India’s Look East policy in need of a relook

Prime Minister of India Manmohan Singh listens during the 7th East Asia Summit plenary session as part of the 21st ASEAN summit in Phnom Penh, November 2012. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Tridivesh Singh Maini, New Delhi

Does India’s foreign policy suffer from alack of consistent and innovative outreach policies in Southeast Asia?

At a recent East-West Centre conference in Yangon, most participants seemed to feel the answer was yes. Such criticisms are worth mentioning because India’s immediate neighbours, such as Nepal and Sri Lanka often complain that New Delhi intervenes a touch too much in their internal affairs. Some go so far as to argue that China, in spite of being more powerful than India, does not exhibit the same hegemonistic tendencies. Read more…

US puts the Asian ‘pivot’ into pictures

US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel watches a flight demonstration of MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor V/STOL aircraft on the flight deck of the USS Anchorage during a tour with his counterparts from Southeast Asia, Secretary General of ASEAN Secretariat Le Luong Minh and Defense Minister of Singapore Ng Eng Hen. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Peter Dean, ANU

The ‘rebalance’ to the Asia Pacific is alive and well according to the recently released US Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR). If a picture tells a thousand words then the United States Department of Defense’s (DoD) latest strategic policy document has some interesting things to say. Eight of the 22 photos in the document focus on the region, and this outstrips the US homeland — the focus of overall US strategy. Read more…

Is Abe bypassing democracy to push his defence agenda?

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, reviews members of Japan Self-Defense Forces (SDF) during the Self-Defense Forces Day at Asaka Base, north of Tokyo. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Takanori Sonoda, Maureen and Mike Mansfield Foundation

Is Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s new interpretation of Japan’s Constitution constitutional? Seeking to move his national agenda to revise the regime created after World War II, Abe has repeatedly argued for a new interpretation of Article 9 to allow ‘collective self-defence’ actions by Japan’s Self-Defense Forces. He has said that, as the head of the government, he would take ultimate responsibility for a potential reinterpretation by facing general elections. Read more…

Free trade agreements should happen for the right reason

Former ASEAN Secretary General Surin Pitsuwan makes a victory sign as he walks into the plenary session on global issues at the ninth Asia Europe Summit at the National Convention Centre in Vientiane, Laos, 6 November 2012. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Stephen Olson, Economic Strategy Institute

Typically, countries pursue free trade agreements (FTA) with each other because they share common negotiating objectives and subscribe to broadly similar economic principles.

And based on those commonalities, they see benefit in deepening their trade and investment relationship by taking on a higher degree of mutual commitments within the context of an FTA or regional trade agreement (RTA). Read more…

Fight or flight for foreign capital in Myanmar?

A girl chats on her mobile phone near Sittwe, Rakhine State, western Myanmar on 30 March 2014. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Josh Wood, ANU

Myanmar is in the midst of a foreign investment boom.

Over the last 12 months it has received over US$3.6 billion of foreign direct investment (FDI), an increase of nearly 300 per cent, according to government figures released in February. Despite this encouraging news, enormous barriers to future investment remain, and if reforms are not quickly enacted, foreign capital may take flight as quickly as it has arrived.   Read more…

Can China win the war on air pollution?

Chinese tourists wear facemasks during a visit to Tiananmen Square as heavy air pollution shrouds Beijing.(Photo: AAP)

Author: Daniel K. Gardner, Smith College

China’s polluted air — so much in the news these days — has been 30 years in the making.

When Deng Xiaoping introduced market reforms in the late 1970s, the country started its steady rise from the economic doldrums, largely through investment in heavy industrialisation. Since then, its GDP has grown about 10 per cent annually, and its economy has displaced Japan’s as the world’s second largest.  Read more…

Why no investor–state arbitration in the Australia–Japan FTA?

Japanese Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Yoshimasa Hayashi and Australian Minister for Trade Andrew Robb lead bilateral negotiations in Tokyo on April 5, 2014. An FTA was concluded on 7 April, 2014. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Luke Nottage, University of Sydney

Australia and Japan finally concluded a bilateral free trade agreement on 7 April 2014.

