Monday 18 Nov 2019 | 05:19 | SYDNEY
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  • 15 Nov 2019 12:30

    Ayodhya verdict and unruly consequences

    India’s Supreme Court has delivered a ruling that will embolden the Hindu right and challenge the country’s secularism.

  • 15 Nov 2019 10:00

    Autocrats Anonymous

    A White House confessional reveals Donald Trump incapable of change – a kind of Marvel superhero, but less interesting.

  • 15 Nov 2019 06:00

    Book Review: The original corporate raiders

    Historian William Dalrymple looks at how a small trading company in London became a mighty army and conquered India.

Asia

Ayodhya verdict and unruly consequences

Last week, India’s Supreme Court decided in favour of Hindus in a decades-long dispute over a holy site in the country’s north. By doing so, the court also did a number of other things: it planted a flag in the judiciary’s siding with the Hindu right, and with it, the government, and it

Book Review: The original corporate raiders

Review: William Dalrymple, The Anarchy: The East India Company, Corporate Violence, and the Pillage of an Empire (Bloomsbury, 2019) In his new book, The Anarchy, renowned historian William Dalrymple tells the remarkable story of how the East India Company (EIC) managed to replace the mighty Mughal

SCO-style economic cooperation: Treading slowly

Over its 18-year existence, Shanghai Cooperation Organisation has mostly been in the spotlight as a forum for security cooperation, starting with the 2001 Convention that branded crimes of extremism, separatism, and terrorism as extraditable offences. The region is still facing significant security

A motion towards justice in Myanmar

International law proceedings targeting the alleged genocide of members of the Rohingya group in Myanmar are gathering force. The Republic of The Gambia has submitted an application to institute proceedings against Myanmar at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, with the support of

Connecting the dots on the Blue Dot Network

The US, Australia, and Japan have joined together to establish a trilateral “Blue Dot Network” to help develop infrastructure “in the Indo-Pacific and around the world”. The plan was announced on the sidelines of the 35th ASEAN summit in Thailand last week. This sounds impressive. The Indo

North Korea’s deadline logic

Ever since Chairman Kim Jong-un issued the end-of-year deadline in April for nuclear negotiations, North Korea has displayed a stubborn attitude. From launching a series of new short and medium-range missiles, dragging its feet at the working-level talks, to showing no signs of compromise at

Signs of a deal between US and China, and a rethink

It is not yet agreed, may yet fail, and is anyway unlikely to settle matters, but the impending “phase one” trade deal could be a useful ceasefire in the US economic war with China. Two years on from the US initiation of penalty tariffs on China, it is also a convenient moment to point to a few

India draws the line on Kashmir

On 2 November, the Government of India’s Press Information Bureau released two maps that show all of the former (but contested) princely state of Jammu and Kashmir as now comprising two entities: the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir and the Union Territory of Ladakh. Both belong to India. All

Beijing’s cryptic blockchain gambit

China is going berserk for blockchain these days, and doing so with oh-so-very Chinese characteristics. The recent hype is certainly not without cause. After years of cautious support for the game-changing digital ledger technology behind Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, Beijing has been

The uncertain fate of Islamic State in Pakistan

On 26 October, the infamous caliph of Islamic State, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, who rose to prominence in 2014 when he announced the creation of the caliphate of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), was killed in Northern Syria. Two days later, Abu Hassan al-Muhajir, spokesperson and deputy of al-

India’s RCEP exit a setback, but not a disaster

India’s decision to withdraw from the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement has been framed as a catastrophe. Coming at a time of growing rivalries among the major global powers, most analysts have argued it augurs poorly for political cooperation and economic integration in

India’s clever alliances with island states

As India struggles to manage China’s economic and diplomatic influence in its immediate neighbourhood, it has recently made progress in building more robust ties with four crucial island states in the Indian Ocean: Mauritius, the Maldives, Seychelles, and Sri Lanka. What has been done – and what

Photo essay: Phnom Penh and China-backed building boom

Phnom Penh was long known as a relatively low-rise city, at least compared to towering neighbours such as Bangkok, Jakarta, Ho Chi Minh City, and Singapore. These cities all saw their skylines shoot up in recent decades – long before Phnom Penh’s belated boom – as their country’s economies

China’s slam dunk of the NBA is a game changer

The US trade war against China launched by President Donald Trump has hitherto lacked a clear moral dimension. There are economic arguments – that China insists on tilting the playing field by blocking certain foreign companies, forced local partnerships for foreign firms, or intellectual property

In search of clarity on Hong Kong’s future

Under the constitutional principle of “One Country, Two Systems”, as stated in the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration, Hong Kong’s capitalist system and way of life would remain unchanged for 50 years after the 1997 handover from British to Chinese rule. As a reassurance, Deng Xiaoping, the

