South Asia Stay updated with Business News, Pakistan news, Current world news and latest world news with Business Recorder.. Tue, 23 Sep 2014 02:14:23 +0000 SRA Framework 2.0 en-gb Tibetan man self-immolates in China: reports imageBEIJING: A Tibetan man has burned himself to death in northwest China, overseas media and a campaign group reported on Monday, the latest in a string of self-immolation protests in recent years against Beijing's control.

Student Lhamo Tashi died after setting himself on fire in front of a police station in Hezuo county, a Tibetan-populated area of Gansu province, the Britain-based Free Tibet group said, citing locals.

At least 130 Tibetans have set themselves alight in China since 2009, according to tallies by campaign groups and RFA, in what rights groups call protests against government repression in the region.

The last such reported self-immolation was in April.

News of Tashi's fatal burning on Wednesday emerged only at the weekend, due to a communication clampdown imposed by Chinese authorities, US-funded broadcaster Radio Free Asia (RFA) said.

Tashi "did it for Tibetan freedom and died in the self-immolation," RFA cited a local source as saying.

His body was taken and cremated by local authorities, Free Tibet and RFA said, in violation of local funeral customs.

Many Tibetans complain of economic discrimination and tight controls on the local Buddhist religion.

China says it grants widespread religious freedoms in Tibet and says its rule has brought social and economic benefits.

Exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama has described the self-immolations as acts of desperation that he is powerless to stop.

Beijing, however, accuses him of encouraging the acts to further a separatist agenda.

"The death of Lhamo Tashi shows that Tibetans remain willing to take their own lives in response to China's occupation," Free Tibet director Eleanor Byrne-Rosengren said in a statement.

Five Tibetans died after police opened fire on unarmed protesters last month in Kardze, a Tibetan-majority area of Sichuan province, according to previous reports.

The Dalai Lama last week hailed President Xi Jinping as "more open-minded" as the Chinese leader visited India for talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2014

]]> (Saad Jabri) South Asia Mon, 22 Sep 2014 08:19:18 +0000
Indian finance minister back in hospital for check-up imageNEW DELHI: Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has returned to hospital for a check-up after an operation to treat his diabetes, his doctor said on Monday, adding that the minister was doing well and should leave soon.

Jaitley had to skip a meeting of finance ministers from the Group of 20 nations in Australia last weekend after gastric bypass surgery to treat weight gain he has suffered because of a long-standing diabetic condition.

The 61-year-old lawyer, who also holds the defence portfolio in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's four-month-old government, cancelled a public engagement on Monday and returned to the New Delhi hospital where he stayed for 10 days this month.

Although Jaitley has made no secret of his condition, his longer-than-expected stay following the minimally-invasive procedure has led commentators to question whether he was well enough to run two key ministries.

Government sources say his absence has delayed some cabinet decisions, such as a move to reduce the state's majority share holdings in oil company ONGC, Coal India and power firm NHPC.

Jaitley checked in to the Max Institute private hospital on Sunday night for a routine post-operative examination, his doctor Pardeep Chowbey told Reuters, adding that he was expected to leave hospital either later on Monday or on Tuesday.

"His condition is absolutely normal. His kidneys are doing well and weight is 101 kg (222 pounds), down from 118 kg before the surgery," Chowbey said.

Copyright Reuters, 2014

]]> (Imaduddin) South Asia Mon, 22 Sep 2014 06:59:49 +0000
India court sends 13 men to jail over gang-rape of tribal woman imageKOLKATA: An Indian court on Saturday sentenced 13 people, including a village headman, to 20 years in jail for gang-raping a tribal woman as a punishment for "dishonouring" her community.

The 20-year-old woman was gang-raped on orders from tribal village elders who objected to her relationship with a man from a different community.

The attack took place in January in a remote village in eastern West Bengal state, where the unmarried woman from the Santhal group, one of India's largest tribes, was suspected of having a relationship with a man from another village.

All the 13 accused were found guilty on charges of gang-rape, wrongful confinement and voluntarily causing hurt, lawyers said.

