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Friday, April 27, 2007

They Would Be Some Lucky Pilots

Meanwhile, some lucky air force pilots, who either recently joined or will soon join IAF, and probably all men, will get to see moon, up close and personal.

India is examining the feasibility of launching a manned mission to the moon by 2020, ISRO Chairman G Madhavan Nair said on Thursday. Such a mission could cost more than Rs 10,000 crore and a feasibility report was being prepared on the proposal, Nair said...[IE]

The time-line would probably depend on the success of Chandrayaan scheduled for next year.

Russians, Coyly, Playing Double Game

Another reminder that strategic assets have to be build within

With much brouhaha, Russian president Putin said all the right words and signed on all the right documents, during his last visit to India, in January 2007. But the Russians, apparently, don't want to deliver. INS Vikramaditya, the replacement carrier for the dying INS Viraat, won't be ready until 2010 - a two year delay.

Earlier, Russian shipbuilders had estimated 700 km of cabling in the ship but that’s been revised to a total of 2,400 km for the carrier to be operational with the Indian Navy for the next two decades. According to official sources, even the sky-jump on the deck of Gorshkov is not completed and work is going at a slow pace. [IE]

Even as MEA has been patting its own back for stopping Pakistan from acquiring fighter planes from China fitted with Russian engines, the Russians have ignored their apparent pledge made just months ago. Apparently they value Chinese relationship more than our own, which probably can be taken for granted because of the way we behave with the Russians.

Adding to concerns here is Moscow’s decision to look the other way as Pakistan received Chinese JF-17 fighters last month. These aircraft are powered by Russian RD-93 engines. Pakistan will now get 15 more fighters next year and another 200 by 2015. [IE]

It's time to get serious about developing local technology base for building ships, planes, armored vehicles. Shipbuilding is promisingly moving forward but building workable planes and armored vehicles are still out of reach for our defence industry. Trying to do everything on the cheap with insufficient government funding and inefficient government controlled institutions is not working. In the mean time, spending billions on foreign weapons systems that are equally delayed is costing us precious lead time needed to make these projects work in house the right way.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

General's Srinagar Plans - With Flag And All

The Pioneer has extracts of Benazir Bhutto's memoir, "Daughter of the East."

In my second term (as Prime Minister) I was invited once again to General Headquarters to get a security briefing. Director of Military Operations Maj Gen Pervez Musharraf (who, of course, would later become Chief of Army Staff and seize power to become President) gave me a briefing.

It seemed like deja vu as I once again heard how Pakistan would take Srinagar if only I gave the orders to do so. Musharraf concluded the briefing with the words that a ceasefire would be in place and Pakistan would be in control of Srinagar. I asked him, 'And what next?' He was surprised by my question and said, 'Next we will put the flag of Pakistan on the Srinagar Parliament.'

And what next?' I asked the General.

'Next you will go to the United Nations and tell them that Srinagar is in Pakistan's control.'

'And what next?' I pushed on. I could see Gen Musharraf had not been prepared for this grilling and was getting flustered. He said, 'And... and you will tell them to change the map of the world taking into consideration the new geographical realities.'

'And do you know what the United Nations will tell me?' I looked Gen Musharraf straight in the eye, as the Army chief sat silently by and the room grew still, and pointedly said, 'They will pass a Security Council Resolution condemning us and demanding that we unilaterally withdraw from Srinagar, and we will have got nothing for our efforts but humiliation and isolation.' I then abruptly concluded the meeting.

I think Bhutto has it all wrong and the general's thought process is more accurate.

UNSC would have lobbed a soft volley pretending to make India's case, with British and US finally relived that their ally finally got what it really deserved since partition. Then UNSC would have voted to change the maps even if India were preparing to fight back - a highly unlikely scenario. Our leaders will probably throw up their hands and talk about negotiations with Pak to get back what they lost. The country will be told what's the point in waging a war for frozen land where even a blade of grass won't grow (John Galbraith was alive then) - we, apparently, would have won the ethereal moral high ground by losing.

Too bad Bhutto didn't allow the general to try it. No wonder, years later, the general forgot to mention his plans to Nawaz Sharif

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Abuse of Children Report

Good start but more work is needed for real understanding of the issues

Anu Oza's post on INI-Signal about the recently released Child Abuse report made me take a closer look at the report to probe a bit deeper than the screaming headlines in the newspapers reported when the study was released. Anu identifies an important deficit in the report. But my thoughts are about the report as complied.

