and military misgivings over Islamabad's complicity in allowing its territory to plot terrorist attacks, and yet it still appears perturbed at a lack of progress. Unless Delhi can forge a broad national consensus on Pakistan, the way forward will remain obscured by diplomatic double talk. - Ramesh Ramachandran (Oct 17, '13)

Afghan-US pact still hangs in the balance
The security pact on which Afghan President Hamid Karzai and United States Secretary of State John Kerry reached preliminary agreement last week is still far from a done deal. Talks faltered on the central issue of immunity for American troops who stay on post-2014. - Hafizullah Gardesh (Oct 16, '13)

Pakistan: a culture of intolerance
Pakistan was created on the basis of minority rights, yet 66 years after independence it has become a religiously bigoted, narrow-minded state. Treatment meted out to minorities and small Islamic sects of Islam raises questions about how to change Pakistan's societal culture of intolerance. - Sajjad Ashraf (Oct 15, '13)

Tamils taste symbolic power in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka's Tamil party hopes to build on its victory in provincial elections by seeking maximum devolution of powers, including control over land and the police. The central government is unlikely to consider reforms and the Tamil National Alliance, according to its critics, would do better to focus on promoting economic and social development. - Amantha Perera (Oct 15, '13)

Empty promises darken outlook
for India's fiscal deficit

India's fiscal account deficit is on the mend, if the government is to believed. The real world, shaped not least by the cost of luring votes at next year's election, provides a more accurate and darker picture. - Kunal Kumar Kundu (Oct 11, '13)

Musharraf 'free to leave' Pakistan
Murder charges still hang over former Pakistan military ruler Pervez Musharraf, but after the country's highest court on Wednesday granted him bail, the retired general will be free to leave his "jailhouse" - his lavish farmhouse residence - and travel abroad as "a free man", his lawyers say. Musharraf's supporters deny he cut a safe-exit deal with the government. - Syed Fazl-e-Haider (Oct 10, '13)

Sour note to Kashmir strike calls
Claims by Kashmir separatists that a Western classical music concert held in the valley last month was a government attempt to "legitimize an occupation" and allegations of killings at the hands of Indian security forces have led to calls for strike action. Yet the calls have been largely ignored by families sick of death and lost income after decades of strife in the state. - Aijaz Nazir (Oct 9, '13)

Children suffer as Pakistan's chaos grows
While child murder and abuse cases in Pakistan in recent weeks have raised public anger, the reaction is limited to online tweets and outpourings on social media sites rather than the social action seen over gang-rapes in India. Violence targeting children, particularly girls, isn't new in Pakistani society, but the stresses of instability appear to be exacerbating the problem. - Zofeen Ebrahim (Oct 8, '13)

Retiring Pakistan army chief set for key role
General Ashfaq Parvez Kiani, one of Pakistan's most powerful men, has put speculation to rest that he will seek a third term as army chief by announcing his retirement. Under Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's plans to revamp a largely ceremonial role, Kiani may swap one braid for another and extend his power. As the US prepares to withdraw from neighboring Afghanistan, Sharif keenly needs Kiani's strong links with Washington. - Syed Fazl-e-Haider (Oct 7, '13)

Pakistani widow pleas for peace
Four-year-old Sudhais is too young to understand the meaning of death, but easily realizes that his father has not come home for the past several days. This is the story of the youngest son of an unfortunate schoolteacher who lost his life along with 18 others in a September 27 bomb blast, and of a widow whose desperate call for peace in Pakistan falls on deaf ears. (Oct 7, '13)

Afghanistan down the memory hole
After 12 years of direct US combat in Afghanistan and 60 years of trying to remake that war-stricken country to serve Washington's aims, Americans have forgotten what it all means - if, that is, they knew in the first place. Weary of official reports of progress, most tuned out long ago. Among other unwanted consequences, the price will feature indelibly on US taxpayers' bills until at least the middle of this century. - Ann Jones (Oct 4, '13)

