Checking in on India: Mars, Modi and more

You may have noticed that India’s been in the news this week for a few different reasons, most notably its successful mission to send a spacecraft into orbit around Mars right now:

The much-repeated phrase is that the Mars Orbiter Mission at $74 million cost less than the $100 million budget for the Hollywood space thriller “Gravity.”

At least “Gravity” earned a few Academy Awards.

India’s Mars mission actually cost a lot less than most of this year’s Hollywood summer flops — some of which you probably don’t remember. For example, the budget for Tom Cruise’s flick “Edge of Tomorrow” could have funded two India Mars mission with its whopping $178 million budget.

But the U.S. press also is giving the country’s new prime minister, Narendra Modi, a second look as he preps for his first official visit here. Of note: He’ll be fasting to celebrate Navaratri. From the New York Times:

In the four months since he has taken office, Mr. Modi has disappointed those who were hoping for an Indian Margaret Thatcher, proving to be cautious and incremental in his use of economic policy. Instead, he has set about changing the architecture of the state, diluting the powers of ministries and concentrating them in his office. Mr. Modi is building a machine for governing, one that he intends to operate for a long time.

It is not yet clear whether he can pull it off. To succeed, Mr. Modi must bring about fundamental changes in India’s economy and steer a stable course in a country prone to incendiary conflicts. Observers here, surveying still-unfilled positions in his government, wonder whether Mr. Modi will be able to trust outsiders enough to bring in policy talent. And critics say his concentrated power will make it more difficult for his own officials to question him.

And there’s this from the LA Times:

When President Obama hosts new Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for dinner at the White House next week, the leaders will have a long list of issues to discuss: trade disagreements, China’s rise, nuclear policy and counter-terrorism, among others.

One awkward topic neither is expected to raise is that until recently, Modi was barred from setting foot in the United States.

Less happy news was Al Qaeda’s announcement it would begin targeting India. The prime minister has pushed back:

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said al Qaeda will fail if it seeks to spread its terror network into his country because Muslims there “will die for India.”

Al Qaeda announced plans this month to launch a new branch in the Indian subcontinent, in a video message featuring al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri.

So we don’t end on a down note, let’s get back to Mars. Here’s a link to the Indian Space Research Organization’s Facebook page, which has lots of great photos from our nearby, red planet.

Posted by Steve

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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

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