Aug 2022

Painful sanctions

I was intrigued to read Tanya Vatsa’s incisive article on the economic (not to mention humanitarian) chaos caused by Russia’s war in Ukraine, and the impact of sanctions on both the aggressor and the wider world as they strive to recover from the pandemic (‘New front in economic warfare’, July Asian Affairs).

From her implied questioning of the war’s ‘unprovoked’ nature and her evaluation of the inadequacy of the EU’s military and political support for Ukraine versus the huge sums of moneydelivered to Moscow through the oil and gas trade,Ms Vatsacasts a wide net for debate. And she raisesthe pressingquestions of how to give sufficient support to beleaguered countries without intervention, how to place effective pressures on countries that supply us with essential products, and the possibilities of finding feasible substitutes, such as LNG to replace Russian gas.

Given the author’s clear knowledge and understanding of this subject, it would also havebeen interesting to hear more of her views on the very real conundrumof how nation states can square the circle between sanctions, debt, spiralling inflation and the consequent social unrest that inevitably follows.

As the current situation in Afghanistan has illustrated, taking a moral stand is far from simple, as it often comes at too high a human cost for all of us.

B.L. Gallagher

Berlin

Beijing’s Afghan agenda

Excellent article from Yvonne Gill on China’s long geopolitical game in Afghanistan, which ponders China’s role and motives there, as well as whether, and to what extent, the liberal West and its allies should themselves engage with the Taliban, for a variety of reasons.

‘Courting the Taliban’can make uncomfortable reading, reminding us as it does that the people of Afghanistan desperately need aid, in spite of (or rather because of) their regressive and repressive leadership.As Gill points out, the West’s isolation of the Taliban regime, apart from harming ordinary Afghans, has only helped to further China’s ambitious agenda in Afghanistan.

 

Mark Lorimer

West London

Spotlight of Himalayan water

Dear Sir

Thank you for drawing attention to the important matter of water shortage in the Hindu Kush Himalaya, as reported in your July magazine (‘The weight of water’ and ‘High anxiety’, July issue). The Democracy Forum conference on this subject was very timely, and it was good to hear so many strong scientific and socio-politicalangles from the panel of eminent experts.

With great respect, I did not always agree with everything the panellists said – for instance, Dr Aditi Mukherji’s argument that climate change is anthropogenic, not natural, could be challenged, as climate is also influenced by natural phenomena such as volcanic eruptions and solar variation. But such wide range of perspectives was very educational.

It is easy for people living in developed countries to think of water as a resource that is naturally and freely available. This conference and following articles make us think again. Water is used by some as a political tool, which, as Mr Barry Gardiner highlighted, can bring serious political and security impacts for countries, as well as social damage for their populace.

 

Alka Goyal

Srinagar

Far from 20-20 vision

Sir

Your July editorial (‘Trading in old mindsets’) gets right to the nub of the United States’ critical failure in its Indo-Pacificvision. America’sdouble standard over its failure to ratify UNCLOS does indeed shows the limits to its commitment to international law, even as it talks the talk, while the omission oftrade – the ‘lifeblood of shared values’, where others such as democracy are not – at the Shangri-La Dialogue was a sadly missed opportunity for Lloyd Austin and the administration he represents.

 

Laura Nowak

New York, NY