March 24, 2018

Do I think Modi is perfect ? NO

Do I think Modi is perfect ? NO.

Do I believe Modi doesn't make any mistake ? NO.

Do I believe Modi government has fulfilled all that we want ? NO

Do I feel he will make India like Europe or USA in his lifetime ? NO.

Do I feel Modi government has no shortcoming at all ? NO.

Do I believe everything is rosy in India and there are no problems at all under this regime ? NO.

But I stand by his side like a rock. Why ?

➤ Because I do believe he is doing whatever he can in a very honest, dedicated and committed way.

➤ Because I do believe he is giving his best to improve the country in all areas.

➤ Because I have seen that massive corruption at cabinet ministerial level has disappeared.

➤ Because I have seen that India has not witnessed any terror attack on civilians in last 4 years under his rule.

➤ Because I have seen him taking unpopular steps just to make sure subsidies and taxes reach to the poor people and not middlemen.

➤ Because I have seen him working hard to make sure India becomes a member of MTCR, Waassenar group, Australia group and achieving diplomatic successes which we couldn't think of in last many decades.

➤ Because he has pushed forward many reforms which are not going down well with people today, but will unleash a new India when the results of those reforms - structural, economic, infrastructural will be visible in next 8-10 years.

➤ Because I know even if he is not perfect, he is much better than Lalu Yadav. He is much better than Akhilesh Yadav. He is much better than Mayawati. He is much better than Mamata Banerjee. He is much better than Rahul Gandhi.
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➤ He is a hard working person. He has no family or anyone after him. He has his shortcomings. Which man doesn't ? Anyone of you who keep abusing him, are you even a fraction of him in dedication, focus, integrity, hard work and getting things done !!
He is cleaner than all the names I took above. He is not corrupt. He is visionary. He has solutions to many problems (if not all).
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➤ He may not make India like Europe or US in his lifetime however hard he tries. But atleast he is governing much better than previous regimes. Check macro and micro-economic parameters. Compare infrastructure growth. Compare core areas. Compare GDP growth. Compare wholesale and consumer inflation. Every single parameter is much healthier than before.
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Yes there are problems. Governing a country as heterogenous and vast as India which has been reeling under problems since centuries is never a joke.

Now ask yourself - who can and who has the capability to solve your problems ?

Hardik ? Alpesh ? Jignesh ? Tejaswi ? Akhilesh ? Mayawati ? Mamata ? Lalu ? Yechury ? Kanhaiya ?  king idiot ... Rahul ???
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They all are baying for Modi's blood (not in literal sense), they grill him now and then. Have they ever suggested any single solution to the problem ? Have they ever suggested what steps will they take to solve the problems ? What is their vision ? What is their method ?

Negative politics bordering the line of activism is good. But it is never right for country when the alternative is absent.
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That's why I am with Narendra Modi

March 23, 2018

The Iran-Pakistan border is a geopolitical powder keg

http://www.southasiaathudson.org/blog/2018/3/22/the-iran-pakistan-border-is-a-geopolitical-powder-keg

The Iran-Pakistan border is a geopolitical powder keg

Dr. Lawrence Sellin

The Iran-Pakistan border contains all the ingredients for a geopolitical explosion – regional rivalries, Sunni-Shia conflicts, ethnic insurgents, espionage, drug smuggling and human trafficking.

China considers the stability of the region so important that it brokered a series of border security meetings between Iran and Pakistan over the past year.

Much of China’s multi-billion-dollar investment in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) hinges on the commercial viability of the Pakistani port of Gwadar, near the Iranian border, for which it has a 40-year operational lease. Moreover,  CPEC is the regional linchpin of the Belt and Road Initiative, an ambitious plan to connect Eurasia, the Middle East and Africa to China through a series of land-based and maritime economic zones.

Additionally, the planned Chinese naval base on Pakistan’s Jiwani peninsula, even closer to the Iranian border and located at the mouth of the Persian Gulf, is a critical military node in China’s “String of Pearls” facilities designed to dominate the strategic sea lanes in the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean.

Such ambitions present a direct economic and military threat to India. Commercially, Gwadar competes with joint Iranian-Indian development of the port of Chabahar, just 150 miles to its west. 

According to numerous reports, Saudi Arabia contributes to the instability of the border region by sponsoring virulently anti-Shia Sunni militant groups, such as Jaish al-Adl, who launch attacks on Iran from safe havens in Pakistan. 

Iran retaliates by supporting the Baloch Liberation Front (BLF), an ethnic separatist group, whose sanctuaries and leader, Dr. Allah Nazar Baloch, are claimed to be inside Iranian territory and routinely conduct cross-border operations against Pakistani government targets. Members of the BLF are suspected to be in contact with Iranian intelligence, often through drug lords acting as intermediaries. BLF members are occasionally confused with their anti-Shia counterparts. Some months ago, a BLF team was mistakenly attacked by Iranian border guards. One member, shot in the encounter, was taken to Imam Ali Hospital in Chabahar for treatment, but later died of his wounds. The other team members were subsequently released by Iranian forces.

There are also narco-terrorists groups on the Pakistani side of the border with indirect links to the government in Islamabad. Lashkar-e-Khorasan, a alleged Islamic State affiliate, has been reportedly involved in “cleansing” western Balochistan of Sufi Zikris, Shia Hazaras, Hindus, Christians, Ahahmadis, Sikhs or anyone else who refuses to convert to the extreme form of Sunni Islam. The purported leader of Lashkar-e-Khorasan is Mullah Shahmir Bizenjo, a resident of Turbat, whose cousin is Senator Hasil Bizenjo, a member of the National Party and currently Pakistan's Minister of Maritime Affairs. According to the Daily Beast, one of the drug world's most notorious opium traffickers, also from Turbat, is Imam Bizenjo aka Imam Bheel, a National Party financier, whose son, Yaqoob Bizenjo, served as a member of the Pakistan National Assembly until 2013.

A more ominous portent of Iran-Pakistan border instability, is the return of the “Zainebiyoun” brigade. As a result of its involvement in the Syrian conflict, Iran created a unit composed of

Pakistani Shia volunteers trained by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corp (IRGC), who have gained extensive combat experience fighting for the Assad regime against Sunni militants. It is rumored that “Zainebiyoun” members are now infiltrating back into Pakistan to provide the cadre for a Hazara self-defense force, a community long under attack by virulently anti-Shia extremist groups in Pakistan.

Chinese efforts towards Iran-Pakistan reconciliation has borne some fruit. In recent months, there has been a flurry of agreements in tradedefenseweapons developmentcounter-terrorismbankingtrain serviceparliamentary cooperation and, most recently, art and literature

Iran seeks to separate Pakistan from Saudi Arabia, while Pakistan tries to balance relations with both states. China benefits by reducing tensions among all the regional players in order to advance its wider economic and military aims.

The lesson for the United States is that Afghanistan is swimming in a sea of instability and not, as we seem to presume, the focal point of that instability. American policy should be focused on burden shifting, managing and, when appropriate, exploiting instability to thwart Chinese hegemony

India crafts its own ‘string of pearls’ to rival China’s naval jewels in the Indian Ocean

http://m.scmp.com/comment/insight-opinion/article/2138327/india-crafts-its-own-string-pearls-rival-chinas-naval-jewels

India crafts its own ‘string of pearls’ to rival China’s naval jewels in the Indian Ocean

Rob Edens says India is scrambling to secure alliances as China extends its naval dominance in the Indian Ocean, India’s traditional area of influence

Rob EdensUPDATED : Friday, 23 Mar 2018, 3:58PM

 1

When it comes to the Indian Ocean, New Delhi is hedging its bets against an assertive China. India and France recently signed a strategic pact opening up their naval bases to each other’s warships across the Indian Ocean. This comes two years after a similar deal with the United States and signifies a web of strategic trust to thwart Beijing’s expansion into India’s traditional area of influence.

