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Pakistan arrests 66 Indian fishermen for ‘illegal fishing’

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Sixty-six Indian fishermen have been arrested for alleged illegal fishing in Pakistani waters and a court here remanded them into custody on Saturday.The Indian fishermen along with five boats were arrested last evening for “illegally” fishing in Pakistan’s territorial waters and have been sent to jail by a judicial magistrate.The Maritime Security Agency had arrested the fishermen and seized five boats yesterday, a spokesman for the agency said.”The fishermen were arrested after they remained in Pakistani waters in the Arabian Sea despite warnings to move out of our territorial waters,” the spokesman said.Earlier on November 20, the Pakistani Maritime Security Agency had arrested 43 Indian fishermen for entering its territorial waters.Amin Marri, the station house officer of Docks police station, said the fishermen were booked under the Foreigner’s Act and the Fisheries Act and had now been sent to jail on court orders after being provided with clothing and food by a welfare organisation.Pakistan and India frequently arrest fishermen as there is no clear demarcation of the maritime border in the Arabian Sea and these fishermen do not have boats equipped with the technology to know their precise location.

Pakistan seeks US support on Indus Waters Treaty

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Pakistan has sought the support of United States on the implementation of the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT) with India.US Secretary of State John Kerry had a telephone conversation with Pakistan Finance Minister Ishaq Dar on Thursday. Kerry said that the World Bank President had recently informed him about Pakistan’s complaint against India on the subject of Indus Waters Treaty. Kerry urged for an amicable solution of the dispute between the two countries. “The US would like to see an amicable solution to this issue,” he was quoted as saying.Dar said that the Indus Waters Treaty is an international commitment and it is the responsibility of the World Bank to make sure that India honours this treaty and the water rights of hundreds of millions of people of Pakistan are protected. He said that the Court of Arbitration is a legal requirement and appointment of the Chairman of the Court of Arbitration must be fulfilled by the World Bank.Dar said that the World Bank President had been in touch with him in writing and also on telephone during the current month. He indicated that Washington’s support on the principles and legal position of Pakistan would be greatly appreciated. Kerry also appreciated the improvement in the economic indicators of Pakistan and congratulated Dar on the economic recovery brought about by Islamabad.Dar said that the government after having achieved macro-economic stability is now focused on achieving higher sustainable and inclusive economic growth. Kerry also recalled his association with Senator Ishaq Dar went back to the days when he was Leader of Opposition in the Pakistan Senate.The Finance Minister also warmly acknowledged his association with Secretary Kerry.

Newsroom diaries 2016: From Kashmir to Syria, a year in terror

Editor’s note: This article is part of a series of newsroom diaries by various members of the Firstpost team. These diaries will provide you with the journalist’s recollections of a particular bit of news coverage in 2016 in which she/he was deeply involved.

In 2001 the world saw the devastating 9/11 attack, with awe and shock. That moment changed everything. We became a more scared group of people. Abandoned bags and clothing choices made us scared. This situation grew worse in 2016, for this year, we got normalised to terror attacks.

It was 2 January and a group of terrorists attacked an airbase in Pathankot, killing 8 people. This set the tone for the rest of the year and it was all downhill from there on.

The year saw some of the most incredulous attacks by Islamic State or IS-inspired terrorists. This included the Brussels airport attack where a coordinated attack by suicide bombers killed 32 people. Then was the Nice attack where a cargo truck was deliberately driven into a group of people on Bastille Day killing 86 and injuring 434. In December, the Syrian conflict had one of the worst repercussion beyond its borders with the assassination of Russia’s ambassador to Turkey in Ankara. A 22-year-old Turkish gunman Andrey Karlov shot dead the 62-year-old diplomat in what appeared to be revenge for Russia’s part in the violence in Syria.

Russia’s ambassador to Turkey was assassinated in Ankara at an art exhibit by a lone Turkish gunman shouting “God is great!” and “don’t forget Aleppo, don’t forget Syria!”. The assassination was photographed and it presented one of the most chilling moments in 2016.

An unnamed gunman shouts after shooting the Russian Ambassador to Turkey, Andrei Karlov, at a photo gallery in Ankara. APAn unnamed gunman shouts after shooting the Russian Ambassador to Turkey, Andrei Karlov, at a photo gallery in Ankara. AP

An unnamed gunman shouts after shooting the Russian Ambassador to Turkey, Andrei Karlov, at a photo gallery in Ankara. AP

The frequency of terror attacks in 2016 was so great that changing the Facebook display pictures became a daily activity for people who sympathised with the victims of these attacks. There were regular fights on social media over the media coverage allotted to a particular attack. The logic was that when a western country was attacked, people noticed, as opposed to when the middle-eastern belt or Asian and African belt was hit. This is probably why 2016 remained etched in people’s memories, for the rise in hits on the European civilisation.

United States suffered the worst attack since 9/11

People take part in a protest against police brutality and in support of Black Lives Matter during a march in New York. ReutersPeople take part in a protest against police brutality and in support of Black Lives Matter during a march in New York. Reuters

People take part in a protest against police brutality and in support of Black Lives Matter during a march in New York. Reuters

This year, the United States suffered under attacks of gun-violence, fundamentalism and racial tension. The ‘Orlando terror attack’ where a 29-year-old Islamic State-inspired radical entered a gay nightclub and killed 49 people, was perhaps the biggest attack on the LGBTQ community. A hate-crime like this one spoke volumes about the rise of intolerance in a Trumpian era. The Orlando attack was the second major terror attack on the US soil since 9/11 and this reign of terror was further fuelled when the major movement for equality — Black Lives Matter — turned violent after the death of police officers during the protest rallies in Dallas and Baton Rouge.

Tentions escalate between India and Pakistan

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

In 2016, there was palpable tension between India and Pakistan and one of the possible reasons was how the year started for the two nations. In January, the Pathankot attack happened and it was the beginning of the signs of mistrust between the two nations. On 8 November, when news about PM Modi’s address to the nation came in, we all thought he was going to announce something in relation to taking strong action against Pakistan.

This notion was not unfounded. For 20 minutes between the announcement of address and the actual address, theories about war were floating on the desk. This was because a month ago, on 29 September, a military confrontation between India and Pakistan began. India claimed that it had conducted “surgical strikes” against militant launch pads across the Line of Control in Pakistani-administered Azad Kashmir, and inflicted “significant casualties”. This was touted as Modi’s surgical strike against Pakistan and was instigated by the 19 September Uri attack where 17 Indian soldiers were killed. The Uri attack was reported as “the deadliest attack on security forces in Kashmir in two decades”

The number of ceasefire violations had increased manifold since then. Out of the total number of 151 ceasefire violations in 2016, 110 of them happened since September.

The palpable tension between the two nations put everyone on edge.

The normalcy of terror attacks hit a raw nerve

There wasn’t just one moment or one incident which affected me the most this year. The normalcy of the situation hit a raw note. “What terror attack are we covering today,” was a frequently heard adage on the desk. The clinical process on the desk when one of these strikes happened was: prep the live blog, write the death toll copies, write analysis copies, do reaction copy, etc. Everybody got the hang of this process after the first few attacks.

However, the efficiency of the desk meant that too many of these attacks had happened and too many people had lost their lives. 2016 had ushered in a new era of normalcy.

First Published On : Dec 31, 2016 09:24 IST

JKLF chairman Yasin Malik detained before protest march in Pulwama

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>JKLF chairman Yasin Malik was on Friday detained at Pulwama as he led his supporters to stage a protest march against Jammu and Kashmir government’s decision to issue identity certificates to West Pakistani Refugees.Malik was detained along with several of his supporters.They were taken into preventive custody, a police official said.Separatists groups had called for protests on Friday against the government decision to issue identity certificates to West Pakistan Refugees living in the state since partition in 1947.The state government has decided to issue identity cards to the refugees and had to issue clarification after protests from opposition parties and separatists against the move. Initially, reports had said the opposition was against the government move to issue domicile certificates, but the state government said it was issuing identity certificates.Other political organisations, including BJP and Jammu and Kashmir National Panthers Party, have slammed separatists for opposing the issuance of certificates to the refugees.The refugees, settled in Jammu and Kashmir, are citizens of India and have the right to vote in parliamentary polls. However, they are not permanent residents of the state in terms of Jammu and Kashmir Constitution. They do not enjoy voting rights to the state assembly and local bodies.

One civilian killed in cross-border firing at J&K’s Poonch sector

Jammu: One civilian was killed, as Pakistani Army indulged in heavy cross-border firing, targeting Indian positions and civilian areas along the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir’s Poonch sector, prompting the Indian side to retaliate.

Representational image. PTIRepresentational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

“Pakistani troops targeted the Indian Army posts and civilian areas along the LoC in Poonch sector with small arms, automatic and mortars at 16:55 hours,” an army officer said. He said the army was retaliating strongly and effectively to the ceasefire violation.

One civilian has been killed in the ongoing firing, a senior police officer said.

On 16 December, Pakistan had violated ceasefire by targeting Indian positions along the LoC in Balakote sector of the same district. That had come after a lull of over three weeks, after the Indian troops had launched a counter-offensive on 23 November against the killing of three soldiers in the Machhil sector of north Kashmir’s Kupwara district.

In the cross-LoC attack by suspected Pakistani terrorists, three Indian soldiers were killed on 22 November, with body of one of them being mutilated. Following the incident, the Indian Army had vowed a heavy “retribution”.

The 2003 India-Pakistan ceasefire agreement has virtually become redundant with over 300 incidents of firing and shelling along the LoC and IB in Jammu and Kashmir by Pakistani troops.

Over 26 people, including 14 security personnel, have been killed in ceasefire violations since the surgical strike on terrorist launch pads in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

First Published On : Dec 30, 2016 19:32 IST

J&K: Pakistan violates ceasefire in Poonch, one civilian killed

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>One civilian was killed as Pakistani Army indulged in heavy cross border firing targeting Indian positions and civilian areas along the Line of Control (LoC) in Poonch sector of Jammu and Kashmir, prompting the Indian side to retaliate.”Pakistani troops targeted the Indian Army posts and civilian areas along the LoC in Poonch sector with small arms, automatic and mortars at 1655 hours,” an army officer said.He said the army was retaliating strongly and effectively to the ceasefire violation.One civilian has been killed in the ongoing firing, a senior police officer said.On December 16, Pakistan had violated ceasefire by targeting Indian positions along the LoC in Balakote sector of the same district.The ceasefire violation had come after a lull of over three weeks after the Indian troops had launched a counter- offensive against Pakistan on November 23 against the killing of three soldiers in the Machhil sector of north Kashmir’s Kupwara district.In the cross-LoC attack by suspected Pakistani terrorists, three Indian soldiers were killed on November 22, with body of one of them being mutilated. Following the incident, Indian Army had vowed a heavy “retribution”.The 2003 India-Pakistan ceasefire agreement has virtually become redundant with over 300 incidents of firing and shelling along the LoC and IB in Jammu and Kashmir by Pakistani troops.Over 26 people, including 14 security personnel, have been killed in ceasefire violations since the surgical strike on terrorist launch pads in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

China blocks India’s request for U.N. to blacklist Masood Azhar | Reuters

NEW DELHI China has blocked India’s request to add the head of the Pakistan-based militant group Jaish-e-Mohammad to a U.N. Security Council blacklist of groups linked to al Qaeda, India said on Friday.India has accused Jaish-e-Mohammad and its top leader, Maulana Masood Azhar, of masterminding several attacks, including a deadly assault on an Indian air base in January.Pakistani security officials interrogated Azhar and his associates after the attack, and said they found no evidence linking him to it.Jaish-e-Mohammad has already been blacklisted by the 15-nation Security Council, but not Azhar, an Islamist hardliner and long-time foe of India.Foreign ministry spokesman Vikas Swarup said that India had requested that Azhar be added to the list nine months ago and had received strong backing from all other members of the council.But China, which put a hold on the move in April, had now blocked it, he said.

“We had expected China would have been more understanding of the danger posed to all by terrorism,” he said in a statement.Swarup added that the inability of the international community to take the step showed the “prevalence of double standards in the fight against terrorism”.China’s foreign ministry said there were different views about the case, so China had put forward a “technical shelving” to give more time for consultation, but that regretfully no consensus had been reached.

China’s aim is to maintain the authority and effectiveness of name listing by the committee discussing the case, which accords with Security Council resolutions and is the responsible thing to do, it said in a statement sent to Reuters.China will continue to maintain communication with all parties, it added.

India has long accused its neighbour and rival Pakistan of using Jaish-e-Mohammad as a proxy to mount attacks on Indian soil, including in the disputed Kashmir region, and earlier gave what it called “actionable intelligence” to Pakistan, including telephone intercepts.Pakistan denies giving any aid to Kashmir-based militants.If Azhar was blacklisted by the U.N. Security Council, he would face a global travel ban and asset freeze. (Reporting by Paritosh Bansal in NEW DELHI and Ben Blanchard in BEIJING; editing by Mike Collett-White and Jason Neely)

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

First Published On : Dec 30, 2016 19:02 IST

Exclusive | After Modi took office, there are fewer communal clashes, focus on development: Venkaiah Naidu

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Has demonetization served its purpose of taking out black money from the system?Yes, it has done so. It is a vaccine against the scam and it has done the job.Critics say that a large amount of black money is abroad and not in India and all cash is not black.This is wrong to say that most of the black money is stashed abroad. You may recall that the first decision taken was constituting an SIT to find the black money stashed abroad. Secondly, we also came out with a bill in Parliament on the funds stashed abroad. Then we took initiative in G20 and followed it up by entering into the agreement on multiple avoidance tax treaty with Mauritius and Cyprus, which we then followed up with Switzerland and then with the US on FETA. PM has been consistent. PM also gave time to Indian people to declare the money. He has been doing things systematically. The black money is now in the open and this is the biggest achievement. Every rupee is being accounted for. There will be scrutiny.The scheme caused public inconvenience. Was it avoidable?It was not possible. It was like a cancer spread into the country. The entire system was affected. Serious action was required. In 1971, the former finance minister YB Chavan recommended demonetization. Justice Wanchoo committee also recommended it. The Congress didn’t act upon it. In the 1980s, the bill on benami transactions was passed but the government did not notify it. We did it. In 2012, the Supreme Court of India directed the government to form a mechanism to bring back black money. This government did it. UPA slept over it. One after another, there were reminders. This chemotherapy has been administered. Some people are complaining that it will lead to hair fall. So one has to choose whether you want hair fall or one wants to fall itself. People welcomed it as a gamechanger. People wanted drastic action and we have done it. We have 130 crore population. We had a parallel economy, drug mafia, a high number of fake notes and a neighbour that promotes terror etc. Everywhere black money was prevalent. We delivered a death blow and that is why there is so much hue and cry. I admit that there is an inconvenience. It might continue for few more days because people are used to cash. Arrangements could not be made because advance information could not be given. It is a temporary pain for long term gain.When will the caps go? When do we expect the liquidity to return to normal?PM has already assured that pain will be eased step by step.On this issue, the Opposition did not allow the Parliament to function. Do you expect demonetization to cast its shadow on the Budget Session as well?I hope it doesn’t happen. Parliament is to debate and discuss, which could not happen. At the end, the Opposition wanted a debate but early on they avoided the debate and disrupted (it). Then they went to the President. The government was willing and PM was ready to intervene and respond. In fact, the debate had started and Opposition had fielded Anand Sharma, Pramod Tiwari and Manmohan Singh. They fielded him as the third candidate but that is the choice of the party. Mayawati, Ram Gopal Yadav, Piyush Goel and others spoke, including me, but they changed the goal posts and asked for the Prime Minister. PM came but (they) didn’t allow the house to function. They lost a golden opportunity for a debate. It was a proper forum to highlight the issue, but they missed it.There is a perception that senior leaders of BJP and Congress don’t talk, unlike in the days when Vajpayee was Prime Minister?Everyone has a different style. Vajpayee’s style is different, Modi’s style is different and then Nehru, Indira and Rajiv had a different style. PM told the Opposition that we are ready for discussion but it didn’t happen. I know you have in mind what Advani ji said but I’m also sad and unhappy that Parliament wasn’t allowed to function. Then I always tell the Opposition, I propose, you oppose and let the House dispose.Rahul Gandhi has attacked PM on the issue of demonetization and Sahara papers. Your response?Rahul Gandhi is behaving in the most irresponsible and immature manner. My personal advice is that he should graduate himself, otherwise he would be failing himself and his party in the process. Personal criticism has been out of frustration. Congress has called Modi names. They called him maut ka saudagar, then Rahul Gandhi called him khoon ka dalali and then they called him Hitler, Mussolini, Gaddafi and former external affairs minister called him ‘impotent’. This has not helped them and their stature has gone down.The principal charge of the Opposition is that 50 odd families are being helped through the process of demonetization?Absurd and meaningless. They shouted these slogans in Parliament. Adani and Ambani. They said, “Modi hai hai”. I got up and told them, “Adani and Ambani, aapka meherbani”.Adani and Ambani were not born during Modi’s regime. They were born and brought up during Congress regime. Who are these 50 families and how did they prosper? 1.86 lakh crore of the bank money which has become NPA was all given during the Congress regime by these people. All the concession to Ambani and Adani was given during Congress regime. Now, in order to portray us as pro business and against poor people, they are shouting these slogans. We are different. We feel that both industry and agriculture is important to country’s interest. Each should be respected. (In) media, there is black sheep. Every sector has a black sheep. Take action against them. Vijay Mallya was given loans during Congress regime. The loans were restructured during Congress’ tenure. This will boomerang on them. These are cheap tactics.BJP in 2016 was able to make its presence felt in the Northeast by winning Assam. What are the prospects of the party in Uttar Pradesh?Absolutely. BJP is becoming a real all-India party. When I joined this party, people would make fun of me that I’m joining a Brahmin baniya, urban, North India party. Today, we have MPs throughout the country. We will win Karnataka. We have done well in Kerala. Our votes have gone up. In Tamil Nadu, we have prospects because of the vacuum and the demise of Amma. In UP, the stakes are high and we will come to Parliament. We got 71 seats in Lok Sabha. People have seen the performance of SP and BSP. The alternative is BJP.Doesn’t it worry you that demonetization might impact BJP adversely?That is what is being discussed by media. Going by the grassroots feedback, our appeal has increased. This is the feed back I’m getting from UP. Look at the result of Chandigarh. We got 20 seats. Chandigarh is a big city. People from UP and Bihar stay there. In Maharashtra, Gujarat and Rajasthan local body elections, we have done well. Even after demonetization.Prime Minister has invested his political capital in a scheme like demonetization. Do you think it was worth the risk?Yes, it was worth taking. We have not come to rule the country. We want to develop it. He is known for taking risks. He has taken it up as a challenge. He went for a surgical strike against our neighbour, who is interfering in our affairs. He is known for taking tough and bold decisions. He wants to improve the living condition of the people.Last year, the debate on nationalism and citizenship dominated universities and many areas of our society. In retrospect, how do you see it?What is wrong with discussing nationalism? Nation means people and people means all communities. It means all sections. It means Bharat Mata ki jai. It means Daliton ki jai, Christian ko jai, Jains ko jai, sabhi backwards ko jai. It encompasses every community. We should feel proud of it. Earlier, it was a curse to talk about nationalism. Now people feel proud and people talk about it. 122 countries have recognized yoga. There nothing wrong with it.Many scholars would say that there is a difference between ethnic and civic nationalism.Perverts. This because of 2000 years of foreign rule and Macaulay. This education system has gone into mind. The influence of socialist model has also affected us. People have change and the mandate has changed, but people in certain sections who were well entrenched, their minds have not changed. They have lost the battle but still holding key positions like media, also the so-called leftists and so-called progressives.There was a big clash in the Dhulagarh of West Bengal. Hundreds of shops were looted and people were thrown out of houses but so called secular media is neither reporting it nor discussing it. On the other hand, Zee TV has reported it prominently but an FIR has been launched against them. The so-called people sitting in the Lutyen’s Zone of Delhi, the big progressive people aren’t talking about it. Is talking about Hindus a crime in this country? This is perverted secularism and that is why people have rejected it. Secondly, the ultra-leftist people take up the issue of JNU and shout slogans about Hyderabad but society remains peaceful. Our image has improved. I don’t know why this perverted meaning is being given to Hindu. It is a way of life, not a religion. It is a way of living. We don’t want to discriminate against people on the basis of religion and race. After Modi’s coming in, there are less communal clashes and the focus is on development and good government. My opponents lost the elections badly and they have not been able to digest it. That is why they are attacking Modi personally and indulging in disinformation campaign.Lastly, did the surgical strike change the nature of play between Pakistan and India?I don’t think that Pakistan would understand but a message has gone. It was not for a political purpose but it became inevitable to show the world and to Pakistan that India is capable of retaliation. That has been done. It has raised the morale of the Indian armed forces and it has raised the morale of the Indian people living in India and also abroad.

