India looks to make inroads in Africa

Seeking to make inroads into Africa, Prime Minister of India, Dr Manmohan Singh on Tuesday said at Addis Ababa that India will continue to support efforts at infrastructure development before announcing some very handsome grants which aim at helping Africa.
Delivering his address at the 2nd Africa India Forum Summit, the Prime Minister said that India will offer 5 billion US dollars for the next three years under lines of credit to help achieve the development goals of Africa. We will offer and additional 700 million US dollars to establish new institutiuons and training programmes in consultation with the African union and its institutuions.
Under the lines of credit that we offered at the first summit, we had specifically looked at promoting regional intergration through infrastructural development. On the advise of the African union, I am happy to announce that we would support the development of a new Ethio-Djibouti railway line to the tune of 300 million US dollars for this important regional project.
Following the success of the Pan African network project we propose to take the next step and establish an India-Africa Virtual University. This we hope will help to meet some of the demand in Africa for higher studies in Indian institutions. We further propose that 10,000 new scholarships under this proposed University will be available for African students after its establishment.
We would like to make education in India an enriching experience for each student who comes from Africa. We are raising the number of scholarships and training slots for African students and experts, including under the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation Programme. Our total commitment for the next three years by way of scholarships to Africa students will stand at more than 22,000.
At the first Summit in 2008, we had focused on capacity building in the human resource development sector. We believe it would be logical to consolidate this approach. I wish to propose the establishment of the following new institutions at the pan African level:
An India-Africa Food Processing Cluster – This would contribute to value-addition and the creation of regional and export markets;
An India-Africa Integrated Textiles Cluster – This will support the cotton industry and its processing and conversion into high value products;
An India-Africa Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting – This will harness satellite technology for the agriculture and fisheries sectors as well as contribute towards disaster preparedness and management of natural resources;
We have received a request to support the establishment of an India-Africa University for Life and Earth Sciences. We would be happy to support this important venture; and finally,
An India-Africa Institute of Agriculture and Rural Development.
One of the biggest gaps in our interaction is that of insufficient air connectivity. We should accord this high priority. To begin with, India would be happy to increase the access of African airlines to Indian cities in a significant manner over the next three years.
Africa has strong regional organisations which play an important role in supporting development activities. We will therefore work with Regional Economic Communities to establish
The India-Africa partnership is unique and owes its origins to history and our common struggle against colonialism, apartheid, poverty, disease, illiteracy and hunger. India will never forget Africa’s role in inspiring our own struggle for national liberation. It was here that Mahatma Gandhi developed his political philosophy and developed the concepts of non-violence and peaceful resistance.
Our officials and Ministers have worked hard for our second Summit in Ethiopia. Many events involving a wide cross-section of society, include trade and business, have been held. These events have contributed to making the second Africa-India Forum Summit a people’s movement. I believe we have reason to be satisfied with what we have achieved since 2008. But our people expect much more and we have to work hard to deliver on these expectations.
The current international economic and political situation is far from favourable, particularly for developing countries. Even as the global economy is recovering from the economic crisis, fresh political upheavals are taking place. The world faces new challenges in assuring food and energy security. Global institutions of governance are outmoded and under stress.
We therefore need a new spirit of solidarity among developing countries. We must recognise that in this globalised age we all live interconnected lives in a small and fragile planet. We must work together to uplift the lives of our people in a manner that preserves the sustainability of our common air, land and water.
There is a new economic growth story emerging from Africa. Africa possesses all the prerequisites to become a major growth pole of the world. There is good news in the struggle against HIV and AIDS, as well as in improving literacy, reducing infant mortality and building institutions of representative government.
India will work with Africa to realise its vast potential. We believe that a new vision is required for Africa’s development and participation in global affairs. We do not have all the answers but we have some experience in nation building which we are happy to share with our African brothers and sisters.
It is in this spirit that I wish to outline some initiatives for the consideration of our African partners. These will enhance our development partnership which are founded on the pillars of mutual equality and common benefit.
At the bilateral level, we propose to establish institutes for English language training, information technology, entrepreneurship development and vocational training. As part of our new initiatives in the social and economic sectors we will establish Rural Technology Parks, Food Testing Laboratories, Food Processing Business Incubation Centres and Centres on Geo-Informatics Applications and Rural Development.
We should encourage trade and investment flows as well as transfer of technology. The private sectors should be fully involved in the efforts to integrate our economies. I propose that we establish an India-Africa Business Council which will bring together business leaders from both sides.
India has consistently supported the development of African capacities in the maintenance of peace and security. As a token of our commitment to supporting Africa’s endeavours for seeking African solutions I am happy to announce that India will contribute 2 million US dollars for the African Union’s mission being undertaken in Somalia.


