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Risk Intelligence Report

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Report No. 1 | January 2021

The 3 AM Call The Biden Administration and Five Asia-Pacific Crises

This report presents five crisis scenarios in Asia the new Biden administration may have to encounter early on its term: Chinese military action against Taiwan in the Pratas Islands; a renewed China-Philippines tussle in the South China Sea; potential escalation pathways for the China-India standoff in eastern Ladakh; an Afghanistan contingency that also involves India and Pakistan; and finally, a natural disaster in the Philippines that compounds the United States’ dilemma when it comes to Taiwan’s defense. While the scenarios, crafted by renowned Asia specialists, are set in the future, they are grounded in the current geopolitical state-of-play and make limited assumptions. The report also includes an overview of the likely trajectory of Biden’s Asia policy which would frame his responses to regional contingencies.

Table of Contents

Executive Summary
5
Introduction
6
Biden’s Asia Bid
9
The Pratas Islands: The Coming Crisis in the Taiwan Strait
15
The South China Sea and the Philippines: Geopolitical Seesaw
19
China and India in Ladakh: Uneasy Calm Before Storm?
23
Afghanistan, India and Pakistan: The Devil’s Knot
27
Dante’s Eye: When Natural and Geopolitical Furies Cross Path
32
The Authors
37

The Authors

Dr. Collin Koh

Collin Koh is a research fellow at the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies, a constituent unit of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies based at the Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. His research interests are maritime security and naval affairs in the Indo-Pacific, especially in Southeast Asia.

Professor Yoshiyuki Ogasawara

Yoshiyuki Ogasawara is a professor at the Graduate School of Global Studies, Tokyo University of Foreign Studies. His research focuses on Taiwanese politics and China-Taiwan relations. His publication includes Taiwan’s Presidential Elections (2019) and Ma Ying-jeou’s Doctoral Thesis and Its Impact on the Japan-Taiwan Fisheries Negotiations (2015).

Dr. Hina Pandey

Hina Pandey is a research analyst, working on nuclear issues including nuclear security, nuclear energy politics, and nonproliferation. She is currently an associate fellow at the Centre for Air Power Studies, a New Delhi-based think tank. In 2018, she completed a six-month visiting fellowship with the Stimson Center’s South Asia Program, Washington D.C. She holds a doctorate from the American Studies Division, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University.

Dr. Jacob Parakilas

Jacob Parakilas has over a decade’s professional experience spanning think tanks, NGOs, the U.S. government, and academia. He started his career in 2007 working on student visa issues for the U.S. government before returning to academia and earning a Ph.D. at the London School of Economics. From 2014 until 2019 he was the deputy head of the U.S. and the Americas Programme at Chatham House, the Royal Institute of International Affairs. Parakilas is currently based in Lagos, Nigeria, and is also an Associate with LSE IDEAS.

Abhijnan Rej

Abhijnan Rej is director of research at Diplomat Risk Intelligence and security & defense editor at The Diplomat. His areas of focus include Indian and U.S. defense policies, Indo-Pacific geopolitics, military strategy and emerging technologies. His career has spanned academia, the corporate sector and public policy. He was previously Senior Fellow, Strategic Studies Programme, Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi. Rej was trained as a mathematical physicist in the United States and Germany.

James Schwemlein

James Schwemlein is a nonresident scholar in the South Asia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and a political risk and economic policy consultant. Schwemlein is a former U.S. diplomat and World Bank expert experienced in Asia and U.S. foreign economic policy. From 2011 to 2017, he served as senior advisor to the U.S. special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. His prior roles at the State Department focused on U.S. trade and investment policy and multilateral institutions.

Dr. Ayesha Siddiqa

Ayesha Siddiqa is a research associate at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), London and author of Pakistan’s Arms Procurement and Military Buildup, 1979-99, and Military Inc: Inside Pakistan’s Military Economy. She was also the inaugural Pakistan Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, a Ford Fellow, and Charles Wallace Fellow at Oxford University.