Archive for ‘India alert’

26/08/2016

The Economist explains: Why Kashmir is erupting again | The Economist

TODAY marks the 48th consecutive day of protests in Jammu & Kashmir, India’s only Muslim-majority state. Young Kashmiri men have been on the streets calling for independence from India and throwing stones at security forces. Indian security forces have responded with tear gas and shotguns that fire small-bore pellets instead of buckshot.

A strict curfew has also been imposed across the Kashmir valley, which includes Srinagar, the region’s largest city. So far, 66 civilians and two police officers have been killed in the violence. Why are Kashmiris protesting?

The region has been disputed since the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947. Both sides claim the territory and have fought three wars over it. Kashmir has been living under India’s Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, which gives special powers to the army, since the eruption in 1990 of an armed insurgency that was covertly supported by Pakistan. Some 40,000 people have been killed since. Even in the relatively peaceful past decade, unrest has flared up, most notably in the summers of 2008 and 2010. The current protests started on July 9th after Indian security forces killed Burhan Wani, a young and charismatic Islamist militant. Resentment had been building for months. Kashmiris worried when Narendra Modi’s Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power in 2014 that his national government would make life difficult for Muslims. At state elections later that year, the local Peoples Democratic Party formed a coalition with the BJP, leaving them feeling betrayed. Wani’s killing has mobilised a generation that had grown up under what it sees as an illegitimate Indian occupation.

The result has been a seven-week cycle of violent protests and retaliatory action by the police and paramilitary forces. Their supposedly non-lethal pellets have blinded dozens and injured hundreds. Shops and businesses have remained closed since the protests started, either under curfew orders or because of calls for strikes from separatist leaders. Many Kashmiris have not left their homes for weeks. Few expect the situation to improve any time soon, despite soothing words this week from Mr Modi and a visit to the region by India’s home minister.An obstacle to any lasting solution is India’s insistence on seeing Kashmir through the prism of its rivalry with Pakistan. The Indian government’s immediate reaction to this summer’s unrest was to accuse its neighbour of meddling. In fact, Wani was a home-grown insurgent; the young men on the streets are locals. Unemployment is widespread and economic opportunities are few. The state was also promised special status, guaranteeing autonomy, in India’s constitution. And many Kashmiris now want more: a survey in 2010 by Chatham House, a think-tank, found overwhelming support for independence. Kashmiris are at best ambivalent about their attachment to India. Until the government recognises their demands, the anger is unlikely to dissipate.

Source: The Economist explains: Why Kashmir is erupting again | The Economist

25/08/2016

Indian Company Earnings are at Last Showing Some Signs of Recovery – India Real Time – WSJ

India Inc. is finally starting to report the kind of growth one would expect from companies in the world’s fastest-growing large economy.

India’s biggest companies have been stuck in a rut for the last two years even though the country surpassed even China in terms of gross domestic product growth and it voters picked a prime minister who pledged to boost business.

Last quarters’ earnings suggested things may at last be looking up.In the three months ended June, the net profit of companies in the benchmark index, the S&P BSE Sensex, rose 7% compared to a year earlier. While a few companies still haven’t announced results yet, so far it looks like the highest growth for Sensex companies in two years.

Take out the earnings at banks–which are being hurt as the Reserve Bank of India forced them to write off more soured loans–and the profit picture is even prettier. Profit at the non-financial Sensex companies jumped 15% during the quarter, according to data from broker Motilal Oswal Securities Ltd.

While the outlook on global demand is gloomy, hurting exporters and software companies, local demand is strong and getting stronger.

Workers at an IKEA carpet-making facility in Bhadohi, India, August 26, 2015. PHOTO: VIVEK SINGH FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

“The earnings growth mostly came from companies focused on domestic demand rather than companies relying on global markets,” said Vivek Mahajan, head of research at Aditya Birla Money.

Companies selling products to people in India can expect even more demand later this year as above-average monsoon rains bolster farmers’ incomes and government employees receive a massive wage hike, he said.

