Tag Archive: India


Normally, loose economic blocs do not assert their political clout in matters which are handled by UN or the group of five established powers. But it now seems that BRIC which refers to the countries of Brazil, Russia, India and China, (South Africa will join soon) which are all deemed to be at a similar stage of newly advanced economic development, has decided to come out of just economic closet and start talking politics. They see their opportunity to assert themselves in the Libya intervention of the West, which they have dared to criticize. According to a paper published in 2005, Mexico and South Korea were the only other countries comparable to the BRICs, but their economies were excluded initially because they were considered already more developed, as they were already members of the OECD. BRIC countries are developing rapidly and by 2050 their combined economies could eclipse the combined economies of the current richest countries of the world. These four countries, combined, currently account for more than a quarter of the world’s land area, more than 40% of the world’s population, and hold a combined GDP (PPP) of 18.486 trillion dollars. On almost every scale, they would be the largest entity on the global stage. These four countries are among the biggest and fastest growing emerging markets.

BRICs could not organize themselves into an economic bloc, or a formal trading association, as the European Union has done. However, there are some indications that the “four BRIC countries have been seeking to form a ‘political club’ or ‘alliance'”, and thereby converting “their growing economic power into greater geopolitical clout”. These are not a political alliance (such as the European Union) or any formal trading association, like ASEAN. Nevertheless, they have taken steps to increase their political cooperation, mainly as a way of influencing the United States position on major trade accords, or, through the implicit threat of political cooperation, as a way of extracting political concessions from the United States, such as the proposed nuclear cooperation with India.

And they have demonstrated their political ambitions in their abstention failing to support UN Security Council Resolution 1973 which raises serious questions about the future functionality of the multilateral system – a system in which the BRIC countries aspire to have a stronger voice. Effectively, the BRICs sent a message of opposition to allied intervention in countries experiencing fundamental political change. Their vote was an implicit acknowledgement that such collective action often has unintended consequences, and that it can result in one side being given an undue advantage over another. But a less obvious driver for their position is also the notion that one day such a vote could be cast against one of them.

It is premature to conclude, says a report in Foreign Policy Journal that the collective opposition of the BRIC countries to allied intervention in Libya represents a formal coalition between these countries. While China and Russia have used their Security Council veto with frequency, aspiring permanent Security Council members Brazil, India, and South Africa are still finding their footing on the global stage, appear hesitant to blatantly oppose the collective will of the established five power permanent members of the Security Council. What they share is a long-held mistrust of Western-led military action and a more general stance in favor of non-intervention.

One of the major criticisms of the West’s decision to intervene in Libya by these countries has been the perceived hypocrisy of ‘selective intervention’.

One will find it quite interesting that India, together with other three countries of the bloc has found it expedient to criticize West’s intervention in Libya even though it also has a history of armed intervention in erstwhile East Pakistan. The Maldives and Sri Lanka have all experienced intervention by Indian military forces. Likewise, South Africa, the soon to be “S” in the “BRICS” has intervened numerous times in its post-independence history, most prominently in the Angolan civil war in 1975/6 and in the post-Apartheid era, and participated in multilateral intervention in Lesotho in 1998. After vocally supporting the principle of non-intervention, it eventually voted in favor of allied action in Libya.

The escalation of the Libyan conflict has surely prompted some of the BRICS countries to contemplate what is involved in having a seat at the world’s top table. The Libyan case further highlights the limitations of a global order struggling to reconcile principles of national sovereignty with principles of multilateralism. The modern history of the world has shown that there will always be crises that require multilateral action. The question has become when the BRICS will be willing to step up to the plate and place idealism above self-interest – an admittedly lofty ambition for any nation-state. Not that the U.S. and European nations have a pristine record in that regard, but they certainly do have substantial economic interests in Libya. The difference is that they have proven willing to sacrifice that interest to participate in sometimes distasteful and necessary political decisions. When was the last time the BRICS countries did that?

