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Saturday, January 28, 2006




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Business and Economy

  • Iran’s National Iranian Gas Export Corporation (NIGEC) has said it will reserve the right to withdraw supply of 2.5 million tons of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) if the crude oil prices crosses USD $80 a barrel. Indian Oil and Gas majors say that Iran wants more open-ended contracts with uncertain clauses. Indian Oil Corporation (IOC), Gas Authority of India (GAIL), and Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL) negotiators returned disappointed from Iran as supply from Iran for northern states looked bleak. Iran has not ratified its aggressively negotiated deal to supply 5 million metric tons per annum (mmtpa) thereby blocking a USD 20 billion India-Iran LNG deal signed with a previous Iranian regime. IOC, GAIL, and BPCL have legally questioned NIGEC claim that they cannot go forward on the deal without political ratification saying that a deal signed by one regime need not be ratified by another. India-Iranian relations have become strained because of India’s vote in September 2005 at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) asking Iran to refrain from nuclear enrichment. Lack of Indian support to a US and European Union plan at the IAEA will essentially scuttle an Indo-US nuclear deal that proposes to supply nuclear fuel to India. India has publicly stated that it does not want to see another nuclear power emerge. The communists who support the Indian federal Government have been insisting that India rebuild its relationship with Iran and not vote against Iran. The Government is at a quandary because Iran is also becoming an increasingly unreliable supplier of LNG and oil for India.

  • A Forrester Research study predicted that Indian and Information Technology (IT) and Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) would fetch the country USD 130 billion this year. It predicted that BPO alone would fetch USD $50 billion. They said that increased aggressive attitude of major Indian IT companies will result in overseas acquisitions to enable expansion such as the Tata Consultancy Services acquisition in Britain and Chile. The paper says the widening of the market is expected because more mid-sized companies will seek economies of scale from outsourcing. They also expect contracts to get shorter and more flexible. An increased growth in this sector will also benefit other sectors such as hospitality and aviation. Already, hospitality is seeing as much as 65% growths in room occupancy.

Democracy, Politics and Judiciary

  • The Supreme Court (SC) indicted Bihar Governor Buta Singh resigned after taking the traditional Republic Day salute but refused to accept any blame. He said he respected the court but he also accused the court of doing him "great injustice." The SC had indicted Singh on two counts of “subversion of the Constitution.” A 3-2 verdict said that he had doctored documents and evidence to lead the Federal Government to believe that there was political impropriety leading to “buying” elected members to support another party. The court said this was a “fanciful assumption” because there was no evidence to support this position. The second count was that Singh did not allow the party with the largest number elected members to form the Government. Although the SC did not say this but the implication is that because Lalu Prasad Yadav’s Rashtriya Janata Party was an important poll bearer of the minority Federal Government, Singh was acting in the interest of his party and not the Constitution. Singh contests both indictments and said the will appeal the judgment. The minority view of SC said that although they found Constitutional impropriety, they did not see willful mal intent. The communists who also support the Federal Government wanted Singh to resign but the opposition National Democratic Alliance wanted both the Singh and Prime Minister to resign.

  • India celebrated its 57th Republic Day demonstrating its socio-cultural diversity, its architectural heritage, scientific and technological achievements, and its strong defense. Army and paramilitary troops dressed in regimental uniforms, 24 tableaus from different states and prominent public sector companies, and folk and cultural dances on national television riveted enthralled viewers. 500 artisans built the tableaus that rolled under tight security assisted by over 24 high-resolution closed circuit televisions, 20,000 security commandos, and helicopters. Historically, terrorists set off bombs or create panic; fortunately, there were no such incidents this year. The Saudi Arabian King Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz al Saud was the chief guest. This move opened up criticism from human rights activists, which say that Saudi Arabia has a medieval regime that tramples on women, Shias, and India expatriates. Many also point out that Saudi press, highly regulated by the monarchy that often interfered in the internal affairs of India. Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) saw the highest turnout of civilians in a decade.

