Independent Strategic Analysis of Australia’s Global Interests

Strategic Analysis Paper

Indonesia: Economic Developments and Future Prospects

Although the Indonesian economy continues to enjoy strong growth, and may even become the world’s fourth-largest by 2050, investment is desperately needed to improve infrastructure, which is necessary for future growth. Good progress has been made in introducing reforms to help small businesses and the country’s growing middle class has the potential to be a significant future driver of the economy.

What will be the Shape of US Indo-Pacific Policy under President Trump?

Addressing the increased assertiveness of China in the Indo-Pacific theatre is of primary importance but, despite the talk of greater burden sharing, the US alliances in the region, which continue to serve US commercial and security interests well, will not be ended. The Pivot to Asia of the Obama Administration – largely inherited from the George W. Bush presidency – is likely to continue under President Trump.

Crisis in the Horn of Africa: Are we seeing the Normalisation of Food and Water Insecurity?

Three countries in or near the Horn of Africa (Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen) are, or are close to, experiencing famine. This extreme level of food insecurity is exacerbated by conflict, ineffective governance and poor weather conditions. Until these issues are addressed, it is probable that the region will continue to experience heightened levels of food insecurity.

The Role of Water in Ensuring Healthy Soils

Water is an essential constituent of healthy, productive soils. Maintaining the availability of water to plants while ensuring healthy, sustainably productive soils, relies on understanding the natural processes of climate and weather and managing complex and often conflicting physical and environmental factors.

Strategic Competition in Afghanistan: Why Leveraging Kabul’s Food and Water Security Situation Must be Earned, not Expected

Afghanistan’s food and water security future out to 2030 is looking increasingly hard to manage because of the institutional and security challenges, on top of newer tasks like climate change, that must be addressed before food and water can be properly securitised. India and Pakistan can better tap into Afghanistan’s food and water future if they can firstly service Kabul’s older needs, like military security and infrastructural/institutional development.

Carbon Sequestration – Why and How?

To meet the targets set by the Paris climate change conference, greenhouse gas may have to be actively removed from the atmosphere and stored indefinitely. Carbon capture and storage technology will also have a key role in reducing future greenhouse gas emissions. Storage deep underground, in the oceans and in the soil, are some of the possible options but there are technological, financial, environmental and time considerations.

Pakistan: Political and Foreign Relations Outlook

Pakistani politics have been influenced by the government, the military and the judiciary. In the political and foreign policy spheres, just as with the economy, there are problems aplenty but there is also reason for optimism as Pakistan matures politically.

Timor-Leste: An Uncertain Future and an Unsettled Boundary

The termination of the Certain Maritime Arrangements in the Timor Sea agreement means that Timor-Leste and Australia will have to settle their maritime boundary and, possibly, negotiate a new revenue split for the Greater Sunrise area. From a purely realist perspective, it is in Australia’s economic interests to secure as much of the Greater Sunrise area as possible in future negotiations, but there are other important strategic factors that should also be taken into consideration.

Pakistan: Economic and Demographic Prospects

Initially economically and socially successful, Pakistan subsequently became less so because of political decisions. While problems abound, there is much to celebrate as Pakistan’s economy is again on the upswing.

The Impact of Foreign Military Involvement on the Development of Northern Australia

Allowing foreign defence forces to access Australian military establishments and field training ranges is fundamental to maintaining regional security and long-standing strategic alliances. Military facilities can, however, be environmentally and culturally disruptive and can prevent land use for other purposes. The negative aspects of permanent, foreign military bases in Australia notwithstanding, they can be used strategically as a development tool for northern Australia.

Genetically Modified Food and the Second Green Revolution

Genetically modified foods are likely to play a role in the Second Green Revolution. While some could have the potential to increase global food security, others are likely to be self-defeating.

India: Political and Foreign Relations Outlook

The world’s largest democracy will continue to grow in strategic and economic importance. India’s foreign relations are, in general, predicated upon its growing economy and strategic reach, the latter being an outcome of its economic growth, which makes it a valuable market, strategic ally or both.