Related link:

Libya turmoil; Interventionism is West’s new colonialism…

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There are credible intelligence reports that Pakistani team visiting India for the World Cup 2011 cricket matches will be the target of terrorists. Nobody has made any specific threat but veiled threats were announced by Shiv Sena against Pakistan squad reaching the final to be held in Mumbai. This organization is a known terrorist group of India targeting Pakistan’s interests and Pakistani team will be exposed to the risk of terrorist attack by these terrorists in case they win Mohali semi-finals. As opposed to these terrorists, the public is excited about the clash and there has not been the slightest inkling of political trouble throughout the tournament. Mob violence generally, which never disappears entirely in India, appears to have taken a holiday during the World Cup, except for the occasional lathi charge by police on unsuspecting fans wanting tickets for various matches involving the home side.

Having credible information on a possible terrorist attack, Indian government has made elaborate security arrangements for the visiting team. It was about two years ago that some terrorists, having a clear agenda of moving World Cup venue from Pakistan attacked the Sri Lankan team bus taking the players to the third day of a Test match in Lahore. Seven policemen were killed, four cricketers were injured. The objective was achieved as no international cricket has been played in Pakistan since and the World Cup matches that they were supposed to be hosting were removed. Cricket was suddenly under the eye of the madmen. The nervousness surrounding Mohali match is perhaps natural: what could be a more obvious target for extremists?

Pakistani players have put up a brave face and have rejected Shiv Sena threats. Pakistani coach said last month they were not bothered by these threats. If nothing else, these threats are enough to put the players under pressure. According to a report which appeared in The Independent, the players themselves are deeply aware of the significance of the occasion, not least because the political frisson had made encounters rare once more. There have been only two in the past 17 months, both on neutral territory in multi-team tournaments; whereas there had been 31 one-day matches between them from 2004 to 2008. They were becoming two-a-penny affairs, which at least had the by-product of dissipating passions.

India are the favorites, says the report, but the fact that they have won all four previous World Cup matches between them, including a quarter-final in Bangalore in 1996, means nothing. Pakistan, a motley travelling band who have spent two years crossing the cricket world in search of a game, are peaking at the right time. To say that they are not universally popular might be an understatement considering the nefarious activities in which they have too often been involved, but there remains something constantly alluring about them. All that anybody can ask now is for the cricket to be at the centre of the stage.

Related link:

Hindu terrorist announces veiled threats to Pakistan squad against reaching World Cup Final

“How many rain showers will wash away the bloodstains in Bangladesh” (khoon ke dhabbey dhulein ge kitni barsaaton ke baad) is a touching line of a famous poem of Faiz Ahmed Faiz? The romanticism of India’s friendship as a liberator was soon over for Bengalis after creation of Bangladesh but it seems it will take ages to heal the wounds of a bitter war between two wings of the same country.  This bitterness is so strong that it is still considered blasphemous in Bangladesh to merely mention Pakistan Army in a soft note even in fictions and movies. A Bangladeshi film about a love affair set in the country’s bloody 1971 struggle has stirred up heated debate, prompting the distributor to pull it from cinemas.

Meherjaan: A Story of War and Love, which features some of south Asia’s biggest stars including Victor Banerjee and Jaya Bachchan, wife of Indian movie legend Amitabh Bachchan, was released last month to critical acclaim. But the plot, charting a romance between a local girl and a Pakistani soldier, has hit a raw nerve in Bangladesh, where a new tribunal has just begun prosecuting suspected collaborators.

“I fought in the war but after we released this film, my fellows called me a collaborator,” the owner of the film’s distribution company, Habibur Rahman Khan, told AFP.

“We’ve stopped distributing the film because critics said it degraded Bangladeshis,” he said.

In the film, Meherjaan, a Bangladeshi girl, falls in love with a Pakistani soldier. A barrage of criticism in the Bangladeshi press and on the Internet said the film’s romantic storyline undermined the suffering during the war.

“Meherjaan has insulted the spirit of the country’s liberation war and our history,” said four writers, in a joint article in the Prothom Alo newspaper.

“Under the guise of a story about love and war, it’s a film about insult and deception,” they wrote.

The film, because of its positive depiction of a Pakistani soldier, has been “unofficially banned”, Farzana Boby, an assistant director on the film, told AFP.

“It is unfortunate. All we have tried to do is to make a good film. It has been pulled even though it was drawing bigger crowds than any other major hit film in Bangladesh,” she said.

The crew and directors have also become targets of hate-campaigns by people who cannot tolerate a “different narrative of our liberation war,” she said.

