Showing posts with label South Asia. Show all posts
Showing posts with label South Asia. Show all posts

13 July 2017

What's in the New Singapore-Germany Cyber Pact?

By Prashanth Parameswaran

The city-state signs another agreement with a fellow partner in the cyber domain.

On July 6, Singapore and Germany signed a joint declaration on strengthening cybersecurity cooperation. The move highlighted the city-state’s efforts to strengthen ties with like-minded states in the cyber domain as they confront growing challenges there.

As I have noted before, Singapore has been paying keen attention to the cyber domain as a developed, highly-networked country which relies on its reputation for security and stability to serve as a hub for businesses and attract talent.

Cognizant of the growing challenges in the cyber realm – made apparent by attacks on the city-state, including the hacking of the defense ministry’s Internet-connected system in February – Singapore has taken several measures to counter the threat, from the setting up of a new Cyber Security Agency (CSA) in 2015 to the mulling of new laws (See: “Singapore Eyes Tougher Cyber Laws”).

One of the CSA’s main lines of effort is in building partnerships with other countries that Singapore can work with in this area. And it has begun doing so, with six memorandums of understanding (MOUs) already being inked with France, India, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, the United States, and most recently Australia as I have written about previously (See: “What’s in the New Australia-Singapore Cyber Pact?”).

1 June 2017

One of the world’s happiest economic stories comes from South Asia, but not India

Dan Kopf

Bangladesh’s population of 160 million is as big as France, Germany, and the Netherlands combined. The country is also easily the poorest of the world’s 10 most populous. Given its size and the depth of its poverty, the country’s recent economic boom must rank as one of the world’s happiest economic stories right now.

According to the Asian Development Bank, Bangladesh’s economy grew by 7.1% in 2016, the fastest expansion in 30 years. It was also the sixth year in a row that GDP growth was greater than 6%. Most analysts expect this run to continue. Ratings firm Moody’s, for example, says the country’s growth is likely to remain “robust.”

Bangladesh’s rapid growth wouldn’t be so exciting if it didn’t reach the poor. A recent World Bank report (pdf) found that between 2005 and 2010, average incomes for the poorest 40% of households grew 0.5% faster than for the country as a whole. By comparison, in India the poorest 40% of households did worse than the national average over a similar period.

As a result of this inclusive growth, poverty rates have plummeted. In 1991, well over 40% of the population lived in extreme poverty. Today, the World Bank says that less than 14% still does. That is, about 50 million fewer Bangladeshis are in extreme poverty as a result of the improving economy.

30 May 2017

Tackling China? See its history

Abhijit Bhattacharyya

Historically, the Hans of mainland China are known for clear thinking, intelligence, ingenuity, the art of war, the craft of diplomacy and their indifference to outsiders. They still do, specially when it comes to contemporary issues — like South Asian (read Indian). They suddenly become alert, yet inert (or unreactive). Is that a contradiction? Perhaps. Because what spurts is a rigid, inflexible, aggressive “containment of India” policy that results in India’s counter-rigid posture and thus the Beijing regime’s inability to get a firm commitment on its grandiose dream project called “Silk Route”.

Also known by the fancy name of “One Belt, One Road” (OBOR), it’s meant to be the reincarnation of an exotic economic empire of the Hans of the Tang era (618-908 CE), passing through the sparsely populated, vast swathe of barren, deserted, remote land routes of the great Euro-Asian heartland. While as a student of history, one learns of the “Silk Route” going through both land and sea lanes, it’s also a fact that as two opposite civilisations, “each stood unchangeably firm in itself, with no possibility of fruitful exchanges”, interaction and socio-religious exchanges between India and China notwithstanding. Indeed, there once existed three lines of communication — across Central Asia, via “Bamiyan and Bactria, via Kashgar across the Tarim Valley and via Kashmir, Gilgit and Yasin across the Pamirs”. These routes became important after the 2nd century BCE, and till the end of 9th century CE, when Islam interposed an effective barrier, they were the most important highways of communication.

17 May 2017

Nepal 2017: Where to from here?

