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From setback in Kashmir to finalising Rafale deal: Mixed year for armed forces in 2016

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Signing of long-pending deals including one for Rafale fighters, a logistics agreement with the US, new blacklisting and defence procurement policies besides induction of indigenous nuclear submarine were some of the achievements of the defence ministry in 2016, which was a mixed year for the armed forces.The high point for the military was the daring surgical strike carried out by the special forces on terror launch pads across the LoC it lost a number of soldiers during the year. Jammu and Kashmir alone saw over 80 security personnel being killed while countering Pakistan’s proxy war. The army managed to eliminate about 160 militants in the state including the poster boy of militancy Burhan Wani.Many security personnel were also killed fighting armed insurgency. Deadly attacks on the Pathankot air base, and army camps in Uri and Nagrota were a setback that led to the loss of several lives.The armed forces also had a mixed year when it came to administration and compensation issues. While the government drastically increased the ex-gratia for the armed forces, the 7th Pay Commission recommendations and a controversial letter on parity with their civilian counterparts for administrative duties left a bad taste.The decision of the government to bypass the long-followed principle of seniority when it came to selecting an army also led to lot of heartburns in the military especially the Armoured Corps. But one thing that the armed forces seemed to be most happy with was Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar’s push for modernisation. Even as the government brought in a new defence procurement policy emphasising on ‘Make in India’ and a blacklisting policy offering a mixture of heavy fines and graded punishment rather than blanket blacklisting, the Ministry moved fast on procurements.A lot many deals pending for years were cleared by the Defence Ministry besides giving nod to many other proposals. The biggest deal to be struck during 2016 was the one for 36 Rafale fighter jets for 7.8 billion Euros. The file for a medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) was first moved in 2000. The Narendra Modi-led government had in 2015 agreed to go in for 36 Rafales in a direct deal with France while terminating the original tender for 126 MMRCA. The aircraft, equipped with latest weapons including the 150 KM range beyond visual range missile ‘Meteor’, can even carry nuclear bombs, will add to the strategic assets of the country. Another big move was the induction of the indigenously developed nuclear submarine Arihant. The government has still not officially announced the induction.The understanding between India and Russia to lease a second nuclear submarine was another important strategic move. The terms and conditions are still being worked out. The Inter-Governmental Agreement on the purchase of S400 Triumf air defence system is also a big development even though the nitty gritty are yet to be worked out. The decision to finally induct the indigenous Light Combat Aircraft Tejas was also a big move. India and Russia restarted talks on the fifth generation fighter aircraft programme after a hiatus of about a year.The contract for the purchase of M777 light weight howitzers was also welcomed by the army which will deploy most of them along the borders with China. The M777 was the first artillery deal cleared by the Indian government since the Bofors scandal of late 1980s. To ensure better deployment of these guns, the ministry also struck a deal for 15 heavy lift Chinook helicopters.Giving the IAF yet another fillip to its strength, 2016 saw signing of a deal with the US for 22 Apache attack helicopters. The signing of the much-debated logistics agreement with the US was also an important development. The UPA government had refused to sign it but Parrikar went along after the US rewrote the agreement as per India’s conditions. Even though the Defence Ministry was not directly involved, investigating agencies carried out raids against a number of defence middlemen while cases were registered against some staying abroad in connection with alleged corruption.Another big development that came towards the end of 2016 was the successful fourth test of the indigenously developed inter-continental nuclear capable missile Agni V that has a range to cover entire China. The missile is now ready for user trials and eventual induction into the Strategic Forces Command.

ISIS sympathizer Musa had planned Dhaka-style attack at Mother Teresa house in Kolkata : NIA

