Showing posts with label India. Show all posts
Showing posts with label India. Show all posts

30 March 2017

What Do India and Turkey Have in Common?

By Isaac Chotiner

India is frequently described as the world’s largest democracy, thus leaving the impression that the country has nothing in common with a place like Turkey. In just the past year, the latter has weathered an attempted coup, a large-scale purging of key institutions by the ruling regime, and a president who seems increasingly unstable. But as Basharat Peer makes clear in his new book, A Question of Order: India, Turkey, and the Return of Strongmen, the two places have more similarities than you might think.

Peer, an editor for international opinion at the New York Times and a contributor to the New Yorker, grew up in Indian-administered Kashmir, the contested (and heavily oppressed) region bordering Pakistan. In his new book, he writes about his experiences traveling and reporting in both India and Turkey, describing how two very controversial leaders, Narendra Modi and Recep Tayyip Erdogan, used demagoguery to cement their power. (Modi was for many years banned from traveling to the U.S. for his role in presiding over religious violence and ethnic cleansing against Muslims in the state he governed.)

I spoke by phone with Peer this week. During the course of our conversation, which has been edited and condensed for clarity, we discussed the state of the opposition in both India and Turkey, why leaders don’t necessarily “mature” once in office, and how Donald Trump differs from the world’s other strongmen.

Isaac Chotiner: What made you decide to pair India and Turkey in a book about the return of strongmen?

An Enemy Less Lethal: What If, In 1971, India Had Entered West Pakistan?

Rakesh Krishnan Simha

The 1971 War was a military and political disaster for Pakistan, which lost its more populous and economically dominant eastern half – East Pakistan. The conflict was also a major embarrassment for the US, which had backed and armed Islamabad to the hilt, only to see its ally defeated on land, sea and air. India not only emerged the pre-eminent power in South Asia, but the emergence of Bangladesh ensured India was no longer sandwiched between hostile lands.

However, the magnitude of India's victory would have been significantly greater had its strategic war plans not been leaked by an American spy in Prime Minister Indira Gandhi's cabinet. The identity of this Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) mole remains classified to this day.

On 9 December 1971, as Indian Army columns were racing towards Dhaka, and the navy and air force were pounding Pakistan round the clock, the Americans realised their ally’s game was up. Factoring in India’s war plans, the CIA prepared a secret document titled 'Implications of an Indian Victory Over Pakistan’. The report listed New Delhi’s aims:

A. The liberation of Bangladesh

B. The incorporation into India of Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir

C. The destruction of Pakistani armoured and air force strength so that Pakistan can never again threaten India.

Credibility Plunge: How Did English Media Miss The Modi Waves Of Both 2014 And ‘17?

Deepanjali Bhas

The recent UP elections only showed the sheer distance between reality and Indian English media’s projection of it 

Most Indians who support right-of-centre political parties look at the recent election results with happiness, but also feel a sense of déjà vu setting in. 2014 elections will bring back the memory of the shocked expressions of English television news anchors, who tried to mask their defeat with a show of objectivity and wherever possible, sarcastic comments against the winning Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Not surprisingly, this dutifully played out again on 11 March 2017.

As the results from Uttar Pradesh rolled in, the whole debate of Bharat versus India – the disconnect between the “masses of the hinterland” and the English-speaking urban elite came through in English mainstream media. Again, we saw the same old phrases of the “Hindi heartland” having given its verdict, some references to how city-dwellers could not predict the poll outcome, and the like.

In India, it’s almost a given that if you’re an educated, English speaking person, you just have to be a supporter of one of the Left parties or the Congress. It is almost unthinkable to the mainstream English media that an educated Indian could have a view that is right of centre.

29 March 2017

Of swayamsevaks and intellectuals

by Dr Rakesh Sinha

At the three-day meeting of the All India Pratinidhi Sabha (AIPS), the highest decision-making body of the RSS, that concluded in Coimbatore on March 22, the swayamsevaks felt unburdened. They are no longer in direct confrontation with the state. Those who considered the RSS the enemy of “secularism and nationalism” no longer hold state power. However, they still hold the dominant position in academia.

In the past, the annihilation of dominant political regimes, whether in the former Soviet Union, Britain, France or in Latin America, was preceded by the assertion of intellectual hegemony. However, the situation in India is different. While the RSS dominates India’s politics, its domination in the country’s intellectual discourse is awaited. The only change is that forces whose secular discourse required the exclusion of the RSS now realise that the presence of the organisation is necessary.