NIAS Strategic Forecast No. 18 | Author: Sohan Prasad Sha & Suman Mondal| April 2017

To read the complete report click here

To cite: Sohan Prasad Sha and Suman Mondal. "Nepal 2017: Where to from here?," NIAS Strategic Forecast No. 18. Bangalore: International Strategic and Security Studies Programme, National Institute of Advanced Studies, April 2017.

The perpetual state of political instability and transition now rest upon the politics of ‘amendments’ in the constitution. Major contentious issues are: the demarcation of federal boundaries, delineation of electoral constituencies in upper house and local bodies on the basis of population, recognition of local languages and provisions of citizenship.

But, the roots of constitutional discords not only at the behest of amendments per se but also the asymmetric numerical balance in the Nepalese constituent assembly turn parliament.

15 May 2017

Nepal joins China's 'One Belt One Road' initiative

Nepal on Friday inked a deal with China to join Chinese President Xi Jinping’s ambitious ‘One Belt One Road’ initiative to link Asia with Europe, a move that may worry India.

The decision to sign the agreement comes ahead the OBOR forum in Beijing on May 14 and 15.

Chinese Ambassador to Nepal Yu Hong and Nepal’s Foreign Secretary Shankar Bairagi signed a memorandum of understanding at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Singhadurbar, Kathmandu.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Krishna Bahadur Mahara and Minister for Foreign Affairs Prakash Sharan Mahat were present during the signing ceremony.

“The MoU is an important moment in the bilateral relation between the two countries. Roads and railways connectivity is important for us and we want investment in this sector,” Mahat said.

Yu said that the Belt and Road initiative will bring new opportunities for China-Nepal cooperation and South Asia’s development.

“To promote Belt and Road initiative, we are committed to the principles of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits. Openness, inclusiveness and mutual benefit are the defining features of the initiative. The Initiative is not only open to the countries in the region, but also open to the countries outside the region who are interested in it,” said Yu.

24 March 2017

US commander arrives, multinational drill from Monday

KATHMANDU: United States Pacific Command (USPACOM)’s Admiral Harry B. Harris Jr arrived here in the capital on Sunday to take part in a multinational military drill for peacekeeping, Nepal Army said.

Exercise Shanti Prayas III is kicking off at the Nepal Army’s Birendra Peace Operations Training Centre tomorrow with participation of 1024 army personnel from 28 countries.

Admiral Harris was received by Lt Gen Purna Chandra Thapa at the Tribhuvan International Airport.

Nepal Army and UPSACOM are jointly organising the multinational military exercise which aims at enhancing peacekeeping capabilities prior to being deployed for peacekeeping missions under the United Nations, the Nepal Army’s Directorate of Public Relations said.

The third edition of Exercise Shanti Prayas, which serves as US Pacific Command’s annual capstone for the Global Peace Operations Initiative (GPOI) programme, will conclude on April 3.

Nepal Army Lt Gen Purna Chandra Thapa (R) receives USPACOM Admiral Harris at TIA. Photo: Nepal Army

Army personnel Bangladesh, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Brazil, Cambodia, Canada, Fiji, Germany, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kirghistan, Singapore, South Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, Mongolia, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, Paraguay, Philippines, Rwanda, Sri Lanka, Sweden, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, Vietnam and Zambia were invited to take part in the exercise, according to UPSACOM.

15 March 2017

Cross-LoC Trade: A boon or bane

by Brig Anil Gupta (Retd)

Trade across the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu & Kashmir began in 2008 during Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s first tenure as Chief Minister. Hailed as the biggest Confidence Building Measure (CBM) to bring peace in the region, it began three years after the commencement of cross-LoC travel meant to unite the divided families across the LoC.

While the Government of India was sincere in its intent and approach, our adversary Pakistan had a hidden agenda while agreeing to allow such cross-LoC interactions. The Indian side wanted to heal the wounds of the divided families, encourage cross-LoC tourism and promote “peace through trade”, but the adversary saw it as another means to promote terrorism in the troubled state of Jammu & Kashmir.

