Showing posts with label South East Asia. Show all posts
Showing posts with label South East Asia. Show all posts

29 September 2022

The Sting of Climate Risk Is in the Tails


LONDON – Scientists have longed warned that climate change will adversely affect weather patterns and living conditions around the world. These warnings are now turning into a painful reality. Worse, the range of possible outcomes has proven to be increasingly “fat-tailed”: extreme weather events such as heatwaves, severe storms, and floods are more likely than normal statistical distributions would predict.

None of this bodes well for future political stability or economic prosperity. Our best hope is that the sharp sting in these tails will goad us into the necessary remedial action before things get even worse. But will it?

The public is increasingly aware that global warming is leading to more volatile weather. There have been record-setting heatwaves around the world this year, not just in India – where temperatures reached 49.2° Celsius (120.5°F) – but also in places like the United Kingdom (40.2°C). France and China are experiencing their worst droughts on record, and four consecutive years of failed rainy seasons in eastern Africa have put more than 50 million people at risk of “acute food insecurity.” Meanwhile, devastating storms and floods have hit Madagascar, Australia, the United States, Germany, Bangladesh, and South Africa.

28 September 2022

Book Review: Illicit Money: Financing Terrorism in the Twenty-First Century

Joseph Power

On 14 May 2010, a student named Roshonara Choudhry walked up the Labour MP for East Ham, Stephen Timms, smiled at him, moved as if to shake his hand, then plunged into his stomach. Sir Stephen, as he is now known, luckily survived this assassination attempt, and Choudhry was sent to prison.

On the morning of the attack, Choudhry had paid off her student loan and cleared her bank account, fearing that her family would be left with the debt once she was caught (or killed) by police responders, and that British authorities would seize any assets left in her name.In December that year, two men were arrested in a separate incident, ahead of a plot to carry out a Mumbai-style attack against the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten. The suspects, Omar Aboelazm and Munir Awad, had also emptied their bank accounts. Awad later claimed to have given the money to his wife to cover rent and other expenses.

What was significant about these financial transactions, and why were they present in multiple instances of terrorist attacks or plots? Or to put it another way: is there something in that action – clearing debt – that may act as an indicator of an imminent terrorist threat?

27 September 2022

India Is Building On Its Historic Links With Central Asia – Analysis

P. K. Balachandran

Present-day Indian rulers, who are keen on establishing India’s presence in Central Asia, can draw inspiration from the daring and enterprising Indian traders of the medieval era, who were key participants in the trade along the Central Asian Silk Road.

In Medieval times, Central Asia, now comprising the independent Republics of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, were not known to be rich in crude oil, natural gas, cotton, gold, copper, aluminium, and iron as they are now. But the area was on the Silk Road, a trading highway linking China with Russia and Europe. Indian merchants were a very prominent part of the multi-ethnic trading community operating on this dangerous, wild, and desolate but important route.

Pravin Swamy writes in The Print that in 1557, Anthony Jenkinson of London’s Muscovy Company found Indian merchants from Bengal trading in cotton and linen apparel in Bukhara in what is now Uzbekistan. In the 17 th. Century, the Prussian zoologist Peter Simon Pallas found Indian merchants indulging in “idolatrous worship” in their colony called “Indeiskoi Dvor.” Historian Stephen Dale wrote that Indian merchants had Russian-sounding names like Marwar Baraev, Narayan Chanchamalova, Vishnat Narmaldasov, Talaram Alimchandov and Ramdas Dzhasuev.

25 September 2022

Tensions Escalate Along Bangladesh-Myanmar Border

Shafi Md Mostofa

On September 16, an 18-year-old Rohingya boy was killed, and five others injured when mortar shells fired from Myanmar fell and exploded in the no-man’s land near Bandarban’s Tumbru Bazar border area. Around 4,000 Rohingyas are reported to be living in this area.

Shells have been landing on the Bangladeshi side of the border over the last few weeks and so far, Bangladesh’s response has been rather mild. Soon after the death of the Rohingya teenager in the shelling, Bangladesh’s Foreign Ministry summoned Myanmar’s Ambassador in Dhaka Aung Kyaw Moe to protest against the shelling and the violation of Bangladesh’s airspace.

Myanmar’s ambassador blamed the Arakan Army for firing shells and bullets into the Bangladeshi side of the border. He avoided taking questions from the Bangladeshi media.

