India drops plan to buy Israeli Spike anti-tank missiles

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES NEWS PAPER)

 

India drops plan to buy Israeli Spike anti-tank missiles

India was negotiating the purchase of 321 launchers and 8,356 fire-and-forget missiles with Israeli firm Rafael Advanced Defence Systems Ltd.

INDIA Updated: Nov 20, 2017 23:22 IST

Rahul Singh
Rahul Singh
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
T-90 (Bhishma) army tanks during a dress rehearsal for the Republic Day Parade in New Delhi in January 2014.
T-90 (Bhishma) army tanks during a dress rehearsal for the Republic Day Parade in New Delhi in January 2014. (Mohd Zakir/HT File Photo)

India has dropped plans to buy Spike anti-tank guided missile (ATGM) systems worth Rs 3,200 crore from Israel, defence ministry sources said on Monday. Instead, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has been asked to develop the ATGMs for the army’s infantry and mechanised infantry units to provide impetus to the Make in India plan, the sources said.

India was negotiating the purchase of 321 launchers and 8,356 fire-and-forget missiles with Israeli firm Rafael Advanced Defence Systems Ltd.

However, a report in Israeli newspaper Haaretz quoted a Rafael spokesperson as saying that the Israeli firm had not been officially informed of any change in the decision to buy Spike missiles. Rafael already “began the transfer of development and manufacturing knowledge as part of the Make-in-India program. This activity will continue as planned,” Rafael deputy spokesman Ishai David told Haaretz.

With the defence ministry retracting the tender to buy the ATGM systems, the army’s wait to induct the weapon is likely to get longer, army sources said. The DRDO could take up to four years to develop the next-generation ATGMs.

The Spike missile can destroy armoured vehicles and bunkers from a distance of 2.5 km and the army was planning to equip more than 400 units with the third-generation ATGM systems.

The decision not to buy the missiles comes around 10 months after the defence ministry appointed a committee, headed by a major-general, to examine various aspects related to the deal.

India had chosen the Israeli ATGM over US defence and aerospace firm Raytheon’s Javelin system nearly four years ago. The army currently uses the older Milan and Konkur ATGMs built by public sector undertaking Bharat Dynamics Limited under license from French and Russian firms, respectively.

Hoping that it would bag the order, Rafael had stitched up an alliance with India’s Kalyani Group to produce the missiles in Hyderabad.

China’s Fickle Government Whines About Neighbors Democracy: Constantly

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES NEWS AGENCY)

((oped) THE PEOPLE OF TIBET AND PRADESH DO NOT RECOGNIZE CHINA AS THEIR SOVEREIGN SO IT IS THEY WHO NEED TO QUIT WHINING, AND SHUT UP THEMSELVES!) (trs)

China objects to Pres Kovind’s Arunachal trip, says bilateral ties at ‘crucial’ juncture

China claims Arunachal Pradesh as part of south Tibet and routinely criticises India if its leaders visit the state.

INDIA Updated: Nov 20, 2017 23:22 IST

Sutirtho Patranobis
Sutirtho Patranobis
Beijing, Hindustan Times
President Ram Nath Kovind at the valedictory function of 40 years of celebrations of Vivekananda Kendra Vidyalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, at Indira Gandhi Park in Itanagar on Sunday.
President Ram Nath Kovind at the valedictory function of 40 years of celebrations of Vivekananda Kendra Vidyalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, at Indira Gandhi Park in Itanagar on Sunday. (PTI)

China on Monday strongly criticised President Ram Nath Kovind’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh, saying Sino-India relations were at a “crucial moment” and that New Delhi should not complicate the dispute.

“China firmly opposes the Indian leader’s relevant activities in the relevant region,” foreign ministry spokesperson Lu Kang told a regular briefing.

“The Chinese government (has) never acknowledged the so-called Arunachal Pradesh,” Lu said, responding to a question from the Chinese state media on Kovind’s visit to the northeastern state.

China claims Arunachal Pradesh as part of south Tibet and routinely criticises India if its leaders visit the state.

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Barely two weeks ago, Beijing had criticised defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s visit to the state.

