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Web-only Exclusives
November 30, 2000

From Our Correspondent: Hirohito and the War
A conversation with biographer Herbert Bix

From Our Correspondent: A Rough Road Ahead
Bad news for the Philippines - and some others

From Our Correspondent: Making Enemies
Indonesia needs friends. So why is it picking fights?

Asiaweek Time Asia Now Asiaweek story

Week of April 4, 1997

BANGLADESH-INDIA The two neighbors have agreed to resume train services and are looking at restoring other cross-border links. Traffic lines were cut during the Indo-Pakistan war in 1965, when Bangladesh was under the rule of Pakistan. The first places connected by rail will be several religious sites.

BIHAR UNREST: Police were rushed to several districts in Bihar state after 11 peasants were killed by militiamen backed by landlords on Mar. 24. The victims were members of the local communist party; all had their throats slit. More than 200 people have died in such clashes since 1994.


Week of March 28, 1997

Starting April 15, fuel suppliers in New Delhi will not be permitted to sell gasoline or diesel fuel to vehicles that do not meet pollution control standards. All buyers must carry a certificate of non-pollution. The government says dealers agreed to cooperate to ease the city's deteriorating air quality.


Week of March 14, 1997

The Central Bureau of Investigation says four diaries it seized in its ongoing bribery investigations include enough evidence to incriminate prominent members of all political parties. Coded entries in the books record payments to 115 politicians and bureaucrats between 1988 and 1991, according to the CBI.


Week of March 7, 1997

In an attempt to clear Calcutta's choked streets, the city's 120-year-old tram system will get $14 million to extend its network, even though it lost $277 million in the last 10 years. Commuters and environmentalists defeated a plan to phase out the system.

New Delhi spent 2.39% of its gross domestic product on defense this year, lower than Pakistan's 6.88% or Beijing's 5.63%. The figures were used to stifle criticism of yet another test-firing - the 16th - of its Prithvi surface-to-surface missile. Opponents say India is escalating the arms race in South Asia.


Week of February 28, 1997

Airing-Out Safety Issues in India

T he jury is still out on who, or what, caused the mid-air collision between a Saudi 747 and a Kazakhstan Ilyushin 76 that killed 351 people 40 km west of New Delhi's Indira Gandhi International Airport last November. But consider this calculus for disaster: the busiest airports in India - New Delhi and Bombay - are at best equipped to handle 18 aircraft per hour. At peak periods their load ratchets up to about 28 per hour. Passenger numbers are growing by about 16% yearly. And a modernization plan for air-traffic control equipment, first proposed in 1987, has been in bureaucratic limbo since then.

"Within their limitations the airports somehow make do," says S.S. Sidhu, who once headed the Indian aviation ministry. "Indian skies are safe, but not positively so," admits Sidhu, who now runs the committee which drafted the Airports Authority corporate plan for air safety for the next 20 years.

You are not flying to India, so why do you care? Because northern India is one of the busiest corridors for traffic between east and west Asia. And Indian airports - civilian and military - do not have the capability of knowing who is flying in the region. They only know who is flying near them. Nobody has an overall, real-time view of air traffic.

Less sanguine than Sidhu is Denzil Keelor, a former Indian Air Force vice-marshal and now an air safety expert. He says: "The civil aviation authority issues guidelines to pilots without having qualified people on its staff. The structure of the system is such that there is no inspection body. How can we expect standards to be maintained?" Keelor is particularly angry after an inspection body he helped establish years ago, was "dismantled because it cut into the powers of some bureaucrats." The price tag for a proposed modernization plan over the next 20 years is $5.7 billion, a cost that the government has accepted "in principle."

New marriage: Priyanka Gandhi, daughter of slain former PM Rajiv Gandhi, married Robert Vadhera, 27, on Feb. 18 at the family home near New Delhi. Will Priyanka, 25, still follow in the political footsteps of her father and her late grandmother, Indira Gandhi?

Old Names: It's official. The government has decided to stick with the internationally accepted names of Bombay and Madras, rather than adopt local versions. So Bombay is not Mumbai, and Madras is not Chennai. The changes were creating confusion abroad and affecting business.


Week of February 21, 1997

Having gotten its first large-scale power plant underway, the U.S. energy company Enron says it wants to invest in a string of similar projects across India. Construction at its $2.4 billion Dabhol plant was delayed for years by political infighting, but Enron says PM H.D. Deve Gowda gave its proposal a positive response.


Week of February 14, 1997

To better control militant groups operating along their common border, the two neighbors have agreed in principle to share intelligence information. The agreement came at the recently re-activated Joint Working Group. The JWG also arranged for a February meeting of the countries' home ministers.


Week of February 7, 1997

Back to work The month-long strike by cinema owners in India's Maharashtra state has ended, Bombay film distributors said on Jan. 28. The theaters were due to reopen in the following few days. The strike, which started on Jan. 1, was in protest of a steep tax hike.

