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History rots, history preserved June 26, 2012

Posted by southasiamasala in : India, Nelson, Barbara, South Asia - General , comments closed

Barbara Nelson

A recent series of articles on the India Ink site of the New York Times highlights the woeful state of many Indian archives and libraries, but also points to some positive developments. The situation in India contrasts with the picture painted by Kevin Greenbank of the film and oral history collections of the Centre of South Asian Studies, Cambridge. (Reel Histories: The Film and Oral History Collections of the Centre of South Asian Studies, Cambridge). In both cases, digitisation is an important tool for preserving and making archive collections available. (more…)

Violent Sindhi nationalism raises its head again June 25, 2012

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

Alok Bhansal

The attack on a bus going from Karachi to Kohat, at Nawabshah, by the shadowy Sindhu Desh Liberation Army (SDLA) on May 25 — that left seven passengers dead and 30 injured — clearly indicates that Sindhi nationalism has come of age and the extremists within their ranks are even willing to use violence to make their presence felt.

At a time when the government in Islamabad is headed by a party that has traditionally been led by Sindhis, this resurgence of violent Sindhi nationalism only shows that, in the eyes of the average person, President Asif Ali Zardari and the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) government are not perceived to be meeting regional aspirations or wielding effective power.


The US pivot and India’s look east June 25, 2012

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

Sourabh Gupta

The US and India held their third annual strategic dialogue in Washington on 13 June 2012. At the second dialogue in June 2011, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pressed India to assume a more proactive leadership role in the Asia Pacific region, exhorting it to ‘not just look east, but continue to engage and act east as well’.

US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta enthusiastically restated the same message during his recent post-Shangri-La Dialogue swing through New Delhi.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (R) shakes hands with India's Minister of External Affairs S.M. Krishna (L) during a joint press conference at the State Department in Washington DC, USA, 13 June 2012. (Photo: AAP)


US-Pakistan relations deteriorate as Washington looks to India for new regional support June 21, 2012

Posted by nishankmotwani in : Future Directions International, India, Pakistan , comments closed

Andrew Manners


US-Pakistan relations are currently ‘the worst they’ve ever been’, according to a senior US official.  The tumultuous relationship continues to be hampered by an impasse over NATO supply routes to Afghanistan and the perceived reluctance of Pakistan to crack down on militants in its northern tribal areas. As US military aid to Pakistan remains suspended, there are now signs that the US is looking toward New Delhi, rather than Islamabad, as its key regional ally.


While the US has traditionally viewed Pakistan as its key regional ally in the War on Terror, recent events have seen the relationship hit a new low. In particular, the two remain at loggerheads over Pakistan’s six-month blockade of NATO troop supplies meant for Afghanistan and its supposed harbouring of militants in the northern tribal areas.

U.S. Secretary of Defence, Leon E. Panetta inspecting the Guard of Honour in New Delhi


Pakistan: Gilani ‘cops it sweet’ – for now June 20, 2012

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

Sandy Gordon

The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) has apparently decided to accept the Supreme Court’s decision to dismiss Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani and to try to avoid calling new elections. The job now is to choose a new Prime Minister and keep the minor coalition partners on side. As it is, elections are not scheduled till early next year. The Electoral Commission (EC), which has 90 days to make its own ruling under the Constitution, has come in early and endorsed the dismissal, which is backdated from the time of Mr Gilani’s conviction (26 April). Rule of law apparently pertains, at least for now.

It seems the PPP had little option but to comply once the EC came out in support of the Court. Unless backed by the powerful military (which it is not), the PPP would have had a difficult time in defying the Court. To take to the streets would have, effectively, meant taking to the streets against itself. (It could not have done so against the military, which is not nominally in control; nor against the Court, which would have meant defying the Constitution, further weakening the slender hold of civilian government). If it had called a fresh election it may well have lost, given Pakistan’s chronic power shortage, which is occurring during a time of recession and summer heat. So it will appoint a new Prime Minister and try to hang on till next year’s general elections. (more…)

SAM recommends … ‘Indian mining out of control’ June 15, 2012

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

Sandy Gordon

Items on corruption surrounding mining in India have featured prominently on this site. In that context, we are now drawing attention to an important new report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) on corruption in mining and its human consequences.

The HRW report chronicles instances of the Indian mining industry being ‘out of control’ – that is, virtually unsupervised by the state and federal authorities responsible for it. The human and environmental consequenses have been dramatic.

