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Monday, January 30, 2006




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Business and Economy

  • With USD 15 billion orders from Indian aviation companies, Boeing to set up Maintenance, Repairs, and Overall (MRO) and a pilot training facility in India. Apart from Air India’s order of 68 aircraft, Jet Airways has ordered 20, Spice Jet 10, and three business jets by the Indian Air Force. Boeing revealed that it was outsourcing several parts of aircraft work to Indian companies such as digitization to Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL), control software to HCL, and other software to Wipro, TCS, and Infosys.

  • The textile industry in India, which relied mostly on exports for high value income, is seeing a large growth in the home textile segment. Increased disposable income has increased demand for home textiles making it the 6th of top 50 consumer purchases. India currently exports USD 3.5 billion of home textiles to the US alone and its domestic share of its business is expected to be about 15% of total textile market. Textile producers are changing their operations and opening more retail outlets and developing channels to meet this growing demand.

Democracy, Politics and Judiciary

  • India’s Social Development Report indicated that vast portions of the country, especially in the North remained illiterate, remains below the poverty line. The report created by Council for Social Development and Oxford, said that a total of 260 million or 26%, 193 million in rural and 67 in urban areas, are believed to be under the poverty line. As established by social scientists, there is a correlation between literacy and poverty levels. Punjab has the least under poverty (6.16%) and Orissa has the highest (47.15%). With Scheduled Tribes with 43.8% below the poverty, Scheduled Castes with 36.2%, and Backward Castes with 20% showed the vast disparity in social structure. Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Madhya Pradesh, which contribute 45% of the population account for 2/3 of infant and maternal mortality. Uttar Pradesh alone has 26% infant mortality. This reinforces well-established theories that correlate increased population levels with infant mortality. Less than 25% of the children in these states are immunized. Analyzing 21 social indicators such as demography, healthcare, unemployment, education, poverty, and social deprivation the study ranked Kerala is ranked the highest and Bihar is the lowest. Madhya Pradesh has the highest Infant Mortality Rate at 82 per 1000 and Kerala has the lowest 11 per 1000. The Scheduled Castes, Tribes, and Backward Castes had very high infant mortality rates with 83, 85, and 76 per 1000 respectively. Kerala has the highest literacy at 90.92% and Bihar the lowest at 47.53%. Mizoram had the lowest gender gap 4.56% and Rajasthan had the highest gap of 32.12%. Consistent with earlier reports on female infanticide, the most developed states like Punjab had the largest child sex ration of 798 girls for 1000 boys compared to tribal-based backward states like Chhattisgarh had 973 girls to 1000 boys. It was speculated that richer societies use the banned sex determination tests to terminate girl children. The silver lining is that the poverty level is lower than last year.

  • Two villages in Gujarat have vowed not to accept dowry for their sons and to give dowry for their daughter. Dowry is a bestowal that is given to a groom by the girl’s parents to facilitate their growth and comfort. Legally banned in India, dowry can take different forms from a cash packet to elaborate gifts like houses, vehicles, vacations, etc. Dowry deaths have been on the rise in Gujarat and the change of heart results from consistent activism from women demanding “why should a daughter-in-law make tea at 3am and have an accident.” A kitchen accident is a euphemism for an orchestrated murder of the girl by the groom’s family when they cannot extract more money from her parents. Abdasa Mahila Vikas Sansthan, a women’s’ rights group, said, “women empowerment programs, films, and awareness campaigns have paid off.” They say that people had a change of heart when they heard that in the last five years, 1400 women died from dowry deaths while only 1200 died from road accidents

Environment, Health & Education

  • The French Government indicated that it would be willing to repatriate the asbestos that is still remnant in the condemned aircraft carrier Clemenceau. The ship transited through the Suez Canal but is required by the Supreme Court (SC) not to enter the Indian exclusive economic zone (EEZ). The environment group Green peace has rejected this offer saying the there is still an issue of laborers not be aware of the dangers and lack of adequate equipment or training to handle asbestos. 

