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Wednesday, January 25, 2006




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Business and Economy

  • ONGC Videsh Limited and Bharat Heavy Electricals  Limited (BHEL) have teamed up to invest USD 350 million in a 500 megawatt (MW) project in Sudan. BHEL will also construct a transmission line at an additional cost of USD 41.9 million as a loan to Sudan. That loan is for a period of 9 years backed by oil guarantees; if Sudan defaults on the loan, they can pay with oil. This is the 2nd project for OVL in Sudan-- it has just completed a 741 kilometer oil pipeline. OVL may double its current investments in Sudan to USD 2 billion through contractually obtaining more oil exploration blocks and oil refineries.

Environment, Health and Education

  • A joint study by Columbia and Yale University has found India to be among the bottom 20 countries meeting a set of critical environmental goals. The study "2006 Environmental Performance Index," ranked the countries by access to clean drinking water and low greenhouse-gas emissions. Only New Zealand and 5 Northern European countries have achieved 85% success in achieving such goals. The study has been reviewed and accepted by international experts.

  • The Federal Health Ministry and National Institute of Communicable Diseases in a tie-up with the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) will link 400 sites countrywide. Using the existing infrastructure in the EDUSAT (the distance learning facility), they plan to connect 100 major hospitals and 300 district headquarters.  The plan is to connect all district headquarters to this network by 2007. The objective is to provide a mechanism to report risk factors and health conditions so preventive measures and reactive programs may be launched to deal with health crisis.

Terrorism, Defense and Security

  • The United States navy intercepted a pirate ship off the coast of Somalia and captured several pirates. With the lack of effective Government in Somalia for 15 years, piracy has been on the rise and cargo ships are easy prey. The US navy announced that they seized a cache of small arms. India and the US have been trying to forge a partnership to control piracy and protection of high value cargo in the Straits of Malacca, Indian Ocean lines from Sri Lanka, and along the West Asian coastline. The Indian navy has escorted high value cargo through the Straits of Malacca.


  • The United States Under-Secretary of State Nicholas Burns described the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam as a "reprehensible terrorist group" keeping Sri Lanka "on the edge of war." He said that the LTTE bore "the full responsibility" to either choose peace or continue with its "repugnant policies of the past decade and a half." He wanted the LTTE to end the unilateral escalation of violence since December so the peace process may continue. However, he also pointed out that Tamils have legitimate grievances, unlike al Qaeda, and hence negotiations is necessary as a way to maintain "and building up of the ceasefire agreement." Visiting Norwegian International Development Minister Erik Solheim said that "everyone is worried about the "present deterioration of security situation." A Janatha Vimukthi Peramunna (JVP) spokesperson said that Sri Lanka will not start the war with LTTE. JVP, a right of center political party, provides crucial support to President Mahinda Rajapakse's Government.


  • Pakistan prevented sympathizers of those bombed by the CIA drone to reach the village where more than 18 people, including suspected Taliban and al Qaeda operatives, died. An Islamist group was planning to visit the village and express their solidarity. Angry members of the group had some uncharitable words for Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf. They said that "Americans are allowed to bomb any part of our country while Pakistani citizens are not allowed to travel within the nation." Pakistan has complained bitterly to the US and demanded that they stop such activism. The United States has mounted a lot of pressure on Pakistan to do more on terrorism. Meanwhile, the US magazine Parade ranked Musharraf as one of the worst dictators in the world.  The only bright side for Musharraf is that he move up the ranks from 7th last year to 17th this year.

  • Saudi Arabian King Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz visited China and the two countries have signed a protocol on oil exploration, natural gas, and minerals. They also agreed to co-operate on boosting economic trade and professional training. As a guest of Chinese President Hu Jintao, the King pointed that Saudi Arabia has become China's largest trading partner in West Asia and North Africa. He also reiterated his country's support for the one China policy. The two countries established diplomatic ties in 1990. The Saudi King is to visit India next and preside over India's Republic Day. His visit to China before visiting India is of symbolic significance. India and Saudi Arabia are expected to sign agreements to boost their co-operation to fight terrorism, strengthen economic ties, and iron out issues on the export of terror to India. A large number of Indian expatriates live in Saudi Arabia


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  • The United States has said that it will not recognize a Hamas majority Government. This volte face seems to be when it is becoming apparent that the Hamas is neck-to-neck in race with Yaseer Arafat's Fattah party, especially in the Gaza strip. The European Union has also voiced similar sentiments. Israel was opposing the Hamas participation in the poll but the US has been insisting that they be allowed to participate. Fattah has been indicating that they are willing to run a coalition Government with Hamas. Israel has said that it will take military action only in the event of a "ticking bomb."

  • The International Development Agency, Action Aid International has said that of the 42 countries it serves, Nepal is the most undemocratic nation. Noting that the fledgling democracy was being dismantled systematically by the monarchy, it said that this could have a "generational impact." The lack of accountability by both Government and Maoist terrorists has increased suffering for the population. It called for sustained international pressure by the international community on an increasingly isolated Nepal.

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