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Southeast Asia

Distinguished Experts Call for Strengthening India-Vietnam Public Diplomacy

MD Staff

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“During our history we have extended mutual support to each other…(we) have been able to benefit from the support from Indian people and government not only during our struggle for national independence and reunification, but also national construction”, said H.E. Mr. Pham Sanh Chau, Ambassador of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam to India. Ambassador Chau was delivering the inaugural address at the International Symposium on “Public Diplomacy and India-Vietnam Engagements”, organised by the Society for Public Research and Empowerment (SPRE), New Delhi, India in collaboration with Centre for Vietnam Studies, New Delhi, and the Embassy of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam in India. The event was organised via video conference on June 12, 2020.

Ambassador Chau discussed the Vietnamese perspective on public diplomacy and appreciated the importance given by Indian government to public diplomacy initiatives. He said that diplomacy had three major tenets in Vietnam which included political diplomacy, economic diplomacy and cultural diplomacy. Through cultural diplomacy, the primary task was to take care of the Vietnamese residing abroad, he said. He reminded the participants that President Ho Chi Minh had laid the foundation of “Hand to Hand” diplomacy, which helped in winning hearts of foreigners. He maintained that Vietnam won the war against the United States by winning public opinion in Washington. He reiterated the significance of public diplomacy, and said that the India Study Centre and the Ho Chi Minh Academy can be important institutions to support public diplomacy initiatives between the two countries. He also spoke of the growth of Voice of Vietnam radio. Ambassador Chau also specifically mentioned about the significance of direct flights between Vietnam and India and said that it will help in increasing people-to-people contact.

Prior to the inaugural address, Dr. Mahjabin Banu, President, SRPE and Visiting Fellow at the Centre for Vietnam Studies in New Delhi, who moderated this symposium, delivered the opening remarks. She said that public diplomacy is key to managing bilateral relations between India and Vietnam as it helps in promoting inter-cultural understanding. Dr. Banu maintained that this ongoing pandemic has provided an opportunity to engage in a larger Track II dialogues which can also be made possible through technological applications and video conferencing.She asserted that public diplomacy initiatives and geo-cultural cooperation among India, ASEAN and the Mekong-Ganga Cooperation will deepen the integration. This is also very crucial when it comes to Vietnam, she added. Dr. Banu called for a concerted effort toward enriching public diplomacy initiatives between the two countries, and argued that it can redefine the nature of our bilateral economic and strategic relations as well.

Dr. Ash Narain Roy, Chief Patron of the Centre for Vietnam Studies delivered the welcome address. He congratulated Vietnam on its successful handling of Covid-19 pandemic despite sharing a border with China. He praised the accountability of the government of Vietnam. While expressing his thoughts on public diplomacy, Dr. Roy emphasized on the importance of the cultural aspects. He spoke about the success of German Institutes, Confucian Centers and the British Councils. In terms of public diplomacy, he maintained that what matters is what you are and not who you are. In his concluding remarks, he commended the fact that both India and Vietnam have to walk shoulder to shoulder in deepening cooperation between them. Dr. Roy also reminded the participants of the geographical importance of the Indo-Pacific and how India has remained an anchor in the region.

Dr. G. B. Harisha, Director of the Swami Vivekananda Cultural Centre at the Embassy of India in Hanoi delivered a special address. He threw light on the recent discovery of Shiva Linga in the Cham Temple complex. Dr. Harisha also discussed about the deep cultural relationship between India and Vietnam. He further spoke about the respect given to Swami Vivekananda Centre in Hanoi and also about the recently installed statue of Mahatma Gandhi in Hanoi. He said that although other ASEAN countries are known for deeper ancient ties with India, the most ancient inscriptions are found in Hanoi. He highlighted that about 2000 years back, Indian monks brought Buddhism to Vietnam. He reminded the participants about the significance of International Day of Yoga and said that it is celebrated at a very artistic level in Vietnam.

