Tuesday 19 Mar 2019 | 04:42 | SYDNEY
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Asia

Timor and Australia: a new chapter or a stalemate?

Last week, an Australian leader visited Dili for the first time in five years. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop spent 36 hours in Timor-Leste as part of a four-country diplomatic trip around Southeast Asia. The dispute over whether a pipeline should be built to transfer Greater Sunrise gas to the

Pakistan: the tough road ahead for Imran Khan

The first major challenge Imran Khan will face as the next Prime Minister of Pakistan is from the opposition parties. In the general elections, his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party managed to win 115 of 272 general seats in the National Assembly. This is short of the 137 seats needed

Wanted: Yingluck

Last month, Thailand’s military government sought the extradition of former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra from the UK. A year ago, Yingluck had been due in court to face charges of dereliction of duty while in office. She failed to show. She was found guilty in absentia and handed a five

Idols in South Korea and Japan

The music industries in Japan and South Korea are entwining. K-pop idols can successfully sell albums in Japan, and Japanese singers can join K-pop groups. However, in a reflection of national rivalries, there will always be friction between the two competing industries. K-pop has enjoyed a boom

An emerging Indo-Pacific infrastructure strategy

The reaction to this week’s announcement by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo of a US$113 million infrastructure fund is that it was more than a tad underwhelming. When set against potentially upwards of US$1 trillion in financing for China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI

Beijing’s maritime gifts

China’s growing naval and paramilitary might receives daily attention. But what of China’s emerging role as a provider of capacity to coastal states in the Indo-Pacific? Improving their maritime domain awareness has traditionally been the preserve of the “Quad” countries: the US, Japan,

South Korea’s first “human rights president”

Moon Jae-In has been president of South Korea for fifteen months so far. On the whole, he is a marked improvement on his predecessor, Park Geun-Hye. President Park was, of course, impeached and removed. For that alone she will go down in the history books as a poor president. Bizarrely, Park

Economic diplomacy brief: infrastructure and trade

Three amigos If infrastructure building is the new Great Game in the Indo-Pacific, the question is whether this week’s developments represent a warm-up for the main match or the creation of a junior league. Some sort of cooperation between the US, Japan, and Australia to provide an

India: don’t blame WhatsApp for the lynch mobs

On 17 July, the Supreme Court of India was moved to condemn the recent spate of lynchings across the country as “horrendous acts of mobocracy … which cannot be allowed to become ‘the new normal’”. The justices had gone straight to the heart of the matter. The loss of so many innocent lives

ASEAN might not be the way

Former senior Australian diplomat Geoff Raby’s substantial article written for the Asia Society and reproduced in the Australian Financial Review this week continues his “realist” approach to discussion of Australia’s foreign policy choices. It’s another piece

Against female genital mutilation in India

Campaigners in India fighting against female genital mutilation prevalent among members of the Muslim Dawoodi Bohra community are growing more optimistic for a ban against the inhumane practice.  The long-term health effects of FGM include pain during menstruation and sexual intercourse

Sri Lanka failing on human rights

Sri Lanka’s ethnic tensions remain predictably grim nearly a decade since the end of the country’s brutal 26-year civil war. The Special Rapporteur’s report is another reminder that Sri Lanka’s coalition government has performed terribly. A new report by the UN Special Rapporteur on the

Julie Bishop’s new Timor-Leste chapter

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop arrived in Timor-Leste at the weekend, on her first official visit and the first by any Australian minister to the country in five years. Bishop arrived with the promise of a beatific “new chapter” in the two nations’ previously fraught

Imran Khan as Pakistan’s Prime Minister elect

Imran Khan’s impressive election victory in Pakistan marks the first time in country’s 70-year history that a relative outsider will govern on a democratic mandate. While he is dubbed the military’s and judiciary’s favourite candidate, Khan’s political struggle is enough reason to

North Korea: repatriating fallen Americans

Private Lowell W. Bellar of Gary, Indiana, was only 19 years old when he was killed in action in Korea on 1 December 1950. However, his brother and surviving relatives would have to wait nearly 54 years before the US Department of Defense identified his body in 2005. Bellar’s family is not

