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Saturday, January 21, 2006



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Business & Economy

  • In a recent report, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private sector lending arm of the World Bank, has said that it will continue to support Indian investments in infrastructure. IFC said that its commitments in India has "grown strongly over the past three years" to a point where India is its third largest exposure. Praising developing economies for their capacity to attract investors, it estimated market capitalization to reach USD 5 trillion with an overall growth rate of 5.5 to 5.9%. It cautioned the developing countries on a "huge unfinished agenda" counseling a more efficient deployment of market-based solutions to reduce poverty, address social needs, and preserve the global environment.

Environment , Health and Education

  • The Egyptian Parliament has ordered a separate probe to determine whether Clemenceau contains asbestos and if sending it India would be a violation of the 1989 Basel Convention. French media and policy advocacy groups have been chiding the Government on "amateurish" handling of the issue. Some argue that the decision to send the ship to India was wrong and that the ship must have been dismantled in a French base. Available landfill records suggest that the French did remove as much as 115 tons of asbestos of the ship. The question is how many tons of asbestos was actually used to build the ship. The French Government says that the funnel was thought to be asbestos but turns out to be fiber glass and the quantity used was only 160 tons. Techno pure, the company used to remove the asbestos during the initial phase, refutes the French Government claim that the funnel was not asbestos. The twin ship to Clemenceau, the Foch, which was manufactured at the same time and has an identical design to Clemenceau and now sold to Brazil, has an asbestos funnel. The French Government is arguing that the Basel Convention does not apply to a naval ship. The Indian Government seems to agree with that assessment. The Supreme Court's Monitoring Committee (SCMC) seems to disagree and has asked for a customs clearance before allowing the ship into India's economic zone of 220 nautical miles. The French Government has promised to co-operate with the SCMC.

Terrorism, Defense and Security

  • Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden has warned the United States of new attacks that his organization has planned. In a recording sent to West Asian news broadcast channel Al-Jazeera, he said that the attacks were not delayed by security arrangements. However, he also offered a "long-term truce" to the US and promised to keep his word saying that Islam does not accommodate liars and those who break promises. The US was quick to reject the "truce" saying that they do not negotiate with terrorists and will work hard to "put them out of business." They said they are also analyzing the authenticity of the tape. Meanwhile, there is widespread speculation in the Western and South Asian media on the effects of the weekend bombing by a CIA drone. Pakistan Information & Broadcasting Minister Sheik Rashid Ahmed said that some foreigners were present in the house that was bombed and said that they were killed in the bombing. While reports say that Taliban and al Qaeda elements removed the bodies and took them to an undisclosed location in the hills, several believe that second-in-command Ayman al Zawahiri was one of those killed. Intelligence officials believe that one of Osama's sons-in-law and the al Qaeda's chemical and explosives expert Midhat Mursi al Sayid carrying a bounty of USD 5 million were also killed.

  • The Indian Army chief Gen. J.J. Singh said that Pakistan took advantage of the earthquake relief efforts in Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) to "push terrorists" into India. In an interview with the Indian Defense Review, a premier defense journal, he said that following the earthquake, the Indian Army had arranged for five cross over points on the Line of Control (LoC) to provide relief for people in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK).  India had hoped that the catastrophe and the country's gestures will bring the two nations together. He said that "unfortunately" the "infiltration continues unabated."

Neighbors

  • On the sidelines of Indo-US nuclear talks, the countries apparently discussed about the Iran nuclear issue. According to a German (part of the European Union troika along with Britain and France) official, the EU-3 and India shared concerns about Iran's nuclear program. India has long stated that it does not want anymore nuclear weapons state (NWS) especially in its neighborhood.  EU has also said the military option is not on the table but did want the United States Security Council to restore the "weight and authority" of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The EU-3 has said that it does not a confrontation with Iran which is apparently the same as Iran's public posturing. Iran has unfortunately escalated the issue by unilaterally resuming nuclear "research" which the West say is a violation of international treaty obligations and meant for a clandestine weapons program. Iran denies this charge saying that it is entitled to nuclear technology through the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. However, Iran was caught buying nuclear weapons technology from Pakistan's disgraced A.Q. Khan Network. Also, Iran's bellicose statements against Israel and Jewish people have deepened suspicion worldwide on Iran's intentions. Iranian nuclear negotiator says that it is still open to dialogue and compromise even as its IAEA representative threatened the UN body that it will be banned from Iran if the matter is referred to the UNSC."

 

Hot Topics

Clemenceau - Asbestos

Economic growth in India 

Recent Supreme Court Verdicts

Indo-US nuclear talks

IISc Terrorist Attack

Infiltration in Kashmir

Iran nuclear issue

UNSC Expansion Plan

Featured Analyses

The Saga of the Jemaah Islamiah

Indonesia has continuously been embarrassed by the terror acts of a handful of terrorists from the Jemaah Islamiah (JI), a group with definite Indonesian origins and made up mostly by members of Indonesian nationality.

Will Kashmir go the way of Aceh?
A Cry for Help
Watch the Dragon
Cage This "Tiger"
Dalits in India
Was Jinnah a Secularist?
Burying the Howitzer?
Smoking Out Smoking
The French Non

Featured Edits

Bin Laden and the threat of peace
Why economic reforms are unpopular
Sustained dialogue
Iran: Key issues
China, India stay the dialogue course
Week means weak? 
Himalayan tyranny
Inscription
South Indian Inscriptions

Ancient Indian dynasties documented their administration, significant developments, grants, and milestones as inscriptions in temples. The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has documented these inscriptions from 1886. These pages contain inscriptions from Pallava, Chola, Pandya, Western Chalukya, Eastern Chalukya, Rashtrakuta, Hoyasala, Vijayanagara, Vishnukundin, Kakatiya, Reddi, Vaidumba, Chinda, Eastern Ganga, Gajapathi, Kalchurya, Qutb-Shahi of Golkonda, and Moghul,  dynasties.

