The DailyBrief

Thursday September 7, 2017

South China Sea: Beijing’s rebuke of Jakarta’s decision to rename its natural-gas-rich Natuna Islands region has agitated what had been a quiescent territorial dispute, John McBeth writes. Six weeks after Indonesia declared its intention to rename its 200-mile exclusive economic zone north of the islands as the “North Natuna Sea,” China has demanded that Jakarta drop the new moniker, saying it isn’t conducive to the “excellent” relations between the two countries. Beijing asserted in a letter that the two countries have overlapping claims in the South China Sea and that renaming the area will not alter that fact. China said changing what it called an “internationally accepted name” had resulted in the “complication and expansion of the dispute” and affected peace and stability in the region.

Deteriorating US-Pakistan relations: President Donald Trump’s Afghanistan policy offers nothing new except forsaking old frontline ally Pakistan and coercing new strategic ally India to deliver, Sabena Siddiqui asserts. Having spent US$1 trillion on the 16-year battle without results, the US could not face defeat and blamed Pakistan instead. It has not been forgotten that Trump was opposed to the Afghan war during his election campaign, calling it “nonsense” and a waste of money, tweeting the refrain “Let’s get out of Afghanistan”. As the scapegoat, Pakistan was accused of sheltering “agents of chaos” and “the very terrorists” the US military had been fighting in Afghanistan, while greater Indian involvement was sought vis-a-vis containing the Taliban. However, criticizing Pakistan may have backfired on the US and a serious downgrade of US-Pakistani relations was the expected outcome.

New diplomatic approach: Having 12 times the population of North Korea, and military and economic power of a much greater magnitude of multiples, mighty America can afford the magnanimity of making the first gesture of accommodation to resolve the Korean Peninsula crisis, George Koo asserts. But even then, the US diplomatic effort would need infinite patience to gradually overcome the years of bad blood and distrust between Washington and Pyongyang. Perhaps another high-profile emissary to Pyongyang is needed to break the ice. Instead of former president Jimmy Carter, might not Bill Clinton fill the bill? It’s time to think and act differently about North Korea before the situation gets out of control.

Sino-Indian relations placid: The summer-long border dispute between India and China in the Himalayas threatened to upstage the BRICS summit in China’s port city of Xiamen, with some even speculating that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi would back out of at the last minute, Adam Garrie writes. Instead, the dispute thawed at the last minute, with both sides making vague but hopeful pledges to engage in direct dialogue in order to avoid such flare-ups in the future. It is anyone’s guess how long this placidity will last, but the epic divide between Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping that many had expected – and that those who wish failure upon the BRICS hoped for – didn’t amount to a ton of bricks. Ultimately, there were no breakthroughs between the two sides but nor were there open disagreements.

Guns for hire? “Mercenaries” is a derogatory term that should never be used to describe the Gurkhas, an autonomous institution that began serving with the British army in 1815, Tim Gurung asserts. Their legal status as soldiers is clear. First, the Tripartite Agreement signed by the governments of the United Kingdom, India and Nepal in 1947 stated clearly that as the Gurkhas had been fully integrated into the regular army into which they had been recruited, under no circumstances were they to be considered mercenaries. Second, the Gurkhas and the French Legion are under the protection of Geneva Convention Articles 47a and 48b established in 1972, freeing them from being called mercenaries. Unlike hired mercenaries, the Gurkhas have always served in a national regular army, and still do so today.

Asia Times app: Asia Times has launched an app for both iOS- and Android-based devices that delivers the publication’s regular daily news, commentary, blogs and live coverage while also bringing readers added functionality. As we report here, the app, launched on July 25, includes content notification, share and save functions and is free to download from both the Apple Store and Google Play.