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Monday, January 23, 2006



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Business and Economy

  • A Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) has recommended that southern states implement the Agriculture Produce Market Committee (APMC) Act to free the farmer from state controls on movement, storage, and marketing of agricultural commodities. They also encouraged that the states establish a commodity exchange to facilitate futures trading of agricultural produce. The five southern states have been reducing their investments in agriculture as a percentage of their total budget: Andhra Pradesh 4.6%, Karnataka 4.8%, Kerala 5.1%, Tamil Nadu 7.5%, and Pondicherry 10.2%. The CII also recommended that the states invite private sector to own and operate wholesale distribution centers and encouraged changes to town planning laws to allow a more modern distribution network, The APMC allows farmers to sell their produce contractually to corporations and also do not have to go through convoluted processes to sell their goods. They also asked for simplification of taxes such as the creation of a common value-added tax structure on a uniform and rationalized minimum pricing and the abolition of a "mandi" tax (market tax) that diminishes competitive advantage. The CII believes that these simple changes will increase the state GDPs substantially.

  • The China National Salt Industry Corporation says that it plans to increase the domestic production of salt by 6 million metric tons (mmt) in 2006. This should seriously affect Indian salt exports to China which is at 2mmt in 2005. After India, China is the second largest producer of salt in the world at 56mmt.

  • The Center for Trade Union has called for trade unions in the Information Technology industry. This call comes at a time when communism is dead world over except in South America and backward states in India. West Bengal and Kerala, where communist parties have ruled uninterrupted for decades, are on the verge of bankruptcy with crumbling infrastructure and no new industrial investments. WB reformist Chief Minister Buddhadev Bhattacharjee, often at odds with national leaders representing his party in New Delhi, has been wooing growth industries like IT and Bio-Tech. He even apologized for a strike last year that was criticized by almost every influential group in the nation and promised never to allow one in WB. The Indian Chamber of Commerce, pointing out the differences between IT and manufacturing, cautioned against irrational steps that will stop the growth of that industry in WB. Visiting former Singapore Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong asked Bhattacharjee to change the mindset and attitude of his party men if he wants to succeed in getting Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) to WB. " 

  • A Royal Dutch Shell report said that though India and China will emerge as economic powers in 2 decades, it will be India that will emerge as the "beacon of light for the developing world." It observed that though China started its reform process 10 years ahead of India and invested twice as much, it has achieved only achieve average growth of 50% over India's. Terming Indian use of capital more "efficient than China," the report says that India's young population, vibrant entrepreneurial spirit, and strong institutions will propel the country to a 7% GDP growth till 2025. However, it also called for economic reforms, infrastructural investment, and structural shift from agriculture to higher value items, growth of manufacturing, and leadership in IT services as pre-requisites to sustain the growth. It said that "certain Western and Southern states with better geographical location and social harmony" is enabling the country to catch up with China, which is ahead of India by about 10 years. The report India to address regional, ethnic, and social inequities so millions may rise out of poverty under democracy and pluralism.

  • The Czech Republic Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek said that Indo-Czech trade is set to double to about a USD 1 billion in 2006. Czech Republic is interested to sell India electrical equipment and power station management devices and services. Other areas of trade are tourism, hospitals, leather goods, tropical fruits, and flowers. Meanwhile, the Andhra Pradesh Government announced a Memorandum of Association with Czech major Skoda Export for the development of a USD 2.2 billion port6 complex at Nizamapatnam in Guntur district. The medium-sized port is intended to handle coal, granite, cement, and fertilizer cargo in addition to terminals to hold Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG). The Czech Government will also invest USD 1 billion in that state's hospitals, infrastructure, agro-products, and fertilizer sectors.

