25 May 2024

Teesta River Project Pushes Bangladesh Into China-India Cold War

Kamal Uddin Mazumder

Bangladesh faces a delicate diplomatic dilemma as it navigates competing interests from India and China in the Teesta River project. On the one hand, India’s interest in the project stems from strategic security concerns, seeking to maintain influence in the region and ensure stability along its borders. On the other hand, China’s involvement offers economic benefits and potential infrastructure development, but it also raises concerns about geopolitical implications and security risks for India. The challenge for Bangladesh lies in balancing these interests while safeguarding its sovereignty, security, and development priorities.

Bangladesh’s projected Teesta River Comprehensive Management and Restoration Project, estimated to cost $1 billion, has long piqued China’s interest. Beijing has submitted an official proposal to carry out this project, and an agreement is expected to be signed during Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s upcoming visit to China. Against this backdrop, India recently sent its foreign secretary, Vinay Mohan Kwatra, to Bangladesh to keep China away from the project. During the trip, Kwatra offered Indian funding for the Teesta project, putting Dhaka in a tight spot.

In recent years, both China and India have been engaged in a tussle over expanding their influence in Bangladesh, which India sees as its zone of influence. Bangladesh’s development projects have also reflected this Sino-Indian competition. For example, some years ago, Bangladesh canceled the Sonadia deep sea port project in the Bay of Bengal near Cox’s Bazar that China was keen to construct, reportedly due to India’s discomfort about Beijing’s growing presence in such a strategically important area of the Indo-Pacific. It has also been argued that Beijing has shelved some projects in Bangladesh that were expected to enhance the country’s connectivity with India. Now the Teesta project is the latest iteration of this geopolitical competition.

Understanding India’s Evolving Middle Classes – Analysis

Sandhya Krishnan

India’s middle class first emerged in the early 19th century, when British policies gave rise to a small group of educated, upper caste, English-speaking Indian elite. But the economic potential of the Indian middle class only became a major phenomenon in the 21st century when it started to attract attention for its potential to drive global consumption. India’s contemporary middle class is more multidimensional with economic growth since the 2000s spawning the formation of multiple middle classes — an ‘old’ or established middle class and an emerging ‘new’ middle class.

There is no consensus on the actual size of India’s middle class. Using the classification of those spending between US$2–10 per capita per day, over 600 million people — half of India’s population — were in the middle class in 2012, up from less than 300 million or 27 per cent of the population in 2000. Nearly 75 per cent of the middle class is comprised of the lower middle class — those spending US$2–4 per capita per day, a figure that’s only slightly above the global poverty line.

If using a higher income band — where a person is considered middle class if their daily income is approximately US$17–100 — 432 million Indians can be included in the middle class as of 2021, comprising 31 per cent of the population, up from 14 per cent in 2005.null

Pakistan Should Reconsider Forced Repatriation Of Afghan Refugees – OpEd

Dr. Ajmal Shams

Many Afghan refugees have been living in Pakistan for more than four decades. The Afghan’s mass migration to neighboring Pakistan began in 1978 when the Communist Regime came to power in a bloody coup. The flow of Afghans into Pakistan further intensified with the former Soviet occupation of the country in December 1979.

Although a significant number of Afghans have repatriated, about two million have preferred to stay making Pakistan their second home. In general, Afghans look at Pakistan especially its people with a sense of gratitude that has hosted them for decades. Except for some rare incidents, no major tensions or conflicts between the local population and Afghans have been witnessed during this whole period, which is unique in the history of refugees in such large numbers.

With the collapse of former Afghan government in August 2021 and the Taliban’s taking control, about 800,000 Afghans, as per UNHCR report, have arrived in Pakistan majority of them without any documentation. A substantial number of Afghans, although in minority, come to Pakistan with proper visas and documentation. It is worth noting though that obtaining Pakistani visa for Afghans is extremely challenging. Most visa applications are rejected without assigning any particular reason. Getting Pakistani visas are now possible through third party channels with associated costs not affordable for majority of Afghans.

Asian defence spending grows, China’s grows more

Fenella McGerty

Asian defence spending will continue to grow in 2024, but China still outpaces the rest of the region.

According to Military Balance+ data, regional defence expenditure will increase by 4.2% in real terms in 2024 as countries work to overcome economic and fiscal constraints to maintain uplifts to defence spending.

