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Sunday, January 29, 2012

PM should probe ISRO blacklisting order: Former chairman

Bangalore:Stung by a government order debarring him and three other reputed space scientists from occupying official posts, former Indian space agency chairman G. Madhavan Nair has demanded that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh immediately enquire into the case.

'As I am not aware who took the decision in the PMO (Prime Minister's Office), I want the prime minister to investigate the order and ascertain the basis of the recommendation for action as I was not given a chance to know what my crime is,' an upset Nair told IANS in an interview here.

The other three scientists who have been barred from holding any government job are former scientific secretary A. Bhaskarnarayana, Indian Space Research Organisation's (ISRO) former satellite centre director K.N. Shankara and former Antrix Corporation executive director K.R. Sridharamurthi.

The Rs.1,000-crore ($200 million) Antrix is the commercial arm of the state-run ISRO, which is headquartered in this tech hub with centres across the country.

The quartet had been punished for their alleged role in the nixed $300 million (Rs.60 crore) spectrum deal between Antrix and the Bangalore-based Devas Multimedia Ltd in violation of rules, including competitive bidding through a global tender.

'The fact that the blacklisting order was not sent to me even 12 days after it was issued (Jan 13) but leaked to the media makes me suspect a sinister design behind the entire episode to cover up something or shield someone,' Nair asserted.

Claiming that the review committee headed by former cabinet secretary B.K. Chaturvedi and Space Commission member Roddam Narasimha found nothing amiss with the terms under which the contract was signed to allot 70MHz of the scarce S-band spectrum (radio waves) to Devas for digital multimedia services, Nair said even the one-man committee headed by B.N. Suresh gave him a clean chit.

Present ISRO chairman K. Radhakrishnan set up the Suresh panel in December 2009 to probe the deal.

'The Chaturvedi committee was at least fair to send a questionnaire and seek my explanation for some policy decisions on the deal, as I was also secretary of the space department during my tenure as ISRO chairman. After I sent a rejoinder and clarified the issues to their satisfaction, I thought the matter rested there,' Nair recalled.

The prime minister had set up a panel May 31, 2011 under the chairmanship of former Central Vigilance Commissioner (CVC) Pratyush Sinha to study the recommendations of the Chaturvedi panel report. Nair said the panel had neither summoned him nor asked him to appear before it.

'It is a mystery to me on how the Sinha panel made a case against me to warrant such an action by the PMO. I wish it had given me a chance to clear the air. Instead, I have been convicted and sentenced without giving me a hearing... I strongly suspect the hand of Radhakrishnan who scuttled the deal but held us responsible for his misdeeds,' Nair charged.

The prime minister had set up the Chaturvedi panel on Feb 10, 2011 to go into the Antrix-Devas agreement that was scrapped Feb 17, 2011.

The panel submitted its report to the prime minister March 12, 2011.

As per the deal, Devas was to get 90 percent of the transponders for 12 years from GSAT-6 and GSAT-6A satellites ISRO proposes to launch in the near future for communication and broadcasting services.

Reiterating that the contract was signed as per the policy prevailing then (2004), Nair said due to lack of clarity on ISRO's role in the operational aspects of the deal, facts and issues have been distorted.

'ISRO's role is to launch the twin satellites (GSAT-6 & GSAT-6A) and lease the transponders to the bidder at a cost, while it is the DoT (Department of Telecom) which charges for providing other links. When Devas applied for the satellite, there were no other bidders as the technology was new and there was no 3G or 4G for which the S-band spectrum is used to provide high speed links for various multimedia services,' he said.

Contesting the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) valuation, Nair said when even the satellites were not launched or transponders leased and services began, how can a loss be estimated and the entire deal dubbed a scam?

The CAG in February 2011 estimated the loss to the exchequer to the tune of Rs.2 lakh crore (Rs.2 trillion) from the deal.

'The satellite spectrum cannot be equated with the land-based radio waves as the former's usage is restricted. The CAG has extrapolated the land based spectrum usage to space based one,' Nair added.

War over Aadhaar ( Unique Identity number project)

Manmohan Singh is just not able to have the final word in his own cabinet. The latest instance where cabinet ministers are fighting each other, after a formal decision of the cabinet pertains to the Unique Identity number project, which was a pet subject of the prime minister himself.

