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Event Reports​​
  • Visit to Overseas Institution (CEEW): 10 Mar 2015
    • Topic : Council of Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW)

      ISAS arranged for a preliminary meeting with staff of CEEW to acquire a better understanding of their scope of activities and possible collaboration. Dr Arunabha Ghosh, CEO of the Council identified three areas of possible interaction. The first is in the area of climate change, global governance and trade. The second on renewable energy and sustainable development and the third on green finance and clean technology. Elaborating on ISAS’s plans to pursue a research programme on India’s engagement with the Asia-Pacific, Dr Amitendu Palit indicated the research will involve economic, strategic and resource security angles. Drawing attention to the overlap between the CEEW’s expertise and the core aspects of the ISAS research plan, Dr Palit and Dr Sinderpal Singh proposed a joint research activity with CEEW culminating in an edited volume on APEC member countries’ perspective of engaging India and vice versa. They shared the need for an author’s workshop to discuss the book proposal and to frame research questions. CEEW was keen to participate and enquired more details on author remuneration and nature of the published output.
  • Singapore Symposium 2015: 27 July 2015, Chennai, India
    • Topic : Singapore Symposium 2015

      Speaker(s) : Mr K Shanmugam Minister for Foreign Affairs and Law Republic of Singapore

      “In​dia has a bright future, and Singapore has a role in it”, says Singapore’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and Law, Mr K Shanmugam. 

      Addressing about 200 Tamil Nadu businessmen and industrialists at the Singapore Symposium 2015 held in Chennai recently, Mr Shanmugam underscored the synergies between Singapore and India. He said that the bilateral relations of the two countries is premised on trust; and that the cultural complementarity between them is time-tested. 

      The Singapore Symposium 2015, organised by the Institute of South Asian Studies (ISAS) at the National University of Singapore, was held on 27 July 2015. It was organised as part of Singapore’s 50th anniversary of independence celebrations. 

      During a 90-minute engaging session, Minister Shanmugam captivated the audience with his open and candid discussion on a range of topics. The discussion was moderated by former foreign secretary of India, Mr Shyam Saran.

      Mr Shanmugam said that Singapore has invested in Tamil Nadu, which is one of the fastest growing states in India. Responding to a question on Tamil Nadu business engagement with Southeast Asia, Mr Shanmugam said that businessmen from the state would not find themselves out of place in Singapore. He added that Indian companies not only do business in Singapore, but they also use Singapore as a base to grow in the region. 

      “Singapore is one of the world’s financial centres and it is easy to raise capital in Singapore, if you have the right qualification and company standards”, Mr Shanmugam told reporters later. There are about 6,000 Indian companies in Singapore. Two-way trade between Singapore and India was estimated at USD 17 billion in 2014-15. 

      On the healthcare industry, Mr Shanmugam said that Singapore is keen to develop its pharmaceutical industry and is exploring possibilities of cooperation with India. He added that Singapore is looking at moving up the value chain in the pharmaceuticals, and that the lion-city state has a strong IP (intellectual property) regime that would protect inventions. 

      Responding to India’s ‘Make in India” initiative, Mr Shanmugam said that India has all the factors necessary to make the idea a success. He said that the rising labour costs in China forced global manufacturers to look for alternatives. “Make in India’ is the new national program designed to transform India into a global manufacturing hub. 

      Prior to the interactive session with Mr Shanmugam, three successful Singapore businessmen from key business verticals shared their experiences at a business forum. They were Mr Sat Pal Khathar (Chairman, Khattar Holdings Group of Companies); Mr Peter Joo Hee Ng (Chief Executive PUB, Singapore’s National Water Agency); and Mr Pang Yee Ean (Group Chief Operating Officer, Surbana Jurong Private Limited). The business forum was moderated by Mrs Rajshree Pathy (Chairperson, Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) Southern Region). CII was ISAS’ organising partner at the Singapore Symposium 2015. 

      Organised periodically by ISAS, the Singapore Symposium serves to host Singapore dignitaries and experts in a discussion with South Asian countries on issues pertinent to the South Asian region. Singapore Symposium 2015 is the third edition in India; and the fourth in the region. Singapore’s founding Prime Minister, Mr Lee Kuan Yew was the guest-of-honour at the inaugural Singapore Symposium in Delhi in 2009. Prime Minister, Mr Lee Hsien Loong graced the Singapore Symposium in the Indian capital in 2012.
  • Meeting with Overseas Strategic Partner (Brookings India): 10 Mar 2015
    • Topic : Brookings India

      The meeting with Brookings India – one of ISAS’s overseas strategic partners – focused on crystallizing a joint research agenda. Brookings mentioned its keen interest in working on India and the APEC – a theme, which is already being developed by ISAS. Dr Subir Gokarn and Dr Waheguru Pal Singh Sidhu proposed to stay in touch with both Dr Palit and Dr Singh – to exchange more ideas in this regard. ISAS and Brookings India signed a MOU in November 2013 at ISAS’ second South Asian Diaspora Convention.
  • Launch of ISAS Commemorative Book (in Singapore): 18 June 2015
    • Topic : Singapore-India: Towards a Shared Future

      Speaker(s) : Mr Goh Chok Tong Emeritus Senior Minister Republic of Singapore

      Sharing the future 
      Book launched by ESM Goh Chok Tong marks 50 years of ties between Singapore and India 

      Sithara Doriasamy 

      Fifty years of strong diplomatic ties between Singapore and India has been documented in a commemorative book released here by the Institute of South Asian Studies (ISAS). The book titled “Singapore-India: Towards a Shared Future” was launched by Singapore’s Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong on June 18 at the National University of Singapore. About 150 diplomats, heads of think tanks, civil servants, academics and community leaders gathered at the launch. 

      ​​​Keeping close ties… ESM Goh (third from left) unveiling the ISAS commemorative book. With him are (from left): co-editors of the book, Mr See Chak Mun and Prof Tan Tai Yong, Indian High Commissioner Mrs Vijay Thakur Singh, Ambassador Gopinath Pillai and Prof Subrata Kumar Mitra (Director, ISAS)..

      Speaking at the sidelines of the book launch, Mr Goh said “we welcome more Indian interaction with the Singapore business people. But beyond businesses is the cultural and people ties which are very important”. He added that when he was Prime Minister, he saw the potential of the Singapore-India relationship, in terms of trade, investment and cultural ties.

      Two of Singapore’s past high commissioners, Mr See Chak Mun and Mr Calvin Eu who were present at the launch, were presented with a special edition of the commemorative volume.

      In his introductory remarks to the book, Mr See who is also a co-editor of the volume, shared that Ambassador Gopinath Pillai, Chairman of ISAS, and the former director of ISAS, Prof Tan Tai Yong, mooted the idea to produce the publication to commemorate the 10th anniversary of ISAS, and 50 years of diplomatic relations between India and Singapore.

      The commemorative volume was first launched in India in February this year by Singapore’s President Dr Tony Tan Keng Yam during his state visit to Delhi. The book looks at how trade, colonial rule and the movement of people provided the basis for a long-standing partnership. There are presently about 6000 Indian companies in Singapore.
      In his foreword in the commemorative volume, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong noted that the publication is a “timely reminder of the strong and enduring friendship between our two countries”. India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi penned down similar sentiments in his foreword that the volume “is a fitting tribute to our extraordinary fruitful journey so far and an inspiration for the road that lies ahead’.

      Sithara Doriasamy is head of communications and strategic events, at ISAS
  • Launch of ISAS Commemorative Book (in Delhi, India): 10 Feb 2015
    • Topic : Singapore-India: Towards a Shared Future

      Speaker(s) : Dr Tony Tan Keng Yam, President, Republic of Singapore

      Moderator : Mr Suresh Prabhu, Minister of Railways, India

      The volume, published by ISAS, documents 50 years of diplomatic ties between Singapore and India, and is a timely reminder of the enduring friendship between our two countries. It looks at how the long-standing relationship between Singapore and India was forged by trade, colonial rule, migration and the struggle for nationhood. The publication also provides an overview of some key milestones in diplomatic, economic and socio-cultural relations between our two nations in the post-independence years, right up to the present. The book concludes by looking at the prospects for the future of bilateral ties. The photographs in the text, some of which are being published for the first time, illustrate in detail the interactions between the political leaders and peoples of both countries. The book also features interviews of people who have been closely involved with the growth of the Singapore-India relationship, and profiles of selected Singapore and India companies. About 100 invited guests attended the exclusive launch by Dr Tony Tan, President of Republic of Singapore. Dr Tan presented a special edition of the volume to Mr Suresh Prabhu, Minister of Railways, India. There was also an exhibition on key features of the commemorative volume.

