Rivers run through Modi’s regional agenda

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi waves to unseen wellwishers as he arrives to meet with Nepalese Prime Minister Sushil Koirala following a meeting at the prime minister's office in Kathmandu on 3 August  2014. Modi arrived in Nepal to try to speed up progress on power agreements while also aiming to counter rival giant China's influence in the region.

Author: Robert G. Wirsing, Georgetown University

Narendra Modi’s two-day visit to Kathmandu in early August, the first visit to Nepal by an Indian premier in 17 years, was his third trip abroad since his inauguration on 26 May. In mid-June, only weeks after taking charge in New Delhi, he had made his first official foreign excursion — a two-day visit to nearby Bhutan. These upfront state visits to the two Himalayan countries were a clear indication that Modi was determined to put flesh on his campaign pledge to give priority in his foreign policy to bolstering relations with India’s South Asian neighbours. Read more…

Time to break down investment barriers between India and Pakistan

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi shakes hands with his Pakistan counterpart Nawaz Sharif prior to a meeting in New Delhi, India, 27 May 2014. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Samridhi Bimal, ICRIER

On 26 May, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif travelled to New Delhi to attend the swearing-in ceremony of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. This was followed by a period of ‘letter and sari diplomacy’ between the two leaders, in which both expressed their commitment to a peaceful and cooperative working relationship. These moves are unprecedented and point to a significant change in India–Pakistan relations. One of the most promising areas for cooperation is foreign direct investment (FDI). Read more…

Pakistan struggles to escape the abyss

Pakistani security officials inspect the scene of a bomb blast that targeted a cinema in Peshawar, Pakistan, 11 February 2014. At least 11 people were killed and 25 injured in the bombing at a cinema in Pakistan's troubled north-western city of Peshawar, media reports said. (Photo: EPA/ARSHAD ARBAB)

Author: Alicia Mollaun, ANU

Pakistan is wracked by economic instability and security problems that affect the life of every citizen. These interlinked problems are eating away at the Pakistani state and, if left untreated they will create more fragility which is good neither for Pakistan, the region, nor the rest of the world. Read more…

Modi’s roadmap for India’s Kashmir and Pakistan policies

Narendra Modi delivers a speech during a public rally in Jammu, the winter capital of Kashmir. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Rekha Chowdhary, University of Jammu

With the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) looking likely to form government in India under the leadership of Narendra Modi, questions are being raised about the implications for Kashmir and India–Pakistan relations. Answers may be found in the ideological position of the BJP; the position that this party has taken on these issues in the past, especially the recent past; and, most importantly, the record of the party when it was in power. Read more…

Is the sword mightier than the pen in Pakistan?

Pakistani journalists of the National Press Club are seen holding signs during a demonstration in Islamabad. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Sanchita Bhattacharya, Institute for Conflict Management

Hamid Mir, the award-winning Pakistani journalist and anchor for the Pakistani television station Geo TV, was attacked by militants in Karachi on 19 April 2014. This is no mere stray incident, but rather one of a series of attacks carried out against journalists in Pakistan. According to the 2014 Human Rights Watch Report, at least six journalists were killed in Pakistan in 2013 while reporting stories or as a result of deliberate attacks. Read more…

Can Pakistan free itself from polio?

A Pakistani health worker gives a child a polio vaccine in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, 8 April 2014. Pakistan’s beleaguered battle to eradicate polio is threatening a global, multi-billion dollar campaign to wipe out the disease worldwide. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Sanchita Bhattacharya, Institute for Conflict Management

In February this year, Pakistan’s ambassador Masood Khan told a UN panel that his country, under Nawaz Sharif, hopes to eradicate polio in 2014. How realistic is this goal?

There are only three countries where the polio virus (officially, poliomyelitis) remains endemic: Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan. Read more…

Hard times force Pakistan to privatise

Pakistani activists shout anti-government slogans during a protest against the state of Pakistan’s economy in Karachi on 16 March 2014. Nawaz Sharif is eager to carry out privatisation to receive an IMF bailout. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Sajjad Ashraf, NUS

On returning to power after 14 years in 2013 the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government led by Nawaz Sharif faced a bankrupt economy. While mostly caused by an abysmally low tax-to-GDP ratio, the public sector enterprises (PSEs) had also haemorrhaged US$25 billion over the previous five years.

