24Mar/150

India Girds Up Loins to Unveil Africa Agenda

India Girds Up Loins to Unveil Africa Agenda
A few days back in an interview with a TV channel, former National Security Adviser Shiv Shankar Menon lauded Narendra Modi’s foreign policy that was able to project India’s stand more “vigorously.” He said that there “has been more activity” on the foreign policy front. Indeed, in the past more than 10 months in office, Modi has himself traveled to as many as 10 countries – one for only multilateral talks (Brazil for the BRICS summit), two for multilateral-cum-bilateral talks (Myanmar and Australia) and the rest purely for the bilateral purposes. In between this, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj has also visited several countries and has held in New Delhi a major conclave of ambassadors and high commissioners posted in Indian missions abroad. Besides pushing neighborhood policy, ‘Act East’ policy and holding two summit-level meetings with the US, India also attempted to do away with years of neglect of the Indian Ocean region. Modi's just concluded visit to Seychelles, Mauritius and Sri Lanka, is a case in point.

India's Assistance to Africa

Now preparations are on for yet another major foreign policy show; Africa summit, to be held in the later part of this year, will witness India’s full thrust on bilateral cooperation on economy, energy, defense, education and agriculture. In this three-day summit, attendance of significant number of African Union (AU) members is expected and in this regard “feedbacks” have started coming in from Africa-based India’s missions. Postponed in 2014 because of Ebola scare, the forthcoming summit will bear the imprint of Modi’s foreign policy architecture.

According to officials, advancing the spirit of south-south cooperation, India would use trade, investment, agriculture and education as a major “glue” to cement its relations with African countries. From the first summit in 2008 to second summit in 2011, India committed more than $10 billion in new funds for capacity development and human resource development of African nations. This time, New Delhi may hike the quantum of assistance to the African nations. Though officials have refused to divulge the details of assistance in figures, they indicated that it would be more than what was offered in the past two summits. In consonance with its approach for development-oriented assistance, they say that this funding would largely be made through its line of credit (LOC) mechanism. More than 80 per cent of assistance has been offered to Africa under LOC and they have been offered for setting up of hydropower plants, solar power stations, railway projects and others.

Some African nations who have availed Indian assistance through LOCs:

1. Kenya and Mali for construction of transmission lines
2. Burundi, the Central African Republic and Congo for construction of hydropower plants
3. Niger for solar power plants
4. Ethiopia, Sudan and Mozambique for energy sector projects

Defense and Oil Deals

In 2014, Mozambique – an Indian Ocean country, signed an MoU with India for cooperation in the oil and gas sector for five years. In Mozambique's Rovuma Area1, Indian companies ONGC, Videsh Ltd, Oil India and Bharat Petroleum have 30 per cent stake. It should be noted that Africa accounts for 9.5 per cent of the world’s proven oil reserves and 12 per cent of the world’s production. Given this, Indian oil companies’ attempts have been to partner with oil companies of Africa for energy security.

Since 2006, Africa is also a close defense partner of India. Both are working together on the issue of maritime security of Indian Ocean. In fact, India is looking for a strong defense engagement with Mozambique, Tanzania, Kenya, South Africa, Mauritius and Seychelles – all Indian Ocean nations – for security of sea lanes and marketing products made in India.

What to Expect From 2015 India-Africa Forum Summit?

This summit will likely be different not just in terms of larger size of assistance for infrastructure development and capacity development purposes. It will be different because India is likely to push for agriculture as the mainstay of its engagement with African nations. At the last India-Africa summit in Addis Ababa, New Delhi had spelled out enhanced cooperation to Africa for agricultural productivity and food security, but it could not move in `the desired manner. At the forthcoming Africa summit, India will lay a new roadmap for engagement with Africa through agriculture where emphasis will be laid on water-management, irrigation, use of advanced farming technology and high-yielding seeds for food productivity. Out of 49 sub-Saharan nations, 44 are net food importers. “Feedback that we are getting from these African nations is that they want to replicate India’s Green Revolution,” a senior official looking after Eastern and Southern Africa in the MEA, said.

Positive Image of India

Notably, Modi is familiar with Africa. Besides visiting Uganda and Kenya in 2008 as the then Gujarat Chief Minister, he hosted several African leaders in the state for 'Vibrant Gujarat' summits. During his visit to Kenya and Uganda, Modi is said to have asked the leaders of these countries to send their students to the agricultural universities of Gujarat. It is likely that New Delhi may announce new schemes and scholarships for the study of agriculture to students from the sub-Saharan region. An argument is made that by encouraging agriculture as the framework of its foreign policy initiative for Africa, India may seize a big opportunity to create a positive image for itself by addressing the problem of food insecurity and malnutrition there. Dairy and poultry farming will be another area where India may announce a new roadmap for development assistance.

Officials maintain that India, despite lacking a big purse similar to China, has generated enough goodwill for itself. Secondly, with large Indian diaspora in Africa, India finds it easy to connect with the continent. India’s effort to promote people-centric projects in Africa has helped New Delhi in good stead. While China’s approach has begun to generate suspicion among Africans, India is highly regarded for its values and pro-people attitude.

