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With Little Fanfare, India Makes Big Security Advances Toward the East

by Alyssa Ayres
U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter (R) and Indian Minister of Defense Manohar Parrikar shake hands after the signing of agreements ceremony in New Delhi on June 3, 2015 (Adnan Abidi/Reuters). U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter (R) and Indian Minister of Defense Manohar Parrikar shake hands after the signing of agreements ceremony in New Delhi on June 3, 2015 (Adnan Abidi/Reuters).

It’s been a stellar week for Indian security. First, U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter visited India, and formally renewed the bilateral framework for defense cooperation with his counterpart Minister of Defense Manohar Parrikar. This entire trip resulted in a brief, eight-point joint press release, which has garnered little attention, but cements forward progress in deepening security ties between New Delhi and Washington. But second, no less importantly, Prime Minister Modi set off for Dhaka on a visit slated to at last resolve one of the world’s most complex borders, and reset India’s ties with the world’s eighth-largest country. The two developments this week mark an intensification of India’s focus on its Asia-Pacific future, and U.S. support for an India with stronger links to its east. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of May 29, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Men sleep on a temporary shade built over a drain next to a slum on a hot summer day in New Delhi, India, May 28, 2015. A heat wave in India has killed at least 1,371 people this week as temperatures soar above 47 Celsius (116.6 Fahrenheit), and doctors' leave has been cancelled to help cope with the sick. (Reuters/Anindito Mukherjee) Men sleep on a temporary shade built over a drain next to a slum on a hot summer day in New Delhi, India, May 28, 2015. A heat wave in India has killed at least 1,371 people this week as temperatures soar above 47 Celsius (116.6 Fahrenheit), and doctors' leave has been cancelled to help cope with the sick. (Reuters/Anindito Mukherjee)

Ashlyn Anderson, Lauren Dickey, Darcie Draudt, William Piekos, and Ariella Rotenberg look at the top stories in Asia today.

1. Death toll in India’s heat wave nears two thousand. Hospitals across India are struggling to meet the needs of victims of the most severe heatwave the country has seen in twenty years. With temperatures hovering above 110 degrees Fahrenheit for over a week, Indian citizens are anxiously waiting for monsoon rains to cool the smoldering air. Pictures of melting roads with swirled and distorted road markings illustrate the shocking intensity of the heat. Day workers, the homeless, and elderly people face severe danger, unable to take a day off from work or to find adequate shelter. Although heatwaves are not uncommon in India, climate change has led to more frequent and intense heatwaves in recent years. India’s Meteorological Department recorded temperatures just five degrees short of the nation’s record. Read more »

Modi, Turnaround Artist: U.S.-India Ties Revived After Slump

by Alyssa Ayres
U.S. President Barack Obama and India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi (R) wave during a photo opportunity ahead of their meeting at Hyderabad House in New Delhi January 25, 2015 (Adnan Abidi/Courtesy: Reuters). U.S. President Barack Obama and India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi (R) wave during a photo opportunity ahead of their meeting at Hyderabad House in New Delhi January 25, 2015 (Adnan Abidi/Courtesy: Reuters).

May 26 marks the completion of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s first full year in office. Indian and international media have used the anniversary to take stock. In India, Modi has generally gotten high marks for foreign policy but some notches below that for slower than expected economic reform. The Economist devoted its cover this week to Modi (“India’s One-Man Band”) and urged more dramatic action to transform India lest the window of opportunity close. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of May 8, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Security forces and rescue workers inspect an abandoned camp at a rubber plantation near a mountain in Thailand's southern Songkhla province on May 7, 2015 (Surapan Boonthanom/Courtesy: Reuters). Security forces and rescue workers inspect an abandoned camp at a rubber plantation near a mountain in Thailand's southern Songkhla province on May 7, 2015 (Surapan Boonthanom/Courtesy: Reuters).

Ashlyn Anderson, Lauren Dickey, Darcie Draudt, William Piekos, and Ariella Rotenberg look at the top stories in Asia today.

