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The Indian Economy (Page 25)

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Posted: 19 November 2008 at 10:17am | IP Logged

Bowling for Deals: Deutsch Bank's Jain Buys Part of Indian Cricket Team
Anshu Jain, head of global markets at Deutsche Bank and captain of the bank's London cricket team, has indulged his passion for the sport by taking a stake in an Indian cricket team, in a move that sees one of the most influential people in the European capital markets team up with India's richest man.

Jain, born in India and based in London, bought a minority stake in Indian Premier League team Mumbai Indians from billionaire Mukesh Ambani, according to Indian newspaper The Economic Times. Ambani is chairman of Indian conglomerate Reliance Industries and was listed this year by Forbes magazine as India's richest man, with a net worth of $20.8 billion. Reliance acquired the Mumbai Indians, whose team is led by Indian cricket icon Sachin Tendulkar, for $111.9 million when the cricketing league was set up this year, according to the league's Web site.

Jain, one of two executives running Deutsche Bank's investment-banking business and listed as one of Financial News' 100 most influential people in the European capital markets this year, bought as much as a 15% stake, according to the Economic Times. The price paid by Jain was unclear.

Deutsche Bank has strong ties to the sport of cricket and is one of the partners of Lord's cricket ground, widely considered the home of cricket. The Mumbai Indians are fifth in the Indian Premier League standings after winning half of their games, according to league statistics.

Jain, via a Deutsche spokesman, declined to comment on his involvement with the Mumbai Indians yesterday, while a spokesman for Reliance contacted by Financial News also declined to comment

Rushdie Attracts Fete-Goers Like "Moths" To A Flame

Salman Rushdie"La Dolce Vita" was the theme of The Moth's annual benefit ball at Manhattan's Capitale last night, as guests told to dress Fellini-esque mingled in frilly outfits, bid in a silent auction and took in a cross-coastal StorySlam-Off between two veteran Moth-ers. (Founded by poet and "The Juror" novelist George Green in 1997, the non-profit Moth collective host storytelling sessions in bars and restaurants around the country in a counterbalance to modern society's soundbyte-driven culture.) Life was especially sweet for guest of honor Salman Rushdie, who received the 2008 Moth Award for his abilities as a master raconteur of both the written and oral variety. George and Lea [Thau, the Moth's Executive and Creative Director] have been trying to seduce Salman into the Moth for quite a while now, but this is the first time the date have actually worked out said Mr. Rushdie who loves the idea of it growing up in India coming from an oral storytelling culture making it a perfect fit. The "Enchantress of Florence" author was also amazed by the growth of the Moth in its decade of existence. In the immortal words of Kevin Costner, if you build it, they will come. Given that people who like stories, either as makers or users, normally consume them on their own, this is a way to do it together, and it's very pleasurable said Rushdie.

Other Moth-patrons helping to toast Mr. Rushdie were Garrison Keillor (the winner of the last year's Moth Award), Ira Glass, Lili Taylor and John Turturro, who gamely hosted the evening's festivities despite a sore throat. Andy Borowitz, his cousin by marriage, asked to host, and of course, was not there tonight said Mr. Turturro who had actually never come to this event before, but seen clips on the computer and since come from a family of storytellers, it's something that's always interested him anyway. Hemake movies a lot, but I like movies that are like documentaries.



Edited by jagdu - 19 November 2008 at 11:07am

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Posted: 20 November 2008 at 12:42pm | IP Logged
India's Unitech To Sell Properties
Indian property developer Unitech Ltd. is set to sell properties to meet loan repayments and land payments over the next few months. Fitch Ratings calculates Unitech hs $574 million in debt and land repayment due in the period from October to March.
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Posted: 21 November 2008 at 10:42am | IP Logged

India to Focus on Growth, Poverty

With the global economy darkening and a general election months away, two of India's top leaders pledged government action to sustain growth and protect the poor.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, at a conference Friday, said India would be able to maintain 8% annual economic growth a rate that represents a slowdown from 9% last year but is still above the near-term forecasts of many economists. While the Indian prime minister didn't offer specific policy prescriptions, he suggested the response to the gathering economic troubles would be aggressive.

[Manmohan Singh]

Manmohan Singh

No instrument of public policy will be spared he said.

India is investing heavily in infrastructure, and has raised salaries for government employees and offered emergency loan relief for farmers. More public spending carries risks, namely a government deficit that has expanded well-beyond targets. But India's leaders must also shepherd a poverty-ridden country through a global economic crisis and avoid political upheaval.

In a speech that followed the prime minister, Sonia Gandhi, the leader of the ruling Congress party, said concerns for the poor would guide the government's future economic decisions. Liberalization would be accompanied by "sensible but not heavy-handed regulation," she said.

In a jab to the crowd of business leaders, Ms. Gandhi praised the nationalization of the country's banks under her mother-in-law and former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. Critics cite the move, four decades ago, as an example of the government's heavy-handed intervention that shielded the country from private competition and dragged down the country's growth. Defenders say it reassured depositors and stabilized the financial sector.  She said every passing day bears out the wisdom of that decision.

[Sonia Gandhi]

Until recently, India's government officials were forecasting double-digit economic growth and the gradual further opening of sheltered sectors, such as retail, to foreign investors. But the remarks of the two Indian leaders reflect the new economic as well as political realities. Economic trouble in India poses risks to the Congress party, which heads a coalition government, and openings for its opponents.

Six state elections will be held by the end of the year and a national parliamentary vote -- which installs a new government and prime minister is expected early next year. The Bharatiya Janata Party, or BJP, is hoping to unseat its Congress by cobbling together a majority in the national Parliament.

One thing is very clear among voters per Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, a BJP spokesman. The general mood is to change the present regime he warned.

The BJP confronts its own challenges. As it governs in three of the states where votes are being held, it faces anti-incumbency pressures, too. The BJP's declared prime ministerial candidate could also cloud its message of change. L.K. Advani, an 81-year old Hindu nationalist and former government minister, has been a steadfast fixture of Indian politics.

