Tuesday, November 13, 2012

India, Afghanistan inks four MoUs

India and Afghanistan decided to intensify their cooperation, especially in the economic sector as they inked four pacts, including one on cooperation in development of coal and mineral resources and Indian aid for implementation of small development projects.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh held discussions with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who is in India to seek investments in his war-torn country, on the entire gamut of bilateral ties as well as challenges confronting the region.

"We also discussed changes in the security and political situation in and around Afghanistan. I expressed to President Karzai our belief that sustained international support and cooperation in all respects, including in combating terrorism emanating from the neighbourhood, will help Afghanistan meet these challenges," Singh said at a joint media event.

Reaffirming the "shared vision of a stable, strong, united, sovereign and prosperous Afghanistan", he said India remains committed to supporting Afghanistan in its development efforts and noted the country's development assistance toAfghanistan currently stands at approximately $2 billion.

"We discussed the need to develop a strategic economic partnership, which will build on our economic synergies for mutual benefit. I also reiterated to President Karzai our belief that Afghanistan's regional economic integration will contribute to overall prosperity and stability in the region," Singh said.

Thanking India "for the generosity they have shown to us in the past many years", Karzai said, "In particular India has been a very generous frontline partner and supporter toAfghanistan's reconstruction and development. India has strived with us for the hard-earned income of its people and the difficult walk that we had for development and reconstruction."

He also made it clear that this time he was here to woo investors.

"My visit here this time is focused in talking to and asking and requesting Indian business to come to Afghanistan".

"Investment opportunities in Afghanistan today are better. A country that is more confident of its future and is willing to receive investments from its friends, specially from India. And I was happy to see today the signing of certain agreements and MoUs in this regard."

The four pacts inked were Indian Grant Assistance for Implementation of Small Development Projects through local government bodies, community organisations, cooperation in the field of fertiliser sector, cooperation in youth affairs and cooperation in the field of development of coal and mineral resources.

The two sides also decided to intensify the cooperation with a special focus on deepening their economic engagement in areas ranging from agriculture and small businesses to mining and infrastructure.

The Prime Minister also noted that India has expanded its programmes for capacity-building, institution-building and human resource development.

Karzai, who landed in Mumbai on Friday, had told India Inc not to be "shy" when it comes to investing in his mineral-rich country and pointed out to them of the gains reaped by the Chinese who invested early in the war-ravaged country.

"Indian businesses need not be shy when thinking ofAfghanistan," he said in Mumbai.

Asserting that his administration will do all things possible and accord special treatment to Indian investors, the Afghan President had said, "We would like to give you a better platform. We would like to welcome you on a red carpet and others on a grey carpet. But you need to arrive on the red carpet. If you don't arrive on the red carpet, it will get dusty. Therefore, do hurry up in coming and take advantage of the opportunities in Afghanistan."

In 2011, a consortium of Indian companies won the bid to develop Afghanistan's largest iron ore deposits. Afghanistan is believed to have mineral reserves worth at least $3 trillion which could generate billions of dollars in tax revenue.
Rohan Bopanna joins forces with Rajeev Ram

Announces partnership with American Rajeev Ram for the 2013 season
13th November, 2012: As the curtains close on the 2012 ATP season, Rohan Bopanna late last night announced his partnership with American Rajeev Ram for the next season. With a combined experience of 17 years on the pro-circuit, the pair is excited about the challenge that the next year presents.  

Rohan and Rajeev, who have been friends on and off the tour for over a decade, had decided a few months ago to combine forces to make what they believe an extremely formidable partnership, given their complementary styles of play and strong service games. Rohan had a successful year with Mahesh Bhupathi, which included two titles at Dubai and Paris and runner-up finish at the recently concluded season-ending London Masters. Rohan had also attained his career-best ranking of 8 in March this year. Speaking about his decision to change partners, Rohan said, "I played with Mahesh in 2012 with a special focus on preparing for the London Olympics and now that it's over, I want to concentrate on the ATP circuit and am eager to build a strong, sustainable partnership. Rajeev is a great player and given our individual strengths, and his command of the deuce court, I believe that we can complement each other very well on the court."

