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October 2007, Vol. 2, No. 10

The Uprising in Myanmar

The Uprising in MyanmarMyanmar’s first demonstrations against the military junta in 19 years stirred democratic hopes at home and abroad, even as demonstrators were arrested and killed for speaking out. Meanwhile, the international community offered cautious condemnations of the crackdown. India’s officials refrained from commenting on the situation, infuriating many in the press who thought India ought to support the Burmese people. A selection of responses to the ongoing crisis is this issue’s feature. Read more.


In this Issue:
  1. Feature: The Uprising in Myanmar

  2. Carnegie Analysis/Events
    Protests in Myanmar; South Asia domestic politics; elections in Pakistan

  3. Views from South Asia:

    INDIA
    Foreign and Domestic Politics

    Poverty by the numbers; public health; UPA in crisis; china and the U.S.-India nuclear deal; the conflict in Jammu and Kashmir; communalism in Gujarat

    Economics
    Explaining India’s growth; Inflation; nuclear power

    PAKISTAN
    Benazir Bhutto and Pakistan’s future; terrorism in the Northwest; Musharraf’s re-election; Black Saturday

    BANGLADESH
    Corruption; the interim government; vandalism against industry

    NEPAL
    Postponing the constituent assembly elections (again); Indian idol

    SRI LANKA
    The civil war; human rights observers

  4. In-Depth Analysis

  5. Additional Resources


 

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Editor's Note

One of South Asia's most important developments this month was also one of the least surprising. Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf was elected to a third term by Pakistan's sitting assemblies, but all of the interesting questions are still up in the air: Will the Supreme Court put its stamp of approval on his questionable candidacy? Will Musharraf resign as army chief before inauguration day?

Benazir Bhutto, who is scheduled to return to Pakistan next week, has become the subject of greater and greater ire in the Pakistani press for what is perceived as her political opportunism and unwavering pro-American stance.

But the headline story this month is the popular uprising in Myanmar. Myanmar's Buddhist monks first took to the streets in September to demand the end of military rule and the restoration of democracy. The brutal crackdown has generated expressions of outrage internationally, but so far there has been little international action. But the monks' determination has given hope to many.


Sam McCormally
Editor, South Asian Perspectives



Feature: Myanmar
The Uprising in MyanmarThe Uprising in Myanmar
It has been 19 years since Myanmar has seen popular protests on the magnitude of those of recent weeks. Ko Htike, a blog run by Burmese students in London, gives a glimpse of the severity of the crackdown against Myanmar’s Bhuddist monks, a revered section of society, and a group at the forefront of the pro-democracy demonstrations:

“A troop of lone-tein (riot police comprised of paid thugs) protected by the military trucks, raided the monastery with 200 studying monks. They systematically ordered all the monks to line up and banged and crushed each one's head against the brick wall of the monastery. One by one, the peaceful, non resisting monks, fell to the ground, screaming in pain. Then, they tore off the red robes and threw them all in the military trucks (like rice bags) and took their bodies away.” (Ko Htke, September 30, 2007).

The Hindu urged international support the pro-democracy agitators, but laments that, “there is no unanimity among the major powers, with China and, to an extent, Russia opposing sanctions.” (The Hindu, September 28, 2007).

B. Raman’s series on the protests in Myanmar blasts the international community, especially India, for failing to respond with conviction to the brutal repression of the monks’ demonstrations. India’s refusal to support the protestors in Myanmar is “moral cowardice,” writes he writes, especially since the monks’ non-violent resistance follows in the tradition of Mahatma Gandhi. (Outlook India, September 24, 2007, free registration required).

In another article, B. Raman writes that India’s hesitance is even more tragic because “the international community is convinced that only China and India…are in a position to moderate the behavior of the junta. But neither country is presently inclined to do so.” (Outlook India, September 27, 2007, free registration required).