Mr. Advani, in his speech to the same conference, accused the Congress party of being in "denial mode" trying to shift blame for India's economic distress to global forces from its own mismanagement. The current government, he noted, allowed food prices to rise sharply before excessive credit-tightening measures stanched lending and caused new economic pain. He said the BJP management of the economy would be "radically different" and it would crack down on rampant corruption.

India can't afford a weak government with a failed leadership opined Advani.

Aside from the Congress Party and BJP, there are scores of smaller regional parties vying for space in a changed political landscape. Many have coalesced around local economic issues as well as concerns of religion and caste. One of the most powerful of the new parties, Bahujan Samaj Party, is led by a Dalit those on the lowest rung of India's caste ladder. The BSP leader, Mayawati, who goes by a single name, is chief minister of the country's largest province, Uttar Pradesh, in northern India. She has enlarged her party's base to include politicians disaffected with India's two biggest parties, Congress and BJP.

The expansive nature of India's democracy also has exposed national and state governments to new pressures. Many Indian and overseas investors complain of political roadblocks to business and growth that don't exist in other countries, like China. But Mr. Singh countered that India offered the world its own model of development. The PM said we may have paid a price in terms of economic growth and efficiency, but we have gained as a free people and added let us never belittle our achievements.

Mr. Singh, a former economics professor, wants India to play a bigger role in shoring-up the current global financial system to prevent future crises. At the Group of 20 Summit last week, Prime Minister Singh said he argued for a global safety net that would protect the poor, but he also joined with other countries in discouraging protectionist trade barriers to shield markets from the crisis. That, he said, would be the "worst response."

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Posted: 28 November 2008 at 10:14pm | IP Logged

Indian Official: Siege at Taj Hotel Over

Indian commandos killed the last remaining gunmen holed up at a luxury Mumbai hotel Saturday, ending a 60-hour rampage through India's financial capital by suspected Islamic militants that left more than 150 people dead and rocked the nation.

Orange flames and black smoke engulfed the landmark 400-room Taj Mahal hotel after dawn Saturday as Indian forces ended the siege in a hail of gunfire, just hours after elite commandos stormed a Jewish center and found six hostages dead.

More than 150 people were killed and several hundred wounded in the violence that started when more than a dozen assailants attacked 10 sites across Mumbai Wednesday night. Fifteen foreigners were among the dead.

 

Smoke and flames billow out from The Taj Mahal hotel.

Smoke and flames billow out from The Taj Mahal hotel on Saturday
Smoke and flames billow out from The Taj Mahal hotel on Saturday

"The Taj operation is over. The last two terrorists holed up there have been killed," Mumbai Police Chief Hasan Ghafoor told The Associated Press. J.K. Dutt, director general of India's elite National Security Guard commando unit, told reporters outside the hotel that his forces would continue to search and clear the hotel.

With the end of one of the most brazen terror attacks in India's history, attention turned from the military operation to questions of who was behind the attack and the heavy toll on human life.

As fighting stretched into a fourth day Saturday, the Taj Mahal hotel was wracked by hours of intermittent gunfire and explosions, even though authorities said earlier they cleared it of gunmen.

Indian forces launched grenades and traded gunfire with what authorities believed was one or two militants holed up in the ballroom. What appeared to be a black-clad figure toppled from a first-floor window, but further details were unavailable.

Authorities were working to find out who was behind the attacks, claimed by a previously unknown group calling itself the Deccan Mujahideen.

Commandoes had started on Friday afternoon moving through the stately Taj Mahal Palace & Tower hotel and the luxury complex that houses the Oberoi and Trident hotels, flushing out militants and trying to rescue hostages. At least 93 hostages were released from the Trident complex. Twenty-four others were found dead inside.

Late in the day Friday, commandoes made a final move on the Jewish center. They blew a gaping a hole in one of its walls before killing the last two militants barricaded in the building. Five hostages were found dead there, including the rabbi and his wife.

By Friday evening, there were reports of eight or nine terrorists killed and at least one captured, who an India official said gave evidence of Pakistani and other foreign links to the plot. Authorities couldn't say precisely how many militants took part in the attack, or if any escaped.

The final throes of the crisis exposed the huge challenges India faces in trying to deal with terrorism. Many key questions about the attacks were unanswered.

The assaults were unusual not only because of their meticulous planning and sophisticated execution, but because the attackers took hostages yet didn't make any formal demands. Experts said they seemed intent on a lengthy, crippling siege that occupied attention- and instilled fear around the world for days. That contrasts with the hallmark of other recent Islamic terrorist attacks: a bomb blast or suicide rampage that caused maximum devastation in a short time.
 
Pakistan offered the help of its spy service, Intelligence services Intelligence, to help New Delhi investigate, an unprecedented move, as Indian officials continued to suggest Pakistani involvement.

A senior Pakistani official said Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani to make the request, telling him the attackers may have come from Karachi, a port on Pakistan's Arabian Sea coast.

 

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Indian army commandos took up position around Chabad House Friday as they prepared to enter the Jewish center to free hostages.

Indian officials said they had found a boat on which ammunition for the attacks was allegedly smuggled from Pakistan. A dead body also was found in the boat, said Commandant A.K.S. Panwar, a spokesman for India's Coast Guard.

The home minister for Maharashtra state, where Mumbai is located, told reporters that a captured militant had provided evidence of foreign links.  From his statement, it's clear that they are from Pakistan and other countries . Two assailants, from the Jewish center and a hot were recorded calling Indian television stations with their complaints, with one described in Indian news reports as having a Pakistani accent.

Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari said non-state actors meaning people without any state backing, were trying to disrupt Pakistan's efforts to normalize relations with India.

Investigators also were pursuing the possibility that citizens from other countries were involved, as well as locals who provided support. One identity card found in a rucksack abandoned by the terrorists at the Taj hotel was issued by the government of Mauritius. Commandoes also recovered seven credit cards from a number of Indian and international banks that operate in India, as well as dollars and Indian currency.

Britain dismissed reports that some of the attackers were British, saying it was too early to make conclusions. There is no evidence that those who were involved in the terrorist attacks are British a spokesman for the Foreign and Commonwealth office said.