Headley is old news, time for Rana

Indian agencies are keeping a close watch on the developments at Chicago where the high profile 26/11 trial is underway. Senior Indian officials say that the important thing about this ongoing trial is that India’s claim has been vindicated and this trial has more emphasis on the ISI when compared to the Lashkar-e-Tayiba.

What David Headley has said is nothing new, but it does give a boost to the entire case. What these depositions show is that the ISI happens to control every terror network operating out of Pakistan and now there will be pressure on that agency to owe up to its crime.

Indian agencies had maintained since day one that such an attack could not have been undertaken without the blessings of the ISI. Our own investigations have shown that Rana and Headley were constantly in touch with the ISI right from the planning stage. There was no way in which both could have worked out the logistics without the help of the establishment.

While Indian agencies maintain that the Headley testimony has details which were already known to one and all, the ongoing one would have more weight since it is being recorded by a court. Although Pakistan has been quick to deny the involvement of the ISI in this attack, they would still have a lot to answer when they have to defend themselves before the court which is likely to issue summons.

However for India the more important deposition would be that of Rana’s. They are hopeful that he would stick to his earlier stand where in he had said that he was an ISI operative and not a cadre of the Lashkar. This part would be interesting and would go on to show that he was not some mere terror operative, but a man of the establishment.

The NIA has its task cut out and would leave for Chicago once the formalities in the trial are completed. It is a fact that the Headley interrogation has not provided India with the desired information since he has not diverted even a centimetre from what he had said to the FBI while seeking a plea bargain. While Headley provided the larger picture of the attack and the planning, Rana would be the man who give the Indian agencies the nitty grittys of the attack, sources also said. For instance Headley would speak in a broader perspective regarding the ISI and also goes on to name Major Mazhar Iqbal as one of the key operatives in the attack. However with each of these persons working with several aliases, it would be tough for any agency to determine who exactly these persons are. However Rana is expected to sing more during his trial and interrogation since it is clear that he is looking to be tried as an ISI operative rather than a mere terror operative, official sources also said.

India’s first attempt would be to try and extradite Rana as it feels that it is important that he is tried in India rather than in-absentia. However the chances of any extradition is only a ten per cent chance and in such an event a team of the Intelligence Bureau and the NIA will be dispatched to Chicago to interrogate the man. However unlike the Headley case, India would not rush into this since they would not want to be caught in any embarrassing situation like they were in the last time around. Moreover the questionnaire for Rana is already under preparation and India would finalise it once the trial is over. However we are hopeful that the Rana interrogation would be a more independent one when compared to the Headley interrogation due to obvious reasons.

Pak attack, cover for ops in Afghanistan?

The attack in Pakistan has India worried. Official sources travelling with the Prime Minister said at Addis Ababa that the attack looks very coordinated and it appears that it was done to provide a cover for something bigger at Afghanistan. We are monitoring the situation and obviously concerned with the developments over there.
Although this attack does not indicate a higher level threat to us, we are still concerned and the bigger worry is the risk that the Pakistani nuclear establishments. The attack in Pakistan is a sophisticated one and heavy machinery has been used. The attack has been on very major instalments and it looks like a highly sophisticated and planned attack. It appears that it has been carried out to provide cover for some elements in Afghanistan and this phenomenon has been seen in the past as well.
We are definitely concerned about the nuclear programme of Pakistan and the recent developments have only put the threat perception at a high. For India the nuclear weapons are not fighting weapons and we will continue to have the policy of no first use. However any nuclear on us will be retaliate strongly, the source also added.
India will sit and analyse the events in Pakistan and we need to see what lessons we need to learn and draw from this attack.
Considering that this was an attack on the naval base in Pakistan, it once again brings back memories of the 26/11 attack which was a maritime attack at first. The source said that we have improved a great deal over the past couple of years in terms of coastal security. It would not correct to say that we are satisfied since it dangerous to be content. However in terms of coastal security we have done a great deal and as of today we are in a much better position when compared to what we were last year. The coast guard has done its bit to enhance security. This issue has a lot to do with the individual state governments too and some of them are yet to set up coastal police stations to ensure that coastal security is intact.
On India’s position in Afghanistan, the source said that it is not right for anyone to tell what another country ought to do. There are certain power tussles and issues in Afghanistan and they are being sorted out. Afghanistan has changed a lot since the year 2000 and currently there is a whole new generation over there. It for the Afghans to chose who they would like to work with.
On the claims of the United States of America about a pull out from Afghanistan post Osama Bin Laden, the source said that the US may not pull out completely. There will be a draw down of forces and the search team of 30000 will be drawn down for the moment. The US sure wants a change of role in Afghanistan and in the months to come the policing by US forces on the streets of Afghanistan is likely to stop. They do not want to be protecting the streets and the nature of what they will be doing in Afghanistan will change. A clear picture will emerge once Hamid Karzai visits the United States of America probably next month.
On doing business in Africa, the official said that India has a smaller presence when compared to China. The nature of the business being done by us is different when compared to China. For us Africa is an opportunity and there is enough space for us to do what we are good at over here. Although the Chinese have a larger presence here, we cannot say that they have outdone us. It is in our interest to be in Africa. We need to understand the African sensitivities and we as Indians need to be sensitive. We have done well here in the past two years and the time has now come to accelerate.
However we in the Government will not be in a position to tell the businessmen what is to be done. It is their decision and what we could do is provide advisories and also give able assistance. We cannot take a call as what we want the businessmen to be doing.