"The case ended within eight months. The accused were found guilty on the basis of medical reports and statements of 31 witnesses," prosecution lawyer Mohammed Samsul Zoha told AFF by telephone from the city of Bolpur where the court hearing was held.

Bolpur lies some 160 kilometers (100 miles) from West Bengal state capital Kolkata.

The incident was one of a string highlighting India's failure to stem sexual violence in the wake of the fatal gang-rape of a student in New Delhi in December 2012 which sparked angry protests about the treatment of women.

Tribal or caste-based village councils composed of male elders wield enormous influence over rural life, particularly in northern India. They often issue punishments for moral and other perceived offences.

The incident happened in the village of Subalpur, 240 kilometres (149 miles) west of Kolkata, after the couple were found together.

The pair were tied to two separate trees and asked to pay a fine of 25,000 rupees ($411) each for having the alleged affair, police said at the time.

The man was freed after he agreed to pay the fine within a week, but the woman was taken to a shed where she was gang-raped, police said.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2014

]]> (Imaduddin) South Asia Sat, 20 Sep 2014 12:51:18 +0000
Lizard in food sends 300 school children in India to hospital imageNEW DELHI: About 300 pupils at an Indian school were rushed to a hospital after consuming government-provided lunches, evoking memories of 23 children who died last year after eating food from the same welfare scheme.

A dead lizard was found in one of the seven food containers provided under India's midday meal scheme at a government school in southern city of Bangalore, a teacher told Reuters.

That led to a panic situation as food had already been served to several pupils.

"We stopped the children from eating and rushed them to a hospital," said Syeda Tabassum, a school teacher who was part of the group that served food to the children on Friday.

"All students are safe now," she added, saying most had been discharged from the hospital.

It was not immediately clear whether the contamination originated at the school or where the food was prepared. Police officials were not immediately available for a comment.

The Bangalore school has been receiving meals under the scheme for the past 10 years, but had never faced a similar issue, Tabassum said. However, parents are now worried.

"My child started vomiting after eating the food. We will not let her eat government food now we just have one girl," a parent told the NDTV news channel.

The midday meal scheme, which gives more than 100 million school pupils a free lunch, is the largest such programme in the world. It has been widely lauded as one of the most successful welfare measures in India.

But last year, 23 children died after being poisoned by a school meal provided under the scheme, sparking violent protests in the eastern state of Bihar.

Police said cooking oil used for the meals had been stored in a used pesticide container.

For millions of poor Indian families, the lunch is the only full meal their children eat in a day. That encourages them to send them to school and not keep them home to help with chores.

Copyright Reuters, 2014

]]> (Muhammad Iqbal) South Asia Fri, 19 Sep 2014 17:18:46 +0000
France drops case against Iranian dissidents after 11-year probe

imagePARIS: Prosecuting judges in Paris on Wednesday dropped all charges of money laundering and fraud against nine people close to an exiled Iranian opposition group more than 10 years after they were arrested on terrorism charges.

The five women and four men were among 167 sympathisers of the People's Mujahideen Organisation of Iran (PMOI) who were rounded up in 2003 during a police raid on the ouskirts of Paris for questionning over possible links to terrorism and suspicion of money laundering.

Twenty-four people were originally placed under formal investigation, including Maryam Rajavi, the leader of the PMOI's political wing, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), on suspicion of "associating with wrongdoers in relation with a terrorist undertaking".

But that judicial investigation lost momentum and many of the restrictions on the suspects' movement were lifted in 2006 with only nine still investigated for possible money laundering.

The NCRI has repeatedly denied they had committed any wrongdoing accusing the Iranian government of working with French intelligence to taint the group.

"A case is now closed, but a new case will have to be opened ," Rajavi, who has sought to rebrand the Paris-based group as a potential opposition force in Iran, said in a statement.

"The real criminals, who were involved in this dirty deal, those who ordered the arrests and ridiculed French justice for their political and economic interests, will have to face justice," she said.

The Paris prosecutor's office confirmed all charges had been dropped. One of the PMOI's lawyers, William Bourdon, told Reuters he had rarely seen a case last this long.

"The scrupulous action of (anti-terrorism judge) Trevidic put an end to this serious failing, if not compliance, of the French justice with the manipulation of the Mullahs," he said. Tehran has long called for a crackdown on the NCRI.

