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INDIA AND WORLD

Xi’s Pakistan corridor: New India encirclement strategy

The sheer ambition and scale of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, which was unveiled during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s trip to Islamabad, is truly staggering. China’s unprecedented investment commitment to the tune of $46bn gives some substance to the hyperbolic expression “higher than the Himalayas, deeper than the Indian Ocean and sweeter than honey,” that has come to define bilateral relations between China and Pakistan for many decades.
Sans Economics
President Xi’s visit, although touted as a visit with economics as its core objective, had an obvious strategic dimension; one that involves defence trade. Besides the promise of supplying Pakistan with eight submarines, it has emerged that China will provide 110 latest JF-17 Thunder fighter jets to Pakistan as the two countries forge closer defence cooperation. Also built on a transfer-of-technology basis, the JF-17 can be read as Pakistan’s response to India’s Rafale deal, coming on the heels of the latter. Shrouded between 51 agreements to boost economic cooperation during Xi’s trip, there are clear strategic undertones, belying the notion that the visit was not just about pure economics.
China-Pakistan Economic Corridor
The visit and, more so, the nature of bilateral agreements between China and Pakistan have undoubtedly ruffled some feathers in the Indian strategic circles.An investment worth $28bn in new trade and investment deals is part of the mega $46bn that will be used to construct the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project. The CPEC project will see the 3,000km trade route built over the next 15 years, with Chinese investments and companies building new roads and pipelines along the proposed route, which runs the length of Pakistan.

Nepal quake: India goes all out to help and heal quake-struck neighbour

In the unfolding aftermath of the April 25 earthquake, the worst to hit Nepal in 80 years and one of the worst in all of South Asia, India has left no stone unturned to come to the rescue of its Himalayan neighbour and strategic partner.
India was the first nation to respond, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi convening a disaster response meeting in within hours of the quake.
“Nepal’s pain is our pain,” said Modi, “I have spoken to their prime minister and president and assured them that this country of 125 crore is with you.” keeping up the spirit of cooperation that was rekindled during Prime Minister Modi’s historic visit to Nepal in August last year.
Mr Modi has already spoken with about a dozen state chief ministers immediately after the earthquake.
Home Minister Rajnath Singh told parliament on April 27 that Prime Minister Narendra Modi “knew of the incident before me and took swift action.” “Just five minutes before the earthquake, I was with the PM. He later called me about the earthquake and said there would be a meeting at 3 pm. The quick response that should have been shown by me as home minister was shown by the PM,” Mr Singh said in a statement in the Lok Sabha on the disaster that has killed over 3,700.
Distressing times are indeed true tests of friendship. And India is more than ready to do its best as the countries are intimately bound up with fraternal and cultural ties and their joys and sorrows interlinked.

All eyes in Vietnam on Modi’s China visit, South China Sea

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HANOI: The Delhi-Hanoi maritime bonding is set to get stronger in days to come. Vietnam, the emerging dynamo of the Southeast Asia region, is closely watching the forthcoming visit of India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi to China and is expecting that the Indian leader will pitch for peace and stability in South China Sea, the site of conflicting territorial claims.
Vietnam has faced the brunt of the perceived Chinese assertiveness in South China Sea and has looked up to India, with its rising stature and formidable naval apparatus, as an anchor of stability in the maritime domain in the region.
“The Indian government has shown increased interest in protecting sea lanes of communication. We expect India will continue to support Vietnam and help it to cope up with instability in South China Sea,” Mr Le Van Nghiem, Director General, Directorate of External Information, told a group of visiting Indian journalists in the balmy Vietnamese capital.
“Many countries are reluctant to take up the issue with China. If India raises its voice (on South China Sea with Vietnam), it would be beneficial for both India and Vietnam and the region,” the Vietnamese official said. He was responding to a question by this writer on whether Vietnam expected Prime Minister Modi to take up the issue of South China Sea during his talks with the Chinese president next month.
Under Prime Minster Modi’s watch, Vietnam has emerged as a key pillar of India’s Act East policy, with a string of high-profile two-way visits seen in the last few months. Signalling the intent for closer strategic embrace, India rolled out the red for Vietnam’s prime minister in October 2014, a little over a month after President Pranab Mukherjee’s substantive visit to Vietnam.

Diplomacy/Defence

IB alerts Delhi Police of possible drone attacks by Let, Jaish

Indian intelligence Agencies have alerted the Delhi Police that the militants groups like Lashker-e-taiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammad may carry out aerial attacks using drones in⋅⋅⋅
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India pitches for an open, democratic election for UNSG

Ahead of the upcoming election of the UN secretary-general next year, India has called for an open and democratic process in the selection of Secretary⋅⋅⋅
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The IS tipping point: Is Baghdadi dead?

