Semtext #6: ASEAN Centrality in the Indo-Pacific

This post is a collection of notes from four speakers regarding ASEAN centrality in the Indo-Pacific.

The term “Indo-Pacific” has re-emerged in IR discourse as an alternative term for “Asia-Pacific”. However, it has been around since 2005, but only now has it become popular again since President Trump repeated it over and over again in his 2017 tour of Asia. This hints at a renewed US interest in Asia, which is likely due to China’s assertive behavior in both the Pacific and Indian Ocean Rim.

So, what is the Indo-Pacific? Is it simply another catchy buzzword or is it a real geopolitical construct that’s here to stay? If it’s here to stay, what’s the underlying narrative? Is it meant to denote an “inclusive” area where the interests of all countries within its scope are represented, or is it meant to represent the exclusive interests of a group of big guys? Does ASEAN have a say in this?

Present to speak were Prof. Raja Mohan from the Institute of South Asian Studies, Ridwan Djamaluddin from the Coordinating Ministry of Maritime Affairs, Dr. Evi Fitriani from the University of Indonesia, and Endy Bayuni, former chief editor of the Jakarta Post. I’ll write their main talking points, along with my commentary afterwards.

Just a quick note: I left my notebook at the seminar venue (stupid me), so I have to rely on memory and a bad recording of the talks. I should really invest in a proper voice recorder instead of relying on my phone.

You can also download some of the speaker’s PowerPoints here!

Continue reading “Semtext #6: ASEAN Centrality in the Indo-Pacific”

SemText #4: Nuclear power and regional cooperation in ASEAN

This post is a collection of notes and thoughts on a roundtable on nuclear power and safety in ASEAN held as part of Singapore International Energy Week 2016.

Nuclear power. The first thing that came to mind was images of that iconic mushroom cloud and the prospect of living in a Mad Max world. But then I remembered we’re in Southeast Asia, which has been declared a nuclear-weapon-free zone since 1995. Although ASEAN has declared itself to be free from nukes, the charm of harnessing atomic energy for civilian purposes is too hard to resist. I honestly did not know that Vietnam is planning to have up to 10 reactors in 15-30 years, and that the Philippines has the first nuclear power plant in Southeast Asia, but was never fuelled.

Despite knowing the destructive power of nuclear energy, I am also a firm believer that nuclear power is the way to power the future. As Asimov has shown in Foundation and Gipsy Danger in Pacific Rim, nuclear power is indeed the source of energy that people need to thrust themselves into the future.

The roundtable featured a variety of experts on nuclear power, such as Dr Olli Heinonen, Dr Tatsujiro Suzuki, Shah Nawaz Ahmad, Sabar Mohd Hashim, Siriratana Biramontri, and Dr Hoang Sy Than, who talked about the need to establish robust institutions to promote regional cooperation and information-sharing as a way to harness nuclear power in ASEAN.

Continue reading “SemText #4: Nuclear power and regional cooperation in ASEAN”

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