      The book launch was preceded by a panel discussion on Singapore-Indian relations. The panellists were: and Prof S D Muni (Professor Emeritus, Jawaharlal Nehru University), Mr Chandrajit Banerjee (Director General, CII), Prof Tan Tai Yong (Director, ISAS) and Mr N K Singh (former MP, Rajya Sabha; and Senior Member, BJP)
  • ISAS-CII Joint Event : 20 February 2017
    • Topic : India-Singapore Relations in the Changing Global Scenario

      11th ISAS International Conference on South Asia
      Contemporary South Asia: Regional Dynamics and Changing Global Politics
      Friday, 3 March 2017 9:00 AM
      Grand Copthorne Waterfront Singapore

      Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Singapore, Dr David M. Malone, Under-Secretary-General, United Nations Amb George E. Moose, Vice Chairman, Board of Directors, US Institute of Peace

      On 3rd March 2017 ISAS held its 11th International Conference on South Asia. Bringing together twenty-one distinguished speakers from eleven countries and renowned institutions, the participants deliberated on a number of topics related to the overarching subject, Contemporary South Asia: regional dynamics and changing global politics. The guest of honour for the conference was Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Vivian Balakrishnan who spoke on the past, present and future of South Asia and South East Asia in terms of linkages between the two regions and the potential for furthering collaboration. Researchers from the Institute of South Asian Studies introduced the state of play in terms of three prisms: multilateralism, trade and the Indian Ocean. This was followed by four panels, addressing regional dynamics to the West and the East of South Asia; the impact and implications of global political developments for South Asia; the prospects and prognoses for the region, seen through the five inter-related research foci of ISAS, namely diplomacy, democracy, defence, development and the diaspora. A few themes recurred through the day and across the panels. These included, the importance and challenges of initiating and enabling connectivity projects; the opportunities, perception of and response to China’s investments in South Asia through the One Belt One Road and the China Pakistan Economic Corridor projects and; India’s readiness and capacity to play a greater regional as well as global role. 

  • ISAS Visit to Australia: 15 – 20 Feb
    • Topic : ISAS Admin Trip to Canberra and Brisbane, Australia

      Speaker(s) : Mr Johnson Paul, Senior Associate Director, Professor Robin Jeffrey, Visiting Research Professor, Dr S Narayan, Visiting Senior Research Fellow, Dr Amitendu Palit, Senior Research Fellow, Dr Sinderpal Singh, Senior Research Fellow

      An ISAS delegation travelled to Canberra and Brisbane in Australia on an administrative trip from 15-20 February 2015. The objectives of the trip was (i) to work for building a study group involving ISAS faculty and Australian policymakers and academics on India and the Asia-Pacific Region on trade, economic and foreign policy issues; and (ii) to promote an ISAS research agenda on India-Australia relations following the recent significant bilateral developments. During the visit, ISAS participated in two academic workshops at the Australian National University and Griffith Asia Institute, Griffith University. The ISAS team also had detailed interactions with federal and provincial government agencies, including Office of National Assessments, Government of Australia; Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Government of Australia; and Queensland Government’s departments of Trade and Investment, Infrastructure and Planning, and Natural Resources and Mines. Outcomes 1. Discussions with ONA and DFAT centred around India’s economic prospects, including the possibilities of India sustaining its economic recovery, the likely measures to be announced in the forthcoming Indian budget, and the negotiations on the India-Australia FTA. While Australian government agencies were optimistic with the new Indian government, particularly Prime Minister Modi’s decisive approach, they noted the difficulties he might experience in pushing through reforms involving greater participation of states. 2. Australia’s strategic perception of India appeared distinctly favourable with Australia ready to support India’s bid for becoming a member of the APEC. 3. Concerns were expressed over the gaps that continue to remain between India and Australia on several core issues in the bilateral trade negotiations. These gaps, as were noted from the meetings, remain despite the strong push imparted by leaderships of both countries to the negotiations. 4. Technical education and skills were noted to be among the most prominent Australian interests in the Indian market. 5. Discussions also focused on the possibility of Prime Minister failing to meet the high expectations of his political mandate and the scope of radical elements in the BJP damaging the party and Mr Modi’s larger credibility. 6. From a security and strategic perspective, there were discussions over India’s continuing difficulties with Pakistan, the future course of the India-US relations and India’s affirmative foreign policy posture, including a more decisive view on the South China Sea. 7. The security issues were discussed threadbare in the various academic discussions that ISAS participated in: both at the ANU and the Griffith University. ISAS faculty pointed out the distinct changes noticeable in India’s external engagement in this regard – in terms of a greater slant towards the US and strategic drivers becoming more prominent in its trade policy. The ISAS team shared with all agencies and experts its plans to develop a research programme for studying India’s external engagement with the major countries of the Asia-Pacific from an economic and strategic perspective. These countries would include Australia, China and the US. All the agencies and experts were supportive of the initiative and were willing to participate in joint research study groups that ISAS might set up as part of the programme with focus on India-Australia relations. The meetings also made it clear that the expertise and scholarship on contemporary issues on South Asia were distinctly limited in agencies and institutes in Australia. The lack of expertise is in contrast to the considerable interest and enthusiasm in India following PM Modi’s visit last year as well as the large people-to-people contacts, particularly the growth of the Indian diaspora. The situation is of strategic advantage to ISAS with agencies in Australia clearly keen on engaging more with ISAS.
  • ISAS Symposium : 7 February 2017
    • Topic : India Budget 2017: Analyzing the Impact

  • ISAS Seminar: 3 July 2015
    • Topic : Myanmar-India Relations: China’s Shadow and Election Promise

      Speaker(s) : Dr Tin Maung Than Visiting Research Fellow Institute of Southeast Asian Studies National University of Singapore

      Moderator : Dr Iftekhar Chowdhury Principal Research Fellow, Institute of South Asian Studies National University of Singapore

  • ISAS Seminar: 3 Feb 2015
    • Topic : Reviving the Indian Economy: Challenges of Formulating a Reform Budget

      Speaker(s) : Dr Govinda Rao, Former Member, Fourteenth Finance Commission, Govt. of India, Emeritus Professor, National Institute of Public Finance & Policy, India

      Moderator : A/P Rahul Mukherji

      This was a balanced presentation of the state of the Indian economy before the budget. Govinda Rao is one of the country’s leading public finance experts. He has a forthcoming book with Arvind Panagaraiya coming out this year with Oxford University Press. The talk was quite balanced. 

      Main insights: 

      1. Policy paralysis rather than global financial crisis had led to the slow-down in the Indian economy. It was aggravated by oil prices and governance issues such as land acquisition. 
      2. Low oil prices have helped the fiscal situation considerably. Despite this, high inflation in the past have led to excessive investments in real estate and gold, thereby choking the funds available for growth promoting investments. The finances available for growth were further constrained by rampant subsidies. 
      3. So the fiscal constraints are considerable. The subsidy calculations are not nearly perfect. Much movement in this regard will be enabled by investment enabling policies.
      4. Getting the projects (power, ports, coal, railways, roads) started will be the critical part. Here Rao was optimistic about Suresh Prabhu’s role in Railways. Prabhu had discussed with him ways of going about public-private partnerships, even foreign inviting investment, which he thought were credible and good ideas. 
      5. The revised growth numbers are genuine. It has nothing to do with the government in power. It has more to do with availability of higher quality data. 
      6. The speaker was cautiously optimistic about the NITI Aayog. He was of the opinion that the Planning Commission was not doing a good job of public-private partnerships. It was riddled with too many schemes. A NITI Ayog, if it can work like a strategic planning unit, with greater inter-state coordination will be a good development. The inter-state council located within the Home Ministry should be brought within the NITI Aayog. Arvind Panagariya is a good friend and he was optimistic about Panagariya’s heading the panel. Rao mentioned his latest piece on the NITI Aayog just published in the Economic and Political Weekly.
  • ISAS Seminar: 29 April 2015
    • Topic : Co-Existence: Bandung and the Limits to Self-Determination

      Speaker(s) : Professor John Kelly Visiting Professor in Social Science, Yale-NUS College and Professor in Anthropology, University of Chicago

      Moderator : Assoc Prof Rahul Mukherji Head of Research; and Honorary Senior Fellow, ISAS

      This seminar was an engagement with Yale – NUS College. Professor Kelly is visiting the College and Professor Barnard Bate was also in the audience. ISAS Director Professor Subrata Mitra welcomed the speaker and articulated the purpose that seminars such as these serve in furthering the ISAS agenda. 

