Saturday, November 21, 2015

In Wake Of Paris Attacks, Western Media As The Arbiter

(By Saeed Naqvi @http://naqvijournal.blogspot.in/)


The massacre in Paris is not just a French or a western tragedy. It has caused universal outrage. And yet the global media’s coverage of the horror tends to give the West a monopoly on pain.
Why, hours before the Paris attack, nearly 50 Shia Muslims were slaughtered by the IS and over 200 injured in Beirut; 27 members of a Shia leader’s funeral were butchered in Baghdad which has lost count of such occurrences. And all of this on the heels of a Russian passenger aircraft brought down over Sinai, killing all 224 passengers, and the October massacre in Ankara, killing 102 and so on and so forth including the 141 school children slaughtered in Peshawar at the hands of terrorists now wearing the IS garb.
Could all those smart anchors on the streets of Paris not have reflected on the pain outside their immediate surroundings? This is the parochialism of the contemporary media, focused only on “us” and “our kind”. The larger humanity has to be left as the business of bards and bohemian poets with a leftist streak.
In the imperial global hierarchy, the media covering such events and the one which is beamed worldwide happens to be in exclusive control of Washington and London. This media’s perspectives are prioritized by western interests.
Whatever the explanation, the coverage of an event like Paris divides the world into two sets of audiences.
Folks in the West, their anxieties heightened by the outrage, find comfort in the International community getting into a scrum on the issue in Vienna, Antalya…wherever. They find the coverage in tune with their fears and concerns.
This powerful community is not even aware of the popular Cairo blog which asks the question:
“The International Community keeps asking what the region is doing to stop the spread of the ISIS; the region keeps asking why ISIS is only a problem when it strikes Western targets.” Millions in the Arab World ask such questions.
Social media in the region lampoons the West’s reactions. A cartoon shows two patients in a hospital. One covered head to toe in bandages is named “Syria”. The other, in the adjacent bed, with a bandaged finger is called “Paris”. A man in a three piece suit, labeled the “International community”, leans over to kiss the bandaged finger.
Since there is in the Arab world (as in India) no media capable of live coverage of events like the attack in Paris, there is among these populations an acute sense of helplessness. Each family is riveted on its TV set which blares Muslim terror at them but never dwells on Muslim pain. Iraq, Libya, Syria, three efficient dictatorships have all been destroyed. Nearly three million have been killed by western bombardment, the IS, consequent civil wars. Hundreds of thousands are on the march towards a Europe torn between hospitality and its exact opposite.
These are the images which preoccupy their brutalized lives. Self centered coverage by the Western media come across to them as frames from which their continuing tragedies are missing.
At the cost of being repetitive let me explain that I am sensitive to these disparities because I was present at the inauguration of the global media when in February 1991 CNN brought the first ever war live into our drawing rooms. This was the Operation Desert Storm. The coverage resonated with western audiences as triumphalism doubly exhilarating because it came so soon after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Equally, it added to the Arab world’s sense of defeat and humiliation. It almost ignited global terrorism in this era. The dazzling fireworks on live TV over Afghanistan a decade later added fuel to this fire.
What irks Arab intelligentsia most is a sense of impotence at two levels – one at the level of their own authoritarian regimes which are often in cahoots with the west, and secondly with the West itself which is impervious to popular Arab discontent. The West only deals with potentates or rebel groups in Syria, Libya, Iraq.
It is an article of faith in the Arab world that the ISIS is, in its origins, a US, Saudi Turkish, Israeli creation. Off the record, Arab Ambassadors in New Delhi will testify to this widespread belief in their respective countries. In an interview with Thomas Friedman of the New York Times in August last year, President Obama himself admitted that the ISIS had been of use in certain circumstances. “We did not start air strikes all across Iraq as soon as the ISIS came in because that would have taken the pressure off Nouri al-Maliki”, the then Shia Prime Minister of Iraq out of favour with the US.
In other words, not long ago, the priority was to get rid of Maliki rather than halt the ISIS. An altered world order may well be the price for that delay.
After the Paris attack, the media has boosted the anti terror mood to the sort of pitch reminiscent of the first Gulf war. This time even Russia is part of the pack.
Incidentally, the media forgot to mention the first effect of the Paris attack – cancellation of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s visit to France, Italy and the Vatican, an outcome that must have pleased Riyadh.
Western resolve to fight terror will be on test in Africa where the entire belt from Nigeria right upto Somalia is in the line of fire of IS look-alikes like Boko Haram and Al Shabab. French intelligence, which allowed President Francois Hollande to watch a soccer match in a stadium which was attacked by suicide bombers, is once again embarrassed by gunmen holding a number of hostages in Bamako, capital of Mali, which was presumed to have been tranquilized by French troops only last year.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Paris attack is Europe’s security nightmare

By Peter Apps (Reuters)

The series of coordinated attacks on multiple civilian locations in Paris on Friday night has long been the stuff of nightmares for European security officials.