But B. Raman acknowledges that sanctions alone are unlikely to dislodge the junta: “Past economic sanctions have not worked with a ruling clique, which is hardly bothered about the economic hardships of the people.” (Outlook India, October 3, 2007). (Links to B. Raman’s other recent articles on the protests in Myanmar can be found in the Additional Resources section.)

Anushree Bhattacharyya joins the clamor urging India to step in and support the protestors. India ought to engage Myanmar bilaterally, through ASEAN, and with China. (IPCS, October 4, 2007).

One tactic that would be successful is an embargo on arms sales with Myanmar; India ought to adopt one now, argues The Hindu (The Hindu, October 6, 2007).


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Carnegie Analysis/Events
monksProtests in Myanmar
In the past few weeks, the secretive nation of Burma suddenly landed on the world's front pages, as small demonstrations by monks spiraled into massive protests and triggered a violent crackdown by the military government. Carnegie's Josh Kurlantzick argues in The Boston Globe that behind the unrest lies an explanation that makes the isolated country a critical test of foreign policy. "Burma's brutal ruling junta, which has long kept power through force and fear," he writes, "is taking the next step and transforming itself into one of the world's few totalitarian regimes."
Related:
Burma’s Buddy: India’s Craven Appeasement in Burma, October 2
Myanmar: A History of Near-Misses, and Protests, September 27
Burma Blues, September 26

event panelSouth Asia from the Inside-Out:
Domestic Politics and Grand Strategy

On September 27, the Carnegie Endowment and the National Bureau of Asian Research hosted an event launching the publication of Strategic Asia 2007-2008: Domestic Political Change and Grand Strategy. Panelists discussed the meaning of Indian domestic opposition to the U.S.-India civillian nuclear deal as well as the future of the military regimes in Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Read more about the event and view the full transcript.


MusharrafPakistan’s Presidential Elections
As expected, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf was elected for a third term. However, the implications for Pakistan’s political landscape still remain largely unclear. Carnegie’s Frederic Grare, a leading scholar on Pakistan and South Asia, provides context and analysis in the following work:

Rethinking Western Strategies Toward Pakistan
Musharraf in the Twilight
Pakistan-Afghanistan Relations in the Post-9/11 Era
Islam, Militarism, and the 2007–2008 Elections in Pakistan
More


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Views from South Asia
INDIA - Foreign and Domestic Politics
China and the U.S.-India Nuclear DealChina and the U.S.-India Nuclear Deal
Harsh V. Pant argues that those who see the nuclear deal as an attempt to curb India’s nuclear capabilities are missing the point entirely: “There is little incentive for the U.S. to try to cap the Indian nuclear arsenal and circumscribe Indian technology development,” since the U.S. would like to see India emerge as a “counterweight to China in the Asia-Pacific.” (Outlook India, October 8, 2007).

But Seema Sirohi thinks China’s opposition to the deal has softened. There may be a price, however; some Chinese officials “feel they can extract more concessions from India on Tibet by delaying their decision on the nuke deal and increasing the pressure,” she writes (Outlook India, October 9, 2007, free registration required).

Poverty by the Numbers
While the percentage of Indians living at three-fourths of the poverty live decreased from 31% in 1999 to 21% in 2004-2005, the percentage of the population that is “marginally poor” or “vulnerable” has jumped. Seventy-seven percent of Indians live on two dollars a day in PPP terms. “What is worse,” writes N.K. Singh, “is that a high percentage of this group comprises Scheduled Tribes, Scheduled Castes, OBCs, minorities, and Muslims.”(Indian Express, September 30, 2007).

It is hard to know what to make of these figures—certainly some of the people who climbed above the poverty line before 2004-2005 moved into the “marginally poor” category. But, however one slices the data, the UPA’s promise of inclusive growth has not been realized, writes Bibek Debory: “India’s income inequality is now at its highest level since Independence.” (Indian Express, October 1, 2007).

(The full text of Bibek Debroy’s report can be found in the In-Depth Analysis section.)

