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    South Asia
    
    

What draws Modi to China
India's new dalliance with China gets seriously under way on Wednesday when, on the banks of the ancient Sabarmati river in Gujarat, Narendra Modi greets Chinese president Xi Jinping. The leaders meet at a figurative bend in a river, where expectations that India's foreign policy will continue to flow America's way are drying up as India follows the real money. - M K Bhadrakumar (Sep 16, '14)

SPEAKING FREELY
China expects Modi to deliver
China's companies confidently put off expansion plans in India until Narendra Modi took the helm. Beijing silently absorbed the Indian prime minister's nationalistic election rhetoric. As Chinese President Xi Jinping begins an overdue visit to New Delhi, both can reasonably expect Modi to deliver better relations, especially in the economic sphere. - Santosh Pai (Sep 16, '14)



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Mitigating militancy in northwest Pakistan
While the Pakistan army claims to be succeeding in a major anti-militancy operation in North Waziristan, many suspect groups such as the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan simply melted away into Afghanistan to fight another day. Rather than short-term fixes such as these offensives, perhaps Islamabad should focus on de-radicalization and addressing the area's socio-economic strife. - Humaira Israr (Sep 12, '14)

Pakistan's Sharif can pull it off
The decision by Pakistan's all-powerful collegium of corps commanders meeting in Rawalpindi last Sunday against a military takeover of government has worked to the advantage of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to retrieve lost political ground. The signs are that Sharif's opponent, Imran Khan, got the message that no one wants an "Arab Spring" in the troubled South Asian country. - M K Bhadrakumar (Sep 5, '14)

SPEAKING FREELY
The script behind Pakistan's sit-in
The public relations department of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency has been forced to deny that it is has written the script obediently followed by leaders of the ongoing sit-in protests against the government in Islamabad. The strength of the rebuttals is undermined when the dots are connected between seemingly separate events. - Malik Basharat Awan (Sep 4, '14)

India opens door to superbugs
India recently earned the dubious distinction of being the worst country in terms of antibiotic overuse in the world. Experts warn that unchecked growth in use combined with poverty, limited healthcare facilities and a doctor-patient ratio of one doctor to every 1,700 people have potential for the emergence of drug-resistant viruses and bacteria to be disastrous. - Ranjita Biswas (Aug 29, '14)

Modi's muscle strains Indo-Pak talks
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has toughened his stance on Pakistan since coming to power, his anger at renewed violence in Kashmir brimming over this week - and in stark contrast to the welcome Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif received at his inauguration. With peace talks canceled and Sharif now otherwise occupied, reconciliation moves will just have to wait. - Arman Sidhu (Aug 29, '14)

Islamabad: Shades of Tahrir Square
Thousands of anti-government protesters have turned the civic center of Islamabad into a version of Cairo's Tahrir Square in their bid to force the government out of office. Rather like Egyptian demonstrators, the Pakistani throngs should be careful what they wish for, since true democracy there has proved elusive. - Syed Fazl-e-Haider (Aug 27, '14)

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Pakistan: Narrative of a counter-revolution
Imran Khan and Tahir ul-Qadri may proclaim the best of intentions for the "revolutionary march" in Pakistan, but whereas true revolution overthrows the establishment and sets the scene for a new balance of power, the present protests have weakening the Nawaz Sharif government as their main objective. This will only allow the military old guard resume control of the country's domestic and foreign policy. - Daniele Grassi (Aug 25, '14)

The curious rise of Arun Jaitley
Arun Jaitley is juggling jobs that could make or break Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's first term in the eye of the Indian electorate, yet in the recent general election he couldn't even convince voters in Amristar to back him. Jaitley's sudden ascension to hold the finance, commerce and defense portfolios in Modi's government appears curious from the outside, but Modi appreciates his record as a political strategist. - Arman Sidhu (Aug 25, '14)

Innovation offers hope in Sri Lanka's north
Five years of peace have not yet resulted in prosperity for many people in Sri Lanka's former battleground.That makes survival for many in the in the poverty-stricken Northern Province dependent on creative thinking to make the most of the few options available for generating income. - Amantha Perera (Aug 25, '14)

Maritime ruling lifts Delhi-Dhaka prospects
A UN tribunal's settlement of a maritime dispute between India and Bangladesh opens the way to large-scale investment on both sides of their new international boundary and may ease the way to on-land water-supply and other agreements. It may also curb China's expansionist designs. - Rupak Bhattacharjee (Aug 18, '14)

ISIS tentacles reach toward China
It has been reported that Abdul Maulana Aziz has declared his support for the "Caliphate of Abu Bakar Baghdadi", aka the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, now the Islamic State. If confirmed, this is potentially big and bad news for China. Aziz was the radical spiritual leader of Islamabad's Lal Masjid, the Red Mosque, where his brother was killed in the bloody Beijing-encouraged conclusion of the 2007 siege there. - Peter Lee (Aug 15, '14)

Parades in Pakistan's political circus
Although some credit Pakistani politician Imran Khan and his opposition movement with breathing life into the country's democracy, others say gestures like the mass anti-government Independence Day march on Thursday miss the target. Instead of taking aim at corruption, Imran could mobilize against a secular military-political establishment that's failing to meet, feed and secure the population. - Muhammad Asim (Aug 14, '14)

Subsidies, or 'To those who have …'
A standard grouse of the rich is that their wealth helps to subsidize the poor - not least in India. Yet a closer look at the apportioning of such goods as electricity, water and road space indicates that the better off are doing quite nicely from subsidies themselves. Or as the Bible puts it, whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. - Samir Nazareth (Aug 13, '14)

US-India partnership turns boisterous
India's refusal to limit political and trade ties with Iran and Russia, despite US pressure, underlines how New Delhi has refused to become Washington's "useful idiot" in South Asia. However, because India lacks the economic independence it had during the Soviet years, the US may extract a heavy price for such strategic posturing. - Ehsan M Ahrari (Aug 13, '14)

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Modi must resolve Sino-Indian border row
Some 18 years after then Chinese premier Jiang Zemin emphasized that Beijing and Delhi had agreed to speed up the process of clarification and confirmation of border demarcation between the two countries, there is little sign of haste. Given the benefits that would follow, it is time for India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi to get things moving. - Rup Narayan Das (Aug 4, '14)

Former war zone drinks its troubles away
Strict rules governing the brewing and sale of spirits have lost their muscle in Sri Lanka's Northern Province. Plagued by poverty, trauma and a lack of employment opportunities, civilians in the former war zone are increasingly turning to moonshine to drink their troubles away. - Amantha Perera (Aug 4, '14)

BOOK REVIEW
Pakistan's proclivity for war
The Warrior State: Pakistan in the Contemporary World by T V Paul
Author T V Paul adds to the numerous unflattering descriptions of Pakistan with his depiction of a "warrior state" whose security forces have outgrown all other institutions and activities and where radical Islamization and its attendant obscurantism have been the consequences of state policy. His explanation for why this continues is elaborate and thought-provoking. - Ehsan Ahrari (Jul 28, '14)

The Pashtun factor in Pakistan's insurgency
Political scientists, sociologists and anthropologists, whose wont is to look for "cultural" reasons behind the use of violence to advance causes in the Af-Pak borders, have held up Pashtuns for scrutiny. Facts on the ground, however, show it is the absence of the basic necessities of life and any political stake in the system that leads people to turn to the Taliban and al-Qaeda for answers. - Luqman Saeed (Jul 28, '14)

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Modi courts Chinese with maiden budget Narendra Modi has defied entrenched views over Chinese investment - and his own campaign warnings over China's "expansionist mindset" - by using the Union budget this month to encourage greater Chinese participation in India's infrastructure sector. Chinese firms will welcome the Indian prime minister's move but should prepare for intense public scrutiny over labor rights and environmental norms. - Santosh Pai (Jul 28, '14)

Pakistan says Taliban commander arrested
Pakistani security forces claim they have arrested Adnan Rashid, a key commander of the Pakistani Taliban following an exchange of fire in the South Waziristan tribal district. Rashid had been awaiting execution for his alleged role in an attack on former President Pervez Musharraf in 2003 when militants stormed a prison in Bannu city in 2012, releasing him along with nearly 400 other inmates. (Jul 16, '14)

