The modus operandi often adopted by China to make inroads into economically weaker nations, whether in Asia, Africa or Latin America, has been to strike deals with corrupt Heads of State. This enables Chinese companies to not only further their business interests in that country but the Chinese State to surreptitiously penetrate the nation’s polity, with the objective to ensure its long-term influence. The Himalayan nation of Nepal is emerging as a classic example of this Chinese machination where the ruling Nepal Communist Party, led by Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli has been seen to blatantly advance Chinese interests, to the extent that it has made many senior members of his party uncomfortable.
About fifteen years ago, I had the privilege of entering Gamal al-Banna’s lair, the youngest brother of Hassan al-Banna, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood. In a small apartment in a working-class district of Cairo, he had collected more than 30,000 books, many of which cannot be found today, hundreds of unpublished documents, such as handwritten notes on the secret links between the Brotherhood and the Free Officers Movement, the military organization founded by Gamal Abdel Nasser. During Gamal al-Banna’s lifetime, these treasures did not interest many people. What have they become since his death in January 2013?
When this is over, if ever it is, they will mark the long-awaited day with televised displays of emotion and solemnity. Ministers, in their dark blue suits, will congratulate themselves on having won the war.
The pandemic that has hit the planet must make us realize that nothing will ever be the same again. There was a pre-coronavirus. There’s now going to be a geopolitical and geostrategic post-coronavirus. Today, several factors are cause for concern in Western chanceries: An American withdrawal from world affairs, especially in the Middle East, leaving the field open to Russia and Iran; China’s all-round offensive and divisions in Europe.
Emile Habibi, a Palestinian writer from Haïfa who stayed on in Israel after 1948, had coined a great word to describe the state of mind of those individuals who experience ambiguity on a daily basis: peptimist. It is a mixture of hope and weariness, somewhere at a juncture between optimism and pessimism. This is a most fitting word to use these days in light of the consequences the epidemic is having on religions.
A recent US Department of Defense report submitted to the United States Congress concludes that though the US and Taliban representatives signed an agreement on February 29 as a move to end the conflict in Afghanistan, a number of subsequent events has raised questions over whether the peace process would take place.
The China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the flagship project of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) was launched nearly 5 years ago with much fanfare. However, over the last few years, the progress of the CPEC has been hampered by questions on the economic viability of these protests for Pakistan, China’s increasingly intrusive presence in the country and huge environmental concerns.