Global Lens

Readdressing India-ASEAN Defense Cooperation

The cooperation is not only limited to military engagement but has moved forward with future looking prospects in space and intelligence

By Aishwarya Nautiyal

ASEAN Regional forum which is a major platform of ASEAN security dialogue for consultation and cooperation at a highest level of defense engagement has seen an active participation of India prioritizing relations between ASEAN-India highlighting the importance of the forum as a key towards regional engagement with a vision of mutual security and growth maintaining the equilibrium through port visits and military exercises. India’s Act East Policy has brought new platforms like SIMBEX and SITMEX with Singapore and Thailand through military drills ensuring readiness to maintain regional peace and security. Maritime engagement by taking advantage of the strategic geographic location of Andaman & Nicobar (India) islands and its neighbors such as Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Myanmar, Singapore that provides a key focus to Malacca cooperation and promoting a secured line for international trading channels.

      India has also been looking forward to providing various defense platforms such as Brahmos missile systems to the Philippines which nearly cost around 375$ million for the navy. On the other hand India and Singapore have shown a significant growth in bilateral security cooperation engaging in various naval exercises including new naval cooperation where India gained access to Changi naval base for its ships with refueling rights and logistics support. The agreement also provides a provision for mutual restock and rearm on each other's military bases. One of the significant developments can be seen with India-Vietnam defense cooperation where India gained access to Cham Ranh Bay naval and air base also providing training and advanced weapon systems to Vietnamese defense forces. Till now 550 Vietnamese submariners have gained in-depth training and knowledge at INS Satavahana submarine training base along with 100$ million credit to buy Indian defense equipment. Vietnamese pilots regularly get trained for Sukhoi platforms whereas private enterprise engagement can also be seen with Larsen and Toubro to equip Vietnamese Border Guards with 12 offshore vessels.In 2016, a new credit line of 500$ million has been provided for procurement of new defense platforms.

     The cooperation is not only limited to military engagement but has moved forward with future looking prospects in space and intelligence. India’s decision to establish a satellite tracking and imaging system around Ho Chi Minh city with the funding from ISRO of 23$ million for tracking and exchanging data with Vietnam and sharing future surveillance and intelligence linked up with stations in Biak in Indonesia and Brunei. Looking at a new geo strategic convergence several warships from Eastern naval command of India have been dispatched with an aim to engage bilateral exercises with Philippines, Singapore and Indonesia. Recently, Malaysia tends to procure Lightweight fighters and has engaged Indian fighter jet TEJAS to participate in procurement tender along with other global competitors. This is the first time that an Indian origin jet has been involved in a global tender. Mekong- Ganga Cooperation in which India and Vietnam are both members along with other other ASEAN members such as Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos. The key focus of this engagement lies towards cooperation in exchange of culture and tourism along with educational and transportation development.

      India Thailand shares their maritime boundary through a crucial trading route of Malacca Strait. This brings both the countries at a focal point of ensuring safety and security of the Bay of Bengal region. The relations between two countries have been centuries old with several historic commonalities within their cultural relations. India has been providing regular engineers and medical delegations in various exercises conducted between two nations including Ex- Cobra Gold one of the largest military exercises. The 31st edition of India-Thailand Coordinated Patrol (CORPAT) was one of such engagements where HTMS Krabi along with INS Saryu and Dornier Patrol Aircraft have been engaged for 3 days near strategically located Andaman Sea. Bridging the friendship between two militaries along with several issues such as unregulated fishing, drug trafficking, piracy, terrorism, smuggling and illegal immigration including relief operations at sea have been a key fundamental in understanding interoperability between two navies in CORPAT.

      With India looking forward to expansion of its geostrategic footprint in Southeast Asia, energy rich Brunei seems to feature in a prominent position in India’s Act East policy. Till now the relations haven’t been in focus and have not been able to realize it’s full potential but with new vision India is looking forward to increase the level of intensity and vitality of connecting with Brunei as a crucial maritime partner. The port led development where Maura port can be a new focal point of Indian policymakers along with India- Brunei agreement in 2018 to boost defense relations including exchange of information, exercises, training and defense industrial development. Being at a crucial juncture of changing global dynamics from Europe to the Middle East, South Asia is becoming more and more crucial in balancing and benefitting through various platforms in which defense and intelligence cooperation has its own pivotal role ensuring trust between regional partners.

ASEAN and India, redefining South Asian future energy strategies

By Aishwarya Nautiyal

India and ASEAN showed a willingness in developing another ecosystem as strengthening infrastructure for renewable resources while sharing expertise along with knowledge to its full potential among member nations.