In recent years, Beijing’s push to contain Indiahas become more frenetic, including signing agreements with MyanmarSri Lanka, the Maldives and Pakistan. India’s deal with France is therefore an escalation of New Delhi’s capacity to project power. It grants the Indian navy access to strategically important French ports – including one in Djibouti, home to China’s single overseas military base and a focal point of strategic competition for the Indian Ocean. The installation can host over 10,000 troops and serves as a springboard for Chinese navy operations across the Indian Ocean.

China’s Djibouti military base: ‘logistics facility’, or platform for geopolitical ambitions overseas?

New Delhi has long feared being encircled in what is called China’s “string of pearls”, a network of installations in the Indian Ocean. The vision that global influence hinges on naval supremacy was most clearly articulated in China’s 2015 defence white paper, which demanded that the navy move from “offshore waters defence” to “open seas protection”. 

Albeit belatedly, India has realised that it needs to match China’s assertiveness

India is trying to get a foothold in Djibouti as well. Offering easy access to the Gulf of Aden and to key oil supply and trade routes, the port nation is strategically valuable. China’s relationship with the country’s president Ismail Omar Guelleh has led some to believe that Beijing is looking to kick out FranceJapanItalyand the US, who pay top dollar for access to the port. Showered with preferential loans and visiting Beijing regularly, Guelleh dismissed US concerns over allowing the Chinese to set up shop. He also seized privately operated port facilities, raising fears among other allies that they are about to be gifted to Beijing.

The Chinese navy’s system of alliances are a tactical nightmare for India since they limit its navy’s ability to counteract China’s moves across the Indian Ocean. With Pakistan’s Gwadar port, Beijing has struck a particularly sensitive nerve: a combined Pakistan-China maritime border fuses two of India’s most pressing strategic challenges into one. There are also reports of a Chinese military base planned in nearby Jiwani, and another in Bangladesh. These projects will embed China’s military in India’s backyard, with strategic access to the Bay of Bengal.

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In early March, India got a taste of what an advanced Chinese navy presence means for its ability to operate in its usual proving grounds. After the pro-Chinese president of the Maldives declared a state of emergency, India sent aircraft and ships to its southern bases but called off any strong action after China dispatched its own naval combat force there.

 

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Driven by India into China’s arms, is Nepal the New Sri Lanka?

But India is not sitting idly by while China tries to make the Indian Ocean its own. Prime Minister Narendra Modi finalised an agreement for a new base in the Seychelles and negotiated military access to naval facilities at Oman’s port and airfields this year. A pact allowing deployments from each other’s naval facilities was signed with Singapore in 2017. With expanded bases on the Andaman and Nicobar Islands at the end of the Malacca Strait, India is raising the stakes in the fight over the waters of Southeast Asia.

Albeit belatedly, India has realised that it needs to match China’s assertiveness. India’s “Act East” policy and Washington’s “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” concept are starting points for pushing into China’s traditional waters in return. India might just be able to one-up Beijing and expand its reach into the Pacific. After all, the result of these joint military agreements is that Indian warships now have access to their own “string of pearls”, from Madagascar, via Djibouti, Oman and Seychelles, all the way to Singapore.

Rob Edens is a London-based researcher and commentator

Did Hasmukh Adhia compromise India’s national interest in the Rs.40,000 cr Vodafone Arbitration?

Why is Adhia trying to scuttle a case when Indian Govt. is on the verge of victory?

By Team PGurus -

 

March 24, 2018

    

Why is Adhia trying to scuttle a case when Indian Govt. is on the verge of victory?

The cobweb of complexities and the maze of unrelenting madness in which the Finance Ministry has tied itself in the Vodafone International Arbitration is a story of how an inept bureaucrat, with arguably limited knowledge of law and taxation, has compromised our national interest. Hasmukh Adhia, to further his naked ambitions, has buried the very idea the Prime Minister Narendra Modi preaches.

Apprehensive of tasting defeat in the arbitration under the Netherlands BIPA, in what is termed as a “devious” move, Vodafone moved for a fresh arbitration under the India-London BIPA.


The Vodafone case, as it is popularly known, involves a tax demand of Rs.11,000 crores ($1.7 billion) on Vodafone, for its Rs.55,000 crores ($8.5 billion) acquisition of a 67 percent stake in Hutchinson Essar Ltd.’s telecom business in India[1].  The interest and penal liabilities, in this case, are Rs.17,000 ($2.6 billion) and Rs.8,000 crores ($1.231 billion) respectively.

Income Tax department lost this case in the Supreme Court and the Government filed a review petition which was also dismissed. The Union Budget, in 2012, retrospectively amended the Income Tax Act 1962 to empower the income tax officers to scrutinize offshore merger and acquisition deals. Vodafone and the Indian Government entered into conciliatory negotiation and dispute settlement mechanism. In June 2013, a non-binding conciliation offer was made to Vodafone by the Indian Government but it did not yield any satisfactory result. The Government, later on, withdrew the offer when in April 2014, Vodafone moved for International Arbitration under the Bilateral Investment Protection Agreement (BIPA) between India and Netherlands. In June 2014, Arun Jaitley recused himself from the proceedings of the Vodafone tax dispute[2] and delegated the decision making in this case to Minister of State for Commerce Nirmala Sitharaman and the Revenue Secretary, as he had provided legal consultancy to Vodafone. Jaitley recused himself because he was the advocate for Vodafone and related companies before 2009.

From 2014 till 2017, the income tax authorities have put up a formidable battle before the Arbitration Tribunal. A senior Income Tax officer, on condition of anonymity, told PGurus that “it was almost certain that India was going to win the arbitration, the first and the biggest till date”. This case is the biggest tax dispute that the Income Tax department has got entangled in its history.

Apprehensive of tasting defeat in the arbitration under the Netherlands BIPA, in what is termed as a “devious” move, Vodafone moved for a fresharbitration under the India-London BIPA.

The Income Tax authorities handling this matter have been absolutely against the idea of India being a party to the second arbitration in this case, especially when India was winning this case and the 3-year arbitration was coming to its logical end. A policy decision was made on file to ensure that the Dutch proceedings are expedited and that India will not participate in the second arbitration proceedings. Adhia made the decision on file of India not participating in the second arbitration, as proposed by Income Tax and Minister of State approved the proposal on file. The matter must have ended there.

A mystery note, signed by the Finance Minister (FM) Arun Jaitley surfaced, a copy of which is available with PGurus. The note addressed to a senior official in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), is also copied to Adhia. According to the note, “a formal colleague from the legal fraternity” advised the Finance Minister[3] regarding the poor performance of the Income Tax (IT) Department in the international arbitration proceedings and strongly recommended that India participate in the second arbitration proceedings. This is an intriguing and extremely strange development shrouded in conspicuous suspicion as the Finance Minister has represented the Vodafone in the past and this is a clear conflict of interest. Who is the legal colleague the Minister was referring to? Did he or she represent or provide legal consultancy to the Vodafone in the past? What about the idea of due diligence before the Government spends around Rs 100 crores a year on legal consultants and lawyers only for this issue? Though officially recused from the Vodafone files, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley later started pressurizing the PMO and argued in favor of new arbitration in London as suggested by the telecom giant3.

All decisions pertaining to the international arbitrations are made by the Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) consisting of officials from the Department of Economic Affairs (DEA), Law Ministry, Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) and the Revenue. Hasmukh Adhia chairsthese meetings.


Adhia, having been “convinced” by the Minister of this new approach, swung into action and demanded the file in less than 48 hours. He did a U-turn and forced the Income-tax department also to follow suit.

Interestingly, the IT department put up a point-wisereply to the FM’s note with a copy of the rebuttal addressed to PMO. Sadly, Adhia suppressed this rebuttal note and never forwarded it to the PMO. This is an absolute indication of moral debauchery by Adhia because it is known fact that the PMO would not have allowed this course and also the wastage of hundreds of crore of public money. Did Adhia – because of his incompetence in the subject matter – not place all the facts before the Finance Minister?

