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Asia Unbound

CFR experts give their take on the cutting-edge issues emerging in Asia today.

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Bangladesh: Capitalist Haven

by Alyssa Ayres
Dhaka, April 2014. Photo by Sharada Prasad CS licensed under CC BY 2.0 / Cropped from original. Dhaka, April 2014. Photo by Sharada Prasad CS licensed under CC BY 2.0 / Cropped from original.

Earlier this month, the Pew Research Center released the second of two major reports detailing findings from a global public opinion survey on economic issues conducted last spring in forty-four countries. Read together, the two reports reveal something you might not have guessed: Bangladesh is among the countries most supportive of the free market, and certainly the most free-market, trade-oriented country surveyed in South Asia. At least as far as public opinion is concerned, the People’s Republic of Bangladesh is a capitalist haven. Read more »

South Asia’s Peace Heroes

by Alyssa Ayres
Combination picture of this year's Nobel Peace Prize winners, Indian children's right activist, Kailash Satyarthi, (L) at his office in New Delhi on October 10, 2014, and Pakistani schoolgirl activist, Malala Yousafzai, at the United Nations in the Manhattan borough of New York in a file picture taken on August 18, 2014 (Courtesy: Reuters). Combination picture of this year's Nobel Peace Prize winners, Indian children's right activist, Kailash Satyarthi, (L) at his office in New Delhi on October 10, 2014, and Pakistani schoolgirl activist, Malala Yousafzai, at the United Nations in the Manhattan borough of New York in a file picture taken on August 18, 2014 (Courtesy: Reuters).

What a day for South Asia. The Norwegian Nobel Committee has awarded this year’s Peace Prize to Pakistan’s Malala Yousufzai and India’s Kailash Satyarthi, both passionate advocates for children’s rights. The Nobel Committee’s decisions highlight a focus on the role of social advocacy and social impact on poverty, children’s education, and empowerment of women and girls in South Asia. Malala Yousufzai is recognized around the world for standing up to the Taliban, who shot her in the face for her outspoken support of girls’ education; Kailash Satyarthi is known in India for his decades-long dedication to ending child labor. Read more »

Modi’s Tale of Two Visits: Drama in One, Pragmatism and Continuity in the Other

by Alyssa Ayres
U.S. President Barack Obama smiles as he hosts a meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington on September 30, 2014 (Larry Downing/Courtesy: Reuters). U.S. President Barack Obama smiles as he hosts a meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington on September 30, 2014 (Larry Downing/Courtesy: Reuters).

The five-day U.S. visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi concluded earlier this week. He is already back in India, busy launching a new “Clean India” campaign complete with before-and-after photos on Twitter. Mr. Modi’s New York program was extensively covered by the media, U.S. as well as Indian. The high-profile nature of his appearances at Madison Square Garden, the Global Citizen Festival in Central Park, and his UN and Council on Foreign Relations addresses showcased an Indian prime minister in demand at the policy podium as well as alongside celebrities like Hugh Jackman, speaking to his homeland as well as to a global audience. One U.S. congressman, Pete Sessions even said that Modi “will become the next Ronald Reagan for the world.” Jon Stewart’s Daily Show picked up this quote, and more, in a special segment titled, “America’s Next Top Modi.” Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of October 3, 2014

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Protesters sit under umbrellas at a main street at Mongkok shopping district after thousand of protesters blocked the road in Hong Kong on October 1, 2014. (Tyrone Siu/Courtesy Reuters) Protesters sit under umbrellas at a main street at Mongkok shopping district after thousand of protesters blocked the road in Hong Kong on October 1, 2014. (Tyrone Siu/Courtesy Reuters)

Ashlyn Anderson, Lauren Dickey, Darcie Draudt, Andrew Hill, Will Piekos, and Sharone Tobias look at the top stories in Asia today.

1. Pro-democracy protests continue in Hong Kong. Pro-democracy protests have engulfed Hong Kong over the past week, focusing on China’s announcement that candidates for the 2017 election of Hong Kong’s leader will be selected by a pro-Beijing committee. In addition to the right to freely elect the city’s next leader, the demonstrators are demanding the removal of Hong Kong’s current chief executive, Leung Chun-ying, widely seen as Beijing’s lackey. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of September 26, 2014

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Students in Chennai pose with banners featuring Mars and Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) scientists as they celebrate India's Mars orbiter successfully entering the red planet's orbit on September 24, 2014 (Babu/Courtesy: Reuters). Students in Chennai pose with banners featuring Mars and Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) scientists as they celebrate India's Mars orbiter successfully entering the red planet's orbit on September 24, 2014 (Babu/Courtesy: Reuters).

Ashlyn Anderson, Lauren Dickey, Darcie Draudt, Andrew Hill, Will Piekos, and Sharone Tobias look at the top stories in Asia today.

