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The Indian Budget: Cautious But Resolute

by Alyssa Ayres
A staff member (L) passes a pen to Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley before making the final touches to the federal budget 2015/16 in New Delhi on February 27, 2015 (Adnan Abidi/Courtesy: Reuters). A staff member (L) passes a pen to Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley before making the final touches to the federal budget 2015/16 in New Delhi on February 27, 2015 (Adnan Abidi/Courtesy: Reuters).

In a country whose media exists in a perpetual fever-pitch of excitement, a consensus has formed around the first full-year budget of the Narendra Modi government presented on February 28, 2015: No big bang reforms. For those who have not been following this closely, here are the highlights, along with links to primary sources for further reading. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of February 20, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Lion dancers perform for the opening of the Temple Fair, as part of Chinese New Year celebrations, at Ditan Park, also known as the Temple of Earth, in Beijing, February 18, 2015. The Chinese Lunar New Year on Feb. 19 will welcome the Year of the Sheep (also known as the Year of the Goat or Ram). REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon (CHINA - Tags: SOCIETY) Lion dancers perform for the opening of the Temple Fair, as part of Chinese New Year celebrations, at Ditan Park, also known as the Temple of Earth, in Beijing on February 18, 2015 (Kim Kyung-Hoon/Courtesy of Reuters).

Ashlyn Anderson, Lauren Dickey, Darcie Draudt, William Piekos, Ariella Rotenberg, and Sharone Tobias look at the top stories in Asia today.

1. Myanmar declares martial law in Kokang. President Thein Sein announced a state of emergency and three months of martial law in the Kokang Self-Administered Zone, on the border with China, after a series of clashes between the Myanmar army and armed Kokang rebels. Under martial law, administrative and judicial power has been granted to the army’s commander in chief; the imposition of martial law is aimed at securing a ceasefire and political dialogue well in advance of general elections later this year. The conflict is a setback for Myanmar’s semi-civilian government, which took power in 2011 after nearly fifty years of military rule. Myanmar is turning to neighboring China for help even as tens of thousands of refugees are fleeing into Yunnan province from Kokang. Read more »

Few Takers for Hindi

by Alyssa Ayres
Indic Scripts, 2013. Photo by Rohini Lakshané licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 / Cropped from original. Indic Scripts, 2013. Photo by Rohini Lakshané licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 / Cropped from original.

Another year, another survey: the Modern Language Association (MLA) has released its quadrennial language enrollments survey of foreign languages in U.S. higher education. I’m sorry to report that American students continue to display very low interest in Indian languages. This continues a pattern going back decades. Despite the Indian economy’s rapid growth, and the increase in U.S.-India diplomatic ties, students in U.S. colleges and universities are not signing up for Indian languages at remotely the scale languages like Arabic, Chinese, or Korean experience. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of February 13, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Aam Aadmi (Common Man) Party (AAP) chief and its chief ministerial candidate for Delhi, Arvind Kejriwal (center), waves to his supporters in New Delhi on February 10, 2015 (Adnan Abidi/Courtesy Reuters). Aam Aadmi (Common Man) Party (AAP) chief and its chief ministerial candidate for Delhi, Arvind Kejriwal (center), waves to his supporters in New Delhi on February 10, 2015 (Adnan Abidi/Courtesy Reuters).

Ashlyn Anderson, Lauren Dickey, Darcie Draudt, William Piekos, Ariella Rotenberg, and Sharone Tobias look at the top stories in Asia today.

1. After nearly a year of president’s rule, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) sweeps to power in Delhi state elections. The AAP won sixty-seven out of the seventy legislative seats in the Delhi assembly, a stunning victory that surprised many. The party was founded by Arvind Kejriwal in 2012 and grew out of a protest movement against corruption; it made its debut in the December 2013 Delhi elections when it joined with the Congress party to form the Delhi government—with Kejriwal serving as chief minister. Read more »

What the Delhi Elections Mean for Indian Foreign and International Economic Policy (Not Much, Yet)

by Alyssa Ayres
Supporters of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) hold portraits of AAP chief and its chief ministerial candidate for Delhi, Arvind Kejriwal, during the celebrations outside their party office in New Delhi on February 10, 2015 (Anindito Mukherjee/Courtesy: Reuters). Supporters of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) hold portraits of AAP chief and its chief ministerial candidate for Delhi, Arvind Kejriwal, during the celebrations outside their party office in New Delhi on February 10, 2015 (Anindito Mukherjee/Courtesy: Reuters).

