Catching Up with the News

La Republic bananier: Jean Sarkozy, the French President’s 23-year-old, undergraduate son is appointed to a powerful post as the head of the Epad, the public agency which runs La Défense, the big business district on the west side of Paris. (An internet petition is calling on Jean to get his degree before rising to high responsibility.) La Défense is the heart of Sarkoland, the President’s fiefdom. His son was elected to a seat on the notoriously sleaze-ridden departement council there last year. The president also orchestrated a public media trial of his bitter rival, former Prime Minister Dominic de Villepin for allegedly abetting an amateurish and ineffective scheme to smear Sarkozy Also, the fact remains that Sarkozy appointed (and stood by) a senior minister who had written about his exploits as a Bangkok sex tourist. Gay activists are also angry, because the minister in question, Mitterrand has tarnished homosexuality by at least appearing to associate it with paedophilia and prostitution.

IndeoChinese Cold War: Beginning in August, stories about new Chinese air incursions into India have dominated the news: China claims some 90,000 square kilometers of Indian territory–around Tibet, and of semi-independent kingdoms that paid fealty to Lhasa. Ever since the anti-Chinese unrest in Tibet last year, progress toward settling the border dispute has stalled. To add to the drama, many yonger Tibetans, many born outside Tibet, are growing impatient with the Dalai Lama’s “middle way” approach—a willingness to accept Chinese sovereignty in return for true autonomy—and commitment to nonviolence. If these groups were to use India as a base for armed insurrection against China, as Tibetan exiles did throughout the 1960s, then two nuclear powers will be brought to the brink of war. (Beijing will at least seize important Tibetan Buddhist monasteries that lie in Indian territory close to the border).

Beijing has launched a diplomatic offensive aimed at undercutting Indian sovereignty over the areas China claims, particularly the northeast state of Arunachal Pradesh and one of its key cities, Tawang, birthplace of the sixth Dalai Lama in the 17th century. Tibet ceded Tawang and the area around it to British India in 1914. China has recently denied visas to the state’s residents; lodged a formal complaint after Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visited the state in 2008; and tried to block a $2.9 billion Asian Development Bank loan to India because some of the money was earmarked for an irrigation project in the state. In India’s 1962 war with China, the latter launched a massive invasion along the length of the frontier, routing the Indians before unilaterally halting at what today remains the de facto border, known as the Line of Actual Control (LAC). They are fearful of China’s expanding naval presence in the Indian Ocean. Bharat Verma, editor of the Indian Defence Review, predicted in a widely publicized essay this summer that China would attack India sometime before 2012.

Give Nukes a Nobel: The world wars were the hideous expression of what happens when the human tendency toward conflict hooks up with the violent possibilities of the industrial age–the Nazi death machinery, and assembly line murders. The truth is that industrial killing was practiced by many nations in the old world without nuclear weapons. Soldiers were gassed and machine-gunned by the hundreds of thousands in the trenches of World War I; by World War II, countries on both sides of the war used airplanes and artillery to rain death on battlefields as well as cities, until the number killed around the world was so huge the best estimates of the total number lost diverge by some 16 million souls. The dead numbered 62 million, or 78 million — somewhere in there. Then came a world with nuclear weapons. As bad as they are, nukes have been instrumental in reversing the long, seemingly inexorable trend in modernity toward deadlier and deadlier conflicts. Major powers find ways to get along because the cost of armed conflict between them has become unthinkably high., and thus began the age of globalization and global economy. If a world with nuclear weapons in it is a scary, scary place to think about, the industrialized world without nuclear weapons was a scary, scary place for real. But there is no way to un-ring the nuclear bell–instead of fantasies about a nuke-free planet where formerly bloodthirsty humans live together in peace, what the world needs is a safer, more stable nuclear umbrella.

Haut-Karabagh Question: Azerbaijan is the only country criticiseing an agreement to normalize relations between Turkey and Armenia, saying it raises doubts about regional stability.The Azerbaijani foreign ministry said Turkey should not have normalised ties without a deal over the disputed enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh. During the war there in 1993, Turkey closed its border with Armenia out of solidarity with Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan’s government wants Armenia to withdraw troops from Nagorno-Karabakh, the Aremenian enclave in Azerbaijan, and return land. (There was a chance that the Turkish-Armenian protocols might never be ratified by Turkey’s parliament). A timetable for normalising relations between Turkey and Armenia was agreed in April, after a century of hostility between the two neighbours.

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