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Saturday, June 27, 2009

Pearson Gets Stake in 2 Indian Education Companies

June 25, 2009
Pearson, the British publishing group, said Wednesday that it is partnering with an Indian education company and an Internet tutor, as it increases its focus on the huge Indian market, The New York Times’s Heather Timmons reports from New Delhi.

Pearson is buying half of the vocational training business of Educomp Solutions, a Delhi education company that creates software and training systems for 23,000 schools. Pearson is also buying a 17.2 percent stake in TutorVista, an online tutoring company that brings together Indian tutors and American students.

Together, the deals are valued at $30 million, Pearson said, but the company did not provide more financial details.

The Wednesday deals are “just the first step” for Pearson in India, Khozem Merchant, deputy chairman of Pearson India, said during a news conference in New Delhi. “The entire Pearson group has a sharp eye on opportunities in India,” he said. Pearson plans to publish an edition of The Financial Times newspaper in India as soon as it gets the licenses and approval it needs from the government, executives said Wednesday.

India’s Congress-led government, which was recently re-elected, has made education a top priority for the years ahead. Already, the Indian government spends about $30 billion on education a year, Pearson estimates, and private citizens spend another $50 billion.

India’s youthful population is both the country’s greatest asset and one of its largest concerns. About one-third of the country’s 1.2 billion people are younger than 14, according to recent estimates.

India is known for its top-notch engineering colleges, but the country is also plagued with thousands of mediocre schools at all levels that turn out students who are unqualified for further study or all but the most menial jobs.

Pearson has been building its education business, particularly its English-language training, in China and Latin America in recent years.

“In India, we’ve probably underinvested,” Vivek Goyal, president and chief executive of Pearson in India, said during the Wednesday news conference.

Educomp, which is based in New Delhi, makes classroom plans, trains teachers, audits schools and sells information technology plans to computerize classrooms.

The company’s vocational training program is in its nascent stage, Pearson said.

The new joint venture will concentrate on training students for blue-collar jobs, Mr. Goyal said, including hospitality, food preparation, security and construction. Government-financed programs and potential employers would pay students’ tuition.

Shares in Educomp rose 10.9 percent on the news, bringing the company’s market value to 59 billion rupees, or $1.2 billion.

TutorVista, the Internet tutoring company, provides online math, English and science tutors for students from kindergarten through 12th grade. The online tutors, who are based in India, cost about one-fifth of those based in the United States, Pearson said.

Air India holds talks with employees again

Mumbai (IANS): Air India's top management is holding a meeting with employees' representatives on Friday night here to discuss its proposals to cut wage costs.

Both sides held a meeting on Thursday, but failed to reach a consensus on the cash-strapped airline's proposals to cut costs.

Union leaders have said that they would not accept any proposal to cut employees' salaries.

The airline also stuck to its stand and said that it would delay the June salaries of its around 31,000 employees by 15 days.

Meanwhile, Air India employees Friday staged a protest demonstration outside the domestic terminal of the Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi against the airline's decision to defer salaries.

Air India officials said they were working on setting up committees that would assess the reasons for the current financial problems of the airline, officials said.

On Wednesday, Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and discussed with him a bailout plan for the airline.

The prime minister suggested him to adopt various cost-cutting measures to improve the financial condition of the National Aviation Company India (NACIL), which owns Air India.

After the meeting, Patel said the government would support the loss-making carrier, but stopped short of spelling out the size and nature of the package.

Air India, which incurred a loss of Rs 4,000 crore last fiscal, plans to ask for a Rs 10,000-crore (about $2 billion) bailout package from the central government.

Air India chairman Arvind Jadhav, Civil Aviation Secretary M. Madhavan Nambiar and other senior ministry and airline officials had met the Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, T.K.A. Nair, on Monday to discuss the issue.

India hope to keep winning momentum going

Kingston (PTI): Having survived a scare in the opening match, India go into the second cricket one-dayer against the West Indies here on Sunday, fully aware that they need to maintain their intensity right through the game to take an invincible 2-0 lead.

The Indians just about managed a narrow 20-run victory in the first match on Friday and appeared to be a little complacent in the later stages of the game. They very nearly paid the price for it.

The close game will serve as a wake-up call for the visitors who are determined to make amends for their Twenty20 World Cup debacle by clinching the four-match series.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni has already warned his teammates not to get complacent and it remains to be been seen how the Indians respond to their captain who finds himself under some pressure now.

With the dashing Virender Sehwag not available for the series, the Indians have struggled to get the starts though new opener Dinesh Karthik did well by scoring 67.

The left-handed Gautam Gambhir has not been in good nick for some time now and the Delhi batsman will be keen to rediscover his touch.

Yuvraj Singh, who clobbered a rollicking 131 in the first match, has been in excellent form and will have to shoulder the responsibility of taking India to a healthy total.

Bowling in the slog overs continued to remain an area of concern for India as home side was in the game till the end despite the tourists plucking seven wickets in 40 overs. They conceded 29 runs in extras.

In Dhoni's own words, giving pacer Ashish Nehra the ball in the closing stage was a gamble which paid off.

"It was a gamble. We were thinking of giving that over to an off-spinner or a pacer. Finally, we chose a pacer as the ball was getting reverse swing," he said.

Dhoni also admitted they had to toil hard to defend their mammoth 340-run target because his teammates got complacent after removing the top-order of the West Indies.

"Most of the guys thought that we have won the game when they were seven wicket down but it was a mistake and hopefully we won't repeat that. It was more close than thought," he said.

West Indies, who were brave in their chase despite losing wickets at regular intervals, will surely look to bounce back to draw parity in the series.

They needed one batsman to play a big innings like Yuvraj had done for the Indians and the others could play the supporting role.

That their bowlers let India recover to set such a massive target after twice applying break to their run-spree shows they needed to buckle up too. The West Indies' bowling appeared indisciplined as they did not maintain the right line and length on the slow track.

Skipper Chris Gayle confessed his batsmen failed to capitalise on the good start.

"We came close and the effort can't be faulted for the way we went about it. I think that we had a good start (to the innings) and a couple of the top-order batsmen got good starts, which we should have capitalised on," he said.

"It was a good effort. We batted well. Shiv played a top innings at the top," he said.

India to play tri-series in Sri Lanka

27 Jun 2009PTI

NEW DELHI: India will play a four-match tri-series against Sri Lanka and New Zealand in September this year, the BCCI announced on Saturday.

The series would be hosted by Sri Lanka and the itinerary for the event would be released soon.

"Sri Lanka will host India and New Zealand in a tri-series of One-Day Internationals in September 2009," BCCI secretary N Srinivasan said in a statement.

"The teams will play each other once, and the top two teams will meet in the final. Thus, a total of four matches will be played," the statement added.

Friday, June 26, 2009

From corner room to Yojana Bhavan

26 Jun 2009

For a guy who joked, "I would have been building my second kitchen extension in New Jersey," if he hadn't joined hands with Narayana Murthy to start Infosys Technologies, getting every Indian a national identity card isn’t a bad place to end up in at all. That in between he launched Infosys, had a brilliant corporate career, made thousands of crores, helped the world understand globalisation better by telling Tom Friedman the world is flat, and penned a best seller Imaging India, himself, seem stepping stones in an improbable journey that has taken him from the corner room with a fantastic view to Yojana Bhawan.

In some ways, Nandan Manohar Nilekani is destinys child, a `karmayogi, to use his wife Rohini’s phrase. There have been serendipitous breaks, he’s always been at the right place at the right time. When most 22-year olds from IITs were busy taking GREs and flying off to Ivy league colleges, he sort of strolled into his mentor Murthys office at Patni Computers in Mumbai. His entrepreneurial journey would have been aborted if he hadn’t developed fever just before CAT exam. IIMs and corporate India’s loss meant Nandan and Infosys would go onto become the face of India Emerging.

Those who believe geeks don’t make for good marketeers or brand builders haven’t met Nilekani. For an electrical engineer -- from IIT-Mumbai his networking skills are legendary. He probably remembers the name and face of every second person has ever met. While Infosys itself is the best example of this, his ability to pull together disparate groups towards a common goal was best evidenced by him organizing India’s high decibel and very effective `India Everywhere campaign at The World Economic Forum at Davos in 2006. Guests were wooed with ipods loaded with Hindi pop and pashmina shawls. On the last day, at the party hosted by Team India , global movers and shakers grooved with Indian models and glitterati to DJ Aqeels beats.

He and Murthy – who’s nine years older to Nandan and the abiding force in is life formed a symbiotic relationship. While the older man set the vision and leadership needed to nurture a company founded on Rs 10,000 borrowed from the founders wives to a multi billion dollar global enterprise, Nandan provided the marketing, networking abilities. His ability to schmooze with investors, clients, media and even competitors is the stuff of legends.

Nandan was Murthy’s chosen understudy and it was natural that he succeed Murthy to the CEOs post in 2002. Five years later Kris Gopalakrishna took over executive responsibilities. Though never articulated publicly, Murthy’s desire to give his founding team members a shot at running the company meant that Nandan found at an early age (52) pushed to the co-chairman’s role.

Since then he has tried to keep himself busy and useful doing a plethora of things inside and outside Infosys. He believes with his wife Rohini that they need to give back substantial chunks of their wealth to society. His interest in urban affairs meant he headed the Bangalore Agenda Task Force when SM Krishna was the chief minister. He’s today on the board of ICRIER, a member of the National Advisory Group on e-governance, of Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission and President of NCAER.

Finding himself at `cross-roads, his ability to influence policy from the outside reach its natural limit, Nandans now chosen to directly participate in the setting and implementation of policy that will hopefully benefit millions. With his kids daughter Janhavi and son Nihaar -- at Yale University and with no interest in two of India’s biggest passions movies and cricket he has all the time and money in the world to chase his dreams now.

Younger bro’s leaving home: Murthy

26 Jun 2009,

I feel it’s like a younger brother going out of home, seeking nobler aspirations. Nandan has been an integral part of Infosys history. He was the third person I spoke to when I founded Infosys. He has played a seminal part in every decision taken by us. There’s been no big discussion of which he’s not been a part.