Home Minister P Chidambaram has challenged the cabinet decision saying it has grave security concerns for the nation. He has demanded a special session of the cabinet to discuss the threat and his letter has been leaked fully to the media. As both Singh and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee backed this project two years ago, Chidambaram's frontal assault has again shown the deep divisions within the UPA2, which neither Manmohan Singh nor Congress president Sonia Gandhi are unable to resolve.

The project was entrusted to Information technology pioneer Nandan Nilekhani, who was the managing director of Infosys. Like other imports from the private sector, Nilekani adjusted to the ways the government works, and projected an ambitious plan to provide an identity number to everyone residing within the country's borders. Nilekani arranged for the biometric details like fingerprint to be captured on the database so that each person is easily identifiable by his number. Nilekhani hoped to cover the 120 crore population in a span of five years, if he got enough funds from the government. He worked out a scheme where people could go to panchayat offices, post offices and bank branches to get themselves registered.

The strong opposition from Chidambaram, whose own ministry is capturing the biometric details of citizens for the national population register has paralysed Nilekani's project. Both the Planning Commission and the home ministry are engaged in a war of words with each other. Chidambaram argues that the unique identification project is full of holes, and it can be misused by anyone.

He says his ministry which deals with internal security had not given full approval. He is unhappy that the nodal ministry is the planning commission, whose chairman is the Prime Minister himself. But Chidambaram says lot of foreigners, especially Bangladeshis, will get themselves an unique identification number, and it will be difficult to distinguish citizens from non citizens.

While the census officials visit every household to identify citizens, the unique identification scheme allows residents to come to selected centres and data is captured by non governmental agencies.

Nilekani has counter argued that the unique identification number does not confine citizenship rights, but would only entitle the numbered person to get access to government services, whereas citizenship will be determined by the existing procedures of the home and external affairs ministries. Chidambaram feels the census department, which has a permanent machinery to enumerate the citizens once in a decade has the perfect machinery to decide who is a citizen. He is not bothered that already the biometric data of ten million people has been captured and four lakhs numbers have been issued. More than Rs.700 crores has been spent on the project and Nilekani has sought another Rs. 10,000 crores for capturing the biometric details of the entire population.

Chidambaram has cleverly asked for a cabinet meeting, so that there can be strong polarisation. Ministers close to prime minister said Chidambaram had tried to dilute the authority of the prime minister, who is already under attack from the opposition that Singh has no control over his cabinet members. Singh has to deftly handle the challenge posed by Chidambaram to his pet scheme.

Tailpiece: However Chidambaram has found strong support from BJP. Interestingly saffron party boycotted the home minister continuously in the winter session of parliament, demanding his resignation over Chidambaram's invovlement in the 2G spectrum scam.

Pakistani doctor gave key information for Osama bin Laden raid: US

Washington: US defense secretary Leon Panetta is acknowledging publicly for the first time that a Pakistani doctor provided key information to the US in advance of the successful Navy SEAL assault on Osama bin Laden's compound last May.
Panetta told CBS's ' 60 Minutes,' in a profile to be broadcast on Sunday, that Shakil Afridi helped provide intelligence for the raid on bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
Afridi ran a vaccination program for the CIA to collect DNA and verify bin Laden's presence in the compound. He has since been charged by Pakistan with treason. Panetta said he is 'very concerned' for the doctor.
Panetta also told '60 Minutes' that he remains convinced that someone in the Pakistani government 'must have had some sense' that a person of interest was in the compound. He added that he has no proof that Pakistan knew it was bin Laden.
The Pakistani government had hoped to resolve the Afridi matter quietly, once media attention died down, perhaps releasing him to US custody, according to two Pakistani officials. They requested anonymity because the investigation into charges the doctor behaved treasonously was ongoing.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Gold for Iran oil report speculative: India

New Delhi: An Israeli website has suggested that India has agreed to pay Iran in gold for oil purchases, but Indian authorities have called the report "speculative". In an "exclusive report" on Jan 23 this year, the website,, quoted Iranian sources as saying that "India is the first buyer of Iranian oil to agree to pay for its purchases in gold instead of US dollars".

However, Indian government officials said the report was "speculative" and hence did not merit any response.

