Abstract: In the narratives of international relations, the term ‘great game’ has been used to describe those events that have drawn the great powers into the conflict. In the 21st century, the region which is the confluence of the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean is considered to be the arena of another ‘Great Game’ involving the US, China, EU, Russia, India, Japan, and Australia (Jaishankar, 2020, p. 182). Some call it a (Barauh, 2020). This region is increasingly been referred as Indo- Pacific region. In this essay, we shall understand the significance of the Indo – Pacific region from the perspective of India. Who would be a better person than the external affairs minister to explain India’s stance? We shall analytically discuss the insights and understanding of Subramanian Jaishankar from his newly released book ‘The India Way.’
The term ‘Indo-Pacific’ was first introduced by Dr. Gurpreet S. Khurana, Director of the National Maritime Foundation(Kuo, 2018). Even though such nomenclature leads people to think that India has a special role to play, it is rather a general mix of the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean. An interesting fact is known that during Obama’s office, the US decided to go with the name Indo- Asia- Pacific region encouraging India to be the ‘net security provider'(Ibid). However, Trump has made it short – calling it ‘Indo-Pacific’. The growing aggressive behavior of China in economic terms and physically in the South China Sea, and its string of pearls strategy engulfing the Indian Ocean region and extending its economic sea lanes till Northern Africa has become a cause of concern for the major powers. This makes the Indo- Pacific region a strategic hot spot of geopolitics.
China is India’s competitive neighbor with unresolved border issues. Accordingly, for India, securing its backyard – the Indian Ocean becomes a priority. However, India cannot challenge China’s rise and show the world that it belongs to the camp which will be hinged on containing China’s rise. Its huge titled balance of payments towards China shows strong economic dependence. It has to carefully manage the changing power dynamics and establish itself as one of the regional power in the upcoming multipolar world. Accordingly, India did not publicly declare Indo – Pacific to be the region of its strategic interest until 2018. It was in the Shangri La dialogue that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has defined Indo- Pacific expanding the strategic interests from Western Africa to the shores of America(PMO, 2018).
The importance of the Indo –Pacific region is reiterated by India’s external affairs minister in his book ‘The India Way.’ He asserted that it is not just India, but all the great powers are shifting their focus on to this region to counter the emerging hegemon. In the following section, we shall analytically understand his stand on this new great game using structural realist constructs.
Importance of the region and the reason for calling it a contemporary new great game(Jaishankar, 2020, p. 162)
- For India, it is a logical step to move beyond Act-East policy.
- For Japan, movement into the Indian Ocean would be a long term strategy.
- For the US, it is a necessary region to uphold its global dominance.
- For Russia, it is a new emphasis on the Far East.
- For China, it is a necessity to emerge as the regional hegemon
- For Europe, it is the return to the region from which it withdrew.
These assertions are easily understood from the Hegemonic Power Transition theory (Kugler & Organski, 1989). According to this theory, the international structure is considered hierarchical. When the nation-states reach their maturity of productivity, other great powers will soon catch up to the status of the dominant power. In such a scenario, the friction arises between the dominant and the challenger. Here, the dominant power would be the US and the great powers would be China, EU, Russia, and also India. The great power which has reached the position to challenge the dominant power is China. Japan’s long term strategy, and the US necessity, and the EU’s return to the region shows its limited options. They have to concentrate on the balancing strategies in the Indo- Pacific region. Such balancing needs a strong anchor in the region making India be the only option. When it comes to Russia, its focus would be on securing its SLOCs (Sea lanes of Communication) from the Red Sea to the Indian Ocean region, and a free movement From Vladivostok to the South China Sea. However, Russia and India would not be strongly associated here because of the former’s strategic ties with China.
This region has not only come up in the foreign policy discourses with the growth of dominant players in Asia. Its importance has historical, cultural, and economic importance attached to it. India’s cultural influence can be traced to the extensive reach of Buddhism, temple architecture of South East Asia, and also migrations. Even during the colonial times, the trade between Europe and South East Asia was carried out in the confluence region of the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean. Owing to the domination of the US and the fall of the UK, India’s role in this region both politically and economically dwindled. With China rising its stakes in the region, it has become inevitable for India to re-draft its balancing strategies and enhances its capabilities. With these challenging dynamics of the power relations between the great powers and the emerging multi-polarity, Jaishankar asserts that the Indian foreign policy strategy should adopt the real politic nature of Lord Krishna(Jaishankar, 2020, p. 49).