Ever since the Mumbai attacks of 2008 — in which more than 175 people, including the militants, were killed in a series of coordinated strikes around the city — the fear has been of a similar attack in Europe by Islamist militants.

That assault showed that a relatively small number of dedicated, suicidal attackers with automatic weapons and sufficient ammunition could wreak havoc in a relatively confined urban area. In 2013, Islamist militants demonstrated the same thing again in Nairobi, Kenya, at the Westgate shopping mall — with a final death toll of 67.

Since Mumbai, where the hostage drama played out for three days, most security forces operate on a very simple doctrine — attempt to seize back buildings and kill the militants as quickly as possible, even with all the risks that entails.

Such attacks, of course, could theoretically take place anywhere. Indeed, the largest in Europe to date was the 2011 attack by lone Norwegian gunman Anders Breivik. He killed 69 people at a political youth camp on the island of Utoya after killing another eight with a bomb in the center of Oslo.

France, though — and Paris in particular — was already seen as a likely top target, particularly after the attack on the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo less than a year ago.

Since major bombings such as the 2005 attacks on the London transport system and bombings in Madrid the previous year, law enforcement agencies have become more effective at detecting and blocking access to explosives. And since 9/11, attacks on aircraft have been much more difficult.

Despite avoiding the Iraq war and only playing a limited role in Afghanistan, France has taken a much greater role in recent conflicts such as the war in Libya and the fight against Islamic State and militant groups in its former colonies in West Africa.

Those actions — like the independence war in Algeria in the 1960s – were seen as pushing France dramatically up the militant target list. France has long also had issues with the integration of its Muslim population — something these attacks may exacerbate further.

The wider geopolitical fallout of the attacks is much harder to model.

If the attack does emerge to have been carried out by Islamic State, which has claimed responsibility, it will deliver the group a significant propaganda victory after a series of reverses including the apparent death in a drone strike of Mohammed Emwazi, the British-born Islamic State executioner dubbed “Jihadi John.”

The Paris assault has prompted France’s President Francois Hollande to promise a strengthened effort to destroy the group. Whether that will mean a shift away from removing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from power is another question, though. Russia — which lost a passenger plane carrying 224 passengers and crew to a suspected bomb on Oct. 31 — will almost certainly argue the need for solidarity in fighting the militants, rather than targeting Assad.

At the very least, it will further complicate Europe’s struggle to work out what to do with the ever-growing numbers of refugees from Middle East war zones.

Even if it wished to, the continent has little real option to stop the flow of the mostly Muslim migrants. Worries over a repeat of the Paris attack, however, could further intensified moves to shore up borders and act as the final nail in the coffin of the supposedly borderless nature of the European Union.

To Save Paris, Defeat ISIS

By Roger Cohen @ The New York Times

MILAN — The Paris slaughter claimed by the Islamic State constitutes, as President Fran├žois Hollande of France declared, an “act of war.” As such, it demands of all NATO states a collective response under Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty. This says that, “An armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all.”

Alliance leaders are already debating what that response should be. Hollande has spoken to President Obama. Other NATO countries, including Germany and Canada, have expressed solidarity. Indignation and outrage, while justified, are not enough.

The only adequate measure, after the killing of at least 129 people in Paris, is military, and the only objective commensurate with the ongoing threat is the crushing of ISIS and the elimination of its stronghold in Syria and Iraq. The barbaric terrorists exulting on social media at the blood they have spilled cannot be allowed any longer to control territory on which they are able to organize, finance, direct and plan their savagery.

Hollande left no doubt that that the attacks were “prepared, organized and planned from abroad, with complicity from the inside.” ISIS, or one of its affiliates, has also claimed responsibility for the recent downing of a Russian passenger jet, with the loss of 224 lives. The United States and Britain believe these claims are credible.