West Bengal: Howrah road mishap injures 31, leaves four critical

West Bengal: Howrah road mishap injures 31, leaves four critical

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Howrah: At least 31 people were injured when a bus hit a lorry on NH6 due to dense fog in West Bengal’s Howrah district on Friday, police said.

The private bus with a complement of 50 passengers was heading to the beach resort of Digha from Madhyamgram in North 24 Parganas when it hit the lorry from behind at Ashariya village on NH6 near Bagnan, a police officer said.

At least 31 people, including the driver and the helper, were injured and rushed to Uluberia General hospital. The condition of four, including a woman, was stated to be critical, the officer said.

The lorry driver fled with the vehicle but the bus, which sustained damage, has been seized, the officer said.

First Published On : Dec 30, 2016 13:05 IST

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Pakistan says Indus Waters Treaty can’t be abolished unilaterally

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Pakistan Foreign Office (FO) has said that Indian cannot abolish the Indus Waters Treaty, 1960, (IWT) unilaterally.Foreign Office spokesman Nafees Zakaria told media on Thursday, “Pakistan was closely monitoring the situation and would duly respond when any such situation arose. However, Pakistan was actively pursuing the issue at all appropriate fora, asking for neutral arbitration of the issue.”The News further quoted him, as saying, “We will assess India’s activities within the framework of the Indus Waters Treaty. The Indus Basin Treaty cannot be altered or suspended unilaterally. No country can abrogate the treaty.”He pointed out, “There is an arbitration mechanism to resolve the dispute regarding implementation of the treaty. We resolved many IWT disputes amicably in the past.”He also made a mention of the Kashmir issue, and said that “Pakistan wants to amicably resolve all the outstanding issues, including Kashmir, with India.”

Nuke club NSG draft rule may allow India in, leave Pakistan out: Report

Washington: A draft proposal for accepting new members into the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) paves the way for India’s entry but leaves Pakistan out, says a US-based arms control organisation. The Arms Control Association (ACA), Washington, also warns that relaxing membership rules will undermine non-proliferation.

Last week, the US media reported that Rafael Mariano Grossi, a former chairman of the NSG, had prepared a two-page document, explaining how a non-Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) state, like India and Pakistan, could join the group. Grossi was acting on behalf of the current chairman, Song Young-wan of South Korea, and his document enjoys a semi-official status, Dawn reported.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

To prevent India from blocking Pakistan from joining the NPT, Grossi’s draft note proposes that “one non-NPT member state should reach an understanding not to block consensus on membership for another non-NPT member state”.

But ACA’s Executive Director Daryl Kimball warns that “Pakistan still has grounds to object to the formula outlined by Grossi”.

He explains that the document will require Pakistan to meet the same criteria for membership as India “but, to engage in civil nuclear trade with NSG states, it would have to win a separate NSG exemption from the full-scope safeguards requirement”.

India is seeking membership of the NSG on the strength of the fact that it is already doing business with NSG members.

The 48-nation NSG is a nuclear technology control organisation formed in 1975 in response to India’s first nuclear weapons test, which used plutonium produced with nuclear technology from Canada and the US. The NSG seeks to prevent similar future misuses.

Current NSG membership rules require a state to sign the nuclear NPT before joining this exclusive club. India remains one of only three countries, with Israel and Pakistan, never to have signed the NPT. Earlier this year, India formally applied for membership and was followed by Pakistan. The US, and a host of other powerful western nations, back India’s application, but China and half a dozen other nations are blocking India’s membership, which requires a consensus of all members.

India hoped to join the group during NSG’s last plenary session, held in Seoul in June this year, but the meeting ended without taking any decision on New Delhi’s application.

First Published On : Dec 29, 2016 11:18 IST

Full text: Vice-President Hamid Ansari’s speech at Mumbai University

Arguing that bonhomie between the different South Asian countries can happen only through utilising an accommodating rather than an exclusionary approach, Vice President of India, Hamid Ansari on Wednesday said that it is the only practical approach to the possibility of a “South Asian Union”.

Ansari was addressing the gathering after releasing the book ‘August Voices: What they said on 14-15 August 1947’, authored by Observer Research Foundation head Sudheendra Kulkarni, in Mumbai.

Vice President Hamid Ansari. Reuters

Vice President Hamid Ansari. Reuters

Following is a full transcript of his speech:

“I confess I have read, but infrequently, some of the writings of Sudheendra Kulkarni. Some years back he was gracious enough to send me a copy of his very interesting collection of writings on what Mahatma Gandhi would have done with the internet.

It is tempting to type caste. Could he be called an archeologist, or dubbed a futurologist? Neither would do justice to his work. To me, it is evident that Kulkarni ji has the mind of an explorer, a visionary, in quest of new worlds.

The book before us is one such endeavour, to build a new edifice on the ruins of the past. And yet, because this is not a green field venture, it is essential to understand the nature of ruins on which rebuilding is to commence.

The task of the historian, as Ibn Khuldun put it, is to ‘lift the veil’ from conditions of the past. The present case is also a matter of living memory and therefore not immune from subjectivity of greater intensity. The ‘post-truth’, in this case, arrived seven decades earlier!

The challenge for us, therefore, is three fold:

To understand what happened in 1947?

To examine the role and limitations of the principal actors?

To explore realistically the options for the future.

The happening of 1947 has rightly been describes as a ‘tragedy’ to which the Two Nation theory contributed. The British role, and their anxiety to leave India on terms most advantageous to them, is well known.

Was this sufficient to bring about the division of the country?

Some of the iconic personalities cited in the book, and others not mentioned, played a role in articulating and shaping perceptions for over two decades. Their ‘final’ statements, if such a term can be used for what they said on August 14-15, have therefore to be seen in a wider context of their role in the developments that led to the final decisions.

The critical question is simply put: why was the Partition Plan, put forth by the British, accepted?

Much has been written about the experience of the functioning of the Interim Government of 1946-47. In the discussions preceding and during the crucial AICC meeting of 14-15 June 1947 opinion was divided but both Jawaharlal Nehru and Vallabhbhai Patel supported Partition. Their line of reasoning, as per public record, was not identical. Nehru felt a compromise with the Muslim League would result in ‘a weak India, that is, a federal India with far too much power in the federating units,’ adding that partition would be temporary, that Pakistan was bound to come back to us.’ Patel felt, as he put it, that ‘in spite of my previous strong opposition to partition, I agreed to it because I am convinced that in order to keep India united it must be divided.’ He added, in a speech in Bombay on 30 October 1948, that ‘we accepted partition willingly and after a full weightment of its consequences.’

Ten years after the event, Maulana Azad attributed the decision of his principal colleagues to ‘anger or despair (that) had clouded their vision’ adding that ‘the verdict (of history) would be that India was not divided by the Muslim League but by the Congress.’

It is therefore difficult to disagree with Shri Kulkarni’s conclusion that ‘history’s verdict casts the responsibility for India’s Partition on both the parties although the Muslim league’s guilt is decidedly greater’ because it anchored its demand on the Two Nation Theory.

And yet, the thought did persist with some of the decision-makers that the impending happening was somewhat unreal, not altogether desirable, and hopefully transitory. The latter aspect, however, was not investigated or spelt out.

Even more glaring was the apparent absence, on all sides, of reflection and articulation of the economic implications of the division of what had hitherto been one economic unit for over a century with its own imperatives and socio-economic consequences.

The theme of the book before us is to project a scenario of the possibility of a South Asian Union with the India-Pakistan-Bangladesh Confederation at the core. Its underlying assumption is the possibility and desirability of an India-Pakistan rapprochement.

Our focus is on three nation-states of recent origin, of different sizes and capacities, differing versions of the past, conflicting ideologies and national security perceptions, but sharing geography, ecology and wider human security challenges.

Our author seeks a solution by plunging headlong into the core of differences. He suggests a ‘cultural and spiritual confederation’ that would subdue and overcome extremist perceptions of those whom he is not disinclined to name, reverts to what was said by some political and spiritual personalities, and cites with approval Maharishi Aurobindo’s words that the desired change will come ‘by an increasing recognition of the necessity not only of peace and concord but of common action, by the practice of common action and the creation of means for that purpose.’

Idealism, however lofty, has to be tempered with realism. Common action is easier done on areas of convergence than of divergence. This convergence is to be sought by moving beyond the traditional paradigm of conventional security into those of human security and human wrong. Both are ignored by the governments and societies in our region; there is a crying need for the recognition and implementation of both. Only then would we develop the perception and capacity for correctives.

A beginning therefore has to be made in regional cooperation with a focus on human security problems, on movement of people and on trade without unreasonable restrictions. The common traits in cultural traditions and historical narratives needs to be transmitted to a younger generation through conscious promotion rather than studied prevention of cultural exchanges, films, and other cultural activities.

The experience of Saarc has not been encouraging and therefore alternate strategies need to be explored. The proposed new structure would have to be voluntary and devoid of overt or covert coercion. There may be lessons to be learnt from other regional organizations.

The practical approach would be to make haste slowly, to be accommodative rather than exclusionary so that negative perceptions are allowed to fade away. Political commitment and modalities have to surface to resolve outstanding areas of disagreement. Foremost amongst these is what the Simla Agreement of 1972 called ‘a final settlement of Jammu and Kashmir’. Its domestic dimensions, as well as the trans-LOC incursions, have been in the news of late. The State is doing all that is necessary to confront and repel terrorism. The State also has a duty to ensure that the rights and dignity of our citizens in the State are respected and ensured and shortcomings effectively addressed. Alienation of any segment of the citizen body within our land does not contribute to the overall health of the Republic.

Chale chalo ke who manzil abhi nahin aa’ii.

Jai Hind.”

First Published On : Dec 29, 2016 10:20 IST

Islamic State, Pakistan-sponsored terrorism keep NIA on its toes

New Delhi: Pakistan-sponsored terrorism and the Islamic State trying to weave its terror network in India kept the National Investigation Agency (NIA) busy throughout 2016.

The year began with one of the most audacious terror attacks on India when four Pakistani terrorists stormed the India Air Force (IAF) base in Pathankot on 2 January and killed seven soldiers.

The NIA, formed in the aftermath of the 2008 Mumbai terror attack, quickly sprang into action and traced links of the attack to Pakistan, blaming Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar for masterminding the strike that brought the improving New Delhi-Islamabad ties back to square-one.

Within months, the anti-terror probe agency filed a detailed charge sheet nailing Azhar and three of his accomplices for their detailed and meticulous planning of the attack.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

But the agency drew flak when the government allowed a Joint Investigation Team (JIT), which included an ISI officer, from Pakistan to visit the sensitive Pathankot military base to probe the incident.

Days after it took over the Pathankot probe, the NIA laid its hands on evidence of the Islamic State trying to expand its presence in India by radicalising youth as potential terrorists.

On 22 and 23 January, over two dozen raids were conducted across the country. Eighteen Islamic State suspects were arrested. Nine more, including a foreigner, were later held in separate raids in Uttar Pradesh, Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

The agency filed a charge sheet in June alleging that Islamic State sympathisers were seeking to establish an Islamist caliphate in India — Junoodul-Khilafa-Fil-Hind — and recruit Muslim youth to terrorism at the behest of Syria-based Shafi Armar alias Yusuf-Al-Hindi.

According to the NIA, Armar, a resident of Karnataka’s Bhatkal district and a senior Islamic State leader managing India recruitment, was in touch with the accused through social media networks.

He trained them how to prepare IEDs, identify training venues and provide logistics support for terror strikes.

However, the agency found itself in the midst of a controversy for going soft on alleged right-wing Hindu terror. On 13 May, it submitted the second and final report in the 29 September 2008, Malegaon bomb blast that killed six persons. The bombing was earlier blamed on the Abhinav Bharat group led by Sadhvi Pragya Thakur and Lt. Col. Srikant Purohit.

The Maharashtra Anti-Terror Squad, which was earlier probing the bombing, had filed charges against the two main accused in the attack. The NIA took over the case in 2011. And its chargesheet this year gave a clean chit to Thakur and watered down the case against Purohit.

The agency got one of its major successes when a Bengaluru court convicted 13 Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorists in a 2012 conspiracy to kill prominent leaders, journalists and police officers in Karnataka and Maharashtra.

Another success came when a special court awarded the death sentence to five Indian Mujahideen operatives for their role in the 21 February 21 2013, Dilsukhnagar, Hyderabad, twin-blast case that claimed 18 lives.

In all, the NIA registered 33 cases in 2016. Twelve of them were related to Islamic State sympathisers, three against JeM, two of regarding counterfeit currency notes, two of Maoists and two more on terror incidents in northeastern India.

The agency also registered a case against controversial preacher and Islamic Research Foundation founder Zakir Naik on charges of misusing donations to radicalise youth.

The year also witnessed an unprecedented second extension given to NIA chief Sharad Kumar, making him the first Director General of the agency to be re-employed twice after his superannuation in 2015.

First Published On : Dec 29, 2016 09:21 IST

Pakistan: Chinese-assisted 340 MW nuclear power plant inaugurated in Punjab province

Islamabad: Power-starved Pakistan on Wednesday received a major boost as a China-backed 340 MW nuclear power plant in its Punjab province was inaugurated by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif who termed it as an “important milestone” in the government’s efforts to end the menace of load shedding.

The fourth nuclear plant Chashma-3 is located about 250 kilometres southwest of capital Islamabad at Chashma in Mianwali district where another plant Chashma-IV is also being built.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

Sharif described the completion of C-3 as “another important milestone in the journey to eliminate the menace of load shedding from the country,” Radio Pakistan reported. He said the project is reflective of closer cooperation between Pakistan and China in science and technology.

