Andrew North

Andrew North South Asia correspondent

Come here for my latest thoughts and reflections on India and the rest of South Asia

Sherpas make a stand as Everest avalanche takes its toll

22 April 2014
Mountaineers approach the Hillary Step while pushing for the summit of Mount Everest - 19 May 2009
The avalanche that struck above Everest base camp last week killed 16 local guides

All climbing on Mount Everest has come to a halt amid chaotic scenes at base camp, according to climbers there, four days after the worst-ever accident on the mountain.

Some local guides are calling for a boycott but most foreign mountaineers remain on the mountain and are still hoping to resume climbing in the next week or so.

A "puja" ceremony on Tuesday for the 16 sherpa climbing guides killed by last Friday's avalanche descended into a surge of furious chanting and calls for all climbing to be suspended, according to several mountaineers present.

"They are very angry and very militant," the leader of one climbing team told the BBC from Everest base camp, asking that he not be identified. So far, he said, their protests "are all aimed at the government, not at the climbing companies".

'Wake-up call'

The disaster has brought to the surface long-simmering tensions over how the government shares out millions of dollars in revenue from the annual pursuit of the Everest summit, with sherpas denouncing its initial $400 (£240) compensation offer for the families of their dead compatriots.

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Siachen dispute: India and Pakistan’s glacial fight

12 April 2014
Indian soldiers are seen at the Forward Logistics Base.
Indian troops on the Siachen - the world's first "oropolitical" conflict

On 13 April 1984, Indian troops snatched control of the Siachen glacier in northern Kashmir, narrowly beating Pakistan. Thirty years later, the two sides remain locked in a stand-off, but the Indian army mountaineer who inspired the operation says his country must hang on whatever the cost.

Virtually hidden from public view, the world's highest conflict is moving into its fourth decade.

The struggle between India and Pakistan over the Siachen glacier has even spawned a new term: "oropolitics", or mountaineering with a political goal.

The word is derived from the Greek for mountain, and Indian army colonel Narendra Kumar can justly claim to be the modern father of oropolitics because his pioneering explorations paved the way for India to take the glacier in early 1984.

But what started as a battle with crampons and climbing rope has turned into high-altitude trench warfare, with the two rival armies frozen - often literally - in pretty much the same positions as 30 years ago.

Shocking waste

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On the campaign with Rahul Gandhi

31 March 2014

"We've come to see the helicopter," said two friends matter-of-factly as they waited for Rahul Gandhi to arrive at a political rally in Ghaziabad, near Delhi, this weekend.

The atmosphere was a little flat, with the warm-up speakers struggling to provoke much return volume from a crowd that contained more than a few dozing heads.

It was in stark contrast to an open-air rally in Delhi a few days earlier for Mr Gandhi's main challenger, Narendra Modi, where supporters chanted his name with frenzied devotion for hours before his arrival.

But as the first thwack, thwack of the rotors sliced through the warm afternoon over Ghaziabad, there was a surge of excitement.

Congress party supporters leapt onto chairs for a better view. Nearby rooftops filled with local people straining to see the helicopter descend.

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'Modi mania' at Delhi rally

27 March 2014
Modi supporters at Delhi rally, 26 March 2014

The man who may be India's next prime minister didn't live up to his reputation for punctuality, showing up more than an hour late for his first major rally in Delhi.

But the crowd wasn't bothered at all. "Modi mania" had already taken hold, expertly managed by his party workers in a now practised routine.

Warm-up speakers had been keeping the mood bubbling over a powerful tannoy system, with the most eager supporters in the audience taking it in turns to lead chants of "Modi-ji" (Modi-Sir).

Many people had been brought in hours earlier to ensure a good turnout, the fleet of buses parked outside ready to take them home.

His party workers had handed out hundreds of paper face-masks, so Narendra Modi's determined and slightly unnerving middle distance stare was already there.

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Rishang Keishing: India's oldest MP calls it a day

10 March 2014

Rishang Keishing still remembers the first time he travelled to work as a newly elected MP in India's first parliament, in 1952.

He made the journey by bicycle, but as he crossed Delhi's busy Connaught Place, he was pulled over by the police.

"They told me it was one-way traffic and I was going the wrong direction," says the MP who represents the remote north-eastern state of Manipur. "I told them we didn't have such things where I am from, but I said I'm sorry and they let me go."

Now 94 and preparing to retire as India's and the world's oldest MP, Mr Keishing is understandably nostalgic about the past, but also gloomily despondent about how the country's parliament has turned out.

It's so often suspended now because of rowdy and sometimes violent interruptions from disruptive lawmakers, it's hardly news any more.

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Hunting for India's deadliest man-eating tiger

26 February 2014

"Dasgupta can do what he likes. I'm not going into the bush on foot."

On the trail of India's deadliest man-eating tiger for years, nerves are on edge - and reputations too.

Hunter Ramesh Chauhan is pacing, well, like a caged animal.

Team leader Ashish Dasgupta is out seeking new intelligence on the tiger that may have claimed 10 lives already.

They are not even sure it is still alive: there's a rumour local Sikhs killed the tiger but are hushing it up.

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Arvind Kejriwal: The politician with a hole in his sweater

25 February 2014

There it was: clean, white and defiant.

A circle of Arvind Kejriwal's shirt was poking from a hole in the middle of his rumpled sweater. And below, his bare feet were clad in well-worn sandals with a relaxed coating of dust.

But perhaps more significant than Mr Kejriwal's choice of look for his BBC interview is that he will probably be quite happy for us to point it out - unlike many smarter-looking politicians.

'Third class governance'

After his electoral breakthrough last year, dressing down is now a poll-tested way of dressing up his Aam Aadmi or Common Man party's anti-corruption campaign.

In the picture Mr Kejriwal seeks to paint, the always-flawless tailoring of India's political and business elite represents the corrupt old-order.

Supporters of Arvind Kejriwal, chief of the Aam Aadmi (Common Man) Party (AAP), shout slogans before he announced his resignation as Delhi's chief minister at the party headquarters in New Delhi 14 February 2014.
Arvind Kejriwal addressed hundreds of supporters after resigning as Delhi's chief minister earlier this month

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About Andrew

Andrew is the BBC's South Asia correspondent based in Delhi and covering India and its neighbours.

He has previously reported from Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon and the United States.

His BBC career started as a producer at the World Service, when only a select few had email and the word blog had yet to be invented.

Andrew's life in journalism began on his student newspaper while doing a geography degree at the University of London.

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