Mid-year economic analysis forecasts GDP growth at 5.7 % for 2012-12

Mid-year economic analysis tabled in Parliament on Monday estimated GDP growth at 5.7 to 5.9 percent for the fiscal year 2012-13 as against earlier estimated projection of 7.6 per cent. 5.7 percent GDP growth for fiscal year 2012-12 implies close to 6 percent growth rate in the second half of fiscal year against 5.4 per cent in the first half. The mid-year economic analysis is the second quarterly review.
Moderate inflation is expected to help recover GDP growth in the second half of the current year.

Report forecast stable growth and gradual recovery indicative of already stabilizing and picking up growth.

Report highlighted slower growth rate of economy at 5.4 percent, year on year, in the first half of the current fiscal year that hit all the major sectors of the economy, including agriculture, industry and services. Economy grew at an average rate of 8 percent in the last decade. Agriculture sector slowed down on account of deficient rainfall in the current year resulting in slowdown of some segments of the services sector tied to agriculture and industry.

“There is an upturn in the Business Expectations Index for the October-December quarter, the PMI index has moved up in November, there is buoyancy in capital markets, there are improved internal accruals in the corporate sector, and there is some pick up in manufacturing, as reflected by 8.2 per cent growth in IIP in October 2012 vis-à-vis October 2011,” said report.

The report said the Government is continuously monitoring the fiscal situation and it announced the roadmap for fiscal consolidation that aims at containing the fiscal deficit at 5.3 per cent of GDP in the current year and reducing it to 4.8 per cent in the year 2013-14. It aims to further reduce it by 0.6 percentage points each year in the next three years i.e. from 4.2 per cent in 2014-15 to 3 per cent in 2016-17. In order to contain the rising subsidy burden, Government raised diesel prices and capped subsidised LPG cylinders to consumers and placed great emphasis on expenditure cuts, and realisation of budgeted revenues.

Report attributed negative growth of merchandise exports and imports from the third quarter of 2011-12 to slowdown in the global and the domestic economy. While the former affected the exports, latter resulted in the slowdown of imports. The trade deficit in April-October 2012 was US $ 110 billion as against US $ 106.8 for April-October 2011. The large trade deficit is attributed primarily to slow growth in export markets, the inelastic nature of imports, and rising prices of crude oil and gold. The higher trade deficit led to large current account deficit that stood at 4.2 per cent of GDP in 2011-12 notwithstanding an increase in the surplus on net invisibles account. The current account deficit is expected to be around 3.7 per cent in the current financial year. 

Report put foreign exchange reserves at US $ 295.3 billion at the end of October 2012, as against US $ 294.4 billion at the end of March 2012. External debt increased by nearly US $ 40 billion between end of March 2010-11 and end of March 2011-12. External debt was US $ 349.5 billion at the end of June 2012.

Mamata launches campaign for panchayat elections

West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee today launched her campaign for the upcoming panchayat elections in the state from Purulia.

She is on a three-day tour to the Maoist- infested Jangalmahal and addressed a public gathering at Hutmora under Purulia district today.

Banerjee assured the gathering at Hutmura of more loans, roads construction and employment, and requested for additional six months to provide more benefits to people.

She circuitously asked people not to support CPIM which still controls Purulia zilla parishad and appealed for votes to bring Trinomial Congress to power. She promised government’s support to those who fight terrorism.

At the same time, Banerjee attacked the UPA government of depriving central assistance to the state.

"The Centre wants us to die of hunger but as long as we are in power in the state, we will not let that happen. We may be poor, but not beggars," she said.

"We know how to get back our rights," she added.

Trinamool supremo promised to assist farmers with tractors and agriculture inputs even if her government failed to secure financial assistance from central government.

Given price hike in diesel, she promised to make available electricity for irrigation.

"We will build our own resources to sustain our agriculture," she held.

She claimed her government achieved many things in the last one and a half years despite severe fund constraint.

"I challenge the opposition to charge me with defamation if I have given any false promise to the people," said firebrand leader.

She also accused a section of the media of maligning her government and urged the people not to give credence to false reports against the government.

Gujarat BJP releases manifesto for assembly poll

Gujarat BJP today released the party manifesto for the 2012 Gujarat State Assembly Elections. Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Shri Arun Jaitley, Gujarat BJP President Shri RC Faldu and BJP National Vice President Shri Purushottam Rupala were present at the occasion.

Describing manifesto as a blue print for the next 5 years, Modi said it’s not just mere promises but a strong commitment towards development.

Considering the emergence of neo middle class, Modi said the manifesto is designed to take special care of the class.

“Sankalp Patra (manifesto) not only talk about youth development but also youth led development,” he added.

The Chief Minister stated that the Sankalp Patra gives importance to Skill, Scale and Speed.

Manifesto promises to develop comprehensive approach for promotion and development of sports in Gujarat.

It focuses on providing state wide Wi-Fi network, women development, agriculture, smoother milk production process and increase in land under irrigation.

It also pledges to set up Lake and Wetland Authority.

Manifesto encourages youth education by undertaking that State Government will become guarantor for youngsters who seek loans to start new initiatives.

Sony launches new Hybrid Ultrabook PC - VAIO Duo 11

 Sony India today launched the next generation of Hybrid Ultrabook PC- VAIO Duo 11; the PC that turns into a smart, intuitive touchscreen tablet.

With its premium Surf Slide design, VAI Duo 11 PC switches smoothly between Tablet to PC modes.

Powered by latest generation Intel Core processor, Vaio Duo may be used as tablet to browse web or fully featured PC by sliding out the keyboard.

VAI Duo 11 allows user to make notes, sketch diagrams or ring key points on presentation by touching and scribbling on screen. Smart text recognition allows users to quickly convert handwritten notes to text for easy archiving and searches.

VAI Duo 11 is complemented with ports and interfaces including Bluetooth Smart Ready, USB 3.0, USB Sleep Charge to charge USB charging devices like mobiles or music players on the go; even when the PC power is off, HDMI, Ethernet and VGA video ports..