From Tigers to barbers in Sri Lanka
Close to 12,000 Tamil Tiger cadres either surrendered or were apprehended by military forces when the Sri Lankan government declared victory in 2009 after a bloody battle in former rebel-held areas in the north and east of the country. Only 132 remain in detention. Former militants now free to go about their business, like barber Aloysius Patrickeil, are facing mixed fortunes as civilians. - Amantha Perera (Jul 15, '14)

US gets dream team in Kabul, almost
US Secretary of State John Kerry secured significant steps towards a resolution of the contested vote for the Afghanistan presidency over the weekend - and revealed Washington's secret hand to unite both candidates as a ''dream team'' to follow Hamid Karzai's rule. Yet, the perceived slight of the incumbent could have unpleasant repercussions for Washington in the tricky weeks that lie ahead for the transition of power. - M K Bhadrakumar (Jul 15, '14)

Abdullah 'should help poll probe'
Afghanistan's Electoral Complaints Commission has called on presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah to work with authorities who are investigating his allegations of widespread election fraud rather than continue to boycott the process. (Jul 10, '14)

India-Pakistan: New leaders, old tensions
Expectations that new Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi would oversee a new era of India-Pakistan relations have faded following his appointment of policy figures perceived as mistrusting Islamabad. Ideological and religious fractures in Pakistan and post-occupation Afghanistan's regional machinations also raise the potential for a serious deterioration of ties in coming years. - Daniele Grassi (Jul 10, '14)

Regaining space for dissent in Bangladesh
Since controversial elections that effectively established one-party rule, an apparent desperation to stamp out dissenting voices has seen Bangladesh's government draft laws that threaten the freedoms of research organizations and newspapers, arrest university lecturers and warn the judiciary. Although it was a culture of collusion and graft led to the shameful Rana Plaza tragedy, the West does nothing except register "concern". - Esam Sohail (Jul 10, '14)

Afghan runoff may lead to civil war
Ahsraf Ghani, right, has emerged as the preliminary winner of the Afghan presidential election run-off. Such was the divisive nature of the poll and candidates involved, continued by rival Abdullah Abdullah claiming gerrymandering helped Ghani to victory, that much horse-trading will take place before a conclusive result emerges. Perhaps along with civil war. - M K Bhadrakumar (Jul 8, '14)

Offensive uproots Pakistani families
While many Pakistanis welcome a government offensive launched last month on militant strongholds in Waziristan, impoverished residents are again bearing the brunt of attacks. Scores of families have had to abandon their homes and possessions, but strict Pakistan Taliban bans on seeking government assistance are further complicating their plight. - Ashfaq Yusufzai (Jun 25, '14)

COMMENT
Pakistan to pay hefty price for assault
Pakistan's military assault in North Waziristan will have a significant impacts, with the economy losing out on investment and society enduring even deeper polarization. The South Asian country is fighting a war for its ideological and territorial survival - so it simply has to bear such costs. - Syed Fazl-e-Haider (Jun 23, '14)

Election protests mount in Afghanistan
Two groups have taken the lead in protesting a June 14 presidential vote after candidate Abdullah Abdullah complained the process is no longer "legitimate" because it was rigged to favor his rival, Ashraf Ghani. As the allegations of fraud pile up, Abdullah warns that any looming crisis is out of his hands. - Frud Bezhan (Jun 23, '14)

Chinese analysts herald 'India's Nixon'
Chinese India-watchers reckon Narendra Modi's landslide victory in India's recent general election signifies an opening up to China akin to Richard Nixon's meeting with Mao Zedong in 1972. This optimistic analysis suggests that, given his focus on the Indian economy, Modi could choose to emulate China's growth model and draw inspiration from Deng Xiaoping.
- Jonathan Ward (Jun 20, '14)

The impact of ISIS to spread
The Islamic State of Iraq and Sham's rapid growth results from interventions in regional leadership by Iran and Saudi Arabia, and ISIS's impact will spread beyond Iraq and Syria to new theaters in Lebanon, Yemen and post-US withdrawal Afghanistan. Most importantly for global stability, the creation of a caliphate would confirm the US's decline. - Daniele Grassi (Jun 20, '14)

Anti-Muslim violence escalates in Sri Lanka
Signs that religious tensions were brewing in Sri Lanka's southwestern coastal town of Aluthgama had been clear for months, but the government failed to anticipate the rampage this week that led to eight deaths as Buddhist mobs attacked Muslims. The riot in Aluthgama is not the first post-war communal conflict in the country, but it has certainly been the worst. - Amantha Perera
(Jun 20, '14)

BOOK REVIEW
The US-Pakistan ties that bind
No Exit from Pakistan: America's Tortured Relationship with Islamabad by Daniel S Markey
The author argues that even as Pakistanis grow increasingly hostile to the United States', America's interests in South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East mean that Washington can ill-afford to disengage from Pakistan. Maneuvers by the Obama administration such as managing anti-Americanism sentiment by keeping a lower profile ring true with the policy prescriptions presented, yet the book suffers in places from simplistic reasoning. - Majid Mahmood (Jun 20, '14)

COMMENT
Why militants would
welcome a Pakistan coup

Attacks on Karachi airport last week put further pressure on Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's pursuit of talks with the Pakistani Taliban. Subsequent rumors of a coup have underlined military anger at Sharif's strategy and belief that the militants plan to destroy the state. Instead of making veiled threats, the army needs to develop an understanding with civilian leaders. - Ehsan Ahrari (Jun 16, '14)

BOOK REVIEW
US stuck between dispensability and decline
Dispensable Nation: American Foreign Policy in Retreat by Vali Nasr
While offering a harsh critique of the President Barack Obama's policies in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and across the Arab World, the author argues that the United States is not declining. This ignores that while the United States became an "indispensable nation" by implementing its stimulating post-World War II vision, it has failed since to develop a comparable vision for the future that is both realistic and doable. - Ehsan M Ahrari (Jun 13, '14)

COMMENT
Pakistan's enemy within
The attack by Uzbek terrorists on Karachi airport, with responsibility claimed by the Pakistani Taliban, underlines the frailty of Pakistan's internal security and a lack of determination to confront the threat local and foreign groups pose to the country. Help from the US is needed, as destabilizing Pakistan means weakening a key ally in the US-led war on terror.
- Syed Fazl-e-Haider (Jun 13, '14)

SPEAKING FREELY
The importance of Myanmar to Modi
New Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's focus on trade, development and religious nationalism should all resonate with Myanmar amid its transition to democracy. This creates an opening for India to use its Southeast Asian neighbor as a bridge to catch up with other regional powers' rising economic and political influence, but New Delhi will have to act swiftly. - Sonu Trivedi (Jun 13, '14)

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India not acting smart on drugs
Punitive anti-drug policies in India such as harsh jail sentences and the death penalty are doing nothing to break the cycle of misery narcotics are inflicting on swathes of young people. Instead of vilifying addicts as deviants, India could re-evaluate its policies in favor of a more humane and health-based approach that relies on science and not ideology. - Kawal Deep Kour (Jun 13, '14)

The axis of Buddhist extremism
A convergence in the anti-Islamic rhetoric of Myanmar's and Sri Lanka's fundamentalist Buddhist groups is matched by a shared sense of triumphalism and persecution, though Islamism has made fewer inroads into Muslim communities there than in neighboring countries. Myanmar's "969" activists and Sri Lanka's marauding monks seem politically useful for now, but their secular patrons might ponder some lessons of history. - Tom Farrell (Jun 13, '14)

Karachi airport attack claims 23 dead
The Pakistani Taliban on Monday claimed responsibility for an attack on Karachi airport that left at least 23 people dead, reportedly including 10 attackers. The group said the act was in revenge for their late leader Hakimullah Mehsud, who was killed in a US drone strike in November. The airport was chosen for the attack "because it serves as the biggest air logistics centre supplying goods for the Crusaders' war in Afghanistan and Pakistan". (Jun 9, '14)

SPEAKING FREELY
Memo to Modi: Focus on India's near abroad
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has signaled his intent to put India's stamp on the 21st century, but this will go nowhere if the country fails to shape events in its immediate neighborhood. Despite South Asia's common civilizational and historical links, New Delhi has been unable to integrate in the region as China has done with much more culturally diverse East Asia. - David J Karl (Jun 9, '14)

