#India placed its #faith in #Moditva

In the course of a two-hour conversation four-and-a-half months ago, Narendra Modi told an editor of TOI, when asked how many seats he thought BJP would get: “This is not about arithmetic, this is about aspiration and passion. Ye toh tsunami aane wala hai (there is an electoral tsunami coming).” On Friday morning, as the sheer force of the Modi gale took the nation by storm, the word that trended to the top of social media was, not surprisingly, ‘tsunamo’. It was a landslide for BJP, and a humiliating rout of Gandhi-led Congress.


This is the biggest-ever win posted by any party after the landslide win Congress achieved on the strength of the “sympathy wave” generated by Indira Gandhi’s assassination. So far, the only non-Congress formation to have got a majority was Janata Party which achieved the feat in 1977. But given that it was a combination of four parties, BJP’s Friday victory marked the first instance where a party other than Congress has got past the majority mark on its own steam.

This is the largest anti-incumbency vote in India’s history. The desire for change was driven by anger against corruption and the sluggish economy, while riding on hope that Modi represented.

Given the social and geographical limitations of the BJP — it doesn’t have a footprint in the south outside Karnataka and is considered almost an untouchable by significant sections of minorities and among a big section of Dalits — its performance showed that it has broken traditional caste barriers by poaching on the OBC and Dalit constituencies of SP and BSP in UP.

As a persona, Modi represents many firsts. He is the first prime minister to be born in independent India. He is also the first “backward” to have sailed into the country’s top political office by making his caste identity an issue in the election. He is the first leader from a state who has captured power at the Centre by dint of his sheer personal appeal. This victory marks the fading of the 2002 riots as a wedge issue.

Modi is an archetypal outsider, never having been part of the Delhi elite. He became PM candidate after overthrowing entrenched leaders in his party.

In contrast to BJP, Congress did not open its score in seven states and three union territories and did not reach double digits in any state. The party’s total – which looks to be 44 seats – puts its claim to the leader of opposition status in doubt. It can still get it, but that will depend on the Speaker and BJP’s generosity.

BJP stamped its dominance by winning a staggering 147 of 168 seats in UP, Bihar and Maharashtra.

The result exposed the limitations of the tactic of “secular” parties to thwart BJP by aiming for Muslim consolidation. The surge in support for BJP in West Bengal and Assam was also being attributed to the emergence of “Hindu” vote which Modi had stoked by raising the issue of illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

Congress’s losses, on the other hand, can be gauged by the fact that the party did not enter double digits in even a single state. It faced a complete washout in Rajasthan, Gujarat, Goa, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Odisha, Delhi, Tripura and Uttarakhand. Besides, the singe-seat Dadra & Nagar Haveli and Daman & Dui also went to BJP.

Several top UPA ministers faced defeat, including Kapil Sibal, Salman Khurshid, Sushil Shinde, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Pallam Raju, Beni Prasad Verma, Sachin Pilot, Milind Deora, Sriprakash Jaiswal, Jaipal Reddy and Praful Petal.

Source: TOI NEWS

#Facebook, #Twitter, #Google change face of Indian #elections

The three American social media giants, Facebook, Twitter and Google, have emerged as major players in the ongoing general elections in India, with political parties and candidates competing with each other in breaking the news, spreading their message through these outlets in addition to those via the traditional media.

M_Id_469744_Social_MediaWhile the impact of these social media on the elections could be known only after May 16 when the results are declared or could be a matter of another academic research, all the three major players have seen substantial increase in their India traffic and usage.

For instance, Facebook has now 100 million users in India, its largest outside the US, while that of Twitter has more than doubled since January this year.

After the 7th round of polling, there were 49 million Indian elections-related conversations on Twitter, more than double the 20 million Indian elections-related conversations on Twitter for all of 2013.

In 2009, Shashi Tharoor was the only Indian politician to have a Twitter account and had 6,000 followers. Five years later there is hardly any major political leader who does not have an account on Twitter.

Tharoor is now the second most popular politician on Twitter with 2.16 million followers, after Narendra Modi, the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate with 3.89 million followers.

Modi now also has nearly 14 million fans of Facebook. Barack Obama is the only other politician to have more Facebook fans than Modi.

With political parties, leaders and candidates putting their advertisement on social media to reach out to their voters, all the three major players are reported to have made substantial addition to their revenue.

