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Telangana waiting August 31, 2010

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

Brian Stoddart

While media preoccupation has switched to a myriad of other difficulties confronting what seems now a beleaguered Manmohan Singh national government, one of the biggest challenges still smoulders in southern India.  Ever since P.Chidambaram’s apparent concession then retraction of separate statehood for Telangana late last year, Andhra Pradesh has been gridlocked as all political parties seek a position that is both defendable and opportune.

The seriousness of the situation should not be underestimated.  Since that December 2009 announcement, for example, over 400 Telangana citizens have committed suicide in protest at delays in creating the new state, even though the Justice B.N. Srikrishna inquiry appointed from the Centre is due to report by December.  The BJP has seized on this unfortunate statistic and just commenced a yatra through Telangana to commemorate the victims and stimulate even more support for the cause. (more…)

Assessing the tragedy of the Pakistan floods August 31, 2010

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

Mohsin Khan, PIIE and Shuja Nawaz, Atlantic Council, Washington

This article first appeared here in the East Asian Forum on 29 August 2010.

The floods in Pakistan have affected one-fifth of the country (an area roughly the size of England) and engulfed large parts of all four provinces—Punjab, Balochistan, Sindh and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (formerly the North West Frontier Province). The vast scope of the damage makes this a truly national disaster with long-term economic and political consequences. With waters still rising, it is far too early to assess the economic costs; a proper assessment will be made in time by the Government of Pakistan, assisted by the UN and the World Bank. But on the basis of early indicators, a preliminary and admittedly impressionistic view of the damage can be formed.


Uneasy neighbours August 28, 2010

Posted by southasiamasala in : India, Merrington, Louise , comments closed

Louise Merrington

Reprinted from Inside Story. Read the full article

In August last year the Chennai Centre for China Studies, a hawkish Indian foreign-policy think tank, published a copy of an article it clearly hoped would create a furore. Translated from a Chinese website, the article detailed how China could split India into ten or twenty ethnically based states by funding insurgents and supporting restive neighbours like Pakistan, Nepal and Bhutan. As expected, controversy ignited across India.

With their usual tendency to manufacture outrage, India’s voracious tabloids and twenty-four-hour television stations began baying for Chinese blood. And in a typical display of the Indian media’s tendency to eat their own, they also turned on the Hindu’s Beijing correspondent, Ananth Krishnan – one of only four Indian correspondents in China – when he dared to suggest that not everything on China’s internet can be associated with the Chinese government.

Coming on top of a series of low-level skirmishes on the India–China border, the controversy illustrated just how deep anti-China feeling still runs in large sections of Indian society. The roots of the hostility lie in the still-disputed border and a three-month conflict – nearly fifty years ago – that many people outside India have never heard of. As the furore showed, the relationship between the two countries might have evolved in many ways over the last six decades, but some things haven’t changed.


Pakistan floods – awaiting succour in Sukkur August 27, 2010

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

Simon Roughneen

On the road in from the airport to Sukkur in Sindh Province, the water shimmered under the moonlight as men, women and children sat in the dark, near the would-be lakeshore. During the day, river dolphins can usually be spotted in the nearby river. Idyllic, you might think. However this dusty and ramshackle town is at the front-line of one of the world’s worst humanitarian disasters in living memory, sitting on the Indus River in Pakistan’s southern Sindh province.

Usually there is no water lapping up at the roadside, and the only people there would be those out for an evening snack after the daytime Ramadan fast. But since torrential monsoon rain swelled the Indus River and of Pakistan has been left flooded. Four million Pakistanis are now homeless, and another 600,000 are threatened down-river, meaning they might have to flee as well.

In the city, I spoke to Ashraf, who said he had left his family outside the city where he had come to buy some food. “We managed to gather up some of our possessions before the waters came, but we did not have much warning. Our home is under water completely. I have enough money on me to feed my children for another couple of days, that is all.”


The Commonwealth Games and New Delhi’s image management problem August 17, 2010

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

Brian Stoddart

It must now be reckoned that New Delhi (in both its city and seat of national government senses) has a major task in resurrecting the organisational reputation of the Commonwealth Games (CWG).  The sports events themselves will go well enough, despite construction delays and problems, because they always do: athletes seem to rise above all sorts of adversity to create memorable moments.  On the wider front, however, each day brings greater revelations that cast the Organising Committee (OC) and India as a whole in poor light.

The latest state of play is this.  Following an audit conducted back in January-February this year, the Comptroller and Auditor-General (CAG) has now declared that at least 60 CWG-related projects are under scrutiny.  The Enforcement Directorate within the Ministry of Revenue has raised similar concerns, and both of those follow earlier reports of interest by the Central Vigilance Commission.  The Indian media smell corruption, and the hunt is on.

This follows very heated debate within the Lok Sabha where the Congress turned in on itself under the pressure of public criticism about the handling of the Games.  Suresh Kalmadi, the head of the OC and a Pune Congress representative was silent during the debate but it emerges that he had sent a letter to MPs declaring his innocence in whatever was happening.  Two second line OC members have been dumped as apparent sacrifices and one, T.S. Darbari, has gone public claiming he is, indeed, simply a scapegoat.  V.K. Verma, the Director-General, has responded by heaping all problems at the doors of the two departed.


Omanthai! Omanthai! Succour for the Tamil thousands August 12, 2010

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

Michael Roberts

This article first appeared on transCurrents 11 August 2010.

This article was made possible through interviews with Mrs Annet Royce nee Rajajohn (2 June 2010), T. Thamilalagan (3 June 2010) and Peter Voegtli (1 June 2010). I also interviewed Singham of SEEDS, two expatriate executives in UN agencies and two of the Sewalanka officers in Jaffna, Harsha Navaratne of Sewalanka in Colombo and C. Soloman of the Health Ministry (now in UNICEF).  Supplemented by a memo from Lakshi Abeysekera of Sewalanka at the end.

