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Posts tagged ‘Indian Peninsula’

India, Germany agree to boost industrial cooperation

November 01, 2019

NEW DELHI (AP) — India and Germany have agreed to enhance cooperation in tackling climate change, cybersecurity, skill development, artificial intelligence, energy security, civil aviation and defense production.

The two countries signed several agreements on Friday, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi saying India is eager to benefit from Germany’s expertise. Visiting German Chancellor Angela Merkel said her country would also like to collaborate with India in infrastructure projects, waste management and water supply.

Merkel is accompanied by several ministers and state secretaries as well as a business delegation. Germany is India’s largest trading partner in Europe. Bilateral trade reached $21.9 billion in the 2017-18 financial year, an increase of 17% from the previous year.

Voting in Indian elections reaches next-to-last phase

May 12, 2019

NEW DELHI (AP) — Indians are voting in the next-to-last round of 6-week-long national elections, marked by a highly acrimonious campaign with Prime Minister Narendra Modi flaying the opposition Congress party rival Rahul Gandh’s family for the country’s ills.

Sunday’s voting in 59 constituencies, including seven in the Indian capital, will complete polling for 483 of 543 seats in the lower house of Parliament. The voting for the remaining 60 seats will be held on May 19.

Votes will be counted on May 23. India has a total of 900 million voters. Turnout in the first five phases averaged 67%, nearly the same as in 2014 elections that brought Modi to power. Opinion polls say Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party continues to be the front-runner, but it is likely to return with a lesser number of 282 seats. The BJP captured 31% of votes in 2014, but it won more than half the seats to wrest power from the Congress party in a first-past-the-post electoral system in which a candidate who receives the most votes wins.

Modi is running his campaign like a presidential race, a referendum on his five years of rule with claims of helping the poorest with doles, free health care, providing toilets in their homes and helping women get free or cheap cooking gas cylinders.

At the same time, he is banking on stirring Hindu nationalism by accusing the Congress party of being soft on nuclear-rival Pakistan and terrorism, pandering to minority Muslims for votes and pampering Kashmiri separatists.

Opposition parties accuse Modi of digressing from the main issues affecting nearly 70% of population living in villages and small towns. The opposition is challenging him over India’s 6.1% unemployment rate — the highest in decades— and the economic difficulties of farmers hurt by low crop prices that led many to take own lives. Opposition officials have also alleged corruption in a deal for India to purchase French fighter jets.

“Modi personally has been the most visible prime minister,” said Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay, a political commentator and biographer of Modi. But he adds, “There could be an element of fatigue also. People at the end of it are looking at their bottomline. I think the issues of employment and rural distress are very important.”

Throughout the monthlong campaign, Modi has projected himself as a “chowkidar,” or watchman, guarding the country’s interests. Rahul Gandhi, 48-year-old scion of the Nehru-Gandhi family and the Congress party president, has accused Modi of buying 36 French Rafale fighters jets at an exorbitant price, and helping a private industrialist by promoting him as an offset partner of Dassault, the aircraft manufacturer.

Gandhi adopted a rallying cry of “Chowkidar Chor Hai,” or “the watchman is a thief.” Stung by the accusation, Modi accused Rajiv Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi’s late father and former prime minister of India, of corruption — an apparent reference to the purchase by India of Swedish Bofors artillery guns in 1980s. Rajiv Gandhi was accused of receiving kickbacks for the deal, but the allegation was never proved in court.

Modi also is unsparing in his criticism of Rahul Gandhi’s great-grandfather and India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, blaming him for the country’s border disputes with China and Pakistan and a lack of development while he was at the helm 1947 to 1964.

Rahul reacted with a tweet: “Dear Mr Modi, Your recent statements, interviews & videos are giving India the distinct feeling that you’re cracking under pressure.” He has challenged Modi to a public debate over the Rafale aircraft deal. But Modi so far has ignored the challenge.

Gandhi’s biggest political triumph since he joined politics 15 years ago was easily his party’s win in assembly elections in December, wrangling power away from Modi’s BJP in the states of Rajasthan, Madya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.

The opposition has also accused Modi of a following a pattern of antagonism against Muslims since his government government came to power in 2014. Modi has adopted a nationalist pitch in trying to win votes from the country’s Hindu majority by projecting a tough stance against Pakistan, India’s Muslim-majority neighbor and archrival.

Human Rights Watch reported an increase in attacks by so-called cow vigilantes against Muslims and lower-caste Hindus suspected of illegally transporting cattle or eating beef in recent years. Hindus comprise more than 80% of India’s 1.3 billion people and Muslims nearly 16%.

Gandhi scion comes into his own as India polls near finish

May 07, 2019

NEW DELHI (AP) — With India’s general election inching toward the finish line, the battle for one seat in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh is being closely watched to see whether the scion of the country’s most important modern political dynasty can retain his seat and revive his party’s fortunes.