VAI Duo 11 unique headphone comes with Digital noise cancelling feature. 

Sony provides three new apps to be downloaded for free - The ‘Music’ application, The ‘Album’ 
application and combination of these two applications which allow users to ‘throw’ or stream personal photos, video and music content to enjoy on DLNA compatible large screen TV and audio systems.

Optional accessories include a screen protection cover and carrying case that protects VAI Duo 11.
VAI Duo 11 hybrid Ultrabook PC will be available in India across Sony Centers, VAIO flagship stores and other major electronic and IT stores.

 Gun Metal
Rs. 89,990
End of Dec’12

Ajmal Kasab executed

Ajmal Kasab, the lone surviving terrorist from the 26/11 terror attack, was hanged to death today at 7:30 am at the Yerawada Jail in Pune.

Kasab filed mercy plea to President on September 18 this year, which was later rejected on November 5, following which sentence was executed today in the morning.

25-year-old Kasab was convicted and given capital punishment by the trial court on May 6, 2010 which was upheld by the Bombay High Court on February 21, 2011.

The Supreme Court subsequently upheld the sentence on August 29 this year.

166 persons died in the attack. Police succeeded in capturing Kasab alive after killing the remaining nine terrorists.

Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde said that Indian mission in Islamabad had informed Pakistan government about Kasab’s execution through letter. As Pakistan refused to accept letter, same was sent through fax.

"The External Affairs Ministry through our mission in Islamabad had informed the Pakistan government about Kasab's hanging. When they did not accept the letter, they were communicated through fax," Shinde told reporters here, hours after the hanging of Kasab.

Union Home Secretary R K Singh said family members of Kasab, who live in Pakistan, had also been informed by Indian High Commission in Islamabad.

"His family members were communicated through courier by our High Commission. We have the receipt of the courier sent and this was later given to the Maharashtra government," Singh said.

Shinde said nobody has come forward to claim the body of 25-year-old Kasab yet and if Pakistan claims it, India would give it to her.

The Home Minister said there should be no problem if Kasab is buried in India.

Love Triangle

School sessions had started after two months vacation; Michael and Stella were as close as ever before. Both missed each other while away but could never pluck up courage to confess their love. They would sit together, study together and fail together. They were always lost within themselves. It was love which they could not acknowledge.

Day came when they graduated and decided to start their career. Stella joined banking sector and Michael, an established IT company. Physically, distance grew but mentally they got even closer. They would spend hours chatting on phone, discussing smallest things of life. One thing was still missing, it was “naming the relation”. It was not just friendship. It was something more than that.

Michael was on the lookout for a relation that had a name. He looked for a girl whom he could marry. Michael managed to find a very simple girl, named Stephanie. They went around for years and decided to marry in the course of time.

One day, Stella’s mother showed her picture of a guy, named Martin for marriage. Stella’s world went upside down. Confused Stella told Michael about this. Unable to read Stella’s mind, Michael asked Stella to move on with the marriage.

Unaware of Michael and Stephanie relationship, Stella married Martin. She was married but not happy for her mind being always occupied with Michaels thoughts. Two years passed, she could not cope up with her marriage life. She would regularly have arguments and fights with her husband. On the other side, Michael was planning his marriage with Stephanie.

One day, Stella organized a get-together of some childhood school friends along with their partners. Stella was in high spirits as she waited to see Michael. Party turned out to be nightmare when she saw Michael with Stephanie. She tried to act normal but could not bear the pain of their togetherness. Green-eyed Stella couldn’t see Michael caring for Stephanie. She made all attempts to avoid any conversation with Stephanie but continued her efforts to spend maximum time with Michael. Stephanie quietly watched and understood what was going on in Stella’s mind. Hours passed on and it was time to leave. Stella too left but could not sleep whole night. Sight of Michael and Stephanie together kept troubling her.

Stephanie was clear about Stella’s mind but a little unsure of Michael’s thoughts. Recalling the incidents Michael cited to her about his childhood days with Stella and his often missing her even while being with her (Stephanie), She sensed Michael loved Stella more than her. To avoid any regret at later state, two months before their marriage, Stephanie asked Michael “If you have to choose between me and Stella, whom would you choose?”

Her sudden question left him all at sea. He asked her what went wrong.
Without giving any explanation, Stephanie stuck to her question.
Baffled Michael asked Stephanie for two days time.

Stephanie’s question badly disturbed him and forced him to go back to old memories. He could not recall anything about Stephanie that he could cherish. He didn’t even realize when he was lost in old days spent with Stella. Those days were close to his heart. His heart was more towards Stella but he was not sure if his decision to leave Stephanie for would be right. He knew Stella was not happy with her husband and enjoyed his (Michael’s) company more. He also knew he would never be able to love Stephanie like he did to Stella. He understood marrying Stephanie and loving Stella would be unfair and unpardonable. 

Next morning, Michael went to Stephanie. With all his courage, he held her hand and said, “I like you. You were always an innocent girl. I respect you. Physically I was with you but mentally I never was. You made me realize how wrong I was. You saved me from committing a big mistake. I can’t leave Stella and that’s my choice.” Stephanie quietly listened to Michael with her eyes filled with tears.  Without uttering a word, Stephanie left the place and they never met again.

India Saudi Arabia Joint Committee on Def Co-op hold first meeting

India-Saudi Arabia Joint Committee on Defence Cooperation held their first meeting here yesterday. The 11-member Saudi delegation was headed by Maj Gen Suleiman Saleh Al-Khalifa, Chief of the Armed Forces Operations of Saudi Arabia. The Indian delegation was headed by Joint Secretary, Ministry of Defence.

During the meeting both sides expressed their interest to further augment defence exchanges and interactions between their armed forces. Proposals for exchange of high level visits, training exchanges and functional exchanges in various areas were discussed and will be finalized over the coming weeks. 

