Posts Tagged ‘India’

The role of stories in Indian culture

February 2, 2010 2 comments

Below is a lecture given by professor S.N. Balagangadhara (aka Balu) on the role of stories in Indian culture. He mentions that, in those stories that are indigenous to India, their diverse and prolific nature makes them important in learning forms of socialization. They are ways of representing the world as well as models of how to go about the world. He proposes that this provides a map for emulation, that they provide sub-intentional learning or mimetic learning.

He also briefly touches on the internalization, both within and without India, of the European experience of India being forwarded as the story of India. He gave this lecture in 2009, in Estonia’s University of Tartu.

Part 1:

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Part 4:

Part 5 – Q&A:


Sri Lanka sits atop a strategic nexus

December 8, 2009 Leave a comment

Indian Ocean

Indian Ocean

The US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations has recently released a report on the need for a policy in regards to Sri Lanka. The report, “Sri Lanka: Recharting US Strategy After the War,” indicates that the island nation is key to US strategic interests in the region.

“As Western countries became increasingly critical of the Sri Lankan Government’s handling of the war and human rights record, the Rajapaksa leadership cultivated ties with such countries as Burma, China, Iran, and Libya. The Chinese have invested billions of dollars in Sri Lanka through military loans, infrastructure loans, and port development, with none of the strings attached by Western nations. While the United States shares with the Indians and the Chinese a common interest in securing maritime trade routes through the Indian Ocean, the U.S. Government has invested relatively little in the economy or the security sector in Sri Lanka, instead focusing more on IDPs [Internally Displaced Persons] and civil society. As a result, Sri Lanka has grown politically and economically isolated from the West,” states the US Senate report.

The report’s writers make a case for a shift in US policy by emphasizing the geostrategic importance of the island: “Sri Lanka is located at the nexus of crucial maritime trading routes in the Indian Ocean connecting Europe and the Middle East to China and the rest of Asia.

“[…]A more multifaceted U.S. strategy would capitalize on the economic, trade, and security aspects of the relationship. This approach in turn could catalyze much-needed political reforms that will ultimately help secure longer term U.S. strategic interests in the Indian Ocean. U.S. strategy should also invest in Sinhalese parts of the country, instead of just focusing aid on the Tamil-dominated North and East.”

About 80 percent of China’s oil passes through the waterways near Sri Lanka, most of India’s imports of oil pass through the Indian Ocean, and “three-quarters of all Japan’s oil needs pass through [the Straight of Hormuz],” one of the chokepoints into the region’s open seas.

Robert D. Kaplan has written a noted article in the Foreign Affairs journal indicating that “India’s and China’s great-power aspirations, as well as their quests for energy security, have compelled the two countries ‘to redirect their gazes from land to the seas,’ according to James Holmes and Toshi Yoshihara, associate professors of strategy at the U.S. Naval War College. And the very fact that they are focusing on their sea power indicates how much more self-confident they feel on land. And so a map of the Indian Ocean exposes the contours of power politics in the twenty-first century.” Furthermore, “Already the world’s preeminent energy and trade interstate seaway, the Indian Ocean will matter even more in the future. One reason is that India and China, major trading partners locked in an uncomfortable embrace, are entering into a dynamic great-power rivalry in these waters—a competition that the United States, although now a declining hegemon, can keep in check by using its navy to act as a sea-based balancer.”

India continues to secure its naval presence by increasing its surveillance capability. A new listening post has reportedly begun to operate in Madagascar, linked with two other similar listening posts off of India’s west coast. The system will allow for surveillance of navies in large swaths of ocean from Africa’s east coast to India’s west coast. New Delhi considers the security of these lanes as vital to its economic health. Asia Times reports that “most of India’s trade is by sea,” and that, “nearly 89% of India’s oil imports arrive by sea.”

Another report released by the US, this one by Naval Intelligence, reviews Iran’s naval history and strategy: “Iran uses its naval forces for political ends such as naval diplomacy and strategic messaging. Most of all, Iranian naval forces are equipped to defend against perceived external threats. Public statements by Iranian leaders indicate that they would consider closing or controlling the Strait of Hormuz if provoked, thereby cutting off almost 30 percent of the world’s oil supply.” The document is titled ‘Iran’s Naval Forces‘.

