Connect with us

Southeast Asia

Vietnam President Visit to US for UNGA Meeting

Avatar photo

Published

on

President Nguyen Xuan Phuc of Viet Nam addresses the general debate of the UN General Assembly’s 76th session. UN Photo/Cia Pak

Following his visit to Cuba, Vietnam president Nguyen Xuan Phuc visited New York to attend 76th meeting of the UN (United Nations) General Assembly and participated in the deliberations related to the important aspects of global order and international development. He also attended Joe Biden’s COVID-19 Summit.  Vietnam President in his address at the global COVID-19 summit at New York stated that Vietnam is equally concerned about ending the Corona virus pandemic and helping countries regain the pre-COVID levels of economic growth. While supporting President Joe Biden’s initiatives related to supporting the international community in terms of medicines, vaccines, and diagnostic equipment, he concurred that the well-being of the humanity and the people in various parts of the world is critical at this moment. He stated that with new variants of COVID-19 emerging every day it is pertinent to note that there is need for accelerated early detection techniques, trailing the contacts, and developing foolproof quarantine mechanisms. He added that in many of the developing countries there is need for better testing facilities, oxygenators, oxygen equipment, lifesaving kit such as ventilators and while at the same time undertaking vaccination on a war footing.

He articulated that there is need for effective global cooperation, promoting resilient health care systems, maintaining supply chains of medicines and medical equipment, particularly in the Global South. He appreciated the fact that global health security fund has been instituted which will help the underdeveloped and developing countries in procuring many of these critical equipment. He stated that there is a need for effective vaccinations and undertaking preventive measures to contain the pandemic. Only then, he opined, that there will be an economic recovery of many of the economies across the world. 

Expressing concerns regarding maintaining the vaccine supplies, he avowed that Vietnam would be keen in joining the global COVAX program and undertake its role in supporting developing countries. He valued the fact that many of the countries have come forward to donate vaccines to Vietnam now when the country is suffering from resurgence of COVID-19 virus and increasing deaths because of the newer variants of this virus. He indicated that there is need for vaccinating minimum two-third of the global population the forthcoming session of the United Nations General Assembly next year. Vietnam has also donated 500,000 U.S. dollars for the global COVAX program and assured that Vietnam will be contributing to this endeavor in future also. He alluded to the fact that the Vietnam has promoted the ASEAN Region Response Fund in 2020 and many of the ASEAN countries have used 20.5 million U.S. dollars from this fund. He exuded confidence that in this endeavor against the Corona virus the global community will come together to protect the larger humanity.

During his visit to the US. the Vietnamese president also met CEOs (Chief Executive Officer) of major companies such as US Quantum group and even oversaw an agreement between the company and the Vietnamese group comprising of Kinhbac City Development Holding Corp (KBC) and Saigon Telecom Technology Joint Stock company. The CEO (Chief Executive Officer) of the US’s Quantum group expressed that in Vietnam the company wouldbe willing to make an investment of $20 to $30 billion in future.  The major investment will be in the field of biotechnology research, vaccine production, health care and setting up a vaccine production center in Vietnam itself. 

During the visit of the Vietnamese president Vietnam and US have signed a memorandum of understanding between the agricultural departments of the two countries. During the meeting related to the signing of the MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) between the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural development of Vietnam and US Grains Council it was expressed that Vietnam can emerge as a potential destination for ethanol fuel and this MoU would help Vietnam in promoting use of technology and science to promote green, sustainable, and low emission agriculture. The US Green Council would also provide COVID-19 test kits and COVID-19 treatment drugs for Vietnamese livestock. 

During the visit to US, Vietnamese president also met Vietnamese diaspora in New York to connect and exchange their views. He appreciated the role that the Vietnamese community has played regarding raising the issue of export of vaccines to Vietnam and raised funds for Vietnam’s COVID-19 vaccine fund. President appreciated the role played by the Vietnamese overseas community and stated that they comprise the extended family of the Vietnamese nation. He stated that the younger Vietnamese will be contributing to the development of the homeland with their knowledge and enthusiasm.

In his statement which he delivered during the UN General Assembly’s 76 session he acknowledged that with the reelection of Antonio Guterres as the UN Secretary General the organization will achieve the objectives and the priorities in the future. He further added that for protecting citizens and to sustain economic growth as well as ensuring social security there is a need for global corporation and effective approach. He stated that nontraditional security challenges are a threat for the humankind and issues such as diseases and climate change can change the future. He expressed concern that the global governance system and inequalities among nations have exposed the shortcomings and challenges in front of the global community. He alluded to the fact that tensions between major powers, unstable international system, and wars had been a major concern in the recent past. Without alluding to China, he stated that the disregard for international law and the unilateral acts of aggression has jeopardized the exercise of maritime legal rights for many littoral nations.

He stated that there is a need for effective countermeasures to contain coronavirus pandemic and there is a need for reinforcing global support for COVAX facility. This is necessary for fair and equitable distribution of vaccines and medications to the global South. He further added that countries which have low vaccination rate should be focused and necessary structural support should be provided. He indicated that because of this pandemic there is need to adapt to this scourge and the time has come for digital transformation and promoting self-reliance among economies. 

He buttressed the fact that their need for pursuing green technologies, promoting sustainable development, and undertaking functional changes for promoting trade and investment. He mentioned that global supply change needs to be maintained and under the agenda of 2030 of the UN sustainable development goals provides the edifice for undertaking cooperative development, easing of the debt payments, and accelerating recovery after Corona. He was also apprehensive of the fact that the climate change might be instrumental in harsher weather conditions, pollution, and incremental rise of the sea level. He added that to meet the target cut in greenhouse gas emissions there is need for financial support, capacity building and technology transfer to the developing countries. 

