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India frets blowback as Obama courts Pakistan for anti-terror aid. Gujarat's top minister is accused of deliberate non-action during riots that resulted in thousands of deaths. India wants to extradite David C. Headley, the American implicated in the 2008 Mumbai attacks. New Delhi lags on Commonwealth Game preparation. A new Nano catches fire in Mumbai. Fashion Week is underway in New Delhi. Food prices finally ease to a five-month low. Coca-Cola is fined for environmental damage. And a disputed territory sinks into the Bay of Bengal.
Top News: India is feeling outmaneuvered by the ever-changing strategic and political equations in South Asia following last week’s strategic dialogue between the U.S. and Pakistan in Washington. To India’s consternation, the United States has once again aligned with Pakistan against the Taliban and declared Pakistan a strategic ally. Americans could begin pulling out from Kabul as early as next year. New Delhi is trying to quickly re-orient its strategy towards Afghanistan by reaching out to the Taliban.
India feels that the blossoming alliance between the U.S. and Pakistan, as well as the Pakistani army’s increasingly crucial role in anti-Taliban operations, could result in a significant uptick in terror activities in India. Indian security officials fear that a bolstered Pakistani army and intelligence could step up anti-India activities in the disputed northern Kashmir territory and elsewhere in India. India’s intelligence says it must brace for difficult times.
Narendra Modi, 59, a senior leader of the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party, accused of allowing 1,000 deaths in 2002 in the western Gujarat state, was grilled for ten hours last week by a special team investigating the incidents. Modi, the longest-serving chief minister of the state, was questioned in Gandhinagar, the state capital. He was asked to explain the communal riots and massacre in the state eight years ago, in which he is accused of deliberate non-action resulting in the deaths of over a thousand people. The violence followed an incident where a dozen Hindu activists were killed in a train fire. The investigators will submit a report to India’s highest Supreme Court which will decide whether to list Modi as one of the defendants in the deaths.
India is asking for unrestrained access to David C. Headley, an American citizen who pleaded guilty in a U.S. court last week on a charge of scouting targets for the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai. Of the 168 people killed in the attacks, six were Americans. But the United States has not acceded, and a diplomatic rift has ensued between India and the United States. Headley pleaded guilty to a dozen criminal charges related to the Mumbai attacks. He admitted to making five trips between 2006 and 2008 to Mumbai to videotape possible targets. Indian officials are pushing for Headley’s extradition so he can be tried in a court in India.
With a clock counting down the days left (less than 190) to the Commonwealth Games, the host venue India’s capital, New Delhi – is under pressure to finish preparations for the 17-sport event. But the city appears completely behind schedule. Completion of its main stadium has been delayed by months. Cranes and half-complete construction sites litter the city. Athletes from 71 countries are expected to take part in the games that are due to start on Oct. 3 and boost India’s chances of hosting a future Olympics.
Money: India’s low-cost car, the sub-$2500 Nano, suffered a setback when a new unit being driven by a proud owner caught fire in Mumbai. The owner, his wife and son had a narrow escape. The incident has raised serious questions about the safety and quality standards followed by Nano’s manufacturer, top Indian auto maker Tata Motors. Tata termed the accident a stray incident and has denied that the accident was a result of a design flaw or a manufacturing fault. Tata is embarking on exporting the cars to eager markets in the United States and Europe.
Another edition of India Fashion Week got underway in New Delhi last week, a trade event to welcome buyers and foreign department chains to India’s burgeoning fashion industry. However, some are calling it "Fashion Weak" and an exercise in futility, as no Indian designer has yet made it big overseas. Designers have no access to organized capital or organized retail shelves to help them expand. A few have showed in Paris and Milan, but none have made it to the racks of large department store chains. They mainly depend on celebrities to wear their designs. Bollywood stars are even paid to model at Fashion Week.
Food prices in India eased to a five-month low with the arrival of winter crops in the market. The year-on-year inflation rate for food articles was 16.22 percent in the week ending Mar. 13, down from 16.30 a week earlier.
Coca-Cola’s India unit has been asked to pay $47 million in fines for the environmental damage caused by its bottling plant in the southern Indian state of Kerala. A state government panel said Hindustan Coca-Cola, the subsidiary, was responsible for depleting groundwater and dumping toxic waste around its Palakkad plant between 1999 and 2004. Protests by farmers and local activists forced the plant to shut down in 2005. Coca-Cola denied its plant had caused pollution in Palakkad. At least two other Indian bottling sites are similarly agitating against Coca-Cola.
Elsewhere: This was probably the most unexpected of resolutions to a territorial dispute: A small island in the Bay of Bengal had been claimed both by India and its eastern neighbor Bangladesh since the 1970s. But the island submerged, an apparent casualty of global warming. India had called the 1.3 mile stretch New Moore Island and Bangladesh named it South Talpatti. What diplomacy and military posturing could not achieve, climate change did. The island simply sank without a trace.