India, Japan Draw Closer on China Unease

A meeting between the leaders of Japan and India in mid-November is set to build on security and economic cooperation to help counter China’s increasing sway in the Asian region. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will meet his Japanese counterpart, Yoshihiko Noda, in Tokyo in the middle of the month (UpdateIndian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh’s trip to Tokyo has been cancelled as of now as the Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda has dissolved the government and called for elections). The two leaders will discuss strengthening security cooperation after a flurry of meetings this year between the countries’ top defense and foreign affairs officials and the first India-Japan joint naval operations in June, according to a Japanese foreign ministry official.

Both countries have committed to start regular meetings on maritime security in the region’s waters and hope to begin such discussions as soon as possible, the official said. A spokesman for Mr. Singh’s office declined to comment. The heightened spotlight on defense, especially maritime security, is a product of unease in Tokyo and New Delhi over Beijing’s territorial claims in the seas around China and its development of  ports in the Indian Ocean. In September, angry crowds across China attacked Japanese businesses in protest of Japan’s claims to a chain of disputed islands in the East China Sea. The islands – claimed by both countries – are known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China.

Pic source:

Tensions also have risen in the South China Sea between China and a number of countries, including India, which is prospecting for gas in the area. New Delhi says it’s also concerned about China’s funding of ports in the Indian Ocean – India’s sphere of influence – including in Pakistan and  Sri Lanka. Expanding trading ties between Japan and India are also likely to feature in the upcoming talks. Japan’s difficult relationship with China, a major trading partner, has pushed its companies to look elsewhere to expand business. India, with a young population and growing economy, has been a major beneficiary.

So far this year, Japan is the largest foreign direct investor in India, with investments of $1.5 billion in 34 deals through Oct. 11, according to Dealogic. Two-way trade between the two nations, who signed a free-trade deal in 2011, is expected to touch $25 billion by 2014, up from $18 billion in 2011. Companies like Toyota Motor Corp and Suzuki Motor Corp have invested in India for decades. More recently, Japanese firms have begun to buy stakes in India’s insurance and information technology sectors.

There have also been hiccups in the commercial relationship. Suzuki’s local production joint venture had to suspend operations at a plant this summer after workers rioted over  a dispute between a worker and a supervisor. Japan has pledged $4. 5 billion in financial guarantees for an Indian project to build an industrial corridor between New Delhi, the capital, and Mumbai, the country’s financial center. But the project has been beset by delays, many of the relating to the difficulties of acquiring land.

News source: WSJ


F1 Returns to India This Weekend – 2012

Formula One fever has not yet caught on in the Capital, though the Indian Grand Prix is just a week away. Promotional activities are on in full swing and ticket rates have been slashed. Yet, if you are thinking about a possible full house at the Buddh International Circuitin Greater Noida on October 28, the public response till now has been a bit subdued. The fan interest last time was indeed very high as it was for the first time that F1 was coming to India. However, from a pure sporting point of view, it should be thrilling to watch Sebastian Vettel leading the charge once again after the way he has bounced back into the lead in the standings.

It is this adrenaline rush from the German which F1 was waiting for, as the two-time defending champion has switched gears so suddenly and won the last three races. However, if one were to reflect at this point of time on motorsport in India and racing specifically, I am convinced we have not moved one inch forward. It’s a year since the last Indian Grand Prix and all those who were telling us Indian motorsport would zoom seem to have pulled a fast one on us. I can tell you with conviction, as a nation which fantasizes about Formula One and wants to see Indians at the wheel of the speed demons, the racing structure at home is as archaic as it was a decade ago.

While there is no dearth of following for F1 in India, we do not have a proper structure for talent to be tapped on a big scale and the platform for drivers to emerge is inadequate. And if you though it was only the drivers who raced hard and ran into each other on the sharp corners of a Formula One track, in India we have officials, sponsors and the entire fraternity ready to pull each other down at every possible opportunity. For the sake of existence, we have a sporting body – the Federation of Motor Sports Clubs of India – which is supposed to run the sport in the country.

