pondelok, 4. júla 2011

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  • ssa
    06-25 02:33 PM
    I am not foreclosed and neither is anyone I know. Who do you know is foreclosed? Were they smart or stupid in their investment? How much did they put down? Did they crunch the numbers and do the math?

    You do not invest without a plan to cover all scenarios and you definitely do not invest beyond your means. The people that caused the meltdown and caused foreclosures couldnt afford the property to begin with. Is that you? Do you fit into that category? If so, do not buy.
    There are many homeowners who are underwater but not foreclosed. That does not make it a good investment. All I'm pointing out is unless your property's rent covers your monthly mortgage+property tax+insurance+maintenance and upkeep it can not be called a good investment. You should have positive (at least non negative) cash flow out of your rental properties. Is this a general case? I think not. At least in my area I'm 100% sure rent does not cover mortgage and the difference between the two is significant.

    If you have a negative cash flow on your rental properties then the only thing you are betting on is price appreciation of your properties (above inflation) in future which is speculation again.




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  • gcdreamer05
    03-23 03:36 PM
    People who got GC are not facing any waves. That is why we need to get GC asap. If we struck in the GC process though we have a strong profile (careerwise, w2wise, taxwise, educationwise etc), we need to face waves like recession wave, backlog/perm wave, merging wave, economy wave, I140premium/nopremium wave, bipart wave, 2001 eb3stuck wave, magic visa bulletin wave, technology wave, visa stamping wave, uscis reform wave, dol wave, bulletin wave..


    Agree 200% with you, except that i would replace waves with psunami's - recession psunami, bi part psunami, eb3stuck psunami..........




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  • kak1978
    06-05 10:46 AM
    http://seattlebubble.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/home-price-to-rent_2009-01.png

    Althought this is just for seattle area, this trend is more or less the same nationwide.

    According to this graph we need to wait out atleast one more year for the Rent - to- Price ratio to come down to the historical averages. But you get the Federal first -time home owner credit of $8000 (more in CA) only if you buy before the end of this year. So in my opinion, a good time to buy a house is in the month of december this year, if not the best time to buy. Now this is with an assumsion that mortgage rates don't rise substantially.




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  • rbalaji5
    07-13 02:03 PM
    But the same 100-0 logic can be applied between EB1 and Eb2-India. How does EB1 of 2008 get it immediately but EB2-I waits more than 4 years (speaking for myself here) -clearly preference is at play here. if that makes sense then a 100-0 ratio for EB2/EB3 also makes sense
    Honestly nothing makes sense - I am only trying to derive a rationale for the spill over logic used by DOS/USCIS.

    What you said is correct.?.

    EB2 has more experience / advance degree compared to EB3. EB1 has more advanced than EB2.

    Can you give preference to 12th Standard guy instead of Engineering guy.

    I agree with Pappu

    Each employment based categories are for different levels.

    Wakeup EB2s..



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  • alterego
    04-06 09:35 AM
    I think you missed my point. I was not trying to connect the ARM reset schedule with write-offs at wall street firms. Instead, I was trying to point out that there will be increased number of foreclosures as those ARMs reset over the next 36 months.

    The next phase of the logic is: increased foreclosures will lead to increased inventory, which leads to lower prices, which leads to still more foreclosures and "walk aways" (people -citizens- who just dont want to pay the high mortgages any more since it is way cheaper to rent). This leads to still lower prices. Prices will likely stabilize when it is cheaper to buy vs. rent. Right now that calculus is inverted. In many bubble areas (both coasts, at a minimum) you would pay significantly more to buy than to rent (2X or more per month with a conventional mortgage in some good areas).

    On the whole, I will debate only on financial and rational points. I am not going to question someone's emotional position on "homeownership." It is too complicated to extract someone out of their strongly held beliefs about how it is better to pay your own mortgage than someone elses, etc. All that is hubris that is ingrained from 5+ years of abnormally strong rising prices.

    Let us say that you have two kids, age 2 and 5. The 5 year old is entering kindergarten next fall. You decide to buy in a good school district this year. Since your main decision was based on school choice, let us say that your investment horizon is 16 years (the year your 2 year old will finish high school at age 18).

    Let us further assume that you will buy a house at the price of $600,000 in Bergen County, with 20% down ($120,000) this summer. The terms of the loan are 30 year fixed, 5.75% APR. This loan payment alone is $2800 per month. On top of that you will be paying at least 1.5% of value in property taxes, around $9,000 per year, or around $750 per month. Insurance will cost you around $1500 - $2000 per year, or another $150 or so per month. So your total committed payments will be around $3,700 per month.