It was wrong to dismiss ISIS as a regional threat. Its threat is global. Enough is enough. A certain quality of evil cannot be allowed physical terrain on which to breed. Pope Francis declared the Paris attacks “not human.” In a sense he is right. But history teaches that human beings are capable of fathomless evil. Unmet, it grows.

To defeat ISIS in Syria and Iraq will require NATO forces on the ground. After the protracted and inconclusive Western interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is reasonable to ask if this would not be folly. It is also reasonable to demand – and many will – whether military action will only have the effect of winning more recruits for ISIS as more lives and treasure are squandered. Terrorism, the old nostrum has it, can never be completely defeated.

Such arguments are seductive but must be resisted. An air war against ISIS will not get the job done; the Paris attacks occurred well into an unpersuasive bombing campaign. Major powers, including Russia and China, have vigorously condemned the Paris attacks. They should not stand in the way of a United Nations resolution authorizing military action to defeat and eliminate ISIS in Syria and Iraq. Regional powers, especially Saudi Arabia, have an interest in defeating the monster they helped create whose imagined Caliphate would destroy them.


ISIS is slick and effective. It has a well-run propaganda machine and an ideology compelling to disaffected Muslim youth persuaded of Western perfidy. The combination of medievalist literalism and technological prowess has produced a fanatical army of borderless appeal. But ISIS is far from insuperable in military terms. Western intelligence is now elaborate. The almost certain killing in an air strike Thursday of Mohammed Emwazi (known as Jihadi John), the Islamic State’s most wanted executioner, demonstrated this.

It is not enough to say, as the Obama Administration has up to now, that ISIS will be defeated. These words lack meaning without a corresponding plan. There is time pressure because time is being used precisely to plan new atrocities.

With each one, the possibility of a spiral of religious and sectarian violence in strained European societies increases. Hatred of Muslims seems to be on the rise. The Bataclan, the club targeted in the Paris attacks, has, as the French magazine Le Point pointed out, been a frequent meeting-place for Jewish organizations.

The killings occurred as hundreds of thousands of desperate Muslim refugees from Syria are streaming into Europe. This is not the time to turn on them, but to help them, even if extreme vigilance is needed. They, too, in their vast majority, are fleeing ISIS, as well as the indiscriminate violence of President Bashar al-Assad. Nonintervention in Syria has proved a policy fraught with bloodshed and danger, now seeping into Europe.

The battle will be long. Islam is in a state of fervid crisis, riven by the regional battle of Sunni and Shia interests (read Saudi Arabia and Iran), afflicted by a metastasizing ideology of anti-Western hatred and Wahhabi fundamentalism, seeking a reasonable accommodation with modernity. The scourge within it can probably only be defeated from within, by the hundreds of millions of Muslims who are people of peace and are as appalled as any sentient being at the Paris slaughter. Their voices need to be raised in unambiguous and sustained unison.

Crushing ISIS in Syria and Iraq will not eliminate the jihadi terrorist threat. But the perfect cannot be the enemy of the good. Passivity is a recipe for certain failure. It is time, in the name of humanity, to act with conviction and power against the scourge of the Islamic State. Disunity and distraction undermined past military efforts to defeat the jihadis. Unity is now attainable and with it victory.

Paris attacks: The West’s fatal misunderstanding of Islamic State

By Rasha Elass November 15, 2015 (Reuters)

The horrendous attacks on Paris have an eerie resemblance to the events of Sept. 11, 2001, in that they seem to have caught everyone off guard.

Until perhaps Friday, the main perception among Western intelligence agencies and Washington policymakers has been that Islamic State poses “no immediate threat” to the United States or the West.

“Unlike Al Qaeda, ISIS is more interested in establishing a Caliphate and not so interested in attacking the West,” a retired CIA officer explained during a closed meeting at one of Washington’s think tanks. He was echoing a common sentiment, and insisted that “Al Qaeda remains the main threat.” Even U.S. President Barack Obama recently said with confidence that Islamic State was being “contained.”

But we cannot forget that Islamic State came to the world stage barely over a year ago, when it took Mosul and subsequently one third of Iraq as well as one third of Syria in a matter of weeks. Some of the terror group’s major advances on the ground took mere hours, advances that Obama later said will take years to roll back.

