Saturday, March 04, 2006


Saturday, March 04, 2006

No discounts in arms bazaar
A relaxed Bush looked more like a beer-buddy to CEOs
Kiss tops Bush gift list
Pentagon offers to sell F-16s & F-18s
Bush talks Gandhi, Tagore, Nehru
Left: nuke deal is harmful

No discounts in arms bazaar

New Delhi, March 3: The India-US civilian nuclear agreement has opened all doors for multi-billion dollar defence and nuclear deals between the two countries, with the supplier Washington now offering no discounts. The UPA government’s decision to rein in its nuclear programme and place 65 per cent of it under permanent safeguards has been welcomed by the United States with a major pitch for a sizeable chunk of India’s vast military shopping list.

The US is making a serious bid for the $6.9 billion deal involving 126 multi-role aircraft that India is currently shopping for. The Pentagon has offered a heady fare of military weapons, including both the F-16 and the F-18 aircraft, to the Indian military, announcing in a statement that “the US is committed to providing state-of-the-art fighter aircraft in response to India’s requirement for a multi-role combat aircraft.” Significantly, however, the US has made it clear that it has “refused to recognise India as a nuclear weapons State.”

The spotlight shifted to “dollars and cents” within hours of Thursday’s nuclear agreement between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and US President George W. Bush. US officials made it apparent that if not the first, then definitely the “secondary” consideration behind the deal was to exploit India’s multi-billion dollar civil nuclear energy field. US undersecretary of state Nicholas Burns told reporters travelling with the President here after the nuclear deal was through in New Delhi that while the main motivation for Washington was non-proliferation, a secondary and clearly important benefit was economic.

“That economic benefit is going to be in the billions, there is no question about that, because of the huge nature of the Indian economy and the expansion that they are planning in the civil nuclear energy field. And given the state of technological research on nuclear reactors, and given the elementary ingredient of financing, this is an extremely... the payoff, the economic benefits, in the long term, will be substantial, certainly in the billions.”

In fact, this point was repeatedly made by Mr Burns during his briefing. He said that “from an economic standpoint, it (the nuclear agreement) is going to open up a major expansion of American civil trade on the part of our companies with the Indian nuclear establishment.” Before arriving here, President George W. Bush had also said at public meetings in the US that his administration had decided to revive the American nuclear industry and urge it to build nuclear reactors that could then be supplied to developing nations for nuclear energy.

This was clearly in response to criticism that the US was not in a position to compete with France and Russia for nuclear reactors, as it had not built these since 1973. President Bush said that a new energy legislation moved by him would clear the way for this. President Bush has also referred to the huge Indian market, with the spotlight now all set to shift the defence ministry and minister Pranab Mukherjee, who had also signed the US-India defence framework agreement last year.

In the pipeline are Lockheed Martin’s P3C Orion long-range maritime patrol strike aircraft; Phalanx shipborne guns; Lockheed Martin’s transport aircraft C-130s; transport aircraft; electronic warfare systems that are under negotiation and, of course, the 126 multi-role combat aircraft that could substantially increase in price to a whopping $9 billion if these are equipped with advanced avionics and weapons.

The defence framework commits both countries to “work to conclude defence transactions, not solely as ends in and of themselves, but as a means to strengthen our countries’ security, reinforce our strategic partnership, achieve greater interaction between our armed forces and build greater understanding between our defence establishments.”

A relaxed Bush looked more like a beer-buddy to CEOs

Hyderabad, March 3: It was a U.S. President one rarely gets to see and hear. When George W. Bush put in an appearance at the Indian School of Business to shoot the breeze with a group of local entrepreneurs, and students of the business school, he did not give the impression of a man worried about his declining approval ratings back home, the continuing bloodshed in Iraq, or the challenges posed by Iran’s decision to go ahead with its nuclear programme.

A relaxed George W. Bush, after changing from a blue-sweat shirt and trousers, into a formal three-piece suit at the ISB, with David Mulford, the US ambassador to India, at his elbow spent some quality time with the entrepreneurs. “He was great fun to be with. In fact, he looked like a guy you go out and have a beer with, or generally hang around, and not the most powerful man on earth,” says Sashi P. Reddy, CEO of AppLabs, and one of the participants at the interactive session.

