Global Warming and South Asia
As delegates were preparing to meet in Bali for the United Nations Climate Change Conference, there was a sobering reminder of the havoc global warming is already wreaking. Cyclone Sidr, accompanied by a tidal surge, killed 2,000 in Bangladesh initially, with fears that the death toll from the storm might eventually reach 10,000. This month’s feature is a collection of articles discussing the costs that will accrue to South Asia if global warming continues unchecked, as well as the tricky question of who should pay to reduce carbon emissions.
|In this Issue:
- Feature: Global Warming and South Asia
- Carnegie Analysis and Events
Analysis: Pakistan—Conflicted Ally in the War on Terror; Old-Design Nuclear Reactors Are “Safe, Reliable and Cheap”
Events: Fueling Options: The Future of India’s Energy Security
- Views from South Asia:
Foreign and Domestic Politics
Nandigram; The Gujarat Elections; Terrorism in Uttar Pradesh; Students Islamic Movement in India (SIMI); Taslima Nasreen; Chinese Soft Power in India
Economics and Energy
The Rupee’s Rise; Rural Employment Guarantee Act; The Human Development Index
Nawaz Sharif’s Re-Return; The Election Boycott Debate; Musharraf Quits the Army; The Pakistan People's Party Murders; Pakistan and the U.S.; Pakistan’s Urbanization
Election Reforms; Cyclone Sidr; Teacher Arrests; Providing Water
The Stalemate; Nepal and China
• SRI LANKA
Rising Tensions; Sri Lanka and Iran
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A new UN Development Program report, released just ahead of the UN Conference on Climate Change, held in Bali, Indonesia, called on all nations to significantly reduce emissions. Indian officials responded scornfully to such requests, insisting that developing nations must not be asked to hinder economic growth to clean up pollution that they didn't create.
After years of talk, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf now has only one job. He resigned as head of the army in an effort to quell domestic and international criticism that the state of emergency, declared in November, was a bid to hold onto power. Meanwhile, Pakistan’s political parties tried to hammer out compromise on a host of issues in order to present a united pro-democratic front.
In Gujarat, a bitter campaign comes to an end—the second round of voting ended on December 16. The election is widely viewed as a referendum on Chief Minister Narendra Modi, who is held responsible by the national media for the communal riots of 2002.
Editor, South Asian Perspectives
|Global Warming and South Asia
As delegates were preparing to meet in Bali for the United Nations Climate Change Conference, there was a sobering reminder of the havoc global warming is already wreaking. Cyclone Sidr, accompanied by a tidal surge, killed 2,000 in Bangladesh initially, with fears that the death toll might eventually reach 10,000.
Simon Robinson notes that things could have been much worse; Cyclone Gorky, in 1991, killed 138,000. The Bangladeshi government has gotten much better at preparing for and cleaning up after such storms, but cyclones are likely to get harder to control. “Scientists believe that global warming will make cyclones in the region bigger and more frequent. That's bad news for Bangladesh, whose location and geography makes it not only particularly susceptible to the effects of climate change but also extremely hard to protect,” writes Robinson. (Time Asia, November 19, 2007).
Chowdhury Sajjadul Karim, Bangladesh’s delegate to the Bali conference on climate change, said that low-lying low-income countries, especially Bangladesh, are the most susceptible to the effects of global warming and the least responsible for its occurrence. “We are on a high moral ground because our per capita emission of [greenhouse gases] is very low... So they owe us compensation as we are the prime victims of a crime we had no part in.” (The New Age, November 18, 2007).
Karim certainly has a case. Tarequl Islam Munna writes, “Of the ‘Top 10’ most exposed coastal cities in 2070, nine are in Asia.” They are: Kolkata, Mumbai, Dhaka, Guangzhou, Ho Chi Minh City, Shanghai, Bangkok, Rangoon, Miami and Haiphong (Vietnam). (The New Age, December 9, 2007).
But though rich countries have done most of the carbon-emitting so far, poor countries are likely to do most of it in the future. Addressing that issue is tricky. The 2007 United Nations Development Program report on climate change recommends that developing countries cut their carbon emissions 20 percent by 2050, a task which the report estimates could cost 1.6 percent GDP growth per year. Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia finds that cost unacceptably high, and demands that the report’s benchmarks be changed to per capita figures, a move that would make the job of cutting carbon much easier for quickly-growing India. (The Business Standard, November 28, 2007).
