By Dr Sanjaya Baru, Director for Geo-economics and Strategy
Impatient with Beijing, Shanghai sets the pace for reform. It has lessons for India
In India, it is called “policy paralysis”. In Washington DC, they crib about a “political gridlock”. In Europe, they lament a lack of “political will”. In China, the concern now is with growing “political risk-aversion”.
Last week, a young official in Shanghai told me that Beijing had become too cautious on the economic policy front, so provinces seeking speedier economic growth must take their own initiative. “We will not have much reform from above,” he said to me, “but we can have reform from below.”
It’s not yet clear what the appointment of Prince Salman bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud as crown prince of Saudi Arabia following the death of his brother, Naif, will mean for the country or the wider gulf region. Prince Salman has a reputation as something of a reformer but is also known to be hawkish on Iran.
The appointment has also shone a spotlight on the kingdom’s labyrinthine rules of succession. In December 2010, following the unusual public announcement that King Abdullah would be seeking medical treatment in the US, an IISS Strategic Comment explained the 2006 Succession Law, and looked at the issues facing the Saudi monarchy.
Nearly two months have elapsed since the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) published a report into the unrest that shook this Persian Gulf archipelago last year. Its 513 pages laid bare the excessive use of force, systematic mistreatment, and culture of non-accountability, as the Bahraini government responded to a popular movement that challenged its grip on power. It also found no evidence of any Iranian involvement in the protests, thereby contradicting regime narratives that ascribed them to external intervention rather than domestic grievances. In response, King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa, pledged to initiate reforms, and established a national commission to oversee their implementation. Yet the measures taken to date have left unaddressed many of the roots of Bahrain’s political and economic inequalities, and ongoing clashes between protesters and security forces have if anything, intensified. The result has been the empowerment of radical voices across the political spectrum and the marginalisation of Bahrain’s political middle ground.
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