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BCIM Corridor a game changer for South Asian trade July 24, 2014

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

Pravakar Sahoo and Abhirup Bhunia

The Bangladesh–China–India–Myanmar (BCIM) Economic Corridor will increase socioeconomic development and trade in South Asia. The initiative seeks to improve connectivity and infrastructure, energy resources, agriculture, and trade and investment. It will connect India’s Northeast, Bangladesh, Myanmar, and the Chinese province of Yunnan through a network of roads, railways, waterways, and airways under a proper regulatory framework. The current focus of BCIM talks is on an inter-regional road network. This makes sense, as roads are the cheapest route of trade. NyaungShwe_Conrad2236 The BCIM Economic Corridor is a modern version of the Silk Road, and a revision of the 1999 Track II Kunming initiative between BCIM countries. It is planned to run from China’s Kunming province to Kolkata in India, and link Mandalay in Myanmar and Dhaka and Chittagong in Bangladesh. BCIM initiatives have gained momentum since Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s visit to India and the conclusion of the first official meeting of the joint study group of the BCIM Economic Corridor on 19 December 2013.

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Pakistan’s hopes rest with third-chance prime minister July 12, 2013

Posted by southasiamasala in : Mollaun, Alicia, Pakistan , comments closed

Alicia Mollaun

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.

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China refutes Gwadar naval base conjecture June 7, 2011

Posted by southasiamasala in : DeSilva-Ranasinghe, Serge, Future Directions International, India, Pakistan , comments closed

Sergei DeSilva-Ranasinghe

This article first appeared in The Sunday Leader.

The Pakistani Defence Minister Ahmed Mukhtar has affirmed that Pakistan is appreciative of China’s willingness to operate Gwadar port.

It is also keen to see that “a naval base is constructed at the site of Gwadar for Pakistan.” Predictably, the remarks attracted international attention. They reinforced existing views among foreign commentators, who believe that China has intentions to build a series of naval bases in the Indian Ocean, which have been referred to as the “string of pearls.” Nonetheless, it should be equally emphasised that any analysis of Gwadar should be seen as a microcosm of China’s wider relations and interests with Pakistan and the region, which often tend to be understated.

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India’s nuclear energy future – a positive outlook? March 22, 2011

Posted by southasiamasala in : India, Weigold, Auriol , comments closed

Auriol Weigold

Amid media comments on nuclear energy post-Japan’s earthquake and tsunami such as labeling it a pariah in supply terms, latent fears of uranium use have re-emerged with nations assessing their nuclear energy plans.  India however, has strong reasons to continue its commitment.

On 14 March, three days after the start of the emergency at Fukushima, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told Parliament that the safety of all India’s nuclear power plants would immediately be inspected. Reuters reported the following day that India’s nuclear program was on track, there would be more stringent controls and, quoting the Prime Minister, “The department of atomic energy and its agencies …  have been instructed to undertake an immediate technical review of all safety systems of our nuclear power plants … with a view to ensuring that they would be able to withstand the impact of large natural disasters such as tsunami and earthquakes”.

On 16 March the Hindustan Times editorial enlarged on the Government’s underlying concerns; that no technology is without risk and that India’s safety procedures are less than well-rehearsed, but that nuclear power remains “the only economically viable renewable source of energy”. The editorial concluded that nuclear power has a relatively good safety record and that “India must not take nuclear power off the table”.  (more…)

Looking west again – to the Indian Ocean and India February 16, 2011

Posted by southasiamasala in : India, Weigold, Auriol , comments closed

Auriol Weigold

An article in The Australian, published on 31 March 2010, notes Australia’s inconsistent interest in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) in its headline ‘We must look west to the Indian Ocean …’.  It goes on to remind that Australia should be a ‘pre-eminent country’ in the IOR and notes that a ‘new maritime great game’ is visible as ‘strategic competition between India and China’ grows. These ideas, verging on directives, are drawn from Bateman’s and Bergin’s Australian Strategic Policy Institute Paper, Our Western Front: Australia and the Indian Ocean, launched by Australia’s former Foreign Minister, Stephen Smith, on the same day in 2010.  The Australian concluded its article by reporting that Australia’s policies vis-a-vis the Indian Ocean have been ‘relatively opaque and spasmodic’, and should be embedded in the mainstream of foreign policy.

Despite its inconsistent and often neglectful approach to engagement in the Indian Ocean as a whole, Australia has had an historical interest in the Indian Ocean, which is vital to its import and export markets and sea-lines communications. It relies on Indian Ocean sea-routes and access points for its globalised trade, and the ever-increasing importance of security and stability demand deeper engagement: geographically Australia is well-placed to play a prominent role in the Indian Ocean region.

Crew of HMAS Melbourne board a pirated Chinese tanker in the Indian Ocean,  Photo ABC

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