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2012 Uttar Pradesh Assembly Election: Samajwadi Party’s Waterloo? November 29, 2011

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

Vikas Kumar

The forthcoming assembly election in Uttar Pradesh (UP), the world’s most populous sub-national administrative unit, marks the beginning of the long campaign for India’s 2014 General Election. In an earlier post, I have argued that the outcome of UP’s election will influence the choice of prime ministerial candidates and the strategies of political parties for the next general election. In this post I will discuss the existential crisis facing Samajwadi Party (SP), an important regional party based in UP.

The rise of SP in the early 1990s was propelled by the insecurity and aspirations of the middle castes (also known as the Other Backward Castes, OBCs) and Muslims. This was the time when sections of upper castes were supporting Hindu nationalism and economic liberalization to rejuvenate their hegemony that was collapsing in the aftermath of the Shah Bano case, which encouraged radical Islamists, and the implementation of Mandal Commission’s recommendations, which empowered the lower and middle castes. In this atmosphere, SP’s secular socialist manifesto targeted lower and middle caste and Muslim voters with mixed success. On the one hand, its bitter clash with its ally Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) deprived SP of lower caste support. On the other, the decline of Congress in UP and rise of Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) allowed SP to consolidate Muslim votes. In the late 1990s marginalization of BJP’s OBC leader Kalyan Singh buttressed SP’s OBC credentials. As a result SP came to be identified with OBCs, particularly the Yadavs, and Muslims. The Yadav–Muslim combination worked electoral wonders in UP between 1993 and 2007, when SP secured between 17 and 26 per cent of the votes cast in elections and its leader Mulayam Singh Yadav served as the chief minister for six years (1993–95, 2003–07). (The Yadav–Muslim alliance was more effective in neighbouring Bihar, where it helped Lalu Prasad Yadav stay in power for 15 years between 1990 and 2005.) SP also managed to leverage its position in UP to emerge as a national player. Mulayam Singh served as the defence minister (1996–98) in the Third Front government and was also considered for the position of prime minister.


NATO attack on Pakistani border post: what it means November 28, 2011

Posted by sandygordon in : Afghanistan, Gordon, Sandy, Pakistan , comments closed

Sandy Gordon

The raw facts are known. A long-standing Pakistani military base just within  the northern border of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) was attacked by helicopters and possibly fixed-wing NATO aircraft on 26 November and at least 25 Pakistani officers and men killed. Since then, Pakistan has reacted by “indefinitely” closing border traffic for NATO goods from Pakistan into Afghanistan and giving the US 15 days to vacate its UAV base at Shamsi.

What is less well known is what prompted the NATO night attack. NATO is investigating. But it is possible that firing came from the base in support of a Taliban training facility, which was being concurrently attacked by US special forces. Or it may simply have been the result of a mix-up – all too easy in night fighting in the complex tribal area.


Afghanistan: food scarcity threatens three million people November 24, 2011

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

Sergei DeSilva-Ranasinghe

First published on 23 November 2011 in Future Directions International


After a devastating drought destroyed 80 per cent of crops in northern, north-eastern and western Afghanistan, up to 14 of the country’s 34 provinces are expected to face a serious shortage of food in the coming weeks. To make matters worse, treacherous winter conditions threaten to inundate supply routes with snow and prevent the timely arrival of desperately needed relief aid. (more…)

Understanding China’s South Asia policy November 24, 2011

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

Vikas Kumar

China’s aggressive posturing in recent boundary disputes with Japan, India, Vietnam, and the Philippines caused widespread concern in the Asia-Pacific. But sensing growing opposition, China renewed cooperation with neighbours to calm tensions. Still policy-makers across the region are panicking at the prospect of China’s premature rise as the regional hegemon. The combination of aggressive and peaceful moves that characterize China’s foreign policy, therefore, bears closer scrutiny.

At least, four competing, but not mutually exclusive, explanations can be offered to explain China’s foreign policy in South Asia, which relate to different understandings of intentions and compulsions of the Chinese leaders and, by implication, different ways of engaging with a rising China. A fuller understanding of different explanations and their inter-relationship is, therefore, indispensable. (more…)

South Asia Masala Recommends … November 22, 2011

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

A Pakistan spring?

Although one swallow certainly doesn’t make a spring in this case, see this report of an article in the New York Times repeated in the now more accessible Indian Express.  It deals with two very different Pakistani video clips, both of which have gone ‘viral’. As the piece points out, while originating from opposite ends of the political spectrum, each illustrates the current dissatisfaction within Pakistan’s enormous youth ‘bulge’ with the government, corruption and general use of conspiracy theories to explain all Pakistan’s ills.  As the friend who passed this on remarked of the video mocking the military and misuse of religion: “what guts.  Let’s hope they get to keep them …” But judge for yourself.  First read the article in the first link then watch the video.