Fighting between the Myanmar military and the Arakan Army is reported to have escalated in Northern Rakhine and Chin states since early August.

Sri Lanka to Move Away From China and Toward Economic Integration With India

P.K. Balachandran

Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe has clearly signaled that he plans to move away from China and integrate his island nation’s economy with India’s. And even as he asserted that the Chinese-built and operated Hambantota port is a purely commercial one and that India and the West need have no fear of its being used for military purposes, Wickremesinghe took care to tell India specifically that Sri Lanka will be mindful of India’s security concerns.

Wickremesinghe made these pronouncements in his keynote addresses at the National Defense College and the India-Sri Lanka Society last week.

With the long-ruling Rajapaksas pushed into the political background following the economic crisis, Wickremesinghe is using the powers of the executive presidency to take his island nation closer to India and away from China by promoting economic, investment, and national security ties with its immediate neighbor. Ironically, China paved the way for this by being a passive spectator when Sri Lanka was desperately crying out for financial and material aid to overcome an unprecedented forex shortage, while India, with alacrity, rushed aid to the tune of $4 billion in six months.

20 September 2022

Hambantota Is Being Unfairly Singled Out To Bash Sri Lanka, Says Lankan President – Analysis

P. K. Balachandran

In his address to the first batch of graduates of Sri Lanka’s National Defense College here on Wednesday, President Ranil Wickremesinghe made significant points: Firstly, Sri Lanka has unfortunately become a “punching bag” because of Hambantota port although that port is only one of the 17 Chinese ports in this region and is only a commercial port. Secondly, he assured New Delhi that Sri Lanka will not compromise on India’s security interests and will always work together with it to ensure the security of the region.

Fuss Over Hambantota

“The geopolitics of the Indian Ocean has unfortunately made us the punching bag for Hambantota. Actually, there are about 17 ports that are operated by the Chinese in the Indian Ocean. Different companies. There are some more ports that are operated by Dubai World ports. Now, all the ports are commercial ports. So is Hambantota. It is not a military port,” the President stressed.

19 September 2022

Azerbaijan launches wide-ranging attacks against Armenia

Joshua Kucera, Ani Mejlumyan

Azerbaijan carried out a wide-scale attack against targets in Armenia, an unprecedented escalation of the long-running conflict on to Armenian territory.

Armenia’s defense ministry reported attacks, starting around midnight September 13, targeting cities all along the southern part of Armenia’s border with Azerbaijan, including Vardenis, Sotk, Artanish, Ishkhanasar, Goris and Kapan.

Azerbaijan’s defense ministry said it was merely carrying out “local countermeasures” in response to “the large-scale provocation” from Armenia: “News about the invasion of Azerbaijan into the territory of Armenia, disseminated in the Armenian media and the segment of social networks, is nothing but nonsense.”

While Azerbaijan has regularly used military escalation in its conflict with Armenia to achieve diplomatic results, in the past the fighting has been limited almost exclusively to the area in and around Nagorno-Karabakh, internationally recognized as Azerbaijani territory. The expansion into Armenia represents another level of escalation. What remains unclear is whether this is another attempt to achieve diplomatic gains or is the precursor to more military action.

15 September 2022

Sri Lanka’s Left Turn

Devana Senanayake

The mass protests in Sri Lanka that led to the removal of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and the appointment of a new president, Ranil Wickremesinghe, in July have now stalled. As Wickremesinghe cracks down on dissent, and demonstrators figure out where to go from here, many critics and experts have overlooked the role the country’s left has played in the protest movement.

Leftist parties are not the main players in the country’s aragalaya, or struggle, but they have shaped the movement considerably. Members of student and youth unions linked to leftist parties set up camp at Gota Go Gama, the now-disbanded site in Colombo that became the center of the movement after it was established in April. In the following months, leftist professional organizations, trade unions, and individuals joined in, bringing their ideas and resources to the site’s complex political ecosystem.

Though they have yelled out chants with socialist agendas—defending universal health care and free education, and advocating for wealth redistribution, environmental conservation, and anti-corruption measures—many of these people haven’t outright identified as members of the left. When they identified that way in the past, few Sri Lankans listened or paid attention to them, said Kaushalya Ariyarathne, an academic and a member of the leftist National People’s Power party alliance. But when they introduced these positions in a nonpartisan context, other people joined in their chants.

