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Cricket triggers a diplomatic crisis with Pakistan

A right-wing party fights for dialectical control of Mumbai. India's IPL cricket league further strains India-Pakistan relations. The central Reserve Bank focuses on economic growth while trying to stem ballooning inflation. Manufacturing is up, but food production is down. Autos continue to be in high demand. And rapes and murders in Goa threaten the resort city's reputation as a safe haven for tourists.

Top News: The battle lines are drawn inIndia’s buzzing financial capital, Mumbai, home to the country’s thriving Hindi movie industry, Bollywood. The right-wing Shiv Sena party, led by political supremo Bal Thackeray, is espousing that the city should be dominated by the local, Marathi-speaking people.

Factions opposed to this prejudice include Bollywood celebrities, civic groups, national parties and even cabbies. The popular outcry nationwide is that Mumbai is for Indians, and not just Marathis. The controversy stems from the feeling by locals that Mumbai is now dominated by migrants from all over India coming to the city and dreaming of making it big.

A cricketing row has worsened already-strained relations between neighbors India and Pakistan. In the just-concluded auction for the world’s most-popular, cash-rich cricketing league, the Indian Premier League or IPL, the league’s eight cricketing teams bought 11 of the 66 players from 11 countries that were up for bidding. But not a single Pakistani player was picked. While diplomatic relations have still not resumed between India and Pakistan, the IPL auction is being considered a public snub and a rejection of Pakistan, some of whose players are amongst the world’s top ranking.

The auction is a stiffly fought process in the ILP’s Twenty20 game, an abbreviated, televised spectacle that is becoming a passion in the 16 countries where it is played. Some Pakistani cricketers who did not make the final cut complained that India has made a joke out of Pakistan and its cricketers. India’s team owners, including big industrial conglomerates like Reliance and UB Group, have denied that the auctions were politically orchestrated.

Money: The government in New Delhi is focused heavily on boosting economic growth. But the country’s central Reserve Bank of India, which cleaved interest rates to historic lows at the onset of the global economic crisis, has started a battle against inflation, raising the cash reserve ratio by 0.75 percentage points to 5.75 percent. It is a move to curtail the liquidity slopping around in the system.

India's economy expanded close to 8 percent in recent quarters, and retail numbers and stock market indices are indicating that the good times are back. But inflation is rising at an alarming rate. The wholesale price index rose 7.3 percent in December. Food prices are growing at the fastest rate in over a decade, an ominous sign for the broader inflation figures in the coming months. Consumer prices are at a high because last year’s drought cut into food production.

From a loose, low-interest rate policy to help economic recovery, the Reserve Bank is hiking interest rates, but slowly enough so as to not choke off growth. Some experts are describing it as a Handle-with-Care formula.

Manufacturing output in January zipped ahead at its fastest pace in a year-and-a-half, boosted by a sharp rise in export orders. The numbers are an additional sign of economic recovery and business optimism.

Carmakers in India posted rising vehicle sales in January as low borrowing costs, easy loans and new models fuelled a demand for new cars. For instance, Maruti Suzuki, the Indian unit of Japanese carmaker Suzuki Motors, posted a 33 percent rise in sales in January at over 95,000 vehicles, the highest ever by the company in India.

Elsewhere: That idyllic vacation spot with year-long sun, carnivals, endless sandy beaches and great local cuisine, Goa, has come under a cloud recently with several separate assaults against female tourists. Last week, police arrested two local men in connection with the alleged rape of a nine-year-old Russian girl at a Goan beach. In 2008, a British teenager was raped and murdered while on holiday and police investigations into that crime continue. Goa continues to be a top Indian holiday destination for foreigners but several countries have issued travel warnings, which could dampen the style at India’s top party destination.