All decisions pertaining to the international arbitrations are made by the Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) consisting of officials from the Department of Economic Affairs (DEA), Law Ministry, Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) and the Revenue. Hasmukh Adhia chairs these meetings. To follow his master’s directions, all ethics and moral principles were thrown out of the window by Adhia. Strange as it may sound, Adhia did not allow senior officers from any Ministry to participate in the IMC meeting to decide on this issue. Junior officers were deputed by the Ministries to make the crucial decisions on a Rs.40,000 crores tax dispute which will have ramifications in the other tax disputes that have been lined up in Cairn and Vedanta cases next. Is the PMO aware of this shoddy IMC and the pathetic performance led by Adhia on this issue? Ideally, all the three – LawMEA, and DEA – ministries need to be pulled up for surrendering to Adhia and not doing their job in a diligent manner on such a major issue.

The Income Tax officer said, “Adhia records objections as the Head of Revenue Department in financial issues involving even a few lakhs. Why then throw hundreds of crore out of the window? Why not put up a strategic and tactical fight when what is at stake is not just Rs 40,000 crore but also India’s reputation in the first international tax arbitration it ever participated?”


Keeping the PMO in the dark, Adhia pulled off the show for the FM and pushed India into the second arbitration thereby opening up a Pandora’s box. Did Adhia act on his own volition or was he being his master’s voice? Did he realise that he was pulling the case from the jaws of success and putting at stake close to Rs 40,000 crores of public money? Is it not a colossal waste of money to be engaging counsels by paying them Rs 100 crore a year? Who are these counsels and who are the lawyers in the Lutyens Delhi who acted as middlemen and fixers in this deal? It is widely believed that being a lawyer, Jaitley’s opinion on engaging lawyers in London will have a value.

The Income Tax officer said, “Adhia records objections as the Head of Revenue Department in financial issues involving even a few lakhs. Why then throw hundreds of crore out of the window? Why not put up a strategic and tactical fight when what is at stake is not just Rs 40,000 crore but also India’s reputation in the first international tax arbitration it ever participated?”

Hasmukh Adhia needs to answersome critical questions in this regard –Firstly, why did he suppress the Income-tax note and keep the PMO in the dark?


Interestingly, the income tax officers did not give up. They went chasing behind the legal officers of the country. Adhia scuttled every move and did not take the opinion of the Attorney General or the Solicitor General on record. What followed is a series of awry moves that were soaked in an ego tussle between Income Tax and Adhia which has resulted in the entire matter going nasty and awry.

The Government faced a crushing defeat in High Court and then knocked the Supreme Court to take a call on the further course of the second arbitration. Things have come to such an outlandish pass that Vodafone is now ready to agree to club the two arbitrations into one. Long story in short is – India’s success was just snatched away in the last minute and a long and tiresome battle continues. It is a shame that the country’s best and the brightest who make up the Civil Services would deliberately botch prestigious international cases, for reasons best known to them.

It is our nation’s curse, said this income tax officer that domain experts and subject specialists are totally ignored & insulted and the decision making, like in this case, is placed in the hands of a generalist who neither has special knowledge in law, taxation nor arbitrations. “There is only one way in which the world will come to know about the nefarious designs that have been adopted by the Secretary Hasmukh Adhia, in compromising the Indian National Interest – place the relevant files in public domain. The files have an uncanny knack of speaking for themselves” said the officer.

Hasmukh Adhia needs to answer some critical questions in this regard –Firstly, why did he suppress the Income-tax note and keep the PMO in the dark? Secondly, is it true that he deliberately bamboozled senior officers from External Affairs, Economic Affairs and Law from participating in these Inter-Ministerial Committee meetings and insulted the Income-tax officers who are domain experts who did not agree with his views? Thirdly, why does Adhia still not reveal to anyone as to who was the “mysterious lawyer” who gave a note to the Finance Minister[4] which changed the tide in the Rs 40,000 crore dispute? Fourthly, did he deliberately mislead the Ministers of State (Finance) – Santosh Gangwar and Shiv Pratap Shukla and personally get these files signed from them? (it is a known fact in the Ministry of Finance that Adhia has utter contempt for all the Ministers of State (Finance) and does not keep them in the loop on any issue) Fifthly, is the “mysterious lawyer” a consultant to Vodafone? Sixthly, when there was an explicit direction from Arun Jaitley in June 2014 that in case of any dispute on the Vodafone arbitration issue, the matter must be referred to the Prime Minister, why did Adhia notescalate this to the PMO? Did he betray the Finance Minister in the process? Lastly, did Adhia keep the Prime Minister in the loop on this Rs.40,000 crore ($6.15 billion) issue which is expected to have very serious ramifications on the Cairn and Vedanta arbitrations also? Or did he unilaterally decide in his usual arrogant and devious style?

It is extremely unfortunate that Prime Minister India is being misled and let down by the dubious and devious actions of certain bureaucrats he reposes his faith and trust on. We only hope that the Prime Minister Narendra Modi is made aware of these nefarious designs at the earliest.

Note:
1. The conversion rate used in this article is 1 USD = 64.98 Rupees.

References:

[1] (Re)conciling the Vodafone-India tax dispute: the whirlwind isn’t stopping – Jul 12, 2013, BNA.com

[2] Vodafone case: Jaitley recuses himself from decisions – Jun 18, 2014, The Hindu

[3] Violating Conflict of interest Jaitley intervenes in Vodafone case – Jun 19, 2017, PGurus.com

[4] FM Arun Jaitley violates conflict of interest in the controversial Vodafone arbitration case – Sep 27, 2017, PGurus.com

March 22, 2018

Arithmetic eclipses chemistry in UP

When your supporters refuse to stand behind you, your strength goes down.

By Ravi Shanker Kapoor -

 pgurus.com

March 22, 2018

    

Arithmetic eclipses chemistry in UP

Some of the traditional supporters may be voting for anti- BJP parties. Which means that even chemistry may be going against the ruling party.

In the run-up to the 2014 general poll, Narendra Modi was asked by an interviewer how he would cross the magic figure of 272, as the numbers were not adding up. His answer was simple: this is not an election of arithmetic but of chemistry. He was right: the exceptionally bad two successive governments under the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance had created such a political situation that people began yearning for something better, something new. Modi fitted the bill. The BJP ‘s (Bharatiya Janata Party) dismal performance in the recent by-polls in UP and Bihar, however, has underlined that chemistry is dead, and arithmetic is back in the reckoning.

In fact, being an exact science, arithmetic has always played a role in Indian politics; in exceptional circumstances, however, chemistry eclipses arithmetic. That is, Modi was able to convince a large section of the electorate that he was the right choice; the convincing was so thorough that all the calculations of analysts and experts went awry; the BJP won decisively.

Earlier, it had happened in 1977, when Indira Gandhi and her son Sanjay Gandhi’s tyranny, along with the excesses of the Emergency, cost the grand old party dearly; for the first time after Independence, it lost power. It happened again in 1989 when an ingenuous Rajiv Gandhi lost to the disingenuousness of a crafty V.P. Singh.

Modi regime is essentially socialist in ideology, mindset, and disposition.


But Modi and his man Friday Amit Shah seem to have lost sight of the fact that chemistry is not a regular occurrence; in the last 13 general elections, it played the critical role thrice only. It presupposes a mood: it was anger (with authoritarianism) in 1977, disappointment (with Rajiv’s cluelessness) in 1989, and hope (emanating from Modi’s promises) in 2014.

And without chemistry, arithmetic asserts itself, as it did in UP in particular, with the unexpected tie-up between the arch-rivals SP and BSP. In Bihar, there were no changes: while the Rashtriya Janata Dal retained the Araria Lok Sabha constituency as well as the Jehanabad Assembly seat, the BJP managed to keep the Bhabhua Assembly seat.