“This cooperation is also beginning of a new era of development in the region,” he said. Sharif expressed confidence that Chashma-IV nuclear power plant would also become operational before its deadline of mid next year.

Chashma two and three power plants are the most efficient plants in the country, providing more than 600 MW of electricity to the national grid. Pakistan’s first nuclear plant was supplied by Canada in 1972.

Sharif appreciated Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) for its efforts for self reliance in fuel fabrication and said his government would extend every possible assistance to the Commission to help overcome the shortage of electricity in the country.

Referring to the generation target of 8,800 MW of nuclear energy by 2030, Sharif urged the Commission to accept the challenge of producing more than the target and play its full role in the development of the country.

Noting that there has been a marked reduction in load shedding during the last three years, Sharif pledged that the menace of load shedding would be over in 2018. Sharif said generation of additional 2200 MW of electricity through K-II and K-III would contribute towards this effort.

Pakistan has been grappling with power shortage and the unusually long hours of power outages has been haunting its people for about a decade. Sharif urged PAEC to take all possible measures to strengthen safety of existing and future power plants as per international standards.

Sharif thanked China for extending cooperation in nuclear field and said the two countries are actively cooperating in many other areas, including construction of roads, motorways, airports and upgradation of Pakistan Railways.

He said many projects were initiated under CPEC and their impact was now visible.

These projects are being implemented speedily and this would result in overcoming challenges of unemployment, poverty, backwardness and accelerating the pace of socio economic development, besides bringing all regions of the country more closer, he said.

First Published On : Dec 28, 2016 20:27 IST

Government appoints Viral Acharya as RBI deputy governor

Government appoints Viral Acharya as RBI deputy governor

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The government has appointed Viral V. Acharya, a professor of economics at New York University, as one of the Reserve Bank of India’s four deputy governors for a term of three years, according to a statement on Wednesday.

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Reuters

The RBI had a vacancy for deputy governor after Urjit Patel was promoted to Governor earlier this year.

The statement did not mention which portfolio Acharya would be assigned. Patel had headed the prestigious monetary policy, which is now overseen by RBI Deputy Governor R. Gandhi as part of a widened remit.

Acharya teaches at the Stern School of Business in New York university. According to his resume, he has research interests in regulation of banks, corporate finance, credit risk and asset pricing.

First Published On : Dec 28, 2016 13:45 IST

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Balochistan: In no hurry to set up ‘government in exile’, says Naela Quadri

Kannur (Kerala): As part of drumming up support for setting up a ‘government in exile’, Baloch International Women’s Forum leader Naela Quadri Baloch has said they were in no hurry for it.

Baloch, who arrived in Kerala on Tuesday night as part of her effort at garnering support across the country, will speak on Wednesday at a public meeting in Thalassery near here.

Naela Qadri Baloch. File photo.

Naela Qadri Baloch. File photo. Firstpost

The meeting is being organised under the aegis of ‘Brennen Vibrant’, an organisation of the old activists of the RSS’s students wing Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad at Brennen College in Thalassery.

“Our goal is to set up a government in exile and we are in no hurry for that. We all know that it’s a long way ahead and we are now laying the foundation for it,” she said.

“What has come as a joy for us is that the people of Varanasi have extended their support to us and we wish to set it up there. We are also seeking the support of the Indian government for it,” said Quadri.

Quadri has been travelling across India and by now she has already addressed meetings in Delhi, Mumbai, Nagpur, Chandigarh and Bengaluru.

“I should say that at all these places the response was overwhelming, especially from the youths. What we are basically doing now is to garner support for our movement. As Balochis, we are now also connecting to our people who are settled across the world. In all we are about 40 million,” she said.

Several Baloch leaders from Pakistan and from other countries have begun visiting New Delhi since Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his Independence Day address on August 15 highlighted the Baloch issue.

Balochistan, Pakistan’s largest province in terms of area, has witnessed a long-running insurgency for which Islamabad blames New Delhi.

Quadri, however, downplayed some reactions from her own people about her own role.

“I do not claim to be the leader. Our aim is to work together and at the moment we should not be wasting time on such things,” she said.

First Published On : Dec 28, 2016 13:37 IST

Demonetisation is only part of clean-up of economy: Bibek Debroy tells Firstpost

Much before economists like Jagdish Bhagwati and Arvind Panagariya weighed in favour of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s policies as Gujarat chief minister, Bibek Debroy stirred a hornets’ nest by praising the Gujarat development model. Debroy was then working in the Congress’ think tank — Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Contemporary Studies. Needless to say, Debroy had to quit. But that did not stop him from speaking his mind. Debroy drew close to Modi prior to the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and played a critical role in shaping up his economic policies. He was drafted as a member of the Niti Aayog after the extinction of the Planning Commission. In the mean time, he was tasked with reviewing the functioning of the Indian Railways.

At the moment, Debroy wears many hats — one of them as a defender of demonetisation. He has been valiantly defending the government’s move to make currency notes of the denomination of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 illegal tender. He says that it is just a beginning to clean up the entire economic ecosystem. In a wide-ranging interview, Debroy explains the rationale and long-term impact of the move.

Here are some edited excerpts:

Since the demonetisation drive is coming to a close, can you explain for us the objectives, benefits and travails that the exercise entailed? As an economist and policy analyst, how do you sum it up?

One should not look at 8 November (the date on which Modi declared currency notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 as illegal tender) in isolation. The reason I am mentioning this is because there are various other things that have happened outside 8 November and will continue to happen outside 8 November. And the day should be considered from this broader perspective. Let me give some example of that. The creation of this new black income and I am deliberately using the phrase ‘black income’ because we are talking about specifics. And there is wealth which from an economist’s point of view is stock, and there is income which is of flow.

So far as the issue of creating fresh black income is concerned, 8 November was not meant to address that. There are other instruments to take care of that, like negotiating and re-negotiating agreements with Mauritius. This has already happened. Take for instance the restriction on cash transactions above Rs 20,000. Take something like the Real Estate Bill, which among other things promises that it would transform the real estate sector from unorganised to organised. It will not happen overnight but over the period of time. The prime minister has already indicated that many such measures will be introduced. And remember in the background of this the income declaration scheme has already happened.

File image of Bibek Debroy. Image credit: Forbes India

File image of Bibek Debroy. Image credit: Forbes India

There was a greater scrutiny of people who might have had black income. So when people are criticising the demonetisation it should be understood that there are other measures which are meant to check the creation of new black income and nobody is saying that this is the only way all the issues can be addressed.

Let’s take a new target and let me define the term ‘black’. There are two different uses of the term black. They are not quite the same. The first is when the activity is illegal like crime or drugs. The other type of black is when the activity is not illegal. So the income generation is perfectly illegal but the tax that ought to be paid was not paid. Nobody is denying that black exists in non-cash forms like gold or property. There are instruments that have been introduced to tackle this and will continue to be introduced. Just because the substantial part of this black income is in other forms does not mean that it (the matter of black cash) should not be addressed.

Let’s take the third point. In India, cash is used substantially. And it is obvious as India is not a developed country. No one is expecting the use of cash in India to disappear overnight. But look at the ratios. The GDP-cash ratio in India even till last year was 13 percent. Some 15 years ago it was nine percent. Someone needs to explain how this ratio increased from nine percent to 13 percent. Even if I assume that we need cash, it should be understood that when a country develops, the use of cash reduces. Then how and why did we witness this increase?

I look at countries like Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Pakistan. What is the GDP-cash ratio in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka? It is five percent or three percent. Even in Pakistan, it is nine percent. So let us accept that there is too much cash around. Let us also accept that there have been deliberate compulsions to use cash. Take for example the Payment of Wages Act. Section 6 of the Act, which has been there for years, has said you must pay wages in cash unless you have concurrence from the employee not to do so. Who will do so? Why should we have such a rule in this age? It is only now that things have changed; it should have been done years ago.

And take for instance the high fees on non-cash modes. Someone should have objected to the rates they charge. So let us also recognise that there have been disincentives not to use cash. Let us also remember that Jan Dhan Yojana accounts have already been made. So we have now more than 260 million accounts and many have RuPay cards. But sadly for them it is just a piece of plastic that will be used at ATMs as they have not been still educated and convinced that these RuPay card can be used for something else also.

Someone will come along and say, “Look at the unbanked population in India” and add that he doesn’t believe in Jan Dhan figures. So my response is that you shouldn’t believe in these figures. But here is the survey conducted in August — not by the government, but by a private institution, and it states that 97 to 98 percent of both rural and urban populations have bank accounts. Now, if one says that all of them are not using bank accounts, I may agree. But don’t say that they don’t have bank accounts.

How much exactly do the currency notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 account for in the economy? And how much of it have we got back?

There is a lot of confusion around as people are using two different bases. One is the RBI balance sheet figure which is slightly old and which puts the number at Rs 14 lakh crore. The other one is the figure on 8 November. It is the latest figure and it puts the number at almost Rs 16 lakh crore. Let’s stick to the Rs 16 lakh crore base. Now out of this how much was black? How much is going to come back into the system? To the best of my understanding, no one in the government has predicted or projected anything.

How much has already come in? We don’t really know. There are all kinds of figures floating around. These figures may not always be final.

Let’s take the example of fake currency. The fake currency check goes through three different layers. Once it has gone through all three it is very unlikely that it will be deposited in the banking system. But today when you are looking at the figures it is perfectly possible that fake currency was deposited earlier. Alternately, you go and take old notes at petrol pumps. It may be showing up in the accounts that petrol pumps maintain with the bank. It may also be showing up with the report that BPCL is giving to the government. So until the figures are final, one really does not know.

But the last figure I have is Rs 12 to 12.5 lakh crore. Which means, I personally think, that most people who were going to deposit it have already done so. Even if I accept that Rs 14 lakh crore comes in by the end of the month, the remaining Rs two lakh crore is not the indicator of success. A lot of criticism is happening that only Rs two lakh crore will be left. To the best of my knowledge, no one in the government has said that it is the criterion of success. And that’s because the money that is coming to the system has not become white. It will invite taxes and penalties if required and will have deeper scrutiny. Just because it is in the banking system does not mean it is legitimate.

I mentioned earlier that people who are holding cash are being dissuaded to do so. So it is good that it comes into the system. I think it is a success as people are realising that this initiative is a serious one. So there is not much point in my hanging on to cash. To my understanding, it is an attempt at cleaning up the entire system. So if I look at it narrowly just from an economist’s point of views, I am missing the true picture. This is the beginning of an attempt to clean up the gold market. I am not talking about jewellery market, which is different. It is also an attempt to clean up the financing of capital market transactions and real estate. And also, one has got electoral reforms as part of the debate agenda.

I am not saying that something substantial has happened, but it is part of the discourse. It should be seen as part of the broader process. You can dispute the survey figures. One survey says that 60 percent of the people are supporting you, another says that 80 percent back you. What you find across all surveys is that a large number of people are supporting the measure and it is because, I feel, they have realised that 8 November was just a small piece in the process.

My last point is when you are doing something like this you can plan perfectly. But when you do plan perfectly, it becomes impossible to preserve secrecy. To preserve secrecy, I may take some decisions, you in the same position may take some other decision. It cannot be the case that my decision will be perfect as I may not be able to assess all eventualities. But if you are in my place, you might also take decisions that might not have been perfect.

Obviously, there was inconvenience.

Let me divide it into different parts. One, the task was to get enough new notes to banks; two, naturally when there is a shortage there will be rationing. So in this scenario it is decided to take smaller denomination notes to rural areas; and three, it is one thing to get the notes to the bank and it is another to take it to ATMs. As a government you do not have much of control on how the banks take the money to the ATMs because it is outsourced. So there is a problem with banks and ATMs. I think, purely anecdotally as there is no data, that bank problem has decreased day-by-day even in Delhi and Mumbai. ATMs? Yes, there are still problems. I have no idea how long it will take.

From where did the word “windfall” gain currency in this entire exercise?

Right from the beginning, I have followed what the finance minister and the finance ministry have been saying. I have seen that there was a recognition that there are three different channels through which money will come. One is the money that does return. This reduces the liabilities of the RBI. When liabilities of the RBI are reduced that is not automatically the money that in any fraction has gone to or will go to the government. It is for RBI and finance ministry to take decisions. Today, sitting here we do not know how this part will be handled.

The second part is that there will be some money that will come into the banks, mostly public sector banks. It will ease their stressed assets problems and to that extent, it enables them to lend better. But again, the banks, even if they are public sector banks, are not the government. The third is the money that actually comes into the consolidated fund of India through taxes, penalties and other means.

Now I have two things to say on this. First, I have already mentioned the income declaration scheme. Over and above this, action has been taken by the income tax department. It has resulted in a lot of money coming in. Second, when I declare Rs 100 as additional income then those Rs 100 are not revenue to the government. Only the taxes and penalties are revenue to it. It is this money that the government can use for different purposes. How the government chooses to use it we will know partly on 1 February (Union Budget). I said ‘partly’ because we will not know the figure till the end of March, which is when the window shuts. As far as windfall gain is concerned, I don’t think the government has ever used this word.

When the prime minister announced demonetisation, he laid down certain objectives: Eliminating black money and fake currency, and tackling terrorist activities. But over time it seems that goalposts have changed.

No, I don’t think they have changed. There were multiple objectives. I will give you an example. On this issue, I have been giving interviews to different people. Somewhere, I would have said something to one person responding to specific questions and I would have said something different to another, but that does not mean that my focus changed. You see it is not a single objective. Lot of people are only referring to what the prime minister said after 8 Novembe. My request is that you look at what he has been saying earlier in his monthly radio broadcast Mann Ki Baat. This has been figuring in his speeches for quite some time. It is not fair to say that goalposts are changing.

Take the case of fake currency. I don’t think that the issue is absolute amount of fake currency. In 2014, the Indian Statistical Institute (ISI) put the number at Rs 400 crore. There is an Intelligence Bureau (IB) figure of Rs 2,400 crore. It is not about what the exact value of fake currency is, but to understand that it does not take a lot of money for a terrorist attack with a lot of undesirable consequences. Even Rs 10 crore is good enough to cause enough damage. If I am destroying the counterfeit apparatus today there is no surety that it will not reappear in future. It has to be a continuous process.

So you are saying in a way that this talk of changing goalposts is not valid.

I think so. I have been listening to Modi. I think the most important objective here was to clean up the system.

Now the next strike in all probability will be on benami property. How do you think the government will be able to do this? How much impact will it have on real estate? Is there any assessment?

People have been complaining that real estate sector has been destroyed because of demonetisation. I ask what has been destroyed. Is it the value of the property? Is it the registered value of the property? There is a big difference between the two. Is it the black component or the white component? And the invariable reaction of anyone I speak to on this is that what has been destroyed is the black component. In Delhi, 50 percent of transactions use to be in black and 50 percent in white. Right now the system is in shock but I am certain that when it is stable, it will no longer be 50 percent black and 50 percent white. All of it may not go, but the amounts will reduce. Whenever the Goods and Services Tax (GST) is introduced, it will bring a lot more into the net. So it is part of the entire thing and not just 8 November.

The political part — the elections etc — requires a debate. It is not easy. And you have to also see that because of this a lot of poor people have started using non-cash means. So what I am seeing, though it is difficult to get it quantified, is that in many ways middle men are getting eliminated from the system.

How do you think it will impact the tax base?

Indirect tax will increase because of GST. There is a difference between tax avoidance and tax evasion. Tax avoidance is legal whereas tax evasion is illegal. So to broaden the direct income tax net, you need to take care of exemptions. Today, when a chartered accountant is not paying his taxes it is not always the case that he is evading. Rather he might have legitimate exemptions of which he can avail. I have a feeling that in future there will be a greater degree of enforcing that for certain transactions you cannot pay in cash. The segments that will be then made more accountable will be lawyers, chartered accountants and doctors.

There is another difficult issue that is linked to it: Taxing people in rural areas. Technically taxing agricultural income is a state subject but taxing non-agricultural income of the farmer is not a state subject. There is an issue there that is more about enforcement. So part of it is broadening the base, but also simultaneously ensuring that tax department, both direct and indirect, does not unnecessarily cause harassment to honest tax payers and I feel that we will see something on this line in the budget.

How do you react to reports of people illegally exchanging money? Do you feel that banks did not behave in the manner they were suppose to?

One of the channels that was misused quite a bit was exchange, which is really an RBI thing. I think there were three problems with banks. First, they were not very vigilant about the functioning of the ATMs. They were talking about whether the ATMs were calibrated, but I am talking about how many ATMs were working. Second, from the second day we knew from newspapers that bank officials, though they worked really hard, connived. How do we know that they connived? Because they have been caught. So there is a positive way also to look at this.

I am a little confused about the third as there is lack of information about it. There is a shortage of notes. When there is a shortage, there is a certain principle on which distribution is done. What is the principle that RBI follows in distributing notes to different banks and what is the principle that banks follow in distributing to different ATMs? I don’t have any information about this but I don’t think that this was done in a very rational kind of way. If a bank like SBI has many ATMs then the bank should have information on which ATM is used to what extent and the distribution should have taken place accordingly. Am I (as a bank) doing this with efficiency? I don’t think so.