What Russia wants in a multipolar world

Last week, Russia’s Ambassador to Australia, Alexei Pavlovsky, delivered a keynote address at the Australian National University on Russia’s strategic architect and former foreign minister, the late Yevgeny Primakov. Reflecting on the speech, it is evident that policy makers, pundits, and the

China, a low-productivity superpower

In the space of just a few decades, China has risen to the rank of a world power, and certainly an Asian regional power. And now China and the US have locked horns in a great-power struggle over trade, foreign investment, intellectual property, technology-transfer policies, industrial policy, cyber

Towards a peaceful and inclusive Asia

Small states are states too. They have their own agency, their own interests, and their own preferences, and it is important they do not see the world through the perspectives offered by the US-China binary. This was the main point of the speech I gave this month in Beijing as Malaysia’s Deputy

How Africa is breaking China’s neo-colonial shackles

If there’s any indication of how Africa is moving up on everyone’s agenda, look no further than the first edition of the Russia-Africa Summit, which saw 43 African heads of state converging last week on Sochi. Beyond the fact that the summit reflects the brisk trade Moscow does with the

Messy is the new order: Succession time in Malaysia

If events go according to schedule, Malaysia is set for a leadership transition in 2020. Speaking to a Wall Street CEO conference immediately after the May 2018 election, the then–newly minted Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said that he will stay in office for one or two years before handing over

Soft power, hard weather: Japanese resilience

Typhoon Hagibis was the most powerful typhoon to hit Japan in decades. The storm’s ferocity was extraordinary, and the level of destruction immense. At least 78 people have been killed, and more than 230,000 evacuated. Notably the typhoon, the 19th to hit Japan this year, struck the east coast

Victoria takes the initiative with China

I thought to myself, here’s Xi Jinping walking past, here’s a chance to ask him a question. But instead he just gave me a wan look and a bodyguard quickened a step to put himself in the way, allowing the delegation to brush by before I got a word out. It was Vice President Xi back then, in

Finally, some plain talk on the Quad

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gave a foreign policy speech to the Heritage Foundation on Tuesday. Australia’s foreign policy analysts can be very grateful for these candid remarks, because they should prompt Canberra to rethink its policy stance on the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (the “

Antarctica and the China test

At the current meeting in Hobart for CCAMLR, the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, Australia is once again moving to establish marine sanctuaries off the east of Antarctica with the support of the US, Europe, and a coalition of environmental organisations. And

Hong Kong protesters need a narrative – now

As the demonstrations roll on in Hong Kong, the narrative surrounding the protests is as unclear as the tear gas clouds in Causeway Bay. While the visual drama tells a certain story, and the #fivedemandsnoless hashtag gives some clues, it’s difficult for many looking on around the world to discern

China’s own “Great Delusion”

In his 2018 book The Great Delusion: Liberal Dreams and International Realities, international relations scholar John Mearsheimer argues that many of America’s post–cold war foreign policy failures have ultimately been the result of a misguided strategy of a pursuit of “liberal hegemony”, an

Facebook, the Rohingya, and internet blackouts in Myanmar

The role of social media, particularly Facebook, in facilitating hate speech and spreading disinformation in countries such as Myanmar has undermined assertions by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg that his platform promotes “well-being”. Nevertheless, the United Nations has argued that internet

Dispatches from the front (row)

Only last week The Interpreter featured an article about the pitfalls of importing a major international sporting event into a country that didn’t have enough domestic interest or emotional investment to support it. That may have been the case in Qatar, but having just returned from two weeks and

Could Australia unlock the Kashmir question?

The Indian government’s lockdown of the strategic and volatile region of Kashmir is entering into its third month. Thousands of troops are deployed in the valley with shoot on sight orders in place, the internet remains cut off, while mobile phones lines have only just been restored.

Plogging along: India-China struggle to find momentum

You may have seen photos in recent days of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi hunched over a beach, picking up rubbish. While the images presented an opportunity for media to write about ocean pollution, there was actually an even bigger event at play: an informal summit between India and China.

The Wiranto attack and the ISIS impact

The stabbing attack last Thursday by an ISIS supporter on Wiranto, Indonesia’s top security minister, was a shock for several reasons. Attacks on senior officials in Indonesia are very rare, though terrorist attacks on police are common. Protection proved to be disturbingly lax – the stabber got

China and Catholicism, an unhappy marriage

China’s Christians are suffering again, as Beijing continues to implement leader Xi Jinping’s policy of “sinicisation” of religion that, in effect, means making adherents to all religions more loyal to the ruling Communist Party, rather than to their conscience. It is now a little more

Why does North Korea keep dragging its feet?

The long-awaited US–North Korea working-level talks collapsed last week, as Washington and Pyongyang could not agree on the definition of “denuclearisation” and mutual concessions. This followed the recent test of a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) by North Korea and insistence on

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