  • In a major crackdown to thwart opposition to February elections, Nepal arrested scores of activists, cut cell phone services, and placed under house arrest senior leaders. The European Union, India, and Japan have expressed concern over these moves. King Gnanendra dismissed an elected Government accusing it of ineffective handling of a Maoist terrorist uprising. He has called for district level elections in February which some activists call a "sham." The Government requested activists not to protest in certain sensitive areas in Katmandu as that can provide a cover for terrorist infiltration. Activists have spurned the requests and defied the ban thus sparking these retaliatory moves by the Government.  The Government had claimed that it had broken the back of the Maoist movement but terrorism frequently appears in many places belying that claim.

  • An all party meeting called by Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse recommended the resumption of talk with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Rajapakse was trying to muster consensus to resume a stalled peace dialogue. A major issue is that requires consensus is the manner in which the pace talks will resume. The Norwegian Minister for International Develop Erik Solheim is expected in Sri Lanka to facilitate the resumption following the unilateral termination of the process by the LTTE in 2003. The most immediate issues to resolve are the location of the dialogue process and implementation mechanisms for the ceasefire. The LTTE has been engaging in low intensity attacks on the Sri Lankan security forces through suicide bombs, booby traps, and claymore mine attacks. In the most recent attacks by suspected LTTE operatives, three policemen and one civilian lost their lives and 40 people were injured. Earlier this week, the Norwegian-led Sri Lankan Monitoring Mission suspended operations in Trincomalee saying the security situation was unacceptable. The LTTE is under intense international diplomatic pressure with the European Union considering a refusal to meet LTTE delegations.

  • India and Pakistan their third round of composite dialogue and called for continued conversation and confidence building measures (CBMs). However, they disagreed on how they saw these measures. India believes that the CBMs are steps towards the resolution of disputes but Pakistan believes that CBMs are necessary but bolder moves are necessary. India wanted Pakistan to more on terror and said that the dialogue cannot move forward unless cross-border terrorism does not end. Pakistan said that it will not allow terrorism on its soil targeting any country but defended jihadis saying that they have a history of 25 years when the whole world supported Islamic jihad against the Soviets in Afghanistan.

World

  • Indian Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran and United States Under-Secretary of State of State Nicholas Burns discussed the implementation of the Indo-US nuclear deal of July 2005. As required by the nuclear deal, India had proposed a plan to separate the civilian and military nuclear facilities to the US. Burns said that the separation work was an enormously difficult task for India. India did not publicly disclose the content and scope of this exercise. The two countries are also exploring increased co-operation in agricultural research, energy needs, infrastructure development, space exploration, and education.

  • Russian gas major Gazprom said that it was forced to cut its gas supply to Hungary and Italy due to cold weather. An intense cold wave touching -31 degrees Celsius has claimed 7 lives from hypothermia and 93 people from frost bites. The cold wave has so far killed 116 people this winter. Only recently Russia and Ukraine resolved a spat over gas pricing but not before affecting gas supply to Europe. European Officials had called the disagreement "political" and even questioned Russia's ability to be a reliable energy supplier.

  • Severe drought in Kenya is encouraging herdsman to take their cattle closer to Ethiopia and Sudanese borders to access water sources. Herdsmen from those countries fearing a large scale invasion of Kenyan herders assaulted and killed a herdsman and took away his animals. The next day, raiders from Ethiopia and Sudan entered Kenya in search for more easy cattle but were repulsed local Turkana and security personnel. Borders between these countries are porous with almost no patrolling. It is common among pastoral communities along the border to steal cattle from rivals when they stray too close to the border. Eastern Kenya is suffering a major food crisis affecting 3.5 million people due to severe drought and the state's inefficient distribution is unable to procure and transfer surplus food from the West. The UN has asked for aid from donor nations.

  • India and Ireland signed three agreements on cultural, scientific, and technological co-operation. Additionally, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the Indian National Science Academy and the Science Foundation of Ireland. The visiting Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern met Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, President Abdul Kalam, and Leader of Opposition L.K. Advani. He also took a ride in the Delhi metro and received a briefing from the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) on cost-benefit analysis of different metro options. Ireland is planning to implement a metro in heavily populated Dublin. DMRC is also helping other Indian cities create project proposals.

  • India and Saudi Arabia will sign an agreement that will increase co-operation to fight crime and terrorism, avoid double taxation, and prevent tax evasion. Terrorist and criminal elements in Saudi Arabia have increasingly recruited Indian expatriates in or visitors to Saudi Arabia for terrorist activities in India. This agreement will help the fight against organized and unorganized crime, drug trafficking, and historical artifact smuggling.

  • Anglican Church reformers are asking the Church of England to apologize for its role in the slave trade and slavery.  The Church has already apologized for its role in the crusades that saw hundreds of thousands of Christians and Muslims dead. The Church's missionary wing, the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, owned the Corrington plantation where slaves were bought, branded with the word "society," and transported to other parts of the world. With the abolition of slavery in Britain 200 years ago, the owners of slaves received monetary compensation. The Church also claimed and received compensation of hundreds of pounds. Proponents of this proposal, African or West Indian priests said that an apology by the Church will also change remnant racism in society. Non-white priests are refused by many whites in England because the priests are not white. The Church of England is also accused of not having enough ethnic minorities in higher echelons of the hierarchy.

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