He is a good conceptualiser, a good thinker, a big picture man. It’s a big loss to Infosys. But our mindset is such that we expect our people to put the interests of the country ahead of the company’s or the individuals.”

On the sequence of events that led to Nandan quitting the company he co-founded in 1981, said Murthy, “he discussed this with me in early June — I am the first person he consults — I was enthusiastic about it. I rank this project on the scale of importance and impact with Sam Pitroda’s telecom project, N S Swaminathan’s green revolution and Prof Yashpal’s Sites (satellite instruction & TV experiment) project.”

He believes, “This is going to give identity to every Indian. Benefits will go to the right people. It has the potential to track terrorists very easily.”

Personally, Murthy admits he will miss him a lot. “He’s a great favourite of my wife Sudha too. They are both from Dharwad. Our families are very close to each other.” Nandan’s been an effective corporate leader. Would he transition easily to a public role, where traditionally corporate leaders have floundered? Murthy sees no problem at all. “Nandan’s absolutely ethical, he’s a consensus builder, a good thinker, a big picture man. Plus, he understands technology and is a modern thinker,” he says.

He’s chuffed that Nandan’s got a cabinet rank. When someone from Infosys goes to the outside world, it helps if they have the power and status to add value.

India grain export ban review depends on monsoon

NEW DELHI, June 25 (Reuters) - India will look at lifting grain export curbs only after watching the progress of monsoon rains and the planting of summer-sown crops, its farm secretary said on Thursday.

The weather office on Wednesday said the annual June-September monsoon rains would deliver only 93 percent of the long-term average, coming in below normal for the first time in four years.

Indian farmers, who depend on the monsoon as only 40 percent of farmland is irrigated, plant summer-sown crops such as rice, soybeans and sugarcane in the monsoon months of June and July.

"We will be very careful on this," T Nanda Kumar said when asked about a relaxation of curbs on wheat and non-basmati rice exports.

Hit by a poor crop and rising global prices, India clamped down on exports of wheat and rice in the past two years to stave of shortages at home.

Higher output since then and overflowing grain bins had raised hopes it would ease trade restrictions.

Rice stocks at government warehouses touched 20.4 million tonnes on June 1, up 69 percent from a year earlier and wheat stocks jumped to 33.1 million tonnes, 37 percent up from a year ago.

Government officials warned against pessimism, saying the rains could pick up in coming months.

Microsoft unveils Windows 7 prices, free upgrades

26 Jun 2009,

WASHINGTON: Microsoft on Thursday announced prices for Windows 7 and offered free upgrades to buyers of personal computers before the new operating system hits the stores in October.

Brad Brooks, corporate vice president for Windows consumer marketing, said Microsoft will offer free upgrades to Window 7 to people who buy Vista-equipped PCs between Friday and the October 22 release date of Windows 7.

Vista is Microsoft's much-criticized previous operating system and the Redmond, Washington-based software giant is hoping that Windows 7 will help erase bad memories of Vista in the minds of consumers.

Brooks said in a video released by Microsoft that the free upgrades would apply to people who purchase PCs running Windows Vista Home Premium, Windows Vista Business or Windows Vista Ultimate.

The upgrade program will be available until January 31, 2010.

The offer of free upgrades is seen as an attempt to prevent people from putting off a decision to purchase a PC until October. An estimated 90 percent of the world's PCs run on Windows.

Microsoft said Windows 7 will be available in 14 languages on October 22: English, Spanish, Japanese, German, French, Italian, Dutch, Russian, Polish, Brazilian Portuguese, Korean, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese and Chinese (Hong Kong).

It will be available on October 31 in 21 other languages: Turkish, Czech, Portuguese, Hungarian, Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, Finnish, Greek, Ukrainian, Romanian, Arabic, Lithuanian, Bulgarian, Estonian, Slovenian, Hebrew, Thai, Croatian, Serbian Latin, and Latvian.

Because of a European Commission anti-trust inquiry, the Windows 7 version going on sale in Europe will not include Internet Explorer, Microsoft's Web browser. Microsoft announced earlier this month that it had decided to remove the Web browser because of the regulatory wrangling.

Microsoft said a Home Premium Upgrade of an existing PC to Windows 7 would cost 120 dollars in the United States while the Professional Upgrade would cost 200 dollars and the Ultimate Upgrade 220 dollars.

It said the Home Premium version of Windows 7 would retail for 200 dollars in the United States. The Professional version will sell for 300 dollars and the Ultimate version for 320 dollars.

Microsoft also said it was offering users in the United States and several other countries the opportunity to pre-order Windows 7 at a more than 50 percent discount -- 50 dollars for the Home Premium version and 100 dollars for the Professional one.

Amid slumping PC sales worldwide, Microsoft has been aggressively pushing laptop computers recently in a series of new advertisements in the United States as a low-cost alternative to the more expensive machines of rival Apple

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Taliban sway to blame for poor India-Pakistan ties, says BJP

NEW DELHI: It has now become apparent to the international community that the growing influence of the Taliban and radicalisation of Pakistan’s internal politics, and not Jammu and Kashmir, are the reasons for poor New Delhi-Islamabad relations, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) said here on Saturday.

Speaking on foreign policy issues, party president Rajnath Singh said as long as the army in Pakistan did not accept working under a democratic civilian government, resolution of its internal problems would not be possible. He said the “myth” that India-Pakistan relations were linked to the issue of Kashmir was recently exploded, as attention now turned to the growing influence of the Taliban in Pakistan.

The party said “no formal dialogue” would be possible with Pakistan until it reiterated commitment to what it had promised in Islamabad on January 6, 2004 — that it would not allow territory controlled by Pakistan to be used to launch anti-India activities.

The BJP expressed concern over the racial attacks in Australia, and said the Centre had no policy for non-resident Indians and People of Indian Origin (PIO). It also criticised India for not responding adequately when PIOs in Malaysia protested against discriminatory and oppressive practices.

The BJP welcomed the leadership of Madhav Kumar Nepal in the Himalayan country, and said Maoists did not appear to be ready to abandon the policy of using force.

In Sri Lanka, the party said, Tamils must be properly represented in the political system for peace in the island nation.

Obama for India, Pakistan talks

President Barack Obama would like India and Pakistan to have a dialogue to resolve their differences, but the US cannot dictate how they should go about it or mediate in the process.

“I believe that there are opportunities, maybe not starting with Kashmir but starting with other issues, that Pakistan and India can be in a dialogue together and over time to try to reduce tensions and find areas of common interest,” Obama told Pakistan’s Dawn group in an interview published Sunday.

“And we want to be helpful in that process, but I don’t think it’s appropriate for us to be the mediators in that process,” he said according to the transcript.

Asked why he or his administration had dropped the “K word” — Kashmir — from his statements after mentioning it in his inaugural speech, Obama said: “I don’t think that we’ve been silent on the fact that India is a great friend of the US and Pakistan is a great friend of the US, and it always grieves us to see friends fighting.

Advani wants introspection in letter & spirit

22 Jun 2009, ET Bureau

NEW DELHI: Leader of the Opposition L K Advani on Sunday endorsed the demands from a section of the BJP leaders for a “sincere” and “honest” stock-taking of the party’s performance in the Lok Sabha polls, but said at the same time that such an exercise should not reduced to score-settling.

Endorsing the sentiments expressed on Saturday by another party veteran, former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Sunder Lal Patwa, Mr Advani, while delivering his valedictory speech at the BJP’s national executive, said that the party should not be found wanting in honest introspection.

"But introspection is different from finger-pointing. Let us treat the outcome of the elections as behoves a mature and highly resilient political party,’’ he said. The internal bickerings, he said, had demoralised the cadre.

Mr Advani’s remarks came against the backdrop of the growing clamour from among a section of leaders, including former Union ministers Jaswant Singh, Arun Shourie and Yashwant Sinha, for undertaking a post-mortem of the election results, and fixing responsibility.

The campaign, it is suspected by many, was orchestrated by BJP president Rajnath Singh. He, in fact, called up one of the letter-writers on Friday to tell him that he endorsed the views expressed by him in his letter.

They had, in particular, taken exception to the leadership’s decision to ``reward’’ the party’s campaign strategists, rather than apportioning blame among them. Their ire was directed against party leader Arun Jaitley, who steered the party’s campaign in the general election, but ended up being elevated as Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha.

In her intervention on the inaugural day of the BJP’s national executive, former Union minister Maneka Gandhi too had blamed Mr Jaitley for messing up the party’s campaign in Uttar Pradesh. ``He had no time to talk to anybody. He was busy planting stories in the media,’’ she had alleged.

By speaking out against this tendency of pointing accusing fingers at potential rivals, Mr Advani on Sunday made it clear that he was not in favour using the introspection exercise to settle personal scores.

Earlier in the day, several other leaders, including Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Bihar deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi, BJP general secretary Gopinath Munde, former Union ministers Sumitra Mahajan and Hukumdeo Narayan Yadav too had come out hard against the attempts to hurl dirt at rivals in the name of introspection and accountability.

“How does one fix accountability? The party fared poorly in Uttarakhand. Will the party haul the state unit chief over coals for the washout. On the other hand, the party performed very well in states such as Bihar, Karnataka, Chhattisgarh and Himachal Pradesh. Will you reward the party chiefs of these states?’’ Mr Modi sought to know.
Mr Yadav too carried out a veiled attack against Mr Singh, Mr Shourie and Mr Sinha.

``How did letters written by them to the party president find their way to the media? I must have written several letters in the past to Advaniji and Rajnathji, but the contents of these letters were never leaked to the press,’’ he said.

He poked fun at the practice of rewarding Lok Sabha election losers with berths in the Rajya Sabha, and allowing Rajya Sabha members to contest elections.

The entire campaign to fix accountability on the party president’s rivals was orchestrated by Mr Rajnath Singh himself. He, in fact, told one of the ``letter-writers’’ that he was in agreement with every word mentioned in the letter and that it should be discussed by the national executive.

Mr Advani also used the opportunity to tell the delegates that he was not in any hurry to hand over the baton anytime soon. He informed that he had decided to tour the entire country in the coming months to interact with the party cadre to let them know about the opportunities and challenges before them. This was a clear hint that he intended to stay on till his succession line-up was cleared.