      This was a very serious seminar on the motivations of the leaders that produced the famous summit meeting of Afro-Asian solidarity at Bandung in April 1955. Most scholars think that this was a moment of high morality and Afro-Asian solidarity. De-colonization and self-determination are considered the leitmotif of the conference. Were major post-colonial countries such as India, China, Indonesia, Philippines, Burma, among others, attempting to create a new type of morality in Bandung that would defy the super-powers and work seriously towards de-colonization and self-determination. Was the moral imperative to give indigenous people greater rights?

      John Kelly’s fascinating research presented in this seminar points in another direction. He argued after giving serious consideration to all the leaders in Bandung that power was at play in Bandung as well. In this case, India and China wanted to settle their borders and spheres of influence. The negotiated a settlement by undermining the aspirations of the people of Asian highlands that included Tibet and India’s north east. This research throws light on India’s nation-building dilemmas in the early years. Arguments such as these are relevant for debating whether such old considerations over territory have now been overtaken by other considerations such as trade growth and economic growth. Does the old Bandung get reflected in the new Bandung meetings and exchanges between India and China? This research suggests that global regimes even though they may be constructed for reasons of power – they are driven largely by ideas. Even when defying the Cold Warriors, Kelly argues that Nehru clearly remained a modernizer – something that may have shaped his power driven approach to securing territory. It seems that Zhou may also have been motivated by similar concerns rather than those of revolution and a normatively different socialist order.
  • ISAS Seminar: 27 May 2015
    • Topic : The Ethnography of the Poor: State and Policy in India

      Speaker(s) : Professor Sujata Patel Professor, Department of Sociology, University of Hyderabad

      Moderator : Professor Vineeta Sinha Head, South Asian Studies Programme Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences, National University of Singapore

  • ISAS Seminar: 26 May 2015
    • Topic : Bangladesh: Moving Forward or Walking Back?

      Speaker(s) : Professor Ali Riaz Professor and Chair, Illinois State University, USA

      Moderator : Dr Iftekhar Chowdhury Principal Research Fellow, ISAS

      In his presentation, entitled “Bangladesh Going Forward or Walking Back’, Prof Ali Riaz gave a detailed analyses of the course of Bangladesh politics. He focussed on the volatility caused by the hostilities between the two rival camps, the ruling Bangladesh Awami League (BAL) and the main opposition, Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP). The latter is outside the Parliament having boycotted the January 2014 elections. He extrapolated three scenarios: (1) the country would ‘muddle through’; (2) it would go from ‘flawed democracy’ to ‘authoritarian ism’ and (3) there would be a political settlement’. He explored the dangers of a burgeoning ‘culture of intolerance’, exacerbated by ‘creeping extremism’, His main conclusion was that the answer to the issues that contemporary Bangladesh confronts lies in creating a political society of ‘inclusive democracy’.
  • ISAS Seminar: 26 Feb 2015
    • Topic : Shaping Asia’s Future: Chinese and Indian Perception

      Speaker(s) : Professor Paul Evans Professor, Institute of Asian Research and Liu Institute for Global Issues, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver; and Visiting Professor, International and Asian Studies, Singapore Management University Professor C. Raja Mohan Visiting Research Professor, Institute of South Asian Studies; and Distinguished Fellow at the Observer Research Foundation New Delhi, India

      Moderator : Dr Sinderpal Singh Senior Research Fellow, ISAS

      Professor Raja Mohan spoke about Indian perceptions of Asia’s geopolitical future. One key point was the manner in which Japan has served as both a historical and contemporary example to emulate, with its ability to fuse a strong nationalism with great technological leaps, leading to global economic status. Another key point was the manner in which India perceives ASEAN’s expectations. In the late 1980’s and especially in the early phase of the 1990s, India perceived that the ASEAN countries wanted it to play a low key role and to slowly upgrade its association with various East and Southeast Asian states. More recently however, India perceives growing pressure from ASEAN states to do the seeming opposite – to play a bigger and louder role in Asian affairs and the Indian state is still trying to come to terms with this set of new expectations. Lastly, India’s leaders understand, that unlike Nehru’s perception of India’s role at the 1955 Bandung Conference, India is not expected, and does not have the capabilities currently, to play a leadership role in Asia. Instead, it is being asked to play the role commensurate of an important player in Asia. 

      Professor Paul Evans spoke about China’s perception of Asia’s geopolitical future. The first key point concerned China’s recent reorientation towards Asia as a focal point of its foreign policy, moving away from attempts to play a larger global role. In Asia, China wants to project itself as an economic and industrial leader in an attempt to counter recent negative consequences of its military actions in the maritime realm. The second key point relates to China’s attitude towards Asian multilateralism. From its earlier defensive attitude, China now wants to play an increasingly larger role in Asian multilateral institutions. From its vantage point, it believes that its leadership role in building Asia’s infrastructural architecture is a key strategy to nudge Asian states away from their security dependence on the US. On some level, China is attempting to resurrect the ‘Asia for Asians’ idea within regional multilateral institutions. Lastly, China views India’s Asia policy as largely reactive. It believes that India does not have a clear geo-political vision of Asia’s future and the possible role of India within Asia in the medium to long term.
  • ISAS Seminar: 24 April 2015
    • Topic : Memories, Identities and Politics: Saffron among Dalits

      Speaker(s) : Professor Badri Narayan, G.B Pant Social Science Institute, Allahabad; and ICCR Chair, South Asian Studies Programme, National University of Singapore

      Moderator : Dr Rajesh Rai Assistant Director; and Senior Research Fellow, ISAS

  • ISAS Seminar: 22 Jan 2015
    • Topic : Classical Music's Cultural Traditions and Peace

      Speaker(s) : Ms Smita Nagdev, Renowned Sitar Artiste, India

      Moderator : Dr Amitendu Palit

      The programme was an unusual combination of the rendition of a musical performance followed by a discussion on various aspects of Indian classical music. The artist displayed her versatile musical skills by putting on an excellent performance for a period of around 30 minutes. During the performance, she took the audience through the various stages of a typical sitar performance by adjusting the tempo of rendition from ‘vilambit’ (slow and prolonged pace) to ‘drut’ styles. The sitarist was ably accompanied by her percussionist on tabla. The soulful performance was followed by the artist showing the audience a video of snippets of her own growth as a musician, particularly the rigorous training she underwent as a disciple. She specifically pointed to the connection of Indian classical music with spirituaity and peace and harmony. The audience asked a variety of questions and the discussion was lively and enlightening. The programme ended with a short performance by the artist playing one of Mahatma Gandhi’s favourite bhajans.
  • ISAS Seminar: 18 Mar 2015
    • Topic : A Modi Doctrine in Indian Foreign Policy?