  • A World Health Organization (WHO) study has shown that the Hindi film industry’s support for smoking tobacco usage has increased. It said that 89% of films showed prominent characters smoking and shockingly 27% mocked health warnings about cigarettes. Federal Health Minister Anbumani Ramdoss said “portrayal of tobacco on screen is a proven risk factor for children. The Government needs to minimize such risks.”  Chandigarh-based Non-Government Organization Burning Brain Society, which performed the study for the WHO said, “After the ban on advertisement, it seems the tobacco companies have diverted money to fund films.” Pointing out that 1 in 3 children recalled smoking scenes in movies and 60% admitted to using pens or pencils to depict smoking scenes, Cancel Patients Aid Association said, “children are strongly influenced by what they see in movies.” Prominent film producers disagreed and sought to sully the study. They claim that a blanket ban of smoking in movies will stifle creativity. Ramdoss had a plan that would have a blanket ban smoking in movies and insist that smoking scenes in older movies carry a scrolling message warning the user about its health effects.


Hot Topics

Clemenceau and the environment

India-Saudi Arabia relationship

WHO Statistics

Indo-US nuclear deal

Iran nuclear issue

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

The devil and the deep
Pouring troubled water on oil
The OIC and India: signals of a re-think
Peaceful rise, in three steps
On this one, follow the General
Meet the new horsemen of the Republic
The King and India
RBI & the art of crediting a/c payee cheques
Focus on gender statistics
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.


  • India has asked the US and the European Union (EU) not to be hasty to take Iran to the UNSC. It said as a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Iran has rights to develop, use, and source technologies for civilian purposes. It therefore called for a more detailed IAEA study to determine the nature of its “research” at Nantz. At the same time, the Russian proposal of a joint venture to jointly enrich uranium in Russia is one way out especially since Iran also seems to be supportive of that idea. The EU had supported this idea also before Iran had unilaterally terminated conversation with the EU-3 (Britain, France, and Germany). Iran also unilaterally broke the IAEA seals at Nantz breaking the Paris Agreement, which prohibits Iran to restart operations before a consensus is reached. The US is also on record to support this plan but Iran’s chief negotiator, on return from China, said that this proposal may not be enough for their “energy needs.” China has close to USD 80 billion investments in Iran’s Yadaravan oil field and is signing up other deals. Iran is trying to hold India oil contracts to India’s decision on this vote. Iran’s National Iranian Gas Export Corporation (NIGEC) refused to honor an agreement signed by an earlier Government with Indian oil majors Indian Oil Corporation (IOC), Oil and Natural Gas Commission (ONGC), and Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL) saying that it needs a Government ratification of the MoU worth USD 20 billion. Iran also tried to equate itself to India and claim rights a la the Indo-US civilian nuclear deal. India has rejected this claim saying that India is not a signatory to the NPT or a Paris Agreement nor did it clandestinely acquire nuclear weapons technology as Iran did.


  • The United States submitted an aide mémoire seeking India to reconsider its decision to invest in a Syrian oilfield.  The memo handed to the External Affairs Ministry by senior US diplomats accused Syria of not fully co-operating with United Nations investigations on its role in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri. It said that this was not the “right time to send mixed messages to the Syrian Arab Republic Government (SARG).” The US fears that the Syrian Government will “exploit” the proposed joint-venture investment with China of USD 573 million to mean that it is not “isolated and therefore not comply with” United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolution obligations. The UNSC had unanimously passed two resolutions “mandating complete cooperation by the Government of Syria with the UN’s investigations.” It is not known whether a similar a memo has been issued to China. Indian officials told the US officials that the Oil & Natural Gas Commission (ONGC) would proceed with the deal in co-operation with the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) with the acquisition of 37% stake in the al-Furat oil and gas fields from Petro-Canada. This oil field with proven reserves of 300 million barrels of oil is partly owned by Shell. India considers this investment strategic both from the perspective of quantifiable assets but also as means to further its incipient oil partnership with China. This memo comes on the heels of another controversy of the US Ambassador’s comments that the Indo-US civilian nuclear deal may be in jeopardy if India does not vote with the US and Europe against Iran at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) this week. There is increased fear in India that the US is leveraging the Indo-US nuclear deal for civilian use to curb Indian decision-making to meet its own ends.