It is UP, the largest and most important state, which is sending ominous signals to the saffron party. Less than a year ago, it gave thumbs up to whatever Modi said, did, and stood for. UP’s people even forgave, rather rewarded, him for the disastrous demonetization of high-currency notes he had unilaterally carried out in November 2016. Millions of jobs were lost, the entire ecosystemswere hurt or destroyed, and the economy suffered just because the Modi-Shah duo was desperate to win a state election. The duo succeeded in convincing the populace that everything was for the good of the man in the street and, equally importantly, to penalize the corrupt and the rich. The mass feeling is best described by the German word ‘schadenfreude,’ described by www.dictionary.com as ‘satisfaction or pleasure felt at someone else’s misfortune.’ Not the noblestof feelings indeed, but then there is little noble in politics, certainly in Modi-Shah’s politics.

But the bottom line was that they won handsomely, winning over three-fourths of Assembly seats.

Unfortunately, the ruling dispensation has not been as capable in policy formulation as it is adept in winning elections. It can promise but it can’t deliver; and this is primarily because the Modi regime is essentially socialist in ideology, mindset, and disposition. I have written copiously about its orientation; whether it is the issue of the ownership of public sector banks, labour reforms, or opening up the farm sector, the government is usually in agreement with big state enthusiasts.

When a party’s core constituency shows apathy to polls, it should get worried.


And because the big state needs big money all the time, the government under Modi is always in search of it. The long spell of low crude prices filled the exchequer at the expense of vehicle owners, but the hunger for more never gets quelled. Income-taxpayers have got little relief in the last four years; traders, shopkeepers, and businessmen are tormented by GST. And the government, unresponsive to the concerns of the taxpayer, is just telling them that their money is being used for nation-building. Of course, part of nation-building is also keeping the Vijay Mallyas, the Nirav Modis, and the Mehul Choksis in good humour, but that’s another story.

The upshot is that the salaried class, traders, and shopkeepers—indeed the entire middle class—are suffering because of the unimaginative policies, the callous approach of the government, and the overbearing attitude of taxmen. Come to think of it: though urban areas are usually BJP strongholds, in the Assembly segment of Allahabad North the voter turnout was just 21.65 percent and in Allahabad West it was 31 percent (bother in Phulpur). Similarly, Gorakhpur City saw 33 percent voting.

When a party’s core constituency shows apathy to polls, it should get worried. The BJP, though, is unbothered. In my discussion with party supporters when I point out the middle class’ disillusionment with Modi, they say, “Where else would they [middle-class people] go?”

What the BJP doesn’t realize is that they may not go anywhere—that is, they may just skip voting. Many of them did in UP; a few months ago, a similar pattern was noticeable in Ajmer and Alwar, the two Lok Sabha constituencies in Rajasthan where the BJP was trounced. When your supporters refuse to stand behind you, your strength goes down. This is common sense and simple arithmetic.

Worse, some of the traditional supporters may be voting for anti-BJP parties. Which means that even chemistry may be going against the ruling party.

Note:
1. Text in Blue points to additional data on the topic.
2. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus

March 21, 2018

Feudal Bugti, commoner Mengal in war of words over Jumma Marri

http://hinglajm.blogspot.com/2018/03/feudal-lord-commoner-in-war-of-words.html

Feudal Bugti, commoner Mengal in war of words over Jumma Marri

March 21, 2018

Brahumdagh Bugti (left) with Dr Jumma Marri in Geneva about 14 months ago.

The Republican News Network, which is believed to be managed by loyalists of exiled Brahumdagh Bugti, president of the Baloch Republicin Party has accused a German activist and a Baloch activist of joining hands with Moscow-based Dr Jumma Marri, leading to a war of words in Switzerland--thousands of miles away from Balochistan..

The accusations followed the Baloch Voice Foundation, which is led by Munir Mengal, holding successful side events at the Palace of Nations during the 37th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

The war of words started when the Republican News Network linked to Bugti's BRP and affiliated Baloch Republican Army (BRA) published a news item Thrusday that said "Munir Mengal, Claudia Heidelberg, along with others, have joined the team of Jumma Marri." tTe news item did not carry anything in the story itself, though the name of the Baloch and German activist were mentioned in the headline. A message to Brahumdagh Bugti and his lieutenant Sher Mohammed Bugti over the news item was still awaited by the time of filing of this report.

"I am highly informed about all," Claudia Heidelberg who works with Richard Benkins of the US said. "Jumma (Marri) still wants the best for Balochs. He would change again if needed," she stressed.

She said Dr Marri tries now to solve problems of Balochs with Pakistan so "That they don't get killed." Dr Jumma Marri has vowed to fight the pro-liberation feudal lords of Balochistan at the international level and had accused India of hijacking the Baloch movemenet.

Ms Heidelberg said what so called freedom fighters are doing in Balochistan her government "sees it as terrorism and civil war." She said Germany is reluctant to help the Baloch under such circumstances.

"These freedom fighters are responsible for the reaction of the state. My government wants peace there then other states will help. This status now harms a lot of Balochs. And US and India are refusing to back a free Balochistan."

Heidelberg says Dr Marri has no bad intentions.  "The time is not ripe now for independence. We had a lot of talk with  Pashtuns and their leadership. They are united and organised and they don't make the mistake to fight with violence against the state. They try it nonviolent. Maybe this is better as a beginning for becoming one day independent. If time will be ripe Pakistan will fail."

Meanwhile, Munir Mengal described the news item against him as uncalled for. A news portal close to Mr Mengal said disrespecting  and spreading negative and bogus news had been a usual trend in Baloch politics particularly by the dictatorial feudal lords and so-called royalty against the commoner politicians and leaders in Balochistan. "Now we have seen a piece of it here in Europe," the SA Tribune reported.

“This is a completely fake and bogus news. Whenever I join any group, including that of Jumma Marri, I will announce it publicly. I do not need to get certification from any dubious group or person. I do not give the right to any person (to) try to defame,threaten and control us through his wishes and lies”.  Mr. Mengal responded

The BVA president said “There are a few frustrated individuals who have been doing this sort of things for a longtime. They do not know the human values and European values of mutual respect and tolerance and try to control people through their totalitarian mindset.”

Both Mengal and his younger brother Dr Ali Akbar Mengal are first class professional activists, though many Baloch say they are not good at keeping their promises

Is Finance Secretary Hasmukh Adhia shielding PNB scamsters Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi?

In the PNBScam of Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi, Adhia faces more questions about his conduct

By Team PGurus -

 

March 21, 2018

    

In the PNBScam of Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi, Adhia faces more questions about his conduct

First as the Secretary Banking and Financial Services, then as the Revenue Secretary and now as the Finance Secretary, Hasmukh Adhia from Gujarat cadre is the most powerful officer in the Finance Ministry. Owing to his proximity to the Prime Minister and the Finance Minister, he was the only bureaucrat outside the PMO and Economic Affairs Department, according to media reports, who was part of the team working on demonetization. Dr. Hasmukh Adhia, a Ph. D. in Yoga has an iron grip over the Department he heads, is known for ruthless micromanagement and has no friends in the team that he heads in the Finance Ministry. Antagonism, indifference, and brazenness have been the definitive ideas that have shaped his tenure.

Was it a deliberate ploy to notinvoke the Black Money and Benami prohibition legislations against the Nirav Modi group? Was there a design in place to ensure that there was no way in which a look-out-circular could be issued against Mehul Choksi and Nirav Modi?

If there is one issue that ties the entire journey of Hasmukh Adhia in the Finance Ministry like a string of pearls, it is – Nirav Modi.

In the Punjab National Bank (PNB) Scam, it is now clear that 21,666 Letters of Undertaking (LoU) were issued after 26.05.2014. It is significant to mention that 1,070, 6189, 6669, 5878 LoUs were issued in 2018, 2017, 2016 and 2015 respectively[1]. All through this period, Adhia was in the Finance Ministry in very critical assignments.

