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When even Sushma Swaraj couldn’t help an individual

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Saturday expressed inability in helping a British woman charity worker of Iranian origin who has been sentenced to one year imprisonment by a court in Odisha on charges of causing death of a tribal child due to negligence.Swaraj had sought a report from Odisha government on the case involving 28-year-old Narges K Ashtari.She said she cannot help the woman due to the court order. Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif earlier this week has said that Iran will use all its capacity to secure Ashtari’s release. “I have received the report from Government of Odisha. The trial court has convicted Narges K Ashtari to one year imprisonment and Rs 3,00,000/- fine.”She has filed an appeal before Sessions Court which is pending. The appellate court has released her on bail pending appeal. This is a judicial order and the matter is sub judice.Therefore, I am unable to help in this case @BorisJohnson @JZarif,” Swaraj said in a series of tweets. She also tagged Zarif as well as British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson in her tweets. Ashtari, who runs an orphanage through her NGO Prishan Foundation in Rayagada district of Odisha, was found guilty by a court in the case relating to causing death to a child due to negligence. She faced the charges after the disappearance of the child in 2014, who is feared drowned.An online petition by social activists has recently sought Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s intervention in seeking justice for Ashtari saying she has dedicated her life in serving orphan and abandoned children around the world. Earlier this week, the Iranian Foreign Minister had said “The Foreign Ministry considers it its duty to protect Iranian nationals residing abroad, including students, elites and businessmen… and will use all its capacity to support them and restore their rights.”He said the Iranian Foreign Ministry and Iran’s embassy in New Delhi are following up on her case though diplomatic, consular and legal channels. Born in Isfahan, central Iran, Ashtari’s parents moved to the UK when she was four years old.

Delhi does a fine balancing act with Iran, Qatar

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In 1930, famous poet Iqbal visualised Tehran becoming the Geneva of the East. The Swiss city was then the headquarters of the League of Nations. Of late, New Delhi is turning to be a centre for international diplomatic engagements, with the city on Saturday hosting the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of arch-rivals Qatar and Iran – Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa Al Thani and Mohammad Javad Zarif, respectively.Qatar, an important member of the Saudi Arabia-led Sunni Arab alliance, is also an active supporter of the US-led campaigns in the region. It also hosts a Taliban office in Doha. Iran, the only Shia Muslim country in the world, disagrees with almost everything with Arab Gulf states, ranging from Opec’s oil production to the US role in the region as well as conflicts in Syria and Iraq.Both the visiting dignitaries spoke about ways to curb terrorism. During the bilateral talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Sheikh Abdullah talked about enhancing cooperation and agreed on a joint action to tackle money-laundering and terrorist financing.Later, Zarif anaylsed the fight against terrorism and ways to curb the global menace of extremism. His punchline was to introspect within and provide a vent to dissents and frustrations through democratic means — a panacea for terrorism. He also asked for giving the youth the hope for a better future to prevent them from ending up as suicide bombers.He described alienation and deprivation as the root cause of radicalisation, blaming the big powers for creating a monster through their policies. “We are paying the price for the misplaced perception that Cold War was won by the West,” said Zarif. Speaking on issues like Syria, he said time is long gone for any imposed solution in Syria. He hinted that his country would support an inclusive government to end the conflict in the region.Referring to Iran’s commitment to develop trade with India, he said Chabahar marks an excellent venue for cooperation with India and Afghanistan. The Iranian Foreign Minister is accompanied by a 38-member delegation from his country’s Chamber of Commerce, 15 knowledge-based companies and eight trade banks to participate in the Heart of Asia (HoA) conference. He stopped in Delhi to address a gathering of strategic experts on way to Amritsar.Earlier, at the swanky Hyderabad House, India and Qatar signed five agreements on visa exemptions for holders of diplomatic, special and official passports, technical cooperation in cyber space and crime, letters of intent on e-visas for businessmen and tourists, and an MoU between the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy of Qatar and the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII). Another MoU for greater collaboration in port management was also signed.Modi said the visit of the Qatari Prime Minister showed the growing bilateral ties with Qatar, which India has always regarded as a “valued partner”. On energy cooperation, Modi said: “We should go beyond the buyer-seller relationship to include joint ventures, research and development and exploration. “Indian companies are ready to invest in both upstream and downstream projects in the hydrocarbon sector,” he said.Qatar is the largest supplier of LNG to India, accounting for 66 per cent of the total imports in 2015-16. The Qatari leader invited India to participate in infrastructure and investment development in his country, ahead of the FIFA World Cup in 2022. National Security Advisor Ajit Doval also called on the Qatar PM. The visa pact allows holders of diplomatic, special and official passport holders of the two countries to visa-free travel between the two countries.The ‘protocol on technical cooperation in cyber space and combating cyber crime’ will add an important dimension to bilateral technical cooperation to the existing agreement signed in 2008.

India shared only a piece of paper on Uri attack, alleges Pakistan Foreign Office

Pakistan on Thursday claimed that India has not shared any evidence about the assault on an Army camp in Uri town in Kashmir that left 18 Indian soldiers dead and accused India of blaming others for terror attacks.

Foreign Office spokesman Nafees Zakaria said Pakistan would wait for any investigation by India into the Uri attack. “I want to draw a distinction between evidence and information. What they have shared with us is just a piece of paper. In the previous incidents too, there has been exchange of papers. We are waiting for details to come,” he said. He said Pakistan cannot comment prior to independent investigation report of the Uri attack.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

He alleged that India was desperate to divert attention from Kashmir and had demonstrated capability of staging terrorists attack on its soil and blaming it on others.

“We have seen time and again that India would blame another country for terrorist activity and somewhere down the line it would turn out to be the handiwork of its own security agencies. A glaring example of this is the Samjhauta Express terrorist attack in February 2007,” he said.

Zakaria said “unprovoked violations on the LoC by the Indian security forces” killed two Pakistani soldiers.

Commenting on the situation in Kashmir, he said Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif effectively highlighted in the UN and apprised the world community about it. He said Pakistan will continue to raise the issue of Kashmir at the UN, OIC and all other international forums as also with the HR Organizations across the world.

The spokesperson said Pakistan remains committed to extending complete diplomatic, political and moral support to the Kashmiris’ movement for self-determination. He said Pakistan had learnt “India’s unfortunate decision of not attending the summit” and alleged that India has a track record of impeding the Saarc process.

He said that India’s negative attitude has had a direct bearing on the welfare and betterment in this region, “which is highly regrettable”.

To a question that India was isolating Pakistan, he said Pakistan cannot be isolated by mere statements of the Indian Prime Minister.

“Pakistan enjoys friendly and close relations with the comity of nations and Prime Minister of Pakistan’s engagements on the sidelines of the 71st UNGA session, China’s massive investments, joint exercises with Russia, visit of Iranian Naval ships, signing of mega project agreements with Central Asian States, Russia, China and International Financial Institutions make Indian claim a laughing stock,” he said.

Zakaria said Pakistan had not received any formal communication from India on Indus Waters treaty, which is binding on both India and Pakistan and has no exit provision.