Anti-RSSism is not a monolith. The organisation’s critics can be divided into three broad categories. One, those academics and intellectuals who critique the RSS position on the nation and the state: Their misconception is not far-fetched since they find little substance in popular literature on the RSS to allay their misgivings. But the closer they come to the RSS, the more they will shed their misgivings. There is definitely a paucity of literature that delineates the value-loaded terminologies and narratives of the movement, like Hindu Rashtra and cultural nationalism. This gives rise to misconceptions. For instance, all anti-RSS literature and narratives describe the Hindu rashtra as a theocratic idea. That is absolutely against the RSS’s own understanding. But then, these critics have not felt the need to delve into serious work by RSS’s theoreticians. Dattopant Thengadi’s book Rashtra (nation), for example, is an attempt to delineate RSS’s understanding of the nation and the Hindu Rashtra.

India’s Hydrocarbon Exploration and Licensing Policy (HELP): Will it Help India’s Upstream Oil and Gas?



India’s petroleum and natural gas minster, Dharmendra Pradhan, recently announced that the ministry will hold a new auction for oil and gas exploration blocks in July. 

This auction will be the first under a relatively new exploration and licensing policy passed in March 2016 known as the Hydrocarbon Exploration and Licensing Policy (HELP). 

HELP unifies the authority to grant licenses for exploration and production (E&P) of conventional and unconventional oil and gas resources, including oil, gas, coal bed methane, shale gas/oil, tight gas, and gas hydrates. 

HELP introduces an Open Acreage Licensing Policy (OALP) that will allow companies to approach the government at any time and seek permission to explore any block. It also gives companies access to the National Data Repository (NDR) maintained by the government, to consult these maps and data to help inform them about which areas to bid on. Previously, companies had to wait for formal bid rounds by the government, and E&P activity was restricted to only those blocks offered for bidding by the government. 
The previous licensing policy, New Exploration Licensing Policy (NELP), was criticized for its narrow scope (it required companies to obtain a separate license if they discovered unconventional oil or gas that was not covered under the initial permit) and for the production sharing and marketing relationship with the government, which was seen as burdensome. 

HELP changes India’s E&P policy in the following ways: 

Driving India Into the Arms of the Dragon

by E. John Teichert

In the midst of an American pivot towards Asia, the United States has telegraphed a clear intent to improve upon its relationship with India. During President Obama’s visit to India early last year he contended that the relationship was “one of the defining partnerships of this century.” During Indian Defense Minister Parrikar’s recent visit to the United States, Secretary Carter called the U.S.-Indian defense partnership one that “will become an anchor of global security.” Yet, in spite of common values, warming ties, and shared interests, a fruitful and enduring relationship between the United States and India is not guaranteed, nor should it be taken for granted. Doing so would place American strategic interests in peril.

A diagnosis of the relationships between India, China, and the United States reveals that a strong partnership between India and China is possible, and must be carefully considered as a part of American strategy. While not likely, this relationship is plausible based on shared Chinese-Indian interests, independent Chinese and Indian objectives, and potential American strategic mistakes in South Asia. A proper American strategy would consider this possibility, watch for strategic warnings of it, and design a current strategy to hedge against it. Otherwise, the desired strategic partnership between the United States and India may not come to fruition.

28 March 2017

*** Nuclear power promise fades


Brahma Chellaney

It is often said that China could become the first country in the world to age before it gets rich. India faces no such spectre. However, India has already become the first important economy in the world to take on onerous climate-related obligations before it has provided electricity to all its citizens.

This reality has greatly accentuated India’s energy challenge, which is unique in some respects. Consider the scale of its challenge: Before its population stabilizes, India will add at least as many people as the U.S. currently has. Even if India provided electricity to its projected 1.6 billion population in 2050 at today’s abysmally low per capita energy consumption level, it will have to increase its electricity production by about 40% of the total global output at present.

India’s domestic energy resources are exceptionally modest in comparison to population size and the demands of a fast-growing economy, with energy demand projected to rise 90% just over the next 13 years. And, unlike China, India does not share common borders with any energy-exporting country and thus must rely on imports from beyond its neighbourhood, making it vulnerable to unforeseen supply disruptions.