Fig 1. LoUs issued by PNB during NDA

Adhia joined the Department of Banking and Financial Services in the Ministry of Finance in November 2014 and was moved to the Department of Revenue in August 2015. As someone who is known to be a control freak and subjects all entities in his department to microscopic scrutiny, it appears strange, rather intriguing, as to why Adhia did not check this unbridled disaster, right under his watch.

It is an evident fact that close to 7000 Letters of Undertaking (LoUs) were issued in the PNB scam during the tenure of Adhia as Financial Services Secretary. By the time he left for Revenue, the road was set for the smooth sailing of Nirav Modi and his uncle & Gitanjali Gems owner Mehul Choksi. The inevitable happened next.

Why hide the Income Tax Raid details of Jan 2017?

A senior official of Income-tax, on strict condition of anonymity, has provided PGurus, incriminatingdocuments pertaining to the search and investigations being conducted against the Nirav Modi group by the Income Tax Department.  On January 13, 2017, authorization was provided to search the premises/ assessees pertaining to the Nirav Modi group and the said authorization was executed on January 14, 2017. In total, 17 places were searched, out of which 15 pertain to Mumbai and one each in Delhi and Jaipur. The firms include Firestar Diamond, Firestar trading, Firestar International, Gitanjali Gems, Gitanjali Exports, Gitanjali Jewellery Retail, Gitanjali Brands etc.,

PGurus is presently withholding publication of the documents pertaining to search/ investigation for verification of the authenticity. We will – however – analyze in detail this issue.

First and foremost, as the evidence unearthed by the Income Tax department appear to be sound and legally strong, why did they not share the details with the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) or Enforcement Directorate (ED) or Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU)? Adhia is known to hold regular review meetings and the Income Tax department conducts no major search without the approval of the Revenue Secretary. That being the case, why was there such a major lapse? Is there an ulterior design? What is even more shocking is that, even after the scam tumbled out following the media coverage, the Income Tax Department has strictly guarded the evidence and has not provided all the documents to CBI, ED, and FIU, according to a whistleblower Income Tax officer. Is this a telling case of the integrity or absolute incompetence of Hasmukh Adhia? Being a well-known officer to Prime Minister Narendra Modi from his Gujarat days, did Adhia backstab Prime Minister’s declared fight against corruption?

Secondly, according to the whistleblower officer, there is no progress in the investigations made in the Nirav Modi case by Income Tax, even after 15 months. The Black Money Act and Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Act were never invoked in this case, all through 2017. According to insiders, Mehul Choksi and Nirav Modi were allowed to sell property after property, while the tax officials looked the other way. According to our whistleblower, there were strict instructions from the top to not proceed further against Nirav Modi. Did Adhia give any instructions to this effect? Did he keep the Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in the loop or make the decisions on his own? If these legislations were invoked, then a Look-out-circular would have been issued against both Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi and their fleeing from India would have been next to impossible. Nirav Modi and tax evasion are not different stories. The Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI), another agency under Adhia had seized jewelry to the tune of Rs.1000 crores ($160 million) from the firms of Nirav Modi. However, no prosecution was launched till the scam broke and Modi flew away from India. Why, Mr. Adhia? Is every agency in your Ministry absolutely incompetent or are you rewarding this kind of behavior, that there is a serious pattern emerging?

Thirdly, The Wire website recently carried a story on gold bars being deposited in the Toshakhana which were allegedly gifted by Nirav Modi to Adhia during the Diwali of 2016[2].

Adhia admitted to the website that he got gold bars. But he cleverly said he don’t know who was the gift supplier. Mr. Adhia, who are you fooling? As a Government servant, you should have alerted the CBI or Delhi Police first and submitting to Toshakhana is totally illegal. Here you are trying to save the person who gifted gold bars.

In a letter to the Prime Minister, BJP leader Subramanian Swamy has alleged that the said gold bars, gifted to a senior Finance Ministry official by Nirav Modi, were deposited in the Toshakhana only because they were mistakenly opened by the servant in front of another IAS officer who had come to wish Diwali. However, Swamy did not name any official who received these doubtful gifts. As strange as it may sound, the Gold bars don’t find any entry in the Toshakhana records and the missing gold bars and the mystery man will come back to haunt Adhia in days to come.

Uday Singh Kumawat, the trusted officer (Joint Secretary in Revenue Department) in the Adhia Administration has been playing mischief in this case too. Did he act as an intermediary in this case for Adhia? Is that the reason Adhia turned a blind eye to Kumawat and his debauchery that PGurus have reported in detail[3]? Was he rewarded for this very purpose by getting Appointments Committee of Cabinet (ACC) retrospectively extend his tenure in the Finance Ministry? Were all these details suppressed from the ACC headed by the Prime Minister?

Was it a deliberate ploy to not invoke the Black Money and Benami prohibition legislations against the Nirav Modi group? Was there a design in place to ensure that there was no way in which a look-out-circular could be issued against Mehul Choksi and Nirav Modi? Was there an escape plan in place that was handed over to Nirav Modi to help him out?

This article poses more questions than answers. Though we are in possession of many documents pertaining to the Nirav Modi case, we are at present verifying the same before we run them here. The one question that begs a reply is – did Hasmukh Adhia let his naked ambition ride roughshod on all principles and ethics on which this Government had promised to fight corruption?

Adhia is known to be a stickler for vigilance issues and in most cases, he has taken very harshdecisions that were never heard of in the Ministry. PGurus is glad to hold the mirror to Adhia and request that he practice the standards he wants to preach. Adhia needs to answer now and we will continue to ask the important questions. He must reply as to why he withheld the Income Tax raid findings of January 2017 at Nirav Modi and uncle Mehul Choksi firms?

Truth has an uncanny way of manifesting itself and we will continue our quest for the truth.

References:

[1] IT is still hushing up the probe against Chidambaram family under Black Money and Benami Acts – Mar 20, 2018, PGurus.com

[2] Exclusive: Finance Secretary Received Gold Biscuits as Gift for Diwali But Failed to Order Probe– Mar 13, 2018, TheWire.com

[3] More muck and sleaze tumbles out from the cupboards of the Finance Ministry – Mar 18, 2018, PGurus.com

THE ANDAMAN AND NICOBAR ISLANDS: INDIA’S EASTERN ANCHOR IN A CHANGING INDO-PACIFIC

https://warontherocks.com/2018/03/the-andaman-and-nicobar-islands-indias-eastern-anchor-in-a-changing-indo-pacific/

THE ANDAMAN AND NICOBAR ISLANDS: INDIA’S EASTERN ANCHOR IN A CHANGING INDO-PACIFIC

DARSHANA M. BARUAH

MARCH 21, 2018

Editor’s Note: This is the nineteenth installment of “Southern (Dis)Comfort,” a series from War on the Rocks and the Stimson Center. The series seeks to unpack the dynamics of intensifying competition — military, economic, diplomatic — in Southern Asia, principally between China, India, Pakistan, and the United States. Catch up on the rest of the series.

India’s military priorities are highlighted by its defense budget: the army funded at 55 percent, the air force at 23 percent, and the navy at a meager 15 percent. Since independence, troubles along India’s continental borders, including wars with China and Pakistan, have kept the country’s defense focused on its northern frontiers. A quiet maritime environment and a strong navy inherited from the British have allowed India to establish a prominent role in the Indian Ocean region without much effort.

In particular, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands have been neglected in Delhi’s strategic and political priorities, especially given their distance (approximately 1200 kilometers from the mainland). Priorities within the navy focused on strengthening India’s immediate coastline while the islands’ potential was something to be taken advantage of later. However, recent developments in maritime Asia have forced Delhi to re-examine its naval priorities, and the current government has started showing more enthusiasm for maritime security.

