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December 2008 - January 2009


Political News

News & Views

Assembly Elections in Five States

Jammu & Kashmir

High polling has been reported in Leh and Kargil districts in J&K. Security personnel have been deployed to prevent any person obstructing the people going to vote.

Quite a few polling stations were declared sensitive; meaning thereby that the separatists could create disturbances to stop people voting.

Chhattisgarh

It is believed thatThe Satnamis, a 35-lakh-strong anti-Brahmanical order going back to the early 19th century, holds the key to the s Chhattisgarh polls.

Delhi

The Election Commission is still not happy with V K Malhotra's explanation on breaking the model code of conduct. There is direct contest between Congress and BJP. Malhotra Vs Dixit.

Madhya Pradesh

The BJP is defending its majority. The Congress is determined to break BJPs power in this crucial State, if the Congress has any chance of forming a government at the Centre later next year.The BJP govt in Madhya Pradesh has alreay released its manifesto promising wheat at Rs 2 per kg to families living below poverty line.

Rajasthan

Elections on December 4. The State is controlle by the BJP uder Vasudhra Raje. The results are crucial to both the major parties.

Mizoram

The State is on the boil because of infitration from Myanmar and Bangladesh.

The results will be delared on December 8


Indian Navy in international water

India The helicopter carrying Indian commandos swooped in low over the distressed Saudi Arabian chemical tanker, firing its machine guns and sending three speedboats filled with pirates fleeing for the lawless Somali coast.

Twenty minutes later they rescued a nearby Indian ship, navy officials said, foiling another hijack attempt by a different band of pirates in east African waters of the Indian Ocean.

Tuesday's rescues, by forces based on an Indian warship patrolling some 2,900 kilometers (1,800 miles) from their home port, mark a significant step for the South Asian giant, which is determined to translate its growing economic strength into global military and political clout.

"India now has the demonstrable capacity to project force beyond its border," said Ashok Mehta, a retired Indian army general and leading strategic analyst, adding that this was the first time commandos had been used so far from Indian shores.

At the heart of this effort -- which has seen the country of 1.1 billion people become a nuclear power and actively campaign for a seat on the United Nations Security Council -- is a program to expand the navy from traditional coast guard duties to one of the world's largest sea forces.

Speaking at a recent conference, Indian naval chief Adm. Sureesh Mehta vowed that the navy would ensure "a secure and peaceful environment in the Indian Ocean region and further India's political, economic, diplomatic and military objectives."

In the process, India is acquiring the biggest visible symbols of naval power -- aircraft carriers -- and nuclear submarines.

India plans to have three aircraft carriers at sea in the next decade -- a refurbished Russian one and two made locally.

India is also leasing an advanced Russian Akula-class submarine and designing a homegrown version, the Advanced Technology Vehicle, which is expected to begin sea trials in the next two years after long delays as Indian engineers struggled to miniaturize their nuclear reactor to fit inside the hull.

India's attempts to secure nuclear submarines surfaced this week after 20 people were killed in an accident on a Russian submarine undergoing sea trials Saturday in the Sea of Japan. Russian and Indian media reports said the craft was destined for India, though the Indian navy refused to comment and Russia insisted the sub would be commissioned in its own navy.

However, India's navy chief said last month that a Russian submarine would be used to train the crews that will, eventually, man Indian nuclear subs.

India currently operates 16 diesel-powered submarines. Nuclear submarines, which can cruise undetected for long periods undersea, have been nuclear deterrents since the early days of the Cold War -- virtually assuring that a country that possesses them can respond to a nuclear attack.

In part, India's efforts are in response to moves by China. The two countries are increasingly competing for influence over vital Indian Ocean shipping lanes, and India fears China's large and increasingly sophisticated submarine fleet.

The U.S. military says China already has eight nuclear submarines, three of which are believed to be able to launch nuclear weapons.

While Indian and Chinese relations are the closest in decades, the Indian military also harbors a long-standing mistrust of China dating back to a brief 1962 border war in which China routed India's forces.

But even as it waits for its aircraft carriers and nuclear submarines, the Indian navy has been slowly expanding its scope of operations. It played a major role in rescue operations during the 2004 tsunami and sent warships to rescue Indians trapped in Lebanon during the 2006 war between Israel and the Hezbollah guerrilla group.

