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  • Publication Date: 02-2015
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: On 5 January, the first anniversary of the deeply contested 2014 elections, the most violent in Bangladesh's history, clashes between government and opposition groups led to several deaths and scores injured. The confrontation marks a new phase of the deadlock between the ruling Awami League (AL) and the Bangladesh National Party (BNP) opposition, which have swapped time in government with metronomic consistency since independence. Having boycotted the 2014 poll, the BNP appears bent on ousting the government via street power. With daily violence at the pre-election level, the political crisis is fast approaching the point of no return and could gravely destabilise Bangladesh unless the sides move urgently to reduce tensions. Moreover, tribunals set up to adjudicate crimes perpetrated at the moment of Bangladesh's bloody birth threaten division more than reconciliation. Both parties would be best served by changing course: the AL government by respecting the democratic right to dissent (recalling its time in opposition); the BNP by reviving its political fortunes through compromise with the ruling party, rather than violent street politics. With the two largest mainstream parties unwilling to work toward a new political compact that respects the rights of both opposition and victor to govern within the rule of law, extremists and criminal networks could exploit the resulting political void. Violent Islamist factions are already reviving, threatening the secular, democratic order. While jihadi forces see both parties as the main hurdle to the establishment of an Islamic order, the AL and the BNP perceive each other as the main adversary. The AL and its leader, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajid, emphasise that the absence from parliament of former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia and her BNP make them political non-entities. Yet, concerned about a comeback, the government is at-tempting to forcibly neutralise the political opposition and stifle dissent, including by bringing corruption and other criminal cases against party leaders, among whom are Zia and her son and heir apparent, Tarique Rahman; heavy-handed use of police and paramilitary forces; and legislation and policies that undermine fundamental constitutional rights. The BNP, which has not accepted any responsibility for the election-related vio-lence in 2014 that left hundreds dead (and saw hundreds of Hindu homes and shops vandalised), is again attempting to oust the government by force, in alliance with the Jamaat-e-Islami, which is alleged to have committed some of the worst abuses during that period. The party retains its core supporters and seems to have successfully mobilised its activists on the streets. Yet, its sole demand – for a fresh election under a neutral caretaker – is too narrow to generate the public support it needs to over-come the disadvantage of being out of parliament, and its political capital is fading fast as it again resorts to violence. The deep animosity and mistrust between leaders and parties were not inevitable. Despite a turbulent history, they earlier cooperated to end direct or indirect military rule and strengthen democracy, most recently during the 2007-2008 tenure of the military-backed caretaker government (CTG), when the high command tried to re-move both Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia from politics. Rather than building on that cooperation, the two leaders have resorted to non-democratic methods to undermine each other. In power, both have used centralised authority, a politicised judiciary and predatory law enforcement agencies against legitimate opposition. Underpinning the current crisis is the failure to agree on basic standards for multi-party democratic functioning. While the BNP claims to be the guardian of Bangladeshi nationalism, the AL has attempted to depict itself as the sole author and custodian of Bangladesh's liberation. The International Crimes Tribunal (ICT), established by the AL in March 2010 to prosecute individuals accused of committing atrocities during the 1971 liberation war, should be assessed in this context. While the quest to bring perpetrators to account is justifiable, the ICTs are not simply, or even primarily, a legal tool, but rather are widely perceived as a political one, primarily for use against the government's Islamist opposition. In short, the governing AL is seen to be using the nation's founding tragedy for self-serving political gains. The AL needs to realise that the BNP's marginalisation from mainstream politics could encourage anti-government activism to find more radical avenues, all the more so in light of its own increasingly authoritarian bent. Equally, the BNP would do well to abandon its alliances of convenience with violent Islamist groups and seek to revive agreement on a set of basic standards for multiparty democracy. A protracted and violent political crisis would leave Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia the ultimate losers, particularly if a major breakdown of law and order were to encourage the military to intervene; though there is as yet no sign of that, history suggests it is an eventuality not to be dismissed. The opportunities for political reconciliation are fast diminishing, as political battle lines become ever more entrenched. Both parties should restrain their violent activist base and take practical steps to reduce political tensions: the AL government should commit to a non-repressive response to political dis-sent, rein in and ensure accountability for abuses committed by law enforcement entities, reverse measures that curb civil liberties and assertively protect minority communities against attack and dispossession of properties and businesses; the AL should invite the BNP, at lower levels of seniority if needed, to negotiations aimed at reviving the democratic rules of the game, including electoral reform. It should also hold mayoral elections in Dhaka, a long-overdue constitutional requirement that would provide opportunities to begin that dialogue; and the BNP should commit to non-violent political opposition; refrain from an alliance with the Jamaat-e-Islami that is enhancing the Islamist opposition's street power with little political return for the BNP; and instead demonstrate willingness to engage in meaningful negotiations with the AL to end a crisis that is undermining economic growth and threatening to subvert the political order.