Delhi voters just elected—by a landslide—the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) to lead their state assembly. What’s more, the chief minister will again be quirkily charismatic Arvind Kejriwal, who led the new anti-corruption party to a strong showing in Delhi in December 2013 but abandoned governance for street sit-ins and staged public protests. He then quit government after forty-nine days and plunged the state into a long period of uncertainty. Despite this, wielding brooms and wrapping a scarf (“muffler” in India, hence his nickname “Mufflerman”) around his head during winter, Kejriwal campaigned aggressively to root out corruption and provide free water, half-rate electricity, and a better jobs deal for the poor. It worked. Read more »

Next Steps with India (चलें साथ साथ कहां ?)

by Alyssa Ayres
U.S. President Barack Obama and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi talk as they have coffee and tea together in the gardens of Hyderabad House in New Delhi on January 25, 2015 (Jim Bourg/Courtesy: Reuters). U.S. President Barack Obama and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi talk as they have coffee and tea together in the gardens of Hyderabad House in New Delhi on January 25, 2015 (Jim Bourg/Courtesy: Reuters).

By most estimates, President Barack Obama had a good visit to India last week. The atmosphere was spectacular—how could it not be, with India’s Republic Day parade the backdrop—and the apparent warmth between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Obama was visible from the big airport bear hug, chuckles over tea, and first-name informality (well, at least on Modi’s part) on a joint radio program. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of January 30, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Philippine President Benigno Aquino delivers a speech in front of the caskets of the slain members of the Special Action Force (SAF) who were killed in Sunday's clash with Muslim rebels, during a service inside a police headquarters in Taguig city, south of Manila January 30, 2015. Aquino urged legislators on Wednesday not to abandon a plan for autonomy for Muslims to end a decades-old insurgency after the clash in which dozens of people were killed, saying doing so would dash hopes for peace. A top official described the clash on Sunday, which shattered a three-year ceasefire, as a "misencounter" during a bid to arrest two militants who had taken refuge with Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) fighters. REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco (PHILIPPINES - Tags: POLITICS CRIME LAW MILITARY) Philippine President Benigno Aquino delivers a speech in front of the caskets of the slain members of the Special Action Force (SAF) who were killed in Sunday's clash with Muslim rebels, during a service inside a police headquarters in Taguig city, south of Manila, on January 30, 2015 (Romeo Ranoco/Courtesy Reuters).

Ashlyn Anderson, Lauren Dickey, Darcie Draudt, William Piekos, Ariella Rotenberg, and Sharone Tobias look at the top stories in Asia today.

1. Forty-four commandos killed in the Philippines. On January 25, forty-four commandos in the Philippine Special Action Force (SAF) were slain in a firefight with two Muslim rebel groups in the southern province of Maguindanao. The area in which the raid took place is currently held by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) who signed a peace deal with the government last year to end years of fighting; MILF was apparently uninformed of the planned raid. The team of 392 had been deployed to capture two high-value terror suspects: suspected bombmaker Abdul Basit Usman and Malaysian Zulkifli Bin Hir, also known as Marwan. President Benigno Aquino held a ceremony to honor those killed and urged the nation to support the ongoing peace process. Read more »

The Top Ten Stories in South Asia, 2014

by Alyssa Ayres
Photo credit: Alyssa Ayres Photo credit: Alyssa Ayres

It was a busy news year in South Asia, with events that will have far-reaching consequences for the region. Between India’s historic election, a hard-won unity government in Afghanistan, and ongoing political turmoil in Pakistan combined with shocking terrorist attacks, South Asia made the front pages around the world for many different reasons. Like last year, I’ve tried to sift through the year’s developments and assess which will have lasting effects on the countries in the region and beyond. Herewith my personal selection of 2014’s most consequential stories in South Asia: Read more »

India and Bangladesh Poised to Resolve Border Dispute

by Alyssa Ayres
Female personnel of India's Border Security Force (BSF) patrol along the fencing of the India-Bangladesh international border ahead of India's Independence Day celebrations, at Dhanpur village in India's northeastern state of Tripura August 11, 2014. India commemorates its Independence Day on August 15. REUTERS/Jayanta Dey (INDIA - Tags: ANNIVERSARY MILITARY TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY) Female personnel of India's Border Security Force (BSF) patrol along the fencing of the India-Bangladesh international border ahead of India's Independence Day celebrations, at Dhanpur village in India's northeastern state of Tripura on August 11, 2014. (Jayanta Dey/Courtesy Reuters)

After nearly seventy years, it appears that India and Bangladesh may at last resolve their border issues, a legacy of the partition of India in 1947. Following the failed effort of the previous Indian government to ratify a Land Boundary Agreement negotiated with the government of Bangladesh, announced in 2011 but never passed by the Indian parliament, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has voiced his support. As I argue in the Indian Express this week, what may appear to be a local, low-profile regional development actually has significant impact for India and its role in the world. Read more »