The establishment of the Joint Committee was decided during the meeting of the Defence Minister Shri AK Antony with the Saudi Defence Minister (and now also Crown Prince) Prince Salman bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, during the Defence Minister’s visit to Saudi Arabia in February, 2012. The Joint Committee was mandated to formulate a programme to develop areas of cooperation between the defence establishments of both countries.

India and China to resume joint military exercise

India and China today agreed to resume joint military exercise and conduct the same at the earliest.

The first Joint Army Exercises with China was conducted in Kunming, China in 2007 and the second in Belgaum, India in  2008 but had to be stalled in 2010 due to visa denial by Chinese to the Northern Army Commander Lieutenant General BS Jaswal and since then New Delhi has had no bilateral defence exchanges with Beijing.

Accompanied by a 23-member delegation, which includes high ranking members of the Chinese defence and military establishment, the Minister of National Defence of the People’s Republic of China, General Liang Guanglie is on an official visit to India from 02-06 September, 2012 after which he will go to Laos to pay an official goodwill visit.

At the 90 minutes delegation level meeting, India and China agreed to strengthen border security cooperation between the border troops of the two sides so as to enhance and maintain peace and tranquility in the India-China border areas.

The two sides announced their decision to work together to maintain peace and stability of the Asia-Pacific region, promote port calls by naval ships of the two sides and conduct joint maritime search and rescue exercises.

The two sides also decided to further enhance and strengthen cooperation between the naval forces of both sides in counter piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden and off the coast of Somalia and high level exchanges between the two defence ministries and Armed Forces of both sides.  .

They noted that the leaders of India and China have designated 2012 as the year of India-China friendship and cooperation.

The Chinese side invited Antony to visit China in 2013. 

Last Defence Minister level meet took place in May 2006 when India’s Defence Minister visited China. General Liang’s visit is the first by a Chinese Defence Minister to India since Gen. Cao Gangchuan’s visit in March 2004. 

From India, the Indian Defence Ministers have visited China thrice in Jul 1992, Apr 2003 and May 2006. The Chinese Defence Ministers have visited India twice in Sep 1994 and Mar 2004.

Chinese activities on Indian border

Defence Miniser AK Antony yesterday underlined Chinese activities on border in parliament.

He said,” China disputes the international Boundary between India and China. There is no commonly delineated 'Line of Actual Control' (LAC) between the two countries. Both sides patrol up to their respective perceptions of LAC. There has been no Chinese intrusion into our territory during the last three years. However, Chinese patrolling upto their perception of LAC are treated as transgressions. Such incidents of transgressions are taken up with the Chinese side through established mechanisms such as Hot Lines, Flag Meetings, Border Personnel Meetings and the newly established Working Mechanism on Consultation and Coordination on India-China border affairs.”

He also said that Government was aware of the infrastructure development by China at the border and their undertaking infrastructure projects in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) and that Government conveyed its concerns to China about their activities in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir and asked them to cease such activities.

“Government is fully seized of the security imperatives of the country and reviews the threat perception from time to time as well as the need for developing requisite infrastructure in the border areas. Necessary steps, as required, have been initiated for ensuring that national security concerns are adequately addressed through development of infrastructure, including rails, roads and forward air fields, as well as operational capabilities of the Armed forces to secure the desired national security objectives”, said Antony in a written reply to Loksabha Member of Parliament.

Indian Territory under occupation by China in Jammu & Kashmir since 1962 is approximately 38,000 sq. kms. In addition to this, under the so called China-Pakistan "Boundary Agreement" of 1963, Pakistan illegally ceded 5,180 sq. kms. of Indian territory in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir to China. In the eastern sector, China illegally claims approximately 90,000 sq. km. of Indian territory in the State of Arunachal Pradesh. The two countries have appointed Special Representatives to explore from the political perspective of the overall bilateral relationship the framework for a boundary settlement. 

Maruti to resume operations

A month after declaring lockout at its plant in Manesar, Maruti Suzuki Thursday announced resumption of 
operations from August 21 with an initial manpower of 300 workers, aiming at producing 150 cars a day. 

More workers would be added subsequently as the production scales up. As many as 500 workers of the 
1528 regular work force have been asked by the company not to re-join, and 1869 contract workers would be screened again when the company undertakes fresh recruitment from September two.

Maruti, which hitherto recruited workers through contractors, will now employ them directly.
Lauding the "cooperative stance" of the Haryana Government, Maruti Suzuki Chairman RC Bhargava informed reporters here that the state government has stationed Rapid Action Force (RAF) having 500 police personnel headed by a senior police officer near Maruti's Manesar plant.

"In each shift, 100 such police personnel will remain in the factory premises. Additionally, 40 Personal Security Officers (PSOs) have been appointed for the safety of managers, supervisors, and workers in some special cases. Also security arrangements have been made at the residences of senior employees," Bhargava stated.

In addition to that, Maruti has created its own special force of 100 security guards, constituting mainly ex-servicemen.

Prior to the July 18 labour unrest, Maruti had 4000 employees at its Manesar plant including 3300 workers and 700 management executives.

On being asked about the volume of loss suffered by the company in the last one month, Bhargava refused to reveal any statistical figure.

"There is no increase in the number of car bookings. The number stands at 1,20,000 today which was the same as on July 18 when the riots hit the plant," he added.

Maruti Suzuki declares lockout at Manesar plant

Two days after violence broke out at Maruti Suzuki’s automobile plant in Manesar, Chairman of Maruti Suzuki R C Bhargava Sunday said work would not recommence at the plant until police investigation was complete.

He said that work will resume only after the Management is satisfied with safety and security mechanism for the health and life of the managerial staff.

Bhargava denied shifting the plant to Gujarat.

“There is difference between shifting and expanding. We never said we wanted to shift and move out of Manesar,” said Nakanishi, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer.

Nakanishi said he was “too shocked” at the outbreak of violence, pointing out that Suzuki had a peaceful presence in Indonesia, Pakistan and several other neighbouring countries.

