Posts tagged ‘Afghanistan’

10/06/2016

Is China Rattled By the India-U.S. Love-In? – India Real Time – WSJ

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made strengthening ties with the U.S. one of his key foreign-policy objectives, as the two countries seek to counterbalance China’s growing footprint in Asia.

In a speech to a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress Wednesday, the conclusion of a three-day trip to the country, Mr. Modi didn’t directly mention China, but said: “In Asia, the absence of an agreed security architecture creates uncertainty.

”A strong India-U.S. partnership can “help ensure security of the sea lanes of commerce and freedom of navigation on seas,” he added.

So is the beefed-up alliance between the two countries making Beijing uncomfortable? The country’s press provides some clues.

Source: Is China Rattled By the India-U.S. Love-In? – India Real Time – WSJ

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10/06/2016

17 People Die on India’s Roads Every Hour, Report Says – India Real Time – WSJ

India’s roads are getting more dangerous, with 17 people dying in accidents every hour, a new government report shows.

“Much more needs to be done,” to make India’s roads safe, Sanjay Mitra, secretary of the Ministry of Roads and Transport said in the report.

The data is pretty damning. The total number of road accidents in India increased 2.5% in 2015, to 501,423. The number of people killed climbed 4.6% to 146,133. Injuries rose by 1.4%.

Road accidents also got more severe. The total number of people killed per 100 accidents was up 2.1% at 29.1 in 2015.

The Ministry of Roads and Transport said it had identified 700 “black spots” on roads, where more than five people died in the past year, and that it has earmarked 6 billion rupees ($89.9 million) to fix defects.

Source: 17 People Die on India’s Roads Every Hour, Report Says – India Real Time – WSJ

08/06/2016

In boost to Paris climate pact, India says it aims to join this year | Reuters

India has agreed to work toward joining the Paris Agreement on climate change this year, India and the United States said on Tuesday, giving a jolt of momentum to the international fight to curb global warming.

At a time of heightened tensions in Asia over China’s assertive pursuit of territory, the two countries also pledged to expand military cooperation and outlined principles for cooperation on cyber issues.

President Barack Obama welcomed Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the White House for their seventh meeting since Modi took office in 2014, underscoring the warm relationship between the leaders and the world’s two largest democracies. Modi is to address the U.S. Congress on Wednesday.

“We discussed how we can, as quickly as possible, bring the Paris Agreement into force,” Obama told reporters. Climate change is a legacy issue for the U.S. president who leaves office in January.

India’s potential entrance into the agreement this year would help accelerate its enactment, perhaps years ahead of schedule. India is the world’s third-largest greenhouse gas emitter after China and the United States.

The two countries also welcomed preparations that could lead to the building of six nuclear reactors in India by U.S.-based Westinghouse, in what would be the culmination of some 10 years of work to resolve civil-nuclear issues.

The joint statement said India and the U.S. Export-Import Bank were working to complete a financing package for the project and that the Nuclear Power Corporation of India and Westinghouse had confirmed engineering and site design work would begin immediately.It said Westinghouse and the Nuclear Power Corporation of India would work toward finalizing the contract by June 2017 – a year later than Westinghouse’s chief executive, Daniel Roderick, said he hoped for in an interview with Reuters in late March.

Modi told an event organized by the U.S. India Business Council that relations between India and the United States were “closer than ever.” He said the planned reactor purchases would mark new era in nuclear and scientific cooperation.Modi’s address to a joint session of Congress will be a significant personal step. Although this has become a tradition for Indian prime ministers, he was once banned from the United States over massacres of Muslims.

More than 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed in sectarian riots in Gujarat in 2002 when Modi had just become the state’s chief minister. Modi has denied any wrongdoing, and India’s Supreme Court in 2010 ruled there was no case.In the joint statement, the United States said it now recognized India as a “Major Defense Partner” and would work on technology sharing “to a level commensurate with that of its closest allies and partners.