Terrorism, Defense and Security

  • On the request of Interpol, Pakistan froze 15 bank accounts of Afghan trading houses that are suspected to have links with the Taliban. Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency raided offices of this group that ostensibly trades in oil, sugar, and foodstuff and seized incriminating documents that linked this company to the Taliban. The trading company has offices with different names in Dubai, Malaysia, and Indonesia had substantial amounts in these bank accounts and is suspected to be owned by Taliban leader Mullah Omar.


Hot Topics

Clemenceau and the environment

India-Iranian relationship

Buta Singh & the Supreme Court Judgment

Indo-US nuclear deal

Naxal attack in Jharkhand

Iran nuclear issue

Peace process in Sri Lanka

Hamas & the Palestinian elections

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

Beware, there’s no morality in midnight haste
Who is afraid of Hamas?
Whose policy is it anyway?
Congress: between hope and despair
Uncalled for
Crisis continues
Review the role of Governor
We must prefer Bush, Warts and all
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.

  • Indian Maoist Naxal terrorists killed a Railway Protection Force employee and derailed a goods train and blasted a small bridge disrupting traffic on a national highway near Ranchi, Jharkhand. They also burnt furniture in a Public Works Department office. Terrorists from the same movement burnt an iron-ore laden truck and blocked roads in Orissa. The terrorists were trying to enforce a national bundh (closeout strike) called on Republic Day. Almost no one responded to this call and the naxals were trying to enforce the bundh.

  • Indian Chief of Air Staff S.P. Tyagi said that the Indian Air Force is in the process of forging partnerships with other countries using similar equipment so they can improve the safety record. Last year, the number of aircraft crashes went down to 8 against 20 a couple of years ago. A situation of low-serviceability has been created due to a shortage of spares. India is simplifying its financial processes and getting into agreements with Russia for the availability and procurement of spares. It is planning to retire older aircraft whose capability has been replaced with newer ones and technology is outdated. They wanted greater interaction with parts suppliers and a quality control protocol within the country and between nations.

Environment, Health and Education

  • The owner of the condemned French aircraft carrier Clemenceau has challenged the environmental group Green peace to prove its claims of level of asbestos in that ship. The ship is on its way to the Alang ship-breaking yard in Gujarat and is expected to fetch more than 27000 tons of steel. He said that no laborer has displayed symptoms from asbestos in Gujarat and the safety of employees is given due importance. Asbestos is a carcinogenic substance banned in most of the developed world but used extensively in the developing world, including India. The effects of exposure to asbestos are seen only after 15 years and its carcinogenic effects are well documented. The Supreme Court has required Clemenceau to stay out its exclusive economic zone till it produces a verdict on February 12.


  • Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf urged the Indian Government to respond positively to his plan of demilitarization and “self-governance” in Jammu & Kashmir (J&K). Musharraf has been coming out with numerous imaginative ideas of how to solve the J&K but have been dismissed by India as impractical with the absence of confidence and trust between the two nations. Musharraf has been criticized internationally for not doing enough on terrorism but claiming a lot of success. Rebels in the South Western province of Baloachistan call him a liar for trying to blame the war in that area on Indian-instigation. 

  • China propelled past Britain and France to become the fourth largest bank in the world with a 9.9% growth and still far behind the United States and Germany. Government efforts to slow down the economy and pace of investment figures showed that the economic expansion slowed only marginally from 10.1%. Analysts warned that unreliable statistical reporting often under-reports figures and the productivity might be higher than what is being reported. Last month, officials said that the economic growth was 16.1% higher than previously though as they discovered higher consumption and unreported income. Exports jumped 30% and trade frictions with the US and Europe. Increasing concerns of economic overheating, investment in construction and new factories rose by 25%. Over-capacity investments in steel and automobile sectors saw their prices fall sharply. The average income is USD 1,700 making it higher than those of Morocco but far behind Japan, Europe, and the US. As discussed at the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, the biggest challenge for India and China is equitable distribution of wealth.

