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Asia Unbound

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

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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 »

State Capitalism Stays in Control

by Joshua Kurlantzick
bank-of-china A man is silhouetted in front of a Bank of China's logo at its branch office in Beijing in this file photo from July 14, 2014 (Kim Kyung-Hoon/Courtesy: Reuters).

Over the past year, leadership changes in many of the world’s biggest emerging markets have created vast hopes—both among citizens of these countries and among foreign investors—of dramatic economic liberalization in India, China, Indonesia, Mexico, Thailand, and other countries with new presidents and prime ministers. In some cases, as in India and China, many local analysts and investors believe that the new men in charge—Indian prime minister Narendra Modi, and Chinese president Xi Jinping—are potentially once-in-a-generation economic reformers who could streamline even the biggest, most lumbering economies, slashing state enterprises and drastically reducing waste. Read more »

Japan’s Pivot to India

by Sheila A. Smith
India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi talks with Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during a signing ceremony at the state guest house in Tokyo September 1, 2014.  (Shizuo Kambayashi/Courtesy Reuters) India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi talks with Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during a signing ceremony at the state guest house in Tokyo September 1, 2014. (Shizuo Kambayashi/Courtesy Reuters)

India’s newly elected prime minister, Narendra Modi, made his first geostrategic move in Asia’s complex new dynamics this week, and together with Prime Minister Abe, catapulted the Japan-India relationship into a “special strategic and global partnership.” Two goals focused their attention: bolstering their national economies and contending with China’s growing influence. Read more »

The Substance of Indian Prime Minister Modi’s Style

by Alyssa Ayres
Indian prime minister Narendra Modi addresses the nation from the historic Red Fort during Independence Day celebrations in Delhi on August 15, 2014 (Ahmad Masood/Courtesy: Reuters). Indian prime minister Narendra Modi addresses the nation from the historic Red Fort during Independence Day celebrations in Delhi on August 15, 2014 (Ahmad Masood/Courtesy: Reuters).

On Friday, August 15, Indian prime minister Narendra Modi delivered his maiden Independence Day speech [video here]. Many commentators have already noted his earthy delivery and direct ex tempore style, his campaign-like rhetoric, his deeply democratic authority, and his willingness to remind citizens of “all the things we like to disregard.” Read more »

Allen and Karp: Cell Phones – The Future of Rural Health Care in South Asia

by Guest Blogger for Yanzhong Huang
A pregnant woman lies on an examination table during a checkup at a community health center in the remote village of Chharchh, in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, February 2012 (Courtesy Reuters/Vivek Prakash). A pregnant woman lies on an examination table during a checkup at a community health center in the remote village of Chharchh, in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, February 2012 (Courtesy Reuters/Vivek Prakash).

This is a guest post by Becky Allen, the women and foreign policy intern at CFR, and Jenna Karp, the global health governance intern at CFR.

More people today have access to a mobile phone than a toothbrush: Of the six billion people in the world, 4.8 billion own a mobile phone, compared to the only 4.2 billion who own a toothbrush. In the developing world, mobile technology plays an increasing role with each coming year. According to a 2013 UN report, the number of mobile broadband connections was estimated to reach 2.1 billion worldwide by 2015, with some developing nations surpassing Western countries. Read more »