Thursday, May 30, 2013

Today's newspaper articles

Today’s collection of articles come from “The Diplomat” website.

The first article is about the prospects of improved relations between Indian and Pakistan now that there is a new Pakistani Prime minister - Nawaz Sharif.

The next two article talk about the India Poll 2013, conducted by the Lowy and Australia India Institutes about the attitudes of Indian citizens towards their future in the world:

May 29, 2013

By Nitin A. Gokhale

The recent election of Nawaz Sharif raises hopes, but hardliners in both countries remain a hurdle.

In January this year, U.S. think tank the New America Foundation played host to 30-odd Indians and Pakistanis in Dubai. The idea was to share knowledge and ideas, understand prevailing challenges and issues, identify common points of collaboration, and collectively suggest the next steps for policy, strategy, research, and action.

Delegates to the closed-door conference included representatives from the military, public and private institutes, think tanks, media, and non-profit organizations.

The conversations covered issues of common interest to the two countries, including trade, business, microfinance, IT, water, energy, climate change, public health, security, and media.
This writer was part of the conference as a delegate from India.

Hosted by well-known authors and journalists Steve Coll and Peter Bergen, the two-day conference came up with the following key recommendations:

· Facilitate cross-border exchange visits, both academic and person-to-person.

· In terms of academia, organize trans-border inter-collegiate exchange programs.

· Geographically, foster interaction across cities in the border states.

· Provide a platform for collaborative research between various actors in Pakistan and India. This may involve a joint think tank or cross-border research on issues such as energy, trade, and microfinance.

Five months later, Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan's Prime Minister-in-waiting, after winning the landmark elections held on 11 May, is speaking along similar lines.

He wants to increase bilateral trade with India to improve Pakistan's own economy, push for more people to people contacts and is in favor of a more liberalized visa regime.

Nawaz Sharif also wants lasting peace with India, reprising an effort he made in 1999. In fact, in one of the first media interactions after his election victory, Sharif told reporters: "“We will pick up the threads from where we left in 1999… That is the roadmap that I have for improvement of relations between Pakistan and India.”

In interview after interview with Indian journalists, Nawaz's central theme was his wish and plan for normal relations with India. Indian media and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's government also hailed Nawaz Sharif's victory. Singh has made peace with Pakistan one of his “core” themes during his nine years in office, despite a brazen attack by Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiyba (LeT) terrorists on the commercial city of Mumbai in November 2008 that left over 160 people dead.

Singh immediately sent Sharif a message congratulating him on the election win: "… “(people of India) welcome your publicly articulated commitment to a relationship between India and Pakistan that is defined by peace, friendship and cooperation.”

Both Singh and Sharif will, however, have to contend with hardliners back home before they can make any moves to reduce the existing trust deficit between the two countries.

In Pakistan, in particular, no civilian leader has been able to practice an India policy independent of the country's powerful military. Last time, in 1999, Nawaz Sharif tried to break new ground by initiating a friendship bus that travelled from Delhi to Lahore. A new era, it seemed, was about to begin.

Within months, however, Pakistan Army then led by Gen Pervez Musharraf, sabotaged the initiative by sending troops into Indian-held Kashmir, which led to the Kargil conflict. Musharraf’s ploy of dressing up Pakistan Army regulars as Mujahideens (Freedom fighters) was exposed once the Indian Army began to push back the intruders. US President Bill Clinton summoned Sharif to Washington and asked to withdraw the Pakistani Army troops from Kargil even as the Indians gained the upper hand. A humiliated Sharif returned home only to be ousted through a bloodless coup by Musharraf. The Saudis negotiated Sharif’s exile.

Today, the tables have turned. Sharif has won a popular mandate but Pervez Musharraf – after a longish stint as Pakistan’s chief executive, first as Army chief and then as President – had to flee Pakistan. When he returned a month before the May 11 election, hoping to recapture the imagination of the nation, the former dictator was arrested on court orders. Ultimately, the Pakistani Army may bail Musharraf out. Sharif may not mind that since he has bigger battles to fight than to think of revenge against his former tormentor.