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Japan, China vie for Modi's heart
The courting of Narendra Modi by Japan and China resembles a convoluted Bollywood plot, with twists and turns waiting in the story of how the Indian prime minister will decide with which to tie the strongest knot. Modi has sown the seeds of a relationship with China that appears as friendly as the one he has cultivated with Japan; both are heavily burdened with expectations that Modi can meet their needs. - Santosh Pai (Jun 6, '14)

Grain smugglers grab Khyber profits
Pakistan's northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province produces plenty of food for the local population, including 10 million tonnes of wheat every year. Yet local people are going hungry while smugglers ferry the harvest across the border to Afghanistan. - Ashfaq Yusufzai (Jun 5, '14)

SPEAKING FREELY
Taliban change tack on many fronts
The Taliban in Afghanistan have become increasingly adaptable in the decade since losing power, with support for the extensive network that enables the opium trade just one example of how the militants have changed tack on many fronts to capitalize on the failure of the government in Kabul and international forces to improve the lives of ordinary Afghans. Yet loose allegiances make for an inhomogeneous force that may break apart when international troops withdraw. - Tafhim Kiani (Jun 5, '14)

SINO-INDIAN TIES
Himalayan handshake for India's Modi
Pictures of China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi in New Delhi this coming weekend will illustrate Beijing's eagerness to get off to a good start with the new right-wing nationalist rulers of India, who have already shown themselves willing to tread on Chinese sensitivities over Tibet. As in another overture, when in 1960 Zhou Enlai visited India as tensions were rising over the border dispute that led to war, relations are at a crossroads and India has tough choices to make. - M K Bhadrakumar (Jun 5, '14)

China needs South Asia anti-terror dynamic
China has ramped up economic ties with Pakistan in the hope that Islamabad's cooperation will ease the escalating terrorism situation in China's restive Xinjiang province. However, a wave of attacks suggests the strategy is failing. If Beijing is serious about creating a regional anti-terror alliance, it will need to bring a country on board with an equal need for South Asian stability - India. - Abanti Bhattacharya (Jun 5, '14)

Modi sizes up Beijing's motives
Narendra Modi must take the opportunity to engage China on myriad fronts, fully aware of the range of ulterior motives in Beijing's desire to improve ties. China is clearly using its economic power to make adventurist moves, but at least the Indian premier can rely on Japan's competing interest in India to leverage the best bargain. Now is also a chance to settle their long-running border disputes. - Abanti Bhattacharya (Jun 3, '14)

Is there room at the dragon's table?
Narendra Modi has chosen the BRICS summit in Brazil next month as his first official foreign visit. That suggests that beyond a desire for a strong alliance of emerging nations he is intent on exerting influence with China to get India elbow room at the top table as the Asia century unfolds. - Swagata Saha (Jun 3, '14)

Farzana Parveen stoning shames Pakistan
The horrifying stoning Farzana Parveen outside the high court in Lahore is a shameful refelection of a morally corrupted and dead-end nation. The pregnant woman died in an honor killing, an almost daily event in Pakistan, which is fast drowning in its own dreadful indifference. This will not change while the country continues to be governed by uneducated, indicted criminals and people who have no sense of history. - Mahboob A Khawaja (Jun 2, '14)

COMMENT
India and Pakistan make a volatile mix
Prime Ministers Nawaz Sharif and Narendra Modi appeared to be on the same page when Pakistan's Sharif attended Modi's oath-taking ceremony in New Delhi. Bilateral cooperation was the order of the day, but anti-Muslim and anti-Pakistan sentiment during India's election campaign mean that confrontation is never far from the surface. Kashmir remains a dark chapter to be resolved by the nuclear-armed rivals. - Syed Fazl-e-Haider (May 30, '14)

Modi-Sharif relations key to Afghanistan
The challenges to create more stability and development in Afghanistan are felt by India and Pakistan. For any hope for better security and regional cooperation in the "heart of Asia", relations between India and Pakistan must improve. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's meeting with Indian counterpart Narendra Modi is a start in the right direction. - Francesco Brunello Zanitti (May 30, '14)

How Modi can win over the West
Prime Minister Narendra Modi represents a strand of Indian thinking often characterized in Western media as "Hindu-first" and "dogmatic", but the secular parties that in recent years preserved India's exotic diversity largely faltered on growth and development. If Modi is committed to creating a healthy dynamic with global powers, he'll have to revive the "inclusive pluralism" seen in historic Hindu teachings. - Dinesh Sharma (May 30, '14)

SPEAKING FREELY
Afghanistan: All for one and one for all
As Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani head for a June 14 run-off in the Afghanistan presidential race, the White House's announcement of a total troop withdrawal in 2016 rings in Afghan ears. Barack Obama's decision to leave abruptly is cavalier. While Afghans do not need the US to make their country a "perfect place", they do need US help to establish a force capable of dealing with security threats independently. - Rajeshwari Krishnamurthy (May 30, '14)

Indian foreign policy at a crossroads
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi takes charge amid a resurgence in nationalism around the world, and his foreign policy will likely take this path. However, New Delhi needs to tailor its security and developmental needs for different regions carefully, seeking out the most powerful or appropriate ally for each issue. - Zorawar Daulet Singh (May 29, '14)

Modi keeps his frenemies close
Although written off by some as a fortunate opportunist, newly elected Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has shown political acumen early by bringing rivals such as Sushma Swaraj into his cabinet and by ensuring that all his South Asian counterparts attended his swearing in. This suggests Modi intends to follow ancient India principles of statecraft, which emphasize a balancing of internal and external elements. - Medha Bisht (May 29, '14)

Goodbye Afghanistan, hello Asia-Pacific
Barack Obama says he is opening a "new chapter" in foreign policy by promising to withdraw all US troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2016. While Washington hawks predictably railed against the decision as a sign of failure, the exit signals that the "rebalancing" of US strategic assets toward Asia-Pacific is uppermost in the president's mind. - Jim Lobe (May 28, '14)

SPEAKING FREELY
China's Silk-Road lessons for India
While US plans for a "new" Silk Road have faded in the Obama administration's second term, China is capitalizing on its better relations and rising economic clout in Central Asia to press ahead with land and maritime connections that emulate the ancient trade route. Given India's inferior connectivity ambitions, prime-minister elect Narendra Modi could take note of Beijing's ability to think big. - Tridivesh Singh Maini (May 23, '14)

SPEAKING FREELY
The election as an Indian awakening
Unprecedented involvement in India's general election by people across social strata suggests the election campaign awoke a slumbering political consciousness long dulled by apathy and disillusionment. While the integration of previously non-political classes into decision making represents perhaps the only route to progress, it also raises the prospect of myriad conflicting interests slowing the democratic process even further. - Ankur Gupta (May 21, '14)

Anatomy of India's general election
The right-wing Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party pulled off a stunning victory in India's general election. Dissecting its meaning and what single-party rule will produce in a country as diverse and complex as India is a difficult enterprise. But at the core is the persona of prime minister-elect Narendra Modi. - M K Bhadrakumar (May 21, '14)

THE BEAR'S LAIR
New Delhi's challenge
As the new prime minister of India, Narenda Modi, with a majority that should allow him to govern for five years, has potentially the most important job in the world - an on-the-face-of-it high-flown claim that operates only if he gets it right. - Martin Hutchinson (May 21, '14)

Sri Lanka dodges turmoil in market
Many emerging markets are suffering an outflow of foreign capital, but Sri Lanka is not among these countries - not because it listened to the International Monetary Fund, but because it did not.- Dan Steinbock (May 19, '14)

SPEAKING FREELY
After Modi victory comes the hard work
Indian and the international communities appear confident in incoming Indian prime minister Narendra Modi's promises to revive economic growth and dispel the clouds of corruption and mismanagement that hung over the previous government. While his financial achievements in Gujarat are clear enough, his campaign was built more on a series of polarizing slogans than on concrete proposals. - Daniele Grassi (May 19, '14)

CHAN AKYA
Modi, BJP sweep to power in India
For the first time since 1984, a single political party will have a majority in India's 543-seat lower house, the Lok Sabha. That could mean less corruption at the heart of government as Narendra Modi and his Bharativa Janata Party pursue their agenda for change unfettered by coalition chains. Even so, Modi may struggle to repeat on a national scale his successes in boosting infrastructure and improving the lot of farmers as chief minister of Gujarat. See here for the latest election results and news. (May 16, '14)

