Japan Remains Committed to Non-Nuclear Principles

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

By Isamu Ueda* | IDN-InDepth NewsViewpoint

TOKYO (IDN) - In recent years, Japan has found itself it in a rapidly changing security environment. The global balance of power has shifted and various new threats have emerged within the region, including the development of weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile systems that may soon be capable of delivering them.

These changes have sparked serious debate within Japan about how best to meet the changing security needs of the people of Japan and to protect their lives and livelihoods.

Read more...

A Buddhist Nun Becomes A Role Model for Women Empowerment

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

By Kalinga Seneviratne* | IDN-InDepth NewsFeature

SINGAPORE (IDN) - By ordaining women into the Sangha (order of Buddha’s disciples), Gautama Buddha 2500 years ago has placed women on an equal footing with men in India. But today in most Asian Buddhist countries nuns are fighting an uphill battle to be recognized as credible teachers of the Dhamma (Buddha’s teachings).  One Nepali woman may be unwittingly changing this perception by virtually singing the Dhamma.

Read more...

How Power Centres Pressured India’s Diplomacy

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

By Shastri Ramachandaran* | IDN-InDepthNewsAnalysis

NEW DELHI (IDN) - India’s conduct of foreign affairs is increasingly perceived as being at the behest of power centres other than the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA). Recent events and developments – though not all of these can or need be recalled here – tend to buttress this perception.

Such a perception casts doubts over the earnestness of the Government of India’s action and the way issues are handled; and raises questions about the MEA’s functioning, especially its ability to exercise its prerogatives. In fact, the MEA appears to be losing primacy on its own turf to not only the Prime Minister’s office above but also the state chief ministers ‘below’.

Read more...

The Bayonet Trumps The Ballot in Thailand

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

By Jayantha Dhanapala* | IDN-InDepth NewsAnalysis

KANDY, Sri Lanka (IDN) - On May 22 this year the military in Thailand announced that it had taken over the country, suspended the Constitution and ousted the democratically-elected but controversial Government of Yingluck Shinawatra – sister of the exiled former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Thus ended a period of political gridlock as the supporters and opponents of Yingluck conducted their months long struggle for supremacy on the streets of Bangkok imperiling the economic stability of the country and its reputation as a booming tourist capital of the world.

For some this came as a welcome relief. For others it is viewed cynically as more of the same in Thailand’s chequered history after 1932 when a constitutional monarchy was established, leading to a fragile democracy with a vibrant “Tiger” economy enjoying Newly Industrialized Country (NIC) status within the pro-US ASEAN regional group. That is because military dictatorships rather than elected democratic governance has been the predominant pattern in this country – approximately eight times the size of Sri Lanka and a 65 million population – with its centuries old Theravada Buddhist tradition and enjoying the unique advantage of never having been under colonial rule.

Read more...

India’s Foreign Minister Wins Hearts and Minds

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

By Shastri Ramachandaran* | IDN-InDepth NewsAnalysis

NEW DELHI (IDN) – If there is one leading light of the government headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who struck the right notes, made the right moves and generally impressed observers and her audiences, it is, without doubt, External Affairs minister Sushma Swaraj.

She hit the ground running as it were: From keeping up the momentum in relations with the eight South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) nations, following their leaders' visits for Prime Minister Modi's swearing in, the first foreign visit to Bhutan, to the fraught situation in Iraq and the evolving situation in Afghanistan, Swaraj has been on the go from Day One.

In addition, she presided over conclaves of Indian envoys in neighbouring countries to an agenda ably scripted by Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh and managed a goodwill visit to Bangladesh in the course of which she charmed both Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.

Read more...

Thailand: Towards A Better Model of Democracy?

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

By Kalinga Seneviratne* | IDN-InDepth NewsAnalysis

SINGAPORE (IDN) - For the past six months thousands of people under the banner of the Peoples’ Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) led by a former Deputy Prime Minister have been rallying across Bangkok calling for the overthrow of the “corrupt Thaksin regime” while the police and military stood by, even sometimes clearing the way for their marches. PDRC sabotaged the February elections called by a government under siege and later succeeded in getting the Elections Commission to nullify the results.