The HRW report also suggests some remedies: upgrade resources in the relevant environmental and forestry departments, which are woefully inadequate; remove responsibility from mining companies for funding and commissioning environmental impact statements (EISs), many of which have been fraudulent; and review past EIS reports, with prosecutions and cessation of mining where they are found to be fraudulent. For the full report, click here and follow the links.

Perceptions from Islamabad: Pakistan’s twin objectives in the Afghan endgame. June 14, 2012

Posted by southasiamasala in : Afghanistan, Motwani, Nishank, Pakistan , comments closed

Nishank Motwani

The NATO summit held in Chicago last month confirmed that NATO’s combat forces would be withdrawn by the end of 2014, leaving behind an unknown number of training units in Afghanistan. As the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force’s (ISAF) mission to hand over combat command to the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) draws closer, Pakistan is shifting gears to protect its strategic interests in the Afghan endgame. Understanding Islamabad’s objectives is thus essential to evaluate where it stands and how and why its defined ends oppose the desired goals of Afghanistan and its US-led ISAF stakeholders.

Map of Pashtun majority areas (in green)


India: which way will the ‘swing state’ swing? June 8, 2012

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

Sandy Gordon

According to a leading article in The Times of India, India now finds itself in the enviable position of being courted by both the US and China, thus confirming its status as a ‘swing state’ of Asia.

Two recent meetings highlight India’s emerging role in Asian security.  On 6 June, American Secretary for Defense, Leon Panetta, told a think tank in New Delhi that India is a “linchpin” in America’s re-engagement with Asia.  He also promised India access to significant military technologies.

Following that meeting, Mr Panetta bypassed Islamabad and warned from Kabul that the US is “losing patience” with Pakistan.

Meanwhile, in the wings of the meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in Beijing, Chinese vice premier Li Keqiang – widely expected to be China’s next premier – told Indian foreign minister S.M. Krishna that Sino-Indian ties would be the most important bilateral relationship in the twenty-first century. According to The Wall Street Journal, in return Mr Krishna made a strong pitch for full membership of the resource-rich SCO.

US Defense Secretary Panetta and Indian Defence Minister Anthony from 'The Hindu'


Poor by definition June 7, 2012

Posted by southasiamasala in : Guest authors, South Asia - General , comments closed

Monika Barthwal-Datta

Security continues to be viewed in limited terms in the Indian subcontinent.

For hundreds of millions in the Indian subcontinent, daily life is a ruthless battle. It involves being assaulted brutally by insecurities arising from socio-economic, political, environmental and even military threats to their lives and livelihoods. Despite this, at the national level, the countries in the subcontinent remain stuck to a simplistic and narrow view of what security means, i.e. the safety of the state (or regime) from military threats.

It is a view which stands fundamentally challenged in the globalised, post-Cold War world. The case for a wider understanding of security is now well-established, and in many countries, regional institutions and international organisations, academic and policy debates are informed in this way.

For the subcontinent, the narrow approach to security is unhelpful in at least two ways. One, it makes it very difficult for a more people-oriented, holistic and inclusive understanding of security to emerge, despite it being highly relevant to the needs of its people. When thinking of security, policymakers continue to be driven by the limited, state-centric approach. Likewise, security analysts continue to look to the state when seeking expressions of insecurity, while ignoring other similar expressions at the sub-state level.

Two, it overlooks the importance of actors other than the state who are active in this wider security realm. It ignores their role as legitimate security practitioners, and the potential to learn from and build on their work from a policy perspective.


Future unclear for Nepal June 1, 2012

Posted by southasiamasala in : Dowler, Amy, Nepal , comments closed

Amy Dowler

At about quarter to midnight last Sunday night, fifteen minutes before the mandate of the constituent assembly (CA) he  led was due, Cinderella-like, to expire, Nepal’s Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai appeared on television sets across the country to deliver a live address.  Nepali speakers can listen to the full address on YouTube.

Chipladonga Protest Photo: Amy Dowler

Bhattarai confirmed what was already clear: last ditch efforts by Nepal’s three major parties – the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) (CPN(M)), Nepali Congress (NC) and Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) (CPN(UML)) – and the Madheshi Morcha (a confederation of parties representing people from the southernmost part of the Terai region who entered into a coalition with the CPN(M) to form government last August) had failed to bring consensus.  What was not clear was what would happen next.  Earlier in the week the Supreme Court quashed an attempt by the government to extend the CA for a further three months.  The NC and CP(UML) had been arguing that the constitution could still be promulgated by the 28 May deadline with outstanding issues  referred to the new, post-constitution CA.  There was talk of a constitutional crisis, of emergency rule.  Some ethnic minority groups claimed they would secede from Nepal and proclaim their own states should a satisfactory solution not be found by 28 May.