SPEAKING FREELY
How the Taliban won the cultural war
The Taliban have developed a slick public relations campaign that combines poetry, propaganda and song to counter Western efforts to win over Afghans. With a nationalist message that eschews world opinion and instead emphasizes the Muslim values held up by conservative tribal leaders, the militants have secured wide-ranging support at a local level. - Tafhim Kiani (May 16, '14)

Drone war:
Remote and personal

Unexpected support of a small but growing group of former drone pilots who have carried out strikes on the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq and in CIA covert assassinations in Pakistan and Yemen may give new life to a US campaign against "targeted killings". Evidence that other operators and analysts are beginning to crack under the pressure of the true horrors of their remote-controlled missions adds to the sense that the drone war has failed. - Pratap Chatterjee (May 12, '14)

Graft rules in Afghan orphanages
Places in Afghanistan's orphanages are prized - despite the daily beatings in many - because some children can obtain fully-funded scholarships to study abroad. As a result, say officials, genuinely vulnerable children are missing out because legislators and some ministers have abused their positions to obtain places for relatives, even those whose parents are still living. - Mina Habib (May 9, '14)

Insurgency stunts Gwadar progress
The Pakistani government's failure to address the economic discontent fueling violence and separatism in Balochistan province in turn drives the instability that is stopping Gwadar Port from achieving its economic and strategic potential. By ignoring or suppressing the demands of the people, Islamabad pushes them towards international players who want to keep the port in a perpetual state of unreadiness. - Syed Fazl-e-Haider (May 9, '14)

SPEAKING FREELY
Electoral promise survives in Afghanistan
If Afghanistan can successfully conclude its election runoff in strict adherence with electoral law, then the victor can quickly redress the lack of effective leadership that's held the country back despite the vast levels of international aid and attention lavished on it. Should the second round be seen to flout due process, then the wide array of challenges Afghanistan faces will become even more serious. - Ahmad Shayeq Bakhshi (May 8, '14)

SPEAKING FREELY
Holes in Modi's Bangladesh migrant plans
Indian prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi's threats to expel Bangladeshi migrants following this month's general election likely play on historic fears over a Bangladeshi conspiracy to "Islamize" north-eastern states. While numerous studies suggest the influx is actually caused by simple economic factors, more damaging for Modi is the fact that this flow of people, driven by poverty and hunger, is just unstoppable. - Bibhu Prasad Routray (May 7, '14)

Terror and impunity in Kashmir
Violence against civilians is endemic on the Indian side of Kashmir, where activists for people who have disappeared in the conflict are fighting back against a culture of official impunity. They are targeting national security laws in effect in Kashmir and Jammu since 1990 that guarantee that military personnel accused of crimes against humanity cannot be prosecuted for numerous deaths. - Shubh Mathur (May 7, '14)

SPEAKING FREELY
Path forward unclear for Nepal's Maoists
Maoists have kept a low profile in Nepal since losing last November's election, with a decline in strength that suggests victory in 2008 drew more on support for their party's anti-Indian agenda than on genuine belief in its vision for a "New Nepal". As attitudes toward federalism waver and "growth-oriented capitalism" is publicly embraced, critics say the party has lost its way. - Manish Gyawali (May 5, '14)

Refugees blamed for Pakistan crime surge
About five million Afghans migrated to Pakistan after Russia invaded their country in 1979. Initially, they lived in camps set up by the government, but gradually they melted into the local populace. Now, as Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province places restrictions on the movement of those without legal documents, they face blame for a surge in crime. - Ashfaq Yusufzai (May 5, '14)

Price to pay on the Indian street
Street vendors in Delhi, who are among 20 million hawkers across India, pay an estimated US$13 million in bribes a year as they scratch out a meager living. While that was supposed to change with a law that not only made hawking legal but declared it a fundamental right, street-traders still face extortion and harassment. - Neeta Lal (May 5, '14)

Sex workers help Bangladesh fight HIV
Early intervention by aid agencies in combating HIV infection in Bangladesh has helped it achieve lower prevalence rates than other developing countries since the 1990s. A new program using commercial sex workers to educate their peers has been successful in keeping infections down, but intravenous drug users are proving a harder group to tackle. - Naimul Haq (Apr 30, '14)

How the US created, and lost, Afghan war
Zoom back to Afghanistan in 2001, where the United States first set its "war on terror" sights, and the real history emerges of how the US fought for almost a year against - quite literally - ghosts. The post-9/11 invasion succeeded in resuscitating the Taliban movement and creating a template for jihadist recruitment that al-Qaeda could only dream about. Long after the war was lost, that template is still being used by new enemies in Afghanistan and elsewhere. - Anand Gopal (Apr 30, '14)

COMMENT
Islamabad on a limb with Taliban talks
Pakistan's government has pledged to continue peace talks with the Taliban though the group has refused to extend a month-long ceasefire and has continued its terror attacks across the country. Islamabad's desire to pursue the peace process despite a lack of tangible results ignores a groundswell of support for a more aggressive approach towards ridding Pakistan of the extremists. - Syed Fazl-e-Haider (Apr 30, '14)

Women's natural role overlooked in India
Indians commonly worship nature as a female deity but hardly give any thought to the role played by women in the conservation of resources. Women urgently need to be given a bigger say in solving pollution issues and environmental risks because their participation can work wonders for communities, economies and the environment. - Abhismita Sen (Apr 28, '14)

Dangerous trends in nuclear South Asia
Should India's Bharatiya Janata Party come to this power this year, its victory would throw a spotlight on claims that the party is considering revoking a "no first use" clause in the Indian nuclear doctrine. Even hint of this maneuver erodes psychological barriers with Pakistan that restrain the use of nuclear weapons in South Asia. - Shams Zaman (Apr 25, '14)

Rationality deserts Pakistani military mindset
Pakistan's long record of military coups stands as testament that those with the power to impose martial law in the country do not require any rationality or public approval to do so. That mindset sets the scene for what could transpire if the army closes ranks to protect Pervez Musharraf from the weight of civilian law that the generals feel does not apply to them. - Malik Basharat Awan (Apr 24, '14)

From Flanders to Helmand
Poppies are flourishing across Helmand in Afghanistan as the British Army prepares to leave a province that became central to its stated mission to develop a "self-sustaining, stable and democratic Afghanistan". But as followed battles such as Flanders in World War I, there are whispers that the British boys killed and maimed in Helmand were lions led by donkeys. - Brian Cloughley (Apr 24, '14)

SPEAKING FREELY
India can no longer ignore Gulf labor pain
The attraction of the Gulf countries and Saudi Arabia to Indian migrant workers used to give a diplomatic card to New Delhi. Riyadh's expulsion of 140,000 Indian expats ended that and has made it imperative to begin long-neglected hard work on the legal and institutional framework to ensure Indians in the region get a better deal. - Zakir Hussain (Apr 23, '14)

India's women lose the election
Political parties in India, even those vociferously supporting the reservation of seats for women in parliament, have failed to put up on average even one woman for every 10 male candidates contesting the current election in the lower house. While pressure for change is growing as quotas in local assemblies create a significant mass of grassroots leaders among them, women feel they have lost out nationally. - Manipadma Jena (Apr 22, '14)

Conflict fuels child labor in India
Parents in India's Chhattisgarh state who fear their children may be forced to fight for Maoist insurgents are inadvertently passing them to child traffickers in an attempt to "save" them, with many ending up as unpaid laborers or in the sex industry. Because the government doesn't want to admit the problem exists, the traffickers rarely face justice. - Stella Paul (Apr 17, '14)

COMMENT
Baloch separatists follow Taliban footsteps
Talks between the Pakistani Taliban and the government in Islamabad have increased the prospect of some sort of peaceful settlement, after terror attacks forced the government to the negotiating table. The slaying of innocents in southwestern Balochistan province shows that as separatists there take their cue from the Taliban, Islamabad would be wise to support Baloch nationalists who favor the ballot box rather than to up the ante with military action. - Syed Fazl-e-Haider (Apr 17, '14)

New China-India era no shoo-in under Modi
Indian prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi's investor-friendly image, nurtured while overseeing a boom in Gujarat state, likely appeals greatly to Chinese firms frustrated by India's opaque regulations and labor laws. However, while a victory for Modi could usher in a new bilateral era when the country's voting ends in mid-May, there's a chance that nationalism could sabotage that opportunity. - Santosh Pai (Apr 15, '14)

