Archive for ‘India alert’

29/05/2015

India Detains Pigeon Over Spying Fears – India Real Time – WSJ

Indian authorities detained a pigeon on Thursday on suspicion that it was dispatched from Pakistan to infiltrate the border.

The bird was found in Pathankot, a border town in the north Indian state of Punjab, with an address written in Urdu on its body.

Authorities in the town have scanned the pigeon and are trying to decipher other markings underneath its feathers, said Rakesh Kumar Kaushal, special superintendent of police in the town.

India and Pakistan share a long and disputed border. Officials in India said they had reasons to be suspicious about the bird.

“We are being cautious because this is a border area with military presence,” Mr. Kaushal said. “We have heard that pigeons with cameras on them fly and get an aerial view and no can tell from the ground.”

The white-feathered, gray-flecked pigeon landed on the roof of Ramesh Chand’s house on Wednesday evening. Mr. Chand, a barber, wanted to keep the bird as a pet so he started clipping the feathers on its wings to ensure it wouldn’t fly away, according to Mr. Kaushal.

“That is when he noticed some inscriptions under the left wing and tail,” and brought it in, Mr. Kaushal said.

Mr. Chand could not immediately be reached for comment.

A one-lined stamp on the wing appeared to name an address in the Pakistani city of Shakar Garh, which lies 12 miles west of Mr. Chand’s house in India, where the bird was found.

A “series of numbers” are printed alongside the address but they are not phone numbers, according to Mr. Kaushal.

The markings ruffled feathers. “That is when we talked to different agencies and officers,” he said. “They have come and seen the bird.”

The alleged avian interloper was also sent to two veterinarians to have its cavities inspected. It was also scanned and x-rayed to see if it had been used to transport surveillance devices across the border.

“We found no camera, no chips, no SIM cards,” he said.

Amit Kumar Mittal, the deputy inspector general of police in Pathankot said he suspected the bird was just a racing pigeon.

“So far there is no such case that shows it was a spy,” he said. The bird was being fed and cared for at a local police station in the area, he added.

Still, the numerical code on the bird’s wing along with an Urdu inscription on the tail is under investigation to rule out possibilities of espionage.

“If found to be a spy we will take action,” Mr. Kaushal said without elaborating. “If not, then we will make sure it has a good life.”

via India Detains Pigeon Over Spying Fears – India Real Time – WSJ.

29/05/2015

A Sneak-Peek Inside Gap’s First India Store – India Real Time – WSJ

Gap Inc. is going retro for its debut in India, wagering that its branded sweatshirts will be best-sellers thanks to their association with Bollywood.

“These will be the first to fly out from our store,” said Stefan Laban, senior vice president at Gap International, standing next to a wall of Gap-branded hoodies, shoulder bags and caps in the New Delhi outlet, which opens Saturday. “We’re especially going heavy on logos in India.”

A wall of Gap-branded sweatshirts gives the store a retro feel. Preetika Rana/The Wall Street Journal

The reason? Bollywood superstar Shahrukh Khan may have something to do with it. Fans of the actor went Gap-hoodie crazy when he sported the garment in 90s blockbuster, “Kuch Kuch Hota Hai.” The fact it wasn’t available in India added to the sweater’s cachet.

Oliver Kaye, who heads Gap’s business in India, says that hoodie wasn’t sponsored by Gap and credits the Indian actor for drumming up interest in the retailer two decades before it actually arrived here.

“India associates Gap with movie stars,” Mr. Kaye said. “There’s some amount of novelty attached to wearing a Gap shirt here.”

Another popular Indian actor, Kangana Raunat, wore a round neck Gap-emblazoned shirt in “Tanu Weds Manu Returns,” a romantic-comedy released earlier this month, further positioning the brand as aspirational for Indians. Ms. Raunat is expected to be the chief guest at the store’s opening this weekend. Gap says they didn’t pay her to promote the brand either.

