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June 2024 Current Topics

 

Source

 

 

 

 

Outrage Is Not a Policy: Coming to Terms With Myanmar’s Fragmented State, May 2024. This paper analyses the evolution of Myanmar’s civil war with a view to identifying optimal international policy responses. The sharp escalation of armed resistance since late 2023 holds out the tantalising prospect that the once seemingly invincible military regime could be defeated. Yet it remains an open question whether anti-junta forces will be able to carry the momentum from their recent victories in the forest-covered, mountainous borderlands across the open plains of central Myanmar to take the capital or other major cities. Even if resistance forces ultimately emerge victorious, the goal of building a genuine federal democracy will likely take years of highly complex and politically fraught negotiations...

 

Lowy

Being Chinese in Australia, 2023 Edition. In this third nationally representative survey of the Lowy Institute’s Being Chinese in Australia series, we asked Chinese-Australians about Australia and the world. As in the two previous surveys, we explored three broad themes: how Chinese-Australians see Australia and their place in it; how they consume news and information; and how they view the wider world. The survey also compares the sentiments expressed by Chinese-Australians with those of the broader Australian population. Most Chinese-Australians have a positive view of Australia. A majority say that Australia is a good place to live and are proud of the Australian way of life and culture. Three quarters say they feel a moderate or strong sense of belonging — an increase from the 2021 survey. Fewer Chinese-Australians say they have been called offensive names or physically threatened or attacked because of their heritage in the last year...

 

Lowy

Nobody Wins Unless Everybody Wins: The Coles Review Into the Sustainment of Australia’s Collins-Class Submarines, May 2024. In 2003, Australia became the proud owner of the last of six new-build Collins-class submarines. Less than a decade later, the fleet was in a poor state of repair, and at times only one or two of the boats were available to the Royal Australian Navy. This account by Andrew Davies explains how the situation was remediated by bringing in a team of highly experienced naval professionals to take an uncompromising look at the arrangements in place to manage a vital national defence asset. Despite a public perception that the submarines were inherently defective, the problems were in fact almost entirely due to dysfunctional and often rancorous organisational dynamics between the key players...

 

ASPI

Deterrence, Escalation and Strategic Stability: Rebuilding Australia’s Muscle Memory, May 2024. To build an effective deterrence strategy, Australia needs urgently to improve its skills and understanding of deterrence, and raise the topic’s profile in our public and policy discussions. Despite having previously been a global thought leader on nuclear weapons and deterrence half a century ago, Australia today doesn’t have a strong grasp of the basics of modern deterrence. Knowledge of and literacy in deterrence are vital for adapting and applying such concepts to meet today’s extraordinarily complex, multidomain and multidimensional requirements. A lack of understanding of deterrence can critically undermine the ability to get strategy and policy right. The implications for Australia’s national interests are urgent and serious...

 

ASPI

AUKUS Pillar 2 Critical Pathways: A Road Map to Enabling International Collaboration, May 2024. The AUKUS trilateral partnership presents Australia with an unprecedented opportunity to achieve national-security goals that have eluded it for decades. It could offer access to cutting-edge technologies. It can further integrate Australian, US and UK military forces, allowing more unified action to maintain deterrence against national and transnational actors who threaten the global rules-based order. Perhaps most importantly, AUKUS—in particular its Pillar.2 objectives—is an opportunity for Australia to pursue the long-sought industrial capacity necessary to defend its borders and its interests across a range of probable conflict scenarios...

 

ASPI

Turning Back the Clock: The Changing Nature of North Korean Food Insecurity, May 2024. Over the past several years, North Korea has adopted legal changes that are increasing the centrality of the Workers Party of Korea and the state in agricultural production, distribution, and consumption. This development changes the basic nature of food insecurity in North Korea from one in which access to food is determined by the ability to purchase it in the market to one in which access to food is determined by political status. This development is of potential policy relevance: Although current conditions do not appear to be severe, if and when North Korea experiences another food crisis, foreign partners are likely to encounter a state dominated model more closely resembling the system that existed in the early 1990s at the onset of the famine and with it the attendant problems that humanitarian-relief agencies confronted at that time.

