A new vision for Australia-India relations December 4, 2014Posted by southasiamasala in : Guest authors, India , Comment
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.
Will China ‘wedge’ India and the US? June 5, 2014Posted by southasiamasala in : Gordon, Sandy, India, Pakistan , 1 comment so far
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.
Can India discard populism? December 2, 2013Posted by southasiamasala in : Guest authors, India , comments closed
The Indian economy is suffering from the effects of the government’s high-risk development policy, which relied on volatile capital inflows from US quantitative easing to finance consumption and inclusion.
This strategy is high-risk because, in the long term, capital and investment follow growth, and aren’t determined by the monetary policy of a foreign country. But India has focused excessively on financing deficits and neglected growth-promoting domestic reforms — a strategy which is risky at best and disastrous when the global markets are fragile as they are now. Domestic and international reform to encourage economic growth is the sustainable way forward. Short-term measures to alleviate the current account deficit or reduce pressures on the rupee are all, at best, only stop-gaps.
But of course, in a democracy that is going into an election year, only politically friendly reforms are likely to be undertaken. So can politicians persuade their constituents to accept reform?India, Weigold, Auriol , comments closed
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.
Pakistan’s new government: a harbinger of hope? May 15, 2013Posted by southasiamasala in : Gordon, Sandy, Pakistan , comments closed
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.
Pakistan: fallout over NATO supply route escalates May 29, 2012Posted by southasiamasala in : Afghanistan, DeSilva-Ranasinghe, Serge, Future Directions International, Pakistan , comments closed
Although there has been recent progress in cross-border cooperation, the modalities of a revised agreement between Pakistan and the US to re-establish a NATO supply route, have escalated domestic and regional tensions.
On Friday last week, after six months of stand-off, Pakistan for the first time authorised a US supply convoy to pass into Afghanistan, with office supplies destined for Kabul. The symbolic cross-over, however, after months of ongoing tension, has not resulted in the recommencement of the NATO supply route, a goal much desired by the US.
Since the imposition of the blockade, US and NATO forces in Afghanistan have been compelled to use the Northern Distribution Network. This is a series of alternative, and more costly, supply routes that transit through the Caucasus, Central Asia and Russia. The US is also eager to resume the NATO supply route through Pakistan to facilitate the withdrawal of its forces and military equipment from Afghanistan by 2014.
The India–US–China–Pakistan strategic quadrilateral May 14, 2012Posted by southasiamasala in : India, Merrington, Louise, Pakistan , comments closed
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.
Pakistan’s clash of institutional authority January 25, 2012Posted by southasiamasala in : Guest authors, Pakistan , comments closed
Guest author: Moeen Cheema, Teaching Fellow, ANU College of Law
This article was first posted in East Asia Forum on 22 January 2012.
Pakistan experienced dramatic political crises in 2011, including the covert raid carried out by the US on 2 May, which killed Osama bin Laden, and the killing of two civilians by CIA contractor Raymond Davis.
It was in these circumstances that an American businessman of Pakistani origin, Mansoor Ijaz, wrote a ‘memorandum’ to the US military commander urging an intervention on behalf of Pakistan’s elected government, which seemed on the verge of being toppled by the country’s historically powerful military establishment. Mr Ijaz, for reasons that are not yet clear, later alleged that this memorandum was written on behalf of Pakistan’s ambassador to the US, Hassain Haqqani, a close aide of President Asif Ali Zardari.
The scandal threatens to sink the fragile government, with the courts — as well as the military — now bearing down on Pakistan’s embattled politicians. The Supreme Court has created a high-powered judicial commission to investigate the origins and veracity of the memo. But the government seems set to fight what it sees as the military establishment, the court and the opposition’s common designs to oust an elected president. There is some basis for such paranoia. Every elected leader in Pakistan’s history has been proclaimed a threat to national security at some stage by the military establishment in an effort to justify greater say in the country’s affairs. Pakistan has undergone three major coups, and the military has ruled the country for nearly half of its post-colonial existence. Even during this latest period of elected rule the military has remained powerful, as the government ceded to it ultimate responsibility for territorial defence, national security and foreign policy.
Politics grips Pakistan January 20, 2012Posted by southasiamasala in : Guest authors, Pakistan , comments closed
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.
US drawdown plans seek Af-Pak co-operation November 3, 2011Posted by southasiamasala in : Afghanistan, DeSilva-Ranasinghe, Serge, Future Directions International, Pakistan , comments closed
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.