Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Propaganda art in the Islamic Republic - V

In support of Palestine, the mural reads "My children, I do love, but martyrdom I love more." Even if these murals are omnipresent, they, more often than not, portray only the official line of thought in Iran.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

After Mittal, it's Mallya's turn in France

India Inc up against economic patriotism

Press Trust of India

New Delhi, May 30: What's common between Vijay Mallya, Ratan Tata and L N Mittal besides the fact that they are all India-born entrepreneurs looking to dominate global business? All three are victims of economic patriotism in foreign soil.

It came as no surprise when Mallya's United Breweries announced yesterday it was opting out of the race to acquire French champagne maker Taittinger after resistance from local groups to his bid. Mittal and Tata have already been there, done that.

While opposition to Mittal's bid to acquire Luxembourg- based rival Arcelor is something that legends are made of, Tata too is hearing voices of discord to its two billion dollar investment proposal in neighbouring Bangladesh.

Energy experts in Bangladesh, while speaking at a seminar yesterday on "Investment proposal of Tata and the national interest: A review" in Dhaka University, went to the extent of saying that Tata would not have dared to put forward such an investment proposal if Dhaka had had a government that was accountable and transparent.

In France, local groups had appealed to champagne Taittinger's US owner Starwood group to sell the brewery to a French bidder.

Opponents to Mallya's bid were more vocal over the Internet, with an Italian blogger saying that it was unimaginable that a Taittinger bottle would be labelled in Hindi, if the Indian liquor baron took over the firm.

The 'champions of economic patriotism' in Dhaka claimed that the deal would force the government to provide a high subsidy to a foreign company from taxpayers' hard-earned money, while making the country's energy security vulnerable to potential threats. Tatas' investment proposal includes setting up a 2.4 million tonne steel plant, a 1,000 mw power plant and a fertiliser plant.

While denying any ‘anti-India’ sentiments, the lobby opposing the investment said that Tata has made this proposal only because it would not get gas at a cheaper price anywhere else in the world.

The industry experts said earlier this month at a roundtable conference of the national committee for protecting oil-gas-mineral resources and electricity-port that the investment deal with the Indian conglomerate would be 'suicidal' for Bangladesh.

In the Mallya-Taittinger case, UB Group known for its aggressive acquisition policies had earlier said that the company was aware of the possible roadblocks to be faced in its bid to acquire the French company.

However, Mallya deciced to go ahead with the bid as the approval of workers' council was not required for ratifying the deal in the event of UB Group winning the bid, sources said. Mallya was also banking on close ties with the French government, which he had established after Kingfisher Airlines placed an order worth more than 6 billion dollars with French aircraft major Airbus, sources added.

However, the French government decided against lending any support to Mallya as a successful acquisition could have given nationalists playing the card of 'economic patriotism' a shot in arm, especially after the recent furore over Mittal's bid for Arcelor, an academician studying trends in the global M&A market said.

Incidentally, there were two French bidders along with a member of Taittinger family in the race for Taittinger, besides UB Group.

Last week also saw Mittal, the world's largest steel maker, being stunned by Arcelor, which decided to merger with Russia-based Severstal. Trouble was also brewing for Mittal in distant South Africa, where union workers are planning a revolt against his lay off policies. The National Union of Metal Workers of South Africa has decided to launch a series of protests against Mittal steel while seeking government intervention in the ongoing restructuring of Mittal Steel South Africa and the company's lay-off policies.

While commenting on the continuing opposition to his take over bid of Arcelor, Mittal Steel CEO L N Mittal had aptly summed up, "if a company like ours faces resistance for merger, it could affect businessmen in India who are aspiring to expand globally."

Though India has expressed concerns about racism in the business space and European governments have denied it, experts point out that 'economic patriotism' does play a role when it comes to clinching business deals in foreign soil as evident from Arcelor CEO Guy Dolle's statement that Arcelor was Europe's ‘crown jewel’ and its success was vital to Europe's overall economic health.

Why is the Indian middle class so selfish?

As the reservation dispute rages on, one thing that shocks me about the English press in India is its blatant support for the anti-quota protestors. I fail to recall any decent coverage of pro-quota demonstrators. This article from Hindustan Times really gets my gall and proves my point... Specially, the last line, "Dear minister, it's time to pray." That's sound's more like a line out of a mafia film than journalism. Read Vinod Mehta's piece on why the middle class seems so hostile to the empowerment of the poor in India.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Iran at its best

Nothing can beat the array of dried fruits in Iran...