I remember covering the war at that time from Damascus, Syria, and later from Beirut, where I kept in constant communication via the Internet with the Syrian rebels and civilians who had suddenly found themselves under Islamic State rule in the eastern Syrian province of Deir al Zor. During those first few days, many went underground, not sure what to do about their new, brutal occupier, who proceeded to slaughter more than 700 men from the Arab Sunni Muslim tribe of Shueitat because the tribe did not pledge allegiance to Islamic State. The militant group commanded all men of fighting age in Deir Al Zor to report to Islamic State checkpoints, surrender weapons, and either pledge allegiance to Islamic State or leave the territory immediately.

“We never thought the West would allow a group like ISIS to expand, but now I know that we have been played. We have been extremely stupid,” one anti-Islamic State rebel told me on condition of anonymity to protect his family. He sounded embittered by what he called a shocking and swift victory for the group, and he spoke to me from his car, which he said he had parked just outside an Internet cafe to piggy-back on the Wi-Fi signal without anyone hearing our conversation. He said Islamic State had setup checkpoints everywhere.

“The only thing that makes sense to us is that the world wants to dump all its trash here,” he said, referring to the Islamic State jihadists, whom he said were mainly non-Syrian, but other Arab nationals, Chechens, and Westerners. “And then the West will come and bomb them all. This must be the strategy because nothing else makes any sense.”

Conspiracy theories aside, there is some truth to the idea that some countries, as naive and misguided as they have been, privately sighed relief to see their own Islamist nationals travel to Islamist territory to meet their fate.

“It’s better than having them stay in our country,” one Western diplomat told me on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter. “Statistically, a newly arrived jihadist to ISIS territory is killed within weeks, so good riddance.” He added that all the West had to worry about were the “lone-wolf attacks” inspired by Islamic State.

Unfortunately, the Paris attacks have disproved this theory, and it is time to shed other falsely comforting illusions as well.

Namely, let us not forget that some of the United States’ staunchest allies have been, and remain, responsible for facilitating the arrival of money, materiel, and jihadists into Islamic State territory, not to mention providing the ideological guidance for the terror group. They have been doing so in the hopes of toppling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Jihadists have crossed the borders of Jordan and Turkey into Syria, seemingly at will. Qatar, Kuwait, UAE, and Saudi Arabia have not stopped their private citizens from sending money to various Islamist brigades, including Islamic State. They also give airtime to the muftis who provide ideological guidance to Islamic State, religious scholars who condone sectarian killing, gruesome beheadings, and sexual slavery on theological grounds.

It has been too convenient a falsity also for the West to believe that Syria’s war is Syria’s problem, or at least someone else’s problem, when so many world players are already involved in the war there, either directly or by proxy.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry had strong words at the ongoing Vienna talks on Syria, attended by foreign ministers of some 20 nations. Standing next to his Russian counterpart, Kerry called the Paris attacks “the most vile, horrendous, outrageous, unacceptable acts on the planet.” But he added that they “encouraged us today to do even harder work to make progress and to help resolve the crises that we face.”

Peace and order in Syria are a long way off — Syrians are not even represented in Vienna — but if world players resolve to ensure that the Paris attacks become the nail in Islamic State’s coffin, then at least the Phoenix is already rising from the ashes.

This column appears courtesy of the Project for Study of the 21st Century. See www.projects21.com for further commentaries.

Witness: Being in the Stade de France Attack Was Scary. So is France's Future.

My wife and I were among the thousands as the nearly-full 80,000-seat Stade de France in Paris for the France-Germany game when a loud explosion behind us interrupted the good-natured cheering in the stands around us about 15 minutes into the match. I thought at first that it was a firecracker - a very big one - because it seemed so close. What I had actually heard was a suicide bomber blowing himself up outside the stadium several hundred yards and several levels below our seats. Two more explosions and two more suicides would follow.
There was no announcement to spectators, and the game went on - although, we learned later, French President Francois Hollande was quietly evacuated. I couldn't get onto the Internet on my cellphone, and since most people seemed to stay in their seats I decided it wasn't a big deal. But my wife noticed that a number of people in our section left at halftime and didn't return, even though the score was only 1-0 in France's favor. I finally got a text message during the second half mentioning the explosions at the stadium and the shootings in Paris. The death toll at the time had reached 20, just a fraction of the more than 120 that would result from the coordinated terrorist attacks that hit six sites in the French capital.

