Joint Sem­i­nar on South Asian Pol­i­tics co-sponsored by the Wat­son Insti­tute at Brown Uni­ver­sity, the Weath­er­head Cen­ter for Inter­na­tional Affairs at Har­vard Uni­ver­sity and the MIT Cen­ter for Inter­na­tional Studies

The eco­nomic and strate­gic rel­e­vance of South Asia has enor­mously grown in recent years. While India’s eco­nomic story and South Asia’s strug­gle with ter­ror are often noted, there is a great deal more to the region, which is of intel­lec­tual relevance.

Con­sider some of the “big” ques­tions of pol­i­tics, polit­i­cal econ­omy and secu­rity, on which the South Asian region in gen­eral, and India in par­tic­u­lar, offer engag­ing perspectives:

(1) His­tor­i­cally speak­ing, uni­ver­sal fran­chise democ­racy came to the West after the indus­trial rev­o­lu­tion had been com­pleted. In India, uni­ver­sal fran­chise was born at a time when the coun­try was over­whelm­ingly agrar­ian and man­u­fac­tur­ing con­sti­tuted a mere 2–3% of GDP. What can we sur­mise about the simul­ta­ne­ous pur­suit of eco­nomic trans­for­ma­tion and demo­c­ra­tic deep­en­ing from India’s expe­ri­ence? India-China com­par­isons are directly rel­e­vant here. More gen­er­ally, as Africa and other Asian coun­tries con­tem­plate eco­nomic future, is democ­racy to be viewed as a polit­i­cal frame­work within which eco­nomic devel­op­ment ought to be pursued?

(2) His­tor­i­cally, man­u­fac­tur­ing has always led an eco­nomic rev­o­lu­tion. It is as true of Europe and the US as of East Asia. In India, high-tech ser­vices, pri­mar­ily export-based, have led the boom, and are now wrestling with an inter­na­tional eco­nomic down­turn. What are the larger lessons of a services-led eco­nomic transformation?

(3) India’s democ­racy has func­tioned amidst one of the most hier­ar­chi­cal social orders the world has wit­nessed: viz., caste sys­tem. Has the equal­ity prin­ci­ple of democ­racy under­mined the caste sys­tem, or have caste inequal­i­ties changed the script of Indian democ­racy, forc­ing it to dif­fer sig­nif­i­cantly from the West­ern demo­c­ra­tic experience?

(4) Seri­ous regional dis­par­i­ties mark vir­tu­ally the entire region. In India, com­pared to the north­ern and east­ern states, the south­ern and west­ern states have not only boomed eco­nom­i­cally, but their human devel­op­ment per­for­mance has been markedly supe­rior. In Pak­istan, Pun­jab con­tin­ues to be far ahead of the other regions. How does one explain such vari­a­tions? Are there larger social sci­ence the­o­ries at stake? Can newer the­o­ries be developed?

(5) The shadow of secu­rity over pol­i­tics and eco­nom­ics is now dark and deep. Why has ter­ror­ism taken such roots in Pak­istan? What is it about the polity or soci­ety of Pak­istan that has pro­vided a home to ter­ror­ism? Given how ter­ror­ism works, can it spread to India in a sig­nif­i­cant way?

(6) The secu­rity sit­u­a­tion in Afghanistan is now the cen­ter of inter­na­tional atten­tion. How does one under­stand the secu­rity prob­lems of Afghanistan? Why is estab­lish­ing order such a mon­u­men­tal task in Afghanistan and also a tall task in Pakistan?

(7) Secu­rity has a so-called softer side. Human rights of some minor­ity groups have been com­pro­mised for the sake of “nation-building” all over the region. This is true even in India, which has func­tioned as a democ­racy for over six decades. With far greater inten­sity, the same issues crop up in Sri Lanka, once the most vig­or­ous democ­racy in the devel­op­ing world. Why have South Asian democ­ra­cies found it hard to develop more robust human rights regimes? Is it a South Asian prob­lem, or a more generic prob­lem of democ­ra­cies faced with insurgencies?

(8) In a related vein, rag­ing debates over the rule of law have taken place all over South Asia. In India, the debate has also cov­ered the role of pub­lic inter­est lit­i­ga­tion. Why have South Asian soci­eties strug­gled so hard to estab­lish a reli­able legal regime? Is it sim­ply a func­tion of low incomes and unsta­ble secu­rity envi­ron­ments? Or, do cul­tural and soci­o­log­i­cal norms seri­ously clash with the rule of law? Do we have the­o­ries that tell us how rule of law got insti­tu­tion­al­ized in the richer coun­tries? Can those the­o­ries be used for under­stand­ing South Asia?

