Asian Insider April 9: Good fences make good neighbours

Asian Insider brings you insights into a fast-changing region from our network of correspondents.

Happy Tuesday,

Today: Leaders of Singapore and Malaysia meet, China gears up for a massive horticultural show, the leaders of Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movement are convicted and more.

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LEADERS OF SINGAPORE, MALAYSIA MEET

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Malaysia Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad met in the Malaysian administrative capital today. It was the first Leader’s Retreat since Dr Mahathir returned to power last May and comes at a time when the two countries are dealing with a host of bilateral issues.

How did it go? Heading into the meeting, there were a string of announcements on the various disputes that effectively blunted a lot of the sharpest sticking points. That allowed both prime ministers today to focus on positives and affirm commitments to a cooperative relationship. The baseline for the meeting was an age-old one: Disagreements are inevitable between close neighbours, but they must be addressed in the right spirit.

What did they talk about? The leaders touched on all the key bilateral issues that have emerged of late: the 1962 water agreement, maritime boundaries, airspace management and rail links.

What’s new? Not all that much though the two seem to have had one of their more substantive conversations about the water price issue. PM Lee described the water agreement as a “fundamental founding document” and raised concerns about pollution and the long-term yield of water from Johor. The main new point from summit seems to be the agreement for both sides to start talks on maritime boundary delimitation within a month. Dr Mahathir also accepted an invitation to attend Singapore’s Bicentennial National Day Parade in August.

Read all our coverage of the retreat from the team in Putrajaya:

Singapore, Malaysia to start talks on maritime boundary delimitation within a month

1962 Water Agreement is 'sacrosanct'; both sides to seek amicable solution: PM Lee

Malaysia looking at affordable alternatives to RTS Link with Singapore, says Mahathir

The full joint statement from the leader

FLOWER POWER

China is pulling out all the stops to create the largest horticultural expo on earth. Work is going round the clock at the 503ha grounds of the Beijing Expo, an hour’s drive north-west of Beijing. The Chinese government has tunneled through mountains, built highways and relocated families to make way for this extravaganza.

The big picture: As China Bureau Chief Tan Dawn Wei writes, this expo is a huge display of soft power in a year marking the 70th jubilee of the founding of the People’s Republic of China as well as several sensitive anniversaries. Coming at a time when China’s powerhouse economy seems to be slowing, it also serves as a show of economic might, proving once again that no one can put on a mega-event like China can.

The full story:China set to dazzle with giant show of flower power

UMBRELLA MOVEMENT LEADERS FOUND GUILTY

Nine leaders behind Hong Kong’s Umbrella movement were convicted today for their role in the 2014 mass rallies that brought the city to a standstill for months.Hong Kong’s Justice Department brought charges under the rarely used colonial-era public nuisance category.

Reaction:  The “Occupy Central” leaders told the media that they had no regrets for what they had done and were prepared for the consequences. Pro-democracy groups had criticised the prosecution for its chilling effect on freedom and autonomy.

What were the rallies about? Occupy Central or the Umbrella Movement was a movement that organised a series of sit-in street protests calling for reform of the Hong Kong electoral system that supporters deemed to be overly controlled by the Chinese government.

The full story:  Hong Kong Umbrella Movement leaders found guilty for role in 2014 mass rallies

ELECTION CHECK-IN: INDIA

There are a whole bunch of elections around the world at this time and it’s hard to keep track of all of them so Asian Insider is just going to dip into one every now and again to try and keep everyone up-to-date. Today, we will take a peek at India. Elections there begin in two days and are run in seven phases with votes counted on May 23.

Who’s winning: An average of four pre-election polls show that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s alliance will win a majority, but only just. The Bharatiya Janata Party is currently expected to win 273 out of 543 - just one more seat than the 272 needed. The BJP won 330 the last time.

What are the issues:  Bread and butter issues like the performance of the economy seems to be the main drag though pollsters say Modi got a boost from his handling of the attack in Kashmir by a Pakistan-based terror group.

Further reading: Ruling TDP faces tough battle for control of Andhra Pradesh

AND FINALLY, AN INSTANT NOODLE ENVIRONMENTAL MESSAGE

The colours are a little faded and the contents have presumably long been consumed but this packet of instant noodles looks pretty much intact despite having been exposed to the elements for 19 years. This photo of a seemingly indestructible piece of plastic garbage has been going viral in Indonesia with many noting it serves as a reminder of the durability of plastic waste. That it was a packet of the much beloved Indonesian product Indomie and has a national day message on it probably contributed to its virality in Indonesia.

IN OTHER NEWS:

The European Union and China agreed on a joint statement for today’s summit in Brussels, papering over divisions on trade in a bid to present a common front to US President Donald Trump, EU officials said.

Ousted Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn said he was innocent and slammed former colleagues whom he accused of backstabbing and conspiring against him, in a pre-recorded video that marked his first public address since his initial arrest last year.

The wife of former premier Najib Razak was briefly arrested today by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) after she was summoned to the agency. Rosmah Mansor is expected to face another corruption charge on Wednesday in connection with a solar power project for Sarawak rural schools

That's it for today. I'll be back tomorrow.

- Jeremy