Obama and Modi talk Mars

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Barack Obama shake hands in the White House. Image copyright Getty Images

A review of the best commentary on and around the world...

Today's must-read

In September 1962 President John F Kennedy set out to reach the Moon to assert America's dominance in the world.

Fifty-two years later, the space race to Mars is considered an opportunity for unprecedented international co-operation.

In keeping with a message of going forward together - "Chalein Saath Saath" - Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Barack Obama penned a joint opinion piece in the Washington Post on Tuesday after meeting for the first time the evening before in the White House.

"The exploration of space will continue to fire our imaginations and challenge us to raise our ambitions," they write. "That we both have satellites orbiting Mars tells its own story. The promise of a better tomorrow is not solely for Indians and Americans - it also beckons us to move forward together for a better world."

It's unclear whether the better world beckoning the leaders is our own or the uncorrupted Red Planet, but Mars received honourable mention twice in the 11-paragraph joint statement.

The success of the partnership, write Mr Obama and Mr Modi, is "the truest reflection of the vitality of our people, the value of America's open society and the strength of what we can do when we join together".

Of course, as the Moscow Times pointed out in June, co-operation in the heavens does not mean peace on Earth:

"Even as the US-Russian bilateral relationship tears at the seams, Nasa and the Federal Space Agency, or Roscosmos, are pooling their resources and launching new joint projects aboard the International Space Station, or ISS, in a drive to make the most of the crucial project while it lasts, Russian and US space officials close to the agencies said."

The Obama-Modi op-ed offered more than space ambition, however. The agenda they outlined in the Post promised "mutually rewarding ways to expand our collaboration in trade, investment and technology that harmonise with India's ambitious development agenda, while sustaining the United States as the global engine of growth".

Prior to his rise to power in 2014, Mr Modi had been denied entry to the United States in 2005 for his alleged role in riots in Gujarat state in India. This week, the prime minister was welcomed in New York, where he spoke at the UN General Assembly, and then to the White House, where he joined Mr Obama for dinner (although The Wall Street Journal reports he did not partake of food, observing a nine-day religious fast).

"The advent of a new government in India is a natural opportunity to broaden and deepen our relationship," the two leaders write. "With a reinvigorated level of ambition and greater confidence, we can go beyond modest and conventional goals. It is time to set a new agenda, one that realizes concrete benefits for our citizens."


Is the Umbrella Revolution the next Tiananmen? - Tens of thousands are occupying public space in Hong Kong, writes Brendon Hong in the Daily Beast, but Beijing doesn't believe the people are intelligent enough to find their own way.

He says that the Chinese leaders are mistaken. Hong Kong grew into what it is because it is made up of savvy, diligent people who put effort into their future.

Hong Kong "is the only Chinese city that commemorates the tragedy of Tiananmen by holding a candlelight vigil every year," he writes, "not to embarrass Beijing but to remember that the struggle for a better future can come with a heavy human cost."

Mainland China's heavy-handed involvement has inspired Hong Kong student activists, Hong writes. While China isn't on the verge of a Tiananmen-style crackdown, he concludes, the crisis shows no sign of abating.


Going digital would save everyone a big headache - The Nepal Times has picked up on what is already obvious to a great many people, namely that keeping e-records is more efficient and saves a great deal of time.

Puja Tandon writes that a Nepalese person may find himself on a three-day bus trip before he arrives at the distant office to apply for his passport, which would be unnecessary should the application be available online. Already countries such as India, Ghana and Sierra Leone have set up electronic records systems, she notes.

At the very least, Tandon notes, going electronic would require IT infrastructure improvements and a qualified labour force to run the system.

"However, more than physical infrastructure, transforming the habits and makeup of the current bureaucracy will perhaps be the biggest challenge for Nepal. Government officials will most likely resist change because it will close many of the existing loopholes that make corruption and tardiness an epidemic in the country."


Artist's photo exhibit prompts indigenous indignation - Indigenous people are protesting that photographer Jimmy Nelson's work, displayed at London's Atlas Gallery, is not an accurate portrayal of tribal peoples.

Brazzil magazine reports that representatives of indigenous tribes are taking issue with the inconsistencies in the exhibit, including calling the Dani of West Papua headhunters (which they argue has never been a part of their history) and showing pictures of traditional Waorani girls from Ecuador sans clothes, even though the Waorani regularly wear clothes.

"I saw the photos, and I didn't like them," says Davi Kopenawa, spokesman of the Yanomami tribe in Brazil. "This man only wants to force his own ideas on the photos, to publish them in books and to show them to everyone so that people will think he's a great photographer."


Looking to the New York police to stamp out corruption - Government officials in Malaysia are looking at best practices adopted by the New York Police Department (NYPD) to eradicate corruption and improve the public image of police personnel.

Mergawati Zulfakar writes in the Star that Malaysian officials have already met several times with the NYPD, and could learn from the American group, as "their problems with corruption some 20 years ago is worse than ours."

She describes the local corruption to include refusing to take reports or misusing work hours.

Hopefully the Malaysians are aware the NYPD still have some of their own issues to address.

BBC Monitoring's quotes of the day

Turkish commentators offer their thoughts as the nation's parliament considers whether to join coalition airstrikes on Islamic State targets inside Syria.

"As long as the aim is not to repulse the attacks or to bring in humanitarian aid through an international decision, Turkish troops should not get into Iraq or Syria. We should not allow Turkey to get pulled deeper into the Middle Eastern quagmire." - Murat Yetkin in Radikal.

"If Turkey stays out of the coalition, it will be isolated; its influence will decrease. Government foreign policy always aims to have a regional and even a global role. Turkish diplomacy can present this role and influence only if it is in the coalition." - Sami Kohen in Milliyet.‎

Have you found an interesting opinion piece about global issues that we missed? Share it with us via email at echochambers (at) bbc.co.uk.