South Asia

2018 Annual Report

The EastWest Institute is pleased to release its 2018 Annual Report, chronicling the programmatic activities, achievements and new initiatives in the past year and reflecting key geopolitical trends around the world.

The institute remains focused on tackling these evolving issues, as well as on forecasting challenges in other topics and regions.

To access the complete report, please click below:

Afghanistan: Endless War?

Ambassador Cameron Munter joined other thought leaders on April 12 in a conversation about America's longest war and to examine strategies for how to bring it to an end. 

"Without some sort of better understanding of Pakistan, you’re not going to get past the impasse—which, I suppose, might be bearable for a long time—that we have in Afghanistan," said Munter starting his remarks in the discussion, organized by Council on Foreign Relations as part of its "The Future of the Middle East" symposium.

Munter also shared his insight on China's present engagement with Afghanistan as well as other South Asian countries. "And I hope that the Americans can be supportive. And Americans and other friends of Afghanistan and Pakistan can be supportive," he said.

Click here to watch and read the full transcript.


Photo: "Operation Enduring Freedom/Village Medic" (CC BY 2.0) by DVIDSHUB

Dr. Saalman Co-hosts SIPRI Workshop on Nuclear Challenges in South Asia

On December 8-9, EWI Senior Fellow, Dr. Lora Saalman, co-moderated and co-hosted a workshop on "Nuclear Challenges in South Asia: Views from India, Pakistan, China, Russia, Australia, New Zealand and the USA."

The virtual workshop assembled 13 speakers and over 60 participants to discuss key shifts in nuclear posture and technologies, as well as escalation dynamics originating both within and outside of South Asia. 

Click here to read the full event report on the SIPRI website.

Joint Working Group Series on EU’s Water Diplomacy: The Himalayan Region

On November 12, the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS) and the EastWest Institute (EWI) launched an exclusive Joint Working Group (JWG) series on EU’s water diplomacy with respect to three key water-stressed regions: the Himalayas, Central Asia and the Euphrates-Tigris. The aim of this series is to set the stage for KAS and EWI’s conference next year on “International Hydrodiplomacy—Building and Strengthening Regional Institutions for Water Conflict Prevention.”

The inaugural session on November 12 was devoted to the Himalayan region—home to 1.9 billion people and the “water tower of Asia,” from which flows the majority of the continent’s great rivers, including the Indus, Ganges and Tsangpo-Brahmaputra. The session brought together regional water experts along with representatives from the European External Action Service (EEAS), Slovenian Ministry of Environment and Spatial Planning, Slovenian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the IHE Delft Institute for Water Education in the Netherlands, to jointly assess the current challenges to Himalayan transboundary water governance and reflect upon EU’s role as a potential synergistic force in advancing greater intra-and inter-regional cooperation on water issues.

Participants highlighted that water governance in the region has traditionally employed a reductionist approach—limiting the scope for greater multi-stakeholder engagement and inclusive decision-making. Following this approach, policymakers have failed to efficaciously address the needs of the region’s diverse ecosystem, navigate the manifold effects of climate change and contract the existing knowledge gaps, which, in turn, constrain prospects for regional water cooperation. To further exacerbate matters, frequent political tensions between neighboring countries result in water being transformed into a national security issue.

Reflecting on China’s role in the region’s hydrodiplomacy, participants agreed that China’s position as an upper riparian allows it extensive leverage over the Himalayan waters. In recent years, China’s dam-building and water-diversion projects, coupled with an apparent reservation in sharing hydrological data, have all been a major cause of concern for its downstream neighbors.

The participants further emphasized that conventional Track 1 mechanisms have failed to deliver on water cooperation ambitions in the region. Instead, the region’s shared waterscape requires a proactive deliberation towards adopting a more multi-disciplinary approach—one which binds together inclusive hydrodiplomacy initiatives, institutional frameworks, resource abutment and greater ecological integration in the region. The discussion also allowed for an intellectual discourse on how the EU could play a greater role in facilitating a more cooperative and coordinated enterprise towards shared water governance in the region. Participants agreed that the EU has the potential to act as an important third-party solicitor by bringing forward its constructive experience in transboundary water management and empowering integrative approaches towards water research and governance on various scales.