The report, which went online soon after an Indian official team visited Iran last week, also claimed that China may follow suit, noting that India and China buy about one million barrels a day from Iran, which amounts to 40 percent of that nation's total exports of 2.5 million barrels per day.

"By trading in gold, New Delhi and Beijing enable Tehran to bypass the upcoming freeze on its central bank's assets and the oil embargo which the European Union's foreign ministers agreed to impose Jan 23," it claimed.

On Monday, European Union foreign ministers had agreed to ban oil imports from Iran from July 1, 2012, in an effort to force Tehran from developing its nuclear arsenal.

Indian officials, who did not want to be identified, pointed out that they were working out with their Iranian counterparts on the options they have to make payments toward oil imports.

"We have time till June end to decide on our options and to exercise them," an official said.

Oil imports, particularly from Iran, are critical for India's energy security, as 80 percent of oil requirements come from outside the country. Iran accounts for about 12 percent of India's total oil imports.

India's Petroleum Minister S. Jaipal Reddy Wednesday reacted to the European Union's sanctions against Iran, saying New Delhi would continue to explore "options" for paying Tehran for its oil imports.

He also noted that India would only abide by the sanctioned imposed by the UN.

Among the options India is considering for paying Iran is to do business using Indian currency on the lines of the arrangement with Russia in the past.

New Delhi and Tehran have been debating options for Indian payments for over a year now, since the Reserve Bank of India in December 2010 banned Indian firms from using the Asian Clearing Union to pay for oil imports from Iran.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Aakash: World's cheapest tablet launched; to be sold for $60 in retail

NEW DELHI: The wait for the world's cheapest tablet is finally over! The $35 tablet nicknamed Aakash was launched today and will be available at retail stores at a maximum retail price of Rs 2999 ($60), said its maker Datawind.

New Apple iPhone 4S: Full coverage on the new smartphone

The Rs 3,000 figure is the 'maximum suggested retail price' of the commercial version of the product which we will offer with an embedded cellular modem and SIM," said Suneet Singh Tuli, CEO of Datawind, maker of the world's cheapest tablet.

The $60 tablet for retail sales has an inbuilt cellular modem and SIM to access internet, which will be absent in the $35 device, supplied to the government.

As a business, we need to make a profit, and our distribution channel needs to make a profit, which is all covered in the MRP of Rs 2,999," Mr Tuli told ET.

Both versions of the tablet, will run on Google's Android platform, with WiFi connectivity for internet access and cloud storage. The tablets will have 256 MB of RAM, a 32 GB expandable memory slot and two USB ports.

The commercial version of the tablet would have no duty waivers or subsidy, as in the government's version. An inbuilt cellular modem and SIM card will add to the price of the commercial tablet.

The commercial version of the tablet, is expected be out within 60 days, of its launch on October 5.

Datawind adds that it is supplying to the government at a price of Rs 2200, which includes sales tax and replacement warranty. "The $35 price is achievable at higher volume levels. When we supply the product to the government at $35, then too it will allow us a margin, albeit at higher volumes," Datawind CEO added.

India trails fellow BRIC nations Brazil, Russia and China in the drive to get its 1.2 billion population connected to technologies such as the Internet and mobile phones, a report by risk analysis firm Maplecroft said this year.

The number of Internet users grew 15-fold between 2000 and 2010, according to another recent report. Still, just 8 percent of Indians have access. That compares with nearly 40 percent in China.

Some 19 million people subscribe to mobile phones every month, making India the world's fastest growing market, but most are from the wealthier segment of the population in towns.

Bharat Mehra, an expert on the use of communications technology for development, said the budget tablet could be used to deliver distance learning in rural areas and among students.

UPA govt 'most corrupt' post-Independence: Narendra Modi

CHENNAI: Mounting a scathing attack on the ruling UPA coalition at the Centre, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi today said it was the "most corrupt" government after Independence even as there was a "lack of direction and leadership at the Central level".

"The UPA government is neck deep in trouble, owing to explicit greed for power and position. It is least concerned about consolidation and expansion of the economy. The present government is by far the most corrupt after Independence," he said at the 42nd anniversary celebrations of Tamil weekly 'Thuglaq', edited by noted political commentator Cho Ramaswamy.