Sharif’s biggest challenge will be to get the Pakistani Army on the same page. Already there are reports that Army Chief Ashfaq Kayani has had a long meeting with Sharif and advised him to go slow on his desire to renew détente with India.

The GHQ in Rawalpindi may also be unhappy with Sharif’s post-election announcement that he is open to launching an investigation into the planning and conspiracy of the November 2008 Mumbai attack, widely attributed to LeT.

Sharif’s stand on the 2008 attack will bring him in direct confrontation with the LeT, considered one of the most dangerous terrorist groups in the world now. Like Sharif’s own political party, the LeT’s base is the Punjab province, Pakistan’s largest and politically most powerful region. Sharif therefore may not want to take the LeT head on just yet.

Moreover, the Pakistani Army and especially its spy arm, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) will also resist any such move since it treats LeT and other smaller terrorist groups such as Jaish-e-Mohhamed (JeM) as strategic assets against India. Many of LeT’s foot soldiers are often trained, armed and sent into Indian-administered Kashmir by the ISI to keep the Kashmir dispute between the two countries simmering. For over 60 years, maintaining adversarial posture against India has been the very raison d'être of the Pakistani Army and it is not going to change its stance no matter how resounding the democratic verdict is for Nawaz Sharif.

Perhaps learning a lesson or two from his earlier stints as Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif may want to take it one at a time and not antagonize the Pakistani Army upfront. Writing in The Daily Times, columnist Mohammad Taqi made an interesting point. “From his exile on December 10, 2000 to his eventual return on November 25, 2007 he has had plenty of time to reflect and mellow. The trigger-happy Mr Nawaz Sharif of the 1990s who fired two army chiefs within a year seems to be taking great pains to project patience. A well-earned confidence has replaced his pre-May 11 jitteriness. Personal residence at Raiwind — not the Muslim League Secretariat, Islamabad or even Lahore — chosen as the hub of all post-election activity by Mr Sharif should leave little doubt about where the command and control of his eponymous Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) is.”

Patience apart, Nawaz Sharif will have to show urgency on several basic domestic issues. The Pakistani economy is in the doldrums and the country is plagued by perpetual energy shortages. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, much against conventional wisdom, has offered to supply electricity to Pakistan. There are renewed attempts now to boost India-Pakistan bilateral trade too.

However, the biggest challenge for both New Delhi and Islamabad could come from the fast-changing situation in a third country—Afghanistan. As American and ISAF forces prepare for a drawdown from Afghanistan in 2014, there are growing security concerns about a possible resurgence of Taliban and Pakistani Army’s complicity in propping up these groups.

Growing friction between troops of the Afghan National Army (ANA) and Taliban insurgents around the Durand line that divides Afghanistan and Pakistan may have prompted President Hamid Karzai to seek direct military help from India during his visit to India last week. Karzai in fact openly told Indian media that he had presented a wish list to the Indians without elaborating on what he sought.

But sources in Indian security establishment have revealed Karzai wanted transport helicopters, light artillery and ammunition from New Delhi, apart from stepping up training for ANA troops.

India has so far not revealed its hand about supplying military hardware to Afghanistan, with opinion among strategic thinkers divided. Some advocate immediate supply of weapons to facilitate conversion of the ANA from a light infantry-type force into an army capable of holding its own against a likely onslaught by the Taliban. Others favor continuation of the current Indian policy: aid in reconstruction and in civilian areas combined with training for ANA troops within India. Both camps agree, however, that there should be no Indian boots on the ground in Afghanistan since that is a red line for Pakistan. Watching Indian moves very closely will be the Pakistani Army, which regards any Indian presence in Afghanistan as a threat to its need for a “strategic depth” in the event of a military showdown with India.