The official Xinhua news agency went on to describe Arunachal Pradesh as being “illegally” established in areas of the Tibet Autonomous Region.

Kovind had said on Sunday that if the northeast is the crown of the country, Arunachal Pradesh is the “jewel in the crown”. The President was on a four-day tour of the northeast.

On Monday, Lu continued the tirade.

“China and India and are in the process of settling this issue (border dispute) through negotiation and consultation, and seek to reach a fair and reasonable solution acceptable to all. Pending final settlement all parties should work for peace and tranquillity,” Lu said.

“China firmly opposes the Indian leader’s relevant activities in the relevant region,” he said, adding: “China and India’s relations are at a crucial moment and we hope India could work in the same direction and maintain general picture of bilateral ties and refrain from complicating border issue.”

Lu also said India should “work to create favourable conditions for border negotiations and for the sound and stable development of bilateral ties”.

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The Xinhua report said, “The so-called ‘Arunachal Pradesh’ was established largely on three areas of China’s Tibet – Monyul, Loyul and Lower Tsayul – which are currently under India’s illegal occupation.”

It added, “In 1914, British colonialists secretly instigated the illegal ‘McMahon Line’ in an attempt to incorporate into India the above-mentioned three areas of Chinese territory. None of the successive Chinese governments have ever recognised this line.”

Meanwhile, an official statement from China on last week’s border dialogue between officials of the two countries said it was in the “fundamental interest of both countries to maintain the healthy and stable development” of bilateral relations and this is the “common expectation of both the region and the international community”.

Diplomats from the two countries met in Beijing on Friday for the 10th round of the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on India-China Border Affairs (WMCC), initiated in 2012 with a focus on maintaining peace along the frontier.

It added that in the next phase, the two sides will continue to implement the important consensus reached by leaders of the two sides.

Because Pakistan Defense Forums Fake News Issues their FB & Twitter Accounts Are Suspended

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES)

 

Fake news, morphed pics get Pak Defense Forum’s Twitter, FB accounts suspended

Pakistan Defence Forum, which describes itself as “a one-stop resource for Pakistan defense, strategic affairs, security issues, world defense and military affairs” has been repeatedly accused of putting out anti-India propaganda.

WORLD Updated: Nov 19, 2017 07:51 IST

Rezaul H Laskar
Rezaul H Laskar
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
A doctored image of a student activist of Delhi University which was posted by Pakistan Defence Forum’s Twitter handle.
A doctored image of a student activist of Delhi University which was posted by Pakistan Defence Forum’s Twitter handle.(Photo courtesy: Twitter)

The Twitter account and Facebook page of Pakistan Defence Forum, one of the longest-running forums devoted to Pakistan’s armed forces, were suspended on Saturday shortly after it posted fake news involving Kulbhushan Jadhav and a morphed image of a Delhi University activist.

Over the years, Pakistan Defence Forum, which describes itself as “a one-stop resource for Pakistan defense, strategic affairs, security issues, world defense and military affairs” and is better known by its website url of “defense.pk”, has been repeatedly accused of putting out anti-India propaganda.

Though retired and serving Pakistani military personnel are among the forum’s members, it is not an official website of the armed forces.

Searches for the forum’s Twitter handle, which was verified, and their Facebook page turned up messages that they had both been suspended.

The message showing that Pakistan Defence Forum’s Facebook page has been suspended. (Facebook)

On Saturday, numerous Indian Twitter users complained about Pakistan Defence Forum’s Twitter handle when it posted a doctored image of Kawalpreet Kaur, a student activist of Delhi University that purported to show her standing in front of Delhi’s Jama Masjid with a poster that read: “I am an Indian but I hate India…”

The poster used by Kaur in an image that she had herself posted on Twitter on June 27 this year had read: “I am a citizen of India and I stand with secular values of our Constitution.” At the time, Kaur had said she was asking Indians to change their profile images to “protest mob lynching”.

True story, there goes the Defence of Pakistan. pic.twitter.com/HV4K9bwpUm

Other than running malicious campaigns against several Pakistani journalists/activists, defencepk was also morphing photos to further its propaganda: pic.twitter.com/qK7ZLQM29G

The issue of Kaur’s photo being doctored by flagged by Shehla Rashid, the former vice president of the JNU Students Union, who contended that forum should not use such images in the name of the Kashmir issue.