Transition into new synergy with rising demand and advancement in technology is providing a new necessity of alternative and clean energy sources. ASEAN with the high level of potential from technological driven to resourcefulness has been seen by India as one of the major partners whether it is exchange of trade or new potential in innovation towards future energy needs . As the world is dealing with the fluctuating scenarios due to which rising demand of efficient energies and risk oriented dependency has brought a new requirement in exploring future avenues for green and efficient sectors of energy resources. A high level conference between delegates of India and ASEAN in the month of February, 2022 showed a willingness in developing another ecosystem as strengthening infrastructure for renewable resources while sharing expertise along with knowledge to its full potential among member nations.

New energy hubs,capacity building with technical assistance to promote joint initiative in the South Asian region has been prioritized.Initiative by India to welcome experience from ASEAN towards integration of green market is one of the key aspects. ASEAN power grid is one of the key areas of interest and its efficient functioning has brought a phase for integration and adaptation through various infrastructure development projects including strategic cooperation to sharpen the knowledge and expand opportunities in the Indian subcontinent region. India’s willingness to cooperate with Indonesia to facilitate a new dimension of transition in the renewable energy sector. Academic exchanges and providing new ideas for mutual encouragement with effective coordination among researchers and students has also been an important perspective among policymakers from India and ASEAN member nations.

Integration of Grid among ASEAN countries and its project designing new capacity building has been a key area with the welcoming signs . The Ministry of Mines and Energy of Cambodia has highlighted an importance of a unified ambition targeting actions planned for low carbon emissions whereby green hydrogen is seen by India as a new key for decarbonisation driven through intensive training and mutual expertise coordinating with partners from ASEAN grouping. Some recent developments in ASEAN countries have shown a tremendous potential in organizing and implementing new strategies towards transition into Renewable Energy. Indonesia is looking forward to resolving the storage capacity whereas Lao PDR has shown progress in a rise of 89% in new green projects including hydroelectric power generation, solar energy, biomass leading renewable energy generation totaling more than 9100 MW.

Thailand on the other hand has floated a 2700 MW solar plant creating its multi utility inclusive of water pumping. India has recently committed progress in future energy share along with new technological innovation ensuring its cost effectiveness and competitive infrastructure along with ASEAN partners such as Brunei, Philippines and Myanmar. Looking forward towards future challenges with rising opportunities utilizing technological skills of smart intelligence through India’s one of the largest networks of IT industry focusing upon robotic integration for smart engineering can bring a sustainable production to balance the demand for future energy needs in such a huge populated region. Mutual coordination with neighboring ASEAN nations can provide a platform for strengthening bilateral cooperation and sharing bilateral human development.

A response required for new energy security has been kept as one of the high priority sectors by Indian policy makers along with ASEAN promoting biofuels alternatives such as palm oil, sugarcane and coconut has emerged as a major component of alternative for driving future energy production. India produces large amounts of sugarcane in its mainland in the Northern part of its territory whereas coconut production in Southern India complemented by being a largest importer of palm oil from Malaysia and Indonesia showcase an avenue of mutual resource driven by technical cooperation as well as knowledge sharing. According to the Indian Planning Commission a major concern lies for its vast population of 1.36 billion people whose demand is rising due rising standard of living and driving workforce that needs a new kind of security policies ensuring future energy needs.

According to the United Nations Environment Programme, India spent almost USD 10.2 billion alone in 2015 while mitigating the effects of climate change and focusing on new strategies for solar and wind transition which have become a dominating field in India’s new ecosystem of sustainability in energy. New rising challenges in cities struggling with massive level of pollution and urgency of finding new ways through research and mutual confidence in investmenting in infrastructure projects, collaborative vision driven by ASEAN India commitment to succeed beyond single state strategy into integrated unified regional policy by harmonizing through mutual commitments in various steps and aspects with a vision of overcoming a daunting task of difference in national level of targets and commitments which may vary quantitatively due to variation in objectives and its time frame to overcome mechanism of conventional energy sources.

India’s pursuit for semiconductor value chain

By Aishwarya Nautiyal

India does import a large section of semiconductors from South East Asia and can bring new understanding between South East Asian manufacturers and collaborate with them in new aspects of making India a competitive semiconductor producer

Looking forward towards 5$ trillion economy, a new quest to achieve a status of semiconductor hub seems to be a new reality in India’s pursuit for self-reliance. An outlay by the government of 10$ billion for semiconductor production in the course of next five years has been provided. One of the most critical components in the 21st century and the country is critically relying on imports. Under the ministry of Electronics and Information Technology proposal, the top contenders Vedanta Foxconn JV, IGSS Ventures and ISMC have initiated a new task towards electronic chip manufacturing plants under the Semicon India Program. Taiwan being the largest producer is becoming a new favorite eyeing new possibilities with TSMC and UMC setting up facilities in India negotiating along with Free Trade Agreement bilaterally.

