Categories
Economy

Evaluating Malaysia’s ASEAN Chairmanship

Flag of Malaysia
Flag of Malaysia. Image: Eric Teoh/flickr

This article was originally published by the East Asia Forum on 5 December, 2015.

Malaysia ended its chairmanship of ASEAN as the grouping announced the establishment of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) in November 2015. The AEC intends to create a single market across the ASEAN region by standardising economic regulations including those on trade, flows of financial capital and labour migration. Malaysia is one of a few ASEAN countries that have pushed most strongly for initiatives to enhance intraregional economic cooperation. But there may be cause for disappointment in what Malaysia has achieved as ASEAN’s chair.

While ASEAN has announced that it has achieved more than 90 per cent of AEC targets, this does not appear to have brought many tangible benefits for either the region’s business community or ordinary people. Businesses continue to complain about overlapping rules and regulations that raise their costs when trading and doing business across borders. Though 10 countries have signed onto a framework that intends to direct the movement of skilled labour in the region, actual movement remains subject to the policies of individual nations. Ordinary people are yet to acknowledge that ASEAN initiatives have resulted in higher income and more job opportunities.

Categories
Regional Stability Diplomacy

Are Security and Energy Concerns Moving Turkey and Israel Toward Reconciliation?

German Patriot Missiles in Turkey, courtesy of Medien Bundeswehr/flickr

This article was originally published June 20, 2014 by IPI Global Observatory.

Earlier this month, about 3,000 people marched through the streets of Istanbul in memory of the eight Turkish citizens and one Turkish-American killed by Israeli Defense Forces when the Mavi Marmara ship, known as the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, tried to break through Israel’s naval blockade of the Gaza Strip in May 2010. The incident marked a nadir in Israel and Turkey’s strained relationship in recent years, and neither country’s ambassador has since returned to his former post.

Four years later, a possible reconciliation agreement between these former allies has fueled speculation of a normalization of relations between the two countries. The agreement would entail reparations for the Mavi Marmara victims’ families; a mechanism to rescind all legal claims against Israeli Defense Force officers implicated in the attack; and approval
to facilitate Turkish civilian aid to the Gaza Strip.

Categories
International Relations Government Regional Stability

China, India and the Three Cs

Image: www.uberoffices.com

World attention is presently focused on the display of force between China on the one hand, and Japan and the United States on the other hand, played out via a conflict over a couple of small islands in the East China Sea. But China’s maritime activities might also bring it into conflict with India. However, if China and India can transform their fragile and unstable relationship into something more cooperative, this could have an enormous positive impact on the two countries—and on global politics.

Categories
Uncategorized

India’s Policy Towards Central and Eastern Europe

Indian Flag at Sriperambdur. Image courtesy of rednivaram/Flickr.

Central and Eastern Europe has not occupied an important place on India’s external policy agenda so far. However, since many CEE countries have joined the European Union and India is now a major emerging power, the time is ripe to open a new era in the relationship. The history of close ties and untapped potential for economic cooperation bodes well for India’s re-engagement in the region. Holding a regional economic summit could be the right step to examine the existing opportunities for trade and investment and push for closer cooperation. Poland may use the momentum to play a leading role in this regional dialogue.

Categories
International Relations Foreign policy

America’s Unhinged “Pivot”

Obama meets with Myanmar’s President Thein Sein. Photo: Pete Souza/Wikimedia Commons

NEW DELHI – President Barack Obama’s first foreign trip since winning a second term highlights Asia’s new centrality to America’s economy and security. But Obama’s Asian tour also underscores the main question about American policy in the region: Will the United States’ “pivot” to Asia acquire concrete strategic content, or will it remain largely a rhetorical repackaging of old policies?

The United States, quick to capitalize on regional concerns triggered by China’s increasingly muscular self-assertion, has strengthened its military ties with its existing Asian allies and forged security relationships with new friends. But the heady glow of America’s return to center stage in Asia has obscured key challenges in remaining the region’s principal security anchor in the face of China’s strategic ambitions.

One challenge is the need to arrest the erosion of America’s relative power, which in turn requires comprehensive domestic renewal, including fiscal consolidation. But the need for spending cuts also raises the prospect that the US might be unable to finance a military shift toward the Asia-Pacific region – or, worse, that it will be forced to retrench there.