On the basis of such sentiment, India wants to widen the base of its trade with Africa. It is currently the fifth largest trading partner of Africa. In the financial year 2013-14, the two-way trade stood at more than $70 billion. By 2015, it is estimated to touch $90 billion. Talks between India and South Africa for Preferential Trade Agreement are going on and outcomemay be finalized by the end of 2015 or beginning of 2016.

New Delhi wants same kind of trade agreement with more than a dozen African nations, including Angola and Sudan. In terms of investment too, India enjoys an enviable position in Africa. It stands at the 8th position among foreign investors doing business in Africa. But then, while Chinese investment in the continent is state-led, India’s investment is led by private companies. Now, Japan, too, is attempting to set up companies in Africa. However, it wants to do so in partnership with India as the latter enjoys a deep, historical connection with Africa. By holding the next Africa summit, the Modi government appears ready to further cement this connection, especially for its wider strategic interests.

By Shankar Kumar

5Feb/150

Modi’s foreign affairs doctrine

India has signaled that together with the US, it will play a greater role in the international affairs and create an environment of security in the Asia-Pacific region. Both joint statement and strategic vision statement issued during US President Barack Obama’s three-day visit, bore prints of India’s desire. “India and the United States are important drivers of regional and global growth. From Africa to East Asia, we will build on our partnership to support sustainable, inclusive development and increased regional connectivity by collaborating with other interested partners,” the Indo-US Joint Strategic Vision statement maintained. This robustness of New Delhi and the US partnership was supported by New Delhi’s decision to appoint S Jaishankar, India’s envoy to the US, as the new foreign secretary, replacing Sujatha Singh seven months ahead of her two-year term. Jaishankar is credited with several achievements in the past few months. He played an anchor role in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s America visit in September. As a part of high-level contact group he helped broker three negotiations between Indian and American authorities over the Indo-US civil nuclear agreement, which has now been given a commercial life. He also played a crucial role in Obama's recently concluded visit. The 1977-batch Indian Foreign Service officer, also a recognized expert on China, is looked upon by the Prime Minister as someone who could fit into many schemes he has drawn for the country’s foreign affairs.

According to the officials of the Ministry of External Affairs, since last year, it is the Prime Minister who has been taking all significant policy decisions. While several Foreign Ministry officials feared that going all along with the US might lead to rubbing up China the wrong way, Modi was firm that India would have to come out of its earlier mindset. For him, US is the best choice for India’s all-encompassing requirements. This clearly reflected the way the two countries set the clock right by signing a number of new deals during the visit of the US President, who was, in fact, given a king-like welcome on his arrival.

Thus, India showed its priority in dealing with the US. But this created a ripple in China. It viewed outlines of the Indo-US strategic vision statement as anti-Beijing. In the vision statement, both countries have emphasized on “resolution of territorial and maritime disputes through all peaceful means and in accordance with universally recognized principles of international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of Sea.” Chinese dailies like Global Times reacted angrily over such outlines, stating that the US President wants to split relations between China and India as well as India and Russia “in an effort to fulfill his strategy of a re-balance in Asia.” China’s foreign ministry, too, gave a broad hint that it was not happy with the joint vision statement. “We believe relevant disputes should be resolved by parties directly concerned, through peaceful talks and consultation,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said in a statement.

Despite this, New Delhi avoided giving any official response. Instead, taking opportunity of Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi’s invitation for the trilateral Russia-India-China ministerial meet, sent External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj to China to make the country’s position clear before the Chinese authorities. It should be noted that Sushma was the first high-ranking cabinet minister to visit China after Modi-led government was formed last year in May. In August 2014, the RIC meet had to be cancelled as Sushma was not able to travel to China. Scheduling problem was cited as the reason for the cancellation of her China visit. But then, her visit to China in the backdrop of the just concluded Modi-Obama summit, was seen a deft diplomatic move to convince Chinese leaders that India and China are an equal partner with both of them having a common stake in development and peace and in Asia. This possibility of a symbiotic relationship was broadly conveyed by her when in the course of the launch of the second India-China media forum in Beijing, she remarked, “As the two major civilizational powers of Asia, we should have confidence in each other to build on our shared interests.” Also, in the course of her talks with Chinese counterpart Wang Yi and later with President Xi Jinping, who had, in fact, breached the protocol to meet her at the Great Hall of the People, she maintained that India would not align with the US or any other international power to contain China. She announced Modi’s planned visit to China in May. It was deliberately done to assure Chinese authorities that Modi has not forgotten his promise. In July, during Modi’s first meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of BRICS summit in Brazil, the latter had invited the Indian Prime Minister to China to participate in the APEC meet held in November last. Chinese leaders, it is said, felt slighted after Modi could not visit China for the summit participated by all 21 heads of government and state, including US President Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

A seasoned player in the field of diplomacy, Sushma Swaraj had also taken her Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov into confidence on the issue of India’s defense and strategic relations with the US. Notably, during Vladimir Putin’s India visit in December, Modi had welcomed the Russian President with open arms. He had even gone to the extent of expressing India’s continuing and unconditional support for Russia in its trying times. “Times have changed, our friendship has not,” Modi had famously noted during his joint press conference with the Russian President. In that background, it is said that the Russian leader may not raise any issue that could appear unpleasant to India. At a time when Russia is facing sanctions and international isolation due to its invasion of Crimea and support to anti-Ukrainian government rebels, Moscow can hardly afford to put trusted friends like India into any discomfiture over its “new era” relation with the US.

