South Asia Stay updated with Business News, Pakistan news, Current world news and latest world news with Business Recorder.. Fri, 28 Nov 2014 19:12:28 +0000 SRA Framework 2.0 en-gb India sees $15.6bn hit on state lenders from coal verdict$156bn-hit-on-state-lenders-from-coal-verdict.html$156bn-hit-on-state-lenders-from-coal-verdict.html

imageNEW DELHI: An Indian Supreme Court order scrapping most coal extraction permits given to companies would have a likely impact of 964.84 billion rupees ($15.6 billion) on state-run lenders, the junior finance minister told parliament on Friday.

The government had deduced the impact of the cancellation of the so-called coal block allotments on banks due to likely stoppage of power production, Jayant Sinha said in a written reply to a lawmaker question on bad loans for state banks due to the verdict.

It was, however, not clear whether he was referring to an increase in bad loans or loan exposure of banks to affected companies.

Bankers and analysts have previously said it was difficult to quantify the increase in bad loans as the scrapped coal blocks will be returned after March and as all the loans to the affected companies may not turn sour.

Sinha said bad loans of state lenders were a provisional 5.32 percent of total loans as of end-September, while that of private sector lenders was a provisional 2.04 percent.

Bad loans of state banks in coal industry was 0.23 percent as of end-September, while for private banks it was 0.22 percent.

Copyright Reuters, 2014

]]> (Parvez Jabri) South Asia Fri, 28 Nov 2014 08:06:15 +0000
India's Jaitley likely to meet Rajan on Monday to urge rate cut imageNEW DELHI: India's finance minister is likely to meet the head of the Reserve Bank of India in New Delhi on Monday to urge the central bank to cut interest rates at a policy meeting the following day, two senior finance ministry officials said.

Arun Jaitley wants the RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan to cut interest rates to support economic growth, one of the officials told Reuters on Thursday.

"A rate cut is needed now," the source said. "It can help the auto and housing sectors."

The RBI's policy repo rate is currently 8.0 percent and, while most analysts believe Rajan will wait until early next year to order a reduction, markets have begun pricing in a cut to 7.75 percent.

Data due to be released on Friday is expected to show growth fell back to 5.1 percent year-on-year in the July-September quarter, after speeding up to 5.7 percent in the previous quarter, according to a Reuters poll.

"The second quarter (of the fiscal year) is always challenging. The number could be lower than in the first quarter," the source added.

The finance minister and central bank governor usually meet in New Delhi during the days before a policy review at the RBI in Mumbai.

The sources said that Jaitley is likely to have that meeting with Rajan on Monday in New Delhi, unless the two meet while the minister is in Mumbai over the weekend.

Jaitley will be travelling to Mumbai on Saturday for two industry events and is scheduled to return the next day.

"The customary meeting between the RBI governor and the finance minister ahead of the policy review could happen on Monday, unless there is a meeting in Mumbai," said the second official, adding that no date had been fixed yet.

Both officials declined to be named because of the sensitivity of the issue.

Separately, the finance ministry plans to extend factory gate duty concessions for car makers beyond Dec. 31, as the industry continues to struggle with sluggish demand due to high interest rates, the first source said.

Copyright Reuters, 2014

]]> (Imaduddin) South Asia Thu, 27 Nov 2014 12:37:38 +0000
India marks six years since Mumbai attacks imageMUMBAI: India on Wednesday marked six years since militants stormed Mumbai in three days of horror that left 166 people dead, as survivors said they would never be "beaten back by terror".

Families of victims and politicians laid flowers and wreaths at sites around the city to remember those slain in 2008 when gunmen stalked luxury hotels, a popular cafe, a train station and a Jewish centre.

"Today, as we remember the horror of the terror attack in Mumbai in 2008, we feel the endless pain of lost lives," Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in a speech at a regional summit in Kathmandu.

"Let us work together to fulfil the pledge we have taken to combat terrorism and transnational crimes."

Live television footage was beamed around the world as commandos battled the gunmen, who arrived by sea on the evening of November 26.

It took authorities three days to regain full control of the city.

India blames the attacks on militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba. Tense relations between the rival neighbours hit a fresh low as New Delhi pressed Islamabad to bring the alleged masterminds to justice.