“According to the sub-provisions (3) and (4) of the Article XII of the IWT, the Treaty cannot be altered or
revoked unilaterally,” he said.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon condemns Uri terror attack

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Condemning the militant attack on an army camp in North Kashmir’s Uri town that killed 17 soldiers, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon hoped the perpetrators of the crime will be brought to justice and re establishing stability and preventing any further loss of life will be the priority of “all involved”.”The United Nations is following developments closely and shares the concerns of people living in the region for peace,” a statement issued by Ban’s spokesperson said.Ban expressed hope that the perpetrators of the attack will be brought to justice and all stakeholders will meet their responsibilities to maintain peace and stability.”The Secretary-General hopes that the perpetrators of this crime will be identified and brought to justice,” it said.He “hopes that all involved will prioritise the re-establishment of stability and prevent any further loss of life. The Secretary-General encourages all stakeholders to meet their respective responsibilities to maintain peace and stability,” the statement said.Condemning the “militant attack”, Ban expressed his “deepest sympathy and condolences” to the families of the soldiers who lost their lives and to the government of India and wished a speedy recovery to those injured in the attack.Meanwhile, Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro, who succeeded Iranian President Hassan Rouhani as the head of the Non-Aligned Movement, also expressed solidarity with the people of India “who have suffered a terrorist attack.” “We are committed along with our brotherly people of the world to get into the depth of this problem that has generated proliferation of terrorist movements, which doesn’t respect life and the need for coexistence of people,” he said at a press conference after the summit in Margarita Island on Sunday.In one of the deadliest attacks on the Army in recent years, 17 soldiers were killed and 19 others injured as heavily armed militants stormed a battalion headquarters of the force in North Kashmir’s Uri town early yesterday.Four militants involved in the terror strike were killed by the Army.The attack comes two years after militants had carried out a similar type of attack at Mohra in the same area. Ten security personnel were killed in the attack that took place on December 5, 2014.

Terrorism tops Modi’s agenda in Iran; two countries sign 12 pacts, to share intelligence

From focusing on immediate neighbourhood to the Look-East policy, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in the last leg of his second year in office, has shifted his diplomatic activism towards the Persian Gulf – an extended neighbourhod.On Monday, Modi, on a significant trip to Iran, addressed a joint press conference with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. He said the two countries would jointly combat terror, radicalism and cyber crime and the two sides signed 12 agreements, including a “milestone” pact on developing the key Chabahar port to provide India access to Central Asia and Afghanistan, circumventing Pakistan.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Modi’s visit to Iran comes after his visit to the UAE and Saudi Arabia and ahead of trips to Qatar, Israel and Palestine. The visit coincides with the flux in West Asia, the rise of the IS and the fierce rivalry between Saudi Arabia, Iran and Israel.Both sides agreed to share intelligence in a bid to fight terrorism that is “rife and rampant” in the region. Both countries, in the past, had agreed to back Northern Alliance in Afghanistan to combat the Taliban. “India and Iran share a crucial stake in peace, stability and prosperity in the region. We also have shared concerns over the spread of forces of instability, radicalism and terror in our region,” Modi said after bilateral and delegation-level talks with the Iranian leadership.”Due to the importance of stability and security in the region, especially in countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Yemen…because a big problem of terrorism was running rife and rampant in the region, the two countries discussed about political issues and have agreed to cooperate on intelligence- sharing,” Rouhani said.The two countries also decided to enhance interaction between their defence and security institutions on regional and maritime security. Iran’s intelligence minister Mahmoud Alavi recently claimed having dismantled more than 20 terror groups planning terrorist activities inside the country during the last Iranian calendar year (ended on March 19).On April 22, the head of the Ansar al-Forqan terrorist group, Hesham Azizi, and two other members were killed by Iranian security forces in the southeastern province of Sistan and Baluchestan. Two other members of the group were captured. Iranian intelligence operatives play key advisory roles in Syria and Iraq.Meena Singh Roy at the Institute of Defence Studies and Analysis says that the increasing instability in Afghanistan and the rise of the IS are viewed by both as serious security challenges. Describing the PM’s visit significant, Brig N K Bhatia (retd), former chief instructor at the Military Intelligence School, believes that an immediate takeaway was establishing Indian footprints in the region; with the most significant being India getting a foothold in the Strait of Hormuz and onwards to Persian Gulf to check the expanding Chinese designs in the region.He believed that Chabahar, with better links to Central Asia, Iran and Afghanistan, will facilitate faster trade to South East Asia in comparison to Pakistan’s Gwadar.