After 15 years in politics, Rahul Gandhi is beginning to articulate a vision for India that some observers say is making him a more credible leader. But it’s unclear whether Gandhi, who is president of the opposition Congress party, has rallied enough support in time to defeat Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Gandhi, 48, has often been the object of derision from political rivals, who accuse him, despite his pedigree, of being a lightweight. In contrast to Modi, a tea seller’s son who went on to become India’s leader, Gandhi inherited his power, making him an easy target of charges of nepotism and dynasty politics.

For years, Modi and other leaders of his Bharatiya Janata Party have referred to Gandhi as the “shehzada,” or prince. Critics accuse him of being aloof, a cosmopolitan elite detached from the harsh realities of India’s legions of rural poor.

After the Congress party’s hold in Parliament collapsed from 206 of 543 seats to a mere 44 seats in 2014 elections, Gandhi’s political obituary was all but written. But with small businesses and farmers hurt by some of Modi’s signature policies, and mob attacks on Muslims on the rise, Gandhi and the inclusive, secular politics the Congress party has long represented are starting to resonate.

Gandhi is seeking re-election for a fourth consecutive time in the Uttar Pradesh town of Amethi. The general election, which is being held in seven phases, ends May 19, and vote counting begins May 23.

“In finding his feet in politics, Gandhi has become a perfect foil for Modi,” said political commentator Seema Mustafa. “He comes through as humble, democratic and responsive, and plays on love, peace and humanity as against hate and aggression. The smile against the wagging finger, the embrace against the threat — it is all now part of a persona, natural and yet crafted.”

If Gandhi came across as a reluctant politician, the reasons are not hard to find. His family, starting with his great-grandfather, Jawaharlal Nehru, has produced three prime ministers. Two of them — his grandmother Indira Gandhi and father, Rajiv Gandhi — were assassinated in office.

“In my life, I have seen my grandmother die, I have seen my father die, I have seen my grandmother go to jail, and I have actually been through a tremendous amount of a pain as a child,” Gandhi said in a 2014 interview with an Indian TV channel.

Even after becoming a lawmaker, he distanced himself from political life, refusing to even call himself a candidate for prime minister. In 2014, he was re-elected in Amethi, considered a Gandhi bastion, by only a thin margin.

Yet, under relentless public scrutiny, Gandhi has honed his public speaking and leadership skills. He now comes across as more confident, forceful and credible, according to political analysts. And he is also starting to come across as a vigorous and even pugnacious campaigner.

In Parliament, where he’s represented Amethi since 2004, he had been a backbencher, leaving the party reins largely to his mother, Sonia Gandhi. But he’s started to hit back. One recent barb in particular struck home — he taunted Modi for wearing a monogrammed suit worth $14,400, saying that Modi’s “suit-boot” government was only for the rich.

Perhaps most important, Gandhi has shown he has the stomach for a fight, even challenging Modi, a much more experienced politician, to a public debate. Modi has ignored the challenge. Gandhi’s biggest political triumph in 15 years was easily Congress’ win in assembly elections in December, wrangling power away from Modi’s BJP in the states of Rajasthan, Madya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.

Suddenly, the BJPs’ preferred Gandhi jibe — “pappu,” Hindi for greenhorn — began to fall flat. Suhsmita Dave, head of the Congress party’s women’s wing, said she has known Gandhi well for a decade and he’s basically the same man. The only difference, she said, is that earlier, he held back out of respect for protocol, letting his mother run the party and Manmohan Singh lead the Congress-controlled government.

“He let them get on with their jobs. This gave the BJP a chance to paint him as a reluctant politician,” Dave said. “But the truth is that he was never a leader in a hurry. He waited his turn. When it came, he took the bull by the horns and has been vocal and aggressive. There is no point firing your gun until the time is right.”

Still, critics say there’s a long way to go. Gandhi brought his sister, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, into the party, appointing her to oversee a post in the eastern part of Uttar Pradesh that includes Varanasi, the Hindu holy city where Modi is up for re-election as a member of Parliament. Her popularity has drawn huge crowds to campaign events, but it may not be enough to counter her brother’s perceived sluggishness.

Gandhi has been criticized for his low attendance in the last Parliament, showing up just over half the time; for being abroad at critical moments; for describing power as “poison”; for not cultivating a younger generation of Congress leaders; and for failing to fulfill a promise to overhaul his party’s hierarchy.

He also was unable to forge an alliance with two important opposition parties in vote-rich Uttar Pradesh to wrest power away from the BJP in the current election. In New Delhi, too, he was unable to tie up with the ruling party to combat the BJP.