Legacy of Pakistani scholar lives on
After making history at Cambridge University as the first person to take honors there in four degrees in five years, Allama Mashriqi returned to Pakistan in 1913 to found the groundbreaking Islamia College in Peshawar. Still a pillar of Pakistan's education system, the college was a bold forerunner in providing education, particularly to females, in what is still a troubled region today. - Nasim Yousaf (Oct 4, '13)

Afghan mineral wealth
offers security or conflict

If Afghanistan's mineral wealth is managed well, the theory goes, it could serve as the backbone of a sustainable economy and stabilize the government. It could as easily exacerbate corruption and become another source of conflict. - Frud Bezhan (Oct 4, '13)

Disturbing discourse in Pakistan
Deadly blasts last week in Peshawar underlined to many Pakistanis that it is Taliban militants holding the nation hostage through constant violence, not the United States as right-wing leaders seem to claim. Politicians advocating expanded dialogue with the Taliban seem ignorant to the militants' historic tendency to use these as a smokescreen for strengthening operations. - Deedar Hussain Samejo (Oct 4, '13)

Bangladeshi workers press for higher pay
Bangladeshi garment workers want to earn as much in a week as a pair of jeans costs in Europe. Employers, who are offering half that amount, say they will settle for a figure set by the government - which is dominated by apparel sector businessmen. - Robert Stefanicki (Oct 3, '13)

Relief brings its own disasters
Children are the most vulnerable when natural disasters strike, with separation from families during the chaos of relief operations well documented in floods and cyclones in South Asia and the 2004 tsunami. Yet gathering metrics that allow relief workers to identify the most vulnerable in the aftermath of a calamity can go a long way to mitigating trauma that can last a lifetime. - Malini Shankar (Oct 3, '13)

India and Pakistan have to walk the talk
While India has said Pakistan must cease being "the epicenter of terrorism in our region" before a historic settling of differences, Delhi will face difficult decisions of its own - principally over Kashmir - along the roadmap being proposed towards peace. Viewing rapprochement as key to its plans to remain in Afghanistan, the United States can be relied upon to nudge the doubting couple together. - Irshad Salim (Oct 2, '13)

"Donkey ambulance" rides to the rescue
A new invention promises to carry mothers-to-be in Afghanistan across difficult terrain so they can get the medical care they need. The inflatable donkey saddle eases the burden of traveling in labor that makes many women lacking suitable transport opt to give birth at home - and risk not getting care if complications arise - rather than head to health centers. - Antoine Blua (Sep 30, '13)

Pakistan rots from the top down
Pakistan's capacity for change has been badly fractured as its moral, intellectual and political consciousness is undermined by incompetent, corrupt leaders. Unless the people can develop a collective consciousness and focus on putting a younger, educated generation in power, the violence will continue and Pakistan will never fulfill its destiny of becoming a peaceful Muslim nation. - Mahboob A Khawaja (Sep 30, '13)

Pakistan forced to rethink India policy
As Pakistan increasingly realizes that terrorism and militancy are by-products of its strategic depth maneuvers in the 2000s, instinctive mistrust of India is fading. The benefits of peace will also soon become clear, with high hope invested in the success of bilateral dialogue that such as that between the countries' prime ministers on Sunday. - Deedar Hussain Samejo (Sep 30, '13)

Indian banks trip on bad-loan hurdle
The Moody's downgrade of State Bank of India, the country's largest lender, is just one indication of the tough times facing the banking sector as the economy slows, inflation remains persistently high, and the government prepares for an election. - Kunal Kumar Kundu (Sep 27, '13)

India's Ladakh faces new scarcities
The hardy people of India's Ladakh region are coming under more pressure as climate change, tourism and modern practices exact a harsh toll on the high-altitude desert. While the replacement of traditional dry toilets sounds like progress, the impact of the borewells needed for flushing facilities is proving catastrophic for the fragile ecosystem. - Athar Parvaiz (Sep 27, '13)