      Speaker(s) : Professor Ian Hall, Griffith Business School, Griffith University, Australia

      Moderator : Professor C Raja Mohan Visiting Research Professor, ISAS

  • ISAS Seminar: 16 Jan 2015
    • Topic : Indian Economy: Expectations from the Union Budget

      Speaker(s) : Dr S Narayan, Visiting Senior Research Fellow, ISAS

      Moderator : Dr Amitendu Palit

      The seminar began by discussing the current macroeconomic context of the Union Budget. It drew attention to the developments in various sectors of the Indian economy including the real, financial and social sectors. For all these sectors, the speaker focused on the supply-side developments with particular attention on energy prices, agricultural output and infrastructure constraints. The speaker then moved on to discussing the inflationary expectations in the Indian economy and took up the fiscal situation for careful study. Coming to the specific context of the budget, the speaker took the view that budgetary instruments are limited in creating an impact on the Indian economy since the measures tend to miss most services, given their pre-determined focus on manufacturing and partly agriculture. The speaker concluded that the inability to influence the large informal sector of the Indian economy is a critical handicap for all Union Budgets. The discussions that followed covered a wide range of issues including discussions on pending projects, public-private-partnerships, inflation and other matters.
  • ISAS Seminar: 15 April 2015
    • Topic : The Aam Aadmi Party’s Victory in Delhi and Future Prospects

      Speaker(s) : Mr Sudheedra Kulkarni, Chairman, Observer Research Foundation (Mumbai), Mr Sanjay Kumar Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (New Delhi) Professor Badri Narayan ICCR Chair, South Asian Studies Programme, National University of Singapore

      Moderator : Dr Ronojoy Sen, Senior Research Fellow, ISAS

  • ISAS Seminar: 13 May 2015
    • Topic : Further Reforms to Company Law in India

      Speaker(s) : Professor Umakanth Varottil Assistant Professor, Faculty of Law National University of Singapore

      Moderator : Dr Amitendu Palit Senior Research Fellow, ISAS

  • ISAS Seminar: 13 April 2015
    • Topic : Governance as a Service Delivery: Performance Rating of Indian States

      Speaker(s) : Emeritus Professor Sudipto Mundle, National Institute of Public Finance and Policy (New Delhi, India)

      Moderator : Assoc Prof Rahul Mukherji Head of Research; and Honorary Senior Fellow, ISAS

      The seminar was jointly organized by ISAS and ARI. The director of ARI – Professor Prasenjit Duara and ISAS director – Professor Subrata Mitra were both present at the seminar. Professor Mitra made it a point to be present even though this was his first day in Singapore. The seminar was on the performance rating of the Indian states. The analysis was about the delivery of government services. Governance was measured on the following parameters: 
      1. Infrastructure and service delivery 
      2. Social service delivery
       3. Fiscal Performance 
      4. Delivery of the Justice system 
      5. Quality of legislature 

      Notable governance improvements were observed in states such as: Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Punjab, Rajasthan, Kerala, Bihar, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh between 2001 and 2011. Haryana and Maharashtra are where they were. And, there has been a decline in governance in states such as Gujarat, Tamil, Nadu, Karnataka, Himachal Pradesh, West Bengal, Odisha, Assam and Jharkhand. Maharashtra and Haryana remain where they were.
  • ISAS Seminar: 12 June 2015
    • Topic : Setting up a High Impact Online Scholarly Journal

      Speaker(s) : Mr Radu Carciumaru Fellow, German National Academic Foundation; and Lecturer, Heidelberg University

      Moderator : Professor Subrata Mitra Director, ISAS

  • ISAS Seminar: 11 May 2015
    • Topic : Inclusive Growth in India: Inter or Intra-Regional Disparities

      Speaker(s) : Professor John Kelly Visiting Professor in Social Science, Yale-NUS College; and Professor in Anthropology, University of Chicago

      Moderator : Assoc Prof Rahul Mukherji Head of Research; and Honorary Senior Fellow, ISAS

      This talk by Professor Sridhar had two dimensions. The first was inter-regional disparities focusing largely on the North-South divide in India. It was argued that growth and human development oriented indicators in the South surpassed those in the Northern states. This, however, had not always been the case. The South’s performance seems to have improved in recent times. And, Southern India is more urbanized than the North. The speaker connected urbanization with growth and developments and deployed this as a point to garner the evidence for north-south differentiation in development. 

      This line of argumentation raised the question about what constituted the North? It was mentioned that North’s definition as Bimaru (backward states such as Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, etc.) states alone could have biased the sample. If states such Gujarat and Maharashtra were included, the results would have been different. The second dimension of the talk concerned rural - urban migration. The speaker challenged Michael Todaro’s notion that rural urban migration needed to be checked. It was argued that urbanization was good for reducing levels of rural poverty. Urbanization according to Professor Sridhar increases rural-urban inequality up to a point but that inequality becomes less after a certain threshold of urbanization. The Indian government had initiated programs like MGNREGS to reduce rural-urban migration. It was argued that MGNREGS, while it may have reduced some migration, it has not been able to compete with wages in the urban employment oriented sectors like construction. The scholar presented substantial statistics to make her arguments.
  • ISAS Seminar: 15 January 2015
    • Topic : FDI Flows into BRICS: What do they originate from?

      Speaker(s) : A/P Ramkishen Rajan, Associate Professor, Kyushu University, Japan; and Research Scholar, Harvard-Yenching Institute (HYI), Mr Sasidaran Gopalan, Ph.D. Post Doctoral Research Fellow, Institute for Emerging Market Studies and Institute of Advanced Study, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology

      Moderator : A/P Rahul Mukherjee

      This was a very serious discussion on FDI inflows. It went into details about FDI classification statistics and problems of measuring these flows. It then explicated how these flows were measured. The focus of the presentation was on India but other BRICS countries including China were also analysed. One matter that came out of the discussion was that much of the real flows into India were through mergers and acquisitions. Greenfield investment was not an robust activity in India. The data on flows in the form of mergers and acquisitions shows no presence of tax havens. Measuring flows as mergers and acquisitions could be a way of locating the flows that are regarded as round tripping. Regulatory issues were discussed. In all, it was a very well researched policy oriented session. It was good to see that Dr Sasidaran Gopalan our RA from yesteryears has secured a PhD from George Mason University and is now a post-doctoral fellow in the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. These scholars are doing serious work on FDI inflows into India.
  • ISAS Seminar: 8 January 2015
    • Topic : East China Sea: negotiations and issues between Japan and China

      Speaker(s) : A/P Chisako Masuo, Associate Professor, Kyushu University, Japan; and Research Scholar, Harvard-Yenching Institute (HYI)

      Moderator : A/P Rahul Mukherjee

      Professor Masuo is Associate Professor at the Graduate School of Social and Cultural Studies, Kyushu University, and is now visiting the Harvard’s Harvard-Yenshing Institute. The presentation was focused on why China’s claims regarding Senkaku Islands are not justified. First, she presented news data to describe the history of media attention on the dispute and argued that it correlates with two important issues. The first was the prospect of discovering oil. The second is the control over the seas for strategic reasons. She feels that China will not go to the ICJ because it’s case is weak. The US is also becoming less interested in this area. The result is that Japan might ultimately need better self-defence. Countries like India have a good time because they can woo Japan, US and China in the process.
  • ISAS Seminar: 7 January 2015
    • Topic : Japan in India's "Look-East Policy" under the Modi Administration”: Prospects and Challenges

      Speaker(s) : Dr Rupak Borah, Assistant Professor, Pandit Deendayal Petroleum University, Gujarat, India

      Moderator : A/P Rahul Mukherjee

      The speaker initially outlined how the relationship between Japan and India has seen a dramatic turnaround in the post-Cold War era. A set of specific factors have driven this phenomenon. They range from shared strategic interests, India's improving ties with the US and cross-party support within India for stronger Japan-India ties. As a signal of the Modi’s government’s approach, Japan was the first country outside the immediate neighbourhood that he visited after taking charge in New Delhi. Crucially, both Japan and India see each other as key in their pursuit of driving their respective economic growth. However, one key impediment to the bilateral relationship has been the issue of civilian nuclear co-operation, with Japan’s history of anti-nuclearism and India’s non-participation in the CTBT and NPT regimes hampering a possible agreement on civilian nuclear co-operation although the speaker remained largely optimistic that Modi and Abe, on the basis of their strong legislative majorities, will be able to deliver on such an agreement sometime this year.

      In the Q&A session, there was an interesting discussion on the role that China possibly played in Japan-India relations. In addition, there was an interesting discussion on Japan and India’s role in wider multilateral initiatives in the maritime sphere specifically. There was also some discussion about the impediments facing Japanese infrastructural investment in India and the possibilities of the new Indian government overcoming such problems. 