And Prime Minister Manmohan Singh expressed a willingness to fight global warming, so long as India’s economic development is not compromised. “We need to find a solution that does not perpetuate poverty,” he said. (Outlook India, November 30, 2007).
Other commentators, however, see the environmental consequences of climate change as themselves a hindrance to development. Supriya Bezbaruah notes of the dire predictions of climatologists; if carbon emissions were to remain unchecked, we would see “seas rising and submerging half of Bangladesh. Glaciers would melt, leading first to floods and then droughts as rivers run dry. There would be more dengue, more malaria, more diarrhea.” India “simply cannot afford” the dirty development model followed by the world’s rich countries. (The Hindustan Times, December 9, 2007).
Much of the debate over who should pay for global warming has focused on the carbon debt owed by the developed world to the developing. But, asks C.E. Karunakaran, “What carbon debt does the burgeoning middle class — the Germany within India — owe to the rural poor and how will it discharge it?” India “can no longer afford to maintain its present laid-back attitude.” (The Hindu, December 3, 2007).
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Pakistan—Conflcited Ally in the War on Terror
Many Americans blame the Musharraf regime for not doing more to combat terrorism, despite receiving significant U.S. aid. In a new policy brief, Carnegie Senior Associate Ashley J. Tellis contends that if the United States wants a stronger Pakistani commitment to the “War on Terror,” it must first recognize that Pakistan’s poor performance cannot be attributed simply to malfeasance by Pakistan’s military elite. U.S. pressure on Pakistan must take pains to avoid inflaming Pakistani public opinion and embarrassing moderates who have cooperated with the U.S., urges Tellis. Read the policy brief. On December 17, Tellis presented his new policy brief at a Carnegie event. Click here for an event summary.
Old-Design Nuclear Reactors Are “Safe, Reliable and Cheap”
India’s Left parties have expressed concern about the safety of the old-design nuclear reactors which India would obtain as part of the U.S.-India nuclear deal. But during a lecture on the renaissance of nuclear power, Carnegie Senior Associate Ashley J. Tellis defended old-design nuclear reactors, saying, “The fears about old technologies are highly exaggerated.” Read an article in Yahoo! News India about Tellis’ remarks.
Fueling Options: The Future of India’s Energy Security
India's energy needs will continue to rise dramatically as GDP growth remains high, but demand is expected to outpace supply. Pramit Pal Chaudhuri, correspondent for The Hindustan Times spoke at the Carnegie Endowment on Wednesday, December 5 about India's energy challenges and options. India imports the lion's share of its oil and is a net importer of coal, despite large reserves. Chaudhuri predicted that gas would grow in importance as a fuel source and, provided the U.S.-India nuclear deal is ratified and sufficient legislation is passed, nuclear power could become a major source of energy as well. Read a summary of the event.
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|Views from South Asia
|INDIA - Foreign and Domestic Politics
The Left parties softened their opposition to the nuclear deal this month, in part in response to continued public disapproval of the West Bengal Communist government’s role in the violence in Nandigram. In March 2007 local residents were attacked by police after refusing to give up their property for a government industrial project, "The Nandigram violence has tarnished the image of the Left and made the West Bengal government politically vulnerable," writes Praful Bidwai. "As a result, the Left is reluctant to take on the UPA and cause a fall of its government, which would precipitate mid-term elections, in which the Left parties are likely to do worse than in 2004." (IPS, December 7, 2007).
Jayati Ghosh argues that the media has criticized West Bengal’s Communist government too strongly. He notes that in March, the government met the demands of the protesters and agreed to locate the factory elsewhere. But the protesters in Nandigram were “not only some local people but also outsiders, especially those from the opposition Trinamool Congress and from some Maoist groups including their Jharkhand members,” writes Ghosh. (Frontline, December 8, 2007).
The Gujarat Elections
Narendra Modi, the controversial Chief Minister of Guajarat, faces the polls this month. Turnout was a tepid 60 percent during the first round of voting; the rest of the state votes on December 16.