Beyond China, the increases are largely driven by the region’s more mature, lower growth economies like Australia, Japan and South Korea, as they continue to adjust their perceptions of the security environment and the challenges they face, particularly those that China and North Korea present. However, despite three consecutive years of strong real defence-spending growth in the rest of the region, China’s share of overall spending continues to increase, from 38% in 2014 to 44% this year.

China’s 2024 defence budget reached RMB1.665 trillion (USD236 billion), compared to an estimated USD298bn spent by all other countries in Asia this year. The Chinese budget increased by over 7% in nominal terms, with 2024 marking the 30th consecutive year it has risen. As a proportion of GDP, the core Chinese defence budget amounts to 1.27%, well below the global average of 1.8% and indeed the 2% target for NATO countries.

The U.S. Military Needs A Better China ‘Messaging’ Strategy

Justin Woodward

Getting the Messaging Right Around the China Challenge: The U.S. Military’s Dilemma

China is not our enemy. The Chinese people are not our enemy, and we need to start using this narrative in our daily messaging.

The term China is often used by the U.S. Military to represent a pacing threat or challenge to the U.S. and its allies. The U.S. Military should be specific to increase accuracy in their language to avoid confusion and misperception.

China is used as a catch-all, mingling the People’s Republic of China (PRC), the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), PRC nationals, and the ethnic diaspora across the globe into the term “China” as one entity.

Mixing the terms or using just one term to refer to all groups weakens U.S. Foreign Policy and strengthens the CCP narrative that they represent all Chinese parties. This usage will also contribute to anti-Asian American discrimination.

East meets middle: China’s blossoming relationship with Saudi Arabia and the UAE

Camille Lons

The image of Chinese leader Xi Jinping presiding over an important diplomatic breakthrough between arch-rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran in March 2023 has become emblematic of the changing global order and the declining American role in the Middle East. Once merely a discreet energy client reluctant to meddle in Middle Eastern politics, over the past two decades China has become a key player in the Gulf’s fast-changing geopolitical landscape. Ten years after the launch of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in 2013, relations between China and the two main Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) powers – Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – have come a long way, developing beyond energy trade to a wide range of new sectors.

The blossoming relationship between these two Gulf states and China is a symptom of a broader evolution in the geopolitical context and has implications that reach far beyond the Middle East. Saudi Arabia and the UAE have emerged as key middle powers driven by their ambition to play a role in a changing global order and the growing geopolitical competition between China and the United States. In the meantime, China’s changing perspective on the Gulf is part of its growing assertiveness and ambition on the international scene.

More Than 700,000 Tibetans Forced To Relocate

Tenzin Dickyi, Lobsang, Dorjee Damdul and Pelbar

For the past seven years, Tashi and his once-nomadic family have been living in the outskirts of Tibet’s capital Lhasa after they were forcibly moved from their ancestral home in the grasslands of Tibet.

They had made a living raising yaks and other livestock and engaging in sustainable farming in Damxung county, located two hours away by road from Lhasa, until they and others were forced to move to Lhasa’s Kuro Bridge area, promised “improved living conditions” by Chinese authorities.

But in reality, they have faced joblessness, economic hardship and social exclusion ever since.

“All our farmlands in Damxung were confiscated by the government under the guise of development projects,” said Tashi, whose name has been changed for safety reasons. “Having grown up in the village without any education, it is extremely difficult for us to find jobs and make a living in the city.”

The Death of an Iranian Hard-Liner

Mohammad Ayatollahi Tabaar

The sudden death of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi in helicopter crash on May 19 marked a momentous day for the Islamic Republic. His presidency ushered in a new era for his country, characterized by increased militarization abroad and growing tumult at home. Not since the 1979 revolution had Iran’s political system faced such a fast-paced transformation. Externally, the country surprised the world with its military capabilities and its willingness to deploy them. Internally, Iran grappled with rising secularization, putting society at odds with the government. These shifts meant that the Iran that exists today is very different from the one that existed when Raisi came to power just three years ago.

Without Raisi, it may seem like Iran is headed for a period of great turbulence. Before his ascent, Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, spent 30 years in near-constant conflict with Iran’s presidents, sparring over what path the country should take at home and abroad. But Raisi adopted Khamenei’s preferred, Middle East–first approach to foreign policy, expanding Iran’s regional influence and improving relations with its neighbors, including its rival, Saudi Arabia. He made sure that Iran’s presidential bureaucracy synced up with the supreme leader’s. He deepened ties with China and Russia and vastly expanded his country’s nuclear program. Raisi was so loyal to Khamenei that he was widely viewed as his heir apparent.