It also reaffirmed the view that the national executive had failed to inject any clarity on the war-of-succession that has erupted among the top leaders.

The BJP veteran, at the same time, gave a call to promote younger leaders in view of the inertia that had gripped the party at all levels.

"The party has to urgently evolve a system of encouraging younger leaders at all levels...It is sad that a certain ‘train-compartment’ mentality has got developed within the party, which makes those in leadership positions to ignore promising, talented and committed cadres who are standing outside and waiting for the door to open. We must identify, train, groom and empower third, fourth and fifth generation leaders in the BJP,’’ Mr Advani said.

Mumbai's Bandra-Worli Sea Link ready, to open by month end: Minister

21 Jun 2009,

MUMBAI: The Rs 1,600 crore, 5.6 km Bandra-Worli Sea Link (BWSL), which will connect the suburban Bandra with Worli on the south here, is ready and
will be open to the public by the end of June, a Maharashtra minister said Sunday.

Maharashtra State Roadways Development Corporation (MSRDC) Minister Vimal Mundada said the inauguration of the link would be 'as per the schedule, by June-end'.

'We are awaiting a final confirmation from United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi to do the inaugural honours. Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar and other dignitaries have already confirmed their presence,' Mundada told IANS.

Completed after 10 years, the cable-supported 8-lane bridge will be the country's first-ever open sea link.

Presently, the Mahim Causeway is the only connecting link between the southern island city and the northwest suburbs.

A daily traffic volume exceeding 1.4 million leads to massive traffic snarls, especially during the morning and evening peak hours.

An MSRDC official said the impact of the bridge can be gauged from the fact that the distance of 8 km between Bandra-Worli that presently takes anything between 60-90 minutes during the peak hours will be completed in 6-8 minutes.

'Once the BWSL is operational, this travel time will reduce to barely 6-8 minutes. It will also entail savings in vehicular operating costs (VOC) of over one billion rupees per annum,' the official said.

The chief attraction of the magnificent structure would be the two cable stayed bridges, one 500 metres (northern side) and another 350 metres (southern side), for the passage of fishing boats.

The bridge rests on two towers each 126 metres tall or equivalent to a 43-storeyed building. MSRDC has plans to provide a viewers gallery at the top of the towers which would offer a bird's eye glimpse of the entire city.

There is a modern, automated, 16-lane toll plaza at the southern end, and the bridge has been equipped with sophisticated security and monitoring systems.

Executed by the Hindustan Construction Company, the MSRDC's jewel in the crown project suffered a long delay of five years owing to various hiccups. The company will also maintain the bridge for the next five years.

Although designed for speeding at 100-km per hour, initially the MSRDC plans to impose a 50-km per hour speed limit to enable motorists to get used to the bridge and prevent accidents. Two lanes are proposed to be reserved exclusively for buses and heavy vehicles.

No link between Maoists in Nepal & India: Menon

22 Jun 2009, ET Bureau

NEW DELHI: AS the Lalgarh operation in West Bengal continued, foreign secretary Shivshankar Menon, who ended a visit to Nepal on Sunday, said there was no evidence of any links between the Maoists in Nepal and India.

Security experts for long have said that the Maoist red corridor, which extends all the way from the borders of Nepal to South India right to the sea, has been extensively used by the Maoists to transport arms and cadres.

However, Mr Menon said there was nothing to suggest that there were any links. “There is nothing to suggest there is any link,” the Indian envoy was quoted as saying according to reports from Nepal. The foreign secretary, who ended a two-day visit to Nepal on Sunday, met Maoist chief and former prime minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda.

He was further quoted as saying that he had been “constantly assured by all legitimate political parties, including the Maoists” that they would not interfere in India’s ‘internal matters’.

Even as security forces here attempt to end the Maoist seize in Lalgarh, the Maoists in Nepal have launched fresh protests against the government. These protests have been triggered by the current dispensations order to overturn the sacking of army chief Gen Rookmangud Katawal. This was the issue that had led the Maoists to quit the government in protest. The Maoists had also blamed India for the fall of the government and have been playing the India card. In this backdrop, India has assured Nepal of all help in moving the peace process forward.

“India is committed to assist the government and people of Nepal in their transition to multi-party democracy and in the peace process to achieve their aspirations for a peaceful and prosperous future,”

Mr Menon told reporters. He said India is committed to further strengthening and enhancing ties with Nepal. The two sides have agreed to reactivate existing bilateral mechanism to resolve the border dispute.

Mr Menon met Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal, Maoist chief Prachanda, foreign minister Sujata Koirala, defence minister Bidya Devi Bhandari and home minister Bhim Rawal. He also had a bilateral meeting with his counterpart Gyan Chandra Acharya in Nepal.

Friday, June 19, 2009

China slams ADB for funding India

19 Jun 2009,

NEW DELHI: In a move which can open up old wounds in India, China has come down heavily on Asian Development Bank (ADB) for approving a $2.9 billion loan to India which, it said, meant interference in the political affairs between the two countries. Beijing was earlier said to have opposed the loan to India mainly because it included $60 million funding for a watershed project in Arunachal Pradesh, the state around which most of the Sino-Indian border disputes are centred.

The Chinese foreign office said in a statement that the adoption of the India Country Partnership Strategy (2009-2012) completely disregarded Beijing's concerns as "it involves disputed territories between China and India".

"China expresses strong dissatisfaction to the move, which can neither change the existence of immense territorial disputes between China and India, nor China's fundamental position on its border issues with India," said the statement.

ADB gave the go-ahead to the project on Monday after having postponed the approval for several months apparently because of the objections raised by China. The total $2.9 billion package covers the period from 2009 to 2012.

"As a regional institution on development, the ADB should not intervene in the political affairs of its members. The adoption of the document has not only dealt a severe blow to its own reputation but also undermines the interests of its members," it added, while urging ADB to take effective measures to eliminate the "terrible impact" of the decision.

On China-India border issues, it said that Beijing always believes that the two sides should seek a fair and equitable solution acceptable to both through bilateral negotiation.

ADB had earlier said that the Country Strategy for India covers the 2009-12 period and has been formulated in line with India's development priorities as set out in its 11th Five-Year Plan and is congruent with ADB's Strategy 2020.

In March, ADB had to postpone the board's discussion on the country partnership strategy for India at the request of China, which was upset by the inclusion of the watershed development project in Arunachal Pradesh in the plan.

However, last month, the agency made it clear that differences between India and China will have no bearing on ADB's lending plans to India saying the bank does not interfere in the political affairs of any member.

As India tries to strengthen its defences alongside the border with China, it is becoming increasingly clear that Beijing has been rattled by the exercise which includes deploying more men in the border areas. The Chinese media too in the past few weeks has attacked India for causing fresh strains in the ties even though, according to these reports, India lags far behind China in terms of status and say in international matters. In a recent poll conducted by a news agency in China, 74% of the respondents in fact said that they looked upon India as a threat to China.

Rising OTC options deals point to a correction on Dalal Street

19 Jun 2009, ET Bureau

MUMBAI: Are stocks headed for a sharp correction? The consensus among most institutional investors seems to be ‘yes’. At least, the kind of equity options strategies that are in demand in the unofficial over-the-counter (OTC) market, where savvy investors such as hedge funds and investment banks strike deals over the telephone, reflects this sentiment.

People familiar with deals in the OTC market said there’s an increased demand to buy relatively risk-free options strategies such as risk reversals or equity collars. But such strategies are not finding too many takers, suggesting that most of these influential traders are not ready to risk-betting that the market will not fall sharply over the coming weeks.

“There are certain indications that dips could be rapid, which is why there is a demand for risk reversals...Nobody is really interested in naked bets,” said an official at Antique Stock Broking. A risk reversal involves simultaneous purchase and sale of out-of-the money (OTM) ‘call’ and ‘put’ options to create a near zero-cost trading structure. In this trading strategy, an investor is selling ‘calls’ and buying ‘puts’ to create synthetic short futures, which use options to mimic the certain characterestics of futures contracts.

This is how a risk reversal works. In a hypothetical situation, if the Nifty is at 4,400 and an investor expects the index to fall sharply, he would sell 4,600 or 4,700 call options for a premium of Rs 100. By selling this call option, the investor is bearish on the index. He then uses this premium to fund buying 4,000 or 4,100 put options, ideally, at Rs 100.

So, the investor benefits, if the index does not move beyond 4,400 and gains all the more, if it falls. In case, the Nifty rises to say 4,600, he loses the premium paid for buying the ‘put’ and also the money received for selling the ‘call’. Several investors have existing long positions or use index futures as a hedge against this strategy.

For the counterparty, he will benefit, only if the index moves against the bets involving the call selling and put buying. But many investors are not comfortable being the counterparty to these trades, given the negative bias towards market direction. Though the Nifty has erased roughly 8% over the past five sessions, the index is still higher 65% over its low on March 9, even as corporate earnings are yet to indicate any improvement.

However, market participants said there is a pickup in activity in options trades in the OTC market, which happens outside India, especially in Hong Kong. Brokers said last week there were deals in options worth Rs 1,500 crore on a particular day.

Inflation turns negative for first time in 30 years

19 Jun 2009

NEW DELHI: The rate of inflation, as measured by the wholesale price index, has turned negative for the first time in over three decades. The widely watched WPI fell 1.61% in the 12 months to June 6, sharply below the previous week's rise of 0.13%. This makes India possibly the only country with a negative inflation rate, though a number of European countries are nearing zero levels.

But unlike in Europe, where demand has been contracting, India isn't facing a deflation as industrial output remains positive and the inflation rate measured by the consumer price index (CPI) still stands at around 8% and shows no signs of a let-up.

Bankers are divided over whether a negative inflation rate will prompt the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to cut its benchmark policy rates. With negative inflation, real interest rates (net of inflation) in the money market are high.

But some banks won't wait for a signal from RBI before they start cutting lending and deposit rates. And that's good news for home and consumer loan borrowers as well as for industry. UCO Bank chairman S K Goel said, "Interest rates should come down. We will take a look on Friday as to how much deposit and lending rates can be cut. My rough estimate is that we will be able to reduce by 100 basis points (equal to one percentage point) at least." A number of other top bankers such as Canara Bank chairman A C Mahajan also said they saw interest rates coming down.

