Background: Pakistan is not as bad as Burma, or is it?

Asif Ali Zardari

With the world still tut-tutting and trying to figure out what the most recent election in Burma portends, there seem renewed worries about Pakistan’s military taking charge again.  Most of this is, rightly, due to the venal incompetence of its President Asif Ali Zardari.  According to Maria Kuusisto of the Eurasia Group, Continue reading “Background: Pakistan is not as bad as Burma, or is it?”

Background: The Economist on the KKH


Overview map of the Karakoram Highway
Image via Wikipedia


The Economist’s Asia View blog has this travelogue of their correspondent traveling on the KKH (the Karakoram Highway) that links China to Pakistan.  Built quite a few years ago (I think it started in the late 1960’s) by the Pakistan Army Corps of Engineers and the Chinese (oh, who’re we kidding!  The Chinese), it was opened to civilian traffic more recently.  As is usually the case in Pakistan, the Pakistani side of the KKR has fallen into disrepair and the Chinese have taken on the task of rebuilding the highway.  As the correspondent says,

Our bus pulls away, beginning the descent to the Pakistani border town of Sust. The imposing communist-style archway that informs travellers officially that they are leaving China is a less effective border marker than the change in the Karakoram Highway itself: the paved road, which I had grown accustomed to since leaving the Chinese border town of Tashkurgan in the morning, deteriorates into a muddy, pot-holed track. Continue reading “Background: The Economist on the KKH”

Background: Maoism is bad Enough Without Arundhati Roy

The Naxalite Corridor in India

The Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh considers Maoism the biggest security threat to his country.  Considering India has two nuclear-armed and decidedly unfriendly neighbors, this is a pretty strong statement but I think he’s right.  China is more of a long-term threat, especially in terms of future competition for resources and markets while Pakistan remains a fissiparous, albeit nuclear armed, foe with little strategic depth.  But the Maoist (also called Naxalite after the village of Naxalbari in West Bengal) threat is both more immediate and more critical to the future of India.This counterinsurgency is a reaction to decades of misrule and corruption in some of the poorest Indian States with the worst record of local government.  In a sense, if it hadn’t been for the Naxalites, the long-suffering locals would very probably have had to come up with versions of their own (left, right, extremist Muslim, extremist Hindu, animist, you name it).

Pared down to its essentials, the solution is also somewhat simple (not easy, simple):  fix the military threat, fix the governance.  But India is somewhat ill-prepared to deal with threats like this. Continue reading “Background: Maoism is bad Enough Without Arundhati Roy”

Trade Notes: Is There a way to Play Global Warming and Weather Volatility?


Mean surface temperature change for the period...
Image via Wikipedia


The short answer would be an easy “Yes”.  This was emphasised most recently by the September returns of Clive Capital, Chris Levett’s commodity hedge fund based on macro calls.  He used to run a similar portfolio at Moore Capital before he left to start up his own firm in December 2007 (in case you’re wondering,  his middle name is Clive).  That fund returned 6.6% last month, that’s a pretty tidy profit on roughly USD 4 billion AUM.  More so considering it was up around 1.7% for the previous nine months.  I’m not a big fan of Clive because they tend to use rather a lot of leverage, don’t communicate much, and haven’t been able to protect the downside as they claimed in their marketing material.  In any case, the reasons for the performance are interesting, Continue reading “Trade Notes: Is There a way to Play Global Warming and Weather Volatility?”

Background [FT]: Pakistan: a Precarious Position

Pakistan floods map

Bill Browder of Hermitage Global Fund invests in the least covered economies of the world.  This is part of his, largely successful, bid to recreate the stellar success he had with his Hermitage Russia fund (that one, starting in around 1997, survived the Russia crisis and went on to provide a 4-digit percentage return to investors!).  At one stage, a fellow investor asked him why he doesn’t invest in Pakistan.  This was about 3 years ago and the Pakistan equity index was on a massive tear.  I know this is cognitive bias, but his answer struck a chord. Continue reading “Background [FT]: Pakistan: a Precarious Position”

Background [The Economist]: Kashmir: The China Connection

An abiding worry for anyone trying to invest in India is what its relation will be with its near-non-state neighbor Pakistan and with the juggernaut that is China.  In military terms, India has great strategic depth:  girded by the Arabian Sea, the Indian Ocean, and the Bay of Bengal while the Himalayas to the North provide a near-impassable barrier against the greatest strategic threat of China.  Only Pakistan on the Western flank remains a worry.  But that too is militarily less so as the wide open plains of Punjab provide perfect tank country (as proven by India’s armour more than once).  That leaves China and its machinations around India’s periphery.  China’s string of pearls strategy has seen it build a port in Srilanka, with similar moves in Burma, Bangladesh, and Pakistan.  The last is where Gwadar and this most recent blog post in the The Economist’s Banyan’s Notebook blog comes in.

What I find most troubling (if true) is Selig Harrison’s statement there that Pakistan may have handed over de-facto control of some of its Northern areas, with up to 11,000 troops there. Continue reading “Background [The Economist]: Kashmir: The China Connection”

The Misery of Burma and Pakistan


I’ve been watching Burma for a while now.  Essentially because of the untapped natural resources and a population desperately hungry for development (and democracy, and freedom, and — literally — rice) smack dab between the ASEAN Tigers, India, and Bangladesh.  Continue reading “The Misery of Burma and Pakistan”