India, Iran ask states to reject use of terror against others

India and Iran on Monday asked all states to “explicitly reject” the use of terrorism against other countries while seeking an immediate end to all support and sanctuaries being provided to terror groups. The assertion by the two countries was made after wide-ranging talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani with the two sides issuing a joint statement in which they vowed to deepen economic ties in areas of energy, infrastructure, connectivity and investment. <!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>India and Iran, in their joint statement, “urged an immediate end to all support and sanctuaries enjoyed by terrorist groups and individuals and were of the view that states that aid, abet and directly or indirectly support terrorism should be condemned,” a reference that could be seen as directed at Pakistan. “They (India and Iran) called upon all states to have zero tolerance towards terrorism, explicitly reject and stop the use of terrorism against other countries, dismantle terrorism infrastructure where it exists, end forthwith all support and financing to terrorists using their territories to harm other countries and ensure that all perpetrators of terrorism who are in their jurisdiction are brought to justice,” the statement said.Noting with deep concern that terrorism and ideologies of violent extremism continue to infest and ingress the region posing a grave threat to peace, security, stability and development, the two sides stressed the need to completely eradicate all forms of terrorism and defeat the forces of extremism.Farzad-B offshore gas fieldIndia and Iran also decided to step up their economic engagement as they agreed that development rights for the Farzad-B offshore gas field in the Persian Gulf will be awarded to ONGC Videsh Ltd by third quarter.They agreed to strengthen the longstanding trade ties by “stepping up the momentum of economic engagement through early conclusion of a Preferential Trade Agreement, preferably within a year.” Modi and Rouhani also directed that Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement and Bilateral Investment Treaty should be concluded before the end of the year. India fully supported the accession of Iran to the World Trade Organization, the statement said. The Indian side thanked the Iranian government for India’s ongoing participation and investment in the development of oil and gas sector in Iran. OVL, the overseas arm of state-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC), had in 2008 discovered 12.5 trillion cubic feet of gas reserves in the Farsi block. The discovery was later named Farzad-B but Iran is yet to award developmental rights of the field which is four-times the size of Reliance Industries’ KG-D6 field.”In this regard, they expressed the hope that a Heads of Agreement will be concluded by the third quarter of 2016 leading to further developments including commercial contract for Farzad B later this year,” the statement said. “The two sides also reaffirmed that the companies involved strictly abide by the time line already agreed,” it added. Rouhani and Modi encouraged further Indian participation and investment in onshore exploration and production in oil and gas blocks.Bilateral talksExpressing satisfaction at the progress in bilateral ties since their meeting in July 2015 in Ufa, Russia, the two leaders wanted utilisation of the emerging opportunities to the maximum possible extent in all areas of bilateral economic and commercial cooperation, in particular connectivity and infrastructure, energy, and trade and investment.Iranian President appreciated India’s stance and support for close cooperation extended during the period of imposed sanction and “expressed the view that the Iranian people never forget the positive role India played in that period,” the statement said.Rouhani and Modi agreed to further intensify high-level engagement through more frequent and wider exchange of bilateral visits at all levels, as well as meetings on the sidelines of regional and multilateral meetings.”Both sides decided to give full play to the strategic location and unique role of Iran and India for promoting multi-modal connectivity within and across the region,” the statement said.Chabahar Port They hoped that India’s participation in developing Chabahar Port will open a new chapter in bilateral cooperation and regional connectivity, and encourage more maritime links and services between the two countries, the statement said.Welcoming the signing of the trilateral Agreement on Establishing Chabahar Transport and Transit Corridors, Modi and Rouhani stressed that the growing multi-cornered cooperation on connectivity will provide Afghanistan an assured and alternative access to regional markets, thus contributing to development, peace and stability in the region. “They look forward to early delineation of all necessary rules and procedures leading to operationalisation of the transport and transit routes within the timelines stipulated in the Agreement,” it said.The Iranian side welcomed the investment of the Indian side in setting up plants in sectors such as fertilisers, petrochemicals and metallurgy in Chabahar free trade zone. The two leaders also welcomed prospects for participation of Indian Railways in various ongoing and future projects. “Both sides also noted their shared desire to develop an Information and Communication Technology Zone in Chabahar and promote cooperation between states of India and provinces of Iran,” the statement said. “Recognising the key role of effective banking channels for affecting business transactions, both sides welcomed technical discussions between two central banks, hoped for an early conclusion of practical arrangements on the same,” it said. President Rouhani and Prime Minister Modi had an in-depth exchange of views on regional and international situation. The two sides also reiterated their resolve to strengthen the international consensus and legal regimes against terrorism, including effective cooperation among the states in resolving the outstanding issues related to the draft Comprehensive Convention against International Terrorism conducive to its finalisation.They also welcomed the growing interaction between their National Security Councils and agreed to enhance regular and institutionalised consultations between them and others concerned on terrorism, security and related issues such as organised crime, money-laundering, narcotics trade and cyber crime, the statement said.The two sides also directed that the Joint Working Group on Defence under Defence Secretaries, is convened early and recommends measures to enhance interaction in the defence sphere, the statement said.Both sides stressed that the interests of peace and stability in the region are best served by a strong, united, prosperous and independent Afghanistan. “As executive leaders of two important countries with stake in stability of the region, they stressed the significance of strengthening India-Iran-Afghanistan trilateral consultations and coordination, including by suitably supplementing their cooperation on Chahbahar,” the statement said.”The Iranian side extended its support for India in hosting the Sixth Ministerial Meeting of the Heart of Asia Istanbul Process on Afghanistan,” it said.

India eyes Iran’s energy resources, commits over Rs 1 lakh crore investment in Chabahar

Tehran: India will invest billions of dollars in setting up industries — ranging from aluminum smelter to urea plants — in Iran’s Chabahar free trade zone after it signed a pact to operate a strategic port on the Persian Gulf nation’s southern coast.

The inking of commercial contract to build and run the strategic port of Chabahar will help India gain a foothold in Iran and win access to Afghanistan, Russia and Europe, thus circumventing Pakistan, Road Transport, Highways and Shipping Minister Nitin Gadkari told PTI.

Nitin Gadkari. PTINitin Gadkari. PTI

Nitin Gadkari. PTI

“The distance between Kandla and the Chabahar port is less than the distance between New Delhi and Mumbai, and so what this agreement does is to enable us quick movement of goods first to Iran and then onwards to Afghanistan and Russia through a new rail and road link,” he explained.

“Over Rs 1 lakh crore investment can happen in Chabahar free trade zone,” Gadkari said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived here on Sunday on a two-day visit seeking to further cement Indo-Iranian ties and explore avenues to bolster trade in a big way in the wake of lifting of sanctions against Iran.

Iran, Gadkari said, has cheap natural gas and power that Indian firms are keen to tap to build a 0.5-million tonne aluminium smelter plant as well as urea manufacturing units.

“We spend Rs 45,000 crore annually on urea subsidy, and if we can manufacture it in the Chabahar free trade zone and move it through the port to Kandla and onward to hinterland, we can save that amount,” he said.

Gadkari said Nalco will set up the aluminium smelter while private and co-operative fertiliser firms are keen to build urea plants provided they get gas at less than USD 2 per mmBtu.

Railway PSU IRCON will build a rail line at Chabahar to move goods right up to Afghanistan, he said.

Gadkari said India Ports Global Pvt, a joint venture of the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust and the Kandla Port Trust, will invest USD 85 million in developing two container berths with a length of 640 metres and three multi cargo berths.

The Indian consortium has signed the port pact with Aria Banader Iranian.

“The contract is for 10 years and can be extended. We will take 18 months to complete phase one of the construction,” he said, adding that first two years of the contract are grace period where India doesn’t have to guarantee any cargo.

From the third year, India will guarantee 30,000 TEUs of cargo at the Chabahar port which will go up to 2,50,000 TEUs by the 10th year.

An initial pact to build the Chabahar port was first inked during the Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s government in 2003, but the deal slipped through during subsequent years. It has been aggressively pushed in the past one year, leading to signing of the agreement for phase-1 today, Gadkari said.

“This is a historic event which will herald in a new era of development. We can now go to Afghanistan and further to Russia and Europe without going through Pakistan,” he said.

The Zaranj-Delaram road constructed by India in 2009 can give access to Afghanistan’s Garland Highway, setting up road access to four major cities in Afghanistan — Herat, Kandahar, Kabul and Mazar-e-Sharif.

India is also reported to finance another road network inside Afghanistan to enable Iran to access as far as Tajikistan through a shorter route.

The Indian joint venture company will invest more than USD 85.2 million in development of the port. India’s Exim Bank will provide a credit line of another USD 150 million.

India will install equipment and operate two berths in the first phase of the Chabahar port with an investment of USD 85.2 million and annual revenue expenditure of USD 22.9 million on a 10-year lease, Gadkari said.

Gadkari also said India will build a 500-km railway between Chabahar and Zahedan which will connect Chabahar to Central Asia.

Chabahar port, located in the Sistan-Baluchistan Province on Iran’s southern coast, is of great strategic utility for India. It lies outside the Persian Gulf and is easily accessed from India’s western coast.

The port project will be the first overseas venture for an Indian state-owned port.

