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Even though Delhi is busy with Demonetisation upheaval, it is too slow in Coping with new Strategic Dynamic engulfing the Region!

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Indian money, Pixabay

New Delhi, January 1, 2017: While New Delhi is busy with the demonetisation upheaval, it may find itself paces too slow in coping with the new strategic dynamic engulfing the region.

Neither Kabul nor New Delhi can be sanguine about the high-level meeting in Moscow on Afghanistan to which China and Pakistan were invited. This follows Moscow’s declaration that it does not consider Taliban as the enemy. In fact, Afghan Taliban can be allies against Al Qaeda and the Islamic State.

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A piqued Ahmad Shekib Mostaghni, spokesman for the Afghan Foreign Ministry, said “even if such talks are organised with goodwill, they cannot yield substantial results because there is no one from the Afghan side to brief the participants about the latest ground realities”.

New Delhi, preoccupied otherwise, has not reacted to the Moscow meet. Apparently, the Russians took the Indian Foreign Office into confidence that “it was only about the internal situation in Afghanistan”. Russians are concerned about the rise of the Islamic State in Afghanistan, a diplomatic source said.

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Does New Delhi accept Moscow’s anxieties about ISIS in Afghanistan? And does it go along with Moscow and Beijing’s evaluation that Taliban are possible allies against the more infectious ISIS? But Washington has invested blood and treasure fighting the Taliban for 14 years. Is New Delhi at a trijunction?

In diplomacy, friendly gestures come with disguised ambiguity. With the Trump Presidency, a new chapter may be opening in US-Moscow relations. In preparation for this phase, Moscow would like to retain some pressure points to determine the pace of new equations. Kabul may be one such pressure point.

Should Trump turn upon Tehran over the nuclear deal, there is something in the Afghan cauldron for Iran to stir too.

So, the New Year begins with many new events to juggle with. Of the scattered scratches on my mind that 2016 leaves behind, the deepest one was etched in New York. At my friend’s DUMBO loft in Brooklyn on the night of November 8, an assortment of friends from every walk of life, left champagne bottles uncorked because the ground from under their feet moved when Hillary Clinton lost.

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If you make Bernie Sanders impossible, I said then, you make Trump inevitable.

American exceptionalism notwithstanding, the popular mood globally across liberal democracies was the same — a disgust with establishments foisted on them by globalisation and crony capitalism.

The assault on the establishment has come from the Left as well as the Right. Establishments, like the skilled matador, have deflected the people to the Right. This is their preferred fallback position. Hence, No to Bernie Sanders. Yes, to Trump. And now they are beating their breasts!

Well, let it be recorded, the American establishment did try to write itself into the script too. Clinton, after all, was nothing if not the establishment. Yes, people think I am untrustworthy. Yes, they think I am dishonest. Yes, I goofed in Benghazi… but still vote for me because Russians have hacked into my email. Bill Clinton went one better. Did I not tell you, he said to an interviewer, that Boris Yeltsin was a much better President than Putin.

Who knows the new Trump team from Forbes Who’s Who may reassert an old motto: the Business of America is Business. This encourages one to conclude that Trump would like to restore America as the land of unvarnished capitalism minus the hegemonic distortions, one which has made the US the world’s most hated nation even in influential enclaves of Europe.

Whatever else Trump may achieve, will he ever succeed in weaning away the Occupy Wall Street youth Bernie Sanders had mobilised? If not, he will begin to look like a semi finalist until the next elections in 2020.

Establishments may be able to channelise popular preference away from the Left, once or twice, but they cannot make a habit of it.

Ultimately, all speculations will be tempered by a Realpolitik, like the one opening up to India’s north. Counter-moves will come as soon as Trump finds his feet in the White House. As he surveys the scene from the Oval office, he will notice a new bounce in the Russian tread in Islamabad, Beijing, Damascus, Ankara, Manila, Kuala Lampur.

To be counted among Putin’s possible friends could well be French Presidential candidate, Francois Fillon, who defeated Nicolas Sarkozy in recent Republican party elections. Trump has already held out his hand to Putin. How firmly will he clasp it? And will the clasp last over Afghanistan too? Will New Delhi have respite from the unfolding demonetisation drama to attend to all of this? (IANS)

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Is Mullah Mansoor’s Pakistani Passport an act of Deception or Collusion ?