The symposium included three distinguished panels catering to three distinct sub-themes. Each of these panels included two experts – one each from India and Vietnam. The three panel sub-themes included the following: instruments of public diplomacy; public diplomacy as a means of strengthening India-Vietnam ties; and, India-Vietnam cooperation in the emerging geopolitics of a post-covid world

Dr. Rajan Sudesh Ratna, Economic Affairs Officer at United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific in New Delhi spoke on the first sub-theme of instruments of public diplomacy. He began by comparing the imperial struggles of both India and Vietnam. Dr. Ratna then spoke about how India had granted Vietnam the Most Favored Nation (MFN) status in 1975, even before Vietnam joined the World Trade Organisation (WTO). He added that soon after granting the MFN status, India then went on to sign a trade agreement with Vietnam in 1978. Dr. Ratna spoke of the deep economic ties between India and Vietnam by stating facts that included India being the 7th largest trading partner of Vietnam and Vietnam being India’s 3rd largest trading partner in ASEAN and 14th largest trading partner globally. He also emphasized on how Indian generic drugs being the cheapest can help Vietnam. Dr. Ratna also stressed on the importance of science and technology as a means of connect between the two nations given that Indian software is globally recognized, and Vietnam also has gained due competitiveness in science and technology.

Ms. M. A. Hoang Manh, the next speaker, represented the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Government of Vietnam. She spoke of an article she had written on ‘What does Vietnam share to the world?’. She said the answer lay in the UNESCO heritage and national parks, and not just coffee. She highlighted the 4000 years of history of Vietnam. Ms. Manh stressed that the most important purpose of public diplomacy is to connect and make people understand about Vietnam. She said that media can play a pivotal role in doing so. She informed the participants that the Voice of Vietnam, as mentioned by Ambassador Chau as well, has 24 channels and it can be an important instrument to promote Vietnam. She spoke of two proposals to help improve public diplomacy between India and Vietnam. One, she said, is to publish more and more articles in the newspapers carrying positive information about India as information about India was limited in Vietnam. Secondly, she called for publishing information about Vietnam in English language to promote Vietnam among the Indian audience.

Dr. Faisal Ahmed, Associate Professor at FORE School of Management in New Delhi, while speaking on public diplomacy as a means of strengthening India-Vietnam ties, described public diplomacy as a tool to reposition the image of a country in mind of the people of other countries. He talked about popular geopolitics and maintained that Vietnam has created an excellent regional and global image as a supporter of peace and humanitarian values. Discussing about cultural cooperation, he mentioned that the two sides have jointly created Indo-Vietnam Film and Cultural Forum which strengthens public diplomacy initiatives. He recommended that this cultural forum should undertake initiatives to organise film festivals, fashion shows, broadcasting of films, and should also print an India-Vietnam Film Magazine to depict each other’s real and reel life. He spoke about the need for mass connect amongst the youths, and across communities in both countries. Dr. Ahmed called for allocating more policy space to public diplomacy for leveraging its benefits in economic and strategic arenas as well.

Dr. Le Thi Hang Nga from the Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences in Hanoi was the next speaker. She explained the five elements of public diplomacy viz. listening, advocacy, cultural diplomacy, exchange diplomacy and international broadcasting. She said the most important aspect was cultural diplomacy between Vietnam and India. She spoke of how well India has promoted cultural diplomacy by stating that thirty-seven cultural centers have been maintained by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, and sculptures of Mahatma Gandhi have been established in forty countries on his 150th birth anniversary. Dr. Nga maintained that the most unique feature of Indian diplomacy can be domestic outreach, and emphasized that the North-East region of India is significant for the success of India’s Act East Policy. She mentioned about the newsletter started by the Indian Embassy in Vietnam which is published in Vietnamese, and spoke of the need of a similar newsletter in India by the Vietnamese Embassy.

