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Monday, March 13, 2006

India Intelligence Report



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Business and Economy
  • The ongoing trade discussions in London made little progress as India and Brazil came under intense pressure from the dominant United States, European Union, and Japan. The developed nations wanted the developing nations to adopt the so-called Swiss formula so developing nations will cut their import duty on automobiles and high value products drastically. Both India and Brazil maintained that the continued intransigence of the three developed countries was halting progress of talks. They maintained that the developed nations want import concessions on 70% of items while they are willing to cut import duties on only 50% of times. They accuse the developed nations of violating the spirit of the Doha round of talks that emphasize reciprocity and “development of developing countries.” They criticize positions taken by Japan and European Union on refusing to cut tariffs on agriculture and industrial products which the US, Australia, and Brazil were proposing. The EU will not accept even the middle ground compromise formula offered by G-20 nations saying that it has stiff opposition from France, Ireland, Spain, and Portugal. Given the large differences in positions, analysts doubt if negotiating modalities will conclude by next month-end. If that date is compromised, the chance of getting a global trade agreement through by the end of year is very doubtful.

Democracy, Politics and Judiciary

  • Enforcement Directorate (ED) officials said that they have traced blood monies from the food-for-oil program associated with the disgraced former Foreign Minister Natwar Singh to bank accounts in London. However, they are unable to proceed further with the case as Aditya Khanna, a relative of Singh, is refusing to co-operate with investigations. ED says Khanna and his brother, a Congress Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) from Punjab, may have laundered money for Singh and his son Jagat Singh (also an MLA from Rajasthan). Singh Sr. feigned amnesia from old age and refused to answer questions about his Iraq trip when the deal was struck with Saddam Hussein. The Iraqi food-for-oil program instituted by the United Nations is a humanitarian measure that allowed Hussein to sell oil to get food and medicines for the Iraqi population. Hussein subverted the program to grant coupons to “non-contractual beneficiaries” in friendly Governments so they can influence policy-favoring Iraq. Singh Sr. was named by former US Federal Reserve Bank Chairman as one of those who partook in this scam that led to the denial of food and medicine and eventual death of over half a million Iraqi children. Singh Jr. has done everything to stall negotiations with tantrums, refusal to divulge information, and seeking political cover. Singh Sr. initially refused to quit claiming innocence, as Foreign Minister but was eventually pressured out of office in disgrace.

  • In his keynote address of the Chief Ministers and Chief Justices, Supreme Court Chief Justice Y.K Sabharwal said that the criminal justice system in India is on the verge of collapse and asked the executive to bear part of the load. Sabharwal said, “not much has been done for improvement of the investigative and prosecution machinery” and bemoaned that “significant suggestions for separation of the investigative wing from law and order duties…still lie unattended.” He warned, “no economy can succeed if the justice delivery system is not speedy and efficient.” He called for changes to the Criminal Penal Code (CrPC) so witnesses at cannot change evidences on record will due to coercion, fear, or inducement. The India Parliament is likely to introduce changes to the Criminal Penal Code (CrPC) in the next session that will make it harder for witnesses to change their accounts and enable investigators to complete their cases in time. It may also allow for a witness protection program to protect witnesses against powerful politicians, actors, or sportspeople who have criminal connections. Several high profile cases have been compromised in the recent past where eyewitnesses have been threatened, bribed, or coerced to change their accounts. Last week, Zahira Sheikh was sentenced to a year imprisonment for perjury in the “Best Bakery Case.” However, many analysts and watchers see this as a victimization of the victims twice over when the law enforcement and investigative agencies do not offer any protection to witnesses. The danger to the proposed changes is that police, not known for consistently observing human rights, may be manipulated by interested parties may extract a beneficial “confession” or “recording” that may not be the truth.

