NSA: the Deceptive Scandal

The latest round of leaks on the NSA could end the spying culture through major policy-shifts promised by President Obama though one should remain sceptical.


By Gulshan Roy, 5th November 2013

The average unemployment rate set to hit a record 12% in the EU; the growth rate stagnating at a dire 0.3%; the much fanfared recovery that never turned up; an ever-so-fragile eurozone:  these are the major themes Angela Merkel would have nervously expected to debate as she appeared in Brussels last Friday for this year’s crucial EU summit. Instead, the meeting was (rather conveniently for her) foreshadowed then dominated by America’s intriguing secret curiosity for the contents her cell phone. In yet another round of blows for US National Security Agency (NSA), The Guardian revealed last week that the agency had been monitoring calls of 35 world leaders without their knowledge, let alone their consent. Edward Snowden has his president biting his nails once again for traditional allies of Washington are understandably outraged.

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Fanning the Flames – The Rise of AQAP

An assessment of what has contributed to the swelling of the Al Qaeda ranks in Yemen. Among other factors, this has included the cutting of the remittances from their richer neighbors after the first Gulf War and the security concerns (drone strikes).


By Richard Wallace, 23rd October 2013

Just a couple of months back, news channels were filled with coverage of the impending threat Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP – the Gulf branch of Al-Qaeda) poses to domestic security in Yemen and international security more broadly. Yemen is rarely in the limelight, with much media attention focusing further north on the Middle East states of the Levant and Iran. When it does catch international attention, the media discourse on Yemen is typically highly securitized, to the extent that the country is increasingly cast as the next Afghanistan, the cradle of chaos, and the new haven and hotbed of international terrorism. Whether or not this is really the case, it is clear that Yemen does face serious challenges from AQAP’s local franchise and the danger is real. So just how did it come to this?

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Colourful Challenges: Street Art from the Middle East

The author looks at Street Art in the Middle East (Libya, Egypt, Lebanon, Iran and Palestine). He draws attention to how in some parts it became an apparent means for protest, while in others it is more widely used to endorse the current regime.


By Dallin Van Leuven, 13th October, 2013

The Arab Spring brought far more than a change of leadership to nations in the Middle East and North Africa.  Its political upheaval introduced a marked increase in the freedom of speech, as well as a challenge to the definition of public space.  At the intersection of these two currents lies street art.  Street art – rather than graffiti – is an appropriate term, with vibrant, poignant expressions of free speech capturing the attention of both residents and passers-by. Continue reading

The Bahrain Predicament

This piece was originally written right after a car bomb explosion on July 18 in Riffa south of the capital Manama. The result of resisting the majority’s demands, the author brings into question whether there is any prudence in endorsing their aspirations.


By Massaab Al-Aloosy, 2nd October 2013

Yesterday a car exploded near the Sheikh Khalifah mosque in Manama, Bahrain.  The incident was immediately condemned as a terrorist attack by the government which warned of attempts to tear the social fabric. Although there were no casualties, the explosion is a reminder of how intricate the situation is in Bahrain. For a long time now, the opposition has been calling for democratization of the political system to no avail.

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Tensions Between the Universal Concept of Human Rights and Islamic law – Legal Theory Perspectives

The author applies different legal theories to understand the tension between human rights and Islamic law, and how this tension can be alleviated for greater convergence between the two.


By Shafeea Riza, 22nd September 2013

Introduction

The globalization of human rights through international human rights law systems has received a varying response from the Islamic states. The international human rights law norms, which is provided in the International Bill of Human Rights is contended to entail a universal concept which exemplify the position of public international law on human rights1. In contrast, Islamic law constitutes its very own concept of human rights and related duties2. The tension, therefore, between a universal concept of human rights and Islamic traditions is apparent. Despite the tension, it appears that Islamic states remain receptive to international human rights law instruments3.