Though none of the companies are willing to discuss the advertisement revenue this election cycle, all of them have put in several months of tireless efforts and diverted substantial amount of their resources in the elections, many of them working thousands of miles away from India.

Facebook started working on the Indian elections towards the end of last year, says Katie Harbath, manager for policy at Facebook, adding that the company started doing a series of things beginning March this year when the elections were announced.

This includes launch of election tracker so that people can see in real time. Candidates are now using Facebook and Twitter for breaking news.

“We are really seeing the entire country discuss the issues (related to elections), Harbarth said in a recent interview.

“Facebook is really the key place of the conversation that is happening,” she said.

Adam Sharp, Head of Government and Nonprofits at Twitter, who has been involved in participating in elections in various countries of the world, said Twitter is a powerful way to return to retail politics. He conceded that elections have helped Twitter expand in India.

While the majority of the users of social media are concentrated in urban areas, the elections have also helped them expand their reach to the rural areas too.

Before the elections, the use of social media was generally restricted to the national political parties, but as the general elections gained momentum, even regional parties joined the social media bandwagon.

In a recent interview, Raheel Khursheed, head of news, Politics and Government, Twitter India, said the electoral landscape of social media has changed forever in India.

“Twitter has now become an integral part of Indian elections,” Khursheed said.

The sheer size is a major challenge for them, concedes Harbarth.

“It is just exciting to see, how much social media is being used in the election,” she said.

In addition to the volume and size, Twitter officials said the nine-phased elections are another major challenge.

“Twitter gives you a front row seat to the Lok Sabha #Election2014 in India and is the #1 place to go to stay informed about the latest elections developments.”

“This election is turning out to be the country’s first Twitter election; candidates, journalists and citizens have been using the Twitter platform extensively to discover elections content, converse with others in real time, and express their views,” Adams said.

On the other hand, Google provided platforms to politicians to reach out to their supporters through hangouts.

Google also created a Google Elections Hub for elections-related news and information created to help 800 million Indian voters stay informed and updated about the elections. The site also includes features such as elections related News Videos, Search Trends, G+ Hangout Series, and an interactive Pledge to Vote campaign.

“We want to make sure Indian voters have quick access to information to help them make informed decisions on election day. This is part of our commitment to bring essential information to Indians as they head to the polls in this historic election,” Rajan Anandan, VP, India Country Manager, told in an email interview.

“Google created its first elections tools seven years ago when our engineers noticed a huge increase in search traffic around the election period in the United States,” Samantha Smith from Google said.

“Today over 20 countries including Malaysia, Thailand, and now, India, have elections pages that aid voters during election periods.

“Google aims to encourage people to be more participative and engage with candidates. It also allows voters to have a deeper understanding of politics and governance through engagement with the candidates,” Smith added.

Several American media outlets have described the 16th general elections as the first social media elections.

“Social media has become the new election battleground for India’s nationwide parliamentary elections,” a CNN news report said.

Both officials from these social media outlets and experts are unable to predict this time the influence it would have on the election results. However, the Internet and Mobile Association of India estimates that a well-executed social media campaign can swing 3 -4 per cent of votes.

In 2009, the popular vote of the BJP was 78 million and that of the Congress was 119 million. In 2014, the total numbers of Indians on these social media outlets are matching these figures.

Your #voice in their #world

 A CSR initiative will make it possible for the visually-impaired to enjoy poetry as people record verses for them.

Your Voice in their World

Your Voice in their World

“Kal raat mujhe ek kavita ne jagaaya…” (Last night a poem woke me up) Prasoon Joshi’s poem rings clear as a bell in the voice of Farhan Akhtar. It is the first poem recorded for a project called Your Voice, Their World. It is an initiative where the beautiful big world of poetry and literature is being made available to the visually-impaired. The project is open to the public and anyone can record a poem, easily. Already, more than a thousand poems have been recorded.

When Japanese company Omron was looking around for a CSR initiative that would benefit people with disabilities, they hit upon the idea of doing something for the visually-impaired in India. Omron decided to use technology to enhance their quality of life. In order to do that, it has sponsored 2,000 hours of recording of works of poetry and literature. The project has been undertaken by Omron along with The National Association of the Blind in Delhi and McCann Health that has contributed the creative inputs, designed the website and helped take the project online.