On Jan. 26, India's capital Delhi became the first no-smoking city in the country. Those who take a puff in public places (including cinemas, hospitals, schools and public buses) are now liable to a fine of $3 to $15. Police, however, are not convinced that the new laws can be enforced effectively


Week of January 31, 1997

The nation's deficient power sector is failing to attract foreign investment, an Indian minister says. Power Minister S. Venugopalachari says poor performance in the sector, uncertain returns and insolvency are to blame. Meanwhile, he says, India is facing an energy shortage of 9%. He didn't mention that foreign investors are dismayed by the off-again, on-again Maharashtra dam deal.

Business reform Indian business leaders say they have lowered their expectations that the central government will propose major reforms when it unveils its first budget next month. Prime Minister Deve Gowda had promised last month that he would announce steps to revive stagnant stock markets and cut government spending. But, after an initial wave of optimism, markets now reflect disappointment.

Rhesus monkeys are invading Indian cities. Officials report that more than half of the nation's 1.5 million monkeys are now living in urban areas, chased from their traditional homes by widespread deforestation. Officials report increasing conflict between humans and monkeys.


Week of January 24, 1996

The great-grandson of Mahatma Gandhi was denied permission to take the freedom hero's ashes on a nation-wide tour, after collecting them from a bank vault where they've been stored since 1948. Tushar Gandhi was told by a state judge the ashes should be taken direct to Allahabad, and immersed in the Ganges.


Week of January 17, 1997

Can Congress Come Back?

While admitting "There are moves to oust me," Indian PMH. D. Deve Gowda says "In the last seven months, I've shown how I can run the government by holding 13 parties together. Don't worry, I'll be in the government. I'll manage." But now that the Congress party is regrouping after dismissing the scandal-plagued Narasimha Rao at its head, some realists say it will not be long before it pulls the rug out from under Gowda. Congress's new boss, Sitaram Kesri, pledged to back the PM. "But we cannot be expected to support this government indefinitely," one Congress deputy told Asiaweek. "We will send a message to the country that Congress has begun its march back to power."

The numbers? The government needs Congress, which holds 144 seats in Gowda's 182-member coalition. (There are 542 seats in the lower house.) With Congress - the country's oldest and longest-ruling political party - re-emerging stronger from its setbacks, that could spell trouble for Gowda. One large chunk of his support, 20 members in all, split from Congress on the eve of May's elections. Two smaller renegade groups already returned to the fold. With its new burst of energy, Congress might make a move sooner than expected.

Girl Guides waveD their flag and India's, welcoming H. D. Deve Gowda, the first Indian PM to visit Bangladesh in 20 years. He and host PM Sheikh Hasina Wajed agreed to step up regional cooperation. The opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party immediately denounced the plan.

SIA WEDS TATA, FINALLY Over critics' cries of selling out the national interest, New Delhi will soon give the go-ahead to the Tata group to set up a domestic airline in a joint venture with Singapore Airlines. The $708 million proposal has been sitting for 18 months with the Foreign Investment Promotion Board, awaiting approval.


Week of January 10, 1997

India Is Less SAARCastic

Never mind that Pakistan has a caretaker administration and India is ruled by a shaky coalition government. Islamabad and New Delhi seem to want better relations. When the foreign ministers of the seven South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation countries met in New Delhi in December, they were ready for a tense faceoff between India's Inder Kumar Gujral, right, and Pakistan's Shahabzada Ya qub Khan. SAARC represents over a billion people, but is often stymied in achieving unity because of the rancor between its two heaviest hitters. Not so with career diplomat Gujral back as foreign minister. Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar said: "India-Pakistan relations remain a big problem for South Asia and the rest of us are helpless bystanders. But this time we noticed that the two countries were cooperating very closely within SAARC, and there was no undercurrent that seemed to color th eir view. There has been a dramatic change after Mr. Gujral took office." He also noted that India no longer drags its feet over issues of regional cooperation.

Is this part of a regional "charm offensive" launched by India? Contention over Kashmir still exists, of course, but the annual talks about the dispute that were cancelled in 1994 should resume in February, after Pakistan's general elections. The Indo-Bangladesh agreement to better share the waters of the Ganges was signed on the eve of December's SAARC meeting. And Indian Prime Minister H. D. Deve Gowda wants to accelerate the start-up date of the South Asian Free Trade Area by two years, a SAARC proposal originally targeted for 2000. Gujral, often criticized at home for being too soft on Pakistan, explains the new line: "We do not want to be prisoners of the past. We want to get rid of the old mind-set quickly."

As many as 100 people died when a large track-side bomb exploded as the crowded Brahmaputra Mail train, bound for New Delhi from Assam state passed by. Authorities quickly blamed Bodo tribal militants for the destruction, although no group immediately claimed responsibility. Three rail cars overturned, and six more were derailed by the remotely-controlled detonation.


News from India in 1996


News from India in 1995


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