jump to navigation

Red Terror, sloppy state October 28, 2009

Posted by sandygordon in : India , comments closed

Guest author: Dr Nihar Nayak, Associate Fellow, IDSA, New Delhi

This article first appeared in The Pioneer on 24 October 2009.

Indian Home Minister P. Chidambaram has good intentions but would do well to carry out a SWOT on the government’s position before launching his operation to end the Maoist menace.

October 2009 will be recalled for long as the ‘red’ month. Maoist insurgency has captured the collective imagination of India on an unprecedented scale. The resolve of the government, as articulated by the Home Minister, is also one of the most significant in our times because though Maoism/Naxalism has been around for a while, the ruthlessness and brutality with which these Communist terrorists operate was somehow accorded less attention than the more glamorous  jihadi variety.

Also starkly evident  is the lack of preparedness of the Indian State to meet this kind of terror. The security forces don’t seem to have learnt from past incidents involving Naxalite violence. They have repeatedly ignored, at considerable cost to themselves, the standard operational procedure circulated by the Centre to states affected by the menace. Such negligence becomes even more worrisome in the light of the resolution passed by the Communist Party of India-Maoist Politburo to prepare and mobilise the People’s Liberation Group Army (PLGA) and sympathisers to carry out tactical counter-offensives and various forms of resistance to inflict maximum losses targeting the security forces. (more…)

Sino-Indian relations: Beijing muffs its hand October 22, 2009

Posted by sandygordon in : Gordon, Sandy, India , comments closed

Sandy Gordon

Australia is not the only country on the receiving end of China’s new-found diplomatic ‘forthrightness’.  India too has recently received a sizzling serve from the Beijing end of the court.

As we pointed out in South Asia Masala, the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, which is also claimed by China, is the current immovable object in the Sino-Indian relationship.  However, on this occasion that tricky problem has been exacerbated by a planned visit of the Dalai Lama to the disputed state and to Tawang, birth-place of the revered Sixth Dalai Lama, which lies within the borders claimed by India.

A hard-hitting editorial in the People’s Daily on 14 October accused India of “hegemony” and of a policy of “befriend the far [the US] and attack the near [other South Asian powers]”.   On the same day the paper claimed that India’s yet-to-be tested Agni V strategic ballistic missile would be capable of reaching the northern Chinese city of Harbin if launched from North East India. (Agni V is scheduled to be tested in 2011).  The next day the People’s Daily contained a scathing critique of child labour in India and India’s poor performance in education. (more…)

Commonwealth Games: post-imperial conflict October 21, 2009

Posted by sandygordon in : India, Stoddart, Brian , comments closed

Brian Stoddart

When New Delhi won next year’s Commonwealth Games, it was rightly regarded as a “break through” opportunity much as the Asian Games were in 1982.  Here was the chance for the “new” India to show its stuff, and there was considerable talk about this being the test run for a Delhi bid on the Olympic Games.  That, of course, would set the national capital for a Beijing-style moment, heralding India as a genuine world power.

From the outset, though, realizing the Delhi Games would be a difficult task.  The Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF), like most international federations, is a complex body with its own patterns of powers and procedures.  While the host city organising committee has responsibility for delivering the Games, the CGF keeps close oversight on developments and is never shy about giving advice.  Then, India’s democratic structure would never allow organizers the same power as, say, Beijing to make sweeping changes to city infrastructure, alleged social problems and budget allocations.  Further, Delhi organizers would never bow to external pressure in the way some other hosts had, mainly because of the elaborate interplay between Indian sport and politics. (more…)

Agreeing on change in Sri Lanka’s tea industry October 20, 2009

Posted by southasiamasala in : Guest authors, Sri Lanka , comments closed

Lawrence Niewójt

Major changes are under way in the Sri Lankan tea industry. Despite the global economic slowdown, a few weeks ago trade unions and plantation owners agreed to a deal that will give labourers substantially higher wages and encourage productivity gains in the industry.

On 13 September 2009, a ten-day trade union action that blocked the transport of tea from estates ended after the planters agreed to raise workers’ wages by 40 per cent, from 290 to 405 rupees per day. Having rejected an earlier offer that would have bumped up daily earnings only Rs. 40 in the first year and an additional Rs. 30 in the second year of the collective agreement, unionists retreated from original demands for a Rs. 500 daily wage after planters threatened to halt wage payments for October and the festive season. Whilst the tea industry’s three largest unions – the Ceylon Workers Congress (CWC), Lanka Jathika Estate Workers Union (LJEWU) and Joint Plantation Trade Union Committee (JPTUC) – signed the two-year deal, smaller unions such as the Up-country Peoples Front (UPF) and the All Ceylon Plantation Workers Union (ACPWU) remain unsatisfied and have been responsible for isolated disruptions in tea-producing areas. (more…)

Coping with Hillary Clinton’s allegations October 19, 2009

Posted by southasiamasala in : Perera, Jehan, Sri Lanka , comments closed

Jehan Perera

Hillary Clinton’s inclusion of Sri Lanka in the short list of countries that are alleged to have used rape as a tactic of war has caused fury and distress in the country. Understandably, the Sri Lankan government has called upon Ms Clinton to withdraw her remarks, which were extreme and provocative. As a result of these charges and counter charges, the possibility of constructive engagement between the government and the international community that will be in the best interests of the Sri Lankan people may get further diminished.

