South Asia Stay updated with Business News, Pakistan news, Current world news and latest world news with Business Recorder Wed, 27 Jul 2016 21:10:46 +0000 Joomla! 1.5 - Open Source Content Management en-gb India's Jaitley meets state ministers to rescue stalled tax reform imageNEW DELHI: Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley met his state counterparts on Tuesday to forge a political consensus on a much-awaited sales tax reform that is held up in parliament, but made little progress in breaking the impasse.

The proposed tax reform, the biggest since India's independence from Britain in 1947, seeks to replace a slew of federal taxes and levies in 29 states, transforming the nation of near 1.3 billion people into a customs union.

Analysts say the goods services tax (GST) could boost India's economic growth by up to 2 percentage points.

While there is a broad political support for the measure, differences persist on the details, in particular pitching the tax at the right level to offset possible revenue losses.

Indian states are also not ready to share taxation powers with the federal government on transactions up to a certain level.

Tuesday's meeting failed to iron out those differences.

"I am sure that this will be resolved," said West Bengal finance minister Amit Mitra, who has been tasked with building a consensus among states.

"It has to be resolved in order for (the) GST to happen."

For the tax reform to become a reality, Jaitley needs not only the backing of states but also of two-thirds members in the opposition-dominated upper house to pass a constitutional enabling amendment.

The current monsoon session of parliament was widely viewed as the best chance for the government to pass the constitution amendment bill before campaigning hots up for state elections next year.

But almost a week and a half into the four-week long monsoon session, the future of the tax reform remains in doubt, thanks to a persistent standoff in parliament between the main opposition Congress party and the treasury benches.

Jaitley's meeting with state ministers was aimed at putting pressure on Congress, which, with its 60 members in the 245-member upper house, holds the key to the bill's fate.

Congress, the original author of the reform, has refused to back what it calls a "flawed" bill.

The party has also been angered by a federal investigation launched last week against one of its former state chief ministers over a case in which party leader Sonia Gandhi and her son and heir apparent, Rahul, already face trial. The deny wrongdoing.

Copyright Reuters, 2016

]]> (Imaduddin) South Asia Tue, 26 Jul 2016 16:49:05 +0000
India's Jaitley to meet state ministers to push tax reform imageNEW DELHI: Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley will meet state ministers on Tuesday to put pressure on the opposition Congress party to back a long-delayed sales tax reform whose chances have again been thrown into doubt by a parliamentary standoff.

The proposed tax reform, the biggest since India's independence from Britain in 1947, seeks to replace a slew of federal taxes and levies in its 29 states, transforming the nation of 1.3 billion people into a customs union.

The current monsoon session of parliament could be the best chance for Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government to adopt a landmark Goods and Services Tax (GST) before campaigning hots up for state elections next year.

"The meeting will discuss all pending issues on GST," said finance ministry spokesman D. S. Malik. "Later, the government could decide a further course of action."

Yet Congress has been angered by a federal investigation launched last week against one of its former state chief ministers over a case in which party leader Sonia Gandhi and her son and heir apparent, Rahul, already face trial.

Both have denied accusations of misuse of party funds, in the case brought by Subramanian Swamy, a senior politician in Modi's ruling party, over property owned by a defunct party newspaper.

"I don't think the Prime Minister and his government are sincere about any constructive cooperation," Anand Sharma, a senior Congress lawmaker in the upper house of parliament, told the Indian Express newspaper at the weekend.

"And in this vitiated environment, there is no cooperation possible between the Congress and the government," Sharma said, in comments echoed by senior party sources to Reuters on Monday.

With 60 members, Congress is the single largest party in parliament's upper house, whose members total 245. With the support of allies and a few regional parties that oppose the bill, it reckons the government cannot muster the two-thirds majority needed for a key amendment to enact the GST.

Modi's party, which lacks a majority in parliament's upper house, had reached out to Congress to end its opposition to the GST bill, stalled in parliament for years.

Congress signalled until last week it could support the bill if the government agreed to cap the tax rate at about 18 percent, even if this was not initially anchored in the law.