  • Inaugurating the Conference of Chief Ministers and Chief Justices, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said, “Corruption is a burning issue in all spheres of public life.” He called upon the Judiciary, probably the least corrupt section of the Indian democracy, to be on guard as “instances of corruption have begun to surface in our judicial system too.” He called on the “higher judiciary” to “address this challenge and show the way forward to the rest of the system” He emphasized that the judiciary is “committed to continue cleansing itself by coming down with a heavy hand on unscrupulous elements that may exist within and also by removing dead wood.” He insisted that India has adopted a policy of “zero tolerance” on corrupt judges. So far, the Supreme Court (SC) has seen only one case of corruption allegation which lower courts even at the High Court level has seen many. Most recently, Justice Banerjee of the West Bengal High Court has been found guilty of unduly influencing the political system to get him land, house, and other ancillary benefits. Banerjee had also influenced politicians to get a lower court order overturned so he can continue to live in the free house provided by the state. West Bengal, which has been ruled by the Communists for that last 30 years, has one of the highest levels of corruption including significant electoral fraud. The collusion of politicians and administration is reportedly high and this is the first instance of judiciary being part of the corruption racket. The Parliament is now discussing a new law that would make the judiciary accountable. In the last few months, the Parliament, under the leadership of Speaker Somnath Chatterjee, and the Judiciary have been at odds over several Constitutional issues leading to bitter debate and discussion on media. There is increasing irritation in the Legislative Branch that “judicial activism” is curbing the functioning style and form of the Government. The proposed Legislation is seen by some as a move by the Legislative to gain dominance over the Judiciary. It is ironic that the Parliament with elected politicians with criminal and espionage histories and pending cases should create a law that should make the Judiciary accountable.

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
Working with a neighbour
There shouldn't ever be another Jessica
The road less travelled
Towards planned urban development
Conceding ground
Growing India needs a permanent establishment
A footstool in the world
Poor No More
Watch how China defends itself
Reality check on 10% growth paradigm
Watch how China defends itself
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 a major breakthrough, Maharashtra police arrested the absconding former bodyguard Ravindra Patil of renegade actor Salman Khan. Patil is the key witness in a case where an inebriated Khan drove his Land Cruiser on September 28, 2002 into a bakery killing one person instantly. Khan abandoned his car and fled the scene leaving Patil to arrange for medical help. The police arrest Khan the following day and slapped “culpable homicide” on him which, if found guilty, will put the actor away for 10 years. A High Court then reduced the charge, which will still imprison him for 7 years. Patil had deposed to the police that he had repeatedly told Khan not to drive rashly, which the actor ignored. After two appearances in court, Patil absconded after he received death threats about deposing against the actor. Since he did not show up for 5 hearings spaced over 2 months, a non-bailable warrant was issued for his arrest. It will be interesting to see if Patil will retract his earlier deposition lending more argument to coincidental discussions on perjury and witness protection.

Environment, Health and Education
  • Senior Researcher at the Delhi-based Institute of Pathology Ruchi Singh became the first Indian woman to be selected for L’Oreal UNESCO Women in Science -2006 fellowship. Singh researches drug sensitivity and gene _expression in parasite Leishmania Donovani that causes Leishmaniasis, a disease that spreads in humans through sand fly bites. This disease is prevalent in 88 countries, its cutaneous form affecting 1.5 million annually and a more lethal form called the “Kala Azar” affects ½ a million people. While treatment is well-known, variants of Leishmania parasites in India have become resistant to traditional antimonial drugs (which contain toxic substance similar to arsenic) and over 60% infected people do not respond to treatment. Since most of those affected are poor, the more expensive alternate drugs are beyond the reach of most. Studying Indian Kala Azar patients, Singh has isolated drug-sensitive and drug-resistant variants of the parasites and hopes to identify specific genes that cause the anomalies by studying gene expressions of each group. Her fellowship will allow her to use a unique chip designed to study expressions of thousands of Leishmania genes simultaneously. Singh says that she will return to India to continue her work at the Institute of Pathology and contribute to bring in therapeutic strategies to control Leishmaniasis in India.

