Thursday, December 22, 2005

Problems in Balochistan!!

In the last week of November, Pakistan began laying a 42-inch-diameter natural gas pipeline, the largest ever in the country, in the Port bin Qasim area of Karachi.

The US$12 million project will link with the Sui Southern Gas Company's (SSGC's) main transmission and distribution network servicing Karachi, the main load center, as well as the rest of Sindh and Balochistan. The SSGC is a public sector gas company that operates a transmission and distribution network in southern Sindh province and Balochistan.

Besides, Pakistan, Iran and India are involved in negotiations to build a $4 billion, 1,700-mile gas pipeline from Iran's South Pars field to India. About 475 miles of the pipeline would pass through Balochistan. A third of the gas would be delivered to Pakistan and the rest to India. Pakistan would receive about $700 million a year in transit fees.

Key to this is to make Gwadar port in southwest Balochistan (about 400 miles from Karachi) a main LNG hub. And Balochistan will remain the main entry point for all regional gas pipeline projects.

The problem, though, is that the projects involve highly restive Balochistan province, where tribals have for years waged a low-intensity rebellion against the central government, in part to demand a better share of the economic pie of the resource-rich province.

Balochistan is geographically the largest of Pakistan's provinces, but population-wise it is the smallest. However, the province is endowed with some of the world's richest reserves of natural energy (gas, oil, coal); minerals (gold, copper), and it has strategic mountainous borders and passes adjoining Iran and Afghanistan on the west and miles of precious maritime coast stretching from the Persian Gulf to the Arabian Sea in the south.

Islamabad has reason for concern that its ambitious energy plans are in danger in Balochistan. According to a report in the South Asia Intelligence Review - "There has been a continuous series of bomb and rocket attacks on gas pipelines, railway tracks, power transmission lines, bridges, and communications infrastructure, as well as on military establishments and governmental structures and enterprises. "

Now the Pakistan government wants to secure the region once and for all, and believes that the only way to do it is through forcibly "urbanizing" Balochistan's tribes. And with so much at stake, the latest military operations in Balochistan make sense. Hence, gunship helicopters have been active in two tribal areas, Qalat and Chaghai, and a massive land and air operation was launched in the Kohlu and Mohmand areas in which dozens of tribals were killed.

Next year is the target date to eliminate all tribal areas in Balochistan and convert them into settled areas. There appears to be no win-win situation - one side has to lose, and if Islamabad has its way, it will be the tribal people of Balochistan.

Courtesy : Asia Times report.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Why China Loves to Hate Japan?

The animosity between two neighboring country is not new in the world history. If the winner of animosity will virtualy have the crown of that region, the animosity increases. The two giant-economies of today's Asia, China and Japan, are vying for the leadership in East Asia. The relationship between them can be cold. But, why there is so much of hatred between the people of two countries? Why they is a looking back to past to rekindle the animosity?

Before drawing any conclusion, let's review the relationship between China and Japan for last decade. Japan is the most important country to China among the non-superpower developed nations. Among the reasons for this are : geographical proximity, historical and cultural ties. The Chinese lost their advancement they gained during Ming dynasty, and Japan was the rising power of the Asia - at the start of the century. The first notable Sino-Japanese war was in 1894, leading to a Japanese victory and annexation of Taiwan in Japan. But the hostility officially started in 1930s, when Japan invaded China and killed thousands of Chinese. The massacre of Nanjing was one of the incidents which took as much as 300,000 lives within 20 days. The mass-killing of Chinese people by Japan during WW-II is known to all.

The history is still behind Sino-Japanese relations, despite several attempts to secure peace between East-Asian giants. Recently, the degradation of "Nanjing Massacre" to "Nanjing Incident" by Japanese text-books were protested all over the China. Thousands of students each day, for instance, take class trips to the Anti-Japanese War Museum in Beijing to view grainy photos of war atrocities. The Chinese Premier, Wen Jiabao, recently created shockwaves by saying he would refuse to meet with Japan's Prime Minister, Junichiro Koizumi, at a ground-breaking summit of East Asian nations. Reasons include rising Japanese nationalism and a recent visit by the Japanese Premier to the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, which commemorates Japan's war dead, including some war criminals from the time of Japan's invasion of China in the 1930s. A 2000 film by one of China's leading directors, Jiang Wen, remains banned because it depicted friendliness between a captured Japanese soldier and Chinese villagers. Although the film showed plenty of brutality, censors ruled that "Devils at the Doorstep" gave viewers "the impression that Chinese civilians neither hated nor resisted Japanese invaders."