Jaitley has resisted capping the tax rate, winning backing from a growing number of state governments, and still hopes to pass the GST measure in the monsoon session that ends on Aug. 13, and turn India into a single market for the first time.

Copyright Reuters, 2016

]]> (Imaduddin) South Asia Mon, 25 Jul 2016 15:26:10 +0000
Top Chinese military leader gets life sentence for corruption imageBEIJING: Former top Chinese military leader Guo Boxiong was sentenced Monday to life in prison for accepting bribes, the official Xinhua news agency said -- the latest high-profile conviction in President Xi Jinping's crackdown on corruption.

For a decade, Guo was one of the two vice chairmen of the Central Military Commission, second only to the Chinese president in the top body of the People's Liberation Army (PLA). He retired in 2012 and was expelled from the ruling Communist Party last year.

His fall comes as President Xi Jinping seeks to consolidate his power and enhance his control over the PLA, the world's largest military and technically the armed force of the ruling party rather than the Chinese state.

In addition to receiving a life sentence, Guo was also deprived of his political rights for life and stripped of his rank of general, Xinhua said, citing a military court. His personal assets were also seized.

"The amount of bribes Guo Boxiong received was especially large, and the circumstances of his crimes were especially grave," a military court official told Xinhua.

The trial was closed because it "touched on military secrets", the official, whose identity was not provided, added.

In April, Xinhua reported that Guo had "confessed" to taking bribes, having read and signed transcripts of interrogations undertaken by the military procuratorate.

China's military has significant business interests in sectors ranging from property and logistics to telecommunications and healthcare, which have become a hotbed for corruption.

In May, China's Central Military Commission announced that it had sent 10 teams of inspectors to investigate the PLA, the first time the supreme military command established a standing anti-corruption force.

Along with Bo Xilai, Guo is the fourth former member of the Communist Party's 25-strong Politburo to fall.

Chinese media poured scorn on Guo after he was expelled from the ruling party last year.

"One demon killed, all demons deterred," declared a commentary in the People's Daily, the party's official mouthpiece.

His family built up an enormous fortune after he ascended to the highest echelons of power, news portal reported at the time of his expulsion from the party.

His wife He Xiulian acted as a broker between him and senior military officers, taking bribes for promotions and refunding the money if the post did not materialise, it said.

Guo's son Guo Zhenggang, also a PLA officer, was placed under investigation shortly before his father's expulsion from the party.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2016

]]> (Fawad Maqsood) South Asia Mon, 25 Jul 2016 11:38:47 +0000
China says sensitive issues could damage ties with US military imageBEIJING: Failure to properly handle sensitive issues between the US and China could "very likely disturb and undermine" their military-to-military relations, a top Chinese official told US National Security Advisor Susan Rice Monday.

Rice is the highest-level US official to visit the capital since an international tribunal this month rejected China's vast territorial claims in the South China Sea -- infuriating Beijing and fuelling tensions with Washington.

Her trip is intended to prepare for a visit by President Barack Obama to a G20 summit in the city of Hangzhou in September.

The Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague on July 12 denied the legal basis for Beijing's claim to nearly all of the sea, parts of which are also claimed by neighbouring nations.

In recent months Washington has sent naval vessels close to reefs and outcrops claimed by Beijing to assert the principle of freedom of navigation, sparking anger in China which has built a series of artificial islands capable of supporting military operations.

Despite tensions, the two countries have tried to improve communication between their militaries in hopes of minimising misunderstandings that could lead to conflict.

"We should be honest with ourselves that deep down in this relationship we're still faced with obstacles and challenges," Fan Changlong, vice chairman of China's Central Military Commission, told Rice, adding that military ties had been "impacted by some complicated and some sensitive factors".

"If we do not properly handle these factors it will very likely disturb and undermine this steady momentum of our military-to-military relationship," he warned.

Rice noted that "risks of unintended consequences" of the two countries' forces operating in ever-closer proximity had been reduced thanks to better communication and other confidence-building measures.

But despite progress, "we have challenges and differences to discuss and to manage", she said.

At a meeting with State Councillor Yang Jiechi -- China's top foreign policy official -- earlier in the day, Rice had called for "candour and openness" in facing such challenges and made positive remarks about US-China cooperation on climate change, global health issues and nonproliferation.

