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Australia still high on India’s radar March 26, 2010

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

Guest Author: Rupakjyoti Borah, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University

This article first appeared on the National Times website www.nationaltimes.com.au

Australia’s Foreign Minister Stephen Smith has just returned from a three-day visit to India, where he reiterated the view that Australia has no tolerance for racist attacks.

He assured Indians that attacks on them here do not reflect modern Australia, which is a tolerant, multicultural society.

The assurance comes not a day too soon, amid reports of many Indian students having cancelled their plans to study Down Under since the spate of violent attacks. There was a 46 per cent drop in the number of Indians applying for student visas for Australia in the four months between July and October last year on the same period in 2008, according to Immigration Department data.

While the news of death of three-year-old Gurshan Singh Channa, who was visiting Australia with his family, has shocked India, making the front pages of almost all major daily newspapers, the Indian External Affairs Minister S. M. Krishna has advised caution. He said he was still waiting for a report from Australian authorities on the cause of Gurshan’s death.


FEATURE ARTICLE: Indian Women: Bargaining with Patriarchy March 22, 2010

Posted by southasiamasala in : Features, India, Lahiri-Dutt, Kuntala , comments closed

Kuntala Lahiri-Dutt

On 8th March, International Women’s Day, the parliament of the Government of India introduced a historic piece of legislation that seeks to set aside one third of seats in the Lok Sabha (lower House of the Parliament) and state legislative assemblies for women. The landmark bill, popularly known as the Women’s Reservation Bill (WRB), was passed by the Upper House (Rajya Sabha) of the parliament, amidst and in spite of chaos that was described by the media as a near-riot. If passed by the Lok Sabha, the WRB would lead to the 108th amendment of the Indian Constitution and reserve as many as 181 of the 545 seats in the powerful Lok Sabha, comprising of elected members. The Bill is historic because it will open the doors of political equity to half the population of India. However, the Bill has been highly controversial and despite the Law Minister, Veerappa Moily’s statement whilst introducing the Bill – ‘I expect men and women to support me’ – a number of opposition MPs tried to stop the Bill from being tabled. Some members from the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and Samajwadi Party (SP) even climbed into the chairman’s well and tore up the document to hurl the pieces of paper at the Chair. There has also been strong opposition from Indian feminists and political commentators on the content and philosophy of the Bill. (more…)

The bruising facts March 18, 2010

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

Guest author: Rahul Mishra

This article first appeared on the Indian Express website

The Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Stephen Smith, was on his third visit to India in early March to brief New Delhi about the steps taken by Canberra in putting an end to attacks on Indian students. The visit aims to add further substance to the fact that India and Australia are working together to deal with the problem, which is affecting bilateral ties. It is also important in the light of the fact that India’s External Affairs Minister S.M Krishna made a suo motu statement in Lok Sabha last week, meant to ‘inform about the attacks on Indians in Australia and the steps taken by India as well as by Australia in dealing with the range of issues concerned’.

As is evident, the assaults have become a big issue in both countries — over 500 Indian students have been battered and looted Down Under in the past three years. Australia appears to be doing all it can to save the third biggest source of its income, concerned about the drop in student visa applications which, according to Andrew Smith of Australian Council for Private Education and Training, has gone down by 40-50 per cent this year.

More than eight Australian ministerial visits and numerous rounds of high level dialogues have been held so far. The Victoria police also handed over a dossier to India in January which says, “out of 18 cases investigated so far, two people were run over by a train and there was no foul play. While three cases remained unsolved, 33 people have been arrested over the remaining 13 cases.” Both India and Australia have been putting in a lot of effort, but irresponsible reporting in both India and Australia has ensured that the debate has taken an unseemly turn. (more…)

Sport and security: India’s year of living dangerously. March 17, 2010

Posted by southasiamasala in : Gordon, Sandy, India, Pakistan , comments closed

Sandy Gordon

India is a rising economic star and also wants to be a world venue for major sporting events.  But violent jihadi groups have a strong incentive to undermine that image.  New Delhi’s Dayal Chand National Stadium, with its glistening new astro-turf, was therefore in complete lockdown for the opening of the Hockey World Cup.  Security was so tight that the President of the Federation of International Hockey, Leandro Negre, was stopped and searched.  Players were confined to their hotels when not playing or training and heavily escorted between venues.  As it transpired, the two weeks of competition went without a hitch from the security point of view.  (And for the record, Australia won).

