The politics of the India-Pakistan peace talks August 23, 2013Posted by nishankmotwani in : By contributor, Future Directions International, Guest authors, India , 2comments
Despite the best will of the Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan, their attempts at creating a relatively stable relationship have been hijacked by various factions on both sides.
Pakistani Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, has repeatedly stated, even before he won the last general election, that he wishes to create a better relationship with India. This, he alleged, was crucial to Pakistan’s economic development. India’s Prime Minister has echoed this sentiment. From his perspective, better ties with Pakistan will enable India to concentrate on the “China threat” along its northern and north-eastern borders with that state. Also, the economic benefits to be accrued from a better relationship with Pakistan make it an attractive goal. Unfortunately for both Prime Ministers, though, forces in both countries are working, deliberately or otherwise, against such a resolution of their differences. Attempts at peace-making are no longer a diplomatic issue, but a highly politicised endeavour. (more…)
Diplomatic damage from latest India-Pakistan border clashes August 21, 2013Posted by nishankmotwani in : By contributor, Future Directions International, Guest authors, India , Comment
The recent killing of five Indian soldiers by Pakistani troops has put the Indian Government under pressure. The incident is likely to cause the suspension of the scheduled dialogue between the two countries.
On 6 August 2013, five Indian soldiers were shot dead in an ambush in Indian-controlled Kashmir, near the India-Pakistan Line of Control (LoC). While it is unclear who was responsible for the attack, blame has been attributed to either militants backed by the Pakistan Army, or the Pakistani Special Forces themselves. Although Pakistan has denied any involvement and its Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, has sent his condolences over the killings, tensions have markedly increased. Intermittent exchanges of small arms fire across the LoC have occurred throughout the week, wounding several soldiers and civilians. The most recent incident occurred on 11 August, with both sides using machine guns.
Lost and at sea: the asylum-seeker debate in Australia August 14, 2013Posted by southasiamasala in : Roberts, Michael, Sri Lanka , 1 comment so far
Electoral politics have swamped the debate on irregular migrants, the ‘boat-people’ that is, in Australia. There is no change of consequence in the contents of the debate, however. Rudd, Abbott, the Greens and letters to the editors of major newspapers continue to present many of the old shibboleths and oversimplifications that have skewed discussions of this issue for years. The motifs that appear again and again in most quarters also suffer from misinformation, exaggeration and fabrication, and ideological blinkers.
A self-evident fact is often glossed over: migration in modern times, whether legal, humanitarian or irregular, is a complex phenomenon. Given the diverse lands from which migrants have departed for Australia, it follows that one must attend to regional differentiation in speaking about this topic. Yet sweeping generalizations are continuously voiced – not only by politicians and human rights lawyers, but also by concerned citizens of compassionate heart and, on the other side, by instranigent opponents to ‘illegal immigrants’.
India’s challenges in Afghanistan post-2014 August 9, 2013Posted by southasiamasala in : Afghanistan, Guest authors, India , Comment
With the United States set to begin direct talks with the Taliban, India’s strategic position in the region has been upended. The talks are the result of a stalemate: the United States knows it cannot defeat the Taliban militarily and the Taliban knows that as long as Western forces are in Afghanistan they can only have partial control of the country. But while Pakistan will gain from a face-saving US exit, since it will allow Pakistan to increase its so-called ‘strategic depth’ in Afghanistan, India faces difficult policy choices in Afghanistan after Western forces pull out in 2014.
So why is Afghanistan important for India?
New developments along the Line of Actual Control July 26, 2013Posted by nishankmotwani in : By contributor, By country, Future Directions International, Guest authors, India , Comment
Controversy over repeated incursions by Chinese soldiers into disputed territories has provoked an Indian reaction. India’s government has given approval for a new mountain corps for offensive warfare to be based near the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
Chinese “transgressions” and “insensitivities” in recent months have helped prompt the creation of a so-called China Strike Corps, which is to be headquartered in Panagarh, West Bengal. This is the official culmination of a process that began six years ago. It was given a boost by an in-principle approval by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in 2010, but with the proviso that the three military services work together to strengthen India’s capabilities. The stated goal of this development is for India to achieve military parity with the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) along the border, a situation it has long desired.Bangladesh, By contributor, Guest authors , Comment
In the two months since the collapse of the Rana Plaza in Bangladesh left 1129 people dead and hundreds more still unaccounted for, world attention has turned from the actual cause of the incident to scrutinising the entire industry.