  • ISAS Seminar : 23 January 2017
    • Topic : Sino-Indian Rivalry in the Age of Globalization

      Speaker(s) : Professor T V Paul, James McGill Professor in Int. Relations, McGill University, Canada

      On 23 January 2017 Professor T V Paul delivered a talk on Rethinking Sino-Indian Rivalry in the Globalization Era. Highlighting the fact that the rivalry between China and India has entered into its sixth decade, T V Paul pointed to the need to understand efforts on both sides to control the rivalry. He argued that despite several rounds of negotiations on settling the territorial dispute, no end to the rivalry was in sight, with intermittent militarized flare-ups. However, he made the key point that unlike the India-Pakistan rivalry, Sino-Indian relations have been somewhat positive on the economic front. In fact he made the observation that rivals do not usually trade with each other. T V Paul addressed the following questions in his presentation: What explains the peculiar contours of this rivalry? Why is it different from the India-Pakistan rivalry in terms of intensity and other behavioural characteristics? What influence does accelerated globalization, especially increased trade and investment, have on this rivalry? What impact does the US-China competition and China’s expanding reach into the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean will have on this rivalry?  Under what conditions will the rivalry escalate or end? Various answers were offered by the speaker. As the weaker party in the rivalry, India, it was argued, had decided to side-line the territorial dispute. This growing asymmetrical economic interdependence between India and China, thus appeared to have a restraining impact on the rivalry. China for its part, had to be wary of pushing India too hard militarily, which might compel it to join an active military alliance with the US and other like-minded states. Among the questions raised during the general discussion were, comparability of the India/Pakistan and India/China rivalries and whether the China/India rivalry could be seen only in terms of a dyadic dynamic and not rather as part of a triangular structure.  

  • ISAS Seminar : 18 April 2017
    • Topic : WTO Reborn: A South Asian Perspective

      Speaker(s) : Mr Pradeep S Mehta, Secretary General, Consumer Unity & Trust Society (CUTS), India

      On 18th April 2017, the Institute of South Asian Studies (ISAS) in the National University of Singapore organized a seminar with Mr. Pradeep S Mehta, Secretary General of the Consumer Unity & Trust Society (CUTS International) on ‘WTO Reborn: A South Asian Perspective’. Chaired by Dr Amitendu Palit, seminar looked at the competition reforms in India through the lens of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and South Asia. After SAFTA, there was little change in trade in services or in investment. India had several bilateral cooperation initiatives in areas such as air connectivity, maritime security, defense, trade and infrastructure investment. Mr Mehta also looked at the possibility of a BIMSTEC free trade agreement (FTA), one which would focus on security and connectivity. It would not follow the consensus model, but the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) model of bilateral cooperation in areas of interest to BIMSTEC, which will be supported by the BIMSTEC Secretariat. The services sector is set to gain further by trade facilitation, which is huge in the South Asia region. It will bring responsibility on the middle power countries such as those in the Nordic or ASEAN region, to buttress trade in the wake of Trump’s anti-free trade stance. Looking at ASEAN as an institution, it has worked with the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and other regional institutions to further economic cooperation. This has proven to be more successful than the European Union, and ASEAN is seen as pushing success and even cooperation in the form of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). The discussion which followed questioned the role of the WTO in the wake of RCEP success: does this mean that regionalism prevails over multilateralism? While much of the seminar was focused on regional integration, it has yet to address South Asia’s low levels of regional integration, along with India’s role as the largest trade member in the region. Mr Mehta elaborated that if the RCEP succeeds, so will India. Regionalism should be seen as building blocks, rather than stumbling blocks, to the success of the multilateralism. It builds positively between all economies. It is highly likely that RCEP will go through as it is very low ambition. The Trade Facilitation Agreement in Services proposed by India is likely to focus on delays in the process of moving cross-border services rather than in increasing market access to India and the South Asian region. As such, it will not boost India’s trade in services significantly, but enough.

  • ISAS Public Lecture: 16 Feb 2015
    • Topic : Singapore-India Relations

      Speaker(s) : Mr Shashi Kant Sharma, Comptroller and Auditor-General of India

      Moderator : Mr P S Suryanarayana

  • ISAS Panel Discussion: 30 Mar 2015
    • Topic : Union Budget of India 2015: Modi Government's Economic Vision and the Road Ahead

      Speaker(s) : Mr Tarun Das Former Chief Mentor, Confederation of Indian Industry; and Founding Trustee, Ananta Aspen Centre New Delhi, India, Mr N K Singh, Former Member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha; and Senior Member, Bharatiya Janata Party India Dr Amitendu Palit, Research Lead, Trade and Economics Programme; and Senior Research Fellow Institute of South Asian Studies, NUS, Dr Jahangir Aziz Chief Asia Economist Asia Economic Research JP Morgan Singapore

      Moderator : Professor C Raja Mohan

      India’s ‘transformative budget’ was hailed at ISAS panel discussion on India’s Budget 2015/16. India’s High Commissioner to Singapore, Mrs Vijay Thakur Singh, in her opening address, emphasised that the Budget laid out a roadmap for long-term growth, spelt out steps to promote “the ease of doing business” in the country, and sought to catalyse infrastructure investments. 

      ​These views were variously echoed and amplified by the panellists (from left) visiting research professor and research lead (security and international relations) at ISAS, Professor C Raja Mohan, senior research fellow and research lead (trade and economics) at ISAS, Dr Amitendu Palit, former chief mentor of the Confederation of Indian Industry and founding trustee of Ananta Aspen Centre in New Delhi, Mr Tarun Das, ISAS chairman Ambassador Gopinath Pillai, Mrs Vijay Thakur Singh, senior member of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and former member of Rajya Sabha (Upper House of India’s Parliament) Mr N K Singh and JP Morgan Singapore chief Asia economist Dr Jahangir Aziz. The panel discussion titled Union Budget of India 2015: Modi Government's Economic Vision and the Road Ahead”, was held at The Pod, National Library Board Building. 
      The various strands of opinion expressed by the panellists and moderator are as follows: Earning high marks are: (1) the technology-driven rationalisation of subsidies, which were seen as a drain on the exchequer even if considered a socio-economic necessity; (2) the credible signs that India might soon become a “common (or integrated) market” through the introduction of a General Sales Tax (GST); (3) the full acceptance of the Y V Reddy Finance Commission’s recommendations on a greater devolution of Central revenues to the states, i.e. provinces – a measure that could promote cooperative and competitive federalism; (4) the definitive acceptance of the centrality of the private sector; (5) the move towards creating Digital India that could help the country leap-frog to the realm of strategic manufacturing as part of the ‘Make in India’ campaign; (6) the efforts to address investors’ concerns over ‘retrospective taxation’, bankruptcy norms etc. in order to take India to the higher league of countries with a good quotient in “ease of doing business”; (7) the significance of a new pact between the Central or Union Finance Ministry and the Reserve Bank of India on taming inflation as part of the country’s monetary policy; and (8) Prime Minister Modi’s seemingly compulsive tours abroad in a bid, really, to shore up the country’s foreign-trade-related economic security, among other objectives.
  • ISAS Panel Discussion: 16 Jan 2015
    • Topic : Discussion with Director & Cast of the Movie ‘Bhopal’

      Speaker(s) : Kal Penn, Ravi Walia, Rajpal Yadav and Tannistha Chatterjee

      Moderator : A/P Rahul Mukherjee

      The discussion on the movie - Bhopal: A Prayer for Rain was quite involved. It included Ravi Walia - the producer; Kal Penn - an actor and a former associate director of public relations at the White House; Sreyashi Sen who was responsible for getting the film crew to Singapore, and Nitin Raghuvanshi from Sahara entertainment (a company that funded this movie). The discussion was wide-ranging. This was a movie for a cause, to highlight the plight of the victims of the Bhopal gas tragedy. Raising funds for the movie was challenging because corporate social responsibility in India is more in name than in reality. Various issues about how the actors were portrayed in the movie was discussed. For example, Martin Sheen as Warren Anderson of Union Carbide was portrayed as a complex person rather than as a pure villain. There was substantial discussion about social and corporate awareness of disaster management in India. The discussion ended with a slide show by Ashok Kumar, director of the Singapore e-Government Leadership Centre. This was a moving presentation by one who had left Bhopal’s Railway Colony just two years before the disaster. He was shocked to find that many dear friends had been killed in the disaster – that had affected the colony. The participants were very warm and spent time with the audience beyond the discussion.  
  • ISAS Overseas Visit: 24 - 27 Mar 15
    • Topic : ISAS Visit to Washington DC

