May 12, 2014
by Stanley A. Weiss
NEW DELHI–Last month, as Indian voters began streaming to the polls to elect a new Parliament and prime minister, India’s Bharatiya Janata Party released its long-awaited election platform . Predictably, the document criticized the record of the ruling Congress Party, while stressing the need for greater economic growth and good governance. But buried on page 40 of 42–after the BJP’s evolving stance on nuclear weapons but before their sacred commitment to the “Cow and its Progeny”–was the single, unexpected line, “We will work towards strengthening regional forums like SAARC and ASEAN.”
Though SAARC–the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation –is comprised of eight nations collectively containing over 1.6 billion people, it’s unsurprising that the organization would merit a mere passing mention in the political platform of what is likely to be India’s next ruling party. Founded in 1985 to promote regional cultural and economic integration, SAARC quickly acquired a reputation for “much talk and no action.” For one thing, decisions among its members–India, Pakistan, Afghanitan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Nepal, and the Maldives–must be unanimous. For another, its two biggest members, India and Pakistan, treat each other with the thinly-veiled contempt born of half a century of enmity.
May 2, 2014
by Stanley A. Weiss
WASHINGTON, DC– Indonesia has been wracked by a string of seismic and volcanic activity of late –including a 6.0 magnitude quake today in the eastern part of the archipelago nation of 250 million. But with the world’s third-largest democracy readying for their fast-approaching 2014 presidential elections, the biggest tectonic shift in Indonesia may be political in nature. All eyes are on Joko (Jokowi) Widodo, the charismatic Governor of Jakarta, as he vies with the popular but as-yet-undeclared former special forces commander General Prabowo Subianto to succeed the term-limited President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. Eager for insights into the rapidly-shifting currents of Indonesian presidential politics, I reached out to a Javanese friend, who sent me the following letter.
May 1, 2014
by Stanley A. Weiss
NEW DELHI–As a longtime fan of the Philadelphia Phillies baseball team, it’s not often that I find myself cheering for the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Phillies’ rival in the state of Pennsylvania. But on July 4, 2009, I couldn’t help but enjoy the sight of Rinku Singh and Dinesh Patel — the first two Indians ever to play professional baseball in the United States — each take the pitcher’s mound for the very first time. The two young players, both born in Lucknow, India, had never touched — or even heard of — a baseball before being discovered by an American sports agent a year earlier and selected out of 40,000 Indian athletes to train for the American major leagues.
This month, Singh and Patel’s improbable story is getting the full Disney treatment in Million Dollar Arm, a film chronicling the search for Indians who could be trained to become Major League Baseball pitchers. It’s a heartwarming account of cross-cultural success — which, given the present state of U.S.-Indian relations, makes it a relative rarity.
May 1, 2012
NEW DELHI, India—It is one of history’s great ironies that the Buddha grew up, attained enlightenment and taught in India, while Buddhism has gained its greatest number of adherents—nearly 40 percent of the population—in China. This discrepancy was on full display last December, with New Delhi and Beijing each jockeying to be the site of the new International Buddhist Confederation. Swayed by India’s status as Buddhism’s birthplace and displeased by China’s treatment of the Dalai Lama, 900 Buddhist delegates to a conference in India voted to establish Buddhism’s de facto world capital here in India’s capital.
September 1, 2011
BALI—Set upon a blue background, the flag of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations depicts 10 yellow rice paddy stalks drawn in the middle of a red circle with a white border. The interesting thing about the banner is not merely that it represents the main colors of all ten ASEAN member state flags: Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and the Philippines. It is that 44 years to the day after ASEAN was founded, on August 8th—in a development that received little attention outside Asia—the flag was hoisted for the first time alongside the banners of all member states at hundreds of embassies and diplomatic missions around the world.
August 15, 2011
JAKARTA—He studied law under Thomas Jefferson, served as Secretary of State and Secretary of War under John Adams, elected President of the United States in 1816, and was so fondly hailed that his eight years as Chief Executive were dubbed the “era of good feelings.”
July 9, 2010
Military alone won’t bring poverty-stricken areas into the 21st century
On Thursday, heavily armed Maoist rebels attacked a police station and the home of a Congress leader in the state of Chhattisgarh in India’s heartland. On June 29, they assaulted and killed 26 members of India’s Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF). The Maoist movement, tens of thousands strong, is active in more than half of India’s states, a red ribbon that stretches from the Nepalese border down the Bay of Bengal coast. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh calls the Maoists India’s top internal security threat; Home Minister P. Chidambaram terms Maoism “a graver problem than jihadi terrorism.” In U.S. terms, the rebels’ geographical reach extends from New York City to Key West, Fla., and Washington, D.C., to Indianapolis.
April 18, 2009
NEW DELHI — Leaders here can’t get enough of the American president. He’s “the best president vis-à-vis India in the past 50 years,” said a former diplomat. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told him, “the people of India deeply love you.” One official proposed awarding him the Bharat Ratna (Jewel of India), the country’s highest civilian honor.
Another nation in the throes of Obamania?