France's foreign ministry in an unusually harsh statement said in June the group had no legal status in France criticising it for its "violent and non-democratic leanings", "cult nature" and intense "lobbying and disinformation efforts."

The Mujahideen joined the 1979 Islamic revolution but later broke from the ruling clerics. Based in Iraq since the early 1980s, their fighters clashed with US forces during the 2003 Iraq war, but have since renounced violence.

Many of its members remain stranded in Iraq as the group fell out of Baghdad's favour after Saddam Hussein's downfall.

The European Union had put the group also known by its Farsi name Mujahideen-e-Khalq on its list of banned "terrorist" organiations in May 2002, but did not include the NCRI.

It was removed from the list in 2009. The United States classified the Mujahideen as terrorists until 2012.

Copyright Reuters, 2014

]]> (Muhammad Iqbal) South Asia Wed, 17 Sep 2014 17:07:21 +0000
China's Xi to launch $1.4bn port city development in Sri Lanka$14bn-port-city-development-in-sri-lanka.html$14bn-port-city-development-in-sri-lanka.html imageCOLOMBO: Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Sri Lanka Tuesday to launch construction of a Beijing-funded $1.4 billion port city and seek closer defence ties that could provoke unease in neighbouring India.

China is increasingly asserting its influence in the Indian Ocean, with Sri Lanka a midway point on one of the world's busiest international shipping lanes.

It is already the largest investor in Sri Lanka, having financed the construction of a deep-sea port elsewhere and an international airport.

Xi will on Wednesday kick off construction of the new port city, to include the country's first Formula One track.

In a letter published on the front page of Sri Lanka's state-run Daily News on Tuesday, Xi said he wants to "enhance exchanges and cooperation between us in maritime, business, infrastructure, defence, tourism and other areas".

The reference to defence came despite the repeated insistence of Sri Lankan officials that relations were based on commercial rather than security considerations, an apparent attempt to allay Indian fears.

Sri Lanka's economic development minister Basil Rajapakse said ahead of the visit his country's close ties with China should not be a cause for concern in India.

"We are looking for trade, investment and tourism," Rajapakse told AFP.

"India is also looking to China so I do not see anything wrong in our having close ties with them."

Some officials in New Delhi have voiced fears in the past that China's growing engagement in the region is a deliberate strategy to encircle India.

A military aircraft maintenance facility which Sri Lanka sought to establish with Chinese help has been in limbo since India privately objected to its chosen venue, the eastern port district of Trincomalee.

Trincomalee is a natural deep-sea harbour which allied forces used as a staging post during World war II. It is still considered strategically important.

Xi also said no country should be allowed to intervene in the affairs of the small island nation, which has historically come under India's influence.

"China... resolutely opposes any move by any country to interfere in Sri Lanka's internal affairs under any excuse," Xi said

Beijing has consistently supported Colombo in its efforts to resist a UN investigation into alleged war crimes against Tamil Tiger rebels, while India has pushed Sri Lanka to ensure accountability.

Xi was greeted by President Mahinda Rajapakse as he arrived in Colombo in a ceremony involving dozens of schoolchildren and elephants.

He will hold talks with Rajapakse during the two-day visit, and is expected to finalise more than 20 agreements on trade and aid.

Beijing has already financed the construction of Sri Lanka's second international airport and a deep sea port in the southern district of Hambantota, the home constituency of President Rajapakse.

The ambitious port city project being developed by the Sri Lanka Ports Authority with Chinese backing will include a luxury marina and a Formula One race track.

Authority chief Priyath Bandu Wickrama said the port would be "based on commercial interests".

"We will not allow our ports for any military purposes," he told AFP. "There is nothing for anyone to fear."

The Chinese president arrived from the neighbouring Maldives, where he secured support for his "21st century maritime silk road" -- an initiative that seeks to secure trade routes, largely through economic diplomacy, and already has Colombo's backing.

During his visit Xi will commission the third phase of a 900-megawatt coal power plant China has built on the island's northwestern coast.

China also faces competition for influence in the region from Japan, which relies on the same maritime trade routes.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe travelled to Sri Lanka earlier this month, securing an agreement that the two countries would forge stronger maritime links.