Mr. Khan playing a college student in “Kuch Kuch Hota Hai.” Dharma Productions

Best known for its khaki pants and arsenal of denim jeans, the American retailer is playing up its colored pieces and bling for the Indian market. The company has been criticized elsewhere for a monochrome palette and is lagging behind fast-fashion players such as teen retailer Forever21 Inc. and Inditex Group Inc.’s Zara.

“Indians love color,” said Mr. Kaye,  pointing to a rack of shorts available in shades from fuchsia to aqua to florals. The designs were selected after hundreds of consumer interviews in India. Gap’s merchandise in India is priced between 799 rupees ($12) to 5,999 rupees ($94.)  That’s more or less in line with how it prices its garment in its home market in the U.S.

The company is focusing on color for the Indian market with saffron shirts…  Preetika Rana/The Wall Street Journal

…And fuchsia shorts. Preetika Rana/The Wall Street Journal

They’re also tuning up the bling with these sparkly tops.  Preetika Rana/The Wall Street Journal

The company has also identified a gap in the kids and babywear market in India. Nearly 40% of its store space is dedicated to its babyGap brand with everything from striped swimsuits for kids to hot pink sandals for toddlers.

“This space is extremely untapped,” Mr. Laban of Gap International said. “There’s really no competition in the Indian market when it comes to this segment.”

Gap is selling frocks and jumpsuits from its babyGap collection as it hopes to persuade parents to part with their cash. Preetika Rana/The Wall Street Journal

The company says it has spotted a gap in the children’s wear market in India.  Preetika Rana/The Wall Street Journal

Gap plans to open 40 stores in India in the next five years, with about five each in New Delhi and Mumbai. Arvind Lifestyle Brands, which brought Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein to the country and now holds Gap’s franchise rights, expects the business to generate revenues worth one billion rupees ($156 million) by 2020. But quality real estate could be a challenge.

“There are very few quality malls in India. That’s definitely something we’re looking into as we plough ahead,” Ismail Seyis, who heads Gap’s franchise division, said. Real-estate consultancy JLL estimates that 70% of India’s 308 malls are struggling with anemic sales and high vacancy rates.

Gap comes to India six years after Zara and a few months ahead of Hennes & Mauritz AB’s planned autumn debut.

via A Sneak-Peek Inside Gap’s First India Store – India Real Time – WSJ.

26/05/2015

The Top 10 Successes of Narendra Modi’s First Year – India Real Time – WSJ

Opinions differ on what Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has accomplished in his first year but most observers agree he has been busy since taking over last May.

Opinions differ on what Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has accomplished in his first year but most observers agree he has been busy since taking over last May.

He’s been relentless, offering constituents of world’s largest democracy a constant flow of policy speeches, international trips, colorful photo opportunities and ambitious new programs.

His charismatic style of governing has had mixed results.

While he has had some failures–including his party’s defeat in the Delhi elections and its inability to calm concerns within minority communities as outlined in this accompanying post about Mr. Modi’s misses—he has also had some impressive successes.

Here are 10 that stood out:

More Foreign Direct Investment: There was no big-bang busting India open to international competition and deregulation in Mr. Modi’s first year, but the prime minister has to get credit for allowing more FDI in the insurance, defense and other sectors.

Diesel Deregulation: This politically unpopular move was delayed for years but Mr. Modi just ripped the Band-Aid off and freed up diesel prices to move with the global market, potentially saving the government billions of dollars.

Global Diplomacy: Though he made little headway with India’s biggest rival–Pakistan–Mr. Modi’s globetrotting brought the country closer to most of its other neighbors and raised the nation’s profile around the world. Getting President Barack Obama to India for Republic Day was a brilliant public relations coup even if the U.S. President voiced concerns about how India treated its minorities while here.

GDP Growth: Some time during Mr. Modi’s reign, India overtook China as the fastest- growing large economy in the world. Although most of the jump in GDP came from a reworking of how the number is calculated, the revised figure produced a new point of pride for many.

Direct Subsidy Payments: Replacing leaky, expensive-to-administer and badly-targeted subsidies with direct payments to the poor is a more efficient way to help the country’s needy. Mr. Modi started direct payments for cooking gas in some places and is hoping to expand them to subsidize food and fertilizer purchases for the poorest.