According to Ankur Sachin Bhatt, corporate communications manager of Omron, “Prasoon Joshi specially composed the poem for us and Farhan Akhtar agreed to be a part of the project by reading out that poem. He has also contributed preludes for the talking books. The project is actively being promoted on all platforms of the social media, Facebook and twitter and there is a dedicated app too. There is a special contest that is on till April 30. Record your poems before that and the best five selected will get a chance to meet Farhan Akhtar. The recorded poems will be donated to the NAB Delhi library and anyone can use it from their database.”

The poems recorded so far range from Itsy Bitsy Spider and Hickory Dickory Dock to the works of Harivansh Rai Bachchan, Sahir Ludhianvi, Mahadevi Verma, Dylan Thomas, Percy Bysshe Shelley, William Wordsworth, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Robert Browning and many, many more.

For details look up http://yourvoicetheirworld.com/

Source: The Hindu Article

Indian cosmetics market booming; spells profits for global brands (2013 in Retrospect)

Indian cosmetics market

Indian cosmetics market

The Rs.29,000 crore ($4.5 billion) Indian cosmetic market is growing briskly and attracting more and more international brands. Experts credit awareness among the middle-class, increase in departmental stores and the tremendous growth opportunities that are luring global players like Bobbi Brown Cosmetics and BellePierre Cosmetics to tap the Indian market.

If international brands like Revlon, L’Oreal Paris, Estee Lauder, M.A.C and Maybelline are already doing brisk business, approximately 10 brands, including NATIO

and Bottega Di Lungavita, took the plunge this year.

“The Indian market has a lot to offer in terms of penetration of new brands,” Gaurav Gaba, managing director, Belle Vous Pvt Ltd., which launched Australian cosmetics brand NATIO in India in September, told IANS.

“The market and customers are becoming very brand conscious with the readiness to try new brands and products,” he added.

“The current wellness market stands at approximately Rs.70,000 crore and out of that beauty care products amount to Rs.29,000 crore. This number and the tremendous growth opportunity is attracting a lot of international players to the Indian market,” Gaba said.

According to Massooma, editor at New Age Salon & Spa and knowledge partner for International Beauty Mart 2014, the Indian cosmetics market is growing twice as fast as its US and European counterparts.

“India’s cosmetics market is reportedly growing at 15-20 percent annually, twice as fast as that of the US and European markets. The demand for skin whitening products by men as well as women, is driving the trend, but other beauty products are not far behind,” she said.

NATIO has around 260 products in skin and body care, men’s range and spa products, among others, priced between Rs.7,00 and Rs.1,500.

Sanjiv Khurana, director, Officina Farmaceutica Italiana, India, which introduced Bottega Di Lungavita in the country, says well-informed Indian consumers are embracing international cosmetics brands despite a difference in price points.

“This is for a variety of reasons. First of all, there is greater awareness among the well-travelled, well-heeled middle-class about international brands before they even enter the Indian market. Now that they are venturing into the market, they find ready acceptance,” Khurana noted.

International products get an edge over indigenous products as they are a tad better in quality.

“The products go through stringent tests and checks at many levels and therefore, consumers know they match the highest standards of quality assurance. But this is not to say that indigenous brands are not doing a great job,” Khurana said.

US-based Revlon was the first international cosmetics brand to hit Indian stores in 1995. Deepak Bhandari, director of marketing at Revlon, says the rise of departmental stores in the country has also encouraged various brands to enter India.

“It is also to do with changing retail environment in India, especially with departmental stores coming up in the last one decade. But it’s not easy for them to get volumes in business unless they plan for a long term. The new international brands see potential in the market and so lots of brands are coming to India and launching in departmental stores,” Bhandari noted.

Currently present in around 36 cities, Revlon Initially focussed on metros and mini-metros like Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Bangalore. Now, it is aiming to also target women in tier II and III cities.

“We want to focus on towns to consolidate business there. We want to be where our consumers want our products. People in smaller towns now have disposable incomes,” Bhandari said.

He said the main consumers of cosmetics are working women in metropolitan cities and married ones in smaller towns.

