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Posts Tagged ‘New Delhi

Indian PM vows to punish corrupt officials

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NEW DELHI: India’s embattled prime minister defended his government Wednesday against a string of corruption scandals, saying that he took the allegations seriously and would punish anyone involved, no matter their position.


India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s government has been wracked by allegations that Cabinet ministers and ruling party officials orchestrated shady deals over the sale of cellular phone licenses, presided over faulty preparations for the Commonwealth Games and were involved in other alleged scams that cost the government billions of dollars.

The scandals have dominated politics in India for months. The entire winter session of parliament was paralysed by the opposition amid demands for the establishment of an independent investigative body, which Singh refused.

Singh told reporters during a news conference Wednesday that the guilty would be punished.

“I wish to assure you, and I wish to assure the country as a whole that our government is dead serious in bringing to book all the wrongdoers, regardless of the positions they may occupy,” he said.

He denied any personal connection to the scandals, and expressed concerns that the nation’s image was being badly tarnished.

“We are weakening the self confidence of the people of India. I don’t think that is in the interest of anybody that is in our country. We have a functioning government…we take our job very seriously. We are here to govern and govern effectively,” he said, mildly chiding reporters for focusing so heavily on the scams.

“India as a whole has to march forward,” he said.

India’s Republic Day clouded by tensions in held Kashmir

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NEW DELHI: India celebrated its Republic Day Wednesday under heavy security, with tensions running high in held Kashmir over efforts by Hindu nationalists to hold a rally in the troubled region’s state capital.

Security was especially tight in New Delhi where large sections of the capital were sealed off for the annual parade of military hardware that provides the centrepiece for the nationwide celebrations.

Around 35,000 police personnel, including 15,000 members of the paramilitary forces and elite National Security Guard, were deployed across New Delhi for the event, which is always considered a possible target of militant attack.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was the guest of honour.

Snipers manned rooftops along the route of the parade, while helicopters and unmanned surveillance drones monitored the area from above.

In Muslim-majority Kashmir, a strict curfew was enforced in the summer capital, Srinagar.

The streets were completely deserted apart from the large numbers of security personnel who manned barbed-wire barricades across roads leading to main downtown area of Lal Chowk.

“No procession or gathering would be allowed in any part of the city, today,” Srinagar’s district magistrate Meraj Kakroo said.

Authorities also jammed local mobile phone networks.

The Kashmir Valley is usually tense on Republic Day, but particularly so this year because of a drive by India’s main opposition, the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), to march to Srinagar and hold a special rally to raise the national flag in Lal Chowk.

Authorities had blocked road links between Kashmir and neighbouring states on Tuesday as thousands of BJP activists gathered on the state border, shouting nationalist slogans and waving the Indian flag.

Several senior BJP leaders were arrested after refusing to turn back, amid appeals by the Kashmir government and the federal government in New Delhi to call off the “provocative” march.

Kashmir has been riven by religious and separatist conflict for the last 20 years.

The BJP favours a hardline approach in the region, refusing any dilution of national sovereignty or relaxation of tough military laws that have been condemned by human rights groups.

Government ministers had warned that the BJP rally could trigger fresh protests in the Kashmir Valley, where at least 100 protesters were killed in massive anti-India demonstrations last year.

No death for Dara Singh in Staines case; SC upholds life term

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New Delhi, (PTI) In a setback to CBI, the SupremeCourt today dismissed its plea for death penalty to DaraSingh, convicted for burning alive Australian missionaryGraham Staines and his two minor sons in January 1999 whileupholding life sentence given to him by the Orissa High Court.

A bench comprising justices P Sathasivam and B S Chauhan,while dismissing the agency”s plea for death penalty, said thepunishment can be imposed only in the “rarest of rare” casesdepending upon the facts and situation of each case.

In the present case, the apex court said, the offencecommitted by the convicts, though highly condemnable, does notfall in the category of rarest of rare to warrant deathsentence. (More) PTI RB RKS SDG SC

Dara Singh and Mahendra Hembrom were found guilty of burning to death Staines and his sons, who were sleepinginside a van outside a church, at Manoharpur village inKoenjhar district of Orissa on January 22, 1999.

