| THE STRAITS TIMES | SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 28, 2015 |
ISIS THE ROOTS OF ITS IDEOLOGY A51 AUNG SAN SUU KYI THE DANGER OF HER ROLE A53 THE STRAITS TIMES Alan Chan Heng Loon SPH Chief Executive Officer Patrick Daniel Editor-in-Chief (English/Malay/Tamil Media Group) Han Fook Kwang Editor At Large Elsie Chua Executive Vice-President (Marketing) Low Huan Ping Executive Vice-President (Technology) Chua Wee Phong Executive Vice-President (Circulation)
Warren Fernandez The Straits Times Editor Sumiko Tan, Ignatius Low Deputy Editors Rahul Pathak Associate Editor (News) Helen Chia Associate Editor (Life) Ravi Velloor, Ivan Fernandez Associate Editors Lim Chuan Huat Night Editor
Eugene Leow Digital Editor Paul Jacob Political Editor Audrey Quek Foreign Editor Lee Su Shyan Business Editor Marc Lim Sports Editor Chua Mui Hoong Opinion Editor Lydia Lim Associate Opinion Editor Peter Williams Art Editor Stephanie Yeow Photo Editor Liaw Wy-Cin Forum Editor
The Straits Times says
‘Singapura’ building on old ties
ndian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit this week infused new dynamism in an ancient relationship (Singapore’s very name after all is of Sanskrit origin) that got fresh vigour in the mid-1990s before it waned in the 2000s. It needed a booster shot in the wake of the wasted half-decade that his predecessor’s second term turned out to be. The split government of Dr Manmohan Singh (leading the Cabinet) and Mrs Sonia Gandhi (leading the ruling party) not only failed to provide economic dynamism but, importantly, also missed out on key strategic opportunities. Mr Modi is cut from a different cloth. He brooks no rivals within his party or Cabinet, has little patience with the red tape stalling India's bureaucra-
cy, has a corruption-free record and is in a clear hurry. Eighteen months into his term after a stunning electoral victory, some results are showing: India is moving up in competitiveness and ease of doing business, and amid a flight of capital from emerging markets, the flows into India are healthy. At this moment, when many key big markets are looking wobbly, the Indian elephant looks like a paragon of economic stability. It is against this background that Singapore, which midwifed India’s entry into key regional fora such as the East Asia Summit and Asean Regional Forum, offered New Delhi the strategic partnership that was just inked. Unlike India, which has multiple “strategic” partnerships, Singapore does
not use such nomenclature lightly. Hence, the vision behind the partnership is vast – spanning defence, security, aviation, finance, urban solutions, skills development and a plethora of other fields, including regional and multilateral fora. It now is the responsibility of both sides to translate this into reality. On the Singapore side, this is less problematic. So, attention will focus on whether India will keep its side of the bargain. Given Mr Modi’s prodigious energy and drive, there is reason to be optimistic about India too. Tiny Singapore and India make an odd couple in many ways. So the merits of the embrace may not instinctively come into view. But, with its size, its accelerating growth, its hunger for goods and ser-
vices and swiftly growing military sinews, India has been courted by every major power, including China. It is a key engine of Asia’s growth. India also has a useful role as a regional stabiliser and this works to Asean’s, and Singapore’s, desire to see that no single power dominates South-east Asia. It is noteworthy that in his Singapore Lecture, Mr Modi stressed his country’s ancient links with China and his desire to see that relationship advance. As a friend of all, Singapore can only be cheered by those words. By building bridges with these growing economic powerhouses, and drawing all into a framework of collaboration for mutual benefit, Singapore and Asean will gain both individually and collectively.
