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.
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’.
By Francesca Dziadek | IDN-InDepth NewsFeature
BERLIN (IDN) - A leap of faith is on the agenda in Berlin where a visionary project for interfaith dialogue, launched as the House of One, hopes to bring Christians, Jews and Muslims to worship under one roof from 2018.
In a country where inter-religious dialogue has spun numerous initiatives for Christian-Jewish dialogue set up after World War II (1939-45) and post 9/11 – the time after a series of four coordinated terrorist attacks upon the United States in New York City and the Washington, D.C. on September 11, 2001 – public opinion in Germany has yet to come to terms with how it was possible for six million Jews to be murdered by the citizens of a Christian nation.
By Julio Godoy* | IDN-InDepth NewsAnalysis
BERLIN (IDN) - A rather strange debate is taking place in Germany for several months. Most strange, because it refers to a fiction, to a bizarre aspiration – of German troops waging war in different parts of the world, contrary to the role stipulated by the German constitution for the country’s army – an aspiration that hardly fits into the present reality or in the probable future.
This delusion, which began several years ago, and was abandoned for all practical purposes, reached climax again last January, at the Munich Security Conference during which, in an obviously concerted action, two German ministers and the country’s federal president argued that Germany, as the foreign minister Frank Walter Steinmeier put it, “must be ready for earlier, more decisive and more substantive engagement in the foreign and security policy sphere.”
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.
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.
By Monzurul Huq* | IDN-InDepth NewsEssay
TOKYO (IDN) - Human memory is short, particularly when it comes to record war and destruction. Countless details of various times portraying the accounts of misery and human suffering probably remind us of something vague and abstract; something distant and detached, not at all related to the realities that we face at any given time. Since what is seen as vague or blurred hardly serves as solid evidence, and what is distant hardly seems inspiring for stirring our conscience to the level of awakening, we tend to forget about what war and destruction brings to mankind soon after the waves of tragic realities subside and pave the way for a relative tranquil setting, at least for a short time.
By Baher Kamal* | IDN-InDepth NewsFeature
CAIRO (IDN) - One does need to think back half a century ago, to remember how much harmony and peaceful coexistence reigned in Arab countries between Muslims, Christians and Jewish.
Nor does one need to recall how hundreds of Muslims gathered to protect Christians praying in their churches in Egypt during and after the 2011 popular upraising. Or how organised groups of Copts acted as a human shield to save Muslims praying in Cairo's Tahrir Square from extremists' attacks during the successive waves of popular protests.
Coexistence between adepts to the three monotheist religions in the Arab region has always been taken for granted. In Egypt, Lebanon, Palestine or Syria, Iraq and Morocco, no citizen would ever ask another citizen to which religion does he or she belong.
What happened then?
By Kalinga Seneviratne* | IDN-InDepth NewsAnalysis
BANGKOK (IDN) - 2015 is expected to become a watershed year for shaping the global development agenda with the post-2015 Millennium Development Goals, Sustainable Development models and Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) frameworks, all coming up for review at major UN conferences during the year.
Thus, the 6th Asian Ministerial Conference On Disaster Risk Reduction (AMCDRR) that concluded in the Thai capital on June 26 gave a taste of things to come with a lot of emphasis given to discussion on community based solutions.
By Martin Khor* | IDN-InDepth NewsAnalysis
SANTA CRUZ (IDN) - The Declaration of the G77 Summit held in Santa Cruz on June14-15 has sections on three prominent issues that are presently the subject of negotiations at the United Nations – the Millennium Development Goals, Sustainable Development Goals and the UN’s Post-2015 Development Agenda.
The Declaration should thus have significant influence on the UN negotiations since it reflects the positions of the G77 and China, at highest political level, and these positions can be expected to be maintained by the Group during the negotiations on these three issues.
By Julio Godoy* | IDN-InDepth NewsAnalysis
BERLIN (IDN) - Once a year, the German government reports the amounts of weapons the country’s military industry exported to the world during the previous 12 months. Once a year, German society pretends to be scandalised by the numbers and particularly the recipients of the weapons. Once a year, the German government explains why the military exports are important for the country (jobs, jobs, jobs!) and why the importing regimes, many of them undemocratic, should continue benefiting from the German high tech weapons. And never something changes.