What Is India News Service
Thursday, March 09, 2006

India News Summary



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Business and Economy
  • The Government is reviewing foreign direct investment (FDI) in telecom after the Essar Group notified it of its Honk Kong partner Hutchinson selling a stake to Egypt based Orascom. The Egyptian company is known to have links in Pakistan and Bangladesh, which could have serious security implications for India. Currently, the country allows up to 74% FDI but also requires details of investors with more than 10% stake in any telecom venture. While the nature of “links in Pakistan” is not known, the Government is trying to determine if there are terrorist links to Orascom. Taliban and al Qaeda are known to have invested in trading front companies in United Arab Emirates and other West Asian nations. India’s most wanted man, Dawood Ibrahim, is known to have many binami investments all over the Muslim world. India and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) believe Ibrahim is in Pakistan—a charge that Pakistan denies.

  • President Abdul Kalam is traveling to Myanmar and would try to further the natural gas deal with that country now stalled because of unsure transport mechanism. Myanmar has the world’s tenth largest deposit of natural gas and is willing to sell the gas through the Arakan port. However, the transportation of gas is a major stumbling block. The three options are to either bring it through Bangladesh, North Eastern states and via West Bengal, or by ships after converting it to Liquefied Natural Gas. While Bangladesh has been reticent on the proposal to transportation of gas through their territory, the transportation through North East and West Bengal will prove to be prohibitively expensive. Transportation through ships may not be expensive but there is a significant loss from conversion into LNG. India has taken two oil exploration blocks in Myanmar. Other issues such as return to multi-party democracy, freedom for Aung San Suu Kyi may not feature in discussions. India will also set up a remote sensing station that will receive satellite data for civilian use.

Democracy, Politics and Judiciary

  • In a major blow to the United Progressive Alliance and Railways Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav, the Gujarat High Court (GHC) restrained the Government from tabling the controversial Justice Banerjee report or initiating any action on it. The GHC castigated the Commission for “overreaching” by going public with its findings when the courts were still hearing and contemplating the validity of the commission itself. The GHC also said that the Commission is at odds with the constitutionally valid Justice Nanavati Commission, which has a valid and well-acknowledged charter.

Environment, Health and Education

  • Chairman of United Nation’s (UN) Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Rajendra Pachauri said that there is mounting evidence that humans are causing global warming but Governments are doing too little to counter the threat. More forthcoming than the 2001 report, this year’s conclusion is that the “scientific evidence” is “compelling” that gasses released by burning fossil fuels in power plants, factories, and cars were warming the planet. Global warming may cause increased catastrophic climate changes such as heat waves, droughts, floods, and rising sea levels. However, Pachauri would not go far enough to say that it was Greenhouse emissions that were causing global warming saying that “it was premature” and that the report is “nowhere near completion.” The UN Kyoto Protocol required developed nations to cut down their emissions; however, this treaty has been significantly weakened by the US pulling out of the accord. Rising sea levels caused by the meltdown of the Arctic and Antarctic snowcaps will endanger low-lying areas such as Maldives, Bangladesh, and Tuvalu in the Pacific Ocean. Pachauri also warned that coastal cities “from New York to Shanghai and Buenos Aires to London” might be inundated by rising sea levels. Interestingly, the cost of curbing Greenhouse gasses may delay projected 2050 global development by only a couple of years. This conclusion is significant as the 2001 study projected costs as being much higher.

  • Editorial : Regulate Ship Breaking Business
Terrorism, Defense, Security and Science & Technology
  • Police unraveling the terror blasts in Varanasi have found striking parallels between this incident and that in Delhi last October. The bombs were placed in pressure cookers and left in a crowded place to go off one after another. The Delhi police shot down two Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) terrorists; one of them has been identified as a criminal involved in many terror attacks. Varanasi police released sketches of two terrorists who allegedly left behind a pressure cooker that was later defused by bomb experts. Eyewitnesses say that the terrorists were well dressed, appeared well educated, and not local. Intelligence sources in Delhi say that the State Government’s lack of police presence in sensitive areas and “actionable intelligence” was the reasons for the attack. Chief Minister Maulayam Singh Yadav faced black flags and in some cases stones when he went to visit the wounded. An obviously shaken Yadav feebly asked people not to extract political mileage from the incident. Opposition parties Bharatiya Janata Party and Bahujan Samaj Party were less charitable—leaders of both parties castigated Yadav unstintingly for incompetence, lack of planning, and lackadaisical attitude even after intelligence from the Ayodhya incident showed LeT’s plans to attack temples and economic targets.

  • Commander of US Forces in South Korea Gen. B.B. Bell said that North Korea (NK) is preparing to field an intermediate missile that could reach Alaska, Guam, and Okinawa. Presenting to a Senate Armed Services Committee, Bell said that with its “military first” doctrine, NK is starving its economy but fattening its military and attack capabilities. NK is also working on a three-stage rocket that could reach the continental US within a decade. Describing North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il’s plan to unite the Korean peninsula as “self-preservation” tactics, Bell warned the Senators about other non-conventional weapons in its arsenal such as chemical and biological weapons. NK has the fifth largest army in the world with over 100,000 Special Forces and 250 long-range artillery systems.