He stated with conviction that global peace security and stability is a perquisite for fostering global economic recovery and facilitating humanitarian assistance. He reinforced Vietnam’s commitment to the UN Charter and respect for the international law. He retreated Vietnam solidarity with Cuba and asked the international community to end the unilateral embargoes against Cuba. He stated that the need for justice for women and children in Afghanistan and establishment of independent Palestinian state alongside the state of Israel is critical. 

He outlined Vietnam support to multilateralism and ask for more democratic an effective UN. He stated that in the 35 years of Vietnam’s economic reforms program (Doi Moi) there has been multiple changes in the country which helped the country toget integrated with the international community for its progress and equality. He added that Vietnam has been collaborating within ASEAN for peace and prosperity in Southeast Asia and the larger Asia Pacific. He acknowledged clearly that there is need for enforcing maritime security, freedom of navigation and over flight in South China Sea. While outlining the role that the Vietnam has placed as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council for the term 2020-2021, he stated that Vietnam upholds the principle of partnership for sustainable peace. He indicated to the fact that Vietnam has been undertaking UN peacekeeping missions in Central African Republic and in South Sudan, and Vietnam is aspiring for a seat in the UN Human Rights Council for the term 2023- 2025. 

During his stay at the New York, President Phuc met President of the World Bank David Malpass as well as leaders of many countries such as President of the Republic of Korea, Danish Prime Minister, and President of Slovenia.  Apart from high-level business leaders, he also met John Kerry who is the US Special Presidential envoy for climate. He expressed that there should be more focus on developing renewable energy, better management of transnational water resources, and undertaking effective measures for climate change mitigation. 

While the visit of Vietnamese president has been short but highly effective as it engaged a wide variety of leaders and business entrepreneurs. Vietnam president has been very courteous in engaging the high-ranking leaders of Costa Rica, Colombia, Uruguay, Thailand, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Latvia, Sweden, and many others. 

Pankaj Jha is faculty with Jindal School of International Affairs, O P Jindal Global University, Sonepat. He can be reached at pankajstrategic[at]gmail.com

Continue Reading
Comments

Southeast Asia

To engage or not engage. Hindus and Muslims suss each other out

Avatar photo

Published

on

Moderate Muslims and militant Hindu nationalists are strange bedfellows at the best of times, particularly when they come together to reshape Hindu-Muslim relations in troubled India.

Yet, that is what Indonesia’s Nahdlatul Ulama and India’s Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) seek to achieve.

Nahdlatul Ulama, arguably the world’s most moderate Muslim civil society group in the world’s largest Muslim-majority state and democracy, is everything the RSS, a notorious Hindu nationalist movement widely viewed as the catalyst of anti-Muslim violence and discrimination in India, is not.

What makes the endeavour even more remarkable is that the two groups have strikingly different visions of what Hindu-Muslim reconciliation should entail.

For Nahdlatul Ulama, engagement with the RSS is part of a bold and risky strategy to persuade faith groups, including Muslims, to confront their troubled, often violent, histories and problematic tenants of their religions that reject pluralism and advocate supremacy.

“Nahdlatul Ulama believes that the only way to overcome entrenched historical grievances and promote peaceful co-existence is to engage all parties and refuse to indulge in the sentiment of enmity and hatred based upon a claim of unique communal victimhood,” the group said in a statement in September explaining its engagement with RSS.

For the RSS, engagement is about redressing historical grievances dating to centuries of Muslim invasions and rule, defending Hindus against perceived contemporary Muslim threats, and ensuring that India is a Hindu rather than a non-discriminatory multi-religious state.

A 2019 amendment to India’s citizenship law suggested how the RSS defines a Hindu state. The amendment extends the right to apply for citizenship to members of religious minorities — Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis, and Christians but not Muslims — fleeing persecution in Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan.

Nevertheless, Khwaja Iftikhar Ahmed, an Indian Muslim author and intellectual who maintains close ties with the RSS, insisted in an interview with the author that RSS ideology views Indians, irrespective of their religion, culturally as Hindus.

“They say that Hindu doesn’t have a religious connotation, Hindu being all those people living in this part of the world, they are culturally…Hindus… The religion is Santana Dharma or Eternal Faith (the Hindu reference to Hinduism). Hindu is the cultural identity… That is the middle ground,” Mr. Iftikhar said.

In 2021, RSS leader Mohan Bhagwat launched a widely acclaimed book authored by Mr. Iftikhar that argued in favour of Hindu-Muslim togetherness and harmony.

Nahdlatul Ulama and the RSS’ different visions have consequences for strategy. Although the RSS’ Indonesian engagement is with a movement led by clerics, in India, it tends to interact with secular Muslims who have no authority to reform Islamic jurisprudence rather than religious scholars.

Even so, Mr. Iftikhar said numerous Indian Muslim religious leaders of all stripes were in touch with the RSS, although many of them did so privately.

These include leaders of Deobandism, a revivalist ultra-conservative Sunni Muslim movement, which counts some 20 per cent of the world’s 1.8 billion Muslims among its followers.

Deobandism emerged in the mid-19th century around Darul Uloom Madrassa, a religious seminary in Deoband in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, to preserve Islamic teachings under British colonial rule.

“The difficulty is that contrary to the RSS, Muslim authorities in India do not have a strategy. Theologically, they have not accepted India’s existence but, for political reasons, do not challenge it. It’s an attitude they have yet to abandon,” said an analyst of Indian Islam.

In a separate interview on an Indian Muslim television channel, Mr. Iftikhar argued that the Muslim community had failed to address its differences with the RSS.

“The community has avoided any discussion or debate on that. It has always taken refuge behind others, whereas the challenge was ours. The response should have been from us, and we should have tackled those issues. The issues are challenges that India as a country and we as Indians…as one single nation, are facing. It is not a Hindu challenge; it is not a Muslim challenge,” Mr. Iftikhar said.

