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Pakistan: fallout over NATO supply route escalates May 29, 2012

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

Sergei DeSilva-Ranasinghe

Although there has been recent progress in cross-border cooperation, the modalities of a revised agreement between Pakistan and the US to re-establish a NATO supply route, have escalated domestic and regional tensions.

On Friday last week, after six months of stand-off, Pakistan for the first time authorised a US supply convoy to pass into Afghanistan, with office supplies destined for Kabul. The symbolic cross-over, however, after months of ongoing tension, has not resulted in the recommencement of the NATO supply route, a goal much desired by the US.

Since the imposition of the blockade, US and NATO forces in Afghanistan have been compelled to use the Northern Distribution Network. This is a series of alternative, and more costly, supply routes that transit through the Caucasus, Central Asia and Russia. The US is also eager to resume the NATO supply route through Pakistan to facilitate the withdrawal of its forces and military equipment from Afghanistan by 2014.


Contradictory trends: crisis and expansion in television May 23, 2012

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

Nalin Mehta

In early 2008, India’s Zee News broadcast a ‘special investigation’. With a loud, red banner labelling the inquiry an ‘exclusive’, the program made two claims: first, it professed to have found definitive proof that Ravana, the mythical villain of the Ramayana, had maintained an air force. And second, the program revealed that it had found a secret cave in Sri Lanka containing Ravana’s mummified body.

By way of proof, the channel offered an excited-looking reporter standing on a hill holding some local black soil. As he explained, the soil was black because the blast from Ravana’s aircraft had singed it. For the second claim, the channel specified that the mythical demon king’s mummy was exactly 17 feet long and it lay entombed in a mountain cave. Only, the intrepid reporter could not reach the supposed crypt because there were demons guarding their lord’s mummy.


FEATURE ARTICLE: Burning for freedom May 21, 2012

Posted by southasiamasala in : Features, Powers, John, South Asia - General , comments closed

John Powers, Australian National University

In April 1998 in Delhi, a Tibetan exile named Tupden Ngodup doused himself with petrol and calmly set himself alight. He then knelt and brought his hands together in a gesture of prayer as the flames consumed him. Despite the agony he must have endured, his physical demeanor remained calm as horrified bystanders watched him burn. His action sent shockwaves through the Tibetan community, both in exile and in the Tibetan Plateau. This was the first time a Tibetan had engaged in self-immolation, and opinions were divided. Many hailed him as a hero in the struggle against Chinese oppression, while others described his suicide as contrary to Buddhist principles. Most Tibetans acknowledged the depth of his commitment to the Tibetan struggle for freedom and human rights, but none chose to follow his example in the aftermath of his dramatic public demonstration of Tibetan discontent.

Ngodup’s suicide was an important event in an ongoing campaign of protest against the actions of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in Tibet. It began in 1950 when Chinese troops crossed the Drichu River, the traditional border between Tibet and China, and marched to the capital, Lhasa. They announced that they had come to ‘liberate’ Tibetans from the feudal theocracy of the Dalai Lama’s government and that they would depart as soon as this was accomplished. Soldiers of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) had been assured by their leaders that they would be welcomed as saviors by the oppressed Tibetans, and so they were shocked and angered to hear people shouting “Han go home!” as they marched into the city.


Maldives: democracy, back in transition mode? May 15, 2012

Posted by southasiamasala in : Future Directions International, Guest authors, Maldives , comments closed

N. Sathiya Moorthy

With the People’s Majlis, or Parliament, clearing President Mohammed Waheed Hassan’s vice-presidential nominee, Waheed Deen, after the “majority” Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) group stayed away, the Indian Ocean archipelago seems to be back in democratic transition, for the second time in three years. A new element has been added this time, with a National Inquiry Commission (NIC) probing the circumstances surrounding the resignation of then MDP President Mohammed Nasheed and his succession by Vice-President Waheed. The Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group has given the Waheed Government four weeks in which to make the probe team credible.

The last time the Maldives went through a similar phase, the nation ushered in multi-party democracy after 30 years of one-person rule under President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. He was elected for six successive terms of five years each, under a constitutional scheme that provided for only a single candidate in national elections. That is firmly in the past, yet, the Nasheed resignation has left a situation of instability. His subsequent charges of a coup-cum-conspiracy, involving some in the uniformed services and “discredited sections” of the polity, and the fact that fresh presidential polls are still a year or so away, in November 2013, have all given rise to the question of whether democracy is really back in transition mode in the Maldives.


The India–US–China–Pakistan strategic quadrilateral May 14, 2012

Posted by southasiamasala in : India, Merrington, Louise, Pakistan , comments closed

Louise Merrington, ANU

Although the disputed border between China and India is often highlighted as the major sticking point in Sino–Indian relations, in reality it has remained relatively peaceful since the end of the 1962 war, and the potential for overt military conflict in the region remains minimal.

Of much greater concern is the strategic quadrilateral relationship in South Asia involving China, India, the United States and Pakistan. It has both regional and wider implications. At the heart of this matter is the India–Pakistan conflict over Kashmir, and continuing US involvement in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The relationships between these four actors are extremely complex. China’s support for Pakistan in its conflict with India is a serious and ongoing source of tension in the Sino–Indian relationship, while the US relationship with Pakistan is looking increasingly fraught even as its relationship with India improves in the wake of the 2008 civilian nuclear deal. Growing closeness between India and the US has caused some concern in China about the possibility that the US may be establishing a policy of containment or encirclement, and this concern in turn affects China’s relationship with both the US and India. Understanding this complex web of relationships is key to understanding the issues which are at the heart of China–India relations and which affect markedly how these two countries interact in the region.


