South Asia

The School Runners (Commentary April 2016)

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Review of “The Last Thousand” by Jeffrey E. Stern A 2015 exposé on the Buzzfeed website created a stir by savaging the notion that the massive expansion of education in Afghanistan has been one of the triumphs of the international military effort. It was titled “Ghost Students, Ghost Teachers, Ghost Schools.” “As the American mission faltered, [Read more…]

Reparations for the Raj? Mr Tharoor, you must be joking! (Politico Aug 3, 2015)

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Reparations for the Raj? Mr Tharoor, you must be joking! (Politico Aug 3, 2015)

The controversial Indian politician Shashi Tharoor sparks a polemical debate at the Oxford Union LONDON — An Oxford Union debate in which a senior Indian legislator, Shashi Tharoor, made a very funny speech last week calling for Britain to make reparations to India for the sins of the Raj, ignited a social media firestorm that culminated [Read more…]

Afghanistan, We Hardly Knew You (The Daily Beast, Dec 8, 2014)

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It took more than a dozen years for the Afghan and NATO forces to really understand each other, but all that will soon be history. KABUL, Afghanistan — One of the first things you notice at an Afghan National Army training base is that there are roses everywhere. There are lovingly tended flower beds along each [Read more…]

Good News From Afghanistan? (Commentary Magazine, July/August 2014)

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Good News From Afghanistan? (Commentary Magazine, July/August 2014)

On the Unheralded Transformation of Kabul  “Everybody knows the war is over./ Everybody knows the good guys lost.” -Leonard Cohen Everyone knows that there has been no progress and no development in Afghanistan, that the West’s efforts there since the overthrow of the Taliban have been a gigantic waste of blood and treasure. Everyone knows that the [Read more…]

India à la Modi (The Weekly Standard, June 2, 2014)

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Hope and Change on the Subcontinent The Indian elections that ended with a resounding victory for the Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi and an even more resounding defeat of the ruling Congress party have huge implications not just for India’s potential prosperity, political evolution, and unity but also for the region and the world economy. For most [Read more…]

"A Sandhurst in the Sand" (Full Version) Spectator Nov 2, 2013

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A strange hybrid beast is rising from the dust in the mountains West of Kabul. The foreigners in Kabul call it the Sandhurst in the Sand. Those who work at the new British-led military school that welcomed its first cadets last week prefer the more cumbersome “ANA-OA” short for Afghan National Army Officers Academy (though the [Read more…]

Dogged Evolution (The Indian Quarterly, Winter 2012)

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Dogged Evolution (The Indian Quarterly, Winter 2012)

He has few friends. His alliances with human street dwellers are as informal and precarious as those of the first proto-dogs who guarded campfires in return for food. But for all his drab familiarity amid the untidiness of the urban landscape, the Indian street dog may be the subcontinent’s most under-appreciated zoological treasure. For the Indian street mutt [Read more…]

Brewing it Up (Verve Magazine December 2011)

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  The arrival of global coffee house behemoths in the country proves that modern Indian café culture has reached a new level of maturity and competitive excitement. Thanks to the espresso machine – and all that comes with it – a generation of young people has been liberated, observes Jonathan Foreman A micro-skirted, skinny, short-haired young [Read more…]

Review of 'Behind the Beautiful Forevers' by Katherine Boo (Mail on Sunday, July 1, 2012)

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Review of 'Behind the Beautiful Forevers' by Katherine Boo (Mail on Sunday, July 1, 2012)

Finding India’s Real Slumdogs July 1, 2012 It is rare to come across a book as garlanded with praise as Behind the Beautiful Forevers. It is yet more rare to find one that deserves it. A page turner with a gripping human interest story, this is essential reading for anyone interested in the real India. It [Read more…]

Review of 'India: A Portrait' by Patrick French (Sunday Telegraph Jan 2011)

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It is no small undertaking to attempt a ‘portrait’ of contemporary India in all its dazzling complexity. Still more a book that is simultaneously ‘an intimate biography’ of its vast population. To achieve either of these grand, not easily combined tasks in a single readable volume would require an author to provide representative accounts of the [Read more…]