Charging the Congress-led UPA with harping on vote bank politics, he said it had resulted only in "gloom and pessimism".

"Post-Independence, the Congress party's single rule of negative vote bank politics for almost 40 years has spread an atmosphere of gloom and pessimism," he said.

In 2011, the country was faced with many problems such as slowing down of economic growth, menace of terrorism, naxalism, corruption and inflation, Modi said.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Israel, India defence and security ties to grow stronger

TEL AVIV: The multi-billion dollar India- Israel defence market is set to grow as a number of military and security related contracts are likely to be inked soon, sources here said, as Tel Aviv is ready for joint production and sharing of technical know-how.

"The financial year gets over in March and we expect a number of deals to be signed. Most of them are in the last negotiation stages," a source said.

Asked what kind of deals are to be signed, the source, said, "They are in various field from up gradation to specialised software, buying of equipments and others".

In the last few years, Israel has emerged as the second largest defence supplier to India after Russia and following the 2008 Mumbai attacks, Israel has become a major player in the homeland security arena too.

"You cannot ignore the fact that Israel has very high level of specialisation in such products. From buyer-seller relationship, we are now working jointly on research and development," another source said.

Defence trade with Israel includes buying of billions of dollars of military equipment including UAVs, missiles and command and control systems besides fire arms.

Sources said one of the main attractions of Israeli defence market was that Tel Aviv is ready to share its technical know-how and is ready for joint production.

The cooperation is not just on already developed projects but also which are futuristic.

It is not that India only needs Israel because Tel Aviv is also "pulling out all stops" to ensure that relations with India grows.

India’s delicate balance

Despite their country’s decidedly pro-Palestinian policies, Indians are remarkably supportive of Israel.

On Monday evening at the Dan Tel Aviv Hotel, Israel and India celebrated the 20th anniversary of the establishment of official relations between the countries. In attendance was India’s External Affairs Minister S. M. Krishna, the highest-ranking Indian politician to come to Israel in an official capacity in over a decade.

Addressing Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Krishna noted that cooperation between the countries “would not have been possible if there did not exist a wealth of goodwill and cultural empathy,” and declared his “commitment” to long-term partnership “for the mutual benefit of our peoples.”

Nevertheless, the rarity of a visit by such a high-ranking Indian official underlines the delicate balance New Delhi maintains in its relations with Jerusalem. On one hand, commercial ties have improved immensely since January 1992, when the two countries formally established ties after the collapse of the Soviet Union and India’s dramatic transition from a centrally planned socialism under Soviet influence to a free market economy. Israel’s ability to fight devastating and rampant poverty and hunger by meeting India’s huge development needs in the fields of agriculture, water management and medicine boosted trade between the two from just $200 million in 1991 to about $5 billion. Meanwhile, Israel has much to gain from the Indians’ vast experience in the management of multinational corporations, a stage in economic development that Israeli firms have rarely achieved (with a few exceptions, such as Teva).

Trade will undoubtedly continue to flourish in the future after the signing of a long-awaited free trade agreement, delayed in part by opposition from Israeli firms that will find it difficult to compete with India’s consumer goods. Also, about 40,000 Israelis, many of them post-army backpackers, visit India every year, and about 20,000 Indians visit Israel.

ON THE other hand, as S. Samuel C. Rajiv of the Institute for Defense Studies and Analyses in New Delhi noted in an article published in this month’s Strategic Analysis, India has tended to play down military deals with Israel, estimated to be worth over $9b. over the past decade or so, while pursuing high-profile foreign relations with the Palestinian Authority. Those relations include tens of millions of dollars in direct aid, frequent visits by PA President Mahmoud Abbas, and public declarations by senior Indian officials supporting the creation of a Palestinian state. The 2008 terror attack in Mumbai, which left 170 dead, including four Israelis, was a tragic reminder of the mutual challenges the two countries face and helped strengthen military relations.

At the same time, India prefers to avoid conflict with a significant Muslim minority there that opposes military ties with Israel. Also, out of clear economic and political interests – combined, perhaps, with a throwback to India’s role during the Cold War era as a leader of nonaligned states – New Delhi continues actively and publicly to foster relations with Arab and Muslim states.

