Tuesday, May 13, 2014

ASEAN leaders ‘concerned’ over disputes in South China Sea, warn Beijing



Southeast Asian leaders have expressed “serious concern” over worsening territorial disputes in the South China Sea. They presented a rare united front against an increasingly assertive Beijing, AFP reported, citing a statement released on Monday after the 10-nation ASEAN summit. It called for a peaceful resolution to the maritime rows, which flared up this month after China moved an oil drilling rig into waters also claimed by Vietnam. Hanoi and Manila led a push for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to deliver a veiled rebuke to China over the standoff. However, Beijing insisted on Monday that the contested Paracel Islands, located near the controversial oil rig, were its “inherent territory.”


Congo soccer stadium stampede kills 15


A stampede at a soccer stadium in the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo has killed 15 people.
The accident occurred in Kinshasa on Sunday when supporters of the home team began throwing objects onto the field.
Police fired tear gas and spectators fled to the gates in panic. Fifteen people died and more than 20 were injured.
Local media say police officers were there as altercations had previously occurred between fans of the two teams.
The government has set up a committee to investigate the cause of the accident.Last month, 21 people were killed in stampede at a music festival in the country when the audience panicked during a power failure.Media agencies


Obama hailed India’s general election

 On exit polls are showing the country’s main opposition party, the BJP, is likely to win the general election.

Indian TV networks reported on Monday evening the results of exit polls after the weeks-long election ended in 41 electoral districts in 3 states on the final day. India is the world’s biggest democracy with more than 800 million eligible voters in 543 constituencies. Phase one of voting started on April 7th and took place in phases and ended on 12 May 2014.
Obama on Monday hailed India’s massive general election and pledged to work closely with the next government in New Delhi.
“India has set an example for the world in holding the largest democratic election in history, a vibrant demonstration of our shared values of diversity and freedom,” Obama said in a statement.”We look forward to the formation of a new government once election results are announced and to working closely with India’s next administration to make the coming years equally transformative.”
Obama did not mention the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) under Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi, which exit polls suggest will emerge as the biggest party from polls in which more than 500 million people voted.


Syrian jihadists arrested in France


6 suspected Syrian jihadists arrested in France

French police arrested six people on Tuesday in northeastern France in a roundup of suspected jihadists who recently traveled to fight in Syria, AP reported. Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said the six were suspected of participating in a jihadist network in Strasbourg. The sweep showed “the total determination of the government to fight… against terrorism and the enlisting of youths in violent radicalization,” the minister said. Europe-1 radio earlier said that the sweep involved a police investigation of 14 young men.
Media agencies 


US aircraft searching for abducted schoolgirls in Nigeria


US surveillance aircraft searching for abducted schoolgirls in Nigeria

The United States has deployed manned surveillance aircraft over Nigeria in the pursuit of more than 200 schoolgirls abducted by Islamist militants, Reuters reported citing an anonymous senior Obama administration official. “We have shared commercial satellite imagery with the Nigerians and are flying manned ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) assets over Nigeria with the government’s permission,” the US official said. Washington has also sent military, law-enforcement, and development personnel to Nigeria to help in the search. Two other unnamed US officials told Reuters the US is considering sending unmanned drones to assist the search teams. Nigeria had requested US surveillance and intelligence, according to US Undersecretary for Africa Linda Thomas-Greenfield.Media agencies


Jordan’s ambassador to Libya released



Jordan’s Ambassador to Libya Fawaz al-Itan, who was previously abducted, has been freed, the Libyan Foreign Ministry confirmed to Al Arabiya television. Itan was kidnapped in April after masked gunmen attacked his car and shot his driver. The driver survived the attack and was taken to hospital. The abductors wanted to exchange the Jordanian diplomat for an Islamist militant who was in custody in a Jordanian prison. There are no reports whether the demand had been met. Media agencies 


Kristin Lund first woman to head UN peacekeeping force


Norway’s Kristin Lund first woman to head UN peacekeeping force

UN chief Ban Ki-moon has named the first woman to serve as the head of a UN peacekeeping operation. Major General Kristin Lund of Norway, 56, will replace Major General Chao Liu of China in mid-August to head the UN mission in Cyprus, AFP reported. Lund served as deputy commander of the Norwegian Army Forces Command from 2007 to 2009 and chief of staff of the Norwegian Home Guard. She was also involved in UN missions in Lebanon and the former Yugoslavia. The UN peacekeeping mission for Cyprus, UNFICYP, was established in 1964 to prevent the recurrence of fighting between Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities.




