India Insight

A Republic Day to forget for India’s opposition party

As Prime Minister Manmohan Singh watched India’s 61st Republic Day parade in the New Delhi sunshine on Wednesday morning, senior opposition leaders Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley were in a Jammu prison, where they had spent a night under arrest.

Detained for attempting to lead thousands of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) workers into India’s northern state of Jammu & Kashmir to provocatively raise the national flag in the state that has been racked by unrest by Muslim separatists opposed to Indian rule, Swaraj and Jaitley’s politically-driven mission had ended in failure.

Workers of India's main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) hold national flags and shout slogans during a protest on a bridge at Madhopur, in the northern Indian state of Punjab January 25, 2011. Thousands of Indian Hindu-nationalist opposition supporters massed on a bridge to the disputed Kashmir region on Tuesday as officials sought to stop a flag-raising ceremony that could spark violence. Police faced off with flag-waving BJP workers as authorities sealed routes into Kashmir to thwart the planned raising of the national flag in the state that has been racked by unrest by Muslim separatists opposed to Indian rule. REUTERS/Mukesh Gupta

The BJP appear to have thought that the nationalism-drenched plan to hoist the flag in the centre of Srinagar, the state capital, would galvanize their Hindu support base, and show the ruling Congress party as ineffective in defending the disputed state from separatists who rile against New Delhi’s rule.

Thursday’s media post-mortem strongly suggested that they failed on both counts.

“Omar steals a march as BJP flag mission foiled,” summed up Mail Today on Thursday, as the opposition’s plan to paint the Congress-backed state chief minister as a weak leader spectacularly backfired.

Does the Indian media overplay Indo-Chinese tension?

New Delhi’s flat-out denial of the most recent reports by state authorities of Chinese military incursions across its border with India in Jammu and Kashmir may show a tendency to gloss over such seemingly insignificant events — in favour of bigger strategic and trade interests — that the media appears to ignore. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (L) talks to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during a signing of agreements ceremony in New Delhi December 16, 2010. Wen pressed on with a charm offensive in India on Thursday, vowing "friendship and cooperation" a day after striking business deals with his hosts worth more than $16 billion. REUTERS/B Mathur

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (L) talks to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during a signing of agreements ceremony in New Delhi December 16, 2010. REUTERS/B Mathur/Files

On Monday afternoon, amidst a lull in the seemingly endless Indian news cycle, all major TV news channels flashed a breaking story of Chinese troops crossing the Indian border in the disputed northern state.

Kashmir calms down, but peace still distant

Soldiers patrol the scene of a shootout in Srinagar November 29, 2010. REUTERS/Danish IsmailWinter has come to Kashmir, a scenic valley deep in the Himalayas, cooling tensions in the disputed region after months of violent anti-India demonstrations.

At least 110 people have been killed since June. Dozens were wounded, mostly by police bullets, during the protests – the biggest since a revolt against Indian rule broke out in 1989.

A separatist strike, curfew and security lock-down, that dragged on for over four months and closed much of the region, have ebbed away and the streets across Kashmir are abuzz with activity again.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Will Obama refer to Kashmir in public in India?

fayazaward2Will President Barack Obama make some public remarks on Kashmir during his trip to India next month?

At a White House press briefing, deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes refused to be pinned down on specifics,  beyond saying that the United States would continue to express support for India and Pakistan to pursue talks.

"I wouldn’t -- I don't want to get into prefacing with precision what his comments are, in part because he’ll be answering a lot of questions there in the town hall and press conference and we haven’t -- we’re still working through his remarks on certain things," he said.

India takes calm approach to Arundhati Roy’s Kashmir remarks

Prize-winning author and activist Arundhati Roy gestures during an interview with Reuters in New Delhi. REUTERS/B Mathur

After initial signs that India’s government might move to censure controversial remarks by novelist and activist Arundhati Roy, it appears New Delhi has sidestepped a potential political minefield with U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit to the country only a week away.

On Sunday, Roy told a conference in New Delhi that Kashmir has “never been an integral part of India”, sparking a strong backlash.