Jaishankar’s New Neo-realist stance on Indo- Pacific
Being a vivid structural-realist, he asserts that the Indo-Pacific policy should focus on strengthening India’s power as a regional dominant player. In achieving the same, it has to strengthen its centrality on the Indian Ocean by expanding the nation’s influence into the extended neighborhood. SAGAR (Security and Growth for All in the Region) is one such promising initiative that advances cooperative development without pushing the Indian Ocean Littoral states to the fear of India becoming the regional hegemon. BIMSTEC, IORA, IONS are some of the other initiatives highlighted and asserted that they have to be a dynamic and collaborative approach to strengthen the security apparatus.
Bringing the perspective of Organski’s power transition theory, today’s Indo-pacific region’s importance should be attributed to the rise of China which is a great power, and its challenge to the Dominant power, the US. The other great power(perhaps middle powers in the present geopolitical context) in the region will be India, Japan, and Australia. China’s rise as a dominant maritime power in the region is not a sudden and standalone change. The retrenchment of the US from this region is also opined to be the cause(Jaishankar, 2020, p. 184) for the change in power dynamics. Even though his explanations fall in line with the Organski’s propositions, Jaishankar’s strategies are more inclined towards defensive realism. His four-point framework for India to develop its Indo-Pacific strategy blow explain the Waltz’s balancing strategies in the uncertain Indo- Pacific region.
- Safeguard islands and littoral and make India’s capabilities available for others
- Deepening economic and security cooperation with maritime neighbors
- Collective action and cooperation to advance peace and security
- Integrated and Co-operative future for the region enhancing sustainable development
Concentric Circles Approach
Another approach provided is that – the strategy shall be developed in terms of concentric circles. First involves the core, the strengthening of India’s capabilities, and influence in its neighborhood. The second circle includes the ties with island states like Sri Lanka, Mauritius, Maldives, and Seychelles. Third, is the revival of the Indian Ocean as a community. The outermost circle is the periphery extending to the Pacific Ocean.
This conception appears to overcome both Makinder’s Heartland and Spyman’s Rimland theory. Heart land theory emphasizes on the Eurasian region to be the harbinger of the global control. Rimland theory states the same with an emphasis on the littoral region of Asian continent. Jaishankar’s concentric circles neither emphasizes only on the mainland or the Indian Ocean littoral which is the Rimland. The Oceanic region is considered to be the centrality.
Stretching the Neorealist perspective:
The Indian Ocean is not just a facilitator between the East and the West, it has got historical-cultural linkages across the Indo-pacific littoral states. India’s advantage in the region is its shared cultural history with its neighbors and East Asia. India’s Project Mausam is one such example where it promotes historical and archaeological research Soft power can be used to expand the cooperative development. Sectors such as technology sharing, tourism, education prove to be more practical for regional development.
While considering the African region, the total value of the Western Indian Ocean amounts to US$ $333.8 billion(wwf, 2017). India’s western coastline connects the oil reserves of the world and the untapped African natural wealth. There are a huge human capital and economic investments in the development projects apart from what the ocean itself provides. For the starters, India could use the established regional forums such as IORA and IONS where there are African member states.
Recognizing multi-polarity as the future, Jaishankar’s advocacy of having India’s strategic thought learning and making from its rich history is interesting and necessary. China is an immediate threat to both India and Japan. In such a situation, Jaishankar’s emphasis on the importance of a strategic alliance with Japan to uphold the strategic advantage in the Indo-Pacific region is welcomed. It is also opined that the contemporary region of the great game would culminate in having a multilateral setting with regional powers including the US at the high table. Notably, India’s strategic expansion of its naval interests also started with recent buzz around the Quad (Informal strategic forum between India, US, Japan, and Australia) also appears to have a strong push from Jaishankar.