Taliban splinter groups damp peace talk
Peace talks with the Pakistani Taliban were a key part of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's electoral promise to end bloodshed. But with no end in sight to violence at the hands of Taliban splinter groups, Islamabad is reconsidering its offer of unconditional negotiations. - Ron Synovitz and Majeed Babar (Sep 26, '13)

Afghan women face growing threats
A series of abductions and assassinations of high-profile women in Afghanistan highlights dangers that limited rights gains will be reversed once international forces pull out of the country in 2014. Taliban kidnappers this month freed a female politician in exchange for the release of insurgent prisoners. - Mina Habib (Sep 25, '13)

Delusional reality of Pakistani peace
Pakistani political parties who blame the US's war on terror and drones attacks for the rise in militancy appear blind to factors such as the state's past support for sectarian outfits, the incapacity of law enforcement agencies to tackle terrorism and the impact of Islamization programs. Unless these root causes are recognized, militants will retain the strategic upper hand and peace talks will fail. - Sameera Rashid (Sep 25, '13)

Christians protest Pakistan church killings
The deaths of more than 80 Christians in a suicide-bomb attack on a Peshawar church brought protest rallies in cities across Pakistan. With a string of attacks against the Christian minority, the response adds to past criticism that the government in the troubled northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province is failing to protect a community regarded as a soft target by Islamist militants. - Syed Fazl-e-Haider (Sep 24, '13)

Modi and minority rights
Narendra Modi, the Bharatiya Janata Party's candidate for prime minister in 2014, strikes a competent figure for those wishing to entrust the Indian economy to his hands. But the controversial record of the Gujarat chief minister shows he is the wrong man for minority rights, the unbiased rule of law, and secularism. - Liam Anderson (Sep 24, '13)

Singh needs to shine in Washington
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to the US this week offers him a chance to inject renewed vigor into the strategic partnership ahead of India's general elections next year. Unless he can explore the scope for improved cooperation in areas of shared need such as securing energy resources, creating jobs and improving infrastructure, bilateral momentum could again stall. - Sanjeev K Shrivastav (Sep 23, '13)

Military matters in Myanmar
Soldiers and Diplomacy in Burma by Renaud Egreteau and Larry Jagan. Strong Soldiers, Failed Revolution by Yoshihiro Nakanishi
Outside focus on Myanmar's new civilian authorities and recent economic changes has helped the military, still the country's most powerful institution, to retreat into the shadows and to evade similar scrutiny. These two books help to shed light on that space, though both fall short of their objectives. - Bertil Lintner (Sep 20, '13)

Killers roam free in Nepal
Not one case of extrajudicial killing, abduction, rape or torture in Nepal's decade-long civil war has been punished since the Maoists and other political parties signed a peace agreement in 2006 pledging to establish a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to punish war crimes, and a body to investigate the fate of the disappeared. Seven years later, the two commissions are yet to materialize. - Sudeshna Sarkar (Sep 20, '13)

Mollah: a Bangladeshi travesty of justice
Veteran Bangladeshi politician Abdul Quader Mollah has been sentenced to death on appeal for committing crimes against humanity during the nation's 1971 independence war against Pakistan. The death sentence imposed without the possibility of appeal is incompatible with international human rights law and is logical only when seem as the result of a political vendetta. - Mohammad Hossain (Sep 20, '13)

Afghanistan, corruption and Karzai
While US nation-building funds have fueled Afghan's endemic graft, final responsibility for the problem's exponential growth rests with the Afghan leadership. That bribes are now double the country's domestic revenue attracts no condemnation from President Hamid Karzai or other influential Afghans - most likely because he and his government and officialdom are the main benefactors. - Brian Cloughley (Sep 20, '13)