The Death of Iran’s President Could Change the Worl

John Ghazvinian

The uncertainty ushered in by the death of Iran’s president, Ebrahim Raisi, in a helicopter crash, just weeks after an unprecedented exchange of military attacks with Israel, has brought a chilling question to mind: Is 2024 the year that Iran finally decides it can no longer take chances with its security and races to build a nuclear bomb?

Up to now, for reasons experts often debate, Iran has never made the decision to build a nuclear weapon, despite having at least most of the resources and capabilities it needs to do so, as far as we know. But Mr. Raisi’s death has created an opportunity for the hard-liners in the country who are far less allergic to the idea of going nuclear than the regime has been for decades.

Even before Mr. Raisi’s death, there were indications that Iran’s position might be starting to shift. The recent exchange of hostilities with Israel, a country with an undeclared but widely acknowledged nuclear arsenal, has provoked a change of tone in Tehran. “We have no decision to build a nuclear bomb but should Iran’s existence be threatened, there will be no choice but to change our military doctrine,” Kamal Kharrazi, a leading adviser to Iran’s supreme leader, said on May 9.

The ICC’s threat to arrest Binyamin Netanyahu has shocked Israe

It had been been expected in Israel for weeks, but was still a shock when it came. On May 20th the prosecutor for the International Criminal Court (icc), Karim Khan, announced that he was requesting arrest warrants for Binyamin Netanyahu and Yoav Gallant, Israel’s prime minister and defence minister, as well as the leaders of Hamas, the Islamists who launched the deadly attack on Israel on October 7th last year, on charges of war crimes.

The prospect of their leaders appearing in the dock along with the perpetrators of a massacre against them is unthinkable for Israelis. But it is a sign of the horror with which many have come to view their government’s devastating war in Gaza. Mr Khan, a British lawyer, issued detailed and lengthy accusations against both sides. He opened with the allegations against the Hamas chiefs, Yahya Sinwar (pictured right), Mohammed Deif and Ismail Haniyeh, detailing the murder, sexual assault and kidnapping of Israeli citizens. But the charges against the Israeli ministers were no less pointed.

The Strange Resurrection of the Two-State Solution

Martin Indyk

For years, the vision of an Israeli state and a Palestinian state existing side by side in peace and security has been derided as hopelessly naive—or worse, as a dangerous illusion. After decades of U.S.-led diplomacy failed to achieve that outcome, it seemed to many observers that the dream had died; all that was left to do was bury it. But it turns out that reports of the death of the two-state solution were greatly exaggerated.

Behind scenes of Israel-Saudi deal, Pentagon works Arab air defense shiel

Jared Szuba

As the Biden administration touts a bilateral deal with Saudi Arabia linked to a historic normalization with Israel, Pentagon officials are working behind the scenes to firm up what defense officials hope will be a cornerstone of Washington’s broader Middle East strategy for years to come.

Senior Pentagon officials sat down with Arab military brass in Riyadh on Wednesday to discuss expanding nascent Middle East air and naval defense coalitions in hopes of eventually containing Iran’s missile and drone overmatch over its neighbors.

The department’s top Middle East policy chief, Dan Shapiro, along with officials from CENTCOM and the Joint Staff, are leading the discussions with military representatives from all five Gulf Cooperation Council countries for the second annual round of defense working group meetings in the Saudi capital.

The Arab League's Perpetual Dilemma | Opinion

Ryan Bohl

Founded in 1945, the Arab League has always aimed for pan-national aspirations, regional coordination, and peace. However, crisis after crisis has seen it act more as a bystander and trend follower rather than a regional leader. There's little on the horizon to suggest that the League is ready to break out of this historical paradigm.

A case in point is the recent Manama Summit, where Arab League members agreed on a proposal to call for United Nations peacekeepers in the Palestinian Territories as a step toward establishing a Palestinian state. This proposal has little chance of having an actual impact on the ground. Israel remains highly skeptical of the U.N.'s role in the Palestinian territories due to controversies with UNRWA and the U.N.'s inability to prevent Hezbollah from militarizing the Lebanese-Israeli border. Thus this represents a status quo approach: offering a proposal with little chance of implementation, while at the same time refraining from demanding members use what leverage they do have over Israel—economic and diplomatic—to make the proposal more likely to be enacted.

The US has spent $5bn on electronic warfare in 2024 alone

Alex Blair

The US Air Force has been a leading adopter of electronic warfare technology including BAE Systems’ Eagle Passive Active Warning Survivability System (EPAWSS). Credit: Toshifumi Kitamura / Getty.

