Fortnightly Review & Analysis: ASEAN, Indo-Pacific, East Asia, Japan & China (Vol 2 Issue IX)

May 01 - 15, 2017

ASEAN

Attendance at Belt and Road Summit

Top leaders of 7 ASEAN countries attended the Belt and Road Summit in China on May 14-15. These include Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, Indonesian President Joko Widodo, Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang and Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and Laos President Bounnhang Vorachit. Notably missing were leaders from Singapore, Thailand and Brunei leading to speculations whether invitations were issued to them or they snubbed the event. Former Philippine Ambassador Apolinario Lozada Jr. said Belt & Road Initiative could be the reason behind Manila leading the Association of Southeast Asian Nations' (ASEAN) soft stance against the economic giant, which has reclaimed several islands in the South China Sea. However, voices of concern remain among ASEAN countries who are aware that there is no way to escape the politics and security challenges associated with the economic benefits accrued from the Belt & Road initiative.

Among the countries of ASEAN, Malaysia, Thailand, Laos and Indonesia have joint belt and road deals with China, mainly in railway construction. There will be a new high-speed rail line running from southern China through Laos to Thailand’s industrial eastern coast. China has given a new pledge to Laos for the construction of a US $6 billion railway project linking Laos’ capital Vientiane to China’s southern Yunnan) province by 2020. Once operational, the railway will be Laos’ longest and fastest line, with an average speed of 160 km/h and 60 per cent of the line being bridges and tunnels. The network of rail links that will connect Singapore and Kunming in Yunnan is also taking shape. Beijing also won the contract to build Indonesia’s first national high-speed rail link – a US $5.1 billion, 150 km rail project connecting the capital Jakarta to Bandung, Indonesia’s third-largest city.

Failed Impeachment Effort against Duterte

On May 15, the House of Representatives justice committee in Philippines dismissed the two impeachment complaints lodged against President Rodrigo Duterte for insufficiency in substance. The complaint by Gary Alejano, a member of a minority block, accuses Duterte of a litany of "high crimes," including hiding wealth, ordering police to murder criminals, and of making clear his intention not to protect Philippine maritime sovereignty. Alejano's impeachment effort alleges Duterte ran a "death squad" during the 22 years he was mayor of Davao City, and that he did nothing to oppose the months-long presence without permission of a Chinese survey ship in the Philippines' exclusive economic zone (EEZ) off its Pacific coast. Within the first 90 minutes of the hearing, several panel members said Alejano's complaint was flawed and should be thrown out right away.

Some political commentators say Alejano's complaint has an ulterior motive: to strengthen a complaint filed last month with the International Criminal Court (ICC) accusing Duterte of crimes against humanity for his drugs crackdown. Among the ICC's jurisdictional requirements is that domestic legal avenues to try an individual are first exhausted.

Jakarta’s Outgoing Governor “Ahok” gets Jail Term for Blasphemy

Jakarta’s outgoing ethnic Chinese, Christian governor Basuki “Ahok” Purnama was sentenced to two years in jail on May 9 for blasphemy against Islam, upending expectations that he would be handed a lighter sentence as the contentious trial threatens social harmony in the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation. Suharto, Indonesia’s long-time dictator, reportedly helped spread the canard that they comprised 3% of the country’s population, but controlled 70% of its economy—a wild overstatement on both counts. The riots that triggered his resignation in 1998 targeted Chinese-Indonesians, killing around 1,100 people and destroying Chinese businesses. The north Jakarta district court ruled that Ahok was guilty of insulting Islam though it was hard to detect any insult to Islam in the speech for which he was taken to task by Islamist agitators. Yet prosecutors charged him and the court convicted him. What is surprising is judges gave him a harsher sentence than the probationary sentence recommended by prosecutors.

Ahok took over as Jakarta’s governor in 2014 without elections as then-incumbent Joko Widodo became president. Ahok was then the deputy governor. Known for a strong work ethic, his rise seemed to suggest that being a Chinese Christian was not a political handicap in a country where 90% of the population is Muslim and 95% of indigenous descent. He enjoyed high approval ratings in the national capital until the controversy broke last year. His sentence has reinforced the earlier fears that existed during the Suharto era among the Chinese-Indonesians.