PM Modi invokes ‘civilisational ties’ with Iran; to meet Rouhani today

Invoking India’s “civilisational ties” with Iran, Prime Minister Narendra Modi flew in to Tehran on Sunday on a two-day visit, saying his talks with the Iranian leadership would provide him an opportunity to advance the “strategic partnership” between the two countries.On the first day of his visit that is expected to strengthen trade, investment and energy ties with Iran, Modi began his engagements paying obeisance to the capital city’s only functioning gurudwara. Modi’ formal talks with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani are scheduled for Monday morning after a ceremonial welcome for him. Rouhani will also host a lunch for the Indian Premier. He will also call on Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei before his return home.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Modi, the first Indian Prime Minister to travel to Iran in 15 years on a bilateral visit after Atal Bihari Vajpayee, offered obeisance at the Bhai Ganga Singh Sabha Gurudwara and also spoke to the head priest. He applauded the efforts of the Sikh community in the Persian Gulf nation for preserving and spreading the culture and tradition of India. “We accept all the people as our own and absorb them in our society because we believe in the philosophy of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ — the entire world is one family.Animated by this spirit, we Indians make every country our home,” Modi told the gathering at the gurudwara. In 2012, the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on a visit here to attend the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Summit could not visit the gurudwara, but his wife Gursharan Kaur paid her respects there.After landing in Tehran, Modi tweeted, “Reached Iran, a land with whom India shares civilisational ties. Hope to enhance economic partnership between our nations. I also hope my Iran visit further cements cultural and people-to-people ties between India and Iran.” Ahead of his arrival, Modi in a series of tweets said, “Enhancing connectivity, trade, investments, energy partnership, culture and people to people contacts would be our priority.””My meetings with President Rouhani and Hon’ble Supreme Leader of Iran will provide an opportunity to advance our strategic partnership,” the Prime Minister added. Modi’ visit is expected to see India and the Persian Gulf nation working on enhancing economic partnership that includes a possible deal on developing the strategic Chabahar port.Modi was received at the Mehrabad International Airport here by Iran’s Finance and Economic Affairs Minister Ali Tayyebnia

Modi in Iran: After visit to Gurudwara, PM interacts with students in Tehran

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday evening interacted with students from various schools, who had come to greet him at Espinas Palace Hotel, where he was staying.Escorted by security officials, as Prime Minister Modi walked inside the hotel, a group of students holding both Indians and Iranian flags greeted him. The Prime Minister then interacted with them.Earlier evening, Prime Minister Modi paid respect at the Bhai Ganga Singh Sabha gurudwara and addressed the Sikh community here and said that new generation should know about the sacrifices of the great Gurus and about the Guru Granth Sahib.Accompanied by Union Road Transport, Highways and Shipping Minister Nitin Gadkari and others, he also participated in a ‘kirtan’ (prayer).Prime Minister Modi earlier arrived at Mehrabad International Airport on a two-day official visit to Iran at the invitation of President Hassan Rouhani.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Accorded with red carpet welcome, he was received by Dr. Ali Tayebnia, Iran’s Minister of Economic Affairs and Finance.Prime Minister Modi’s visit will mainly focus on connectivity and infrastructure, energy partnership with Tehran and boosting bilateral trade.India, Iran and Afghanistan will sign an agreement on developing Chabahar port on May 23.
ALSO READ PM Modi arrives in Iran; Chabahar port, energy ties high on agendaPrime Minister Modi’s first tour to Iran will feature discussions on terrorism in the region as well as on India’s desire to secure energy assets for a fast growing economy.His major engagement tomorrow consists of restricted talks with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, delegation- level talks, signing of agreements between both nations.
ALSO READ Modi in Iran: India looking to expand cooperation with Iran in trade, infra, energy sectors, says PMIranian President Rouhani is scheduled to host lunch for the visiting Prime Minister, followed by ceremonial signing of trilateral agreement.

Ken Loach’s ‘I, Daniel Blake’ wins Palme d’Or at Cannes Film Festival | Reuters

CANNES, France “I, Daniel Blake” by British director Ken Loach won the Palme d’Or for Best Picture at the 69th Cannes Film Festival on Sunday.

Loach had already won the highest distinction in 2006 for “The Wind That Shakes the Barley”.

The Iranian film “Forushande” (The Salesman) by Asghar Farhadi received two awards, for Best Screenplay and for Best Actor, won by Shahab Hosseini.

(Reporting by Julien Pretot)

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

PM Modi to leave on two-day visit to Iran today; will meet Ayatollah Khamenei

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is leaving on a two-day visit to Iran on Sunday. His visit will mainly focus on connectivity and infrastructure, energy partnership with Tehran and boosting bilateral trade. It will help in promoting regular consultations on peace and stability, particularly in the region and extended neighbourhood.During the visit, the Prime Minister will meet Supreme Leader of Iran Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani on Monday.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Developing connectivity, infrastructure and encouraging people to people contacts will be the other priorities of Prime Minister’s visit to the Gulf nation.Talks will be held on security and peace issues between the Indian Prime Minister and Iranian President during their meeting.India, Iran and Afghanistan will sign an agreement on developing Chabahar port on May 23.The port will be a game changer for regional connectivity, especially for Afghanistan, which can find an assured and reliable alternative access to India via sea.The route will also significantly enhance prospects for India’s connectivity with Afghanistan, Central Asia and beyond through synergies with other initiatives touching the region such as North-South transport corridor.Prime Minister Modi’s first tour to Iran will feature discussions on terrorism in the region as well as on India’s desire to secure energy assets for a fast growing economy.

Modi must pressurise Iran to halt destabilising behaviour: US

Ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Iran, an advocacy group in the US has said he should focus his efforts on pressuring Tehran to halt its “destabilizing and provocative” behaviour.It also claimed that Iran should not be rewarded with lucrative business opportunities as there are “numeorous risks” for Indian companies in doing business there.The United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI), one of the most influential anti-Iran advocacy groups in the US, said Iran’s “irresponsible and belligerent” behavior is in complete contrast to Modi’s “powerful and timely determination” to tackle terrorism and corruption.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Modi has a “special opportunity to focus his efforts on pressuring Iran to halt its destabilizing and provocative behavior, rather than prematurely rewarding the regime with lucrative business opportunities,” UANI Chairman Senator Joseph Lieberman and UANI CEO Ambassador Mark Wallace said in a statement released ahead of Modi’s visit to Iran on May 22-23.Modi’s strategically important visit, at the invitation of the Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, comes as India looks at stepping up engagement with the sanctions-free energy-rich nation. Modi will also meet Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei during the visit.The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) had said in New Delhi that the visit will provide thrust to expanding bilateral cooperation in the wake of lifting of sanctions against Iran earlier this year.”The visit of Prime Minister to Iran will seek to build on these commonalities by focussing on specific cooperation in regional connectivity and infrastructure, developing energy partnership, boosting bilateral trade, facilitating people-to-people interaction in various spheres and promoting peace and stability in the region,” the MEA statement said.”For these reasons, India’s formidable economic and diplomatic power should not be used to further embolden and enable Tehran,” it added.The influential group warned that the “risks” of doing business with the Iranian regime are “simply too great and too numerous” for Indian companies and the larger global business community.”World leaders cannot declare they are fighting terrorism and corruption around the world, while at the same time doing business with Tehran,” it said.Citing the tough stand taken by Modi against terrorism and corruption, UANI said his call to the international community to tackle terrorism together is “particularly relevant” to Iran, which the group described as the “world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism”.”The Ayatollah and his regime continue to openly support Hezbollah and Hamas, and even recently welcomed a delegation from the terrorist organization Islamic Jihad,” it added.The group also pointed out the Iran fares poorly on global indexes on corruption and in this context Modi “should be mindful” of his statements about fighting terrorism and corruption.UANI, an independent, not-for-profit, group, was founded in 2008 by Wallace, former US Ambassador to the UN Richard Holbrooke and former CIA Director Jim Woolsey.

