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India-China ties: Modi govt hopes to gain in 2017 as Donald Trump presidency plays out its cards

There has been much noise about a Pakistan Lieutenant General Aamir Riaz asking India to become a part of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Consider for a moment that India agrees, Pakistan itself will regret the invitation. As a much bigger economy, India will become a key player, and take some of the shine away from Pakistan. The strategic equation in Asia as we know it at present would go into a tailspin and could even finally hit the “all weather” China-Pakistan friendship as the entire region would be transformed. In an ideal world, this would be a game changer as countries become stake holders for peace.

But even a leader like Prime Minister Narendra Modi, given to thinking out of the box, cannot risk this bold initiative so long as anti-India terror groups continue to target Indian forces in Kashmir. Without bringing the perpetrators of the 2008 Mumbai terror strikes, the Uri and Pathankot kingpins to book, no Indian leader can risk making peace. Modi as the leader of a nationalist right-wing party, who had long decried the UPA’s soft approach to terror, cannot dream of it now with tension escalating and daily killings across the Line of Control (LoC).

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

India-China and India-Pakistan ties are unlikely to change dramatically in the next few months, with Pakistan especially, till such time as elections in UP, Punjab and other states are done and dusted. Modi’s greetings to Nawaz Sharif on his birthday is an indication that Modi wants to leave a door open to his counterpart. India-Pakistan ties are more emotive than its relationship with China, but with Pakistan becoming a key element of President Xi Jinping’s pet one-road-one-belt project, Beijing, much more than earlier is an integral element in the relationship.

Though India is a member of China’s Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), it has never warmed up to the New Silk Road project. Beijing had earlier been keen for India to join its one-belt-one-road scheme but with the $46 billion investment in Pakistan, it is impossible. India has often protested that some of the CPEC infrastructure will be passing through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), which India claims as its own. China and Pakistan’s friendship has been further cemented by the $46 billion investment in the CPEC.

India-China ties have also taken a hit in the last one year. China has halted India’s entry to the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), it is cool to Delhi’s ambitions of being a member of an expanded UN Security Council. It has also blocked Pakistan-based terror group leader Masood Azhar from being declared on the UN list of terror, though his organisation, the Jaish-e-Mohammed is a designated terror outfit. All this on “technical grounds” according to China. More acrimony in India-China ties lie ahead.

The visit of Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama to Arunachal Pradesh in February is likely to further hit India-China ties. Not that this will be his first visit. He was in the Tawang monastery in 2008 also. But now the Chinese are slightly more nervous. US President-elect Donald Trump’s phone call to Taiwan’s president has made China uneasy and Beijing will be watching closely whether Washington’s new incumbent will continue the long accepted one-China policy which the world seemed until now to have accepted. Taiwan and Tibet are key elements of the one China theory. The Dalai Lama’s visit to any country, remember Mongolia, leads to loud and angry protests by Beijing. The fact that most of its neighbours, aware of China’s economic and military power finally gave in, has emboldened Beijing.

The Tibetan leader’s meeting with President Pranab Mukherjee in Rashtrapati Bhavan has elicited similar noise from China. US ambassador Richard Verma was given rare permission to travel to Arunachal Pradesh. Now, when it is already vulnerable about Taiwan, a visit to the state, which China claims as an extension of South Tibet, will lead to more raucous protests from Beijing.

China usually is circumspect and has long-term policy visions, but over both Taiwan and Tibet it is ultra sensitive. With an unknown individual ready to shake up the Washington consensus China remains nervous. Moreover, it has been closely monitoring the growing warmth in India-China ties and believes the US is using New Delhi to balance China’s clout in the Asia-Pacific region.

All this does not bode well for relations between the two Asian giants. China is also aware that Modi is not the run of the mill Indian leader, and can take extraordinarily bold decisions and can even be adventurist if required.

China’s one-road-one-belt policy is hard to resist for most countries in the neighbourhood. Everyone needs funds for infrastructure, whether it is Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal or the Maldives. China’s footprints are writ large around India’s neighbourhood. This is of concern to India. But India’s frustration should not lead to arm-twisting of smaller neighbours. What it needs instead is a viable development alternative, something much more than the Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (Bimstec). So long as China is flushed with funds, its influence in the region will remain intact. But as many economists predict, China is living in a bubble and chances of the bubble bursting in the next couple of years are high. Without the abundance of cash, Beijing’s competitiveness will dim for awhile. India needs to think of a viable option to carry its neighbours with it. 2017 is likely to be an interesting year as the Trump presidency plays out its cards. India is hoping it will gain in the process.

First Published On : Dec 25, 2016 18:26 IST

After Pak General, Chinese media suggests India to join CPEC

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>China will strongly oppose any attempt to label Pakistan as “supporting terrorism”, Chinese official media said on Friday and suggested India to accept the “olive branch” extended by a top Pakistani military General to participate in the $46 billion economic corridor. “Surprise aside (over General’s call), New Delhi should consider accepting the olive branch Pakistan has extended in a bid to participate in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor,” said an article in the state-run Global Times.The comments came after Lt Gen Riaz, Commander of the Pakistan’s Southern Command which is based in Quetta, this week reportedly said India should “shun enmity” with Pakistan and “join the $46-billion CPEC along with Iran, Afghanistan and other Central Asian countries and enjoy its benefits”.”Such an opportunity could be transient. There is a possibility that the open attitude toward India joining the CPEC will quickly be overwhelmed by opposition voices from Pakistan if New Delhi does not respond in a timely manner to the General’s overture,” the article said. “The best way to reduce hostilities is by establishing economic cooperation based on mutual benefits to put aside what cannot be reached by a consensus,” it said.
ALSO READ India should ‘shun enmity’ and join CPEC: Top Pakistan GeneralIt said that India could boost its exports and slash its trade deficit with China via new trade routes that would be opened up by the CPEC. In addition, the northern part of India bordering Pakistan and Jammu and Kashmir will gain more economic growth momentum if India joins the project, it said.Another article in the same daily said “Riaz’s invitation, which came as a surprise to New Delhi, is mainly intended as a gesture. While he hinted at India’s intervention in the CPEC, he welcomed India’s participation in the project, demonstrating Pakistan does not want to exclude India.” At the same time, it said, “if any country wants to label Pakistan as ‘supporting terrorism’ and discredit the country, then China and other countries who uphold justice will oppose such behaviour strongly”.The article said that since President Xi Jinping visited Pakistan in April, 2015, the CPEC has advanced considerably. “However, some international forces, and India in particular, are accustomed to look at the CPEC and the One Belt and One Road initiative from a geopolitical perspective.On one side, this is relevant to the geopolitical competition mindset they insist on, on the other, this is because of their excessive speculation on the strategic implications of the CPEC and the Belt and Road,” it said. “To ensure the smooth advancement of the CPEC, it is necessary for Pakistan to have a stable and peaceful domestic and periphery environment and a favourable profile,” it said.On anti-terrorism, the Afghanistan peace process, and the peace and stability of Kashmir, Pakistan is making efforts to show international society its wish to pursue peace, it said. “The CPEC is not only a bilateral cooperation, but also a multilateral project in the long-run, which aims at regional economic integration. So it’s open and inclusive, and China and Pakistan hope India, Afghanistan, Iran and Central Asian countries can participate and become stakeholders,” it added.

Cotton route to counter China’s Silk route

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Uncertainty in US’s approach following President-Elect Donald Trump’s announcement to walk out from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement is forcing India to reassess its dependence on the new US Administration.The Narendra Modi Government has taken lead to push country’s own Act East policy and also to reach out to Central Asian nations by hosting leaders of Indonesia, Vietnam, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan to fortify strategic ties. President Obama had outlined a pivot of rebalancing Asia by entering into the TPP that would have given an anchoring role to India and Japan. On Monday, the President of Indonesia, Joko Widodo held bilateral a meeting with Modi. Earlier, the defence minister and president of the National Assembly of Vietnam also visited India.Later this week, Tajikistan President, Emomali Rahmon is arriving in India to hold bilateral discussions. The plans are also afoot to host President of Kyrgyzstan. Post-Kargil and IC-814 hijacking, India had acquired Ayni airbase in Tajikistan. In 2007, he refurbished it at the cost of $70 million, but could not base fighters and helicopters there because of Russian pressure.GV Srinivas, Joint Secretary (Eurasia), who heads the Central Asia desk at the Ministry of External Affairs believes a remarkable commonality between India and Central Asian Republics — including Tajikistan — is the production of cotton. “Unfortunately there is little dialogue and coordination between India and Central Asian Republics as cotton producers,” he said. The officer suggested that there could be a “cotton route” connecting India with the region. Experts say this could be an effective answer to China’s ‘Silk Route’ plans. The cotton route could be the policy formulation in the area of cotton farming, development of cotton seeds, coordination of marketing of cotton and development of upstream and downstream industries surrounding cotton,” he added.China has invested in building the Silk Road Economic Belt, also known as One Belt, One Road (OBOR) that focuses on connectivity and cooperation with Eurasian countries. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is part of this initiative. The strategy underlines China’s push to take a bigger role in global affairs, and vying for a strategic space in Indian Ocean region.After the bilateral talks with the Indonesian President on Monday, Modi described the country as the most valued partner in his Act East Policy. The issue of South China Sea figured prominently in the talks, and in a veiled message to Beijing, both sides asserted that the dispute must be resolved.“We agreed to prioritise defence and security cooperation. As two important maritime nations that are also neighbours, we agreed to cooperate to ensure the safety and security of the sea lanes, in disaster response and environmental protection,” he said.

Narendra Modi, Joko Widodo meet: India, Indonesia agree to strengthen maritime cooperation

New Delhi: India and Indonesia on Monday affirmed their commitment to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos).

“Both leaders affirmed that India and Indonesia are maritime neighbours whose relations are rooted in civilisational contacts developed through the seas and who share similar perceptions of the evolving maritime environment in the region and the world at large,” said a joint statement on maritime cooperation issued following delegation-level talks headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Indonesian President Joko Widodo.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Indonesian President Joko Widodo on Monday. PTI

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Indonesian President Joko Widodo on Monday. PTI

“Both leaders recognised their shared commitment to democracy, pluralistic society, human rights and the rule of law,” it stated

It stated that both Modi and Widodo affirmed the countries’ “deep respect for each other’s contribution to promoting peace, stability and development in the Indian and Pacific Oceans and beyond”.

“Both leaders committed to maintaining a maritime legal order based on the principles of international law, as reflected notably in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos).”

The joint statement assumes significance as several Southeast Asian nations have problems with China over South China Sea.

In July, an international arbitration tribunal at the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) ruled that China violated the Philippines’ rights in the South China Sea, one of the busiest commercial shipping routes in the world.

The court accused China of interfering with the Philippines’ fishing and petroleum exploration, building artificial islands in the waters and failing to prevent Chinese fishermen from fishing in the zone.

China reacted angrily, calling the verdict null and void with no binding force and that “China neither accepts it nor recognises it”. But Beijing has since decided to go for bilateral talks with Manila.

India urged all stakeholders to follow the Unclos.

Indonesia, the largest of the Southeast Asian nations, however, does not have any such issue with China.

“Both leaders recognised that India and Indonesia share common interests in ensuring maritime security and the safety of sea lines of communication,” Monday’s joint statement said.

“Both leaders recognised the importance of freedom of navigation and overflight on the high seas, unimpeded lawful commerce, as well as resolving maritime disputes by peaceful means, in accordance with universally recognised principles of international law including the Unclos.”

The statement said Modi and Widodo affirmed the need to combat, prevent, deter and eliminate illegal, unregulated, and unreported (IUU) fishing.

“Both leaders recognised transnational organised fisheries crime as one of the emerging crimes, which has become an ever-growing threat to the world,” it said.

“Both leaders agreed to conclude a memorandum of understanding on maritime cooperation between Indonesia and India in order to further strengthen and accelerate maritime cooperation inter alia in maritime safety and security, and promotion of maritime industries, as one of the important pillars towards enhancing the bilateral relationship.”

First Published On : Dec 12, 2016 16:56 IST

Farooq Abdullah calls for dialogue between India, Pakistan

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Farooq Abdullah on Monday asserted that only dialogue can resolve differences between India and Pakistan. Abdullah said the two Asian neighbours will have to sit and talk and put an end to the prolonged impasse. “One day the two nations will have to sit and talk to resolve their differences. There is no second way here. The two nations should restrain themselves from further igniting the tension, as both nations get adversely affected,” he told the media here.The National Conference leader expressed hope that Prime Minister Narendra Modi would definitely resume talks with the Asian neighbour and restore peace between the two countries. “I believe that Prime Minister of India wants that the issue between India and Pakistan should get resolved by any means. And I have a firm hope that one day he will resume dialogue with Pakistan,” said Abdullah.The former chief minister?s assertion came a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for a united effort to combat regional terrorism.The Prime Minister, who did not name Pakistan, made this assertion at the ‘Heart of Asia’ conference in Amritsar, Punjab.

Heart of Asia: Afghan President Ghani slams Pak’s denial of cross-border terror

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In a hard hitting attack on Pakistan, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani accused it of launching an “undeclared war” on his country by covertly supporting several terror networks including the Taliban, and noted that there were no hidden deals in India’s growing engagement in the war-ravaged country. In his address at the 6th annual conference of Heart of Asia, Ghani, who severely criticised Islamabad, said an Asian or international mechanism must be put in place, without “playing games”, to find out who was benefiting from terror, extremism and other illicit activities.He said time has come for concrete action against terror infrastructure and those support it, and quoted a top Taliban commander saying unless terror sanctuaries were allowed in Pakistan, the outfit will not last even a month.He said despite Afghanistan’s bilateral and multilateral ties with Pakistan, the “undeclared war” that started in winter of 2014, has intensified after the recent Brussels conference on Afghanistan’s transition.Slamming Pakistan’s habit of denying cross border terror attacks, the Afghan President called for setting up of international mechanism to verify reality of such attacks which have increased in the last few months.He also sought setting up of a global fund to contain terrorism. “There should be an Asian or international regime, whatever is acceptable to Pakistan, should be put in place to verify frontier activities and terrorist operations. “We do not want blame game, we want verification,” he said, without mincing words. “We need to set up a fund to combat extremism,” Ghani said. Pakistan Prime Minister’s Foreign Affairs Adviser Sartaj Aziz was among representatives of 30 countries who attended the conference inaugurated jointly by Ghani and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.Hailing India’s role in Afghanistan’s transition, he said “India’s assistance is transparent and with no strings attached”, adding “there are no hidden deals between India and Afghanistan.””We thank Pakistan for their pledges of USD 500 million for reconstruction of Afghanistan. “This fund Mr Aziz could very well be used to contain extremists because without peace any amount of assistance will not meet the needs of our people,” he said. Asserting that no amount of money can assist Afghanistan if there is support to terrorists by Pakistan, he said military operations in Pakistan have brought about selective displacement of terrorists. Ghani said Afghanistan witnessed highest levels of violence between October 5 and November 20, after the Brussels Conference, demanding dismantling of the state sponsored sanctuaries in Pakistan. Talking about Amritsar, he said the city used to be a centre of commerce and business which connected India to Central Asia, Russia and beyond. Ghani visited the Golden temple last evening with Modi.Referring to Modi’s visit to Afghanistan, he said there were spontaneous celebrations all over Afghanistan following the inauguration of Salma Dam.He also thanked India for further assistance of USD 1 billion apart from USD 2 billion. “India’s assistance is transparent and with no strings attached, ” Ghani said, adding an air corridor between India and Afghanistan will be soon launched to deepen trade ties.

Amid Kashmir unrest, two kids from the Valley clinch gold at international championships

With over four months of shutdown, curfew and civilian killings, the tormented Kashmiris have something to cheer about as two players from the Valley have clinched top titles at two separate international championships recently.

On Tuesday, a seven-year-old boy from north Kashmir’s Bandipora district, who represented India in the Asian Youth Karate Championship, has clinched the gold medal after beating his Sri Lankan rival.

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Hashim Mansoor receiving gold medal at Asian Youth Karate Championship.

Hashim Mansoor, a resident of Nadihal village in Bandipora district, represented India in Sub-Junior category in the championship, which saw the participation of 19 countries, at Talkatora Stadium in New Delhi.

Hashim had defeated his Bhutanese and Malaysian opponents before reaching the finals.

Mansoor Ahmad Shah, Hashim’s father, said that he has been encouraging his child to pursue Karate since he was five. “It is a wonderful feeling. I hope he gets the necessary support in future to continue his journey and I am sure he would excel.”

Ghulam Nabi Tantray, president of J&K Youth Karate Federation, said: “Mansoor had been performing extremely well in recent matches and his win was only possible because of the hard work put by his coach Fasil Ali Dar.

“He is a gifted child and I hope we would produce more champions from all the three regions of the state,” Tantray said.

Tajamul Islam with J&K Cheif Minister Mehbooba Mufti.

Tajamul with J&K Cheif Minister Mehbooba Mufti.

Earlier, an eight-year-old girl from the same district, Tajamul Islam, daughter of a driver, battled all odds and went on to clinch a gold medal at the World Kickboxing Championship in the sub-junior category.

Tajamul, who made the history by winning the gold in the sub-junior category at the World Kickboxing Championship in Italy, is likely to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 10 December in New Delhi.

The political turmoil of last 27 years has dealt a blow to the plans of the state’s hugely talented players who often fail to make a mark at national and international level due to the lack of infrastructure back home. The peace prevailing in the last decade brought out some known faces from the state, like Pervaiz Rasool, who went on to play for team India in international cricket matches.

First Published On : Nov 29, 2016 19:22 IST

Losing toss dented India’s chances, says Jadeja | Reuters

Losing toss dented India’s chances, says Jadeja | Reuters

Updated: Nov 10, 2016 19:57 IST

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By Sudipto Ganguly
| RAJKOT, India

RAJKOT, India Losing the toss at Rajkot dented India’s chances more than three England batsmen hitting centuries in the first innings, all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja said.After winning the toss and asking the hosts to bowl on a docile pitch, England capitalised on some slack fielding to amass 537 runs, effectively batting India out of the first match of the five-test series.Joe Root scored a hundred on Wednesday while Moeen Ali and Stokes matched the feat a day later to mark the first time in 55 years that England had three batsmen score centuries in the same innings at an Asian venue.Geoff Pullar, Ken Barrington and Ted Dexter all scored hundreds in the second innings of a test against India at Kanpur in December 1961.”I think toss took the game away from us,” local boy Jadeja told reporters after the second day’s play.

“We all know how the Rajkot pitch is. First two days, it is suitable for batsmen and then spinners come into play.”Alastair Cook’s men arrived in India after an uninspiring tour of Bangladesh where they drew a two-match series 1-1 and suffered their first loss against the Asian side in the longest format of the game.The defeat in the second test in Dhaka came inside three days after England lost 10 wickets in a session against the world’s ninth-ranked test team.

Jadeja said England’s massive total was not because India bowled badly.”I think the main thing is that the surface was pretty different from Bangladesh,” he said. “There the ball was turning sharp. Here only the odd ball is turning.”India openers Gautam Gambhir and Murali Vijay safely negotiated the 23 overs they faced to take the hosts to 63 without loss at stumps but still trail England by 474 runs.