Coal and Telecom Auctions: Coal mining rights and telecommunications bandwidth were at the center of the biggest scandals that helped to sink the Congress party in general elections in 2014. Mr. Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party did not shy away from putting them back on the block to help raise money for the government and kick-start growth in these crucial sectors.

Media Management: Prime Minister Modi starved the media of access at the same time as flooding the airwaves. Speeches broadcast on every news channel, a regular radio show, carefully curated photo opportunities in weird outfits and wonderful places and an unprecedented barrage ofsocial media messages through Facebook, Twitter and even Weibo in China have all been used to let the world know what Mr. Modi is doing and thinking.

Scandal Free: Of course it’s early in the game, but so far in his premiership, there has been no huge scandal to suggest that the latest people in power are more corrupt than the last batch.

This Outfit: When the prime minister greeted President Obama, wearing this dapper suit in January, he wrecked the Internet. Mr. Modi’s vanity pinstripes had the worldwide web buzzing for weeks after Mr. Obama left and then sold at auction for close to $700,000. The money went to charities that work to educate girls.

Mr. Modi hugs Barack Obama while wearing a pinstrip suit with his name in the stitching.

AFP/Getty

He’s been relentless, offering constituents of world’s largest democracy a constant flow of policy speeches, international trips, colorful photo opportunities and ambitious new programs.

His charismatic style of governing has had mixed results.

While he has had some failures–including his party’s defeat in the Delhi elections and its inability to calm concerns within minority communities as outlined in this accompanying post about Mr. Modi’s misses—he has also had some impressive successes.

Here are 10 that stood out:

More Foreign Direct Investment: There was no big-bang busting India open to international competition and deregulation in Mr. Modi’s first year, but the prime minister has to get credit for allowing more FDI in the insurance, defense and other sectors.

Diesel Deregulation: This politically unpopular move was delayed for years but Mr. Modi just ripped the Band-Aid off and freed up diesel prices to move with the global market, potentially saving the government billions of dollars.

Global Diplomacy: Though he made little headway with India’s biggest rival–Pakistan–Mr. Modi’s globetrotting brought the country closer to most of its other neighbors and raised the nation’s profile around the world. Getting President Barack Obama to India for Republic Day was a brilliant public relations coup even if the U.S. President voiced concerns about how India treated its minorities while here.

GDP Growth: Some time during Mr. Modi’s reign, India overtook China as the fastest- growing large economy in the world. Although most of the jump in GDP came from a reworking of how the number is calculated, the revised figure produced a new point of pride for many.

Direct Subsidy Payments: Replacing leaky, expensive-to-administer and badly-targeted subsidies with direct payments to the poor is a more efficient way to help the country’s needy. Mr. Modi started direct payments for cooking gas in some places and is hoping to expand them to subsidize food and fertilizer purchases for the poorest.

Coal and Telecom Auctions: Coal mining rights and telecommunications bandwidth were at the center of the biggest scandals that helped to sink the Congress party in general elections in 2014. Mr. Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party did not shy away from putting them back on the block to help raise money for the government and kick-start growth in these crucial sectors.

Media Management: Prime Minister Modi starved the media of access at the same time as flooding the airwaves. Speeches broadcast on every news channel, a regular radio show, carefully curated photo opportunities in weird outfits and wonderful places and an unprecedented barrage of social media messages through Facebook, Twitter and even Weibo in China have all been used to let the world know what Mr. Modi is doing and thinking.

Scandal Free: Of course it’s early in the game, but so far in his premiership, there has been no huge scandal to suggest that the latest people in power are more corrupt than the last batch.

This Outfit: When the prime minister greeted President Obama, wearing this dapper suit in January, he wrecked the Internet. Mr. Modi’s vanity pinstripes had the worldwide web buzzing for weeks after Mr. Obama left and then sold at auction for close to $700,000. The money went to charities that work to educate girls.

