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The Indian prime minister’s empty chair October 31, 2011

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

Auriol Weigold

Indian and Australian media have trawled backwards and perhaps forwards, over the message to Australia’s Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, in the Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh’s decision announced in August, that he would not attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Perth, taking place this last weekend in October.

Australian print media, notably the Financial Review on 28 October and The Weekend Australian, 29-30 October, have linked Manmohan Singh’s remarkable absence to Australia’s reversal of its agreement to sell uranium to India after Labor won the 2007 election.

Some Indian media were quick to correct that impression, pointing out that their Prime Minister has a heavy schedule of multilateral meetings in November (as has Julia Gillard) but also to indicate that Vice President Hamid Ansari who is in Perth in place of Manmohan Singh is expected to raise the issue of Australian uranium sales again.


China-India relations: border mechanism may herald southern silk route revival October 28, 2011

Posted by southasiamasala in : DeSilva-Ranasinghe, Serge, Future Directions International, India , comments closed

Sergei DeSilva-Ranasinghe

First published in Future Directions International on 12 October 2011.


The year 2011 appears to be shaping up as a transformational year in China-India relations. China and India seem to be taking sensible and pragmatic steps towards stabilising relations, which have the potential to herald a new era of prosperity and co-operation in the years ahead. In the latest indication of this improvement, China and India have agreed to create a border mechanism, termed the ‘Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on India-China Border Affairs’, to monitor and diffuse incidents along their shared 4,057 km border.


The idea was first broached early in April 2011, by Indian PM Dr Manmohan Singh and Chinese President Hu Jintao. There are strong indications that both countries intend to hold the 15th round of border talks by year’s end, which analysts say could lead to the signing of the much-anticipated border agreement. (more…)

Telangana – the UPA’s next trial? October 24, 2011

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

Brian Stoddart

With next week being Diwali the beleaguered UPA is fast approaching another self-imposed deadline, and there is every likelihood that soon after the festival Manmohan Singh and his colleagues will announce the creation of Telangana.  That will dismember Andhra Pradesh, India’s first linguistically-based state, and strike hard at the concept of states being based around language that has driven policy ever since 1953.

The present crisis began late in 2009 with Home Minister Chidambaram’s apparently accidental comment that the Centre would, indeed, countenance the creation of Telangana.  Celebrations and recriminations were about mixed, and the issue has dogged the government ever since.  It sent in Justice Krishna to write a report on the issue.  He raised several options but made no recommendations, and had one chapter sealed which alarmed many in both the “for” and “against” camps.  More recently Ghulam Nabi Azad, Union Minister and troubleshooter was placed in charge of Andhra Pradesh and called for more talks, a recommendation dismissed immediately by all sides.  The Government looks like it has let matters drift to this point so that the decision to create Telangana is now treated almost as a given, even though it would contain several problems for the Centre.

The districts subject to the Telangana claim, which includes the city of Hyderabad


Strategic cooperation bolsters Indo-Afghan ties October 21, 2011

Posted by southasiamasala in : Afghanistan, DeSilva-Ranasinghe, Serge, Future Directions International, India, Pakistan , comments closed

Sergei DeSilva-Ranasinghe

This post first appeared on Future Directions International on 19 October 2011.

India’s expanding footprint in Afghanistan received a major upgrade after a meeting in New Delhi on 4 October between Indian PM, Manmohan Singh, and Afghan President, Hamid Karzai, which led to the signing of an historic strategic partnership agreement. Though details are yet to be released, the accord is aimed at enhancing bilateral co-operation, particularly in defence and security, which India hopes will lead the way to the establishment of an annual strategic dialogue.

Since the US-led intervention in 2001, India’s relations with Afghanistan have developed as illustrated by the opening of four consulates in Herat, Jalalabad, Kandahar and Mazar-e-Sharif. India’s presence in Afghanistan today includes: growth in bilateral trade, which in early 2008 was worth US$358 million; the provision of US$1.2 billion to fund infrastructure development projects, such as the Zaranj-Delaram highway, Salma Dam power project in Herat Province, and Afghanistan’s new parliament; the presence of over 4,000 Indian engineers, labourers and security personnel (reportedly including 500 Indian police and security officials), working on various development projects; involvement in training Afghan police, civil servants and diplomatic staff; and further assistance in the spheres of education, health, energy, telecommunications and transport.

Singh and Karzai making a meal of it, May 2011


SAM recommends: PM’s 2G spectrum correspondence October 18, 2011

Posted by sandygordon in : By country, India, South Asia Masala Recommends , comments closed

The Indian Supreme Court has asked why no action was taken in the 2G scam, since the Prime Minister evidently knew about the dangers of the ‘first come first served’ system well before the 2G spectrum was awarded.  It is a good question, as the correspondence itself shows.  See also the report of the Supreme Court comments  in The Hindu.


India’s feet of clay October 16, 2011

Posted by southasiamasala in : India, Kumar, Vikas , comments closed

Vikas Kumar

India is gradually emerging as a major economy and defence power. But it faces numerous hurdles in its quest for regional ascendance. On the one hand, structural disabilities constrain its ambitions. On the other, a vision deficit limits its ability to overcome structural disabilities. One of the most significant hurdles is its inability to manage, let alone legitimately lead, South Asia, its own neighbourhood. A number of structural factors have gridlocked its attempts to overcome this hurdle.

First, India is much larger than all its neighbours put together, accounting for more than two thirds of its neighbourhood’s area, population, economic output, foreign exchange and gold reserves, and armed forces. The consequent power differentials translate into a sense of insecurity in its neighbourhood.

