Archive for April, 2012

Malaysian Perspective on “India and Bangladesh bond over Art”

Monday, April 30th, 2012
Paul Nicklas

As the first Muslim country to recognize Bangladesh as an independent and sovereign nation and given their long history of bilateral cooperation, Dato’ Jamaluddin bin Sabeh, the high commission of Malaysia in Dhaka, would likely understand the international significance of the recent Dhaka Art Summit given recent Bangladeshi cultural policy and the stark similarities in artistic expression between India and Bangladesh. Malaysia has traditionally used their close ties with Bangladesh to offer economic and technological assistance in return for a cheap Bangladeshi labour workforce. Additionally, Malaysia is the largest ASEAN investor in Bangladesh and their trade balance is overwhelmingly in Malaysia’s favor.
These factors more then make up for Bangladesh’s significant demographical advantage, but thankfully for Dhaka their southern neighbor is also interested in developing Bangladeshi infrastructure. Bin Sabeh’s predecessor, Abdul Malek bin Abdul Aziz, even encouraged his counterparts to reduce their trade gap by satisfying Malaysian demand for Bangladeshi garments, handicrafts, spices, ceramics and textiles. Despite, these obvious disadvantages not being in Bangladesh’s favor, their future relationship will continue to deepen as more agreements will likely be reached and more inter-country contacts will be made at various levels.
The cultural policy of Bangladesh can be seen in their 1972 constitution, which placed emphasis on the importance of their indigenous language and culture after it was oppressed by both their British and Pakistani rule. Currently Bangladesh has an extensive network of state-sponsored cultural institutions, which is particularly impressive considering their level of development. The Bangladesh Shipakala Academy has sponsored the prestigious Asian Art Biennale Bangladesh since 1981, which other then their stated goals of exposing the public to a variety of Bangladeshi art and developing young artists in their chosen field, also contributes to Bangladesh’s soft power in both South Asia and Southeast Asia. Although, cultural ventures might not seem prominent in bilateral relations or international relations, the policymakers in Kuala Lumpur took notice of the Bangladeshi Art Summit similar to how they also noticed India’s recent missile tests.

Indian High Commission in Dhaka

Bangladeshi High Commission in New Delhi

High Commission of Malaysia in Dhaka

Bangladesh High Commission in Kuala Lumpur

Vietnamese Perspective on “Potential for Exports to Pakistan”

Monday, April 30th, 2012
Paul Nicklas

The recent push by the Indian Department of Commerce to normalize their bilateral trade relations with Pakistan, their exchange of exports lists and their push to take advantage of their economic potential, likely serves as a reminder to Nguyễn Việt Hưng, the Vietnamese Ambassador to Pakistan, of the initial stages of Pakistani-Vietnamese economic relations and the great trade potential that should be addressed with enhanced cooperation between Hanoi and Islamabad. Although, Vietnam and Pakistan have enjoyed diplomatic relations since 1972, both their political and economic relations remained rather modest until the mid 1990s. In fact both countries had to close their embassies to each other within 10 years of its opening because of their own economic difficulties. The Pakistani embassy to Vietnam opened in 1973, but was already closed by 1980, while the Vietnamese embassy to Pakistan was established in 1978, but was already locked up by 1984.
Pakistani-Vietnam bilateral relations have considerably improved due a mutual desire to strengthen all aspects of their relationship. Both Pakistan and Vietnam have reopened their embassies, Pakistan’s in Hanoi in October 2000 and Vietnam’s in Islamabad in December 2005. In comparison, while Indo-Vietnamese relations have also rapidly expanded, their partnership is more of a renewal of an old friendship, then a new bilateral cooperation. In Pakistan’s ‘East Asia Vision’ policy, Vietnam is viewed as their Singapore, i.e. their primary ally within ASEAN. Additionally, Vietnam and Pakistan possess the potential to export specific products that would be mutually beneficial to their supply and demand needs. Pakistan’s supply of motorcycles, plastics and surgical instruments would supply Vietnamese demand, while Vietnam’s supply of rubber; rubber products and machinery could satisfy Pakistani demand. Overall, Pakistani-Vietnamese ties have a lot of room for expansion, particularly in the potential of their bilateral trade, but the success of their relations should serve as encouragement for India to continue to pursue and push for normal and then substantial trade relations with their longtime rival.