Sectors such as cement, consumer goods, and auto makers are going to be big beneficiaries of the rising consumer demand.

Source: Indian Company Earnings are at Last Showing Some Signs of Recovery – India Real Time – WSJ

19/08/2016

Why is Kite Flying a Deadly Hobby in India? – India Real Time – WSJ

India’s capital has banned killer kite string after three people died this week from injuries and accidents caused by string that has been fortified for kite fights.

The weeks around India’s Independence Day—Aug. 15—are peak kite flying and fighting season. Kids and adults fly kites high in the air and try to maneuver them so their lines cut those of other kites as part of a traditional and usually harmless competition.

To better their chances of surviving longer and cutting competitors, many people use extra strong string and nylon lines and even lines encrusted with ground glass. When those sharp lines fall across roads they are a hazard to two-wheeler riders who can’t see them. Hitting one of the lines at high speed can knock bikers off their vehicles and slit their throats.

While there are injuries and deaths caused by kite strings every year, this year was particularly tragic as two of the victims were under the age of five.

A three-year-old girl died, while traveling in a car Monday with her head sticking out of the sun roof. She sustained a neck injury and was taken to a hospital where she died, said Vijay Singh, deputy police commissioner for northwest Delhi.

In another incident the same day in west Delhi, a four-year-old boy died also while looking out of a sun roof and becoming entangled with a string hanging from a tree. He was taken to a hospital and died, Pushpendra Kumar, deputy police commissioner for west Delhi said.

Also Monday, a man traveling in west Delhi on a motorbike became entangled with a kite string and crashed his motorbike, sustaining head injuries. He was also declared dead at hospital, Mr. Kumar said.

Chandraker Bharti, Delhi’s secretary of environment and forests, on Tuesday banned the sale, production, storage and supply of kite flying thread “that is sharp or made sharp such as being laced with glass, metal or other sharp objects.”

Source: Why is Kite Flying a Deadly Hobby in India? – India Real Time – WSJ

19/08/2016

Cowboys and Indians | The Economist

CLOSE your eyes and you could be in a farmyard: a docile heifer slurps a grassy lunch off your hand, mooing appreciatively. Now open your eyes to the relentless bustle of a huge city: the cow is tied to a lamp-post, cars swerve to avoid it and its keeper demands a few rupees for providing it with the snack.

Across Mumbai, an estimated 4,000 such cow-handlers, most of them women, offer passing Hindus a convenient way to please the gods. In a country where three-quarters of citizens hold cows to be sacred, they form part of an unusual bovine economy mixing business, politics and religion.India is home to some 200m cows and more than 100m water buffaloes. The distinction is crucial. India now rivals Brazil and Australia as the world’s biggest exporter of beef, earning around $4 billion a year. But the “beef” is nearly all buffalo; most of India’s 29 states now ban or restrict the slaughter of cows. With such strictures multiplying under the government of Narendra Modi, a Hindu nationalist, entrepreneurs have sought new ways to profit.

One promising line of business has been to become a gau rakshak, or cow protector. Some of these run charitably funded retirement homes for ageing cows, including rural, ranch-style facilities advertised on television. Other rakshaks have proven more concerned with punishing anyone suspected of harming cows or trading in their meat. Such vigilantes have gained notoriety in recent years as attacks on meat-eating Muslims or on lower-caste Hindus working in the leather trade have led to several deaths. A mob assaulted a group of Dalits (the castes formerly known as untouchables) last month in Mr Modi’s home state of Gujarat, thinking they had killed a cow. In fact they were skinning a carcass they had bought legitimately; Dalits traditionally dispose of dead cows.

More commonly, India’s less scrupulous cowboys simply demand protection money from people who handle cattle. An investigation by the Indian Express, a newspaper, found that cattle breeders in the northern state of Punjab were forced to pay some 200 rupees ($3) a cow to ensure that trucks transporting livestock could proceed unmolested. Under pressure from the rakshaks, the state government had also made it harder to get permits to transport cattle.