Having seen it function from close quarters, I can only tell you that if this country has a few drivers who have made it to the highest level, it is because of their own drive and initiative and how their parents and sponsors backed them. This time last year, we were talking of Narain Karthikeyan and Karun Chandhok possibly racing at the Buddh circuit. Now that Narain is the only Indian driver around with a weak team and in a slow car, you have to be happy with whatever you have. But my bigger fear is that the day Narain, too, falls out of the F1 circus, we will have no Indian representation in a sport which brings us immense thrill.

There are two big factors which determine a driver’s existence at the middle and lower levels in F1. The first is the driver’s own skills and speed and the second is what sort of financial backing he has. In the case of Narain, he does have solid sponsorship from the Tatas, but if you look at his case, it has been a tough rise from scratch. However, given the global racing dynamics today and lack of F1 seat availability, even a Michael Schumacher is shown the door by Mercedes without any mercy.

If we are going to fantasize about one more Indian driver making it to F1 after Narain, Karun and maybe Armaan Ebrahim, it will be a mere dream. The racing structure at home is pedestrian. Yet, even this platform would not exist without the involvement of dedicated sponsors like JK Tyre, MRF and Volkswagen. It is well known that in racing, the first step is karting. Agreed, from fourstroke karts, we have graduated to two-stroke karts and there are proper karting tracks in eight cities. With only JK running a proper championship spread over five rounds, it’s a good entry point for 50 drivers in three categories. But, after spending three to four years in karting, it isn’t easy to move upwards.

The ‘Formula’ car used in the JK racing national championship is good for a start, but if someone tells you he is going to move up faster and graduate, it cannot happen at home. The only way out is if the driver has bags full of dollars so he can race in Europe and hope to move up. Then again, given the lack of direction from the people who run motorsport in the country, minus the corporate sector’s initiative, racing would be as good as dead.

Motorsports’ case is different to the other sports in India – barring cricket – where the competition structure exists but there’s no corporate coming forward to help. While it is interesting to watch the Volkswagens race for the Polo Cup, these are not ‘Formula’ cars by definition. Next year, it is expected that the Toyota Cup’s entry will spice things up but the way things are run today, you can forget it if someone says champion drivers will come out of this.

If you include karting and racing at home, the exposure now available is very limited. People are also waiting for MRF to unleash their Formula 3 car during the support race for the Indian GP. Having tracked the rivalry between JK and MRF, I am waiting to see the two companies put their cars out together on December 2 at the Buddh circuit.

News source: India Today

All pictures courtesy: Formula1


Return 2 India

The first major decision of 2012.  Yup its time for me to close my 11 years old chapter here in Singapore and move back to India.  It hasnt been an easy decision to take, but ya it took time to come to this.  Have been thinking about it for more than 2 years now.  The time is here.

Will write in detail later.  But as of now, i can only say that I will miss Singapore a lot.

Above picture courtesy: portalhunt


Behenji, Aunty, Didi & Amma

3 big states (West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu) and one politically strategic state (Delhi) is now ruled by women.  Not to mention the President of India, Pratibha Patil, the leader of the ruling party, Sonia Gandhi, leader of the opposition, Sushma Swaraj.   India is today the perfect poster child for women’s empowerment.

Most of the above mentioned women (except Sonia Gandhi) have made it on their own.  Of course they had their own mentors on the way up.  But they made it on their sheer dint of hard work and perseverance.

Am not sure if there is any big country in the world where women are in power in such a big capacity.  So, its 3 cheers to the populace who voted all these women to power.  Hopefully unlike the men who screwed up the country royally, the women would do a better job.

Hope Jayalalitha would keep her vindictive streak in the backburner and let law takes its course on the various scams perpetrated under the DMK reign.   Hope Mamta Banerjee will realise that she is the leader of the ruling party now and ditch her habit of going on a strike / hartal every time her ego has been hurt.  Am sure the Commies wouldnt have taken the kick in the butt given to them by the people of the state of Bengal in the right spirit and try to rake up problems for the new government.  Afterall, the Commies are synonymous with inefficiency, violence, ineptitude and failure.

Here’s 3 cheers to the women power and hoping that Behenji will finally wake up from the slumber and stop building more statues and do something for the chronically backward state of  Uttar Pradesh.  Hope Shiela Dikshit will keep up the good work of transforming the infrastructure of Delhi from a sleepy bureaucratic city to a modern mega-metropolis.