 

EWC

From Bandung to Hindutva: How the Palestine Question Shows India’s Alternative Foreign Policy Futures, May 2024. On January 26, 2024, in the midst of ongoing global protest against Israel’s siege of Gaza, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ordered that Israel must “take all possible measures” to prevent genocide against Palestinian people living in the Gaza Strip. Justice Dalveer Bhandari, the only Indian justice of the fifteen judges who overheard the case, concurred with the ruling, writing, “It must, in this case, take into account the widespread destruction in Gaza and loss of life that the population of Gaza has thus far endured.” Soon after, on February 21, 2024, the Water Transport Workers Federation (WTWF), representing fourteen thousand workers, including 3,500 stationed at eleven of India’s twelve major ports, declared they would refuse to handle weaponry destined for Israel...

 

EWC

Latest AsiaPacific Issues:  

EWC

South Korea’s Road to Carbon Neutrality: Solutions and Obstacles, May 2024. Globally, energy security policies are gaining prominence as geopolitical tensions and climate concerns intersect. The escalating impacts of climate change, evident through extreme weather events like heatwaves, heavy snowfall, typhoons, and forest fires, underscore the urgency for action. In response, major developed countries are hastening their transitions towards a green economy to mitigate climate related disasters and their socioeconomic fallout. Carbon neutrality has emerged as an irreversible international imperative, symbolizing a shift towards “low carbon, green growth” as a strategy for environmental conservation...

 

ISDP

The Kingdom of Sweden: A Long History of Sustainable Practices, May 2024. Sweden has been one of the pioneering countries in the field of sustainability, green transition, and environmental conservation. Notably, in 1964 and 1967, Sweden passed the Nature Conservancy Act and the Environmental Protection Act, respectively, becoming the first country ever to pass such legislation. Additionally, in 1972, Sweden was the host of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, the first conference to raise the issue of environmental conservation. From then on, Sweden has taken major leaps in promoting policies, practices, and legislation aimed at substantially reducing greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants. As of 2023, Sweden is a leading hub for environmental research and green technologies, spearheading decarbonization efforts through clean energy sources and becoming a model globally...

 

ISDP

Maldives Walking Tight Rope between India and China, May 2024. Like all the South Asian small states, the Maldives has been subjected to great power politics. There are five principles of Maldives’ foreign policy (mostly reciprocating with India’s ‘Panchsheel’) and six goals that revolve around sovereignty, identity, and Islamic nationalism. But due to the increasingly tense geopolitical environment, foreign policy adaptation has been a challenging task for the Maldives. As a result, Maldives’ internal political environment is largely polarized to ‘Anti or Pro- India or China’ when it comes to managing the changing geopolitical discourse. This issue brief aims to untangle the sources of Maldives’ foreign policy toward China and India so as to identify how the Maldives has adjusted to the changing geopolitical environment in South Asia.

 

ISDP

Positive Paranoia: Chinese Interpretations of Indo-Pacific Geopolitics, May 2024. This Focus Asia paper seeks to interpret Chinese narratives on Indo-Pacific geopolitics by reviewing Chinese state media and scholarly opinions on Indo-Pacific geopolitics. For this purpose, the paper also examines the PRC’s interpretation of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (the ‘Quad’ comprising Australia, India, Japan, and the U.S.) and the interplay with the three middle-power Quad partners. Similarly, it explores China-Europe dynamics in Chinese state media and official discourse, given the expansion of the European Union’s strategic interest in Indo-Pacific geopolitics. Chinese scholars share many views with those of official state media. This is particularly evident in views of U.S. motives to contain China, dismissals of any U.S. success, and fault-finding with U.S. traditional and potential allies. Yet, Chinese scholars reveal different interpretations of the evolution of U.S. Indo-Pacific policies and the space for U.S.-China cooperation within the Indo-Pacific strategy confines...