    You will pay for yard work (unless you are a do-it-yourself-er), and maintenance, and through the nose for utilities because a big house costs big to heat and cool. (Summers are OK, but desis want their houses warm enough in the winter for a lungi or veshti:))

    Let us assume further that in Bergen county, you can rent something bigger and more comfortable than your 1200 sq ft apartment from a private party for around $2000. So your rental cost to house payment ratio is around 1.8X (3700/2000).

    Let us say further that the market drops 30% conservatively (will likely be more), from today through bottom in 4 years. Your $600k house will be worth 30% less, i.e. $420,000. Your loan will still be worth around $450k. If you needed to sell at this point in time, with 6% selling cost, you will need to bring cash to closing as a seller i.e., you are screwed. At escrow, you will need to pay off the loan of $450k, and pay 6% closing costs, which means you need to bring $450k+$25k-$420k = $55,000 to closing.

    So you stand to lose:

    1. Your down payment of $120k
    2. Your cash at closing if you sell in 4 years: $55k
    3. Rental differential: 48 months X (3700 - 2000) = $81k

    Total potential loss: $250,000!!!

    This is not a "nightmare scenario" but a very real one. It is happenning right now in many parts of the country, and is just now hitting the more populated areas of the two coasts. There is still more to come.

    My 2 cents for you guys, desi bhais, please do what you need to do, but keep your eyes open. This time the downturn is very different from the business-investment related downturn that followed the dot com bust earlier this decade.

    The truth is probably between the extreme pessimism in this post and the unbridled optimism in other posts.

    Never trust what realtors tell you, they are in it to make a sale and it is always in their interest to talk up the market. I have never yet seen/read/heard a realtor speak negatively about the market. Even if they are asked an obvious question like do you think prices have fallen in the last year they will say they have trended down a little but the foreclosure crisis is over now, and the fed is acting decisively and the demographics speak to a longer term secular uptrend bla bla blaaaaaaaaaaaaaa. Some BS to justify their talk.

    The bottom line is there will be a hangover of a few years from this unprecedented bubble in housing, it will be more severe in hotspot areas we all know about. In those areas you will likely see a 25-30% drop with about half of it already baked in, another half spread out more slowly over the next 3 yrs that that graph illustrated. Additionally the inflation rate of 3-4%(you can expect an uptick over the next 2-3 yrs) will eat away another few percentage points of your capital , while also eating away at your loan.
    The net effect is that you would be another 20% or so the worse off in these hotbed areas in the next 3-4 yrs. In more steady areas, that fall will be much more muted perhaps half or less of that. However sales will slow to a crawl with the slowing jobs market.

    The main determinants of house prices are.

    1) Inventory............a negative right now.

    2) Credit............negative but with scope for improvement in the next 12 mths.

    3) Jobs...........likely to be down for the next 6 months atleast.

    4) Salaries..................Global pressures on these will likley persist with some tax help to average americans likley if Dems. take control.

    5) Market psychology...................likely damaged for the near term atleast 12 mths.

    6) The replacement value of homes. Land is a non factor here in this country. I scoff at suggestions to the contrary. Even in cities with restrictions, this is a yawn yawn factor. Unless you are speaking about downtown manhattan it is not a factor. Construction costs on the other hand are a factor. A value of $100 per Sq Ft of constructed value is perhaps par for the course right now, that can only go up, with rising commodity prices, salaries for construction with illegals kicked out etc over time this will go up.

    7) Rental rates to home prices. This too will catch up. Folks kicked out of sub prime mortgage homes need to go somewhere. They will likley drive demand for rentals.

    All of this points to a fast then a slow correction. I think we are nearing the end of the fast phase of home price correction. 20-25% in hotbed areas and 7-12% in other areas. I think you will see a more gradual correction of a similar magnitude spread over 3-4 yrs now.

    Lets see how it all unfolds.

    Remember Every drinking binge has a hangover! The US housing market is now in one.




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  • dealsnet
    01-08 03:24 PM
    Refugee_new is a moron. He send me 5 profane message. He started the tread and he abusing the people responded in his tread. What he achived??
    He achieved the opposite effect. Now many people understand who is the problem maker. He is a potential terrorist. Admin must inform his location by giving his IP address to FBI or other law enforcement offices. It is our duty to protect this country from furthur attacks from fanatics.

