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    INDIA AND WORLD

    Opulence out, new austerity mantra in India

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    No first class air travel on overseas visits. No pow-wow in luxury hotels. Ostentation and opulence are out; austerity is in.
    The new Indian government has tightened the belt and asked officials to cut down all the flab and frills, and get down to business. Unveiling an austerity drive, the Indian government underlined that it was aimed at cutting non-plan expenditure by 10% and bring down the fiscal deficit to 4.1% of GDP in 2014-15.
    The new guidelines enunciated by India’s finance ministry has barred bureaucrats from travelling first class on overseas visits and asked them to use video conferencing as much as possible. The accent is on doing away with needless frills, with officials barred from holding meetings in 5-star hotels.

    India plays Chinese checkers, steps up military ties with Vietnam

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    The Narendra Modi government is playing its own version of Chinese checkers as India pushed the envelope for ties with Vietnam by agreeing to supply naval vessels to Hanoi and underlined its strategic intent to spur the modernisation of the military infrastructure in the Southeast Asian country.
    In defiance of Chinese objections, the prime ministers of India and Vietnam met in Delhi and decided to ramp up their defence and energy ties. Vietnam Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung’s visit to Delhi was advertised as predominantly focused on galvanising economic aspects of the relationship, but has ended up as delivering clear-cut outcomes in military and strategic spheres.
    India’s proactive military and economic diplomatic engagement with Vietnam indicates that the Modi government is set to be more assertive in countering China’s designs in India’s immediate and extended neighbourhood. India has watched warily as China has deliberately expanded its economic and military footprints in India’s neighbouring countries.

    Why PM Modi’s voyage to Fiji matters

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    Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Fiji Islands would be an enormous boost for the Indian diasporic community and will underline increased warmth in Fiji’s ties with India. The scenic South Pacific island nation, which advertises itself as a ticket to happiness, is basking in the glow of restored democratic governance after a watershed election on September 17. After eight years of military rule, Fiji held elections under a new constitution and a new electoral system that guaranteed equality to all its citizens.
    When Prime Minister Modi lands in Suva, the picturesque capital of Fiji, he will be the first Indian head of government to do so in over three decades; the last Indian prime minister to visit the island nation was Indira Gandhi in 1981.
    Fiji’s Prime Minister Voreqe (Frank) Bainimarama was among the first world leaders to congratulate Mr Modi after the Bharatiya Janata Party won the national elections in May 2014. “I am confident that the true spirit of friendship and cooperation that provides the unbreakable bond between our two nations and its people will be further strengthened in the years ahead,” Bainimarama had said as he invited the Indian leader to visit Fiji at an early date. Modi had tweeted in response: “We will make India-Fiji relations stronger in the coming years.”

      Diplomacy/Defence

      Britain remembers Indian soldiers’ heroic role in World War I

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      India’s unsung role in the World War I is a story that’s still unfolding, with new facts emerging about Indian soldiers’ role in helping the⋅⋅⋅
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      India, Iran and the story of Chabahar

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      After over a decade of declared intentions, the Government of India has finally decided to put money on the strategically important Chabahar project. Chabahar, situated⋅⋅⋅
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      India, US to ramp up defence ties

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      Nearly a month after Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Barack Obama held their maiden summit  in Washington, India and the US will be looking⋅⋅⋅
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      Politics / Policy

      Black money: Spotlight on 627 Indians with foreign banks accounts

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      In a decisive push to India’s battle against the scourge of black money, the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government has submitted a list to⋅⋅⋅
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      National Security Decision Making: Overhaul Needed

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      In May 1998, India conducted five nuclear tests at Pokhran and declared itself a state armed with nuclear weapons. It later emerged that these weapons⋅⋅⋅
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      Takeaways from the 2014 Floods in J&K

      The unprecedented floods in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), have wrecked havoc and led to widespread loss of life and damage to property. While the focus⋅⋅⋅
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      The Quote Hanger

      "Yoga embodies unity of mind and body; thought and action; restraint and fulfillment; harmony between man and nature; a holistic approach to health and well being," - Prime Minister Narendra Modi

      In Conversation

      UN reform process has acquired a critical mass: India’s UN envoy

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      The United Nations will turn 70 in 2015. But the world body is increasingly looking like a relic of the past and is badly in need of reform to stay relevant amid the ceaseless flux in geopolitics in the 21st century. Amid the defining shift of power from the west to the rest and the emergence of India on the global stage, the case for the reform and expansion of the UN Security Council has become all the more urgent. In his maiden address at the UNGA, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a robust pitch for reform of the UNSC to “make it more democratic and participative.” “Institutions that reflect the imperatives of 20th century won’t be effective in the 21st century. The world in the 21st century has changed and will be changing at a faster pace. It becomes imperative that we formulate according to the changing times and new ideas of 21st century to sustain our relevance,” Mr Modi told delegates at the 69th session of the UNGA.
      In this free-wheeling interview with Manish Chand, Editor-in-Chief of India Writes Network (www.indiawrites.org) in New York, India’s Permanent Representative to the UN Asoke Kumar Mukherji speaks about India’s strategy for accelerating the reform of the UNSC, the enthusiastic support for India’s candidature for a permanent seat in the powerful council and the way ahead on Prime Minister Modi’s initiative to get the UN to designate an International Yoga Day.

      Modi at Madison Square Garden: It will be a coming-out party for Indian-Americans

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      India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the US will put the spotlight on the growing profile of the about 3-million strong Indian-American community. Cutting across castes, provinces and religions, around 20,000-odd Indian-Americans will be travelling from all over America for the largest-ever civic reception in honour of the Indian leader at the iconic Madison Square Garden.