Pakistani Passport found with the Afghani insurgent leader Mullah Mansoor.

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Screenshots of Mansoor's Pakistani Passport
A photo shows the Pakistani passport and ID card that Mullah Akhtar Mansoor was allegedly carrying. Mansoor was killed in a U.S. drone strike Saturday near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

Pakistan’s Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal recently responded to an inquiry from parliament’s upper house on how slain Afghan Taliban chief Mullah Akhtar Mansoor was able to get a Pakistani passport.

Mansoor was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Pakistan’s Balochistan province in May 2016 when he was reportedly returning from a visit to neighboring Iran.

Both his Pakistani passport and ID card were recovered near his car, whichwas destroyed in the drone strike. Mansoor was using the alias Wali Muhammad to avoid being tracked by authorities.

Screenshots taken of his documents went viral on social media and raised questions in the local and international media as to how the Afghan insurgent leader managed to get a legitimate Pakistani passport.

Ahsan Iqbal, Pakistan’s minister of planning and development speaks with Reuters in Islamabad, Pakistan, June 12, 2017.

Pakistan's Minister of Planning and development Ahsan Iqbal
Ahsan Iqbal, Pakistan’s minister of planning and development speaks with Reuters in Islamabad, Pakistan, June 12, 2017.

Source of official passport

Critics at the time were arguing that there must have been people within the Pakistani establishment who helped Mansoor get the official document.

Pakistan Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal recently acknowledged in a letter to the country’s parliament that Mansoor was using a genuine Pakistani passport provided by the country’s National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA), a government entity responsible for issuing identification documents to Pakistani citizens.

“NADRA has conducted a departmental inquiry to unearth involvement of its officials in the issuance of fake CNIC (Computerized National ID Card) to Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansoor with the name of Wali Muhammad s/o Shah Muhammad,” Iqbal wrote to the parliament.

The government said it dismissed at least three NADRA employees after an investigation established their involvement in issuing travel documents to the Afghan insurgent leader.

Pakistani local residents gather around a burning vehicle hit by a U.S. drone strike, May 21, 2016. Afghan Taliban Mullah Akhtar Mansoor was the target of the drone near Dalbandin, Baluchistan, Pakistan.

Mullah Mansoor's vehicle hit by a U.S. drone
Pakistani local residents gather around a burning vehicle hit by a U.S. drone strike, May 21, 2016. Afghan Taliban Mullah Akhtar Mansoor was the target of the drone near Dalbandin, Baluchistan, Pakistan.

Corruption

Some in Pakistan have likened Mansoor’s passport issue to an administrative glitch or a corruption case.

“Until and unless the government will take strong measurements against corruption and those involved in it, these incidents will remain unavoidable,” Hasan Askari Rizvi, a Lahore-based analyst, told VOA.

Farhat Ullah Babar, a prominent lawmaker and member of the Pakistan Peoples Party, cited the government’s incompetence in Mansoor getting a Pakistani passport.

Babar said the government’s response to parliament is inadequate.

“It is our absolute right to know about the loopholes that allowed a national security organization to issue Pakistani documents to a terror chief,” he told VOA.

“The nation needs to know what has been done to the culprits involved in this heinous crime. Let me tell you, nothing, absolutely nothing,” Babar said.

Some critics argue that NADRA follows a very strict verification procedure, and no one can be issued a fake national identity card without an insider’s help.

Taliban safe haven

Afghan officials said that Mansoor’s ability to get a Pakistani passport points to ties the insurgent group has with elements inside Pakistan’s military establishment.

Pakistani officials have rejected the Afghan government’s allegations and said Taliban neither have support nor safe havens inside Pakistan. They said Taliban control large swaths of areas inside Afghanistan and operate from there.

While Taliban do control certain districts in Afghanistan, according to a new report published by Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), Kabul and Washington maintain Taliban leadership still enjoys safe havens in Pakistan.

Talking to VOA this week, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Alice Wells reiterated U.S. calls for Pakistan to crack down on militants and avoid selective actions against militants in the country.

“We would like to see the same commitment that Pakistan brought in 2014 to the fight against Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan; that same strategic commitment to the other militant proxy groups who take advantage of Pakistan territory,” Wells told VOA.