The actual report can be found at an NGO portal.

I have to say I'm little disappointed with the study. Given the amount of data they collected, the analysis was very rudimentary - just a compilation of data rather than identifying correlations between questions and much more analysis, i.e., there was no significant statistical analysis to clean up the data.

The questions, while mostly open ended, do not include alternatives or similar questions to understand the patterns better (there are some) such as spanking of children. Spanking of children for doing something wrong, according to parents, is very common in Indian families and I personally would not put it in abuse category unless children are brutally beaten (and for not reason). Similarly fighting between siblings is very common - these types of situations, surely not abuses in most situations, are not teased out and eliminated from distorting the data.

Some questions are very good but most needed to be probed more. Some are ridicules like - if a girl does household work that translates to her development time being taken away. Please.

Most worrying numbers are for sexual abuse questions - these need to studied further, preferably in an academic setting, instead of by the 'Save the Children' type NGOs – talk about conflict of interest.

Finally, no amount of laws or market place or corporate responsibility type ideas will help the situation - even if, as I suspect, the situation is not as dire as reported by the study. Education of parents, who are really the first line of defence for most children, in many formats, but mainly through popular media, is the key to getting the message across regarding the extent of abuse situations, actions the parents can take, and the remedies available to parents and children, legal or otherwise.

But our popular media has to pay attention to weddings between movie stars. Unfortunately, they have little time for such cursory issues.

Cross-posted on INI-Signal.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Kelkar on MIFC

Vijay Kelkar, the other civil servant extraordinaire - most quoted is, the well deserved, E. Sreedharan - writes about the benefits of MIFC, in Indian Express. The article is lucid and explains the big picture impact of a world class financial center in the country.

The MIFC report gives us a game plan for obtaining a world class, globally competitive financial system. This is useful because we make money on exporting financial services. But the real importance lies in accelerating GDP growth. In my view, the implementation of this report alone will add roughly 2 percentage points to India’s growth.[Bombay Plan 2007 - IE]

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Climate Change's Strategic Implications - US View

A report analyzing the security and strategic implications of global warming for US was released by CNA Corp, a NGO. The report was apparently put together by a group of 11 US admirals and generals, including Gen. Antony Zinni. While the damages highlighted in the report - climate change acting a threat multiplier for instability in some of the most volatile regions of the world - are fairly well known and obvious to the global warming debate followers, the recommendations about what to do about climate change are interesting:

  • The national security consequences of climate change should be fully integrated into national security and national defense strategies.

  • The U.S. should commit to a stronger national and international role to help stabilize climate changes at levels that will avoid significant disruption to global security and stability.

  • The U.S. should commit to global partnerships that help less developed nations build the capacity and resiliency to better manage climate impacts.

  • The Department of Defense should enhance its operational capability by accelerating the adoption of improved business processes and innovative technologies that result in improved U.S. combat power through energy efficiency.
I especially like the last recommendation! May be we'll get somewhere with renewable and clean technologies that will cost a few $10s millions, like those high-tech missiles and jet fighters, that only US DoD can afford. The current US president is likely to ignore the report. Maybe future presidents and others will find it useful. Because what a US report says, other take it at it's word, maybe others will start quoting, including the phrase "threat multiplier", from the report and make policy decisions based on recommendations contained in it.

Meanwhile Britain's Tony Blair's foreign minister called for UN Security Council action on climate change with US, China, and Russia expressing reservations. Finally, UNSC has something to do. Let the big five (apparently, including Britain and France) tell us what to do, and the rest of the world will follow. I am sure they know the rest of the world's, especially non-rich countries, predicament in adapting an expensive-energy life style.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Friends with All, Enemy of None

Michael Richardson, a South East Asian security specialist, writes about India's manoeuver to please all powers in Asia.

This month five Indian navy ships had six days of manoeuvres with the US navy off Okinawa in southern Japan. The Indian flotilla is on a two-month deployment to East Asian waters. By the time it ends on May 23, India will have exercised with Singapore, Japan, China, Russia, the Philippines, Vietnam and New Zealand as well as the US.

For the first time, the navies of India, Japan and the US will team up for training. The trilateral exercise is taking place this week off Japan.

Some analysts have suggested this is a sign of a new power balance emerging in Asia in which the old strongman, the US, is enlisting the support of Japan and India to counter the rise of China in league with Russia.

