Three soldiers are killed in an ambush by suspected militants in the Pulwama district of Indian-administered Kashmir, officials say.
NEW DELHI: India said Wednesday it will do all within its means to promote stability in Afghanistan after visiting President Hamid Karzai said he had given a military “wishlist” to the Indian government.
“We have a wishlist that we have put before the government of India,” Karzai told reporters in New Delhi, adding it was up to the Indian leadership to decide how much help it was willing to extend to Kabul.
India’s foreign ministry refused to detail what the “wishlist” contained but local media reports said it included light and heavy artillery, aircraft and small arms and ammunitions.
“The leaders agreed that both countries will work together and will do all within their means to promote stability and security in Afghanistan,” said Indian foreign ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin.
Karzai’s comments came after his office said last week that he would ask for “all kinds of assistance from India in order to strengthen our military and security institutions” during the high-level talks in the Indian capital.
Karzai held closed-door talks late Tuesday with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh after a separate meeting with his Indian counterpart Pranab Mukherjee on his two-day trip which ended on Wednesday.
India has been training a limited number of Afghan military officers for years at its military institutions, but has provided little weapons assistance except for some vehicles.
India’s support for Karzai is a reflection of its desire to ensure that the departure of the United States and other foreign forces in 2014 does not lead to the return of the radical Taliban to power in Kabul, analysts say.
In 2011, India and Afghanistan began a “strategic partnership” to deepen security and economic ties. But Indian activity in Afghanistan has sparked unease in neighbouring Pakistan which fears losing influence in Kabul.
A statement from Karzai’s office in Kabul on Wednesday sought to underline its neighbourly relations with both India and Pakistan while ruling out inviting Indian troops to the country after the US pullout.
“Afghanistan is a sovereign country and… has the right to choose its own friends. Pakistan is a neighbour, it is a close neighbour and the people of Pakistan have given Afghans refuge for 30 years,” the statement said.
“India is a traditional friend and ally, particularly so over the last 10 years,” the Afghan statement added.
NEW DELHI: Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, smiling and effusive, was out to smooth ruffled feathers in India this week, promising to ease tensions and increase trade between Asia’s fastest growing economies in his first trip overseas since taking office.
“China will make your dream come true,” Li told a banquet hall filled with Chinese and Indian business executives in the financial capital of Mumbai as he wound up his visit on Tuesday.
China’s overtures, which come amid worries in Beijing that it is being encircled by the United States and its allies, however met with a cool response.
India has been shaken by a recent border spat with China and is cautious about Beijing’s friendship with rival Pakistan, where Li flies on Wednesday. New Delhi is also concerned about a ballooning trade deficit with China and a flood of cheap Chinese-made goods undercutting local manufacturers.
While India’s relations with the United States are cordial and it is a major purchaser of its weapons, New Delhi has stayed away from a close strategic alliance.
“We would not like to see India become a tool of other major countries, especially the US, to counterbalance or check or contain China,” said Hu Shisheng, an India specialist at CICIR, a Chinese government-backed think tank in Beijing.
“We want, through closer relations, to support New Delhi’s policy that maintains equal distance. It’s not realistic to expect India to be closer to one country than the other.”
Li, who is travelling with executives from 41 Chinese companies, said the two rapidly-growing economies should free up bilateral trade and do more business together, instead of relying on others for development.
“With a long border and extensive common interests, China and India should not seek cooperation from afar while neglecting the partner close by,” he said in a speech to businessmen and diplomats earlier on Tuesday.
Chatty and relaxed, Li repeatedly took Prime Minister Manmohan Singh by the hand and said a visit to India 27 years ago influenced him much as exposure to the sub-continent had affected Steve Jobs, the legendary co-founder of Apple.
Singh smiled back, but hardened India’s stance on the long-standing territorial dispute between the two nations, saying broader ties could not blossom without peace on the border.
In the past, India has sought to separate the border dispute from wider relations. The difference this time was that Li’s visit came just weeks after Chinese troops set up camp 19 km (12 miles) inside territory India claims as its own.
The stand-off, which only ended on May 3 after three weeks of high-level negotiations, caused a public outcry in India. It overshadowed preparations for Li’s trip and may explain the lack of significant bilateral agreements signed.
Despite the large commercial delegation, only one major business pact was signed, a $ 1 billion debt-for-fuel deal between China and Essar Energy PLC Lt, part of India’s Essar group. Smaller pacts added a total $ 500 million in deals.
China and India disagree about large areas of their 4,000 km (2,500 mile) border and fought a brief war 50 years ago.
There has not been a shooting incident in decades but the feud prevents normal trade relations between neighbours, who account for 40 percent of the world’s population.
