(Please click on Permalink/Full Post to read the whole thing.)
Click on Permalink/Full Post to read my attempt at liveblogging the South Asian Journalists Association's first webcast discussion panel
. I have added some links since I first blogged it this morning. Click here to access the audio archive
. Thank you!
You can't visit this webinar, because it's a conference call. Future panelists will include Strobe Talbott and the newly elected Bobby Jindal.
Washington correspondent, India Abroad
Anchor, "Followup With Fahd" on Geo TV, Pakistan's largest independent channel
Bangladeshi activist, digital media journalist and filmmaker.
President, IALI, Indian American Leadership Initiative
PROF. PHILIP OLDENBURG
Columbia University, Southern Asian Institute
Executive director, USINPAC,
AMBASSADOR TERESITA C. SCHAFFER
Director for South Asia Program, CSIS
(I apologize for mostly using first names for this draft, it's just faster typing.)
Varun Nikore starts off by summarizing how South Asian Americans did in this election. 8/25 Indian-American candidates won their races in this election. (Not sure I got that number right.) Beyond the sheer numbers and the historic win of Bobby Jindal, he's struck by the success of IALI's strategy in focusing on local, small races. Here's a list of the candidates from MahootMedia.
"Law school alone is not enough to say you have the qualifications to be a congressman." Varun reemphasizes the need for India-Americans to start small. IALI was hoping for more candidates, but
Varun thinks the community is becoming more realistic and smarter about tactics and generally getting involved.
Someone has pointed out that a Pakistani-American not on the list was elected to the State Assembly in NH for the third time. (Saghir Tahir.)
Aziz Haniffa is saying that the community was pretty divided in that the older generation mostly voted with GWB while the younger community mobilized heavily for Kerry, and that some bitterness will remain. Sree clarifies that this means there isn't really a South Asian voting block. Aziz agrees, saying South Asians vote across many issues.
400-500 young Indian Americans all over the country mobilized for Bush. The Bangladeshi and Pakistani American communities reportedly went for Kerry, but Fahd points out that within the larger context of the Muslim community (3% voted for Bush) more Pakistanis voted for Bush (15%).
Aziz and Fahd Husain point out that the official governments of both India and Pakistan are relieved. (This jives with what I heard on KQED's Pacific Time, where some Japanese and Chinese opinion writers said their actual governments just didn't want to deal with a change in government now. Audio here.)
Oh dear, not quite sure who's talking right now. . .but he's talking about the extent to which many journalists underestimated the vastness of the rural vote. His group is looking at Bush's actions on tort reform and immigration. (Must have been Sanjay Puri.)
Phillip Oldenburg caveats that he's an expert on South Asia, not America. Points out there is not the Republican senate is not fillibuster-proof. Teresita Schaffer points out that while the Democrats haven't gotten anything done they have been able to block things they object to, and it will be interesting to see how they balance that with their desire for winning future elections. Now, of course, continuity in foreign policy will be total. She says that there has begun to be consensus between both the Congress and BJP parties on relationships with the United States, and that this adds a measure of stability to Indo-American relationships.
In Bangladesh, Naeem Mohaiemen says, the entire reaction is based on the Bangladeshi perception of American foreign policy, because (he says) America doesn't have a very strong relationship with Bangladesh and Bangladeshis don't see an administration change as actually affecting them.
Teresita says the Bangladeshi government isn't too pleased because they've been feeling the heat from this Admin. over bad-governance issues.
Aziz interjects about the importance of a future visit to India from GWB, since only Democratic presidents have visited India. He says people need to keep an eye on the extent to which a Presidential visit to India (if it happens) is an exclusive India visit, or sits in a wider South Asia visit.
Teresita: remember that Iraq is still 90% of the attention span of this Admin's foreign policy.
Sree wants to know if Fahd has heard in Pakistan about fears that the USA will invade other Muslim countries. Fahd says that was a concern, and has grown as the situation in America worsened, but seems to be decreasing. I was more interested in the rest of Sree's question---how do such worries distribute across various classes of Pakistani society?
Phillip and Teresita agree that this Admin probably won't engage very proactively in South Asia, and Teresita cites Bush Sr.'s crisis-only style of intervention (which, nonetheless, was fairly effective.) Aziz says that Bush Admin pressure on Mussharraf to cut down on cross border infilitration into Kashmir has been somewhat successful in decreasing terrorism in Kashmir.
Sanjay Puri says that Iraq draws so much attention in both Congress and the White House that issues like Kashmir are not likely to get that much more attention.