“They are angry because our story does not follow the dominant theme of the struggle. There cannot be a good-natured Pakistani soldier who rebels against the army,” she said.

Some industry professionals have lamented the angry reception the film has been given.

“It’s unfortunate there is such a huge controversy over such a good film. We live in a democratic country and everyone has the right to tell their own story,” film director Chasi Nazrul Islam told AFP.

“We get stronger if we listen to all voices.”

It will be futile to tell Bengalis that their own countrymen who had interacted with India during their freedom struggle had noted the facts and myths of the history books written during the time of Bangla Bundhoo. It is time that history books are rewritten to lessen the bitterness.

2010 in review

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 7,300 times in 2010. That’s about 18 full 747s.

In 2010, there were 142 new posts, not bad for the first year! There were 79 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 4mb. That’s about 2 pictures per week.

The busiest day of the year was December 12th with 141 views. The most popular post that day was Did Iran backstab Pakistan to save India?.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were pkpolitics.com, mail.yahoo.com, mail.live.com, facebook.com, and tribune.com.pk.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for pia, queen of england, hakeem n salik, hakeem salik, and elizabeth ii.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

Did Iran backstab Pakistan to save India? December 2010
2 comments

2

Floods are not the only manifestation of His wrath…. August 2010
9 comments and 1 Like on WordPress.com,

3

Beware taxpayers, your blood is being injected to save PIA yet again….. November 2010

4

Queen of England joins Commoners’ Club…. November 2010

5

Finance majors! Keep the hope alive……. September 2010

Imagine Madhuri Dixit and Shahrukh Khan making an appearance in one of the Kabul theatres or the Tora Bora Mountains preaching enlightenment, moderation, non-violence and tolerance and the Taliban suddenly start feeling their hearts melt for American soldiers and Indian road contractors.  Don’t throw it away or laugh it off as a weird thought but it did exist at one point in time. The USA seems to have been under the impression that Bollywood heart throbs are so much worshipped in Afghanistan that their presence could make a lot of difference.   US diplomats suggested stars of India’s film industry could be sent to Afghanistan to help stabilize the troubled country, according to a leaked cable published Friday. The Express Tribune has reported that the confidential US document from March 2007, released by the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks, said that high-profile Bollywood actors could play a key role in India’s “soft power” assistance in Afghanistan.

“We understand Bollywood movies are wildly popular in Afghanistan, so willing Indian celebrities could be asked to travel to Afghanistan to help bring attention to social issues there,” it said.

Bollywood, based in the western city of Mumbai, is a two-billion-dollar industry which has become increasingly popular abroad, not just among the Indian Diaspora but in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Gulf states. In Afghanistan, Bollywood films are regularly shown on television, though with the bare midriffs and plunging necklines of its sari-wearing actresses pixellated for a largely conservative Muslim audience. Movie soundtracks are also popular.

The suggestion, which did not come to fruition, was part of a role envisaged for India in what US diplomats called “people-to-people” assistance. Others included “symbolic” exchange programs in areas like sports or business. US diplomats in New Delhi described India as Afghanistan’s “natural ally” and advocated using its vast wealth of well-trained, and cheaper, expertise to build capacity in areas including the civil service and electoral bodies.

But it warned that a key obstacle to increasing Indian influence would be Pakistan, which fears being encircled by its larger, powerful neighbor and traditional rival. India has committed $1.3 billion to Afghanistan since the US-led invasion toppled the Taliban regime in late 2001. Thousands of Indians are building roads, sanitation projects and power lines, while India is also building the new Afghan parliament. But India’s involvement has come at a cost, with a number of deadly attacks on its interests in the country, including at its embassy in Kabul.

Also read:

WikiLeaks: India systematically torturing civilians in Kashmir (Telegraph)

WikiLeaks cables: US diplomats suggested Bollywood stars should tour Afghanistan (Guardian)

Remember that old fellow from the US State Department hired by Obama Administration for  matters relating to Pakistan, that unwelcome guest and a frequent Pakistan visitor who irritates and annoys every time he opens his mouth, that Richard Holbrooke who, in the most difficult hour of Pakistani people made most insensitive remarks about Pakistan and its friends? An average American understands and respects the sensitivities of other people but this special representative of the representatives of Americans only added insult to injury of the hapless Pakistanis whose leaders have sold them so cheap that their very mention in the WikiLeaks produces nothing but a foul stink and stench.