Why keep up the propaganda onslaught 60 years after Japan's surrender? Many suspect China's unelected leaders hope to use anti-Japan sentiment to buttress their own legitimacy. Ever since the Tiananmen Massacre of 1989, support for the Communist Party has rested on the shaky foundation of economic growth. Nationalism, by contrast, could prove more enduring. Reviving war memories keeps the nation united against Japan, and behind the party. Anti-Japan sentiment grew into rowdy street protests in Beijing and Shanghai in April, which the quickly government suppressed for fear they could spin out of control. But until China's leaders have some new pillar of legitimacy, there is no hope to a Sino-Japanese friendship at all levels.

Courtesy : Time Asia.

Down with The King?

The article published in the TIME Asia deals with Bhutan and end to it's monerchy. While all over the world, the kings seem to thwart the democracy, here's someone who want to promote it. This can trigger the start of a new direction, a new era, in which many monarchs will lead by the popular wish. This is what 21st century is looking for. No coup, no revolution and a synergy between the people and the monarch will lead the people to power. Unfortunately, people in Bhutan still unable to understand what their wise king has already understood. The steps the King is taking today, might prove to be a "path-breaking" in History of Bhutan and may convert it to Switzerland of Asia one day. Read the original article here :

King Jigme Singye Wangchuck of Bhutan is trying to abolish himself. The enlightened monarch of this tiny Himalayan kingdom, who has introduced such innovations as the use of a Gross National Happiness index to measure Bhutan's wealth, is now urging his people to get rid of him. "Monarchy is not the best form of government," he said last month at a stop on his anti-royalty campaign in the northern town of Haa. "It has many flaws."

The 50-year-old King, who has ruled Bhutan for 31 years, has been urging his subjects to replace its absolute monarchy with a 34-point constitution and a two-party parliamentary democracy, in part because he can't guarantee the quality of future kings. "In times to come, if the people were fortunate, the heir to the throne would be a dedicated and capable person," he said. "On the other hand, the heir could be a person of mediocre ability or even an incapable person." The proposed new rules wouldn't come into effect until 2008 because astrologers have deemed the intervening years inauspicious. The King is trying to convince the country to back the changes, which under the present system must be formally approved by its rubber-stamp parliament.

King Wangchuck, whose family has ruled since 1907, has been carefully moving Bhutan into the modern age, allowing in a limited number of tourists as well as television and the Internet—although the country's first traffic light, in the capital Thimpu, was deemed a step too far and the monarch had it removed. But for the first time, the King may not get his way: many Bhutanese seem unwilling to unseat him. "I look at all the problems the so-called democracies are facing and reckon I prefer the monarchy," said one young student at the meeting in Haa. Another told the state newspaper Kuensel that the idea of the King abdicating was "too painful to even conceive."

I have to say there are some contradictory reports from Human Rights people about the ethnic cleansing performed by King and freedom of media. Hence, how much will be achieved at the end, is still questionable. The contradiction comes from here.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

India : The next Manufacturing giant!!

YaleGlobal, the magazine from Yale Center for study of Globalization, are instrumental to point out that moribund manufacturing sector of India do have a potentials to do well, if not become a world-beater. This can eventually address India's long-time problem of jobless growth and eqality of income. The point it missed is that, it can launch 500 million Indian poors out of poverty, and could potentially create a base for knowledge-based workers in India. The gist of the article goes like this :

For years, analysts dismissed the prospects of India's manufacturing sector. India had been left behind by the wave of manufacturing off-sourcing that enriched China and Southeast Asia, and critics argued that India's best hope of catching up with its neighbors lay in the service sector. Those critics are falling silent, however, as 1990s economic reforms finally begin to spur significant growth in Indian industry. Indian manufacturing still falls far short of its potential; the sector is held back especially by infrastructure in far worse shape than China's, and thus costs that are far higher. McKinsey, however, estimates that the manufacturing sector may quadruple in the next decade. Indians hope that manufacturing end the "jobless growth" that has seen unemployment hold steady even as India's service sector has globalized, help drag their enormous population out of poverty, and make India an international economic powerhouse. To do that, India will need to enact further free-market reforms and open the country to further foreign direct investment.

