Sign In
​​Br​i​efs

 
ISAS publishes a regular series of briefs which provide quick analytical responses to developments and occurrences in South Asia.​​​
  • 2017
    • Briefs: 533 : Nepal’s Elections 2017: A Watershed in Nepalese Political History

      Ankush Ajay Wagle 13 December 2017
      The year 2017 marked a landmark period for Nepal as the country held its first elections as a federal republic under a new constitution. This paper presents a snapshot of the significance of the elections in the context of the country’s political history as well as the potential domestic and external ramifications of the polls.
    • Briefs: 532 : Diplomacy and Papacy: How Do the Twain Meet?

      Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury 7 December 2017
      This paper analyses the challenges that Pope Francis confronted during his trips to Myanmar from 27 to 30 November 2017 and Bangladesh from 30 November to 2 December 2017 in an effort to defuse the tensions created by the Rohingya crisis between Myanmar and Bangladesh, and to draw the attention of the world to this massive humanitarian crisis. He seemed unswayed by either praise or criticism, and he drew both. He was able to demonstrate that while, as Pope, he might not command any military divisions, as former Soviet Union dictator Joseph Stalin had disdainfully observed, but he had the courage to attempt at more than what many other leaders did.
    • Briefs: 531 : The Bharatiya Janata Party Confident Ahead of Gujarat Elections

      Ronojoy Sen 6 December 2017
      The Assembly elections in the Indian State of Gujarat will be held in two phases on 9 and 14 December 2017, with the results being announced on 18 December 2018. While the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is predicting that it will win over 150 seats in the 182-member Assembly, the Congress is banking on a coalition to improve on its performance in the State. This paper examines the election strategies of the BJP and the Congress in the State.
    • Briefs: 530 : India-Singapore Defence Agreement: A New Phase in Partnership

      C Raja Mohan 4 December 2017
      The new agreement for naval cooperation between India and Singapore, signed at the end of November 2017 in New Delhi, India, marks an important milestone in the evolution of strategic partnership between the two countries. It also heralds more expansive defence cooperation between India and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) as a whole, and would help contribute to the maintenance of peace and security at the heart of the Indo-Pacific.
    • Briefs: 529 : Pakistan in Turmoil: Some Crystal Ball-gazing on its Future

      Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury 29 November 2017
      Pakistan was recently paralysed for several weeks by blockades on a main crossing leading to the capital Islamabad. Trouble started when Pakistan’s Law Minister Zahid Hamid purportedly made the omission of the reference to Muhammad being the last Messenger in Islam. Believing that his action was deliberate and was aimed at appeasing the minority Ahmedi sect, the Islamist political party, Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan, took to the streets. While the blockades have ended, they have left bold imprints on the future of Pakistan’s complex politics. The essay seeks to analyse some of the implications of the blockades.
    • Briefs: 528 : Asia and Europe: Emerging Potentials for Cooperation

      Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury 28 November 2017
      The existing power balance in the contemporary world is changing rapidly. This paper analyses the reaction of the key Central Asian states to these changes with their consequent implications for the other regions, including South Asia and Southeast Asia.
    • Briefs: 527 : Sri Lanka’s Budget 2018: Environment, Enterprise and Economics

      Ankush Ajay Wagle 20 November 2017
      Sri Lanka’s government recently introduced its budget for 2018 in November 2017, which follows the ‘Vision 2025’ masterplan introduced in September 2017. This paper looks at the central themes which emerged out of the budget speech, namely, a ‘blue-green’ economy and ‘Enterprise Sri Lanka’, as well as the potential of the budget to address Sri Lanka’s current economic challenges which include an intractable deficit, low revenue collection and a trade imbalance.
    • Briefs: 526 : The Status of Women in India: Widening Gender Gap

      Taisha Grace Antony 17 November 2017
      India ranked a low 108th position out of 144 countries in the Global Gender Gap Index 2017 published recently by the World Economic Forum, slipping 21 places in its overall ranking from the 87th position in 2016. India’s decline in the ranking can be primarily attributed to a widening of its gender gaps in political empowerment, literacy rate and life expectancy. India’s gender gap is further accentuated by the low participation of the women in the economy and low wages for those who have the employment opportunity. It is crucial to understand the constraints faced by the women in order to devise the appropriate policies to address this complex problem.
    • Briefs: 525 : India and the Resurrection of the Quad

      C Raja Mohan 17 November 2017
      India’s decision to revive the quadrilateral security dialogue with Japan, the United States (US) and Australia marks an important departure in its engagement with the great powers. It is a decisive step towards the consolidation of the strategic partnerships with the US and its Asian allies, and in enhancing New Delhi’s bargaining power vis-à-vis Beijing. As he seeks a say in defining the agenda of the Quad, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is heralding his country’s self-confident pursuit of enlightened self-interest with all the major powers.
    • Briefs: 524 : China’s ‘New Era’ Vision: Implications for South Asia

      Srikanth Thaliyakkattil 13 November 2017
      Chinese President Xi Jinping’s announcement of a ‘new era’ during the 19th National Congress of the ruling Communist Party of China in October 2017 seems to reflect China’s emerging confidence in its capability to reshape the regional geopolitics on its own terms. However, this paper argues that, in view of the evolving power structure in the Indo-Pacific region, it is probably premature to make that assumption.
    • Briefs: 523 : The Sharifs of Pakistan: A House Divided Against Itself

      Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury 8 November 2017
      The ‘House of Sharif’, acknowledged as Pakistan’s ruling family is threatened with a split, arising out of what is seemingly an internecine rivalry. This paper looks at its possible impact on Pakistan’s immediate political future.
    • Briefs: 522 : India’s Improved ‘Ease of Doing Business’ Ranking: Concrete Steps and Mindset Change

      Vinod Rai 7 November 2017
      The World Bank has, in its 2018 report on ‘Doing Business’, lauded the efforts of the Indian government at undertaking reforms which have vastly helped improve the business environment in India, in terms of 10 parameters which constitute the indices for the bank’s survey. Though the improvement is not uniform in regard to all the 10 parameters, the apparently systematic and resolute manner in which the government is making efforts does indicate that India’s objective of making it to the top 50 countries could be achieved soon. The World Bank’s latest ranking is a major breakthrough for India as an attractive investment destination, this will also help restore the confidence of entrepreneurs in the administration after its recent initiatives like demonetisation and Goods and Services Tax had caused some dislocation in the small businesses sector.
    • Briefs: 521 : Ease of Doing Business in India: A Big Jump but Tough for a Bigger Jump

      Amitendu Palit 3 November 2017
      India has made significant progress in the ease of doing business ranks by climbing 30 places to reach 100. The achievement is being celebrated as a vindication of the Narendra Modi government’s efforts to streamline regulations. While making large strides on indicators such as paying taxes, getting credit and tackling insolvency, India still ranks poorly on some other indicators such as starting a business, enforcing contracts, dealing with construction permits, registering property and trading across borders. Attributing the better rank to positive policy changes in areas managed by the Central government, the paper argues that climbing further would require greater action from the States.
    • Briefs: 520 : Shinzo Abe’s Victory in Japan: Implications for India

      Rupakjyoti Borah 7 November 2017
      In the national elections in Japan on 22 October 2017, the ruling coalition, led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, returned to power, defeating a divided opposition. While the election results show a strong mandate for Abe domestically, they also augur well for Japan-India relations. Abe has put much of his political capital into developing close ties with India, which has reciprocated positively under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
    • Briefs: 519 : Gujarat Assembly Elections: BJP Ahead Despite Voter Discontent

      Ronojoy Sen 1 November 2017
      The Indian state of Gujarat, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi was a three-term chief minister, goes to polls in December 2017. Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, which is in power in Gujarat and at the Centre, is looking to make a strong statement by winning more seats in this state than it has ever won. He has made several visits to the state, and the party has used the delay in the announcement of the election dates to offer a variety of government schemes to win over the voters.
    • Briefs: 518 : Rex Tillerson in South Asia: An American Tilt towards India?

      C Raja Mohan 30 October 2017
      The recent visit by the United States (US) Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to Afghanistan, Pakistan and India appears to have enabled Washington to launch a regional approach that privileges its relations with India in a manner that was inconceivable until now. In confronting the sources of international terror in Pakistan, encouraging India to play a larger role in Afghanistan, contesting China’s quest for regional hegemony and calling on India to play a leading role in constructing a new strategic equilibrium in the Indo-Pacific, the US is hoping to build a 100-year partnership with India. While many in New Delhi remain sceptical, and many imponderables cloud the future, an American tilt towards India and New Delhi’s willingness to work with Washington in the region are likely to become important factors in shaping the geopolitics of the Indo-Pacific.
    • Briefs: 517 : Revitalising the Indian Economy: Announcement of Public Sector Bank Recapitalisation Measures

      Vinod Rai 30 October 2017
      The Indian government announced a series of measures on 24 October 2017 designed to kick start the economy and enable public sector banks to improve their lending which has largely remained flat due to a lack of industrial demand, particularly from the manufacturing sector. The recapitalisation bonds, which have been proposed to provide additional equity capital to the public sector banks, have been hailed as a huge catalyst that could stimulate the growth of the green shoots of demand in the country. Also announced are some measures to boost road-building activity which can provide a major fillip to employment generation.
    • Briefs: 516 : India and the European Union – Poised for Partnership Scale-up

      Jivanta Schoettli 26 October 2017
      On 6 October 2017, the 14th annual summit between India and the European Union (EU) took place in New Delhi, India, with the stated aim of deepening their strategic partnership and advancing collaboration in India’s priority sectors for growth. Aside from reaffirming shared principles and values, three important pacts were signed. The India-EU relationship has evolved gradually over 55 years of diplomatic engagement. In 2004, India became a strategic partner of the EU and the two sides launched free trade negotiations in 2007. However, stalled negotiations led to an impasse in 2013 and a summit was held in 2016 after a four-year hiatus. Following the meeting in 2017, there is reason for cautious optimism about putting the partnership to work.
    • Briefs: 515 : The Rohingya Crisis: Potentials for Possible Changes in the Regional Security Architecture

      Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury 23 October 2017
      The Rohingya issue has placed Bangladesh in a difficult situation. Dhaka cannot urge the displaced persons to go back to Myanmar of their own free will. At the same time, it cannot host them for too long a period without damaging its own economy substantially. The challenge for Bangladesh is to be able to muster sufficient pressure on Myanmar to create a situation whereby the Rohingyas could return home in safety and live with honour and security. The efforts in this regard could alter the ramifications of the regional politicodiplomatic architecture in South Asia.
    • Briefs: 514 : Income Poverty in Sri Lanka: Beyond Traditional ‘Poor’ and ‘Non-Poor’ Classification

      Ravindra Deyshappriya 22 September 2017
      Income poverty in Sri Lanka, which is measured by the official poverty line, has declined significantly over time. However, this line, which broadly defines the poverty status as the ‘poor’ and ‘non-poor’, does not address the huge disparities within each of these two groups. This paper classifies the poverty status in Sri Lanka into four categories – the ‘extreme poor’, ‘poor’, ‘vulnerable non-poor’ and ‘non-poor’. It is found that 0.2 per cent of the households fall into the ‘extreme poor’ category while 16.3 per cent are in the ‘vulnerable non-poor’ group – they are more likely to fall back into poverty due to small shocks. Therefore, poverty reduction strategies, which target the broadly classified ‘poor group’, may not be sufficient and appropriate to lift those in the ‘extreme poor’ group out of poverty. Additional safety-net programmes are necessary to ensure the well-being of the ‘vulnerable non-poor’.
    • Briefs: 513 : India’s Regional Role: Perceptions, Potentials and Prognosis

      Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury 22 September 2017
      India’s regional role reflects a gap in its ability to find fruition in consonance with its potentials and capabilities. This gap needs to be closed, and those in power in New Delhi need to address this issue in right earnest.
    • Briefs: 512 : India’s Cabinet Reshuffle: Modi Looks Ahead to the 2019 Elections

      Ronojoy Sen 12 September 2017
      India’s latest Cabinet reshuffle had two significant features. The first was the elevation of four younger ministers, including Nirmala Sitharaman, to Cabinet rank. The second was the induction of four former bureaucrats into the Union ministry. India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be hoping that these changes might improve governance and help him reap dividends in the 2019 national elections.
    • Briefs: 511 : Donald Trump’s Afghanistan Policy Statement – Economic Implications for India

      Duvvuri Subbarao 6 September 2017
      In his comprehensive statement on America’s policy towards Afghanistan on 22 August 2017, United States (US) President Donald Trump outlined his country’s efforts to bring an end to its nearly 16-year-long war in Afghanistan. Among other things, the president called for a more proactive involvement by India and Pakistan in the US’ strategy towards Afghanistan. While Trump’s focus on these two South Asian countries will likely have considerable impact on geopolitics in the Indian subcontinent, might it also have any economic implications for India? This paper argues that the economic implications for India will be marginal, at any rate, in the short term.
    • Briefs: 510 : Tamil Nadu in a Muddle: The Politics of Admissions to Medical Colleges

      S Narayan 6 September 2017
      The Indian State of Tamil Nadu opposed the National Entrance Eligibility Test (NEET), which was introduced this year as a requirement to determine the eligibility for admissions to private and government medical colleges in the country. In doing so, the State has isolated itself as well as drawn attention to the weaknesses in its school curriculum. This is likely to anger parents who feel disadvantaged over the State’s lack of governance which has resulted in their children not being able to enter medical colleges. The NEET saga could have severe repercussions for the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Tamil Nadu government at the elections in 2019.
    • Briefs: 509 : GST Collections in India: Beyond the Government’s Projection

      Vinod Rai 5 September 2017
      The Goods and Services Tax (GST) was on the anvil for many years in India. However, the present Central Government, headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, finally persuaded all the constituent State governments in India to accept the introduction of the tax with effect from 1 July 2017. It must also be recognised, much to the credit of the Central Government, that the conceptualisation and the implementation of a very complicated tax structure have been smooth, without any glitches so far. It is now becoming clear that the initial fears of a decline in tax revenue mobilisation, especially for the States, are being set to rest. The first release of the early data pertaining to the GST collections appears to be very encouraging, indeed better than the expectations of the Central Government.
    • Briefs: 508 : Triple Talaq in India: Religious versus Gender Issues

      Amit Ranjan 4 September 2017
      In August 2017, the Indian Supreme Court delivered its verdict on the triple talaq (divorce), stating that it violates the state’s Constitution. The judgement can be seen as a victory for a Muslim woman’s individual rights versus the Muslim community’s collective customs and traditions. However, despite the decision, it remains unclear if the ruling will allow the Supreme Court to differentiate in the same manner in the future. It is also to be seen how the ruling will affect the practice of triple talaq in India because of the gap between the legal aspects of the Supreme Court’s decision and the customary practice.
    • Briefs: 507 : Appointment of a New Chief Minister in Nagaland: An End to the Power Struggle?

      Roshni Kapur 21 August 2017
      The appointment of T R Zeliang as Nagaland’s new Chief Minister (CM) on 22 July 2017 was an unexpected decision.1 He was chosen by Governor P B Acharya after the latter dismissed the CM Shürhozelie Liezietsu for skipping the floor test of a special session of the legislative assembly three days earlier.2 He had been facing criticism from some party members for picking his son Khriehu Liezietsu as his advisor with cabinet status and salary. The Governor’s decision may be seen as a prudent move that might quell the disquiet within the ruling Nagaland People’s Front and set the stage for an orderly conduct of the 2018 legislative assembly elections.
    • Briefs: 506 : A New Chapter in Indo-German Relations

      Roshni Kapur 16 August 2017
      Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s two-day visit to Germany on 29 and 30 May 2017 to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel was an opportunity for the two partners to explore ways to further cement economic and trade relations. The two leaders signed a dozen agreements. The need to resume free trade talks between India and the European Union (EU) was also included in the agenda. India and the EU have been unable to reach a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) despite enduring negotiations since 2007. The FTA is aimed to increase investments, lower tariffs on goods and enable trade in services between the two sides.
    • Briefs: 505 : India’s New President and Vice-President: The Elections and their Impact

      Ronojoy Sen 10 August 2017
      The recently-held presidential and vice-presidential polls in India were a formality, given that the ruling National Democratic Alliance had the numbers in its favour. However, the margins of victory illustrated the disunity in the opposition ranks and could be seen as a precursor to the 2019 national elections.
    • Briefs: 504 : The New Hambantota Port Deal in Sri Lanka: A Template for the Belt and Road Initiative Projects?

      Amitendu Palit 3 August 2017
      The Sri Lankan Parliament recently approved a new operational structure for the controversial Hambantota port. This structure has created separate joint venture companies to manage commercial and non-commercial functions that have Chinese and Sri Lankan businesses as the majority partners in both functions. This paper examines whether the model can become a template for future projects in the Chinaled Belt and Road Initiative that, while promising more resources for regional infrastructure, has also given rise to serious geostrategic concerns.
    • Briefs: 503 : The Disqualification of Nawaz Sharif: Implications for Democracy in Pakistan

      Faiza Saleem 2 August 2017
      Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has been disqualified by the country’s Supreme Court. The democratic system will continue, with his younger brother Shahbaz Sharif set to be elected a prime minister in due course. Yet, the ruling may weaken the consolidation of democracy in Pakistan by upending elected institutions and encouraging the flow of power to unelected ones.
    • Briefs: 502 : The Shifting Sands of Bihar Politics

      Rajeev Ranjan Chaturvedy and Amit Ranjan 28 July 2017
      As the saying goes, politics is the art of the possible. The latest example of this in the relentless politics of power in India is the re-emergence of the outgoing Chief Minister of the Indian state of Bihar, Nitish Kumar, as his own successor at the head of a new government with a different political complexion. This followed the collapse of his original ‘grand alliance’ (Mahagatbandhan) which consisted of his Janata Dal (United), the Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Congress in the State Legislative Assembly. Nitish has been able to form the new government in Bihar with the help of the Bharatiya Janata Party, the governing party at the Centre and an opponent of the now-defunct ‘grand alliance’.
    • Briefs: 501 : The G20 Hamburg Summit: Declaration, Divisions and Dividends

      Amitendu Palit 13 July 2017
      The annual Group of Twenty (G20) meeting at Hamburg took place in the backdrop of largescale anti-globalisation protests. Notwithstanding its commitment to globalisation, this paper argues that the G20 Leaders Declaration revealed the prevalence of contrasting positions on the subject within the Group and the challenges it will face in moving forward in the future. The paper also highlights the changed perceptions on China within the Group since the last meeting and the takeaways for India.
    • Briefs: 500 : The Qatar Crisis in the Gulf: Implications for South Asian Migrant Workers

      Md Mizanur Rahman 10 July 2017
      On 5 June 2017, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates cut their diplomatic relations and trade ties with Qatar. The Saudi-led diplomatic boycott soon had the support of nine countries, including the Maldives. The air, sea and land embargo on Qatar has directly affected the movement of people and goods to and from the country. This has had an adverse impact on South Asian migrant workers who make up around 70 per cent of the 2.7 millionstrong population in Qatar. In addition to having to deal with the rising cost of basic foodstuff, these workers live in the constant fear of losing their jobs and not receiving their salaries, due to the slowdown of the construction sector. At the same time, they are confronted with higher prices for air travel back to their home countries. All these factors have resulted in the migrant workers’ inability to remit money to their families. Their plight will further worsen if the Gulf leadership does not find a solution to the crisis soon
    • Briefs: 499 : The 2017 Malabar Exercises – Testing Waters

      Benjamin Chin 10 July 2017
      The 21st edition of the Malabar exercises are taking place in the Bay of Bengal from 7 to 17 July 2017 amidst tensions along the disputed China-India-Bhutan land border in the Himalayas, and in the context of the growing Chinese naval presence in the Indian Ocean in the past few months. The major highlights of the exercise are the emphasis on submarine hunting and the debut participation of India’s INS Vikramaditya aircraft carrier and Japan’s Izumo-class helicopter carrier. As with the past editions, the Malabar exercises this year provide an opportunity for India to deepen ties and enhance its operational compatibility with those of the other maritime powers, the United States and Japan. However, this year’s Malabar exercises are of particular significance, especially with regard to China.
    • Briefs: 498 : Challenging Times in Sri Lanka: A Reality Check for Maithripala Sirisena

      Amresh Gunasingham 5 July 2017
      A slowing economy, ballooning debt and new political challenges, which include an increasingly agitated electorate and divided party loyalties, have put the spotlight on Sri Lanka’s President Maithripala Sirisena and his coalition government. The government is struggling to deal with these issues and there are no clear signs yet on how the president intends to address these mid-term issues.
    • Briefs: 497 : The Goods and Services Tax in India: Impressions and Realities

      Amitendu Palit 3 July 2017
      India’s indirect taxation will experience a remarkable change with effect from 1 July 2017 with the introduction of the Goods and Services Tax (GST). This paper attempts to correct some misperceptions about the GST, including its coverage and structure. It also highlights the possibility of a temporary slowdown in economic growth as the country adjusts to the implementation of the GST.
    • Briefs: 496 : Farmer Protests in India: Opposition Lacks Strength to Challenge the Government

      Ronojoy Sen 27 June 2017
      Two Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-ruled states of Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh in India have witnessed farmers’ protests and deaths in June 2017. Although the issue of agrarian distress has the potential to hurt Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s BJP-led government, a fragmented opposition camp, inclusive of the Congress, does not seem to be in a position to effectively mobilise itself over this issue.
    • Briefs: 495 : Surprise Nominee for India’s Presidential Poll Seems a Sure Winner

      Vinod Rai 22 June 2017
      India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has surprised many by choosing a Dalit leader, Ram Nath Kovind, as its nominee for the election of the country’s fourteenth president. The Dalits, consisting of former ‘untouchables’ are often seen as the country’s most-disadvantaged social group. A seasoned lawyer, a two-term Member of Parliament and Governor of the Indian State of Bihar at the time he was chosen as the BJP’s presidential nominee, Kovind has the potential of being a winning candidate in the election due to take place on 17 July 2017. The entire political discourse now seems to centre on the fact that he is a Dalit leader. Indeed, the BJP’s announcement seems to have won general acclaim, and the arithmetic of the Electoral College also appears to weigh in his favour. The last date for filing nominations is 28 June 2017. The Lok Sabha Secretary General will be the Electoral Officer. Nominations have begun to be filed.
    • Briefs: 494 : The Asia-Africa Growth Corridor: Why are India and Japan Interested?

      Rupakjyoti Borah 21 June 2017
      Japan and India plan to join hands in the creation of infrastructure and digital connectivity in Africa through the Asia-Africa Growth Corridor initiative. They have strong strategic and economic interest for doing so. However, they would need to overcome several challenges, ranging from the different levels of growth in Africa and the need for greater India-Japanese coordination on an Africa strategy to the China factor in Africa’s development.
    • Briefs: 493 : Indo-United States Relations at a Cusp

      Sumit Ganguly 20 June 2017
      Significant progress has taken place in Indo-United States (US) relations over the past two decades. However, they may be at a turning point because of some potential policy shifts toward India under the Donald Trump administration. As India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits the US, these policy differences will need to be handled with some care to ensure that the progress that has been achieved is not fritted away.
    • Briefs: 492 : A New Wave of Agrarian Disquiet in India

      Vinod Rai 19 June 2017
      Despite a bountiful harvest in 2016, the farmers in some Indian states such as Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra have been driven to despair that has even led some of them to commit suicide. The debt burden of Indian farmers has been an issue recurring over the years, irrespective of good or deficient monsoon rainfall. The government’s actions seem to have been slow in coming, though the problems are well-known. It is felt that the state and central governments will have to show greater alacrity to alleviate the problems of the farmers and ensure that they are not put to repeated distress
    • Briefs: 491 : New Ambience in China-India Talks: A Straw in the Wind?

      P S Suryanarayana 14 June 2017
      The meeting between India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Astana on 9 June 2017, ahead of New Delhi’s admission as a full-fledged member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), has been viewed positively by both sides. Although the talks took place under the cloud of India’s refusal to endorse China’s global-connectivity mission – the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) – the two leaders discussed the idea of Sino-Indian cooperation for a stable multipolar world order. However, the China-India-Pakistan contestation is far from over. Admitting Islamabad too as a new member, the SCO has endorsed China’s BRI, which seems to favour Pakistan in its sovereignty tussle with India over a tract of land being used for a Sino-Pakistani connectivity project.
    • Briefs: 490 : Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Russia Visit: Re-bolstering Economic Relations

      Girija Pande 7 June 2017
      India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi returned to India on 4 June 2017 following a six-day four-nation tour of Germany, Spain, Russia and France. Of the four stops in Europe, the visit to Russia perhaps holds the greatest significance personally for him. Since coming to power, Modi had apparently developed a great relationship with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin. However, from India’s perspective, the relationship went off course in recent times, especially due to Moscow’s close relationship with Pakistan. The visit was, therefore, an opportunity for the pair to explore ways to re-bolster economic ties between the once significant bilateral partners.
    • Briefs: 489 : Kashmir Redux

      Sumit Ganguly 7 June 2017
      The renewal of political violence in Kashmir does not signal a reigniting of the insurgency. Instead, it is a reflection of accumulated grievances on the part of a youthful population as a consequence of living with decades of curfews, roadblocks and everyday harassment at the hands of security forces. The problem that the Indian state confronts is not one of mere order but the restoration of normal, civic life.
    • Briefs: 488 : Singapore India Maritime Bilateral Exercises 2017: Why They Matter

      Dr Rupakjyoti Borah 2 June 2017
      The Indian and the Singaporean navies recently took part in the Singapore India Maritime Bilateral Exercises 2017. These naval exercises allowed the two navies to further hone their skills and increase their interoperability. As two nations with shared interests in the Indian Ocean, it is sine qua non that India and Singapore pool their resources to tackle both traditional and non-traditional security threats.
    • Briefs: 487 : Goods and Services Tax in India – Tax Reforms for a Brighter Future?

      Deeparghya Mukherjee 29 May 2017
      The Goods and Services Tax (GST) has been hailed as a major tax reform in India to help streamline the indirect tax structure, reducing complications for businesses, apart from widening the tax base and increasing tax revenues. This brief highlights some major attributes of the GST noting a few points which may affect the economic prospects in the short run.
    • Briefs: 486 : India-Canada Synergy: An Expanding Relationship

      Roshni Kapur 24 May 2017
      India’s relations with Canada have been on an upward trajectory in recent years. Bilateral relations are moving towards to their potential through high-level visits, trade agreements, nuclear cooperation and people-to-people relations. This paper will explore the various areas of collaboration and how a strategic partnership is probable between the two countries.
    • Briefs: 485 : Indo-Sri Lankan Relations: Moving Forward

      Jivanta Schoettli 19 May 2017
      Over the last two years, there has been a flurry of high-level official visits between India and Sri Lanka. In February 2015, President Maithripala Sirisena of Sri Lanka visited India followed by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi who was in Sri Lanka in March 2015. Just recently, in May, Modi concluded a second visit to Sri Lanka, as did Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, who was in India in September 2015 and April 2017. In addition, there have been a number of ministerial meetings between the two sides.
    • Briefs: 484 : Japan-India Cooperation in the Infrastructure Sector and Opportunities for Singapore

      Rupakjyoti Borah 18 May 2017
      Japan and India are collaborating in a big way to develop India’s infrastructure sector. This is an area which is critical to India maintaining or even enhancing its growth levels. As such, New Delhi is pulling out all stops to overhaul this key area. Indo-Japanese collaboration provides a unique opportunity for Singaporean companies to seek business deals in India’s infrastructure sector – an opportunity too good to miss.
    • Briefs: 483 : Trump and the Upending of the Global Order: An Insight

      Shahid Javed Burki 16 May 2017
      This article is the first of a series of papers written to develop a better understanding of how Donald Trump, elected to the United States presidency on 8 November 2016 and sworn in as America’s 45th president on 20 January 2017, is likely to influence the world. The impact of his policies will be profound on the Asian continent. They will set back its rate of economic growth by slowing down the expansion in international trade. They will inhibit the movement of Asians to the world’s more developed countries. They will pose serious problems over the long run because of the way the Trump administration is reacting to climate change. The main purpose for this work is to alert Asia’s policymakers to the challenges they must confront because of the emergence of Trump and Trumpism in global politics.
    • Briefs: 482 : A New Era in Indo-Turkish Relations

      Liyana Othman 15 May 2017
      In April 2017, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan made a two-day state visit to India to discuss key bilateral issues with his counterpart, including the Kashmir issue, India’s Nuclear Suppliers Group membership bid, and the strengthening of counter-terrorism, trade and economic cooperation. The visit aimed to further strengthen bilateral relations between India and Turkey.
    • Briefs: 481 : New Security and Public Order Measures in Xinjiang: Concerns of Instability in CPEC’s Key Region in China

      Silvia Tieri 12 May 2017
      Under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a collection of infrastructure projects is currently under construction throughout Pakistan, including the Karakoram Highway, which is expected to link Rawalpindi to Kashgar, the Uyghur cultural capital. The CPEC has, however, put the spotlight on Xinjiang, China’s Muslim majority province plagued with ethnic unrest. Beijing recently imposed several security and public order measures which are likely to further add to the instability in the province.
    • Briefs: 480 : The ‘South Asia Satellite’: India’s Space Programme as a Regional Policy Tool

      Ankush Ajay Wagle 9 May 2017
      The recent successful launch of the ‘South Asia Satellite’ is yet another feather in the cap of India’s space industry. From a broader outlook, India’s burgeoning space expertise can be a potentially useful instrument to enhance relations with its regional neighbours. However, by staying out, Pakistan has shown that the Indian strategy of achieving regional cooperation under Indian leadership is not going to be easy
    • Briefs: 479 : The Belt and Road Initiative: Charming and Alarming Aspects

      Rajeev Ranjan Chaturvedy 9 May 2017
      While China has propagated the potential benefits of its Belt and Road Initiative, some countries are concerned about the possible consequences.
    • Briefs: 478 : Implications of the Xi Jinping-Donald Trump Meeting for South Asia

      Jivanta Schoettli 9 May 2017
      On 6 April, 2017, Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife arrived in Florida for a first bilateral meeting between the Chinese leader and the new American President Donald Trump. The United States (US) President hosted his guests at his private summer residence, Mar-a-Lago. The two-day meeting was heavily scrutinised for indications on the state and future of China-US relations. This is a relationship that is of great importance to South Asia, given the role of geopolitics and the strategic involvement of both in the region
    • Briefs: 477 : Are India and Sri Lanka Moving Closer?

      Amresh Gunasingham 4 May 2017
      Sri Lanka seems to be making strong overtures to repair a historically fraught relationship with its neighbour India, which is increasingly concerned over China’s rising influence in the Indian Ocean region. Recent developments signify progress in India-Sri Lanka relations in the economic and political spheres.
    • Briefs: 476 : Challenges Ahead for Nawaz Sharif in Pakistan Politics

      Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury 4 May 2017
      Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has been buffeted by one crisis after another in recent times. These may have weakened him politically and caused him to be down but he is not quite out – not just yet.
    • Briefs: 475 : Tamil Nadu Political Muddle: Much Ado about India’s Presidential Election?

      S Narayan 2 May 2017
      The unfolding political developments in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu have had much to do with the factional rivalries that broke out in the ruling party after the death of Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa in December 2016. However, there is much speculation that India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his party may be orchestrating unity moves at the state level with an eye on the country’s upcoming presidential election.
    • Briefs: 474 : The Goods and Services Tax: A New Chapter in Indian Public Finance

      Amitendu Palit 2 May 2017
      India’s impending transition to an indirect tax structure based on the Goods and Services Tax (GST) marks the beginning of a new era of fiscal federalism in India. This paper discusses the progress on the GST and some key aspects of its framework, and highlights the major role that states would henceforth play in determining indirect taxes in the country.
    • Briefs: 473 : The Public Health Foundation of India: A Case of Diminishing Room for NGOs?

      Ankush Ajay Wagle 2 May 2017
      The Indian government’s recent ban on foreign funding to the Public Health Foundation of India has once again brought to the forefront the contentious relationship between Indian nongovernment organisations (NGOs) and the government. This incident is yet another development in the recent narrative of the Indian government hardening its outlook towards NGOs as civil society actors.
    • Briefs: 472 : Left Wing Extremism in Chhattisgarh: A Thorn in India’s Side

      Amit Ranjan 2 May 2017
      The Indian state of Chhattisgarh witnessed one of its largest attacks on Indian soldiers by the Maoists in recent years. This has once again raised the question of a viable long-term solution to the issue of left wing extremism in India.
    • Briefs: 471 : The 2019 General Election in Odisha: BJD vs. BJP?

      Sojin Shin 28 April 2017
      India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and many leaders of the country’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) recently visited Bhubaneswar, capital of the State of Odisha. Their objective was to prepare the ground for a successful campaign in the next State Assembly election in 2019. They hope to capitalise on the second place the party secured in the panchayat (local bodies) election held in February 2017. Despite the BJP’s apparently burgeoning power base in the state, it seems difficult for the party to win the 2019 election due to the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) government’s perceivably good performance in the state. However, the BJP’s future in Odisha will also depend on several other factors such as the sustainability of the ‘Modi wave’ of popularity and the performance of the BJD government between now and the polling in 2019.
    • Briefs: 470 : Economic Planning and Development in South Asia: ‘Walking On Two Legs’

      Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury 28 April 2017
      The economy of Pakistan has achieved a modicum of vibrancy that is commendable. The initial emphasis on rapid growth has over time given way to a combination of trust in market forces, combined with the widening of the social safety net to cover the underprivileged. The author has called this policy thrust ‘walking on two legs’. However, the agriculture sector is deserving of greater focus, and its potentials are yet to be fully realized. The article briefly analyses the current global economic backdrop of the economic scene including the role of the massive Chinese investments. It argues in favour of a wider regional approach to development in South Asia, which would redound to the benefit of all concerned.
    • Briefs: 469 : The Islamic Military Alliance to Fight Terrorism: Implications for Pakistan’s Security and Foreign Relations

      Faiza Saleem 28 April 2017
      Pakistan will need to be circumspect about its conduct in the Middle East. Alignment with Saudi Arabia and leadership of the military alliance may help it to regain some of the lost space in the international arena but sectarian rifts and violence may increase at home.
    • Briefs: 468 : New Signals for Democracy: Pakistan Supreme Court’s Verdict in the Prime Minister’s Case

      Shahid Javed Burki 24 April 2017
      What will be the impact of the latest split-decision by Pakistan’s Supreme Court in what had come to be known as the “Panamagate case”? In the 3-2 majority judgment, the Supreme Court has ruled that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif could not be forced out of office on the basis of the evidence presented to it concerning alleged financial misdeeds by his family as revealed by the ‘Panama documents’. Nonetheless, the Court ordered an inquiry into the financial dealings of the Prime Minister and the Sharif family.
    • Briefs: 467 : Bypolls in India: Gains for the BJP amid a mixed picture

      Ronojoy Sen 24 April 2017
      By-elections were held in the second week of April in 10 Assembly and two parliamentary constituencies, including Srinagar, across 10 Indian States. The results, by and large, confirmed the national strength of the Bharatiya Janata Party, but that was only part of the story.
    • Briefs: 466 : “Acting- East” via the Northeast

      Rupakjyoti Borah 20 April 2017
      India’s Northeastern region could act as its bridgehead to Southeast Asia and beyond. However, for New Delhi to reap the full advantages of the Northeast’s geographical proximity to Southeast Asia, it must do more to improve the infrastructure in this region and put the projects it is executing in neighbouring Myanmar on the fast-track. Bangladesh could also be an important part of this initiative.
    • Briefs: 465 : The Regional Impact of South Korea’s Political Turmoil

      Sojin Shin 20 April 2017
      South Korea’s President was forced to leave office by the constitutional court’s upholding of Parliament’s decision to impeach her over corruption charges involving her friend and big businesses. The constitutional court has ruled that protecting the laws of democracy and market economy is the call of a democratically elected leader. Furthermore, the successful unravelling of the political scandal marks a breakthrough in civil society activism in South Korea in exposing corrupt politicians and entrepreneurs who are seen to break the law. However, a possible political vacuum may mean that South Korea will face difficulties in dealing with the security and the politico-economic relations with its neighbouring countries like China, Russia, and Japan for a while at least.
    • Briefs: 464 : Enhancing India-Malaysia Economic Ties

      Liyana Othman 11 April 2017
      India and Malaysia signed 31 Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) with a value of over USD 36 billion to expand cooperation between the two nations in various areas including skills development and capacity building. The MoUs were signed during the Prime Minister of Malaysia, Najib Razak’s six-day State Visit to India, in commemoration of the 60th anniversary of IndiaMalaysia diplomatic relations.
    • Briefs: 463 : Merger of Public Sector Banks in India: The Imperative to Make Haste Slowly

      Duvvuri Subbarao 11 April 2017
      The State Bank of India’s latest merger of five of its subsidiaries with itself raises India's profile in the global banking sector. Within India, however, it is not yet clear whether this step marks the beginning of a game plan for consolidating public sector banking through further mergers. Nonetheless, the government needs to follow up by creating four or five banks of comparable size to be able to compete with the SBI. The dynamics of that game plan have to be shaped by the SBI experience while its timing has to be determined by the resolution of the problem of non-performing assets.
    • Briefs: 462 : Signs of a New Dynamic in Pakistan-China Strategic Links

      P S Suryanarayana 3 April 2017
      China has spoken about its “deepening ties” with Pakistan while participating for the first time in the military parade on the Pakistani National Day in Islamabad on 23 March 2017. This is a significant sequel to the elevation of the Sino-Pakistani “all-weather friendship” to “allweather strategic cooperative partnership” in April 2015. Exactly a decade earlier, the two countries had indeed signed a Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Good-Neighbourly Relations. While the Treaty has remained a rarely-discoursed bond between the two countries, China’s latest move signals a new regional dynamic which should be of interest, perhaps even concern, to Pakistan’s neighbours, India and Afghanistan.
    • Briefs: 461 : Sino-Indian Strategic Dialogue: Exploring Potential for Cooperation

      P S Suryanarayana 2 March 2017
      While there is no denying the “friendly atmosphere” in which the first China-India Strategic Dialogue has taken place, the two sides have not bridged the gulf between their positions on a global nuclear order and a terrorism-free world order. The focus was on “potential bilateral cooperation” and the need for a “predictive” international situation.
    • Briefs: 460 : The Indian Budget—2017-18

      S.Narayan 6 February 2017
      The finance minister presented a sober budget to the Indian Parliament on 1 February, which focuses on job creation and infrastructure spending.
    • Briefs: 459 : GST Implementation in India: A Solution with Complications

      S Narayan 19 January 2017
      The resolution of a contentious issue of administrative control over the implementation of Goods and Services Tax (GST) in India, which was accomplished on 16 January 2017, appears to have paved the way for enforcing the measure by 1 July this year. However, several obstacles lie ahead.
  • 2016
    • Briefs: 458 : At the Heart of Asia, speculation, symbolism and substance

      Jivanta Schoettli 9 December 2016
      On December 4, 2016 the Sixth Ministerial Conference of the Heart of Asia- Istanbul Process (HoA-IP) was held in the north Indian city of Amritsar and attended by over 40 delegations, including Russia, China and the United States. The meeting was inaugurated by the President of Afghanistan, Ashraf Ghani and the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi and co-chaired by India’s Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and Afghanistan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Salahuddin Rabbani. Formed in 2011 as a platform for Afghanistan, and its neighbours, to discuss regional cooperation to promote stability, peace and prosperity, the initiative now includes over 20 other nations and organizations “supporting” the process. The participating countries include Pakistan, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, China, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan and the United Arab Emirates.
    • Briefs: 457 : J. Jayalalitha—a Strong and Charismatic Leader

      Dr S. Narayan 6 December 2016
      The passing away of J. Jayalithaa, the charismatic Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu removes a major political leader from the Tamil Nadu scene. The AIADMK party would find it very hard to replace her to carry on the legacy of the founder MGR. Her courage in adversity, total command over the party and her empathy with the poor enabled her to succeed time after time.
    • Briefs: 456 : Pakistan Appoints a New Army Chief

      Shahid Javed Burki 2 December 2016
      There are good reasons why the appointment of a new Chief of the Army Staff in Pakistan has received so much media attention outside Pakistan. The country’s location has given it a role that needs careful handling. This paper makes the case that the conduct of foreign affairs should be left to the elected representatives of the people.
    • Briefs: 455 : The Japan-India Agreement: An Exceptional Civil Nuclear Pact

      P S Suryanarayana 21 November 2016
      The Japan-India “Agreement for Cooperation in the Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy”, signed in Tokyo on 11 November 2016, shows that the two countries have sorted out the diplomatic complexity of Delhi’s non-accession to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. However, even as this pact remains to be ratified by the Japanese Parliament, China’s new activism inside the Nuclear Suppliers Group continues to pose a challenge to India.
    • Briefs: 454 : UP’s Ruling Party a Divided House

      Ronojoy Sen 14 November 2016
      India’s most populous State, Uttar Pradesh, is due to go to the polls in early 2017. But months before the elections, the State’s ruling party, the Samajwadi Party, has been riven apart by internal conflict, thereby denting its chances of returning to power.
    • Briefs: 453 : India and New Zealand: Inching Forward, Gradually

      Manjeet S Pardesi 8 November 2016
      While there are some important differences between India and New Zealand – in their conceptualization of the Asian region and membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group – closer political and economic links can help narrow these gaps.
    • Briefs: 452 : India-Myanmar Relations – A Fine Balance

      Jivanta Schoettli 31 October 2016
      On a recent four-day visit to India, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi attended the eighth BIMSTEC Summit (The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) and the first BRICS (grouping of Brazil Russia India South Africa)-BIMSTEC Outreach Summit, both of which took place in the Indian State of Goa. In addition she was accorded a State visit as State Counsellor, a post she assumed on 30 March 2016 following the landslide victory of her party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), in November 2015. Aung San Suu Kyi’s trip highlighted the geo-strategic importance of this relationship, connecting India to its near neighbourhood and beyond, to Southeast Asia. In their joint statement, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and State Counsellor Aung Sang Suu Kyi pronounced a shared interest in Myanmar’s democratisation, economic and social development and strongly condemned the common scourge of terrorism.
    • Briefs: 451 : Brexit and an Uncertain World: Some Implications for South Asia

      Shahid Javed Burki 27 October 2016
      This paper continues the story the author began telling in his first paper on the subject of Brexit,1 the voters decision on June 23 to answer the question posed in a referendum whether the United Kingdom should stay in European Union which it joined in 1973. The voters opted to leave. A total severance of relations may not occur but the uncertainty created by the vote will have very negative consequences in finance and investment.
    • Briefs: 450 : Secularism, Extremism and Counter-Terrorism in Bangladesh

      Anish Mishra 27 October 2016
      Bangladesh has always taken tremendous pride in its secular tradition. Over the recent years, there has been a surge in extremist elements that does not subscribe to the founding ideals of Bangladesh. Since taking over from the caretaker government in 2009, the Awami League Government under the leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has mounted a massive onslaught against extremism and terrorism on its sacred Bengali soil. This paper seeks to explain the Bangladesh’s counter terrorism model under three broad categories of education, legislation and enforcement.
    • Briefs: 449 : Prime Minister Lee’s Visit to India: Bilateral Cooperation and State-Level Engagement

      Rajeev Arumugam 13 October 2016
      Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s visit to India demonstrates the importance of bilateral cooperation. India-Singapore relations are enhanced by the city-state’s engagement with India’s sub-national States, but the overarching macroeconomic issues need to be addressed for enhanced cooperation.
    • Briefs: 448 : India - Overhaul of the Budget Process

      Duvvuri Subbarao 26 September 2016
      The Indian Government has taken three important decisions regarding the budget process: (i) to merge the railway budget with the main budget; (ii) to advance the budget presentation by a month from end February to end January; and (iii) to remove the distinction between plan and non-plan expenditures. Although not transformative, these three changes are positive developments, and together with the expected roll out of the goods and services tax (GST) starting next fiscal year, imply a significant overhaul of the budget process. This paper evaluates these changes
    • Briefs: 447 : The Andhra Pradesh High Court Judgment on Amaravati Development

      S Narayan 19 September 2016
      The judgement by a single Judge of the Andhra Pradesh High Court in India on 12 September 2016, staying the development process of the Amaravati Capital Region in the reconstituted State (province), is likely to be seen as a political setback to the State Chief Minister as well as a dampener for investments by Singapore companies in India and more so in Andhra Pradesh.The High Court of Andhra Pradesh, by the order of a Single Judge on 12 September 2016, has ordered as follows: “Now, the present position today, after final arguments were heard on 8.9.2016, is that last date of submission of the bids by the interested applicants who have to make a counter challenge/proposal is 13.9.2016 i.e. tomorrow. “In the absence of data relating to the Revenue share/Commercial bid of the OPP, interested applicants, who under Sec. 2 (ss) of the Act to give their counter challenge, have no time for filing their counter challenge. Therefore the interested parties are prima facie handicapped. “A final decision on the issues raised in the case can be made only at the time of disposal of the main Writ Petitions. Since it is not possible to decide the merits of the main Writ Petitions in the short time available before 13.9.2016, the Court therefore considered whether the bids can be allowed to be opened on 16.9.2016, in the state of affairs mentioned above, or whether prudence, justice, public interest and interests of the State would be better served by granting a stay of further proceedings pending disposal of the main Writ Petition so that the defects can be rectified early
    • Briefs: 446 : The New Jio Network – A Game Changer

      S Narayan, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 2 September 2016
      There has been talk of the need for disruptive technologies and intelligent manufacturing solutions for India. The first of these attempts is the introduction of all-digital, IP-based services by Reliance Industries. It has tremendous opportunities to leverage economic growth, once it gets over the initial hurdles.
    • Briefs: 445 : Terrorism in Balochistan: Shift towards Soft Targets?

