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.
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.
Poor by definition June 7, 2012Posted by southasiamasala in : Guest authors, South Asia - General , Comment
Security continues to be viewed in limited terms in the Indian subcontinent.
For hundreds of millions in the Indian subcontinent, daily life is a ruthless battle. It involves being assaulted brutally by insecurities arising from socio-economic, political, environmental and even military threats to their lives and livelihoods. Despite this, at the national level, the countries in the subcontinent remain stuck to a simplistic and narrow view of what security means, i.e. the safety of the state (or regime) from military threats.
It is a view which stands fundamentally challenged in the globalised, post-Cold War world. The case for a wider understanding of security is now well-established, and in many countries, regional institutions and international organisations, academic and policy debates are informed in this way.
For the subcontinent, the narrow approach to security is unhelpful in at least two ways. One, it makes it very difficult for a more people-oriented, holistic and inclusive understanding of security to emerge, despite it being highly relevant to the needs of its people. When thinking of security, policymakers continue to be driven by the limited, state-centric approach. Likewise, security analysts continue to look to the state when seeking expressions of insecurity, while ignoring other similar expressions at the sub-state level.
Two, it overlooks the importance of actors other than the state who are active in this wider security realm. It ignores their role as legitimate security practitioners, and the potential to learn from and build on their work from a policy perspective.
Sri Lanka: Colombo orders Islamist clerics to leave February 2, 2012Posted by southasiamasala in : Future Directions International, Guest authors, Sri Lanka , Comment
Jahnu Russell, Future Directions International Associate
Reprinted from Future Directions International, Strategic Weekly Analysis, 1 February 2012. Read the full story.
The move by the Sri Lankan Government to order a group of 161 foreign Islamic clerics to leave the country by 31 January highlights the role of a global Islamic group that is challenging the more moderate indigenous form of Sufi Islam in Sri Lanka.
According to the Controller of Immigration and Emigration, Chulananda Perera, the clerics belonged to the Tablighi Jamaat group. They had entered the country on tourism visas in small batches, without officially applying for permission to preach. The clandestine nature of their arrival brings to light the activities of the largest Muslim proselytising organisation in the world. It is estimated to have between 80-150 million followers.
US drawdown plans seek Af-Pak co-operation November 3, 2011Posted by southasiamasala in : Afghanistan, DeSilva-Ranasinghe, Serge, Future Directions International, Pakistan , Comment
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.Kumar, Vikas, Pakistan , Comment
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.
India’s internal security conundrum September 15, 2011Posted by southasiamasala in : Guest authors, India , Comment
Guest author: Ashutosh Misra
Blood has spilled on the streets again, right under the nose of India’s symbols of democracy and power – the Indian parliament, President House and the Supreme Court, all situated within few kilometres of the Delhi High Court where 11 people died and over 45 were injured in a suitcase bomb blast on 7 September. Harkat-ul-Jihadi Islami (HUJI), the Bangladesh-based outfit has taken has the responsibility as a mark of protest against the impending hanging of the 2001 parliament attack accused Afzal Guru. Initial investigations have shown traces of Indian Mujahideen (IM) involvement as well and several arrests have been made in this connection in the last couple of days. This second major incident since the 13 July serial blasts in Mumbai and 25 May blast at the same spot outside the Delhi High Court has yet again put the spotlight on India’s intelligence agencies and police force, questioning whether India possesses the wherewithal to rein in these unrelenting attacks.
As the government struggles to recover from the battering it received from the Anna Hazare-led nationwide movement against corruption, India’s internal security situation remains delicately poised. City after city continues to be targeted brazenly by terrorist groups indicating that a decade after the watershed September 11 attacks India’s situation has remained unaltered. Ironically, in contrast to India’s global prospects, domestically the situation does not appear too promising. The country’s recent experiences in dealing with domestic challenges demonstrate a stark mismatch between its global potential and internal capabilities. In particular, two key threats deserve attention here which could impede India’s global rise and economic growth: home grown terrorism (HGT) and left-wing extremism (LWE), both described by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as the two most serious threats facing the country. (more…)
China, India: defence co-operation rapprochement offers potential for regional stability July 13, 2011Posted by southasiamasala in : DeSilva-Ranasinghe, Serge, Future Directions International, India , Comment
This article was first posted in Future Directions International on 29 June 2011
China and India have recommenced bilateral defence co-operation and exchanges, after nearly a year’s suspension since an Indian lieutenant-general was refused a visa to enter China in July 2010. The eight-member Indian delegation was headed by a major-general. It visited China from 19-23 June and engaged in discussions with Chinese officials in Beijing.
Looking west again – to the Indian Ocean and India February 16, 2011Posted by southasiamasala in : India, Weigold, Auriol , 2comments
An article in The Australian, published on 31 March 2010, notes Australia’s inconsistent interest in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) in its headline ‘We must look west to the Indian Ocean …’. It goes on to remind that Australia should be a ‘pre-eminent country’ in the IOR and notes that a ‘new maritime great game’ is visible as ‘strategic competition between India and China’ grows. These ideas, verging on directives, are drawn from Bateman’s and Bergin’s Australian Strategic Policy Institute Paper, Our Western Front: Australia and the Indian Ocean, launched by Australia’s former Foreign Minister, Stephen Smith, on the same day in 2010. The Australian concluded its article by reporting that Australia’s policies vis-a-vis the Indian Ocean have been ‘relatively opaque and spasmodic’, and should be embedded in the mainstream of foreign policy.
Despite its inconsistent and often neglectful approach to engagement in the Indian Ocean as a whole, Australia has had an historical interest in the Indian Ocean, which is vital to its import and export markets and sea-lines communications. It relies on Indian Ocean sea-routes and access points for its globalised trade, and the ever-increasing importance of security and stability demand deeper engagement: geographically Australia is well-placed to play a prominent role in the Indian Ocean region.
Crew of HMAS Melbourne board a pirated Chinese tanker in the Indian Ocean, Photo ABC