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Will America’s commitment to economic growth and security in Asia-Pacific Region survive another Presidency?

US presidential campaigns have raised questions on the ability of US to follow through on promises to deeply engage the Asia-Pacific.

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US Presidential Candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Wikimedia
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Rhetoric on the U.S. presidential campaign trail has raised alarms in the Asia-Pacific region and cast doubt about America’s future in an area seen as critical to the nation’s future prosperity and security.

The caustic, tawdry and personal nature of the election has also left many nations in the region questioning the ability of the United States to follow through on promises to deeply engage the Asia-Pacific.

“It has really undermined the faith and the convictions that many regional actors have about the viability of American commitments [and] the stability of our own democracy,” said Jonathan Pollack of the Brookings Institution’s Center for East Asia Policy Studies.

Both former president George W. Bush and President Barack Obama worked to open diplomatic, security and economic channels in a bid to cement America as a leader in the Asia-Pacific, and experts say continuing U.S. leadership will help counter China’s growing power and influence.

US must ‘tap into’ Asia-Pacific

At a time when other regions like the Middle East are commanding vast amounts of U.S. attention and resources, America has sought to tap into the dynamic economic potential of the Asia-Pacific countries and establish order, to mitigate current and emerging security threats.

North Korea has ramped up nuclear and missile tests in the Korean Peninsula, tensions have mounted over China’s territorial claims and aggressive actions in the South China Sea, and the new president of longtime ally the Philippines has vowed to “break up with America” and turn to China and Russia.

This combination of Sept. 3, 2016 photos provided by the Philippine Government shows what it says are surveillance pictures of Chinese coast guard ships and barges at the Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea.
This combination of Sept. 3, 2016 photos provided by the Philippine Government shows what it says are surveillance pictures of Chinese coast guard ships and barges at the Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea.

However, statements by Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton have eroded hopes for a greater U.S. role in the region.

There is “fear and loathing” in the Asia Pacific about a potential Trump presidency, said Robert Manning of the Atlantic Council’s Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security. This feeling, Manning added, comes even though there is “not enough coherence to Trump’s comments” to discern his foreign policy.

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Clinton, Trump both oppose TPP

While Clinton is expected to continue the Obama administration’s strategic re-balance, she has been emphatic in her rejection of its economic cornerstone – the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Without an economic commitment in the region like TPP, U.S. credibility is lost, experts say.

Trade has been a key issue in the presidential campaign, with many Americans in both parties blaming such deals for lost jobs.

Trump has vehemently assailed the trade pact as a job-killing agreement.

During an economic address two months ago in Warren, Michigan, Clinton said of TPP: “I oppose it now. I’ll oppose it after the election and I’ll oppose it as president.” She had previously expressed support for the trade partnership.

The TPP, signed by 12 Pacific-rim nations, must be ratified by Congress, but it faces tough opposition by lawmakers from both major parties.

FILE - Demonstrators rally for fair trade at the Capitol in Washington.
Demonstrators rally for fair trade at the Capitol in Washington.

Clinton seeks ‘flexibility’

“I think in several of her more recent statements, [Clinton] seems to be trying to create a bit more space, a bit more flexibility,” Pollack of the Brookings Institution noted.

An adviser on Asian issues who worked with Clinton at the State Department gave a similarly nuanced description of her position during a discussion at the Korea Economic Institute in Washington.

“She cannot accept the trade agreement, TPP, as it’s currently being negotiated,” said Kurt Campbell, a former assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs under Clinton. “At the same time, she also recognizes that some form of commercial engagement will be necessary going forward.”

On the security front, Trump has alarmed allies by suggesting he might walk away from a treaty obligation to protect them unless they contribute more to NATO.

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Trump cynical about alliances

During an August rally in Des Moines, Iowa, he expressed frustration about Japan, one of America’s closest allies. He told supporters Japan cannot help if the U.S. is attacked because its constitution bars overseas military action.

“If we’re attacked, Japan doesn’t have to do nothing,” Trump said. “They can stay at home, watching Sony television, right?”

“He fundamentally doesn’t seem to understand alliances,” Manning suggested. Alluding to a popular American television drama about organized crime, he said of Trump, “He has a kind of Sopranos view of the world: they have to pay us protection money.”

The U.S. depends on its Asia-Pacific allies to maintain a security presence to guard against potential threats from nations such as North Korea and China. Japan pays $1.6 billion a year in host-nation support for U.S. military operations in Japan, and South Korea pays almost $1 billion for the same reason.

