A PUBLICATION OF THE RESEARCH CENTRE FOR EASTERN AND
NORTH EASTERN REGIONAL STUDIES, KOLKATA

A University Grants Commission Approved Journal
(under UGC-CARE, Arts & Humanities Citation Index)
ISSN 2582-2241

 

IN THIS ISSUE

From Harish C. Mehta, Editor-in-Chief

 

Keeping our gaze firmly in the East, the niche areas of the journal, we present research articles on the explosive legacies of the Cambodian civil war, India’s strategy within the Southeast Asian regional security complex and the Indo-Pacific, and the struggle of the Gorkhā women of the Darjeeling Hills to search for their identity, as well as a book extract on the Indian journalists’ diaspora in Singapore, and timely book reviews on India’s North East.

The scholar-bureaucrat, Leng Sochea, investigates the Cambodian experience in demining in the first article in a forthcoming series on the topic. Dr. Leng presents the historical background, the research objectives and local/global legal and regulatory framework governing demining operations. His research covered five provinces in Cambodia where he worked with deminers and team leaders to explore a subject that lacks empirical investigation even though there is a sizeable volume of literature on the effectiveness of the multiple factors involved in demining in Cambodia. Dr. Leng explains that since no research existed on the Cambodian Mine Action Center, he made it the primary focus of the project. In its wide sweep, the study explores the history of the laying of landmines and other ordnance by the United States and the Cambodian warring factions, the massive scale of the destruction caused, and it identifies both the strengths and weaknesses of the demining system. The author, himself a participant in the demining programme, traces the long process by which Cambodia developed one of the world’s most efficient and sophisticated mine action planning systems.

In a second research article, Ryan Mitra, a Bachelor’s student and an intern at the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, interrogates India’s emergence as an Asian powerhouse, a development had been forecast since the end of the Cold War. After adopting the Look- and Act East policies, India has been viewed abroad as a benign power that upholds the principles of international law, a perception that has helped it in its wide-ranging engagement with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and other Indo-Pacific countries in areas from trade to security. The article explores India’s bilateral relations with ASEAN and the Indo-Pacific countries in order to assess the strength of its security architecture that aims to create a mutually secure environment against traditional and non-traditional threats. The author concludes that India’s position to its east is definitely improving, but it is not improving fast enough in the context of current geopolitical trends and the omnipresence of its neighbour, China.

The doctoral scholar, Ishani Dutta, examines the struggle of the Gorkhā women of the Darjeeling Hills against the domination of the male Gorkhā warrior, the bÄ«ryodhyā. In the grand narrative of the bravery and loyalty of Gorkhā soldiers, Gorkhā women had no role to play. The author argues that Gorkhā women were almost invisible, raising questions such as: Where does the Gorkhā woman find herself in a community where the term Gorkhā invokes the image of a brave Gorkhā soldier? And how does the Gorkhā woman recover her suppressed voice? The article explains the ways in which she asserts her Gorkhā identity and makes herself be seen as a part of the community. The author unpacks these issues and questions through the poems of three women poets within Indian Nepali Literature—Bindya Subba, Kamala Rai, and Pavitra Lama, who exhibit a distinct Gorkhā female identity. For this project, the author interviewed the poets and conducted extensive fieldwork in the Darjeeling Hills in order to properly understand the dynamics of the Gorkhā identity, as well as the impact of the Gorkhāland agitation on the Gorkhā community.

We present excerpts from a new book, Reluctant Editor, by the veteran Singapore journalist, P.N. Balji, who edited The New Paper from 1990 to 2000, and the TODAY newspaper from 2000 to 2003. He has been a media consultant to the Singapore government’s Ministry of Home Affairs, and adjunct professor at Nanyang Technological University. Balji remarks, “Singapore journalists hardly write about their work and they usually take their stories to their graves.” In this excerpt, he writes about how The New Paper began recruiting journalists from India, generating an early wave of an Indian diaspora into Singapore’s newspapers.

The poet-novelist, Anjana Basu, reviews two books on the social and political history of India’s North East. The Assam-born author, Siddhartha Sarma’s East of the Sun, describes his long walk starting in the spring of 2008 through the troubled North East. His search for travellers’ (but not tourists’) tales took him to Meghalaya, Arunachal, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura, finally crossing the border into Moreh in Myanmar. The second review is of Anubha Bhonsle’s Mother, Where’s My Country? Looking for Light in the Darkness of Manipur, a troubling account that draws on interviews with military personnel, politicians, leaders of militant groups and the ordinary people who are caught between all these powers.

The journal welcomes articles on India’s North East, and India’s role in world affairs; South Asia, Southeast Asia, East Asia (Japan, the Koreas, Taiwan, and China); and the policy towards Asia pursued by the United States, Russia and the West, as well as West Asia, Latin America, Australia and New Zealand. The journal’s focus is on diplomacy, conduct of foreign policy, international relations, soft power (use of film and the arts as tools of diplomacy), diplomatic history, war and peace, defence issues, geo-strategy, national and global economic issues, peace studies, informal diplomacy and Track Two diplomacy, revolution and counterrevolution, terrorism and counterterrorism, colonialism and decolonisation, and hegemony and resistance. The journal carries articles on contemporary world affairs, and major events and policies of the twentieth century that are still shaping the world today and are being revisited in light of the new historical material that is declassified and becomes available from time to time.