I hope this is not official defence page of Pakistan otherwise there is a real security concern if you use morphed pictures just to spread hate across nations. Please put it down.

Also on Saturday, Pakistan Defence Forum had tweeted that India had “refused to avail the generous offer made by #Pakistan to facilitate a meeting” between Kulbhushan Jadhav, sentenced to death by a military court for alleged involvement in espionage, and his wife.

The tweet posted by Pakistan Defence Forum about India purportedly refusing Pakistan’s offer to arrange a meeting between Kulbhushan Jadhav and his wife. (Twitter screengrab)

The reality was that India had accepted the offer and asked for Jadhav’s mother to be included in the meeting. Pakistan’s Foreign Office spokesman had even acknowledged, in a tweet, that India had sent in a reply to the offer to facilitate the meeting.

Indian Reply to Pakistan’s Humanitarian offer for Commander Jadhav received & is being considered

Following the suspension of the Twitter handle and Facebook pages, a thread on Pakistan Defence Forum was devoted to discussing the matter and numerous members hurled abuse at India and Indian nationals.

The various threads in Pakistan Defence Forum are devoted to discussing issues such as Pakistan’s politics, operations against terrorists, and also problems faced by Muslims around the world. The threads are also replete with the conspiracy theories that often find space in mainstream Pakistani media and discussions about India’s domestic politics.

In the past, Pakistan Defence Forum has also been accused of running malicious campaigns against Pakistani journalists, commentators, and activists who have been critical of the powerful military and intelligence agencies.

Pakistan Is Learning The Price Of Working With China: Their Sovereignty!

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES)

 

Not aware of Pakistan’s move to exclude PoK dam from CPEC, says China

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a part of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), runs through PoK and India has raised objections to the project.

WORLD Updated: Nov 16, 2017 18:54 IST

Press Trust of India, Beijing
In this photograph taken on October 4, 2017, Pakistani naval personnel stand guard near a ship carrying containers at Gwadar Port. Remote and impoverished, Pakistan's Gwadar port at first glance seems an unlikely crown jewel in a multi-billion dollar development project. with China aiming at constructing a 21st century Silk Road.
In this photograph taken on October 4, 2017, Pakistani naval personnel stands guard near a ship carrying containers at Gwadar Port. Remote and impoverished, Pakistan’s Gwadar port at first glance seems an unlikely crown jewel in a multi-billion dollar development project. with China aiming at constructing a 21st century Silk Road.(AFP)

Amid reports of Pakistan’s move to withdraw its bid to include Diamer-Bhasha Dam in PoK from the CPEC framework, China said on Thursday it was not aware of Islamabad’s decision but the project to connect Xinjiang and Gwadar port is “progressing smoothly for the time being”.

Pakistan’s water and power development authority (Wapda) chairman Muzammil Hussain was on Wednesday quoted by the Pakistan media as saying that “Chinese conditions for financing the Diamer-Bhasha Dam were not doable and against our interests.”

“I am not aware of the information mentioned by you,” foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told media in Beijing when asked about Pakistan’s decision to take the dam project off the table contending that the conditions proposed by Beijing is “not doable” and goes against its interest.

“I can tell you that China and Pakistan cooperation is extensive and profound,” Geng said. “As far as I know CPEC is progressing smoothly for the time being.”

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Briefing the Public Accounts Committee on the status of the mega water and power project, Hussain had said the Chinese conditions were about taking ownership of the project, operation and maintenance cost and securitization of the Diamer-Bhasha project by pledging another operational dam.

These conditions were unacceptable, therefore, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi approved a report to finance the dam from the country’s own resources, Hussain said.

Pakistan’s decision to publicise Chinese conditions came as a surprise, considering it shares close and “all weather” ties with China.

The announcement by the Pakistan government came days before the 7th Joint Cooperation Committee (JCC) meeting with China, which is scheduled for November 21 in Islamabad.