Hydrodiplomacy in the Himalayan region lacks the required impetus and cooperative incentives that are needed to ensure a better water future. There is an urgent need to periodically convene relevant regional and international stakeholders vis-à-vis a joint institutional platform, along the lines of River Basin Organizations (RBOs), in order to curate effective management methods and devise viable long-term solutions to tackle the looming threat of water scarcity and subsequent economic pressures in the region.

In the future, EWI and KAS will continue to mobilize and engage experts and stakeholders from key water-stressed regions, like the Himalayas, in an effort to address the global water challenges against the backdrop of a rapidly evolving security and environmental context.

Click here to view the JWG agenda.

China’s Detachment from the South Asian Nuclear Triangle

EWI Senior Fellow Dr. Lora Saalman writes on "China’s Detachment from the South Asian Nuclear Triangle" for SIPRI WritePeace blogs. This is the first in a series that will explore narratives surrounding nuclear dynamics in South Asia. 

In contrast with coverage of the recent China–India border conflict, Chinese analysis of nuclear issues in South Asia has been decreasing. As pointed out by IndianChinese and US experts, neither China nor India has sought to insert nuclear dynamics into border tensions. Both countries’ past declarations on minimal nuclear deterrence, no first use, and de-mating of warheads and delivery systems, as well as aims for a nuclear-free world, offer greater room for de-escalation than found in India–Pakistan border dynamics. However, there is more to this than simply stated nuclear postures. Chinese official and non-official sources seek to remove China from any descriptions of a South Asian nuclear triangle. This WritePeace blog, based on interviews and Chinese-language sources, explores reasons behind this de-linkage and what it means for future nuclear stability and engagement.

Click here to read the full blog post.

Global Cyber Policy Dialogues: Southeast Asia

On August 6, the EastWest Institute and the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, in partnership with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands and the Cyber Security Agency of Singapore jointly hosted Global Cyber Policy Dialogues: Southeast Asia.

This discussion-driven meeting included participants representing governments, businesses, civil society organizations and universities from across Southeast Asia. The meeting opened with presentations on emerging technologies, international norms processes and capacity building all in the context of Southeast Asia and with an eye towards the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. A video of these presentations can be found here and a summary of the meeting can be found here.   

This meeting was the first event in the Global Dialogue project being undertaken by the EastWest Institute, which seeks to convene regional meetings to address capacity building around key cyber challenges. The initiative is intended to complement the two ongoing UN cyber norms processes: the Open-Ended Working Group (OEWG) and the Group of Governmental Experts (GGE). This first virtual meeting introduced the project to stakeholders in Southeast Asia, and served as preparation for a future in-person meeting in the region.

EWI Hosts Webinar on South Asia’s Economic Future in the Post COVID-19 World

On August 12, the EastWest Institute’s (EWI) South Asia program, in cooperation with the Corporate Pakistan Group (CPG), hosted a webinar discussion on “South Asia’s Economic Future in the Post COVID-19 World.”

Moderated by South Asia Program Director Farwa Aamer, the webinar invited expert perspectives on the impacts of COVID-19 on South Asian economies and how the region can work towards improving its socio-economic conditions in the post-COVID world.

Speakers included EWI President Bruce McConnell; Dr. Jagannath Panda, research fellow at MP-IDSA, New Delhi; Nathan Sivagananathan, co-founder of Hatch and venture partner at Patamar Capital; Dr. Shamshad Akhtar, chairperson at Karandaaz; and Ikram Sehgal, chairman of Pathfinder Group and EWI board member.

Please find full coverage of the webinar here.


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