But India has been careful to ensure its naval foray into the Pacific cannot be misconstrued by Beijing. On the same day several of its ships train with the Japanese and US navies, other vessels from the same flotilla will exercise with China off the Chinese coast.

Then, to reinforce New Delhi's message of friends with all and enemies to none, the Indian ships will come together again before heading to Vladivostok to exercise with the Russian navy.[China muscles up military]

The mangled coalition politics of pleasing everyone on display in India's geopolitical thought?

What Matters is Capability, Actual Deployment Matters Less

Show of capabilities is everything in geopolitics

Commenting on an article by Messrs Basrur & Tang about the impact of Agni III test on Indo-China strategic relations, Nitin, at The Acorn, rightly observed that the authors ignored to consider India's concern about Chinese encirclement activities in South Asia in their balance sheet of issues concerning the two nations while making their call for genuine reconciliation between the two.

Nitin goes on to say a test is just a technology demonstrator and implies that it should have little bearing on geopolitics between the two countries. I am not so sure. In fact, testing to demonstrate capabilities is a primary driver of geopolitics, beyound articulating a particular notion (as described by Maverick).

The 50-year cold war was initiated between Soviet Union and US, and the western Europe, primary because of technology demonstration of what nuclear weapons could do. Stalin ramped up his efforts to acquire atomic and hydrogen bombs, by mainly invoking spies in UK and US, even before Truman had deployed or used the nuclear weapons in Japan.

India is a test case on how global geopolitics are altered after a technology demonstration. Post Pokharan I of '74, entire non-proliferation regime was build around India's capabilities - to thwart and roll back its nuclear technology. China started supplying its nuclear weapons technology to Pakistan in response to these test. This when India did not build up or deploy of any nuclear weapons. India, which had put the whole strategic nuclear enterprise in cold-storage until mid-80s, reinitiated its nuclear project only after it become clear that China was going all out to make Pakistan a nuclear weapon state. All these developments were based on demonstration of technology, not actual deployment of weapons.

It is likely China is going to react to India's Agni III tests. China may not react as Rajiv Singh discusses in his article on the ripple effects of the test because Chinese almost never concede anything in negotiations without taking something first. Its likely going to react by enhancing Pakistan strike capability, improve its own triad capability, and likely point a few new nuclear-tipped missiles at Indian cities. Numbers and targets may vary based on mutual deployment positions, but Chinese actions will come much earlier than actual Indian deployment.

Irrespective of how the media reports the testing, India is better of conducting few more flight testings in quick succession to perfect the missile technology and deploy at rapid speed instead of taking years and years like we did to deploy Agni I and Agni II.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Growth or Aid?

Two opinion pieces in The Hindu caught my attention.

World poverty reduced by growth in India and China

Numbers of the extremely poor fell from 1.489 billion in 1981 to 986 million in 2004.

A short piece by Larry Elliot, republished in The Hindu from UK's Guardian.

And just below that, another opinion -

IMF's plutocracy

Loan conditions continue to condemn developing countries to a vicious cycle of misery.

A much longer opinion by George Monbiot, again republished in The Hindu from UK's Guardian.

At least by now, based on the experience of aid giving in the past 50 years and growth stories in the past two decades, it should be clear where the focus should be to eliminate poverty in the world.

Talk about lopsided priorities of analysts and intellectuals.

Rupee Strongest in Five Years!

Rupee has breached Rs42/$ and seems to be gaining apparently with no intervention from RBI. I blogged about impact of RBI undermining its own policy of hiking interest rates to control liquidity, in the FX market, and about squeezing the middle class without really controlling excess liquidity. Others have written about the damage RBI is doing in Business Standard and Indian Express and in financial blogs.

Starting sometime in March, it seems, RBI is listening . It looks like RBI stopped trying to keep rupee artificially low pumping liquidity into the economy even while vowing to control inflation. This two year chart says everything.

While foreign goods will become cheaper and demand for these goods may increase even as credit is squeezed, thanks to higher interest rates, and with exports slowing down, excess liquidity may eventually be drain from the economy. Hopefully the economy won't be impacted too much by RBI's actions until now and inflation may finally start moving lower. Just in time for general elections in few years!

But if the economy does cool off to 5-6% because of the damage already done, then all bets are off for the general next elections.

