Table of Contents
CoverSAARC and the sovereignty bargain
By: Pratap Bhanu Mehta
The recent earthquake that caused such enormous devastation on both sides of the Line of Control adds poignancy to any reflection on the future of regional integration in Southasia. It was a grim reminder of the region’s shared vulnerabilities, and of the fact that we do not have even the beginnings of common institutions with which to respond.
By: Sanjeeb Kakoty
A border without history or logic The partition of India was one of the 20th century’s most tragically audacious experiments in social engineering, one that denied millennia of history at the stroke of a pen. Though Partition has been the subject of considerable research, the focus has generally been its study as either a macro-political event, or as a cultural (and personal) disaster. Little work has been done on the individuals, communities and regions that straddle the artificially created borders.
By: Elisa Patnaik
Their lives parallel the ups-and-downs of relations between India and Pakistan – ruled by crossborder tensions, fears of militancy, and various forms of destabilisation. Many have lost property, ancestral lands and family members.
SAARC: The inevitability of bilateral multilateralism
By: Kanak Mani Dixit
emThe Southasian regionalism of SAARC is locked into the seven-or-nothing formula. If the seven member states are to make regionalism work for the sake of the people rather than the national establishments, alternate visions are necessary. One formula for peace and prosperity is to promote openness in the areas where the neighbours and India meet on their borders. When they convene in Dhaka for the 13th Southasian Summit, will it be too much to expect the SAARC summiteers to address this most practical step towards regionalism? We need more cross-border flows in place, instead of the strictly inter-capital communication that has thus far been the Association’s stagnant formula./em
By: Sara Shneiderman
Borderland exchanges along the Nepal-TAR frontier For most Nepalis, the Chinese border town of Khasa is synonymous with the cheap clothes and electronics that eventually make their way down the Arniko Highway to Kathmandu. But for a growing number of people from the Nepali villages adjacent to the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), Khasa is the gateway to a set of opportunities that take advantage of China’s positive discrimination policies towards minority groups and borderland populations.
The line Durand drew
By: Daniel Lak
If a border isn’t recognised by those on either side, does it still exist? That has long been the burning question along the Durand Line, the 112-year-old frontier between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Where is Assam?
By: David Ludden
Instead of accepting the nationalisation of everything by political boundaries, we can use geographical history to locate current social realities. Assam is today a state of India and, as such, an official region of a world entirely covered by nations and encompassed by national maps. We have no choice but to locate any region like Assam inside of national geography, for this both controls our spatial imagination and conveys a specific location, identity and meaning.
By: Enoka Lankatilleke
The Malayali link to Sinhala culture has a rich past even if it does not have much of a present.
PassageEPW and the Thinking Indian
By: Ramachandra Guha
Follow upIs the magic gone?
The Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline is in trouble. Even as officials of the three countries publicly reaffirm their commitments to the project, there are clear signs that the gasline may not come through. ‘Geopolitical realities’ – a euphemism for sustained United States pressure on India and Pakistan not to engage in economic diplomacy with Iran – has pushed the prospects of the magic pipeline into the distance.
CommentaryThe hope of Dhaka
BANGLADESH SAARC at 20, Bangladesh, and the possibilities of eastern Southasia The twice-postponed summit meeting of SAARC leaders is slated for Dhaka in November, and will take place barring natural or manmade disasters. It was in this city 20 years ago that the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) was born, bringing to reality the statesmanlike vision of the late president Ziaur Rahman.
A very Maobaadi holiday
By: Deepak Thapa
NEPAL One of the more peculiar aspects of Nepal’s decade-old internal conflict has been that, for the past few years, the autumnal Dasain festival has heralded a brief pause in the fighting. In deference to general public sentiment, the rebel Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) has declared unilateral ceasefires, while the government has responded in spirit, even if not always with formal announcements. The importance of Dasain to Nepal lies not just in its religious significance, although it is the major yearly festival for the dominant, mid hills Hindus. More importantly, it is the time for hundreds of thousands of Nepalis to make the annual trip (or trek) back home in order to catch up with their families.
The deadliest quake
KASHMIR The tragedy of 8/10 needs a dedicated, long-term response. Meanwhile, what about the rest of us potential victims? We have not understood why the Kashmir Earthquake of 8 October has been termed the ‘South Asia Quake’ by the international media, including by the all-powerful, real-time satellite television networks. Southasia is a vast region and the ground trembled beneath one corner, well-known to the world as Kashmir, on two sides of a Line of Control. Somehow, it does injustice to the suffering of the living and the memory of the dead to call the disaster by the name of the larger region. The UN has declared the Kashmir catastrophe as more devastating than last year’s tsunami.
Embrace of the strategic partner
INDIA-IRAN It was in a conference room in distant Vienna where one of the most significant post-Cold War shifts in New Delhi’s foreign policy was implemented. On 24 September, New Delhi decided to cast its lot with its ‘strategic partner’ the United States, and jointed a resolution against ‘good friend’ Iran at a meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The resolution accused Iran of pursuing a ‘policy of concealment’ with regard to its nuclear programme, saying that Teheran was ‘non-compliant’ with the IAEA statute. Declaring that Iran’s nuclear aims fall ‘within the competence of the Security Council’, the resolution also demanded that Iran halt all enrichment and processing of uranium.