Violence at Maruti Manesar plant broke out on Wednesday after Human Resource team suspended one worker and the workers’ union demanded his reinstatement. While negotiations were on with the senior management, the mob forcibly shut the main gate and prevented managers from leaving the premises after working hours.

Thereafter, armed with iron rods and door beams of cars, the mob spread out in groups in the factory area and targeted supervisors, managers and executives. In simultaneous attacks in different parts of the factory, the mob beat the managers on their head, legs and back, rendering many of their victims bleeding and unconscious. They also ransacked offices, broke glass panes and wantonly damaged property. Finally, they set the offices on fire.

Awanish Kumar Dev, General Manager (HR) at Manesar Plant was burnt to death inside the plant facilities.

His post mortem reports reveal that he was beaten before he was left to die in fire. Dr. Deepak Mathur of Civil Hospital informed that Awanish died of suffocation. At the same time, multiple fractures on both legs reveal he was beaten up before he was left to die in the flaming facility. Due to injuries in his legs, he could not escape the fire and his body kept blazing even after he had died. Several executives, managers and supervisors were brutally attacked and injured, and nearly 100 of them had to be hospitalized of which 24 are still admitted in hospitals such as Artemis, Medanta Medicity, Paras and Columbia Asia.

Dr Vishal Sehgal of Artemis said that "36 injured employees were brought to the hospital till Wednesday night from the Maruti Suzuki plant. Of these, 17 were admitted, while the remaining 19 were discharged after administering first aid. Four more were discharged on Thursday, leaving 13 employees still admitted with us. And they all are fine and stable."

The two Japanese nationals have been identified as 50-year-old Torri and 46-year-old Saijo, who were brought in with head and orthopaedic injuries caused by blunt trauma.

As many as 91 workers were arrested and produced before a local magistrate who remanded them to 14 days’ judicial custody. They have been accused of various charges including rioting with weapons, murder, attempt to murder, unlawful assembly, assault and trespass.

Authorities threatened to press charges of murder and attempted murder against all 3,000 rioting workers at the plant as the mob attack had led to a person’s death.

Fearing the arrest, thousands of Maruti Suzuki workers who lived in the two villages adjoining the IMT Manesar - Dhana and Aliyar - fled overnight.

Bhargava said the violence at the Manesar plant could be compared with tsunami which struck “completely unexpectedly.”

While speculation is rife that caste-based abusive language and discriminatory remarks made by a supervisor triggered the violence, Bhargava ruled this out stating that both the said supervisor and worker belonged to the same caste.

Maruti believes it to be an orchestrated act of mob violence at a time when operations had been normal over the past many months.

He also accused workers’ union of unnecessarily stretching the negotiation between Management and itself in order to demonstrate its false efforts towards resolving issues such as office leave, late coming, incentives etc.

Asara Panchayat denies issuing Talibani diktat

The Asara Panchayat on Tuesday denied issuing any diktat against the freedom of womenfolk and blamed the media for "misrepresentation of facts."

“I was not in town at that time but on my return, I realised that elders in the village had a meeting in which they decided to ask girls to refrain from using mobiles, wearing western clothes, going out alone etc. During the meeting, the seniors deplored the age-old practice of dowry being given at the time of marriage to the family of the groom. It was also decided that both boys and girls must be sent to school for education. The Media did not present the correct picture of the decisions taken at that meeting," one Haji Salim from Asara village said explaining the "guidelines" issued by the Panchayat on Saturday.

General Secretary of Jat Mahasabha Yudhvir Singh dismissed any role of the Khap Panchayat in these guidelines.

“It was no way the decision of the Khap Panchayat. The meeting was held among some responsible people of the village who unanimously arrived at the decision to issue guidelines because of sharp rise in the number of criminal incidences against women in the village,” Singh stated.

"We dont want misbehaviour with women on the streets which was a rountine thing here. The women were simply asked to be careful, and to move out with the men of the family in order to ward off any mishappening," Yudhvir explained.

Interestingly, some women from Asara village came out in open support of the "guidelines."

“When Congress President Sonia Gandhi, who is from Italy, can wear Indian traditional outfits then why we as Indians should not do the same. Girls must wear suit-salwar only”, said Reema (name changed on request) from Asara village.

“Provocative clothes should not be worn as they are the cause of rape many a time. Girls are raped because they go out wearing jeans practically inviting a rape. We are happy to shun our western outfits and mobile phones,” said Shama (name changed on request).

Beerpal Rathi, an activist fighting for farmers’ rights in Asara village, informed that the chief of the Panchayat does not take any interest in day-to-day affairs of the village. He lives in New Delhi and broadly manages things from there.

"Also police is not active in our area. When the entire village has happily accepted the precautionary measures or guideliness or what the Media is dubbing as diktats, why is the Central government reacting to it? The Media should also not unnecessarily flare up the matter," he advised.

Obama expresses investment fears in India

US President Barack Obama has indicated the need for India to implement reforms for job creations and to ward off stagnation in investment.

In an interview to PTI, Obama cited the concerns of the American business community to make his point.

"Many in the American business community have expressed concerns that the investment climate in India is unfavourable. They tell us it is still too hard to invest in India. In too many sectors, such as retail, India limits or prohibits the foreign investment that is necessary to create jobs in both our countries, and which is necessary for India to continue to grow," Obama said.

Lauding India's growth worldwide even in difficult times, he said, "Indian innovation is an engine of the global economy. And even with the recent challenges, the Indian economy continues to grow at an impressive rate. The Indian people have displayed a remarkable capacity to meet India's challenges.”

"There appears to be a growing consensus in India that the time may be right for another wave of economic reforms to make India more competitive in the global economy," he added.

Talking of the effect of global economic crisis on growth rate of India while pledging support to India in its implementation of difficult and necessary reforms, Obama said, "it is not the place of the United States to tell other nations, including India, how to chart its economic future. That is for Indians to decide."

