Asian Insider: Britain signals tilt to Asia | Anguish and hope in India’s Covid-19 crisis

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

Dear ST reader, 

We hope you’ve been keeping well. 

In our Asian Insider newsletter this week, we examine Britain’s deployment of its largest aircraft carrier to the Indo-Pacific, a move intended to project the former colonial power’s influence in the region. Over in India our correspondents document the desperation on the ground as the pandemic claims thousands of lives daily, while valiant volunteers provide hope.

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Return of the British to Asia?

Last weekend the HMS Queen Elizabeth, the most powerful vessel ever built for the British navy left its home port of Portsmouth on its maiden deployment to the Indo-Pacific region, counting India, Singapore, Japan and South Korea amongst its destinations. This voyage is not part of the standard freedom of navigation-operations, says global affairs correspondent Jonathan Eyal. Instead it flies the flag for Global Britain, projecting the country's influence and power to Asia.

Anguish and hope in India’s Covid-19 crisis

A sense of anguish, hopelessness and anger has settled over India, as the second surge of Covid-19 infections continues to overwhelm the healthcare system, leaving people to die outside hospitals as they wait in vain for treatment. Amidst the devastation however, volunteers have stepped up to offer help, and hope. These kind strangers run oxygen tents, help bury the dead and ferry the sick to hospitals. Watch the moving video here.

The future of work

Work from home and hybrid arrangements have become the norm for many as the pandemic continues to keep offices shut. However not everyone can afford that option, and are instead putting their lives and health at risk for their jobs. 

Follow all the stories from our weekly ST Asian Insider packages here

Hanbok and hijab in South Korea

In the finale of our Invisible Asia series, we cast the spotlight on South Korea’s Muslim minority and how their religious beliefs are often misunderstood. Many Koreans associate Islam with terrorism, writes South Korea correspondent Chang May Choon, but attitudes have recently softened as the country cultivates closer ties with South-east Asia and sees more Muslim tourists.

Listen to the podcast here and watch this video, where Ms Song Bo-ra talks about wearing the hijab in Seoul.

Will new envoys mean new hope for US-China ties?

The US and China are set to appoint new envoys to each other’s countries and all eyes are on whether these diplomats will reset faltered relations. China bureau chief Tan Dawn Wei says that while the appointments have yet to be officially announced, the potential candidates - Harvard University professor Nicholas Burns and Vice-Foreign Minister Qin Gang - signal a desire to kick off talks on a fresh slate. 

The clash of Indonesia’s unicorns

E-commerce is the new battleground for Indonesia's tech unicorns, with more people turning to online shopping amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, writes Indonesia correspondent Wahyudi Soeriaatmadja. The three key players -  ride-hailing firm Gojek, its arch rival Grab and newcomer Shopee - have waged price wars as they vie to offer food delivery, e-commerce and payment services in South-east Asia’s largest economy.

KL-Singapore connectivity

The cancellation of the long-awaited Kuala Lumpur-Singapore high speed rail project earlier this year dashed hopes of cutting the commute to a mere 90 minutes. But there are other alternatives that can slash travel time, says senior transport correspondent Christopher Tan. 

That’s it for today. Until next week, keep safe and keep reading! 
 

Lim Ai Leen 

Deputy Foreign Editor