Kar speaker may be sacrificial goat

Photo courtesy: The Hindu
The crisis in Karnataka appears to have blown over and the BJP government in the state appears to be happy that the report of the Governor has been rejected. However the Union government will be sending in an advisory to the Karnataka government with certain points.
Sources disclosed that the most important point in the advisory would be action against the Speaker of the Karnataka Legislative Assembly, K G Bopaiah. Sources in the Karnataka BJP however indicated that they would be ready to make that change so as to bring about a quietus to the issue. Moreover making this change as per the directive in the advisory would also mean that the BJP can step up the ante for the recall of the Governor, H R Bharadwaj.
The centre has sought this change following the recent verdict of the Supreme Court of India. The speaker had seven months back disqualified 16 MLAs of which 11 were BJP rebels and 5 independents. The timing of the disqualification was in question since it was done a couple of hours before the crucial trust vote that the BJP was seeking on the floor of the house. The matter was challenged before the High Court and when the MLAs failed to get relief they approached the Supreme Court which two weeks back reversed the order of the speaker. The rebels however made their peace with the BJP.
However the Governor immediaty shot off a reccomendation to the Government of India in which he proposed imposition of Presidents rule in Karnataka. The report was however rejected by the Government of India.
The Government now will be issuing an advisory with certain guidelines and also observations regarding the recent events in Karnataka. While most points would be advise and observations the main recommendation would be the change of the speaker.
Meanwhile the Governor who has been under immense pressure to conveve a session of the legislative assembly is likely to issue an order to that effect. Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa had sought for the convening of the session on June 2 but the governor had said that he would decide only once the government of India acted on his report. The BJP had launched a state wide protest pressurising the governor to conveve a session of the legislative assembly. The BJP has also decided to keep up the heat demanding the recall of Bharadwaj and hence will go ahead with a change of the speaker in order to strenghthen their case.

PM’s six-day African nations tour begins today

Photo courtesy: Money control
Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh will commence his five day tour of Africa from today onwards. In a statement issued at New Delhi the said that he will attend the Second Africa-India Forum Summit in Ethiopia and then pay a bilateral visit to Tanzania.
The first India-Africa Forum Summit in New Delhi in 2008 opened a new chapter in the history of India-Africa partnership and laid the framework for our revitalised engagement with the African continent.
The India-Africa partnership rests on three pillars of capacity building and skill transfer, trade and infrastructure development. It is designed to respond to the needs and priorities of Africa and for India to learn from Africa’s rich experience. It is based on equality, mutual trust and a consultative and transparent approach. It is a living embodiment of South-South cooperation, the PM also said.
The Second Africa-India Forum Summit will be a landmark event that will for the first time bring together a large gathering of African leaders to meet with India on African soil. The theme of the Summit is ‘ South-South cooperation”.
Today, both Africa and India are on the move. Africa is emerging as a new growth pole of the world, while India is on a path of sustained and rapid economic development. Relations between India and Africa are marked by strong people-to-people interaction and a deep sense of solidarity and goodwill. Both Africa and India have the advantage of a youthful population, commitment to democracy, pluralism and spirit of entrepreneurship. The large population of people of Indian origin in all parts of Africa is a living testimony to our historical links.
These are compelling factors for a strong and purposeful partnership between India and Africa that responds to the realities of the 21st Century.
During his stay in Ethiopia, he will also hold a bilateral summit with Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.

Most (un) wanted goof up

It was truly a case of egg on the face for India when it goofed up with the terror list sent to Pakistan. Lack of coordination, professional jealousy and lethargy are the root causes for such issues to crop up.