Left-arm spinner Jadeja was the most successful bowler for the hosts with three wickets and said there was no special instruction for the batsmen on how to go about their innings. “We have to score whatever runs are on the board,” the 27-year-old Jadeja said. “Tomorrow is crucial, we need to play good, positive cricket.”We need to play according to the merit of the ball and not plan too much.” (Editing by Pritha Sarkar)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

Shiv Sena urges Centre to shut down Pakistan embassy

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Shiv Sena on Friday professed the ruling dispensation at the Centre to shut down the Pakistan Embassy and deport their ambassador, alleging that it is the centre from where a whole network against India is channelised.The Shiv Sena in an editorial in its mouthpiece, Saamna, said that Islamabad is not stopping for committing ‘anti-India’ activities and in reply of that, New Delhi must take stringent steps to teach the Asian neighbour a lesson.Backing his party’s stand, leader Sanjay Raut said the party outfit has reiterated this demand of taking strict action against Islamabad many times. “We have said this repeatedly, and demanded this time and again that all the Pakistani embassies situated in India should be shutdown. Every place from where their commercial work is done should be shut, because all these centres work against India,” Raut told ANI.”The first thing which should be done is to deport the Pakistan ambassador sitting in Delhi. I would like to ask does the Centre has the guts to do so? As a whole network against India is run from there,” he added.

Encourage leadership of women in disaster risk management: PM Modi

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Outlining a 10-point agenda for renewing efforts for disaster risk reduction, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday stressed on encouraging involvement of women volunteers and sought greater cohesion in international response to deal with all kinds of calamities.Inaugurating the Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (AMCDRR), he emphasised on working towards risk coverage for all, starting from poor households to small and medium enterprises and multi-national corporations to nation states.He said all development sectors must imbibe the principles of disaster risk management and encourage involvement and leadership of women as they are the biggest sufferers of any disaster.”Women are disproportionately affected by disasters. They also have unique strengths and insights. We must train a large number of women volunteers to support special needs of women affected by disasters. We need women engineers, masons and building artisans supporting reconstruction, and women self help groups assisting livelihood recovery,” he said.The Prime Minister said there should be investment in risk mapping globally, leveraging of technology to enhance the efficiency of the disaster risk management efforts and utilising the opportunities provided by social media and mobile technologies.He also spoke of building on local capacity and initiative, ensuring that the opportunity to learn from a disaster is not wasted and bringing about greater cohesion in international response to disasters.Modi said a fully functional Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning System has become operational and along with its Australian and Indonesian counterparts, the Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services is mandated to issue regional tsunami bulletins.”The same goes for improvements in cyclone early warning. In India, if we compare the impact of cyclone events in 1999 and 2013, we can see the progress we have made…. It led to a significant reduction in loss of lives from cyclones. It is now recognised as a global best practice,” he said. The Prime Minister said disaster risk reduction has a pivotal role in supporting adaptation to climate change as well as sustainable development and it is in this context that this conference becomes timely and relevant.As many as 61 countries from Asia and Pacific region with 1,100 delegates, besides around 2,900 domestic representatives are participating the three-day conference.The meeting will pave the way for implementation of Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction in the Asian region and will also devise a mechanism for monitoring its progress.Modi said over the last two decades, the world, and especially Asia-Pacific region, has undergone many changes most of them positive.”Many countries in our region have transformed their economies and become engines of global economic growth.Hundreds of millions of our people have been lifted out of poverty. The Asia-Pacific region has been a global leader in more ways than one.”But we must not take this progress for granted. There are challenges as well. Over the last twenty years, more than eight hundred and fifty thousand people died from disasters in the Asia-Pacific. Seven of the top ten countries in the world in terms of number of deaths due to disasters are in the Asia-Pacific,” he said.Modi also shared his personal experience during the 2001 Gujarat quake and said as Chief Minister of the state, he had worked with the people to support post-earthquake recovery.The Prime Minister said there are daunting challenges ahead as the Asia-Pacific region is rapidly urbanising and perhaps within a decade more people in the region will live in cities than in villages.”Urbanisation will pose greater challenges for disaster risk management by concentrating people, property and economic activity in smaller areas, many of them in disaster prone locations.”If we do not manage this growth, in terms of both planning and execution, the risk of economic and human losses from disasters will be higher than ever before,” he said.

Mumbai: Minor fire at hospital in BKC

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Fire broke out in the basement of Asian Heart Institute hospital in Bandra Kurla Complex in Mumbai last night but no one was injured.The hospital authorities described it as “minor”.Fire brigade control room received the call at 9.45 pm and four fire engines and as many water tankers were pressed into service, a fire brigade official said.Chief fire officer P S Rahangdale said it was a ‘Level II’ fire call and the fire was confined to two small basement areas. Situation was under control and no evacuation of patients was necessitated, he said.Hospital sources said late in the night that there was a “minor fire” in the basement which was picked up by the fire alarm system.It was immediately controlled by the staff and fire brigade was called, they said, adding there was no harm to the patients, patient care and all hospital functions are continuing normally.

Interview: TAPI gas pipeline consortium plans investor roadshows in November | Reuters

By Drazen Jorgic
| ISLAMABAD

ISLAMABAD A long-delayed pipeline project from Turkmenistan to Pakistan and India via Afghanistan is in the final stages of financing, and investor roadshows are due to be held next month, a Pakistani official involved in the project said on Friday.Originating at the giant Galkynysh gas field in Turkmenistan, the $10 billion TAPI (Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India) pipeline, which involves the four countries’ own energy companies, would carry 33 billion cubic metres (bcm) of gas a year.But difficulties in obtaining financing for the project and concerns about security in Afghanistan, where Islamist Taliban insurgents control swathes of the territory earmarked as the pipeline route, have led to lengthy delays.Mobin Saulat, head of Pakistan’s state-owned Inter State Gas Systems (ISGS), told Reuters there was “significant progress” with the TAPI project and that investor roadshows to raise funds are planned for November.”There will be roadshows soon in all the major financial hubs,” he said. “The project’s planned commissioning is 2020 and I think we are very much on target.”Over the decades, international oil giants have expressed interest in the proposed pipeline, but the region’s complex geopolitics and contract disagreements meant none ever fully committed.A total $4 billion for the pipeline has been put forward by the four TAPI countries, Saulat said. Pakistan’s ISGS has a 5 percent stake in the 1,814 km (1,127 mile) pipeline project.

Saulat said the Asian Development Bank had shown interest in funding some of the project and there was “huge interest shown and commitments made from some of the major suppliers who said they would be able to get supplier credit.”Turkmenistan, which sits on the world’s fourth-largest gas reserves, last December started building its section of the pipeline, designed to ease its dependence on Russia and China, but the three other countries have yet to begin work.Saulat said selecting project management consultants for TAPI was in the “final stages” and TurkmenGaz, Turkmenistan’s national gas company, was in advanced talks with suppliers about the purchase of giant compressors, needed to funnel gas down the route.

AZERBAIJAN INTEREST
TAPI is one of three main pipeline projects aimed at securing long-term energy supplies to Pakistan, where chronic energy shortages are proving a major drag on growth.The other two planned projects include a $2 billion Russian-funded North-South liquefied natural gas (LNG) pipeline from the coast city of Karachi to Pakistan’s industrial heartlands in Punjab, and a Chinese-funded LNG pipeline starting from a proposed LNG terminal at the port city of Gwadar in Baluchistan.Saulat said Pakistan expected to finalise contracts for the (LNG) terminal at Gwadar port in November and the final deal for the Gwadar-Nawabshah pipeline should be finished this month.

“We have had a number of sessions with the Chinese team, so we see an immediate kick-off after we sign the contracts.”China has agreed to fund 85 percent of the port and pipeline project and Pakistan will pay the rest, Saulat said. Officials expect the terminal and pipeline to be complete in mid-2018, and local media put the cost of the deals at about $2 billion.Saulat, who is also managing director of newly-formed Pakistan LNG, said Azerbaijan’s state energy company SOCAR had approached the country to supply it with LNG gas.Saulat said the approach was linked to Pakistan’s plans to issue two international LNG tenders for 750,000 tonnes per year, most likely due before the end of 2016.”Their trading wing is actually interested, but again, it’s one of the players, we have to follow the process.” (Reporting by Drazen Jorgic; Editing by Mike Collett-White)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

India should not ‘politicise’ Brics to solve bilateral ties with Pakistan: Chinese expert

Beijing: India should not politicise the upcoming eighth Brics summit to solve its bilateral disputes and not expect member nations to isolate and brand Pakistan as “supporter of terrorism”, a Chinese expert has suggested.

“One of the key items at this year’s summit will be anti-terrorism. All Brics members do not want to solve bilateral disputes through politicised multilateral platforms.” Liu Zongy, a senior fellow at the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies, said without naming India and Pakistan.

“As for the decades-long Kashmir issue, Bricss countries can only play a mediating role rather than support one side while isolating the other. They cannot simply label a country as “supporter of terrorism,” Liu wrote in Global Times.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

The article comes days after China indicated that it opposed India’s effort at the UN to declare Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar — chief plotter of Mumbai and Pathankot terror attacks — as a terrorist.

Following the 18 September terrorist attack on an Indian Army base in Uri, Jammu and Kashmir, New Delhi has launched a campaign of sorts to isolate Pakistan in the global forum.

India is likely to highlight the issue of terrorism emanating from Pakistan in the two-day Brics summit, beginning from Sunday in Goa.

Recently, India conveyed its unhappiness to Russia over latter holding a joint military drill with Pakistan.

“One of the highlights of this year’s Goa summit will be the meeting between BRICS leaders and the heads of state of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (Bimstec),” the write-up said.

“It is worth noting that some members of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) are not included in the BIMSTEC mechanism, while some Asean nations are formal members of Bimstec. The participation of ASEAN (Association for South East Asian Nations) countries shows the exclusivity of the summit, while the absence of some SAARC countries weakens the tolerance of regional major powers,” it noted.

“Through the Brics summit, India wants to advance its ‘Act East’ policy and promote linkage between India and some South Asian and Southeast Asian countries, which are also partners in China’s ‘One Belt and One Road’ initiative.”

“Hopefully, a close relationship between New Delhi and these countries will promote their linkage with China and pave the way for a win-win scenario,” it added.

India-Pakistan diplomatic war

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The nerve-wrecking diplomatic war between India and Pakistan continues unabated, with both countries working hard to partition the SAARC regional grouping. Peeved at the failure to host the 19th SAARC summit in Islamabad, Pakistan has for the first time openly floated the idea of a greater South Asian economic alliance to include China, Iran and Central Asian nations to counter India’s influence. India is unlikely to accept the offer as its plays a pivot in South Asia. It has successfully used this position recently to isolate Pakistan in the region.Using its diplomatic prowess, the Modi government recently convinced members, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Bhutan to side with it by staying away from the Islamabad summit to protest against the host country’s continued support to terrorist activities and non-state actors. Also, India has, for long now, set its sights on the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) grouping, that includes Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Bhutan and Nepal, a move to counter non-functioning of the SAARC.Debunking Pakistan’s plans for a greater SAARC, officials here described them as nothing more than Islamabad’s “survival tactics” to divert attention from its global isolation. “Pakistan’s credibility has taken a huge beating because of its use of terror as state policy. Afghanistan and Iran have their own issues with Islamabad and same is with Central Asian nations too,” they said.Experts here say the SAARC had never been a particularly vibrant regional forum to deliver results, keeping in view the relations between India and Pakistan, who have made the grouping hostage to their rivalries and animosity. China is one of the observer countries in SAARC along with others such as the US, the EU, Japan, Australia, Iran and South Korea.At the 18th summit in Kathmandu in 2014, Pakistan and the host Nepal were trying to convince countries behind the scenes to allow Beijing to become a full-fledged member of the grouping. At this Summit, India was all but isolated in its opposition to China, with the declaration explicitly committing “to engage SAARC observers into productive, demand-driven, and objective project-based cooperation in priority areas identified by member-states”.A parliamentary delegation from Pakistan, which is now in New York is supposed to have pitched this idea during its five-day visit to Washington last week, a report in the Dawn said.”A greater South Asia is already emerging,” Pakistani Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed was quoted as saying in one of his interactions with the media. He described the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, which runs through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, as the key economic route linking South Asia with Central Asia. Recently, Afghanistan and Iran have also expressed desire to be part of the corridor. Senator, who has played a key part in convincing the then president General Zia-ul-haq to participate in the SAARC in 1983, said the Gwadar port, was the nearest warm water port, not only for China but also for the land-locked Central Asian states.In the current dynamics, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Bhutan have emerged as strong allies of India. Though the Maldives, Nepal, and Sri Lanka have good ties with Pakistan, they don’t want to annoy India at the moment.

dna Evening Must Reads: Parrikar on surgical strikes, 2 militants killed in Parampore encounter and more

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>1) Earlier army attacked on its own, first ‘surgical strike’ across LoC after govt’s instruction: Manohar ParrikarDefence Minister Manohar Parrikar rejected claims that surgical strikes were undertaken during the UPA regime and asserted that a “major” share of credit for the army action last month goes to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Speaking at two different events, he said all the 127 crore people of India, including “doubting Thomases”, and the army share and deserve credit for the operation as it was done by the armed forces and not by any political party. Read more…2) Pampore encounter: 56-hour gunbattle comes to an end, two militants killedThe 56-hour gunbattle between security forces and militants holed up in a government building at Pampore on the Srinagar-Jammu National Highway ended this afternoon with both the ultras hiding there shot dead. As there were reports of two to three militants present in the Entrepreneurship Development Institute (EDI) complex, the security forces had to search all the 50 rooms of the building before calling off the operation, an army official said. “We have recovered bodies of two militants and the search operation at the EDI building in Pampore has been almost completed,” the army official said. Read more…3) World will be in danger if Trump becomes US President: United Nations Human Rights ChiefThe world will be in danger if Republican nominee Donald Trump becomes president of the United States, the top United Nations human rights official said on Wednesday. U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein cited Trump’s views on vulnerable communities including minorities and his talk of authorising torture in interrogations, banned under international law, as “deeply unsettling and disturbing”. Read more…4) Pakistan seeks bigger South Asian economic alliance to counter India’s influence in SAARC: ReportPakistan is exploring the possibility of creating a greater South Asian economic alliance to include China, Iran and neighbouring Central Asian republics as part of its bid counter India’s influence in SAARC, a media report said on Wednesday. Dawn News, citing diplomatic observers, said Pakistan is exploring the possibility of creating a greater South Asian economic alliance to counter India’s “controlling hold” on the eight member South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). Read more…5) Nuclear proliferation linkages active today have Pakistan fingerprints: IndiaHitting out at Pakistan, India has said nuclear proliferation linkages active today have clear “Pakistan fingerprints” and an “unbridled” expansion of fissile material under the nexus between state and non-state actors constitutes the biggest threat to peace. “The biggest threat to peace and stability comes from active promotion of terrorism and the unbridled expansion of fissile material production and delivery systems for nuclear weapons under the shadow of a deeply disturbing and deeply entrenched nexus between state entities and non-state actors,” Siddhartha Nath, Counsellor, Conference on Disarmament, Geneva, said. Read more…

India need not feel ‘jealous’ about China-Bangla ties: media

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>India need not feel “jealous” about close relations between China and Bangladesh in the wake of President Xi Jinping’s impending Dhaka visit, state media said today while observing that it would not be bad if such a relationship puts pressure on New Delhi to improve Sino-India ties. “Xi’s upcoming visit to Bangladesh is likely to raise bilateral relations to new heights and result in a large amount of investment and loans to improve local infrastructure in the South Asian country,” an article in the state-run Global Times said. “India need not be jealous of an increasingly close relationship between Beijing and Dhaka, because the improvement of local infrastructure and the overall economic ecology in Bangladesh will create favourable external conditions for connecting with markets in India, China and Southeast Asia,” said the article titled ‘India has nothing to fear from closer relationship between China and Bangladesh’. The article however, stated that it would not necessarily be a bad thing if an increasingly close relationship between China and Bangladesh puts “some pressure on New Delhi” to rethink its strategy in this region and encourages it to put more effort into improving relations with China during the upcoming meeting between President Xi and Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the BRICS Summit in Goa. Xi is scheduled to visit Dhaka later this week during which he was expected to announce some big ticket Chinese investments in Bangladesh. According to reports from Dhaka, investments could amount to USD 40 billion.”There have been misconceptions in India that China may feel unhappy if South Asian countries such as Bangladesh forge close ties with India and that China feels the need to build closer ties with Bangladesh,” the article said. Xi’s visit is seen by some in India as a “trip to snatch the South Asian country from the embrace of New Delhi. The groundbreaking visit to Bangladesh is likely to help consolidate bilateral ties and boost economic cooperation between the two countries,” it said. The article said there is a popular view that China is trying to carve out for itself a pre-eminent role in South Asian affairs and that it intends to contain India’s rise by seeking closer cooperation with countries like Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Myanmar. “In this regard, some people believe China’s One Belt and One Road initiative has been used as a political tool to achieve Beijing’s goals,” the article said. “But such views are too simplistic. Some Indian people may mistakenly flatter themselves when they think China’s Belt and Road initiative is aimed at balancing India’s influence,” it said. “Bangladesh’s geographic location makes it an irreplaceable link connecting India and China, and efforts to boost the local economy and improve infrastructure in Bangladesh could bring development momentum for the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Economic Corridor,” it said.

Welcome to India, world’s fastest growing economy where 39% children starve

Prime minister Narendra Modi took a jibe at India’s perennially hostile neighbour Pakistan at his Kozhikode speech, just a few days ahead of the ‘surgical attacks’ conducted by army’s special forces at LoC. The Prime Minister said India is ready for a war with Pakistan, but a war on poverty, unemployment and malnutrition. Modi’s ‘war cry’ resonated well even in the Pakistani media. It seems we, Indians, are indeed at war with Pakistan on poverty and malnutrition.

As this Mint report notes, among Asian countries India and Pakistan are at the bottom of the rankings in the Global Hunger Index (GHI) report released by US-based International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).

AFPAFP

AFP

In the 2016 rankings of 118 countries, India is at 97th position and Pakistan at 107. All other Asian neighbours of India are doing relatively better — China (29), Nepal (72), Myanmar (75), Sri Lanka (84) and Bangladesh (90), the report showed, adding India’s GHI score of 28.5 is worse than the developing country average score of 21.3.

Brazil and Argentina have a GHI score of less than 5 and are ranked the best among developing nations, while countries like Chad and Central African Republic come at the bottom with a score of 44.3 and 46.1, respectively, the report says.

GHI is a multidimensional statistical tool used to describe the state of countries’ hunger situation. Updated once a year, it gauges the progress and failures in the global fight against hunger.

Take a look at the specifics. The IFPRI thinks we have a “serious” hunger problem with 15.2 percent of Indians undernourished and 38.7 percent of children under the age of five stunted on account of malnutrition.

One can always argue on the efficacy of such surveys in portraying the accurate picture with a decent amount of skepticism. But, facts are facts and the more you ignore it, a bigger joke you make out of yourself. The hunger index numbers indeed throw some serious questions on the course of ongoing government programmes to alleviate poverty and malnutrition in the country, and whether we have prioritised this problem the way it should be.

For a layman on the street, a logical question arises. With one in every 15 Indians facing near starvation and close to 40 percent below-5 children stunted for want of minimum nutritious food, what sort of China-beating economic growth and India’s emergence into world central stage are our politicians boasting of?