Increasing pressure from China on Taiwan’s outreach towards new strategic gains is even a new possibility of semiconductor manufacturing in Maharashtra and Gujarat. A positive indication from the government making India one of the manufacturing hubs by 2025 from 2$ billion to 100$ billion including display manufacturing ecosystem. TATA group with an estimate of 300$ million for outsourced semiconductor assembly in Telangana, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu providing new assembly of semiconductor chips sourcing silicon wafers from TSMC & Fitch Solutions. While other players like US based Intel have expressed interest in establishing a new manufacturing plant. Emphasis in this industry provides a scenario which has changed since 1987 when it was just 2 years behind becoming a leading chip manufacturer as compared to today where it lags behind 12 years due to lack of infrastructure, slow bureaucratic structure, red tapes with high rate of corruption and lack of vision. This led to a high rate of dependency in the era of new dynamics of robotic infrastructure.

With rising demand in the electronic market and new diversification towards smart technology along with its fluctuating bilateral relations with China has moved its strategist towards domestication of production of such components which will be playing a crucial role in futuristic modern economic development. In the scheme of production an important component lies towards smooth implementation of policies along with a global competitive environment also leading towards a guarantee of universal human rights. During Covid 19 a global disruption of supply chain and rising complexity with unpredictability. India needs to establish an ICT layer which has been sidelined so far. From 5G to robotic and new virtual reality platforms India is seen as an optimal and sustainable partner with an affordability and capacity inclusive of technological based solutions. Tackling new future supply shocks has become a foremost reason during the post-pandemic period.

As we can see today, 92% of global manufacturing chips below 10 nanometer(nm) is in Taiwan whereas China constitutes 54% of the world’s semiconductor market playing a huge role in testing of integrated circuits and testing. China’s economic might and its competitive pricing advantage amid US-China complex trade relations can bring a challenge to Indian policymakers in which necessity to develop domestic production with indigenous design capabilities with the focus on local self-reliance rather than being on scuffle with US-China competition pegged on. Timing in the Semicon Revolution in India seems favorable along with a vast number of talent availability. In the new changing dynamics where Taiwan has emerged as a world leader in production it can become the same size of establishment within Indian Geography and availability of resources and competitive manpower.

Overcoming obstacles and bringing new opportunity in the economy has brought new avenues for private sectors who are keen in collaborating and mitigating along with policymakers and global manufacturers. As we can see this provides a scenario of confidence building and enhancing diplomatic cooperation and future coordination. India does import a large section of semiconductors from South East Asia and can bring new understanding between South East Asian manufacturers and collaborate with them in new aspects of making India a competitive semiconductor producer. Though with a small presence with SCL in Mohali, GAETEC in Hyderabad and SITAR in Bengaluru one can never deny a possibility of becoming a competitive market with initiation and seriousness towards attracting new talents and global investment. The next phase of transformation in both technological and capital will be a key factor in defining new diplomatic relations with bilateral and multilateral relations between manufacturers from South and East Asia to Western Hemisphere.

Strengthening existing commercial ties and diversifying reliance from a single partner can give India a new wave of opportunity learnt during the post pandemic period through global supply chain disruption. New challenges and having strength to overcome with a vision can bring an unexpected opportunity with the nations who are able to mark themselves with the role of leadership in a global technology network sustaining with socio-economic impact with sustainable growth.

The EU-Korea partnership: trade, security, global standards

Korea is one of the EU's strategic partners. Intensive trade has paved the way for strong regulatory and political cooperation. Examining this relationship provides an insight into the direction in which Brussels' ties with its other Asian partners might evolve in the future.

The history Korea-Europe relations is very recent. Unlike China and Japan, which have always been more familiar to Europeans, Korea was less known (and accessible) for centuries, precisely due to the influence of the former two countries on the latter. Untile the 17th century, European scholars spoke of Korea almost exclusively in works devoted to China: the first significant account of Korea is perhaps contained in the Novus Atlas Sinensis (1655) by the Italian Jesuit Martino Martini. The first European to visit the country was Hendrick Hamel from the Netherlands: his written recollection of the 13 years he spent between the island of Jeju and Seoul (1653-1666) was the first direct source on Korea available to European readers. Hamel is little known in his own country, but he is quite famous and honoured in Korea, with monuments and museum. In the last decades of the 19th century, Westerners began to call Korea a 'hermit kingdom' because of its few contacts with the outside world - an expression that has recently come back when referring to North Korea. Relations between Seoul and European countries began to develop with the end of World War II and the end of Japanese control. Many European countries supported South Korea in the War of 1950-1953. Yet perhaps the greatest impetus to this relationship came in the following decades, as a result of intense trade between Europe and the emerging Asian tiger.