In a chapter that he contributed to an edited volume on the politics of hate in South Asia, Indian Islam scholar A. Faizur Rehman seemed to spell out Mr. Iftikhar’s castigation of the Indian Muslim leadership and align himself with Nahdlatul Ulama’s call for reform of Islamic law.

Mr. Rehman took the Muslim community to task for not countering their own ultra-conservatives and militants on multiple issues, such as the defense of relations with non-Muslims, the rights of Muslim and non-Muslim minority communities in Muslim lands, and draconic blasphemy laws in countries like Pakistan.

“If the Muslim community fails to question and stop these fanatics, it would be unwittingly contributing to Islamophobia,” Mr. Rehman said.

Mr. Rehman argued that Muslims needed to clarify their beliefs by stating that India is not part of the Muslim notion of an abode of war and, like Nahdlatul Ulama, declare that the concept of the kafir or infidel does not apply to non-Muslims.

A gathering of 20,000 Nahdlatul Ulama clerics ruled in 2019 that the concept of the kafir was no longer legally valid.

Mr. Rehman contended that Muslims should discard the concept of dawah or proselytisation “as a tool of supremacism” and abolish apostasy and blasphemy as capital crimes under Islamic law.

“In short, what is needed…is a radical rethink of Muslim theology,” the scholar said.

Three years into the dialogue, the jury is still out on Nahdaltul Ulama’s interaction with RSS, which started as a cautious dialogue and has expanded into a degree of cooperation.

So far, the endeavour, embraced by moderate Indian Muslims and reformers, appears to have worked more in the RSS’ favour than that of Nahdlatul Ulama.

Nahdlatul Ulama’s credentials offer the RSS Muslim legitimisation.

The RSS has used the Muslim group’s push for reform of religious jurisprudence, the concept of a pluralistic Humanitarian Islam, and unequivocal endorsement of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to tell India’s 200 million Muslims, the world’s largest Muslim minority, what their faith should look like.

To be fair, there may be no Hindu-Muslim reconciliation without the RSS, a five million-member-strong movement whose disciples constitute the core of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and government. The RSS is the ideological cradle of Mr. Modi, who has been a member since childhood.

In a rare recent interview published in Hindi and English by two RSS sister publications, Mr. Bhagwat, the group’s leader, discussed the movement’s strategy and objectives that frame engagement with Nahdlatul Ulama although he did not refer to the Indonesian Muslims.

Mr. Bhagwat’s statements offer reasons for both optimism and pessimism.

From a tactical point of view, Nahdlatul Ulama is likely to have taken note of Mr. Bhagwat’s acknowledgement that the RSS can no longer refuse accountability for what its associates in office do.

“People forget that swayamsevaks (RSS associates) have reached certain political positions through a political party. Sangh (RSS) continues to organise society for organisation’s sake. However, whatever swayamsevaks do in politics, Sangh is held accountable for it,” Mr. Bhagwat said.

“Even if we are not implicated directly by others, there is certainly some accountability, as ultimately it is in the Sangh where swayamsevaks are trained. Therefore, we are forced to think – what should be our relationship, which things we should pursue with due diligence,” Mr. Bhagwat added.

To be sure, Mr. Bhagwat was talking about the RSS’s relationship with the BJP and its current accountability rather than the historical responsibilities of the group and Hindus at large. He stressed that the RSS was concerned about “national policies, national interest, and Hindu interest,” not electoral politics.

By drawing a line between the RSS and the BJP, accepting the principle of accountability, and framing the groups’ political involvement, Mr. Bhagwat appeared to hint at a potential divergence between the movement and the party.

“The RSS thinks about the endgame. Bhagwat thinks about the future. He is not elected and does not have to worry about re-election. The BJP does. That’s why the BJP is more prone to polarisation. The RSS does not need polarization for electoral purposes,” said an analyst who closely follows the RSS and BJP.

Even so, Mr. Bhagwat did not shy away from polarizing language when he asserted that Hindus were engaged in a “1,000-year war.” Moreover, Mr. Bhagwat magnified the notion of war by insisting on the RSS’ majoritarian vision of India, or Hindustan in his words. as a Hindu rather than a multi-cultural nation.

The RSS leader defined the war as a fight against “foreign aggressions, foreign influences and foreign conspiracies” that seek to force others “to accept their path as it’s the only true path. And if you refuse to do so, you will have to choose between our mercy and death.”

Mr. Bhagwat made clear that he was referring to Muslim rather than Christian proselytisers by insisting that “Muslims should give up the mindset of superiority…(and) ‘we can’t live with others.’”

Mr. Bhagwat asserted, “foreign invaders are no longer, but foreign influences and conspiracies have continued. So, there is a war to defend Hindu society, Hindu Dharma (cosmic law), and Hindu culture.”

Drawing a contrast with Hinduism, Mr. Bhagwat asked rhetorically: “What is the Hindu worldview? Does a Hindu ever say that everyone should endorse his faith? This is not how we think. We want to present an example for others to see. We want to have (a) dialogue with everyone. Those who wish to improve will follow our example. If they do not, we do not intend to harm them.”

Mr. Bhagwat’s polarizing rhetoric notwithstanding, Nahdlatul Ulama sees common ground in the RSS’ rejection of what the Indonesian group describes as “obsolete and problematic elements within Islamic orthodoxy that lend themselves to tyranny.”

Nahdlatul Ulama, a conservative, nationalist organisation in its own right, hopes that its willingness to confront head-on intolerant and supremacist tenants of Islamic law will convince the RSS to develop a Hindu equivalent of Humanitarian Islam and take a critical look at Hindu theology, history, and anti-Muslim attitudes.

