Estonia Prepares for War

Article excerpt

Byline: Tunku Varadarajan

Tipping the Driver

The headlines ought to have read "Delhi and Beijing Resume Joint Military Exercises," for that was the rather significant outcome of a rare visit to India by Gen. Liang Guanglie, China's defense minister. Instead, Indian newspapers were awash with stories of a seemingly lurid gaffe. "Chinese Minister's Gift Baffles [Indian Air Force] Pilots," said The Times of India, giving an account of how Liang handed red envelopes to each of the two Air Force officers who had flown him from Mumbai to Delhi. When the pilots opened their gifts after the Chinese dignitary had disembarked, they were flustered to discover wads of crisp new cash--50,000 rupees ($900) each--which they handed immediately to their commanding officer. After pondering the delicate option of returning the envelopes to the Chinese, the Indian government found a more elegant solution to this "breach of protocol": it deposited the money in the treasury, making a symbolic dent in the massive trade imbalance between India and China.

'A' is for --

Azerbaijan, Armenia, and an ax-murderer, all of whom combined last week to incendiary effect in an episode that could reignite war between the two implacably hostile countries. The murderer in question is Ramil Safarov, a lieutenant in the Azeri army, who decapitated an Armenian officer at a military academy in Hungary, where the two were classmates at a NATO-sponsored English-language course in 2004. Imprisoned by the Hungarians for his crime, Safarov was repatriated last week, on the understanding that he'd serve out his sentence in Baku. To the consternation of all Armenia, however, Safarov was pardoned by his country's president, promoted to the rank of major, and furnished with eight years' worth of back pay. Armenia's president had this to say, in response: "We don't want a war, but if we have to, we will fight and win. We are not afraid of killers, even if they enjoy the protection of the head of state."

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