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Pacific private sector engagement: Where to begin?

Suva, Fiji. A key facet of the Australian Government's aid and development policy for the Pacific island region is enhancing private sector engagement. However, the detail of this policy has yet to be articulated. The role of the private sector in aid and development is the subject of an ongoing

India links: Election special

Voting for India's Lok Sabha (lower house) elections kicked off on Monday. In place of my regular India Links, here is the best election-related reading of the week: The Economist published a strongly worded editorial last week, which stated that 'this newspaper cannot bring itself to back Mr Modi

Human rights: After the spring in Libya and Egypt

Last week, the Lowy Institute hosted a roundtable examining human rights in the Middle East, which featured human rights defender Hassan al-Amin and Tirana Hassan from Human Rights Watch. Hassan al-Amin fled Libya to be a dissident in exile and returned as an elected member of parliament

Mekong Summit Declaration dodges reference to Lao dams

As previewed last Friday, the Second Mekong Summit, held in Ho Chi Minh City on 5 April, concluded with a Declaration that did not directly address the contentious issue of the two dams Laos is constructing on the Mekong River at Xayaburi and Don Sahong (Xayaburi has been reported by the Lao

The rise of jihadism in Syria and Egypt

Launched last week, Anthony Bubalo's Next –gen Jihad in the Middle East has attracted much media attention for its argument that current conditions in the Middle East are worse than those that saw the emergence of al Qaeda.  As Lateline quipped, Syria could be the new Afghanistan. Listen to this

What would Modi mean for Indian foreign policy?

Polling booths for the world's biggest election open in India this week, with signs pointing towards likely victory for a BJP-led coalition with Narendra Modi at the helm. But despite his image as a divisive nationalist, it's unlikely there will be any disruptive change in Indian foreign policy

A victory over corruption in PNG

The fight against corruption in PNG reached a milestone last week when the PNG National Court sentenced Paul Tiensten, a former senior minister and current parliamentarian, to nine years imprisonment with hard labour for misappropriating A$4 million of public funds. It was the most severe penalty

Abbott goes to Asia: The security dimension

Prime Minister Abbott poses with the leaders of the Chinese, Japanese and South Korean military efforts searching for MH370 at RAAF Base Pearce. Tony Abbott is about to depart on the most important international visit of his prime ministership thus far. Over the next week he will visit Japan,

Another false dawn in Cambodia?

As the National Assembly resumed sittings in Phnom Penh this week, with only members of the CPP government in attendance because of the continuing boycott by elected members of Sam Rainsy's CNRP, there have been suggestions that a compromise may finally be in sight that would end the CNRP boycott of

Mekong summit unlikely to halt Lao dams

The second Mekong River Commission Summit will take place in Ho Chi Minh City on 5 April, with the participation of the prime ministers of the four member states (Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam) and representatives from China and Myanmar. The summit will be preceded by an international

The three arrows of Abenomics: A report card

Today the Japanese value-added tax (VAT: what Australians call the GST) rises from 5% to 8%. This seemingly mundane event is a key part of the 'Abenomics' program, the effort to shake Japan out of its decades-long economic lethargy. So how does Abenomics look after 15 months? Exhibit 1 is the

Egypt, Sisi and the next generation of jihadists

At the end of last week, Egyptian military chief Field Marshall Abdel Fattah el-Sisi announced that he would be resigning his military post to run for this year's presidential elections, expected to take place in May. It is a move that has been mooted for months now, and has at its origins the

Tony Abbott in PNG: Knowns and unknowns

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott went to Papua New Guinea last week and stayed for three days. He met with his counterpart, Peter O'Neill, with members of the PNG business community and with emerging leaders, among others. Speeches were made and conversations were held. So, now that the

Happy Afghan new year, the Taliban way

New year's eve, regardless what calendar you adhere to, is for many about turning a new leaf and making resolutions about what to do better the next year. In Afghanistan such a leaf was turned, but for many of us it is not about things getting better, but things getting worse. While out with

What's next for Peter Greste?

The gates to Tora prison and court in Cairo. (Photo by the author.) Having sat through the previous hearing of Australian journalist Peter Greste's trial in Cairo, I quickly came to the conclusion that the trial is purely political. With hearings due to resume today, so far no credible evidence

Deafening silence on rule of law in Nauru

The status of the rule of law in Nauru became even more precarious with the recent resignation of Nauru's Chief Justice, Australian Geoffrey Eames. After two months of seeking to have the withdrawal of his visa by the Nauruan Government overturned, he now says his position is untenable. This week

O'Neill flexes his muscles as Abbott flies in

Tony Abbott flew in to Port Moresby last night for his first prime ministerial visit to Australia's nearest neighbour. Karl Claxton has foreshadowed some of the major themes of the visit over at The Strategist. Despite the range of issues on the agenda and whatever the expected results of the visit

Abbott in PNG: Advice from the younger generation

Tonight, Tony Abbott flies into Port Moresby on his first visit to Papua New Guinea as prime minister. So far his foreign minister, Julie Bishop, has done the heavy lifting in the relationship, building on several visits in opposition with a high profile visit in February. The Abbott Government

Crimea referendum stirs old insecurities in China

China's Central Propaganda Department issued a directive on Monday ordering mainland media not to link the Crimea referendum to the country's own separatist hot spots. China Digital Times obtained the leaked text and published it in full: Central Propaganda Department: All media must refrain

How Jokowi got his start in politics

Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo is the man of the moment in Indonesian politics. A furniture retailer by trade, two years ago he was a little known small town mayor in central Java. Today he is streets ahead of his nearest competitor in the opinion polls for July's presidential election. To understand Jokowi

International Women's Day: Progress in the Pacific

As tomorrow (8 March) is International Women's Day, let's take a somewhat different look at what's happening in the Pacific. No one is denying that there are significant and sometimes frightening challenges in our region when it comes to the safety of women and girls or the recognition of the

'The Act of Killing' in a democratic Indonesia

In the Western press, critics have responded with almost unanimous enthusiasm to the documentary film The Act of Killing, which could win an Academy Award on Sunday. One notable voice against the trend is the BBC's documentary editor Nick Fraser, who in The Guardian last weekend dismissed it as '

Indonesia: Punching below its weight

In a new Lowy Institute Analysis paper launched today, Dr Dave McRae argues that Indonesia is unlikely to become a significantly more influential international actor in the medium term, despite its size, strategic location and economic potential. Titled More Talk than Walk: Indonesia as a Foreign

US position hardens on China's nine-dashed line

In January 2013, senior US Navy intelligence officer Captain James Fanell described China's maritime strategy and ambitions as 'hegemonic' and aggressive, and said China 'bullies adversaries'. This unusually blunt assessment made news around the world. Sam Roggeveen, who broke the story for The

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