SIEM REAP (IDN) - Somnieng Hoeurn, deputy abbot of Wat Damnak, one of the largest Buddhist temples in this capital city of Siem Reap Province in northwestern Cambodia, and a popular resort town as the gateway to Angkor region, laments that the Khmer Rouge completely destroyed Buddhism in Cambodia. He adds with a grin, “We not only have to build temples but also do a lot of mind building.”
He believes that both the government and the monastic system need each other to help Cambodia – one of the world’s poorest countries – progress. “A Buddhist temple must respond to 21st century demands,” he says.
His life story is as unique as his attempts to rebuild Cambodian Buddhism in which the temple is an integral part of community development.
By Shastri Ramachandaran* | IDN-InDepth NewsAnalysis
NEW DELHI (IDN) - In the politically charged climate ahead of the countrywide general election from April 7 to May 12, the Congress Party led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) coalition government headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has offered itself as a target for criticism by its policy paralysis, non-performance and failure to govern.
But there are areas – such as external affairs, national security, space and defence – where its record should be assessed without political prejudice; because, by and large, there is a bipartisan consensus on policies in regard to these. In foreign policy, as in national security policy, there is no great divergence of outlook or approach between the leading political parties.
By R. S. Kalha* | IDN-InDepth NewsAnalysis
NEW DELHI (IDN | IDSA) - When China decided to abstain in the vote taken in the UN Security Council on March 15 on the issue of the referendum to decide on Crimea’s future; it handed the Western powers a pyrrhic victory for they could then proclaim that Russia was completely isolated as all the other UNSC members had voted in favour of the western sponsored resolution.
Despite their rather close relations with Russia, President Xi Jinping chose Russia as the first country that he visited on taking office and was in Sochi for the Winter Olympics, the Chinese were aware of the ramifications of their abstention. The reasons for abstention go far beyond the immediate issue at hand and are enveloped in deep Chinese strategic interests. The abstention in no way lessens their intention in firmly maintaining close and mutually beneficial strategic ties with Russia.
By Lucio Blanco Pitlo III* | IDN-InDepth NewsAnalysis
MANILA (IDN | SGV) - Increasing ASEAN-China economic relations illustrate the dangers of possibly becoming too economically beholden to one major power. Greater economic integration may reduce the chances of conflict or tensions between countries. Among capitalist peace theorists who held this view include Immanuel Kant who maintained that “the spirit of commerce… sooner or later takes hold of every nation, and is incompatible with war.”
Historically good trade ties decrease uncertainty and establish mutual trust and confidence. To this extent, it can be said that trade is beneficial to concerned parties.
By Halimullah Kousary* | IDN-InDepth NewsAnalysis
SINGAPORE (IDN | RSIS) - Afghanistan has come a long way politically since the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001. It held two presidential elections in 2004 and 2009, and is slated to hold the third on April 5, 2014, which will transfer power to a new president.
Hamid Karzai, after serving his two constitutional terms, is the first elected president to hand over leadership of the state to his successor without being ousted and/or pushed into exile. This shift signifies the growing liberalisation and maturity of the Afghan political elite.
By Donald Camp* | IDN-InDepth NewsViewpoint
WASHINGTON (IDN) - There was a time, not so long ago, when Sri Lanka was known for the quality of its democracy. In 1975, when I was a foreign service officer at the US Embassy there, the country was in economic straits but proud of its international reputation for an independent political culture, a feisty press, and a remarkably high standard of education and social services.
There were tensions between the Sinhalese and Tamils, but there was also a history of cooperation and respect amidst Sri Lanka’s ethnic and religious diversity. Hindu shrines thrived within the country’s most sacred Buddhist temples. Christians and Muslims played a prominent political role. And at least among the urban elite, Tamils and Sinhalese studied together, played together, and often married each other.
By Stephen S. Roach* | IDN-InDepth NewsAnalysis
NEW HAVEN (IDN | YaleGlobal) - Once again, all eyes are on China. Emerging markets are being battered in early 2014, as perceptions of resilience have given way to fears of vulnerability. And handwringing over China is one of the major reasons.
Of course, Federal Reserve tapering – reductions of the US central bank’s unprecedented liquidity injections – has also been a trigger. That makes it much tougher for emerging economies overly dependent on global capital flows – namely, India, Indonesia, Brazil, South Africa, and Turkey – to finance economic growth. But the China factor looms equally large. Longstanding concerns about the dreaded hard landing in the Chinese economy have once again intensified. If China falls, goes the argument, reverberations to other emerging markets and the rest of the global economy will be quick to follow.
By Chintamani Mahapatra* | IDN-InDepth NewsViewpoint
NEW DELHI (IDN) - As territorial and maritime disputes in Asia have sparked regional cold wars, the United States appears to have adopted a non-aligned strategy to navigate in troubled political space of the continent.
Non-alignment as a diplomatic instrument of state craft has been known to American Administrations for centuries. Although the term “non-alignment” was not used, the need of such a strategy was first articulated by first President of the United States – George Washington. In his farewell address, Washington warned against the folly of getting involved in the European entanglements.
By Shastri Ramachandran* | IDN-InDepth NewsAnalysis
NEW DELHI (IDN) - The South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (SAARC) is not a shining model of regional cooperation. It is seen as a talking shop – of a region that accounts for the largest population of the poor – with lofty goals, high-sounding resolutions, ringing declarations and little by way of achievement.
Hence, the increased international interest in SAARC – with more countries wanting to become observers, and observers aspiring to full membership – is surprising and flattering. Perhaps, this is because of South Asia’s rising geopolitical importance.
The eight-member body (comprising Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka), whose foreign ministers met in Maldives in February, has nine observers: China, Japan, South Korea, Myanmar, Australia, Iran, Mauritius, the European Union and the United States. There are others, such as Turkey, asking to be made observers. More observers might lead to a situation where they overwhelm the primary members; and influence the agenda.
By Julio Godoy* | IDN-InDepth NewsAnalysis
BARCELONA (IDN) – Writing about the referendum the Catalonian parliament wants to hold next November to decide whether the region remains part of Spain or not, I wondered in my analysis on February 6 how Europe would react to such demand.
The answer came sooner than expected: In an extraordinary action, which underlines the dramatic impasse in which the Madrid-Barcelona relation is nowadays, a group of important German business people operating in Catalonia published a manifesto, to warn about “the dreadful consequences” that independence would bring for the Catalonian economy.
By Murray Hiebert and Phuong Nguyen* | IDN-InDepth NewsAnalysis
WASHINGTON (IDN | Yale Global) - Cambodia’s foreign relations map has undergone dramatic shifts in the past six months. In the aftermath of Cambodia’s elections in July 2013, Beijing promptly recognized the results and congratulated Prime Minister Hun Sen and his ruling Cambodian People’s Party for their victory. However, as anti-government protests led by the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party grew in the weeks that followed, with protesters condemning the elections as fraudulent and calling on Hun Sen to step down, China has since largely remained silent and kept the prime minister at arm’s length.