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Monday, March 20, 2006

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Business and Economy
  • In a first ever foray into Brazil, Oil & Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) has pitched to acquire a 30% stake in the Campos Basin oilfield valued at USD 400 million. Investment sources say that ONGC will possibly get 15-20% of the stake that Exxon Mobil I selling because existing partners Shell and Petrobras will possibly expand their holdings in the basin. Part of the this partnership will required reciprocal investment by Shell and Petrobras in India’s New Exploration and licensing Policy (NELP) VI offering.

  • In his first ever visit to the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), Prime Minister Manmohan Singh asked the Finance Minister P. Chidambaram and RBI to create a new timetable and roadmap for full Rupee convertibility. The RBI had come up with a timetable and plan in 1997 to convert the Rupee but a string of national and international events such as Phokran II blasts and resultant sanctions, Kargil War with Pakistan, and Indian credit rating downgrade, etc created a level of economic insecurity that effectively suffocated this plan. It is inconceivable how the Government plans to act on such a timetable since it is not able to perform or function even on foreign policy because of myopic positions taken by its allies. Fears of capital flight are rife among the financially insecure such as the communist allies of the Government who are bitterly protesting even the suggestion of conversion. Only a resounding win in the elections on an economic and fiscal discipline can stimulate a conversation on this path.

  • Scale to Next Economic Level

Democracy, Politics and Judiciary

Terrorism, Defense, Security and Science & Technology
  • National Security Advisor M.K. Narayanan accused Pakistan of continuing its Jihadi policies in recruiting extremist elements, training them in Bangladesh, Bangkok, West Asia, or Pakistan. He said that there is a “very distinct attempt to alter the mix” through the active recruitment of Indians for terrorist operations within India. Further, there is also organized attempt to garner mainstream Muslim support for “pan-Islamic issues” such as Danish cartoons that depicted Prophet Mohammed distastefully, India’s vote on Iran, and India’s alliance with the US. He noted with concern Bharatiya Janata Party leaders were high on the hit list of Pakistan and that incidents like Varanasi are attempts to create communal antagonism. He also highlighted the recent arrests and indictment of terrorists in Bangladesh and emphasized that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will take up the issue of terrorist camps in Bangladesh with visiting Bangladesh Prime Minister Khaleda Zia. The Government is unable to take a harder stance on terrorism because of increased communalization of foreign policy by the communists and regional allies of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Government.

  • Reusable Launch Vehicle being developed by ISRO 
    The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) is designing a Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV) to place satellites in orbit, reenter earth’s atmosphere, and use parachutes to land as an airplane.<More>


  • Suspected al Qaeda militants exploded a remote-controlled device blowing up a police vehicle killing 7 people including 3 policemen and 3 paramilitary personnel. The location of this incident Dera Ismail Khan adjoins Waziristan where a huge fight is continuing between the Pakistani Army and Taliban and al Qaeda terrorists. Trouble started end of February when Pakistan received a dressing down from Afghanistan complained to visiting US President George Bush about lack of action by Pakistan and its support to terrorist elements. To demonstrate their commitment to the war on terrorism, Pakistan launched a major operation that killed scores of militants. In retaliation, al Qaeda started targeting the army inviting airplane and gun-ship reprisals by the military. Over 200 terrorists and unspecified number of soldiers have died in the last 20 days. Tribal Pakistan, long disenfranchised from the power-centers of the plains support Taliban and al Qaeda elements and engages Pakistan intensively. Battle hardened and desensitized by decades of economic neglect, the tribal population has extracted a heavy cost on Pakistan economy.

  • Bangladesh Prime Minister Khaleda Zia is visiting India for the first time since her assumption of office in 2001 demonstrating the strained relationship of the world’s poorest nation with its only neighbor. Although India helped Bangladesh achieve independence from West Pakistan in 1971, relationship has been consistently dogged by bilateral issues—especially after the assassination of its first President Mujibur Rehman by extremist forces in the Bangladesh army in 1975. From the Indian side, the crucial issues are terrorism, road and rail transit to North Eastern states, access to Chittagong harbor, natural gas pipeline right of way from Myanmar, illegal immigration, and border fencing. From the Bangladesh side, the main issues that would be discussed are trade deficit of USD 2 billion, economic and non-economic barriers to trade, river water sharing, and border fencing issues. Indo-Bangla relations are at the lowest ever point thanks to alleged intransigence from Bangladesh and heavy-handedness from India. While most analysts are not expecting major changes to bilateral relations, they are anticipating confidence-building measures (CBM) type of engagement that will mature into a more durable relationship. Bangladesh will go to polls before January 2007 and Zia will lose if she does not do better on the economic, terrorism, and trade front.

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  • Pakistan is bitterly complaining to the US on its overt tilt towards India and says that it requires a similar “package” and a one-sided approach will gravely affect the security environment in South Asia. In a meeting with Pakistani journalists, Ambassador Gen (retd) Jehangir Karamat said that while Pakistan sees the US need to de-hyphenate its relations between his country and India, it will not accept a discriminatory tilt towards India.

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  • Nepal’s Maoist terrorists called off their blockade of the Katmandu Valley and said they will support a 7-part political alliance’s call for direct confrontation with King Gnanendra. The political parties were meeting near New Delhi to discuss their response even as American Ambassador and Gnanendra strongly cautioned them against taking their alliance with the terrorists any further. The political parties finally managed to convince the terrorists to give up their blockade and join their direct confrontation, as many parts of the alliance were wary about taking their relationship further. They argued that they couldn’t align themselves with a group that has not renounced violence, kill innocent civilians, and wantonly destroy property.

  • Nepal besieged by Maoist Terrorists

  • Editorial: The Nepal Stalemate

  • Editorial: Iran's Nuclear Program


  • Hamas unveiled a Cabinet that would help it retain key Foreign Affairs, Finance, and Security portfolios. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who has to approve this cabinet, will most likely defer his decision till the end of elections in Israel scheduled for March 28. Hamas’s wish to hold on to Foreign Affairs and Security will definitely not gain the approval of leading donors to Palestinian Authority (PA) and powers in the world. The US, EU, and Israel have already said that it will not recognize the Hamas Government if it does not renounce violence, acknowledge Israel’s right to exist, and accept past international treaties.

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