1. Mass graves of human trafficking camp unearthed in Thailand. Police exhumed twenty-six bodies at a mass grave located in the jungles of Songkhla province this week. Most of the migrants once held at the now abandoned site were Rohingya Muslim refugees from western Myanmar and Bangladesh. According to reports, this camp was made up of “bamboo cages, watchtowers and what Thai police described as a torture room.” Even as the grave was discovered, more than fifty Thai police officers were punished over suspected links to human trafficking networks. The mass grave was hardly the first indicator that Thailand has a booming human trafficking business and it remains to be seen if the Thai government can successfully undertake steps necessary to combat human trafficking. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of April 24, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Indonesia's President Joko Widodo (R) greets China's President Xi Jinping during the arrival for the opening ceremony of the Asian African Conference in Jakarta, Indonesia, 22 April 2015. The 60th Asian-African Conference is held in Jakarta and Bandung from 19 to 24 April 2015. REUTERS/Mast Irham/POOL Indonesia's President Joko Widodo (R) greets China's President Xi Jinping during the arrival for the opening ceremony of the Asian African Conference in Jakarta, Indonesia, on April 22, 2015 (Mast Irham/Courtesy Reuters).

Ashlyn Anderson, Lauren Dickey, Darcie Draudt, William Piekos, and Ariella Rotenberg look at the top stories in Asia today.

1. Xi Jinping visits Indonesia and Pakistan. Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Pakistan and Indonesia this week. In Pakistan, he signed agreements worth more than $28 billion as part of the new “Silk Road,” an ambitious land and maritime economic corridor connecting China to Europe and the Middle East. Pakistan will invest part of the money in infrastructure proejcts, including a deepwater port at Gwadar and railroads from Baluchistan into western China. In Indonesia, Xi attended the Asian-African Conference. Xi Jinping and  Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo held bilateral talks on the sidelines of the conference to discuss investments in Indonesian development. This pledge came on the heels of Jokowi’s announcement that Indonesia plans to join the China-led Asian Infrastructure Bank. At the conference, Xi spoke about the importance of developed countries investing in the developing world “with no political strings attached,” while Jokowi, in his keynote address, called for a new world order not dominated by Western-controlled financial institutions. Xi also met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, despite a speech by Abe in which he warned against powerful nations imposing on the weak. Read more »

The U.S. Presidential Race: Marco Rubio’s Surprising Interest in India

by Alyssa Ayres
Republican presidential candidate U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) speaks at the First in the Nation Republican Leadership Conference in Nashua, New Hampshire on April 17, 2015 (Brian Snyder/Courtesy: Reuters). Republican presidential candidate U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) speaks at the First in the Nation Republican Leadership Conference in Nashua, New Hampshire on April 17, 2015 (Brian Snyder/Courtesy: Reuters).

This post is part of a series looking at how India and South Asia will feature in the American presidential election of 2016.

Among the Republican field, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) has a well-known interest in foreign policy. Since his election to the U.S. Senate in 2010, he has served on the Foreign Affairs Committee, the Select Committee on Intelligence, and the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. He has made his voice heard especially in the debate over policy toward Cuba, from where his parents fled. What’s lesser known, and a bit more surprising, is this: the junior senator from Florida also has a declared interest in India. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of April 17, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Local residents and their supporters celebrate after the Fukui District Court issued an injunction to prevent the restart of two nuclear reactors at Takahama nuclear power plant, in front of the court in Fukui, northwestern Japan, in this photo taken by Kyodo April 14, 2015. (Kyodo/Courtesy: Reuters) Local residents and their supporters celebrate after the Fukui District Court issued an injunction to prevent the restart of two nuclear reactors at Takahama nuclear power plant, in front of the court in Fukui, northwestern Japan, in this photo taken by Kyodo April 14, 2015. (Kyodo/Courtesy: Reuters)

Ashlyn Anderson, Lauren Dickey, Darcie Draudt, William Piekos, and Ariella Rotenberg look at the top stories in Asia today.

