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Friday, January 20, 2006




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Business & Economy

  • The Government is planning to invest and encourage organic farming during the Eleventh Five-Year Plan (2007-12). A Planning Commission spokesperson said that the low use of agro-fertilizers, rain-fed farming practices make India an ideal place for organic farming. He highlighted that organic farming also reduces the use of water and pollution and contamination of water sources or ground-water from chemical runoffs. The organic farm produce market in India is valued at Rs.20 billion but as health consciousness rises, the market size is expected to be 200 million people. The Commerce Ministry is also keen on including organic foods to reach globally lucrative markets specifically in the West valued at USD 25 billion and expected to reach USD 100 billion by 2020. Recently, the Government launched the "National Project on Organic Farming" that subsidies organic farm inputs processing.

  • Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said that India was on the "threshold of an era of higher growth." Aiming for a "do-able" 8% growth, he committed his Government to reforms that would increase job creation. Pointing out that there is no external constraint on the economy, he said India needs to move from the so-called "Hindu growth rate" of 6% to a steady 8% a year. He asked for an increased focus on social equity, education, health, environment, gender sensitivity, and regional imbalances to development. He did not say how his Government plans to fund these programs. Facing a serious balance of payment crisis in 1990, India embarked on a mission to dismantle decades of failed socialist ideology that focused on populist programs and largesse aimed to create "vote-banks." While the number of such programs has decreased dramatically, coalition politics still require programs that are creating a serious current account deficit environment. The communists who support the Federal Government will not allow any economic reform that will help the Government focus on the issues the PM wants focus.

  • Speaking at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), the Netherlands Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende said that India is well on its way to becoming a global economic and political power. Quoting experiences from Europe in cutting the red tape, clearing obstacles to trade, and increasing the flexibility of job markets, he said that these are relevant to India also. He said the prosperity of India does not mean fewer jobs for Europe-- Netherlands continues to be the sixth largest exporter in the world. A recent study in the Netherlands said that only 1-2% of jobs were lost to outsourcing in India but new jobs were also created by Indian multi-nationals such as Mittal Steel and Tata Consultancy Services. He praised India for its rapid economic progress in the last 15 years and also moving millions above the poverty line. He said that Indians, with their self-confidence and determination, are skilled and less expensive, making them an ideal employee of any quality company. The Netherlands is the third largest investor in India ranked as one of the top five countries to invest by UNCTAD..

Democracy, Politics and Judiciary

  • The Supreme Court has asked all Indian states and Union Territories to abide by its 1997 ruling on sexual harassment at the workplace. Following numerous letter from non-government organizations (NGOs), the SC has asked all states to create department-level committees vectored under the Secretary of Women and Child Welfare Development to handle such complaints. It demanded all states send back a compliance report back within 8 weeks.

Environment , Health and Education

  • International donors meeting in Beijing have pledged USD 1.9 billion to fight the dreaded H5N1 bird flu virus. The United Nations has said that further mutation of the virus and a pandemic for a year through transmission between humans would cost the world USD 800 billion and result in millions dead and economies crippled for weeks or months on end. The virus has killed 79 people since 2003, mostly in East Asia. Affected nations have been seeking financial aid for poultry owners who culled their flock. The virus has reached Turkey and continues to kill people there and in Asia and infect poultry flocks. While India remains unaffected, inadequate monitoring and reporting mechanisms could mean that cases may exist and people not aware of them. European chip makers in collaboration Asian companies are to release disposable computer chips that will predict presence of virus in humans within the hour.

Terrorism, Defense and Security

  • Afghanistan has once again accused Pakistan of providing shelter, training, funds, and material to Taliban and al Qaeda suicide bombers to sabotage progress. The UN said that 19 suicide attacks, including 13 in the last 10 weeks have been recorded in Afghanistan last year. Escalating violence has stopped the inflow of UN peace-keepers and aid to the population. The UN has closed its offices in Baloachistan after the al Qaeda issued "credible" warnings of attacks. Suicide bombers and roaming bands have killed over 33 people in the last few weeks, destroyed schools, and decapitated school teachers. The Taliban opposes all education and subjects that is not present in the Koran and detest education of women saying that the practice is un-Islamic. Thousands of people in Afghanistan have publicly protested the suicide attacks. Even so, a Taliban "commander" has said that hundreds of suicide bombers are ready in a bid to drive out foreign forces and are awaiting orders from Taliban leadership to carry out attacks.