With a career best doubles ranking of 33, 28-year old Rajeev, with his booming serve and solid groundstrokes, has maintained a fine balance between the singles and doubles circuits, choosing to however spend the last few years limiting his single appearances and concentrating on his doubles game. Partnering Scott Lipsky frequently over the last couple of years, Rajeev has won titles at Delray Beach and San Jose in 2011 and has won the St Petersburg Open in September of 2012 while partnering Nenad Zimonjic. Looking forward to the new partnership, Rajeev said, "I am very excited to play with Rohan in 2013. He is not only one of the best doubles players in the world but also a good friend. It is a great opportunity for me and I am looking forward to it."

The duo had earlier made an appearance as a team at the Australian Open in 2008, where as an unseeded combination they proceeded to the pre-quarters defeating higher ranked teams along the way. With a total of 14 ATP doubles titles between them, Rohan and Rajeev are looking to recapture the magic in 2013. Commenting on the upcoming season, Rohan said, "2012 has been a good season for both of us and we hope to continue the momentum into 2013. However, we really want to focus on one match at a time."  

Given the highly competitive nature of the ATP circuit, Rajeev was also cautious of looking too far ahead. "Looking at the first month of the year, there are two big events in Chennai and the Australian Open so there is no need to look any further than that" he opined. "We haven't played together since Australia in 2008 so it has been a while. I just hope to continuously improve so that we can reach our full potential," he added.

Rohan and Rajeev will open their campaign in 2013 at the Chennai Open, where Rajeev won the title in 2009 partnering Eric Butorac. With their strong friendship off the court and shared love for grass surface, the duo is gunning for a great year on the tour.

