The DailyBrief

Tuesday August 8, 2017

Foreign direct investment: There is growing excitement in Pakistan over the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a multibillion-dollar bilateral development project that officials in Islamabad assured would “usher in an era of unprecedented progress and prosperity”, Amiera Sawas and Nausheen H Anwar write. The CPEC is not only Pakistan’s first big injection of foreign direct investment in a while, its focus on energy development is also desperately needed in a country that has suffered worsening energy shortages for two decades. However, the megaproject could come at a high political price, creating unnecessary tension as poor local people are displaced and endangered by development.

‘Train of Peace’: A 90-person PLA medical team recently concluded a little-noticed goodwill mission to provide medical care to the armed forces in neighboring Laos, Zi Yang writes. Beijing’s “Train of Peace” team of Chinese army medics and physicians brought medicine, equipment and a newly deployed 14-tent field hospital to the landlocked country of nearly 7 million. While Chinese media portrayed the mission as purely humanitarian, the geopolitical reality is more nuanced. Laos’ position at the head of China’s One Belt One Road ambitions for mainland Southeast Asia was also likely a motivating factor behind the PLA’s humane outreach.

Empty oil barrels: Pertamina, Indonesia’s state-run oil company, is privately expressing serious reservations about its ability to operate the country’s largest producing gas field when French oil giant Total E & P’s contract expires in December, John McBeth writes. The signs have been there for a while. With Pertamina only able to drill eight of a planned 19 wells in the 200-kilometer-long Mahakam block this year, it is already clear there will be a significant drop in production in 2018. “They realize that they are setting themselves up for failure,” says one oil and gas analyst familiar with Pertamina’s thinking. “It has become a poisoned chalice. The new management understands expectations have exceeded reality.”

A divided country: How pluralistic and inclusive is nationalism in India 70 years after its independence? The federal government is giving nationalism a religious color, rival parties are courting Kashmiri separatists and tension is rising on the country’s borders with Pakistan and China. Sadly, the broad-based nationalism espoused by Mahatma Gandhi has been replaced by the pseudo secularism of Congress and the pro-Hindu outlook of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The narrow view of nationalism taken by these parties is dividing religions instead of uniting them. Political parties should shed their narrow views and draw inspiration from India’s past and present to redefine nationalism, E Jaya Kumar asserts.

Talks on Pyongyang: US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, whose top priority has been urging Southeast Asian countries to do more to cut funding streams for North Korea, on Tuesday pressed Thai leaders for more action on Pyongyang during the highest-level visit to Thailand by an American official since a military coup in 2014 soured relations with Washington, Amy Sawitta Lefevre writes. The United States believes North Korean front companies are active in Thailand and is trying to encourage the Thais to shut them down, Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Susan Thornton told reporters aboard Tillerson’s plane. The companies are using Bangkok as a regional hub and change their names frequently, she said.

Asia Times app: Asia Times has launched an app for both iOS- and Android-based devices that will deliver the publication’s regular daily news, commentary, blogs and live coverage while also bringing readers added functionality. Asia Times Staff report that the app, launched on July 25, includes content notification, share and save functions and is free to download from both the Apple Store and Google Play.

CORRECTION: On August 7, The Daily Brief incorrectly named Melinda Boh as the author of “Hundreds of jihadis killed in brutal mountain offensive.” The author of the story is Sami Moubayed. On August 7, The Daily Brief incorrectly named Sami Moubayed as the author of “China buys out a mammoth source of Lao pride.” The author of the story is Melinda Boh.