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New phase in India-China ties May 23, 2015

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

Vinay Kaura

Despite there being no landmark breakthrough on many contentious issues, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s third meeting within a year with Chinese President Xi Jinping was fairly successful. The visit was undertaken to improve bilateral relations through sustained high-level engagement with Beijing.

There is no doubt that India-China relations are entering a new phase, where there are amazing benefits of mutual cooperation as well as unbound risks of persistent suspicion. Both Modi and Xi have the task of not only avoiding confrontation between their countries but share “a historic responsibility to turn this relationship into a source of strength for each other”. Indeed both of them seem to be investing their personal reputations in a process of reconciliation, as evident in Xi’s decision last year to first land in Modi’s hometown of Ahmadabad before heading to New Delhi, and Modi’s decision to first land in Xi’s home province of Shaanxi before going on to Beijing and Shanghai. The ‘most powerful selfie’ moment of the two prime ministers in Beijing seemed to make diplomacy look exciting and engaging. Would these personal gestures help in a dramatic turnaround in the bilateral relationship full of mutual suspicion, distrust and hostility? The answer lies in their ability to address the long-held negative perceptions of each other.

China’s meteoric rise into the front ranks of the leading powers has set in motion a fundamental shift in the global distribution of political and economic power. China continues to amaze the world, including India, by achieving one success after another. It is no longer a rising power; it has risen on a scale unparalleled in the modern world. China’s impressive resurgence as a great power constitutes a remarkable change in the politics of India-China relations as well. As neighbours, as trading partners, and as regional powers with conflicting geopolitical priorities, the China-India relationship has become increasingly complex.


Book review: Water Security in India: Hope, Despair, and the Challenges of Human Development May 14, 2015

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

Paula Hanasz

Review of Water Security in India: Hope, Despair, and the Challenges of Human Development, by Vandana Asthana and A. C. Shukla (Bloomsbury, 2014).

Hope and despair are the themes of Water Security in India according to the book’s subtitle. Despair is obvious; there are so many issues and instances of water insecurity, the wicked problem of addressing them all seems overwhelming. But there are flickers of hope in the water security story too. As this book shows, for every flood or drought there is growing environmental consciousness; for all the pollution and spread of water-borne disease there is rapid technological advancement; for every time water-dependent livelihoods are threatened there are improvements in the legislative and institutional governance of water resource, etc.

Water Security in India is a methodical compilation of all these issues and more. It begins by describing water security issues in agriculture and irrigation, then moves on to industrialisation/urbanisation; climate change; governance; privatisation; interstate disputes; and national security. It concludes with suggestions for improving water management practice and instances of progress occurring.9781441115119


Classquake: What the global media missed in Nepal earthquake coverage May 8, 2015

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

Andrew Nelson

As the world comes to terms with Nepal’s earthquake and media outlets start shifting their gaze elsewhere, it is worth analyzing how the global English media covered the disaster – and what they missed. This was a “classquake” as much as a natural disaster, a point missed amid the dramatic descriptions and heart-rending videos.

Initially, attention was focused on Nepal’s recognizable symbols,Kathmandu’s world heritage sites, and victims at the Mt. Everest base camp leaving several commentators on Twitter to criticize the media for its “orientalist gaze” and “disaster porn” while under-reporting where the devastation was more extensive: rural Nepal.

A man walks past collapsed buildings after an earthquake last week in Kathmandu, Nepal, May 3, 2015. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui      TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY      - RTX1BAO5

A man walks past collapsed buildings after an earthquake last week in Kathmandu, Nepal, May 3, 2015. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui

The media’s attention to Kathmandu valley and Everest was as much a product of orientalism, that is, the West’s patronizing or romanticized perceptions of “the East,” as it was a reflection of disconnect between the capital and the (non-mountaineering) hinterland. (more…)

South Asia Masala recommends… April 23, 2015

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

Negotiating the politics of knowledge and re-imagining the university

Meera Ashar in converstion with Ashis Nandy at The Australian National University

Ashis Nandy, preeminent cultural and political theorist, has not hesitated to venture into areas previously unvisited by normal social science. His research interests include the political psychology of violence, cultures of knowledge, utopias and visions, and human potentialities and futures. In this video he talks to Dr Meera Ashar about the modern university system and the challenges that it faces.

Blurred lines: business and partying among Pakistan’s elite April 9, 2015

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

Rosita Armytage

As we walk from the cul-de-sac clogged by Land Cruisers, Mercedes and BMWs towards a residence in one the city’s most exclusive suburbs, trickles of laughter and music drift down to greet us. Drivers emerge to open back doors, while the shalwar kameez clad workers of the construction site opposite survey the procession of suits and gowns from where they rest on tomorrow’s stacked bricks. A white-suited staff member leads us through the fairy-lit and manicured gardens, and a waiter descends with a tray of glasses of red and white wine, immediately offering to make my companion something stronger. Across the lawn, men in black suits stand about smoking, drinking whiskey and water, talking politics and business, while brightly decorated, bejeweled and kohl-lined women gather uneasily on couches, eyeing one another critically whilst loudly proclaiming how pleased they are to see each other.

This is Islamabad, and being invited to this party means you’ve made it: to a club where the grass is green, the liquor imported, and the wealth is unimaginable.

