terça-feira, 4 de junho de 2013

olhando para o Butão e outros assuntos da Ásia do Sul

Editorial que escrevi no oitavo número da revista Think South Asia:

The King of Bhutan - Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck
It is now time for us to look at Bhutan. Bhutan is a mountainous country comparable to the size of Switzerland, but with around 730 thousand inhabitants and landlocked between India and Tibet, which as we know is ruled by the Chinese. On the date of this edition we are between 2 rounds of parliamentary elections in Bhutan, being a special moment to analyse this fascinating country. Also another issue for which Bhutan is well known is the Gross National Happiness index (GNH), and we are thinking about it as well.

In this issue of Think South Asia magazine we have very prestigious contributions indeed. First of all, a detailed country profile of Bhutan done by the South Asia Democratic Forum fellow Mr Marian Gallenkamp, who is a knowledgeable expert on this country. Dr Siegfried O. Wolf from the University of Heidelberg dedicates his usual column to an analysis of the Bhutanese elections. The EU Delegate of The Family Watch, Mr Antoine Mellado, writes about development and the Gross National Happiness Index of Bhutan and its parameters. Then, 3 promising and talented ladies from Bangladesh honour us with their inputs: Ms Sheikh Nishat Nazmi is a Social Psychology Counsellor and brings to us a very interesting picture of the Families in South Asia in general, Bangladesh in particular; Mst Sabikun Naher from the University of Dhaka writes about the Bangladesh-Bhutan commercial relations and comparative advantages of both countries; and last but not least, Ms Janina Islam Abir also from the University of Dhaka tell us about the Shahbag Movement, making a very comprehensive and deep analysis of this historical phenomena occurring nowadays in Bangladesh, which we should know better and follow closely.

BNG Ambassador - Ismat Jahan
Now I am privileged to present: 2 interviews, 2 Ambassadors, 2 good friends of South Asia: Her Excellency Mrs Ismat Jahan from Bangladesh, and His Excellency Mr Jan Deboutte from Belgium. Both perspectives – South Asian and European – should be appreciated attentively, so that no drop of wisdom escapes from our readings. Without any previous agreement, both ambassadors showed to be fantastic builders of cultural bridges: while Mr Ambassador Deboutte finds a link between the Bhutanese Gross National Happiness and the Greek classical philosophy, Mrs Ambassador Jahan quotes the first non European Nobel Prize of Literature winner, the Bengali Rabindranath Tagore (1913), proving that his poetry and art could be an inspiration to South Asians, Europeans and everybody in this planet.

Regarding the peace prospects in Kashmir, we have an attention call article from the Executive Director of South Asia Democratic Forum. Mr Paulo Casaca writes about the murder of Mr Arif Shahid, one of the most important figures of Pakistan’s Kashmiri independence movement, and its worrying consequences to the peace in Kashmir.

On the 14th of May there were also elections in Pakistan, where the people expressed the will to have Mr Nawaz Sharif as Prime Minister for the 3rd time in the country’s History. The South Asia Institute of the University of Heidelberg and the South Asia Democratic Forum organised a conference to discuss these elections and in the European Parliament of Brussels. This event resulted in a high-level briefing done by a prestigious set of experts to European policy-makers. You can check their conclusions in the end of the magazine. From the Think South Asia editorial side, I would like to wish to President Sharif all the success, hoping that peace, stability and better living conditions can be achieved in Pakistan with respect to Human Rights and the Rule of Law.

From Bangladesh we received sad news on the last 24th of April, when the Rana Plaza complex collapsed provoking the death of 1129 people. This makes us ask: In a country where the perpetrators of the 1971 genocide (which killed more than 3 million people) were not brought to justice and several other public crimes occurred, like the assassination of President Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, how can we expect that people have care while planning a building? This is why it was important to welcome in Brussels the Bangladeshi Minister of Foreign Affairs, Doctor Dipu Moni. Mrs Moni said that in Bangladesh “the culture of impunity is ending” and the government will do its best to ensure labour safety and rights in the country. We must applaud her courageous statement and support the Bangladeshi authorities in the reinforcement of security and the rule of law.

After some Chinese troops crossed the line of control in Ladakh (Kashmir) in April, I was surprised to see the European Parliament discussing on the 23rd of May the February execution of Mohammad Afzal Guru in Delhi. As I said the Think South Asia 6th edition in February, I personally am against death penalty, but this does not mean supporting impunity. Mr Guru was proven to be associated with the terrorist groups Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed, and participated in the 2001 attack against the Indian Parliament, killing 7 people and injuring 15. Of course the European Parliament could make the case of banning death penalty in the world... but this case of Mr Guru is far from being the best flag to pick, not to say that it probably sends a wrong message to the international community, as if the EU is supporting impunity for terrorists. I think this is not the case, or at least it shouldn’t.

Two days after this debate in Strasbourg, on the Saturday the 25th of May another terrorist attack happened in the State of Chhattisgarh in India, this time organised by the Naxalite-Maoists. The attackers killed 27 people, amongst them some senior political leaders mainly from the Indian National Congress party. The Naxalite-Maoist insurgency killed already approximately 12 thousand people since its start in 1980 and the Indian police believes it has ties with the above mentioned Lashkar-e-Taiba, as well as with the ISI (intelligence agency also from Pakistan), and their training camps are mainly located in Pakistan, China and Burma.

Finally some good news from Afghanistan. As you can see in the latest document of Reporters Without Frontiers, no journalists were killed in 2012 and arrests of media workers declined. Nevertheless, violence against journalists did not disappear completely. Also, since NATO will withdraw most of the troops from Afghanistan next year and Taliban are expected to return to the country, there are legitimate doubts if this betterment of conditions for the media in Afghanistan is not precarious.

The Taktshang Monastery, in Bhutan
Bhutan also gives us positive news. Bhutan ranks 1st among the South Asian countries for freedom of the press, and the 82nd in the World Press Freedom Index. More concerns should be raised to the situation in the Maldives and in Sri Lanka. Although still preserving an orange colour on the map, the Maldives fell 30 positions in the index due to violence and threats against journalists after the coup d’état in March 2012. Regarding Sri Lanka, it still is the last one of South Asia on the list, ranking number 162nd in the world, three positions below Pakistan (159th).

South Asia as a whole got worse for journalists in 2012, and something should be done about this. However these are sad news, we should put them in perspective. South Asian countries scored considerably better than its neighbour countries:
  • Tajikistan and Burma appear in a red colour with a “difficult situation” for journalists
  • Uzbekistan, China, Iran and Turkmenistan in black with a “very serious situation”

To sum up, reasons are not scarce to give a careful look to this edition of the Think South Asia magazine, because in the next editions there will be some changes and surprises. Meanwhile, any articles for submission, comments or critics are very much welcome in: antonio@sadf.eu

Publicado no site do South Asia Democratic Forum: www.sadf.eu
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Para fazer o download da revista Think South Asia 08: http://sadf.eu/home/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/thinksouthasia08.pdf

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