It has now been revealed by Sify News that he has been sharing information he possesses on Pakistan in his official capacity with India. According to the agency, US special representative to Pakistan and Afghanistan Richard Holbrooke told Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao that Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari‘s government was weakening. This again was revealed by whistle blowing website WikiLeaks. In a meeting with Rao Jan 18, 2010 in New Delhi, Holbrooke spoke about the evolving political landscape in Pakistan with a ‘weakening’ President Zardari and the relationship between chief of army staff Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) chief Nawaz Sharif and Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, The News International reported.

This man is the most serious security threat to Pakistan and should be banned from entering the country if he is not fired by Obama Administration.

During the meeting, Rao described the Indian effort in Afghanistan, saying it was focused on strengthening governance by building Afghan capacities and that the Indian engagement is transparent and should not be threatening to Pakistan. She said India needs some deliverables on terrorism before it can engage in bilateral talks with Pakistan. Holbrooke also pledged transparency with India on America’s activities in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

 

 

According to some reports, telecom minister of India had to resign after Comptroller and Auditor-General (CAG) of India unearthed a telecom scandal costing a minimum of $39 billion to Indian taxpayers.  But those who know India’s black economy are of the view that this could be just a tip of the iceberg. The Indian economy, despite its claims of growth is marred by illegal flow of black money to and from India, mostly stashed in foreign banks. This also means that corruption and illegal transfer of ill-gotten wealth is not the issue of Pakistan alone.

According to Taiwan News, India has lost hundreds of billions of dollars over the past six decades as companies and the rich stashed cash overseas to avoid taxes and hide ill-gotten gains, widening inequality and depriving the poor of crucial resources. The flood of illegal cash has swelled to ever greater heights since the early 1990s, and averaged $16 billion a year from 2002 to 2006, as India’s opening of its economy created more wealth and opportunities to move it across borders, according to the study by Dev Kar, a former International Monetary Fund economist. Kar, now senior economist at Global Financial Integrity, a Washington D.C. group that researches the flow of illicit money, said India’s black money _ at least $462 billion since the late 1940s _ could have paid for its entire infrastructure needs and much else.

The gap between India’s rich elite and the poor who number in the hundreds of millions has widened amid rapid economic growth over the past two decades, adding to social tensions, and the report says the funneling of wealth overseas has contributed to that inequality. Other analysts aren’t taking issue with Kar’s research methods but question whether the blame should be pinned on companies and privately wealthy individuals. They argue the government and corrupt politicians are the main culprits.

Kar used a World Bank model to measure the gap between the nation’s recorded sources of funds, like borrowing and foreign direct investment, and its recorded use of funds, like financing the current account deficit and foreign currency reserves. Illicit outflows are considered to exist when a country’s recorded source of funds exceeds its recorded use of funds. Kar supplemented that by looking at differences between the value of what India says it exports and what other nations say they import from India. This captures practices such as understating the value of export contracts to hide money overseas.

Adjusted for inflation, that all added up to $213 billion missing since 1948, the first full year of India’s independence from British rule. Using the short-term U.S. Treasury bill rate to estimate a conservative investment return, Kar calculated that money would be worth, at minimum, $462 billion today. The figure could be understated by half, Kar said, partly because it doesn’t cover harder to track activities including smuggling and cash transfers outside of the financial system.

Nishith Desai, founder of Nishith Desai Associates, an international tax and corporate law firm based in Mumbai, argues that corrupt officials and government agencies have more to do with illicit money than tax avoidance in the private sector, which he says is more transparent than in the past. As individual tax rates dropped _ from as high as 97.5 percent in the 1970s to about 30 percent today _ the major motivation for tax avoidance evaporated. In its wake however, is a cultural habit of evasion, which is only now beginning to erode, he said.

Desai said officials, who face public scrutiny when they accumulate wealth while on a low government salary, have more motivation to stash illicit money overseas than company executives, and the government, as India’s biggest trader, likely indulges in more manipulation of export and import contracts. Much private-sector corruption is also done under government compulsion, he said. Though economic liberalization ended the so-called License Raj _ during which New Delhi kept tight, lucrative control of business permits _ many opportunities for corruption remain.