Whatever the result of the election, Gandhi is now seen as a feisty opponent, most recently in an interview with the daily Indian Express newspaper. “That destruction of the idea of an invincible Mr. Modi, that destruction of the lie of Mr. Modi, is primarily the work of the Congress party,” he said.

2nd phase of voting begins in India with Kashmir in lockdown

April 18, 2019

SRINAGAR, India (AP) — Voting began in the second phase of India’s general elections Thursday amid massive security and a lockdown in parts of the main city in Indian-controlled Kashmir. Srinagar is one of 95 constituencies across 13 Indian states where voting was taking place.

Kashmiri Muslim separatist leaders who challenge India’s sovereignty over the disputed region have called for a boycott of the vote, calling it an illegitimate exercise under military occupation. Most polling stations in the Srinagar and Budgam areas of Kashmir looked deserted in the morning, with more armed police, paramilitary soldiers and election staff than voters.

Authorities shut down mobile internet services and closed some roads with steel barricades and razor wire as armed soldiers and police in riot gear patrolled the streets. Voting was expected to be brisk in the Hindu-dominated Udhampur constituency of the region.

The Indian election is taking place in seven phases over six weeks in the country of 1.3 billion people. Some 900 million people are registered to vote for candidates to fill 543 seats in India’s lower house of Parliament.

Voting concludes on May 19 and counting is scheduled for May 23. Also voting Thursday is Tamil Nadu state in the south, where tens of thousands lined up to cast their ballots for 37 seats. Voting was postponed for the Vellore seat following the seizure of 110 million ($1.57 million) in unaccounted cash allegedly from the home of a local opposition politician, Kathir Anand.

His party accused federal tax authorities of raiding the homes and offices of party leaders running against Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist party. The governing party in the state, All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, is an ally of Modi’s party.

The Election Commission said that authorities had recovered 2 billion rupees ($29 million) from leaders, workers and supporters of various political parties in the state in the past month. They suspect the money is for buying votes.

In vote-rich Uttar Pradesh state, election officials directed authorities to provide drinking water and sun shelters at polling stations to cope with the scorching summer heat, said Vekenteshwar Lu, the state’s chief electoral officer.

The election, the world’s largest democratic exercise, is seen as a referendum on Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party. Modi has used Kashmir as one of the top issues of his campaign and played up the threat of rival Pakistan, especially after the suicide bombing of a paramilitary convoy on Feb. 14 that killed 40 soldiers. The bombing brought nuclear rivals India and Pakistan close to the brink of war.

Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan and both claim the Himalayan territory in its entirety. Rebels have been fighting Indian control since 1989. Most Kashmiris support the rebels’ demand that the territory be united either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country, while also participating in civilian street protests against Indian control.

Anti-India unrest has risen significantly since Modi came to power in 2014 amid a rise in Hindu nationalism and attacks against Muslims and other minorities. Modi supporters say the tea seller’s son from Gujarat state has improved the nation’s standing. But critics say his party’s Hindu nationalism has aggravated religious tensions in India.

Associated Press writers Ashok Sharma in Bew Delhi and Biswajeet Banerjee in Lucknow, India, contributed to this report.

India votes in 1st phase of long polls seen as test for Modi

April 11, 2019

NEW DELHI (AP) — Polls opened Thursday in the first phase of India’s general elections, seen as a referendum on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party. A festive spirit prevailed as men and women in colorful clothes made their way to heavily guarded voting stations in large numbers.

In the world’s largest democratic exercise, voters in 18 Indian states and two Union Territories are casting ballots on Thursday, the first day of a seven-phase election staggered over six weeks in the country of 1.3 billion people.

Modi supporters say the tea seller’s son from Gujarat state has improved the nation’s standing. But critics say his party’s Hindu nationalism has aggravated religious tensions in India. “I vote for the progress of my country,” said businessman Manish Kumar. “And in our country, we want a prime minister like Narendra Modi,” he said after casting his ballot in Ghaziabad district in Uttar Pradesh state.

Tapan Shome, an accountant, said he and his wife voted “to make India a good, prosperous country.” Thursday’s voting is important for the BJP as it had won only 32 of 91 seats in the previous 2014 elections. It is seeking to improve its tally this time.

Modi came to power in 2014 and the party invoked its Hindu nationalist roots before the elections, with Modi at the forefront against the threat of Pakistan, India’s Muslim-majority archrival. Hindus comprise about 80% of India’s 1.3 billion people.

Even though India continues to be one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, the Modi-led government’s performance on the economy has come under criticism. The first item in the opposition Congress party’s election manifesto describes a plan for creating jobs. It also promises an income subsidy program for the poorest families and for farmers.