Earlier this month Mr Modi broke a long silence on the issue. Risking the ire of his Hindu-nationalist base, the prime minister blasted “fake” gau rakshaks for giving a good cause a bad name. If they really cared about cows, he said, they should stop attacking other people and instead stop cows that munch on rubbish from ingesting plastic, a leading cause of death.

In any case, vigilantism and the beef trade generate minuscule incomes compared with India’s $60 billion dairy industry. The country’s cows and buffaloes produce a fifth of all the world’s milk. As Indian incomes rise and consumers opt for costlier packaged brands, sales of dairy products are rising by 15% a year. But although a milk cow can generate anywhere from 400 to 1,100 rupees a day, this still leaves the question of what to do with male animals, as well as old and unproductive females.

Not all can be taken in by organised shelters. This makes the urban cow-petting business a useful retirement strategy. A good patch (outside a temple, say) can generate around 500 rupees a day from passers-by. Feed costs just 20 rupees a day, says Raju Gaaywala, a third-generation cow attendant whose surname, not coincidentally, translates as cow-handler.

He inherited his patch in Mulund, a northern suburb of Mumbai, when his father passed away in 1998. His latest cow, Lakshmi, cost him 4,000 rupees around three years ago and generates around 40 times that every year, enough to send his three children to English-language schools and, he hopes, to set them up in a different form of entrepreneurship.

The handlers fear their days may be limited. A nationwide cleanliness drive has targeted urban cow-handlers, who are in theory liable for fines of 10,000 rupees. In practice the resurgent Hindu sentiment under Mr Modi should help leave the cattle on the streets. It may kick up other opportunities, too. Shankar Lal, an ideological ally of the prime minister’s, in an interview with the Indian Express extolled the many health merits of cow dung. Spreading a bit on the back of a smartphone, as he does every week, apparently protects against harmful radiation. Usefully for Indian farmers, only local cows can be used, not Western breeds such as Holsteins or Jerseys, he warns: “Their dung and milk are nothing but poison.”

Source: Cowboys and Indians | The Economist

18/08/2016

India ready for Pakistan talks; U.N. alarmed by Kashmir violence | Reuters

India is ready to send its top diplomat to Pakistan for talks focused on fighting cross-border terrorism, sources at foreign ministry said on Wednesday, after a spike in tension in the disputed northernmost region of Kashmir.

Foreign Secretary Subrahmanyam Jaishankar was willing to attend talks on the invitation of his Pakistani counterpart, the sources said, stressing cross-border terrorism was central to the situation in Jammu and Kashmir state.

The olive branch comes after 40 days of violent protests in Indian-ruled Kashmir set off by the killing by security forces of a field commander of Pakistan-based Islamic militant group Hizbul Mujahideen who enjoyed wide support.

At least 64 people have died and thousands injured in clashes with security forces, denounced by Pakistan, which also claims the right to rule Jammu & Kashmir in a territorial dispute that dates back to partition in 1947.

The Indian sources, who declined to be identified, made it clear, however, that India “rejects in their entirety the self-serving allegations regarding the situation in J&K, which is an integral part of India.”Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) is the name of India’s only Muslim-majority state that includes the disputed Kashmir region.

A spokesman for Pakistan’s foreign ministry declined to comment late on Wednesday, saying the government was preparing a response to the proposed Indian visit.

A U.N. human rights official expressed “deep regret” at the failure of both the Indian and Pakistani authorities to grant access to the separate parts of Kashmir that each run to investigate allegations of serious human rights violations.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said in a statement issued in Geneva it was unfortunate that sincere attempts by the United Nations to independently assess the facts in relation to reports of human rights violations had failed.

“Without access, we can only fear the worst,” said Zeid.

The nuclear-armed neighbours, which have fought three wars since independence in 1947, both claim Kashmir in full but rule it in part.