A U.S. counter-terrorism official said the U.S. is sending Federal Bureau of Investigation investigators to Mumbai since some of the victims were American. The official said Friday that the investigation is turning up evidence that supports the U.S. government's working assumption that Pakistani militant groups Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed are behind the attacks. He added that it remained early.

Both groups are believed to have links to al Qaeda. They rose to prominence fighting in an Islamic insurgency in the Indian-controlled region of Kashmir, a predominately Muslim region divided between India and Pakistan.

Indian forces take their positions around the Taj Mahal hotel on Friday, seeking to rout the last of the militants who have terrorized Mumbai.

Indian forces take their positions around the Taj Mahal hotel on Friday, seeking to rout the last of the militants who have terrorized Mumbai.
Indian forces take their positions around the Taj Mahal hotel on Friday, seeking to rout the last of the militants who have terrorized Mumbai.

Indian officials have blamed both groups for past attacks in India, such as the July 2006 commuter-train bombings in Mumbai.

Both groups say their ultimate aim is to reestablish Muslim dominion over the subcontinent, which ended with the arrival of British colonizers two centuries ago. Among their more immediate aims is to disrupt the India-Pakistan peace process.

A previously unknown group, the Deccan Mujahideen, claimed responsibility for the Mumbai attack, describing itself as hailing from the south Indian city of Hyderabad, which is about 40% Muslim.

Indian security officials have cast doubt on whether the claim was genuine, however.

Mumbai residents, accustomed to floods and large-scale terrorist attacks, were nevertheless shaken by the siege.

But by early afternoon, rumors of fresh gunfire at a hospital, a train station and elsewhere erupted around the city. Residents scurried home.

 

Streets of the city, which usually are chaotic with traffic, bicycles, buses and scampering pedestrians, were deserted even far from the southern tip of the island where the assaults were taking place.

One reason for the fear was how hard it was to separate fact from rumor. Residents complained that the government kept them in the dark.

Security experts say the crisis also highlighted India's disjointed response to terrorist attacks and its meager resources for countering terrorist threats.

In the attack that began Wednesday night, many of the few hundred men in Mumbai's anti-terror squad the main force first deployed against the terroristshad only handguns meant to be used against common criminals. The militants carried assault weapons and grenades.

Though they were outgunned, the officers did take on the attackers. The squad's chief and two of its top officers were killed in the first few hours of fighting.

India has 126 police officers per 100,000 people compared to the United Nations recommended standard of 222. Many of those guard VIPs all day or work at traffic stops.

India's elite domestic investigative agency, the Intelligence Bureau, has about 3,500 agents who cover everything from corporate crime to terrorist outfits for the country of 1.1 billion people.

Mr. Singh, the prime minister, pledged Thursday to create national counterterrorism agency.

Even when India's crack troops took over and ultimately brought the siege under their control they appeared ill-prepared at times. Hundreds of commandoes and paramilitary troopers arrived with little more than their guns, old body armor and fiberglass helmets that are for riding motorcycles, not fighting terrorists.

When elite Marine commandoes stormed the Taj hotel Wednesday night, they were outmaneuvered by the terrorists, according to an account given to reporters by one commando whose face was masked by scarves and sunglasses.

The commando said his force at first had sought to reach the room of the hotel where the closed-circuit security monitors were housed, but had been unable to access it. Then a firefight ensued and it became clear that these people were very, very familiar with the layout of the hotel, they knew all the entries and exits.

When the terrorists moved to another room, in a different part of the hotel, there was more gunfire. But because the room was absolutely dark and they were accustomed to the darkness there, one of our commandoes was injured the commando said. He didn't say why his troopers didn't have lights.

After 6 a.m. Thursday, the two sides exchanged more gunfire. The commando said the troops eventually entered the room.

They found hundreds of rounds of ammunition, some grenades, and dried fruit, but no terrorists. They appear to have left through a terrace that the troops hadn't realized was there until it was too late.

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Posted: 01 December 2008 at 4:15pm | IP Logged

India Demands Action From Pakistan

With evidence of a Pakistani link to the attack on Mumbai growing, India demanded Monday that Islamabad hand over two important terror suspects and warned that relations between the nuclear-armed rivals would suffer if swift action isn't taken. Indian officials told Pakistan's senior envoy to New Delhi of the demands after summoning him to the foreign ministry, said an official familiar with the meeting.

PRAYER: An Indian Catholic at the Cathedral of the Holy Name, in Mumbai, Sunday, a day after the terrorists attacks on the city ended. Authorities said 174 people were killed and operations to recover bodies were continuing.

Pakistani Link Boosts Tensions
Pakistani Link Boosts Tensions

He was informed that the recent terrorist attack on Mumbai was carried out by elements from Pakistan the foreign ministry said in a statement after the meeting. India expects that strong action would be taken against those elements, whosoever they may be, responsible for this outrage. The two men India is pressing Pakistan to turn over have long topped New Delhi's most wanted list. They are Dawood Ibrahim, a one-time Mumbai gangster with ties to everyone from Bollywood power brokers to Islamic militants, and Maulana Masood Azhar, the leader of the banned Pakistani militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed, who was once jailed in India.

Both men have been accused of orchestrating previous attacks in India, but neither has been directly implicated in last week's assault on Mumbai that left at least 172 people dead and 239 wounded. Diplomats and political analysts say that suggests India is using the international outrage over the attack to pressure Pakistan for a broader crackdown against Islamist militant groups and individuals believed to be targeting India, which has suffered more than a dozen terror bombings in the past three years. There was no immediate reaction from Pakistan to the Indian demands.

India's political scene, meanwhile, was roiled for a second day as fallout from the bombings spread and a second senior politician resigned his post, while another offered to step down. R.R. Patil, the man in charge of security in Maharashtra state, where Mumbai is located, resigned Monday. His boss, Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh, also offered to quit, an offer the Congress party- which leads India's ruling coalition government  was considering. If the responsibility of the attacks is on the chief minister, then he will go. On Sunday, federal Home Minister Shivraj Patil, India's top internal security official, stepped down.

