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South Asia has been dominated by two military conflicts in past months: Pakistan pounding of the Taliban in the Swat Valley, and the obliteration of the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka. Disturbing as these conflicts are, both may be dwarfed by a wider and more significant trend in the region—the rise of a newly assertive China.

At Hambantota in Sri Lanka, Chinese companies are building a new port that could serve as a refuelling and docking facility for the Chinese navy as it extends its presence (presently confined to helping police pirate activities…

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