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India criticizes Israel for "disproportionate use of force"

In a measured statement, foreign minister Salman Khurshid condemns "tragic escalation of violence"
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India's federal minister Salman Khurshid addressing a press conference in New Delhi on October 14, 2012. (SAJJAD HUSSAIN/AFP/Getty Images)

Indian Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid finally spoke out on Israel's bombing of Gaza on Wednesday, following criticism from the press that New Delhi had been too silent with regard to the conflict.

"We did say categorically that the disproportionate use of force is unacceptable," Khurshid told reporters, according to the Press Trust of India.

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India: Mumbai attacker hanged after president rejects final appeal

Sole surviving terrorist from 26/11 attacks on Mumbai was hanged in Pune Wednesday morning
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An Indian policeman confiscates an effigy of Pakistan-born Mohammed Kasab, who was the sole surviving gunman of the 2008 Mumbai attacks, as activists celebrate his execution in Mumbai on November 21, 2012. (PUNIT PARANJPE/AFP/Getty Images)

Ajmal Kasab, the sole surviving terrorist from the November 26, 2008 attacks on Mumbai, was hanged Wednesday morning in an unannounced ceremony at Pune's Yerwada Jail.

The Times of India quoted home secretary R K Singh as saying, "Family members of Kasab informed about the hanging through a letter sent by courier."

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India: Manmohan Singh makes pitch for broad role in SE Asia

Indian prime minister backed a free trade agreement with ASEAN and called for increased cooperation on security in Phnom Penh
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Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said India is prepared to sign an agreement on free trade in services and investments with ASEAN next month and called for broader cooperation on security in the region at the India-ASEAN Summit in Phnom Penh on Monday.

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India: Where women are bought and sold

Skewed gender ratio fuels human trafficking in Rajasthan, as men mark "auspicious day" by buying young girls
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A relative (L) comforts a bride as she participates in a mass marriage in the village of Vadia, some 210kms north of Ahmedabad late March 11, 2012. (SAM PANTHAKY/AFP/Getty Images)

A spike in cases of human trafficking during the leadup to Diwali reveals a disturbing truth about the Mewat region of the western Indian state of Rajasthan. Because of a badly skewed gender ratio, families have taken to buying young girls for marriage to older men around the occasion of "Dev Uthani Ekadashi"--considered an auspicious day.

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India: Political boss Bal Thackeray dies, leaving Mumbai on tenterhooks

Bal Thackeray, the fiery leader of the far right Shiv Sena party, died at age 86 on Saturday
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Shiv Sena founder and current chief Bal Thackeray -- a political boss with the power to turn Mumbai upside down -- died Saturday at age 86 after languishing for several days in critical condition.

The authorities virtually closed down India's financial capital in anticipation of violence when Thackeray's health was failing earlier this week. But so far the city appears to remain calm but tense. 

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India: Mumbai on high alert with right-wing leader Bal Thackeray in critical condition

Mumbai is poised for possible violence, as Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackeray remains in critical condition
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(GlobalPost)

The Mumbai and Maharashtra authorities are preparing for the worst as the far right Shiv Sena party's longtime boss languishes in critical condition.

Officials fear an eruption of violence in the event that the 86-year-old demagogue dies. Thackeray, who made his political career fighting for Marathi speakers as waves of migrants from South India and later Bihar came to Mumbai seeking their fortunes, built the Shiv Sena into a party known for street violence.

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India: Failed 2G spectrum auction doesn't mean govt was right to allot licenses

India's auction of 2G telecom licenses that were cancelled due to corruption allegations may have failed to generate much cash, but that has no bearing on the graft charges, argues FirstPost.in
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(GlobalPost)

The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government's effort to erase its past failures with the auction of 2G telecom spectrum licenses that were cancelled by the Supreme Court due to allegations of corruption in the allotment process has turned out to be a flop. But its failure to spark a bidding war between industry giants should not be confused with proof that there was nothing wrong with the first-come, first-served system used in 2008, argues FirstPost.in's R. Jagannathan.

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India: Aung San Suu Kyi's lesson in Realpolitik

If the Nobel winner is "disappointed" in India, human rights campaigners are losing faith in her, too.
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(GlobalPost)

Myanmar's Aung San Suu Kyi had some backpedaling to do this week during her first visit to India in 40 years. But the world's most famous dissident failed to extricate foot from mouth in recasting her "disappointment" in India for its soft stance on Myanmar's military dictatorship as sadness.

As FirstPost.in's Venky Vembu reports Thursday, both India and Suu Kyi have tumbled off their pedestals. India has discovered Realpolitik as its rising status in world affairs made it so other people actually care what New Delhi thinks and does. And Suu Kyi has discovered the merits of dealing with the devil, rather than simply railing against it, after Myanmar's junta let her out of house arrest to become an opposition politician.

"Suu Kyi has in the past given voice to her sense of 'sadness' that India had in recent years fallen off the pedestal on which she herself – and a lot of other freedom-loving people around the world – had placed it," Vembu writes. "India had, she felt, silenced its moral voice, and begun to strike dirty deals with dictators and military rulers."

"In particular, the fact that the Indian government had openly embraced Myanmar’s military junta, which had robbed her of her election victory in 1990 and jailed her, rankled with her. India, she observed last year, 'is not as concerned' about the fate of the pro-democracy movement in Myanmar 'as we would like them to be.'"

“I think rather than disappointment, sad is the word I would use because I have a personal attachment to India through my friends as well as because of the friendship that existed between my father and Jawaharlal Nehru, because of the closeness that existed between the countries. So rather than disappointed, I was sad that it had to be like that,” the Myanmar opposition leader said in an interview with the Hindu before this week's visit.

As Reuters reports, Suu Kyi urged India on Wednesday to push for full-fledged democracy in Myanmar, on her first trip to India since it dropped its support for her democracy movement two decades ago in order to gain the support of the ruling junta in fighting an insurgency along the India-Myanmar border.

“We have not yet achieved the goal of democracy, we are still trying, and we hope that in this last, I hope, and most difficult phase the people of India will stand by us and walk by us,” the news agency quoted Suu Kyi as saying in a memorial lecture for Nehru.

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India accounts for a quarter of world's child pneumonia deaths

Some 370,000 Indian children die of pneumonia each year
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(GlobalPost)

India accounts for one out of four child deaths from pneumonia across the world, where the disease claims 1.4 million children under five years of age each year.

Meanwhile, pneumonia is the cause of one out of five deaths worldwide in the same age group, according to the Times of India.

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India: Will new tax save India from budget crisis?

Proposed value-added tax touted as "single most important initiative in the fiscal history of India"
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India is edging closer to pushing through a value-added tax or goods and services tax (GST), as it is known here, that some are touting as "the single most important initiative in the fiscal history of India."

But edging closer doesn't necessarily mean actually passing legislation, suggests Bloomberg. After all, this is India.

"The implementation of the new system has been held up on many fronts: disputes over its precise shape, resistance on the part of some state governments because they fear a loss of revenue from the levy of state taxes, the need to amend the Constitution (which has a different view of taxation powers divided between the central government and the state than the one the GST envisages), and the absence of any concerted pressure from the citizenry," writes Chandrahas Choudhury.

And none of those problems has really disappeared -- which is perhaps why last week's Business Standard reported that "the Parliamentary Standing on Committee on Finance may not be able to submit its report on the Good and Services Tax (GST) during the forthcoming Winter Session."

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