Private players pouring into sectors like telecoms and banking still need licenses. This week, the telecom minister resigned over alleged licensing irregularities that may have cost the treasury 1.76 trillion rupees ($39 billion). The government is also the major intermediary in land deals. Desai and others say bribes are common in land sales, which are proliferating as India’s growth spurs the development of mines, factories, buildings and special economic zones.

Regardless of debate about who is most to blame, the report shows the tide of money has been unrelenting even as India makes some efforts to clamp down on the hidden economy. The government has ramped up tax collection efforts and renegotiated its tax treaty with Switzerland to give it greater access to information for investigations of tax fraud. It already has good access to information from Mauritius, a major offshore financial center for rich Indians and companies. Many hope the government’s ambitious plan to give every citizen a unique identity number will also widen the tax net and make evasion harder.

And under pressure from opposition politicians, the Congress Party in recent weeks forced three high-ranking officials including the telecoms minister to step down amid corruption allegations. But critics say such gestures are cosmetic and will do little to stem growing popular frustration at India’s elite.

“Catch some of those high-profile guys, Bollywood fellows and cricket stars and make an example out of them,” Kar said. “If they don’t address this now, they’re going to be stuck with a much bigger problem which will tear at the heart of India. Mark my words. People are losing patience.”

Zardari’s charm offensive…..

Those who were upset about Obama’s Indian visit ignoring Pakistan should have some sigh of relief; Pakistan’s long-term friend who knows sensitivities of the Pakistani nation, has decided to balance the act. Is it a direct outcome of President Zardari’s charms he was trying to use on Chinese leaders ever since his installation, only the time will tell.  Internet News sites have reported that the Chinese premier, Wen Jiabao, will visit Pakistan next month for talks aimed at “deepening strategic cooperation”, Beijing announced on Friday. During talks in Guangzhou with Asif Ali Zardari, the Pakistani president, Mr. Wen said he would press for the restructuring of ties to enable “formal and structured dialogue” at the ministerial level, the official Associated Press of Pakistan news agency reported.

The proposed change in the way the China-Pakistan joint economic council works, in effect, replicates the structure of the United States’ “strategic dialogue” with Pakistan, which is handled in working groups on a sector-by-sector basis. Analysts said the visit of the Pakistani president, who was honoured as a chief guest at the opening ceremony of the Asian Games in Guangzhou, was not previously scheduled, and was meant as a diplomatic riposte to the visit last week of Barack Obama, the US president, to India.

Mr Zardari’s visit to Guangzhou was his sixth to China since assuming office in August 2008.

“There is a consistent pattern. Every time the US asserts its diplomatic presence in South Asia, whether in talks with Pakistan or India, Mr Zardari goes to China,” said Aamir Ghauri, editor of The Asian Journal, a London-based electronic newspaper. The analysts said Pakistan considered China a more reliable superpower to ally itself with than the US, which is expected to play a lesser role in South Asia after it withdraws from Afghanistan.

Pakistan is already largely dependent on transfers of technology and money from China for military equipment and nuclear power generation. China has recently expanded its cooperation with Pakistan in nuclear power generation, announcing plans over the last 12 months to build three plants in Pakistan. Pakistan has pressed for a similar arrangement with the US which, in 2008, agreed to supply India with nuclear power technology. A security official, speaking privately, said Pakistan would continue to expand its defense cooperation with China.

However, analysts and security officials said the relationship should be construed as part of an emerging “cold war” in Asia. “China and Pakistan have a relationship that isn’t based on any tactical consideration, or targeted against anybody,” said Maleeha Lodhi, a former Pakistani ambassador to the US. Officials in India and the US have frequently spoken of the need to strengthen their strategic co-operation as a counter to growing Chinese influence.



President Obama has spent three days in India and has, along with the first lady, been dancing to the tune of Bollywood songs. He must have learnt so many things about Indian customs, traditions and superstitions.  One of this is about the shuguns or omens. The rule of these shuguns dictate that he should immediately call of his visit to south Korea because the Indonesian volcano is a bad shugun. It has already made him think about shortening his visit durations.

Los Angeles Times has reported that President Obama will probably cut short his one-day Indonesia visit because volcanic ash is complicating air travel in the region, aides said as Air Force One arrived here Tuesday. The change would be just the latest of several disruptions in the president’s trip to the country where he lived for a while as a child.