Yes, India has been struggling to cut down poverty. The level of poverty and malnutrition have come down over the past decade, but somewhere we are missing the sense of urgency when it comes to address the people at the bottom of the pyramid.

The IFPRI report isn’t a one-off.

Going by a United Nations annual report for 2014-15 released last year, India has the world’s highest number of hungry people in the world. Ironically, we have beaten China here too. India has 194.6 million hungry people compared with 133.8 million in China, of the total of 795 million people in the world. In other words, one-fourth of the world’s hungry population is in India. What does being the citizens of the world’s fastest growing economy mean to them?

Jobless economic growth

When we talk about poverty and malnutrition, it is necessary to look at what education and job market are doing to elevate India’s poor from the deadly grips of poverty. Since independence, India has progressed remarkably on giving basic education to the children. Though the quality of higher education offered in our universities is still a matter of debate, India continues to be one of the biggest exporter of human talent across sectors to the developed world.

That takes us to the next problem — joblessness in our country and why we continue to see a period of high growth but less number of jobs being generated (mechanisation and efficiency cannot be the sole excuses). The problem for the poor is lack of employment opportunities.

For a larger section of people at the bottom of pyramid, a 7.6 percent GDP growth is a mere number on the morning newspapers considering lack of employment opportunities. Even if one looks at the job data, the picture is disappointing. There has been no corresponding increase in the number of jobs in the economy to align with what the headline GDP numbers indicate.

Let’s revisit briefly a recent Firstpost article, which highlighted the unemployment problem in the country.

According to the Labour Bureau data, the country’s unemployment rate has shot up to a 5-year high of 5 percent in 2015-16. This figure is significantly higher, at 8.7 percent, for women as compared to 4.3 percent for men. About 77 percent of Indian households do not have regular wage/salaried person.
India’s unemployment rate was 4.9 percent in 2013-14, 4.7 percent in 2012-13, 3.8 percent in 2011-12 and 9.3 percent in 2009-10. There was no report from Labour Bureau in 2014-15. And the situation is not looking better going ahead.

A World Bank research has showed that automation threatens 69 percent of the jobs in India. With the use of more technology, the pattern of traditional economic path in developing countries could be fundamentally disrupted, the report noted.

That’s not all.

Asia-Pacific Human Development Report released by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) this year gives a strong warning on the level of unemployment in the country. According to the report between 1991 and 2013 India could provide employment only to less than half of the new entrants into the job market.

“The the size of the working-age population increased by 300 million (during the period), while the number of employed people increased by only 140 million — the economy absorbed less than half the new entrants into the labour market. A wider gap in India than China suggests a more limited capacity to generate employment — a serious challenge given the continued expansion of the workforce in India over the next 35 years,” the report said.

The bottomline is this: It’s perhaps time our politicians stopped weighing India’s economic growth only in GDP percentage figures and go for a broader set of parameters that reflect the actual growth of the economy/ real situation on the ground — something which depicts the level of poverty, unemployment and malnutrition rate, not just a measure crunching the domestic produce numbers.

Pakistan seeks bigger Saarc-like alliance to counter India’s influence

Washington: Pakistan is exploring the possibility of creating a greater South Asian economic alliance to counter India’s controlling hold on the eight-member South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc), diplomatic observers said.

A parliamentary delegation from Pakistan, which is now in New York, pitched this idea during its five-day visit to Washington last week, Dawn online reported on Wednesday.

“A greater South Asia is already emerging,” said Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed, in one of his interactions with the media.

“This greater South Asia includes China, Iran and the neighbouring Central Asian republics.”

Representational image. AFPRepresentational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

He described the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor as the key economic route linking South Asia with Central Asia.

The Gwadar port, he said, would be the nearest warm water port, not only for China but also for the land-locked Central Asian states.

“We want India to join this arrangement as well,” said Hussain, an offer Indians are unlikely to accept as they are comfortable with the advantage that Saarc provides them.

Last month, India used its influence in Saarc to isolate Pakistan when it announced that it would not attend the regional group’s 19th summit, scheduled in Islamabad on 15 and 16 November.

India cited Pakistan’s involvement in the 18 September terrorist attack at an Army camp in Uri town of Kashmir, in which 19 soldiers died, as the reason for its decision to boycott the summit.

India has blamed Pakistan for the attack, a claim which Islamabad has denied. Other Saarc nations — Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Sri Lanka — joined India to boycott the meeting.

According to Dawn, the boycott has led to an indefinite postponement of the summit and exposed Pakistan’s isolation within the region.

“Apparently, the showdown forced Pakistan to conclude that in its present shape, Saarc will always be dominated by India. That’s why they are now talking about a greater South Asia,” said a senior diplomat, confirming reports that Pakistan is actively seeking a new regional arrangement.

“Pakistan hopes that this new arrangement will give it more room to manoeuvre when India tries to force a decision on it,” said another diplomat.

Diplomatic observers in Washington said the proposed arrangement also suits China as it is worried about India’s rapidly growing influence in the region.

They argued that China can play an important role in persuading Central Asian republics and Iran to join the new arrangement.

But, according to the observers, Saarc members will have little interest in supporting the idea.

There is not much benefit for Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka in joining a land route far from their borders and Dhaka as well as Colombo have their own ports.

The member that is likely to get the most benefits from a greater South Asian alliance is Afghanistan, which is technically a land-locked Central Asian nation.

But observers believe that Afghanistan is too closely linked to India to join any arrangement that hurts New Delhi’s interests.

Afghanistan’s presence in Saarc, however, justifies Pakistan’s argument that Central Asian nations can be included in a greater South Asia.

Saarc member states imposed a stipulation for Afghanistan to hold general elections, which were held in late 2005, enabling the country to join the group as its eighth member in April 2007.

But, as a South Asian diplomat pointed out, even if a greater South Asia became reality, there’s no guarantee that its members would support Pakistan in its disputes with India.

“Many Central Asian states have strong ties with India and Iran too has problems with Pakistan,” the diplomat said.

China ready to join mechanism with India, B’desh to share Brahmaputra waters: Media

Beijing: Refuting reports of China joining water wars between India and Pakistan by blocking a tributary of Brahmaputra river, Chinese official media said on Monday that Beijing is ready to join a multilateral cooperation mechanism with India and Bangladesh to share the waters.

Relations between China and India should not be affected by “imaginary water war”, an article in the state-run Global Times said, adding that Beijing is unlikely to use Brahmaputra river water as a potential weapon.

The article said China is willing to have multilateral cooperation with India and Bangladesh to share the waters. The proposal is significant as China has no water treaty with India to share the river waters.

“It is easy to understand the anger of Indian people as they read recent news reports saying China had blocked a tributary of the Brahmaputra river, which is a trans-boundary river flowing from Southwest China’s Tibet Autonomous Region into the northeastern Indian state of Assam and later into Bangladesh, serving as an important water source for the regions,” it said.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

“The move by China to temporarily blockade the tributary to construct a dam sparked widespread concerns in India, but people in the downstream country may be ignoring one thing,” it said, adding that the reservoir capacity of the dam on the Xiabuqu river, a tributary of the Brahmaputra, is less than 0.02 per cent of the average annual runoff of the Brahmaputra.

“Frankly, there is no need for India to overreact to such projects, which aim to help with reasonable development and utilisation of water resources,” it said.

However, what is worrying is that some local Indian media outlets linked the blockage with India’s recent water dispute with Pakistan, trying to create the false impression that China may be interested in taking part in the “so-called water war between the two South Asian countries to give Pakistan silent support,” the article stated. “However, construction of the dam project on the tributary of the Brahmaputra started in June 2014,” it added.

“It is clear the blockade to construct the dam does not target India, and relevant countries should not read too much into the move,” the write-up maintained.

While it is understandable that India is sensitive to China’s water exploitation on the Brahmaputra as a downstream country, “China is unlikely to use the waters of the river as a potential weapon,” it said.

Pointing that China is the source of several trans-boundary rivers including the Lancang-Mekong River, which runs through China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, it said, “If China blocked the Brahmaputra for political reasons, such a move would cause panic among the five Southeast Asian nations and therefore damage China’s relationship with them.”

The article said there are cooperation mechanisms for China and the five Southeast Asian countries that can help coordinate sustainable use of water resources in the Lancang-Mekong River and share information.

“We believe that China is willing to borrow from the experience of this mechanism when it comes to promoting cooperation among the Brahmaputra’s three major riparian countries. This will be the most effective solution to the water dispute between China and India,” it said.

“Realistically, people may need to make efforts to persuade India, rather than China, to accept a multilateral cooperation mechanism involving all of the Brahmaputra’s riparian countries,” it added.

At the same the article has accused India of “making increasing efforts to exploit the Brahmaputra River through various forms”, in a bid to develop the river’s water resources.

“Some efforts may have harmed the interests of downstream Bangladesh, but the lack of bargaining power for Bangladesh, whose economy is highly dependent on India, has resulted in limited public attention,” it said.

“India may feel reluctant to establish a cooperation mechanism among the Brahmaputra’s riparian countries because such a mechanism is likely restrain India from moves that might hurt Bangladesh’s interests,” it said.

‘We do not want war and suffering’, say Kargil locals amid Indo-Pak tension

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Residents in the Kargil and Drass areas of Ladakh division have said that they are not in favour of India and Pakistan engaging in another war, as it will only create more problems for them.They said that the Kashmir issue should be solved by both sides amicably.The president of the Buddhist Association told ANI that he had come to meet Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and briefed him about the problems being faced by people in the region.”Our Kargil is in the vicinity of Pakistan, so we are all worried,” he added.Remembering the 1999 Kargil War with Pakistan, he said it is the poor which suffers the most in such conditions, adding both Asian neighbours must stay united so as to avoid confrontation.”When there is a war, the poor suffer. Someone will win, someone will lose the war. This is not a good thing,” he said.Shayed Ahmed Rizvi, a local resident, said that the Kashmir issue should be solved through dialogue.”We have come here to discuss the Kargil issue, given the present situation emerging in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. We do not want division of Kashmir and we want that the locals here must be given justice,” he said.Locals here are still optimistic about India and Pakistan having friendly ties.

Indian Army’s surgical strikes: ‘Us versus Them’ buffet served in Indian living rooms

Bollywood conducted a surgical strike on Indian TV news channels on Thursday. The result was erasing the Line of Control in TV journalism as anchors with high-decibel support from former army veterans, ushered in a Sunny Deol’s dhai kilo ka haath (two and a half kilo arm) moment.

Congratulations, the equivalent of jhappis (hugs) across TV screen windows, were being exchanged liberally. Pakistani guests (wonder why the ‘ban’ on Pakistani artists does not apply to them also because they also are essentially actors in the Indo-Pak theatre of the absurd every other night) were taunted and ridiculed. I guess the money for the TV appearances must be really good enough to swallow the insults.

The 56-inch chest had been cloned across TV studios as anchors and panelists exulted in the feat of brave Indian soldiers wandering into our part of Kashmir, illegally occupied since 1948, only to find Pakistan army soldiers in bed with terrorists. India avenged Uri where 19 Indian soldiers became martyrs, by killing 40 Pakistanis. ‘Kill one, Lose two’ sounding like a pre-Diwali bumper offer.

Indian media has realised that jingoism dressed up as patriotism is the shortest route to TRPs. Viewers are served an adrenalin-pumping Us versus Them buffet spread on the remote. But the real ‘Us’ is every TV channel, with `Them’ referring to the rivals. In the bargain, just about every channel crossed the LoC of what has traditionally defined good journalism, which says whipping up a war cry is a No-No.

SurgicalStrike_Buffet_825SurgicalStrike_Buffet_825

What’s in includes over-the-top war mongering, with TV anchors exulting kid-like after winning a video game, having vanquished enemies, firing on all cylinders. Draped in the tricolour, it is a moment tailor-made for television, with the villain clearly identified. And any sceptic on the Indian side, labelled and targeted as a Trojan horse.

The Pakistan defence minister fell prey to the desire for chest-beating on the other side of the Wagah, threatening to drop nukes on India. But the debate in Indian TV studios on the threat reduced it to a joke, making a mockery of it. The machismo of ‘a rattled Pakistan will not exist in its present form’ has been the underlying emotion in all TV debates, without enlightening the country on the costs of war, what it means for those on the border, what it means for India’s economy and the environment should some madcap in Pakistan press the nuclear button. On show on most channels are cardboard debates, amidst the surround sound of four windows shouting at each other at the same time. Kashmir, which is at the heart of the problem, is rarely ever discussed. On show all the time is a ‘tu jaanta nahin main kaun hoon’ (You don’t know who you’re dealing with) like street fight.

News television revels in reducing news to events. Elections and Budgets have hitherto been the ones to bank on, when the advertisers come calling. But a televised war, with tu-tu main-main (bickering) that would inspire Salim-Javed, is what the numbers game is all about. In this festival season, expect advertisers to put their money where the barrel of the gun is. War on poverty, drought, casteism et al pale in comparison to this noisy rhetoric that revels in a jaw for a tooth.

This is what must be called a dental surgical strike deep inside Pakistan’s cavity to clear the terror plaque.

But in a sense, TV channels had recognised the mood of the country. That citizens were angry at the ‘Hum ninda karte hain’ (We condemn it) template of the Indian government’s response each time Pakistan-trained terrorists hit India. That the anger this time mirrored and matched the post-Nirbhaya outrage.

Naturally, TV channels decided to dish out news in the manner of a soap opera, far more gripping than the stuff Balaji Telefilms put on entertainment channels. TV journalism is no longer about only information. It is info-tainment, the news equivalent of the IPL. Hashtags of the variety of #IndiaStrikesBack, #IndiaGivesItBack, the cheerleaders on the ticker.

Jokes circulating on Twitter, Facebook and Whatsapp are often an indicator of the mood in urban India. On Thursday, jokes on Whatsapp recalled actor Rajkumar’s epic lines from Saudagar: Hum tumhe maarenge aur zaroor maarenge, lekin wo bandook bhi hamari hogi, goli bhi hamari hogi aur waqt bhi hamara hoga (We will definitely strike you hard, but the weapon, bullet and time of that strike will be our choice). Others advised Pakistan not to bother sending fidayeens across the LoC to get killed as Indian Army had started doing ‘home delivery’. I thought this was retribution for banning MS Dhoni’s biopic in Pakistan as those across the LoC suffered the brunt of helicopter shots.

The sports arena was not immune to the jingoism either. Indian hockey captain PR Sreejesh vowed to defeat Pakistan when the two teams met at the Asian Champions Trophy. In Dhaka, the under-18 Indian hockey team defeated Pakistan 3-1 prompting even Home minister Rajnath Singh to tweet that the victory was made possible with ‘surgical precision’. And at the Eden Gardens, if India defeats New Zealand, it will end up dethroning Pakistan as the Number one Test team. India may be trying to isolate Pakistan internationally but the mind space of its population seems entirely Pakistan-focused.

The Director General of Pakistan’s Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) also came in for shelling. Gen Asim Bajwa’s Facebook page was attacked by the Kerala cyber army as they trolled him with comments written in Malayalam.

As I write this, I hear a media organisation has cancelled the leave of all employees. This message that went out, will give you an idea of what to expect in the days to come.

‘All reporter/assignment offs and leaves cancelled for the next two weeks. All hands on board. 24-7. Our level of alertness must match that of the Indian army. Every story on this big development must break first on our channels. Jai Hind.’

Sensex, rupee crash after surgical strikes on terror camps; Karachi bourse ends a sober 0.2% down

Key domestic equity benchmark indices witnessed the worst one-day fall in last three months after panic-stricken investors turned jittery and sold stocks in hordes following news of a surgical strike by the Indian army across the LoC. The action by the Indian military was in retaliation to a  18 September terrorist attack at the Uri army base.

As the news of a strategic attack by the Indian military started trickling-in in late morning trades, heavy selling unravelled on the bourses leading to a steep 573 points fall in Sensex that touched the day’s low of 27,719.92.

ReutersReuters

Reuters

Despite some recovery in late trades on selective buying, the 30-share benchmark Sensex still ended 465.28 points lower, or 1.64 percent, at 27,827.53. The broader 50-stock Nifty closed 153.90 points lower, or 1.76 percent, at 8,591.25.

As markets buckled under selling pressure, investor wealth fell by Rs 2.42 lakh crore to Rs 109.62 lakh crore on the BSE.

The local currency market, too, felt the heat as rupee plunged 48 paise intra-day or 0.73 percent lower to touch the day’s low of 66.95 against previous day’s close of 66.47 to the dollar. The rupee finally ended 39 paise lower or 0.59 percent down at 66.86 to the dollar.

On a day, when the Indian stock and currency markets came under heavy selling pressure, Pakistan’s Karachi Stock Exchange or KSE witnessed moderate selling and the index closed 0.18 percent or 71 points lower at 40,283.71 as the government there denied of any such attack in its country. However, the KSE index had its share of a bearish moment on 21 September, when the index crashed 569 points or 1.41 percent amid worries of a India-Pakistan military face-off in the near-term following the recent Uri attack.

“Nobody knows how long this situation will exist. Today’s fall was more of a panic reaction by the investors. India is a mature country and it has been clearly specified by the army that the attack was surgical. One can hope that situation would improve in the next few sessions. We would soon see a bounce-back as India’s fundamentals are good,” said Deven Choksey, Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director at KR Choksey Shares & Securities.

In fact, the Sensex had shot up 183 points in early trade mirroring gains in other Asian gauges after an OPEC meeting yesterday signalled oil production cuts to boost prices, which fuelled rally across the global indices.

Most of the stock market experts feel the stock market sentiment will rebound soon due to strong fundamentals of Indian economy.

“From a fundamental perspective markets are still attractive for long term investors. Therefore such dips present a good buying opportunity which is visible in the recovery from the day’s lows. Escalation in geo political tensions was the reason behind today’s fall in the markets,” said Nitasha Shankar, senior vice president and Head of Research, YES Securities.

Dipen Shah, Senior Vice President & Head PCG Research, Kotak Securities, said, “Markets witnessed an event-driven fall today even as the global markets strengthened post the positive close in the US markets yesterday.

“In times of uncertainty an investor must adopt a bottoms-up approach and focus hard on stock – specific fundamentals. Sharp corrections should be utilized as an opportunity to buy stocks with credible managements and sustainable growth prospects, which are available at relatively better valuations,” added Shah.

Economic Affairs Secretary,  Shaktikanta Das  said that both currency and stock markets would stabilise in few days as the surgical strikes would have a positive impact on the Indian economy.

Among the laggards that dragged the Sensex were Adani Ports which fell the most, tumbling 5 percent at 256.95.

Other losers such as Sun Pharma dropped 3.8 percent to Rs 737.05, ICICI Bank also shed 3.8 percent to Rs 251 and Gail was down 3.2 percent at Rs 362.95.

Shares of Tata Steel, Lupin, Power Grid Corp, Tata Motors, SBI, Bajaj Auto, Wipro, Asian Paints and Bharti Airtel, too, ended lower, falling over 2-3 percent each.

The broader market, too, ended weak, with 2,340 stocks declining against 411 advances on BSE.