** Shed the Indus albatross


Brahma Chellaney, The Times of India

At a time when India is haunted by a deepening water crisis, the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT) hangs like the proverbial albatross from its neck. In 1960, in the naïve hope that water largesse would yield peace, India entered into a treaty that gave away the Indus system’s largest rivers as gifts to Pakistan.

Since then, that congenitally hostile neighbour, while drawing the full benefits from the treaty, has waged overt or covert aggression almost continuously and is now using the IWT itself as a stick to beat India with, including by contriving water disputes and internationalizing them.

A partisan World Bank, meanwhile, has compounded matters further. Breaching the IWT’s terms under which an arbitral tribunal cannot be established while the parties’ disagreement “is being dealt with by a neutral expert,” the Bank proceeded in November to appoint both a court of arbitration (as demanded by Pakistan) and a neutral expert (as suggested by India). It did so while admitting that the two concurrent processes could make the treaty “unworkable over time”.

World Bank partisanship, however, is not new: The IWT was the product of the Bank’s activism, with US government support, in making India embrace an unparalleled treaty that parcelled out the largest three of the six rivers to Pakistan and made the Bank effectively a guarantor in the treaty’s initial phase. With much of its meat in its voluminous annexes, this is an exhaustive, book-length treaty with a patently neo-colonial structure that limits India’s sovereignty to the basin of the three smaller rivers.

Is The Aadhar Grounded In Adequate Law And Regulations?

Vrinda Bhandari and Renuka Sane

Aadhar enrollment goes on. Aadhar being made compulsory for various public services. All of this, in a legal vacuum.

The Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016, ["the Aadhaar Act"], as the name suggests, aims at targeted delivery of subsidies, benefits and services by providing unique identity(UID) numbers based on an individual's demographic and bio-metric information. Aadhaar enrollment is, in principle, voluntary - both as per the Central Government's own stand and repeated orders of the Supreme Court since 2013. The Government has, however, slowly been linking government (and other services) to the Aadhaar card. Since January 2017, the Government has issued 22 notifications making Aadhaar mandatory for obtaining a range of services, ranging from the Mid-Day Meal scheme to maternity benefits. The Aadhaar number is likely to become a pre-requisite for filing income tax returns and applying for a PAN card.

As of March 2017, more than 1.1 billion individuals have been enrolled in the system and 4.9 billion authentication transactions have taken place. In the process, the Government has expanded the scope and coverage of Aadhaar while the Supreme Court is yet to decisively settle questions about constitutional challenge.

Nuclear Ban Treaty Conference and Universal Nuclear Disarmament

Manpreet Sethi

A nuclear weapons free world (NWFW) has been on the global agenda since 1945. Only, it has never been a global priority. In 2009, when the president of the militarily most powerful country talked about it in Prague, there was a brief upsurge of hope. But, the moment passed all too quickly and by the time President Obama demitted office, he had been persuaded to approve an unprecedented modernisation of the US nuclear arsenal and infrastructure. President Trump is likely to stay the course. Not surprisingly, Russia is keeping nuclear pace. And, China is keeping them company with the induction of new conventional, nuclear and dual-use capabilities. All three are also experimenting with newer technologies ranging from hypersonics to underwater nuclear drones.

Ironically, it is at this juncture that a conference to negotiate a treaty prohibiting the possession, use, development, deployment and transfer of nuclear weapons is scheduled to be held in the last week of March 2017. Engaged as all the nine nuclear-armed states are in nuclear modernisation, it is not surprising that this initiative is being led by a set of non-nuclear weapons states (NNWS), mostly from Africa, Latin America, Southeast Asia, and some from Europe. The conference is the outcome of the UNGA resolution 71/258 that was adopted on 23 December 2016. The Resolution itself arose out of three meetings in 2016 of the Open Ended Working Group (OEWG) on disarmament. The OEWG was the result of the three conferences that were held as part of the Humanitarian Initiative (HI) since 2013. The HI brought focus to the fact that any nuclear detonation would be a catastrophic disaster beyond human handling capability. It also highlighted the legal gap for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons given that the NPT itself does not delegitimise these weapons, certainly not for the five recognised NWS. It only prohibits their possession by the NNWS parties to the treaty. The nuclear ban treaty plans to plug this gap.