Our intelligence agencies had always been suspicious of the intent of the Pakistani deep state and kept a close vigil on the cross-LoC trade. In order to apprehend the modus-operandi of the hostile agencies, it is essential to understand the nuances of the cross-LoC trade. Readers need to understand that cross-LoC trade is different from international trade and is governed by a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).

The cross-o trade is based on the barter system of trade against the usual currency-based trade due to non-availability of banking system and communication facilities. No excise duty or taxes are levied as in the case of regular international trade. A total of 21 tradeable items have been identified. Only items produced or manufactured on either side of the LoC are permitted to be traded. The list of items includes eatables, fruits, vegetables, dry fruits, medicinal herbs, saffron, garments and handicrafts. The list is not specific but general in nature leading to intentional/unintentional misinterpretation at times.

19 February 2017

Indian concerns over Maldives island-lease: It’s not about China but about sovereignty talk

By N Sathiya Moorthy

At a New Year news conference in Male, Chinese Ambassador Wang Fukang reportedly expressed ‘surprise’ over “concerns raised by Indian journalists over the leasing of the Maldivian island of Feydhoo Finolhu (an uninhabited island close to the capital Male) to a Chinese company to develop a resort”. 

The SunOnline reported on January 4, 2017 that: “Some Indian media outlets have reportedly raised concern that giving an island close to the main airport of the country was a danger to the strategic interests of India. In response, the Chinese Ambassador said that the Indian attention on a Maldivian tourism lease with a Chinese company is very surprising.“

“The Ambassador said that he believes the Maldives is a popular tourist destination and so is always looking for foreign investors and is an opportunity open to the whole world”. He has a point. The web version of another local daily Miadhu quoted Ambassador Wang as recalling how “100 million Chinese travelled as tourists last year...(to Maldives), hence the number of visitors to Maldives can be increased”.

Ambassador Wang further pointed out that 700,000 Chinese tourists travelled to Bali, in Indonesia, alone. Around “500,000 Chinese tourists visited Japan last year, and 960,000 visited South Korea. So, it will not be difficult to get 1.5 million tourists to Maldives from China alone”, the Chinese envoy said.

17 February 2017

** Is India still interested in developing Trincomalee port in Sri Lanka?

By N Sathiya Moorthy

At the annual Raisina Dialogue held in New Delhi from January 17-19, 2017, Sri Lanka’s Resettlement Minister Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka said the two nations would soon commence negotiations for an accord for India to develop the eastern Trincomalee port in his country. In July last, Fonseka’s Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said a Singaporean company, Surbana Jurong, was to undertake the assignment. Sri Lanka and Surbana Jurong, an infrastructure major, had signed an MoU a month earlier, though the MoU was confined to preparing a master-plan for Trincomalee development.

More recently, there have been reports that the Sri Lankan Government has been talking to India and Japan for developing Trincomallee, as an industry zone. Earlier, when the Rajapaksa regime was around, a high-power industry team from India visited the country, a decision was announced for developing a ‘pharma hub’ in the East. But no forward movement has been reported, yet.

There is also nothing to conclude that the ‘choice’ for an overseas partner, if any, and especially of India for developing the strategically important Trincomallee town and port, had been made. For developing the town as an industrial zone implies the simultaneous development of the port. More importantly, there is nothing official to show that India has since accepted it. If anything, the New Indian Express has since claimed that India was not interested in the offer. Whether or not there was/is a communication gap within the Sri Lankan government -- that too on a sensitive issue involving an equally sensitive Indian neighbour -- neither government has since denied the New Indian Express’ claims.

1 February 2017

China's Myanmar Dam Hypocrisy

Source Link
By Tom Fawthrop

Workers fix a floating platform used for the construction of a dam on the Nu River, also known as the Salween River, in China's Yunnan province (March 1, 2007). The projects in China proper have since been suspended out of environmental concerns; not so for planned dams in Myanmar.

China is preserving the ecology of the Nu River within its borders. Downstream in Myanmar, it’s a different story. 