India: Economic and Demographic Prospects

India has seen major ups and downs since independence in 1947, most notably in its economic development, which saw it overtake the UK in December 2016 to become the world’s sixth-largest economy. Literacy and educational rates have also improved and Indian women are now having fewer children than before.

The Marrakech Climate Change Conference – What did it achieve?

This Strategic Analysis Paper discusses the aimed and actual achievements of the Marrakech Climate Change Conference held in November 2016. It highlights its role as the initial implementing forum for the Paris Climate Change Agreement of 2015. It also discusses the possible consequence of a draw-back from the Paris Agreement by United States President Donald Trump.

India’s External and Internal Security: Interrelated Issues

India’s external and internal security overlap in a number of ways, meaning that case-by-case policy making may not be advisable. Likewise, several key issues will require a fundamental shift in thinking if they are to be resolved.

India: A World of Uncertainty

India faces a number of social, political and security challenges over the next two decades, not all of which are within its control. Whether it successfully addresses them could depend upon several contingent factors.

Djibouti: A Tiny Haven with Strategic Importance in a Troubled Neighbourhood

The North African nation of Djibouti is situated on one of the most important trade routes in the world. Its small physical size and small economy bely its strategic geographic significance to global trade and security. Increasingly, superpowers are looking to Djibouti as a politically stable base from which to enhance their global influence but motivations and consequences have yet to be revealed.

Demographic Changes in China to 2030

Urbanisation, an ageing population, a skewed gender ratio and rising middle class will weaken Chinese food and water security unless economic reforms are made.

Melanesia: Climate Change, and Food and Water Security

Melanesia faces demographic, environmental and nutritional challenges that could threaten food and water security. Given the strategic significance of the region, it is in Australia’s national interest to continue assisting the region in overcoming these challenges.

Governance and Political Challenges in Indonesia

The Indonesian parliament continues to be dominated by secular-nationalist parties but the emphasis on nationalism could undermine the prospect of greater ethnic Chinese representation in the parliament. Other challenges include elevated levels of government corruption (either real or perceived) and a flawed taxation system. At the same time, matters are complicated by the efforts of the Indonesian National Armed Forces to increase their influence in domestic politics through greater involvement in internal security matters.

South Asia’s Energy Crisis: Water Scarcity and its Implications for Hydroelectricity

Without concerted efforts to overcome poor water management, interstate tensions, and poor governance, South Asia’s hydropower potential will not be fully realised.

India-Pakistan Relations – Part Three: Economic and Cultural Aspects

While commercial and cultural ties are often influenced by political events, they could be used to mitigate adversarial connotations between the two countries.

India-Pakistan Relations – Part Two: The Security Vector

While the security relationship between India and Pakistan is viewed primarily in military terms, the adversarial nature of that relationship could be mitigated over time if the Prime Ministers of the two countries are able to use their genuine personal relationship to challenge the status quo.

India-Pakistan Relations – Part One: The Legacy of Partition

The trauma of their partition has played a large role in moulding the adversarial relationship between India and Pakistan, but New Delhi could change that paradigm by re-calibrating its approach of isolating Pakistan by targeting the true instigators of the violent strikes on its sovereignty. An economically energised Pakistan could bring about a regional resurgence that sees both India and Pakistan move closer to reaching their potential.

India’s Naval Strategy

In this paper, FDI Research Analyst, Lindsay Hughes, finds that the rapid modernisation of the Indian Navy is predicated upon the requirement to keep the country’s economy growing and also to counter a perceived increase in Chinese naval activity in the Indian Ocean.

Water Governance in the Tigris-Euphrates Basin

Turkey, Syria and Iraq depend on the Tigris-Euphrates river system for their food and water security. Both rivers have contributed to interstate tension and hostility in the past and an agreement would help reduce interstate tensions. As the region is currently undergoing a period of political turmoil, however, it is unlikely that an agreement will be forthcoming in the near future.