Headline taken from: Ibnlive


Its India vs Lanka – Cricket World Cup 2011

To win the cup, you have to beat the best.  Maybe Pakistan wasnt at their best during the semi finals against India at Mohali yesterday.  But you cant ignore the fact that they were the best in their group.  Dropped catches, misfielding, pathetic bowling by Umar Gul and the crawled batting all contributed their part to ensure that India increased its record to 5-0 in the World Cup matches against Pakistan.

So, it will be Sri Lanka vs India at Mumbai on the 2nd of April 2011. Two legends (Sachin & Murali) are playing the last World Cups of their lives.  Both are special players who have not only enriched the game but also bought happiness to millions of followers.  Both the teams would want to gift the respective players the gift of victory.  There is still lots to play.

Again, may the best team win 😀

Above picture courtesy: Cricinfo


Venky's to buy Blackburn Rovers

Blackburn have edged closer to opening up a new frontier in English football by becoming the first Premier League team to have Indian owners.

The club confirmed that talks with the Venky’s conglomerate over a £46million deal are close to conclusion and a takeover should be completed next month. The price includes £25m to buy the club from the family of the late Blackburn benefactor Jack Walker and a further £15m to clear debts.

Venky’s managing director Balaji Venkatesh Rao, whose father founded the company, said: ‘It’s very much confirmed and we will be announcing it formally in the next 10 days.

‘It’s a £46m deal. I wouldn’t say that is cheap or expensive but we will have to pump in some more money later on. The money is up front from our own sources. We are not here to compare with anybody but this is a first for India. It’s a prestigious moment for everybody and one we should cherish.’

Read the full article here


Of War Games & Defence Diplomacy

Indian armed forces have chalked out a stunning round of combat exercises with foreign forces over the coming several months to use “defence diplomacy” as a tool to bolster national security as well as promote strategic cooperation.

Defence ministry officials say the 1.13-million Army alone has planned 14 to 18 exercises with countries ranging from the US, UK and Russia to Bangladesh, Mongolia, Thailand and Tajiskistan, both at home and abroad.

For instance, the armies of Seychelles and Singapore will be in Belgaum and Deolali in January for joint combat exercises . Similar is the case with Navy and IAF. Indian warships will hold combat manoeuvres with French warships, including nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, during the “Varuna” wargames on the high seas in January . “Indian and French navies and air forces have build a high-level of interoperability through such exercises… We have a strategic partnership ,” said visiting French chief of defence staff Admiral Edouard Guillaud.

The US, of course, is leading the charge in this “interoperability” game, with Indian and American armed forces holding a staggering 60 or so wargames over the last decade.

Many more are in the offing. After the ‘Malabar’ naval wargames on the western coast, the “Habu Nag” amphibious exercise at Okinawa (Japan) and the “Vajra Prahar” counterterrorism drills at Belgaum earlier in the year, around 200 Indian soldiers are now leaving for Alaska to take part in the “Balance Iroquois” exercise with American special forces.

Despite defence minister A K Antony always being eager to downplay the expansive Indo-US defence relationship, the armed forces of the two nations have set a scorching pace in their bilateral engagement . Of the 64 exercises conducted by the Army between 2001 and 2009, well over one-third were with the US.

“The US is the only superpower around… We learn a lot from exercising with them. With the vast counter-insurgency experience of our professional forces, we also teach them a lot,” said a senior officer.

Above news source: TimesofIndia

Pictures courtesy: Military photos, Getty


Is Coal India, Reliance Power Reloaded?

The BSE Sensex was around 18000 when Reliance Power came out with its IPO in February 2008.  The crash that followed the listing brought the markets down to around 8000.  It was the bloodiest bloodbath i ever experienced as an investor in the market.  I took that opportunity to buy a lot of good companies at ridiculous prices; and raked in good profits when the markets bounced back a year later.

More than 2 years later, we are staring at a similar situation.  The markets are hovering close to 20500.  The Public Sector Unit, Coal India is set to come with its mega 15,000 crore IPO.  The markets are at their all time highs. The pundits have been predicting a cooling down for some time now.

Will we see a correction again post the Coal India IPO launch?  Am watching from the sidelines to pick up some good bargain.

Above images courtesy: Topnews