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FEATURE ARTICLE: Mamata’s khamota or the backlash of the bhadraloks April 27, 2012

Posted by southasiamasala in : Features, India, Lahiri-Dutt, Kuntala , comments closed

Kuntala Lahiri-Dutt

In 1990 after Lalu Prasad Yadav, the lower caste charismatic political leader of Bihar, became the Chief Minister of the state, the young, English-speaking, suave journalists flocked from metropolitan cities like New Delhi and Bombay to catch his sound bites on tape and camera. Their interest in Lalu was not only because of the man himself, but also his illiterate wife, his large family and his domesticated cows that apparently enjoyed chewing the grass of the palatial Chief Ministerial Bungalow built during the colonial raj. It has now become almost a myth amongst these journalists how Lalu chewed his paan (betel leaf) and spat the red spit out into a bowl, and how when asked one of those airy-fairy questions by an urbane young man from New Delhi, he raised one of his profuse buttocks to let out a loud fart before responding.

The story has become a journalistic legend because if there is one thing that India definitely respects, it is behavioural polish, whether in its businessmen or its politicians. Lalu’s lack of sophistication was deemed as crude and lower class, and he was made fun of in English-language dailies and weeklies, turning this story into a myth. There is however, an irony in the story; one might see the fart as the ultimate finger-up – bugger off as we say Down Under – to those who matter very little to Lalu. I am saying this in context of the recent rush of allegations against the Chief Minister of West Bengal, Mamata Bannerjee, by the regional, national and even international press. The didicule-ing and ‘lampooning’ of Didi, apparently in response to her mercurial temperament and unpredictable outbursts, her dictatorial style, her preference for the colour blue, her summary dismissal of the country’s railway minister for raising ticket prices without consulting her (she herself was the previous railway minister and didn’t get a good report card), and her ultimatum to the Prime Minister for revoking the strict yearly repayment of debt by the state. Even The Economist called her the ‘Mischief Minister of West Bengal’ and made fun of her effort to change the name of West Bengal to Paschim Banga. Within a year of her election, the entire world appears to be against her, projecting her as unfit to run the country as Lalu was presented by the bemused media then.


Indian economic reform from the bottom up April 25, 2012

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

Madhu Purnima Kishwar, CSDS

‘Development’ and ‘underdevelopment’ are politically loaded terms. Most ‘underdeveloped’ societies have a colonial past in which their people and resources were economically exploited and their social, cultural and political institutions were wrecked. These terms are designed to create amnesia about the politics of colonialism and convince people in these societies that their poverty is due to their own ‘backwardness’. Whenever we see people trapped in poverty, instead of seeing them as objects of charity it is best to find out who is using what power to prevent people from earning a dignified living.

An important reason for the continuity of wide-scale poverty despite the growing wealth of the Indian elite is that India’s economic reforms have been confined to the corporate sector, which employs no more than 3 per cent of the country’s working population, compared to the 92 per cent of workers in the unorganised or informal sectors. The vast majority remain poor because they are the victims of bureaucratic controls. They include farmers, who yield enough crops to make the country self-sufficient, and whose produce — wheat, basmati rice, long staple cotton, and a whole range of exotic fruits and spices — has ready buyers in the national and international markets; and traditional craftspeople and artisans, including ironsmiths, goldsmiths, a range of metal workers, and those who make exquisite art objects and icons.


Australia’s view of modern India ‘outdated’ April 23, 2012

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

Richard Iles, Griffith University

Indian life becomes a sluggish stream, living in the past, moving slowly through the accumulation of dead centuries—Pandit Nehru, The discovery of India (1946).

Australia needs to better understand Indian business thinking. Outdated and narrow images of India abound. However, in the world of economic thought and business practice India is dynamic, hard-edged and likely to be the source of renewed economic thought.

However, Australian business and social views of India are sluggish, not having deepened for several decades. This neglect represents decay in real terms. India has developed rapidly over the past two decades, with many other developed countries strongly investing in their relationship with India during this time.

Department of Business Management, University of Calcutta

Australian research activity focused on India, as surveyed by the Australia–India Institute (University of Melbourne), has declined steadily over several decades. The knowledge base from which the Australian business community, students and the wider community can draw to assist their investment in India has withered.


Nonalignment 2.0: India’s ‘new’ grand strategy? April 18, 2012

Posted by sandygordon in : India, Pakistan , comments closed

Guest author: Aditya Parolia

The quest for an overarching foreign policy template or a grand strategy for India in the twenty-first century led to the publication of a recent report, entitled Nonalignment 2.0. Drafted under the aegis of the Centre for Policy Research and National Defence College, the report is authored by eight eminent Indian intellectuals, namely: former Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran, Sunil Khilnani, Rajiv Kumar, Pratap Bhanu Mehta, Lt Gen (Retd) Prakash Menon, Nandan Nilekani, Srinath Raghavan, and Siddharth Varadarajan. The report has generated a much-needed debate on India’s foreign and strategic policy.