Democracy, Politics, and Judiciary

  • India's Lok Sabha (lower house of the Parliament) Speaker Somnath Chatterjee was a collision course with the Judiciary over the member dismissal issue. The Parliament had voted to expel 10 members of the parliament for being caught taking bribes on a hidden camera. Chatterjee says that only Parliament has the right to deal with the discipline of its members and points out to the Supreme Court (SC) verdict in an earlier case that allowed the Parliament to deal with its members. He has therefore returned the notice issued to him by the SC through the Cabinet Secretary without a response. Constitutional experts differ on who is right but most6 say that his returning without a response may amount to Constitutional impropriety. It is not known if the SC will deal with it as contempt and proceed against the speaker on that basis.

 

Hot Topics

Clemenceau & the Environment

Economic growth in India 

Parliament-Supreme Court Disagreement

Indo-US nuclear talks

IISc Terrorist Attack

Terrorism in J&K

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

India and talks on the nuclear issue
Fast breeding reactionaries
Speaker has no other choice
Greater sensitivity needed at WTO
Terror and talks
Bofors ghost returns 
The great demat rush: Truth or dare?
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.

Environment , Health, and Education

  • The Supreme Court Monitoring Committee is reported to have said that the French Government's inventory report on condemned aircraft carrier Clemenceau is "inadequate." An Oct 2003 SC order had said that any ship-breaking request must be submitted along with a detailed inventory and the SCMC said that it has not received answers to all its questions. French NGOs and media have been extremely critical of the French Government's handling and preparation. Unnamed French officials also privately admit that they under-estimated the hurdles and negative opinion from India. The SC will deliver its verdict on Feb 13, 2006 a week before the French President is to visit India.

Terrorism, Defense, and Security

  • People's Democratic Party President Mehbooba Mufti has firmly rejected media reports that say she provided shelter to a Lashkar-e-Toiba operative. Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) Councilor Abdul Waheed Dar and three others have been arrested by the police for terrorist links and activity and have since "confessed" to their crimes. Before the arrest, Dar had visited Mufti at her residence in New Delhi. Though she said that he was handed over immediately to the police, unnamed police officials were quoted as saying that Dar made calls from her house to Srinagar for 3 day. Hence, there was speculation on her statements and also whether she had perjured herself and committed a crime for providing "shelter" to a criminal. Sub-Superintendent of Police (SSP) Munir Khan confirmed her story and said that Dar returned to Srinagar the same day.

  • The J&K terrorist group Hizb-ul-Mujahideen (Hizb) has threatened Kashmiri youth about joining the Indian security forces. They said the houses of those who joined the Indian Army, Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), Border Security Force (BSF), the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), and the India Reserve Police (IRP) "will be locked and asked to leave the Valley." Last year, the CRPF recruited a record 3,700 youth and the BSF a 100. In a recent drive 1,000 youth were appointed by the IRP.

  • Investigators in Karnataka said that one of the two suspected terrorists arrested may have been party of a 2003 theatre blast in Bangladesh. The police arrested Afsar and Irfan Pasha last week and seized large quantities of bombs, detonators, gel sticks, and iron pellets from his house. They also found a lot of jihadi literature. In constant touch with Saudi Abdul Rehman, also under arrest, they had conspired to attack economical and soft targets in the state and elsewhere in India. Their involvement in the Dec 2005 Indian Institute of Science (IISc) shooting is still under investigation. Police said the terrorists coming from poorest districts in the state like Kolar, often travel to Bangladesh for training and then go to Pakistan's Baloachistan province for more intense training before they are send back to India to recruit, train, plan, and carry out attacks.