“Earlier, girls in schools and colleges did not wear make-up, but now they start early. They are part of a growing segment, but the core one is aged between 21 and 28. This includes working women, especially in metros where the working population in increasing. Women in smaller towns use more of colour cosmetics after they get married otherwise it’s occasion-based usage in India,” said Bhandari.

The competition has risen with the influx of international players, but indigenous brands are doing well, with Lakme the leader.

Highlighting the importance of indigenous brands, Gaba said: “In India, the cosmetics industry’s major share is enjoyed by Hindustan Unilever Limited through Lakme, which has approximately 30 percent of the market share.”

Khurana too felt that indigenous brands are doing well in a competitive market.

Source: SaveDelete


India vs South Africa: Kallis’s decision casts shadow over Kingsmead Test

DURBAN: There’s a sense of closure to the Boxing Day Test.

India vs South Africa: Kallis's decision casts shadow over Kingsmead Test

India vs South Africa: Kallis’s decision casts shadow over Kingsmead Test

It’s the last Test match of the year, India are on the verge of history, but Jacques Kallis’ announcement seems to have hijacked the occasion. The legend’s decision to quit Test cricket after the Durban decider has cast a gloom over Kingsmead, the very venue where he made his debut 18 years back.

There will surely be several emotional moments over the next five days, but the superbcompetitor that Kallis is, he will look to ensure that India don’t go past a checkpost they have always faltered at.

The Indians have never won a Test series in South Africa and there’s a feeling here that this is their best chance. The pitch is not the fastest or greenest, the Indian team is on a high after a superb first-Test show and the hosts’ recent record at this venue is dismal — losses in their last four matches here.

South African coach Russell Domingo said after looking at the pitch that they didn’t expect something like this. “It’s a dry pitch, another hard-fought battle is in store,” Domingo said, adding how the nature of the Kingsmead track has changed from being fast and bouncy to dry and slow.

Of course, it’s not as dry as Green Park in Kanpur, but the Indian team should feel comfortable about it. With a 3-1 pace-spin combination on the cards, it’s unlikely that the bowling attack will see a change from the first Test. R Ashwin has been under a bit of pressure, but Cheteshwar Pujara said on Tuesday that the team management has complete faith in the offie.

The South Africans have more on their plate at the moment than India. Firstly, they have to handle the Kallis-induced emotional turmoil. And then, premier pace bowler Morne Morkel is not yet 100 per cent fit.

He has recovered well from the ankle injury he suffered at Wanderers but the team management is not yet certain whether they will be able to include him in the playing XI. “He will undergo a fitness test on Thursday morning before we finally decide whether we can play him. Had it been an ODI, he would have been playing, but Test cricket is a different ball game where you have to last five days,” a team source said.

Morkel has his fingers crossed. “It’s a difficult Christmas for me, but wait till tomorrow,” Morkel told TOI before leaving the ground.

Vernon Philander has been in great form but Dale Steyn wasn’t at his best during the first Test. That’s an area of concern for South Africa, who have also been taken aback by the spirited performance of the Indian pace attack.

“The Indian fast bowlers have done really well. A bowler like Zaheer has bowled all his life on the unresponsive pitches in India and that’s where he has learnt so many variations. He is well equipped to put our batting under pressure,” Domingo said.

The Indian team believes that the South African batting line-up has shown signs of frailty. Graeme Smith and Alviro Petersen are not in the best of form, while it remains to be seen how well Kallis can control his emotions in his farewell Test. The team, of course, will pull out all stops to ensure that the all-rounder goes out on a high.

Source: TOI News


Du Plessis, de Villiers ensured thrilling draw

First there was 438, the highest successful chase in ODIs. Now, South Africa came within eight runs of making 458 – what would have been the highest successful chase in Test cricket.

Fa Du Plessis after century

Fa Du Plessis after century

At the start of the final day, South Africa needed 320 with eight wickets in hand and a victory for them seemed miles away on a testing pitch. Faf du Plessis and AB de Villiers’ strung together a partnership of 205, though, the highest fifth-wicket partnership in the fourth innings of a Test, to form the spine of the chase. The pair took South Africa to within 56 runs of victory. By the time both had been dismissed South Africa needed 16 runs. But with only Imran Tahir and the injured Morne Morkel to come, Vernon Philander and Dale Steyn batted out 19 deliveries to secure one of the most thrilling of draws.