Zardari-Singh dialogue: future implications April 14, 2012

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

Sergei Desilva-Ranasinghe

This post first appeared on Future Directions International on 11 April 2012.


In the first visit by a Pakistani President to India in seven years, President Asif Ali Zardari met with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in New Delhi on Sunday, 8 April to examine potential to reduce tensions and enhance frayed ties. In doing so, the twoleaders emphasised their respective desire to normalise bilateral ties, which has the prospect of heralding a new and perhaps radically different era in the years ahead.


Since 2004, India and Pakistan have held a series of high-level meetings with the aim of diminishing regional tensions. Despite the failings of the previous September 2008 meeting between President Zardari and PM Singh, where negotiations were suspended two months later after Pakistan-based Islamist militants were implicated in terrorist attacks against India.

Yet, in spite of these ongoing setbacks that have characterised inter-state relations, both countries have continued to pursue negotiations. Pakistan’s willingness to engage India by consolidating trading ties is seen by some commentators as a “paradigm shift” in the nation’s policy, which has also received the endorsement of the Pakistani military. Similarly, India has also chosen to continue negotiations in the face of continued extremist provocations and is equally open to enhancing economic co-operation and two-trade. (more…)

Implications of India’s decision on Sri Lanka UNHCR Resolution April 5, 2012

Posted by nishankmotwani in : Future Directions International, Guest authors, India, Sri Lanka , comments closed

Shanaka Jayasekara

First published in Future Directions International on 4 April 2012


The Indian decision to vote in support of the March 2012 US-sponsored United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) resolution on Sri Lanka seems a departure from its stated doctrine for an Indian sphere of influence.


Former Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi stated, in the so-called “Indira Doctrine”, that ‘India will neither intervene in the domestic affairs of any state in the region unless requested to do so, nor tolerate such intervention by an outsider power.’ By supporting the US resolution, India, in some sense, has outsourced its regional stake to an external power.

But, is this a complete change in Indian foreign policy at the behest of Tamil Nadu, or part of a new Indian approach to broaden the stakeholders in the region? India has, in recent times, opted to stand in the shadow of multilateral processes to deal with regional issues. In Nepal, the Indians preferred to watch the UN’s UNMIN special mission manage the peace process. In the Maldives, India outsourced responsibility, with the Commonwealth Secretariat taking the lead. (more…)

India and Australia: The end of estrangement? April 4, 2012

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

Vikas Kumar

Reprinted from Clingendael Asia Forum at the Clingendael Asia Studies, 9 December 2011. Read the full story.

On the eve of the visit of US President Barack Obama, Australia’s Prime Minister Julia Gillard declared that Australia is willing to reconsider its ban on uranium exports to India. The ban is widely believed to be a major obstacle to a stronger India—Australia relationship, which has so far remained weak despite numerous, and shared maritime security concerns. While estrangement during the Cold War was understandable, Australia’s and India’s subsequent inability to forge a closer relationship is not. Gillard’s latest move is being seen as a game changer that will end strategic discrimination against India and signal Australia’s willingness to shed its Cold War blinkers and come to terms with the end of India’s nuclear isolation. It is unfair, however, to expect a dramatic improvement in the India-Australia relationship as a consequence of lifting the ban.

Book Review: Alice Albinia’s ‘Empires of the Indus’ April 3, 2012

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

Sandy Gordon

Alice Albinia, Empires of the Indus: the story of a river (New York, London: Norton and Company, 2008)

Enter this book and you are within a magic circle of history, geography and personal account.  You are a traveler in time and space, borne along by Albinia’s quirky, fascinating story.  On one level it is a travel book, with all the rich panoply of characters, oddities, near-miss adventures, courage and determination of the best of this genre – think Chatwin, Thubron and Theroux.  Like the best of travel writers, Albinia’s journey is an account of innocent amateurism  – at least as it applies to her travel rather than her scholarship.  On another, it chases the great empires of the Indus, from the Indus Valley Civilization, through to the Gandharans and on to Alexander the Great, the Lodhis, Sikhs, Mughals and British.  It also provides some brilliant insights into contemporary Pakistan, particularly the people of the underclass such as low caste Hindus and the Sheedi community, which originated from the African slave trade, only terminated with the coming of the British in the nineteenth century.  Finally, it is a sad history of the river itself, a river that no longer even flows in the dry season into its own creation: the largest deltaic fan in the world.  It also tells us that the tension over the Indus waters is as severe, if not more so, between the riparians within Pakistan, especially between Sindh and Punjab, as it is across international borders .

 Alice Albinia