The fact that Ms Clinton made this allegation as US Secretary of State while presiding over a session of the UN Security Council, and passing a resolution against sexual violence on women during armed conflicts at the world’s most powerful decision making body, highlights the seriousness of the challenge that Sri Lanka faces. This month the US Congress is expected to receive a preliminary report from US government investigators regarding human rights violations and war crimes that may have taken place in the last several years. This month the European Union is also expected to announce its decision regarding the extension of the GSP+ tariff concession, where the main criterion for extension will be Sri Lanka’s adherence to the norms and practices of international law.

Never before has Sri Lanka been confronted with such international pressure. In the long years of Sri Lanka’s three decade long war there were many accusations levelled against the Sri Lankan government, but not this one. There is no denying that rape has occurred in the course of the war. The judicial verdict in the Krishanthi Kumaraswamy rape case 1998 and Sri Lankan media reports of rapes elsewhere bears this out. But these have been acts of individuals and not state policy that is systematically intended to strike fear into the hearts of the civilian population to make it easier to win the war.


History tells us “don’t meddle in Afghanistan” October 16, 2009

Posted by southasiamasala in : Afghanistan, Weigold, Auriol , comments closed

Auriol Weigold

“History”, Peter Cochrane tells us in ‘Colonial kaleidoscope’ (Australian Literary Review, 1 July 2009), “ … is an unending dialogue between the present and the past.” This dialogue has broken down in Afghanistan’s case and the lessons of history forgotten.

The history of interventions in Afghanistan by the British, and before them other regional groups, shows us that entering the country and taking cities like Kabul is the simple part of any war there. Securing the countryside and subduing recalcitrant tribes is of a different order of magnitude as the British repeatedly, and now the Americans and their increasingly reluctant ‘coalition of the willing’, have found out.

The first Afghan War lasted three years from 1839 and was a disaster for the British. The rationale for intervention in what became known as the ‘Great Game’, the competition for power and access across Central Asia to India, was that Britain must have a reliable ally on India’s western frontier (now the Afghan-Pakistan border). The argument resonates today: the official position then was that British-Indian forces were supporting the legitimate ruler of Afghanistan, Shah Shuja, to retake his throne, and denied that this was a pretext for adding his kingdom to the British Empire.

Some 21,000 British and Indian troops reached Quetta and took Kandahar in April 1839, familiar names today. It became clear that Shah Shuja’s rule could only be maintained by British forces – and they were there for the long haul. Harassed by disaffected Afghan tribes, now in the garb of the Taliban, the story becomes familiar. The ending, however, was unimaginable.


India’s new foreign trade policy: old wine in new bottles October 8, 2009

Posted by southasiamasala in : Guest authors, India , comments closed

Guest author: Nabeel Mancheri, Hiroshima University

This article first appeared in East Asia Forum

The recently released new five-year national Foreign Trade Policy (FTP) of India has set a few objectives. Given the current financial crisis, it is also intended to provide a confidence boost for the export market. Its objectives are ambitious. Fiscal incentives, institutional changes, procedural rationalisation, and enhanced market access across the world, as well as the diversification of export markets are the trust areas mentioned in the document.

However, the document doesn’t provide any new thoughts and lacks any bold initiative in terms of longer term objectives. It is the same old type of bureaucratic exercise that the Commerce Ministry has been carrying out for decades.

The continuation of the same old policies, such as targeting a set of trade or export goals, mentioning a few sectors of importance and reshaping fiscal packages is as flawed as past approaches.


India, Australia and international education October 6, 2009

Posted by southasiamasala in : India, Stoddart, Brian , comments closed

Brian Stoddart

The most evocative Indo-Australian image of past weeks had Victorian Premier John Brumby playing ‘impromptu’ cricket with locals while on a Delhi whistle-stop tour to patch up relations following a spate of Melbourne bashing incidents involving Indian students. That visit followed federal Education Minister Julia Gillard’s similar mission, following which came the predictable comment that the problem was now solved.

Almost 100,000 Indian students are now enrolled in the Australian education system, growth having been most spectacular in the VET and training sectors where latest numbers almost match those in the universities. India has become the second highest supplier of foreign students into Australia, hence state and federal enthusiasm to heal potential official rifts with India because given already obvious signs that the recent episodes have had a negative impact upon enrolments, potentially undermining one of Australia’s top three exports at a time when the universities, particularly, face a bleak 2010-11 until possible additional federal funding kicks in. That emphasis is added simply because as the real cost of the GFC-associated stimulus package emerges, federal government promises to a sector that drives few if any votes become more fragile.

The ISC (Indian Student Crisis) is revealing about the state of India-Australian interactions at three broad levels.