Voting also began for two parliamentary seats in the Indian-controlled portion of disputed Kashmir amid tight security and a boycott call by Muslim separatists who say the polls are an illegitimate exercise. Armed police and paramilitary soldiers in riot gears guarded polling stations and nearby roads.

Shops, businesses and most schools were closed on Thursday in response to a strike called by separatist leaders who challenge India’s sovereignty over Kashmir and seek right to self-determination for the entire territory as demanded by United Nations resolutions.

In the northern Baramulla area, many people said they came out to vote only against Modi’s BJP, calling it an “anti-Muslim” and “anti-Kashmiri” party. They opposed the BJP’s election manifesto, which promised to scrap decades-old special rights for the Kashmiris under India’s Constitution. The special status prevents outsiders from buying property in the territory.

“I didn’t want to vote but then there’s an imminent threat by politicians like Modi who are up in arms against Kashmiris,” said Abdul Qayoom, a voter in Baramulla town. “They’ve taken our rights, now they want to dispossess us from our land. We want to stop people like Modi.”

The voting follows a sweeping crackdown with police arresting hundreds of Kashmiri leaders and activists. Authorities also banned the movement of civilian vehicles on a key highway to keep it open exclusively for military and paramilitary convoys two days a week during India’s general election.

Some 900 million people are eligible to cast ballots at around a million polling stations across India. They will decide 543 seats in India’s lower house of Parliament. Voting concludes on May 19 and counting is scheduled for May 23.

Associated Press writers Aijaz Hussain in Srinagar, India, Shonal Ganguly in New Delhi contributed to this report.

IAF ties up with ISRO for manned mission crew selection

Bengaluru, India (IANS)

May 31, 2019

The Indian Air Force (IAF) on Wednesday said it signed an agreement with the state-run Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) on Tuesday for crew selection and training for the country’s prestigious maiden manned mission Gaganyaan by 2021-22.

“The agreement was signed by Assistant Chief of Air Staff (Space Operations) Air Vice Marshal R.G.K. Kapoor and Gaganyaan Project Director R. Hutton in the presence of the space agency’s Chairman K. Sivan here,” tweeted IAF.

The crew selection and training will be conducted at ISRO’s Human Space Flight Center, opened on January 31 adjacent to its headquarters in the city, to develop technologies for the manned space missions.

As announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his Independence Day address on August 15, 2018, the space agency will send three astronauts, including a woman, in a capsule into space around the earth’s orbit for a week-long rendezvous by December 2021 or 2022, which marks the country’s 75th year of independence.

The Rs 9,023-crore ambitious project involves sending a 3-member crew on board a heavy rocket to an altitude of 350-400 km and orbit around the planet for conducting experiments in space during a week-long voyage.

The previous NDA government on December 28, 2018 approved the country’s first human space flight program.

“In the run-up, the space agency will send two unmanned missions before 2021 and the manned mission by 2022,” a space official told IANS earlier.

ISRO on January 31 opened a Human Space Flight Center adjacent to its headquarters here to develop technologies for manned space missions.

The Human Flight Space Center will also develop engineering systems for crew survival in space and sustained human space flight missions.

Source: Space Daily.

Link: http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/IAF_ties_up_with_ISRO_for_manned_mission_crew_selection_999.html.

About 50 pieces of destroyed Indian satellite flying above ISS

Washington DC (Sputnik)

Apr 08, 2019

Around 60 fragments of India’s Microsat-R military satellite are currently flying in orbit, 46 of which are flying in orbits located above the apogee of the International Space Station (ISS), according to the US Air Force’s catalog, published on space-track.org website.

The US Air Force’s catalog currently includes 57 Microsat-R fragments flying in orbits at altitudes from 159 kilometers to 2,248 kilometers (99-1,397 miles). As many as 46 of these fragments are flying in orbits above the ISS apogee, which stands at around 400 kilometers.

Ivan Moiseev, the head of the Russian Institute for Space Policy, has commented on the matter, telling Sputnik that fragments flying above the ISS were a threat, albeit an insignificant one.

“There is a threat coming from the Indian satellite, but it is a highly unlikely one”, Moiseev said, explaining that the risk of collision was low because the ISS and the fragments had different inclinations.

India successfully tested its anti-missile weapon on 27 March destroying the Microsat-R in low-Earth orbit. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has praised this as a benchmark event, stressing that the test has proven India’s ability to safeguard its space assets.

Meanwhile, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine has slammed the test, saying that it had created at least 400 pieces of debris, increasing the risk of the ISS colliding with debris by 44 percent.

Microsat-R, designed by the Indian Defense Research and Development Organization, was launched into orbit atop the PSLV carrier in January.

Source: Space Daily.

Link: http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/About_50_Pieces_of_Destroyed_Indian_Satellite_Flying_Above_ISS___US_Air_Force_999.html.

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