“The text of a logistics agreement, which will allow the countries’ militaries to use each other’s land, air and naval bases, would be signed soon, a U.S. official said.

Tensions between the United States and Pakistan as well as regional concerns about China have served as a backdrop to increased security cooperation.Senator John McCain, chairman of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee, said the address to Congress was “entirely appropriate” given the new partnership.”

There’s no doubt there are significant tensions and challenges in the region, which argues for closer coordination between our militaries,” he said.While Modi is generally popular with U.S. lawmakers, they criticize what they see as lingering unfriendliness to U.S. firms and a stifling bureaucracy, in spite of Modi’s pro-business image. They also question New Delhi’s record on human rights.Modi got a boost on Tuesday when Amazon Inc AMZN.O Chief Executive Jeff Bezos said his company would invest an additional $3 billion in India, boosting its committed investment in the country to over $5 billion.

Source: In boost to Paris climate pact, India says it aims to join this year | Reuters

08/06/2016

Amazon Plans $3 Billion Investment in India – India Real Time – WSJ

Amazon.com Inc. plans to invest an additional $3 billion into India, which is emerging as a critical area of growth for the e-commerce giant.

Chief Executive Jeff Bezos announced the plan at a meeting of business leaders Tuesday with the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Washington. Amazon sees “huge potential in the Indian economy,” Mr. Bezos said in a statement.

The announcement brings Amazon’s total planned investment in India to $5 billion, since it announced a $2 billion infusion in 2014. An Amazon spokesman declined to provide details such as how the new funds would be allocated or over what period.

Amazon operates a pure marketplace in India, due to local rules, selling only goods offered through its website by third parties. It nonetheless has warehouse and delivery technologies there that are particularly attuned to the local market, where internet connectivity can be spotty or nonexistent and many consumers don’t have credit cards.

Source: Amazon Plans $3 Billion Investment in India – India Real Time – WSJ

07/06/2016

Here’s How Indians Are Rating Narendra Modi’s Programs – India Real Time – WSJ

Two years into his five-year term, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is asking his countrymen to rate a series of initiatives undertaken by his government.

Among the top scorers so far: an effort expand and modernize the railways and a program to build more roads. Toward the bottom of the favorability rankings: Mr. Modi’s Clean India campaign, which, among other things, aims to get people to use toilets instead of defecating outside.

Mr. Modi has become known for introducing a series of high-profile initiatives, from Make in India, which seeks to promote manufacturing, to pledges to build scores of so-called smart cities across the country.Of 21,770 respondents who had participated in the online survey on the government’s mygov.in website as of Tuesday morning, 70% gave a five-star rating to the government’s efforts to upgrade the rail system. People are asked to grade programs on a scale of one to five.

In the latest federal budget, the government earmarked $17 billion to improve the state-run railroad. Wi-Fi services are being rolled out at stations. And late last year, a deal was struck with Japan to help build India’s first high-speed rail line between Mumbai and Ahmedabad.

The government’s efforts to build more highways and improve the condition of roadways have also been popular with the people. More than 65% of the respondents to the survey gave these initiatives a five-star rating. The target this year is to build 9,300 miles of highways.People taking the survey also seemed satisfied by the government’s attempts to make electricity more accessible.

One of the worst performing programs, according to the current results of the survey, which is ongoing, is Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan, or the Clean India Mission. Only 33% of the respondents gave it a five-star rating. About 16% gave it score of one or two.

India’s Competitiveness and Prosperity Rankings Rise Under ModiIn October, a year into the program, another national survey also hinted at the public’s disappointment with its impact. More the 70% of those polled in that survey said the availability of public toilets hadn’t improved and their cities hadn’t become cleaner.

Mr. Modi is no stranger to crowdsourcing. He regularly encourages Indians to submit their thoughts for his weekly radio show. Prior to delivering his speech on India’s Independence Day last year, he asked citizens to submit their suggestions on what they’d like to hear him speak about. And they did, in hordes.

