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‘Alex’ Kuhendrarajah and the Australian media January 20, 2010

Posted by southasiamasala in : India, Roberts, Michael, Sri Lanka , comments closed

Michael Roberts

The waves of boat people in October 2008 made headline news in Australia. So did ‘Alex’ of the Jaya Lestari. The Australian media stirred the pot: they ran with both the hares and hounds. They catered to the sympathy for these people among Australians of liberal disposition who regard all asylum-seekers as victims of intolerable situations. In the same breath they promoted opposition to illegal immigrants by underlining the surge in numbers of these “queue-jumpers.”

Alex is at the heart of this conundrum. He also underlines the ‘double act’ performed quite deliberately by some arms of the media. Investigative reporters at Merak, where the Jaya Lestari is berthed, chose initially to present his voice without probing deeper. Alex became the face of the poor persecuted Sri Lankan Tamil people fleeing their homeland. The details attached to this message  included: (a) they had embarked in Malaysia and were heading for Australia; (b) passages could have cost as much as $15,000; (c) Alex himself, as befitting his Canadian accent, had been educated abroad, but was deploying a pseudonym because his wife and children would be in danger from the Sri Lankan government. (more…)

Waiting for India’s education revolution January 18, 2010

Posted by southasiamasala in : India, Sundaram, Manu , comments closed

Manu Sundaram

The past decade has witnessed policy initiatives and political interest that have rejuvenated the education sector in India. Lofty rhetoric of earlier politi­cians being replaced with action plans; and hollow promises substituted with time-bound strategies. In many ways, the new year will be an indica­tion of the long-term development inclinations of the present political establishment.

Now is the opportune moment to pause and reflect on the ground cov­ered by policies of the past, and delib­erate on the directions for the future. However, this alone will not suffice. Like the Green Revolution and White Revolution soon after independence, the country needs to urgently review its approach to education if it wants to satisfy the growing demands of a literate population competing in the global market. Innovative, far-sighted and bold approaches that will revolu­tionise Indian education are the need of the hour. (more…)

India: inducing a slowdown through restrictive policy January 15, 2010

Posted by southasiamasala in : India, Jha, Raghbendra , comments closed

Raghbendra Jha

Indian policymakers pride themselves on the fact that the Indian economy was able to pull out of the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) relatively unscathed with real GDP growth rate falling to 6.7% in 2008-09 as compared to the 9 per cent in 2007-08 and expected to rise above 7 per cent in 2009-10.   At the onset of the GFC many commentators had expected a collapse of growth with some even predicting a return to the sluggish growth of the mid to late 1990s.

Thankfully, the Indian economy proved the predictors of doom wrong.   A number of factors have been ascribed to explain this performance: high consumption in India, as compared to China, and lower exposure to the global economy, again as compared to China.   High home consumption is desirable as it gives support to the domestic economy in the face of a collapse of international trade, as happened during the GFC.  Additionally, lower exposure to international trade reduces the impact of external shocks.  The existence of substantial controls on the banking sector is said to explain the fact that no Indian bank had to be ‘rescued’.  In addition, however, credit is sometimes also given to ‘good policy design’ by the government. (more…)

Unexpected alliance challenges Sri Lankan President January 7, 2010

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

Jehan Perera

The forthcoming election has generated a coalition of political forces that few would have believed possible even a few weeks ago.  Today an increasingly beleaguered President Rajapaksa gives the impression of being a man who knows he has the fight of his life on his hands.  The change is astonishing as the New Year dawns that the government that so recently seemed invulnerable should now be doing its utmost to win what had seemed a cake-walk election.

President Rajapaksa’s strategy of ruling by division has compelled other political forces, ranging from the UNP on the right, the JVP on the left and the ethnic minority parties, to unite to save themselves from the juggernaut of government that sought to inflict similar defeats on them.  The unexpected alliance between the UNP and JVP is a result.  An alliance between these two parties had seemed an utter impossibility until it actually happened. (more…)

Improving prospects of India-Australia nuclear co-operation January 5, 2010

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

Guest author: Rahul Mishra

This article first appeared on the IDSA website on 24 December 2009.

Indications are that not only India will get ‘yellowcake’ from Australia, which has the world’s largest uranium resources, but it might also get a parallel position equivalent to that of a ‘Nuclear Weapon State’ so that the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty is reinvigorated. The report of the International Commission on Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Eliminating Nuclear Threats – A Practical Agenda for Global Policymakers, released last month, offers a cue in this regard.

The Commission was set up in 2008 by the Australian and Japanese Prime Ministers Kevin Rudd and Yasuo Fukuda in Kyoto. Chaired by former Australian foreign minister Gareth Evans and former Japanese foreign minister Yoriko Kawaguchi, the commission’s aim is to make the 2010 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference a success. The report says that the “three Elephants” outside the NPT (as India, Pakistan and Israel are called in the report) will not become party to the treaty and that “every effort should be made to achieve their participation in parallel instruments and arrangements which apply equivalent non-proliferation and disarmament obligations”.

This, indeed, is a welcome suggestion, which will not only prove valuable in saving the NPT but will also help India meet its energy requirements. Asserting the need to devise specific mechanisms to include India, Gareth Evans wrote in The Age, the leading Australian daily, that “It’s self-evidently rather quixotic for Australia to be maintaining a ban on the sale of uranium until India joins the NPT when manifestly it is not going to join the NPT and manifestly this is not going to stop it acquiring uranium from other sources.”

(more…)