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Egypt, the West and the Arab Spring

America’s refusal to condemn the military coup in Egypt has revealed the West’s true hopes for the ‘Arab Spring’


By Gulshan Roy, 11th September, 2013

 “If there is a God, he will have a lot to answer for. If not… well, he had a successful life,” Pope Urban VIII once said of a man who would irreversibly frame the study of diplomatic strategy. The Cardinal of Richelieu became France’s First Minister in 1624 at the time of the bloody war of Counter-reformation in Europe. In spite of France’s Catholic faith, Richelieu refrained from joining his religious allies in the war on Protestant Europe. But far retired from the moral obligations towards peace, his calculus rested instead within the strategic reasoning that a protracted and prolonged bloodbath would inflict damage upon both his allies and enemies, and ultimately serve France’s national objective of acquiring more power in Central Europe. Upon his advice, France simply stood back and watched the bloodshed, waiting for the most opportune moment to enter the fray. As the Obama administration silently watches the unfolding tragedy in Egypt, one can hardly eschew the conclusion that the robed religious tactician has found a host of studious followers in Washington.

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Kyrgyzstan: dangers from outside and inside threaten stability

Kyrgyzstan has recently experienced an upsurge in tensions around the issue of pollution in the Kumtor Gold Mine, which it has not known since the ethnic riots of June 2010. Oppositional nationalists are using this tension to put Kyrgyzstan again on the edge of stability, at a moment when Islamist are growing strong in the region and Afghanistan is going through a security transition that could affect the rest of Central Asia.


By Alejandro Marx, 8th September, 2013

Since its independence in 1991, with the dissolution of the USSR, Kyrgyzstan has known stability until the ‘Tulip Revolution’ in 2005 when its first president Askar Akayev, elected in 1990 was succeeded by Kurmankek Bakiyev. Bakiyev left Kyrgyzstan in April 2010 as a result of violent street protests, followed soon after by ethnic riots. After the transitional presidency of Roza Otunbaeva, Almazbek Atambaev was inaugurated president  in December 2011. Atambaev is the leader of the Kyrgyzstan Social Democratic Party, which has 26 out of 120 seats in parliament. He previously held the post of prime minister in the governments of Bakiyev and Otunbaeva. His party rules an unstable coalition with the other parties, apart from the nationalist Ata-Jurt party.

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Jihad 2.0: How Social Media Supports Islamist Agendas in Syria

Based on primary information from forums, communiqués and social media activities, this article offers an insight into the online activity of political jihadists and shows how online platforms are being used to support the jihadist cause in Syria.

By Camille Maubert, 4th September, 2013

The notion that the internet is a strong asset for international terrorist groups is not new. Forums have long been acknowledged as the main channel for Al Qaeda to reach out to its followers and articulate its goals and ideology. However, changes in the online environment and the fast development of social media as a preferred way of communication have altered the nature of the jihadi activities online.

Despite complaints by some ideologues that forums are being abandoned by their followers in favor of other medias, these platforms remain an essential part of jihadi media strategies. Some of them, such as Shumukh al-Islam and Ansar al-Mujahedeen, have been active for years and thus benefit from an great credibility with their audience. They are also direct links between AQ central and its supporters, featuring messages from famous jihadi writers and clerics the most prolific of which include Sheikh Abu Muhammad al-Tahawi, Sheikh Abu Basir al-Tartusi, Abu Ubaydah and of course AQ’s current leader Ayman al-Zawahiri.

Aside from official propaganda, forums enable groups and individuals alike to diffuse contents, post comments and share links with other bloggers in a relatively safe environment, ensuring cohesion within the jihadi community. However, developments in the Syrian crisis have created new needs which forums could not fulfill. As a matter of fact, Syria has been described as the first Youtube war, where every unfolding event is reported live by individuals using camera phones and posting images and videos online instantly. Such level of democratization and reactivity cannot be replicated in forums which are by definition restricted to members and censored by an editorial board. As a result, militants have turned to other platforms, namely Twitter and Facebook.