Current Talibani Assault on the Pakistani

Current Talibani Assault on the Pakistani Nation


November 12, 2012
Pakistan’s seemingly uncontrollable slide into a sectarian nightmare appears to have gained further momentum. The militant Deobandi Islamists have now launched a clear campaign to cow down sections of the media that have so far been standing up to them, and such other sources of potent social and political resistance as the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM). What is very worrying is that in this phase of Deobandi onslaught the Army is clearly abandoning its earlier pretense of readiness to take the Islamic zealots head on and sections of the establishment seem more willing now to be just silent accomplices.
A number of leading Pakistani journalists have come out openly with complaints of being threatened by the Deobandi oriented Tehriq-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), and, more sinisterly, of the Pakistani establishment doing nothing to protect them against the onslaught from the former. Journalists Hamid Mir, Javed Chaudhary, Mohammad Maalik, Iftikhar Alam, and others have openly alleged to have been threatened by TTP through calls on their land-lines and cell phones as well as through e-mails. To their despair, the government agencies have chosen not to take any action on their complaints despite their having provided call/mail details to them. Hamid Mir even alleges that in this latest attempt to intimidate the media into silence or submission, the TTP and the official agencies (an euphemism for ISI) seem to be acting in tandem. Hamid Mir further contends that on October 5, the Crisis Management Cell of the Ministry of Interior itself had informed various federal and provincial security agencies that Hakimullah Mehsud has sent instructions to TTP units in the rest of the country to stop operations against the Pakistan Army and, instead, start targeting the media. TTP spokesman Ehshamullah Ehsan and the TTP’s spokesman in Swat Sirajuddin have clearly told targeted journalists that anybody who supports the government would be treated as opposing the Taliban and would be liquidated. In this regard any support or sympathy for the 14-year old victim of Taliban cruelty, Malala Yusufzai, has been taken as an anti-religion conspiracy and threatened with dire consequences.
It is not just the journalists who are the targets of the latest Talibani onslaught. Socio-political groups like the MQM are also sought to be targeted, since MQM and its leader Altaf Hussein have taken a strong and active stand against Islamic radicals of the TTP variety over the Malala incident. The MQM had earlier announced its plans to hold a referendum across Pakistan to let the people choose between a Pakistan as per Jinnah’s vision or a Talibanised Pakistan. Though the proposed referendum was postponed ostensibly because of the IDEAS 2012 Defence Exhibition in Karachi, MQM cadres did take to streets after the shooting of Malala Yusufzai to protest against religious extremism.
The Taliban did not take it lying down and their spokesman in Karachi, Umar Farooq, a former Jamaat-e-Islami functionary, declared “We are a group of Islamic warriors fighting against infidels” and that “Karachi is our base and we will target anyone our leader Hakimullah Mehsud tells us to”. TTP’s surrogate body of madrassas in Karachi, Wifaqul Madaris, has on its part warned MQM, whose cadres are predominantly Barelvi, to desist from prying into the functioning and affairs of its affiliates. Many MQM cadres had been alleging that an overwhelming number of inmates of these madrassas were Pashtun and Afghans and some of them were being trained in the handling IEDs of inside the seminaries.
Karachi is an ethnic tinderbox and sectarianism makes it even more explosive. Perhaps, a pointer to things to come in Karachi is the bombing of the Rangers Headquarters by a truck-bomb on November 7. Such attacks have been the hallmark of Taliban attacks in Islamabad and Kabul in the past and, therefore, it was hardly any surprise that Mullah Fazalullah’s faction of the TTP eventually claimed responsibility for the attack. The Taliban threat in Karachi cannot be minimized. According to Sindh Police and CID, the Taliban have been involved in 131 bank robberies out of a total of 134 in Karachi since 2008. The Police claims to have arrested 721 Taliban cadres in the city and busted 143 gangs. The Taliban have retaliated by bombing and attacking policemen who are leading operations against them. Right now the Taliban seem to be concentrating in uprooting the Awami National Party from the Pashtun areas of Karachi and have targeted many local ANP leaders and cadres.
The Islamic radicals not only want to assert their supremacy in the strong pockets of remaining anti-Deobandi radical sentiments in the country (Taliban and their Deobandi cohorts already dominate FATA, north Baluchistan and parts of Punjab), but they also seek to cow-down the inconvenient media and further push their influence in the rest of the country by espousing such emotive Islamist causes as anti-Americanism, the West’s perceived assault on Islamic culture and education. According to knowledgeable Pakistani journalist Khaled Ahmed, in the post-Osama bin-Laden period, the Al-Qaeda/Taliban want to exploit the clerical consensus that already exists in Pakistan on the issue of education, particularly that of girls. The Taliban though contend that they are not against girls’ education, but to secular education in general, and that Malala was punished for eulogizing secular education and she and her father were in contact with US diplomats as also Jewish film makers (a clear allusion to the makers of theInnocence of Muslims).
The Pakistani state, particularly the Army, is either incapable of, or more likely unwilling to, confront the Taliban over this latest upsurge in their activities. No less a person than President Asif Ali Zardari has been reduced to merely wringing his hands in despair in public over the weakness of the state to go after the attackers of Malala Yusufzai. He admitted to a delegation of the South Asia Free Media Association (October 21) that he could do nothing to avenge the near fatal attack on Malala as Pakistan was not ready for the extremist blow-back if North Waziristan were attacked. He indicated that there were three reasons for this: Pakistani political parties were not united over the implications of the attack on Malala; the extremists ready to join hands with Al-Qaeda/Taliban were too strong and widespread to risk challenging by going after North Waziri Taliban; and Pakistan was in a different situation today than in 2009 at the time of the launch of the Swat operations.
While Zardari appeared to be at pains in putting the direct blame for the state’s inaction on politicians and the lack of political consensus, others were quick to underline the Army’s reluctance to intensify its conflict with Islamic radicals due to an unholy nexus that seems to exist between the two. Hamid Mir alleged that some Generals had entered into secret deals with Taliban factions to either secure the release of captured Pakistani servicemen or for preventing Army units from being targeted. Apparently, these deals have been cemented by transferring large amounts of money to Taliban commanders. In other instances, the spirit of camaraderie between the two sides emerges under the influence of GHQ’s propensity to treat Taliban factions –the Good Taliban” – as its ‘strategic assets’. Apparently, it is Hamid Gul who controls the GHQ’s mind-set, even though Kayani is the commander in uniform. The assassination of Major General Faisal Alvi of the SSG in Islamabad (November 2008) is once again reverberating in the Pakistani press, as he was killed after he had written to Kayani against two of his senior generals for their complicity with the Taliban and their conspiracy to have him sacked for his refusal to play along. Many Pakistani observers had pointed out that the weapons used in Alvi’s assassination and the clinical manner of the attack suggested it to be an inside job by sections of the Army rather than a terrorist attack by Taliban or their local supporters. It is worth noting that soon after Zardari’s statement to journalists, in separate statements Jamiat-ul Ulema-e-Islam’s Maulana Fazl-ur Rehman and Jamaat-e-Islami’s Munawwar Hassan warned the Army against going after the Taliban in North Waziristan.
The Pakistan Army is the only national institution that is still intact and retains its cohesiveness and, therefore, it was expected to protect Pakistan from internal and external threats. Any hopes of Pakistan pulling out of the present sectarian crisis required the Army to not only keep the Islamic zealots under check, but also to support and protect the winds of moderation. However, the Pakistan Army is neither willing to play this role any more, nor seems to have any faith left in its own capabilities. It appears to be readying itself into throwing the towel down. It also does not seem to have the nation behind it as in the past. It is not only President Zardari who is implicitly criticizing the Army, but the Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhary is also emphasizing the judiciary’s constitutional predominance over all other institutions, including the Army. This attack has forced Kayani to advise all and sundry, including the judiciary, that assuming more than one’s own due role would set “us back”. This open polemics between the various pillars of the Pakistani state, including the Army, is a new phenomenon in Pakistan and does not augur well for the country’s fight against Islamic sectarianism and radicalism and for upholding moderation.
This has implications for India as well. While it may not be possible to hold back on contacts with Pakistan’s establishment of the day, India needs to wait and watch how far the Taliban’s Deobandi/Wahabi/Salafi influence would grow and if, at all, when and to what extant the Pakistani establishment is going to strike back.