    I did report to admin, they didn't take any action to the guy send the vulgar messages. Now warning the people copy pasted them.!!!!
    funny world!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I just copied and pasted the coward Refugee_New's msg to me. I'll be careful about 'quoting others' also!

    Did you consider banning him?



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  • DSJ
    05-16 09:59 AM
    :p :p I like this most. Lets move on...

    Let�s worry about our survival rather than the survival of TCS, Infy etc.




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  • sledge_hammer
    06-08 10:44 AM
    There you go - "inflation"! This is another reason why investing in a house makes so much sense (iff your gc/job etc are sorted out).

    Let's say you buy a house today for $300,000, and you're paying $2,000 towards your monthly mortgage. Even if you don't build too much equity on it because of the falling real estate, you will STILL come out better because inflation will make sure that your monthly payments of $2,000 in 2019 will really become $1,500 in today's money.

    But if you continue to rent, you will pay let's say $2,000 today in rent, and 10 years from now you'll be paying $2,500, and you don't have a home to call your own!!!

    During times of inflation, commodities, home, etc are the winners.

    Thread gets more interesting...way of life..love the way it transformed from home buying good/bad to sound investment advice...here is my bit:

    With all the $$ spending by government, inflation is inevitable. FED can try to fight it by increasing interest rates, but that will open another box of worms. In a hurry now and will post a detailed discussion later about interest rates, fed and inflation..very interesting indeed

    my take is gold...solid investment in these times and a proven hedge against inflation

    goodluck guys..more later



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  • sc3
    08-05 06:48 PM
    Here we go again. EB2 is fraud, they are all really EB3, but guess what? All the bright EB3s are really EB2, they are all suffering needlesly. Right?

    Here's my take (I don't even believe it but I think you deserve to hear it)- I think EB3s like you are the real frauds. If immigration law were followed to the T, plenty of EB3s would never get a GC. So many Americans with basic skills that can do silly coding - hell a monkey can do it. So enjoy what you have.

    How did you like the sound of that pal? If it felt wrong and offensive, then first shut your own gob and stop posting crap about "most EB2s".

    Just fyi I have been here loger than you- by quite a lot. So if that's the qualification, I have "seen" a lot too.

    I dont know whom you are responding to but...

    So Eb2 does not do silly coding??!!. Get a reality check. The jobs that Eb3 and EB2 does are pretty much the same. The same monkey can do the jobs of EB2 too, so I fail to see you point.

    Also, the law does not just state that there are no qualified -- there is also a willing clause. There might be Americans who can do the job, but such Americans may not want to relocate etc.


    Over the lot of arguments I have seen Eb2 claiming to be superior, please disabuse yourselves of it. I am Eb3, but I lord over Eb2, and the same EB2s lord over me depending on particular expertise and problem that is being solved, that is business. No, I am not talking about telling EB2s how to switch on their computers. I am talking about hardcore technical issues.




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  • mirage
    02-12 08:57 PM
    On the ground does it solve any purpose ? India remains as prone for more attacks as it was 2 months or 2 years ago...
    Finally Pak agreed Mumbai terror attacks are partly planned on its soil. I hope they come back after few months and say ISI partly involved.


    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/7886469.stm



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  • vamsi_poondla
    09-30 10:30 PM
    Rightly said. This is the case with most of us mpadapa. We too are in the process of starting Australia PR. Perth area, while not as great as Silicon Valley, according to many, is a breeding ground for innovation.

    I cannot let this uncertainty - whether Obama's immigration policy will be same as Durbin's immigration policy for highly skilled immigrants - ruin my future. I have a career ahead and want to be in control of my fate.

    When I visited Statue Of Liberty last week, I had a strange feeling. First time I suspected that it is an age old fable that America used to accept immigrants with open arms to flourish - grow and contribute back. It seems too good to be true because our GC process is so irrational. 8 years wait for becoming PR in contrast with other western democracies could do it in < 5 years with a smoother process. Something wrong here.



    If Obama becomes president can he restore the faith of high-skilled immigrant who play by the books and still have to wait for decades to get their Green Card.

