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Will India-France relationship get stronger?

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New Delhi: As the guest of honour French President Francois Hollande would be visiting India on 26 January at the Republic Day parade. Will the visit reflect a good sign of France-India relations?

It’s been almost two years to the date from Hollande’s first visit to India as the President. In the interregnum, a lot has changed around the world and in bilateral relations. The world is confronted with its biggest geostrategic challenge in the shape of the Islamic State (IS), which has emerged as a major threat to peace and security around the world and whose agents have already carried out numerous attacks in France, the US and many other countries.

The IS attacks in the Middle East have also led to the biggest refugee crisis since the Second World War and over a million refugees have landed in the European Union. Hundreds more have perished in their attempt to cross the Mediterranean Sea, seeking the safety of Europe.

The situation of the world economy is hardly any better, as over the last year or so it has been rattled by the Chinese tsunami and a European economy that seems stuck in low, jobless growth, with very few bright spots, including India, which seem to be keeping the global economy afloat.

With its expected GDP growth of about seven percent this year, India has kept its place as the fastest-growing large economy in the world for the second year running. Business ventures from around the world, including France, are now looking at India with renewed expectations. Ever since India elected Narendra Modi as prime minister in May 2014, there seems to be a new spring in the step of Indian relations with France.

Modi was in France twice in 2015, once on a bilateral visit in April and then again in November for the Climate Change Summit in Paris. Besides, Indian and French leaders have taken time out for bilateral discussions at practically all multilateral events like the UN General Assembly meeting in New York in September and the G20 meet in Antalya, Turkey, in November.

Anyone looking for signs of this new sense of purpose and direction in the relationship needs to only look at the fresh movement in the long-pending deal over the purchase of the French Rafale multi-role medium range combat aircraft. After having been stuck for nearly seven years, when in January 2012, India finally opted for Rafale as the aircraft that would become the new backbone of the Indian Air Force, with 128 fulfilling the role, the French government and Rafale-manufacturer Dassault were hoping it would be only a matter of a few months more to close the deal and begin the supply of the aircraft.

On his first visit to France, at a joint press conference with Hollande in Palais Elysee, Modi sprung a surprise and announced that India would buy 36 Rafales in fly-away condition, saying that the terms of this deal would be finalised shortly.

The announcement came as a big relief to Dassault, which was on the verge of closing down the Rafale assembly line as it had no firm orders on hand from anywhere. Eight months later, as Hollande reaches India, hopes are high that the deal would be sealed during this visit with clear timetables for delivery of the aircraft and setting the scene for a bigger defence deal between the two sides.

Modi sees a big role for the French in creating a real manufacturing hub in the country, especially in areas where the French are normally strong, notably railways, aviation, defence, automobile, nuclear power etc. During his visit to France in April last year, Modi highlighted several times the focus of his government in improving the manufacturing sector and with several very aggressive incentive schemes to get the Indian private sector and foreign companies as well to invest more aggressively in order to boost the manufacturing capacities in the country.

Besides, Make in India, France is an equally good and logical partner for India in the implementation of several other projects that the country has been focussing on one of the most important areas for enhanced bilateral cooperation in the urbanisation of India.

In the smart city project, the French have already evinced interest in undertaking the work in three cities.

Another key area where France could lend a helping hand to India is the country’s power sector, in conventional, nuclear as well as renewable energy sources. The biggest boost in this collaboration was received during the Climate Change Summit. At the event, India, along with dozens of other nations, launched the International Solar Alliance, aimed at pooling resources and technologies to boost the solar energy power plants throughout the nations that are blessed with an adequate number of sunny days.

So far, the Indo-French business relationship remains overwhelmingly dominated by the behemoths, with the very little engagement of the smaller companies, which ironically make up the bulk of both Indian and French economies. The small and medium enterprises (SMEs) sector is involved only in small volumes of trades in very traditional segments such as textiles, food, gems and jewellery.

But the reluctance of more SMEs to trade or do business with each other has led to a stagnation in Indo-French trade, which has been hovering around the seven billion euro mark for almost all of the past decade, despite several ambitious targets set by leaders on various occasions. This pales in comparison to the trade between India and Germany or India and the UK, both of which are nearly thrice as high as that of France.

