The biennial Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting opened on April 16, 2018 in London. Most of the world’s media, except perhaps those of the Commonwealth nations, gave the event less attention than it deserves – but that has been the fate of the Commonwealth itself for many years.
Bangladesh, in a twist of irony, is looking to Saudi Arabia to fund a $ 1 billion plan to build hundreds of mosques and religious centres to counter militant Islam that for much of the past decade traced its roots to ultra-conservative strands of the faith promoted by a multi-billion dollar Saudi campaign.
Once upon a time Turkey and Israel were the greatest of friends. In March 1949 Turkey was the first Islamic nation to recognize the new state of Israel. Over the next fifty years, despite some ups and downs, the relationship flourished. In the Cold War Turkey was a key ally of the Western camp and in the 1990s, under the aegis of the United States, Israel and Turkey established bilateral defense, security and economic partnerships which burgeoned into strong social and cultural ties.
The organization dedicated to isolating and delegitimizing Israel by way of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) has so far not reacted officially to the announcement that Britain’s Prince William is to visit Israel this summer. Since he will also be visiting Jordan and what are described in the announcement as “the Palestinian occupied territories”, and since both Jordan’s King Abdullah and Palestinian Authority (PA) president, Mahmoud Abbas, have welcomed the news, hard-line BDS supporters do not have much of a leg to stand on. Moreover Prince William probably ranks considerably higher in the public popularity stakes than Roger Waters, Lorde…
Seventy years after its birth, Pakistan is struggling to get a grip on Sunni Muslim ultra-conservatism and its militant offshoots that were aided and abetted by successive governments as well as Saudi Arabia and at times the United States. The stakes for Pakistan are high as it confronts mounting international pressure that includes China, its closest ally, to crackdown on militancy.
China’s recent failure to shield Pakistan from censorship by an international anti-terrorism funding and anti-money laundering body suggests that the People’s Republic is struggling to balance its contradictory interests in South Asia and may be trying to evade the potential cost of its long-standing support for Pakistani-backed, anti-Indian militants.
Saudi Arabia, in an indication that it is serious about shaving off the sharp edges of its Sunni Muslim ultra-conservatism, has agreed to surrender control of the Great Mosque in Brussels.
A host of conflicts, stretching across the Asian landmass from the Middle East to Southeast Asia and northwest China, are likely to spark violence, complicate economic development, and dash hopes for sustainable stability.
If week-long anti-government protests in Iran exposed the Islamic republic’s deep-seated economic and political problems, they also laid bare Saudi Arabia’s structural inability to establish itself as the leader of the Sunni Muslim world.
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin is a man who thrives on seizing the initiative. Let him spot a chance to gain a diplomatic advantage, and he will not hesitate to act. Aware that the Geneva-based talks on settling the Syrian conflict were faltering, and realizing that no other player was on the field, he jumped forward to chance his arm at brokering a Russian-led peace deal.