India Insight

Window closing on Prime Minister Singh’s planned visit to Pakistan

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Thomson Reuters)

It is eerily quiet on the fenced border between India and Pakistan in the southern plains of Jammu and Kashmir. Farmers are planting paddy, you can hear the sound of traffic in the distance from both sides of the border, and sometimes the squeals of children. Overhead in high watchtowers that can be seen from a mile, soldiers peer through binoculars at the enemy across while in the rear just behind the electrified fence with its array of Israeli-supplied sensors, soldiers are strung out in a line of bunkers. It’s a cold peace on one of the world’s most militarised frontiers.

Now the young chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Omar Abdullah, wants to change that, by cracking open the border and allowing the movement of people and trade through a road and rail route that have been shut since Partition in 1947.

It can be transformative and he is not alone in trying to bring about such a change. Further down the border, the governments of the two Punjabs on either side of the border are moving even faster, building up infrastructure to handle greater trade through the Wagah checkpoint that has begun to flow since the two countries agreed to promote trade while trying to tackle long-running political disputes.

Even further away, far to the east the chief minister of Bihar state, Nitish Kumar travelled to Pakistan this month to build ties and was given by all accounts a warm welcome with his Pakistani hosts pulling out all the stops.

Kejriwal names his party, now it’s agenda time

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Thomson Reuters)

Now that we know the name of India’s newest political party, launched by social activist Arvind Kejriwal, let’s look at what else it might deal with aside from the annihilation of corruption.

Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi party (AAP) – the name means “common man,” with “aam” meaning “ordinary” (and also “mango”) in Hindi – hasn’t said much so far about the bread-and-butter political topics of the day. While Kejriwal’s India Against Corruption has spoken on a few topics such as the hanging of Mumbai attacks convict Ajmal Kasab, how would he deal with a hostile nation with nuclear weapons? In fact, what is his foreign policy platform?

Photo gallery: From Haridwar to Rishikesh, why you don’t stick to the itinerary

You may be ready with the camera equipment and travel gear, but what if the first sight of your destination doesn’t appeal to you? That happened to me when I reached Haridwar. The dirt and grime appalled me, and I wasn’t up for an “exotic India” photo op. Worse, the manager of an ashram refused to provide accommodation because I was a single male. The other lodging house guy I spoke to over the phone was equally reluctant and for the same reason.

Walking past the innumerable beggars and the drying Ganga river, I found a spot where a man was resting under a tree.

 

Disgruntled, I hopped into the next autorickshaw and reached Rishikesh, about 20 kilometres from Haridwar. The view cheered me up.

Zee News editors arrested in Jindal extortion case

(Updated with response by Zee News)

Two senior journalists of Hindi-language channel Zee News were arrested on Tuesday night in an extortion case filed by Congress lawmaker and Jindal Steel and Power Ltd Chairman Naveen Jindal.

Jindal released video recordings last month that he said showed the journalists trying to extort money from the industrialist in return for not airing negative stories on coal block allocations involving his company.

Jindal Steel and Power Ltd (JSPL) was among the companies named in a state auditor report as one of the beneficiaries of controversial coal block allocations which came to be known as “coalgate”.

from Photographers' Blog:

Meeting a modern-day Gandhi

Delhi, India

By Mansi Thapliyal

"I am Gandhi!" he says firmly. "His soul resides inside me," he announces, smiling unwaveringly.

I stare blankly at the man who is wearing a dhoti wrapped around his waist, thick black oval glasses and carrying a cane just like Mahatma Gandhi.

GALLERY: MODERN-DAY GANDHI

Two weeks ago, I called this man asking to meet him and he politely told me not to say "hello."

from Money on the markets:

Subbarao goes against his panel, again

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Thomson Reuters)

Finance Minister P. Chidambaram is not the only one walking alone.

Duvvuri Subbarao, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) chief, also seems to be on a solitary, and one hopes, contemplative walk.

It's not just the government putting pressure on the central bank to act and cut rates.

Is Kasab’s death enough closure in the Mumbai attacks?

“If you hear the sound of a bullet, kneel, and if you have to move, then crawl, don’t run.”

Those are not the first words you want to hear when you arrive to cover an assignment — but then this wasn’t just any assignment. I was at Nariman House in Colaba to cover the attack that came to be known as 26/11.

On Wednesday, four years later, that story finally got some sort of closure, after the lone gunman captured during the Mumbai attacks was hanged. But for those who were a part of those dark days of 2008, whether real closure will come because of this one act of justice is a tough question to answer.

No criticism please, we are Indians

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Thomson Reuters)

When I signed up for a Facebook account four years ago, a friend warned me it was “dangerous for your sanity” — of course, she meant it in terms of the time I would spend peeking into other people’s lives (She was right). But on Monday, for 21-year-old Shaheen Dhada, that phrase took on a whole new meaning.

When Dhada updated her Facebook status, complaining about Mumbai’s shutdown following the death of Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackeray, little did she know she would find herself in court pleading for bail after being arrested for “hurting religious sentiments”.

Aung San Suu Kyi’s India visit: Killing softly with her words

Myanmar’s pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi’s trip to India last week was more than a homecoming of sorts to a country where she went to school and college, and which shaped her political beliefs. It was also about repairing ties frayed by New Delhi’s abrupt decision in the mid-1990s to engage with the military junta in Yangon after decades of support for her campaign. She ended up reminding the world’s largest democracy of how far it had strayed away from the ideals of the father of the nation, Mahatma Gandhi, in the pursuit of realpolitik.

For a country which has prided itself on something bordering on “Indian exceptionalism”, and fighting for equality and non-discriminatory policies on the global stage as well as the voice of the downtrodden in the initial decades since it won independence in 1947, the gentle admonishment from Suu Kyi must have rankled. Gandhi wouldn’t have countenanced such a policy shift towards a military regime that brutalised its own people, she said, whatever the compulsions. She was saddened that India had taken a path different from hers, despite their shared colonial history and close ties between the independence leaders of the two countries, she told The Hindu in an interview ahead of the trip.

It’s one thing to be pilloried by your own people and an unrestrained press about the rot that has set deep into Gandhi’s India; it is another for a foreigner to be telling a proud democracy  that it wasn’t living up to its own legacy.

Woman’s death poses tough abortion questions for India and Ireland

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Thomson Reuters)

The death of a 31-year-old Indian woman in Ireland after doctors refused to give her an abortion has sparked protests in her home country of India as well as in Ireland.

Activists in Ireland said that ending Savita Halappanavar’s pregnancy could have saved her life. She died of septicaemia following a miscarriage 17 weeks into her pregnancy. Her family believes that the delay in removing the foetus contributed to the blood poisoning.

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