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Sunday , April 15, 2012

Notes from the Raj

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It's been an interesting week. I make time to see the Kohinoor at the Tower of London. It has pride of place in the queen mother's crown. I don't expect to see another 100 plus carat rock in my lifetime so it's slightly disappointing to glide past it, within seconds, on a conveyor belt - especially after queuing up for close to an hour. I also leave with mixed feelings - proud that it is ours, slightly miffed that it's not where it belongs. The Raj also comes to life through the India Office records - a priceless collection of official documentation and private papers related to pre-1947 India. India Office, a department in the British government in London, became in 1858 the administrator of India, functionally replacing the East India Company. The collection comprises 70,000 volumes of official publications and over 1 lakh manuscripts and maps. ....

Thursday , February 09, 2012

Fools rush in where angels fear to tread

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India has rashly opened its hand in the Maldives power play Mohammad Nasheed ceased to be President of Maldives on February 7. Within hours, India had sensibly urged a democratic solution to the "internal" political crisis. But on February 8, as Nasheed's supporters were clashing with police, PM Manmohan Singh was congratulating President Waheed and promising a warm and fruitful relationship with his government. The carefully cultivated stance of neutrality had been abandoned and India had gone public with its decision to dump the leader elected by the people of Maldives. While India was openly taking sides, other powers, regional and global, were quiet. So far, there has been no statement on the political developments in Maldives from any P5 country, including China, which is aggressively courting Maldives. They are watching the events unfold while simultaneously trying to influence the outcome through quiet diplomacy. The absence....

Monday , February 06, 2012

Thanks but no thanks: Time for India to shut the door on foreign aid

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David Cameron came to power promising a new relationship with India. Turns out, India too wanted the same thing! By September 2010, India had decided it could do without British aid. That was communicated to the British. But six months later, India surprisingly survived a shake-up of Britain's aid review. Russia and China were off the list, India registered an insignificant 2 per cent rise. Aid from thereon would be focussed on three states - Orissa, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh, the poorest of the poor - and limited to priority sectors. Over in London, the British government's review of aid was intended to win over critics, the sceptical public for whom the financial crisis had begun to bite and the right wing among the ruling Conservative party. Emphasis was on results and value for money. It was a transparent review - much discussed, analysed, and panned! In contrast,....

Monday , January 23, 2012

Norway custody row: Oslo ignores its own guidelines

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The Bhattacharyas in Norway have fresh hope. India and Norway have agreed that their toddler and baby should be in the care of the grandparents, and not with Norwegian foster families. Norway, while not budging on its stand that the parents have been deemed unfit parents, has finally recognised that grandparents can be a suitable alternative. That is what the couple and the Indian government had been urging them to recognise. And that is exactly what Oslo had been resisting till now. Why it took Oslo eight months to get this is beyond me. This kind of child care terrorism frankly doesn't behove a country which was the first in the world to establish a child welfare act. Maybe they're guilty of too much academic thought on the subject of child welfare and too little practical knowledge. Those of us who have lived in joint families, or even....

Friday , January 13, 2012

The joke's on us

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The Top Gear controversy reflects hollow outrage of a notoriously thin-skinned country Here we go again. Official India has got its knickers in a twist over Jeremy Clarkson's boxers. A few, arguably tasteless, jokes by the Top Gear host are apparently enough to dent national pride to such an extent that the sarkar has lodged a protest with the Beeb and demanded an apology. Boo! This indignance is so unnecessary and such an over-reaction. Top Gear and Jeremy Clarkson are barely known in India. Why are we breaking into a sweat if a few hundred NRIs and/or Brits of Indian origin are foaming at the mouth? Those who live abroad tend to be hyper-nationalistic anyway. Who in India cares about what Clarkson thinks of us? It wouldn't matter a hoot - even if he were a huge celebrity here. Come....

