Vietnam

Strengthening Vietnam-Australia Trade Relations

Hang Nguyen is a Ph.D. candidate at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology University in Australia. Here she considers the reasons for promoting Vietnam-Australia trade relations.

Vietnam and Australia officially established diplomatic relations in February 1973 and have sought to foster their relationship since then. In 2009, Vietnam and Australia elevated their bilateral relations to a new height: Vietnam-Australia Comprehensive Partnership. This is a crystal clear indication of Hanoi and Canberra’s desire to expand and deepen Vietnam-Australia relations on a wide range of areas from economics, politics, security to people-to-people exchange. Among those areas, trade has an increasingly important role in consolidating the Vietnam-Australia partnership.

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Iran

Memoires of a Qajar Persian Prince

Michael Noel-Clarke, who studied as an undergraduate in Esfahan and later served in the British Embassy in Tehran (1970-74), has recently translated the memoires of Prince Arfa, a prominent member of the Persian establishment at the end of the 19th century. The book has been published by Gingko Library as Memories of a Bygone Age: Qajar Persia and Imperial Russia 1853-1902. In this speech given by Noel-Clarke at the book’s launch, he describes the significance of Prince Arfa and the role he played on the national and international stage.

Prince Arfa wrote his memoirs just before he died in 1937, but probably for political reasons they were not published in Persian until 1965. His son and my wife’s grandfather, General Hassan Arfa, gave us a copy in the early 1970s, and my wife suggested that when I retired I should translate them. I hope that the Prince’s memoirs will become a useful secondary source on Iran’s relations with Tsarist Russia, on which I understand that there is not much material in English, and even more so on the social history of later Qajar Iran. Furthermore, there are certain abiding themes in Iranian history which form a backdrop to these memoirs and, at a moment when people are again beginning to travel to Iran and take an interest in its politics, they will, I hope, help to partially explain the emergence of the Islamic Republic and its subsequent development. I also hope that non-academic non-specialist readers will find the book as amusing and interesting as I did. It is packed with various wild and wonderful adventures and witty anecdotes, not all of which end to the author’s advantage. Continue reading

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Pakistan

Pakistan’s Global Image: Perception and Causes

Nadir Cheema is an academic at the School of Oriental and African Studies and UCL, University of London. He specializes in economics and studies Pakistani socio-political issues. He is also a senior fellow at Bloomsbury Pakistan.

The perception that Pakistan lacks credibility within the international community is a common one among analysts and academics working on the region.[i]

A survey, conducted exclusively for this article, set out to examine the nature and origins of such negative views about Pakistan. Members of the Foreign Service Programme class of 2016 at the University of Oxford, mainly comprised of diplomats from all over the world,[ii] were asked ‘what three things come to mind when you hear about Pakistan?’ The majority of respondents cited nuclear weapons, terrorism, security, Islam, and the Taliban, lending support to the general view of Pakistan as a militarised state involved with Islamic extremism. Continue reading

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Asian Affairs Journal

On the Issue of Palestinian Invisibility

Martijn van Gils is a Masters student of Comparative Literary research at Utrecht University, The Netherlands. His research interests are postcolonial literatures and cultural memory and trauma. Along with Malaka Mohammed Shwaikh, a Palestinian award-winning human rights activist and writer, he co-authored an article on Palestinian Cinema in the latest issue of the Asian Affairs Journal.

Throughout the history of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, Palestinian people have faced fundamental obstacles in making themselves visible to the world. Questions around Palestinian invisibility have found their way into several academic studies in more recent years – including in my own paper, which has just been published in this journal. In this blog, I wish to discuss this issue of Palestinian invisibility. What does it mean to say that Palestinians are ‘invisible’? How has this issue developed throughout history? And how might we address these issues? What does it even matter to begin with? It is of course impossible to do full justice to such a complex topic within the scope of this blog; this piece should therefore be seen as an introduction. Continue reading

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Sri Lanka

Letter from Sri Lanka: Reconciliation, Resources and Elephants

Richard Fell CVO is a former ambassador and Books Review Editor of the Asian Affairs Journal. Here, he reports on a recent visit to Sri Lanka.

I recently spent two weeks in Sri Lanka with a distinguished group of New Zealanders and Australians. Though primarily a holiday, we had opportunities to discuss developments in the country with business leaders, politicians and other opinion formers, and of course we kept our eyes, ears and minds open during our visit.

The current government celebrated its first year in office during our visit. It is a coalition of the two main parties, the first in South Asia. Its stated objectives include a return to good governance including tackling corruption, and an economic development strategy which includes attracting more foreign investment from a wider number of sources. Continue reading

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Bangladesh

Bangladesh: under militant siege

Dr Amit Ranjan is a research fellow of the Indian Council of World Affairs in New Delhi. Here, he considers the reasons behind the upsurge in militant violence in Bangladesh.