Data inputs by Kishor Kadam

SAARC 2016: Despite India-led pullout, red-faced Pakistan claims event still on

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Unfazed by India and three other SAARC nations deciding to pull out from the summit here, Pakistan today said it will still hold the meet in November as scheduled which flies in the face of the SAARC charter under which even if one head of government skips the event, it gets automatically postponed or cancelled. Foreign Office Spokesperson Nafees Zakaria said Pakistan will host the 19th South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation summit in November, Radio Pakistan reported. Zakaria was quoted as saying that it was learnt from the Indian External Affairs Ministry’s tweet that India is not going to participate in the SAARC Summit, a decision he called “unfortunate”.”While we have not received any official communication in this regard, the Indian announcement is unfortunate,” he said. The spokesperson also said Pakistan is committed to regional peace and will continue working for the broader interest of the people of the region, according to the report. Separately, Adviser to Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz said India is making propaganda to foil the conference that was scheduled to be held in November, according to Pakistan Today newspaper. Besides India, three other SAARC members – Bangladesh, Bhutan and Afghanistan – have pulled out of the summit, indirectly blaming Pakistan for “creating an environment which is not right for the successful holding” of the meet. Under the SAARC charter, the summit is automatically postponed or cancelled even if one-member country skips the event.Tensions between India and Pakistan are growing after militants stormed an Indian Army base in Uri on September 18, killing 18 soldiers. SAARC likely to be postponed says Nepalese media The next SAARC Summit, which was scheduled to be hosted by Pakistan in November, has been postponed after India pulled out of the event “in the prevailing circumstances”, Nepalese media reported today. “The 19th SAARC Summit has been postponed after India yesterday announced its inability to take part in it “in the prevailing circumstances”,” the Kathmandu Post reported. Reports emanating from Nepalese media are significant as Nepal is the Chair of the eight-member grouping. India has already communicated its decision to Nepal. The summit is automatically postponed or cancelled even if one member country skips the event. Tensions between India and Pakistan are growing after militants stormed an Indian Army base in Uri on September 18, killing 18 soldiers.Besides India, three other SAARC members – Bangladesh, Bhutan and Afghanistan – have pulled out of the summit, indirectly blaming Pakistan for “creating an environment which is not right for the successful holding” of the meet. Founded in 1985, South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) currently has Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka as its members.

Saarc Summit: Bangladesh, Bhutan and Afghanistan also pull out of meet in Pakistan

In another setback for Pakistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Afghanistan on Wednesday pulled out of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) Summit in Islamabad.

Bangladesh said it was unable to participate in the summit because of “growing interference in internal affairs of Bangladesh by one country”.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

News reports said that Bangladesh foreign ministry wrote to the current Saarc chair Nepal about the growing interference from Pakistan.

“Growing interference in internal affairs of Bangladesh by one country has created environment not conducive to the successful hosting of the 19th Saarc Summit in Islamabad in November 2016,” ANI quoted sources from Bangladesh as saying.

“Bangladesh remains steadfast in its commitment to regional co-operation but believes this can only go forward in a more congenial atmosphere. In view of the above, Bangladesh is unable to participate in the proposed Summit in Islamabad,” the agency further quoted sources as saying.

Bhutan made a similar statement and said that it “expresses concern over recent escalation of terrorism in the region, which seriously compromises the environment for successful holding of the 19th Saarc Summit in Islamabad in November 2016,” according to ANI.

“Bhutan shares concerns of some of the Saarc countries on deterioration of regional peace and security due to terrorism…Bhutan joins other Saarc countries in conveying inability to participate in the Saarc Summit under the current circumstances,” ANI further quoted sources as saying.

NDTV reported sources told the news channel that Afghanistan cited similar reasons for pulling out of the summit.

This setback for Pakistan comes merely a day after India pulled out of the Saarc Summit.

Announcing the decision on Tuesday night, India said that “one country” has created an environment that is not conducive to the successful holding of the Summit.

“India has conveyed to current Saarc chair Nepal that increasing cross-border terrorist attacks in the region and growing interference in the internal affairs of member States by one country have created an environment that is not conducive to the successful holding of the 19th Saarc Summit in Islamabad in November 2016,” the External Affairs Ministry had said in a statement.

“In the prevailing circumstances, the Government of India is unable to participate in the proposed Summit in Islamabad,” it had said, adding, “We also understand that some other Saarc member states have also conveyed their reservation about attending the Islamabad Summit in November 2016.”

In its communication to Nepal, India had said it remains steadfast in its commitment to regional cooperation, connectivity and contacts but believes that these can only go forward in an atmosphere free of terror.

PTI also reported that according to sources, Afghanistan and Bhutan had also expressed their unwillingness to attend the summit.

Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs had termed India’s announcement “unfortunate” and had stated that Pakistan remains committed to peace and regional cooperation and will continue to work to that end in the larger interest of people of the South Asian region.

Modi has also called a meeting on Thursday to review the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status accorded to Pakistan.

With inputs from PTI

Bangladesh too pulls out of SAARC summit over Pakistan’s growing interference

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Along with India, Bangladesh has also opted out of South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit in Islamabad over Pakistan’s ‘growing interference in its internal affairs’.Before India pulling out from the SAARC summit, Bangladesh had on Tuesday expressed its inability to participate.In a communication sent to the SAARC Chair Nepal on September 27, Bangladesh Foreign Ministry said, “The growing interference in the internal affairs of Bangladesh by one country has created an environment which is not conducive to the successful hosting of the 19th SAARC Summit in Islamabad in November 2016.”Sources said the communication further stated that Bangladesh, as the initiator of the SAARC process would remain steadfast in its commitment to regional cooperation, connectivity and contacts but believes that these can only go forward in a more congenial atmosphere”In view of the above, Bangladesh is unable to participate in the proposed Summit in Islamabad,” the communication said.Announcing the decision, India on Tuesday night said that ‘one country’ has created an environment that is not conducive to the successful holding of the Summit.”India has conveyed to current SAARC Chair Nepal that increasing cross-border terrorist attacks in the region and growing interference in the internal affairs of Member States by one country have created an environment that is not conducive to the successful holding of the 19th SAARC Summit in Islamabad in November 2016,” External Affairs Ministry said in a statement.With India refusing to participate in the 19the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation in Islamabad in November, Pakistan Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) spokesperson Mohammed Nafees Zakaria on Tuesday called New Delhi’s announcement ‘unfortunate’.

Uri attack | ‘Badla! Badla lo’- Shiv Sena tells Centre to take revenge from Pakistan

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Infuriated with the dastardly terror attack in Jammu and Kashmir’s Uri Sector which claimed the lives of 18 Indian soldiers, the Shiv Sena has asked the Centre to take revenge from ‘terrorist state’ Pakistan. Asserting that Islamabad would only understand the language of force, the Shiv Sena in its mouthpiece Saamna, said that Pakistan is a ‘brazen’ nation and there was no point of defeating it with only words.”Pakistan is a terrorist nation. Why should efforts be made to declare it a terrorist nation? The whole world knows about the true colours of Pakistan. There is no point of sanctioning economic ban on it,” the editorial said.The Sena urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to stick to his promise wherein he gave the assurance of going after the perpetrators of the deadly Uri attack and not just get stick to mere words. In a series of tweets after the attack, the Prime Minister said: “I assure the nation that those behind this despicable attack will not go unpunished”.He added, “We salute all those martyred in Uri. Their services to the nation will always be remembered. My thoughts are with the bereaved families (of the Army jawans)”. “The same statements were made after the Pathankot terror attack. But what happened? Instead of taking revenge, efforts were made to improve the relations. It seems that the sacrifice made by soldiers in Pathankot has gone in vain. At that time also, it was said that Pakistan would be taught a lesson. The same statements are being made today,” the Shiv Sena said. “Citing the example of Mahabharat, the editorial pointed out that India should take revenge from Pakistan in the same way as Bhim took the revenge from Kichak for ‘Draupadi’s cheer haran.”Four heavily armed militants had stormed the battalion headquarters of the Army in Uri, close to the Line of Control (LoC), in the wee hours on Sunday, killing 18 jawans and injuring more than 20 other personnel. In the encounter, the security forces neutralised all of them within hours.The terrorists, who attacked the military base in Jammu and Kashmir’s Uri, belonged to Pakistan’s banned terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM).Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh also branded Islamabad as a terrorist state and said the Asian neighbour should be isolated and sanctioned at international platforms. Pakistan has, however, flatly rejected New Delhi’s claims of involvement in the Uri terror attack, stating that the latter has a traditional tendency to point fingers at the former whenever a terror attack takes place on Indian soil.Director General of Military Operations (DGMO) Lieutenant General Ranbir Singh had also warned Pakistan in the wake of the Uri strike and said India reserves the right to respond to any act of the adversary. “We have the desired capability to reply to such blatant act of violence in a manner as deemed appropriate by us. We reserve the right to respond to any act of the adversary at the time and place of our own choosing,” he told the media in New Delhi.According to sources, India is set to raise the Uri attack at the 71st UNGA session and highlight Pakistan’s alleged involvement in the deadly terror strike. According to sources, India will raise the matter in the UN General Assembly and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj will strongly emphasise on Pakistan’s involvement in her speech on September 26.

Uri terror attack and a sense of déjà vu: India has no partner for peace in Pakistan

On 18 September, terrorists suspected to belong to the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan attacked an Indian Army camp at Uri in a pre-dawn raid, killing 18 soldiers. The South Asian commentariat has gone into its usual and predictable tizzy, some quarters demanding military action while others urge a firm reprimand, international pressure, ‘strategic restraint’, and talks. A good dose of recrimination on past policies and (in)actions is also available. In a few days, perhaps a week, calm will return and all will be forgotten… until the next terrorist attack. Ultimately, 18 soldiers would still be dead and the country would still be hapless about its own defence, but the commentariat would have inched closer to reaching their monthly writing quota.

There is nothing new in the terrorist attack at Uri — whether in the terrorists’ methods and capacity to acquire intelligence and materials or in what India might have learned about the intentions of its western neighbour and its proxies; nor is there anything new in what has been produced in the newspaper columns and television studios across the country. It would have probably been easier and cheaper to simply recycle the columns and video clips from the previous terrorist attack.

An Indian Army soldier during the Uri attack. PTI

An Indian Army soldier during the Uri attack. PTI

Despite an avalanche of advice from armchair as well as erstwhile military strategists, Delhi’s response to terrorism with Pakistani fingerprints has always been to bluster and bear it. India accuses Pakistan of conducting terrorism from behind a nuclear shield and although Islamabad has not changed the situation in the past two decades, there does not seem to have been much movement either intellectually or materially from India’s side either. Simply put, India has been and still is without an option against Pakistan.

The first option is talks; unfortunately, talks on terrorism have never yielded anything positive for India. At best, it is a colossal waste of time and money and at worst, symbolism in the name of security. It is difficult to fathom even to whom India should talk: Not only have civilian governments in Islamabad repeatedly been proven to be unable to rein in the military but have often even been kept in the dark about certain policies and programmes by the armed forces.

As even Pakistani commentators have noted, the country’s unhealthy obsession with Kashmir and its very existence rooted firmly in an anti-India ideology, the military is unwilling to negotiate to remove its raison d’etre. With the civilian government ineffective, Delhi has no partner for peace in Islamabad.

India’s second option is diplomacy: Delhi could use its international influence to isolate Pakistan politically and hinder its economics. Though theoretically sound, India simply lacks the clout to embark on such a policy. China, of course, will continue to nurture the thorn in India’s back, and few of India’s trading partners see the South Asian country as so important to their national interests as to upset Pakistan without any tangible gains in return. Delhi has neither the economic, political, nor military influence to persuade even a few states important to the Pakistani economy to scale back on relations with Islamabad or impose intrusive anti-terrorism conditions on bilateral relations.

Admittedly, the Indian economy has grown in the last two decades, but it is not yet an indispensable component of vital global supply chains. Delhi’s reticence to involve itself in international affairs, not just beyond its immediate region but even in its neighbourhood, has meant that it has a small diplomatic and military footprint. This has shown little sign of changing in the near future, and as Delhi has often found in the past, moral arguments are not always convincing in international affairs.

Finally, the third option that many have been urging is the use of military force. Although no one serious advocates war, there is nonetheless a clamour for conducting limited yet punishing cross-border strikes on Pakistan’s vast asymmetric warfare infrastructure. This, however, remains the least feasible of options. As the much-publicised raids into Myanmar slightly over a year ago showed, the Indian military lacks the capabilities to undertake covert operations into enemy territory in terms of planning, material, and training. Until recently, even the political will to acquire these capabilities was lacking. Since 2014, there has been rhetoric but actions are yet to match the bombast.

Worse, Indian conventional superiority over Pakistan has been steadily eroded over the years. India’s much-vaunted military modernisation notwithstanding, Pakistan has worked assiduously to counter India’s military planning and advantages. While Delhi remains locked in negotiations for a mid-level aircraft for its air force and the low-level indigenous effort is not yet in sight, Islamabad has increased the range of its missiles as well as acquire tactical and cruise missiles specifically meant to blunt rapid Indian advances into Pakistan. In conjunction with recent horror stories about the Indian military’s operational readiness — after the November 2008 attacks in Mumbai, for example — Pakistan may prove more of a challenge to India than is generally appreciated.

With the civilian government ineffective, Delhi has no partner for peace in Islamabad

Thus, India has no plausible response to Pakistan’s provocations for the time being. This view, though hotly contested, appears to best explain India’s utter inaction at each juncture. The real question after Uri is not how India should punish Pakistan but whether Delhi has moved — fast — on addressing these strategic and tactical lacunae. Even a modest retaliatory capability would take a decade to develop but has the government started on that road yet?

To be fair, all is not glum: The US and Britain have swiftly condemned the attack and observers believe that, though neither country named Pakistan in their statements, they agree with the Indian assessment of the origin of the attacks, something that was unthinkable in the hyphenated era just a few years ago. India’s diplomatic visibility — utility? — has clearly grown but Delhi is still a long way off from using diplomacy and economics as supplementary options to military force.

Sand scarcity hits Mumbai’s first artificial beach project

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The plan for Mumbai’s first artificial beach off Marine Drive faces a challenge due to huge shortage of sand. This was supposed to be one of the first reclamations in the city that was being undertaken for creating open spaces rather than real-estate projects.The project to extend the Girgaon Chowpatty beach further south to the iconic Queen’s Necklace and nourish the existing beach will require 1.5-2 million cubic metres of sand. While supply is already limited due to high demand and restrictions on mining, this sand has to be of the same quality as that on the beach.The around Rs 200-crore project is part of the Asian Development Bank (ADB)-funded Sustainable Coastal Protection and Management Investment Programme (SCPMIP) to be completed by December 2019.Executed by the Maharashtra Maritime Board (MMB), it will control coastal erosion at vulnerable beaches and seashore using soft, environment friendly solutions.The 12 sites selected by the MMB for feasibility studies include Marine Drive, Aksa and Juhu beaches and Mahim Bay in Mumbai. Under the project, Marine Drive is supposed to get a beach, which is around 1 km longer and 200 metres wide, with a sand retention structure and offshore reef. It will cover a third of Marine Drive.”Marine Drive is our first priority,” a source said, adding this will have the beach being extended till the Marine Drive flyover with ungainly tetrapods dotting the stretch being replaced. It will add value to the largely saturated Chowpatty.”However, we require around 2 million cubic metres of sand,” the official noted, adding they needed to ensure that the “sand quality was up to the mark.” The source admitted that availability of sand of this quantity and quality posed a challenge in the project.While sand from Satpati river was considered, it did not match with the coarser sand at Chowpatty.The MMB is considering sand from creeks in the Konkan or from dredging blocked channels and rivers and sand located at low depths near beaches and imported yet expensive sand. Sand from crushed rocks can be used to reduce the need for high-quality sand. Though sand can be extracted from deeper seas, there are strict regulations governing it.Work on the Marine Drive project is expected to start in around two years and will be completed in around two working seasons.The source said that they would undertake work till the flyover and then consider extending the beach till the southernmost tip of Marine Drive due to reasons like possibility of litigation and sand availability.”The extension depends on the response from local residents,” he added. Lack of sand may also put a question mark on the viability of the project at the severely eroded Mahim Bay and the beach.There nourishment is proposed for creating a 100-metre wide and 2-km long beach. The Mithi river will have to be channelised and the water treated to prevent turbid discharge from entering the bay.MMB CEO Atul Patne said that they were considering sites and options for extracting sand. “We will study which sand can be used,” he added.The reclamation at Marine Drive will be done via sea with barges ferrying sand to prevent any impact on road traffic.Originally made up of seven islands, Mumbai has seen waves of reclamations, both legal and illegal. Most of these projects, like the controversial post-Independence Backbay Reclamation scheme, were real-estate driven.Mumbai’s area has increased from 437.37 sq km in 1991 to 482 sq km now due to reclamations.Despite pretensions of being an emerging international city, India’s financial capital is woefully short of open spaces. Mumbai has 1,052 open spaces, of which 186 are under adoption. Over 700 have been developed and 160 are being taken up by the BMC’s garden department.According to the BMC, with 2,968 hectares of open spaces, Mumbai has a per capita open space of 2.48 sq metres – lower than global cities like New York. However, the figure dwindles to 0.88 sq metres in some areas, since most open spaces allow only restricted entry.

India, Pakistan joining SCO may disturb functioning and shift focus: Chinese daily

Beijing: As India and Pakistan moved a step closer to join Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, an official Chinese daily on Tuesday raised concerns that their “territorial and religious” disputes may disturb the bloc’s functioning and shift its focus.

Representational image of the 14th Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit. ReutersRepresentational image of the 14th Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit. Reuters

Representational image of the 14th Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit. Reuters

“Generally, including new members can help the SCO expand its clout. But the inclusion of the two South Asian powers might also lead to some problems,” an article in the state-run Global Times said.

“First of all, the inclusion may have an impact on the SCO’s principle of consultation-based consensus. The principle of consultation-based consensus has been widely recognised and adhered to by the members,” it said.

“In this sense, the inclusion of India and Pakistan may bring into the SCO their long-existing disputes over territorial and religious issues and disturb the organisation’s efforts to carry out the principle,” it said.

“For the possible problems that may arise after India and Pakistan become full members, the SCO cannot just ignore but instead deal with them in a positive and rational manner,” it said.

The daily underlined that SCO founding members should be given some special rights to dispel their concerns caused by the expansion.

“Requirements can be proposed to the new members in terms of mechanism-building so as to avoid cooperation bottleneck after the expansion,” it said.

Today’s article, second in the daily in recent weeks, said the inclusion of India and Pakistan may divert the focus of the SCO.

“As four out of six founding members of the SCO are in Central Asia, the SCO has always concentrated on the region. But the joining of India and Pakistan may split the focus of the SCO, and hence the four Central Asian members will reduce their dependence on the SCO,” it said.

“Moreover, giving full memberships to India and Pakistan will affect the SCO mechanism. The working languages of the SCO are now Chinese and Russian, and there has already been massive language workload in current meeting mechanisms. If India and Pakistan are taken in, the organisation’s daily work is likely to increase exponentially,” it said.

But at the same time it said “the inclusion of India and Pakistan will undoubtedly enhance the influence of
the SCO, and the member states also highly value and support the wills of observers and dialogue partners to step up their cooperation with the organisation,” it said.

India and Pakistan last week signed Memorandum of Obligations to join the six-member organisation at the Tashkent summit as part of lengthy process to join the grouping.

The SCO formally decided to admit the two countries in Ufa summit last year but the Indian officials say the process of admission is still continuing as both the countries have to ratify all the documents of the group since it was founded in 2001.

SCO, focussing mostly security related issues like terrorism in Central Asia, has China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan as full members.