She is also scheduled to meet President Xi Jinping.

China rejected the tribunal ruling on the South China Sea as "waste paper" and asserted its right, if it chooses, to establish an Air Defence Identification Zone controlling flights over the area.

At a regional summit in Vientiane Monday Southeast Asian nations avoided rebuking Beijing or mentioning the ruling, in a joint statement seen as a victory for China.

Rice made no direct mention of the tribunal verdict. But the topic nonetheless looms large over her four-day trip, which also includes a stop in Shanghai to meet business leaders.

In opening remarks of his own, Yang said US-China relations this year had been "generally stable" and urged increased cooperation even in the face of disagreements.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2016

]]> (Fawad Maqsood) South Asia Mon, 25 Jul 2016 09:57:40 +0000
Afghan civilian casualties soar to record high, UN says imageKABUL: Civilian casualties in Afghanistan soared to a record high in the first half of 2016, the UN said Monday, with children in particular paying a heavy price for growing insecurity as the conflict escalates.

The UN report, which comes days after the deadliest attack in Kabul since the Taliban were ousted from power in 2001, cited increasing ground combat around heavily populated areas as the leading cause of casualties.

Between January and June, 1,601 civilians were killed and 3,565 were wounded -- a four percent increase in casualties compared to the same period last year, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said.

The casualties have reached their highest level since the UN began issuing its authoritative reports in 2009.

"Every single casualty documented in this report -- people killed while praying, working, studying, fetching water, recovering in hospitals -- every civilian casualty represents a failure of commitment and should be a call to action for parties to the conflict to take meaningful steps to reduce suffering," UNAMA chief Tadamichi Yamamoto said.

"Platitudes not backed by meaningful action ring hollow over time."

The casualties include 1,509 children -- roughly one-third of the total -- a figure the UN described as "alarming and shameful". It was the highest toll ever recorded by the UN over a six-month period.

The statistics are a grim indicator of growing insecurity in Afghanistan as the Taliban step up their nationwide insurgency and the Islamic State group seeks to expand their foothold in the east of the country.

The UN report said insurgent groups including the Taliban were responsible for the majority -- 60 percent -- of civilian casualties.

But it also reported a 47 percent increase in the number of casualties caused by pro-government forces, compared to the same period last year.

- 'Protracted conflict' -

"The testimony of victims and their families brings into agonising focus the tragedy of... this protracted conflict since 2009," said Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

"The family that lost a breadwinner, forcing the children to leave school and struggle to make ends meet; the driver who lost his limbs, depriving him of his livelihood; the man who went to the bazaar to shop for his children only to return home to find them dead."

The report comes after the deadliest attack for 15 years in Kabul on Saturday killed 80 people and left hundreds maimed, an assault claimed by IS.

The twin bombings tore through crowds of minority Shiite Hazaras as they gathered to demand that a multi-million-dollar power line pass through their electricity-starved province of Bamiyan, one of the most deprived areas of Afghanistan.

Those figures are not included in the UN report.

But the assault illustrates the report's finding that suicide bombings and complex attacks are now hurting more civilians than roadside bombs.

"Parties to the conflict must cease the deliberate targeting of civilians and the use of heavy weaponry in civilian-populated areas," Zeid said.

"There must be an end to the prevailing impunity enjoyed by those responsible for civilian casualties -- no matter who they are."

The report said that growing air strikes by Afghan forces also contributed to the rise in civilian casualties as new aircraft were deployed.

It also voiced concern over the human rights violations of pro-government militia groups, which act outside the law in some Afghan provinces.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2016

]]> (Fawad Maqsood) South Asia Mon, 25 Jul 2016 09:48:54 +0000
Nepal's Oli resigns as prime minister imageKATHMANDU: Nepal's K.P. Sharma Oli resigned as prime minister on Sunday, minutes before facing a no-confidence motion in parliament he was certain to lose, plunging the impoverished nation into fresh turmoil.

His political rivals, former Maoist rebels, called for the vote against Oli after they deserted his fragile ruling coalition, accusing him of reneging on past deals and following deadly unrest over a divisive new constitution.