Myanmar

Aung San Suu Kyi attends China’s OBOR Conference

Burma’s Daw Aung San Suu Kyi attended two-day summit on the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) on 14-15 May. China already has gas and oil pipelines connecting its Yunnan province to Arakan Coast of Myanmar. Beijing is now looking at constructing a deep sea port in Kyaukphyu, Arakan State. Reports indicate that it is planning to take a stake of up to 85 percent in the strategically important port, which is part of two projects: an industrial park and a special economic zone. Evidently, Kyaukphyu is key to the Belt and Road Initiative of China as it sits on the Bay of Bengal and will provide strategic geo-economic access to the Indian Ocean. While Myanmar is in no position ward of the heavy influence of China on economic and strategic issues there is a feeling amongst the public that there is lack public debate on Myanmar government’s intentions. There has also been a report that China was willing to abandon the suspended and controversial US $3.6 billion Myitsone Dam project, but would be looking for concessions in return on other strategic opportunities in Myanmar, including Kyaukphyu. A consortium led by China’s CITIC Group is learnt to have proposed to take a 70-85 percent stake in the $7.3 billion deep sea port, as there had been talks between Chinese state-owned conglomerate and the Myanmar government. Activists and local communities say the project lacks transparency and would have a negative impact on local people. It is believed that more than 20,000 people are at risk of losing their livelihoods due to land acquisition for the zone.

While the relations with the West seem to be under strain as Suu Kyi’s recent visit to Europe seems to suggest China is becoming more assertive. It also needs to be noted that Beijing has offered to play peace broker between ethnic armed groups and the government, expanding its influence among Myanmarese stakeholders in the peace process and holding confidential meetings with powerful leaders from the government, parliament, and the armed forces. Not only this, China had also offered to mediate between Bangladesh and Myanmar on Rohingya refugees’ issue which was declined by Bangladesh.

Aung San Suu Kyi Visits Europe and Receives Flak on Human Rights Violations

The European Union has publicly supported an international mission to look into alleged human rights abuses by the country’s security forces against Rohingya Muslims. This was done during a news conference addressed by the EU’s top diplomat Federica Mogherini, on 08 May where the visiting Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was also present. She said that an agreed resolution of the UN Human Rights Council would help clear up uncertainty about allegations of killings, torture and rape against Rohingyas. The UN Human Rights Council had adopted the resolution, which was brought by the European Union and supported by countries including the United States, without a vote in March. China and India distanced themselves from the UN resolution. However, when asked about the move, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, said: “We are disassociating ourselves from the resolution because we don’t think the resolution is in keeping with what is actually happening on the ground.” Earlier during her visit to London on 07 May there were demonstrations as State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was presented with the Freedom of the City of London award, calling the recognition “disappointing” in light of ongoing abuses against ethnic and religious minorities, journalists and rights activists in Burma.

Thailand

Royal Prerogatives will be Renegotiated

The new constitution of the Thailand received Royal endorsement in April 2017. However, it is evident that the new Thai King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun is the ultimate authority in breaking any political deadlock. This ultimate authority is, nonetheless, nebulous, and both the royal prerogative and the body politic may in fact benefit from further institutionalisation. His active participation in resolving confrontations reflects a commitment to unifying the Thai people. Such active participation from King was first evident when he assumed a vital role in breaking the deadlock in Buddhist Sangha and appointed the new Supreme Patriarch in February 2017. The formulation of National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) is that the nation, religions, and the monarchy are the pillars of the state, serving a ‘people’s state of Thailand’. All three pillars appear to be equal. It is this semblance of divine right which supported the new King’s recent decision to bring under his control five agencies which were previously under the Defence Ministry, the Office of the Prime Minister, and the Royal Thai Police, namely the Royal Household Bureau, the Office of His Majesty’s Principal Private Secretary, the Royal Thai Aide-De-Camp Department, the Office of Royal Court Security Police and Royal Security Command. However, to avoid endangering the reputation of the monarchy, the first Thai royal commission is expected to work under a democratically elected government.

Ultimately, to resolve the problem of arbitrary military power, a royal commission on security sector reform will be required, focusing on a managed demilitarisation of the country. The alternative to successfully negotiating the royal prerogative in a way that heals underlying fault lines in Thailand and eventually reduces the role of the military.

Terrorism in Southern Thailand

A car bomb exploded in the town centre of Pattani on 9 May. No deaths were immediately reported but Pattani Hospital said at least 52 injured people were being treated, with two in a critical condition. The attack was blamed on separatist groups who have been waging a bloody insurgency in southern Thailand for more than a decade. Islamist militias linked to al-Qaeda are among those fighting and launching terror attacks in three Muslim-majority provinces, where more than 6,500 people have been killed since 2004.