      Speaker(s) : Prof Tan Tai Yong, Director, ISAS Mr Johnson Paul, Senior Associate Director, Dr Iftekhar Chowdhury, Principal Research Fellow, Professor Riaz Hassan, Visiting Research Professor, Mr Shahid Javed Burki, Visiting Senior Research Fellow, Mr Jayanth Singh, Research Assistant

      An ISAS delegation visited Washington DC between 24 and 27 March 2015. The purpose was, one, to establish linkages with Washington based organizations/think-tanks and to launch the book publication ‘Afghanistan: The Next Phase’, authored by Shahid Javed Burki, Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury and Riaz Hassan. The delegation comprised Professor Tan Tai Yong, Director, Dr Iftekhar Chowdhury, Professor Riaz Hassan, Visiting Senior Research Fellow, Mr Johnson Paul associate director, and Mr Jayanth Singh Research Associate. Mr Shahid Javid Burki, Visiting Research Fellow was to have joined the team but was unable to do so at the last moment due to a family emergency. 
      The delegation visited the World Bank on 24 March. The scholars discussed the Bank’s projects in Afghanistan with the relevant official. There was a working lunch with the Executive Director from Pakistan, Mr Nasir Mahmood Khosa, during which Prof Tan Tai Yong explained the research conducted at the Institute and Mr Khosa briefed on the Bank’s functions in the South Asian region.. In the afternoon the team was provided a briefing on remittances to South Asia from the diaspora by Dr Supriya De, Consultant, Finance and Credit at the Bank. The following day, 25 March, there was a meeting at the Woodrow Wilson centre with Professor Michael Kugelman and Ambassador William Milam, where possibilities of cooperation between the two institutions were mooted. A seminar launching the book was held in the afternoon, which was attended by nearly 80 participants, where Prof Hassan and Dr Chowdhury spoke and responded to questions. Significantly the launch coincided with the first visit to Washington of President Ashraf Ghanie of Afghanistan, whose lecture at the United States Institute for Peace (USIP) the same evening was attended by Dr Chowdhury. (Prof Tan Tai Yong and Mr Johnson Paul departed for Singapore the same evening in order to be present at the funeral of Mr Lee Kuan Yew).On the 26 th March the delegation visited the USIP where it had a breakfast meeting with relevant scholars there. The discussion was moderated by Ambassador George Moose, Vice Chairman USIP. On 27 March, there was a book –talk on the Afghanistan volume at the United States Defence University, chaired by Dr Thomas Lynch, where Dr Chowdhury and Prof Hassan made presentations. The participants were drawn from both military and civilian scholarly circles, and included the well-known Security expert, Professor Shuja Nawaz. At the Bangladesh National Day Reception at the Embassy, which the delegation attended on 26 March, there were useful interactions with Indian and other South Asian officials as well as US officials dealing with this region. The former Head of Caretaker Government of Bangladesh, Dr Fakhruddin Ahmed hosted a dinner in the delegation’s honour on 25 th March, where it met with some other scholars/policy practitioners including Professor Alistair Miller, Director, Global Center on Cooperative Security, a partner think-tank of ISAS. On the whole the visit can be assessed as fruitful and rewarding for all concerned, which also gave ISAS meaningful traction in Washington DC.
  • ISAS Meeting with HRH Princess Mahachakri Sirindhorn: 18 Jan 15
    • An ISAS delegation was received by HRH Princess Mahachachakri Sirindhorn of Thailand at the Royal Thai Embassy in Singapore at 9:30am on Sunday 18 January 2015. The delegation comprised ISAS Chairman Ambassador Gopinath Pillai, Director Professor Tan Tai Yong, Principal Research Fellow Dr Iftekhar Chowhury, Senior Research Fellow Dr Amitendu Palit, and Assistant Director Associate Professor Rajesh Rai. The Thai side, apart from the Princess, included her personal staff and Ambassador designate Bunsarn Bunarg. The meeting lasted nearly two hours in course of which political, economic, social and cultural issues prttaining to South Asia, as well as to the broader region including South East Asia and the Middle East were discussed. The Chairman, Director and the ISAS scholars briefed the Princess on the nature and content of research undertaken at the Institute, in which she displayed keen interest. The Princess advised that ISAS link up with Thai think-tanks and universities with similar mandates. This was her second interaction with an ISAS delegation, and she expressed the hope that such meetings should continue. At the end of the discussions, a photo-session was held and gifts exchanged.
  • ISAS Literary Salon: 11 July 2015
    • Topic : South Asia Literary Salon: Modernity, Identity and Belonging

      Speaker(s) : Multiple writers from South Asia

      Moderator : Dr Meira Chand

      Meeting of literary minds 
      Institute of South Asian Studies organises first South Asian Literary Salon 

      Robin Jeffrey

      A full house of more than 150 registered participants savoured the best of writing and social commentary from a dozen of South Asia’s leading fiction writers, poets and journalists at the first “South Asia Literary Salon” on Saturday at the Four Seasons Hotel. 

      Organized by the Institute of South Asian Studies (ISAS) at the National University of Singapore, the “Salon” aimed to bring the riches of writing from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh to the attention of Singaporeans. The event also reinforced Singapore’s place as a congenial venue where people from various countries can meet without the constraints of government rivalries and intimidating visa requirements. 

      Ambassador Gopinath Pillai, chairman of ISAS, set the tone in opening the occasion when he said: “We are not just a research institute. We are a think tank that studies, engages and interacts with South Asia”. 

      He added that “this the very first literary salon that Singapore has organised on South Asia. We organise various events bringing the whole of South Asia into the neutral ambience of Singapore and we discuss matters impassionedly, sometimes passionately. We try to get people from different backgrounds and so on to come and talk. We think that these baby steps that we take brings the region close to a more integrated situation.” 

      Chosen on the basis of their distinction as writers and with the aim of hearing voices from the four largest countries of South Asia, the speakers brought a wit and incisiveness that held the audience throughout a six-hour program. In total, the speakers have a body of work of close to 100 books published by some of the world’s best publishers. Their accumulated published words run into millions. But to the delight of the audience, they were not shrinking violets, more at home in a private room of their own, just them and their keyboard. Rather, as veterans of literary festivals and hundreds of events, they were practised in engaging an audience with wit, clarity and incisiveness.

      Moni Mohsin, a Pakistani novelist and columnist, creator of the “Social Butterfly,” a character developed for a regular satirical column, brought Social Butterfly to life in a couple of illuminating “interviews” between herself and the distinctive accent and language of “Social Butterfly.” 

      Meeting of South Asian literary minds (from left): Mohammad Hanif (Pakistan), Romesh Gunesekera (Sri Lanka); and Manu Joseph (India) 

      Hardened journalist-novelists – Mohammed Hanif from Pakistan (author of A Case of Exploding Mangoes), Manu Joseph from India (Serious Men) and Nury Vittachi from Hong Kong and elsewhere (Feng Shui Detective) – spoke of the dangers of being a writer, especially a journalist. Vittachi wryly observed that he once considered relocating to Singapore when pressures on a plain-speaking journalist became too great in Hong Kong. 

      Publishers face different challenges. Urvashi Butalia, co-founder of the Kali for Women press and today chief executive of the Zubaan publishing house, emphasized the goals of social change and ethical purpose that an activist had to bring to writing and publishing. Niaz Zaman, Bangladeshi critic, writer and teacher, similarly found the need to become a publisher. This led to her founding press in Bangladesh in 2005. 

      Professor Zaman observed that in the field of women’s rights the deployment of mobile phones had facilitated immense changes. The fact that the Grameen Bank and its successful micro-credit projects worked through women and that women organizers were all equipped with mobile phones gave them new powers of communication. The idea that activists had also to be communicators was echoed by Githa Hariharan, prolific Indian fiction writer and a litigant using the Indian legal system to advance the rights of Indian women. 