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Alleged terrorist Mohd Mosiuddin was plotting ISIS-style chilling execution of foreigners, especially those from the US, Russia and the UK, visiting the Mother House in Kolkata as it would be a “heart pleasing” experience for him, the NIA has claimed. The NIA, in a charge sheet filed before a special court in Kolkata recently, claimed that Mosiuddin alias Musa was planning to stab and kill foreigners, a style frequently chosen by the ISIS to eliminate its targets. The Mother House in West Bengal capital is the headquarters of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity.In its charge sheet, the anti-terror probe agency has said Musa termed the militants operating in Kashmir as “Mujahids (holy warriors) with impure ideologies” who were fighting for Kashmiri land when they should have fought in support of Sharia, the Islamic canonical law based on the teachings of the Koran and the traditions of the Prophet (Hadith and Sunna).The agency has provided Musa’s photographs in Kashmir to buttress its claim that the terrorist had visited the Valley.NIA alleged it had proof of his having bought a big knife to commit the terror crimes before fleeing away.He also allegedly procured pepper spray from Snapdeal, an online marketplace to facilitate his proposed criminal acts as the intended target would be rendered temporarily blinded by it.The charge sheet alleged that Musa discussed plans for conducting such attacks at the Mother House, which is frequented by foreigners from the US, Russia and the UK. Armed forces of these countries are locked in fierce battles with the ISIS in many nations.Musa had discussed with some others the exact location of the Mother House and was claimed to have told them that foreigners, particularly Russians, Britishers and Americans often visited the place. He wanted them killed as the governments of their countries had bombarded the ISIS in Syria and Libya, the charge sheet alleged.The NIA had taken over investigation in the case from Howrah police on July 22. During Musa’ arrest, a .38 bore six-chamber revolver, three rounds of ammunition, a knife, a Samsung mobile phone and other incriminating articles were seized. Subsequently, one Apple Macbook and a sword were seized from his residence at Tiruppur, Tamil Nadu.

Kolkata: Suspected IS militant, Musa planned execution of foreigners at Mother House, says NIA

New Delhi: Alleged terrorist Mohd Mosiuddin was plotting Islamic State-style chilling execution of foreigners, especially those from the US, Russia and the UK, visiting the Mother House in Kolkata as it would be a “heart pleasing” experience for him, the NIA has claimed.

The NIA, in a charge sheet filed before a special court in Kolkata recently, claimed that Mosiuddin alias Musa was planning to stab and kill foreigners, a style frequently chosen by the IS to eliminate its targets.

The Mother House in West Bengal capital is the headquarters of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity. In its charge sheet, the anti-terror probe agency has said Musa termed the militants operating in Kashmir as “Mujahids (holy warriors) with impure ideologies” who were fighting for Kashmiri land when they should have fought in support of Sharia, the Islamic canonical law based on the teachings of the Quran and the traditions of the Prophet
(Hadith and Sunna).

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

The agency has provided Musa’s photographs in Kashmir to buttress its claim that the terrorist had visited the Valley.

NIA alleged it had proof of his having bought a big knife to commit the terror crimes before fleeing away. He also allegedly procured pepper spray from Snapdeal, an online marketplace to facilitate his proposed criminal acts as the intended target would be rendered temporarily blinded by it.

The charge sheet alleged that Musa discussed plans for conducting such attacks at the Mother House, which is frequented by foreigners from the US, Russia and the UK. Armed forces of these countries are locked in fierce battles with the IS in many nations.

Musa had discussed with some others the exact location of the Mother House and was claimed to have told them that foreigners, particularly Russians, Britishers and Americans often visited the place. He wanted them killed as the governments of their countries had bombarded the IS in Syria and Libya, the charge sheet alleged.

The NIA had taken over investigation in the case from Howrah police on 22 July.

During Musa’ arrest, a .38 bore six-chamber revolver, three rounds of ammunition, a knife, a Samsung mobile phone and other incriminating articles were seized. Subsequently, one Apple Macbook and a sword were seized from his residence at Tiruppur, Tamilnadu.

During investigation, two more accused, namely Saddam Hossain alias Kalu and Abbasudin Sk alias Amin were arrested by West Bengal CID.

“Mosiuddin was found involved in furthering the illegal activities of the IS in India and Bangladesh and had been in touch with Shafi Armar…and was also linked to the Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) operatives in Bangladesh,” NIA had said in a statement.

Armar is a former Indian Mujahideen operative who was later claimed to have joined the IS. It was Armar who had radicalised him by sending the links of jihadi sites like Jihadology.net, Al-Shabab media and Just-Paste-it links, etc.

Armar also allegedly sent him videos released by Ansar Ut Tawid (AuT) which included footages of the war between the IS and Iraqi forces. The videos and speeches of ‘Anwar ul Awlaki’, a jihadist ideologue and preacher who was killed in a US drone attack in Yemen, were also sent to him by Armar, a native of Bhatkal in Karnataka and one of the main recruiters for IS in India.

Abu Suleiman, a Bangladeshi IS/JMB operative, visited India to meet Musa twice in March, 2015, and May, 2016. He encouraged Musa to use encrypted chat applications like Telegram, Surespot, Threema, Chatsecure, to communicate with him and other IS operatives, NIA has alleged.