Opposition politicians called for “the strongest possible action” against her “seditious” remarks and Law Minister Veerappa Moily declared the comments “most unfortunate”.

from Afghan Journal:

Obama in India next month; ripples in the region

U.S. President Barack Obama takes part in a town hall meeting at Concord Community High School in Elkhart, Indiana, February 9, 2009. REUTERS/Jim YoungU.S. President Barack Obama's visit to India is still a couple of weeks away and there is the huge U.S. election before then, but it has already set off ripples in the region. The Chinese have especially cottoned onto Obama's Indian journey, fretting over what they see as a U.S. attempt to ring fence China by deepening ties with countries around it. And continent-size India with a population of over a billion and an economy growing at a clip just behind China's is seen as a key element of that strategy of containment.

Qui Hao of the National Defense University, writes in the Global Times that while U.S. military alliances with Japan and South Korea form the backbone of the "strategic fence" around China, the "shell" is the partnership that Washington is building with India, Vietnam and other nations that have territorial disputes with China.

India, Qui cautions, would do well not to blindly follow America's policies in the region, especially if it really wanted to be a global player. India, China and the United States were bound up in a triangular relationship, and as the two weaker parts of that relationship, it was important that they maintained stable ties so that Washington didn't exploit their differences, Qui wrote.

from Photographers' Blog:

A job to do on the Srinagar streets

After offering special Eid prayers to mark the end of Ramadan, I got myself ready to cover the large Eid prayer congregation at Eid Gah in downtown Srinagar where senior separatist leader, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, was scheduled to address thousands of Muslims.

Kashmiris attend an anti-India protest in Srinagar September 11, 2010.  REUTERS/Danish Ismail

Soon after the end of Eid prayers, Farooq called for a protest march to Lal Chowk, the heart of Srinagar. Continually shooting pictures I followed the tens of thousands of demonstrators shouting "we want freedom". When they reached Lal Chowk, the shouts turned to violence and I saw protesters damaging the clock tower. Again Farooq addressed the people calling for anti-India protests. I ran to the office nearby to file the pictures.

A protester holds an Islamic flag on Kashmir's clock tower as he shouts anti-India slogans during an anti-India protest in Srinagar September 11, 2010.   REUTERS/Danish Ismail

As I finished filing I received a call from Sheikh Mushtaq, Reuters Kashmir correspondent, he told me protesters had set fire to police and government buildings. I rushed out to take more pictures. By the time I finished transmitting them I had worked 14 hours straight and, having fasted all day, was extremely hungry.

Is Kashmir’s protest leader gaining popularity?

Separatist militancy has waned over the years in Kashmir, but now a radicalised young generation which has grown up in over two decades of violence and strife is driving the massive anti-India demonstrations across the disputed region.

Senior communist leader Sitaram Yechury (R) prepares to shake hands with Syed Ali Shah Geelani, chairman of the hardline faction of Kashmir's Hurriyat Conference, during their meeting at Geelani's residence in Srinagar September 20, 2010. REUTERS/Danish IsmailWho is leading months of freedom demonstrations in Kashmir, a fresh unarmed uprising that is proving a huge political challenge for the Indian government?

Syed Ali Shah Geelani, the 80-year-old hardline Kashmiri politician who is hated by India and backed by Pakistan, has emerged as the leading face of the present separatist campaign in the region.

India offers fresh peace talks to Kashmir

Kashmiri protesters throw stones towards police during an anti-India protest in Srinagar September 4, 2010. REUTERS/Danish IsmailNew Delhi has expressed its willingness to hold talks with ”any group” from Kashmir where protests against Indian rule have mounted in recent weeks and government forces have killed at least 65 people, mostly stone-throwing protesters.

The civilian deaths have fuelled anger in the disputed Himalayan region where anti-India sentiments run deep though militant violence has gone down.

“We hope to restart the dialogue process. We will talk to any group, any political party which is willing to talk to us,” Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram said.

Is New Delhi working on Kashmir solution?

At least 64 people have been killed across Kashmir during anti-India demonstrations, one of the worst outbreaks of unrest since a separatist revolt against New Delhi broke out in 1989.

A Kashmiri protester throws a stone towards police during an anti-India protest in Srinagar August 30, 2010. REUTERS/Danish IsmailFrequent curfews, security lockdown and separatist strikes have kept the Muslim-majority Kashmir valley on the boil, shutting down much of the region for the past two and a half months.

New Delhi has been criticised for failing to respond to violence that has wounded hundreds, closed down schools and colleges also.

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