We have made Paris our home for the past four years after several decades in New York, and we are acutely aware of its (and our) vulnerability. Just 10 months ago, terrorists killed 12 in an attack on the offices of the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo. Several others were killed a day later in an assault by a gunman on a kosher supermarket.

But if those attacks were motivated by identifiable (and unjustifiable) political or religious reasons, the ones on Friday night are more frightening for their nebulous focus. They were more than reactions to perceived religious insult or expressions of crude anti-Semitism. The targets were diffuse, undifferentiated - random victims selected simply for their availability.

Paris is a compact city compared with New York, and you quickly become familiar with its various neighborhoods. Earlier on Friday, we had lunch at a Korean restaurant not far from the restaurants and the concert hall where the massacres took place. I had been to a concert at the Bataclan a couple of years earlier.

Even more frightening is that France was already on high alert. Some months ago, while researching a book on my Haitian family's Jewish roots, we took a walking tour of the 9th arrondissement, which adjoins the 10th, where most of the killings took place. In the aftermath of Charlie Hebdo, we were struck by the conspicuous presence of armed soldiers posted at identifiable Jewish institutions, synagogues and media companies.

We have also noticed more careful attention at the borders. On a trip to London last month, our U.S. passports were not enough. For the first time, we were asked to show our residence permits, roughly equivalent to green cards. And on a trip to Florence in the spring, the return night train was halted for several hours at the Swiss border for a check of papers of every passenger on board. A young Arab man and a south Asian man in our six-compartment coach were taken off the train.

There is no guarantee against terrorism. We still love Paris, and we hope that it will regain its exuberant and graceful approach to life. But the major stores are closed today. Authorities have urged Parisians to stay home. A gathering to celebrate a visiting friend has been canceled, as well as a lecture at the Sorbonne I planned to attend.

Parisians will inevitably eye each other with heightened suspicion. La belle vie seems more like a wish today than reality.

(Joel Dreyfuss is a former managing editor of The Root.)