The last panel focused on the sub-theme of India-Vietnam cooperation in the emerging geopolitics of a post-Covid world. Prof. G. Jayachandra Reddy, Director of the Centre for Southeast Asian and Pacific Studiesat Sri Venkateswara University in Tirupati began his talk with the Covid-19 pandemic situation. He said that Covid-19 is very different from all the previous pandemics – the one difference being on the impact on developed economies. He then discussed about the geopolitical blame game that began following the Covid-19 outbreak. He raised the question as to whether the virus was a coincidence or a planted tool and whether information was hidden and to what extent. He described how the United States has been targeting China and the World Health Organisation (WHO), and also how the European Union is supporting the resolution for enquiry. He expects that there would be a re-polarization of the world order with the growing relevance of geopolitics. He also emphasized that India and Vietnam shall be emerging as extremely competitive hubs in the long-run.

Further, Dr. Do Thu Ha, Professor at the Vietnam National University in Hanoi, spoke about borders becoming much more blurred due to globalization. She reiterated the shift in power being brought forward by this pandemic. She maintained that Covid-19 is here to stay, and it is the time we reconsider our mobility, supply chains, relationships, etc. in accordance with this new scenario. Dr. Ha concluded by drawing attention to the impact of Covid-19. It is not to be underestimated and global order dynamics are expected to be hugely different from pre-Covid world, she added.

The event received immense knowledge support and cooperation from Dr. Sonu Trivedi, Director of the Swami Vivekananda Cultural Centre at the Embassy of India in Seoul; and, Dr. Manish Kumar, Officiating Director of the Centre for Vietnam Studies in New Delhi. It included active participation from speakers and delegates representing India, Vietnam, Thailand, the Philippines, South Korea, Russia, and Switzerland. Toward the end, the forum was opened for Q&A. The Rapporteuring of the event was done by Mr. Mohammad Yusuf Khan. The event concluded with a vote of thanks.

(SPRE may be contacted at: spre.india[at]gmail.com)

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Southeast Asia

Can Cam Ranh Bay-Port Blair-Djibouti form a strategic Maritime chain hub to tackle China?

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The world at present is grappling with the Global Pandemic Coronavirus, but Chinese maritime security aggressiveness in the East China Sea, South China Sea and off late the Indian Ocean is at an all high. This belligerence and expansionism by China in the international waters is a major cause of concern for most countries. Keeping Chinese aggressiveness in mind, the article tries to suggest a strategic line of maritime hubs which can be called a chain of maritime hubs to tackle China.

This year in April, a Vietnamese fishing vessel in the South China Sea was sunk by a Chinese ship. Viet Nam garnered a lot of support from the United States where the United States State Department “criticised China for ramming and sinking the Vietnamese fishing boat and was seriously concerned about this incident”. Viet Nam protested against this incident and previously also, Hanoi has been consistently vocal about Beijing’s increasingly ambitious muscle flexing in territorial issues. The Philippines too, last year faced a similar incident and the Department of Foreign Affairs in Manila expressed their solidarity with Viet Nam for the same. In May, a stand-off between a Chinese survey ship and Malaysian oil exploration ship in Malaysia’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) took place. In July, Chinese coast guard ships had twice intruded into the Japanese territorial waters and these Chinese ships were once approaching the Japanese fishing boats which was blocked by Japanese coast guard. These Chinese vessels came within the 2.5 miles off the Japanese-controlled Senkaku Islands and Diaoyu Islands named by the Chinese. It was a cause of concern as it was well past the internationally recognised 12 mile limit defining a country’s territorial waters limit. Yoshihide Suga, the Japanese chief cabinet Secretary quoted that “Tokyo has lodged repeated diplomatic protests with Beijing over the presence of the Chinese ships”. Recently, India-China were at a standoff at LAC and it is being said that China has been increasing its presence in the Indian Ocean too as satellite pictures in May suggested that China had modernised its military base in Djibouti and in 2017, a logistic support unit was upgraded to a full-fledged naval base consisting of the Liaoning aircraft carrier was set. China has also expanded an artificial island in the Maldives and this has led to China encroaching upon India’s realm of influence. China has also deployed submarines and intelligence ships in the Indian Ocean. This could be China’s game of power projection in the Indian Ocean region and yet again, one can say it is the revival of the strategic encirclement earlier done through ‘the string of pearls strategy’ against India. Therefore, Chinese maritime aggression is a rather major cause of concern.