  • With a large majority in the recently concluded polls in Palestine territory, Hamas is set to form a Government that will surely not be recognized by many countries and likely seriously affect the peace process. Israel rejected Hamas saying that it was “not a partner” in the peace process and that the Government will be reduced to irrelevance. International aid for Palestine may also be affected, as most donor countries are unlikely to support the Government especially if they do not disarm. A major sticking point is the Hamas call for the destruction of Israel. Congratulating the Palestinian people, the United States, Russian, United Nations Secretary General, and European Union have asked Hamas to recognize Israel’s right to exist, give up its arms, and follow the peace roadmap authored by this quartet. Exiled Hamas leader Mashaal said that in Arabic the correct translation is “End to Israeli occupation” and said that his group does not “want to eliminate them, only to obtain our rights.” He said, therefore, this clause would remain as part of their charter. He also said that his group would “certainly not” disarm as long as the Israeli occupation continued. He maintained, “Only force has produced results.” He also rejected the “one-sided” roadmap to peace as “unacceptable.” Arab League Society General Amr Moussa said that Hamas must accept the Beirut initiative that called for Arab recognition of Israel. An opinion poll in Israel shows that the population is equally divided on talking or boycotting the Hamas.

  • The US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that India has some “difficult choices” to make before the Indo-US civilian nuclear deal could move forward. Refusing to elaborate on what those choices were, she said both sides are making progress. There are fundamentally three issues that are stopping the forward movement. Firstly, the US wants India to place its fast breeder reactor (FBR) program under International Atomic Energy Agency supervision citing Japan as a country that has already included its technology under IAEA. India says that this is not an apt comparison because Japan is not a nuclear weapons state as India is and Japan is also a Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) signatory that India is not. Besides, since FBR is non-military in nature, why should this be an issue? Secondly, the US wants India to vote against Iran at the IAEA so the issue can be refer the case to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) for punitive economic sanctions for clandestine procurement, proliferation, and unilateral abrogation of international treaties. The US also wants India to terminate Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) and oil deals with Iran. India says that it is against Iran’s nuclear weapons but also wants a formula that does not push Iran into a point of no-return. India, as an energy deficit country, desperately needs gas and oil and will go forward on all deals that will secure its energy. Thirdly, the US wants India to terminate a contract with Syria because that country is not cooperating fully as required by the UNSC in the assassination of a former Lebanese Prime Minister. India says that the US is using its civilian nuclear deal as a leverage to control what it does to further its national interests. India fears that the control will not be limited to Iran and Syria but extend to potential deals Sudan, Venezuela, Chile, or Bolivia. With the US raising these conditions at the last minute, it is highly unlikely that the civilian nuclear deal will be completed by the time the US President George Bush visits India in March.

  • The Saudi Arabian King Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz al Saud completed his four-day state visit to India. Abdullah officiated as the Chief Guest at the Republic Day parade. India and Saudi Arabia have signed accords to cooperate bilaterally, regionally, and internationally to combat terrorism; Abdullah had called for a war on terrorism “irrespective of religion” and for “as long as it takes.” The Delhi Declaration also says that Saudi Arabia endorses the ongoing peace process between India and Pakistan. On the economic side, the two sides agreed on an energy partnership with complementary and interdependence of the two countries. The partnership also envisages long-term contractual agreements that will guarantee continued, increased, and stable supply of oil, refinery, and technology to India and joint ventures globally. Apart from oil, the two countries agreed to cooperate on communication, agriculture, biotechnology, and non-conventional energy technologies. Further, India would offer post-graduate and doctoral education to Saudi students. Saudi Arabia is the largest producer of and has the largest known reserves of crude oil in the world. India is Saudi Arabia’s fourth largest trading partner. A large number of Indian expatriates live in and Haj pilgrims visit Saudi Arabia. Indian major conglomerate Reliance Industries announced plans to set up a USD 8 billion oil refinery project in Saudi Arabia.

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