Aadhaar Over-Reach: Making It A Must For PAN Will Leave Millions Vulnerable

R Jagannathan

First things first: this should happen only when the ordinary citizen can be guaranteed full privacy protection, and quick justice when breaches occur.

Till we find a way to ensure speedy justice on privacy issues, it is better to let a few evaders go unpunished than to try and punish the whole country.

The Finance Ministry’s decision to make Aadhaar, the unique biometric identity issued to over a billion residents of India, compulsory for filing returns is a dangerous move. It will convert what was originally intended to give the poor an ID, and the government an efficient way to target benefits and weed out fake beneficiaries, into a financial Frankenstein.

The ostensible reason for making Aadhaar mandatory for issuing PAN numbers and filing income-tax returns is that there are too many people with multiple PAN numbers, which makes detection of evasion difficult. But this is tosh. It speaks more about the incompetence of the state and its tax officials than about a real need for linking Aadhaar to PAN.

It can be argued that every country has some form of national identification process. The US has its social security number, and so India can well have its Aadhaar. But the difference is this: there is simply no privacy protection in the Indian system that is legally strong enough to deliver justice to people whose IDs have been misused or compromised by the state or even private parties.

27 March 2017

** Beware the rhyme of history

by Arun Prakash
It is “Peace for our time”, declared British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain on September 30, 1938, as he returned from the Munich Conference having tamely agreed to the German annexation of Czechoslovakian territories. This was to be the penultimate act of appeasement before Germany triggered World War II by invading Poland on September 1, 1939.

Well before it sparked this global conflagration, Germany had provided enough evidence of its hegemonic intent and utter disdain for the 1919 Treaty of Versailles, crafted for the purpose of preventing German re-militarisation. In contravention of its provisions, Adolf Hitler introduced conscription, sent his military to gain combat experience in the Spanish civil war and then, in 1936, re-occupied Rhineland. Emboldened by the passivity of Britain and the European powers, this was followed, in 1938, by the forcible union (Anschluss) of Austria with the Third Reich because of its German-speaking majority. Craven appeasement and hopeless optimism had set the stage for the Gotterdammerung that was to follow, exactly a year after Munich.

History, according to Mark Twain, “does not repeat itself but it rhymes”. On the 100th anniversary of World War I, Canadian historian Margaret MacMillan had pointed out uncanny similarities between the contemporary geopolitical landscape and the Europe of 1914. She argued in an essay that the same structural forces that led to the Great War a century ago could be in action in 2014. Mercifully, the centennial of WW I came and went peacefully, but MacMillan endorses Mark Twain with her advice: “If we can see past our blinders and take note of the telling parallels between then and now… history does give us valuable lessons.”

** BUILDING CASTLES IN THE AIR: CRITIQUE OF THE FIRST USE BY INDIA HYPOTHESIS

Source Link 
by Manpreet Sethi

Imminent use of nuclear weapons by Pakistan will make India go first, carry out a comprehensive first strike, and take out Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. So said an MIT scholar at a recent conference on nuclear policy. He opined that India will mount a “full comprehensive and preemptive nuclear counterforce strike” that could “completely disarm Pakistan of its nuclear weapons so that India does not engage in iterative tit-for-tat exchanges and expose its own cities to nuclear destruction.”

There are several problems with this hypothesis. Firstly, there never is any guarantee that “imminent” use of nuclear weapons is not an exercise in coercive diplomacy by the adversary. By doing preemption then, the first user would have guaranteed retaliation on oneself. Secondly, carrying out a full, comprehensive counterforce strike requires a credible first-strike-capable nuclear force. This means large numbers of nuclear-tipped missiles of very high accuracy, an early warning and intelligence capability of a very high order given the mobility of the adversary’s nuclear assets, nuclear targeting coordination, and logistics of a very high capability to obviate all chance of retaliation. The demands of such capabilities require deep pockets and a full panoply of high-end technology. India neither has nor will have spare cash of this kind in the foreseeable future. Therefore, complete disarming of Pakistan is just not possible. And if that doesn’t happen, then despite the first strike, Indian nuclear use would only have ended up exposing its cities to nuclear destruction, the very scenario Narang presupposes India would go nuclear first to avoid.

