India Insight

from The Human Impact:

India’s growing global humanitarian role: Is it enough?

India is increasingly seen as an important player when it comes to supporting nations hit by disasters or conflict, as well as for development, but given its size and influence, is it really doing enough to help resolve global crises?

Many, like the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), think not, especially when it comes to addressing humanitarian issues at an international level.

"I am of the very strong opinion that India - which has an enormous influence due to its population, economic growth and history - will have to play a more assertive role in the world," Yves Daccord, ICRC director general, told AlertNet recently.

Daccord, who was in India earlier this month to boost relations with New Delhi and seek ways to engage the government more in hot spots such as Afghanistan and Myanmar, said it was imperative that India be much more active.

It’s not that India is doing nothing. It has been active, at least in terms of doling out aid.

Window closing on Prime Minister Singh’s planned visit to Pakistan

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Thomson Reuters)

It is eerily quiet on the fenced border between India and Pakistan in the southern plains of Jammu and Kashmir. Farmers are planting paddy, you can hear the sound of traffic in the distance from both sides of the border, and sometimes the squeals of children. Overhead in high watchtowers that can be seen from a mile, soldiers peer through binoculars at the enemy across while in the rear just behind the electrified fence with its array of Israeli-supplied sensors, soldiers are strung out in a line of bunkers. It’s a cold peace on one of the world’s most militarised frontiers.

Now the young chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Omar Abdullah, wants to change that, by cracking open the border and allowing the movement of people and trade through a road and rail route that have been shut since Partition in 1947.

Aung San Suu Kyi’s India visit: Killing softly with her words

Myanmar’s pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi’s trip to India last week was more than a homecoming of sorts to a country where she went to school and college, and which shaped her political beliefs. It was also about repairing ties frayed by New Delhi’s abrupt decision in the mid-1990s to engage with the military junta in Yangon after decades of support for her campaign. She ended up reminding the world’s largest democracy of how far it had strayed away from the ideals of the father of the nation, Mahatma Gandhi, in the pursuit of realpolitik.

For a country which has prided itself on something bordering on “Indian exceptionalism”, and fighting for equality and non-discriminatory policies on the global stage as well as the voice of the downtrodden in the initial decades since it won independence in 1947, the gentle admonishment from Suu Kyi must have rankled. Gandhi wouldn’t have countenanced such a policy shift towards a military regime that brutalised its own people, she said, whatever the compulsions. She was saddened that India had taken a path different from hers, despite their shared colonial history and close ties between the independence leaders of the two countries, she told The Hindu in an interview ahead of the trip.

It’s one thing to be pilloried by your own people and an unrestrained press about the rot that has set deep into Gandhi’s India; it is another for a foreigner to be telling a proud democracy  that it wasn’t living up to its own legacy.

India’s North Korea envoy: experience preferred, but not essential

Asking someone to represent India in North Korea is a little like belling the cat. Everybody knows they need to pick someone, but no Foreign Service officer wants to go to “godforsaken” Pyongyang.

Finding someone to take the job must have been hard, but was it so hard that they finally had to settle for a stenographer? India’s ministry of external affairs might be wondering the same thing. It is reviewing the appointment of Ajay K. Sharma after some officials raised questions about his qualifications to represent India in the isolated country.

Media reports say Sharma, a principal staff officer in the stenographer cadre, joined the ministry 31 years ago as a personal assistant, and had some limited experience in Suva as a counsellor handling pay and allowances.

Mistrust, Afghan insecurity loom over Indo-Pak talks

By Annie Banerji

As India and Pakistan begin diplomatic talks between the two countries’ foreign secretaries, Pew Research Centre published a survey this week that shows Pakistanis are strongly critical of India and the United States as well.

Even though there has been a slew of attacks by the Taliban on Pakistani targets since Osama bin Laden’s killing in May, the Pew Research publication illustrates that three in four Pakistanis find India a greater threat than extremist groups.

In similar fashion, 65 percent of Indians expressed an unfavourable view of Pakistan, seeing it as a bigger threat than the LeT, an active militant Islamic organisation operating mainly from Pakistan and Maoist militants operating in India.

