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INDIA AND WORLD

China’s President swears undying love for Pakistan, India uneasy

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It was a rich outpouring of praise and a reaffirmation of special ties, backed by $45 billion deals, that would have more than pleased his Pakistani hosts, but have created unease among India’s diplomatic-strategic establishment. During his maiden visit to Islamabad, China’s President Xi Jinping applauded Pakistan’s anti-terrorism efforts and underlined that the Chinese people will always stand together with Pakistan, Beijing’s all-weather ally.
The Chinese leader’s praise of Pakistan’s anti-terrorism efforts must have been created an unease in India, which has been relentlessly pressing Islamabad to prosecute Pakistani terrorists behind the Mumbai carnage. Xi underlined both the countries have common stakes in security and that Pakistan had contributed greatly to security and stability of China’s western border. “This is something that we should never forget,” he said.
Xi began his maiden visit to Pakistan on April 20, a landmark trip that saw the two countries sign 51 deals in diverse areas. The big-ticket takeaway for Pakistan was clearly a raft of investment projects in infrastructure and power sector, unveiled by the Chinese leader, which are estimated to be worth $45 billion.
The outcomes of Xi Jinping’s visit have been closely scrutinized in India’s diplomatic-strategic circles. India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi can be expected to protest Beijing’s decision to supply nuclear submarines to Pakistan when he travels to China next month.

Green and Clean: US envoy says all eyes on India on climate change action

Green is the colour of the emerging India-US partnership. Underlining the centrality of India to the success of the global climate deal in Paris, the US has said that it regards India as its “best partner” and exhorted New Delhi to take the leadership role in curbing global warming.

US ambassador to India Richar Verma, the first Indian-origin envoy of Washington in New Delhi, stressed that the whole world is watching what India will do to help fructify the promise of an international climate deal.

“We’re not the only ones that are interested. India’s size, economic growth projections, and already significant greenhouse gas emissions means there is tremendous interest around the world regarding what India will do,” Mr Verma said at a conference themed “Green – the Color of Growth: The Business Case for Climate Action” at a luxury hotel in the Indian capital.

The envoy underscored the US’ interest in India’s future steps, and said it considered India as the “best partner in an entire array of areas and would also like to discuss and tackle the toughest issues on the planet.

The ambassador added that said that the US would like to work closely with India to tackle climate change, where the two countries will look to promote the transition to a low carbon and a clean energy future. He praised India’s recent proposal to the leading countries to cut down their use of HFCs: gases used in air conditioner, refrigerator and other insulating forms that are responsible for greenhouse gas emissions.

Mr Verma added that there is an essential need for the whole world to play a leadership role to effectively tackle climate change through innovation, partnership, and a commitment to a cleaner future.

Ahead of the crucial climate meet to be held in Paris later this year, the envoy pointed out that India is yet to submit its “Intended Nationally Determined Contributions” (INDCs) – a voluntary commitment to take steps for clean energy, and produce greenhouse gas emissions.

Akbar-nama: Art of truth-telling, spinning and much else

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You have only one life to live, and one question to ask. One question, one person. And don’t weave multiple questions into one, like the Matryoshka doll. And as any seasoned journalist covering India’s foreign office, better known as MEA, knows by this time that they can speculate endlessly, but he does not respond to speculation. Only hard facts, truth-telling, albeit with a bit of spinning that goes with his job.
Syed Akbaruddin’s pointed one-liners, witticisms and sharp ripostes are now part of folklore in the universe the voraciously inquisitive and intrusive media inhabits. And rightly so, for Akbar, as he is being fondly called by his colleagues in the ministry and journalists covering the MEA beat, set new benchmarks for communicating and batting for the government, regardless of the dispensation in power.
Akbar, the spokesperson of India’s external affairs ministry who makes way for his successor Vikas Swarup on April 18, will be sorely missed by his countless admirers as he moves into his next position, this time around as Chief Coordinator for the Third India-Africa Forum Summit (IAFS-III), to be held in New Delhi in October. The new interim position, till he gets a coveted ambassadorial posting, reflects the high standing he enjoys with the powers-that-be as the Narendra Modi government was looking exactly for someone like Akbar to be the face of India’s diplomatic outreach to Africa.
With his proven skills in communication and public diplomacy which he helmed for India for over three years, the government can safely bank on the suave and articulate Akbar to pull off a successful summit and the larger project of building bridges with the vibrant African continent that is set to loom large on India’s diplomatic horizons in months to come.

Diplomacy/Defence

India to reaffirm NAM credentials, Swaraj heads to Bandung

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Reaffirming India’s non-aligned credentials, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj has headed on a five-day visit to Indonesia, where she will attend the 60th commemoration of⋅⋅⋅
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Reimagining the triangle

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Pakistan this week presents a paradox. He is likely to unveil massive plans for the expansion of economic and⋅⋅⋅
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Russia’s New Military Doctrine: An Overview

On December 26, 2014 Russian President Vladimir Putin approved a new military doctrine. This is the fourth such declaration on national security following the ones⋅⋅⋅
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Diplomacy, In Pictures

Politics / Policy

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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Separatist leader Masarat Alam arrested over waving of Pakistani flags

Kashmiri separatist leader Masarat Alam Bhat was arrested by the Jammu & Kashmir Police in connection with the display of the Pakistani flag and raising⋅⋅⋅
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Parrikar to implement revised DPP in April

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Giving a boost to The Make in India campaign, which also focusses on revitalizing indigenous manufacturing in the defense sector, India’s Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar,⋅⋅⋅
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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

World Bank chief lauds Modi’s Jan Dhan Yojna

The  World Bank cheif Jim Yong Kim has lauded India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi for bolstering India’s efforts to provide financial access to all of its⋅⋅⋅
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Volkswagen bets $150 million on Make in India

Days after India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi pitched for “Make in India” campaign in Hannover, German auto giant Volkswagen has unveiled its plan to transform⋅⋅⋅
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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

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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Modi’s Birthplace: An Exciting Travel Destination

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Tourism in the ancient town of Vadnagar has been given a new lease of life by adding a novel package- Modi tourism. Now, tourists visiting⋅⋅⋅
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Celebrating India’s pluralism: Muslim girl wins Gita contest

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It’s a showcase story of India’s vibrant multi-religious pluralistic society. A Muslim girl, studying in the sixth standard at a Mumbai school, has emerged as the winner of an inter school Gita competition – the Gita Champions League – organised by International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON). She stood first in the written examination, which had about a hundred questions, leaving behind more than 4,000 other students. The Uttar Pradesh government has decided to felicitate the 12-year-old girl for attaining the first position. The award is expected to send a powerful message across in the state about knowing and respecting all religions in the society, and should have special relevance in India’s largest state that is known for intermittent religious tensions and bouts of communal violence.
Mariyam Asif Siddiqui, a student at the Cosmopolitan High School, Mira Road in Mumbai, underwent a month of preparation to understand deep teachings of religious Hindu poem-text, which encapsulates key tenets of the Hindu philosophy and way of life, with its focus on karma and dharma.

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?

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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John Updike: Of Heroes and Kings

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“We’re past the age of heroes and hero kings. … Most of our lives are basically mundane and dull, and it’s up to the writer⋅⋅⋅
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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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