      In keeping with the theme of the salon – “Modernity, Identity and Belonging” – Singapore writers Suchen Christine Lim and Claire Chiang reflected on the ingredients of a “Singaporean identity” and how it differed for each of them. This was a conversation that echoed with all participants, not least Tishani Doshi, a highly regarded Indian poet, based in Chennai, describing herself as Gujarati, and with one Welsh parent. 

      These questions of belonging, citizenship and migration were seen as central to the work of those who write about South Asia, though the perspectives can be varied. Romesh Gunesekera, the acclaimed author of Reef, a Booker Prize nominee, has moved between the UK and Sri Lanka for many years. Nisid Hajari, on the other hand, was born in the United States, and does not speak an Indian language. But the topic that drew him irresistibly to write his first book was the classic of twentieth-century South Asia – the creation of Pakistan in 1947. Midnight’s Furies: the Deadly Legacy of India’s Partition has just been published. 

      Singapore author Meira Chand chaired the organizing committee for the event. Organizers were delighted with its success, measured in the size of the audience, the fact that it stayed throughout the day and the willingness of globally distinguished writers to come to Singapore for such conversations. 

      Professor Robin Jeffrey is a visiting research professor at the Institute of South Asian Studies, National University of Singapore.
  • ISAS In-House Discussion: 13 Mar 2015
    • Topic : Singapore-India Relations

      Speaker(s) : Mr M J Akbar National Spokesperson Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) India

      Moderator : Mr Lin Chung Ying Honorary Senior Fellow, ISAS

      Mr Akbar opined that the BJP had inherited a fragile India; a country beset with slow and declining growth for many years which had brought about massive frustration on the part of Indian youth. The BJP electoral victory came with “a quantum leap in expectations”. Akbar said that Congress had taken about 70 years to reduce India’s poverty (70% of the population in 1950) to 30% today. The young were not going to wait another 70 years to see the poverty reduced from the current 30% to zero. Hence the Modi government had to focus on how to reduce poverty as soon as possible. Modi’s task was therefore to convert an impoverished nation into a prosperous one. Akbar said that jobs and not handouts was the way forward. The government needed to encourage the growth of the private sector and Modi recognised that if corruption could be reduced or eliminated it would help the growth of the Indian economy. Modi wanted to create an Indian defence domestic industry and make it a net exporter; he said this was an area where there was room for Singapore involvement. He said India was now testing the outlines of a policy called “Post-Nonalignment”; he said India was moving away from the Non-Aligned Movement, towards alliances for prosperity through the creation of new groups. In this context, he referred to ASEAN as “an alliance for prosperity”. 
      In the Q & A session, Mr Akbar opined that Singapore should understand that the old regime in India was dead. He said that Singapore should get to know the people in the new government. He said “they are not leftovers of the past ten years”. He stressed that Singapore had not taken enough trouble or time to get to know the new government. When he was asked, “Isn’t it too early?”, his response was a tart “No. Too early was two years ago. Everybody else understood two years ago.” He said that not enough has been done for Singapore-India relations (with the new government). Akbar said he was merely expressing regret that Japan had seen what Singapore had not seen; he said that even South Korea and China had done more. (Akbar told the moderator privately later that he was aware what we were doing in Andhra Pradesh, but that that was not India) Akbar said that the success stories on the horizon were improved relations between India and Nepal, Singapore, and Bangladesh respectively.
  • ISAS Cultural Event: 26 April 2015
    • Topic : An Evening of Migrant Poetry and Music – Poems of Migration: Joys and Sorrows

      Speaker(s) : Institute of South Asian Studies & Banglar Kantha

  • ISAS Closed Door Session: 11 June 2015
    • Topic : PM Modi’s Visit to China

      Speaker(s) : Dr Amitendu Palit Senior Research Fellow, ISAS, Dr Sinderpal Singh Senior Research Fellow, ISAS, Mr P S Suryanarayana Editor (Current Affairs), ISAS

  • ISAS Closed Door Session : 14 March 2017
    • Topic : RCEP, Trade and Regional Integration: Implications for South Asia

      The Institute of South Asian Studies (ISAS) in the NUS and the World Bank Group Trade & Competitiveness Global Practice in Singapore organized a brainstorming session on ‘RCEP, Trade and Regional Integration: Implications for South Asia’ with experts drawn from across various specializations and practices. The main aim of the session was to identify potential areas of collaboration between ISAS and World Bank on the subject. The agenda for the session was set on the following issues: Current barriers to intra-regional trade and investment in South Asia; How provisions in trade agreements like RCEP could address these; Relationship between RCEP and other regional initiatives involving South Asia and options to maximize the positive impacts for South Asia of RCEP completion. Mr Jordan Schwartz, Director of the World Bank Singapore Hub opened the seminar highlighting the importance of understanding the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and its implications for South Asia and linkages with Southeast Asia and the Asia-Pacific. Ambassador Gopinath Pillai, Chairman ISAS in his opening remarks reflected on the association of the World Bank (WB) and the International Finance Corporation (IFC) with Singapore and the region. He also alluded to the importance of the ISAS-WB initiative on RCEP focusing on gains that can be realistically realised. The opening remarks were followed by three overview presentations moderated by Dr Deeparghya Mukherjee from ISAS. Sebastian Saez, Lead Economist, Trade and Competitiveness South Asia, of the World Bank Group highlighted the importance of trade deals as ‘insurance’ policies and the significance of RCEP for South Asia given its scope and dimensions. Pointing out that the impact of RCEP on the region will be a function of its comprehensiveness and the level of commitments achieved, he emphasized the importance of addressing domestic regulations, particularly non-tariff barriers (NTBs) and ROOs in improving trade flows. Dr Deborah Elms, Executive Director of the Asian Trade Centre in Singapore focused on the objectives of RCEP and problems faced in consolidating ASEAN+1 agreements, particularly through differences in ambitions and priorities of negotiating members. She further reflected on India’s role in RCEP, the benefits it can generate for SMEs and the prospects for an early conclusion of RCEP. Dr Amitendu Palit, Senior Research Fellow from ISAS elaborated on regional trade initiatives involving South Asia and Southeast Asia, such as the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) and the Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal (BBIN) project. He emphasised the key role of India and connectivity initiatives within South Asia for getting RCEP closer to South Asia. The overview presentations were followed by comments and discussion moderated by Marcus Bartley Johns, Senior Trade Specialist, Trade and Competitiveness Practice, World Bank Group and Dr Amitendu Palit, ISAS.. The comments were followed by a brainstorming discussion among the participants, led by Dr Alan Bollard, Executive Director of APEC. The discussions centred around how modern trade agreements should encompass the different dimensions in today’s complex international environment, including trade in services, investment provisions and those impacting domestic regulations. The economic impact of trade agreements is a function of their comprehensiveness, and the quality of their implementation. Both issues are important for RCEP. South Asia continues to be one of the least-integrated trade regions. RCEP offers the potential of addressing this through India’s participation as the largest South Asian economy, as well as through potential accession to RCEP in the long term by other South Asian economies. Countries including India have also been trying to improve competitiveness by implementing domestic reforms on issues like taxation that are not in the scope of trade agreements. RCEP has significant potential in terms of the size and trade coverage, as well as the mix of levels of development of countries involved: low-income economies, emerging markets and developed economies. RCEP can produce significant gains in trade facilitation by adopting international best practices, building on the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement and other standards. ISAS and World Bank can collaborate in addressing the problems of poor data regarding several aspects of RCEP. These data are essential for addressing knowledge gaps in negotiations. Important data gaps that should be addressed are on NTBs (quality standards), TFA rules, logistics and standards. It is also important to examine how SMEs can integrate into global value chains through RCEP. In their closing remarks, Professor Subrata Mitra, Director ISAS, and Paramita Dasgupta, Practice Manager, Trade and Competitiveness Asia, World Bank emphasised on the synergies that ISAS and Word Bank have in working together on RCEP. They alluded to the importance of both institutes studying closely the political economy of RCEP and doing analytical work on the issues identified in discussions, particularly on those having data limitations. 