      Anish Mishra 31 August 2016
      A recent bomb blast in Quetta, capital city of Pakistan’s Balochistan province, left over 70 dead and many others injured. It appears that the province’s lawyers were on the radar of militant groups. This paper seeks to examine whether there is a shift under way towards soft targets.
    • Briefs: 444 : India & RCEP: Will Flexibility on Tariffs Get Access in Services?

      Amitendu Palit 12 August 2016
      India has shown flexibility in tariff concession offers at the latest round of talks at the sixteen-member Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). While this would hasten the RCEP talks, the agreement is unlikely to commit to aggressive liberalisation on trade in services due to a lack of shared interest among the members. India’s gains from services can be more through new free trade agreements with Australia and New Zealand, and the upgrading of existing FTAs with Singapore, Japan, Korea and Malaysia – in all, with select RCEP members.
    • Briefs: 443 : A New Leader in Pakistan’s Sindh Province

      Anish Mishra 10 August 2016
      The top leadership of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) has replaced its aged, loyalist Chief Minister in Sindh, Qaim Ali Shah, and appointed Murad Ali Shah. The new leader faces tough challenges in ushering good governance in this province. This paper explains the change of Sindh’s Chief Minister and the tasks ahead for the PPP as well as the Sindh Government.
    • Briefs: 442 : Tumultuous Telecom Times in India

      Robin Jeffrey 10 August 2016
      India’s turbulent telecommunications industry confronts three landmark issues that will change the nature of the business: the launch of a nationwide 4G network by Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Jio, a merger that is likely to hasten consolidation of the industry and huge auction of spectrum.
    • Briefs: 441 : GST in India: Success comes with new challenges

      Amitendu Palit 5 August 2016
      The Upper House of the Indian Parliament has passed the long-awaited Goods and Services Tax (GST) Constitutional Amendment Bill. This paves the way for the growth of a common market in India with uniform tax rates across the country for various goods and services. This paper discusses the economic implications of the GST. While discouraging tax evasion and removing inefficiencies in the current indirect tax system, the GST must be anti-inflationary and avoid dilution of efforts in moving towards a more progressive tax structure.
    • Briefs: 440 : Two ‘Brexits’ – The First, 70 Years Ago

      Shahid Javed Burki 8 July 2016
      The tale of two ‘Brexits’ – the first when imperial Britain retreated from the Indian sub-continent in 1947, and the second when the British electorate has now voted for London’s exit from the portals of the European Union – is replete with similarities and differences. The 2016 Brexit is proving to be as messy as the one from India in 1947. Britain left India divided into two parts. National disintegration may also follow the 2016 move, this time in the United Kingdom. Migration is another parallel. The 1947 Brexit generated a vast wave of migration involving as many as 14 million people; the UK’s move out of the EU now may also result in a migration wave, albeit not on the same scale. In 1947, Britain left the Indian subcontinent in a mess; this time the mess will be in Britain itself.
    • Briefs: 439: Terror in Dhaka: Fundamentalism Spreads its Deadly Wings

      Dr Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury is Principal Research Fellow , ISAS 4 July 2016
      Theextremist attack at a Café in Dhaka,Bangladesh, was an inflection point that raised terrorism in that country to a different paradigmatic level. The article analyses why, and examines a set of possible counteractions.
    • Briefs: 438 : FDI in India’s Food Retail

      Amitendu Palit, Senior Research Fellow and Research Lead (Trade and Economic Policy) at the ISAS 28 June 2016
      The decision to announce 100 percent Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in domestic food retail operations in India can have a significant impact in controlling food inflation. The government has taken a major political risk by allowing retail investment. The policy can attract new investments in India’s food processing industry by encouraging both traditional and e-commerce global retailers like Wal-Mart and Amazon to invest more in food processing and marketing operations.
    • Briefs: 437 : Brexit, Bangladesh, and a Tale of Time-Tested Ties

      Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, Principal Research Fellow at the ISAS 28 June 2016
      The British are not generally prone to martyrdom. However, whenever they embraced it, their literature celebrated it. Take the charge of the Light Brigade, for instance. During the Crimean war in the nineteenth century, six hundred brave British cavalrymen rode themselves to self-destruction. That happened because a commander had issued an erroneous order. Alfred Lord Tennyson penned a paean of praise to that act of valour in a famous English poem. For that reason the unfortunate event has been indelibly etched in history. But the action itself was quite meaningless. It made no military or strategic sense. Likewise when the British voted to leave the European Union, the idea of self-destruction came to many minds. It did not, immediately, seem to make any political or economic sense. Someday, some will doubtlessly find reason in this decision, and like Tennyson with regard to that Crimean episode, praise it as an act of courage. But perhaps not quite yet.
    • Briefs: 436 : A Glimpse of a ‘Strategic Handshake’: Towards a New Indo-US Partnership

      P S Suryanarayana, Editor (Current Affairs) at ISAS 10 June 2016
      The latest decision of the United States to treat India as a “Major Defense Partner” is not surprising. This denouement was virtually anticipated, during the 15th Asia Security Summit, organised in Singapore by The International Institute for Strategic Studies in early-June 2016. Significantly, the new Indo-American entente will be a key factor in conceiving an Asia-Pacific (Indo-Pacific) security order, depending on how long the US-India „strategic and technological handshake‟ lasts.
    • Briefs: 435 : Bangladesh Budget: Tentatively Ambitious

      Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, Principal Research Fellow at ISAS 7 June 2016
      The Bangladesh Finance Minister presented the budget proposals (2016-2017) in the Parliament on 2 June 2016. The paper seeks to provide an analysis of the contents against the backdrop of the prevalent political situation.
    • Briefs: 434 : Shangri-La Dialogue 2016: A Challenge and an Opportunity for South Asia

      Subrata Kumar Mitra, Director and Visiting Research Professor at ISAS 7 June 2016
      The Shangri-La Dialogue which assembles a critical mass of stakeholders and strategic thinkers from the Asia-Pacific can become an opportunity for the states of South Asia to showcase their specific issues and seek better understanding and enhanced cooperation.
    • Briefs: 433 : Singapore-Sri Lanka Trade: A Brief Overview

      Deeparghya Mukherjee, Visiting Research Fellow at ISAS 2 June 2016
      Singapore and Sri Lanka have had growing trade relations. This paper seeks to explain the growing trade relationship, and identifies the key sectors in Singapore-Sri Lanka trade relations.
    • Briefs: 432 : The Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana: India’s New Safety Net for Farmers

      Vinod Rai, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at ISAS 1 June 2016
      India’s latest crop insurance scheme, announced by the Narendra Modi Government earlier this year, is designed to overcome the many problems encountered in the implementation of previous programmes. The use of technology to assess crop damage, and the recourse to some of the newly introduced mechanisms for curbing leakages in the flow of benefits, appear to have made this new scheme attractive to the farmers.
    • Briefs: 431 : Defining the India-China Relationship : A Continuing Quest

      P S Suryanarayana, Editor (Current Affairs) at ISAS 31 May 2016
      The latest state visit to China by India’s President Pranab Mukherjee was not aimed at achieving a breakthrough on any of the issues between the two Asian neighbours. The main significance of this trip was to assess the relative importance of India and China to each other. Chinese President Xi Jinping wanted India to “merge” its Look East policy with his own Belt-and-Road Initiative, while President Mukherjee sought “new momentum” in the Sino-Indian engagement.
    • Briefs: 430 : The Drone Drama and its Impact on Pak-US Relations

      Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, Principal Research Fellow at ISAS 27 May 2016
      The US drone attack that killed the Taliban leader in Balochistan led to an immediate souring of US-Pakistan relations. But if any broken fences are not mended soon, the Taliban, who already occupy one-third of Afghanistan and were able to swiftly choose their next Emir keeping their unity intact, would have the most to gain.
    • Briefs: 429 : A Tale of the Troubled Taliban : Mullah Mansoor and his Men

      Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury 25 May 2016
      The death of the Taliban leader Mullah Akhter Mansoor, in a recent American drone attack, may have some implications for the fighting capabilities of this terrorist organisation. Much will, however, depend on who succeeds him now. What is more certain is that the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan is not going to end anytime soon.
    • Briefs: 428: Implications of an Indo-Iranian Initiative

      Dr Jivanta Schottli is Visiting Research Fellow at ISAS 20 May 2016
      It has been announced that India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit the Islamic Republic of Iran from 22 May 2016. Expectations are high that he will firm up the Chabahar Agreement, committing substantial Indian investment to develop the all-weather, deep-sea port for Iran. This would mark a culmination point in a project that has long been envisioned and planned. Chabahar could become a gateway linking Eurasia to the Indian Ocean littoral.
    • Briefs: 427: West Bengal Elections: Trinamool Congress’ Rural Vote Blunts Opposition Alliance

      Dr Ronojoy Sen, Senior Research Fellow at ISAS 17 May 2016
      The six-phase elections in the eastern Indian State of West Bengal are over and the results will be declared on 19 May 2016. In the last three phases of polling, elections were held in districts which are Trinamool Congress (TMC) strongholds. The results for the final phase will determine if the TMC can retain power.
    • Briefs: 426 : Tamil Nadu Polls: Populism and Political Reverberations

      S Narayan 13 May 2016
      The Tamil Nadu Assembly elections in 2016 are a multi-cornered contest. The main contestants are the All India Anna DMK (AIADMK) which is the ruling party in the State under the Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa (or Amma as she is called) and the Darvida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) which is the main opposition party under the leadership of Karunanidhi (Kalaignar). Ever since 1989, the DMK and the AIADMK have been alternating every election in ruling the State. There is very little of ideology left in the original Dravidian agenda that brought these forces to the fore some fifty years ago. Both parties have focused on populist programmes and freebies during their respective regimes, and in the run-up to the elections, are continuing to promise ever more free gifts.
    • Briefs: 425 : Nepal: Unfolding Internal Political Contradictions

      S D Muni 11 May 2016
      Nepal's averted regime crisis is a reflection of internal political turmoil. Nepali politics has been driven by imbalances in power-sharing arrangements and residual issues of political transition from an absolutist Monarchy to an inclusive, federal republic. Unless this transition is made structurally viable, political stability will elude Nepal. India which has played a significant role in this transition will continue to be affected by the spill-over of Nepal’s internal turbulence. India's challenge is also becoming more formidable with the emergence of China as an assertive competitor for greater economic and strategic space in the sensitive Himalayan region.
    • Briefs: 424 : Tempered Progress as US Defence Secretary Visits India

      Mr Jayant Singh is Research Assistant at ISAS 4 May 2016
      United Sates Secretary of Defence, Ashton Carter, concluded an in-principle agreement to sign a Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) with India during a three day bilateral visit. The US remains eager to sign two other “foundational agreements” with New Delhi in order to further harmonize the military relationship. India and the US made reference to the South China Sea and took the opportunity to reaffirm support for the India-U.S. Joint Strategic Vision for the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean Region.
    • Briefs: 423 : India’s Trade Negotiations: The Imperative of Flexibility

      Dr. Amitendu Palit, Senior Research Fellow and Research Lead (Trade and Economic Policy) at ISAS 4 May 2016
      India continues to be labeled ‘obstructive’ in its ongoing trade negotiations such as the RCEP for refusing to eliminate tariffs in agricult ure, dairy and automobiles and insisting on easier access for its professionals in partner country markets. This paper highlights the futility of the approach and the risk of India’s isolation from the trade rule - making process. It urges flexibility in India’s negotiating posture includ ing bilateral discussions with key negotiating partners for resolving differences .
    • Briefs: 422 : BCIM Corridor: Brightening Prospects of India’s Economic Engagement in South and Southeast Asia

      Dr Deeparghya Mukherjee is Visiting Research Fellow at ISAS 28 April 2016
      This paper focuses on the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar (BCIM) corridor as a crucial means to improving India’s trade prospects and developing its North East. Highlighting the commodities mosttraded between India and the BCM countries, it makes a case for tapping the sectors of tourism, hospitality and local handicraft. The corridor may also help in tackling India’s urbanisation challenges.
    • Briefs: 421 : China-India Talks: Markers for the ‘Marathon’

      Mr P S Suryanarayana is the Editor (Current Affairs),ISAS 28 April 2016
      There has been no breakthrough in the on-going negotiations to resolve the long-simmering China-India boundary dispute. The Sino-Indian meetings in April 2016 have, nonetheless, resulted in a clarification of the way ahead for the first time since Mr Narendara Modi became India’s Prime Minister in 2014.
    • Briefs: 420 : West Bengal Assembly Elections: Despite Setbacks Trinamool Congress has the Edge

      Dr Ronojoy Sen is a Senior Research Fellow ,ISAS 22 April 2016
      Three phases of the six-phase Assembly elections in the eastern Indian state of West Bengal are over. The ruling Trinamool Congress is still the favourite to retain power, but it faces a tough contest thanks to corruption allegations and a flyover disaster, which occurred just before the State went to the polls.
    • Briefs: 419 : Bangladesh: Not in crisis, but at cross roads?

      Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury 12 April 2016
      Bangladesh has long had a tradition of religious tolerance. Recently, however, it has experienced some incidents of extremist violence reflecting the possibilities of radical change in the evolutionary trajectory unless the trend is recognized, challenged and stopped. The essay analyses some possible antidotes. Iftekhar
    • Briefs: 418 : Assam Assembly Elections: BJP has the momentum

      Ronojoy Sen 12 April 2016
      Assembly elections in India’s north-eastern State of Assam were conducted in two phases on April 4 and 11 with the results scheduled to be announced on May 19. The indications are that BJP and its allies are better placed than the incumbent Congress to form the next government in Assam.
    • Briefs: 417 : The Security of Nuclear Weapons Challenges for South Asia and the Muslim World

      Dr Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury is Principal Research Fellow ,ISAS 8 April 2016
      The apprehensions that nuclear weaponry might fall into undesirable hands are growing. President Barack Obama of the United States has given leadership in bringing the issue to the fore in the just-concluded Washington conference. With the forthcoming changes in the US Administration, greater responsibility will devolve on to the international community in this regard. The imminent Summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in Turkey should take up the cudgels in this matter in real earnest. This would bring credit to the leaders of the Islamic world in their countries, and beyond.
    • Briefs: 416 : Make in India – Why It Will Succeed

      Mr Girija Pande is a Member of the Management Board of the Institute of South Asian Studies 5 April 2016
      Despite the continuing mixed signals about the ease of doing business in India, the author believes that the country will make it to the top echelons of manufacturing hubs in the world.
    • Briefs: 415 : The Final Nuclear Security Summit: Some Implications for South Asia

      Mr Shahid Javed Burki is Visiting Senior Research Fellow , ISAS 5 April 2016
      While US President Barack Obama’s final Nuclear Security Summit has not broken any new ground, the absence of Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif helped turn the spotlight on the dangers of deploying tactical nuclear weapons, a move that Islamabad is keen on.
    • Briefs: 414 : Korea’s Efforts to Enhance Economic Partnership with India

      Dr Sojin Shin is Visiting Research Fellow ,ISAS 29 March 2016
      While South Korea has already established a conspicuous market presence in India, the two sides, now looking for ways to enhance their economic partnership, should focus on not only business-to-business and government-to-government ties but also explore avenues of interaction at the sub-national levels.
    • Briefs: 413 : Boosting Confidence in India’s Economy: A Regulator for the Real Estate Sector

      Mr Vinod Rai is Visiting Senior Research Fellow , ISAS 29 March 2016
      An orderly revival of India’s real estate sector, in respect of the flow of funds and consumer confidence, will go a long way in boosting confidence in the country’s overall economy.
    • Briefs: 412 : Outlook for India’s Economy 2016

      Dr S Narayan is Visiting Senior Research Fellow , ISAS 29 March 2016
      The paper outlines the positives and concerns on the macro-economic front in India in the light of the Central Government’s recent Budget for 2016-2017.
    • Briefs: 411 : Killings in Lahore: Will Condemnation Suffice?

      Mr Shahid Javed Burki is Visiting Senior Research Fellow , ISAS 29 March 2016
      The terrorist attack in Lahore raises some vital questions for the state and society in Pakistan. Beyond the denunciation of suicide-bombings as “cowardly” acts, one must look at the ‘grand’ designs of using the human body as a weapon.
    • Briefs: 410 : Mayhem in Lahore: A Wake-Up Call for Pakistan

      Dr Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury is Principal Research Fellow , ISAS 29 March 2016
      The terrorist strike at Lahore on Easter Day provides some important lessons in the form of a fusion of civil and military objectives in Pakistan as well as an imperative for distancing between the authorities and the extremists, besides the need to reinforce regional anti-terror cooperation.
    • Briefs: 409: India Budget 2016: Old Economics, New Politics

      Dr Amitendu Palit,Senior Research Fellow and Research Lead (Trade and Economic Policy),ISAS 1 March 2016
      India’s latest Budget focuses on the rural sector and the economically vulnerable sections and makes large allocations for agriculture and social sector programmes without compromising on fiscal discipline. It also shows the intention of the Narendra Modi Government to acquire a pro-farmer and poor-friendly image by deploying politically powerful economic tools like rural employment guarantee and direct transfer of subsidies. These measures, initially employed by the previous Congress administrations, are now being used by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for securing political capital.
    • Briefs: 408 : Track-Two Dialogue in the India-Pakistan Context

      Dr Samir Ahmad , Assistant Professor (Contractual) ,Department of Politics & Governance,Central University of Kashmir in Srinagar (India) 23 February 2016
      Despite the limitations and constraints within which Track-Two dialogue operates, it has been an important medium to explore new policy options between India and Pakistan. It has acted as a platform upon which to have discussions about many contentious issues such as Kashmir’s political dispensation, demilitarisation of the Siachen glacier, and cross-border terrorism.
    • Briefs: 407 : Lessons from the Story of a Forgotten Story

      Mr Vinod Rai,Visiting Senior Research Fellow ,ISAS 23 February 2016
      The author calls for proper norms of public discourse in India on sensitive matters, in the context of a recent reported comment on an old issue of alleged deficit of trust between the army chief and the government in 2012.
    • Briefs: 406 : India’s GDP Growth: Confusion Amidst Cheers

      Amitendu Palit , Senior Research Fellow and Research Lead (Trade and Economic Policy) at ISAS 15 February 2016
      India’s latest GDP numbers project 7.6% growth for its economy in 2015-16. But there continues to be confusion over the quality of India’s economic performance as the statistically robust GDP estimates are at variance with some other economic indicators. The paper, while reflecting on the variations and sources of GDP growth, argues private consumption cannot sustain high growth without pick-up in investment and broad-based turnaround in manufacturing.
    • Briefs: 405 : The Rafale Saga: Indian Air Force’s Never-Ending Wait for a Medium Multi-Role Combat Jet

      Jayant Singh , Research Assistant at ISAS 5 February 2016
      The visit to India by the President of France in January 2016 culminated in an Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) pertaining to the delivery of 36 Rafale jets in flyaway condition. An IGA is essentially a high-level expression of intent. Indeed, the issues that held the deal up following India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s earlier announcement in Paris in this regard – and even before that – still persist.
    • Briefs: 404 : Arunachal Pradesh Deadlock: A Sign of Institutional Crisis

      Ronojoy Sen, Senior Research Fellow at ISAS 5 February 2016
      The imposition of President’s Rule in the north-eastern State of Arunachal Pradesh has been challenged in court. The situation in Arunachal raises troubling questions about India’s federalism and the office of State Governors.India’s President Pranab Mukherjee’s approval on 26 January 2016 of the Union Cabinet’s recommendation to impose President’s Rule in the north-eastern State of Arunachal Pradesh, whose borders with China are a matter of dispute, has ignited a constitutional debate.
    • Briefs: 403 : An Analysis of Bangladesh Today: A Prognosis of its Polity

      Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, Principal Research Fellow at ISAS 3 February 2016
      The paper, written in the context of the recent deportation of 27 Bangladeshi workers from Singapore, argues that what is required is a united front, a closing of ranks of the disparate political and other forces in Bangladesh to prevent the outbreak of violent extremism that would threaten the societal fabric.In his play ‘Othello’, Act 2, the English bard William Shakespeare, or rather his character Iago says of ‘reputation’, that ‘it is an idle and most false imposition, oft got without merit and lost without deserving’. His interlocutor in this case was Cassio, an individual.
    • Briefs: 402 : Voluntary Compliance: Better Governance with Lesser Government

      Vinod Rai , Visiting Senior Research Fellow at ISAS 29 January 2016
      Analysed from various perspectives, the success of a recent experiment of regulating car traffic on the streets of India’s capital city of Delhi – in order to control air pollution – shows the possible benefits of minimum ‘government’ for maximum governance.
    • Briefs: 401 : Chief Minister Sayeed’s Death could upset Jammu and Kashmir’s Stability

      Ronojoy Sen, Senior Research Fellow at ISAS 15 January 2016
      The death of Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed has thrown into doubt the stability of the government in this strategically located Indian State. Sayeed’s death has brought into sharp focus not only the calculations of local leaders, including Sayeed’s daughter Mehbooba Mufti, but also the political stakes of the Centre
    • Briefs: SADC Briefs

      18 July 2016
  • 2015
    • Briefs: 400: Urgency of Understanding Sanitation Drivers in ‘Smaller Cities’ in India: National and International Relevance

      Shubhagato Dasgupta 28 December 2015
      The paper emphasises the fact that the fastest growth in India’s urban population is occurring in its smaller cities and towns. They have glaringly inadequate sewerage and public sanitation infrastructure. But there is still time, before they grow too large, to begin to provide some of the requirements for a healthy urban life.
    • Briefs: 399: Caste and Gender: The Social Barriers to Solid Waste Management in India

      Shibu Nair 28 December 2015
      The paper explains the indignities and deeply-held attitudes that stigmatise those who deal with waste, garbage and human excreta in India. It outlines how such attitudes make the goals of the ‘Swachh Bharat’ or ‘Clean India’ campaign difficult to achieve. It argues, however, that a zero-waste strategy, which improves public sanitation and the dignity of workers, has had some success.
    • Briefs: 398: Malaise_in_Maldives

      Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury 6 November 2015
      The implications of recent events in Maldives go far beyond the pristine shores of that enchanting archipelago. The paper discusses the larger geopolitical implications of the suspension of democracy, and options for China and India – the major players in the region.
    • Briefs: 397: The Judicial Appointments Debate in India

      Vinod Rai , Visiting Senior Research Fellow at ISAS 20 October 2015
      The latest ruling by the Supreme Court of India against the government’s project of the National Judicial Appointments Commission has further stirred a public discourse on the best means to have the best judges. Seeing the polarised debate on the independence of judiciary versus the supremacy of parliament as a false dichotomy, the author suggests that the best touchstone is the transparency of each constitutional institution.
    • Briefs: 396: Data-driven Planning for Solid Waste Management in Chennai

      Harsha Anantharaman works at the Civic Action Group (CAG), Chennai 20 October 2015
      The paper reports the advantages of data-based planning for solid waste management in a major Indian city, which have been demonstrated through three steps undertaken as part of a pilot project in a Chennai ward.
    • Briefs: 395: The Perils of Counting Caste

      Ronojoy Sen, Senior Research Fellow at ISAS 15 October 2015
      While the unpublished findings of the ‘Caste Census’ in India might not receive serious attention if ever made public, some of the socio-economic data, made available by the same Census, can set the marketing managers and policy makers thinking.
    • Briefs: 394: Trans-Pacific Partnership and India’s Emerging Challenges

      Amitendu Palit, Senior Research Fellow and Research Lead (Trade and Economic Policy) at ISAS 8 October 2015
      The conclusion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations has major implications for India, which is aspiring for a larger role in the regional architecture of the Asia-Pacific. India will have to anticipate the TPP’s influence on ongoing regional trade negotiations involving India, such as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). The TPP also entails a major diplomatic challenge for India by focusing on the need for closer alignment of New Delhi’s trade and foreign policies for deeper and meaningful interaction with the region.
    • Briefs: 393: 'China 2030: Building a Modern,Harmonious, and Creative Society'

      Shahid Javed Burki , Visiting Senior Research Fellow at ISAS 2 October 2015
      China is unique among developing countries in achieving sustained economic and social success. So, policymakers in South Asia will do well to factor a robust Chinese economic future into their thinking about their own future.
    • Briefs: 392: The RMB’s Credentials for Global Currency Status

      Shahid Javed Burki, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at ISAS 2 October 2015
      The reforms that China has announced in September 2015, following the devaluation of its currency a month earlier, may strengthen the case for the inclusion of the Renminbi (RMB) in the basket of currencies that the International Monetary Fund uses for its calculation of Special Drawing Rights or ‘virtual currency’.
    • Briefs: 391: Implications of Sino-Russian Ties for the Region

      Shahid Javed Burki, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at ISAS 9 September 2015
      Instead of viewing the growing links between China and Russia through the prism of Sino-American sensitivities, South Asian countries like India and Pakistan can benefit from plugging into this emerging Sino-Russian equation.
    • Briefs: 390: A Connectivity Stimulus for Mutual Benefit

      Shahid Javed Burki, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at ISAS 9 September 2015
      While Beijing has conceptualised its ‘One Belt One Road’ Silk Route of the 21st Century in the scenario of a possible American attempt to blockade Chinese trade at the Strait of Malacca, some of these projects could have spin-off value for South Asia as well.
    • Briefs: 389: A Changing Trade Landscape?

      Shahid Javed Burki, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at ISAS 9 September 2015
      The on-going restructuring of the Chinese economy has rung alarm bells across the global financial markets. However, South Asian countries like India, Bangladesh and Pakistan may stand a chance of capitalising on China’s emerging trade pattern.
    • Briefs: 388: India and the BRICS Partnership

      Rajeev Ranjan Chaturvedy, Research Associate at ISAS 2 September 2015
      India and its partners – Brazil, China, Russia and South Africa – in the BRICS forum have launched the New Development Bank. With the leaders of these countries, who recently met at Ufa in Russia, displaying a considerable degree of convergence on several issues, it became clear that a beginning was being made towards creating a new global economic architecture.
    • Briefs: 387: A Fragmented Approach towards China

      Shahid Javed Burki, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at ISAS 20 August 2015
      India, South Asia’s major power, is showing no interest in evolving a collective regional policy towards China, while Pakistan as well as Sri Lanka and Bangladesh are responding positively to Beijing’s moves at weaving a string of strategic assets in the sub-continent. This leaves South Asia wide open to forays by both China and the US.
    • Briefs: 386: Growing US-China Military Rivalry

      Shahid Javed Burki, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at ISAS 20 August 2015
      With Pakistan now choosing to act in a manner that might give the Chinese submarines access to its shores, and with India appearing to abandon its old non-alignment policy, there is a risk of the current US-China confrontation affecting South Asia.
    • Briefs: 385: How the Collapse of ‘Chimerica’ Will Affect South Asia

      Shahid Javed Burki, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at ISAS 20 August 2015
      India and Pakistan, the two large countries in South Asia, must work for the region’s collective good rather than moving closer to the United States and China, respectively, and promoting the interests of these two external powers, says the author.
    • Briefs: 384: Politics of ‘Good Governance’ in Sri Lanka’s Parliamentary Polls

      Ayesha Kalpani Wijayalath, Research Assistant at ISAS 14 August 2015
      Sri Lanka’s latest parliamentary election, slated for 17 August 2015, is important not only for the political-comeback bid by former President Mahinda Rajapakse but also for the focus on issues of ‘good governance’ in a climate of higher prime ministerial stakes than before.
    • Briefs: 383: AIIB – A Test for China-India Cooperation

      Sajjad Ashraf, a Consultant at ISAS 31 July 2015
      The recent launch of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), a Chinese initiative, showcases Beijing’s rise as an economic powerhouse in the context of the perceived failure of the US-sponsored World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to meet the aspirations of the developing countries. Yet, the AIIB’s success will depend on the equation between the bank’s leading stakeholders, China and India, who are otherwise competitors.
    • Briefs: 382: Political Risks in India-North Korea Ties

      Sojin Shin, Visiting Research Fellow at ISAS 31 July 2015
      North Korea’s latest expression of interest in humanitarian help from India has brought into new focus the whole issue of economic engagement between the two countries. India may well have to weigh the political risks at stake, given Pyongyang’s close strategic links with both China and Pakistan.
    • Briefs: 381: Political Will is the Test of India-South Korea Special Strategic Partnership

      Sojin Shin, Visiting Research Fellow at ISAS 31 July 2015
      India and South Korea upgraded their bilateral relationship to the status of a ‘Special Strategic Partnership’ when India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Seoul recently. The new partnership seeks to promote closer ties between various industries and between the defence sectors of the two countries. But the unanswered question is how and on what to build the special strategic partnership.
    • Briefs: 380: Issues of South Asian Security, and the China Factor

      Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, Principal Research Fellow at ISAS 31 July 2015
      As the diverse countries of South Asia seek to manage changes at home, China, with its new links to the region, can play a significant role, as both sides are developing stakes in each other’s aspirations.
    • Briefs: 379: Blending Force and Consent

      Laldinkima Sailo, Research Associate at ISAS 14 July 2015
      The internal and external reactions to the Indian Army’s recent strike against suspected insurgents, in the wake of a deadly attack on soldiers in the state of Manipur, underscore the need for a harmonious blend of national security concerns and sensitivity towards the interests of the affected population.
    • Briefs: 378: Modi’s Visit to Mongolia

      Rajeev Ranjan Chaturvedy, Research Associate at ISAS 14 July 2015
      India’s soft-power and diplomatic outreach to China’s neighbourhood were on display during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent visit to Mongolia. The strategic intent underpinning this visit needs careful consideration.
    • Briefs: 377: New Trade Links:

      Deeparghya Mukherjee, a Visiting Research Fellow at ISAS 3 July 2015
      The sheaf of trade- and investment-agreements that India and Bangladesh have now signed will open up opportunities for New Delhi to look at, and beyond, its near-East neighbour – towards the eastern arc of Asia.
    • Briefs: 376: Modi ‘Acts’ Near-East, and Hasina Responds

      Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, Principal Research Fellow at ISAS 3 July 2015
      The display of political bonhomie, evident during the latest visit to Dhaka by India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and a sense of finality over the Indo-Bangladesh Land Boundary Agreement, have injected a new dynamic in the interactions between these two South Asian countries. However, other crucial issues, in particular, the sharing of river waters, remain to be solved. These will require the continuation of the good neighbourly spirit.
    • Briefs: 375: A New Touch of Realism in Bilateral Talks

      P S Suryanarayana, Editor (Current Affairs) at ISAS. 23 June 2015
      The complex and chequered Sino-Indian relationship is entering a new phase following India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping in his hometown on 14 May 2015. While Mr Modi asked Beijing to “reconsider” its approach towards New Delhi, Mr Xi did not brush aside the India-story, as was evident from their agreement to regard both sides as “major powers”.
    • Briefs: 374: Dealing With Xi: Modi’s Foreign Policy Challenge

      Sinderpal Singh, Senior Research Fellow at ISAS 23 June 2015
      It is evident from India’s Prime Minister’s Narendra Modi’s talks with the Chinese leadership in May 2015, and with other world leaders earlier, that New Delhi will be keen to forge economic links with Beijing while seeking increasingly closer strategic ties with Washington.
    • Briefs: 373: Maintaining the Economic Momentum

      Amitendu Palit , Senior Research Fellow and Research Lead (Trade and Economic Policy) at ISAS. 23 June 2015
      India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to China in mid-May 2015 helped maintain the economic momentum of recent years in Sino-Indian relations by expanding and deepening the collaboration between Chinese and Indian businesses and institutions. Mr Modi’s announcement of e-visas for Chinese tourists was a major economic and strategic takeaway.
    • Briefs: 372: Chinese Setting for Talks with India

      Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury , Principal Research Fellow at ISAS 23 June 2015
      The way China behaves in contemporary times has deep roots in its intellectual, philosophical and political past, and is shaped by them. This also applies to how China interacts with India. It provided the matrix for India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to China in mid-May 2015.
    • Briefs: 371: Enhancing Disaster Management Capacity in South Asia

      Chandrani Sarma, Research Assistant, ISAS 11 November 2015
      As the Himalayan ecosystem is susceptible to natural disasters due to the global climate change patterns, the earthquake that struck Nepal recently might not be the last or the deadliest. An important outcome of the Nepal earthquake will be to draw on the event as a good opportunity to broaden the scope of coordination among the states of South Asia beyond the economic arena which currently dominates the discourse of regional cooperation in South Asia.
    • Briefs: 370: India and Singapore: Partners in Innovation and Skills Development

      Deeparghya Mukherjee, Visiting Research Fellow, ISAS 11 June 2015
      A comparative analysis of India’s and Singapore’s technology readiness and innovation trajectories shows that there is much that the Indian entrepreneurs can tap into the City State’s expertise in order to climb up the industry value-chains.
    • Briefs: 369: Peace-making Challenges in Afghanistan

      Sajjad Ashraf, Consultant, ISAS 3 June 2015
      The chances of crafting the much-elusive peace in Afghanistan still hang in the balance, but the Afghan President is known to carry no anti-Pakistan bias, and India seems to be keeping a low profile and letting Islamabad take its chances in a complex situation, says the author in a personal comment.
    • Briefs: 368: Pakistan’s Widening Sectarian Divide

      Sajjad Ashraf, Consultant, ISAS 26 May 2015
      The latest targeted killings in Pakistan have not only exacerbated its sectarian tensions but also exposed the failings of the civil administration in a country where the Army, despite its historic role, cannot be the sole guardian of internal peace.
    • Briefs: 367: Nepal after the Mega Earthquake

      Nischal N Pandey, Director of the Centre for South Asian Studies, Kathmandu, and Honorary Fellow of ISAS 26 May 2015
      In Nepal the inability of the state to cope with the recent devastating earthquake was mitigated by help from India, China, and the United States. This points towards the urgency of enhancing the disaster management capacity in Nepal and a coordinated disaster management structure for South Asia.
    • Briefs: 366: From ‘Look East’ to ‘Act East’: PM Modi’s Visit to China, S. Korea and Mongolia

      Amitendu Palit, Senior Research Fellow and Research Lead (Trade and Economics), ISAS 12 May 2015
      While India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s upcoming talks with Chinese leaders will grab the most attention, his visit to not only China but also South Korea and Mongolia is likely to redefine his ‘Act East’ policy.
    • Briefs: 365: Yemen, Pakistan and Arab Monarchies: Widening Gulf?

      Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, Principal Research Fellow, ISAS 17 May 2015
      Sunni - dominated Saudi Arabia might have miscalculated when it went into Yemen , not with boots on the ground but with bombs from the air, to try and deter the advance of the Shiite Houthi rebels. R i yadh and its Gulf allies, somewhat grandiosely called their intervention ‘ Op eration Decisive Storm’, obviously bor rowing the jargon from the West. When it began the airstrikes, which appeared to be in imitation of a number of similar W estern actions in the M iddl e E ast and North Africa, the Saudis and their co - bombers might have assumed it would be a cake - walk. It wasn’t. Notwith standing mounting civilian casualties, the Houthis fo u ght back with resilience that took the Gulf monarchies by surprise. In their consternation , the monarchies turned to the militarily most powerful Muslim State, the nuclear - armed Pakistan , asking for military support . The Pakistani response was a greater shock to them than even the t rail of Houthi successes. The government in Islamabad demurred, and then turned the ball over to the Parliament, which after a long and arduous debate, declined.
    • Briefs: 364: China-Pakistan Economic Corridor

      Sajjad Ashraf, Consultant at ISAS 9 April 2015
      Pakistan’s National Assembly, the Lower House of Parliament, has given post - facto approval for a major project that has come to be known as China - Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). The addition of CPEC to the China - Pakistan agenda blends with Beijing’s Sil k Road initiative that is designed to connect China, through a series of infrastructure projects, with Central and South Asia and even the eastern edges of the Persian Gulf region
    • Briefs: 363: Nitish Kumar and Bihar’s Lost Political Ground

      Rajeev Ranjan Chaturvedy, Research Associate, ISAS & Atul K Thakur, New Delhi-based journalist 9 April 2015
      Nitish Kumar ’s return to the helm as Chief Minister of Bihar is a remarkable political comeback in the sense that he succeeded in bringing odd allies under a single umbrella, and in doing so without compromising his development agenda. In all probability, he will make it big this time – with a perfect sense of the situation that arose from the blunder he committed when relinquishing the posi tion of chief minister. Kumar had resigned as Bihar C hief M inister a day after Narendra Modi led his party to a historic win in the national general election last year – with Kumar’s party suffering a humiliating defeat in Bihar in that election . Notably, Kumar’s decision then, which turned out to be a lapse in realpolitik , has turned Bihar into a playground for unhealthy politics
    • Briefs: 362: A Brief Intertwining of the Two Bengals

      Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, Principal Research Fellow, ISAS 24 February 2015
      Not too many Grecian analogies can be drawn with regard to the tumultuous on - going turmoil in Bangladesh which passes for politics. However, one expression, borrowed from the ancient classics, could be apt while describing the ‘battle of the two Begums’ ( Sheikh Hasina, the Prime Minister who heads the Awami League, and Khaleda Zia, leader of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, which is the principal political opposition, operating not within but outside the Parliament having boycotted the elections of 5 Janu ary 2014). It is: ‘When Greek meets Greek, then comes the tug of war”. In the seemingly irresolvable tugging of the rope between the two leaders, neither appears inclined to give in an inch. Holed up in her city office in Dhaka, Khaleda is bent on bringing the government down from the streets with agitation that grows more violent by the day. The government is equally unrelenting, using force to the maximum, and incarcerating innumerable activists, with or without due process. It is a feud that does not mak e the blindest bit of sense to any observer, domestic or foreign, except to confirm the received wisdom that politics is all about the acquisition of power, by means both fair and foul
    • Briefs: 361: Obama’s Visit to India: Review of Defence Relationship

      Jayant Singh, Research Assistant, ISAS 5 February 2015
      US President Barack Obama’s second coming to India , from 25 to 27 January 2015, was a visit of many firsts. In the days and weeks leading up to his visit media chatter ha d predominantly focused on rude and intrusive secret service agents and the heightened security measures around the capital, New Delhi. B ut as the President’s Air Force One took off from Andrews Air Force base in Washington DC , policy wonks and media pundits got down to business , and the chatter turned towards the bilateral agenda
    • Briefs: 360: India-US Relations: Modi and Obama Begin a New Chapter

      C Raja Mohan, Visiting Research Professor, ISAS 29 January 2015
      There have been many false dawns before in the uncertain evolution of the relations hip between India and the United States. If India and America were estranged democracies during the Cold War, they certainly became more engaged republics since the 1990s. Y et, repeated attempts at elevating it into a genuine strategic partnership seemed to end up nowhere.
    • Briefs: 359: Sri Lankan Presidential Election at a Glance

      Dr Saman Kelegama, Executive Director at the Institute of Policy Studies of Sri Lanka, Colombo 15 January 2015
      The Sri Lankan election result was a stunner to many. An incumbent president has never been defeated before and this was the first time that it happened with the defeat of Mahinda Rajapaksa in the presidential election held on 8 January 2015. Although the margin of the incoming President Maithripala Sirisena’s victory was thin, he managed to make substantial inroads in the majority Sinhala - Buddhist vote base (70% of the population) of Rajapaksa. This, capped by overwhelming support from the minority communi ties in Sri Lanka (Tamils and Muslims) enabled Sirisena to romp home.
    • Briefs: 358: Elusive Peace in Afghanistan

      Sajjad Ashraf, Consultant, ISAS 13 January 2015
      The Afghan government of national unity set up under an agreement brokered by the US Secretary of State John Kerry could only announce its first cabinet nominations on 12 January 2014, after 107 days of hard bargaining between two rival camps. The nominations will now be presented to the parliament for confirmation. The agreement made Ashraf Ghani the President and Abdullah Abdullah the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), a post akin to a prime minister, with effective powers.
    • Briefs: 357: Presidential Stakes and Sri Lanka’s Future

      Chandrani Sarma, Research Assistant, ISAS 7 January 2015
      With the Sri Lankan presidential election set for 8 January 2015, pressure is building up against the incumbent , Mahinda Rajapaksa . In the 2010 presidential election, R ajapaksa, as the candidate of the ruling United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) , won re - election, in a landslide , in the backdrop of the Sri Lankan military’s conquest over the Tamil separatists. Rajapaksa called another presidential election, two years before schedule, hoping to further consolidate his position 2 With a divided opposition, this would probably have been a very easy win , had Maithripala Sirisena not resigned from the party to oppose him for the presidency. Sirisena was the general secretary of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), Rajapaksa’s party , and Minister of H ealth . This led to a domino effect , with several ruling party luminaries defecting from the government. In a historic and important turn, the opposition United Nationalist Party (UNP) , along with several SLFP loyalists, as well as former President Chandrika Kumaratunga, chose Sirisena as the common candidate to run a gainst Rajapaksa.
    • Briefs: 356: Dreams and a Desperate Terrain!

      Rajeev Ranjan Chaturvedy, Research Associate, ISAS 7 January 2015
      Excellent electoral strategising , coupled with the political charisma of India ’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi , has produced an electoral majority for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) , in coalition with its ally the All Jharkhand Students’ Union (AJSU ), in the Indian state of Jharkhand . After winning that majority, BJP has formed a government, naming Raghubar Das, a five - time le gislator from East Jamshedpur, as the first non - tribal C hief M inister . The state, which has seen nine governments and three interludes of President’s rule in 14 years, has given a decisive mandate this time. This is clearly a vote against political instabi lity and a vote for better governance
  • 2014
    • Briefs: 355: Terrorism’s most devastating blow in Pakistan

      Shahid Javed Burki, Visiting Senior Research Fellow, ISAS 23 December 2014
      On 16 December 2014, the Taliban attacked an army school in Peshawar and killed 132 children. In all 145 persons died. Seven terrorists – among them three Arabs, two Afghans and one Chechen – dressed in military uniform penetrated the well-guarded perimeter of the school and opened fire on the students and school personnel. By assembling an international force, the Taliban sent a powerful signal that their campaign against the Pakistani state and the country’s military had wide support. According to a statement issued to the press by Muhammad Khorasani, the Taliban spokesman, the attackers were ordered to kill only those children who were from army families. “Our shura decided to target these enemies of Islam right in their homes so they can feel the pain of losing their children.”
    • Briefs: 354: New ‘Oil Shock’ – Impact on South Asia

      Shahid Javed Burki, Visiting Senior Research Fellow, ISAS 3 December 2014
      In the 1970s, the oil - producing and exporting countries of the Middle East delivered a shock to the global economic system that had many unexpected consequences. The then - q uadrupling of the price of oil hastened a process that came to be called “globali s at ion” . It deeply affected the structure of the global economy and also produced a number of political consequences. The oil - importing developing countries were the most - affected group . Some of those who could borrow from the world’s capital markets did so t o pay the oil import bill. This created indebtedness and moved some of the countries which had borrowed massively towards default on their external obligations. Many of them turned to the International Monetary Fund for help. The Washington - based instituti on responded with aid - and - policy - reform packages that were unprecedented in its history. The Fund received additional funding from the world’s rich nations to follow through with these program me s.
    • Briefs: 353: Competitive Diplomacy of India and China

      P S Suryanarayana, Editor (Current Affairs), ISAS 1 December 2014
      India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s official visit to Australia from 16 to 18 November 2014 , besides Chinese President Xi Jinping’s state visit to the same country at the same time , have reveal ed the growing relevance of both Beijing and New Delhi to the Indo - Pacific region. Surely, the two leaders were, in any case, scheduled to attend the Group of 20 (G20) summit in Brisban e on 15 and 16 November . This must have suited Australia’s Prime Minister Tony Abbott in deciding to play host to Xi Jinping and Modi , on parallel tracks, after that multilateral summit. However, such a logistical nicety has been totally eclipsed by the high tone and tenor of the se simultaneous bilateral visits to Australia by Xi Jinping and Modi at this time . Relevant to these two events is a larger regional and global context that concern s China and India , albeit in different fields
    • Briefs: 352: G20 Agenda and India’s Priorities: an Appraisal

      Deeparghya Mukherjee, Visiting Research Fellow, ISAS 1 December 2014
      In an age with multiple threats to multilateral economic cooperation, the progress and achievements of a G20 summit (accounting for 80% of world trade and 85% of world GDP) generate natural interest. Before we look at the developments at the recent summit in Brisbane (Australia) and implications for India, a quick look at the preceding developments may be useful.
    • Briefs: 351: India-Myanmar Ties: New Hope, Old Despair

      Laldinkima Sailo, Research Associate, ISAS 1 December 2014
      India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi made his maiden visit to Myanmar from 12 to 14 November 2014. During his visit he attended meetings of the East Asia Summit (EAS) and the India - ASEAN Summit in Myanmar’s capital, Nay Pyi Taw. He also held bilateral meetings with several leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations as well as the Prime Ministers of China and Russia. He met Myanmar’s President Thein Sein , the focus of their discussion centred on improving neighbourly connectivity between their countries . The two leaders also discussed the idea of setting up industrial parks along the proposed India - Myanmar - Thailand trilateral highway , beside the possibility of India investing in special economic zones in Myanmar. Modi met Myanmar’s opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi as well . This was the first stop of a 10 - day three - nation tour which saw him attend the G20 Summit in Australia and make a brief visit to Fiji.
    • Briefs: 350: Prime Minister Modi Expands His Team

      Ronojoy Sen, Senior Research Fellow, ISAS 12 November 2014
      Nearly six months after the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government came to power in India, a much - awaited Cabinet expansion took place on 9 November 2014 with the induction of 21 new ministers. The load of some ministers has been made lighter, a few have got new responsibilities and there has also been an induction of fresh faces. Besides getting trusted ministers for key positions, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his advisers have factored in regional and electoral interests. However, Shiv Sena’s wrangling with the BJP over government formation in Maharashtra cast a shadow on the cabinet expansion. The Sena, one of whose MPs was slated to be a minister, boycotted the swearing - in ceremony
    • Briefs: 349: Thames to Teesta and the Himalayas

      Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, Principal Research Fellow, ISAS 5 November 2014
      Europe is evolving a new kind of relationship with the South Asian states. It draws upon the interactions of the past colonial era on a matrix of current international relations. This paper is an examination of this trend and covers the relationship among four factors – Europe, Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan.
    • Briefs: 348: Pakistani Militants Strike Back

      Shahid Javed Burki, Visiting Senior Research Fellow, ISAS 5 November 2014
      ho launched the terrorist attack at Wagah on Pakistan ’s border with India ? The attack , the deadliest in Pakistan in about a year, occurred on 2 November 2014 , killing more than sixty people and injuring another one hundred. Was the choice of the target a warning to the Pakistani leadership not to make peace with India? Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan’s t hird - time P rime M inister , seemed committed to improving his country’s economic relations with India. Did the well - planned operation signal the arrival in Pakistan of the ideology behind the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) ? The rise of th e ISIS – also known simply as the ‘ Islamic State ’ – had happened with a suddenness that surprised most in the world. All these are important questions not only for Pakistan but also for South Asia , but the answers will take a long - time . This incident at Wa gah needs to be looked at and studied , since it will impact not only Pakistan and Afghanistan but also India. 2
    • Briefs: 347: Jayalalithaa’s Post-Bail Options and Outlook

      S Narayan, Visiting Senior Research Fellow, ISAS 21 October 2014
      The order by India’s Supreme Court , on 17 October 2014, suspending the sentence and granting bail to Ms J Jayalalitha a , former Chief Minister of the state of Tamil Nadu – in a disproportionate - assets case under the Prevention of Corruption Act – has been greeted with great jubilation all over Tamil Nadu. The S upreme Court, in granting the bail, has asked her counsel to ensure that the appeal is filed in six weeks, and has commented critically on the long time that the trial has taken
    • Briefs: 346: ‘Neighbourhood First’: Modi’s Foreign Policy Mantra

      Rajeev Ranjan, Research Associate, ISAS 3 October 2014
      India’s former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee used to say, “Friends can change but not neighbours who have to live together”. A country’s neighbourhood must enjoy unquestioned primacy in its foreign-policy making. This is disti nctly evident in India’s new Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s foreign policy mantra – “neighbourh ood first”.
    • Briefs: 345: Indo-US ‘Spirit’ Regained

      Sinderpal Singh, Senior Research Fellow, ISAS 3 October 2014
      India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi has just compl eted a five-day visit to the United States, with wide coverage in the US and global press. Obse rvers were keen to see how Modi, who was declined a visa to enter the US in 2005 as a re sult of the riots in his home-state of Gujarat, could revitalise a relationship that was perceived to be in decline in the last few years, epitomised by the very recent arrest and strip-sear ch of a serving Indian diplomat in New York. This is in sharp contrast to the heady heights of t he bilateral relationship in 2010, when during his visit to India, US President Barack Obama and I ndia’s then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh proclaimed the US-India relationship as “the defining partnership of the 21 st century”. In the four years since then, observers of the bila teral relationship have lamented the clear gulf between expectations and delivery.
    • Briefs: 344: Beyond the Japan-India Symphony of Sentiments

      P S Suryanarayana, Editor (Current Affairs), ISAS 5 September 2014
      On 14 July 1789 when the French Prison Bastille was stormed by a mob, the incident was reported to the imperious and naïve monarch Louis X V I by a courtier. “What, a revolt?” Louis exclaimed in apparent disbelief. “No, Sire, a revolution” was the quiet response from the courtier, a brutal but correct prediction. When recently crowds supporting the mercur ial Imran Khan and the enigmatic Tahirul Qadri occupied the official television station in Islamabad, in furtherance of their demand for the resignation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, one could be forgiven for drawing parallels with that situation in Fran ce. But in reality, are there any?
    • Briefs: 343: People, Power, and Politics: Confrontation Pakistan Style

      Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, Principal Research Fellow, ISAS 3 September 2014
      On 14 July 1789 when the French Prison Bastille was stormed by a mob, the incident was reported to the imperious and naïve monarch Louis X V I by a courtier. “What, a revolt?” Louis exclaimed in apparent disbelief. “No, Sire, a revolution” was the quiet response from the courtier, a brutal but correct prediction. When recently crowds supporting the mercur ial Imran Khan and the enigmatic Tahirul Qadri occupied the official television station in Islamabad, in furtherance of their demand for the resignation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, one could be forgiven for drawing parallels with that situation in Fran ce. But in reality, are there any?
    • Briefs: 342: Pakistan’s Democracy Dilemma

      Shahid Javed Burki, Visiting Senior Research Fellow, ISAS 2 September 2014
      Democracy gets established only with practice. If any proof is needed for this proposition, Pakistan’s leaders and its people need to look just across the border – at India. India was born with a considerably more political maturity than was the case with its sibling, Pakistan. It had a well-developed political party that had not only fought for independence but had also defined what an independent India would look like. Unlike the Congress Party, Pakistan’s Muslim League was a one-issue party – the establishment of an independent state for the Muslim community of British India. Once a part of that dream was realised, the party drifted and was lost in the political wilderness. India, on other hand, moved quickly to establish a political order. It appeared, in May 2013 – when the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) won a convincing victory in the elections and assumed the reins of power from the rival Pakistan People’s Party that was allowed to complete its full five-year term – Pakistan too was headed towards political stability. But that has not been the case so far.
    • Briefs: 341: Is Pakistan Sliding Towards a Coup?

      Shahid Javed Burki, Visiting Senior Research Fellow, ISAS 2 September 2014
      In wondering which way Pakistan is headed I am reminded of a conversation I had with General Abdul Waheed Kakar in July 1993. He was then Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff and had forced President Ghulam Ishaq Khan and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to resign from their respective offices. An interim government was appointed with Moeen Qureshi, former Senior Vice President at the World Bank, as Prime Minister. I was made the new prime minister’s economic advisor. Recounting what had happened a month earlier, the General said that “two senior-most executives of the government, the president and prime minister, were behaving as school kids. I had to come in as a monitor and expelled both of them”. It does not seem that the political system has matured much in the 20-year sordid period since then. Once again the army has been called in to arbitrate a dispute between the government and one noisy section of the opposition.
    • Briefs: 340: Pakistan: Moving Towards a Solution

      Shahid Javed Burki, Visiting Senior Research Fellow, ISAS 29 August 2014
      There is growing frustration in Pakistan that the leaders of the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), the governing party in Islamabad, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) led by Imran Khan and the Pakistani Awami Tehreek (PAT) led by the cleric Tahirul Qadri have not found a way to resolve their differences. The agitation started on 14 August 2014, the country’s Independence Day anniversary, has continued for two weeks. The PTI has six demands on the table; the PAT two. The only thing common between the two sets of demand is the call for the resignation of the “Sharif brothers” – Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif. The brothers owe their positions to their victories in the elections of May 2013.
    • Briefs: 339: What India’s By-Elections tell Us

      Ronojoy Sen, Senior Research Fellow, ISAS 29 August 2014
      After a national election that was held in nine phases over several weeks there is something of a poll fatigue in India. But the electoral cycle never really ceases in India and there is hardly a month that goes by without an election of some sort. The latest round of elections held on 21 August was not part of the normal electoral cycle, but one necessitated by either the death of an incumbent or the seat having been vacated for some other reason. What made the by-elections significant was that 18 seats spread across the states of Bihar, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka went to polls. The results, announced on 25 August, were disappointing for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which will soon complete 100 days in government at the Centre. The BJP and its allies won eight seats while the Congress and regional parties won 10.
    • Briefs: 338:Is Imran Khan Losing Political Traction

      Shahid Javed Burki, Visiting Senior Research Fellow, ISAS 25 August 2014
      The twin marches led respectively by Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Tahirul Qadri’s Pakistani Awami Tehreek will undoubtedly result in a number of unintended consequences. All of them will be negative. The first relates to the role of the military in politics. Just when it appeared that the armed forces might have finally returned to the barracks, the two long marches have brought them back to the policy making table. Second, the marches may interrupt, if not entirely halt, the slow move towards the establishment of a representative and reasonably inclusive political order. This began to happen with the elections of 2008 when a regime led by the military allowed the transfer of power to the political parties it could have otherwise influenced. This process of political change was quickened by the elections five years later.
    • Briefs: 337: Pakistan: Populism and Real Politics

      Shahid Javed Burki, Visiting Senior Research Fellow, ISAS 18 August 2014
      The marchers under the banners of two parties—the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and the Pakistani Awami Tehrik (PAT)—didn’t get very far from Lahore as the sun set on 14 August 2014, the country’s Independence Day anniversary. As with so many other targets the two political groups had set for themselves, this too didn’t yield the expected results. The two parties came up with the idea of a “million-man march” to focus on their very different and seemingly irreconcilable goals. Imran Khan, chairman of PTI, wanted to topple the government headed by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and have a mid-term election held which he hoped to win. Tahir ul Qadri, the Sufi from Canada and the head of PAT, on the other hand, wanted to topple the system, not just the man who was heading it. Both wanted change to serve their different purposes; and in the process they brought the country to the edge of yet another political abyss.
    • Briefs: 336: Modi’s India in the WTO: Politics Trumps Economics

      Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, Principal Research Fellow at ISAS 1 August 2014
      The serene ripples of Lake Geneva in no way reflected the waves that were being created this summer within the headquarters of the World Trade Organization (WTO) located at its shores. These were being caused by the policy or at least the negotiating strategy employed by the new nationalist government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India. Single-handedly his representatives blocked the passage of a Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), to the dismay of many of the world’s rich and powerful countries, as well as a number of large emerging nations. According to some supportive analysts, the TFA would have added US $1 trillion to the global economy and created 21 million jobs.
    • Briefs: 335: Narendra Modi’s Visit to Bhutan: A Meeting of Friendly Minds

      Laldinkima Sailo, Research Associate, ISAS 24 June 2014
      Setting at rest speculation about where Narendra Modi might go for his first foreign trip as India’s Prime Minister, he visited Bhutan on 15 and 16 June 2014. Briefing the media before the visit, India’s Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh said, “Our relations with Bhutan are unique and especially warm. Our historical and cultural linkages make us natural friends and partners” and the “Prime Minister’s visit reflects the high priority that Government of India attaches to its relations with Bhutan and to good neighbourly relations in our South Asian neighbourhood”. Earlier, heads of governments of all the South Asian countries had been invited to Mr Modi’s swearing-in ceremony, marking the new government’s intention to focus on building friendly relations with India’s immediate neighbours.
    • Briefs: 334: The RCEP Negotiations and India

      Amitendu Palit, Head (Partnerships & Programmes) and Senior Research Fellow, ISAS 24 June 2014
      India’s current trade negotiations have three agreements as top priorities. Two of these – the India-ASEAN services agreement and the bilateral trade and investment agreement with the European Union (EU) – are at advanced stages. The India-ASEAN services agreement is a ‘done’ deal and should be signed soon unless unexpected difficulties emerge. Discussions on the EU-India agreement that were stalled last year should also commence soon. Despite being discussed for more than five years, both sides are yet to reach consensus on greater market access in services, liberalisation of government procurement markets, management of intellectual property and tariffs on automobiles. The new Indian government, hopefully, will resume negotiations with the objective of concluding them early. Finally, the third agreement, where India needs to participate constructively in the ongoing negotiations, is the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).
    • Briefs: 333: India and Afghanistan: A Deepening Defence Engagement

      Jayant Singh, Research Assistant, ISAS 17 June 2014
      In a clear message to the incoming Afghan Government, India has decided to step up its defence engagement with Afghanistan. According to media reports, the Indian Government recently reached a long-term agreement with Russia to supply arms to the Afghan National Security Force (ANSF). Under the terms of the agreement, the military equipment will be sourced from Russia and will be paid for by New Delhi. Initial military supplies will include small arms and ammunition but could eventually lead to the transfer of heavy artillery, tanks and even combat helicopters.
    • Briefs: 332: Pakistan at the Centre of Muslim World’s Convulsion

      Shahid Javed Burki, Visiting Senior Research Fellow, ISAS 17 June 2014
      The Muslim world is once again in turmoil. The Taliban struck Karachi’s Jinnah International Airport on 9 June 2014 and occupied it for several hours. The intruders were ultimately overpowered and killed. All of them were reported to belong to the Uzbekistan Islamic Front, an outlawed group that wants to turn the Central Asian nation into an Islamic state. Its objectives are similar to those of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). This attack on the airport put an end to Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s strategy of solving the problem of extremism by negotiating peace with the TTP. A couple of days after the episode in Karachi, Sunni extremists in Iraq overran Mosul, Tikrit and other towns in the area, putting the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki under great pressure. Panicking over these developments, United States President Barack Obama seemed ready to jettison a doctrine he had laid out a few days earlier during the commencement address at the Military Academy
    • Briefs: 331: Bangladesh: Six Months after the Elections

      Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury. Principal Research Fellow, ISAS 13 June 2014
      The Awami-League led Government of Sheikh Hasina in Bangladesh received a new lease of life in the elections of 5 January 2014. Opinion polls were predicting a sweep by the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), but the latter boycotted the elections, somewhat inexplicably, on the argument that these could not be held „freely and fairly‟ under an incumbent Awami League-led coalition. Unsurprisingly, Hasina‟s Awami League won by a walk-over. Consequently, the BNP lost its chance of being either in government or in opposition, a double whammy. Nor has its threats to bring the Hasina Government down from the streets come to pass, since somewhat exhausted from the excitement of last year‟s political turmoil, the weary Bangladeshi, who tends to be politically hyperactive, seems to have chosen to divert attention to other aspects of life. So Hasina, who began rather tentatively, gradually has been able to consolidate her position and that of her party. Barring unforeseen events, she seems set to be there for the long haul.
    • Briefs: 330: Deciphering China’s Oil-Rig Move in South China Sea

      Rajeev Ranjan Chaturvedy, Research Associate, ISAS 4 June 2014
      China‟s recent move to station one of its oil rigs in the disputed territory in the South China Sea has flared up tensions once again in the Asia-Pacific. More importantly, it has ruptured relationships, and cast doubts among some of the ASEAN countries about Beijing‟s recent announcements of friendship and good neighbourliness. The deployment of the rig has further fuelled the China threat discourse in Asia.
    • Briefs: 329: Managing Inflation: Modi Government’s Biggest Economic Challenge

      Amitendu Palit, Head (Partnerships & Programmes) & Senior Research Fellow, ISAS 4 June 2014
      Controlling inflation, particularly food prices, is one of the biggest challenges facing the Modi Government in India. Runaway food inflation was a key factor contributing to the electorate’s unhappiness with the previous Congress-led government. The new government is expected to deliver decisively in this regard. Its success in taming inflation will be critical in ensuring its long-term sustenance and credibility with the electorate.
    • Briefs: 328: Counterterrorism in South Asia: ‘Low Hanging Fruits of Cooperation'

      Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, Principal Research Fellow, ISAS 15 May 2014
      South Asia is a cradle of ancient civilisation where 20% of the global population currently reside. Their ethos is intensely pluralistic, and at times even chaotically so. But like any other part of our globe, it is not free of the scourge of terrorism. What is significant, indeed striking, about South Asian communities is the consensus that while terrorism must be firmly addressed and eliminated, such actions must be undertaken within the broad parameters of the rule of law and justice. This is where the judges, prosecutors and police officers of the region are expected, indeed, required to play such an important role.
    • Briefs: 327: A Poll-Time Indian Narrative

      Mr Laldinkima Sailo, Research Associate, ISAS and Mr Jayant Singh, Research Assistant, ISAS 12 May 2014
      With India holding the largest democratic exercise in the world right now, some of the settled patterns in Indian politics seem poised for change. New leaders having taken over the reins in India’s major political parties, amid a plethora of regional blocs, the 2014 general election to the Lok Sabha (the powerful Lower House of Parliament) promises a fresh Indian narrative. On the campaign trail, India’s political parties have tried to frame the debate with a view to discredit each other’s opponents in partisan ways. Staking claim to power at the Centre, the national helm of affairs, after a decade in opposition, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been quick to focus on the corruption scandals, price rise and economic failures under the outgoing Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) regime. The Congress, for its part, has cautioned against the ‘communal’ brand of politics practised by the BJP-Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) combine. As the election runs its course both parties have articulated their future strategies for the country in their respective election manifestos.
    • Briefs: 326: The Election Scene in Uttar Pradesh

      Ronojoy Sen, Senior Research Fellow, ISAS 23 April 2014
      The nine-phase Indian national elections, which began on 7 April 2014 with the results due on 16 May, are at their mid-way stage. While there will be intense contests for most of the 543 seats in the Lok Sabha (Lower House of Parliament), all eyes are on Uttar Pradesh (UP), where the first phase of polls was held on 10 April and the last will be on 12 May, the final day of polling. UP, India’s largest state with a population of over 200 million, sends 80 Members of Parliament (MPs) to the Lok Sabha, making it crucial to government-formation in Delhi.
    • Briefs: 325: The Afghan Election: A New Beginning?

      Shahid Javed Burki, Visiting Senior Research Fellow, ISAS 9 April 2014
      The third election under the current Afghan Constitution was held on 5 April 2014. The question most often asked reflected nervousness on the part of both the Afghan administration as well as the Western powers that had a deep concern over the final outcome of the poll. Were the needed lessons learned from the 2009 election which was widely believed to have been rigged in favour of the incumbent President, Hamid Karzai? This time there was anxiety not only about the security situation but also about the logistics involved. The list of voters was initially developed in 2004, the first presidential election held under the new Constitution. For 2009 and 2014, the original list was simply topped up by adding the names of those who had become eligible voters in the meantime. “The authorities estimate that there were as many as 20 million valid registration cards before the start of the top-up exercise,” one Western diplomat was quoted as saying. “That does not include the rumoured or surmised up to 5 million voter-registration cards that had been forged in Pakistan and Iran during the 2004-2005 cycle”. There were rumours that forged cards were being sold in the market at between US$ 2 and US$ 5 per piece.
    • Briefs: 324: Indian Elections – Welfare Economics versus the Market

      S Narayan, Head of Research and Visiting Senior Research Fellow, ISAS 9 April 2014
      There appears to be considerable interest in the outcome of the ongoing elections to the Lok Sabha (the powerful Lower House of Parliament) in India. The results are likely to be announced by 17 May 2014, and the fierce battle between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)- led led alliance and the Congress alliance would have concluded by that time. In the international media, the Economist and the New York Times have come out strongly against the candidature of Narendra Modi of the BJP for the post of Prime Minister, accusing him of condoning the riots against Muslims in Gujarat in 2002, in his first term as Chief Minister there. English newspapers in India, including The Hindu, are critical of him. Nongovernmental organisations and activists, such as Arundhati Roy, have written strongly against him. Even newspapers in Singapore have been cautious about evaluating him even while recognising the economic performance of Gujarat. The Congress and its allies continue to harp on the secularism versus communalism theme, with Mr Rahul Gandhi of the Congress alleging that there would be communal riots if the BJP were to come to power now. There are also a host of regional parties, seeking to consolidate gains in their own states and hoping that the emerging coalition government at the Centre would enable them to participate in governance and power. As of today, the odds appear to be in favour of a strong BJP-led government consisting of a few coalition partners, but the Indian electorate has often proved to be unpredictable.
    • Briefs: 323: Implementation Deficit in Northeast India

      Laldinkima Sailo, Research Associate, ISAS 26 March 2014
      The development of Northeast India has become one of the expressed objectives of India’s Look East Policy, and the intention to increasingly look East through the Northeast is apparent. However, despite the intention and the announcement of several projects, mainly connectivity infrastructure, to allow for greater integration with India’s eastern neighbours, little has taken off the ground. While the shift in focus initially raised expectations, the inaction so far is leading to frustration. This was an inference that was palpable at a recent workshop held at Shillong, Meghalaya (India), organised by the Institute of South Asian Studies (ISAS), Singapore, in collaboration with the Indian Institute of Management (IIM)-Shillong and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI). Similar sentiments were echoed at the Delhi Dialogue VI.
    • Briefs: 322: Pakistan Selling Family Silver: Hard Times Make Privatisation Necessary

      Sajjad Ashraf, Consultant, ISAS 5 March 2014
      Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government, under Mian Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan’s first three-times Prime Minister, has set in motion a process leading to the time-bound privatisation of 65 public sector enterprises (PSEs) in two tranches. The privatisation of these units is also amongst the conditions for the release of International Monetary Fund’s US$ 6.7 billion stabilisation package for the next three years.
    • Briefs: 321: Northeast India-Myanmar: Search for Cooperation and New Approaches

      Laldinkima Sailo, Research Associate, ISAS 27 February 2014
      The eager expectations and hopes of the people of Myanmar belie the fragile peace that exists in the country. There is immense desire to take the relationships with neighbouring countries a step further; and India is a country with which there is perceivably tremendous unrealised potential. Developing the infrastructure to enable greater people-to-people connectivity and trade between the Northeast Region (NER) of India and western Myanmar is of particular interest within Myanmar. The Indian Government’s own desire to open the NER as a way of creating economic dynamism that would take the region forward into a new development paradigm coincides with the political reforms in Myanmar, giving both countries a larger canvas for their relationship. Yet, this is a complex region with shared security and development challenges; cooperation of both sides can bring windfall benefits to the lesser developed regions in the two countries.
    • Briefs: 320: Upazila Elections in Bangladesh: Is It a Road to Political Stability?

      Md Mizanur Rahman, Senior Research Fellow, ISAS 27 February 2014
      Bangladesh is a democratic republic with a unicameral parliament called Jatiya Sangsad in Bengali and ‘House of the Nation’ in English. The 300 members of parliament are directly elected by universal adult suffrage for five years. The head of state is the president, who is indirectly elected by members of the parliament. The president appoints the leader of the majority party as prime minister and head of government. Bangladesh has a unitary form of government in which all of the governing power resides in a centrali s ed government. For administrative convenience , the country is divided into six d ivisions ; and each d ivision is subdivided into z ilas or d istricts and u pazilas or s ub - di stricts. There are 64 administrative districts ; and below the district level there are 487 upazilas or sub - districts.
    • Briefs: 319: India’s Interim Budget: Credit and Concerns

      S Narayan, Head of Research and Visiting Senior Research Fellow, ISAS 25 February 2014
      In India, a vote on account is normally considered to be an interim accounting measure that permits government departments to continue to function at the same level as at the time of the vote, without the introduction of new programmes or projects. The latter would require debate and approval of the parliament in a full debate. In India, with the general election hardly a couple of months away now, the vote on account is merely a roll-over of sanctions for expenditure for the first four months of the new year beginning April 2014 – until a new parliament and government are in place. At the same time, the vote on account gives a peep into the state of public finances, and in a way, indicates the opening balances of accounts for the next government. This year’s exercise, placed before the Indian Parliament on 17 February 2014, was no different.
    • Briefs: 318: Ankara Summit: A Possible Road to Afghan Peace?