28 January 2017

Emerging Trans-Regional corridors: South and Southeast Asia


A broadly interconnected Asia sees the simultaneous rise of India and China as strong states and even stronger markets. New ideas and initiatives of trans-regional economic corridors to further link regions of Asia and beyond have been emerging in recent years. China has initiated the Silk Road Economic Belt and Maritime Silk Road (together the One Belt, One Road or OBOR) with the aim to link the country with and those of Central and Southeast Asia, the Indian Ocean region, the Middle East, Africa and Europe. Japan has been involved in developing strategic corridors in South and Southeast Asia. India has been pushing for strengthening its linkages with Southeast Asia and Central Asia. Similarly, the United States has envisioned an Indo-Pacific Economic Corridor to bridge South and Southeast Asia. Within this context, this volume attempts to capture the rationales behind the various initiatives with a specific focus on linking South and Southeast Asia. The papers in the volume assess the economic and strategic implications of the trans-regional economic corridors in South and Southeast Asia.


Emerging Trans-Regional Corridors: Perspectives from South and Southeast Asia | K. Yhome and Rajeev Ranjan Chaturvedy 

Linking South and Southeast Asia 

Connecting South Asia with Southeast Asia: A Reality Check | Tariq A. Karim 

India:The Bridge Linking South and Southeast Asia | Sreeradha Datta 

Projects, Proposals and Plans 

25 January 2017

India’s Rohingya dilemma: A clash of interests and values

Prashant Jha

On October 9, 2016, there were attacks on Myanmar’s border posts in the Northern Rakhine state. This region is home to the Rohingyas, who are not recognised by the Myanmar regime as citizens and have been facing long standing discrimination. 

The attacks drew an iron-fisted response from the security forces. Various reports suggest that the forces engaged in shooting suspects arbitrarily, burning houses, looting property, destroying foodstocks, and even raping women, causing massive displacement. 

Rohingyas - Muslims of the northern part of Rakhine state - see themselves as an indigenous minority of Myanmar, but the Buddhist-dominated government labels them as Bangladeshi migrants. There is a history of restrictions on citizenship, free movement, work opportunities, access to government services and the right to vote on Rohingyas. In June and October 2012, there was acute anti-Muslim violence in the state, causing major despair among Rohingyas and forcing them to migrate. 

On the issue, both the Myanmar military and Aung San Suu Kyi, currently in a fragile partnership in Yangon, are on the same page. But events of the past few months indicate the crisis has entered a new phase. 

23 January 2017

The nowhere people next door

Happymon Jacob

New Delhi should use creative diplomacy to persuade Myanmar to resolve the Rohingya crisis.

The Rohingyas are a people struck by tragedy: persecuted at home in Myanmar, rejected or barely tolerated abroad, and sacrificed at the altar of strategic calculations by powerful neighbours. To add to it, the refugee crisis in Europe has overshadowed their plight. Both institutionally discriminated and denied basic human rights in a legally-sanctioned manner as well as removed from the mainstream, over a million Rohingyas have no land they can call home. It is as though they have been expelled from humanity itself.

Anatomy of a tragedy 

Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, neighbouring Bangladesh, are not recognised by the Myanmar government as an official ethnic group and are therefore denied citizenship.

 Most Rohingyas are not qualified to be citizens of Myanmar as per the 1982 Citizenship Law, which was promulgated by the erstwhile military junta. While it is claimed that there were no Rohingyas in Myanmar before the British brought ‘Bengalis’ to Burma, there is sufficient evidence to show that the Rohingyas pre-existed the British-engineered migration (during the British occupation of the Arakan State in 1823) from present-day Bangladesh to Burma. Even those who arrived in Burma post-1823 could not go back to Bangladesh now given that they have no citizenship claims there. This effectively makes them a stateless people.

For the Rohingyas, such a ‘solitary, poor, nasty, brutish’ existence has now become ‘short’ thanks to the state-induced mass exodus that has been taking place ever since nine police officers were killed by alleged Rohingya militants in October 2016. The result has been horrifying: hundreds of people have been killed at the hands of the military, many more hundreds have disappeared, scores of women sexually assaulted, villages razed to the ground, and tens of thousands have fled the country.

