22/08/2014

India’s Government Blocks Release of Film About Sikh Assassins Who Killed Prime Minister Indira Gandhi – India Real Time – WSJ

India’s government has blocked the release of a film about the Sikh assassins who killed the late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1984, saying it could pose a threat to law and order.

Theaters across northern India and select cities elsewhere were set to start showing the Punjabi-language movie, “Kaum De Heere,” which translates as “Diamonds of the Community,” on Friday.

The film tracks the transformation of Mrs. Gandhi’s killers – anointed as martyrs last year by Sikh religious authorities — from dependable bodyguards to assassins.

Mrs. Gandhi’s death sparked large-scale anti-Sikh riots, one of the worst episodes of communal violence in Indian history. Around 7,000 people, mostly Sikhs, are believed to have died in the rioting.

Leela Samson, chairwoman of India’s Central Board of Film Certification, said the movie “rakes up very old and strong sentiments” and sends a “wrong message to the youth that a particular ideology comes above the nation’s interests and that taking the law into your hands is permissible.”

She said that after officials from the Home Ministry, Information and Broadcasting Ministry and film review board watched the film Thursday, film regulators decided to withdraw their earlier approval for it to be shown in theaters.

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal Thursday, the film’s producer, Satish Katyal, said the film was about the lives of the two assassins and the difficulties faced by their families.

“Nobody has been shown as being good or bad. There are no biases,” he said.

Mr. Katyal said it was unfair for the film board to reverse course just hours before the film’s release. If the government had any objections, he said, there was “ample opportunity to raise them before.”

The film opens with the assassination of Mrs. Gandhi, the daughter of independent India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru. Mrs. Gandhi, like her father, led the Congress party.

While she was premier, Indian security forces attacked alleged Sikh militants inside the Golden Temple, Sikhism’s holiest site, in a raid dubbed Operation Blue Star. Hundreds of people were killed.

Soon after, Mrs. Gandhi was killed by two Sikh bodyguards, touching off a spasm of religious violence. Senior Congress politicians have faced trials, some of which are ongoing, for inciting mobs and fueling the conflict.

“There will never be any justification for the attack on the sanctity of Sikhs and the targeting of an entire community,” said Avtar Singh, head of the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee, Sikhism’s highest authority.

The party has attempted to reconcile with the Sikh community. Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, himself a Sikh, apologized for the riots when he came to power.

via India’s Government Blocks Release of Film About Sikh Assassins Who Killed Prime Minister Indira Gandhi – India Real Time – WSJ.

22/08/2014

India to Unveil First Warship to Deter Chinese Submarines – Businessweek

India will unveil its first home-built anti-submarine warship tomorrow in a move to deter China from conducting underwater patrols near its shores.

CHINA-MILITARY-NAVY-ANNIVER

Defense Minister Arun Jaitley will commission the 3,300-ton INS Kamorta at the southeastern Vishakapatnam port. The move comes a week after Prime Minister Narendra Modi introduced the largest indigenously built guided-missile destroyer and vowed to bolster the country’s defenses so “no one dares to cast an evil glance at India.”

India is playing catch-up to China, which built 20 such warships in the past two years and sent a nuclear submarine to the Indian Ocean in December for a two-month anti-piracy patrol. The waters are home to shipping lanes carrying about 80 percent of the world’s seaborne oil, mostly headed to China and Japan.

“As China grows into a naval, maritime power, it will be more and more active in the Indian Ocean,” Taylor Fravel, a professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology who studies China’s ties with its neighbors, said by phone. “Of course, it will not be due to some hostility or targeted at India, but because of its economic interests in the Indian Ocean, as a lot of trade passes through. Such a presence will certainly raise questions in India, but it need not necessarily be a cause of major conflict.”