      Shahid Javed Burki, Visiting Senior Research Fellow, ISAS 19 February 2014
      The Americans are firm in their commitment to pull their combat troops out of Afghanistan by the end of December 2014. As that deadline approaches, there is considerable diplomatic activity aimed at steadying the situation in that war-torn country. The favoured approach is to involve the countries in Afghanistan’s immediate neighbourhood in helping the nation deal with what promises to be a difficult period of transition. The most recent effort of this type was made in February 2014 in a summit held in Ankara, Turkey, involving the host, as well as Afghanistan and Pakistan. However, as this paper suggests, a multilateral effort must involve a larger group of countries to obtain the desired results, and the effort should go beyond addressing the role of Islam in Afghanistan’s political system.
    • Briefs: 317: Chinese Navy in Eastern Indian Ocean: Implications for Delhi and Jakarta

      C Raja Mohan, Visiting Research Professor, ISAS 13 February 2014
      The Chinese Navy’s combat exercises in the waters adjacent to Indonesia at the end of January 2014 underline Beijing’s assertion of its maritime rights backed by a capacity to project force far beyond its shores. These exercises also highlight the urgency of strong maritime security cooperation between India and Indonesia that have traditionally claim ed a special interest in the promotion of peace and stability in the Eastern Indian Ocean.
    • Briefs: 316 : 13 February 2014

      P S Suryanarayana, Editor (Current Affairs), ISAS 5 February 2014
      By affirming “the indispensable U.S.-India partnership”, US Secretary of State John Kerry is signalling that the recent turbulence in the atmospherics of this equation has quietened now. Such a signal of return to normality was the hallmark of the top American diplomat‟s message2 to mark the 64th anniversary of India‟s Republic Day on 26 January 2014. India‟s External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid, too, has, on 23 January, risen above the recently vitiated bilateral atmosphere. These positive signals followed a meeting between Mr Kerry and Mr Khurshid on the sidelines of the Geneva-2 Conference on Syria at Montreux on 22 January.
    • Briefs: 315: Abe’s Visit to India: The Strategic Implications

      Sinderpal Singh, Senior Research Fellow at ISAS 5 February 2014
      Japan‟s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe attracted much international attention as India‟s guest of honour at this year‟s Republic Day celebrations in New Delhi. A large part of final joint statement issued at the end of discussions between Mr Abe and India‟s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh featured enhanced cooperation between the two countries in the economic domain. However, the joint statement also pointed to significant expansion of ties between the two countries in the defence-security realm. This potential expansion of defence-security relations has three major strategic implications.
    • Briefs: 314: Abe in India: High on Loans, Low on Trade

      Amitendu Palit, Head (Partnerships & Programmes) and Senior Research Fellow, ISAS 28 January 2014
      The Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited India from 25 to 27 January 2014 at a time when both countries are hunting for solutions for improving their medium-term growth prospects. ‘Abenomics’, as Prime Minister Abe’s economic policies are popularly referred to, succeeded in imparting a push to economic activity in Japan. Nikkei – the benchmark index at the Tokyo Stock Exchange – outpaced other indices in the region by touching a six-year high towards the end of 2013. The year saw Japanese GDP growing by 1.7 per cent, which was higher than the collective rate of growth of 1.3 per cent for the GDP of advanced economies. Among the G8 countries, Japan’s GDP growth last year was lower than only that of the US (1.9 per cent), while being on par with the UK’s and Canada’s.2 But the growth-inducing effects of the expansive monetary and fiscal policies taken by Abe last year might be shortlived with GDP growth expected to remain at 1.7 per cent in 2014 and moderate to 1.0 per cent in 2015 as the stimuli peter out.
    • Briefs: 313: Bangladesh: Slow Settling of Post-Poll Dust

      Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, Principal Research Fellow, ISAS 20 January 2014
      Any swirling dust will eventually settle, and the storm that the elections of 5 January 2014 generated in Bangladesh is already beginning to subside. The polls saw a level of violence never witnessed on such occasions before. The main opposition, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) boycotted the hustings (a decision they might rue) as their demand of an apolitical government to host the event was ignored. They took to the streets, and the Jamaat-e-Islami, banned from participation in the polls for its extreme religious predilections, acting as their sword-arm. Voter turn-out was abysmally low for a Bangladeshi election. The absence of any international observers lent credence to its questionable credibility. In any case, 153 candidates of a Parliament of 300 members were already returned uncontested. Not much contest was confronted by the remaining candidates. The Awami League under the stewardship of Sheikh Hasina romped home to victory amidst the expressed despair of many, including of most western powers, who viewed the results as neither fish, flesh, fowl nor good red herring.
    • Briefs: 312: Afghanistan – The Endless Challenge

      Sajjad Ashraf, Consultant, ISAS 17 January 2014
      Developments in Afghanistan, leading into the New Year point to the increasing distrust between Afghan President Hamid Karzai and the United States. The latest rift relates to Kabul’s plan to release 88 high - profile detainees , held at Bagram ; and this has particularly incensed the Americans. Their release, according to th e two Republican S enators, who recently visited Kabul, would have a “negative impact” on US - Afghan relations. The Afghans have reneged on their commitment to release the detainees only if they were to be found innocent by the court, claims the US. Mr Kar zai has instead constituted a three - man Afghan Review Board to assess the charges against the detainees. Following an official protest by General Joseph Dunford, Commander of International Security Assistance Force , the Afghan President has held their rel ease in abeyance pending the review of their cases.
    • Briefs: 311: Painful Polls and Dhaka’s Dilemmas

      Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, Principal Research Fellow, ISAS 10 January 2014
      T he election s that w ere completed in Bangladesh on 5 January 2014 exacted a heavy toll, not just in lives and limbs – though there were plenty of that as well – b ut in terms of costs to Bangladesh’s reputation as a pluralist and democratic polity. I say ‘completed’ because the p rocess began sometime ago, when in the face of the refusal of the principal opposition, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), led by Begum Khaleda Zia , to participate in the polls, the Awami League (AL) government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina won in a canter, indeed in a gallop, in what was a ‘walk - over’ (in cricketing parlance), starting with the uncontested election of 153 candidates to a Parliament of 300 . The numbers were sufficient for Hasina and her allies to form government. Khaleda’s decision to boycott the polls flowed from a deep distrust of her opponent, under whose aegis she felt the elections would not be free and fair. Hence her insistence that Hasina resign and polls be held under a neutral government
  • 2013
    • Briefs: 310 : Testing the Air: China’s Defence-Move

      Rajeev Ranjan Chaturvedy, Research Associate at the ISAS 12 December 2013
      The steady procession of Chinese ‘pressure tactics’ to push its claims on disputed territories is strengthening the hands of new leadership in Beijing. The leadership’s assertiveness is evident in recent announcements regarding China’s controversial new air defence zone. This initiative suggests that President Xi Jinping supports an ‘aggressive Chinese display of force’ to assert his country’s claims in its territorial disputes. On 23 November 2013, China declared the creation of an air defence identification zone (ADIZ) over the East China Sea, which has magnified concerns among neighbours and added apprehensions regarding the Chinese approach towards territorial and maritime disputes. Undoubtedly, such moves from Beijing are fuelling insecurity, and escalating political tensions in the Asia-Pacific region.
    • Briefs: 309 : India at Bali: Saving Itself and the WTO

      Amitendu Palit, Head (Partnerships & Programmes) and Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 9 December 2013
      The Ninth WTO Ministerial at Bali is being widely proclaimed a shot in the arm for the ailing World Trade Organization and the multilateral rule-based trade system. It might also mark a turning point in the history of India’s trade negotiations. For the first time in several years, India would be coming back from the WTO without the ‘distinction’ of having been a spoiler in the trade talks.
    • Briefs: 308 : India woos its Northeast: Development and Diplomacy Factors

      Laldinkima Sailo, Research Assistant at the ISAS 6 December 2013
      India’s President Pranab Mukherjee made a three-day visit to Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland in the country’s Northeast region. In Arunachal Pradesh he attended the convocation ceremony at the Rajiv Gandhi University, and addressed the Legislative Assembly. He graced the celebration of the 50th anniversary of Nagaland’s statehood and inaugurated the 10-day long Hornbill Festival. The visit is significant in three aspects, re-asserting India’s sovereignty over Arunachal Pradesh, reiterating Northeast’s centrality to India’s ‘Look-East’ Policy, and giving credence to the idea that development as a way of securitising border areas is a policy that New Delhi is seriously mulling over.
    • Briefs: 307 : Reining in the Military in Pakistan

      Shahid Javed Burki, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 6 December 2013
      Three recent developments in Pakistan have taken its evolving political order forward. They will concentrate executive authority in the hands of the elected representatives of the people rather than dispersing it around in the hands of various competing institutions that are vying to establish their own control over the political system. In addition to the revival of the civilian political establishment, this process has been facilitated by two other forces – the street and the press. This paper provides an overview of these developments.
    • Briefs: 306 : Delhi Elections in India: Middle Class Anger and New Political Equations

      Ronojoy Sen, Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 6 December 2013
      Delhi, when compared to other Indian states, might be insignificant in its size. After all the state of Delhi (which was till recently a Union Territory), shorn of the parts of Uttar Pradesh and Haryana that make up the sprawling National Capital region, is only 1,500 square miles and has 70 Assembly seats and 7 seats in the national Parliament. But by virtue of being India’s capital, elections in Delhi command much more attention than those in the Indian states that are far larger. Delhi has 11.5 million registered voters; the whole of Australia has only 14 million.
    • Briefs: 305 : Rajasthan elections in India : A Mix Of Royality and Caste Equations

      Ronjoy Sen 3 December 2013
      If anti -incumbency has shown a decline in some Indian states, in others it still remains a persistent trend. Rajasthan, which went to the polls on 1 December 2013, is one of them. For the past two decades the incumbent government has been voted out in every election. The current Congress government, led by Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, faces an uphill task in bucking this trend. The voter turnout, according to latest figures, was nearly 73 per cent which was up significantly from 66 per cent in the last elections held in 2008.
    • Briefs: 304 : Bangladesh: Unfolding Drama of Deadly Politics

      Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, Principal Research Fellow at the ISAS 28 November 2013
      On 25 November the Chief Election Commissioner of Bangladesh, Kazi Rakibuddin Ahmad, announced the election schedule for the nation’s 10th Parliament. The polls, he stated, are to be held on 5 January 2014. He urged calm on both contending sides, the Awami League (AL)-led government of Sheikh Hasina and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP)-led opposition of Khaleda Zia. The bitterness of their rivalry has been legendary. The politicians’ disregard for his appeal was instantaneous. The BNP which had earlier warned that it would react to such an announcement with a siege of the capital Dhaka was true to its word. So was the government which had vowed to put down any unruly behaviour with an iron hand. The unsurprising result was a spiralling violence with no end to it in sight. In this, the religious right-wing Jamaat-e-Islami was on hand, fighting with its back to the wall as many of its leaders are in condemned cells, awaiting execution ordered by the war-crimes trial court.
    • Briefs: 303 : Madhya Pradesh State Polls in India: ‘Anti-Incumbency’ No Longer Applies?

      Ronojoy Sen is Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS, Robin Jeffrey is Visiting Research Professor at ISAS 27 November 2013
      Elections in Madhya Pradesh (MP), one of the five Indian states going to the polls in November and December 2013, test conventional wisdom about Indian state elections – that governments seldom get re-elected. “The anti-incumbency factor” has been a commonplace of Indian electoral analysis for thirty years. But over the past few years, incumbents with healthy records in office are winning re-election.
    • Briefs: 302 : Focus on Policies and Personalities in Mizoram Assembly Elections 2013

      Laldinkima Sailo, Research Assistant at the ISAS 15 November 2013
      Even as the Congress faces strong anti-incumbency factors in Rajasthan and Delhi and an uphill climb in Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh states in India, retaining Mizoram has become a matter of greater importance to the party. The results of the assembly elections to be held in these five states in November and December 2013 will be crucial in determining the tone of the General Election that will follow a few months later.
    • Briefs: 301 : Pakistan’s New Taliban Challenge

      Shahid Javed Burki, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 15 November 2013
      The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has a new line-up of leaders in place, filling the gap created by the killing of the old leadership in an American drone attack. This shift will have major consequences for Pakistan, including in regard to the difficulties with the peace process that has been sanctioned by an All Parties Conference and is being pursued by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. The TTP leadership change is taking place when the Pakistan Army is about to induct a new chief who will replace General Ashfaq Kayani and as the pace of American withdrawal from Afghanistan picks up. This paper examines the significance of a new group taking over the command of the TTP.
    • Briefs: 300 : Elections in Chhattisgarh: Maoists, Turnout, NOTA and Clues for India

      Robin Jeffrey is Visiting Research Professor at the ISAS, Ronojoy Sen is Senior Research Fellow at ISAS 15 November 2013
      A crucial Indian election season began on 11 November 2013 with the first round of polling in a state where rural insurgency has claimed hundreds of lives in the past ten years and where “Maoist” groups control large, remote tracts.
    • Briefs: 299 : Northeast India and Southeast Asia: Creating Tourism Synergy

      Laldinkima Sailo, Research Assistant at the ISAS 11 November 2013
      In the last one year several tourism officials from Assam and the other Northeast states of India have benefitted from the Singapore Cooperation Programme, in capacity building, and received training that involves a range of tourism management skills. This highlights the range of opportunities that exist for synergy between Singapore and other Southeast Asian countries, on one side, and Northeast India, on the other. While the obvious complementary aspect is provided by tourists from Southeast Asia as consumers looking for new destinations which Northeast India provides, the development of such cooperation mechanisms opens new opportunities that can have significant impact for the region as a whole. Indeed, lessons can be drawn from Southeast Asian nations like Thailand and Singapore that have achieved a high measure of success in developing their tourism industry.
    • Briefs: 298 : Dilemma of Drones: Peace Prospects in Pieces

      Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, Principal Research Fellow at the ISAS 6 November 2013
      The recent US Drone attack that made bull’s eye and killed the target, the Taliban chief in Pakistan, Hakimullah Mehsud, also caused a huge collateral damage. An unintended consequence was a return to the doldrums of the tricky and unstable US-Pakistan relations, which was slowly but surely being restored by painstaking efforts on the parts of both Washington and Islamabad. The newly-elected Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had travelled to the United States, and following his interaction with the American leadership, a thaw in the relations between the two sides was discernible. Sharif had just obtained the assurances of a US$ 6.6 billion bail-out from the International Monetary Fund for his country’s stalled economy. The US also committed itself to disburse US$ 300 million to Pakistani hands, as a tranche of the US$ 1.6 billion in military assistance promised but held back by the Congress.
    • Briefs: 297 : US Government Shutdown and the South Asian Diaspora

      Shahid Javed Burki, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 14 October 2013
      At first sight it may seem a bit of a stretch to link the United States Government’s shutdown with the size of the South Asian Diaspora in America. But the connection between the two becomes clear once it is noted that the right-wing of the Republican Party has taken a long step towards exhibiting its distaste for immigration. It was when the country was more receptive to receiving foreigners that the South Asians built large communities in various parts of United States. The South Asians benefitted particularly from this openness since they brought into America the skills that the “natives” did not have in the needed quantity. There are now about 6-8 million people of South Asian origin living in North America. Since most of the South Asian immigrants are highly qualified and are working in the occupations that pay well, their per capita income is 20 per cent higher than the overall American average – or US$ 60,000. The American income per head is slightly more than US$ 50,000. In other words the total South Asia Diaspora income in America is about US$ 400 billion. This is equivalent to about one-fifth of the total national income of the sub-continent. With such high incomes the Diaspora has begun to contribute significantly to the development of the countries they left behind when they moved to America.
    • Briefs: 296 : Pakistan: Politics of Promises, Perils and Progress

      Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, Principal Research Fellow at the ISAS 14 October 2013
      Mian Nawaz Sharif was swept into power in May 2013 on a mandate that contained a slew of promises. These included addressing in all seriousness the problems of terrorism, economy, energy and relations with key relevant powers. It was no surprise that Nawaz, and his Pakistan Muslim League (PML) should have won the polls in a canter because of the rampant corruption and woeful mismanagement of governance during the preceding rule of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP). The fact that the transition was peaceful, democratic and smooth – the first-time-ever a civilian government transferring power to another – signalled the dawning of a new and positive era in Pakistan’s politics.
    • Briefs: 295 : A New Strategy to Revive India’s Economic Growth

      Shahid Javed Burki, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 4 September 2013
      The author joins the debate on what has caused the Indian economy to stumble over the last few months and what can the policy makers do to revive growth in a way that it can be sustained over time. It can be argued that the economy’s wounds are self-inflicted. In the author’s view, India’s policy makers – not just those who currently hold the reins of power but also those who come after them – must bring about a fundamental change in the Indian economic strategy.
    • Briefs: 294 : Pakistan’s Water Woes

      Sajjad Ashraf, Consultant at the ISAS 20 August 2013
      While energy shortages, economic stagnation, terrorism, and religious intolerance remain in the spotlight – water shortages, warns the South Asia scholar Anatol Lieven, “present the greatest future threat to the viability of Pakistan as a state and a society”.2 Regrettably, the Pakistani discourse on the subject remains in a state of delusion and thus misdirected.
    • Briefs: 293 : China’s ‘Look-West’ Policy: A New Link with Pakistan

      Shahid Javed Burki, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 20 August 2013
      For a number of reasons, the structure as well as the future of the Asian economy has begun to be transformed. Some of the old assumptions no longer hold. The West’s rapid demographic transition is changing the pattern of demand which would mean that exports to the old industrialised countries will no longer be the main driver of Asia’s economic progress. There are other developments taking place that will also profoundly affect Asia’s future. One of them, examined in this paper, is the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor which is at the centre of what can be called China’s ‘Look-West’ Policy.
    • Briefs: 292 : Pakistan Elects a New President

      Shahid Javed Burki, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 2 August 2013
      With the election, on 30 July 2013, of Mamnoon Hussain as Pakistan’s next President, the country has completed the formal aspects of the transition to a democratic order. It has taken the country almost 66 years to reach this stage. As laid down in the Constitution of 1973, full executive authority is now in the hands of the prime minister who is responsible to the elected national assembly and will not hold power at the pleasure of the president. With the transition now complete, will the third-time Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, succeed in pulling the country out of the deep abyss into which it has fallen? Only time will provide a full answer to this question.
    • Briefs: 291 : Afghan Peace Talks and the Changing Character of Taliban Insurgency

      Shanthie Mariet D'Souza, Research Fellow at the ISAS 26 July 2013
      The June 2013 opening of a Taliban office in Doha raised fresh hopes of a negotiated settlement of the Afghan imbroglio among certain quarters. That the process ended in a deadlock underlined the fact that the intent and negotiating positions of the parties in conflict remain the least understood. Why do the Taliban, willing to hold out an olive branch to the United States, continue to carry out such gruesome attacks inside Afghanistan? Is this a serious attempt by the United States to broker peace in Afghanistan or a desperate measure to extricate itself from the conflict theatre? Answers to these questions, to a large extent, define the complexities of the search for peace and stability in the war-torn country. It also bares the element of futility of talks, dialogue, negotiations with the extremists especially when the conditions and the time are not ripe for such peacemaking initiatives.
    • Briefs: 290 : Indian Economy, Amartya Sen and Jagdish Bhagwati

      Amitendu Palit, Head (Partnerships & Programmes) and Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 26 July 2013
      India’s two most-celebrated economists – Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen, Professor of Economics and Philosophy at Harvard University, and Jagdish Bhagwati, Professor of Economics and Law at Columbia University – have been exchanging sharp notes and views on what ails the Indian economy and what should be its ideal recipe for success.
    • Briefs: 289 : Indian Rupee: Tortuous Travails

      S Narayan, Head of Research and Visiting Senior Research Fellow ISAS 16 July 2013
      The recent numbers of the index of industrial production (IIP) and the consumer price index (CPI) in India have been the cause for some serious concern. The IIP and CPI numbers suggest that even as growth is decelerating, inflation is actually accelerating. Specifically for the IIP, the index declined by 1.6 per cent relative to May 2012, sharply below consensus estimates as there was an anticipation for small positive gains. This, if any, is an early indication that growth projections for the current year will be scaled downwards from their already modest levels. Concurrently, consumer inflation has accelerated at 9.9 per cent over June 2012, about half a percentage point higher than the previous month. Food prices largely contributed to this increase. While it was non–cereals in the earlier occasion that caused this inflationary pressure, this time, prices of cereals have increased almost by 18 per cent. 15 July 2013 figures of wholesale price index (WPI) indicated a worsening of inflationary pressures to 4.86%. Reuters reported a drop in industrial production figures (as evident in Exhibit 1), coupled with a volatile WPI inflation. High cost of funds coupled with pressure on net interest margins will constrain the efforts of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to reduce interest rates at the next monetary policy review on 30 July 2013.
    • Briefs: 288 : China’s Gwadar Pearl The port acquisition and implications for India

      Christabel Neo, worked as an Intern at the ISAS 11 July 2013
      As several Asian nations, large and littoral, rise to counterbalance the Western powers, it is imperative for the global community to examine the geopolitics of the larger Asian region that has yet to find a sustainable framework for cooperation. When dissecting Asia’s geopolitical landscape, perhaps the most recurrent theme is China’s ‘String of Pearls’ strategy and its significance in the Sino-Indian strategic quandary. Since it was coined, nearly a decade ago, in a Booz Allen report for the Pentagon to describe the perceived encirclement of India in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), the phrase has often been used to depict the precariousness of the competition between the two aspiring hegemons, wherein almost every decision made by either country can be viewed as a potential threat by its counterpart.
    • Briefs: 287 : The Sliding Rupee: Crisis or Opportunity?

      Amitendu Palit, Head (Partnerships & Programmes) and Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 14 June 2013
      The Indian Rupee’s (INR) sudden slide has created panic in the business and policy circles. The major concerns are over whether the almost free-fall will adversely affect the Current Account Deficit (CAD) and inflation. There are also concerns over whether a depreciating rupee will increase the fiscal deficit by increasing expenditure on subsidies and jeopardise the repayment schedule for external commercial borrowings (ECBs).
    • Briefs: 286 : A ‘New’ Pakistan: Implications for Indo-Pak Relations

      Sinderpal Singh, Research Fellow at the ISAS 7 June 2013
      Pakistan’s recently concluded general elections scored an important first. It was the first time that power had been transferred from one civilian government to another via popular elections. This has generated a predictable amount of optimism amongst certain sections, both within and outside Pakistan, about Pakistan and for its relations with the outside world. One of the keenest observers of Pakistan’s recent elections was India. In the aftermath of the 2008 Mumbai attacks, India’s relations with Pakistan have plummeted to a historical low. Pakistan’s general elections provided an opportunity for India’s political leaders to reassess the potential to improve this bilateral relationship.
    • Briefs: 285 : War-head Worries: Asia’s Expanding Nuclear Arsenals

      Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 7 June 2013
      For some time, nuclear arsenals all across the world have been the focus of global policy makers‟ attention. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) has come up with a report on 3 June 2013, which has stressed that nuclear arsenals of the Asian countries – such as China, India, and Pakistan – are expanding while the older nuclear-weapon states, such as the United States and Russia are scaling down theirs. It has described this phenomenon as “disturbing” given that peace in Asia is still “fragile”, that “decades old suspicions linger, and economic integration has not been followed up with political integration”.
    • Briefs: 284 : Decoding India-Japan and Sino-Pak Talks

      P S Suryanarayana, Editor (Current Affairs) at the ISAS 6 June 2013
      The transparent scale-up of India’s defence cooperation with Japan, evident during their latest summit, shows that New Delhi can deploy a diplomatic, not military, card with reference to China at this stage. Equally important are the signs that China has not given up its Pakistan card in regard to India even in the new context of an unusual paradox in Sino-Indian ambience. These aspects have come into focus in the just-concluded cameos of strategic forays by China in South Asia and India in East Asia.
    • Briefs: 283 : China Reinforces the Bridge to Pakistan

      Sajjad Ashraf, Consultant at the ISAS 6 June 2013
      The two-day visit of new Chinese Premier Li Keqiang to Pakistan (22-23 May) took place during extraordinary times of political transition, following the 11 May general election, from one civilian government to another – the first such change in Pakistan’s troubled political history. In addition to the substance, the visit was significant as part of the first overseas tour by the new Chinese Premier and as the first by a foreign leader after the elections in Pakistan. Setting the tone in a pre-visit interview to a Chinese magazine, Mr Li used a new term “iron brother” for Pakistan. As Pakistan's closest ally, demonstrating "all-weather friendship," China has risen to Pakistan’s support in difficult times.
    • Briefs: 282 : Bangladesh’s Growth Enablers

      Ishraq Ahmed : Research Associate at the ISAS 21 May 2013
      The Bangladesh economy has experienced sustained growth over the last three decades, but it has only been since the economic policy reforms of the 1990s that economic growth truly accelerated. The reforms bore fruition – the second half of this decade witnessed the growth in gross domestic product (GDP) exceeding six per cent annually – and the growth performance has kept pace with that of other countries in South Asia.
    • Briefs: 281 : Post-poll Pakistan’s Economic Priorities

      Shahid Javed Burki, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 17 May 2013
      The Pakistani electorate has given Mian Nawaz Sharif a commanding lead in the newly-elected National Assembly and a clear majority in the Punjab provincial assembly. In South Asian politics, incumbency is rarely rewarded. The fact that the Pakistan People’s Party suffered a humiliating defeat is in keeping with this trend. The party was punished for its poor economic performance and even more for its very poor governance. Under its care, Pakistan not only saw the economy move into a long-term growth recession. It also led to Pakistan being labelled as one of the most corrupt countries on earth.
    • Briefs: 280 : Mixed Fortunes for the Congress

      Ronojoy Sen, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 15 May 2013
      The headlines in a national Indian daily on 9 May 2013 — ‘Ecstasy in Karnataka, Agony in SC’ — summed up the Congress party’s plight quite accurately. The good news for the Congress was a convincing electoral victory in the Assembly elections in the southern state of Karnataka; the bad news, however, was the Supreme Court’s scathing criticism of the Congress-led federal government for interfering in the enquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), India’s federal investigating agency, into a coal scam which surfaced in 2012.
    • Briefs: 279 : The Reincarnation of Nawaz Sharif: Pakistan’s Deepening Democracy

      Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, 13 May 2013
      Barring an act of God, Nawaz Sharif is poised to become Pakistan’s Prime Minister for the third time round. Each reincarnation implies changes, and so will this one. We are likely to see in him a seasoned politician, chastened by experience, matured over time and also hardened by adversity. His Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) [PML(N)] has won sufficient number of seats of the 272 elected to form government, albeit with the support of some eager independents. There are 70 more seats in the Lower House of the Parliament, reserved for women and minorities, which will be proportionately divided among the parties elected, which means PML(N) will walk away with the major share.
    • Briefs: 278 : Pakistan Elections 2013: Some Countdown Reflections

      Riaz Hassan, Visiting Research Professor at the ISAS 10 May 2013
      On Saturday 11 May 2013, 82 million Pakistanis would be eligible to vote in the general election to elect 272 members of national parliament. In most modern countries well-crafted opinion polls can now reasonably accurately predict the outcome of elections. But this is not so in the case of Pakistan. There are two main reasons for this. First, according to the latest voting-intention survey, only 50 per cent of eligible voters are likely to vote for one of 4,670 candidates contesting the election. Secondly, in most modern countries, voting behaviour is determined by three Ps: party, policy, personality. In Pakistan voting behaviour is largely determined by personality of the candidate and his/her party. In a layered society like Pakistan, personality is often the proxy for ethnic, tribal and sectarian affiliations. Notwithstanding these factors, is it possible to identify a broad contour of the election outcome? In the following, I attempt to do that.
    • Briefs: 277 : Pakistan Goes to Polls: Imran Khan’s Tumble and the Youth Surge

      Shahid Javed Burki, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 8 May 2013
      The unexpected has happened as Pakistan prepares to hold the next general election on 11 May 2013. Early in the evening of 7 May, Imran Khan, the rising star in Pakistani politics, suffered a fall in Gulberg, Lahore, a high-income constituency in the capital of the country’s Punjab province. He fell while being lifted by a forklift on to a speaking platform. First carried on people’s arms to his Sports Utility Vehicle and then transferred to an ambulance, Khan was eventually taken to Shaukat Khanum Hospital. He was attended there by a team of senior doctors. They used CT scans and X-Rays to determine the extent of injuries he had suffered. He did not have fractures in his skull but one of his vertebrae was damaged.
    • Briefs: 276 : Politics in Pakistan: The Judge and the General

      Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 11 April 2013
      There is never a dearth of excitement in Pakistani politics. This extends to even the period of the brief caretaker regime, which lasts for around three months, and whose sole objective is to hold national elections. This is a model borrowed from Bangladesh. To be fair, Pakistan has managed to use it more effectively than the country it drew upon, which has since discarded it. But the political turmoil in Bangladesh is evidence that it has not been able to replace it with any workable mechanism on which all sides have consensus. It is important to agree on the method of holding elections in societies where political differences can and do often take violent forms. In Pakistan, this hurdle of an agreed method has at least been cleared.
    • Briefs: 275 : The Political Elevation of Narendra Modi

      Ronojoy Sen, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 5 April 2013
      A little over two months ago, on 22 January 2013, the President of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Nitin Gadkari, who was under a cloud of corruption allegations, was hustled out to make way for a party veteran and former party chief, Rajnath Singh. It was during Singh’s earlier tenure as president of India’s main opposition party from 2005-2009 that Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi was dropped from the BJP’s Parliamentary Board, the party’s apex decision-making body. One of the reasons given then for the dropping of Modi was that there was a conflict of interest between being a state chief minister as well as being on the panel to select election candidates. The real reason, many felt, was that some senior BJP leaders had felt threatened by Modi.
    • Briefs: 274 : Afghanistan’s Economic Transition: Path to Long-Term Stability

      Shanthie Mariet D'Souza, Research Fellow at the ISAS 28 March 2013
      Much of the discourse on inteqal (transition) in Afghanistan has focused on the numbers and capacities of the Afghan security sector tasked to repulse insurgent onslaughts. Civilian capacity building, economic opportunities, trade, transit and investment that would potentially change the narrative of Afghanistan from being an aid-dependent state to a self-sustaining economy, has received much less attention. As Afghanistan traverses a challenging path, the economic component will be critical to shore up Afghanistan’s institutional capacities and bring in long-term stability.
    • Briefs: 273 : The New Great Game in Asia

      Shahid Javed Burki, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 27 March 2013
      The previous great game was played in one part of Asia and the players were form Europe. Britain and Russia worked hard to gain influence over Afghanistan and other Central Asian countries. London wished to install a puppet regime in Kabul to protect the northwest flank of its Indian Empire. Moscow, indulging in its perennial quest to gain access to a body of warm water, saw Afghanistan along with the northwest parts of British India offering one way of achieving this goal. Rudyard Kipling called it a “great game” since the contestants chose not to fight but to manoeuvre in a not very crowded field. Two different contestants are playing the new game. There are some major differences too. This time, the entire Asian continent is in play and one of the contestants is not from within the area. This paper examines how the two new teams of policy makers in Beijing and Washington are entering the contest and outlines some of the problems they face.
    • Briefs: 272 : Pakistan Prepares for Polls: Dilemmas of its Democracy

      Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 27 March 2013
      However unlikely it might have seemed from time to time, Pakistan’s forward movement along the path of democracy now appears to be inexorable. It has demonstrated the perfect example of the very British art of ‘muddling through’. Elements of uncertainty still remain, as they always do in a game of cricket that its people take to as duck to water. But barring an act of God, elections will take place on 11 May 2013. For the first time in its history an elected civilian government has completed its full term in office and a peaceful transfer of power, or a continuation of the same, is widely expected.
    • Briefs: 271 : Chittagong Port – Prospects for Revival

      Ishraq Ahmed, Research Associate at the ISAS 26 March 2013
      The Chittagong port, as the largest port in Bangladesh, is the lifeline of the country’s economy. Considering the growth prospects of Bangladesh, the port is expected to handle increasing volumes of traded goods. While Chittagong port has undergone noticeable improvements in handling containers and optimising the use of facilities, further investment and development need to be undertaken for it to become a national hub and an economic gateway to southeast Asia.
    • Briefs: 270 : Sri Lanka at the UNHRC: Will it be Useful for Sri Lankans?

      Gloria Spittel, Research Associate at the ISAS 21 March 2013
      If at first you do not succeed, keep trying — this adage is befitting of the relationship between Sri Lanka and the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC). All that is left to be seen (again) is who ‘wins’ the latest round now, and if ‘winning’ actually means anything to either side.
    • Briefs: 269 : Asia and Obama’s New Trade Initiative

      Shahid Javed Burki, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 25 February 2013
      The United States, under President Barack Obama, has taken the initiative to revive an old idea: to create a free trade area encompassing the European Union and the United States. According to the timeline accepted on both sides of the Atlantic, negotiations aimed at creating such a bloc will begin in late-spring of this year and conclude in two years. José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, described this effort as a “game-changer”. This will unite two trading partners that account for nearly half of the world economic output and 30 per cent of world trade. The stock of shared investment adds up to $3.5 trillion. “Together, we will form the largest trade zone in the world…It is a boost to our economies that does not cost a cent of taxpayer money,” he said.2 If the returns on the creation of the trading bloc are so large and the cost so little, why has this idea taken so long to mature? If such a trading bloc does emerge how will it impact Asia? This paper attempts to answer these two questions.
    • Briefs: 268 : State Elections in Northeast India

      Laldinkima Sailo, Research Associate at the ISAS 22 February 2013
      A series of state assembly elections will precede the next general election in India where the current term of the Lok Sabha (lower House of Parliament) is set to last until 31 May 2014. In 2013, at least eight states will hold legislative assembly elections. In Northeast India, the states of Tripura, Meghalaya and Nagaland are now going to the polls. Each of these three states has a 60-member assembly. Tripura went to the polls on 14 February while the electorate in Meghalaya and Nagaland will vote on 23 February.
    • Briefs: 267 : New Focus on Stable China-India Ties

      P S Suryanarayana, Editor (Current Affairs) at the ISAS 24 January 2013
      China and India have held “forward looking” defence talks in “a friendly and cooperative atmosphere”2 in Beijing in the first half of January 2013. Truly significant is the fact that these talks took place amid signs of new belligerence across the Pakistan-India Line of Control (LOC) in Jammu and Kashmir.
    • Briefs: 266 : The Delhi Rape Protests: Observations on Middle Class Activism in India

      Ronojoy Sen, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 24 January 2013
      The year 2012 was indelibly tainted in India by the horrific gang rape in New Delhi and the death of the 23-year-old victim in a Singapore hospital. The images that remain with us in the early days of the New Year, however, are of the protests that shook Delhi and other metropolitan cities in end-December 2012. Even as the perpetrators of the rape are tried, it is perhaps an appropriate time to assess the nature of the protests and the ones similar to them over the past two years, and what they say about India‘s civil society.
    • Briefs: 265 : Qadri, the Charismatic Cleric: A Creator of Chaos or a Champion of a Cause?

      Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 21 January 2013
      For half a week in January 2013, many eyes in South Asia, and in much of the world, were focused on a maverick Mullah in Pakistan by the name of Muhammad Tahir-ul Qadri. Many saw him, and still do, as a harbinger of change. A Pakistani combination of India’s Anna Hazare and Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini, he appeared suddenly like a comet on that nation’s political horizon, summoning up the largest crowd ever gathered in that challenged country’s capital, Islamabad, and nearly toppled the government. Just as suddenly, he melted away as did those myriads of followers who braved the rain and cold at his bidding. Pakistan’s version of Xenophon’s ‘March of the Ten Thousand’ was over for now. But not without having left an indelible imprint on its political fabric, demonstrating that people’s power still mattered in a system that, through most of its history, has been dominated by the proverbial uniformed ‘man on horseback’ or the military. Qadri appeared for a time to render the streets of Islamabad chaotic. But those gathered around him saw his actions as reflecting a cause: not just for restoring honesty in governance but seeking to do that by using as the tool the tolerant, syncretistic, and Sufistic face of Islam which represents Pakistan’s values, urgings and ethos much more than that fierce, fundamentalist, and Salafist version that has been relentlessly battering the Pakistani nation, exhausting it, and sharpening the public’s yearning for a positive change.
    • Briefs: 264 : India-Pakistan Peace Process: The Risk of a Breakdown

      C Raja Mohan, Visiting Research Professor at the ISAS 17 January 2013
      The barbaric beheading of an Indian solider earlier this month, allegedly by the Pakistan Army on the Line of Control that separates the two countries in the disputed frontier of Jammu & Kashmir, appears to have breached the barrier of Delhi’s tolerance.
    • Briefs: 263 : Direct Cash Transfer of Subsidies: A Game-Changer for India?

      Amitendu Palit, Head (Partnerships & Programmes) and Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 8 January 2013
      From 1 January 2013, India rolled out the much-hyped direct cash transfer of subsidies scheme. Widely tipped as a ‘game-changer’, the scheme is being heavily discussed for both its economic and political significance. Economically, it is expected to be a significant reform measure for improving distribution of subsidies by eliminating ‘leakages’ from the existing system of transfer in kind. Politically, the ruling Congress hopes to capitalise on the scheme’s spirit of ‘Aapka Paisa, Aapke Haath’ (‘Your money in your hands’) by publicising it is as a move pioneered by the Congress party for putting money directly in the hands of people.
  • 2012
    • Briefs: 262 : India ASEAN FTA in Services

      S Narayan 21 December 2012
      India and ASEAN finalized the Free Trade Agreement in services and investments on 20 December, on the sidelines of the commemorative India- ASEAN summit in New Delhi last week. The final legal documents on services and investment pact is to be given further shape by February 2013, and signing could take place in August during the consultations between ASEAN economic ministers in Brunei.
    • Briefs: 261 : India ASEAN FTA in Services

      S Narayan, Head of Research and Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 21 December 2012
      India and ASEAN finalized the Free Trade Agreement in services and investments on 20 December, on the sidelines of the commemorative India- ASEAN summit in New Delhi last week. The final legal documents on services and investment pact is to be given further shape by February 2013, and signing could take place in August during the consultations between ASEAN economic ministers in Brunei.
    • Briefs: 260 : UN Counterterrorism Strategy in South Asia: Role of Media in its Implementation

      Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 14 December 2012
      On 8 September 2006, the United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 60/288. It contained the United Nations Global Counterterrorism strategy. By then it had become fairly obvious that the then US President George W. Bush’s so-called ‘War on Terror’ was failing to achieve the desired results. Iraq and Afghanistan had become imbroglios that underpinned the fallacies of military approaches in addressing the issue. A more sophisticated handling was called for. The global community aptly recognised the necessity of the UN being the principal mechanism, rather than any of its powerful member or members. Better still if the General Assembly, where all countries are represented, than the Security Council where a handful is present, takes the initiative.
    • Briefs: 259 : US-Pakistan Relations and the ‘End-Game’ in Afghanistan

      Shanthie Mariet D'Souza, Research Fellow at the ISAS 5 December 2012
      As the rush towards the Afghan end-game intensifies, the United States and Pakistan are back to mending their fences. After more than a year of frayed relationship following the May 2011 raid that killed Osama bin Laden, the Salala incident and the increased drone strikes, the two allies are on the road to making amends to repair the relationship. As US prepares to drawdown, re-engaging Pakistan is seen as critical in maintaining its minimalist approach in Afghanistan. For Pakistan, ensuring its influence in post-2014 Afghanistan and avoiding implosion remain crucial. Whether the two can bridge their differences for the stabilisation of Afghanistan remains to be seen.
    • Briefs: 258 : China-India Strategic Economic Dialogue Gains Momentum

      Amitendu Palit, Head (Partnerships & Programmes) and Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 3 December 2012
      The 2nd China-India Strategic Economic Dialogue (SED) took place in Delhi on 26 November 2012. Coming at a time when the global economic outlook is hardly bright and both countries are visualising modest economic outlooks but when bilateral trade is growing at a fast clip, the SED was awaited for its decisions on future bilateral economic cooperation. While not announcing any radical initiatives, the Dialogue has built up on the momentum generated during the first meeting in Beijing in September 2011 by focusing primarily on cooperation in infrastructure and energy.
    • Briefs: 257 : ‘Something of a Homecoming’: Aung San Suu Kyi’s Visit to India

      Sinderpal Singh, Research Fellow at the ISAS 26 November 2012
      Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s iconic pro-democracy leader, visited India for six days, from 13th to 18th November 2012, at the invitation of Sonia Gandhi, the Congress Party’s chairperson, to deliver the Jawaharlal Nehru memorial lecture in Delhi. As part of her trip, she also held personal meetings with India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and other Indian leaders. Part of her itinerary also included a visit to the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore as well as Andhra Pradesh to view the implementation of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme. This is Suu Kyi’s first visit to India since 1987.
    • Briefs: 256 : What Does Obama’s Re-election Mean to South Asia

      Shanthie Mariet D'Souza, Research Fellow at the ISAS 21 October 2012
      While the world watched the closely contested Presidential elections in the United States in much anticipation, most observers and policy wonks in South Asia were bracing for change or continuity in the foreign policy that the new administration in Washington would herald. Although India received scant mention during the third Presidential debate which was focused exclusively on foreign policy, Pakistan and Afghanistan gained ample attention but with a caveat. There was little differentiated gap between the positions of the two candidates – President Obama and Governor Romney – on ending the war in Afghanistan. It is therefore no surprise that with President Obama's re-election, many in South Asia are bracing for continuity in US foreign policy. However, with his likely focus on legacy and attention towards other hot spots, there are imminent dangers of other South Asian countries taking a back seat in the US foreign policy priorities.
    • Briefs: 255 : What to Make of India’s Latest Ministerial Reshuffle

      Ronojoy Sen, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 2 November 2012
      With 18 months to go before general elections are due, India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced on 28 October 2012 what is expected to be the final reshuffle of the federal Council of Ministers. With two heavyweight portfolios — Finance and Home — having been reallocated earlier this year, the latest reshuffle was more an exercise to inject some urgency into the Congress Party-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government which has been battered by corruption scandals over the past two years and is seen to be in a state of policy paralysis.
    • Briefs: 254 : A Wake-Up Call for Pakistan

      Shahid Javed Burki, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 22 October 2012
      Pakistani women are being targeted by Islamic terrorists who fear that women’s emancipation would ultimately reduce their influence over a society that has become increasingly conservative. It appears that the possible rise of women will not go unchallenged, particularly in the country’s more conservative areas such as the tribal belt on the border with Afghanistan.
    • Briefs: 253 : Do the Bold Reforms Signal End of Policy Paralysis in India?

      Amitendu Palit, Head (Partnerships & Programmes) and Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 18 September 2012
      Five major economic policies within 24 hours are not expected from a government saddled with charges of indecision, inaction and corruption for several months. But this is exactly what the UPA (United Progressive Alliance) Government in India has done.
    • Briefs: 252 : China-India Defence Diplomacy: Weaving a New Sense of Stability

      P S Suryanarayana, Editor (Current Affairs) at the ISAS 13 September 2012
      The real storyline of the Chinese State Councillor and Defence Minister’s latest talks with Indian leaders in New Delhi is in the timing and the broad-based themes of his visit to India – the first in eight years by a military dignitary in his position. Significantly, a passage in a report on this visit, as carried on the official website of the Chinese Ministry of National Defence, says that the coming together of China and India “could tilt balances” in global geopolitics. Inevitably, therefore, the emerging US factor in the China-India equation becomes a matter of debate. Introduction:
    • Briefs: 251 : India-Pakistan Ties: Do Signs of Warming Indicate Climate Change?

      Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 13 September 2012
      Of late there has been a vast deficit of good news from South Asia. Each country of that subcontinent confronts a legion and varied problems. The governments of at least three – India, Pakistan and Bangladesh – face impending elections which, though not necessarily imminent, impinge persistently on their minds. This phenomenon is shaping all their actions. Each feels that there is much work to be done if it is to return to power. Each appears to be well past its salad days, and is understandably anxious to prolong its longevity. Happy tidings do not generally emanate from such circumstances. Indeed not many have in the recent times. One exception, somewhat intriguingly, though it can be explained as this paper will seek to do, is the gamut of India-Pakistan relations. There are ample discernible indications of a modicum of thawing in the chill that has traditionally enveloped them. The latest action indicative of that is the visit to Islamabad by the Indian Foreign Minister S M Krishna that, while not bereft of rhetoric, was not without substance either. This is definitely a sign of warming. But does it point to positive climate change?
    • Briefs: 250 : Violence in Assam: Resource Wars, Illegal Migration or Governance Deficit?