Russia and Iran – Emerging Military Axis or Marriage of Convenience?

20 September 2016 | Indian Ocean, Strategic Analysis Paper

In this paper, FDI Research Analyst Lindsay Hughes finds that the relationship between Russia and Iran is currently predicated upon the situation in Syria, where both have relatively common aspirations. It is a marriage of convenience and displays no real signs of a long-lasting, strategic relationship.

Feral Animals in Northern Australia

Introduced feral animals such as pigs, cattle and cats are having a significant, detrimental effect on the Australian environment through loss of habitat, competition with native species and general damage to land ecosystems and waterways. The cost of control and management measures, combined with reduced agricultural productivity are increasing annually. Resources allocated under current funding arrangements, however, do not provide the appropriate population controls or levels of research into permanent solutions to the problem.

The Elephant and the (Little) Dragon: India-Bhutan Relations

In this study, FDI Research Analyst Lindsay Hughes find that the Bhutan-India relationship has evolved to better reflect changing circumstances but retains its traditional strength.

The Future Beyond Conflict: Food and Water Security in Syria

After five years of civil war, Syrian food and water security is extremely poor. Due to widespread destruction and severely weakened political governance, food and water insecurity is likely to persist long after the conflict has ceased.

Economic and Political Challenges Could End South Africa’s Role as Regional Leader

South Africa’s difficult economic circumstances, coupled with inconsistent and contradictory government decisions, are undermining its position as a regional leader by reducing its economic weight and soft power projection. A sustained period of decisive political leadership will be needed to arrest the decline and return South Africa to the position of pre-eminence that it enjoyed in the early post-apartheid era.

Modi and India’s Security in the Indian Ocean

In following the example set by the United States of creating alliances to retain influence, India is courting the Indian Ocean island states of the Seychelles, Mauritius and Sri Lanka in order to remain secure and influential in the region.

Modi’s Independence Day Speech: Opening New Fronts

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Independence Day address not only targeted Pakistan by equating Balochistan with Kashmir, but was also, indirectly, a warning to China not to underestimate India. That Modi felt confident enough to stand up to China is a startling new development. That he was willing to make it obvious is a new strategy for India.

Domesticated Ruminants: Climate Change Hero or Villain?

Domesticated ruminants are not just an important food source, they hold great social, cultural and economic significance globally. Some, however, view them as a significant emitter of greenhouse gas. This FDI Strategic Analysis Paper discusses the pros and cons of ruminants in relation to atmospheric greenhouse gas emissions and climate change

India-Nepal Relations: From Dominance to Equality

If Nepal is to continue to play the role that India envisages for it – acting as a buffer between China and itself – New Delhi will need to treat Kathmandu as an equal partner in the bilateral relationship and not use the latter’s economic dependence on India as an instrument to influence Nepali politics.

The Land Between Two Threatened Rivers: Food and Water Security in Iraq

Pressure from population growth, a continued lack of sufficient infrastructure, riverine development projects in upper riparian states and climate change is likely to reduce the level of Iraqi food and water security by 2030.

Photosynthesis and its Role in Climate Change and Soil Regeneration

This Strategic Analysis Paper firstly, provides a brief description of the photosynthesis process highlighting its fundamental importance to all life on the planet. Secondly, it describes how photosynthesis can provide a pathway to enable the extraction of climate change inducing, greenhouse gasses from the atmosphere and to promote the regeneration of degraded agricultural soil, enhancing global food security.

Modi’s Africa Visit Confirms New Delhi’s Expanding Maritime Horizon

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s four-country state visit to Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania and Kenya underscores India’s expanding maritime and trade reach in the western Indian Ocean. For India, an expanded strategic presence in southern and eastern Africa would help it to counter China, dovetail with initiatives such as the proposed infrastructure and military developments on the Agaléga Islands and give a hard power aspect to Project Mausam.

