Cementing the BRICS together

The heads of BRICS member states pose for a picture during the 6th BRICS summit in the city of Fortaleza, Brazil, 15 July 2014. BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) member states discuss political coordination issues and global governance problems. (Photo: AAP).

Authors: Garima Sahdev and Geethanjali Nataraj, Observer Research Foundation

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi is in Brazil for his first major international summit, the sixth annual BRICS summit. Before his departure, the leader put forward his vision that the vitality of the BRICS group would cut across the geographical and ideological divides of not only the five countries of the group but also of the global economy. Read more…

Will Myanmar’s military exit the political stage?

Myanmar lawmakers and senior military officials attend a ceremony to mark the 67th anniversary of Myanmar's slain Independence hero and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s father, General Aung San at the Martyrs' Mausoleum in Yangon, Myanmar Saturday, 19 July 2014. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Adam P. MacDonald, Halifax, Canada

Over three million Burmese have signed a petition by Myanmar’s main opposition party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), urging immediate constitutional revision. A significant cause for protest has been the political powers afforded to the country’s military, the Tatmadaw, by the constitution.

Although the petition demonstrates the direction in which many want the country to go, such actions are unlikely to force the generals’ hand. Read more…

An immovable object and an unstoppable force: the Uyghurs and Beijing

Armed police patrol an area where blasts occurred in Urumqi, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China, on 22 May 2014. The blasts killed 31 people and injured 94 others, according to local authorities. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Mubashar Hasan, Griffith University

China’s Xinjiang Autonomous Region is experiencing, yet again, deep unrest and unease. News headlines have been dominated by violent clashes between Chinese police and some sections of the Uyghur population — recently a police building in Xinjiang province was bombed and 13 Uyghur activists shot dead in the aftermath. To comprehend the persistent tensions between the Chinese administration, managed by the dominant Han ethnic group, and Uyghur Muslims, one must consider historical tensions and both the strategic and economic significance of Xinjiang. Read more…

Japan and the art of un-apologising

A regular rally of former so-called comfort women call for an apology from Japan in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, South Korea, 22 January 2014. Japan forcibly took tens of thousands of Asian women, mostly Koreans, to battlefields to provide sexual services for the Japanese army during World War II. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Tessa Morris-Suzuki, ANU

The Japanese government has long had difficulties coming up with effective apologies for the wartime misdeeds of the country’s military. For decades, while many ordinary Japanese grassroots groups worked tirelessly to right the wrongs of the past, the silence from the corridors of power in Tokyo was deafening. Read more…

Why Abe is out of touch on the comfort women controversies

Felicidad Delos Reyes, 85, a former Filipino comfort woman, one of many women forced to serve for the Japanese Army as sexual slaves during World War II, joins a protest outside the Japanese embassy in Pasay city, the Philippines, 25 June 2014. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Mikyoung Kim, Hiroshima Peace Institute

Ever since Shinzo Abe’s second stint as prime minister began in December 2012, his administration has been forging a worrisome trajectory for Japan’s foreign policy. Abe was re-elected because the Japanese people considered him a strong leader who would revive Japan’s ageing society and energise its declining economy. And Abe has initiated a series of bold policies regarding the economy, national defence and foreign affairs. But his motives and strategies raise concerns about maintaining peace and stability in East Asia. Read more…

The unintended legacy of Manmohan Singh

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh attends a press conference on the Germany-India summit 11 April 2013. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Suhas Palshikar, University of Pune

Manmohan Singh is the only prime minister of India to have completed two full and consecutive terms since Jawaharlal Nehru, who became the first elected prime minister in 1952 and remained in office until his death in 1964. Singh, however, was not a politician until he was appointed finance minister by Narasimha Rao in 1991 — he had always distinguished himself primarily as an economist. His departure in May 2014 was marked by a stunning defeat of both his party and government. Read more…

Foreign concepts in Indonesia’s third presidential debate

Indonesian presidential candidates, Joko Widodo (Jokowi) and Prabowo Subianto, and their running mates, Jusuf Kalla and Hatta Rajasa, pose for a photo with the Chair of General Election Commission (KPU), Husni Kamil Manik. The Indonesian presidential election will be held on 9 July 2014. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Yohanes Sulaiman, Indonesian National Defense University