    After graduating with a Electrical engg degree from a top school in India, I got a job with a world leading semiconductor company. I first came to USA almost 12 years ago on a business trip as part of a multinational chip design effort for high end Telecommunication market. I was very impressed with the group of professionals I worked with. I felt the work environment stimulated the creativity in me and brought the best out of me. After the short trip I went back to my home country but that visit left a lasting impression on me and I felt USA would be the place I can further my professional abilities. Couple of years later, I came to USA for my Masters to embark on that journey. Even though I graduated when the US economy was in recession (2001), my unique skill set was much sought after and hence I got a job with a R&D startup division of a popular Japanese company. Working with a great group of professionals brought out the creativity in me. I currently have 10 US patents. The sailing was smooth until I started my Green Card process. The outdated immigration system and the long wait in the limbo state has been impacting my professional and personal life. I am starting to doubt that my American dream is slipping away day by day. I hope if Obama becomes the president he would restore some credibility to my faith in the immigration system. But if Sen. Durbin is driving Obama's immigration policy then I fear even more long waits for high-skilled immigrants because of Sen. Durbin's aggressive stance against H1B's. Mean while I have started to look at immigrant friendly countries like Australia and Canada as my possible future destination. Due to too much headaches with immigration process my Director had decided not to hire any more foreign workers, this decision has crippled our divisions expansion as most of the interested candidates require H1's. All the new projects which otherwise would have started in USA has moved to other places all because of the broken immigration process.

    Obama has mentioned many times on the campaign trail that "his education" is the reason why he has risen to where he is now. I feel Obama is a person who values higher education and high-skilled professional and I do have great faith in Obama's skills, I hope he takes a strong stance on the need to reform the high-skilled immigration system.

    Many have been looking at the high-skilled immigrants through a narrow pin hole, even Sen Durbin has been swayed by such critics. NFAP report shows that almost 50% of the private venture backed companies started between 1995 and 2005 are founded by immigrants. Guess what Sen. Durbin and high-skilled immigrant critics majority of those immigrants would've taken the route of H1 -> GreenCard -> US citizen. The companies started by those immigrants employ thousands of Americans and millions in tax revenue. Then why is America so hostile towards the same high-skilled immigration system which in the long run benefits America. Why are Sen. Durbin so short sighted on the high-skilled immigration system? Hope Obama can look at the high-skilled immigration system with a long term perspective and persuade his colleagues in Congress to enact a legislation to fix this broken system.

    Here is the link to the NFAP report which I talked about

    http://www.nfap.com/researchactivities/studies/immigrant_entreprenuers_professionals_november_200 6.pdf




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  • langagadu
    02-12 06:45 PM
    Finally Pak agreed Mumbai terror attacks are partly planned on its soil. I hope they come back after few months and say ISI partly involved.


    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/7886469.stm



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  • Carlau
    08-12 07:14 PM
    If you enter http://www.flcdatacenter.com/CaseH1B.aspx
    H-1B efile 2005
    employer cable news
    state Georgia
    You will see many H-1B positions but one of these is "Systems Software Developer" valid from Jan 2005 to Jan 2008, something that according to him, America is not short of.




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  • chandlerguy98
    09-26 12:39 PM
    I know CIR was not very friendly.I do not beleive the CIR that comes up next year would be the same exact CIR as 2007. Because we have had varied versions of CIR from 05,06&07. I believe the CIR 09 will be much more friendly to us.even look at CIR 2007, sec 502,503, it increases EB quota to 450K and increases per country cap and Also has provisions for visa re capture. Also i dont think CIR 2009 will be written by Durbin. CIR 07 was mainly written by Kennedy not Durbin. I know Durbin hates H1&EB but i believe he is a minority opnion in a majority of democrats. so dont loose hope..Also what Obama during last CIR was an election ploy..We know mccain in his heart is friendly towards immigrants, but to win republicans he is showing he is tough on immigration. The same way with obama, to please labor unions, he put a show during CIR 07. I personally feel none of this matters when they become presidents, they will govern with majority opinion. I dont think majority opinion hates EB&GC. Heck dubya was against nation building when he ran for president and now he stuck with rebuilding irag for years to come.



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  • unitednations
    08-08 04:26 PM
    UN,

    Glad to see you back in the forums!

    Do you have any idea why attorneys strongly discourage their clients to travel after filing 485 but before receiving the receipt notices?

    If you have a H/L visa it may not problem to re-enter US with your visa, but will it affect the 485 filing if you did not have the receipt notice when you traveled outside?

    I had posted before. They don't know exactly when they are going to send out the case. They may have told you they sent it and then you go and they actually send it later and you were not in usa when uscis received it.

    package gets returned due to missing signatures, initial evidence, etc. and they need you to be here to file it again.