In an article entitled “What the media has misunderstood about Mohan Bhagwat’s interview,” Ram Madhav, an RSS executive committee member and associate of Mr. Modi, sought to finetune Mr. Bhagwat’s reference to war.

“The UNESCO Constitution begins with the statement that ‘wars begin in the minds of men’. Bhagwat’s emphasis was actually on removing that mindset of war. It is a historical fact that India has been subjected to various political and religious aggressions over millennia. That history has left an imprint, leading to occasional aggressive outbursts in sections of the society. Bhagwat was categorical that such aggression was uncalled for,” Mr. Madhav said.

“If there is a Hindu who thinks like that, he should discard it. A communist should also shed it”, Mr. Madhav quoted the RSS leader as saying.

In his interview, Mr. Bhagwat downplayed aggression by RSS members. “Since there is a war, people are likely to get overzealous. Although this is undesirable, yet provocative statements will be uttered,” the RSS leader said.

The dialogue with Nahdlatul Ulama did not stop the Indian group from accusing in its March 2022 annual report “a particular community” of seeking to “enter the government machinery” to further its ”malicious” agenda” as part of “a deep conspiracy.”

The report repeated allegations of imaginary Muslim jihads, such as the alleged forced conversion of Hindus to Islam.

“This challenge has a long history, but, of late, different newer ways of converting new groups are being adopted,” the report said.

Mr. Rehman, the Islam scholar. discounts Hindu fears of a demographic threat to their majority status in India but acknowledges that deep-seated distrust dates to the 12th-century Muslim conquests.

“By the turn of the 20th century, a deep distrust developed between Muslims and Hindus. The Muslims came to be seen as outsiders who had come to conquer and convert the original inhabitants of the subcontinent to Islam, “Mr. Rehman said.

Noting that Hindu distrust is rooted in the insistence of Muslim conquerors that India was Islamic territory, Mr. Rehman conceded that Hindu fears are fueled by “clerics and televangelists in India (who) continue to display their supremacist arrogance.”

Mr. Rehman points to ultra-conservative and militant clerics who forbid Muslims to congratulate non-Muslims on their religious holidays and denounce the operation of non-Muslim houses of worship in Muslim lands.

Another Muslim reformer traces the roots of strained relations to Muslim invasions that started with the Umayyad conquest of Sindh in the 8th century.

“It all began with Muslims invading, slaughtering, enslaving Hindus, and burning their temples. Today, the demographic fear may be blown out of proportion. But how long would it take deer to overcome their fear of tigers if tigers became domesticated and tigers stopped killing deer? This is the way Hindus look at Muslims. The fear is still there that Muslims continue to believe that they should dominate and prey upon non-Muslims,” the reformer said.

For his part, Mr. Iftikhar, the Muslim intellectual, insisted in his interview with the author that Indian Muslims were as much victims of Muslim conquests as were Hindus.

“All the Muslims who ruled India in the last seven, eight centuries were either Arabs, Turks, Iranians, Uzbeks or Iraqis, not Indian Muslims… We have never ruled India… So why should I take it on myself when I was not part parcel of that history?… We belong to this land. We stayed here by choice. We are the citizens of this country. So why should we take the baggage of the foreign Muslim rulers?” Mr. Iftikhar asked.

The latent fear of Muslims, fuelled by perennial Indian-Pakistani tensions, enabled ideologues and politicians to weaponize demographic concerns in a population for which it is primarily a lingering prejudice rather than a living memory or a daily life challenge.

Moreover, the population figures speak for themselves. Muslims account for 200 million of India’s population of 1.4 billion. Demography, in the best of cases, is only a potential concern, if at all, if Indians look at South Asia as a whole. The subcontinent is home to three of the four largest Muslim populations that, alongside India, include Pakistan, with 231 million, and Bangladesh, with 169 million.

Even so, Mr. Bhagwat asserted in October that “population control and religion-based population balance is an important subject that can no longer be ignored” because “population imbalances lead to changes in geographical boundaries.”

Countering Mr. Bhagwat, Mr. Rehman, the Islam scholar, argues that “Hindu-Muslim mistrust in India today is based on imaginary fears. Both communities are not responsible for what their respective ancestors did. But they would be if they buy into the politically motivated propaganda that seeks to keep them divided.”

For his part, Mr. Iftikhar expressed support for Muslim dialogue with the RSS.

“If you keep a distance and detachment as your strategy, as your policy, then whatever opinions you form are stereotypes. Stereotypes are untested, untried so-called facts. If they become the source of opinion-making and opinion-building, then you can imagine that the argument will never have a logical base,” Mr. Iftikhar said.

The author went on to say that “the Muslim community should come forward and instead of putting conditions, raising doubts and making it an issue that do this and then it will happen, no, relations are not build up, understanding is never achieved as a goal when you put conditions. Engagement is the way forward, sit, talk, interact, exchange, put forward your viewpoint, listen to the other viewpoint.”

It’s an approach that Mr. Rehman and Nahdlatul Ulama embrace. For them, as well as for Mr. Iftekhar, the onus is on all parties. For Muslims, that means conceptual and judicial reform; for the RSS, it means defining accountability in word and deed.

Continue Reading

Southeast Asia

Gates, Smooth and Striped Spaces, and the Royal Lore of the Aerial Silk Road

Avatar photo

Published

on

The Coastal City, a Chinese-invested aviation center in Cambodia, will be used to illustrate the deep interface idea in the context of the Air Silk Road, a new vertical component of China’s Belt and Road Initiatives (BRI). Following the mobile aeroplanes reveals three deep interaction gates. Diplomatic movements on international aviation coordinations open institutional gates. The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) launched the Air Silk Road to ally with ASEAN by rearticulating the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) No Country Left Behind (NCLB) program. Dara Sakor International Airport, a new kind of air-earth complex, is the second gate. However, the mangrove conservation zone that was commodified by special economic zones resisted. Cambodia’s Koh Kong coast mangrove woods become the third gate between land and sea, stalling the special zone project. As though throwing a pebble into the water and seeing it burst through the static concept of the surface and its underlying spheres, a new way of thinking about spatial practices as a dynamic, tumultuous, voluminous whole is opened up now. Through relays, the deep interface links the biological, material, and atmospheric.