India may finally be becoming a normal country where vast majority of people are interested in their economic wellbeing even as non-economic issues like reservations, religious, and parochial interests continue to dominate governance.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Pollution for Mangoes? - Dumb Trade Deal

In March 2006, Madhur Jaffrey wrote in New York Times, after Bush signed a little covered trade deal to import Bharatiya mangoes, while making the big announcement about 123 nuclear deal with Manmohan, that by exchanging mangoes for apparent civil nuclear technology US got a better deal.

It's a short witty op-ed, in which Madhur describes her experience upon arriving from India at a US airport, when the customs authorities confiscated her precious cargo, which was apparently dangerous and illegal, and gave themselves a treat by eat the contraband, out of purview, few minutes later, which she accidentally saw (making her day even worse, I'd imagine).

Now it seems we are getting an even a rotter deal.

NEW DELHI, APRIL 13: As mangoes from Indian orchards get ready for shipment to the US, Harley Davidson will soon cruise on the roads here with the government relaxing emission norms for the American luxury bike.

“We will issue a notification on the import of bikes with an engine capacity of over 800cc lowering the emission norms from BS IV to BS III norms. This would facilitate import of Harley Davidson bikes,” commerce and industry minister Kamal Nath said...

Though bikes in India have to meet the Euro IV norms, premium 800 cc bikes like Harley Davidson are being been given a liberal treatment.[IE]

Importing extra pollution for sending out our sweet mangoes? Talk about bad trade deal. Where're the anti-globalizers when you really need them?

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Response to Ugandan Riots a Good Precursor

PIO interests are India's interests

While the foreign minister is recouping from an accident, Anand Sharma, minister for state for external affairs, is following up on riots in Uganda targeting people of Indian Origin and their property. This is seemingly in contrast to India's response when PIOs in Fiji and in other nations are targeted.

Riots in Uganda reminds Indian's of the violent ethnic-ousting policies of Edi Amin. Uganda has long since moved on and has welcomed back former Ugandan PIOs to rebuild the country. Uganda government seems to be taking action after two days of riots and things seem to be returning normal. Uganda's well known president Yoweri Museveni is blaming opposition and foreign NGOs.

In Kampala, Uganda president Yoweri Museveni blamed political opposition and "foreign NGOs". "To attack, insult or damage the property of any Ugandan or guests of Uganda is something the government will not tolerate... Ugandans need 'foreigners' to develop our country. Nobody has a right to use violence against any other Ugandan or visitors to Uganda or their properties."

On Saturday, branches of Bank of Baroda, which had been closed for two days, were open. Many Indian shops opened as well, though an equal number were shut. A Swaminarayan temple was stoned, but not damaged.[TOI]

Whatever the reasons for the riots, response of MEA is hearting. Hope this type of response would be the precursor for any anti-Indian and anti-PIOs activities in any country, not just in Africa.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Agni III Launch

One of the better coverage of Agni III launch was by IANS's Gulshan Luthra. It covers all facets of the launch without mocking the success of test.

Defence sources told IANS that Indian scientists were working on putting multiple warheads on the missile.

There is a substantial use of lightweight carbon composite materials in the two-stage Agni-III, but after some more tests and further development, its weight would be reduced to give it multiple warhead capability.

The 16-metre Agni-III weighed 48 tonnes and carried a warhead of 1.5 tonnes.

An IRBM is a missile with 3,000 to 5,000 km range, while missiles with longer reach are designated Inter Continental Ballistic Missile (ICBMs). There are nearly a dozen types of IRBMs in the world, including with North Korea and China, who shared their technology with Pakistan and Iran as well.

The missile can be launched from various platforms, including from submarines if their size is compatible. As India is already working on submarine-launched BrahMos supersonic cruise missile, it should not be a very difficult task to achieve submarine-launched IRBM capability.

Thursday's test, however, was conducted from a specially-built, mobile railway pad, indicating that it would be deployed in numbers from east to west to ensure secondary strike capability as part of the country's No-First-Use-But-Massive-Retaliation policy.

'The trajectory of Agni-III was computed by the onboard computer system based on the launch and target coordinates. During the flight, the missile had no communication with the ground systems and was fully 'intelligent' to reach its designated target,' a defence ministry statement said. [IANS]

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

ICICI's Kamath

Spring '07 issue of McKinsey Quarterly has a really nice interview with K.V.Kamath, CEO of ICICI. The growth story and development strategy of ICICI, primarily under Kamath, is amazing. I think, anyone interested in business strategy would learn a thing or two from this interview. (The article is not a premium article but the site requires sign up.)