Source: Here’s How Indians Are Rating Narendra Modi’s Programs – India Real Time – WSJ

27/05/2016

Southern comfort | The Economist

MAHATMA GANDHI would not have enjoyed Texfair 2016 in Coimbatore in the southern state of Tamil Nadu. The man hated machines and factories, and promoted Indian independence by urging every household to spin its own cotton yarn. But on display at the textile fair were bobbins, rollers, waste balers, quality-control sensors and much, much more.

Indeed, India is vying with China to be the world’s biggest producer of yarn, with over 45m spindles twirling around the clock. But what is striking about the trade fair is how so much of the modern wizardry on show is made not in better-known industrial centres around the world but in Coimbatore itself, a city of just 1.6m some 500 kilometres (310 miles) south-west of Chennai, the Tamil Nadu capital. In this section Pull the other one Taliban reshuffled Southern comfort Reprints Related topics Bharatiya Janata Party Tamil Nadu Kerala India

The fast-growing city is an inelegant sprawl stretching into groves of coconut palms. It teems with technical institutes, bustling factories and civic spirit. Earnest and ambitious, Coimbatore evokes the American Midwest of a century ago. A regional manufacturers’ group that was founded in 1933 during Gandhi’s homespun campaign has now designed, built and marketed a hand-held, battery-operated cotton picker that it claims is six times more efficient than human fingers.

Gandhi would have been appalled. But the gadget says something about the quiet success of parts of India’s deep south. Mill owners worry that with day wages in Tamil Nadu and neighbouring Kerala to the west now far higher than those in northern India, local cotton may grow uncompetitive. Tea planters in the hills west of Coimbatore are already squeezed. One landowner, in Kerala’s Wayanad region, where silver oaks shade trim ranks of tea bushes, says that his pickers get 300 rupees (about $4.50) a day, nearly three times the wage in Darjeeling in India’s north.

It may not sound like much, but it is also more than the average Indian earns. And as a whole, GDP per person in Tamil Nadu and Kerala is 68% and 41% higher respectively than the national average of $1,390 a year. With the south’s booming new industries, better education and higher wages contrasted with declining industries in the north and east, India is undergoing a shift a bit like the American one from the rustbelt to the sunbelt in the 1980s. Kerala shares in this new industrialisation less than Tamil Nadu, but that is balanced by another source of prosperity: remittances from abroad. As many as one in ten of Kerala’s 35m people work in the rich Arab countries of the Persian Gulf. Their remittances boost local incomes, property prices and demand for better schools. Kerala, under leftist governments for the past six decades, already has India’s best state education and its highest literacy rate. Its school district has again topped nationwide exams for 17-year-olds, followed by Chennai region, covering the rest of southern India.

Yet India’s deep south has not transmuted growing prosperity into greater political clout. It remains largely aloof from broader political trends, including a slugging match between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), in office nationally under Narendra Modi, the prime minister, and Congress, the once-dominant centre-left party that worships Gandhi. In elections across four Indian states that wrapped up on May 19th, attention elsewhere focused largely on the fortunes of those two parties. The BJP’s capture from Congress of Assam in the north-east was seen as a big boost for Mr Modi. Congress’s failure to take any state was seen as a sign of decay.

Source: Southern comfort | The Economist

29/07/2015

GIFT, the Indian Smart City That Would Cost $23,500 a Person – India Real Time – WSJ

Two 29-story steel-and-glass office buildings rise above a dusty wasteland in the Indian state of Gujarat, the most conspicuous sign of progress on an ambitious project conceived by the man who is now India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi.

More than seven years ago, Mr. Modi, at the time the state’s top elected official, decided to push the construction of an entirely new city—dubbed the Gujarat International Finance Tec-City, or GIFT—about a 40-minute drive from Ahmedabad, the historic commercial hub here.

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Is India Ready for Narendra Modi’s ‘Smart Cities’?

The if-you-build-it-they-will-come idea was to create a magnet for banks, securities firms and information-technology companies akin to Canary Wharf in London or La Defense outside Paris. But construction work has moved slowly and few private enterprises have signed up. Of the two office towers, the first is about 50% occupied and the second one is empty.