Some Australian media outlets had prior inklings that negotiations had achieved significant breakthroughs, especially for agricultural market access into Japan, but a frequent assumption was that Australia must have ‘given up’ something major in return. Read more…

A view from the India-Bangladesh border

Members of the India-Bangladesh Enclave Exchange Committee rally behind the fence marking the border between India and Bangladesh. Both the border and the bilateral relationship are far from static. (Photo: Jason Cons)

Author: Jason Cons, Bucknell University

On 18 December 2013, the Indian National Congress party government introduced a bill in parliament to facilitate the realisation of the 1974 Land Boundary Agreement with Bangladesh. This bill was the latest in a long series of attempts to enable the exchange of 161 enclaves Read more…

ASEAN’s haphazard response to MH370 disaster

The missing aircraft, 9M-MRO takes off. Despite an abundance of resources, the ASEAN MH370 Search and Rescue operation was characterised by poor cooperation and contradictory statements. (Photo: Laurent Errera).

Author: Jacob Hogan, Chulalongkorn University

ASEAN’s Search and Rescue (SAR) response to the MH370 disaster highlighted both regional solidarity and poor cooperation. The speed at which ASEAN nations provided resources to the SAR efforts showed that there was a willingness to work together — but there were no mechanisms in place to coordinate a regional response. Read more…

Embrace China, but for just a moment

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Chinese Vice President Li Yuanchao engage in talks at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, December 2013. Despite extremely close Sino-Australian economic relations, Bishop has argued that the US is Australia’s most important economic partner. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Derek Scissors, AEI

Shiro Armstrong recently claimed in these pages that China is Australia’s most important economic partner, indicting Australian government endorsement of the US for the position. The defence of the US offered by Australia’s foreign minister Julie Bishop and others is unsatisfying, and the case for China is reasonable. However, Australians and others should be mindful that China’s current importance is probably transient and there are subtle reasons to regard the US as Australia’s key partner. Read more…

Can Abe deliver Japan from stagnation?

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks at a news conference at his official residence in Tokyo. Some of his closest advisors are worried that without grasping the structural reform nettle, the lift in productivity that is needed to succeed in re-booting the Japanese economy will not come any time soon. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Peter Drysdale, Editor, East Asia Forum

Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe’s bold ‘three arrows’ strategy to lift Japan out of two decades of economic stagnation got off to a good start with the swift implementation of expansionary monetary policy and public spending. Abe’s strong parliamentary position, especially after the July 2013 upper house elections, also buoyed confidence that he could deliver the crucial third arrow — structural reform. Business and consumer confidence were given a long awaited boost. Read more…

Strategic zones and labour reform to get Abenomics back on track?

Mt Fuji is seen between Shinjuku skyscrapers in Tokyo, Japan. The new Abe policy Strategic Special Zones focuses on the development of Tokyo and other major metropolitan cities through regulatory reform and fiscal incentive measures (Photo: AAP).

Author: Naohiro Yashiro, International Christian University

Since Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe came back to power at the end of 2012, the first two arrows (expansionary monetary and fiscal policy) of his ‘Abenomics’ economic policy package have been relatively successful in re-igniting Japan’s economy and raising expectations for economic growth. But momentum seems to be falling away as the third and decisive arrow — structural reform — has yet to be released. Read more…

Can Abe’s third arrow pierce Japan’s agricultural armour?

Japanese farmers picking tea leaves under the summit of Mount Fuji in Shizuoka province, Japan. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Aurelia George Mulgan, UNSW Canberra

The third arrow of Abenomics (economic growth through structural reform) is flying neither high nor fast in Japan’s agricultural sector. The Abe administration’s agricultural reform program falls far short of what is needed for structural reform of the farm industry. This has implications for agricultural trade policy and for the kind of concessions that Japan will be prepared to make in international trade negotiations, both bilateral and plurilateral, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Read more…

Does size matter in Indonesia’s party system?

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, chairman of the ruling Party Democrat, sings a song  during an election campaign rally in Jakarta, on 3 April, 2014. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Jonathan Chen, NUS & RSIS

Although minor parties in Indonesia may appear handicapped by their relative size, they more than make up for this with their versatility at coalitional manoeuvrings. They are predisposed towards alliances and collective leverage over mutual competition and independent action. They are the unique products of Indonesia’s own brand of proportional representation system in parliament. Read more…

Family reunions belie future of the Korean peninsula

North and South Korean family hold hands at a bus as they leave after the inter-Korean family reunion meeting at Mount Kumgang resort, North Korea, 25 February 2014. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Andrew Kwon, Lowy Institute for International Policy/Center for Strategic and International Studies

The Republic of Korea (ROK) and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) held their first family reunions in three years on 20 February 2014. But the event does not hail the beginning of a grand renewal in relations — the world has been here before and the important underlying factors that have undermined enhanced relations before, as highlighted by the recent exchange of fire along the western maritime border, remain unchanged. Read more…