Question is what can be done to tackle China? One way to tackle China would be to full equip ports and islands in a way to make them strategic outposts which would help monitor the naval activities combining it with an integrated surveillance network which would give all the countries tactical leverage in the various regional seas. Viet Nam’s Cam Ranh Bay is on of most equipped ports of all time and it is geostrategically the closest to the South China Sea and has always been the hub of refuelling, repairing vessels and aircraft carriers. The Cam Ranh Bay is also a vital port in the sea lines of communication and is critical in the maritime passageways and so, it can be used to monitor the Chinese moments. If the U.S. gets the Cam Ranh Bay, then it can upgrade and modernise the Cam Ranh Bay making it the starting point of the maritime chain hub to tackle China.

India’s Andaman and Nicobar Islands can be the centre point of this maritime chain hub to tackle China. In 2019, India set up an Indian Naval Air Station-INS Kohassa and has been developing the island to its full strength. Also, Japan has also been actively participating as Japan’s NEC Corporation has been installing an undersea cable from Chennai to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Therefore, some believe that as the Indian Navy is developing these islands, it becomes a vital strategic outpost for India to monitor rival naval activities and has invested to develop an integrated surveillance network and so, the Andaman and Nicobar can be the centre point of connect, monitoring and surveillance for Cam Ranh Bay and Djibouti.

Djibouti is a third and last point of the maritime chain hub to tackle China. China has a support base in Djibouti which is also a military base operated by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy(PLAN) and is strategically placed by the Bab-el Mandeb Strait and the Chinese base is located by the Chinese-operated Port of Doraleh to the west part of the Djibouti city. The interesting part is that the south part of the Djibouti city are the military bases which are Camp Lemonnier run by the United States Navy, Base Aerienne run by the French Air Force and the Japan Self-Defence Force Base Djibouti and all these three countries bases can be the third and most crucial point of the maritime chain hub to tackle China.

Thereby, in order to tackle the Chinese aggressiveness in all parts of the regional seas, foreign countries would have to go beyond the normal and they must work in unison to tackle the Chinese aggressiveness. Also, China seems to be determined to become a superpower and the future of the global order lies in who controls the world water ways and so, China is watching and expanding in the regional seas. It would be rather sensible for all the other countries like the U.S, France, Japan, India and Viet Nam to cooperate and coordinate and try to develop and work towards this concept of a strategic Maritime chain hub to tackle China and this could also be discussed as part of the Quad meetings and also invite more countries to join in.

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Southeast Asia

Democracy Dies in Lobbying and Bribery

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Many studies have confirmed that one of the reasons why democracy has not taken root so well in many countries, including Indonesia, is because people do not fully understand their role well. Democracy as a rule oriented to the majority of people. Often we find apathy from the public even about what is associated with them. That is, the democratic process is failing.

It must be stressed at this time that failure was discovered by the Indonesian people in their active involvement in the legislative process. More importantly, Indonesia has hundreds to millions of problems that demand the attention of lawmakers. Communities must be able to diplomate and have wisdom in ensuring that their problems are taken seriously and appropriately by the government (executive and legislative). Setting the policy agenda, from its formulation to its endorsement, gained a lot of politicization, lobbying, and even “cat trade”.

This is because the recognition of any issues in the policy agenda is carried out competitively by various competing interests involved (ranging from personal, party, and others). When a problem is received on the policy agenda, it is as if giving hope that the problem gets attention. However, due to the lack of public understanding of its role in democracy, various political pathologies have emerged that have a direct impact on “killing democracy”. Starting from political money, bribery, collusion, nepotism, overlapping policies, silencing people’s participation, and so forth.

As with the above problems, it is clear that the public must be aware of their role and have the ability to lobby so that various social problems that occur get the attention of legislators and other government officials. The writer, as President of the House of Fighters for Enforcement of Political Solutions, considers that lobbying and bribery are between thin lines and have been clearly drawn in the Constitution 1945. government actions so as not to deviate from TUPOKSI and his oath.