Rewat Srichantub, Pattani's deputy police chief, blamed Islamist insurgents for the latest attack and said the bomber was believed to have fled the scene before the blast. Attacks in mainly Buddhist Thailand's southernmost provinces, near the border with Malaysia, have intensified this year, with six army rangers killed in an attack last month. Pattani has repeatedly been hit by waves of violence, including twin bombings in August last year.

Indo – Pacific

Philippines Playing Chinese Checkers?

President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines said he has agreed to allow Chinese forces to conduct joint patrols in Mindanao waters to combat kidnappers from terror group Abu Sayyaf. “Yes, I said I agree. We can have a joint exercise here in Mindanao maybe in the Sulu Sea," he said. The Philippines has been struggling to address the spate of kidnappings in Mindanao waters which have mostly victimized fishermen from neighboring Malaysia and Indonesia. The Philippines is now working with its two Southeast Asian neighbors to combat piracy and kidnapping. Ramping up security in Mindanao waters has been a major priority for the three Southeast Asian countries, as they seek to improve sea linkage that aims to spur economic growth in the region.

Piracy in the Sulu Sea has seen a rise in recent times as reflected in the reports of the International maritime Bureau. Many of these are reportedly the work of the Abu Sayyaf group which has been abetting an insurgency for some time now. The Philippines does not have the wherewithal and hence is undertaking joint patrols and other related activity with Malaysia and Indonesia to combat this menace. However, the recent announcement by the Filipino President to undertake joint patrols with the Chinese adds a twist to the geopolitical realities of South East Asia. Since the time President Duterte assumed office, the aggressive stand adopted by the Philippines against China has perceptibly softened and possibly even tilted towards China. In fact, Chinese ships also called at the port of Davao, the home town of Duterte, in the first week of May. The Chinese have also made conciliatory moves by allowing Filipino fishermen to fish around the contested Scarborough Shoal (Panatag). Duterte has also shown a tendency to move away from the USA, which assures security to the Philippines through a treaty. Some of these Presidential pronouncements have, at times, been quietly changed by the concerned ministers without openly contradicting them. In the extant case, the National Security Advisor has supported Duterte though it remains to be seen whether the Americans will be agreeable to such a development, considering the support that they had extended to the case that the Philippines had won last year in the PCA against China.

Koreas

An Active Fortnight: North Korean Attempts to Coerce US into talks?

On May 4, North Korea's state media, Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), published a rare criticism of China, saying Chinese state media commentaries (such as People's Daily and Global Times) calling for tougher sanctions over Pyongyang's nuclear programme were undermining relations with Beijing and worsening tensions. The KCNA commentary further stated that “China had better ponder over the grave consequences to be entailed by its reckless act of chopping down the pillar of the DPRK-China relations”. Later on May 9, China's Foreign Ministry said that North Korea will be sending a delegation to the Belt & Road summit to be held on May 14-15. However, the decision saw criticism from within China itself. Zhang Liangui, a professor of strategic studies at the Communist Party’s Central Party School, said the decision to invite North Korea to the summit was “very unwise”. He further mentioned that “North Korea has been engaging in a policy of appeasement, which is aimed at undermining the hard-won international consensus to mount pressure on Pyongyang.”

Around the same time this fortnight, former US officials held two days of informal talks in Oslo, Norway, with a Pyongyang delegation led by Choe Son Hui, a senior diplomat for North America. It was the first such "track two" dialogue between the US and North Korea since Trump took office. The US side comprised Suzanne DiMaggio at the New America think tank, former UN ambassador Thomas Pickering, retired four-star Admiral William Fallon and former State Department nuclear negotiator Robert Einhorn. A couple of days later, North Korea conducted another ballistic missile test on May 14. However, given that the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson is leading a US strike force in the Sea of Japan, observers state that the missile might have been intercepted if it was found to be heading toward Japan, the United States or South Korea. In fact, it took a very high trajectory after being launched from Kusong in western North Korea and landed in the Sea of Japan outside of Japan's exclusive economic zone. With North Korea concerned about a possible US military retaliation, analysts suggest it made a considerable effort to show that the launch was not meant as an aggressive act.