The sharp deterioration in relations between India and Pakistan after four years of peace talks threatens to undermine U.S. efforts to keep Islamabad focused on fighting the Taliban and al Qaeda, which have sunk deep roots along Pakistan's western border with Afghanistan. Thousands of Pakistani soldiers are battling the militants there, but the military has warned it will shift troops east to the Indian border if New Delhi makes any military moves on its side of the frontier. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Monday she expects Pakistan to cooperate fully with any investigation of the Mumbai attacks, something Islamabad has already said it will do as long as India gives it the evidence it has collected implicating Pakistani militants in the assault.

What we are emphasizing to the Pakistani government is the need to follow the evidence wherever it leads Ms. Rice told reporters in London saying I don't want to jump to any conclusions myself on this, but I do think that this is a time for complete, absolute, total transparency and cooperation and that's what we expect.

Tracking the Terrorists

Arriving by boat, a small team of terrorists spread out across Mumbai, instilling terror in India's largest city for three days. The U.S. fears tough talk from New Delhi could put Pakistan's 10-months-old civilian government, its first in almost a decade, on the defensive, a situation that could easily spiral out of control. India and Pakistan have fought three wars since they won independence from Britain in 1947, and almost had a fourth confrontation after a 2001 terrorist attack on the Indian Parliament killed 15 people.

Mr. Azhar's group, Jaish-e-Mohammed, was blamed for that attack along with another Pakistani militant outfit, Lashkar-e-Taiba, the organization that Indian officials have publicly fingered for last week's assault on Mumbai. Mr. Azhar was jailed by India in the 1990s. But authorities released him in 1999 in exchange for passengers on an Indian Airlines flight hijacked to Kandahar, Afghanistan. He then reportedly slipped back into Pakistan and founded Jaish, which quickly gained notoriety for its attacks on Indian forces in divided Kashmir, the predominately Muslim region at the center of the rivalry between India and Pakistan. Under pressure from the U.S. following the Sept. 11 attacks, Pakistan banned Jaish. A few months later, Mr. Azhar was put under house arrest in Pakistan following the Indian Parliament attack. But he was quietly released in 2002 and his group, which is believed to have some links to al Qaeda, still operates in parts of Pakistan. Jaish has also worked in the past with Mr. Ibrahim. A native of India, where he was a feared underworld boss, Mr. Ibrahim became a reputed financier of terrorism after he allegedly orchestrated about a dozen near simultaneous bombings and shootings in Mumbai in 1993. Those attacks killed 257 people. He's now believed to be living in Karachi, Pakistan, where he is said to run a number of businesses and own property.

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Posted: 02 December 2008 at 2:10pm | IP Logged

MUMBAI -- Mumbai police believe a senior Lashkar-e-Taiba planner in Pakistan masterminded the Mumbai terrorist attacks last week and was among several leaders of the militant group who were in touch by satellite links with the 10 terrorists in the two days before they landed in India.

More on the Attacks

A senior police official said that, in all, the names and numbers of five members of the Pakistani group's leadership were contained in a satellite phone left behind by the terrorists on a fishing vessel they hijacked then abandoned before reaching Mumbai. Records from the phone show calls had been made from it to these five men.Among them: Yusuf Muzammil, head of Lashkar-e-Taiba's terrorism operations against India. The senior Indian police official said he was identified as the mastermind of the attacks by the only terrorist captured alive, Ajmal Kasab, or Qasab. The police official said two of Mr. Muzammil's deputies orchestrated the strikes, according to Mr. Kasab's testimony. The attacks, which targeted three luxury hotels, a Jewish center, a train station and other locations around India's largest city, left at least 172 dead.

An armed policeman guards the Victoria Terminus station on Tuesday in Mumbai.

policeman guarding Victoria train station in Mumbai, India
policeman guarding Victoria train station in Mumbai, India

A senior Pakistani official confirmed that India has told Pakistan that the attack was planned by Mr. Muzammil. Mr. Muzammil's name appears on a list of 20 people whom India is demanding that Pakistan hand over. India also has told Pakistan that the attacks were approved by Hafiz Mohammed Saeed, the head of Jamaat ud Dawa, the parent organization of Lashkar-e-Taiba. Mr. Saeed denied the allegation that his group was involved. India has always accused me without any evidence, Mr. Saeed said.

According to Dipankar Banerjee, director of the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies, an independent think tank in New Delhi, Mr. Muzammil became head of Lashkar-e-Taiba's planning cell some three months ago, after the previous head was killed. He is a Pakistani in his mid-30s and is based in Pakistan. India has claimed that Mr. Kasab's handlers were constantly sending messages to him, even when he was already captured. The attacks have ratcheted up tensions between India and Pakistan, two nuclear-armed rivals. On Tuesday both sides sought to reduce the strain.

Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Pakistan's foreign minister, said Tuesday that his country has offered investigators to help India probe the Mumbai attacks. The government of Pakistan has offered a joint investigation mechanism and are ready to compose such a team which will help the investigation. Mr. Qureshi, however, declined to say whether Pakistan would hand over the 20 men to India. Mr. Qureshi held a special briefing for foreign diplomats in Islamabad Tuesday to explain Pakistan's point of view on tensions with India after the Mumbai attacks. India's Ministry of Foreign Affairs did the same, with an official saying that rumors India was massing troops on the border of Pakistan in response to the attacks was untrue, according to a diplomat who attended. India also is demanding that Pakistan hand over Dawood Ibrahim, a Mumbai gangster-turned-terrorist-backer who is believed to be living in Karachi. Mr. Ibrahim has long been India's most wanted man, sought in connection with bombings in Mumbai in 1993. Mr. Ibrahim is believed to live under protection in the fashionable Defense Housing Society in Karachi, a city where he runs a vast business and owns many prime properties. India has for long been demanding his extradition, but Pakistani authorities have denied that Mr. Ibrahim was on its soil. Analysts said the extradition of Mr. Ibrahim, Mr. Saeed and other powerful militant leaders could cause a huge problem for the shaky civilian government of Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari. Any such move could have a huge backlash, particularly from the Islamic groups. It will also create problems for the military, which in the past had patronized Islamic militant groups.

