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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…)

India’s toughest contest November 5, 2009

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

Kate Sullivan

Reprinted from Inside Story. Read the full article

It’s a Tuesday afternoon in early October and Prakash is taking me to his afternoon preparatory class at Vajiram & Ravi, one of the dozens of institutes in Delhi that train candidates for India’s civil services exams. Still buoyant despite two failed exam attempts, Prakash is heading for a class that prepares students for the optional paper in psychology he hopes to tackle next year. The classes last two and a half hours and run seven days a week for twenty weeks or more.

The classroom is already half full, with around 200 chairs crammed into a room that can’t be much more than fifty square metres. Once the students have manoeuvred their way into a seat, it’s unlikely they’ll be able to get out again until after the class. And it’s unlikely they’d want to. The scarcity of places and the high cost of the course spell a dropout rate of less than 1 per cent. Though October marks the tail end of the course, and several students are immersed elsewhere in preparation for the fast-approaching Mains exams, the room fills quickly. Prakash points out three young women – a doctor, an engineer and a journalist – sitting pressed up behind us.

Mukhul Pathak, a well-known psychology lecturer whose coaching successes have made his subject a popular choice for the optional paper, marches up to a narrow podium and begins his class. Within seconds he has the entire room in uproarious laughter. Dressed in a striped cream and peach short-sleeved shirt and moss-green corduroy trousers, energetic and humorous, he shows no trace of having taught this same course perhaps twice a year for the past fifteen years. On his wrist hangs a thick gold watch of such proportions that from the fifth row I can see that it runs ten minutes fast. He radiates commitment, efficiency and affluence.

Above: Govind Jaiswal, whose father (right) was a rickshaw driver, was a successful candidate in the 2006 civil services exam. His coaching classes in Delhi were financed by the sale of family land. Photo: OutlookIndia

Above: Govind Jaiswal, whose father (right) was a rickshaw driver, was a successful candidate in the 2006 civil services exam. His coaching classes in Delhi were financed by the sale of family land. Photo: OutlookIndia


Audible India: notes on a moveable feast August 5, 2009

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

Kate Sullivan

While internet coverage and bandwidth limitations have curbed the reach and expansion of that beloved travelling entertainer – the podcast – in India, there are still numerous ways of ‘listening on the go’ if you’re interested in Indian current affairs, literature or languages. 

Probably anyone’s first stop for up-to-the-minute Indian news is All India Radio’s comprehensive news site News on AIR, which delivers three downloadable audio bulletins a day in English, Hindi and Urdu. For those who enjoy that ‘behind the scenes at the recording studio’ feel, a real treat are the additional transcripts of the bulletins, which match the audio files word for word. Thus, if you’ve always harboured a secret desire to be a radio presenter, AIR gives you the opportunity to practise in three languages in the privacy of your own home. This expansive site also offers written and spoken versions of important government documents, including the 2009-10 Union Budget.

The BBC’s Evening Report: South Asian News is a comprehensive 30-minute podcast, updated daily and perfect – at least in Australian time zones – for listening to on the way to work. Useful for polyglots are the BBC’s news updates in a (more…)

South Asia roundup July 17, 2009

Posted by katesullivan in : Bhutan, India, Maldives, Pakistan, South Asia - General, Sullivan, Kate , comments closed

Kate Sullivan

Ratan Tata, Chairman of the Tata Group, India‘s largest conglomerate, will hand over the keys to the first Nano owner at the Tata Motors showroom in central Mumbai today. Dubbed the world’s cheapest car, the Nano has had a tricky journey from its conception in 2003 to its unveiling last year, facing rising commodity prices and political controversy. Set to bring car ownership into the reach of tens of millions of people, the Nano has been the subject of an avalanche of press commentary over the past few months, with even Top Gear seeing fit to provide an online profile.


Photo sourced from Flickr and used under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.0 License

On the sidelines of the 15th summit of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) in Egypt yesterday, India and Pakistan convened for what was their third high-level meeting since the Mumbai attacks last November. Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh released an overwhelmingly positive joint statement in which they agreed to “create an atmosphere of mutual trust and confidence”. The statement’s most groundbreaking element – “Action on terrorism should not be linked to the Composite Dialogue process” – was, however, its most ambiguous. (more…)

Pragmatic ideals? After G8-G5, Indian PM heads for NAM summit July 14, 2009

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

Kate Sullivan

If there was one central message Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh took to the G8-G5 summit in L’Aquila last week, it was one of inclusiveness. In both the G5 and combined forums the PM stressed the need for “global responses to global challenges”. That same message is likely to feature at the 15th summit of the Non-aligned Movement (NAM) in Sharm el-Sheikh from 15-16 July too, though the emphasis could be subtly different.

From champion of the third world to ‘great power’ hopeful, India’s global motivations and associations have seen turbulent change over the past two decades. A once prickly backseat global player wholly opposed to alignment with power blocs, India has opened up to bi- and multilateral collaborations of a whole new flavour, as last year’s civil nuclear deal with the United States clearly demonstrated.

Along with its attitude to global outreach, India’s self-presentation in international forums has also shifted. Stances on international issues that were frequently dubbed ‘moralising’ and ‘overbearing’ during the Nehru era have given way to new modes of taking a stand, ones highly attuned to context and reaching out to stroke the sensibilities of more than one audience.

Take, for example, the tone the PM adopted at L’Aquila on an issue of clear disadvantage to India: the narrow and exclusive composition of the UN Security Council and other multilateral groupings – the G8 being one of them. In a piece he contributed to the G8 compendium on contemporary issues, Singh highlighted at length the deficiencies of existing institutions of global governance. But aside from a brisk reference to “problems of legitimacy”, his mild invective focussed cleanly on the challenges closed membership posed to the resolution of global problems. With (more…)

Welcome to South Asia Masala! July 3, 2009

Posted by katesullivan in : South Asia - General, Sullivan, Kate , comments closed

Kate Sullivan





1. raw material(s)

2. ingredients

3. a combination of spices used in South Asian cooking

4. an admixture of various sundry items (culture, lifestyle, politics) to produce desirable and exotic results, lending spice and glamour to an occasion*


Welcome to South Asia Masala, the latest in a series of weblogs hosted by the Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies (RSPAS) at the Australian National University. Focussing on the countries of South Asia (Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka), South Asia Masala aims to deliver a true masala of interdisciplinary analysis that spans political, economic, cultural, social, developmental and strategic issues emanating from the region.


South Asia Masala’s central raison d’être is to cultivate academic debate on the region both within and beyond Australia. In doing so, it hopes to encourage a deeper understanding of South Asian people and cultures. Australia’s engagement with South Asia, especially India, is expanding rapidly and our hope is to play a role in consolidating regional expertise by inviting experts from the ANU and further afield to explore the subcontinent in a manner that is stimulating, at times even provocative, and most of all, accessible to the broader public.


Tapping into a great tradition of academic blogging here at the Australian National University, Sandy and myself are gearing up to put together a diverse palette of scholarly contributions on South Asia for the month of July. We’ve (more…)