Describing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as his "friend and partner" with whom he had worked closely, Obama said he valued the insights of the Indian leader at various international fora including the recent G20 meeting in Mexico.

At G20 summit, Obama had said that one of the best things the member countries could do to bring global economy back on growth path was to renew the focus on growth and job creation in their own countries.

"That's my priority in the US. Of course, one of the most effective ways we can create jobs is to continue expanding trade and investment, including between the US and India," he had said.

India reacts

Obama’s remarks about the investment scenario in India have united the political leadership of the country. The ruling Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government at the Centre and Opossition Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA), as also Left and regional parties, expressed strong displeasure at Obama's statement.

Minister of Corporate Affairs Veerappa Moily said Obama was ill informed of India's strong economic fundamentals.

Sensing a larger conspiracy, Moily said that “certain international lobbies are spreading these kind of words.”

Congress leader Harish Rawat said that “we cannot do things to impress another country or their economy, but we will take decisions to fulfil the needs of our own economy.”

Similarly, Opposition parties ridiculed Obama’s remarks and said the Government should not come under any pressure and refrain from relying on "prescription offered by others."

“They want to open up our economy and market on their terms. For this purpose, they are creating this pressure.... as it is, no one believes that under the present situation, there will be any sea change in the investment scenario world over,” Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Nilotpal Basu reacted.

BJP described Obama’s remarks as “laughable” and said “that country is giving us a certificate on investment and economy when it itself is facing economic problems. We have to ensure our national interests on our own. It is laughable.”

BJP and the Left have opposed Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), especially in retail citing interests of the small trader.

“If Obama wants FDI in retail and India does not want, then it won’t happen just because he is demanding it,” former finance minister and veteran BJP leader Yashwant Sinha said.

“The US only wants its market to expand in our country,” Samajwadi Party (SP) leader Shahid Siddiqui said.

ARF discusses claims over S China Sea

One of the biggest problems India faces today relates to China’s claim of "undisputed sovereignty" over South China Sea due to which New Delhi had to withdraw its exploration projects in Vietnamese oil blocks this year. Besides China, countries such as Philippines, Taiwan, Brunei, Vietnam and Malaysia also claim parts of the sea.

Amid tensions between China and Association of South East Asian Nations over South China Sea, India Thursday said that it supports access to resources in region in accordance with principles of international law, and asked all nations to respect these principles.

External Affairs Minister S M Krishna acknowledged engagement of concerned parties in discussion to address the issue and hoped that progress will be made with respect to implementation of Guidelines to the 2002 Declaration of Conduct on the South China Sea.

Krishna held that the security and economic prosperity of nations is vitally linked to safety and security of sea lanes of communication. He also emphasized the need for states to work together to address common threats to maritime security.

“The menace of piracy has been expanding its reach and it should be addressed firmly through cooperative action,” said Krishna at the Ministerial Meeting of the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) in Phnom Penh.

”We have been following developments in respect to the South China Sea. As we had stated earlier, India supports freedom of navigation and access to resources in accordance with principles of international law. These principles should be respected by all. We have noted that the parties concerned are engaged in discussions to address the issue, and we hope that progress will be made with respect to implementation of Guidelines to the 2002 Declaration of Conduct on the South China Sea,” he added.

Pakistan rejects State involvement in 26/11 attack

Pakistan Today bluntly rejected any state agency involvement in terror attack on Mumbai on November 26, 2008 that killed 166 people.

While interacting with media, Pakistan Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani said Pakistan “strongly rejects insinuation of involvement of state agency” in Mumbai terror attack, if there are any gaps, they will mutually try to fill them.

He also said that blaming each other on the issue of terrorism will lead to no result. While offering joint investigation in the matter, Jilani said, “Whatever evidence India has should be shared with us and we will investigate.” 

He also rejected revelation by Zabiuddin Ansari alias Abu Jundal as a setback to trade cooperation between India and Pakistan. He said both countries are victims of terrorism and they need to intensify cooperation in order to combat that.

Indian Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai said that the arrest of Jundal has added a "new urgency" to getting quick information from Pakistan on the masterminds of 26/11.

"Bringing the guilty to justice in the Mumbai attacks would be the biggest confidence-building measure," Mr Mathai added.
Abu Jundal's Pakistani passport and his ID are clear cut evidence of state sponsorship though Pakistan denies having issued any Pakistani passport to Jundal.

Jundal's passport states Muridke, which is also the headquarters Lashkar-e-Taiba and its front organization, the Jamaat-ud-Dawa, as his place of residence.

Last week, after the arrest of Abu Jundal, Home Minister P Chidambaram accused Pakistan of helping terrorist in carrying out attack on Mumbai. Pakistan Interior minister Rehman Malik reacted sharply saying Jundal was an Indian and India's own Taliban was to blame.

Jundal in his confession told Indian investigators that he, along with LeT founder Hafiz Saeed, under the supervision of Pakistan’s military intelligence agency ISI, was in the control room in Pakistan directing the terrorists in Mumbai during the 26/11 attack.

Menon visits Sri Lanka

National Security Adviser Mr Shivshankar Menon Yesterday visited Sri Lanka to discuss recent developments, bilateral relations and areas of common concern with the Government of Sri Lanka.

In Sri Lanka Menon met President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Foreign Minister G.L. Peiris, Minister of Economic Development Basil Rajapaksa, Defence Secretary Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa, and TNA leader Mr. Sampanthan. 

During his visit, both sides reviewed and appreciated progress in India-assisted projects particularly railway infrastructure development in the Northern and Southern Provinces.In the past two years, India had committed US$ 750 million under lines of credit and another US$ 350 million under grants-in-aid. A number of other new projects are also being considered. 
They discussed maritime cooperation and other security related issues besides the fishermen’s issue and understood the need to adhere to practical arrangements of October 2008 until new mechanism was agreed upon.
Menon was briefed about steps Government of Sri Lanka has taken on political reconciliation and settlement. Menon underlined that although it was a Sri Lankan issue and something that Sri Lanka had to do, India would continue to remain engaged with all concerned and offer any support required in that regard. 
 He also said that India had always stood for a united Sri Lanka within which all citizens could live in equality, justice, dignity and self-respect.
While addressing media, Menon said, “We have worked closely with the Government of Sri Lanka on relief, rehabilitation and resettlement of IDPs. India’s assistance was appreciated by the Sri Lankan leadership in all my meetings. We remain committed to continue our cooperation.”