Sharif remains desperate for immediate IMF support to keep Pakistan afloat. Read more…

Pakistan from hope to despair in 2013

A Pakistani man walks in front of a truck featuring a picture of Prime Minister Nawaz Shairf in Islamabad on December 17, 2013. The Sharif government has struggled to woo investment in the energy sector to boost the economy which has averaged growth of about 3 per cent over the past five years, insufficient to significantly improve living standards or fully absorb a growing labour force. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Sajjad Ashraf, NUS

When the new chief justice of Pakistan took oath of office on 12 December 2013 Pakistan completed an historic changeover during a year that saw the first civilian government in 67 years complete its constitutionally mandated term. 2013 also saw Pakistan get a new prime minister, president and chief of army staff. Perhaps no other country has experienced such a total change of its constitutional officers within a calendar year. Read more…

Can Pakistan stop its people funding terrorism?

Author: Sanchita Bhattacharya, New Delhi

In October, as Muslims observed the holy festival of Eid-ul-Adha, Pakistani terrorist groups made profits. People are encouraged to make ‘religious donations’, which often make their way to terror outfits like Lashkar-e-Taiba and its front organisation Jamaat-ud-Dawa. Read more…

India must engage Pakistan’s middle class

Malala Yousafzai (C), the Pakistani girl shot by the Taliban after campaigning for girls education, stands between British former Prime Minister Gordon Brown (L) and university Principal Professor Timothy O'Shea  as she receives an honorary masters degree from the University of Edinburgh during the first Global Citizenship Commission meeting at the university in Scotland on October 19, 2013 (Photo: AAP).

Author: Tridivesh Singh Maini, New Delhi

All too often, India’s strategic approach to Pakistan is pulled in opposite directions by polarised sections of the establishment.
Over the last decade or so, whenever New Delhi has reached out to Pakistan, a section of the strategic community — mostly retired diplomats, army officers and some analysts — say talking to Islamabad is a pointless exercise and India should disrupt all forms of engagement until terrorism stops emanating from Pakistani soil. Read more…

Nawaz’s first 100 days

Pakistani Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif addresses the 68th United Nations General Assembly at the United Nations Headquarters on Friday 27 September 2013. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Sajjad Ashraf, NUS

After assuming power to begin a record third term, 14 years after his ouster in a 1999 military coup, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has recently completed 100 days in office. Read more…

Australian help in Pakistan cannot be military

Pakistani security officials inspect the damaged vehicle of Ibrahim Jatoi, an election candidate of National Peoples Party, after a suicide bomb attack, in Shikarpur, Sindh province, Pakistan (Photo: AAP).

Author: Sandy Gordon, ANU

As Australia winds down in Afghanistan after a 12-year war, the new defence minister, David Johnson, has reportedly stated that Australia needs to keep its counter-insurgency skills honed, including for possible use in Pakistan.

It is not clear whether Mr Johnson means a limited role in advising Pakistan on counter-insurgency or envisions a more robust involvement in maintaining stability. Read more…

Pakistan’s dismal education prospects

Pakistani children peek under a curtain that hides the residence inside a home of a poor neighborhood in Mingora, in the Swat Valley, Pakistan. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Sanchita Bhattacharya, New Delhi

The Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child recently published a report noting that Pakistan has the world’s second-largest number of children out of school, while in April 2012 UNICEF indicated that some 20 million Pakistani children, including an estimated 7.3 million of primary school age, are not in school.

This phenomenon is one of the by-products of terrorism and insurgency in Pakistan today. Yet the full explanation is even more complex, given that both the state and society of Pakistan have descended into utter chaos. Read more…

Pakistan’s education conundrum

Pakistani children listen to their teacher, not pictured, at their school in a poor neighbourhood on the outskirts of Islamabad, Pakistan (Photo: AAP).

Authors: Ameena Ghaffar-Kucher, University of Pennsylvania, and Ayesha Awan, Lahore, Pakistan

With 70 per cent of its citizens under the age of 35, Pakistan has one of the youngest populations on the planet, yet the country has not been able to enjoy the demographic dividend that a young population can bring.

This is largely because of the sorry state of Pakistan’s education system and the failure of successive governments to provide even basic education for all: Read more…