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Posts tagged ‘Indian Peninsula’

Merkel hosts Indian leader Modi, looks to broaden world ties

May 30, 2017

BERLIN (AP) — The leaders of Germany and India heaped mutual praise upon each other Tuesday — each referring to the other as a “reliable partner” in a notable contrast to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s recent public doubts about Germany’s ties with the United States.

Merkel suggested that Europe’s relationship with the U.S. had shifted significantly following last week’s NATO and G-7 meetings with President Donald Trump that produced disappointing results, saying Saturday that “the times in which we can fully count on others are somewhat over, as I have experienced in the past few days.”

Asked Tuesday whether her meetings with senior officials from India and China this week signaled a pivot away from Germany’s old ally in Washington, Merkel sought to dampen speculation of a major rift.

“The trans-Atlantic partnership is of outstanding importance and what I said was merely meant to note that in view of the current situation there are more reasons … for us in Europe to take our fate into our own hands,” Merkel told reporters in Berlin.

Speaking after a meeting with India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, she went out of her way to laud the South Asian country as a “reliable partner” on major projects and noted that India was working hard to implement the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.

“India wants the world not just to be interconnected but also that it should be sensibly run,” Merkel said, backing European Union talks for a trade agreement with India. Climate and trade were the two main issue of contention between the United States and other members at the G-7 summit of major economies in Sicily last week, and the topics look set to flare up again soon.

Trump criticized Germany’s trade surplus with the United States on Tuesday, tying the issue to Berlin’s military spending. “We have a MASSIVE trade deficit with Germany, plus they pay FAR LESS than they should on NATO & military. Very bad for U.S. This will change,” he tweeted.

“Donald Trump is making clear with his tweet that he considers Germany a political opponent,” said Thomas Oppermann, the parliamentary caucus leader of the Social Democrats, the junior partners in Merkel’s coalition government. “This is a new situation — we lived for decades in the certainty that we could rely on each other as partners in an alliance, and this certainty no longer exists today.”

Trump has also said he plans to make a decision this week on whether to withdraw the United States from the Paris accord — widely considered a key achievement of the Obama administration and a necessary measure if the world wants to avoid a sharp rise in global temperatures.

For his part, Modi declared that “the world needs a strong leadership, which is demonstrated by Chancellor Merkel.” “Germany is a large, reliable and trustworthy partner for us,” he added. Merkel is scheduled to meet with China’s Prime Minister Li Keqiang on Wednesday.

Geir Moulson contributed to this report.

India imposes security lockdown in Kashmir to stop protests

May 28, 2017

SRINAGAR, India (AP) — Government forces have enforced strict curfew in parts of Indian-controlled Kashmir after Indian soldiers killed a prominent rebel commander in the disputed region. Armed police and paramilitary soldiers on Sunday patrolled deserted streets and ordered residents indoors in the region’s main city of Srinagar and other towns to stop anti-India protests.

Thousands of people assembled in southern Tral area to take part in the funeral of the rebel leader Sabzar Ahmed Bhat, chanting slogans calling for Kashmir’s freedom from Indian rule. One civilian was killed and dozens of others injured as massive anti-India protests and clashes followed the killings across Kashmir on Saturday. Eight militants were shot dead by security forces.

India and Pakistan administer part of Kashmir, but both claim the territory in its entirety.

Indian Space Agency Test-Drives Solar Electric Hybrid Vehicle

New Delhi (Sputnik)

May 04, 2017

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) added another milestone to its list of achievements by successfully showcasing a solar-electric hybrid vehicle. ISRO’s different engineering branches at the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre in Thiruvananthapuram developed the vehicle.

The team working on the project developed a solar panel to fit on the roof of a car, along with an internal gearbox, control electronics for the battery and solar panel, and a conversion kit for fitting an electric motor to a vehicle with an internal combustion engine.

The vehicle was powered by ISRO’s famed Lithium-ion batteries, with a high power supercapacitor to meet the power demands to achieve required torque. ISRO also ensured to not compromise the safety while integrating various subsystems.

