Asian Studies Association of Australia Asian Currents
The Asian Studies Association of Australia's e-bulletin
Maximising Australia's Asian Knowledge
April 2007 | ISSN 1449-4418 | <> for the plain copy (no images) of this issue please click here



by Associate Professor Yasmeen, Director, Centre for Muslim States and Societies, University of Western Australia

Pakistan has entered a new phase of instability since President Musharraf’s decision of 9 March 2007 to render ‘non-functional’ the Chief Justice of Supreme Court, Justice Iftikhar Chaudhury. This move is generally seen as part of Musharraf’s strategy to ensure he would not face a judicial threat to his re-election as president before elections take place for a new parliament. While there may be some validity to such assessments, they ignore the role played by a conflation of business, military and intelligence groups in this decision.

Since being sworn in as Chief Justice in June 2005, Chaudhury had demonstrated a preference for judicial activism, which stems from his view that justice encompasses political, economic and social aspects. Instead of the generally established pattern of the judiciary remaining on the sidelines and condoning the executive’s decisions, Chaudhury opted for taking his own action on various issues.

For example he decided to prohibit the annual kite-flying festival of Basant because of the many casualties and deaths it caused. The festival regularly attracted many visitors to Lahore, the capital city of Punjab, including people from across the border in India. It had become a major income earner for businesses. The Punjabi government therefore wanted it to continue but was told by the Supreme Court that it would not condone something that was inimical to the interest and safety of ordinary citizens.

Chaudhury also moved to rein in the emerging nexus between the business elite and the bureaucracy and political interests. For instance, he opposed the decision by the Privatisation Commission and the Cabinet Committee of Privatisation to sell the Pakistan Steel Mills. The deal would have cost the Pakistan Government Rupees (Rs) 18 billion (AUD 355.5 million) while providing benefits worth Rs 33.67 billion (AUD 665 million), including the allocation of land free of charge, to the successful bidders. He has also opposed the sale of government land to politicians, ministers and bureaucrats on terms that defrauded the exchequer, arguing that ‘state property should not be turned into private property’.

This judicial activism was also apparent in Chaudhury’s approach to the issue of missing persons. Since its involvement in the War on Terror, Pakistan’s intelligence agencies have been cooperating with the United States in tracking down militants. The process has not always been transparent, causing human rights organisations to question whether suspects are being denied natural justice and family members to demand to know the fate of their loved ones. The Chief Justice has also expressed concern at the failure of the government and the intelligence agencies to provide adequate information on the whereabouts of missing persons. By doing so, he has indirectly challenged the right of intelligence agencies to deny citizens their rights in the name of countering militancy.

Those groups affected by the Chief Justice’s activism played a major role in convincing the President of the need to rein him in. The negative reaction to Chaudhury’s suspension from the public and lawyers in Pakistan appears to have surprised those who made this ill-considered decision. So strong has been the backlash that President Musharraf has reportedly been considering strategies for damage-limitation. Some have suggested that Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz may lose his position in the process. But that may not solve the problem. President Musharraf may have to engage alternative political players, including Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif. This, in turn, may pave the way for another phase of less-guided democracy in Pakistan.

  • Discord in Pakistan’s Northern Areas is an International Crisis Group report on the growing tension in the Federally Administered Northern Areas, where an institutional void has developed, leaving room for religious organisations with extremist tendencies to expand their influence.


by Dr Neil Dias Karunaratne, School of Economics, University of Queensland

The process of economic globalisation has its origins in antiquity but recent innovations in information and communications technology (ICT) have speeded up the process. ICT has turbo charged cross-border capital flows, for better and for worse as was seen when financial crises rocked the world economy in the late 1990s.

Trade liberalisation or the removal of tariff and non-tariff barriers is another of the forces driving economic integration. However, while advanced countries engage in the rhetoric of free trade, they often fail to reduce protection because electoral pressures find them pandering special interest groups.