Highlighting the close relationship with Sri Lanka Menon said, “we enjoy a multifaceted and dynamic relationship (with Sri Lanka). We look forward to strengthening and further developing this engagement.”

Indo-Pak Foreign Secretaries to meet on July 4-5

Foreign Secretaries of India and Pakistan will now meet on July 4 and 5 in New Delhi to discuss peace and security including Confidence building measures (CBMs), Jammu and Kashmir, and promotion of friendly exchanges. They were earlier scheduled to meet on June 29-30. Peace and Security including CBMs, Jammu and Kashmir, and Promotion of friendly ties form three of eight subjects of Indo-Pak Composite Dialogue. Last dialogue covering these three subjects was held on June 23-24, 2011.

On Peace and Security front, the two sides agreed to recommend to their Foreign Secretaries to extend the validity of the “Agreement on Reducing the Risk from Accidents Relating to Nuclear Weapons” for another five years. Jammu and Kashmir issue achieved no breakthrough and on Promotion of friendly exchanges, the two sides discussed measures for promoting cooperation in various fields including facilitating visits to religious shrines, media exchanges, and holding of sports tournaments and cessation of hostile propaganda against each other.

Other five subjects which form Composite Dialogue are – Terrorism and Drug Trafficking, Economic and Commercial cooperation, Wular Barrage/Tulbul Navigation project, Sir Creek, and Siachen.
Different dialogues on Terrorism and Drug trafficking, Sir Creek, Siachen and Wular barrage have been held this year but again no major breakthrough.

Composite Dialogue between India and Pakistan was first started in 1998 at India’s initiative.
This first attempt at composite dialogue collapsed under the impact of the Kargil war in 1999.
Accusing Pakistan of involvement in terrorist attack on Indian Parliament in December 2001, India froze Dialogue with Pakistan. Tensions increased further at the instance of killings in Jammu and Kashmir resulting in a troop buildup by both sides in early 2002.

With a hope to abate cross-border terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan’s assurance not to allow its territory for terrorist activity, the Composite Dialogue was resumed in June 2004.
Pakistan had been repeatedly urged to ensure that its soil was not allowed to be used by militants to launch attacks on the people of the Kashmir valley and that camps of such extremists were dismantled.
Four Rounds of the Composite Dialogue were completed before it was once again suspended during its fifth round owing to terrorist attack on Mumbai on November 26, 2008.
Pakistan’s consistent pressure and India’s appreciation to the achievements and momentum that dialogue picked up between 2004 and 2007, lead to resumption of dialogue process in February 2011 in Thimphu
Interestingly, India doesn't term it as Composite Dialogue, Simply bilateral dialogue.

Following several secretary level meetings, Ministerial level meeting was held in July 2011 wherein External Affairs Minister SM Krishna and Foreign Minister of Pakistan Hina Rabbani Khar reviewed the progress in bilateral relations.

Owing to presidential elections on July 19 and commencement of parliament session on July 22 this year, Ministerial level meeting is postponed to August.

Addressing media on Tuesday, Ministry of External Affairs, Spokesperson Syed Akbarudding said,” when the date (previous) was being mentioned, there was no reference to an election for the President and with a specific date of polling on that date. Since that has become the date on which the polling for the President is involved, and the External Affairs Minister of India is part of the Electoral College for an important election in India, obviously we seek to reschedule these dates.” 

Who will be the next Finance Minister of India?

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee resigned today just ahead of filing his presidential nomination on June 28. 
His resignation comes at a time when the economy is in shambles and the administration is suffering from policy paralysis.
Pranab’s resignation raises two questions - one, as to who will replace him in the finance portfolio and two, who will be the next Leader of the House in Lok Sabha.
Being an economist and revolutionary ex-Finance Minister, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is the obvious first choice for the portfolio. Chief Economic Advisor to the Government Kaushik Basu is also of the opinion that the Prime Minister should keep the portfolio with him.
Although long away, it is believed that Singh would appoint more secretaries before he presents the next budget. However, the PM has consistently refused to comment on the issue so far.
Next possible candidate is Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram, however, with a number of controversies chasing him, it seems a little unlikely, though not fully ruled out.
Significantly, last week US Treasury Department announced postponement of Secretary Tim Geithner’s official visit to New Delhi for the crucial meeting of the US-India Economic and Financial Partnership forum, originally scheduled for June 27-28, on account of Mukherjee’s expected resignation as Finance Minister. The Treasury Department is expected to reschedule the meeting in the months ahead.
"Mukherjee has been an effective ally in the G-20 and a strong partner in deepening the economic relationship between the United States and India," the Department of Treasury said in a statement.
Mukherjee became Finance Minister in May 2009 after the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) coalition assumed power the second time. Earlier during the tenure of UPA-I, the veteran Congress leader held the portfolios of Defence and External Affairs.

Manmohan Singh congratulates new Pak PM

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Friday hailed appointment of Raja Pervez Ashraf as new Prime Minister of Pakistan.

In his congratulatory message to Pervez, Singh said, “I would like to extend to you my heartiest congratulations on your appointment as Prime Minister of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. On behalf of the people and Government of India and also on my own behalf, I convey to you our best wishes for success in your new assignment as well as for the peace, prosperity and well-being of the people of Pakistan under your leadership.”

Singh also expressed confidence that during his (Pervez’s) terms as PM, both countries would continue to make progress through bilateral dialogues on all issues and improve relation by strengthening cooperation in all areas that benefit both countries.

Singh expressed keen desire to work with Pervez Ashraf to further relations with Pakistan.