Even in case of honesty, I am not very sure that it was very efficiently followed. But this is my analysis and is purely anecdotal. I often take this route between Khelgaon and Aurobindo Marg (in Delhi) and there are roughly 20 ATMs. Two days ago I found that 10 of them were working. If there is a general shortage then all should not be working. So I think it should be probed how they allocate money.

But there were so many news reports about how old currency was exchanged for a commission of 10 percent and 15 percent, which later came down to five percent.

If they have got less money, there is some destruction. There has been some tracking of this at aggregate level. Initially, when it happened, it was happening at 35 percent. It has not come down to five percent. It has come down to a 10 or 14 percent level. There is still destruction.

How do you react to the opinion emerging from the world around on demonetisation, some of them are calling it an ‘immoral act’?

I don’t understand what is immoral here. Let us get the principles clear.

Your money is in bank. No one said that you cannot use that money. All that has been said is that there is a limit on withdrawal.

You want to pay through cheque, you can do that freely. You do digital transactions, you are free to do that. So the first principle of criticism that I am being deprived of my property is factually incorrect. Please understand that someone who is based abroad does not know what is happening on ground here. They are forming their opinion on what you people are writing here in the Indian media.

First Published On : Dec 28, 2016 09:40 IST

‘Domicile certificates’ to West Pakistan refugees is unacceptable: Farooq Abdullah

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>After the separatists, National Conference leader and former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah on Tuesday said the move to grant ‘domicile certificates’ to West Pakistan Refugees is “unacceptable” and his party would oppose it.”The idea of issuing ‘domicile certificates’ to West Pakistan Refugees is unacceptable and National Conference won’t be a mute spectator to such extra-constitutional misadventures that aims at circumventing the state’s special constitutional status and character,” he told reporters here. Farooq said there was a clear effort to exploit the West Pakistan Refugee issue to further a traditional agenda of weakening the state’s special status and eroding the State Subject Law.He said the government’s “excuse” that certain certificates and documents were being issued to West Pakistan Refugees as proofs of identification were “absurd justifications”. “West Pakistan Refugees have already been given Adhaar cards and before that other proofs of identity that enable them to apply for Central government and other jobs. “Why the present government suddenly found the need to issue another form of an identity proof is incomprehensible,” said Farooq, a former Union Minister.He was commenting on the issue which has already become controversial with separatists slamming it and vowing to oppose it tooth and nail. “National Conference will do everything necessary to ensure such machinations to erode the state’s special status are defeated,” Farooq said. “These belated sympathisers of the West Pakistan Refugees have never done anything to help them in the pursuit of their day-to-day challenges and are exploiting this issue now only to serve their own political interests,” he added.”While we have always empathised with the refugees and will continue to do so, there is no denying the fact that they are not and cannot become the state subjects of Jammu and Kashmir. Any efforts by the state government to the contrary will be unconstitutional and illegal,” he said.

Gujarat government extends a helping hand, takes 220 fishermen released from Pakistan in custody

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The officials of the fisheries department of Gujarat Government took custody of 220 fishermen who were handed over by Pakistan to Indian agency, late on Monday night, a senior official said. “These fishermen were released from the Landhi jail in Karachi on December 25 as a goodwill gesture and were handed over to the Border Security Force (BSF) at the Wagah Border on Monday,” Ashok Patel, superintendent of the fisheries department of the Gujarat government said. “The team (of fisheries department) has been camping in Amritsar to make arrangements for bringing these fishermen back to Gujarat,” he said.Talking from Amritsar, Ramesh Makwana, one of the released fisherman, who hails from Tad village in Una taluka of Gir Somnath district, said, “We never expected release of 439 fishermen by Pakistan at one go and it came as a surprise for all of us. Another batch of 219 fishermen will be released on January 5, 2017.” “The Edhi Foundation a Karachi based non government organisation made arrangements for bringing us to Lahore from Karachi by a special train,” said the released fisherman.He thanked Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani among others for taking up the issue for their release with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who in turn took up the matter with his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif.Makwana, while describing the harsh conditions in which they stayed in Pakistani jail, said, “They had to face lot of hardships as about 100 fishermen were kept in a single room in the prison and had to face mosquito menace.” He said they realised that they had entered into enemy territorial waters only after Pakistani Marine Security Agency (PMSA) nabbed them. “Most of us are sole bread earners of our family,” said Makwana.

J-K | Give peace a chance, imperative for dialogue & development: CM Mehbooba Mufti

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Asking people of Jammu and Kashmir to “give peace a chance”, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti has said it was imperative for dialogue and development and would have a “soothing impact” on India-Pakistan relations.”For achieving the objective of development and dialogue, a congenial atmosphere of peace and tranquility needs to be created. I seek people’s cooperation in creating an environment conducive for development and dialogue,” Mehbooba said while interacting with people after kick-starting various developmental projects in south Kashmir’s Pulwama district yesterday.”The chief minister said her government would work on the twin objectives of development and dialogue and asked the people of the state “to give peace a chance”. The people of J-K have a huge responsibility to ensure a congenial and peaceful atmosphere in the state so that it has a soothing impact on the relations between the two neighbouring countries (India and Pakistan) which ultimately can pave the way for getting the state out of its difficulties,” Mehbooba said.She regretted that every section of society suffered losses during the turmoil of past few months which also delayed the completion of many developmental projects in the state.The Chief Minister said the government has planned a major developmental programme for the state and asked the people to extend their cooperation for its successful implementation.Addressing the students after inaugurating the new building of the Government Women’s College, Pulwama, the Chief Minister said empowerment of women is key to development of the state.She asked the girls to focus on education as it has the potential to bring about the desired social change. Mehbooba said women hold an important place in society and their empowerment would signal a positive turnaround. She asked the students to attain different skills “so that they are not only educated but empowered as well”.

Indus water dispute: Pakistan’s FM talks to World Bank chief, objects to pausing arbitration process

Islamabad: World Bank President Jim Yong Kim called Pakistani Finance Minster Ishaq Dar on phone to discuss the Pakistan-India water dispute, an official said on Tuesday.

The phone call on Monday was in relation with the latest dispute concerning two hydroelectric power plants — Kishan­ganga and Ratle — that India is building on the Indus river system, Dawn online reported.

Dar earlier wrote to Kim requesting him to help settle the water dispute between the two neighbouring nations.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

He said that delaying arbitration would seriously prejudice Pakistan’s interests and rights under the bilateral Indus Waters Treaty which was signed in 1960.

The letter explained that Pakistan was not withdrawing its earlier request to the bank to appoint the chairman of the Court of Arbitration and since this process had already been “inordinately delayed”, Islamabad wanted the bank to appoint the chairman as soon as possible.

Pakistan believes that further delay would hurt the country’s interests as India was working on completing the two projects. Dar said that once the projects are completed, it will be difficult to undo them.

The treaty distributed the Indus basin rivers between the two countries, giving India control over the three eastern rivers of Beas, Ravi and Sutlej, while Pakistan has the three western rivers of Indus, Chenab and Jhelum.

The treaty empowers the World Bank to arbitrate any water dispute between India and Pakistan.

Last week, Kim in a letter to the Finance Ministers of India and Pakistan, said he had decided to “pause” the bank’s arbitration and urged the two neighbours to decide by the end of January how they wanted to settle the dispute.

Pakistan asked the bank to appoint the chairman of the Court of Arbitration while India demanded the appointment of a neutral expert.

Kim said he was “pausing” arbitration to protect the Indus Waters Treaty, which has successfully resolved previous disputes between the two neighbours.

Tension over the water dispute intensified in November when Prime Minister Narendra Modi post the Uri attack which claimed the lives of 19 soldiers, said: “Blood and water cannot flow at the same time.”

First Published On : Dec 27, 2016 14:35 IST

Mishap averted as Indigo, SpiceJet aircraft come face-to-face at IGI in Delhi

Mishap averted as Indigo, SpiceJet aircraft come face-to-face at IGI in Delhi

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New Delhi: A major mishap was averted in Delhi at the Indira Gandhi International (IGI) airport on Tuesday after an Indigo and a SpiceJet aircraft came face-to-face on the runway.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

“An Indigo flight 6C-729 which was coming from Lucknow to Delhi with 176 passengers on board, post landing on the taxi way saw a SpiceJet aircraft in front of it,” Indigo spokesperson Ajay Jesra told IANS.

“The incident occurred on Tuesday morning and the matter has been reported to Air Traffic Control (ATC) and the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA),” Jesra said.

According to officials, the DGCA has ordered a probe into the incident.

First Published On : Dec 27, 2016 11:14 IST

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Shelling-proof bunkers to protect civilians in Jammu

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>India is constructing underground bunkers in the border villages of Jammu as a life saving measure for the civilians to duck the Pakistani shelling.The move comes amid Pakistani forces’ new tactics of shelling in the civilian areas to instill fear among the local population. More than 12 civilians have been killed and over 80 others have been injured in Pakistani firing and shelling on the border villages in the Jammu division since the Indian army carried out surgical strikes on the terror launch pads in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir on September 29. Around 18 soldiers have also been killed by Pakistan army and Rangers along the Line of Control (LoC) and the International Border (IB) in Jammu and Kashmir since surgical strikes.More than 87 critical villages have been identified along the LoC and the IB in Jammu district where the government has put the construction of the shelling-proof underground bunkers on fast track.”All the 87 critical villages have been given at least one bunker. We need at least five bunkers in one critical village. In the second round two more bunkers will be given to each critical village”, Simrandeep Singh, district development commissioner, Jammu, told DNA.Constructed at the cost of Rs 4.5 crore under two different government projects, the underground bunkers are being built in such a manner that those could withstand the shells and mortars fired by Pakistani forces.”These are shelling proof bunkers constructed inside the villages. They have double RCC slab which is covered with lot of earth. Each bunker can accommodate 20 people. During the recent cross border shelling 80 people had taken shelter in one bunker,” said Singh.Jammu and Kashmir government has set January 20 deadline for the completion of the bunkers in the first phase. “Around 97 bunkers are to be constructed under two projects, of which 80 have been completed so far. Rest of the 17 bunkers will be completed by January 20”, said Singh.Figures reveal that there are 35,000 to 40,000 people living in the villages which are the worst affected by the shelling from Pakistan. “During shelling, some of the villagers flee their homes for safety. However, some stay back to look after their cattle and other property. Those who stay back can use these bunkers. It is a safety measure because their houses may not be shelling proof”, he said.

2016 in review: Do you have what it takes to go for this really really really difficult Firstpost quiz?

2016 in review: Do you have what it takes to go for this really really really difficult Firstpost quiz?

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From Modi’s demonetisation politics to Rio Olympics, how closely have you been following news this year? Test your knowledge here.

First Published On : Dec 26, 2016 17:32 IST

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PAK 142 4 50.5

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BAN 264 9 44.5

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India-Pakistan ties on a downward path one year after Narendra Modi’s surprise visit to Lahore

On Christmas 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave one of the biggest surprises in India’s diplomatic history, when he chose to have a stopover at Lahore to personally wish his Pakistan counterpart Nawaz Sharif on his 66th birthday and also attend his granddaughter’s wedding at his palatial house at Raiwind. Exactly a year later, all that Modi did to wish Sharif was a tweet:

The tweet may be an indicator of the deterioration in the bilateral ties between the two countries. Soon after the surprise visit last Christmas, the Pathankot Air Force station was attacked on 2 January. In a gunbattle with security forces, four militants, who allegedly entered the area in army fatigues, were gunned down. The Indian Air Force lost three of its personnel. United Jihad Council claimed responsibility for the attack.

India later nailed ISI’s hand in the attack, while Pakistan denied the accusations. However, after initially promising to allow a National Investigation Agency team to visit Pakistan to probe the attack, Islamabad backtracked. This was after an ISI probe team visited Pathankot, which was criticised by the Opposition.

While Pathankot probe was underway, Kulbhushan Yadav, an alleged Indian Navy officer, was arrested by Pakistani authorities on charges of spying. With this Balochistan came into the picture in the India-Pakistan bilateral ties. While India claimed he was a businessman, Pakistan alleged he was spying on the behalf of RAW in Balochistan and Karachi.

The decline in the bilateral ties hastened after Hizbul Mujahideen militant Burhan Wani was killed in an encounter in Kashmir. His killing led to widespread unrest across the valley, with the security forces imposing curfew which remained enforced till October. It gave Pakistan a chance to raise the issue of India’s alleged human rights violations in the state.

On 10 August, Sharif held a cabinet meeting to discuss the Kashmir unrest, with the cabinet deciding to internationalise the issue. The meeting observed that “Kashmir remains an unfinished agenda of the United Nations and accordingly India must realise that Kashmir is not its internal matter, rather it is a matter of regional and international concern”.

PM Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif in Lahore on 25 December 2015. PTI

PM Narendra Modi and Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif in Lahore on 25 December 2015. PTI

With the unrest in Kashmir, Modi invoked the alleged human rights violations in Balochistan and Gilgit Baltistan during his Independence Day address to the nation. The reference made Pakistan to claim that this proved its contention that India has been allegedly “fomenting terrorism” in the province.

Sharif chose to hit back at India during his address to the United Nations General Assembly.

Sharif said, “Peace and normalisation between Pakistan and India cannot be achieved without a resolution of the Kashmir dispute. This is an objective evaluation, not a partisan position.”
“Our predictions have now been confirmed by events. A new generation of Kashmiris has risen spontaneously against India’s illegal occupation — demanding freedom from occupation. Burhan Wani, the young leader murdered by Indian forces, has emerged as the symbol of the latest Kashmiri Intifada, a popular and peaceful freedom movement, led by Kashmiris, young and old, men and women, armed only with an undying faith in the legitimacy of their cause, and a hunger for freedom in their hearts.”

Rebutting Sharif, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj told the gathering at the UNGA that Pakistan had been ignoring the human rights violation in Balochistan. “In the last two years, in exchange of our friendship, we got Pathankot, Uri, Bahadur Ali. Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India and it will remain so, she added.

India strongly condemned the reference to the slain militant and criticised Islamabad silence over the recent Uri attack. Speaking at the UN, India’s First Secretary Eenam Gambhir, called Pakistan a host to the “Ivy League of terrorism” and urged the world community to declare Pakistan a “terrorist state”.

Uri attack, which India referred to after Sharif’s speech at the UN, took place on 18 September. Heavily armed militants stormed a battalion headquarters of the Army in North Kashmir’s Uri town in the wee hours, killing 17 jawans and injuring 19 other personnel. Four militants were also neutralised. Fingers were pointed once again at Pakistan.

With the clamour for avenging Uri, India conducted “surgical strikes” over terror launchpads in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. The strikes — refuted by Pakistan, which even sent journalists to the area where the attack allegedly took place — escalated tensions on the border, with Pakistan even capturing an Indian soldier.

Three months after the attack by India’s special commandos, cross-border firing between the two countries is still going on.

Meanwhile, India decided to turn on the heat on the diplomatic front. Modi called Pakistan the “mothership’ of terrorism” during his address at the Brics Summit at Goa in October.

In the Goa Declaration, the five member countries of Brics asked all countries to prevent terrorist actions from their soil. It called for expeditious adoption of the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT) by the UN to tackle the problem and step up practical cooperation against terrorism.

The member countries also condemned the recent attacks against some Brics countries, including that in India. “We agreed to strengthen cooperation in combating international terrorism both at the bilateral level and at international fora,” the Goa Declaration issued at the end of the summit said.

India also pulled out of the Saarc Summit, which was scheduled to be held in Islamabad. The refusal to participate, along with several other member-states, citing Pakistan’s sponsorship of terrorism, led to it being delayed indefinitely.

The Modi government took another step to rein in Pakistan, threatening to abrogate the World Bank- assisted Indus Waters Treaty. Modi is reported to have told a meeting convened on this issue, “Blood and water can’t flow together”. Pakistan reacted to this news sharply.

“India set to wage war against Pakistan,” screamed a headline of a Pakistani newspaper, The Nation

Shireen Mazari, former journalist and leader of Pakistan-Tehreek-e-Insaf party, went to the extent of saying that India’s “suspension of the treaty” was the first step towards declaring (a real) war against Pakistan. Speaking in Pakistan’s National Assembly on Monday, she demanded an immediate response to India from Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

The Indus Waters Treaty has now become a major bone of contention between the two countries now, with the World Bank urging both countries to sort out their issues through alternative means.

Clearly, it seems relations between the two nations have gone downhill in the last one year. With a new army chief in Rawalpindi and India acting tough on terrorism post the surgical strikes, relations might remain tense in 2017.