Afghanistan, Belarus, India, Iran, Mongolia and Pakistan have observer status.

Brexit will have a passing effect on India, says Finance Minister Arun Jaitley

Beijing: Britain’s decision to opt out of the European Union will have a passing effect on India as the emerging economy has strong economic fundamentals and the resources to counter any eventuality, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said here on Friday.

“It will have a transient impact which reverses itself in due course,” Jaitley, on a five-day visit in China, told Indian journalists here. He said economies whose “fundamentals are strong” will not be affected for a long time.

“If fundamentals of an economy is sound, impact of this, beyond initial days, gets diluted,” he said, following up on a statement earlier that the government and the Reserve Bank of India were prepared, and working closely together, to deal with any short term volatility.

A file photo of Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. PTIA file photo of Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. PTI

A file photo of Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. PTI

“All countries around the world will have to brace themselves for a period of possible turbulence, while being watchful about, and alert to, the referendum’s medium term impacts,” the finance minister had said in the statement earlier.

“But as investors look around the world for safe havens in these turbulent times, India stands out both in terms of stability and of growth. India, as you are all well aware, is amongst the fastest growing major economies in the world today.”

The finance ministers remarks came on a day when the impact of Brexit led to a key stocks index, the BSE Sensex, to close at 26,397.71 points, down 604.51 points, or 2.24 percent. At one point, it was even down as much as 1,090.89 points, or 4.04 per cent.

The rupee also took a major beating of as much as 96 paise and plunged to an intra-day low below 68 to a US dollar. It eventually closed around 65 paise lower at 67.92 against the dollar.

Jaitley met some investors on Friday and spoke about the ease of doing business in India. He is due to attend the Board of Governors meeting of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). India is one of the 56 members of the organisation.

The finance minister will also meet his Chinese counterpart Lou Jiwei on Monday, officials said.

Subramanian Swamy attacks Shaktikanta Das, Arun Jaitley calls it unfair, false

New Delhi: BJP MP Subramanian Swamy on Thursday appeared to target Economic Affairs Secretary Shaktikanta Das, which prompted Finance Minister Arun Jaitley to call it an “unfair and false” attack on a disciplined civil servant.

Economic Affairs Secretary Shaktikanta Das.Economic Affairs Secretary Shaktikanta Das.

Economic Affairs Secretary Shaktikanta Das.

“I think there a property deal case pending against him (Das) for assisting PC swallow Mahabalipuram prime locations,” Swamy tweeted on Thursday.

It was in reply to his twitter handle followers who had sought blacklisting of RBI Deputy Governor Urjit Patel and Das from RBI Governorship as well as sending Das back to his parent cadre Tamil Nadu.

Shortly thereafter, Jaitley, who is in China, tweeted, “An unfair and false attack on a disciplined civil servant in the Finance Ministry.”

Jaitley had yesterday led a strong defence of Chief Economic Adviser Arvind Subramanian after Swamy had attacked him, and rued how far politicians can go to attack those in government whose discipline and constraints of office restrain them from responding.

The Minister is in China to attend the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) Board of Governor’s meeting.

WHO confirms South East Asian region, including India have ‘no threat’ to polio-free status

Amidst concerns over resurfacing of polio cases in India, the WHO said on Saturday that there is “no threat” to the polio-free status of all South East Asian region countries, including India, and the detection of a rare strain of the crippling disease is “not unusual”.Noting that all the countries including India maintain a “high vigil” for the detection of the disease, the World Health Organisation’s South-East Asia Regional Office (WHO SEARO) said that no child has been afflicted by wild poliovirus since the last case was reported from West Bengal in January, 2011. “All countries in the Region continue to maintain a very high vigil for poliovirus detection. As part of this, environmental surveillance collection of samples from sewage is being conducted regularly from 30 sites across seven states in India,” it said in a statement.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Instance of threat
ALSO READ Polio virus found in Hyderabad, Telangana government launches special driveThere is “no threat” to the polio-free status of all South East Asian region countries, including India, it added. The statement comes after a 6-year-old child of Padrauna village in Gaisdi in Balrampur district in Uttar Pradesh was admitted to a hospital on suspicion of polio, following which the state health officials have sent a report to the WHO. Prior to this case, vaccine-derived polio virus (VDPV) type 2 was detected in a sewage sample collected from a site in Hyderabad.Following these cases, the Union Health Minister has initiated a probe and maintained that though it comes across thousands of such cases every year, none of them has been detected of polio. WHO SEARO said that on very rare occasions, VDPVs are isolated from sewage samples, and prompt and adequate response to VDPVs detected in the samples in the past has prevented any spread of these viruses in the community. “Such viruses have been detected from environmental samples only no children have been affected nor cases of paralysis associated. Detection of such rare VDPVs is not unusual or unexpected and robust short- and long-term management strategies are in place to adequately manage the small risks associated with such isolates,” it said.
ALSO READ India to vaccinate 300,000 children after polio strain found in sewageSouth-East Asia Region certified polio-free”The South-East Asia Region was certified polio-free on 27 March 2014 and there is no threat to the Region’s polio- free status from the VDPV isolates in the sewage samples,” the WHO said. WHO’s South-East Asia Region comprises of Bangladesh, Bhutan, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, India, Indonesia, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Timor-Leste.
ALSO READ India remains polio-free, insists Health Ministry after virus found in HyderabadTo further mitigate the small risk of VDPVs, globally nearly 155 countries have switched from using the trivalent oral polio vaccine to the bivalent oral polio vaccine, it said. “The switch in April 2016, under the Polio End Game Plan is a critical step to prevent VDPVs and stop all polio, whether due to wild or vaccine-derived viruses, it said.It added that the Union Health Ministry which is supported partner of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), continues to conduct strong surveillance for any poliovirus from any source and also continues to strengthen overall population immunity to ensure children continue to be fully protected from lifelong polio paralysis.

After Telangana scare, ‘no threat’ to India’s polio-free status: WHO

New Delhi: Amidst concerns over resurfacing of polio cases in India, the WHO on Saturday said there is “no threat” to the polio-free status of all South East Asian region countries, including India, and the detection of a rare strain of the crippling disease is “not unusual”.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

Noting that all the countries including India maintain a “high vigil” for the detection of the disease, the World Health Organisation’s South-East Asia Regional Office (WHO SEARO) said that no child has been afflicted by wild poliovirus since the last case was reported from West Bengal in January, 2011.

“All countries in the Region continue to maintain a very high vigil for poliovirus detection. As part of this, environmental surveillance – collection of samples from sewage – is being conducted regularly from 30 sites across seven states in India,” it said in a statement.

There is “no threat” to the polio-free status of all South East Asian region countries, including India, it added. The statement comes after a 6-year-old child of Padrauna village in Gaisdi in Balrampur district in Uttar Pradesh was admitted to a hospital on suspicion of polio, following which the state health officials have sent a report to the WHO.

Prior to this case, vaccine-derived polio virus (VDPV) type 2 was detected in a sewage sample collected from a site in Hyderabad. Following these cases, the Union Health Minister has initiated a probe and maintained that though it comes across
thousands of such cases every year, none of them has been detected of polio.

WHO SEARO said that on very rare occasions, VDPVs are isolated from sewage samples, and prompt and adequate response to VDPVs detected in the samples in the past has prevented any spread of these viruses in the community. “Such viruses have been detected from environmental samples only – no children have been affected nor cases of paralysis associated.

“Detection of such rare VDPVs is not unusual or unexpected and robust short- and long-term management strategies are in place to adequately manage the small risks associated with such isolates,” it said.

“The South-East Asia Region was certified polio-free on 27 March 2014 and there is no threat to the Region’s polio-free status from the VDPV isolates in the sewage samples,” the WHO said.

WHO’s South-East Asia Region comprises of Bangladesh, Bhutan, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, India, Indonesia, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Timor-Leste.

To further mitigate the small risk of VDPVs, globally nearly 155 countries have switched from using the trivalent oral polio vaccine to the bivalent oral polio vaccine, it said.

“The switch in April 2016, under the Polio End Game Plan is a critical step to prevent VDPVs and stop all polio, whether due to wild or vaccine-derived viruses, it said.

It added that the Union Health Ministry which is supported partner of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), continues to conduct strong surveillance for any poliovirus from any source and also continues to strengthen overall population immunity to ensure children continue to be fully protected from lifelong polio paralysis.

PM Modi hits the ground running, but focus shifts from NSG to National Intelligence Grid

So, what did Prime Minister Narendra Modi do immediately after his return from a five-nation tour? He attended three meetings – none of them on Missile Control Technology Regime (MTCR) or India’s bid to enter the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).Of the three meetings, two stood out – the ones on National Intelligence Grid (NatGrid) and the Crime and Criminal Tracking Network System (CCTNS), both major security initiatives under the Union home ministry.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>He chaired these two meetings, one after the other immediately at his South Block office early on Friday morning. In fact, he did not even wait for home minister Rajnath Singh, who is out of Delhi.The NatGrid and CCTNS are crucial to India’s security umbrella. Brainchild of former Union home minister P Chidambaram, the two are envisaged to play a key role in preventing terror attacks, tracking criminals guilty of cognisable offences and arresting financial frauds.But NatGrid has been virtually remaining headless since the BJP government came to power in June 2014.Modi, sources said, has tasked National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and other top officials of the security establishment to get the best brain and an expert in security analytics to head NatGrid.But the Union home ministry has not been able to find a worthy chief executive officer (CEO) to run the ambitious project since June 2014 when it decided not to renew the contract of Raghu Raman, who was heading NatGrid since its inception in 2011.It has had chiefs as stop-gap arrangements during the last two years. Special secretary (internal security) Ashok Prasad headed it first. After his retirement in February, a joint secretary-level officer is running the show.Yet, NatGrid is still stuck at what is called the Horizon 1 stage. At this stage, it is supposed to connect with 21 service providers and 10 user agencies, sources said. In its final stage, called Horizon 4, it is expected to connect with all possible sources having digital human interface – that is close to 2,000 organisations.A fully functional NatGrid is supposed to enable all 11 security and intelligence agencies like RAW, IB, Enforcement Directorate, National Investigation Agency (NIA), CBI, Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI), Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) and others to process their queries and get results, in real-time, on virtually any individual, entity or incident.The meeting also decided to increase the allocation for NatGrid, considering the cost escalation because of time lapse and to attract the best talent.Similarly, the CCTNS, an ambitious Rs 2,000-crore project to link approximately 15,000 police stations and 6,000 higher offices in the police hierarchy in a seamless manner to track crimes and catch criminals across states and internationally, is still undergoing technical glitches from software providers who are finding it difficult to digitise and upload the huge repository of records in different languages.The project is also facing roadblocks in some laggard states like Bihar and needs more funds. Already, close to Rs 1,500 crore have been spent and the project cost has escalated.Sources said the PM decided to designate more funds for both CCTNS and NatGrid, a proposal for which will soon be brought into the cabinet for approval.Modi’s third meeting was to take a status update on the Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction, which will be held in New Delhi in the first week of November. The meet will be held in collaboration with United Nations for Disaster Risk Reduction.He wants India to have a leadership role on Disaster Risk Reduction in Asia that should not be second to China. During the 2014 Nepal earthquake, despite India’s alacrity and the PM’s personal supervision, China had taken the lead in rescue, relief and mitigation work.

Here’s it, first proof on presence of Eurasian Otters in India

For the first time in history of India’s wildlife conservation, the near threatened Eurasian Otters have been discovered and captured on camera in Satpura Tiger Reserve and in the Kanha-Pench wildlife corridor, confirming presence of these elusive creatures in the country. The photo evidence was obtained between November, last year and February when Wildlife Conservation Trust (WCT) and the Madhya Pradesh Forest Department (MPFD) undertook a joint camera trapping study across 58 sq.kms in Satpura Hill Range and Kanha-Pench corridor.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Otters are elusive creatures that are one of apex species in the wetlands and river ecosystems, feeding largely on fishes. In India, three species – the smooth-coated otter (Lutrogale perspicillata), Asian small-clawed otter (Aonyx cinerea) and the Eurasian Otter (Lutra lutra) – are found. The Eurasian Otter is spread across Europe, Africa and Asia and the IUCN has listed it as near threatened on its red list. According to experts, the species has either gone extinct from several regions or it has been reduced to small isolated populations. Except for Europe, there is lack of data on population status and distribution of this species from the rest of the world.”After we obtained the evidence through camera trapping, we followed up with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and confirmed that the photographs were indeed first proof of the presence of Eurasian Otters from India. The otters were found in highland streams in the Satpura reserve,” said Milind Pariwakam, wildlife biologist, central Indian landscape programme, WCT. Camera trapping involves installation of cameras equipped with motion sensor or infrared sensor to capture animal photographs inside deep forests. Wildlife researchers commonly use the technology to establish presence of animals and collect evidence.According to Madhya Pradesh forest department, the presence of Eurasian Otters is also a heartening confirmation of the thriving rivers and streams found in Satpura ranges and in the Kanha-Pench corridor. “This is an exciting discovery that was made as part of the study on tigers in these forests. It is an indication of a healthy ecosystem and biodiversity,” said Ramesh Pratap Singh, former field director, Satpura Tiger Reserve and additional principal chief conservator of forest, wildlife protection.Apart from the Eurasian Otter, the smooth-coated otter is the most abundant and widely distributed in India while the Asian small-clawed is patchily distributed and is found in Himalayan foothills in northern India, parts of Eastern Ghats and in southern Western Ghats.To illustrate the magnitude of the discovery, WCT said in a statement, “These new photo-records extends their geographical range to central India. The discovery of the Eurasian Otter in the Satpura Tiger Reserve proves the value of large inviolate protected areas in conserving bio-diversity. The presence of the rare species in the Kanha Pench corridor also proves the value of connected landscapes for highly endangered species such as gaur, wild dogs, leopards and now the Eurasian Otter.”Satpura Tiger Reserve, established in 1999 and located in Hoshangabad district, Madhya Pradesh, is spread across 2133 sq.kms and includes Pachmarhi wildlife sanctuary, Satpura national park and Bori wildlife sanctuary. The reserve is home to nearly 30 tigers, leopards, jackal, otters, sambar, chital, gaur, Indian Giant squirrel, Indian flying squirrel and 31 species of reptiles. The vegetation is of moist deciduous forest type, teak, mixed forest and sal.

India for regional security framework to resolve disputes: Parrikar

Singapore: On Saturday India called for a regional framework for security management to peacefully resolve disputes, threat and use of force in the Indo-Pacific region, amid China flexing its muscles in the area to advance its maritime claims against its Asian neighbours.

“Regional framework for security management must enshrine a commitment to the peaceful resolution of disputes, the threat or use of force,” said Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar in his address at the 15th Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore.

He also called for collective efforts to tackle terrorism which remains the foremost challenge to the region.

“The security framework in our region still do not give enough attention to terrorism. This must change,” Parrikar said.

“Collective action and cooperation is the way forward to deal with the maritime threat, like terrorism, piracy and natural disaster,” said the minister, adding that such cooperation will build trust and confidence.

“We need to oppose terrorism resolutely everywhere,” said Parrikar, calling for resolute efforts by all to destroy the terrorism.

A file photo of Manohar Parrikar. PTIA file photo of Manohar Parrikar. PTI

A file photo of Manohar Parrikar. PTI

Terrorism remains the foremost challenge to the region. Networks of radicalism and terrorism as well as the whole structure in the region and beyond continue to pose a threat to all peace loving societies.

Noting sensitivities of disputes and concern about growing tension, Parrikar highlighted India’s blue economy initiative and prosperity of the region.

“We are also building economic cooperation with maritime neighbours to reap the benefit of blue economy,” he said.

Parrikar said there is no doubt that the Indo Pacific region, from East of Suez to Asia Pacific shores, will remain the driver of global prosperity for decades to come.

“India’s contribution as the fastest growing major economy in the world, will be a significant factor in ensuring this.

“I am equally confident that the countries of the region will rise to the challenge and tackle the security threat it faces,” said Parrikar.

He also touched on the South China Sea and stressed “While we do not take positions on territorial disputes which should be resolve peacefully without the threat or use of force, we firmly uphold freedom of navigation and over flights in accordance with international law in particular the UN convention on law of sea.”

‘Sharp’ slowdown in China’s growth can pose threat to global economy: Raghuram Rajan

Mumbai: Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Governor Raghuram Rajan has warned that a “sharp” slowdown in China’s growth posed a threat to the global economy, highlighting possible impact from the shadow banking system of its neighbour, the Reserve Bank of India said.

File image of Raghuram Rajan. PTI

File image of Raghuram Rajan. PTI

Rajan’s comments were made in India’s financial capital in a speech on Thursday to central bank governors from the nations of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) grouping, the RBI said in a statement.

“Bad loans in the banking system were likely to grow over current levels, and, in addition, there might be serious weaknesses in the shadow banking system, which could feed back to banks,” the RBI summarised Rajan as saying on China.

“Both could be significant downside risks as they could have second round effects for SAARC economies. Chinese growth would depend not just on its policies, but also on growth elsewhere in the world.”

A “sharp” slowdown of the Chinese economy “still remained a significant risk for the global economy and the SAARC region,” Rajan added, according to the RBI.

The RBI governor has previously warned of the potential spillover effect from China’s economy to other countries, including India.

Ripples of climate change: Why India should worry about heatwave conditions

The heatwave conditions in India will be “serious” before monsoon hits various parts of the country, said the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), as global temperature records were smashed yet again in April.

A small town in Rajasthan called Phalodi recorded a searing 51 degrees Celsius in the afternoon of 19 May establishing the highest temperatures ever recorded in the country. The previous record was held by a place about 200 km away called Pachpadra with 50.6 degrees Celsius in the year 1886.

Though heatwaves are common in India from April through June, this year has seen an exceptionally powerful one. The climate pattern sits well with the general global experience this year of record high temperatures in most parts of the world. Last year, El Niño — a climactic occurrence over the Pacific Ocean that unusually spikes up the ocean temperatures — was blamed for severe droughts and dry spells over southern Africa, South and South East Asia, the US and the western Pacific. The event also boosted powerful west Pacific typhoons.

Representational image. Reuters

Though heatwaves are common in India from April through June, this year has seen an exceptionally powerful one. Representational image. Reuters

The month-long weather system of 2015—one of the most powerful in history—had prompted a food crisis in many parts of Africa. It has substantially inflamed water-related problems across the South East Asian region.

However, the El Nino alone did not cause the heatwaves in India this season because the weather system is rapidly fading and is expected to become neutral this summer itself.

“We don’t have any specific linkage between the El Nino and the specific temperatures in this season,” said Rupa Kumar Kolli, chief of the World Climate Applications Division and Climate Prediction and Adaptation Branch at WMO.

“In terms of the (India’s heat) records (this year), it could be due to a combination of seasonal climatology, the prevailing circulation (wind, cloudiness) in the region as well as long-term trends associated with global warming. When the heat wave season coincides with anomalous circulation factors on specific days, it can help the extremes to develop and persist. The India Meteorological Department closely monitors these situations and has recently set up an excellent heatwave warning system,” Kolli said.

The WMO’s South Asia Climate Outlook Forum (SASCOF) – launched in 2010 to engage South Asian countries in understanding and forecasting the monsoon – met in Colombo last month and has predicted above-normal rainfall over much of South Asia.