Stand-off in the South China Sea The US and China are in a war of nerves over maritime order
Narushige Michishita For The Straits Times On Oct 27, the US Navy destroyer Lassen conducted a freedom of navigation (FON) operation in the South China Sea within 12 nautical miles of an artificial island reclaimed by China on the Subi Reef. The United States took this action in order to defy China’s claim that foreign vessels must obtain permission from the Chinese government to navigate in these waters. The US demonstrated a strong resolve to preclude any counter actions that China could effectively take. The Lassen was equipped with a powerful Aegis radar system and anti-air guided missiles, and was accompanied by a P-8A Poseidon and a P-3 Orion patrol aircraft capable of tracking down surface vessels and submarines. The patrol aircraft provided protection and reportedly took record of the operation. After the action was taken, US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter said that the US had conducted the FON operation as part of a larger effort to achieve three strategic goals: First, to demonstrate its determination to fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows; second, to convey the message that the militarisation in the South China Sea must be halted and the disputes resolved peacefully; and finally, to strengthen cooperation with US allies and partners in the maritime domain. The US was firm but cautious. During the operation, the Lassen’s fire control radars were turned off, it flew no helicopters and US maritime patrol aircraft stayed away from the 12 nautical mile limit, according to a Defence News report. Washington also ordered the Lassen to navigate inside the
waters surrounding disputed islands claimed by the Philippines and Vietnam. The message was that it was not about China, but about the freedom of navigation. CHINA’S RESPONSE
China’s response to the US operation was restrained at sea and harsh on land. A Chinese guided-missile destroyer and a naval patrol ship shadowed and gave warnings to the Lassen, but they did so at a safe distance, according to US officials. According to Defence News, a US Navy source even said that the Chinese naval vessels were “professional”. On land, the Chinese leaders played it tough in order to fend off possible criticism of China giving in to US pressure. The Chinese Foreign Ministry condemned the US for “illegally” entering Chinese waters without permission. China’s Vice-Foreign Minister summoned the US ambassador and said that the patrol was “extremely irresponsible”. A Foreign Ministry spokesman also warned that if the US continued to “create tensions” in the region, China might be forced to increase and strengthen the building up of its “relevant abilities”. These recent events have clarified China’s stance that China does actually claim sovereignty over the waters around artificial islands, demands that foreign vessels obtain permission to navigate there, and has a
willingness to support its claims both militarily and diplomatically. It is unfortunate that China interprets international law based on its parochial interests, but now that China’s positions are clearly stated, we can finally engage in a serious debate. On the positive side, the US chief of naval operations and the commander of the Chinese navy spoke for more than an hour in a video teleconference on Oct 29, just a few days after the FON operation. The two naval chiefs agreed to abide by the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea (Cues), which China, the United States and other Western Pacific nations signed last year. On the negative side, a deputy chief of the People’s Liberation Army general staff warned on Nov 2 that if US warships entered the waters around artificial islands, China would take “all necessary measures” to protect its sovereignty and maritime interests. An editorial in China’s Global Times also argued that if US vessels took further actions, it would be necessary for China to “launch electronic interventions, and even send out warships, lock them by fire-control radar and fly over the US vessels”. In fact, China has already demonstrated some of the possible actions it could take in the future. While China’s navy was “professional” during the recent FON operation, its “merchant” or
“fishing” boats were not. When the Lassen entered the waters claimed by China, one of these boats came out from the artificial island and crossed the Lassen’s bow and circled around it. Associate Professor Andrew Erickson, from the US Naval War College, has assessed that the operators of those “fishing boats” were actually maritime militia. The Cues is good only with navies. It does not apply to unidentified maritime militia forces. OPERATIONS CONTINUE
US government officials have already predicted that the FON operations in the South China Sea will continue. Though not part of the FON operations, two US B-52 bombers flew in international airspace in the vicinity of the Spratly Islands early this month, to which a Chinese ground controller issued verbal warnings. When US President Barack Obama visited Manila for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit a few weeks ago, he reiterated his commitment to freedom of navigation, and boarded a Philippine navy ship that the US had provided to show the unity between the two allies. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe offered strong support to the US FON operations when he met Mr Obama there, and suggested that Japan would consider assigning broader missions to the country’s Self-Defence Force in the
South China Sea. Before Mr Abe made these remarks, the Vietnamese Defence Minister had met his Japanese counterpart in Hanoi and invited Japanese naval vessels to visit the Cam Ranh Bay base in the South China Sea, and the two ministers agreed to hold a joint naval exercise for the first time. IS A SOLUTION POSSIBLE?
The US initiated the FON programme in 1979 during the Cold War, and actively conducted operations in strategically important areas such as the Black Sea in order to force the Soviets to accept freedom of navigation, according to historian David Winkler at the US Naval Historical Foundation. The US annually issued an average of 110 diplomatic protests and conducted 35 to 40 FON operations between 1979 and 1992, he wrote. It was in 1989 that the Soviet Union finally allowed foreign vessels to exercise innocent passage through its territorial waters. It took 10 years for the Soviets to accept the freedom of navigation. We will see how long it will take the Chinese to do the same. [email protected]
• The writer is professor at the
National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies in Tokyo and currently a visiting fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Centre for Scholars in Washington DC.