The great Hindi debate May 23, 2013Posted by southasiamasala in : Guest authors, India , 1 comment so far
A public call for submissions into the Government’s Australia in the Asian Century country strategies turned into a debate on whether a focus on Asian languages was necessary for improving relations between Australia and our five priority Asian partners. Constituents from the Higher Education sector called for a focus on key Asian languages; Chinese, Hindi, Japanese, Indonesian, and Korean, saying it’s impossible to do business with Asia or understand their culture if we don’t speak the same language.
Pakistan’s new government: a harbinger of hope? May 15, 2013Posted by southasiamasala in : Gordon, Sandy, Pakistan , 2comments
Pakistan has just experienced the first democratic change of government in its history. It did so despite a violent campaign by religious extremists to derail the election. This violence targeted secular-oriented parties such as the ousted Pakistan People’s Party (PPP). However, the victory by Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz Party (PML-N) is still a genuine one. The 60% voter turnout is excellent for Pakistan and indicates that Pakistanis defied the religious extremists.
Voters were clearly fed up with the PPP’s corruption and poor economic management. The country has suffered from serious electricity cuts and an anaemic economy. It is burdened by a rapid population growth rate, fuelled by poor levels of general and especially female literacy. Environmental problems in the heavily irrigation-dependent economy are growing.Misra, Ashutosh, Pakistan , 2comments
At the time of writing this article Imran Khan’s condition was reportedly stable and improving, but not rapidly enough to enable him to cast his vote on May 11. What an irony that a leader whose political fortunes depend on every vote will not be able to cast his own. Imran Khan, the leader of the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaaf (PTI) party had sustained serious head and back injuries in a terrible fall from a wobbly car-lifter, supporting one personal guard too many, as it tried to hoist him atop a container-cum-stage. This accident must have instilled a frightening sense of déjà vu in the people of Pakistan who had witnessed the shocking assassination of Benazir Bhutto just before the 2008 elections, who later succumbed to the suspected gun-shot wound in the head. In the ensuing sympathy wave the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) came to power, making Asif Ali Zardari the President, in a yet another accident of history.
India-China border tension and nuclear posturing May 9, 2013Posted by aungsi in : Gordon, Sandy, India, Pakistan , Comment
The standoff between China and India in Ladakh has been resolved, at least for now. After China set up five tents for 40 personnel 19 km inside what India regards as the line of control, India set up similar tents facing them. Both lots of tents are now to be removed, but it is still unclear whether India is to remove any of the structures at Fukche and Chumar, as demanded by the Chinese.
The Chinese withdrawal only occurred after India had hardened its position on the impending visit of Indian foreign Minister Salman Kurshid to Beijing on 9 May and the reciprocal visit of Chinese Premier Li Keqiang to New Delhi on 20 May. The Indian government was forced to harden its position by the strong public reaction to what was perceived to be its week-kneed response to the Chinese ‘incursions’.
A disturbing feature of the incident was the way it had been politicised on both sides, thus risking the protagonists being ‘locked in’ to their respective positions.
Decent work deficits in Pakistan May 3, 2013Posted by nishankmotwani in : Guest authors, Pakistan, Uncategorized , Comment
The labour movement in Southasia has often expressed its deep concerns of development priorities being abandoned. Economic growth is indeed necessary. But increasing inequality prevents rapid eradication of income poverty and vulnerability. The excluded population rises not in numbers but also as share of a (growing) population. Policy failures are visible on several counts. Most of all is a missing active social policy that would not just mitigate the adversity, but offset the profit bias inherent in neo-liberal economic policy — of promoting capital-intensive growth and cheap-labour led export expansion (which privilege foreign capital by subsiding their consumers, and probably even subsidise the arms trade). This note discusses Pakistan.
Claiming divine will or peoples sovereignty, Islamabad asserts prosperity and progress in Pakistan, ‘achieving’ large food exports including cereals from a country filled with hungry citizens. Our interest in such assertions is focused upon inequality and poverty as consequences of neoliberal policies for output and employment growth. The primary concern remains the state structures whose oppression produces and sustains mass impoverishment and exclusion. When generations already feel abused then deadly terrorism will undoubtedly remain as a curse even upon our grandchildren. (more…)
Pakistan’s transition to substantive democracy April 17, 2013Posted by southasiamasala in : Guest authors, Pakistan , Comment
When Pakistan holds elections on 11 May 2013 it will be the first time in Pakistan’s history that an elected government hands over power to another elected government.