Pakistan also would face difficulties in determining how to crack down on Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jamaat ud Dawa, which has gained in strength despite being outlawed in 2002. Lashkar-e-Taiba is an extremely secretive organization. Except for the top leadership, the identities of its members are not disclosed. Since its inception in 1990 it has produced thousands of trained and highly motivated fighters. Unlike other Pakistani based Jihadist organizations, Lashkar-e-Taiba draws its recruits from universities and colleges as well as from unemployed youth. It is widely believed to have links to elements of Pakistan's Inter-Service Intelligence, the premier spy agency. The majority of Lashkar-e-Taiba recruits come from Pakistan's Punjab province, where Mr. Kasab is from. Yousuf Raza Gilan, Pakistan's prime minister, convened a meeting of all of the country's political parties in the capital Tuesday to develop a joint response to tension with India.

The tension between the two countries comes amid revelations that the U.S. had provided some warning to India about a possible terrorist attack launched by sea as recently as September. Hasan Gafoor, Mumbai police commissioner, told a press conference that there was a general warning in September after the bombing of the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad that other hotels could be targeted, but he said there was nothing specific. He said the police had been sensitizing hotels, malls and theaters about the possibility of a terrorist attack for months now. He said the boat the attackers used before they hijacked the fishing vessel had started from Karachi, Pakistan's biggest city. He also said some of the attackers had been trained a year, some for longer, and that they were trained by ex-army men, although he wouldn't say which army.

The terrorists all had AK-47s, a pistol, hand grenades and 300 rounds of ammunition. They also had satellite phones with GPS and were organized in five groups of two men each. The police also found 5,400 rupees and a handful of credit cards on the slain terrorists. In addition to the attacks, five bombs were found in taxis. The purpose of the attack was to cause havoc and kill as many people as possible Mr. Gafoor said.

Attacks Are a Blow to India's Luxury-Goods Industry

The attacks in Mumbai struck at the core of the fledgling luxury-goods industry in India, threatening to dampen the vibrant growth of one of the sector's key developing markets. Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace hotel, the epicenter of the attacks, is the most coveted retail address for luxury goods firms that are tapping into India's growing numbers of wealthy individuals. European brands Louis Vuitton, Bulgari and Fendi all have boutiques in the hotel, which was the target of various explosions, hostage-taking and a fire. The Oberoi Trident Hotel, which was also hit, houses luxury brands including Salvatore Ferragamo. Some of Ferragamo's employees were being held hostage, the Italian fashion house said. Any prospective slowdown in the promising Indian market would come at a bad time for the industry. Luxury goods companies have been relying on new markets such as India, Russia and China to counter sluggish growth in Europe and the U.S., where the global financial crisis has drained appetites for expensive goods.

Most experts don't anticipate a long-term impact from this week's attacks. And the Indian market is still small in terms of how much it contributes to overall sales at most companies. Even if the Indian market comes down, it's not significant says Neelesh Hundekari, principal at AT Kearney Inc., a management consulting firm in Mumbai. Still, India is important symbolically for many luxury-goods brands, so companies may become more cautious about investing there if the fear of further terrorist attacks intensifies. Moreover, even before this week's terrorist attacks, India's high-end spenders were showing some early signs of vulnerability to the global financial crisis. Indian high-end retailers which are generally lower-priced than big European names have been offering new products at lower prices. October sales at Ensemble, a retailer for top Indian fashion designers, fell 20% year-on-year, said Tina Tahiliani-Parikh, Ensemble's executive director.

European labels said Thursday that they remain committed to the Indian market. Mr. Hundekari said that as new mall space is built across the country, exclusive hotels such as the Taj Mahal and the Trident will become less-important retail addresses for high-end brands. Last night, as enforcement officials worked to secure the Taj Mahal hotel, its boutiques remained closed. Louis Vuitton said all of its employees were safe, and Bulgari, whose store is operated by a local franchise partner, was trying to establish the safety of its employees. The Fendi store had been closed for renovation and is scheduled to reopen within the coming weeks. Tikka Shatrujit Singh, an adviser to Louis Vuitton in India, said he hoped the fashion house's boutique would reopen within days. India, he added, is a market for the future and we want to reinforce our position.

India Doesn't Need New Antiterror Laws

Political grandstanding won't smooth a broken system.

The grief over the 60-hour hostage crisis that took nearly 200 lives in Mumbai is palpable, and Indians want action. In response to the clamor, politicians are talking of bulking up the antiterror legal edifice including quicker trials, firmer punishments and extended periods of preventive detention. This is dangerous political grandstanding.

India already has tough antiterror laws. While Article 22 of the Constitution enshrines habeas corpus, a caveat allows preventive detention under which an accused person can be jailed without charge or trial for up to three months. The National Security Act of 1980 lays down conditions permitting preventive detention, giving the state wide power to define a threat and to act in national interest. Other prisoners' rights -- such as legal representation, cross-examination, access to courts and compensation if the detention is found to be unlawful can be suspended.Then there is the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, a 50-year-old law initially introduced as a short-term measure to allow army deployment against separatist movements in the Naga Hills, initially in Assam and Manipur, and later applied throughout the troubled northeast. Similar laws have since been used in the Punjab and in Jammu and Kashmir. This law gives India's army the power to shoot to kill, arrest people and conduct searches without warrants.Finally, Maharashtra state, of which Mumbai is the capital, has the Maharashtra Control of Organized Crime Act, the law its antiterrorism squad recently invoked to detain Hindu nationalists suspected in the bomb blast that killed six Muslims in the city of Malegaon.If the Congress Party-led government tries to enact new antiterror legislation now, it risks complicating what is already a broken legal system. Politically sensitive cases in India move slowly through the courts, and cases against powerful individuals are often withdrawn. Lacking a reliable protection program, witnesses are afraid to testify in many cases.Policy makers also can't be trusted to use tough new laws properly. During Indira Gandhi's state of emergency from 1975 to 1977, the government used a law called the Maintenance of Internal Security Act, under which opposition leaders were arrested for holding public demonstrations. The Act has since been repealed, but similar laws have been used against activists.Instead of creating a more intrusive law, India needs to invest in its legal infrastructure. This means it must fill the vacancies on the bench, prevent politicians from interfering in politically sensitive investigations, ensure that intelligence community and prosecutors share information across states, and gather evidence properly and present the case to the courts within the legally permitted period. India is a democracy; it should live up to its own standards to demonstrate clearly how its approach to justice is vastly different from that of its enemies.To be sure, there needs to be a fundamental debate about the appropriateness of antiterror laws in a democratic society. Human-rights law acknowledges that certain rights can be suspended during emergencies. The failure in India, however, is not of the lack of laws, but the lack of clarity in procedures, and of political leadership. India's Constitution is as grand as the Taj Mahal Hotel before it was attacked. It does not need a wrecking ball.