EVERY Non Resident Economist ( NRE) with an interest in India’s economic progress is now presenting his/ her policy wish list for the new government.
Generally, these nostrums cover well travelled ground and repeat the first best policy prescriptions like fiscal discipline; hire and fire labour policies; promoting FDI and FII; lowering direct taxes; reining in current account deficit and introducing the GST etc. I am not sure if these homilies from 60,000 feet serve much purpose as they fail to take account of the complex ground realities in India. More dangerously, they posit ‘ first best policies’ as the only way forward, while policy making has always been the art of making the possible happen.
The ranks of NREs are full of talent and well meaning folks but who refuse to connect with the Indian reality except between October and March, when the risks of facing a power cut in the midst of an Indian summer is minimal. There is a light hearted saying that the Aryans came to India at the end of September and made their decision to stay here and not go back to Central Asia before the end of March! My NRE friends take this seasonal variations seriously. At election time, they operate from their salubrious perches to offer plentiful advice to Delhi’s unwitting ‘ policy makers in the making’ on managing the economy. Most often policy makers offer the usual courtesies and pretend to listen. But on occasions, their nostrums have proven disastrous.
This is the case with advice given from their Ivy League perches by Nobel laureates who provided the intellectual cover, in conjunction with their western or westernised followers, to the infamous NAC that advised Mrs Sonia Gandhi and which apparently had more influence than the Cabinet itself. These luminaries quite clearly convinced Mr. Rahul Gandhi that his political future and the country’s economic prospects lay in ‘ becoming the voice of the excluded’ and ‘ focusing on entitlements.’ How wrong their learned perceptions have been is evident in the steep slump in economic growth and the electoral thrashing that all opinion polls forecast for the Congress.
But an equally dangerous prospect is of ‘ free market- wallah NREs’ based mostly in the US ( UK based economists are more visible as television gladiators!) descending on Delhi in anticipation of a NDA government, which they see as more market friendly. The danger of the ‘ free market wallah NREs’ is that they give a patently wrong interpretation to Mr. Modi’s one liner of ” minimal government with maxi by mum governance.” NREs translate this rational Modi- mantra to imply a minimal the coverage and scope of the public sector activities in general a la Thatcher and Reagan. This is as dangerous as the socialist central planning stance of the NAC and its intellectual supporters. In an emerging economy like India, the public sector and the government have a critical role to play in assuring investors of a conducive environment; ensuring an effective delivery of public services and in some cases like housing and infrastructure; leading the development agenda by designing innovative projects for publicprivate partnerships. We cannot possibly adopt the blue- blooded US Tea Party – Fox News line of close down the government and throw away the key.
Moreover, ‘ helicoptering’ NREs in to top positions within the system can create unnecessary dissonance and become counterproductive. Kaushik Basu, my contemporary in college, was bought in as the chief economic advisor for three years and left after presenting some theoretical formulations and attractive graphics but least impact on economic policy making. Rahguram Rajan also came in as the CEA but was not allowed to prove his spurs before being uplifted to the RBI where he wanted to be in the first place. As a result, the important role of the CEA has remained practically non- performing now for four years. This is not effective governance.
In July 2011, in a seminar organised by Suman Berry at the Indian Statistical Institute, while commenting on his key note presentation, I warned Kaushik of the coming investment downturn, from the negative signals coming from the industry. But he saw me as being unnecessarily pessimistic. While India suffered as a result of this neglect of the investment climate, Kaushik of course went to assume global responsibilities.
I cite this example to argue that it is extremely difficult for NREs to helicopter down on Raisina Hill, often retaining their links and liens abroad, and get to grips with Indian ground realities.
Unable to grapple with the complexities of the Indian system, they find shelter in their ‘ first best’ formulae and nostrums’ retaining the right to blame all and sundry if these are shown to be infeasible or impractical. Another risk in ushering in NREs is their difficulty in relating to and working with the senior bureaucracy of whose modus operandi and networking they are totally ignorant. This can create unwanted issues of major dissonance in policy making and loss of time.
It is important to remember the words of ‘ home- spun’ economists like Dandekar, R. K Hazari, D. T Lakdawala and Raj Krishna who were by far the more incisive and innovative commentators on the Indian economic realities than any NRE. Unfortunately, I doubt if the current crop of policy makers and economic advisors have even heard of them! They used theoretical rigour to come with practical policy solutions. Being grounded in Indian realities and networks, they were never prisoners to facile ‘ first best’ solutions and were certainly not hidebound by ideologies as are a large number of NREs.
The new government will have to watch out for self appointed NRE and NRI activists as they can often be selfrighteous and even to the right of the Tea Party crowd in the US! They could evoke massive reaction in the political rank and file and also in the bureaucracy, and rightly so. I hope pragmatism will prevail in balancing the role of the NREs and NRIs with home- spun expertise.
The writer is Senior Fellow, Centre for Policy Research and former Director of ICRIER:
Dear  Sagar
I am forwarding you my article “Risks of Imported Expertise” that has appeared in the newspaper Mail Today on 8th May 2014 (last Thursday). 
Your comments are always appreciated.
With Best Regards,
Rajiv Kumar