Faf du Plessis and AB de Villiers, the same pair that led South Africa to safety in Adelaide 13 months ago, batted through the second session at Wanderers to vastly improve their chances of saving the Test, and perhaps even winning it. While victory was not a possibility in Australia because of South Africa’s scoring rate, they now needed 127 runs in 30 overs with six wickets in hand, and could push for a record-breaking win.

After managing only two wickets in the first session, India’s toiled without success in the second, despite having a second new ball to work with, giving themselves a difficult task. On a pitch where bounce became variable as the match progressed and cracks opened up, batting remained difficult but so did removing a pair that had settled.

The second new ball became available 17 minutes after lunch and MS Dhoni took it immediately. In the second over against it, du Plessis pulled powerfully off Shami to bring up his first half-century in nine innings. Shami was the more difficult of the bowlers to face with the new ball because he found movement and beat the bat but luck was not on his side. De Villiers’ half-century also came off him, also from a pull shot.

Ishant Sharma found the edge of both batsmen’s bats but the ball either did not carry or went wide of the slips to third man. Zaheer had the same frustration when de Villers inside-edged him to bring up the 100 partnership.

Faf du Plessis gets on his toes to defend, South Africa v India, 1st Test, Johannesburg, 5th day, December 22, 2013

India could not find a way through Faf du Plessis © AFP 

The pair rode their luck, stayed patient and got their opportunities to score against a tiring attack. Although India’s seamers kept probing, runs began to flow. Damage limitation may be the visitors’ aim for the final session, with Dhoni spreading his field and the tactics becoming more defensive. South Africa, on the other hand, sensed something special and the last two hours are set for fitting finale.

In the first two hours, India had taken two steps towards victory. Alviro Petersen was dealt with early. India peppered him with a mixture of short and full balls before he played-on in the fifth over of the day. That brought Jacques Kallis, who did not bat at his usual No.4 position because of his bowling workload, to the crease. Mohammad Shami attacked Kallis with the short ball and got him to pop one up to short leg but Chesteshwar Pujara put it down. Zaheer Khan bowled full, looking for the lbw, but both he and Shami over-pitched on occasion, allowing Kallis to drive.

While du Plessis took a conservative approach, Kallis played positively. In 54 minutes, they added 59 with Kallis being the major contributor. Just as he began looking imperious, though, Zaheer got one to jag in and Kallis did not adjust to the line in time. He inside-edged onto his pads, but Rod Tucker did not hear the noise and gave him out. Kallis became Zaheer’s 300th Test wicket.

That was the last joy India had. Although MS Dhoni attacked with a short leg, leg slip and silly mid-on, he could not separate du Plessis or de Villiers with pace or spin.


Each Indian batsman is a match-winner!

Virat Kohli, Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma and Cheteshwar Pujara are bubbling with confidence and self-belief.

Pujara's technique and composure will be tested by Steyn and co. in South Africa. (IANS)

Pujara’s technique and composure will be tested by Steyn and co. in South Africa. (IANS)

The young and dynamic Indian team is embarking shortly on a tour to South Africa.

This is an exciting prospect, as it will be a good indicator about the true potential of Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s side.

Unfortunately, the tour includes just two Test matches. A true test would have been a series of at least four Tests as it would have brought out the ability, consistency, sustainability, fitness and strategies of both sides.

The mentality for the longest version of the game is entirely different and therefore, most recent Test matches have been finishing well before the last day.

The other disadvantage is that the team does not get the opportunity to change the playing eleven as in a two-match series it would be unfair to drop any player on account of a single failure. This at times can be very frustrating for the reserve players as their only contribution starts and ends with carrying liquid supplements.

India has selected a very in-form batting side. Each one of them looks a match-winner.

Virat Kohli, Shikhar DhawanRohit Sharma and Cheteshwar Pujara are bubbling with confidence and self-belief. They have all established themselves creditably in their home conditions and for any sportsman the challenge of replicating it in unfamiliar ones is the true test.

They are bold and brash and one hopes they remain positive even when balls are whizzing past their faces or deviating appreciably off the wicket.

Due to the Indian Premier League, players are now quite familiar with each other and so one will see a bit of banter, stares and sledging which I feel does add to the drama and excitement.