Edited by jagdu - 02 December 2008 at 2:22pm
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Posted: 03 December 2008 at 12:10pm | IP Logged

Rice Visits India in Effort to Ease Tensions

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice pressed Pakistan to show "resolve and urgency" in finding those behind last week's brutal assault on Mumbai as Washington sought to dial down the rising tension between South Asia's nuclear-armed rivals even as they continued to verbally spar. India is demanding Pakistan hand over about 20 terror suspects in the wake of last week's terrorist attacks on Mumbai which killed at least 172 at latest count. India claims the attacks originated in Pakistan. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice cuts short a European tour to visit India. She is working to help ease tension with Pakistan, which has been mounting since the three-day rampage in Mumbai. Video courtesy of Reuters.

Ms. Rice's comments in New Delhi came as Pakistani leaders struggled to frame a response that would not provoke a backlash from their own people and, perhaps more importantly, the country's powerful military establishment. They also have to deal with the Pakistan's ever-potent Islamic militants, such as the Taliban, who have volunteered to stop battling Pakistani soldiers and instead fight alongside Pakistani soldiers if a conflict with India breaks out. I have said that Pakistan needs to act with resolve and urgency, and cooperate fully and transparently Ms. Rice told reporters. I know too this is a time when cooperation of all parties who have any information is really required.

Ms. Rice's effort to ease India's concerns were matched on the other side of the border by Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, who spent six hours Wednesday meeting with top Pakistani military and civilian officials in Islamabad.

[Condoleezza Rice] 

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Pakistan has a special responsibility to cooperate with the investigation into the attacks.

He encouraged Pakistani leaders to take more and more concerted  action against militant extremists the U.S. Embassy said in a statement following the meetings. India has pointedly blamed Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Paksitani Islamist militant group, for the terror attacks at a pair of upscale hotels, a train station, a Jewish center and other targets. Lashkar has been blamed for a slew of earlier attacks on India, and allegedly took part in a 2001 assault on the country's Parliament that left 15 people dead and brought India and Pakistan to the brink of war. That's a scenario the U.S. is desperate to avoid seeing repeated, especially with India now refusing to rule out military action.

India is determined to act decisively to protect India's territorial integrity and the right of our citizens to a peaceful life with all the needs at our disposal said Pranab Mukherjee, India's foreign minister, at a joint press conference with Ms. Rice. There is no doubt that the terrorists' attack in Mumbai were perpetrated by individuals who came from Pakistan and whose controllers are in Pakistan. Ms. Rice said any response to the attacks needs to be judged by its effectiveness in prevention and also by not creating other, unintended consequences or difficulties. U.S. officials have said the evidence a confession from the sole captured terrorist, phone intercepts and other intelligence points to Lashkar, which is widely believed to have links to al Qaeda and at least some elements in Pakistan's powerful Inter-Services Intelligence spy agency. Pakistan denies providing any support for Lashkar, which was outlawed in 2002 but still operates openly. The U.S. is working with India to find the attackers and is actively engaged in information sharing, in forensic help Ms. Rice said. But she stopped short of placing blame Wednesday, saying whether there is a direct Al Qaeda hand or not, this is clearly the kind of terror in which Al Qaeda participates.

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari has pledged to fully cooperate with India in finding the perpetrators, and his foreign minister has offered to set up a joint investigation. Ms. Rice said the U.S. plans to hold them to their word. I'm going to take as a firm commitment Pakistan's stated commitment to get to the bottom of this and to know that these are enemies of Pakistan as well as they are enemies of India Ms. Rice said. How far Mr. Zardari can go in pursuing the perpetrators remains an open question. Any move against Lashkar by his shaky civilian government, Pakistan's first in nearly a decade, could create a huge backlash from Islamic groups. More than 2,000 Islamist students marched Islamabad on Wednesday shouting anti-U.S. anti-Indian slogans. A top Pakistani security official said among the militant leaders who would stand by Mr. Zardari's government in the event of war with India is Baitullah Mehsud, the man accused of assassinating Mr. Zardari's wife, former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, last December. Mr. Mehsud has denied involvement. In a reflection of the military's ambivalence toward cooperating with India, the official saidw we have no big issues with Mr. Mehsud. There are some misunderstandings which can be resolved. Even among moderate Pakistanis, sending suspects to India a country that has fought three wars with Pakistan could provoke widespread outrage. Send a Pakistani to face Indian justice? No, no that will not do said a retired Pakistani general who still lives in Rawalpindi, the garrison city on the edge of Islamabad where Pakistan's vast military establishment is centered. The general, who maintains close contact with his former colleagues, said the military is taking a wait-and-see approach to the investigation and India's demands for cooperation. We are not pre-judging anything he said but, he cautioned the president has to be very careful. This is a delicate time. That sensitivity of the situation certainly seems to be reflected in Pakistan's seemingly ever-changing response to India's demands. First, Islamabad said it would send its spy chief to aid in the investigation but then said only a lower-level official would go at some point. And now Mr. Zardari is balking at India's demand to turn over suspects. If we had the proof, we would try them in our courts and we would try them in our land and we would sentence them Mr. Zardari told CNN's Larry King Live.