The US is the world’s largest investor and developer of electronic warfare, spending an estimated $5bn on the signal technology in 2024 so far alone, according to a new report.

GlobalData’s Electronic Warfare report details that, between 2021 and 2023, the US military accounted for the largest share of electronic warfare spending by a significant margin – 45% of global expenditure compared to Russia’s 14% and China’s 13%.

Washington’s stranglehold on the electronic warfare market looks set to be challenged, however.

The report predicts that Russia, China and India’s share of the electronic warfare market will only increase over the next decade.

Inside the White House, a Debate Over Letting Ukraine Shoot U.S. Weapons Into Russia

David E. Sanger

Since the first American shipments of sophisticated weapons to Ukraine, President Biden has never wavered on one prohibition: President Volodymyr Zelensky had to agree to never fire them into Russian territory, insisting that would violate Mr. Biden’s mandate to “avoid World War III.”

But the consensus around that policy is fraying. Propelled by the State Department, there is now a vigorous debate inside the administration over relaxing the ban to allow the Ukrainians to hit missile and artillery launch sites just over the border in Russia — targets that Mr. Zelensky says have enabled Moscow’s recent territorial gains.

The proposal, pressed by Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken after a sobering visit to Kyiv last week, is still in the formative stages, and it is not clear how many of his colleagues among Mr. Biden’s inner circle have signed on. It has not yet been formally presented to the president, who has traditionally been the most cautious, officials said.

The Failure of Israel’s “Strategy” in Gaza Continues

Amir Asmar

Despite decades of demonstrated failure of military operations to achieve Israeli security, Israel continues to prioritize use of its military in its conflict with the Palestinians rather than pursue political processes—such as negotiations, mediation, conciliation, or concessions—that have a chance to achieve peace.

The Palestinians’ lack of self-determination has been the casus belli of this conflict. While some on the Palestinian side such as Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) would likely never accept a negotiated peace, they would be isolated and lacking the broader Palestinian community’s acquiescence in the event of a demonstrable and durable peace that recognized Palestinian rights and security, along with those of Israelis.

In the past twenty years, Israeli leaders have consistently avoided meaningful negotiations, arguing falsely that there is no Palestinian partner for peace, restricting the Palestinian National Authority’s (PNA) activities in the West Bank, conflating Hamas and PIJ violence with rejection by all Palestinians, and persistently punishing Palestinian civilians, in highly disproportionate attacks, for acts of terrorism committed by Islamist or nationalist extremists. This has been an ineffectual formula that promoted rather than prevented future violence.

Can America’s Special Relationship With Israel Survive?

Dahlia Scheindlin

On May 8, the Biden administration confirmed that it was withholding a major weapons shipment to the Israel Defense Forces. It was the biggest step that the United States has taken in decades to restrain Israel’s actions. The decision concerned a consignment of 2,000-pound bombs—weapons that the United States generally avoids in urban warfare, and which White House officials believed that Israel would use in its Rafah operation in the Gaza Strip—and did not affect other weapons transfers. Nonetheless, the administration’s willingness to employ measures that could materially constrain Israel’s behavior reflected its growing frustration with Israel’s nearly eight-month-old war in Gaza.

But the announcement also underscored something else: the growing partisan divide within the United States over Israel. For months, some Democratic leaders in Congress and many Democratic voters felt that the administration was far too indulgent of Israel’s conduct in the war, which they believe it enabled with overwhelming military, financial, and political support. On the other side, Biden’s decision on the bombs was excoriated by dozens of Republican members of Congress, who have called him a “pawn for Hamas” and a “terrible friend to Israel.” On May 19, Republican Representative Elise Stefanik, of New York, went further, traveling to Jerusalem and publicly denouncing Biden’s policy in a meeting with a caucus of the Israeli Knesset.

The British Prime Minister Bowed to the Inevitable

Helen Lewis

Please read this as classic British understatement: Today was not, on the face of it, an ideal time for Rishi Sunak to call an election.

One of the perks of being Britain’s prime minister is getting to choose the date when voters deliver their verdict on your government. Most push their advantage by selecting a time when their party is ahead in the polls, the economic mood is buoyant, and their supporters are optimistic about success.

None of those things is true now for Sunak and his Conservative Party, who will face voters on July 4. Since the last election, in December 2019, the Tories have dispensed with Boris Johnson for partying through COVID and Liz Truss for somehow tanking the economy in a mere 49 days in office. Sunak, who has been prime minister only since October 2022, was required to call an election by December, but no one quite understands why he has done it now.