With inputs from agencies

First Published On : Dec 26, 2016 13:48 IST

AIR plans special Punjabi service for Pakistan Punjab

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Hoping to bring Pakistani Punjabis closer, reach out to the wider Punjabi diaspora and also counter neighbour Pakistan’s radio penetration in its territory, India is planning a special radio service in Punjabi.The cleverly named Des Punjab, or country Punjab, which sends out the message of cultural oneness, will be implemented by India’s national broadcaster All India Radio (AIR), a senior official told DNA.At present, a 20 KW FM transmitter installed in the Punjab border district of Fazilka carries AIR’s Urdu service for listeners in the region. Although it covers a radius of 80 km, has a penetration of up to 68 km inside Pakistan and caters to nearly 36 lakh Pakistani listeners, it misses its target as most of the audience speaks Punjabi.”So, instead of carrying on with the Urdu service, AIR has plans to revitalise its existing internal Punjabi language channel from Jalandhar and broadcast it from Fazilka. The idea is to bring the once undivided Punjab closer and make it a medium for the Punjabi diaspora across the world while countering the popularity of Pakistan’s radio channels in India’s border areas, broadcast from Okara and Lahore,” an official explained.The same Punjabi service can also be broadcast from the Amritsar tower once it is commissioned.A 20 KW FM transmitter installed at Amritsar can reach Lahore, about 30 km away, as well as Pakistan’s Gujranwala and Sialkot areas, where people are predominantly Punjabi speaking.The current Urdu service includes programmes highlighting India’s point of view on Kashmir, countering claims on India made by Pakistan media, discussions on “India’s secular values” as well as entertainment programmes on music, art and heritage. The Punjabi service bulletins will have similar content, sources said.Similar initiatives will be taken in other regions bordering Pakistan. A total of 88 transmitters will be installed across the borders. Some work on this is already underway with other FM transmitters in the process of being installed in Himbotingla in Ladakh region, Naushera in Poonch district, Patnitok in Udhampur as well as in Uri, Kargil, Amritsar, the Chautan hill in Rajasthan border and the Gujarat-Bhuj border.Many of these border areas are already covered by medium wave and short wave transmitters. This includes Kargil which offers a much longer range than FM transmitters. However, the transmission through medium wave transmitters is not clear; they are getting old and worn out and there is severe shortage of spare parts.”While FM transmitters would cater to smaller distance as compared to the existing medium wave and short wave transmitters, they would be more effective with clearer transmission. It will also ensure better reach with most people accessing FM radio on their mobile phones,” an official said.

Pakistan releases 220 Indian fishermen in goodwill gesture, expects India to ‘reciprocate’

Pakistan released 220 Indian fishermen on Sunday as a goodwill gesture aimed at easing tensions with its neighbour, officials said.

The men were arrested more than a year ago, accused of entering Pakistani waters in an area of the Arabian Sea where the border is unclear.

An image from August 2015, when another batch of Indian fishermen was released from prison, in Pakistan. Reuters

An image from August 2015, when another batch of Indian fishermen was released from prison, in Pakistan. Reuters

India is also holding Pakistani fishermen for the same reason and Pakistan hopes its gesture — on the birthday of the nation’s father, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, which coincides with Christmas Day — will be reciprocated.

“We have total of 518 Indian fishermen out of which 220 are being released today as a goodwill gesture of the Pakistan government. In the next phase, 219 fishermen will be released on 5 January,” Shunail Husain Shah, a police assistant superintendent, told Reuters.

Relations between the nuclear-armed neighbours have been more fraught than usual since a crackdown by Indian forces on dissent in Indian-controlled Kashmir began in July. In September militants killed 18 soldiers at an Indian army base, an attack New Delhi blamed on Pakistan.

“We appreciate Pakistan’s goodwill gesture of releasing Indian fishermen, but we expect a similar reciprocal move by India, 156 Pakistani fishermen including 13 children are languishing in Indian jails,” Muhammad Ali Shah, president of Pakistan Fisher Folk, a fishermen’s rights body, told Reuters.

The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea states that fishermen who cross territorial waters can be warned and fined but not arrested, and Shah called on both countries to respect that.

One of the fishermen being released, who goes by the single name Naresh, told Reuters: “I am very happy, looking forward to meet my family back in Gujarat. We were treated nicely here, I will request the Indian government release the detained Pakistani fishermen as well.”

First Published On : Dec 25, 2016 21:28 IST

Pakistan wants World Bank to ‘fulfil its obligations’ regarding the Indus Water Treaty

Sun, 25 Dec 2016-09:08pm , Islamabad , PTI
<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Pakistan has asked the World Bank to “fulfil its obligations” regarding the Indus Water Treaty as it objected to the body pausing two concurrent processes related to Indo-Pak dispute over Kishenganga and Ratle project.Pakistan Finance Minister Ishaq Dar in a letter to World Bank President Jim Yong Kim said the Treaty does not provide for a situation wherein a party can “pause” performance of its obligations under the accord. Dar said the World Bank’s decision to pause the process of empanelment of the Court of Arbitration will seriously prejudice Pakistan’s interests and rights under the Indus Waters Treaty 1960. “It (the letter) strongly conveys that the matter of appointment of a Chairman of the Court of Arbitration has been inordinately delayed. It urged the World Bank to execute its obligations under the Indus Waters Treaty,” Radio Pakistan reported.Dar said the “pause” will merely prevent Pakistan from approaching a competent forum and having its grievances addressed. The letter is a response to Kim’s letter of December 12 in which he announced this pause to “protect the Indus Waters Treaty and to help India and Pakistan consider alternative approaches to resolving conflicting interests under the Treaty and its application to two hydroelectric power plants”.India had taken strong exception last month to the World Bank’s decision to set up a Court of Arbitration and appoint a Neutral Expert to go into Pakistan’s complaint against it over Kishenganga and Ratle hydroelectric projects in Jammu and Kashmir.

Watch: Sarabjit Singh’s sister Dalbir Kaur joins BJP ahead of Punjab elections

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Dalbir Kaur, the sister of Sarabjit Singh, who died in a Pakistan jail in 2013, joined the BJP on Sunday. “She joined the party in the presence of BJP MLA and Punjab Minister Surjit Jyani at a conference organised by the party’s Kisan Morcha here,” Punjab BJP Kisan Morcha general secretary Gurwinder Singh said in Fazilka.When asked by reporters, Kaur confirmed that she had joined the BJP. Kaur had grown close to the BJP even in 2005, during her struggle to get her brother out of jail, and there were reports of her joining the party.Sarabjit died following an attack on him by inmates of a Lahore prison in April 2013. He was convicted for terrorism and spying by a Pakistani court and sentenced to death in 1991. However, the government stayed his execution for an indefinite period in 2008. Meanwhile, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh could not attend the Kisan Morcha’s conference because of inclement weather.

PM Narendra Modi greets Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif on 66th birthday

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday greeted his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif on his 66th birthday.

Narendra Modi and Nawaz Sharif. PTINarendra Modi and Nawaz Sharif. PTI

Narendra Modi and Nawaz Sharif. PTI

“Birthday wishes to Pakistan PM Mr. Nawaz Sharif. I pray for his long and healthy life,” Modi tweets.

The Prime Minister wished Sharid, right after greeting the nation on the ocassion of Christmas.

“Merry Christmas! We remember and celebrate the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. His message of peace, unity and compassion inspires us all,” the Prime Minsiter said in his Christmas tweet.

Modi then wished Atal Bihari Vajpayee on the occasion of his 91st birthday in a series of tweets along with a video of the two leaders together.

“Wishing our most beloved and widely respected Atal ji a happy birthday. I pray that he is blessed with good health and a long life,” he tweeted.

“Atal ji’s exemplary service and leadership has had a very positive impact on India’s growth trajectory. His great personality is endearing,” Modi added.

First Published On : Dec 25, 2016 12:01 IST

Indus Water Treaty: Pakistan urges World Bank to fulfill its obligation

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Pakistan in a letter has urged the World Bank to fulfill its role regarding the Indus Water Treaty (IWT) and move ahead with the appointment of a Chairman of the Court of Arbitration.The letter written by Finance Minister Ishaq Dar to World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim, was in response to the latter’s letter of December 12 and their decision to pause the process of empanelment of the Court of Arbitration, reports the Radio Pakistan.Dar, said in his letter, that this decision of the World Bank will seriously prejudice Pakistan’s interests and rights under the Indus Waters Treaty 1960.The letter to Kim has been sent with approval of all concerned stakeholders. It strongly conveys that the matter of appointment of a Chairman of the Court of Arbitration has been inordinately delayed. It urged the World Bank to execute its obligations under the Indus Waters Treaty.The Finance Minister noted that the pause proposed by the World Bank President will merely prevent Pakistan from approaching a competent forum and having its grievances addressed.The letter noted that the Indus Waters Treaty 1960 does not provide for a situation wherein a Party can “pause” performance of its obligations under the Treaty.Earlier this month, the World Bank asked both India and Pakistan to consider alternative ways to resolve their disagreements over the Indus Water Treaty Dispute 1960.The bank said it is temporarily halting the appointment of a neutral expert as requested by India, and the Chairman of the Court of Arbitration, as requested by Pakistan, to resolve issues regarding two hydroelectric power plants under construction by India along the Indus Rivers system.

Pakistan to enforce conversion

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Pakistan’s Sindh Assembly which unanimously passed a Bill recommending jail term to perpetrators of forced conversion, may soon be struck down to please religious political parties.Minorities— Hindu, Sikh, Christians, Ahmadiyya, Hazara—constitute 2.3 million of the Muslim-majority country and continue to live in fear. The Sindh province is home to a majority of the Hindus in Pakistan. The Sindh Assembly in November passed a Bill preventing the forced conversion of minorities.The Sindh Criminal Law (Protection of Minorities) Bill-2015 proposed by Pakistan Muslim Leaugue-Functional (PML-F) parliamentarian Nand Kumar Goklani last year, recommended a five-year jail term for perpetrators and three years for facilitators of forced conversions.Under the Bill, forcibly converting a minor is also a punishable offence and gives 21 days to adults to consider their decision to convert. However, soon after the Bill was passed, hardline religious parties protested claiming that it was an attempt to make Pakistan a ‘secular’ nation and the provisions went against the spirit of Islam. The parties criticised the minimum age of 18 years for any person to change their religion and are of the view that such a law would make it difficult for members of religious minorities to adopt Islam.A furore was created by religious clerics. Farahnaz Ispahani, Author of Purifying The Land of the Pure: The History of Pakistan’s Religious Minorities said, “At any and every opportunity where the rights and protections for Pakistanis who are from religious minority groups or for women are being secured, the religious/political force of the powerful Muslim clergy is seen acting to prevent these protections.”Rising UproarAfter facing the ire of religious groups and succumbing to the threats of terrorist Hafiz Saeed who warned of a movement against the Bill, it was sent to the Governor for his assent. The Bill will now be reviewed and amended by the Assembly, without waiting for the Governor’s assent, Nisar Ahmad Khuhro, Minister for Parliamentary Affairs had said.“Hafiz Saeed’s threats are very worrying as are the threats to the lives of the Hindu and Muslim lawmakers involved with the Bill. If Saeed continues to fan the flames it will create an atmosphere of fear and violence which could derail the Bill completely,” said Ispahani. Khuhro, in his statement, referred to Verse 256 of Surah al-Baqarah of the Holy Quran (see box), according to which no person could be forced to change their religion, adding that no Muslim could think about passing a law that was against this basic tenet of Islam. The minister also said that the Sindh Assembly had only declared unlawful the act of contracting marriage below the age of 18 and for this purpose a law had been passed.The Sindh police have also warned 13 lawmakers and a bureaucrat of possible ‘harm’ by religious parties, especially to those who were in the Standing Committee on Minority Affairs in which the Bill was considered.“In my opinion, religio-political parties with little or no representation in parliament, or in this case the Sindh Assembly, cannot and must not dictate to the elected representatives of the people. Nor can the Assembly be held hostage to the will of pressure groups who have no real support among the electorate,” added Zarrar Khuhro, Pakistani journalist.Bill to revoke?Post much chaos, Pakistani media have reported that the Sindh government might consider retracting the Bill.According to Pakistan media, a Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) spokesperson has claimed that Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Co-chairman Asif Ali Zadari—also the ruling government in Sindh—has given his word to JI chief Sirajul Haq that the Bill will be struck down. Associated Reporters Abroad Pakistan correspondent, Naila Inayat calls it shameful that progressive political parties such as PPP are succumbing under pressure. “The Bill was being seen as a major relief to the minorites in Sindh, especially the Hindu community, which has been complaining of forced conversion, abduction and marriages.” Referring to data from Pakistan Hindu Council and Movement for Solidarity and Peace, Naila points out that four girls are converted to Islam girls converted each year.With no concrete changes to the Bill yet, the fate of minorities remains uncertain.”The ‘otherization’ of people of other faiths or Muslim sects that have been rejected by the orthodoxy has been seen repeatedly and increasingly in Sindh and all over Pakistan,” said Ispahani.

Pakistani Hindus can now avail Indian citizenship at Rs 100

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The registration fees for Hindus and other minority community people from three neighbouring countries, including Pakistan, as Indian citizens have been drastically reduced to as low as Rs 100 from Rs 15,000. In a gazette notification, the Home Ministry said the new rules will be applicable to minority communities- Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians- from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and living in India on Long Term Visa.However, for minority community people from countries other than the three, the fees will be Rs 10,000 for registration in India and Rs 15,000 if registered elsewhere. The changes have been made after amending various provisions of the Citizenship Rules 2009.The new rules also allow the minority members from the neighbouring countries to take oath of allegiance as an Indian citizen in front of Sub-Divisional Magistrate, in case of absence of Collector, Deputy Commissioner or District Magistrate.Welcoming the move, Hindu Singh Sodha, Chairman of the Seemant Lok Sangthan, a voluntary organisation fighting for the rights of the refugees, said the decision has come as a huge relief for minorities belonging to the neighbouring countries. “We had been demanding for delegating the citizenship powers of the District Collectors and reduction in the application fee to just Rs 100 per application for these poor people since long. “We are delighted that after series of meetings, our demand was honoured by the Home Ministry,” Sodha said.

You can’t make foreign policy based on domestic political issues: Shivshankar Menon