However, his emphasis on the cooperation and multilateral setting have their difficulties. The difficulty is caused by the colonial rule which fragmented social harmony. It dissected the regions into small political units providing them a changed identity(Jaishankar, 2020, p. 192). This makes the restructuring of the Indian Ocean community a difficult task. With the growing skepticism towards China and the growing prowess of QUAD, India should assert its centrality by extending its developmental help towards its Indian Ocean littorals. The strength lies in making the Indian Ocean the transit hub for the Indo-Pacific region (Jaishankar, 2020, p. 188). Thus, strengthening the UNCLOS and advocating freedom of navigation on international waters should be the fundamental anchor point.
The book ‘The India way’ will give a clear perspective on the way the NDA II government approaches its foreign policy. It adopts a neo-realist policy with a flavor of cultural diplomacy. His approaches may be compared to Organski and Waltz as in the other chapters, he encourages the importance of nationalism and historical influence. The power substantiated by the public support and historical justification is opined to carry many responsibilities and pave the path towards the nation’s transition into the great power within the multipolar system.
Barauh, M. D., 2020. India in the Indo-Pacific: New Delhi’s Theater of Opportunity. [Online].
Jaishankar, S., 2020. The India Way. New Delhi: Harper Collins.
Kugler, J. & Organski, A. F., 1989. The Power Transition: A Retrospective and Prospective Evaluation. In: Handbook of war studies. s.l.:Routledge, pp. 171-194.
Kuo, A. M., 2018. The Origin of ‘Indo-Pacific’ as Geopolitical Construct. [Online]
Available at: https://thediplomat.com/2018/01/the-origin-of-indo-pacific-as-geopolitical-construct/
PMO, 2018. PM Modi’s Keynote Speech at Shangri La Dialogue in Singapore | PMO. [Online]
Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SRndujMJ99M
wwf, 2017. Western Indian Ocean valued at US$333.8 billion but at a crossroads. [Online]
Available at: https://wwf.panda.org/wwf_news/?290410%252FWestern-Indian-Ocean-valued-at-US3338-billion-but-at-a-crossroads#:~:text=Antananarivo%2C%20Madagascar%20%2D%20A%20groundbreaking%20new,absence%20of%20stronger%20conservation%20actions.
A Hindu lord whose contribution to the Hindu philosophy can be understood from the texts of Mahabharatam.
As Sri Lanka struggles with Chinese debt-trap, Maldives moves closer to the Quad
The Indian Ocean’s geopolitical currents have witnessed drastic transformation this year, particularly in the past three months, with India shedding the exclusive right of its sphere of influence over the Indian Ocean, by allowing the United States in its own backyard. Washington and New Delhi seems to have entered into what few analysts call a ‘soft alliance’.
Sri Lanka and Maldives are strategically located in the northern section of the Indian Ocean, and have long been historically, culturally, and geopolitically under India’s sphere of influence. But, things are beginning to change as Chinese debt-trap looms over these islands.
The Quad grouping, consisting of India, Japan, the United States and Australia, has demonstrated its collective military might in the maritime sphere of India with the recently concluded annual Malabar naval exercise. It also led to the emergence of new dynamics of cooperation in previously reticent areas, built upon confidence in each other’s abilities and consciousness of where it stands in the newly unravelling geopolitical equation.
India’s new strategic comfort with bringing in partners from the Quad partners lying external to the Indian Ocean Region, namely the US and Japan into its long-held exclusive sphere of influence signals a tilt in strategic imperatives for New Delhi in favour of the US that too in an evolving cold war-like situation involving Washington and Beijing with different set of countries rallying behind each side.
India has recently welcomed the US-Maldives Defense Cooperation Agreement signed in September, this year. The following month saw US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s visit to Male where he announced Washington’s intent to open an embassy soon.
Less than three months after the defence pact with Washington, Male signed a new agreement with Tokyo this month, for availing a Japanese grant of $7.6 million to strengthen the archipelago’s Coast Guard capacities, in a second major pact with a Quad member.