The citizens of Thāmilīlam who struggled out of the inferno of war in the north-east corner of the northern Vanni during the months of January-May 2009 journeyed on foot or boat. During the first few months the escapee refugees got out mostly in dribs and drabs. But circa 20-23 April, and then again in mid-May during the last stages as the LTTE resistance was smashed, two hordes of “Thāmilīlam people” poured out of the confines of the LTTE corral.

These Thāmilīlam people, or TEP as I shall present them in shorthand, included Tiger fighters in civilian attire as well as other Tiger functionaries. It is probable that all the TEP were in a state of exhaustion. Bombs and bullets in that context do not distinguish between age, gender, class, or military/civilian status.

Attending to the needs of the TEP from the month of January 2009 onwards within the parameters of the government’s insistence on security precautions was a feat of considerable coordination for combination of military and government personnel, foreign and local INGO personnel, local NGO functionaries, hired local staff and volunteers assembled for the purpose. My focus here will be restricted to the large body of Tamil refugee people whom these agencies had had to deal with in May 2009 and the special operation to feed them mounted at the former border post at Omanthai.


FEATURE ARTICLE: Policing the national capital: Commonwealth Games, community engagement and the threat of terrorism in Delhi August 5, 2010

Posted by southasiamasala in : Dash, Kamala Kanta, Features, India , comments closed

Kamala Kanta Dash

The Delhi Police are prepared more than ever before to face any terrorist attack. However, to succeed in their initiative to police terrorism they need a sustained community engagement policy. Counter-terrorism at present is facing a twofold challenge; one is the structural challenge that includes appointments, salary, procurement of weapons and high technology based surveillance systems and the second is the ideological challenge that has trapped the police in a repressive colonial model of policing which, in turn, has not allowed the police to develop belongingness with the people. The new amendment in the Delhi Police Act 2010 must target both these institutional and ideological aspects of reform.

“The Delhi Police is making whole-hearted efforts to improve the quality of policing in the city so as to be a model police force for the entire country.” Y. S. Dadwal, Police Commissioner of Delhi

It is both a privilege and a challenge to police a diverse and multicultural community of 18 million people belonging to many faiths, languages and ethnic identities. Policing the national capital has become the toughest job in the recent years given the increasing number of terrorist attacks. Delhi has faced three major terrorist attacks in the last decade and as per the intelligence sources it remains a site of impending attacks. Each attack has challenged the reputation and efficiency of the police, though every time the police have emerged more equipped to handle such a crisis. However, the upcoming Commonwealth Games (CWG) to be held from 3rd to 14th October 2010 will be a real test of the preparation that the Delhi Police have done since last serial blasts on 13 September 2008 and more specifically the cautionary preparation in the post-26/11 Mumbai attacks.


Big dreams, little direction: India’s foreign policy machine August 4, 2010

Posted by southasiamasala in : India, Merrington, Louise , comments closed

Louise Merrington

With the increasing tendency to link China and India in Western analyses of Asia, there is now a growing insistence by India that it be viewed by the international community on the same level as China, in spite of being far behind the latter in terms of infrastructure, development and economic influence. Although this hubris is not exhibited on an individual level by every official in the government or civil service responsible for foreign policy or defence, on a collective scale there appears to be a sense of entitlement which emanates from India but lacks clear direction – that is, India feels that it wants to achieve great things, but can’t articulate exactly what these things are. This has led to a series of missed opportunities.

These attitudes and outcomes have several roots, including a lack of cohesion within the foreign policy establishment, the overly bureaucratic and hierarchical structure of the Indian Foreign Service (IFS), and immaturity within the strategic policy sector. India is often touted as the ‘world’s largest democracy’, and as such a diversity of opinion is to be expected. At the moment, however, this diversity is translating into a lack of decisiveness and cohesion in terms of foreign policy.

Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao.  Too much advice for the PM?


Delhi Games: sport and politics August 3, 2010

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

Brian Stoddart

With the opening of the Commonwealth Games (CWG) in Delhi just two months away, the official handover of facilities to the organisers is now occurring.  The Indian mass media, however, is replete with stories of uncompleted buildings, faulty construction, and repair work already beginning.  That follows the mass floodings in Delhi that blocked traffic for hours, in some cases because new infrastructure put in especially for the Games failed to function adequately.  As if that were not enough, there is now a potential major corruption scandal with the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC), the anti-corruption watchdog, suggesting a widespread use of bloated tenders, kickbacks, use of inferior materials and other corrupt practices.

In turn, all this has led to the resurrection of arguments that the CWG has simply been another, albeit huger than normal, means of channelling funds into the elite areas of Delhi at the expense of more serious infrastructure improvements being made in the lives of the broader citizenry.

Children near renovated Nehru Stadium, New Delhi (Wikicommons)


Pakistan’s tax regime: new grief for the US funding machine? August 2, 2010

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

Auriol Weigold

ABC Radio National’s Saturday Extra on 24 July featured a fascinating interview with Akbar Zaidi, a visiting scholar in the Carnegie Endowment’s South Asia Program and a visiting professor at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies.  He spoke about Pakistan’s tax regime that allows the rich, owners of the country’s wealth, to avoid or evade paying tax.

Speaking from Karachi he said that of the 170 million Pakistani’s, only some 20 per cent pay tax, leaving a major burden to be borne by the poor.

The nature of the tax system where the rich make policy leaves loopholes in a largely undocumented economy with a complicit bureaucracy.  Politicians, landowners and business people own the wealth of the country and simply do not pay tax, nor is tax collection enforced. (more…)