India Insight

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

India: should it take a gamble on Pakistan?

Some people in India are calling upon the new coalition government to make a series of bold moves towards Pakistan that will compel the neighbour to put its money where  the mouth is.

If Pakistan keeps saying that it cannot fully and single-mindedly go after militants on its northwest frontier and indeed increasingly within the heartland because of the threat it faces from India, then New Delhi must call its bluff, argued authors Nitin Pai and Sushant K. Singh in a recent piece for India's Mint newspaper.

How about Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, back for a second term, giving a categorical public declaration that Pakistan need not fear an Indian military attack so long as the Pakistan army is engaged in fighting with Taliban militants?  While a verbal commitment may not convince the military brass in Rawalpindi, it will likely play well in Washington as it rathchets up pressure on the Pakistan army to take the battle to the militants.

Second and to back up its assurance, India could move some of the army strike formations from the international border with Pakistan in Punjab and Rajasthan. "Such a bold, strategic move will not only make India's verbal assurances credible, but it will also immediately result in irresistible pressure on the Pakistani army to commit more of its troops to the western border," the authors wrote in the Mint piece.

Clearly, the aim of such a peace gamble is to expose the contradiction within the Pakistani position, force them to either go full throttle after militant groups, some of whom are suspected to be tied to its intelligence agencies, or  face America's wrath.

Independents speak softly, carry a big placard

It’s 7.30 am, but the small band of supporters of Meera Sanyal, the ABN-Amro banker contesting the election as an independent in south Mumbai, is bright-eyed and raring to go, holding placards and shouting “Vote for Meera Sanyal”.

At the first stop, a housing colony of about 300 middle-class families, they disperse, some knocking on doors, others distributing handbills and chatting with curious residents getting ready for the day.

Sanyal, dressed in a traditional salwar-kameez and sneakers, folds her hands and introduces herself in Hindi, and seeks the blessings of an older woman: “I am trying to understand your problems better,” she says.

Treating the PM: A Public Health Initiative

It’s been four days since Manmohan Singh underwent coronary bypass surgery. The prime minister is said to be making “rapid progress” and is well on his way to recovery.

Back in 1990, Singh had bypass surgery in Britain and later underwent angioplasty at a private hospital.

But this time, he chose to be admitted to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in New Delhi rather than go abroad or enter a private facility.

Is India playing its hand well over Mumbai?

It has been a tense game of poker between India and Pakistan since the Mumbai attacks. On the face of it, India had the much stronger hand — not least because it captured one of the attackers alive and got him to confess to being trained in Pakistan.

But has it played its cards well?

Some analysts say India overplayed its hand in the initial days after the attack by saying the military option remained open.

That allowed Pakistan to cloud the issue and raise the spectre of an Indian military strike — neatly uniting the country behind the army and against India.

An evil “disease”? Gay activists fight govt. in High Court

On June 29 of this year, hundreds of gays, lesbians and transsexuals danced and sang on the streets of three Indian cities, hoisting the rainbow flag on the country’s first nationally coordinated gay pride day.

gay1.jpgThough they waved slogans such as “gay and loving it”, many still wore masks – afraid to openly campaign against the dreaded Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which has banned “unnatural” sex since colonial times.

So where do the protesters find themselves nearly four months later, as gay activists battle a (divided) government to scrap the law, taking the case to the Delhi High Court?

Fix politics before it hurts democracy

As a financial journalist, covering politics and parliamentary debate is sometimes part of my job. What I witnessed on Tuesday in parliament — wads of cash being flashed around inside the lowerhouse– is something I had never bargained for.

sg.JPGThe civil-nuclear deal with the United States will go through, and some reforms may be pushed by the government with the help of
its new allies. But politics will never be the same again, tainted by allegations of bribery and a vulgur display of money power.

Shortly after his government won a convincing victory in parliament, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said the victory sent a message to the world that “India’s head and heart was sound and India is prepared to take its rightful place in the comity of nations.”

Thank Sonia Gandhi’s lucky stars, astrologers say as govt wins trust vote

Much as he tries astrologer Rajan Chopra can’t keep the pride out of his voice as he speaks to me for the second time in 24 hours.

parrot1.jpg It’s victory march at 7 Race Course Road after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh wins a closely-fought vote of confidence 275 to 256 in parliament and the temptation for Chopra to say “I told you so” is overwhelming. But Chopra, a political and corporate astrologer who predicted yesterday that the government would win the trust vote, says “it’s a victory for astrologers as well”.

If popular predictions are anything to go by then stargazers say the strong Saturn in Congress President Gandhi’s astrological chart is to be thanked for the government’s victory and the Congress party will be wise to look heaven wards for further guidance before general elections next year.

Jury still out on Indo-U.S. “unclear” deal

US President Bush raises his glass for a toast with Indian Prime Minister Singh at an official dinner …US President Bush raises his glass for a toast with Indian Prime Minister Singh at an official dinner …You could be forgiven for thinking that the civilian nuclear deal with the United States is all about whether India holds early elections or not.

Every newspaper is speculating if Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who has staked his personal reputation on the deal, will resign to disassociate himself from an administration that failed to save a pact keenly watched by the world.

But are these the arguments India should be debating in the short-term or should we be discussing the real benefits and drawbacks of the deal?

Crude realities for India’s economy

sg1.JPGOnly last year Indian policymakers were showing off the strong fundamentals of the economy to the world and pressing for a seat at the high table of global fora. Everything was going well — high growth, a surging stockmarket and a lot of attention from global investors attention.

But high oil prices and rising inflation threaten to bring the India growth story to its knees. Finance Minister PalaniappanChidambaram’s speech at a meeting of oil producing and consuming nations in Jeddah on Sunday showed the cracks in India’s confidence levels.

No doubt oil prices have spiralled, threatening the economic gains made by developing countries, as Chidambaram said in his speech.

Where there is smoke in Congress — is there fire?

Sonia Gandhi at Bangalore rallyMurmurs of discontent have risen in some ranks of the ruling Congress about the influence of the Gandhi dynasty in the party.

Human Resource Development Minister Arjun Singh criticised last week how decision-making within Congress was made in a “narrow context” — meaning the Gandhis. He quickly backtracked by swearing loyalty to the family, but only after being publicly snubbed by Sonia Gandhi.

This came amid a controversy over Rahul Gandhi’s very public trips around India — leading to him being called “Crown Prince”. Some said he was overshadowing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

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