1. India becomes the first Asian nation to reach Mars. India’s space program celebrated a huge victory this week, successfully launching an orbiter to Mars on its first attempt. The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) managed to send the Mars Orbitor Mission, affectionately nicknamed MOM, on a budget of  $74 million; many have been quick to point out that it cost less than the production of the Hollywood hit movie, Gravity. Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for a celebration of the mission’s success, and schools in India organized programs to commemorate the entry of MOM into Mars’s orbit. The first images of the red planet were uploaded to Twitter, sparking a Twitter conversation between Modi and ISRO’s orbiter. Read more »

Indian Prime Minister Modi in the United States: What to Watch

by Alyssa Ayres
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (C) gestures during the launch of the 'Make in India' campaign in New Delhi on September 25, 2014 (Adnan Abidi/Courtesy: Reuters). Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (C) gestures during the launch of the 'Make in India' campaign in New Delhi on September 25, 2014 (Adnan Abidi/Courtesy: Reuters).

Indian Prime Minister Modi arrives in the United States this weekend, for a five-day visit split between New York and Washington, DC. He’ll have a full program in New York to start, with a speech at the UN General Assembly, numerous meetings with CEOs, speeches here at CFR and at the Global Citizen Festival in Central Park, and the headline-topping gathering of his closest 18,000 friends in the Indian American community at Madison Square Garden (to be simulcast in Times Square as well). That would be a heady program on its own. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of September 19, 2014

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
A British Airways airplane flies past a signage for pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) in London on April 22, 2014. (Luke MacGregor/Courtesy Reuters) A British Airways airplane flies past a signage for pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) in London on April 22, 2014. (Luke MacGregor/Courtesy Reuters)

Ashlyn Anderson, Lauren Dickey, Darcie Draudt, Andrew Hill, Will Piekos, and Sharone Tobias look at the top stories in Asia today.

1. China fines GlaxoSmithKline nearly $500 million for bribery. A Chinese court fined British pharmaceuticals firm GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) 3 billion yuan ($489 million) after the one-day, closed-door trial ended, finding the company guilty of bribery. Several officials of the company, including Mark Reilly, the former head of GSK in China, were also given suspended jail sentences. GSK said that it remained committed to operating in China despite the ruling. The company is also being investigated in the United States under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, and has been accused of corrupt practices on smaller scales in Poland, Syria, Iraq, Jordan, and Lebanon. By some estimates, GSK’s actions in China led to over $150 million in illegal revenues. Read more »

China’s Mixed Messages to India

by Alyssa Ayres
Map of the Himalayas locating disputed borders and territory between China and India (Courtesy: Reuters). Map of the Himalayas locating disputed borders and territory between China and India (Courtesy: Reuters).

As India welcomes Chinese President Xi Jinping today, it’s hard to miss the mixed messages coming from China. On the one hand, India and China have had a difficult security relationship over the past half-century, with a still-unresolved border dispute over which they fought a war in 1962. On the other hand, their trade and economic ties have rapidly expanded in the last decade, such that China has become India’s largest trade partner in goods with approximately $70 billion in two-way trade. The disjuncture between these two parallel tracks—unresolved security challenges along one, with rapid progress economically along the other—has become a truism for all analyses of India-China relations. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of September 5, 2014

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (C) talks with Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Yuko Obuchi (L) and Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Sanae Takaichi as they prepare for a photo session at his official residence in Tokyo on September 3, 2014. (Toru Hanai/Courtesy Reuters) Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (C) talks with Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Yuko Obuchi (L) and Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Sanae Takaichi as they prepare for a photo session at his official residence in Tokyo on September 3, 2014. (Toru Hanai/Courtesy Reuters)

Ashlyn Anderson, Lauren Dickey, Darcie Draudt, Andrew Hill, Will Piekos, and Sharone Tobias look at the top stories in Asia today.

1. Japan reshuffles Cabinet. Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe reshuffled his inner circle on Wednesday, the first such move since he returned to office nearly two years ago. While key members of the previous cabinet, including Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, retained their posts, notable new appointments include a new minister of defense and a newly created post of security legislation minister, as well as five new female ministers. Read more »

Japan’s Infra Bet on India Shows U.S. Constraints

by Alyssa Ayres
Indian prime minister Narendra Modi (front L) shakes hands with Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe during a signing ceremony at the state guest house in Tokyo on September 1, 2014 (Courtesy: Reuters). Indian prime minister Narendra Modi (front L) shakes hands with Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe during a signing ceremony at the state guest house in Tokyo on September 1, 2014 (Courtesy: Reuters).

Indian prime minister Narendra Modi’s five-day visit to Japan was a resounding success. Both the Indian and Japanese press have lauded the visit and its accomplishments—notably, the elevation of the India-Japan relationship to a “special” strategic and global partnership, and the big-ticket investments in Indian infrastructure announced to the tune of U.S. $35 billion in assistance over five years. From a Washington perspective, the India-Japan relationship is a positive development and one that the United States has fully supported. What the visit also shows, however, is the way the state-directed economic policy tools countries like Japan (and China as well) are mobilizing to further their relations with India substantially exceed comparable U.S. approaches. Read more »