  • Editorial : Regulate Ship Breaking Business

Terrorism, Defense, Security and Science & Technology
  • A major terror incident was averted in Mumbai when police reacted swiftly to a tip-off that a bomb was placed inside the Jeevdani temple. The crude but ingenious bomb was placed in a plastic water bottle fitted with a pocket-sized transformer that would have given it the power to explode. This incident is symbolically significant as it was on the anniversary of the 1993 bomb blasts that killed 256 people and injured 713 others. Abu Salem accused of masterminding that incident has been extradited from Portugal. Salem initially confessed to his role and implicated actor Sanjay Dutt, son of late Congress Member of Parliament, Sunil Dutt, for having harbored equipment and terrorists. Like other actors who are involved in various criminal cases, Dutt continues to function freely. Salem has since changed his story a few times accusing the police of coercing a “confession” out of him. While this is a ploy often used by criminals to wiggle out of a case, confusing the investigators, and abusing the rickety criminal justice system while police do extract “confessions” to benefit their political masters. The Indian Parliament may introduce amendments to Criminal Penal Code to address these issues (See other article on this subject under Democracy). In another incident police arrested terrorist Tariq Batlo in Goa as he was bound to bomb Kollur Mookambika temple with 1 kilogram of RDX and firearms.

  • Assisted by helicopter gun-ships, Pakistani security forces attacked a madrasa (Islamic seminary) run by terror-cleric Sadiq Noor killing 25-30 terrorists, including foreigners in Miranshah, the main city of North Waziristan. Many al Qaeda and Taliban terrorists had found safe sanctuary among the Pashtun tribesmen who are at odds with Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf over lack of economic investment and support to the United States in the war on terror. Known for the number of terrorists, Waziristan has a high illiterate and economically marginalized population that depends on terrorism as a means of living. Like fellow tribesmen in Baloachistan, the Pushtuns say that Musharraf does not give them any development and treats their region as a colony. The Afghans complained bitterly to US President George Bush when he made a surprise stopover in Kabul about lack of adequate Pakistani measures to check terrorism. They want Pakistan to dismantle its terror network sponsored by its intelligence agencies—specifically the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). More than 120 have died after Pushtuns launched a rebel attack on Pakistan security forces as reprisal to a March 1 attack on their positions by Pakistan. Many say that the March 1 attack was timed by Musharraf to win Brownie point from Bush. It is not clear if Noor or another rabid cleric Maulana Abdul Khaliq Haqqani were present at the madrasa when the attack took place. On the Eastern border, reports are reaching Srinagar that Pakistan has arrested Syed Salahuddin, so-called Supreme Commander of United Jihad Council (UJC) that focuses attacks on India. Salahuddin has been at odds with Pakistani ISI since 2000 when he responded to a ceasefire by the Indian Army. However, that ceasefire lasted only 15 days because of lack of support within the UJC. Kashmir pro-Pakistan hard-line leader Syed Ali Geelani said that he will launch anti-Pakistan protests in Srinagar if Salahuddin is not released. The Indian Government plans to ask Pakistan to hand him over for crimes against India; Salahuddin is one of the top 20 most wanted in India. Pakistan is accused by Indian intelligence and American Central Intelligence Agency of harboring number one Dawood Ibrahim--Pakistan rejects this charge and denies his presence there. Pakistan Foreign Minister Khurshid M. Kasuri admits the presence of terrorists in Pakistan and says that his Government has “influence over them” but does not “control” them. 

  • A USD 7.5 billion defense deal between Algeria and Russia may indirectly benefit India. Algeria is planning to buy 28 multi-roles and long range Su-30 fighter planes, 49 multi-role Mig-29SMT fighters, and 20 Yak advanced jet trainers, air defense systems, and tanks from Russia. Sources say that since the Algerian order of Su-30 closely matches the Indian SU-30MKI version, which has some India-made avionics and other parts, “Indian companies may be contracted to supply the same components for Algeria.” India has built 140 Su-30MKI fighter planes under Russian license and also manufactured avionics and jet frame parts for the Russian Su-130MKM bought by Malaysia. The Algerian order is also influencing the 126 multi-role combat aircraft order by the Indian Air Force (IAF) especially since France has decided to abandon the Mirage and instead is encouraging India to buy a feature-rich variant of the Mirage “Rafale” but is likely to miss the qualification process  Russia is fielding its latest Mig-35 fighter plane (export name for the Mig-29 M1/M2 version) which has an innovative thrust vectoring engine RD-33OVT and will compete against Lockheed Martin’s F/A-18 Super Hornet and SAAB’s Gripen fighter planes. 

