By Kiran Hassan, Research assistant, South Asia Programme
Pakistan is heading for an historic election on 11 May, in which one democratically elected government is due to succeed another for the first time in the country’s existence. President Asif Ali Zardari finally called the election on 20 March, after criticism from Imran Khan and other politicians that he was delaying the process. In fact, the PPP (Pakistan Peoples Party) government headed by prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf completed its full five-year term on 16 March, necessitating the appointment of a caretaker administration in the run-up to the poll.
Retired senior judge Mir Hazar Khan Khoso, from the strife-torn province of Baluchistan, was sworn in as caretaker prime minister this past Monday. The 84-year-old was chosen by the election commission, after Pakistan’s main political parties failed to agree on a candidate.
The day beforehand Pakistan’s former military ruler, General Pervez Musharraf, had flown into Karachi airport after years of self-imposed exile in the UK and the UAE. Musharraf, who ruled Pakistan from 1999 to 2008, intends to run in the upcoming poll. However, he faces conspiracy to murder and other charges in Pakistan, and needed to arrange a ‘protective bail’ order to prevent being arrested upon his return.
By Becca Wasser, Program Officer and Research Analyst, IISS–US and John Drennan, Research Assistant, IISS-US
Throughout 2012, the Gulf Cooperation Council’s (GCC) approach to counter-terrorism and security focused on building operational ties to its strongest international partner, the United States.
The US–GCC Strategic Cooperation Forum (SCF) was launched in March of this year, bringing together the foreign ministers of the GCC states and top US officials. The aim is for both sides to strengthen and better coordinate their security efforts. While the GCC has a long relationship with the US, this high-level forum illustrates the continuing importance of the Gulf region to the US national security agenda.
By Mona Moussavi, Editorial Assistant
India’s foreign policy is an ‘enabler’ in the country’s transformation, Ranjan Mathai, the Indian foreign secretary, said at the IISS last week. At the Keynote Address to the Fifth IISS–Indian Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) Dialogue, the foreign secretary discussed Afghanistan’s ‘neighbourhood’ towards 2015 and beyond, emerging Arab developments and the ways in which the India-UK strategic relationship could grow.
Mathai said India is increasingly ‘plugged in’ to a globalised world, and that a peaceful periphery is essential. Almost half of India’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is now linked in one way or another to foreign trade, up from 20% in the 1990s. Specifically, India depends on ‘energy and critical raw materials from abroad’.
By Suvi Dogra, Research & Liaison Officer, Geo-economics and Strategy Programme.
India and Japan stepped up their defence cooperation this week, saying on Monday that they would conduct their first joint naval exercise in June. This will be part of a new maritime dialogue mechanism announced by Indian External Affairs Minister S. M. Krishna and his Japanese counterpart, Koichiro Gemba, after wide-ranging strategic and economic talks. The two ministers also announced a new cyber-security dialogue and the resumption of negotiations over a proposed civil-nuclear deal. Begun in June 2010, these fell into abeyance in the post-Fukushima period.
Meanwhile, India agreed to give the Japanese government a 26% stake in the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor Development Corporation. The move is an attempt to accelerate a much-delayed new rail freight link between India’s capital and its largest city, while also cementing a long-term economic partnership between India and Japan.