Nonetheless, the RIC ministerial meet turned momentous in its projections and formulations. For India especially, there was a moment to cheer about as China and Russia decided to back its resolution about a comprehensive UN convention against terrorism. It essentially put Pakistan on back foot with global observers surprised at the fact that China threw its weight behind this resolution. Pakistan is China’s 'all-weather friend' but it shows that Beijing, which is itself facing the problem of Uighur-led terrorism in Xinjiang province, is not happy with Pakistan's handling of terror outfits that are said to be trained on its soil. This apart, what factored most for India at the RIC meet was Russia and China's approval of its application for the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation membership.

In any case, Sushma’s China visit shaped up on the expected lines. Besides soothing the frayed Chinese nerves on the Indo-US strategic relations and forthcoming Indo-US Malabar exercise, which will be joined by Japan and Australia, she had to do the spade work for Modi’s visit. It should be noted that the PM’s China visit will be preceded by his Germany visit in April. South Korea visit is in pipeline, although dates have not been finalized for this visit. In all, there is no ambiguity as to what Modi’s foreign affairs doctrine aims at. Development and peace are key agendas of Modi’s doctrine and he wants to persist with it in letter and spirit.  By Shankar Kumar

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1Feb/150

Obama-Modi Bonhomie Boosts India-US Ties, Irks China

It could have been indeed a ‘wow moment’ for the US President Barack Obama. As the chief guest at the 66th Republic Day Parade, he was presented with India’s best. Top notch military hardware was in full display as were cultural extravaganzas showcasing diverse traditions, customs and ethnicity of the country. He wouldn't have been a witness to such a splendid spectacle, perhaps not even in America where national parade is observed every year in July. And then, he watched all this for more than two hours by sitting under the open sky and that too, amid light drizzle. It explained President Obama’s keenness to infuse warmth and confidence in his country’s relationship with India. It also showed the US President’s objective of walking the talk with New Delhi to recover the ground both lost in the past out of sheer indecision and bureaucratic apathy. This intention of Obama became conspicuous the day he landed at Delhi's Palam Airport on a three-day visit. He was received by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who in complete disregard for the protocol, rushed there to give President Obama a warm hug on his arrival. This personal bonding that the two leaders shared between them did not fade away. Rather, it was pervasive during their talks on issues of bilateral and multilateral interests.

Defence Cooperation

The joint statement and the joint strategic vision for the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean region of the two countries categorically bore the imprint of camaraderie between two sides. In defense, the two countries acknowledged the need for technology transfer, co-production and co-development of high-end defense equipment. “The President and the Prime Minister emphasized the ongoing importance of the Defense Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI) in developing new areas of technology co-operation in the defense sector including through co-development and co-production,” joint statement issued by the two countries said. The discussion on defense cooperation between the two countries was carried forward when both the parties talked about upgrading the existing bilateral military exercises to multilateral exercises. However, it was the strategic vision statement of the two countries that appeared more assertive about their role in the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean region. “We will promote accelerated infrastructure connectivity and economic development in a manner that links South, Southeast and Central Asia, including by enhancing energy transmission and encouraging free trade and greater people-to-people linkages,” the Indo-US joint strategic vision statement said.
The two leaders called for resolution of territorial and maritime disputes “through all peaceful means and in accordance with universally recognized principles of international law”, which also includes the United Nations Convention on the Law of Sea. This created heartburn among Chinese authorities. Since China is involved in disputes with several countries around South and East China Sea and has also warned India from engaging in oil and gas exploration in the South China Sea, the Indo-US strategic vision statement gave Beijing enough reason to cry foul at the ongoing engagement. “We believe relevant disputes should be resolved by parties directly concerned, through peaceful talks and consultation,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said in a statement.

Nuclear Deal

But then Chinese authorities appeared equally uneasy regarding the US’ commitment to help India enter the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group(NSG), the Missile Technology Control Regime(MTCR), the Wassenaar Arrangement and the Australia Group. This commitment from the US came after the two countries broke the six-year-old logjam over nuclear deal. China, perturbed by the US pledge, responded in a recalcitrant manner, saying “prudence and caution” need to be exercised while supporting an entry to the nuclear clubs. It should be noted that in 2008 also, China had reacted angrily after India and the US had signed civil nuclear agreement. But for the US coercion and demarche issued by New Delhi, Beijing would have given a major blow to India’s demand for waiver from the NSG's rules for the implementation of the Indo-US nuclear deal. Having a veto power in the 45-member suppliers’ group, China was firm on its stand that India should not get exemptions from the NSG’s rules unless it signs the NPT (Non-Proliferation Treaty).
Almost six years after, Beijing seems to be adopting the same tactics to deny India entry into the nuclear club. “We believe that such inclusion should be conducive to the integrity and effectiveness of the regime and decision should be made on consensus,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said. Experts say India will cross the bridge when the time will come for its entry into the elite nuclear suppliers club. Nonetheless, Delhi is happy that it managed to win Washington to its side on the issue of commercial implementation of the 2008 civil nuclear agreement. With this, it also got Washington’s waiver from its demand to track fissile material it supplies to India. Ebullient Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, “We are moving towards commercial cooperation, consistent with our law, our international legal obligations, and technical and commercial viability.”

