Politics & the Nation
  • A very powerful criticism of the Baloch blunder committed by our Prime Minister; in the words of Brahma Chellany. An excerpt:
    • The inclusion of Baluchistan resulted from US pressure on India to address Pakistan’s concerns over Indian consular and other activities in Afghanistan. And the agreement to share real-time actionable intelligence is part of a CIA initiative to build cooperation between the Indian and Pakistani intelligence agencies. Even Hillary Clinton publicly sought “sharing of workable intelligence”. The Obama administration had made it clear it would wait for the Indian polls to be over before nudging New Delhi to reopen talks with Islamabad. The Sharm-el-Sheikh statement can only boost Washington’s Afpak strategy, a key component of which is to prop up the Pakistani state financially and politically.
    • Take yet another parallel. Just as Singh argued that without the nuclear deal India’s energy and economic interests would be seriously compromised, he now contends that without settling differences and making peace with Pakistan, India cannot be a great power. Every rightminded Indian would want peace. But to say that the country cannot emerge as a major power without making peace with the adversary is to go against the grain of world history and to embolden the foe to stay implacably antagonistic. Did China become a world power by coming to terms with Taiwan? Even if India surrendered Kashmir, would Pakistan be willing or able to stop cross-border terror attacks?
    • India’s meandering approach on Pakistan is just one example of Indian policy being unable to stay the course on matters critical to national interest. In the absence of realistic, goal-oriented statecraft or a distinct strategic doctrine, ad hoc, personality-driven policy-making is becoming the norm. A secure, prosperous India, however, can emerge only through institutionalised, integrated policymaking and the unflinching pursuit of clearly laid-out goals.
    • The last paragraph above could be given as an opening statement for a question and you could be asked to comment on that. For such a question, the first two paragraphs above could be very good answer.
  • Ram Pradhan Committee report
    • Ever heard of this committee? It is committee constituted by the state government of Maharashtra to probed the state government’s response to the 26/11 terror attacks.
    • The state government had not tabled the findings of the two-member committee in the recent monsoon session. It just presented an action to be taken report (ATR). The state had cited ‘sensitivity’ of the issue for deciding not to make the report public.
  • Nandan Nilekani assumes charge as Unique Identification Database Authority of India (UIDAI) Chairman
    • The UID project plans to create unique identification numbers for all Indians by 2011. Currently, India does not have any standard identification card or number to authenticate an individual’s identity.
    • The identification number, which will primarily help to “authenticate” an individual in the country, will be issued to Indian residents on voluntary basis. Any Indian can get the number by showing a residence proof. This can be used for government and private use, Mr Nilekani said.
    • The UIDAI chief also introduced Ram Sevak Sharma as the secretary and chief executive officer of the organisation who will assist him in rolling out the programme across the country in phases.
Finance & Economy
  • Core sector shows promise
    • The six core infrastructure industries grew 6.5% in June on the back of robust performance by cement and steel, adding to the cheer as news trickled in that monsoon showers had clocked 15% above normal last week.
    • The infrastructure basket comprising coal, crude oil, refining, power, cement and finished steel has a 27% weightage in the index of industrial production (IIP), and the June surge hints at overall industrial growth picking up, according to economists.
    • Take a look at this graphic for the figures.
  • MNP introduction postponed
    • The government may now allow mobile number portability (MNP) by year-end, telecom secretary Siddhartha Behura said on Thursday. MNP was slated to come into effect in metros and large states on September 20, 2009, and the rest of the country by March 2010.
  • What experts predict about the ensuing (next week) monetary policy review by RBI:
    • With inflation expected to surge post-October, RBI may not tinker with key rates
    • But it is sensitising market on need for orderly withdrawal of liquidity pumped during crises
    • Most world markets are said to be done with interest rate cuts
    • RBI is likely to ease norms that will encourage banks to lend, such as more leeway for restructuring loans
    • There could be boosters for infrastructure financing by easing capital requirements on take-out financing
    • Time overruns may be condoned when there are no defaults
  • High Gold prices fuel fusion jewellery
    • According to estimates from the World Gold Council, demand for the first quarter of the current year fell 83% to 17.7 tonnes compared to the corresponding period last year. The fall in demand is in response to the rising prices. As against the average price of Rs.12, 147 per ten grams last year, gold is now hovering above Rs. 15,000.
    • Jewellers are therefore resorting to fusion of precious stones with steel, tungsten or titanium.
  • US housing sales bring cautious cheer
    • US existing home sales notched their third monthly rise in June in a sign the housing industry was slowly healing, but new jobless claims rose last week in a move distorted by unusual seasonal layoffs.
    • Retail sales in the United Kingdom also reportedly rose 2.9% in June compared to a year earlier and mortgage lending rose by 8% in the month as summer weather smiled on a struggling economy.
  • Buffet cashes in on Goldman shares
    • Warren Buffett’s option to buy shares of Goldman Sachs Group, part of an agreement reached at the depths of the credit crisis, has earned a profit on paper of about $2 billion, a return of more than 40%.
    • He has warrants to buy $5 billion of Goldman common stock for $115 a share any time in the next four years.
    • Goldman Sachs on Thursday passed $162 in New York trading for the first time since rival Lehman Brothers Holdings collapsed in September.
    • So, you see the timing by Warren Buffet? When any normal investor would have stayed away from Goldman Sachs, he had the guts to put money into it. That's why he is reaping rewards now.
Language lessons
  • casuistry: Noun
    • Argumentation that is specious or excessively subtle and intended to be misleading; Moral philosophy based on the application of general ethical principles to resolve moral dilemmas
    • eg: ...Prime Minister Singh has turned to casuistry to camouflage his shift on Pakistan.
  • redolent: Adjective
    • Serving to bring to mind; (used with 'of' or 'with') noticeably odorous; Having a strong pleasant odour
    • ...Such a shifting goalpost is redolent of the nuclear deal.