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Today's Hot Stories - January 09, 2013

10 Headlines for Today

(1) Arjun Munda resigns after JMM ends support
(2) India test-fires manoeuvrable version of BrahMos
(3) Venezuela govt postpones Chavez swearing-in
(4) Lenders set to ask KFA to clear dues
(5) PC gaming makes a fighting comeback
(6) India becomes 4th largest market for Sony
(7) Tennis: Radwanska’s dream run continues, Li Na breezes past Morita |
(8) Shikhar Dhawan leads from the front
(9) PCB to hold T20 league in March
(10) Alarm bells ring over hunting of rare India-bound birds in Pakistan

5 Stories for Today

(1) Jawans mutilation: India summons Pak High Commissioner
(2) World divided over Syrian President’s peace plan
(3) PSUs to meet minimum public holding requirement deadline: SEBI
(4) Sony looks to replicate Indian model in Europe
(5) Rangarajan for quick action to prune diesel subsidy

(1) Jawans mutilation: India summons Pak High Commissioner

India on Wednesday summoned the Pakistan High Commissioner in New Delhi to protest the “highly provocative” attack on its territory in Jammu and Kashmir by Pakistani troops, describing as “extremely distressing” and “inhuman” the mutilation of the bodies of its two soldiers.

As the Government closely monitored the situation after the attack, Pakistan High Commissioner Salman Bashir was summoned to the Foreign office here.

Defence Minister A.K. Antony said the Indian government will convey to Pakistan its protest against the attack on Tuesday in the Mendhar sector in Poonch district.

“Pakistan Army’s action is highly provocative. The way they treated the dead bodies of Indian soldiers is inhuman. We will convey our protest to Pakistan government and our DGMO will talk to his counterpart. We are closely following the situation,” Mr. Antony told reporters.

External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said the way the bodies of the two Indian soldiers were treated was “extremely extremely distressing” and “ghastly” and that this will be taken up seriously with Pakistan.

“It is an extremely sensitive matter. It is a matter of great concern. We will do whatever we can do,” he said, adding “We will take up the matter seriously with Pakistan government.”

Mr. Khurshid warned that the Pakistani action could be “counter-productive” in efforts by the two neighbouring countries to improve bilateral relations.

In political reaction condemning the brutal killing of the two Indian soldiers, the BJP said this is a “warning” to India and asked the Government to place all the facts before the international community so that Islamabad can be named and shamed before the world at large.

Pakistani regular soldiers crossed into Indian territory in Poonch sector and ambushed an Indian patrol killing two soldiers, one of whom was decapitated.

Army’s Additional Director General (Public Information) Major General S L Narasimhan yesterday confirmed that one of the two bodies was mutilated.

Other sources said the heads of both the Indian soldiers — Lance Naiks Hemraj and Sudhakar Singh — have been chopped off and one was taken away by Pakistani intruders.

The attack took place along the Line of Control(LoC) in Poonch district when Pakistanis came about 100 metres into Indian territory and assaulted the patrol party.

Besides killing two, they also injured two other soldiers and took away their weapons and other belongings.

(2) World divided over Syrian President’s peace plan

Iran has been quick off the blocks in support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s plan to resolve the internal conflict, which may soon be yielding ground to diplomacy as the limits to finding a military solution to the crisis get exposed.

“The Islamic republic... supports President Bashar al-Assad’s initiative for a comprehensive solution to the country’s crisis,” said Iran’s Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi in a statement posted on his Ministry’s website.

“Assad’s plan includes solutions which reject violence and terrorism and any foreign interference in the country, and outlines a comprehensive political process”, he observed.

On Sunday, Mr. Assad stressed that the crisis in his country could be resolved not through military but political means.

“The political solution entails regional and international powers halting their support for armed groups, which will be followed by a halt in our security forces’ crackdown against them,” Mr. Assad told a packed opera house audience in the heart of Damascus.

After spelling out his terms for a ceasefire, the Syrian President said that the next step would be to convene a national conference, where all parties who work in Syria’s interest would participate. These deliberations would result in a new constitutional draft, which will be put to vote in a national referendum.

Finally, the crisis would end with a process of national reconciliation that would include the granting of amnesty to those who have been imprisoned during the conflict.

However, the President said he would not negotiate with two main components of the opposition: The pro-western rebels, whom he described as “western puppets”; and “terrorists” known for their links with al-Qaeda. “We never rejected a political solution … but with whom should we talk? With those who have extremist ideology who only understand the language of terrorism?” he said. “Or should we negotiate with puppets whom the West brought.” He added: “We dialogue with the master not with the slave.”

During the speech, the President called for popular mobilisation to counter the existential threat that confronts Syria. “Everyone must defend it… the attack on the entire nation… every citizen who is aware… and refusing to join solutions is taking the nation backwards,” he said.

In its response to the presidential address, the Chinese Foreign Ministry urged both sides in the conflict to “follow the objectives and principles set forth in the Action Group Geneva Communiqué and establish an inclusive transitional governing body to realise a political transition in the country”. Conceived on June 30 last year, the Geneva plan calls for the formation of a transitional government in Syria, drawn from the government and the opposition, without seeking Mr. Assad’s exit.

While there has so far not been an official Russian response to the presidential address, the Voice of Russia radio quoted Boris Dolgov from the Institute of Eastern Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences as saying that the President’s speech was a significant event not only for Russia but the entire region. He concurred with Mr. Assad’s perception that the external support to the opposition was the main cause of instability in the region.

Analysts point out that the President’s speech comes at a point of inflection in the Syrian crisis. In the United States, a major change of personnel is taking place in the State Department, CIA and the Pentagon, which might be a precursor to a policy shift on Syria.

