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Teaching Pakistan Studies: a relook July 28, 2015

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

Maqsudul Hasan Nuri

Pakistan Studies is taught as a compulsory subject in schools, colleges and universities in Pakistan. However, teaching of the subject leaves much to be desired. It needs to transcend its present narrow unimaginative and stodgy content and to go beyond the narration of mere facts and events within a repetitive ideological framework. This is especially so if the aim is to build socially conscious, progressive and robust-minded Pakistani youth who are abreast with regional/global developments and needs.

Pakistan Studies, as a subject, cannot be studied in isolation. Pakistan’s recent and past history is inextricably linked with Britain, India, West Asia and Central Asia. Every nation has its own version of history, narratives and heroes to eulogize and romanticize. Although our perspectives and heroes may not be the same as perceived by our neighbours, understanding the counter-narratives offered by others would make us more empathetic to them.

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Democracy still taking root in Bhutan July 24, 2015

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

Mark Turner

Bhutan was a latecomer to democracy. The small Himalayan kingdom joined the ranks of democratic nations only in 2008 when the first national elections were held and its constitution approved. But since then, how is democracy developing in the country?

Elections are the most visible symbols of democratic rule. There have been two national elections — in 2008 and 2013 — to choose the members of the partisan National Assembly and the non-partisan National Council. The system seems to be working well. The 2013 election saw greater political competition with two new parties running alongside the two original parties for the National Assembly. And there were more candidates for positions in the National Council. This non-partisan body acts as the house of review in the Bhutanese parliament.

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Does Pakistan need soft power? Challenges and prospects (Part 2) July 3, 2015

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

Maqsudul Hasan Nuri

Pakistan lies at confluences of east, west and Central Asia. Although it has good relations with the Arab world it is intrinsically South Asian. Ties with India have to normalize as it is dragging both countries down. Since the 1990s, India has made a shift from hard power to soft power. Pakistan is a culturally diverse and rich country. It has Hindu, Buddhist, Islamic and British influences. Exhibitions, road shows, student exchanges, art, sports and cultural visits of delegations can help build the soft power of a country. Propaganda can be part of soft power, but must be based on facts to be credible. Moreover, soft power employment is less competitive and involves lesser financial and material resources. It is the power of ideas, of attraction and persuasion, that are important. But if soft power becomes too condescending the real message could be easily lost.

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Does Pakistan need soft power? Challenges and prospects (Part I) July 2, 2015

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

Maqsudul Hasan Nuri

Non-traditional security has become more salient since the end of Cold War. Multiple issues, such as stagnating economies, adverse effects of climate change, energy crisis, repressive governments, cronyism and corruption, poor governance, cross-border interventions, refugees and internally displaced people, drug and criminal mafias – all necessitate revising the traditional security paradigm. Pakistan has also faced domestic turbulence in the last decade due to its proximity to war-wracked Afghanistan.

The term ‘soft power,’ coined by Harvard professor Joseph Nye Jr., gained currency in the 1990s and is now widely used in international affairs by scholars and statesmen. ‘Soft power’ is the ability to seduce, persuade and convince through values that mankind holds dear: democracy, art, culture, human rights, welfare, good governance and societal harmony. Nye differentiates between two types of power: ‘Hard power’ is ‘the ability to get others to act in ways that are contrary to their initial preferences and strategies’ On the contrary, ‘soft power’ is the ability to get ‘others to want the outcomes that you want’ and more particularly, ‘the ability to achieve goals through attraction rather than coercion’. Finally, Nye introduces ‘smart power’ fusing hard and soft power. Nye does not reject the realist paradigm, which focuses on military power, but thinks that a discreet combination will make a country vibrant and internationally credible.

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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.

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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?

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India’s misguided schools policy shutting out the poor October 16, 2014

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

Ken Schoolland

Millions of children are being shut out of India’s schools by legislation that predated the election of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. This is the message of a petition by the Centre for Civil Society, which states: ‘Today, 3,494,520 children are out of school, due to the fact that 19,414 private schools across 17 states have been closed’. But few in India are hopeful that this recent shift in power will bring about a liberalisation of education policy in the near term.

In 2009 the government of India passed the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act (RTE), which mandates criteria for school facilities and teacher employment. In the capital of Bihar — the fastest growing state in India — a study by the India Institute concludes that this will eventually shutter three quarters of the schools that serve 68 per cent of Patna’s mostly poor children.

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Modi is the boss!!! August 13, 2014

Posted by southasiamasala in : Awasthy, Richa, India , comments closed

Richa Awasthy

It is close to 100 days since Mr Narendra Modi took charge as India’s Prime Minister. The slogan with which BJP went into the election campaign was “Abki Baar Modi Sarkar” (This time, Modi Government). While the ousted government created an impression that the power centre is at Congress’ President’s disposal rather than the Prime Minister’s, the new government has shown that Mr Modi is indeed the boss of the new government. Since the outstanding win, Mr Modi has left his critics in media and elsewhere astonished with his actions. Mr Modi has shown that he acts based on the position he holds and that is why the Prime Minister Modi-ji is very different from the campaigner Mr Modi.

Softer side of Modi-ji – On the very first day of his entry into the Parliament Hall, Mr Modi astonished the media when he bowed at the footsteps of the Parliament Hall. He gave a message that he is dedicated to restore the value and respect of this temple of democracy. He exposed his emotional side when he was almost in tears on the mention of Mr L.K. Advani’s statement during his speech.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aIG2F0a-8As

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Will China ‘wedge’ India and the US? June 5, 2014

Posted by southasiamasala in : Gordon, Sandy, India, Pakistan , comments closed

Sandy Gordon

Commentators have generally assumed that the Obama Administration’s wrong-footedness over Modi’s US visa, along with the latter’s pragmatic approach to Chinese investment in Gujarat, signal a new tilt by the BJP away from the United States and toward China. Neville Maxwell, writing in the Times of India, urges India to seize the opportunity offered by Modi’s election to achieve a border breakthrough with China.

Writing in the Global Times, Liu Zongyi, of the Shanghai Institute of International Studies, has hailed Modi as ‘India’s Nixon’ and characterised his pragmatic approach to the conduct of business and foreign relations as ‘very close to Chinese practices’.

India would certainly favour a thaw in relations with China so it can get on with the urgent task of infrastructure development and economic uplift of its people, including with Chinese investment in the otherwise etiolated international investment climate. If we take a long-term view, however, we can discern a number of wildcards that may complicate relations between India and China.

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Hypocrisy, ignorance or ‘the intellect beyond comprehension’ June 4, 2014

Posted by southasiamasala in : Awasthy, Richa, India , comments closed

Richa Awasthy

An open letter to the dissectors of Verdict 2014:

On the 16 May 2014 India ushered in a new era with the BJP winning the historic mandate of a clear majority for a single non-Congress party. Narendra Modi (NaMo)-led NDA alliance scaled new heights with 336 seats, something not predicted by anyone apart from one exit poll by Chanakya.

Never in the history of elections in India have I seen the kind of post-mortem that is circulating these days. I have seen analysis of why a particular party won or lost, but this is the first time I have seen such an effort to prove that the winner has actually not got a mandate. The verdict seems too hard to swallow for some of the elite class of intellectuals and they are trying to bring in all sorts of intriguing parameters to prove that the mandate is not for the winning party/coalition. The flood of posts in this direction inspired me to write this blog.

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