In light of Australia’s climate commitments, the creation of a nuclear-power sector ought to be revisited. The sector could potentially provide much of the foundational skills required to maintain and operate a nuclear-powered submarine fleet that could enhance Australia’s defence several-fold.
Timor-Leste has coped comparatively well with the effects of COVID-19, largely due to its sovereign wealth Petroleum Fund. Unfortunately, however, the longevity of the Petroleum Fund is now in question and, while a restructuring of the governing coalition spurred on by COVID-19 has brought some respite from high levels of political instability, it is still likely only to offer temporary relief. For Australia, the objective is a prosperous and stable neighbour but, if its economic and political challenges are not addressed, Timor-Leste could become significantly more vulnerable to the ambitions of foreign powers, which may be at odds with Australian interests.
Some of the first Executive Orders signed by President Biden indicate that he favours multilateralism and a more outward-looking US. While the new president has made working with allies a priority, his primary challenges, however, are domestic. In terms of India-US ties, it remains to be seen how Washington and New Delhi will reconcile their differences over the latter’s dealings with Russia.
China’s current strategies of economic and military coercion and territorial “salami-slicing” are causing other countries to view it as a predator and untrustworthy and they are aligning and coalescing in an effort to balance and, if required, counter its predatory behaviour. The result is a situation that could easily get out of hand and lead to conflict.
Covid-19 and Food Security in the Pacific: Considerable Challenges with an Opportunity to “Build Back Better”
While the health implications of Covid-19 in the South Pacific have been limited, the economic consequences of the pandemic have been severe. The loss of tourism revenue and remittances from overseas have reduced incomes and household spending. The economic downturn has limited economic access to food supplies, which has weakened food security. Efforts to “build back better” in the wake of the pandemic could focus on agricultural development, with significant benefits for regional food security.
While a number of events have led to the deterioration of the Pakistan-GCC relationship, a key factor has been the changing attitudes of the GCC countries towards Israel. In the future, the real challenge for Pakistan is likely to be adapting to a Middle East in which Israel and the GCC have normal relations, with increasingly less space for a zero-sum approach and looking at diplomacy in shades of simply black and white.
While most of the South-East Asian region has managed to contain the spread of the Covid-19 virus and prevent a public health crisis, the regional economic downturn has resulted in weaker food security and a rise in poverty.
Unlike his predecessor, President Biden is likely to favour working more closely with US friends and allies on geopolitical, economic and environmental issues of concern. While absolute convergence is impossible between any two countries, there are nonetheless more convergences than divergences between the US and India, and President Biden’s likely more flexible approach towards Iran, his difference in approach to immigration issues, and even in countering China, are some of the areas for potentially greater synergies between New Delhi and the Biden White House.
Beijing recognises that there are growing concerns within China about environmental conditions, especially in relation to air, water and soil pollution. In recent years it has introduced new laws and set a range of goals to reduce pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Chinese officials admit that while environmental conditions have improved in recent years, they fall short of public expectations. Beijing is expected to announce new environmental goals in the upcoming 14th Five-Year Plan. If they are as poorly implemented as those in the previous plan, they are also likely to fall short of public expectations.
Former PM Nawaz Sharif’s attack against the Pakistan Army and current Prime Minister Imran Khan has elicited strong responses. Sharif’s claims could mobilise the opposition, at a time when Khan, who needs to deliver improved economic and governance outcomes, also needs to dispel his image of being a puppet of the army (which is unlikely to take Sharif’s criticism without some form of retaliation).