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Another Treaty, Another Call for Strategic Direction

FMCT Talks Ramping Up; But no National Strategy on Ramping Up FM

Following UN sanctions on Iran to thwart its nuclear fissile material enrichment program, there are signs US is reviving the currently dormant Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty. There was lot of talk about this treaty during India-US civil-nuclear treaty negotiations. There was some talk that FMCT will not be pursued anytime soon because US itself is unlike to ratify such a treaty. Looks like US is pursuing the treaty, albeit making it non-verifiable. The caveat may be no-sell for most non-nuclear weapons states.

In any case, the discussion about limiting weapon grade fissile material production is been revived and India better start thinking about how much weapon grade fissile material it needs to keep the nuclear option open against two, extremely unfriendly, nuclear weapons neighbours.

Calling for all the various parties involved in making nuclear weapons strategy to come together to chart a direction on how much and how quickly to acquire the weapon's grade material, K. Subrahmanyam postulates that, if the existing material is no sufficient to create a credible minimum deterrent by the time FMCT comes into force, we may have to switch existing nuclear plants to speed up the process of generating weapons grade material.

That can be done if all our reactors are switched to weapon grade plutonium production and our reprocessing capacity is expanded to match it....That would no doubt have been at the cost of some shortfall in power generation and a more rapid depletion of uranium. There is the view that for national security such costs are bearable. Further our strategists and scientists can conclude that a mix of weapons from pure weapons grade plutonium and reactor grade plutonium can provide the necessary credible minimum deterrent. [In search of an Indian security strategy -IE]

Converting all reactors to make weapon grade material at this point may scuttle India-US nuclear deal. That may be the price to pay to create a credible deterrence quickly before caps are placed on us. Surely that price will not be paid by the current prime minister who negotiated the deal and signed the treaty.

In fact, after the nuclear treaty comes into force, with IAEA inspecting civil nuclear reactors, it may become impossible to speed up the weapons grade fissile material generation process without actually building new, the so called military or strategic, reactors - a very long and expensive project. But the time to take a strategic direction that is required to make, or not make, a course correction on the pace of generating weapons grade fissile material may be up on us.

Aside: H1B Office website - Googlebomb

Fighting a Googlebomb

Anthony's Mirror found a Google bomb for the search string "H1B Official Website" on Google search. Helping to diffuse the bomb and giving a boost to Google search engine results:


Friday, April 06, 2007

Jeev Milkha Singh at the Masters!

It's a small historic moment for Bharatiya. Jeev Milkha Singh, after a very successful 2006 winning in Europe, China, and Japan, is playing at the Augusta National Golf Club, the first Indian to play at the Masters Tournament.

Jeev Milkha Singh is the son of Milkha Singh, the only Indian male sprinter to have won a medal at the Olympics (if I have my stats correct). Jeev was 16th in the Order of Merit list in 2006 and he was first to qualify for European Tour in 1997. His continued success and exposure to Masters bodes well for golf in India - a game that I have come to love in recent years. But Indian golf currently seems to be in a turmoil.

Jeev's first round seems to be going well - one can follow his game at the Masters leader board. Saturday's third round will show how good he is. With Tiger Woods recent form, it may take a few tries before Jeev wears that coveted green jacket.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Her Majesty's...Wimps!

I think we can be forgiven if, after watching a James Bond movie, in which James Bond is ready to die, or kill, for "Queen and country", that Her Majesty Royal Navy and Marines are brave and tough soldiers. But after watching the Iranian hostage drama, it's clear these soldiers are more wimps then anything else.

First they boarded an Indian merchant ship in Shatt al-Arab waterway between Iraq and Iran, apparently 1.7 nautical miles within Iraq waters, in the Strait of Hormuz, with no air cover or back up - the support ship HMS Cornwall was too far to respond to any situation. Next when the Iranian revolutionary guard took them into custody they didn't even fight back - these guys are supposed to be marines, for heaven sake.

Then comes the actual betrayal. Within few days, the women sailor, a marine, was on television, wearing a hijab, confessing to trespassing in Iranian water. This as Tony Blair started ratcheting up the pressure on Iran to release. And within another few days the rest of the crew were giving presentations, using maps on a wall, to tell the world that they were indeed in Iranian water! And offering apologizing for doing so. It's likely they didn't even see the walls of jail, much less being questioned by Iranian soldiers. These episodes completely undermined any leverage Tony Blair had.