Hot Topics
Featured Analyses
National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme : Making Panchayat Raj Institutions Effective
The Bill on National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme seeks to provide guaranteed employment to one member of every rural household for at least 100 days a year for a minimum wage of Rs.60 per day. Out of 260 million poor people in the country, about 200 million poor people are in rural areas. People in 45% rural India do not get work for six months in a year. 
The Saga of the Jemaah Islamiah
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
Featured Edits
Facing terrorism
Power moves in Asia
Pervez Musharraf and the India-fixation
Truth will out, in the right environment
How far will the new rath yatras go?
The nuclear plan’s hurdle race
Bush visit to South Asia
In Islamabad, on a turning wicket
Strategic interests safe
Communal split wide open

US perspective on South Asia

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.
  • In an interesting twist to the debate on Iranian nuclear program, hard-line Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad demanded that the United Nations recompense his country for stopping nuclear enrichment for the last three years. Acceding to intense international pressure, Iran negotiated with the European Union-3 (Britain, France, and Germany) nations to stop its nuclear enrichment under what is now called the Paris Agreement. With Ahmadinejad’s victory, the Iranian negotiation got more strained and ultimately led to Iran’s unilateral abrogation of the treaty after September 2005 vote in the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) asking Iran to work with the world community towards a negotiated settlement. Iran resumed its enrichment in stages and is now enriching small quantities of uranium for “research” purposes. While Iran has said that it will not stop its “research,” the world community is demanding that it does. Russia seems to have broken ranks with the West saying that allowing Iran to enrich small quantities of uranium may not be a major security threat; this is a position the US says it cannot accept.

  • Editorial: The Nepal Stalemate

  • Editorial: Iran's Nuclear Program

  • Undersecretary of Political Affairs Nicholas Burns insisted that comparing India with Iran is disingenuous and unfair. He said, “We do not see the connection between what Iran is doing and what India seeks to do.” He termed India “a responsible” democracy that as a non-signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) has voluntarily agreed to place 15 of its 22 reactors and all future breeder and civilian thermal reactors under international supervision more than what China has done. On the other hand, Iran being a signatory to the NPT and the Paris Agreement is actively trying to hide its activities. India has agreed to perpetually keep its facilities under IAEA supervision as long as it perpetually gets a supply of nuclear fuel. On the other hand, Iran is perpetually trying to hide its program and has clandestinely procured weapons systems from disgraced Pakistani scientist A.Q. Khan. Burns dismissed suggestions that the Indo-US civilian nuclear deal will somehow enhance Indian nuclear weapons program (NWP). He pointed out that the Indian NWP is indigenous and predates the deal and has again voluntarily passed internal laws and agreed internationally not to export weapons of mass destruction. Critics of the deal as signed by India and the US such as former National Security Advisor Brajesh Mishra says that the availability of fissile material for making bombs has been capped by the deal. Capping Indian nuclear weapons program had been a cornerstone of the Clinton Administration’s policy on India and Mishra feels that the civilian nuclear deal was the carrot that got it to do it. However, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh says, “there is no capping of our strategic program” at Trombay and Kalpakkam although the Canadian assisted Cirus will be shut down. It is not clear whether the PM classifies future fast breeder program as strategic; if he does then he is at variance with what Burns feels India has signed. If not, then he is confirming what Mishra says. According to the agreement, India retains the right to specify which reactor is civilian and which military and hence there may be wiggle room for India to start future FBRs and call them military. However, with public and political memory being short, it remains to be seen if the US will pressurize all of India’s future reactors to be under the civilian list. In any case, Trombay, Kalpakkam, MAPS 1 and 2, Druva, and Apsara-in-a-new-location are the ones that will not be covered by the deal.

  • Hamas is trying to enact legislation that will strip Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas of some of the powers granted during the previous regime. Reacting angrily to the move, Fattah spokesperson said that Hamas is trying to bring about a “regime change” and asked to consider the consequences carefully. Hamas came to power primarily because of fractured vote in the Gaza Strip where incessant infighting within Fattah caused disenfranchisement. The world community still deals with PA because of Abbas and what he stands for but has stopped all non-humanitarian aid. If Abbas also leaves, the future of the PA debate will become unclear possibly collapsing the peace roadmap.

  • United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan released a report which characterized the US’s policy of detaining thousands of Iraqis without trial as “de facto arbitrary detention.” The report further said, “The extent of such practices is not consistent with the provisions of international law governing internment of imperative reasons of security.” The report is the result of a 3 month study of the Iraqi prison system which found several human rights lapses. Annan praised Iraq’s December elections but also called for the release of investigations into alleged systemic torture in Iraq Interior Ministry jails. He also noted with concern the rise in sectarian strife and attacks on places of worship and increased cases of execution killings—of the 787 bodies found in December 2005, 479 had bullet wounds.

  • Editorial: Hamas's victory in Palestinian Territories

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