The entire atrium of the ISB, and it is a massive atrium, was converted into an impromptu ampitheatre, with students and ISB faculty sitting on one end, and the media corp, from India and abroad, shepherded into a bullpen by US Secret Service men wearing earpieces and packing guns under their armpit holsters. After the crowd settled down, there was an announcement, “Ladies and Gentlemen, the President of the United States.”

The entire gathering stood up as President Bush walked into the atrium and took his seat at the head of the U-shaped table. The mood at the interactive session was light right from the beginning, with Mr Bush bantering with the participants. He asked one of the participants where she had gone to college, and she replied, “Carnegie Mellon” in Pittsburgh.

“That’s also a good place. I will tell you something — she’s really smart — to go there. You don’t go there unless you’re smart,” he said. The interaction continued in a similar vein, with President Bush responding to questions with ease. He also had a words of praise for the ISB. “One of the reasons that I wanted to come to the ISB is that, as I understand it, it is a centre of excellence in education. It is a new school using innovative tools necessary to succeed.“I am honoured to be at the ISB,” he said.

“President Bush put us completely at ease with his informal persona. In fact, he jokingly asked India to lend a percentage-and-half points of its growth figures to the United States. This says a lot about the way India’s economic prowess is perceived in the Western world,” says Anjali Patel, an ISB student and participant. Adds B. Teja Raju, managing director of Maytas Infra, “He was very chilled out during the interactive session.”

Said Prachi Patodia, another participant, “President Bush recognises the power of youth in India who are going to become future CEOs and management honchos. In effect, this meeting signifies the changing image of India where the young population is growing at the fastest rate in the world.”

Kiss tops Bush gift list

Hyderabad, March 3: US President George W. Bush left Hyderabad with an unforgettable gift: A surprise peck on the cheek by a woman self-help group member from Chittoor. Something that his predecessor Bill Clinton was not privileged to get. Mr Bush was going around the pavilion for women self-help groups at the Acharya N.G. Ranga Agricultural University (Angrau) here, escorted by Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy.

When he arrived at a stall displaying forest produce, K. Nagarajamma of Chittoor in southern AP, a 29-year-old mother of two, told Mr Bush, “America adhyakshudini kalvatam oka kala sir.” Dr Reddy translated for Mr Bush: “Meeting the US president is like a dream.” Mr Bush smiled, nodded and was about to move to the next stall when Ms Nagarajamma pointed to Mr Bush’s cheek.

Mr Bush apparently thought there was something sticking, but understood almost immediately. He bent down, and the petite woman reached up and kissed him on the cheek. Mr Bush responded with a big “Thank you,” as everyone watched in disbelief. Asked later what made her kiss Mr Bush, Ms Nagarajamma said with a smile: “It’s a gift from my side!” After Mr Bush left, the women crowded around the new star, who just blushed.

Other women gave gifts too: A hat and garland made of palm leaves, a replica of a wooden plough. But clearly the winner was the impromptu kiss. Mr Bush signed over a dozen autographs to women SHGs members. As he moved among the stalls, Mr Bush was at his informal best. He discarded his suit and pulled up his blue shirtsleeves, moved around freely, exchanged pleasantries, waved to the invitees and posed for keepsake pictures with women SHG members and farmers. He picked up a four-year-old girl, Venkataramana, daughter of Chenchamma of Kotakadapally village, who sells forest produce like gum.

Mr Bush made bold to pat a sturdy jet black Murrah buffalo. The buffalo, quite unaware of the significance of the moment, urinated when Mr Bush and the Chief Minister came near her.
At a horticulture stall manned by Ankureddy Thathireddy of Ananthapur and G. Venkatrama Raju of Railway Kodur, Kadapa district, Mr Bush was impressed by two huge pumpkins. He bent down an lifted one, grunted “oops” and pretended to stagger, much to the amusement of those present. He was impressed by Banganapalli mangoes produced by Angrau.

Pentagon offers to sell F-16s & F-18s

Washington, March 3: The United States has offered to sell India advanced fighter aircraft as the next step in the rapidly growing defence cooperation between the two countries. “The United States is committed to providing state-of-the art fighter aircraft in response to India’s requirements for a multi-role combat aircraft,” the Pentagon said in a statement.

