Author Archive

Kashmir: Upheaval…and looking back

August 8, 2019: On August 6, the Indian government abolished the special status and limited autonomy Jammu and Kashmir had enjoyed since soon after India became independent. The action was generally popular in India, but was greeted with shock and anger among Kashmiri muslims and in Pakistan. This article gives you my take on this recent action.

But we also offer a look back. As many of my readers know, Howard Schaffer tracked developments in Kashmir for much of his long Foreign Service career. The account he gave of his first trip to the Kashmir valley in 1964, linked here from the Web site of the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training, is fascinating in light of the subsequent history. Read more

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Sri Lanka: The Indian Peace Keeping Force in Hindsight

Brookings India March 5, 2019

Brookings India hosted the first session in its series “Back to the Future” on March 5, 2019 in New Delhi. The  panel discussion examined the events leading up to the entrance and exit of the Indian Peace Keeping Force into Sri Lanka in 1987-90. Participants included four Indians who had been in critical policy-making positions in their government during this period, and Ambassador Teresita Schaffer, who provided a view from the United States, both on her own behalf and reflecting the experience of her late husband, Amb. Howard Schaffer. The discussion illustrates some of the different priorities in different parts of the Indian government; the sharp change in perspective when Ranasinghe Premadasa succeeded J.R. Jayawardene as Sri Lankan president; and a U.S. government position that supported the IPKF but remained quite detached.

A summary of the proceedings is here; a video of the session is here. Schaffer’s portion of the discussion is from 1:09 to 1:30 on the timeline of the video.

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Book Reviews: Pakistan and India

From Flickr,

November 9, 2018: Among this year’s good reads on South Asia one is on Pakistan/Afghanistan, Steve Coll’s Directorate S, which picks up the story he began in Ghost Wars about the way these two countries and the United States interacted during the decade and a half starting in 2001. One is on India, a riveting addition to the “New India” literature by James Crabtree, former Financial Times correspondent in Mumbai, aptly titled The Billionaire Raj. The other three look at Pakistan and India: Spy Chronicles, an extended long interview by two former intelligence chiefs from the two rivals, which will probably tell you more about how each related to his own government than about how the two countries relate; The People Next Door, by a former Indian High Commissioner in Pakistan, with a sensitively drawn take on how the two countries look at each other; and Moeed Yusuf’s Brokering Peace in Nuclear Environments, about the challenges that a multi-player environment adds to the Cold War era conventional wisdom about nuclear negotiations.

Read full review here.

This is a preprint of an article submitted for consideration in Survival: Global Politics and Strategy ©, The International Institute for Strategic Studies.

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India’s Data Localization


The suggested draft bill released in July by the Justice B.N. Srikrishna committee is the most recent contribution to a sprawling debate over electronic data that has been going on in India and elsewhere for some years. The report and the bill concern the privacy of personal data, but they are part of a policy discussion that goes much farther, encompassing essentially all data that are stored electronically. This is a classic example of the old adage: be careful what you wish for – you might be sorry if it comes true.


See op-ed by Teresita Schaffer, published in The Print (India) October 10, 2018.

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Pakistan elections: Imran Khan Rising?


July 21, 2018: Since my last article on Pakistan, the election scene has shifted. At this point, it’s looking like an ugly election, and a decisive PML-N victory will be a surprise. The election is set for July 25.

Imran Khan from

The squeeze on former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his party has tightened. Nawaz and his daughter Maryam were sentenced to ten years in prison by an administrative anti-corruption court for possession of property in Britain beyond their known sources of income. Both returned to Pakistan July 13 from London, where they were accompanying Nawaz’s seriously ill wife. On their return, both were immediately transported to prison.


There are numerous stories in the press about intimidation of newspapers and of candidates from the PML-N. Some include references to “people in uniform.”

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Jamsheed Marker 1922-2018: Pakistan’s Longest Serving Ambassador


July 20, 2018: Jamsheed Marker was a diplomat’s diplomat. When he died in Karachi last month, he had been living quietly for two decades. But the outpouring of admiration on the world’s obituary pages painted the picture of a diplomat’s diplomat, who had left his mark on his country’s foreign policy and indeed on the world.


