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India struggling January 31, 2012

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

Brian Stoddart

First published here on 28 January 2012

India’s test cricket defeat in Adelaide was arguably the very worst of the eight they have now lost in a row while playing away from home.  Melbourne was a poor effort, Sydney worse then Perth was always going to be hard.  Adelaide, though, is a batting track as the Australians demonstrated and as the Indians might have been expected to show.  They capitulated, though.  Their bowling attack was always going to struggle, and that was added to by the reluctance to bring in more spin.  The batsmen were woeful, even if in a terrible showing Sachin Tendulkar had a reasonable enough series given everyone else’s performance.

Predictably, the Indian media is now in full cry with former players of all types (and varying success rates themselves) calling for wholesale change.  As cricket writer and historian Boria Majumdar said in Melbourne before the series started, India takes this very seriously, and a 4-0 humbling will bring national wrath upon the team.  That is because the dominance of cricket has been a sort of avatar for India’s increasing awareness of its rising place more generally in the world.  Every country has used sport like this: New Zealand and rugby, Australia and cricket, Brazil and football are just some obvious examples.  It is always difficult to pin down the nexus between sport and national profile, but there is a sussurus of sentiment that gives people pride in a victory, sadness running to anger in a defeat, especially in a streak of the kind Indian cricket is now in.

There is a curiously stronger than normal analogy between the cricketers and India more generally that is worth contemplation.

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China-India relations in 2012: bilateral ties set to expand January 27, 2012

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

Sergei DeSilva-Ranasinghe

First published in Future Directions International on 25 January 2012

After holding talks for the 15th round of boundary negotiations in New Delhi on 16-17 January, China’s State Councillor, Dai Bingguo, and India’s National Security Advisor, Shivshankar Menon, signed the ‘India-China Agreement on the Establishment of a Working Mechanism for Consultation and Co-ordination on India-China Border Affairs’, which will be headed by high-level diplomatic and military officials from each country.

Building on the spirit of previous border agreements signed in 1993, 1996 and 2005, the 2012 accord is an important practical and symbolic step towards normalising bilateral ties, as both countries pledge to build what has been officially termed the ‘India-China Strategic and Co-operative Partnership for Peace and Prosperity’.

From a broader strategic perspective, the new working mechanism is a clear indication that China and India see increasing benefit from peaceful relations, although they remain strategic rivals competing for regional influence and engage in contradictory and counterproductive acts.

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Pakistan’s clash of institutional authority January 25, 2012

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

Guest author: Moeen Cheema, Teaching Fellow, ANU College of Law

This article was first posted in East Asia Forum on 22 January 2012.

Pakistan experienced dramatic political crises in 2011, including the covert raid carried out by the US on 2 May, which killed Osama bin Laden, and the killing of two civilians by CIA contractor Raymond Davis.

It was in these circumstances that an American businessman of Pakistani origin, Mansoor Ijaz, wrote a ‘memorandum’ to the US military commander urging an intervention on behalf of Pakistan’s elected government, which seemed on the verge of being toppled by the country’s historically powerful military establishment. Mr Ijaz, for reasons that are not yet clear, later alleged that this memorandum was written on behalf of Pakistan’s ambassador to the US, Hassain Haqqani, a close aide of President Asif Ali Zardari.

The scandal threatens to sink the fragile government, with the courts — as well as the military — now bearing down on Pakistan’s embattled politicians. The Supreme Court has created a high-powered judicial commission to investigate the origins and veracity of the memo. But the government seems set to fight what it sees as the military establishment, the court and the opposition’s common designs to oust an elected president. There is some basis for such paranoia. Every elected leader in Pakistan’s history has been proclaimed a threat to national security at some stage by the military establishment in an effort to justify greater say in the country’s affairs. Pakistan has undergone three major coups, and the military has ruled the country for nearly half of its post-colonial existence. Even during this latest period of elected rule the military has remained powerful, as the government ceded to it ultimate responsibility for territorial defence, national security and foreign policy.

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Politics grips Pakistan January 20, 2012

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

Alicia Mollaun, Crawford School, ANU

Reprinted from Inside Story. Read the full article

Back in Islamabad after spending Christ mas and New Year in Australia, I find that the “Memogate” scandal is on everyone’s lips and relations between the military and the ruling Pakistan People’s Party have continued to deteriorate. The controversial memo, leaked to Pakistan’s media late last year and allegedly authosed by President Asif Ali Zardari, sought the assistance of the Obama administration in pressuring senior military and intelligence figures to “end their brinkmanship aimed at bringing down the civilian apparatus.”