The JCC is the highest decision-making body of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) through which China is infusing over $50 billion cash into Pakistan financing a host of energy projects. The CPEC passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).

Defending the connectivity project, Geng said “as for the CPEC we follow the principle of extensive consultation and joint shared benefits to promote the building of the CPEC. It is conducive to promote connectivity of the two countries and connectivity of the whole region. As far as I know CPEC is progressing smoothly for the time being.”

Pakistan has been struggling to raise money from international institutions like the World Bank in the face of Indian opposition to the project on the Indus River in PoK.

Neither the World Bank and Asian Development Bank (ADB) nor China would finance the dam, therefore, the government decided to construct the reservoir from its own resources, Pakistan’s Express Tribune daily yesterday quoted Water Resources Secretary Shumail Khawaja as saying.

To resolve the problem in Kashmir, acknowledge the suffering of its people

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE KASHMIR OBSERVER)

 

To resolve the problem in Kashmir, acknowledge the suffering of its people

If the Narendra Modi government has appointed Dineshwar Sharma to arrange the surrender of the separatist movement, nothing will happen


After a year of hammering the separatists in Jammu and Kashmir – killing more than 160 militants in targeted operations in 2017 alone and arresting at least 10 overground separatist leaders for their role in suspicious financial transactions – the Indian government is seeking to apply a balm. These are fairly standard tactics, but will they work?

The answer depends on many factors, primarily the character of the movement.

As of now, it is not clear what exactly Dineshwar Sharma’s role is in Jammu and Kashmir. Union minister Jitendra Singh pointedly said Sharma was not an interlocutor but merely “a special representative” of the government. Indeed, the October 24 notification appointing him described Sharma as a “representative of the government of India” whose task was to “carry forward the dialogue” with elected representatives, various organizations, and individuals. The day before, Home Minister Rajnath Singh spoke of Sharma as a “special representative” who would “have full freedom to engage in talks with anyone he likes”.

At one level, it doesn’t really matter. “Interlocutor” was a word of convenience that fitted in the diverse collection of individuals and groups who have sought to work outside formal government structures to suggest solutions for the Kashmir problem. The way the government works, it does not really have to listen to anything such interlocutors tell it. Their role is strictly recommendatory and facilitative.

For the record, there has been no dearth of interlocutors who were interested in promoting a political solution to the issues roiling Kashmir and who had access to the highest levels of government. Some were self-appointed well-meaning folk, others informally asked to do the needful, yet others who were formally appointed and laid out their recommendations in formal reports. The Jammu and Kashmir legislature, too, added its bit by examining the issue of autonomy and sending its recommendations to Delhi in 2000, only to have them rejected peremptorily.

All had one thing in common – they were not the Government of India. At the end of the day, only the central government has the authority to take decisions on such matters. Yet, despite years and decades of reports, recommendations, cogitation, the government has not spelled out what it is willing to offer. True, there have been statements by prime ministers that the “sky is the limit” when it comes to autonomy, or that the issue needs to resolved within the ambit of insaniyat, or humanity. Most recently, Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared that Kashmir’s problems could not be resolved by bullets but “only by embracing its people”. But these are rhetorical statements that give no clues as to the Union Government’s bottom line.

Emphasise reconciliation

So what can we expect now? A great deal depends on what Modi wants. If the government has appointed Sharma to arrange the surrender of the separatist movement, nothing will happen. The Kashmiri insurgency is now nearly three decades old, having taken the lives of some 45,000 people, roughly half of them militants, 14,000 civilians and some 6,000 security personnel. The way the government sees it probably is that its policy of relentless police action and attrition has brought the militancy to its knees, and this is the best moment to step in with an offer of political dialogue. It is possible that the movement can be brought to a point of exhaustion by relentless police action. But it is like a fire where even embers can give life to a dying blaze if there is sufficient combustible material around.

Parse that another way and one could argue that having been willing to shed so much blood, Kashmiris will not accept a settlement that offers them nothing more than status quo ante as of January 1, 1990.

So, parse that another way and one could argue that has been willing to shed so much blood, Kashmiris will not accept a settlement that offers them nothing more than status quo ante as of January 1, 1990.

