Publication in Economics, Politics and Public Policy in East Asia and the Pacific


Bhutan: Chasing development in the Dragon Kingdom

The Buddha Dordenma statue overlooks the town of Thimphu, Bhutan, 16 April 2016 (Photo: Reuters/Cathal McNaughton).

Author: Susan Banki, Sydney University

Two photographs encapsulate the complexity of Bhutan’s 11-year-old democracy. In the first, the King of Bhutan accepts an award from the United Nations Development Programme for advancing human development and the wellbeing of the people of Bhutan. In the second photograph, a few lone yaks graze at the base of a massive mountain under the caption ‘Yak Herding on the Decline’, symbolising the decline of rural livelihoods, the degradation of the natural environment and advance of rural–urban migration.

Read more…

Smarter strategies for sharing South Asia’s rivers

A fisherman stands as he checks his fishing net along the Indus River, Hyderabad, Pakistan, 11 June 2017 (Photo:Reuters/Akhtar Soomro).

Author: Ashok Swain, Uppsala University

South Asia is facing severe water scarcity. As the region’s population grows and its economies develop, a lack of sustainable water development strategy is leading to increasingly acute water shortages.

Read more…

BIMSTEC must scale new heights

Sri Lanka's President Mahinda Rajapakse, Myanmar's Prime Minister Thein Sein, Bangladesh's Chief Advisor Fakhruddin Ahmed, India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Bhutan's Prime Minister Jigmi Thinley, Nepal's Prime Minister Prachanda and Thailand's Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat pose for a picture during the inauguration ceremony of the second summit of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) in New Delhi, 13 November 2008 (Photo: Reuters/B Mathur).

Author: Prabir De, Research and Information System for Developing Countries (RIS)

On 30 August 2018, the heads of the Bay of Bengal Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) countries will meet in Kathmandu for the fourth BIMSTEC summit. The last BIMSTEC summit was held in 2014 and a mini-summit was held on the sidelines of the BRICS summit in Goa in October 2016. Read more…

A storm of climate change migration is brewing in South Asia

A Sadhu or a Hindu holy man walks on the banks of the river Ganges during a dust storm in Allahabad, India, 9 June 2016 (Photo: Reuters/Jitendra Prakash).

Authors: Simrit Kaur and Harpreet Kaur, University of Delhi

With climate change and the associated warmer temperatures already altering the timings and patterns of bird migrations, climate change-induced human migration is not far behind. Estimates suggest that by 2050 there are likely to be between 25 million and 1 billion environmental migrants in the world, with a major proportion of these originating from low and lower-middle income countries. Read more…

Big ideas to shape BIMSTEC’s future

Workers from Indian conglomerate Essar Group construct a new port in Sittwe, 19 May 2012. (Photo: Reuters/Damir Sagolj).

Author: Prabir De, Research and Information System for Developing Countries (RIS)

2017 marks the 20th anniversary of the foundation of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC). BIMSTEC was established to expand cooperation among Bay of Bengal countries. While long maintaining a relatively low profile as a sub-regional grouping, BIMSTEC could be a driver of future integration between South and Southeast Asia. Read more…

Danger at Doklam for India and China

An armed unit from Tibet police border security force attends a drill at a military base in Shigatse, Tibet Autonomous Region, China, 24 October 2015 (Photo: Reuters/Stringer).

Author: M. Taylor Fravel, MIT

The standoff between China and India on the Dolam plateau in the Doklam region has lasted for more than one month. Both sides have miscalculated, with potentially dire consequences.  Read more…

To Doklam and back: India–China standoff

China's President Xi Jinping inspects the guard of honour during his ceremonial reception at the forecourt of India's Rashtrapati Bhavan presidential palace in New Delhi, 18 September 2014. China had said it was determined to bridge differences over its shared border with India (Photo: Reuters/Stringer).

Author: Sourabh Gupta, ICAS

China and India are locked yet again in a standoff of Himalayan proportions.