China: vaccines and rumours from Zhongnanhai

Last week, rumours began swirling around Beijing about possible factional infighting within the Chinese Government involving President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang. The rumours seemed troubling, with Chinese commentator Li Yee saying:  Online reports last Friday

Kazakhstan steps into the sun

Central Asia rarely appears in Western media. So many observers have missed Kazakhstan’s steady consolidation of a leading and independent regional role. Kazakhstan is deploying its convening, economic, cultural, and diplomatic power to forge a leading role in Central Asia. The country’s step

Cambodia’s election: where the numbers lie

There’s a quirk on Cambodian social media that initially stumps the uninitiated – comments on articles that comprise simply a string of 7777s or 4444s.  Until recently, a rousing speech posted to Facebook by former opposition leaders Sam Rainsy or Kem Sokha – the first in exile,

The Sabah question

Who is right in the territorial dispute between the Philippines and Malaysia over Sabah is a question best not asked. In answer, each side will reaffirm their absolute sovereign claim to Sabah, on the northern part of the island of Borneo, and mutual recriminations will result. Not asking

Laos dam collapse and stress on the Mekong

Beyond concern for the undoubted human costs of the collapse of Xepian-Xe Nam Noy dam in Laos, this event once again focuses attention on the long-term effect of the massive expansion of hydropower in the Mekong Basin. This event once again focuses attention on the long-term effect of the massive

Facebook and Vietnam’s new cybersecurity law

This article was co-authored with a Vietnamese journalist, Cecelia Nguyen. She is a freelance journalist in Vietnam working across a range of media. Her works focus on social injustice, culture, gender issues, youth and education. She has worked with a range of international news

Seeing is believing: Pyongyang has kept a promise

Talks with North Korea have rarely been out of the news in recent months. While much of these dealings can be questioned, at least one outcome is now essentially beyond reasonable doubt. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un pledged to dismantle North Korea’s main rocket engine test site during his

India: a “major power” still below its potential

India is ranked a “major power” in the Lowy Institute’s new Asia Power Index. The Index sifts through more than 100 indicators across eight different measures to create a unique ranking of the relative power of 25 Asian countries. And for New Delhi, the analysis by and large looks

The US shadow over India’s Iran policy

At a recent event in New Delhi, Nikki Haley, US Ambassador to the United Nations, called Iran “the next North Korea” and urged India to rethink its relationship with the Islamic Republic. This was followed shortly afterwards by an American delegation, led by Assistant Secretary for Terrorist

Taiwan and Australia’s refugee treatment deal

Last month, a secret deal was revealed between Taiwan and Australia to send asylum seekers from Nauru to Taiwan for medical treatment. In Australia, the news has added to the controversy surrounding offshore detention centres, a crucial debate given reporting of yet another

A travel notebook to Marawi City

My visit to Marawi city in June has left me with a profound sense of sadness. The enormous task of reconstructing a once-bustling Philippine city hangs heavily over the Task Force Bangon Marawi interagency committee. Apart from rehabilitation and compensation for damage lost

Russia’s disinformation game in Southeast Asia

In December, two Russian strategic bombers made an unusual flight to the Indonesian airbase on Biak in the province of Papua, where they conducted an air alert drill. Across the Arafura Sea in Darwin, Royal Australian Air Force squadrons went into a state of heightened alert. To the extent there

Xi Jinping, Senegal, and China’s West Africa drive

Xi Jinping’s choice of Senegal for a state visit on 20–21 July, his first visit to West Africa, en route to the BRICS summit in South Africa, suggests that China seeks to deepen cooperation in a region that has seen comparatively less Chinese engagements than elsewhere in Africa. In using

A blueprint for India–Australia economic relations

Few people are as qualified as Peter Varghese to draw up a timely, sound, and realistic blueprint to build a dynamic yet sustainable economic partnership between India and Australia. Unlike the case with China, an expanded trade and investment relationship with India will enhance Australia’s

The many voices of Hong Kong

Speaking English might be a waste of time for Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam, but that definitely isn’t the case for Hong Kong actress Stephy Tang who was recently awarded the Screen International Rising Star Asia Award at the New York Asia Film Festival. Hong Kong people worry