You can read the original article here.

The battle of the minnows

Last night a 2-0 victory over Bangladesh gave India regain their supremacy in the South Asia after six years. Should we be really delighted? Will this win move Indian football to its' old glory? The answer unfortunately is - No.

It is now a known fact that football is been played throughout the world, with passion, with enthusiasm and skills. The countries those were not playing are trying hard to get a pie in the cake, the football-developed nations are busy keeping their supremacy intact. But, we in South Asia, are lagging behind others day by day. No South Asian country figures within top hundred in the FIFA ranking. Hence, a win in a battle of the minnows is meaningless, though surprisingly, we lost it last couple of occassions.

There are reasons for what South Asians are not truly in business with football. The well-discussed one is that of lack of physical strength and stamina. However, in a sports like Hockey, where subcontinent has a seizable share of glory, it also requires to be strong physically. Also, countries like Japan are doing well today's football without much of physical advantage. Pakistan has a lot of tribes and ethnic races like Pathans and Punjabis who are physically strong, same is the case of India. Then why are not these doing well?

The answer lies in the economic factors and awareness factors. Football has grown as a market in last three decades. and has left the countries that are poor or has a poor football-market further behind. The Africans fare better despite being poor, as the players go to play in Europe, as a result of their football-market. Football is considered as major source of employment in these countries, sharp contrast to the Sub-continent, where no sports other than cricket, is viewed as a bread-earner. The other problem is the middle-class apathy towards body-contact games in the region. Hence, the economic improvements in the region are not getting translated to improving football standards.

Still, I believe, there are people who play football from their heart, and also have some natural skills in this sports. People from entire North-East India, are passionate about football. However, due to the insurgencies and instability in this region, coupled with less economic growth, the real progress is still getting blocked. As time goes, I hope, all regions in India will join the growth bandwagon and will translate the North-East Indians' skill into real power for India.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Outsourcing: India's golden egg starts to crack

By Indrajit Basu

KOLKATA - It's hard to swallow but the halcyon days of India's lucrative information technology (IT) and business process outsourcing (BPO) sectors are over unless the industries address some fundamental problems.

After five prosperous years, the sectors face formidable challenges in the next few years, which if not addressed "concertedly and quickly", will almost certainly result in its missing "golden global opportunities".

That's the blunt message coming out of a study on India's IT and BPO sectors released this week by the National Association of Software and Service Companies (NASSCOM, the country's IT lobby) and McKinsey Consulting.

The study, which takes a thorough look at the global IT environment, indicates that though the projected growth rate of the Indian IT and IT enabled services (ITES) still has the potential to be scorching in the next five years, it isn't going to be as easy to achieve as had been thought.

The report lists as major challenges a huge shortage of talent, infrastructural deficiencies and external political problems such as a backlash from European and North American markets worried about job losses. But there is good news.

According to McKinsey, global IT offshoring faces a problem of slowdown in demand growth. Increasingly, global companies have realized that changing business processes to accommodate large offshore workforces is a difficult, time-consuming task and often produces lower savings than expected. For instance, Kaka said, it can take one to two years before performance stabilizes and the volume of work ramps up, which slows the payoff.

And as union and political opposition to offshoring grows, companies in Europe and North America are growing more wary of sending thousands of jobs to India. During the recent referendums on the European constitution, as well as in the 2004 US presidential campaign, job losses from offshoring were a major issue.

"There are also concerns about service quality and security, in the wake of several well-publicized security breaches," Kaka said, "and these put together are making many companies think twice before moving functions offshore.”

But more importantly for the BPO sector, India also confronts a potential shortage of skilled workers in the next decade, despite India having an adequate talent pool, or "raw material", as McKinsey partner Jayant Sinha calls it. According to NASSCOM projections, India's IT and BPO workforce will increase from about 700,000 to 2.3 million by 2010.

However, the biggest challenge, according to the report, is ramping up the country's infrastructure to meet the burgeoning needs of the country's IT industry. India needs to deliver overall on power, public transportation and international connectivity as well as business infrastructure - office and retail space, security services and the like.

Between now and 2010, the IT and BPO industries will have to employ an additional workforce of about 1 million workers near five top cities (New Delhi, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Chennai and Mumbai) and some 600,000 workers across other towns in India.

