Asian Studies Association of Australia Asian Currents
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Maximising Australia's Asian Knowledge
April 2006 | ISSN 1449-4418 | <> for the plain copy (no images) of this issue please click here



by Dr. Bhumitra Chakma, Department of Politics, Adelaide University

Two implications of a nuclear-armed South Asia are of critical importance today. The first concerns whether or not possession of nuclear weapons by India and Pakistan can be seen as a stabilising factor, which makes a general war between these two security rivals impossible. The second relates to the future of the global nuclear non-proliferation regime.

It is a moot question whether possession of nuclear weapons is a deterrent to war given the strains in India-Pakistan relations, particularly since their nuclear tests in May 1998 when they have played a ‘cat and mouse’ game, oscillating between open warfare and peace talks.

These tensions have produced two viewpoints on war and peace in today’s nuclearised South Asia. One is that nuclear weapons in South Asia have created a situation in which both countries are now more prone to take calculated risks and play the game of ‘brinkmanship’ that generates low-level conflicts (such as the 1999 Kargil War). This carries the danger of things escalating out of control, eventually triggering a nuclear war between India and Pakistan.

The second argument holds that crises in the recent past in South Asiadid not escalate into a full-scale war precisely because of the existence of nuclear weapons, which induced a strategic

stability between India and Pakistan. Holders of this argument point out that in thefirst 24 years of their independence these two countries fought three major wars, while in the nuclear era they fought none.

These contending views have divided the South Asian strategic community into three schools of thought: Hawks, Doves and Owls. Hawks are the optimists and consider nuclear weapons as a stabilising factor, while Doves argue that the very premise of deterrence in the South Asian context is false because of the specific nature of Indo-Pakistani relations. The Owls take a middle position holding that nuclear weapons have not made war in South Asia impossible, although they may have made it ‘irrational’. They argue that both India and Pakistan should work at confidence building so that future crises are manageable.

Turning to the future of the global non-proliferation regime, in particular the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the issue for the international community is whether to accept India and Pakistan as nuclear weapon states (NWS). This would require either a revision of the treaty (i.e. article IX which defines an NWS as one which manufactured nuclear weapons or conducted a nuclear explosion before 1 January 1967) or forcing both countries to give up their nuclear weapons and join the NPT as non-nuclear states.

Neither of these is a practical solution, leaving NPT member states faced with a dilemma whose outcome will have a critical bearing on the future of global nuclear relations.



by Carolyn Bull, School of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of New South Wales at ADFA

In fragile states across the Asia-Pacific, Australia has pursued increasingly ambitious initiatives to promote regional stability, good governance and sustainable development. The environment in which it is working is complex and sometimes hostile. Fragile states typically struggle to safeguard their citizens from internal or external threats to security. Political relationships are often personalised and unpredictable. Non-state actors may exercise informal political authority in competition with the state. Criminal justice institutions are almost always weak. Society may be fragmented and characterised by unreconciled grievances, psychological or physical trauma, and disruption to everyday life. In extreme cases, complex emergencies may erupt, marked by public health catastrophes, large-scale people displacement and the threat of extinction to minority cultures.

In such environments, it may be extremely difficult to establish democratic institutions. This demands not only elections, parliaments and effective public administration, but the confidence of all members of society in their own safety and in fair and equal treatment by the state. In turn, this rests on the ‘rule of law,’ a principle of governance in which all persons and entities, including the state, are accountable to public laws that are equally enforced and independently adjudicated, and which are consistent with international human rights norms and standards. By safeguarding citizens against abuse, including by the state, and by moving conflict into a non-violent and predictable institutional framework, the rule of law helps create a climate of stability and trust in which citizens may participate in democratic processes without fear of reprisal.

Beyond the complicated and resource-intensive tasks of reforming laws, judiciaries and police systems, embedding the rule of law in fragile states involves transforming attitudes from acceptance of violence, inequality and impunity to support for peaceful conflict management, a culture of moderation and an expectation of equal treatment by the state. While a well-enforced legal system may help ensure compliance,

adherence to any rules-based system ultimately relies on the extent to which people commit voluntarily to it.

In fragile states, national government and donor strategies have sometimes underestimated the magnitude of these challenges. They have tended to equate building the rule of law directly with enacting new legislation and establishing judicial, police and prison services according to models found in donor states. While such institutions are crucial, they are unlikely to take root unless relevant actors believe they will provide real solutions to real problems, and are willing to engage in political processes of transformation that may be complex, largely domestic, and time consuming. To be effective, strategies need to confront the difficult questions of how state institutions are to be legitimated, how they will interact with pre-existing indigenous institutions, such as customary law, and how they will intertwine with a range of political, social and cultural influences.