And the liberal newspapers in British were entirely predictable. They made a big fuss about the women marine - suddenly she is a mother, apparently she is new mom, and Iranians are the barbarians for putting her on a television. So much for equal rights for sexes and feminism and equal roles in the armies! When it's get tough, progressiveness goes out the window!

There are lessons for Indian military in this with repeated clamour for role for women in our military. I support the women in military, but they should know the dangers involved in a military career and be prepared to accept what comes their way.

As soon as the Her Majesty's Frat Boys started confessing, for apparently nicer treatment, the British, despite a brave start, caved in. Some Iranian trouble makers in Iraq who were under the US forces custody started showing up in Tehran. I am sure deals were make about Iranian nuclear sanctions currently in UN and promises from US to back off from creating trouble in Iranian eastern districts were extracted. We won't know what UK, and, mainly, US, agreed to for the release of the 15 sailors.

The finally was even better. The tough talking Ahmedinejad decided, suddendly , to give a gift to the people of Britain! And the frat boys being frat boys were laughing and monkeying around with each other, in front of news cameras, ready to shake hands with Ahmedinejad. He shook the morons hands and gave them all gift baskets - just like they were visiting friends to Iran.

And diplomacy won!

That is the conclusion of the pundits the next day. Why don't we make more concession to Iran on the nuclear issue says one. This is the model for US and the west to follow with other countries. British editorials were thumping their chests about Ahmedinejad's tamasha even while talking of a grand bargain that Ahmedinejad has being rejecting for months now. I still have to read someone in India saying this the model for India to follow vis-a-vie Pakistan's terror in J&K.

So the wimps have come home. I am sure, now that they are safe, they'll be outraged at Iranian manipulation.

Looking at how this whole thing played out, does UK deserves to be in the Security Council anymore? It's pretty clear France doesn't. So why do these two minons have so much control over global affairs?

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Mumbai - The New York City of the Future?

There is some press about it but mostly business editorials (except for IE). Most would have missed it if you didn't care who Percy or Mistry is.

Percy Mistry is the guide who made the seminal book, probably, on the future of Mumbai possible - Mumbai as a future international financial center on par with the current New York City or London and beyound the merry Tokyo or Frankfurt. Interestingly the book of dreams, generated by Ministry of Finance - GOI, is for sale for Rs. 795.

Gautam Chikermane in IE writes on how it came about along with the obstacles to make it happen-

Fifteen top names in the financial sector switched off their cellphones and had hectic discussions spread over seven meetings that began at 9 am and ended at 6 pm, reaching 100 per cent unanimity in all recommendations. They represent the minds behind the ‘report of the high powered expert committee on making Mumbai an international financial centre’. If the title is a mouthful, the contents of the Percy Mistry committee report are somewhat formidable. For these 15 minds are really dreaming big. [Whodunnit Mistry - IE]

Summary of report gives seven areas that need to be addressed

(1) An extensive network of domestic and international financial firms with an
extensive range of domestic and international clients;
(2) High level human capital;
(3) World class telecommunications;
(4) State of the art IT systems;
(5) A sophisticated open financial system with a full range of financial products
and world class levels of liquidity and market efficiency;
(6) A system of financial regime governance which matches global best
practices; and
(7) A large and rapidly growing economy that is globalising rapidly and thus
requires IFS.

And there is a time line to take on the second tier financial centers and on moving to the first tier.

Ajay Shah's blog has all the links related to the report, editorials, and op-eds.

The nearest competition to this dream is obviously Shanghai. It already has a leg up in some aspects - mainly physical infrastructure - while Mumbai has the institutions, at least some of them. Unless the central, and mainly, the state and city governments come together to make it happen, MIFC will probably remain a dream into the foreseeable future.

Update: Here is a fairly elaborate Percy Mistry's interview in Business Standard. His optimism is such an asset. If we just had 10 political leaders, those in power, preferably chief ministers of important states, with such optimism to make things happen, it'll change the face of the country.

New Train Speed Record

TGV V150 (train a grande vitesse) of France set a world record of 574.8Km/hr for train travel yesterday. With a 25,000 horsepower engine, special rail tracks to keep perfect contact with much larger than normal wheels that travel further with each revolution, the three double-decker coaches, pulled and pushed by two engines, one on either end, and with sparks flying from the 31,000 volts overhead electrical cables, is a joy to watch.

The train beats another French train that set the world record of 512Km/hr in 1990. TGV V150 was not the fastest train but the comparison may not be valid. The fastest train was JR Maglev MLX01 at 577.6 Km/hr made in Japan in 2003. Maglev is an magnetically elevated train - not the same as running a train on tracks with the wheels and the friction that come into play.