They have also embarked on a series of joint maneuvers with other navies active in the area, particularly the United States.

But Tuesday's missions against pirates marked the first time the navy had fired shots in anger so far from home to protect India's overseas interests.

The Indian warship, the INS Tabar, was dispatched to the Gulf of Aden in October after a spike in piracy and hijackings off the coast of Somalia, which is caught up in an Islamic insurgency and has had no functioning government since 1991.

As of Monday, there have been 83 attacks this year in Somali waters and 12 vessels, including a Ukrainian freighter loaded with tanks and weapons, remain in the hands of pirates. Many of the ships were Indian or had Indian crews.

While several other countries sent warships to the region, India was particularly worried. Much of India's trade and the energy supplies vital to fueling India's economy flow through those waters.

The patrols "are intended to protect Indian merchant vessels from being attacked by pirates and also to instill confidence in our large seafaring community," the navy said in a statement.

And it seems that Indian ships may become regular sights in faraway ports.

"We operate from the Strait of Malacca to the Gulf of Aden," said navy spokesman Commander Nirad Sinha. "Ours is a growing, developing navy


UK

Mobile Phones and Emails

Journalists’ “tools of trade” are the latest to be targeted by Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith’s plans to give the police and security services more powers

Mobile Phones and Emails – are to be the latest target in the Government’s proposals to fight crime and terrorism by setting up a huge database which collects so called “Communications data.”

While Ms Smith stressed the "content" of conversations would not be stored, the plans to collect more data on people's phone, e-mail and web-browsing habits are expected to be included in the Communications Data Bill, due to be introduced in the Queen's Speech in November.

If this giant database goes ahead it will mean that investigative journalists can be closely monitored.

Charter Institute of Journalists’ General Secretary, Dominic Cooper, said: “With the fiascos of personal data this Government has so far managed to lose, from people getting child support through to military records, this idea has catastrophe written all over it.

“There is no validity in the proposals. They are yet another intrusion affecting working journalists. That can never be acceptable. It is quite obvious that people can use such data records to know who, when and where a journalist is ringing and from that take action. That is a deep and fundamental threat to any journalist investigating wrong doing in a so called democracy.”

In her speech to the Institute of Public Policy Research on Wednesday (October 15 2008), the Home Secretary said that recording of Communications Data - data about calls, such as the location and identity of the caller, is vital to target criminals and terrorists.

Mr Cooper said: “The media provides some of the most critical comment on Government and there are no safeguards to stop powerful people from using this information against journalists.

“The police already have the opportunity to track this information for serious crimes and as Ms Smith pointed out they were used to convict Ian Huntley, for the Soham murders, and those responsible for the 21/7 terrorist plots against London. Why do we need more?

“The Police are already using every law they can think of to inhibit press photographers. These measures will only serve to track and potentially inhibit journalists even more.”


Defence Secretary in Afghanistan

The Defence Secretary John Hutton visited Kabul recently where he was briefed by the Commander of International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), General David McKiernan and his deputy, Lt General Jonathon Riley, the most senior British officer in Afghanistan.

Later, Mr Hutton met President Karzai and the Afghan Defence minister General Wardak. They discussed improving security and progress being made in Helmand, as well as the growing capacity of the Afghan National Army.

Mr Hutton had lunch with representatives for all the international forces operating in the south of Afghanistan, where he paid tribute to their combined commitment to the mission. He then travelled to Camp Souter, where he had a chance to talk with some of the British forces based in Kabul.

Mr Hutton said: "It has been a very useful visit which has helped shape my thinking about our mission in Afghanistan. We have made significant gains in the south considering the short time we have been operating there. We have undoubtedly paid a high price, as have other nations, which is why we must remain focussed on consolidating and building upon our successes.

"Afghanistan is key to the safety and security of the UK. We must take the fight to the insurgents or it will come to us. We must also support the Government of Afghanistan in extending its reach across the country and the UK government must work alongside international partners to ensure that we work as one. There is a need however for patience as it will take time to build the capacity of the Afghans."