Mr. Modi hugs Barack Obama while wearing a pinstrip suit with his name in the stitching. AFP/Getty

This Solo: Mr. Modi needed only a few minutes watching a Taiko drum performance during his visit to Japan before he grabbed the sticks and proved he could bash it out with the best of them.

via The Top 10 Successes of Narendra Modi’s First Year – India Real Time – WSJ.

26/05/2015

The Top 10 Misses of Narendra Modi’s First Year – India Real Time – WSJ

While Prime Minister Narendra Modi has had some major wins—including opening new sectors up to more foreign investment and raising India’s global profile as outlined in this accompanying post about Mr. Modi’s triumphs—he has also had some surprising losses.

Here are 10 that stood out:

Delhi Defeat: Mr. Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party made big bets on the Delhi elections in February and lost almost every seat to the upstart Aam Aadmi Party. The small but high-profile local poll proved that the BJP was not invincible. Sambit Patra, a spokesman for the party admitted that the BJP had misread Delhi voters and has learned from its mistakes.

The War on Tax Terrorism: Mr. Modi came to power promising to stop the tax harassment of corporations. The decisions not to appeal tax cases against Vodafone Group PLC and Royal Dutch Shell PLC were a step in the right direction. Some foreign investors though were then slapped with huge surprise back tax bills making everyone question whether anything has changed. India’s ruling party has said it is working hard to clarify tax laws but it cannot erase cases that had been brought before they came to power.

Minority Concerns: While there has not been anything close to nationwide backlash against minority groups that many had feared, critics say the prime minister has not yet gone far enough to calm the concerns of minority communities. Some worry that people within the BJP and others with Hindu-nationalist leanings seem emboldened by the rise of Mr. Modi’s party, making them more likely to speak out and act out against Muslims, Christians and other non-Hindu communities. Mr. Modi has strongly condemned intolerance and reprimanded BJP members for controversial comments. The party says it represents all Indians and it cannot be responsible for every fringe group that makes trouble. “No one should be scared of anybody, the government supports every community,” said the BJP’s Mr. Patra.

No Big Bang: Two budgets down and still no sign of the big bang economic reforms optimists had expected from Mr. Modi. The changes he has promoted have been more incremental while attempts at some unpopular changes have been blocked in Parliament. He’s unveiled many promising campaigns to do everything from building more toilets and “smart cities” to promoting manufacturing and yoga. However, it’s too early to decide whether his campaigns represent a revolution in thinking or just rhetoric. The BJP spokesman said the party will continue to push for reform.

Paltry Profits: GDP growth has accelerated and inflation has plunged under Mr. Modi, but the Modi magic is not trickling down to the bottom line. For the fiscal year ended Mar. 31, many of India’s largest companies are expected to announce their weakest profit growth in more than five years.

Visa Glitches: On his many trips abroad, Prime Minister Modi expanded the number of countries eligible for so-called visa-on-arrival privileges. Travelers said the new visas ended up causing a lot of confusion forcing the government to rename them, more accurately, e-visas. There was a similar muddle about new rules combining the PIO and OCI visas held by people of Indian origin around the world. The change, which was meant to make it easier for people with Indian heritage to stay in India, ended up causing some angst about whether their right to remain was about to run out.

WTO Battle: One of Mr. Modi’s government’s first global moves was to reject a World Trade Organization agreement set in Bali. India had agreed to abide by the agreement before the BJP came to power but changed its mind, saying it needed more protection for its farmers. With few other countries backing its position, India eventually backed down. The Bali deal, which will simplify customs procedures world-wide, is now moving ahead; both India and the countries that pressured it to accept the agreement claim not to have blinked.

Crackdown: While Mr. Modi has been in charge, India has restricted funding of non-government organizations, including Greenpeace. It blocked the broadcasting of a BBC documentary about the 2012 gang rape of a woman on a Delhi bus. New Delhi also stopped Al-Jazeera from broadcasting in India for five days for mislabeling India’s disputed border with Pakistan.