Myanmar: Military’s Real Weak Spot Is Economic Ineptitude

Zachary Abuza

Sept. 7 marked the first anniversary of the shadow National Unity Government (NUG) of Myanmar’s declaration of a defensive war against the military. Few at the time gave them much hope against a well-armed and brutal military that had ruled the country for all but seven of the past 60 years. But 19 months after the coup, Myanmar’s military is mired in a multi-front war and losing ground. Yet, the junta’s greatest vulnerability is the imploding economy.

The junta’s battlefield losses are real. The military is fighting with diminishing resources against a surprisingly durable alliance of the NUG, some 275 People’s Defense Force paramilitary groups under its chain of command, and several ethnic resistance organizations. There were more than 6,600 individual clashes in the past year.

A new report by the Special Advisory Council, a panel of former U.N. experts, contends that the junta only has effective control over 17% of the country, while the NUG and its allies control 52%. The remainder is contested space, and often the target of indiscriminate shelling against civilian communities and arson which has so far destroyed about 28,000 homes.

13 September 2022

The PLA’s Military Diplomacy in Advance of the 20th Party Congress

Kenneth Allen


As the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) Chinese Communist Party (CCP) approaches its 20th Party Congress, which begins on October 16, General Secretary Xi Jinping is set to continue his run as core leader (People’s Daily, August 31). Throughout his tenure, Xi, who is also Chairman of the Party and State Central Military Commission (CMC) and PRC President, has prioritized military diplomacy as a key element of Chinese foreign policy. Consequently, since 2013, China's military diplomacy's frequency, intensity and scale has generally increased. Although the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted or limited some areas of engagement, under Xi, the overall trend of military diplomacy assuming a growing role in China’s international engagement is bound to persist.

This two-part article series provides updated information concerning the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) military diplomacy since the China Brief’ article “The PLA’s Military Diplomacy Under COVID-19” was published last June (China Brief, June 21, 2021). [1] This article examines potential forthcoming changes to PLA Leadership and their implications for the PRC’s military diplomacy; provides a general overview of key developments in Chinese military diplomacy since 2021; and catalogues senior-level visits abroad and hosted visits. The forthcoming second article in this series, examines specific areas of military diplomacy: bilateral and multilateral Joint Military Exercises, non-traditional Security Operations, and international Academic Exchanges and Cooperation. It also examines how military diplomacy is playing out in two regions: Africa and Latin America. [2]

11 September 2022

Belt and Road Initiative: China’s Lending Hands Come with Claws

Akhil Ramesh


With the economic crisis unfolding in Sri Lanka, there is a renewed interest in better understanding and analyzing the Belt and Road Initiative to prevent nations from both falling under China’s orbit and as a consequence to its “debt-traps”. This issue brief broadens the scope of analysis on the BRI by examining projects in South East Asia that may have greater geo-economic and geo-strategic significance than debt traps or deep sea ports or even power rivalry. While China has taken advantage of the infrastructure deficit in South East Asia as it has in other parts of the world, the old adage, ‘the devil is in the details’ is an appropriate characterization of the BRI in the region. This paper details the cost of roads laid per mile to the significance of special economic zones (SEZ) in the Mekong region in shaping the regional trade architecture.

8 September 2022

Cambodia’s Ream naval base attracts competing patrons5 September 2022

Abdul Rahman Yaacob, ANU

Cambodia’s Ream Naval Base — a facility in the Gulf of Thailand — has in recent years been the subject of interest from major powers competing for influence in Southeast Asia. China’s efforts to access the base first surfaced in July 2019 after the Wall Street Journal reported an alleged agreement allowing the Chinese military to use the base. The Cambodian government facilitated a visit to the naval base for 70 local and foreign journalists to counter the findings of the report.

Despite Cambodia’s efforts to dispel allegations of a Chinese military presence at the Ream Naval Base, suspicions continued to mount. Following US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman’s visit to Phnom Penh in 2021, the Cambodian government agreed to a visit by the Cambodia-based US Defence Attaché. But the visit marked a downward trend in US–Cambodia relations as the US Embassy in Phnom Penh claimed that Cambodian military officials refused full access to the base.

A Cambodian defence official, interviewed under Chatham House Rules, provided a counter-narrative on the US visit. In response to Sherman’s request, the Cambodian government formed a Coordination Working Group to meet the US Defence Attaché’s requirements. The visit included a one-hour meeting, visits to newly constructed buildings, an Australian-supported naval workshop and the construction of the new Tactical Command Headquarters at Koh Preab.