Manufacturing Companies Reassess India Risks After Mumbai Attacks

Terror attacks in India's business and financial capital won't halt major investments by local and overseas manufacturing companies in the country, but may prompt some to defer their projects by a few months as they reassess security risks, said company executives and analysts. The three-day siege in Mumbai left at least 172 people dead, including foreign nationals. The Taj Mahal Palace & Tower and the Trident Oberoi hotels bore the brunt of the attacks that targeted places frequented by Westerners. Analysts expect the attacks will further damp business sentiment, already weak because of the global economic slowdown. In the wake of the attacks, executives of multinational companies and tourists have curtailed travel to India and some countries have issued travel advisories.

But, companies and executives said, India is unlikely to suffer a sustained impact on foreign direct investment, as its growth prospects remain strong. Investors doing business in the South Asian country have also long taken into account the risk of a terrorist attack. Companies in India in sectors such as steel, automobiles and textiles had already announced production cuts to cope with slowing demand in the local and overseas markets. The worsening global credit crunch has also reduced availability of funds and increased the cost of funding for companies.

GM Motors VP Balendran said plans remain unchanged. Sales are going to get more impacted after the terror attacks because anyway, the market sentiment is down. But, he think it will be a temporary aberration and the medium to long-term story of India remains intact. GM has two factories in India, including one in the western state of Maharashtra, whose capital is Mumbai. The Maharashtra plant, built with an investment of about $300 million, began production in September to supplement an existing factory in the western state of Gujarat. GM is also investing $200 million to construct an engine and transmission plant adjacent to its car factory in Maharashtra. The engine plant is to open in early 2010.

Separately, Volkswagen AG, Europe's biggest automaker by sales, said it will proceed with its '580 million ($736.5 million) investment in India despite the terrorist attacks and a slowdown in the local vehicle market. We continue to invest in India as planned before said Kurt Rippholz, Volkswagen Group's head of communications for India said by telephone. There are no changes. Volkswagen is building a car factory in Maharashtra. The plant is scheduled to start operations from the spring of 2009 and will have an annual capacity of 110,000 vehicles.

GM, Volkswagen, Toyota Motor Corp. and other auto makers have announced combined investments of more than $7 billion in India on expectations that an expanding economy and rising incomes will boost car sales. But, higher loan rates and lack of financing have forced prospective customers to defer new vehicle purchases this year. Car sales in October fell 6.6%, the biggest percentage decline since July 2005. Sales fell in three out of four months since July this year.

Declining sales led Tata Motors Ltd., Maruti Suzuki India Ltd., Ashok Leyland Ltd. and other auto makers to cut production to reduce inventories. Steel producers such as Tata Steel Ltd. and JSW Steel Ltd. have also announced cuts in production as the global economic slowdown widens its grip. That was anyway happening due to the credit crunch said Mahesh Patil, who oversees the equivalent of $8 billion in assets at Birla Sun Life Asset Management Co. in Mumbai. Tourism and aviation could see some impact but he dooes not think there will be major delays or cancellations in projects unless there is a big security risk.

Manufacturing output in India grew 5.0% from a year earlier during July-September 2008, sharply lower than a 9.2% growth last year. Manufacturing and services together account for more than three quarters of India's over $1 trillion economy. Weak manufacturing activity dragged India's GDP growth to 7.6% in the July-September quarter, the slowest expansion pace in almost four years, down from a 9.3% growth a year earlier.

Renault S.A. isn't canceling or delaying its investment plans for India but has heightened the risk assessment for its employees said Asish Sinharoy, vice president in charge of communications and corporate affairs at the French auto maker's local unit. Some companies who have been thinking of doing things may step back a bit and look at it against the current scenario he said. It may affect investments for a month or two. Renault and its Japanese partner Nissan Motor Co. are jointly building a '700 million car factory in the port city of Chennai. The plant, which is scheduled to go onstream in 2010, will have an annual capacity to produce 400,000 vehicles for both Renault and Nissan.

B. Hariharan, finance director at Ballarpur Industries Ltd., India's biggest papermaker by capacity, said also that companies might delay their investments for the short-term but the India growth story remains intact.

South Korea's Samsung Electronics Co. said there is nothing that will warrant a change in their business plans. The Indian market is growing every year per Ruchika Batra, a spokeswoman for Samsung's local unit. Despite the global slowdown, the durables sector in India has bucked the trend and Samsung is investing in people and factories.



Edited by jagdu - 03 December 2008 at 12:25pm
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Posted: 04 December 2008 at 11:19pm | IP Logged

U.S. Presses Pakistan to Help India as Tensions Rise

Americans Push Extraditions but Meet Resistance; Rice Calls for 'Resolve and Urgency' but Two Sides Appear Further Apart

[RISING TENSIONS: Indian Muslims march in Mumbai on Wednesday to condemn the recent attacks.] 

RISING TENSIONS: Indian Muslims march in Mumbai on Wednesday to condemn the recent attacks.

The U.S. is calling on Pakistan to arrest and turn over to India at least some suspects in the Mumbai bombing, aligning the U.S. more closely with a key Indian position, but Pakistan is unlikely to oblige amid escalating tensions between the nuclear-armed South Asian adversaries.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, in New Delhi on Wednesday, pressed Pakistan to show resolve and urgency in finding those behind the assault. A senior diplomat briefed on the U.S. position said Washington is conveying a stronger and more specific message privately to Islamabad.

The Indian government is under a lot of pressure from their public for not doing more to prevent this attack and they need for their political purposes to point to something demonstratively that's been done. An arrest by Pakistan is a big statement. Ideally there'd be some sort of extradition to India.

But Pakistan has refused to hand over any of the approximately 20 names demanded by India, citing a lack of an extradition treaty between the two nations, according to All India Radio, India's government broadcaster, and other India media Thursday morning. Pakistan instead will handle any legal actions under its own laws, the reports said. There was no immediate comment from Pakistan's foreign ministry.

Thousands of Indians gathered Wednesday near the burned-out Taj Mahal Palace & Tower hotel that was targeted in the Mumbai attacks. They shouted nationalist and anti-Pakistan slogans but also called for answers from an Indian political establishment they accuse of failing to protect the public. Meanwhile, more than 2,000 Islamist students marched in Islamabad, Pakistan, shouting anti-U.S. and anti-Indian slogans.

