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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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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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India-Pakistan relations: quo vadis? December 23, 2014

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

Maqsudul Hasan Nuri

It is ironical that while India and Pakistan are jointly honoured with Nobel Peace Prizes they should be lately engaged in cross-border skirmishes along their borders.

The Indian view is that Pakistan first provoked the border tension by sending cross-border militants. Also, many Indians took umbrage over Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s speech in September 2014 UN General Assembly session in which he raised the Kashmir issue. Another contributory factor could have been the exceptionally warm reception by US during the UN session. The US “pivot Asia” policy has also encouraged India as a partner against China in East Asia. The Indian stance, moreover, maintains that the perpetrators of 2001 Mumbai attack have still not been punished by Pakistan.

Justifying cancellation of Indo-Pakistan secretary-level talks, it seems the Indian forays were meant to divert the focus of the Pakistan military from fighting in FATA. In the wake of the US military exit post-2014, so the argument goes, India would not let its bargaining position weaken vis-a-vis Pakistan.

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A new vision for Australia-India relations December 4, 2014

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

Sourabh Gupta

Australia and India have not always been the best of friends. Seven Indian prime ministers from across the political spectrum and spanning three decades have come and gone without paying a state visit to Canberra, a record broken only now with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent visit to Australia following the Brisbane G20 Summit. Four unreciprocated visits were made by Australian prime ministers during the latter half of this period. Australia’s strategic discovery of a ‘shared values’ partner in India too has been a near-term development. The Coalition government under John Howard did not deem relations with New Delhi to be a significant interest, let alone a significant bilateral relationship, in its first Foreign and Trade Policy White Paper in 1997.

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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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New book: Re-thinking India: Perceptions from Australia January 28, 2014

Posted by southasiamasala in : India, News , comments closed

Re-thinking India: Perceptions from Australia

Edited by Lance Brennan and Auriol Weigold

New Delhi: Readworthy Publications, 2013. (Australia-India Interdisciplinary Research Series –  4)

Dating from the early nineteenth century, the ties between India and Australia were initially in trade and then, as parts of the British Empire, together playing a significant role in both World Wars. Since Indian independence there has been a developing relationship, recently expressed in the IOR-ARC (Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation) where Australia succeeded India as Chair in 2013. Cooperation continues on initiatives from security and environmental issues, to energy and education. The breadth of interests covered by the collected essays reflects the diverse concerns of Australian academics with an interest in India. The essays range from discussions of India’s diplomatic relationships and energy strategy to analyses of communalism and the strength of village elites and on to considerations of the fundamentals of Hinduism.

The contributors come from equally wide backgrounds, reflecting the complexion of Australian academia: Giovanni Arca, Jayant Bhalchandra Bapat, Mohammad Harunur Rashid Bhuyan, Tathagata Chatterji, Ian Copland, Gigi Ifergan, Christopher Kremmer, P.R. Kumaraswamy, Peter Mayer, Sanjay Ranade, Rizwana Shamshad, R.F.I. Smith, Christopher Snedden, Sneha Subhedar, Marika Vicziany, Auriol Weigold. Many of the papers in this collection, including some by postgraduate students, were first given at the Asian Studies Association of Australia’s conference held in 2012 at the University of Western Sydney. Other scholars generously contributed work on their current research. (more…)

India’s troublesome Nuclear Liability Laws: still an issue for the US? October 31, 2013

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

Auriol Weigold

In May 2010 I noted that the then Civil Nuclear Liability Bill defined the financial and legal liabilities for groups, seeking “to put the burden of damages on the nuclear plant operator”. (South Asia Masala, “Operationalizing” the Indo-US nuclear agreement) That burden remained unacceptable to potential operators United States’ companies Westinghouse and General Electric Hitachi, which have waited some three years for inter-government agreement to be reached on the unsatisfactory Nuclear Liability laws, before taking up long-since allocated sites in India to develop commercial nuclear power plants.

The Liability bill approved by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s Ministerial Cabinet in 2009 and passed by Parliament in 2010, defined financial and legal liabilities, and was the final facilitating step in the 2008 Indo-US Nuclear Agreement, itself several years in negotiation. The benefit for India in the US reversal of a lengthy ban on supplying nuclear fuel and technology is immense, but the fine-tuning in this last stage is as problematic as the earlier delays and trade-offs over the issue of a nuclear reprocessing facility in India.

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Pakistan’s new government: a harbinger of hope? May 15, 2013

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

Sandy Gordon

Pakistan has just experienced the first democratic change of government in its history. It did so despite a violent campaign by religious extremists to derail the election. This violence targeted secular-oriented parties such as the ousted Pakistan People’s Party (PPP). However, the victory by Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz Party (PML-N) is still a genuine one. The 60% voter turnout is excellent for Pakistan and indicates that Pakistanis defied the religious extremists.

Voters were clearly fed up with the PPP’s corruption and poor economic management. The country has suffered from serious electricity cuts and an anaemic economy. It is burdened by a rapid population growth rate, fuelled by poor levels of general and especially female literacy. Environmental problems in the heavily irrigation-dependent economy are growing.

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India-China border tension and nuclear posturing May 9, 2013

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

Sandy Gordon

The standoff between China and India in Ladakh has been resolved, at least for now. After China set up five tents for 40 personnel 19 km inside what India regards as the line of control, India set up similar tents facing them.  Both lots of tents are now to be removed, but it is still unclear whether India is to remove any of the structures at Fukche and Chumar, as demanded by the Chinese.

The Chinese withdrawal only occurred after India had hardened its position on the impending visit of Indian foreign Minister Salman Kurshid to Beijing on 9 May and the reciprocal visit of Chinese Premier Li Keqiang to New Delhi on 20 May. The Indian government was forced to harden its position by the strong public reaction to what was perceived to be its week-kneed response to the Chinese ‘incursions’.

A disturbing feature of the incident was the way it had been politicised on both sides, thus risking the protagonists being ‘locked in’ to their respective positions.

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A LOC-al affair – and India lacks a covert capability for use against Pakistan January 25, 2013

Posted by southasiamasala in : India, Pakistan, Snedden, Christopher , comments closed

Christopher Snedden

The recent India-Pakistan aggression and hostilities over the Line of Control (LOC) that divides the disputed state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) appear to have come out of nowhere. Or have they? What is essentially a local incident – of which, if history tells us anything, there indubitably will be more in future – may have serious ramifications for India, if one Indian analyst is to be believed (see below).

According to a well-informed Indian journalist, the recent India-Pakistan incidents on the LOC were instigated last September when a Kashmiri grandmother managed to cross the heavily fortified LOC from Indian J&K to Pakistan-Administered Azad Kashmir. (See Praveen Swami, ‘Runaway grandmother sparked savage skirmish on LoC’, The Hindu, 10 January 2013. Importantly, Indian troops failed to detect her crossing. Thereafter, the Indians built observation bunkers ‘to monitor the movement of [nearby] villagers’. Pakistani forces disliked these bunkers and started to fire at both them and their inhabitants, i.e. Indian soldiers.

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