Homestead Infrastructure announced its Association with Maria Sharapova for their next Luxury Boutique Property
New Delhi, 12th November, 2012: Homestead, the London-based real estate player, an expert in branded luxury residences, announced yet another exciting project in association with top Sports Icon, Maria Sharapova yesterday, in one of the prime sectors of Gurgaon, Northern India, which will epitomize the highest standards of living with ᥬegance⠡nd ᳴yle.⠼/span>

The project will stand apart in being yet another Residential Space par excellence, delivered by Homestead which will personify living in a world class facility built to perfection in a design which will stand out in the neighbourhood.༢r>
After successfully creating a niche and a high with its first project, ፩chael Schumacher World Tower,⼯b> that was endorsed and supported by Michael Schumacher himself, as the name suggests, just about a fortnight back, Homestead once again, along with Maria Sharapova, at a Press gathering, at Taj Palace, New Delhi, proudly spoke about their second upcoming luxury residence where Maria Sharapova lends her association to the companyⳠnew project that boasts of the backing of renowned experts from the world over. UHA-London, Indian architect DFI, structural consultant, Halvorson & Partners are some names to reckon with, who have extended their work brilliance to the forthcoming new Residence, which would be an architectural marvel after its completion!
The project is a concept of lifestyle which will be the only one of its kind in the country with an element of glamour and class woven into the resident ownerⳠlives. The proud owners of this project would get attached to an international tag and celebrity status to their address. This unique offering not just boasts of a fantastic location preference but offers a living that exemplifies 㥬egance, style and perfection.伢r>
Homestead Infrastructure believes in creating value through boutique properties, in addition, it is a pioneer in branded residences, with innovation and design being the key aspects.ɴⳠinternational expertise and vision achieves the objective of enhancing the quality of life of residents. Furthermore, its projects are environment friendly apart from being luxurious.
Mr. Manoj Shrivastava, COO, Homestead Infrastructure Development Pvt. Ltd. said, ㈯mestead Infrastructure has come together with one of the biggest sports icon of its times, Maria Sharapova, and is in the process of presenting another design marvel that will create a buzz in the Indian Real estate market. This project would be located in one of the prime sectors of Gurgaon and the current product personifies the character of elegance, style, class, perfection and hence who better could we think of other than Maria Sharapova herself, to become the brand ambassador.ࠁs promised, we are offering yet another luxury project after the success of MSWT, to our customers with an added celebrity status value attached.伢r>
Maria Sharapova, speaking on the brand association said, ㉠am proud to be associated with Homestead & support the brandⳠphilosophy & inspiration of Human Architecture. I am convinced that a brand like Homestead with this exciting new residential project will change the way residential spaces are created today, in India.”༢r>
The formal announcement was followed by a scintillating Fashion Show in the evening, wherein Fashion Designer Duo Rohit and Rahul, showcased their fashion statements with models walking the ramp, to promote HomesteadⳠupcoming new Luxury residence and Maria Sharapova was the show-stopper for the evening.

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