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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 March 20, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Russel talks with South Korea's first Vice Foreign Minister Cho Tae-Yong (R) during their meeting at the Foreign Ministry in Seoul on March 17, 2015 (Courtesy: Reuters). U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Russel talks with South Korea's first Vice Foreign Minister Cho Tae-Yong (R) during their meeting at the Foreign Ministry in Seoul on March 17, 2015 (Courtesy: Reuters).

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

1. South Korea warns China against interfering amid missile defense debate. On Tuesday a South Korean Ministry of Defense spokesperson asked Beijing to not interfere in its defense policy, an unusual request with an increasingly close regional partner. Washington has been asking Seoul to deploy a ballistic missile defense system, Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), to South Korea. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of March 13, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi (L) talks to Sri Lanka's President Maithripala Sirisena at the Presidential Secretariat in Colombo March 13, 2015. REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi (L) talks to Sri Lanka's President Maithripala Sirisena at the Presidential Secretariat in Colombo on March 13, 2015 (Dinuka Liyanawatte/Courtesy of Reuters).

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

1. U.S. rebukes UK for joining Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. The UK announced that it would become a founding member of the China-led Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), despite the urging of the United States. Washington has openly lobbied against the AIIB, influencing South Korea and Australia to eschew membership, but Britain’s decision opens the door for other Western countries to reconsider. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of March 6, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
A policeman stands guard in front of the U.S. embassy in central Seoul after Ambassador Mark Lippert was slashed in the face by a Korean nationalist on March 4, 2015 (Kim Hong-Ji/Courtesy: Reuters). A policeman stands guard in front of the U.S. embassy in central Seoul after Ambassador Mark Lippert was slashed in the face by a Korean nationalist on March 4, 2015 (Kim Hong-Ji/Courtesy: Reuters).

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

1. U.S. Ambassador to South Korea attacked in Seoul. A South Korean man identified as Kim Ki-jong, a fifty-five-year-old South Korean with a record of violent activism, slashed U.S. Ambassador Mark Lippert with a knife across the face and hand on Thursday morning local time. Lippert received eighty stitches on his face, from chin to cheek and is reported to be in good condition as of Friday. The assailant told reporters he attacked the ambassador to protest regular U.S.-ROK joint military exercises. U.S. diplomats have varied levels of security details, and though Seoul is considered a “low-threat” post, a security team was accompanying Lippert at the time of the attack. Lippert, who took up his post in Seoul in October 2014, has taken a proactively friendly approach toward his post, taking his dog Grigsby on regular walks in the city, maintaining an active Twitter account, and giving his son, born in Seoul in January 2015, a Korean middle name. Read more »

The Indian Budget: Cautious But Resolute

by Alyssa Ayres
A staff member (L) passes a pen to Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley before making the final touches to the federal budget 2015/16 in New Delhi on February 27, 2015 (Adnan Abidi/Courtesy: Reuters). A staff member (L) passes a pen to Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley before making the final touches to the federal budget 2015/16 in New Delhi on February 27, 2015 (Adnan Abidi/Courtesy: Reuters).

In a country whose media exists in a perpetual fever-pitch of excitement, a consensus has formed around the first full-year budget of the Narendra Modi government presented on February 28, 2015: No big bang reforms. For those who have not been following this closely, here are the highlights, along with links to primary sources for further reading. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of February 20, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Lion dancers perform for the opening of the Temple Fair, as part of Chinese New Year celebrations, at Ditan Park, also known as the Temple of Earth, in Beijing, February 18, 2015. The Chinese Lunar New Year on Feb. 19 will welcome the Year of the Sheep (also known as the Year of the Goat or Ram). REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon (CHINA - Tags: SOCIETY) Lion dancers perform for the opening of the Temple Fair, as part of Chinese New Year celebrations, at Ditan Park, also known as the Temple of Earth, in Beijing on February 18, 2015 (Kim Kyung-Hoon/Courtesy of Reuters).

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

1. Myanmar declares martial law in Kokang. President Thein Sein announced a state of emergency and three months of martial law in the Kokang Self-Administered Zone, on the border with China, after a series of clashes between the Myanmar army and armed Kokang rebels. Under martial law, administrative and judicial power has been granted to the army’s commander in chief; the imposition of martial law is aimed at securing a ceasefire and political dialogue well in advance of general elections later this year. The conflict is a setback for Myanmar’s semi-civilian government, which took power in 2011 after nearly fifty years of military rule. Myanmar is turning to neighboring China for help even as tens of thousands of refugees are fleeing into Yunnan province from Kokang. Read more »

Few Takers for Hindi

by Alyssa Ayres
Indic Scripts, 2013. Photo by Rohini Lakshané licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 / Cropped from original. Indic Scripts, 2013. Photo by Rohini Lakshané licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 / Cropped from original.