Developing countries have also pursued protectionist policies. For example, in the mid-1960s Sri Lanka adopted a strategy of import substituting industrialisation (ISI) to promote infant industries. Under the scheme, state-owned enterprises were to replace imports by producing goods for the domestic market. These ISI industries were not able to compete in the world market and were doomed to fail. About the same time a group of High Performance Asian Economies (HPAEs) adopted the strategy of export-oriented industrialisation (EOI), which delivered spectacular growth rates. The HPAEs were hailed as the Asian Miracle.

When Sri Lanka obtained political independence in 1948, in per capita income terms it was far ahead of the Asian Miracle economies. But the pursuit of protectionist policies slowed the growth of the economy until 1977 when Sri Lanka adopted its own EOI strategy. Growth and per capita income increased dramatically. The economy was transformed from a plantation economy to a manufactures export economy: from a banana republic to a pyjama republic. Unfortunately, the EOI strategy was not accompanied by effective redistribution policies, resulting in widening income inequality, civil unrest and increased ethnic tensions.

In 1997, the sudden reversal of short-term capital inflows devastated the miracle Asian economies. This raised serious doubts about the wisdom of capital account liberalisation and shed light on the differences between short and long-term capital flows.

Short-term capital flows are mainly financed by debt. They are the hot money that comes in search of quick speculative profits and can wreak economic havoc. These flows are the whipping boy of anti-globalisers.

Equity finance or foreign direct investment (FDI) or long-term capital flows bring the magic package of technology, managerial and marketing skills. These play a vital role in promoting growth and improving per capita.In configuring the correct macroeconomic policy-mix for a globalising economy like Sri Lanka, policymakers need to recognise the challenges posed by the existence of the open economy trilemma which demands that they choose only two of three policy regimes:

  1. exchange rate stability
  2. capital mobility
  3. independent monetary policy.

Until recently policymakers in Sri Lanka chose options one and three to address short-term macroeconomic stabilisation goals. They have now decided to change direction and to float the exchange rate in order to tap into the global pool of savings.

The free float of the rupee offers the opportunity to design policies to harness the benefits of the correct brand of capital flows, to galvanise long-term growth and rein in Sri Lanka’s galloping inflation.

The forces of globalisation offer developing countries a cornucopia. It is up to them to implement a proper macroeconomic policy mix to achieve short-term stabilisation, which can underpin sustained growth, without the trauma of a financial crisis.

However, the bottom line in evaluating whether economic policies have harnessed the benefits of globalisation is the relation of growth to equity. As Joseph Stiglitz has said globalisation should work not just for the rich and powerful but for all people. That remains the challenge for Sri Lanka.




  • Discord in Pakistan’s Northern Areas,* the latest report from the International Crisis Group, examines the growing tension in the Federally Administered Northern Areas, where an institutional void has developed, leaving room for religious organisations with extremist tendencies to expand their influence.


This month we profile Professor Kathryn Robinson, Department of Anthropology, Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies (RSPAS), Australian National University, and Vice President of the Asian Studies Association of Australia.

Q: When did you become interested in studying Asia and why?
A: In 1970, at the end of my first undergraduate year studying anthropology and politics at Sydney Uni, I travelled to Indonesia to visit someone working on an aid project. Experiences like encountering a barong-kris dance in the streets of Kuta; the movement of people along the Bogor-Jakarta road into the night; spending time in Yogya with a disgraced bureaucrat from the Sukarno period, who had spent a lot of time in Eastern Europe but was still a Javanese noble in many of his sensibilities, 'got me in'.

I was able to follow up on my new passion through courses on Asia with exceptional scholars like Doug Miles, Michael Allen, Rex Mortimer and (of course) Michael Leigh. At that time also, there were many great Asia scholars coming to Australia from Cornell. My relation to Asia was also heavily influenced by the anti-war movement on campus, and questions of how the developed world related to Asia. The late Herb Feith provided a model for committed scholarship. I wrote my honours thesis on Vietnam. At that time it was not possible to continue postgraduate field research in Vietnam, but I was easily persuaded, by Jim Fox, to 'switch' to the ANU and Indonesia for my PhD research, where my political interests led me to research the development impacts of New Order economic policies. I looked into the impact of a large mining project. Studying at ANU, especially in RSPAS, was a total immersion in Asian studies. It propelled me along that path.