  • In a further escalation of tensions, Iran threatened to quit the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and said discussions with Russia on a joint venture deal is not longer being considered in Iran. Should it go through with the threat, the world community will consider to have broken one more treaty and will hold it against that country for a longer period of time. Iran is already considered to have broken parts of the NPT when it bought nuclear weapons technologies from disgraced Pakistani nuclear scientist A.Q. Khan. It exacerbated its case further when it abrogated the Paris Agreement by starting nuclear fuel enrichment for “research” purposes. The threats by its hard-line President against Israel and disparaging comments against Jewish people increased fears of Iran’s intentions. Iran claims that its nuclear “research” is to achieve energy self-sufficiency and denies interest in a weapons program. The National Council of Iran Resistance, a rebel group opposed to Islamic control of the democracy, exposed the country’s nuclear weapons program and has been substantiated by later investigation of the now-terminated Libyan weapons program. The same group has now outed an Iranian underground command facility built to protect its leaders from possible Western and Israeli air and missile attacks. The facility is said to contain extensive inter-connecting tunnels that brings many organizations and bureaucracies into the center in case of an attack. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) for consideration has now referred the Iranian nuclear weapons program. The UNSC has powers to impose economic and even advocate military sanctions on Iran but an imminent threat of that is unlikely since both Russia and China have extensive military and economic ties with Iran. Many countries, including India, would possibly oppose such moves in the near term crying for more diplomatic engagement. However, many countries have given up on diplomacy with Iran. The European Union-3 (EU-3) consisting of Britain, France, and Germany had prolonged discussions with Iran to sign the Paris Agreement only to see it trashed by Iran last September. Russia engaged with Iran since December trying to secure a joint venture with processing of nuclear fuel in Russia but dedicated for Iranian use but that proposal seems to have reached a dead-end. However, international mood can turn quickly if Iran follows through with its threat of using oil as a weapon and backing out of the NPT. Oil is an internationally sensitive issue now and with Iran being the second largest producer of oil in the Oil Producing Export Council country, any attempt to reduce the flow of oil will seriously damage world economies and anger dependent nations. An Iranian withdrawal from NPT will unite all nations passionately opposing nuclear weapons such as Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and South East Asian countries into supporting the Western point of view. It may have broader ramifications as South Africa and Brazil may restart their respective nuclear weapons program and Israel may also declare itself a nuclear power.

  • A draft property protection law that took 8 years to form has created a new debate in China over its abandonment of socialist policies for capitalist ideas. A small but very vocal group of socialist ideologues are questioning the economic reforms and the cost of development to rural areas. Chinese economic reforms have been focused on three prominent urban centers such as Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangdong and vast swathes of rural population have been left out of the economic miracle. A recent meeting of party delegates from districts saw new programs for rural development and even statements from the Chinese President and Prime Minister on the need to transfer wealth to the rural areas. Surprisingly, the amount earmarked for such programs have been about USD 2 billion. Professors of Beijing University Law School accused the authors of the draft law of “copying capitalist civil laws like slaves.” While many modern Chinese analysts quickly dismiss these accusations, there are daily reports of rampant corruption, labor abuses, land-grabs with political and official support, and lawless imprisonment of rural population for factory work. These were precisely the conditions that socialism sought to overcome and the quick abandonment of these programs without adequate safeguards for the poor is threatening to derail the China economic miracle. Legislative officials say that the law only codifies a more expansive property measures already incorporated in the Constitution in 2003 and insist that the law will be implemented, albeit with significant changes.

  • India and China are meeting in idyllic environs of Kumarakon to negotiate an end to their dispute over borders and leaders of both delegations expressed optimism in its resolution. India, represented by National Security Advisor, M. K. Narayanan, said that the two countries need to break out of legal issues and instead strive for a political and strategic solution. He said that the principal objective is to “extricate the talks from the logjam” and after “the next two-three we hope we would be able to go into the question of border delineation.” Vice Foreign Minister Dai Bingua led the Chinese delegation as a special representative of the Chinese President said “we are making progress and the conditions are better for resolving the border disputes.” India and China have already resolved many issues such as recognition of Chinese occupation of Tibet, Sikkim, acceptance of Dalai Lama’s Government in exile in India, etc. However, Arunachal Pradesh, Akasi Chin (portion of Jammu & Kashmir illegally gifted by Pakistan to China), and Nepal borders will be the hard ones to crack.

  • Editorial: The Nepal Stalemate

  • Editorial: Iran's Nuclear Program

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