Striking up the air: opening the door to civil aviation rights

The Convention on International Civil Aviation (Chicago Convention), promulgated by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in 1944, has steadily dominated civil airspace utilization in its 193 member countries. The Chicago Convention does not quantify airspace by airway altitude because there are no agreements on sovereign airspace’s vertical extent. Instead, it’s about the nine degrees of “freedoms of air,” which limit a country’s airlines’ access to another’s airspace. The first two freedoms relate “the transit of commercial aircraft across foreign airspace and airports,” while the others involve international transport of persons, mail, and cargo. The fifth freedom of air, which allows the contracting country to load and disembark passengers and goods as an intermediary station in an airway to a third country, is sought for by airlines. Only multilateral and bilateral conventions allow air liberties. Thus, sovereign nations can employ aeriality technology like air traffic control and vertical surveillance.

China began diplomatic efforts to lead ICAO in this context. In 2015, former CAAC chief Liu Fang became ICAO Secretary-General. China demanded results from bilateral aviation development agreements. China as an ASEAN brother with a “situated vision” is a compelling new narrative. Liu noted that China might influence NCLB implementation not as a member of the advanced group, which easily invokes the memory of colonization, but as one of the Asian siblings, who have recently gone through years of battles to rise out of the post-colonial setting. As Liu and many Chinese intellectuals believe, China is replete of still-fresh lessons and experiences from its decades of self-advancement, making it a stronger candidate who understands the struggles of emerging nations. ASEAN countries at the start of aviation growth may need this more. China’s experience is also more regional, geopolitical, and geoeconomic due to its proximity to these countries. ASEAN and China must then establish an “integrated plan for the aviation industry” in a new BRI zone.

China’s story of placed vision highlights the NCLB scheme’s new Asian focus: the BRI region. Diplomatic acts form a buoyant global network that seems to transcend earth. ICAO and CAAC signed the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation Letter of Intent in Aviation Cooperation in May 2017. In his meeting with Luxembourg Prime Minister Bettel one month later, Xi Jinping formally launched the name “Air Silk Road” as a new direction to increase financial and production capacity cooperation within the “Belt and Road Initiatives”. The Chinese Central Enterprise Aviation Industry Corporation of China chose the phrase for their Air Silk Road Alliance initiative. The planned alliance has two layers: a cross-sectoral alliance linking a full chain of the aviation industry—aviation equipment manufacture, aviation infrastructure construction, and aviation operating services—and a cross-boundary alliance that channels the “going abroad” of the domestic aviation industry and capital. As of 2017, China has bilateral aviation transportation agreements with 62 Belt and Road countries and direct air links with 43 countries.

China signed a document with ASEAN on the region’s Fourth Freedom of Air in 2010, but made no progress at country level. Air service provision and air security and safety were added to the agreement in 2014. Cambodia’s National Assembly approved the ASEAN-China Aviation Cooperation Framework in 2016. These inter-state agreements allow China to enter ASEAN airspace and participate in transnational aviation standard-setting.

Diplomatic efforts to place Chinese professional elites in ICAO’s transnational authority reconfigure ontological territory. Here, elites, transnational organizations, and their norms create a pathway for airplanes to take off from China, enter ASEAN airspace horizontally, and land vertically on their soil as “existential constructions of… our planet” on their takeoff and return journeys. The gate broke the relationally smooth airspaces of two sovereign countries and provided a new stripe with a new institutional path for airplanes going between them. The Air Silk Road’s image is bolstered by its intangible geopolitical networks. The NCLB scheme’s narratives on aviation safety and China’s story of Asian brothers for a placed vision wooed Cambodia into bilateral air service operations treaties. Chinese companies in aviation products and services, professional training, supporting facilities, and economic zones are intervening in the aviation economy under the integrated strategy.

Stratifying the earth: airport check-in

Surprisingly, Chinese land-development developers who weren’t initially beneficiaries supported China’s airspace outreach in ASEAN countries. This has led to the rapid construction of an aviation special zone with an airport at its center. The Royal Government of Cambodia and Tianjin-based Union Group developed the Coastal City Resort Developmental Zone, a special economic zone. After the Cambodian government adopted the special economic zone model for industrialization and urbanization in 2008, the Union Group entered the land-development competition. The Coastal City was intended as a resort development along Dara Sakor’s coast to take advantage of natural resources like the world’s second-largest mangrove forest and Botum Sakor National Forest Park. The resort-style master plan included hotels, holiday villas, yacht marinas, and golf courses. The project stalled for several years. The Union Group quickly revamped Coast City’s aim to be ASEAN’s regional aviation center with a second-class airport, echoing the Air Silk Road Scheme.

Sphere of influence

The flying relay from China to Cambodia passes through three institutional gates, the airport’s material context, and mangrove environments. The three gates, which function in atmospheric, terrestrial, and biological worlds and involve diverse actors and policies, form one interface to invite, assist, regulate, or reject relay succession. After being conditioned by contingently coupled socio-technical forces, the three sites function as gates along the same chain of effects. The three sites then connected air, earth, and water.

The moving airplane disrupts the original spatial configuration of the aerial system and causes a series of reorganizations due to the interdependence between the two gates of aviation arrangement and airport. Cambodians expect foreign firms to privatize airports. Since 1995, French corporation Vinci Airport has privatized all three major airports in the nation. The NCLB scheme and Cambodia’s “an integrated plan of the aviation industry” spurred additional bidders to compete for airport privatization and aviation-led development. Vinci expanded Sihanoukville Airport’s runways from 2800 to 3300 m in 2016 after finishing Phnom Penh’s airport development. Yunnan Investment Group, another Chinese enterprise, signed the contract for the Siem Reap Angkor International Airport Project, a top-tier airport.

