Obama mustn’t underestimate Modi

US Secretary of State John Kerry greets Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi, India, 1 August, 2014.

Author: Harshita Kohli, RSIS

US Secretary of State John Kerry’s recent visit to India for the India–US Strategic Dialogue, in which he described India as an ‘indispensable partner for the 21st century’, is a clear effort by the American government to jumpstart the flagging bilateral partnership.

During his stay in India, Kerry met with senior politicians and leading Indian businessmen. US Secretary of Defence Chuck Hagel also visited New Delhi last week to further the US–India defence partnership. The increase in senior-level interactions between officials from both countries is designed to set the stage for the bilateral summit to be held between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Barack Obama in Washington in late September 2014. Read more…

Collective self-defence: What Japan’s new defence policy means for international cooperation on cyber security

Japan Ground Self-Defense Force Maj. Nishikawa Hajime analyses data transmissions on a computer at the Camp Naha gymnasium, Okinawa, 23 July 2014. (Photo: US Marin Corps/ Lance Cpl. Pete Sanders).

Author: Mihoko Matsubara, Pacific Forum CSIS

In July 2014, the Shinzo Abe cabinet took an epoch-making decision to change its interpretation of the Japanese constitution to recognise the right to collective self-defence. The Japanese government’s traditional interpretation of the constitution prohibited Japan from exercising the right to help the US, or Japan’s defence partners, in the case of an armed attack, even though Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations authorises this. Read more…

Increase in coal tax will scale up Indian renewables

Locals on a boat pass by panels at a solar energy farm at Gunthawada in Gujarat state, about 175 kilometres north of Ahmadabad, India. There are growing calls for increased use of renewable energy resources in India. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Pallav Purohit, IIASA

India needs economic growth for sustainable development, which in turn requires access to clean, convenient and reliable energy. An estimated 400 million people still lack access to electricity, and blackouts are still common across the country. A combination of rapidly increasing energy demand and fuel imports plus growing concern about economic and environmental consequences is generating growing calls for innovative policies and mechanisms to promote increased use of abundant, sustainable, renewable resources. Read more…

Thailand’s interim constitution: paving the way for a return to authoritarianism?

Pornpetch Wichitcholchai pays his respects in front of a portrait of Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej during a royal command ceremony to swear him in as president of the army-appointed National Legislative Assembly at Parliament in Bangkok, 18 August 2014.  (Photo: AAP)

Author: Sarah Bishop, ANU

Thailand, for the 19th time in 82 years, has a new written constitution. The King promulgated the Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand (Interim) B.E 2557 (2014) on 22 July 2014, finally bringing an end to the nation’s fourth longest period since 1932 without a written constitution. However, although there are some small gains, there are very few positive signs for democracy or rule of law. Read more…

Back to the drawing board on US–India relations?

US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel inspects a Guard of Honor before a meeting with his Indian counterpart, Arun Jaitley, in New Delhi, India, 8 August 2014. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Sourabh Gupta, Samuels International

The US–India strategic partnership is either the most underperforming bilateral relationship in the world or its most overrated. As a new chapter in this relationship is opened with the formation of a new centre-right government in New Delhi and the back-to-back visits by John Kerry and Chuck Hagel in late July and early August, it is imperative that the path that is charted ahead is informed by the lessons of the past decade and a half. Read more…

Abe finding it hard to get his way on defence

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reviews members of Japan Self-Defense Forces. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Yoshisuke Iinuma, Oriental Economist Report

On 1 July, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced a decision to broaden the interpretation of the Japanese Constitution to enable Japan to exercise its right to collective self-defence. But to what extent will the Japan Self-Defense Forces (SDF) actually be able to expand their range of collective action? Read more…

Moving Modi beyond Gujarat

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressing the nation in his first Independence Day speech from the Red Fort in New Delhi. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Rajiv Kumar, CPR

With the Modi government less than 3 months old, it is surely too early to make any assessments. But high expectations and his track record have generated an impatience for results even among Modi’s supporters. News trickles out mentioning an indefatigable prime minister driving from the front, changing the tenor and temper of the entire bureaucracy.
Read more…