Modi is widely believed to have taken a leading role in provoking the communal violence that left over 2,000 people, mostly Muslims, dead in 2002. But such a track record might not hurt him, writes Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyar: “Sonia Gandhi is accurate in calling Modi and his satraps merchants of death. But since so many Gujarati voters view these very merchants of death as extra-judicial protectors of Hindus, ”Aiyar predicts another victory for Modi. “After the mass killing of Muslims in Gujarat in 2002, Modi is reviled by secularists. But he is also a good administrator and a relatively clean politician. He has helped Gujarat attract a lot of investment and become India's fastest-growing state.” (The Times of India, December 9, 2007).
A central irony of the campaign is this: “A Modi-centric attack that dwells on the state-sponsored violence of 2002 only seems to rally public opinion around him. It’s the reason the Tehelka sting on the riots barely finds mention in the Congress campaign,” writes Barkha Dutt. And the plethora of anti-Modi editorials in the English-language press isn’t doing anything to hurt him either: “The English media today is seen by the ordinary Gujarati as an elite conspirator who is out to tarnish his state.” (The Hindustan Times, December 7, 2007).
Rajdeep Sardesai notes the main paradox of the elections in Gujarat. Even as the popularity of his party wanes, Narendra Modi ‘s popularity is seemingly on the rise. Indeed, the election is referendum on Modi’s personality, “bigoted and authoritarian, but also dynamic and charismatic.” While this strategy might pay off in Gujarat, Sardesai sees it as a gamble on the national level: “If the BJP endorses the Modi-style of functioning, it is effectively jettisoning its claim to be a ‘responsible’ national party.” (The Times of India, December 6, 2007).
How much is the Gujarat election about Narendra Modi’s personality cult? One indicator is the presence of Modi masks, worn by Modi supporters at rallies, and even by other BJP candidates. Sify says the masks may be the responsibility of non-resident Indians living in the U.S., many of whom support Modi and have been involved actively in his re-election effort. (Sify, December 4, 2007).
Vidya Subrahmaniam describes the contrast between the campaigns of incumbent Narendra Modi and Congress party chairperson Sonia Gandhi, who’s presence in Gujarat seems to be the only way the Congress can attempt to match Modi’s star power. Modi’s crowds are “smaller in size, mostly upwardly mobile and rapturously responsive.” He engages his audience in call-and-response cheers and speaks at length on Hinduism. Sonia Gandhi’s rallies are massive and quiet, attended by “Adivasis and Dalits who had voted for the BJP in 2002 but who now seemed to want to return to the party they had deserted, impelled by the communal frenzy of the Godhra aftermath,” writes Subrahnmaniam. (The Hindu, December 7, 2007).
Recent events have provided the BJP with plenty of communal fodder for the elections, including the flight of Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen from Kolkata and the bombings in Uttar Pradesh. (The Hindu, November 26, 2007).
Rediff News has comprehensive Gujarat election coverage.
Terrorism in Uttar Pradesh
The November 23 blasts in Uttar Pradesh were accompanied by an e-mail taking credit for the atrocities, and insisting that jihad is the only way towards justice for Muslims in India. Such sentiments have been increasingly common in India since the 2002 communal riots, says The Hindu: “Capitalising on the legitimate anger Muslims feel about the atrocities inflicted upon them, and the Indian state’s manifest failure to uphold the rule of law, Islamist terror groups have been able to create a domestic infrastructure to sustain their violent campaign.” More resources are needed to combat the threat of terrorism, they write. (The Hindu, November 26, 2007).
Students Islamic Movement in India (SIMI)
Praveen Swami’s op-ed provides a short history of SIMI, the Indian Islamist organization that promotes violent jihad, has endorsed Osama Bin Laden, and has been connected to the bombings in Mumbai and Uttar Pradesh. (The Hindu, November 28, 2007).
Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen fled to India in 2004 after a court ruled that she had “deliberately and maliciously” offended Muslims with her book about Hindu-Muslim riots, and for saying that Islam oppresses women. On December 1, protests led by conservative Muslims led the army to escort Nasreen from her home in Kolkata across the subcontinent to Rajasthan, and then to New Delhi. Eventually, Nasreen agreed to remove from her autobiography some of the passages deemed offensive. (For an overview of the Nasreen debacle, see
(The Star, December 3, 2007).
