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Friday, January 13, 2006




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Business & Economy

  • Indian Finance Minister P. Chidambaram has said that the Government will simplify the controversial Fringe Benefit Tax (FBT) but not withdraw it. This is a half cheer for businesses that feel penalized for legitimate business expenses. However, it is not clear what this simplification would mean in implementation terms. Presently, bookkeeping and accounting overheads are affecting the bottom-line of companies.

  • Indian companies continued their onward march with several technology and BPO companies announcing large growth in their profits. Infosys with 3%, Mphasis by 26%, and iGate by 100% led the good news. One sore point was the volatility of the Indian rupee against the dollar. In the last two months, the rupee had collapsed against the dollar but regained unnaturally fast.

  • In the largest order in Indian aviation history, Air India has placed a USD 11 billion order with United States major Boeing. Ordering 23 Boeing 777s including several that extended ranges. This procurement will allow Air India to become more economical through the creation of direct routes to the United States. Air India currently has a 41 aircraft fleet and this order will replace its ageing 747s. Boeing said that India and China would drive the growth of its business and committed to a regional maintenance, repair, and overhaul facility.

Democracy, Politics and Judiciary

  • The Federal Human Resources Minister Arjun Singh has said that the Federal Cabinet will proclaim an ordinance that the Aligarh Muslim University will be a minority institution. The Allahabad High Court and the Supreme Court earli9er had deemed that the AMU couldn’t be a minority institution since the Government funds it. The Indian Constitution explicitly prohibits minority status for institutions that receive Government aid. Legal experts point out that the AMU, which was formed by a Government law in 1920, cannot claim minority status just because it deals with Islamic studies.

Environment  and Health

  • Six of the world's largest polluting countries will create a multi-million dollar fund to encourage mining and power industries to develop and use cleaner technologies to combat climate change. The Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate between United States, Australia, Japan, China, South Korea, and India, met for the first time to respond to climate change challenges. These countries are responsible for half of the world's greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels. Green groups charge that the countries are trying to subvert the Kyoto protocol. The US and Australia have refused to sign that accord. In the meanwhile the US said that it would not oppose Australia's proposed sale of uranium to China as long as they had safety processes to safeguard the consignment. Australia has nearly half of the world's uranium.

  • Turkey struggled to cull its poultry population even as the dreaded H5N1 strain of the bird flu virus disease seen heading westwards into Europe. About 15 deaths have been reported in Turkey due to this disease and more in the rural areas may be unreported. In the first reported case of bird to human transmission of the H5N2 strain, Japan announced 77 cases with mild symptoms. Health officials that the H5N1 strain was not found and the chances of this virus spreading is slim. The H5N2 is not contagious between humans

  • The Government has cleared a proposal that will allow Ayurvedic experts to teach in 10 American Universities. The herbal medicine market is estimated to be USD 40 billion


  • In an interview with The Hindu, Nawab Akhbar Khan Bugti, the Baloach tribal leader who is under siege by Pakistan troops and in rebellion against Pakistani rule, called Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf a liar. Refuting the President's claim that Baloach rebels received aid from India, he said that the weapons they use were the ones supplied to them by the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) during the fight against Soviet occupation in Afghanistan. The Pakistani President had earlier accused India of providing "financial support" and "support in kind" to the Baloach rebels and claimed to have proof of this support. Remnant weapons from the Soviet war are freely available at bargain prices. Speaking from Dera Bugti, Bugti said that the use of excessive force by Pakistan has so far killed 43 and injured 161 civilians; thousands by other estimates. India has strategic interests in Baloachistan as the planned Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline is to pass through this region. Bugti said that they would continue to attack present and future pipelines as long as their tribe were repressed and did not get a fair share of revenues. The simmering low-intensity conflict escalated when Pakistan launched a major offensive in defensive using helicopter gun ships, combat planes, and artillery in response to a rocket attack on the Pakistani President. The rocket attack itself is a response to what Baloach say is Pakistani high-handedness. In the latest case, a Baloach doctor was gang-raped by Pakistani soldiers and the officials refused to take any action against the criminals. Pakistan has a history of fighting the Baloach clans; in 1973 insurgency, 3000 army and 5000 insurgents and innumerable civilians lost their lives. The region has never truly integrated with Pakistan.


Hot Topics

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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.

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Featured Edits

Wanted: a Nitish in West Bengal
Courts have no jurisdiction
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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.

  • Speaking at the Tehran University, Iranian former President Rafsanjani dismissed what he called western "bullying" in trying to stop Iranian resumption of nuclear enrichment. The United States and the European Union have taken a very serious view of what they call a "serious escalation" and violation of Iran's commitment to the Paris Agreement. Under that agreement, Iran had agreed to stop nuclear fuel enrichment and was in discussions with the EU-3 (Britain, France, and Germany) to seek a diplomatic and political solution to its nuclear fuel needs. However, the election of a hard-line President has changed the dynamics with Iran unilaterally abrogating its responsibilities and commitments. Russia says that it is taking "active measures" with Iran to keep the Iranian "moratorium alive." A United Nations Security Council referral by the US and EU will seriously damage the weak Iranian economy and increase tensions in the region.

  • The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) has demanded the withdrawal of Sri Lankan army from the North and East of the country. The LTTE is facing increasing diplomatic pressure demanding it to honor its ceasefire obligations and resume pace talks with the Government. Sri Lankan troops found a booby-trapped claymore fragmentation mine and managed to successfully diffuse it. Suspected LTTE activists also lobbed grenades at an Army bunker.


  • Under intense American pressure, Israel will allow Palestinians to vote in East Jerusalem under condition that representatives of Hamas will not participate. It is hard to identify Hamas candidates as they usually align themselves with local Islamist parties that claim to be a non-terrorist group. Palestinian leadership this condition undemocratic and the United States are undecided on this issue. It believes that excluding a party with 1/3 of population support may not be a good idea but wants Hamas to disarm after elections. Hamas has not accepted this demand. Israel is worried that allowing Palestinians in East Jerusalem to vote will erode their claims to sovereignty in that region. 

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