India's free lunches exact a high price
More than 24 million kilograms of food is cooked daily at Indian schools, mainly using wood fuel stoves that bring health and environmental costs. Yet the world's largest free-lunch program has no energy conservation or even a fuel policy in its workings. At least part of the answer to the problem is available, but slow to catch on. - Keya Acharya (Sep 19, '13)

'Fear of Taliban' stops executions
The execution of three Taliban men has been kept on hold because the Pakistan government fears reprisals by the militant group, according to political leaders, including Awami National Party leader Mian Iftikhar Hussain. Hussain, whose party has been a target of attacks, says the Taliban kills innocent people, but now want to stop legal executions. - Ashfaq Yusufzai (Sep 18, '13)

Dark days in Pakistan's city of lights
Karachi, Pakistan's biggest city and port, was once a peaceful melting pot, but is now dangerously divided along ethnic, political and sectarian lines. Missteps in a security sweep of criminal cartels and terrorist cells provoked rioting last week, with critics saying that disconnect between civilian leaders and the security establishment doomed the clean-up attempt. - Abubakar Siddique (Sep 16, '13)

Trapped between terror and graft
Daily encounters with official corruption are increasing Afghans' mistrust of their government and generating the grassroots resentment that feeds into the continuing insurgency. The cycle of corruption and terror is being turned by vast inflows of aid and an empowerment of warlords who were included in the Western coalition's failed post-invasion reconstruction effort. - Giuliano Battiston (Sep 12, '13)

Freed Taliban may hold key to peace
Hopes that former Taliban second-in-command Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar will win moderate Taliban over to President Hamid Karzai's grand plan have led many Afghans to view his release this week by Pakistan as presenting a unique opportunity for peace. Others feel Baradar can no longer muster enough influence among the insurgents. - Abubakar Siddique (Sep 12, '13)

Who shall guard the guardians of India?
China is testing the mettle of the Indian political leadership with small-scale military incursions across the Indian line of their disputed borders. The PLA is not yet confident enough to invade, though that day will come. As things stand, India will lack the political resolve and military capability to support its inferior forces. - Aruni Mukherjee (Sep 10, '13)

Pashmina withers on roof of the world
Extreme cold weather in Kashmir's Changthang region - the Roof of the World - is killing the goats whose fine wool is woven into prized pashmina shawls. With goat rearing under threat if conditions persist, so are the livelihoods of 300,000 people in Jammu and Kashmir state of India who depend on the product. - Athar Parvaiz (Sep 9, '13)

Sri Lanka cornered over human rights
That United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navanetham ''Navi'' Pillay's visit to Sri Lanka would be fraught with diplomatic tension was undoubted. But tensions came to a head when Pillay called for the government to account for continuing abuses and the militarization of the Tamil Tiger's former northern stronghold. - Amantha Perera (Sep 5, '13)

IMF approves $6 bn lifeline for Pakistan
The International Monetary Fund is to increase an earlier loan agreement with Pakistan to US$6.6 billion, which may head off a balance of payments crisis. Repaying an old loan, however, will eat up much of the new cash. - Syed Fazl-e-Haider (Sep 5, '13)

Jihadist books back in Pakistan classrooms
Hard-fought changes to remove Koranic verses preaching holy war from school textbooks in Pakistan's restive northwest are under threat. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province's newly elected government has announced its intention to restore violent jihadist content in a decision that dismays teachers. - Frud Bezhan (Sep 4, '13)

Populism behind rupee's free fall
Government determination to secure the popular vote rather than address fundamental economic and administrative issues is directly linked to the rupee's present freefall. With the next election in India due next spring, expect little to change. - Kunal Kumar Kundu (Sep 3, '13)
ATol Specials

  Syed Saleem Shahzad in Pakistan's Swat Valley (May '09)

  By Syed Saleem Shahzad
(Jan '09)

Syed Saleem Shahzad reports on the Afghan war from the Taliban side
(Dec '06)

A series by Syed Saleem Shahzad


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