from Asia Unbound

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of May 16, 2014

May 16, 2014

Supporters of India's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) celebrate on March 16, 2014, after learning of poll results showing Narendra Modi of the BJP as the next leader of the world’s largest democracy (Amit Dave/Courtesy Reuters).
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Ashlyn Anderson, Lauren Dickey, Darcie Draudt, Charles McClean, Will Piekos, and Sharone Tobias look at the top stories in Asia today.

1. And the results are in: A Modi mandate in India! The five-week marathon of elections is complete in India, and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has emerged victorious, winning the party’s highest-ever tally of seats in parliament. No single party has captured the number of seats needed to form a government—272—on its own in thirty years, making this election particularly significant in Indian politics. Despite his controversial past, Narendra Modi will lead the new Indian government and will be expected to deliver on his campaign promises of economic growth and good governance. The Congress party—which has been in power for the past decade and promoted Rahul Gandhi as its candidate for prime minister—has conceded its defeat, remarking “Modi promised the moon and stars to the people. People bought that dream.”

2. Three Chinese officials stabbed to death in latest Xinjiang violence. A report from Radio Free Asia said that three Han Chinese government officials were stabbed to death and their bodies dumped into a lake in the restive province of Xinjiang on April 27, during Chinese president Xi Jinping’s visit to the region. The Chinese government blamed the incident on Islamic separatists seeking an independent Uighur nation. Violence has recently been on the rise in Xinjiang, with three people killed, including two attackers, and seventy-nine wounded at a bomb and knife attack in Urumqi last month. The Turkestan Islamic Party (TIP), a militant Islamic group, recently claimed responsibility for the attack in Urumqi.

3. At least twenty-one dead in anti-China protests in Vietnam. At least twenty-one people have been killed and one hundred injured in violent protests against China after the state-owned China National Offshore Oil Corporation stationed an oil rig in a contested area of the South China Sea. Anti-China crowds set fire to factories and industrial parks and attacked Chinese workers, as well as Taiwanese, Singaporean, and South Korean businesses mistaken for being owned by mainland Chinese companies. One of the largest attacks centered on a Taiwanese steel mill in central Vietnam, where one thousand rioters set buildings ablaze and attacked employees, killing five Vietnamese and sixteen Chinese workers. Vietnam and China have been engaged in a tense standoff in the South China Sea after Beijing deployed a mobile oil rig and dozens of security vessels into contested territory. Three other countries, Brunei, Malaysia, and the Philippines, also have territorial disputes with China in the region.

4. Japan moves forward with collective self-defense. In a televised address on Thursday, Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe said that Japan should allow its military, the Self-Defense Forces, to come to the aid of other allies under attack in certain scenarios, exercising what is known as “collective self-defense.” Japan has long acknowledged that it has a right to collective self-defense (as stipulated under Article 51 of the UN Charter), but past governments have banned the practice based on their interpretation of the pacifist Article 9 of Japan’s post-war Constitution. In his remarks, Abe pledged to uphold Japan’s pacifist principles, but said that allowing for collective self-defense was necessary to “strengthen deterrence and prevent Japan from being involved in conflict and warfare.”  Abe’s speech followed the release of a new report from his Advisory Panel on Reconstruction of the Legal Basis for Security, which argues that collective self-defense falls under the minimum level of defense already allowed by Article 9 and should be permitted given Japan’s changing security environment.

5. Pakistan steps up vaccinations amid polio emergency.  The World Health Organization (WHO) declared Pakistan to be “off track” in stopping polio transmission with sixty-two new polio cases this year, a majority of which are in the restive Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. Under recommendations from the WHO, Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif directed the Pakistan army to regulate ingress of people into the FATA only after polio vaccine has been administered. Residents of the tribal belt will not be allowed to travel to other regions without the immunization; all Pakistanis will further be required to get a polio vaccination before travel abroad. The WHO has claimed that the outbreak can be overcome within one year, but concerns that fundamentalists will continue attacks against vaccination personnel remain.

Bonus: Bhutan set to become world’s first organic country. In a country where gross national happiness trumps gross domestic product, Bhutan’s leaders are planning to turn their agricultural sector completely organic, ridding the country of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Since last month’s Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development, the government of Bhutan has been developing a national organic policy to encourage sustainable farming and rural prosperity. A majority of the agricultural land is already organic by default, but experts speculate that a fully organic Bhutan would hurt export crop levels.