Back to Tamil school for Lib Dem councillors

Lib Dem councillors and parliamentary candidates in Lewisham recently attended the Tamil Academy of Language and Arts’ Saturday school to see for themselves the strength and success of the Tamil community’s support for its young people in education. The Academy provides music, artistic and academic schooling for children from the Tamil community in the borough, which supplements the learning in schools during the week.

The Lib Dem team - comprising parliamentary spokesmen Cllr Alex Feakes (Lewisham West & Penge), Cllr Chris Maines (Lewisham East) and Whitefoot councillor, Pete Pattison – were toured around Academy by organiser Siva Pillai, who introduced them to students in classes of traditional drumming, dancing, music, mathematics and Tamil language.

Mr Pillai explained the Academy’s objective is “to raise the educational attainment of our students through supporting them and their families in providing access to a range of learning opportunities and cultural pursuits.”

“It was an excellent opportunity to see successful supplementary schooling in practice,” commented Cllr Feakes. “They have worked hard to support their community for over 23 years.”

“The Tamil Academy is a great example of how we can sustain a community’s traditions whilst at the same time helping them prosper in modern Britain.”

We will be looking closely at the financial and other support that Lewisham council provides to supplementary schools in the borough, as we recognise that organisations such as the Tamil Academy can boost the performance of their students in maintained schools.” said Cllr Maines.


Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords, delivered the first annual lecture in honour of General Bilimoria at the Nehru Centre on the 23rd October 2008.

The topic of the lecture was the thorny issue of “Identity and Spirituality in Multicultural Society”. Drawing on personal experiences as a first generation immigrant, Lord Dholakia confronted the often ill defined notion of multiculturalism and discussed the sometimes difficult relationship between identity, democracy and religion while demarcating religion from race.

During his speech, Lord Dholakia observed, “True multiculturalism…means taking a much more proactive stance towards combating racism and discrimination, really tackling inequality in all aspects of society – social, economic and in civic participation; positively valuing (not merely tolerating) the value and contribution of different cultures and perspectives, and treating them with respect”.

Concluding on a hopeful note, Lord Dholakia remarked that, “identities and cultures that have lasted for thousands of years cannot be blurred. What we all can do is to strengthen our resolution to be loyal to the country in which we live”.


Warsi: Young Muslim Advisory Group is another example of divisive state multiculturalism

Commenting on the launch of the Young Muslim Advisory Group of twenty two young British Muslims to advise the government on ‘Muslim issues’, Shadow Minister for Community Cohesion, Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, said:

“This is another example of the government engaging with the British Muslim communities on the basis purely of their faith. There are many issues that face young people: drugs, unemployment and housing, to name but a few.

“To select a group of twenty two young people, however talented they may be, to advise the government on ‘Muslim issues’ is patronising and deeply concerning.

“When will the Government learn that the Muslim community is not a homogenous block, and the issues its young people face are predominantly the same issues that all young people in this country face, whatever their background, race, or religion?

“Actions such as this are a continuation of the Government’s policy of state multiculturalism, which creates a more divided Britain.”


Bilimoria asks

“Where are the British Government’s priorities?”

London, UK – In the House of Lords independent crossbench peer, Lord Karan Bilimoria, asked the British Government where its priorities lay with regards to business, especially SMEs and entrepreneurs.

Bilimoria noted that with the appointment of Lord Mandelson three weeks ago, we have now had 5 Secretaries of State for Business in the last 5 years.

Bilimoria continued: “If the Secretary of States’ office at the Department for Business has been fitted with a revolving door, are we not justified in questioning the government commitment towards business?”

Bilimoria also questioned the government’s announcement of £4bn worth of additional funding for SMEs to help them through the downturn, when the net lending to SME’s totalled £5.7bn in the first six months of this year alone.

Bilimoria called for the Government to radically increase the Small Firms Loan Guarantee Scheme, pointing out that the £360 million the government made available last year was dwarfed by the $12.3 bn worth of loans the US’ Small Businesses Administration has backed in the same period.

He concluded “The Government led the world with its financial bail-out of British Banks. Today, it must apply the same boldness and resolve in securing our small and medium sized business, which are the heartbeat of our country, and the engine of our economy.”