During the height of unrest, Communist Party state secretary Biman Bose asked Nasreen to leave West Bengal. The Times of India criticised the request: “His cowardly call asking Taslima Nasreen to move out of West Bengal seriously undermines the party’s commitment to secular values,” it wrote. But they blame unrest in West Bengal on the government’s stalled economic development program. (The Times of India, November 23, 2007).
The Nasreen episode stirred up controversy in India over freedom of expression and communalism. Harbans Mukhia writes that the tendency for Indian politicians to compete for minority votes is a danger to liberal society: “The 'secular' parties' unwillingness to question, challenge and confront minority communalism has thus created a space for it to grow, as its leaders realise the power vested in it as a political force or vote bank.” (The Times of India, November 26, 2007).
An editorial in The Hindu sees the problem in the Indian penal code, which criminalizes “deliberate and malicious intention of outraging the religious feelings.” Such a provision is ambiguous and misguided, the editorial argues: “It is ironic that in India hate mongers who foment disaffection and violence among religious communities go unpunished, while a writer, an artist, or a film-maker making critical references to a religion, at times even unwittingly, is often harassed through criminal cases.” (The Hindu, December 5, 2007).
And in a bizarre twist, it’s the Hindu nationalist BJP that emerges as the defender of liberal values, after it offered Nasreen shelter in Rajasthan and demanded she be declared a political refugee. Cynics speculated that the BJP’s affection for Nasreen had more to do with her willingness to criticize Islam than a belief in the sanctity of free speech. “The BJP’s stand is astoundingly hypocritical, given the record of the party and its ideological mates in leading violent campaigns on grounds of social or religious disagreement,” notes Amrita Shah. (Indian Express, November 29, 2007).
Chinese Soft Power in India
Since Independence, India has admired China, especially for its ability to realize huge infrastructure projects, writes Swagato Ganguly. “But there's no need to be transfixed by the shining light emanating from the middle kingdom, unless India wants to be cast in the same relationship to China as Mao Zedong's subjects were to him,” he writes. (The Times of India, December 10, 2007).
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INDIA - Economics and Energy
The Rupee’s Rise
The Times of India reassures those who have expressed fear that the rising rupee will mean massive job losses for India. “The commerce minister would know that there is no stopping the rupee’s rise, given India’s prospects as an emerging economy,” they concede, but they encourage reform of agriculture and education to bolster the economy rather than attempts to keep the rupee low. (The Time of India, December 8, 2007).
Rural Employment Guarantee Act
Jean Dreze reviews the National Rural Employment Guarantee and reports that corruption has fallen significantly from earlier work programs thanks to provisions in the act that call for greater transparency. In some states, like Orissa, “the contractor raj is alive (if not well),” and embezzlement continues. But, “The silver lining is that, even in Orissa, the traditional system of extortion seems to be finding it harder and harder to survive.” (The Hindu, November 20, 2007).
The Human Development Index
All the countries covered in South Asian Perspectives dropped places in the Human Development Index (HDI), from Sri Lanka, at 99th, to Bangladesh, to Nepal, at 142nd. India’s drop, down two places to 128th in the world, was taken by some as a sign that India’s economic growth hasn’t translated into improvements in well-being.
But T. N. Ninan argues that the HDI needs to be taken in context: “Of the 127 countries that have a better HDI level than India, no fewer than 11 have a lower per capita income. Of these 11, seven are in a special category of former socialist states that traditionally put greater stress on health care and education (they also have better equality levels), like Georgia, Uzbekistan and Vietnam. The remaining four include tiny countries like Vanuatu and Sao Tome & Principe, which are not really comparable. In a broad sense, therefore, human development is usually defined by income level.” (The Busines Standard, December 1, 2007).
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Nawaz Sharif’s Re-Return
“Nawaz Sharif’s homecoming is a thoroughly needed shot in the opposition’s flagging arm. The [Pakistan Muslim Legue-Nawaz (PML-N)] will rise, literally from ashes, to formidable strength,” writes I. A. Rehman. But Sharif’s relevance will depend on his ability to work with Benazir Bhutto to develop a unified opposition. (Dawn, November 29, 2007).