Bush talks Gandhi, Tagore, Nehru

New Delhi, March 3: Addressing the people of India from the ruins of what was the ancient city of Indraprastha, US President George W. Bush on Friday spoke about creating a new relationship with a country that offers “a compelling example” of how multi-ethnic and multi-religion democracy fosters human freedom.

“In the birthplace of great religions, a billion souls of varied faiths now live side by side in freedom and peace. When you come to India in the 21st century, you’re inspired by the past, and you can see the future,” Mr Bush said in his 27-minute speech telecast live back home in the United States.

Prefacing his address with a “namaste,” he said: “India has a Hindu majority, and one of the world’s largest Muslim populations. India is also home to millions of Sikhs and Christians [who] worship freely.” Mr Bush travelled back and forth in history and looked to India’s past to understand the future.
Quoting Mahatma Gandhi, Rabindranath Tagore and Jawaharlal Nehru, the US President told an attentive audience that “the world has benefited from the example of India’s democracy, and now the world needs India’s leadership in freedom’s cause.”

He went on to observe that Gandhi’s words “are familiar in my country because they helped move a generation of Americans to overcome the injustice of racial segregation... When Martin Luther King arrived in Delhi in 1959, he said that to other countries ‘I may go as a tourist, but to India I come as a pilgrim’.” To a round of applause, Mr Bush said: “I come to India as a friend.”

If Mr Bush mingled with the audience later in an unrehearsed manner, the reaction from the invitees was no less spontaneous. Rear Admiral Raja Menon (Retd) felt that Mr Bush’s speech was just great. “He struck the right chord,” he said, leaving the heavily-guarded venue. The US was now beginning to understand and appreciate the meaning of friendship with India, which is characterised by its religious diversity, said Minorities Commission chairman Tarlochan Singh, another invitee. Exclaimed Congress spokesperson Rajiv Shukla: “He has turned the wheel of the (Indo-US) relationship.”

However, members of the Opposition BJP had a different take on the US President’s address. BJP Rajya Sabha MP Balbir Punj felt that Mr Bush could have spoken candidly about the export of terrorism from Pakistan to India. “It (speech) was very predictable, a good exercise in public relations,” he said. The special invitees included Rahul Gandhi, his brother-in-law Robert Vadra, Nafisa Ali, Naresh Trehan, Sukhbir Singh Badal, Naveen Jindal, Jay Panda, Sachin Pilot, Jitin Prasada, Ashwini Kumar and Lalit Suri. Members of the Confederation of Indian Industry and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry were present in full strength.

Left: nuke deal is harmful

New Delhi, March 3: Continuing its protest in Parliament over the Bush visit, the Left badgered the government on Friday for not disclosing details of the nuclear deal with the United States. In the Lok Sabha Zero Hour, Communist Party of India (Marxist) members said the government should have, through Parliament, made public details of the India-United States understanding.

Samajwadi Party MP Ramji Lal Suman too made a similar point and said the deal was being signed when a “majority” of the people in the country were against it. A day earlier, the Samajwadi Party and the Left forced an adjournment in the Lok Sabha over the Bush trip.

CPI(M) member Basudeb Acharia said the agreement was reached at the time when lakhs of people were demonstrating against the visit. He maintained that the understanding on civilian-military separation of Indian nuclear facilities favoured America.
He said the House should be informed during the course of the day itself why the deal had been termed “historic” when it “harmed” the country’s interest.

Leader of the House Pranab Mukherjee said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh would make a statement next week in Parliament on the issue in Parliament next week. “The visit is not yet over,” he said. Another CPI(M) member, Mr Rupchand Pal, said the entire nation was worried on what had happened in the name of the nuclear deal. He argued that for all practical purpose, India had been brought under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which the House in the past has rejected as an unequal treaty.

Later at a press conference CPI(M) leaders, including Mr Pal, Mr Acharia and Mr Nilotpal Basu, said the government must assure people that the independence of India’s nuclear programme had been retained while negotiating the agreement. Mr Basu also said that the issue of reciprocity was important. Washington is known for backtracking on its commitments, he said.

The CPI(M) leaders said unless these principles were followed the party would find it difficult to support the agreement. As in the House, the CPI(M) also raised doubts before reporters on whether an India-US agreement on science and technology cooperation in agriculture would protect the interest of the country’s agriculture sector.


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