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Afghanistan defence minister’s resignation: implications August 31, 2012

Posted by nishankmotwani in : Afghanistan, Future Directions International , comments closed

Gustavo Mendiolaza


For the last eight years, Abdul Rahim Wardak has been the Afghan Defence Minister, but a recent Vote of No Confidence by the national parliament has forced his removal and subsequent resignation. The problem associated with these events is two-fold: can President Karzai maintain stability and what will this mean for the coalition countries, particularly the United States, as the 2014 troop drawdown agreed upon in the 2010 Lisbon summit approaches.


The archeology and anthropology of a failed investment August 29, 2012

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

Patrik Oskarsson

During PhD fieldwork in 2008 land acquisition was taking place from farmers at Srungavarupu Kota (S Kota) of Vizianagaram District in Andhra Pradesh for an alumina refinery proposed by Jindal South West (JSW), part of the Indian big business Jindal Group. About 1,200 acres in total were required for the refining plant, its waste ponds and other parts. While some of the farmers at the time were refusing to sell their land most had already agreed, or been forced to agree, to the plans of what at the time seemed a well-funded private industry being established with significant government help. Vast areas of cashew plantations had been acquired and cleared at the time while some of the owners of rice and sugarcane fields were holding out for better compensation.

Acknowledgement: Patrik Oskarsson


Contradictory trends in Indian television August 28, 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 with 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 ballast 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.


SAM recommends… August 23, 2012

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

A provocative essay about Gandhi by Perry Anderson appeared in the London Review of Books in July. Ananya Vajpeyi has written a response (Seminar, August 2012)

Also published this month, two interesting angles on India’s national day: “Independence Day: why Partition was a good thing for India”, Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyar, The Economic Times, 16 August, 2012, and “Choosing our symbols”, Sohail Hashmi, The Hindu, 18 August, 2012.

FEATURE ARTICLE: Notes from the field: feminisation of agriculture in the eastern Gangetic plains August 14, 2012

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

Kuntala Lahiri-Dutt

… if women enjoyed the same access to productive resources as men in the world, farm yield could be raised by 20–30%…

The driver of the Tata Sumo I was travelling in not only stopped and honked several times, but, on at least two occasions, left the vehicle to physically push off the cows who were lazing on the road and relishing the midday heat of summer. More reluctant than the cows, however, were the black, white and brown goats on our path that were just lazily hanging around without a specific destination in mind. The road had lost its smooth tar cover and the large potholes of unascertainable depth meant that we were driving at not much more than walking speed. Whilst the bovine behaviour of acting as speed bumps is not unfamiliar to those who have travelled in rural India, the number and variety of goats and their goatish behaviour were noticeable at once. They were busier than the cows, chomping away on the leaves of the jute stalks that had just been cut and piled on the roadside before being dumped into the water for retting, or, on one occasion, a single goat was lying on its side, with its head on the tar, like a dead body. The goat had deliberately adopted the posture – actually to scratch its ear.

In an extremely poor area in the eastern Gangetic plains, running roughly from Champaran in North Bihar in the west to Cooch Behar near the Bangladesh border in the east and including the narrow flat stretch of Terai in Nepal, goats have become the new ‘feminine asset’.


The right way forward August 13, 2012

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

Amitabh Mattoo and Ashok Malik

As flanking States in the eastern Indian Ocean, India and Australia are critical to this emerging arena of geopolitics. Fellow democracies with shared values, concerns and interests, they should have strong synergies. Yet, somehow the strategic outcomes have been sub-optimal. To examine why – and make appropriate recommendations – the Australia India Institute (AII), University of Melbourne, put together a six-member bilateral Taskforce on Perceptions nine months ago. Its report, titled ‘Beyond the Lost Decade’, was released by the Indian high commissioner in Sydney recently, and points to a piquant paradox. Australia and India have more in common than many other countries – but these commonalities themselves tend to inhibit how the two societies see each other.