India have strengthened their bowling by selecting Zaheer Khan, who I feel will bring experience and the left-arm variety to the pace attack. Both he and Yuvraj Singh have shown the importance of fitness in today’s game and the quicker Umesh Yadav or an Ishant Sharma imbibe it the better it will be for the future of Indian cricket.

Pakistan has shown that spin is an essential weapon to trouble the South Africans and therefore R. Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha will need to play a vital part in curbing their strong batting line-up.

The crucial aspect will be how the Indian batsmen handle the fast short-pitched bowling, as watching some of them playing the hook and pull shot off the front foot does not give me immense confidence.

Great players change their technique to overcome such situations and one hopes that the present Indian batting line-up is ready to do so.

The South African side must be itching to play a Test series at home. They seem very keen to establish their superiority and number one status and have now a mix of experience and youth in both their batting and bowling. It will be interesting to see whether they will prepare green tops for their bowlers. Their sole Test-class spinner Imran Tahir could also benefit from the extra nip as he is not a bowler who rips and turns it appreciably across a batsman.

Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly have both stressed on the importance of India winning away from home as a true indicator to progress.


Five Years On, Mumbai Terror Masterminds Still at Large

Five years after the horrific terrorist attack, the leader of Pakistan’s Lashkar-e-Tayyiba hasn’t been brought to justice—and chilling details of an American jihadi’s role have emerged.

Five years ago, the city of Mumbai was attacked by Pakistani terrorists in the most important terror attack since 9/11. The 10 terrorists’ tactics have been copied by others since—for example, just weeks ago in Nairobi. We know a great deal more today than ever about the attack, its planners, and the critical American hand in the plot.

Two fabulous five-star hotels were the main targets. The Oberoi and the Taj hotels were attacked by teams of terrorists from the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Tayyibagroup (LeT), along with the city’s train station, a restaurant that catered to foreign visitors and the rich, a Chabad House for visiting Israeli and American Jews, and the city hospital. Between November 26 and 29, 164 people died and over 300 were injured by the 10 terrorists. Six Americans were among the victims. In India, the horror is known as 26/11 and the battle to kill the terrorists as Operation Black Tornado. For the terrorists and LeT, it was Operation Bombay.

LeT had carefully chosen the targets and meticulously researched them over several years. They received considerable assistance in doing so from two sources—the Pakistani intelligence service, called the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate or ISI, and al Qaeda. Each had its own agenda for the operation. But the targets were the same—Indians, Americans, and Jews—the targets of the global jihad started by al Qaeda in the late 1990s. I pointed this out to President-elect Barack Obama and his transition team at the time in several briefings in my role as South Asia transition director after his election. The attack was intended to change dramatically the future of South Asia, perhaps even by provoking a war between the two nuclear powers rising in the subcontinent.

Today, perhaps the most shocking element of the Mumbai attack was the role played by David Coleman Headley, an American citizen of Pakistani descent, in the intelligence collection that preceded the attack.

Today, perhaps the most shocking element of the Mumbai attack was the role played by David Coleman Headley, an American citizen of Pakistani descent, in the intelligence collection that preceded the attack. Headley pleaded guilty in March 2010 to conspiracy to commit murder based on his role in the Mumbai attack. Headley was born Daood Sayed Gilani in Washington, D.C., in 1960. His Pakistani father worked for Voice of America. Headley got into trouble with the law as a youth and was arrested on drug charges. He became an asset of the DEA and was sent to spy on Pakistani drug dealers. In 2002, according to his guilty plea, he joined Lashkar-e-Tayyiba on a visit to Pakistan. Over the next three years, he says he traveled to Pakistan five times for training in weapons handling, intelligence collection, surveillance, clandestine operations, and other terrorist skills by both LeT and the ISI. He also developed contacts with al Qaeda.

Beginning in 2005, he said, he was given the task of traveling to India from the U.S. and conducting the surveillance for the Mumbai attacks. As a first step, he said, LeT told him to change his name to David Coleman Headley in Philadelphia, to hide his Pakistani identity when traveling abroad. Then he made five trips between 2005 and 2008 to India, each time stopping in Pakistan on the way back to get new instructions from LeT and the ISI and to report his surveillance results. He visited each of the targets and recorded their locations with GPS systems; he studied carefully the security around each and he became one of the masterminds of the plot.