Public Health
“It seems fairly obvious that a healthy population is not only a desirable attribute in itself, it is also a minimum necessary condition for any sort of sustained economic success,” writes Jayati Ghosh. But the numbers suggest that not all share Ghosh’s conviction—46 % of Indian children are underweight, and fewer than half have been fully immunized. (Frontline, October 5, 2007).

UPA in Crisis
Bharat Karnad doesn't quite know what to make of Sonia Gandhi’s assertion that opponents of the U.S.-India nuclear deal are “enemies of development and enemies of peace.” Going to the polls on the nuclear issue is a “death wish;” the n-deal is “an embarrassing mess” with little popular support, and a threat to India’s domestic nuclear program, he writes. (The Asian Age, October 10, 2007).

The Conflict in Jammu and Kashmir
The jihadist group Hizb ul-Mujahideen declared a three-day cease fire to begin midnight on October 11. Praveen Swami believes the cease-fire may represent real hope for the peace process, but a solution is far from imminent: “New Delhi is unlikely to respond to the Hizb ceasefire until the terror group brings a tangible negotiation offer to the table. More likely than not, months of quiet covert diplomacy will be needed before a workable ceasefire can be hammered out.” (The Hindu, October 11, 2007).

Communalism in Gujarat
Five years after the communal riots, Muslims remain excluded from political life. Vidya Subrahmaniam blames Hindutva forces for subverting the KHAN movement, which brought Adivasis, Muslims, and OBCs together on a single platform. (The Hindu, October 9, 2007).


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INDIA - Economics and Energy

India Explaining India’s Growth
How is it that India’s growth has been comparable to China’s despite low levels of public spending on education? Ila Patnaik has two answers. First, much of India’s workforce has been trained on the job, which provides skills and experience superior to those gained in schools. And second, while India’s government schools remain under-funded, private education is widespread and reasonably effective. (Financial Express, September 27, 2007).

There’s Inflation, and then There’s Inflation
Ila Patnaik notes that the Wholesale Price Index puts India’s inflation rate at 3.32% in the first week of September, representing five consecutive months of declining inflation. But according to the Consumer Price Index for Agricultural Labor, inflation remains at 8.8%, which is bad news for consumers. (The Indian Express, September 26, 2007).    

Nuclear Power
V.R. Krishna Iyer sees the costs of nuclear energy as prohibitive (“Nuclear waste disposal is the despair of technologists”), and the alternative (gas, wind, and solar) as bountiful. (The Asian Age, September 28, 2007).

But M.R. Srinivasan, a chairman in the Indian Department of Atomic Energy counters that nuclear plants provide the lowest price per kilowatt of any of India’s viable energy options. (The Hindu, October 5, 2007).


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PAKISTAN
Benazir Bhutto and Pakistan’s FutureBenazir Bhutto
The Pakistan press has begun to criticize former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto almost as much as President and General Musharraf.

The deal struck between Musharraf and Bhutto was billed by friends on the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) as the necessary compromise to ensure a “smooth return to democracy.” But the response to the deal has been less than glowing, writes Nirupama Subramanian: “Even her staunchest supporters are stunned that the final “package of reforms” contains little other than the withdrawal of corruption cases against her, her husband, and confidantes from her time in power.” (The Hindu, October 12, 2007).

First, Benazir Bhutto announced that she would expose infamous nuclear proliferator A.Q. Khan to IAEA questioning. Next, she stated that she would, under certain circumstances allow the U.S. to strike terrorist targets within Pakistan’s borders. Dawn wonders if her strategy is wise: “Does Ms. Bhutto not realize or care about the perils of sounding more and more like a mouthpiece of the U.S. State Department?” (Dawn, October 3, 2007).

But Farhatullah Babar, a former Senator from Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party, sees nothing surprising about Bhutto’s remarks regarding A.Q. Khan. “Has the government itself not permitted the IAEA to put written questions to Dr. A.Q. Khan, the replies to which are then forwarded to the U.N. agency? Has Gen. Musharraf not admitted in his memoirs sharing 'all information' about the nuclear black market with the international agencies?” he writes. “Behind lambasting Ms. Bhutto is the lurking fear that there could be more than just one skeleton in the cupboard.” (The News International, October 1, 2007).

Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto has declared the fight between moderate and extremist elements as the most important problem facing Pakistan. Javid Hussain argues that she’s wrong: “The real issue in Pakistan is and has been the tussle between democracy and military rule.” And her deal with Musharraf will only help cement military rule. (The Nation, October 6, 2007).

Terrorism in the Northwest
Terrorist activity in northwest Pakistan, “the greatest threat to Pakistan’s survival as a moderate tolerant state,” writes Najmuddin A. Shaikh. I believe that if we do a serious count we will find that the number of suicide attacks in Pakistan is beginning to reach the same levels as in Afghanistan and perhaps even Iraq.” (Dawn, September 26, 2007).

Musharraf’s Re-electionMusharraf
A few days before the Presidential election, the Supreme Court of Pakistan issued a ruling allowing the election to proceed, but stated mysteriously that “The main petitions shall be set down for hearing on October 17, 2007.” This leaves all of the meaty questions about Musharraf’s eligibility to serve another term as President, to run for election wearing his uniform, and to serve without leaving two years between a military post and a civilian post, still unanswered, says an editorial. (The Nation, October 6, 2007).

Yasser Latif Hamdani notes that even if Musharraf sticks to his promise and resigns as army chief upon beginning his new term as President, a dangerous precedent will have been set. “The Pakistan army may from time to time field a serving officer as the presidential candidate to contest elections. Could there be any other party willing to take on the Pakistan army's candidate?” (The News International, October 9, 2007).

Black Saturday
The police brutality against reporters and lawyers outside the Election Commission on September 29, captured on video, has added the press to the “phalanx of elements now arrayed against it,” write the editorial board of The Daily Times.  “The damage to General Pervez Musharraf’s proud flagship — a free and vibrant media — done by more-loyal-than-the-King officials is unmistaken and irrevocable.” (The Daily Times, October 2, 2007).

The Observer concurs: The police’s response was particularly egregious since, “unlike some sections of the legal community and…political leaders who urged their workers to make it to the Election Commission to ‘tear off’ the nomination papers of General Pervez Musharraf, journalists had no such intentions and their attempt to reach as close to the EC as possible was motivated by the desire to have closer and deeper picture of what was happening there.” (Pakistan Observer, October 1, 2007).


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BANGLADESH
Corruptionzia
Why has Bangladesh’s interim government focused so exclusively on prosecuting high-profile politicians on corruption charges, when “it is impossible for the political authorities to pull off high-profile corruption without active help of the unscrupulous sections of the bureaucracy and the business community?” asks an editorial in The New Age. The latest list of corruption suspects included not a single businessperson nor bureaucrat, reinforcing the New Age’s suspicion that the anti-corruption drive is “an extension of the incumbents’ not-so-overt machination to introduce a ‘new political order’ through deconstruction of the existing political establishments.” (The New Age, October 6, 2007).

But the anti-corruption drive isn’t all bad, Bangladesh’s Daily Star celebrates the country’s improvement on the Berlin-based Transparency International's corruption perception index. This year, Bangladesh jumped from the third most corrupt nation to the seventh. Bangladesh’s rankings improved in part because of the interim government’s arrests of corrupt officials. (The Daily Star, September 28, 2007).

The Interim Government

At the UN last month, President Fakhruddin defended the interim military government of Bangladesh and promised to reinstate democracy in due course. “As stipulated in our Constitution, the non-party caretaker administration acts as a bridge between successive political governments. Our task, first and foremost, is to ensure a free and fair election, and we are fully committed to that responsibility,” he said. NM Harun doubts the President’s ability to enact such a transformation. (The New Age, September 30, 2007).