El Nino that has a significant impact on the Asian monsoon has a high probability of becoming a La Nina weather system — the opposite of El Niño — towards the end of the year. La Niña brings cooler temperatures, abundant rainfall, including to the South East Asian  region, sometimes even flooding countries.

Frequent deficit monsoons are becoming common in India as well as in other parts of the subcontinent. An increase in extreme rainfall events has occurred at the expense of weaker rainfall events over the central Indian region and in many other areas, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) findings.

Rapid climate change and thinning snow covers may also have had an impact on the increasing Indian temperatures, like for most other parts of the world.

“Reduced global snow cover, particularly in the northern hemisphere, is partly due to the global increase in surface temperature, including that over India.  Indeed, it has a positive feedback cycle, in the sense that reduced snow cover leads to more absorption of solar radiation by the earth’s surface, causing higher temperatures and reducing the snow cover and the cycle continues,” Kolli said.

Hotter days and nights as well as heatwaves have become increasingly frequent in the past 50 years. These will increase this century, according to the IPCC.

The threats on health from rising temperatures are real. Last month, the WMO and WHO hosted a climate and health forum to promote heat-health early warning systems to encourage countries to respond better.

Smashed global records

The WMO called the reports on climate this week as “very alarming”, with April setting new records for high temperatures both on land and on ocean. This is the twelfth consecutive month that saw temperature records being broken – the longest such streak in the last 137 years since the US’ National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) started keeping records.

Overall, 13 out of 15 highest monthly temperature departures on record have all occurred since February 2015.

NOAA said the combined average temperature over global land and ocean surfaces for April 2016 was 1.10 degree Celsius above the 20th century average of 13.7 degree Celsius. This is the highest temperature departure for April since global records began in 1880.

The globally averaged sea surface temperature was 0.80 degree Celsius (1.44 degree Fahrenheit) above the 20th century monthly average — again, the highest on record.

“What’s particularly concerning is the margin at which these records are being broken. They are not being broken, they are being smashed and on a fairly consistent basis,” said Clare Nullis, spokesperson of the WMO.

The findings of NOAA have been confirmed by NASA and the Japan Meteorological Administration who use different data sets, measurement methods and measurement stations.

There has been extraordinary warmth over large tracts of the Alaska and Russia with temperatures at least 3.0 degree Celsius  above average, as well as in South America, Africa and Asia.

The heat that was seen in 2015 was alarming and hit the world headlines, but the high temperatures in 2016 makes 2015 “pale in comparison”, the world climate organisation said.

In addition, there are two other very concerning events related to high global temperatures. For the first time ever, the carbon dioxide concentrations in the southern hemisphere have joined those in the northern hemisphere and passed the 400 parts per million level. WMO called this “symbolic milestone but significant” since unlike the northern hemisphere where atmospheric concentrations vary, the southern hemisphere remains fairly stable. This implies that the CO₂ levels are not going to go down anytime soon and may remain at that level for several generations.

“At the current rate of increase in CO₂ levels, we are on track to reach the 2 degree Celsius temperature limit within the next two generations,” the WMO chief Petteri Tallas said.

NOAA also reported the thinnest snow cover extent in the northern hemisphere. “This is significant obviously in terms of drought, impact on wild fires (etc.),” Nullis said.

The Canadian wildfires that have grabbed international headlines are partly due to the low snow cover and very little moisture in the air.

Another impact of the prevailing high temperatures has been the unprecedented coral bleaching especially in the Great Barrier Reef.

The combined effect of a now-fading El Niño along with climate change and devastating amounts of human emission have been responsible for the debilitating climate that has affected the world. According to NOAA 10 the Annual Greenhouse Gas Index, human activity has increased the direct warming from effect of CO₂ in the atmosphere by 50 percent above pre-industrial levels during in the past 25 years.

Governments have huddled together in Bonn this week on how to implement the Paris climate agreement.

“El Niño is fading fast and will probably give way later this year to La Niña. But any cooling effect from La Niña will be temporary and will not be enough to rein in the global warming from greenhouse gases,” said Taalas.

After Pakistan, Afghanistan shows no interest in Modi’s satellite project

After Pakistan, which pulled out of India-mooted South Asian Satellite Project, Afghanistan too has shown no interest in the venture.Sources said Afghanistan has tied up with a European company for its space-related needs.”We had several rounds of discussions with Afghanistan. At one point they demand a particular thing and we have an agreement. In the next meeting, they would put forth some other demand. Another issue was the location of the satellite. The location where India and Afghanistan wanted to place their satellite in the orbit was more or less the same,” an official involved in the negotiations said.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Sources said Bangladesh too is not very keen on the satellite project as it is set for launch of its own geostationary communications satellite Bang Bandhu-1.However, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Maldives and Nepal are still keen on taking the project forward and talks are on with these countries.In June 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had asked ISRO to develop the satellite which can be dedicated as a “gift” to the neighbouring countries. He had also made the announcement at the SAARC summit in Kathmandu.India had held deliberations with experts from other SAARC countries to finalise modalities for the satellite exclusively for the regional grouping.The expenditure on the ground system of the proposed South Asian Satellite Project will be borne by the regional bloc countries, while India will bear the expenses to be incurred on building and launching it.”The objective of this project is to develop a satellite for the SAARC region that enables a full range of services to all our neighbours in the areas of telecommunications and broadcasting applications like television, DTH, tele-education and disaster management,” the official added.The satellite is to be launched in December this year.Since the beginning, Pakistan had insisted that the project be brought under the ambit of SAARC, which was opposed by India. Following this, Pakistan opted out of the project.India has made it clear that it will go ahead with the project irrespective of whoever is on board.

Debt-hungry China Inc fuels local banks’ takeover of Asia league tables | Reuters

HONG KONG Chinese banks have for the first time claimed the top spots for Asian bond market underwriting, on the back of a booming local corporate bond market and increased funding needs of companies in the world’s second-largest economy.

China has hosted the world’s biggest corporate debt market since 2014, and local banks are making hay while regulatory restrictions limit the ability of foreign rivals to compete.

Bank of China (601988.SS) (3988.HK), China Construction Bank (601939.SS) (0939.HK), Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) (601398.SS) (1398.HK), CITIC Securities (600030.SS) (0267.HK) and Agricultural Bank of China (601288.SS) (1288.HK) now sit at the top of the Debt Capital Market (DCM) league table for Asia Pacific excluding Japan for the year to date, Reuters data show.

HSBC (HSBA.L)(0005.HK), last year’s leader of the table, which covers all local currency bonds, dropped to seventh, while Citigroup (C.N) slipped to ninth position from second.

“Multi-national companies have limited finance demand, given the sluggish growth, while Chinese ones are enthusiastically seeking overseas expansion and need capital from offshore markets,” said Leon Qi, China banking analyst with Daiwa Capital Markets.

Among the deals joint managed by Chinese banks was Exim Bank of China’s three-tranche bond raising $3 billion, the biggest corporate deal of the year.

Chinese banks have also been making inroads in other investment banking business in Asia, including equity capital markets (ECM), which account for about half of investment banking fees in the Asia Pacific region.

Chinese banks now account for eight of the top 10 slots in the ECM league table in Asia, with CITIC, which in 2013 bought Asia-focused CLSA, leading the field.

Chinese banks worked on the two largest Asia Pacific IPOs this year, the $1.94 billion listing of China Zheshang Bank Co Ltd (2016.HK) and the $990 million offering of Bank of Tianjin Co Ltd (1578.HK).

They have also been aggressively taking market share from foreign banks in the Asian leveraged buyout loans market.

Their dominance in Asia extends to the syndicated loan market, where the top three positions as mandated arrangers are already held by ICBC, Bank of China and China Construction Bank, latest Thomson Reuters data shows for the year to date.

AGGRESSIVE OVERSEAS EXPANSION

Mergers and acquisitions (M&A) is the only segment where Chinese banks are yet to make a serious dent, with foreign investment banks still taking six of the top 10 slots, led by Goldman Sachs (GS.N).

Though they have not made inroads in investment banking business outside Asia, they are nevertheless benefiting from funding corporate China’s aggressive overseas expansion as domestic growth slows.

Chinese companies have launched about $100 billion worth of outbound M&A so far this year, already within touching distance of last year’s record $104 billion tally.

Chinese banks’ near dominance of Asian DCM has been driven by domestic companies’ increasing switch to bonds in the yuan currency, also known as the renminbi (RMB), which come with lower coupon rates than dollar bonds.

“Chinese financial institutions are taking advantage of this shifting market landscape to cater to the financing needs of their customers and grow their own presence in the capital markets offshore,” said Daiwa’s Qi.

According to Standard & Poor’s, China’s corporate debt market, at an estimated $16.1 trillion outstanding, dominated the Asia-Pacific region’s $25.5 trillion aggregate and is a significant portion of the global total of $50.5 trillion.

S&P expects Chinese corporate debt to hit $28.5 trillion by 2019 or 40 percent of the global sum.

“The onshore RMB market is huge versus the other local currency markets in the Asian region, and recently we are seeing a lot of the Chinese issuers turning homewards to issue debt,” said a DCM banker at one of the top five Chinese banks.

Last month, Agile Property raised 1.2 billion yuan ($184 million) in 4-year bonds at a coupon of 5.8 percent, substantially lower than the coupon range of 8.25-9 percent attached to its dollar-denominated bonds over the previous five years.

In the first quarter of this year Asian issuance of bonds in the ‘G3’ currencies – U.S. dollar, euro and yen – has fallen 16 percent as the pipeline slowed following three record years.

“This is the reason why there is a skew, as Chinese local bond markets are expanding amid a slowing G3 bond market,” said the banker.

(Reporting by Umesh Desai and Denny Thomas; Editing by Will Waterman)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

China will soon have more Tagore readers than India: Consul General Ma Zhanwu

Predicting that there will soon be more readers of Rabindranath Tagore in China than in India, Chinese Consul General Ma Zhanwu has said values of the bard can show the path to the new relationship between the two neighbouring countries. “Tagore’s idea on China-India relationship could serve as useful guide as we work to deepen mutual trust, enhance friendship and develop bilateral exchanges and cooperation,” Zhanwu said.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>He said Tagore believed in Asian resurgence at a time when the West was dominant and Asians were looked down upon.”Tagore was the first Asian to be awarded the Nobel Prize in 1913. He gave us the courage that our message could also be useful and valid for the rest of the world,” the diplomat told PTI. It was for the first time yesterday that the Chinese consulate had celebrated Tagore’s 155th birth anniversary in a big way with a conference on the bard’s relationship with China where he had gone in 1924.According to the English calendar, Tagore was born on May 7 but Bengalis celebrate the occasion according to the Bengali calendar – 25th day of ‘Baisakh’ month which is today.The consul general said Tagore has a huge following in Asia, but nowhere is he more alive than in China, where his works have been part of middle-school curriculum for decades.”We will soon have more Tagore readers in China than you have in India,” he said, adding that there may already be more Yoga teachers in China than India. He cites the example of her 14-year-old daughter Yuning Ma, who started reciting Tagore poems when she was nine. “She does it in a very emotional way and in both Chinese and English languages,” Zhanwu said.On Tagore’s philosophy, he said the Nobel laureate envisioned and advocated India-China fraternal partnership and civilisational leadership, which is increasingly pertinent with the rise of both the countries as important nations in the world and when mankind needs more contribution by the two neighbours. Tagore’s idea was that Asia must find its own voice to build an Asian synergy, he said. “We have our own ways of doing things and it may suit us better than if we just copy things from the West,” the diplomat said.Professor Liu Shuxiong of Peking University said Bengali is taught in various universities of China and they have plans to take more students in the language, which he describes as being very important to study India and Tagore. China has translated a number of poems, essays and dramas written by Tagore. “Tagore’s values are very much shared by the people of the two countries. Tagore was very much inspired by Chinese philosophy,” Zhanwu said.

For a ‘bigger, better’ Asian Development Bank, Arun Jaitley seeks capital ramp-up

Taking the line that capital increase of the Asian Development Bank cannot wait, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Wednesday hammered home the need for making the multi-lateral lender “bigger and better” to support growth in the region.The Asia-Pacific, he said, is trying to navigate its course amid shifting tides in the global economy and ADB’s ability to make valued, timely and effective contribution is on test.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”I… hope that the winds of change sweeping the region will manifest in transforming ADB into a bigger and better bank,” Jaitley said while addressing the meeting of the board of governors of ADB.Resource limitation need not constrain operations of the bank, he said, adding that “capital increase to enable ADB to meet its objectives in the medium and long term cannot be delayed for too long”.Recalling his speech at the last annual meeting of ADB, the finance minister felt that ADB needs to become not just bigger, but better as a model among multilateral development banks (MDBs). He was of the view that much more needs to be achieved to transform ADB, acknowledging that various steps have already been taken.Jaitley made it a point to mention that India continues to maintain a high growth rate despite the global slowdown.”Our economy is projected to grow at 7.6 per cent in 2015-16 compared to 7.2 per cent in the previous year,” he added.The minister also referred to the government’s approach of ‘Reform to Transform’ through various structural reforms.”We have taken several initiatives to boost business climate and improve ease of doing business,” he said.Calling for reforms in processes of ADB, Jaitley said decline in disbursements under sovereign projects is a cause of concern and needs to be corrected although disbursements in 2015 showed an increase of 20 per cent over 2014.Jaitley cautioned that as a development bank with strong footprint in infrastructure, ADB’s focus on projects should not get diluted.”Business process reforms envisioned under the mid-term review of strategy 2020 need greater thrust and attention,” he said.Stating that India will continue to support ADB, Jaitley said India has increased its contribution to USD 40 million for Asian Development Fund (ADF) as part of the country’s commitment to foster development and poverty alleviation in poorest countries of the Asia-Pacific region.Strategy 2030 to guide ADB’s operations post 2020 should focus on making ADB an agent of change through its support for innovative projects, which would otherwise not happen through local intervention, Jaitley noted. He underlined the need for delegation and decentralisation to be closer to the client to enable quicker and effective response.”… steps have been taken for empowering resident missions into total solution providers. Creating well-equipped regional hubs at strategic locations can make a significant difference in our response time,” he said.

UK speaker lauds Indian Diaspora’s contribution to Britain

Lauding the huge contribution of Indian diaspora to British life, the Speaker of the House of Commons has asked the Indian community to build on its successes and achieve better representation in parliament by engaging more with mainstream politics.John Bercow, while presenting awards to seven eminent persons from the diaspora for their outstanding achievements, said, “The Indian diaspora makes a huge contribution to British life, and I hope its members will continue to build on its successes, both in terms of representation in Parliament and more widely across our national life”.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Pranam award recipients are economist Lord Meghnad Desai, NRI politician Shreela Flather, Executive Director of Bharatiya Vidhya Bhavan here Dr N Nandakumara, rights activist and writer Zerbanoo Gifford and CEO, MD of Bristol Laboratories T Ramachandran, BBC’s former sports editor Mihir Bose and NRI entrepreneur Rami Ranger.The Pranam awards, instituted by the Asian Lite daily, were presented last week at a function attended by prominent members of the Indian community and British MPs.A Labour Peer Lord Meghnad Desai, spearheaded the campaign to install the Mahatma Gandhi Statue at the Parliament Square in London. A former professor at the London School of Economics (LSE), he has written several books on economics.Flather, the first Asian woman to receive a peerage, has worked for several humanitarian causes, fighting for social justice, refugees and race relations. Nandakumara is a Sanskrit scholar who taught at Cambridge and Eton University. He hails from the only Sanskrit speaking village of Mattur in Karnataka and holds a PhD in devotional literature from the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London.Zerbanoo Gifford is the first non-white woman to stand for British Parliament in 1982. She won several recognition for her involvement in national and international humanitarian activities. Ramachandran helped Bristol Laboratories grow from a company with one person and one product in 2001 to the one that employs more than 600 people across the UK on Sunday.Ranger, one of the most successful Indian-origin businessmen in the UK, has won six Queen’s awards for the outstanding performance of his firm the Sun Mark Limited. Youngest son of Indian freedom fighter Nanak Singh, he began his life as a refugee boy in Delhi and now runs a USD 280-million turnover worth company.Bose, who came to England to study engineering but trained in accountancy, became one of the most respected journalists. He has worked with Sunday Times, daily Telegraph and became the first sports editor for BBC. Later, he worked with the Evening Standard.

India, UAE’s MoU on human trafficking gets cabinet nod

New Delhi: The union cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday approved the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between India and the UAE for cooperation in preventing and combating human trafficking.

The MoU is expected to be signed very soon after the approval, an official statement said.

The MoU will strengthen the bond of friendship between the two countries and increase the bilateral cooperation on the issues of prevention, rescue, recovery and repatriation related to human trafficking especially women and children expeditiously, it said.

The MoU to “strengthen cooperation to prevent all forms of human trafficking, especially that of women and children and ensure speedy investigation and prosecution of traffickers and organized crime syndicates in either country”.

File photo of Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and UAE's deputy commander-in-chief of the armed forces, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. ReutersFile photo of Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and UAE's deputy commander-in-chief of the armed forces, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Reuters

File photo of Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and UAE’s deputy commander-in-chief of the armed forces, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Reuters

Preventive measures will be taken that would eliminate human trafficking in women and children and in protecting the rights of victims of trafficking.

“Anti-trafficking Cells and Task Forces will work on both sides to prevent human trafficking. Police and other concerned authorities will work in close cooperation and exchange information which can be used to interdict human traffickers,” the statement said.

Repatriation of victims would be done as expeditiously as possible and the home country would undertake the safe and effective reintegration of the victims.

The statement also said that a Joint Task Force with representatives from both sides would be constituted to monitor the working of the MoU.

As a destination of trafficking, South Asian countries are mainly affected by domestic trafficking, or trafficking from the neighbouring countries. However, South Asian victims are also increasingly detected in the Middle East.

India is a source and transit country as far as trafficking to the UAE is concerned, whereas the UAE is a destination and transit country for men and women, predominantly from South, Southeast and Central Asia and Eastern Europe who are subjected to forced labour and sex trafficking.

“The reinforcement of anti-trafficking efforts at all levels between the UAE and India is essential for prevention and protection of victims. This requires mutual cooperation among both the countries for intelligence sharing, joint investigation and a coordinated response to the challenges of human trafficking,” the statement said.

“For this purpose, it is proposed to sign a MoU with the UAE. We have already signed one MoU to prevent trafficking with Bangladesh and another with Bahrain is to be signed during this month,” it added.

#CaliforniaTextbooks: ‘Editing out India is bizarre! We must fight back because this concerns all Indians, not just Hindus’

New York: Led by hundreds of high school students, teachers, parents of Indian kids in American schools and “outraged” grandpas and grandmas, more than 20,000 people have signed off on a stinging letter protesting the recommended changes to California state textbooks from Grade 6 – 10 that could eliminate crucial historical references to India.

Don't distort the idea of India, says Juluri/ ReutersDon't distort the idea of India, says Juluri/ Reuters

Don’t distort the idea of India, says Juluri/ Reuters

Calling this the “largest civil rights movement of Indian Americans in the last 40 years” Dr. Vamsee Juluri, who teaches media studies at the University of San Francisco, says the struggle here is for all Indian Americans who represent the “last remaining legally and professionally sanctioned victims of racism.”

Getting diasporans to lobby for national interests is usually hard but here is a case where the next army of of millennial voters is speaking out in an country with a swiftly changing demographic. Asians and Latinos are the two fastest growing ethnic groups in the US where the share of white voters is going down year on year.