Warship Plans

India has lacked anti-submarine corvettes in its 135-warship fleet for more than a decade now, with the decommissioning of the last of the 10-ship Petya-class of 1960s-vintage Soviet corvettes in December 2003. It plans to build 42 more warships, including three more anti-submarine corvettes, over the next decade, according to Rear Admiral A.B. Singh, an Indian navy official.

About 90 percent of Kamorta’s components are local, with the hull developed by Steel Authority of India Ltd., medium-range guns by Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd. (BHEL) and torpedo launchers by Larsen & Toubro Ltd, India’s largest engineering company. The ship is two years behind schedule, according to Commodore B.B. Nagpal, the navy’s principal director for naval design.

via India to Unveil First Warship to Deter Chinese Submarines – Businessweek.

21/08/2014

Cognac Makers Are Feeling the Hangover from China’s Corruption Crackdown – China Real Time Report – WSJ

Worldwide sales of cognac dipped in 2013 after several years of heady increases, according to new industry data. The culprit? China’s ongoing battle on corruption.

The Bureau National Interprofessionnel du Cognac (BNIC), the main industry group for the fortified wine from southwestern France, said earlier this week that sales of the drink slipped 6.7% by volume and 10.2% by value during the 12-month period ending July 2014. Exports to the Far East region, which includes Southeast Asia, China and Japan, fell by about one-fifth in the past year in both volume and value, the BNIC reported.

The industry group said the loss in the Far East region was directly related to a slowdown in the Chinese market, which was a large consumer of the more expensive bottles of the famed French eau de vie. China’s ongoing crackdown on corruption and excessive spending by government officials and state-owned company employees has cribbed spending on lavish entertaining – one reason some economists are predicting as much as a 1.5% dip in GDP growth this year.

The weak sales results are a stark contrast from two years ago, when China was the promised land for cognac makers. Sales hit a record high in 2012 in China when the country was knocking back the special brandy, clinking glasses at banquets and karaoke bars alike. Regarded as a status drink, many Chinese imbibers often sprung for the most expensive bottles and exchanged them as gifts. The world’s most expensive bottle was auctioned in Shanghai in 2011.

But the party has crashed. Owners of major cognac brands, such as Remy Cointreau SARCO.FR -0.74% (which owns Remy Martin cognac), reported a sobering 30% decline in sales during the last quarter of 2013.

Cognac is hardly the lone liquor getting caught in the corruption crackdown. Sales of baijiu, China’s notoriously fiery grain alcohol, and whisky are down, too.

China’s largest wine importer, ASC Fine Wines, said its sales stalled in 2013 as the anti-graft campaign drastically reduced sales of the most expensive bottles. Earlier this week, the company told the Journal it has since slashed the average price of its wines by 32% in a bid “to stimulate more demand for these wines through more attractive pricing.”

The Chinese are still drinking, they insist, just not splurging.

via Cognac Makers Are Feeling the Hangover from China’s Corruption Crackdown – China Real Time Report – WSJ.

21/08/2014

Bosses at China’s state-owned enterprises face pay cuts of up to 50pc | South China Morning Post

Officials in charge of China’s state-owned enterprises face pay cuts of up to 50 per cent and new job descriptions under a reform plan approved by President Xi Jinping.

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Xi said at a meeting on Monday that China needed to speed up reform targeting the salaries of top executives at SOEs. He also approved a seven-year overhaul of their management structure.

Sources say the reform plan involves two steps.

The first is to cut the salaries of top executives at major SOEs, particularly those in finance and banking. Some may have to take a 50 per cent pay cut.

The second step is to gradually change their job responsibilities. The government-appointed officials will probably join the board of directors. The day-to-day operations will be handled by senior managers recruited from outside, with salaries in line with international standards.

The new model will be similar to that of the MTR Corporation in Hong Kong. As the major shareholder, the Hong Kong government appoints three representatives to the board of directors to ensure the firm follows its policy direction. The day-to-day operations, however, are run by top managers hired through an open recruitment process.