This month we profile Antonia Finnane (, Senior Lecturer in Chinese History at the University of Melbourne and the 2006 winner of the prestigious Levenson Book Award for Pre-1900 China, presented by the US Association for Asian Studies. The book is Speaking of Yangzhou: A Chinese City, 1550 - 1850 (Harvard University Asia Center, 2004) She is also the author of Far from Where? Jewish Journeys from Shanghai to Melbourne (Melbourne, 1999).

Q: When did you become interested in studying Asia and why?

A: My interest in Asia was sparked in my childhood by children’s novels. I remember in particular Ho Ming: Girl of New China and Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze by Elizabeth Foreman Lewis. When I was about ten I borrowed Teach Yourself Chinese from the local library. I didn’t get very far but already had a long-standing interest in China when I started university and began studying Chinese properly. At that time, the Vietnam War was underway. Like a lot of students, I was involved in the anti-war movement. That gave many of us an abiding interest in Asia. But Asian studies weren’t our invention: we benefited from initiatives taken in the fifties and sixties. The History Department at Sydney University offered quite a range of non-Western history – mostly India, but a bit of China, Southeast Asia and Africa. I was given a marvellous introduction to Indian history, in which I retain a great interest.

Q: What are your current preoccupations?

A: The possibility of an attack on Iran by the USA, which isn’t too far away from my area of study because China and Iran are quite close and China would not react happily to such an attack. But my immediate preoccupation is with tidying up my next book, Changing Clothes in China, to be published this year.

Q: How do these fit into the contemporary scene?

A: My Changing Clothes book combines an account of how fashion has been equated with modernity, progress and the West and a history of clothing in twentieth-century China, with some reference to earlier times. Fashion designers in contemporary China show a high degree of anxiety about making it on the world stage – meaning Paris. This book explains why.

Q: What are your hopes for Asian studies in Australia?

A: Restricting my answer to the humanities at tertiary level, I would most like to see Asian studies mainstreamed, so that non-specialist students are exposed to the history, geography, politics and so on of Asian societies. At present, ghettoisation of non-Western, even non-Anglophone, studies is quite marked in Australian universities. The tendency is to lump these and language training together in a school where the majority of Arts students do not study. A young woman studying history at Sydney University nowadays could probably wander through her Arts degree without too much risk of stumbling across an Asian studies subject. A department that had six Asianists when I was there now has only one. I speak of Sydney because it’s my alma mater; variations on this story could be told of history departments across Australia. Asian studies have of course spread to other faculties – Law, Architecture, Economics. It would be good to see this diffusion occurring within Arts faculties, not least because so many Arts students become teachers.

Researcher of the month

Adam Bowles has recently been awarded the 2005 ASAA Presidents’ Prize, which acknowledges excellence in scholarship on Asia at the doctoral level. The Prize is accompanied by a gift of books from the global book distributor, DK Agencies of New Delhi ( Adam’s PhD, Dharma, disorder and the political: the Apaddharmaparvan of the Mahabharata, was awarded by La Trobe University in 2004. It explores a little studied collection of didactic texts in the Mahabharata that coalesce around themes of political and moral conduct, and social disorder and cohesion.

Adam started his academic life studying building engineering but was soon lured to Asian studies. He took up Sanskrit as—he says now—something of a folly.

But once he began to investigate the literatures and cultures expressed through the language, a universe of new ideas opened up. That made him persist, despite the difficulties of learning the language and perceptions of its obscurity, which keep student numbers low, thus threatening its existence in a highly competitive funding environment. It was only with the continued support of La Trobe University and his Sanskrit mentor Greg Bailey, as well as a scholarship and odd jobs. Now it is what he terms ‘the minor miracle’ of the Clay Sanskrit Library and a research position at Monash University that has made it possible for him to continue

Adam translates Sanskrit texts into English for the Clay Sanskrit Library, set up by philanthropists John and Jenny Clay. The library has its base in the UK; but it is jointly published by the JJC Foundation and New York University Press. It aims to introduce Sanskrit literature to a wider audience and, in the short term, to produce a hundred volumes of bilingual (Sanskrit and English) texts of the most important Sanskrit literary works.

Website of the month

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade website has a section specifically devoted to the Australia-China Free Trade Agreement Negotiations: It has links to background documents and publishes progress reports, including on the fourth round of negotiations, which took place in Canberra from 27 February to 2 March 2006, with ‘reasonable but mixed’ progress. Some areas of importance to Australia, such as investment and government procurement, remain sensitive for China. In others, such as industrial subsidies and agricultural domestic support) Australia is seeking more information on China's policies.