Regional aerial networks were reorganized after effective territorialization on Earth. The Asia Pacific Regional Aviation Routes Committee held four sessions in Mongolia, Kazakhstan, China, and Cambodia from 2017 to 2018 to hear ideas from allies. The U.S. and Indonesia replanned the aerial route between Australia and Asia, but Thailand and Vietnam halted Cambodia’s idea. The Cambodian top-standard airport project garnered criticism from various countries. Steven Mnuchin, US Treasury Secretary, questioned Cambodia’s longest runway, which fighter-jet pilots prefer. The US imposed visa and financial sanctions on Coast City military personnel for wrongdoing. Local opposition parties echoed these claims. A local researcher noticed that the two superpowers “start to compete, push, and splash water at each other” in Cambodia.

Continue Reading

Southeast Asia

RCEP’s Intellectual Property Rights Chapter: Relevance, Implications, and Contributions to Asia-Pacific’s IP Regime

Avatar photo

Published

on

image source: ASEAN

The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Agreement is the world’s biggest regional trade agreement encompassing the 10 ASEAN member states and 5 of its regional partners (Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, and China). Coming into force only at the beginning of this year on the 1st January 2022, there is much of its content to unpack[1]. It is too early to have any clear-cut evaluations on its efficacy, but the implications on its provisions to the Asia-Pacific region is something to be taken note of. One of the most interesting parts of the RCEP is its Chapter 11 on Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) which is built upon various existing multilateral frameworks on IP protection, namely the TRIPS Agreement, the WIPO Performance and Phonograms Treaty, the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industry Property, and the Berne Convention of Literary and Artistic Works[2]. This chapter of the agreement seeks to promote harmonization of IPR protection, reduce trade and investment barriers by providing the necessary provisions for IPR protection, and introduces a concept of balance between rights holder’s private interests with public interests.

               Generally speaking, most of the provisions in Chapter 11 are not too different from the existing provisions on IPR in other multilateral trade agreements. It covers typical IP-issues including copyright, geographical indications, trademarks, industrial designs, patents, and domain names[3]. Since all 15 parties to the RCEP have already ratified the TRIPS Agreement, these signatories to the RCEP have generally already fulfilled most of Chapter 11’s provisions. For Australia for example, there would only be minor impact since they have already signed all the mandatory treaties as a pre-requisite to the RCEP. Since some of the RCEP’s parties are already parties to other IPR agreements, it is interesting to note of the revisions and impact the RCEP brings towards these countries in their attempts to harmonize regulation in the regional level. For example, China has amended its Copyright Law and Patent Law corresponding to RCEP provisions on partial design and electronic rights management information. Thailand is also conducting amendments to its Copyright Act following provisions for Technological Protection Measures (TMPs) and its Patent Act following provisions for partial design. Thailand’s Ministry of Commerce has also drafted a law on the Determination of Goods Infringing Trademark and/or Copyright to be Prohibited for Export, Import and Transit through the Kingdom to complement RCEP’s IPR provisions[4]. It is likely that among ASEAN countries, many will have to undergo IP Laws amendments or extensions, aside from Malaysia and Singapore[5]. It can be inferred that though the RCEP does not require parties to undergo extensive changes in their IPR regimes, it does encourage examination mechanisms for parties to re-evaluate their existing IP protection laws and conduct amendment or creation of new supplementary IP laws. This effort on harmonization further ushers’ predictability within the regional IPR regime.

               Another interesting thing to note is its statement for a balance and comprehensive approach which is stated in the first article of Chapter 11, whereby the IPR protection and enforcement must promote technological transfers and innovation for the benefit of rights-holders and socio-economic wellbeing[6]. In this sense, the RCEP commits itself to preventing IPR abuses that restricts international technological transfers. Though much of the idea also derives from the TRIPS Agreement, its practice under the TRIPS Agreement was met with challenges from developed countries who seek to protect their IPR despite socio-economic costs[7]. Hence, RCEP’s provision vouch for international cooperation, since it exists within a context of a region with myriad development levels and capacity differences. This is particularly noticeable in its Section K on Cooperation and Consultation and its Section M on Transition Periods and Technical Assistance where countries like Vietnam, Myanmar, Lao PDR, and Cambodia are calling for technical assistance relating to electronic application system for trademark registration, processing, and maintenance, improving qualifications for internalizing IPR treaties, and capacity building for IPR enforcement as noted in Appendix 11B[8].

               There is much enthusiasm that the provisions will increase certainty for businesses in operating their IPR since the RCEP requires its signatories to ratify key multilateral agreements on IPR. Chapter 11’s modest provisions (though its level for IPR commitment is higher than commitments in ASEAN+1 treaties) is aimed at bringing up RCEP parties to the standards of already existing IPR agreements while at the same time maintaining flexibility[9]. It also requires for member states to digitalize their IPR by providing publicly accessible IP databases for IP trademark registration and application on a country-to-county basis. This is also known as the ASEAN IP Portal which is a digital inventory to find information regarding country-to-country IP regimes as well as accessing point to the ASEAN Patent Examination Cooperation (ASPEC) program which a hub for information between IP Offices and ASEAN’s Intellectual Property Working Group[10]. This will increase transparency and decrease market barriers which decreases business uncertainty. Increased transparency would also push for an increase of participation, particularly by MSMEs which will benefit from being able to access cost-effective international filling systems and streamlined applications[11]. Moreover, this also enables more investment in technological sectors since the simplification of procedures is attractive for foreign investors due to its convenience[12] (ASL Law Firm, 2022).

