Trump’s Great Game: Since the US president announced last week a new plan for Afghanistan that involves a greater role for India in the war-torn country and accused Pakistan of providing “terrorist havens,” Islamabad has been struggling to construct an effective strategy in response, FM Shakil writes. While rejecting accusations that it harbors terrorists, Islamabad knows two things: that it cannot fully abandon support for militant groups because they provide a bulwark against India and that its economy still depends significantly on the US. Analysts predict that Washington’s policy of isolating Pakistan could push it closer to Russia, China, Turkey and Iran, dooming to failure US efforts to help the Afghan government bring stability and peace to the region.
Arms transfer intrigue: It is unclear whether India has quietly delivered its sophisticated BrahMos supersonic missile system to Vietnam, a sensitive procurement that would tilt the power dynamics and spike tensions in the South China Sea, where Hanoi is jousting with Beijing over contested maritime areas and rights to mineral resources, Helen Clark writes. Soon after Vietnam’s state-controlled media reported the sale, India issued a clarification saying no such agreement had been reached. Hanoi issued a broad statement on improving bilateral defense ties with India via their comprehensive strategic partnership, but didn’t refer specifically to the missile sale. Adding to the intrigue, Vietnamese media reported that Hanoi had not only purchased but already taken delivery of the 6,000-pound supersonic weapons.
Top piracy hotspot: The Sibutu Passage between Malaysia and the Philippines, used by more than 13,000 ships a year, has emerged as Asia’s most dangerous waterway in the past six months as Islamic terror groups target seaborne trade, Alan Boyd writes. Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines have started joint patrols against pirates terrorizing shipping in the deepwater passage, but limited resources and legal obstacles are already rocking the boat. Bounties offered for cargo and crew abductions by splinter groups of the Philippine terrorist organization Abu Sayyaf, based on the southern Jolo and Basilan islands, have made armed gangs more brazen.
‘Pro-Hitler’ comment clarification: After drawing criticism from the Nazi-hunting Simon Wiesenthal Center in the US, Japanese Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso on Wednesday retracted a remark to lawmakers of his faction in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party that could be interpreted as a defense of Adolf Hitler’s motive for genocide, Asia Times and Reuters report. Aso, who is also the finance minister, said he had wanted to stress the importance of delivering results, but not defend Hitler. “It was inappropriate that I cited Hitler as an example and I would like to retract that.” The incident followed a June apology by Japan’s central bank over a board member’s praise for Hitler’s economic policies.
Death ‘curse effect’: A Hong Kong apartment, situated opposite the scene of a bizarre multiple homicide nearly two decades ago, has sold for 25% less than the average in the rising market, Ben Kwok writes. Strong superstitions surrounding death mean property values in Hong Kong can drop significantly in the event of a tragedy, creating opportunities for bargain hunters. A buyer snapped up the 517-square-foot home in Kowloon Bay for HK$4.63 million (US$591,646), which agents said was the lowest price for a two-bedroom unit this year.
Asia Times app: Asia Times has launched an app for both iOS- and Android-based devices that delivers the publication’s regular daily news, commentary, blogs and live coverage while also bringing readers added functionality. As we report here, the app, launched on July 25, includes content notification, share and save functions and is free to download from both the Apple Store and Google Play.