Between the end of the Korean War and the early 2000s, the 'Miracle on the Han River' made Seoul one of the most competitive economies in the world. Its economic success has given the country an important role on the global stage, and not just in economic terms. The country hosted the Summer Olympics in 1988 and the Football World Cup in 2002. At the end of the 1990s, the "Korean wave" (Hallyu) began, i.e., the explosion of popularity of Korean media first in other Asian countries and then globally. All these forms of soft power, building on its commercial dynamism, have accompanied Korea's emergence as a global player. In May 2004, the then Korean Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Ban Ki-moon launched an ambitious policy of trade liberalisation through new agreements with the European Union, the United States and India. An indication of the country's international prestige is the election of Ban Ki-moon himself as Secretary-General of the United Nations (2007-2016). Of the trade agreements planned in 2004, the one with the EU was concluded first (2011). The agreement represents a milestone for both sides’ trade policy. For Seoul, it was its first trade treaty with an advanced economy to enter into force. For Brussels, it was the first 'second generation' Free Trade Agreement (FTA). This new generation of European FTAs differs from the previous one by including matters never covered in the past: trade in services, protection of intellectual property rights and the promotion of sustainable development through trade (Trade and Sustainable Development Chapters, TSD). The EU-Korea FTA has thus served as a model for trade agreements between Europe and other countries – in Asia as well: Japan (2019), Singapore (2019) and Vietnam (2020).

Korea's strong international position led the EU to identify Seoul as one of its ten 'strategic partners' on the global scene. Here again, trade relations have been the first impetus to deepen this cooperation. For Korea, the EU is currently the third-largest export market and the largest direct foreign investor. Looking at the period 2010-2018, the 2011 FTA had a significant impact on flows from the EU to Korea of goods (+77%), services (+82%) and investments (+39%). Automobiles make up a substantial share of exports from the EU to Korea, but also the other way around. The semiconductor sector - a strategic market dominated by Asian countries - is very important as well and characterised by a 'circular' exchange: Korea exports chips but imports the equipment to produce them from the EU. Synergy in this field is likely to become even more important in the future, as the US is encouraging its allies - including Europeans - to favour 'democratic' supply chains for strategic goods such as semiconductors. This doctrine could lead Brussels to buy more semiconductors in Korea, Japan and Taiwan – as Washington is planning to do – to the detriment of Chinese suppliers. On the other hand, the EU wants to become more autonomous from foreign chip imports, following the principle of 'digital sovereignty'. Another important sector of European exports to Korea is pharmaceuticals.

The FTA negotiations were linked to the revision of another agreement, the Framework Agreement, which sets out the political cooperation between the two partners. A further agreement, the Crisis Management Participation Agreement, was added to these two deals. Korea is the only partner to have three agreements in force with the EU, an indication of the importance Brussels attaches to this relationship. These agreements have allowed for increasing security cooperation, both regionally and globally. Regionally, during the Trump administration, Seoul began to rely more on Brussels to maintain stability on the Korean peninsula and prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Globally, the Korean navy participates in the EU-led Operation Atalanta to counter piracy off the Horn of Africa. The EU-Korea partnership yields a further result: where economic cooperation intersects with political cooperation, regulatory cooperation becomes possible. The two partners manage to be global standard setters and, thanks to the robust institutional architecture of the cooperation agreements, are in constant contact to keep up the discipline of many economic sectors. First and foremost, the digital sector: last December, the European Commission gave the go-ahead with an adequacy decision to the free circulation of data between the EU and Korea. This form of ‘governance through transnational regulatory networks', of which the EU-Korea collaboration is one of the most advanced examples, could be an effective tool to govern the globalised economy, in the absence of a single global regulator.

Africa: from "Dark Continent" to "Goldmine"

Not only China. A number of Asian countries are betting heavily on the African continent in terms of investments and commercial and diplomatic cooperation. An overview

China’s interest in the African continent has increased exponentially over the last 20 years, but its roots go back to 1955.

In order to better understand current events, we must take a short trip to the past. Historians usually divide the Sino-African relationship into different phases. The first approach dates back to the early 1950s, a period when the PRC funded construction projects and gave its support to several independence movements. The 1980s saw the beginning of the second phase, which was mostly negative and deteriorated the relationship because China adopted a policy of isolation. It was the period when the Chinese government started to abandon Maoism (an ideology based on the collectivization of resources) in favor of a capitalistic approach (labeled as temporary and necessary to achieve an ideal Communist regime), which would be decisive in subsequent Sino-African relations. China’s wish to help the Third World, crushed by colonialism and the Western model, is linked to its intention to promote an alternative model.

The 1990s saw a progressive intensification of relations and an "updated" approach from China, in contrast with the one of half a century earlier: China expanded its scope of action, including various sectors such as trade, investment, general assistance, transfer of skills and training. The PRC spread its activities in both the public and private sector. 

The new millennium ushered in another quick and steady phase of growth. 2013 in particular was a landmark year as China overtook the USA in becoming the lead investor in Africa. 

Looking at the figures, the global trading volume between China and Africa has increased by 24.7% and loans from China have reached 153 billion in the last 20 years. 

So that begs the question, what were China’s main investments?

