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India’s PM Manmohan Singh has announced that he will not stay in the post if his Congress party wins the next election, due in the summer.
Manmohan Singh, 81, has been India’s prime minister for almost a decade.
He said a Congress candidate would be named at the appropriate time, but that deputy leader Rahul Gandhi had “outstanding credentials”.
Manmohan Singh said it would be “disastrous for the country” if opposition leader Narendra Modi were elected PM.
Narendra Modi leads the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which recently beat Congress in assembly elections in four politically crucial states.
“Someone who presided over the massacre of innocent people should not be the prime minister,” Manmohan Singh said in uncharacteristically harsh words for Narendra Modi.
India’s PM Manmohan Singh has announced that he will not stay in the post if his Congress party wins the next election
Narendra Modi is the chief minister of the western state of Gujarat and has been accused of doing little to stop the 2002 anti-Muslim riots there which left more than 1,000 people dead. Narendra Modi has always denied any wrongdoing.
The BJP condemned Manmohan Singh’s remark, saying Narendra Modi had made Gujarat “a model of development for the country”.
For the past decade, Manmohan Singh has headed a coalition government led by Congress.
He has often been criticized for not speaking out more forcefully. Friday’s press conference was only the third such briefing during his whole term of office.
Manmohan Singh spoke on a wide range of issues, including the economy, inflation and corruption.
“In a few months’ time, after the general election, I will hand the baton over to a new prime minister,” Manmohan Singh said in his opening remarks.
Manmohan Singh has been one of India’s longest serving prime ministers and is widely regarded as the architect of India’s economic reforms program.
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According to Indian government’s latest figures, the country’s economy continues to slowdown in Q2 2013.
For the April-to-June quarter, India’s economy grew at a rate of 4.4%, compared with the same period in the previous year.
It was a weaker performance than most economists had been expecting and was a slowdown from the first three months of the year, when growth was 4.8%.
A contraction in mining and manufacturing activity was behind the slowdown.
Friday’s figures show the economy is now expanding at the slowest rate since 2009.
“We do not wish to sound alarmist, but concern on the economy can hardly be overstated,” said Chandrajit Banerjee, Director General, Confederation of Indian Industry, in reaction to the latest figures.
“The economy needs the undivided attention of policy makers,” she said.
India’s economy continues to slowdown in Q2 2013
It adds to the pressure on Indian PM Manmohan Singh, who earlier addressed parliament over the nation’s economic problems.
In his statement to parliament, made before the figures were released, the prime minister said India was not facing a repeat of the crisis in 1991.
Back then, India’s foreign currency reserves became so depleted that it had to borrow from the International Monetary Fund to pay its import bills.
“Growth will pick up in the second half, barring extreme unforeseen eventualities,” the prime minister said.
He also said that a strong monsoon would boost harvests and help reduce food inflation.
Manmohan Singh was also keen to reassure the nation over the falling value of the Indian rupee, saying it was “a matter of concern”.
The rupee hit a record low against the dollar on Wednesday and has fallen more than 20% this year.
That fall is damaging for the economy, as India imports large amounts of fuel and foodstuffs and the weak rupee makes those imports more expensive.
Manmohan Singh said: “Clearly, we need to reduce our appetite for gold, economize [on] the use of petroleum products and take steps to increase our exports.”
He also blamed the fall in the rupee on “external” factors.
The prime minister highlighted the impact of developments in the US, where the economy is improving and officials at the central bank have started to talk about cutting back on stimulus measures.
“In a more equitable world order, it is only appropriate that the developed countries – in pursuing their fiscal and monetary policies – should take into account the repercussions on the economy of emerging countries,” Manmohan Singh said.
The Indian government has raised the import duty on gold and increased deposit rates to stem the outflow of money.
The Supreme Court in India has said Italy’s Ambassador Daniele Mancini does not have legal immunity, in an escalating row over Rome’s refusal to return two marines charged with murdering two Indian fishermen.
India’s Chief Justice Altamas Kabir said the court had “lost trust” in Ambassador Daniele Mancini.
The court reiterated last week’s order for Daniele Mancini not to leave the country.
The marines were allowed to go home to vote in last month’s polls on condition that they return to stand trial.
Daniele Mancini had given his personal assurance that the two marines – Massimilian Latorre and Salvatore Girone – would return within four weeks as ruled by the court.
There has been no comment from the Italian embassy in Delhi or Ambassador Daniele Mancini.
But on Friday, Rome said it was seeking a “friendly agreement” with India to resolve the row.
The office of President Giorgio Napolitano said Italy wanted an agreement based on “international law”.
In its order on Monday, the three-judge Supreme Court bench said Ambassador Daniele Mancini, who had negotiated the marines’ release, had waived his immunity by giving an undertaking to a court that the pair would return.