The Indian Ocean, which remained quiet after the Cold War, is reemerging as a critical theater for strategic competition. As China expands its presence in the Indian Ocean and strengthens its engagement with littoral states in South Asia, India is beginning to formulate a new maritime approach to retain its prominence in the region. While India is concerned about China’s engagement across the Indian Ocean, developments in the South Asian maritime domain are of particular concern.

Critically situated near the Malacca Strait, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands could significantly alter the maritime dynamics in the Indo-Pacific. While the islands have been envisaged as a platform for offensive capabilities, their true benefit today lies in furthering maritime domain awareness and maintaining a naval advantage for India and its friends. In addition to formulating a coherent strategy for the role of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in its national maritime approach, Delhi must also find a way to make use of its partners in addressing the islands’ lack of physical infrastructure. While India has neglected its naval priorities, the maritime domain gives it an opportunity to establish itself as a leading regional actor. These maritime advantages will help India balance and respond to a rising and assertive China in its neighborhood.

Putting the Andamans into Perspective

Historically, maritime powers have used the Andaman and Nicobar Islands to project power in the Indian Ocean and as a key base for expeditions to the east. Rajendra Chola I of the Chola empire first tapped into their strategic advantages. The Chola dynasty was one of the most powerful in the history of South India, and its strong navy played a critical role in its expeditionary missions to Southeast Asia. After conquering modern-day Sri Lanka, Chola’s navy used the Andamans as a base to launch successful raids on the ports of the Srivijaya empire, based in modern-day Indonesia.

Among modern nation-states, the British and the Japanese effectively used the Andamans to advance their strategic aims. The British Empirekept a strong foothold in the Andamans and used them to expand its security footprint in the subcontinent and across the Indian Ocean. During World War II, the Japanese captured the islands in an attempt to fight the British and expand their presence in the region. Imperial Japan also used the islands to attack Burma and Northeast India.

Throughout history, these islands have been vital to nations expanding their maritime presence in the Indian Ocean. The Andamans provide a bridge between the Western Pacific and the Indian Ocean and overlook one of the busiest sea lanes of communications in the world. Moreover, they are a key chokepoint and trading route for goods traversing the waters of the Indian Ocean to East and Southeast Asia.

Projecting Indian Power

India maintains an unparalleled geographic advantage over China in the Indian Ocean, since the Indian Navy is based in this theater. However, China is beginning to address its weaknesses in the Indian Ocean, such as by starting to forward deploy with its base in Djibouti. Beijing is building a series of commercial ports in the Indian Ocean that boost its strategic presence in the region. These ports— strategically located in Myanmar, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives — could eventually serve a military purpose.

Unfortunately, the political class in Delhi has for far too long downplayed the emerging challenge that China poses in the maritime domain and overlooked its own advantages such as the Andamans. The Indian Ministry of Defence has been primarily focused on strengthening its capabilities along its northern borders, where India has territorial disputes with Pakistan in the west and China in the east. Delhi’s approach to the maritime domain is both new and largely reactive to the changing maritime environment. As the Sino-Indian competition continues to deepen in South Asia, Delhi must be willing to develop its advantages in the Indian Ocean region.

Beijing is concerned that, unless it can secure its own sea lanes of communication to the Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf via the Malacca Strait, it could be vulnerable to a U.S. and India-led blockade during a conflict. Yet it is unlikely that the United States and India would do this given that any attempt to blockade the strait would amount to a declaration of war against China. While this remains an option in a wartime situation, there are other good reasons to develop the Andaman and Nicobar Islands that may contribute to deterring China.

The real advantage the Andamans provide to India is the ability to conduct surveillance over critical waters. As the main entry and exit point to and from the Indian Ocean, the islands offer unparalleled advantage in surveillance and monitoring the Malacca Strait. A coherent monitoring and response mechanism will help India detect Chinese vessels upon their entry into the Indian Ocean.

The Indian Navy’s 2015 maritime strategy lists maritime domain awareness as a critical tool for achieving a favorable maritime environment. The strategy takes a bolder approach to the changing environment and is much more forward-looking than its predecessor in 2007. Maritime domain awareness, according to the navy, “involves being cognizant of the position and intentions of all actors, whether own, hostile or neutral, and in all dimensions—on, over and under the seas.” If it can create the required “situational awareness” through surveillance and monitoring of the Malacca Strait, India and its partners will be prepared to respond to threatening developments. Maritime domain awareness through the Andamans is critical, especially in monitoring sub-surface vessels. If not detected while leaving harbor or transiting through the strait, submarines are almost impossible to track in open seas. Given its crucial location, the Malacca Strait could help India track the movements of Chinese submarines in the Indian Ocean. If detected at the entry point, India will be able to deploy the required assets to continue tracking such movements.

The Andamans also facilitate India’s reach over the Indonesian straits, which may become alternate transit routes for sub-surface vessels. Given the shallow waters and heavy traffic density of Malacca (which forces submarines to surface), it is likely that the straits of Sunda, Lombok, and Ombai will quickly become alternate routes for military vessels entering the Indian Ocean. In fact, China is already using the Lombok straits as a routine entry for its ships and vessels. While using these straits comes with legal and territorial issues, as well as other limitations, it is not impossible to use them. Relying on the geographical proximity afforded by the Andamans, India can collaborate with Indonesia to patrol and monitor these straits to uphold a rules-based order.

The Challenges India Faces

As India continues to develop the islands, it must prioritize strengthening its air, surface, and sub-surface surveillance capabilities. The islands need to be capable of basing and deploying surveillance resources and require stronger anti-submarine warfare and early warning capabilities. India should also upgrade the islands’ communications infrastructure and integrate it with maritime domain awareness facilities on the mainland. The current infrastructure is poor and cannot sustain a coherent surveillance strategy. There is an urgent need to enhance the islands’ intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance cover to fully utilize their potential.

However, transforming the islands from a strategic outpost to a key forward operating base will require significant development of the islands and procurement of new assets. The islands are currently home to modest military assets and infrastructure with tremendous, though underutilized, potential. Surveillance assets such as the P-8i’s are deployed to the Andamans from the mainland. The islands will require considerable military and civilian infrastructure to support the required force structure of a full-fledged forward operating military base.

However, developing these islands will carry massive environmental, sustainability, and tribal welfare challenges. There is an island-wide restriction on clearing land for development, and 94.68 percent of the islands is under forest cover. The presence of indigenous tribes on the islands has also restricted commercial activities and development near tribal areas. While the current government is taking initiatives to transform the islands into a maritime hub, the pace of progress is not fast enough to match maritime developments in the region.

While Delhi struggles to develop its own islands, Beijing is moving steadfastly to build maritime facilities in India’s neighborhood and across the Indian Ocean region. China’s deepening military and commercial engagements with the Indian Ocean littoral states could undermine India’s role if it fails to maintain its maritime advantages. While India debates a broader road map for developing the islands, it can utilize its existing facilities to strengthen its maritime domain awareness.

Transforming the Andamans into a Strategic Hub

One of India’s first attempts at strengthening its military presence on the islands was establishing the country’s only tri-services command in Port Blair in 2001. The command was established against the backdrop of increasing transnational crime around the islands and a better understanding of their strategic potential in the maritime domain. However, despite the presence of all three services, the Andaman and Nicobar Command has yet to realize its potential. The command has limited assets and presence in comparison to a theater-level presence of a joint command. While it has the potential to be the forward operating base for all of India’s engagements with Southeast Asia, right now it mainly acts as a logistical facility for deployments of India’s Eastern Naval Command to the East and Southeast Asia. Even for this role, the Andaman and Nicobar Command desperately needs an extension and upgrade of the runways, jetties, and ports located there.