Total Rail
Dear  N.K,

What we’re talking about this week:

  • Why is Ed Miliband under increasing pressure to nationalise British rail?
  • Network Rail’s ‘flawed’ design jeopardises ‘oldest train station in the world’
  • Guest post: Why more rail competition should be the priority for both Ed and Dave? 
  • China plan the world’s largest underwater train in a bid to reach America
  • Top ten rail marketing campaigns 
Ed Miliband

Why is Ed Miliband under increasing pressure to nationalise British rail?

The Labour party has put Ed Milibandunder increasing pressure to nationalise British rail if they win power at the next general election. If this goes ahead accordingly, then Miliband would be authorising the biggest state intervention by a political party for a generation.
Liverpool Road Railway Station

Network Rail’s ‘flawed’ design jeopardises ‘oldest train station in the world’

Liverpool Road railway station in Manchester has been described byEnglish Heritage as the railway equivalent of Stonehenge, so why areNetwork Rail self-admittedly willing to cause it ‘substantial harm’?
David Cameron and Ed Miliband

Guest post: Why more rail competition should be the priority for both Ed and Dave?

This time next year the new Cabinet will have been sworn in and Britain may have a new Prime Minister.  
China fast speed rail

China plan the world’s largest underwater train in a bid to reach America

In their latest ambitions to get ahead within the rail industry, China plan the world’s largest underwater train in a bid to reach America.
China has proven that when it comes to rail, they are always one step ahead. 
Top 10 Rail Marketing Campaigns

Top 10 Rail Marketing Campaigns

The top 10 rail marketing campaigns have arrived. Take a look at our list, which displays the most effective ways the rail market is inspiring old and new clientele.


Ex-Israeli PM Olmert gets 6-years in prison



Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment on Tuesday for accepting bribes linked to a real-estate deal, Reuters reported. Olmert had denied wrongdoing in the Holyland apartment complex deal, which took place while he was in his previous post of Jerusalem mayor. The politician is credited internationally with working towards a peace settlement with the Palestinians. This is the first time a former head of government in Israel has been sentenced to prison.