Myanmar’s fourth estate

The arrest in Myanmar of two Reuters journalists, accused of possessing secret government papers, has put the spotlight on the freedom of the press and the country’s weak justice system. A court last week upheld the charges and the case will shortly go to trial.  The case looks set to only

Economic diplomacy brief: India ties, Labor on BRI

Passage to India Two statistics in the new report to the Australian Government on the future economic relationship with India underline how this is going to be a battle of perceptions even before anyone gets to the policy ideas. The first is a crony capitalism index, which estimates

“Poor old” China meets “poor young” Africa

The success of China’s reform and opening program across 40 years has shifted the nation from backwater to the centre of global growth, lifting 800 million people from poverty in the process. A largely complementary economic relationship has meant Australia has enjoyed a record-breaking prosperity

North Korea also an intelligence test for Trump

It is not only Donald Trump’s wavering, on-and-off attacks on the investigation into Russian influence in the 2016 election that betrays his distrust of intelligence agencies. News that US spies believe North Korea has been increasing uranium production at multiple sites runs

What has gone wrong in Cambodia?

Concerns ahead of Cambodia’s elections on 29 July centre on the judgement that under Prime Minister Hun Sen the country has become increasingly authoritarian in political character while the government – through a range of parliamentary and judicial actions, and backed by absolute control of the

India’s demographic timebomb

In India, it’s all about the age of 25: that’s the median age of the entire country, and there are 600 million Indians, more than half the population, who are aged 25 or younger. Young people are everywhere you look: on the streets, in offices, in shops, on campuses, and bring with

The Grey List: more trouble for Pakistan’s economy

On 28 June, Financial Action Task Force (FATF) put Pakistan on its “Grey List”. The country now has up to 15 months to improve its control of terror financing and money laundering, otherwise it will be placed on the FATF “Black List”. FATF is a global body established in 1989 to

Australia and India: different worlds

Peter Varghese’s independent report on Australia’s economic strategy for India, released by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull last week, sounds a confident note for the future of the relationship. Although the focus of the report is trade, geopolitical alignments are one of three

Thai cave rescue: no country for Wild Boars

The rescue last week of the Wild Boars boys soccer team trapped by floodwaters in a cave in Thailand’s north captured the world’s attention. Beyond the drama and difficulties of the rescue, the spotlight has also turned to Thailand’s “statelessness” problem. Without citizenship,

Indonesian tourism booms, Australia misses out

It didn’t even make the news in Australia, but two weeks ago India announced it will now allow Indonesian tourists to visit without having to apply or pay for a visa. This development allows Indonesian nationals to choose India, in addition to all the ASEAN nations, as a holiday destination

Why Japan is supporting Cambodia’s election

Japan has remained steadfast in its support of the upcoming Cambodian general election on 29 July amid growing pressure by its citizens, civil society organisations, and supporters of the dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) – Cambodia’s former main opposition party. 

Tit-for-tat-for-tit-for-tat

The US is moving quickly to follow through on Trump’s threats to further escalate his trade war with China (now is as good a time as any to say that the trade war has officially started). Last week the US imposed tariffs on US$34 billion worth of Chinese imports, with another US$16 billion to be

Cambodia: dispelling the Malaysia illusion

Cambodia is headed for national elections on 29 July in which, although there are 20 parties contending, there is only one possible victor: the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP). Despite the lack of suspense, everyone involved (apart from, perhaps, the electorate) seem to care a lot about

China’s expanding navy

Recent reports of problems with the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLA-N) carrier-borne J-15 jet fighters have opened a small window on challenges facing China’s expanding navy, presenting a narrative counter to the recent wave of triumphalist advertisements of new capabilities. Stresses on

Assessing Duterte’s China investment drive

When President Rodrigo Duterte visited the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in October 2016, he came home with an agreement that earmarked US$24 billion worth of Chinese foreign direct investment (FDI) and overseas development aid for the Philippines. Many of the deals were eventually

US Navy sails into Taiwan sunset

It’s inevitable that, when the US sails warships through the Taiwan Strait, it will be interpreted as a broader diplomatic statement or even a protest – in this case, perhaps about North Korea, or the US–China trade spat. But these transits are more common than you might think. According to

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