High Commission of India in Pakistan

High Commission of Pakistan in New Delhi

Vietnamese Embassy of Pakistan

Embassy of Pakistan in Vietnam

Singaporean Perspective on “Israel Gives a Solid Showing at India’s Defexpo (Defense Expo)”

Monday, April 30th, 2012
Paul Nicklas

As a small regional economic powerhouse that is also surrounded by larger Muslim countries and a partner in the trade and development of military technology, Honorary Consul-General, Dr. Yehoshua Gleitman, would not be surprised that the Israeli booth was the largest and most popular at a recent Indian Defense Expo given their past participation in Singaporean defense expos and airshows as well as the Israeli role in the creation of Singapore’s Ministry of Defense and their Armed Forces. In fact, Singapore’s founding father, Lee Kuan Yew, turned to both India and Israel shortly after independence to help his nation in the development of their Foreign Ministry and their Armed Forces, with India only initially assisting in development of the former. While their relationship with Israel should be considered just as critical to Singapore’s rise into the developed city-state of the present, their cooperation was not public knowledge. In comparison, while Indian-Israeli relations not established until 1992, their extensive military relationship has always been internationally known and the Israeli exhibition at the 2009 Aero India Show was also the largest and most popular. Currently, India is the largest customer of Israeli military equipment, while the extent and specifics of the Israeli-Singapore defense relations are largely kept a state secret.
The secrecy of the relationship exists for the same reason that the Israeli defense industry is so technologically advanced, Lee did not want to arouse the Muslim majorities in Malaysia and Indonesia until his county was at least capable of defending itself. He did not even disclose the story behind the creation of the Singaporean army until 2000, in his book, “From Third World to First: The Singaporean Story 1965-2000″. Even today, the Israeli national airline, El Al, does not fly into Singapore, despite being a regional hub for Israeli business and a center of cultural exchange, because Indonesia and Malaysia do not allow a fly zone for Israeli aircraft. When former Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak traveled to Singapore in 2008, it was the first time an Israeli governmental official had publicly participated in a Singaporean defense exhibit. As similar nations surrounded by larger Muslim and potentially hostile neighbors, the Israeli-Singaporean defense cooperation will likely continue to expand under the cloak of governmental disclosure, similar to the deepening partnership between India and Israel in regards to security concerns.

Embassy of India, Tel Aviv

Israeli Embassy, in India

Consulate-General of Singapore in Tel Aviv

Embassy of Israel in Singapore

Article about Israeli Defense Minister’s visit to an international defense expo in Singapore

Article about Israeli Presence at the most recent Singapore Airshow

Thai Perspective on “India’s Strategic Partnerships”

Monday, April 30th, 2012
Paul Nicklas

As a recent established strategic partner of India and the largest trading partner of Russia Southeast Asia, Ambassador Itti Ditbanjong, the Thai Ambassador to Russia, would argue that any discussion of strategic partnerships should be considered on a more regional basis then a global basis to avoid constant debate over the importance of only the United States, China, Russia, Japan, India, Brazil and Western Europe (mostly France, Germany, the United Kingdom and Italy) to a particular country. In other words, nearly every sovereign country has a strong ‘strategic partnership’ with the United States, and those that do not tend to have a ‘strategic partnership’ with either Russia or China. As the world’s most powerful and influential nations, the listed powers would dominate any global investigation of relations; when evaluated by the totality of their economic, defensive and political-diplomatic ties. Thailand might not have a strong opinion on Indian policy in Kashmir or the Russian difficulties with Chenchnya, but those political situations also has very little relevance to their mutual cooperation on security, economic, academic, cultural or political-diplomatic issues with either Moscow or New Delhi.
Russia and Thailand officially established diplomatic relations in 1897, after King Rama V of Siam paid a visit to the newly crowned Tsar Nicholas II of Russia. Nicolas II had previously visited Siam in 1891, while he was the Russian Crown Prince and been personally honored with festivals in both Bangkok and the old imperial palace in Ayutthaya by King Rama V. King Rama’s visit legitimated his nation’s status as sovereign equal to his Russian counterpart and both enhanced and protected his nation within the international community, very important in face of threatening British and French imperialism. His second son, Prince Chakrabongse, was even sent to Russia for his military education and he would later marry a Russian woman. Although, Thai relations with Imperial Russia’s successor were not particular cordial, neither were their relations with India in the context of the Cold War. Finally, in the evaluation of the significance of Strategic partnerships, a more regional perspective should be used to avoid over generalization and to understand the actual international interactions between nations, as Russian concerns related to Southeast Asia places more importance on their partnership with Thailand then their partnership with Germany even though their strategic partnership with Berlin would have a “higher ranking”.

