The troubled India-Africa relationship, following the mob violence targeting Nigerian students resident in the Delhi suburb of Greater Noida, remains in the spotlight, with African envoy’s unprecedented statement of dissatisfaction with the response of the Indian authorities and threatened to raise the issue with the United Nations Human Rights Council.
The statement read: ‘The Heads of the African Missions accredited to India reviewed the previous incidents that have taken place in the past and have concluded that no known, sufficient and visible deterring measures were taken by the Government of India. They agreed to take further actions including the call for an independent investigation by the UN Human Rights Council as well as other human rights bodies, and also to comprehensively report the matter to the Union Commission.’
State of denial
The statement of the envoys referred to the ‘accumulated attacks against Africans are xenophobic and racial in nature.’ India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj has deplored this statement, denying that these attacks were motivated by xenophobia or race, but were simply ‘criminal’. Is ‘criminal’ to be restricted to bank heists and domestic burglaries? What then are hate crimes? – those that have occurred recently in the United States, because of the victim’s beard or turban or complexion. What is one to make of the assailant’s obseneties and shouts, Go back to your country’? Does one need an inquiry committee to discover that zero plus zero is zero? Reporters and bystanders in Greater Noida were witness to the xenophobic and racial abuse to which the African students were subjected. (Hindu, Times of India, Telegraph April 4, 5, 6); TV reports.
Indi’s reputation and image in Africa have been severely tarnished. Sushma Swaraj’s disingenuous special pleading will make things worse, not better. It is both hypocritical and counter-productive and defeats any purpose of damage control. The damage caused already is beyond such niceties. The Minister and her bovine officials had better get real with a reality check.
Disabled Bangla trio live in hope
Three members of a Bangladesh family struck down by a rare life-threatening muscular dystrophy flew into Mumbai recently for a fortnight’s treatment at a private stem cell and therapy institute. Duchenne dystrophy, is a severe hereditary disorder, where the muscles begin to weaken at the age of three. By the age of 12, the individual becomes bed-ridden, with death round the corner. The publicized plight of three individuals – Abdus, Rahinul and and Shorab Hussain - caught the attention of Meditourz, a Mumbai-based organization specializing in such diseases in collaboration with NeuroGen, a brain and spine institute. They offered to treatment them for free.
‘We have treated several such patients in the last few years. Many of them came to us bed-ridden and immobile but can now walk slowly.’ said Nandini Gokulchandran head of the medical services. ‘After figuring out the exact state of the disease, we will apply stem cell therapy by taking samples from bone marrow. The treatment will continue for 10 days.’ (Times of India April 3)
The rally in Indian stocks continues apace. On the first day of trading in the new financial year (April 3), the benchmark Sensex and Nifty indices closed at record highs as global equities rode a liquidity wave. Not only was the Sensex the best performer in Asia, the rally was broad as mid-cap-and small-cap stocks hit record closing highs. ‘People are reading into it a potential win for the current government in the 2019 general elections. This event has been a major positive from foreign investors perspective,’ said Gautam Trivedi, CEO Religare Capital Markets Ltd in Mumbai (Mint April 4)
‘Demonetization did not shake our confidence in the India story,’ said Hugh Young, Managing Director of Aberdeen Asset Management. ‘Indian stocks have seen an astonishing rally at the start of this [financial] year. ‘ he said (Mint April 4)
India-Israel deal on Barak missiles
India is to acquire Israeli Barak-8, 70-kilometre short-range surface-to-air missiles for its navy. The new missiles are urgently required to replace the 9 kilometre range one currently in use, which have completed their shelf life. All front-line ships of the Indian Navy including the aircraft carrier Vikramaditya are equipped with Barak missiles. Reports also suggest That India will confirm the purchase of Israeli UAV Herons, which are currently under negotiation, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits Israel in July.