    Leaving after August 17th if you have a valid h or L visa you are safe even without the receipt notices.




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  • unseenguy
    06-26 06:04 PM
    A lot of bickering going on in this thread is because many of us (including yours truely) find it very difficult to understand/calculate
    1. Time Value of money (Wiki Link (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Time_value_of_money)).
    2. Cash Flow (Wiki Link (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cash_flow))
    3. Risk, not the english term - but the quantifiable aspects of it (Wiki link (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Risk))
    4. Leverage (Wiki Link (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leverage_(finance)))

    I have worked on many of these concepts for > 2 years at work (I am a techie - but have also worked as a BA and part time quant for some time). I still personally find it very difficult to intuitively understand many of those concepts.

    A proper conclusion of whether buying is better or renting is would involve each and every one of these concepts - and a lot of assumptions (what will be rate of inflation, how will the home prices behave etc). Since there would be so many assumptions - I doubt it will be at all possible to arrive at any definitive conclusion. Your best bet would probably be a monte carlo analysis and see which one is more probably the superior one.

    So surprise of surprises - there is no "right answer"!!

    That said - I personally follow the a modified model of "dynamic programming" that my college taught me in the 2nd year of bachelors. You CAN NOT estimate future variables with ANY accuracy. So optimize your present steps based on some cost function.

    Applying that to the present problem - you CAN NOT estimate how the home prices will behave in future or how will the rent be or how will the inflation (or - horror of horrors - deflation) behave. The only thing you can optimize is your cash flow TODAY and the Present Value of any investment you hold. Present value = market value of your equity (even if the price is 40% lower than when you bought). Your "cost function" (maybe we should rename it to "wealth function") that you are trying to optimize is your net worth.

    The result of the "dynamic programming" approach if probably not going to be the most optimal - but it will be the best that I know of. :-)

    Best of luck guys.

    Hi Puddon head :

    Thanks for putting this all together. I support mathematical approaches. Monte carlo analysis is a good approach and it will always present the most pessimistic scenario.

    For optimistic analysis you can use, 3 or 6 point analysis like, (P + O + 4*ML)/6. Although ML in this situation is a tricky part.

    I agree that you are going to end up with a range rather than any specific number. I also agree that it is crucial to get the Most likely range with acceptable standard deviation :)

    You can use six sigma approach also :) ;) (just kidding on this last one).



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  • bfadlia
    01-08 11:04 AM
    If you don't got the greencard, good luck for that. Please don't discuss any religious things here. It make others furious. Concentrate on your carrer and family. Belief in God is enough. Religion will give misery only. Man made the religion. God didn't created it.

    i'm really confused, my posts asked people not to let religion interfere with a political issue, you responded educating us on the salvation and trinity and disproving Mohamed's message.. which one of us was discussing religion..
    And still how does this justify you being racist to egyptians?!




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  • shanti
    08-11 01:59 PM
    http://www.h1b.info/lca_job_list.php?name=CNN+AMERICA+INC&company=cnn&city=&state=&year=ALL
    Nice to send to Lou :)




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  • nogc_noproblem
    08-06 02:12 PM
    A man spoke frantically into the phone: "She's pregnant, in labor and her contractions are only 2 minutes apart!!"

    "Is this her first child?" asked the Doctor.

    "NO, YOU IDIOT" the man shouted, "This is her husband!"




    rinku1112
    12-28 03:24 PM
    While I would love India to retaliate in some fashion on Paki soil to show them that there are going to be consequences for messing on Indian soil, I think this is not the time to strike overtly on Pakistan however.

    Why now is not the right time?

    Because this whole War hysteria is mostly being whipped by one side - Pakistan. Immediately after Mumbai atrocities there were street protests organized by Islamic fundoos like Jamat-ud-Dawa, JeM, etc in major cities in Pak to protest against India. They were supposedly protesting because India is going to attack Pakistan! Most Indians were amused at that time as they were busy attacking their own politicians at that time for their Intelligence failures. This shows to some extent that something else is going on here and Pakistan army or elements within it want tensions on Indian border.

    Why will they want that on Indian border in case it boils over into a war that they will never win? Because the Americans on Pak's western border are putting a lot of pressure on Paki Army to attack the Taliban and other Islamic fundamentalist nut cases that their own Intelligence arm - ISI - has helped train and arm. These nut cases are their assets for all the covert attacks on India to keep it tied down in Kashmir and elsewhere.