US exempts India from Iran sanctions

Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton Monday notified that Indiaalong with six other nations will get exemption from Iran sanctions. Six nations besides India to be exempted  are MalaysiaRepublic of Korea,South AfricaSri Lanka, and Turkey in return for significant reduction of crude oil purchase from Iran.

Clinton said in a statement, “I will report to the Congress that sanctions pursuant to Section 1245(d)(1) of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012 will not apply to their financial institutions for a potentially renewable period of 180 days.”
She acknowledged the sanctions were imposed to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon and to encourage Iran to comply with its international obligations. She added, “By reducing Iran’s oil sales, we are sending a decisive message to Iran’s leaders: until they take concrete actions to satisfy the concerns of the international community, they will continue to face increasing isolation and pressure.”

Clinton held that the United States remains committed to a dual-track policy that offers Iran the chance to engage seriously with the international community to resolve concerns over its (Iran’s) nuclear program through negotiations with the P5+1. Hillary commended Iran for its ability to address these concerns and urged its leaders to take concrete steps during the next round of talks in Moscow.

Under a law approved last year, the US starting on June 28 will penalize foreign financial institutions over transactions withIran's central ban.

In March, the US granted exceptions to Japan and 10 EU countries for significantly cutting purchases.

Acknowledging the US notification exempting Indian financial institutions from the application of the provisions of U.S. domestic law, Ministry of External affairs Spokesperson, Syed Akbaruddin said, "India and the United States have a growing strategic partnership. The India-US Strategic Dialogue on June 13 will once again demonstrate the strength of our relationship and the extraordinary breadth of our bilateral cooperation, based on our shared values and convergent interests."

External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna will have a restricted meeting with Secretary Clinton on June 13 before they chair the Plenary Session, which will have discussions on five themes:

• Strategic, Defence, Homeland Security, Counter-terrorism and Intelligence
• Economic, Energy, Climate
• S&T, Innovation and Health
• Higher Education and Empowerment
• Regional Strategies and linkages.

Nepal Prime Minister comes under fire

Fresh trouble mounted for Nepal Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai a day after he was reduced to a caretaker. A case is filed against him in the Supreme Court terming his move of assembly dissolution and announcement of assembly elections in Nov as unconstitutional. 

 He appears to have lost ground after Constituent Assembly dissolution. Thousands of students and youth have come out on streets in Kathmandu burning effigies of Bhattarai, demanding his removal towards formation of national consensus government.

 Nepal President Rama Baran Yadav Tuesday directed Bhattarai to serve as caretaker Prime Minister till the new government is formed

The President Statement, recommending all the political parties to move ahead through consensus in view of political crisis in the country, was issued after series of consultations he held with senior lawyer and members of Nepal Bar Association.

 Nepal's four major political parties met Sunday in an effort to build consensus on the constitution drafting before midnight deadline and ward off dissolution of the Constituent Assembly. Failing to promulgate the Constitution, the Constituent Assembly was dissolved, pushing the country into a fresh political crisis.

The Constituent Assembly was elected to a two-year term in 2008 to draft a new constitution but has not been able to finish the task within stipulated time. Its tenure has been extended four times. The Supreme Court two weeks back rejected a three-month extension proposed by the cabinet and asked political parties to complete it by May 27 deadline.

The four main parties’ attempt to resolve differences over whether the states proposed in the constitution should be determined on the basis of ethnicity proved to be a failure.

 Baburam Bhattarai Sunday morning called on President Ram Baran Yadav and briefed him about the latest political development. The President asked Bhattarai to finalize the constitution in order to avert the dissolution.

 Observing the political crisis in Nepal, Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson, Syed Akbaruddin said, "We are closely monitoring developments in Nepal. We note the new Constitution could not be promulgated within the extended term of the Constitution Assembly.”

 While responding to a media query on recent developments in Nepal, he said,"We have confidence in the democratic commitment and wisdom of the people of Nepal, which has led to considerable progress of the constitution making process."

 "We hope that the political parties of Nepal would continue to be guided by the spirit of consensus and peaceful dialogue in their efforts to transform Nepal into a stable, democratic and prosperous nation," he said, adding that India stands ready to assist, according to the wishes of the people of Nepal.

Manmohan invites Suu Kyi to India

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today invited Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi to India.

Discussion between the two lasted for 45 minutes on the last day of his visit to Myanmar.

 ”I sincerely hope that she will find it possible to visit India soon. In this context I have handed over to her the invitation letter to deliver the next Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Lecture which is a very prestigious lecture. Mrs. Sonia Gandhi has written an invitation letter to Madam (Suu Kyi) to do us the honour to deliver this lecture in India. ” said Singh.

 Admiring her struggle and determination in inspiring millions of people, Singh held that he believed Suu Kyi would play a defining role in National Reconciliation launched by Myanmar President Thein Sein.

 "We in India are very proud of the very long-standing association with her (Suu Kyi) and the members of her family," Singh said.

 Myanmar democracy icon Suu Kyi in principle accepted the invitation and said,” I am very gratified by the invitation to deliver the Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Lecture, and I hope that I will be able to take up this invitation before too long. ”

 Nobel laureate Suu Kyi recalled close association she and her family had with Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru and other Indian leaders. “My parents were great admirers of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and other Indian leaders, but we were particularly close to Panditji as I was taught to call him from a very young age. “ said Suu Kyi.

 "India and Burma have been friends not only because of geographical proximity but also because of shared values, heritage and fight for independence," she said. Suu Kyi emphasized on the need of exchanges between the two peoples as this would form the basis of true friendship between countries.