At the same time, North Korean media has recently focused the spotlight on Washington's North Korean policy. North Korea accused the United States of using threats and intimidation to force countries at the United Nations to implement sanctions, describing the drive as “hysteric madness.” US President Donald Trump warned in an interview with Reuters in late April that a “major, major conflict” with the North was possible, but he would prefer a diplomatic outcome to the dispute over its nuclear and missile programs. Trump later said he would be “honoured” to meet the North’s leader, Kim Jong Un, under the right conditions. Trump’s administration in an April statement mentioned that its basic approach toward the North is to pressure it into dismantling its nuclear program by “tightening economic sanctions and pursuing diplomatic measures with our allies and regional partners.” The Security Council has imposed six sets of sanctions on Pyongyang since 2006 to significantly ramp up pressure and deny Kim Jong Un’s regime the hard currency revenue needed for his military programs.

Moon Jae-in is Elected as President of South Korea

After the episodic impeachment of Park Geun-Hye in December 2016, South Korea chose Moon Jae-in as its new president on May 09, 2017. Moon, who was sworn in as soon as the votes had been counted, is South Korea’s first left-of-centre president in almost a decade. He won 41% of the vote in a field of 13 candidates. Support for his liberal Minjoo party hit a record during the campaign, which reaped the benefits of South Koreans’ bitter disappointment with Ms. Park, a conservative, who was elected in 2012. Park who is now in jail and will be facing a trial. Over 77% of citizens voted in the election, the highest turnout in 20 years.

Moon Jae-in will be facing formidable challenges. He has also indicated that he might review the deal that led to THAAD’s deployment. He has also announced his intention to go to Pyongyang to seek better ties with the North, if the circumstances were right. However, at home, Moon also faces difficult negotiations as Minjoo party does not hold a majority in parliament, and the next elections do not take place until 2020. It may rejoin forces with the People’s Party, a centrist group that split from it last year. As promised in his victory speech, to be a “President for all” is likely to be the hardest task for the new South Korean President.

China-South Korea Move to Sooth Tensions

The leaders of South Korea and China on May 11 moved towards mending bilateral ties that have been strained due to the deployment of an American Missile defence system in South Korea. During a congratulatory call from President Xi Jinping of China to Moon Jae-in, South Korea’s newly elected president, Mr. Moon revealed his plans to send a delegation to Beijing to resolve the dispute over the system, which China views as a threat to its security. THAAD batteries have led to a deep schism in relations between Beijing and Seoul, and it has prompted widespread boycotts in China of popular South Korean brands. China is South Korea’s largest trading partner by far. During election campaign Moon, a liberal, has criticized the deployment of THAAD which was deployed during his predecessor’s tenure due to the need to protect South Korea from a growing ballistic missile threat from the North. THAAD batteries are one of the thorniest diplomatic issues the new South Korean leader faces. If Moon asks the United States to withdraw the defense system, which became operational last week, he risks rupturing South Korea’s close alliance with the United States and looking as if he is succumbing to Chinese pressure. Despite overture on May 11, 2017, it will not be easy for Moon to reverse the decision on THAAD, especially since it has already been deployed. In a call with President Trump on May 10, 2017, Moon pledged to strengthen Seoul’s alliance with Washington, calling it “the foundation of our diplomacy and national security.” It is expected that newly elected Moon will persuade China to restrict North Korea’s provocative behaviour until both South Korea and the US decide the system is no longer necessary. China’s state-run news media portrayed the call between Mr. Xi and Mr. Moon as conciliatory, saying Mr. Xi had reminded Mr. Moon of the friendly relations between China and South Korea since the establishment of diplomatic ties in 1992. China views Mr. Moon as a leader who will be far easier to deal with on North Korea than his predecessor, Ms. Park, who was impeached and ousted as president.

Japan

Abe Adopts New Strategy for Constitution Revision

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has abandoned his strategy of consulting with the main opposition party about constitutional revision while out rightly discarding the draft for constitutional amendments compiled by the Liberal Democratic Party in 2012. His focus is to clarify the legal status of the Self-Defence Forces in Article 9, under which Japan renounces war and the ability to pursue war. Abe ordered the head of the ruling party's task force, Okiharu Yasuoka, to draw up a draft of an amended Constitution based on his proposals alone during a May 12 meeting at the LDP’s headquarters in Tokyo. The LDP while allowing behind-the-scenes input from its junior coalition partner Komeito, has moved from its previous position of discussing constitutional revisions with the opposition Democratic Party in the Diet’s Commission on the Constitution.

Abe set out his goals for constitutional revision in a video message screened at a gathering on the May 3 Constitution Day holiday. In it, he proposed that the Constitution clearly state the existence of the SDF while keeping intact the first and the second paragraphs of Article 9, which stipulate the renunciation of war and non-possession of military forces, respectively. The Constitutional Reform Promotion Headquarters is scheduled to hold a study meeting May 24 under the theme of “security.”

