No U-turn by U.S. on direct access to Headley: Chidambaram

Union Home Minister P Chidambaram has said that there was no confusion over the issue of Indian investigators getting direct access to Pakistani-American LeT operative David Coleman Headley or not.

“No, I don’t think so,” Mr. Chidambaram shot back when asked whether there was a U-turn by the US after its envoy in New Delhi Timothy J Roemer said that “no decision on direct access for India to David Headley has been made.”

”…If you reflect more carefully that sentence (of Roemer) no way (it) contradicts what the US Attorney (Eric Holder) has told me,” Mr. Chidambaram, who is here on an official visit, told a TV news channel.

Last night Home Secretary G K Pillai said that India was not taking cognisance of Mr. Roemer’s remarks and would be sending its investigators to the US at the earliest.

“I think we are going ahead and we are not really taking cognisance of the US ambassador’s remarks,” he said.

The 49-year-old Headley had last week pleaded guilty to all the 12 terror charges of conspiracy involving bombing public places in India, murdering and maiming persons and providing material support to foreign terrorist plots and Pakistan-based LeT besides aiding and abetting the murder of six US citizens in the 26/11 attacks that killed 166 people.

Following a telephonic discussion with Holder, Mr. Chidambaram had directed National Intelligence Agency and other agencies concerned in the case to quickly prepare documents necessary to start a judicial proceeding in which Indian authorities could require Headley to answer questions and to testify.

India is likely to send a team of investigators in April to question Headley.

PTI story from Chicago adds

Headley will cooperate: lawyer

David Coleman Headley, who has confessed to plotting Mumbai attacks, will cooperate with Indian authorities as required under the terms of his plea agreement if the US government allows, his lawyer has said.

John Theis said 49-year-old Headley’s terms of the plea agreement on March 18 requires that he allows himself to be interviewed by Indian authorities.

“Headley will cooperate to the extent it is required to by the terms of his plea agreement but as for the specifics. I think really our government and our US attorney’s office have to be the ones to determine the actual form (of access),” he told PTI when asked to comment about US Ambassador Timothy J Roemer’s statement that no decision on direct access for India to David Headley has been made.

Headley moved a guilty plea at a US court on March 18 where he confessed to plotting the 2008 Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people, including six Americans.

“He is in US custody and so interviewing him does implicate the security issues and things like that,” Theis said.

When asked if Indian investigators, who come to the US, can be assured that they would get access to Headley and be able to put their questions to him, Theis said: “I’m not the one to ask that. You will have to ask our government, our US attorney’s office. They are the ones who are going to determine how this actually happens“.

Meanwhile, an FBI spokesperson told PTI: “If the plea agreement says that Headley has agreed to meet with investigators from India, then that is what he will do. It is a question of when and where. But I’m sure if that is what he agreed to, that is what will happen”.

U.S. rules out mediating between India and Pak on key issues

Ahead of the key strategic dialogue with Pakistan, the Obama administration on Wednesday shot down Islamabad’s plea to help it resume peace talks with India and mediate on key disputes with New Delhi on issues including Kashmir.

It is for India and Pakistan to resolve all their disputes bilaterally and the Obama Administration does not sees a role for itself in it unless both the countries want it, Special US Representative for Pakistan and Afghanistan Richard Holbrooke told journalists at a joint press conference with the Pakistani Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir here.

Responding to questions from the Pakistani media on this issue, Holbrooke, however, said that the U.S. encourages both India and Pakistan to talk to each other on all the issues.

He said talking on Kashmir is not in his mandate.

Holbrooke said the first ever Cabinet level Strategic Dialogue between the two countries would be an important milestone in building relationship U.S.-Pak between.

At another reception at the Pakistani Embassy on the occasion of Pakistan National Day, visiting Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said that he is here to build a partnership with the US based on mutual trust, confidence and shared objectives.

“We have made progress in Pakistan and the world is acknowledging our sacrifices. We are ready to deliver, we are ready to move, let’s build a partnership which is lasting,” Mr. Qureshi said.

The reception was attended by top officials of the Obama Administration including National Security Adviser General (rtd) James Jones, lawmakers and US ambassador in Islamabad Anne Paterson.

Defence Minister Ahmed Mukhtar, Chief of the Army Staff Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and Finance Adviser Abdul Hafeez Shaikh also attended the reception.

Earlier, Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs P J Crowley said the Obama Administration has spent a lot of time trying to convince all countries in the region that ultimately improved relations with the United States and with others in the region is in everyone’s interest.

“We continue to make that clear. Assistant Secretary (Robert) Blake has been in the region and I think is trying to help various countries understand the context within which these expanded dialogues with all of the countries continue and are in everyone’s interest,” Crowley said.

India is a fast-growing market for consumer goods: Amway

Amway

Washington: A rapidly expanding middle class with high aspirations and a growing appetite for quality goods make India an attractive investment destination for consumer goods companies, says Amway chairman Steve Van Andel.

“The sheer size of the market, its relatively young population and economic and social stability all work in India’s favour,” Van Andel, who has been running America’s leading $8.2 billion direct selling company since 1995, told IANS in an e-mail interview.

For Amway, India is one of its fastest growing markets. “It has been growing by double digit percentages for a number of years. In 2009, Amway India has reached sales of Rs.1,407 crore or $300 million, a 25 percent increase over 2008,” he said.

He said 2009 marked another year of strong regional sales in China, India and South Korea for Amway.