In the government’s reckoning, it is really unemployed youth and the internet that is causing the problem and so if jobs can be assured and the internet kept in check, things will work out. Things are not that simple. Historically, Kashmiris buttressed by geography, have had a sense of their uniqueness. The circumstances of their accession and the commitment of a plebiscite made by India and endorsed by the United Nations remain. No country in the world recognizes Jammu and Kashmir to be a part of India; all see it as disputed territory, including our big friend the United States.

Not many in India realize that the counter-insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir has been brutal. Extra-judicial killings, torture, and intimidation have been its constant features. And this for the last 30 years. So, on one hand, you have a hardened population and, on the other, an embittered one. Therefore, the political effort that you initiate must be thought through. Empty gestures are not going to mean much. Neither will they achieve the end you have in mind – the normalization of the situation.

What needs to be adopted is a perspective that emphasizes reconciliation. That’s a carefully chosen word. A brutal struggle has gone on in Kashmir for the past 30 years. To wish it away or to pretend it did not happen is to live in an imaginary world. The more honorable and pragmatic path is to accept that things happened and are happening and that there is a need to overcome them through the process of dialogue, negotiation, and compromise. The alternative is repeated cycles of violence and alienation, with fits of political intervention that will not really get you anywhere.

The Article First Appeared In Scroll.In

(Manoj Joshi is Distinguished Fellow, Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi).

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No one can ‘contain’ China: Chinese envoy on US selling arms to India

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES)

 

No one can ‘contain’ China: Chinese envoy on US selling arms to India

Political analysts in the west have described the sale of arms to India as a US move to contain China.

INDIA Updated: Oct 31, 2017 10:40 IST

Press Trust of India, Washington
US President Donald Trump and China's President Xi Jinping walk along the front patio of the Mar-a-Lago estate after a bilateral meeting in Palm Beach, Florida, US.
US President Donald Trump and China’s President Xi Jinping walk along the front patio of the Mar-a-Lago estate after a bilateral meeting in Palm Beach, Florida, US.(Reuters File Photo)

The Chinese envoy to the US said on Monday that no one could “contain” China now, expressing his displeasure over the formation of an “exclusive club” in the Indo-Pacific region.

Chinese Ambassador to the US Cui Tiankai was responding to questions on the recent India-centric policy speech by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and the decision of the Trump administration to sell to India high-tech military equipment, including state-of-the-art armed drones, and the Japanese proposal of a strategic quadrilateral dialogue involving India and Australia.

“I don’t think that the sales of advanced arms would really serve that purpose,” Cui said.

Political analysts in the west have described the sale of arms to India as a US move to contain China.

“By the way I don’t think anybody would be able to contain China,” the Chinese Ambassador asserted in his rare press conference at the Embassy of China here.

The top diplomat was addressing media ahead of US President Donald Trump’s visit to China early next month.

Trump is scheduled to embark on a 10-day visit to China. He would also visit Japan, South Korea, Vietnam and the Philippines.

Cui said China is “open to cooperation among the regional countries” for stability and prosperity.

The relationship between China and India “have been developing quite steadily over the years”.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, he said, has always said that Pacific Ocean is large enough to accommodate that development both of China and the US, and the Asia-Pacific region is big enough to accommodate the development of China, India and Japan.

“In this regard I hope all parties will do things conducive to better relations, better mutual trust,” he said.

Without mentioning the recent stand-off between India and China, Cui said he does not think that “confrontation” is in the interest of either of the two countries.

“I’m quite confident that both countries have a clear recognition of what will serve their respective interests best,” he said, responding to a question on India and the move to have a strategic dialogue involving four countries – India, Japan, US and Australia.

Any relationship between any two countries in the region, between any regional country and another country outside of the region should not be a zero sum game, he said when asked about the strengthening of India US relationship, which many say is aimed at China.

“Good relations between China and the US is not at the expense of any other country. The same should be true for relations between US and India and Japan and India,” he said.

It is not in the interest of these countries if their aim is to sort of “contain” China, the top Chinese diplomat said.

Cui said all the regional countries in the Indo-Pacific have shared interests in greater stability, peace and better prospects for prosperity.

