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Dec 8, 2009

India plans to try Chicago man for Mumbai attacks

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – Indian officials said on Tuesday they were collecting evidence to charge a Chicago man with helping plan last year’s militant attacks in Mumbai that killed 166 people and reignited tensions with Pakistan.

The move comes after a team of U.S. federal investigators shared evidence with India this week against David Headley, an American national previously accused of plotting to attack a Danish newspaper for publishing cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad.

Dec 8, 2009

Lack of land adds to U.S. atomic firms’ India worries

NEW DELHI, Dec 7 (Reuters) – U.S nuclear firms said on
Monday they were worried land scarcity in India could further
delay a joint atomic deal already hobbled by policy holdups
over issues such as accident liability protection.

A 50-member U.S. business delegation this week is seeking
to push the implementation of the deal, which promises to open
up India’s multi-billion-dollar nuclear market to American
firms.

Dec 1, 2009

India tightens security at nuclear facilities

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – India has tightened security at its nuclear facilities, assigning a rapid response military team to complement civil protection measures after intelligence warnings the sites were a prime target for militants.

There are 22 nuclear reactors across the country, some of them close to crowded cities such as Mumbai, and guarding them is seen as a security challenge for a country of 1.1 billion people. Army officials told Reuters that this was the first time the country was strengthening coordination between its civilian forces and military to secure nuclear facilities.

Nov 26, 2009

Q+A: Key facts about the Mumbai attacks and their fallout

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – Exactly a year ago, 10 Pakistan-based gunmen attacked India’s financial capital, killing 166 people in an assault that led to a dramatic deterioration in relations between the nuclear-armed neighbors.

Here are some questions and answers about the attacks.

WHAT HAPPENED IN MUMBAI?

On the evening of November 26, 10 men landed on the Mumbai waterfront carrying automatic rifles and heavy backpacks stuffed with bullets and grenades for an attack that would transfix the world for the next three days.

Nov 26, 2009
via India Insight

Indian report raps politicians over Ayodhya mosque destruction

Photo

A government-backed inquiry has accused several of India’s top opposition politicians of having a role in the destruction of an ancient mosque in 1992 that triggered some of the country’s worst religious riots.The report has sparked political protests from opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which finds itself in even more trouble as it struggles to emerge from internal feuding after an election defeat in May.Hindu mobs demolished the 16-century Babri Mosque in the north Indian town of Ayodhya, claiming it stood on the birthplace of their god-king Rama. Riots between Hindus and Muslims left hundreds dead across India.The report, 17 years in the making, says some of India’s best known BJP politicians — including former Prime Minister Aal Behari Vajpayee and current opposition leader Lal Krishna Advani — did little to stop the destruction despite knowing of plans to demolish it.Here is our news story on the report and a Q&A explaining the background.

Nov 12, 2009

Australia reaches out to India with climate aid

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – Australia said it will invest $50 million to develop green technology in India in a sign Canberra is trying to bridge differences with New Delhi over climate change negotiations.

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd made the announcement during a visit that was also aimed at soothing bilateral relations strained after several Indian students were assaulted in Australia, sparking an outrage in India.

Nov 6, 2009

Q+A-How big a threat are the Maoists in India?

NEW DELHI, Nov 6 (Reuters) – After a resounding general election win in May, India’s Congress party-led government, no longer dependent on communist parties in its coalition, has decided to take on an estimated 22,000 Maoist rebels who hold sway over swathes of countryside.

Operation "Green Hunt" reflects growing concerns in India that Maoists are becoming too strong after a decades-long insurgency. [ID:nDEL182696]

India’s strong economic growth of the last few years did little to bring millions of poor villagers and tribals out of the poverty that helps act as the backbone of Maoist support.

Here are a series of questions and answers about the Maoists and their growing threat in India.

WHO ARE THE MAOISTS?

They started an armed struggle with a peasant revolt in Naxalbari village in West Bengal state in 1967 but were initially crushed by the Congress-led government. After regrouping in the 1980s, they began recruiting hundreds of poor villagers, arming them with bows and arrows and even rifles snatched from police and government armouries.

Indian authorities say they are led by Koteshwar Rao, alias Kishanji, who is in charge of militant activities, and Ganapati, the political leader. They remain hidden in dense forest bases and move around villages in remote areas.

HOW BIG IS THE MOVEMENT?

The rebels have an estimated 22,000 combatants in more than 180 of the country’s 630 districts, according to the government and the Institute for Conflict Management (IFCM), a New Delhi think-tank.

WHERE ARE THEY ACTIVE?

They operate across a "red corridor" stretching from the southern state of Andhra Pradesh to the central state of Chhattisgarh and into West Bengal.