1. Japan court blocks reopening of nuclear reactors. A Japanese district court issued orders for two nuclear reactors in western Fukui prefecture to stay offline, rejecting regulators’ safety approval of the planned restart later this year. The court criticized the Nuclear Regulation Authority’s lax safety standards, particularly in the wake of the March 2011 Fukushima crisis. Kansai Electric, the operators of the reactors in Fukui, plan to file a protest asking the court to reverse its decision. With all forty-eight commercial reactors in Japan still offline, the decision may further delay Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s plans to restart nuclear reactors. Abe has said the shutdown damages the struggling Japanese economy, forcing Japan to import expensive fossil fuels to compensate for the existing energy deficit. Read more »

The U.S. Presidential Race: Hillary and India

by Alyssa Ayres
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton embraces a member of "Sewa," a women's self-employment voluntary organisation during her visit to their office in Mumbai on July 18, 2009 (Arko Datta/Courtesy: Reuters). U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton embraces a member of "Sewa," a women's self-employment voluntary organisation during her visit to their office in Mumbai on July 18, 2009 (Arko Datta/Courtesy: Reuters).

This post is the first of a series looking at how India and South Asia will feature in the American presidential election of 2016.

Hillary Clinton’s April 12, 2015 presidential campaign launch kicked the U.S. presidential race for 2016 into higher gear. It’s also the first American campaign announcement to garner significant media attention in India. Due to her long history with India—as first lady, a senator, and secretary of state—Clinton is a known quantity in the region and has a clearly articulated policy record on South Asia, unlike other presidential candidates. One Indian paper covered her campaign launch with the headline, “Hillary hearts India.” That background makes it easier to assess how a possible Clinton administration might approach ties with India. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of April 10, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
A ship (top) of Chinese Coast Guard is seen near a ship of Vietnam Marine Guard in the South China Sea, about 210 km (130 miles) off shore of Vietnam May 14, 2014. Vietnamese ships were followed by Chinese vessels as they neared China's oil rig in disputed waters in the South China Sea on Wednesday, Vietnam's Coast Guard said. Vietnam has condemned as illegal the operation of a Chinese deepwater drilling rig in what Vietnam says is its territorial water in the South China Sea and has told China's state-run oil company to remove it. China has said the rig was operating completely within its waters. (Nguyen Minh/Courtesy: Reuters) A ship (top) of Chinese Coast Guard is seen near a ship of Vietnam Marine Guard in the South China Sea, about 210 km (130 miles) off shore of Vietnam May 14, 2014. Vietnamese ships were followed by Chinese vessels as they neared China's oil rig in disputed waters in the South China Sea on Wednesday, Vietnam's Coast Guard said. Vietnam has condemned as illegal the operation of a Chinese deepwater drilling rig in what Vietnam says is its territorial water in the South China Sea and has told China's state-run oil company to remove it. China has said the rig was operating completely within its waters. (Nguyen Minh/Courtesy: Reuters)

Ashlyn Anderson, Lauren Dickey, Darcie Draudt, William Piekos, and Ariella Rotenberg look at the top stories in Asia today.

1. U.S. Secretary of Defense wraps up inaugural visit to Northeast Asia. Recently confirmed Secretary of Defense Ash Carter arrived in East Asia this week, reinforcing the importance of the rebalance policy under his watch at the Pentagon. On his way to the region from Washington, Carter spoke at the McCain Institute at Arizona State University on Monday, where he underscored the importance of U.S. presence in the Asia-Pacific through both military strength and economic growth. Read more »

Why the United States Should Work With India to Stabilize Afghanistan

by Alyssa Ayres
"Afghan President Ashraf Ghani meets Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the 18th SAARC summit," November 2014. Photo by Narendra Modi licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons / Cropped from original. "Afghan President Ashraf Ghani meets Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the 18th SAARC summit," November 2014. Photo by Narendra Modi licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons / Cropped from original.

President Ashraf Ghani’s successful visit to Washington last month notwithstanding, the headlines out of Afghanistan since the end of international combat operations in December 2014 have mostly been grim. The Taliban have stepped up attacks since the start of 2015, and the self-declared Islamic State has spread to Afghanistan. During the March UN Security Council session held to renew the mandate of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, UN Special Representative Nicholas Haysom told the Security Council that the Islamic State banner might serve to unite disparate radical groups. Read more »