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Welcome to BGA’s Asia Street blog, where you’ll find commentary and analysis from our people on the ground.

Unlocking the Potential of India’s Space Sector

December 16, 2020

On December 15, BGA Managing Director India Ratan Shrivastava (pictured on the bottom right of the screenshot) participated in a discussion on unlocking India’s potential in the space sector. The conversation, hosted by one of India’s largest broadcasting organizations, featured a conversation that followed an appearance and remarks by the head of India’s space agency.

The discussion, hosted by public service broadcaster Doordarshan (DD) and focused on the theme “Unlocking India’s Potential in Space,” featured remarks by K. Sivan, chairman of the Indian Space and Research Organization (ISRO), along with a discussion that followed with comments by Shrivastava as well as Subba Rao Pavuluri, CMD Ananth Technologies Ltd. It touches on various issues across the Indian space sector, including integrating this with broader national development priorities, fostering public awareness, increasing talent and building relationships with the private sector and academic institutions.

During the discussion, Shrivastava, a recognized space expert who has decades of experience on defense issues both in the Indian Army as well as in the private sector, shared his insights on navigating the opportunities and challenges in India’s space industry and the roles of various domestic and international actors in advancing government priorities. In his remarks, Shrivastava hit on several important themes, including the private sector’s ability to help widen the size of India’s space sector and realize Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s declared objective of ensuring that the benefits of outer space investments reach the common man.

Beyond the relationships among various players, Shrivastava also focused more specifically on the role of talent and fostering “space awareness” in younger generations. While ISRO and other institutions do have some initiatives in place directed at this, he said there needed to be a broader inculcation of a sense of outer space at a young age to “nurture the next generation of space technologists,” where schools will have an important role to play across all levels and whether they are government or private. He noted that institutions such as the Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology in Trivandrum play an important role not only in building talent, but also encouraging international cooperation if individuals are able to link up with like-minded individuals in other countries such as Germany, France, the United States and Japan.

More generally, Shrivastava noted that the understanding of outer space in the people of India would need to be both broadened and deepened, focusing not only on specific manifestations such as rockets and satellites but also applications involving software and the integration of technologies such as remote sensing. This broader sense of space awareness, in his view, would both be a more complete representation of reality as well as a more interconnected, whole of India perspective that would recognize the connections between the government, private sector, non-governmental organizations and wider society.

Southeast Asia’s Post-Covid Future

November 17, 2020

On November 16, 2020, BGA Indonesia Deputy Managing Director Alisha Sulisto (pictured on the boom center of the screenshot) participated in a virtual conference with the Perth USAsia Centre think tank known as the Western Australia-ASEAN Trade and Investment Dialogue, a series designed to promote engagement between the Western Australia business community and its ASEAN counterparts.

The theme for this year’s session – the third in an annual series – was “WA and ASEAN: A Shared Economic Recovery,” emphasizing post-Covid-19 economic and business recovery opportunities as well as strengthening supply chains with secure and reliable training partners. In her session, Sulisto was joined by moderator and Perth USAsia Centre founding CEO Gordon Flake, Western Australia Minister for Asian Engagement Peter Tinley and fellow speaker Emma Connors, Southeast Asia correspondent for the Australian Financial Review.

In their comments, both Tinley and Flake reaffirmed the importance of ties between Western Australia and Southeast Asian countries that the series aims to support, particularly as policymakers and experts look to shape a post-Covid-19 landscape. In her remarks, Sulisto noted that ASEAN economies had actually managed the pandemic well, and had looked to get past the “zero-sum” notion mentioned in other contexts of either prioritizing a hardline pandemic response or putting economic growth first. She also suggested that Covid-19 and other disruptions, including the U.S.-China trade war, had reinforced the fact that Western Australian businesses should look to diversify supply chains and their consumer base and tap into new markets, including in Southeast Asia, as Asia becomes the next driver of global growth.

Sulisto’s remarks also focused particularly on Indonesia – Southeast Asia’s largest economy, a member of the G-20, and the world’s fourth most populous nation. Though she noted that Indonesia had been able to leverage key internal and external developments to enhance its competitiveness before the pandemic hit, including the omnibus law and the milestone Indonesia-Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership (IA-CEPA), she also added that Jakarta needed to up its game due to lingering concerns about the pandemic in country as well as an evolving competitive context. “With heightened competitiveness in the region,” Sulisto said, “I worry that the political capital spent by the Indonesian government won’t produce the return on investment the government so desperately wants.”

