• South Asia is one of the least connected regions in the world.
• Surface connectivity is virtually non-existent to our west. Trade between India
and Pakistan takes place mostly by sea. Trucks are not allowed to cross the
• Trans-shipment adds to cost, delay, damage and, in some cases, pilferage.
• The connectivity situation has improved dramatically in the eastern part of the
South Asian region after Sheikh Hasina’s visit to India in January 2010. First, it
was agreed that Bangladesh would allow use of Mongla and Chittagong sea
ports for movement of goods to and from India through road and rail.
• On railways, it was decided to build the Akhaura-Agartala missing link on the
eastern border of Bangladesh with India to be financed by a grant from India,
thereby enabling shorter rail access to Chittagong port. The alignment of this
line has just been finalised and is awaiting approval by the Bangladesh
SOUTH ASIA TOWARDS GREATER CONNECTIVITY?
• The US President also offered collaboration in areas of science and
technology and agriculture, which are also wholly welcome.
• While such offers lack the immediate appeal of a gesture against terror,
they hold enormous long-term potential, as past collaboration with the US
in creating the Green Revolution or in building the Indian Institutes of
Technology and Management amply bears testimony.
• But economic cooperation will have to visibly benefit both economies, and
not just India. India must accept the hand stretched out in friendship .
THE ECONOMY, YOU NERD
• To the uninitiated eye, members of the Pakistan Rangers and their Indian
counterparts, the Border Security Force (BSF), while lowering their
respective national flags, could pass off as indulging in some sub
continental version of St Vitus’ dance.
• Recently, though, reports emerged that the two sides were thinking of
toning down the ‘ceremony’. That all that boot-stomping was causing the
poor soldiers’ knees, spine and assorted bones and joints to creak and
• Pakistanis seem intent on letting a few more of their soldiers break their
TALE OF CREAKING JOINTS AT WAGAH
• The reported move of 30% partner ONGC to block $ 0.5 billion in
payments to Cairn Energy , the operator at Barmer, Rajasthan seems to
point at regulatory rigidities in upstream oil exploration and production
• The Directorate General of Hydrocarbons is mandated to verify and
review E&P works programme and attendant budget of fields/blocks.
• The objective ought to be to require that licensees adopt a ‘non-blocking
approach,’ and actively promote the principle of cooperative value
generation in E&P activity.
• Barmer is our biggest oil find in well over two decades, and we need to
fast-forward production and investment in the promising basin.
ROADBLOCK IN BARMER: CLEAR NORMS
NEEDED TO RAISE OUTPUT
• Reforms to make stamp duties uniform across the states will lower
transaction cost and improve compliance.
• A low ad-valorem rate of, say, 1%, like most countries, makes sense. States
have reportedly agreed to a uniform duty in a host of financial instruments
• Uniform stamp duty on property deals will end rate wars among states,
prevent under-declaration and curb black money generation. Sure, some
states, including Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra, have significantly
• The Indian Stamp Act overrides stamp laws across states. A consensus
among states will enable the Centre to amend the Indian Stamp Act,
without the states having to amend their own legislation. The real estate
sector should be free from multiple taxes at the central and state level: it
will end the cascading of taxes and help better price discovery.
DON'T LEAVE OUT REAL ESTATE
• Facebook, rumoured for some time to be planning its own email service,
may finally be on the verge of doing so in a move that would send a shot
across the bow of Google, Yahoo ! and Microsoft.
• TechCrunch, a leading Silicon Valley technology blog, reported Friday that
the social network plans to announce a Web-based email service complete
with @facebook.com addresses at an event in San Francisco on Monday.
• Facebook boasts more than 500 million members around the world and
offering a personal email service would lay down a powerful challenge to
the established email giants -- Microsoft's Hotmail, Yahoo! Mail and
• Hotmail currently has the most users, 361.7 million as of September,
according to online tracking firm comScore, followed by Yahoo! with 273.1
million and Gmail with 193.3 million.
FACEBOOK MAY BE POISED TO LAUNCH EMAIL