      In this interview with Mr Manish Chand, Editor-in-Chief, India Writes Network, Ronen Sen, India’s former ambassador to the US, speaks glowingly about the multifarious success stories of Indian-Americans in their adopted homeland and their role as bridge-builders in bringing the two vibrant democracies together in an arc of intersecting national interests.

      ‘Japan is India’s all-weather friend, China needn’t worry’

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      Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s August 30-September 3 visit to Japan is laden with great expectations and hopes of substantive outcomes, which can transform the geopolitical dynamics of Asia. In this conversation with www.indiawrites.org, Sanjaya Baru, a well-known commentator on foreign affairs and Senior Fellow, Centre for Policy Research, speaks about the unique character of India-Japan relations, Japan’s starring role in the development of India and his expectations from the forthcoming visit of Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Japan. Baru, the author of The Accidental Prime Minister and Director of Geo-economics and Strategy at the International Institute of Strategic Studies, predicts a robust future of India-Japan relations and underlines that Japan is and will be India’s all-weather friend in days to come.

      BUSINESS WITH INDIA

      Japan’s SoftBank bets $10 billion on India

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      Signalling confidence in the India growth story under the new Narendra Modi dispensation in Delhi, Japanese telecom and internet titan SoftBank has unveiled a mammoth⋅⋅⋅
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      India’s new foreign trade policy should focus on LatAm, Africa, CIS

      India’s foreign trade has badly suffered since the beginning of the global financial crisis in August-September 2008. The subsequent shock of the sovereign crisis in⋅⋅⋅
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      CHINA CONNECT

      When Modi met Xi

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      On the day Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Gujarat on September 17, The Hindu newspaper published an op-ed called ‘Towards an Asian century of prosperity’ in which President Xi spoke of his country as the factory and India as the world’s back office, he referred to the new government in power bringing in new reforms. He spoke of deepened mutual trust by “strengthening strategic dialogue and enhancing political confidence.” The article was expectedly replete with bonhomie and optimism although India was not too happy being relegated to the back office. Nevertheless, Xi concluded by saying that he was “confident that as long as China and India work together, the Asian century of prosperity and renewal will surely arrive at an early date.” All this sounded wonderful.

      Hong Kong Protests: What it means for the Chinese leadership?

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      hongkong-protestsong Kong is slated to have elections for the post of Chief Executive (CE) in 2017. However, there is a disagreement between sections of the Hong Kong civil society and Beijing on how these elections are to be conducted. In a nutshell, Hong Kong wants a free and fair democratic elections and not be told the list of candidates it can choose from. Beijing wants that it vets the final list of candidates, fearing probably a CE, who would be critical of government policies. Beijing’s desire to manage the political process in Hong Kong stems from the ‘one country two systems’ model whereby it continues to retain its influence.

      Africa Rising

      Demographic shift: Africa heading for population explosion

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      Africa will herald one of the most radical demographic shifts of the century. Latest estimates indicate that by the end of the century, 40% of⋅⋅⋅
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      US raises bar for Africa ties, billions to flow

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      The first US-Africa summit ended on a high note, with US companies pledging investments worth $17 billion and President Barack Obama heralding Africa as a⋅⋅⋅
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      US ups stakes, holds first summit with Africa

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      Against the backdrop of the rise of Asian powers, most prominently China, in Africa, the United States is hosting its first summit with the resurgent⋅⋅⋅
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      Culture / Books / Ideas

      Culture

      China to be Guest of Honour at 2016 New Delhi Book Fair

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      Seeking to build a knowledge bridge between the two ancient civilisations, India has selected China as the Guest of Honour at the New Delhi World⋅⋅⋅
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      Australia’s cultural diplomacy: Ancient Shiva statues back in India

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      Modi’s trip affirms India-Japan spiritual bonds

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      Centuries-old spiritual connections came alive during India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Japan, as ancient civilisational linkages were reaffirmed by the message of harmony⋅⋅⋅
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      BOOKS / POETRY

      A conflicted family reunion

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      BOOK REVIEW Book: Land Where I Flee; Author: Prajwal Parajuly; Publisher: Quercus A caustic grandmother, a lovable eunuch, and four orphaned siblings returning home to Gangtok after⋅⋅⋅
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      Demystifying Tibetan culture: Uncle Tompa’s profane adventures

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      In these 20 stories Rinjing Dorji narrates how Uncle Tompa gets the better of others through his trickery. The ‘others’ here are usually the rich, the foolish, the virtuous, and the stubborn. While tales of Uncle Tompa are very similar to those of other tricksters like the Persian Mullah Nusruddhin, or the American Cayote, Uncle Tompa’s stories differ because of the centrality of sex in his adventures.

      For Borges

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      Silence is a Forest. Rootless words Perch on filtered sunlight, shadows dance with rhythm of swaying distance, dead wind caresses.   You are welcome to⋅⋅⋅
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      Why Write?

      Zadie Smith’s Ten Rules of Writing

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      1. When still a child, make sure you read a lot of books. Spend more time doing this than anything else. 2. When an adult,⋅⋅⋅
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      Depths of your being…

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      To write well about the elegant world you have to know it and experience it to the depths of your being… what matters is not⋅⋅⋅
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      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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      Travel

      Border-crossing: Supper in Sweden, Dinner in Denmark

      Arial photo of the bridge with ferry passing under

      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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