Though this is a positive development, most Pakistani and international observers are not optimistic that the elections form part of a broader transition from procedural to substantive democracy — a system of government where civil and political liberties are protected.
There are many reasons for this lack of optimism. Ongoing attacks on the minority Shia population have significantly increased, with hundreds killed already this year. Political leaders and candidates are routinely targeted, and there have been regular attacks on development workers seen to be promoting ‘liberal values’. These political and social fault lines have been exacerbated by the worsening economic crisis. Economic growth has averaged just under 3 per cent over the last three years — a level that is insufficient to either substantially improve the population’s living standards or absorb the growing workforce. Prices are rising at around 11 per cent per year, and the price increases on fuel, together with severe electricity shortages, have prompted a growing number of mass protests across the country.
Politically, socially and economically, Pakistanis face deep insecurity.Bangladesh, DeSilva-Ranasinghe, Serge , Comment
This article originally appeared in South Asia Defence and Strategic Review
As a Bay of Bengal littoral state Bangladesh has strong maritime interests. Increasingly, Bangladesh has recognised the importance of its maritime domain and the requirement to augment its Navy to secure and project its regional interests. Bangladesh Navy chief, Vice Admiral Zahir Uddin Ahmed spoke to Sergei DeSilva-Ranasinghe about the navy’s changing responsibilities, maritime security challenges, efforts to mitigate the effect of natural disasters and the need for naval diplomacy.
Australian military expands Indo-Pacific profile April 9, 2013Posted by aungsi in : DeSilva-Ranasinghe, Serge, South Asia - General , Comment
This interview first appeared in The Diplomat on March 13, 2013
Emerging out of a decade of coalition military intervention in the Middle East and Afghanistan, the Australian Defence Force (ADF) is now focused on initiatives to engage the strategic Indo-Pacific region. General David Hurley, the chief of the ADF, spoke to Sergei DeSilva-Ranasinghe about defence cooperation with the United States, engagement with Asia-Pacific and South Pacific regions, the implementation of the Force Posture Review’s recommendations, initiatives to engage with the Indian Ocean region, and what Australia’s withdrawal from East Timor, Solomon Islands and Afghanistan ultimately means.
The trouble with ‘eve-teasing’: Some perceptions on sexual harassment and violence in India April 5, 2013Posted by nishankmotwani in : By contributor, India, Motwani, Nishank , Comment
India is a dangerous country for women and the government is part of the problem rather than the solution. That was the overwhelming conclusion I observed when speaking to men and women on a visit to India (my home country) following the brutal gang rape of a twenty-three year old medical student in Delhi on the night of December 16, 2012. The victim of that heinous act of sexual violence succumbed to her injuries two weeks later, demonstrating the viciousness of the assault that destroyed her life and that of her family. Since then, three horrific cases in March 2013 have highlighted yet again the danger women face in India – the gang rape of a Swiss woman camping with her husband while on a cycling trip through Madhya Pradesh (central India), a British woman jumping off the balcony of her hotel room in Agra fearing a sexual assault by the hotel’s manager and security guard who tried to forcefully enter her room at 3.45am, and the thrashing of a twenty-two year old woman and her father by policemen in Punjab after she sought police assistance against a group of men sexually harassing her.
‘A continuum of security requirements’: The US Pacific Command and the rise of the Indian Ocean April 3, 2013Posted by nishankmotwani in : DeSilva-Ranasinghe, Serge, India, South Asia - General , Comment
As the US refocuses its attention to the Asia Pacific region, it is also seeking to augment its presence in the unstable and heavily contested Indian Ocean Region. Admiral Samuel J. Locklear, who commands the US Pacific Command, or PACOM, talked to Sergei DeSilva-Ranasinghe on the programme he is spearheading to reposition the US military footing towards the Indian Ocean and the revitalised strategy to engage South Asia and Australia.
How is the Indian Ocean of relevance to the US Asia Pacific rebalance?
Admiral Locklear: Whether the name is Indo-Pacific or something else, when I am sitting in my office looking at a pretty detailed chart of my entire jurisdiction, I view it as a continuum of security requirements, not broken down by historical perspectives of the different oceans. I think ‘one continuum’ is a good concept. However, it’s not just about the Indian Ocean. It’s about the connectivity of these large economies, the large core populations, and how things have to move.
Take that to the next level and you have the cyber commons and the space commons. Ships and airplanes travelling across the Indian Ocean, whether it be to the Arabian Gulf or through the Straits of Malacca, are critical for trade and flow of energy sources. The PACOM helps protect these routes. (more…)