The Two Worlds of Abu Sayyaf By Sean Yom August 2001
The detention by Indonesian police on July 20 of 15 human rights activists and six negotiators for the Free Aceh Movement (Gerakan Aceh Merdeka or GAM) could portend a polarization of the conflict between government and rebel forces at the height of the political crisis in Jakarta over President Abdurrahman Wahid’s impeachment and the taking office of the new president, Megawati Sukarnoputri.
Entitled The United States and Southeast Asia: A Policy Agenda for the New Administration, the report was drafted by Dov Zakheim, Reagan-era Pentagon planner and now one of Bush’s Under-Secretaries of Defense. The president will soon receive similar advice from Zakheim’s boss, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, who in mid-June set out defense principles that refer to “allies” and “adversaries” but not much to countries in between.
Kashmir and Kerala, perhaps the two most scenic of the Indian states, are at the northern and southern ends of the country, respectively. During his New Year holiday in Kerala, Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee wrote some “musings” on Kashmir, almost as if he were “thinking aloud.” He wrote that he was determined to address seriously the Kashmir problem, which he identified as one of the bitter legacies of the partition of the subcontinent, while also recognizing both the internal and external dimensions of the issue.
Increasing repression by government forces is strengthening independence sentiment in Indonesia’s easternmost province of West Papua, also known as Irian Jaya.
As the Bush administration struggles to craft a coherent policy toward China, important developments within China are also taking place that may influence the trajectory of U.S.-China relations. One of the most important developments is the jockeying within the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) over the leadership transition that will take place at the 16th Party Congress scheduled for September 2002.
Looking from India at the Spy Plane
President George W. Bush decided April 23rd to offer Taiwan the largest arms package since his father sold various warships and F-16 fighters to Taiwan a decade ago. Bush did deny Taiwan the most expensive and controversial items on Taiwan’s shopping list: four Arleigh Burke-class destroyers equipped with advanced Aegis radar systems. Bush did approve two other weapons systems that mainland China strongly protests: eight submarines and twelve P-3C Orion anti-submarine patrol aircraft (a different version of the same model involved in the recent spy plane incident with China). Also offered for sale are four older Kidd-class missile destroyers. Although these are not nearly as sophisticated as the Arleigh Burke-class, they are twice as big as any existing Taiwanese warship and much more capable than most Chinese destroyers. They would be a major addition to Taiwan’s navy.
The Bush administration faces challenges from allies and adversaries alike in East Asia. The recent submarine incident and rising anti-bases sentiment in Okinawa have put the U.S.-Japan “special relationship” on rocky ground. The war of words with Beijing about human rights and its relations with Iraq suggests that the Bush team’s downgrading of China to the status of a “strategic rival” has already accentuated lines of division in the region.
A new report by the International Crisis Group (ICG) helps answer the question about what the appropriate responses are to Islamic militancy in Central Asia. The ICG is a highly respected, well connected, expert, private, multinational organization that describes itself as “committed to strengthening the capacity of the international community to anticipate, understand, and act to prevent and contain conflict.” In its new report titled “Central Asia: Islamist Mobilisation and Regional Stability,” ICG makes recommendations to Central Asian governments, external powers, and international organizations.