Trump “has not displayed any understanding of the whole post Cold War, rules-based order that U.S. leadership has been essential in enforcing,” Manning contends. “Even though he sounds like he is trying to be tough, [his position] is essentially an abdication of American leadership.”

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South Korean Marines and U.S. Marines from 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force based Okinawa, Japan, take positions near Amphibious Assault Vehicle (AAV) during the U.S.-South Korea joint military exercises.
South Korean Marines and U.S. Marines from 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force based Okinawa, Japan, take positions near Amphibious Assault Vehicle (AAV) during the U.S.-South Korea joint military exercises.

Responsibilities to American workers

Trump adviser Peter Hoekstra, a former U.S. congressman, says his candidate recognizes the U.S. must invest in its role as a global leader, but “there are responsibilities to American taxpayers and American workers.”

“It’s time to go back and start from ground zero and do a full assessment of what our strategy needs to be to confront the challenges that are out there,” Hoekstra said during the discussion at the Korea Economic Institute. “It doesn’t mean to … challenge the relationships or the friendships that we have in Asia.”

On dealing with the North Korean nuclear threat, the Trump adviser said all options are open, and called for a reassessment of U.S. policy on North Korea.

Both Clinton’s adviser Kurt Campbell and Trump’s Hoekstra predicted continuing tensions between the U.S. and China.

Whoever is the next president, Pollack said, U.S. engagement should move forward in the Asia-Pacific region, given its economic, security and diplomatic importance around the world.

“It’s inconceivable to me,” the Brookings Institution analyst said, “that any American president will, in fact, try to detach the United States from the region.” (VOA)

 

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FIFA World Cup 2018: Indian Cuisine becomes the most sought after in Moscow

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Indian cuisine in FIFA World cup
Indian dishes available in Moscow during FIFA World Cup 2018, representational image, wikimedia commons

June 17, 2018:

Restaurateurs Prodyut and Sumana Mukherjee have not only brought Indian cuisine to the ongoing FIFA World Cup 2018 here but also plan to dish out free dinner to countrymen if Argentina wins the trophy on July 15.

Based in Moscow for the last 27 years, Prodyut and Sumana run two Indian eateries, “Talk Of The Town” and “Fusion Plaza”.

You may like to read more on Indian cuisine: Indian ‘masala’, among other condiments spicing up global food palate.

Both restaurants serve popular Indian dishes like butter chicken, kebabs and a varied vegetarian spread.

During the ongoing FIFA World Cup 2018, there will be 25 per cent discount for those who will possess a Fan ID (required to watch World Cup games).

There will also be gifts and contests on offers during matches in both the restaurants to celebrate the event.

The Mukherjees, hailing from Kolkata, are die-hard fans of Argentina. Despite Albiceleste drawing 1-1 with Iceland in their group opener with Lionel Messi failing to sparkle, they believe Jorge Sampaoli’s team can go the distance.

“I am an Argentina fan. I have booked tickets for a quarterfinal match, a semifinal and of course the final. If Argentina goes on to lift

During the World Cup, there will be 25 per cent discount for those who will possess a Fan ID (required to watch World Cup games).

There will also be gifts and contests on offers during matches in both the restaurants to celebrate the event.

FIFA World Cup 2018 Russia
FIFA World Cup 2018, Wikimedia Commons.

“We have been waiting for this World Cup. Indians come in large numbers during the World Cup and we wanted these eateries to be a melting point,” he added.

According to Cutting Edge Events, FIFA’s official sales agency in India for the 2018 World Cup, India is amongst the top 10 countries in terms of number of match tickets bought.

Read more about Indian cuisine abroad: Hindoostane Coffee House: London’s First Indian Restaurant.

Prodyut came to Moscow to study engineering and later started working for a pharmaceutical company here before trying his hand in business. Besides running the two restaurants with the help of his wife, he was into the distribution of pharmaceutical products.

“After Russia won the first match of the World Cup, the footfall has gone up considerably. The Indians are also flooding in after the 6-9 p.m. game. That is the time both my restaurants remain full,” Prodyut said.

There are also plans to rope in registered fan clubs of Latin American countries, who will throng the restaurants during matches and then follow it up with after-game parties till the wee hours.

“I did get in touch with some of the fan clubs I had prior idea about. They agreed to come over and celebrate the games at our joints. Those will be gala nights when both eateries will remain open all night for them to enjoy,” Prodyut said.

Watching the World Cup is a dream come true for the couple, Sumana said.

“We want to make the Indians who have come here to witness the spectacle and feel at home too. We always extend a helping hand and since we are from West Bengal, we make special dishes for those who come from Bengal,” she added. (IANS)