The 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean significantly destroyed existing infrastructure on the Andamans, including major roads, lands, and bridges. Although Delhi made considerable reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts, major military infrastructure remains inadequately rebuilt. The tsunami aggravated the poor connectivity between the islands. One of the major routes linking North and South Andaman was damaged during the disaster and has yet to be fully reconstructed. The infrastructure and connectivity problems were largely neglected until recently. Since the islands are a biodiversity hotspot as well as home to about 27,000 members of indigenous tribes, most development and construction-related projects require clearancesfrom the Department of Environment and Forest and from the Department of Tribal Welfare. However, under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the government has been able to push forward on many of these projects and get the necessary clearances to boost connectivity and infrastructure on the islands.

The appointment of Admiral D. K. Joshi, the former chief of the Indian Navy, as the lieutenant governor of the islands in October 2017 was a positive development that boosted Delhi’s more active approach. Establishing a former naval chief as administrative head will allow a better understanding of the security, economic, and commercial potential and limitations in developing the islands. Some recent initiatives have been focused on enhancing communications infrastructure, better connectivity, acquiring platforms for amphibious operations, strengthening maintenance and repair facilities, regular deployments of surveillance capabilities, strengthening military-to-military ties with Southeast Asia, and building missile facilities.

Leveraging India’s New Maritime Partnerships

While India has clearly shown its intention to develop the islands, it still faces significant challenges. Apart from environmental and tribal welfare concerns, the government also lacks the capital to build the required infrastructure on the islands. It must find a way to collaborate with its partners to advance its development vision. Many of India’s naval partners have specific expertise that can help in this area. For example, India and Japan are building infrastructure and connectivity corridors in the Indian Ocean, including the Asia-Africa Growth corridor. These initiatives provide an opportunity to develop many civilian projects on the islands, like ports and highways. Similarly, as India continues to build its partnership with the naviesof the United States, Australia, and Indonesia, it should use these collaborations to advance its maritime domain awareness capabilities on the islands, such as partnering with France on development of renewable energy. India has historically been sensitive about international involvement with the islands, barring even partners from making port calls and military visits outside of the MILAN exercise. But it must shed that cautious approach and start to discuss possible areas of collaboration.

The Andaman and Nicobar Islands provide significant surveillance and monitoring advantages to India’s navy. If India can chart out a role for the islands in its maritime domain awareness project, it can achieve far greater deterrence through staging and power projection. Additionally, the Andamans provide excellent opportunities to deepen India’s new maritime partnerships with countries such as Japan, the United States, Australia, and France.

India’s approach is a testament to its continued neglect of its maritime advantages, though the attention given in the past few years has been an exception. Despite having significant coastline and positioning itself as a maritime power, Delhi has done little to elevate its actual maritime potential. It may be that the absence of confrontation in the maritime domain has allowed India to ignore its naval advantages as the Defense Ministry remained engaged in continental troubles. The lack of a coherent naval strategy has contributed significantly to such neglect.

Developing the Andaman and Nicobar Islands will give India new options and opportunities as it continues to grow its partnerships and respond to a rising China. The islands will contribute to India’s advantages, create more room for debate on deterrence policies, and contribute positively to India’s effort to establish itself as a serious regional actor. Conversely, however, continued neglect will call into question the country’s seriousness about maritime security — something India must prioritize as its foreign policy evolves.

 

Darshana M. Baruah is a research analyst and program administrator with Carnegie India. Her primary research focuses on maritime security in Asia with a focus on the Indian Navy and its role in a new security architecture.

Punjab, Tianjin University of Tech is first educational project of CPEC

https://pakobserver.net/punjab-tianjin-university-of-tech-is-first-educational-project-of-cpec/

Salim Ahmed

Provincial Minister for Schools Education Rana Mashhood Ahmed Khan has said that Punjab Tianjin University of Technology (PTUT) is the first educational project of the CPEC which will open doors of world-class education to the Pakistani youth. Its inaugural ceremony will be held on 23rd March and Chief Minister will attend this function through the video link.

This was stated by him while addressing a meeting held to review the arrangements of inaugural ceremony of Punjab Tianjin University of Technology on the historic occasion of 23rd March at Civil Secretariat Committee Room, here today. The meeting was also addressed by Chief Secretary Zahid Saeed. Arrangements of inaugural ceremony of Punjab Tianjin University of Technology were given final shape in the meeting.
The Minister said that due to the personal interest of Chief Minister Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif, establishment of Punjab Tianjin University of Technology has been made possible in a record timeframe. He said that this university will introduce world-class technical and vocational education in Pakistan. Due to it, capable and skilled work force will be made available to trade and industrial sectors. This will help to minimize unemployment in the country and Pakistani youth will also be able to find jobs in gulf and other countries

March 19, 2018

National Herald case: Delhi HC orders Young Indian to deposit Rs 10.cr in Income Tax recovery notice of Rs.250 crores

In the National Herald case, the Delhi HC directs Young Indian to deposit Rs.10 crores first in their petition against the Income Tax order

By Team PGurus -

 

March 19, 2018

    

In the National Herald case, the Delhi HC directs Young Indian to deposit Rs.10 crores first in their petition against the Income Tax order

In a big setback to Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhiin the National Herald case, the Delhi High Court (HC) on Monday directed their company Young Indian to deposit Rs.10 crores ($1.67 million) first in their petition against Income Tax (IT) recovery notice of Rs.249.15 crores. The bench of Justices S Ravindra Bhat and A K Chawla directed the company to deposit half the amount with the Income Tax department before March 31 and the remaining Rs.5 crores by April 15th.

The IT department has declared that Congress party’s claim of giving Rs.90 crore loans to the newspaper was a total sham and a wrong claim to facilitate Gandhi family-controlled company Young Indian to dubiously take over the ownership of the lands and buildings across India.


The High Court said that subject to the deposit of the amount, the tax authorities shall not enforcethe demand of Rs.249.15 crores made on the company for the assessment year 2011-12.  The High Court also sought the IT department’s response to Young Indian’s (YI) plea challenging the demand and the proceedings emanating from it and listed the matter for further hearing on April 24.

Senior advocate Arvind Datar, appearing for Young Indian, told the court that it will have extreme difficulty in raising Rs.10 crores and sought the amount to be fixed at Rs.7.5 crores.  He said that the amount was being collected from contributions by individuals and it would, therefore, be tough to get more money.  He also urged the bench to allow the company to deposit the amount in court, saying it was extremely difficult to get a refund from the IT department.

Advocate Ashish Jain, representing the IT department, opposed the oral pleas made on YI’s behalf and said the company had to actually deposit Rs.49 crores, 20 percent of the demand, for its appeal to be heard.  The bench refused to grant both the pleas made orally on behalf of Young Indian and directed it to deposit Rs.10 crores with the IT department. The High Court also directed the tax authorities to expeditiously hear YI’s appeal against the assessment order.

On December 27, 2017, the Income Tax Department’s Assessment Order found that Young Indian had hushed up a taxable income[1] of more than Rs.414 crores ($40 million). While Congress leadership has kept silent[2] on this devastatingIncome Tax Order exposing the frauds in the National Herald case, after some weeks, BJP leader and main petitioner Subramanian Swamy produced a copy of this Income Tax Order[3] in the trial court. Even the advocates representing Sonia and Rahul were unaware of this Income Tax Order.

The IT department has declared that Congress party’s claim of giving Rs.90 crore loans to the newspaper was a total sham and a wrong claim to facilitate Gandhi family-controlled company Young Indian to dubiously take over the ownership of the lands and buildings across India. The 105-page Income Tax Assessment Order has declared that Sonia and Rahul Gandhi controlled Young Indian’s actual taxable income is more than Rs.414 crores and canceled the firm’s tax exemption certificate.

The Income Tax, in its detailed Assessment Order described the takeover of erstwhile National Herald newspaper publishing company Associated Journals Limited (AJL) by Young Indian as “premeditated scheme of tax evasion”, adventure, fraudulent, involved in hawala nature activities etc.