U.S. Army General John Nicholson, the U.S. commander of the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan, said Thursday that Pakistan has not changed its behaviors since August, when U.S. President Donald Trump announced his new U.S. strategy that called on Pakistan to do more to stop militant sanctuaries in the country.

“No, I haven’t seen any change yet in their [Pakistan] behavior,” Nicholson told reporters following a meeting of the NATO defense ministers in Brussels.

“They could put pressure on the enemy, but if they allow the enemy to regenerate and allow their safe havens in Pakistan, then we will have another tough year ahead of us,” Nicholson warned, while talking to VOA at the end of the NATO meeting in Brussels. (VOA)

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Demonetisation Anniversary: BJP acts cheeky, releases new video showing Frustration of ‘Corrupt’ Politicians following Demonetisation

The one-minute video, which is now going viral on social media, has already been re-tweeted more than 2 thousand times since it was released on November 7, on the eve of demonetization move.

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Demonetisation Anniversary
Screen grab of the sarcastic video released by BJP to mark Demonetisation Anniversary. Twitter

New Delhi, November 8, 2017 : On November 8 2016, every Indian citizen sat glued to their TV screens as Narendra Modi was set to make a big announcement. Outcome? The Indian Prime Minster shocked the entire nation with the introduction of Demonetisation, a move that was to change the very foundation of the cash-dependent Indian economy.

The much-debated move by Modi garnered the attention of several well-versed economists from the country and abroad, alike. While some people willingly welcomed the move, there were others who stood in staunch criticism.

As the move completes its first year, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is set to observe November 8 as ‘anti-black money day’ to celebrate Demonetisation anniversary in the country.

On the eve of the Demonetisation anniversary, the BJP released a cheeky video claiming to depict how ‘corrupt’ politicians have been criticizing the move, as the nation won following demonetisation.

WATCH BJP’S TONGUE-IN-CHEEK VIDEO

In the video, the BJP attempted to take a dig at corrupt politicians, who have been criticizing PM Modi’s Demonetisation move.

In the video, a woman, playing the character of a frustrated, corrupt politician can be seen going on a rant over PM Modi’s note ban initiative, which was aimed to combat black money, corruption, fake currency and terrorism.

The video ends with a voice-over saying demonetisation has not only brought out this frustration of corrupt citizens, but also black-money, claiming that almost 99 per cent cash which was previously lying hidden with people has now entered the banking system.

The one-minute video, which is now going viral on social media, has already been re-tweeted more than 2 thousand times since it was released on November 7, on the eve of demonetization move.

Ahead of the Demonetisation anniversary, the last few days have witnessed several leaders present their opinions on PM Modi’s demonetization move.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley called PM Modi’s note ban initiative a ‘watershed moment’ while Piyush Goyal, Minister of Railways believes the move has pushed India towards a more transparent economy.

However, the move is being criticized by ex-Prime Minister Manmohan Singh calling it ‘irresponsible’. The opposition maintains that PM Modi’s note ban initiative has caused reckless damage to the country and the Indian economy.

On Demonetisation anniversary, the BJP is set to observe November 8 as ‘anti-black money day’, while opposition leaders are set to observe the day as ‘black day’ in protest against the note ban initiative.

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Demonetisation has Beneficiary Long Term Impact on Real Estate with Initiatives of RERA and GST

The transparency brought in by demonetisation, aided by RERA, GST reforms and liberalisation of FDI norms, has boosted the performance by fair Real Estate companies.

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Long Term impact on Real estate
Long Term impact on Real estate has been depicted by Demonetisation.Wikimedia.

New Delhi, October 4: Though the government’s radical measure of demonetisation has disrupted the economy and has hit the real estate sector — already reeling under prolonged slowdown — it will turn out to be a blessing in disguise in the medium-to-long term.

As an asset class, real estate has been a big source of generating and consuming black money. The cash component in real estate has been there at various levels, beginning with land transactions where it amounts to 30-50 per cent. The cash payout is quite high in luxury housing too. The consumption of cash has been as high as 30 per cent in secondary market transactions.

The primary market transactions, however, are by far bereft of cash component as home purchases are financed through loans from banks and housing finance corporations. It is another matter that even in primary market deals, developers have been encouraging cash payouts by luring property buyers with good discounts on property price.

