Pesek on Asia: Abe in Obama Territory?

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Good morning. Here's my take on some of the stories driving the debate in politics, finance and social issues across Asia today:

Japan's Abe skirts Obama territory.

One poll doesn't make or break a leader's legislative agenda. And, admittedly, Japan's Asahi newspaper is a reasonably liberal one. But Prime Minister Shinzo Abe should be deeply troubled by news that his support rate has fallen to 43 percent, his lowest since taking office in December 2012. That's Barack Obama territory, after all, and we all know the U.S. president's agenda is going nowhere. Abe's problem? Japanese oppose his push to broaden the role of Japan’s defense forces. Just a reminder, Mr. Prime Minister, that your mandate is revitalizing the economy, not flexing muscles in Asia.

An unanticipated Modi effect.

Indian lawmakers knew that New Delhi was getting a dose of sobriety with the arrival of Narendra Modi -- just not actual sobriety. The prime minister wasted no time clamping down on long, leisurely lunches, boozy late-night dinners, late-sleeping bureaucrats and even golf outings. It's all part of bringing a more serious, businesslike dynamic to a political system that seemed to develop some bad habits in recent decades. That very loud wake-up call you hear is emanating from the Indian capital.

Can't use "Allah" in Malaysia.

Tolerance was the big loser as Malaysia's top court decided that non-Muslims can't use the word "Allah." The case dates back seven years, but this ruling -- against a Roman Catholic Church appeal -- is sure to cheer the nation's Muslim majority. It's a rather Pyrrhic victory for an economy that needs more international investment. "This ruling suggests that Malaysia is moving further away from hits long-standing religious policy of moderation toward increasing Islamization of the society," Murray Hiebert of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, told the Wall Street Journal. "It would appear that conservative Muslims are exerting greater influence over the country."

Surreal father-son moment in Manila.

A Hallmark moment, it wasn't: the son of former President Joseph Estrada turning himself in to his dad to face plunder charges. We'll let the police and courts see how far the apple falls from the proverbial tree (Estrada was ousted from office 2001 amid his own corruption scandal). But it's just one of a few high-profile cases making headlines as President Benigno Aquino cleans up Manila. Today’s arrest of Jinggoy Estrada comes three days after Senator Bong Revilla was detained for allegedly pocketing more than $5 million of his discretionary budget. Let's hope this shows Aquino isn't letting up on his anti-graft fight.

Word "nation" becomes international incident.

Museum exhibits rarely become diplomatic flashpoints -- unless you're talking about a certain democratic island claimed by China. Curators in Tokyo clearly didn't appreciate sensitivities in Taiwan when they made posters for an exhibit of visiting national treasures from Taipei. Of course, we can't say the N-word when talking about Taiwan, which apparently prompted the Tokyo National Museum to change the name of Taiwan's National Palace Museum to “Palace Museum, Taipei.” That offended Taiwan's pride and prompted First lady Chow Mei-ching to postpone her visit to Japan to the opening.

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Nisid Hajari at