South Asia Stay updated with Business News, Pakistan news, Current world news and latest world news with Business Recorder.. Fri, 19 Dec 2014 09:15:09 +0000 SRA Framework 2.0 en-gb India's Sonia Gandhi hospitalised for infection imageNEW DELHI: The head of India's opposition Congress party, Sonia Gandhi, has been hospitalised for a respiratory infection, her party said on Friday.

Gandhi, 68, was admitted to New Delhi's Ganga Ram Hospital on Thursday evening and her condition is now stable, a Congress spokesman told AFP.

"She is currently under observation," he said, requesting anonymity.

The Italian-born Gandhi is the widow of assassinated former premier Rajiv Gandhi and heads the Congress party, which lost the 2014 elections to the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party after consecutive wins in 2004 and 2009.

Last year, Gandhi was rushed to hospital after she fell ill during a debate in parliament.

Her health and private life are closely guarded secrets but have been the subject of much speculation in India since 2011 when she went to the United States for surgery.

The Gandhi dynasty, which stems from first post-independence premier Jawaharlal Nehru and has no link to independence hero Mahatma Gandhi, has exerted huge influence in India during most of its post-independence history.

Three members of the family have become prime minister and 44-year-old Rahul is the vice president of the party.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2014

]]> (Parvez Jabri) South Asia Fri, 19 Dec 2014 05:36:35 +0000
Modi moves in to speed up $300bn stuck projects$300bn-stuck-projects.html$300bn-stuck-projects.html imageNEW DELHI: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has taken direct control of a project-monitoring body to fast-track investments worth almost $300 billion and revive manufacturing in the country, two officials with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters.

Pro-business Modi has faced criticism in recent weeks that his ambition to spur investment and re-energise the economy has yet to be realised, more than six months after he won elections with the strongest mandate in three decades.

Industrial output contracted in October in its worst performance in three years, jarring with a much-publicised "Make in India" campaign Modi has championed to make the country a manufacturing powerhouse.

By taking over the Project Monitoring Group (PMG), which was previously in the Cabinet Secretariat, Modi could help firms planning coal, power, steel and infrastructure projects cut through a maze of up to 180 clearances.

"The fact that the prime minister's office (PMO) will be directly overseeing all the project clearances will impart a greater degree of efficiency and also ensure that clearances are fast tracked at every level," said one of the officials, declining to be identified ahead of a public announcement.

"The PMO's stamp will make a big difference."

A PMO official said a bureaucrat who had worked closely with Modi when he was chief minister of Gujarat state will head the monitoring group. The senior officer is among a few trusted civil servants with whom the PMO thrashes out key decisions, often at the expense of ministerial authority.

Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh set up the PMG last year to prod ministers and bureaucrats sitting on files, a tendency that came to be known as "policy paralysis" and was blamed for growth of less than 5 percent for two straight years.

Since its inception, the PMG has facilitated 197 stalled projects worth about $110 billion.

South Korean steel maker POSCO is one of many companies to have approached the PMG. POSCO has waited nine years to get approvals to set up a $12 billion steel plant, which would be India's biggest foreign direct investment.

Tata Power and Adani Power are other top companies awaiting clearances.

"Business confidence has certainly improved in the last six to seven months, but this confidence now needs to get translated in the project delivery, kick-starting the investment cycle and boosting consumer demand," said Sunil Kanoria, president-elect of industry body ASSOCHAM.

Copyright Reuters, 2014

]]> (Imaduddin) South Asia Thu, 18 Dec 2014 12:58:29 +0000
India launches biggest ever rocket into space imageBANGALORE: India successfully launched its biggest ever rocket on Thursday, including an unmanned capsule which could one day send astronauts into space, as the country ramps up its ambitious space programme.

The rocket, designed to carry heavier communication and other satellites into higher orbit, blasted off from Sriharikota in the southeast state of Andhra Pradesh.

"This was a very significant day in the history of (the) Indian space programme," Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) chairman K.S Radhakrishnan said from mission control as fellow scientists clapped and cheered.

ISRO scientists have been riding high since an Indian spacecraft successfully reached Mars in September on a shoe-string budget, winning Asia's race to the Red Planet and sparking an outpouring of national pride.

Although India has successfully launched lighter satellites in recent years, it has struggled to match the heavier loads sent up by other countries.

The new rocket, weighing 630 tonnes and capable of carrying 4 tonnes, is a boost for India's attempts to grab a greater slice of the $300-billion global space market.

"India, you have a new launch vehicle with you. We have made it again," ISRO mission director S. Somnath said.

"The powerful launch vehicle has come to shape, which will change our destiny... (by) placing heavier spacecraft into communications orbits."

The rocket -- officially named the Geostationary Satellite Launch Vehicle Mk-III -- was carrying an unmanned crew capsule which ISRO said successfully separated from the rocket and splashed down in the Bay of Bengal off India's east coast 20 minutes after liftoff.

The Indian-made capsule is designed to carry up to three astronauts into space.