Time to end subcontinent's family feud
Anyone who thinks that Pakistan and India can never be at peace should look at the example of Britain and the United States. They spent a century as mortal enemies, yet once they decided to resolve their differences something like brotherhood quickly followed. The key was cultural similarities, which also exist on the subcontinent and are a way out of the present madness. - Arshad M Khan (Apr 11, '14)

India stands at electoral crossroads
Opinion polls are predicting a landslide victory for the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party and Narendra Modi in India's general elections, which started on Monday and last until May 12. However, 814.5 million votes must be placed across 23 states and 543 parliamentary constituencies - and pundits have gotten it wrong in the past. - Raja Murthy (Apr 8, '14)

Rich can help BIMSTEC poor bloc
The countries in the South and Southeast Asian bloc BIMSTEC include some of the world's poorest, making its goal of cooperative development vital. Some solid steps were taken at a recent group summit, but more needs to be done, including an expansion eastward from the Bay of Bengal to encompass Asia's richest and most capable nations. - Vibhanshu Shekhar (Apr 8, '14)

SPEAKING FREELY
Rankings tell a tale of two Indias
As long as people and institutions compete, there will be rankings to determine their place in the pecking order. And India's climb up certain wealth and development indexes in recent decades is something the country can feel justifiably proud of. Unfortunately, other metrics paint a picture of vast human misery that persists despite the advances. - Samir Nazareth (Apr 7, '14)

Afghan vote count underway
Ballot boxes from Afghanistan's 34 provinces are being transferred to Kabul for final counting in the wake of the country's presidential election - after a first counting of the same ballots in local polling stations. At least one set of votes will not tally - a truck carrying full ballot boxes was struck by a roadside bomb, killing three people. (Apr 4, '14)

Ethnicity still key to Afghan elections
Afghans go to the polls this weekend to elect a president to succeed Hamid Karzai. The voters represent a patchwork of ethnicities, and the candidates and their running mates reflect these blocs - and often little else, say critics. This may be changing as younger Afghans start to demand a politics based on issues instead of sectarianism. - Giuliano Battiston (Apr 3, '14)

Nepal's data won't hold water
Although Nepal is blessed with abundant water, most of it comes from seasonal monsoons, and needs to be managed throughout the year. Unfortunately, the country doesn't collect enough scientific data on its water resources to do so. And the effects of global warming will make solving this problem even more vital. - Mallika Aryal (Apr 2, '14)

SPEAKING FREELY
India a nation failing to emerge
India's main political parties are presenting the electorate with contrasting nationalist models ahead of this year's general election. While the ruling Congress party bases its message on Mahatma Gandhi's teachings, the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party forwards the "Undivided India" concept. Since both are elitist models, neither addresses the caste problem that continues to limit India's development. - Meena Degala (Apr 1, '14)

SPEAKING FREELY
UN vote shows strains in Delhi's diplomacy
India last week abstained on voting on a UN resolution approving a probe into alleged war crimes during Sri Lanka's 2009 civil war. New Delhi opted out of the vote partially to try to rebuild good will with Sri Lanka, while also being driven by the necessity to placate India's fractious states. It all adds up to a foreign policy that has become increasingly inconsistent and Pavlovian. - Ramesh Ramachandran (Mar 31, '14)

Indian rupee catches Modi election fever
India's currency is back in favor, strengthening over the past month after a long period of sliding against the US dollar. Rupee bulls may be pinning too much hope on the outcome of May's general election. - Kunal Kumar Kundu (Mar 28, '14)

Turtles thrive thanks to Indian efforts
Fishing curbs and late-night vigils at nesting sites at the mouth of eastern India's Rushikulya river, which each year hosts half of the world's population of Olive Ridley sea turtles, have helped swell the numbers there of the endangered species. While most villagers appreciate the turtles' environmental importance, fishermen say the conservation efforts are threatening their livelihoods. - Manipadma Jena (Mar 28, '14)

Pro-Taliban narrative threatens Pakistan
The Pakistani people believe, contrary to their leaders in Islamabad, that America's war is against the population in tribal areas - not the militants there. Seemingly unaware that this disconnect has resulted in widespread tolerance for the Taliban, the elected leadership persists with appeasing terrorists interested only in spreading violence and undermining state authority.- Deedar Hussain Samejo (Mar 28, '14)

'Sex symbols' a poor proxy in Sri Lanka
Inclusion of a movie star, a beauty queen and a popular model on ballots for provincial elections in Sri Lanka on Saturday has led to accusations that political parties are pushing "sex symbols" in the name of women's representation. This year's campaign has planted seeds of resistance among Sri Lankans who are challenging the old guard more than ever. - Eve Aronson, Marlijn Meijer, Eleonora Maria Mazzoli and Filiz Dagci (Mar 28, '14)

Fighting a 'losing' war with the Taliban
Imran Khan, head of the Pakistan Tehreek Insaf (PTI) party, has renewed pressure for stalled talks with the Taliban to resume after coming under fire for claiming that the army chief had told Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif military operations cannot root out terrorism. While some politicians say Khan underestimates the military, others say military operations in tribal areas only provoke the militants into more brutal acts. - Ashfaq Yusufzai (Mar 27, '14)

Islamic party defies Bangladesh ban
Bangladeshi Islamic party Jamaat-e-Islami has performed strongly in sub-district elections despite being banned from parliamentary votes due to its sectarian underpinnings, challenging perceptions that Jamaat is backward, misogynistic and enjoys no public support. Critics are now raising concerns that the ban was part of alleged efforts by the ruling Awami League to manipulate voting. - Mohammad Hossain (Mar 27, '14)

Printers cash in on Afghan vote
An Afghan government directive that all campaign materials for April 5 elections must be produced domestically has led to a business boom in Kabul's printing houses. With nine presidential candidates and thousands of provincial hopefuls, the potential rewards are great. However, rising rent and utility costs and red tape have forced some firms to outsource production. - Frud Bezhan (Mar 27, '14)

Racism on the rise in India
Youths migrating to major Indian cities from northeastern states increasingly encounter discrimination due to their more pronounced East Asian features, with young women reporting sexual taunts and one teenage boy killed simply for looking different. Meanwhile, specific anti-hate crime legislation is being held back at its drafting stage by a "racism" versus "regionalism" debate. - Bijoyeta Das (Mar 26, '14)

Pakistani Taliban tactics spread silent fear
Pakistani Taliban leader Mullah Fazalullah has built on his predecessor's ruthless use of violence to exacerbate the country's sectarian divides. By targeting both minority Shi'ites and Sunni scholars who disagree with the group's ideology, the militants have created an atmosphere of fear that is encouraging Pakistani citizens to act as "insiders" in suicide bombings and armed assaults. - Hussain Amir Hamza (Mar 26, '14)

Tibetan roots of 1962 Sino-Indian war
Australian author Neville Maxwell has ruffled feathers in India by making public part of a classified report on the 1962 border war with India. But Maxwell's account of that war follows the report - and its erroneous conclusions about the conflict's causes. The real key to the 1962 conflict was China's invasion of Tibet, and India's failure to understand its implications. - Abanti Bhattacharya (Mar 26, '14)

Sri Lanka prepares for Geneva showdown
Sri Lankan officials say international pressure over the government's human-rights record, which is facing further scrutiny as the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council considers whether to investigate, often ignores progress in post-conflict reconciliation and rebuilding infrastructure in war-torn areas. Critics say the Rajapaksa administration's efforts are purely cosmetic. - Amantha Perera (Mar 25, '14)

Gains for China, India in new cold war
China and India stand to gain significantly from the crisis in Ukraine if they can cherry-pick advantages presented by competing courtships of the United States and Russia. Both must, however, avoid the temptation to gather low-hanging fruit, when with careful climbing, quality produce can be harvested from higher up the tree. - M K Bhadrakumar (Mar 25, '14)

SPEAKING FREELY
Brazil-India partnership would be win-win
As BRICS partners and rising world powers, Brazil and India are characterized by a mix of astounding growth and lingering poverty and underdevelopment. By joining forces in areas as diverse as education, entertainment and disaster management, both countries can play to their strengths and shore up their weaknesses. - Abhismita Sen (Mar 24, '14)