The Election Boycott Debate
In recent negotiations, former Prime Ministers Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto were at odds over what kind of demands the pro-democracy parties ought to put to the government. An editorial in The Daily Star notes, If Sharif’s party were to draft the charter of demands, “its contents would ‘ensure’ a boycott,” of the upcoming elections, where as if Bhutto’s party took up the task, the demands “would be aimed at ensuring polls without rigging.” (The Daily Times, December 5, 2007).
An editorial in The Frontier Post understands the urge to boycott the elections in protest, as the political environment in Pakistan isn’t exactly conducive to free and fair elections. But the parties must understand that a “boycott of elections could be fatal for them. By doing so, they will only be giving a free hand to the rulers to fill the Assemblies with their dummies.” (The Frontier Post, November 22, 2007).
The Post, on the other hand, lauded the decision of the All Parties Democratic Movement (APDM), the alliance led by Nawaz Sharif’s PML-N, to boycott the elections. “By announcing a boycott of the elections, the All Parties Democratic Movement (APDM) has indeed given proof of its claim that it is the only ‘real’ opposition.” (The Post, December 2, 2007).
In the end, however, Nawaz Sharif decided that his party, the PML-N, would contest elections. Individual members of the APDM were each permitted to make their own decision on the issue. “Considering that Nawaz Sharif was in the forefront of those calling for an election boycott, it is nothing short of a U-turn,” says an editorial in The Post. (The Post, December 11, 2007).
Musharraf Quits the Army
Musharraf’s departure from his military post will not acquit him of his aura of illegitimacy, writes Tariq Fatemi. And legitimacy is badly needed in Pakistan to defeat the threat of Islamic extremism; “Extremism cannot be challenged by an authoritarian regime, but only by a civilian democratic government, that will first ensure consensus amongst the masses in favour of its policies, before embarking on new initiatives.”(Dawn, December 6, 2007).
The posts of Pakistani President and the Pakistani Chief of the Army are now held by different people. But President Musharraf, in his farewell address to the military, reinterated his position that the army has a crucial role in Pakistani society, notes Ahmad Faruqui. “General Musharraf had eight years in which to establish civilian supremacy over the military. It is a tragedy that even as he retired from the military, he called instead for the reverse.” (The Daily Times, December 9, 2007).
The PPP Murders
Three members of Benazir Bhutto's Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) were shot dead in Balochistan last month, and the party has no shortage of enemies. The PPP has become the target of enmity both among Islamists and secular groups such as lawyers and students, who see Bhutto as an “American stooge” who has been making deals with Musharraf, writes an editorial. (The Daily Times, December 10, 2007).
Pakistan and the U.S.
Pakistan’s Washington image repair team, led by cricketer Nasim Ashraf, had an unenviable job last month, writes Khalid Hasan. Ashraf’s talking points were attacked by a group of students who refuted his claims point by point. (The Daily Times, December 9, 2007).
Pakistan is the most urbanized nation in South Asia; 50 percent of Pakistan’s population will live in cities within the next decade. The outgoing head of Punjab, Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, had some successes in helping guide his province’s rapid urbanization, writes Ahmad Rafay Alam, but his successor will need to make massive investments in public transportation and housing. (The News, November 26, 2007).
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In Bangladeshi politics, all roads lead to Jamaat-i-Islami. The nation’s two leading parties, the Bangladesh National Party (BNP) and the Awami League (AL), have won elections by making deals with Jamaat, an Islamist party that advocates the implementation of sharia. Recently, however, Jamaat’s leaders publicly denied their widely acknowledged role in opposing the independence of Bangladesh from Pakistan, writes Sayed Kamaluddin. Such loyalist sentiments are wildly unpopular. Now, the BNP and the AL are threatening to boycott meetings with the Election Commission, which hopes to encourage intra-party democracy and transparent financial practices, if Jamaat is included in the talks. (The New Age, November 29, 2007).
