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Indian Ocean ‘strategy’: don’t make China nervous March 30, 2012

Posted by southasiamasala in : Weigold, Auriol , comments closed

Auriol Weigold

To borrow from an earlier piece published here at the start of this year (8 Jan 2012), I cited President Obama’s Defence Strategy Review, (5 Jan 2012) in which it was stated that “we will of necessity rebalance towards the Asia-Pacific Region …”, and I take this as an element in raising Chinese concerns.

In his excellent piece  “Indian Ocean: don’t militarise the ‘great connector’”, (29 Mar 2012) Sandy Gordon set out the security dilemma in the Indian Ocean region, and argued against any proposals, whether Indian ‘commonalities’ with the US in terms of strategic outlook, or borne of the US-Australian alliance, that make China nervous.

India, he has argued, is in a strategic ‘box seat’ in the Indian Ocean. Another view is that Australia is also in a box seat in the Indo-Pacific region. As a middle power able, if it chooses to do so, to take an independent stance in its own national interest – including its long-term engagement with China that is much broader than trade – and on its relations in the Indian Ocean region, notably with India and the US. (more…)

Indian Ocean: don’t militarise the ‘great connector’ March 29, 2012

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

Sandy Gordon

The Indian Ocean is Australia’s back yard – or at least if you live in the West.  It also plays a major role in transporting energy from the oil and gas-rich Persian Gulf to Australia’s principal trading partners, China and Japan.  With each passing year, these and other East Asian powers become more dependent on the free passage of oil over the Indian Ocean.

This makes China nervous.  India and China have an ambivalent relationship. On the one hand they have common interests based on growing trade and similar positions in the WTO and on climate change. But on the other, they have abiding suspicions over the longstanding border dispute and what India sees as Chinese meddling in its own back yard – South Asia and the Indian Ocean region.

USN Los Angeles class nuclear powered submarine


Indian literature, world literature March 26, 2012

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

Shameem Black, ANU

This article appeared in the most recent edition of the East Asia Forum Quarterly, ‘Ideas from India’  and on East Asia Forum 17 March 2012.

Literature and literary scholarship from India, though sometimes unacknowledged, have been at the forefront of revitalising interest in the idea of ‘world literature’ — a field of study that stresses global circulation, transcultural reading practices, broad structural patterns, and often unexpected connections among books and readers.

As India has grown in prominence on a world stage, so too have its writers. The 1990s and 2000s witnessed a dramatic boom in Indian writers working in English, while the study of India’s many literary traditions has grown in strength in universities outside of India. The emerging concept of world literature has much to gain from debates that have long held sway within the study of the subcontinent.


Pakistan and Russia seek enhanced cooperation March 24, 2012

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

Serge Desilva Ranasinghe

This post first appeared on Future Directions International on 21 March 2012.


As part of its changing foreign policy focus, Pakistan’s rapprochement with Russia is one of its most significant attempts to shape the post-2014 geo-political order in Afghanistan. Islamabad is looking to alternative strategic partners to counterbalance India’s rising influence in Afghanistan, Central Asia and the Middle East and its own strained ties with the US. In this context, the recent visit to Moscow of Pakistani Foreign Minister Ms Hina Rabbani Khar on 7-9 February is symbolic of the rapidly transforming relationship between Islamabad and Moscow.


Such bilateral interaction is a significant departure from the acrimonious 1980s and 1990s, when Pakistan heavily supported the Afghan Mujahadeen against invading Russian forces in Afghanistan and accused Russia of covertly supporting Baluchi separatists. Similarly, Russia had also accused Pakistan of providing support to Islamist insurgents active in Chechnya and Tajikistan.

In Moscow, the Pakistani Foreign Minister relayed her country’s growing interest in developing stronger ties with Russia through trade and investment, especially in the areas of joint co-operation in Pakistan’s energy sector. The visit is indicative of the vastly improved bilateral relations between the two countries over the last decade. For example, according to the website of the Consulate-General of Russia in Karachi, two-way trade between Russia and Pakistan increased from a minute US$92 million in 2003, to US$441 million in 2006 and US$630 million in 2008.


The Indus unchained March 22, 2012

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

Muhammad Ali Shah and A. Ercelan

First posted Dawn.com March 15, 2012

In celebrating the contribution of nature to human prosperity, we must also recall society’s ingratitude to our rivers despite their generosity. For our own sustainable security, we cannot continue to make nature a slave to our greed. The damage by heavy rains and severe floods are one reminder of the furious rebellion by cruelly mistreated forests, soil and water.

Across the country, the livelihood of millions of peasants depends upon secure supplies of clean freshwater. However, the peasants abuse their leashed rivers. Both the irrigation (and drainage) system and farm methods deny adequate water to other tail-end and downstream peasants.

We emphasise that amidst extensive peasant suffering, there are also several million fisherfolk who are excluded from decent livelihoods. Extreme inequality in land ownership is a major constraint in equitable access to water, and leads to mass poverty. Only serious land reform can rapidly eradicate poverty caused by the inequitable ownership of productive natural resources.

As the UN Research Institute for Social Development recently reminded us, when domestic demand is limited because of severely unequal livelihoods, export-led growth cannot create sufficient synergy between agriculture and industry for rapid eradication of mass deprivation. …

Read the full article.

The Indus Water Treaty revisited March 22, 2012

Posted by sandygordon in : Future Directions International, India, Pakistan, Weigold, Auriol , comments closed

Auriol Weigold

This post first appeared on the FDI web site on 21 March 2012.