Obama’s comments welcomed

S (Washington, D.C.) - Members of the Hindu American Foundation, a leading human rights group, welcomed Senator Barack Obama's comments on Fox News yesterday, that Pakistan is misusing U.S. aid in "preparing for a war against India." In the interview with Bill O'Reilly on the nationally viewed telecast, Sen. Obama went on to state that he would ensure that American aid was used against terrorists and not India.

"Pakistan for too long enjoyed a free pass as the Musharraf regime played a dirty double game of ignoring the resurgent Taliban while enjoying the Bush Administration's largesse as it carried out its proxy war against India," said Ishani Chowdhury, Director of Public Policy at the Foundation's D.C. area headquarters. "Sen. Obama should be lauded for his clear policy stand vis a vis the intransigence of Pakistan."

The HAF highlighted Pakistan's military and fiscal support of jihadi terrorists operating in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir over the last five years in its annual human rights reports. The Islamist fighters, many of whom are Pakistani nationals, drove nearly a half million Hindus from their homes in 1989 and have regularly attacked and killed Hindus still living in the Indian state.

"Senator Obama's stand on Pakistan is clear and supported by the reality on the ground," added Chowdhury. "We are hopeful that Sen. McCain, with his vast foreign policy experience, will take a similarly unequivocal policy stand at this critical juncture in South Asia's history."


Mahaveer award to Amma

A Mahaveer award was presented to the revered Amma at a function held at London's Alexandra Palace on Sunday 26th October 2008.Tens of thousands of people have attended a three day event at the Palace. Amma has a huge following in European countries.The award was presented by, ' The Young Indian Vegetarians' society in recognition of Amma's vegetarian lifestyle and compassion towards all living beings. The event was attended by thousands of people from all walks of life. The award was given away by Ramesh Mehta a Kenyan businessman. Revered Amma said Lord Mahaveer was the supreme teacher as he preached compassion and non-violence. The followers of Lord Mahaveer are keeping the Guru- disciple tradition alive as they continue to practice his teachings of Ahimsa she said. After the award presentaion Amma sang devotional Bhajans and the audience followed and there was no language barrier! Amongst those who have received this prestigious award are Swami Ramdev, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev, Dada Vaswani and Lord Swaraj Paul. Vegetarianism is growing very rapidly in European countries.

Mahaveer Award Presented to Mata Amritanandamayi

Amma your love and compassion for all living beings is as deep as the Ocean. Millions of people all over the world are getting your mercy. May your message of Ahimsa as taught in Sanatan Dharma and your vegetarian lifestyle inspire the whole world. We thank God for your blessings.


UPA framing Hindu leaders to win polls

Raipur: Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Rajnath Singh on Wednesday accused the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Government at the Centre of framing Hindu leaders in the September 26 Malegaon blast case in an attempt to win the upcoming Assembly polls.

"Maharashtra's Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) has no evidence against Hindu religious leaders but it is continuously targeting them as part of a conspiracy hatched by the Congress-led government at the centre," Rajnath Singh said at a press conference.

The ATS on Monday filed an application in a Mumbai court seeking permission to interrogate a "high profile" Hindu leader and obtain cooperation from the Uttar Pradesh government in doing so.

Though declining to name the leader, the ATS has discreetly conducted operations in Farrukhabad and eastern Uttar Pradesh and found vital leads to the Malegaon bombing that claimed six lives.

"I ask the UPA Government - is it necessary to communalise terrorism to win elections? If this Government is really serious about tackling terrorism, then why is it not enacting a tough law to rein in terrorists? In fact, this Government failed to execute the death sentence of Afzal Guru, the person convicted for masterminding the attack on Parliament," Rajnath Singh said.

"The UPA Government is giving terrorism a communal hue by deliberately targeting Hindu religious leaders. It will result in communal polarisation of Hindus and Muslims in the country," he added.

The BJP chief strongly defended Adityanath, a BJP MP from Uttar Pradesh, who on Tuesday dared the ATS to arrest him following speculation over his involvement in the Malegaon blasts.

"I personally know Adityanath and he is not the sort of person who can get involved in any terrorist activity. The Congress has failed to tackle terrorism and is now trying to target him," Rajnath Singh said.

"The Congress Government's attempt to frame Hindu religious leaders is causing resentment among the Hindu community across the nation," he added.

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