Van Andel believes Amway’s sales in the region proves that its business model “resonates very well with the Asian consumers” and “our products meet consumer needs”.

The company is improving its product line, introducing new and modifying existing products, while building consumer awareness by sponsorships, endorsements and advertising campaigns.

Van Andel cited the use of internet and social networking sites to reach out to younger generations.

“The launch of Amway iPhone ‘app’ in North America was extremely well received,” he said. Amway is currently deploying Web 2.0 programme worldwide.

“While technology will continue to be a significant part of our growth, even in this day of internet and virtual world, the bricks-and-mortar presence of our company and the personal service our sales people provide to consumers are irreplaceable,” Van Andel said, noting that direct selling still works.

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India Became First Country To Have Cruise Maneuverable Missile

Bhubaneshwar, March 21 — India successfully test-fired the BrahMos supersonic anti-ship cruise missile from a warship in the Bay of Bengal off coast of Orissa on Sunday and became the first country to have a ‘maneuverable’ missile for cuise.
India Became First Country To Have Cruise Maneuverable Missile
A Sivathanu Pillai, chief of BrahMos aerospace, said: “The vertical-launch version of missile was launched at 1130 hours today from Indian Navy ship INS Ranvir and it maneuvered successfully hitting the target ship. It was a perfect hit and a perfect mission.”

He also added, “After today’s test, India has become the first and only country in the world to have a “maneuverable supersonic cruise missile in its inventory.”

President Pratibha Patil and Defence Minister A K Antony, in a separate message, congratulated the BrahMos scientists for the successful test-launch and congratulated the navy too.

According to Pillai, the software of the new anti-ship cruise missile was improved and the Sunday’s test from Orissa coast proved its capability of maneuverability at supersonic speeds.

BrahMos officials said, “During the test, the missile hit a free-floating ship piercing it above the waterline and destroying it completely.”

Sunday’s test-firing of the missile was a part of the pre-induction tests as moves by the Navy are afoot to deploy the vertical-launch version of the missile in ships.

Indo-Russian joint venture company designed and developed this weapon system.

US envoy hopeful on India n-deal, mum on Pakistan pact

New Delhi: Unfazed by political opposition in India to the civil nuclear liability bill, the US Monday said it was “optimistic and positive” about completing the nuclear deal with India but kept quiet on speculation about a similar accord with Pakistan.

“I am working full time on implementing the nuclear deal,” US Ambassador Timothy J. Roemer told reporters here.

“We are optimistic and positive that we are going to complete this in the months ahead,” the US envoy said.

Describing the nuclear deal as a “win-win situation”, Roemer stressed that implementing the agreement would be beneficial to both countries.

“We have seen great progress in the last few weeks and this is the story of the United States and India in a win-win situation,” he said.

“A new date of the US-India partnership where we create jobs in America and where India gets access to clean energy.”

The US envoy, however, declined to comment on media reports suggesting that the US was thinking of offering a similar deal to Pakistan.

So far, the US has not conceded Pakistan’s repeated demand for a civil nuclear nuclear deal. But, in an indication of a possible policy shift, US Ambassador to Islamabad Anne Patterson said in a recent interview to a journal that the two sides were going to have “working level talks” on the subject during the US-Pakistan strategic dialogue on March 24.

The US’ optimism about the nuclear deal with India comes amid reports that the two sides are likely to announce a pact on reprocessing spent fuel in a day or two.

Besides the reprocessing pact, India is required to pass a civil nuclear liability legislation under the 123 bilateral agreement to operationalise the nuclear deal.

Last week, the government deferred the tabling of the civil nuclear liability bill in parliament due to fierce opposition from the opposition parties, which are asking that the compensation amount be scaled up from the Rs.500 crore (nearly $100 million) provided for in the legislation to take care of victims in case of a nuclear accident.

India gets $1 bn World Bank loan to improve education

Washington: The World Bank has approved two education projects worth $1.05 billion for India, designed to boost the number of children enrolling in and completing elementary school, and to improve the quality of engineering education across the country.

India has made significant progress in meeting its education goals, especially at the primary level, the bank said announcing additional support for the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), a nationwide programme aimed at providing quality elementary education to all children.

The bank has supported the SSA with two IDA credits totalling $1.1 billion since 2003.

“SSA – the largest ongoing Education for All (EFA) programme in the world – has been remarkably successful, particularly in achieving greater access to elementary education,” said Roberto Zagha, the World Bank Country Director for India.

“Between 2003 and 2009 the number of children reportedly enrolled in elementary education in India increased by 57 million to 192 million. More than two-thirds of this increase took place in government schools.

“The number of children out of school declined from 25 million to 8.1 million during that same period, a truly remarkable achievement.”

The $750 million in additional financing for the Second Elementary Education Project will enable SSA to expand activities related to increased access at upper primary level (grades 5-8), increase elementary level completion rates, and improve learning outcomes for the full elementary cycle (grades 1-8).

The $300 million for the Second Technical/Engineering Education Quality Improvement Project (TEQIP) will support some 200 competitively selected engineering education institutions to produce higher quality and more employable engineers.

It will also scale up post-graduate education, research, development and innovation at these institutions, the bank said. This is the second phase of TEQIP, an envisioned 15-year phased programme initiated with the first phase from 2002 to 2009.

The project builds on the significant results achieved in the first phase of the project which supported 127 institutions and thousands of faculty members in well performing institutions such as NIT Rourkela, the College of Engineering Pune, the Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University Hyderabad, and BIT Mesra.