      Shanthie Mariet D’Souza is Research Fellow at the ISAS and Bibhu Prasad Routray 6 September 2012
      Since 19 July 2012, a wide range of issues, combined with gargantuan administrative ineptness, has produced nearly 100 dead bodies in India's northeast state of Assam and displaced close to 400,000 people from their places of residence. The month-long violence between the Bodo tribal community and the Muslims had its impact on distant Indian cities as well where protests by Muslim organisations and a neatly crafted strategy of cyber-intimidation led to the exodus of several thousand northeasterners.3 Even as a semblance of order has returned to the four Assam districts affected by the violence, and half of the displaced people have since returned home, each of the core issues that led to the mayhem has remained unaddressed. The danger of the subdued violence reappearing and possibly with worse manifestations, in these circumstances, cannot be entirely ruled out.
    • Briefs: 249 : India’s Infrastructure Needs

      Ishraq Ahmed, Research Associate at the ISAS 27 August 2012
      The recent power blackout in India has shed light on the poor condition of the country’s infrastructure. Government spending on infrastructure has been long overdue even before the blackout took place in much of north India. For India to sustain its economic growth and development, spending has to be stimulated, both in quantitative and qualitative terms.
    • Briefs: 248 : Tokyo Summit and Afghanistan’s Business Potential

      Suleman Fatimie and Arian Sharifi 27 July 2012
      Delegations from over 60 countries and 20 international organisations gathered in Tokyo on 8 July 2012 and discussed plans for economic development in Afghanistan. The delegates pledged a total of US$ 16 billion in multi-donor aid to fill the Afghan government’s fiscal gap and to develop the Afghan economy over the next four years. The event attracted widespread media coverage – inside and outside Afghanistan – and raised hopes that the international community will stand by Afghanistan in the coming years. While this seemingly generous pledge by the international community does signal hopes ahead, if the Afghan government fails to correct the current state of affairs, this US$ 16 billion will be as much a waste as the tens of billions of international aid has been so far. To go ahead and create real hope for the future of Afghanistan, the Karzai Administration needs to come out of its 11-year old cocoon and bring about some bold changes in its economic development strategy.
    • Briefs: 247 : Gilani’s Removal: A Step in the Right Direction

      Shahid Javed Burki, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 27 June 2012
      On 19 June 2012, Pakistan’s Supreme Court issued an order aimed at removing Yusuf Raza Gilani as Prime Minister. This should have happened earlier had the court’s decision in the “contempt case” on April 26 been fully implemented. The judgment was largely ignored by the administration headed by President Asif Ali Zardari, forcing the superior court’s hand. This time around, President Zardari blinked and accepted the court’s verdict. Gilani left office a few hours after the court spoke. After one misstep, Zardari was able to get his nominee in place as the new prime minister. This paper argues that these significant developments move Pakistan’s evolving political order in the right direction. There is of course an alternative view, held by some legal scholars and others, that the Supreme Court should have exercised judicial restraint and left the decision in the “contempt case” to take the slow route towards eventual implementation.
    • Briefs: 246 : Delhi Investment Summit: Building on the Narrative of ‘Opportunity’ in Afghanistan

      Shanthie Mariet D'Souza, Shanthie Mariet D’Souza is a Research Fellow at the ISAS 25 June 2012
      The search for peace and stability in Afghanistan is taking a detour from a narrow security-centric approach to trade and investment, aiming to use the country's resource potential to build its economic viability, sustainability and independence. The New Delhi Investment Summit on 28 June 2012 is a gamble worth taking to ensure that Afghanistan's economic and transit potential becomes its inherent strength to accrue the much-needed economic dividends for itself and the region.
    • Briefs: 245 : Pakistan’s 2012-13Budget: A political rather than an economic document

      Shahid Javed Burki, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 12 June 2012
      Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), the leading political group in the coalition that has governed from Islamabad since 2008, presented the budget for the financial year 2012-13. It took great pride in the fact that this was the first elected government in Pakistan’s history that was presenting a budget for the fifth consecutive year. This was considered to be a triumph for democracy. But this sense of triumph was tarnished by the way the budget speech was received. It was read out by Finance Minister Abdul Hafiz Sheikh on Friday 31 May 2012. The presentation was made before a raucous parliament, with the main opposition party, Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), protesting the presence in the chamber of Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani who had earlier been convicted by the Supreme Court for contempt. It was expected that this conviction would lead to the prime minister’s resignation. That did not happen and the opposition, led by Imran Khan, president of the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf, had moved the court to remove Mr. Gilani from his position. This paper suggests that the 2012-13 Budget is more of a political than an economic and financial document. It postpones addressing the difficult problems the country currently faces, expecting that the PPP will have another term after the next elections that must be held before the end of the spring of 2013. Then it could deal with the economy.
    • Briefs: 244 : India-Myanmar Ties: The Trade Perspective

      S Narayan, Head of Research and Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 12 June 2012
      The recent visit by India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Myanmar had as much to do with bilateral trade as with diplomacy and security. The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth in Myanmar firmed up to 5.1 per cent in 2009 after a decade of anaemic growth. 2010 was even better, at close to 5.5 per cent. Growth in the neighbouring countries, especially those that import gas, also helped to boost these GDP figures. Nominal GDP has risen from US$ 16.7 billion to an estimated US$ 35.2 billion in 2010. There are also large projects that have been committed by foreign investors in power, petroleum and infrastructure that are likely to contribute to Myanmar’s economic growth in the next few years. Natural gas reserves are estimated to be 2.54 trillion cubic metres, and Myanmar is emerging as a major supplier of gas to its neighbours. It has also large deposits of metals, minerals and gems, and accounts for 90 per cent of the global production of rubies.
    • Briefs: 243 : Nepal’s Constitutional Crisis

      Hema Kiruppalini, Research Associate at the ISAS 7 June 2012
      In November 2011, the Supreme Court of Nepal ruled in favour of a fourth extension for the promulgation of the constitution. A final deadline of 27 May 2012 was set for the delivery of this mandate. However, once again the task has not been fulfilled and this stalemate will certainly push Nepal into a deeper political crisis. Inter- and intra-party politicking, ideological clashes and the inability to reach a consensus on the state’s restructuring process on the basis of ethnic federalism have altogether hampered the major political parties from working together. Although some political headway has been made in the recent months, the transition to a federal democratic republic and the overall peace process in Nepal will remain incomplete if a constitutional crisis persists.
    • Briefs: 242 : Politics of the Indian Presidency

      Nalin Mehta, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 23 May 2012
      Debating the role of the President in the Constituent Assembly on 21 July 1947, Jawaharlal Nehru articulated some of the dominant political expectations of the time, arguing that even though ‘we did not give him any real powers’ in the proposed Constitution, ‘we have made his position one of great authority and dignity’. As the discussion unfolded, Nehru made the case for the President being first and foremost a ‘symbol’ of the country, one who, despite not having the powers of the American President, is like him, the Commander-in-Chief of the defence forces. What India’s soon-to-be first Prime Minister chose not to focus on in his speech that day was the crucial political role inbuilt by the Constitution into the Presidency. The sheer moral certitudes attached to the Presidency and its ceremonial aspects have always served to obfuscate its key political function ever since and fostered a somewhat romanticised view that the Presidency is somehow meant to be an apolitical office. As the Constituent Assembly’s member from Bihar, Tajamul Husein, later argued, ‘the first President of India would be the first gentleman of the land and equal to any monarch in the world’. Irrespective of gender, the sentiment behind this expectation was clear from the beginning.
    • Briefs: 241 : Performance of the Indian Rupee: A Comment

      S Narayan, Head of Research and Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 22 May 2012
      The Indian Rupee has depreciated by around 22 per cent since August 2011, and is hovering around the 55-56 mark with reference to the United States Dollar. It has declined sharply since March 2012, and there has been considerable anguished comment about the reasons as well as the foreseeable trends in the value of this currency.
    • Briefs: 240 : A New Myanmar on South Asia’s Borders: Changes and Challenges

      Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 11 May 2012
      As Myanmar’s icon of democracy, the Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, recently walked towards the Parliamentary Chamber to take her seat for the first time, a journalist asked her if it was going to be a historic day for her country. Her response was as laconic as it was profound: “Only time can tell”, she observed. And she is right! Myanmar is at a cross roads. Its future will hinge on choices it makes, the path it decides to take henceforth. What it expects from the international community is not direction, or advice or guidance with regard to the choice of the road. But support, empathy and understanding, and when asked for, aid and assistance, as Myanmar moves forward along the route of its own choosing. Myanmar must be allowed to be in the driver’s seat of its own destiny. Today that is the emerging consensus among the nations of the world.
    • Briefs: 239 : Capital Loss for Congress in India

      Nalin Mehta, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 25 April 2012
      The fog of war is confusing. The fog of defeat can be even more debilitating: the comfort of denial and post-defeat rationalization are its natural offspring. The Indian National Congress Party’s comprehensive defeat in the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) elections in April 2012 has added to its growing list of recent electoral setbacks and its public response has followed a time-worn typescript. Swinging between defensiveness and despair, its official statements have ranged from the technical “this was not my election” response by Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit to the carefully crafted “it was a local election” comment by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Further down the pecking order, party spokespersons, struggling to find silver linings in the defeat, have half-haughtily, half-hopefully pointed out that they managed to win the last Delhi assembly election after a similar MCD rout in 2007.
    • Briefs: 238 : Beyond the Sparks and Fumes of India’s Agni-V Test

      P S Suryanarayana, Editor (Current Affairs) at the ISAS 23 April 2012
      India now exudes confidence at having come of age as a space-faring power with a minimum credible nuclear deterrence. A follow-up task awaits New Delhi. It must prudently send out the right political message across to China and other major powers. Both China and India have consistently enunciated the principle of no-first-use of nuclear weapons in the conduct of international affairs. The two countries have also regularly called for the non-militarisation of space. It is, therefore, insightful commonsense that India and China should now be able to move towards meaningful engagement based on the principles of trust or at least ‘trust but verify’.
    • Briefs: 237 : Taliban, Spring offensive and Transition in Afghanistan

      Shanthie Mariet D'Souza, Research Fellow at the ISAS 18 April 2012
      It was the biggest ever attack by the insurgents on capital Kabul, in terms of the number of suicide attackers employed. It was also one of the most audacious and well coordinated attacks in recent times. On 15 April 2012, simultaneous attacks on the Afghan capital and three other eastern provinces – Nangarhar, Logar and Paktia – left 51 people dead. Counted among the dead were four civilians, 11 members of the security forces and 36 insurgents.2 The Taliban announced the launch of its spring offensive and Afghanistan, which had registered some days of peace and tranquillity, has braced itself for another season of bloody violence.
    • Briefs: 236 : Zardari’s Pilgrimage to Ajmer: Is Time for a Thaw in Relations Nigh?

      Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 11 April 2012
      The most strikingly remarkable feature of the visit of the Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari to India on 8 April 2012 is that it took place at all! Analysts generally would agree that the level of the current understanding (or the lack thereof) between the two countries would not extend to the felt need for warm hospitality to be accorded by one to the other. Yet this has happened. It does not necessarily signal a thaw in relations between the two often-implacable South Asian protagonists. But it certainly points to the palpable desire on both sides for such a phenomenon to begin. Rational acts in their bilateral relations seem to come in sudden flashes. This occasion was one such. It was billed ‘private’. That was largely because to call it ‘official’ would have heightened expectations. Too often too many hopes have been raised in the past between the two. Those were only to be dashed to the ground almost immediately. Also, given their prevalent tensions, an official visit by one to the other would have brought grist to the mill of ardent detractors in both nations. They are, as the world knows, legion. The low-key nature of such a rare event is, therefore, quite understandable.
    • Briefs: 235 : An Indo-Pak Search for the China-India Model

      C. Raja Mohan 9 April 2012
      In the world’s most accident-prone relationship, even the most carefully choreographed meetings between India and Pakistan tend to collapse in acrimony, thanks to the huge popular emotion and media hype that burden the ties between the South Asian subcontinent’s siblings and rivals.
    • Briefs: 234 : India’s Diaspora Vote

      P S Suryanarayana, Editor (Current Affairs) at the ISAS 28 March 2012
      A comprehensive calculus of ethnic, political, and strategic factors has shaped India’s firm vote against Sri Lanka at the United Nations Human Rights Council on 22 March 2012. In a broad sense, India has cast a Diaspora Vote, which is compatible with the so-called ‘Indira Doctrine’ of the 1980s. However, New Delhi, by casting its lot with the United States and by being the lone Asian voice against Sri Lanka on this occasion, has charted a newly interesting and uncharted course in foreign policy.
    • Briefs: 233 : The Haves and the Have-Nots

      Pratima Singh, Research Associate at the ISAS 26 March 2012
      A recent press note by India’s Planning Commission releasing the poverty estimates for 2009-2010 created a stir in the Indian Parliament and media. Widely criticised as being too low, the Planning Commission outlined S$16.61 (Rs 672.8 monthly per capita consumption expenditure) for rural areas and S$21.22 (Rs 859.6 monthly per capita consumption expenditure) for urban areas as the poverty line. Most say this line is perceived as identifying the starving, not the poor. The paper analyses the methodology behind the Planning Commission’s poverty estimates and recommends another measure -- including the burgeoning vulnerable classes in the estimates.
    • Briefs: 231 : Is the US–Afghan Strategic Partnership in Doldrums?

      Shanthie Mariet D’Souza 23 March 2012
      As the search for the Afghan ‘end game’ has intensified in the United States, a Strategic Partnership Deal (SPD) entailing a limited but long-term presence of US forces in Afghanistan is seen as a crucial cornerstone to prevent the return of Afghanistan to the pre-9/11 days. A series of incidents such as the burning of the copy of the Holy Quran and the massacre of civilians at the hands of an American sergeant has yet again thrown the US ‘exit strategy’ into disarray. In the ensuing negotiations over the contentious conditionalities, the recent incidents have worked into tilting the balance in favour of President Hamid Karzai, a shift that could have telling effects on just not on the future US-Afghan relationship but also for the overall prospects of peace and stability in the war-torn country.
    • Briefs: 230 : Pakistan’s Economic Troubles

      Shahid Javed Burki 21 February 2012
      There are indications that Pakistan is again headed towards a deep economic crisis. While the country’s economic history was punctuated by many upheavals, the anticipated difficulties will come at a time when remedial action will be hard to adopt. There are good reasons why the world should watch the developing situation in Pakistan since its impact will be felt way beyond the country’s borders. Pakistan is central to the economic and political evolution of the Muslim world. Its experience could discourage other Muslim countries to adopt democracy in order to bring inclusive economic development.
    • Briefs: 229 : A Musharraf Order Haunts Pakistan

      Sajjad Ashraf 13 February 2012
      The spectre of Pakistan’s embattled Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani being convicted for contempt of court on 13 February 2012 – for flouting court orders to write to the Swiss authorities to re - open money laundering cases against President Asif Ali Zardari – threatens to plunge the country deeper into a political crisis. Benazir Bhutto, Zardari’s slain wife and a former Prime Minister of Pakistan, was the co - accused in those money laundering cases. It is widely believed that Gilani will now be formally indicted. Earlier, after a two - day preliminary hearing, the court was ‘satisfied prima facie that there is enough case for further proceedings’.
    • Briefs: 228 : Painful Politics in ‘Paradise’: Changes in the Maldives

      Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury 13 February 2012
      The Maldives conjures up an image of paradise, with turquoise seawater lapping against the silver sands of a thousand idyllic islets! Alas, this serene picture does not portray its politics, whose volatility has not ceased to surprise observers. Even prior to formal independence from the British in 1965, a head of government, Mohamm ed Amin Didi was lynched by the public as he had fallen foul of the people. The three - decade - long rather repressive rule of President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who won six consecutive elections (all uncontested, with no chance of his losing any), saw a number of coup attempts, in 1980, 1983 and 1988. The last one required Indian support to be put down.
    • Briefs: 227 : India Eyeing a New Gateway to Southeast Asia

      C Raja Mohan 26 January 2012
      India’s strategic objective of establishing close connectivity with Southeast Asia has received fresh impetus following Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s talks with Thai leader Yingluck Shinawatra and with Myanmar’s Foreign Minister Maung Lwin in New Delhi at this time. Coming into focus now is the interest expressed by India in associating itself with Thailand’s ambitious plans of developing an infrastructure hub at Dawei in southeastern Myanmar.
  • 2011
    • Briefs: 226 : Politics, Strategy and the Lokpal Bill

      S. Narayan 30 December 2011
      India’s much -anticipated Lokpal Bill (designed to set up an ombudsman) was introduced in the Rajya Sabha (upper house of par liament) on 29 December 2011, but the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government had to beat an ignominious retreat as it could not gather enough numbers in the house for the passage of the bill. Earlier the bill was in fact passed by the more powerful Lok Sabha (lower house of parliament), but both houses are now adjourned. It is possible that the government may send the bill and all the suggested amendments to a parliamentary committee for consideration before reintroducing it in the next session of pa rliament.
    • Briefs: 225 : The Lokpal Bill: An opportunity for the Government and the Economy

      S. Narayan 28 December 2011
      The Lok Sabha (L ower H ouse of Parliament) passed the Lokp al B ill on 27 December 2011 , marking an end to the drama that grip ped the media, the public and political parties for over four months in India . 2 The B ill, to create a Lokpal (ombudsman) structure to oversee complaints of corruption against public officials , has been over four decades in the making ; and it is widely acknowledged that the recent spate of scams that have engulfed the Government galvanised civil society, led by the activist Anna Hazare, to launch mass protests against the rampant corruption in public service.
    • Briefs: 224 : US-Pak relations: Reflecting on 2011

      Rajshree Jetly 27 December 2011
      This brief looks at Pakistan-US (United States) relations in 2011 and examines the reasons for the steady deterioration in ties in the course of the year. It discusses the strategic divergences between the two countries, as well as the compulsions for them to cooperate with each other.
    • Briefs: 223 : Atomic Fuel for Australia-India Synergy

      P. S. Suryanarayana 15 December 2011
      The governing Australian Labor Party’s latest vote to lift the ban on uranium sales to nuclear-armed India for its civilian atomic energy programme has economic and strategic overtones. On the economic side, though, New Delhi may not be able to make precise estimates of its long-term uranium needs until and unless the Indian civil society comes to terms with civil nuclear energy as a safe bet. At the same time, Australia is keen to quiz India on the unrelated but strategically important nuclear safeguards issues. Overarching these cross-currents is the political fact of both New Delhi and Washington welcoming the Julia Gillard administration’s new India initiative.
    • Briefs: 222 : The Mohmand Mayhem and its Impact on Pakistan-US Alliance: For the Friendship a Blush, for the Ties a Tear!

      Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury 30 November 2011
      The implications of the recent incident in which 24 Pakistan soldiers were killed on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border by NATO military action are likely to be far-reaching. It will severely dent Pakistan’s relationship with the West. But this may not mean crossing the Rubicon. At the end, there will need to have a Modus Vivendi. But for now, an age-old alliance is in tatters!
    • Briefs: 221 : The Afghanistan Enigma: Jostling for Influence will Jeopardise Peace

      Sajjad Ashraf 21 November 2011
      Political grandstanding aside, the message after United States Secretary of State Hillar y Clinton’s visit to Islamabad later in October indicates that the two sides are prepared to work together over a plan of action to engage Taliban (read Afghan resistance) in creating a post - US withdrawal structure in Afghanistan.
    • Briefs: 220 : India and Pakistan Prime Ministers’ Meeting: Looking to the Future

      Rajshree Jetly 21 November 2011
      This brief discusses the recent meeting of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on the sidelines of the 17th SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) Summit in Maldives. While no substantial gains were made, the meeting ended on a positive note and laid foundations for further talks and greater cooperation between India and Pakistan in the near future.
    • Briefs: 219 : Pakistan, India and the Security Council: Thinking the Unthinkables

      Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury 2 November 2011
      Pakistan has just been elected to the Security Council with India’s support. This may have been in the face of wariness on the part of some of Pakistan’s traditional Western allies. This is at a time when Pakistan’s relationship with the United States (US) and the West are deteriorating rapidly. India has displayed maturity by not seeking to exploit it. Indeed this falling out with the West may be inversely aiding Indo-Pak relations. But this also creates challenges for New Delhi that will call for considerable diplomatic artfulness and finesse.
    • Briefs: 218 : India-Afghanistan Strategic Agreement: Opportunity for Peace and for Pakistan

      Sajjad Ashraf 18 October 2011
      President Karzai’s statement in New Delhi that ‘ Pakistan is a twin brother, India is a great friend ’ is unlikely to assuage Pakistan’s concerns over the real nature and implications of Indo - Afg han Strategic Agreement for Pakistan. The deal signed on October 4; he added ‘with our friend will not affect our brother’.
    • Briefs: 217 : The Meaning of Anna Hazare’s Movement

      Ronojoy Sen 8 September 2011
      Social activist Anna Hazare’s 13-day hunger strike demanding a strong anti-corruption authority in India has made him a global name. His movement has been responsible for bringing back corruption to top of the agenda in India, which has seen several scams in recent times. It has also galvanised a large number of people who are not usually known to take to the streets for political causes. However, the tide of positive coverage of the event has glossed over some problematic aspects of the goals and methods of the movement.
    • Briefs: 216 : Al Qaeda, A Decade after the 9/11 Attacks

      Shanthie Mariet D'Souza 8 September 2011
      No major Al Qaeda attack has taken place since the 2 May 2011 killing of Osama Bin Laden. The organisation has lost quite a few important leaders. Its operations are said to be in shambles. It is merely attempting to survive rather than expand or even plan an attack. While the Arab spring is said to have depleted the Al Qaeda of its popular appeal, the difficult fiscal situation in the United States could be directing the Obama administration’s public posturing of the outfit’s reduced threat potential. While 11 September is a time for an introspection of a decade-long counter terrorism policy aimed at decimating and defeating the Al Qaeda, a trend analysis of the threat from Al Qaeda post-Abbotabad might have important pointers that speak otherwise.
    • Briefs: 215 : Growth in the Indian Economy- Some Thoughts

      S. Narayan 22 August 2011
      The poor performance of the markets last week has again underlined global concerns over the developments in the Unite d States and the European Union. In terms of the impact on the Indian economy, the media have been articulating both points of view - that it would have no effect, and that it would have a considerable impact.
    • Briefs: 214 : Come September, Manmohan Comes To Dhaka

      Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury 15 August 2011
      This brief is a curtain-raiser to the visit to Bangladesh by the Indian Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, in September 2011. It argues that globalisation is leading to a change in mind-sets that, if taken advantage of during that event, would lead to positive and beneficial results for both countries. If India has a disproportionate responsibility to improve ties, Bangladesh also has its own share, for, as the Bengali saying goes, it takes two to clap hands.
    • Briefs: 213 : Opportunities for South Asia in the Revolutions in the West

      Shahid Javed Burki 15 August 2011
      The knowledge-intensive goods and services the world’s more developed countries will continue to need but may not be able to produce if the states fail to invest in human skill development and physical infrastructure improvement, India and its sister South Asian states could fill the gap. Once again, the South Asian diaspora can help. They have the financial resources and knowledge and management expertise to develop new industries in what was once their homelands. But they will need help from the South Asian states to develop the instruments of finance and transfer of knowledge and management practices that would help to bring new industries to this part of the world.
    • Briefs: 212 : Exploding Karachi

      Shahid Javed Burki 15 August 2011
      Pakistan cannot make economic and political progress unless the different kinds of violence that have become routine in the country are brought under control. It is because of this that the World Bank in its 2011 World Development Report has included Pakistan, along with a score of other countries, in its list of fragile states.2 In fact, there are three ongoing wars within Pakistan. There is no end in sight for any of them: they are the wars in Karachi, the war among the various sects of Islam and the war between the state and various extremist groups. This paper discusses the explosion in Karachi. All three are taking large economic and human tolls on the country.
    • Briefs: 211 : Pakistan-India Trade

      Shahid Javed Burki, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 4 August 2011
      With the invitation on 5 August 2011 from the Indian commerce minister to his Pakistani counterpart to visit New Delhi and hold substantive talks on improving trade relations between the two countries, groundwork may be laid for breaching the differences that have created enormous burdens of history. Trade is a good place to start but, as discussed in this brief, some serious work will needs to be done before real progress can be made.
    • Briefs: 210 : The Emerging Faultlines of the US-Afghan Strategic Partnership

      Shanthie Mariet D’Souza, Visiting Research Fellow at the ISAS 10 August 2011
      The United States (US) and Afghanistan are locked in discussions to finalise a long-term security agreement that would pave the way for retention of limited US troop presence in the country beyond 2014. The secrecy surrounding the ongoing deliberations on the yet-to-be-inked US-Afghan Strategic Partnership is causing considerable disquiet both within and outside Afghanistan. However, the deal, which is seen as a security guarantee to the Afghans, seems to be mired in the emerging differences on the conditionalities and nature of the partnership. Notwithstanding the current state of discussions, the strategic partnership will have long-term implications for both Afghanistan and the region.
    • Briefs: 209 : India and Pakistan Foreign Ministers’ Meeting: New Hopes and Expectations

      Dr Rajshree Jetly, Research Fellow at the ISAS 1 August 2011
      This paper discusses the recent meeting between Indian Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna and the newly appointed Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar in New Delhi on 27 July 2011. Unlike the previous foreign ministers’ meeting in Islamabad in 2010, the recent meeting between the two foreign ministers had a more positive feel to it. While no major breakthroughs were achieved, some confidence building measures were announced, paving the way for greater interaction between the two neighbours with a view to improve relations in the future.
    • Briefs: 208 : America Attempting to Find its Way in Asia: Moving Towards the Obama Doctrine

      Shahid Javed Burki, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 28 July 2011
      International trade matters for development but the South Asian countries have done poorly. Their trade-to-GDP ratio is much lower than that of East Asia. One reason is that for more than four decades after achieving independence, South Asians continued to believe in the import-substitution strategy of growth. The East Asians, on the other hand, used the state to aggressively build their export industry. But there is one similarity between these two parts of the Asian continent: they have sought markets for their products in the world’s developed economies.
    • Briefs: 207 : Pakistan’s Afghan Dilemma: Seeking that Elusive Sense of Security

      Sajjad Ashraf, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 27 July 2011
      While visiting my senior colleague, Ambassador Qazi Humayun, in September 1995 when he was recovering from a mob attack, with broken teeth and with stitches on his head, after the Pakistan Embassy in Kabul was ransacked on 6 September, I asked him, ‘How is it that, every government in Kabul starts with public declaration of friendship with Pakistan but relations sour within six months?’ The attacks were allegedly supported by the Rabbani Government helped into power by Pakistan after deposing the Najibullah regime. He did not answer. The question has continued to intrigue me.
    • Briefs: 206 : ‘Ye Hai Mumbai Meri Jaan…’

      S.D. Muni, Visiting Research Professor at the ISAS 19 July 2011
      The serial blasts of 13 July 2011 in Mumbai that shattered 31 months of relative peace in India have resulted in 18 deaths and 130 injured people. The renewal of terrorist attacks underline the revival and regrouping of those terrorist organisations who had been lying low under the international pressures and the promise of internal security revamping in the aftermath of the 26 November 2008 (26/11) cross-border terrorist attacks on Mumbai. The current blasts also expose major chinks in India’s internal security structure and point clearly to the fact that the lessons of 26/11 have not been learnt properly. While the investigating agencies are being cautious in identifying possible suspects, a more intriguing aspect of the blasts is that no terrorist group has claimed responsibility for them so far.
    • Briefs: 205 : The ‘US-Pak’ Relationship: A Complex but Categorical Imperative

      Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 23 June 2011
      The ‘rollercoaster’ nature of the ‘US-Pak’ relationship is a complex one. Yet for both Pakistan and the United States (US), it is a categorical imperative, one of ‘necessity’, rather than one of choice. It is transactional rather, than spontaneous. It is bred not in love, but in need. It is a difficult equilibrium, but one that needs to be maintained in appropriate balance for the sake of security, regional and beyond. That is the challenge both parties confront.
    • Briefs: 204 : The Challenge of Ethnic Federalism in Nepal

      Hema Kiruppalini, Research Associate at the ISAS 13 June 2011
      Following the 5-point Agreement, on 29 May 2011, Nepal’s main political parties – the Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoists (UCPN-Maoist), the Nepali Congress, and the Communist Party of Nepal-United Marxist Leninist – agreed to extend the Constituent Assembly (CA) by another three months. The promulgation of the constitution is seen as an important step forward in the country’s struggle to facilitate a peace process. More importantly, the state restructuring process on the basis of ethnic parameters threatens to endanger national cohesion.
    • Briefs: 203 : NMIZs in India: Haunted by SEZs

      Amitendu Palit 17 June 2011
      India’s draft national manufacturing policy proposes National Manufacturing and Investment Zones (NMIZs) as instruments for revitalising manufacturing. The policy addresses major challenges for Indian manufacturing such as inflexible labour laws, multiple procedures and environment-friendly production. However, NMIZs pose several questions with respect to their relationship with Special Economic Zones (SEZs). Unless states are consulted actively, the paper argues, NMIZs might be as controversial as SEZs.
    • Briefs: 202 : India-Australia: Moving beyond the Periphery

      Suvi Dogra, Research Associate at the ISAS 26 May 2011
      India and Australia have traditionally been at the periphery of each other’s foreign policy. However, with the recent high level ministerial meetings, clearly the two countries are now trying to engage each other with reinforced vigour. The recent agreement to begin formal negotiations for a Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) has given much needed impetus for stronger bilateral relations. This paper discusses India-Australia relations against the backdrop of the proposed CECA.
    • Briefs: 201 : A No-Win Situation for Pakistan: A Dilemma for the US

      Sajjad Ashraf, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS), Singapore 24 May 2011
      The United States (US) raid that killed Osama Bin Laden has raised many serious questions and has put the Pakistani ruling elite at serious odds with the public. Pushing Pakistan to the corner is not the optimal choice for the US’ long-term interests in the region.
    • Briefs: 200 : Kerala: Communist Survival – Now What?

      Robin Jeffrey, Visiting Research Professor at the ISAS 23 May 2011
      Contrary to predictions, Kerala’s Left Democratic Front (LDF) led by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) [CPI(M)], came within a whisker of retaining power in state elections, the results of which were announced on 13 May 2011. For 40 years, Kerala voters have made it a tradition to change governments at each election. That tradition continues, but the 2011 result will install a rickety United Democratic Front (UDF) government led by the Congress Party. Oommen Chandy will return to the chief minister’s position he occupied from 2004-06. The Congress performed disappointingly, winning only 38 of the 82 seats it contested. It will need all six of its alliance partners to retain power. Kerala’s economy and social cohesion are vital issues for the new government. Its tiny majority and disparate character lead to doubts about its ability to handle such problems effectively or to complete its five-year term.
    • Briefs: 199 : How the Red Fortress was Won: An Analysis of the West Bengal Assembly Election

      Ronojoy Sen, Visiting Research Fellow at the ISAS 18 May 2011
      That the Left Front, the longest-serving democratically elected Communist government, was voted out in West Bengal did not come as a surprise. The margin of victory for the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress was, however, not anticipated by many. The Trinamool rode on the strong desire for change among West Bengal voters. Among the other factors for the Trinamool’s thumping victory were discontent over the Left Front’s land acquisition policy, the transfer of allegiance of Muslim voters to the Trinamool and the inability of the Left to comprehend the extent of voter dissatisfaction.
    • Briefs: 198 : Tamil Nadu Election Results: An Assessment

      S. Narayan, Head of Research and Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 16 May 2011
      The Tamil Nadu election results are important not only for the significant mandate for change but also for indicating a distinct change in voter perception. There appears to be a strong antipathy to poor governance and nepotism, and an expectation that good governance would deliver more people friendly policies. Cash for votes or freebies do not appear to have swayed the electorate. This seems to be a sign in the right direction for democracy.
    • Briefs: 197 : Census 2011: The Curious Case of Changes in Tamil Nadu Demographics

      Pratima Singh, Research Associate at the ISAS 16 May 2011
      The latest 2011 census shows that Tamil Nadu is the only state to experience an increase in the decadal population growth rate, from 11.7 per cent in 1991-2001 to 15.6 per cent in 2001-11. The category of child population within the age of zero to six years constitutes 9.5 per cent of the state’s population, a decline from the 11 per cent in 2001. Thus, the growth in population is due to a sharp rise in numbers, aged seven years and above, the causes for which can only be verified once age group wise data is released for the 2011 census. Studying district wise data reveals that the most likely explanation for this population increase is in-migration of labour, especially in districts with high industrial activity.
    • Briefs: 196 : Post-Osama: Is it the Beginning of the ‘End’ in Afghanistan?

      Shanthie Mariet D’Souza, Visiting Research Fellow at the ISAS 9 May 2011
      The killing of Osama bin Laden has sent a chilling message to its affiliates in the region. However, at the same time, it has initiated speculations that having achieved their objective of eliminating Osama, the United States (US) can safely commence the ‘drawdown’ of forces. Will the US abandon Afghanistan, yet again, as it did when it shifted focus to Iraq? Will it stay put and focus on the groups like the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and the Pakistani Taliban who have vowed revenge? Will it pursue the Quetta Shura so that they become amenable to the reconciliation process underway in Afghanistan? If the goal of the US is to pursue the region, answers to these questions remain vital for the prospects of stabilisation in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
    • Briefs: 195 : Prospects for ‘Transition’ in the Afghan Security Sector: A Reality Check?

      Shanthie Mariet D’Souza 15 April 2011
      As the talks of transfer of authority gains currency, the Taliban insurgency wants to demonstrate its capacity by systematic targeting of the new and fragile Afghan security forces. The gradual reduction of international forces is slated to coincide with the ascendancy in the capabilities and presence of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSFs) that will be responsible for securing the country against insurgent attacks. Will these forces – product of a rushed, under-resourced and frequently revamped recruitment and training procedure – be able to deliver? There are serious reasons for worry. The rush to pass the responsibility to relatively new and fragile force might prove disastrous for the country and the region. This paper while assessing the effectiveness of the ANSFs argues that a sustainable transition in the security sector can only be achieved by long-term vision and efforts in institution building.
    • Briefs: 194 : The TAPI Pipeline: A Recipe for Peace or Instability?

      Shanthie Mariet D’Souza, Visiting Research Fellow at the ISAS 1 April 2011
      Amidst talks of rising instability and violence in Afghanistan, what seems to have eluded the eye is the progress on the Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India (TAPI) gas pipeline project. The projected gain from the pipeline is seen as an opportunity to create a win-win deal among local and regional stakeholders in Afghanistan by binding the ‘warring’ factions in an integrative economic framework. By building on Afghanistan’s role as an ‘energy-bridge’ between an energy abundant central Asia and energy deficient South Asia, there exists possibilities of integrating the conflict-ridden country mostly driven by regional power competition into a mutually dependent cooperative framework. The TAPI pipeline is projected to boost economic interdependence among competing regional powers, thus making the costs of conflict too high and benefits of cooperation lucrative. However, there are potential roadblocks, which need to be addressed before the project can take its final shape.
    • Briefs: 193 : China and India: Competitors or Collaborators?

      Shahid Javed Burki, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 31 March 2011
      As the global economy is slowly emerging from the devastating 2008-09 recession, China and India have been leading the way in global growth, both nearing the double-digit markers in regards to their respective gross domestic product (GDP) growth. At the same time this growth has not been universal. The United States (US) has revived to some positive numbers but it still remains under-par in historical comparison. Situations in Western Europe have proved to be even worse. Several countries have been facing crises with balance of payments (BoP). Britain has had negative growth of one-quarter, which, followed by another such quarter drop, would bring the country back into a recession. Japan’s severe earthquake and resulting tsunami has knocked down the country’s economy and there is likely to be a drop in the future rate of economic growth. This clearly means that for the moment, economic activity will be in Asia and within the continent’s largest economies, China and India. What will these trends portend for the global economy?
    • Briefs: 192 : Tamil Nadu Assembly Elections: Mapping Electoral Alliances and their Strategies

      Gayathri Lakshminarayan 30 March 2011
      Even days after the process of filing nominations for the April 13 Assembly polls had begun, the political alliances in Tamil Nadu were in a state of flux. The All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) and the Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK) had differences regarding identification of constituencies, while the Vaiko (Vai. Gopalsamy)-led Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK) pulled out of its alliance with the AIADMK and decided to boycott the elections. The incumbent Dravida Munnetra Kazghagam (DMK) government, on the other hand, has finalised seat-sharing agreements with its allies. However, the negotiations between the DMK and Congress had proven difficult, as discussions were held against the perceived weakness of the regional party in the 2G scam controversy and the resolve of the Congress to reposition itself in the state. In what is likely to be a close and contested election, the DMK and the AIADMK are relying on traditional populist strategies such as promising freebies and relying on the film industry to mobilise the voters, apart from electoral arithmetic. This paper attempts to map the two major electoral alliances in Tamil Nadu, the factors which have gone into shaping them and to examine the electoral strategies of the two political coalitions while identifying issues which may influence the outcome.
    • Briefs: 191 : The Raymond Davis Case

      Rajshree Jetly, Research Fellow at the ISAS 28 March 2011
      This paper discusses the Raymond Davis case in the context of Pakistan-United States (US) relations. The Raymond Davis saga demonstrates, once again, the challenges faced by Pakistan as a frontline state in the international war on terrorism and how the Government has to make difficult decisions in balancing its domestic and foreign policy interests.
    • Briefs: 190 : Restoring Order in Grameen

      M. Shahidul Islam, Research Associate at the ISAS 15 March 2011
      The removal of Nobel Prize-winning economist Muhammad Yunus from the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh has created a deadlock in the Bank. The stalemate that is widely believed to have deep-rooted political interest is denting clients’ confidence, leading to hasty withdrawal of deposits. This can also prompt some borrowers to refuse to repay their loans, eventually defaulting on their debts owing to a ‘moral hazard’ problem repeating the recent experience in Andhra Pradesh in India. Given the Grameen’s local as well as global role in poverty alleviation through microcredit, an apolitical management with or without Muhammad Yunus needs to be restored as soon as possible, allowing the higher court to act independently. If not handled properly, the ‘Grameen contagion’ can travel well beyond Bangladesh’s boundaries.
    • Briefs: 189 : India’s Tourist Visa on Arrival: One Step Forward and Two Steps Back?