ReportThe glacier's warning
By: Mahtab Haider
Himalayan glaciers are like thermometers for the earth’s health, and they have begun to warn of a worldwide ailment – global warming. The receding glaciers are harbringers of a climate shift that could bring massive, unforeseen changes to Southasia’s environment and livelihoods. A midst the snow-capped peaks of the Annapurna Himal, in the northern reaches of central Nepal, nestles the high valley of Manang, sprinkled with small settlements clinging to its steep slopes. The panorama is as breathtaking as the terrain is harsh; the terraces cradled by the craggy slopes do not yield enough high-altitude grains to feed the district’s 10,000 or so inhabitants.
'She' and the silver screen
By: Sai Paranjpye
While there are outstanding examples of sensitivity, Indian cinema over the decades has largely neglected the lived experiences of women. As with real life, the projection of the ‘Indian woman’ in Indian cinema over the decades has been, at best, ambiguous. As in other parts of Southasia and the world, the women of India remain, by and large, second-class citizens groomed to be obedient wives rather than independent individuals. A good marriage, not a sound education, is supposed to be her ultimate goal. Even in cases where the wife is the major bread-winner, she is seldom the head of the family. Things may be changing in urban India, where women are increasingly conscious of their rights, but the winds of change do not blow strongly enough in the rural areas, nor among lower-income groups.
By: Aman Malik
Isn’t it time for a regional television network that ‘thinks Southasian’ and broadcasts via satellite and cable throughout the region? While Latin America’s incipient Telesur and West Asia’s energetic Al Jazeera might provide models, it is clear that we will have to go our own way. On 24 July this year, in an ostensible bid to “promote Latin American integration”, a new pan-South American television channel began broadcasting from the Venezuelan capital of Caracas. Telesur – short for ‘Television of the South’ – has the patronage of the left-leaning governments of Argentina, Venezuela, Uruguay and Cuba.
AnalysisA backward slide
By: Jehan Perera
The weakness of the February 2002 ceasefire agreement between the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil rebels is currently most obvious in the country’s northeast. Recently, a group of journalists from the south was denied permission by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE) from entering the areas of Trincomalee Province under their control.
The healing can begin here
By: Ravi Nair
What hope is there for human rights protection in war-torn Jammu & Kashmir if the state’s human rights body is bound and gagged? Toothless tiger. Now, a dead horse. If the Jammu & Kashmir state government wishes to make good on its promise to strengthen the J & K State Human Rights Commission (SHRC), it is going to have to take note of these sombre – but apt – metaphors.
Blinded by the Bomb
By: Zia Mian
Against all civilisational values, Islamabad and New Delhi proceed to prepare their bombs and missiles – for nuclear war to be fought on our soil. For decades, leaders of India and Pakistan have been bewitched by the power of the bomb. Regardless of their various other differences, they seem to have believed that the threat of massive destruction represented by nuclear weapons is a force for good, and that the weapons themselves are vital to the well-being of their respective countries.
Wild frontier: Valmiki-Chitwan-Parsa
By: Samir Kumar Sinha
Shouldn’t the tigers of a trans-boundary Nepal-Bihar forest area be given dual citizenship, so that they are protected on both sides? Flying northeast into Kathmandu from the direction of New Delhi, just as the aircraft begins its descent adjacent to the Nepali tarai, a wide stretch of jungle suddenly appears beneath. This is an unexpected swath of green, given that whole stretches of the tarai region have been deforested over the past half-century by logging and human encroachment.
OpinionPublic TV for the Southasian public
By: Sanjeev Chatterjee
Airwaves transporting an agenda of connectedness throughout Southasia, right into homes across the region – what a concept! With equitable representation of news, culture, public opinion, debate and even entertainment, what is not to like? The difficulty, of course, is that such a project faces restrictions imposed by regulations (or lack thereof), market forces, and the now-established culture of television as a primarily commercial entertainment medium. Facts, however, have never precluded the dreamers.
Real broadcasting for a real public
By: Kanak Mani Dixit
Photo FeatureDhaka Womens wear
SouthasiasphereWays of the wind
By: CK Lal
Wind - Even when it is not blowing, it blows Who can lash down the wind? – Ramesh Prajapati in the Hindi poem “Hawa” Polls in Afghanistan have once again proven that feuding warlords often decide electoral outcomes in fractured societies. According to Ahmad Fahim Hakim, deputy chairman of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC), “More than 80 percent of winning candidates in provinces and more than 60 percent in the capital Kabul have links to armed groups.”
As we look ahead to the SAARC Summit, we’ll just remind the reader that a two-day meeting of SAARC information ministers, held in Kathmandu on 30 August, appeared to accomplish a lot. They decided to set up a regional media development fund, with seed money of USD 1 lakh put up by India. They will broadcast a weekly radio news programme, ‘SAARC News’, and a monthly TV news programme, ‘SAARC Roundup’.
ReflectionsBrain gain, being brown
By: Cyriac George
A Malayali Southasian’s thoughts on going away and returning home. Flying east-bound 9000 metres above Germany, I was flipping through a newspaper in the cramped cabin of a transcontinental airliner. There, I found an article on the new trend of ‘brain gain’, linked to India’s Westernised émigrés return home.
The archive: 25 years of Southasia
Image: Penguin India
Penguin India withdraws The Hindus
On 11 February 2014, Penguin India decided to recall and destroy all remaining copies of Wendy Doniger’s book The Hindus: An Alternative History. The decision was part of an agreement between them and Shiksha Bachao Andolan, a Hindu campaign group that filed a case against the publishers in 2010, arguing that the book was insulting to Hindus and contained “heresies”.
From our archive:
Diwas Kc reviews The Hindus: An Alternative History. (March 2010)