The reform is to address public discontent over the ambiguous status of top SOE managers, particularly those in charge of the so-called central enterprises directly under the State Council. Most of these top executives carry a vice-ministerial or ministerial-level ranking that comes with perks and privileges. At the same time, they are paid like top Western business executives and earn many times more than their fellow officials.

There has been criticism that the high salaries are unwarranted because many SOEs operate as monopolies or near-monopolies.

An executive of an energy industry SOE said the head of a central enterprise in his field could make one million yuan (HK$1.26 million) a year. Those working for banking and finance central enterprises could earn more.

Jiang Jianqing, the chairman of the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, was paid nearly two million yuan in 2013. In comparison, the annual salary of some ministry-level party cadres is about 200,000 yuan. Yet some top executives point to their counterparts in the West and complain their incomes are too low.

via Bosses at China’s state-owned enterprises face pay cuts of up to 50pc | South China Morning Post.

20/08/2014

Wounded Congress desperately seeking alliances for upcoming assembly elections

The Congress party is losing legislators but is keen to show it remains a political force as polls approach in Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Haryana and Kashmir.

Still reeling from its decimation in the Lok Sabha elections, the Congress now has to contend with legislators in several states quitting the party to join the Bharatiya Janata Party. There are rumours that even veteran Delhi Congress leader Dr AK Walia is in talks to join the BJP.

What makes the situation worse is that members of legislative assemblies from regional parties are also joining the BJP, making it hard for the Congress to compete.

The party is now desperately looking to form alliances with regional parties and even independent MLAs to save face in the upcoming state elections in Maharashtra, Haryana, Jharkhand and Jammu and Kashmir.

Jharkhand

With the Jharkhand Vikas Morcha deciding to merge with the BJP, it is becoming increasingly difficult for the Congress to establish any sort of stronghold in the state. The party’s general secretary in the state, BK Hariprasad, says it is looking to put together an alliance with the Rashtriya Janata Dal, with which it has already reached an agreement in Bihar. The party is also working on a tie-up with Janata Dal (United), which split with the BJP before the general elections.

The party already has an alliance with the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha. However, the district presidents in the region are not keen to continue with it, following the JMM’s demand that it be allocated 25-30 of the 81 seats in state polls due at the end of the year.

“The party has a stronghold in the state and it will perform much better if we contest on our own instead of seat sharing,” a district president of the Congress said. “The leadership should not concede to the demands of the regional alliances and deprive our own people of a chance to contest the polls.”

via Scroll.in – News. Politics. Culture..

20/08/2014

Why decades of India-Pakistan negotiations have not resulted in any real progress

It’s simple. Pakistan wants something India has, but can offer nothing in return that India desires.

It took less than three months for the candle of hope lit by Narendra Modi and Nawaz Sharif at the Indian prime minister’s inaugural ceremony in Delhi to be extinguished. India has cancelled foreign secretary-level talks scheduled to be held in Islamabad next week because Abdul Basit, the Pakistani High Commissioner, met a few separatist leaders. It’s not as if Basit did anything illegal or novel. Kashmir being the apple of discord between India and Pakistan, it is natural for Pakistan’s envoy to consult with secessionist Kashmiris before an important round of bilateral discussions. It has been done many times before. On this occasion, though, the Modi government threw a hissy fit, which is being spun by pliant commentators as a “tough approach”.

The extinguishing of hope was predictable, and followed directly from the mistake of inviting Nawaz Sharif to Delhi. The two prime ministers should have met only when they had something serious to decide upon, after the spadework for an agreement, however minor, had been completed. The euphoria of the inauguration handshake created expectations difficult to fulfill, considering the deeply entrenched and entirely incompatible views of the opposing sides.