For depositors, though, that isn't good news. HDFC Bank has decided to cut its deposit rates by up to 25 basis point from Friday. State Bank of Bikaner and Jaipur, the largest subsidiary of SBI, has also reduced deposit rates by up to one percentage point on various maturities effective today. The one-to-two year peak deposit rate has been reduced by 100 basis points to 7.25%.

The present low inflation is mainly on account of statistical reasons — primarily the high base in the same period of last year. Annual inflation is measured against prices a year ago. In June 2008, oil was at about $140 per barrel — almost double today's price of around $72. Similarly, commodity prices have fallen substantially since then. This has resulted in the average index of prices of all commodities falling vis-a-vis last year, despite the fact that prices of food articles have shot up during the period.

While describing negative inflation as unusual, finance secretary Ashok Chawla said it would not prompt the government to change its policies since it had been caused by the base effect and would get corrected in due course. Negative-to-low inflation should benefit manufacturers as input and raw material costs come down faster than prices of finished or value-added products, more so as domestic demand remains strong.

As the index of prices of all the commodities rose substantially in June-September 2008, the annual inflation rate is likely to remain in negative territory for the same period this year. Bankers feel that it will re-enter in positive territory in October 2009. Indeed, they worry that with commodity and oil prices bottoming out and demand picking up, inflation could bounce back in the third and fourth quarters of this year, especially if the monsoon turns out to be a poor one, as is being increasingly feared.

SBI pips ONGC to become top taxpayer in the country

18 Jun 2009,

NEW DELHI: When the world was reeling under a severe financial crunch, India went out to prove another point -- its banking business was not only profitable but had outperformed all other sectors.

The icing on the cake was the first quarter advance (direct) tax results when for the first time in the history of corporate India, a bank became the country's highest tax-payer, leaving behind numero uno Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC).

According to the advance tax data for the first quarter April-June 2009, the country's largest bank State Bank of India posted a handsome growth in its profit while depositing Rs 1,068 crore in the tax kitty against Rs 890 crore deposited by the oil behemoth for the same period.

The profitability of the state-run SBI zoomed by more than 61% as against Rs 663 crore it had paid in the same period last year when the economy was growing at a rate of 9%. During the same period, ONGC's profit came down by 33% from Rs 1,333 crore in Q1 last year to Rs 890 crore this time.

While all the results of advance tax payments for Q1 are yet to be compiled by the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT), the available data reveal that among the top 25 companies, 11 are from the banking and financial sector and each of them paid the government between Rs 100 crore and Rs 1,000 crore for the April-June 2009 period. While the profit margins of government banks range between 45% and 90%, private sector banks too have posted hefty growth but not in that degree.

The top 11 financial institutions which figure in the list of 25 highest tax-payers in Q1 are: SBI, ICICI Bank, HDFC Bank, Standard Chartered Bank, PNB, Bank of India, HSBC, Bank of Baroda, Citibank, HDFC Ltd and NABARD.

The highest growth of 89% has been posted by Bank of India which has paid Rs 231 crore tax, followed by Bank of Baroda which has paid Rs 210 crore with a growth of 50% and PNB with Rs 236 crore marking an increase of 48% as compared to last year.

Among the private and foreign banks, ICICI Bank has paid the highest tax of Rs 350 crore in Q1, followed by HDFC Bank Rs 250 crore, HSBC Rs 225 crore and Citibank Rs 180 crore.

Among the others industries, Reliance and Tata seem to be among the major losers. The total Q1 tax payment of the diversified RIL was Rs 314 crore as against Rs 340 crore during the same period last year. Tata Steel paid Rs 230 crore against Rs 356 crore last year. SAIL's margins too have plunged as it paid Rs 345 crore tax against Rs 457 crore last year.

The net direct tax collections in the first two months of the current fiscal, the data for which was released by CBDT earlier, had revealed that the economy was expanding at a brisk pace after nearly six months of slowdown.

The net tax collection in April-May of 2009-10 stood at Rs 24,158 crore, up from Rs 22,840 crore collected during the boom period of 2008. The growth in May was sharper with tax collection registering a 17% rise compared to the same period last year.

India Inc buys 143 US cos in 2 yrs

19 Jun 2009,

NEW DELHI: The greater engagement of US with India seems to have benefited the former during the economic downturn as thousands of Americans managed to save their jobs when Indian corporates went on a major acquisition drive in the US.

During the last two years, Indian companies acquired 143 US firms across various sectors. While 94 deals were concluded in 2007-08, in the following year when the economy was on the downturn, Indians bought as many as 50 US entities that were on the verge of closure, saving thousands of jobs.

A study, jointly conducted by Indian industry association FICCI and Ernst & Young, said Tata Chemicals, Wipro, Reliance Communications and Firstsource Solutions were some of the top Indian entities that were involved in bailing out US companies in the red.

The report released on Thursday said IT&ITeS, manufacturing and pharmaceuticals were the prime sectors in which most of the deals were formalised. Indian companies from the IT sector have over the years been aggressively expanding in the US market.

The deals were predominantly debt financed with cash being a popular mode of payment. "This trend probably extends from India Inc's traditional preference for cash transactions in the domestic merger and acquisition space," the report observed.

The Ernst & Young report says the boom in the Indian economy in the last three to four years made the domestic companies cash-rich which provided them with access to more capital than in the past.

Interestingly, one of the key factors, as the report cites, behind more acquisitions has been the liberal policies introduced by the government and RBI for overseas investments.

According to RBI data, in 2007-08 the total outbound investments of Indian companies amounted to $18 billion. In the first half of 2008-09, at least 2,000 proposals valued at $9 billion were cleared for overseas investments in joint ventures and wholly owned subsidiaries.

India’s fiscal position suggests caution: Moody’s

18 Jun 2009,ET Bureau

MUMBAI: Indian equities have rallied sharply in the last three months despite continuing risks to both the global economy and India's outlook.
Investors took solace in India's relatively mild downturn and chances for faster recovery. However, Moody’s warns that the country’s fiscal position suggests caution, as the government is not in a position to offer sustained support to a weak economy.

The surge in Indian equities over recent months has been met with jubilation from investors, but possibly also some caution. Despite some retrenchment in recent days, the Sensex is up 83.4 per cent since March 9; it has now returned to levels seen in September of last year.

Considering the dire scenarios that some were factoring into stock prices earlier this year, the rebound is not surprising. Yet there are several reasons to be skeptical about continued equity market improvement, believes Nikhilesh Bhattacharya, associate economist at Moody’s

According to Bhattacharya, “The major reason to question the strength of the recent rally is the state of the global economy. The developed world is still in recession, relying on fiscal and monetary stimulus on a scale unseen since World War II. Central banks and most independent analysts expect high unemployment, aversion to risk, and excess capacity to weigh on future growth. A recent discussion piece by International Monetary Fund economists showed that equity prices tend to bottom only at the end of a recession brought on by a credit crunch and asset price bust—not prior to the end.”

However, Bhattacharya sets a counterargument that India's downturn has bottomed and was mild compared with other countries. Based on first quarter GDP numbers, this appears to be the case. Yet Indian equities tend to take their lead broadly from US stock market movements, and it is hard to envisage a sustained divergence in direction, even though emerging markets can amplify US trends.

But India's economy faces its own challenges. “An already-stretched fiscal position has limited the government's ability to provide further stimulus, while weighing on government bond prices. Excess capacity, slowly recovering external demand, and relatively high long-term interest rates will drag on investment. Although the government has a strong majority in parliament, political will is required to cut popular subsidies and modernise labour laws. With global recovery prospects uncertain, these are further reasons to be cautious about Indian equity prices,” Bhattacharya concluded.

Mukesh Ambani led firms lose Rs 32,574 cr after Court verdict

15 Jun 2009, PTI

MUMBAI: Mukesh Ambani-led group companies lost a whopping Rs 32,574 crore in market capitalisation today, while Anil Ambani group firm RNRL gained Decade's hottest biz feuds

Rs 3,438 crore after the Bombay High Court asked RIL to supply gas to the ADAG firm at USD 2.34 per mmBtu.

The Mukesh Ambani pack which includes country's largest private sector firm Reliance Industries Ltd, Reliance Petroleum and infrastructure firm Reliance Industrial Infrastructure Ltd (RIIL) lost more than Rs 32,574.67 crore after stocks of all the three companies settled with loss of as much as 7 per cent.

Reliance Industries's market capitalisation at the end of today's trading session stood at Rs 3.44 lakh crore, a loss of over Rs 27,753.94 crore from its Friday's market capitalisation. On June 12, RIL's market capitalisation stood at Rs 3.71 lakh crore.
"After the court ruling the Mukesh Ambani-led group companies got hammered as the verdict was a major victory for the ADAG group firms," Ashika Stock Brokers Research Head Paras Bothra said.

In what is seen as a major victory for Anil Ambani, engaged in one of the most fiercely fought corporate battles, the Bombay High Court today asked elder brother Mukesh's RIL to supply gas from the KG basin at USD 2.34 mmBtu to the former's group firm.

Reliance Natural Resources Ltd (RNRL) today led the pack of gainers among the ADAG group companies, with a surge of over 24 per cent or a Rs 3,438 crore gain in its market cap.

In just a single trading session the market capitalisation of RNRL swelled to Rs 17,694.96 crore today from Rs 14257.22 crore on Friday last.

The other major gainers in the ADAG pack include Reliance Power which saw a gain of Rs 1,990 crore in its m-cap while, Reliance Infrastructure's m-cap surged by Rs 364.54 crore.

However, three other ADAG group firms-- Reliance Capital, Reliance Communications and Adlabs settled for in negative territory today and collectively lost Rs 3,365 crore.

"The positive momentum after the court ruling brought back encouragement to the ADAG pack. But if Reliance Industries goes to the Supreme Court it will start another long drawn battle. Keeping this in mind, the today's bull run in the ADAG pack looks short term," SMC Capital Equity Head Jagannadham Thunuguntla said.

Among the Mukesh Ambani group Reliance Petroleum lost Rs 4,725 crore and RIIL lost Rs 95.73 crore.