As in every country in the world, lobbying and bribery are realities that must be taken into account in Indonesia. Lobbying as a concept has been known for years, making restless minds not only politicians, but also economists, lawyers, industry captains, and others. But the difference in the fine line between lobbies and bribes is still unclear to the public and difficult for intellectuals to guess.

Condemning the difficulty in understanding the difference between the two items above, Giovannoni in his article titled “Lobby vs. Bribery” suggests that the difference between the two is where influence is being sought. In the sense, “lobbying as an activity to find a lease with the aim of making regulations while bribery is an activity to find a lease aimed at legalizing the rules”. An entity can choose and even often persuade bureaucrats to “bend the rules” or in the alternative lobby of the government to “change the rules”. In between, they concluded that there was always an evolution from bribery to lobbying when countries transited from backward countries to developed countries.

Transparency International defines lobbying activities as “any activity undertaken to influence government or agency policies and decisions that support specific objectives”. For writers, lobbying is an activity of communicating directly or asking others to communicate with government officials or staff, both in the legislative and executive branches for the purpose of influencing legislative or administrative actions. Political bribery occurs when political office holders and decision makers abuse their position by manipulating policies, rules and institutions to maintain their strength, status and wealth at the expense of society.

So far, the author has observed that lobbying and bribery are the means by which people influence politicians, elected officials, legislators and employees of government agencies to get what one person or group wants. To quote Onuoha’s statement that bribery was designed to encourage victims to act dishonestly. Here there must be givers and recipients. The giver must specifically state what he wants from the recipient, so that the recipient gets a gift, then we call it a bribe.

However, citizens will always try to influence, persuade and persuade their governments in one way or another. We have seen that aside from voting during elections, lobbying and bribery are the main ways of persuasion available. In this case, Harstad and Svensson argued that instead of obeying regulations, companies could bribe officials to bend the rules and be exempted from the regulations, or the company could collectively lobby the government to change according to their interests. Democratic governments like ours can only succeed if their citizens actively participate in national government.

In this case, the constitution 1945 of the Unitary Republic of Indonesia (constitution 1945) mandates that the highest sovereignty rests with the people. That is, positive and active contributions from the people must be raised massively and systematically for the sake of progress, independence and prosperity can be realized. From now on, ahead of the simultaneous local elections in 2020, the public must vote in the general election appropriately in order to avoid the failure of democracy which causes the election of the wrong person to become a public official. After the election, the community also has a duty to assist and escort executive and legislative members to carry out various programs in the realization of the objectives of the State (mutual cooperation).

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Southeast Asia

The Ways People Have Fund with Oligarchic Democracy in Indonesia

Ronny P. Sasmita

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Democracy is the lunch of Indonesia’s politicians. The law (rule of law) is the dessert. At night, they turn political parties and the topic of representation into dinner menu. And the pleasantries of people’s sovereignty are snacks when watching television ahead of the sleepiness greet. Is it wrong? Of course not. Democracy is an instrument. Democracy is a tool for politicians to show their teeth and put forward their interests, both short and long term. And from a theological point of view, democracy is a tool to deny God. In democracy, God is not sovereign. As long as the people cannot punish, as long as legal institutions can be avoided, the law of God is not an urgent need, it is rarely taken into consideration.

Democracy is a matter of the people that is packaged as attractive as possible in the mouth of the political elite. Democracy is a matter of the people who are lured by sovereignty. And between the people and the elite were in fact blocked by a very thick glass wall, not even penetrated by bullets. The people can watch, but instead of touching, the sound is not even heard because it is blocked by thick soundproof glass.

For many people, democracy is a fairy tale. Democracy is sleep gratitude that can hopefully reduce the amount of monthly expenditure. Democracy is a worthless gift, but it is quite entertaining. People will get vacation at the election and be entertained during the campaign. Not bad for busting and tired anyway. Sometimes it is not uncommon, a state of democracy, many people can get free clothes, free food, and envelopes containing a sheet of money.