The fact that Narendra Modi is no Atal Behari Vajpayee turned Mission Difficult into Mission Impossible. Vajpayee was committed to a legacy-defining vision of securing lasting peace with Pakistan. There was a tiny possibility that he might have accepted the sacrifices essential for it, and convinced his party and the nation to go along. In the reign of Modi, whose idea of India is the most aggressive of any leader since independence, such a sacrifice is inconceivable.

Give and take

Any successful negotiation requires give and take from both sides. The stumbling block to resolving the Kashmir issue is that Pakistan wants something India has, but can offer nothing in return that India desires. Although the official positions of the two sides indicate that each is in occupation of territory that rightfully belongs to the other, in reality India has no use for that part of Kashmir we call POK. Nor has anybody in POK expressed a will to secede from Pakistan and join India. In any conceivable deal, then, India can only lose territory. The abstract peace dividend doesn’t provide anything close to adequate compensation for this physical loss. Which is why India has negotiated in bad faith for decades.

In 1972, the two nations signed the Simla Agreement, resolving not to wage further wars, and to address speedily the issue of Kashmir. In 1999, through the Lahore Declaration, we agreed essentially to the same things, tacking on a promise not to nuke each other. But for over 40 years, through cycles of violent insurrection and relative calm, through dozens of horrific terrorist attacks and thousands of peaceful demonstrations, through periods of sectarian amity and passages of ethnic cleansing, India’s position on the issue hasn’t budged an inch, down to the proscription of any maps that show Pakistani Kashmir for what it really is.

Why would any Indian politician risk negotiating in earnest, when it is clear that Indians in general do not give a fig for what Kashmiris actually want? We are happy to let our security forces commit crimes shielded by the Armed Forces Special Powers Act. We are content to pour billions of rupees into defending an icy wasteland where our soldiers regularly die of exposure. We are barely moved by the discovery of unmarked graves in which thousands of Kashmiris were secretly and hastily buried.

via Scroll.in – News. Politics. Culture..

18/08/2014

Drought in Northeast China Is the Worst in 63 Years – Businessweek

Southern China is a rice-growing region, while the northeast is the country’s wheat and corn-growing “bread basket.” This summer the northern province of Liaoning is suffering the worst drought in 63 years, according to the local meteorological bureau: The province has seen the lowest precipitation since the government began keeping records in 1951. The dry summer threatens immediate drinking water supplies and autumn harvests.

A farmer stands at the bottom of the Zhifang Reservoir, near Dengfeng, China

The agricultural research service Shanghai JC Intelligence predicts that China’s corn yields may drop 1.5 percent this year, which could drive up domestic corn prices and compel farmers to use alternative grains for animal feed.

(China also imports from the U.S., but since last fall, Chinese inspectors have rejected an increasing number of shipments found to contain unapproved genetically modified organisms (GMO) varieties.)

Other regions have also suffered under the drought, including the northern provinces of Inner Mongolia and Jilin, and central Henan province. In Inner Mongolia, 300,000 people have faced drinking-water shortages, according to state-run Xinhua newswire. More than 270,000cattle have also gone without water. Xinhua reported economic losses to the poor northwestern province total $37 million so far.

Harvests of soybean and barley may also be hurt by the drought, as well as livestock health.

via Drought in Northeast China Is the Worst in 63 Years – Businessweek.

18/08/2014

Japanese Prime Minister Avoids Controversial War Shrine – Businessweek

On Friday morning, while several members of his cabinet marked the anniversary of World War II’s end by visiting a controversial shrine in Tokyo, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe wisely decided to sleep in. He had caused a storm last December by paying a visit to the Yasukuni Shrine, which honors Japan’s war dead. By skipping Yasukuni, Abe may have improved the chances of a summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping that could help defuse tensions between the two countries.