The vehicle was successfully test-driven, including an uphill drive. The space agency will now focus on building indigenous Lithium-ion fuel cells, supercapacitors and an electric motor.

“ISRO is doing a lot of things in addition to launching satellites. And all projects are interlinked and laying down the foundation for an industrial complex which will boost innovation and job creation. They have started sub-contracting many of their product building processes, which again will help in the growth of industries,” Dr. Mayank N. Vahia, Department of Astrophysics, at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai, told Sputnik.

India is aiming to push the use of electric vehicles to tackle rising pollution in its cities with the government setting a target of 6 million electric and hybrid vehicles on the roads by 2020 under the National Electric Mobility Mission Plan 2020 and Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid and Electric Vehicles.

The sales of electric vehicles in India is currently very low, rising 37.5 percent to 22,000 units in the year ended March 31, 2016, over 16,000 in 2014-15, according to the Society of Manufacturers of Electric Vehicles. Of these 22,000 vehicles, only 2,000 were cars and other four-wheelers.

The high cost of batteries, a majority of which are imported, is a major hindrance to the development of the sector. Yet another challenge is to create a network of docking stations or charging stations for electric vehicles although that is more of a demand-related problem.

“A helping hand is required to create the infrastructure… There are two concerns for electric vehicles-first is cost and second is infrastructure,” Mint quoted Abdul Majeed, partner and national auto practice leader, PricewaterhouseCoopers as saying.

The government recently asked ISRO to share its technology on Lithium-ion batteries with other public and private sector firms to give a push to the production of batteries in India and bring down the cost of electric vehicles.

Source: Solar Daily.

Link: http://www.solardaily.com/reports/Indian_Space_Agency_Test_Drives_Solar_Electric_Hybrid_Vehicle_999.html.

India has capability to develop space station, says top official

New Delhi (XNA)

Mar 03, 2017

India has the capability to develop a space station, a top official of the state-owned space agency has said.

“We have all the capabilities to set up a space station. The day the country takes the decision, we will okay the project. Just draw a policy and provide us necessary funds and time,” Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) chief A.S. Kiran Kumar told the media Monday.

The ISRO chief’s statement came barely a week after India launched 104 satellites in a single space mission, breaking the previous record of 37 satellites launched by Russia in 2014.

India had in September 2014 launched a successful mission to Mars, called Mangalyaan, at a budget of just 4.5 billion Indian rupees (74 million U.S. dollars), which by Western standards is fairly cheap.

The Indian government has increased the budget for its space program this year and also announced plans to send a mission to Venus.

Over the past two decades, India has become a key player in the lucrative commercial space market offering a low-cost alternative.

Source: Space Daily.

Link: http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/India_has_capability_to_develop_space_station_says_top_official_999.html.

Indian PM Modi’s party wins landslide in key state elections

March 11, 2017

NEW DELHI (AP) — India’s ruling Hindu nationalist party won landslide victories in results announced Saturday from key state legislative elections that are seen as a referendum on the performance of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s nearly 3-year-old government.

Leaders from Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party said the party’s victory in Uttar Pradesh, India’s largest state, would boost Modi’s chances of winning another term as India’s prime minister in 2019 elections.

The Election Commission said the BJP won 311 out of 403 seats in Uttar Pradesh’s legislature. The party’s president, Amit Shah, described it as “a historic verdict.” In another northern state, Uttarakhand, the BJP won 56 of 70 seats and was leading in one other constituency, wresting power from the Congress party, the main opposition at the national level. The Congress party lost power by winning only 11 seats.

The elections were held in five states in February and early March, but the votes were not tallied until Saturday. Modi tweeted: “Am overjoyed that BJP has received unprecedented support from all sections of society. Huge support from the youth is gladdening.”

The Congress party had a face-saving win in Punjab state, where it captured 77 of 117 seats, unseating the governing alliance of the BJP and a powerful regional group, the Akali Dal. Both the BJP and the Congress party failed to win a majority of seats in western Goa state and northeastern Manipur state, according to the Election Commission. The Congress was ahead in the two states. The parties will seek the support of regional groups to stitch governing alliances.