Various Exit Polls: SHow Numbers Stack Up in Favour of BJP-Led NDA



Romantic Vienna to welcome honeymooners from India

New Delhi May 13, 2014
Vienna, the seat of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire, situated in the heart of Europe, is all set to project its youthful romantic appeal to attract hundreds of honeymooning couples from India this year.
Indian Honeymooners are a target group for the Vienna Tourist Board – which has been successfully welcoming growing number of families with children and young travelers from India over the last many years.
“Vienna has always been a tourist’s delight. As you discover the various hues of Vienna, you realize Vienna has a young soul. It makes a romantic wedding destination, besides providing honeymooners the backdrop for a fairytale romance,” says Norbert Kettner, Director of the Vienna Tourist Board.
“As you scratch the surface, you realize there are several newlywed Indian couples in Vienna. Seeing a newlywed couple is always a pleasurable sight”, says Verena Hable, Public Relations Manager for India, who noticed a significant rush of Indian honeymooners.
To tap this segment, Vienna is advertising its romantic side in the Kuoni Romance Brochure that focuses not only on honeymooners, but also on DINK’s and couples who want to celebrate their anniversaries and other special occasions.
Vienna is ready to be discovered as a honeymoon destination by Indians. Its romantic spots are relatively unexplored by newlyweds from India, who are looking for a statement destination. To top it all, Vienna offers everything that an Indian tourist can ask for—authentic Indian food, English speaking hospitality staff and guides and loads of shopping experiences, adds Hable.
Probably this is what prompted Raj and Siya to zero in on Vienna for their honeymoon. “Soon after we got engaged and the wedding was firmed up, a search for a great honeymoon destination began,” says a recently married couple from Mumbai.
“I was asked to suggest some destinations,” says Raj, 32, a well travelled executive himself. “After some internet research and chat with a few friends, we started liking the idea of going to Vienna,” he adds.
“We could not have asked for a more romantic and beautiful honeymoon destination. Vienna’s almost untouched beauty, is the place for romance to blossom,” says 28-year old Siya, who teaches in a school.
Located in the heart of Europe, the Austrian capital of Vienna makes for a romantic honeymoon. Vienna’s historic old town has winding alleys, arcade courtyards and beautiful mansion houses. Cobbled streets lead you to the historic St. Stephen’s Cathedral located in the older parts of the city.
Though Vienna is a city for all seasons, the white and pink blossoms of the chestnut trees during spring season is a visual treat. Shades of white and pink are pleasing to the eye, and the floral beauty offers enough inspiration to discover true love. This is the best time of year to take a ride in a Fiaker, a traditional horse-drawn carriage.
And what could be a sweeter hideaway for young couples than a traditional Viennese coffee house with its small tables and loads of cakes and pastries. “Do try world famous delicacies like apple strudel, Sacher cake and Gugelhupf from the Viennese cuisine and you will never miss Gulab Jamun, Sandesh and Kesar Kulfi”, says Verena Hable.
Ms Renate Forte, Managing Director of Vienna-based Pegasus Travels who has assisted young couples from India for decades says, “Vienna is the best city to ring in the romance with a Candle Light Dinner at the city’s hotels. When you check in, many hotels welcome you with champagne and snacks.”
“There are other attractions too, like a massage or beauty treatment for bride or a Harley Davidson tour for the groom,” adds Renate.
Vienna is dotted with parks, an idyllic place to discover your soul mate. While honeymooners can revel in Vienna’s charm, its delightful locations make a beautiful backdrop for weddings. A knot tied in romantic surroundings like Schönbrunn Palace, the Giant Ferris Wheel or the Butterfly House is destined to last.
With this comes the safety factor. Vienna retains its numero uno ranking for offering the best quality of living in the world, for the fifth time a row based on global HR advisory firm Mercer’s Quality of Living index. The index covered 221 cities.
Vienna is a voyage of discovery. The voyage becomes an experience, seen in the form of picnic excursions and moonlight rides along the calm waters of the Danube. A little known fact is that Vienna has more than 40 kilometers of beaches, dotted with restaurants for all tastes. While there are plenty of Indian restaurants in Vienna, amorous couples can sample authentic Viennese cuisine. This is the world’s only cuisine which draws its identity from the fabled city, and blends the best culinary flavours of Bohemia, Austria, Hungary, Italy and the Balkans.
Let’s not forget, Viennese music can enrich you. The legacy of Mozart, Beethoven and Strauss lives on, as Vienna hosts over 15,000 concerts annually.
You can waltz along with your loved one at a Viennese ball. Every year more than 450 balls take place here, and the three-quarter rhythm is supplemented by more contemporary sounds, offering enjoyable dancing for every taste.
Already, Vienna has been on the Indian tourist’s radar, as it’s known to be a great shopping and sightseeing destination. The city centric luxury shopping mall called “Golden Quarter,” which is located in a complex of Unesco heritage listed palace, houses flagship stores of international brands. No wonder that Brad Pitt and Pete Doherty sport Viennese hat maker Mühlbauer’s label, Lady Gaga shows gloves of Viennese professional Nina Peter in her video The Edge of Glory.
Besides shopping, Vienna has the ability to connect the past with the present. It encourages visitors to travel back in time and visit some of the 27 palaces and 163 other imperial residences including sightseeing attractions like the Schönbrunn Castle or Hofburg Palace.
“Many Indian visitors tend to cover Vienna, Budapest and Prague, the three major cities of the former Habsburg Empire known as the ‘Golden Triangle,’ by availing a common Schengen visa”,adds Hable of the Vienna Tourist Board.
The Imperial City of Vienna is picture postcard perfect. It’s a place which grows on you and it only gets better with time.
Five Must Dos in Vienna
1. Check out the coffee houses. Vienna is home to about 2,000 coffee houses, the most traditional ones are in the old city center
2. Stroll in the parks. In spring 400 varieties of roses blossom in Volksgarten
3. Don’t miss the opera. The Vienna State Opera offers over 50 operas and ballet around 300 days per season
4. Take a vineyard tour. Vienna is the world’s only metropolis that grows a significant number of vineyards within its city limits
5. Soak in the architectural heritage. The historic center of Vienna has been added to Unesco’s World Cultural Heritage list.
How to Get There
An eight-hour direct flight connects Delhi with Vienna six times a week, operated by Austrian Airlines (Star Alliance), which has a code share agreement with Air India. Mumbai and other Indian major cities are conveniently connected to Vienna by a one-stop connection on many international carriers.
About The Vienna Tourist Board
The Vienna Tourist Board, the official destination marketing agency for the tourism sector of the city, provides many service offerings, tips and information on Viennese tourist businesses. The Vienna Tourist Board set up in 1955 under public law as directed by the Vienna Tourist Support Law, is run like a private enterprise with flat hierarchies.
Mrs. Renate Brauner, Vice-Mayor of Vienna and Councilor of Finance and Economic Affairs, serves as the President of the Vienna Tourist Board since March 2007. The position of Director of Tourism is occupied by Mr. Norbert Kettner since September 2007. The Board of Directors (officially: The Tourism Commission) consists of the president, two vice presidents and 15 additional members, the latter mostly assigned by the City of Vienna. The Vienna Tourist Board is financed by local taxes on hotels in Vienna, the general city budget and its own revenues.
For more details contact:
Sanjiv Kataria