Government officials said the government was not trying to silence critics. In the case of the non-government organization funding, officials said they were just enforcing foreign exchange laws. A court said the ban on the BBC documentary was to avoid law and order problems. Meanwhile the Al-Jazeera blackout was punishment for showing maps with “parts of Indian territory inside Pakistan,” an official of India’s Information and Broadcasting Ministry said at the time.

This Outfit: When the prime minister greeted U.S. President Barack Obama wearing this dapper suit in January, many applauded his bold choice of subliminal advertising; others called it an embarrassing display of gauche narcissism.

Mr. Modi hugs President Barack Obama while wearing a pinstripe suit with his name in the stitching. AFP/Getty

This Solo: As with most of his international trips, Mr. Modi was not shy about putting on the local attire during a recent visit to Mongolia. He should have considered ending his tryst with Mongolian culture at that though as his attempt at playing an instrument called the Yoochin—for more than two minutes—was painful to watch.

via The Top 10 Misses of Narendra Modi’s First Year – India Real Time – WSJ.

21/05/2015

Watch Indian Fighter Jet Land on Highway to Taj Mahal – India Real Time – WSJ

The Indian Air Force on Thursday landed a fighter jet on an expressway for the first time to showcase its ability to use national highways as runways in case of conflict.

The Mirage-2000 jet landed on a cordoned-off stretch of the Yamuna Expressway that leads to Agra, the home of the Taj Mahal.

Test landing of a Mirage 2000 fighter jet of the Indian Air force on the Yamuna Expressway near Delhi on Wednesday. India’s Ministry of Defence

The single-engine, single-seater combat plane is produced by Dassault Aviation SA of France. It can reach a top speed of 2,495 kilometers, or 1,550 miles an hour.

The jet took off from an undisclosed air base in central India. Facilities such as a makeshift air traffic control center, safety services, rescue vehicles, bird clearance parties were set up in coordination with local agencies for its landing.

The air force has “plans to activate more such stretches on highways in the future,” the Ministry of Defence said in a statement.

The Mirage-2000 strike aircraft is a critical part of India’s fighter jet fleet. Its flying qualities and maneuverability came into prominence during the bombing of Pakistani positions in the Himalayas during the Kargil war in 1999.

India’s air force fleet however comprises mainly Russian-origin aircraft such as the Sukhoi and MiG planes.

via Watch Indian Fighter Jet Land on Highway to Taj Mahal – India Real Time – WSJ.

20/05/2015

Renault Unveils Its Cheapest New Car in India, the Kwid – India Real Time – WSJ

Renault S.A. unveiled on Wednesday an affordable small car in India as it seeks to expand its foothold in this growing automobile market.

Named Kwid, the car would have a 0.8 liter gasoline engine and go on sale during the festival season that starts around September, Carlos Ghosn, Renault’s chief executive, said after its unveiling. It would be priced between 300,000 rupees ($4,710) and 400,000 rupees ($6,280).

“The Kwid will be a big contributor to Renault’s growth in India followed by emerging markets and other parts of the world,” Mr. Ghosn said. The company is aiming to increase its market share in India to 5% from the current 1.5%, he added, without elaborating by when it hopes to do so.

via Renault Unveils Its Cheapest New Car in India, the Kwid – India Real Time – WSJ.

19/05/2015

Tata Motors’ New Nano Automatic Costs 269,000 Rupees – India Real Time – WSJ

Tata Motors Ltd. launched the first automatic transmission model of its Nano on Tuesday along with new features aimed at turning around falling sales of the micro vehicle, which made its name with a minuscule price.

The new version costs 269,000 rupees ($4,236) and 289,000 rupees at dealerships in New Delhi for the two variants on offer, the company said.

Tata Motors has revamped some of the exteriors and interiors of the Nano with features such as a Bluetooth-connected music system, fog lamps and a trunk,  which, for the first time on a Nano, can be opened.

The Mumbai-based auto maker has included these additions on three other new models in the Nano range. Prices start at 199,000 rupees for the base model with manual transmission.

Only around 1% of the cars sold in India have automatic transmissions, but car makers increasingly are putting them in cheaper models, betting that more Indians want to buy cars that are easier to drive.

