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Suhasini Haidar
Wednesday, April 09, 2014

2014 Lok Sabha elections: Tamil Nadu campaign diary

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Election fever At about 40 degrees, and 80% humidity just past noon, there isn't a single spot of shade available in the entire rally ground in Tamil Nadu's town of Namakkal. Perhaps the organizers of the election rally realize that covering the area occupied by about 1 lakh people is impossible, and if they build any shelters, then everyone would throng to them, leaving the rally ground bare. In stark contrast the leaders we are tracking, in this case Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, barely feel the temperature: alighting from helicopters, they are driven up to the stage, where 2 massive pillar air conditioners keep the heat at bay. In 2009 I interviewed PM Manmohan Singh inside a tiny shed constructed right next to the stage since even the air-conditioned stage was too hot, while tens of thousands sweltered outside. One has to wonder if the Election....

Monday , March 31, 2014

Abstention louder than any vote

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With India's abstention vote, it would seem that South Block is wresting back control of its decision-making authority from that domestic sphere that has ridden roughshod over several foreign policy decisions. Sometimes, the loudest sound can emanate from the sidelines. At the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva last week, India's abstention vote - in a United States sponsored resolution in the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) against Sri Lanka for an international probe into alleged rights violations in the last leg of the civil war - was perhaps its boldest expression of external policy in recent years, signalling several shifts in decision-making in South Block. Behind the shifts in stance To begin with, the Indian decision corrects the aberrations of the past few years. India has an old policy of not voting on country-specific resolutions, much less on one against a neighbour. The fact that....

Saturday , January 11, 2014

Back Bangladesh, not Hasina or Zia

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By every account, the January 5th elections, Bangladesh's 10th so far, were a low point for democracy. The boycott of the 18-member opposition alliance meant half the seats Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's Awami League (AL) won were uncontested, and AL won about half of the remainder against unknown candidates with estimates of the turnout just 22-30 per cent of the voting population. Hasina has now returned to a parliament that echoes only with her voice, but the voice is a hollow one, like the victory itself. Hasina may have won a 3/4ths majority in the 'Jatiyo Sangshad', but 3/4ths of her electorate didn't vote. For her rival, Khaleda Zia, who's BNP led the boycott, there are parallels to her own victory in February 1996, when Hasina boycotted the polls, until widespread protests forced a second election that Hasina won in June 1996. While it is significant that India has backed....

Monday , December 23, 2013

Dangerous disengagement

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By putting off bilateral dialogue, India is missing the opportunity to engage with the changing reality of Pakistan's power structure. The most alarming part about the exchange of words between Indian and Pakistani leaders this month was, perhaps, the lack of alarm bells ringing. After all, to have both Prime Ministers speaking of war in their statements should itself have been a matter of concern. Yet, even as Nawaz Sharif was quoted by reports as having referred to the possibility of a "fourth Indo-Pakistani war over Kashmir" and Manmohan Singh responded to say "there was no such possibility of Pakistan winning such a war in his lifetime", few were even surprised, let alone worried. Mr. Sharif's office denied the reported remarks and suspended three information service officers over the "misquoted leak" but it was too late to help defuse the already tense situation between the two sides, something a....

Friday , December 20, 2013

US and India need to move quickly to pick up the pieces of the Devyani Khobragade fallout

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Dropping the ball-US and India need to move quickly to pick up the pieces of the Devyani Khobragade fallout In international diplomacy, when someone drops the ball, it falls to pieces with a big resounding crash that echoes worldwide. Clearly, someone in the line of communication within the United States State Department and the US Department of Justice, dropped the ball when it came to the handling of Devyani Khobragade's arrest. The details, that are now well-known, are for the most part not contested by any of the parties -- that Dr Khobragade, left, was detained by the US diplomatic police after she had dropped her children at school; that she was then formally arrested; subjected to a humiliating strip-search; and possibly what are called 'cavity searches'; a DNA swab; and then kept in a lock-up for about four hours along with common criminals, before she....

Saturday , November 30, 2013

Magnificent Delusions: Pakistan, the United States and an Epic History of Misunderstanding

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Author: Husain Haqqani Published by Public Affairs, US, 2013 The letter from the US Secretary of State should have struck a chill in the recipient's hearts. Yet Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif didn't even open the envelope handed to him by the US Ambassador to Pakistan on behalf of Secy James Baker. The letter, delivered May 14, 1992 contained a direct threat, that if Pakistan didn't take "concrete steps to curtail assistance to militants and not allow their training camps to operate", the US would declare Pakistan a 'State sponsor of terrorism'. Instead, Sharif called a meeting of his army chief Gen Asif Nawaz, ISI Chief Lt Gen Javed Nasir, Foreign secretary Shahryar Khan, and special advisor Husain Haqqani, who describes it in his latest work, "Magnificent Delusions: Pakistan, The United States and an Epic History of Misunderstanding". After much discussion on the repercussions of the US threat, Haqqani....

