Shashi Tharoor (Continuación)

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s recent visit to Myanmar (Burma), noted largely for a memorable photo opportunity with a wan but smiling Aung San Suu Kyi, signaled a significant change in the geopolitics surrounding a land that has faced decades of isolation, sanctions, and widespread condemnation for its human-rights violations.

Twenty-one years ago, after Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) swept a general election, the results were annulled, the party’s leaders and workers were incarcerated or exiled, and two decades of ruthless – and remarkably opaque – military rule followed. This year has witnessed political opening, the release of several prominent political prisoners, and evidence of self-assertion by the nominally civilian government (headed by a former general, Thien Sein).…  Seguir leyendo »

The recent Indian-Italian bilateral dialogue, held in Milan on November 7, at a time when Italy was reeling from the euro crisis and Silvio Berlusconi’s impending political demise, offered a fraught reminder of the potential, and the limits, of India’s relationship with the European Union.

India has a long history of relations with Europe, going back to the days of the Roman Empire. Its southwestern state of Kerala boasted a Roman port, Muziris, centuries before Jesus Christ was born; excavations are now revealing even more about its reach and influence.

The discovery of ancient amphorae has confirmed that India used to import products such as olive oil, wine, and glass from Italy, in exchange for exotic items like ivory and spices.…  Seguir leyendo »

When the Commonwealth heads of government meet in Australia later this month, one prominent leader is almost certain to be conspicuously absent: India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. India is a strong backer of the association of former British colonies (and some new entrants without that shared heritage, notably Mozambique and Rwanda), so no displeasure with the Commonwealth is implied. Instead, rumors in New Delhi suggest that the decision to send a delegation led by India’s ceremonial vice-president, albeit an able former diplomat, might be a not-so-subtle rebuke to the summit’s host, Australia.

On the face of it, it is hard to imagine two countries with less cause for conflict.…  Seguir leyendo »

India is no stranger to protest movements, hunger strikes, and the mass mobilization of citizens for a popular cause. But the recent fast by the Gandhian leader Anna Hazare, culminating in an extraordinary Saturday session of Parliament to pass a resolution acceding to his main demands, marked a dramatic departure in the country’s politics.

The Anna phenomenon reflects a “perfect storm” of converging factors: widespread disgust with corruption, particularly after two recent high-profile cases of wrongdoing (in allocating telecoms spectrum and awarding contracts for the Commonwealth Games); the organizational skill of a small group of activists committed to transforming India’s governance practices; the mass media’s perennial search for a compelling story; and the availability of a saintly figure to embody the cause.…  Seguir leyendo »

Every year, during India’s rainy season, there is, equally predictably, a “monsoon session” of Parliament. And, every year, there seems to be increasing debate about which is stormier – the weather or the legislature.

Consider the current session, which began on August 1. The opening day was adjourned, in keeping with traditional practice, to mourn the death between sessions of a sitting member of parliament. But the adjournment did not come before a routine courtesy greeting to the visiting Speaker of Sri Lanka’s parliament was interrupted by Tamil MPs from a regional party, who rose to their feet to shout demands for his expulsion because of his government’s behavior towards that country’s Tamil minority.…  Seguir leyendo »

US President Barack Obama’s announcement of the start of American troop withdrawals from Afghanistan, and his administration’s increasing emphasis on reconciliation with the Taliban, have been studied attentively in one capital that has a large stake in the outcome – New Delhi.

India has no troops in Afghanistan, but it has invested roughly $1.5 billion to help reconstruct the country, with projects ranging from maternity hospitals to Kabul’s electricity grid. During his visit to Afghanistan in May, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced additional assistance of $500 million, over and above India’s existing commitments. This is by far India’s largest foreign-aid program, because Afghanistan – separated from India only by its hostile neighbor Pakistan – remains a country of vital strategic significance for India.…  Seguir leyendo »

The recent India-Africa summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, at which India’s government pledged $5 billion in aid to African countries, drew attention to a largely overlooked phenomenon – India’s emergence as a source, rather than a recipient, of foreign aid.

