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The hidden costs of CSC membership: an obstacle to Indo-US nuclear co-operation? October 31, 2010

Posted by southasiamasala in : India, Kumar, Vikas , comments closed

Vikas Kumar

The Indo-US civil nuclear commerce seems to be all set to take off after India and the United States signed an agreement for reprocessing nuclear fuel and the Indian Parliament institutionalized a liability regime for the nuclear power sector. The Indian government left no stone unturned in trying to get the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill, 2010 (‘the Bill’) passed in the Parliament. The draft of the Bill generated a lot of controversy, which was not entirely politically motivated. In fact, in a hurry to complete the necessary formalities before the US President’s visit to India later this year, the government had not even checked if the Bill dovetailed with existing legislation and policies. Ultimately, the Parliament approved the Bill with amendments in the last week of August 2010 after the ruling Congress party arrived at an understanding with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the main opposition party.

Interestingly, even after numerous amendments the Bill continues to lack internal consistency regarding key issues like how to assign liability when more than one nuclear installation located at the same site is involved in a nuclear accident. But at present another inconsistency is being debated, which in principle could upset the nuclear applecart, at least for a while.

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The CWG after-party October 20, 2010

Posted by southasiamasala in : India, Stoddart, Brian , comments closed

Brian Stoddart

Predictably, the actual athletic events in Delhi went off quite well, and better so in some cases. Australia won the medal count and, even allowing for its home advantage, India itself did exceptionally well in disciplines like wrestling, shooting and archery. Even in hockey, where the lead-up was especially troubled, India reached the men’s final only to be thrashed by Australia. England made up the trio of top performers, perhaps providing comfort for them in the rundown to the 2012 Olympics with Scotland having something to think about in its approach to the 2014 Commonwealth event. Very few athletes were done for doping, a few were done for being dopey, the closing ceremony was a triumph, the pinnacle of a couple of weeks where things went from bad to better.

The aftermath is still grim, however. The BJP and an array of minority groups are pressing for a quick investigation of CWG-related corruption allegations. Mani Shankar Aiyar, the former Congress Minister for Sport and a trenchant CWG critic, is adamant that the event was too expensive by a factor of several, and that the publicity that preceded the event has damaged India’s reputation deeply. He may well be right: allegations of fraud and malpractice are still emerging, various anti-corruption and tax agencies are pursuing a myriad of inquiries and there is general agreement that despite whatever success was eventually achieved, the cost was much too high in a country with more pressing social concerns.

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India betwixt 1528 and 2010 October 3, 2010

Posted by southasiamasala in : India, Noor, Habeeb , comments closed

Habeeb Noor

Last week India was dealing with a historic storm emerging from Ayodhya. For a moment, while 2010 and beyond beckoned, India sidestepped to circa 1992. The streets fell silent and shutters were downed as the country paused for the verdict on a disputed site that housed the Babri Masjid, in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh, between Hindus and Muslims.

The Allahabad High Court’s verdict pronounced that one third of the land will be handed over to the people who had filed a suit representing Ram Lala Virajman, while the rest of the land will be controlled by a Hindu sect, Nirmohi Akhara, and the Muslims, represented by the Sunni Waqf Board. Hindus’ claim that the site where the Babri Masjid once stood (built during the rule of Mughal Emperor Babar in 1528), which was destroyed in 1992 by Hindu mobs, is the birthplace of the Hindu God, Ram. In a country where religion has created deep fault lines in society, the demolition of the Babri Masjid cut straight through the heart of secular India.

Critically, however, the judgment was initially received as a pronouncement peppered with reconciliation, a compromise formula that sought to appease all stakeholders in the dispute. As one delved deeper into the issue, many argue that the verdict pandered to majoritarian sentiment.

The verdict on the title suit in the Babri Masjid-Ramjanmabhoomi case came out in the form of three separate judgments by Justice Dharam Veer Sharma, Justice Sudhir Agarwal and Justice S.U. Khan; all three judges accepted that there had been Hindu religious structures at the site where the mosque once stood. However, Justice Khan’s judgment clarifies that ‘no temple was demolished’ to build a mosque, while Justice Agarwal stated that a Hindu religious structure was demolished to build a mosque. Justice Sharma took on a more drastic reading of the case to essay that ‘the disputed site was the birth place of Lord Ram,’ and that the entire land belongs to the Hindu’s. On one hand, Justice Sharma and Justice Agarwal consolidated their judgments to declare that the disputed site was indeed the birth place of Lord Ram; at another level, Justice Agarwal and Justice Khan concluded to the partitioning of the disputed land since it had been utilized by both Hindu’s and Muslims for centuries. (more…)

India’s Games and its national reputation October 1, 2010

Posted by southasiamasala in : Guest authors, India , comments closed

Guest Author:  Mahendra Ved, New Delhi

This article first appeared on the East Asia Forum on 30 September 2010.

India’s national reputation was on the precipice last week, earning the odium for its delayed and botched up preparations for the XIX Commonwealth Games in New Delhi, due to commence on October 3. The crisis is ironic in that there was no political or economic emergency, nor a natural disaster, nor a military threat. At stake is the organisation of a major sports event with which prestige, credibility and profits are attached.

Things began to look up from September 23, with exactly ten days to go. The prolonged monsoon made way for the first dry day, allowing for an eleventh-hour rush as officials and players began to arrive. While the stadiums and other sports facilities were ready on time, things went wrong in completing the interior facilities at the Commonwealth Games Village. Many officials of the advance teams complained of unclean rooms and toilets, seepage and flooded walkways.

The collapse of a bridge to the main venue, Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, and part of a false ceiling at the Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium caused alarm and foreign officials threatened to pull out if the facilities were not in proper shape on time.

By the end of the week, things were falling into place. Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard said the decision of athletes as to whether they should participate was ‘personal,’ and the Chef de Mission accepted when he reported an all-well back home and gave the same in writing to the Games’ organisers.

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