  • Topic: Democratization, Political Activism, Elections
  • Political Geography: Bangladesh, Asia
  • Author: Angela Pennisi di Floristella
  • Publication Date: 01-2015
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Kolleg-Forschergruppe "The Transformative Power of Europe"
  • Abstract: Why, following the EU's first attempts at advancing community cooperation in civil protection and the creation of the EU civil protection mechanism, has ASEAN undertaken new initiatives, such as the adoption of a legally binding accord, AADMER and a formal institution, the AHA Center, largely comparable to the institutional innovations endorsed by the EU, in the same issue area? Can these developments be interpreted simply as the result of independent decision-making by ASEAN or are they at least a partial outcome of a transfer process? The aim of this study is to contribute to the emerging debate on European influence in Southeast Asia, taking into account how processes of policy and institutional transfer may lead ASEAN's region builders to learn from the EU's experience. Specifically, by discussing the case of disaster management, which has remained largely unexplored by comparative IR literature, this study argues that independent problem solving does not offer an adequate explanation of ASEAN's developments. Conversely, lesson drawing and emulation are suggested as the two most relevant underlying mechanisms which can explain the gradual and selective adoption of an EU-like model of disaster cooperation.
  • Political Geography: Europe, Asia
  • Author: Rajeswari Sengupta, Abhuit Sen Gupta
  • Publication Date: 04-2015
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Centre for International Governance Innovation
  • Abstract: Gross capital inflows and outflows to and from emerging market economies have witnessed a significant increase since the early 2000s. This rapid increase in the volume of flows, accompanied by sharp swings in volatility, has amplified the complexity of macroeconomic management in emerging economies. This paper focuses on capital flows in selected emerging Asian economies, analyzing surge and stop episodes as well as changes in the composition of flows across these episodes, then evaluating the policy measures undertaken by these economies in response to the surge and stop of capital flows. This kind of analysis is highly relevant, especially at a time when emerging economies around the world are facing the repercussions of a potential monetary policy normalization in the United States and continuing quantitative easing measures by the European Central Bank, either of which could once again heighten the volatility of cross-border capital flows, thereby posing renewed macroeconomic challenges for major EMEs.
  • Topic: Economics, Emerging Markets, International Trade and Finance, Monetary Policy
  • Political Geography: Asia
  • Author: Heike Holbig
  • Publication Date: 03-2015
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: German Institute of Global and Area Studies
  • Abstract: Representatives from the social sciences and cultural studies continue to exhibit mutual reservations and sensitivities when they encounter each other in the field of area studies. This is particularly so with regard to research on East and Southeast Asia. Given this background and with the intention of deriving a productive definition of area studies, this article attempts to assess the current state of Asia-related area studies by reviewing and comparing the debates within the social sciences and cultural studies in the Anglo-Saxon and German-language spheres on the changing role of the discipline. In this text, region is defined as an ongoing process involving the communicative construction of social relations. Various approaches to describing the regions of East and Southeast Asia illustrate that this process is subject to dialectical movements of de- and reterritorialization, which should be examined as issues of equal empirical rank. In view of a growing focus primarily on transnational and transregional entanglements, this text suggests using the term “reflexive essentialism” and proposes more extensive reflection on the new and essentialist self-assurances, limitations, and entrenchments at the regional, national, and subnational levels.