               Noting that the RCEP derives much inspiration from the TRIPS Agreement, it recognizes the need for flexibilities as noted in its preamble. Its requirement for member parties to catch up with other IPR treaties is approached by giving member parties grace periods and concrete timelines for adoption and ratification through a case-by-case basis, as seen in how it gives Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar, and Lao PDR three to ten years to follow-through (Ministry of Trade and Industry Singapore, 2022, pp.10-12). It allows the use of flexibility under the Doha Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement on Public Health to address public health concerns and new additional measures to follow-up the TRIPS’s Three-Step Test principle in regards to provisions on limitations and exceptions to copyright. Article 11.18 states that “Each Party shall endeavor to provide an appropriate balance in its copyright and related rights system… For greater certainty, a Party may adopt or maintain limitations or exceptions to the rights referred to in paragraph 1 for fair use, as long as any such limitation or exception is confined as stated in paragraph.”

This is not to say that the RCEP is not compatible with the Three-Step Test principle, but differing from the CPTPP it acknowledges the need for fair-use exceptions and the balance between copyright protection and legitimacy reasons[13]. However, some of the RCEPs articles are also much more specific and restrictive than the TRIPS Agreement, as seen in Article 11.40 on the experimental use of patents exceptions—an issue the CPTPP have failed to reach consensus on—compared to Article 30 of the TRIPS Agreement on patent rights exceptions[14]. There are certain sections in the RCEP commitments that are not covered in the TRIPS Agreement mainly on sanctions for violations on technological protection, digital environment, and provisions on criminal sanctions of trade in counterfeited goods[15]. On the latter bit, the RCEP also has strong provisions for on enhanced border measures for IPR holders to request seizure of counterfeited goods at point of entry as well as provisions for civil remedies—something that is not found in the AANZFTA[16].

Additionally, the RCEP also included several suspended CPTPP articles on TMPs circumvention and the freedom to determine TMPs limitation and exceptions. But it also excludes issues like patent linkage, supplementary pharmaceuticals patent protection, and data exclusivity hence it is not the most pharma-friendly trade agreement out there[17]. Another unique feature of the RCEP when compared to other IPR agreements is its section on Unfair Competition, Genetic Resource, Traditional Knowledge, and Folklore under Section G[18]. In a region rich with natural resources and a diversity of culture, these provisions will mostly benefit Southeast Asia’s rights holders[19]. It also encourages its members to accede the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired, or Otherwise Disabled[20].

However, there are some things missing in RCEP’s approach towards IPR protection. For one, it does not address environmental sustainability issues within the realm of IP even if its preamble states that economic partnership is a driver towards environmental sustainability. It also does not have an investor-state settlement mechanism in relations to IP[21]. But the saliency of incorporating an IP Chapter in the RCEP is resounding; over the three million patent applications in 2019, 75% of them came from RCEP countries (though around roughly a million came from China)[22]. Though the provisions perhaps are not as revolutionary in IPR norm-making, its efforts for fair-use and its attempts to proliferate a balanced approach towards rights-holders and socio-economic welfare should be appreciated.


[1] AsiaIP (2022). RCEP and its Implications for the Asia-Pacific. [online] Asia IP. Available at: https://www.asiaiplaw.com/article/rcep-and-its-implications-for-the-asia-pacific

[2] ‌ Yu, P.K. (2017b). The RCEP and Intellectual Property Normsetting in the Asia-Pacific. Texas A&M Law Scholarship, [online] pp.1–20. Available at: https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/217217456.pdf.

[3] ASL Law Firm (2021). Intellectual Property As Regulations Of The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (RCEP) And Implementation Prospect For Vietnam. [online] Lexology. Available at: https://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=3f9efa11-d26f-4402-b51b-99cfb2640afa

[4] AsiaIP (2022). RCEP and its Implications for the Asia-Pacific. [online] Asia IP. Available at: https://www.asiaiplaw.com/article/rcep-and-its-implications-for-the-asia-pacific

[5] Ministry of Trade and Industry Singapore (2022). Understanding the RCEP Intellectual Property Chapter: Benefits for Business. [online] pp.5–12. Available at: file:///C:/Users/ASUS/Downloads/Understanding%20the%20RCEP%20Intellectual%20Property%20Chapter.pdf.

[6] Can, Z. (2020). What’s special about RCEP’s IP chapter? [online] news.cgtn.com. Available at: https://news.cgtn.com/news/2020-11-23/What-s-special-about-RCEP-s-IP-chapter–VERx4otQCA/index.html

[7] ASL Law Firm (2021). Intellectual Property As Regulations Of The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (RCEP) And Implementation Prospect For Vietnam. [online] Lexology. Available at: https://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=3f9efa11-d26f-4402-b51b-99cfb2640afa

[8] Can, Z. (2020). What’s special about RCEP’s IP chapter? [online] news.cgtn.com. Available at: https://news.cgtn.com/news/2020-11-23/What-s-special-about-RCEP-s-IP-chapter–VERx4otQCA/index.html

[9] Can, Z. (2020). What’s special about RCEP’s IP chapter? [online] news.cgtn.com. Available at: https://news.cgtn.com/news/2020-11-23/What-s-special-about-RCEP-s-IP-chapter–VERx4otQCA/index.html

[10] Ministry of Trade and Industry Singapore (2022). Understanding the RCEP Intellectual Property Chapter: Benefits for Business. [online] pp.5–12. Available at: file:///C:/Users/ASUS/Downloads/Understanding%20the%20RCEP%20Intellectual%20Property%20Chapter.pdf.