India's new Prime Minister Narendra Modi, meanwhile, has embarked on a regional charm offensive since taking office in May to restore relationships which critics say the previous government neglected.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2014

]]> (Imaduddin) South Asia Tue, 16 Sep 2014 14:14:43 +0000
Large blast rocks central Kabul: AFP imageKABUL: A large blast ripped through central Kabul on Tuesday, shaking buildings and setting off the siren alert at the US embassy as emergency vehicles raced through the streets to assess the damage.

The explosion occurred in the Afghan capital as the two candidates in the presidential election hold talks on ending a prolonged stalemate over who won the vote on June 14.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2014

]]> (Shoaib-ur-Rehman Siddiqui) South Asia Tue, 16 Sep 2014 05:20:32 +0000
China's Xi wins Maldives backing for 'maritime silk route' imageMALE: China's President Xi Jinping secured Maldivian support Monday for a "21st century maritime silk road" as he began a South Asian tour in the strategically located Indian Ocean atoll nation.

The Maldives is best known for its tourist industry but also straddles major international shipping lanes, and Chinese investment there has grown significantly as Beijing tries to secure vital trade routes.

In a joint statement, the two countries also said they agreed to cooperate on security issues -- a potentially sensitive issue in a region traditionally dominated by India.

"The Maldives welcomes and supports the proposal put forward by China to build the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, and is prepared to actively participate in relevant cooperation," the statement said.

"The two sides agreed to enhance cooperation in other areas, such as marine, economy, and security," it said, without elaborating.

Xi is the first Chinese head of state to visit the Maldives since the former British protectorate gained independence in 1965.

It is his second meeting with President Abdulla Yameen in a matter of weeks, following their talks last month in the Chinese city of Nanjing.

India has regarded China's growing influence among its neighbours with concern, leading new Prime Minister Narendra Modi to prioritise regional relationships which critics say the previous government neglected.

A Maldivian government source said before the meeting that Male was keen to avoid upsetting regional superpower India by bringing up sensitive security issues, since New Delhi considers the islands to be within its sphere of influence.

Yameen said the Maldives was "honoured" to be a part of the trade route initiative, flagged by Xi during a visit to Indonesia last year and intended to revive a route running from China through Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean to Europe.

The proposal called for increased maritime cooperation between China and Southeast Asian nations, and for China to work with partners to develop ports and other maritime infrastructure.

"I am confident that this is the beginning of an era of heightened and sustained cooperation between the Maldives and China," Yameen said.

Yameen also secured Chinese support for an ambitious project to build a road bridge between central Male island and nearby Hululle island, where the international airport is located.

Chinese have become the largest single group of holidaymakers to visit the Maldives, a nation of 1,192 tiny coral islands scattered some 850 kilometres (530 miles) across the Equator.

The Maldives received just over one million tourists last year and more than 30 per cent of them were Chinese. Tourism accounts for more than a quarter of the $2.3 billion economy.

"Known as 'a string of pearls that God left in the human world' and with its simple and warm-hearted people and picturesque scenery, Maldives is a magnet attracting tourists from around the world," said Xi, adding he was eager to experience the islands for himself.

But as well as being renowned for sandy beaches and turquoise waters, there is also some alarm that the Maldives has become a recruiting ground for jihadists.

The one-square mile capital island saw a demonstration earlier this month pressing for sharia law.

At least four nationals are said to have been killed while fighting in Syria this year.

Former president Mohamed Nasheed told Britain's Independent on Sunday paper at the weekend that up to 200 Maldivians were fighting for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. The entire population of the Maldives is only around 330,000 Sunni Muslims.

"Radical Islam is getting very, very strong in the Maldives," said Nasheed, who lost last November's run-off election to Yameen. "Their strength in the military and in the police is very significant."

Eight Chinese were among a group of foreign tourists injured in a bombing in Male in 2007 carried out by suspected Islamist militants.

Xi leaves the Maldives on Tuesday for Sri Lanka before heading on Wednesday to India.