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A Mozambican Newspaper With a Difference

The author brings to light a Mozambican newspaper – named @Verdade – which does not follow traditional financial models, and has in turn become a “tool for change”. The name of the newspaper curiously contains an @ symbol. Their English language website can be found here


By Roberto Valussi, 27th August, 2013

Today marks the 5th anniversary of the birth of a very rare creature in the contemporary media landscape: an independent, respected, profitable, popular and free newspaper. The square was circled not in some glitzy borough of London, but in Maputo, the capital of Mozambique.

The product in question is the weekly newspaper @Verdade (‘Truth’ in Portuguese, the country’s official language), which has become the most read national newspaper since 2010, only two years after its first number was fit to print. Its slogan is ‘A Verdade não tem preço’, which translates to, ‘the Truth is priceless’.

@Verdade is more than a newspaper; as its founder Erik Charas put it, “I did not start the venture for the business or for the media aspect. My intention was to uplift the country, to contribute in order to do change.”

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The Merit Delusion – Caste and Affirmative Action in India

In this article, Satish Chandra questions the accepted definition of “merit” in the caste-based reservations debate in India. 

Editor’s note: SC/ST stands for Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes while OBC stands for Other Backwards Castes. These government caste-groupings are determined by the degree of the lack of socio-economic progress as determined and decided by the government. Studies reveal that SC/STs are on average far poorer, are discriminated against, and lack access to opportunity outside of government mandated reservations when compared to the ‘General’ castes. OBCs are on average better off than SC/STs but worse off than ‘General’ castes. Of course, there are genuine concerns over these government classification of castes, which don’t always accurately reflect the socio-economic conditions of those castes. However, that is a different debate for a different time.

Before reading the article, it would be a good idea to watch the following documentary on caste and untouchability, called India Untouched. It dispels the myth that caste-based discrimination is a thing of the past in India, by capturing – on camera – instances of such discrimination taking place to this day. Alternately, please watch this playlist of very short videos by Video Vounteers.


By Satish Chandra, 2nd August, 2013

Reservations for socially and economically backward castes in academic institutions and government jobs (affirmative action) are a highly contentious issue in India, although mostly for all the wrong reasons. One of those is an argument that reservations dilute merit. Consider this “joke” that was email-forward fodder years ago and is now doing the rounds on social networks. It is good example of how badly caste issues are understood.

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Discovery of India – Chapter 2: Election Freebies, Women and the Mid Day Meal Scheme

InPEC brings to you the “Discovery of India” log of Karthik Radhakrishnan, an engineering graduate student from the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, as he travels through India. This chapter describes the tale of a village in Tamil Nadu which is hit by floods every year and the residents have no means to get by.
Place : Thalainayar (Nagappatinam District, Tamil Nadu)
Date : 22nd July, 2013

By Karthik Radhakrishnan, 29th July, 2013
Thalainayar is a Town Panchayat in the district of Nagappatinam (For people who remember the Tsunami of 2004, Nagappatinam district had the maximum number of casualties in Tamil Nadu.) This is a story of a tiny village in this Panchayat, Santhantheru, whose residents have no food, no drinking water and absolutely no money. This village gets flooded for three months every year and the residents are put up in a nearby school, where close to a hundred families live together with inadequate food and space. The floods take away both the lives and livelihood of these poor people who rely totally on agriculture for their food.

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An Attempt to Discover India – Chapter 1

InPEC presents to you the “Discovery of India” log of Kartik Radhakrishnan, an engineering graduate student from the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, as he travels through India. In this post, he presents the story about a village in India which “has been forgotten by both the political and administrative executive of the country.”

Place : Aalapalayam (50km North of Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu)
Date : 25th June, 2013


By Kartik Radhakrishnan, 10th July, 2013 (republished)

In the past few months, I have often asked myself the question “What do I consider to be a privilege in my life?” The answer seemed to be obvious “food, shelter and education.” Now that I think about it, this might have been a very shallow response from a guy sitting inside an AC room, oblivious to the actual hardships of the world. How about eating your food without the stench of an exposed drainage that runs around your house? How about a house whose roof falls on your head with every rainfall? How about the absence of an avenue to dispose your dead ones? Continue reading

The North-East in India’s Look East Policy

India’s Look East Policy seems to offer huge potential and developmental scope for India’s North Eastern Region. However, there is an absence of sincere dialogue between the northeastern states and the center, resulting in an obvious gap between policy and implementation.