In the latest violence on Wednesday, militants killed three members of the security forces when they ambushed an army convoy and then fired on a police jeep that came to the scene.

In a worrying escalation the previous day, security forces fired live rounds at a crowd of stone-throwing protesters in Baramulla district, killing five and wounding 10.

Earlier, police and troops trying to control crowds had resorted to the use of shotguns, whose pellets are meant to incapacitate but not kill.

But residents of Kashmir say the shotguns have inflicted severe injuries and even blinded hundreds of people including bystanders.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi ratcheted up tensions in his annual Independence Day speech on Monday, accusing Pakistan of glorifying terrorism.

In a tit-for-tat escalation in the war of words between the neighbours, Modi said he had received messages of support from leaders in restive regions of Pakistan, in particular the troubled southwestern province of Baluchistan.

India accuses Muslim Pakistan of supporting Kashmiri fighters while Pakistan accuses India of meddling in Pakistani trouble spots, in particular of helping separatists fighting the Pakistani state in resource-rich Baluchistan.

Both sides deny the accusations.

Source: India ready for Pakistan talks; U.N. alarmed by Kashmir violence | Reuters

16/08/2016

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Independence Day Speech in 10 Quotes – India Real Time – WSJ

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday made the annual Independence Day speech at Delhi’s Red Fort.

With the end of his colorful turban blowing in the wind, he outlined his government’s achievements and took a swipe at Pakistan.

Here are 10 quotes from the 90-minute speech, based on the official translation from Mr. Modi’s office:

On India’s progress:   “India is not 70 years old but this journey is 70 years long.

”On governance:   “Now turning self governance to good governance is the resolve of 1.25 billion countrymen.”

On India’s problems:   “If India has thousands of problems, it also has 1.25 billion brains that have the ability to resolve them.

”On economic growth:   “As far as GDP growth rate is concerned, we have left behind even the big economies of the world.”

On the goods-and-services tax:   “The GST regime is to become a powerful tool to strengthen the economy.

”On toilets:   “More than 20 million toilets have been constructed in our villages. Over 70,000 villages have been free from open defecation.

”On stalled projects:   “Blocking projects, delaying them and wasting money amounts to criminal negligence.

”On inflation:   “I will not allow the poor man’s dish to become costlier.”

On Pakistan and the Kashmir region:   “The way the people of Balochistan, Gilgit and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir praised me, has enhanced the prestige of my 1.25 billion countrymen.”

On caste and minority divisions:    “Serve all people without discrimination. Do not disregard anyone for his age or caste, Respect all.”

Source: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Independence Day Speech in 10 Quotes – India Real Time – WSJ

16/08/2016

Wage Experiment in India Shows True Price of Unequal Pay – India Real Time – WSJ

When workers are paid differently for little reason, even the higher-paid ones are less productive and happy, a new study suggests.

Economists at Columbia University and University of California, Berkeley, have shown that workers seem to be highly averse to pay inequality, just as primatologist Frans de Waal’s capuchin monkeys famously threw food at their keepers when they were rewarded differently.The new study reveals a sharp drop in output, attendance and social cohesion among groups of workers paid differently compared with groups where everyone was paid the same.

In a study the authors claims is the largest such experiment ever conducted, 378 Indian workers—with differing levels of productivity—were trained and hired into month-long seasonal contract jobs, working in factories that produced low-tech items such as ropes and brooms.

They were organized in teams of three workers. All 378 were paid either 240 rupees ($3.59) a day to turn up to work, or 5% more or 5% less than that amount.

In most of the teams, the three workers were paid the same amount. But, crucially, in some, workers’ pay differed according to the workers’ individual levels of productivity (which had been determined earlier). This clever design meant the economists could compare the performance of workers who earned the same amount—either high, middle or low—but differed according to whether they were members of equally or unequally paid teams.

Click here to continue reading.

Source: Wage Experiment in India Shows True Price of Unequal Pay – India Real Time – WSJ

13/08/2016

How Alibaba is Tapping India – The Numbers – WSJ

As its business matures at home, Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. is looking to boost growth elsewhere in Asia — especially India, home to a nascent but fast-growing online shopping sector.