First Published On : Dec 26, 2016 21:14 IST

German police say arrested man may not be Christmas market attacker | Reuters

By Michelle Martin and Sabine Siebold
| BERLIN

BERLIN A Pakistani asylum-seeker arrested on suspicion of killing 12 people by mowing through a Berlin Christmas market in a truck may not be the attacker, and the real perpetrator could still be on the run, German police said on Tuesday.The truck smashed into wooden huts serving mulled wine and sausages at the foot of the Kaiser Wilhelm memorial church, one of west Berlin’s most famous landmarks, at about 8 p.m. on Monday. Forty-eight people were injured, 18 severely.News of the arrest of the 23-year-old Pakistani led politicians in Germany and beyond to demand a crackdown on immigration.Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters: “There is much we still do not know with sufficient certainty but we must, as things stand now, assume it was a terrorist attack.”She added: “I know it would be especially hard for us all to bear if it were confirmed that the person who committed this act was someone who sought protection and asylum.”In a dramatic twist, police later said the suspect had denied the offence and might not be the right man. “According to my information it’s uncertain whether he was really the driver,” Police President Klaus Kandt told a news conference.Berlin police tweeted that they were “particularly alert” because of the denial. “Please be alert,” they added.Die Welt newspaper quoted an unnamed police chief as saying:”We have the wrong man. And therefore a new situation. The true perpetrator is still armed, at large and can cause fresh damage.”The truck belonged to a Polish freight company and its rightful driver was found dead in the vehicle. Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said a pistol believed to have been used to kill him had not yet been found.German media said the arrested man had jumped out of the driver’s cab and run down the street towards the Tiergarten, a vast park in central Berlin. Several witnesses called police, including one who chased the suspect while on the phone, constantly updating officials on his whereabouts.”STATE OF WAR”
The attack fuelled immediate demands for a change to Merkel’s immigration policies, under which more than a million people fleeing conflict and poverty in the Middle East, Africa and elsewhere have arrived in Germany this year and last.

“We must say that we are in a state of war, although some people, who always only want to see good, do not want to see this,” said Klaus Bouillon, interior minister of the state of Saarland and a member of Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU).Horst Seehofer, leader of the CDU’s Bavarian sister party, said: “We owe it to the victims, to those affected and to the whole population to rethink our immigration and security policy and to change it.”The record influx has hit Merkel’s ratings as she prepares to run for a fourth term next year, and boosted support for the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD). Senior AfD member Marcus Pretzell blamed Merkel for the attack on Twitter.AfD leader Frauke Petry said Germany was no longer safe and “radical Islamic terrorism has struck in the heart of Germany”.The incident evoked memories of an attack in Nice, France in July when a Tunisian-born man drove a 19-tonne truck along the beach front, mowing down people who had gathered to watch the fireworks on Bastille Day, killing 86 people. That was claimed by Islamic State.EUROPE DIVIDED

The mass influx of migrants and refugees to the European Union has deeply divided its 28 members and fuelled the rise of populist anti-immigration movements that hope to capitalise on public concerns next year in elections in France, Germany and the Netherlands.Slovakia’s Prime Minister Robert Fico said the latest attack would change perceptions of migration. “I think that the cup of patience is beginning to spill over and Europe’s public will rightfully expect rather stronger measures,” he said.Nigel Farage of Britain’s UK Independence Party tweeted: “Terrible news from Berlin but no surprise. Events like these will be the Merkel legacy.”On Tuesday morning, investigators removed the black truck from the site for forensic examination. People left flowers at the scene and notes, one of which read: “Keep on living, Berliners!” One woman was crying as she stopped by the flowers.Bild newspaper cited security sources as saying the arrested man was Naved B. and had arrived in Germany a year ago. In legal cases German officials routinely withhold the full name of suspects, using only an initial.A security source told Reuters the suspect had been staying at a refugee centre in the now defunct Tempelhof airport.Die Welt said police special forces stormed a hangar at Tempelhof at around 4 a.m. (0300 GMT). A refugee there who gave his name only as Ahmed told Reuters security guards had told him there was a raid at around 4 a.m.Prosecutors declined to immediately comment on the report.