The primary cause being pointed out in this entire case is that the list was sent out mechanically and in the euphoria of trying to do an America on the Osama Bin Laden issue every agency including the government acted in haste.

Today the attitude of every agency is that of a defensive one. The police say that the list was sent out in the year 2010 and it had not been updated at New Delhi. The man at the Arthur Road jail was arrested in the year 2010 and the list was sent before that. Hence the people in New Delhi ought to have asked for an updated list. However this debate is countered by the Intelligence Bureau who say that the police could have sent an updated list as when there was a change in the status. The police department meanwhile is looking into the matter and at the moment there is no indication of any action, but the police chief would be looking to make some of these people accountable for the lethargy.

This issue has always been there says the Intelligence Bureau. Looking at the Interpol records put out by India, there has been a problem with that too. In most cases, the proof that has been supplied is just not enough for India to seek an extradition. Moreover there is also an issue that a person needs to be booked at least twice before one could seek his extradition.

A senior police official points out that the system acts in a horrific manner. There is a cell in the Central Bureau of Investigation at New Delhi which needs to update this list and for them to do so the local police need to keep them updated. This job is most of the time assigned to a constable who on most occasions fails to understand the seriousness of the matter. The police official also points out that for many officers the case of terrorism has become a prestigious issue and they always try and be one up on their counterparts. An IB official seconds this and says that the mentality of the police continues to remain local despite such a looming threat of terrorism which is a completely national issue. We know of cases where two officers in the same department and same state do not cooperate with each other. They have undertaken operations without each other’s knowledge and have even planted moles in each others departments to get the better of each other. Hence it is obvious that when one officer has information he is bound not to share with his colleague.

Such things must work systematically and the seriousness of the matter has to be realised at the local police station level itself. Each time there is an alert issued or a person has been nabbed the list has to updated immediately and an intimation sent to New Delhi. At New Delhi these persons must religiously update the list and not dangle on for even a day.

While the police tend to blame the IB for this goof up, the IB on the other hand say that their job is restricted to providing information and picking up intercepts. It is the police which has to update records and sometimes we do wish that they would treat this issue as a national problem. However the police counter this argument and point out that even the IB has a list with itself and it would do well too to keep gathering information and updating the list.

C D Sahay, former chief of the Research and Analysis Wing says, “ I can only blame the system for this mess. There are certain things which every department is supposed to do and unfortunately these are things which no one does. On most occasions, a red corner alert is issued. Intimations trickle in and no one updates the latest information. Don’t speak only about the CBI, the local police stations too are to be blamed and trust me there cannot be any excuse for incompetence. The police should first stop treating such cases as routine. These are not routine petty theft cases and matters of routine criminal investigation and prosecution. These issues need to be monitored and dealt with in an aggressive manner and security of the state should be of paramount concern since these determine the main strategic approach in determining foreign policy.

Looking at this case, what I fail to understand is why we did not go through the list. We had an original most wanted list of 20. Those should have been revisited and the additions to the list should have been carefully weighed. Re-weighed and assessed. There cannot be a luxury of margin of error in such cases and especially not while dealing with Pakistan and that too on the issue of terror.

I would like to ask the government of India as to what the rush was. The government appears to have been driven by this intense desire to push an element of its agenda in the event of Osama’s death. There was a debate whether India could do an Osama and in this bid to do something similar India put out this list.

What have we got? We have come up a cropper and look like a bunch of nincompoops at the end of it. What makes matters worse is that instead of getting into damage control mode, the debate today has become fractured on political lines. Political entities have seen this as an opportunity to seek resignations. We have no other explanation or response other than seeking resignation.I don’t expect that the cabinet should resign but heads must roll and people must be made accountable in at least such matters.

Governor Hatao, Karnataka Bachao

The Bharatiya Janata Party has set yet another deadline and this time they have given the Union Government five days time to recall the Governor of Karnataka, H R Bharadwaj. Launching a state wide campaign against the Governor, the BJP have termed this campaign as Governor Hatao, Karnataka Bachao.

Today Chief Minister, B S Yeddyurappa launched the agitation at the Mahathma Gandhi statue in Bangalore. He had said that the Governor ought to have decided on convening a session of the Karnataka Legislative Assembly by 5 PM on Thursday. However the Governor remained non committal and stated that he would act only once he gets a response from the President of India on his report recommending President’s rule in Karnataka.