Rahul Gandhi, the Congress party vice president, seems to have failed to make any impact for his party in Uttar Pradesh, located in the Hindi heartland, with his party winning five seats and leading in another two constituencies. The party’s ally, the Samajwadi Party, had won 33 seats and was leading in 16 other voting districts.

Sandeep Dikshit, a Congress party leader, said that “it will be unfair to blame the party’s debacle entirely on Rahul Gandhi.” The victory will come as a big morale-booster for Modi, who had campaigned extensively in the region for his party’s nominees.

“The BJP has reached new heights in Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh states and changed the political picture of the country,” India’s home minister, Rajnath Singh, said in New Delhi. The party will be returning to power in Uttar Pradesh after 14 years.

Kapil Sibal, a senior Congress party leader, conceded that “No doubt, it’s an astounding victory for the BJP.” Modi’s party appears to have successfully forged a coalition of upper, middle-ranking and lower castes in Uttar Pradesh. “The elections prove that the BJP was able to break caste and class barriers,” social scientist P. Kumar of the Giri Institute of Development Studies said in Lucknow, the state capital.

Modi continued a winning run in the state for the BJP, which won 71 of Uttar Pradesh’s 80 seats in India’s Parliament in 2014 national elections. The Congress party and other BJP rivals vainly hoped that voters would punish Modi’s government for its decision to demonetize the country’s highest-value currency bills in November, which brought immense economic hardships, especially to the poor.

Modi called India’s massive demonetization drive, which withdrew 86 percent of the country’s currency bills from the system, to cleanse the system of tax evasion and corruption. Banks and ATMs witnessed massive lines of people for months. ATMs were not refilled for days and banks ran out of cash within a few hours of opening.

The government was able to tide over the problem as voting started last month. “People have strongly supported Modi on the demonetization issue,” said Shah, the BJP president, adding that they believed it was a step taken to recover unaccounted money hoarded by the rich.

A majority of Indians earn and spend in cash, either due to habit or because they’re too poor to have access to banks. Since taking office in May 2014, Modi’s government has been pumping funds into boosting education, while increasing spending on roads, irrigation and other infrastructure. It has also been reforming India’s complicated tax regime.

Associated Press writer Biswajeet Banerjee in Luknow, India, contributed to this report.

India state polls test Modi popularity after currency chaos

February 04, 2017

NEW DELHI (AP) — Nearly three years ago, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi won a sweeping national election victory with promises to develop the economy and root out corruption. But with a series of key state elections beginning Saturday, Modi’s popularity — and his surprise currency decree that sparked months of financial uproar — is about to be tested.

India is just emerging from the fallout of the November decision, which withdrew India’s two-largest currency notes from circulation and caused weeks of chaos as people waited to get their money back in new bills.

Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party hailed the move as a way to curb tax fraud and corruption and push India toward more digital spending. Opponents say it was a self-inflicted blow on the world’s fastest growing economy, causing enormous hardship for the vast majority of Indians, who rely often completely on cash.

While the five state elections will not decide whether Modi remains in office, a loss would be seen as a serious blow to his political image. Most important is northern Uttar Pradesh state, whose immense population of 204 million people means state elections often help shape the national political agenda.

“In these elections, Uttar Pradesh is the real biggie,” said Ajoy Bose, a political analyst in New Delhi. “If the BJP were to lose in Uttar Pradesh, it would be a huge setback, both for the party and for Modi. It would destroy the myth of Modi, who has been projected as this political juggernaut of invincible proportions,” Bose said.

The elections begin Saturday in the northern state of Punjab and the beach resort state of Goa. The Himalayan state of Uttarakhand votes on Feb. 15, and remote northeastern Manipur votes on March 4 and 8.