Speech by Indian PM Manmohan Singh

November 27, 2009 Leave a comment

The audio the speech is available from the Council on Foreign Relations: here. I don’t have time to provide analysis, though there are some problematic things in the dialogue. The Indian prime minister touches on economics and politics (Asia, China, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, USA).

US and NATO sinking in the Afghan trap

January 19, 2009 Leave a comment

How the threat to US and NATO military supplies routes to Afghanistan is the sign of a failed policy.

The Khyber Pass supply route for international forces stationed in Afghanistan was briefly closed by Pakistan, again. DAWN reports, “supplies to Western forces in Afghanistan through Khyber Pass were briefly suspended on Monday after militants attacked an army camp, killing a paramilitary soldier and wounding 10, an official said.” I’m not certain how all of these disruptions are affecting supplies to international forces in Afghanistan. Most of the US-NATO supplies go through the Khyber Pass. I’ve been reading rumbles of already eroded supplies in Afghanistan. With a planned US troop increase and the growing instability of Pakistan along the Khyber Pass, the Western military operation may become even more vulnerable. Protecting the pass with more troops will probably greatly increase international troop casualties since insurgents are well entrenched in the region.

The US and NATO are still trying to negotiate alternate routes, mainly through the countries on Afghanistan’s northern border. The most logical route other than Pakistan is through Iran. However, after a brief period of cooperation following 9/11, the US closed the door on Iran working with them in Afghanistan once President Bush identified Iran as a leading member of the “Axis of Evil”.

Kyrgyztan is one of the countries north of Afghanistan. The country’s government, however, has recently warned that it may any day demand a withdrawal of US presence from the base. This has come after Russian pressure. The US has also voiced interest in basing in Kazakhstan, immediately south of Russia. Kazakhstan has closer ties to Russian than Kyrgyztan and to reach a base there would essentially require passage through Russian territory, then a hop through the air space of another Central Asian state which will also under significant Russian influence and pressure. Furthermore, all but one of the Central Asian states – the exception being Turkmenistan – are facing their own very real Islamist insurgency. After seeing the US-NATO alliance’s abysmal failure to deal with the Taliban, these countries will undoubtedly have little trust in direct Western assistance or presence on their soil, worried that this may well destabalise their own constituencies.

So, in order to solve the supply problem, the US and NATO forces have these options:

(1) Pakistan is itself able to rapidly bring peace to its border area, thus securing supply routes into Afghanistan. This seems impossible in the immediate future. Pakistan has been engaged in a hot war with insurgents since the end of Summer 2008 and the conflict has only expanded. Furthermore, Pakistan’s ruling factions are divided, some even providing barely secret support to the insurgents.

(2) Western forces expand the war into northwestern Pakistan. The plan here would be to formally cooperate with Pakistan in fighting an insurgency that is active both in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The goal would likely be to focus a major assault in Pakistan in order to deny Taliban bases and resources there as well as to safeguard what is currently the only supply line of importance to Western forces. There would be need for a predominantly political dimension to this strategy. Pakistan cannot be distracted by possible conflict with India, so this matter would need to be settled between them. Furthermore, there would need to be clear, and commanding leadership from within Pakistan’s political elite in defiance to the powerful factions that resist the defeat of that country’s homegrown armed Islamists. These requirements would allow Pakistan to engage the full force of its army and intelligence services, both of which are currently riddled with dissenting power blocs. Also, the West would have to be prepared for an expansion of the war into Pakistan when war weariness is exhausting the patience of its citizens, commit more money, commit more troops, and commit to much larger loss of life among its soldiers. On top of everything, there would be no guarantee of success; insurgencies are notoriously difficult to quell especially when the local central authority is weak and divided.

(3) Iran is used an alternate route for military supplies. On the surface this seems the most reasonable. Iran has the ports that could handle the marine convoys, it has a relatively secure border with Afghanistan, and has suitable roads into the north and south of Afghanistan. Also, Iran sees the Taliban as an enemy and has for years worked to defeat them, even convincing its allies in the Northern Alliance to work with the US in the 2001 invasion. Relations between the US and Iran, however, are terrible. The US in 2001 rejected attempts at Iranian rapprochement, making it very difficult to quickly reverse the situation of mutual animosity. The US is likely concerned that its key regional allies, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, would react in hostile manner to any American cooperation with Iran on Afghanistan. Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are weary of Iranian influence, each wanting to be a regional hegemon and concerned that any Iranian gain would deny them this victory and perhaps allow Iran to instead become the preeminent power. So, this solution will almost certainly be rejected by the US.

