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Women as farmers, feminisation of farming August 21, 2014

Posted by southasiamasala in : India, Lahiri-Dutt, Kuntala, South Asia - General , comments closed

Kuntala Lahiri-Dutt

What is new in the world of farming today? Well, for one, there is a ‘feminisation’ of farming in many parts of the world, and South Asia is no exception to that. Before I explain that process, let me point out first that women have always performed important roles in agriculture, whether in less- or more-developed countries and irrespective of time, but have remained invisible as farmers. This is because when women have worked side-by-side with men on the farm, they often worked as part of a family unit of labour. A powerful sexually-based division of labour meant that women’s labour and active participation were limited only to certain parts of agriculture and to certain tasks, or even to certain crops. Often, the bulk of this labour was performed under the direct or indirect control of men, who also controlled (or owned) land, resulting in both inaccurate information about and the invisibility of women and also undervaluing of their contributions to agricultural production systems.

Photo: K. Lahiri-Dutt

Photo: K. Lahiri-Dutt


Freedom from hunger: privilege granted or acknowledged right? January 29, 2014

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

Aly Ercelan and Muhammad Ali Shah

“Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food.”

A recent publication of Rome-based UN agencies (FAO along with IFAD and WFP of the UN) aiming at global food security is worth a serious commentary for several reasons. One is the odious South Asian situation, which includes Pakistan, of socially imposed mass hunger and malnutrition, which affectsnot just women and men but also children. If there is a single issue that defines development, then it is the situation of children today and tomorrow (as UNICEF rightly underscores). Their under- and mal-nourishment leads to untimely death of hundreds of thousands before the age of five. Survivors face a cruel future in which both body and brain remain wasted and stunted. What then is the point of investing social resources in universal schooling? Avoiding hunger often leads to employment of children in distressingly hazardous conditions and at ruthlessly exploitative wages. Government commits funds for abolition of “worst forms of child labour” but what benefit can they have when their disbursement excludes full and productive employment of their parents?

A second reason is that the FAO retains an overwhelming influence upon sub-continental professional advisors as bureaucrats and consultants, even among those who are not obviously beholden to Washington. Thirdly, food security should be included in the post-2015 agenda for universal accountability of states and the international community to citizens. In fact, food security targets may well encompass necessary commitments in education and health.

This review summarises the FAO report – The State of Food Insecurity in the World  with an emphasis upon South Asian conditions. Its policy guidelines are to be examined critically in a follow up article, through a lens provided by another recent study – Alternatives & Resistance to Policies that Generate Hunger (by the Right to Food & Nutrition Watch.


Australian military expands Indo-Pacific profile April 9, 2013

Posted by aungsi in : DeSilva-Ranasinghe, Serge, South Asia - General , comments closed

Sergei DeSilva-Ranasinghe

This interview first appeared in The Diplomat on March 13, 2013

Emerging out of a decade of coalition military intervention in the Middle East and Afghanistan, the Australian Defence Force (ADF) is now focused on initiatives to engage the strategic Indo-Pacific region. General David Hurley, the chief of the ADF, spoke to Sergei DeSilva-Ranasinghe about defence cooperation with the United States, engagement with Asia-Pacific and South Pacific regions, the implementation of the Force Posture Review’s recommendations, initiatives to engage with the Indian Ocean region, and what Australia’s withdrawal from East Timor, Solomon Islands and Afghanistan ultimately means.


General David Hurley (Source: defence.gov.au)


‘A continuum of security requirements’: The US Pacific Command and the rise of the Indian Ocean April 3, 2013

Posted by nishankmotwani in : DeSilva-Ranasinghe, Serge, India, South Asia - General , comments closed

Sergei DeSilva-Ranasinghe

As the US refocuses its attention to the Asia Pacific region, it is also seeking to augment its presence in the unstable and heavily contested Indian Ocean Region. Admiral Samuel J. Locklear, who commands the US Pacific Command, or PACOM, talked to Sergei DeSilva-Ranasinghe on the programme he is spearheading to reposition the US military footing towards the Indian Ocean and the revitalised strategy to engage South Asia and Australia.