Friday, May 26, 2006

Propaganda art in the Islamic Republic - IV

Two of the most virulent murals in Tehran. I think they have been there for a long time and have come to define Iranian hostility for the US. The first one has been sourced from the Internet and has "Death to America" written on it in Farsi. As for the second, it's painted on the outer wall of the former American embassy.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Late spring (or early summer?) blossoms in New Delhi

Even in the searing heat of May, Amaltash trees add so much magic to Delhi's roads...

National Post apologises for anti-Iran story

But the harm's already been done... This story is sure going to be picked up by Iranians to support their claim that the West is hell-bent on maligning them. Wonder where has media responsibility vanished, especially during these difficult times?

From Reuters

Wed May 24, 12:31 PM ET

A Canadian newspaper apologized on Wednesday for a story that said Iran planned to force Jews and other religious minorities to wear distinctive clothing to distinguish themselves from Muslims.

The conservative National Post ran the story on its front page last Friday along with a large photo from 1944 which showed a Hungarian couple wearing the yellow stars that the Nazis forced Jews to sew to their clothing.

The story, which included tough anti-Iran comments from prominent Jewish groups, was picked up widely by Web sites and by other media. "Is Iran turning into the new Nazi Germany? Share your opinion online," the paper asked readers last Friday.

But the National Post, a long-time supporter of Israel and critic of Tehran, admitted on Wednesday it had not checked the piece thoroughly enough before running it. "It is now clear the story is not true," National Post editor-in-chief Douglas Kelly wrote in a long editorial on page 2. "We apologize for the mistake and for the consternation it has caused not just National Post readers, but the broader public who read the story."

The story was based on a column by Iranian expatriate writer Amir Taheri, who said a law being debated by Iran's parliament would force Jews to sew a yellow strip of cloth to their clothes. Christians would wear a red strip while Zoroastrians would wear a blue one.
Iranian legislators dismissed the story.

The story and the column appeared at a time when the international community is pressuring Tehran over its nuclear program. Iran is also under fire for comments by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in which he doubted the scale of the Holocaust.

Asked about the Post story last Friday, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Iran "is very capable of this kind of action." He added: "It boggles the mind that any regime on the face of the Earth would want to do anything that could remind people of Nazi Germany." A spokesman for Harper said the prime minister had started off his comments with the words "If this is true."

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Propaganda art in the Islamic Republic - III

Another example of the numerous murals in Tehran that glorify martyrs and celebrate martyrdom...

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Propaganda art in the Islamic Republic - II

This mural is placed right next to Meydoun-e Felestin in Tehran and ranks as one of my favourites (that doesn't mean I agree with what it propagates). You see the eagle, a symbol of the US and, more generally, of evil trying to grab the mosques of Mecca, Karbala and Jerusalem. But it is a task that is fraught with challenges as the soldiers of Islam and Iran are out there to prevent its realisation. Just another clarification... Iran, like any other country, is a rich mix of public opinion and this mural represents just one shade of it. Just like there are people who like Ahmadinejad and there are people who don't.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Propaganda art in the Islamic Republic - I

Across Tehran one comes across official propaganda murals, especially around the area that once housed the American embassy. This one is from the outer wall of the embassy compund. In the background is a pretty Iranian floral motif. And in the foreground... an American satellite dish with a hand emerging from it, holding a matchstick alight. So fellow countrymen, beware of the malicious American propganda that seeks to set ablaze our society.

It is a complex love-hate relationship that Iran shares with the US. America is almost an obsession in Iran. Many Iranians love the lifestyle and freedom the US offers but most hate the government in place there.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Bollywood in Iran

Like elsewhere, Bollywood is immensely popular in Iran. Especially amongst the middle class and the lower middle class. Once they find out that you are an Indian, the Iranians can't help but blurt out names of stars they know... Salman Khan, Amitabh Bachchan, Raj Kapoor, Shah Rukh Khan and their ilk. But because of censorship, the films don't feature song and dance sequences. Now what is a Bollywood film without songs and dances!

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Snow on Alborz

This is a stunning view of the Alborz mountains from the fair ground in northern Tehran. It was late spring (early May) when I was there. So, on a clear day (like this one) you could see the snow on the mountains. And if you are lucky enough, even catch a glimpse of Damavand. The crowd that you see in this picture is from the annual book fair, an immensely popular event in Iran. I saw people walk around with their shopping trolleys!

A month in India and Iran...

Am back in Paris after a hectic trip across three time zones. I spent three weeks in India and a week in Iran trying to gather information on my Master's Thesis that deals with contemporary political ties between India and Iran. Specifically, how far can we develop them given our respective relationships with the US. Even if it was back-breaking, the best part is that I have loads of pictures to share from India and Iran. Stay tuned for regular updates.