  • ISAS Book Launch (Overseas): 10 Mar 2015
    • Topic : Connecting India to ASEAN ,India International Centre, New Delhi, India

      Speaker(s) : Mr H S Brahma, Chief Election Commissioner of India

      ISAS organised a book launch and a panel discussion to deliberate issues relating to Northeast India’s connectivity to ASEAN. The launch of the book “Connecting India to Asean’, was presided by Mr H S Brahma, Chief Election Commissioner of India who spoke about the growing importance of the Northeast in the last decade and the strategic shift in India’s policy from `Look East’ to `Act East’. Singapore’s High Commissioner to India, Mr TK Lim joined Mr HS Brahma in launching the book. In his introductory remarks he spoke on the need for the Northeast to develop its own infrastructure before it could benefit from ASEAN connectivity projects. 
      About 80 distinguished guests, including Daman Singh, daughter of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh attended the launch event. The panel discussion focused on the gap between plans and action on the ground. MP Bezbaruah, member of the Northeast Council argued for greater investment in infrastructure within Northeast and people-to-people connectivity with ASEAN. Dr Didar Singh, Secretary General of FICCI opined that the Northeast offered numerous opportunities for small and medium enterprises and would only get better with greater physical connectivity. Dr Sinderpal Singh and Prof S D Muni, both of whom were contributors to the publication spoke about the larger security dilemma that impeded development in a concerted fashion.
  • ISAS Ambassadors’ Lecture : 16 February 2017
    • Topic : India’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Its Role in the Making and Implementation of Foreign Policy

      Speaker(s) : HE Jawed Ashraf, High Commissioner of India to Singapore

      ​India’s High Commissioner to Singapore Jawed Ashraf spoke under at the Ambassadors’ Lecture Series’ at ISAS yesterday 16 February 2017 to a packed audience. The topic was the ‘India’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Its Role in the Making and Implementation of Foreign Policy’. Chairman of ISAS, Amb Gopinath Pillai was present; as were the High Commissioners/Ambassadors of Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Denmark and the UAE. Amb Pillai, welcoming the attendees and the speaker, stressed upon the burgeoning contribution the Series was making to the discharge of ISAS’ mandate .The High Commissioner narrated the history of the evolution of the Ministry, the challenges it confronted and the responses thereto at different points in time, its method of work, relationship with other major relevant agencies of the government, and with the Indian States, and made his points citing specific examples. Despite some views to the contrary, he argued that the institution remained as relevant as ever to India’s foreign policy system. The Chairperson of the lecture, Dr Iftekhar Chowdhury in his remarks, drew similarities with situations of comparable milieu, and the impact of ‘bureaucratic politics’ in the diplomacy of all States in contemporary times. There was an enthusiastic discussion during the Q and A session where substantive issues pertaining to India’s foreign policy also featured. Younger members of ISAS research staff also effectively participated. The interactions continued for much longer during the tea-reception that followed the seminar

  • ISAS Ambassadors’ Lecture : 13 February 2017
    • Topic : Climate Change: Cooperation amongst South Asian States

      Speaker(s) : Amb Shafqat Kakakhel, Chairman, SDPI, Pakistan, Former Asst Sec-Gen, UN

      Ambassador (R) Shafqat Kakakhel, former Assistant Secretary General UN and Deputy head of UN Environment Programme spoke on ‘ Climate Change: Cooperation Among South Asian States’ yesterday (13 Feb 17) afternoon. The Pakistani High Commissioner Nasrullah Khan and about 30 participants were present. Amb Kakakhel asserted that there was no dearth of institutional arrangements in South Asia over the subject, but progress in cooperation has been severely constrained due to the lack of political will, arising from other circumstances. All talk of cooperation has usually confined to ‘declaratory and rhetorical’, on both ‘adaptation’ and ‘mitigation ’challenges. The advent of President Donald Trump could shake up the environmental negotiations which renders regional cooperation, and that among developing countries, all the more imperative. He noted the interesting change of postures among key players. There was an enthusiastic Q and A segment in which the issues of securitization of Climate change (including river water sharing and disaster-management) and the pros and cons of ‘nuclear-ization’  in the energy sector featured. Dr Iftekhar Chowdhury chaired the event and Prof Subrata Mitra delivered the vote of thanks.

  • International Conference - Delhi Dialogue VII: 11 - 12 Mar 2015
    • Topic : ISAS Presence: Knowledge Partner

      Speaker(s) : Multiple speakers

      Delhi Dialogue VII included business and academic sessions. Hon’ble External Affairs Minister of India, Mrs Sushma Swaraj inaugurated Delhi Dialogue. The overarching theme for this year’s Dialogue was 'ASEAN-India: Shaping the post 2015 Agenda'. The business session was titled as “ASEAN Economic Community: Benefits for the ASEAN and Indian Industry and Trade in Services as Driver for Future Economic Cooperation. The academic session was keynoted by Shri Anil Wadhwa, Secretary (East), Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India. These sessions were divided into four themes namely, Geopolitical Issues (covering Maritime Security and Cyber Security); Social Cultural Issues (covering Building Knowledge Societies and Economics: Education and Skill Development Including Mutual Recognition of Degrees and Strengthening Cultural Linkages and People-to-People Contacts); Economic Issues (covering Infrastructure and Connectivity, Energy and Integrating Regional Production Networks and Value Chains) and The Way Forward. In the closing session (The Way Forward), the panel made suggestions to further augment the partnership. It was noted that India’s re-entry to the region in the aftermath of the cold-war era meant that it had lost significant time and traction. Hence there was a perceived need to accelerate the pace of engagement with ASEAN. Ambassador Gopinath Pillai who spoke at this session argued that business discussions deserve greater attention to make the dialogue more relevant. He also suggested that the Dialogue could be organized biennially rather than on an annual basis. 

      The business session and inaugural segment were held at The Oberoi, New Delhi on 11 March, while the academic sessions were held the next day at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA). Some run-up events were also organised by partnering organisations prior to the Dialogue. The Delhi Dialogue is an important Track 1.5 platform for discussions between India and the ASEAN. ISAS was a knowledge partner at this year’s Dialogue. 

      The Dialogue was organised by the Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India, in partnership with IDSA, ASEAN-India Centre at RIS, Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA), Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI); SAEA Group Research, Singapore; Economic Research Institute of ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA), Jakarta; ISIS, Malaysia; and ISIS, Thailand. The following associates joined the Delhi Dialogue for the first time: All India Association of Industries; ASSOCHAM; Indian Chambers of Commerce; and ICRIER.
  • International Conference - 3rd Growth Net Conference: 25 – 27 Mar 2015
    • Topic : ISAS Presence: Institutional Partner

      Speaker(s) : Ambassador Gopinath Pillai

      The discussions at the third meeting of the Growth Net Conference were very intense and forward-looking. Several key issues concerning both Indian and global economy were identified at the sessions. Participants at the Summit included ministers, senior government officials, business and thought leaders, entrepreneurs amongst others. 
      ISAS was an institutional partner, and Ambassador Gopinath Pillai was invited to speak at the Summit. Ambassador Pillai also chaired one of the sessions. The event was convened by Ananta Centre and Smadja and Smadja Strategic Advisory. The next Summit is being scheduled for first week of April 2016.
  • Film Screening and Discussion: 7 Jan 2015
    • Topic : Maafinama - a road towards redemption, Molestation: legislation or humanity, what can cure this social disease?

      Speaker(s) : Ms Tannishtha Sarkar, Film Producer, Maafinama

      Moderator : Dr Ronojoy Sen

      Before the screening of Maafinama, the director of the film and the main speaker at the event, Tannistha Sarkar, briefly described the background to the film. The film, which is 14 minutes long, is about the rape of a young Muslim woman in an Indian village and the subsequent punishment of one of the perpetrators of the crime. The film is told through the eyes of the perpetrator and not the victim. Following the screening, Sarkar laid out the context of the film. She said the film was intended to convey a message in the wake of the shocking gang-rape incident in Delhi in 2012. According to her, such efforts at sensitizing the public is often more effective than stringent punishment. In response to questions, Sarkar elaborated on why the film was not longer. She said paucity of funds was the primary reason for its length. Though she had written a script for a full-length film, she had to be satisfied with making a short film. She added that all the actors had agreed to work in the film for free. During the question and answer session, Sarkar revealed that Maafinama was based on a true incident. She, however, tweaked the story to make its message optimistic. As for the reason for the rural setting, she said rape incidents in Indian villages often go unnoticed.

Last modified on 26 August 2015