Almost five weeks after Indian troops trespassed and forcibly halted the activities of a Chinese road construction crew on a narrow plateau at the China–Bhutan–India tri-junction area in the Sikkim Himalayas, the two sides appear no closer to resolving their quarrel. Read more…

South Asian countries building connections

Vehicles are seen at Kawran Bazar roundabout in Dhaka, Bangladesh, June 22, 2017. (Photo: Reuters/Mohammad Ponir Hossain)

Author: Prabir De, Research and Information System for Developing Countries

The Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal (BBIN) sub-regional grouping has realised that narrowing connectivity gaps is a must for facilitating regional trade. Improved connectivity, which the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) is only making slow progress on, is essential to providing cheaper access to goods and services, creating more jobs and ultimately helping to alleviate poverty at a faster rate. Read more…

Maritime security governance prospects in the Bay of Bengal

A Bangladeshi coast guard vessel approaches the Thengar Charan island in the Bay of Bengal, Bangladesh, 2 February 2017 (Photo: Reuters/Mohammad Ponir Hossain)

Author: Rajni Gamage, RSIS

BIMSTEC, the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation comprising Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Thailand, celebrates its 20th anniversary in June 2017. It is well positioned to engage in maritime security cooperation to face the challenges of a changing strategic and economic landscape. Read more…

Hydro-powering regional development in India and Nepal

Flood-affected people carrying their belongings move to safer places at Madhepura town in India's eastern state of Bihar, 29 August 2008 (Photo: Reuters/Krishna Murari Kishan).

Authors: Asit K. Biswas and Cecilia Tortajada, NUS

Socially and economically, the performance of the four northern Indian states (Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh) collectively known as BIMARU (meaning ‘sick’ in Hindi) and neighbouring Nepal has left much to be desired. Read more…

What Asian development can teach us about happiness

A Buddhist monk smiles as he adjusts his robe while speaking with his friend at a monastery in Yangon 13 March 2012 (Photo: Reuters).

Author: Mark Fabian, ANU

Asia figures increasingly prominently in comparative research into happiness and wellbeing. First, there is the question of how and whether rapid ‘Asian miracle’ income growth rates have translated into happier societies. Second, there is the impact of collectivism, as opposed to individualism, on happiness and wellbeing. Read more…

The China factor in India–Bhutan relations

Bhutan's Foreign Minister Damcho Dorji addresses the United Nations General Assembly in the Manhattan borough of New York. (Photo: Reuters/Eduardo Munoz).

Authors: Udisha Saklani and Cecilia Tortajada, NUS

The 24th round of China–Bhutan border talks held in Beijing in August 2016 brought several aspects of South Asia’s geopolitics into focus. China’s increasingly cosy relations with Pakistan, and more recently Nepal, has concerned India for many years. Read more…

Evaluating Bhutan’s development

Men carry a portrait of King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck and his wife Jetsun Pema to display inside a modern office building in Bhutan's capital Thimphu. (Photo: Reuters/Adrees Latif).

Author: Yoichiro Ishihara, World Bank

Bhutan has a very different outlook on development. With a population of less than one million and nestled in the eastern Himalayas, this small country has adopted the sustainable development approach of gross national happiness (GNH), Read more…

Democracy still taking root in Bhutan

Author: Mark Turner, UNSW Canberra

Bhutan was a latecomer to democracy. The small Himalayan kingdom joined the ranks of democratic nations only in 2008 when the first national elections were held and its constitution approved. But since then, how is democracy developing in the country? Read more…

Fresh perspectives needed to boost South Asian connectivity

Author: Ram Upendra Das and Nitya Batra, RIS

One of the easiest ways to boost economic activity is by promoting regional economic integration that facilitates freer movement of goods, services and investment, helping to achieve regional developmental objectives by creating jobs. But in eastern South Asia, this process is being held up by misguided decisions, strategies and outdated ideas. Read more…