Pakistan’s 21st Century naval modernisation programme May 11, 2012

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

Sergei DeSilva-Ranasinghe

This article first appeared here on the Future Directions International web site on 9 May 2012.


In spite of progress being made to enhance bilateral ties, geopoltical rivalry between Pakistan and India continues to escalate. The most recent example was demonstrated by the launch of India’s Agni-5 nuclear-capable intermediate-range ballistic missile, which was closely followed by the launch Pakistan’s Hatf-4 Shaheen-1A nuclear-capable intermediate-range ballistic missile. While this strategic rivalry has been notable on land, escalation in the maritime domain has made Pakistan increasing concerned at India’s unprecedented plans to modernise its navy.

Pakistan navy Tariq class frigate


SAM recommends: ‘Reaping gold through cotton, and newsprint’ May 11, 2012

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

Sandy Gordon

P. Sainath is a well known journalist whose forte is exposing rural misery. In this detailed and well researched article he deals with a push by Monsanto to have legislation passed to support the introduction of genetically modified cotton seeds, including through good news stories in Sainath’s former paper, The Times of India. Sainath shows the original Times of India story was subsequently ‘cannibalised’ in the form of advertisements.  The stories point to the apparent success of GM cotton in two villages in Maharashtra in preventing farmer suicides and debt, two acute and related problems which many commentators, including P. Sainath, have attributed to globalisation.

In this article, Sainath is able to show that suicides and debt are, indeed, acute problems in the two villages and that the profits claimed for GM cotton are simply absurd.

But the article is much more important than that.

India is caught up in a long-running debate about the supposed benefits and woes of globalisation. Recently the battle ground concerned foreign direct investment in retailing, with a move by Congress, which is a minority in the Lok Sabha, to allow 51 per cent FDI in retailing being overturned in the Parliament – a move widely seen as a signal that India’s economic reform process has stalled.

As to agriculture, India continues to have relatively high sets of agricultural tariffs and a range of other government controls.  Popular concern about farmer suicides and the role of globalisation have played a significant part in maintaining that position. Many economists, however, argue that more, not less, reform of agriculture would be the best medicine against farmer poverty, debt and suicide.

Read P. Sainath’s article here.

Implications of India’s long-range missile capabilities May 4, 2012

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

Sergei DeSilva-Ranasinghe

This post first appeared on Future Directions International on 2 May 2012.


As the latest addition to India’s expanding arsenal, the launch of the Agni-5 long-range missile on 19 April is another step forward in the diversification of India’s nuclear strike capabilities. While India celebrates its technological achievement, the development of a nuclear-capable intermediate-range ballistic missile, with an estimated range of 5,000 kilometres or 3,100 miles, is likely to intensify strategic competition between Pakistan and China, which have viewed these developments with reservation.


Although senior Indian officials publicly say that the Agni-5 is for deterrence purposes only, India has a clear rationale behind the missile’s development, which is to: demonstrate its expanding strategic strike capabilities, impress the world’s major powers that possess intercontinental missiles and deliver a strong message to Pakistan and China. (more…)

Information is explosive at Singareni Collieries May 3, 2012

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

Patrik Oskarsson

I approached the public sector Singareni Collieries coal mining company in August 2011 at their head office in Kothagudem of Khammam District in Andhra Pradesh, as part of an ActionAid-sponsored study looking at the local livelihood impact of coal mining. The experiences of trying to interact with the company illustrate how, despite a Right To Information Act being in place for more than five years, a change in the organizational culture towards transparency is yet to set in.

Day 1

On the phone my contact made it seem as if it would be easy to just drop into the office without an appointment. Of course this was far from the truth. After some amount of searching we get to the very quiet project and planning building. Once we find somebody to talk to we are immediately directed to the head, the General Manager (GM). But the GM is not authorized to share information with an outside researcher. We are directed to his boss, the Director P&P (Project and Planning), who sits in the main office in the next building down the road. (more…)

Do not let Agni V’s shock and awe endanger Asian stability May 3, 2012

Posted by nishankmotwani in : India, Sullivan, Kate , comments closed

Kate Sullivan

India outed its nuclear bomb and yet remained the land of Gandhi. The same message of peace and power should follow the launch of its first ICBM.

With the successful Agni V test on Thursday, India appears to be aiming for status as much as security. Yet without credible reassurances, the by-product of this quest for prestige could be an increasingly insecure region.

Peaceful intentions

As so often in the past, India faces the challenge of reconciling its quest for military and nuclear status with the need to persuade the international community of its peaceful intentions. That India has the experience, skill and track record to do so is without doubt.

For decades, India’s nuclear policy and discourse have been built on a curious mix of hard power and principle. The 1974 test was dubbed a “Peaceful Nuclear Explosion,” and successive governments opted to refrain from overtly developing a nuclear weapon capability. Following the nuclear tests of 1998, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee stressed that the tests and India’s future nuclear policy would “continue to reflect a commitment to the sensibilities and obligations of an ancient civilization, a sense of responsibility and restraint.”

India’s nuclear tests were a means of establishing India’s international status and prestige. Yet refreshingly, they were not simply an act of conformity to the dominant might-is-right maxim of the international system.

A synthesis was formed with an enduring set of principled foreign policy values. In the wake of the tests, India stressed its peaceful intentions, announced a voluntary moratorium on further testing, limited itself to a minimum credible deterrent, and later pledged a no-first-use policy. (more…)