Political leadership in India is openly critical of Israel’s policies vis-à-vis the Palestinians and has supported Palestinian initiatives in the UN – such as the September 2011 statehood bid, and the February 2011 resolution defining Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria as “illegal.” In addition, India opposes using military means to stop Iran’s nuclear program (though it is also opposed to allowing Iran to achieve nuclear capability).

YET DESPITE their country’s decidedly pro-Palestinian policies, Indians are remarkably supportive of Israel. A 2009 survey sponsored by the Foreign Ministry, involving 5,200 people in 13 countries, reportedly ranked India as the most “pro-Israel country” in the world, higher even than the US. Fifty-eight percent of Indian respondents had positive feelings about Israel, followed by US respondents at 56% and Russia and Mexico at 52% each.

India’s foreign policy is proof that a strong pro-Palestinian stance is not an obstacle to robust and mutually advantageous relations with Israel. Indians understand the complexity of resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and that a majority of Israelis support a two-state solution in principle, provided it brings about a final resolution of the conflict. But in the meantime, until a peace for which most Indians, Palestinians and Israelis pray is achieved, life – and foreign relations – must go on maintaining a delicate balance.

Jpost editorial

Twitter lashes out at Google search changes

San Francisco: Twitter lashed out at changes Google Inc unveiled for its search engine on Tuesday, describing the changes as "bad" for consumers and for Web publishers.

Twitter, a microblogging service which allows its users to broadcast short, 140-character messages to groups of "followers," said Google's changes would make it tougher for
people to find the breaking news often shared by users of its service.

"As we've seen time and time again, news breaks first on Twitter; as a result, Twitter accounts and Tweets are often the most relevant (search) results," the company said in a

"We're concerned that as a result of Google's changes, finding this information will be much harder for everyone. We think that's bad for people, publishers, news organizations and Twitter users," the statement continued.

Twitter's criticism, which came hours after Google announced new features aimed at making search results more personalized, underscored the growing competition between the Web companies.

And it comes at a time when Google is facing antitrust scrutiny for favoring its own services within its search results.

A Twitter spokesperson declined to answer a question about whether the company might reach out to antitrust regulators about Google's changes.

Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A 2009 agreement, allowing Google to offer a real-time feed of Twitter messages within its search results, expired in July. Google launched a social network, dubbed Google+, in June that offers many of the capabilities available in Twitter and in Facebook.

With Tuesday's changes to Google's search engine, photos and posts from Google+ will increasingly appear within the search results.

The changes effectively create customized search results for people who are logged in to Google. A person who searches for the term "Hawaii," for example, might find private photos that their friends have shared on Google+ as well as public information about the islands.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Iran says it will close Strait of Hormuz if crude exports blocked

Tehran’s leadership has decided to order a blockade of the strategic Strait of Hormuz if the country’s oil exports are blocked, a senior Revolutionary Guard Commander said as reported by Iranian press.

­The strategic decision was made by Iran's top authorities, Ali Ashraf Nouri said, as cited by the Iranian Khorasan daily.

"The supreme authorities … have insisted that if enemies block the export of our oil, we won't allow a drop of oil to pass through the Strait of Hormuz. This is the strategy of the Islamic Republic in countering such threats," Nouri said.

Until now, there had been no official confirmation of Iran’s military having direct orders to block the Strait. However, Tehran has been threatening to block the strategic waterway – one of the world's most important oil routes – if the West slapped more sanctions on its oil exports or risked hostile military act of any kind.

Meanwhile, Iran is planning a new round of “massive” naval drills codenamed The Great Prophet, which will be carried out by the country’s elite Revolutionary Guard with its own air, naval and ground forces, separate from those of the regular military.

On Thursday, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard's naval commander, Admiral Ali Fadavi, said the next round of war games would be "different” from previous ones.

Iran recently held a 10-day naval exercise near the Strait of Hormuz, demonstrating its military prowess and ability to take full control of the waters if necessary.

Tensions spiraled after the US introduced the latest round of sanctions against Iran targeting its financial and banking sector, effectively hampering Iran’s ability to settle transactions with the international consumers of its oil. The legislation already caused the Iranian currency to plunge to a historic low.

Iran is under UN sanctions for refusing to stop its uranium enrichment program, which is – as Iranian officials claim – aimed at developing a complex civilian nuclear industry. The international community believes, though, that Iran’s nuclear program is merely a front for its ambitions to create a nuclear weapon.