Asking the Reliance Industries to enter into a fresh "suitable agreement" within a month, a division bench of Justices J N Patel and K K Tated said that the new agreement should be as per the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Ambani brothers Mukesh and Anil.

Manmohan Singh's remarks unacceptable: Pak

17 Jun 2009, PTI

ISLAMABAD: Apparently irked by prime minister Manmohan Singh's blunt message to president Asif Ali Zardari in front of media that Pakistan should not allow its soil for terrorism against India, Islamabad on Wednesday said his remarks were "unacceptable".
In a statement made in the Senate or Upper House of Parliament, minister of state for foreign affairs Malik Ahmad Khan said Singh's comments made during his meeting with Zardari in Russia on Tuesday were unacceptable to Islamabad. ( Watch )

During the meeting on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit in Russia, Singh told Zardari: "I am extremely happy to meet you, but my mandate is limited to telling you that the territory of Pakistan must not be allowed to be used for terrorism against India."

Malik Ahmad Khan said Pakistan had asked the Indian government not to resort to "aggressive media statements" and clear the air by talking directly with Pakistan instead of using the media. "I would still ask India to come to talks as engagements would be fruitful rather than estrangements," he said.

Pakistan will never allow any force to use its soil for terrorist activities directed against any country, he said.

"During the past six months, Indian officials uttered some inappropriate statements about their certain reservations which were totally against diplomatic norms," Khan said.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

India bounced out of contention

London: India is out of the ICC World Twenty20. Hustled by the short-pitched fuller-length routine of the English pacemen and undone by off-spinner Graeme Swann’s drift and spin, the defending champion went down by three runs at a packed Lord’s on Sunday.

Actually, the contest was not as close as the final margin suggests. England, which displayed greater passion and intensity, always had its nose in front.

India has been defeated in its first two matches in the Group ‘E’ of the Super Eight. England gave a lifeline to its semifinal hopes with a famous victory.

Skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni (30 not out off 20) was unable to unleash the booming blows when India, chasing 154, required fours and sixes after losing too much ground in the early and middle overs.

Yusuf Pathan (33 not out off 17), cleared the ropes twice, but did not quite deliver a big hit in the vital 19th over. Stuart Broad made a hash of a run-out opportunity to dismiss Yusuf but conceded only nine runs without giving away a boundary. The paceman mixed his length well in a stressful situation.

Very precise

Left-arm paceman Ryan Sidebottom, adjudged Man of the Match, sent down the final over even as India required 19 runs.

His yorkers and fuller length balls, on and around the off-stump and angling away, were precise. The two heavy-hitting right-handers managed just four from the first three balls

India out, Dhoni suddenly uncool

New Delhi, June 16, 2009

MS Dhoni has apologised but India isn’t placated.

Social networking sites were clogged with messages from fans blaming Dhoni for India’s exit from the T20 World Cup. The Hindustan Times site is full of messages from irate fans. One TV channel ran a poll asking provocatively, “Should Dhoni be forgiven for the T20 debacle?”

Some of the outrage was orchestrated, though. On Monday, Dhoni’s effigy was burnt in his hometown Ranchi, but apparently it was ‘arranged’ by two channels.

What Dhoni, 27, and other members of the team could be worried about is a repeat of 2003 when India were struggling in the early stages of the World Cup. Then, Mohammad Kaif’s home in Allahabad was tarred and cars parked at Rahul Dravid’s residence in Bangalore stoned.

When India crashed out of the 2007 World Cup, police provided security at cricketers’ homes. Protestors affixed photos of Ganguly and Tendulkar on donkeys and burnt effigies after garlanding them with slippers. In Varanasi, fans took out a mock funeral procession that ended with a photo being burnt and the ashes immersed in the Ganga.

The latest exit – and one way to look at it is that the team has merely lost two Twenty20 matches – has burst the bubble of invincibility around the defending champions and especially that of captain Dhoni. In a format where the dividing line between victory and defeat is thinnest and usets common (Zimbabwe beat Australia in the 2007 World T20, the Netherlands beat England in the opening match of this tournament) even experts struggle to pinpoint exact reasons for defeat.

Fans, however, have begun the post-mortem. “Dhoni should be stripped of captaincy and should be made to sit out of if he does not perform,” wrote Umesh Sharma on the HT website. “Playing Ravindra Jadeja in place of Irfan Pathan is an unpardonable mistake which left cricket lovers of India in tears,” was another message. “Dhoni's apologies mean nothing. We won’t accept your apologies,” wrote Zia Khan. Amid all this, the financial implications of India’s exit are being calculated. The fall out: Indian corporate houses could opt out of buying advertising spots for the semi-finals.

While 10-second spots usually sell for between Rs 4 and 5 lakh, the premium for semi-finals could have been as high as seven lakh, but it doesn’t seem likely after India’s defeat.

India captain MS Dhoni blamed for World Twenty20 exit

Dhoni has come in for some fierce critcism over his tactics at Lord's
Mahendra Singh Dhoni, the India captain, bore the brunt of fan and media anger back home after the defending champions were unceremoniously dumped out of the World Twenty20 on Sunday.

Security was increased around Dhoni's home in the eastern city of Ranchi on Monday after scores of fans burnt his effigy, shouted slogans and accused the captain of underestimating England in a must-win situation.

India, winners two years ago, were installed as one of the favourites this time but a three-run loss to England consigned them to a second straight Super Eights defeat, leaving them with no chance of reaching the semi-finals.

"Dhoni took the match lightly, he adopted a casual attitude," Arun Kumar, a young protester in Ranchi, said. "He is fascinated by the glamour world more than cricket."

The Indian media also singled out Dhoni who captained the team to victory in the inaugural Twenty20 World Cup in South Africa in 2007. Dhoni was blamed for shuffling the order and failing to shake off his own subdued batting form when a captain's innings was badly needed.

His promotion of young all-rounder Ravinder Jadeja to No 4 in the batting line-up instead of the explosive Yuvraj Singh was also seen as a tactical disaster after the 20-year-old failed to force the pace and left his team-mates with too much to do in the final overs.

"Why did Dhoni throw Jadeja to the lions," asked one TV channel, while another said: "He [Dhoni] could not tonk the ball, got it all wrong with his strategy. Horrible captaining by Dhoni cost us dear."

Dhoni has enjoyed a smooth ride as Test captain since the 2007 triumph but has come under scrutiny at this tournament after parading the entire team in an attempt to quash media reports of disharmony between him and deputy Virender Sehwag.

His relationship with the media worsened after Sehwag was ruled out due to a shoulder injury and Dhoni and his team management were attacked for being less than forthcoming over the nature of the explosive batsman's problem.

Cricket-mad Indian fans are well known for displaying extreme emotions. Angry fans threw stones the homes of some players after the team suffered a shock first round exit in the one-day World Cup two years ago.

However, thousands lined up on both sides of the road from Mumbai airport to the stadium when the victorious Twenty20 team took out a victory parade months later.

Yusuf struck a one-handed six off the fourth but could get no more than a single from the fifth. India needed eight off the final ball. Despite a leg-side heave to the boundary by Dhoni, it was England which celebrated.

Not much went right for India. The young Ravindra Jadeja (25 off 35), unwisely sent at No. 4, struggled to force the pace while India’s prime batsman in this format, Yuvraj Singh, watched the proceedings from the dugout.

Yuvraj’s mistake

Finally, walking into the cauldron in the 11th over, the in-form Yuvraj dismissed the first delivery he faced, from Dimitri Mascerenhas, over the long-on fence.

He soon lofted Swann, with a lovely swing of the willow, down the ground for the maximum. With the asking rate hovering around ten, Yuvraj had to go for broke.

Swann drew the left-hander forward with flight and spin — Yuvraj overbalanced as he stretched — and ’keeper James Foster removed the bails in a flash. The writing was on the wall for India in the 14th over.

Steamy bowling

Earlier, the English pacemen made the Indian batsmen smell leather with some steamy short-pitched bowling.

Rohit Sharma played on attempting a pull off a delivery not quite short for the stroke. Earlier in the over, Sidebottom had got a delivery to climb sharply from just outside the off-stump to set up the dismissal.

Suresh Raina did not appear comfortable. He played and missed as the lively Sidebottom switched his line to the left-hander.

Raina’s attempted hook off a well-directed short ball from Sidebottom was splendidly held by Luke Wright running in from deep square-leg. India lost ground in the Power Play overs.

Broad hit the deck hard and extracted lift. It was an evening when England executed its plans well.

Even Luke Wright was bouncing the ball at the Indian batsmen.

And when Mascarenhas took the pace off the ball, on the leg-stump, the free-stroking Gambhir’s (26 off 26 balls) attempted glide was held by a specifically stationed short-fine leg.

By now the innings had entered the 11th over and the score was only 63.

India, having a mountain to climb, slipped. England was a deserving winner.


England: R. Bopara b Jadeja 37 (37b, 3x4, 1x6), L. Wright c Yusuf b R.P. Singh 1 (7b), K. Pietersen lbw b Jadeja 46 (27b, 5x4, 1x6), D. Mascarenhas (not out) 25 (27b, 2x4), O. Shah c Jadeja b Harbhajan 12 (10b, 1x4), P. Collingwood lbw b Zaheer 7 (5b, 1x4), J. Foster c & b Harbhajan 6 (5b), G. Swann b Harbhajan 0 (1b), S. Broad (not out) 3 (1b); Extras (lb-2, w-14) 16. Total (for seven wkts. in 20 overs): 153.

Fall of wickets: 1-3, 2-74, 3-92, 4-122, 5-138, 6-145, 7-145.

India bowling: Zaheer 3-0-26-1, R.P. Singh 3-0-13-1, Ishant 4-0-36-0, Yuvraj 2-0-20-0, Harbhajan 4-0-30-3, Jadeja 4-0-26-2.

India: G. Gambhir c Broad b Mascarenhas 26 (26b, 4x4), R. Sharma b Sidebottom 9 (8b, 1x4), S. Raina c Wright b Sidebottom 2 (5b), R. Jadeja c Broad b Swann 25 (35b, 1x4), Yuvraj st. Foster b Swann 17 (9b, 2x6), M.S. Dhoni (not out) 30 (20b, 3x4), Yusuf Pathan (not out) 33 (17b, 1x4, 2x6); Extras (lb-4, w-4) 8; Total (for five wkts. in 20 overs) 150.