New Delhi’s newfound willingness to work with external actors in the Indian Ocean is a sign of strategic comfort stemming out from realist foreign policy considerations to expand its circle of friends and coalition partners in its own backyard against a common and more powerful adversary, Beijing, with which it also have decades-long tensions in the Himalayan frontiers.
Even though both these two countries succumbed to disproportionately superior Chinese economic might since the past one decade, it seems Maldives has somehow managed to come out of its dangerous level of dependency on China since Ibrahim Mohammed Solih of the Maldivian Democratic Party assumed presidency of the island nation two years back in November 2018.
The Sri Lankan economy went into a tailspin since the civil war ended in 2009. The country’s exchequer was badly in need of financial support to sustain itself. It was also the time when Beijing just began to project its military and economic power in its neighbourhood and beyond as the flamboyant 2008 Beijing Olympics concluded.
The island of Sri Lanka soon acquired new geoeconomic significance when President Xi Jinping launched the most ambitious infrastructure project of this century in 2013, the Belt and Road Infrastructure, connecting three continents with the Indian Ocean as its epicenter of vitality.
With BRI, a tangled web of debt-trap rapidly began to loom over Sri Lanka as Beijing pumped-in investments into the war-battered island with malicious intentions.
The story of handover of Hambantota port, strategically located in the southern tip of Sri Lankan coast, to China for a 99-year lease in 2017, and the Colombo Port City project being built with Chinese assistance are just examples of how economic leverage gained geopolitically advantageous positions for Beijing overlooking the Indian Ocean. These assets are going to play a significant role in the connectivity of BRI’s ‘Maritime Silk Road’ aspect.
Chinese-led projects are built and managed by Chinese workers themselves as they do in any other part of the world, naturally bringing presence of Chinese personnel to the areas where it operates.
The BRI, however, enhances Sri Lanka’s significance in what theorists call the String of Pearls, wherein Beijing attempts to encircle India by a series of ports and maritime installations under its control in the Indian Ocean such as the overseas military base in Djibouti, Gwadar in Pakistan, and the ports in Bay of Bengal under Chinese influence hosted by either Bangladesh or Myanmar. Chinese submarine presence is also a new reality, particularly in areas surrounding the Malacca Straits.
All these factors naturally brought New Delhi closer to Washington to formulate a ‘collective strategy’ against the expansionist tendencies manifested by Chinese behaviour. At the same time, India has been taking proactive steps in its individual capacity to boost ties with other island and littoral states in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), like Mauritius and Seychelles where India’s listening posts to monitor sea-lanes also operate.
The Indian Navy has always been the first responder to any HADR (Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief) situations in the IOR which earned significant soft power and respect for India in the countries of the region. This vision has been immortalized in India’s maritime doctrine for regional cooperation in the Indian Ocean, SAGAR (Security and Growth for all in the Region), that was unveiled in 2015.
With the entry of the US, which already has its presence in the British Indian Ocean Territory of Diego Garcia lying mid-way of the ocean, that too with India’s approval, and France in Reunion in the western Indian Ocean, the geostrategic picture of IOR is beginning to change.
Maldives stands as a good example of how to overcome Chinese dominating agenda by boosting cooperation among democracies. But, the Abdullah Yameen-era nightmare of Chinese debt burden is still far from over. In fact, Sri Lanka too is well aware of the Chinese trap from which it yearns to decouple itself. But, Colombo is left with limited options or alternatives to do so.
The renewed Indo-US strategic cooperation, if not translated into offering a viable solution to the debt-trap conundrum, Sri Lanka might irreversibly evolve into another extension of Beijing’s legs in the Indian Ocean threatening the sovereignty of democracies in the region.
Recent steps in the strategic realm are welcome, but the Indo-Pacific democracies, particularly India and the US, should cooperate with these two key island states more in the economic realm as well, if possible near to the extent of Beijing as a collective move.
The Dysfunctional Pakistan’s Legislature
The legislature of Pakistan has several problems and because of this very reason governments are unable to make any landmark laws for the state that can prove to be effective in resulting some socio-political or economic changes in the society. The noncooperation among the parties in the house is the major problem that leads no healthy debate. People have never seen the political parties having a healthy debate among the political parties on some key matters that need to address. Political parties prefer crosstalk on each other that mostly ends up on the dismal of legislature. Mostly in the house the opposition and the party in power never each on consensus on anything that shows their no seriousness towards the legislation.