The U.S. also is delivering some cautionary words to India. Ms. Rice said any response to the attacksneeds to be judged by its effectiveness in prevention and also by not creating other, unintended consequences or difficulties.On Monday, India denied rumors it was massing troops at the border but officials have pointedly refused to rule out military action, most recently during Ms. Rice's visit.

U.S. officials said India risks overreaching with a list of 20 suspects it wants from Pakistan  saying that many of the 20 aren't linked to the Mumbai attacks and New Delhi shouldn't force Pakistan into a position where it can't make concessions.

India claims the attacks originated in Pakistan with a terrorist group, Lashkar-e-Taiba, that was outlawed in 2002 but still operates openly there. Indian and U.S. officials suspect Lashkar of links to al Qaeda and to elements in Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence spy agency.

Afghanistan's ambassador to the U.S., Said T. Jawad, said in an interview Wednesday that intelligence gathered after the attacks has linked the ISI to the Mumbai bombings. Calls were placed from a satellite phone left behind by the attackers to people who were known ISI members or had very strong ties with the ISI said the ambassador. He also said there is evidence linking Yusuf Muzammil, the man identified by India as the attacks' chief organizer, to the ISI, but he declined to provide details.

A senior Mumbai police official said the one terrorist suspect in custody, Mohammed Ajmal Kasab, has told interrogators that he and his nine cohorts received training from former Pakistani military personnel, including from the nation's army and navy. Mumbai Police Chief Hasan Gafoor also told reporters Tuesday that the terrorists had been trained by ex-army personnel. Though he didn't specify the army, the clear indication was Pakistan. The contentions could further fuel tensions.

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Indians Take to the Streets in Anger and Mourning

After the attacks that killed at least 172 people, Indians held large demonstrations, directing their anger both at India's politicians and at Pakistan. Pakist an denies aiding Lashkar having to do with the attacks, which killed 171 people at latest count. Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari has pledged cooperation in the probe. But he suggested in a television interview Tuesday night that he opposes extradition. If we had the proof, we would try them in our courts and we would try them in our land and we would sentence them Mr. Zardari said on CNN's Larry King Live.

Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, spent six hours Wednesday meeting with Mr. Zardari and other Pakistani leaders. He encouraged them to take more concerted action against militant extremists, the U.S. Embassy said in a statement. A senior American official said Adm. Mullen urged Pakistani military and intelligence officials to reach out to their Indian counterparts directly. The official said Adm. Mullen didn't discuss whether Pakistan should extradite the suspects. That would have blown up the meeting," the official said.

Pakistani leaders are struggling to frame a response to the Mumbai attacks that wouldn't provoke a backlash from their own people and, perhaps more importantly, the country's powerful security establishment. Even among moderate Pakistanis, sending suspects to India  a country that has fought three wars with Pakistan could provoke widespread outrage.

A group of Pakistan Muslim League-Q supporters demonstrate against India's attitude toward Pakistan after the terrorist attacks.

A group of Pakistan Muslim League-Q supporters, right, demonstrate against Indias attitude toward Pakistan after the terrorist attacks.
A group of Pakistan Muslim League-Q supporters, right, demonstrate against Indias attitude toward Pakistan after the terrorist attacks.

The enmity between India and Pakistan, both important U.S. allies, presents a growing challenge for Ms. Rice in the twilight of her term as secretary of state. India and Pakistan now seem further apart than they did immediately after last week's attacks.

India initially referred to the terrorists coming from Pakistan only in veiled terms, while Pakistan's senior leaders condemned the attacks and pledged cooperation. But as India gathers what it calls firm evidence that the attacks were carried out from Pakistani soil, Islamabad has become more prickly.

Islamabad says it has yet to be presented with any evidence the attacks were launched from Pakistan, and disputes Indian claims that the lone captured terrorist hails from there, despite what Indian authorities say is his testimony about his upbringing in Pakistan.

Pakistani militants allegedly took part in a 2001 assault on India's Parliament that left 15 people dead and brought India and Pakistan to the brink of war. That is a scenario the U.S. is desperate to avoid. How far Mr. Zardari can go in pursuing the perpetrators remains an open question. Any move against Lashkar-e-Taiba by his shaky government, Pakistan's first civilian government in nearly a decade, could create a huge backlash from Islamic groups.

[U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, center, said at a news conference in New Delhi that Pakistan must show resolve and urgency as she called for cooperation in the investigation into the Mumbai attacks.] 

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said at a news conference in New Delhi that Pakistan must show resolve and urgency'as she called for cooperation in the investigation into the Mumbai attacks.

The sensitivity of the situation seems to be reflected in Pakistan's shifting response to India's demands. First, Islamabad said it would send its spy chief to aid in the investigation but then said only a lower-level official would go at some point. Now Mr. Zardari is balking at India's demand to turn over suspects.

Indian leaders face domestic pressures of their own over their response to the attacks. Adding fuel to those questions, police said Wednesday that they had found and defused two unexploded bombs at Mumbai's main train station where two terrorists went on a killing rampage after the train station was already reopened. The bombs were discovered in luggage amid piles of bags left behind at the station, which authorities are now sorting through. It was unclear why it took so long for the bombs to be discovered. A Mumbai police spokesman couldn't be reached to comment. Terrorists are believed to have planted a bomb in a taxicab they took after arriving in Mumbai last Wednesday, killing the taxi driver. In the protests in Mumbai on Wednesday amid groups holding candlelight vigils for victims of the attacks protesters marched in the streets with signs reading "Enough is Enough" and "Politicians are a bigger threat, not terrorists." Many protesters said they were furious with Indian politicians in general, regardless of whether they were from the ruling Congress party or the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party.

Crowds blanketed the cordoned-off streets in the city's Colaba neighborhood, epicenter of last week's attacks. Many at the protest said they hoped the large public outcry would spur change in the political establishment. One protester singled out the government's bungled response after the strikes began.

It shouldn't have taken nine hours" for the National Security Guard to arrive, referring to the Indian strike force that eventually besieged terrorists at the Taj hotel and the Oberoi hotel complex

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