Recent article of interest

Volume 12 Number 02/April 2006 of Asia Pacific Business Review is now available on the web site at The issue considers employment relations in the Asia-Pacific region, with articles on the Korean car industry; labour market flexibility; industrial relations in Taiwan; labour organisation in Indonesia. Individual articles can be downloaded, for a fee.

Did you know?

The Nakashima Foundation, in conjunction with the School of Social and Cultural Studies at The University of Western Australia, have established a Japanese Studies Postgraduate Scholarship Applications from potential candidates are welcome from any field of contemporary Japanese Studies, but with preference given to research projects that fit with the broader research strengths of Asian Studies academic staff. Applications are due by 31 May 2006.

The University of New England Asia Centre (UNEAC) has established a Research Fellowship scheme aimed at attracting to the Centre sabbatical and other visiting scholars working on Asia. Fellowships would normally be offered to scholars visiting for three months or more. Interested scholars are invited to apply at any time. See

Diary dates

BEAUTIFUL MEMORIES - PAINTINGS BY WON SUNG, 11 February to 29 April, Melbourne. Venerable Won Sung is a self-taught artist and Korean monk, whose work depicts young monks at work and play. Won Sung has shown in over 30 solo exhibitions in Korea, New York, Milan, Germany, Tokyo and Sydney. Fo Guang Yuan Art Gallery, 141 Queen Street, Melbourne. Enquiries: (03) 9642 2388

CRESCENT MOON, ISLAMIC ART & CIVILISATION IN SOUTHEAST ASIA, 24 February to 28 May 2006, Canberrra. The exhibition at the National Gallery of Australia is explores the Islamic heritage of Australia's neighbours. It shows developments in the arts of Islamic Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines, as well as the Muslim communities of Thailand, Burma, Cambodia and Vietnam. See

SYMBOLS & CEREMONIES INDONESIAN TEXTILE TRADITIONS 13 April-28 May, Sydney. This exhibition presents examples of lavish court textiles from Java, boldly designed warrior cloths from Sumba, narrative paintings of the Ramayana epic from Bali and ship cloths from Sumatra. It is arranged thematically into groups relating to life-cycle ceremonies, temple rituals, and court occasions, providing insights into the cultures that produced these magnificent textiles. Asian gallery, Ground Level, Art Gallery of NSW. See

Sixth International Congress FOR THE STUDY OF TRADITIONAL ASIAN MEDICINE, 27-30 April, Austin, Texas. The theme for the congress is “Sense and Substance in Traditional Asian Medicine.” Registration details are available on the IASTAM website at

Michele Ford, University of Sydney, will speak about how the aid economy is producing tensions between efforts to restore and improve living conditions for Acehnese affected by the tsunami and efforts to guarantee the labour rights of workers employed in internationally-funded projects. Venue: To be announced Contact Steven Drakeley for more information:

ENTERTAINING CHINA INDUSTRY AUSTRADE SESSIONS Sydney (2 May), Melbourne (4 May), Ballarat (5 May), Brisbane (10 May). Find out about China’s booming entertainment market at an industry information session being held in various cities in May. See,,0_S1-1_-2_-3_PWB110780117-4_-5_-6_-7_,00.html

INDONESIA IN THE AUSTRALIA PRESS, book launch, 12 May, Sydney. Ida Palaloi Suhadji, a Sydney correspondent for Indonesian weekly, GATRA, has written a book about how the Australian press covered the fall of Soeharto. Louise Williams from the Sydney Morning Herald will launch the book on 12 May 2006 at 6pm at the University of Technology Sydney, Room CB10.6.430 (Building 10, Level 6) Please RSVP by Friday 5 May: email at or call 0425 372 628.

BUSINESS BRIEFING WITH LES OWEN, AXA ASIA PACIFIC CHIEF EXECUTIVE, 16 May, Melbourne. Asialink will host a business lunch briefing with Mr. Les Owen, Chief Executive of AXA Asia Pacific Holdings Ltd. AXA is one of the most widely represented financial services company in the Asia Pacific Region. Trilogy Room, Park Hyatt, 1 Parliament Square, 12pm for 12:30 start, until 2:00pm. Cost $65 ($55 Asialink Members). Contact

LAOS: A Night of Stories, 18 May, Melbourne Colin Cotterill, author of The Coroner's Lunch a whodunit set in lush but tumultuous 1970s Laos, will discuss the impact of Laos on his writing from 6.30pm - 7.30pm at the Yasuko Hiraoka Myer Room, Sidney Myer Asia Centre, the University of Melbourne. To reserve a seat, please send an email to: with 'Laos' in the subject line.