 

ISDP

Why Taiwan Matters to Europe, May 2024. The Taiwan issue is known to be sensitive for Beijing, one of its so-called core interests. Taiwan has no diplomatic recognition among European Union member states but informal relations and cooperation between Taiwan and Europe are nevertheless extensive in many areas. The position that Europe should steer clear of a conflict over Taiwan presupposes that it does not have a clear stake in maintaining peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait. European interests are, however, far more intertwined with Taiwan and its security than what its lack of geographical proximity would initially suggest. Understanding Taiwan’s significance to Europe is increasingly important in order to understand the foundations on which current relations rest and what Europe’s stake in the Taiwan Strait is. To examine and expound on why Taiwan matters to Europe...

 

ISDP

Trends in Southeast Asia 2024 #15: Party of Hardship: The Evolution of Malaysia’s Parti Keadilan Rakyat.  The People’s Justice Party (PKR) may in many ways be synonymous with its larger-than-life leader, Anwar Ibrahim, who, although only president for six of the party’s twenty-five years, has always been its de facto leader and adviser. However, PKR is much more than only about Anwar, and this paper traces the evolution of the party independently of Anwar as a person.PKR’s evolution can be broken down into four main periods: 1998–2004 (formative), 2005–13 (golden era), 2014–18 (all-in for power), and 2019–22 (lessons on restraints). From 1998 to 2022, PKR tended to adopt a big-tent approach (internally and externally), ideological synthesis to find a middle ground, and a loose organization led by a charismatic personality at the top and self-organization at the grassroots...

 

ISEAS

Trends in Southeast Asia 2024 #14: Delivering Development, Enforcing Shariah: PAS’s Dilemma in Terengganu. Whenever the Islamist party PAS comes to power in Terengganu, its political agenda has been to combine populist-type development programmes with the wish to turn Terengganu into a shariah-compliant state. Terengganu’s state budget is however heavily dependent on the federal government, to the tune of 80–90 per cent. This hinders the state government’s policymaking and implementation, especially when the federal government is controlled by its political opponents. This article argues that the politics of development play a more central role in determining the durability of the PAS state government in Terengganu than it does in neighbouring Kelantan...

 

ISEAS

Trends in Southeast Asia 2024 #13: Malaysia’s Responses to Issues Pertaining to Palestine. Malaysia’s support for Palestinian independence has always been based on religion. Historically, Malaysia has had warm relations with Palestinian leaders including the Palestine Liberation Organization—during Hussein Onn’s and Mahathir Mohamad’s administrations—and Hamas since Najib Razak’s administration. However, Malaysia’s support is not just based on their affinity to Palestinians as fellow Muslims but is also a matter of domestic politics. Support for Palestine has been used as a political tool for various quarters to prove that they are more Islamic than the other...

 

ISEAS

Trends in Southeast Asia 2024 #12: Why Young Malay Voters in Malaysia Are “Turning Green”. There is an increasing trend among young Malay voters in Malaysia to support the Perikatan Nasional coalition, with a particular emphasis on the Islamist party PAS. Despite recognition of the weak economy as a significant national concern, young Malay voters continue to place a higher emphasis on Muslim leaders who assert their commitment to safeguarding the rights of Islam in Malaysia. Consistent with theories on political socialization, the influence of family members significantly affects young Malay voters in Malaysia, particularly due to their limited political awareness of alternative channels like formal schooling...

 

ISEAS

Latest APEC publications:

 

APEC

Latest ADB Working Paper Series:  

ADB

Latest ADBI Working Paper Series:  

ADB

Latest ADB Publications:  

ADB

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 2024

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pacific Perspectives on the US Indo-Pacific Strategy, April 2024. The Pacific and its ocean people’s heritage need to be featured more prominently in the US Indo-Pacific strategy. Pacific island states are large, gigantic if you will! If you consider the area where these states have sovereign rights, their exclusive economic zones (EEZs), then 5 of the 20 largest states in the world would be Pacific Island states. Three of those are in the North Pacific. Considering its EEZ, the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) is equivalent to the size of the entire US mainland. Obviously, this assertion challenges the “land dominates sea” maxim in international discourse. However, a saying from our traditional navigators, “The seas are highways of life, they do not separate us, they connect us,” better encapsulates the strategic value of our ocean territory...