Cricket, the Commonwealth and the English language, the report says, have proved both a blessing and a bane. In its own way, each framework has hindered either country’s perception. In admiring Australia’s cricket team, Indians are exposed to its sporting ethic, but also to the one national institution that is perhaps least reflective of the multiculturalism and ethnic diversity of contemporary Australia. This leaves many Indians innocent of just how integrated Australia is with Southeast Asia today. To extend the analogy, the ministry of external affairs (MEA) is itself unsure as to where Australia fits in with the Asian strategic calculus.


Why Pakistan is lagging behind India August 12, 2012

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

Desh Gupta

Before the creation of Bangladesh in 1970-71 the then West Pakistan was economically more vibrant than India. There were a number of reasons for this.

It drew resources from the former East Pakistan to sustain its relatively large army. In addition during that period the Army, which even then determined whether it had direct or indirect control over the political apparatus, allowed its entrepreneurs drawn mostly from the Gujarati immigrants, a free reign and they drove economic growth. Fundamental Islam was weak and, muzzled by the army, Pakistan was politically and economically more liberal. This ensured a greater mobility of labour and capital, leading to greater efficiency in their use.

India’s economy, however, was highly regulated by the state. The government decided what should be produced and directed resources for this purpose. Economic efficiency was poor. This was reflected in the loss of competitiveness of Indian textile mills, which became ‘sick’ in the early 1980s. Even in steel production, which was a priority industry, the rate of increase was slow as it was limited to the public sector, and input of imports was difficult and low because foreign exchange was limited.

The loss of Bangladesh (but more so from 1980 onwards), brought economic change. It meant that Pakistan’s army could not be sustained at its then prevailing level. Cuts created dissatisfaction and were difficult to justify politically after its humiliation by India in the 1970 war. Its defence budget had to be bolstered after India’s explosion of a nuclear device in 1974, as Pakistan devoted resources to gain parity with India in nuclear defence technology. A redirection of defence resources from the army resulted in an alienation of the army that eventually led to the overthrow of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP), the elected government.

Had economic growth lifted it would have been easier to raise defence outlays without reducing those for the army. But Bhutto embarked on a nationalisation program. He stymied Pakistan’s economic dynamism by attacking its successful entrepreneurs who slowed investment, leading to a fall in investment and growth rates. Bhutto strengthened the power of the unions, which benefitted a very small segment of the labour aristocracy but created rigidities in the labour market. (more…)

Sam recommends ‘Don’t play it safe’ August 12, 2012

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

Rajdeep Sardesai

First published in the Hindustan Times on 12 July this year, Rajdeep Sardesai, editor-in-chief , IBN 18 Network, assessed that “Salman Khurshid is easily among the brightest politicians in the country: a former Oxford don, he became a union minister at 38. When he speaks, it is with a certain elegance and intellect that is all too rare in public life today. Which is why when Khurshid suggests ‘Rahul Gandhi has only been seen in cameos of his thoughts and ideas, but he has not woven it into a grand announcement. This is a period of  waiting,’ his remarks must be taken seriously. Khurshid has since been forced to clarify his statement, claiming  he was only urging the Congress’ younger leadership to play a more central role, but his reflections lie truly at the heart of  the UPA’s present dilemma.

A fortnight ago, in these very columns, I had written on the NDA’s leadership crisis: who will be their leader in the next general elections in 2014? What is true of the NDA is equally applicable to the UPA. If the battle between Narendra Modi and Nitish Kumar threatens to open a chasm within the opposition, Rahul Gandhi’s seeming reluctance to take greater responsibility within the Congress, has left the ruling alliance in a state of  growing uncertainty.

What are the options if Rahul were to decline to take up the challenge of being the UPA’s prime ministerial nominee? Manmohan Singh will be 82 in 2014, and while being an octogenarian is no disqualification in the ageing world of Indian politics, there is a general belief  that after two full terms as prime minister, Singh may finally be ready for voluntary retirement … ”.

Read the rest here