The speculative buying by investors through offerings like underwriting and pre-launches has also been involving cash payout, leading to artificial price hike and in turn making homes out of the reach of masses.

Demonetisation, coupled with the government’s move to check benami transactions through legislation and curbs on cash transactions, was meant to clean up the system.

This sudden ‘shake up’ was, however, not without its adverse impacts. Demonetisation badly affected the liquidity in the capital-intensive real estate sector, deepening the problem of massive fund shortage/cash crunch faced by developers reeling under delayed deliveries, which deterred buyers from purchasing property.

long term impact on Real Estate
There are long term impact on Real Estate due to Demonetisation. Pixabay.

The impact was more evident in markets like NCR and Mumbai which were largely investor-driven, compared to southern markets of Bengaluru and Chennai and even Pune in the west, which have been end-user driven. The premium/luxury residential segment, in which the cash component was more in transactions, got impacted by demonetisation.

Real estate experts’ belief that the impact of demonetisation is only short-term and will not have long-term impact, stems from the fact that developers who have been following transparent and fair practices have not been affected by demonetisation and instead it worked out to their advantage.

This also turned out to be a positive development for big global real estate consultants like JLL India which doubled its profits in 2016 over 2014-15, with 60 per cent revenue growth.

One key positive impact of demonetisation and RERA (Real Estate Regulation Act) has been that speculative investors deserted real estate and end-users/genuine buyers, who were all these years pushed to the sidelines, came out in large numbers. Now, it is the property consumers who are driving the real estate market, especially residential market, aided by the government’s pro-industry and pro-consumer initiatives.

The step to promote affordable housing and according real estate industry status for the purpose of making easy and cheap funds available to the sector also helps.

Demonetisation has particularly boosted foreign funding. The transparency brought in by demonetisation, aided by RERA, GST reforms and liberalisation of FDI norms, has boosted the confidence of foreign investors, which is clearly evident from the spurt in foreign investments, particularly from pension funds.

This will inject much needed liquidity in the sector starved of funds. Targeting consumers, the government under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY), is providing substantial interest subsidy to home buyers. The clampdown on floating cash in the system has contributed significantly to curbing inflation which, in turn, helped RBI in cutting interest rates, thereby boosting home buying.

The proposed measures to liberalise FSI norms and rationalise stamp duty, will give further fillip to the residential sector, particularly affordable housing.

Demonetisation had a salutary impact on property prices by curbing cash transactions and checking speculative pricing, in turn increasing affordability, which is a key to achieve the government’s flagship mission of ‘Housing for All’. RERA & GST are further aiding demonetisation to control prices.

long term impact on Real Estate
Demonetisation aided with RERA and GST will put long term impact on Real Estate. Pixabay.

The key provisions in RERA, to speed up project completion, by checking diversion of funds through mandatory escrow account, stringent penalties to check project delays, together with the government’s move to make all building sanctions online, will go a long way in checking time and cost overruns of real estate projects, thereby controlling home prices.

The ban on pre-launching of projects under RERA will also check artificial spurt in pricing. GST has come to tackle the flow of cash in the purchase of building materials by introducing input credit tax. Further, the government’s plans to liberalise FSI norms, especially for affordable homes, and rationalising stamp duty will have a sobering effect on property prices.

But for some little lingering effect, economists and real estate experts believe that the overall downside impact of demonetisation has faded and its impact is not going to be there in the next quarter.

Says Ashwinder Singh, formerly CEO of JLL India & now CEO of leading real estate consultancy, Anarock Consultants: “Other than in terms of the initial confusion-induced decline in sentiment, the trend that is emerging now, points towards a recovery in buying sentiment with serious buyers already returning to primary markets.”

The entire demonetisation exercise undertaken by the government and aided by other reforms, like Benami Property Act, RERA and GST, is to be looked at in the backdrop of the government’s multi-pronged policy to create institutional and regulatory framework for speedy and steady growth of the economy. And at the centre of all these initiatives is real estate, which is a key contributor to GDP. Going forward, these policy initiatives will help make real estate more organised, transparent, credible and affordable, making the sector investor and consumer friendly. (IANS)