Meanwhile the EU may delay its embargo on Iranian crude oil imports, a measure aimed at complementing the US sanctions. EU members most dependent on oil imports are seeking to push back the embargo and have called for “grace periods” on existing contracts. But diplomats from different countries differed on the exact length of these grace periods. Diplomats from Greece, which is most dependent on Iranian oil imports, have called for a delay of 12 months, while the UK, France and the Netherlands want a maximum of 3 months.

EU foreign ministers are set to meet in Brussels on January 30 to decide on how the embargo will be imposed.

Iran is the second-largest oil producer after Saudi Arabia, among the 12 countries in OPEC, making around 3.5 million barrels a day. EU countries buy around 500,000 barrels per day, the largest share of Iran’s total 2.6 million barrel a day oil export.

RT report

Sunday, January 1, 2012

NIC meeting transcript shows Mehbooba Mufti did praise Modi

New Delhi: In what could be a major embarrassment for Jammu and Kashmir Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chief Mehbooba Mufti, an official transcript shows that she did praise Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi at the National Integration Council (NIC) meeting last September.

According to the transcript of the NIC meeting released by the home ministry on its website, Mehbooba had referred to her meeting with a Muslim businessman from Chennai, who narrated to her his experience during a meeting with Modi seeking solution to his problems to do business in Gujarat.

She had, according to the transcript, said that Modi had within 10 minutes solved the problems that the Muslim businessman faced.

After citing the experience of the businessman, Mehbooba asked all political parties to reach out to the Muslim minorities so that the community could respond positively.

"I recall once I was in Chennai and I met someone, a Muslim businessman, and he told me that he had gone to see Gujarat chief minister, and he said I was very impressed. I had an appointment with him regarding some business deal and he had got all the officers there, around him. They did not take even 10 minutes and he got his job done," Mehbooba said at the NIC meeting.

"So, I mean, people, minorities, Muslims they are looking forward (to) some kind, some kind of step forward, some kind of reaching out, which I think, we are missing. I mean to say that if all political parties reach out to minorities they will respond positively," she added.

After the NIC meeting Sep 10, 2011, Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha and Bharatiya Janata Party leader Sushma Swaraj mentioned Mehbooba's praise for Modi during her speech on the last day of the three-day 'Sadhbhavana' fast that her party colleague Modi undertook in Ahmedabad Sep 17-19.

Fearing it could lead to a political backlash for her in Jammu and Kashmir, Mehbooba Mufti countered Sushma Swaraj's statement, claiming it was baseless and untrue and that she had never praised Modi at the NIC meeting.

The transcript on the home ministry website now seems to have proved Sushma Swaraj right and Mehbooba Mufti wrong.

99-yr-old seeks divorce after discovering wife's affair

London: An Italian couple could create a new record of becoming the world's oldest divorcees, with a 99-year-old husband moving a court after he found that his 96-year-old wife had an affair in the 1940s, a report said.

The Italian man, identified by lawyers in the case only as Antonio C, was rifling through an old chest of drawers when he made the discovery a few days before Christmas this year.

Notwithstanding the time that had elapsed since the betrayal, he was so upset that he immediately confronted his wife of 77 years, named as Rosa C, and demanded a divorce, 'The Daily Telegraph' reported.

Guilt-stricken, she reportedly confessed to everything but was unable to persuade her husband to reconsider his decision, the newspaper said.

In fact, she wrote the letters to her lover during a secret affair in the 1940s, according to court papers released in Rome this week.

The couple is now preparing to split, despite the ties they forged over nearly eight decades -- they have five children, a dozen grandchildren and one great-grand child.

The discovery of the letters was the final straw for a marriage which had already run into difficulty -- 10 years ago the husband briefly left their house in Rome and moved in with one of his sons, only to return a few weeks later.

The couple met during the 1930s when Antonio was posted as a young Carabinieri officer to Naples.

The case appears to set a new record, at least for the age of the oldest protagonist -- the previous oldest couple to divorce were Bertie and Jessie Wood, both aged 98, from UK.
The pair ended their 36-year marriage in 2009 when they were both two years away from their 100th birthdays.