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    Event Reports

    ISAS-KAS Panel Discussion: 06 August 2019

    Topic : The Future of Artificial Intelligence: Voices from Asia

    Speaker(s) : Mr Rajesh Sreenivasan, Ms Chinmayi Arun, Ms Malavika Jayaram, Professor Mark Findlay

    ISAS Seminar: 30 July 2019

    Topic : China-India Relationship in the Shadow of China-United States Strategic Competition

    Speaker(s) : Dr Guo Xuetang

    ISAS-CII Panel Discussion: 11 July 2019

    Topic : India Budget 2019: Features, Impact and Prospects

    Speaker(s) : Mr Vinod Rai, Mr K V Rao, Mr Rohan Solapurkar, Dr Amitendu Palit

    Joint Panel Discussion: 08 July 2019

    Topic : Bangladesh Rising: Challenges and Opportunities

    Speaker(s) : Dr Iftekhar Chowdhury, Mr Muhammed Aziz Khan, Ms Rubana Huq, Dr Amitendu Palit

    ISAS-KAS Joint Panel Discussion: 27 June 2019

    Topic : The Role of Digital Media in the 2019 Indian General Elections

    Speaker(s) : Professor Sahana Udupa, Dr Joyojeet Pal, Mr Govind Ethiraj, Dr Nalin Mehta

    ISAS Seminar: 24 June 2019

    Topic : Use of Digital Payments in India

    Speaker(s) : Ms Sharon Buteau, Ms Preeti Rao

    ISAS-ATC-WEF Panel Discussion: 17 June 2019

    Topic : Trade War - Scenarios, Situations and Strategies

    Speaker(s) : Dr Amitendu Palit, Dr Deborah Elms, Dr Raymon Krishnan, Ms Kimberley Botwright

    ISAS-RSIS Panel Discussion: 06 June 2019

    Topic : Long-term Implications of India's 2019 General Elections

    Speaker(s) : Professor Walter Andersen, Dr Sinderpal Singh, Dr Amitendu Palit

    ISAS Book Discussion: 04 June 2019

    Topic : The RSS: A View to the Inside

    Speaker(s) : Professor Walter Andersen

    ISAS-EU Joint Symposium: 03 June 2019

    Topic : Europe in the Indo-Pacific - Moving from Periphery to the Centre?

    Speaker(s) : Multiple Speakers

    ISAS-Commonwealth UK Joint Workshop: 28 May 2019

    Topic : Harnessing Trade Policy for Global Integration - Commonwealth Consultation for the Asia-Pacific Region

    Speaker(s) : Multiple Speakers

    ISAS Closed Door Session: 24 May 2019

    Topic : Bangladesh’s Development – A Mixed Story

    Speaker(s) : Dr Sreeradha Datta

    ISAS Workshop: 23 May 2019

    Topic : Assessing the Transformation of Bangladesh

    Speaker(s) : Multiple Speakers

    ISAS Seminar: 02 May 2019

    Topic : How India Manages It's National Security

    Speaker(s) : Dr Arvind Gupta

    ISAS Panel Discussion: 25 April 2019

    Topic : Peace in Afghanistan - A New Dawn or False Hope?

    Speaker(s) : Dr Nasir A Andisha, Professor William Maley, Mr David Samuel Sedney

    ISAS Book Launch and Panel Discussion: 17 April 2019

    Topic : India’s Eastward Engagement : From Antiquity to Act East Policy

    Speaker(s) : Professor S D Muni, Professor C Raja Mohan, Mr K Kesavapany

    ISEAS-ISAS Panel Discussion: 09 April 2019

    Topic : India and Indonesia in the Indo-Pacific

    Speaker(s) : Multiple Speakers

    ISEAS-ISAS Roundtable: Indonesia and India – Constructing a Maritime Partnership: 09 April 2019

    Topic : Indonesia and India - Constructing a Maritime Partnership

    Speaker(s) : Multiple Speakers

    ISAS Ambassadors’ Lecture: 28 March 2019

    Topic : Moscow’s Pivot to Asia: Russia and the Indo-Pacific

    Speaker(s) : Andrey Tatarinov, Russian Ambassador to Singapore

    Joint ISAS-Asia Foundation Symposium: 26 March 2019

    Topic : Trump and Modi : India-US Burden-Sharing in the Indo-Pacific

    Speaker(s) : Multiple Speakers

    Joint ISAS-Asia Foundation Panel Discussion : The United States and India in a Turbulent World: 25 March 2019