Clean Energy and Climate Change

On the clean energy, the US agreed to enhance India’s solar energy generation capacity from currently 3 GW to 100 GW. In fact, together with expanding and promoting energy efficiency, Americans want India to address concerns of climate change. “We very much support India’s ambitious goal for solar energy, and stand ready to speed this expansion with additional financing,” Obama said in a joint conference with Modi. It should be noted that Delhi is seeking investment of $100 billion over seven years to boost the country’s solar energy generation capacity to 100 GW. It is said that America’s EXIM bank is exploring projects for a $ 1 billion clean energy financing for companies willing to export equipment from the US to India. Meanwhile, what is heartening for environmentalists across the world is India-US joint commitment to work together for a strong climate agreement in Paris.

Economic Cooperation

Though the two countries did not sign any agreement on the economic issue, they have agreed to resume discussions on the pending Bilateral Investment Treaty, while setting up mechanism to deal with Intellectual Property Rights. On trade and commerce issue, the US has shown its keenness to increase bilateral trade from $100 billion annually to $500 billion. Obama himself bemoaned that while India’s export to the US is just 2 per cent, America’s export to India is only one per cent of its total global trade. To ease business environment, the US President sought reduction in red-tapism, bureaucratic restrictions and hurdles and streamlining of regulatory mechanism. His stand was for inclusive and sustained growth so as to make people’s lives better. As per prescriptions offered by Prime Minister Modi and President Obama, they wore responsibility on their sleeves to enhance bilateral economic engagement for betterment of their respective people.

Counter-terrorism

Add to this the fact that India and US have jointly declared to strengthen counter-terrorism partnership, which can have ramifications on the policy pursued by Pakistan toward India. In the joint statement, the two countries have highlighted the need for dismantling Pakistan-based terror groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, D company and the Haqqani group. Also, during Modi’s September visit to the US, the two countries had called for taking apart these entities. But nothing happened. In that background, it is felt that the US should pressurize Pakistan’s military establishment to do away with mercenaries of death and destruction who have found safe haven in that country. In any case, the hotline through which Modi and Obama have assured to link themselves, has triggered a speculation in the power corridors of the South Asian region about the two countries’ desire to play larger than life game in this part of the world. Whether it happens or not, the US President’s India visit and his unruffled bonding with Prime Minister Modi has imparted a shot in the arms of Delhi’s policy makers willing to see India’s economic and strategic rise.

22Jan/150

Expectations from President Obama’s India visit

India’s burgeoning economy and growing clout in Asia are enough reasons for the United States to further strengthen relations with the country. India, which is making a concerted effort at increasing its presence in the global arena, is looking at the United States as a reliable partner.

So, it was no surprise when the Narendra Modi government invited United States President Barack Obama as the chief guest on India’s Republic Day. This is the first time that a US President has been accorded such an honor.

Though there are speculations that many fruitful discussions will emerge from the visit and many important agreements would be signed but what is more important is the fact that today India and the United States share a much closer ties as compared to earlier times.

Major agreements expected in trade and commerce, defense, energy and climate change

Obama’s historic visit to India will have a positive effect on India-US co-operation in trade and commerce. During his visit, the President will hold discussions with the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi as well as senior officials and ministers, on a wide-range of issues pertaining to bilateral trade. Senior US officials have indicated that energy policy and climate change will be the focus of talks between the two leaders. Economy, defense, and regional and global issues are other areas in which the two leaders will hold high-level discussions.

Cooperation in defense

The United States has become a major defense partner of India but the current visit would be focused more on developing new weaponry rather than mere buying and selling of arms and equipment. India has taken particular interest in US defense technologies such as drones, carrier technology and others which would enable it to enhance its sea and air power. Apart from this, the two countries may also renew their 10-year defense framework pack during the US President’s India visit.  View Washington DC Map, capital of USA.

Civil agreements in energy and environment

In the energy sector the two leaders are looking at improving the supply of fossil fuels and inhibiting climate change. There is a strong possibility that India would urge the United States to back its efforts for the membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group.

Common concern on terrorism

India is on the hit list of major terrorism groups and is witnessing frequent attacks. In such a scenario it is looking at the United States as an important partner in the sharing of intelligence. The two sides are also closely working on cyber security.

