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China-Comoros ties: ‘A pragmatic cooperation of 36 years’ December 18, 2011

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

Sergei DeSilva-Ranasinghe

Key Points

Evolution of the Relationship

After the former-French colony declared independence in 1975, China was the first country to recognise the new nation and establish diplomatic relations. In the years that followed official two-way visits by senior Chinese and Comorian officials became a notable feature of the expanding ties. Bilateral institutions have since been formed to facilitate greater co-operation and exchanges, such as the Comoros-China Friendship Association and the Sino-Comoros Friendship Association. China began to dispatch medical teams to the Comoros in 1994, as part of its diplomatic strategy.

Strategically, there have been suggestions that, initially, China cultivated relations with the Comoros to counterbalance Soviet, Western, and now, growing Indian influence in the Indian Ocean region. The investments by China have secured the continued support of the Comoros for the one-China policy and also encouraged the Comoros to extend its support to China in 2001, when tensions escalated after a US surveillance plane collided with a Chinese jet fighter.


Will Buddhism lose its “special position” in democratic Myanmar? December 17, 2011

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

Vikas Kumar

The British disestablished Buddhism in Myanmar after abolishing the monarchy and the Burmese nationalists in turn projected the British rule, among other things, as a threat to Buddhism. After decolonization, Buddhism slowly reclaimed the public space. To begin with the Union of Burma’s Constitution (1947) recognized the “special position of Buddhism” (Art 21). The Sixth (Theravada) Buddhist Council (1954-56), which concluded on the 2500th Anniversary of Buddha’s nirvana, was organized in Myanmar under the patronage of Prime Minister U Nu. Then in 1961 Buddhism was formally adopted as the state religion. This, however, did little to secure U Nu’s political position. He was deposed soon after in 1962. The nominal changes introduced by the subsequent governments did not alter the relationship between Buddhism and the state, which marginalizes Christian tribes and Muslims.

Post-colonial Myanmar dominated by the Burmese Buddhists has, in fact, been fighting insurgent ethno-linguistic and religious minorities right from the day of its inauguration. However, a number of developments in the last few months have generated optimism about the long impending democratization of Myanmar, which in turn is expected to lead to secularization and de-ethnicization of the state. A comparative survey of histories and constitutions of countries closely related to Myanmar – Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand – where Theravada Buddhism is the dominant faith would help deciphering the future of the “special position” of Buddhism in Myanmar. (more…)

Speculation swirls around Pakistan’s President Zardari December 8, 2011

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

Sandy Gordon

President Zardari reportedly suffered a minor heart attack on December 6 and is now in Dubai.  The normally well informed STRATFOR reported that Zardari had been ‘incoherent’ in an earlier telephone conversation with President Obama.  According to the BBC, Zardari’s staff say the problem is minor and there is no question of his resigning.

There have, however, been a series of worrying developments in the Af-Pak region recently and it is quite possible either that it has all become too much for Zardari or that he has been given the nod to leave by the military.


‘Greater deterrence power': Iran’s evolving blue-water naval ambitions December 7, 2011

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

Sergei DeSilva-Ranasinghe

This posting first appeared here on Future Directions International

The fallout over Iran’s uranium enrichment programme, and the threat of war with the US and its allies, continues to give impetus to the expansion and modernisation of Iran’s military, particularly the Islamic Republic of Iran Navy. Today, the Navy forms an essential part of Iran’s foreign policy. It is considered by some to be Iran’s best-equipped, trained and organised armed forces institution – one which seeks to extend Iranian influence in seas far outside the Persian Gulf.

Iran has two dedicated naval forces, the first being the older 18,000-strong Islamic Republic of Iran Navy and the second the 20,000-strong and much-vaunted Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy, formed in 1985. Subjected to a strategic review in 2007, followed by a major reorganisation, both naval forces have since developed clearly defined roles. The Iranian Navy has developed blue-water capabilities, to operate in the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, while the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy specialises in asymmetrical warfare and operating in the Persian Gulf.

Iranian Kilo class submarine


Future Directions International Strategic Weekly Analysis December 2, 2011

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

This week’s Strategic Weekly Analysis has several pieces of South Asia interest:

India’s “Neighbourhood Policy”: Internal Challenges

India’s policy of engaging its neighbours appears to be paying dividends of late, as relations with all the surrounding countries seem to be improving. This is happening outside the framework of the South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation (SAARC), with New Delhi actively engaging neighbouring countries like Bangladesh, Nepal, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and, of course, Pakistan. India has also been very pro-active in its relationship with non-SAARC member, Burma.

Evolving “Mental Maps”: India as an Asia-Pacific Power

In April 1942, an invincible Japanese army stood at India’s eastern border after having conquered the whole of South-East Asia in the space of a few weeks. The Royal Navy largely withdrew to Africa and many believed that the gates to British India lay open. But the Japanese Army stopped where it was and never seriously tried to overthrow the British Raj. There were several reasons why, but underlying it all was the simple fact that India did not then form part of Japan’s “mental map” of Asia.