The promise of a Jokowi presidency in Indonesia

Indonesian presidential candidate Joko Widodo gestures after delivering his victory address in Jakarta on 22 July 2014 as the General Elections Commission declared Widodo the winner. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Peter Drysdale, Editor, East Asia Forum

Most would concede that the contest that saw the election of Joko Widodo (Jokowi) as Indonesia’s next president was a tough test for democratic transition in Indonesia. The election campaign was certainly one with an edge to it — ‘one of the dirtiest election campaigns in Indonesian history’, as Marcus Mietzner has called it. There are still legal appeals to be heard, but the size of Jokowi’s victory and the very public evidence on the count, make anything but confirmation of the result a most unlikely outcome. Read more…

Can Jokowi transform Indonesia’s economy?

Jokowi inspects an urban development project of his administration in Jakarta shortly before the General Elections Commission declared him of winner of the presidential race. He now faces the daunting task of taking the third-biggest democracy forward as resistance to reform lingers. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Shiro Armstrong, ANU

Indonesia’s president-elect Joko Widodo (Jokowi), who takes up the position in October, has declared he aims to push the growth rate of the economy above 7 per cent a year. The growth rate has been running below 6 per cent a year, and the World Bank and IMF predict that it will continue at 5.6 per cent and 5.8 per cent, respectively, in 2015. Read more…

Building Silk Roads for the 21st century

View of an elevated highway among mountains at sunrise in Chongqing, China, 19 July 2014. From 1992 to 2011 China spent 8.5 per cent of GDP on infrastructure. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Pradumna B. Rana, RSIS

China’s emergence as the ‘factory of the world’, based on its focus on exporting labour-intensive manufactures, is well-known. Less well-known is the role that infrastructure played in this strategy.

From 1992 to 2011 China spent 8.5 per cent of GDP on infrastructure, much more than the developing country average of 2–4 per cent, according to a 2013 McKinsey Global Institute report. And, from 1992 to 2007, China spent US$120 billion on building 35,000 kilometres of highways. Read more…

Why corporate behaviour is under scrutiny in Myanmar

A Myanmar man pushes his cart past a billboard displaying advertising for Ooredoo, a telecommunications provider with headquarters in Qatar that recently won a license to develop the Myanmar network, in Yangon, Myanmar, 5 April 2014. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Trevor Wilson, ANU

Most observers agree that international business must play a large role in Myanmar’s economic transformation, but there is not yet a consensus on how this should occur. Should additional obligations be placed on international firms over and above compliance with any (voluntary) international codes of conduct under the United Nations or the OECD? Read more…

India is not the bad guy, but it can do better

Indian daily-wage labourers load 50 kilo sacks of wheat onto a truck at a grain distribution point on the outskirts of Amritsar 16 May 2013. On 5 August 2014, India defended its decision to scuttle a landmark worldwide trade deal, saying it needed to take a tough stand at the WTO to ensure the survival of its impoverished farmers. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Rajiv Kumar, Senior Fellow, Centre for Policy Research

India’s recent veto of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), agreed at the Bali Ministerial last year, raises several points that speak to its commitment to the multilateral system, the need for agricultural reform and India’s place in the world. Read more…

Time for a new approach to Indonesia’s energy subsidies

A State Oil Company (Pertamina) employee checks a tank at an oil pump station in Jakarta, Indonesia. Indonesian energy subsidies will constitute a quarter of total government spending this year. (Photo: AAP).

Authors: Stephen Howes and Robin Davies, ANU

Indonesia’s new president, Joko Widodo (Jokowi), will face many challenges but none more pressing and immediate than dealing with Indonesia’s energy subsidies, which this year will constitute a quarter of total government spending. Everyone agrees that these subsidies are wasteful, but their persistence is striking. They were 20 per cent of expenditure when President Yudhoyono (SBY) came to power, and they will be almost 25 per cent when he leaves office later this year. Read more…