Overall, despite lingering challenges, Sulisto said that Indonesia represented a case within Southeast Asia where despite the government’s shortcomings in addressing the pandemic, it remained committed to working with the world rather than turning inward. As such, she emphasized that companies should continue to be engaged and recognize such goodwill, along with the broader point that Southeast Asia will continue to be a key driver of Asia’s growth in the coming years including as the region seeks to navigate a post-Covid-19 future.

Out of the Shadows: Cybersecurity in Australia and the Indo-Pacific”

October 26, 2020

Last month, BGA Singapore Managing Director James Carouso – previously a senior advisor at the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command in Hawaii and deputy chief of mission and chargé d’ affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Australia – participated in an Australian Chamber event featuring a video conference with Minister for Defense Linda Reynolds. The event delved into the cyber challenge for Australia and how the government had in response tried to bring cyber agencies “out of the shadows” to raise public awareness about cyber security and the role of intelligence agencies.

“Defense Minister Reynolds did not mince words regarding the threat our governments and businesses faced from state-based cyber attacks,” Carouso wrote on Linkedin in response to a shared event summary. “She also said Australia is working with allies and partners to develop more secure supply chains for critical goods and tech.”

The effects of trends such as cybersecurity on aspects of interest to companies such as supply chains is a particular area of thought leadership at BGA, especially with the confluence of geopolitical developments including simmering U.S.-China tensions, innovative ideas such as the Supply Chain Resilience Initiative, and configurations like the Quad – grouping Australia, India, Japan and the United States.

As a case in point, in a recent op-ed published in the South China Morning Post, Carouso along with BGA New Zealand Managing Director Penny Tucker – one of the premier experts on international trade and economic issues – flagged supply chains as being among the areas where companies and governments have to adjust amid growing U.S.-China tensions. “Global commentators have written widely about how the post-Covid-19 world and the impetus to make supply chains more resilient will affect trade and investment considerations. It behooves the governments of Southeast and South Asian nations to negotiate their inclusion as trusted suppliers to their large trading partners,” Carouso and Tucker wrote.

In the op-ed, Carouso and Tucker also both note that Western countries can and should help other countries in managing such issues. As such, how Australia manages the cybersecurity challenges that Reynolds laid out as well as its wider domestic and foreign policy agenda more generally has implications not only for Canberra, but the wider Indo-Pacific region as well.

The Philippines’ Quest for South China Sea Justice in Perspective.

September 16, 2020

On September 16, BGA co-hosted a virtual event with the Stratbase Albert Del Rosario Institute (ADRi), an independent international and strategic research organization, on China’s role in Southeast Asia tied to the launch of a new book on the subject by Head of Research Murray Hiebert. The event, moderated by BGA Philippines Managing Director Dindo Manhit, featured remarks by BGA President and CEO Ernie Bower, keynote remarks by former Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario, and insights from some leading Philippine thinkers: Justice Antonio Carpio, Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales, Renato de Castro and Richard Heydarian.

In his keynote address, Del Rosario, who was instrumental in the Philippines’ historic South China Sea arbitral tribunal case against China, framed the importance of Manila’s efforts in a wider regional and global perspective given Beijing’s recent maritime assertiveness, noting that the “quest for justice will shape our world and our country’s role in it.” He also added that it was important for the Philippines to reject the notion of “might makes right” not just for its own sake but for other middle and small powers in the world.

Both Bower and Manhit noted the strategic importance of Southeast Asia for its own sake as well as for both China and the United States, bringing with it their share of opportunities and challenges. Manhit also subsequently elaborated on his views in a column for the Philippine Daily Inquirer, where he noted that the chief challenge that China’s rise poses for the Philippines and Indo-Pacific states is that Beijing’s greater power has in turn resulted in growing ambitions and positioning itself as a global leader and a shaper of the international order, at times to the detriment of these countries’ interests. “[Its] rise is far from ‘peaceful,’ with its questionable economic initiatives and aggression in the West Philippine Sea,” Manhit wrote.

In his remarks, Hiebert, who has been on a virtual book tour across Indo-Pacific capitals, highlighted the Philippines as a particular case where while China’s quest for influence is far from new, Beijing is using “its full toolbox” across realms – political, economic, and societal – to increase its influence quickly. But he also added that the administration of Rodrigo Duterte had illustrated the limits of Beijing’s influence in the Philippines as well, since some of the deals initially reached had either not taken off due to legal obstacles or not really produced much value for Manila.

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