Despite the Pakistan Army’s reservations, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has for long articulated a need for normal relations with Islamabad, arguing that a stable Pakistan is in India’s long-term interest. In so doing, he has raised the hackles of many Indians. His attempt to convert the Siachen Glacier – described as the world’s highest battlefield – into a “peace park” has run into fierce opposition, mainly from the Indian Army, which otherwise submits to total civilian control over its affairs. The Indian Army leadership has reminded the prime minister and other civilian leaders that the Kargil conflict of 1999 happened primarily because Pakistan wanted to seize Siachen from Indian control.

Terrorism emanating from Pakistan is another thorny issue. Although the Indian prime minister walked the extra mile after the 2008 Mumbai attack, Pakistan has so far failed to bring the mastermind of that attack, LeT founder Mohammed Hafeez Saeed and his associates to book for their role in the brazen assault, limiting Singh’s ability to sell his peace agenda to Indians. The ISI continues to run terror camps along the border in Kashmir and periodically sends well-armed terrorists to disrupt hard-earned peace in the Kashmir Valley. With general elections in India due in less than a year, the current government cannot afford to be seen compromising the country’s interest with Pakistan.

Even for Nawaz Sharif, consolidating his grip on government will depend on three crucial events coming up in the next eight months: the end of President Asif Ali Zardari’s term; the appointment of a new Chief Justice of Pakistan and choosing a successor to General Kayani (if indeed he chooses to retire in November at the end of his extended term).

Sharif’s challenge will be to create the right balance with the army and deliver on the election promises he made to the citizens of Pakistan. Economic recovery and controlling domestic terrorism will be high priorities. As for India, both countries have tried to come to terms with each other over the past six decades, without ever succeeding fully, so a durable peace can wait a little longer.

(Nitin A. Gokhale is Security & Strategic Affairs Editor with Indian Boradcaster NDTV)

Photo Credit: Wikicommons


India Poll 2013: Views from the Subcontinent

By Pratyush

The link between public perceptions and foreign policy in India has increasingly come under scrutiny in recent years. Long the preserve of the prime minister’s office and the External Affairs Ministry, foreign policy under the governing United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government has to a large degree been decentralized, due in part to the pressures of coalition politics.

One prominent example came in March, when India’s UPA government voted against Sri Lanka at the UN Human Rights Council. The UPA took this stance in a bid to allay the concerns of its then ally from Tamil Nadu, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) party, over Sri Lanka’s human rights record.

But do Indians consider foreign policy a key determinant of their voting choices?

The assumption has been that foreign policy is the domain of elites. This perception stems from the belief that issues pertaining to foreign powers are too remote to matter in the day-to-day lives of ordinary people.

A recent report called India Poll 2013 produced jointly by the Lowy Institute for International Policy and the Australia India Institute offers rich insights into what Indians think about the world. The “nationally representative” opinion poll surveys 1233 Indian adults on their attitudes towards subjects from democracy to the economy and perceptions on potential security threats.

A recent article in The Diplomat by the poll’s author, Rory Medcalf, has already presented some of the results, but it is worth making a few additional points.

First, an overwhelming 70 percent of Indians believe in democracy, while only 21 percent view it as an impediment to progress. Looking deeper, an astounding 95 percent support the right to a fair trial, the right to vote and the right to free expression, while 87 percent support a free press. All of this suggests that Indians hold tightly to their democratic traditions.

Further, despite a sharp deceleration of the Indian economy in fiscal 2012 (ended March 31) from the previous year’s 6.2 percent to 5 percent, 74 percent of Indians are optimistic about the country’s future economic prospects. Indeed, despite a flagging economy, 56 percent of people said they were better off economically than five years ago, while only 18 percent said they were worse off.

In terms of security threats, chronic shortage of food and water, as well as climate change were viewed as the biggest dangers to the country by 80 to 85 percent of those surveyed. Other prominent security threats rated include potential war with Pakistan (77 percent), homegrown terrorism and foreign jihadist attacks (74 percent), possible war with China (73 percent) and Maoist insurgency (71 percent).