Sourav Mishra remembers enjoying a beer with two friends at Leopold Cafe, a popular haunt for foreign tourists, when a grenade exploded at the next table and the militants opened fire.

"Something went off with a flash close to my table and the guy there crumpled," Mishra told AFP.

"I was sipping beer one moment and then death had become a very real possibility as blood soaked my clothes," said Mishra, who suffered shrapnel and a bullet wound.

At the Chabad House Jewish centre, another high-profile target where six people were killed, an official said its reopening in August showed its community would "never be beaten back by terror". "Followers of the movement passing through here have been lighting a single candle for the past week in remembrance of the people slain in this disaster," Naftali Charter, head of security at the centre, told AFP.

A memorial for all of the victims of the Mumbai attacks is being built on the centre's roof and will be "finished shortly", Charter said.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2014

]]> (Shoaib-ur-Rehman Siddiqui) South Asia Wed, 26 Nov 2014 12:19:44 +0000
Iran's hardline media slam nuclear talks extension imageTEHRAN: Iran's media were deeply split Tuesday on the merit of extending nuclear talks with the West, with conservative newspapers slamming the move as reformist outlets said progress had been made.

Vatan-e-Emrooz, a hardline broadsheet title, headlined its front page "Nothing" -- and beneath the fold had only empty white space.

"A year has passed since the Geneva accord. Nuclear negotiations for the removal of sanctions did not reach a result," the newspaper said, announcing the seven-month extension in talks to its readers.

"This is to cover up that negotiations in fact failed because of America's excessive demands," a downbeat front-page editorial added.

Siasate-e Rooz, another hardline title, was similarly pessimistic.

"Americans, despite announcing in their media that they want a deal, in fact do not believe in reaching a nuclear agreement with the Islamic Republic of Iran and have never taken any steps to achieve this result," its front-page editorial said.

However, President Hassan Rouhani, who on Monday said a nuclear deal with the West would be done despite missing the deadline in Vienna, received support from more moderate titles.

"A major change took place in the past 15 months... the victory of realism, rationality and pragmatism," the reformist Shargh newspaper said.

"These negotiations showed that neither is Iran 'the axis of evil' that the Americans imagined and tried to make the world believe, and nor does America have unresolvable conflicts with Iran as many said," it added.

Iran, considered the mouthpiece of Rouhani's government, said: "The result of this exciting competition was a draw. It may not have satisfied spectators, but the teams taking part expressed satisfaction with the result."

The overall tone was pessimistic, however, with most newspapers taking a sceptical view of the talks extension.

Javan, a newspaper with close links to Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guards, headlined its front-page report: "Seven months of artificial respiration to nuclear diplomacy."

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2014

]]> (Imaduddin) South Asia Tue, 25 Nov 2014 13:08:10 +0000
Sri Lanka election monitors urge end to poll violence imageCOLOMBO: Sri Lanka's elections chief and pro-democracy activists on Tuesday urged police to stem a spate of campaign-related violence that has flared since President Mahinda Rajapakse declared his re-election bid.

Commissioner of Elections Mahinda Deshapriya said he had asked police to bring to justice those responsible for two shooting incidents since Friday, involving government supporters and backers of the main opposition candidate Maithripala Sirisena.

"I have asked police about these incidents, I have told them to take action against offenders," Deshapriya said.

"I seek the cooperation of political parties to ensure a trouble-free election.

"It is also the responsibility of candidates to restraint their supporters."

Deshapriya said he was hoping to invite Commonwealth, European and Asian observers to monitor the election campaign.

The Campaign for Free and Fair Elections (CaFFE), which is a private pro-democracy pressure group, said it feared an escalation of violence in the run-up to the January 8 vote that is being held only five days before Pope Francis is due to visit the island.

"There had been at least five major incidents involving the use of firearms and swords," CaFFE chief Keerthi Thennakoon told AFP.

"At least six people were injured and one of them is still in intensive care because he was shot in the head.

"This is a very dangerous trend because it takes place even before candidates submit their nomination papers (on December 8)," he added.

Police confirmed there had been poll-related violence but said investigations were underway.

Sirisena, who was sacked as Rajapake's health minister after his shock defection to the opposition last Friday, has vowed a peaceful campaign.

Three other ministers have also jumped ship to the opposition in a major blow to Rajapakse's prospects of securing a third term in office.