Business ties to look up

The business leaders are looking forward to the visit and are hopeful it will have a lasting impact on the Indo-US economic ties. The Indian pharmaceutical industry is facing stringent scrutiny in the United States and is optimistic the visit will bring some positive news for the industry. The Indian IT industry is quite optimistic that discussions on the Indian IT industry would be taken up and the US government would relax visa restrictions for Indian employees.

So, when Obama along with Narendra Modi takes the salute on 26 January, India and the United States would embark on a new era of mutual trust, cooperation and friendship. View List of US Presidents.

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20Jan/150

ISIS: An effective propaganda machine

The organization has built a highly sophisticated propaganda machine which has been instrumental in realizing the twin objectives of the group – to inspire and frighten. The organization publishes a glossy and slick magazine ‘Dabiq’. This propaganda magazine is a perfect tool for the organization to recruit youth to its fold and expound its jihadist philosophy.

The magazine, which is a periodical, focuses on tawhid (unity), manhaj (truth-seeking), hijrah (migration), jihad (holy war) and jama'ah (community). Its highly informative stories highlighting the victories and philosophies of the group are accompanied by glossy photos of captured soldiers, hostages and militants in action. Many articles are a call to youth from around the world to join the jihad and dwell upon the return of the golden age, which can only be achieved with the defeat of the coalition forces being led by the United States. The magazine is, in fact, a perfect breeding ground for turning innocent minds into dens of hatred and revenge.   Know Anti-ISIS Coalition Countries

The group is also known for making bloodcurdling videos which in detail show the group’s military campaigns, beheadings of hostages and kidnappings. A few weeks ago videos had surfaced of ISIS executing Syrian soldiers. The ISIS had also released photos of a captured Jordanian pilot whose plane the organization had claimed to have shot down. Many of these videos contain hatred filled speeches calling upon followers to rise up and launch attacks on western military and police establishments. The group had paid glowing tributes to Man Haron Monis, the person behind the Sydney chocolate cafe siege, in its Dabiq issue and called upon followers to take similar lone wolf attacks across Europe. The ISIS has effectively used popular social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook to make attract youth as well as to ask for funds.

Punishing deserters with death

Notorious for killing its enemies, the ISIS has executed more than 200 militants who got disenchanted with the organization and wanted to return to their homes.. Most of the executed militants are Europeans who were initially impressed with the ideals of the organization but got disgusted when the ground realities unfolded before them. Many of the foreign recruits who made their way back to their countries told authorities that their aim was to fight for Jihad but were made to do menial tasks like cleaning and cooking.  Know ISIS Captured Areas in Syria

Funding

The ISIS has over the years built a huge corpus of funds, which has enabled it to emerge as a well-structured and highly organized terrorist group. Its huge army numbering from a few thousand to over 200,000 and a stockpile of highly advanced weaponry indicates that the organization is not short of funds. In fact, it is considered to be one of the richest jihadist groups in the world. A captured ISIS operative had revealed in mid 2014 that the assets of the group total to around US$2 billion.

The ISIS has resorted to several means to raise funds such as oil production, human trafficking and drug smuggling. It has been estimated that most of the cash has been stolen form Mosul’s central bank as well as other banks located in the region controlled by the ISIS. However, this was later refuted as locals said no bank was looted in the region.

Oil is a major source of funds for ISIS. The organization has overrun several oilfields in Iraq and Syria. It is estimated that the group is per day producing between 25,000 and 40,000 barrels of oil. The organization sells the oil in the black market to fund its war with the US.  View Islamic State Map

Alarming reports have also come in of the ISIS employing doctors to harvest human organs in Iraq and Syria. The doctors extracted organs from dead ISIS militants and shockingly living captives. These organs are then sold through the global trade route through Turkey and Saudi Arabia and earn enough cash for the ISIS to carry on its war.

With such resources at its disposal, the fight against the ISIS is going to be a long-drawn-out battle.  WBPB12012014

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17Jan/150

Obama’s visit may bolster bilateral defense partnership

India and the US may also ink an agreement on a new defense framework during the American President’s visit. If officials are to be believed, the new defense framework will be more pushy and ambitious than its earlier version signed by the then Defense Minister of India Pranab Mukherjee and his US counterpart Donald Rumsfeld in June 2005. According to them, the new defense framework’s agenda will include bolstering bilateral defense partnership and increasing the scope of joint military exercises. Also, collaboration in intelligence-sharing, maritime security and drive against terrorism and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction will figure in the new defense framework. Above all, the two countries, under the Defense Trade and Technology Initiative (DTTI), may give thrust to their joint-production and joint-development plan of high-tech defense technology like the next generation Javelin anti-tank guided missiles, MH-60 Romeo multi-role helicopters, long-endurance UAVs and 127 mm warship guns. With regard to military exercises, it is said, India and the US are likely to upgrade their annual Malabar series of naval exercise from currently bilateral to multilateral one, accommodating Japan and a few more countries into it.