Here’s how — and why – it is targeting the world’s second-most-populous nation.

1.2 billion

The number of customers outside of China that Alibaba would like to reach, according to the company’s Chairman Jack Ma.

$127 billion

The projected value of India’s e-commerce market in 2025, up from $11.2 billion last year, according to Goldman Sachs Global Investment Research.

$500 million

The amount of money New Delhi, India-based e-commerce startup Snapdeal.com raised in a fundraising round led by Alibaba last year.

More than $500 million

The amount Alibaba and its affiliate Ant Financial Services Group last year paid for 40% of One97 Communications, the parent company of Noida, India-based online-payment and marketplace startup Paytm.

2 or more

Prominent executives Alibaba has hired in recent months who have experience in India’s e-commerce sector.

Source: How Alibaba is Tapping India – The Numbers – WSJ

13/08/2016

Asia’s scramble for Africa | The Economist

IF THERE is a modern gateway from the east to Africa, it is arguably Addis Ababa’s airport. Passengers passing through its dusty terminals on their way to some far-flung capital will be surprised to find that getting an Ethiopian meal is remarkably difficult. Asian dumplings, however, are available at two different cafés. Signs marking the gates are in English, Amharic and Chinese, as are announcements.

Dozing gently on the beige loungers are untold numbers of young Chinese workers waiting for flights. They are part of a growing army of labourers, businessmen and engineers who can be seen directing the construction of roads, railways and ports across much of east Africa.

Concerns about China’s involvement in Africa are often overplayed. Accusations that it is buying up vast tracts of farmland, factories and mines, for instance, are blown out of proportion. Even so, its growing influence on the continent has nettled India and Japan, who are both boosting their engagement in response.

As with previous rounds of rivalry in Africa, such as during the cold war, at least some of this activity relates to access to bases and ports to control the sea. China’s involvement in Africa now includes a growing military presence. Thousands of Chinese soldiers have donned the UN’s blue helmets in Mali and South Sudan, where several have been killed trying to keep an imaginary peace. Chinese warships regularly visit African ports.

China maintains a naval squadron that escorts mostly Chinese-flagged vessels through the Gulf of Aden. But some diplomats fret that China has been using these patrols to give its navy practice in operating far from home, including in offensive actions. “You wouldn’t normally use submarines for counter-piracy patrols,” says one.

Patrolling for pirates has also given China an excuse to set up its first overseas base in Djibouti, next door to an existing American one. Yet the more alarmist worries about China—that it is planning to build naval bases in a “string of pearls” stretching from China to the Red Sea and as far as Namibia’s Walvis Bay on the Atlantic coast—have not materialised. The Walvis Bay rumour seems to be a red herring. China has used its ships and soldiers to protect its own citizens in Africa and the Middle East: in 2011 it evacuated 35,000 of them from Libya and last year one of its ships rescued 600 from Yemen. But its main naval focus remains the South China Sea.

Wary does it

Still, India is deeply suspicious of China’s presence in the Indian Ocean. A wide network of some 32 Indian radar stations and listening posts is being developed in the Seychelles, Madagascar and Mauritius, among other countries. This will enable India to monitor shipping across expanses of the ocean. It is also improving its ability to project power in waters it considers its own, and is arming friendly countries such as Mauritius. Among other things, India is building a naval and air base on Assumption Island, north of Madagascar and within easy reach of many of east Africa’s newly discovered offshore gasfields. “It’s the Indian Ocean, stupid,” quips one seasoned commentator in mimicry of Indian diplomats on its power projection. “They say it’s ‘our near abroad’.”