(9) South Asia as a region has been one of the orig­i­nal homes of the NGO move­ment in the world. Some of the world’s most respected non-governmental orga­ni­za­tions have been work­ing in Bangladesh, Pak­istan, Sri Lanka and India. What can we learn about what kinds of NGOs suc­ceed and what types fail? Is the learn­ing region-specific, or is it portable?

(10) India’s demo­c­ra­tic longevity has coex­isted with sub­stan­tial party frac­tion­al­iza­tion. Over the last twenty years, Delhi has been ruled by coali­tion gov­ern­ments. Such coali­tions have nor­mally marked poli­ties that have pro­por­tional rep­re­sen­ta­tion, not first-past-the-post sys­tems, which tend to pro­duce fewer par­ties in power. How do we under­stand India’s party fractionalization?

The list above is not exhaus­tive, but these are some of the issues that this annual sem­i­nar series, con­cen­trat­ing on con­tem­po­rary South Asian pol­i­tics and polit­i­cal econ­omy, will inves­ti­gate. Some ses­sions of the sem­i­nar will be entirely aca­d­e­mic, but other ses­sions will con­cep­tu­al­ized as a Haber­masian pub­lic sphere, where aca­d­e­mics alone do not monop­o­lize dis­course. Rather, pub­lic fig­ures — from pol­i­tics, busi­ness, jour­nal­ism, secu­rity and NGO sec­tor– and aca­d­e­mic researchers and stu­dents will engage in a sus­tained con­ver­sa­tion. Knowl­edge, inevitably, has many facets.

This sem­i­nar is a joint effort of, and is funded by, three insti­tu­tions of the Boston-Providence area: the Wat­son Insti­tute at Brown, the Weath­er­head Cen­ter for Inter­na­tional Affairs at Har­vard and the MIT Cen­ter for Inter­na­tional Stud­ies. It will be co-directed by fac­ulty work­ing on dif­fer­ent aspects of South Asian pol­i­tics and polit­i­cal econ­omy in each of these uni­ver­si­ties. The loca­tion of the sem­i­nar will alter­nate between Brown, Har­vard and MIT. A detailed pro­gram for the series can be found below.

Orga­niz­ing committee:

Chair:
Ashutosh Varsh­ney (Brown)

Co-Directors:
Patrick Heller (Brown)
Pre­rna Singh (Brown)
Akshay Mangla (Har­vard)
Vipin Narang (MIT)

Sem­i­nar series:
Fall 2014
Spring 2014
Fall 2013
Spring 2012
Fall 2011
Spring 2011
Fall 2010
Spring 2010
Fall 2009

  1. Shivaji Mukherjee

    (University of Toronto)

    Colonial Origins of Maoist Insurgency in India: Historical Legacies of British Indirect Rule

    Friday, September 12, 2014, 2:00 PM, MIT Center for International Studies, Lucian Pye Conference Room

    • Shivaji MukherjeeHomepage

      This talk will be given at the MIT Center for International Studies

      1 Amherst Street     Cambridge, MA
      The Lucian Pye Room (E40-496)

      Click here and here for a map and directions.

      Shivaji Mukherjee is an Assistant Professor of Comparative Politics at University of Toronto, Mississauga. Shivaji’s research interests lie at the intersection of state formation, civil conflict, and political economy of development. He worked as a Research Assistant at the Institute for Conflict Management in New Delhi, and then did an MA in Political Science at University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and a PhD in political science at Yale University.

      His dissertation is on the Maoist insurgency in India, and uses data gathered during field work, archival data and quantitative analysis of sub national datasets to demonstrate that colonial institutions of indirect rule selected by the British set up the structural conditions for post colonial insurgency through path dependent mechanisms. Shivaji hopes to work in the future on state formation, the use of different kinds of counter insurgency strategy by the Indian state, and also various aspects of the Maoist insurgency, and other ethnic insurgencies in India.