The Imperial chrysanthemum crest is displayed at the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo

The shrine has long been a problem for Chinese and Koreans. The Chinese media often refers to the shrine as “notorious.” “Each and every visit here by officials upsets and incenses Japan’s neighboring countries,” says a Xinhua commentary published on Friday. The shrine is a symbol “of the brutality of Japanese rule and military expansion,” Lee Won Deog, a professor of Japanese studies at Kookmin University in Seoul, told Bloomberg News. By visiting Yasukuni anyway, Japanese politicians show that “Japan continues to overlook the pain it caused its neighbors during its imperial expansion.”

A look at the shrine’s website shows why visits are so sensitive. In describing the shrine and the almost 2.5 million people it honors, Yasukuni does whitewash Japan’s history of aggression toward its neighbors. Some of the souls enshrined at Yasukuni died as Imperial Japan colonized Korea and Taiwan, occupied Manchuria, and brutalized many parts of China. But according to Yasukuni’s narrative, they died “to protect their country,” and “all sacrificed their lives to the public duty of protecting their motherland.” The shrine “is a place for Japanese people to show their appreciation and respect to those who died to protect their mother country, Japan.”

And what about the World War II-era war criminals enshrined there? Yasukini says not that they were convicted, but rather, that some “were labeled war criminals” (emphasis added) and executed after trials by the victorious Allies.

Some Japanese politicians worry about the way the shrine talks about Japan’s past militarism. Yasukuni “pays homage to war criminals, and exhibitions within its walls extol wars,” former Japanese Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama said in an interview with the China Daily published on Thursday. “I think the best solution is that prime ministers and cabinet members shun the shrine.”

Abe, though, is trying to have it both ways: He didn’t visit today, but two members of his cabinet did—and the prime minister sent a donation through an aide.

via Japanese Prime Minister Avoids Controversial War Shrine – Businessweek.

18/08/2014

Modi Sends India’s Soviet-Inspired Planning Commission Packing – India Real Time – WSJ

India’s prime minister used his inaugural Independence Day speech last Friday to cut off an arm of the country’s government that dates back nearly all the way to independence: the powerful, unloved and sometimes irrelevant-seeming Planning Commission.

The body was the creation of Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first prime minister, who took from the experience of Japan and the Soviet Union the lesson that late-industrializing countries needed to use state intervention to transform their economies from the “commanding heights.” In the words of the 1950 cabinet resolution that created the commission: “The need for comprehensive planning based on a careful appraisal of resources and on an objective analysis of all the relevant economic factors has become imperative.”

Narendra Modi said on Friday that India could do better. The new prime minister said circumstances had changed since the commission’s creation. He said the federal government wasn’t the only driver of economic growth, and that state governments needed to be empowered to innovate. He promised the creation of a new institution that would serve as a platform for exchanging economic-policy ideas within government.

The announcement wasn’t unforeseen. The prime minister serves ex officio as the Planning Commission’s chairman. But Mr. Modi had spent his first months in office leaving the commission’s other full-time seats conspicuously unfilled. As a former chief minister of the western state of Gujarat, Mr. Modi was said at the time of his election this spring to have a strong interest in giving state governments more space to set budget priorities.

Killing the Planning Commission won’t entirely decentralize government spending in India. Federal tax revenue, according to the country’s constitution, is first distributed between the central and state governments by the Finance Commission. The Planning Commission then allocates spending to states along lines laid out in its Five-Year Plan for the economy.

That’s how it’s supposed to work, at least. Critics have accused the Planning Commission of gradually usurping the Finance Commission’s role as chief arbiter between the federal and state governments, all in the service of Five-Year Plans that are meticulously crafted but rarely achieved. The current plan, which covers 2012 to 2017, runs to three volumes and more than 1,000 pages. It covers all and sundry from boosting the manufacturing sector and increasing female literacy to promoting sports medicine and modernizing the powerloom sector.

The Five-Year Plans pervade policy making in India, at least in name if not always in effect. All federal expenditure is classified as either “plan” or “non-plan,” depending on whether it is undertaken in pursuit of the current Five-Year Plan. The Planning Commission occupies a monolithic grayish structure in New Delhi—Yojana Bhawan, or “Planning House”—just down the road from Parliament.

via Modi Sends India’s Soviet-Inspired Planning Commission Packing – India Real Time – WSJ.