With US–Pakistan relations already fraught, the release of the memo whipped the media into a frenzy, fuelling speculation that the prime minister would sack the chief of the army and that the military, in response, would unseat the government. For the embattled civilian government, the scandal opened up a new and destabilising front.

Civil–military relations have always been uneasy in Pakistan, a nation that has been ruled for over half of its existence by the military. No democratically elected government has ever been replaced with another democratically elected government, and governments rarely serve a full term before being ousted. All of which can make living in Pakistan depressing and at the same time fascinating.

Read the full article in Inside Story.

South Asia in 2011: a year of strained relations January 17, 2012

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

Sandy Gordon

First published as  part of a special feature: 2011 in review and the year ahead, in East Asia Forum, 3 January 2012.

South Asia is a vast region encompassing eight nations (if we include Afghanistan) and over one-fifth of humanity. It is difficult to do it justice in this short summary of the year’s events.

Foremost among the region’s significant developments is the killing of Osama bin Laden in a US raid on 2 May. This is important not just for its effect on al-Qaeda, but because it made possible Washington’s claim that the US could now leave Afghanistan with its ‘mission accomplished’. By the end of 2014 there will be only a rump of about 20,000 NATO troops remaining.

At the same time, the raid also triggered a marked deterioration in the US-Pakistan relationship, already troubled by the Raymond Davis affair. The net result is that although the impetus on the US to leave Afghanistan has increased, the prospect of an orderly departure and satisfactory final outcome has declined.

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2012 Uttar Pradesh Assembly election and the future of UPA January 13, 2012

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

Vikas Kumar

The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government has been paralyzed among other things due to the populist politics of Mamata Banerjee, the leader of All India Trinamool Congress (Trinamool). Dr Manmohan Singh’s historic Bangladesh visit was almost derailed, when mercurial Mamata vetoed the agreement on water sharing. The list of domestic legislations and policy initiatives that have been delayed or even mothballed to keep Mamata in good humour is long: Lokpal Bill, FDI in retail sector, disinvestment of public sector undertakings, and rail fare rationalization. To add insult to injury, Mamata now seems to be keen to get rid of Congress. There can be four reasons why Trinamool may want to change course. First, it does not make sense to contest the next local and parliamentary elections as an ally of a corruption-tainted party. Second, Trinamool is trying to monopolize the non-Left vote in West Bengal. Third, Trinamool now faces a weakened Left Front in West Bengal and is no longer critically dependent on the support of a national party. Fourth, Trinamool is trying to strike roots in other provinces like Uttar Pradesh and Manipur. But Trinamool may postpone its exit from UPA in order to get extra-financial support from the centre for West Bengal and even continue to ‘support’ UPA if an utterly humiliated Congress continues to tolerate Mamata’s populism at the expense of the central exchequer.

Ironically, Congress has no one to blame but itself. Mamata’s assembly election campaign should have alerted Congress long ago that Trinamool will out-left the Left Front. But to get rid of the Left Front, a key ally of UPA-I (2005–2009), Congress promoted Trinamool at the cost of national security. For instance, in the run-up to West Bengal assembly election (2011), the central government extended half-hearted support to the Left Front government’s police campaign against Maoist extremism, the biggest internal security threat according to Dr Singh. Dr Singh also overlooked the misuse of the Railway ministry by Trinamool’s campaign machinery. More importantly, as I have argued earlier, Congress has ignored its long term interests in its single-minded quest to weaken the Left.

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“Containment” no longer in the lexicon January 8, 2012

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

Auriol Weigold

President Obama’s Defence Strategy Review, Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for the 21st Century Defence, published on 5 January 2012, states that “we will of necessity rebalance towards the Asia-Pacific region … This includes emphasising existing alliances and expanding cooperation to ‘ensure collective capability and capacity for securing common interests’”. Addressing China’s emergence as a regional power, the Review reports that both countries have a strong stake in regional peace and stability and an interest in establishing a cooperative relationship.  Nonetheless, the United States will continue to ensure access to, and an ability to operate across, the broader Indian Ocean region.

In an interview Australia’s Ambassador in Washington, Kim Beazley, said on 6 January, that the U.S. commitment is to access to vital waterways, “ … is a commitment to the global commons …  It is not a containment strategy”.  This makes all the more strange a statement attributed to Australian Foreign Minister, Kevin Rudd, however inaccurately reported by the Times of India on the 1 and 2 December 2011, that Australia, India and the United States may frame a tripartite security pact. Mr Rudd said that his message had been misrepresented.

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