Lalit Mansingh, a former Indian foreign secretary, the top official in the external affairs ministry, said he detected a new openness between the leaders of the two countries, and a willingness to tackle thorny issues. But he said the recent border confrontation had severely tested India’s patience.
“They don’t want us to get closer to the Americans. But ironically, that is exactly what they are doing by being extremely provocative at the border,” Mansingh told Reuters, adding that China was also irking neighbours with maritime disputes with Japan and nations in Southeast Asia.
“By picking up a fight with every single neighbour after a period of friendship with all neighbours, the Chinese are, in fact, getting people together in a line up against them.”
On the back of this week’s visit, both Prime Minister Singh and Premier Li are due to visit each others respective rivals.
Next week, Singh is headed to Japan, which is engaged in an increasingly edgy dispute with China over a group of islets in the seas between them.
Li goes to Pakistan, where he is to sign agreements to develop the Chinese-managed Gwadar port.
India has often been nervous about Chinese agreements with its neighbours that are not strictly military but could be leveraged in a conflict.
Indians sometimes refer to these as a “string of pearls,” which include China’s ties with Pakistan, access to a Myanmar naval base, Chinese construction of a deepwater port in Hambantota, Sri Lanka, and its deepening ties with Nepal and the Maldives. Its force deployments in Tibet add to India’s stress.
In Beijing, there are worries that the country is being encircled by the U.S. strategic pivot to Asia and its allies like Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines and more recently, Vietnam. China has also been closely watching the improvement of US ties with Myanmar and India.
After the border, India’s biggest gripe with China is over trade. From almost nothing in the 1990s, bilateral trade hit a peak of $ 73 billion in 2011, heavily skewed in China’s favour.
In comparison, China’s annual trade with Japan is close to $ 300 billion. On Tuesday, Li pitched hard for closer economic cooperation and said Chinese companies could help India rapidly modernise its skeletal infrastructure.
“Our industrial structures are highly complementary, India has a competitive edge in IT, software and bio-medicine, while China is seeing rapid expansion of its machinery, textiles and emerging industries,” Li said, and offered talks on a free trade agreement.
But India complains that China does not give its pharmaceutical and IT companies fair market access.
One Indian trade official, speaking to Reuters, burst out laughing at the free trade proposal, saying there was no way India would consider it until the trade imbalance was addressed. That may take some time.
In a joint statement signed on Monday, China reiterated it would increase access for Indian products. The same was said on a visit by Premier Wen Jiabao in 2010 – but last financial year, India’s bilateral trade deficit grew to $ 41 billion.
India’s Supreme Court dismissed a petition yesterday seeking to scrap the remaining matches of the Indian Premier League (IPL) amid growing concerns about corruption in the event.
Former Test bowler Shanthakumaran Sreesanth and two other players were arrested along with 11 bookmakers on Thursday on suspicion of spot-fixing in the IPL.
The case has prompted the Indian government to look at the possibility of introducing a law to combat matchfixing and spot-fixing.
Social activist Sudarsh Awasti lodged the petition demanding the scrapping of the remaining four IPL matches, including Sunday’s final, but the apex court said the competition would go on as scheduled.
The court also asked the Indian cricket board to submit a report within two weeks with details of the players’ involvement in the scandal and what action was being taken against them.
Awasti also wanted a special investigation to get to the bottom of the spot-fixing scandal and for the league to be banned from next year but the court found no merit in his demands.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 22nd, 2013.
NEW DELHI: Afghan President Hamid Karzai will seek greater Indian military aid during a visit this week to New Delhi, officials of both countries said Monday.
India has provided billions of dollars of aid to Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban in 2001, and is keen to ensure that no radical regime takes power in Kabul after international troops pull out in 2014.
Afghanistan’s request “will include all kinds of assistance from India in order to strengthen our military and security institutions,” Karzai’s presidential spokesperson, Aimal Faizi, told reporters in Kabul.
Karzai, set to start his two-day trip to New Delhi late Monday, will hold talks with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the future of the war-torn country and also meet Indian President Pranab Mukherjee.
Discussions will cover a potential arms deal between the two countries, an Indian foreign ministry official told AFP in New Delhi, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“India is ready to meet any request that would strengthen Afghan security institutions. He (Karzai) is visiting India to discuss a potential arms deal,” the foreign ministry official said.
But any Indian activity in Afghanistan triggers sensitivities in neighbouring rival Pakistan, which fears losing influence in Afghanistan.
India has been training a limited number of Afghan military officers for years at its military institutions, but has provided little weapons assistance except for some vehicles.
Earlier this month, Afghanistan’s ambassador to India said the country needs India’s help with equipment and weapons and was hoping to boost defence ties.