The bench had on December 15 last year reserved itsjudgement after hearing at length the arguments of CBI”scounsel and Additional Solicitor General Vivek Tankha andcounsel for the convicts.

Senior counsel K T S Tulsi and Ratnakar Dash, besidescounsel

Sibo Shankara Mishra, appeared for the 12 convicts.

Appearing for CBI, Tankha had told the bench that DaraSingh deserves death sentence as the murders were committed ina most “diabolic and dastardly manner” which warrantedexemplary punishment.

Dara had filed an appeal challenging his convictionand the life sentence awarded to him. The appeals wereadmitted by the apex court in October 2005.

On May 19, 2005, the Orissa High Court had commuted tolife imprisonment the death penalty imposed by the sessionscourt on Dara Singh for the murder of Staines and his twominor sons — Philip, 10, and Timothy, 6. Along with Dara,another person Mahendra Hembram was convicted in the case.

However, the High Court had acquitted 11 others whowere awarded life terms by the trial court in the case.

The trial court in Khurda had in September 2003convicted all the 13 accused. While Dara Singh was awardeddeath sentence, others were given life imprisonment.

Police target top official in Delhi Games probe

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NEW DELHI – Indian police said Thursday they had registered a case against the director-general of the Delhi Commonwealth Games, the most senior organiser of the tainted event named in a widening graft probe.


The Games were marred by venue delays and chaotic organisation

Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) spokeswoman Vineeta Thakur told AFP that police had registered a first information report against V.K. Verma, the first step in criminal proceedings against an accused.

Verma was director-general in the organising committee of the October 3-14 Games, headed by its chairman, Suresh Kalmadi, who was quizzed by federal CBI detectives for eight hours on Wednesday.

“Verma is named as the key accused in the case which we have registered against him and four companies,” she said, adding that the four Delhi-based firms were searched on Thursday.

Police said the case against Verma related to contracts, reportedly worth six billion rupees (133.3 million dollars), awarded for the refurbishing of various stadiums of the scandal-hit Games.

Verma and the companies are suspected of cheating, criminal conspiracy and violating India’s tough anti-corruption laws.

In addition to searches at the four companies named in the case, CBI detectives carried out searches at another 10 premises in New Delhi and its suburbs on Thursday, a CBI source told AFP.

Police have so far charged three lower-ranking officials who are now in jail awaiting trial, but attention is turning to top managers, including Kalmadi, for their role.

The Games, which were marred by venue delays and chaotic organisation, were also hit by claims of massive financial irregularities as the budget ballooned three times to an estimated six billion dollars.

The national anti-corruption watchdog, the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC), received complaints alleging up to 1.8 billion dollars of Games money was misappropriated.

A initial report by the CVC into the Games confirmed the use of sub-standard construction materials in a host of Games-related building contracts and deliberate cost overruns.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, seen as “Mr Clean” in his corruption-ridden administration, set up a panel after the Games ended to investigate graft claims. It is expected to deliver its preliminary report later this month.

The Games brought together 6,000 athletes and officials from 71 countries and territories, mostly from the former British empire.

Indian CBI finds evidence of forgery by army, civil officers

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NEW DELHI: The CBI has claimed to have found evidence of alleged forgery and manipulation of documents on part of some army officials and bureaucrats in the Adarsh society scam as it gears up to register an FIR in the case, reported Indian Express.

Highly-placed sources in the agency said that some of the documents seized by the CBI were indicative of some forgery having allegedly been committed by a few defence officials in criminal conspiracy with bureaucrats of Maharashtra government and private individuals. “The FIR in the case would be filed soon. We have a firm case now,” a senior CBI official said on condition of anonymity.

The official said a decision on registering the case under provisions of IPC and Prevention of Corruption Act would be taken once a clearance came from the legal department of the CBI. Coming under flak over alleged corruption and abuse of official position by senior defence officials, Defence Minister A K Antony had sought a CBI probe into the scam relating to Adarsh Cooperative Housing Society in which some senior military officers, including former army chiefs Gen Deepak Kapoor and Gen N C Vij and ex-naval chief Admiral Madhavendra Singh, had flats allotted in their names. daily times monitor

India and China talk trade deals and friendship, but they are bitter rivals

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Like tectonic plates grinding up against each other in the Himalayas, China and India are locked into a rivalry that is going to set the global agenda for decades.

