Asian Insider Feb 26: Across the line of control

Asian Insider brings you insights into a fast-changing region from our network of correspondents.

India launches airstrikes

In what analysts say is the first direct strike by India in Pakistani territory since 1971, Indian jets reportedly bombed terror camps across its de facto border with Pakistan (known as the line of control) early on Tuesday morning. The threat of military conflict between the two neighbours had been rising since the Feb 14 terror attack in Kashmir that killed 40 paramilitary soldiers. In fact, residents of Kashmir had started hoarding food and fuel.

What was not immediately clear in the aftermath of the attack is how serious the Indian incursion was. India has not officially confirmed the airstrike. It was a Pakistani military spokesman that confirmed the attack although he said response from the Pakistani airforce led Indian fighters to release their payload “in haste” near Balakot, resulting in no casualties or damage. One can be assured the Indian version of events, when released, will be markedly different.

Adding to the confusion is the fact that there appears to be two places named Balakot. A strike on the large, well-known town of Balakot in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province would be a significant blow but one on the Balakot in the Poonch sector would be largely symbolic.

Full story: Indian fighter aircraft hit terror camps in attack across de facto border with Pakistan

Kim arrives in Hanoi

North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un has arrived in Hanoi ahead of his second summit with US President Donald Trump tomorrow - completing a 60-hour journey by train from Pyongyang to the Vietnamese capital.

And with one day to go before the second meeting, the ST team in Vietnam tells me the city is buzzing with activity. Workers are working on decorations, security barriers are being put up, enterprising merchants are selling Trump-Kim paraphernalia of all sorts and journalists are staking out various hotels and buildings rumoured to be the site of the actual summit. There has so far been no confirmation of where in the city the two will actually meet although the smart money is on the government guest house.

If it all sounds very frantic and unnecessarily secretive, welcome to the world of the Trump-Kim summit. Journalists who covered the last one in Singapore can attest to the disruption this meeting causes. Multi-day multilateral summits featuring many world leaders have been hosted without causing as much havoc as a short meeting between these two.

In pictures: Hanoi gears up for Trump-Kim summit

Before the summit, read what the different players are looking for:

US: Washington setting more realistic expectations

North/South Korea: Fate of inter-Korea projects tied to outcome of talks

China: China not ready to push for denuclearisation, say experts

Japan: Japan fears US may ease North Korean sanctions for quick win

Jokowi’s first brush with negative campaigning

Indonesia Bureau Chief Francis Chan writes that the barbs typically traded between election contenders have become more personal of late, with President Joko Widodo taking a jab at his opponent’s land ownership, only for Mr Prabowo Subianto’s party to respond with a strongly-worded statement saying the president had himself benefited from the former general’s land management.

While this sort of political rough and tumble may not raise too many eyebrows elsewhere, direct presidential elections are still a relatively new experience in the country and few have seen a negative campaign before. Mr Joko has never run one nor had to endure one. If it continues down this path, it will be interesting to see how the Indonesian electorate reacts.

Analysis: Gloves come off as Indonesian Presidential election polling day looms

See also: Ethnic Chinese votes a political dilemma for Indonesian election candidates

Analysis: Anwar’s dangerous game in Malaysia

Exactly when Malaysia’s would-be prime minister Anwar Ibrahim will take over from the 93-year-old Mahathir Mohamad has been a talking point in the country ever since the new government came to power. Almost a year later, the answer remains unclear.

But Malaysia Bureau Chief Shannon Teoh is noticing a change in posture in Mr Anwar. With the new government’s troubles piling up and unsubstantiated rumours of a no-confidence vote against Dr Mahathir’s administration circulating, Mr Anwar is ramping up pressure for the promised transition of power. It’s a dangerous game, however say observers, and he may not like the outcome even if he succeeds.

Read the analysis: Anwar presses for handover amid growing grumbles against Mahathir's government

And finally, a bit of difficult homework

Complaining about homework is certainly not new nor is it unique to any particular country. But recently in China, it is a phenomenon that has taken on a new twist, with parents have been going above and beyond in helping with/doing their children's homework. 

When a teacher failed to define the parameters of a cross-stitch project, one mother ordered a peony cross-stitch pattern half the height of her preteen, and proceeded to spend 3 hours a day after work putting it together. Another parent, whose child has been given an upcycling project, could not find any waste to upcycle. So she did what any type-A hypercompetitive parent would do: Go to the store, buy a bunch of cans and throw away the contents to create the raw materials. I wish there were photos to show you but can read more about the weird and wonderful world of homework in China here.

That's it for today. See you tomorrow.

-J

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