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Reddy and able: Congress problems in Andhra August 29, 2011

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

Brian Stoddart

As the UPA struggles through the Anna Hazare uproar and the continuing fallout from the Commonwealth Games as well as the 2 G matters, all of which have an impact on the government’s composition and fortunes, its potential political nightmare in Andhra Pradesh is taking clearer form. A few days ago a serious number of MLAs resigned from the state parliament, among them 24 Congress members who also indicated to Delhi that they would also leave the party. Given that the strong Congress cohort from Andhra has been central to the UPA’s power, this is potentially devastating.

The ostensible reason may be even more so. The recusants say that they have been moved primarily by the Delhi moves, via the CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation), to investigate what are said to be financial irregularities in the vast array of companies created by former Chief Minister the late Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy (YSR) and now inherited by his son, Jagan Mohan Reddy. Jagan has already resigned from Congress to lead the newly formed YSR Congress in frustration at not having been made Chief Minister to succeed his father. In the polite parlance of some of the commentary, it is suggested that the considerable wealth inherent in these companies sprang from “donations” by other companies seeking preferential treatment in development project tenders put up by the YSR government. In less polite terms, of course, the suggestion is that corruption helped YSR and his family build up a massive fortune.


The (Jan) Lok Pal fiasco August 25, 2011

Posted by southasiamasala in : India, Noor, Habeeb , comments closed

Habeeb Noor

Politics isn’t just the sorry story that many of have us have become used to reading about in newspapers. According to the popular discourse, the successive failures to deliver good governance, access to services, and an enhanced life, has bred anger, contempt and scorn for those representatives locked away in the ivory towers of the state and national assemblies. Ironically, the simplistic view contained within this discourse masks the complexity of the governance issues involved, and herein lies the nub of the problem in terms of the current Lok Pal bill debate.

It is in the context of this crumbling pile of false promises, especially the recent spate of corruption scams, that Anna Hazare’s phoenix like rise has gained prominence. He demands the passage of the Jan Lok Pal bill, which will create an all powerful ombudsman, bereft of all control. It is not likely that this magic bill will end all corruption – the disease eating away the Indian State. While no one can argue in favor of corruption, logic should also rein in thoughts on knee jerk, demagogue solutions.

Not a Gandhian struggle: Mahatma Gandhi on his salt march, 1931.


South Asia Masala Recommends … Arundhati Roy and Anna Hazare. August 24, 2011

Posted by sandygordon in : Gordon, Sandy, India , comments closed

Sandy Gordon

Arundhati Roy, author of that most beautiful of novels, The God of Small Things, and much splendid social commentary besides, is nothing if not brave. In taking on Anna Hazare and his supporters she is meeting head on the genuinely felt grievances about corruption of millions of Indians.  See her article in The Hindu.

Author and social commentator Arundhati Roy.


The ghost of games past August 17, 2011

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

Brian Stoddart

There must now surely be moments when senior political figures like Manmohan Singh and Sheila Diksit wish they had never heard of let alone promoted the Commonwealth Games.  Suresh Kalmadi, the disgraced politician and former supremo of the Organising Committee for the Delhi Games would be among the lamenters as he languishes in Tihar jail awaiting trial on corruption charges, and dealing with what might well be dementia.

The arrests roll on.  The latest include two principals of the Indian subcontracting company associated with Swiss Timing, the alleged beneficiary of one of the flawed tender processes in which Kalmadi is said to have been corrupt.  Another issue already out in the open concerns the award of two media contracts in India, the inference being that bribes were involved.  A further report, by a television journalist who “broke” the story about the London relay scam, has officials under Kalmadi’s direction being amazed by media interest in relatively small sums of money (in their view) going missing when much bigger sums were involved elsewhere in the organisation.

Several other possible embarrassments lie in wait.  They include five contracts awarded to Events Knowledge Services (EKS), privatised off from the International Olympic Committee and run by Craig McClatchey, former Secretary General of the Australian Olympic Committee.  EKS was brought in late in the piece when it seemed things were so bad that Delhi might even lose the Games.  The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report suggests that three of the contracts were awarded by direct nomination rather than by tender, with the other two won under terms of reference biased towards EKS.  Those done by direct nomination were said to be by Kalmadi under the influence of the Commonwealth Games Federation with which EKS has been closely associated. (more…)

ADF reviews plans for the IOR with a mining industry protection focus August 17, 2011

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

Auriol Weigold

This article first appeared on 3 August in Future Directions International


In an example of Australia’s increasing awareness of the importance of the central and north-west of this country, the ADF has announced a force structure review with a focus on onshore mining and offshore oil and gas infrastructure and operations. It includes a shift in defence strategy towards the Indian Ocean’s vital sea-lines of communication and choke points close to Australia.


In geopolitical terms, the review recognises Indian and Chinese ambitions to “manage” the IO. The Indo-Pacific route is not just about trade, including Australia’s, but possible disruptions; best illustrated currently in India’s force projection and China’s acquisition of interests in littoral ports. Australia’s bilateral relations, particularly with India, still have to overcome some major problems, but are of high strategic importance in an IO context. Such scenarios must also include the maritime aims of other Indian Ocean users, including, for example, West African nations, Russia, Iran and Pakistan. There are implications also for long-term Australian coastal security and trans-ocean transport. (more…)

Xinjiang unrest a long-term concern for China August 17, 2011

Posted by southasiamasala in : DeSilva-Ranasinghe, Serge, Future Directions International, South Asia - General , comments closed

Sergei DeSilva-Ranasinghe

This article first appeared in Future Direction International at www.futuredirections.org.au/publications


In recent weeks, ethnic unrest in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Regionhas left dozens of people either dead or wounded. Like Tibet, China’s efforts to stabilise Xinjiang represent a serious long-term challenge, especially in securing its domestic and regional interests. This is especially relevant in terms of the Muslim world, given that Xinjiang shares a border with eight neighbouring countries – of which many are Muslim – and whose co-operation China is dependent upon in its perennial fight against cross-border activities of Uyghur militants.