Swaroopanand slams Sushma Swaraj for outfits she wore in Iran

Shankaracharya of Dwarka Peeth Swaroopanand Saraswati on Tuesday waded into yet another controversy with comments that External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s choice of clothes during her Iran visit delivered a “blow” to India’s prestige.Swaroopanand said Swaraj chose to wear outfits that catered to Iranian sensibilities but neglected India’s tradition.”Swaraj wrote outfits in Iran which followed the Iranian tradition and went against our own traditions. She thus delivered a blow to India’s prestige abroad,” he said. He compared Swaraj with former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, who always wore clothes that reflected her “Indianness” during foreign visits.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”Unlike her, Indira Gandhi on her foreign visits took great care to ensure that her Indianness reflects in her clothes and conduct,” the Shankaracharya said.Known to court controversies, Swami had recently said entry of women into the Shani Shingnapur temple in Maharashtra would lead to increase in crimes like rape against them.

Successfully walking the tightrope, India balances ties with Saudi Arabia and Iran

Soon after bolstering engagement with Saudi Arabia early this month, India on Sunday reached out to Iran, with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj holding bilateral talks with her counterpart Javad Zarif in Tehran and also an expert group in New Delhi finalising the text of the agreement relating to transport and transit corridors to link Iranian port Chabahar with Afghanistan. The tight-rope trick to engage two rival Islamic nations, both rich in energy resources holds a challenge for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s diplomacy.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The second meeting of experts from India, Afghanistan and Iran was held here to finalise a draft agreement, that envisioned trilateral cooperation for providing alternative access to seas to Afghanistan, meaning its trade with India. “When the Agreement comes into force it will significantly enhance utilization of Chabahar Port, contribute to economic growth of Afghanistan, and facilitate better regional connectivity, including between India and connections to Afghanistan and Central Asia,” an External Affairs Ministry statement said.An official in New Delhi said with this agreement, Chabahar Port, touted as Indo-Iranian answer to Pakistan’s Gwadar port and the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, will become a strategic bulwark for greater flow of people and goods among the three countries as well as in the region.In Tehran, Swaraj discussed progress on Chabahar project with her counterpart and agreed to conclude the commercial contract as well as to extend modalities of $150 million credit for the port be signed soon in near future. They also talked of constructing a railway line between the port and Iranian city of Zahidan, bordering Pakistan.”The IRCON would be visiting Iran for discussions on Chabahar-Zahidaan railway link,” External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup said. Already New Delhi has decided to extend $400 million for supply of steel rails for the project. They also reviewed the progress made in the International North South Transport Corridor. President Rouhani also described Chabahar as a defining partnership, with a potential of connecting the entire region. He also said his country can be India’s reliable partner in energy.Earlier, Saudi Arabia’s ties with Pakistan and India’s links with Iran have remained two important factors affecting the India’s relationship in the region. While Saudi Arabia is the largest oil supplier for India, having supplied supplied 34.49 million tons of crude oil last year, senior diplomat KP Fabian finds a bag full of opportunities for India, in the post-sanction Iran. Iran also holds the fourth largest proven reserves of crude oil after Venezuela, Saudi Arabia and Canada. It also has also huge deposits of natural gas.Besides holding bilateral negotiations, Swaraj in Tehran visited the Indian community at a Sikh gurudwara built 75-yeaers ago. Earlier ahead of her departure Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) had submitted a memorandum to her, listing issues confronting the Indian community, who largely are Sikhs, having migrated from Punjab. She also visited an Indian school and saw a performance to depict the cultural blend of the two nations. “I am commencing my visit to Iran with a new energy after meeting with Indian community,” Sushma Swaraj said in her address to the schoolchildren.Sources said the issue of the alleged RAW operative Kulbhushan Jadhav held by Pakistan was not raised by the Iranian side, even as the reports said, that Tehran has launched its own investigation into the issue. He was reportedly arrested in Balochistan after he entered from Iran and was accused by Pakistan of planning “subversive activities” in the country.Swarup said both sides discussed the energy partnership and Iran invited greater Indian participation in its oil and gas sector. “Iran said it would be happy to participate in the refinery sector in India.” On Farzad-B oil field project, both sides took note of the constructive discussions held during the recent visit to Iran of Oil Minister Dharmendra Pradhan.”The Indian side welcomed the Iranian decision to keep the Farzad-B field outside the auction basket.The concerned companies have been directed to complete their contractual negotiations in a time-bound manner. The Iranian side had earlier communicated their gas pricing formula and expressed their desire for Indian investment in the Chabahar SEZ,” he said.The size of Iran’s economy is around $400 billion, the second largest in the Middle East after Saudi Arabia, and the country is being seen as one of the world’s hottest investment destinations as it has opened up various critical sectors including oil and gas for joint ventures and foreign capital.

Iran can be reliable partner for India’s energy needs: Hassan Rouhani

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Sunday assured External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj that his country can be a “reliable partner” for India’s energy needs, as the two nations decided to significantly expand engagements in their overall ties, particularly in oil and gas sectors.Swaraj, who arrived in Iran on Saturday, called on Rouhani and held talks with her Iranian counterpart Javad Zarif, besides meeting with Supreme Leader Sayyed Ali Khamenei’s Advisor Ali Akbar Velayati and deliberated on a range of issues.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”Iran can be a reliable partner for India’s energy needs,” Rouhani told Swaraj. India has been eying deeper energy ties with Iran following lifting of nuclear sanctions and has already lined up USD 20 billion as investment in oil and gas as well as in petrochemical and fertiliser sectors there.India is also keen to increase oil imports from Iran from current 350,000 barrels a day. Rouhani spoke of Chahbahar port as a “defining partnership which has the potential of connecting the entire region”, Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson Vikas Swarup told PTI.Enhancing energy cooperation and development of the Chabahar port were the centerpiece of talks which was mostly dominated by economic issues. Rouhani, whose country shares border with Afghanistan and Pakistan, also hoped for closer consultations with India on regional issues especially Afghanistan and the challenge of terrorism.On her part, Swaraj briefed him on her discussions with Zarif and said that India has always considered Iran as part of its extended neighbourhood, the spokesperson said. She apprised him about India’s keenness in enhancing investment in various sectors including oil and gas in Iran.”Given our natural complementarities we should move beyond a buyer seller relationship to a win-win partnership,” Swaraj told the Iranian president. Rouhani recalled his meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Ufa, Russia, and asked the minister to convey his regards to him, the spokesperson said.The president also called for intensified engagement with India in academic, scientific and technological fields. “India and Iran have had very rich cultural ties through history and this could pave the way for enhanced partnership in tourism and people-to-people ties,” he told Swaraj.Earlier, during her talks with Zarif, the two sides agreed that pending agreements such as Preferential Trade Agreement, Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement and Bilateral Investment Treaty should be concluded on a priority basis to spur trade and investment.”The talks were very successful and would give new energy to our centuries old ties with Iran. In particular, the economic partnership will get considerable fillip as a result of today’s forward looking talks,” Swarup said.

