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TRAI puts new telecom licences on hold

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TRAI puts new telecom licences on hold

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – India’s telecoms regulator TRAI has asked the government not to issue new licences until it decides whether there is a need for more players in the crowded market, a move that could further delay entry of firms such as AT&T.

India has issued 281 licences for the country’s 22 telecoms zones, or up to 14 licencees per zone. These include 122 licences from 575 applications received in 2007 from 46 firms, including real-estate and technology firms with no telecoms experience.

“Sufficient competition seems to be already in place and spectrum is a scarce resource,” the government had said in a letter to the regulator recently.

The government had also sought the watchdog’s views on auctioning spectrum for 2G mobile standard, instead of the current practice of giving licencees entitlement for spectrum.

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Mumbai attack accused Kasab pleads guilty – police

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Mumbai attack accused Kasab pleads guilty – police

The lone surviving gunman from the Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people in November and raised tensions between India and Pakistan pleaded guilty in court, police said.

Pakistani citizen Mohammad Ajmal Kasab, 21, pleaded guilty in a Mumbai court and was recording his confession there, the police officer overseeing the probe into the attacks told Reuters.

“Yes, he has pleaded guilty in court today for the November attacks during a hearing,” senior police officer Rakesh Maria said.

Kasab, who had been videotaped carrying an AK-47 assault rifle while carrying out the assault on Mumbai’s main train station, had been charged with 86 separate offences including murder and waging war against India.

“He has confessed to his role and the fact that he was involved in the attacks that killed so many people during the attacks, the planning and the execution,” Maria told Reuters.

Kasab had pleaded not guilty in May. He was the only one of the 10 gunmen captured alive during the Nov. 26-28 attacks on targets including two luxury hotels, a Jewish centre and the train station.

India has charged 38 people including Kasab over the attack, but most of the accused are in Pakistan, the government says.

New Delhi has demanded Pakistan take concrete action against the perpetrators of the attacks before it will consider reopening five-year old peace talks it broke off after the attacks in November.

The assault on India’s financial capital raised tensions between the nuclear rivals who have been to war three times since their independence from Britain in 1947.

Both sides have exchanged angry rhetoric since the attack, with India saying the gunmen must have had support from official Pakistani agencies. Islamabad denies that, but has acknowledged that the raid had been launched and partly planned from Pakistan.

It has detained several Islamist leaders, including some whom India has named as planners of the guns-and-grenade assault on Mumbai.

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Clinton aims to deepen ties, dispel doubts in India

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Clinton aims to deepen ties, dispel doubts in India

WASHINGTON – july 16 – U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton leaves for India on Thursday on a high-profile mission to deepen ties and dispel any doubts about the U.S. commitment to New Delhi under U.S. President Barack Obama.

Despite Obama’s early focus on fighting the Taliban insurgencies in Afghanistan and Pakistan, aides say they fully understand India’s importance as a rising major power and they want to strengthen all aspects of the relationship.

“Everything is on the table,” Clinton said on Wednesday. “We’re going to do everything we can to broaden and deepen our engagement.”

U.S. officials hope they will come away from the trip, which includes two nights each in Mumbai and New Delhi and a visit to Thailand for a regional conference, with tangible accomplishments in at least three areas:

— signing an agreement to ensure that U.S. arms technology sold to India does not leak to third countries, a step required by U.S. law for arms sales by U.S. corporations;

— India’s announcement that it has reserved two sites for U.S. companies to build nuclear power plants, which could be worth as much as $10 billion in business for American firms;

— establishing a “strategic dialogue” between the two countries to be led by Clinton and Indian External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna.

All three, likely to be unveiled when Clinton visits New Delhi on Monday, could demonstrate that Obama’s commitment to the relationship equals that of his predecessor, George W. Bush.

INDIA’S RISE ON THE WORLD STAGE’

Bush’s signal achievement with India was to secure an agreement that ended a three-decade ban on nuclear commerce with New Delhi, helping India to meet its vast energy needs while opening a market worth billions to foreign companies.

“With the Bush administration, the policy was clearly that we supported India’s rise on the world stage,” said South Asia analyst Lisa Curtis of the Heritage Foundation think tank.

“Coming out of the Obama administration, there has been more focus on Afghanistan and Pakistan and that worries some Indians that the policy toward the whole region will be driven by U.S. goals in Afghanistan and Pakistan,” she added.

U.S. officials played down Clinton’s decision to skip India on her foreign first trip as secretary of state in February, when she visited China, and said they were constrained in approaching India ahead of its May parliamentary elections.

They also said they want to further cooperation in areas such as agriculture, education, counter-terrorism and defense.

NORMALIZING INDO-PAKISTANI TIES

Relations between India and Pakistan, which have fought two of their three wars since independence from Britain in 1947 over the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir, is one of the most nettlesome issues Clinton will discuss.

Indian officials are angry at what they see as Pakistan’s failure to act against the founder of Lashkar-e-Taiba, the militant group India blames for last year’s attacks on Mumbai, which killed at least 166 people.

Despite this dispute, which threatens to delay any formal resumption of a peace dialogue between the two countries, the Indian and Pakistani prime ministers are due to meet in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt on Thursday.

The United States is keenly interested in resumption of talks between the two countries to ease tensions on Pakistan’s eastern border with India so it can focus on fighting Taliban militants on its western border with Afghanistan.

U.S. analysts expected little to emerge on Pakistan during Clinton’s trip, saying the issue is too charged in India to air much in public and that in any case Clinton will want to stress U.S.-Indian ties.

Stephen Cohen, a South Asia specialist at the Brookings Institution think tank in Washington, said that U.S. and Indian officials should be speaking privately “about what kind of Pakistan we want to see emerge out of the crisis there.”

In addition to fighting the Taliban, Pakistan is grappling with major economic problems and with returning to civilian rule after years under former President Gen. Pervez Musharraf.

“Normalizing the India-Pakistan relationship should be at the top of the agenda,” Cohen said. “Especially now because you have got governments in both countries who would like to do this.”

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