Shifting its gaze abroad, the report reveals that, despite a strong culture of strategic autonomy in Indian foreign policy, almost 72 percent of Indians prefer having strong countries – particularly Pakistan and the United States – as partners. The U.S. tops the most favored list of countries, followed by Singapore, Japan and Australia.

Further, as Rory pointed out, 83 percent of respondents consider China a security threat, while only 31 percent see China’s rise as a positive force for India. However, on China’s rise itself respondents showed a preference for a mixed approach, with 65 percent opting for a concert of nations to check China’s rise and 64 percent also sharing the belief that China and India could collude and play a leading role in the world.

Meanwhile, Pakistan was given least favored nation status, an unsurprising result considering the turbulent shared history of the nations. History aside, 76 percent of respondents believe that New Delhi should take the initiative to forge better ties with Islamabad, with almost 87 percent believing that such a step would require courageous leadership on both sides.

Now, consider this hypothetical situation. If the UPA’s re-election centered on the 1,233 respondents of this poll with foreign policy as the main electoral issue, what would the government’s report card look like? To put it simply, the scores are mixed.

In the 2009 general elections, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s assertive stance on the Indo-U.S. nuclear deal boosted his image as a decisive leader and was seen as being a key to his re-election. While U.S. President Barack Obama made a landmark visit to India in November 2010, during which he pledged U.S. support for an expanded UN Security Council in the future “with India as a permanent member”, India-U.S. ties have plateaued since.

The government’s failure to initiate wide-ranging economic reforms, combined with its reticence to be seen as a close U.S. ally, has caused relations with Washington to drift. India has also been ambivalent towards America’s “pivot to Asia” despite being described as a “lynchpin” in the new U.S. strategy.

On China, Premier Li Keqiang’s choice to visit India last week as his first port of call since taking office in March did little to remove strains in ties following a flare-up on the contested border in April. When Chinese troops camped out for weeks recently on territory claimed by India, the Indian government’s pusillanimous response infuriated opposition politicians and sections of the public, who sought something more muscular.

Meanwhile, a fledgling peace process with Pakistan has received grudging support from the Indian public. Another terror attack along the lines of the one that hit Mumbai in 2008 would once again force the Indian government to pull out of the peace process.

While Pakistan’s Prime Minister-designate Nawaz Sharif has reached out to India, New Delhi is unlikely to mount any concerted peace overtures for now, relegating any peace talks with Pakistan to after the 2014 general elections.

Image credit: Wikicommons


What Indians Think About China


By Rory Medcalf

EBG6NYSM4VCJWhat do Indians really think about China? It’s a question that has been on many minds over the past week, with the visit to India of Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.

The media headlines about a new opinion poll suggest that the answer is that most Indians see China as a security challenge, indeed as a threat. While that is an accurate description of one part of the poll, it is not the whole story.

As the designer and author of the poll study, I would like to set the record straight.

There is a fascinating tension or, as a Hindu might put it, a duality to how Indians see China. While 83 percent of respondents to the poll see their neighbor as a security threat, it is also notable that 63 percent want India-China ties to improve, and only 9 percent think that relationship is already too close.

Moreover, Indians feel slightly more warmly towards the people of China than they do about certain other Asian countries, including Indonesia, South Korea and Vietnam.

The 2013 India Poll, prepared by the Lowy Institute for International Policy in partnership with the Australia India Institute, involved face-to-face interviews with a carefully selected representative sample of 1233 Indians, from all sectors of society. The sample size is obviously small relative to India’s enormous population, hence an acknowledged statistical margin of error of 3.6 percent.

Even allowing for this, some of the results are striking.

The survey examined attitudes to a whole host of issues, from transnational security challenges to domestic leadership, from the economy to corruption, any one of which merits further analysis. But some of its most illuminating findings relate to what Indians think about other countries, especially China, Pakistan and the United States.