Sushma Swaraj visits Iran; Investment in oil, gas sectors high on agenda

Tehran: Resetting ties, India and Iran on Sunday held extensive talks on stepping up engagement on a range of key areas, particularly to increase Indian investment in oil and gas sectors in the Persian Gulf nation which has opened several lucrative sectors after lifting of sanctions under a landmark nuclear deal.

In a meeting on Sunday, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and her Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif reviewed the entire gamut of bilateral ties and the centerpiece of the deliberations was to give a new momentum to overall ties.

The focus of the talks was to ramp up India’s investment in areas of energy, ports, connectivity in Iran where investors from world’s major economic powers are rushing in to get early footholds after the end of economic sanctions.

The size of Iran’s economy is around USD 400 billion, the second largest in the Middle East after Saudi Arabia, and the
country is being seen as one of the world’s hottest investment destination as it has opened various critical sectors including oil and gas for joint ventures and foreign capital.

Sushma Swaraj. FIle photo. Twitter/@MEAIndiaSushma Swaraj. FIle photo. Twitter/@MEAIndia

Sushma Swaraj. FIle photo. Twitter/@MEAIndia

Countries like Japan, China, the US and a number of European nations are scrambling to take advantage of opportunities in the oil-rich nation after the sanctions were lifted in January.

India has been eyeing deeper energy ties with Iran and has already lined up USD 20 billion as investment in oil and gas as well as in petrochemical and fertiliser sectors there. India is also keen to increase oil imports from Iran from current 350,000 barrels a day.

Recently, Iran has ended free shipping of crude oil to India and has terminated a three-year-old system of getting paid for half of the oil dues in rupees and the issue is understood to have figured in talks.

Iran is now insisting on being paid in Euros for the oil it sells to Indian refiners. It also wants refiners like Essar Oil and Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemicals Ltd (MPRL) to clear nearly USD 6.5 billion of past dues in Euros, according to officials.

It is understood that India was ready to repatriate oil repayment to Iran through mutually workable banking channels and as per understanding reached between the concerned authorities of the two countries.

Iran is planning to raise its oil output and share in crude production to pre-sanctions levels and India has conveyed that it was keen on joint ventures in the oil sector with Iran.

India links $20 bn oil and gas investment in Iran to favourable terms

Stepping up its energy ties with Iran, India has lined up $20 billion as investment in oil and gas as well as petrochemical and fertiliser projects in the Persian Gulf country subject to provision of concessional rights.

Oil Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, on a two-day visit to Tehran from April 9, also discussed with his Iranian counterpart the repayment of nearly $6.5 billion that Indian refiners owe to Iran, but there is no agreement yet on rights to develop Farzad-B gas field in the Persian Gulf discovered by OVL.

Representaional image. AFPRepresentaional image. AFP

Representaional image. AFP

The minister informed the Iranian side that Indian companies could invest up to $20 billion and are interested in setting up petrochemical and fertiliser plants, including those in Chabahar SEZ, either through a joint venture between Indian and Iranian public sector companies or with private sector partners.

“In this regard, he requested Iran to allocate appropriate and adequate land in the SEZ. He also requested the Iranian side for favourable treatment in the pricing of gas for India and supply of rich gas at competitive price on long-term basis for the life of joint venture projects Indian companies are interested in setting up,” an official statement read.

Pradhan said India did a fine balancing act after Prime Minister’s visit to Saudia Arabia earlier this month.

Accompanied by ONGC Videsh MD Narendra K Verma and Indian Oil Corp (IOC) Chairman B Ashok, Pradhan sought to engage with the leadership of the oil-rich nation that has stepped out of international sanctions.

This was the first visit by an Indian minister since the US and other western powers lifted sanctions against Iran in January.

Within days, Chinese President Xi Jinping travelled to Tehran, signing 17 accords and agreeing to increase bilateral trade by more than ten-fold to $ 600 billion in the next decade.

Keen not to rub Saudi Arabia the wrong way — China’s largest oil supplier — Xi visited Riyadh and Egypt before heading to Tehran.

“Pradhan had meetings with Minister of Petroleum Bijan Namdar Zanganeh, Senior Advisor to President of Iran on Free Trade Zones Akbar Torkan and Governor of Iranian Central Bank Dr Valliolah Seif,” the statement said.

The two nations, it said, discussed developments regarding Farzad-B gas field and expressed confidence in concluding an agreement at the earliest.

“The issue relating to payment of dues by Indian refineries to Iran towards purchase of crude oil was also discussed. Pradhan conveyed that India is committed towards making payments as and when banking channels, acceptable to both sides, are available,” the statement added.

He said competitive gas pricing is crucial in making the projects attractive for prospective investors. He also expressed India’s interest in setting up an LNG plant and a gas cracker in the Chabahar port.

New Delhi is looking to increase engagement with the sanction-free Iran by raising oil imports and possible shipments of natural gas. It also wants rights to develop Farzad-B gas field in the Persian Gulf discovered by OVL.

Sources, however, said a deal for field was not signed during Pradhan’s visit as Iranian Parliament, Majlis, is yet to approve new Iran Petroleum Contract (IPC) under which the Farzad-B field is to be given to the OVL-led consortium.

IPC ends two-decade old buyback system that prevented foreign companies from booking reserves or taking equity stakes in Iranian companies. Under some circumstances, the new model allows reserves to be booked, but foreign companies would still not own oil fields.

While previously foreign firms were paid a fixed fee for discovering and bringing to production an oil and gas field, the new model raises their profit by grading the fee based on the risk of the fields, allows contracts to last for up to 25 years and no ceiling on capital expenditure.

Foreign firms are to be paid a fee per barrel and they will also be entitled to an increase in profits in the face of dramatic oil price fluctuations.

Indian firms have so far shied away from investing in Iran for the fear of being sanctioned by the US and Europe. The same was deterring New Delhi from claiming rights to invest nearly USD 7 billion in the biggest gas discovery ever made by an Indian firm abroad.

But after the lifting of sanctions, India is making a renewed pitch for rights to develop 12.8 trillion cubic feet of gas reserves OVL had found in 2008.

Pradhan also conveyed to the Iranian side that both countries must expand the basket of oil and gas trade.

He expressed India’s interest in importing LPG from Iran and said companies from both sides could discuss on setting up an extraction plant in Chabahar, if required. Both sides agreed to continue examining various means of evacuation of gas such as LNG, including through the proposed Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline.

Pradhan visited Chabahar Free Trade Zone and Port for a site visit and discussed the facilities and incentives which could be offered to Indian companies.

The visit came 9 years after the previous visit by an Indian minister of Petroleum & Natural Gas. It was the first visit of an Indian minister to Iran after sanctions were lifted this January.

