The curtain raiser to the West Bengal Assembler elections was the recent India-Pakistan cricket encounter at Kolkata’s fabled Eden Gardens which can accommodate a crowd of over 100,000. Only Australia’s iconic Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) can hold such numbers, generate and create a comparable experience for players and spectators. The once-in-a lifetime excitement brought the great sand good from all parts of the Subcontinent to congregated to watch a game that meant so much to so many across these two nations separated at birth by caesarian section in August 1947.
The fevered speculation about the stars on show and their likely performances in the World Twenty/20 tournament went on all day and much of the night. Former cricketers, some from Australia, West Indies, South Africa and England did the commentaries and gave us the benefit of their punditry on the possible outcome. Film stars and politicians, most prominent among them, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee were much in evidence in this vast amphitheatre.
The game itself was a pulsating affair, with India emerging victorious by six wickets, thanks largely to a superb undefeated 55 by Virat Kohli whose godly status after the retirement of Sachin Tendulkar was confirmed yet again. Australian batsman Glen Maxwell said Kohli’s knock – a superb display of skill and character – would be worth a double century on a normal pitch.
The postscript to this match was the one that followed in Bangalore: India versus Bangladesh. Bangladesh had the measure of their opponents for the entire game, barring the last three balls of the final over when, needing two runs for victory, the batsmen lost their nerve and the game - beaten by a solitary run in an encounter nobody who saw it is likely ever to forget. India’s captain, Mahindra Singh Dhoni kept his cool amid the din, running out the batsman on the final ball. Bangladesh had snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.
India on red alert
Following the the jihadi strike on Belgian capital, Brussels, acknowledged by Islamic State (ISIS) as its handiwork, the whole of India was put on red alert. Railway stations, airports, science research centres and other key national assets were put under tight security. This is, of course, no guarantee that terrorists will refrain from acts of violence. Belgium was on the highest state of alert when Brussels airport and metro stations were bombed, such being the nature of asymmetric warfare. Precautionary measures are all that can be undertaken (Hindu, Times of India, Telegraph, Mint March 23)
As an earnest of intent, the Indian Navy, for the first time, deployed its most advanced maritime surveillance P 81 aircraft on the Seychelles exclusive economic zone. The P 81 is equipped with anti-ship Harpoon missiles, anti-submarine torpedoes and Mark 82 depth charges; it can also carry out anti-submarine warfare and ship interdiction. In addition to these capabilities, P 81 aircraft can undertake electronics signals intelligence (Hindu March 22)
Fast patrol ship of the Indian Coastguard, Arnvesh was commissioned at Visakhapatnam last week by Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief Eastern Command Vice Admiral HCS Bisht. The 50 metre-long vessel has speed of 33 knots and carries a crew consisting five officers and 26 ratings. Fitted with the state-of-the-art navigation and communications equipment, including night vision capabilities , it main armament comprises 40/60 Bofors guns. This is the sixteenth such vessel built at the Cochin shipyard. Vice Admiral Bisht dwelt on the need for coastal security in the face of terrorism. ‘Today, the coast is secure by the trilateral forces of the Navy, Coastguard and Maritime Police,’ he said. Also, there are coastal stations and coastal airfields to bolster coastal defence (Hindu March 22)
India to double missile output
India is looking to double its monthly production from the current 50 to 100. Distinguished scientist and Director of the Defence Research and Development Laboratory (DRDL), K Jayaram said Bharat Dynamics Ltd, a public sector company under the Ministry of Defence, is currently manufacturing 50-60 Akash missiles per month. Hyderabad-based DRDL is a multi-disciplinary missile laboratory focused principally on design development and flight evaluation of various missile systems for India’s armed forces.