 

EWC

Enhancing the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific through Sub-Regional Initiatives: The Case of the BIMP-EAGA Initiative, April 2024. Effectively managing geopolitical competition in Southeast Asia has arguably become the most pressing concern for maintaining regional peace and stability. In recent years, US-China tensions have escalated across multiple facets of the region’s multilateral institutions. As a result, managing strategic competition has become an ever more complex affair, testing the overall effectiveness of ASEAN centrality. The United States has taken a series of steps to strengthen its relations with its Indo-Pacific partners and allies through multilateral and minilateral frameworks—namely the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or the QUAD, and AUKUS, a trilateral security partnership between Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States...

 

EWC

The Open Gap in the “Free and Open” Indo-Pacific, April 2024. The Indo-Pacific Strategy (IPS) opens with President Biden’s words at the Quad Leader’s Summit: “The future of each of our nations, and indeed the world, depends on a free and open Indo-Pacific flourishing in the decades ahead.” The emphasis on a free and open Indo-Pacific maintains the “rules-based international order” label wherein the United States aims to strengthen democratic institutions, the rule of law, and accountable democratic governance...

 

EWC

Australia’s 2024 Independent Intelligence Review: Opportunities and Challenges: Views From the Strategist, April 2024. Australia has a recent history of intelligence community reform via independent intelligence reviews (IIRs) commissioned by government on a regular basis since 2004. The latest IIR is being undertaken by Dr Heather Smith and Mr Richard Maude. In the lead-up to the announcement of the 2024 IIR, and afterwards, ASPI’s The Strategist has served as a valuable forum for canvassing publicly the most significant issues and challenges to be addressed by the reviewers...

 

ASPI

Reclaiming Leadership: Australia and the Global Critical Minerals Race, April 2024. Climate policy, geopolitics and market forces are coalescing to deliver Australia a global leadership opportunity in critical minerals. To grasp that opportunity, Australia needs both to utilise its domestic mineral endowment and its mining knowledge and technology and to leverage the global footprint of Australian companies to help build a global supply chain network. How Australia responds will not only determine economic benefits to the nation but will also affect the world’s ability to achieve minerals security and the sustainability required for the global energy transition and inclusive economic growth...

 

ASPI

Regional Security and Pacific Partnerships: Recruiting Pacific Islanders Into the Australian Defence Force, April 2024. The security and stability of the South Pacific and Australia are deeply intertwined. Australian Government policies have for more than a decade consistently prioritised the Pacific for international engagement, including in defence, development and diplomacy. The Australian Government’s ‘Pacific Step-up’, first announced in 2016, delivered a heightened level of effort by Canberra in the region, as did Australia’s strong support for the Pacific Islands Forum’s Boe Declaration. The Albanese government’s increased policy focus on the region, and on a coordinated whole-of-government approach to the Pacific, demonstrates the centrality of our immediate region to the Australian Government’s strategic planning...

 

ASPI

High Frequency Macroeconomic Forecasts Current Quarter Model: 2024Q2, April 2024. Given the tightness in the labour market, it is projected that the unemployment rates for 24Q1 and 24Q2 will remain at 2.9% respectively. Hong Kong's external trade is expected to maintain its positive momentum, with exports and imports of goods projected to increase from 4.1% and 1.9% growth in the 24Q1 to 6.5% and 5.2% growth in 24Q2. Hong Kong's services exports is expected to increase by 5.9% in 24Q2, thanks to the resumption of normal travel. However, the surge in consumption by Hong Kong residents abroad has led to a significant increase of 7.5% in services imports during the same period, entirely offsetting the contribution of service exports to the overall economic growth...