      Syeda Sana Rahman, Research Associate at the ISAS 11 March 2011
      Since 1991, following the currency crisis and subsequent liberalisation, India has involved itself with what has been deemed the ‘Look East’ policy. In ‘looking East’, towards Southeast Asia, India has sought to forge a greater and deeper economic and political relationship with the region. As economic ties have deepened, the Indian government has made further moves to increase tourist inflows from the region by introducing the tourist visa on arrival (TVOA) scheme in 2010. Although on a limited (but incremental) basis the extension of the TVOA to ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) is quite significant in the perspective of India’s mounting engagement with the region, both economically and politically. However, some roadblocks remain, which may well dilute the objective of the scheme.
    • Briefs: 188 : India Budget 2011-12: Scoring Low on Politics

      Amitendu Palit, Head (Development & Programmes) and Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 7 March 2011
      Politics, not economics, was the main worry for the Government of India on the eve of the latest budget. The budget tried to maintain economic momentum and also address concerns over black money and governance. While it scores reasonably well on the economic front, this paper argues that its political impact may be diluted due to lack of signals on a firm action agenda.
    • Briefs: 187 : Much Ado about Nothing

      Ronojoy Sen, Visiting Research Fellow at the ISAS 2 February 2011
      The Cabinet reshuffle in India in January 2011 was a damp squib. The major portfolios – finance, home, external affairs and defence – were left untouched. There were only a few relatively minor changes in portfolios and promotions to a handful of ministers. Though a bigger reshuffle has been promised after the forthcoming budget session of the Parliament, the Government seems to have a lost an opportunity to make a statement of intent at a time when the country is besieged by scams, inflation and a Parliamentary deadlock.
    • Briefs: 186 : Global Realignment: Significance of Hu Jintao’s Visit to the United States for South Asia

      Shahid Javed Burki, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 27 January 2011
      The recently concluded visit by the Chinese President Hu Jintao to the United States (US) is significant for South Asia. The main purpose of the visit was to reset the relations between these two global powers – one that was unchallenged for a couple of decades as the sole superpower, and the other that is surging ahead economically and militarily – with the aim of producing a more stable global order. The American tone at the formal meetings in Washington was very different from the one used by President Barack Obama during his visit to Beijing in November 2009. Then he had welcomed China to a shared position with the US in the emerging world order, a kind of G2 arrangement. This time the American President talked about cooperation and competition between the dominant powers. The Hu visit came after Mr Obama’s trip to India in which he promised a larger role in world affairs to the other rising Asian power. Washington seems to be moving away from a G2 world to a multipolar world. The paper examines the reasons for the shift in tone and the implications for South Asia.
    • Briefs: 185 : India’s Inflation: An Alternate Hypothesis

      S. Narayan, Head of Research and Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 11 January 2011
      Inflation continues to remain the biggest challenge for economic policy in India. This paper analyses various factors contributing to inflation. It argues that rapid growth of a cash economy fuelled by heavy liquidity and large cash transactions, particularly in property markets, are sustaining inflation. Under such circumstances, monetary policies are likely to be ineffective in curbing prices.
    • Briefs: 184 : History May Not Repeat Itself For Pakistan

      Shahid Javed Burki, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 7 January 2011
      Pakistan is currently facing a serious political crisis. It has many dimensions – economic, political, and extremism inside and outside its western borders. It is the rise of extremism that poses an existential threat to the country. In fact, the Pakistani society is at war with itself with extremist elements challenging the writ of the state. To deal with the growing extremist threat will need progress on the economic and political fronts. That said, there is some expectation that history will not repeat itself with another military intervention that happened on several occasions in the past. Some counter forces – an independent media, a rising middle-class and civil society institutions – are likely to prevent the collapse of the Pakistani state.
  • 2010
    • Briefs: 183 : World Powers Beeline to Delhi

      S.D. Muni, Visiting Research Professor at the ISAS 28 December 2010
      The world’s five nuclear and United Nations Security Council (UNSC) veto wielding powers came calling on India in a short period of six months in the latter half of this year. They were essentially driven by their respective economic and strategic interests, but the message that these visits emit is loud and clear, namely that India has emerged as a major strategic player in the Asian and world affairs. One hopes that India will use its economic and strategic clout for not only augmenting its own status and capabilities, but also in contributing towards prosperity, stability and security in the region and the world.
    • Briefs: 182 : AfPak: President Obama’s Two Wars

      Shahid Javed Burki, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 27 December 2010
      The nature of the American effort in the region it once called AfPak has gone full circle. The administration headed by President Barack Obama started with the notion that it was fighting one war being waged in the areas on either side of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. Inhabited mostly by the Pushtuns, Washington called it the AfPak region and appointed one person, the late Richard Holbrooke, to handle the framing and execution of the American policy.
    • Briefs: 181 : Chinese Premier’s Visits to India and Pakistan: Strategic Implications

      Rajshree Jetly, Research Fellow at the ISAS 22 December 2010
      This paper discusses the recent visits by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao to India and Pakistan. Premier Wen spent three days in each country and held discussions on a wide range of issues. This paper focuses on the political and strategic issues, and makes some observations on what these visits reveal about the nature of Sino-Indian and Sino-Pak relations.
    • Briefs: 180 : Wen Jiabao in India: Mission Business

      Amitendu Palit, Head (Development & Programmes) and Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 20 December 2010
      The Chinese Premier’s recent visit to India emphasised on developing closer business ties with India in different areas. Several agreements were signed, including in banking and finance and green technologies. The paper argues that despite both countries deciding to increase bilateral trade and addressing the current imbalance, the latter might persist due to low competitiveness of Indian exports in the Chinese market and the Indian industry’s inability to compete with Chinese imports.
    • Briefs: 179 : India and China at Cancun: A New Approach to Climate?

      Amitendu Palit, Head (Development & Programmes) and Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 13 December 2010
      The decisions at the Cancun conference on climate change have been accepted positively by the international community. China and India refrained from taking obstructionist positions at Cancun. This paper argues that such posturing does not indicate their dilution of commitment to the Kyoto Protocol and the principle of ‘common but differentiated responsibilities’ in global action on climate change.
    • Briefs: 178 : The Bihar Election: Gamechanger or Business as Usual?

      Ronojoy Sen, Visiting Research Fellow at the ISAS 2 December 2010
      Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s re-election in November 2010 by a huge margin was based on his solid performance over the last five years, something that has been commented on widely by the media, both in India and abroad. But he probably would not have won only on his development agenda. He also had his poll arithmetic right by reaching out to a large constituency, which included the extremely backward castes and women. The paper however, points out that the election result, remarkable as it is, might not signal a change in the style of Indian politics.
    • Briefs: 177 : Scams in India: Concerns and Lessons

      S Narayan, Head of Research and Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 1 December 2010
      The paper discusses various concerns arising from multiple scams that have come to light in India. In this context, it argues that the political leadership in India should note that citizens are speaking up through votes and rewarding only those who perform
    • Briefs: 176 : President Obama’s India Visit: Substance in Symbolism

      S.D. Muni, Visiting Research Professor at the ISAS 16 November 2010
      President Obama’s visit to India will go down in the history of the India-United States relations as a major step towards consolidating the strategic partnership between the two countries. The outcome of this visit, while helping the US economically, has enhanced India’s power profile in Asia and encouraged it to play a greater role in world affairs.
    • Briefs: 175 : QEII and India’s Responses

      S. Narayan, Head of Research and Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 16 November 2010
      The Quantitative Easing policy of the Federal Reserve has been criticised by several countries on account of the destabilising impact it can have on global trade and national currencies. This paper examines the likely implications of the policy for India.
    • Briefs: 174 : India Looks East: Encircling China or Enlightened National Interest?

      Gayathri Lakshminarayan, Research Associate at the ISAS 10 November 2010
      Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s recent visit to Japan, Malaysia and Vietnam saw not only comprehensive trade pacts being inked but also forging of a more intimate security role for India in the region, giving a fillip to India’s ‘Look East’ Policy. The Prime Minister’s visit was at a time when China’s relationship with Japan is strained. The warming of Indo-Japanese ties has been attributed to the recent frosting in Sino-Japanese relations. There is a growing perception that India with its economic and military prowess can be a counterweight to an assertive China. This paper analyses India’s strategy in engaging with the region more closely, which is in its interests, while refraining from striking an adverse posture against China.
    • Briefs: 173 : Indian Prime Minister’s Visit to East and Southeast Asia: Economics Drives Strategy

      Suvi Dogra, Research Associate at the ISAS 3 November 2010
      The successful conclusion of the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s recent threenation tour of East and Southeast Asia has sent out strong signals regarding India’s deepening economic linkages with the region. This paper analyses India’s attempts at consolidating its position in the region by employing free trade agreements as effective tools for achieving its economic and strategic ambitions.
    • Briefs: 172 : Untangling the Ayodhya Verdict

      Ronojoy Sen, Visiting Research Fellow at the ISAS 5 October 2010
      The relative calm which greeted the Allahabad High Court ruling on the Ayodhya dispute was one of the positive fallouts of the verdict. However, the judgement was a highly unusual one ordering a three-way split of the disputed land in Ayodhya, the site of a mosque, which was pulled down by Hindu fundamentalists in 1992, who believe it was built on a spot sacred to the Hindus. One of the most troublesome aspects of the ruling was its reliance on the faith or belief of Hindus to decide the division of the land. As things stand, the verdict is likely to be challenged in the Supreme Court.
    • Briefs: 171 : Parliamentary Elections in Afghanistan: Imperfect, Yet Necessary

      Shanthie Mariet D’Souza, Visiting Research Fellow at the ISAS 7 September 2010
      The usefulness of holding the upcoming election to the lower house of the Afghan parliament has been subjected to intense debate. While security situation remains a critical challenge forestalling polling in large parts of the country, speculations are rife that the voting process may be marred by wide spread fraud and irregularities as witnessed in previous elections. As a result, the representative character and legitimacy of the newly elected house would remain a matter of debate. However, in spite of such challenges, in a country where insurgency is still raging, allowing the common people a sense of participation in shaping the future of the nation is critical. This would probably pave the way to let them develop a long term stake in the peace and stability of Afghanistan.
    • Briefs: 170 : Pakistan Floods: Coping with Disaster

      Rajshree Jetly, Research Fellow at the ISAS 27 August 2010
      Pakistan is reeling under one of the biggest natural disasters in the history of the country, as large swathes of its territory lies under flood waters. While such floods are devastating under any circumstances, its adverse effects are more in a country like Pakistan that is battling Islamist insurgency, and has a fragile civilian government and a weak economy. This brief examines the challenges that Pakistan is facing in dealing with this calamity.
    • Briefs: 169 : H1B Visa Fee Hike: Will Indo-US Ties be Affected?

      Sinderpal Singh, Research Fellow at the ISAS 26 August 2010
      The United States (US) Congress has recently passed a legislation hiking visa fees for technology companies hiring highly skilled foreign workers under the H1B visa programme. Firms with more than 50 workers and with more than 50 per cent of those employees from abroad would see the current US$320 fee per visa application jump to US$2,000. The issue of H1B visas is vital to Indian information technology (IT) companies who have offices in the US. This paper looks at how and why certain domestic pressures on the Obama Government on issues of immigration and job creation have led to this legislation. It also looks at the reaction of the Indian Government in the matter and examines if the fee hike is a sign of potential future irritants in bilateral relations.
    • Briefs: 168 : The 2010 Commonwealth Games: Will India Pull It Off?

      Syeda Sana Rahman, Research Associate at the ISAS 25 August 2010
      With less than two months to go to the nineteenth Commonwealth Games (CWG), it seems increasingly unlikely that India will be able to stage the event successfully. Inundated with reports of inefficiency and corruption, the Central Government has now stepped in to supervise the preparations. However, there are fears that these moves may be rather late. Even if the preparations are finally completed on time, the Games, which were to demonstrate India’s arrival on the world stage, may serve as an embarrassing reminder of governance problems plaguing India.
    • Briefs: 167 : South Asian University: Catalyst for Regional Cooperation?

      Suvi Dogra, Research Associate at the ISAS 20 August 2010
      Armed with a three-fold agenda of building a culture of understanding and regional consciousness; nurturing a new class of liberal, bright and quality leadership; and building the capacity of the region in science, technology and other disciplines, the South Asian University is set to open its gates this month. This brief analyses the efficacy of the university and whether it can act as a catalyst for regional cooperation.
    • Briefs: 166 : India-Pakistan Foreign Ministers Meeting: The Impasse Continues

      Rajshree Jetly, Research Fellow at the ISAS 20 July 2010
      This paper discusses the recent meeting between Indian Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna and Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi in Islamabad. Hopes of the meeting producing some fruitful outcomes have not materialised. The paper examines why India and Pakistan have failed to overcome their historic impediments to constructive dialogue.
    • Briefs: 165 : The Bhopal Tragedy Verdict: Can India Handle Industrial Disasters?

      Amitendu Palit, Head (Development & Programmes) and Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 24 June 2010
      The recent verdict on the Bhopal Gas Tragedy of 1984 has drawn attention to India’s legal safeguards for handling industrial catastrophes. This paper discusses the existing shortcomings for fixing liabilities in industrial accidents in India. Arguing that the Bhopal case highlights the failure to apply the principle of ‘polluter pays’, the paper concludes that industrialisation without safeguards can have disastrous consequences.
    • Briefs: 164 : United States-India Strategic Dialogue: Still Waiting for Obama?

      Sinderpal Singh, Research Fellow at the ISAS 15 June 2010
      The recently concluded inaugural United States-India Strategic Dialogue held in Washington from 1 to 4 June 2010 has been hailed by the United States (US) administration as a symbol of deepening ties between the two countries. However, there are several questions being raised in policy circles about the dearth of any concrete ‘deliverables’ from this much publicised event. Such voices have once again revived the debate about the Obama administration’s sincerity and ability to raise the US-India relationship to the heady heights forged during the previous Bush administration.
    • Briefs: 163 : The West Bengal Municipal Polls: End of the Road for the Left

      Tridivesh Singh Maini 9 June 2010
      The Trinamool Congress (TMC), an important constituent of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, has triumphed in the West Bengal Municipal Council polls. The ruling Left Front has lost in some of its strongholds due to a strong antiincumbency wave, while the Congress which fought independently has also disappointed. This brief gives an overview of the verdict and also analyses the possible ramifications of the outcome for both state politics, especially in the context of next year’s assembly elections in the state and national politics.
    • Briefs: 162 : Karzai Visits the United States: A Mutual Opportunity to Bury Hatchets?

      Shanthie Mariet D’Souza, Visiting Research Fellow at the ISAS 25 May 2010
      President Hamid Karzai’s four-day visit to the United States (US) was viewed as an exercise in mending ties. As the US military surge in Afghanistan has advanced and a major anti-Taliban military offensive in Kandahar is on the anvil, it was necessary on Karzai’s part to repair the bilateral ties, frayed by war of words, back on track. For the US, it is important to placate and publicly embrace Karzai, for he remains central to the US plans in Afghanistan.
    • Briefs: 161 : India and Pakistan Meeting: Third Time Lucky?

      Rajshree Jetly, Research Fellow at the ISAS 5 May 2010
      This paper discusses the recent meeting between Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gillani on the sidelines of the South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Summit in Bhutan. Although the talks did not produce any concrete results, it is an important step in reducing the mistrust that has bedevilled the Indo-Pak relations.
    • Briefs: 160 : SAARC at Twenty Five

      S.D. Muni, Visiting Research Professor at the ISAS 4 May 2010
      The paper reviews the latest summit of the South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (SAARC) held at Bhutan during 28-29 April 2010. Reflecting in this context on twenty-five years of SAARC, the paper argues that despite disappointments, the enhanced commitment to regional cooperation displayed at the summit indicates movement in the right direction.
    • Briefs: 159 : Monetary Policy Pressures in India: A Comment

      S. Narayan, Head of Research and a Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 16 April 2010
      The Yuan-Dollar exchange rate decisions are likely to have an effect on how the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) manages its exchange rate policy. This is likely to add to the monetary policy concerns that the RBI has to address. This paper highlights some of the dilemmas before the RBI.
    • Briefs: 158 : Restoring Parliamentary Democracy in Pakistan

      Rajshree Jetly, Research Fellow at the ISAS 14 April 2010
      This paper comments on the recent Constitution (18th Amendment) Bill passed by the National Assembly in Pakistan. Apart from the many important amendments in the bill aimed at restoring Parliamentary democracy in Pakistan, it also marks the first time that a President has voluntarily relinquished his special powers. The process of pushing the bill through also shows that the political parties in Pakistan are able to work together in a democratic manner to bring about real and positive change.
    • Briefs: 157 : Setting the Stage for a New Global Nuclear Order: The American Approach

      Shahid Javed Burki, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 12 April 2010
      The first in a series of three, this paper examines the changes in the global nuclear regime that can result from the agreement between the United States (US) and Russia on the size of their nuclear strategic weapons and the Nuclear Posture Review of the Obama administration. Although Barack Obama is not the first world leader attempting to rationalise the global nuclear order, he has made the same a part of his grand design. He had earlier promised that if elected, he will make a serious effort to create a nuclear-free world and has appeared to have embarked on fulfilling that promise. The paper argues that circumstances that have led the relative newcomers to the nuclear club - China, India, Israel, Pakistan and North Korea - to acquire nuclear weapons, are so different that it will be difficult to limit, let alone eliminate, their arsenals through a single global treaty.
    • Briefs: 156 : India’s Changing Priorities

      S. Narayan, Head of Research and a Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 11 March 2010
      The paper examines India’s latest budget and official economic pronouncements to identify the government’s recognition of the strengths and weaknesses of the Indian economy and the resolve to address these issues. It argues that this pragmatism is driven by the realisation that India’s significance might be diminishing in some critical segments of the global arena.
    • Briefs: 155 : The Pakistan Military Proves its Mettle

      Ishtiaq Ahmed, Visiting Research Professor at the ISAS 8 February 2010
      It is argued in this brief that the recent London conference on the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan was a major success for the Pakistani military in convincing the international community that its cooperation is vital to resolving the crisis in Afghanistan. It was achieved in light of the fact that the Pakistani military effectively combated Taliban terrorism on its own soil. The Pakistani military has also come out against the Taliban domination of Afghanistan in case of an early United States (US) and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) troop pullout, because it would threaten Pakistani security and national interests.
    • Briefs: 154 : Afghanistan: The London Meeting

      Shahid Javed Burki, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 4 February 2010
      On 28 January 2010, the international community met once again in London to discuss Afghanistan. The meeting was called by Gordon Brown, the British prime minister, and was attended by the representatives of 60 governments including Hillary Clinton, the United States (US) Secretary of State. On the eve of the conference, senior Afghan officials began to indicate that they were prepared to work with those in the Taliban movement who were willing to be associated with the government. This position, pushed for some time by Pakistan, seemed acceptable to Washington and other major capitals but with some reservations. President Hamid Karazi asked for US$1.2 billion of donor assistance to help mainstream some of the Taliban. At the same time, General Stanley McChyrstal, the US commander in Afghanistan, indicated that he was convinced that with the help of the additional troops that were on their way to Afghanistan, he could secure the main population centres and protect them from the insurgents? But doubts remain whether these moves will bring peace to the country and bring to an end a conflict that had lasted for more than three decades.
    • Briefs: 153 : Sri Lanka Polls: Incumbency is Endorsed

      S. D. Muni, Visiting Research Professor at the ISAS 4 February 2010
      Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s electoral gamble has paid. His decision to go to polls two years before the end of his first term has won him a comfortable second term of six years.
    • Briefs: 152 : The ‘Free-Market’ and ‘Social Concerns’: ‘Asian Values’ and ‘Walking on Two Legs’!

      Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 29 January 2010
      The reservoir of knowledge, collected over time from human experience leads us to conclude that all beliefs that are not re-energised or re-invigorated by reformation movements tend to wilt and wither. Those of the free market are no different. As history unfolded, these ideas were buffeted by adversities of real-world experience. But after each such experience they reemerged in new form, further sharpened and honed. That is why the current financial, or more aptly termed, economic crisis must be seen as an opportunity to seize upon, to feed that propensity of the market that has proved to be its more powerful tool of survival, that is, its ability to correct itself, perhaps with a little bit of help from society. In this phenomenon Asia has a leadership role to play, encompassing both growth and care for the poor.
    • Briefs: 151 : Rescuing Afghanistan: Let the Region Take Charge

      Shahid Javed Burki, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 22 January 2010
      The international community is set to meet again in London on 28 January 2010 to devise a new plan for the economic recovery and development of Afghanistan. The outcomes of the meeting will be analysed in a later brief by ISAS. This paper discusses how the continuing conflict in Afghanistan should be viewed and what countries with large Muslim populations in the Middle East and South Asia can do to save Afghanistan from edging closer to becoming a totally failed state. It is wrong and misleading to see the Afghan conflict in terms of a clash between two ideologies à la Huntington. It should be viewed instead as a case of relative deprivation of people who were once economically and politically powerful in the country. If the conflict has strong economic undercurrents then why seek a solution by suggesting that countries with large Muslim populations should step forward and save Afghanistan from totally collapsing? The reason for that presumably is the way the narrative of the conflict has been allowed to be shaped; it is being written in religious terms. Therefore a credible alternative may come from countries that can speak on behalf of the religion whose flag has been raised by the insurgents that seem to be winning at this time. The use of the term “countries with large Muslim population” is ostensibly for including India as well. It is critical to finding a lasting solution to a conflict that has gone on for more than three decades.
    • Briefs: 150 : Mr Jyoti Basu: A Gentleman and a Communist

      Bibek Debroy, Honorary Senior Fellow at the ISAS 18 January 2010
      Mr Jyoti Basu – India’s most prominent and senior communist leader – passed away on 17 January 2010. Mr Basu had the distinction of being the Chief Minister of the Indian state of West Bengal for more than two decades. His death marks the end of an era in Indian and West Bengal politics. This brief traces the critical events during the political career of Mr Basu that spanned for more than six decades and concludes that while Mr Basu was both a gentleman and a communist, he was more of the former than the latter.
    • Briefs: 149 : Hasina’s Visit to India and Emerging Indo-Bangla Relations: Implications for the Region

      Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury 18 January 2010
      The visit of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh to India (10-13 January 2010) was extremely significant in the regional context. It brought the two vibrant democracies in South Asia – Bangladesh and India – close together and opened the way for their collaboration with Nepal and Bhutan. Throughout the visit India displayed an awareness of its disproportionately greater responsibility as the regional pre-eminent power, according ‘sovereign equality’ to a less powerful neighbour, creating a new paradigm for intra-state relations in South Asia. Can this model be attractive enough for Pakistan to be drawn into a relationship of ‘trilateralism’ including itself, Bangladesh and India?
  • 2009
    • Briefs: 148 : Sri Lanka’s Presidential Election 2010: The Choice before Pluralist Democrats

      Dayan Jayatilleka, Visiting Senior Research Fellow-designate at the ISAS 29 December 2009
      The Sri Lankan presidential election will take place in January 2010. Seeking a fresh mandate prior to the expiration of his first term in 2011, President Mahinda Rajapakse’s main challenger will be his former Chief of Defence Staff, General Sarath Fonseka, who played a key role in the defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. This paper compares the two candidates and concludes that, between President Rajapakse and General Fonseka, continuity is better than change; within the government, change is imperative; and between the government and the opposition, change may be better than continuity.
    • Briefs: 147 : Pakistan’s Supreme Court and the National Reconciliation Order: What Now for Pakistan?

      Rajshree Jetly 22 December 2009
      This brief looks at the potential implications of the Supreme Court’s decision on rendering null and void the National Reconciliation Order promulgated by General Pervez Musharraf in 2007, which stopped investigations and prosecutions against over 8,000 individuals for corruption and other wrongdoings. The brief suggests that, while the judgment in itself is a welcome decision, its political repercussions need to be carefully managed and that Pakistan’s goal of returning to a vibrant democracy not be derailed in the process.
    • Briefs: 146 : The Dubai Debt Debacle: Likely Impact on South Asia

      M. Shahidul Islam, Research Associate at the ISAS 11 December 2009
      This paper focuses on the ongoing debt crisis in Dubai and other recent economic setbacks in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and assesses their likely impact on South Asia. Owing to the region’s lower exposure to Dubai World’s over-leveraged debt, the impact on South Asia’s financial markets is likely to be limited. However, South Asia’s real economies, particularly those related to remittances, could be adversely affected as Dubai’s real estate bubble bursts and the UAE counts the impact of the financial crisis. The real downside risk for the South Asian region, nevertheless, is the sustainability of the dubious ‘Dubai model’ which has been emulated in the Gulf neighbourhood and one that absorbs a large number of South Asia’s surplus manpower.
    • Briefs: 145 : Unwinding the Fiscal Stimulus – Dilemmas for India and China

      S. Narayan, Head of Research and a Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 11 December 2009
      This paper states that, with the return of economic growth in India and China, policy makers are concerned about inflationary pressures as well as growing asset price bubbles. The causes of concern arise from different macroeconomic fundamentals in the two countries, and accordingly, the strategies are different. For the world at large, of the two countries, the consequences of China not getting it right are much more serious. This paper examines some of the concerns.
    • Briefs: 144 : Climate Change Challenges: Leading up to Copenhagen

      Shahid Javed Burki, Visiting Senior Research Fellow-designate at the ISAS 10 December 2009
      The climate change summit began in Copenhagen on 7 December 2009. The climate in which it began was somewhat better than most analysts and observers had believed would be the case. There was greater optimism as the opening ceremony was held. This was largely the result of the announcements made by the United States, China and India – three of the four largest polluters of the atmosphere – a few days before the summit was convened, that they will be willing to take a number of important steps to control the amount of carbon their economies were putting out in the atmosphere. While in Singapore on his visit to Asia, United States President Barack Obama met with a number of world leaders and agreed that there was not enough time to produce an enforceable international treaty at Copenhagen. There will, instead, be a focus on developing political consensus to produce such a treaty in 2010, possibly as soon as the summer of next year. President Obama also indicated that he would be addressing the summit at the beginning of the week-long session. This brief discusses the lead up to the summit and the positions taken by some of the more important players. The second brief will examine the outcome of the summit.
    • Briefs: 143 : A Tale of Two Visits: The India-US-China Relationship

      Sinderpal Singh, Research Fellow at the ISAS 7 December 2009
      In November 2009, United States’ President Barack Obama visited China, and Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh went on a state visit to the United States (US). Many in India closely followed President Obama’s visit to Beijing, while Dr Singh’s trip to Washington was intimately charted in China. Presently, there are three significant issue areas in this triangular relationship that resonate deeply in both New Delhi and Beijing. These are: (1) carbon emission caps; (2) Afghanistan-Pakistan; and (3) the India-US civilian nuclear deal and global non-proliferation regimes.
    • Briefs: 142 : The United States in Afghanistan: President Obama decides to fight the war his way

      Shahid Javed Burki, Visiting Senior Research Fellow-designate at the ISAS 3 December 2009
      The decision to send in more American troops to Afghanistan was a long time coming. The strategy was finalised by President Barack after he met with his war council on Monday, 23 November 2009. This was the tenth high level meeting chaired by the president a couple of days after his return from his first visit to Asia. The decision was announced on 1 December 2009 in a televised address to the nation delivered in front of the cadets of the West Point Academy. In that respect the president was following the precedence set by former President George H. W. Bush who had used the military as the backdrop for announcing some of his strategies. President Obama revealed at the point when he held the press conference with the visiting Indian Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh that he had made up his mind of the troop level the United States will maintain in Afghanistan. The president walked a fine line between the two positions taken by his advisers: some wanted him to pursue what has come to be called the counter-insurgency approach while the latter advocated a counter-terrorism strategy. The first is aimed at using considerable amount of force to overcome insurgency while undertaking intensive development of the liberated terrain. The second is aimed at concentrating fire power on the strongholds from where the terrorists are launching their attacks. The strategy adopted by President Obama calls for a rapid build-up of the force in Afghanistan with the promise to begin the process of drawdown eighteen months after the troop build-up. During this period the Afghan force is to be built up with the expectation that as the Americans withdraw, the country’s own military and police force would be able to take care of security.
    • Briefs: 141 : Hamid Karzai’s Second Term as Afghanistan’s President: Promises, Challenges and Prospects

      Shahid Javed Burki, Visiting Senior Research Fellow-designate at the ISAS 24 November 2009
      Hamid Karzai was sworn in as Afghanistan’s president on 19 November 2009 after being ratified as the winner in the elections held on 20 August 2009. The long delay in being sworn in was caused by the successful challenge launched by Dr Abdullah Abdullah to the election results. Abdullah had received the second highest votes in the contested elections. A run-off election was ordered for 7 November 2009 but was cancelled when Abdullah withdrew from the contest, clearing the way for the swearing-in ceremony.
    • Briefs: 140 : Pakistan’s Nuclear Weapons: How Safe Are They?

      Ishtiaq Ahmed, Visiting Research Professor at the ISAS 18 November 2009
      With the assault on the office of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) in Peshawar on 13 November 2009, which left at least 20 people dead, including 10 ISI officials, the Taliban-Al Qaeda nexus has once again demonstrated that it is capable of hitting the supposedly well-guarded targets representing the power and authority of the state. A few weeks earlier, they were able to deceive the guards at the entry of the citadel of the Pakistan army, the General Headquarters, in Rawalpindi. On that occasion, more than 40 people were taken hostage, of whom 37 were rescued due to a daring operation by the commandos of the elite Special Services Group.
    • Briefs: 139 : A ‘New’ Japan and Possible Implications for Japan-India Relations

      Sinderpal Singh 17 November 2009
      The victory of the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) in the Japanese Lower House elections in late August 2009 brought to an end half a century of uninterrupted rule by the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) in Japanese politics. It also signalled a potential “revolution” in Japan’s domestic and foreign policies. However, with about two months into this new DPJ era, in terms of Japanese foreign policy at least, it is yet unclear as to how radical a departure this new government will take from the central tenets of the preceding Japanese foreign policy
    • Briefs: 138 : President Obama’s First Asian Visit

      Shahid Javed Burki, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 9 November 2009
      This is the first of two briefs on the United States’ evolving relations with East Asia – with the region as well as the countries in the area. The first provides the context in which United States President Barack Obama will undertake his first official visit to the region. The second will examine what the American president accomplishes during the visit and what its long-term consequences will be for the relations between these two important parts of the global economy. It should be noted that in preparing for the visit, President Obama consulted with Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s veteran leader, who impressed upon him the importance Washington must give to economics, in particular to trade, in basing its relations with the region. The Obama visit comes at a time when China is leading the world out of what has come to be described as the “Great Recession”. Its fast developing economy is intertwined in several different ways that call for good working relations between Beijing and Washington. These need to be based not on ad hoc exchanges between the two leadership groups but on solid and durable institutional arrangements. What we are seeing is the evolution of G2 at the apex of a new world order.
    • Briefs: 137 : Afghanistan Presidential Elections 2009: The ‘Run-off’ That Never Was

      Shahid Javed Burki 4 November 2009
      president, the country’s Independent Election Commission (IEC) declared Hamid Karzai, the sitting president, as the winner. He was to face a run-off with Dr Abdullah Abdullah, the man who polled the second highest number of votes in the elections held on 20 August 2009. Initial results had Karzai winning well over one-half of the total votes cast. The results were, however, contested and, after a recount of some of the suspicious votes, Karzai’s share fell below one-half, necessitating a run-off between the two candidates winning the most votes. The run-off election was scheduled for 7 November 2009. On 1 November 2009, Dr Abdullah withdrew as a candidate leading the IEC to declare Karzai the winner. Immediately after the IEC’s announcement, the United Nations, the United States and other North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) countries declared that they were ready to work with the new government to bring peace and development to the country that had gone through a series of civil wars since the Soviet Union sent in its troops in 1979. Would Karzai be able to win the support of the people not with the Taliban to fight the Taliban? At this point in time, most analysts would suggest that more troubles lie ahead for the country.
    • Briefs: 136 : Hillary Clinton’s Visit to Pakistan: An Exercise in Trust Deficit Reduction

      Ishtiaq Ahmed, Visiting Research Professor at the ISAS 3 November 2009
      The United States’ Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, paid a recent three-day visit to Pakistan at a time when terrorism perpetrated by the Taliban-Al-Qaeda forces was wrecking havoc in the country. The United States and Pakistan are allies in the fight against the terrorists, but between themselves, they suffer a trust deficit. This paper examines the nature of the trust deficit and its implications for the fight against terrorism.
    • Briefs: 135 : Indian Assembly Elections 2009: Another Blow for the Bharatiya Janata Party

      Tridivesh Singh Maini, Research Associate at the ISAS 3 November 2009
      This paper examines the results of the recent assembly elections in three Indian states – Maharashtra, Haryana and Arunachal Pradesh. The Congress Party won in all three states while the principal opposition party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), suffered another defeat at the hustings. Apart from outlining the results of all the three states, this paper analyses the reasons for the Congress Party’s victory and the BJP’s defeat. A key observation of the election results is that, apart from Arunachal Pradesh, the Congress Party’s successes in Maharashtra and Haryana were not entirely convincing. What unequivocally emerged, however, was that the BJP’s lacklustre campaign contributed to the Congress Party’s victories. The BJP, bereft of any leadership, virtually lost the elections even before they began.
    • Briefs: 134 : Afghanistan Presidential Elections 2009: The Run-up to the Run-off

      Shahid Javed Burki 26 October 2009
      In my fourth brief on Afghanistan’s presidential elections held on 20 August 2009, I explore the consequences of the findings by the independent, United Nations-managed Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) about the irregularities committed in the elections. The ECC’s revised tally of votes gives President Hamid Karzai less than 50 percent of the total. Its findings were accepted by the Karzai government under pressure from the West, in particular the United States, Britain and France. As a result, 7 November 2009 has been set as the date of the run-off election between Karzai and Dr Abdullah Abdullah, Minister of Foreign Affairs in an earlier Karzai administration. The findings were anticipated but they have complicated the United States’ mission in Afghanistan. They have come at a time when the administration of President Barack Obama is reviewing Washington’s strategy, not only in the country but also in the region the policymakers called ‘AfPak’ – Afghanistan and Pakistan. The prospect of another election has created even more uncertainty and has coincided with an intensive campaign of terror by Islamic insurgents across the border in Pakistan. The Pakistani government has responded with a full-fledged military assault on South Waziristan that started on 17 October 2009. It is clear that what happens in one country will profoundly impact on the other.
    • Briefs: 133 : South Waziristan: The Beginning of Pakistan’s Military Campaign

      Shahid Javed Burki 19 November 2009
      In this first of a series of briefs that will follow Pakistan’s military campaign to oust the Taliban from the South Waziristan tribal agency – one of the seven that constitute Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas – I will provide some details about the background of the ongoing conflict between the Pakistani state and the stateless Islamic insurgents. The army’s operation in South Waziristan began on 17 October 2009 when 30,000 soldiers began to slowly move into the area inhabited by the fiercely independent Mehsud tribe. The tribe formed the backbone of the Tehrik-e- Taliban Pakistan (TTP), now led by Hakimullah Mehsud. The new leader took over when an attack by an American Predator killed Baitullah Mehsud, who was accused of ordering a number of murderous attacks on various targets in Pakistan. He was also alleged to have been the mastermind behind the assassination of Ms Benazir Bhutto on 27 December 2007. The military had declared its intention of a major assault on the Mehsuds in the area. It began after a week of terrorist attacks for which the TTP took responsibility. The attacks, including one on the army headquarters in Rawalpindi on 10 and 11 October 2009, took 175 lives. It was reported that the move into South Waziristan by the military had the full support of the United States which is rushing in supplies needed by the Pakistani forces.
    • Briefs: 132 : Suffering Terrorism but Flirting with Populism: Pakistan’s Current Predicaments

      Ishtiaq Ahmed, Visiting Research Professor at the ISAS 13 October 2009
      The Taliban-Al-Qaeda nexus has, in recent days, mounted a number of bloody terrorist assaults in Pakistan, including the nerve centre of the Pakistan armed forces and general headquarters in Rawalpindi, causing several fatalities and injuries. Disappointingly, the national debate in Pakistan has instead focused on the Kerry-Lugar Bill that will provide economic and military aid worth US$7 billion for the next five years, alleging that it compromises Pakistani sovereignty. This paper argues that the real threat to Pakistani sovereignty is posed by the terrorists.
    • Briefs: 131 : The Kerry-Lugar Bill: Difficult Choices for Pakistan

      Sajjad Ashraf, Consultant for the ISAS 5 October 2009
      As the United States Administration seems poised to engage effectively with the South Asian region, at least in the short run, the Kerry-Lugar Bill is meant to pursue these interests with support from Pakistan’s beleaguered government. While the Pakistani government declares the aid passage as a triumph of its diplomacy, the critics claim that it is a sell-out of national sovereignty. They point to some of the ‘degrading’ conditions which Pakistan may be obliged to accept before aid can be disbursed. Given the track record of its aid disbursements, the United States Congress will perhaps not acquiesced to anything less. The aid will most likely continue with conditions as long as interests converge.
    • Briefs: 130 : Afghanistan Presidential Election 2009: Inconclusive Results a Dilemma for the United States

      Shahid Javed Burki, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 22 September 2009
      Serious doubts about the fairness of the Afghanistan presidential election held on 20 August 2009, increased casualties in the escalating fight, and some weakening of the European support for the war in Afghanistan have posed a serious dilemma for the administration of United States President Barack Obama. Washington had hoped to follow a classic counter-insurgency strategy which seemed to have succeeded in Iraq. This had three elements – to split the opposition, to economically develop the areas in which the insurgents were active, and to use great force against those who continued to resist. However, for such a strategy to succeed, it required an Afghan government that is credible and legitimate, both to get the Afghans to support it and to get Americans and their allies to help. What is placed on hold is any kind of political reconciliation and attempting to split the Taliban. It is very difficult to do this without an Afghan government as an effective partner. The election of 20 August 2009 did not produce such a government. At the same time, the resolve of the American people and their allies in Europe to continue with the fight seems to be weakening.
    • Briefs: 129 : India, Pakistan and Bangladesh: ‘Trilateralism’ in South Asia?

      Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 16 September 2009
      This paper argues that, within the context of South Asia, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh have commonalities and potentials that could be positively developed through a policy of ‘trilateralism’. It would imply an informal process of identifying and categorising divisive issues into separate but not water-tight boxes and addressing them with a view to resolving them. Unlike the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), it would not avoid disputes but confront them. The idea would be to create a strategic ‘problem-solving’ partnership that could complement, and not supplant, the SAARC.
    • Briefs: 128 : Japan Joins Changing Asia

      Shahid Javed Burki, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 7 September 2009
      The elections in Japan on 30 August 2009 are likely to take the country in an entirely different direction from the one it has pursued since the end of World War II. Then, it had allied itself closely with the United States, the country that gave it a new Constitution and promised it security against foreign aggression. It also gave an enormous amount of authority to the bureaucracy that wielded power much greater than that exercised by the elected representatives of the people. All that is set to change. When the opposition leader, Yukio Hatoyama, forms the government, he will set the country on a path that will begin to deviate significantly from the past. Change will come but it will arrive slowly. Since it is coming at a slow pace, it will perhaps endure over a long time. What the world may see is a significant restructuring of the global political and economic order, particularly in Asia. There will be changes in five areas, all of them significant for the world. Japan will begin to address the problem posed by a rapidly ageing population, it will redirect public money towards the less advantaged segments of the population, it will reduce the power of the bureaucracy, it will redefine its relations with the United States, and it will get closer to its Asian neighbours, in particular China.
    • Briefs: 127 : The New Irritant in United States-Pakistan Relations: The Harpoon Skirmish

      Sajjad Ashraf 4 September 2009
      The New York Times report on 30 August 2009 on Pakistan’s illegal modification of “United States-supplied Harpoon missiles to expand its capability to strike land targets” has become a source of tension between the United States and Pakistan. While the Pakistanis have rejected this claim, it has raised concerns in Washington and New Delhi. This brief argues that the latest dispute could delay or even derail the United States’ legislation to provide aid to Pakistan. It concludes that, given the nature of mistrust between the two South Asian neighbours, Pakistan will continue to find ways and means to match India’s superiority in weaponry.
    • Briefs: 126 : Afghanistan Elections 2009: The Day of Reckoning

      Shahid Javed Burki, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 31 August 2009
      In my second brief of the series on the evolving situation in Afghanistan resulting from the presidential election held on 20 August 2009, I will look at some of the preliminary indications of what appears to have happened while the formal announcement of the outcome is awaited. The hope that the people will give a clear indication of their preferences was not realised. The country seems headed towards a breakdown of the social order essential to govern a multi-ethnic state. It appears that the hope that the election would contribute to political progress in South Asia is proving to be untrue.
    • Briefs: 125 : The Afghanistan Presidential Elections: Dangerous Portends?

      Shakti Sinha, Research Fellow at the ISAS 19 August 2009
      The Afghanistan Presidential elections, scheduled for 20 August 2009, are interestingly poised. Unfortunately, the adjective ‘interesting’ also has negative connotations as in the traditional Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times!” The reason is that the election results, far from leading war-ravaged Afghanistan towards peace and stability, may set the stage for further confrontation and increased instability.
    • Briefs: 124 : ‘Silence is Golden’: India’s Current Position on Myanmar

      Sinderpal Singh, Research Fellow at the ISAS 18 August 2009
      There has been increasing international and regional criticism of Myanmar’s military regime in the wake of Aung San Suu Kyi’s recently-completed trial. The Indian government’s position, however, has been prominent for its silence on this issue. This paper points to three major factors for India’s silence – the China factor, its energy needs and the situation in its northeastern region – and concludes that this Indian position will persist into the near future.
    • Briefs: 123 : Afghanistan Presidential Election 2009: Developments since the Fall of the Taliban

      Shahid Javed Burki, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 17 August 2009
      This is the first of three briefs to be published by the Institute of South Asian Studies to put the forthcoming Afghanistan election in the context of developments in the country since the fall of the Taliban in December 2001.
    • Briefs: 122 : Taleban Leader Baitullah Mehsud Dead: Is it the Beginning of the End of Terrorism?