Injecting HIV into Pakistan
Although Pakistan has fewer than 10,000 officially confirmed AIDS cases, the real figure may be much higher - and growing. Health experts say that a surge in intravenous drug use, fueled by the easy availability of heroin from Afghanistan, risks causing a huge increase in the prevalence of HIV/AIDS. - Ashfaq Yusufzai (Mar 24, '14)

Saudi grant kills Iran-Pakistan pipeline
Saudi Arabia's recent US$1.5 billion "gift" exactly matches the funding gap Pakistan needs to complete its portion of a gas pipeline with Iran, a link that could help solve Pakistan's energy shortages. Strings attached, however, prevent Islamabad from using the donation for that purpose even if it wanted to - and effectively sink a project forever mired in geopolitics. - Syed Fazl-e-Haider (Mar 21, '14)

Money men can't make Modi a sure bet
India's financial establishment has given its full backing to the leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Narendra Modi, in upcoming elections. But despite this and the poor performance of the Congress Party since the last polls, India's voters may only give Modi a weak mandate. This would disappoint markets and have predictable consequences for the country's growth. - Daniele Grassi (Mar 21, '14)

Past crimes haunt Afghan progress
Some Afghans feel the government to be formed following April 5 elections must swiftly address the country's legacy of human-rights violations, while others say "transitional justice" must wait until a stronger, functioning leadership can be formed. All seem to agree that a real reconciliation process will be better than Kabul's current "head in the sand" approach to past crimes. - Giuliano Battiston (Mar 18, '14)

SPEAKING FREELY
India, Pakistan need to get serious
Recent discussions between India and Pakistan focused on some of the issues that make travel and trade between the two countries difficult. Both sides need to show that they are serious about increasing the connectivity of their sometimes tense border regions, and not just ticking the right boxes. - Tridivesh Singh Maini (Mar 17, '14)

COMMENT
Bleak outlook for Afghan drug war
That the US anti-narcotics effort in Afghanistan has failed - even with massive funding and a strong military presence - suggests the war on drugs won't stand a chance after American troops withdraw. Yet Kabul can take up the strain and succeed if it replaces the punitive model of drug prohibition with one emphasizing public health and socioeconomic development.
- Alex Pollard-Lipkis (Mar 14, '14)

US butts in on India-Iran tango
Washington is trying to limit the Indian-Iranian ties through efforts such as pressuring New Delhi to curb oil imports. The truth of the relationship is that it has atrophied in the recent years in almost direct proportion to rising US-Iranian tensions and is nowhere near its full potential. India is unlikely, however, to take the arm-twisting forever. - M K Bhadrakumar (Mar 14, '14)

Women doctors say what ails Pakistan
Pakistani women far outnumber male counterparts in domestic medical colleges, but social pressures and intolerance mean few go on to work as doctors. A new generation of doctors who've experienced equality in the United States say it's time, for the health of the country, that the discrimination is quashed. - Beena Sarwar (Mar 12, '14)

Stateless in Nepal
Laws in Nepal that mean citizenship can only be granted to those who can prove both parents were Nepali citizens have left some 16% of the population lacking the right documentation. The legislation was created to protect sovereignty and national security, especially in relation to the open border with India. Instead its raises the risk of Nepalis falling victim to trafficking and abuse. - Mallika Aryal (Mar 11, '14)

Sun shines on forest women
The Koya and Konds tribes in the Eastern Ghat mountains of southern India have for centuries made a living from the forest and its products, including leaves, edible herbs, medicinal plants, fungi, seeds and roots. Now, cooperatives are tapping the sun that shines through it to make their businesses grow. - Stella Paul (Mar 10, '14)

Kerala fish harvest drying up
The backwaters of Kerala, in southwest India, have long been a popular tourist destination as well as a rich fishery. Now local communities suffer a dwindling fish catch, worsening water quality and the usurpation of landing-points by tourism operators. - Keya Acharya (Mar 7, '14)

India fights a tougher TB
Lack of proper diagnosis and interrupted dosages of medicines in India are increasing the resistance of tuberculosis to available drugs. South Asian country now accounts for the greatest increase in multi-drug resistant strains of the disease, with about 64,000 new cases in 2012. - Bijoyeta Das (Mar 6, '14)

'Cloud' may save education in India
The dismal state of education India's state-funded schools for children up to the age of 14 has shown no improvement in the four years since the Right to Education Act came into force. Fortunately, help is at hand in the shape of "Schools in the Cloud". - Swati Lodh Kundu (Mar 6, '14)

Afghanistan opportunity for Pakistan
The drawdown of US and allied forces from Afghanistan offers a rare opportunity for Pakistan to reshape the relationship with its conflict-ridden neighbor. Rather than dwelling on the past, Islamabad should develop new ties, based upon the notion of mutual respect, non-interference and mutual prosperity. - Tahir Nazir (Mar 4, '14)

Pakistan strains Iran's patience
Pakistani authorities have done little to stop terror attacks against Iran by groups operating from their soil, and instead offer soothing words in response to the anger emanating from Tehran. Despite reported plans for Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to visit Iran, a return to close relations is unlikely. However, as Pakistan eyes the financial lure of the Gulf states, there is still good reason to treat Iran with more caution and respect. - Shireen T Hunter (Feb 28, '14)

Nationalism blots India's copybook
The publisher that withdrew an alternative history of Hinduism in India following a religious group's objections insists tough libel laws forced its hand, but perhaps it sensed changing political winds as the Bharatiya Janata Party takes pole position for a general election due in May. If the BJP pursues Hindu nationalism with the same vigor as splinter groups, not only authors face stormy times ahead. - Daniele Grassi (Feb 28, '14)

Smuggled drugs save lives in Pakistan
Many Pakistani doctors and their patients have come to depend on contraband Indian-made medicines, with the sick in the northwest the biggest beneficiaries as drugs purchased by Afghanistan under a trade agreement with India are smuggled across the border. - Ashfaq Yusufzai (Feb 28, '14)

Sun smiles on a cold desert
Solar panels are spreading across the high arid plateau in Ladakh, in India's northern state of Jammu and Kashmir, among the world's most-promising areas for the development of solar power. Where Ladakhis have been using diesel generators for lights, and kerosene and firewood for cooking and heating water, the solar network has the potential to produce power for other regions in India. - Athar Parvaiz (Feb 25, '14)

SPEAKING FREELY
India fluent in the language of violence
The banning of books in India and incidents in parliament involving weapons suggest that despite the country's sweeping diversity of ethnic groups and religions, there is an inherent feeling of insecurity among certain sections that is increasingly being expressed through threats or acts of violence. While hardly appropriate for a free country, violence is just proving too effective a tool. - Samir Nazareth (Feb 24, '14)

CULTURE
Literature clashes with the law in India
Penguin India has been accused of failing to protect its authors after a court case launched by a Hindu group forced it to pulp US author Wendy Doniger's "alternative history" of the religion. The publishing house insists tough libel laws left it will little choice, and similar tussles in recent years over everything from books to nude paintings suggest it has a point. - Anindya Rai Verman (Feb 21, '14)

SPEAKING FREELY
Andhra Pradesh: A new low for India
The voice-vote in the Indian parliament that has just split the country's fourth-largest state, Andhra Pradesh, was far from transparent. As representatives of the state's minority bemoan "the murder of democracy", the questionable ethics behind the split should be a cause of concern for all Indians. - Meena Degala (Feb 21, '14)

Pakistan's constitution conundrum
Peace talks between the Pakistani government and the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan have ignited fierce debate over the legitimacy of the country's constitution. While Islamabad argues that the law-making process upholds the state's religious underpinnings, in key areas of governance Pakistan is very different to what an Islamic state should be. Meaningful change is needed. - Muhammad Asim (Feb 21, '14)

India's interim budget a case of force-fitting
India's fag-end government has come up with an interim budget for the next 12 months that, unsurprisingly, glows with optimism, not to mention irrelevance. Its budget for the fiscal year now ending is almost equally removed from reality. - Kunal Kumar Kundu (Feb 21, '14)

Dark future for India's energy poor
Thousands of poor people in New Delhi lack access to electricity due to corruption, bureaucratic ineptitude and paucity of political will, illustrating aptly how energy shortages are holding back developing countries. Denied the clean, modern energy resources that abound elsewhere, the world's "bottom billion" are relying on wood-burning stoves that degrade their and the planet's health. - Brendan North (Feb 20, '14)