 

HKU

Trends in Southeast Asia 2024 #11: Myanmar’s Resistance and the Future of Border Trade: Challenges and Opportunities. Since the start of Operation 1027, Myanmar’s resistance groups have gained control over large parts of key overland trade routes and a number of important border crossings, fundamentally changing the realities in the control of border trade. Despite these losses, the State Administration Council (SAC) retains control-of-trade-related institutions that are vital for accessing an international trading system characterized by state-to-state interactions...

 

ISEAS

Trends in Southeast Asia 2024 #10 : Beyond Slacktivism: The Dynamic Relationship between Online and Offline Activism among Southeast Asian Youths. Despite a surge in youth activism across Southeast Asian countries, comparative analysis in this region remains scarce. Using data from the World Values Survey of several studies, and case studies on Indonesia, this article examines the extent to which online political activism serves as a catalyst for mobilization, awareness and community building among young people in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines...

 

ISEAS

Trends in Southeast Asia 2024 #9 : Shifting to a Higher Gear: The Saga of Malaysia’s National Carmaker Proton. Newly independent Malaysia’s economic growth was driven mainly by the export of primary products such as rubber, timber and tin. However, in light of the steadily declining non-oil commodity prices in the early 1980s and informed by the ongoing structural transformation in Japan and South Korea, the country’s then Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad reoriented the national growth model to one that put heavy industries—steel, cement, petrochemicals, machinery and equipment and automotive—at the forefront. To garner public support, he promulgated the idea of a “national car”, employing it as an expression of technological modernism and national pride...

 

ISEAS

Trends in Southeast Asia 2024 #8 : Scrutinizing the DAP’s Success in the 2023 Malaysian State Elections. Using granular polling station and polling stream data for forty-seven seats contested by the Pakatan Harapan (PH) member Democratic Action Party (DAP), this paper explores the effect of this relationship on voter support. This Trends in Southeast Asia finds that, contrary to expectations, DAP actually gained voter support from campaigning with UMNO...

 

ISEAS

Asian Development Outlook, April 2024 (Full Report, Highlights). Growth in developing Asia and the Pacific is expected to remain resilient, propelled by strong domestic demand, improving semiconductor exports, and the ongoing recovery in tourism. Regional inflation will moderate further, as global food and fuel prices stabilize. However, several risks warrant attention. Escalating conflicts and geopolitical tensions may disrupt supply chains and impact commodity prices. Uncertainty surrounding US monetary policy, potential further weakness in the property market in the People’s Republic of China, and extreme weather events could present challenges for the region. Policymakers should intensify efforts to bolster resilience by fostering trade, cross-border investment, and commodity supply networks...

 

ADB

Latest ADB Working Paper Series:  

ADB

Latest ADBI Working Paper Series:  

ADB

Latest ADB Publications:  

ADB

Asian Development Review, Vol. 41, No. 1, March 2024 (Full Report):
The first paper presents harmonized methodologies used to estimate health capacity to work, followed by seven country papers. The four other papers in this issue cover topics related to intergovernmental fiscal systems, population and geospatial data, regional inequalities, and well-being, and the “Belt and Road” initiative.

  ADB

Latest APEC publications:

 

APEC

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

April 2024

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mind the Gap: Ambition Versus Delivery in China’s BRI Megaprojects in Southeast Asia, March 2024. China has become Southeast Asia’s largest infrastructure financing partner. Yet there is an enormous gap between what Beijing promises and what it has delivered, amounting to more than $50 billion in unfulfilled project financing with more than half of this reflecting projects that have either been cancelled, downsized, or otherwise seem unlikely to proceed. The reasons for this gap include China’s almost exclusive focus on financing ambitious megaprojects especially prone to problems and delays but also political instability in partner countries, weak stakeholder consultation, and increasingly stranded fossil fuel projects...

 

Lowy

Papua New Guinea’s Fiscal Decentralisation: A Way Forward, March 2024. Fiscal decentralisation in Papua New Guinea (PNG) has been a contentious topic for much of the country’s history. PNG has had several attempts at decentralising fiscal responsibilities, without much success in improving governance or service delivery. This is concerning, given sub-national funding has increased in the past decade. Governance has deteriorated over time as more responsibilities and funds are channelled to lower levels of government, including through unaccountable transfers to members of parliament (MPs) to use at their discretion. Government effectiveness and service delivery have suffered as a result, leading to poor development outcomes. This paper examines the weaknesses in the decentralisation process and how these mechanisms can be strengthened...