Europe’s Invisible Provinces

Marie Hyland, Massimiliano Mascherini, and Michele Lamont

From late 2023 until the spring of 2024, farmers across Europe flooded capitals to voice their disapproval of national and European Union policies. Tractors rolled down boulevards as protesters blocked streets and caused havoc. The anger reached the heart of the EU, where demonstrators brought the Brussels city center to a standstill and pelted the European Parliament building with eggs.

The protesters had a multitude of concerns, but chief among them was the European Green Deal, launched by the European Commission in 2019, a package of policy initiatives that included new restrictions on the use of pesticides, bans on combustion engines, and the protection of biodiversity—all measures that came with costs for farmers. Many farmers also saw the possibility of more stringent demands on the agricultural sector to cut greenhouse gas emissions as a threat to their livelihoods. With EU parliamentary elections slated for June, the protests unnerved many politicians and led to the rollback of some planned legislative changes.

But the demonstrations did not just take the measure of farmers’ unhappiness. They were also a manifestation of a deeper problem, a widening divide between Europe’s rural areas and its cities. This divide may not be a chasm yet, but it is steadily growing wider as discontent mounts in rural communities, which constitute a quarter of Europe’s population.

Israel Is Succeeding in Gaza


As the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) conducts another assault in the north of Gaza, they face significant criticism from Western officials and analysts who are asking why the IDF is repeatedly going into areas they have already cleared and conducting further operations. Critics claim this behavior reflects a flaw in operational design, or is even proof that Israel’s campaign against Hamas has failed. The flaw, however, lies in their own assumptions.

These critics are looking at IDF tactics through the lens of Western counterinsurgency (COIN), the doctrine that U.S. and European militaries applied in the failed campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq. In the “global war on terror,” Western tactics were to seize a chunk of territory and clear it of enemies through military force. The plan was then to hold the territory through forward operating bases (or FOBs) and try to conduct alternative governance in those areas while providing security. The system of FOBs meant that our enemies, embedded in the local civilian population, always knew where we were and what routes we were likely to use. They could mortar, rocket, and IED us at will. It was a recipe for endless violence and huge numbers of casualties.

In the case of the 2023-24 Gaza war, Western critics have almost comically misunderstood what the Israeli military is trying to do. The flaw in Western analysis is always the same: “We wouldn’t do it that way.” Yet the IDF has absolutely no intention of using the clear-hold-build COIN tactics the West tried in Afghanistan and Iraq. Why would it? Those tactics were an unmitigated disaster in both campaigns, which ended in humiliating defeats at the hands of technologically inferior armies.

Coming of age? European defence engagement in the Indo-Pacific

Ben Schreer

In recent years, several European states have stepped up their defence engagement in the Indo-Pacific. France and the United Kingdom – both long-term players in Indo-Pacific security – have expanded their regional deployments and supported other initiatives designed to strengthen regional defence capabilities. Germany has increased its participation in regional military exercises and pledged to strengthen its regional defence engagement. European defence ministers, including those of France, Germany, the Netherlands, Ukraine and – for the first time – Sweden, attended and spoke at the 2023 IISS Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, the region’s premier gathering of defence leaders. A strong European contingent is also expected at this year’s Shangri-La Dialogue, taking place 31 May–2 June.

European states’ efforts to establish closer defence ties in the Indo-Pacific are driven by several considerations, including an understanding that Indo-Pacific and European geopolitical challenges are increasingly enmeshed; growing concerns over China’s assertiveness and Beijing’s support for Russia’s war against Ukraine; an awareness of the need to demonstrate to Washington that Europe takes the China challenge seriously in order to ensure United States defence commitments in Europe; and an interest in profiting from growing regional defence-procurement dynamics.

U.S. Says Historic Israel-Saudi Normalization Deal Within Reach but Israel Might Balk

Gordon Lubold and Michael R. Gordon

Biden administration officials said Tuesday that a U.S.-brokered deal to normalize relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia was within reach, but that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government might balk at the historic agreement rather than accept Riyadh’s demands for a new commitment to a Palestinian state and a halt to the Gaza war.

“The Saudis have been clear that [normalization] would require calm in Gaza and it would require a credible pathway to a Palestinian state,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Tuesday. “It may well be that in this moment Israel isn’t able or willing to proceed down that pathway.”

For months, the administration has hoped Netanyahu would grab at the long-sought prize of normalization with Riyadh as part of a sweeping agreement aimed at halting the Gaza war and transforming the region’s long-static divisions.