COMMENT
Books, not guns, needed in Pakistan
Terrorist atrocities are still rocking Pakistan on a daily basis despite a dialogue that has started between Islamabad and the Pakistani Taliban, with anger at US drone strikes continuing to fuel the root cause of the insurgency - extremism. Rather than unleashing a mass military offensive in tribal areas, Islamabad would do better to launch a sweeping education and development program there. - Syed Fazl-e-Haider (Feb 20, '14)

Keyhole diplomacy doesn't suit India
For a variety of reasons, Singapore has come to be a "moderator" of India's foreign policy discourses in the recent decades. For that reason, the K Subrahmanyam Memorial lecture recently in Delhi, titled "Can India be Cunning?", by the Dean of the Lew Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University in Singapore, Professor Kishore Mahubani, becomes an event of interest. - M K Bhadrakumar (Feb 19, '14)

Students take on Pakistani army
Students from Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas are demanding an end to army operations against militants on their native soil, with a student leader saying they "are sick of military action" as it has killed innocents while failing to eliminate the Taliban. - Ashfaq Yusufzai (Feb 18, '14)

Pakistan kidnaps drones critic
Pakistani journalist Kareem Khan has since late 2012 been seeking justice through his country's courts over a drone strike that killed his son and brother. This month, five days before he was due to meet European parliamentarians to discuss the negative impact drones are having on Pakistan, he was kidnapped in Rawalpindi by 15-20 uniformed men. He has not been seen since. - Medea Benjamin (Feb 14, '14)

Peace, not prosperity, after Sri Lankan war
Students in Sri Lanka's Northern Province achieved spectacular results in national examinations for a region wrecked by three decades of sectarian conflict that ended in May 2009. But a good education is no guarantee of a job, despite government spending on the rehabilitation of the former conflict zone. - Amantha Perera (Feb 13, '14)

Pakistan Taliban eye Afghan-style takeover
The Pakistani Taliban's undermining of both the government and the army's grip on national security through terrorism strikes suggest they may wish to emulate the 1992 ouster of Mohammad Najibulla by their Afghan counterparts. By luring Islamabad into public talks seemingly doomed by pre-conditions on sharia law, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan have gained a platform to present themselves as a solution to the chaos. - Tanveer Jafri (Feb 13, '14)

India's gay voices crackle to life
Bitter, sad and happy stories about India's gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community are being brought to life by the spirit of radio in Bangalore, the country's technology hub. But as issues of sexual identity in a country where gay sex is illegal are explored over the FM airwaves, radio shows struggle for funding and outside validation. - Stella Paul (Feb 12, '14)

Nepali leader faces unity challenge
That newly elected Nepali Prime Minister Sushil Koirala faced a power-sharing dispute in the country's ruling coalition just hours after taking power on Monday underlines the fractured political landscape he has to unite to draft a new constitution. With Maoists asserting their views on federalism and another opposition party seeking the monarchy's return, Koirala has his work cut out. - Kamal Dev Bhattarai (Feb 12, '14)

US undercuts Karzai's contacts with Taliban
Afghan President Hamid Karzai has kept his word that there will surely be a political transition in Afghanistan following elections in April. Former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah's election campaign launch with a high-voltage CNN interview speaks volumes - as does Washington's bid to undercut Karzai's nascent contacts for a tough but necessary reconciliation with the Taliban. - M K Bhadrakumar (Feb 10, '14)

SPEAKING FREELY
India's split personality
As the ruling and opposition parties in India team up to target yet another minority group with legislation to divide Andhra Pradesh, the real issue is not about tensions between the integrationists and separatists of the southeastern state. The real issue is about whether personal and cultural rights have a place in a country where the federal model of government has run its course. - Meena Degala (Feb 10, '14)

Indian doctors resist deadly vaccine
Pediatricians in India blame the introduction of a "five-in-one" vaccine, banned in the West and other Asian countries, for a sudden spate of infant deaths and are calling for stronger evaluation of new vaccines before they enter the national immunization program. The doctors claim the "pentavalents" vaccine bypassed an advisory mechanism and are taking legal action to have it struck off. - Ranjit Devraj (Feb 10, '14)

SPEAKING FREELY
Islamabad hides behind Taliban talks
Aware that a large-scale military offensive in tribal areas would drain Pakistan's ailing economy and deplete finite military resources, the government is pointing to the advantages of a dialogue with the Taliban that appears doomed by preconceptions. While the insurgents see Islamabad as American stooges, the ruling elite would never accept a Taliban-sanctioned interpretation of Sharia law that threatens their riches. - Shams uz Zaman (Feb 7, '14)

Government restraint key to RBI rethink
A report by a special panel of the Reserve Bank of India calls for a rule-based conduct of monetary policy and use of consumer rather than wholesale prices for gauging inflation. All very well - but only if the government shows some spending restraint. - Kunal Kumar Kundu (Feb 7, '14)

Karzai connives to remain relevant
Hamid Karzai is building a house near Afghanistan's presidential palace, which under the constitution he must vacate after this year's election. The location of his new home is symbolic of his desire to stay close to power after 13 troubled years of rule - a desire that may explain his current bout of belligerence towards the United States and his ingratiating outreach to the Taliban. - Ahmad Shayeq Bakhshi (Feb 7, '14)

India cuts its elderly adrift
Medical advances and lifestyle changes are helping numerous Indians to live longer, but the country's lackluster infrastructure and healthcare provision are struggling to keep pace with its demographic shift. Unless a clear plan is developed towards long-term inclusion of the aged in society, a large section of the elderly population faces extreme poverty and isolation. - Samir Nazareth (Feb 6, '14)

Afghan men speak up on domestic violence
The number of reported incidents of domestic violence in Afghanistan in which men were the victims is on the rise, according to a report that serves to remind the world that the overwhelming majority of victims in domestic-violence cases is still women. - Farangis Najibullah and Mujib Rahman Habibzai (Feb 5, '14)

Arvind Kejriwal grows in light and shade
Arvind Kejriwal is less than a month into his term as chief minister of Delhi, yet the anti-corruption activist who grew from the shadow of Anna Hazare's failed movement like a banyan appears to have sights set on national leadership this year. The Aam Admi Party chief may do better to get Delhi and his own house in order, lest epiphytes within take his light and steal his thunder. - Bipin Shah (Jan 30, '14)

EU lets down Bangladeshi opposition
A European Union resolution that accuses the Bangladesh opposition of provoking violence and of being political allies with Islamic "extremists" has dismayed supporters expecting a clear condemnation of the ruling Awami League's handling of January elections. The use of such labels, says the opposition, suggests Brussels is more interesting in listening to secular urban elites than ordinary citizens. - Mir Rashedul Hasan (Jan 30, '14)

Bangladesh stares at anarchy
Political and sectarian turmoil in Bangladesh has worsened since Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's Awami League claimed an overwhelming victory in elections that went ahead despite a mass opposition boycott. Although post-election violence and strikes are having a dire impact on the economy, notably on the pivotal garment industry, the ruling party is unwilling to hear opposition demands. - Anshuman Rawat (Jan 30, '14)

India, South Korea take "middle" path
The kind of networking achieved last week between Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and South Korean President Park Geun-hye is laying the ground for more countries to punch beyond their geostrategic weight. Such "middle-power cooperation" protects them from the profound changes that are occurring as the US falters and China becomes more assertive. - Sukjoon Yoon (Jan 29, '14)

India's moral compass swings violently
Narendra Modi, Rahul Gandhi and Arvind Kejriwal are the politicians likely to slug it out as prime ministerial candidates in India's general election this year. While the backgrounds, philosophies, and experience of the men Indians pin their hopes upon are widely different, the trio have one thing in common: they are products of a swinging moral compass that is in dire need of a reset.
- Samir Nazareth (Jan 29, '14)

Nepal's Maoists face ideological crisis
Pressure is rising on the leadership of Nepal's former ruling Maoist party after it came a disappointing third in elections last November, with an internal debate raging over its ideological outlook and organizational structure. some factions are seeking a return to "cadre-based politics"; others simply want to blame India.
- Kamal Dev Bhattarai (Jan 28, '14)