Editorial Note: While this paper was originally written in 2010, it brings about important perspectives on the developments of India’s internal and foreign relations. For this reason, we found merit in publishing this previously unpublished paper, even though it does not account for developments post 2010.


By Sabina Yasmin Rahman, 15th May 2013 

In the year 1991-92, under the then Prime Minister, P.V. Narasimha Rao, India launched its “Look East” Policy (LEP), an active economic policy of engagement with Southeast Asia to be implemented as an official initiative in achieving two objectives: the encouragement of trade links with individual partners and to provide foreign employment for India’s own expanding work force. This paper is an attempt to critically analyze the various underpinnings of this policy and study the impact it has been able to make so far with special reference to the context of the North-east of India.

Backdrop of the Policy:

With the collapse of the Soviet Union at the end of the Cold War and the onset of the era of globalization and economic liberalization, the need to secure international trade and encourage foreign investments was felt strongly by nations all over the world. The 1990s was a period seeing rapid economic development and growth of Asian countries, especially in Southeast Asia. Southeast Asia came to be recognized a region with vast economic potential and the Indian sub-continent was fast emerging as an economic and political force to be reckoned with. This is when the Indian leadership came up with the concept of “Look East”. India sought to create and expand regional markets for trade, investments and industrial development. It also began strategic and military cooperation with nations concerned by the expansion of China’s economic and strategic influence. Thus, from the very start, India’s strategy has focused on forging close economic and commercial ties, increasing strategic and security cooperation with emphasis on historic cultural and ideological links.

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Can India Deliver on its Clean Energy Promises?

The Editor of InPEC – Siddharth Singh – attended the Clean Energy Ministerial that took place in Delhi on the 17th and 18th April, 2013. The Prime Minister of India, while inaugurating the summit, reiterated several clean energy promises that the Government of India has made in the past. In an article on RTCC (Responding to Climate Change), Siddharth analyses whether India has the capacity and will to keep up with these goals. 


By Siddharth Singh, 24th April, 2013

On a recent RTCC article, I begin,

“(The Prime Minister made…) bold promises about India’s commitment to the cause. These include a goal to double India’s renewable energy capacity from 25000 MW in 2012 to 55000 MW by 2017.

This in turn includes, for instance, the National Solar Mission which has an objective of developing 22000 MW of solar capacity by the year 2022. These are a part of India’s commitment to reduce the energy intensity of its GDP by 20-25% by 2020.”

I present a few reasons why India may find it hard to keep up with these promises. Two of these are, 1. general delays in project implementation and 2. the overbearing fiscal deficit.

“(…) it is commonplace to find projects delayed across sectors. According to a study by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, as of May 2012, 42% of the infrastructure projects in consideration were delayed.

Another issue is the precarious fiscal situation of the government.(…) The impact of this may go either way for the renewables sector. On the one hand, lowering fossil fuel subsidies and the rise of overall electricity prices (by the ways of a loan restructuring arrangement with state electricity companies) may make renewables more competitive with traditional sources.”

To read this article in its entirety, please click here.

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Pyongyang’s Quandary

The provocative rhetoric coming from North Korea could hide a faint sense of desperation.


By Gulshan Roy, 3rd April, 2013

On Saturday 30th March, a statement released by the highest North Korean command warned that it was entering “a state of war” with its feuding southern neighbour. As Koreans on both sides watched the unfolding drama being broadcast on every major international television news channel, Mr Kim Jong-un managed to conjure an even more spectacular artifice by releasing photographs of him discussing with his senior commanders under the backdrop of a ‘Plan to Hit the U.S Mainland’ written in bold. News channels are not often presented with opportunities for such great TV. Yet, Mr Kim’s moment of teeth-showing turned into bathos once it reached its intended audience: instead of injecting any sense of panic on the other side of the Pacific, the images received in Washington were swiftly turned into material fit for some banter over bourbon.