© 2015 The Washington Post

People Globally Against Political Parties Identified With Crony Capitalism

Saeed Naqvi
Bihar results are a milestone in Indian political history, ofcourse, but they also link up with a worldwide phenomena: the crumbling of the world order erected after the fall of the Berlin wall. A brief look at history to follow the trend.
Collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 signaled the advent of the Sole Superpower which immediately embarked on a project of full spectrum global dominance beginning with Operation Desert Storm in February 1992.
The firepower of the world’s most muscular war machine was for the first time brought live into our drawing rooms by Peter Arnett of the CNN from the terrace of Baghdad’s Al Rasheed hotel.
The Iraqi army was pummeled. For one set of global TV audience, the outcome was undiluted triumphalism. But for the Muslim world, it came across as yet another defeat, further humiliation. The world, divided into two distinct sets of audiences was treated to more TV fare – the two intefadas, the daily brutalization of Bosnian Muslims and the four year long siege of Sarajevo which agitated Turks (because of their historical links with the Balkans) to such an extent that they brought Nekmatin Arbakan’s Islamist Refah party to power. Arbakan’s disciples Abdullah Gul and Tayyip Erdogan, toned down their Islamism to cope with Turkey’s Kemalist constitution.
Turkey found the electoral response to Western provocation. Anger in most of the authoritarian Muslim world created a space for militant schools with a ready faculty left over from the Afghan Jehad. The world galloped towards 9/11, after which the world was enlisted in the war against Islamic terror.
The global war on terror became the strategic preoccupation for nations all under US auspices.
Let it be added as an aside that even as Gujarat Chief Minister, Narendra Modi was alert to the main chance. When 56 kar sewaks were burnt alive in the Sabarmati Express at Godhra on February 26, 2002, he promptly took the case away from the Collector, Jayanti Ravi, and handed it to the Director General, Anti Terror Squad, Vijay Vipul. Without any preliminary inquiry, the Godhra train tragedy was to be treated as an act of terror. Modi was firmly on the anti terror bandwagon.
The second mantra handed to the post Soviet World Order was “Development”. The Soviet collapse was not sold as the victory of democracy, freedom, human rights; it was sold as the triumph of the market.
Two party systems beholden to corporates, linked to mega multinational corporations became the trend. These powerful establishments, with the media in attendance, could suppress stories of unspeakable corruption and crony capitalism only upto a point. But not for long.
The dominant reality since 2008 has been the gradual decline of the US. Systems erected in anticipation of the American Century are crumbling. This objective reality has given heart to the people hemmed in by two party systems in cahoots with corrupt sources of finance. Electoral eruptions have taken place even though it would be premature to describe the current situation as revolutionary.
Greek Left Wing party, Syriza, came to power but powerful countries like Germany forced it to compromise its anti austerity, anti capitalism platforms.
Greece is only two percent of Europe’s GDP. Spain is 14%. Syriza, before Greece’s compromise, did infect the voters in Spain. Spain’s communist party, Podemos, made dramatic gains in the local body elections. But a degree of demoralization afflicts Podemos as it prepares for the national elections on December 20. This because the lesson learnt from Syriza’s compromises that excessive Leftism may be unrealistic in Spain’s current economic situation.
Alright, Spain’s leftism may have to be toned down but it has already shamed political corruption and crony capitalism to such an extent that it can never be business as usual after the December elections.
The trend continues in Portugal where a socialist-communist combination is in contention for power. What a far cry from Tony Blair is the new labour boss, Jeremy Corbyn, as is Canada’s Justin Trudeau from Stephen Harper.
Joko Widodo in Indonesia and Arvind Kejriwal are not exactly left but they come from a similar reformist anti corruption stable, quite as effective in corroding the neo liberal structures.
Modi came to power riding the world’s most expensive campaign. He harvested the prevailing disgust at the time against Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Manmohan Singh, tied to India Inc. and the World Bank.
When Modi’s personal image was on test in Delhi, he was decimated. Big business, Police, Lt. Governor, the BJP, Congress and the drum beating media, simply waylaid Kejriwal from day one of his innings. The affront to the idea of Modi and market economics in the form of Kejriwal must not be allowed to stand. In one respect, an old Persian saying “gunah be lazzat” (sinning without pleasure) may well apply to Modi. He has not done for all his capitalist clients everything he may have wished to do. But the tag of crony capitalism hangs from his neck.
And now Bihar has administered a knockout punch. Ofcourse a singular lack of culture in the Hindutva brigade’s anti Love Jihad and anti beef campaign recoiled on the BJP. Where will Modi recover ground now in the coming state elections: West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Punjab, UP?
The front page of Times of India (November 13) is emblematic of the mess Modi is in.
Asked about growing intolerance Modi told the media in London, standing beside David Cameron: “No place for intolerance” in the land of Buddha and Gandhi.
Above this three column story is a bigger headline:
“Cow brigade now out to stop leather shoe sales.”
Lower down the page is another story about death threats to playwright Girish Karnad by Hindutva groups against airing his admiration for Tipu Sultan. But all of this is against the backdrop of Modi’s perceived proximity to names like Adani which tend to distance politicians from the people.
And now that Nitish Kumar is about to replace Rahul Gandhi’s mug shots as a would be counter point to Modi, he would do well to remember a simple mantra: steer clear of something which is in bad odour globally – crony capitalism. 
 
Note: This post is taken as it is from http://naqvijournal.blogspot.in

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

GOSF 2014 begins, Google anticipates multi-fold traffic

(A Business Today Report): Google's Great Online Shopping Festival (GOSF) kicked off on Wednesday after a glittering launch ceremony in Gurgaon.

The event, which will run from December 10 to 12, allows brands to offer their best deals on www.gosf.in for 72 hours.

The number of brand partners for the event has jumped up significantly since Google launched the event in 2012. While total brand partners were around 90 in 2012, in 2013 they were 270 and the number has jumped to 450 for GOSF 2014.

Traffic on GOSF website and partner websites is expected to see a huge surge since last year. This is reflected in the response to the pre-party event launched by Google, 14 days back. By the end of the third day itself, GOSF has crossed five million users. In 2013, about two million users logged on to gosf.in. Across all the partner sites, combined traffic had crossed over 16 million users and most players witnessed about 350 per cent growth in daily sales.

Hours after GOSF went live at midnight, e-commerce portal ShopClues witnessed a huge upswing. Within the first 90 minutes, the website saw a 200 per cent uptick in traffic and close to 250 per cent increase in sales. "In three hours, we had done sales for nearly 3 regular days on the site," said Sanjay Sethi, Co-Founder & CEO, ShopClues.com in a statement.