So far there has been three notable international efforts aimed at improving working conditions, wages and building safety and importantly, acknowledging the responsibilities of multinational Big Brand retailers and buying house intermediaries making up the global ready-made-garment supply chain.
The Bangladesh government has this week amended its labour laws following pressure from the United States, which suspended its preferential market access following the Rana Plaza collapse.
But those who seek to reform the Bangladeshi ready-made garment industry face political and economic pressures that might stymy these early efforts.
Pakistan’s hopes rest with third-chance prime minister July 12, 2013Posted by southasiamasala in : Mollaun, Alicia, Pakistan , 1 comment so far
On 11 May, Pakistan achieved a historic milestone: for the first time, a democratically elected government was replaced by another democratically elected government. In a country ruled for over half of its existence by the military, this was a notable outcome.
The lead-up to the election, and election day itself, was marred by violence. Over 120 people were killed in the weeks before the election. On election day, more than 600 000 security personnel were deployed to protect 70 000 polling stations, half of which were considered to be in sensitive locations and vulnerable to attack.
Despite heightened security, voting was tainted by violence: at least 38 people were killed and over 130 were injured. The Election Commission of Pakistan had to defer elections for three National Assembly seats and six seats of the provincial assemblies because candidates had died – some of natural causes; others were killed. Many candidates were kidnapped, including former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gillani’s son, who was taken by militants while campaigning for a seat in Multan.
Sri Lanka’s renewed ethnic tension June 26, 2013Posted by nishankmotwani in : By contributor, Future Directions International, Guest authors, Sri Lanka , Comment
Sri Lanka appears to be moving towards renewed ethnic strife – this time between Buddhists and Muslims.
The Muslim community makes up approximately ten per cent of Sri Lanka’s population of twenty million. Relegated to a back seat during the Civil War between ethnic Sri Lankans and Tamilians, who fought for a homeland, Sri Lanka’s Muslims now appear to have taken the place of the latter. Muslim-owned businesses have been fire-bombed and boycotted. As in Burma (Myanmar), Buddhist groups have formed to lead organised protests and violence against Muslims.
India’s Ponzi-styled economic reforms run out of steam June 14, 2013Posted by southasiamasala in : Guest authors, India , Comment
Noam Chomsky once said that ‘reform is a change that you’re supposed to like. So as soon as you hear the word reform, you kind of reach for your wallet and see who’s lifting it’.
This statement is all the more true given that economic reform does not mean the same thing across the world. Not all countries choose to take the IMF-driven, Washington Consensus path of economic reform. China’s ‘socialism with Chinese characteristics’ is the clearest example of this.
India’s particular brand of economic reforms can be analogised to a Ponzi scheme. Every year, state-owned enterprises and public assets are privatised in the name of asset reallocation, at throwaway prices. On top of that, every year tax-breaks or subsidies amounting to nearly US$100 billion are handed out to private industries in the name of reform or liberalisation. A small part is then recycled to the citizens in the name of social welfare. This structure is not sustainable, and is bound to fail as the Ponzi schemes in India have been failing.Bangladesh, By contributor, By country, Guest authors , Comment
The attack on Nadia Sharmin, a news reporter for Ekushey Television, by a group of Islamist activists last month was a brutal reminder of the wave of anti-secularism that has gripped Bangladesh in recent months. Her perpetrators belonged to the Islamic Group ‘Hefajat-e-Islam Bangladesh’ (hereafter referred to as Hefajat). The group was staging a rally in the capital Dhaka to push a list of demands that stand in clear contradiction to the nation’s secular principles. Sharmin was providing coverage of the protests for her network when the group of activists took notice of her. To them, Sharmin’s presence represented one of the many facets of modern day Bangladesh that they were protesting against, namely the free mixing of males and females. Sharmin, who was fortunate to survive the attack, spoke of her experience from hospital and stated that “fifty-six activists hurled brickbats and water bottled at me at Bijoynagar. They snatched my mobile phone and handbag having several thousand Takas. Then they threw me on the ground and beat me up”. Hefajat’s list of demands further threatens the advances that women like Sharmin have achieved since Bangladesh gained its independence.