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Friday, March 24, 2006

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Business and Economy
  • The Reserve Bank of India has warned that the widening fiscal deficit and demands on India’s creaking infrastructure could threaten the economic growth rate and potential. While the Finance Minister P. Chidambaram has promised active steps to reign in the mushrooming deficit, his options are limited by the continued intransigence of communist allies to the Government.

  • India and South Africa signed a deal to develop a relationship in merchant shipping and related maritime transport on the basis of mutual reciprocity and sovereign equality. The agreement is valid is 5 years initially and will reviewed and renewed on a yearly basis unless one of the parties want its discontinuance. India is trying to expand its business, economic, diplomatic, and military influence in Africa. While African nations vocally endorsed India as the Chair of the Asia-Africa Forum last year, they refused to support India’s bid on the United Nations. India has since increased its economic efforts in Sudan, Nigeria, and South Africa but is strangely not responding to increasing calls by the United Nations on the drought disaster waiting to happen in Kenya.

  • Scale to Next Economic Level

Democracy, Politics and Judiciary

  • The Sonia Déjà vu 
    After pursuing a path to protect its leader Sonia Gandhi from ouster and disgrace through an ordinance that would probably be struck down in the courts, the Congress Party got a jolt when their leader in a master political move resigned from the Parliament. <More>

Environment, Health and Education
  • Health Minister Anbumani Ramdoss announced that India would achieve its United Nations set targets for the control of Tuberculosis (TB) by April 2006.  The UN required India to be able to identify 70% of the TB cases and treat 85% of such cases by the end of 2005. He also said that country wills double its budget to USD 260 million (up by 56% from last year) to fight this disease. India has the largest number of TB patients amounting to 20% of the world’s total. The Government’s Observed Treatment Services program launched to cover 1 billion people is the largest health care program in the world and has brought the number of infected from 2 million to 1.7 million and the death rate from 425,000 to 400,000 annually.

  • The UN Environment Program (UNEP) says that the avian flu may affect over 80% of known bird species and 54 threatened species like fish eagles, rabbits, otters, etc. and be a larger risk than imagined. Since the only way to eradicate this virus from domestic poultry is widespread culling, protein starved societies may turn to “bush meat” and thereby increase the “unacceptable” pressure on wild pigs, chimpanzees, and apes. Predators losing their natural prey to human exploitation may resort to eating infected meat and the disease spread to rats and mice. When rats carry the disease, it could easy mutate with Leptospirosis and cause widespread havoc among humans. UNEP experts say that the highly evolved olfactory systems in some of these mammals may make them more susceptible to the H5N1 virus.

 * * *

Terrorism, Defense, Security and Science & Technology
  • Europe’s last running secessionist group fighting for a piece of Spain and South Western France for a Basque homeland, ETA, declared a permanent ceasefire in its fight against both those countries. ETA had earlier issued 10 ceasefires but only on this one had it used the word “permanent.” Spain reacted cautiously while France declared a self-congratulatory victory. After 40 years of war that claimed the lives of 850 people and destruction of property valued at USD 20 billion the ETA was the most durable terrorist group that turned Spaniard from Basque and even Basque against Basque. Analysts are skeptical about ETA’s promise to give up its way of life, which was violence and extortion just as Irish Republic Army (IRA) continued to indulge in them even when they were negotiation with the Government. India faces similar challenges with internal Naxalites, Kashmiri terrorist groups, North Eastern secessionist bands, and pan-Islamic terrorists. India also has the additional burden of negotiating with Pakistan, Bangladesh, and China even while they continue to support terrorism in India with impunity. Pan-Islamic terrorism is the most dangerous form because of its potential to create inter-communal violence leading to social anarchy. Recognizing this increasing number of Islamic clerics has issued fat was (religious dictates) calling all violence “un-Islamic.” Recently, one thousand delegates said “bomb blasts, plane hijackings, massacres or any such activity where people are killed or which poses a threat to any religious organization and destroys peace of the nation is condemned in Islam.”

  • Lt. Col. Batra, spokesperson for the armed forces, said that seizure of large caches of arms, ammunition, and explosives from different parts of the Kashmir Valley “does not augur well for the peace process.” Kashmiris, long disenchanted by violence and terrorism, have been increasingly helping the army identify, engage, and capture or kill terrorists. Recently, the army recovered a large cache of 9 kilograms (Kgs) of RDX, 19 kgs of other explosives, RPG rocket fuses, RPG bombs, Chinese made mines, plastic explosives, anti-tank Improvised Explosive Devices (IED), hand grenades, AK-47 assault rifles, radio sets, pistols. The wide variety of weaponry only suggests the sophistication of the terrorists and this experience can only be obtained from training with experience defense or intelligence sources. India accuses the Pakistan Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf of not dismantling the terror network. While Musharraf is quick to come up with “out-of-box ideas” to get the Indian army out of the Kashmir Valley, he has been accused by many of over promising and under-delivering on terrorism. Western media had counseled US President George Bush not to trust Musharraf, which reflected his disdain on the Pakistani establishment during his visit early this month. Interestingly, political actors from the state who visited Pakistan recently wanted India to respond to Musharraf’s proposals. Musharraf himself has threatened to take “steps backward” if India does not respond to his non-starter ideas.

  • Musharraf Indian Response to his Proposals 


  • United Nations Security Council (UNSC) members continued backroom debates on how to handle Iran’s nuclear program. India reiterated that it would not support the French and Britain draft reprimanding Iran. It said that it supported the Russian initiative to enrich uranium in Russia for exclusive use by Iran and insisted that there must be diplomatic solution.

  • Editorial: Iran's Nuclear Program

  • Editorial: The Nepal Stalemate


  • Iraqi Police accused the US troops of a "clear and perfect crime" saying that they killed an entire family of 11, including 5 children and 4 women, when a patrol came under attack leading to the death of one of the members at Ishaqi. The house was later blown up to conceal the killing. The Time Magazine reported the killing of civilians in Haditha in November when a patrol went on a rampage after a member was killed by a roadside bomb. The US Army says that only 4 people were killed in Ishaqi and said it has launched an investigation. Iraqi population and analysts accuse the US Army of doing little and not disciplining its soldiers for blatant human rights violations. Even in cases where disciplinary action is initiated, they say that offenders are let off with minimal punishment.

  • Editorial: Hamas's victory in Palestinian Territories

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