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Cricket is all that matters: symbolism in the Australia-India relationship November 9, 2012

Posted by southasiamasala in : India, Patil, Tejaswini , comments closed

Tejaswini Patil

The decision by Prime Minister Julia Gillard during her recent visit to India to award the Order of Australia Medal (OAM) to Sachin Tendulkar can be traced to the historical and cultural underpinnings of colonialism. The decision has been met with cautious scepticism in various quarters of the Australian media. Indian newspapers basked in the glory and pointedly noted Australian newspapers had criticised the award. Prime Minister Gillard had three underlying themes: extending economic cooperation between Australia and India, changing the military partnership with the selling of uranium to India, and employing cricket to unite the ties between the countries. Clearly, the decision to grant a cricket icon an OAM is worthy in and of itself, but does the Gillard government seriously think that Sachin Tendulkar has contributed to the fostering of better understanding between the two democracies?

Cricket, a game of colonial legacy, acts as a common thread that connects the social and political histories of Australia and India. The game provides an interesting metaphor for the way the recent relationship between the two countries has evolved.

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The India–US–China–Pakistan strategic quadrilateral May 14, 2012

Posted by southasiamasala in : India, Merrington, Louise, Pakistan , comments closed

Louise Merrington, ANU

Although the disputed border between China and India is often highlighted as the major sticking point in Sino–Indian relations, in reality it has remained relatively peaceful since the end of the 1962 war, and the potential for overt military conflict in the region remains minimal.

Of much greater concern is the strategic quadrilateral relationship in South Asia involving China, India, the United States and Pakistan. It has both regional and wider implications. At the heart of this matter is the India–Pakistan conflict over Kashmir, and continuing US involvement in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The relationships between these four actors are extremely complex. China’s support for Pakistan in its conflict with India is a serious and ongoing source of tension in the Sino–Indian relationship, while the US relationship with Pakistan is looking increasingly fraught even as its relationship with India improves in the wake of the 2008 civilian nuclear deal. Growing closeness between India and the US has caused some concern in China about the possibility that the US may be establishing a policy of containment or encirclement, and this concern in turn affects China’s relationship with both the US and India. Understanding this complex web of relationships is key to understanding the issues which are at the heart of China–India relations and which affect markedly how these two countries interact in the region.

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India’s Iranian sanctions predicament February 17, 2012

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

Sergei DeSilva-Ranasinghe

First published in Future Directions International on 8 February 2012

The implementation of the tough new US and EU sanctions against Iran has encountered practical challenges, with India, an important Western strategic partner, voicing its concerns. Given that India is a major recipient of Iranian oil, a major investor in Iran’s energy sector and has other vitally important strategic interests at stake in Afghanistan and Central Asia, its quandary encapsulates the difficulties   involved in the full implementation of sanctions.

In a press conference on 29 January, India’s Finance Minister, Pranab Mukherjee, clarified India’s position on sanctions targeting the sale of Iranian oil: ‘It is not possible for India to take any decision to reduce the import from Iran drastically [emphasis added by author] because, after all, the countries which can provide the requirement of the emerging economy, Iran is an important country amongst them.’ From this statement, it is clear that India has emphasised its willingness to cooperate with the US and EU sanctions regime, but with certain limitations in mind.

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India and Bangladesh: calculus of territorial dispute settlement February 8, 2012

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

Guest author: Sourabh Gupta, Samuels International

This article was first posted in East Asia Forum on 10 October 2011.

On 7 September 2011 in Dacca, the prime ministers of India and Bangladesh signed a landmark protocol to their 1974 Land Boundary Agreement, providing for final settlement of their long-pending boundary issues.

Given that instances of territorial dispute settlement in this sovereignty-conscious region have been few and far between, this exercise in statesmanship is both commendable and long overdue. A review of the principles and processes underlying the compromises reveals useful insights into territorial dispute settlement at New Delhi’s end.

The India-Bangladesh boundary is no ordinary one. Hastily constructed in the dying days of British colonialism, it was the longest international boundary created during the age of decolonisation. The border was intended to separate a contiguous majority area of Muslims from that of non-Muslims — but for only about a quarter of its length does it separate a Muslim-majority in Bangladesh from a Hindu-majority in India. As many as 162 tiny enclaves (111 Indian and 52 Bangladeshi) dot a section of the frontier: in the extreme an Indian enclave sits within a Bangladeshi enclave, itself situated within a larger Indian enclave, all surrounded by Bangladeshi territory!

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China-India relations in 2012: bilateral ties set to expand January 27, 2012

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

Sergei DeSilva-Ranasinghe

First published in Future Directions International on 25 January 2012

After holding talks for the 15th round of boundary negotiations in New Delhi on 16-17 January, China’s State Councillor, Dai Bingguo, and India’s National Security Advisor, Shivshankar Menon, signed the ‘India-China Agreement on the Establishment of a Working Mechanism for Consultation and Co-ordination on India-China Border Affairs’, which will be headed by high-level diplomatic and military officials from each country.

Building on the spirit of previous border agreements signed in 1993, 1996 and 2005, the 2012 accord is an important practical and symbolic step towards normalising bilateral ties, as both countries pledge to build what has been officially termed the ‘India-China Strategic and Co-operative Partnership for Peace and Prosperity’.