Later in January, Lakhdar Brahimi is hosting a trilateral meeting with senior Russian and U.S. officials, amid anticipation that a new U.S.-Russia plan on resolving the Syrian crisis is in the works.

Nevertheless, Victoria Nuland, the spokeswoman for the State Department, did not signal on Sunday any change in Washington’s stance towards Syria. She described Mr. Assad’s speech as “yet another attempt by the regime to cling to power, and [which] does nothing to advance the Syrian people’s goal of a political transition”.

(3) PSUs to meet minimum public holding requirement deadline: SEBI

The government has assured SEBI that listed public sector undertakings will meet the August 2013 deadline to meet the capital markets regulator’s mandatory public shareholding norms, SEBI chief U K Sinha said on Wednesday.

“I am happy to inform that we have received confirmation from government that it will abide by public shareholding guidelines within the timeframe,” SEBI Chairman U K Sinha said at a conference organised by industry body Assocham.

According to Mr Sinha, the promoter holding in Indian companies is very high as compared to other Asian markets and SEBI took up the matter with the government as it feels that PSUs should also follow the rules. Under the norms, privately promoted companies are expected to have a public shareholding at 25 per cent by June 2013, while the same for the state-run listed companies has been relaxed to 10 per cent, which has to be met by August 2013, Mr Sinha said.

According to analysts, 11 PSUs, including Rashtriya Chemicals and Fertilizers and State Bank of Mysore, have government holding beyond the 90 per cent mark and the government will have to bring it down.

Mr Sinha also said that the SEBI is continuously taking measures to improve retail investors’ confidence in the equity market and stressed that the market is not a “casino” where one can do anything and get away with it.

It has put up a sophisticated surveillance mechanism which is putting out up to 100 alerts a day on potentially fraudulent transactions, he said.

“I assure you, if there is any attempt to manipulate the market or to bypass the rules, we will take action and with this surveillance mechanism, we are in a much better position to do that today,” he said.

(4) Sony looks to replicate Indian model in Europe

Japanese consumer electronics giant Sony Corporation is looking to replicate its Indian subsidiary’s style of working in the European business by synchronising different verticals to have better growth, its Europe chief said on Tuesday.

Sony Europe’s President Masaru Tamagawa joined the operations of the region in July last year and is highly appreciative of the business model in India, where he had led the company for five years from 2007.

“We want to replicate everything of India in Europe. The working style of various divisions, including product strategy, distribution channel and marketing, are very good in India and we want to replicate these in Europe,” Tamagawa said on the sidelines of the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

Sony Europe wants to synchronise different verticals of the company like that in India to have better growth in the region, he added.

Although Sony India’s revenue contribution is very small compared to Sony Europe, Tamagwa said: “India is much ahead of Europe (in working style).”

Sony Europe, which comprised the UK, France, Germany, Russia, Spain and Sweden, recorded net sales of 300.24 billion yen (about Rs 18,930 crore) during the quarter ending September 2012 compared to 293.49 billion yen (about rs 15,100 crore) in the year-ago period, up 2.3 per cent.

In contrast, the Indian operations’ revenue contribution for the entire 2011-12 financial year was just Rs 6,313 crore. It is expecting 30-40 per cent growth in this fiscal.

The newly appointed Sony Corp President and CEO Kazuo Hirai also emphasised the importance of developing economies in the company’s overall growth.

“When I was made the CEO nine months ago, my focus was to revitalise the business... My aim is to drive growth in the emerging markets, where we are already strong,” he added.

The company’s Indian operations, which is a part of Sony Corp’s Asia Pacific business which also includes South Korea and Oceania, is targeting to treble its revenue to Rs 20,000 crore by 2015 even as its Japanese parent continues to suffer losses globally due to adverse conditions in major markets such as the US.

Besides, Sony India plans to increase its headcount by 500 people in the current financial year. This is in contrast to Sony Corp’s decision to lay off about 10,000 people globally last year to cut operational cost.

Sony Corporation on Tuesday unveiled a range new products such as Xperia range of smartphones and 4K ultra high definition TV. These products will commercially be launched within next few months.

(5) Rangarajan for quick action to prune diesel subsidy

Diesel prices may have to be raised by Rs.10 a litre over the next one year, if government accepts the recommendations of Vijay Kelkar Committee.

The Central Government should act quickly to raise diesel rates to bring them in line with global prices in order to reduce its subsidy bill, Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council Chairman C. Rangarajan has said.

“I think we need to cut subsidies’ proportion of GDP... Therefore, there is an imperative need to reduce the diesel subsidies,” Dr. Rangarajan told PTI in an interview.

“Therefore, we should act quickly on it... The need to adjust domestic prices in line with crude prices globally has become absolutely essential,” he said.

The crude oil price is around $95 a barrel.

Diesel prices may have to be raised by Rs.10 a litre over the next one year, if government accepts the recommendations of Vijay Kelkar Committee.

The committee, which was appointed by the Finance Ministry to formulate the fiscal consolidation roadmap, had in its report suggested raising diesel and kerosene rates. The price hike is being considered as the government scrambles to find ways to meet an unprecedented Rs.1,60,000 crore deficit expected this fiscal on selling diesel, cooking gas (LPG) and kerosene below their production cost.

Price of diesel, which at present costs Rs.47.15 a litre in Delhi, was last revised on September 14 when it was hiked by a steep Rs.5.63 per litre.

State-owned oil companies at present sell diesel at a loss of Rs.9.28 per litre, and the hikes over the next 10 months will eliminate all of the losses and absolve the government from providing any subsidy on the nation’s most consumed fuel. They are likely to end the fiscal with a revenue loss of over Rs.1,63,000 crore on sale of diesel, LPG and kerosene at government-controlled rates that are way lower than cost.

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