"I have decided to open the road to elect a new prime minister in this parliament and presented my resignation to the president," Oli told lawmakers who were set to vote on the no-confidence motion.

In his speech, the embattled premier accused rival lawmakers of undermining his nine-month-old government, which he said was working to rebuild the Himalayan country after a devastating earthquake last year.

"I am concerned that the steps taken were driven by selfishness and revenge (and they) will cause a long-term negative impact and push the country to instability," he said of the motion, during the nearly two-hour speech.

Oli's resignation is the latest crisis to hit Nepal which has been struggling to rebuild the quake last April that claimed almost 9,000 lives.

The former rebels and main opposition Nepali Congress party had said they would try to form a new administration if Oli lost the vote, with Maoist chief Pushpa Kamal Dahal as premier.

Dahal, the country's first prime minister after the Maoist insurgency ended in 2006, pulled his party from Oli's coalition two weeks ago, leaving it without a majority.

Dahal, better known by his nom-de-guerre Prachanda, painted Oli as an egocentric who refused to listen to the people and demanded that he resign.

After debate on the motion kicked off on Friday, two smaller parties also abandoned the coalition, leaving Oli's Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist Leninist) floundering for support.

The Maoists joined Oli's government last October, weeks after Nepal adopted the new national constitution.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2016

]]> (Imaduddin) South Asia Sun, 24 Jul 2016 14:31:32 +0000
China builds massive seaplane: state media imageBEIJING: China has completed production of the world's largest amphibious aircraft, state media has said, the latest effort in the country's program to wean itself off dependence on foreign aviation firms.

The state-owned Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) unveiled the first of the new planes, dubbed the AG600, Saturday in the southern port city of Zhuhai, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

The aircraft, which has a maximum range of 4,500 km (2,800 miles), is intended for fighting forest fires and performing marine rescues, it said.

At around the size of a Boeing 737, it is far larger than any other plane built for marine take off and landing, Xinhua quoted AVIC's deputy general manager Geng Ruguang as saying.

However, its wingspan is considerably smaller than that of the H-4 Hercules, known as the Spruce Goose, which was designed in the 1940s to carry Allied troops into battle. It is regarded as by far the largest seaplane ever built although it only ever made one flight, in 1947.

The Chinese plane, which is targeted at the domestic market, will be "very useful in developing and exploiting marine resources," the article said, adding that it could be used for "environmental monitoring, resource detection and transportation".

Beijing is currently locked in disputes with several of its neighbours, including Japan, Vietnam and the Philippines, over the rights to develop economic resources in waters off its shores.

The AG600 could potentially extend the Asian giant's ability to conduct a variety of operations in the South China Sea, where it has built a series of artificial islands featuring air strips, among other infrastructure with the potential for either civilian or military use.

Xinhua said AVIC has received 17 orders for the plane so far.

China is seeking to develop its own aviation sector to reduce dependence on and even challenge foreign giants, such as European consortium Airbus and Boeing of the United States, though analysts say it could take years.

Despite a history of delays and problems, China's aviation industry has made rapid progress in the last year.

In June, the Chinese-made ARJ21 -- which stands for Advanced Regional Jet for the 21st century -- made its first commercial flight, when Chengdu Airlines flew one from its home base to Shanghai, and the country's military began using its homegrown Y-20 heavy transport plane earlier this month.

It rolled out the C919, China's first domestically developed narrow-body passenger plane, in November last year.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2016

]]> (Fawad Maqsood) South Asia Sun, 24 Jul 2016 06:59:29 +0000
Pakistan strongly condemns Kabul terrorist attack imageISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Saturday strongly condemned the dastardly terrorist acts in Kabul that resulted intothe loss of a number of precious human lives and left several others injured.

"The Government and the people of Pakistan extend their sincere condolences and profound sympathies to the families of the bereaved people and convey their earnest prayers and wishes for early recovery of those injured in this heinous act of terrorism," the Foreign Office said in a statement.

Pakistan reiterated its unequivocal condemnation of terrorism in all forms and manifestations and reaffirmed commitment for continued efforts and cooperation for eliminating this menace.