India’s diaspora, which the government thinks is about 25m strong, has traditioanlly been a means of projecting soft power and burnishing the country’s image. Now, that cohort is stepping on the gas.

Petitioning the California Board of Education, Juluri writes: “You seem to have been taken for a ride! You cannot seriously expect California’s educational system to be respected anywhere in the world if you go ahead with your recent decision to delete all references to “India” in middle school history lessons and replace this word with the geo-politically motivated  Cold War era relic of a phrase “South Asia.” Would you presume to deny the reality of India’s existence and history, and its deep significance to Indian American students in California, simply because a few misinformed professors of “South Asia Studies” wrote you a letter recommending you re-educate California’s children in this bizarre manner?”

Links: Full text of online petition

South Asia faculty’s 12 pager on suggested edits to curriculum framework

California textbook tamasha and the study of India, by Yvette Rosser

Another 22-pager on curriculum review

This is not simply about Hindusim, it’s about world history textbooks and what we are teaching our 6th graders, Juluri clarifies.

The suggested changes to the framework could appear in sixth-to-tenth grade textbooks in California beginning in 2017 but the war cry is already getting heard and the education board is showing signs of backing off, says Juluri.

“Shocking”, “absurd”, “Let India be India, just like you are not changing America’s name” are the theme of thousands of responses on the online petition.

Indians on America’s west coast have long been wrangling with such “distortions” but what makes the #CaliforniaTextbooks fight stand out is that it is the first time students are leading the charge for the Indian communtiy’s representaion in American public life and discourse.

Many parts of California – especially Silicon Valley, the 50-mile stretch between San Francisco and San Jose, are expressions of iconolastic freedom and phenomenal productivity. Now, with a student-led momement on behalf of the Indian diaspora, Indian Americans may well have new brag tag in the West – civil rights.

Nikhila Natarajan of Firstpost, New York, spoke with Dr. Vamsee Juluri in San Francisco. Below is the full text of the interview, answers in italics.

Politically, where is this coming from?

The entire argument of the South Asia faculty has been that whatever they’re doing is progressive and intellectually rigorous and is for a liberal South Asian ideal. They have been assuming this mantle and portraying all Hindu parents and students and community groups as Hindutva and extremist and revisionist. So that’s the weird thing. Politically, one would think we should be on the side of the faculty because they’re for the good stuff and the other side are fanatics. But in practice the South Asia faculty action is very distorted and inadvertently even.

So, how do you differentiate, what is the defense against the ‘fanatics’ tag?

Dr Vamsee Juluri/ Screenshot from Facebook pageDr Vamsee Juluri/ Screenshot from Facebook page

Dr Vamsee Juluri/ Screenshot from Facebook page

I’ve been following this for 10 years and been looking very closely at what people are asking for and it is very very clear that this is a huge popular uprising. This is the Indian American civil rights movement – the California textbooks. After 40 years of Indians being in America, they’ve not participated in any big Indian American civic process – everybody comes settles down, gets a job and builds temples. But this (California textbooks) is a huge engagement with American civic life. The community is getting this act together – when it started out, there were a few small religious groups but it’s gotten a lot better in the last few years although not fully there yet. You cannot cannot describe the chages they are asking for as fundamentalist because they are rational and reasonable. On the other side, the South Asia faculty have gone from a position of a questionable nature to complete absurdity. They have made a lot of changes that are self contradictory and extreme.

Their report goes into 12 pages, would you say some recommendations are more “extreme” than others?

When you say there was no India (before 1947), you are erasing an entire generation’s ability to identify with their heritage. Now, when you erase Hinduism and say there was never such a thing as Hindusim and at the same time you retain references to Hinduism and India when it comes to caste oppression, it’s bizarre, you’re crushing people into silence. So what kind of a political agenda does erasing India serve? Let me put it like this – Long term, if the the legitimacy of the existence of India is denied like this…if you say that India started to exist only from 1947, I think it serves some very nefarious agendas.

Nefarious agendas…could you offer a specific example?

There was a line in the 7th grade curriculum about how just before European colonialism, India and the Muslim world experienced great prosperity. The South Asia faculty got that line changed to this – the Islamic civilization as a whole stretching from Mediterranean sea to the Indian Ocean region experienced prosperity. So what have they done? They have made it seem that before the British came, India was just a part of the Islamic civilization. They have not acknowledged the Vijayanagara empire here or the fact that India was both Hindu and Mulsim at this time. So it serves a revisionist agenda where geopolitically, in 10-15 years, if this kind of thing continues, and it’s already happening, if it starts brainwashing 6th grade kids like this, people are going to start thinking there was never an India, and it also starts to revive weird partition-era arguments questioning the legitimacy of India’s independence and existence except as a “possession” of the Mughals and the British.

What is this South Asia faculty? Who are these people suggesting edits?

These are not unknown professors. They teach South Asian history or literature, post colonial studies. There are about 15 professors who have signed off on the recommended changes and the first letter was submitted under the lead name of Kamala Visveswaran – all well known scholars. Unfortunately, they are not realising that whatever their positions are in the field can and should be debated in conferences and graduate level courses and scholarly papers but to rush them into the minds of 6th grade children without considering the situation on the ground is not right – they are dismissing all pushback as fundamentalism. This is a debate that should have taken place on the sidelines of the school process well in time to have evolved into appropriate school-level recommendations.

South Asia itself is a cold war formulation – are the “scholars” confused between the geographical scope of area studies and the historical realities of large powers like ‘India’ or ‘Hindustan’?

That’s right. The term South Asia was coined out of geo political considerations in the cold war period by the State department. In Universities, South Asia became a way of organising an inter disciplinary order for faculty in different departments working on that region. But this way of imposing South Asia and taking it back 5000 years is bizarre. Even within South Asia studies, there will be, say, a China center but nobody wants to erase their own identity – is any scholar of Chinese history going to send letters saying let’s remove the mention of China and say just East Asia?

How long has this been going on?

I first heard about this in 2005. A lot of the South Asia faculty were saying that Hindu extremists are trying to rewrite history in Sacramento. I initially took it at face value, even the Wall Street Journal was writing about it, I thought maybe these Hindu groups were talking about teaching California students that ancient India invented pushpak vimanas stuff. On closer study, I realised that they were not. It was actually the textbooks that were full of myths and old colonial fantasies full of mistakes and racist condesension towards India and Hindusim. The Hindu groups were for the most part were being respectful and asking for common sense things. Many communities face this kind of thing but they are able to cobble together strong community led movements and get it corrected.

I’m quoting from a letter you’ve appended to the petition…”Meetings were contentious, heated, outside parties jumped in and lawsuits were filed…” Who are these outside parties?

I think Bajpai and Arumuganathaswami have done the maximum work on this but they’ve been branded as right wing. In 2005, when the Hindu parents told the Department of Education that there were problems, they were initially sympathetic and happy to let Bajpai correct these things. The Board pretty much agreed to whatever Prof Bajpai recommended but at the last minute, a Harvard Sanskrit professor rebranded the whole thing as Hindutva extremists saffronising history. I am told that a lot of people were flown in to destroy Bajpai’s case.

Again, my first question…so what’s driving this?

Since I am located here within academia and I am familiar with the work of a lot of these scholars, I think their intentions are genuine and they really think that they on the side of minorities but the changes they are asking for are contradictory to their stated goals. The bigger problem is that what has happened in America as far as we Indians are concered is that you have these far left academicians who are Marxist and sub altern studies kind of people who have been co-opted by extreme rightwing forces from other politico-religious formations. So you have left wing South Asian academics doing things which serve the interests of certain other groups advancing intolerant (they think no other religion but theirs should exist) and imperialist (they think their nation’s destiny is to restore their great religion-based world empire) agendas. Otherwise, there’s no real principle or precedence to what they are doing. Nobody’s changing the name of Greece or Rome or China so why India?

Is that because we don’t push back hard enough?

Americans in general have to have some factual understanding of Indians.
Other minority communities have invested intellectually, economically, politically in changing the old colonial misrepresentaions of them. You’ll find people on mainstream TV fighting Islamophobia, a lot of studies have been done on how Arabs are portrayed in the movies, anti-Semitism. But the academicians who study India rarely do that because they think India and Hinduism are the problem. They don’t see a need to speak for India or Hindus, as a whole, as if Indians and Hindus don’t include the poor and marginalized communities in them too. If America does not understand India correctly, the last bastion standing against some violent and intolerant extremist forces that are sweeping worldwide will fall…then we’ll know how progressive South Asia studies can be!

So, what after the petition?

Two days ago, there was a meeting of the Instructional Quality Commission and what they did was to kind of acknowledge some of these changes have really upset people and they reviewed a lot of things. Several of the suggestions of replacing India with South Asia were rejected. So now, they’re going ahead with the somewhat weird situation where they’re going to use the word India but use the word South Asia in brackets next to it. So the struggle continues.The board of education has to stop getting pushed by one group of academics like this and realize that this is basically a disputed position in academia. Denying that India and Hinduism exist may be a fashionable fancy and even an aggressively dominant view in academia but then there is a growing movement consisting of other scholars who are batting for facts and commonsense here and demonstrating how self-contradictory, baseless, and far-fetched some of these majoritarian views are.

Are you saying you are in the minority?

Of course, today if we stand up and say India and Hinduism existed before 1947, people in academia shun you for it. The good thing is that in 10-20 years, it may change… it is becoming increasingly clear to many in the scholarly community that the currently dominant “South Asia studies canon” is just a rehashed version of 19th century German Indology that distorted the entire history of India and came up with this formula that Germans and Indians sort of had the same ancestry called the Aryans. The whole edifice of South Asia studies resistance to questioning Aryan stuff in Indian history lessons is just that. The South Asia studies dogma thinks Hinduism as it exists is Hindu nationalism/extremism! But the real question for scholars to explore now is: is South Asia studies as it exists now really just a reinvented form of colonial orientalism?

How palpable is Indophobia?

Indophobia is a systematic intellectual distortion in history books and in the media, I don’t mean it at a personal level. It’s not open like anti-black racism in the 50’s or even something seen palpably in everyday life perhaps in most parts of the United States. But it is real, and it will have consequences if left unaddressed for India and for the world. So one of the course corrections I am trying to do for the textbooks movement is in making it engage with not just Hinduphobia but Indophobia too, for this is something that concerns all Indians and not just Hindus. The textbook movement started out with a religion-focus I think not necessarily because Hindus spearheading it wanted to exclude others, but simply because of the perceived way in which American society responds to minority/immigrant identities better if it is framed as “religion” rather than as nationality perhaps. But one thing should be clear to everyone following this, and perhaps getting misled by all the old news stories they may find about “religious extremism” and such. This is not a religion studies curriculum we are talking about, but world history, and India’s place in it. It concerns all Indians and Indian-origin people around the world now. I request your readers to please consider signing the petition and sharing it widely so the department of education understands how important your identity is to you.

Why Prof Pollock doesn’t complain about Iraq invasion but protests happenings in JNU: Prof Ramakrishnan

“When the matter is lying in court, why is an American taking special interest in the matter? We are unhappy about Prof. Sheldon Pollock being inconsistent. He does not complain about the Patriot law and about the Iraq invasion, but protests about JNU and almost anything related to the current Indian goverment.” said Ganesh Ramakrishnan, the professor at IIT Bombay’s department of computer science and engineering who has set off a storm when he posted an online petition earlier this week asking Infosys co-founder NR Narayana Murty and his son, Rohan Murty to remove Pollock as general editor of the Murty Classical Library, a series of books of translations of classical Indian literature.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Ramakrishnan was referring to Pollock’s signature for a petition in mid-February to which 92 professors and intellectuals from abroad, including Naom Chomsky, Judith Butler, Mira Nair and Orhan Pamuk, who had condemned the police highhandedness inside the university saying it was evidence of the “present government’s deeply authoritarian nature, intolerant of any dissent Indian”.Pollock has also been signatory to many recent petitions such as the one expressing concern against the “damage being done …to the traditions of tolerance, and freedom of speech, belief and practices, for which India was long applauded”.Ramakrishnan’s petition, endorsed by 132 academicians from universities across India, found ready support from columnist and feminist writer Madhu Kishwar, who told dna, “Why are we allowing Pollock to use his academic credentials to demonize India because we Indians have voted to power a government they don’t like?Ramakrishnan’s charge is that Pollock’s writings betray a”deep antipathy towards many of the ideals and values cherished and practiced in our civilization writings”. Referring to a recent book, “The Battle for Sanskrit”, by Rajiv Malhotra, a US-based independent scholar of Sanskrit and ancient Indian culture, the petition says that “the writings of Pollock are deeply flawed and misrepresent our cultural heritage”.Rohan Murty, who started the Murty Classical Library early last year to to commission and publish translations of some of the classics of ancient Indian literature, many of them in Sanskrit, has already rejected the demand to remove Pollock.Ramakrishnan, however, says that his petition did not ask for Pollock to go. “But why must he lead the team? During our research we found that the team he has put together for the Murty Library is lopsided. Why are there no traditional Sanskrit scholars on the panel? We are concerned about the mindset that Pollock carries into the (MCLI) translations. It will be difficult for us to dissociate what he has written before unless he disowns the thesis he has built starting from 1985.””How can he call Sanskrit a dead language?” asks Ramakrishna, who says he does not know Sanskrit himself and has not applied to the Murtys before posting his online petition.Pollock is a well-known Sanskritist, having translated the Ramayana and written several books on the language, culture and philosophy of ancient India. He is a recipient of the President’s Award for Sanskrit (2009), and the Padma Shri (2010). Last year, he was appointed general editor of The Murty Classical Library.On Thursday, the Indian Writers Forum, a grouping of liberal writers and intellectuals such as K. Satchidanandan, Romila Thapar and Nayantara Sahgal, issued a counter-petition expressing worry and anger at the campaign by “some self-styled scholars and academics” to remove Pollock. “The academics in question seem to have misunderstood (or deliberately misrepresented) Pollock’s criticism of Western Universities that ignore South Asian knowledge traditions as a criticism of South Asian traditions,”their petition said. It went on to question the petition’s assumption that “those who are born in India are naturally endowed with an understanding of Indian knowledge systems and knowledge of Indian texts, and as if such knowledge cannot be acquired by someone who is not born here”.

#Raisina Files: The quest for economic convergence in Asia and its sea of strategic discord

By Commodore Abhijit Singh

In the coming years, littoral-Asia will be a key determinant of prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region. For long, maritime experts have regarded the waters around Asia as a combination of two dissimilar strategic sub-systems. The Indian Ocean was thought of as a theatre of irregular threats amenable to a collective form of maritime security. The Western Pacific, on the other hand, was perceived to be a domain of intractable geopolitical conflict and warring maritime agencies. Many believed the two sub-regions had so little in common that applying similar solutions to their problems was akin to prescribing the same medication for different physical ailments. Yet, a subtle shift is now underway and a gradual equalisation of challenges is beginning to occur across this vast strategic system. Evidence suggests that the strategic differential between the two sub-theatres comprising maritime Asia is narrowing, with the Indian Ocean littorals beginning to resemble the troubled waters of the Western Pacific.

The rebalancing of security threats, among other things, can be put down to the prevalence of three factors. First, there is a growing maritime militarisation occurring across the Asian littorals characterised by a gradual build-up of naval forces. The modernisation of the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLA Navy) and other navies in Southeast Asia is matched by a maritime military build-up in India, Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia and other Indian Ocean states.

Second, huge investments are being made in maritime infrastructure in both sub-theatres. China has been leading in the race for infrastructure creation thus far, but others are not far behind. Japan, Indonesia and Thailand have undertaken construction of huge maritime projects, even as India, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Mauritius and Seychelles have expanded their investments in coastal development and the blue ocean economy. This has led to the presence of extra-regional maritime forces, triggering anxiety over the increased militarisation of the littoral spaces.

Third, there has been a gradual expansion of non-traditional threats in both sub-regions. Even though piracy off the coast of Somalia has been successfully tackled, drug-running, arms trafficking, illegal fishing and climate change continue to test the effectiveness of maritime forces on either side of the Strait of Malacca.

Representational image. Getty Images

Representational image. Getty Images

The security conundrum

From New Delhi’s perspective, what is vital is the contradiction between the two main factors that mediate the maritime environment in South Asia. While increasing deployment of modern naval forces near critical choke points in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) has led regional navies to assume robust postures, new dangers are being posed by non-traditional security threats, which require a collective response. Indian experts are concerned by the modernisation of Pakistan’s navy, the growing deployments of the PLA Navy in the Indian Ocean and China’s reclamation of maritime features in South China Sea. These threats require robust deterrent action by the Indian Navy. But Indian analysts also recognise the challenge posed by non-traditional adversaries, tackling which needs joint and sustained effort. An instructive example is the grave danger posed by ‘hybrid’ forces (non-state actors launching attacks on regular forces). Al Qaeda’s audacious attack on a Pakistani frigate docked at Karachi port in October 2014 led Indian naval planners to strengthen the coastal security architecture, and enhanced consensus in favour of joint surveillance. The militants’ plan to hijack the ship and use it to mount attacks against United States’ and Indian naval forces in the Indian Ocean was foiled in the nick of time. No one, however, is willing to bet on the same result every time.

Despite clearly converging security interests, quality cooperation among regional maritime forces has been hard to engender. This is principally on account of the distrust that exists among powerful nations with strong geopolitical interests in maritime Asia. India and China have been suspicious of each other’s intentions in their primary theatres of maritime operations. Indian analysts regard China’s growing IOR deployments and its announcement of a Maritime Silk Route project as elaborate covers for its military ambitions in the IOR. Some even consider the latter as a strategic ploy for naval access to ports in the South Asian littoral zones, metaphorically described as the ‘string of pearls’. But Beijing has not been welcoming of India’s maritime presence in the South China Sea either. Indian naval ships entering the South China Sea have had to contend with an assertive PLA Navy, intent on underlining its primacy in what it considers to be its regional waters. While outwardly indifferent to Indian presence, the message to Indian naval ships has been clear: “You have entered Chinese waters. You operate here at our sufferance.”

The economic scenario in maritime Asia, however, though stands apart from the security picture. Notwithstanding the strategic impulse that divides the Indo-Pacific, there is a strong economic rationale that binds the region. The discourse in India routinely overlooks the fact that the synergy of maritime initiatives in littoral-Asia is premised on the leveraging of strengths and common regional interests. Not only is there a strong economic dividend to be realised by working in operational sync, pursuing joint projects can also produce substantial diplomatic and cultural gains. Yet, economic opportunities are not being currently taken seriously because nations fear these could compromise national interest and strategic influence in the wider maritime space.

China’s Maritime Silk Road

One such developmental proposal that is yet to pass the litmus test of political consensus is China’s 21st Century Maritime Silk Road (MSR). A key component of the larger Chinese ‘One Belt One Road’ (OBOR) project meant to promote trade, investment, services and infrastructure construction in Asia and Europe, the MSR aims at an economic, diplomatic and cultural integration of littoral Asia. To achieve the project’s stated ends, Beijing has created specific instruments, such as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and a $40 billion Silk Road Fund. These have been received positively by some governments in Asia, but many remain wary of its strategic implications.