Tata Motors—owner of Jaguar Land Rover Automotive PLC—marketed the Nano as the world’s cheapest car when it was introduced in 2009. But sales have failed to meet expectations, in part because the pitch back fired: Indian consumers were reluctant to be associated with a car considered cheap. Some incidents of earlier versions of the Nano catching fire also drew skepticism from some buyers.

Sales of the Nano fell 20% in the fiscal year ended March 31 to 16,901 vehicles, according to industry data.

All models of the Nano are powered with a 624-cubic-centimeter two-cylinder gasoline engine delivering 38 horsepower.

via Tata Motors’ New Nano Automatic Costs 269,000 Rupees – India Real Time – WSJ.

18/05/2015

Narendra Modi arrives in South Korea on final leg of tri-nation tour – The Hindu

Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived in Seoul on Monday on the last leg of his three-nation visit during which he will hold talks with the South Korean leadership aiming to give a fillip to economic and trade cooperation.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Seoul National Cemetery. Photo: PIB

A slew of agreements are expected to be signed during the visit including one on Double Taxation Avoidance Convention, cooperation in shipping and logistics, audiovisual co-production, transport, highways and electric power development in new energy industries.

The Prime Minister, who flew in from Mongolia after his three-day visit to China, will hold talks on the entire gamut of bilateral, regional and global issues with President Park Geun-hye and explore ways to upgrade cooperation in diversified areas.

He will have a hectic schedule that will start with a wreath—laying ceremony at the Seoul National Cemetery.

Mr. Modi will address a community reception where about 1,500 members of the Indian community are expected to attend before getting into talks with the Korean President.

Mr. Modi, who is keen to woo Korean investments in India, will address India—Republic of Korea CEOs Forum, which would also be attended by the Korean President.

The Prime Minister will follow this up with meetings with some of the heads of Korean companies that are willing to invest in India or have already invested in India.

He will also visit the Hyundai Heavy Industries shipyard in the backdrop of shipbuilding emerging as an important area of cooperation between the two countries.

via Narendra Modi arrives in South Korea on final leg of tri-nation tour – The Hindu.

18/05/2015

How the Family Got in the Way of an Outright Ban on Child Labor in India – India Real Time – WSJ

The government approved a set of amendments to India’s child labor law last week to allow children under 14 years of age to work in non-hazardous family enterprises, some entertainment industries and sport so long as they work after school or during vacations.

Though it drew the line at allowing children to work in the circus, the cabinet decision also drew a lot of criticism from child rights activists because it rowed back on a plan to outlaw all child labor for those below age 14.

The Bharatiya Janata Party–led cabinet said that a total ban–as proposed in the Child Labor Amendment Bill 2012 — had to be balanced against the need to maintain the country’s social fabric and bearing in mind the socio-economic conditions.

“In a large number of families, children help their parents in their occupations like agriculture, artisanship etc. and while helping the parents, children also learn the basics of occupations,” the government said.

Some of the amendments were welcomed by child rights campaigners. For instance, under the changes, anyone aged 14 to 18 would be protected by law from hazardous occupations and punishments for employing children illegally would be strengthened.

A fund to help support children rescued from illegal child labor also fell into the proposed amendments.

via How the Family Got in the Way of an Outright Ban on Child Labor in India – India Real Time – WSJ.

18/05/2015

India beats own target to contain fiscal and revenue deficits | Reuters

The government said on Sunday it managed to better its target for containing the fiscal and revenue deficits in the last financial year.

A money lender counts rupee currency notes at his shop in Ahmedabad, May 6, 2015. REUTERS/Amit Dave/Files

The fiscal target was 4 percent of gross domestic product for the year ending March 31, compared with a goal of 4.1 percent, the government said in a statement. The revenue target was 2.8 percent, compared with the aim of 2.9 percent.

Over the past year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has taken a slew of measures to stabilize the economy and attract investment. But while inflation has cooled, in large measure due to the dramatic fall in global oil prices, recovery in India’s domestic demand-driven economy remains sluggish.

via India beats own target to contain fiscal and revenue deficits | Reuters.

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