Behind Gillard’s India uranium sale decision November 19, 2011

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

Sandy Gordon

This article first appeared in The Australian on 18 November. The Australian is no longer available on the internet except on subscription.

Julia Gillard would have been more politically comfortable had she left the issue of uranium sales to India rusting in the ‘parking lot’. The pressing questions is therefore: why now?

There are obviously a number of factors involved, but it is clearly no accident that her announcement was made on the eve of the visit of President Obama, who came to announce a new US engagement in Asia and an enhanced role for Australia.

The new US strategic thrust is mainly about the rise of China and relative decline of the US.  With bin Laden dead and after years of US ‘boots on the ground’ in the Middle East and South West Asia, Washington has concluded that its wars are now providing security for others such as China to ‘free ride’, while America pays a price it can ill afford in blood and treasure.  All this saps America’s capacity to play in the real game, which has now shifted to Asia.

Gillard and Obama at APEC – next stop for India?


Future Directions International Strategic Weekly Analysis November 14, 2011

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

FDI’s Strategic Weekly Analysis 9 November 2011 has two pieces of South Asia interest:

“India seeks energy security from thorium”

In early November 2011, India announced ambitious plans to exploit the nation’s abundant thorium reserves as a low-carbon, less radioactive, alternative to uranium. The new “safer” power plant, to come online by the end of the decade, will promote Indian energy autonomy and represents a significant opportunity, within which Australia should aim to create synergies.

“India and Maldives to announce closer co-operation”

Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh will lead the Indian delegation to the 17th South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation (SAARC) meeting, to be held in the Maldives this week. PM Singh is set to further entrench ties between India and the Maldives by announcing a number of new measures, aimed at enhancing bilateral co-operation. The new “umbrella” agreement is, in part, an attempt by India to counter China’s growing influence in the Maldives.

Indian Parliamentary Speaker’s Iran visit indicative of developing ties November 13, 2011

Posted by sandygordon in : DeSilva-Ranasinghe, Serge, India , comments closed

Sergei De Silva-Ranasingha

For the latest on this important developing relationship click here to be linked to Future Directions International.

Inching closer to sustainable peace in Nepal November 4, 2011

Posted by southasiamasala in : Dowler, Amy, Nepal , comments closed

Amy Dowler

On the evening of Tuesday 1 November 2011, leaders from each of Nepal’s major political parties reached agreement on the integration of former Maoist combatants into the country’s military. The agreement resolves the chief outstanding issue in the country’s protracted peace process, and should allow the Constituent Assembly to turn its full attention to the task of constitution drafting.

The seven-point agreement, designed to provide a “detailed blueprint for the completion of the peace process”, comes five years after the original peace agreement ending the decade-long People’s War, and three and a half years after Constituent Assembly elections, held in April 2008 (The Kathmandu Post). Since those elections – in which the Maoists received the highest share of votes but not an outright majority – Nepal has seen the back of four Prime Ministers, three of them arguably casualties of the former combatant integration issue.

Singha Durbar, Kathmandu


US drawdown plans seek Af-Pak co-operation November 3, 2011

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

Sergei DeSilva-Ranasinghe

This article was first posted in Future Directions International on 26 October 2011

US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, during a visit to Pakistan and Afghanistan last week, accompanied by a high-level delegation, met with Pakistani Prime Minister, Syed Gilani, and then Afghan President, Hamid Karzai, to strengthen Pakistan’s resolve to cooperate more emphatically in the lead up to the US withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2014.

The visit to Pakistan did achieve some of its outwardly stated aims; namely, enhanced Afghan-Pakistan co-operation and greater Pakistani co-operation with the US, in tackling the threat posed by the Taliban. The specific concern is the powerful 10,000-strong Haqqani network, which operates from within Pakistani territory. “We believe that Pakistan has…the ability to encourage, push, squeeze…the Haqqanis and the Afghan Taliban…to participate in the peace process,” said Clinton.

Yet, there was a divergence of opinion on how the US strategy should be prosecuted. For example, while the US intends to fight the Taliban and simultaneously seek to negotiate, Pakistan insisted that a ceasefire in Afghanistan is a necessary confidence-building measure to set the stage for negotiations. Similarly, Pakistan also cited the lack of military resources at its disposal for major offensive operations in North Waziristan.