Indonesia’s third presidential debate on foreign policy, held on 22 June, presents both good and bad news for observers of Indonesia’s upcoming election. The good news is that neither candidate rocked the boat. They committed to maintaining the status quo, saying they would continue current president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s policy of a ‘thousand friends and zero enemies’. Read more…

China’s growing reach in South Asia

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi  shake hands during a meeting in New Delhi on June 9, 2014. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Samam Kelegama, Institute of Policy Studies of Sri Lanka

China’s economic reach in the South Asian region has grown considerably since the late 1990s, while that of India has lagged behind. In 2012, India’s trade with its South Asian neighbours — those in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) — amounted to US$17 billion, compared to China’s trade with the same countries which amounted to US$25 billion. China is currently the largest trading partner of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, and the second largest trading partner of Sri Lanka and Nepal. Read more…

Jokowi, democracy winners in Indonesia’s tightening presidential race

Prabowo Subianto greets and smiles to Joko Widodo shortly after the second presidential debate in Jakarta, Indonesia, 15 June 2014. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Damien Kingsbury, Deakin University

There has been a growing sense that Indonesia’s presidential elections on 9 July will be much closer than initially thought and that hard man Prabowo Subianto could be a real contender for office. If Prabowo is successful, his presidency would be expected to fundamentally re-shape the orientation of Indonesia’s post-Suharto era. Read more…

Premier Li calls for ‘innovative and pragmatic cooperation’ in Africa

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta shake hands at State House Nairobi, Kenya, Saturday, 10 May 2014. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Lauren Johnston, Sinograduate

On his inaugural trip to Africa as China’s Premier in May 2014, Li Keqiang laid down the principles for the future of China–Africa relations. Li’s itinerary included Ethiopia, Nigeria, Angola and Kenya. While reports of mega-deals dominated the headlines — a US$10 billion increase in Chinese credit lines for Africa, a US$2 billion infrastructure agreement, and the promise of Chinese trains and planes for the continent — it was Li’s emphasis on ‘innovative and pragmatic cooperation’ that was telling of a new phase in China–Africa relations. Read more…

High hurdles for Japan and North Korea to resolve the abduction issue

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe attends the Upper house diplomacy and Defense committee session in Tokyo on 29 March 2014. Abe announced that North Korea has agreed to launch a reinvestigation into the fates of Japanese citizens abducted by DPRK agents during the Cold War. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Owen Lindsay, University of South Australia

On Thursday 29 May, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced that North Korea has agreed to launch a reinvestigation into the fates of Japanese citizens abducted by DPRK agents during the Cold War. The surprise announcement followed a three day meeting between the Japanese and North Korean governments in Stockholm and comes after a decade of North Korean opposition to further investigation of the abduction incidents.

Read more…

Ideology resurgent in Indonesia’s presidential coalitions

Indonesian presidential candidate Probowo Subianto of Gerindra and his running mate Hatta Rajasa salute their supporters as they rally on a street. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Tom Power, ANU

Although there has been widespread academic scepticism on the importance of ideology in Indonesia’s recent elections, posturing by presidential candidates suggests that this year’s election may be different. A single-round showdown is now certain. Gerindra chief patron Prabowo Subianto and National Mandate Party (PAN) chairman Hatta Rajasa will be pitted against Joko Widodo and former vice-president Jusuf Kalla. Read more…

From Tiananmen to today

People's Liberation Army troops stand guard with tanks in front of Tiananmen Square after crushing pro-democracy demonstrations in Beijing on 10 June 1989.

Author: Richard Rigby, ANU

On the night of 3–4 June, units of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) entered Beijing, killing some hundreds of ordinary Beijing citizens as they made their way to Tiananmen Square — the focal point of massive protests that had begun in late April following the death of former party secretary Hu Yaobang.

Read more…

Pakistan struggles to escape the abyss

Pakistani security officials inspect the scene of a bomb blast that targeted a cinema in Peshawar, Pakistan, 11 February 2014. At least 11 people were killed and 25 injured in the bombing at a cinema in Pakistan's troubled north-western city of Peshawar, media reports said. (Photo: EPA/ARSHAD ARBAB)

Author: Alicia Mollaun, ANU

Pakistan is wracked by economic instability and security problems that affect the life of every citizen. These interlinked problems are eating away at the Pakistani state and, if left untreated they will create more fragility which is good neither for Pakistan, the region, nor the rest of the world. Read more…