The new focus areas of India could be the big breakthrough in this relationship which could help take the bilateral trade to the next level and give the bandwidth which has been missing from this crucial relationship for a long while.(IANS)(image: odishanewsinsight)

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Veerappan: India’s most wanted

Veerappan was hunted by the police for over four decades, making it the longest man-hunt in India

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Veerappan was a smuggler, poacher, murderer and extortionist who was killed in Operation Cocoon
Veerappan in his heyday, He was killed via Operation Cocoon
  • Veerappan was a smuggler of ivory and sandalwood in the southern states of India.
  • He killed government officials and civilians alike when they tried to stop his illegal activities.
  • He died in October 2004 during ‘Operation Cocoon’, which was carried out by a Special Task Force.

Poaching, smuggling, extortion, smuggling, brigandry, murder — these are some of the few charges against Koose Munisamy Veerappan Gounder, popularly known as Veerappan, for whom was constituted India’s largest manhunt, on which the government spent around 1.5 million Rupees. From his childhood, narratives about the elusive dacoit were laced with fiction, as he became an object of myth when he was only ten years old, and had infamously shot his first tusker elephant for ivory. His notoriety became a national concern when the government banned ivory trade in India, and he began felling trees for precious sandalwood, thus beginning a period marred by Veerappan killing government officials and locals alike when they became an obstacle.

Veerappan unleashed a reign of terror on the southern states of India from the early 1980s till his death in 2004; during which Veerappan killing police officers and civilians alike caused a nationwide uproar. In 1990, the notorious smuggler had beheaded a forest officer K. Srinivas, which wasn’t recovered until three years later. In 2000, he had kidnapped the Kannada actor K. Rajkumar, whose release was negotiated through Nakkeeran editor Gopal, to whom the infamous poacher admitted to murdering as many as 120 people. Matters came to a head when   abducted the former Karnataka minister H. Nagappa in 2002, and killed him when his demands were not met.

Operation Cocoon:

Veerappan leading his gang in moily forest,
Veerappan leading his gang in Moily forest. Wikimedia

A Special Task Force or STF was constituted for the capture of Veerappan in 1991, which, headed by K. Vijay Kumar, launched Operation Cocoon in 2004, which finally resulted in Veerappan’s death. Kumar, aided by his previous experience with Veerappan, based Operation Cocoon on human intelligence and interaction, during which multiple STF personnel blended in with the locals in areas frequented by Veerappan. The initial stages of Operation Cocoon consisted of gaining the trust of Veerappan’s associates, till they started divulging details about his failing health. In the years before his death, the elusive outlaw seemed to have lost much of his vigour and vitality, as he suffered from diabetes, and a cataract had almost blinded him in one eye.
On 18th October, 2004, the police lured Veerappan out of familiar terrains in an ambulance, and apprehended him at a roadblock, where he was killed in the crossfire between his team and the STF, via three bullets. The photographs after Veerappan’s demise show him in a pathetic light, bereft of his signature handlebar moustache, and the agility which had facilitated his escape for over four decades.

There have been a lot of controversies regarding his death, as many media houses and activists have claimed that Operation Cocoon has derived Veerappan of a fair trial by law. Some have even claimed that he was tortured to death in police custody. The facts regarding the elusive sandalwood smuggler remain inconclusive even after a decade of his death, due to the lack of concrete evidence.

 

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Rise of PM Modi and roar of subversive forces

To counter PM Modi opposition leaders are desperately getting aligned with anti-India forces

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Narendra Modi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi (Wikimedia commons)

– By Salil Gewali

If your son makes friendship with the difficult and longtime enemies of your own family/clan then how do you describe him and how do you feel about your future? Will it not be likely to open the door to countless tragedies? But in India, such thing is now being openly celebrated. For past couple of years or more the political leaders of certain parties have been taking the wrong step forward in having closed-door meetings with the leaders of Pakistan/China. What transpires among themselves is obviously against the present government and the nation’s fundamental ethos. Those leaders have often been heard to be sympathetic towards the terrorists or those who “roar against the nation” or against its patriotic values. Yes, those leaders jump forward to defend them who wreak havoc with the “peaceful citizens”.   Some leaders are apologetic that certain NGOs/media/religious bodies should not be harassed in the name of fighting the terrorists and ISIS. This is how country’s leaders defend the dangerous postures of dangerous outfits. Will this trend not invite greater troubles to the nation in future?

One wonders how the apex judiciary of the country just allow the political parties to pour out their pent-up anger before the leaders of neighbouring countries who are always aggressively in the combative mood. Why is the Supreme Court silent on such blatant subversive activities?

Very recently, one senior leader of the national party even scoffed at Prime Minister Modi by calling him a depraved being “Neech”. What are the criteria for one being morally low? Has PM Modi fallen short any standards of the integrity since he works sincerely hard and formulates innovative plans and schemes for the greater welfare of the nation? Well, has he not been constitutionally elected by the people of this country? Why the media is less aggressive and more defensive for those “transgressors” who wield daggers behind the cloak.