Japan has also been flexing its naval muscle but in a more limited manner. This month it pledged $120m in aid to boost counter-terrorism efforts in Africa. It has been a stalwart contributor to the multinational naval force policing the seas off Somalia’s coast. Sino-Japanese rivalry is fiercest in diplomacy and trade. Two prizes are on offer: access to natural resources and markets, and the continent’s 54 votes at the UN. Much of the effort to win the former was pioneered by Japan in the 1990s, when it helped build ports and railways. Akihiko Tanaka of the University of Tokyo, a former president of the Japan International Co-operation Agency, says that for years Japan’s aid to Africa was “qualitatively different” from that of other rich nations in part because it focused on infrastructure rather than the direct alleviation of poverty. “We were criticised a lot,” he says. “Now there is an almost unanimous view that you need to invest in infrastructure.”

Japan’s latest spending spree on infrastructure will speed economic growth on the continent; but there is a degree of one-upmanship and duplication. Japan recently handed over the keys to a new cargo terminal at Kenya’s main port in Mombasa. Meanwhile, a short hop down the coast at Bagamoyo, Tanzania is building east Africa’s biggest port—with Chinese cash.

On the diplomatic front both Japan and India are trying to make common cause with African states that want to reform the UN Security Council. They argue that Africa deserves permanent seats on it, as do they. China favours a permanent seat for an African country, and it doesn’t mind India having one. But in return it expects endorsement of its stand against Japan getting a seat.

Both Japan and China back up such diplomatic efforts with aid and, at least in China’s case, this seems to have helped win it friends. Countries that vote with China in the UN (for instance over Taiwan) usually get more cash from it, according to AidData, a project based at the College of William and Mary in Virginia.

China also makes African friends by selling arms. In the five years to 2015 it nearly doubled its share of weapons supplied to sub-Saharan Africa, from little more than a tenth of the total to almost a quarter, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, a think-tank. It has sold tanks and jets to Tanzania, armoured vehicles to Burundi and Cameroon, and missile launchers to Morocco, to name but a few. It also wins friends among the continent’s war criminals through its policy of “non-interference” in the internal affairs of other countries, for instance by opposing the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Japan, which until 2014 was prohibited by its constitution from selling weapons, and supports the ICC, has had a harder time. It has concentrated on dispensing aid and using soft power, such as awarding scholarships for study in Japan and free classes in akido and karate at its embassy in Nairobi. But even in this sphere it is outclassed by China, which has established some 46 Confucius Institutes in Africa to teach Chinese language and culture. China also flies thousands of Africa’s ruling-party officials, civil servants and trade unionists to attend political-training schools in China. This has worked so well in South Africa that the ruling African National Congress last year published a foreign-policy discussion document suggesting that China’s Communist Party “should be a guiding lodestar of our own struggle.”

Yet apart from South Africa, which has slavishly aligned itself with China (for instance by voting with it against a UN resolution to protect the right of people to hold peaceful protests), most African countries are good at playing off rivals against each other, says Alex Vines of Chatham House, a London think-tank. Many have diversified their diplomatic links by opening new embassies, including ones that cross previous divisions between rival powers in Africa. Countries including Burundi, Mauritania and Togo, that used to fall firmly within France’s sphere of influence have opened embassies in Britain. “This is a really great time for clever African countries to get really good deals,” says Mr Vines.

Source: Asia’s scramble for Africa | The Economist

12/08/2016

Indian army bagpipe bands’ swaying march – help!

Dear reader: can anyone enlighten me?

The Indian Military Pipe band perform during the 2010 Commonwealth ...

I am a keen fan of military parades and march pasts.  I regularly watch on TV the annual Trooping of the Colour in London and sometimes the very long Independence Day parade at the Red Fort in Delhi.

Recently, I noticed that the Indian army bagpipe bands tend to sway as they march. See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9fkT6SdD9LQ and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fgW0HnY9crA  Bands without bagpipes do not sway.

I tried to check via Google if the Pakistani army bagpipe bands did the same and couldn’t find any example.  So, my conclusion is that it was not a habit formed during the Raj but developed indigenously after Independence.

So the question: when and why did the Indian army bagpipe bands develop this swaying action?

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