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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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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.


  • Following the Improvised Explosive Device incident yesterday, Sri Lanka deployed more troops in the strategic port city Trincomalee. The army has deployed more foot, motorbike, and armored car patrols. The Sri Lankan Navy has been under regular attacks by suspected LTTE operatives. The Norwegian-led Sri Lankan Monitoring Missing suspended operations saying the security situation is "not acceptable."

  • The EU-3 (France, Britain, and Germany) have prepared a draft resolution to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to ask Iran to "help the agency clarify questions regarding possible nuclear weapons activities." They have requested the IAEA chief "to transmit a copy to the Security Council." Although referral of the matter to the UNSC would result in economically-debilitating sanctions on Iran, it looks like such measures are still far away. Russian and China have expressed their desire to pursue negotiations further, but Russia is moving closer to the position adopted by Western nations. China, with strong economic ties with and oil dependence on Iran, is still opposed to any move that seeks sanctions. Citing the example of Iraq, Russia has also pointed out the futility of sanctions. Meanwhile, Iran is becoming more recalcitrant saying that it will ban all IAEA inspections if the issue is taken to the UNSC. They aver that their nuclear program is peaceful and for electricity generation alone. However, the hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's comments seeking the destruction of Israel and other disparaging comments against the Jewish people have increased suspicion on Iran's agenda.

  • The New York based Human Rights Watch (HRW) has said that the Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf was so interested in consolidating power that he had virtually ignored the plight of women in Pakistan. Citing several cases, HRW said rape in Pakistan is institutionalized and protected by Hudood ordinances that protect the rapist and make it impossible for the victim to prove her case. Women are also killed under so-called "honor killings" where family members can kill their kin with impunity if they violated customs or married outside their community. Musharraf had publicly fought allegations of institutionalized rape in Pakistan saying that getting rape means getting a foreign visa, attention, and money. He has not apologized for his statement, in spite of widespread internal and external criticisms. HRW accuse Musharraf of a "dismissive attitude regarding violence against women." HRW criticized Bangladesh army for gross violations of human rights including extra-judicial killings, use of excessive force, and custodial torture. It praised India for its constructive role in Nepal but wanted more transparency in proceeding against security personnel accused of human rights violations.

  • India and Pakistan started 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.


  • Kenyan Information & Communications Minister Mutahi Kagwe announced that the number of Kenyans under risk from food crisis is more than earlier feared. He said that 3.5 million people in 37 districts (half of Kenya) are under threat. This is strange because Kenya has a record food surplus in the west that is being exported than redistributed internally. Worse, farmers typically wait more than two weeks to sell their production of maize which is Kenya's stable food. President Mwai Kibaki's effort to redistribute food has been ineffective because of an inefficient distribution network and monitoring system. International aid agency World Food Program (WFP) says that they are unable to procure food because of a shortage of aid funds. The WFP is trying to help 1.1million in Eastern Kenya suffering from unprecedented drought and needs an additional USD 44 million. WFP will run out of money and stocks by end of February.

  • The United States Agency for International Aid (USAID) said that militant attacks are "significantly damaging" infrastructure in Iraq and widespread lawlessness is dramatically curtailing civil liberties. The report is at odds with optimistic reports from the Pentagon and the White House and shows that the issue of militancy is more than just reactionists, Saddamist, or terrorist ideology. The report says that the "internecine conflict" is "religious-sectarian, ethic, tribal, criminal and politically based." Tribal groups routinely 'turn in' "enemy tribesman as insurgents as a form of tribal revenge." It also warned that foreign jihadi forces, recruits from "Saudi Arabia and other countries in the region," are "gaining in number and notoriety" and becoming significantly important actors. The paper says the militant attacks are causing "adverse economic and social effects" across Iraq. It says that self-appointed religious-moral police and gangs aligned to combating groups and factions are severely impinging social liberties of Iraqis. 

  • The Indian Army will deploy 185 officers and troops at the Golan Heights as part of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force to maintain peace between Israel and Syria. UNDOF was created after the 1973 war in which Israel fought Egypt in the Suez Canal and Sinai and Syria on the Golan Heights. The Indian Army is already performing peacekeeping operations at 5 sensitive points along the Israel-Lebanon border. This group will form part of the UNDOF support and logistics organization.

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