Critics say the undertaking’s halting progress is a cautionary tale as Mr. Modi’s federal administration moves ahead with plans for 100 “smart cities,” which, among other things, would use technology to improve public services such as waste disposal and save energy.

Ramakant Jha, managing director of the company building the city, says that offices and retail stores and other businesses at GIFT will help create one million direct and indirect jobs. The city will also have homes, allowing employees to walk to work, and social infrastructure like a school, hospital and malls.

With central air-conditioning in all buildings, filtered tap water and municipal waste collection (a rarity in urban India), GIFT, as planners envision it, would be far more advanced than existing Indian cities.

But all this comes at a cost. If 100,000 people live in a city, the cost of building the city’s infrastructure comes to around $23,500 per person. In comparison, India’s gross national income per capita is around $1,600, according to the World Bank.

via GIFT, the Indian Smart City That Would Cost $23,500 a Person – India Real Time – WSJ.

12/07/2015

Beijing invites Japanese prime minister to ceremony marking end of second world war | South China Morning Post

President Xi Jinping has officially invited Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to a ceremony in September commemorating the 70th anniversary of the end of the second world war.

Shinzo Abe speaks at the Japan Summit 2015 on Thursday. Photo: Reuters

Beijing had been waiting for a reply since the invitation was made three weeks ago, Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs Cheng Guoping said on Friday following a BRICS summit.

Cheng said all leaders from the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation members – Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan – had agreed to attend the September 3 ceremony, which includes a military parade in Tiananmen Square.

Abe had told aides he was willing to visit China, the Asahi newspaper reported.

However, fearing a domestic backlash, he was considering a visit either before or after the ceremony, it said.

A Japanese government source said Abe hoped to talk with Xi on repairing the damage caused by territorial disputes and differing perceptions of history.

Jiang Yuechun , a professor at the China Institute of International Studies, said Abe’s hesitation was understandable.

“If Abe decides to attend the ceremony, it would be a good opportunity to help his country get rid of its historical burden [as an invader]. It would also be a chance to [turn back] Sino-Japanese bilateral ties,” he said.

“Of course, it’s impossible for the two countries to remedy the breach even if Abe does meet Xi, because there are so many problems left by history that have hindered the relationship, such as maritime disputes over the Diaoyu Islands and fishing rights. It will take time to solve these by rational communication.”

Whether Abe’s trip goes ahead could depend on the content of a statement he is expected to make regarding the war anniversary and China’s activities to press sovereignty claims in the East and South China seas. China has urged Abe to include a full apology and note that Japan was engaged in a war of aggression.

Recent speeches by Abe had reflected on Japan’s “wrongdoing” but “offered no apology”, said Sun Cheng, director of the East Asia International Studies Centre at the China University of Political Science and Law.

Sun said the attitude of the US would be key to pushing Japan into an open apology “because Tokyo cares more for Washington’s [approval] than for China’s or South Korea’s”.

To lay the groundwork for Abe’s visit, Shotaro Yachi, the head of Japan’s National Security Council, was planning to travel to China this month to hold talks with Yang Jiechi , the mainland’s top diplomat, a Japanese government source said.

Abe and Xi held talks last November in Beijing and this April in Jakarta on the sidelines of international conferences.

Observers say Beijing hopes to improve its relations with Tokyo before Xi’s visit to the United States in September, while Abe is eager to bolster his domestic support by repairing ties with Beijing amid deliberations on controversial security bills.

Meanwhile, Japan has proposed sending its foreign minister, Fumio Kishida, to Russia from August 31 to September 1. Russian President Vladimir Putin is scheduled to visit Japan within the year.

via Beijing invites Japanese prime minister to ceremony marking end of second world war | South China Morning Post.