In my opinion the opposition of Pakistan perceives its role to be negative always. The opposition perceives as their duty to walk out from the house, make fun of their fellow colleagues, bringing our historical facts to propagate negativity about the agenda. This attitude results in no fruitful law-making.
The scenario of national assembly of Pakistan is that if the ruling party does not has two-third majority in the house they will be paralyzed as the opposition has imagines role of not supporting the government to pass laws and bills that can benefit their reputation among the public. In this game of interest the parties forget the importance of legislation and national interest rather they are more focused on protecting their own interests and interests of their political parties.
The tussle between the government and the opposition is endless that is negatively impacting the legislative system of Pakistan.
Another factor that weakens the legislative process of Pakistan is the issues within the upper house. This plays a vital role in enacting the laws without senate’s cooperation legislation cannot improve and strength.
The sustained bitterness and confrontation with the government and opposition leads to no progress in the making of legislation and strengthening the rule of law. For example the PTI coalition passed the bills and introduced 8 ordinances in its first year of government.
The ten bills passed by national assembly faced a new challenge which was the Senate of Pakistan where PTI also does not hold the majority. Ten out of 4 bills sailed through Senate whereas 3 remained pending in Senate. Only 7 bills turned into acts in the first year of PTI government.
The lack of coordination and seriousness in the parliament is affecting the progress of Pakistan. Without rules and making of new legislation how can the country progress? In a democratic system the rule of law is one of the pillars for true democratic practices but unfortunately in Pakistan we only see leg-pulling and blame game between the institutions. The lack of political consensus among the parties is another problem. On the other hand the formation of Standing Committees of national assembly is important for the functioning of the system. According to the Rules of Procedure of national assembly the members of Standing Committees has to be elected within 30 days after the elections of the leader of house but according to the data of PILDAT previous assembly managed to form these in 3 months instead of 30 days. This indicated lack of seriousness of the members.
The current government has only got the executive authority and not the legislative competence that makes them dysfunctional as they are dependent on the opposition and then Senate for passing of the legislation and making it a law.
Another factor that weakens the legislative system of Pakistan is the overactive judiciary and the intervention of the military in law making. Through this intervention the legacy of the military rule is still being kept alive. Most of the time the Supreme Court and the judiciary intervene in the legislation to serve their interest and weaken their opponents sitting in the government. The overactive judiciary encroaches the governance agenda, legislative advice etc. the legislative procedure in Pakistan is still developing its institutional identity.
The duty of the legislature is to respond to its public needs and also exercise oversight of the executive, but there is not engagement in the civil society and no research is being conducted on the public policy for better and effective policy making.
In the end it can be concluded that the system is also faulty but the attitude of the parliamentarians is more disappointing and discouraging. The whole system is unsuitable for a less educated population of Pakistan as most of the parliamentarians are unaware of policy-making and its importance for the state. The process is also complex and complicated as it has to go through several steps for making a bill a law.
Through this process, law-making on controversial issues is nearly impossible because in Pakistan people protect their interest instead of their state. Even if the government is serious for law-making the judiciary, military and bureaucracy will not allow the government to do its job. This is high time to adopt a new system in this country and draw lines for every institutions particularly judiciary that is the most rigid institutions and creates hurdles for every government by interrupting them.
Reinforcing the Role of the International Community in Resolving the Rohingya Crisis
Bangladesh is hosting more than 1.1 million Rohingya refugees since August 2017. The United Nations defined Myanmar’s August 2017 atrocities to the Rohingyas as “Textbook case of ethnic cleansing”. On July 02, 2018, during his visit to Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, António Guterres, the UN Secretary-General noted that “I have no doubt that the Rohingya people have always been one of, if not the, most discriminated people in the world, without any recognition of the most basic rights starting by the recognition of the right of citizenship by their own country – Myanmar”. Thus, the severity of the Rohingya crisis is well-recognized by the international community. This article focuses on the necessity of the international community’s role in facilitating a safe and sustainable Rohingya crisis solution.