The bad news for India-China relations is that 83 percent of Indians see China as some kind of threat to their country’s security over the next ten years. And 60 percent see China as a major threat. It is worth noting that these attitudes were recorded in late 2012, well before the recent flare-up of border tensions.

These data do not, as one editorial implies, have a “propaganda angle”. Quite the contrary. It is a reflection of Indian anxiety and it amounts to hard evidence that such threat perceptions are not exclusively held by India’s strategic elite, but rather by a large cross-section of society. This means that China’s public diplomacy challenge in dealing with India is of Himalayan proportions, and will not be resolved by one high-level visit, however successful.

And large majorities of poll respondents also indicate that their reasons for this mistrust do in fact include the list of issues often cited by India’s strategic experts, such as China’s possession of nuclear weapons, the border dispute, China’s activities in the Indian Ocean region, and the military and other support China gives Pakistan. In other words, Beijing cannot hope to change Indian popular mistrust without substantively addressing at least some of these issues.

But the poll contains good news, too, for the prospect of coexistence and even cooperation between Asia’s rising giants.

Although the poll suggests that around 95 percent of Indians are strongly attached to their democratic rights, there is also a degree of respect for aspects of China’s growth and development.

Notably, 42 percent of poll respondents think it would be better if India’s government and society “worked more like” those of China. That is a significant result, given that a developed Western democracy, Germany, ranked about the same in terms of this kind of positive Indian sentiment. That said, most Indian poll respondents (78 percent) rank the United States number one in terms of their respect for its type of government and society, followed by Australia, Japan and Singapore. And a large minority, 31 percent, of Indians consider that it would be worse for the people of India if their government and society were more like China’s.

Turning to geopolitics, while 70 percent of poll respondents think China’s aim is to dominate Asia and 65 percent agree that India should work with other countries to limit China’s power, a majority (64 percent) also agree that India and China should cooperate to play a leading role in the world together.
In other words, some Indians hold these views at the same time. This is not necessarily a contradiction – rather, it reflects the profound dilemmas faced by Indian foreign policy.

It is often claimed that Indians see the Indian Ocean as India’s ocean, and the poll confirms this at one level: 94 percent of respondents want their country to be the most powerful nation in those waters. But there is also some appetite for cooperation: 72 percent see the United States as a good partner for India in the Indian Ocean, while a still-substantial 39 percent see China in a similar light.

Even so, it is clear that China still has a long way to go in allaying popular Indian misgivings.
Despite the fact that China has become India’s largest trade partner, and there is an official target to grow this commerce to $100 billion a year, only 31 percent of Indians think China’s rise has been good for their country.

Indians are fairly evenly divided on two crucial matters: while 45 percent think that India’s interests would not be harmed if China gained more power and influence, 41 percent think the opposite. And while 42 percent do not want the United States to give China a greater role in regional affairs, a similar proportion, 40 percent, would like to see America share the stage in this way.

Many Indians, it seems, have an intuitive grasp of the challenges of great-power diplomacy.

Rory Medcalf designed and oversaw India Poll 2013. He is program director for international security at the Lowy Institute, associate director of the Australia India Institute and a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. Follow him on twitter @Rory_Medcalf

Image credit: From Office of India’s Prime Minister

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Delhi Gymkana Club

The word Gymkana is an Indian term for “meeting place”. On Friday night, Tania and I were at a function at the Delhi Gymkana Club, saying goodbye to friends finishing their posting in India.

The club is one of the most exclusive in New Delhi with a waiting list stretching to 30 yrs !!

The club has a sense of British Raj about it – no wonder as this is where the Brits escaped to after a hard day of ruling India.

We were very honoured to have been invited to this function. The women used it as an excuse to dress up in their saris and didn’t they look good in them.

Here are photos from the evening:

Monday, May 27, 2013

Today's newspaper article

Today’s article (from “The Diplomat” website) talks about the upcoming Indian elections (due to be held next year):

May 26, 2013

By Sudha Ramachandran

The polls show Narendra Modi with a clear lead. But India’s electoral calculations are not so simple.