Tuesday , October 29, 2013

The case for making it to Colombo

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Prime Minister Manmohan Singh should attend CHOGM and reaffirm the first principles of India's foreign policy that he has so often spoken of. In the first line of his first speech on Indian foreign policy in 1946, India's soon-to-be first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, pledged to adhere to the principle of "full participation in international conferences." Nehru was referring to the fact that India, which was still not a full member of multilateral forums, would no longer be a colonial 'dependent' nation. Despite the different context today, it is that speech of Nehru's made in the Constituent Assembly, that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh must pay heed to as he makes his decision on whether to travel to Colombo next month for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meet. Demonstrating commitment First things first. CHOGM is not an indispensible part of the Prime Minister's agenda. In the past, the....

Monday , October 07, 2013

Nothing Ventured Nothing Gained

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"By prevailing over all obstacles and distractions, one may unfailingly arrive at his chosen goal or destination", Christopher Columbus famously said. And as they walked into the room at New York's Palace Hotel for a meeting, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif must have realised the shallow truth of that statement. Because both men had surmounted an exceedingly difficult week to reach that room on the American Continent that Columbus once discovered. But Columbus had no famous words to describe the destination, because of course, he was heading for India, when he mistakenly reached American shores instead...the two Prime Ministers seemed similarly lost for a script when they reached their destination as well. One week later, all pretence that the meeting had achieved any outcome has been dropped, as even the plans for the DGMOs to meet as directed by the PMs has been sidelined as the....

Saturday , September 28, 2013

The Terrorists are Talking, why aren't we?

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The Jammu attacks have once again brought into sharp focus the Pakistan policy of the Indian government, and as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh meets with Nawaz Sharif, he is expected to bring up the Pakistan government's failure to shut down the terror groups that target India and the peace process again and again. But the real failure, not just in India and Pakistan, but around the world is the failure to recognise the changing nature of the terror that confronts them. Simply put, terrorists today are working closer than ever before, while the states they operate in are not. Pakistan has shut its eyes for far too long to the terror that confronts it- and has mistakenly drawn a virtual triangle across its country to divide terrorists: the Lashkar e Toiba-Hizbul Mujahideen axis that targets India, the Taliban- Haqqani-Quetta shura axis that targets Afghanistan and ISAF, and the Tehreek....

Saturday , September 21, 2013

Lessons from world leaders

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In the world of foreign policy, few events really surprise anyone. Yet as the foreign ministers of the US and Russia came out of their meeting in Geneva, Mr Kerry and Mr Lavrov made an astonishing picture. The two leaders complimented each other, Kerry reached out his arm to playfully jab Lavrov, as they spoke of the deal they had reached on bringing Syria into the international chemical weapons regime. While the world is still understanding the full impact of that meeting, the way forward in West Asia, and the emergence of Russia as the new mediator on the world stage, there are many lessons for India and Pakistan, poised as their relations are at the moment. The first lesson is that it is never too late to talk. Without over-dramatising the situation in the Mediterranean Sea, a full blown conflagration over Syria was a distinct possibility just two....


More about Suhasini Haidar

Suhasini Haidar, is a Sr. editor and prime time anchor for India's leading 24-hour English news channel CNN-IBN, also hosting the signature show, 'World View with Suhasini Haidar'. She is a regular columnist on Indian Foreign Policy and Strategic Issues for national dailies such as The Hindu, Business Standard and The Indian Express. Over the course of her 17-year career, Suhasini has covered the most challenging stories and conflicts from the most diverse regions including Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Libya, Lebanon and Syria. In India, she has covered the external affairs beat for over a decade and her domestic assignments include in-depth reportage from Kashmir. In 2011 she won the Indian Television Academy-GR8! Award for 'Global news coverage',and the Exchange4Media 'Enba' award for best spot news reporting from Libya. In 2010, She won the NewsTelevision NT 'Best TV News Presenter' Award. Suhasini is the only journalist to have interviewed Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his family, a show that won the prestigious Indian Television Academy award as 'Best Chat show' for the year.


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