Nepal was hit by a devastating earthquake on April 25th, and aftershocks – including a powerful one on May 12th – have continued to rock the country. Over eight thousand people have died. Over 600,000 houses are completely destroyed or partially damaged. Eight million people have been affected in some shape or form. Thousands of school buildings lie in ruins. Kathmandu has lost much of its cultural heritage. The tragedy is just unending, as millions remain homeless with monsoon season four weeks away. There is a resource crunch and supplies of essentials are inadequate.
India in Transition
Over the past decade, Special Operations Forces (SOF) have emerged as an increasingly critical component of modern military power. For western democracies, in particular, the frequent use of small, elite, units of clandestine operators has come to be seen as a more effective, discreet, and surgical means of projecting power within deeply contested regions. Provided they are well trained, equipped, and enabled, SOF possess the ability to act as true force multipliers, conducting key missions with small logistical footprints in austere forward environments.
Singapore’s defense minister Ng Eng Hen stated last month that his country wanted India to play a bigger role in the South China Sea. The leaders of Vietnam and the Philippines have also made similar statements in recent years. This “invitation” extended to India by the leaders of Southeast Asia to participate in that region’s security affairs is tantamount to India’s emergence as a great power in Southeast Asia, and by extension, in Asia itself.
A toxic mix of hypocrisy, amnesia, opportunism, ignorance, and paternalism has led to a mess on land acquisition legislation. The BJP is finding it difficult to gather enough support to pass its amendment to the Congress-made law and has begun sending mixed signals—maybe they will hold a joint session of parliament to hash this out; maybe they will reissue the ordinance that it tried to turn into an amendment; maybe the states can pick and choose, maybe they don’t have to adhere to the parts of the amended law they don’t like.
Two decades ago, a dramatic shift took place in the rules governing the provision of piped municipal water supply in Mumbai. In this shift, access to municipal water for residents of the city’s popular neighborhoods and “slums” became linked to the rules governing eligibility for inclusion in slum rehabilitation housing schemes.
On May 26, 2014, Narendra Modi invited the heads of all the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) member countries to his swearing-in ceremony. While this important gesture could have marked a new beginning for regional cooperation, such cooperation in South Asia still takes place mainly in the bilateral sphere. Since 1985, India has been a key founding member of four regional initiatives, none of which have achieved any tangible results.
Near the end of President Obama’s recent visit to India, he recorded a radio broadcast with Prime Minister Modi. On the air, Obama indicated a desire to work on public health issues in India once his term ends. One of the issues he referred to, in particular, was obesity, a growing health challenge worldwide. Obesity contributes to several non-communicable diseases (NCDs) that have been garnering more international attention. NCDs refer to health challenges that are largely chronic, evolve gradually, and get progressively worse until tackled.
The lead up to the UN climate change summit in December 2015 is increasingly peppered with speculation about possible outcomes, globally and for India. In preparation, each country is to submit an “Intended Nationally Determined Contribution” or INDC by the middle of the year, ahead of the conference of parties. The attention is on India, given the emphasis in the current US-India relationship about prioritizing a response to climate change.
Environmental governance in India is increasingly – and inevitably – contentious. Environmental quality is declining sharply on most indicators such as air, water, and forest cover. At the same time, there are calls for regulatory flexibility to enable pursuit of a “development agenda.” Demands for regulatory and institutional reform are frequently raised by various stakeholders, albeit with widely varying motives.
Russia’s interests in India have been growing since Stalin’s death in 1953. Khrushchev and Bulganin inaugurated a Third World policy that brought the leaders to India and took Nehru to Moscow, all in 1955. In the same year, when Asian and African nations met at the Bandung Conference in Indonesia, Russian newspapers celebrated the event as a “sign of our age.” The Indian establishment was enthusiastic that Stalin’s successors had discarded his “dim view of India.” During the Cold War, the relationship had more flow than ebb.