Q: What are your current preoccupations?
A: Islam, in its local forms in Eastern Indonesia and also the national level political discourse around Islam and human rights, especially gender equity. I supervise a marvellous group of young Indonesian scholars working on such issues.

I am also working with an ANU colleague, Andrew McWilliam, and a local NGO on livelihoods in coastal regions of South and Southeast Sulawesi. The new forms of social relations enabled by the Internet is another of my interests.

Q: How do these fit into the contemporary scene?
A: Broadening international understanding of the diverse and cosmopolitan practices of Indonesian Islam is a critical contemporary issue. I am planning, with Nadirsyah Hosen from the University of Wollongong, to make some of the contemporary Indonesian voices more accessible to an international audience.

In terms of local livelihoods, we are trying to find funds to work with our NGO partner in poor coastal communities in a new Marine Protected Area, to develop strategies whereby livelihoods can be sustained, and conservation zones enforced.

Q: What are your hopes for Asian studies in Australia?
A: While the number of students studying Asian languages is dwindling, there are many excellent young scholars pioneering ways to engage with Asia, culturally, politically and personally. Currently, the government seems to be skating along on the solid basis established under the previous government: funding support has declined for many of the cultural and social activities – including research and language training – that Gareth Evans termed the 'ballast' in Australia's relationships with the region.

I would hope Asian Studies can thrive, develop and continue to engage with the broad range of activities that shelter under that umbrella, from the arcane to the applied. In my own university, Asian Studies is accepted as a core component of the university’s research and teaching profile. I would like to think that other universities would mirror this commitment, but also that Asian Studies could have a bigger impact in schools. The ASAA and its membership can take a critical role here.

Student of the month

Annette McClelland is a senior secondary student in Sydney, who is undertaking the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme. From 2003 to 2006, Annette lived in Hong Kong. Here she describes the transition back to Australia:

The concept of school is the same everywhere. Children go to school to learn and study. What they are studying for and about is the difference. Many students in Hong Kong study to achieve the highest possible mark for the next exam. It is not about involving yourself in the world around you; it is simply about achieving the knowledge and skills to pass the next test. The focus is on the academic; extra-curricular activities are usually provided but are never compulsory.

In addition, every student is striving to be literate in English as English is seen as the universal language of business and success. Learning the many languages and customs of Asia is incredibly difficult and no amount of teaching

would be able to cover the vastness that is Asia. Yet having some local language skills certainly helps.

In Hong Kong the trains are never late, the roads never empty and at no time is it quiet. Almost everyone lives above and below someone else, parks are few and far between and smog is a wound on the cityscape. Hong Kong is the ultimate urban sprawl, reaching out to reclaim its harbour, bridge the gap between neighbouring islands and make itself known to the world.

In contrast, Sydney seems quiet. It is not the ‘big smoke’ it is locally thought to be. Public transport is as unreliable as the weather is unpredictable and the smaller population supports a stronger community spirit while Hong Kong encourages independence and self-confidence to be prepared for the world.

For an expatriate student, Hong Kong proved to be the place to go to find out quickly who you want to be. Without the distraction of English language television there was time to take up all the other opportunities the island offers: sport, art, extra study and volunteering. Experiencing Hong Kong is invigorating yet it makes you realise the beauty of all things Australian.

Website of the month

The Southeast Asia Peace and Security Network (SEAPSNet) is a non-governmental information network aimed at bringing together development and security experts on Southeast Asia to share their analysis, explore ideas and promote dialogue on conflict prevention, peaceful development and region-building in Southeast Asia. It was launched by the Nautilus Institute and supported by grants from the Ford Foundation. SEAPSNet News is a twice weekly news summary prepared by the Singapore Institute of International Affairs. Its focus is on peace and security issues particularly those related to terrorism and regional cooperation.