Assessing the Jokowi Administration: A Narrative of Reform versus Élites

Jokowi is constrained by the limits imposed on him by the élites, so his political capital is largely dependent on realising his vision for economic reform and growth. His vision of Indonesia as a Global Maritime Fulcrum has been hampered by his inexperience in security and foreign policy matters. In simply being an outsider elected to the highest office in the land, he has, however, broken new ground.

The Role of Old-Growth Forests in Carbon Sequestration

This article defines and discusses old-growth forests. It explains the important contribution old-growth forest can make to halting and reversing the rise in atmospheric greenhouse gases by capturing and storing carbon dioxide. It argues the case for protecting, rather than exploiting old growth forest.

Opportunities and Challenges for Food and Water Security in South-east Turkey

This paper examines the potential for food and water insecurity in Turkey out to 2030. It finds that Turkey is unlikely to experience widespread food or water insecurity, however, political instability, both domestic and regional, pose some risk to Turkish food and water security.

China’s One Belt One Road Policy: Can History Repeat Itself?

This paper describes and discusses the Chinese One Belt One Road scheme. This international treaty arrangement aims to recreate a modern version of the historical Silk Road trading route from China to Europe. It also raises the prospect of benefits to Australia particularly the development of northern Australia.

Social and Demographic Issues in South Africa

South Africa is experiencing significant social and demographic challenges, including internal migration, unemployment, and poor health and educational outcomes. The legacy of apartheid means that, in South Africa, the severity and scale of those challenges are frequently amplified. While certain factors, such as commodity prices and the rate of global economic recovery are simply outside Pretoria’s control, many others can be managed and the South African Government is both well aware of them and committed to making improvements, albeit with sometimes varying degrees of success.

Water Scarcity, Migration and Regional Security in South Asia

Large parts of South Asia exhibit a near-permanent state of water stress and this is expected to be further exacerbated by climate change. Water scarcity will exacerbate existing problems such as poverty and food insecurity, while creating instability and potentially driving mass migration. Closer regional co-operation and management of shared water resources could lessen the potential for people to migrate.

Carbon Sequestration in Soils for Food Security and the Climate – The 4 per 1000 Initiative

The 4 per 1000 Initiative aims to demonstrate that agriculture, and agricultural soils in particular, can play a crucial role where food security and climate change are concerned. This Initiative acknowledges and aims to address the issue that our capacity to feed 9.5 billion people in 2050 in a context of climate change will depend in particular on our ability to keep our soils alive.

The United States and the Indian Ocean Region: The Security Vector

While economic circumstances may have forced the US to divest itself of some of the security responsibilities that it has carried since the end of the Second World War, it has adapted by seeking coalitions and alliances with regional states to ensure that its strategic interests and goals are not negatively affected. With its strong and still developing navy, India is a major potential partner for the US in the Indian Ocean Region.

Drought and Water Security in India

Two consecutive years of drought have exacerbated Indian water insecurity, however, decades of mismanagement appears to be the bigger factor in the current water crisis. The upcoming Indian monsoon could relieve short-term pressures, but is unlikely to resolve the underlying issues contributing to water insecurity.

The United States and the Indian Ocean Region: A Case of Growing Interests

The United States has a definite strategic approach to the Indian Ocean Region with objectives that, to a large degree, drive its relationships with key regional actors.

Malaysia: Many Challenges to Wawasan 2020 Development Vision

The prognosis for Wawasan 2020 – the vision unveiled in 1991 by former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad under which Malaysia was to become a fully developed society across all spheres by 2020 – is looking increasingly less achievable.

Managing Water Pollution in China with Social Media

Despite a restrictive and controlled social media environment, there are signs that the Chinese Government is increasingly willing to engage with its citizens. The character of these interactions is distinctly Chinese in that the government first organises the pathways through which its citizens can provide feedback rather than allowing independent and unrestricted social movements to emerge. This approach contributes to the enforcement of state policies at a citizen level, while maintaining the central and hierarchical character of Chinese political power.