The Daily Star supports efforts to make the Election Commission an independent organization, calling it “an issue where there is absolutely no scope for any compromise.” (The Daily Star, December 4, 2007).
Tahmina Shafique speaks with Nick Southern, director of Care Bangladesh, about the response to the cyclone. The government was far more effective at warning people of the coming storm than in previous years, Southern said. Southern also lauded the international response, saying “we now see an international commitment towards Bangladesh.” (The New Age, November 28, 2007).
After being held for four months, two professors at Rajshahi University (RU) were sentenced to two years in prison for leading a silent procession on the university campus to protest the declaration of emergency. “The punishment meted out deepens a wound that would have better healed,” claims an editorial. (The Daily Star, December 6, 2007). "A week later, the police interupted another protest, this one at Dhaka University to demand the release of the imprisoned faculty at RU." But this time The Daily Star’s criticism of the government was restrained: “Errors have been committed on both sides.” (The Daily Star, December 9, 2007).
On the same day, the editorial staff of The Daily Star ran an editorial lauding the decision of the Anti-Corruption Commission to begin investigating “institutionalized corruption,” including corruption in utility companies. (The Daily Star, December 8, 2007).
Lack of access to clean water is as much due to ineffective governance as to falling water tables, writes Muhammad Zamir, who notes that “20 percent to 40 percent of water sector finances are being lost to dishonest and corrupt practices.” (The Daily Star, December 8, 2007).
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An editorial in The Nepali Times laments the perpetual postponement of elections. It’s no wonder politicians are reluctant to schedule elections: “These unelected, unrepresentative leaders, either catapulted themselves to power by killing lots of people or had power thrust upon them after the April Uprising,” writes the editorial board. “By delaying elections time and again on one pretext or another they have proven themselves to be unaccountable, irresponsible and devoid of a democratic culture.” (The Nepali Times, December 7, 2007).
S. Chandrasekharan describes the stalemate between Maoists and monarchists. (SAAG Note No. 40, December 6, 2007).
Nepal and China
China lost a good friend in the Nepalese monarchy, but it’s done it’s best to create warm relations with the interim government, writes Bhaskar Roy. Nepalese stability is of high importance to China, he writes: “While on the one hand Beijing considers Nepal as a buffer against India, a Nepal in turmoil can be used by countries like the USA to foment trouble in Tibet.” (SAAG Paper 2492, December 8, 2007).
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Suicide bombs aimed at Sri Lankan politician Douglas Devananda were followed by the arrests of thousands of Tamils living in the suburbs of Colombo. Many commentators called the response extreme. Kumar Rupesinghe writes that “on closer examination it appears that the decision to conduct this massive cordon and search operation in Colombo suburbs was however taken way before the recent bomb attacks.” The arrests were reminiscent of the eviction of several hundred Tamils in Colombo earlier this year. (The Daily Mirror, December 13, 2007).
Under former Prime Minister Ranil Wickramsinghe, who left office in 2004, the Sri Lankan government took a conciliatory tone towards the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), and positive steps were taken towards peace, says Zaglul Ahmed Chowdhury. But President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s hard line has proved detrimental to the peace effort. “Sri Lanka seems to be inexorably moving towards resumption of the full blown war,” writes Chowdhury. (The Daily Star, December 5, 2007).
An editorial in The Daily Mirror asks citizens to be patient with the security checkpoints, but also calls on soldiers to exhibit better behavior, and laments the rampant corruption among security personnel. But the editorial is short on optimism: “Political party arrogance and fanaticism coupled with inordinate desire for exclusive possession of power prevent our political leaders from taking enlightened decisions.” (The Daily Star, November 30, 2007).
Sri Lanka and Iran
Sri Lanka’s Daily News lauded a recent trip by President Mahinda Rajapaksa to Iran last month. Iranian leaders pledged U.S. $1.5 billion in aid, and promised to import more Sri Lankan tea to boot. “Iran and Sri Lanka have also set an example to all Third World countries that they do not necessarily have to turn to the West for aid,” the editorial board writes. (The Daily News, November 30, 2007).
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Sam McCormally, junior fellow, South Asia Program, Carnegie Endowment
Kathleen Donaldson, program assistant, South Asia Program, Carnegie Endowment
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
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