Rajapakse, the longest serving leader in South Asia, called the election two years ahead of schedule in an apparent bid to seek a fresh mandate before his party's popularity tumbles further after dropping over 21 percent in September local elections.

While Rajapakse remains generally popular with voters from the Sinhalese majority after he oversaw the end of a 37-year war against Tamil separatists in 2009, critics say he has become increasingly authoritarian.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2014

]]> (Parvez Jabri) South Asia Tue, 25 Nov 2014 09:52:09 +0000
Indians muck in for cleaner communities imageGHAZIABAD: Armed with rakes, shovels and carts, a group of residents in a suburb of the northern Indian city of Ghaziabad head purposefully for an unsightly corner of their neighbourhood.

With loud music blaring to spur them on, the two-dozen-strong team tackles the neglected patch with zeal, transforming it over the course of the morning from an overgrown eyesore, strewn with litter, to a clear open space.

"In this sector there has been a complete social revolution," says Gireesh Sharma, one of the founders of the group known as the "Cleaning Express", which has been organising weekly tidying sessions in their local area for the past 15 months.

"People now hate dirt. They stop each other from throwing litter."

Capturing this spirit, and triggering a mass movement for cleanliness in a densely populated country of 1.2 billion people, is the aim of the government's "Clean India" campaign.

It was launched with fanfare last month by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who took to the streets himself with a broom to urge all citizens to take part.

Promising millions in central government funding for the drive to get the nation clean in time for the 150th anniversary of the birth of Mahatma Gandhi in 2019, Modi has said eradicating filth is a patriotic duty.

But the Ghaziabad activists say despite their efforts in their community, the rest of the city suffers from inadequate infrastructure to collect and dispose of waste.

"We have very limited landfill sites... we don't have any place in the colonies (residential areas) where garbage can be dumped properly," said Rakesh Kumar Singh, Ghaziabad's municipal commissioner.

"We will need more dumping grounds and processing plants, we will require lots of land," he said, referring to the challenges resulting from rapid growth in the city's population, which already numbers close to two million.

Critics of the government's cleanliness drive say it glosses over the connection between sanitation and India's caste system, with its rigid hierarchy of social groups and their associated traditional occupations.

Campaigners say it fails to acknowledge that filthy cleaning tasks, including separating rubbish and clearing drains and gutters, fall exclusively to those at the very bottom of the caste spectrum.

"As long as you have this caste-ist mindset, thinking there is someone else to clean, no campaign can get success in this country," says Bezwada Wilson, founder of the Safai Karmachari Andolan, which works to free sanitation workers from their hereditary roles.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2014

]]> (Parvez Jabri) South Asia Sat, 22 Nov 2014 06:06:57 +0000
Sri Lanka minister defects to challenge president imageCOLOMBO: A senior member of Sri Lanka's government announced Friday he was quitting the ruling party to stand as the main opposition's candidate against President Mahinda Rajapakse in upcoming elections.

"I thank the UNP (United National Party) for choosing me as the common opposition candidate," Health Minister Maithripala Sirisena, who also held the post of general secretary in Rajapakse's party, told a press conference in Colombo.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2014

]]> (Parvez Jabri) South Asia Fri, 21 Nov 2014 10:17:02 +0000
Iran lawmakers reject Rouhani's science minister pick imageTEHRAN: The Iranian parliament overwhelmingly rejected President Hassan Rouhani's pick for science minister on Tuesday -- the third time they have done so in little more than a year.

The rebuff underscores the pressure that Rouhani, a moderate elected in June 2013, faces from a parliament dominated by conservatives at odds with his desire to open up the country to the West.

The post of Minister of Science, Research and Technology is sensitive because it involves oversight of Iran's universities and students, whose political activities are heavily monitored by the regime.

Fakhroddin Ahmadi Danesh-Ashtiani, whose candidacy Rouhani spoke up for in the chamber, received only 70 votes from the 257 lawmakers present -- 171 voted against him and 16 abstained.

Danesh-Ashtiani, a civil engineer by training, was a vice minister for education under Iran's last reformist president, Mohammad Khatami, who was in power between 1997 and 2005.

On Tuesday, lawmakers aired a video of Danesh-Ashtiani in 2009, in which he was shown to call for the closure of universities in protest at the controversial re-election of president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

A previous science minister candidate of Rouhani's was rejected in October by parliament, which two months earlier had sacked the last minister, Reza Faraji Dana, who was deemed too close to reformists.