In what could turn the tide of battle against the ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the Islamic State’s charismatic chief, is reportedly dead. Radio Iran broke⋅⋅⋅
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Diplomacy, In Pictures

Politics / Policy

Modi’s Metro outreach to common man: More than a joy ride

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In a symbolic outreach to the aam admi (common man), India’s Prime Minister Modi had a weekend surprise: he decided to forego his VVIP convoy⋅⋅⋅
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Modi mantra of good governance: Don’t worry, be happy

Get rid of tensions; don’t worry, be happy and serene. This was the message of India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi to work-burdened bureaucrats, signifying his⋅⋅⋅
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No compromise on quality of judges: President

India’s President Pranab Mukherjee has emphasised that there shouldn’t be any compromise in the appointment of judges as the quality of judgments depends on the⋅⋅⋅
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The Quote Hanger

"Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence."

In Conversation

Modi’s France visit to bolster strategic ties, focus on smart cities: Rakesh Sood

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India and France are set to galvanise their multifarious relations during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s maiden trip to Paris. The two countries have a robust strategic partnership over the years, and are looking to push the envelope in a host of areas.
In this interview with Manish Chand, Editor-in-Chief, India Writes Network, (www.indiawrites.org), Rakesh Sood, India’s former ambassador to France, speaks about a cluster of issues that will be on the table when Prime Minister Modi holds talks with the French President Francois Hollande in Paris on April 10. He provided an overarching view of what makes India-France relations unique and how the forthcoming prime ministerial visit will impart a renewed momentum in areas of defence, nuclear energy and space and open up new avenues of bilateral cooperation.
(Excerpts from the interview)
Q) How do you look at the trajectory of the India-France relations at this moment? And how do you see the importance of Prime Minister Modi’s visit to France, which is also his first visit to Europe?
A) India and France have had one of the oldest strategic partnerships. What do I mean by a strategic partnership? I mean that we have had long-standing cooperation in areas of defence, nuclear energy and space. Three areas that normally constitute strategic partnership, and particularly in recent decades we have also strengthened our cooperation in the area of counter-terrorism and intelligence-sharing. So I think it is a very substantive relationship and French President Hollande was here in February 2013. Obviously, in 2014 we had our elections and so it is very opportune that Prime Minister Modi is now visiting Paris and other locations in France.

Reshaping Indonesia-India relations critical to 21st century Asia

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Vibrant democracies, emerging powers, and partners in the unfolding Asian resurgence. India-Indonesia relations have a rich past, and is looking to zoom into a rich future, bristling with possibilities. Co-founders and fellow-travellers of the Non-Aligned Movement, India and Indonesia have imparted a contemporary strategic dimension to their multi-faceted relationship. From President Sukarno gracing the first Republic Day celebrations of 1950 to India hosting Indonesia’s then President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono as Chief Guest at the Republic Day celebrations in 2011, the India-Indonesia partnership in the 21st century is acquiring new layers and depth.
The year 2014 saw a change of guard in both New Delhi and Jakarta, propelling self-made politicians from humble backgrounds to the top of the power ladder. The new leaderships in both countries are keen to seize the moment to infuse a new energy and vitality into this robust relationship.
Manish Chand, Editor-in-Chief of India Writes Network (www.indiawrites.org), caught up with Indonesia’s Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Dino Patti Djalal in New Delhi for a free-wheeling conversation on the entire gamut of India-Indonesia relations, and much more. In this probing conversation, the suave and eloquent deputy minister shares his views on the future trajectory of India-Indonesia relations, how the two countries can collaborate in areas like pro-poor technologies, a new kind of creative politics emerging in Indonesia and a radical transformation of the image of India from a country ridden with poverty to a country synonymous with enterprise and innovation. India used to be known as a country with a rich past, but now it is seen as a country with a rich future, he says presciently.

Africa has high hopes from Modi govt: Ethiopia envoy

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India’s multifarious relations with the resurgent African continent has deepened and acquired a new traction over the last decade or so, especially since the inaugural India-Africa Forum Summit (IAFS) in New Delhi in 2008. India is set to host the third edition of IAFS early next year, which will bring the leaders and representatives of all 54 African countries to the capital Delhi, and is expected to mark an all-round acceleration of this burgeoning partnership. This will also be the first India-Africa Forum Summit, which will be hosted by the Narendra Modi government in New Delhi.

In this wide-ranging conversation with Manish Chand, Editor-in-Chief, India Writes Network (www.indiawrites.org) and Editor of “Two Billion Dreams: Celebrating India-Africa Friendship,” Ethiopian ambassador to India Gennet Zewide strikes an upbeat note about the future trajectory of the India-Africa relations and hopes that this partnership will “tripled, multiplied and even quadrupled” under the new dispensation in New Delhi. The Ethiopian envoy, a former education minister of the East African country, the seat of an ancient civilization, also speaks about the win-win partnership unfolding between India and her country, and the transformative impact of India’s Line of Credit for the country’s sugar industry, which promises to turn Ethiopia from an exporter into an importer of sugar in days to come.