Prime Minister Modi has moved quickly to engage with China, inviting Xi to India soon after taking office in May.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2014

]]> (Imaduddin) South Asia Mon, 15 Sep 2014 16:22:32 +0000
India considers closing some loss-making state firms imageNEW DELHI: Indian government officials will meet on Tuesday to discuss proposals to shut down some loss-making state-owned companies, risking a conflict with powerful trade unions.

After two decades of halting privatisations, the central government still owns about 260 firms and thousands more at the state level, involved in activities ranging from generating nuclear power to making condoms.

Some of them, including Oil and Natural Gas Corporation and Steel Authority of India are successful, but there are dozens more that have been bleeding cash for decades and kept afloat by budgetary support each year.

On Tuesday, Cabinet Secretary Ajit Seth has called a meeting of top officials to consider what to do with the 10 firms that make the biggest losses. They had a combined net loss of 245 billion rupees ($4 billion) in 2012/13.

The list includes Bharat Sanchar Nigam, Mahanagar Telephone Nigam, Air India, Hindustan Photofilms and Hindustan Fertilisers Corporation, according to a note prepared by the Department of Public Enterprises.

Officials at the department have drawn up proposals to close some.

They include Hindustan Photofilms, a company set up in 1960 to make film rolls and take on the likes of Kodak but declared a sick company in 1996 and recommended for closure by the department in 2003 on the grounds that it could not compete with private players.

The company, based in the southern town of Ottacamund in the Nilgiri hills, went to court and won a stay order on any further proceedings that could lead to its closure.

In 2010 the firm proposed a recovery plan but the government has been sitting on it, with no decision having been made since about the company's future. In the meantime the company's accumulated losses have piled up to 82.32 billion rupees, about 40 times its paid-up capital.

"There is no future for this company in the current environment. It is a fit case for winding down," said a government official at the Department of Public Enterprises, which is overseeing the privatisation of state firms. The official did not wish to be named due to the sensitivity of the matter.

The department will be making a presentation at Tuesday's meeting.

The government is also considering a proposal to wind down the watch-making division of HMT Machine Tool Limited after years of losses that have forced it to borrow from the government to pay wages.


Trade unions are opposed to any moves to shut down state firms and the Bharatiya Mazadoor Sangh (BMS), a body affiliated to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, said it would work with other unions to block the move.

"We are co-ordinating with all central trade unions on the matter. We are fortunate that all trade unions are on the same page when it comes to these issues," said Vrijesh Upadhyaya, general secretary of the BMS.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's administration, which took office in May pledging to reignite growth, has embarked on a cautious course of shedding stakes in state firms although it has eschewed big moves.

The government increased its privatisation target for its fiscal year 2014/15 budget to 630 billion rupees from the interim budget's target of 480 billion. The target is nearly four times larger than total government divestments in the past four years.

Officials said the government was also looking for ways to revive some of the sick companies through capital infusion, joint ventures and by bringing in new management.

Copyright Reuters, 2014

]]> (Imaduddin) South Asia Mon, 15 Sep 2014 15:02:56 +0000
Bangladesh sets two-year jail term for child marriage imageDHAKA: Bangladesh on Monday approved a law setting a two-year jail term for anyone involved in marrying a girl aged under 18, in a bid to cut the country's notoriously high child marriage rate.

The new law comes days after new UN figures showed two-thirds of Bangladeshi girls marry before they reach adulthood. It targets the parents or guardians and the marriage registrar as well as the groom.

"Anyone found responsible for child marriage, including the groom, the marriage registrar or the guardians, would be jailed for up to two years," said cabinet secretary Musharraf Hossain Bhuiyan.

The current legal age for marriage in Bangladesh is 18 for women and 21 for men. Child marriage is punishable by up to three months in jail but the law is poorly enforced.

The bill is expected to be passed during the current session of the parliament, Bhuiyan told AFP. Girls and women will not be punished for marrying an underage man.

"We do not want to jail people but the goal is to prevent people from this bad practice," he said.

A report published last week by the UN children's agency said Bangladesh's high rate of child marriage was putting girls at risk of sexual exploitation and domestic violence.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2014

]]> (Imaduddin) South Asia Mon, 15 Sep 2014 13:35:13 +0000