The Indus Water Treaty (IWT) (1960), negotiated by Indian Prime Minister Nehru and then President of Pakistan, Field Marshall Mohammad Ayub Khan under the eye of the World Bank, agreed on the utilization of the six rivers of the Indus Basin to benefit each country. The Treaty, intended to settle inter-country water disputes and govern water usage, allocated the Indus, Chenab, and Jhelum Rivers to Pakistan, and the Ravi and Beas (Sutlej in Pakistan) to India. These rivers have, however, been the subjecs of on-going disputes and failed arbitration under IWT provisions.

Differences over water-sharing were evident pre-independence and persist in disputes today as both countries prove unable to resolve issues in the ever more rapidly escalating water resource rivalry, increasing tension across other already fraught issues in their bilateral relationship.


SAM recommends …’India: The Next Superpower?’ March 21, 2012

Posted by southasiamasala in : Gordon, Sandy, India, South Asia Masala Recommends , comments closed

Two recent works are of great interest to those of us who have traced India’s rise to power over the years.  The pieces question whether India will ever become a superpower, and even if it should aspire to that role.  One is a single authored article by the eminent Indian historian, Ramachandra Guha, titled ‘Democratic to a fault’, and the other a more in-depth analysis by a team put together by the London School of Economics and including Guha, on the subject: ‘India: the next superpower?’.

The pieces argue that India should concentrate on its manifest internal problems of governance and related issues before it can hope to rise as a world power.  These problems have recently been highlighted by the massive 2G scam and other cases of mega-corruption.  Such pathology and corruption is, in turn, closely connected to the social dislocation engendered by poor performance in areas such as nutrition, health and education at the grass-roots.  Failure to share the benefits of development, not so much through lack of policy but more because of issues of governance, has  in its turn been a significant factor in the Maoist insurgency – to take one of a number of available examples – now troubling nearly a third of India’s districts.  And development itself is leading to substantial  environmental problems, which will need to be addressed before India can advance on a sustainable basis.

SAM leaves the reader to judge for herself.  And we would also welcome any opinion or commentary.  For references, see below:

Guha, Ramachandran, 2012, ‘Democratic to a Fault?’, Prospect Magazine, 25 January 2012, as at  http://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/2012/01/democratic-to-a-fault-ramachandra-guha-indias-future/.

LSE Team: ‘India: The Next Superpower’, as at http://www2.lse.ac.uk/IDEAS/publications/reports/SR010.aspx and follow the links.

Resisting censorship in India March 19, 2012

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

Anjali Monteiro and K.P. Jayasankar, TISS

This article appeared in the most recent edition of the East Asia Forum Quarterly, ‘Ideas from Indiaand on East Asia Forum 2 March 2012.

Censorship in India comes in various forms. There is, of course, the ubiquitous censorship of the state, which censors films and plays before release, bans websites and decides what is in the national interest. There is also the censorship of the market, which decides what Indians should see and have market access to, and leaves little space for content that is seen as commercially unviable. And of course there is the vigilante brand of censorship, which is ever ready to defend any so-called attack on ‘Indian culture’.

The notion of censorship is closely linked with the moral panic that informs India’s popular debate about media and new technologies. Many Indians are prepared to take on the role of the ‘moral police’. They are everywhere: in the legislative assemblies, boardrooms, courtrooms, colleges, cinemas, cyber cafes, gardens and pubs, on the street, and even in police stations. The Hindu right-wing parties and groups which demonstrate their love for ‘Indian culture’ by molesting girls wearing jeans and vandalising Valentine’s Day celebrations are unfortunately only the tip of the iceberg.


‘A third of the RAN is based in the Indian Ocean’ Vice Admiral Ray Griggs, Chief of the Royal Australian Navy March 14, 2012

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

Serge DeSilva-Ranasinghe

An FDI Feature Interview first published on 12 March 2012

Key Points
–      One third of the RAN operates in the Indian Ocean.
–      HMAS Stirling, located in Western Australia, is the RAN’s largest base.
–      While the Asia-Pacific will continue to remain critically important, the Indian Ocean has markedly risen in importance to the RAN.


At a time of economic turbulence and escalating regional geopolitical challenges the Royal Australian Navy’s chief, Vice Admiral Ray Griggs, recently spoke with Sergei DeSilva-Ranasinghe about the Navy’s ongoing commitments to maritime security in the Pacific Ocean, the increasing pre-eminence of the Indian Ocean, and the dynamics of the Australian defence department’s ongoing Force Posture Review.

Read this interview – Vice Admiral Ray Griggs,A Third of the RAN is in the Indian Ocean’

Australia–India relations and the economy of ideas March 14, 2012

Posted by southasiamasala in : India, Maclean, Kama , comments closed

Kama Maclean

This article appeared in the most recent edition of the East Asia Forum Quarterly, ‘Ideas from Indiaand on East Asia Forum 9 March 2012.

At the Sydney Cricket Ground on 5 January 2012, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard spoke confidently about the upswing in Australia–India relations – which had been strained since the violent attacks on Indian students in 2009 – citing cricket as the ‘common language’ of the relationship.

In the closing days of 2011, Gillard had also helped to remove an important irritant in the bilateral relationship as she championed and pushed through a change to Australian Labor Party policy, which had precluded the sale of uranium to India.

Despite these developments, there is an urgent need to reimagine the Australia–India relationship, emphasising mutual exchange and collaboration as the means of engagement. The economy of ideas – of education, and of research and development – hold enormous potential here.