06/07/2015

Rivals Pakistan, India to start process of joining China security bloc | Reuters

Nuclear-armed rivals Pakistan and India will start the process of joining a security bloc led by China and Russia at a summit in Russia later this week, a senior Chinese diplomat said on Monday, the first time the grouping has expanded since it was set up in 2001.

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The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) groups China, Russia and the former Soviet republics of Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, while India, Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan and Mongolia are observers.

“As the influence of the SCO’s development has expanded, more and more countries in the region have brought up joining the SCO,” Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Cheng Guoping told a news briefing.”India and Pakistan’s admission to the SCO will play an important role in the SCO’s development. It will play a constructive role in pushing for the improvement of their bilateral relations.”

India and Pakistan have fought three wars since 1947, two of them over the divided Muslim-majority region of Kashmir which they both claim in full but rule in part. Pakistan also believes India is supporting separatists in resource-rich Baluchistan province, as well as militants fighting the state.

India applied to join the regional security grouping last year and SCO foreign ministers gave a positive recommendation when they met in June. “We await further developments,” said Sujata Mehta, a senior foreign ministry official.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be in Moscow for a summit of the BRICS group of emerging markets and both he and his Pakistani counterpart, Nawaz Sharif, will attend a special SCO “outreach” session as part of the gathering.

Pakistan’s application is being considered, said foreign ministry spokesman Qazi Khalilullah. “We hope they will support us for full membership,” he added.

The grouping was originally formed to fight threats posed by radical Islam and drug trafficking from neighboring Afghanistan.

Cheng said the summit, to be attended by Chinese President Xi Jinping, would also discuss security in Afghanistan.

Beijing says separatist groups in the far western region of Xinjiang, home to the Muslim Uighur minority, seek to form their own state, called East Turkestan, and have links with militants in Central Asia, as well as Pakistan and Afghanistan.

China says Uighur militants, operating as the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), have also been working with Islamic State.

“It can be said that ETIM certainly has links with the Islamic State, and has participated in relevant terrorist activities. China is paying close attention to this, and will have security cooperation with relevant countries,” Cheng said.

via Rivals Pakistan, India to start process of joining China security bloc | Reuters.

03/03/2015

Modi Eats 28-Rupee Lunch at the Parliament’s Canteen – India Real Time – WSJ

Last year President Xi ate at a local restaurant and caused a furore – https://chindia-alert.org/2013/12/31/tale-of-xis-dumplings-draws-crowd-society-chinadaily-com-cn/. 

Now it’s Prime Minister Modi’s turn to mix with the ‘common man’. though in this case it is with fellow parliamentarians.

“He may sometimes wear expensive, custom-made suits with his name stitched into the pinstripes but Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi can also sit comfortably with the common man.

The leader of the world’s largest democracy surprised everyone Monday by showing up to eat lunch with the regular riff-raff of Parliament.

Around midday he sat down at canteen used by members of Parliament and dug in to a vegetarian lunch. While the canteen is inside India’s grand Parliament building, the prime minister’s meal was simple.

Not unlike what most Indians ate on Monday, Mr. Modi nibbled on some vegetables and dal with rice and chapati.

His dessert was a bit fancy though, a fruit salad.

“We were stunned,” said Madhu Sheel Kalra, the canteen’s supervisor, who has worked there for 20 years and never seen a Prime Minister stop by for a meal.

Ramashankar, the waiter who served Mr Modi at table number three, said it was one of the proudest moments of his life.

“I felt so happy,” said Mr.  Ramashankar, who goes by just one name.

Meanwhile a new factoid about India’s popular prime minister emerged: He’s not a practicing member of the clean-plate club.

“He didn’t finish everything but he enjoyed what he had,” said Ramashankar.

Mr. Modi paid the bill himself. The subsidized meal was only 28 rupees. That’s about half a dollar.

Waiters said he didn’t leave a tip–few parliamentarians do–but he left a nice comment in the guest book, in Sanskrit.

“Blessed are those who serve food,” he wrote.”

via Modi Eats 28-Rupee Lunch at the Parliament’s Canteen – India Real Time – WSJ.

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