Tuesday 27 May 2008

Send Civilian Aid to Myanmar, Not Military

M.D. Nalapat

Manipal, India — Should another hurricane like Katrina hit the United States, perhaps in Florida, and Cuban leader Raul Castro offer to send units of the Cuban army to deliver succor to those affected, the Bush administration may hesitate to allow those units "unrestricted access" to the country.

Similarly, were a typhoon or other natural calamity to ravage Poland, that country's rulers may hesitate to welcome an influx of Russian and Chinese troops, even though these would be bringing with them relief supplies rather than armaments.

Given that regime change in Myanmar is explicitly on the agenda of the United States and the European Union, both should have anticipated the cold reaction of the generals in Myanmar to their increasingly peremptory "requests" to provide relief.

The French are returning home rather than handing over their supplies to countries allowed entry into Myanmar, such as India and Thailand. At least one of the European Union's former colonial superpowers is playing as indefensible a variant of politics as the thuggish and archaic geronotocrats in uniform in Myanmar. These are men hardly likely to flinch from the prospect of hundreds of thousands of their own citizens suffering because of the absence of relief, for their only motivation is self-preservation.

Thursday 15 May 2008

Pakistan's Shotgun Marriage Falls Apart (UPIASIA)

M.D. Nalapat

Manipal, India — Despite substantial effort by the administration of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf to ensure a majority for his Pakistan Muslim League (Q) and the Pakistan People’s Party in last February’s general election, it failed. Although cheated of the majority it should have had, Nawaz Sharif's PML(N) ran a respectable second to the PPP.

Although Musharraf sought an alliance between his loyalists and the PPP in exchange for having smoothed the way for the Bhutto clan to resume high office, "friendly advice" from the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush, eager to secure unified political backing in Pakistan for its War on Terror, made Benazir Bhutto’s heir Asif Ali Zardari cobble up an alliance between the PPP and the PML(N).

Although the PPP has a Sindhi ethnic base, Zardari appointed a Seraiki Punjabi, Y. R. Gilani, as prime minister. Given his ethnicity and donnish approach to politics, Gilani has very little support within the PPP, in contrast to the more popular Makhdoom Amin Fahim, who is from Sindh. However, this very lack of support means that Gilani is less likely than Fahim to pose a challenge to the control that Benazir Bhutto's husband Zardari wields over the PPP. And being from Punjab, it is expected that he would be able to improve the tally of the PPP in that all-important province, at the expense of Nawaz Sharif.

Wednesday 7 May 2008

Why Barack Obama (UPIASIA)

Manipal, India — U.S. policies often affect the globe, and hence the global interest in U.S. politics. Although Australian feminist Germaine Greer may disagree, few in Asia see the possible re-entry of Hillary Clinton into the White House as epochal. Sri Lanka had its two Bandaranaike ladies as prime ministers, India had Indira Gandhi, Pakistan Benazir Bhutto, Turkey Tansu Ciller, Bangladesh the feuding Khaleda-Hasina duo, Indonesia Megawati Sukarnoputri and the Philippines Corazon Aquino and now Gloria Arroyo.

If there has been any significant change in gender dynamics because of these individuals becoming heads of government, it has been too small to notice. While First Lady, Hillary Clinton did not give gender discrimination the priority that she gave issues such as healthcare, and to expect her to change U.S. society, economics and politics -- from a gender standpoint -- in a way that even the formidable British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher could not within her own Conservative Party, may be a trifle optimistic.

In contrast, the election to the U.S. presidency of Barack Obama would signal the true conclusion of the revolution begun by President Abraham Lincoln when he emancipated U.S. slaves in 1863 -- that human beings are one, no matter what their color.

As secretaries of state, neither Colin Powell nor Condoleezza Rice has broken the mould of international opinion, which still regards the United States as being of the same persuasion as Europe, where policies that are racial in substance are the norm. Even in Britain it is far tougher for a nonwhite to reach the higher echelons of the medical and other professions than is the case in the United States. On the continent, Germany has been leading the cry of "Europe for Europeans," aware that ethnicity and not nationality is the core principle at work in fashioning policies related to migration and employment.