For three days this week, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao visited New Delhi, signed trade deals, dined with Indian politicians and spouted the rhetoric of friendship.

“China and India are partners for cooperation, not rivals in competition,” he told an Indian business conference, after a Chinese trade delegation signed 48 deals worth more than US$16-billion.

“There is enough space in the world for the development of China and India,” Mr. Wen insisted.

But beneath the polite diplomacy and mutual compliments, India and China remain wary of each other, locked in a volatile Cold War-style rivalry that is filled with conflict, mutual distrust and resentment.

As their economies grow, the world’s two most populous nations – home to two-fifths of the global population – are competing for energy resources, food and opportunities. They have conflicting global aspirations; a 4,000 kilometre-long disputed border, a history of war and a decades-old struggle for regional influence.

When Mr. Wen arrived in New Delhi on Wednesday, Chinese engineers in Tibet were blasting through the last part of a mountain tunnel to link the last isolated county in China to the mainland’s main highway system.

China celebrated the feat as a nation-building marvel and broadcast the event on national television.

Indian newscasts, however, noted the new tunnel, in a region bordering the disputed northeastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, will now enable China to rush troops to an area, which Beijing claims is really part of Tibet.

In almost the same breath, Indian experts also note China’s stranglehold on Tibet gives it control of most of the headwaters of India’s main rivers.

New Delhi has long feared China may one day dam and divert those waters to replenish its parched western provinces and China has talked recently of diverting up to 200 billion cubic metres of water annually to the Yellow River from the Brahmaputra River, which enters India at Arunachal Pradesh, before flowing on to Assam and into Bangladesh.

“Simmering tensions over territory, overlapping spheres of influence, resource scarcity and rival alliance relationships ensure that relations between the two rising Asian giants will be characterized more by competition and rivalry than cooperation for a long time to come,” warned Mohan Malik, a professor at the Asia-Pacific Centre for Security Studies in Honolulu.

“The main objective of China’s Asia policy is to prevent the rise of a peer competitor to challenge its status as the Asia-Pacific’s sole ‘Middle Kingdom’,” he said. “As an old Chinese saying goes, ‘One mountain cannot accommodate two tigers’.”

The stark discrepancies between democratic India and authoritarian China were on display in New Delhi just two days before Mr. Wen arrived. In an effort to warn off Tibetan protesters preparing to demonstrate against Mr. Wen, a nervous Chinese ambassador, Zhang Yan, told reporters bilateral relations with India are “very fragile, very easy to be damaged and very difficult to repair.”

“They need special care in the information age,” he said. “To achieve this, the [Indian] government should provide guidance to the public to avoid a war of words.”

India’s Foreign Minister, Nirupama Rao, responded coolly but politely saying China has nothing to fear from India’s “vibrant and noisy democracy.”

Two events have permanently strained relations between Beijing and New Delhi – China’s 1950 invasion and occupation of Tibet and China’s defeat of India in a brief 1962 border war.

India now plays host to more than 120,000 Tibetan refugees, including the Dalai Lama, who fled Tibet in 1959 following a failed uprising.

China brands the Dalai Lama a separatist and insists he is using his base in the northern Indian hill town of Dharamsala to fuel rebellion inside Tibet.

After riots broke out in Tibet in March 2009, China’s government-controlled news media were filled with anti-Indian rhetoric calling New Delhi “reckless and arrogant” and warning India not “to misjudge the situation as it did in 1962,” when China successfully staged a month-long war against India all along their Himalayan border.

India still lives in the shadow of that conflict, resenting her defeat and complaining China illegally occupies 26,500 square kilometres of Indian territory.

“The wounds of the 1962 Chinese invasion have been kept open by Beijing’s public and assertive claims to Indian territories,” said Brahma Chellaney of New Delhi’s Center for Policy Research. “China continues to occupy one-fifth of the original state of Jammu and Kashmir. Its recent claim over the entire Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh and aggressive patrolling of the border region signify that China is not interested in maintaining the status quo.”

As a result, India has moved two army divisions close to its Himalayan border and built three new airstrips in the foothills.