Second, given its central location within its neighbourhood and enormous geographical expanse, India shares land and maritime borders with almost all its neighbours. This is a perennial source of conflicts because international borders in South Asia remain unsettled and multilateral fora like SAARC that could arbitrate territorial disputes are weak. The possibility of territorial conflict accentuates the aforesaid sense of insecurity.

Third, Bangladesh and Pakistan, the next largest countries in India’s neighbourhood, are not small and, in fact, are among the seven most populous countries of the world. This fosters polarization in South Asia and constrains India’s regional leadership ambitions. The presence of an erstwhile global power (Russia) and a number of nuclear powers (China, Iran, Pakistan, and Russia) in the wider neighbourhood further constrain India’s ambitions. (more…)

Largest-ever naval exercise signals new era in Indo-Lanka co-operation October 16, 2011

Posted by southasiamasala in : DeSilva-Ranasinghe, Serge, Future Directions International, India, Sri Lanka , comments closed

Sergei DeSilva-Ranasinghe

First published by Future Directions International on 28 September 2011.


In a bid to strengthen naval and maritime interoperability and co-operation, India and Sri Lanka have held their first joint-naval exercise since 2005, the largest-ever naval exercise between the two countries. Codenamed SLINEX II, the six-day exercise was held from 18-23 September off Sri Lanka’s eastern coastline and involved 17 warships, including helicopters and maritime aircraft.


The Indian Navy’s involvement comprised one Destroyer (INS Ravijay), one Frigate (INS Shivlik), one missile corvette (INS Khanjar), one Landing Ship Tank (INS Gharial), two Fast Attack Craft (Cheriyam and Koradivh) and one maritime patrol aircraft. The Sri Lankan contribution to the exercise was two Offshore Patrol Vessels (SLNS Sagara and SLNS Samudura), a Fast Missile Vessel (SLNS Nandimihra), two Fast Gun Boats (SLNS Prathapa and Ranajaya) and six Fast Attack Craft.

As reported in the Indian daily, The Hindu, Rear Admiral Bisht, Flag Officer Commanding Eastern Fleet, Indian Navy, who commanded the Indian ships, affirmed India’s primary interest in the exercise: ‘The Sri Lankan Navy has gained a lot of experience in asymmetric warfare, basically handling attacks by small boats. We learnt from them how they handle these attacks.’

The manoeuvres were held against a backdrop of criticism from fringe ultra-nationalist Tamil parties in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. They accused the Sri Lankan Navy of a string of attacks against Tamil Nadu fishermen – allegations Sri Lanka has strongly denied. ‘India, which has been renovating the Kankesanturai port in Sri Lanka at a huge cost, is about to extend training and other assistance to the Sri Lankan Navy,’ said Dr Ramadoss, leader of the Tamil ultranationalist Pattali Makkal Katchi party. He added, ‘When the whole of Tamil Nadu is demanding that India have no relations whatsoever with Sri Lanka, it is improper for the Indian Navy to engage itself in joint naval exercises with the same country.’ (more…)

India and Asia’s ‘concert of powers’ October 6, 2011

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

Sandy Gordon

The CIA has assessed that India is a ‘swing state’ in Asia. By that it means that how India, as a rising power, chooses to lock into existing security structures will have important implications for the Asian security order.

India’s emergence is especially important in the context of the rise of China and apparent relative decline of the US. This confronts Australia with stark choices between its economic imperative not to alienate China and its long-standing strategic reliance on the United States.

Leading Australian analysts such as Hugh White (Power Shift) and Coral Bell (Living with Giants) have advocated that China and India be inducted into a ‘concert of powers’ consisting of those two plus the other big powers – the US, Japan and Russia. They thus hope to mitigate the perturbations that might otherwise be associated with China’s rise.


Half of the ‘quadrilateral’ – Bush meets Abe, Camp David, 2007.


Is China repeating the mistakes of the United States in Pakistan? October 5, 2011

Posted by southasiamasala in : Kumar, Vikas, Pakistan , comments closed

Vikas Kumar

The web security company McAfee’s recently concluded investigations seem to confirm the widely held belief that China is engaged in extensive cyber intelligence operations targeting other countries, particularly, the United States. And yet remarkably, China refuses to learn from common knowledge about the United States’ experience as the reigning global power.

It is well-known that the United States’ foreign policy of using extremist Islamic regimes as proxies against the Soviet Union has boomeranged and has also caused extensive damage to the political economies of a number of countries in the Middle East and South Asia. Unfortunately, China refuses to learn from the United States’ experience in this regard. In its quest for greater power in the global arena, China is supporting regimes it would love to disappear when it reaches the summit. For instance, China is using Pakistan as a force multiplier in South Asia and in the process it is supporting a regime that will not turn law-abiding after China achieves its strategic goals.


New hope for Gorkhaland? October 4, 2011

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

Amy Dowler

On 2 September 2011 West Bengal’s Legislative Assembly passed a bill forming the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) in the hilly Darjeeling region in the north of that state. This followed the 18 July agreement to create the new administrative entity between the Governments of India and West Bengal and the area’s ruling Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) party.

The formation of the GTA is a particularly interesting instance of India’s ongoing attempts to address the demands of its many minorities; representing as it does a ‘third way’, an alternative to the previous two strategies of carving out a new state and forming autonomous councils under the constitution’s Sixth Schedule. Something very similar to the latter has already been attempted in the Gorkhaland region, and the former constitutes the GJM’s core demand, a demand it maintains despite its participation in the current process.

For the last two decades Gorkha politics (Gorkha here refers to Nepali speakers or people of Nepali descent resident in India) has been in large part defined by a bitter split between those advocating for the relative merits of statehood and Sixth Schedule status. It remains to be seen how the GTA will differ from a Sixth Schedule council, and whether its creation will mollify those who desire full statehood.

Darjeeling. Credit: Alec Leonello. Supplied by author.