    Topic : The United States and India in a Turbulent World

    Speaker(s) : Multiple Speakers

    ISAS Closed Door Roundtable: 25 March 2019

    Topic : China’s Naval Strategy in the Indo-Pacific and the Regional Responses

    Speaker(s) : Dr Ashley J Tellis

    ISAS Closed Door Session: 01 March 2019

    Topic : War and Peace in South Asia: New Developments in India, Pakistan and Afghanistan

    Speaker(s) : Dr S Jaishankar

    ISAS-RSIS Joint Workshop: 28 February 2019

    Topic : India – Rising Power in an Age of Uncertainty

    Speaker(s) : Multiple Speakers

    ISAS-ORF Panel Discussion: 27 February 2019

    Topic : Reconnecting South and Southeast Asia: Return of the Bay of Bengal Region

    Speaker(s) : Multiple Speakers

    Inaugurating the panel discussion on the historical and contemporary significance of the Bay of Bengal for connecting South and Southeast Asia in an ORF-ISAS Panel at ORF, Kolkata on 27 February, Professor Tan Tai Yong, President and Professor of Humanities (History) of the Yale-NUS College, National University of Singapore, recounted the importance of the Bay of Bengal region in connecting India and Southeast Asia. He said, historically the Bay of Bengal has been the point of connection between India and Southeast Asia and that, trade, ideas and people freely moved back and forth. But after the rise of nation-states in the Bay of Bengal, the states, became inward looking producing a gulf instead of a bridge between them.

    Today, the powers in the region, including China, India and the ASEAN, want to re-connect; hence, it is important to see how the Bay can be reconstituted as a zone bringing together the two geo-political areas. Apart from traditional security issues, environmental challenges and refugee concerns are shared problems inviting cooperation in the Bay.

    Professor Rakhahari Chatterji, Advisor, ORF Kolkata, chairing the Panel, said that the words ‘Reconnect’ and ‘Return’ assume that there was a past we want to resurrect without of course trying to repeat it. The past needs to be recollected to serve as a guiding light for the present and for reimagining the future. Based on such a constructive engagement with the past we need to examine the appropriateness of the trade, connectivity and strategic architecture we are building at present.

    Dr. Ronojoy Sen, Senior Fellow, Institute of South Asian Studies, National University of Singapore (ISAS-NUS), discussed the history of connectivity that existed in pre-colonial and colonial era. The history of the Bay of Bengal region can be viewed through the prism of three significant broad-based themes, he suggested.

    First, trade has historically facilitated deep and continuous interaction amongst people across the Bay of Bengal region. Since, the 6th century A.D., the records of trade in spices and textiles between Southeast Asia and Bengal can be found. Robust trade relations also enabled dissemination of religious beliefs and customs in the region.

    Second, imperial ambitions have had a pivotal impact in fostering greater integration of the Bay of Bengal region. The Pallava and Chola dynasties of Southern India and subsequently, the Portuguese and the British imperial power established their economic suzerainty in the region by initiating vibrant trade activities.

    Thirdly, the movement of people across the Bay gave considerable impetus to the integration of the Bay of Bengal region. The massive flow of people in the region can be traced from the 19th Century that coincides with the introduction of steam ships and the emergence of steam navigation companies.

    Studies of interaction in the region are now once again being revived through renewed strategic and economic relations.

    Dr. Nilanjan Ghosh, Director, Observer Research Foundation, Kolkata argued that a holistic approach in assessing the impacts of Free Trade Agreements (FTA), especially from the point-of-view of global value chains, needs to be adopted for boosting fair trade. India signed FTA’s assuming that such arrangements would open new areas for innovation, employment and investment. However, as Indian official databases have gone on to show, these trade agreements have largely benefitted India’s trade partners with an increase in India’s trade deficit.

    Dr. Ghosh suggested that mere trade balance figures must not guide India’s trade agreements with her Southeast Asian neighbours. As a result of cheaper imports, consumers have largely gained, known in economic terms as ‘consumer surplus.’ Producers, on the other hand, have suffered due to these FTAs. Inflow of better quality and cheaper goods has reduced the competitiveness of the domestic producers and they have expressed their ire against such agreements.