  1. Raw materials: Africa possesses the raw materials needed by the PRC, especially for the manufacturing sector. It should be remembered that China has gone from being a major agricultural economy to the world’s largest importer of agricultural products in the last 30 years, which earned it the title of "low-cost" country for labor cost.
  2. Market: the African market is considered particularly attractive by Chinese investors both for its extension and recent liberalization, two important factors that limit the strength and consolidation of foreign actors, thus weakening competition and facilitating market entry. 

The modus operandi of Chinese investments is based on reciprocity and in this it differs from the Western model. The North of the world used its investments to facilitate its own interests without aiming at the improvement of local conditions. On the contrary, the Chinese approach was all-encompassing and win-win: China made available to partners the same wealth of knowledge that had helped the country in its development.

Is the People's Republic of China the only Asian country that has an economic presence in Africa? 

The Land of the Rising Sun disagrees with that. The masterpiece of Japanese diplomacy in Africa has a name: Ticad. This acronym, which stands for Tokyo International Conference on African Development, indicates a series of summits organized by the Japanese government and the UN since 1993. These summits are attended by more than 40 African heads of state and have always been held in Japan except in 2016. Ticad has laid the foundations for projects "of the African people", in which Japan plays the role of facilitator through investments and know-how: many technical and commercial agreements with Tokyo were signed during these conferences, which are still today a powerful propaganda tool for Japan’s foreign policy.

The numbers speak for themselves: between 2007 and 2017, Japan's foreign direct investment in Africa increased from 3.9 to 10 billion dollars. According to Shigeru Ushio, head of the African Affairs Department of Japan's Foreign Ministry, access to African markets is vital for Japanese companies and African start-ups as it facilitates their development thanks to less bureaucratic legislations. 

Infrastructures were Japan’s starting point. The Japanese government began its activities in Africa by developing ambitious projects on a supra-regional scale. A prime example is the port of Mombasa, an asset of paramount importance since it is the terminus of the transcontinental Inter-African Highway 8, which will connect Lagos, Nigeria, to Mombasa, Kenya. The entire project is managed by Toyo Construction Co., which is by no means the only Japanese company operating in the region. According to the Overseas Construction Association of Japan, as many as 16 Japanese construction companies are active in 22 African countries. 

But Japan went beyond the infrastructure sector. Its horizons are much broader and quickly expanded to import-export markets and new technologies, with 796 Japanese companies active in Africa in 2017. Some of these, like the Nippon Biodiesel Fuel start-up in Mozambique, created a solid network of suppliers and farmers linked directly to their activities. 

The mining and energy sector has certainly been a resounding success for Japan, as evidenced by the presence of headquarters of the most important Japanese corporations like Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corp. which is in charge of oil prospecting in Kenya and natural gas development in Mozambique. 

“Three’s a crowd”: India joins China and Japan.

Growing commercial needs led India to look at Africa as an increasingly important economic partner and to reinvigorate its naval presence in the Western Indian Ocean as a means to ensure trade security.

Specifically, the Horn of Africa is extremely important for the security of New Delhi as it is located at the northwestern end of the Indian Ocean. Historically, the port of Adulis, near Massawa, has been a central hub for maritime trade between Europe and Asia, frequented also by many Indian traders. Stability in the Horn of Africa was already a priority at the time of the British Empire because it would ensure security and economic prosperity in Colonial India. After becoming independent in 1947, India adopted a strategy of military isolationism that limited the spread of its regional influence. In the 1990s and early 2000s, in concomitance with India's economic boom, domestic demand for raw materials needed to fuel growth increased exponentially. All these factors contributed to the creation of a dynamic environment and to the need for energy diversification. From that moment on, Indian investors started to take into consideration the opportunities offered by the African continent.

The Indian approach in Africa is based on mutual respect and non-interference within the framework of South-South cooperation. In the Horn, India is helping the countries most in need through development aid aimed primarily at the agricultural, health and education sectors. All countries in the region are partners in India's Pan African e-Network project, an initiative launched in 2009 by the New Delhi government and aimed at sharing Indian expertise in the fields of health and education with African countries.

Indian activities in Africa are not limited to humanitarian aid: the government seeks to satisfy its own needs for energy and food security, fundamental for the country's economic and demographic growth, as well as to take advantage of emerging business and investment opportunities. New Delhi is supported by the entrepreneurial community and big private companies. Between 2000 and 2014, bilateral trade grew from $10.5 billion to $78 billion thanks to Indian exports: electrical equipment and other machinery, pharmaceuticals, food, manufactured goods. 

In summary, China's leading role as an investor in Africa is constantly challenged by the competition of India and Japan. India’s influence in the continent is growing: on one hand, it helps the Indian government to have a wider role in international relations, and on the other hand it satisfies the raw materials needs of a rapidly growing economy. The Japanese government is aware that Japan-Africa relations are crucial for the protection of maritime trade routes because the oil imported by Tokyo from the Middle East is transported along the African coast. This goes to show that despite their rivalry, there is some convergence: having a strong economic presence in the African continent is a priority for China as much as for India and Japan.