In 2011 India and Afghanistan began a “strategic partnership” aimed at deepening security and economic links.
NEW DELHI: Chinese Premier Li Keqiang pledged Monday to build trust with India and declared that ties between the Asian giants were key to world peace as he visited New Delhi only weeks after a border spat.
Speaking alongside his counterpart Manmohan Singh, Li said China wanted to increase cooperation with India, saying his choice of destination for his first foreign visit showed the importance that Beijing attached to ties with Delhi.
“The purpose of my current visit to India is three-fold – to increase mutual trust, to intensify cooperation and to face the future,” Li said.
“On the basis of deeper mutual trust, our two countries can further deepen our mutual understanding and construct a new type of relations between major countries, promote healthy and sound development of China and India.
“That will be a true blessing for Asia and the world.”
Li’s visit comes after a flare-up last month in a long-running border dispute between the two countries in a remote Himalayan region.
New Delhi accused Chinese troops of intruding nearly 20 kilometres into Indian-claimed territory, triggering a three-week standoff that was resolved when troops from both sides pulled back.
The Line of Actual Control between the nuclear-armed neighbours has never been formally demarcated, although they have signed accords to maintain peace in the region that was the site of a brief Indo-Chinese war in 1962.
Although Li did not mention the border dispute, he stressed that cooperation between the world’s two most populous nations had global ramifications.
“World peace… cannot be a reality without strategic trust between India and China,” he said.
After arriving in New Delhi on Sunday afternoon, Li held a first round of talks with Singh in the evening and the two held more detailed discussions on Monday.
Li is also scheduled to meet Indian Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid, ruling Congress party leader Sonia Gandhi and senior figures from the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party before heading Tuesday to the financial hub, Mumbai.
The border dispute almost led Khurshid to cancel a visit to Beijing before the pullback agreement, despite his insistence that the row should not serve to “destroy” recent diplomatic progress.
Sujit Dutta, a China expert at Delhi’s Jamia Millia Islamia University, said Beijing could become more assertive in such disputes under its new leadership.
“As Beijing’s new leadership is making a concerted effort to challenge India’s territorial assertions, India will have to plan new attempts to bridge the perceptional distances between these two huge neighbours,” Dutta told AFP.
Other observers said there was a general acceptance that the border dispute should not be allowed to block progress in other areas.
China is India’s second-largest trading partner, with two-way commerce totalling $ 66.5 billion last year.
Chinese Vice Commerce Minister Jiang Yaoping told reporters last week he was optimistic that the target of reaching $ 100 billion by 2015 would be met.
But the figure in 2012 was in fact a fall from the $ 74 billion for 2011 and India is also facing an increasing trade deficit with China that totalled $ 29 billion in 2012.
Several major roads in the Indian capital have been closed to prevent Tibetan protestors from disrupting the visit while exile groups complained of heavy-handed policing in their neighbourhoods.
“The police has denied us permission to protest in New Delhi and police deployment in Tibetan resident areas has been intensified. They are not allowing young Tibetans to walk in groups,” said Tsering Choedup, a regional coordinator for the International Tibet Network.
After wrapping up his visit to India, Li is due to travel to neighbouring Pakistan before heading to Switzerland and Germany.
China’s Premier Li Keqiang pledges to build trust with India where he is meeting his counterpart Manmohan Singh, after a recent flare-up in border tensions.
China’s Premier Li Keqiang travels to India for his first foreign visit since taking office, with border tensions and trade topping the agenda.
I wrote in a previous column about India’s growth flattening out. Despite having a poor per capita gross domestic product — about one-thirtieth of what it is in advanced nations — India’s growth has collapsed to an ordinary five or six per cent when not supported by foreign inflows. This is down from its peak of nine per cent-plus, which it achieved for four years under Manmohan Singh, and which is now looking unlikely for the near future.
Some think, in my opinion wrongly, that this problem can be addressed purely by more reforms. The more India opens itself to foreign money, the more transparent its systems of government are, the more efficient and less corrupt its bureaucracy, the better for its economy. That is the logic. None of this is exceptionable, though all of it assumes that the high growth path is something for which only the government is responsible.
I think we should also look elsewhere to seek an answer to why we cannot grow. I did not write about why this was so in my earlier piece because this brings us into the realm of culture. Economists have little regard for this sort of thing and their work assumes that the environment is everything.
There are almost no studies (Harish Damodaran’s is one) on India’s mercantile culture and the baniya ethic. Though it is often said that India’s entrepreneurial base is big, the evidence is that it is caste based and small. Among Muslims, it is even smaller, and that explains to me the sorry state of Bangladesh’s and Pakistan’s economy.