Tomfoolery is indeed fun

Why do we watch sitcoms? For information? No. For education? Nope. For awareness? Certainly not. We become couch potatoes only for three reasons, testified by Vidya Balan, ENTERTAINMENT, ENTERTAINMENT AND ENTERTAINMENT. But of late certain TV shows are produced not for the purpose of entertaining the viewer but to defraud him. One such show is "Bollywood Dhamaal" aired everyday on E24 at 10 pm. Viewers are shown a picture of an actor from the Indian film industry and are asked to guess the name of the personality. This picture has some part of the face hidden or is a combination of two half faces. Zoom also has a similar show for the 11 pm daily slot. The picture is clear to the extent that even a seven-year-old kid can guess the name of the celebrity. Yesterday, while surfing through the entertainment channels, I decided to sit through this show for once. This time, they showed picture of Akshay Kumar with only his eyes hidden.

         The show went on and on but no one in India could guess it to be Akshay. As many as 20 people from all over the country called and came up names such as Amitabh Bachchan, Shahrukh Khan, Hrithik Roshan, Irfan Khan, Raghuvir Yadav etc. After the presenter gave a clue that the name of the actor begins with 'A', the answers that came were hilarious, starting with Aditya Pancholi, Aamir Khan, Ajay Devgan, Arjun Rampal, Aditya Chopra, Asif Sheikh etc.
Apparently, the calls were made from the studios of the show by the people of their own production team. If you call the number flashing on the screen, you are charged Rs. 12 per minute. You will not be connected immediately to the anchor but will be put on a long hold. While on hold, you would be asked questions such as whether you like a particular song or a movie or would like to listen to Bollywood gossip. While you are negotiating there, the producers are making the moolah at the rate of Rs 12 per minute.
But indeed the role of the anchor is commendable. She has no script in hand and no teleprompter. Dressed in flashy outfits, she goes on weaving meaningless sentences around the one-liner "Come on, pick up the phone and guess the celebrity." But she manages to say the same sentence in a thousand different ways.
At times, she goes silent and starts moving fingers through her hair or her itsy bitsy dress. It is also a delight to see her scratching her arms or rubbing her hands together or tapping her forehead in between bouts of silence. But mind you, not everyone can do this.
The prize money is Rs. 50,000 at the time the show starts but suddenly in the middle of the show, the amount is raised to Rs. one lac and towards the end of the show, it is further increased as per the whims and fancies of the producers. Most interestingly, just two to five minutes before this circum wraps up, the prize money is reduced to a ridiculous Rs. 4000. Just when half a minute is left, a caller (perhaps the producer himself) invariably manages to "supply" the right name and gets the prize of Rs 4000.
If you see someone making a guess of Sridevi over the picture of Anil Kapoor, wouldnt that be entertainment. For sure, it would be. Tomfoolery is indeed fun!

Dog: Man's best friend

Parties oppose petrol price hike

Indian state-run oil firms Wednesday announced the sharpest ever hike in petrol prices to offset growing losses caused by subsidized rates, rises in the international oil price and a sinking rupee. Petrol prices are hiked by Rs. 7.54. The increase is put at 6.28 rupees excluding local sales tax or VAT which will mean a 7.54-rupee hike for consumers in cities such as New Delhi from Thursday including taxes.

Yesterday's price (Rs)
Today's price (Rs)

Country's largest refiner, Indian Oil Corp, in a statement, said it was compelled to hike the price after sustaining losses of 10.5 billion rupees since the start of the current financial year.
"Given the losses being incurred, the company is compelled to increase the price of petrol by Rs.6.28 per litre (excluding VAT/Sales Tax) with effect from midnight," it said.
"This excludes losses already suffered till date during current financial year 2012-13, which would require an additional increase of around Rs.1.50 per litre in selling price of motor spirit (MS) for balance part of the year," Indian Oil Corp said. 
Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee upheld that the decision was taken by oil companies as petrol is a deregulated commodity
The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government deregulated petrol prices in 2010 in a reform aimed at reducing the massive subsidies it pays to state-run fuel refiners which rely on imported energy.

NDA to protest

Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) opposed the steep hike and called for a nation wide bandh on May 31.
NDA convenor and Janata Dal (United) President Sharad Yadav said that all the partners of the opposition alliance have been consulted in this regard and the alliance will urge other parties also to join in and support the bandh.
He enquired why the hike in petrol prices was not announced when Parliament was in session and why oil companies did so the very next day after the session got over.
"Government has washed his hands off the decision on price hike but in reality it happens only when the Government wants. The Government will also be increasing prices of diesel and LPG after the Presidential elections get over," Yadav said.
He accused the Government of its failure in checking prices of essential commodities.
"Common people are suffering due to wrong policies of the UPA Government. Prices of commodities are rising uncontrollably making it difficult for an average Indian to make both ends meet," he said.
This Government is pro-rich and not bothered about the poor, he charged.
 BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar described the hike in petrol price as “atrocious and unbelievable” and demanded immediate roll back.
He termed hike in fuel prices as the gift of UPA II government to common man on its 3rd anniversary.
"If the Rupee is depreciated, it is not the fault of the people. It is due to wrong economic policies followed by UPA government. It is the punishment to the people for wrongdoings of UPA," he said. 

Mamata against, but not to withdraw support 

West Bengal Chief Minister   Mamata  Banerjee  criticized the hike, calling it unjust and unilateral but simultaneously making it clear that her party would not withdraw support from UPA Government.
 "It is unjust and unilateral. We think it is an easy option to burden the people. We cannot accept the price hike burden on the people," Mamata told reporters. 
She outrageously questioned why the price was hiked just a day after Parliament session ended.
She clarified her party was not consulted. "We have not been consulted on the price hike nor on the prevailing economic situation in the country. Why was there no consultation?" she said.

 Jayalalitha slams Government 

AIADMK Supremo and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalitha slammed the Congress-led UPA government for hiking petrol price.
In her statement, she said, “It imposes an unbearable burden on the people, particularly the common people and the middle class is already reeling under the impact of high inflation. Is this the gift which UPA government wanted to give the people after completing three years in power?”

Karunanidhi demands roll back

 DMK president M Karunanidhi said his party was not consulted before decision was taken as it is not possible to discuss all the decision with alliance political leader and said he would urge the Centre for immediate roll back of this hike in petrol price.