Neighbors

  • The Russian Atomic Agency chief Sergei Kiriyenko has said that Iran is ready to jointly enrich uranium with Russia. The joint venture proposal is supported by both the United States and the European Union. Per this proposal, Russian will help Iran enrich uranium at low levels for generation of energy. Recently, inviting international opposition, Iran broke United Nations seals at its Nantz facility fro "research" purposes. The West believes that Iran is keen on developing a nuclear bomb; a charge that Tehran consistently denies. However, the Iranian hard-line President's calls for the destruction of Israel, comments against the Jewish people, and also its clandestine purchase of nuclear weapons technology from disgraced Pakistani scientist A.Q. Khan has deepened suspicion on Iran's intentions. Iran even tried to argue a case for itself by comparing itself to India and the finding inconsistency in Western proliferation policies with the Indo-US nuclear deal. India has firmly rejected this case saying that India is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and never agreed to stop nuclear research as Iran did. India further says that its nuclear proliferation record is impeccable; something that the Iranians cannot refute. Russia and China pushed back Western moves to take Iran to the United Nations Security Council for punitive economic sanctions. This prospect looked imminent with Iran escalating tensions with the West through threats of stopping UN inspections altogether, t6erminating talks with the EU-3 (Britain, France, and Germany), and rejecting the Russian joint venture proposals. However, this turn around may actually let the steam off a move to take Iran to the UNSC during a special meeting called by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) this week. Meanwhile, reports suggest that fearing an economic squeeze, Iran moved a lot of its assets out of the European Union to South East Asia.

  • India has asked Pakistan to sign a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) which will extradite criminal elements finding sanctuary in Pakistan. However, Pakistan has not responded positively to the call saying that it does not shelter these elements and will co-operate with India. India accuses Pakistan of materially supporting, training, and funding terrorism in India, a charge that Pakistan vehemently denies. Pakistan has started accusing India of supporting a popular uprising in Baloachistan, a charge that both India and Baloach rubbish. Baloach rebels have accused Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf of lying and human rights groups have increasingly criticized the use of excessive force by Pakistan in that province. Although Pakistan says that only the constabulary is used in the near-civil war situation, media reports have pointed to the use of combat aircraft, helicopter gun ships, and artillery shelling of civilian positions. Baloachistan is rich is natural gas and tribes there say that Pakistan is insensitive to their needs and threaten their existence. They point out to a dam that will cut off the only major river into Baloachistan from Pakistan. Pakistan says that the tribes are selfish and short-sighted.

  • Thousands of demonstrators defied prohibitory orders by King Gnanendra in Nepal and clashed with the security forces in capital Katmandu. Security forces fired several rounds of tear gas shells and charged with batons to disperse the crowd even as they arrested leaders of a 7-party alliance protesting district level elections next month. India, the United States, the European Union, Japan, United Nations, and human rights organizations have condemned these moves. The king, under intense domestic and international criticism, is seen as stiffing a nascent but ineffective democracy. Last year, the King assumed extra-constitutional powers after dismissing an elected Parliament who said was ineffective against the Maoist terrorists who were destroying law and order and the economy of the impoverished nation. He claims to have suppressed the terrorists, but may terrorist incidents challenge that claim.

World

  • The Indo-US nuclear deal hit a major hurdle with the US refusing to accept the existence of India's fast-breeder program as research and development civilian facilities. India has so far refused to place its fast breeder reactors under the supervision and inspection regime of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The US has argued that it did not understand India's reluctance since Japan can place the Joyo experimental breeder reactor and Monju prototype reactor, which are similar technologies, under IAEA. The US also states that if India refuses to place its fast breeder program under IAEA, there would be impossible to get support from the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) for a rule change that will allow nuclear trade with India. The US opposition to its Fast Breeder Test Reactor (FBTR) at Kalpakkam surprised India because this issue was never raised in any meetings even as late as December 2005. Further, the July 2005 Indo-US deal explicitly granted India the same status as nuclear weapons states (NWS) -- US, Russian, Britain, France, and China. India maintained that comparing to Japan did not make sense since Japan is not a NWS and is also a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and has to therefore abide by those agreements. India also maintained that unlike Japan which has unfettered access to technology and components from world powers, India has to rely on  its own resources for uninterrupted technology and component availability. Therefore, India said it needs the FBTR more than Japan. The two countries were working to ensure that deal was concluded when US President George Bush comes to India in March-- this prospect looks very bleak. Fast breeder reactors can be used to recycle reactor-grade plutonium Pu-240 to weapons grade Pu-239 and IAEA supervision can prevent this recycling. On the brighter side, the US is willing to allow the Canadian nuclear program CIRUS to proceed forward even though that facility had been used heavily for India's nuclear weapons program. However, this may require the construction of a new 40Megawatt facility.

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