On space, the two countries’ officials are working hard to give final touch to the NASA-ISRO programme on the launch of Synthetic Aperture Radar mission. This mission to be launched in 2021, may see inking of Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). Know the List of US Presidents

The US may take up intellectual property rights issue with India

Amid these issues, intellectual property rights appear to be more pressing agenda that American authorities may take up with their Indian counterparts during Obama’s visit. In this regard, the US wants India to complete negotiations on the long-pending Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT). The basic thought is that once formalities over the BIT are complete, more US companies would be lured into India, thereby transforming economic ties between the two countries. Initiatives like Make in India, Digital India and Smart Cities are looked as great business opportunities by the US companies. In fact, on the business front, the US appears keen to increase its trade with India to $500 billion a year from $97 billion in 2013. To this regard, a final picture would emerge during the forthcoming Modi-Obama bilateral talks.  Know More about US President Barack Obama

For the moment, hints coming in from Washington suggest that American drug companies with significant operations in India, are also pressurizing the Obama administration for raising their concerns with Delhi. Their stand is that India’s price-control framework hurts their margins. The country’s National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) recently added 52 drugs to its list of price-controlled essential medicines. American companies fear that NPPA bringing more drugs under price control would curtail their profit margins. Nonetheless, decks are being cleared, New Delhi’s Hyderabad House is being spruced up and arrangements for giving a warm welcome to President Obama are being fine-tuned.

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15Jan/150

ISIS: Unrelenting Barbarism

The recent capture of Mount Sinjar by the Kurdish Peshmerga forces, who were aided by US air-strikes, may be just one instance of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as or the Islamic State group) being beaten back in its aim of establishing the Islamic Caliphate in the Middle East. In reality, the terror organization is well entrenched and is growing in numbers and strength with each passing day. Area Captured by ISIS in Iraq

The year 2014 witnessed the frightening rise of the terror group, which in a short span of time came to control huge swathes of Iraq and Syria. As news began to pour in of the bone-chilling atrocities being heaped upon the captured soldiers, hostages, hapless people and women, US President Barack Obama launched air-strikes on the group in a bid to destroy it. However, these assaults have, as no now, failed to have any far-reaching impact on the jihadi group.

ISIS has built an extremely ruthless administrative system, a highly advanced propaganda machine and has a huge corpus of funds to help it keep going in its aim of establishing a world caliphate.

Recruitment

Reports have indicated that the ISIS employs over 2,00,000 soldiers. These militants are grounded in ISIS’ jihadist ideology and are provided rigorous military training which is at par with those provided by some of the best armies in the world.

Majority of the fighters come from the areas in Iraq and Syria that are currently under the control of the ISIS. However, influenced by the group’s ideology and philosophy, a large number of fighters have joined the ranks of ISIS from foreign countries. According to a United Nation’s report more than 15,000 foreign fighters from over 70 countries around the world are currently fighting on the side of ISIS. The group gets its share of fighters not only from Muslim countries situated in close proximity of Iraq and Syria such as Turkmenistan Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, etc, but a large number of fighters from far away countries such as America, Canada, Somalia, Korea, China, Germany, and France have also been reported to be in ISIS ranks.

The ISIS has mainly focused on recruiting men but lately women too have found a way in the organization. Women are being recruited through effective media campaigns. The organization is making starry-eyed promises to women that they would get loyal jihadist husbands and an opportunity to devote their life to their God and religion. Reports have also emerged of many women traveling to Iraq to marry militants.

There have been several instances where authorities have caught women in the process of leaving their respective countries to join the ISIS. French authorities had arrested a girl aged around 16 on grounds of attempting to go to Syria. Two Australian girls, aged around 15, and British twin sisters left for Iraq to marry militants. Apart from these, there have been several other cases of a similar nature.  Islamic State Map

12Jan/150

Famous speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr

Infographic on Martin Luther King Jr.

Infographic on Martin Luther King Jr.

More than four decades have passed since Martin Luther King, Jr, an icon of civil rights movements in the United States and around the world, fell to the bullet of a deranged and racist sniper. However, his voice championing an end to racial discrimination still rings loud and clear. King led the black community towards freedom from discrimination and inequality. Though this path was strewn with rocks, the blacks finally managed to cross every hurdle in their fight for emancipation, finally emerging triumphant.

I have a dream: Delivered on 28 August 1963 from the steps of Lincoln Memorial
In an era when the black community faced racial discrimination and exploitation, every African-American had a dream. A dream to live with dignity, to walk on the roads freely, to see segregated buses and housing being abolished, to see a United States where color would not be a hindrance in getting good educations and jobs and a world where the derogatory word ‘Nigger’ would no longer be uttered. King made the community realize that the dream could be realized if it fought relentlessly for its rights. Considered to be a masterpiece, the speech has been lauded by every section of the community, be it black or white, while the media has heaped praises on it. King delivered the speech on 28 August 1963 from the steps of Lincoln Memorial during his march on Washington. The speech is considered as one of the most defining moments of the American Civil Rights Movement and continues to be a source of inspiration for oppressed people around the world. Know more about Martin Luther King Jr

Beyond Vietnam: Delivered on 4 April 1967 in New York

Martin Luther King, Jr, was highly critical of the US involvement in the war in Vietnam. He severely opposed the policies that created grounds for the war. Unlike I Have a dream, Beyond Vietnam was negatively received by the public as well as the government of the United States. King delivered the speech on 4 April 1967 at Riverside Church in New York. The speech alienated many people who were King’s allies; it was also condemned by the civil rights activist who thought that the speech would hurt the cause of the nation. An Angry Lyndon Johnson, the President of the United States, canceled King’s visit to the White House, while leading newspapers such as Washington Post and New York Times carried scathing editorials against King, calling his speech a big mistake. Nevertheless the speech is another of example of King's independent thinking and great oratorial skills.