Asia and energy: how green is the East?

The energy transition is everyone's duty, but perhaps for the Asian continent it is a little more so. Why does the development of Asian countries interest observers so much?

The world of tomorrow is already in Asia. But also the climate crisis, economic and social inequalities, and the exploitation of resources. The search for immediate and concrete solutions to counter the environmental crisis is an established imperative, and no place in the world has more eyes on it than Asia. Although the big polluters reside in the global north and China, the rest of the more backward East also worries observers. In this part of the world, the population is growing, individual welfare standards are rising, and funding for housing and infrastructure is pouring in - all of which threaten to repeat the pollution patterns of recent decades.

Energy has quickly become the keystone on the table of those "concrete answers" that governments must develop within the next few decades, on pain of increasing emissions that are at the root of global warming. The so-called climate-altering emissions are responsible for the greenhouse effect and are only minimally attributable to the normal functions of the Earth's ecosystem. Excluding the curiosity for which water vapor is classified as the greenhouse gas most present in the atmosphere (an effect generated in turn by rising temperatures), we are talking mainly about carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4). These emissions are largely due to the production systems and standards of living of advanced countries, which in turn depend on energy sources.

Fonte: International Energy Agency (Iea)

As simple as it may sound, tackling a revolution in energy systems is a very complex operation that goes beyond the pure field of technological innovation. It is about changing the paradigm in the name of efficiency and "artificially" pushing diplomacy, markets and communities towards a single goal: emission-free development. Or almost. Today's objective, consolidated by international climate tables, is to succeed in offsetting the output of climate-changing gasses by offsetting their impact (with natural or technological solutions), and lowering the quantity in the most polluting sectors. In the Asian region, the process of transition to more sustainable and clean forms of energy becomes an even more multifaceted discourse, where the (almost) clean slate of the power grid in Myanmar shares the same continent as China's fourth-generation nuclear reactors.

Energy demand in Asia is set to double by 2030, and already accounts for about half (53%) of global demand. If in 1966 the GDP per capita of developing Asia was 330 dollars, today it is close to 5 thousand dollars. These are just two of the figures that focus the attention of observers on the Asian continent, where the production lever is being met by new consumption needs. But it also raises the concerns of experts, who fear that it could host the ploys of large multinationals to reduce their carbon footprint in the country of origin. Asia today continues to focus on economic growth driven by exports and traditional development models, and is slowly trying to emerge from the stagnation of the Covid crisis: assumptions that for skeptics validate a still uncertain future for the transition to "truly" sustainable development.

Fonte: International Energy Agency (Iea)

Despite the pandemic setback, emissions will continue to rise, and are about four times higher today than they were in 1960. To return to acceptable levels, according to scientists at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), all countries would have to undergo the 2020 halt every year for decades to come. This brings into the balance the big polluters, such as China and the United States, but also the countries that are growing faster according to the same paradigms: Southeast Asia, Central Asia affected by the projects of the Belt and Road Initiative (Bri) and of course East Asia that has been driving the economic success of the "Far East" for thirty years. The history of the Four Asian Tigers is emblematic of this growing parabola, which, together with profits, has hosted and relaunched large global production centers. Today, in this part of the world, there is also a growing demand to raise the living standards of citizens, which in the eyes of governments often translates into ambitious prospects for growth in domestic consumption. To produce, and to live the life of the "ideal consumer", energy is needed.

Fonte: Fondo Monetario Internazionale (Fmi)

In this large mosaic of 4.4 billion people and 58 countries, the presence of China alone distorts the data on the environmental impact of energy systems in Asia. On the other side of the spectrum, we have 1/10 of the population that does not yet have access to electricity and relies on biomass combustion for cooking and heating. And the next step is granted by access to fossil fuels: since 2010, for example, over 450 million people in India and China have switched to LPG. 

Finally, there is the mirage of energy efficiency from renewable sources, which has long been considered one of the necessary solutions by major agencies such as the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena) and the International Energy Agency (Iea). In a joint report, the two institutions have denounced how most countries are still underestimating the efficiency aspect applied to civil and industrial heating and cooling systems, which represent 40% of global emissions. It is one of the many facets of the energy transition that could see an advantage for those Asian nations that do not yet have consolidated energy systems and an electrical grid that needs to be extended rather than rebuilt. But it also poses new challenges: climate change will increasingly test the resilience of new infrastructure, in a part of the world where rising seas threaten millions of people and entire states (especially on islands). Increasingly frequent heat spikes and droughts are sending the power grid into a tailspin where hydroelectric capacity is lacking or the grid cannot sustain the demand for cooling energy.