In his guilty confession, Headley said the raid also was planned with active ISI involvement at every stage. At each of his meetings in Pakistan, he said he met with ISI officers as well as the LeT terror leaders. Sometimes the ISI gave him particular assignments separate from what the LeT asked; for example, tasking him with taking photos of an Indian nuclear facility near Mumbai. The ISI also provided him with money to help set up his cover story in Mumbai, including an initial $25,000 in cash. Headley also said the ISI provided some of the training for the attackers, including from elite Pakistani naval commandoes. According to Headley, the ISI was especially pleased with the choice of the Jewish Chabad House as a target.

A fabulous new book, The Siege: 68 Hours inside the Taj Hotel, by Cathy Scott-Clark and Adrian Levy, adds a new wrinkle. Their investigations in Pakistan, India, and the U.S. led them to believe LeT and the ISI became suspicious that Headley was a double agent, still secretly giving information to the Americans. At the date for the attack came closer, Headley was frozen out of the plot so he could not reveal any details. The plotters also were worried about his three wives, one of whom had reported his suspicious activity to the American Embassy in Islamabad. According to the book, LeT leader Hafez Saeed had to intervene personally at one point in Headley’s complicated love life to keep the plot a secret.

Headley worked with al Qaeda after Mumbai on an even more ambitious plot to attack Copenhagen in 2009, probably during the Global Climate Change summit that year. A tip-off from British intelligence led to his arrest and subsequent conviction. The Pakistani mastermind of the Mumbai plot, LeT leader Hafiz Saeed, remains free in Pakistan, where he continues to be a darling of the ISI and regularly calls for more attacks on India and America. Five years after Mumbai, justice has yet to be served.

By Bruce Riedel – November 18th 2013 – In The Daily Beast


India’s newest aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya: All you need to know

Defence Minister AK Antony reached Russia last night for the commissioning of the aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya today at the Sevmash Shipyard, Russia’s nuclear submarine building centre.

Admiral Gorshkov  anchored at the Sevmash factory in Severodvinsk. Reuters

Admiral Gorshkov anchored at the Sevmash factory in Severodvinsk. Reuters

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin and senior government and naval officials of the two countries are also scheduled to attend the ceremony for handing over the aircraft carrier that may be a game changer for India’s naval aspirations.

Here is all you need to know about INS Vikramaditya:

* The 44,500 tonne warship with a length of 284m will have MiG-29K naval combat aircraft along with Kamov 31 and Kamov 28 anti-submarine warfare and maritime surveillance helicopters.

* The MiG 29-Ks will provide a significant boost to Indian Navy with their range of over 700 nautical miles, extendable to over 1,900 nautical miles, with mid-air refuelling, and an array of weapons like anti-ship missiles, beyond visual range air-to- air missiles and guided bombs and rockets.

To accommodate MiG 29 K fighters, a new 14 degree Ski jump was set up and strengthening of arresting gear area and runway was carried out. The steel work for carrying out structural modification on flight deck amounted to over 2500Treports Indian Express.

* The INS Vikramaditya is the refurbished aircraft carrier formerly known as Admiral Gorshkov.

* Indian Express reportsThe carrier originally was a Kiev class aircraft carrying cruiser named ‘Baku’ that was constructed in Ukraine. The ship was never supposed to carry conventional fixed-wing fighters like the MiG 29 K, but was designed for Vertical Take off and Landing (VTOL) fighters. Commissioned in December 1987, the Baku was heavily armed with twelve Anti-Ship Missile launchers, ten gun mounts of differing calibre and rocket launchers and depth charges.

* It was later renamed as Admiral Gorshkov and last sailed in 1995 in Russia, before being offered to India.

* The  carrier was finally retrofitted and upgraded at the cost of $ 2.3 billion.

* The aircraft carrier does not have its own air defence missile system. The Barak missile was chosen by the Indian Navy to be fitted on board once it arrives in India to provide it protection from aerial attacks.

* The Barak missiles are also in controversy in view of an ongoing CBI probe against them in connection with an alleged bribery scandal of 2006.

* An escort group of warships has been sent to Russia to bring the carrier to India through a classified route to bring it to its home base in the Arabian Sea since it does not have any air defence systems on board to protect itself from aerial attacks.