 

Lowy

The Trade Routes Vital to Australia’s Economic Security, March 2024. A recurrent theme in Australia’s defence strategy has been our reliance on and need to defend Australia’s trade routes in a globalised world. The vulnerability of Australia’s limited stockpiles of critical goods and its concentrated sources of supply have driven military capability and planning for decades and remain a justification for strategic investments. The 2023 Defence Strategic Review argued that the danger of any power threatening to invade the Australian continent was remote, but that an adversary could implement military coercion at a distance with threats against our trade and supply routes. With limited resources and finite defence capability, yet vast interests at sea, it’s important that Australian security and economic planning is trained on the most critical pain points in our sea lines of communication. Strategy and planning must derive from up-to-date and accurate data about what we trade, via which routes, and to and from which specific locations...

 

ASPI

Deterring an Attack on Taiwan: Policy Options for India and Other Non-belligerent State, March 2024. India has a vital role to play in deterring China from unifying Taiwan by military force, a new Australian Strategic Policy Institute report finds, highlighting New Delhi’s significant economic, diplomatic, legal and strategic narrative levers. The report looks beyond traditional thinking on military preparations to dissuade Beijing from taking the island by force and offers six ways for India, with its great strategic and economic weight, to “help shape Beijing’s calculus away from the use of force”. The author writes that the use of such long-term measures is vital to New Delhi’s own interests, as the economic and regional security impacts of a major war would be devastating for India itself.  India and other “non-belligerent states” could apply a range of measures to persuade Beijing that the time is not right for a military attack...

 

ASPI

EU-Thailand FTA Negotiations: IUU Fishing and Human Rights Remain Obstacles, March 2024. Thailand’s fishing industry, which at its height saw as many as 200,000 migrant workers from neighboring Laos, Myanmar, and Cambodia caught in a brutal system of abuse, withered global criticism until eventually, the European Union (EU) issued a “yellow card” to Thailand aiming to crack down on both systemic abuse and illegally caught fish ending up in European supermarkets. With a semi-democratic government replacing the military-backed establishment that ruled Thailand for nearly a decade, negotiations for a mutually desired free trade agreement (FTA) have resumed. However, as the new Srettha Thavisin government seeks fast economic remedies to a flagging economy, reforms to its fishing industry may come undone, compromising FTA talks and putting the Kingdom again under international scrutiny...

 

ISDP

Trade, Connectivity and Supply Chains in EU-India Relations, February 2024. In the decade and a half since 2007 when the EU and India first started their FTA negotiations, the world economic order has undergone a sea change. During that period, Europe has also sought to position itself as a strategic actor seeking to create a secure and rules-based Indo-Pacific through its 2021 Strategy for Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific (SCIP). The release of the Global Gateway strategy in December 2021 holds the potential to leverage China’s increasingly controversial Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) — Italy’s recent withdrawal from the project constitutes another major blow to the venture. Relying on partner states like India to be a ‘gateway’ to Asia’s infrastructure markets is a natural evolution of the EU’s focus on the region. Proof of this is the MoU signed by the EU and India, among others, as a prelude to the launch of IMEC in September 2023...

 

ISDP

Report of the Webinar on “SOUTH KOREA, INDIA, AND THE EMERGING QUAD PLUS CALCULUS”, February 2024. The webinar addressed several questions: Where does Seoul’s engagement with the Indo-Pacific stand and where does the Quad feature therein? What are South Korea’s reasons for seeking greater cooperation with the Quad? What shape would South Korea’s cooperation with the Quad take? Would it emerge as a new ‘Quint’ platform or as a more flexible and ad hoc ‘Quad Plus’ format? What are the prospects for India-Korea cooperation in the Indo-Pacific? Considering their bilateral cooperation, what are the prospects for both countries to promote and enhance minilateral formats of cooperation in the region, particularly about the Quad? How can we envision a strategic convergence between India and South Korea in Indo-Pacific minilateral frameworks? In other words, what other minilateral forums could set this example for quad-plus format cooperation? Please read the report of this webinar here.