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Your book talks about choices and a remarkable continuity of foreign policy during the tenure of three PMs – PV Narasimha Rao, Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh. In your assessment, does this continuity still exist? And how necessary is continuity for the country’s foreign policy?I think all these three PMs had a similar approach to foreign policy. Their goal was to transform India, to make it a modern state. Also because that was a particular period when globalisation, open international trade and economics dominated the scene. Now the context has changed. But in practice, fundamentals of policy have remained the same. If you look at what this government has been doing – towards US, China, Russia and Pakistan, it has tried similar policies. But because the context has changed, the results were different. Today when you see tensions in relations with China, stress in relations with Pakistan, it is partly due to the changed context. Their behaviour has changed. We are at a very delicate stage as far as our foreign policy is concerned. I don’t think we can go on doing what we had always done.You have a history of dealing with China in the Indian foreign policy setup. Since relations with China warmed up in 1988, there had ensued an era of peace and tranquillity. Is there a shift in India’s dealings with China now? Should we attribute it to Chinese resurgence or India’s confrontationist attitude? What has happened with China is that the modus vivendi which we had worked out and formalised at the highest level when Rajiv Gandhi visited and which lasted for 30 years has changed. Our understanding was that we would discuss our differences, the boundary question, etc but we would not allow them to impede normal relations. We did trade, we did exchanges. We now have $72 billion trade; we cooperated where we could externally at the WTO Doha round, climate change, etc. That modus vivendi has broken down. Both countries have also changed.For instance, when we started economic reforms, the share of external economy (merchandise trade) to the GDP was a mere 14% . By 2014, it was 49.3%. Now that means our dependence on the external world is more. Today we have a real interest in freedom of navigation in South China Sea. China also has real interest in South China Sea. But that is a new phenomena. Both are major trading nations and it is in the interest of both to keep the sea lanes free and open. China says they are our waters. So there is an issue. You need to recalibrate the relationship. Look at China’s relationship with Pakistan today. In 1996, President Jiang Zemin told the Pakistani National Assembly that you should do with India what we do. Discuss differences, but do not let it affect the rest. Today it is reverse. China is investing $46 billion in Gwadar and the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). There is a problem today. Only thing we can do is sit together and discuss how we can respect each other’s core interests. And if they overlap or there are differences, how to manage them.Recently US President Elect Donald Trump announced that his administration would walk away from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement, which means abandoning the Asian pivot as well, of which India was sheet anchor. How will it affect Indian interests?Trump has come to power on a pledge to disengage from the rest of the world, which we may call deglobalisation. On the TPP he always said he would not support it. But it is too early to say how it is going to work out. Trump has already surprised people by speaking to the Taiwanese leadership. He has the potential to be quite disruptive, but politicians don’t always implement what they promise during campaigns. Let us see.Why is India making an issue of the South China Sea when it is nowhere close to its neighbourhood? Especially as other East Asian countries bordering it are locked in security and economic partnership with China and brokering peace.I don’t think we are in confrontation. Some years ago, we had offered China a dialogue on maritime security, which would include all these issues such as our interests in the South China Sea and the Chinese presence in the Indian Ocean region. They are also interested in freedom of navigation in the Indian Ocean. Their oil also comes through Hormuz and Malacca Straits. We have new issues at hand. We need to discuss, obviously, the CPEC. Different countries have coped in different ways with the rise of China and with the change in balance of power they see around them. For us, Look East was a response to this, and now it has transformed into Act East.Can you bring some clarity to ‘One Belt One Road’ (OBOR), of which CPEC is also part. Does it make sense for India to stay out?My own personal view is that as long as the road is open for everybody to use and is in your interest to promote trade and commerce, there is no harm. If parts of OBOR work for you, use them. The parts which don’t work, and are actually offensive to your interests like CPEC, as it goes thorough Indian territory, you should oppose quite clearly. Other bits like ports, railways or pipelines that serve India’s interests , use them. But we must insist that the initiative is open to everybody and not exclusive; that no conditions are attached to it and is purely an economic initiative.The CPEC frankly doesn’t make economic sense. I read in Chinese newspapers that the pipeline along CPEC carrying oil will be 16.6 times more expensive than carrying oil by sea or by another road to China. It doesn’t make any economic sense, keeping in view the transport and railways passing through the world’s highest mountains and most insecure and difficult terrain. The port of Gwadar is next to Karachi. With all these factors, the immediate suspicion would be that it is for other purposes like military and strategic purposes, to project power in the Indian Ocean. So for me, CPEC is a problem. Indian government has made it clear why it has reservations about it.But if CPEC or OBOR aids development of the region, isn’t that in India’s interest?Again, if it works for the people, for development, we should use it. Look, we could run a bus between Srinagar and Muzaffarbad across the line, in the most heavily militarised territory with all the backlog of politics and whatever. You can find ways to make people’s lives easier. That is the responsibility of governments. But that doesn’t mean you give up your stand. Governments should not make people’s lives difficult.Coming back to the Sino-Indian border dispute, is there really a dispute? As per old census records, in 1891 the area of Jammu and Kashmir was 80,900 sq miles; in 1911 some 84,258 sq miles; in 1941, it came down to 82,258 sq miles and suddenly as the border dispute arose in 1961, the area was raised to 86,024 sq miles. Why these discrepancies and the logic behind the suddenly increased area?The fact is that until 1954, Survey of India maps used to show the border in the Western sector with Aksai Chin as an undefined border. At different stages people had different ideas. From our side there might have been a lack of precision. But let me tell you there was absolutely no Chinese presence in the region till 1950. By then they had come to Tibet and not to the border. We were consistent after that. Frankly, as I describe in the book, China manufactured a case. They didn’t say they had a problem until January 1959. I think you need to look at both sides. We were a new government; it took us time to figure out.But A. G. Noorani in his book, India-China Boundary Problem, has documented that under Jawaharlal Nehru, old maps were discarded and burned at the Ministry of External Affairs to create a case for a border dispute?You need to look at what happened in a context. This is why foreign policy is about choices. If you look at newly Independent India, there were plenty of problems – looking at refugee issues, the consequences of Partition, fighting a war in Kashmir with Pakistan, trying to integrate the states till 1958, etc. The settling of border issue was not number one priority in those conditions. The remarkable thing is that Nehru turned his attention to these problems and attended to them in the middle of all the things that were on his plate. I think it was remarkable. He showed the sense of history and the importance of these things. It is wrong to then say why they did this, why they didn’t do that. That would be unfair.The acid test of our foreign policy has been dealing with Pakistan. You seem too pessimistic that nothing can happen on that front. Frankly there are intuitional and structural issues in Pakistan that don’t allow it to have a normal , stable and predictable relationship with us. For me that is the root of the problem. We tried repeatedly and we had come quite close many times like in 2005. It is not that we don’t know solutions. We know how to move forward. But there are very strong forces, as I have mentioned in the book. We are actually dealing with many Pakistans. The ordinary Pakistan that includes civilians, businessmen, politicians have no animosity towards India. They are friendly. We spent three years there, made a lot of friends. As a family we were very happy there. But that is not all of Pakistan. There is the Pakistan of the establishment, of the ISI, jihadi organisations, religious right, etc. They have their own views. I don’t think they will permit a normal stable relationship. As long as they have power, as they have in the present chaos in Pakistan, they will not allow a relationship to grow. That is the source of my pessimism. I believe we should deal with different Pakistans differently.Is there a possibility of creating a constituency for peace?We cannot affect the balance of forces within Pakistan. We cannot structure Pakistan. Some world powers have tried , but failed. I am relatively pessimistic in the short term. In the long run, if one starts being rational towards your own interest, it will make peace. But there re are elements there which are very powerful, who will not permit it in today’s circumstances. That is why I am pessimistic.The peace process, you mention under your supervision which had reached a stage of breakthrough had devised a way to find a people centric rather a territory centric solution. Is there any way to pick up threads?Exactly, Dr. Manmohan Singh used to say make border irrelevant and minimise hardships to people. Yes, we did find ways. Whether it was bus, trade across the LoC. But resistance is there. It is a battle that has to be fought every time. I am sure we can reconnect threads. But the primary block is configuration of forces within Pakistan.You held the top security post in the country as NSA after a wealth of experience in foreign affairs, especially so in the neighbourhood. Does unpredictability in foreign policy help achieve goals?If you look at India as an actor, we have grown from the 10th largest economy to 3rd largest economy in the world from Vajpayee’s time. We have an interest in the way the world works. We did well out of globalisation. We are reformers. I cannot say that the present world order is perfect or ideal. But we have done well out of it recently. Now unpredictability is an insurgent tactic. It is a tactic for those who want to draw attention. India doesn’t have that problem. You have a challenge in running the system . For me unpredictability is a tactic, which captains and majors do. Yes deception, surprise, and shock at tactical level can work. But when it comes to strategy, unpredictability is not a good thing. People should know your red lines and core interests. You were the custodian of India’s nuclear arsenal as well. The element of unpredictability in our nuclear doctrine has not worked well. It has not even deterred or helped us change the security system to our advantage.What was our nuclear weapons designed for – it was to deter people from threatening us. That has worked. It was never designed to be used in wars or to stop terrorism. If you start saying nuclear weapon should do all these functions, then you say it has failed. But for me it has succeeded for its declared purpose. They are not war fighting weapons. You know the affect they can have. And with Pakistan, frankly in our case there is a three minute warning time. We are next door to each other. If you are bombing Pakistan, you are bombing yourself keeping in view the direction of winds etc. You have mentioned in the book, that when you went to meet Left leaders, they had congratulated you for the conclusion of Indo-US nuclear deal. But later they opposed it to the extent of attempting to bring down the Manmohan Singh government?We had met all the 12 conditions as laid down in public. They never expected it. They were surprised. Every party, not only the Left, later took position keeping in view their domestic constituencies and political calculations.Political argument was that you are becoming allies of the US. They took positions that suited them domestically . See the BJP, when they were in power previously, they started it. When they were in Opposition, they opposed it. And when they are back in power, they again started it.Increasingly foreign policy issues are being played in domestic politics. Is that tying the hands of governments to devise a long-term and an effective foreign policy?Let me put it in this way. Foreign policy has always been part of domestic politics in India. Pakistan policy has always been. If you look at China policy, Vajpayee made a reputation during his initial days by raising issues related to China. Through the 60s policy towards US has always been divisive . That is good. You must debate what is good for you. But today, foreign policy is being used for domestic proposes for the first time to an extent that it is worrying. You must determine foreign policy to India’s interest and not to a political party’s interest or a leader’s interest or a government’s interest. That is why I have mentioned that when we did the boundary agreement with China, Narasimha Rao insisted on going to talk to all Opposition leaders, right through the negotiations. You are doing India’s work, not Rao’s work or Congress party’s work. Discussion and dialogue are necessary, but I don’t think you make foreign policy on the basis of domestic political issues.You drafted much criticised Sharm ul Sheikh joint statement with Pakistan, which for the first time mentioned Baluchistan. Do you feel vindicated now, since this government has taken up the issue so vigorously?(Laughs) Well, I feel like laughing. But what can I say? I studied history in university. So I have taken the view that in the long run history will take a better view of these things. It was a moment, there was great optimism for a breakthrough. Criticism of this statement was aimed at addressing domestic politics. There was not a word about Kashmir in that statement. That was unprecedented. After the statement was issued, Pak PM Yusuf Raza Geelan came out of the room and on the stairs, the whole Pakistani media attacked him. And you should have seen his face, he was shaken. But when attacks started in India, then they thought it is Pakistan’s victory. Nobody had time for substance. As I said, everyone had their own agendas . It is interesting how history works. We were criticised for bringing the issue of Baluchistan in India-Pakistan discourse. But now they think, it is an important element in the discourse.

China urges India to accept Pakistan’s ‘olive branch’, join CPEC

Beijing: 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”.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

“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.

It 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.

First Published On : Dec 23, 2016 13:32 IST

Sixteen years since LeT attacked Red Fort: All you need to know about the terror attack

From Jawaharlal Nehru’s historic “At the stroke of midnight” speech on India’s independence day in 1947 to Narendra Modi‘s fiery “India will not bow before terrorism” address, Delhi’s Red Fort has always been witness to the greatest moments in Indian history. It has borne the marks of time and watched centuries of change sweep through the country.

But 16 years ago, it was on this day that the premises of the majestic fort were shaken up by gunshots, as Lashkar-e-Taiba militants shelled the military shelter inside the fort, killing two soldiers and one civilian.

The historic Red Fort is pictured in the old quarters of Delhi, India. Reuters

The historic Red Fort in the old quarters of Delhi, India. Reuters

The assault and the conspiracy

On a winter evening on 22 December, 2000, LeT militants sneaked into the Red Fort on the pretext of watching the light-and-sound show that retells the tale of the historic structure. According to a report in The Hindusix militants, with their arms hidden under leather jackets, entered the Red Fort around 7 pm through the Lahore Gate, the main entrance to the historic structure. They headed to watch the show scheduled for 7:30 pm. However, they later sneaked into the military shelters under the cover of darkness and fog.

According to another report in The Times of India, around 9 pm, the militants started firing indiscriminately on the guards of seventh battalion of Rajputana Rifles, killing two soldiers and a civilian guard. The militants then escaped through the Fort’s rear wall.

According to the report, the conspiracy was hatched in Pakistan and funded by top LeT operatives. The report further states that funds were transferred to terrorists through a Delhi-based hawala account operator, who was later nabbed by the Delhi police.

The Hindu report states that the prime accused, Ashfaq Ahmed, set up his base in India and opened a computer centre in Gaffur market as a cover for his activities. He then contacted five other terrorists — Abu Samal, Abu Sadd, Abu Sakhar, Billal and Haider, and set them up at a rented house in Delhi’s Batla House area. The terrorists did a recce of the Red Fort, it being a prominent tourist spot.

Ashfaq was later nabbed by the Delhi police based on some notes recovered from behind the Red Fort, according to the report.

The militants, the report states, had come to India on the behest of Pakistan’s intelligence wing ISI in 2000. The prime accused Ashfaq Ahmed, lodged at Tihar jail since 2000, came to India and married Rehmana Yousuf Farooqui, a girl of Indian origin. Rehmana was also arrested as she was reportedly in full knowledge of Ashfaq’s plan and assisted him. Another militant was later killed in an encounter on 26 December.

The legal battle

The Delhi police, after conducting an enquiry in the matter, finally filed a chargesheet against Ashfaq and 21 others in February 2001. However, the special sessions court hearing the matter framed charges only against 11, including Ashfaq and Rehmana, according to a report in Hindustan Times. The court sentenced Ashfaq to death, while his four accomplices, including his wife, were give seven years in prison. Two more militants convicted in the case were given a life term.

Ashfaq later approached the Delhi High Court against the verdict. The high court, however, upheld the lower court’s verdict and ruled that life sentences should be awarded to Ashfaq for waging a war against the country and murdering three people.

In a rare move, the Supreme Court put Ashfaq’s death sentence on hold in April 2014, according to Live Mint. Ashfaq appealed in the apex court that he has already served 13 years in prison, and the death sentence awarded to him would therefore be akin to a double punishment for one crime. He also petitioned that he had been suffering mentally and physically due to the long delays in judicial proceedings.

The apex court’s move was deemed rare as it had, in August 2011, upheld the sentence awarded by the sessions court and termed the attack on Red Fort as a “brazen and arrogant assault to overawe India”.

However, the Supreme Court in January 2016, took cognisance of Ashfaq’s appeal and has admitted his plea for a hearing. The Constitutional bench led by Chief Justice of India TS Thakur, hearing the matter, emphasised the finality of the death sentence and agreed to an open court hearing on why his punishment should be reversed, according to a report in The Indian Express.

As of now, Ashfaq is lodged at Tihar, and is awaiting the Supreme Court’s order on his fate.

First Published On : Dec 22, 2016 21:04 IST

Manmohan Singh exposing his own misdeeds, says PM Modi

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday took a potshot at the former prime minister Manmohan Singh for his disagreement over demonetization, saying that by raising objections, the latter is exposing his own misdeeds.”When I said things can be managed without cash in the pocket, the former prime minister said how can this be implemented in a country where 50 percent of the people are poor?Now tell me, if he is showing me his report card or mine? This legacy of poor has been provided by whom? I am happy that he has shown his own report card,” said Prime Minister Modi while speaking at the foundation ceremony of Mahamana Pt. Madan Mohan Malviya Cancer Centre here.The Prime Minister then shifted his focus towards former finance minister P. Chidambaram and sarcastically said the latter believes a cashless economy cannot come into form as more than 50 percent of the Indian villages do not have electricity, adding that this was doings of the former regime.”Chidambaram said in 50% of our villages there is no electricity, so how will a cashless economy take shape. Now tell me, have I de-electrified the villages. While criticising Modi, they are presenting their own report card,” said Prime Minister Modi.Commenting on Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, the Prime Minister said his speech held no relevance.”Since the time he has learnt how to speak, there is no extent to my happiness. Till 2009, there was no clue as to what is inside the packet (Gandhi). Better that he started speaking, at least we came to know that there is no scope of earthquake occurring,” said Modi.The Prime Minister opined that the opposition’s criticism is actually benefitting them, because by doing so they re exposing themselves and the ‘black heart’ of people is coming to light, in front of people.”Even they don’t know what they are doing. But it is good, because somebody’s black money is getting exposed and somebody’s ‘black mind’ (kaala mann) is uncovered.”Appreciating the support extended by the common man during the period of cash crunch, the Prime Minister said, “I want to tell the leaders of the nation, that we believe in the power of the 125 crore citizens. It is an exemplary example that the citizens are suffering so much, not for their own benefit, but for the nation’s development.”Lashing out at those who criticised the surgical strike and raised questions on the integrity of the armed forces, Prime Minister Modi said the army makes the nation proud, but still people doubt their bravery.”The soldiers go to Pakistan keeping their lives at stake and come back alive but some people have problem with even this,” he said.”Is it good to view institutions like this,” he added.

UN Chief Ban Ki-moon asks India, Pakistan to resolve differences through dialogue

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Outgoing UN chief Ban Ki-moon has asked India and Pakistan to resolve their differences through dialogue and exercise restraint as he maintained his concern over the increase in tensions between the two neighbours along the Line of Control in recent months.The Secretary-General, whose 10-year tenure at the world organisation’s helm will end this month, has had a “very consistent position” on the situation in Kashmir, his deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq told reporters on Wednesday in response to a question on tensions between India and Pakistan.”All I can say is the Secretary-General has had a very consistent position. One fact we expressed even just last month, which is to say that he is following with concern the increase in tensions along the Line of Control and that he urges the Governments of India and Pakistan to exercise restraint and encourages them to continue their efforts to resolve their differences peacefully and through dialogue,” Haq said.When asked by a Pakistani reporter that the Secretary- General has been “very reluctant” throughout his term to talk about the Indian-Pakistan conflict, Haq said he disagrees with such assessment. “I would disagree with you on that. We’ve had statements, including on the situations between India and Pakistan and on specifically on Kashmir. There have been statements and notes to correspondents. The last one was just a few weeks back, so I would just refer you back to those,” Haq said.In a statement issued last month, Ban had expressed deep concern about the “deterioration” of the situation along the Line of Control in Kashmir and called on all involved to prioritise the restoration of calm and stability in order to prevent any further escalation and loss of life.Ban has said that his good offices are available to India and Pakistan if “accepted by both sides”.Throughout the year, Pakistan brought up the Kashmir issue at various UN fora but its attempts to internationalise the Kashmir issue did not find resonance among the rest of the 191 member states of the UN.

DNA Morning Must Reads: Rahul’s info on ‘PM’s corruption’ turns out to be old I-T diary notings; and more

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Rahul’s info on ‘PM’s corruption’ turns out to be old I-T diary notingsThe information on Prime Minister Modi’s “personal corruption” which Gandhi finally let out after days of suspense related to the account books of Sahara and Birlas seized by the Income Tax Departments. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal told a press conference that Gandhi had brought out nothing new as he had tabled the Income Tax Department’s appraisal reports of both Sahara and Aditya Birla Groups in the Assembly showing the bribes allegedly paid to Modi in 2013 during his tenure as the Gujarat Chief Minister. Read more here.Tamil Nadu Chief Secretary in I-T net, dept recovers Rs 48 lakh in new currency notesThe search of Tamil Nadu Chief Secretary P Rama Mohana Rao’s home unearthed an estimated Rs 18 lakh in cash and gold bars. Investigators have so far recovered Rs 48 lakh in new currency notes and 17 kg gold from the premises of Rao and his relatives. Read more here.China sticks to its stand on JeM chief Masood Azhar despite NIA chargesheetIndia’s move to charge sheet Masood Azhar in the Pathankot terror attack appears to have not made much impact on China as Beijing on Thursday said any move by New Delhi to bring about a UN ban on the JeM chief must be in line with rules and procedures laid down by the Security Council. Read more here.Watch: YouTube star Adam Saleh says kicked of Delta flight for speaking ArabicA Yemeni-American YouTube star from New York, Adam Saleh, called for a boycott of Delta Airlines after charging he was removed from one of its flights on Thursday for speaking Arabic. Read more here.The reason Pakistan lifted ban on Indian filmsAs the Pakistani government has not yet given a green signal to renew the import of new Indian films, Pakistan’s movie theatres have only resumed the screening of old Bollywood films. Indian censor board chief Pahlaj Nihalani has an explanation for the lift of the ban. Read here to find out more.