Vandalism against Industry
Garment factory owners in Bangladesh are blaming the violence and vandalism against their facilities on “foreign hands” and a “deep conspiracy to cripple the vital industry by vested interest groups.” Factory owners suspect that the alleged conspirators, including the ALF-CIO, are trying to undermine Bangladesh’s bargaining position in trade negotiations. Sayed Kamaluddin takes a look at the pattern of attacks. (The New Age, September 20, 2007).

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NEPAL
Postponing the Constituent Assembly Elections (Again)maosit party activist
The agreement between the Maoist parties and the six-party alliance stipulated that the fate of the monarchy be determined after the Constituent Assembly elections, currently set for November. Now, the Maoists are threatening to boycott the election unless the current assembly declares Nepal a republic, and complies with a list of other demands.  The Rising Nepal thinks that the Maoists’ demands are sensible; the monarchy might attempt to subvert the elections in order to remain in power. (The Rising Nepal, October 3, 2007).

But Rabindra Mishab sees the Maoists hardline demands as a bid to intentionally postpone elections and eventually capture power. (Nepal News, October 9, 2007).

Indian Idol
Prashant Tamang, a policeman from Darjeeling, was the winner of the first, massively popular Indian Idol. But the real celebrations of Tamang’s success were in Nepal. The Himalayan Times reports, “the moment the winner was announced, Kathmandu and other towns in Nepal erupted into wildly joyous chants of ‘Prashant, Prashant’ and crowds of people came out in the streets in virtually every locality, singing and dancing.” The outburst of Nepali unity bodes well for solving the nation’s political crises, claims an editorial. (The Himalayan Times, September 25, 2007).

Tamang’s win serves as a reminder that the “power of a globalized media now touches event the remotest corners of the world,” notes an editorial (The Nepali Times, September 28-October 4, 2007).

You can watch a video of Tamang’s performance on YouTube.


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SRI LANKA
The Civil WarRajapaksa
Sri Lankan defense secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa’s plan to extend the government’s military campaign to the North will fail, Jehan Perera argues. The LTTE would be under tremendous pressure by the Tamil population to accept a political settlement, while “the defeat of the LTTE by itself is unlikely to lead to a just and negotiated political solution which has been resisted by racist elements in the polity for the past fifty years.” (The New Age, September 25, 2007).

MSM Ayub believes that past peace talks between the LTTE and the Sri Lankan government have failed because they have focused on issues that are the result of the war (such as high security zones and fishing restrictions) rather than the conflict’s causes. “Armed clashes will continue until the parties agree to view the whole issue afresh and dig out the root causes of the problem,” he argues.  (Daily Mirror, September 27, 200).

Human Rights Observers
As Sri Lanka prepares for several visits over the coming months from foreign observers, the Sunday Times urges the government to clean up its act on human rights (Sunday Times, September 30, 2007), while Jehan Perera urges the people of Sri Lanka to look at the UN Human Rights Commissioner’s visit as an opportunity, not a threat (Daily Mirror, October 9, 2007).


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In-Depth Analysis
Exclusive Growth, Inclusive Inequality, Bibek Debroy and Laveesh Bhandari, Center for Policy Research, September 24, 2007

Bangladesh: Politics and the Two Ladies, Bhaskar Roy, SAAG Paper 2408


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Additional Resources
Remarks by Minister of External Affairs at Council on Foreign Relations, New York on "India’s Foreign Policy and Future India-U.S. Relations," Ministry of External Affairs of India, October 3, 2007


B. Raman’s Columns on Myanmar:
The Olympic Effect? B. Raman, Outlook India, October 5, 2007

The Crackdown Continues, free registration required, B.Raman, Outlook India, September 29, 2007

Monks on the Streets, free registration required, B. Raman, Outlook India, September 20, 2007

Jittery Junta, free registration required, B. Raman, Outlook India, September18, 2007


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Editorial Staff

Editor:
Sam McCormally, junior fellow, South Asia Program, Carnegie Endowment

Associates:
Kathleen Donaldson, program assistant, South Asia Program, Carnegie Endowment

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