 

ISDP

Issues and Trends in U.S. Presidential Election 2024. The U.S. presidential election, like national elections in most democracies, is mostly fought and won on domestic issues that have a direct bearing on the day-to-day lives of the American people. Foreign policy issues, while still significant for a global power like the United States, is largely peripheral and episodic in terms of influencing voting patterns. Nevertheless, more than any other election in the world, the process and result of the U.S. presidential election is keenly watched and has global repercussions. From the intra-party primaries to the presidential nominations, and then to the final verdict in November, candidates will have to grapple with a host of issues, based on which American voters will elect the next U.S. president. As the election season heats up, candidates will become more hyperbolic in asserting their best plans to save American democracy at home, and American leadership abroad...

 

ISDP

South Korea-India Ties: Between Bilateralism, Minilateralism, and Multilateralism, March 2024. In the context of the Indo-Pacific construct, the expanding gaps in global governance, the rise in minilateralism, the need to reinvigorate regional and global multilateralism, and the imperative to strengthen the rules-based liberal international order, it is important to look at the evolving trajectory of ties between India and South Korea, both Asian giants. This paper first discusses the contours of the ROK’s Indo-Pacific strategy, especially through the India angle. It then examines South Korea’s importance in India’s foreign policy and regional/global goals through the prism of India’s relationship with the Quad partners. It also looks at their congruence and cooperation in regional, global organizations and platforms such as the United Nations (UN), ASEAN, the Group of Twenty (G20), and the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF). Finally, it explores the prospects of cooperation through select minilateral forums.

 

ISDP

Navigating BRI and Indo-Pacific Strategy: Challenge for South Asian Small States, March 2024. This paper explores the intersection of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the Indo-Pacific Strategy (IPS) among South Asian Small States, analyzing the interplay between the two initiatives and their implications for regional geopolitics. Specifically, it aims to elucidate the synergies and conflicts between the two initiatives, assess the strategic significance of South Asian Small States, including Nepal, Bhutan, Maldives, and Sri Lanka, within this framework, and examine the implications for regional stability and national sovereignty. It highlights the complex interplay between BRI and IPS in the South Asian Small States, characterized by economic opportunities, geopolitical tensions, and strategic maneuvering...

 

ISDP

Can UAE become an Indo-Pacific Sea Power? March 2024. Amidst the intensified race over connectivity in the Indo-Pacific in a competitive infrastructure marketplace, the UAE is positioning itself to play an important role through strategic investments in ports abroad and extensive maritime engagements. Having established a strong presence in the Horn of Africa through investment in port infrastructure, the UAE is now keen to expand its regional influence in the South Asia sub-region of the Indian Ocean, and beyond into the larger Indo-Pacific. This issue brief outlines the emergence of the UAE as a sea power through such investments while highlighting how the Emirates’ limited participation in the governance of the Indo-Pacific is limiting its influence. It makes a case for the UAE to take a more proactive role in complementing its economic investments with participation in regional governance initiatives to help secure a truly free and open Indo-Pacific.

 

ISDP

Needed, a Framework to Protect Undersea Cables, March 2024. In the data-driven world we live in, submarine cables are the arteries that connect nation-states and their people in literally every human activity, including trade, commerce, entertainment, and social interactions. Any interference in that flow of data can disrupt lives and livelihoods and compromise the capacity of nation-states to trade, communicate, and defend their interests. There are few instruments in public international law available to nation-states for the protection of submarine cables vital to their national interest. However, private international law and, in particular, commercial contracts may provide the basis for a network of contracts that may provide the legal framework required to defend the network of submarine cables...