[11] AsiaIP (2022). RCEP and its Implications for the Asia-Pacific. [online] Asia IP. Available at: https://www.asiaiplaw.com/article/rcep-and-its-implications-for-the-asia-pacific

[12] ASL Law Firm (2021). Intellectual Property As Regulations Of The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (RCEP) And Implementation Prospect For Vietnam. [online] Lexology. Available at: https://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=3f9efa11-d26f-4402-b51b-99cfb2640afa

[13] Callo-Müller, M.V. and Upreti, P.N. (2021). RCEP IP Chapter: Another TRIPS-Plus Agreement? GRUR International Oxford University Press, [online] 70(7), pp.1–11. Available at: https://deliverypdf.ssrn.com/delivery.php?ID=757114096124125125083091003011093023030092050084043069014029067120089119098115070110018011103047026000040100126120087005123125045037034011050080091087069102082086007063022004068114065001006105022112082067119028079020118115127004095084066002099125002087&EXT=pdf&INDEX=TRUE

[14] Callo-Müller, M.V. and Upreti, P.N. (2021). RCEP IP Chapter: Another TRIPS-Plus Agreement? GRUR International Oxford University Press, [online] 70(7), pp.1–11. Available at: https://deliverypdf.ssrn.com/delivery.php?ID=757114096124125125083091003011093023030092050084043069014029067120089119098115070110018011103047026000040100126120087005123125045037034011050080091087069102082086007063022004068114065001006105022112082067119028079020118115127004095084066002099125002087&EXT=pdf&INDEX=TRUE

[15] ASL Law Firm (2021). Intellectual Property As Regulations Of The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (RCEP) And Implementation Prospect For Vietnam. [online] Lexology. Available at: https://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=3f9efa11-d26f-4402-b51b-99cfb2640afa

[16] Ministry of Trade and Industry Singapore (2022). Understanding the RCEP Intellectual Property Chapter: Benefits for Business. [online] pp.5–12. Available at: file:///C:/Users/ASUS/Downloads/Understanding%20the%20RCEP%20Intellectual%20Property%20Chapter.pdf.

[17] Callo-Müller, M.V. and Upreti, P.N. (2021). RCEP IP Chapter: Another TRIPS-Plus Agreement? GRUR International Oxford University Press, [online] 70(7), pp.1–11. Available at: https://deliverypdf.ssrn.com/delivery.php?ID=757114096124125125083091003011093023030092050084043069014029067120089119098115070110018011103047026000040100126120087005123125045037034011050080091087069102082086007063022004068114065001006105022112082067119028079020118115127004095084066002099125002087&EXT=pdf&INDEX=TRUE

[18] ASL Law Firm (2021). Intellectual Property As Regulations Of The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (RCEP) And Implementation Prospect For Vietnam. [online] Lexology. Available at: https://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=3f9efa11-d26f-4402-b51b-99cfb2640afa

[19] Can, Z. (2020). What’s special about RCEP’s IP chapter? [online] news.cgtn.com. Available at: https://news.cgtn.com/news/2020-11-23/What-s-special-about-RCEP-s-IP-chapter–VERx4otQCA/index.html

[20] Callo-Müller, M.V. and Upreti, P.N. (2021). RCEP IP Chapter: Another TRIPS-Plus Agreement? GRUR International Oxford University Press, [online] 70(7), pp.1–11. Available at: https://deliverypdf.ssrn.com/delivery.php?ID=757114096124125125083091003011093023030092050084043069014029067120089119098115070110018011103047026000040100126120087005123125045037034011050080091087069102082086007063022004068114065001006105022112082067119028079020118115127004095084066002099125002087&EXT=pdf&INDEX=TRUE

[21] Callo-Müller, M.V. and Upreti, P.N. (2021). RCEP IP Chapter: Another TRIPS-Plus Agreement? GRUR International Oxford University Press, [online] 70(7), pp.1–11. Available at: https://deliverypdf.ssrn.com/delivery.php?ID=757114096124125125083091003011093023030092050084043069014029067120089119098115070110018011103047026000040100126120087005123125045037034011050080091087069102082086007063022004068114065001006105022112082067119028079020118115127004095084066002099125002087&EXT=pdf&INDEX=TRUE

[22] Ministry of Trade and Industry Singapore (2022). Understanding the RCEP Intellectual Property Chapter: Benefits for Business. [online] pp.5–12. Available at: file:///C:/Users/ASUS/Downloads/Understanding%20the%20RCEP%20Intellectual%20Property%20Chapter.pdf.

Continue Reading

Publications

Latest

people art people art
Russia3 hours ago

Context and Practice of International Politics: Experience in 2022 and Expectations from 2023

The dramatic events of 2022, centred on the military-political conflict between Russia and the West over the Ukrainian issue, are...

Finance5 hours ago

Blue Economy Offers Opportunities for Sustainable Growth in Tunisia

With support from the World Bank, in June 2022, Tunisia launched its first report on the status of the blue...

Reports7 hours ago

Global growth forecast to slow to 1.9% in 2023

Senior UN economists warned on Wednesday that intersecting crises are likely to add further damage to the global economy, with...

World News8 hours ago

War games will take place off Durban between South Africa, China and Russia

South Africa’s government has finally shown its colours by inviting Russia and China for war games next month, London’s ‘Daily...

Russia11 hours ago

The Status of Crimea between Russia and Ukraine: The Reason Why China Stands to Neglect

The status of Crimea is a contentious issue between Russia and Ukraine. In 2014, Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine, a...

Science & Technology13 hours ago

The Indian Drone Industry is Growing Leaps & Bounds

Iranian drones have wreaked havoc in war-stricken Ukraine. When it comes to drones until a few years back it was...

afghanistan terrorism afghanistan terrorism
Terrorism16 hours ago

Countering Terrorism: 2023 and Beyond

Pakistan has carried three significant issues from 2022 into 2023. These include political instability, a dwindling economy and resurging terrorism....

Trending