Social Media: A Tool to Tackle Water Pollution in China?

The large majority of Chinese environmental protests go unreported in the mainstream media and are censored on social media. As the legal, regulatory and policy measures regarding social media become increasingly restrictive, the prospects of successful social media campaigns around environmental issues diminish.

Soil Nutrient Management

The importance of appropriate plant nutrient management in agricultural soil cannot be overstated. If agricultural and pastoral activity is to be maximised in a sustainable fashion, it is imperative that plants are supplied by proper nutrition. The available quantity of many of these essential plant nutrients is finite and, once depleted or degraded, cannot be easily restored.

Livelihoods and Food Security on the Mekong River

A large part of mainland South-East Asia depends on the Mekong River for food and water security. Food security and livelihoods are threatened by the construction of hydropower facilities in China, Laos and Cambodia. While these facilities are likely to further the economic development of the region this will come at the expense of traditional farming and cultural practices.

India-US Relations – Part Two: Growing Military and Strategic Co-operation

The military aspect of the India-US relationship has progressed in the space of a few years from virtual non-existence to one that has the potential to truly being the ‘defining relationship of the Twenty-First Century’, as President Obama termed it.

India-US Relations – Part One: A Game of Snakes and Ladders

While the US-India relationship has gone through a series of ups and downs, both countries realise that their common aspirations and strategic interests move them more closely together than their differences draw them apart. Given the present state of geopolitics in the Indo-Pacific region, the two countries will grow closer than ever.

The Water-Energy Nexus in the Indian Ocean Region

Population growth and economic development will see increasing demands for both water and energy, which will simultaneously exert pressure on one another. Reducing the link between water and energy will be necessary to ensure the future security of both resources.

India, Bangladesh and the Farakka Barrage

India’s construction of the Farakka Barrage has, in part, soured the bilateral relationship it has with Bangladesh. Both countries face increased pressure to meet rising water demands, however, there is little effective water agreement to sustain a co-operative bilateral relationship while meeting these demands.

Bypassing Pakistan: Afghanistan, India, Iran and Chabahar

In allowing India to enhance its energy security and Iran to expand its share of the energy market while giving Afghanistan alternative maritime access, the trilateral Chabahar Agreement has the potential to change the regional dynamic to a significant extent.

Earthquakes, Dams and Water in South Asia

The construction of dams could bring both benefits and risks to South Asia. If they are constructed they will fuel development, but could also heighten the risk from earthquakes and increase interstate tension. Their long-term utility is also likely to come under pressure from increased climatic variability.

South Africa – Economic Challenges

The South African economy is facing a perfect storm of structural and cyclical factors, including high unemployment, little job creation, an often poorly skilled workforce, a weak currency that is prone to external shocks, the possibility of credit rating downgrades, the lingering effects of electricity shortages, a costly public service and the continuing spectre of political interference.

The Indo-Japanese Relationship: Predicated on External Factors?

Born out of mutual strategic necessity, the India-Japan relationship really accelerated when highly nationalistic leaders took office in both countries almost simultaneously. Both Narendra Modi and Shinzo Abe perceived China as a threat, hastening the development of the alliance.

South Africa: Drought Threatens Food, Energy and Water Security

South Africa, Southern Africa’s largest food producer, has experienced its driest year since records began in 1904. It typically exports surplus food to neighbouring countries but, due to decreased production, it is not able to do so this year. If South Africa is transitioning to a new climate paradigm, it will need to explore the feasibility of producing alternative food crops, developing new sources of water and constructing alternative methods of generating electricity.

Climate Change, Food and Water Security in Bangladesh

Bangladesh faces significant challenges in adapting to the impacts of climate change. Its topography and geographical location make it particularly susceptible to extreme weather events including cyclones, floods and storm surges. Food and water security are likely to be particularly affected by the changing climate, forcing Bangladeshis to adapt.