30 December 2016

** 2017 Annual Forecast: South Asia

As in so many other regions, nationalism is on the rise in South Asia, and leaders there will use it to advance their political agendas. This will be particularly pronounced as India and Pakistan prepare for elections. And because this is India and Pakistan, nationalist rhetoric in one country will often demonize the other.

But they have very different domestic agendas. India will try to add to the modest progress it has made toward reform, particularly tax reform. And it will do so as its economic growth slows, thanks in part to recent demonetization schemes.

For its part, Pakistan's military will use the threat of India as an excuse to maintain the status quo in its civil-military balance of power. It will also ensure that Pakistan's ties with Afghanistan remain weak as instability in that country undermines progress on transnational energy projects, including the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline.

26 December 2016

Should you say Myanmar or Burma?

And how much does it matter anymore?

“FOLLOW local practice when a country expressly changes its name,” advises “The Economist Style Book”, the Bible of this newspaper. Among the list of examples that follow (“Lviv, not Lvov” etc) only two rate authorial interjections: “Myanmar, not (alas) Burma” and “Yangon, not (alas, alack) Rangoon”. We follow that dictate in our pages, of course, but not everyone else does. Upon landing at the country’s busiest airport, your pilot may welcome you to Yangon, but your luggage will still be tagged RGN. Though Barack Obama referred to Myanmar when he met the country’s former president, Thein Sein, for the first time, the American embassy still gives its address as “Rangoon, Burma”. And ordinary Burmese tend to refer, at least in conversation, to their country as “Burma” and its capital as “Rangoon”. Which should you use, and why?

17 December 2016

The Tangled History of the Afghanistan-India-Pakistan Triangle

By Ahmad Bilal Khalil

Kabul’s foreign policy approach has shifted between favoring India and Pakistan since the partition. 

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, speaking at the sixth Heart of Asia Conference in Amritsar, India, not only criticized Pakistan but, importantly, also rejected $500 million in aid from Pakistan, recently pledged at the Brussels conference in Europe.

Just after his return to the country, Ashraf Ghani went further, saying “We want dignified relations, not charity.” The Afghan president, in a fit of optimism, added, “If we are allowed [to live] peacefully we can find $500 million and if [there is peace] for five years we would be in a situation to give others $500 million.”

Ghani’s rejection marked the lowest ebb of bilateral relations between Kabul-Islamabad in the last 15 years and particularly during the rule of the National Unity Government (NUG) in Afghanistan. True, Kabul-Islamabad’s honeymoon ended long ago, and the NUG has snubbed Islamabad already since Pakistan’s failure to bring the Taliban to negotiating table for promised talks in March 2015 and later in March 2016. However, Ghani’s latest remarks are the first time in the last 15 years that Kabul has rejected a nation’s aid.

14 December 2016

Aung San Suu Kyi Can’t, or Won’t, Rein In Burma’s Army

Feliz Solomon 

Her inability or unwillingness to stand up for persecuted Rohingya Muslims against the Burmese military has chilling implications 

A crisis is unfolding along Burma’s western frontier, and the world is waiting for Aung San Suu Kyi, the country’s de facto leader, to respond. Eight weeks since the start of a violent crackdown on suspected jihadists that has sent tens of thousands of civilians fleeing for their lives, the reach of her authority has been called into question and her credibility as a guardian of human rights is at stake.

While Suu Kyi — a Nobel Peace Prize laureate — has been conspicuously silent, the Burmese army has spent those weeks apparently flaunting its power. The army has allegedly committed serious human-rights abuses against Rohingya Muslims in the western state of Arakan, also called Rakhine. But Suu Kyi has downplayed the seriousness of the allegations and accused the international community of inflaming tensions.

“I’m not saying there are no difficulties,” she said during a rare interviewwith Singaporean broadcaster Channel News Asia on Friday, “but it helps if people can recognize the difficulty and are more focused on resolving these difficulties rather than exaggerating them so that everything seems worse than it is.”