Copyright APP (Associated Press of Pakistan), 2016

]]> (Imaduddin) South Asia Sat, 23 Jul 2016 15:56:10 +0000
PM Nawaz strongly condemns Kabul blasts, expresses grief over loss of lives imageISLAMABAD: Pakistan Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif Saturday strongly condemned blasts in Kabul and expressed his deep grief and anguish over loss of precious lives.

The Prime Minister prayed for eternal peace for the departed souls and early recovery of those injured.

"Terrorism is a common enemy and must be fought with collective and concerted efforts. Pakistan has been bearing the brunt of terrorists as a frontline state in war on terror," a press release of the PM Office media wing quoted the Prime Minister as saying.

He said terrorists have no faith and respect for humanity. Their indiscriminate acts must be dealt with iron hands.

The Prime Minister expressed solidarity with the government and people of Afghanistan.

"Pakistan condemns terrorism in all its forms and manifestations wherever it is perpetrated. We stand firm again terrorism and always ready to assist Afghan government in rooting out the menace of terrorism and extremism," the Prime Minister said.

Copyright APP (Associated Press of Pakistan), 2016

]]> (Imaduddin) South Asia Sat, 23 Jul 2016 13:41:59 +0000
China's workforce may decline 23pc by 2050: official imageBEIJING: The size of China's workforce may decline by as much as 23 percent by 2050, a government official said, as the population of the world's second-largest economy rapidly ages.

China's working age population, defined as those between the ages of 16 and 59, peaked in 2011 and would soon "experience a process of sharp decline", particularly after 2030, said Li Zhong, a spokesman for the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, at a news conference.

He forecast that last year's tally of 911 million people of working age could fall as low as 700 million by 2050 -- a decline of over 23 percent.

"Over the long term, macro-level data analysis shows that we must focus on the development of human resources as a whole, and study how to more fully and more efficiently make use of labour resources," he said Friday.

China is faced with deep demographic challenges, thanks in large part to decades of the strict and at times brutal enforcement of its hugely controversial "one child" policy.

The country now has 220 million people over the age of 60, Li said, accounting for over 16 percent of its total population.

China's economy grew by 6.9 percent last year, its slowest rate in a quarter of a century, and its shrinking workforce has heightened the challenges brought on by sluggish economic growth.

The country has drafted plans currently pending approval to delay retirement age, with Li stating that the decision would have "limited" impact on employment for younger people.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2016

]]> (Imaduddin) South Asia Sat, 23 Jul 2016 12:26:05 +0000
India steps up search for missing military plane imageCHENNAI: India on Saturday stepped up a major search operation for an air force plane that disappeared over the Bay of Bengal the day before with 29 people on board, as the defence minister headed to the region.

The AN-32 military transport plane was on a routine flight from the southern city of Chennai to Port Blair, capital of the remote Andaman and Nicobar islands, on Friday morning when it vanished from radar screens.

Twenty-one of the passengers on board were defence personnel, including six crew members, while eight others worked for the military in non-uniform roles, an IAF source told AFP.

On its official Twitter account the Indian navy said 18 navy and coastguard ships were now deployed in the search operation, along with six aircraft and a submarine.

"#SAROps 18 Naval & ICG ships (+1sm) deployed with various aircraft... to locate missing AN 32" the navy tweeted.

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar travelled to Tambaram air base on the outskirts of Chennai on Saturday morning, where he was briefed by military officials before departing for an aerial survey to monitor the ongoing operation.

"It lost contact with the radars approximately 150 nautical miles east of Chennai," IAF Wing Commander Anupam Banerjee told AFP.

Several reports said weather in the Bay of Bengal had been rough owing to the southwest monsoon.

An IAF source said Friday radar data from the missing aircraft showed it making a sharp left turn before rapidly losing altitude.

The Russian-built AN-32, equipped with navigational aids, is the IAF's workhorse aircraft and capable of flying for up to four hours without refuelling.

Experts have warned India's outdated fleet -- some of which dates back to the 1960s -- is a threat to national security, with some aircraft virtually on their last legs.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2016

]]> (Imaduddin) South Asia Sat, 23 Jul 2016 12:18:16 +0000