Elections in northern Uttar Pradesh begin on Feb. 11, but because of the state’s size, voting is divided into seven phases. Results from all the elections will be declared on March 11. In 2014, the BJP had won an overwhelming 71 out of 80 parliamentary seats in Uttar Pradesh, or 15 percent of all national legislators in the powerful lower house, ensuring that it emerged as the single largest party in Parliament.

But Modi now faces a tough fight in Uttar Pradesh, with the state’s current top official, Akhilesh Yadav, in a political alliance with the Congress Party led by Rahul Gandhi, scion of the Nehru-Gandhi family that ruled India for decades. While the Congress Party is a shadow of its former self, it remains the country’s second most popular. The alliance is seen as a way to boost the chances of Yadav’s Samajwadi Party while the Congress tries to remain relevant in a politically key state.

All those candidates must also face Mayawati, a former chief minister of the state and a master of caste-based politics. Mayawati, who uses only one name, is a Dalit, the name given to the lowest rung of India’s caste hierarchy. She commands strong support among the state’s Dalits, who form more than one-fifth of the population.

Uttar Pradesh voters are divided over the currency withdrawal, analysts say. “People in rural areas of the state saw the currency withdrawal as an equalizer, where the rich and the poor were hit by the same shortage of currency notes,” said Nomita P. Kumar, an economist at the Giri Institute of Development Studies, a think tank in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh’s capital. “Poor people were happy that, for once, the rich were in the same boat as themselves. They think it was a smart move by Modi to curb corruption.”

Not so in Punjab, where the ruling coalition of the BJP and the regional Shiromani Akali Dal party face the twin challenges of a strong anti-incumbency sentiment and a palpable anger against the chaos unleashed by the currency withdrawal. Voters appeared to hold Modi responsible for the economic disruption that followed the abrupt removal of currency.

“The people’s anger is directed against Modi and this will be reflected in the way they vote,” said Bose, who returned Tuesday from a trip through that state. The BJP-led coalition also faces a strong challenge from the upstart Aam Aadmi Party, or Common Man Party, which has tapped into the voters’ disappointment with the state government.

In Goa, the ruling BJP was beset with divisions among its political allies, while the Aam Aadmi Party and the Congress were also putting up a strong fight. Modi’s performance in the current state-level elections is also likely to determine his political strategy in the run-up to the next national elections due in 2019, when he is hoping to wrest a second term in office, analysts said.

“This makes the outcome so important. It could be a make-or-break election for Modi,” said Bose. The state elections are also significant for their power to help elect a new president. While the Indian presidency is largely ceremonial, it is a very high profile position and the president can wield significant power in times of political crisis.

The current president is Pranab Mukherjee, a Congress Party stalwart, whose term ends in July. Presidents are elected by a combination of national and state lawmakers. For Modi to bring in his own president, he needs to win Uttar Pradesh and at least one other state.

Pakistan PM to witness military drills at India border

November 16, 2016

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the country’s powerful army chief left Wednesday for a strategically located secret area bordering India to witness a military exercise of ground and air power amid increasing tension with India over Kashmir.

Planes, tanks, artillery and other heavy weapons will be used during Wednesday’s exercise, which is aimed at checking preparedness of the army in reacting to any hostile situations, two officials said.

The drills come three days after Indian fire in Kashmir killed seven Pakistani soldier. The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to speak to the media, said Army Chief Gen. Raheel Sharif will witness the exercise less than two weeks before he retires after completing his three-year term. The government has not announced who will be the new army chief.

Tensions between the two nuclear-armed rivals have increased in recent months after militant attacks on Indian military facilities in the Indian-controlled part of Kashmir. India has blamed Pakistan-based militants for the attacks, a charge Pakistan denies.

Despite pleas from the United Nations, the two sides have continued to exchange fire in the disputed Himalayan region. The violence has forced thousands of villagers on the Pakistani side to flee for safety.

India says it has been retaliating for Pakistani violations of a 2003 cease-fire. Two of the three wars between India and Pakistan since 1947 have been fought over their competing claims to Kashmir. Each has administered part of Kashmir since 1947.

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