The Syrian civil war is now a microcosm of everything that is wrong with West Asia. It’s about Shia versus Sunni, Persian versus Gulf Arab, Israel versus Syria, United States versus Russia and China, al Qaeda and Muslim Brotherhood, and so on. Read more

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Frits Staal, a Dutch Indologist and Sanskrit scholar, died on February. I read one of his latest books on the Vedas last year. It was a wonderful read, especially in describing the Athirathram, an ancient Vedic ritual that included a construction of a fire altar shaped like a bird.

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The new Obama administration’s defence strategy came out last week and caused a few ripples. But for the most part there wasn’t anything in it that didn’t strike one as being just common sense. Read more

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The Shangri-La Dialogue celebrated its 10th anniversary by trying to talk about China without mentioning it directly by name. Read more

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Back in Beijing

Wandering through the central business district of China’s capital is to experience construction superfreakonomics. Read more

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Why Holbrooke is a model for diplomats of an aspiring power.
What, I am occasionally asked, is so great about Richard Holbrooke? Read more

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Islands are all the rage in Northeast Asia. And rage is the word. The Hindustan Times has already received a letter from the Japanese Embassy complaining that there is no dispute over the Senkaku/Diaoyutai islands. Read more

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Last week I was in Australia to share some thoughts about the growing rivalry between great powers in Asia. The Down Under denizens I met were fearful – though largely about losing the Ashes to the Pommies. But there is a reason why Oz Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has been speechifying about “Asian regional architecture” – because countries like Australia and Singapore worry that the big boys are getting too belligerent. Read more

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