In recent years, bilateral and multilateral agreements to implement new, more sustainable energy systems have multiplied, while countries promise to achieve net emissions within the next 30-40 years. Thus, increasingly defined legislation has emerged to lower emissions, improve access to more sustainable technologies and propose market measures that can divert investment towards the energy transition. Asia remains the region where coal continues to expand rather than shrink, but soon lower renewable energy prices, investor pushback and legislative pressure could reverse this trend. There is no shortage, and will be no shortage, of instances of imbalance on energy networks and markets (including labor markets): the energy transition is not a gala dinner.

Energy transition goes through smart systems

The intention for the integration of renewable and more sustainable solutions is there, but it may not be enough: to address the complexity in managing the energy grid of the future, APAC will not be able to do without smart control systems that operate between supply, grid, demand and storage, making the process more efficient, reliable and secure through interconnection.

Article written by Fabrizia Candido

The Asia-Pacific region, also known as APAC, is home to 60 percent of the world's population (about 4.3 billion people) and produces about half of the world's carbon dioxide emissions. In addition to China, India and Japan (three of the six countries most responsible for CO2 emissions), the region is home to some of the fastest growing economies in the world. In fact, by 2040, APAC's fuel energy demand is expected to reach 43.6 petawatts, with global demand reaching 197.8 petawatts. The need to decouple economic growth from GHG emissions is therefore urgent. 

Accelerating the transition to widespread, affordable, low-carbon energy supply requires greater optimization of every aspect of the energy system, as well as greater coordination and cooperation among each component. This requires better understanding and improved mechanisms to monitor and control the ways in which power grids, buildings, industrial facilities, transportation networks, and other energy-intensive sectors integrate and interact with each other.

The future power system will accommodate more power from intermittent generators (solar panels produce power only when the sun shines and wind turbines only when the wind blows), and it will be more decentralized: there will be many more physical assets connected to the generation and distribution networks, where energy flows will become increasingly dynamic and multidirectional. The complexity of the power system will increase significantly. This could put the stability and performance of the grid at risk, leading to issues such as frequency imbalances, blackouts, brownouts and capacity overload. Without real-time data, advanced analytics and automation, the most complex power systems of the future will become virtually impossible to manage.

That's where digitization comes in, with data collection and analysis, artificial intelligence and machine learning. The addition of huge amounts of variable energy sources has created the need for smart control systems that operate between supply, grid, demand and storage, making it all more efficient, reliable and sustainable through interconnection.

More specifically, the growing wealth of information generated on energy consumption and production patterns can be used to better plan for the transformation of the industry, both at the macro and micro levels: data monitoring and analysis allows for better predictive ability of renewable energy production, enabling optimization of the entire supply chain. Using data collected from various sources, such as electricity consumption data, electricity price data, and weather data, artificial intelligence can also be used to recognize patterns and/or provide probabilistic predictions about energy production capacity, demand, or shortages. 

In short, digitization provides an opportunity to leverage the availability of data to optimize the energy transition.

In 2020, Australia launched its Distributed Energy Resource Register, a registry that provides a database of information about Distributed Energy Resources (DER) devices installed in the national electricity market. The registry collects information critical to the Australian Energy Market Operator's (AEMO) DER program. The interconnection between DER devices and the registry allows AEMO to better manage the electricity grid and ensure reliable, secure and affordable energy for all customers.

Another example of digitization in the service of energy optimization comes from India: the Indian government has developed the India Energy Dashboards (IED), an open source portal that collects data and monthly reports on the country's electricity, oil and natural gas usage. The Indian government also created the Building Energy Efficiency Program Dashboard, with the goal of encouraging the use of energy-efficient devices in residential structures by raising consumer awareness. The online database shows in real time the number of lights installed by region, along with their respective annual cost savings, annual CO2 reductions and avoided peak demand.

Again, since 2013, the Chinese government has also prioritized online energy monitoring systems. Public sector buildings at all levels of government have implemented such systems to obtain real-time data, enabling automation of energy management and a transparent method of assessing the energy efficiency of facilities. Most online energy monitoring systems for China's public sector are currently decentralized systems. For example, the Hangzhou local government, together with Alibaba Group, implemented the City Brain project to improve energy efficiency in transportation. Under the project, a cloud platform captures images from interconnected street cameras, translates them into traffic data, analyzes the results, and provides the most efficient solutions via algorithms, which are then redirected to smart tools such as smart traffic lights. This has reduced traffic congestion in the city of Hangzhou by 10 percent, with implications for pollution levels and fuel use.

Finally, on a larger scale, the Singapore government recently completed a full-scale digital model of the entire city, Virtual Singapore, which includes 3D digital replicas of every building in the city. For urban planners focused on energy efficiency, the digital twin city offers the ability to accurately simulate how new developments and planning changes in the city might affect a range of energy-related indicators, including solar radiation, road and pedestrian traffic flows, heating and cooling, and other factors. Given the city's size limitations, the digital model provides an extremely useful system for testing real-world planning interventions.

In conclusion, the APAC region has come to realize that on the route to the mammoth goal of energy transition, it will not be possible to do without the many and varied smart solutions that digitization and data availability make possible.