India, Japan walk Chinese tightrope
India cemented ties with Japan by making Shinzo Abe the first Japanese prime minister to be chief guest at its Republic Day parade. Yet as Tokyo seeks to rope in Indian support over what it terms "recent Chinese provocative actions", New Delhi's pan-Asian take is not quite what Japan is looking for. - Narayani Basu (Jan 27, '14)

Delhi ill-set for war with China
The Indian military's focus on Pakistan, Kashmir and insurgencies has eroded its capacity to meet China in a full-blown conflict, an outcome that could yet be prompted amid the difficult transitions of both countries towards great power status. As China's army races ahead, India's refuses to take painful steps such as cutting troop numbers and reinvesting in technology and armory - Bhartendu Kumar Singh (Jan 27, '14)

US urged to rethink Af-Pak conflation
A Washington think tank hasis urging the Obama administration to drop the term "Af-Pak" and regard Pakistan relations as more important strategically than a current focus on the Afghan security question. The Council on Foreign Relations, noting the label is seen in Pakistan as degrading, says a revised view as the end-2014 deadline for the US withdrawal from Afghanistan approaches would advance US interests in Asia. - Ramy Srour (Jan 24, '14)

SPEAKING FREELY
A way forward for Pakistan's army chief
Pakistan's incoming army chief General Raheel Sharif faces the challenge of clawing back the legitimacy of a position undermined by his predecessor's weak acceptance of repeated US provocations. While the challenges are great, strong clear-eyed leadership could see Raheel reset the relationship with both America and restive tribal areas. - Atif Salahuddin (Jan 24, '14)

COMMENT
Musharraf's trial smells of revenge
Few Pakistanis have sympathy for former military ruler Pervez Musharraf, but even his critics are concerned by the way Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the judiciary are handling his trial for high treason. A guilty verdict may dent chances of another military coup, but the trial is eroding the nation's soul by pursuing revenge rather than justice. - Syed Fazl-e-Haider (Jan 24, '14)

Playing cricket, praying for peace
Afghanistan is rediscovering the joy of cricket through the opportunities the sport presents as a tool of progress, a means of entertainment, and a way to wean youth away from violence in a country that has been ravaged by conflict for more than 30 years. Yet most of the players in the nascent national side developed their passion in Pakistan. - Ashfaq Yusufzai (Jan 22, '14)

SPEAKING FREELY
Pakistan a land of institutionalized anarchy
A flawed separation of powers at Pakistan's birth in 1947 created institutions that are locked in a constant struggle with each other for influence and resources. The ideological vacuum this has caused is easily exploited by religious radicals who benefit from destabilization, and Pakistani society has had to pay the price. - Deedar Hussain Samejo (Jan 22, '14)

COMMENT
Keep the vampires out of Indian politics
Large salaries and a bevy of perks enjoyed by Indian politicians have created a culture of greed in high office that Aam Admi Party founder and anti-corruption activist Arvind Kejriwal is taking up as a cause. As loopholes in graft laws, overburdened judiciaries and a political-bureaucratic nexus have made fiddling parliamentary expenses an almost risk-free enterprise, public and media pressure must be mobilized to cleanse the polity. - Romi Jain (Jan 21, '14)

India-US chasm opens over Bangladesh
Open Indian interference in Bangladesh elections marred by violence, boycotts and vote-rigging allegations underline New Delhi's growing disconnect with the West over the ruling Awami League. While the US and Europe seek a democratic transition that reflects the true will of Bangladeshi people, India appears more interested in securing economic favors from a ruling party desperate to keep power. - Hasan Mir (Jan 21, '14)

Karzai keeps US on tenterhooks
Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai, aware of American impotence in dealing with Pakistan and the Taliban, is delaying a post-withdrawal deal until his regional allies' role in the endgame becomes clearer. South Asia will likely suffer the regional destabilization that typically follows US interventions, but Karzai can still prevent his country being the epicenter of the instability. - Bipin Shah (Jan 21, '14)

Delhi fails to hear common Kashmiris
A proposal by India's Aam Aadmi Party that the Indian Army be withdrawn from Jammu and Kashmir gave Indian politicians an opportunity to prove their nationalistic credentials by rejecting any demilitarization. Though the debate grabbed national attention, the perspective of ordinary Kashmiris - who say the army indulges in daily human-rights violations - is yet to feature in it. - Aijaz Nazir (Jan 17, '14)

Everyone is guilty of India's graft
An "us versus them" sentiment in India that is helping anti-corruption movements such as new the Aam Aadmi Party flourish ignores that acts of corruption are often initiated by ordinary Indians asking government officials to turn a blind eye - and offering them bribes. The same false sense of victimization that for decades saw colonial powers blamed for all ills is now being harnessed for political gain. - Samir Nazareth (Jan 16, '14)

South Asia taps into water cooperation
South Asia faces increased challenges regarding the availability and quality of water, exacerbated by a lack of cooperation that fuels tensions among neighboring countries. Two recent alliances run counter to this norm, presenting an opportunity for joint development and management rather than confrontation. Pakistan is notably absent from these new tie-ups. - Ebba Mortensson and Silvia Pastorelli (Jan 16, '14)

SPEAKING FREELY
Power-sharing wrangle rocks Nepal
Disagreement among Nepal's major parties over power-sharing in the newly formed Constituent Assembly has raised fears that the body will fall victim to the same in-fighting that saw its predecessor descend into chaos. Although the turmoil is among domestic politicians, Maoists say Western interference is a factor behind the failure to reach consensus. - Kamal Dev Bhattarai (Jan 16, '14)

SPEAKING FREELY
US holds the Indo-Pak line of control
Indian hegemony looms over South Asia unless Pakistan can identify an approach in Eurasia that is bigger and better than a present course that enables Delhi's dominant US-supported regional role. The consequences of Pakistan's policy being subsumed in US "pivot" goals are already apparent as India builds defenses on its disputed border with Pakistan. - Majid Mahmood (Jan 15, '14)

Russia needs the US in Afghanistan
Russia's need to ensure that Afghanistan remains a buffer state between it and the Islamic world will see unprecedented support lent towards American plans to remain encamped there. Moscow knows US bases can be used for running spies and influencing Afghan policy, but the specter of Islamic insurgency - glimpsed in recent suicide blasts in Volgograd - leaves it with little choice. - Salman Wattoo (Jan 15, '14)

Managing Pandora’s ballot box in Nepal
After a contentious and disputed election, Nepal's centrist parties are struggling to reach an accord with the Maoists who helped bring down the country's monarchy. The next months will be crucial for the maturing of political stability.
- Tiago Faia (Jan 13, '14)

SPEAKING FREELY
Constant scramble for power in Pakistan
Greed for power in Pakistan since its creation has seen the country become defined by a constant and violent struggle between ethnic and religious groups. While the state claims its the sole legitimate actor in the perpetual conflict, its strategies have failed to nurture the identity needed for a homogenous nation. - Luqman Saeed (Jan 13, '14)

China faces barriers in the Indian Ocean
The Indian Ocean is a major element in China's grand project to transform itself into a great world power, both to project its naval and continental presence and as a route for energy supplies. However, while the United States has both real allies and partners in the region, China has neither, save for an increasingly dysfunctional Pakistan. - John Lee and Charles Horner (Jan 10, '14)

Hoodwinked, jobless, and back in India
Indians, the largest expatriate community in Saudi Arabia, have been hit hardest since the country began enforcing a naturalization rule making it mandatory for private firms to recruit at least 10% Saudi nationals. With 134,000 workers forced to return home, many are jobless, feel hoodwinked, and are in need of government compensation. - K S Harikrishnan (Jan 8, '14)

COMMENT
Pakistan a crook's paradise
The Pakistan government is reaching out to anyone with a tidy sum to invest, with no questions asked about the source of their minimum quarter-million-dollar bounty. Rather than opening the doors for kidnappers and bank robbers to launder their ill-gotten gains, the government should start getting the rich to pay taxes on their income and wealth, a far more sensible way to cure the country's malaise. - Kashif Ahmad Khan (Jan 8, '14)

India's new party brings hope and danger
The stunning success of the newly formed Aam Aadmi Party in the Delhi elections brings the possibility for a new voice and less-corrupt politicians emerging from the national election in India this year. It also increases the risk of a darker presence coming to power, in the form of the BJP's Narendra Modi. - Samir Nazareth (Jan 7, '14)
 
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A series by Syed Saleem Shahzad



Tennissaiten
 
 

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