11 December 2016

Illegal Migration From Bangladesh: Deportation, Border Fences and Work Permits

Pushpita Das

This monograph examines the Indian government’s perspective on the issue of infiltration/illegal from Bangladesh. It analyses the socio-economic and political impact of the presence of a large number of illegal Bangladeshi migrants on the receiving societies within India. It also studies the process of politicisation and securitisation of illegal migration by the political parties, and analyses the events and actions which have shaped the Indian policymakers’ attitude towards illegal migration. While critically evaluating the various measures taken by the government over the years to tackle the problem, the monograph also examines in details proposed solutions such as issuance of work permits and granting amnesty to the illegal migrants as measure to prevent illegal migration. In doing so, it brings forth the wider debates regarding work permits and amnesties, and studies the experiences of some select countries to judge the implications of such proposals. Based on these debates, the monograph argues that before considering proposals such as work permits, it has to be conclusively established that illegal migration occurs in response to demand for labour, otherwise it would result in depressing wages leading to greater hostilities against illegal migrants. 

26 November 2016

*** Reality and fantasy in nuclear South Asia

Mario E. Carranza
16 NOVEMBER 2016

India and Pakistan are ultimately responsible for resolving their own crises, but the nuclearization of the subcontinent has internationalized their disputes. South Asian tensions are no longer just a regional matter because of the potentially catastrophic global humanitarian consequences of a nuclear exchange in South Asia.

In my second roundtable essay I argued that Washington's ultimate "goal in the region must be denuclearization," as part of a multilateral "effort to reduce nuclear dangers, both globally and in South Asia." My roundtable colleague Rabia Akhtar claims that this is like "living in fantasyland," but there's nothing fantastic about my argument. Since Barack Obama's 2009 Prague speech, "the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons" has been official US policy. The goal of a world without nuclear weapons was also endorsed in 2009 by the five permanent members of the UN Security Council.

Akhtar attempts to rebut my "fantasy" ideas by writing that "choices have been made"—meaning, primarily, that India and Pakistan have decided to seek security in nuclear weapons while standing outside the nuclear nonproliferation regime. But such choices are not irreversible. Indeed, India and Pakistan are out of sync with the overwhelming majority of states, which have renounced nuclear weapons, and it's the South Asian rivals that behave as if they were living in a "fantasyland"—a delusionary and dangerous "realist" fantasyland. New Delhi and Islamabad attempt simply to ignore the international social and normative environment in which their mad nuclear competition takes place.

10 November 2016

Arson and Vandalism Rattle Hindu Communities in Bangladesh

NOV. 6, 2016

Protesters in Bangladesh during a rally against recent communal violence in the country, in Dhaka, the capital, last week. CreditA.M. Ahad/Associated Press

DHAKA, Bangladesh — Vandalism and arson directed at Hindu temples and homes continued over the weekend in Bangladesh, as crowds in various parts of the Muslim-majority country appeared to target its largest religious minority group.

Many of the acts were minor. Late Saturday or early Sunday, for instance, Hindu idols were defaced in temples in the north and south of the country, according to the police.

But Hindu communities are increasingly unnerved, said Anjan Kumar Deb, the vice chairman of Nasirnagar subdistrict, northeast of Dhaka, the capital, where an angry Muslim crowd ransacked 15 temples and scores of homes on Oct. 30.

Fifty-three people have been arrested in connection with those crimes.

India expressed “grave concern” over the attacks, with Sushma Swaraj, the external affairs minister, instructing Delhi’s ambassador to the country to visit the prime minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina.

The violence in Nasirnagar, whose population is about 40 percent Hindu, was set off by a Facebook post published by a Hindu youth. The post included an image of the Hindu god Shiva appearing at a Muslim holy site in the Saudi city of Mecca.

Mr. Deb, a Hindu community leader, received a call on Saturday that unknown people had built a fire on the veranda of his home. “The attackers want to create a panic among Hindus,” Mr. Deb said, adding that the campaigns may aim to strip Hindus of their lands.