Sree has a question for Naeem: Tell us about the impact from the Bush admin on civil liberty issues and issues affecting the Muslim Community. Naeem says a lot of it depends on rumored cabinet shuffles--rumored departees include Colin Powell, Donald Rumsfeld and John Ashcroft, the last being the most relevant to immigrant rights. Activists are disheartened but say they want to keep up the pressure. A lot depends on Iraq--if it gets worse, US-Muslim relations will worsen. Another terrorist event would also be a problematic, and notes the recent murder of a Dutch filmmaker and the Dutch response (creating a risk list of immigrants?). (International Herald Tribue article on 8 arrests made in the death of filmmaker Theo Van Gogh.)
Sanjay says it's possible Ashcroft might leave for health reasons but that it's likely he'd be traded in for someone of the same idealogical bent--Ashcroft's idealogy being too important to Bush's core supporters.
Fahd says that the Pakistani American community as a whole is dissappointed but still wants to flex its muscles. He notes that there are plenty of closet Pakistani Republicans to whom Bush actually looks good on issues like gay marriage.
Any reflections on why Democrats are more popular in India? Teresita says there is something to the idea that Democrats are more friendly to India--it was Republicans who signed up Pakistan for cold war alliances. She says the Indian National Security establishment concluded that since Bush wasn't too attached to non-proliferation, he would be easier to work with.
Sree asks Aziz to represent for Sri Lanka. Aziz says that, like all of South Asia, the people had some animosity towards Bush because of Iraq. But he points out that Deputy Secretary Armitage has worked hard on the peace process in Sri Lanka, so that on the policy level the Sri Lankan government does feel that the US is engaged with Sri Lanka. So even though the profile of Sri Lanka hasn't been raised in the media, at the government level a lot of stuff is happening with trade and peace process.
Teresita, former ambassador to Sri Lanka, says that the peace process in Sri Lanka isn't a function of any changes here as much as it is a function of its own momentum. Her worry is that if it slows down the US will not have the will to put more energy into it. The second issue in Sri Lanka is that the current government is very reliant on communist-leaning parties. Aziz notes that West Bengal's communist government is still aggressively courting foreign investment but Teresita says that WB's communism is of a more symbolic brand.
Sanjay is talking about outsourcing and how it dissipated as a campaign issue, and that as economy warms up businesses may become more aggressive about asking for more visas. Teresita notes that most of the political movement on outsourcing is actually at the state legislative issue. Fahd says that Pakistani applications for student visas have dropped sharply. Pakistani students are forgoing the option of coming to the US because the visas are harder to get, there is a perception of discrimination, and they have increasingly better opportunities in Pakistan. Aziz says there is some effect on Indian visas, citing school administrators complaining to Sen. Lugar about a loss in applicants. Aziz thinks that outsourcing is decreasing the need for H1-B visas, but Teresita points out that the quotas for 2005 were filled on the first day.
Phillip says that there's a big story in the decrease of Visa applicants, since strong relations between South Asia and America have been primarily built on the exchange of peoples.
Varun wants to emphasize that South Asian candidates are getting smarter and gaining momentum.
Teresita says that South Asia in general and India in particular are getting more attention from the US government than at any time previously in her 30-year South Asian career. She also notes that South Asian representation in the American electorate is only going to increase.
Sanjay says a lot of members of Congress will be going to India now, and that people should keep an eye on Medica tort-reform.
Phillip: He's seen a lot of South Asian Americans who are politically active without running for office--working in government, as activists, and raising money. He thinks our current policy towards South Asia is getting increasingly sophisticated and nuanced, and hopes it will stay that way and not revert back to Cold War simplicity.
Fahd says that Pakistani Americans are getting more and more involved in the mainstream "The Pakistani community here in America is finally coming of age." The next four years are crucial to how Pakistan moves forward, and he hopes that Bush will help Pakistan really turn things around and perhaps emerge as a more progressive country and a leader in the Muslim world.
Aziz echoes Teresita's views. He says the Indian American community will be looking at the symbolic value of a visit to India, and to a high level, non Assistant-Secretary, sub-cabinet appoinment of an Indian American.
Sree thanks the panelilsts and PR Newswire, and wants to do more of these. Please visit SAJA.org. Remember, a talk with Bobby Jindal is coming up. And he just got cut off.
Okay folks, that's all for now. I'll come back in the afternoon, clean this up, and add links. I apologize for typos and mispellings of names in the mean time. Thanks for playing! Please leave comments!
Click here to access the audio archive.