Give us the ballot: Delivered on 17 May 1957 in Washington, DC
Martin Luther King, Jr, was not only moved by the intense racial discrimination the black community had to face in all walks of life, he was also concerned about the facts that blacks were prohibited from casting their vote. In 1957, King delivered his famous ‘Give us the ballot’ speech asking to extend suffrage to the black community as well. This speech highlighted how extending voting rights to the community would positively impact the development of the country. In the speech, King said the call for the voting rights for African-Americans is not only morally right but would lead to a change for the better for all Americans. This speech and King’s relentless campaigns finally forced the government to pass the Voting Rights Act in 1965. This speech established Martin Luther King, Jr, as the number one leader of the African-American community.

The Birth of a New Nation: Delivered on 7 April 1957 at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery
This speech was delivered just a month after Ghana gained independence from the British rule. King was of the view that oppressors do not voluntarily grant independence but it is through the constant efforts and struggle that freedom can be achieved. King, who was greatly inspired by Mahatma Gandhi’s policy of non-violence, believed that the struggle to be free should always be peaceful and should never take a violent form.

Eulogy for the Martyred Children: Delivered on 15 September 1963 in Birmingham
This speech was delivered by King in memory of four young girls who were killed by bombing. The girls died at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham. Of the four girls, three were aged 14, while the fourth one was aged 11. Martin Luther King, Jr, paid tributes at the funeral of the three of the girls. The private funeral of the fourth victim was held at a later date. Talking about the girls, King said they had not died in vain. A man of peace, he called upon the grieving families of the girls to do away with the thought of vengeance.

Great March on Detroit

Thousands of people stood mesmerized as King delivered his speech during the Great March on Detroit. His inspiring speech highlighted the fact that the African-American community’s thinking about themselves has started to change. He stressed that now their mindset has become more positive and they have developed a new-found sense of pride and dignity. He also expressed a dream that he would like to see an America where there would be equality between the white and the black people.
The American Dream: Delivered on 4 July 1965 in Atlanta

This electrifying speech was delivered on the Independence Day of United States. It was a stark reminder to the nation that though it had been nearly 200 years since America achieved its cherished independence, the African-American community was still fighting for equality. Delivered just two years after his great I Have a Dream speech, in the American Dream, King shared his disappointment with the American people that his dream had turned into a nightmare. King said his dream lies shattered as he walks the streets of Chicago and sees young African-American men and women frustrated and desperate because they could not find gainful employment. His point was: even people working in menial jobs should earn enough to lead a life of dignity.

'Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community': King's fifth book published in 1967

Published in 1967, this was King's last and final book. In the book King analyzed the state of race relations in America. King was organizing a Poor People's Campaign to force the government to address the issue of poverty. Opposed to violence King criticizes the black nationalists who are opposed to non-violence. He predicted that oppressed people around the world would adopt non-violent tactics to combat America's economic colonialism.

I've Been To The Mountaintop: Delivered in Memphis on 3 April
This speech was delivered just a day before King was shot dead. The speech was regarding the Memphis sanitation strike. In the speech, King called upon the workers to live up to the nation’s cherished ideals. He called for unity, economic actions and boycotts but at the same time implored them to always take the path of non-violence. King had a premonition that he would die soon, and at the end of the speech he hinted at the possibility of his untimely death.

On 4 April 1968, King's voice was forever silenced by the bullet of a sniper. Addressing the crowd from the balcony of the room where he was staying, King collapsed on the ground after the bullet hit his cheek smashing his jaw. King was pronounced dead at the St. Joseph's Hospital. Though his voice was silenced but his ideals went on to influence the nation as a whole . Today, as we hear disturbing reports of black people still being racially discriminated against in parts of US, the need for following the teachings and ideals of Martin Luther King becomes all the more imperative.
Biography of Marin Luther King Jr

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10Jan/150

Martin Luther King, Jr – One of the greatest reformers

Martin Luther King, Jr

Martin Luther King, Jr

Martin Luther King, Jr, had famously said “I have a dream”. But many among the African-American community felt the dream being shattered when Darren Wilson, a white Ferguson police officer accused of shooting dead black teenager Michael Brown, was let off by a Ferguson grand jury.

It is a matter of debate whether the police officer had acted deliberately or in self defense but the case added fuel to fire. The black community already simmering with anger took to the streets and unleashed their fury on whatever came in the way. The violence witnessed huge damages to property, both private as well as government. The past few months saw other white police officers being let off for similar crimes giving the African-American community the impression that black lives matter little to the government.  Biography of Martin Luther King, Jr

As America continues to grapple with the issue of racism, one is reminded of the valiant struggle led by Martin Luther King, Jr, to combat racial inequality. Born in 1929, Martin’s initial name was Michael King. But his father changed his name to Martin Luther in honor of the famous German reformist of the same name, knowing little that one day his son would follow in the footsteps of the German reformer and become one of the greatest civil rights activists in the world.

