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New hope for Gorkhaland? October 4, 2011

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

Amy Dowler

On 2 September 2011 West Bengal’s Legislative Assembly passed a bill forming the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) in the hilly Darjeeling region in the north of that state. This followed the 18 July agreement to create the new administrative entity between the Governments of India and West Bengal and the area’s ruling Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) party.

The formation of the GTA is a particularly interesting instance of India’s ongoing attempts to address the demands of its many minorities; representing as it does a ‘third way’, an alternative to the previous two strategies of carving out a new state and forming autonomous councils under the constitution’s Sixth Schedule. Something very similar to the latter has already been attempted in the Gorkhaland region, and the former constitutes the GJM’s core demand, a demand it maintains despite its participation in the current process.

For the last two decades Gorkha politics (Gorkha here refers to Nepali speakers or people of Nepali descent resident in India) has been in large part defined by a bitter split between those advocating for the relative merits of statehood and Sixth Schedule status. It remains to be seen how the GTA will differ from a Sixth Schedule council, and whether its creation will mollify those who desire full statehood.

Darjeeling. Credit: Alec Leonello. Supplied by author.


Some thoughts about the South Asian ‘region’ May 27, 2010

Posted by southasiamasala in : Snedden, Christopher, South Asia - General , comments closed

Christopher Snedden

In April 2010, the body attempting to create a South Asian region—the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC)—celebrated 25 years of existence. The fact that SAARC has existed since 1985 is an achievement in itself. SAARC members have few connections with each other apart from SAARC itself, some historical links with British imperialism, and geography.  South Asia is a long way from becoming a unified and coherent region.

SAARC’s most recent ‘Meeting of the Heads of State or Government’ was held in Bhutan from 28-29 April.[1] The summit’s (largely aspirational) ‘Thimphu Silver Jubilee Declaration’ was positively titled ‘Towards a Green and Happy South Asia’. Somewhat surprisingly, however, its third point ‘emphasized the need to develop a “Vision Statement” ’, something that should have been done a long time ago.  Furthermore, SAARC has held only sixteen summits in 25 years, despite its Charter stating that ‘The Heads of State or Government shall meet once a year’.  ‘Annual’ summits were not held in 1989, 1992, 1994, 1996, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2006 and 2009. More than one of these meetings was abandoned due to the parlous-to-poor state of India-Pakistan relations. (more…)

Renewed tension on the India-China border: who’s to blame? September 3, 2009

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

Guest Author: Neville Maxwell, ANU

This contribution first appeared on our sister web site, East Asia Forum.

‘So solidly built into our consciousness is the concept that China is conducting a rapacious and belligerent foreign policy that whenever a dispute arises in which China is involved she is instantly assumed to have provoked it.’ — Felix Greene 1965.

India is heavily reinforcing its Army and Air Force units on its undefined border with China (two additional infantry divisions, a squadron of attack aircraft, refurbishing airfields etc). This is in breach of the parties’ obligation under a 1993 Sino-Indian treaty to keep force levels in border areas to ‘a minimum level compatible with … friendly and good neighbourly relations’, and Beijing has protested angrily and publicly.


Indian military parade


South Asia roundup August 7, 2009

Posted by sandygordon in : Gordon, Sandy, India, Nepal, Pakistan, South Asia - General , comments closed

Sandy Gordon


In India, the  sclerotic law enforcement system and creaking police service have again come under scrutiny.  An alleged ‘encounter’ killing of a former militant in Manipur has been captured in a series of highly incriminating photographs first published in Tehelka.   Widespread unrest in Manipur followed the allegations and the Manipur government has now announced a commission will inquire into the event, to be conducted by a judge from Assam.  This is but one of a whole series of alleged ‘encounter’ killings.  This one happens to be highly sensitive because of the separatist movement in Manipur and the remarkable footage recording the killing.  The Indian authorities have asserted the footage could have been electronically doctored.

An article in Nature chronicles India’s bid for a third scientific research station in Antarctica.  This will be the second active station, an earlier one having been covered by ice.  It is to be located in a part of Antarctica from which what is now the Indian subcontinent was originally detached.  The Indian government claims this geological connection provides a strong scientific rational for another station.  However, the location is also within a proposed Antarctic Specially Managed Area (ASMA), designed to restrict human activity on environmental grounds. The ASMA is being proposed by Australia and China among other countries, and India’s bid was initially opposed on environmental grounds. But one Indian former official asserted in the Nature article (see above for link) that this opposition had more to do with the desire of the opposing parties to keep natural resources to themselves rather than with protection of the environment. (more…)