So, democracy is only entertainment for the people. Small talk of people’s sovereignty is morning coffee, along with boasting “from the people, by the people, and for the people” as its sanck. Is it wrong? Clearly far from wrong. People only follow the beat. That is the reality of Indonesia. The people are only followers. Don’t blame the people if the elections become expensive. The more politician spread money, the more requests that come. People only play with the existing natural law. Fortune comes not to be denied, right.

Even though there is no guarantee that they will be voted and approved because only God knows what in  the hearts of the people, but the elite never give up. The elite do not intend to deterred. On behalf of simultaneous local elections, of legislative elections, of presidential elections, lobbies are suddenly parameterised by numbers of money. Seats are counted and converted into certain numbers, then prices are born.

For the people, they only dance to the rhythm of the music being played. People danced when “dangdut” music was sung (dangdut is one of popular music in Indonesia), dance when the classical strains are played. In fact, they are ready to contort like a Middle Eastern religious dance when the music is ruling in “casidah.” (Arabic Indonesia Music). The Indonesian people are about how elite is. It has been the socio-historical pattern in this country. More damaged the elite, more damaged the lives of the people. More damaged the morale of the elite, the people increasingly enjoy the melt. But the bet is a nation state. The bet is the future of the younger generation who are increasingly holding on. Are the elites thinking of it? Let time answer.

Today, democracy is no longer about freedom, but should be about liberating the freedom. The people have been colonized by their elites. The system has been damaged by elite negotiations. Governance is the fruit of unhealthy games. The numbers are no longer pure, can be generated at will. Politics run based on market tastes. Therefore, scientific surveys are the best-selling statistical industry. Democracy is about market tastes, not about the morality of people’s interests. Market tastes are very important because the majority preference is king. And then democracy leaves only endless absurdity.

Therefore, if they still want to carry out democracy and at the same time bring the substance, the people must be freed from the fishy influence of the elites. The people must be kept away from cheap political manipulations, freed from the cheaper political branding based on post truth approach. The people must be able to distinguish between facts and fairy tales. If not, democracy is just a soap opera scenario. Representative institutions must represent, not pout. Representative institutions must be enlarged and made effective. Parties must improve and “know themselves”. One of crucial role of the party is to connect the tongue of the voters to the state. More damaged party, people aspirations can no longer match the original, but manipulated.

Party dominance must be balanced with strict regulations. The party is not a seller of popular votes, but defenders and connectors. From the party, then entered into a representative institution, and become policies. From the party, the ideology of nationalism is spread to the voters. From the party, the understanding of the sense of nation state is cultivated in the memory of voters. And from the party, the spirit of unity and tolerance is channeled into the voters’ thoughts. And many other tasks. Such are the roles of the party.

Do the people care? For the people, the party is not important. Therefore, it is the party who must realize himself that democracy is very dependent on the party. More damaged the party, more damaged the democracy. The more transactional the party is, the more transactional its democracy is. It’s that simple. If the party does not understand the ethical justification, logical justification, and moral justification for its existence, then Indonesia’s democracy is headed for destruction. Politicians must recognize the signs of the destruction of democracy. People’s distrust of the party, the parliament, and the government are  sign that must be addressed immediately. Politicians must be able to prove that democracy is worth defending.

If not, democracy will only be a place to flicker on one side and a place for short-term negotiations on the other side. Democracy will become a forum for identity politics and a den of high class corruption. Therefore, if it is not politicians who spread democratic awareness, then who will? If politicians actually misuse democracy, then our democracy wil be finished. Because of what? Because in their hands the decision is taken. If leaders and politicians turn their faces away from the authenticity of democracy, the people’s hopes are finished. So do not ask the people to hope, to pray, to have a positive view of the current system, if from leaders and politicians even if that hope actually does not exist, only promises and false images, then the people are not ethical to be asked to hope. It’s as simple as that.

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