15/08/2014

Rule of law: Realigning justice in China | The Economist

IN JULY Zhou Qiang, the president of China’s Supreme People’s Court, visited Yan’an, the spiritual home of the Communist Party in rural Shaanxi province, to lead local court officials there in an old communist ritual: self-criticism. “I have grown accustomed to having the final say and often have preconceived ideas when making decisions,” one local judge told the meeting. “I try to avoid taking a stand in major cases,” said a judicial colleague. “I don’t want to get into trouble.”

In China’s judiciary such shortcomings are the norm. But change may be coming. On July 29th it was announced that the party’s Central Committee, comprising more than 370 leaders, will gather in October to discuss ways of strengthening the rule of law, a novelty for such a gathering. President Xi Jinping, who is waging a sweeping campaign against corruption, says he wants the courts to help him “lock power in a cage”. Officials have begun to recognise that this will mean changing the kind of habits that prevail in Yan’an and throughout the judicial system.

Long before Mr Xi, leaders had often talked about the importance of the rule of law. But they showed little enthusiasm for reforms that would take judicial authority away from party officials and give it to judges. The court system in China is often just a rubber-stamp for decisions made in secret by party committees in cahoots with police and prosecutors. The party still cannot abide the idea of letting a freely elected legislature write the laws, nor even of relinquishing its control over the appointment of judges. But it is talking up the idea of making the judiciary serve as the constitution says it should: “independently … and not subject to interference”.

In June state media revealed that six provincial-level jurisdictions would become testing grounds for reforms. Full details have not been announced, but they appear aimed at allowing judges to decide more for themselves, at least in cases that are not politically sensitive.

There is a lot of room for improvement. Judges are generally beholden to local interests. They are hired and promoted at the will of their jurisdiction’s party secretary (or people who report to him), and they usually spend their entire careers at the same court in which they started. They have less power in their localities than do the police or prosecutors, or even politically connected local businessmen. A judge is often one of the least powerful figures in his own courtroom.

“It’s not a career that gets much respect,” says Ms Sun, a former judge in Shanghai who quit her job this year (and who asked to be identified only by her surname). The port city is one of the reform test-beds. “Courts are not independent so as a result they don’t have credibility, and people don’t believe in the law.” She says people often assume judges are corrupt.

Career prospects are unappealing for the young and well-educated like Ms Sun, who got her law degree from Peking University. The overall quality of judges has risen dramatically in recent decades, but there are still plenty of older, senior judges with next to no formal legal training. Seeing no opportunity for advancement after eight years, Ms Sun left for a law firm and a big multiple of her judge’s salary of about 120,000 yuan ($19,000) a year. She says many other young judges are leaving.

It is unclear how much the mooted changes will alleviate these concerns. Those Shanghai courts that are participating in the pilot reforms (not all are) are expected to raise judges’ pay. They are also expected greatly to reduce the number of judges, though younger ones fear they are more likely to be culled than their less qualified but better connected seniors.

The most important reforms will affect the bureaucracies that control how judges are hired and promoted. Responsibility will be taken away from the cities and counties where judges try their cases, or from the districts in the case of provincial-level megacities like Shanghai. It will be shifted upwards to provincial-level authorities—in theory making it more difficult for local officials to persuade or order judges to see things their way on illegal land seizures, polluting factories and so on.

Central leaders have a keen interest in stamping out such behaviour because it tarnishes the party’s image. But many local officials, some of whom make a lot of money from land-grabs and dirty factories, will resist change. With the help of the police they will probably find other means to make life difficult for unco-operative judges. And provincial authorities are still likely to interfere in some cases handled by lower-level courts, sometimes in order to help out county-level officials.

via Rule of law: Realigning justice | The Economist.

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