From a broader strategic perspective, the new working mechanism is a clear indication that China and India see increasing benefit from peaceful relations, although they remain strategic rivals competing for regional influence and engage in contradictory and counterproductive acts.

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Indian Parliamentary Speaker’s Iran visit indicative of developing ties November 13, 2011

Posted by sandygordon in : DeSilva-Ranasinghe, Serge, India , comments closed

Sergei De Silva-Ranasingha

For the latest on this important developing relationship click here to be linked to Future Directions International.

US drawdown plans seek Af-Pak co-operation November 3, 2011

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

Sergei DeSilva-Ranasinghe

This article was first posted in Future Directions International on 26 October 2011

US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, during a visit to Pakistan and Afghanistan last week, accompanied by a high-level delegation, met with Pakistani Prime Minister, Syed Gilani, and then Afghan President, Hamid Karzai, to strengthen Pakistan’s resolve to cooperate more emphatically in the lead up to the US withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2014.

The visit to Pakistan did achieve some of its outwardly stated aims; namely, enhanced Afghan-Pakistan co-operation and greater Pakistani co-operation with the US, in tackling the threat posed by the Taliban. The specific concern is the powerful 10,000-strong Haqqani network, which operates from within Pakistani territory. “We believe that Pakistan has…the ability to encourage, push, squeeze…the Haqqanis and the Afghan Taliban…to participate in the peace process,” said Clinton.

Yet, there was a divergence of opinion on how the US strategy should be prosecuted. For example, while the US intends to fight the Taliban and simultaneously seek to negotiate, Pakistan insisted that a ceasefire in Afghanistan is a necessary confidence-building measure to set the stage for negotiations. Similarly, Pakistan also cited the lack of military resources at its disposal for major offensive operations in North Waziristan.

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The Indian prime minister’s empty chair October 31, 2011

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

Auriol Weigold

Indian and Australian media have trawled backwards and perhaps forwards, over the message to Australia’s Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, in the Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh’s decision announced in August, that he would not attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Perth, taking place this last weekend in October.

Australian print media, notably the Financial Review on 28 October and The Weekend Australian, 29-30 October, have linked Manmohan Singh’s remarkable absence to Australia’s reversal of its agreement to sell uranium to India after Labor won the 2007 election.

Some Indian media were quick to correct that impression, pointing out that their Prime Minister has a heavy schedule of multilateral meetings in November (as has Julia Gillard) but also to indicate that Vice President Hamid Ansari who is in Perth in place of Manmohan Singh is expected to raise the issue of Australian uranium sales again.

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Is China repeating the mistakes of the United States in Pakistan? October 5, 2011

Posted by southasiamasala in : Kumar, Vikas, Pakistan , comments closed

Vikas Kumar

The web security company McAfee’s recently concluded investigations seem to confirm the widely held belief that China is engaged in extensive cyber intelligence operations targeting other countries, particularly, the United States. And yet remarkably, China refuses to learn from common knowledge about the United States’ experience as the reigning global power.

It is well-known that the United States’ foreign policy of using extremist Islamic regimes as proxies against the Soviet Union has boomeranged and has also caused extensive damage to the political economies of a number of countries in the Middle East and South Asia. Unfortunately, China refuses to learn from the United States’ experience in this regard. In its quest for greater power in the global arena, China is supporting regimes it would love to disappear when it reaches the summit. For instance, China is using Pakistan as a force multiplier in South Asia and in the process it is supporting a regime that will not turn law-abiding after China achieves its strategic goals.

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Power plays in Bhutan exemplify India’s growing influence March 30, 2011

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

Serge DeSilva-Ranasinghe

For nearly a decade the intensifying rivalry between India and China has been seen in practically every country in South Asia. In South Asian countries such as Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka, India has often encountered hurdles in attempting to expand its influence due to both political and historical reasons. Conversely, and as recently demonstrated in the Maldives, India has also successfully strengthened its influence in a number of smaller regional countries.  For example, in the small Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, India has positioned itself as Thimphu’s  closest ally.

With an estimated 75 per cent of the population Buddhist and 25 per cent Hindu, the people of Bhutan have traditionally shared strong linguistic, religious and cultural similarities to India, Nepal and Tibet . Since British influence was removed from South Asia following Indian Independence, relations with China have grown more complicated, especially since 1950, when China invaded and occupied Tibet resulting in thousands of Tibetan refugees seeking asylum in Bhutan. Later, in 1960, Bhutan decided to close its northern border with China. The border remains closed to this day.

 

Two boys in traditional dress outside the King’s palace, Thimphu, Bhutan.

For decades now Bhutan’s relationship with China has remained underdeveloped and practically stagnant, with no official diplomatic relations. However, some minor successes have been noted, such as when Bhutan voted in favour of China’s UN seat in 1971. Similarly, Bhutan has continued to honour its commitment to the ‘One China’ policy and has also signed the 1998 Agreement on Maintenance of Peace and Tranquillity in the Bhutan-China Border Areas. Nonetheless, these minor achievements have not necessarily translated into better relations. For example, trade relations have remained at minimal levels and equated to around US$1 million in 2002, according to China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Since then, bilateral trade statistics have been difficult to obtain, but there are few indications to suggest any marked increases in trade.

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