In order to achieve that regional countries have to work together and have to promote closer cooperation among them and maybe establish appropriate regional mechanisms, he said.

As such, China is open to cooperation with all its neighbours so that Asia-Pacific will continue to be a peaceful, stable and prosperous region.

“We are following developments in the region very closely and hopefully other countries will have the same approach as we have,” he said, responding to a question on quadrilateral dialogue between India, Japan, US and Australia.

Cui said he does not think that “any attempt to form exclusive clubs in the region following a so-called zero sum approach will help anybody”.

Read more

India: Kaziranga Park Brings Down Rhino Poaching To 16 Year Low

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES)

 

With drones and AK-series rifles, Kaziranga brings down rhino poaching to 16-year low

With sophisticated weaponry, night-vision cameras and fast-track courts, which convicted eight this year, poaching in Kaziranga has slowed.

INDIA Updated: Nov 01, 2017 07:54 IST

Utpal Parashar
Utpal Parashar
Hindustan Times, Guwahati
According to park data, poachers gunned down 143 of these endangered and protected animals in 12 years but almost 70% of them were murdered since 2012, triggering calls for better conservation efforts.
According to park data, poachers gunned down 143 of these endangered and protected animals in 12 years but almost 70% of them were murdered since 2012, triggering calls for better conservation efforts.(AFP File Photo)

Poachers’ guns were silent in Assam’s Kaziranga this year. Well, almost.

Only two rhinoceros were killed this year, the lowest count since 2001 for the national park’s world-famous residents prized for their horn that feeds a multi-million dollar clandestine international market for the ivory and its perceived aphrodisiac properties.

According to park data, poachers gunned down 143 of these endangered and protected animals in 12 years but almost 70% of them were murdered since 2012, triggering calls for better conservation efforts.

Park rangers turned to sustained surveillance, stakeouts and stealth to track down poachers, especially nightly intruders. They use night-vision cameras, drones and eight 90-foot towers kitted out with cameras that stream live video feeds to a control room.

“These cameras enable us to track poachers and take action before they strike,” Kaziranga director Satyendra Singh said.

The park guards carry sophisticated weaponry now, advancing from the antiquated 303 service rifle that fired less and misfired more. And they built a better coordination network with other government agencies, especially the state police, in the fight to save the 430-square-km Kaziranga’s wildlife.

Read more

“We use night-vision cameras and AK-series rifles in our fight against poachers,” said 51-year-old Deben Borah, officer in-charge of Jakhalabandha police station near the park, whose team caught 260 poachers in three years.

The government set up a fast-track court and eight killers were convicted this year alone.

Police confiscated illegal arms from villagers near the park, dealing a blow to poachers who pay poor locals and rely heavily on them for logistics.

Most poachers are members of insurgent outfits or sharpshooters from neighbouring states.

Villagers were warned about the consequences of helping poachers and provided alternative livelihood options by training them to weave clothes and make handicrafts. The authorities set up 38 eco-development committees to help the people.

“These confidence-building measures coupled with frequent interaction with villagers led to better intelligence gathering and more arrests of poachers,” Singh said.

Statistics point to the difference these efforts made in the 10 months of 2017, after 18 deaths the previous year.

Chattra Bahadur Thapa, panchayat president of Amguri village adjacent to the park’s Burhapahar range, said: “The efforts showed results this year.”

But officials are aware poachers would up their game too, with more advanced weapons and techniques. The lure of the rhino horn is not easy to resist. It fetches nearly Rs 1 crore a kilogram in the international market, especially China.

“We can’t be complacent as poachers are expected to change strategies,” Singh said.

Rhinos in Kaziranga were relatively safe this year, although torrential rain this summer flooded large tracts of the park and put the animals in a spot of bother.

The killers turned to Assam’s other reserved forests, killing two rhinos in Pobitora wildlife sanctuary and three in Orang national park.

“The winter would be crucial as some rhinos could venture out for greener pastures. The authorities will have to be vigilant,” said Bibhab Talukdar, the founder of wildlife NGO Aaranyak.