India's manned spaceflight programme has seen multiple stops and starts in recent years, and ISRO says the crew capsule project would take at least another seven years to reach the point where an astronaut could be put into space.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi hailed the test mission as "yet another triumph of (the) brilliance and hard work of our scientists" in a post on Twitter.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2014

]]> (Parvez Jabri) South Asia Thu, 18 Dec 2014 07:23:27 +0000
Indian court refuses to extend Italian marine's leave imageNEW DELHI: India's top court ruled Tuesday that an Italian marine detained for the 2012 killing of two fishermen must return in January after he was allowed to go home for medical treatment.

The Supreme Court had given Massimiliano Latorre leave to spend four months at home after he suffered a cerebral ischaemia -- a restricted blood supply that can lead to a stroke -- in September.

On Tuesday it rejected Latorre's request to extend his leave and undergo further treatment, saying the legal proceedings must resume.

Latorre and fellow marine Salvatore Girone are accused of shooting the fishermen while serving as part of an anti-piracy mission on an Italian-flagged oil tanker off the southern Indian state of Kerala in February 2012.

The Italian sailors say they mistook the fishing boat for a pirate vessel and fired what were intended to be warning shots.

The court also rejected a plea by Girone, who has been living at Italy's embassy in New Delhi, to be allowed to go home for Christmas.

Italy says the pair should be tried on home soil since the shootings involved an Italian-flagged vessel in what Rome insists were international waters.

India, however, asserts the killings took place in waters under its jurisdiction.

The marines were granted a home visit to vote in national elections last year, but India was furious when the Italian government initially said it would not send the men back.

A subsequent U-turn, which followed intense Indian diplomatic pressure, triggered the resignation of Italy's then foreign minister.

In September, the Italian ambassador gave his personal guarantee that Latorre would return to India to face trial.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2014

]]> (Parvez Jabri) South Asia Tue, 16 Dec 2014 07:50:15 +0000
Suicide blast hits Afghan army bus in Kabul: official imageKABUL: A suicide bomber struck an Afghan military bus in Kabul on Saturday, officials said, causing casualties as insurgents step up strikes in the final weeks of NATO's combat mission in the country.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the blast, which left the bus badly damaged as wounded victims were rushed to hospital.

"A suicide attacker targeted an ANA (Afghan National Army) bus," defence ministry spokesman Zahir Azimi said via Twitter. "(It) caused casualties. Numbers will be released later."

A Kabul police spokesman said the suicide bomber had been on foot.

Military buses are regularly targeted by the Taliban.

On Thursday a suicide bomber killed six soldiers travelling on a bus in the Kabul suburbs.

Earlier Saturday, Taliban gunmen shot dead a senior Supreme Court official as he left his home.

A spike of attacks in recent weeks have heightened concern about stability as NATO readies to end its combat mission on December 31 after a war that has failed to thwart the Taliban insurgency.

Other recent targets have included the French cultural centre, a female Afghan member of parliament, a British embassy convoy and a three members of South African family killed when their compound was attacked.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2014

]]> (Imaduddin) South Asia Sat, 13 Dec 2014 13:47:01 +0000
Two foreign soldiers killed by Taliban attack near Afghan capital imageKABUL: A Taliban bomb killed two foreign soldiers in a NATO convoy late on Friday night the U.S. Bagram Airfield base north of Kabul, adding to a spate of deadly attacks in and around the Afghan capital as international forces leave the country.

"Two International Security Assistance Force service members died as a result of an enemy forces attack in eastern Afghanistan on Dec. 12, 2014," a coalition press release said on Saturday.

Copyright Reuters, 2014

]]> (Imaduddin) South Asia Sat, 13 Dec 2014 12:03:24 +0000
Taliban shoot dead Supreme Court official in Afghan capital imageKABUL: Taliban insurgents gunned down a top official of Afghanistan's Supreme Court as he left his home in Kabul on Saturday, the latest in a spate of strikes by the militants on a broad range of targets in and around the Afghan capital.

Heavily fortified Kabul is on high alert after insurgents stepped up attacks in recent weeks, targeting guesthouses, government officials and civilians as most foreign troops prepare to leave the country by the end of this month.

Hashmat Stanekzai, spokesman for Kabul's police chief, said Atiqullah Raoufi was shot by unknown gunmen in western parts of Kabul. Raoufi headed the secretariat of the court.

"As Atiqullah Raoufi was leaving his house, gunmen opened fire and shot him dead," Stanekzai told Reuters, adding that no one has been detained.

The Afghan Taliban, claimed responsibility, but did not say why they had killed him.

Saturday's shooting comes two days after a teenage Taliban bomber targeted a French-run auditorium packed with people watching an anti-suicide bombings play, killing one German national and wounding 16 people.

Copyright Reuters, 2014

]]> (Parvez Jabri) South Asia Sat, 13 Dec 2014 07:34:02 +0000
Bangladesh begins oil clean-up with sponges and sacks imageDHAKA: Bangladeshi fishermen using sponges and sacks began cleaning up a huge oil spill in a protected area that is home to rare dolphins on Friday, after environmentalists warned of an ecological "catastrophe".