Fall of wickets: 1-12, 2-24, 3-62, 4-85, 5-87.

England bowling: Anderson 4-0-32-0, Sidebottom 4-0-31-2, Broad 4-0-21-0, Pietersen 1-0-9-0, Wright 2-0-16-0, Swann 4-0-28-2, Mascarenhas 1-0-9-1.

(Christopher Lee) Times Now U.K

Sunday, June 14, 2009

It’s do or die for Team India

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Their grip on the Twenty20 World Cup considerably loosened after Friday’s demoralising defeat to the West Indies, Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s men must win their two remaining Super Eight games to make the semifinals.

England at Lord’s on Sunday offer India a chance to rediscover winning ways before they run into the marauding South Africans in their final fixture on Tuesday. Defeat against the hosts will effectively end India’s campaign while victory will keep them afloat, but no more.
It’s a situation India have been confronted with in the past, and conquered too.

Indeed, India’s path to the inaugural T20 World Cup title in South Africa two years ago included a defeat in their opening Super Eight fixture (to New Zealand), and victories in their two subsequent ties -- against England, then South Africa. How’s that for an omen!
Dhoni, however, doesn’t have time for such mundane things as omens. The Indian captain has repeatedly stressed the importance of backing one’s abilities and playing to potential, both facets conspicuously absent against the Caribbeans.

Having made his reputation as a crisis-man who leads from the front, the stage is set for Dhoni Mark 1, fearless and flamboyant, the destroyer of bowling attacks as opposed to the gentle accumulator of recent times, to make a reappearance.

If a team takes its cue from the skipper, that perhaps explains India’s diffidence with the bat on Friday; after all, Dhoni consumed 23 deliveries and contributed 11. Not even in the 50-over game will that pass muster!

Dhoni must also rejig his bowling options. Clearly, for all his fire, Ishant Sharma is hardly the finished product in T20 cricket. His length too predictable and his variations minimal, the Delhi pacer has been a perceptible weak link. A return to the playing eleven of Praveen Kumar or Rudra Pratap Singh, swing kings in their own right, can’t be ruled out.

Ice breaker: Indian envoy, Pak minister hold talks

14 Jun 2009

NEW DELHI: In the run-up to the first summit-level handshake between Manmohan Singh and Asif Zardari in Yekaterinburg, India's envoy to Pakistan Sharat Sabharwal met Pakistan's interior minister Rehman Malik on Saturday to discuss Pakistani investigations into 26/11 attacks.

While PM and Zardari will certainly meet in Russia, it may be a while before actual dialogue is resumed. Sources said this particular meeting would be in the nature of a breaking the ice. Notwithstanding the PM's desire to start talks or US' 'advice' to India, it will need some substantive steps by Pakistan. Despite declaring it wanted talks with Pakistan, India is not convinced about Pakistan's bonafides in tackling terror.

In an interview to a private TV channel, foreign minister S M Krishna said, "The whole approach of Pakistan has become debatable in as far as terror and attacking terror is concerned."

Krishna added, "We are hoping that Pakistan sees the path of reason and they would live upto what we expect them to do. Then perhaps it becomes smoother for any dialogue to be meaningful. There should be a very conducive atmosphere and that is what we are trying to create."

Sabharwal on Saturday raised the issue of release of LeT amir, Hafiz Mohammed Saeed with the Pakistan interior minister. Krishna stressed the importance of Saeed. "We haven't heard anything from Pakistan about the appeal that they are supposed to make in a higher court of law. The very release of a known terrorist who was instrumental and masterminded the terrorist attack on India on 26/11 has certainly created doubts in us about the sincerity of Pakistan in dismantling the terror instrumentalities that have come up on the soil of Pakistan."

Malik for his part, told Sabharwal that Pakistan was committed to bringing 26/11 perpetrators to justice and India should cooperate with it in the probe. While Malik said they were trying to appeal the release of Saeed, experts point out that this may be easier said than done. Pakistan would have to reframe the charge-sheet, specifically naming Saeed as an accused in the Mumbai attacks, which Pakistan is unwilling to do, that gives India cause for concern.

But five other LeT operatives, chiefly Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi and Zarar Shah, are also facing trial in Pakistan for their involvement in the attacks. The evidence against them is much more convincing and prosecuting them should be much easier. Agencies report Malik saying process would be "complicated and long".

In a chat with TOI, Bruce Riedel, US president Barack Obama's chief strategist on Af-Pak said, "The US should demand a real and thorough crack down on the LeT in Pakistan including arresting and jailing the masterminds of Mumbai. Only then can the India-Pakistan bilateral dialogue resume and tensions reduce."

Riedel, who recently co-chaired the interagency body that crafted the Af-Pak strategy has taken a hard line on what he calls Pakistan's "selective counter-terrorism."

Meanwhile, there is also speculation that one of Zardari's closest aides, Salman Farooqui, might take over the back channel negotiations with India, as and when they may be restarted. It shows, say sources, that Pakistan is keen to start the talks again, which were stopped by Pakistan in 2007. S K Lambah, PM's special envoy had completed several rounds of negotiations with Tariq Aziz, Musharraf's close aide, even identifying the broad contours of a resolution in Kashmir.

That said, the fundamentals of India's demands from Pakistan are unlikely to be met. According to senior officials, despite the ongoing bruising military offensive in the tribal regions, Pakistan

Human-to-human H1N1 spread on the rise

14 Jun 2009

NEW DELHI: One more H1N1 influenza case tested positive in Hyderabad on Saturday. With this, 17 cases of H1N1 influenza cases have been reported in India.

Brother of six-year-old girl, who was tested positive in Hyderabad on Friday, tested positive on Saturday and both of them have been quarantined in a government facility in Hyderabad. The two had come from New York on June 10. Since they are too young to be quarantined, the sister-brother duo are being accompanied by their grandfather, who was put on anti-viral drugs and has been tested negative for H1N1 virus.

On Saturday, over 10 new samples from across the country were sent to the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) laboratory for testing. "Just one case was confirmed on Saturday. We are still testing the samples which were sent to us on Saturday," said a senior NICD official.

National Institute of Virology (NIV) and NICD have started sequencing and studying the strains of the first two cases reported in India. The sequencing of other cases would start soon. "We are sequencing and studying the strains constantly. We have started the sequencing of the strain seen in first two cases reported in India from Hyderabad. So far there are no major changes in the strain, but in case we see sharp changes we will plan out things accordingly," said Dr VM Katoch, Director General ICMR.

So far 240 samples have been tested at NICD and NIV for H1N1 infection of which 82 cases were identified during the health screening at various international airports.

Pak troops encircle Taliban leader Mehsud's den

14 Jun 2009

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani troops have encircled Baitullah Mehsud-led militants in Waziristan and are advancing on their hideouts from three sides after clearing and securing the areas they capture.

To make the job easier for ground troops, Pakistani artillery and fighter jets pounded militants positions at different places in South Waziristan on Saturday, said military officials. Some militants are feared dead in the bombing at Makeen area. Makeen is the hometown of Baitullah Mehsud, chief of Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and considered to be his stronghold.

The ground troops are making advances from three sides on Taliban positions - from Bannu in the north-east, Jandola gateway in south and Wana in south-west. Security forces, after completing their deployment at Bannu, Jandola and Wana started upward movement from these three areas towards Makin.

Confronted with a powerful military assault, Baitullah-led militants made two unsuccessful attempts to attack military forts, one at Siplatoy area two days ago and another at Lada area when some 400 Taliban attacked Jandola fort last week. At least 17 militants and three soldiers were killed when troops retaliated. After Taliban failure, Baitullah held a meeting with his militant commanders in Makeen area and decided to change their strategy, Alamgir Bhitanni, a veteran tribal journalist told TOI. In the past militants captured several government places without much resistance.

In a separate move the government also created rifts among the ranks of Taliban to isolate Baitullah Mehsud by influencing other militant leaders through fragile political administration and local tribal elders in the area. They have assured the government they would stay neutral during the operation against Baitullah Mehsud.

"Government used local influences to distance key Taliban leaders from Baitullah Mehsud", Bhitanni said. A key role in the entire dispensation was played by senator Saleh Shah and Maulana Mairajuddin, a former parliamentarian, he added.

In Waziristan the Taliban are broadly divided into four major factions. Baitullah Mehsud is the top Taliban commander in south Waziristan, Hafiz Gul Bahadur is the Taliban chief in North Waziristan and Maulvi Nazir, the chief of Taliban in Wana. Recently another Taliban commander Qari Zainuddin distanced himself from Baitullah Mehsud and claimed to be a chief of his own faction. On February 22, these factions of Taliban announced forming a 'Shura Ittehadul Mujahideen' (Council of United Mujahideen) to wage jihad 'in an organised manner'. They distributed pamphlets in the towns and villages of the agency saying that forces led by Mullah Muhammad Omar and Osama Bin Laden were fighting against 'infidels' led by US President Barack Obama, Pakistani President Asif Zardari and Afghan President Hamid Karzai.They quoted verses of the holy Quran calling people to fight a holy war against 'infidels', who they said were killing innocent Muslims.

Recently when Baitullah Mehsud intensified attacks in the country, another top militant commander Qari Zainuddin denounced Mehsud for staging attacks inside the country. In an interview with a foreign news agency, Qari Zainuddin urged tribal leaders to resist Mehsud and said that his more than 3,000 fighters would stay neutral if the army launched an operation in South Waziristan. "Whatever Baitullah Mehsud and his associates are doing in the name of Islam is not a jihad, and in fact it is rioting and terrorism," Zainuddin said.

India paid the price for bad start: Dhoni

London: Mahendra Singh Dhoni felt the early inroads made by the West Indies pacemen opened the path for a Caribbean victory at Lord’s on Friday.

“The loss of three early wickets also upset the Indian plans during the middle-overs,” he said.

“In this phase you actually play according to how you perform in the first few overs,” said the Indian captain.

“We had to go for a consolidated approach and play till the 12th or the 13th over so that our lower-order batsmen could come up with the big blows towards the end. Yuvraj and I had to change our plans. We wanted to play the next five or six overs without losing a wicket.”