The core objective of Google's initiative, like that of Flipkart's 'Big Billion Day' held on October 6 this year, is to get more and more new internet users to turn online shoppers and amass first-time buyers in one go for e-commerce companies. That's specifically important for India because there is huge headroom for growth in the number of online buyers.

Two years back in 2012, when Google hosted its first GOSF, India had only 8 million online shoppers, though the number of internet users totaled 150 million. The number of online buyers is expected to rise to 100 million which will be larger than that of any large country.

This year, several brands such as HP, Lenovo Group, Tata Housing Development Co, Van Heusen, Motorola Nexus and Karbonn Mobiles have launched their products exclusively at the festival.

Among the list of exclusive launches are two from Google itself: Chromecast and Nexus 6. Chromecast is a pen-drive looking device that can bring all the entertainment viewed on smart phones and other devices on to the television screens. The device which has already been launched in 25 other countries, will be available for Rs 2,999 and will be available on Snapdeal.

Rajeev Das, Head of Marketing and Product Development at Tata Housing, launched a housing project, The Cascades, located in Bangalore. Tata Value Homes, a project located at Boisar near Mumbai with a starting price of Rs 16 lakh was launched at the event. Tata is taking bets on the online platform to drive sales. "While about 25 to 30 per cent of customers are booking homes online, about 70 per cent of our leads, a number of them from NRIs (Non Resident Indians) are being generated online," said Das.

Brands that are participating in exclusive launches are quite upbeat about sales picking up.
"Google has been able to create the buzz and excitement around the event. We think we are invested into the future and will see how it works," said Bimalendu Tarafdar, General Manager, Marketing at Madura Fashion and Lifestyle which is participating for the first time in the Google event. 

Van Heusen, a brand from the Madura Garments Family, launched its Stellar Collection of apparels at the event, which will be available on Trendin.com, the official store for all Madura Garments brands. Van Heusen designed the Stellar Collection for an exclusive launch on GOSF.

GOSF has also launched the Rs 299 offer with deep discounted products, free shipping and cash on delivery options to grab first time buyers. Brands that will participate in this include Philips, JBL, Benetton etc.

While most e-tailers including biggies like Amazon, Snapdeal, Shopclues and Jabong have hitched on to Google to see a jump in sales, India's largest e-tailer Flipkart has decided to stay away from the festival.

Some brands, however, have launched products exclusively on Flipkart even though it is out of Google's sale initiative.

Ganaraj Kamath, the National Product and Distribution Manager at Lenovo launched The Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 Pro, which will be available exclusively on Flipkart for Rs 49,000.

The site which had been participating in GOSF for the last two years is set to compete with Google by offering discounts on its mobile app from December 8 to 12. The shopping fest hosted by Flipkart will be called Big App Sale. However unlike its 'Big Billion Day' in October this year, Flipkart has not spend heavily on advertising and marketing of the Big App Sale.

"Flipkart staying out won't matter because the phone will be available on Google's Playstore as well," said Amit Boni, General Manager at Motorola India who launched Nexus 6 at the event.

However there are questions around the support infrastructure being well-equipped to handle the surge in traffic during such big sale events. Last year, Google India's GOSF website crashed within minutes of the opening and the sale had to be extended by a day.

Similarly, Flipkart's 'Big Billion Day' faced multiple issues especially with order fulfillment and logistics, because of which customer service took a big hit. Couriers were jammed because logistics companies faced capacity issues and couldn't handle the rush.

India's e-commerce economy appears dwarfed when compared to that of China. Chinese ecommerce giant Alibaba sales totaled $9 billion on its 'Single's Day' held on 11th November this year. The event came less than eight weeks after Alibaba's record $25 billion public listing in New York this year.
Compared to that, the biggest such event by an e-tailer, Big Billion Day, organized by Flipkart this year on October 6, led to the site getting a billion hits on the day, achieving $100 million (Rs 615 crores approximately) in sales in 10 hours.

Rajan Anandan, Managing Director, Google India, said: "The measure of the success of GOSF will be the number of new users buying online." He added: "India needs many more such events."

Vivek Jayaraman, Global Product Manager at Google India, said the scale of the India market is yet very small as compared to China and customers need to be handled very differently. "While for most countries ecommerce is an evolution, here in India it is yet a revolution," said Jayaraman. "Things like cash-on-delivery, which Indians love, are not heard anywhere else in the world."

By Taslima Khan