Krittika Biswas: A series of unfortunate events

By Annie Banerji

With a $1.5 million lawsuit on the line, and the sympathy of the U.S.’s homeland security chief, the Indian media has made this 18-year-old’s unfortunate tale well known to its audience.

Krittika Biswas, daughter of an Indian diplomat in New York, says she was wrongfully accused of sending obscene and anti-Semitic e-mails to her teacher, handcuffed in school and detained with criminals overnight in February this year.

Even after she was cleared of all charges and her name omitted from the records, Biswas said her school sent her to a special suspension programme for more than a month.

Afridi’s remarks create ripples off cricket pitch

Maverick Pakistan cricket captain Shahid Afridi is best known for his “boom boom” batting and for scoring the fastest hundred in the 50-over version of the game.

Pakistan's captain Shahid Afridi catches a ball during a practice session in Pallekele March 13, 2011. REUTERS/Andrew Caballero-ReynoldsHowever, he is now creating ripples off the cricket pitch for his remarks against India, at a time when the two countries, who have been to war three times since independence, attempt to resume dialogue at the highest level.

Speaking to Pakistan-based Samaa TV, Afridi, the joint highest wicket-taker in the recently concluded cricket World Cup, said on Tuesday it was difficult to maintain good long-term relations with India.

Will Singh add Pakistan to his list of triumphs?

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has long wanted to secure what his dozen predecessors have failed to achieve: lasting peace with arch rival Pakistan. But, if the WikiLeaks cables are to be believed, Singh probably remains isolated in pursuing his dream.

In a week when officials from both countries meet to resume talks broken off after the 2008 Mumbai attacks and when the two prime ministers play “cricket diplomacy“, have the chances for peace improved?

There seems to be too much loaded against the initiative. The enmity between the two nations is rooted in their very existence and peaceniks are a handful. There is little political gain and much risk to be had from pursuing peace.

from Afghan Journal:

Standing on the warfront: when sport divides India and Pakistan

f1

In the run-up to Wednesday's cricket match between India and Pakistan, passions are running high on both sides of the border and in the diaspora which is following their teams' progress in the game's biggest tournament.

How to demolish Pakistan was the title of a programme aired by an Indian television network  where former players and experts discussed ways to win the high-voltage game that will be played in the northern Indian town of Mohali, within, in a manner of speaking, of earshot distance of the heavily militarised  border with Pakistan. 
  
Pakistan television in similarly wall-to-wall coverage ran a programme where one of the guests advised the team to recite a particular passage from the Koran before stepping out to play that day. There is even a story doing the rounds in Pakistan that an enraged Indian crowd put a parrot fortune teller to death for predicting a Pakistani victory, according to this report.

All fair in sport, you would argue, and especially for two countries that take their cricket very seriously. But this contest has an edgy undertone of antagonism that flows from the tension in ties since the Mumbai attacks of 2008 carried out by Pakistan based militants and for which New Delhi seeks greater redress from Pakistani authorities.

India’s Iran double-speak could shed light on its Libya muddle

India’s Congress-led government has a “flimsy” relationship with Iran, and holds a far more U.S.-centric view of Tehran despite a number of public statements clashing with Washington’s stance towards the country, a leaked U.S. diplomatic cable said.

U.S. President Barack Obama (R) toasts alongside India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during a state dinner at Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi November 8, 2010.   REUTERS/Jason Reed

The diplomatic double-speak alleged in the cable, obtained by WikiLeaks and published by The Hindu on Saturday, shows Congress’ ability to address diplomatic pressures while maintaining bigger geopolitical relationships, and could shed some light on India’s decision to abstain from supporting a no-fly zone to thwart attacks by Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi on civilians, seen by some as a rebuttal of Western influence on New Delhi.

The cable, authored by the Charge d’Affaires at the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi, describes a 2008 statement rejecting U.S. demands for India to urge Iran to suspend its nuclear programme as “mere tactics in the UPA’s domestic political machinations.”

  •