“The India-China strategic dissonance is rooted not only in their contrasting political ideals and quiet rivalry but also in Beijing’s relentless pursuit of a classical, Sun Tzu-style balance-of-power strategy,” Prof. Chellaney said. “In order to avert the rise of a peer rival in Asia, China has sought to strategically tie down India south of the Himalayas.”

India has long resented China’s close ties to its traditional rival Pakistan, arming Pakistan’s military, helping Islamabad build nuclear weapons and promoting Pakistani claims to Indian territory.

But New Delhi has watched in frustration recently as China also increased its strategic assistance to Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Burma [Myanmar] – countries India always regarded as part of its sphere of influence.

Nearly 90% of Chinese arms sales go to countries located in the Indian Ocean region. In addition, Beijing has helped build ports in Gwadar, Pakistan, and Humbantota, Sri Lanka, as well as in Burma and Bangladesh, in what analysts have called a “string of pearls” strategy to build naval bases and military listening posts across the Indian Ocean.

The Chinese-built Gwadar port and naval base, near the entrance to the Strait of Hormuz and close to Pakistan’s border with Iran, is one of the world’s largest deep-water ports and could allow China to park submarines in India’s backyard.

It may also serve as the terminus for an energy pipeline taking oil from the Gulf region, through Pakistan, directly to China.

A similar pipeline is planned from a Chinese-built port on Burma’s Ramree Island to transport oil from Africa and the Middle East to the Chinese province of Yunnan.

“This effort to encircle India by sea with strategically positioned naval stations from Hainan in the east, to Gwadar in the west, and on land by promoting bogus Pakistani claims that undermine India’s territorial integrity, takes the ‘Great Game’ to a new and more dangerous level,” warned Jaswant Singh, India’s former defence and foreign affairs minister.

China’s rising economic and military power is driving formerly non-aligned India into seeking a loose alliance with the United States and its Asian partners (Japan, South Korea, Australia) to counterbalance Beijing.

But New Delhi has also sought to engage China, promoting its white-collar, services-led economic growth as a natural counterpoint to China’s blue-collar, manufacturing-driven economy.

Bilateral trade between the two Asian rivals has surged from a mere US$262-million in 1991 to an expected US$60-billion this year.

During Mr. Wen’s visit, the two countries set a bilateral trade target of US$100-billion-a-year by 2015.

But sharing their new wealth has also produced new tensions. China is India’s biggest trade partner. But that trade is skewed heavily in China’s favour, with China exporting almost twice as much to India as India sells to China.

Nearly 70% of India’s exports are low-cost raw materials compared with China’s more expensive manufactured goods.

It is no coincidence India has initiated more anti-dumping complaints with the World Trade Organization against China than anyone else.

“A Sino-Indian rivalry in southern Asia and the northern Indian Ocean may well be a dominant feature of Asian geopolitics in the 21st century,” Prof. Malik said.

National Post

pgoodspeed@nationalpost.com

India police raid minister’s homes in telecoms probe

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NEW DELHI – Indian police on Wednesday raided two homes of a former telecoms minister who is alleged to have sold off mobile phone licences at knock-down prices in a scam that cost the government billions of dollars.

A spokesman for the Central Bureau of Investigation said A. Raja’s residences in the capital New Delhi and in his constituency in the southern state of Tamil Nadu were searched by police.

Raja, who resigned last month, is accused of changing bidding rules to favour selected companies who were often ineligible to compete for the lucrative second-generation (2G) mobile phone licences.

The licences were sold in 2008 at cut-price rates that denied the treasury up to 40 billion dollars in lost revenue, according to the national auditor.

The scandal, which could prove to be the biggest corruption case in India’s history, has engulfed the Congress-led ruling coalition and is seen as one of the government’s most serious setbacks since it came to power six years ago.

In a campaign for a cross-party investigation, the main opposition parties have stalled parliament for weeks.

The government has refused to agree, saying that the police and state anti-corruption bodies are both investigating the sales.

Raja belongs to a regional party that is key to the Congress alliance holding onto power, prompting accusations that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was slow to act against him after the 2G sell-off.

Raja’s lawyer, T.R. Andhyarujina, told the Supreme Court last week that his client had only been following procedures established by previous ministers.