King, who was greatly inspired by Mahatma Gandhi’s Non-Violent movement, used Gandhi’s strategy of using Non-Violent disobedience to make the US government realize the fact that African-Americans are an indispensable part of the American society and are entitled to civil rights at par with their white brothers.

Martin Luther began to make an impact when he led a highly successful non-violent campaign in 1955 against the racial policy of segregation in public transport of Montgomery. The campaign known as the Montgomery Bus Boycott started on 1 December 1955 when Rosa Parks, an African-American woman, was arrested for not giving her seat to a white male as per the law of the land. The campaign finally led the US Supreme Court to declare segregated buses in Montgomery and Alabama as unconstitutional. After this African-Americans were no longer required to vacate their seats for the white people. Famous speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr

King, who founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1957, led peaceful mass demonstrations in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963. The protests made headlines worldwide due to the violent police response on a non-violent movement. King was also instrumental in organizing the March on Washington’ in 1963 where he gave his speech “I Have a Dream”. The famous speech has no parallels and it established King as one of the world’s greatest orators.

Kings speeches have been so powerful and his movements so inspiring that in 1964 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for combating racial inequality through non-violence. He also led campaigns in Chicago against segregate housing. King was highly critical of the US role in the Vietnam War and in a speech titled “Beyond Dreams”, which he delivered in 1967, King vehemently criticized the government of United States for declaring war on Vietnam. His strong criticism alienated many white allies such as President Johnson. King also undertook campaigns against poverty.

King’s illustrious life abruptly came to an end at the age of 39 when he was assassinated on 4 April 1968 in Memphis. King was standing on the balcony of Lorraine Motel where he was staying when he was struck by an assassin’s bullet. However, King’s death did not go in vain. His campaigns and non-violent movements have enabled the African-American community to live with dignity. Today, racism has to a large extent been eradicated from the nation and blacks can be seen occupying top slots in the government, private sector, military and other walks of life.

Just a few days after he was assassinated, the Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1968. Today a number of streets, schools and public buildings are named after him. The third Monday in January is observed as the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. One of the greatest leaders of the civil rights movement, King was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. WBPB09012014

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9Jan/150

Paris attacks timeline

Wednesday 7 January

Gunmen wearing masks storm the office of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. The gunmen shouting "Allahu akbar”, spray bullets on the people present in the magazine. Eleven people are killed in the attack, including the editor and journalists.  Know Where is Paris

The gunmen make their escape in a black car and in the process shoot dead a Muslim police officer. The French police launch a manhunt.

The suspects are identified as Cherif Kouachi, 32 and Said Kouachi, 34, who are brothers. The third suspect is 18-year-old Mourad Hamyd. Later Hamyd surrenders at a police station in Charleville-Mezieres, which is a town located in Champagne.

French police surround the city of Reims, also in Champagne, in search of the two suspects.

Thursday 8 January

Police releases photos of the Kouachi brothers, the two suspects involved in the ghastly attack on the French magazine.

Meanwhile, French swat teams launch a manhunt for the suspects in Picardie region north of Paris. They are backed by helicopters. The police detain nine people for questioning. These are suspected to be members of the brothers' entourage.

Grenades and gunfire are launched on a mosque, a city in Le Mans, southwest of Paris. No causalities are reported in the incident.

A woman police officer is shot dead by an assailant on the southern edge of Paris. A street sweeper is also injured in the incident. The assailant is identified as Amedy Coulibaly.

The two brothers are seen at a gas station in the northern Aisne region. Police surround the gas station.

At 8 pm, lights go out at the Eiffel Tower in honor of the victims who lost their lives in the deadly attack.

Following the attack in Paris, Britain increases security at the ports and border regions.

Friday 9 January

According to French officials, the two brothers are on the run after stealing a Peugeot northeast of Paris.

A major operation is launched to arrest the brothers in Dammartin-en-Goele, which is about 25 miles northeast of Paris.

The two suspects are holed up with a hostage inside a printing firm. Schools are shut and people are told to remain indoors as security forces move into the small industrial town.

Meanwhile, several people are taken hostage by a gunman at a Kosher grocery at the eastern edge of Paris.

The gunman is identified as Coulibaly. Police link him to the Kouachi brothers. The police releases his photo and that of his accomplice Hayat Boumddiene, a 26-year-old female.

Coulibaly warns the police of killing the hostages in case the brothers are cornered.

The police launch an assault on the printing plant. Just before 5 pm, the two brothers are killed as they rush out firing. The hostage is freed.

A few minutes later the police launch an assault on the Paris kosher grocery. Coulibaly is killed. Around 15 hostages are freed while four are killed.

A member of al-Qaida's branch in Yemen says the group is behind the attack on the French magazine Charlie Hebdo.

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