Another major deal in the works is the purchase of two further Phalcon AWACS, early warning airborne systems, which are to be mounted on Russian Il-76 military aircraft, these additional to the three earlier acquisitions by the Indian Air Force (IAF). (Hindu, Times of Indfia April 4)
Disinvestment tops Rs 46 crore
Government closed the financial year 2016-17 by netting a record Rs 46. 247 crore, which is double that of the previous fiscal 2015-16 of Rs 23.997 crore. This buoyant performance tells of a full economic recovery after the brief blip of demonetization (Times of India April 1)
BJP youth drive
The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) drive to recruit youth across community lines appear to be paying off. . Having tasted power at the centre, the BJP seeks to broaden its appeal by reaching out to the youth of every community. Eijaz Engineer, who comes from the Kashmir valley, has withstood considerable pressure from separatist groups. He stands tall with India; Saikat Dutta Choudhurie comes from Barak Valley in Assam; and Anoop Antony Joseph, a Syrian Christian, is from Kerala. All three of these young men have concerns about ISIS and its radicalization activities.
The BJP’s Goa unit has made inroads into the local Christian community. The Goa model drives the BJP outreach in the Christian -populated North Eastern hill states The old antichristian overtones in the BJP electioneering is a thing of the past (Hindu April 2)
Indian startup wins Berlin award
A Pune-based startup is in the international spotlight after carrying off the Berlin Energy Transition Transition Dialogue for its mobile refrigeration technology. The company was one of six winners of the award instituted by the Deutsche Energy Agency for Innovation business ideas in energy transition across the world.
Named Thermal Energy Sevice Solutions Private Limited, (TESSOL) bagged the award in the Mobility meets Energy Transition category for the development of a plug and chill system for refrigerated perishables. The cold chain technology is based on patented thermal energy storage technology.
Rajat Gupta, Raj Dhami
Founder and CEO of TESSOL Rajat Gupta and Product Manager Raj Dhami collected the award. Gupta is an alumni of IIT-Delhi and Harvard University. (Hindu April 2)
Railways set to expand network
Government is planning an exponential boost to India’s railways by opening new freight corridors in a long overdue bid to decongest some the busiest passenger lines – such the Delhi-Howrah – in the interests of improved time keeping. Railways will aim to commission 3,500 kilometres of track in the financial year 2017-18, while also doubling electrification. This complements the upgrading of stations to acceptable international standards of services and comfort (Times of India April 5)
NPCIL talks with Mamata Banerjee
Representatives of the Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL) are to hold talks with West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee in Kolkata in a bid to revive the Haripur nuclear power project. NPCIL official will attempt to convince her – never an easy task – that project will bring a major boost of investment worth Rs lakh crore to her cash-starved State.
On past record, Ms Banerjee is less open to economic imperatives than she is to entrenched populist whims. The previous Communist-led Left Front government had sanctioned the project. Anutosh Chakraborty, Additional Chief Engineer, Haripur Nuclear Park, will place for her consideration the issues related to the project. The Russian-designed nuclear power plants at Kundakalam in Tamil Nadu have generated the levels of power for India’s southern grid that have impacted the economies of the entire region. Haripur will be Mamata Banerjee’s call (Hindu April 5)
Wisden honours Virat Kohli
World Cricket’s almanac, Wisden, has named India’s captain and stellar batsman as its Cricketer of 2016. Kohli had a dream run, amassing 1,215 runs, including fourTest double centuries, at a stupendous average of 75.92. In ten ODI appearances, he compiled 739 runs at an average of 92.37, while his 641 T20 international aggregate runs came with average of 105.83.
His Test form in the recent series with Australia dropped to an unprecedented low. Hopefully he will rediscover form sooner rather than later.
Crucial Indo-Bangla ties set to deepen
Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s arrival in New Delhi at the weekend for crucial talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi to take relations between their countries to the next level. The curtain-raiser is to be a grand banquet hosted by President Pranab Mukherjee at Rashtrapati Bhavan. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee will be among the guests. Indo-Bangladesh ties have never been as robust as they are now, with unprecedented cooperation on cross-border jihadi terrorism, burgeoning trade and rail connectivity. High on the present agenda is water sharing of the Teesta River (Telegraph, Hindu, Times of India April 5,6). More next week.