    Complementarities between trading partners play a key role and emphasis should be laid on exploiting them. Only then will trade make everyone ‘better off’. Unlike the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which is fraught with its own complexities, the Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Motor Vehicles Agreement (BBIN-MVA) represents a better arena where regional integration can enjoy some success. It has a higher probability of achieving fiscal and monetary integration with a common market and a common currency. This will lead to development of the entire region by way of ensuring food security, employment opportunities and a larger market among other benefits.

    Dr. Anasua Basu Ray Chaudhury, Senior Fellow, ORF discussed the significance of the Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal (BBIN) corridor as a hinterland of the Bay of Bengal and its potential for harnessing the dynamic economic prospects of the region. According to Dr. Basu Ray Chaudhury, the Bay of Bengal appears to be the most feasible and congenial option of connecting the nations that surround it, through mutually shared interests of growth and development. Three important ideas have been forwarded in this regard. First, the proper utilization of the land routes through roadways and highways, second identifying the vitality of the inland waterways and third, making proper use of the sea ports. Such transport corridors hold within themselves the immense potential of nurturing the true essence of the Bay.

    Although many efforts have been seen in this regard, there is still a lot that remains undone, Dr. Basu Ray Chaudhury, said. She called for the need of developing proper infrastructure and protocol routes and efficiency of the actions.

    Dr. C. Raja Mohan, Director, ISAS-NUS argued that physical or geographical proximity neither guarantees trade, nor strategic partnership. South Asia is a glaring example of this phenomenon. Instead of physical proximity, the political situation of the countries in question matters. For example, closing the market by Chairman Mao Zedong in China and Jawaharlal Nehru in India and their negative effects on the trade situation of both countries are results of the political environment and resultant decisions taken by the respective leaders.

    According to Dr. Raja Mohan, India has missed the opportunity when it had the scope to build a robust trade and strategic partnership with littorals in the Bay of Bengal after the latter’s independence. Only after liberalization of her economy in1991 has India engaged strategically by undertaking joint military exercises with Bay littorals making her presence felt in the region. Discussing the rise of China in the Bay of Bengal, Dr. Raja Mohan said that China has been following the colonial example of creating exclusive trading posts at strategic locations around the Bay like Sitwe, Kaladan etc. They have also been investing in pipelines for oil and gas supply and in other communication pathways as well. This is working as a back bone for China’s rapidly growing military presence in the region.

    Secondly, the retreat of US military from the region will create a vacuum that China seems very eager to fill in and Japan seems to take an interest as well. Realignment of strategic relations between USA and her allies like Thailand and Philippines is further encouraging the latter to drift towards China.

    The situation in the Bay presents new strategic opportunities for India as well and India seems to be on track with the Bay littorals as expressed through her settling border issues with Bangladesh and organizing joint naval exercises with Thailand. However, she needs more meaningful presence in the Bay. Given the transformation in the once strategically tranquil Bay of Bengal region into a contested zone, India, must retain some strong allies with her if she wants to be up front in the contest.

    The report is compiled by Mihir Bhonsale with inputs from Dr. Jaya Thakur, Sohini Bose, Sohini Nayak, Ambar Kumar Ghosh and Roshan SahaI

    Victoria Memorial Hall-ISAS Public Lecture : A Tale of Two Cities – Singapore and Calcutta, Past and Present: 26 February 2019

    Topic : Victoria Memorial Hall-ISAS Public Lecture

    Speaker(s) : Professor Tan Tai Yong, President Yale-NUS College; Deputy Chairman ISAS

    ISAS Closed Door Roundtable: 20 February 2019

    Topic : Between South and Southeast Asia: Bangladesh, Myanmar and the Case for a New Regional Framework

    Speaker(s) : Dr Michael Vatikiotis

    Liberalisation Sans Liberalism: The Dilemmas of Higher Education in India: 31 January 2019

    Topic : ISAS-SASP Seminar

    Speaker(s) : Dr Devesh Kapur

    ISAS Seminar: 28 January 2019

    Topic : The Dragon and the Elephant: Sino-Indian Relations in the Era of Modi and Xi

    Speaker(s) : Professor Yuan Jingdong, Visiting Research Fellow, East Asian Institute, NUS

    ISAS Seminar: 24 January 2019

    Topic : The Domestic Implications of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor for Pakistan

    Speaker(s) : Professor Katharine Adeney, University of Nottingham