Pakistan’s new government: a harbinger of hope? May 15, 2013Posted by southasiamasala in : Gordon, Sandy, Pakistan , 2comments
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.
India-China border tension and nuclear posturing May 9, 2013Posted by aungsi in : Gordon, Sandy, India, Pakistan , Comment
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.India, Pakistan, Snedden, Christopher , Comment
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.
Recent developments in the India-Pakistan peace process: glass half full or half empty? November 22, 2012Posted by southasiamasala in : Guest authors, India, Pakistan , Comment
In the article India-Pakistan visa deal: a glass half empty? (South Asia Masala, September 14, 2012), Sandy Gordon declared the recent changes in the visa regime between India and Pakistan and Pakistan’s indication that it will grant India the most favourite nation state (FNS) status by December as positive developments. He stated: “India sees such developments as consistent with what Krishna refers to as its ‘step-by-step approach’ to the relationship. India has for many years held the view that this is the best way forward, rather than pushing for dramatic developments in relations, for instance over Kashmir. New Delhi believes that a Pakistan more solidly stitched into the Indian economy is more likely to abjure the highly disruptive tactics in support of trans-border terrorism that have been witnessed from Pakistan in recent years. India is also keen to support what it sees as the delicate process of civilianising the Pakistani polity, consonant with its belief that it has been the military – and especially the ISI – that has been most heavily engaged in supporting terrorism.” Using Oscar Wilde’s dictum, these are noble sentiments, indeed! But how exactly does New Delhi want to achieve it?
A peace process is a two-way street. If one side tries to dominate it, however noble the intentions might be, the peace process fails. A lot has been already said about what Pakistan has to do to put its house in order and how to make South Asia peaceful as it is considered to be the problem.India, Patil, Tejaswini , 2comments
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.
The India–US–China–Pakistan strategic quadrilateral May 14, 2012Posted by southasiamasala in : India, Merrington, Louise, Pakistan , Comment
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.
Australia–India relations and the economy of ideas March 14, 2012Posted by southasiamasala in : India, Maclean, Kama , Comment
At the Sydney Cricket Ground on 5 January 2012, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard spoke confidently about the upswing in Australia–India relations – which had been strained since the violent attacks on Indian students in 2009 – citing cricket as the ‘common language’ of the relationship.
In the closing days of 2011, Gillard had also helped to remove an important irritant in the bilateral relationship as she championed and pushed through a change to Australian Labor Party policy, which had precluded the sale of uranium to India.
Despite these developments, there is an urgent need to reimagine the Australia–India relationship, emphasising mutual exchange and collaboration as the means of engagement. The economy of ideas – of education, and of research and development – hold enormous potential here.
India’s Iranian sanctions predicament February 17, 2012Posted by southasiamasala in : DeSilva-Ranasinghe, Serge, Future Directions International, India , 1 comment so far
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.
China-India relations in 2012: bilateral ties set to expand January 27, 2012Posted by southasiamasala in : DeSilva-Ranasinghe, Serge, Future Directions International, India , Comment
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.
Politics grips Pakistan January 20, 2012Posted by southasiamasala in : Guest authors, Pakistan , Comment
Alicia Mollaun, Crawford School, ANU
Back in Islamabad after spending Christ mas and New Year in Australia, I find that the “Memogate” scandal is on everyone’s lips and relations between the military and the ruling Pakistan People’s Party have continued to deteriorate. The controversial memo, leaked to Pakistan’s media late last year and allegedly authosed by President Asif Ali Zardari, sought the assistance of the Obama administration in pressuring senior military and intelligence figures to “end their brinkmanship aimed at bringing down the civilian apparatus.”
With US–Pakistan relations already fraught, the release of the memo whipped the media into a frenzy, fuelling speculation that the prime minister would sack the chief of the army and that the military, in response, would unseat the government. For the embattled civilian government, the scandal opened up a new and destabilising front.
Civil–military relations have always been uneasy in Pakistan, a nation that has been ruled for over half of its existence by the military. No democratically elected government has ever been replaced with another democratically elected government, and governments rarely serve a full term before being ousted. All of which can make living in Pakistan depressing and at the same time fascinating.