    Besides they know that India will never attack and even if they did the International community will be pissing in their pants (including US) about the prospects of Nuclear armageddon and come to Pakis' rescue with a ceasefire call. Zardari and his Civilian Govt. Institutions will take the blame in Pakistan for succumbing to international pressure and stopping the brave Paki army from decimating kafir/powerless Indians. Army will announce a coup promising more security against India and overthrow Zardari/Gilani or whoever and entrench themselves again back in power for another decade.

    What will America do?

    US and rest of the world while shaking with fear about the nuclear war that was averted will start focusing foolishly (or maybe for their own clandestine gain) on Kashmir as the core issue and pressure India to give it freedom! What more does Paki army need? India-Pak hypenation is back so that Pakis feel important in International circles again. Tensions alive on their Eastern border to keep the army as center of focus and power internally in Pakistan. Covert terrorism in Kashmir will again resume with all the international attention on it, and Indian army and diplomacy is tied down there, and all the Taliban and other Islamic nut cases that they trained and armed have a cause to give up their worthless lives and not be fighting the Paki army for achieving their goal of going to heaven for quality time with some virgins.

    Besides Americans dont care if Kashmir is blowing up - infact they would love to see an independant state their to get a leg firmly in South Asia.

    So what should India do?

    Not go to war overtly now. Start covert operations inside Pakistan on war footing and start funding and support for Balochi, Sindi, Mohajir, Pushtun, Baltistan freedom movements inside Pakistan. If there is any other terrorist attack in India, activate these people inside Pakistan to blow up their prime targets - Muridke headquarters of Jaamat-ud-Dawa for instance. Assinations of ISI officers, encourage suicide attacks on their army camps, cantonments. In other words make them feel the cost of any further attacks inside India, but covertly. And also take the covert proxy war to their soil.

    For now, India should not attack Pakistan and give their army an excuse to squirm away from fighting their own created Franenstein monster - Islamic Jehadists on Western border. Indian army should sit back, relax and let the Paki army take their own creation on their Western front.

    I hope the internal politics inside India dont come in the way of the above goal.




    Macaca
    12-27 07:04 PM
    2010: India's undeclared year of Africa (http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/article995759.ece) By RAJIV BHATIA | The Hindu

    An objective evaluation of changing contours of our engagement with Africa, especially in light of significant developments in 2010, might interest Africa watchers and others.

    Conceptual richness and consistency appear to characterise recent interactions, although their impact may still take a while to be felt tangibly.

    Backdrop

    If the period from our Independence to the end of the 1980s was marked by India's close involvement with Africa in political affairs, peacekeeping, training, culture and education, the 1990s turned out to be a lost decade. That was the time when policy makers were busy trying to re-adapt India's foreign policy to the post-Cold War world. Subsequently, the Africans' unhappiness with their neglect by India, China's rapidly growing profile on the continent, and the enhanced dynamism of India Inc. combined to initiate a renewal of India-Africa relations. The Government's three initiatives, namely the ‘Focus Africa Programme' under Exim policy for 2002-07, the ‘Techno-Economic Approach for Africa and India Movement' or TEAM-9 programme, launched in 2004 to upgrade economic relations with West Africa, and the Pan-African e-Network started in 2007, helped in sending the signal that India had not vacated space in Africa for others.

    In this backdrop, the India-Africa Forum Summit (IAFS) in 2008 represented a veritable high point, showcasing a new, vibrant India as well as its reinvigorated Africa policy. The following year was a relative disappointment. But, developments during 2010 seem to have put India's engagement with Africa on a fast track.

    Highlights

    India played host to at least eight high-level African dignitaries, one each from the Seychelles, Ghana, South Africa, Botswana, Mozambique, Kenya, Malawi and Ethiopia. Visits by presidents, prime ministers and other VIPs throughout the year demonstrated that Africa was keen to expand political and development cooperation with India. Armando Guebuza, President of Mozambique, endorsed India's approach towards Africa, expressing readiness “to raise the (bilateral relationship) to a strategic partnership.” Hailemariam Desalegn, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Ethiopia, chose to accord high importance to economic issues. Following a productive meeting of the joint commission, the two sides decided, “to infuse the close political relationship with greater economic content.” The visit by South African President Jacob Zuma helped in re-defining the bilateral agenda and re-launching the joint CEOs Forum.

