On the 70th anniversary of Partition, intellectuals, analysts, writers, artists and engaged citizens seem driven to try to understand 1947, to make sense of the bloodshed and trauma, to explore the legacy of Partition, and to uncover the personal stories that were far too often sidelined in favour of grand state narratives on both sides of the border.The first Partition Museum is being inaugurated in Amritsar this month while the 1947 Partition Archive, the largest repository of Partition interviews, has just moved forward to release the narratives for public consumption.
Tag Archives: India
So, once again it’s down to a face-off in the Himalayas. Beijing builds a road in the disputed territory of Doklam (if you’re Indian) or Donglang (if you’re Chinese), in the tri-junction of Sikkim, Tibet and Bhutan, and all hell breaks loose. Or does it?The Global Times blames it on an upsurge of Hindu nationalist fervor, but selected Indian officials prefer to privilege ongoing quiet diplomacy. After all, when Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi met on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Astana last month, they struck a gentleman’s agreement; this dispute is not supposed to escalate, and there’s got to be a mutually face saving solution.The tri-junction drama is actually a minor tremor in the much larger picture of the ongoing geopolitical tectonic shift in Eurasia. The major subplot occurs in the conjunction between the inexorable momentum of the New Silk Roads, aka China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy’s push, these past nine years, to assert itself as a major naval power in the Indian Ocean.
A remote corner of the Himalayas has become the unlikely scene of a major power standoff between China and India. Now entering its seventh week, the standoff centers on the tri-junction border shared by China, India, and Bhutan referred to as Doklam in India and Donglang in China. Neither side is spoiling for a fight, nor are they ready to back down anytime soon considering the security concerns, domestic political pressures, and regional reputational stakes. A series of quiet diplomatic interactions has not restrained the brinkmanship or ultimatums and the risk of a major armed clash between two Asian heavyweights remains. China and India have sparred along the Himalayan border for decades, including a brief war (and clear Chinese victory) in 1962. In areas like Aksai Chin or Arunachal Pradesh, long-standing disputes still play out in regular diplomatic arguments. Yet until recently there seemed to be a settled status quo in the comparatively peaceful tri-national border area, which has special strategic significance, lying as it does above the 14-mile-wide Siliguri valley, or the “chicken’s neck,” that connects northeast India to the rest of the country. As it turns out, both sides had very different visions of just what that status quo was.
Three years after he was elected, Prime Minister Narendra Modi looms over India’s political scene like no other leader in the country’s recent history. And his critics must explain why his mass appeal seems unimpaired, despite his increasingly authoritarian ways and growing failures. Modi is far from realizing his promises of economic and military security. Pakistan-backed militants continue to strike inside Indian territory. The anti-Indian insurgency in Kashmir has acquired a mass base; Maoist insurgents in central India attack security forces with impunity. Industrial growth, crucial to creating jobs for the nearly 13 million Indians entering the workforce each year, is down, at least partly due to Modi’s policy of demonetization.
We are now deep in the era of political shocks. One electorate after another has expressed its anger with mainstream parties and technocratic elites by favoring political outsiders and know-nothing anti-incumbents. But what explains the appeal of demagogues once they start governing and reveal themselves to be exponents of chaos?
State assembly elections now in progress in five states will indicate how successful India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been in meeting the aspirations of electors who voted him into power with a landslide victory three years ago to change the way India had been run by ineffective national governments.
Uttar Pradesh is the biggest prize, but the states of Punjab and Goa could make political history by launching another agent of change, the Aam Aadmi (people’s) Party, into national politics outside its current base of Delhi where it was elected two years ago.
From the Bab al-Mandab to the strait of Malacca, from the strait of Hormuz to the strait of Lombok, all the way to the key logistical hub of Diego Garcia 2,500 miles southeast of Hormuz, the question pops up: How will the unpredictable new normal in Washington — which is not exactly China-friendly — affect the wider Indian Ocean?
At play are way more than key choke-points in an area that straddles naval supply chains and through which also flows almost 40% of the oil that powers Asian-Pacific economies. This is about the future of the Maritime Silk Road, a key component of the Chinese One Belt, One Road (OBOR), and thus about how Big Power politics will unfold in a key realm of the Rimland.
India imports almost 80% of its energy from the Middle East via the Indian Ocean. Thus, for Delhi, protection of supply chains must be the norm, as in the current drive to develop three carrier battle groups and at least 160 naval vessels, including submarines, before 2022. That also implies boosting a cooperation agreement with the nations bordering the strait of Malacca — Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia — and developing military infrastructure in the Andaman and Nicobar islands.
China for its part advances a relentless economic/infrastructural drive from Myanmar to Pakistan, from Bangladesh to the Maldives, from Sri Lanka to Djibouti — a counterbalance to the impossibility of fully implementing “escape from Malacca,” the complex, multi-pronged Beijing strategy for diversifying energy supplies.
Back in 2014, Narendra Modi’s landslide victory was hailed by columnists in the Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times, who predicted that he would prove to be India’s Ronald Reagan or Margaret Thatcher, modernizing India’s economy with a revolutionary program of deregulation and privatization.
Abruptly withdrawing more than 80 percent of the cash in circulation in India, Modi appears today a very different kind of revolutionary: the type that emerged in many non-Western countries in the previous century.
Source: Modi’s Revolutionary Dreams
Narendra Modi came to power in India on a promise to end corruption. Halfway into his tenure, little seems to have happened to achieve this goal. The most obvious steps – such as taking a strong line on the known illegal accounts held in Swiss banks and tax havens, or ending the ability to hold shares without revealing your identity, or making funding of political parties transparent – have simply not been taken. People were beginning to murmur that the government had not lived up to its grandiose promises.
There is a form of Buddhism so potent, adherents say, that to hear its name spoken is to receive a promise of premature enlightenment, of early freedom from the wheel of incarnations. Something similar is true of Srinivasa Ramanujan, the super-genius who was born into deep poverty in an obscure part of southern India, who taught himself mathematics from a standard textbook, and in total isolation became a mathematician of such power that a hundred years after his death, at the age of thirty-two, the meaning of much of his work is still a mystery. In the middle of what I thought would be my life’s work, writing and producing music, I heard his story; now I find myself in graduate school studying number theory.The story of Ramanujan is a variation on the same mythopoeic tale related in Star Wars and the New Testament, of a special boy born into adversity. A mother cannot conceive. The Goddess appears in a dream, promising a son through whom the God will speak to his creation. While pregnant, the mother travels to her ancestral home. During the winter solstice, the boy is born, under signs in the heavens that portend great events: his horoscope, cast by his mother, predicts that he will be a genius beset by great suffering. “Svasti Sri,” it reads, “when the moon was near the star Uttirattadi, when Mithuna was in the ascendant, on this auspicious day” Ramanujan is born. And indeed, his will be a short life, full of triumph and disaster. Growing up, he is gentle and quiet. Weightless is the word one of his childhood acquaintances uses in Robert Kanigel’s The Man Who Knew Infinity: A Life of the Genius Ramanujan. Beginning in his teenage years, Kanigel writes, Ramanujan “would abruptly vanish… Little subsequently became known” about these disappearances. Around this time, Ramanujan acquires a hoary old text (G. S. Carr’s Synopsis of Elementary Results in Pure Mathematics) that initiates him into the arcana. The Goddess begins to appear to Ramanujan in his dreams, showing him scrolls covered in strange formulae. “Nākkil ezhutināl,” he later said. “She wrote on my tongue.”