After this order, IT fined and issued a recovery notice for Rs.249.15 crores ($40 million) from Young Indian. The company controlled by Sonia and Rahul with 76 percent shares, has approached the High Court seeking a direction to stay the recovery of the demand of tax and interest of Rs 249.15 crores, raised following a notice of December 27, 2017, issued under section 156 of the I-T Act for the assessment year 2011-12.

It has also challenged the order of the IT authorities rejecting the firm’s application and sought a stay on the direction to pay Rs.49.83 crores ($8 million), that is 20 per cent of the total disputed outstanding demand.

Note:
1. The conversion rate used in this article is 1 USD = 65 Rupees.

References:

[1] IT fixes Sonia-Rahul firm Young Indian for Rs.414 crore gains from National Herald frauds – Jan 20, 2018, PGurus.com

[2] The silence of Congress on the Income Tax Assessment Order in National Herald case is deafening – Jan 24, 2018, PGurus.com

[3] National Herald case: Read 105-page IT Assessment Order against Young Indian exposing Rs.414 crores gain – Jan 22, 2018, PGurus.com

Indialogue Newsletter , excerpt

Indialogue Newsletter
By Aman Thakkar

Excerpts

Worsening India-Pakistan Relations Amid Allegations of Harassment of Diplomats

India and Pakistan have traded accusations over mistreatment and harassment of their diplomats, with each alleging that the other is behind the harassment. India has alleged that vehicles from high commission, including that of the High Commissioner himself, in Islamabad have been forcibly stopped, a contractor who maintains the Indian chancery building has been threatened, and that an Indian official’s home in Islamabad was broken into and a laptop stolen. Meanwhile, Pakistan hasalleged that Pakistan’s deputy high commissioner’s children were stopped on their way to school, and that the car of another diplomat was “chased and scratched” in New Delhi. Among the more ridiculous (yet irritating) harassing has been the accusation of ringing the doorbell in the middle of the night and running away in both Islamabad and New Delhi.

Why this Matters?: Looking beyond the acts of harassment (as ridiculous as some of them might be), this exchange actually underscores worsening ties between India and Pakistan. New Delhi has reported 633 ceasefire violations (CFVs) by Pakistan in the roughly two and a half months in 2018. That’s a new high, and harassment of diplomats only makes any attempts to improve relations or facilitating discussions even more difficult.

India’s Army Has No Money to Modernize At a Time It Desperately Needs To

In a report to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence, the Indian Army said that the central government had not allocated enough money to pay for emergency purchases that it made in the aftermath of the Uri attack in 2016, the surgical strikes against Pakistan that followed the attack, and the Doklam standoff against in China last year. Vice Chief of Army Staff Lt Gen. Sarath Chand said that the funds allocated by the central government this year, totalling Rs 21,338 crore ($3 billion) would not even cover the installment payments for past purchases, which total Rs 29,033 crore ($4.46 billion). The Vice Chief of Army Staff went on to say that the goal of the army was to have “one-third of its equipment in the vintage category, one-third in the current category and one-third in the state of the art category. As far as we are concerned, the state today is 68% of our equipment is in the vintage category, with just about 24% in the current, and 8% in the state of the art category.”

Vice Chief of Army Staff Lt. Gen. Sarath Chand

Expert Round-Up

Manu Pubby writes that “the Indian defence budget is now dangerously skewed as the revenue bill has zoomed over the years. The sustained manpower-intensive nature of the services has resulted in a situation where resources available for modernisation of the forces are far outstripped by the money required to pay salaries and pensions to soldiers.”

Ajai Shukla notes that “The pared down capital allocations this year are not a one-off case. A summary of previous years’ projections and actual allocations illustrates that this has been the pattern of the past as well.”

Saikat Datta argues that “Insiders say the “hollowness” is so deep that the Indian Army barely has reserves to fight a war for more than one week. In 2012, the then Chief of Army Staff, General V. K. Singh, wrote a Top Secret letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, pointing out that the Indian Army could not fight a war beyond three days. Things are much worse now, India’s top generals insist.”

TDP Cuts Ties with BJP, To Motion for Vote of No Confidence

Last week’s Indialogue analyzed the public spat between the BJP and its regional ally in Andhra Pradesh, the Telegu Desam Party, over special category status for the state (If you missed it, please read here). Since, the TDP has decided to officially pull out of the BJP-led coalition, the National Democratic Alliance, and will motion for a vote of no-confidence against the government. A motion of no confidence is a vote to decide whether the elected Parliament has confidence in the government and its head, in this case Prime Minister Modi. Modi’s government is likely to survive this motion. The BJP has 274 members, more than the majority mark of 270, and enjoys the support of several allies despite the TDP’s 16 MPs leaving the coalition.

Bigger Picture: A vote of no-confidence, while not a threat to the BJP government, could be embarrassing if the TDP is joined by a number of other parties in a public show of dissatisfaction with the government. Moreover, it would underscore the BJP’s lack of support in the Southern states in India, where regional parties and, to some extent, the Indian National Congress remain more dominant. As we look to the upcoming general elections in 2019, signs of growing anti-incumbency sentiment in the BJP’s base, as well as growing discontentment in the South is something to keep in mind.

Prospects of an Indian Attempt to "Reset" Ties with China Escalate

Last week’s Indialogue also discussed a third attempt by the Modi administration to reset relations with China ahead of Prime Minister Modi’s visit Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit (read last week’s brief here). Reports later emerged that a slew of bilateral meetings have been planned for coming months. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj is expected to visit China for the SCO’s Foreign Ministers’ meeting. However, her visit could also include bilateral engagements with Chinese Foreign Minister, Wang Yi, while she is there. Her visit will reportedly be followed immediately by a visit from Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. Officials have noted that the back-to-back nature of these visits is supposed to signify a significant commitment to improving ties.

Indian Minister of Defence Nirmala Sitharaman (left) and Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj (right)

Insight: This reset in relations comes after a turbulent year in Indo-China relations, but the deficit of trust between the two countries remains high.

Analysts note that India supporting China’s candidacy for the vice-presidency of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and asking government officials to skip all events to mark the Dalai Lama’s 60 years in exile is a price too high for normalized relations with a country that continues to encircle India and challenge it in its own neighborhood. Others argue India cannot afford a conflict with China. See the above story on the woeful state of India’s army to underscore just how bad conflict with China could become if a standoff like Doklam were to take place again and become violent.

Regardless of this most recent development, I still argue that India and China need a new and broad framework for engagement despite disagreements, or a new modus vivendi, rather than a simple reset in ties. I’m currently writing an article for The Diplomat putting forth this argument, so please look out for that in the coming weeks.

Stories you might enjoy:

Abhijnan Rej undertakes a detailed study of the prospect of a two-front war (where China and Pakistan would join forces to fight India), and finds that the “force ratio – never in India's favour to begin with – is currently rapidly shifting in favour of the adversary, even after considering smaller fractions of the Chinese military involved in a two-front conflict.”

Pallavi Aiyer argues “the India-Japan economic relationship remains underwhelming both in relation to its potential, and to the ties that each nation shares with China.”

Jeff M. Smith writes “the Free and Open Indo-Pacific represents a specific vision for a rules-based order governing one of the world’s most dynamic regions — an order the United States and the Quad view as increasingly under duress from a more assertive and ambitious China.”

Beena Sarwar says that a recent agreement between India and Pakistan “on prisoner exchanges gives hope that the space thus gained can be opened further with more focus on low-hanging fruits. A major step towards re-gaining normalcy in relations would be to ease the visa process and allow people to meet.”

Sushant Singh writes “The government is unable to find an estimated Rs 2.1 lakh crore that is needed to construct four ‘priority’ strategic railway lines on the China border...These four ‘priority’ lines are part of the 14 strategic lines which were identified for development in November 2010, among the 28 railway lines in border areas approved ‘in principle’ by the Defence Minister in January 2010.”