The Indo-Russian Relationship: Old Imperatives, New Beginnings

Born of mutual necessity, the Indo-Russian relationship thrived as India sought to gain from the political, economic and security advantages that it offered. It deteriorated over time as the result of a changing international setting. Since then, the leaders of both countries have recognised the need for a closer relationship and are seeking to renew it.

Israel or Iranian Liberals: Who are the Real Targets of Iran’s Missile Tests?

Conservative forces in Iran see their more moderate counterparts, headed by President Hassan Rouhani, as a danger to the status quo and their hold on power. The conservatives have used the recent missile tests to undermine Rouhani’s standing with the West.

Co-operation and the Brahmaputra: China and India Water Sharing

While the potential for conflict between India and China is low, a combination of regional competition and water-sharing tension could still threaten regional stability. Improved communication and co-operation would reduce the potential for conflict.

Indonesia and Malaysia: Prospects for Closer Co-operation

Indonesia and Malaysia are becoming increasingly important to political developments in South-East Asia. Both countries can play an important role in delegitimising, and offering a counter-narrative to, extremist groups in the region.

Indonesian Water Security: Improving but Still Subject to Shocks

Indonesia is not water scarce as it has enough water to satisfy the needs of its population and economy. Uneven distribution, poor management and a lack of infrastructure, however, have left parts of the country with insufficient access to water. Without considerable investment, water security in Indonesia will remain tenuous and subject to rapid deterioration.

India’s Evolving Maritime Security Strategy and Force Posture

The Indian Navy’s Maritime Security Strategy document 2015 (titled ‘Ensuring Secure Seas: Indian Maritime Security Strategy’) is a precursor of India’s evolving maritime strategic thought and its proposed force posture. Together, they form important spokes in the wheel of New Delhi’s politico-military strategy.

Food Security in Indonesia: A Continued Reliance on Foreign Markets

Indonesia has long sought to restore its self-sufficiency in key agricultural commodities and has embarked on an infrastructure development programme that could go some way to boosting market access for domestic producers. This is unlikely to be enough to guarantee future food security and it will continue to depend on foreign markets.

Saudi Arabia: Should Troops Be Deployed To Syria?

If Saudi troops are to be deployed to Syria, Riyadh will need to take into careful consideration the possible outcomes of that deployment.

The Forgotten Resource: Groundwater in Australia

Groundwater usage is increasing and it is the main source of water for much of Australia’s dry interior, even as recent research suggests that replenishment rates may be slower than previously thought.

Tibet: A Major Source of Asia’s Rivers

The headwaters of six of Asia’s major rivers begin on the Tibetan Plateau. It is crucial that China and the countries downstream co-operate to ensure freshwater supplies for all. Dwindling water sources in the transboundary rivers of the Tibetan Plateau threaten water security and create a high potential for geopolitical conflict in the region.

Saudi Arabia, a Diminishing OPEC and an Ascending Iran

Saudi Arabia faces a raft of internal and external challenges that could collectively bring down the House of Saud.

South Africa – Political Challenges

The ANC will need to redouble its nation-building and governance efforts in the face of growing criticism if it is not lose further support.

Publication Guide

  • Associate papers are primary source assessments written by FDI associates. The assessment topics range from regional bilateral relationships and opportunities and challenges in our neighbouring countries.

  • Feature interviews are interviews conducted by an FDI Research Manager. Interview topics range from the sustainability of our planet to the improved provision of emergency food aid.

  • Normally issued in hardcopy, these represent a comprehensive study of one of FDI’s four research areas.

  • Strategic alerts are priority current intelligence items. We provide these alerts when events such as military deployments or foreign election results occur.

  • A 1500 to 3000 word, single topic assessment.

  • A number of short articles addressing current intelligence topics, issued each week.

  • A record of discussions resulting from a single, or series of, roundtable conferences.

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