Nevertheless, the report says the potential market for global offshoring is huge and offers India an opportunity of dramatic growth if the country can meet these challenges. Its bottom-up analysis indicates that the addressable market for global offshoring is above US$300 billion, split almost evenly between IT, which provides computer-related information services, and BPO, which provides a variety of business services such as call centers and payroll outsourcing.

Indrajit Basu is a Kolkata-based equity-analyst-turned-journalist with more than 12 years of experience in business/finance and technology journalism. Besides writing for Asia Times Online, he also writes for US-based publications, as well as IT companies. You can read the original article here. I have produced only a concise version in my blog.

Asian Highway - the past and future maps

The Asian Highway project is a joint effort between Asian countries and UNESCAP to improve trans-Asian goods transport. The South-Asian segment of the road network is shown in the following map :

The road segment of AH-1 will connect North-East India with Kolkata, via a shorter route. The black-circled area is under scrutiny by Bangladesh Govt., as they argue that it will virtually become a transit route for Indian goods between rest of India and North-East India.

The Bangladesh Govt. proposed a change in route-map to avoid the disputed transit facility to India. They approached the neighboring countries with the request. The proposed change was somewhat like this :

The Black route was what they objected, and the dotted red one was the newly proposed AH-1. However, their proposal was not accepted by any of the countries they approached.

As Bangladesh decided not to join Asian Highway Road map, the new map will probably look like this :

The maroon color road signifies the new AH-1 route. The Black is the part that will be romoved from the map and the green one is the new route. However, the proposed AH-1 and AH-2 might be swapped, roads connecting Kolkata and Delhi might become a part of AH-2.

Asian Highway - views from overseas

A few days back, the govt. of Bangladesh decided not to join the Asian Highway network. A truly patriot Bangladeshi living overseas has some other views on this decision. He argued, that the Govt. is unnecessarily delaying the inevitable, the disputed transit facility to India. I am republishing his views, as I completely agree to what he says. Here goes his letter :

The government of Bangladesh is unnecessarily dragging its feet to sign and ratify the Asian Highway Treaty and have now put itself on the verge of excluding itself from this network. The highway will connect over 53 countries of Asia from the Mediterranean to the Korean peninsula and will possibly be the backbone of future trade and transportation in the entire continent and with Europe. But since the beginning, there have been reports of Bangladesh disagreeing with the network route and tried many times to change its alignment without success.

As it presently stands, the highway enters into Bangladesh from India and goes back into India. Bangladesh wanted to initiate a route that connects it with Southeast Asia as well going through Chittagong and Myanmar. But as it appears, none of our partners in that region, be it Myanmar or China, are interested. Bangladesh even offer to construct a section of the route in Myanmar that is in poor shape with its own funds. Myanmar is not even interested to renew the existing border trade deals with Bangladesh anymore. So what is our incentive of the new road if there is no use? But we seem to be following the 'Go East' policy like a holy citation though the 'East' is not interested. If Thailand and the Malay peninsula is our preferred destination, we have to realise that without the cooperation of Myanmar it is not possible.

The route that goes through Northeastern India can be used to transport goods to and from East Asia and we should be prepared to do just that. Leaving ourselves out of this network will only cause more damage to us. The policy makers in Bangladesh may be afraid of trusting India on this, but as our geography dictates, sooner or later the cross-border movement of goods and trade will be a reality and it would only harm us if we are not prepared for it. If we are reluctant to give India the transshipment facilities through our land - naturally they would be reluctant too to facilitate our trade with other countries through Indian territory. We have to reach some sort of balanced agreement on this at some point.

If we can persuade Myanmar in the future, and invest in the road-link wisely, countries like India, China, Thailand will be interested in using it for their own sake. That road may serve as a vital link between the ballooning giant economy of India and the East. So I urge the government to agree to the Asian Highway Bill immediately and start working for the Myanmar-Thailand link as a side project. In addition, we should prepare ourselves for increased land trade in the future with Nepal, India, Bhutan and countries in Asia. We will have to use Indian territory in most cases and we should be prepared to let our land be used by India for the same reason. We cannot escape geography - thus we should make the best use of it.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

India Shining!!!

My writing is in response to the following article by an ex-Pakistani general. In his sharp article, published in The Daily Star newspaper of Bangladesh, he tried to put some weird logic to show the backlogs of Indian growth picture. He pointed out the growth disparity, the overpriced market and Hindu-domination in Indian success as main Indian drawbacks. You can read this article here.

