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Analysis

Political uncertainty to exert pressure on rupee: Analysts

The provisional figures from the stock exchanges showed that foreign institutional investors sold scrips worth Rs 856.61 crore in the week ended November 23.

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Mumbai, Nov 24: Political uncertainty as well as capital outflows from the financial markets are likely to restrict the Indian rupee in a range of 70-71 per US dollar next week, experts said on Saturday.

However, low crude oil price is expected to limit any weakness in the Indian currency.

According to Edelweiss Securities’ Head of Forex and Rates Sajal Gupta, “The rupee closed at 70.67, thus becoming the third-best performing currency in Asia on the back of weaker crude.”

“The rupee strength may be limited going forward on the back of upcoming state elections and RBI (Reserve Bank of India) buying US dollars to recoup reserves.”

Political uncertainty is expected to flare up due to the ongoing state elections. This can weaken the rupee. Elections to constitute assemblies in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Telangana and Mizoram are scheduled for this month and the next.

Besides, a latest set of data showed that the Reserve Bank of India is making efforts to recoup its reserves. India’s foreign exchange reserves rose by $568.9 million during the week ended November 16 to $393.58 billion.

In addition, any further outflow of foreign funds from the Indian equity and bond markets might have an adverse impact on the rupee.

The provisional figures from the stock exchanges showed that foreign institutional investors sold scrips worth Rs 856.61 crore in the week ended November 23.

“Crude oil has erased all its price gains for this year. This a major benefit to India, as we are a net consumer of oil. It also incentivises carry-trade as real rate differential between India and others becomes attractive, which adds fuel to long INR trade,” Anindya Banerjee, Deputy Vice President for Currency and Interest Rates with Kotak Securities, told IANS.

“Over the next week, we can see INR/USD test 70 levels and trade within a range of 70 to 71 on spot.”

The rupee closed over five per cent higher at 70.67 per US dollar on Thursday from its lifetime low of 74.47, which it had hit in early October. It gained Rs 1.24 from its previous week’s close of Rs 71.92.

Analysis

Deep State-II: The European angle to Rafale

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New Delhi, Feb 15 (IANS) It is no surprise that Europe becomes a fiery battleground every time a big aerospace deal is floated — as happened when the Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) competition was announced by the Indian Air Force in 2007. The French company Dassault Aviation is to deliver 36 fully-loaded Rafale fighters to India. However, Airbus Industrie, which manufactures the Eurofighter, has pitched itself in the game and wants to have a share of the pie through the ‘Make in India’ programme.

Meanwhile, Sweden’s Saab, which manufactures the Gripen and had been an initial favourite before being edged out by the French companies, believes it can still stay in the hunt if it finds an entry through the ‘Make in India’ programme. And then there are the Russians. It is a high-stakes game that is also complicated.

For some, there is also an interest in keeping things complicated. Mahmut Turker, a Turkish-origin former German politician and a member of Germany’s Freedom Democratic Party, has met Congress President Rahul Gandhi and other critics of the Narendra Modi government in New Delhi to make out a case for Airbus — he is now its sales director, Combat Aircraft Campaigns.

Turker provided the raw material to prepare Rahul Gandhi for the charge against the Modi government. He first met the Congress President in Hamburg in September last year. Then, in tandem with controversial arms dealer Sanjay Bhandari, he helped to prepare the strategy for the attack on the government for the Rafale purchases. Congress leaders evidently believe they are onto something, which is why they have gone beyond characteristic political bluster to directly target the Prime Minister.

Later, when Turker met Arun Shourie, Yashwant Sinha, lawyer Prashant Bhushan — who are behind the PIL in the Rafale case — and Congressman Ranjeet Surjewala, he brought his savvy political skills along to drive holes into the Rafale deal and suggest that it be scrapped. He is believed to have supplied them with dossiers on Rafale to burnish his argument.

There is a back story to this. During the MMRCA negotiations, Airbus/BAE which makes the Eurofighter had lost out to Rafale. The government has said that the earlier deal with Rafale during UPA rule was based on L1 or lowest bidder criterion and the new one for 36 fully-loaded fighters has different specs and there can be no equivalence between them. However, it considers itself to be still in the race for a fighter jet contract, which is why, apart from trying to getting Turker to use the more circuitous route to scupper the deal by providing cue notes to well-placed dissidents, Airbus/BAE sent proposals to the government highlighting why the Rafale deal is bad.

Meanwhile, Turker decided to cast the net wider. He met retired Indian Air Force officials, people with credibility in the system who could help his company, or failing that at least beat down Dassault’s case. He is also believed to have met IAS officer Rajeev Verma, who wrote a dissenting note on the Rafale deal as a member of the contract negotiation committee. There is no evidence that the note helped Airbus/BAE but it certainly did not help Verma. His career took a tumble thereafter.