 

ISDP

India-Japan-Philippines: A Strategic Maritime Trilateral or More, March 2024. Regional states like India, Japan, and the Philippines have been seeking cooperative solutions with other middle powers that can both counter the Chinese influence and fulfill other economic as well as traditional and non-traditional security objectives. Against this scenario of evolving geopolitics, is there merit in an India-Japan-Philippines trilateral? Can it play a strategic role in the Indo-Pacific maritime domain and keep China in check? Can such grouping enhance the scope of “third country” partnerships and boost the multilateralism espoused by ASEAN? This Focus Asia paper aims to address such questions by exploring the interconnectedness between the Philippines, India, and Japan through both the bilateral and regional lens, looking at the trajectory of the recent high-level interactions...

 

ISDP

The State of Southeast Asia: 2024 Survey Report.  The State of Southeast Asia 2024 Survey conducted by the ASEAN Studies Centre at ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute reveals that Southeast Asia’s top preoccupations are with unemployment, climate change, and intensifying economic tensions between major powers. The Israel-Hamas conflict is the region’s top geopolitical concern, while China has edged past the US to become the prevailing choice if the region were forced to align itself in the ongoing US-China rivalry.

 

ISEAS

Trends in Southeast Asia 2024 #7: ASEAN Post-2025: Reimagining the ASEAN Economic Community.  ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) building is a long journey. For continued relevance and impact, the AEC must remain dynamic while taking into consideration evolving contexts and emerging opportunities and challenges. Notable progress has been made under the two AEC Blueprints (2015 and 2025), particularly in laying down the frameworks for regional economic integration and community building. Nonetheless, gaps remain in implementation, calling for a more streamlined but result-oriented agenda and stronger institutional coordination. Today, the AEC is faced with a markedly different context and unprecedented challenges resulting from a poly-crisis, involving geo-economic fragmentation, supply chain restructuring, and climactic changes. Without adjustment, ASEAN’s pillar and sector-centric approach can be expected to fall short in effectively responding to these challenges...

 

ISEAS

Trends in Southeast Asia 2024 #6: Prosperity or Predicament? Decoding Certification Challenges in Malaysia’s Palm Oil Industry. Oil palm was brought to Malaysia from West Africa as part of British colonial agricultural development initiatives, but the refining of crude palm oil only began in the 1970s as part of the move by the Malaysian government to industrialize the country’s agrarian economy. Malaysia is the world’s second-largest producer of palm oil, after Indonesia. Both countries account for about 85 per cent of total exports. Incidentally, smallholders produce about 40 per cent of the total output of palm oil in Malaysia. The palm oil industry is mired in controversy. Global campaigns originating in Europe and the US have branded the crop the biggest cause of deforestation, with proposed bans to follow in December 2024...

 

ISEAS

Trends in Southeast Asia 2024 #5: How Thailand’s Move Forward Party’s Fandom Strategy Shaped the 2023 General Election. The concept of political fandom, the state of being fans of a politician or of a political party, played a crucial role during Thailand’s General Election in 2023. Fandom contributed to the popularity on social media of politicians, such as Pita Limjaroenrat, the Move Forward Party’s leader and prime ministerial candidate. The strategies involved in achieving celebrity status for politicians are varied. This paper provides a case study of the factors behind the success of Pita and the Move Forward Party and contrasts these with reasons why Pita’s key political opponents were less effective. It argues that the digital age and the transcendence of politics into pop culture, where celebrity status and fandom can drive electoral outcomes, signify a profound shift in democratic participation, political engagement and the very fabric of Thai politics...

 

ISEAS

Trends in Southeast Asia 2024 #4: China’s Cultural Diplomacy in Indonesia: The Case of a Transnational Singing Contest. The emphasis on cultural connectivity in China’s growing presence and involvement in Southeast Asia highlights the importance China places on people-to-people exchanges as part of its global engagement strategy. The remarkable ascension of China over the recent decades has precipitated a proliferation of anti-China sentiments, particularly galvanized within the crucible of a “discourse war” with Western powers, as expressed in the latter’s “China threat” narrative. In response to such challenges, China has made substantial investments in cultural diplomacy, to augment its soft power through orchestrated global outreach initiatives...

 

ISEAS

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