AS/COA Online - Latin America Looks to India

Latin America already has significant Chinese investments and trade agreements under its belt, but the region could set its sights on another resource-hungry Asian giant: India. A new report by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) recognizes that, even though Latin America’s commercial ties with India have been on the upswing in recent years, more could be done to build up the South Asian country as a Latin American market. “The region and India are increasingly together at the table when major decisions are taken,” said IDB head Luis Alberto Moreno in comments about the report’s release. “We are starting to see greater integration among them and there is a tremendous opportunity for more trade and cooperation.”

His comments allude to India as one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, with GDP growth rates forecast to hit 8.5 percent for 2010, as well as areas for partnership with Latin America, such as with Brazil as a fellow BRIC member. India has fostered trade links with the region, including a Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) with the Mercosur bloc that went into effect in June 2009 and covers roughly 900 products. A PTA with Chile came into force three years ago. 

Read the full text. | Backgrounder: Terror Groups in India

India has long suffered violence from extremist attacks based on separatist and secessionist movements, as well as ideological disagreements. In particular, the territorial dispute over India-controlled Kashmir is believed to have fueled large-scale terrorist attacks, such as the bombings of a Mumbai commuter railway in July 2006 as well as a deadly explosion on an India-Pakistan train line in February 2007. Kashmir-related terrorist violence draws international concerns about its possible link in a chain of transnational Islamist militarism. The terrorist assault on Mumbai's hotel district on November 26, claimed by a previously unknown group calling itself the Deccan Mujahadeen, appears to confirm a disturbing new turn of events domestically. Recently, a group calling itself the Indian mujahadeen joined the roster of terror forces, claiming responsibility for a series of blasts in November 2007 in the state of Uttar Pradesh and 2008 attacks in the Indian cities of New Delhi, Jaipur and Ahmedabad. Their relationship with the new Deccan Mujahadeen group remains unclear. India also faces another extremist threat: A Maoist insurgency by violent revolutionaries called "Naxalites" has emerged across a broad swathe of central India - nicknamed the "red corridor" - to claim a growing number of lives.

Read the full text. | India's Energy Crunch

India’s gross domestic product (GDP) growth hit 9.2 percent for the period from July through September of this year—an increase over the already robust rate of 8.4 percent during the same period last year. But along with an ascendant economy comes a mounting hunger for energy, and New Delhi fears it cannot sustain growth in the long term without continually boosting the country’s energy supply. India’s per capita energy consumption rates remain low in comparison to those of countries like the United States and China. But India, the world’s fifth biggest energy consumer, is projected to surpass Japan and Russia to take third place by 2030. Doing so will test India’s ability to create a domestic policy for its semi-privatized energy sector, as well as its capacity to develop relationships with foreign energy exporters.

Read the full text. | Backgrounder: India's Muslim Population

Although home to a Hindu majority, India has a Muslim population of some 150 million, making it the state with the second-largest Muslim population in the world after Indonesia. While many Indian Muslims achieve celebrity status and high-profile positions abroad and in India’s government—the current president is Muslim—India’s booming economy has left the nation’s largest minority group lagging behind. Muslims experience low literacy and high poverty rates, and Hindu-Muslim violence has claimed a disproportionate number of Muslim lives. Yet Muslims can impact elections, using their power as a voting bloc to gain concessions from the candidates who court them.

Read the full text. | Networking in South Asia

An Indo-Pakistani peace process continues to move forward two months after the deadly bombing on the “Friendship Express” train between New Delhi and Lahore. Shortly after that attack, linked to Kashmiri militant groups (Hindustan Times), India and Pakistan signed an agreement to reduce the risk of accidental nuclear attacks. More recently, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Khurshid Kasuri indicated on April 20 that the two countries are close to reaching agreement (The Nation) on the decades-old dispute over India-controlled Kashmir. Pakistani leader Pervez Musharraf says relations between the two countries “have never been better” (Hindu).

Read the full text. | India’s Internal Terror Troubles

While Kashmir and al-Qaeda-linked terrorism garner front-page play around the world, India's own internal terrorism problem tends to be off the radar of most American news outlets—or, at best, warranting a postage-stamp-sized wire story (NYT) buried at the bottom of an inside page. Yet terrorism-related deaths in the contested territory of Jammu and Kashmir dropped threefold since 2002, according to the South Asia Terrorism Portal report. Violence related to Maoist extremism in India, however, defies New Delhi’s counterterrorism efforts. In April 2006, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called the leftist insurgency “the single biggest internal security challenge ever faced by our country.” A new Backgrounder on terrorism in India explores the Maoist insurgency.

Read the full text. | Musharraf’s Kashmir Offer

President Pervez Musharraf said last week on New Delhi Television that Pakistan will give up its claim on Kashmir if India accepts a four-point resolution, including autonomy for the region under a joint government with Indian, Pakistani, and Kashmiri representation. Within days, a spokeswoman from Pakistan’s foreign ministry followed up by asserting that Islamabad did not consider the territory an “integral part” of Pakistan. Tasnim Aslam, whose remarks at a press conference in Islamabad drew criticism (The News) from Pakistani journalists, said that conflict between India and Pakistan was over the Kashmiris right to “decide their future” rather than claims on the India-controlled area of the Himalayan region. The comments have stirred speculation about whether Pakistan is making a break with decades-old policy or merely maneuvering to fend off international criticism on other fronts.

Read the full text. | Feeding India’s Energy Fix

The U.S. Congress has reached agreement on a bill approving a landmark deal allowing the United States to provide New Delhi with fuel and technology to expand its civilian nuclear energy program (AP). In July, President Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced a framework for the pact, which lifts a three-decade U.S. moratorium on nuclear trade with India in exchange for its acceptance on safeguards on its civilian nuclear facilities. While both houses of Congress negotiated a compromise bill, Undersecretary of State Nicholas R. Burns headed to New Delhi to reassure India’s government (Times of India) about the U.S. version of the agreement. The deal still requires approval by India’s parliament. More difficult to secure is the necessary support of the Nuclear Suppliers Group, which oversees guidelines for sale of the nuclear materials (Asia Times).

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