Thronging cars meandering at a snail’s pace on a congested road. Wildly honking horns knifing through the serenity and quiet, if there’s any left. South Asia’s traffic predicament, be it in India, Pakistan or Bangladesh, seems to be growing and gnawing at commuters who find their peace of mind being brutally snatched away every single time they are on the road.

Escalating traffic congestion has several downsides. With more cars on the roads, there is inevitably greater gas emission which leads to debilitating pollution in the atmosphere. High vehicle numbers in many South Asian cities have also led to shocking accident rates. In addition, the psychological effects of suffering heavy traffic congestion day in and day out, cannot be underestimated. Needless to say, the repercussions of growing traffic in South Asia are of paramount concern and need to be addressed expressly.

Look at the plethora of problems. There are indeed, so many that it is difficult to decide which one to put at the top. There is even more than one running sore. The war in Afghanistan is going on unabated. General David Petraeus, the supreme commander of the NATO forces in Afghanistan-Pakistan (The International Security Assistance Force), is under pressure to show some magic results of the surge as yet another batch of about 1400 fresh marines is to take up position in February. They are planning to consolidate the “gains” achieved during the recent months albeit at the sacrifice of more men, and “preempt” expected Taliban attacks next spring.

Petraeus’s personal compulsions have made him impatient with Pakistan. Quoting U.S. officials the Washington Post in a recent report said that he “adopted a much tougher attitude toward General Kayani than his predecessor, General Stanley McChrystal.” The U.S. wants Pakistan to launch a full-scale ground assault against Afghan Taliban and al-Qaeda “safe havens” in North Waziristan.


China is a statistician’s paradise. Articles about China typically include figures relating to the country’s awe-inspiring economic growth, international trade, currency reserves and growing international clout as the new “Workshop of the world” – a phrase once proudly used to describe the United Kingdom. Suffice it to say that barring extraordinary events, the year to come will produce another set of impressive statistics. However, China is much more than economic statistics. It is a society in a delicate and potentially dangerous phase of modernization that is grappling with severe environmental problems, socioeconomic inequalities and the proximate possibility of political and strategic destabilization. 2011 is likely to be a difficult year for China though the problems likely to be encountered are not beyond the ability of the Chinese leadership to handle.

The most pressing problem seems to be growing tensions on the Korean peninsula. The bellicose and autocratic North Korean regime is intent on demonstrating its nuisance value to its far wealthier neighbors and is jealous of growing mutually beneficial trade and investment ties between its Chinese ally and South Korean nemesis. China’s handling of this situation will require all the depth and dexterity that its 2200 years old diplomatic tradition can muster. Clearly, China does not want war on the Korean peninsula for that would disrupt economic growth and probably result in the defeat of its North Korean ally. At the same time, the Chinese leadership is visibly reluctant to push North Korea completely into a corner and start knocking heads in Pyongyang, which is what the United States of America would like China to do. Thus far Chinese efforts to get the Six Party talks going again have failed owing to U.S. and South Korean unwillingness to talk to North Korea until it improves its behavior. The Chinese position is that modifying North Korea behavior without talking to it is unlikely to happen. To put the situation in more cultural-historical terms, the barbarian hermit kingdom of North Korea is demanding attention and tribute from the civilized world and paying a little tribute, disguised as aid for face-saving purposes, could save a lot of bloodshed and destruction.

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