As China’s largest province, Xinjiang spans over 1.6 million square kilometres and amounts to one-sixth of China’s total land area. Indeed, the sheer size of the province makes it highly strategic, especially given that it shares a 5,600 km border with eight countries: Russia to the north, Mongolia to the northeast, Kazakhstan to the northwest, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Afghanistan to the west, Pakistan and India’s Leh District to the southwest. To its south, Xinjiang borders the fractious Tibet Autonomous Region while, to its east, it borders Qinghai and Gansu provinces.

In the sphere of natural resources, Xinjiang reportedly has large coal, oil and gas reserves, including deposits of copper, gold, iron, lead, mica, platinum, silver, sulphur, tin and uranium. It is this combination of strategic geography, natural resources and the quest for strategic depth and security that has made Xinjiang one of China’s most strategically important provinces. (more…)

The South Asia Cold War ‘quadrilateral’ redux? August 15, 2011

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

Sandy Gordon

This post first appeared here on the Future Directions International site.

For significant periods during the Cold War, South Asia and the Indian Ocean region were locked in the embrace of a four-power, ‘quadrilateral’ structure.  On one side were India and the former Soviet Union – New Delhi then had a ‘tilt’ towards Moscow.  For much of the period Pakistan stood beside the US against Soviet and ‘leftist’ influence in the region, being at one point even a member of the Central Treaty Organisation (CENTO).

After the Sino-US rapprochement in 1972, China, Pakistan and the US found themselves ranged in broad terms against India and the former Soviet Union: the ‘quadrilateral’ in effect re-emerged as an ‘pentagon’.  All of that, of course, changed with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, which opened out the long process of rapprochement between India and the US.


A happy ISI chief Lt General Ahmed Shuja Pasha, who reportedly recently ‘secretely’ visited China.


Gamini Goonesena, the unsung hero of Ceylon Cricket, passes away August 15, 2011

Posted by southasiamasala in : Guest authors, Sri Lanka , comments closed

Mahinda Wijesinghe

This article first appeared in Critiquing Cricket on 6 August 2011.

How many can lay claims of having captained his native land, played first-class cricket in England and Australia, captained Cambridge University, M.C.C.? And, then, on top of that, how many other than the three Indians (Ranjitsinhji, Duleepsinjhi and the Nawab of Pataudi Sr. who represented England no less) can lay claim to being the only Asian who represented the Gentlemen of England? That was our own Gamini Goonesena (b.16-2-1931) who passed away on 1 August 2011 in Canberra, Australia, aged 80 years.


Outcomes from my think-piece … and thoughts on pictorial imagery August 6, 2011

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

Michael Roberts

Michael Roberts notes that pictures are by courtesy of Ministry of Defence – and that images can be read in different ways according to subjectivity and degrees of partisanship.

Critical to any overview of the last stages of the war are whatever authentic images one can recover. I was first led to the value of this kind of data when working on what is conventionally referred to as “communal violence” in South Asia. In particular, two photographs depicting obscene acts of aggression at Borella Junction in Colombo on the 24/ 25th July 1983 captured my attention. These appeared initially in the Tamil Guardian and it was only subsequently that I discovered Chandragupta Amarasinghe, the brave cameraman who recorded these atrocities.

This article appears in full at http://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2011/07/24/outcomes-from-my-think-piece-and-thoughts-on-pictorial-imagery/

SAM recommends … Praveen Swami on Islam and the West August 3, 2011

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

EDITOR’S NOTE: ‘SAM Recommends …’ is a new feature of South Asia Masala. The editors will periodically identify what they consider to be important articles and commentary and post the link, along with a short comment.  This is the first offering under ‘SAM recommends …’

The prolific journalism and scholarship of Praveen Swami has produced a fascinating thesis in a recent op. ed. in The Hindu. See http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/article2201459.ece.

Swami’s thesis is that the US and its Western allies are resuming the characterisation of conservative Islam that served both the British and Americans so well over the long years of the British Empire, up to and including the Cold War.  According to Swami, during this period, conservative Islam was used as a bulwark against inconvenient democratic norms.  It was regarded as a monolithic force capable of delivering geostrategic gains by suppressing nationalistic urges.  There was also a conflation in the American mind between the God-loving, Christian revivalist defenders of democracy and equally uncompromising Islamic conservatives.  All of this is again on the table, as Washington searches for a dignified exit from Afghanistan on the basis of the dictum: ‘leave them alone and they will leave us alone’.

Swami won’t have a bit of it.  He says this constitutes a misreading of a conservative Islam that is profoundly anti-democratic and that has a wider international agenda to unseat the Western democracies from their current positions of power and influence.

One further thought: India is deeply unsettled by the approaching departure of NATO from Afghanistan and the near certainty that following this, we will in time see the re-emergence of the Taliban or something like it – a development that could also have an impact on India’s difficult neighbour, Pakistan.  India is part of the region and won’t be able to take up its kit bag and leave on the ‘big bird’ home.  Is this one of the main drivers of Swami’s concern?

Sandy Gordon, co-editor.