Could the Congress party be pinning its entire strategy on the basis of inputs from a recently-met aerospace company official and a controversial arms dealer? The game gets bigger, more complicated, as it progresses. Indeed, it mirrors Indian politics where there are no permanent enemies. Enter, the son-in-law of a Modi acolyte who is with BAE.

Using old connections with the Gandhis, this man with deep links in the government has reportedly been able to provide a gist of what the naysayers in officialdom have to say of the Rafale purchase. That has added to the Congress party’s ammo against the government.

Then, the head of a private bank, who is also a key figure in BAE, is working in tandem with a prominent Congress politician in Mumbai. This too is about providing documents and information on the fighter jet deal. For the record, the Congress politician who is known to accompany the Congress President on foreign trips, had earlier been a key figure in an all-party young MPs forum that would meet regularly to identify issues on which they could work together beyond partisan divisions.

The Congress is playing the perception game and believes that the pushback on corruption is happening and the wheels of fortune have altered since 2014.

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Analysis

IED blasts signal new terror strategy in Kashmir

Terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammad claimed responsibility for the attack, said to be the deadliest in the last two decades. It is being termed as second only to the car bombing in 2001 which killed 38 persons. The Scorpio being driven by local Kashmiri Adil Ahmed from Kakpora in Pulwama was said to be carrying 350 kg of explosives.

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New Delhi, Feb 14 (IANS) The ghastly attack on a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) convoy in Jammu and Kashmir on Thursday killing 43 personnel indicates a significant tactical shift in the strategy of terrorists as security agencies fear that the vehicle-ramming assaults, last seen in 2001 Jammu and Kashmir Assembly car bombing, could become a new norm.

The agencies were already devising plans to deal with rising incidents of Improvised Explosive Device (IED) blasts which had returned to the state recently after a gap.

Terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammad claimed responsibility for the attack, said to be the deadliest in the last two decades. It is being termed as second only to the car bombing in 2001 which killed 38 persons. The Scorpio being driven by local Kashmiri Adil Ahmed from Kakpora in Pulwama was said to be carrying 350 kg of explosives.

Two Army personnel, including a Major, were killed in what was described as the deadliest IED attack in the Nowshera sector along the Line of Control (LoC) on January 11.

The return of IED blasts in Jammu and Kashmir after a gap of three years was first noticed in Sopore in Baramulla district last January when four policemen were killed in the attack. The incident had forced the Jammu and Kashmir police to work out a strategy to deal with IED blasts.

The CRPF has been battling such attacks in Chhattisgarh where Naxals have mastered the craft of using IEDs to an effect. The terror groups in the North-East have also used IEDs to attack security forces.

The tactics in Jammu and Kashmir, however, was different as the terrorists, generally small in numbers, would break into a military installation inflicting heavy casualties in the initial breakthrough and engaging the forces as long as possible.

The officials said the use of IEDs also indicates that there is desperation among terrorist groups after security forces have been able to eliminate top terrorists in a massive crackdown. The security forces killed 223 terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir in 2018, the highest in eight years.

The boots-on-the-ground strategy has forced the terror groups to change tactics as India has blunted Pakistan’s move to engage directly with separatists. Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi spoke to Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Syed Ali Shah Geelanit forcing India to warn of consequences.

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Analysis

Average Twitter users more active during disasters: Study

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New York, Feb 14 (IANS) Despite the importance placed on celebrity social media influencers with millions of followers, during natural disasters average Twitter users become more active disseminators of information, finds a study.

The study, led by University of Vermont researchers, is the first to look at social media patterns across different disaster types (hurricanes, floods and tornadoes).

According to the study, Twitter users with small local networks (100-200 followers) increase their activity more than those with larger networks in these situations.

Instead of relying on high-profile social media influencers to help spread important information, the study suggests efforts should be concentrated on targeting average users with meaningful networks, with compelling, accurate messages that average people will feel compelled to share in the “social wild online.”

“We found ‘average Twitter users’ tweeted more frequently about disasters, and focused on communicating key information,” said Benjamin Emery from the varsity’s Complex Systems Center and Computational Story Lab.

“While these users have fewer followers than the so-called influencers, their followers tend to have a higher proportion of friends and family, close networks that are more likely to seek and exchange useful information in emergency situations,” he added.

The results, published in the journal PLOS ONE, have important implications for organisations responsible for communicating vital information around emergencies, particularly as natural hazards increase in incidence and cost, a trend expected to continue with climate change.

“In planning for natural hazards and disasters, thinking about when and what to tweet really does matter,” said Meredith Niles from the varsity.

Researchers found key differences in tweet timing and volume, depending on type of disaster. For hurricanes, people tweeted more frequently about emergency topics before the event, while for tornadoes and floods, which occur with less warning, Twitter was used for real-time or recovery information.

They also found terms like “groceries,” “supermarket,” and “prepare” were most frequently used before hurricanes whereas terms like “shelter,” “emergency,” “wind” or “food security” were used during and after tornadoes.

This suggests people are communicating about their preparation or recovery in real-time and sharing resources that could assist those seeking help.

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