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Reflections on the Tigers May 28, 2010

Posted by southasiamasala in : Sri Lanka , comments closed

Guest author: Sergei DeSilva-Ranasinghe

Reprinted from The Diplomat Blogs. Read the full article

A year ago this week, the Sri Lankan government officially declared victory over the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in one of the most extraordinary counter-insurgency campaigns in recent times.

The endgame of the conflict, particularly from January to May 2009, saw the bloodiest fighting, often with the presence of tens of thousands of civilians that the LTTE desperately used to fend off its inevitable defeat. Since then, new evidence has become public that offers further insights into the final months of Sri Lanka’s secessionist civil war.

For decades, the jungle-laden Mullaitivu District, located in Sri Lanka’s northeast, served as the LTTE’s main stronghold. However, under significant military pressure from the Sri Lankan Army during the final stages of the conflict, the LTTE conducted a fighting retreat towards its last bastion astride the Mullaitivu coastline.

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Some thoughts about the South Asian ‘region’ May 27, 2010

Posted by southasiamasala in : Snedden, Christopher, South Asia - General , comments closed

Christopher Snedden

In April 2010, the body attempting to create a South Asian region—the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC)—celebrated 25 years of existence. The fact that SAARC has existed since 1985 is an achievement in itself. SAARC members have few connections with each other apart from SAARC itself, some historical links with British imperialism, and geography.  South Asia is a long way from becoming a unified and coherent region.

SAARC’s most recent ‘Meeting of the Heads of State or Government’ was held in Bhutan from 28-29 April.[1] The summit’s (largely aspirational) ‘Thimphu Silver Jubilee Declaration’ was positively titled ‘Towards a Green and Happy South Asia’. Somewhat surprisingly, however, its third point ‘emphasized the need to develop a “Vision Statement” ’, something that should have been done a long time ago.  Furthermore, SAARC has held only sixteen summits in 25 years, despite its Charter stating that ‘The Heads of State or Government shall meet once a year’.  ‘Annual’ summits were not held in 1989, 1992, 1994, 1996, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2006 and 2009. More than one of these meetings was abandoned due to the parlous-to-poor state of India-Pakistan relations. (more…)

“Operationalizing” the Indo-US nuclear agreement May 26, 2010

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

Auriol Weigold

India and the United States have ironed out their remaining differences over the reprocessing of US-originated spent nuclear fuel amidst much activity on nuclear matters.

These activities included the Washington Nuclear Summit in mid-April, closely followed by the Iranian conference, “Nuclear energy for All, Nuclear Weapons for None” (which India also attended), together with the release of the Nuclear Posture Review and the US-Russia Nuclear Agreement.

At a time of such activity, and with the 2010 NPT Review Conference now under way, was this, at last, the final step in the reprocessing saga? Compromise on the remaining contentious part of the 123 Agreement had stalled in early March 2010, but by the end of the month India and the United States announced that they had come to agreement on a nuclear reprocessing facility in India, expected to draw to a close the lengthy negotiations on an Indo-US nuclear agreement initiated during the Bush Administration.

The agreement to grant India consent to reprocess spent fuel was described as a “significant step forward for US-India commercial nuclear cooperation” (Arun Kumar, IANS, in Business News, 29 Mar 2010).The Times of India on 29 March and Reuters on the following day reported the agreement on procedures under International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards, another piece in the jigsaw puzzle that makes up the bilateral civilian nuclear pact, but each article recognized that it was not the end of the road for American commercial interests. (more…)

Modern politicians and ‘new India’ May 21, 2010

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

Manu Sundaram

In India, politicians evolved out of the national struggle for independence from colonial rule. Pandit Nehru, Dr Rajendra Prasad and Dr Ambedkar, who belonged to this group, were eminent scholars and possessed high intellect. More recently, grassroots leaders who espouse the cause of their communities and classes have blossomed from bottom up. This has been a result of the political empowerment of the backward classes and thereby giving raise to Mayawati, Mamata Banerjee, Lalu Prasad Yadav, Mulayam Singh Yadav, etc. Both set of political leaders have been a product of their times and have in common a significant mass following. Their support bases have unflinchingly thrown their weight behind their leaders every five years in the toughest election campaigning anywhere in the world.

Shashi Tharoor and Sonia Gandhi. PTI Photo by Kamal Singh, source: Press Trust of India.

Now, an alien set of political creatures have appeared on the scene, claiming to be ‘modern politicians’. This includes Shashi Tharoor, Mani Shankar Aiyar and Jairam Ramesh, all of whom have been educated at elite institutions, posses a progressive outlook and global vision. This group is exceedingly popular with urban India that watches 24-hour news channels, blogs and prides itself as the ‘new India’. Both the modern politicians and new India feed off each other in a symbiotic manner. When news breaks, the modern politicians oblige with an opinion, which is subsequently amplified into a ‘national debate’ drawing in opinion-makers and experts. The entire show is carefully stage-managed to shock, provoke and ultimately cater to the sensibilities of new India.

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The Bellary Brothers, politics and India’s mining boom May 11, 2010

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

Brian Stoddart

While Australia’s miners are belted by Kevin Rudd’s new supertax proposals, India’s biggest mining barons in the form of the Bellary Boys face perhaps even bigger problems. The Supreme Court had decreed that their Obulapuram Mining Company (OMC) in Ananthapur district of Andhra Pradesh should suspend operations for at least another three months, adding to the six during which no mining and therefore no profits have occurred. In an update, the SC has allowed a resumption of mining but only in “undisputed areas” and not within 150 metres of the Karnataka border, an apparently odd provision.

As is often the case, however, this is just the outer trapping of a much deeper and more complex condition that says much about contemporary India.

An iron ore mine in India – Flikr, Yahoo

Gali Janardhan Reddy, Gali Karunakara Reddy and Somashekhara Reddy are the sons of a police constable who was attached to the Bellary force.They grew up in the local area and dabbled in financial management, media and other ventures before embarking on twinned and interactive careers as politicians and iron ore magnates. (more…)