Seen and heard this week


Seen and heard this week is a weekly column highlighting thought leadership from the NUS community


In a CNBC article on 6 December, NUS Institute of South Asian Studies Director Professor C. Raja Mohan gave his opinion on the agreement between India and Pakistan to build the Kartarpur Corridor, which will allow Sikh citizens of both countries to travel visa-free to places of worship across the border. Prof Mohan noted that religious diplomacy — using faith to bring people and nations together — is a common tactic in Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s foreign policy. He added that the corridor could signal a positive future for the historic rivals, pointing out that the border is located in Punjab, a region ripe for quick advances in bilateral relations. However, the lack of formal dialogue, as well as the difficulty of logistics could prove to be a barrier.

Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy Visiting Professor Vinod Thomas looked at how Singapore’s experiences in climate change adaptation could prove to be useful to other countries in a commentary in The Straits Times on 7 December. Smaller countries like Singapore are not able to significantly affect carbon emissions, but as their priority is adapting to a changing climate, their actions in dealing with climate change can provide two-way lessons, Prof Thomas wrote. He gave examples of the various initiatives Singapore has in place for crises ranging from rising sea levels and extreme heatwaves, to droughts and floods. However, Prof Thomas warned that better defences against climate change would not be enough unless the largest carbon emitters take the lead to shift to a low-carbon economy. In that light he highlighted Singapore’s decision to levy a carbon tax on businesses by next year, and its collaboration with climate change scientists. Prof Thomas believes that Singapore’s voice and experience carries weight beyond its size and will be valuable to bring urgency to climate action.

NUS Business Assistant Professor Adelle Yang discussed the results of a study investigating why people pursue activity and seek to be busy in a commentary in The Business Times on 7 December. The study revealed that people dread idleness but want justification to be active. The study also showed that even if the reason is pointless, they are happier busy than idle. Asst Prof Yang suggested that this is due to humans being rational creatures that are averse to wasting resources and could be rooted in evolution where expending energy without reason could jeopardise survival. She said that understanding idleness and busyness is important in a future where technology and automation could take over jobs and free up time, adding that relative affluence of time will escalate the need for purposeful busyness.

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