Another year, another survey: the Modern Language Association (MLA) has released its quadrennial language enrollments survey of foreign languages in U.S. higher education. I’m sorry to report that American students continue to display very low interest in Indian languages. This continues a pattern going back decades. Despite the Indian economy’s rapid growth, and the increase in U.S.-India diplomatic ties, students in U.S. colleges and universities are not signing up for Indian languages at remotely the scale languages like Arabic, Chinese, or Korean experience. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of February 13, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Aam Aadmi (Common Man) Party (AAP) chief and its chief ministerial candidate for Delhi, Arvind Kejriwal (center), waves to his supporters in New Delhi on February 10, 2015 (Adnan Abidi/Courtesy Reuters). Aam Aadmi (Common Man) Party (AAP) chief and its chief ministerial candidate for Delhi, Arvind Kejriwal (center), waves to his supporters in New Delhi on February 10, 2015 (Adnan Abidi/Courtesy Reuters).

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

1. After nearly a year of president’s rule, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) sweeps to power in Delhi state elections. The AAP won sixty-seven out of the seventy legislative seats in the Delhi assembly, a stunning victory that surprised many. The party was founded by Arvind Kejriwal in 2012 and grew out of a protest movement against corruption; it made its debut in the December 2013 Delhi elections when it joined with the Congress party to form the Delhi government—with Kejriwal serving as chief minister. Read more »

What the Delhi Elections Mean for Indian Foreign and International Economic Policy (Not Much, Yet)

by Alyssa Ayres
Supporters of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) hold portraits of AAP chief and its chief ministerial candidate for Delhi, Arvind Kejriwal, during the celebrations outside their party office in New Delhi on February 10, 2015 (Anindito Mukherjee/Courtesy: Reuters). Supporters of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) hold portraits of AAP chief and its chief ministerial candidate for Delhi, Arvind Kejriwal, during the celebrations outside their party office in New Delhi on February 10, 2015 (Anindito Mukherjee/Courtesy: Reuters).

Delhi voters just elected—by a landslide—the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) to lead their state assembly. What’s more, the chief minister will again be quirkily charismatic Arvind Kejriwal, who led the new anti-corruption party to a strong showing in Delhi in December 2013 but abandoned governance for street sit-ins and staged public protests. He then quit government after forty-nine days and plunged the state into a long period of uncertainty. Despite this, wielding brooms and wrapping a scarf (“muffler” in India, hence his nickname “Mufflerman”) around his head during winter, Kejriwal campaigned aggressively to root out corruption and provide free water, half-rate electricity, and a better jobs deal for the poor. It worked. Read more »

Next Steps with India (चलें साथ साथ कहां ?)

by Alyssa Ayres
U.S. President Barack Obama and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi talk as they have coffee and tea together in the gardens of Hyderabad House in New Delhi on January 25, 2015 (Jim Bourg/Courtesy: Reuters). U.S. President Barack Obama and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi talk as they have coffee and tea together in the gardens of Hyderabad House in New Delhi on January 25, 2015 (Jim Bourg/Courtesy: Reuters).

By most estimates, President Barack Obama had a good visit to India last week. The atmosphere was spectacular—how could it not be, with India’s Republic Day parade the backdrop—and the apparent warmth between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Obama was visible from the big airport bear hug, chuckles over tea, and first-name informality (well, at least on Modi’s part) on a joint radio program. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of January 30, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Philippine President Benigno Aquino delivers a speech in front of the caskets of the slain members of the Special Action Force (SAF) who were killed in Sunday's clash with Muslim rebels, during a service inside a police headquarters in Taguig city, south of Manila January 30, 2015. Aquino urged legislators on Wednesday not to abandon a plan for autonomy for Muslims to end a decades-old insurgency after the clash in which dozens of people were killed, saying doing so would dash hopes for peace. A top official described the clash on Sunday, which shattered a three-year ceasefire, as a "misencounter" during a bid to arrest two militants who had taken refuge with Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) fighters. REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco (PHILIPPINES - Tags: POLITICS CRIME LAW MILITARY) Philippine President Benigno Aquino delivers a speech in front of the caskets of the slain members of the Special Action Force (SAF) who were killed in Sunday's clash with Muslim rebels, during a service inside a police headquarters in Taguig city, south of Manila, on January 30, 2015 (Romeo Ranoco/Courtesy Reuters).

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

1. Forty-four commandos killed in the Philippines. On January 25, forty-four commandos in the Philippine Special Action Force (SAF) were slain in a firefight with two Muslim rebel groups in the southern province of Maguindanao. The area in which the raid took place is currently held by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) who signed a peace deal with the government last year to end years of fighting; MILF was apparently uninformed of the planned raid. The team of 392 had been deployed to capture two high-value terror suspects: suspected bombmaker Abdul Basit Usman and Malaysian Zulkifli Bin Hir, also known as Marwan. President Benigno Aquino held a ceremony to honor those killed and urged the nation to support the ongoing peace process. Read more »