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Last hour games September 27, 2010

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

Brian Stoddart

In an almost perfectly scripted but horrible denouement the Delhi Commonwealth Games have now been hit by a controversy over the state of the athletes’ village, the collapse of a footbridge at the main stadium, and an outbreak of dengue fever. The combination has seen some individual athletes decide to miss the event, and some entire countries are still considering their options. At one point prominent teams from Commonwealth members like Scotland and New Zealand seemed poised not to attend. However, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh stepped in to seemingly exercise authority, Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dixit turned up personally to supervise the village clean up and Suresh Kalmadi, everybody’s favourite bad guy as Chair of the Organising Committee, has assumed responsibility for all the problems.

The Games will proceed but almost certainly with problems and some of them may be serious. The accommodation issue has been especially damaging because it has somehow captured the deep-seated cultural divisions that lurk just underneath the Games veneer. When officials from New Zealand and elsewhere pre-inspected the site before the arrival of their athletes, they immediately went public with how “filthy” it all was and declared their people could not live there.  The kneejerk OC response was that standards differed between India and those countries and that most arrivals would find the accommodation acceptable. That was both right, and wrong – the former as a statement of the obvious, the latter as a clear evasion of a problem that should have been prevented.

CWG Federation chair Mike Fennell has said the Games will proceed, but that India has suffered a huge blow to its reputation given all the problems that have emerged. That was more sensitive than Australian Olympic boss John Coates’ astonishing declaration that the Games should never have been awarded to Delhi, and that the city still had the Games only because the CWGF’s understaffing and underfunding prevented it from exercising full control. Had it been the Olympics, he said, Delhi would have forfeited the right to stage the Games long ago.

Unfortunately, the Coates’ comment, in line with his normal arguments in which money always seems to provide the starting point, reveals the real thinking that exists inside a lot of international sports circles and also Australian ones about India and what might be called the “non-regular” Commonwealth members – a neo-colonialist assumption that places like India cannot organise anything. It is not that long ago, for example, that Greg Chappell’s stormy tenure as India’s cricket coach failed essentially on the grounds of an intercultural breakdown.  The Chappell view was similar to that now pronounced by Coates – India thinks and acts differently from us and that, by definition, is not acceptable. (more…)

The Australia-India bilateral relationship—understanding its past to advance its future September 9, 2010

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

Auriol Weigold

Reprinted from AIIA Policy Commentary August 2010, Looking West: An Indian Ocean Perspective, pp.43–52. Read the full article

We are all too aware of the on-again, off-again nature of the Australia-India bilateral relationship. It has become characterised over time by neglect and blame as an outcome of foreign policy differences. An appreciation of the limits such differences imposed in the past might usefully preface Australia‘s bilateral initiatives when a new Government takes office and once again focuses on an India centered in our vision, rather than peripheral to it.

This paper will look briefly at the legacy left by Prime Ministers Menzies‘ and Nehru‘s foreign policies, based on their individual national values and priorities, demonstrated across the 1950s and beyond, and consequent policy divergences to a point that signaled only the unlikelihood of a high level bilateral relationship emerging. Arguably this legacy continues to interrupt any sense of continuity that recent Australian governments, notably the Rudd Government, have striven for.

A review of Australia‘s policy actions that have attracted blame from India, followed often by periods of neglect by both nations, show a pattern that has persisted. A substantial, strategic move that elevates Australia‘s standing in India may offer the means to construct the meaningful relationship with India that both sides of Australian politics envisage, moving out from trade, aid and soft power agreements.


All bets are off on Pakistan September 8, 2010

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

Brian Stoddart

Now that Salman Butt, Mohammad Aamer and Mohammad Asif have been formally charged by the International Cricket Council, and have allegedly admitted receiving money from a bookmaker, Pakistan now faces yet another serious set of investigations about the fixing of cricket matches.

It was alleged recently that these three players and possibly others had conspired to rig matches on the current tour of England where a series of inexplicable performances raised questions about the state of Pakistan’s playing commitment. That was a very polite way of suggesting that Pakistan had fixed the results and been paid off by the bookmakers who made a killing on the outcome. That very quickly raised suspicions about a string of similarly poor results on Pakistan’s tour of Australia last year, especially the Sydney test where the visitors managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Now doubts have been raised about and India-Sri Lanka result as well.

