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.
By Gaurav Dixit* | IDN-InDepth NewsAnalysis
NEW DELHI (IDN) - India and Sri Lanka share a long historic relationship. The relation saw a new multi-faceted phase post Eelam War IV in 2009, after the complete elimination of the Sri Lankan rebel group LTTE. The new phase represented extensive economic and political cooperation for the comprehensive development of the Northern and Eastern provinces. India today is one of Sri Lanka’s largest trading partners and has been the first to make foreign direct investment.
Income from Indian tourists forms a large part of Sri Lanka’s tourism sector that is developing its economy. India plays an important role in developing the war torn provinces and has been assisting in reconstruction and rehabilitation of the internally displaced persons (IDPs).
By Jayantha Dhanapala* | IDN-InDepth NewsViewpoint
KANDY, Sri Lanka (IDN) - The general elections for 543 seats in the 16th Lok Sabha (the Lower House of Parliament) in India are due in May 2014 and are of indisputable importance. It is also a gigantic electoral exercise with about 800 million voters, 150 million voting for the first time, in the world’s most populous democracy. Consequently, analyzing the trends and the likely outcome is of crucial importance globally.
By Shastri Ramachandaran* | IDN-InDepth NewsAnalysis
NEW DELHI (IDN) - Although he was frustrated in sealing a long-term India-US strategic partnership – with the nuclear deal not gaining India a seat in the N-technology regimes — keeping that priority at the centre of foreign policy enabled Singh to upscale and deepen India-China relations like never before.
This is no mean achievement considering that there is much wider support – among the public, media, policy-shaping elite, think tanks, industry and business, and powerful sections in the political, military and official establishment – for India embracing the US (and its interests) than engaging with China in India’s interests.
By Zachary Fillingham* | IDN-InDepth NewsViewpoint
TORONTO (IDN) - The East China Sea territorial dispute between China and Japan figured prominently in various geopolitical risk forecasts for 2014, and with good reason. Neither side shows any sign of standing down, and with every new military deployment near the contested area comes an increased risk of a small-scale military incident spiraling into war.
Anti-Japanese sentiment in China runs deep, fueled by memories of Japan’s brutal invasion and occupation during World War II. These feelings have been strengthened by the Chinese education system and state-controlled media, along with frequent examples over the years of half-hearted and waffling contrition on the part of the Japanese government. They have even been absorbed into the national narrative of China’s rise, such that China will only receive the official stamp of superpowerdom once Japan has been fully eclipsed in East Asia - politically, economically, and militarily.
By Aditi Sen* | IDN-InDepth NewsAnalysis
WASHINGTON IDN | Yale Global) - Typhoon Haiyan hitting the Philippines in November was yet another devastating reminder of what climate-related extreme weather may mean for coastal communities. While the underlying causes and the full impact of the typhoon are yet to be known, this disaster was by no means an isolated occurrence.
Several studies indicate that coastal communities in Asia are especially vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and among the hardest hit will be the region’s megacities. The sprawling cities by the sea – cities like Bangkok, Manila and Jakarta – face an increased risk of flooding thanks to the combined impacts of sea level rise, storm surge from intensified tropical cyclones and land subsidence.
By Savitri Goonesekere, Jayantha Dhanapala and G. Usvatte-aratch* | IDN-InDepth NewsViewpoint
COLOMBO (IDN | Colombo Telegraph) - There has been, in recent times, public discussion in regard to whether our country is moving towards an authoritarianism that undermines democratic governance. The President, Ministers and government spokespersons have consistently denied this allegation. They refer in particular to the recent elections in three provinces as indicative of a functional and vibrant democracy responsive to the needs of the people. Infrastructure development that has taken place is also cited.
The recently concluded CHOGM hosted by Sri Lanka is considered an indication that Sri Lanka has achieved significant international stature as a country whose governance follows Commonwealth values. These values as stated in the final CHOGM communiqué refer in particular to democracy, human rights, tolerance, freedom of expression, separation of powers, rule of law, good governance, and sustainable development.
By Kalinga Seneviratne* | IDN-InDepth NewsInterview
BANGKOK (IDN) - The information and communication technology (ICT) sector is undergoing a period of major transition, changing the way we communicate with each other. These technologies are introducing new players to the industry, challenging traditional business models and regulatory frameworks.
IDN’s Kalinga Seneviratne spoke to Dr Rohan Samarajiva, a former telecom regulator in Sri Lanka, at the ITU Telecom World 2012 event in Bangkok in November 2013. Samarajiva is a professor of Communication and Public Policy at Ohio State University in the U.S. and the founding Chair of LIRNEasia (Learning Initiatives on Reforms for Network Economies Asia), an ICT policy and regulation think tank active across emerging economies in South and South East Asia, and the Pacific. He was its CEO until 2012.
By Shastri Ramachandaran* | IDN-InDepth NewsAnalysis
NEW DELHI (IDN) - India’s performance on the world stage in 2013 is the last act of dismal show before the curtain comes down on Manmohan Singh’s ten years as Prime Minister in May 2014.
In his second term beginning with 2009, Singh succeeded in undoing his own achievements on the foreign affairs front and of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), a coalition of left political parties. The descent from the peaks scaled in 2004-2009 has been so steep in the last few years that 2013 is viewed as a disastrous year for foreign policy: perhaps, the worst in 15 years.