Recent article of interest

The Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade
Foreign Affairs Sub-Committee has released its report into Australia's relationship with Malaysia. It examines various facets of the relationship including defence, education, migration and trade. The report identified several challenges facing trade and investment with Malaysia, including competition for the investment dollar from China; intellectual property protection and the counterfeiting of goods; Malaysia’s foreign equity rules; and the accreditation of educational courses and qualifications. It also recommended that the Department of Immigration and Citizenship review the reasons for the increase in the numbers of Malaysian passport holders being denied entry to Australia, and in the proportion of Malaysian visitors breaching their visa conditions. See

Did you know?

The Australia-India Strategic Research Fund (AISRF) offers funding for collaborative research activities between Australia and India through the AISRF. The Minister for Education, Science and Training, Julie Bishop, recently announced that the first tranche of $4 million will go to 17 projects of research in areas such as nanotechnology, cancer therapeutics and diagnostics and agricultural projects. See

Diary dates

THE FOLDING WIFE: theatre performance, Sydney, 19 to 25, 25 to 28 April. The Folding Wife by the Manila-based Anino Shadowplay Collective explores what propels people to scatter across the face of the earth and the consequences it has for personal and cultural identity. It contrasts the imagery of a fierce and impenetrable Australian landscape with that of a resilient Filipina. Playwright Paschal Daantos Berry is a Filipino-Australian, who received an Asialink grant to develop the script. 8 pm at Blacktown Arts Centre, 78 Flushcombe Rd, Blacktown (see Email: or call: 02 9707 2111

DISSECTING DISSECTION IN LATE IMPERIAL AND EARLY MODERN CHINA: LU XUN'S ANATOMICAL AESTHETICS, 24 April, Sydney. Dr Larissa Heinrich, Lecturer in Chinese Studies, Department of Chinese and Indonesian Studies, UNSW, presents this seminar in the Australian Centre for Asian Art and Archaeology Seminar Series at the University of Sydney. For further information contact Gabrielle Ewington:

SBS RADIO COMMUNITY CONSULTATIONS, 26 April Canberra. The new Director of Radio, Paula Masselos, is hosting a public forum at The Hellenic Club, Matilda St, Woden from 5:30 to 7:30pm, at which participants are invited to share their thoughts on SBS Radio services now and into the future. Please register your interest by email

THE RISE OF CHINA AND INDIA: A COMPARATIVE ECONOMIC Assessment, 26 April, Melbourne. The eminent development economist Professor Pranab Bardhan, University of California, Berkeley, seeks to explain the two countries’ development and their approaches to economic reform at the present juncture of economic growth and social inequality. 6.30pm at Carrillo Gantner Lecture Theatre, Basement Level, Sidney Myer Asia Centre, University of Melbourne. To reserve a seat, please send an email to Asialink Events at with "China and India Bardhan" in the subject line.

SOUTH ASIA ENGAGED, 27-29 April 2007, Los Angeles. The South Asian Studies Alliance is hosting its foundation conference with a focus on how South Asia is being integrated into the world. See

2ND AUSTRALIA INDIA BUSINESS COUNCIL AIBC - INDIA CONFERENCE, 10 to 11 May, Melbourne. This conference provides a forum to to gain access to India's global networks. The Grand Hyatt Hotel, Melbourne. See

ASIACONNECT 2007: NEW OPPORTUNITIES IN ASIA, 18 May, Melbourne. AsiaConnect is Asialink's biennial conference on business and career opportunities This year’s keynote speeches will be delivered by David Hornery, Managing Director, ANZ Asia & Mark Dal Pra, Group General Manager (Long Haul), and Sim-May Leong, Human Resources Manager, Jetstar. 8.00am to 5pm Sofitel - 25 Collins St. Cost: $95 General, $55 Students (lunch included). See Email or call 03 8344 8474.