The deep problem is that Pakistan has form. In 2000, after an extensive two year investigation by a Pakistani judge, the then leading international player Salim Malik was banned from cricket for life after being found responsible for fixing results. The judge made a series of recommendations that included regular vetting of players’ bank accounts. Critics now are quick to point out that few if any of those recommendations were implemented, the implication being that Pakistani cricket officialdom was reluctant to recognise or deal with the problem.


The scourge of relentless inflation September 7, 2010

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

Raghbendra Jha and Raghav Gaiha

Inflation has been in the news for some time.  Recent media reports have come to the view that the RBI deems current inflation to be a scourge. This inflation has also been relentless. There seems to be broad consensus among analysts that the current spate of inflation had its roots in food price inflation.  Last year’s drought led to steep rises in retail food prices followed by hikes in procurement prices for farmers.  With a strengthening of the effects of the drought foodgrains had to be imported on a large scale, at prices higher than were being paid to Indian farmers.  This then led to a further round of increase in the prices paid to farmers and an inflationary spiral set in.  More recently, however, clear signs have emerged that inflation in the non-food sector has picked up even as food sector inflation has moderated somewhat (although still in the double digits), capacity constraints have been hit and inflationary expectations have become entrenched.

It is against this background that anti-inflation policy must operate.  In this article we want to make a couple of points about the current policy debate about inflation.


FEATURE ARTICLE: India’s ‘strategy’ as an emerging power September 2, 2010

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

Sandy Gordon

This paper is a short version of a paper submitted for publication.  It is not to be quoted or cited without the author’s permission.


As India rises to power, some critical questions need to be answered both by analysts of that rise and those in the Indian government determining the strategies to be adopted. The most fundamental of these questions relate to the relationship between India as a rising power, its neighbourhood (South Asia), its region (Asia) and the world. How do these different levels of security inter-relate in the context of a rising power? To what extent does a great power aspirant such as India need to ensure competitors cannot garner undue influence in its South Asian neighbourhood? What strategies might India adopt to deal with the enmeshed nature of dissonance between its domestic and neighbourhood arenas?

A measure of power that includes analysis at different levels of the global structure is somewhat different from, but not inimical to, more traditional measures. These tend to assess power in relation to population and economic strength, while often ignoring the geopolitical and regional circumstances within which a rising power is required to operate. For example, power transition theorists, and for that matter their critics, often tend to look at issues in this way. (Gideon Rose, ‘Neoclassical Realism and Theories of Foreign Policy’, World Politics, Vol. 51, No. 1, October 1998, pp. 144-72, p 146).

A number of analysts – especially of South Asia –  have, however, become interested in emerging powers in relation at least to the regional and global levels, if not the domestic, neighbourhood, regional and global levels we canvass here. This view of power acquisition from the point of view of a power’s region or neighbourhood ipso facto brings the domestic perspective on power acquisition into sharper focus, since the domestic-neighbourhood linkages are inevitably close – a phenomenon strongly evident in South Asia. It thus differs from the perspective of ‘offensive realists’, who claim that factors relating to the international order are always dominant.

India falls well short of a power that can function with ease within its South Asian neighbourhood. Indeed, policy makers in New Delhi are caught in a tightly woven, negative inter-relationship between dissonances within India and dissonances in South Asia. And events in South Asia are, in turn, heavily influenced by global developments. India appears powerless to sever these links.


Indus floods, 2010: why did the Sindhu break its agreement? September 1, 2010

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

Kuntala Lahiri-Dutt

Something as simple and as small as the fluttering of the wings of a butterfly might set off a tornado in another, far away, place. The ‘butterfly effect’ is a metaphor about ‘sensitive dependence on initial conditions’ and outlines how a small change in the initial condition of the system can potentially cause a chain of events leading to large-scale alterations of or major upheavals in weather events. Was it the flap of the wings of a butterfly that led to the disastrous floods of the Indus? Well, almost so.

If indeed it was an unpredictable (and small) event like the flapping of the wings of a butterfly, were the consequences preventable? What other atmospheric phenomena were connected to the floods in Pakistan? Connected with these questions is yet another point one needs to contemplate: whether it was just the one flood or a series of floods gushing down the channel of the Indus? Lastly, who was affected and with whom does the ultimate responsibility of dealing with the unprecedented scale of the rains lie?

Satellite view of the Indus River Valley – irrigated areas are green. Source: Wikipedia