HOW DO THEY GET ARMS?

They are in touch with other militant groups operating in India, including groups in Kashmir and the northeast, who help them. Police say they are equipped with automatic weapons, shoulder rocket launchers, mines and explosives.

HOW BIG A THREAT ARE THEY TO INDIA’S STABILITY?

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has described the insurgency as the biggest internal security challenge since independence. More than 1,000 attacks were recorded last year, and the Maoists regularly attack railway lines and factories, aiming to cripple economic activity. Police believe they have started to make inroads into cities and other urban areas.

(Editing by Sugita Katyal)





Nov 6, 2009

Villagers flee war zone as India battles Maoists

LALGARH, India, Nov 6 (Reuters) – Babulal Mahato hides in paddy fields each night in an eastern Indian village as security forces carry out search operations for Maoist supporters.

Along with dozens of villagers in West Bengal state, 85-year-old Mahato does the same when the Maoists come to the village.

"I am too old, so I hide," said Mahato, his eyes weary after spending many sleepless nights outside.

"Many villagers have already left their homes and fled, fearing getting caught between the Maoists and police."

In Lalgarh, a cluster of 150 villages, daily rebel ambushes, police raids and civilians caught in the middle may be a sign of things to come as the government prepares an offensive against Maoist insurgents.

Federal and state police in armoured vehicles scour nearby jungles, a signal of the start of India’s bid to stem a growing decades-long insurgency.

After a resounding general election win in May, the Congress party-led government, no longer dependent on communist parties in its coalition, has decided to take on an estimated 22,000 Maoist rebels who hold sway over swathes of countryside.

Operation "Green Hunt" reflects growing concerns in India that Maoists were becoming too strong after a decades-long insurgency. India’s strong economic growth of the last few years did little to bring millions of poor villagers and tribals out of the poverty that helps act as the backbone of Maoist support.

In recent months, brazen attacks on passenger trains, attacks on mining companies and the beheading of a policeman have sparked national soul searching.

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee has warned Maoist violence was a drain on resources.

India’s politicians and rights activists now debate the planned offensive. Will it stem Maoist influence, or will it just inflame tensions as villagers get caught in the crossfire?

"Local people are at risk of being caught in the middle of the fighting, killed, wounded, abducted, forced to take sides, and then risk retribution," said Meenakshi Ganguly, senior South Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch.

Six months ago, Maoists, who say they fight for poor farmers, took control of Lalgarh, a four-hour drive from east India’s biggest city of Kolkata. They drove away government staff, destroyed buildings and forced police to retreat.

It was a takeover seen across hundreds of rural districts across a "red corridor" in central and eastern India.

"It is not a question of patrolling anymore. It is a question of engaging them, arresting them and killing them if fired upon," Kuldiep Singh, a senior police official in West Bengal, said.

It will be a risky task. In Lalgarh, rebels are playing cat and mouse, firing at police camps in surprise attacks.

"The people are with us, we are not backing out and the government of India will learn a huge lesson if they continue their offensive," Koteshwar Rao, Maoist military commander, said in a rare telephone interview from an undisclosed location.

INVESTMENT HURT

The Maoists started their armed struggle in West Bengal’s Naxalbari town in 1967, and have expanded their support among villagers by tapping into resentment at the government’s recent pro-industry push.

The Maoist insurgency has spread to 20 of India’s 29 states. While mainly confined to remote rural areas, it has hurt potential business worth billions of dollars in the mining industries in much of mineral-rich central and eastern India.

A partially constructed wall is all that remains of India’s third largest steel producer’s plans to build a $7-billion JSW Steel <JSTL.BO> steel plant in Salboni, near Lalgarh.

"We are not far from the area, so we are very worried and closely watching the situation," Biswadip Gupta, chief executive officer of JSW Steel’s <JSTL.BO> West Bengal operations, said. The Maoists attack railways and factories, hitting supplies of coal and iron ore exports. Steel projects in the state of Chhattisgarh by Tata Steel <TISC.BO> and Essar have been delayed.

In Lalgarh, police say they have arrested more than a 100 trained Maoists, but villagers say at least another hundred innocents have been detained, their huts destroyed.

"There is no development work in our area, while our women and children are being tortured by the police … so we have decided to fight the police with bows and arrows," Sidhu Soren, a tribal leader of the Sidhu-Kanu People’s Militia, said.

Experts say the Maoists always look for such opportunities.

"The Maoists are hoping the fence sitters will now move over to the Maoist mould," said Ashis Chakrabarti, senior political editor of the Telegraph newspaper. (Editing by Alistair Scrutton and Sugita Katyal)