How is the Indian Ocean of relevance to the US Asia Pacific rebalance?

Admiral Locklear: Whether the name is Indo-Pacific or something else, when I am sitting in my office looking at a pretty detailed chart of my entire jurisdiction, I view it as a continuum of security requirements, not broken down by historical perspectives of the different oceans. I think ‘one continuum’ is a good concept. However, it’s not just about the Indian Ocean. It’s about the connectivity of these large economies, the large core populations, and how things have to move.

Take that to the next level and you have the cyber commons and the space commons. Ships and airplanes travelling across the Indian Ocean, whether it be to the Arabian Gulf or through the Straits of Malacca, are critical for trade and flow of energy sources. The PACOM helps protect these routes.  (more…)

The missing and unacknowledged Qurans October 12, 2012

Posted by auriolweigold in : Kumar, Vikas, South Asia - General , comments closed

Vikas Kumar

The Quran has received a lot of attention in recent times. On the one hand, alleged desecrations of the Quran by NATO forces in Afghanistan or citizens of NATO countries have more than once triggered massive protests across the Islamic world. On the other, critics of ‘Islamic’ extremism have tried to trace its roots to the Quran.

The second kind of attention is of interest to us here. Two points are worth noting in this regard. The core Islamic theology cannot be causally related to violence involving Muslims. And, even if portions of the Quran that are not part of the core theology can be linked to religious violence, we need a more nuanced understanding of such links. In the ancient world knowledge was one seamless realm and means of preserving it were scarce. Religious texts often served as intergenerational carriers of whatever communities found worth preserving, including advice on warfare and statecraft. In short, the ‘theological’ roots of complex modern socio-political developments like Islamic terrorism/extremism are nebulous. But there is a largely ignored aspect of the Quran, potentially related to Islamic extremism and religious violence involving Muslims outside the Arab world, which would bear closer examination. (more…)

Mauritius under pressure from India to amend taxation treaty September 24, 2012

Posted by nishankmotwani in : By contributor, By country, Future Directions International, Guest authors, India, South Asia - General , comments closed

Leighton G. Luke

India and Mauritius are yet to agree on changes to the double taxation arrangements that have seen New Delhi miss out on tax revenues of up to US$600 million annually.


Concerned at the amount of tax revenue lost to Mauritius-based companies under existing arrangements, India is continuing to seek a renegotiated taxation treaty with the island state. Indian officials have estimated that the “Mauritius route” results in the loss of some US$600 million in tax revenues each year.

Foreign Ministers of Mauritius and India


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…)

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.


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.


‘A third of the RAN is based in the Indian Ocean’ Vice Admiral Ray Griggs, Chief of the Royal Australian Navy March 14, 2012

Posted by southasiamasala in : DeSilva-Ranasinghe, Serge, Future Directions International, South Asia - General , comments closed

Serge DeSilva-Ranasinghe

An FDI Feature Interview first published on 12 March 2012

Key Points
–      One third of the RAN operates in the Indian Ocean.
–      HMAS Stirling, located in Western Australia, is the RAN’s largest base.
–      While the Asia-Pacific will continue to remain critically important, the Indian Ocean has markedly risen in importance to the RAN.


At a time of economic turbulence and escalating regional geopolitical challenges the Royal Australian Navy’s chief, Vice Admiral Ray Griggs, recently spoke with Sergei DeSilva-Ranasinghe about the Navy’s ongoing commitments to maritime security in the Pacific Ocean, the increasing pre-eminence of the Indian Ocean, and the dynamics of the Australian defence department’s ongoing Force Posture Review.

Read this interview – Vice Admiral Ray Griggs,A Third of the RAN is in the Indian Ocean’