Beyond Liminality: India’s Geopolitical Concerns In Sri Lanka – Analysis

K.M. Seethi

Does the commissioning of India’s first indigenous aircraft carrier, INS Vikrant—amid the wrangle over the visit of China’s Yuan Wang-5—auger well for the Indian navy and the country’s maritime strategy in the Indian Ocean? India’s Defence Minister Rajnath Singh categorically stated that INS Vikrant “will enhance India’s capability of fulfilling its requirement of collective security.”

The reference to ‘collective security’ has apparently a feisty geopolitical dimension for India’s ‘Grand Strategy’ in the Indian Ocean and beyond—a dream nurtured by Sardar K.M. Panikkar seven decades back. Describing it as “the largest ship ever built in the maritime history of India,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that “in the past, security concerns in the Indo-Pacific region and the Indian Ocean have long been ignored. But, today this area is a major defence priority of the country for us. That is why we are working in every direction, from increasing the budget for the Navy to increasing its capability,” he said. Many experts believe that the commissioning of the 47,400-ton warship in Kochi has sent a strong signal to China and its potential clients across the Indian Ocean region. This also has tricky implications for India’s maritime strategy in dealing with small states in the region, such as Sri Lanka and the Maldives.

7 September 2022

Opposite Sides of the COIN: Understanding Unlikely Insurgent Successes and Failures

Joshua Damir


The historical record unveils insurgent groups who have overcome massive odds to defeat their enemies, contrasted sharply against others who were well-organized and capable but were crushed mercilessly. There appears little continuity in what leads insurgents to victory and what results instead in their failure. What causes insurgent success? The Front de Liberation Nationale (FLN) for example had the odds stacked against them yet were successful, while the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) had every advantage but were still defeated. Through thorough analysis of these two insurgent groups, my research establishes two specific typologies for insurgent success: insurgents facing strong democracies are most likely to succeed by focusing their efforts on terrorist campaigns to achieve political goals, while those fighting autocracies that they are more materially equivalent to succeed by prioritizing guerrilla warfare in order to win militarily first, and then politically. Insurgents achieve success by adapting their strategy of violence to address the specific strategic environment that they operate in based on enduring principles of insurgent warfare.

Scholars have identified four variables as important to insurgent success. These four are ruling government type, state capacity, insurgent resources, and the insurgent strategy of violence.[1] Previous research has established relationships between single variables, I build on this research using the most impactful variables to create a holistic view of insurgent success. I combine government type, state capacity and insurgent resources into a variable I call the strategic environment. I then match it with strategy of violence as my second variable to build a theory for insurgent success.[2] My research differentiates successful insurgent strategies of violence from unsuccessful ones by analyzing these variables and assessing how the FLN and LTTE’s strategies connected with their corresponding strategic environment.

6 September 2022

Should There Be a New Grouping for the “Non-Nuclear Five” of South Asia?

Rudabeh Shahid and Nazmus Sakib

The former Prime Minister of Australia, Kevin Rudd, pointed out that as late as November 2017, China did not take the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QUAD) seriously. He quoted how the Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi took the security pact nonchalantly and described its formation as “…the sea foam in the Pacific or Indian Ocean: they get some attention but will soon dissipate.” Yet, just four years later, in 2021, Rudd notes how Chinese officials began to view the QUAD with growing concerns when the alliance held its first leader-level summit.

Rudd believes QUAD’s goal of creating a global resistance coalition in the Indo-Pacific is troublesome for China’s approach. Rudd’s analysis is classically realist, focusing on “larger nation-states” without considering “smaller countries.” This indifference, among other things, has allowed the condition to remain throughout South Asia, especially in the “non-nuclear five”—Bangladesh, Bhutan, the Maldives, Nepal, and Sri Lanka—where China has made notable inroads. So how did this happen and why should Western countries rethink their South Asia policy to realise their aim of curbing the rise of China?

The QUAD is an initiative created by four “democracies”—US, India, Japan and Australia—back in 2004 to provide humanitarian support for countries hit by the Indian Ocean tsunami. It appears that in recent years it has been rejuvenated to counter the growing Chinese sphere of influence in the Indo-Pacific region.

5 September 2022

The truth about Xi Jinping’s ‘One China’ policy

As the representative of Her Majesty’s Government in Beijing entered the room through the tall and heavy doors, he was met with a sight of Imperial splendour. At the far end of the glorious room were two comfortable chairs facing down the room, separated by a marble table on which sat a huge vase of flowers. The Chinese government representative sat impassively in one chair, while to his left, a harsh wooden bench stretched down the side of the room, occupied in strict hierarchy by various government functionaries numbering about 15.