A number of countries, including Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore and others from South America, have evinced interest in India’s surface-to-air medium range Akash missile. Mr Jayaram said the new generation anti-radiation missile would be tested in the next two months. Basically, it is the anti-radiation missile air-launched against enemy radar emitting targets.’ (Press Trust of India, March 16)
Indian entrepreneur a major force
The ‘emerging Indian entrepreneur is a force to be reckon with, a force that borders on the brilliantly frightening,’ said K M Mammen, Chairman and Managing Director, MRF Limited. ‘They are the future giants of Indian industry who are taking the world by storm, people look up to them and learn,; he said at at an awards ceremony for emerging Indian entrepreneurs Chennai (Business World March 23)
India, Russia firms in large oil deals
Russian energy giant Rosneft will sell a substantial stakes in two Siberian oil and gas fields to India’s ONGC Videsh and Indian Oil, Bharat Petroleum and Essar Oil in separate deals amounting to $4.2 billion. The significance of these arrangement elevates the strategic relationship between IIndia and Russia to a higher level.
Faced with Western economic sanctions, Russia is looking increasingly to India – the world’s fastest-growing large economy - as a lifeline for funds to finance its debt burden, with the closure of money markets in Paris, London, Berlin and New York etc Rosneft is the world’s largest publicly-traded oil company; and the presence in India of its Rosneft Chairman Igor Sechin - a close associate of President Vladimir Putin – in New Delhi to oversee the signing of these deals tells its own story (Times of India, Mint March 17)
India to host BRICS summit
India will host the eighth BRICS summit consisting Brazil, Russia, China and South Africa in October in Goa. India took over the chairmanship of BRICS from Russia in mi-February and is to hold it till December 31, 2016. India’s External Affairs Sushma Swaraj thanked Russia for chairing the previous summit at the ‘beautiful city of Ufa.’ Institution building, economic growth, intensified cooperation in mutual trade and investment in infrastructure projects, implementation mechanisms, innovation will top India’s agenda. The logo for the summit will be a lotus with the colours of all its members and a traditional Namaste in the centre (Hindu March 17, 23)
Railways tie-up with ISRO on route surveys
The Rail Ministry has struck a deal with the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) to leverage space technology for passenger information in trains, map railway assets and help survey new route alignments. Minister of State for Railways Manoj Sinha also requested ISRO aid to surmount the difficulties in travel during the of-bound months of December-January in northern India, when movement slows appreciably and scheduled journey times are frequently disrupted (Hindu March 17)
Air India disgrace
A Kolkata-Delhi flight normal journey time 2 hours) was delayed by 13 hours when a Dream liner aircraft developed a technical fault, for which there were no spare available to solve the problem, then followed news that the pilot had left because his duty had been completed and no substitute pilot was available to take his place. Air India staff lied to passengers in order to save money for their overnight stay at nearby hotels. The airline has long been a strain on the public purse with repeated government bailouts. Time surely to close down this wretched business (Telegraph March 20)
NIA snares Jihadi recruiter
The National Investigation Agency arrested a key recruiter for the Bangladesh Jamaat- ul-Mujahideen, Habibul Haque, 30, for his role in the Khagragarh bomb blast. A resident of North Parganas district in West Bengal, Haque had set up training camps in his village for terror recruits. His wife worked as a teacher in a local madrassa. An entire terrorist ring was exposed and arrested in other areas of West Bengal (Times of India March 17)
Tibetan exiles to vote for new MPs
Tibet has groaned under Chinese rule since 1950, when Beijing sent in its army and occupied the country, forcing the Dalai Lama and thousands of Tibetans to flee over the next several years, and seek sanctuary in India. The asylum granted by India were to vitiate Sino-Indian relations. Mao dzedong admitted that it was Tibet and not the boundary dispute that had muddied the waters between India and China.
Tibetan in exile will vote in mid- April for a new parliament in exile in Dharamsala. The present head of the Tibetan government in exile is the Harvard-educated Lobsang Sangay (Hindu March 21)
As a Chinese-occupied province, Tibet is voiceless. But the Tibetan voice in India is a light that mocks the tyranny of China and keeps alive its hope of Tibetan freedom.