India: PM Modi govt unveils Rs 9-trillion plan to boost economy

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES)

 

Modi govt unveils Rs 9-trillion plan to boost economy

The plan, unveiled by finance minister Arun Jaitley, includes spending Rs 2.11 trillion towards pumping capital into banks and another Rs 7 trillion on a roads and highways project.

BUSINESS Updated: Oct 25, 2017 07:03 IST

Moushumi Dasgupta and Alekh Archana
Moushumi Dasgupta and Alekh Archana
HindustanTimes, New Delhi
Finance minister Arun Jaitley during a press conference in New Delhi on Tuesday.
Finance minister Arun Jaitley during a press conference in New Delhi on Tuesday.(Arvind Yadav / HT )

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government announced it would invest over Rs 9 trillion to recapitalise state-owned banks and build new roads and highways on Tuesday, its biggest move yet to shore up an economy growing at its slowest in three years.

Plans include spending Rs 2.11 trillion towards infusing capital into banks over the next two years and another Rs 7 trillion over the next five years on the roads project, some of which will run through economic corridors as well as remote border and coastal areas.

The Rs 2.11 trillion is far higher than the Rs20,000 crore the government had previously planned to invest, in 2017-18 and 2018-19, in recapitalising banks.

Separately, the government also announced an increase in the price at which it procures wheat, pulses and oilseeds from farmers and waived the penalty on delayed filing of initial returns on the new Goods and Services Tax for August and September.

The Rs 9 trillion gambit could help improve credit flow to companies from banks weighed down by bad debt, and boost public investment.

The plan to build more than 83,000 km of roads and highways over the next five years will boost connectivity and create jobs.

Rajnish Kumar, the chairman of the country’s largest lender, the state-owned State Bank of India said the recapitalisation of banks would help channel more investments to sectors such as infrastructure. “The thrust to infrastructure will generate direct and indirect positive cascading effects for lot of related sectors and will create feel good factor for all stakeholders,” he added.

The spending push, anticipated by many after growth slowed to 5.7% in the June quarter, will also likely help the government blunt political criticism ahead of state polls over the next few months.

DK Srivastava, chief policy advisor at EY India said the measures announced will stimulate the economy. “The critical factor will be how much of the expenditure is front-loaded to be spent this year.”

Unveiling the plan at an unusually high-octane press conference complete with a power point presentation, finance minister Arun Jaitley said the economy was on a strong wicket and that temporary hiccups were not unusual when structural reforms were undertaken.

“When results of the GDP of the first quarter came out then I had said that we will be ready for the response,” said Jaitley, flanked by half a dozen senior officials of his ministry who gave presentations on the health of the economy.“We will report on the situation as they develop.”

But ramping up government spending, at a time when subdued tax collections and sluggish economic growth have strained federal revenues, could widen the fiscal deficit beyond the targeted 3.2% of GDP.

There were already signs that the government had little option but to spend its way out of trouble that was exacerbated, in part, by last year’s shock withdrawal of high-value banknotes as well as disruptions on account of the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax.

Rejecting any pessimism over the economy, Jaitley said the government had held several internal meetings on the situation and that discussions were also held with Prime Minister Modi.

“India has been fastest growing major economy for the last three years,” he said.

“(Our) Attempt is to maintain high growth rate.”

(With input from Alekh Archana in Mumbai for Livemint)

Why The West Grew Rich

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE PAKISTANI NEWS AGENCY ‘DAWN’)

 

ABOUT 1,000 years ago, when Europe was supposedly traversing through its dark ages, the Muslim empire was the envy of the world. Its wealth and material standards were such that Cordoba alone was pronounced as the ‘ornament of the world’ by Hrotsvitha, a mediaeval German writer and Nun. By 1500, it was China and India whose riches and wealth became the stuff of fables. By the 17th century, the tide had started turning in favor of northern European nations. By the mid-19th century, this turnaround was complete. What accounts for this transformation?

The literature on this topic, suffice to say, is so vast as to be almost incomprehensible. One can, though, make a general distinction. Some of this literature concerns the question of ‘how’, the other concerns the question ‘why’, with the remaining being a combination of both. In this article, I want to briefly share the findings of two excellent new books on this topic by Jared Rubin (Rulers, Religion and Riches) and Joel Mokyr (A Culture of Growth), that tackle the question of ‘why’.

