A Chinese soldier next to an Indian soldier at the Nathu La border crossing between India and China in India's northeastern Sikkim state. (Diptendu Dutta/AFP/Getty Images)

In this occasional series, the London bureau of The Washington Post brings you up to speed on some of the biggest stories of the week. First up: Two conflicts that could shape the world's three most populous nations.

The biggest story: As the Afghan war drags on, fears of an even bigger conflict

It might have seemed that the biggest military story this week was President Trump's pledge to end a strategy of “nation-building” in Afghanistan and instead aim more squarely at addressing the terrorist threats that emanate from the region. Many Afghan officials welcomed the affirmation of support, though it probably won't change the course of the war or result in a quick victory, critics argue.

But the biggest military story at the moment has been unfolding more quietly almost 8,000 miles away from Washington, and without much U.S. involvement.

Some in Afghanistan and India praised President Trump's Aug. 21 speech, but his rhetoric set off alarm bells in Pakistan. (The Washington Post)

China and India are dangerously close to military conflict in the Himalayas

For the past two months, the two nuclear powers have faced off on a plateau in the Himalayas, in a dispute prompted by moves by the Chinese military to build a road into territory claimed by India’s close ally, Bhutan. The standoff reflects an expanding geopolitical contest between Asia’s most populous nations.

Read the full story by Annie Gowen in New Delhi and Simon Denyer in Beijing. 









Six other important stories 

1. Forget car-sharing. In China, you can rent umbrellas, basketballs, washers.

Perhaps the strongest argument against an escalation of the Himalayas conflict is the reliance of both India and China on rapid economic growth. Some of that growth is driven by rather surprising industries, such as China's sharing economy.

In April, a commentary in a Communist Party-controlled newspaper called a Chinese umbrella sharing start-up “a sign of progress in public service.” The company later made headlines when nearly all of its 300,000 umbrellas went missing. And yet, by 2020, China's sharing economy could account for 10 percent of the country’s gross domestic product.

Read the full story by Emily Rauhala in Beijing. 

2. Muslim men in India could once divorce their wives by saying three words. Until now.

For hundreds of years, Muslim men in India could divorce their wives by repeating the word “talaq,” Arabic for divorce, three times. On Tuesday, the Supreme Court declared the practice unconstitutional.

Read the full story by Vidhi Doshi in New Delhi.

India's Supreme Court ruled, Aug. 22, that the practice of Muslim men receiving a divorce by repeating "talaq" three times is unconstitutional. (Vidhi Doshi,Sarah Parnass/The Washington Post)

3. Terrorism strikes Europe: Why won't it stop? 

After Spain suffered its worst Islamist terrorist attacks in over a decade, authorities began trying to understand how a dozen young men from one small town could have planned such a large-scale plot.

Souad Mekhennet and William Booth investigated what might have triggered the attackers' radicalization.

A majority of the suspects in the Barcelona attacks are from the small mountain town of Ripoll, in northern Spain. Among the suspects are two brothers, Said and Yousseff Aallaa. (Raul Gallego Abellan/The Washington Post)

How attackers become radicalized: Why it matters. Radicalization might not be so much about a certain group or ideology. Instead, the way that far-right extremists and Islamists become radicalized might be more similar than we often assume, writes Adam Taylor. 

But there is still uncertainly over how best to counter extremism. Tougher Spanish laws have made it easier for authorities to arrest suspects, but there are fears that a crackdown on nonviolent Islamists could alienate Muslim communities.

Read the full analysis.

4. Barcelona refuses to join the Islamophobic backlash

In the traditionally left-leaning city, where Muslims have lived for centuries, many officials and residents have chosen to speak out against the potential for the kind of Islamophobic backlash seen elsewhere in Europe, writes James McAuley from Barcelona.

Australian Senator Pauline Hanson wore a burqa while expressing support for banning the garment. She spurred a rebuke from Australian Attorney-General George Brandis, who called her actions "a stunt." (Reuters)

That reaction stands in stark contrast with the publicity stunt of an Australian senator who wore a burqa in Parliament hours before the Barcelona attack to call for a ban on Muslim immigrants, as Avi Selk writes.

5. Antarctica's ice is melting, and 91 new volcanoes might erupt. 

University of Edinburgh researchers have announced the discovery of 91 volcanoes under west Antarctica that have emerged as the ice cover has receded. Climate change could ultimately trigger eruptions and cause even more ice to melt, a scientist said.

Read the full story by Avi Selk.

Mount Erebus is an Antarctic volcano. (Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images)

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