New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru stadium


Are more than ‘weasel-words’ holding up the Indo-US nuclear agreement? March 12, 2010

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

Auriol Weigold

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh assures us that key differences in the spent fuel reprocessing and storage negotiations have been resolved and all that remains to do is to  ‘dot the i’s and cross the t’s’.

Some six months ago negotiations around words acceptable to both India and the United States on reprocessing were a problem, and progress appeared to be mired in technical complexities. The Indian Express reported early in 2010 that while India had made it clear it would not accept additional commitments made outside the Section 123 template it had agreed to, the United States had sought to import non-proliferation assurances that would be in line with its Atomic Agency Act. (more…)

Australia-bashing at the IASA conference March 6, 2010

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

Auriol Weigold

The fifth biennial conference organized by the Indian Association for the Study of Australia (IASA) was held at Goa’s International Centre in late January this year. It was entitled “India and Australia: Negotiating Change” and, perhaps unexpectedly, some change of opinion was negotiated.

Supported by the Australia India Council, the Association’s brief to speakers and delegates in 2010 was to examine the “need for transformative changes through negotiations within and between nations…” Within this over-arching frame, the question posed for speakers and participants was “what and how can India and Australia, two democratic and strategically important countries contribute to meet the new challenges…?” The question continued, “Do shared values like [the] rule of law, social justice, social solidarity and economic efficiency help bring bilateral concerns together?” (more…)

Australia–India: reimagining the relationship March 4, 2010

Posted by southasiamasala in : India, Jeffrey, Robin , comments closed

Robin Jeffrey

Reprinted from Inside Story. Read the full article

The arrival of 100,000 Indian students in the past five years is the biggest thing to happen to relations between the Australian land mass and the Indian subcontinent since the 1790s. That’s when the Campbell family started trading between Kolkata (Calcutta) and Sydney. Scottish-born Robert Campbell later migrated from India to Australia, where he built the first “bungalow,” became “a leading public figure” and earned a long entry in the Australian Dictionary of Biography.

Similar happy outcomes, I hope, lie in the future for many of the students from India who are putting substance into the puzzling 220-year relationship between their country and Australia. You have to look forward to good things, because some very bad things have happened in the past couple of years. When people are murdered, attacked and abused, and when individuals are picked on because they are obvious and alone, a nasty side of Australian society is revealing itself.

As a result, we are at a crucial turning point in the story of Australia and its ties with India. The harrowing tale of the past year can foreshadow the broader, deeper relationship whose absence has puzzled analysts for years. But thought, effort and imagination will be needed to bring a positive ending to an anguished chapter.


India’s mobile revolution: a view from below March 3, 2010

Posted by southasiamasala in : Doron, Assa, India , comments closed

Assa Doron

Reprinted from Inside Story. Read the full article

I first met Rakesh many years ago on theghats (landings) of the holy river Ganges in the city of Varanasi. He offered to take me for a boat ride, an absolute must-do for a tourist, like me, visiting the city for the first time. Since then I have returned many times – as a tourist, a tour guide and now an anthropologist studying the city and its inhabitants. Rakesh and I kept in contact by mail over the years, off and on, though I only really caught up with what he was doing when I was back in Varanasi. Then, on a recent trip to the city, he proudly showed me his new mobile phone, saying that from now on we would be able to speak anytime, anywhere. He also asked me to give his mobile number to all my friends who intend to visit the city. Through the mobile phone he has been able to increase his earnings markedly, he said, with people from all over the world booking his boat in advance.

Among members of the boatman community who work on the Ganges ferrying passengers, Rakesh is one of the few who can read and write in basic English, thanks to his own initiative. The mobile phone gives him the means to communicate and maintain contact with his friends and clients, both in Varanasi and around the globe. Since his first purchase Rakesh has already replaced his mobile twice with increasingly advanced sets. We now keep in touch via text messages and, on special occasions, person-to-person calls.