The Tuesday arrival comes after two cancellations earlier in the year, first because of a congressional vote on the president’s healthcare plan and then because of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Originally, Obama had hoped to bring his daughters and stay for a few days. When the Indonesia visit became part of an economics-focused tour of Asia this month, the stop here was shortened to just a day. First Lady Michelle Obama is the only member of the family accompanying him.

The president still plans to deliver an address to university students and visit a mosque, but aides may change other parts of his schedule, press secretary Robert Gibbs said Tuesday.

President Obama spent a considerable part of his boyhood in Indonesia with his mom and step dad.

Pakistan’s president Zardari has always remained in the line of fire for expensive US trips but now the cost of President Obama’s trip to India @ $200 million a day makes Zardari a true representative president of poor Pakistan. The figure of $200 million is making the rounds among the Obama’s conservative critics, including potential 2012 Obama challenger Mike Huckabee and U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), as the president takes off Friday for a 10-day trip to Asia.

If that is indeed true then we must solute President Zardari for exercising economy and austerity in his trips. But look at the possible outcome of the visit-more business for USA. According to Yahoo News Obama is set to speak to American and Indian business leaders and is expected to announce trade and export deals worth billions to the U.S. In the wake of the Democrats’ devastating midterm losses, attributed in part to the poor state of the U.S. economy, the White House is intent on highlighting concrete benefits to U.S. consumers from Obama’s foray overseas. The president left Washington shortly after the government reported that the economy added 151,000 jobs in October. It wasn’t enough to lower a stubborn 9.6 percent jobless rate and the president said it wasn’t good enough.

“It is hard to overstate the importance of Asia to our economic future,” the president wrote Saturday in an op-ed in The New York Times.

Huckabee made the claim of $200 million a day to Fox News on Tuesday night (citing “reports”) and in the social media sphere. “Reports say that Obama’s trip to Mumbai, India tomorrow will cost taxpayers $200 million dollars a day – come to think of it, that’s much less than Obama’s been spending here,” Huckabee wrote in a Facebook message Tuesday night (misstating the day of Obama’s departure). “So maybe it’s not a bad thing he’s leaving.”

On Wednesday, Bachmann repeated the claim on CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360.” “Within a day or so the president of the United States will be taking a trip over to India that is expected to cost the taxpayers $200 million a day,” Bachmann told Cooper. “He’s taking 2,000 people with him. He’ll be renting out over 870 rooms in India. And these are five-star hotel rooms at the Taj Mahal Palace hotel. This is the kind of over-the-top spending. It’s a very small example, Anderson.”

The numbers evidently originate with the Press Trust of India, whose report was linked on the Drudge Report and picked up by Fox News host Glenn Beck. The news agency also wrongly said that the White House had blocked off the entire Taj Mahal Palace hotel for Obama’s visit and that the U.S. was stationing 34 warships—roughly 10 percent of the naval fleet–off the coast of Mumbai for security reasons.

The agency attributed the $200 million figure to an anonymous Indian government official. It didn’t attribute the warships claim to any source. Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell called the warship claim “absolutely absurd.” “That’s just comical,” he said at Thursday’s Pentagon news briefing.  “Nothing close to that is being done.”

The White House, meanwhile, issued a blanket statement that the $200 million figure “had no basis in reality” and was “wildly inflated.” The press office declined to disclose the trip’s actual cost, citing “security concerns.” In a news briefing Thursday, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs also refused to release numbers, but he told reporters point-blank, “We are not spending $200 million a day.”

The nonpartisan FactCheck.org took up the issue, too, saying that even though the administration won’t release a price tag, there is “simply no evidence to support” a claim of $200 million a day. One reason to doubt the report, according to the group:  The entire war in Afghanistan costs $190 million a day.

That is not to say that some of the precautions for Obama’s first presidential visit to India aren’t possibly a tad over the top. As the BBC reports, Indian officials have been removing coconuts from any trees that Obama might walk under, to prevent anything from falling on the presidential head. And as London’s Daily Telegraph notes, the country has deployed trained monkey catchers to prevent any “simian invasion” (a measure that Indian officials also took when President Bush visited in 2006).