India Insight

from Summit Notebook:

Infrastructure still top-of-mind in India

INDIA/
On Monday, we kick-off the 2010 India Investment Summit. We'll have exclusive interviews in Mumbai and Bangalore. In 2006 we held the first Reuters India Investment Summit. It was my first time in India. I've had the privilege to return every year. How time flies. Here we are four years later. Some of the key players may have changed but the big, over-arching theme is still the same: Infrastructure. It's the key to realizing the country's potential but bureaucracy, tough financing and hesitant overseas investment have slowed development in the sector, calling into question the future of India as a powerhouse.

India has had only mixed success in its efforts to accelerate construction of roads, bridges and power plants. The statistics are mind-blowing...the country is growing at 8.5% and has a population of 1.2 billion that is making a mad-dash from the countryside to sprawling cities. Call them growing pains...in India's expanding cities there is an acute need to speed project approvals, implement new financing models and attract overseas investment for much needed infrastructure. But, while the business opportunity is tremendous investors looking to India as a way to play the emerging markets are wary given the history of missed deadlines and red tape that makes getting projects completed a challenge.

Is red tape getting better or worse? Which sectors are attracting most interest? How do returns compare with similar projects globally? How do sector companies attract foreign investment in large projects? Are the challenges forcing investors and developers to look overseas instead?

These topics and more will be the key points of discussion at the Reuters India Investment Summit in Mumbai and Bangalore September 27-29.

To read our exclusive stories and analysis starting September 27 copy and paste the link below to your browser:
www.reuters.com/summit/IndiaInvestment10

Filling the gap one brick, one hospital bed at a time

Two stories this week stand out as examples of how entrepreneurs in India are doing what the government and the private sector have largely failed to do.

A woman carrying a child walks past a construction site on the outskirts of Hyderabad February 26, 2010. REUTERS/Krishnendu Halder/FilesOne is on housing, the other on healthcare, hot-button topics in India, which is struggling to house and heal its 1.1 billion population even as it gallops toward double-digit growth.

Various state governments and real estate firms have made lofty promises of “affordable housing”, but few have delivered.

from Photographers' Blog:

Come, fall in love

I first encountered the 52-year-old Maratha Mandir movie theater while I was on one of my walks to explore Mumbai. Being new to the city, I do this often. It was just a casual walk down the lanes of the city when I saw a huge billboard promoting a film outside the cinema. The billboard proudly advertised it as the longest-playing film in Indian history.

A cinema goer buys a ticket for Bollywood movie "Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge" (The Big Hearted Will Take the Bride), starring actor Shah Rukh Khan, inside Maratha Mandir theatre in Mumbai July 11, 2010.   REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui

The film "Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge" (The Big Hearted Will Take the Bride), starring Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan, is a simple romantic film shot in Europe and India, where a boy meets a girl and falls in love with her - girl is about to get married in India - boy takes the journey from Europe to India to win her over.

I still remember when the film was released in 1995, it became an instant hit amongst the youth. Fifteen years down the line it’s unthinkable that people still love to watch it and in a cinema to boot!

Rail lifeline shows Mumbai commuters no mercy

By Arun George

The agitation by motormen on Mumbai’s suburban railway is not the first the city has seen in recent times.

Commuters cross railway tracks in Mumbai May 4, 2010. REUTERS/Arko DattaBut it has been among the worst with chaos in the city as people tried to deal with the sudden absence of the arterial transport system.

Even the trial of Mohammad Ajmal Kasab, the sole gunman arrested in the 2008 Mumbai attacks, was not spared. Staff working in the court could not reach on time.

Is the Kasab verdict a victory for India’s judiciary?

Almost a year and a half since the 2008 Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people, Ajmal Kasab, the lone gunman captured during the three-day rampage, has been sentenced to death by a special court.

“He shall be hanged by the neck till he is dead,” Judge M.L. Tahilyani said at a special court as Kasab sat with his head bowed, occasionally wiping his eyes with the back of his hand and then covering his ears with his fingers.

The judgement was hardly surprising given the accused pleaded guilty during the course of the trial (although he later retracted) and more than 650 witnesses testified against Kasab, backed by video grabs of him walking around the attack site with an AK-47 rifle in hand.

from FaithWorld:

Mumbai gunmen denied Muslim burial secretly interred in January

Remember the issue of what to do with the corpses of the nine attackers killed during the November 2008 siege of the Taj Mahal Hotel and other targets in Mumbai that killed 166 people? The dead attackers were all presumed to be Pakistani Muslims, like the sole survivor, but local Indian Muslim leaders refused to let them be buried in their cemeteries. Islamabad ignored calls to take the bodies back. So they were left in morgue refrigerators in Mumbai, presumably until the issue was finally settled.

kasab

Sole surviving attacker, Mohammed Ajmal Kasab, in police custody in this undated video grab shown by CNN IBN Television channel on February 3, 2009/CNN IBN

FaithWorld was deluged with comments after we asked if the bodies should be cremated and the ashes spread at sea. A surprising number of them suggested the bodies should be desecrated, thrown to the dogs or dumped at the Pakistani-Indian border. The discussion tapered off and the issue seemed to have been forgotten.

Pune blast: What next for India-Pakistan dialogue?

INDIA-BLAST/Less then two weeks before India and Pakistan are to restart a semblance of dialogue suspended in the wake of the Mumbai attacks, comes another blast in neighbouring Pune.

It is being called a terror attack but no group has so far claimed responsibility or been identified.

It could be a homegrown group or one supported from outside.

Either way it turns out, it is going to affect the talks.

Pakistan wants the Kashmir issue to be on the dialogue agenda while India wants to focus on “terrorism“.

Time for India to start talking to Pakistan?

It has been more than a year since the 26/11 attacks on Mumbai and many commentators have been advocating restarting the peace process between India and Pakistan.

Is the time ripe?

The pKASHMIR/rocess that seemed to have restarted with Sharm-al-Sheikh statement stalled after the outcry in India over the statement’s drafting and the subsequent revelations about David Headley.

But a major development since has been Obama’s new strategy for Afghanistan which involves a troop surge and announcement of a tentative withdrawal date around July 2011.

India’s 26/11 – religion no bar

A year ago, after the three-day siege of Mumbai ended and people took to the streets with candles and banners, a group of young Muslim men, carrying a hand-written poster, walked quietly with the surging crowds.

Seeing them, people began to clap spontaneously, applauding their assertion that Islam was a religion of peace, and not terrorism.

Since then, people in Mumbai, which has witnessed some of the worst communal riots in the country in the past, have come together in their grief, crossing barriers erected by politicians in the name of religion.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

India and Pakistan: the changing nature of conflict

Early last year a group of Indian and Pakistan retired generals and strategic experts sat down for a war-gaming exercise in Washington. The question, predictably enough, was at what point during a conventional war, would the generals in Rawalpindi GDQ reach for the nuclear trigger.

In the event, the simulated war took on an unpredictable turn, which in some ways was more illuminating than the question of nuclear escalation, as columnist Ashok Malik writes in The Great Divide:India and Pakistan, a collection of essays by experts on both sides of the border.

The exercise begins with an Indian military strike on militant camps in Pakistani Kashmir, the most commonly envisaged scenario for the next India-Pakistan war.  But the Pakistan response defies conventional logic . They don't order a military push into Indian Punjab and Rajasthan, they don't even attack Bombay High, the most valuable Indian oil asset in the Arabian Sea, and well within striking distance of the Pakistani Air Force.

  •