India and China: solar revolution (and competition)

New Delhi and Beijing are not only competing for the markets of their solar modules: their low costs of solar energy production, if combined with interconnection capabilities, can transform the Tiger and the Dragon into all-round "electrostates".

By Marco Dell'Aguzzo

Mukesh Ambani is the tenth richest man in the world and first in the list of billionaires in Asia. His wealth is linked to the fortunes of Reliance Industries, the Indian conglomerate famous above all for its petrochemicals: gas and crude oil, therefore. But Reliance, like almost all the big names in the hydrocarbon sector, has also embraced the energy transition and announced that it wants to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2035. The phrases speak for themselves, and there is no need to add much more: it is clear that behind the climate projects of big industries and big paper money there is not only the desire to participate in "saving the Earth", but above all that of reaffirming their economic presence in a changing world. And that, in the course of this change, will burn fewer and fewer fossil fuels and use more and more renewable sources. We are the ones who give energy a political dress. But in the mind of an entrepreneur thinking about selling, net of profitability, a barrel of oil is not too different from a solar panel.

On October 10, Reliance made it known that it had purchased a Norwegian solar panel company from Chinese chemical company Bluestar for $771 million. A couple of days later, with 28 million it acquired the technologies of a German company that produces wafers (semiconductors) for photovoltaic cells. Within three years - these are the plans - Reliance will have invested 10.1 billion in clean energy, and by 2030 will have a solar capacity of at least 100 gigawatts, equal to the entire installed renewable India today.

The New Delhi government wants renewables to reach 450 GW by the end of the decade. Solar potential, in particular, is high, but currently only 4 percent of the electricity used in the country is generated from this source. Coal's share, by contrast, is huge, at more than 70 percent. It won't be this way forever, though. This is not said by a young activist from Fridays for Future but by the president of the state-owned mining company Coal India, the one that extracts the most coal in the world. It's a sector that will shrink in twenty to thirty years, says Pramod Agrawal, to make room for solar energy: Coal India plans to enter the photovoltaic wafer business, leveraging the fact that Indian factories produce cells and modules, but not these essential semiconductors.

The competition has just begun. Because Coal India's aim is also that of Reliance, which aims to make the country a large manufacturing hub of cheap but efficient solar panels, capable of conquering the market share of China (now the largest, clearly): it starts with an "integrated photovoltaic gigafactory" of 4 GW per year, which will become 10. Ambani's appetite is also shared by Gautam Adani, the billionaire chairman of the Adani Group, a company that deals in coal trading but will move on to add millions of renewable watts year after year. The government is participating in this industrial effort by raising barriers to the entry of solar modules and cells from abroad, with duties of 40 and 25 percent respectively starting next April.

Most PV equipment comes to India from China. Which, while strong in its advantage, is not just watching the moves of its regional rival, but is also trying to ride the global sustainability revolution. Last month, President Xi Jinping announced that the country had begun construction of a renewable mega-project in an undefined desert, the first phase of which (100 GW) exceeds India's entire wind and solar capacity. But to achieve carbon neutrality by 2060, as it says it wants, the world's largest greenhouse gas emitter will have to succeed in easing its dependence on coal. Similar to the Indian case, solar can be an effective substitute. Also because - according to a study by Tsinghua, Nankai, Renmin and Harvard Universities - by 2023 the prices of the two sources will be similar all over the country: in the northern and eastern areas the break-even will be reached already in 2021; while in the center, in the south and in the north-west in 2023. When combined with storage, solar could meet more than 40 percent of the country's electricity needs by 2060, without compromising grid stability and at a cost of as little as 2.5 cents per kilowatt hour.

Solar power tariffs in India are already very cheap: in the west-central state of Gujarat, for example, they have dropped below two rupees per kilowatt hour (about 2.6 cents on the dollar) and could halve by 2030. By that date, consulting firm Wood Mackenzie estimates that coal's wedge in the mix will be 50 percent and that building new power plants powered by the fuel will be 25 percent more expensive than solar plants. The International Energy Agency says that in 2040 - just nineteen years from now - the shares of coal and solar will be equal, and the nation will be able to rely on 140-200 GW of new battery capacity.

Tight timeframes but huge numbers, like ambition. India and China aren't just competing for markets to sell their solar modules: their low solar production costs, when combined with interconnection capabilities, can turn the Tiger and Dragon into well-rounded "electrostates" capable of generating and exporting large amounts of clean, cheap electricity to Asia. New Delhi is already building grid infrastructure with Bangladesh and Nepal; in 2016, Beijing established GEIDCO to reach as far as Africa and South America. It is not certain that these desires will come true; we are still in the space of the possible: to assert themselves abroad, the two neighboring powers will first have to succeed in meeting domestic needs. But energy, whether renewable or fossil, remains a question of geopolitical power.