26 March 2017

*** Buddhism: A New Frontier in the China-India Rivalry

JAYADEVA RANADE 

Summary: Buddhism has become part of a broader soft power rivalry between China and India for greater influence in Asia.

Jayadeva Ranade is a former additional secretary in the Cabinet Secretariat, Government of India and is presently president of the Center for China Analysis and Strategy.

For both China and India, Buddhism is a useful enhancer of cultural soft power. The religion has, over the past decade, increased in importance for India as New Delhi tries to re-energize the religious tradition and integrate it into the country’s cultural strength; for China, meanwhile, Buddhism is an important means of soothing domestic discontent and staving off risks to its territorial integrity. Buddhism, which China has begun describing as an “ancient Chinese religion” and allowing its citizens freedom to practice, is especially significant for China in preserving domestic social stability and diffusing restiveness in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) and Tibetan areas elsewhere in China. China is also using Buddhism to increase its influence in nearby regions by acquiring predominant access to powerful Buddhist organizations. Meanwhile India, which has been home to Buddhism since its birth, sees Buddhism as a way of strengthening its relationship with Southeast Asian nations and as a means of preserving the religious and cultural practices of the Tibetan Buddhist people who have sought refuge in India.

Is the Indian Nuclear Doctrine Evolving?


India’s nuclear doctrine may appear to be undergoing a shift towards conducting a ‘counterforce strike’ against Pakistan, but some experts see this as “mind games” that could set off a worrying chain of events in the region. 

Washington: If India fears imminent use of nuclear weapons by Pakistan, will it go first, upending its doctrine of ‘no first use’, and conduct a comprehensive first strike, taking out Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal? 

In other words, has India’s nuclear doctrine undergone a shift? Vipin Narang, a respected expert, raised the possibility at the Carnegie International Nuclear Policy Conference, causing a stir. The conference, held every two years to discuss nuclear weapons, proliferation and associated topics, is a gathering of the world’s top nuclear strategists. 

Narang, a professor of political science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who specialises in nuclear proliferation and strategy, said in his prepared remarks that there was increasing “evidence that India will not allow Pakistan to go first”. 

25 March 2017

Why Manohar Parrikar Failed In Defence BloombergQuintOpinion

Bharat Karnad

Few Defence Ministers began their tenure with such high expectations and ended it on such low key with almost nothing to show for the two-odd years spent as the military’s boss, as Manohar Parrikar. Returning to Goa without making the slightest ripple in a ministry crying out for hard political decisions and implementation of even harder solutions, may be something of a record. Even so, were we all wrong in hoping Parrikar would do big things differently, logically, with oodles of practical good sense? For one as a graduate of IIT, Mumbai, it was expected that he would bring an engineer’s approach and problem-solving methodology to issues of national security, especially those relating to the conventional forces that in many respects are mathematical in nature.

He started out promisingly. The Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) race was decided by the time the Manmohan Singh demitted office. It only remained for the incoming BJP government to sign on the dotted line of a contract for the Rafale aircraft that would enrich France, the French economy, the French aerospace sector, and specifically, Dassault Avions, without doing much for Indian Air Force's (IAF) fighting ability.

He did the unexpected, showing the greatest reluctance to sign a contract, Parrikar pondered more economical options in lieu of the Rafale. He came to the obvious conclusion that the entire ‘medium’ category in combat aircraft is a bit of a hoax perpetrated by IAF.

How India’s Demonetization Experiment Is Defying the Odds

By Henry Burrows

While demonetization appears to be defying expectations, opinion remains divided over the speed and secrecy of the move. 

Just under six months after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s sudden decision to markedly reduce the amount of cash in circulation, the dust is now beginning to settle on arguably one of the boldest moves in Indian financial history.

Recent economic indicators suggest that the shock therapy administered through demonetization is defying expectations. The Reserve Bank of India recently reported growth of 7 percent for the fourth quarter of 2016, far exceeding economists’ forecasts of 6.1-6.4 percent. Not only does India remain the world’s fastest-growing major economy, it has outstripped Chinese growth in each of the last four quarters. At the same time, Modi appears to have strengthened his own position through some unconventional but effective political maneuvering.