To convince potential partners, Beijing has combined the drive to create infrastructure with an effort to increase trade volumes. Last year, China signed an agreement to upgrade its free trade area with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean). By dovetailing the MSR with a master plan for an integrated Asean community, Beijing has sought to provide greater urgency to its proposal. Among the states that it has most actively courted, India has been the most significant.

Unfortunately, despite numerous attempts to elicit a positive response from India, New Delhi has remained non-committal about the project. Indian policymakers usually point to the lack of specifics on critical projects in the Indian Ocean, but the real concern has been the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, a critical component of the OBOR that will make Pakistan a critical node along both land and sea routes. The Indian Navy is also wary about the PLA Navy’s growing ship and submarine deployments in the Indian Ocean, which many Indian analysts believe is meant to establish China’s de-facto dominance in India’s strategic backyard. The new Chinese military base in Djibouti has further fuelled Indian fears, convincing many Indian experts that China is stealthily moving to counter Indian influence in the IOR.

For its part, China insists that its investments in IOR maritime infrastructure are motivated by pure economics and that the benefits will accrue equally for all participating states. Chinese academics and experts underscore the MSR’s utility in integrating existing initiatives, including regional efforts, to improve physical connectivity and development opportunities. Consequently, Chinese scholars contest the ‘string of pearls’ theory. A prominent Chinese daily last year noted that Indian fears of PLA military bases throughout Indian Ocean were without factual basis. China, it claimed, has only two purposes in the Indian Ocean: economic gains and the security of sea lines of communication. In other words, access, rather than bases, is what drives Chinese naval deployments in the IOR — ‘access’ that will drive the creation of economic ‘mega-projects’ in the Indian Ocean and South China Sea, and ultimately assist Asian governments in fulfilling their developmental mandate.

Raisina

Indian initiatives in the Asia-Pacific

Beijing’s win-win propositions in maritime Asia are worthy of empathetic consideration because they are led by the same economic rationale that drives New Delhi’s own outreach in the Asia-Pacific region. India’s trade with Asean and East Asia has grown rapidly. A rising proportion of Indian oil and container shipments now traverses the Straits of Malacca. New Delhi has energy interests off the Vietnam coast and seeks to increase investments in the oil and gas sectors in Southeast Asia. Moreover, India’s Look East Policy, the main policy framework of India’s engagement with Southeast Asia, has a clear economic focus.(1) New Delhi’s regional endeavours include the India-Asean Free Trade Area, Mekong Ganga Cooperation and the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation. Today, despite a newly invigorated approach christened, ‘Act East,’ India’s approach essentially remains tilted in favour of economic and cultural reintegration with Southeast Asia.

While New Delhi’s developmental and socio-political agenda is clear, it faces major geographical and infrastructure-related constraints. Many of its initiatives are hindered by lack of connectivity within and beyond the subcontinent. Geographical constraints, for instance, impede India’s land-based foreign trade with China and Myanmar, two of its immediate neighbours. As a result, most of India’s merchandise trade with these countries is thorough the sea. A greater desire for economic synergy is one reason New Delhi has been willing to endorse the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Trade Corridor (BCIM) proposed by Beijing.

While BCIM might be beneficial for India, it may yet be insufficient in overcoming New Delhi’s connectivity problems, unless supplemented by larger joint projects in the common seas. The Modi government is looking to revive former Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s ‘Sagar Mala’ Project. The project aims to enhance overseas trade connectivity by developing new seaports along peninsular India, and envisions ‘port-led development’ of the hinterland as well as special economic zones (SEZs). Indian analysts and policymakers must now consider the potential of MSR to supplement existing arrangements in a manner that can better facilitate seaport and SEZ development. More importantly, there is a need to synergise blue economy initiatives for sustainable development of the littoral zones.

A cultural convergence

There might also be a cultural convergence between the MSR and Indian maritime initiatives in the Indian Ocean. According to Chinese analysts, Bejing considers the MSR to be a cultural project. In this, it resembles India’s ‘Mausam’ and ‘Spice Route’ projects. The former is an academic enquiry into cultural linkages in the Indian Ocean; the latter, a plan to retrace a historical route along Coromandel Coast of southern India where ancient traders plied their wares. Taken together, the Indian and Chinese proposals symbolise Asia’s historic maritime heritage, traditions and practices, lending credence to idea of a resurgent Asia. In particular, the MSR appears well-positioned to integrate Asia economically, creating mutual dependence and greater regional order and stability.

Towards an integrated maritime Asia

Asia’s economic growth in the past few decades has indeed been impressive. Yet, amidst a global slowdown today, the developmental agenda appears under threat. With exports falling and export costs growing, Asian states are looking for new ways to maintain growth rates. Since China is willing to create industrial capacity in its neighbouring states, the MSR appears to be a useful instrument to boost regional growth. (2)

Partnering with Beijing on the MSR could have clear benefits for New Delhi. With Chinese authorities keen to outsource manufacturing to their MSR partners, India’s advantages in terms of low labour costs and raw materials place it in a good position to strengthen its manufacturing base, propagate its ‘Make in India’ campaign, and generate employment opportunities. If India decides to stay out of the MSR, however, it runs the risk of losing the momentum for development. China’s neighbours and MSR partners would be more than willing to make up for India’s absence, thereby negating New Delhi’s advantages.

While integrating maritime Asia has its own risks, especially the possibility of increased competition among regional maritime forces, India must capitalise on the opportunity for vast economic gains. It must do so by committing resources and actions, pursuing free trade and other open economic arrangements, and shaping norms and setting priorities for regional development. It must do all of these, even while deterring adversaries, taking measures to preserve the regional balance of power, and fighting transnational threats like piracy and terrorism. New Delhi must demonstrate that it is willing to seize opportunities and act, not merely in pursuit of narrowly-construed national interests, but also for the greater regional good.

In effect, India must balance ‘benefit and risk’ to find a middle path, a compromise that allows it to pursue two seemingly conflicting goals: ensure strategic primacy in the Indian Ocean, and regional development through economic integration of maritime-Asia.

—–

Other references

(1) For a broader discussion on India’s Look East Policy, see: A.N. Ram (ed.), Two Decades of India’s Look East Policy: Partnership for Peace, Progress and Prosperity (Indian Council of World Affairs: New Delhi, 2012)
(2) Mingjiang Li, China’s “One Belt One Road” Initiative: The Convergence of Strategic Interests and Domestic Imperatives”, in China’s Maritime Silk Route and Asia, Vijay Sahuja, Jane Chan (eds) (New Delhi : Vij Books 2016), p 14

This is part of a series of special essays brought to you by Firstpost ahead of the #Raisina Dialogue that begins in New Delhi on Tuesday. #Raisina is India’s first MEA sponsored global conclave on geopolitics and geoeconomics, Firstpost is the media partner.

#Raisina: Coming on March 1, ORF-MEA global conclave on geopolitics to rival Shangri-La dialogue

India’s foreign minister Sushma Swaraj, foreign secretary Dr S Jaishankar, former president of Sri Lanka Chandrika Badaranaike Kumaratunga and former president of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai are some of the marquee speakers at #Raisina – India’s first MEA sponsored global conclave on geo politics and geo economics starting in New Delhi from 1 -3 March which is readying to rival the Shangri-La Dialogue (SLD) in content and intellectual heft.

The SLD is a ‘Track One’  inter-governmental security forum held annually by an independent think tank, the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) attended by defense ministers, permanent heads of ministries and military chiefs of 28 Asia-Pacific states. The forum gets its name from the Shangri-La Hotel in Singapore where it has been held since 2002.

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“The Raisina Dialogue is designed to explore and examine the prospects and opportunities for Asian integration as well as Asia’s integration with the larger world. It is predicated on India’s vital role in the Indian Ocean Region and how India along with its partners in the region and beyond can build a stable and prosperous world order,” says ORF. In 3 days, more than 100 speakers from over 35 countries will take the stage at #Raisina.

Reporting on Indian think tanks and their place in the world, Hindustan Times says key thinkers on foreign policy at ORF have added to its sheen. ORF senior fellow and Padma Shri award winner for 2016, Ashok Malik will share the stage of top 8 speakers in the inaugural panel.

“ORF’s engagement with the government has also grown over the years. It now receives project-specific funding from the Ministry of External Affairs for studies on BRICS, Russia, climate and other thematic issues. It hosts a range of Track 2 dialogues with France, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Australia, BRICS and Track 1.5 dialogues where officials from both sides are present but without a formal agenda and format. It also hosts the Indian Ocean Dialogue and Blue Economies Forum and has other projects lined up with the government,” reports HT.

“ORF has grown five times in the last five years, and now has a budget of Rs 25 crore. By annual spending alone, this makes it the biggest think-tank in town.” says Prashant Jha in HT.

Links: Complete list of speakers at Raisina Dialogue

Hot topics and breakout sessions at #Raisina 2016

— Whither European Union
— Jehangir Roundtables: Competing Globalisations: Managing Economic And Trade Regimes in Asia
— DiplomaShe: Gender, Policy and Politics
— Securing Digital Asia: Threats And Opportunities for a Smart Realm
— Light of Asia: The Future of Energy
— South by South-West: The Threat in the Neighbourhood
— Waters of Asia
— Asia’s Strategic Order

The inaugural #Raisina 2016 will focus on Asia’s physical, economic, human and digital connectivity and will attempt to discover opportunities and challenges for the region to manage its common spaces, as well as the global partnerships needed to develop common pathways in this century.

Designed as India’s flagship conference of geopolitics and geoeconomics, the Raisina Dialogue 2016 is designed to explore prospects and opportunities for Asian integration as well as Asia’s integration with the larger world. It is predicated on India’s vital role in the Indian Ocean region and how India along with its partners can build a stable regional and world order. The 2016 conclave will focus on Asia’s physical, economic, digital connectivity and fostering common global spaces with an emphasis on Asia.

The two-day annual conference is a multistakeholder, cross-sectoral meeting involving policy and decision-makers, including but not limited to foreign, defence and finance ministers of different countries, high-level government officials and policy practitioners, leading personalities from business and industry, and members of the strategic community, media and academia.

FirstPost is the media partner of #Raisina Dialogue

JNU Row: Top UK varsities condemn police action; term it ‘direct attack on dissent’

Eight top universities in the UK including Oxford and Cambridge on Thursday came out in support of JNU, strongly criticising the police action in its campus as a “direct attack on dissent and debate”.A joint statement issued by entire centres of teaching and research on South Asia of leading universities said the February 12 police action against students threatened the varsity’s freedom of expression and democratic dissent, which they described as “hallmark of JNU’s history and reputation globally”.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”Institutes and centres with dedicated faculty members engaged in teaching and research on India and South Asia in universities in the UK are watching with increasing concern the events that are unfolding at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) including the detention and suspension of students,” the statement said.”We also note that the recent events at JNU are a further demonstration of the fact that universities have a duty of care to protect their students, following on from the tragic suicide of Rohith Vemula at the University of Hyderabad,” it added.The letter came as massive countrywide protests were held against the arrest of JNU students union leader Kanhaiya Kumar and ex-Delhi University lecturer SAR Geelani to drop sedition charges against them. The eight signatories of the statement appealed to the Vice Chancellor of JNU to protect members of the university community as well as the freedom of expression and dissent.The statement reads: “We see the police action on the JNU campus on February 12 2016 as a direct attack on JNU’s internationally renowned tradition of critical thinking, dissent, scholarship, and debate. We stand beside the international scholars who have signed the 15 February 2016 statement in solidarity with the students, faculty and staff of JNU. We condemn the presence of police on campus and the harassment of students on the basis of their political beliefs. An open, tolerant, and democratic society is inextricably linked to the freedoms of thought and expression cultivated by universities in India and abroad. We have long valued JNU for its critical imagination and critical scholarship, which have been nurtured by the plurality of political beliefs and activism on its campus.”The statement is signed by the Centre for South Asian Studies, University of Cambridge; Contemporary South Asian Studies Programme, School of Interdisciplinary Area Studies (SIAS), University of Oxford; South Asia Institute, SOAS University of London; Centre for South Asian Studies, University of Edinburgh; King’s India Institute, King’s College London; Gender Institute, London School of Economics; Institute of Asia and Pacific Studies, University of Nottingham; and School of International Development, University of East Anglia.

South Asian University professor Yogesh Kumar Tyagi named new DU VC

South Asian University professor Yogesh Kumar Tyagi has been appointed the new Vice Chancellor of Delhi University after his name was selected by President Pranab Mukherjee from a panel of four persons.Last week, the HRD ministry had forwarded the four names to the President who as Visitor of Central Universities, makes the final selection.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Apart from Tyagi, who is the Dean of the Law Faculty at South Asian University, the other names on the panel were JNU professor Rameshwar Nath Kaul Bamezai, former IIT professor and UPSC member Hemchand Gupta and Bidyut Chakraborty, a professor in the DU Political Science department.According to reports, Tyagi was the front-runner for the position as he was the HRD ministry’s choice. Earlier, it was reported that while appointing the JNU Vice Chancellor, the President had ignored the HRD ministry’s preference and appointed IIT professor M Jagadesh Kumar to the post.Tyagi will assume charge of the new assignment from Dinesh Singh, whose tenure saw controversy over the Four-Year Undergraduate Programme (FYUP), which was later rolled back after intervention by University Grants Commission.

Asian-American judges among Obama’s options as he seeks to replace Scalia | Reuters

WASHINGTON President Barack Obama has a number of likely options as he looks for a nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court to replace Justice Antonin Scalia, who died on Saturday.

Within a few hours, Obama said he intends to make a nomination, despite Republicans stressing they opposed any appointment being made until after November’s presidential election. The Republican-controlled U.S. Senate would have to approve the nomination.

If Obama’s nominee is not confirmed by the Senate, the White House could use the process to energize Democratic voters ahead of the presidential and congressional elections in November. If a Democratic nominee were to replace Scalia it would lead to a sizable shift in the ideological balance of the high court, which has had a conservative majority for decades.

Here are some of the possibilities, including two prominent Asian-American judges:

Sri Srinivasan

Among those the administration could turn to is Sri Srinivasan, 48, who has served on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit since May 2013. He would be the first Indian-American on the court and has impeccable bipartisan credentials.

The Senate confirmed him on a 97-0 vote three years ago. He was a law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, now retired, a 1981 appointee of Republican President Ronald Reagan. At Srinivasan’s confirmation hearing, Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz, now a presidential candidate, described himself as a long-standing friend dating back to their time together as law clerks in the U.S. appeals court based in Richmond, Virginia.

Cruz said Srinivasan had done a “very fine job” in answering the committee’s questions.

During his nomination to the appeals court, prominent Republicans such as former U.S. Solicitor General Ted Olson supported Srinivasan. At his 2013 investiture, leading lights of the legal establishment from both parties praised him. Federal appeals court judge J. Harvie Wilkinson, a Reagan appointee for whom Srinivasan was also a law clerk, called him “lightning smart.”

So far on the appeals court, his rulings have not sparked controversy.

Jacqueline Nguyen

Other names the administration could consider include Jacqueline Nguyen, 50, a Vietnamese-American who has been a judge on the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals since May 2012.

The first Asian-American woman to sit on a federal appeals court, she was confirmed by the Senate in 2012 by a 91-3 vote. When she was a child, Nguyen fled South Vietnam with her family toward the close of the Vietnam War in 1975, and then lived in a refugee camp in California. Nguyen was a federal prosecutor and district court judge in Los Angeles before she was elevated to the appeals court.

Paul Watford

An African-American who is also a judge on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Paul Watford is another possibility. He was an appellate litigator at the Munger, Tolles & Olson law firm before Obama nominated him to the appeals court in 2011. Watford, 48, clerked for 9th Circuit Judge Alex Kozinski, a libertarian-leaning Republican, and for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, one of Scalia’s colleagues on the Supreme Court.

He was confirmed by a 61-34 vote, as some Republicans raised concerns about Watford’s work as a lawyer on immigration and death penalty cases.

Jane Kelly

Jane Kelly, a white woman and former public defender who has served on the St. Louis, Missouri-based 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals since April 2013. She was supported by Iowa Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, the chairman of the key committee that would review the nominee.

Kelly, 51, clerked for now-retired Judge David Hansen, a friend of Grassley’s who served on the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. She was confirmed by the Senate on a 96-0 vote.

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley and Joan Biskupic. Additional reporting by Dan Levine; Editing by Martin Howell)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

Cambodia arrests man wanted for Bangkok Spaniard killing

Phnom Penh: The prime suspect in the grisly murder and dismemberment of a Spanish national in Bangkok has been arrested in Cambodia, police said Monday.

Multiple body parts belonging to businessman David Bernat were found floating in Bangkok’s Chao Praya river last month.

Police believe he was kidnapped and murdered for financial reasons with investigators saying they have traced more than $1 million moved from the victim’s bank account after his death.

Last week they named their chief suspect as Artur Segarra, 36, also a Spanish national, saying they were confident he remained inside Thailand because he had recently withdrawn money from a cash machine inside the country.

Representational image. Getty Images.Representational image. Getty Images.

Representational image. Getty Images.

But Cambodian police said Segarra was arrested in a restaurant on Sunday in the city of Sihanoukville.

“We arrested him yesterday late afternoon,” Chuon Narin, police chief of Kampong Som province, told AFP on Monday.

“This morning I will send him to the immigration department so that we can hand him over to the Thai authorities,” he added.

The gruesome case has dominated Thai media coverage in recent days with television networks airing grim footage of officers hauling human remains out of the river. Police questioned a Thai woman over the weekend who was allegedly seen with Segarra in recent days.

Investigators initially struggled to identify the victim. Last week police said they believed the man was of Asian origin and suggested that Chinese triads might have been involved because of the method chosen to dispose of the body.

The wide Chao Praya winds its way through Bangkok, which boasts a large network of canals, and it is not unusual for bodies to be dumped in the city’s waterways. But it is rare for a foreigner to meet such a grisly fate.

Thai police said they would likely hold a press conference in the afternoon. Channel 3 television reported that Segarra had already been placed on a helicopter back to Thailand.

Cambodian police have returned a number of high profile criminal suspects to Thailand in recent months, including one of the alleged perpetrators of last summer’s Bangkok bombing and an Australian wanted for his alleged involvement in the murder of a fellow national and former Hells Angels member in Pattaya.

AFP

Rest In Peace: Cartoonist Sudhir Tailang passes away

New Delhi: Well-known cartoonist Sudhir Tailang, who was suffering from a brain tumour, passed away on Saturday, his family said. He would have turned 56 on 26 February.

Tailang’s daughter Aditi told IANS that he breathed his last at 12:30 pm. He would be cremated at 2 pm on Sunday at Lodhi road crematorium.

Sudhir Tailang. AFPSudhir Tailang. AFP

Sudhir Tailang. AFP

Tailang was under treatment for the last two years. He was in hospital for more than a month before he was brought home after doctors had given up all hope of his recovery.

Tailang, who was suffering from GBM-4 stage brain tumour, had undergone two surgeries and chemotherapy during the course of his treatment over two years, Aditi said.

He worked with almost all the well-known banners including Hindustan Times, Times of India and Indian Express. His last assignment was with the Asian Age.

Late prime minister Indira Gandhi was the first prey of Tailang’s pen.

Thereafter, there was hardly any known personality in political world or other sphere of life who could escape his brush.

He was awarded Padma Shri in 2004 for his contribution to the art of cartooning.

Several eminent personalities took to Twitter to mourn his demise:

With inputs from IANS