Embassy of India in Bangkok

Russian Embassy in Bangkok

Royal Thai Embassy in New Delhi

Royal Thai Embassy in Moscow

Recently signed Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement comes into effect between India and Malaysia

Monday, April 30th, 2012

Paul Nicklas

After India signed its fourth bilateral Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA), their trade with Malaysia should be boosted from about $10 billion last year to about $15 billion by the year 2015 and allow for the development of another close bilateral relationship between India and one of their maritime neighbors in the ASEAN.  India has traditionally always had close relations with the people of the Malay Peninsula, dating back to their time as colonies in the British Empire and even earlier to maritime trade with Indian traders in antiquity.  Another reason for their close relations is the large population of Indian nationals in the Malaysia and their presence guarantees that India will always play a prominent role in Malaysian foreign policy, similar to large influx of Chinese nationals also found in Malaysia.  Notable is the majority of Indian settlers of Malaysia are ethnically Tamil and the Malaysian Indian Congress has been dominant political presence in Malaysian politics.  The four official languages of the neighboring city-state of Singapore are in fact, Malay, English, Chinese and Tamil.

Although, India and Malaysia established diplomatic relations in 1957, similar to the rest of Southeast Asia their relations were almost nonexistent until the end of the Cold War (the only exception was Vietnam and Cambodia, while it was under Hanoi’s control).  Presently, Malaysia is India’s third largest trading partner with the ASEAN and India is Malaysia’s largest trading partner in the greater South and Southeast Asia region.  The recent CECA between New Delhi and Kuala Lumpur will do nothing but, facilitate and encourage further development of bilateral trade between the two countries.  Indian bilateral trade will Singapore, Japan and South Korea did in fact skyrocket about their CECA’s with India were signed into force due the liberalization of trade in goods, trade in services, investments, and many other areas of economic cooperation.  Overall, the India-Malaysia CECA can only be viewed in a positive light as the deal take the tariff liberalization beyond the India-ASEAN free trade agreement of 2009 into the next level of effective commerce.

Manila and New Delhi agree upon the Tariff Reductions found in the India-ASEAN Free Trade Agreement of 2009

Monday, April 30th, 2012

Paul Nicklas

A recent joint negotiation of a treaty that should of came into effect about 2 years before hand, call attentions to the limited bilateral relations of the Philippines and India when compared the Indo-Indonesian relationship or Indo-Singaporean relationship and that both countries need to take advantage of the current geopolitical situation and work towards improving their bilateral relations to the advantage of the greater Asia-Pacific region.  Unlike many of their peers, the Philippines has never been a close partner of India, despite their official establishment of diplomatic ties way back in 1949.  Although, various treaties and agreements wee signed between 1949-1969 on a variety of sectors, bilateral cooperation never truly got started with India and the Philippines.  As Cold War politics gradually shaped Southeast Asia into two hostile camps, Manila and New Delhi found themselves on opposite sides of the table.  Despite, not having any major points of contention, the American-aligned Philippines developed minimal bilateral relations with the Soviet-learning India.

Although, Indian-Philippines dialogue has steadily grown since the early 1990s, their relationship is not considered to be critical by either nation and their limited bilateral trade of $865 million is the best evidence for their comparatively small relationship (in contrast to $11 billion total with Malaysia, $20 billion total with Indonesia and $3.9 billion total with Vietnam).  Another area where their relations have not seen substantial growth is their investment in each other’s markets, again when compared to the Philippines’ peers in ASEAN.  Although, there has been a significant exchange of pharmaceuticals and the cooperation against counter-terrorism has grown significantly over the last few years, their relationship will likely continue to take a ‘backseat’ to India’s bilateral relations with other Southeast Asian nations for near future.  Because of the established framework between Manila and New Delhi, their rather limited relationship can be assigned to the lack of incentive for further expansion and a lack of governmental priority from each country.