Thousands of litres of oil have spilled into the protected Sundarbans mangrove area, home to rare Irrawaddy and Ganges dolphins, since a tanker collided with another vessel on Tuesday.

The government has sent a ship carrying oil dispersants to the area, which is inside one of three sanctuaries set up for the dolphins.

But environmentalists say the chemicals could harm the delicate ecology of the Sundarbans, a UNESCO world heritage site.

The head of the local port authority told reporters that fishermen would use "sponges and sacks" to collect the spilled oil, which has already spread over an 80-kilometre (50-mile) area.

But Amir Hosain, chief forest official of the Sundarbans, admitted authorities were in the dark about what to do for the best.

"This catastrophe is unprecedented in the Sundarbans and we don't know how to tackle this," he told AFP.

"We're worried about its long-term impact, because it happened in a fragile and sensitive mangrove ecosystem."

Rescue vessels have now salvaged the tanker, which was carrying an estimated 357,000 litres (77,000 gallons) of oil when it sank.

But officials said the damage had already been done as the slick had spread to a second river and a network of canals in the Sundarbans, the world's largest mangrove forest, which straddles India and Bangladesh.

Rubayat Mansur, Bangladesh head of the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society, said most of the oil appeared to have already leaked out.

"I visited the sunken trawler this morning. Only few hundred litres of oil remain inside, so almost all the oil has spilled into the Sundarbans," he said.

Mansur said oil dispersants were "not appropriate for the mangrove ecosystem" and urged local villagers to help collect the oil from nets that have been placed in the river to contain its spread.

Spread over 10,000 square kilometres (3,800 square miles), the Sundarbans is a UNESCO-listed World Heritage Site and home to hundreds of Bengal tigers. The delta comprises a network of rivers and canals.

Mansur said Bangladesh's coastal areas including the Sundarbans were the "largest known home" of the Irrawaddy dolphins.

"Irrawaddy Dolphins can be found in South East Asia. But their population size is very small compared to Bangladesh," said Mansur.

Bangladesh set up sanctuaries in the Sundarbans in 2011 after studies showed there were hundreds of endangered Irrawaddy and Ganges river dolphins there.

Fishing is banned, but tankers and other boats are allowed to pass through.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2014

]]> (Parvez Jabri) South Asia Fri, 12 Dec 2014 09:54:17 +0000
Sri Lankan military plane crash kills four imageCOLOMBO: A Sri Lankan military transport aircraft crashed near the capital Colombo on Friday killing four people on board and injuring another crew member, police said.

The Antonov AN-32 aircraft slammed into a rubber plantation in the suburb of Athurugiriya in bad weather and burst into flames, police spokesman Ajith Rohana said.

"Four people onboard have been killed and the fifth crew member survived with severe burns," Rohana told AFP.

Airforce sources said the plane had taken off from the main international airport outside Colombo and headed to a nearby domestic air base when pilots reported poor visibility.

There were no casualties on the ground, but at least one house lost part of its roof as the aircraft crashed.

Civil aviation chief H. M. Nimalasiri said it was too early to establish the cause of the incident, but investigators were heading to the crash site.

The Sri Lankan airforce has lost four other Antonov AN-32 type aircraft since 1995.

During the height of fighting between troops and Tamil Tiger rebels, the military lost at least 35 aircraft in action and another 18 parked at an airbase during a rebel ground attack.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2014

]]> (Parvez Jabri) South Asia Fri, 12 Dec 2014 06:51:10 +0000
Sanctions-hit Putin visits India to boost energy, trade ties imageNEW DELHI: Russia's President Vladimir Putin will hold talks Thursday with India's new prime minister as his sanctions-hit country seeks to strengthen energy, defence and strategic ties in Asia.

Putin will be looking to advance nuclear power, oil and natural gas and even diamond deals with longstanding ally India on his first visit to India since Prime Minister Narendra Modi swept to power in May.

The president is seeking new markets for Russia's natural resources as its economy reels under US and EU sanctions over its backing of an uprising in Ukraine and annexation of Crimea.

"He (Putin) wants to show the world that he isn't isolated and to a certain extent he's not, he still has the BRICS countries," Russia expert Nandan Unnikrishnan said of Putin's visit.

"India now is all about development and it's looking to Russia to share its technology on military hardware for making here," said Unnikrishnan, a senior fellow with Delhi-based think-tank the Observer Research Foundation.

Putin is expected to focus on boosting two-way trade, which stands at just $10 billion despite strong ties that date back to the 1950s after the death of Stalin.

Since coming to power Modi has sought closer ties with US President Barack Obama, who has accepted an invitation to join India's Republic Day celebrations in January.

But India opposes joining Western sanctions against Russia, and is likely to disregard a caution from Washington that now is not the right time to do business with Moscow.

Putin said before he arrived early Thursday that he would be seeking to strengthen their "privileged strategic partnership", singling out more reactors for energy-hungry India's nuclear power plants and hiking military hardware sales.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2014

]]> (Parvez Jabri) South Asia Thu, 11 Dec 2014 06:15:22 +0000