Whatsoever be the political dispensation at the center, such open rebellion against the government will not augur well for the nation and its 1.25 billion citizens.

Salil Gewali is a well-known writer and author of ‘Great minds on India’. Twitter Handle @SGewali

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Bhai Boolchand-the Indian who launched trade with Ghana

The first Indian to arrive in the Gold Coast (Ghana's colonial name) in 1890 , Bhai Boolchand launched trade in India with Ghana

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Ghanian flag, Bhai Boolchand launched trade in India with Ghana.
Ghanian flag, Bhai Boolchand launched trade in India with Ghana. pixelbay
  • Bhai Boolchand, the anonymous Indian, is credited with starting trade between Ghana and India
  • The year was 1890.

Not much is known about him, but it has now emerged that trade relations between Ghana and Indiawere started by Bhai Boolchand, the first Indian to arrive in the Gold Coast — Ghana’s colonial name — in 1890. That’s some 67 years before the British colonial government granted the country independence, research by the Indian Association of Ghana has found.

“As far as our records show, Bhai Boolchand (of the Bhaiband Sindhworki trading community), landed on the shores of the Gold Coast in western Africa in 1890. Nearly twenty years later, in 1919, the first Sindhi company was established by two brothers — Tarachand Jasoomal Daswani and Metharam Jasoomal Daswani,” the Indian Association said.

The duo opened a store — Metharam Jassomal Brothers — in the then capital city of Cape Coast in 1919.

“Their business flourished and branches were opened in Accra and Kumasi. A few years later, the two brothers separated and whilst Bhai Metharam Jasoomal continued the business as Metharam Brothers, Tarachand Jasoomal operated his business as Bombay Bazaar. These were the first two Indian companies that were established in the Gold Coast,” the Association said.

Boolchand’s arrival, therefore, pre-dates the historical links between the two countries that were always thought to have started between Ghana’s first President, Kwame Nkruman, and India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. Boolchand can thus be described as the one who paved the way for the arrival of other members of the Sindhi community, initially as traders and shopkeepers.

The Indian Association said more of this group arrived in the 1950s and 1960s, with a few venturing into manufacturing industries such as garments, plastics, textiles, insecticides, electronics, pharmaceuticals and optical goods.

The Association said two more Indian firms were established under the names of Lilaram Thanwardas and Mahtani Brothers in the 1920s. This trend continued in the 1930s and 1940s with the creation of several more Indian companies like T. Chandirams, Punjabi Brothers, Wassiamal Brothers, Hariram Brothers, K. Chellaram & Sons, G. Motiram, D.P. Motwani, G. Dayaram, V. Lokumal, and Glamour Stores.

Glamour Stores, which was stared by Ramchand Khubchandani who arrived in Ghana in 1929, has grown — after changing its name to Melcom Group — to become the largest retailing business in the country. The Melcom Group, headed by Ramchand’s son Bhagwan Khubchandani, is now in its 60th year and about 40 stores all over the country.

Ramchand and his brother later went into garment manufacturing in 1955 and once employed over 1,200 Ghanaians. They later opened the first Indian restaurant, Maharaja, in Ghana. Bhagwan followed in his father’s footsteps and in 1989 established the Melcom Group with his sons-in-law, Mahesh Melwani and Ramesh Sadhwani.

Another Indian-owned company that has survived through the years is the Mohanani Group, which is currently in its 51st year. At the first-ever Ghana Expatriate Business Awards, the Ministry of Trade and Industries recognised the work of one of the thriving Indian-owned B5 Plus Steel Company and awarded it the Best Expatriate Company in the metal and steel category.

As these companies brought in new expatriate staff, some left their employers to venture out on their own — resulting in more companies opening up.

“After 1947, the Gold Coast attracted the attention of some Indian multinational companies, and big names like Chanrai, Bhojsons, K.A.J. Chotirmal, Dalamals and A.D. Gulab opened branches in Ghana,” the Association said.

“The employment of Ghanaians by these founding companies also helped to lessen the burden of unemployment in the country. This amply demonstrates the level of commitment India has in the developmental agenda of Ghana,” it said.

Indians are not only investing in the manufacturing and commercial sectors of the country; they are also investing in the financial sector. Bank of Baroda, one of India’s biggest and most reputable banks, recently established a branch in Ghana and hopefully it will expand its operations in other parts of the country very soon. (IANS)