Dhoni, who scored 11 off 23 balls, said his own dismissal had set the team back further.

The Indian captain, however, praised Yuvraj and the contribution of the lower-order batsmen.

He said Bravo’s intelligent batting dented India’s chances.

Man-of-the-Match Bravo, who also scalped four batsmen in the game, said he had been working on the variations in his bowling.

Bravo said his stint in the IPL had helped his batting, particularly in coping with spin.

8 dead in market bomb blast in Pakistan

14 Jun 2009

DERA ISMAIL KHAN (Pakistan): At least eight people were killed and dozens wounded on Sunday when a bomb exploded in a market in a northwest

Pakistan town troubled by Taliban attacks, police and hospital officials said.

The blast hit Dera Ismail Khan, about 300 kilometres (186 miles) south of the provincial capital Peshawar and near a district where Pakistani troops are locked in an offensive with Taliban fighters.

"Eight people have been killed and 20 injured in the blast," Syed Mohsin Shah, the top administrator of Dera Ismail Khan city, said.

"The bomb was planted in a cycle-rickshaw and it was rush hour in the bazaar at the time of blast," he added.

Ghulam Jailani, a police official in Dera Ismail Khan, said the blast was detonated by remote-control, while officials said dozens were wounded.

"We have received eight dead bodies and 27 injured, five of them are very serious," said Mohammad Ashiq Saleem, a senior doctor in the main government hospital in the town.

Pakistan has been hit by a string of deadly bomb blasts in recent weeks, many of them claimed by the Taliban, who say they are exacting revenge for a punishing military offensive against them across swathes of the northwest.

Security forces launched their campaign in three northwest districts around the Swat valley on April 26 after Taliban fighters advanced towards Islamabad.

Operations recently expanded to Bannu district -- just north of Dera Ismail Khan -- while fighter jets have also bombed militant targets in the nearby semi-autonomous tribal area of South Waziristan.

"In my opinion the blast is a follow-up to the Swat and Waziristan operations," said Mohammad Iqbal Khan, chief of the district police.

Pakistan hikes defence spending 15% to Rs 347bn

13 Jun 2009

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has hiked its defence spending for fiscal 2009-10 to Rs 347 billion in the budget presented in parliament on Saturday.
Of this, Rs 343 billion has been allocated for the armed forces, Rs 463 million for defence production and Rs 840 million for the defence division, minister of state for finance Hina Rabbani Khar said while delivering the first budget speech by a woman in Pakistan's history.

Quoting from the budget documents, Online news agency said the defence budget was 15% higher as compared to the allocation for 2008-09 "due to the high inflation rate and keeping in view of current situation at country's eastern and western borders".

Ice breaker: Indian envoy, Pak minister hold talks

14 Jun 2009

NEW DELHI: In the run-up to the first summit-level handshake between Manmohan Singh and Asif Zardari in Yekaterinburg, India's envoy to Pakistan Sharat Sabharwal met Pakistan's interior minister Rehman Malik on Saturday to discuss Pakistani investigations into 26/11 attacks.

While PM and Zardari will certainly meet in Russia, it may be a while before actual dialogue is resumed. Sources said this particular meeting would be in the nature of a breaking the ice. Notwithstanding the PM's desire to start talks or US' 'advice' to India, it will need some substantive steps by Pakistan. Despite declaring it wanted talks with Pakistan, India is not convinced about Pakistan's bonafides in tackling terror.

In an interview to a private TV channel, foreign minister S M Krishna said, "The whole approach of Pakistan has become debatable in as far as terror and attacking terror is concerned."

Krishna added, "We are hoping that Pakistan sees the path of reason and they would live upto what we expect them to do. Then perhaps it becomes smoother for any dialogue to be meaningful. There should be a very conducive atmosphere and that is what we are trying to create."

Sabharwal on Saturday raised the issue of release of LeT amir, Hafiz Mohammed Saeed with the Pakistan interior minister. Krishna stressed the importance of Saeed. "We haven't heard anything from Pakistan about the appeal that they are supposed to make in a higher court of law. The very release of a known terrorist who was instrumental and masterminded the terrorist attack on India on 26/11 has certainly created doubts in us about the sincerity of Pakistan in dismantling the terror instrumentalities that have come up on the soil of Pakistan."

Malik for his part, told Sabharwal that Pakistan was committed to bringing 26/11 perpetrators to justice and India should cooperate with it in the probe. While Malik said they were trying to appeal the release of Saeed, experts point out that this may be easier said than done. Pakistan would have to reframe the charge-sheet, specifically naming Saeed as an accused in the Mumbai attacks, which Pakistan is unwilling to do, that gives India cause for concern.

But five other LeT operatives, chiefly Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi and Zarar Shah, are also facing trial in Pakistan for their involvement in the attacks. The evidence against them is much more convincing and prosecuting them should be much easier. Agencies report Malik saying process would be "complicated and long".

In a chat with TOI, Bruce Riedel, US president Barack Obama's chief strategist on Af-Pak said, "The US should demand a real and thorough crack down on the LeT in Pakistan including arresting and jailing the masterminds of Mumbai. Only then can the India-Pakistan bilateral dialogue resume and tensions reduce."

Riedel, who recently co-chaired the interagency body that crafted the Af-Pak strategy has taken a hard line on what he calls Pakistan's "selective counter-terrorism."

Meanwhile, there is also speculation that one of Zardari's closest aides, Salman Farooqui, might take over the back channel negotiations with India, as and when they may be restarted. It shows, say sources, that Pakistan is keen to start the talks again, which were stopped by Pakistan in 2007. S K Lambah, PM's special envoy had completed several rounds of negotiations with Tariq Aziz, Musharraf's close aide, even identifying the broad contours of a resolution in Kashmir.

That said, the fundamentals of India's demands from Pakistan are unlikely to be met. According to senior officials, despite the ongoing bruising military offensive in the tribal regions, Pakistan

Thursday, June 11, 2009

There are no favourites in T20: Dhoni

10 Jun 2009,

NOTTINGHAM: We're done with the public shows of unity. Done with the mystery over Virender Sehwag's injury. Done with the slanging match with the media.

It's time for MS Dhoni's Team India to forget the mystery and melodrama of the past few days and focus on the Super Eights of the World Twenty20.

India face West Indies at Lord's on Friday, England at Lord's again on Sunday and South Africa at Trent Bridge on Tuesday.

They are three tough and dangerous sides and one wrong move here or a game where the team is not switched on will see Dhoni lose the trophy.

The team, too, will shed the aura that has surrounded them since September 24, 2007, the day they were crowned T20 World Champions.

After two warm-up games against tough opposition, India have had two outings against Bangladesh and Ireland. But that should not lull the champs into believing that the same will happen again in the Super 8s.

We witnessed the kind of carnage that West Indies captain Chris Gayle and opening partner Andre Fletcher inflicted on the Aussies.

We saw how efficiently South Africa defended a low target against New Zealand and much to the delight of the home fans, one also got a display of spunk and attitude from England when they embarrassed Pakistan.

India must win at least two of the three games they are scheduled to play in the Super 8s to progress to the semifinals.

Virender Sehwag's departure will no doubt hurt as he has the quality and reputation which makes rival teams over-analyse his strengths.

Sehwag has that uncanny ability to put opposition teams on the backfoot even before a ball is bowled but India won't have that luxury now.

In a strange way, though, that might also prove to be a blessing in disguise as there is no uncertainty surrounding his availability.

He is out of the tournament and Rohit Sharma, who has batted magnificently as an opener, will stay put in that slot.

If left-arm pacer Zaheer Khan can recover to full fitness, Indian worries over the pace bowling department (they have been poor especially in the death overs), will ease.

India's record as defending champions isn't great. They have defended only one crown with success. The Dilip Vengsarkar-led side had won the Asia Cup in 1988 in Dhaka and Mohd Azharuddin won the event in 1991 in Calcutta. Apart from that every attempt at a title defence has ended in heartbreak.

The tag of title favourites sits very uncomfortably on every Indian team. They were favourites in the 1987 World Cup in India and Pakistan and lost in the semis to England in Mumbai.

Again in 1996, they were out and out favourites but their campaign again ended in the semis in shambolic fashion at the Eden Gardens in Calcutta. In 1999, in England, they were the most hyped team as India had Tendulkar, Dravid and Ganguly all in peak form. However, they lost in the Super Six and skipper Mohd Azharuddin lost the captaincy for good.

This time again, India are the favourites and rightly so. After all, the core of the team that won in South Africa two years ago is the same. Ask Dhoni about it and he will let you know about his nausea for the F-word. Time and again he has reminded that, "In T20, there are no favourites. We don't want to look too much into the future. We want to focus on the present."

Call them boring, politically correct answers, or a smart move to deflect the attention and pressure. He knows there's a lot of hype surrounding the world champions and there's plenty of money riding on them too. Everyone's talking about India, even their most fierce rivals, the Aussies.

Australian captain Ricky Ponting, after exiting from the tournament, put India as joint favourites along with South Africa and Sri Lanka to win the title. "I'll be very surprised if one of these teams don't win it," he said.

Indian fans won't be surprised if Dhoni's boys don't win. They will be very very angry and will lay the blame on all the off-the-field nonsense for the team's failure.

US pitches for restarting India-Pakistan dialogue

11 Jun 2009,

NEW DELHI: Pitching for resumption of the India-Pakistan dialogue, the US on Thursday said it is pressing Islamabad to take firm and urgent action against extremists and terrorists operating in its territory.

"US has welcomed better relations between the two countries. The pace, scope and character of the relationship has to be decided by the two countries," US under secretary of state William Burns told reporters here.

The US has made it clear to Pakistan that it has a "special responsibility" to act firmly and immediately against those responsible for the Mumbai attacks and bring them to justice, Burns replied when asked about the release of Jamaat-ud-Dawa chief Hafeez Saeed by a Pakistani court.

Burns called on Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and held discussions on a wide range of issues that included India-US civil nuclear cooperation, the situation in Pakistan and the region and expanding defence relations between the two countries.

The Nov 26-29, 2008 Mumbai attacks figured prominently in the discussions.