Saturday , November 05, 2011

From Istanbul to Bonn via Rawalpindi

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The Istanbul process which has given birth to new promises to build confidence between Afghanistan and its neighbours inspires little confidence and even less hope. A set of very ambitious, non-binding commitments have been signed up to by Afghanistan and its neighbours who have differing, even conflicting, priorities and objectives. For instance, Pakistan uses terror to attempt to drive a floundering reconciliation process while signing up to eliminate terror sanctuaries and to respect an Afghan-led reconciliation! Russia's priority is to see drug trafficking controlled and its influence in the region kept intact. The Iranians too want to see America out of Afghanistan sooner than later, while India would in principle not oppose continued US military presence in Afghanistan beyond 2014. Meanwhile the US itself is reportedly mulling a 'mentoring' rather than a military role for its troops as early as next year! Given the variance, a coherent, structured,....

Tuesday , October 11, 2011

Confessions of a Starbucks junkie

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Thanks Ratan Tata! Starbucks in India is long, long, long overdue, I thought, while sipping my Starbucks and reading the morning paper. We were being told that Starbucks and Tatas are brewing up a JV and I was excited, relieved and slightly nervous. My life was set to change. You see, what Hard Rock Cafe was to me as a teenager, Starbucks is to me as a young adult. It's a profoundly significant part of Being Paarull and has been over the past six or seven years, I'd say, growing in importance every year. Let me explain. Before Starbucks, fresh coffee was a treat to be had at a five star hotel. I grew up on the blend of chicory and coffee that was consumed as milky instant coffee in most middle class homes. It was coffee - but just about. Barista had barely arrived on the scene....

Thursday , October 06, 2011

India turns up the heat on the Afghan cauldron

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Hamid Karzai's "twin brother" talk hasn't deceived anyone - just like Pakistani denials about sanctuary for and support to the Taliban and associate groups haven't. Karzai during his public lecture in New Delhi omitted Pakistan from the list of countries he expected support from - including India, US, EU, China, Russia, Iran, and Saudi Arabia. In fact the President cleverly highlighted the need to talk to the real masters as opposed to the puppets. In doing so he's highlighted Pakistan as the source of the problem. Of course, one could also argue that Karzai now recognises Pakistan as the principle party to any future political settlement. But there's nothing to suggest the Americans will allow Pakistan to get a veto on who is or isn't a part of a new power structure in Kabul. The US has also not expressed any misgivings over India's stepped up engagement in....

Friday , February 18, 2011

My memories of Manama

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The Manama I see on TV these days looks nothing like the Manama I visited last year in May and December. I enjoyed the modern, tidy little city with a distinct Arab feel to it. The cafes, the malls, the souks, the gleaming highways, the perfect palms, the luxury hotels, the mosques all co-existed. Alcohol flowed freely. Nightclubs with Russian dancers were an open secret. There was a political opposition in parliament, more reform was being demanded. In short, the Kingdom seemed more progressive, less repressive than its Arab neighbours. In some ways, even a model for reform for its neighbours. The Bahrainis took great pride in the Kingdom's status as the region's banking and financial powerhouse. "We didn't have as much oil as Saudi so we were forced to come up with a substitute", a local journalist told me. Asians were a very obvious part of the....

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Fishing in troubled waters

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Tamil Nadu politicians have perfected the art of playing injured martyrs even though the cause is suspect. Take the case of fishermen facing legal proceedings in Sri Lanka. The DMK and other usual suspects are hopping up and down, in pretend rage, but they would know that the fishermen in question have much to answer for. Fact is a veritable mini flotilla - comprising 18 trawlers and 112 fishermen - was in the waters just south of Jaffna on 15th February. This was not a case of inadvertent straying into Sri Lankan waters. Neither was this the first time that Indian fishermen have gone poaching deep into Sri Lankan waters. The local fishing community of Jaffna has on past occasion brought this illegal fishing to the Indian Consul General's notice and demanded India check the poaching. It's not hard to understand why the Jaffna fishermen are upset.....


More about Paarull

Paarull Malhotra is CNN-IBN's Chief Diplomatic Correspondent. When she's not reporting, she's a newscaster. She considers herself very lucky because she enjoys what she does - which is covering India's relations with the world, with a special focus on the neighbourhood. Her areas of interest are Af-Pak, West Asia and China. She's an East West Centre fellow, and prefers to relax by blogging, tweeting, reading and travelling. You can reach her on her blaze page via ibnlive.com or on her facebook page. Paarull's twitter handle is @paarull


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