Here is the video produced by Alstom, the French company that made and tested the train in the French countryside.

US and Pak Waging War of Terror Against Iran

If one country wants to recruit another country to wage war of terror against a third country - that country would recruit a country with expertise in sponsoring terrorism for decades. And it helps that terror sponsorer is a neighbour of the third country.

Which country does US recruit to wage war of terror against Iran? Terror expert and easterly neighbour Pakistan, of course.

Despite continued effort by western media bending over backwards to clear Pakistan of terrorism in India and all the hoopla about Dick Cheney's apparent warning to Gen Musharraf about his support to Taliban and doing nothing about al Qaeda, US has recruited Pakistan to wage another war of terror on its western boundary with Iran. And it has been going on for at least two years.

Brian Ross, of ABC News, reports that Dick Cheney was actually conferring with Gen. Musharraf about undermining Iran by supporting Iran's minority, presumably Sunni groups, and encouraging those groups to rebel against majority Shiite Iran. It is entirely possible Saudi Arabia is in on this, despite its recent rhetoric against US about the illegality of Iraq war at the Arab League Summit.

A Pakistani tribal militant group responsible for a series of deadly guerrilla raids inside Iran has been secretly encouraged and advised by American officials since 2005, U.S. and Pakistani intelligence sources tell ABC News.

The group, called Jundullah, is made up of members of the Baluchi tribe and operates out of the Baluchistan province in Pakistan, just across the border from Iran.

It has taken responsibility for the deaths and kidnappings of more than a dozen Iranian soldiers and officials.

Jundullah has produced its own videos showing Iranian soldiers and border guards it says it has captured and brought back to Pakistan.

The leader, Regi, claims to have personally executed some of the Iranians.

Last month, Iranian state television broadcast what it said were confessions by those responsible for the bus attack.

They reportedly admitted to being members of Jundullah and said they had been trained for the mission at a secret location in Pakistan.

The Iranian TV broadcast is interspersed with the logo of the CIA, which the broadcast blamed for the plot.

A CIA spokesperson said "the account of alleged CIA action is false" and reiterated that the U.S. provides no funding of the Jundullah group.

Pakistani government sources say the secret campaign against Iran by Jundullah was on the agenda when Vice President Dick Cheney met with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf in February. [ABC News]

Earlier Gudem posted about the realignment in West Asia along the Sunni and Shia divide in overt, US State Department driven, strategy. Now apparently there is a covert strategy to destabilize Iran's Shiite regime. Pakistan, with it's more than two decades of terror experience in India, is an ideal candid to get the ball rolling for the latest American grand plan.

Cross-posted on INI-Signal.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Osama - the Latest Trotsky

Slate has an interesting article on Leon Trotsky, an embodiment of the still delusional liberals that Leon Trotsky's Soviet Empire would have been less brutal than Stalin's and more egalitarian. The article is an essay reproduction from Clive James's Cultural Amnesia - a collection of essays.

Clive provides the convenient lie that left wing intellectuals and our own communists parties still espouse.

After being murdered at Stalin's orders, Lev Davidovich Bronstein, alias Leon Trotsky (1879–1940), lived on for decades as the unassailable hero of aesthetically minded progressives who wished to persuade themselves that there could be a vegetarian version of communism. Trotsky could write and orate, he loved women, and he presented enough of a threat to the established Soviet power structure that it should want to track him down to his hiding place in Mexico and rub him out. It followed, or seemed to follow, that Trotsky must have embodied a more human version of the historic force that sacrificed innocent people to egalitarian principle: a version that would sacrifice fewer of them, in a nicer way.

And of the current Trotsky followers in the western world who shout oppression at every instance of their life:

Trotsky's idea of permanent revolution will always be attractive to the kind of romantic who believes that he is being oppressed by global capitalism when he maxes out his credit card. But the idea was already a dead loss before Trotsky was driven into exile in 1929. He lost the struggle against Stalin not because he was less ruthless but because he was less wily.

Trotsky did not call for a nobler and better Soviet egalitarianism, but a more efficient one. Mao seems to have taken note to pursue his own cultural revolution in China following Soviet egalitarian experiments.