PTI

Pakistan, India aur woh: With Baloch insurgents and China in the fray, New Delhi should be prepared for more flip-flops

Even before the summer of 2016 can hit the peak, Pakistan is sweating because of rising turbulence in Balochistan province. Its fear is evident in the flip-flops on the peace process with India and refusal to allow the National Investigating Agency (NIA) to visit Pakistan to probe the Pathankot attack.

China recently announced it will pump nearly 50 billion dollars in infrastructure projects in Pakistan. But, Baloch separatists have been regularly targeting project sites, making China wary of turmoil in the sensitive region.

It is likely that China has asked Pakistan to ensure Baloch separatists are kept on a tight leash and its investments are protected at any cost. So, Pakistan is trying to do what it does best: Blame India for the instability in Balochistan and rake up an international controversy over the neighbour’s “involvement in its internal matters.”

Bear this in mind while analysing three recent events that have irritated India. One, the arrest of Kulbhushan Jadhav/Yadav from Balochistan. Two, China’s veto on inclusion of Azhar Masood in the UN list of terrorists. And, three, Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit’s statement that peace talks between the two countries remain suspended and the NIA is unlikely to be allowed a reciprocal visit to Pakistan to probe the Pathankot attack.

Jadhav was arrested from Balochistan’s southern region of Chaman by the Pakistani agencies during “an intelligence raid.” While India denied he was connected to any of its agencies, Pakistan claimed Jadhav is a serving naval officer and reports directly to the Indian Research and Analysis Wing (RAW).

Pakistan later released a video of Jadhav’s interrogation to claim he was active in Balochistan since 2013. “His goal was to disrupt development of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), with Gwadar port as a special target,” Pakistan claimed after the arrest. An official spokesperson of the Pakistani government called Jadhav’s arrest a “big achievement since he was reporting to the RAW chief and India’s National Security Advisor.”

India rubbished the allegation saying the alleged confession was obtained under duress. India has maintained that Jadhav had retired from the navy long ago and was running his own business. Some reports suggest he was abducted by a terror group and delivered to Pakistani agencies to help them in their anti-India tirade.

A file image of Indian PM Narendra Modi and Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif. Image courtesy: Getty Images

A file image of Indian PM Narendra Modi and Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif. Image courtesy: Getty Images

The strategy is unravelling.

A few days ago, when China used its veto power to block Jaish-e-Mohammad chief’s inclusion in the list of international terrorists, many experts believed it was reacting to India’s alleged involvement in Balochistan, swayed by the Pakistani propaganda of India trying to attack infrastructure projects in the region.

“(Nawaz) Sharif’s response to issues in Balochistan follows a familiar script: blame India. But concrete evidence of Indian support for separatists in Balochistan has never materialized. While it’s tempting to dismiss violence there as status quo, the kind of violence matters as much as its frequency. Pakistan has never been much more than a shaky conglomerate. A seething Balochistan undermines Pakistan’s stability, threatening the balance of power in Central Asia,” strategic affairs magazine Foreign Policy argues, explaining Pakistan’s rhetoric and domestic compulsions.

But, Pakistan appears keen to up the ante. During the recent visit by Iranian president Hassan Rouhani, Pakistan’s chief of army staff Raheel Sharif raised the issue of India’s involvement in Balochistan. He even insinuated that Indian spies may be getting help from Iran for creating trouble in Balochistan.

Pakistan later issued a denial when it got a stern message from Iran. “During past days some section of Pakistani media has spread contents regarding detention of an Indian agent and the matter related to it, which could have negatives implications on the fraternal and friendly atmosphere of Iran and Pakistan,” Iran said in an official statement.

Pakistan envoy Basit’s statement on Thursday that Jadhav’s arrest “irrefutably corroborates what Pakistan has been saying all along”, is another sign that his country is portray India as a country that foments trouble in Balochistan. It is trying its best to use it to counter allegations of cross-border terrorism and Pakistani interference in Kashmir.

Balochistan is Pakistan’s largest province. It lies in southwest Pakistan. It shares its border with Iran, Afghanistan — both countries take keen interest in its affairs — and the Arabian Sea. Apart from being of great strategic importance to Pakistan, Balochistan has great value because it is rich in natural resources.

During the British rule, Balochistan was divided into four princely states, Makran, Kharan, Las Bela and Kalat. Between 1947 and 1948 all of them gradually merged with Pakistan. But, several insurgent groups, led by the Balochistan Liberation Army, have been seeking independence and a larger share in the natural resources since 1948.

But, trouble is now escalating with the insurgents making frequent raids and the neighbours also interfering in Balochistan.

According to Foreign Policy, ‘Other regional powers are paying close attention to Balochistan. In late 2015, Iranian forces fired mortar shells across the Pakistan border into Balochistan on several occasions, in a display of power meant not only for Pakistan, but also for the substantial Iranian Baloch population. And the Pakistani Taliban (TTP) has ramped up their presence in Balochistan: 2016 has already seen two major suicide attacks in Balochistan linked to the TTP, which claimed 27 lives.’

As Pakistan faces the heat from Baloch insurgents, India will have to get ready for more flip-flops and accusations from the Pakistani Deep State.

There is increasing suspicion that Pakistan and China have begun their diplomatic chess on Balochistan. And they will use India as a pawn in it.

Abdul Basit has just moved another piece on the board.

‘RAW spy’ Kulbhushan Jadhav to be given all required support: Manohar Parrikar

The External Affairs Ministry has been asked to extend all possible help to former Navy official Kulbhushan Jadhav, arrested by Pakistan claiming he was a RAW operative, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar today said. “We do agree, to the extent I know, that he is an Indian citizen and we have asked for consular access,” Parrikar said, adding that he is concerned about Jadhav since he is a veteran. Giving details, the Minister said he had “indicated” to the MEA that Jadhav is an ex-officer and should be given all assistance and support required.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Praising External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Parrikar said the MEA was doing its best. He said that Swaraj is very active and one can even reach her at night on Twitter and get a reply with action taken reports usually given by (next) morning. “Sushmaji has been working vigorously to help Indians abroad who are in problem. In this case, since the other country has made allegations, it may take a longer time,” he said. Parrikar refused to comment anything more on Jadhav saying “other than paying him One Rank One Pension I cannot talk about anything on an ex officer”. Jadhav, a 1991 commissioned Naval officer, was arrested earlier this month by Pakistan authorities on the charges that he was dealing with Balochistan freedom fighters. The allegation was that the officer, who retired in 2013, was an active RAW agent, a charge denied by India. Government sources have said that Jadhav was a small businessman.It is said that he often carried cargo to and from Iranian ports bordering Pakistan and has nothing to do with India’s external intelligence agency. Sources have said that there is no proof that the retired navy officer, who owns a cargo business in Iran, was arrested in Balochistan as claimed by Pakistan. Jadhav could have been arrested after he strayed into Pakistani waters and was being wrongly charged, they said.It is a matter of investigation whether he had accidentally strayed into Pakistani waters or was lured into Pakistan, sources have said.