On May 22, India’s ruling coalition, the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA), celebrated the fourth anniversary of its government and the completion of its ninth straight year in power.

With little achievement to its credit – not only has it failed to address the agrarian crisis or revive a sluggish economy but this government has also been described as India’s most corrupt since independence – and its prospects in the 2014 general election bleak at best, political commentators questioned whether the UPA should be celebrating at all.

As the UPA begins its tenth year at the helm, its stock with the people has dipped to an all-time low. Several opinion surveys conducted in recent weeks predict a UPA defeat if general elections were held now.

True, the surveys reveal that the Congress’ losses would not translate automatically into gains for the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), with smaller regional parties expected to be the main beneficiaries. But the BJP – or at least those sections that support Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi – can draw some satisfaction from the results of the opinion polls. The surveys are unanimous in declaring Modi to be the most popular prime ministerial candidate in the country. For instance, the CNN-IBN poll reveals that 38% of urban voters prefer Modi over incumbent Manmohan Singh (13%) and Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi (14%).

In fact, the surveys predict that Modi will improve the electoral prospects of the BJP and the coalition it leads – the National Democratic Alliance (NDA). “Only Narendra Modi can deliver them within striking distance of power in Delhi,” observes R Jagannathan in

Modi has been Chief Minister of the western state of Gujarat since 2001. In December last year, he led the BJP to its fourth consecutive win in the state. Emboldened by that emphatic mandate in his home state, Modi turned his eyes towards Delhi, the Indian capital. He is clearly eyeing the prime minister’s job.

But Modi’s ambitions have been under attack, not just from secular India but from within his party. Several BJP leaders are uncomfortable with his abrasive style and see him as a liability in a general election. Some of the BJP’s allies threatened to quit the NDA if Modi is projected as the alliance’s prime ministerial candidate in General Election-2014. Their opposition stems from their unease with Modi’s alleged role in communal violence, which could cost them the votes of Muslims.

In 2002, Gujarat was engulfed in communal violence. Over a thousand people, mostly Muslims, were killed, raped or injured. The violence was unleashed by mobs that included many members of the Sangh Parivar, a family of Hindu right-wing organizations of which the BJP is a part. Ministers in Modi’s government are alleged to have orchestrated the violence and incited crowds to attack Muslims and Modi himself is believed to have told a meeting of police officials that Hindus should be allowed to vent their anger (over the burning of a train at Godhra which resulted in the death of 53 Hindus) against Muslims. In the 12 years since that carnage, Modi has never accepted responsibility or shown the slightest remorse for the horrific violence.

Starting early this year, the Indian media has been describing the 2014 general elections as an epic battle between two personalities: Modi and Rahul Gandhi.

The two are polar opposites. A scion of the Nehru-Gandhi family, Rahul’s political lineage is unmatchable. His great-grandfather, grandmother and father were prime ministers. His mother Sonia, the Congress Party President and chairperson of the UPA, is arguably the most powerful person in India.

Rahul is often described as the Congress’ yuvraj or “crown prince.” The prime ministership is seen as his natural inheritance. Yet he has repeatedly claimed that he is not interested in becoming prime minister. He would much rather work to rejuvenate the party, he says, and to build its grassroots support.

Modi has often mocked Rahul as a child of privilege, someone who was “born with a golden spoon.” Unlike Rahul, Modi comes from a family of moderate means and had to work his way up the hierarchy of the Sangh Parivar. Having served as Gujarat’s chief minister for over a decade, he would like to serve “Mother India” now, he says.

Drawing attention to their personalities, eminent journalist Dilip Padgaonkar, who is seen to be sympathetic to the Congress, says: “Both men are aloof. While Modi's aloofness has a touch of arrogance to it, that of Rahul reeks of shyness. The former's demeanour signals overbearing self-confidence; that of the latter reveals shades of vulnerability. One is authoritative, stern, pugnacious, decisive and domineering; the other, modest, sober, hesitant and, above all, eager to play the Good Samaritan.”