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Open Economy, Sealed Fate

The author investigates whether the proposed reforms in India’s financial, energy and retail sectors really make a difference to the economy which many have said has ‘bottomed out’ this fiscal year. 


By Yayaati Joshi, 12th March 2013

To begin with, I deem it appropriate to describe the proposed reforms and the purported merits of those reforms in the financial, energy and retail sectors of India, and mention briefly, the state of the affairs of the Indian economy. The growth of the GDP in the last 5 years has been less than encouraging, to say the least. Looking at the trend of the GDP from 2004—that’s when the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the key figure of the 1991 Economic Reform, has been shouldering the responsibility of running the country—it has resembled a sine curve, with the crests and troughs rising and falling dramatically in 2010 onwards.

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Iran: The Waiting Game

As talks have resumed over Iran’s nuclear program in Almaty, the failure of the sanctions regime raises serious questions about mainstream diplomatic commonplaces. Far from being the favour it is portrayed to be, the rapprochement effort towards Tehran from the P5+1 is borne out of necessity.


By Gulshan Roy, 8th March 2013

“Iran won’t retreat one iota from its nuclear program” was Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s declaration on Iranian national television on the 9th of November 2011. The Iranian President is used to defiant flourishes as evidenced by his repeated promises to ‘finish off’ Israel. To his credit, however, his resolve not to sink in the face of gradually increasing pressure from the West has been steadfast. His country is weathering a deadly sanctions regime that has all but crippled the Iranian economy. Last week, the two sides met in Almaty, Kazakhstan in a desperate attempt to salvage the worsening situation. And as a beaming Mr Ali Baqeri (Iran’s deputy chief negotiator) left the fruitless round of negotiations with the P5+1 (the five permanent Security Council members and Germany), sanction-fanatics in the West were uncomfortably loosening their ties and scratching their moist foreheads. They ought to.

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A Mantle of Illusion – The Drone Program and President Obama

The drone program has considerably intensified under the Obama administration. As the American press and congress are only now waking up to this fact, the silent response from the White House shows the president is not quite the peacekeeper he projects himself to be.


By Gulshan Roy, 26th February 2013

Drones. You hear about them spying from everywhere though you can never see them. At last, however, you may now luckily read quite a lot about them in the written press. On February 6th, The New York Times revealed that air-strikes conducted in Yemen came from unmanned armed vehicles (UAVs) from an American military base in Saudi Arabia. Since, every hawk and every dove of every state in America made sure to have their screeching and cooing heard on the issue, drowning the debate in their deafening staccato. Why so much agitation, you may ask?

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Photoessay: 2013 Kumbh Mela, India

InPEC presents a photo essay of the “Kumbh Mela” in India by Hemley Gonzalez, a Cuban-American activist who runs the Responsible Charity in the city of Kolkata.

By Hemley Gonzalez, 21st February, 2013

The Kumbh Mela is a Hindu religious pilgrimage that takes place every twelve years at one of four places: Allahabad, Haridwar, Ujjain and Nashik in India. More than 100 million people will attend the 2013 Kumbha mela.

The major event of the festival is ritual bathing at the banks of the Ganga river. Other activities include religious discussions, devotional singing, mass feeding of holy men and women and the poor, and religious assemblies where doctrines are debated and standardized.

Kumbh Mela is the most sacred of all the pilgrimages. Thousands of holy men and women attend, and the auspiciousness of the festival is in part attributable to this. The sadhus are seen clad in saffron sheets with Vibhuti ashes dabbed on their skin as per the requirements of ancient traditions. Some, called naga sanyasis, may not wear any clothes even in severe winter. Continue reading