The ironic story is that though it is already three years passed, no concrete action is manifested to facilitate the Rohingya refugee repatriation. In the United Nations Security Council, Russia and China applied veto power in the case of Rohingya refugee resolution, which made strong impediments to the repatriation process. Russia and China did this calculating their narrowly defined interest rather than humanity which is in fact, ironic for the world. Thus, the United Nations could not play a crucial role in facilitating the Rohingya refugee repatriation.
Bangladesh is one of the densely populated countries in the world. Though Bangladesh is a rising economic power, feeding more than 170 million people is not an easy task. Also, more than 1.1 million Rohingya refugees have added extra socio-economic pressures in the country. For Bangladesh’s continued growth, prosperity, and stability, there is no alternative to repatriate the Rohingya refugees in Myanmar as early as possible. Since Myanmar committed ethnic cleansing to the Rohingyas, and the country is not interested in taking back the Rohingyas, only the international community including the United Nations, the European Union, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) can pressurize Myanmar to ensure a safe and sustainable repatriation.
Bangladesh strongly believes that the international community can play an essential role in resolving the Rohingya refugee crisis permanently. For instance, at the 72nd United Nations General Assembly, Sheikh Hasina, the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, offered five points proposal including the full implementation of recommendations of the Kofi Annan Commission, and the establishment of civilian monitored safe zone in the Rakhine State to the international community to resolve the issue. Similarly, at the 74th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, Sheikh Hasina offered a four points-proposal to resolve the Rohingya crisis highlighting the role of the international community. Sheikh Hasina emphasized that the international community must ensure that the root causes of the Rohingya problem area addressed and the violation of human rights and other atrocity crimes committed against the Rohingyas are accounted for.
The good news is that the on November 19, 2020, the United Nations has adopted a resolution on “The Situation of Human Rights of the Rohingya Muslims and other minorities in Myanmar” while Bangladesh seeks a peaceful solution to the Rohingya crisis. The Resolution called for taking concrete actions by Myanmar to address the root causes of the Rohingya crisis, i.e. granting them citizenship, ensuring the safe and sustainable return of the Rohingyas to their homes by creating a conducive environment. Bangladesh Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Rabab Fatima notes that “As a country that hosts over 1.1 million forcibly displaced Rohingyas, Bangladesh continues to seek a peaceful solution to this crisis, which lies in their safe and dignified return to Myanmar”.
Notably, Germany on behalf of the European Union and Saudi Arabia on behalf of the OIC co-tabled the Resolution which was sponsored by the 104 member states including the USA, Canada, and Australia. It is also a positive development that a total of 132 countries voted in favour of the Resolution while nine countries voted against and 31 countries abstained. It demonstrates that most of the countries in the world want a permanent, sustainable and peaceful solution to the Rohingya crisis. It also signifies that these countries care for the humanity while the nine countries who voted against the Resolution only care for their narrowly defined interest. The future generations will undoubtedly read and know the actions of those nine countries who do not care for humanity. Those nine countries need to know that despite several domestic challenges, Sheikh Hasina has shown kindness, humanitarian gesture and thus protected and sheltered those Rohingyas from killing by the Myanmar armies.
Notably, Bangladesh is one of the top ten countries in the world in terms of hosting refugees. This will remain as a humanitarian example in the world. One also needs to keep in mind that the socio-economic realities of Turkey (who is the top in hosting refugees), and Bangladesh is not the same. While the GDP (per capita) of Turkey is US$ 9043, Bangladesh’s GDP (per capita) is US$ 1856, the population density of Turkey is 108 per square kilometres, and Bangladesh’s population density is 1116 per square kilometres. Thus, considering the contexts, and socio-economic realities of Bangladesh, the international community needs to reinforce the Rohingya refugee repatriation process. Most importantly, the international community needs to execute the adopted Resolution as early as possible for the sake of humanity, for the sake of a just cause. The future world will certainly note the noble actions taken by the international community for such a just, and reasonable cause.
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