Marker was one of the “partition generation,” those who had come of age soon before India and Pakistan became independent. He had served as an officer in the Royal Navy during World War II, had worked in the family shipping business, and had achieved both renown and affection as a commentator on cricket, then as now a great passion in Pakistan. Read more

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Pakistan: Pre-Election Turbulence

Flickr, 8687430357_5beaaf91cd_z

May 7, 2018: For the second time in a row, Pakistan is nearing the end of the five-year term of an elected government. Parliamentary elections are due before the end of July. This year, pre-election excitement is amplified by a corruption scandal that removed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif; a deterioration in Pakistan’s

Photo from Flickr 8687424545_842d9c9098_z

external economic accounts despite higher GDP growth; and a new low in U.S.-Pakistan relations. Many experienced observers believe that the odds favor a return to power of Sharif’s party – but the possibility of a surprise ending seems to be rising. What follows is a simplified guide to the main story lines that will unfold over the coming months.


Political fracturing: Following reports by a journalists’ group that Prime Minister Sharif’s family owned companies and properties apparently caught up in a money laundering scheme known as the Panama Papers, two political parties – most prominently Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) – put the matter before the Pakistan Supreme Court. A long and convoluted judicial and investigative process followed, with officials from the major government investigative bodies participating. The result was a Supreme Court judgment on July 28, 2017, that Nawaz Sharif was ineligible to hold elected office on account of wealth beyond his known sources of income. Read more

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Bangladesh: Two Independence Movements

Sheikh Mujib and his daughter, Sheikh Hasina. Bangladesh Independence War Archives,


March 12, 2018: This article, the last that Howard and Teresita Schaffer wrote together, is adapted from a study commissioned by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Washington, D.C., to be published as part of a book called Independence Movements and their Aftermath: Self-Determination and the Struggle for Success. It is carried here by permission of CSIS. It summarizes Bangladesh’s two independence movements: the end of British rule in 1947, and liberation from Pakistan in 1971. It concludes that of the three biggest problems they confronted, Bangladesh’s early leaders succeeded beyond expectations in creating a unified and disciplined army and a dynamic economy, but the country is still struggling to craft a governing consensus.

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Book Reviews: India and Pakistan


February 26, 2018: This year’s crop includes three masterful books about India. Shivshankar Menon, known to many of our readers as one of the leading lights of Indian foreign policy, has written a slim volume, Choices, about key points where India was forced, however reluctantly, to choose between two incompatible policy paths. This is a problem it will confront more frequently as its power expands. Vinay Sitapati’s Half Lion sketches the life of Narasimha Rao, whom the author regards as one of the unsung heroes of recent Indian history. Milan Vaishnav has brought political science to life with When Crime Pays, about the relationship between money and muscle in Indian politics. On the Pakistan side, Owen Sirrs has tried to demystify the ISI – Inter Services Intelligence Directorate. And Daniel Haines’ Rivers Divided looks at the Indus Waters Treaty – the most durable accord between India and Pakistan – from the perspective of the negotiating constraints on both sides.


Read the whole review here.


This is a preprint of an article submitted for consideration in Survival: Global Politics and Strategy ©, The International Institute for Strategic Studies.

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In Memoriam: Howard Schaffer: 1929-2017

Photo by TCSchaffer

February 20, 2017: Howard and I started South Asia Hand together in late 2010. We had both retired from the Foreign Service, having spent much of our careers working in or on South Asia. He introduced me to the region. We took great joy in the friends and colleagues who hailed from the region or had joined us in making it a career focus. We hoped to convey to the next generation of South Asia hands our passion, as well as the remarkable change in the region’s ties with the United States since we first got involved.


By that time, Howard was 81, and had earned the title of “elder statesman.” He was the family historian, but above all, he was the master story-teller. He wrote about his legendary diplomatic colleagues, about how his own love of words played out in the subcontinent, about what had gone right and wrong in the tangled Read more

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