(4) The US would need to cooperate with Russia for a northern supply route into Afghanistan. Russia currently has no incentive to accept this. The US, through its NATO alliance, has placed new missile defence military installations on Russia’s western border. The US has also, for the most part, led NATO through massive expansion into former Soviet states, encircling a significant portion of Russia and adding new bases to an already impressive chain that spans from northern Europe to the Middle East and Afghanistan. This cordon is seen as a serious military threat by Russia and after years of signaling its concern at the pursuit of this expanded iron curtain, Russia has regained its confidence and some of its (still fragile) strength to react politically (with new pacts in Central Asia, and the Middle East), militarily (in the short war in Georgia), and economically (mainly through its energy export policy). Russia would not want to help the US and NATO establish stable bases in Central Asia since the US will likely try to turn these into long term bases and succeed in a near complete encirclement of Russia. On some level Russia may actually encourage further US-NATO engagement in Afghanistan’s war, only so that more of its opponent’s resources are sunk there. Following this, it would likely seek, without any outwardly hostile act, to maintain or promote an environment in which US-led forces suffer great military, economic, and symbolic losses.

(5) US-NATO can also seek to pursue the current political and military strategy with minor adjustments here and there. This is unlikely to result in a clear and discernible Western victory in the region especially since the focus remains military with a clear disregard of the political solutions required to face the underlying causes of insurgency, instability, and civil war. Nor will an unchanged strategy bring Afghanistan’s regionally significant neighbours on-side with US goals: many in Pakistan’s ruling elite will resist US policy, India and Pakistan will see Afghanistan as a ground to pursue a proxy war between them, Iran will seek to thwart both the Taliban and the US, and Russia will cheer for a US-NATO disaster.

(6) The US and NATO may try to wash their hands of their own creation and leave after a symbolic show of force potentially in the guise of a ‘surge’. The plan of departure may include at least preliminary negotiations with some elements of the Taliban in Afghanistan. The Western military alliance may then claim to have established a framework of local cooperation superficially facilitated by a military surge. The US and NATO, once withdrawal is complete, would then likely cease any significant direct commitment to Afghanistan. Factional fighting would probably continue in Afghanistan, effectively another civil war. Afghanistan would at this point be even more impoverished and war-torn after the 2001 invasion. In this case the US would likely seek to outsource its Afghanistan policy to a regional ally, as it did prior to 2001. Back then, Pakistan’s military and intelligence services had this role. Things may be different this time around. The US is showing increased interest in having India join a military pact (mainly through a Nuclear deal), while India has shown greater interest in expanding its influence within Afghanistan and Central Asia, partially to counter Pakistan. The US may well support Indian influence in Afghanistan, backing an anti-Taliban government in Kabul. In return for legitimating and subsidising Indian regional influence in this regard, the US could demand greater Indian military and foreign policy compliance, locking India into an Asia-Pacific alliance that would include Japan and Australia.

India and Iran’s Relations Bound by the US-India Nuclear Deal

November 26, 2008 4 comments

The US-India nuclear deal explicitly binds India into several foreign relations policies demanded of it by the US in exchange for cooperation on limited access civilian nuclear technology and fuel.

India expressed its commitment to the deal by voting against Iran in the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) decision of September 2005, opening the door to sanctions against Iran due to that country’s investment in nuclear technology. This was a sharp turn for Indian foreign policy, and took place during protracted and labyrinthine negotiations around commitment to the US-India nuclear deal, thus signaling India’s commitment to a foreign policy alignment with certain US interests.

Below are some passages from the Hyde Act, a US Congress passed bill that shapes much of the nuclear deal. These passages relate to Indian policy regarding Iran.

A description and assessment of the specific measures that India has taken to fully and actively participate in United States and international efforts to dissuade, isolate, and, if necessary, sanction and contain Iran for its efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction, including a nuclear weapons capability and the capability to enrich uranium or reprocess nuclear fuel and the means to deliver weapons of mass destruction.