The BJP has now constituted two teams to take forward this protest. The protest demanding the recall of the Governor will take place in 11 districts. The two teams have been constituted under the leadership of B S Yeddyurappa and state BJP chief, K S Eshwarappa. While Yeddyurappa will tour Raichur, Tumkur, Mangalore, Kolar, Eshwarappa will tour Mysore, Chitradurga, Bellary, Koppal, Bidar and Gulbarga.

During the agitation that was launched today, the BJP said that the Governor had triggered an unwanted political crisis in the state. He acts are constitutional, the BJP also alleged. He has not been acting on his own. His script is written in New Delhi and also has the blessings of the Janata Dal (S), the BJP further alleged.

Meanwhile the Congress from Karnataka will be meeting with the Prime Minister and submitting a memorandum to him seeking implementation of the Governor’s report.

Women MLAs- just 9 per cent

Looks like all political parties have thrown caution to the winds where 33 per cent reservation for women is concerned. Take cases of Assam, Kerala, Puducherry, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal which recently went to polls.
In spite of every party’s stated goal of 33% representation/reservation for women, the total number of women MLAs in the 5 new Assemblies has gone down from 80 in 2006 to 72 (i.e. 9% of all MLAs) in 2011, which is even below the total percentage of women MPs in the Lok Sabha (11%).
Out of the 824 newly elected MLAs, only 72 (9%) women MLAs in the 5 new Assemblies of Assam, Kerala, Puducherry, Tamil Nadu, and West Bengal.• Overall, the total number of women MLAs in these 5 Assemblies has reduced from 80 in 2006 to 72 in 2011.• Among all Assemblies, West Bengal has the highest number of women MLAs – 34 (12% of the Assembly). It is followed by Assam with 14 (11%) women MLAs, Tamil Nadu with 17 (7%) and Kerala with only 7 (5%) women MLAs• Puducherry Assembly does not have a single woman as MLA.•
Party-wise the highest number of women MLAs are from AITC – 24 (13%) followed by INC – 17 (10%) and AIADMK – 12 (8%).• A total of 19 (26%) women MLAs out of the total of 72 women MLAs are crorepatis.
The maximum number of crorepati women MLAs is from Tamil Nadu (9) followed by Assam (6) and West Bengal (4).• The top two highest asset women MLAs are Jayalalitha (AIADMK) from Tamil Nadu (51.4 crores) followed by Kasturi Das (AITC) from West Bengal (7.2 crores).•
13 women MLAs out of 72 (i.e. 18%) have pending criminal cases against them. Comparatively, 244 men MLAs out of a total of 752 (32%) have pending criminal cases against them.

Cong gets into the act now

The political situation in Karnataka is expected to be action packed tomorrow with the state Congress deciding to lead a delegation to the Prime Minister at New Delhi urging him to act on the report recommending President’s rule in Karnataka.
While the Congress would lead a delegation to New Delhi, the BJP on the other hand will launch a state wide agitation against the Governor of Karnataka, H R Bharadwaj. On Wednesday, the state Congress had blocked all highways in the state for one hour demanding that action be taken on the Governor’s report. The Governor had cited a constitutional break down in the state and sent a report to the centre recommending imposition of President’s rule.
While the centre appears to be dragging its feet on the report, the BJP met with the Governor, paraded their MLAs and also urged him to convene a legislative session on June 2. The governor had however stated that he would await a decision on his report before convening a session. The BJP had however set a deadline for the Governor to act and when he failed to convey any message, the BJP decided to agitate all through the state starting Friday.
The Congress meanwhile has demanded that the report of the Governor be implemented. All their MLAs would be in New Delhi tomorrow and meet with the Prime Minister and urge him to implement the report of the Governor.

Yeddi takes fight to the streets

With the Governor refusing to take any decision on the convening of the Karnataka Legislative Assembly Session, Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa has decided to up the ante. The first of the statewide agitations will commence atBangalorewith the Chief Minister leading a mammoth rally from the Gandhi statue near MG road.

The BJP has also conveyed this decision to all its cells in all districts of the state where similar rallies will be held.

Yeddyurappa who had met with the Governor on Wednesday had requested him to convene the session on June 2. However the Governor remained non responsive on the issue and only said that he would take a decision only once the President of India gives her opinion on his report in which he had recommended President’s rule in the state of Karanataka.

The BJP however was not in any mood to wait and said that the Governor will need to take a decision before 5 AM on Thursday failing which they would launch a major agitation against him all over the state.

Despite this announcement, the governor refused to take any decision and he continues to stick to his stand that he would await the decision of the President of India. In addition to this the Governor as of now has also decided to await the report of the Union Cabinet which is seized of his report recommending President’s rule in Karnataka.