  • Political Geography: Asia
  • Author: Ashley J. Tellis
  • Publication Date: 04-2015
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Carnegie Commission on Preventing Deadly Conflict
  • Abstract: The United States and India have agreed to form a working group to explore the joint development of India's next-generation aircraft carrier. While the Indian Navy has already begun design work, wide-ranging cooperation with the United States has enormous potential and offers India the opportunity to acquire the most capable warship possible. Such collaboration would increase the Indian Navy's combat power and would resonate throughout the Asian continent to India's strategic advantage. The most valuable U.S. contributions are likely to materialize in the fight, possibly in the move, and hopefully in the integrate functions.
  • Political Geography: United States, India, Asia
  • Author: Moeed Yusuf, Scott Smith
  • Publication Date: 06-2015
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: Shortly after entering office at the end of 2014, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani embarked on a bold but controversial policy of sustained conciliation toward Pakistan, with the goal of securing greater cooperation in securing a comprehensive peace with the Afghan Taliban and integrating Afghanistan into the regional economies. Pakistan's tepid response to date, however, has left Ghani politically vulnerable, with his opponents attacking his outreach effort. Time is of the essence. Without meaningful actions soon from Pakistan and robust support from the international community, especially China, the initiative is likely to collapse, with devastating results for Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the broader region
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Political Power Sharing, Taliban
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, Asia
  • Author: Rashid Aziz, Munawar Baseer Ahmad
  • Publication Date: 06-2015
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: Pakistan’s energy shortages disrupt daily life in the country, and protests and demonstrations against the shortages often turn violent, creating a risk that Pakistan’s energy crisis could threaten peace and stability. Incorporating official and donor perspectives, this report examines the factors in Pakistan’s energy crisis and what can be done to address it.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Energy Policy
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, Asia
  • Author: Jörg Wischermann, Bui The Cuong, Nguyen Quang Vinh, Dang Thi Viet Phuong, Nguyen Thi Minh Chau
  • Publication Date: 07-2015
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: German Institute of Global and Area Studies
  • Abstract: Civic organizations (COs) are neither a good nor a bad thing. They are not inherently fighters for democracy or supporters of authoritarian rule. The way they develop depends on the impact that various forms of state power have on them and on their influence on the state. Vietnamese COs appear to be no exception. When we examine just one direction of these interdependent and reciprocal relations, it becomes clear that under the constraints of the Vietnamese state's infrastructural power many Vietnamese COs develop features of intra‐organizational authoritarianism; that they help to embed the state and the Communist Party more deeply within Vietnamese society; and, finally, that they contribute to bringing the society further under the control of the state and the party. However, this occurs to a very different degree depending on the type of CO. NGOs and faith‐based organizations in particular, at least in the field of gender norms and practices, seem to resist the state's discursive power. This could imply challenges to the state’s and the party's control of politics and society and leads the authors to draw far‐reaching conclusions as far as developmental cooperation with and potential support for various types of Vietnamese COs is concerned.
  • Topic: Non-Governmental Organization, Politics
  • Political Geography: Asia, Vietnam
  • Author: Carl Ungerer, Katy Dr. Oh Hassig
  • Publication Date: 08-2015
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Geneva Centre for Security Policy
  • Abstract: Asia and Europe share a border, but not much else. Although the Mongols invaded Eastern Europe, and Marco Polo made it to China, a common assumption among policy makers and academics alike has been that the security challenges and perspectives between these contiguous continents have had little in common, and less to learn from each other. Past efforts to build academic and policy bridges have been nascent at best. But today’s threats to global and regional security have no problem crossing international borders. From the rise of violent extremism to the threat of pandemic diseases and cyber criminals, solutions to security problems will overwhelm any national, or indeed regional, effort to ‘go it alone’. Increasingly, as transnational threats become simultaneously local and global, the challenge for countries across both Asia and Europe is to find points of common interest and opportunities for genuine security cooperation.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, International Security, Violent Extremism, ISIL
  • Political Geography: Asia
  • Author: Roman Pacheco, Eva Pejsova, Elena Atanassova-Cornelis
  • Publication Date: 04-2015
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: European Union Institute for Security Studies
  • Abstract: This report explores the driving sources of tension in Northeast Asia’s three maritime disputes, focusing in particular on developments that have occurred since the late 2000s. At the same time, it examines the existing and emerging forms of maritime cooperation – in the form of various schemes for the joint development of resources in the region – so as to highlight the possible ways forward.
  • Topic: Regional Cooperation, Maritime Commerce
  • Political Geography: Asia