At parties like this one the lines between social and business networks blur, as one mingles with the highest tier of Pakistan’s commercial and political elite. Favor-giving and exclusive social networking are critical features of how big business gets done at the uppermost tier in Pakistan – or anywhere, really. But while these are universal characteristics of elite-level business, in the context of Pakistan’s weak regulatory structure the exclusionary element of this world is both compounded and solidified – serious profit-making depends on access to decision-makers and the influential people around them, and it is an access that is extremely difficult to obtain.  As a result, at its uppermost levels, the country’s economic system is closed, and the elite, not legal statutes, create, control, and guard their domain, serving as gatekeepers to those outsiders who might seek to gain entry.


Overcoming gender discrimination in India April 2, 2015

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

Rajiv Kumar

It is a bitter irony that International Women’s Day came right on the heels of the controversy about the government ban on a BBC documentary about the fatal 2012 gang rape of a young Indian woman known by the pseudonym ‘Nirbhaya’. The documentary has, as could be expected, raked up public emotions that feed on self-righteousness, jingoism and middle class pretensions. The public discussion that followed the government ban unfortunately distracts from the real issue. This was not the only, and will surely not be the last, case of maltreatment of women in India.

Every day there are thousands of Indian girls and women who are kidnapped, tortured and trafficked. Some are victims of honour killings ordered by khaps or fatwas, a punishment dealt on the basis of religious legal judgment. A large number of cases of domestic violence and marital rape routinely go unreported. Thousands of girls are trafficked across the border from neighbouring Nepal and Bangladesh and forced into prostitution. As a society, Indians choose to not only ignore but also often connive in the perpetration of these crimes. In any case Indian society does not care to challenge the stereotype of ‘good women’ propagated by both Hindu and Muslim extremists, and fringe groups. Why then the hypocrisy when an ‘outsider’, like the BBC, shines a light on this issue?


Book review: Thieves of State – Why Corruption Threatens Global Security March 27, 2015

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

Mark Beeson

Once in a while, a book comes along that forces you to rethink some basic assumptions. I had come to believe that corruption didn’t really matter that much because economic growth seemed to happen anyway.

In some circumstances, it seemed corruption might even have a functional purpose. China was the quintessential exemplar of this possibility. Having read Thieves of State – Why Corruption Threatens Global Security by Sarah Chayes, I can now see how complacent and ill-informed some of those assumptions actually were.

Under former president Hamid Karzai, Afghanistan was little more than a ‘vertically integrated criminal organisation’, according to a new book. EPA/Parwiz Sabawoon

Under former president Hamid Karzai, Afghanistan was little more than a ‘vertically integrated criminal organisation’, according to a new book. EPA/Parwiz Sabawoon

Thieves of State has two great merits over and above its important central thesis about why corruption threatens global security. First, much of the analysis is based on first-hand observations of the pernicious impact of corruption in pivotally important states such as Afghanistan.

Second, Chayes writes with a journalistic eye for detail that enlivens what might otherwise be a worthy but unread scholarly treatise. The book ought to be read and Chayes’ accessible prose ensures it will be.


Remembering Mahatma Gandhi: the first statue of an Indian unveiled in Parliament Square March 26, 2015

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

Maya Parmar and Florian Stadtler

A new monument of political activist and leader of the Indian independence movement Mahatma Gandhi has been unveiled in London’s Parliament Square. Gandhi’s statue will join that of his famous adversary in the independence campaign, Winston Churchill, as well as others, among them Nelson Mandela and Abraham Lincoln. He is the only person never to have been in public office to be honoured with a statue in the square, and the first Indian.

Courtesy: Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA Wire

Courtesy: Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA Wire


Pirates, spies, soul-stealers: spirituality transformed March 5, 2015

Posted by southasiamasala in : Black, Shameem, India , comments closed

Shameem Black

In the past decade the worldwide yoga industry has become a multi-billion-dollar business. Yet, ironically, the one country where yoga does not yet thrive commercially is the very place from which yoga is thought to originate: India. Why should this be?

This paradox emerges, in part, because the practice known as ‘yoga’ around the world is a modern invention of the globalised and capitalist 20th century. A brief look at the history of yoga may help to explain why this industry has not had a straightforward development in India.

Yoga in India has never represented an unbroken historical tradition. Although many of the postures, breath practices and meditations have their roots in classical and medieval Indian texts, the very meaning of ‘yoga’ has varied widely across texts and periods. ‘Yoga’ has been variously understood as a search to separate the spirit from bodily matter, as a quest to unite with the divine, as a tool to strengthen the nation, as a means of magic, and as a form of military training. Before the 20th century, yogis were usually depicted as sorcerers, spies and soul-stealers. They did not do very many lotus poses.


India–US relations face hurdles March 1, 2015

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

Dr Biswajit Dhar

Economic relations between India and the United States seem to be going well. This was recently reinforced in New Delhi with Prime Minister Modi and President Obama endorsing the India–US Delhi Declaration of Friendship. But beneath the friendly joint statement of a new economic partnership lie considerable differences on critical issues of economic significance. These hurdles need to be overcome in order to strengthen bilateral relations.

PM Modi and President Obama

India has repeatedly voiced concerns that its IT-driven services sector faces several barriers to entry into the US market. And recently proposed policy changes are threatening to exacerbate the problem. India has consistently raised these issues with the World Trade Organization (WTO), but its demand for a less restrictive regime for service providers has failed to cut any ice with countries like the US. (more…)