CHINA: Language, Culture and Business in China Seminar, 18 May, Melbourne. AJL Global Company Director Lisa Goodhand will give a seminar on doing business in China. Lisa has over15 years’ experience with China, including Australian Government positions, and has witnessed first-hand how basic cultural nuances can affect anyone's chances of success in China. This along with strategic risk strategies and assessment of the China market along with the opportunities and pitfalls will be covered. 4.45pm for 5pm to 8.30pm; Dragon Boat Restaurant, Little Burke St. Melbourne. $220 (GST & Banquet & material included) Contact (02) 9267-6839

CHRISTOPHER KREMMER AT ASIA BOOKROOM 23 May, Canberra. Journalist and author Christopher Kremmer will be speaking at between 6pm and 8pm at the Asia Bookroom, Unit 2, 1-3 Lawry Place, Macquarie. Kremmer's new book Inhaling the Mahatma is set in India. E-mail phone 02 6251 5191

INTERNATIONAL ASIAN ANTIQUE AND ART FAIR 2006, 27 May to 31 May 2006, Hong Kong. The fair will be held at the Hong Kong Exhibition Centre, China Resources Building, 26 Harbour Road, Wanchai, Hong Kong

ZEN MIND, ZEN BRUSH 15 June – 13 August, Sydney. Japanese ink painting from the Gitter—Yelen Collection. Art Gallery of NSW,

10TH ASIAN STUDIES CONFERENCE JAPAN (ASCJ), 24-25 June 2006, Tokyo. This conference will be held at International Christian University (ICU), Tokyo, on Saturday, June 24, and Sunday June 25, 2006. See

16TH BIENNIAL CONFERENCE OF THE ASIAN STUDIES ASSOCIATION OF AUSTRALIA (ASAA) ON “ASIA RECONSTRUCTED”, 26-29 June, 2006, University of Wollongong. The deadline for the call for papers has been extended until Wednesday 1 March 2006. Please email abstracts and brief profile information to Margaret Hanlon at Themes of the conference include: the critique of development; governance and citizenship; labour and social Transformation; the clash of fundamentalisms; national and transnational legal issues; the role of technology; new and old Arts; Asia and world history; post-colonialism; Australia-South Asia links. The program will be posted on the ASAA conference web site by March 2006,

BORNEO IN THE NEW CENTURY, 31 July and 1 August 2006, Kuching Sarawak. Papers are invited for the Eighth Biennial Conference of the Borneo Research Council (BRC). These should present original research in any field relating to Sabah, Brunei, Sarawak, Kalimantan and its surrounding region. Abstracts, no longer than 100 words, must be submitted by email before 1 May to: or For more details, see:

ASIA-PACIFIC MISSIONARIES: AT HOME AND ABROAD, 2nd Biennial conference, 25-27 August 2006, Canberra. The conference will be held at the Coombs Lecture Theatre, Australian National University, Contact: Dr Ian Welch,

ASIA-PACIFIC TRIENNIAL OF CONTEMPORARY ART, 1 November-1 December 2006, Brisbane. The Asia-Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art (APT) will be the opening exhibition at the new Queensland Gallery of Modern Art. APT 2006 will present the work of over 30 artists from Asia, Australia and the Pacific. It will feature a performance and cinema program, as well as a children’s festival. See

THE AOTEAROA NEW ZEALAND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT STUDIES NETWORK CONFERENCE 30 November to 2 December 2006, Dunedin. The conference is entitled ‘Southern Perspectives on Development: Dialogue or Division?’, is to be held at the University of Otago, Further information is available from or contact

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About the ASAA

The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) promotes the study of Asian languages, societies, cultures, and politics in Australia, supports teaching and research in Asian studies and works towards an understanding of Asia in the community at large. It publishes the Asia Studies Review journal and holds a biennial conference.

The ASAA believes there is an urgent need to develop a strategy to preserve, renew and extend Australian expertise about Asia. It has called on the government to show national leadership in the promotion of Australia’s Asia knowledge and skills. See Maximizing Australia's Asia Knowledge Repositioning and Renewal of a National Asset asia-knowledge-book-v70.pdf

Asian Currents is published by the Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) thanks to a grant from the International Centre of Excellence for Asia Pacific Studies (ICEAPS) It is edited by Francesca Beddie. The editorial board consists of Robert Cribb, ASAA President, John Fitzgerald, Director, ICEAPS, Keith Foulcher, ASAA Secretary, Mina Roces, ASAA Publications officer, Tamara Jacka, ASAA Council member.

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