California almonds new mode of terror funding in LoC trade: NIA

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>After clothes and ‘dupattas’, California almonds have emerged as the new product in cross- LoC trade in Jammu and Kashmir that are being used a mode of terror funding, according to the NIA.The NIA has registered a case in this connection and carried out searches on traders at trade facilitation centres at Salamabad in Kashmir region’s North Kashmir’s Baramulla district and Chakan-da-bagh in Poonch district of Jammu region.According to the cross-LoC trade agreement between India and Pakistan, products grown in both sides of Jammu and Kashmir will be exchanged under barter system. The products included ‘Badam giri’ that is grown in parts of Pakistan- occupied-Kashmir (PoK).During the searches, documents related to exchange of California almonds were seized by NIA and were being scrutinised, the NIA said.The traders from PoK were sending and receiving California almonds and it is alleged that the money was used for funding of terror groups in the state.The NIA said in a statement that a reliable information was received that a large scale transfer of funds from Pakistan to India has been taking place, through the import of California almonds (badam giri) via the cross-LoC trade mechanism through the trade facilitation centres located at Salamabad and Chakkan-da-Bagh.”This is in gross violation of the State policy of prohibition on trade in ‘third-party origin goods’ through this mechanism and information indicated that these funds are being used for fomenting terrorism and separatism in the state of Jammu and Kashmir,” the NIA said.A case has been registered by NIA against unknown persons under the relevant sections of IPC and Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.Earlier clothes and ‘dupatta’ (stole) were being used to finance terror in the state.

Amid row over new Army chief appointment, Lt Gen Bakshi meets Manohar Parrikar

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Lieutenant General Praveen Bakshi met Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar at the South Block in New Delhi on Wednesday in the wake of ongoing controversy surrounding the appointment of Lieutenant General Bipin Rawat as the new Army Chief.The meeting between the two came days after Lieutenant General Bakshi, who headed the Eastern Command, was superseded by Lieutenant General Rawat for the top post.The opposition has questioned the government’s decision and demanded an explanation regarding the appointment.
ALSO READ Army chief Bipin Rawat appointment: Opposition corners govt, BJP says don’t politicise The government has, however, clarified that Lieutenant General Rawat was found best suited to deal with emerging challenges including a reorganised and restructured military force in the north, continuing terrorism and proxy war from the west, and the situation in the North-East.According to Ministry of Defence (MoD) sources, Lt Gen Rawat has tremendous hands on experience of serving in combat areas and at various functional levels in the Indian Army over the last three decades. Lieutenant General Rawat is also known for his balanced approach towards soldiering, compassion and connect with the civil society.
ALSO READ Lt Gen Bipin Rawat is next Army chief, Air Marshal Birender Dhanoa to head Air ForceHe has handled various operational responsibilities in many areas including along the LoC with Pakistan, the LAC with China and in the North-East.

Pakistan collecting ‘more evidence’ from Kulbhushan Jadhav: Sartaj Aziz

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Pakistan on Wednesday said it is gathering “more evidence” from the alleged RAW spy Kulbhushan Jadhav and will share dossiers on India’s “involvement in subversive activities” with the UN.While briefing the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs here, Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz also regretted the “Indian aggression” on the Line of Control (LoC).Interrogation of Jadhav is underway and more evidences are being collected from him, he said. “Dossiers about Indian involvement in subversive activities in Pakistan will be presented before the UN and other important countries after completion of investigation from Kulbhushan Jadhav,” Radio Pakistan quoted him as saying.Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhary said there are several UN resolutions on the Kashmir dispute and that the international community should exert pressure on India for the implementation of these resolutions.He claimed 45 Pakistani civilians have been killed due to “unprovoked Indian firing” on the LoC and Islamabad has informed the UN in writing about these ‘violations’.

India renews efforts to seek UN action against LeT, JeM, their ‘shadowy supporters’

United Nations: India has renewed its demand for international action against Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terror groups and “their shadowy supporters”.

Denouncing the two organisations, whose leadership is based in Pakistan, as affiliates of Al Qaeda, India’s Permanent Representative Syed Akbaruddin told the Security Council that it was imperative to take action against the support they get from outside.

File image of Syed Akbaruddin. IBNliveFile image of Syed Akbaruddin. IBNlive

File image of Syed Akbaruddin. IBNlive

In an implied criticism of China, he blamed the “split” in the UN bodies that mete out sanctions on terrorist organisations for the world body’s inability to deal with the terrorism.

China has blocked India’s efforts to have international sanctions imposed on Pakistan-based JeM chief Masood Azhar by a committee that takes action against Al Qaeda and its affiliates. Azhar was behind the attack on the Pathankot air force base this year that left seven Indian soldiers dead.

As a member of the Security Council, China has also provided cover for Pakistan releasing on bail Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, the LeT commander who masterminded the 2008 attack on Mumbai which killed more than 160 people. He was already on the UN list of those facing sanctions as terrorists.

“We need to address, as an imperative, the support that terrorist organizations like the Taliban, Haqqani Network, Daesh, AI Qaeda and its designated affiliates such as Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Jaish-e-Mohammed which operate entirely outside the fabric of international law draw from their shadowy supporters outside Afghanistan,” Akbaruddin said.

“While the Taliban sanctions regime remains split for more than five years, the designated terrorist group makes concerted effort to capture and hold territory,” he said.

“Therefore, for numerous Afghan women, men and children there is no respite from the plague of terrorism.”

The international community has to make “it clear that we will neither roll over in the face of terror, nor will we of allow the roll back of the achievements of the resolute people and government of Afghanistan in the last decade and a half,” Akbaruddin said.

First Published On : Dec 20, 2016 14:46 IST

Efforts to isolate Pakistan? India, Bangladesh, Iran pull out of key regional conference in country: Report

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>India along with Bangladesh and Iran have pulled out of a key regional conference on sustainable development which is being held in Pakistan, according to a media report.The three-day session of the Governing Council of the Asian and Pacific Centre for Transfer of Technology (APCTT) started in Islamabad on Monday. The objective of the conference is to promote innovation for sustainable development and discus strategy of the APCTT.The Express Tribune reported officials of Ministry of Science and Technology initially confirmed New Delhi’s participation in the conference but later announced India’s decision to pull out.”Just hours before the meeting was due to start, the Indian delegation cancelled their trip saying that their head delegate had contracted food poisoning,” the official said.India had earlier in November boycotted the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) that was to be held in Islamabad.It is believed that New Delhi’s decision is part of its efforts to isolate Pakistan internationally by staying away from such multilateral engagements hosted by Islamabad, media reports said here.The Ministry of Science and Technology is hosting the meeting of the 12th Governing Council of APCTT.According to sources, all of the 14 member countries of APCTT were invited, but India, Bangladesh and Iran decided not to attend the meeting.The governing council, which meets once a year, advises on the future and reviews the working of the centre located in India under the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).The countries attending the meeting are China, Fiji, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Philippines, Samoa, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam.The meeting will approve projects to be undertaken in 2017. Out of the total five projects, India has submitted one titled ‘Feed the Future India’. The project is aimed at enhancing food security in selected least-developed countries through the establishment of an agricultural innovation accelerator platform in India with USAID funding of USD 1.5 million.The APCTT is a specialised regional Institute of the United Nations’ Economic and Social Commission for Asia and Pacific (UN-ESCAP), based in New Delhi and a team from India have come to Islamabad to look after all the management related issues for the three-day conference.

Address support for terror from outside Afghanistan: India tells UN in clear reference to Pakistan

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> In a clear reference to Pakistan providing safe havens to terror groups, India has told the UN that the international community needs to urgently address the backing outfits like the Haqqani Network, LeT and JeM draw from their “shadowy supporters” outside Afghanistan.”Experience, as well as academic research, provides ample support for the assertion that conflicts in which foreign assistance is available to shadowy entities that fight legitimate state authorities tend to be more severe and last longer than other types of conflict,” India’s Ambassador to the UN Syed Akbaruddin said in a Security Council session on the situation in Afghanistan.Without naming Pakistan, Akbaruddin said sustainable peace in Afghanistan is contingent upon terror groups and individuals being denied safe havens in the country’s neighbourhood and the international community must address the issue of the support that terror outfits like the Taliban and al-Qaeda get from their supporters outside Afghanistan.
ALSO READ Pakistan as victim & perpetrator: Different takes on terrorism in Asia”If we are to bring sustainable peace to Afghanistan, groups and individuals that perpetrate violence against the people and the government of Afghanistan must be denied safe havens and sanctuaries in Afghanistan’s neighbourhood,” he said.”We need to address, as an imperative, the support that terrorist organisations like the Taliban, Haqqani Network, Daesh, al-Qaeda and its designated affiliates such as Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Jaish-e Mohammed which operate entirely outside the fabric of international law draw from their shadowy supporters outside Afghanistan,” Akbaruddin said here yesterday.
ALSO READ Pakistan’s ‘outstanding’ issue is its support to terrorism, says India after Trump-Sharif phone callHe pointed out to the meeting in the 15-nation Council that it is apparent that efforts by nations for rebuilding institutions, infrastructure and networks in Afghanistan are being “undermined, schools are being destroyed, mosques bombarded and religious gatherings targeted”.”It is also evident that those who perpetrate these heinous crimes have survived and thrived only with support and sanctuaries on the outside,” he said, in a veiled but strong reference to Pakistan.
ALSO READ Heart of Asia declaration which named Pak-based terror outfits LeT, JeM was unanimous: Sartaj AzizAkbaruddin noted with concern that while the international community recommits to standing by the Afghan people each time the UN members discuss the situation in the war-torn country, the number of Afghan civilian and security forces casualties keeps rising.”While the Taliban sanctions regime remains split for more than five years, the designated terrorist group makes concerted effort to capture and hold territory. Therefore, for numerous Afghan women, men and children there is no respite from the plague of terrorism,” he said.The Indian envoy emphasised that the international community must introspect about the way it is approaching the situation in Afghanistan and whether there is need for course correction.

NIA chargesheet details how Pathankot Air Base attack unfolded

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Monday filed a chargesheet in connection with the January 2nd Pathankot airbase attack, naming Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) chief Masood Azhar and three others of the proscribed outfit as accused. The development comes in the midst of a diplomatic rift between India and China after the latter stonewalled Indian efforts to get UN sanctions against Azhar and JeM.The agency has showcased evidences against the JeM that include DNA samples collected from the four slain Pakistani nationals, footprints of one of the terrorists obtained from Bamiyal, packages of food and drinks consumed by the slain men from the sites, and cars which they used before entering the Air Base. Among other evidences is a note which the NIA says was from Mahindra XUV vehicle recovered which read, “Jaish E Muhamad Zindabad Tanghdar se le kar Samba Kathua Rajbagh Aur delhi tak Afzal Guru Shadeed Kay Jan nisar Tum ko meltay rahege. Insha Allah. A.G.S. 25- 12-15” which translates to ‘Long live Jaish-e-Mohammad. From Samba, Kathua, Rajbagh (areas in Jammu and Kashmir) to Delhi, you will find men willing to lay their lives for Martyr Afzal Guru.’The slip was signed off on December 25,2015 as AGS shot for Afzal Guru Squad.The NIA-led probe has established that four Pakistani Nationals who attacked the air base belonged to the recently formed Afzal Guru Squad which works under the JeM command based in Pakistan.While the chargesheet could likely be used by Indian diplomats to highlight the role of Azhar in the Pathankot attack at international forums, the probe has revealed startling details about the attack that claimed lives of seven security personnel during an 80-hour long stand-off inside the Indian Air Force station located in Punjab’s Pathankot area.The chargesheet states that the four Pakistani nationals identified as Nasir Hussain, Hafiz Abu Bakar, Umar Farooq and Abdul Qayum were residents of Vehari (Punjab), Gujranwala (Punjab), Sanghar (Sindh) and Sukkur (Sindh) of Pakistan respectively.All the men had infiltrated into India through the forest area near the Simbal Border Outpost on 30th December at 2 am which means almost two days before the attack. According to NIA, the terrorists, were not only successful in avoiding getting traced from 2am on December 30 till January 1 early morning (when they entered into the air base), but also avoided detection for almost a day after hiding themselves in a ‘nallah’ inside the base. In fact, one of the men named Nasir made calls from inside the base waiting to launch the attack.The first call was made at 8.40 am to a man named Khayam Bhatti who, according to NIA, runs a local merchandise shop shop in Rum area of Sialkot in Pakistan. The conversation did not take place so Nasir called again on a different Pakistani number an hour later and requested to speak to his mother.”While speaking to the lady addressed as his mother, Nasir asked her to record his conversation on the mobile set. During his conversation with her, Nasir mentioned about one “Ustad” who was supposed to come to her with his “Wasihat” after his death. Nasir also asked her to host a “dawat” (feast) for his “derawala friends” after his death. The terrorist, Nasir also took the names of some of the members in his family / relatives, viz, Mudassir, Mariyam and Altamash, in the conversation. Nasir also disclosed that they were hiding inside the Air Force Station (referred to as Camp in conversation) and waiting to carry out the terror attack,”NIA said.NIA findings are however yet to find coherence with that of the NSG, which has maintained that not four but six militants had attacked the Air Force station.Moreover, Salwinder Singh, the Gurdaspur superintendent of police (SP), who, on December 31, was allegedly abducted by the same group of JeM militants, has been given a clean chit in the NIA probe after being on the scanner of the agency for several months. The agency has established that the claims made by Singh were founded and suggested that the JeM were not aware of the fact that Salwinder wasa a cop. It was only after his associate Rajesh Verma told them that they came to know about his profession

Five men sentenced to death for 2013 Hyderabad bombings | Reuters

Five men sentenced to death for 2013 Hyderabad bombings | Reuters

Dec 19, 2016 20:48 IST

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NEW DELHI Five men were sentenced to death by a court on Monday for their role in two deadly bombings in 2013 in the city of Hyderabad, including the co-founder of an outlawed Islamist group accused of involvement in a series of attacks.The convictions last week of Yasin Bhatkal, founder of Indian Mujahideen, and the others marked the first time members of the group had been found guilty, the National Investigation Agency, India’s chief counterterrorism organisation, said after the sentences were handed down.Two bombs ripped through a busy market in Hyderabad, a major information technology centre in southern India, in February 2013, killing at least 17 people.

The man police accuse of masterminding the blasts remains on the run.The trial took place in a special court run by the NIA and the five convicted are expected to appeal against the judgment.

India sentences dozens of people to death each year but had been reluctant to carry out executions. An undeclared moratorium on capital punishment ended in 2012 when India executed a militant convicted for an attack in 2008 in Mumbai.

(Reporting by Tommy Wilkes; Editing by Alison Williams)

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

First Published On : Dec 19, 2016 20:48 IST

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IND vs ENG | Dec 16th, 2016

ENG 12 0 5.0

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Pakistani cinemas quietly show Indian films again as tensions ease, losses mount | Reuters

By Syed Raza Hassan
| KARACHI, Pakistan

KARACHI, Pakistan Pakistani movie theatres began screening Bollywood films again on Monday, ending an 11-week boycott in response to political and military tensions with India, theatre officials said.Some theatre owners said the restoration was because tension was easing, but others said it was because audiences had dropped so sharply since the boycott that began on Sept. 30.In Karachi, the Atrium Cinema started with a screening of the Indian sports romantic comedy “Freaky Ali”. Still, the screenings were kept low key, with no publicity posters and scant attendance in theatres visited by Reuters.Relations between the nuclear-armed neighbours and foes have been more fraught than usual since an crackdown by Indian security forces on dissent in Indian-controlled Kashmir began in July.The tension worsened in September after militants killed 18 soldiers in a raid on an Indian army base, an attack New Delhi blamed on Pakistan.After exchanges of fire across the Line of Control in Kashmir – claimed by both countries and occupied in part by each – cinema owners announced the boycott.

Pakistan’s state censor soon imposed a ban on Indian content and channels on cable television.However, the boycott has cost Pakistani cinemas dearly.”The absence of Bollywood content from theatres resulted in losing over 80 percent of customers,” estimated Khurram Gultasab, general manager at Super Cinemas, which runs 10 cinemas in cities across Pakistan’s Punjab province.

Indian films are popular both at the cinema and on bootlegged DVDs in Pakistan.”If Bollywood films are not resumed, cinemas will be forced to close down,” Gultasab said.Nadeem Mandviwalla, whose Mandviwalla Entertainment runs eight cinemas in Karachi and the capital, Islamabad, said the resumption of Bollywood films was a step towards warming relations.