The second aspect of India’s economy is the lack of mobility. Being middle class in India is essentially a lottery of birth.
This is, of course, true of most nations and most cultures. Europe has an aristocracy, most obviously in England with its landed rich.
But in few places, is it as pronounced as in India. Here, fate doesn’t land us either in wealth or in the middle class. It sends us directly into a hell with almost no access to escape. The state has no resources to help you get out.
Even if you believe the government’s figures, a third of India is poor. The fact is that the government’s numbers are based on calorie consumption for immediate sustenance and food. Indians who earn Rs23 a day in villages and Rs29 a day in cities are not poor. A monthly income of Rs674 in villages and Rs860 in cities is thought to be sufficient. This compares with Rs22,000 a month in the United States.
In that sense, the poverty line of India is cruel. It is merciless and doesn’t allow the majority of Indians any money for shelter or access to education or health care or sanitation or anything else that civilised nations would consider as essential as food.
You could not have access to and money for any of those things listed above and still be considered not poor in India. You could have no money to travel anywhere for work or education and not be considered poor in India.
The argument people who draw this line have is that if it were raised to a more humane standard, perhaps 70 per cent of Indians would be regarded poor. But what is wrong with admitting that?
Peter Ong, a friend of mine from Australia, who consulted a newspaper in Mumbai, would often notice the poor of the city. “What’s her future?” he would ask of some urchin on the road as we drove past. At first, I was defensive and would mumble something about how it was all changing in India. But that was not the right answer. The child had no hope and would spend her life and die in poverty of a truly frightening kind.
Almost none of the work done historically by the church in Europe on poverty and education is done by religion in India. Our wealthy have little interest in philanthropy, though Azim Premji and Nandan Nilekani can lead us to think this is changing.
And the truth is that the Indian media is totally disinterested in poverty. This is because the reader has no interest in this — and as someone who has edited newspapers in three languages for many years, I can speak with some authority. To assume that, in such a place, politicians can legislate us back into the high-growth orbit is, to my mind, delusional.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 19th, 2013.
KARACHI: Pakistan has fought hard to keep a check on the growth of diabetics within its borders. But health experts say that even a little callousness on the part of those who have raised public awareness can derail efforts to curb the incidence of the condition.
A public awareness programme on the management of diabetes was organised by National Institute of Diabetes and Endocrinology (NIDE) in collaboration with the pathology department of Dow University of Health Sciences (DUHS), Ojha Campus.
In his speech, Prof. Zaman Shaikh said that in 2009, Pakistan was ranked seventh in the world with respect to the number of diabetics – the exact figure being 7.1 million. At that time, even the forecast for future trends was gloomy: International Diabetes Federation estimated that Pakistan would jump from seventh position in 2010 to fourth in 2030. But with the continuing efforts for creating awareness about diabetes, Pakistan managed to slip out of the top ten countries with regard to prevalence in 2010. According to fresh estimates, Pakistan will now fall in the tenth instead of the fourth position with regard to the incidence of the condition.
Another area the country lags behind is the expenditure on treating the condition. In Pakistan, the average expenditure on diabetes is around $ 24 (Rs2,360). This is lower than the figure in Afghanistan – about $ 33 or Rs3,230 – and India, where the expenditure is $ 55 (Rs5,390).
Prof. Shaikh said that obesity is very common in diabetes patients and is responsible of for complications associated with the condition. They include heart attacks, stroke and high blood pressure. He emphasised that if diabetics change their lifestyles, choosing to eat healthy and brisk walk for at least 30 minutes, they can cut complications which arise from the condition.
Describing new ways of keeping a check on the condition, Prof. Shaikh stated that new insulin pumps about the size of small pagers will soon be in market. They will have novel features such as custom alarms and can be hooked up to a laptop or a desktop. They can be programmed to deliver insulin based on individual’s lifestyle.
Prof. Shaikh added that diabetes is simply a condition which occurs because of a problem in production and supply of insulin in the body. In large towns and cities, most people don’t eat healthy food, and also exercise less, which may increase the incidence of diabetes in such areas.
“We are providing state of the art treatment at minimum cost at NIDE,” he said. “We not only deal with the management of diabetes but also work on the prevention of condition and its complications.”
Prof. Muhammad Masroor, Dow International Medical College’s principal, said that insulin is a life saving substance. All patients with type-I diabetes use insulin from the day they are diagnosed till the last day of their life to sustain themselves. Insulin is needed eventually even in type-II diabetics. He also tried to clear misconceptions about insulin treatment. It is thought of as the last stage of treatment, although it is actually the first stage at which diabetics must learn to manage the condition. He also said frequent awareness programs are meant to empower patients to control the condition.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 18th, 2013.