Quake of M6.8 – SOUTH OF PANAMA



Preliminary Earthquake Report
  • 13 May 2014 06:35:24 UTC
  • 13 May 2014 01:35:25 near epicenter
  • 13 May 2014 10:35:24 standard time in your timezone
Location7.249N 82.330W
Depth10 km
  • 105 km (65 mi) SE of Punta de Burica, Panama
  • 124 km (76 mi) S of Pedregal, Panama
  • 128 km (79 mi) SSE of Puerto Armuelles, Panama
  • 130 km (80 mi) S of David, Panama
  • 354 km (219 mi) SSE of San Jose, Costa Rica



Jaipur, 12 May: Rajasthan’s popular annual Summer Festival will be celebrated on 13 and 14 May in the state’s only hill station, Mount Abu. It has been organized by the Department of Tourism, Government of Rajasthan, the Municipal Board, Mount Abu and the District Administration. The festival will begin with a ‘Mount Abu Carnival’, which will start in a form of a procession from the Nakki Lake to Polo Ground on 13 May.

The tourists will also have a whale of a time participating in various day-long competitions and events.On 13 May at the polo ground will be a cricket match, Abu Quit, Matka Race, Matka Phor, Tug of War (women and men), volleyball competition, Band Display, Rangoli Competition and Musical Chair Race. In the evening there will be a cultural extravaganza in form of folk performances by artistes from Rajasthan, Gujarat and North-East at Aravali Rang Manch.    

On 14 May morning, will be trekking and hiking from Nakki lake to Sunset Point. A special attraction of the festival will be the exciting Boat Race at Nakki Lake which will be followed by Treasure Hunt at the Polo Ground. In the evening again the tourists and visitors will enjoy the Kathak and other cultural performances again at Aravali Rang Manch.  

It is to be recalled that the Summer Festival is held every year during the month of May on Budh Poornima (14 May this year). The festival celebrates the warmth and cheerfulness of the people of this hill station, who welcome the tourists from the depth of their hearts. The hospitality of the people, their colorful culture and exotic locations have made this festival a-never-to-be-forgotten experience.

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