My response :

I am an Indian Bengali and read The Daily Star regularly on the internet. It is a delightful experience for me to read a newspaper from our neighboring democratic country. I am specifically interested on the analytical articles published in your newspaper. These are really great works from the people around the world.

On December 8, 2005, I came across an article by Ikram Sehgal, on the backlogs of shining India. The loss of direction mentioned in the article is good, but I cannot but protest the wrong figures quoted in the article. It is a truth that only 30% of Indian people are reaping benefits of booming Indian economy, but the picture is not as bleak as he mentioned.

Firstly, he points out that an amazing figure of 700 million below poverty line population and also went on to say that Pakistan has a better picture in that field. I don’t really understood how he is defining the “Below Poverty Line”, but UNDP (United Nations Development Program) figures show that population living below poverty line is 28% (almost 300 million) in India and 32% in Pakistan. Similarly, they ranked India in 58th place, ahead of Pakistan (68th) among developing countries on Human Poverty Index. The measurer of income inequality, named as Gini co-efficient, ranked India ahead of Pakistan. The UNDP figures are not the resultant of Indian rhetoric, but of a successful grass-root development and sustainable democracy.

Next, he mentions that a person having income as high as 45000 a month cannot afford a flat in a passable location. I do not understand how he distinguishes between a passable and a non-passable location, but inside Kolkata or Hyderabad ( where I stay ), there are many “passable” locations where people are buying flats at 1 million Indian Rs, and that too with incomes as low as 15000 a month. This has triggered a boom in housing construction in India, and a competition among the banks moving them towards reducing the housing loan interests. He mentioned about rich getting richer by IPOs. But who are buying these IPOs and shares? The middle class people only.

At the end, he mentioned that non-Hindus do not have their representation in Indian rich class. I would like to mention, that the richest Indian citizen, Azim Premji, the owner of Wipro, is a Muslim. He is the richest South Asian as well. Had he been discriminated against his counterparts, like Narayan Murthy of Infosys or Tatas of TCS, he would not have reached the place where he is today.

The author possibly overlooked the biggest success of India in last couple of decades, the primary enrolment ratio. 87% of Indian children get themselves admitted in Primary schools, compared to only 59% in Pakistan. Higher literacy at lower costs, and a huge number of graduates triggered Indian knowledge based industry, which now helps India earn $20 billion a year.

It is definitely true that Indian growth is marked by disparity. The growth of city and villages are not the same, nor is the growth comparable between South Indian and the North India. But, this is only the initial effect of liberal economy, which is faced by many developing nations. The countries those are rich today, also faced this situation when they started to industrialize. The effective democracy can always absorb this disparity shock, and strengthen the equality among citizens. It will be good for India, and also for the entire South Asia.


Hi readers, this is Diganta (Digonto in Bengali pronounciation) taking India to you. Let me introduce briefly myself and then I'll go into details of why I started blogging.

I am Diganta, from a Hyderabad, India. I belong to the Software generation of India, the generation often hated and looked upon in the West and envied in the South Asia. Though I stay in Hyderabad these days, I am born and brought up in a suburban town of Barddhaman (Burdwan) in West Bengal. After completing the graduation in Computer Science from Shibpore Bengal Engineering College, I joined a rare startup Software product company, named Connective Systems. Now, I am with Microsoft India R & D Ltd., Hyderabad.

My mother tongue is Bengali, the fourth highest spoken language in the world. I love the language though do not like West Bengal that much.

Besides India, I have a strong connection with Bangladesh. My father came to India at the time of Bangladesh freedom fight. My wife is still a Bangladeshi citizen. Hence, I will cover a lot of bilateral issues of India-Bangladesh in my blog.

The reason I started blogging is the amount of hatred I can see across the people in todays world. Every problem starts with a few bad person, and ends at generations of hatred, even among good people. There are more specific problems, like misquoting, and misuse of statistics. Some people even start writing up statistics without even verifying the sources. One wrong writing generates wrong knowledge for each of the readers, and the error propagates!! I would try to rectify the statistics or information given in several newspapers and sites using some reliable and dependable sources.

My focus will mainly be on India and her relationship with different countriesthough the priority will be our neighbors.

Also, I am a die-hard sports lover. Hence, I will intervene my serious discussions with some lucid sports round-up.

Good bye, keep on reading.