The demonstrators have been calling for the democratically elected government of Prime Minister Yinluck Shinawatra to be replaced by an unelected Peoples’ Council to redraw the constitution to stamp out money-politics in the Thai electoral system. Finally the military seem to have come to their aid, and put democracy to the test.

Read more...

The Modi Tsunami – The Patel Legacy vs. Nehru’s Legacy

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

By Jayantha Dhanapala* | IDN-InDepth NewsAnalysis

KANDY, Sri Lanka (IDN) - At a time when faith in genuine people-based democracy is waning globally, an electoral exercise of gigantic proportions has just been concluded in the world’s largest democracy - India. A record 66.8 % voted over nine phases and the nationalist Bharathiya Janata Party (BJP), with 63 year old Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi as its Prime Ministerial candidate, has won an overwhelming majority to rule by itself and, with its coalition allies in the National Democratic Alliance many of them representing regional interests, falling just short of a two-thirds majority in the Lok Sabha.

The “Modi wave”, accurately presaged by the opinion and exit polls, has turned out to be a Modi Tsunami reducing the venerable Congress Party of Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi to a state where it may not even qualify to take the post of Leader of the Opposition.

Read more...

Pros and Cons of Revisiting India’s Nuclear Doctrine

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

By Satish Chandra* | IDN-InDepth NewsEssay

NEW DELHI (IDN) - In determining whether or not it is necessary to revisit India’s nuclear doctrine it would be relevant to examine how it evolved, its main features, the reasons behind the calls to revisit it and the factors, which militate against so doing.

India’s nuclear doctrine was first enunciated following a Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) meeting in January 2003 – over four and a half years after the May 1998 tests. It contained few surprises being largely built around the pronouncements made by Atal Bihari Vajpayee following the tests to the effect that India’s nuclear weapons were meant only for self defence, that India was not interested in arms racing, and encapsulating concepts such as “no first use” of nuclear weapons and their “non use” against non nuclear weapon states.

Read more...

Maldives Lifts Moratorium As Death Penalty Declines

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

By Richard Johnson | IDN-InDepth NewsReport

GENEVA (IDN) - Since the United Nations General Assembly’s landmark vote in 2007 calling for a worldwide moratorium on the death penalty, the trend against capital punishment has become stronger and stronger. An estimated 160 countries have either abolished the death penalty or no longer practice it.

While welcoming these developments, UN Secretary-General Ben Ki-moon has deplored the fact that many States still execute people with little regard to due process. “I am also deeply concerned that some States with long-standing de facto moratoriums have suddenly resumed executions, or are considering reintroduction of the death penalty in their legislation,” Ban said at an event organized by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on April 24.

Read more...

Sri Lanka Remains Committed To Reconciliation

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

By Kalinga Seneviratne* | IDN-InDepth NewsAnalysis

COLOMBO (IDN) - Rejecting the resolution passed at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) on March 27 to mount an ‘independent’ international investigation into alleged human rights violations in Sri Lanka, President Mahinda Rajapkase said that Sri Lanka would continue with its own reconciliation process that was started after the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) was defeated in May 2009.

The resolution, which was adopted by 24 votes to 12 with 12 abstentions, has been described by the government as a lop-sided vote where most of those voting for it were Europeans. “The EU votes as a block and the US had more than a dozen votes already in the bag while we started with none,” Rajapakse pointed out in a meeting with foreign media representatives in Colombo.

Read more...

Cambodian Monk Maps Development Path

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

By Kalinga Seneviratne* | IDN-InDepthNewsFeature

SIEM REAP (IDN) - Somnieng Hoeurn, deputy abbot of Wat Damnak, one of the largest Buddhist temples in this capital city of Siem Reap Province in northwestern Cambodia, and a popular resort town as the gateway to Angkor region, laments that the Khmer Rouge completely destroyed Buddhism in Cambodia. He adds with a grin, “We not only have to build temples but also do a lot of mind building.”

He believes that both the government and the monastic system need each other to help Cambodia – one of the world’s poorest countries – progress. “A Buddhist temple must respond to 21st century demands,” he says.

His life story is as unique as his attempts to rebuild Cambodian Buddhism in which the temple is an integral part of community development.

Read more...