BUSINESS WITH INDIA

Capgemini to acquire IGATE for $4.4 billion, boost for India operations

In what is said to be one of the largest mergers of two technology giants, French IT colossus Capgemini will acquire a US based technology⋅⋅⋅
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Making agriculture attractive, a major challenge for Modi Govt

Even though India’s star may be rising because the IMF and Moody’s (the famous international credit rating agency) have forecast 7.5 per cent growth, there⋅⋅⋅
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CHINA CONNECT

Ahead of Modi visit, Beijing sings Make in India and Made in China tune

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Ahead of India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to China next month, Beijing has said the border dispute between the two nations has “good prospects”⋅⋅⋅
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China to build solar power station in space

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Taking a leaf out of science fiction, China, is planning to build a solar power station in space, an idea initially mooted by Isaac Asimov⋅⋅⋅
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Africa Rising

Behind Al Shabaab terror in Kenya

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Al-Shabaab, a Somali militant group believed to be a part of the African terror syndicate comprising of groups such as the Al Qaeda in Maghreb⋅⋅⋅
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Al-Shabaab rocks Kenya University, massacre 147

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Barely a couple of years after the spectacular mall terror attack in the heart of Nairobi, Somalia-based al-Shabaab militants targeted a college campus in the⋅⋅⋅
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Ex-military ruler Buhari wins Nigeria elections

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Former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari became the first opposition candidate in Nigeria’s history to win a presidential election, making him the numero uno of Africa’s⋅⋅⋅
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Culture / Books / Ideas

Culture

Will Ganga be declared a World Heritage site?

With India taking various initiatives to clean its major rivers including the Ganga, a group of environmentalists will petition the Indian Prime Minister, to pursue⋅⋅⋅
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Modi: Earth day, a commitment to keep planet clean and green

Underlining the agenda of Swachh Bharat (Clean India), on the occasion of Earth Day, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted that the Earth Day is⋅⋅⋅
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Modi condoles Günter Grass’ demise

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India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed his grief at the news of the death of Günter Grass, German novelist, social critic and Noble laureate, saying⋅⋅⋅
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BOOKS / POETRY

And Then One Day: Naseeruddin Shah tells it all…

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Naseeruddin Shah comes across as an actor who knows his craft but does not take filmdom or stardom with any degree of seriousness. A rare ability to laugh at oneself, coupled with an acute understanding of the world of theatre and Bollywood. It is difficult to talk about one’s life with any kind of objectivity and Shah manages just that with his funny bone absolutely intact. Be it the boarding school at Nainital, the hallowed portals of NSD or the Film Institute of Pune, Shah breezes through it all, seeing it with the critical eye of the present and looking at this intelligent non-conformist young Naseeruddin as he hems and haws through life. Not having set goals and not having made the obvious choices, the journey is tough as the young protagonist stumbles along in the haze of marijuana.
Shah’s book has an extremely humane side to it where the reader does not feel in awe of a star but a human being on a journey that continues with all its rough and tumble in place. The book too, plays by its own rules – deciphering but not revealing the man who refuses to be slotted as a hero or a character artist in Bollywood and who chooses to be remembered and not revered for some of the most virtuoso acting skills in the industry.

My Book Story: When Things Fall Apart…

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“Turning and turning in the widening gyre The falcon cannot hear the falconer; Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon⋅⋅⋅
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Booker glory beckons Amitav Ghosh

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The Booker glory beckons Indian novelist and essayist Amitav Ghosh yet again. Having narrowly missed the Anglophone world’s most coveted literary honour in 2008, the⋅⋅⋅
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Why Write?

Mickey Spillane: The older, the better

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If you’re a singer you lose your voice. A baseball player loses his arm. A writer gets more knowledge, and if he’s good, the older⋅⋅⋅
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Samuel Johnson: Reading and making of a book

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The greatest part of a writer’s time is spent in reading, in order to write; a man will turn over half a library to make⋅⋅⋅
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Eudora Welty: Taking Life as it Exists

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“The writing of a novel is taking life as it already exists, not to report it but to make an object, toward the end that⋅⋅⋅
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Travel

Border-crossing: Supper in Sweden, Dinner in Denmark

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For those of us living in India, crossing over casually is a distant dream. Even though India and Pakistan were one over six decades ago,⋅⋅⋅
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At the Equator: A tryst with Assange, Darwin and sea lions

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Ecuador is probably the only country in the world named after a geographical feature – the equator. Crossing over from the Colombian border post near⋅⋅⋅
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