RAW ‘spy’ arrested: Pakistan official says arrested Indian aimed at targetting ports

The interrogation of arrested Indian intelligence operative Kulbhushan Yadav has revealed that he had been imparting Naval fighting training to Baloch separatists in an attempt to target the Pakistani ports.The Pakistani Government claimed to have recovered travel documents and multiple fake identities of Yadav, establishing him as an Indian spy who entered into Balochistan through Iran holding a valid Iranian visa.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Yadav was after his arrest shifted to Islamabad for interrogation during which it was revealed that he had purchased boats at the Iranian port in Chabahar in order to target Karachi and Gwadar ports in a terrorist plot, the official said, adding that the ‘RAW agent’ is believed to be an expert at Naval fighting techniques, reports Dawn.Yadav was also transporting ‘anti-state elements’ from Pakistan to New Delhi for training by RAW, he said. Security has been tightened across Balochistan, especially at the shared borders with Iran and Afghanistan.After his arrest, Pakistan summoned Indian High Commissioner Gautam Bambawale to lodge a formal protest over ‘India’s spying activities’ in Balochistan and Karachi.The arrest comes just days before a possible meeting between Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi at the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington.

Finally! Nobel panel condemns fatwa against Salman Rushdie, 27 years after it was issued

Stockholm: The Swedish Academy, which selects the winners of the Nobel Prize in literature, has condemned an Iranian death warrant against British writer Salman Rushdie, 27 years after it was pronounced.

Salman Rushdie. ReutersSalman Rushdie. Reuters

Salman Rushdie. Reuters

Two members quit the academy in 1989 after it refused to condemn Ayatollah Ruholla Khomeini’s fatwa against Rushdie for allegedly blaspheming Islam in his book The Satanic Verses. Citing its code against political involvement, the academy issued a statement defending free expression but without explicitly supporting Rushdie.

However, in a statement posted on its website Thursday, the academy for the first time denounced the fatwa and reward money for Rushdie’s death as “flagrant breaches of international laws.”

It didn’t specify what prompted its change of heart, but cited state-run Iranian media outlets’ recent decision to raise the bounty by $600,000.

AP

NIA court discharges 11 in the Iranian boat case

The NIA Special Court, taking cognizance of the final report of investigation filed by the agency in connection to seizure of an Iranian boat from the Arabian sea, discharged 11 of the total 12 accused stating that the probe did not find any evidence to prove that the accused to establish commission of scheduled offences under the SUA Act.The accused were booked under Sections 3 and 7 of Maritime Zones of India (Regulation of Fishing by Foreign Vessels) Act 1981 and Section 3(g) of The Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against Safety of Maritime Navigation and Fixed Platforms on Continental Shelf Act, 2002, (SUA Act) at local Police Station in Kerala.The boat was intercepted by the Indian Coast Guard on July 4 last year with 12 persons on board – comprising of 11 Iranians and one Pakistani national.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Iranian Boat was found in the Arabian Sea in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of India at 58.5 nautical miles off Alleppey coast of KeralaThe NIA court while discharging the 11 men said that ‘the probe agency had thoroughly examined the arrested persons and the call details of their phones were analysed. A thorough forensic examination of the Boat was undertaken to detect trace of any evidence of any illegal acts, consignment on board and the ocean floor below the location of the boat was also scanned for any offloading of contrabands on the high seas. However, no evidence to establish the commission of a scheduled offence could be forthcoming during investigation,”said NIA officials.”The final report of investigation, therefore, submits that no evidence could be found to establish commission of scheduled offences under the SUA Act. However, the final report submitted indicates the commission of offences under section 3 r/w 10 (b) and 7 r/w 14 of the Maritime Zones of India (Regulation of Fishing by Foreign Vessels) Act 1981, for which only the master of the ship is liable and the Hon’ble Court has been apprised accordingly, “NIA added.The court has entrusted the custody of the eleven foreigners – 10 of Iranian nationality and one of Pakistan, to FRRO, Kochi. “Consequently, FRRO, Kochi has imposed restrictions on their movement out of District Jail as per provisions of Foreigners, Act, 1946 and Foreigners Order, 1948, till their deportation to respective countries. The court has further directed NIA to take adequate steps for issuing travel documents to the foreigners,”NIA officials said.

Iran could decide fate of first global oil deal for 15 years | Reuters

DOHA/LONDON The fate of the first global oil deal in 15 years could be decided on Wednesday when OPEC members travel to Iran to persuade the country to participate in a deal to freeze output levels, possibly by offering Tehran special terms.

Dominant OPEC power Saudi Arabia and non-OPEC Russia, the world’s top two producers and exporters, agreed on Tuesday to freeze production levels but said the deal was contingent on others joining in – a major sticking point with Iran absent from the talks and determined to raise production.

OPEC members Qatar, Venezuela and Kuwait said they were also ready to freeze output and oil sources in Iraq – the world’s fastest-growing producer in the past year – said Baghdad would abide by a global deal aimed at tackling a growing oversupply and helping prices recover from their lowest in over a decade.

On Wednesday, Venezuelan Oil Minister Eulogio Del Pino and Iraqi Oil Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi will travel to Tehran for talks with their Iranian counterpart Bijan Zanganeh.

OPEC member Iran, Saudi Arabia’s regional arch rival, has pledged to steeply increase output in the coming months as it looks to regain market share lost after years of international sanctions, which were lifted in January following a deal with world powers over its nuclear programme.

“Our situation is totally different to those countries that have been producing at high levels for the past few years,” a senior source familiar with Iran’s thinking told Reuters.

Benchmark Brent oil prices fell 2 percent on Tuesday to below $33 per barrel on concerns that Iran may reject the deal and that even if Tehran agreed it would not help ease the growing global glut. [O/R]

The fact that output from Saudi Arabia and Russia is near record highs complicates any agreement since Iran is producing at least 1 million barrels per day below its capacity and pre-sanctions levels.

“It requires discussion and examination to be seen what has been their point,” Iranian news agency Shana quoted Zanganeh as saying on Tuesday. “What is important is that, first, the market is oversupplied, and, second, that Iran will not overlook its quota,” he added.

The comments by Zanganeh revived memories of the last OPEC meeting in December which ended without a decision after Zanganeh said he rejected any plan to curtail Iran’s production before it rises to pre-sanction levels.

However, two non-Iranian sources close to OPEC discussions told Reuters that Iran may be offered special terms as part of the output freeze deal. “Iran is returning to the market and needs to be given a special chance but it also needs to make some calculations,” said one source.

The sources did not elaborate on the special terms, which technically could be anything from setting limited production increase levels for Iran to linking future output rises to a recovery in oil prices.

The last global deal – OPEC and non-OPEC – dates back to 2001 when Saudi Arabia persuaded Mexico, Norway and Russia to contribute to production cuts, although Moscow never followed through and raised exports instead.

(Additional reporting by Alex Lawler in London; Writing by Dmitry Zhdannikov; Editing by Pravin Char)

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

Suspected ISI spy and ex-IAF personnel Ranjith KK to be produced before Patiala House Court

The Crime Branch had earlier busted a major espionage network involving officials of the armed forces. Five persons were arrested including personnel of Border Security Force and Rashtriya Rifles. With a second espionage case coming to fore, the Crime Branch is not ruling out the possibility of multiple espionage networks in Indian armed forces.

dna Web Team

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