* A 1,600-member Indian crew commanded by Captain Suraj Berry and a Russian surety team comprising 183 technicians will be aboard the ship as it sails to Indiareports The Hindu.  The technicians will reportedly stay back in India for a year.

* “The Indian Navy, which always maintained its engineers and technicians on the vessel throughout the refit and modernisation process took the right decision to change many aggregates, components and entire cabling, instead of their repairs,” said Chief Delivery Commissioner of Sevmash shipyard, Igor Leonov, who will lead the onboard Russian guaranty team during the Vikramaditya’s almost two-month voyage to its home base on the Western coast of India in Karwar.

* The Navy plans to bring the aircraft carrier to India and deploy it at the newly-developed Karwar naval base called Project Seabird.

* After almost nine years of negotiations the initial $ 1.5 billion contract for retrofitting the aircraft carrier and buying 16 MiG-29K, K/UB deck-based fighters was signed in 2004.

Protracted negotiations followed, with the refit cost jumping from $400 million to $700 million. In January 2004, a $1.5 billion package deal was eventually inked, with $974 million earmarked for the refit and rest for 16 MiG-29Ks. Gorshkov was then to be delivered by August 2008: reports the Times of India.

* By the end of 2007, when it became clear that Russia would not deliver the radically redesigned vessel by 2008 deadline, the relations dipped to an all-time low.

* However, the two countries inked an additional agreement under which India agreed to pay a higher price for its refit.

* In their private discussions Indian officials conceded that even with the cost escalation, it was a good deal, since a similar vessel would cost not less than double the price in the international market, but nobody aircraft carriers for export.

With PTI inputs


Debutants to the fore, records galore

India registered five Test wins in a row for the first time.

India registered five Test wins in a row for the first time.

India posted a clinical win against West Indies in the first Test at Eden Gardens, Kolkata to take a 1-0 lead in the two match series. During the process, the Indian team as well as a few players also achieved several records. Here are a few of them: 

# This win was India’s fifth Test victory in a row, which is their best ever streak. This is also the first time they achieved it – the four Tests that they won in a row against Australia earlier this year and the four times they won in 1993 and in 2009-10 were their previous best. 

# This was India’s third win by an innings at Eden Gardens – the most such wins at an Indian venue. They have won thrice by an innings at the Wankhede stadium in Mumbai, M Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai and The Green Park, Nagpur. 

# Rohit Sharma and R Ashwin were involved in a 280-run stand for the seventh wicket. This is the best seventh wicket stand as the Rohit-Ashwin pair surpassed the 259-run partnership between VVS Laxman and MS Dhoni against South Africa in 2010. 

# The Rohit-Ashwin partnership is overall the third best seventh-wicket stand in Test cricket, after the 347-run stand between Denis Atkinson and Clairmonte Depeiaza for West Indies against Australia in 1955 and the 308-run partnership between Imtiaz Ahmed and Waqar Hasan for Pakistan against New Zealand in 1955. 

# This is the third best partnership for India at Eden Gardens, after Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman’s 376-run stand against Australia in 2001 and the 344-run partnership between Sunil Gavaskar and Dilip Vengsarkar against West Indies in 1978. This is also the best 7th wicket stand at Eden Gardens. 

# Rohit Sharma scored a superb 177 on Test debut, which is the second best by an Indian. Shikhar Dhawan’s 187 earlier this year against Australia is the best. 

# R Ashwin, who scored a fine 124, registered his second Test century against West Indies. In doing so, Ashwin joined Mark Boucher as the player with most hundreds against West Indies while batting at Number 8. 

# R Ashwin is now jointly on top with Kapil Dev, MS Dhoni and Harbhajan Singh on the list of Indians with most centuries while batting at Number 8. 

# Mohammed Shami had a superb debut Test as he picked up 9 wickets in the match, including a five-wicket haul in the second innings. His match figures of 9/118 is the second best by an Indian on debut. Narendra Hirwani’s 16/136 against West Indies in 1988 is the best. 

# Shami also registered the best figures by a Indian pace bowler on debut. He went past Munaf Patel and Abid Ali, who had picked up 7/97 against England in 2006 and 7/116 against Australia in 1967 respectively. 

# Shami, who picked up 5/47 in the second innings, registered the second best bowling figures in an innings by an Indian pace bowler on debut. Abid Ali’s 6/55 against Australia in 1967 is the best.