The same capacity for tacit endorsement is shown by Trotsky's admirers, who even today persist in seeing him as some sort of liberal democrat; or, if not as that, then as a true champion of the working class; or anyway, and at the very worst, as one of those large-hearted Old Bolsheviks who might have made the Soviet Union some kind of successfully egalitarian society had they prevailed. But when it became clear that the vast crime called the collectivization of agriculture would involve a massacre of the peasantry, Trotsky's only criticism was that Stalin's campaign was not sufficiently "militarized." He meant that the peasants weren't being massacred fast enough.

The humanist makes a big mistake in supposing that a literary talent automatically ameliorates the aggressive instinct.

This we see practically every day - a novelist becomes a human rights activist calling for a communist mandate; a poet has the right to say utter nonsense with no justification what so ever - but these folks are above reproach and are apparently needed to show a better way to the society.

Clive James then briefly compares Osama bin Laden to Trotsky and the similarities between them are striking and so are the similarities between Trotsky followers and Osama sympathizers:

Osama Bin Laden has several of Trotsky's characteristics. According to students of Arabic, he commands his native language with vibrant fluency, giving a thrilling sense of its historic depth; he can lead a simple life and make it look enviably stylish, as if asceticism were a luxury; and above all, he can inspire the young to dedicate their lives to an ideal. If the ideals of the caliphate tend to become more elusive on close examination, so did the ideals of communism: but they needed to be incarnated for that very reason. Trotsky lived on after Stalin, and to some extent is still alive today, not because young people want the world he wanted: a phantasm that not even he could define. What they want is to be him. [Don't idealize Leon Trotsky - Clive James]

And this the real danger of Osama - not the terror attacks that he envisions, plans, and executes, but people wanting to be him in future.

Squeezing the Middle Class Without Impacting Growth?

RBI has raised rates again in less then two months making the dream of home ownership to most middle class harder. The benchmark rate for floating rate is 12.75% adding eight more years to a 20 lakh loan making renting much cheaper than owning a house .[Bloomberg]

RBI is aiming to remove Rs 40,000 crores from the economy. But, as Gudem alerted earlier, its also pumping back some of the liquidity, to keep rupee weak, reducing the impact of its own action.

Meanwhile homeowners suffer. It'll probably reduce demand for home and other goods - expensive and not so expensive - by most middle class. But as it's already clear, the inflation issue the RBI is trying to tackle is coming from raising food prices. No amount of suffocation of middle class consumption will likely to lower the demand for food and so will have little impact on food commodities prices.

Andy Mukherjee, of Bloomberg, seems to think that because most large companies have access to cheap overseas capital, they are likely to keep growing and keep the economy growing at high rates as it has for the past three years:

Domestic tight-money conditions may not dissuade investments by large Indian companies, which have easy recourse to cheaper overseas borrowings.

As a result, the Indian economy may grow about 9 percent for a third straight year, almost ruling out interest-rate cuts in 2007. [Bloomberg]

I'm not so sure. Some companies with strong export lead growth may expand, but if local demand growth dries up, most companies will probably go slow on expanding capacity. RBI's narrow focus on reducing inflation may slow the economy down significantly by suffocating consumer consumption while hitting the breaks on industrial expansion. (There are other methods available that may be more helpful in reducing inflation caused by commodities, such as opening up the sector for free trade, as discussed in the comments section of this post.) It took years to get consumption back on track and to get industry to invest in expansion again, after a similar RBI induced recession of mid-90s. But this time may be a bit different.

If we follow this path for very long, we may have continued inflation, from food commodities, and an economy in recession, creating a much dreaded stagflation type situation - a very difficult muddle to get out off.

Cross-posted on INI-Signal.

INI Launchs Pragati - A Blog Magazine

Indian National Interest has launched Pragati on April 1, 2007. This blog magazine, first of its kind in the nation, I think, is a publication of blog articles/commendatory about issues facing the nation without idealogical bias.

It is available for distribution is various formats - pdf, hard copy, email, as well as on internet, mainly because most people in India may not have access to internet blogs. The idea is to reach as many people as possible to explore issues generally ignored, or from a different point of view, in our national print and television news media.

Here is part of the editorial:

This first issue of Pragati expresses several of the themes that we care about dearly: economic freedom, realism in international relations, open society, a culture of tolerance and an emphasis on good governance. The environment, poverty eradication and rural development have long been appropriated by vested ideological and political interests, over which they have come to assert an exclusivity of sorts. We challenge these claims of intellectual monopoly: Pragati will deal with these issues with the seriousness they demand.

Here is the first issue.Enjoy.