      Ishtiaq Ahmed, Visiting Research Professor at the ISAS 11 August 2009
      The reported death of the Pakistan Taleban leader, Baitullah Mehsud, is a major development in the ongoing struggle against terrorism. It undoubtedly carries crucial implications not only for peace and normalcy in Pakistan, but also in South Asia and indeed the wider world. This brief contextualises the events leading up to his death on 5 August 2009. It is suggested that Pakistan should not relent now. It is in Pakistan’s best interest to dismantle the terrorist networks that still exist in its territory, notwithstanding the formal ban on them.
    • Briefs: 121 : Inflationary Pressures in the Indian Economy1

      S. Narayan, Head of Research and Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 3 August 2009
      The recent policy statement of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) signifies a departure from the stance that it had been adopting in the last three quarters. There are three elements that are different. First, in leaving key policy rates unchanged, it has acknowledged that liquidity is not an obstacle to growth at present, but banks are showing a reluctance to lend. Second, by acknowledging that the growth of money supply at 20 percent is high and needs to be brought down,3 the RBI is concerned about money growth. Third, in cautioning about inflationary pressures, the RBI is setting its sights on tightening monetary policy in the near term. All these have significant implications for the Indian economy.
    • Briefs: 120 : Hillary Clinton’s Visit to India Differences Remain despite Positive Outcomes

      Sinderpal Singh, Research Fellow at the ISAS 23 July 2009
      Four major issues dominated United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visit to India from 17 to 21 July 2009. These were India’s future role as a global player; Pakistan’s commitment to fighting terrorism; defence and nuclear energy cooperation; climate change and caps on carbon emissions. Overall, the visit was significant as a signal of United States President Barack Obama’s determination, moving forward, to build a broad-based political, economic and strategic relationship with India.
    • Briefs: 119 : India and Pakistan: The Message from Sharm-el-Sheikh

      S. D. Muni, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 22 July 2009
      The Indo-Pak Joint Statement on 16 July 2009 marks a significant concession on India’s part on two points – i) the delinking of action by Pakistan against perpetrators of the Mumbai terrorist attacks from the Indo-Pak Composite Dialogue; and ii) the inclusion of Balochistan in future Indo-Pak discussions. India’s Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, has been criticised at home for the statement but his stand lies in the larger interest of improving relations with Pakistan and addressing the concerns of the international community (with respect to the war on global terror). In doing so, Dr Singh has not compromised any of India’s basic interests.
    • Briefs: 118 : Can One Still Do Business in Nepal?

      Binod K. Chaudhary, leader of the delegation of the Confederation of Nepalese Industries 15 July 2009
      The most critical question that comes to the mind of any businessman hoping to venture into Nepal at the present time is: “Can I really do business in Nepal?” This was the sentiment echoed by members of the Singapore Business Federation (SBF), the Institute of South Asian Studies (ISAS), the Singaporean business community and Ambassador Gopinath Pillai, Chairman of ISAS, in his opening address during a workshop organised by the SBF to showcase Nepal on 9 June 2009.
    • Briefs: 117 : The Indian Budget: A Failure to Confront the Challenges

      Shahid Javed Burki, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 10 July 2009
      There are moments in the lives of nations when those who rule can bring about profound changes in the lives of the ruled. In India, 1991 was such a moment when then-Finance Minister Manmohan Singh, facing an economic crisis of immense proportion, chose to break with the past. With a few bold strokes, he demolished the “License Raj” that had been put in place with such tender loving care by Jawaharlal Nehru and his political associates. The Raj had kept India stuck in an economic groove that produced what its own economists called the “Hindu rate of growth” – 3.5 percent a year when the population was increasing by almost two percent a year. That did not leave much room for the poor, and the poor, in whose name the Raj had been established, suffered immeasurably. India became tremendously impoverished, with 40 percent of its population living in absolute poverty. That proportion introduced a new term in economics – the bottom 40 percent.
    • Briefs: 116 : The Indian Budget 2009-10: Opportunities for Singapore Investments

      S. Narayan, Head of Research and Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 9 July 2009
      India’s budgetary numbers for 2009-10 have been unveiled by Finance Minister, Pranab Mukherjee, on 6 July 2009. For international credit rating agencies and for foreign financial institutions, the foremost concern would be the fiscal deficit, which is budgeted to be the highest ever, at 6.8 percent. On the face of it, the Finance Minister is walking a fiscal tightrope, with the finances strained at close to unsustainable levels.
    • Briefs: 115 : Indian Budget 2009-10: Carefully Crafted but Not Without Risks

      S. Narayan, Head of Research and Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 8 July 2009
      The budgetary numbers for the year 2009-10 were unveiled by Indian Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee on 6 July 2009.
    • Briefs: 114 : Pakistan’s Taliban Crisis – Savaging or Salvaging the State?

      Rajshree Jetly, Research Fellow at the ISAS 2 July 2009
      Barely 18 months from its historic democratic elections of February 2008, Pakistan is mired in a war against domestic religious extremists. The country’s civilian political leadership and administration is still struggling to find its feet. Its relations with India have also deteriorated with the terrorist attacks in Mumbai by suspected Pakistan-based militants late last year. The increased Unites States military activity within Pakistani territory, especially its drone attacks against suspected Al-Qaeda bases, have added to the pressure on Pakistan’s government vis-à-vis its domestic constituency. Religious extremism poses a veritable threat to Pakistan from inside and out.
    • Briefs: 113 : Booms and Busts in Private Capital Flows to Emerging Asia since the 1990s

      Ramkishen S. Rajan, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 1 July 2009
      A decade or so after the financial crisis that hit Asia in 1997-98, the region once again experienced a severe capital account shock in 2008-09. How different has this boom and bust cycle of international capital flows been from the previous one? This brief examines the balance of payments dynamics in emerging Asia to understand the magnitude and types of private capital flows to and from the region between 1990 and 2008.
    • Briefs: 112 : America’s New Approach towards Pakistan

      Shahid Javed Burki, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 1 July 2009
      America’s sometimes on and sometimes off relationship with Pakistan is set to change.2 This is likely to happen in three significant ways. The legislations that have worked their way through the two chambers of the United States Congress will place the structure of America-Pakistan relations on new foundations. The roller-coaster ride will end and greater certainty will be introduced in the way Washington conducts business with Islamabad. The bills that have cleared the House of Representatives and the Senate promise a long-term United States commitment to Pakistan. The House version has a five-year time horizon during which assistance will be provided at an annual rate of US$1.5 billion. In the Senate version, the commitment is for the same annual amount but the time frame is open-ended. The two bills will be reconciled by a conference committee that will be established by the two chambers. United States’ President Barack Obama has indicated that he wants a deep and durable relationship with Pakistan. He is likely to sign the aid to Pakistan act whenever it emerges out of the Congress which will probably be in September 2009 after the summer recess.
    • Briefs: 111 : Foreign Bank Entry Reconsidered

      Ramkishen S. Rajan, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS and Sasidaran Gopalan, Research Associate at the ISAS 15 June 2009
      Until the mid-1990s, the banking systems in most of Asia remained heavily regulated, and barriers to foreign competition were prohibitively high. However, in the aftermath of the East Asian crisis of 1997-98, financial sector restructuring, including the revamp of the financial regulations, has been an important element in the structural adjustment programmes in Indonesia, Korea, Thailand and the Philippines. Broadly, governments in the crisis-hit regional economies have restructured their financial systems by shutting down commercial banks and finance companies, merging some existing institutions and nationalising others, injecting public funds to recapitalised viable banks, putting in place systematic asset resolution strategies, as well as easing regulatory impediments to foreign bank entry. Other countries in the region such as China and India have also taken steps towards financial deregulation.
    • Briefs: 110 : The Global Financial Crisis and Cross-border Mergers and Acquisitions in Developing Asia

      Ramkishen S. Rajan and Rabin Hattari 11 June 2009
      The global outward foreign direct investment (FDI) stock, which stood at US$14 billion in 1970, increased over 140 times to almost US$2,000 billion by 2007. Of importance also is the fact that a large part of the upsurge in global FDI has been due to mergers and acquisitions (M&As) of existing entities, as opposed to establishing an entirely new entity (that is, ‘Greenfield’ investment). According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), global cross-border M&A deal in 2006 were valued at around US$880 billion, having peaked in 2000 at almost US$1,200 billion. In comparison, there were a negligible number of deals pre-1980 and a relatively modest US$150 billion worth of M&A deals in the early 1990s. Also noteworthy is the growing significance of developing Asia in these cross-border M&As, both as sources of finance as well as destinations of investments. These cross-border M&A flows have deepened the economic integration of developing Asia with the global economy.
    • Briefs: 109 : Pakistan: Finally Taking Ownership of the War against Terrorism?

      Iftikhar A. Lodhi, Research Associate at the ISAS 29 May 2009
      Soon after the momentous 9/11 terrorist attacks in the United States, President G. W. Bush told the world, “Every nation in every region now has a decision to make. Either you are with us [in the war on terror], or you are with the terrorists.” Pakistan decided to side with the United States. It remains debatable, though, whether Pakistan’s decision was wholly voluntary or it was made under duress. Whatever the reasons, Pakistan has emerged to become a central figure in the war against terrorism.
    • Briefs: 108 : Two Victories and a Defeat: India, Sri Lanka and the Minority Question

      Darini Rajasingham Senanayake, Visiting Research Fellow at the ISAS 19 May 2009
      Spontaneous street parties broke out, fireworks crackled in the air and strangers offered flowers to Sri Lankan soldiers to celebrate the news in Colombo – Asia’s Idi Amin was no more! One of the Indian subcontinent’s longest wars was at an end. The day before, street parties in New Delhi celebrated the victory of the Congress Party in the elections that marked the maturing of Indian democracy and the fact that the Tamil Nadu electorate had a sophisticated view of the situation in Sri Lanka. It is, hence, to be hoped that India, the regional superpower, will play an effective role to ensure peace with justice for the minorities in Sri Lanka.
    • Briefs: 107 : Indian Elections 2009 – A Return to the Centre

      Sanjaya Baru, Visiting Professor at the ISAS 19 May 2009
      The elections to the Lower House of the Indian Parliament, Lok Sabha, have thrown up a clear mandate in favour of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), led by the Congress Party. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh becomes the second prime minister after Jawaharlal Nehru to secure a renewal of mandate after completing a full term in office.
    • Briefs: 106 : Sri Lanka: What Next?

      S. D. Muni, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 30 April 2009
      Sri Lanka’s war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) has reached its conclusion. The security forces may still take a few days in the last stage of mopping up of the war zone. The area is heavily mined, some 30,000 to 50,000 civilians are still suspected to be trapped in the war zone and there are last ditch attempts by the remaining Tigers to kill as many Sri Lankan soldiers as they can.
    • Briefs: 105 : The Maldives: A Paradise in Peril?

      Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 28 April 2009
      The Maldives is small and beautiful. Its picturesque scenic bounties lend the smallest member state of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation certain paradise-like qualities. Its people enjoy a reputation of being mild-mannered. However, despite these attributes, a combination of politics and geography is increasingly rendering the future of this tiny nation somewhat perilous. Its vulnerabilities to the vagaries of nature are well known. Much of the world is aware by now that, due to climatic changes, a slight rise in the sea level can spell disaster for the country, immersing much of its land space. However, less reported in the world is the fact that the Maldives’ recent transition from authoritarian rule to democracy stands threatened if the parliamentary elections, due on 9 May 2009, throw up results that would effectively block governance.
    • Briefs: 104 : Pakistan’s India Fixation can bring the Taliban into Power

      Ishtiaq Ahmed, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 28 April 2009
      Several statements published in the News on 23 April 2009 illustrate the diverse perceptions of the real or imagined existentialist threats to Pakistan. In one key statement, United States’ Secretary of State Hilary Clinton alleged that Pakistan has abdicated to the Taliban by agreeing to the imposition of Islamic law in a part of the country and that nuclear-armed Pakistan poses a ‘moral threat’ to world security.
    • Briefs: 103 : Sino-Indian Naval Engagement

      C. Raja Mohan, Professor at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University 16 April 2009
      The Indian Naval Chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta’s visit to China next week opens the door for the construction of an enduring maritime security dialogue between the two rising powers of Asia.
    • Briefs: 102 : The South Asian Nuclear Genie: Out of the Bottle, It can be Useful

      Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 13 April 2009
      When the South Asian nuclear genie got out of the bottle in May 1998, with both India and Pakistan overtly conducting nuclear tests, there was much consternation, in particular, at the Conference on Disarmament. A permanent forum of the United Nations based in Geneva, the Conference on Disarmament is the only inter-governmental negotiating forum on disarmament. The author was then the Bangladesh Ambassador to this body.
    • Briefs: 101 : Asia’s Economic Revival: Seeking Solutions beyond the Fiscal Stimulus

      M. Shahidul Islam, Research Associate at the ISAS 13 April 2009
      As the recession in the United States (US) deepens, it is apparent that America’s traditional role as the world’s ‘consumer of last resort’ is now at stake. Consumer confidence in the US has plunged, owing to the ‘wealth effect’ following the burst of the assets bubble. The McKinsey Quarterly reports that the two forces which until recently turbocharged the US consumer spending – growing household debt and a falling savings rate – are now following a reversal trend. American consumers have accounted for more than three-quarters of its gross domestic product (GDP) growth since 2000 and for over one-third of global growth in private consumption since 1990.
    • Briefs: 100 : The Bharatiya Janata Party’s Manifesto – Assessing its Electoral Implications

      Tridivesh Singh Maini 9 April 2009
      he main opposition party , the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), released its manifesto on 3 April 2009. Outlining its goals, the manifesto states, “ The BJP is contesting the 2009 15 th Lok Sabha election on a m anifesto that commits the party to an agenda for change guided by three goals: good governance , development and security .” The last time the BJP came out with its own manifesto was in 1998. In the 1999 and 2004 elections, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) brought out a common minimum programme. This paper discusses the key political and economic issues in the BJP manifesto . It then examines the i mplications of these issues on the BJP at the general elections.
    • Briefs: 99 : Attack on Sri Lanka’s Cricket Team: Is Pakistan in Total Chaos and Anarchy?

      Ishtiaq Ahmed 4 March 2009
      The unthinkable has happened! On 3 March 2009, 12 gunmen sprayed bullets and threw grenades and bombs with rocket launchers on the bus carrying the Sri Lankan cricket team which was touring Pakistan. The team was on its way to the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore for the ongoing test match with Pakistan. Since the target was a fast-moving one, not all the deadly ammunition hit the target. Eight Sri Lankan players were injured, none critically, while five Pakistani security personnel died defending them. Two other Pakistanis are also reported killed in the attack.
    • Briefs: 98 : Oscar-winning ‘Slumdog Millionaire’: A Boost for India’s Global Image?

      Bibek Debroy 27 February 2009
      Culture is difficult to define. This is more so in a large and heterogeneous country like India, where there is no common language and religion. There are sub-cultures within the country. Joseph Nye’s ‘soft power’ expression draws on a country’s cross-border cultural influences and is one enunciated with the American context in mind. Almost tautologically, soft power implies the existence of a relatively large country and the term is, therefore, now also being used for China and India. In the Indian case, most instances of practice of soft power are linked to language and literature (including Indians writing in English), music, dance, cuisine, fashion, entertainment and even sport, and there is no denying that this kind of cross-border influence has been increasing over time, with some trigger provided by the diaspora.
    • Briefs: 97 : Sino-Indian Naval ‘Encounter’ in the Gulf of Aden: Mitigating Sino-Indian Maritime Rivalry

      C. Raja Mohan 6 February 2009
      We might never get to piece together the full story behind the alleged first-ever stand-off between the Chinese and Indian navies in the Gulf of Aden last month. What we do know, however, is significant enough to reveal the profound changes in the military orientation of China and India, and the growing risks of their naval rivalry.
    • Briefs: 96 : Sukhbir Badal as Punjab’s Deputy Chief Minister – Implications and Prospects for the Akalis

      Tridivesh Singh Maini 22 January 2009
      Sukhbir Singh Badal, son of Punjab Chief Minister, Parkash Singh Badal, was sworn in as Deputy Chief Minister of Punjab on 21 January 2009. At 46, the former represents the modern generation of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), a Sikh-dominated party which is a constituent of the National Democratic Alliance, headed by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). He is an industrialist by profession and obtained a Master in Business Administration from the United States. Junior Badal has served as Minister of State for Industry during the Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s government from 1998 to 1999
    • Briefs: 95 : Fate of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam: From Civil War to Guerilla Warfare?

      S. D. Muni 19 January 2009
      The military debacle suffered by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) should not come as a huge surprise to any keen observers of the Sri Lankan developments. This is not the first time that the LTTE has been thrown out of its stronghold in Kilinochchi and is being pushed into the jungles of Mullaithivu. It happened 12 years ago under Chandrika Kumartunga’s presidency and it also happened when the Indian Peace Keeping Forces (IPKF) had to take on the LTTE during 1987-89. The myth of the LTTE’s military invincibility was consciously built up and nursed both by Tamil and Sinhalese vested interests as well as the media.
    • Briefs: 94 : The Satyam Fiasco – Impact on Corporate India

      S. Narayan 15 January 2009
      Following the revelations of fraud and misdemeanour in the financial accounts of Satyam Computers, a public-listed company with over 50,000 employees and a market leader in the Indian information technology (IT) industry, the Indian Ministry of Company Affairs moved swiftly to replace the company’s Board of Directors. Several investigations, regulatory as well as criminal, have been launched by different state and central agencies, and the promoter, Mr R. Raju, has been arrested. Three professionals, Mr Kiran Karnik, former head of the National Association of Software and Service Companies, the IT industry association, Mr Deepak Parikh, head of HDFC Bank and Mr C. Achuthan, a former member of the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI), have been appointed as directors. The government has allowed this group to increase the number of directors further, as needed, up to 10 members in all.
    • Briefs: 93 : The Return of Democracy in Bangladesh: Can the New Government Deliver on its Promises?

      M. Shahidul Islam 7 January 2009
      The Awami League (AL)-led grand alliance’s 1 Held on 29 December 2008, the elections witnessed an impressive voter turnout of 87 percent. The grand alliance won 262 seats, followed by the BNP-led four-party alliance, with 32 seats, and the independents winning five seats. sweeping victory in the 9th parliamentary elections witnessed the return of democratic rule in Bangladesh after nearly two years of an army-backed caretaker government. The grand alliance was expected to win the polls. However, its landslide victory stunned many Bangladeshis. Former Prime Minister Ms Khaleda Zia’s Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), once a mighty party, performed poorly in the national elections. With the return to democracy, there is now hope among the Bangladeshi people that the new government would fulfill their expectations. Ms Sheikh Hasina, the AL leader, who took the oath as Prime Minister on 6 January 2009, has a wonderful opportunity to determine the fortune of the nation. However, her government faces some key challenges in this regard.
    • Briefs: 92 : India’s External Sector: Emergence of New Structural Trends

      Amitendu Palit 6 January 2009
      The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) released India’s latest balance of payment (BOP) estimates on 31 December 2008. The estimates are for the first six months of the financial year 2008-09 (that is, April-September 2008). It is evident that India’s BOP has undergone some significant structural changes in the current year. Most of these changes are attributable to the global financial crisis. If the changes deepen further during the rest of the year, then India’s BOP and external sector are likely to look much different from what they did in recent past.
  • 2008
    • Briefs: 91 : State Assembly election results in India: Dispelling the many commonly-held notions of Indian elections

      Tridivesh Singh Maini 12 December 2008
      The recent assembly elections, dubbed by many as the ‘semifinals’ of the 2009 Lok Sabha polls, in five states – Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Mizoram and Rajasthan – sprung many surprises. The Congress Party won three states and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) two. To many observers, the results came as a surprise, perhaps including the Congress Party, considering that the elections in Rajasthan and Delhi were held in the aftermath of the Mumbai terrorist attack.
    • Briefs: 90 : The Fall of the Indian Rupee and the Unholy Trinity

      M. Shahidul Islam 10 December 2008
      Let us begin with an anecdote first – last year, Lehman Brothers predicted that the Indian rupee (INR) would appreciate to Rs36 per United States dollar (USD) by the end of 2008. Ironically, the former investment bank did not anticipate that it would not be around to witness the reversal of its predictions. This signifies the limitations of currency forecasting.
    • Briefs: 89 : The Mumbai Mayhem: The Global War on Terror comes to India

      S. D. Muni 1 December 2008
      India went through its worst terror attack in Mumbai last week. With unprecedented sweep and speed, the terrorists attacked 10 different locations and then settled down in three iconic buildings – the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, Hotel Trident-Oberoi and the Nariman House (a Jewish Community House) – for wanton killings and pitched battles. The grit and doggedness with which the terrorists fought, and the range of arms, ammunition and explosives with which they were equipped, underlined months of careful preparations. Interrogations of the captured terrorist have revealed details of the terrorists’ entry into Mumbai through the sea route from Karachi. They had plans to blow up the Taj Hotel before possible escape. There is still confusion about the actual number of terrorists that came from outside as they came in batches. More than 10 have been shot dead and one arrested. Some of them checked into the Taj Hotel on 22 November 2008 and occupied Room No. 630, where not only additional explosives and arms were stored with the help of local associates (sleeping cells and underworld contacts) but a control room was also set up for the operations. They had complete and precise reconnaissance of the three major sites. India’s National Security Guard (NSG) commandos who launched the counter operations admitted that the terrorists appeared to be fully familiar with the hotel’s layout and they were as well trained and determined as the commandos.
    • Briefs: 88 : National Treasury Management Agency Proposals: Implications for India’s Financial Policies

      S. Narayan 27 November 2008
      The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) manages the borrowings of the Indian government. In almost all the years since independence, the government has not had a fiscal surplus, and it has had to borrow from the market to meet capital requirements for planned schemes. In fact, the argument among the financial managers of the government was that there was no harm in running up a fiscal deficit if the funds were used for capital expenditure. By the 1980s, the government was borrowing for its current expenditure as well, and the resultant growth of debt threatened to take the country into a financial crisis. The RBI has managed these substantial borrowings from the market. It has managed government borrowing in a manner that the targets are fulfilled, without affecting credit flows to the rest of the economy. The RBI decides on tranches of government borrowing at different times of the year, the periodicity and the coupon rate, and ‘persuades’ the state-owned banks to pick up the bonds, which are then counted as part of their statutory lending ratio. Apart from this, the RBI manages the borrowings of the state governments as well, taking into account their needs and their capacities. In fact, the RBI has been the debt and treasury manager of the government.
    • Briefs: 87 : Global Economic Slowdown: Can Bangladesh Remain Resilient?

      M. Shahidul Islam 25 November 2008
      The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) is, no doubt, one of the world’s most powerful terrorist organisations. However, the myth of its military invincibility has been built and nurtured for a long time by a variety of vested interests, ranging from Tamil chauvinists all over the world; to even Sri Lankan politicians who saw their political fortunes in the perpetuation of the ethnic conflict. This myth was broken on at least four occasions: (i) in 1987, when the then-Sri Lankan President, J. R. Jayawardane, drove the Tamil militants, including the LTTE, to the verge in his so-called “fight to the finish”; (ii) in 1987-89, when the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) bottled up the LTTE in Vanni jungles and successfully carried out elections in the northeastern province; (iii) in 1995-96, when the then-Sri Lankan President, Chandrika Kumaratunga, again cleared them from Jaffna and the eastern province, pushing them into the jungles; and (iv) now, when the Sri Lankan security forces have trapped them in their last two districts of Killinochi and Mallaithivu.
    • Briefs: 86 : India’s Tamil Politics and the Sri Lankan Ethnic Conflict

      S. D. Muni 6 November 2008
      The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) is, no doubt, one of the world’s most powerful terrorist organisations. However, the myth of its military invincibility has been built and nurtured for a long time by a variety of vested interests, ranging from Tamil chauvinists all over the world; to even Sri Lankan politicians who saw their political fortunes in the perpetuation of the ethnic conflict. This myth was broken on at least four occasions: (i) in 1987, when the then-Sri Lankan President, J. R. Jayawardane, drove the Tamil militants, including the LTTE, to the verge in his so-called “fight to the finish”; (ii) in 1987-89, when the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) bottled up the LTTE in Vanni jungles and successfully carried out elections in the northeastern province; (iii) in 1995-96, when the then-Sri Lankan President, Chandrika Kumaratunga, again cleared them from Jaffna and the eastern province, pushing them into the jungles; and (iv) now, when the Sri Lankan security forces have trapped them in their last two districts of Killinochi and Mallaithivu.
    • Briefs: 85 : Maldives: Towards Open Polity

      S. D. Muni 31 October 2008
      Democracy is definitely on the move in South Asia. After Bhutan, Nepal and Pakistan, it has turned corner in Maldives, a republic of 1,192 islands in the splendid Indian Ocean. Asia’s longest ruling autocrat, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, lost his Presidency in the elections held in October 2008 to his 30-year younger challenger, Mohamed Nasheed ‘Anni’, who suffered six years of prison for raising the democratic struggle against the Gayoom regime. Mohamed Nasheed ‘Anni’ had been declared a ‘Prisoner of Conscience’ by Amnesty International, a human rights organisation.
    • Briefs: 84 : Return of the Two Begums: A ‘Hobson’s Choice’ for Bangladesh?

      M. Shahidul Islam 17 September 2008
      After an 18-month roller coaster ride, Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia, the two former Prime Ministers and heads of the two major political parties in Bangladesh, the Bangladesh Awami League (BAL) and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) respectively, have returned to the country’s political scene. The caretaker government that took over on 11 January 2007, with a strong military backing and an overwhelming support from the masses, has finally given up its “minus-two formula” and other political reform packages, realising the ineluctable reality that it is ultimately these two Begums who hold the key to lead (or mislead) the nation.
    • Briefs: 83 : Crisis in the United States Markets and Consequences for the Indian Markets – An Update

      S. Narayan 17 September 2008
      The aftermath of the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy and the Merrill Lynch sale were somewhat muted in the New York Stock Exchange on 15 September 2008. The Dow Jones numbers did fall, but by a smaller amount than were initially expected. One possible explanation is the difference in expectations in the financial sector and the goods and services sector – the so called ‘financial street’ versus ‘main street’ firms. Oil prices have fallen to less than US$100 a barrel, and commodity prices, including copper, zinc and aluminum have stabilised. Steel demand is no longer rising, and there is a softening of iron ore demand and steel demand. The inflationary pressures caused by commodity price increases as well as oil prices are easing. Even food prices have stabilised globally. There are definite indications that there would be a slowdown of inflation in many countries. This is good news and several central banks are already contemplating easing up interest rates. China did so on 15 September 2008. The United States Fed was expected to reduce interest rates but it has kept the interest rates steady. Instead, the United States Fed has injected liquidity into banks.1 Therefore, along with the bad news in the financial markets, there is good news in the real economy scripts. It is not surprising that, the expectation that the damage will be contained to the financial markets, to those sectors in the real economy that are highly leveraged, and to the secondary markets in equities, would keep recessionary trends at bay. This could be an explanation to the fact that, while prices of commercial bank, investment bank and insurance company shares fell sharply, the prices of refinery shares and other export oriented companies remabded studies.
    • Briefs: 82 : Crisis in the United States Markets and Consequences for the Indian Markets

      S. Narayan 16 September 2008
      The decision of the United States Treasury not to guarantee the debts or the bail out of Lehman Brothers, one of the four major investment banks in the United States, has resulted in the institution going into bankruptcy yesterday. Merrill Lynch, whose share value has halved in the last few weeks, has merged with Bank of America, to ward off a similar fate. And next in line could well be AIG, another major international finance company. The total write down in the United States alone, since the credit crisis began, exceeds US$500 billion, with possibly as much more to come.
    • Briefs: 81 : It is Getting More Difficult to do Business in South Asia

      Amitendu Palit 15 September 2008
      The World Bank released its latest ‘doing business’ rankings (2009) for 181 countries on 10 September 2008. The results reflect South Asia in a rather poor light. Not a single South Asian country figures among top business reformers for 2008. What is more worrisome is that, except for Sri Lanka, individual rankings of all economies from the region have declined in year 2009, compared to year 2008.
    • Briefs: 80 : Elections in Pakistan – New President, Same Old Story

      Rajshree Jetly 11 September 2008
      Until eight months ago, no one would have predicted that Mr Asif Ali Zardari would become a pivotal figure in Pakistani politics, much less the President of Pakistan. Better known as the controversial spouse of former Prime Minister, Ms Benazir Bhutto, Mr Zardari’s name was tainted with allegations of corruption and linked to extortion and murder. He spent eleven years in jail though none of the charges were proven in court before being bailed out by then-President Pervez Musharraf through the National Reconciliation Ordinance. But he has overcome all odds to be elected Pakistan’s President.
    • Briefs: 79 : Musharraf’s Resignation – A Cause for Celebration and Concern for Pakistan

      Rajshree Jetly 25 August 2008
      On 18 August 2008, President Pervez Musharraf bowed to the inevitable and resigned from his post, two months short of the 10th anniversary of his coup d’état when he ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. In his resignation speech, Musharraf insisted that he was not guilty of any of the charges being made against him and that he was acting in the best interest of Pakistan by stepping down to avoid a protracted power struggle and political uncertainty. Despite his protestations, the writing was on the wall following the 18 February elections when the people spoke loudly and clearly through the ballot box, shifting the power base away from Musharraf to the civilian parties led by Sharif and Asif Ali Zardari. The nail in the coffin was provided by Musharraf’s two indispensable backers – Pakistan’s military and the United States, both of which were clearly reassessing whether continued support of Musharraf might prove to be an unacceptable liability. Without their full support, Musharraf had no choice but to step down. Already, the provincial assemblies in Punjab, Sindh, the North-West Frontier Province and Baluchistan had tabled motions with overwhelming support demanding Musharraf seek a vote of confidence, and it was obvious that he would have failed.
    • Briefs: 78 : Pakistan’s New Trade Policy Initiatives: Implications for India and Pakistan

      Iftikhar A. Lodhi 31 July 2008
      In a significant policy shift, Pakistan has opened its doors to Indian investments and imports. As a result, India could become Pakistan’s second largest trading partner after China at the end of this fiscal year.1 The landmark directional change could have longterm political implications for the two nuclear rivals and the South Asian region.
    • Briefs: 77 : Will the United Progressive Alliance Victory in the Trust Vote Result in Faster Economic Reforms

      Amitendu Palit 29 July 2008
      As the curtains came down on an action-packed two-day session of the Indian Parliament with the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government surviving a close trust vote, the stock market erupted with joy. On 23 July 2008, the day after the trust vote, the benchmark Sensex at the Bombay Stock Exchange gained 838 points (almost six percent) in a single day’s trade. The Nifty at the National Stock Exchange also responded in an equally robust manner. The signals emanating from the rally were loud and clear. Industry and business were ecstatic at the outcome of the trust vote.
    • Briefs: 76 : Brief Conceptual Note: Development of the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor

      S. Narayan 16 July 2008
      The Government of India has announced a dedicated freight corridor network between Delhi and Mumbai as well as between Ludhiana to Kolkata. The Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC) covers an overall length of 1,515 kilometres and passes through the states of Uttar Pradesh, the National Capital Region (NCR) of Delhi,3 Haryana, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Maharashtra, with end terminals at Dadri in the NCR of Delhi and Jawaharlal Nehru Port near Mumbai.
    • Briefs: 75 : Attack on the Indian Embassy in Kabul: Time to Sober Up

      Iftikhar A. Lodhi 15 July 2008
      The 7 July 2008 suicide attack on the Indian Embassy in Kabul left 41 people dead and some 140 injured, including an Indian military attaché and three other Indians. Immediately after the attack, Kabul started pointing fingers at Islamabad and its Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency. Though New Delhi has officially refrained from blaming Pakistan, many senior officials joined Kabul in accusing the ISI. Islamabad has categorically rejected the allegations. Although conventional wisdom suggests a strong possibility of ISI’s complicity, if not outright Islamabad’s, the ground realities may be somewhat different.
    • Briefs: 74 : Recent Bomb Blasts in South Asia: Are the Terrorists on a Killing Spree Again?

      Ishtiaq Ahmed1 11 July 2008
      On 6 July 2008, a suicide bomber blew himself up near the Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad. He succeeded in taking out at least 21 lives, including those of 15 policemen. The mayhem the blasts caused was a shocking reminder of the fact that terrorist networks which had been dormant for some time are again back in the killing business.
    • Briefs: 73 : The Walkout in India: No Longer ‘Left’ in the Lurch

      Bibek Debroy 9 July 2008
      With the Left [the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), the Communist Party of India, the Forward Bloc and Revolutionary Socialist Party] planning to meet President Pratibha Devisingh Patil on 9 July 2008 and submit a letter withdrawing support from the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, the overall numbers game seems simple. There are two vacancies and the Lok Sabha now has 543 members. A simple majority requires 272 members. The UPA (the Congress Party, Rashtriya Janata Dal, Dravida Munnettra Kazhagam, the Nationalist Congress Party, Pattali Makkal Katchi, Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, Lok Janshakti Party, Kerala Congress, the Muslim League, Republican Party of India, All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen, Peoples Democratic Party, Sikkim Democratic Front and three Independents) has 231 seats (the Congress Party has 153 seats). With the Left’s 59 Members of Parliament having quit, the UPA has lost its majority. However, to all intents and purposes, the Samajwadi Party (SP) has provided support to the UPA through its 39 members, leaving UPA with only two members short of a majority. But it isn’t that simple. There is dissidence within the SP too, and at least seven (if not 10) of its Members of Parliament may not end up supporting the government. Indeed, there are question marks about support from some of the UPA constituents too. Though these are political parties with single-digit Members of Parliament (one or two), even one Member of Parliament matters. Therefore, the Congress Party cannot be sure about the numbers yet and will try to get support from other political parties like Rashtriya Lok Dal (Ajit Singh), Janata Dal Secular (Deve Gowda), Telangana Rashtra Samithi, Trinamool Congress, National Conference, Shiromani Akali Dal and Independents.
    • Briefs: 72 : India’s Trade Deficit: Increasing Fast but Still Manageable

      Amitendu Palit 7 July 2008
      India’s trade deficit, which reflects the excess of its merchandise imports over exports, has reached 7.7 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP). According to the Balance of Payments (BOP) statistics for the year 2007-08 recently released by the Reserve Bank of India, the deficit has increased from US$63.2 billion in 2006-07 to US$90.1 billion in 2007- 08. This increase of almost US$27 billion has resulted in the deficit swelling from 6.9 percent of GDP in 2006-07 to 7.7 percent in 2007-08.
    • Briefs: 71 : The Third Oil Shock: The Path Forward for Bangladesh

      M. Shahidul Islam 10 June 2008
      Oil is now traded at nearly US$140 a barrel.1 The real price of oil is already at an all-time high.2 Goldman Sachs, the United States-based investment bank, which correctly predicted three years ago that the oil prices would exceed US$100, has recently forecasted that US$200 a barrel could be a reality in the not-too-distant future.3 A 170 percent price hike4 over a three-year period (from US$47 a barrel in May 2005 to US$127 May 2008) and, more importantly, a relentless rise in fuel prices has resulted in the current scenario being termed “the third oil shock”.5 This is certainly true from the perspective of the least developed countries. The term was, in fact, used by Gordon Brown, the British Prime Minster, who, in a recent article, stated that the global economy is facing the “third great oil shock” of recent decades.6 The Economist has dubbed the phenomenon a “slow-motion oil shock”. Worse still, Joseph Stiglitz, economics Nobel laureate, is concerned that oil is underpriced relative to the cost of carbon emissions.7 Apparently, the price of the black gold will continue to swell until it finds equilibrium where alternative energy becomes viable.
    • Briefs: 70 : Karnataka State Assembly Elections: Implications for the UPA Government

      E. Sridharan 10 June 2008
      The Karnataka state assembly elections were held in May 2008. The principal opposition party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which led the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) (the national coalition government) from 1999 to 2004, won to form its first government in a southern state. The result is important because it has broad implications for the political prospects of the ruling Congress Party-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) coalition government in the general elections due by May 2009. In this brief, the Karnataka elections will be analysed at two levels: first, the elections themselves at the state level and, second, their possible implications for the UPA at the national elections.
    • Briefs: 69 : Modifications of the External Commercial Borrowings Policy: Implications for Overseas Investments

      S. Narayan 5 June 2008
      Overseas borrowing rules for firms are governed by policy directives from the Government of India. The External Commercial Borrowings (ECB) policy is regularly reviewed by the Government of India in consultation with the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to keep it aligned with evolving macroeconomic situation and changing market conditions. On 29 May 20081, there has been a partial modification of the ECB policy
    • Briefs: 68 : Indian Management Education: Regulatory Structure is still Confused

      Bibek Debroy 27 May 2008
      In recommendations submitted in December 2007, the National Knowledge Commission (NKC) has recommended that the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) should be scrapped and replaced by an Independent Regulatory Authority for Higher Education (IRAHE). These aren’t recommendations specific to the AICTE or management education, but general and are based on arguments about multiplicity, high entry barriers and lack of independence in regulation. However, if there is an IRAHE, roles of the University Grants Commission (UGC) and AICTE, and some other higher education councils, will change. Reacting to the NKC recommendations, Human Resource Development (HRD) Ministry has set up a 22-member committee chaired by Professor Yashpal to examine the future of both the AICTE and the UGC. Hence, nothing is going to change in a hurry. And lest one forgets, in 2003, there was a U.R. Rao Committee that went into the working of the AICTE. But this report was never made public.
    • Briefs: 67 : India-Pakistan Composite Dialogue: Towards A “Grand Reconciliation”?

      S. D. Muni 26 May 2008
      The message emanating from Islamabad after two days (20 and 21 May 2008) of meeting between Foreign Ministers and Foreign Secretaries of India and Pakistan to review the ‘composite dialogue’ and the ‘peace process’ between the two adversarial South Asian neighbours appears to be reassuring, at least on the face of it. Pakistan’s Foreign Minister, Makhdoom Shah Mehmood Qureshi, assured that a “grand reconciliation in resolving all outstanding issues” was Pakistan’s promise, adding that “we are ready to solve all issues with self-respect and dignity for peace, stability and the development of the region”. Endorsing the sentiments of his hosts, the Indian Foreign Minister, Pranab Mukherji, said, “I found a strong willingness and desire on Pakistani side towards full normalisation of relations… Secure, stable and prosperous India and Pakistan are in our mutual interest and good for our relations”.
    • Briefs: 66 : The Unravelling of Coalition Politics in Pakistan

      Rajshree Jetly 16 May 2008
      The recent breakdown of talks between the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) [PML (N)] and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) on the re-instatement of the judiciary and the withdrawal of federal ministers by the PML (N) from the ruling coalition have threatened to derail coalition politics in Pakistan and deal another body blow to the process of democratisation in the country. At the heart of this matter is the reinstatement of judges of the Supreme Court who were deposed by President Musharraf under emergency rule and the Provisional Constitutional Order of 3 November 2007. Both the PML (N) and the PPP agreed in the Bhurban declaration of 9 March 2008 that the judges would be reinstated through a resolution within 30 days of the formation of the government.
    • Briefs: 65 : India’s Annual Policy Statement for FY2008-09: Achieving a ‘Neither Tight, Nor Liberal’ Monetary Policy

      Amitendu Palit 1 May 2008
      The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) announced its Annual Policy Statement for FY2008-09 on 29 April 2008. Given the high headline inflation in India, many had felt that the RBI would tighten monetary policy by increasing interest rates. It was, therefore, surprising to note that all the key policy rates (that is, bank rate, repo rate and reverse repo rate) were kept unchanged. Only the cash reserve ratio (CRR) has been increased for arresting growth in liquidity.
    • Briefs: 64 : Nepal Constituent Assembly Elections: The Dawn of a New Era?