  2. Akshay Mangla

    (Harvard University)

    Bureaucratic Politics and Democratic Rights: Forging a Right to Education in India

    Friday, October 3, 2014, 2:00 PM, Brown, Watson Institute, McKinney Conference Room

    • Akshay Mangla Homepage

      This talk will be given at the Watson Institute at Brown University

      111 Thayer Street Providence, RI
      McKinney Conference Room

      Click here for a map and directions.

      Akshay Mangla is an Assistant Professor in the Business, Government and International Economy Unit at Harvard University. Mangla’s primary expertise lies in the political economy of development, with a regional focus on South Asia. His current research examines the governance of public services in rural India, particularly in the education sector. In addition, he has conducted research on private initiatives to enforce labor standards in global supply chains. He is a faculty associate at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs and the South Asia Institute at Harvard.

      Professor Mangla received his Ph.D. in Political Science from M.I.T. He holds a M.Sc. in Management Research from the University of Oxford, and completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania, where he earned a B.S. in Finance and B.A. in Philosophy. His research has been supported by the American Institute of Indian Studies and the National Security Education Program’s David L. Boren Fellowship. He has published a variety of journal articles, including Virtue out of Necessity?: Compliance, Commitment and the Improvement of Labor Conditions in Global Supply Chains, Politics & Society (2009).

  3. Sunila Kale

    (University of Washington)

    Electrifying India: Regional Political Economies of Development

    Friday, November 7, 2014, 2:00 PM, Brown, Watson Institute, Joukowsky Forum

    • Sunila Kale Homepage

      This talk will be given at the Watson Institute at Brown University

      111 Thayer Street Providence, RI
      Joukowsky Forum

      Click here for a map and directions.

      Sunila Kale is an Assistant Professor at the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies at the University of Washington. Her research, writing, and teaching focus on Indian politics and political economy of development.

      All of her research so far has focused on India. She is particularly interested in how and why politics and development differ by region and state within India. Kale’s first book, Electrifying India (2014), compares the politics of electrification in the states of Maharashtra, Odisha, and Andhra Pradesh. In 2013, Kale won the Joseph W. Elder Prize in the Indian Social Sciences from the American Institute of Indian Studies, which is dedicated to the advancement of knowledge about India and the promotion of intellectual engagement with India in the United States. Kale received her Ph.D in Government from the University of Texas, Austin.

  4. Jairam Ramesh

    (Indian Parliment)

    India's Maoist Insurgency Challenge

    Friday, November 21, 2014, 2:00 PM, Harvard, Weatherhead Center, Room S020

    • Jairam Ramesh

      This talk will be given at the Weatherhead Center at Harvard University

      CGIS Knafel Building
      1737 Cambridge St. Cambridge, MA
      Room S020

      Click here for a map and directions.

      Jairam Ramesh, a senior leader of the Indian National Congress party, is an Indian economist and politician. Since June 2004, Ramesh has been a member of parliament in the Rajya Sabha – the upper house of the Parliament of India – from the state of Andhra Pradesh. As an economist, he was entrusted with several crucial roles as an advisor to the Finance Minister (1996-98) and also to the Prime Minister (1991). With a special interest in China, Ramesh is the Honorary Fellow of the Institute of Chinese Studies, New Delhi, since 2002. Jairam Ramesh was also a member of the National Advisory Council that is chaired by Sonia Gandhi.

      Ramesh has served in various ministries during his career, specifically, he was Union Minister of Rural Development (2001-2014), including the new Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, Minister of State (Independent Charge) Environment and Forests (2009-2011), Minister of State of Power and Commerce (2008-2009) and Minister of State of Commerce (2006-2009). In previous years he has also held the position as member of the Ministry of Finance, the Committee on Government Assurance, the Committee on Public Accounts, and the Court of the Jawaharlal Nehru University. He has worked in the Prime Minister's Office, Ministry of Industry, Planning Commission, Advisory Board on Energy and other government departments at senior levels during 1980-1998.

      Associated with various education institutions in India and abroad, Ramesh has received the Distinguished Alumnus Award from the IIT, Bombay, where he completed his B. Tech in Mechanical Engineering. Ramesh has been a founding member of the Indian School of Business in Hyderabad. He received a master of science in public management at the Heinz College at Carnegie-Mellon University, USA, and has also studied technology policy at MIT. Ramesh has also worked in journalism, and has been a columnist for Business Standard, Business Today, The Telegraph, Times of India and India Today. He is also the author of the book Making Sense of Chindia (2005), which describes the forces of globalization and liberalization.