Lawmakers criticised Faraji Dana -- who was Rouhani's second choice -- for appointing too many officials with links to the so-called "seditionist" movement that took to the streets in protest after Ahmadinejad's re-election.

The challenge was crushed by the regime but dozens of people died and thousands, many of them students, were arrested.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2014

]]> (Imaduddin) South Asia Tue, 18 Nov 2014 13:14:04 +0000
Modi talks 'shirtfronting' and cricket Down Under imageSYDNEY: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi injected some humour into his address to Australia's parliament on Tuesday, using the term "shirtfront" to make fun of his host while also talking cricket.

Modi's official visit, the first by an Indian leader in 28 years, follows on from Prime Minister Tony Abbott's hosting of G20 world leaders in Brisbane on the weekend.

"(As) the third head of the government you are listening to this week, I do not know how you are doing this," Modi told members of parliament, who were addressed by Chinese leader Xi Jinping on Monday and Britain's David Cameron last Friday.

"Maybe this is Prime Minister Abbott's way of shirtfronting you!"

Abbott made "shirtfront" -- which describes a confrontation in Australian Rules Football -- a global concept when in October he threatened to do it to Russian leader Vladimir Putin at the G20 over the crisis in Ukraine.

In the end, the two men were all smiles for the cameras.

Modi is the second leader to use the obscure term in his address, after Cameron recalled his concern when Australia's Foreign Minister Julie Bishop was purposefully heading his way at a summit in Italy.

"I wondered for a moment whether I was heading for what I'm told we now need to call a 'shirtfronting'," he said, before going on to say she had merely wanted to offer help to fight Ebola.

Modi's speech also included a reference to cricket, saying that both Australia and India celebrated the legend of Australian batsman Don Bradman and the class of India's Sachin Tendulkar.

But he noted this relationship broke down somewhat when Australian Shane Warne came along, mastering India's traditional strength of spin bowling.

"I wish you the best for hosting a great and successful World Cup next year," he added, referring to the one-day tournament being hosted jointly by Australia and New Zealand in 2015.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2014

]]> (Parvez Jabri) South Asia Tue, 18 Nov 2014 03:44:16 +0000
Sri Lanka president accuses Oslo peace envoy of funding rebels imageCOLOMBO: Sri Lanka's president has accused a top Norwegian envoy of covertly financing the island's separatist Tamil Tigers during peace talks ahead of a military campaign that crushed the rebels in 2009.

President Mahinda Rajapakse told a public rally on Saturday that he wanted Oslo to probe the role of Erik Solheim, a former Norwegian international development minister and a peace envoy to Sri Lanka.

Solheim failed to secure a peace deal despite arranging a truce which broke down in April 2006. Three years later, Sri Lankan forces extinguished the campaign for a separate homeland in a controversial military campaign.

Rajapakse in his address, a copy of which was obtained from his office on Sunday, said Solheim gave money to the guerrillas even while peace moves were underway.

Solheim, a key figure who led Norwegian peace efforts between 1999 and 2006, recently announced his willingness to give evidence before any international tribunal investigating Sri Lanka's war record.

Sri Lanka crushed the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) by May 2009 in a massive military operation that also triggered allegations that troops killed up to 40,000 Tamil civilians, a charge Colombo denies.

"Solheim told me that our forces will never be able to defeat the LTTE. He said (leader Velupillai) Prabhakaran is a very very clear man. A military genius," Rajapakse said.

"Today Solheim is trying to jump up and give evidence against us. The Norwegian government should investigate his conduct. We have evidence of him giving money to the LTTE. We are ready to share that evidence."

Solheim was not immediately available for comment.

In June, Solheim said atrocities were committed in the final months of the war, including shelling of hospitals in the battle zone and executions of surrendering rebels.

The UN Human Rights Council in March voted in favour of setting up an international probe into Sri Lanka's war record.

Sri Lanka invited Norway to broker peace in December 1999 and a ceasefire arranged by Oslo was torn up after Tamil Tigers tried to assassinate then army chief Sarath Fonseka in April 2006.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2014

]]> (Shoaib-ur-Rehman Siddiqui) South Asia Sun, 16 Nov 2014 08:42:43 +0000