“Someone has to take a step towards bringing normalcy back so we have initiated the process to bring back peace and harmony,” Mandviwalla said.”As for losses, everyone knows that the suspension (of the boycott) is going to curtail huge losses on both sides.”Pakistan’s domestic film industry has seen a revival in recent years, but is dwarfed by India’s Bollywood. Pakistani actors have increasingly been appearing in big budget Bollywood films in the past few years. (Editing by Kay Johnson and Alison Williams)

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

First Published On : Dec 19, 2016 20:26 IST

FBI, US Dept of Justice officials named witness in NIA’s Pathankot charge sheet

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Six protected persons, a jailed terrorist and officials of Federal Bureau of Investigation and US Department of Justice figure as witnesses in the charge sheet filed by NIA in the January 2 Pathankot air base attack.The NIA, which named Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Maulana Masood Azhar and three others as accused, submitted scientific, oral and technical evidences before the special NIA court at Panchkula in Chandigarh. Among the list of witnesses is Mohammed Sadeek alias Muviya, a resident of Ghalotiakalan in Pakistan’s Sialkot district and Abdul Rahman Mogul, a resident of Polas village of Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir’s Poonch district. These two witnesses had helped in identifying voices and a couple of bodies of the Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorists who had carried out attack at the strategic IAF base in which seven personnel were killed and 37 others injured.NIA has submitted statement of six witnesses in a sealed cover before the court and prayed before the court that the names of these people should be kept secret under section 44(3) of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and Section 17 of National Investigation Agency Act (Protection of witnesses). The list of witnesses also names a Special Agent of FBI and an official of US Department of Justice who had executed the Indian request sent under Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty for getting the details from Facebook and other websites on which Jaish had uploaded an audio file claiming responsibility for the attack.
ALSO READ Pathankot airbase attack: NIA files chargesheet, names Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood AzharBesides Azhar, the NIA has named his brother Mufti Abdul Rauf Asgar and two handlers of four terrorists — Kashif Jaan and Shahid Latif in the charge sheet. There is no mention of Superintendent of Police Salwinder Singh, his cook Madan Gopal and his jeweller friend Rajesh Verma in the list of witnesses. Their vehicle was hijacked by four terrorists. While Singh and Gopal were released in a jungle, the terrorists had slit the throat of Verma, who managed to get immediate medical aid after the four terrorists abandoned him.

In new world map, India is banana republic

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In a new interactive map that is made up from data collected from the World Bank and the United Nations amongst other sources, each country is given a unique characteristic that best describes it. According to the map, India is the best country for bananas.The map was created by David McCandless from InformationIsBeautiful.net and is divided into nine categories (commodity, psychology, ecology, gastronomy, economy, nicety, humanity, technology, and nasty). The map gives each nation a unique characteristic. It, however, excludes smaller countries in the study.While India is famous for bananas, Pakistan is famous for gay porn, China for jailed journalists, the United States for spammed emails and Australia for data breaches. Interestingly, Rwanda has the most women representatives in parliament, while Zambia has most female entrepreneurs. It’s also worth mentioning that the values are either “mostly per capita” or “per cent of the population”.

Punjab: 600 gm heroin and Rs 12 lakh in new notes seized, three people arrested

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Three persons have been arrested with 600 gram of heroin and Rs 12 lakh in new high-value currency in Punjab’s Amritsar district, police said on Sunday. The three were arrested outside a Suvidha centre in Pataka market on Chamrang road before they could deliver the heroin.The counter-intelligence unit arrested Karaj Singh, Malkeet Singh and Jaswinder Singh – all residents of Ghulami wala village in Ferozepur district – following a tip-off, said Inspector General of Police MF Farooqui. Police said a total of Rs 15.49 lakh was seized from them, and out of that Rs 12 lakh were in the new high-value notes.On Thursday, Punjab police arrested Gurnam Singh and recovered 5 kg of heroin from his possession. The police said the contraband was smuggled into India from Pakistan. Gurnam has sold a part of the heroin to the three persons arrested today, police said, adding that the three had come here to deliver the heroin to someone in Amritsar. The accused have been booked under relevant sections of Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act.

PM Narendra Modi invites suggestions for Mann ki Baat

PM Narendra Modi invites suggestions for Mann ki Baat

By

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday invited suggestions on topics and themes from public for his monthly ‘Mann Ki Baat’ radio address.

He asked the people to share their suggestions for this year’s last such programme, to be aired on 25 December, by calling on a toll free number or through a mobile application dedicated to inputs.

Those interested in giving their suggestions can either call the toll free number 1800-11-7800 and record their message in English or Hindi or download the ‘Narendra Modi‘ app from his website.

Modi’s year-ending ‘Mann Ki Baat’ address on 25 December — which besides being the Christmas Day also happens to be former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s birthday — will be aired at 11am on All India Radio.

First Published On : Dec 18, 2016 13:52 IST

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IND 233 3 68.5

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Pakistani cinemas to resume screening of Indian movies from tomorrow

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Cinemas in Pakistan will start screening Indian movies from Monday as film exhibitors and cinema owners lifted the self-imposed suspension on their screening that was put in place after escalating Indo-Pak tensions following the Uri terror attack.Zoraish Lashari, Chairman of the Film Exhibitors Association, told reporters that after thorough discussions with parties concerned, it has been decided that screening of Indian films would resume from Monday.”The cinema owners and other stakeholders in the industry have been hit by the decision to impose a temporary suspension on screening of Indian films. A lot of investment has been made into upgrading or building new cineplexes and multiplexes and the business at this time is dependent on screening of latest Indian films,” he said yesterday.The cinema houses’ owners said that they had only suspended the screening of Indian films but had not completely banned them.Movies which were missed and could not be screened due to the suspension will be screened first, said Nadeem Mandviwala of Atrium cinemas.The first film to be screened will be actor Nawazuddin Siddiqui’s Freaky Ali.”We lifted the suspension as a cinema guild. We took this decision because we would like to support them (Indian cinemas) and expect them to support us,” Aadil Mandviwala, Director Mandviwala Entertainment, was quoted as saying by the Dawn.The Pakistan Film Exhibitors and Distributors Association, which includes most owners of cineplexes, multiplexes and single screen cinemas in the country, had announced to “temporarily” stop screening Indian films soon after tensions escalated between Pakistan and India following the Uri terror attack and cross border firing incidents in late September.The exhibitors and cinema owners had taken the decision voluntarily after the Indian Motion Pictures Producers’ Association (IMPPA) announced a ban on Pakistani artistes and technicians working in India.Sources in the industry said that most of the cinema owners, exhibitors and importers of Indian films had got panicky after Pakistani films including old and fresh releases and even latest Hollywood movies failed to fill up the halls.”Plus in recent weeks several Indian films have been released while everyone is eagerly anticipating the release of Aamir Khan’s ‘Dangal’,” a source said.One source, however, said some cinema owners were still apprehensive of any backlash from religious parities or groups once they resumed screening of Indian films and have asked for protection if required.”A private media group is presently trying to import and release ‘Dangal’ in Pakistan,” the source added.Pakistan’s leading English newspaper ‘Dawn’ had in a editorial last month termed the ban on screening of Indian films in Pakistani cinemas as “damaging” and said Pakistani cinema houses were losing money because of the move.The Media and Marketing Manager of a major chain of cineplexes, Sabina Islam, said 75 per cent of the revenues generated in the industry came from screening of Indian films.Pakistan is considered as the third largest market for Indian films.Indian movies returned to Pakistani cinema houses in 2008 after a 43-year-long hiatus imposed during the 1965 war.

Cong questions new army chief’s appointment, MoD sources say Rawat best suited to deal with terror threats

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Lt. General. Bipin Rawat, who has been appointed as the next Chief of Army Staff, was found the best suited among current batch of candidates of Lt. Generals, to deal with emerging challenges, including a reorganised and restructured military force in the north, continuing terrorism and proxy war from the west, and the situation in the North-East.According to Ministry of Defence (MoD) sources, Lt. Gen Rawat has tremendous hands on experience of serving in combat areas, and at various functional levels in the Indian Army over the last three decades.He has handled various operational responsibilities in many areas, including along the LoC with Pakistan, the LAC with China, and in the North-East.
ALSO READ Lt Gen Bipin Rawat to be new Army Chief, Air Marshal BS Dhanoa to head IAFHe is also known for his balanced approach towards soldiering, compassion, and connect with civil society.His experience as GOC-in-C Southern Army Command in Mechanised Warfare has been focused towards the western borders, in coordination with the other two services.Also, Air Marshal B.S. Dhanoa was appointed the next Chief of Air Staff. He was commissioned into the fighter stream of the IAF in June 1978 and has served in various squadrons, and in the Intelligence Directorate of Air Headquarters.Meanwhile, the Congress has slammed the Centre over the appointment of the new army chief, as the government overlooked a tradition of elevating senior-most officers as service chiefs.The Congress asked why the Centre did not follow the seniority principle in appointing Lt Gen Rawat, the vice-chief in the army.”Why has Seniority not been respected in Appointing of Army Chief? Why have Lt Gen PRAVIN Bakshi & Lt Gen Mohamed Ali Hariz been superseded Mr PM,” questioned Congress leader Manish Tewari on Twitter.

Kashmir tension: Pakistan ends ban on Bollywood films

Pakistan ends an Indian film ban imposed in September amid worsening relations over Kashmir.

Rajiv Jain appointed as new IB chief, Anil Dhasmana to head RAW

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Jharkhand cadre IPS officer Rajiv Jain was on Saturday appointed as the new chief of Intelligence Bureau (IB) while Anil Dhasmana will head external intelligence agency Research and Analysis Wing (RAW).Both the officers will have a tenure of two years. Jain, who is at present serving as the Special Director in the IB, will take over on January 1 after the incumbent Dineshwar Sharma completes his two-year tenure on December 31. A recipient of President’s Police Medal, the 1980-batch officer has served in various departments of the IB including the sensitive Kashmir desk.He was advisor to the previous NDA government’s interlocutor on Kashmir K C Pant when talks were held with separatist leaders like Shabbir Shah. In another appointment, Anil Dhasmana will take over the reins of the Research and Analysis Wing, an organisation which looks after the external intelligence of the country. He succeeds Rajinder Khanna who completes his tenure this year end. Dhasmana, a 1981-batch officer of Madhya Pradesh cadre, has been with RAW for the last 23 years during which he has served on important desks including Pakistan.

Govt action to be based on probe report on death of Burhan’s brother: Nirmal Singh

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Jammu and Kashmir Deputy Chief Minister Nirmal Singh on Saturday said the government action on the killing of Hizbul commander Burhan Wani’s brother will proceed “as per the outcome” of the probe into his death and an FIR has been registered in this connection.His comments came amid protests by several organisations over the PDP-BJP coalition government’s decision to compensate the family of Khalid Wani, who was killed in an “encounter” with the Army in Pulwama district on April 13 last year. Singh said an FIR has been lodged and “whatever be the outcome of the probe, government will act accordingly”. “There is a law of the land applicable to it. Whatever be the outcome of the investigation, action would be taken as per that,” Singh told reporters at a function here.”If it is proved that he was a terrorist as the FIR has been lodged, action would be taken as per that,” he said replying to a question on giving compensation to Khalid’s family. Khalid’s brother Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani was killed by security forces on July 8, and his death had led to months-long protest in the Valley in which 86 people died. Asked about the impact of Union government’s move to demonetize old high-value currency notes on unrest in Kashmir, Singh said the exercise has “badly-hit” terrorism and ‘hawala’ transactions, which is believed to support the militancy.”That is why the terrorists are engineering cases of looting of money from the banks because they are facing dearth of money,” he said, adding that the government was making “full security” arrangement to ensure such incidents do not recur. “There is a dip in smuggling of weapons from Pakistan. They are frustrated by the demonetization,” he said. He asked Hurriyat leaders and other separatists to think “positively” so that normalcy returns and added that shutdown by separatists is “causing loss to everyone,” he said.

Militants kill 3 Indian soldiers in Kashmir ambush | Reuters

By Fayaz Bukhari
| SRINAGAR, India

SRINAGAR, India Militants attacked an Indian army convoy in Kashmir on Saturday, killing three soldiers, a defence spokesman said, in the latest in an uptick of violence in the disputed region at the heart of tensions with rival Pakistan.The men were ambushed on the outskirts of Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir state where Indian forces have been battling an armed revolt since 1989.This year, after years of decline, militant violence has increased in Kashmir, deepening a chill in ties with Pakistan whom India blames for stoking and keeping the revolt alive by sending fighters and materiel across the de factor border.

Pakistan denies the allegation and says New Delhi must agree to talks to resolve the future of Kashmir.

Soldiers have launched a search operation to hunt the militants behind Saturday’s attack, the defence spokesman said. Last month, militants stormed an army base near Jammu, killing seven soldiers.”A bad year in terms of security force casualties just got worse,” Omar Abdullah, the leader of the main opposition group in Jammu and Kashmir, said in a Twitter post following the latest attack.

(Writing by Sanjeev Miglani; editing by Jason Neely)

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

First Published On : Dec 17, 2016 18:41 IST

Will not accept any changes to Indus Water Treaty, says Pakistan

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Pakistan has firmly stated that it will not accept any alterations or changes to the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT) after India had said that it is ready to engage in further consultations with Islamabad on the matter of resolving current differences over the Kishenganga and Ralte projects under the Indus Water Treaty.”Pakistan will not accept any modifications or changes to the provisions of the Indus Water Treaty. Our position is based on the principles enshrined in the treaty. And the treaty must be honoured in…letter and spirit,” the Dawn quoted Special Assistant to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Tariq Fatemi, as saying.Islamabad has argued that India was buying time to complete its two disputed water projects and then insisting that since the project was already complete, it could not be modified.Pakistan is raising its objection to building of the Kishanganga (330 megawatts) and Ratle (850 megawatts) hydroelectric plants by India saying that it violates the provisions of the treaty.Tensions increased over the water dispute when Prime Minister Narendra Modi last month threatened to block the flow of water into Pakistan. World Bank had earlier asked both the countries to consider alternative ways to resolve their disagreements over the Indus Water Treaty Dispute 1960. The World Bank had said that it was temporarily halting the appointment of a neutral expert as requested by India, and the Chairman of the Court of Arbitration, as requested by Pakistan, to resolve issues regarding two hydroelectric power plants under construction by India along the Indus Rivers system.The treaty which was signed in 1960 by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and President Ayub Khan gives India control over the three eastern rivers of the Indus basin, the Beas, the Ravi and the Sutlej while Pakistan has the three western rivers, the Indus, the Chenab and the Jhelum. As per the provisions in the treaty, India can use only 20% of the total water carried by the Indus River.The Indus Water Treaty 1960 is seen as one of the most successful international treaties and has withstood frequent tensions between India and Pakistan, including conflict. The treaty sets out a mechanism for cooperation and information exchange between the two countries regarding their use of the rivers, known as the Permanent Indus Commission which includes a commissioner from each of the two countries. It also sets out a process for resolving so-called “questions”, “differences” and “disputes” that may arise between the parties.

Families still hope missing 1971 heroes will return one day

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Every year on December 16, Nirmal Kour wakes up early and gazes at the king-size portrait of missing war hero Subaidar Asa Singh and tears start rolling down her cheeks.Flashback of memories with her husband plays in her mind as the nation celebrates the victory of the 1971 war against Pakistan.Subaidar Asa Singh of 5 Sikh regiment went missing while fighting gallantly against the Pakistan army in the Chamb sector of the Jammu division. For the last 45 years, Nirmal Kour, 77, has been fighting a quiet battle to bring her husband and other war heroes’ home from Pakistani jails.Kour even went to Pakistan, along with the family members of other missing soldiers, but to no avail. Even after four decades, she has not lost hope and believes that Singh will return home one day.”On this day every year, there is a mourning-like situation at our home. I used to go to Gujarat on December 16 to attend the Vijay Diwas function. But nobody invites us here in Jammu. We are confident that the missing soldiers are lodged in Pakistani jails. If the government tries hard, Pakistan will be forced to release our war heroes,” Kour told DNA.Singh is among the six soldiers of the Jammu division who went missing in the 1971 war. In 2007, the families of missing soldiers visited Pakistan and went to about seven jails but to no avail.”They (Pakistani jail authorities) did not allow us to enter the prison. They kept us in a room outside and showed us some files. They did not allow us to meet anyone in jail,” said Kour.Ninety kilometres away from Kour’s home in Jammu at Kathua, 66- year-old Rano Devi vividly remembers the day when her husband, Sepoy Jagdish Lal of 2 Mahar, left for the battlefield and went missing in the Dhaka theatre.”Jagdish’s wife was pregnant when he left for war. Their third daughter was born when he went missing. We have been fighting since 1971 to bring our heroes home. We even went to the court and won the case after 15 years. The court asked the government to treat the missing soldiers as in service and promote them to the next two ranks. Sepoy Jagdish Lal was promoted to Subaidar while being missing-in custody,” said son-in-law Bansi Lal. Subaidar Asa Singh was promoted as honorary captain.

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