    Happily, Indian leaders found time to visit Africa in 2010. Vice-President Hamid Ansari's three-country tour covering Zambia, Malawi and Botswana was a notable success. Given his credentials, he was able to evoke old memories of deep political and emotional affinity as well as highlight mutuality of interests and the need for expansion of economic cooperation, thus lending a contemporary character to age-old ties. That he backed it with the announcement of credits and grants (for the three countries) amounting to about $200 million, in addition to credit lines valued at $60 million that were operational prior to the visit, showed India's new strength. This was on display again as the Government agreed to arrange major lines of credits for others: $705 million for Ethiopia for sugar and power sector development and $500 million for Mozambique for infrastructure, agriculture and energy projects.

    The decision by the IAFS to set aside $5.4 billion for lines of credit and $500 million for human resource development during a five-year period means that now nearly $1 billion a year is available for cooperation with Africa. Utilising India's new financial muscle, an ambitious expansion of training programmes for the benefit of Africans is being attempted at present.

    External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna got a direct feel of issues and personalities on his visit to the Seychelles, Mauritius and Mozambique. As these are all Indian Ocean countries, the strategic dimension of cooperation, especially relating to piracy, terrorism and changing foreign maritime presence, received considerable attention during his discussions. Later the minister, talking to a group of African journalists visiting India, emphasised that our relationship with Africa had “transformed”, with the two sides becoming “development partners looking out for each other's interests and well-being.”

    Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma undertook visits to South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana and Kenya. He was instrumental in facilitating and moulding business-to-business dialogues in all the countries visited, with the help of organisations such as the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI). For business level exchanges, however, the most significant event in the year was CII-Exim Bank Conclave, held in Delhi in March. About 1,000 delegates attended it, half of whom were from various African countries.

    Bilateral trade

    Bilateral India-Africa trade, which stood at about $1 billion in 2001, has now reached the $40 billion mark. It is an encouraging growth. Figures about India's investments in Africa are confusing, but by taking an average of the figures of cumulative investments released by the Reserve Bank, the CII and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), one could place a value of $50 billion on them.

    Three other highlights need to be mentioned here. First, India hosted a meeting of top officials of Africa's Regional Economic Communities (RECs). A first of its kind, the meeting was attended by six of the eight RECs, namely Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), East African Community (EAC), Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Southern African Development Community (SADC), Community of Sahel-Saharan States (CEN-SAD) and United Nations Association/Arab Maghreb Union (UNA/AMU). It gave them the opportunity to interact with numerous Ministries and business enterprises. Coverage of areas viz stock exchanges, small industry, food processing, infrastructure, IT and telecommunications was quite wide. The visitors expressed “gratitude” to India for the initiative “to recognise the regional dimension of Africa's development.”

    Second, top officials of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) undertook visits to Kampala and Addis Ababa in order to carry forward India's dialogue with the African Union (AU) for nurturing ties at the continental level. On the sidelines of its 15th Summit in Kampala in July, Jean Ping, Chairman of the African Union Commission (AUC), expressed immense satisfaction at the model of engagement created by India, adding that it was “the most unique and preferred of Africa's partnerships.” In plain language, he seemed to confirm the view that among many suitors of Africa, both old and new, the two most active are China and India. Ping was also happy with “the determined pace at which implementation (of IAFS decisions) has been undertaken.” However, this might have been more credible had the two sides announced, by now, the venue and timing of the second IAFS.

    Third, a boost to our Africa diplomacy came with the announcement of the Hermes Prize for Innovation 2010 for India's Pan-African e-Network project. The prize was given by the European Institute of Creative Strategies and Innovation, a prestigious think tank. It called the project as “the most ambitious programme of distance education and tele-medicine in Africa ever undertaken.”\

    A few tips

    While moving determinedly to strengthen relations with Africa, the Government needs to do more. African diplomats still speak of the deficit in India's political visibility. Therefore, our President and Prime Minister should find time to visit Africa in 2011. More visits by Mr. Krishna would be helpful. Implementation of the first IAFS decisions, though improving, needs to be speeded up. India Inc. should be more active. In preparing for the second IAFS, South Block should draw from outside expertise. The civil society's potential to strengthen people-to-people relations should be tapped optimally. By according higher attention to Africa, the media could serve as a valuable bridge of mutual understanding.

    Finally, India should declare and celebrate 2011 as its Africa Year.

    The author is former High Commissioner to South Africa, Lesotho and Kenya

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