For decades after independence – when Britain left the subcontinent one of the poorest and most ravaged regions on earth, with an effective growth rate of 0% over the preceding two centuries – India was seen as an impoverished land of destitute people, desperately in need of international handouts. Many developed countries showcased their aid to India; Norway, for example, established in 1959 its first-ever aid program there.…  Seguir leyendo »

India-Pakistan relations – a challenge at the best of times, and in the doldrums since the terrorist attacks on Mumbai of November 2008 – received an unexpected boost last month from an unlikely source: cricket. When the two countries became semi-finalists in the game’s quadrennial World Cup, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh invited his Pakistani counterpart, Yusuf Reza Gilani, to watch the game with him in Mohali, with talks over dinner. Though the resulting thaw has involved no substantive policy decisions, Singh has nonetheless changed the narrative of the countries’ relations, and seized control of a stalemated process.

Some Indian critics are less than enthused.…  Seguir leyendo »

The recent ouster of the Nobel Prize-winning Bangladeshi economist Mohammed Yunus as Managing Director of the Grameen Bank, which blazed a trail for microfinance in developing countries, has thrown a spotlight on the crisis engulfing a business that was once seen as a harbinger of hope for millions.

Yunus’s tussle with the government of Bangladesh, which had tried to retire him on grounds of age (he is 70) before firing him from his own board, is entangled in his country’s complicated politics. But Bangladeshi President Hasina Wajed’s remark that Yunus had “spent years sucking the blood of the poor” echoes similar charges being made in neighboring India against companies and banks that sought to emulate Grameen.…  Seguir leyendo »

Egypt’s fate has had the world riveted in recent days to newspapers and televisions, as the unfolding consequences of Tunisia’s “Jasmine Revolution” seem to portend a wave like the liberal revolutions of 1848 for the Arab world. Amateur historians ask breathlessly whether this could be the year of decisive change in the Middle East, the year when regime after regime falls prey to rising discontent with authoritarian rulers who have failed to deliver decent lives to their people. Who could be next: Yemen? Libya? Sudan? Even Jordan?

Watching these events from afar, I find it difficult to escape the conclusion that it is not authoritarian rule per se that is being challenged in the streets, much as we democrats would like to believe otherwise; rather, authoritarian rule has simply failed to deliver the goods.…  Seguir leyendo »

La diplomacia india comenzó 2011 con las elecciones a la presidencia del Comité de las Naciones Unidas contra el Terrorismo, un cuerpo de cierta importancia para el país (y uno que muchos pensaron que la India no podría presidir, teniendo en cuenta sus fuertes sentimientos sobre el tema ). Viniendo tras el margen récord de victoria de la India en la carrera por un puesto no permanente en el Consejo de Seguridad, esta noticia confirma la posición de la India en el mundo y la contribución que es capaz de hacer en el Consejo. Sin embargo, con tales apoyos las expectativas son altas y el gobierno de la India tendrá que pensar sobre la mejor manera de cumplirlas.…  Seguir leyendo »

Los horrores que se cometieron en Mumbai a finales de noviembre han causado un impacto duradero en todos los indios. Hoy, el país está recuperándose y anotando el coste en vidas humanas y daños materiales y, sobre todo, en la psique herida de una nación devastada.

Yo crecí en Bombay, como se llamaba entonces, por lo que sentí tremenda empatía al observar esos espantosos acontecimientos. Existe una ironía brutal en el hecho de que los ataques de Mumbai comenzaran con los terroristas atracando su nave junto a la Puerta de India. El grandioso arco, construido en 1911, ha sido siempre un símbolo de la apertura de la ciudad.…  Seguir leyendo »

There is a savage irony to the fact that the unfolding horror in Mumbai began with terrorists docking near the Gateway of India. The magnificent arch, built in 1911 to welcome the King-Emperor, has ever since stood as a symbol of the openness of the city. Crowds flock around it, made up of foreign tourists and local yokels; touts hawk their wares; boats bob in the waters, offering cruises out to the open sea. The teeming throngs around it daily reflect India’s diversity, with Parsi gentlemen out for their evening constitutionals, Muslim women in burkas taking the sea air, Goan Catholic waiters enjoying a break from their duties at the stately Taj Mahal hotel, Hindus from every corner of the country chatting in a multitude of tongues.…  Seguir leyendo »

First things first, Mr. President-elect. Some thoughts on what Obama’s top priority should be.

The most important challenge facing President-elect Barack Obama is to restore America’s standing in the eyes of the world. He must reinvent the United States as a country that listens, engages with others and has «a decent respect to the opinions of mankind.» To this end, the following prescription might help reverse the damage of the Bush years:

Stop acting and sounding as if yours is the only way of seeing the world («you’re either with us or against us»), which makes all disagreement illegitimate or «anti-American.»…  Seguir leyendo »