Dear Asian Affairs
I really enjoyed reading your leader article and David Watts’ very well-written one entitled ‘Prospects of peace for the Lady’, as they both look at important aspects of Myanmar’s elections.
I am sure the West would welcome Myanmar into the democratic club, but it is hard to trust that the recent poll was properly democratic. Look at all the controversy surrounding it: fishy voter lists (which are said to include the names of dead people!), a quarter of seats being made available only to military representatives, the cancellation of voting in some violent areas, and the exclusion from voting of the Muslim Rohingyas, who have been subjected to a lot of persecution in recent times.
Do other readers agree with me that the West rushed in when it came to lifting its sanctions against Myanmar in 2012? This gave the country a big economic boost before it had bothered to make any proper political reforms.
The voters have had their say now but as your magazine points out, some crucial decisions had probably already been made beforehand. Some democracy!
Reference: Mr G Parthasarathy’s November article (‘Indo-Pak relations in deep freeze’). It is very important, Sir, that these two nuclear powers resolve their long antipathy for the sake of stability across the whole world.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s October visit to Washington was hopeful and I thought his comment was positive that the United States was the ‘most relevant’ third party to help mediate about Kashmir.
The United States is encouraging dialogue between India and Pakistan on Kashmir and other matters. This should make us feel optimistic. And the joint statement by Mr Sharif and President Barack Obama is important, because it mentioned Pakistan taking effective action against terrorist groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba and their associates. This could be a real chance for Pakistan to tackle Indian and US security concerns.
Mr G Parthasarathy does not seem to believe in a thawing of Indian-Pakistan relationship, but we have to hope. If not, we are facing horrors like Pakistan’s development of nuclear weapons, and their refusal to adopt a ‘no first-use’ policy. All this means the risk of terrorist groups obtaining a nuclear weapon is getting stronger.
China in Africa
China’s ever-growing interest in Africa, as discussed by Chris Pritchard (Asian Affairs, November 2015), comes as no surprise, since the continent has so much of what China’s expanding economy and industries need, namely oil and minerals.
In their turn, the African nations get to diversify both their export markets and import sources. But one has to wonder if Africa is really making the most of potential gains in terms of employment creation, and if they are forging the best contracts possible with Chinese companies. In various infrastructure projects, Chinese workers are doing low-skilled jobs that local African workers could just as easily do.
The challenge facing African governments, therefore, is to forge agreements with the Chinese government and corporations, so that maximum benefits accrue to local economies in terms of employment and service provision to workers on the project sites.
Further, criticisms of China for its apparent failure to care about such issues as undemocratic governance in African nations are no doubt fair (though Britain, for one, is equally guilty of this in its dealings with China and Saudi Arabia). But we should also remember that Chinese investment is not all Chinese-funded. Many projects are funded by other donors, such as the World Bank and the African Development Bank, and only implemented by Chinese companies because they are cheaper.