Japan Calls for International Unity on North Korea after Missile Test

On May 14 following Pyongyang's missile test launch, Abe in a statement to the media stated that "we want to work closely, not only with the United States and South Korea, but also with China, Russia and the international community, to strongly urge North Korea to abide by United Nations resolutions." Abe furthermore mentioned that Shotaro Yachi, head of the secretariat of Japan's National Security Council, and H.R. McMaster, US's national security adviser have spoken on the telephone about the launch. Japan also issued a protest to North Korea through its embassy in Beijing. Further foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and South Korean counterpart Yun Byung Se too spoke on the phone the necessity of putting pressure on North Korea and the importance of the role China, Pyongyang's long-time economic and diplomatic benefactor, can play. Kishida further stated that Japan has started making arrangements with the United States and South Korea to send a strong message on the launch at the UN Security Council. Japan currently holds a non-permanent seat on the decision-making body.

North Korea launched ballistic missiles, thought to be intermediate-range types, from a site near its eastern coast on April 5 and 16, but both launches ended in failure. A further missile launched on April 29 fell on land within North Korea. May 14 launch comes days after the swearing in of new South Korean President Moon Jae In, who has advocated trying to repair relations with the North. Japan has also been looking into introducing the Aegis Ashore missile defence system. Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party in March urged Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's government to consider acquiring the capability to hit enemy bases and to beef up missile defence.

Cutter Diplomacy and Coast Guard Exercises

Japan will bolster efforts to support nations facing Chinese maritime advances in the South China Sea through joint training exercises in June. The move comes in the wake of Japan supplying front-line coast guard cutters to the Philippines and Vietnam, which could be used to help rein in the advances. The Philippines and Vietnam both have territorial disputes with China in the South China Sea, while Japan has its own dispute with Beijing over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea. There have been prior joint training exercises using smaller vessels with the Philippines and Vietnam that involved rescue operations at sea. However, this will be the first training using larger ships.

Earlier this year, the Japan Coast Guard established a new post that can be translated as director for international coast guard cooperation. This official will focus on providing support to Southeast Asian nations. The training session with the Philippines will be the first actual case in which a director is in charge of leading a training exercise. The exercise with Philippines and Vietnam will be held on June 3 and June 16. Japan provided the Vietnamese coast guard and Philippine coast guard with cutters in 2015 and 2016 respectively. The 3,100-ton Echigo, a cutter with helicopter-carrying capability, will join the exercises from Japan.

China And Taiwan

Chinese Ambassador Speech at United Service Institution (USI), New Delhi-Edited

Ahead of the Belt and Road Initiative summit in Beijing, on 5 May 2017, the Chinese Ambassador Luo Zhaohui, gave his speech at the United Service Institution (USI) of India, a New Delhi-based think tank. He started his speech by commenting on the positives of India-China relation. He highlighted the need to synergies development strategies; “Made in China 2025”, “Internet Plus”, “Make in India” “Digital India” and the “Smart Cities” project from both the sides. He spoke about the need to manage differences and proposed that the two Asian giants could actively explore the feasibility of aligning China’s One Belt One Road and India’s “Act East Policy”.

Interestingly, on China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) that passes through Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK), the ambassador said: “Even we can think about renaming the CPEC”. Reportedly, this statement was not taken well in Pakistan. The officials from Ministry of Planning and Development have written a letter to Chinese officials at the Chinese Embassy in Islamabad over the statement. Later on, this statement was taken off from the speech published by the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in India website. Now the edited statement as released by the Embassy, reads, “India still has reservation over the OBOR, saying that the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) passes through the Pakistan –Control-Kashmir, raising sovereignty concerns. China has no intention to get involved in the sovereignty and territorial disputes between India and Pakistan.”

On the ambassador’s remarks, the spokesperson from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs China, Geng Shuang, said: “For the CPEC, we have stressed many times that it is an economic cooperation initiative. China's active participation in and promotion of the CPEC does not mean that we change our position on the relevant issue. They are two different things. As we have emphasized time and again that the Kashmir issue is one left over from history between India and Pakistan. We hope both sides can properly address the issue through dialogue and consultation.” However, he refused to comment on the editing of the speech.

The Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, 14-15 May 2017

The Belt and Road Forum (BRF) was held in Beijing on 14-15 May 2017. Ever since Xi Jinping proposed this initiative this was highest profile international meeting on Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Around 30 heads of state and government attended the meeting.