Rubin’s book concentrates its analysis on the divergence between the West and the Muslim world (especially the Middle East), and what factors gave rise to disparity in development outcomes. He debunks the idea of ‘backwardness’ of the Islamic faith, which supposedly held back the Muslim world. If that were the case, he argues, there never would have been a wealthy Muslim Spain. In general, he traces the great divergence between the West and the Middle East in the way that religion and government interacted over time.

The separation of religion from statecraft set the stage for European ascent.

Before the divergence began, the Christian West and the Muslim East used to derive their authority and legitimacy from religion. The real source of power lay with religious figureheads like the pope, followed by the rulers and their cohorts. Whatever economic activity there was, it was shaped in a way to benefit these entrenched groups. But then Europe gradually broke away from religion as its source of legitimacy. As the tight bond between religion and state loosened, economic and financial concerns became top priorities.

As nation states like Britain and the Netherlands adopted the parliamentary system of governance, the hold of the entrenched classes started to relax since parliamentary legitimacy required participation of the common man. This participation meant they could now stake a claim in the state’s riches, and also realise it through good policies.

What accentuated this break between religion and the state in Europe? One of the most iconic inventions of history, the printing press! In 1440, Gutenberg invented the printing press, revolutionising the spread of knowledge and ideas. Once restricted to only the church, knowledge now began to spread to all parts of Europe as books and pamphlets became easily available to the public. This, over time, gave rise to a movement (reformation and enlightenment) that gradually withered the grip of papacy and kings.

This marvellous invention, however, did not make it to the Muslim world till 1727 as leading religious figures saw it as a threat to their monopoly. They convinced successive sultans not to let this ‘un-Islamic’ invention enter their blessed lands. This 300-year gap, Rubin argues, is one of the most important factors (though not the only one) in explaining the divergence in wealth between the West and the East. At a time when Europe moved towards economic empowerment, technological change and inclusion, the Muslim world’s energies were focused on preserving orthodoxy and exclusion of people from the fruits of knowledge and empowerment.

Mokyr’s book, in contrast, focuses on reformation and enlightenment that drove Europe ahead of others. Why did these not occur in China or the Muslim world and only in Europe? His narration revolves around the political fragmentation in Europe that beset it in the wake of the rise of nation states. Political fragmentation gave rise to fierce competition, not just in commerce and trade but also in ideas which spread as innovations like the printing press made their presence felt.

Nation states, as they raced to embrace science and technology, also competed for leading scholars and thinkers. This spawned a culture of openness, not just in science but also in ideas. No longer did it remain possible to repress ideas and criticism since critics could now always find refuge in another state open to ideas and criticism. This cycle of openness became unstoppable with time, and complemented advances in technology and knowledge. This, argues Mokyr, explains to a large degree why European nation states were able to leave others behind.

To summarise, for Rubin, the answer lies in legitimacy derived from religion changing to legitimacy derived through people. This was made possible by inventions like the printing press, which tilted the balance in favour of trade, commerce and the people. For Mokyr, the answer is to be found in a cultural change brought on by the rise of nation states, their intense competition in various spheres of life and political fragmentation within Europe. Importantly, a common strand in both these books is to be found in the separation of religion from statecraft which set the stage for European ascent.

The above is but a tiny fraction of the wealth of knowledge available on this particular topic, and in no way does justice to such an important question. Interested readers can access hundreds of books and other material to contemplate this issue, such as the outstanding Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond, or How the West Grew Rich by Nathan Rosenberg. What can be concluded is that there is no single factor that can explain the rise of the West. It’s the coming together of a host of factors that propelled economic growth. What we also know is that almost 500 years since this divergence in Europe’s favour is supposed to have begun, the pendulum is now again swinging towards the East (China and India, for example). Their rise is another interesting story, perhaps worthy of a future column.

The writer is an economist.

[email protected]

Twitter:@ShahidMohmand79

Published in Dawn, October 25th, 2017

 

 

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