  • In response to a strike call by the 7-political-party alliance, Nepal was virtually shut down forcing it to defer its 57th Republic Day celebrations to Saturday. Shops, schools, colleges, offices, and institutions remained closed and streets deserted. The Royal Nepal Army claimed to have killed 24 Maoist terrorists but was able to recover one body. This sparked speculation that the army is doctoring data ahead of the Feb 8 polls for which only one nomination has been submitted. King Gnanendra insists on going ahead with his poll plan despite a boycott of major political parties and continued violence by Maoist terrorists. 

  • Sri Lanka seized an Indian fishing boat that contained over 60,000 electrical detonators and arrest 5 Indian nationals. The Indian state of Tamil Nadu borders Sri Lanka North and East where a large Tamil population continues to fight a Sinhalese majority. Some groups in Tamil Nadu sympathize with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and often provide illegal assistance to that group. The LTTE is a banned group in India and its leader Vellupillai Prabakaran is a wanted man in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case. Despite severe clampdowns on such support, naval patrolling, and police intelligence, some boats take advantage of the short distance of the Palk straits to smuggle equipment, resources, and illicit weapons to Sri Lanka.


  • The Indian foreign office summoned the United States Ambassador to tell him that his comments on the Indo-US nuclear deal and the Iran vote were “inappropriate and not conducive to building a strong partnership between our two independent democracies.” Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee issued a formal statement saying that Ambassador David Mulford’s “outrageous” statements violated all diplomatic norms. He criticized the foreign office for issuing a “routine” response saying that it “hardly expresses the indignation of the people of the sovereign and independent Republic of India.” India informed the US that India's vote on any possible resolution on the Iran nuclear issue at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) would be determined by New Delhi's own judgment of the merits of the case and in its national interests. Mulford offered his sincere regrets and stated that his comments were taken out of context. He said the US did not want to “to question India's right to take decisions on various issues on the basis of its own national interests.” In the US, a State Department spokesman said that Mulford expressed his “personal opinion.” Vajpayee said it was "worse" that Mr. Mulford's remarks were "personal" as "Ambassadors are not required to make personal remarks denigrating their host country." The State Department also said that Mulford was voicing comments already issued by the US Congress. Congressman Tom Lantos, an anti-Indian political extremist who used some uncharitable words in Congressional hearings on India and Indian Foreign Ministers, voiced similar sentiments when he visited India last fall.

  • The terrorist group Hamas won 76 of the 132 members Parliament making it eligible to form the Government. The ruling Fattah ended up with 43 seats and conceded defeat. Hamas insists on broad participating from Fattah to form the Government which senior Fattah leader Saeb Erekat was not possible. Hamas leader in exile Khaled Mashaal called Fattah leader and former Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei from Syria stressing for a partnership of all Palestinian parties and promised equitable treatment of both Muslims and Christians. As expected, the Hamas did particularly well in the Gaza strip where it had the strongest support and Fattah was weakened by incessant in fighting. Supporters poured out in the streets dancing and chanting “Congratulations and victory to Islam” and demanded that Mohammad Deif, the Hamas military leader on Israel hit list, be made the Defense Minister. Although Hamas had taken out destruction of Israel from its portfolio it has not taken it out of its charter and spearheaded suicide bombings often targeting Israeli civilians as reprisals for military killings. Hamas reached out to Israel that it would honor the truce hammered out with the Fattah party provided Israel did not assassinate Hamas leaders, conduct raids into Palestinian towns, and not use force. Israel has not reacted to the Hamas victory but said it will not negotiate with terrorists and the United States said that it will not recognize a Government formed by Hamas as long as long as they continued with their call for the destruction of Israel. The US had initially wanted Hamas participation in the polls saying that keeping out a party that had 33% popular support is a bad idea for peace. However, when opinion polls predicted a Hamas victory, the US and Israel started panicking, unsure how to proceed. United Nations Security General Kofi Anan congratulated Hamas on their victory said “any group that wishes to participate in the democratic process should ultimately disarm."

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