      Nishchal N. Pandey 18 April 2008
      The historic elections for a Constituent Assembly in Nepal are finally over, with 60 percent voter turnout but a fair amount of violence. Nepalese voted for the first time in nine years on 10 April 2008 to choose a 601-member special Assembly. There were 74 political parties, including one with all women candidates and another formed by a former Japanese national. There were 17.5 million voters and over 80,000 observers, alongside high-profile individuals such as former United States President, Jimmy Carter, and the son of former Japanese Prime Minister, Ryutaro Hashimoto. The new Assembly is expected to draft a new Constitution for the country and abolish the Hindu monarchy. The monarchy has ruled the complex Nepali state, comprising 22 different principalities of various ethnic groups, for 239 years.
    • Briefs: 63 : Bhutan: Marching Towards Democracy

      S. D. Muni 3 April 2008
      The year 2008 may go down in the history of South Asia as the year of democratic institutionalisation and electoral processes. After Pakistan’s elections on 18 February, Bhutan followed on 24 March and Nepal is all set to hold its first ever Constituent Assembly polls on 10 April. All these elections are a manifestation of the strong upsurge for democracy against the erstwhile autocratic governance in these countries. The case of Bhutan has, however, been different as the Bhutanese elections were cast in a unique political context. Unlike the situation in Nepal and Pakistan, the elections were not precipitated by any grassroots upsurge for political change and representative governance. The Bhutanese people were happy to be governed by their traditional monarchy whose criteria for development was defined by the unique concept of “Gross National Happiness”, to contrast it with “Gross National Product”, felt and enjoyed, not only materially but also “spiritually”, by its people. Bhutan’s call for democracy was a top-down gift to his people by the King, Jigme Singhye Wangchuk, much against the unwillingness and initial resistance by his ministers and associates as well as his subjects. Compare this with the Nepal King in Bhutan’s close proximity, who was hell bent on going to any length in retaining his hold over power. He even resorted to direct rule under the pretext of dealing with the 10-year old Maoist insurgency. Also contrast the Bhutan King’s initiative with the military regimes in Pakistan and Myanmar. While the former succumbed to the idea of democratic elections under severe domestic and international pressures, the latter has defied the international community, by and large, and suppressed the protests led by the monks on the question of accommodating democratic aspirations of the people.
    • Briefs: 62 : Post-election Pakistan: Is there Hope or Despair for the People?

      Iftikhar A. Lodhi 27 March 2008
      The brief euphoria that followed the 18 February 2008 polls in Pakistan seems to have died down and the harsh realities of an immature polity are beginning to surface. Despite the decision of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) to form the government, as well as President Pervez Musharraf’s promise to work with the new government, the prophecies of an Islamist takeover and/or Pakistan’s disintegration have become a recurrent theme.
    • Briefs: 61 : Yousaf Raza Gilani: Pakistan’s New Prime Minister

      Ishtiaq Ahmed 25 March 2008
      Yousaf Raza Gilani (complete formal name: Makdoom Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani), was elected to the Pakistan National Assembly on 18 February 2008 on a ticket of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) of Benazir Bhutto. After several weeks of suspense and speculation, during which intense consultations and negotiations within the PPP and between the PPP and its coalition partners, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), the Awami National Party (ANP), the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-F and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) took place, Gilani was nominated on 22 March 2008 as the PPP candidate for the pivotal post of prime minister. On 24 March 2008, he was elected Prime Minister of Pakistan. He secured votes 264 votes of the newly elected legislators while his rival and leader of the opposition, Chaudhri Pervaiz Elahi, of the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid-e-Azam (PML-Q), received only 42 votes. He is to be sworn in as prime minister on 25 March 2008 by President Pervez Musharraf.
    • Briefs: 60 : The Third Tibetan Uprising: India’s Response

      S. D. Muni 24 March 2008
      Tibet remains a complex issue in India’s relations with China. It has a historical context, a sensitive humanitarian dimension and contemporary political imperatives. All these impinge on the unresolved, conflict-prone border issue between the two Asian giants. Keeping this in mind, India has been diplomatically correct and politically cautious in responding to the 2008 Tibetan uprising. This uprising has gone much beyond the arson and rioting in the Tibetan capital Lhasa, affecting not only other parts of Tibet but also other regions of China such as Gansu, Qinghai and Sichuan. In its scale, the uprising is comparable to the one in 1959 which led to the Dalai Lama’s flight and it is much bigger than in 1988 which was strongly suppressed by Hu Jintao, who then was in charge of Tibetan affairs.
    • Briefs: 59 : The Indian Budget 2008-09: An Assessment

      S. Narayan 3 March 2008
      The budget proposals presented by the Indian Finance Minister in Parliament on 29 February have provided a number of concessions for the middle class and the farmers. It was a well thought out document and there has been an attempt to control inflation and, at the same time, stimulate growth.
    • Briefs: 58 : India’s Economic Survey 2007-08: Impressive Growth and a Promising Future

      K. V. Ramaswamy 29 February 2008
      On 28 February 2008, India’s Finance Minister, Mr P. Chidambaram, released the Economic Survey 2007-08, the annual state of the economy report. This year’s report is all the more interesting as one could examine India’s economic performance in the 10th Five-Year Plan (2002-07) and sets the stage for the 11th Five-Year Plan (2008-2012).
    • Briefs: 57 : Nepal: Political Uncertainties and Economic Challenges

      Malminderjit Singh1 29 February 2008
      Nepal, the last surviving South Asian monarchy, is hoping for a fresh start as it attempts to establish a republic. This change to the constitution by the interim legislature in December 2007, however, has to be endorsed during the Constituent Assembly elections proposed for April 2008. Nevertheless, there is a shadow of doubt over the probability of these elections as they have been postponed twice before in 2007.
    • Briefs: 56 : Developing India-Malaysia Relations – Managing Issues of the Diaspora

      Malminderjit Singh 27 February 2008
      The latest round of demonstrations by Malaysian Indians in Kuala Lumpur on 16 February 2008 dealt a huge blow to the country which had anticipated the end of domestic instability. In fact, the reverberations of the recent racial tensions in Malaysia could be felt all the way to New Delhi. India, who has acted quickly to repair any damages in its bilateral relations with Malaysia thus far, would be concerned about the implications of the latest round of Malaysian Indian discontent on ties with its Southeast Asian partner.
    • Briefs: 55 : The Pakistan Elections: A Political Analysis

      Ishtiaq Ahmed 22 February 2008
      After nine years of military and quasi-military rule, which included a contrived and rigged election in 2002, Pakistanis finally went to the polls on 18 February 2008. Notwithstanding fear of terrorist attacks at the election booths, over 46 percent of eligible voters cast their vote. The environment was most explosive: manifest rigging would have set in motion mass protests. The large number of foreign observers and Pakistani volunteers who monitored the election agreed that the elections were, by and large, free and fair. The people voted clearly for change.
    • Briefs: 54 : Russian Premier Viktor Zubkov in India: Reinvigorating Relations

      S. D. Muni 18 February 2008
      Within three months of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s state visit to Russia, his Russian counterpart, Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov, visited New Delhi for three days from 12 to 14 February 2008. The purpose was to deepen and expand multifaceted bilateral cooperation between the two countries, particularly in the areas of defence, energy and trade.
    • Briefs: 53 : Economic Slowdown in the United States: Importance of Domestic Market Leverage in South Asia

      K. V. Ramaswamy 13 February 2008
      Is the United States economy on the verge or already in a recession? How much of this United States economic troubles will spill over and impact the global economy? These are still much debated questions among economists and key policy makers. A recession, let us recall, is typically defined as a sustained period (two or more quarters) of negative growth in real gross domestic product (GDP). In the last quarter of 2007, the United States’ real GDP grew by only 0.6 percent. Therefore the jury is still out as far as the realisation of actual recession. The central bank chiefs and finance ministers of the group of seven (G-7) industrialised countries in their recent meeting at Tokyo, Japan, have reportedly warned that the global economy could continue to slow down. They, however, seem to have endorsed the view of Mr Henry M. Paulson, the United States Treasury Secretary, by suggesting that the United States was likely to avoid recession. Closer home, the survey of American economists by the Wall Street Journal has raised their odds of the United States falling into recession to 49 percent in February 2008 as against 40 percent in the January 2008 survey. The suggested bottom line is an emerging scenario of growth slowdown in the United States and that will in turn pull down the global growth prospects.
    • Briefs: 52 : Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in Arunachal Pradesh: Buttressing the Claims

      S. D. Muni 13 February 2008
      In territorial disputes, it is said that possession is the third fourth of the claim. Dr Manmohan Singh’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh, where India’s claims are disputed by China, within two weeks of his state visit to China was obviously a move to reinforce and reassert that the area belongs to India.
    • Briefs: 51 : Urban Transport in India: Beyond the “Nano”

      Shreekant Gupta 6 February 2008
      A positive fallout of the unveiling of the Nano, a low-cost (US$2,500) car by Tata Motors at Delhi last month (and slated to go into production later this year), is that it has re-ignited the debate about urban transport in India. Proponents of motorisation have argued that the advent of an inexpensive car will usher in a transport revolution in the country while critics have warned of impending chaos on the roads and of adverse impacts on air quality, among other things. Further, several other auto manufacturers have also unveiled plans to introduce budget cars in the Indian market. Given that the penetration of cars in India is about seven per 1,000 people (as compared to 550 per 1,000 in Germany, for example), the potential size of the market is indeed enormous in a country of over a billion people. A larger issue, however, that the impending advent of low-cost automobiles has raised, is the direction in which urban transport in India is headed. This brief focuses on the current state and likely future of urban transport in the country and steps required to make it sustainable.
    • Briefs: 50 : Urban Transport in India: The “Nano” Effect

      Shreekant Gupta 5 February 2008
      Nano, the new low cost car unveiled by Tata Motors at the Auto India Expo at Delhi last month, has set the country abuzz. There has been considerable hype surrounding the car. Some commentators have declared the advent of this car as a transportation revolution, an event as significant as the launch of the Model T by Henry Ford. Others have argued the Nano will democratise car ownership, and even a happening that may upturn the brahminical order in the country. On the technology front, the Nano certainly epitomises India’s progress in innovation, packed as it is with several firsts. Tata Motors has filed over 34 patents for the car. In particular, a great deal of innovation has gone into the drive train and its placement and half the patents filed pertain to the drive train alone. One of the key patents is the introduction of a balancer shaft to iron out the vibrations typical for a twin-cylinder engine. According to the company, the Nano also meets all emission and safety norms, including (frontal) crash test norms in India. Its fuel efficiency is expected to be in the range of 18-20 kilometres per litre.
    • Briefs: 49 : Forthcoming Pakistan Elections: A Profile on Pro-Musharraf Political Parties

      Ishtiaq Ahmed 5 February 2008
      The assassination of Ms Benazir Bhutto on 27 December 2007 in Rawalpindi plunged Pakistan, already rocked by months of agitations by liberal-secular as well as Islamic fundamentalist opponents of the government of President Pervez Musharraf, deeper into anarchy and chaos, creating for a few days, a most critical situation. Nationwide armed clashes between the followers of Ms Bhutto and the security forces were reported. Particularly in her home province of Sindh, a virtual rebellion seemed to be taking shape but the government managed to bring the situation under control through the threat of ‘shooting on sight’. However, the situation remains volatile.
    • Briefs: 48 : Analysing India’s Credit Policy: Keeping An Eye on Inflation and the Elections

      S. Narayan 4 February 2008
      The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) last week announced that it would keep interest rates unchanged, and chose to adopt a wait and watch policy. Markets and commentators in India had expected a reduction in interest rates, following the United States Federal Bank’s decision to reduce rates in two tranches by 1.25 percent.
    • Briefs: 47 : The 21st Century – Will it Belong to Asia?

      Ishtiaq Ahmed 25 January 2008
      The great historian Eric Hobsbawm described the 20th century as the century of extremes. Burgeoning industrialisation, scientific breakthroughs in the fight against disease and the concomitant rising rates of human survival and economic growth, the end of colonial domination, and the spread of democracy were some of the outstanding achievements of that period.
    • Briefs: 46 : Sino-Indian Trade Relations: Understanding the Bilateral and Regional Implications

      Deep K Datta-Ray 22 January 2008
      When Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh spoke in Beijing, during his visit from 13 – 15 January 2008, of a ‘historic need’ for India and China to work together, he was looking beyond the border dispute that has plagued relations for half a century to freeing millions of the world’s poorest from disease and economic deprivation. Paradoxically, this goal, and not any misplaced nationalistic or protectionist sentiment, forced him to decline Chinese requests for a free trade agreement (FTA).
    • Briefs: 45 : India and China: Towards Slow and Steady Cooperation

      S. D. Muni 18 January 2008
      Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh’s visit to China from 13 – 15 January 2008 was a step in the direction of keeping the momentum of building incremental and evolutionary cooperation between the Asian giants. No breakthroughs were expected and none happened. There was no bilateral free trade agreement (FTA) which China, sitting on a comfortable and increasing trade surplus of about US$10 billion, was keen on. Nor was there any conclusion of a “Framework Agreement” on the resolution of boundary issue that India has been looking forward to. The Chinese side was not forthcoming on endorsing the Indo-United States Civil Nuclear Cooperation, nor in assuring India that its request to the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) in the context of Indo-United States nuclear deal will be supported by China.
    • Briefs: 44 : The Appreciating Rupee and India’s Exports: Should Policy Makers Worry?

      K. V. Ramaswamy 18 January 2008
      Indian currency will sink if allowed to float used to be the answer one would often get during classroom discussions in the 1980s on flexible and fixed exchange rates. However, with the remarkable Indian economic performance in the last few years, the Indian rupee has attained respectability and suggests strong underlying fundamentals. The current rupee price of the United States dollar stands at Rs39.29 per dollar (as on 10 January 2008) as against Rs44.53 exactly a year ago, indicating a 12 percent appreciation. This is appreciation of nominal exchange rate and one should perhaps look at real effective exchange rates (REER) that take into account relative price movement in trading partners. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) estimates REER (based on 36-currency trade based weights) with different base years. Without going into details, it is suffice to note that REER, either based on five currencies or a 36-currency basket, has also appreciated since September 2006.
    • Briefs: 43 : One Year in Office: An Assessment of Bangladesh’s Caretaker Government

      M. Shahidul Islam 15 January 2008
      In the face of a political crisis, a caretaker government took over control in Bangladesh on 12 January 2007, giving the people the hope of a new dawn. After one year, however, instead of celebrations, Dr Fakhruddin Ahmed-led interim cabinet has found itself in the midst of a series of problems, if not crises. Just before the first anniversary of the government, half of its advisers had to leave office due to poor performance and public dissatisfaction. The skyrocketing of prices of essentials has also affected the popularity of the government. The common people in Bangladesh now think that the country’s economic outlook and political prospects are no better, if not worse, than those during the so-called democratic governments.
    • Briefs: 42 : The Sub-prime Crisis – Likely Consequences for the Indian Economy

      S. Narayan 10 January 2008
      In the last few weeks, the Prime Minister of India, the Finance Minister as well as the Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission, Mr Montek Singh Ahluwalia, have been expressing anxiety over the impact of the sub-prime crisis in the United States on growth in India. In fact, Mr Ahluwalia has said that this is more worrying than the rise in energy prices. It is only the Governor of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) who has not expressed similar views, focusing his concern more on growing capital flows and the impact on the currency.
    • Briefs: 41 : Ms Benazir Bhutto’s Will

      Ishtiaq Ahmed 7 January 2008
      I was badly shaken by the news of the brutal assassination of Ms Ben azir Bhutto. It brought back sad memories of the way Zulfikar Ali Bh utto and his descendents have had to pay in blood for coming into conflict with the establishm ent. In the several interviews that followed on Singapore television, I was constantly asked what implications this would have for democracy and the survival of Pakistan. My response was that, in her death, she may have created a greater basis for the return of civilian rule and democracy.
    • Briefs: 40 : Benazir Bhutto (1953-2007) Assassinated – Pakistan in Turmoil

      Ishtiaq Ahmed 4 January 2008
      The general elections in Pakistan, scheduled for 8 January 2008, have been postponed till 18 February 2008. This decision was taken by the Pakistan Election Commission in the wake of the assassination of twice prime minister of Pakistan and leader of the Pakistan People’s Party (Parliamentarian) [PPP (P)], Benazir Bhutto. Rioting broke out in many parts of Pakistan, but especially in the province of Sindh to which Ms Bhutto and her family belong. The destruction of government buildings and infrastructure has been staggering. The offices of the Election Commission, polling booths, the voters’ list, police stations, petrol pumps, railway stations and railway carriages, trucks and private cars have been torched by angry mobs. Sindh has been practically burning. The government deployed the military in Sindh with orders to shoot on sight. Pakistan could be on the brink of a civil war.
  • 2007
    • Briefs: 39 : Forthcoming Pakistan Elections: A Profile on the Islamic Parties

      Iftikhar A Lodhi 26 December 2007
      It is important to note that the Islamic parties in Pakistan, unlike their mainstream moderate counterparts, are less prone to personality cult and are largely driven by ideology, though personalities do play an important role in ideological steering. They act as centripetal forces by monopolising Islam. Traditionally, there have been two types of Islamic organisations in Pakistan: one, participating in parliamentary politics and, the other, limited to socio-spiritual matters. However, a third type that has emerged is the violence-prone of Jihadi and sectarian outfits. These are a by-product of the Afghanistan Jihad. Nevertheless, all three are interlinked with each other in one way or another. This brief is confined to the two main parliamentary Islamic parties in Pakistan; Jama’at-e-Islami [Society for Muslim] (JI) and Jamiat-Ulema-e-Islam [Council of Islamic Scholars] (JUI).
    • Briefs: 38 : Who Wins in the Gujarat Election?

      Mr Dhiraj Nayyar 24 December 2007
      The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), led by Mr Narendra Modi, has won the elections in the western Indian state of Gujarat overwhelming all opposition. But aside from the electoral arithmetic of a majority of seats in the newly elected legislature, not even the BJP is a clear winner in Gujarat today. If anything, Gujarat has thrown up a long list of casualties, and while most commentary on the elections will focus on the winners, this piece will focus on the losers. In this election, in the view of this writer, the losses are more significant than the gains.
    • Briefs: 37 : Forthcoming Pakistan Elections: A Profile on Nawaz Sharif

      Ishtiaq Ahmed 19 December 2007
      Nawaz Sharif (complete name, Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif) is the leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), a nationwide party with its main support in the Punjab. Mr Sharif was born in Lahore, Punjab, Pakistan, on 10 December 1949 in a family of Kashmiri descent that fled to Pakistan at the time of the partition of India in 1947 from Jatti Umra, a village in Amritsar district of the undivided Punjab, now part of the Indian East Punjab. His father and uncles jointly owned an iron foundry. Starting from humble circumstances, they expanded their business and became prosperous and affluent. Mr Sharif is married and has two sons and two daughters.
    • Briefs: 36 : Forthcoming Pakistan Elections: A Profile on Benazir Bhutto

      Rajshree Jetly 13 December 2007
      On 10 April 1986, over a million people gave a rousing reception to Ms Benazir Bhutto when she returned from political exile. On 18 October 2007, she returned after another period of exile, but this time, she was nearly killed by a horrific bomb attack which claimed over one hundred lives. Ms Bhutto had come back to a very different Pakistan from the one in which she grew up, and which both she and her father had led as Prime Ministers at different periods.
    • Briefs: 35 : Forthcoming Pakistan Elections: A Profile on Imran Khan

      Ishtiaq Ahmed 12 December 2007
      The Election Commission of Pakistan has announced elections to the national and provincial assemblies of Pakistan on 8 January 2008. The Islamic Republic of Pakistan subscribes to the parliamentary system of multiparty democracy. Universal adult franchise is followed, and all men and women who are at least 18 years of age are entitled to vote for a candidate of their choice through a secret ballot. The first-past-the-post procedure is followed to elect members of the national and provincial assemblies. It means that the candidate who receives the highest numbers of votes in a constituency is elected to the legislative assembly. The national parliament consists of two houses - an upper house, called the Senate, and the lower house, called the National Assembly. The National Assembly, which is elected directly by the people, consists of 342 seats of which 60 seats are reserved for women and 10 for minorities.
    • Briefs: 34 : The Battle of Nandigram and West Bengal’s Political and Economic Future

      Dhiraj Nayyar 10 December 2007
      The rural islet of Nandigram in West Bengal is in the news again for all the wrong reasons following an outbreak of violent clashes between CPI(M) cadres and locals, allegedly led by armed Maoists. Nandigram has been in the news since late in 2006 after it was designated as a site for a chemicals based Special Economic Zone (SEZ). The villagers protested the imminent acquisition of their lands and expelled the ruling party cadres out of the village in January 2007, some of whom were also cultivators in the village. Nandigram was effectively cut off from the outside world through blockades, and the destruction of key infrastructure like roads and bridges leading into the area. The ruling party cadres, and local government authorities, claiming the earlier takeover as an act of mischief engineered by motley opposition groups including the Trinamul Congress and hard-line Maoists, made a botched attempt to recapture the village in March - at least 15 people were killed, probably more. The latest violence which left at least three people dead was another attempt by the ruling Left Front to recapture the village.
    • Briefs: 33 : Cyclone Sidr’s Deadly Trail and Bangladesh’s Humanitarian Crisis

      M. Shahidul Islam 21 November 2007
      Tropical cyclone Sidr, a category 4 storm, ripped through Bangladesh’s Southwestern coast on 15 November, costing over 3,500 lives and demolishing houses, crops, and other valuables. Thousands of people in the country are facing a humanitarian crisis. Some remote areas remain impenetrable to the search operators. The Red Crescent fears that the causalities could be as high as 10,000 as many people are still missing in the coastal areas. An estimated one million families are believed to have been affected and thousands of people are living under the open skies. Survivors in the disaster-prone areas are in dire need of food, water, and shelter.
    • Briefs: 32 : Political Intrigue in Karnataka: Implications for India

      Mr Dhiraj Nayyar 12 November 2007
      Karnataka and Bangalore showed India the future by playing host to a then nascent, and now booming, information technology industry. It was in Bangalore, perhaps, that India’s economic boom of the 1990s and the 2000s first began, back in the 1980s. The southern Indian state has, thus, been a symbol of India’s economic drive and private entrepreneurship. In recent weeks, however, the state has been more in the news for its messy politics. Amidst all the intrigue and machinations of the politicians, the events in Karnataka, are perhaps an important pointer to the future of Indian politics, almost like the rise of the information technology industry was to the future of the Indian economy.
    • Briefs: 31 : Emergency Rule in Pakistan: Making Sense of the Reasons and Rationale

      Iftikhar A. Lodhi 5 November 2007
      Pakistan’s General Pervez Musharraf, in a not very surprising move, declared a state of emergency for an indefinite period on 3 November 2007. The fundamental question is whether the current action will help to bring stability in the country, as claimed, or will it further derail the transition to democracy and exacerbate the political crisis. What doe the current move also mean for the future of the country’s ascent economic growth?
    • Briefs: 30 : Pakistan’s Struggle for Democracy – How should India Respond?

      Rajshree Jetly 4 November 2007
      Pakistan is going through a difficult period. It has vacillated between democracy and military throughout its history and entered the 21st century under military rule. At present moment, it is at the epicentre of a tumultuous geo-political climate and is besieged by domestic crises that have strained Pakistani politics to its limits. Pakistan’s embattled President General Musharraf has been forced into negotiating a power-sharing agreement with former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in a desperate attempt to survive. Yet, this deal, even if politically possible, is shrouded in legal clouds. There is a Supreme Court challenge to the legitimacy of General Musharraf’s presidency; it remains unclear if Bhutto, who has returned to Pakistan after eight years of self imposed exile, will be able to contest elections as Prime Minister for the third time due to constitutional amendments limiting prime ministership to two terms and, most importantly, the future of Article 58(2) (b) which empowers the President to dismiss the Prime Minister hangs in limbo. The declaration of emergency rule over the weekend, the suspension of the Constitution and the deployment of troops across the capital have thrown Pakistan into further turmoil.
    • Briefs: 29 : Development Blues in Urban India: Failure of Accountability-Responsibility Mechanism

      Indu Rayadurgam 24 October 2007
      Cities have emerged as the backbone of economies all over the world, with their contributions to overall employment and growth, well above that of agrarian and rural societies. There are many factors which determine urban competitiveness, both at the national and the international level. The interplay of structural economic changes and geo-political developments, combined with domestic economic policy changes, sectoral contributions to growth and demographic changes, determine the competitiveness of urban areas in any country.
    • Briefs: 28 : Cold Feet in Autumn – Climb Down from Elections in India

      Mr Dhiraj Nayyar 24 October 2007
      The chill of autumn seems to be contagious, at least in the political class. First, in England, Gordon Brown got cold feet over calling an early election. Soon after, in India, Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi got afflicted with an almost identical ‘cold foot disease’ and climbed down from the brink of calling an early election.
    • Briefs: 27 : Climate Change, Conflict over Scarce Resources and the Nobel Peace Prize

      M. Shahidul Islam 23 October 2007
      The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and former United States Vice- President, Al Gore, shared the Nobel peace prize for 2007 for “their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change”, according to the Nobel Committee’s citation.
    • Briefs: 26 : General Pervez Musharraf: A Profile

      Ishtiaq Ahmed 19 October 2007
      President General Pervez Musharraf (born 11 August 1943) has ruled Pakistan since 12 October 1999 when he overthrew the government of Prime Minister Mian Muahammad Nawaz Sharif who tried to dismiss him and appoint another general as the army chief of staff. Musharraf hails from a lower middle class family of Urdu-speaking parents who migrated to Pakistan from Delhi, India, when Pakistan was created in 1947 as a separate Muslim-majority state in the Indian subcontinent.
    • Briefs: 25 : Musharraf’s Future – Legality versus Legitimacy

      Rajshree Jetly 4 October 2007
      On 28 September 2007, the Pakistan Supreme Court gave embattled President Pervez Musharraf a glimmer of hope when it dismissed, by a six to three majority, petitions by opposition members attempting to prevent Musharraf from continuing his reign of power. The court did not give reasons for its decisions, with the majority simply stating that the petitions were not maintainable under the law. The minority in the Supreme Court held that the petitions were maintainable under Art 184(3) of the Constitution on the basis that they involved matters of public interest and affected protected Fundamental Rights. The pro-Musharraf group views this as a vindication of Musharraf’s campaign while the opposition claims the ruling was merely on technical grounds and has vowed to press ahead with further challenges in the days ahead.
    • Briefs: 24 : Trouble with the Gods: Religion and Public Policy in India

      Dhiraj Nayyar 21 September 2007
      The Hindu God Rama made a dramatic comeback to the centre stage of Indian politics last week. The Indian government, in a submission to the Supreme Court, denied the existence of Rama, arguing that there is no historical or archaeological evidence to prove his existence, much to the consternation and protest of the believers.
    • Briefs: 23 : The Grand Jirga Imperative: Is this the Solution to the Taliban Insurgency?

      Iftikhar A. Lodhi, Research Associate at the ISAS 20 September 2007
      The Taliban insurgency on both sides of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border has become almost uncontainable. A recent American intelligence report claimed that the north-west tribal areas in Pakistan, near the Afghanistan border, have become “safe havens” for Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. In the backdrop of such reports, there have been strong calls in the United States for direct military attacks on these areas, bypassing the Pakistan army, to take out the militants.
    • Briefs: 22 : Clearly Troubled: The Indian Government and a Nuclear Deal

      Mr Dhiraj Nayyar, Research Fellow-designate at the ISAS 31 August 2007
      The ruling Indian coalition is tottering on the brink of an implosion, following a fall out between two of its major constituents – the ruling Indian National Congress and the supporting communist parties. And the disharmony, amusingly described as marital discord by the parties concerned, though seeming like daggers drawn to everyone else, is the direct consequence of the recently concluded Indo-US civilian nuclear deal.
    • Briefs: 21 : Hyderabad Burning – A Domestic Challenge with Regional Implications

      Rajshree Jetly, Research Fellow at the ISAS 29 August 2007
      The twin explosions that rocked the city of Hyderabad on 25 August 2007 are a chilling reminder that terrorism continues to thrive and that India remains as vulnerable as ever in combating this challenge. India has suffered a series of bombings and attacks in the last two years, including incidents in New Delhi (October 2005), Varanasi (March 2006), Old Delhi (April 2006), Mumbai (July 2006), Malegaon, Maharashtra (September 2006) and the train bombing in February 2007. Hyderabad itself had already been struck just three months earlier when a bomb exploded at Mecca Mosque in May 2007. All these events have claimed the lives of around 500 people and injured scores more. While different groups may have been responsible for these incidents, the incidents are bound together in one way – all of the attacks have targeted civilians in public spaces and can be linked ostensibly to communal/religious conflict.
    • Briefs: 20 : Time to Look Down Under: Australia may hold the key to India’s Nuclear Energy

      Malminder Singh, Research Associate at the ISAS 28 August 2007
      The Indo-US civilian nuclear negotiations have, quite naturally, been hogging the front page of almost every leading newspaper in the world in recent weeks. The controversial negotiations have created opinion divides not just within India but they have, arguably, been the subject of debate internationally.
    • Briefs: 19 : Floods in Bangladesh, Changes in Monsoon Pattern and a Wake-up Call for South Asia

      M. Shahidul Islam, Research Associate at the ISAS 23 August 2007
      South Asia is experiencing one of its worst monsoons in recent years. Millions of people in Bangladesh, northern India and Nepal are facing a humanitarian crisis. With roughly half the country under water, Bangladesh is one of the worst affected victims of the annual rainy season, which started in mid-June 2007.
    • Briefs: 18 : Worries and Hopes for India’s IT Industry

      Jayan Jose Thomas, Research Fellow at the ISAS 17 August 2007
      Information technology (IT) industry has been one of India’s greatest success stories since the 1990s. The combined revenues from IT software, IT services and information technology enabled services (ITES) industries in India touched US$47.8 billion in 2006-07; this was 5.4 per cent of India’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in that year. India is the top location in offshoring of service work. Estimates made in 2005 indicated that India accounted for 44 per cent of the total value of outsourcing by IT and ITES industries worldwide.1 For all these, however, the road ahead is not entirely hassle-free for this industry in India. The latest cause of worry has been the appreciation of the Indian Rupee in relation to the US dollar. This reduces India’s IT firms’ export earnings, two-thirds of which are derived from the United States.
    • Briefs: 17 : India at 60: Banking on the Demographic Dividend

      Jayan Jose Thomas, Research Fellow at the ISAS 16 August 2007
      As India celebrates its 60th year of independence, the mood in the air is a mix of excitement and despondency. A new generation of Indian professionals and entrepreneurs are basking in the glory of global recognition. At the same time, as floods caused havoc in many parts of the subcontinent over the past few weeks, millions of Indians are starving, displaced from their homes, and desperate for assistance.
    • Briefs: 16 : Pakistan at Sixty: It’s Time to Give Democracy a Chance

      Ishtiaq Ahmed, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 15 August 2007
      On 14 August 2007, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan celebrated its 60th anniversary. It was founded as a result of the partition of British India on a religious basis – the north-western and north-eastern zones of the subcontinent in which the Muslims were in a majority were separated from the rest of India and awarded to Pakistan.
    • Briefs: 15 : Redefining India: The Recent Policy Changes and the Second National Commission on Urbanisation

      Indu Rayadurgam, Research Associate at the ISAS 3 August 2007
      In June 2007, a report on the opportunities and problems posed by urbanisation in the developing world was brought out as a report in The State of the World Population Report 2007 by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). The same month witnessed a conference on “National Alliance to End Homelessness” in the United States which was held in Washington D.C. Both the UNFPA report and the conference revealed the increasing social and economic challenges in the developed and developing world.
    • Briefs: 14 : Raising Money in Indian Markets – The Indian Depository Receipts Option

      K. V. Ramaswamy, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 27 July 2007
      India’s economic growth story is now familiar with a comfortable foreign exchange reserve of over US$200 billion. In this context, if a foreign or a Singaporean company wants to raise money in the Indian stock market how should it go about doing it? The best possible option would be the Indian Depository Receipts (IDRs). They are made simpler now with the issue of a new set of regulations issued by the by the Ministry of Corporate affairs (earlier known as the Department of Company Affairs) on 17 July 2007. IDRs are certificates that represent the shares of a foreign stock.
    • Briefs: 13 : Electing the Next Vice-President of India – A Unanimous Choice

      S. Narayan, Visiting Senior Research Fellow and Head of Research at the ISAS 23 July 2007
      The name of Hamid Ansari has been announced as the unanimous choice of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA)-Left combined for the post of the Vice President of India. The position becomes vacant on 10 August 2007 when the existing incumbent, Mr Bhairav Singh Shekhawat, completes his five-year tenure.
    • Briefs: 12 : The Lal Masjid Saga: Has Musharraf Finally Triumphed over Extremism in Pakistan?

      Iftikhar A. Lodhi, Research Associate at the ISAS 16 July 2007
      After a six-month standoff, Pakistani forces finally seized the Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) complex in Islamabad last week. A day-long heavy gun battle, with grenades and rockets, claimed the lives of more than 80 militants, including Abdul Rashid Ghazi, the cleric leading the militants. The total casualties, since the clash began last week, would probably be well above 150 and included 10 army personnel.
    • Briefs: 11 : Monetary Policy in India – The Current Conjuncture

      Errol D’Souza, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 10 July 2007
      The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) released its Annual Monetary Policy Statement for 2007-08 on April 24, 2007 in which it clearly laid out its dominant objectives – to manage the surging capital inflows and contain inflation. On both counts there is a confrontation between the RBI and the Ministry of Finance and monetary policy is compromised as a result.
    • Briefs: 10 : Achieving Economic Growth In China And India – At What Environmental Cost?

      M. Shahidul Islam, Research Associate at the ISAS 7 June 2007
      The economic growth of China and India turn Asia as the epicenter of the global economy. It is predicted that this growth will continue in the near future as China is set to become the world’s second largest economy and India is poised to take the fourth place by 2030, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit. A British Broadcasting Corporation on-line survey in April 2006 predicted that China will overtake the United States’ economy by 2026.
    • Briefs: 09 : The Uttar Pradesh State Election – Will It Change The Political Equation At The Centre?

      Dr Maathai K. Mathiyazhagan 18 May 2007
      India’s largest state, Uttar Pradesh, elected a new Chief Minister in its recently-concluded election. Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party (B SP) won 206 seats in the 402-member state assembly, becoming the first political outfit in the last 14 years to obtain an absolutely majority in the state. In the election held from 7 April to 8 May 2007, the northern Indian state, with a population of 180 million, witnessed uniformed polling, with a voter turnout of 46.13 per cent. This was about 7.67 per cent lower than that in the last assembly election in 2002
    • Briefs: 08 : There’s Something About Maya: Changing Politics In India’s Largest State

      Mr Dhiraj Nayyar 17 May 2007
      Uttar Pradesh is India’s largest state. In fa ct, with a population of around 180 million, it is also larger than most countries across the globe. It’s no wonder then to hear the epithet, ‘When Uttar Pradesh sneezes, India catches a chil l’. And what a sneeze it was as the voters of Uttar Pradesh elected the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) of, by and for the formerly untouchable dalits, to govern the state with the first single party majority since 1991. The BSP is led by the inimitable Mayawati, who has just taken oath as the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh for the fourth time but, for the first time, with a majority for her own party.
    • Briefs: 07 : Pakistan’s Constitutional Crisis – What’s Next For Musharraf?

      Dr Marie Lall 16 May 2007
      The last three days have seen some of the wo rst violence in Karachi for the last decade. On 12 May 2007, suspended Chief Justice Iftikhar M uhammad Chaudhry arrived at the airport to address a rally. The lawyers of the city had gathered in the High Court to wait for him. However, the Chief Justice never managed to ente r in the city as the ro ads had been blocked. Nine hours later, he flew back to Islamabad. Do wn town at the courthouse, the lawyers were prevented from leaving the building. Two of th e three entrances were physically blocked and, at the third, a gang of armed Mohajir Qaumi Movement (MQM) supporters stood guard, not letting anyone in or out.
    • Briefs: 06 -2 : Recent State Assembly Elections in India : How Big a Setback for the Congress?

      Dr Maathai Mathiyazhagan 8 March 2007
      I n February 2007, the Indian state s of Punjab, Uttarakhand (formerly Uttaranchal) and Man ipur held their state a ssembly elections. Manipur and Punjab witnessed a high voter turnout. The Punjab elections registered 74.3 per cent turnout which was about 10 per cent higher than that in the last assembly election in 2002. Similarly, Manipur had a turnout of 75 per cent in the first phase and 80 per cent in the final phase of the election. However, the percentage of vote s polled in the Uttarakhand reduced by nearly 10 per cent when compared to the 2002 elections .
    • Briefs: 06 -1 : The Train Blasts: Impact on Indo-Pakistan Relations

      S. Narayan, Head of Research and a Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 23 February 2007
      The blasts on the train between India and Pakistan killed 68 on the night of 18 February 2007, many of them Pakistanis. The damage could have been worse had other incendiary material discovered at the site of the incident also exploded. The contents of the unexploded suitcases suggest that the devices contained incendiary materials designed to start fires in coaches rather than destroy them through explosion. Many of those who died would probably have been able to escape had the doors of the coaches not been sealed and had the windows not had bars placed across them. For security reasons, police seal the doors of the coaches in Delhi after a security check and these are only opened at the border between India and Pakistan.
    • Briefs: 05 : The Train Blasts: Impact on Indo-Pakistan Relations

      S. Narayan 24 February 2007
      The blasts on the train between India and Paki stan killed 68 on the night of 18 February 2007, many of them Pakistanis. The damage could ha ve been worse had other incendiary material discovered at the site of the incident also e xploded. The contents of the unexploded suitcases suggest that the devices contai ned incendiary materials designed to start fires in coaches rather than destroy them through explosion. Many of those who died would probably have been able to escape had the doors of the coaches not been sealed and had the windows not had bars placed across them. For security reas ons, police seal the doors of the coaches in Delhi after a security check and these are only opened at the border between India and Pakistan.
  • 2005
    • Briefs: 04 : The Changi Airport Pullout – Some Thoughts

      S. Narayan 20 September 2005
      Media reactions to the pullout by Changi airpor t authority from bidding for the privatisation of Delhi and Mumbai airports last week have been fair ly moderate, though one or two newspapers did make some strident criticism. Among the final bidders, th ere is likely to be some relief at removal of competition from an established entity like Changi, and the bidders that I spoke to are confident that they can deliver a comparable product within the tender schedules. The loss, certainly, is th at of Changi and of Singapore
    • Briefs: 03 : The Privatisation of Delhi Airport: The Changi Airport Pullout

      S. Narayan 16 September 2005
      There have been several developments during th e course of this week that would have an impact on business interests be tween India and Singapore. In Chennai, Ascendas completed a project with the Tamil Nadu I ndustrial Development Corporation and it was inaugurated on 14 September 2005 in the presence of Tamil Nadu’s Chief Minister and the Singapore Minister for Education. Ascenda s has promised to scale up inve stment in India to over S$750 million within the next two years. Other real estate initiatives in Chennai by Singapore companies are doing well. The Chief Minister re ferred in her speech specifically to the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) and to the opportunities that she expects this agreement to bri ng to Tamil Nadu in particular.
    • Briefs: 02 : Moving Ahead: EU’s Ties with India and China

      S. Narayan, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the ISAS 9 September 2005
      The announcement by Indian Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, on the purchase of aircrafts by Indian Airlines worth US$2.2 billion from Airbus Industries, was timed to add value to the important Indian-European Union (EU) summit in New Delhi on 7 September 2005. Other private airlines had already announced their purchase intentions at the Paris show a few months ago, and this announcement was important only because the buyer was a government airline. Dr Singh was underscoring the importance of trade with the EU and the need to ramp up relations with the bloc.
    • Briefs: 01 : India’s Energy Security: Challenges and Prospects

      Rahul Mukherji, Visiting Research Fellow at the ISAS 6 September 2005
      The surge in oil prices from US$28 per barrel in 2003/04 to US$51 per barrel in April-June 2005 poses a challenge for Indian policy-makers. India’s current account deteriorated from a surplus of US$10.5 billion to a deficit of US$6.5 billion over this period. The loss to oil companies amounted to Rupees 145 billion. According to one estimate, even if India did away with duties, attacked monopolistic practices of retailers, reduced the margins of producers, and put a ceiling on state-level levies, this would reduce the price of oil by about Rs3. India made the politically tough decision of raising the price of oil (by Rs3) and the price of diesel (by Rs2). The rise in Indian prices is much lower than international prices. The diesel price rise has a higher inflationary potential.

Last modified on 26 August 2015