“A person who comes to court and gives an undertaking has no immunity,” Chief Justice Kabir said.
The court set April 2 as the next date of hearing and restrained the Italian ambassador from leaving India “until further orders”.
The Supreme Court in India has said Italy’s Ambassador Daniele Mancini does not have legal immunity
The marines are accused of shooting the fishermen in Kerala in February 2012. They said they mistook them for pirates.Rome says it wants its nationals to be tried in Italy. As the incident took place in international waters, Italy believes India has no jurisdiction in the case.
India, however, maintains that the fishermen were Indian and on board an Indian fishing boat at the time of the incident.
Last week, the Italian foreign ministry informed India that the marines would not return to India once the Supreme Court deadline expired.
Indian PM Manmohan Singh warned that “there will be consequences” unless Italy returned the marines.
In unusually strong language, PM Manmohan Singh said Italy’s refusal to do so was “unacceptable”
Daniele Mancini, Italy’s ambassador to India, has been ordered not to leave the country after Rome’s refusal to return two marines charged with the murder of two fishermen in Kerala last year.
The Indian court had allowed the marines to go home to vote in last month’s elections.
Ambassador Daniele Mancini had personally assured the court the marines would return by March 22.
On Wednesday, Indian PM Manmohan Singh warned that “there will be consequences” unless Italy returned the marines.
In unusually strong language, Manmohan Singh said that Italy’s refusal to send back the marines was “unacceptable”.
Rome’s decision has come as a major embarrassment for the Indian government and opposition parties have been demanding their immediate return.
On Thursday morning, the court headed by Chief Justice Altamas Kabir issued a notice to the Italian ambassador, restraining him from leaving without its permission.
Daniele Mancini has been asked to respond to the notice by March 18.
Daniele Mancini, Italy’s ambassador to India, has been ordered not to leave the country after Rome’s refusal to return two marines charged with the murder of two fishermen in Kerala last year
India’s Attorney General GE Vahanvati told the judges that Rome’s failure to return the two marines “is a breach of undertaking given to the highest court of the land and the government is extremely concerned about it”.
In February, the Supreme Court allowed Massimilian Latorre and Salvatore Girone to go home to vote in the Italian elections. They were ordered to return within four weeks.
But on Monday, Italy informed India that the marines would not be coming back, prompting a diplomatic row.
The marines are accused of shooting the fishermen in February 2012. They said they mistook them for pirates.
Italy argues that because the case is now the subject of international maritime law, it has been decided that the pair will not return to India “on the expiration of the permission granted to them”.
Rome says that it wants its nationals to be tried in Italy. Because the incident took place in international waters, Italy believes India has no jurisdiction in the case.
India has successfully launched Agni-V, a long-range intercontinental ballistic missile able to carry a nuclear warhead, officials say.
The locally-developed Agni-V missile was originally scheduled to launch on Wednesday in the eastern state of Orissa.
Officials had delayed the launch because of heavy lightning in the area.
The missile has a range of more than 5,000km (3,100 miles), within range of targets in China.
Analysts say the Agni (meaning “fire” in Hindi and Sanskrit) missile family is to be the cornerstone of India’s missile-based nuclear deterrent.
The missiles are among the country’s most sophisticated weapons.
India has successfully launched Agni-V, a long-range intercontinental ballistic missile able to carry a nuclear warhead
In 2010, India successfully test-fired Agni-II, an intermediate-range ballistic missile with a range of more than 2,000km (1,250 miles).
The Agni-V missile was launched from Orissa’s Wheeler Island at 08:05 local time on Thursday.
“It was a perfect launch. It met all the test parameters and hit its pre-determined target,” said SP Das, director of the test range.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh congratulated the scientists for the “successful launch” of the missile.
“Today’s launch represents another milestone in our quest for our security, preparedness and to explore the frontiers of science,” he said.
The missile took about 20 minutes to hit its target somewhere near Indonesia in the Indian Ocean.
Defense analyst Rahul Bedi says a successful test flight of the Agni-V missile, which is capable of delivering a single 1.5-ton warhead deep inside nuclear rival China’s territory, would strengthen India’s nuclear deterrence once it comes into service by 2014-15.
It is 17.5 m tall, solid-fuelled, has three stages and a launch weight of 50 tons. It has cost more than 2.5 billion rupees ($480 million) to develop.
Only China, Russia, France, the US and UK have such long-range missiles. Israel is thought to possess them.
“Agni-V is to meet our present-day threat perceptions, which are determined by our defense forces and other agencies,” DRDO Ravi Gupta spokesman told AFP news agency ahead of the launch.
“This is a deterrent to avoid wars and it is not country-specific,” he said.