While the US has been putting pressure for resumption of the India-Pakistan dialogue, New Delhi has conveyed its disappointment over Pakistan's inaction and said it will wait for Islamabad to take tangible action against the Mumbai terrorists.

Burns, who arrived on Wednesday, met with several Indian leaders including external affairs minister SM Krishna, leader of opposition LK Advani, national security advisor MK Narayanan and foreign secretary Shivshankar Menon.

Burns' is the highest-ranking US official to visit India after the general elections and the return to power of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government

Mani Shankar Aiyar's e-mail account hacked

11 Jun 2009, PTI

NEW DELHI: Former Union Minister and senior Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar's e-mail account has been hacked with the culprit now sending mails appealing for money on his behalf.

E-mails started originating from the leader's personal Hotmail account on Wednesday and were circulated to all in his address book stating that he had misplaced his wallet in England and was in urgent need of USD 3,500 to clear his hotel bills and get himself back home.

"I am sorry that I didn't inform you about my traveling to England for a seminar. I need a favor from you as soon as you receive this e-mail because I misplaced my wallet on my way to the hotel where my money is and other valuable things were kept, I will like you to assist me with a loan urgently," the mail signed off with name Mani, as his friends call him, said.

It added, "I will be needing the sum of $3,500 to sort-out my hotel bills and get myself back home. I will appreciate whatever you can afford to help me with, I will pay you back as soon as I return."

When contacted, Aiyar who is in New York confirmed that his e-mail account has been hacked and asked everyone to ignore the "mischievous" message.

"Unfortunately, the hacker has changed my password so I cannot access my e-mail account. I am in New York attending seminar on local self-government at Columbia University. I request all recipients to ignore this mischievous message," Aiyar said,

When a reply was sent to Aiyar's e-mail account showing willingness to help the leader, a new mail was sent with specific instructions to transfer the money to a particular London address in the name of Mani Shankar.

"Thanks a lot for your response and concern. As you know that it's impossible for me to access my bank account from here. The safest and fastest way for you to help me is by sending the money through Western Union. You can send the money to my details below through Western Union money transfer now," it said giving out a London address and the format to be used while filling up the form.

It added, "Please as soon as you send me the money do not forget to email me the transfer control number (MTCN) with details used in sending it."

Recently, an email account of Delhi-based leading fashion designer Rina Dhaka was also hacked.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Some attacks on Indians are racial, Australian cop admits

9 Jun 2009,

SYDNEY: The police chief of Australia's Victoria state on Tuesday admitted that some of the attacks on Indian students in this country are "racially motivated" - as maintained by the victims of a series of crimes. ( Watch )

The southeastern state' chief commissioner of police Simon Overland told the media in Victoria's capital Melbourne that some of the robbery attacks are "racially motivated" and others are "opportunistic".

"Whatever the motivation, they (the attacks) are not okay. violence is not okay, being robbed is not okay," he said.

He also said that there is no place for racism in the community, according to the transcript of Overland's informal meet and greet with 50 members of Melbourne's multilingual media.

In the past one month, there have been at least 11 attacks on Indian students, leading to an outrage in India. Representatives of about 90,000 Indians studying here took out a protest march in Sydney on Sunday.

Asked if police used excessive force in breaking up a protest by Indian students in Melbourne last weekend, Overland said he watched from the police operations centre and believed that what he saw was entirely appropriate.

He said there was some force used after the students were given the opportunity for the last time to leave the traffic intersection and they refused to do so. He said students were moved on because the intersection needed to be cleared for peak-hour traffic.

Asked why students were asked to "move on", Overland said they had made their point.

Overland said police have been working on the issue of violence for 18 months with Indian students and universities, and are aware that this is a problem.

Police in Victoria are taking various initiatives to strengthen ties with culturally diverse communities, including Indians, he said.

"There is a shared responsibility between police and the media to provide important messages to the public and to have an open dialogue to understand where the other is coming from, and finding suitable solutions to problems," Overland said.

Earlier, Overland wrote in the Herald Sun: "Some of these crimes are racially motivated; however I also believe that many of the robberies and other crimes of violence are simply opportunistic."

He also urged the Indian community to continue to work with police to find an effective and sustainable solution to the series of crimes.

According to Victoria police officials, in 2007-08, there were 36,765 victims of crimes such as robberies and assaults in the state, of which 24,260 were Caucasian victims and 1,447 victims were people of Indian origin.

Police say 30% of assaults in Melbourne's western suburbs are against Indians, and it is a disproportionate figure in a city of nearly four million people.

Chinese passing off fake drugs as ‘Made in India’

9 Jun 2009

NEW DELHI: Are fake drugs manufactured in China being pushed into various African countries with the `Made in India' tag? The Indian government has long suspected this to be the case, but it now has definite evidence for the first time.

Last week, the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) of Nigeria issued a press release stating that a large consignment of fake anti-malarial generic pharmaceuticals labelled `Made in India' were, in fact, found to have been produced in China.

New Delhi has registered ``strong protest'' with the Chinese mission and China's foreign trade ministry, according to sources in the commerce ministry.

India's High Commissioner in the Nigerian capital of Abuja, Mahesh Sachdev, had earlier written to then commerce secretary GSK Pillai, alerting him to the large seizure: ``While this is a case of a Chinese company exporting fake `Made in India' labelled medicines which has been accidentally exposed, it is unlikely to be an isolated incident. Indeed there is no reason for Nigeria to be the only country to be receiving such consignments.''

His letter went on to say: ``Fake foreign-made generics carrying `Made in India' label can do tremendous harm to our interests. It not only dents our image and takes our legitimate market share, it also erodes the distinction between generic and fake medicines that we have been campaigning for at WHO and WTO''.

Commerce ministry sources said: ``We have had many complaints about such fake drugs from China being offloaded as Indian drugs in countries like Ghana, South Africa, Ivory Coast and West Africa — in general, where India has a substantial market share. But so far there has been no formal complaint. This is the first time that such a large international consignment has been seized and this will be taken up strongly with the Chinese side.''

Sachdev in his letter said that he had spoken to the director-general of NAFDAC Dr Paul Orhii who said that the Nigerian preference for generics made such cases of fake drugs more common. He expressed NAFDAC's determination to curb circulation of substandard fake medicines.

India and China have been held primarily responsible for fake drugs in the Nigerian market in particular and Africa in general. About 60% of drugs in Nigeria are imported. Between 2001 and 2007, more than 30 Indian and Chinese companies were banned in Nigeria for exporting fake drugs to the country.

However, Dr Mira Shiva of the Initiative for Health Equity and Society (IHES) told TOI that both India and China being large manufacturers of generics, multinational firms would look to discredit the two countries and label their drugs as substandard, so that they would have greater access to the African markets. She warned against the two countries trying to run each other down before ascertaining the full facts in the case to rule out any orchestration, but added that India ought to be more careful to ensure the quality of the drugs exported as well as sold domestically.

India can achieve 8-9% economic growth: PM

9 Jun 2009,

NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday said India will achieve an economic growth of at least 7 percent this fiscal and promised more resources for areas like infrastructure and public services. ( Watch )

"In last one year our economy was affected and our growth rate declined to about 7 percent," the Prime Minister told the Lok Sabha, replying to the motion of thanks on President Pratibha Patil's address to both houses of Parliament.

"I don't promise you we won't be affected by the international conditions, but we will be able to achieve a growth rate of 8-9 percent, even when the world grows at a lower rate," he said in his 45-minute address.

"This year, we will be able to maintain a growth of 7 percent."

The Prime Minister said the reason behind his optimism was that India's savings rate, which determines the money that can be deployed for development projects, was still high at 35 percent of gross domestic product (GDP).

"We cannot spend our way into prosperity. But there is scope to increase the allocations, particularly for infrastructure," the Prime Minister said, hoping finance minister Pranab Mukherjee will address this issue in the upcoming national budget.

Manmohan Singh also sought to allay fears that pump priming of the economy by way of stimulus packages announced earlier and measures that will follow in the ensuing months would fuel inflation.

"It (expenditure towards infrastructure) will not add to inflation, but to our economic growth."

According to the Prime Minister, fiscal deficit had increased sharply but even then India had enough resources to spend on flagship programmes thanks to the average annual growth of 8.6 percent achieved during the past five years.

He also said that his government was deeply committed to the agenda listed in the President's address, adding flagship programmes will be further strengthened and public delivery system made more transparent.

"Much ground has been covered, a lot more has to be done."

The motion of thanks, which says the members of the Lok Sabha are "deeply grateful" to the President for her address to both houses on June 4, was moved by Congress party leader Girija Vyas and seconded by party colleague P C Chacko.

The motion was subsequently passed by voice

'Doha must resume on farm, Nama note'

9 Jun 2009, ET Bureau

NEW DELHI: India has said the Doha round of multilateral trade talks should resume on the basis of the draft reports on agriculture and Nama (industrial goods) produced by the World Trade Organisation (WTO) committees late last year.

During the ongoing Cairns Group meeting in Bali, commerce & industry minister Anand Sharma held separate talks with US trade representative Ron Kirk and the trade ministers from Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia and Indonesia to discuss ways in which the stalled talks could be put back on track.

In his special address to the Cairns Group, Mr Sharma reiterated India’s commitment to the successful conclusion of the Doha process through constructive engagement. The Doha talks had broken down last July over a number of issues, including differences between India and the US over the levels up to which developing countries could increase tariffs on farm products to protect poor farmers. Another area of dispute between the two was whether the sectoral negotiations, which call for zero tariffs on identified sectors, should be made mandatory.

While emphasising on the need for resumption of negotiations based on the draft reports on agriculture and Nama—which tried to incorporate the concerns and aspirations of both developed and developing countries—the minister stated that the ‘development dimension’ of the Doha round must be central to all discussions, and the aspirations of all developing countries for a fair trading regime must be recognised, an official release said.

The release added that both Mr Sharma and Mr Kirk agreed to take forward the multilateral negotiations and to review the US-India bilateral engagement during the minister’s visit to Washington later this month.

Mr Sharma also held talks with his counterparts from Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia and Indonesia. He is scheduled to meet WTO director general Pascal Lamy on Tuesday.