In his keynote speech, Xi highlighted the historic importance of the BRI route and the country involved in it. He also elucidated the developments that have taken place in last four years of One Belt One Road/ BRI. Further, he illustrated the guiding principles for the successful implementation of the initiative. In his speech, he announced that China will contribute an additional RMB 100 billion in financial support for the BRI. In addition, he announced that China will encourage financial institutions to conduct overseas RMB fund business with an estimated amount of RMB 300 billion. The China Development Bank and the Export-Import Bank of China will set up special lending schemes respectively worth RMB 250 billion equivalent and RMB 130 billion equivalent to supporting Belt and Road cooperation on infrastructure, industrial capacity, and financing. Further, China will provide assistance worth RMB 60 billion to developing countries and international organizations participating in the Belt and Road Initiative to launch more projects to improve people's well-being.

Notably, he said “all countries should respect each other’s sovereignty, dignity and territorial integrity. Each other’s development path and social systems, and each other’s core interest and major concerns”. This was a generic formulation and was not directed towards India. Evidently, with the opening of the forum, China has formalized the status of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor as the ‘flagship programme’ of the OBOR initiative.

India’s Absence from the Belt and Road Forum

India did not send any representative to the Belt and Road Forum held on 14-15 May 2017 in Beijing. India had received the invitation on six different occasions to attend the forum and is the only country in South Asia that is not on board with China on Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

Ahead of the forum, on 13 May 2017, the Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson, Mr. Gopal Baglay said, “Connectivity initiatives must follow principles of financial responsibility to avoid projects that would create unsustainable debt burden for communities; balanced ecological and environmental protection and preservation standards; transparent assessment of project costs; and skill and technology transfer to help long term running and maintenance of the assets created by local communities. Connectivity projects must be pursued in a manner that respects sovereignty and territorial integrity.” He also said that expansion and strengthening of connectivity is an integral part of India's economic and diplomatic initiatives.

India has sovereignty concerns over the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor that passes through the Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. The MEA Spokesperson said “Regarding the so-called ‘China Pakistan Economic Corridor, which is being as the flagship project of the BRI/OBOR, the international community is well aware of India’s position. No country can accept a project that ignores its core concerns on sovereignty and territorial integrity”. India also has reservation over the orientation and nature of the development of the BRI. However, an opening has been left for any future dialogue if possible.

Tsai Ing-wen Speech on the New Southbound Policy

On 5 May 2017, President Tsai-Ing-wen held a joint interview with the journalist from the Southeast Asian countries and India (the Hindu). In the interview, she explained the rationale behind the New Southbound Policy. She said, “Fundamentally, the New Southbound Policy is about how Taiwan can play a proactive role in a community of so many close neighbors. In contrast to some major countries that have geopolitical considerations in the region, the New Southbound Policy's aims are simple. It is about economics and trade. We want to build economically, mutually beneficial relationships that improve the lives of the people within this community.”

She identified five areas where partner countries can collaborate; developing and sharing talent and resources, industrial cooperation and the development of domestic markets, manufacturing industries, small and medium-sized enterprises and new flagship projects. The flagship projects include the joint development of industrial talent, medical cooperation and industrial supply chains, innovation-based industries, and regional agriculture. She also proposed policy forums and youth exchange platforms.

During the interview, she shared her experience of 2012 when she visited India. Repeatedly, she used examples from India to illustrate her point. On the point of scholarship, she said, “About 1200 Indian Students are currently studying in Taiwan. We plan to further expanding the Taiwan Scholarship and Taiwan Fellowship awards for talented Indian Students to study in Taiwan.” On the processing of seafood and fish farming, she said: “When I was in India, I found that it’s difficult to get seafood in inland states, but I thought that people living inland are entitled to have seafood as one of their food items, and so that requires logistics and food processing-or even fish farming techniques-in India, so I guess we have plenty of experience of that”. With reference to small and medium-sized enterprises, she said they can “help strengthen Prime Minister Modi’s ‘Make in India’ policy”

She also used this opportunity to bring out the difference between the New Southbound Policy and the One Belt One Road, “I wish to emphasize that the New Southbound Policy and China's Belt and Road Initiative are two completely different models. Taiwan enjoys immense soft power capabilities from our private enterprises, as well as our ongoing work in healthcare, education, human resource development, technological innovation, agriculture, and disaster preparedness. This cannot be replaced or blocked by either money or politics.”