Ukraine Needs More Than Crisis Management

Eric Ciaramella

The U.S. Congress’s approval last month of a $61 billion aid package for Ukraine came not a minute too soon. Ammunition shortages resulting from Washington’s months-long dysfunction have eroded Ukrainian frontline positions and left cities and critical infrastructure exposed to missile and drone barrages. Top military and intelligence officials in Kyiv have advised Ukrainians to brace for territorial setbacks in the coming months. Already, the Russian military has stepped up pressure on Kharkiv, forcing thousands of Ukrainians to flee out of fear that Russian forces could soon reoccupy their towns.

The infusion of U.S. aid should help Ukraine stabilize the front and protect its skies. But the Ukrainian army also urgently needs more soldiers. Indecision in Kyiv over a new mobilization drive has left combat units severely undermanned, their losses exacerbated by a failure to build defensive fortifications last year and by Russia’s widening firepower advantage. Military experts believe that the Ukrainian army needs to triple its intake of recruits to sustain defensive operations at current levels of fighting. Kyiv is trying to fix its manpower shortage and has asked its NATO partners to help train recruits inside Ukraine. This would be a faster and more effective way to prepare Ukrainian soldiers for battle. Most countries, including the United States, have refused to deploy trainers on Ukrainian soil out of concern for their safety, but Kyiv’s dire battlefield position might be prompting some of them to reconsider.

Are PSYOPS in Cyberspace a Viable Tool Against Adversaries?


The former Cybersecurity Director illustrated the point with LockBit, perhaps the most prominent and active ransomware gangs in the cybercrime ecosystem. He highlighted the February 2024 joint effort dubbed “Operation Cronos” spearheaded by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the United Kingdom’s National Crime Agency to takedown LockBit’s dark web website. The action yielded the intended result, allowing the law enforcement coalition to take over the website, posting as such on the website, a clear message to other dark web actors that law enforcement could reach even a sophisticated cybercrime entity. The operation forced LockBit operators to relocate to another site, a move that the former NSA Cybersecurity Director suggested was done to incite distrust among the hacker community as to whether that site was under LockBit’s or the FBI’s control. Perhaps more impactful is the Department of Justice’s (DoJ) assertions that they have charged and received the cooperation of Dimitry Yuryevich Khoroshev, a senior LockBit leader who the DoJ claims of his willingness to detail the identities of his ransomware competitors.

LockBit’s leader quickly responded to these allegations stating that the United States had attached the wrong person to the alias, calling their activities a “bluff.” Regardless of which side is speaking the truth, it is evident that the FBI’s intent is to sully LockBit’s criminal reputation, as well as obstruct its ability to orchestrate future attacks. This is not surprising as this tactic is one frequently used by law enforcement to turn criminals against one another, and at the very least, sow discord among the criminal brotherhood. The law enforcement-criminal dance is a familiar one, and there is little doubt that no criminal organization expects to operate unimpeded by law enforcement at one time or another. It is more important to demonstrate the ability to avoid capture and show resilience; in essence, surviving to rob another day. However, law enforcement is well aware that there is no “honor among thieves,” an elusive code of criminal ethics that has proven to be more of an anomaly than the norm.

The Funan Techo Canal Won’t Have A Military Purpose

David Hutt

Earlier this month, I wrote a column for Radio Free Asia (“The Funan Techo Canal won’t end Cambodia’s dependency on Vietnam”) arguing for some level-headedness in discussions of the potential construction of the Funan Techo Canal, which will cut through eastern Cambodia, connecting the capital to the southern coast. But a few more remarks are needed because of some rather oddball opinions espoused of late, including some made recently by Sam Rainsy, Cambodia’s exiled opposition leader.

He has claimed – for instance, in emails to several newspapers in which I was bcc’ed for some reason, so I presume it wasn’t private discourse – that the canal has “very limited economic interest” for Cambodia. The environmental risk assessments on the canal have not been made public yet, so we can hold off on the economic assessments. Phnom Penh reckons it could cut costs by a third, although that is probably an exaggeration.

Nonetheless, the canal holds a strategic economic interest in that, as I’ve argued, it ends much of Cambodia’s dependence on Vietnam’s ports. The canal would connect the Phnom Penh Autonomous Port to a planned deepwater port in Kep province and an already-built deep seaport in Sihanoukville. Currently, much of Cambodia’s trade, especially from and to Phnom Penh, goes through Vietnam’s southern ports, mainly Cai Mep. The Cambodia government reckons the canal will cut shipping through Vietnamese ports by 70 percent.