The demonetization move can be fairly described as bold, because that is exactly what it was. India has withdrawn banknotes twice in the past – once in 1946 and again in 1978 – but the scale of this recent effort far surpassed anything before it. Overnight 86 percent of India’s cash supply – the equivalent of $220 billion – was effectively removed. The official intention was to combat corruption and terrorism. The wider objective, as stated by Modi’s Bharartiya Janata Party (BJP), was to force India and its 1.25 billion citizens to become part of the country’s digital economic grid. All of this in a country which pays 85 percent of its workers in cash – bold indeed.

Indian and Chinese Engagement in Latin America and the Caribbean: A Comparative Assessment


This monograph comparatively examines the content and country focus of high-level diplomacy for each of the two actors, as well as the volume and patterns of trade, the activities of Indian and Chinese companies in the region, and their relationship to their respective governments in eight sectors: (1) petroleum and mining; (2) agriculture; (3) construction; (4) manufacturing and retail; (5) banking and finance; (6) logistics and port operations; (7) technology such as telecommunications, space, and high technology; and, (8) military sales and activities.

This monograph finds that Indian engagement with the region is significantly less than that of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), and concentrated on a more limited subset of countries and sectors. In the commercial and military sector, it finds that the efforts by the Indian government to support their companies in the region are generally more modest and less coordinated than those of the PRC. Nonetheless, despite such limitations, the nature of Indian companies and their engagement with the region create opportunities for significant advances in the future, in a manner that is relatively well received by Latin American governments and societies.

China outpaces India in internet access, smartphone ownership

BY JACOB POUSHTER

India and China, the world’s two most populous countries, have long had a competitive relationship and have emerged as major economic powers. But in the digital space, China has a clear advantage. Since Pew Research Center began tracking advanced technology adoption in the two countries in 2013, the Chinese have consistently reported rates of internet and smartphone use that are at least triple that of Indians. That trend has continued through 2016.

In our latest poll, 71% of Chinese say they use the internet at least occasionally or own a smartphone, our definition of internet users. In contrast, only 21% of Indians say they use the internet or own a smartphone.

The gap between China and India is similarly large when it comes to smartphone ownership alone. Nearly seven-in-ten Chinese (68%) say they own one as of spring 2016, compared with 18% of Indians. Reported smartphone ownership in China has jumped 31 percentage points since 2013, but only 6 points in India over the same time period. And while virtually every Chinese person surveyed owns at least a basic mobile phone (98%), only 72% of Indians can say the same. 

The digital divide between the two countries mirrors differences in their broader economic trajectories. Between 2001 and 2011, the share of middle-income Chinese, those making $10.01-$20 a day, jumped from 3% to 18%. In India over the same decade, the middle class share of the population grew from 1% to 3%. In 2015, China’s gross domestic product per capita (PPP) was over five times that of India. Our own research has shown a strong correlation between per capita income and levels of internet access and reported smartphone ownership. Furthermore, some analysts have argued that Chinese investment in digital infrastructure accounts for China’s technological lead over India.

24 March 2017

*** In India, A State Election Shapes The Future Of A Nation

STRATFOR

Sometimes an election resonates far beyond the place it directly concerns. Voters in one nation can create problems for foreigners, or voters in one region can shape the fate of an entire country. This is what the citizens of Uttar Pradesh have just done for India for the second time in three years. By delivering a resounding victory for Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in elections held between Feb. 11 and March 8, the country's largest state has not only set the ruling party on the path toward another victory in general elections set for 2019. It has also upheld a multidecade pattern that will define the shape of the country for many years to come.

The Center of Empires

Uttar Pradesh's central importance to India is hard to overstate. It is the country’s steering wheel; anyone who wishes to control India must control Uttar Pradesh. Its importance stems from the Ganges River, whose vast drainage basin is the country's heartland. Uttar Pradesh dominates the center of this fertile alluvial plain, its population of 200 million equal to Brazil's and almost twice that of India's next biggest state. All streams converge here, both literally and figuratively.

The Ganges not only feeds a multitude but also creates a unity among its residents that isn't seen in the more fractured south, with its rugged terrain, numerous rivers and varied languages. By comparison, a large part of the north shares a common language, Hindi, while the great religion that sprung up upon its banks - Hinduism - has the river woven deeply into its spiritual values. In fact, India's British colonists found that they could only persuade indentured workers to board their ships if they brought along large cauldrons of Ganges water as well, such was Indians' aversion to leaving the sacred river behind.