Over the last decade, Bangladesh has turned into a militant hotspot where home grown militants have killed thousands of people. Their main tactics have included petrol bomb attacks on groups or targeted individual killings, but on 1 July 2016 they, on the lines of operations carried out by the terrorists in Mumbai in 2008 (as well as Paris in 2015 and in Istanbul in 2016), carried out a much fuller operation.  Raising a slogan ‘Allah O Akbar’, and armed with crude bombs and swords, seven militants stormed into a popular eatery, Holey Artisan Bakery, in Dhaka’s diplomatic enclave. There they held about sixty hostages, including many foreign citizens. To meet such an unprecedented situation Operation Thunderbolt was carried out by the commandos from the Bangladesh Army, Navy, Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) teams, the elite force Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) and paramilitary Border Guards Bangladesh (BGB). Continue reading

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Turkey

Turkey: Diary of a Failed Coup

Nagihan Haliloglu is an assistant professor at the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations and a resident of Istanbul. Here, she records her observations and thoughts on the recent coup attempt in Turkey.

I first heard that something was not quite right in Istanbul as I was sitting by the Aegean shore in Çeşme, supposedly looking over to Chios and admiring the lights and reflections, but in reality wasting my time on twitter. I saw a tweet that said that the bridges over the Bosphorus had been blocked by tanks. Most of my time line thought that this was due to a Daesh threat – the airport had been bombed only a couple of weeks ago – others joked that there had been a coup. One tweet said that the call for prayer in Acıbadem in Istanbul district had already been called out in Turkish, referencing a practice that the military likes to engage in when they take power in Turkey. When I left the sea and the stars and went back to the room to check the news on TV, it had already become official. My dad and I watched incredulously as a newsreader on state TV read out the declaration that said the army had seized executive power. We read news flashes that said that the Parliament had been bombed and fighter jets were flying low over Istanbul. ‘Even if they should take over now, they will have to reinstate democracy at some point, and AKP will come back stronger’ he said. Here was a man who had already experienced two coups in his life time. Continue reading

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Tajikistan

In Search of Nasir Khusraw – Persian Philosopher and Poet

A view of the Mir Qa'la [Fortress] at the town of Kabodian

A view of the Mir Qa’la [Fortress] at the town of Kabodian

Huw Thomas, co-author of the Odyssey Guide to Tajikistan and the High Pamirs, goes in search of the birthplace of Nasir Khusraw.

Nadir Khusraw [1004 – 1077] is recognized as one of the great poets of the Persian language and as an important Muslim philosopher. He was one of the greatest travellers of the eleventh century. His Safarnama describes his travels from 1054 to 1052 from his native Balkh [in what is now northern Afghanistan] to the Fatimid court in Cairo – where he confirmed his conversion to the Ismaili interpretation of Islam – and back through Mecca to Khorasan [in modern Iran] where he became head of the Ismaili missionary activity [da’wa] in eastern Iran. His poetry, mostly in the qasida form, is known as Diwan, totally more than 15,000 lines of evocative poetry. In about 1057, under threat of death for his Ismaili missionary activities he was forced to leave Khorasan and seek exile in the valley of Yumgan in what is now Afghan Badakshan. His modest grave is there. Continue reading

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Central Asia, Russia

Russia and Eurasia

This month sees the launch of Black Wind, White Snow by Charles Clover, former Moscow FT Bureau chief. Bijan Omrani, Editor of the Asian Affairs Journal, attended a speech by Clover this week at Pushkin House in London to mark the book’s release.

What reasons can be given for Vladimir Putin’s belligerence? How is it that he has chosen to steer Russia away from liberalism back towards authoritarian rule? A reasonable observer might rightly conclude that his decisions are driven by little more than short-term self-interest. Yet, this has not stopped Putin from attempting to present his policies as guided by a profounder philosophy. His irredentism, so he would own, is not drawn from the petty-minded desire of an ex-KGB man to restore the broken dream of the Soviet Union. His vision, he would say, is grander, timeless, almost mystical; of Russia, as he said in a speech in 2013, as a “civilizational state” responsible for the preservation of the peoples of “Eurasia”.

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Afghanistan, Tajikistan

Following the Heroin Trail of Tajikistan

Malgosia Skowronska is a graduate of the War Studies Department of King’s College London, and the producer of Narkomen, an independent film on the problems faced by heroin addicts in Tajikistan.

The day comes to an end. The sun had almost gone down behind the surrounding peaks of the Pamir Mountains. Mirzo, with his slow and exhausted voice, lets me know that he no longer had the strength for conversation, for memories. He needs another dose. Mirzo, like many from his village of Porszniev, situated deep in the mountainous region of Tajik Badakhshan, has been struggling with heroin addiction for almost two decades.

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Mirzo with his mum in their house in Porshniev. Photo: Malgorzata Skowronska

Heroin took its toll. Mirzo talks about his youth, about his friends and classmates, among whom only a handful have managed to escape addiction. “Once, 30-40% of young people in the village took heroin. Most of them are already gone. They even did not live half of their life.” He counts everyone one by one: three sons of the neighbour, two doors down another three brothers, he and his younger brother. The list of those affected by addiction seems to have no end.

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