TELLING BALIBO, 23 May, Canberra. Freelance journalist Jill Jolliffe will speak about the 32-year struggle for justice of the families of the five reporters killed in Balibo in 1975. The Asia Bookroom, Lawry Place, Macquarie, 6 pm - 8pm. Entry by gold coin donation for the Living Memory Project. RSVP by Tuesday 22 May

CHINA IN AN ERA OF TRANSITION: UNDERSTANDING CONTEMPORARY STATE AND SOCIETY RELATIONSHIPS Call for Contributors to an edited collection by 29 May 2007. This collection, to be edited by Reza Hasmath and Jennifer Hsu, University of Cambridge, will focus on China’s state-society relationship in an era of social transition. Contributors are invited to explore themes such as:

Development of Chinese Civil Society; State Power and Social Forces; Chinese Public Sphere; Society’s Relationship with Various Levels of Government; Responses from Various Sectors of Society to the Changing Nature of the State. For further information or to contribute, please send an abstract of no more than 500 words and a short professional brief by 29 May 2007 to: Reza Hasmath ( or Jennifer Hsu (

CHINESE STUDIES ASSOCIATION OF AUSTRALIA, 10th Biennial Conference, 27-29 June 2007, Brisbane. Griffith University, will be hosting the conference at Southbank in Brisbane. Watch the website for details:

2ND ASIAN AUSTRALIAN IDENTITIES conference, 28-30 June 2007, Melbourne. The organisers welcome papers and presentations exploring Asian Australian identities, histories, cultures and politics. All presentations should be of 20 minutes duration. Abstracts (max 200 words) and a short bio (max 200 words) should be sent to or contact the convenors, or
* Early Bird registration closes Friday 27th April 2007

CHINA EAST ASIA MEDIA/NEW MEDIA CONFERENCE, 5-6 July, Brisbane. China’s emergence as a manufacturing behemoth is reshaping the global economy. However, China’s media and creative industries have not achieved the same export oriented momentum as its low cost manufacturers. With the Beijing Olympics moving closer China is mounting a claim for a leading role in the global and regional cultural economy, drawing on its long tradition as the centre of East Asian culture. Will this be vision ever be achieved? The conference will be hosted by the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation

IN SEARCH OF RECONCILIATION AND PEACE IN INDONESIA, workshop 19 and 20 July 2007, Singapore. The Indonesia Study Group, Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore is holding an interdisciplinary workshop to examine approaches to reconciliation and peace in Indonesia. Its aim is to provide insights into ways forward not only for Indonesia, but for conflict situations much more broadly. or contact the convenor, Dr Birgit Bräuchler

CHINA: Conference on Migration and Social Protection, 25 to 26 September, Beijing. Monash University's Asian Business and Economics Research Unit together with the Institute of Population and Labour Economics at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and the Renmin-Monash Advanced Centre for Economic Studies are staging an international conference to explore issues such as: labour market integration and social protection, migrant participation in social security schemes, migrant alternatives to state-sponsored social protection, migrant working conditions, salaries and wage arrears, and responsibilities of government in the provision of social protection. See
Conference2007/index.php or contact

Dr Ingrid Nielsen

ASIA PACIFIC REGION: SOCIETIES IN TRANSFORMATION conference, Georgetown (Penang) Malaysia, 19-22 November, 2007. The region is seemingly now more integrated, with unprecedented levels of tourism, migration, and economic and cultural linkages. But, are the nations of the region, and their populations, more divided, united or are they fundamentally unchanged over the past two decades? These are questions to be raised in a conference co-sponsored by the School of Social Sciences, Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) and the Centre for Asia Pacific Social Transformation Studies (CAPSTRANS), University of Wollongong, Australia The conference website link is at:
Submission of abstracts to Dr Tim Scrase: by 30 June 2007

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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 Asian Studies Review journal and holds a biennial conference. ASAA and the Centre for Language Studies at National University of Singapore also co-publish an annual supplementary issue of the Centre's fully peer-reviewed electronic Foreign Language Teaching Journal (e-FLT). See

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

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, Michele Ford, ASAA Secretary, Mina Roces, ASAA Publications officer, Tamara Jacka, ASAA Council member, and Ann Kumar, Director, ICEAPS.

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