Secure India’s full and active participation in United States efforts to dissuade, isolate, and, if necessary, sanction and contain Iran for its efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction, including a nuclear weapons capability and the capability to enrich uranium or reprocess nuclear fuel, and the means to deliver weapons of mass destruction.

Under the Hyde Act, India must yearly be “assessed” to make sure it is in compliance with the above mentioned clauses. If it is not, then the US has the right to terminate the deal.

You can read the entire Hyde Act here.

Asia’s Threesome: Roundup of Analysis

BOOK REVIEW : Asia’s awesome threesome – Rivals by Bill Emmott. Any friendship between China, India, and Japan is a facade, argues Bill Emmott in his new book on the inter-state rivalry and its consequences for the world. Asia’s “Big Three” are prone to suspicions and jealousies due to their highly competitive and strategic environment and this has led to a complex “new Asian drama”. Emmott’s yen for futurology yields interesting speculations but his premise of a is illogical and bypasses the impact of Russo-American tensions. (Sreeram Chaulia, Asia Times)

India’s perch ruffles China’s feathers. After 43 years, India has re-opened an airfield, the highest-altitude air base in the world, that overlooks China’s Xinjiang province and the Karakoram Highway to Pakistan. Delhi says the move is in response to Chinese incursions, and should be seen as a clear sign that it is fed up with being bullied on the Sino-Indian border. (Sudha Ramachandran, Asia Times)

Japan Seeks to Outbid China in Quest for African Support. Two reports follow on the vast, and vastly expensive, Tokyo International Conference on African Development designed to showcase Japan’s aid to Africa. The conference, held in Yokohama with the presence of 51 of 53 African nations, was attended by 40 Presidents of African nations. The first report by Ramesh Jaura concentrates on the proposed Japanese aid package, as Japan proposes to double both trade and investment in Africa within five years. The second report by the Yomiuri Shimbun’s Kawakami Osamu highlights the real stakes for Japan: the effort to outbid China whose burgeoning trade, investment and presence in Africa is a cause of Japanese, and the continued pursuit of the chimera of a Japanese UN security council seat. Neither report mentions either oil and energy or military strategic issues. (Ramesh Jaura and Kawakami Osamu, Japan Focus)

China’s Thirst for Oil. China’s need for energy is growing faster than any other country’s. Record economic growth results in demand that outstrips domestic supply, leading Beijing to look outward to ensure growth and stability. Concerns about the global oil market have led state firms to buy stakes around the world, often in countries shunned by Western firms. The investments are an important factor in Beijing’s foreign policy. They also drive concerns that China’s actions fuel or exacerbate conflict in the developing world and cause tensions with other major oil-importing countries as it locks up energy resources. (International Crisis Group)

Roundup of Analysis and Investigative Articles: Israeli air strike on Syria, Canadian intervention, War, Diplomacy, and Trade Unions

October 15, 2007 Leave a comment

Ray Close on the Mysterious Israeli Air Attack on Syria. Ray Close, who was CIA bureau chief in Saudia Arabia for many years, sent around these musings on the Israeli raid on Syria. This is my Monday morning (speculative) analysis of the mysterious Israeli air attack on Syria on September 6, 2007 (with due thanks to others who have contributed their wise perspectives): 1. The Israelis offered us intelligence that Syria is beginning to develop a nuclear capability based on North Korean technology. They urged the US to cooperate with them in mounting a military attack to destroy the Syrian site. The advantages of this action, as presented to the Bush administration with great urgency by the Israelis, would be… (Syria Comment)

Deconstructing the Haiti coup. Below is from the National Film Board: Darren Ell interviews the director of the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti, Brian Concannon, about the political situation and specifically the crimes of UN forces (MINUSTAH) in Haiti. Concannon is a thorough, articulate and elequent speaker on the subject of Haitian politics.
Yves Engler is co-author of the groundbreaking book Canada in Haiti: The War on the Poor Majority. It is the first and only in-depth analysis of Canada’s participation in the 2004 coup d’état against the democratically elected government of Jean-Bertrand Aristide. In this podcast, Yves discusses key elements of Canada’s participation in the coup.