Indian and Indonesian Army jointly Train for Anti-insurgency Operations

Monday, April 30th, 2012

Paul Nicklas

Last Month, Indonesia and India held weeklong anti-terrorism and anti-insurgency exercises in the Northeastern province of Mizoram and these joint training sessions of the two most populous countries in the Greater South and Southeast Asia region speaks volumes of the strength of their strategic partnership and the future of counter-terrorism.  Since the implication of their ‘Look Easy Policy’ in 1990s, India’s relations with a handful of Southeast Asian nations have been diversifying and growing at an extraordinary rate.  One of those countries has been Indonesia and of all of the members of the ASEAN; Indonesia has the most in common with their Hindi counterpart.  An unfortunately problem that both India and Indonesia have recently had to deal with is homegrown Islamic insurgencies and terrorism.  Fortunately the leadership in both New Delhi and Jakarta are wise enough to recognize that bilateral cooperation is an effective way of combating their mutual security threat and an excellent way of taking advantage of their ‘strategic partnership’ agreement of 2005.

Even since India and Indonesia have jointly started to hold bilateral naval action in the early 1990s, Indonesia has seen the advantages in maintaining close defense ties with India for both the management of their armed forces and the expansion of their defense infrastructure in terms of training and manufacturing.   Ever since 2002, Indo-Indonesian patrols have leading coordinated patrols of the Six Degree Channel of the Andaman Sea, a primary conduit for international shipping through the Malacca Strait.  Perhaps most importantly, the first platoon-level joint counter-terror exercises of last month might just a preview of the future action of the Indonesia-India Strategic Partnership, that recently had an action plan or ‘a vision statement for 2025’ drawn for it during the 2007 Joint Indonesia-India Commission Meeting.

India Expels Suspected Iranian Intelegence Operative

Monday, April 30th, 2012

India expelled Hamid Kashkouli, an Iranian national who was enrolled as a doctoral candidate at the University of Pune. The Indian intelligence community began surveillance on Kashkouli after it was found that he was listed as an employee of the Iranian Government, and that he had made no progress on his thesis after 4 years of school. While Kashkouli was being watched, he was seen conducting surveillance of his own on Jewish centers and the local Jewish population in Pune. After increased surveillance, it was found that Kashkouli was communicating with handlers in Tehran, passing them intelligence about the movements of Jewish people and the local synagogues. Kashkouli was first detained, questioned, then deported in March.

This development comes as just another indicator that Iran is stepping up operations against Israel in a covert war that has become overt in many cases. The covert war started when a computer virus disabled a cooling fan on an Iranian Centrifuge Computer. A few months later an Iranian scientist was killed by a magnetic mine, placed on his car by two men on a motor bike. Then an Israeli embassy worker was targeted in the streets of India, by assassins using a similar tactic, albeit unsuccessfully, to the Iranian Nuclear Scientist bombing. Now we are seeing hard evidence that a new theatre of operations has opened up in an increasingly hot and overt war between Israel and Iran.

~Will Sacripanti,7340,L-4221356,00.html

Russia and India Celebrate 65 Years of Friendship

Monday, April 30th, 2012

It is not a common thing for two people to maintain friendship for 65 years, let alone two huge countries in the same region. Russia and India have been longstanding friends with each other in areas of trade, policy, and to a certain extent military. The two countries have managed to keep this relationship up through a very turbulent time for Russia. Even though there was worry that the collapse of The Soviet Union in the 1990’s would affect their relationship, it was soon made clear that not only would things not sour, but grow further and deeper. One of the important aspects of this relationship is that the two countries make it a priority to keep each others political opinions in mind when making their own individual decisions. The potential of their relationship has yet to be fully tapped, and the emphasis on their relationship now is to strengthen economic ties as well as the sharing of cultural and economic ideas.

India Cools Towards Israel

Sunday, April 29th, 2012

In light of India’s increasing dependence on Iranian oil and gas it has began to cool its military cooperation with Israel. Israel’s Military Industries had a seventy million dollar guarantee confiscated by the Indian government and has been banned from conduction business in India for ten years for reportedly trying to bribe the director general of India’s Ordinance Factory Board. This comes as an unusual move in a country were bribing is very common place. Perhaps the Iranian government used it as a political posturing tool in order to insure Iran that they still value their relationship despite increasing international pressure to join in a oil embargo on the country.