The British minister took his seat in the other seat, his view of his counterpart blocked by the flowers, while his rather smaller contingent of officials began to occupy the parallel wooden bench, and not in any hierarchical order. And so the ceremony began: two formal speeches which had been agreed between the parties beforehand, and delivered to the mute officials on either side rather than to each other. Nobody else was allowed to speak, clap or express themselves in any way. The formal signing of a document would follow.

All very much what you would expect from an event held in the Qing dynasty, which was finally deposed in 1912. Except this was 2013 and I was the British minister. The emperor’s new clothes are being worn by the hard-nosed apparatchiks of the Chinese Communist party and in ways that go far beyond, and are far more significant, than the superficial conduct of ceremonies.

4 September 2022

IMF Set to Provide $2.9 Billion to Help Crisis-hit Sri Lanka

Bharatha Mallawarachi

The International Monetary Fund announced Thursday it has reached a preliminary agreement to provide Sri Lanka with $2.9 billion over four years to help it recover from its worst economic crisis.

The arrangement will help restore financial and macroeconomic stability and debt sustainability as well as enable the country’s growth potential, an IMF team visiting Sri Lanka said in a statement.

The package is contingent on approval from the IMF management and executive board and on receiving assurances from Sri Lanka’s creditors, including China, India and Japan, that debt sustainability will be restored.

2 September 2022

Sri Lanka’s President Says IMF Talks Nearing Successful End

Krishan Francis and Bharatha Mallawarachi

Sri Lanka’s president said Tuesday that his bankrupt country’s talks with the International Monetary Fund for a rescue package have successfully reached final stages as he presented an amended budget that seeks to tame inflation and hike taxes.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe, who is also the finance minister, said in a speech in Parliament that his government will soon start negotiating debt restructuring with countries that provide loans to Sri Lanka.

Declaring that Sri Lanka is on the “correct course in the short term for recovery,” Wickremesinghe warned the country must prepare for at least 25 years of a national economic policy, staring with the 2023 budget.

An IMF team is visiting Sri Lanka and is expected to end Wednesday's current round of talks.

1 September 2022

Sri Lanka Has Become a China-India Great Power Battleground

Mark S. Cogan Vivek Mishra

Since last month, the Yuan Wang 5, a Chinese satellite-tracking vessel, has been slowly sailing from Chinese waters to the Hambantota Port on the southern tip of Sri Lanka. Just months ago, when Sri Lanka was still under the leadership of the Rajapaksas, a political family that had ruled the Sri Lankan ethnocracy for almost two decades, allowing the 730-foot-long Chinese naval ship into port would not have generated as much attention. However, with the small island state suffering its worst economic crisis on record, its indebtedness to Beijing an economic albatross around its neck, and geopolitical tensions between India and China increasing, the ship’s arrival generated plenty of alarm.

The Indian and U.S. governments strongly pressured Colombo to revoke Chinese access to the port, which infuriated the Chinese. At first, Sri Lanka’s Foreign Ministry bowed to that pressure, stating that it “wished to reaffirm the enduring friendship and excellent relations between Sri Lanka and China.” India had worried that the vessel could spy on Indian military establishments in the area.

31 August 2022

Takshashila Case Study - Sri Lanka’s Economic Crisis

Aarushi Kataria, Anupam Manur and Sarthak Pradhan


The Sri Lankan economic crisis, which began in 2019, worsened in 2022 culminating in protestors storming the presidential palace in Colombo. The agitation of the people stems from acute shortages of food, fuel and other essential items, galloping inflation, long power cuts, and a collapsing economy with no avenues for employability. This case study examines the crisis by looking at the fundamental causes that date as far back as Sri Lanka’s independence– the lack of industrialisation, the economic price of the prolonged civil war, and the majoritarian leanings of policy. Terror attacks and the pandemic only exacerbated the crisis. globally, travel bans were introduced, and Sri Lanka’s tourism sector suffered a huge setback. More importantly, Sri Lanka’s debt portfolio has undergone a substantial change with the tipping of balance towards costly external debt. This crisis carries important lessons for developing economies – diversification of debt, industrialising the economy, avoiding populist tax cuts that hurt the government’s balance sheets, and cutting unnecessary public expenditure.