White Guys with Guns: Canada’s Military in Afghanistan. With a few exceptions, media coverage of the mission has been generally sympathetic to the claims and actions of Canadian military officials. It is the purpose of this essay to shed light on the less-reported aspects of the mission, about which our military and government officials rarely speak. (Dave Markland, Mostly Water/ZNet)

Slum Fights. The Pentagon Plans for a New Hundred Years’ War. Duane Schattle doesn’t mince words. “The cities are the problem,” he says. A retired Marine infantry lieutenant colonel who worked on urban warfare issues at the Pentagon in the late 1990s, he now serves as director of the Joint Urban Operations Office at U.S. Joint Forces Command. He sees the war in the streets of Iraq’s cities as the prototype for tomorrow’s battlespace. “This is the next fight,” he warns. “The future of warfare is what we see now.” He isn’t alone. “We think urban is the future,” says James Lasswell, a retired colonel who now heads the Office of Science and Technology at the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory. (Nick Turse, TomDispatch)

Ticking clocks and ‘accidental’ war. Whilst Washington looks at the Iranian prospects through the prism of a binary, to bomb or to acquiesce decision, facing President Bush over the remainder of his presidency, the actors in the region see the conflict as imminent and arriving in a roundabout way, through the backdoor – either via escalation of Western and Israeli tension with Syria; or from events in Lebanon, or a combination of both interacting with each other. All these key actors are convinced that conflict, should it occur, will convulse the entire region. (Alastair Crooke, Conflicts Forum)

Pearls for coal. Palestinian and Israeli negotiators began a series of secret meetings on Monday in an effort to draft a joint document for the upcoming US-sponsored peace conference, scheduled to take place in Annapolis, Maryland, in November. The two sides continue to be deeply divided on the major issues at the heart of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. According to Palestinian officials close to the talks, the two negotiating teams are likely to spend more time on formulating and asserting their own respective opening positions than bridging the gaps between them. (Khaled Amayreh, Al-Ahram)

Egypt: Mutual support? Forget it. What should be made of the voluntary cancellation of the editions of 22 independent and opposition newspapers? Is it a coherent way to protest against what journalists believe is a concerted campaign to silence voices critical of the regime? Or is it a shot in the foot? Such questions came to a head when the vast majority of independent and opposition newspapers failed to appear on 7 October in protest against the latest round of custodial sentences handed down to journalists. (Shaden Shehab, Al-Ahram)

Egypt: The Militancy of Mahalla al-Kubra. For the second time in less than a year, in the final week of September the 24,000 workers of the Misr Spinning and Weaving Company in Mahalla al-Kubra went on strike — and won. As they did the first time, in December 2006, the workers occupied the Nile Delta town’s mammoth textile mill and rebuffed the initial mediation efforts of Egypt’s ruling National Democratic Party (NDP). (Joel Beinin, Middle East Report)

Turkey fears Kurds, not Armenians. “We did not exterminate the Armenians,” Ankara says in effect, “and, by the way, we’re going to not exterminate the Kurds, too.” Turkey’s threat to invade northern Iraq in pursuit of Kurdish rebels is linked to its outrage over a US Congressional resolution recognizing that Turkey committed genocide against its Armenian population in 1915. Why the Turks should take out their rancour at the US on the Kurds might seem anomalous until we consider that the issue of Armenian genocide has become a proxy for Turkey’s future disposition towards the Kurds. (Spengler, Asia Times)

The Turnaround in Sino-Indian Relations. Many observers have recently argued that the newly forged Indo-U.S. alliance will work against its “intended aims of Chinese encirclement.” Although India denies its part in any attempt at “Chinese containment” to the publicly acknowledged satisfaction of China, the theory nevertheless persists. China’s response to the Indo-U.S. alliance is, however, quite creative. Instead of reacting with alarm, Beijing has gone on a charm offensive to draw New Delhi into a triangular entente among China, India and Russia. India, which has languished under foreign subjugation for centuries, has a visceral aversion to strategic alliances with world powers. Since its independence in 1947, it has followed what could be described as the “Third Way” in world diplomacy, which manifested itself in the birth of the Non-aligned Movement (NAM) in the 1950s. China is now building bridges to India based in part on the latter’s instinctive wariness of foreign influences, which is evident in India’s homegrown opposition to its nuclear deal with the U.S. (Tarique Niazi, Japan Focus)

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