Although Rahul has been in active politics for over a decade now, he has little administrative experience, having repeatedly rejected ministerial assignments in Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s cabinet. Many have criticized this reluctance to take on ministerial position as shirking responsibility. Critics say he has no vision, no plan or agenda for India.

In administrative experience, then, Modi scores emphatically over Rahul. He has headed the government in Gujarat for over a decade and likes to remind listeners that he brought prosperity and development to the state. Indeed, Gujarat’s economy has been growing steadily, and Modi has an image of a clean and efficient administrator. However, critics point out that Modi has simply built on development achieved in previous decades, that his development model is pro-rich and excludes minorities and rural Gujaratis, and that while the economy is booming, the status of women, children and religious minorities is appalling.

Modi is a deeply polarizing figure, easily among India’s most controversial. His perceived arrogance and authoritarian manner is despised by many Indians, who are repelled by what they see as a chest-thumping, aggressive Hindu nationalism.

Yet he is also admired by many, especially “those who buy into his development mantra, those who prefer a strong authoritarian leader, and those who favour a strong Hindutva line,” according to senior associate editor of The Hindu, Mukund Padmanabhan. These are more likely to be urban Indians.

While he has shown that he can win elections in his home state Gujarat, whether he can impress voters elsewhere in India remains to be seen. In the recent election to the Karnataka state assembly for instance, the “Modi magic” did not work. He was unable to save the ruling BJP in that state from being booted out of power.

Moreover, it is rural India that accounts for most of India’s electorate and here Modi has failed to strike a chord with voters. While he has successfully wooed voters in Gujarat, convincing the rest of India, especially rural India will not be easy.

But trying to predict the outcome of India’s parliamentary elections by comparing its prime ministerial candidates is flawed. India’s general elections are far too complex to be reduced to a contest between two personalities. This is not a presidential election but an election to parliament, one that will see multifarious contests in which thousands of candidates and political parties will butt heads for 543 seats in the Lok Sabha, India’s lower house.

Who will form the next government will be determined not so much by who is leading the campaign or who is being projected as the prime ministerial candidate as it is by calculations of caste and community, alliance arithmetic and a host of other factors. Regional parties could hold the key to who will rule India after the 2014 electoral battle.

Some in Congress are wondering whether Rahul is the right person to take on Modi. Should the Congress front its campaign with a more aggressive leader? Perhaps the increasingly unpopular and “weak” Manmohan Singh could be replaced by Palaniappan Chidambaram to project the Congress’ image as a tough party?

A former home minister and currently India’s finance minister, Chidambaram is perceived as a tough, no-nonsense figure. He strikes a chord with India’s English-speaking elite.

He is no mass leader, though, and may have difficulty saving his own seat from the Sivaganga constituency. His lack of any political base makes him an ideal person to keep the seat warm for Rahul; he is unlikely to challenge Rahul’s leadership in the Congress and will remain beholden to the Nehru-Gandhis.

While Chidambaram has powerful detractors within the Congress and the UPA, there is a perception, too, that making him prime minister until election day could boost the ruling coalition’s fading image and fortunes.

Besides, it would also enable the Congress to save its crown prince for an easier battle.

Photo Credit: Wikicommons


Sunday, May 26, 2013

Peacock update

Recently spotted by the High Commission pool – two of the younger “Andrews” strutting their stuff and trying to impress Margaret ( of them anyway).

They both were trying but it’s really not as impressive as the older Andrew (who has quite the tail).

It seems that we’ve “gifted“ some of the peacocks to the Brits (who are across the road from us) but they keep coming back.

Yesterday, we spotted a Margaret by the pool with three very young chicks sticking very close to mum. They were so cute !!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Finally - photos from the Cricket

It’s taken awhile but I finally have a copy of photos from the third day of the Fourth test (Australia vs India) for your viewing pleasure.