“FEAR OF EVIL”
Merkel and de Maiziere both stressed the need for Germans to remain uncowed by the attack.”We do not want to live paralysed by the fear of evil,” said the chancellor, who discussed the attack by phone with U.S. President Barack Obama and convened a meeting of her security cabinet.”Even if it is difficult in these hours, we will find the strength for the life we want to live in Germany – free, together and open.”Other European countries said they were reviewing security.Austrian Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka said he had told the heads of regional police forces to intensify surveillance measures. He called for biometric and fingerprint checks to be introduced along the Balkan route travelled by many migrants arriving in Europe, in order to better control foreign jihadist fighters’ movements.London police said they were reviewing their plans for protecting public events over the festive period.Flags will be hung at half-mast around Germany on Tuesday and Berlin Christmas markets were closed for the day out of respect. The German soccer league announced a minute’s silence at all matches on Tuesday and Wednesday, at which players will wear black ribbons.Dresden tourist information service said authorities had erected concrete blocks around the Striezelmarkt, one of Germany’s oldest Christmas markets, to increase security.Festive markets selling ornate, often hand-crafted decorations, seasonal foods and hot spiced wine are a beloved tradition in Germany.Manfred Weber, head of the centre-right European People’s Party, said: “It’s not an attack on a country; it’s an attack on our way of life, on the free society in which we are allowed to live.” (Reporting by Michelle Martin, Caroline Copley, Joseph Nasr, Emma Thomasson, Paul Carrel, Madeline Chambers in Berlin; additional reporting by Shadia Nasralla in Vienna; Writing by Michelle Martin; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)

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

First Published On : Dec 20, 2016 19:54 IST

India, Pakistan should resolve issues through peaceful means:Russia

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Russia wants India and Pakistan to resolve all their differences, including the Kashmir issue, through peaceful means, the Russian envoy said in Islamabad on Saturday. Replying to a question, Russian Ambassador to Pakistan Alexey Y Dedov said his country wants Pakistan and India to resolve all differences, including the Kashmir issue, through peaceful means. He said Pakistan and Russia are also closely cooperating in efforts for restoration of peace in Afghanistan, Radio Pakistan reported.Talking about the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project, Dedov said Russia strongly supports the project as it is crucial for Pakistan’s economy and regional connectivity.He pointed out that CPEC is component of China’s Silk Road and his country was also working on a similar Eurasian Economic Union and China and Russia are holding discussions to merge the two projects. Asked about North-South gas pipeline project of Pakistan, the Russian Ambassador said they are eager to realise the project at the soonest.The Ambassador said the two countries are closely cooperating in different areas but there is need to enhance the volume of bilateral trade. Russia and Pakistan rebuilding their ties after decades of mistrust during the Cold War and have recently given gestures in deepening ties.

Obama says told Putin to ‘cut it out’ over cyber attacks | Reuters

Obama says told Putin to ‘cut it out’ over cyber attacks | Reuters

Dec 16, 2016 21:21 IST

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WASHINGTON U.S. President Barack Obama on Friday said he warned Russian President Vladimir Putin in September to stop meddling in American political campaigns after hacks of Democratic Party emails in the lead-up to the Nov. 8 elections.In a pre-Christmas holiday press conference, Obama said he told Putin to “cut it out” during a face-to-face encounter in China where a G20 meeting was being held.Obama added that after warning Putin, there was no further evidence of Russian tampering. Russia has denied U.S. accusations of cyber attacks against U.S. political figures and institutions ahead of the presidential and congressional elections.Two senior government officials told Reuters that the FBI backs the CIA’s view that Russia intervened to help Republican Donald Trump win the presidential election.

Obama left open the door to U.S. retaliation against Russia to discourage it and other nations from further computer hacking.The president also said that he hoped that Trump, who takes office on Jan. 20, should be similarly concerned about Russia’s actions and that the investigation should not become “a political football” between Republicans and Democrats.

Trump has maintained that he won the election fairly and has bristled at suggestions that Moscow influenced the outcome.But Democrats have repeatedly noted that Trump during his campaign has spoken glowingly about Putin and since winning the election has picked top aides in the incoming administration with ties to Russia.

At one point during the heated presidential campaign, Trump publicly encouraged Russia to hack Democratic rival Hillary Clinton’s emails. (Reporting By Roberta Rampton, Jeff Mason and Julia Harte; Writing by Richard Cowan; Editing by Alistair Bell)

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

First Published On : Dec 16, 2016 21:21 IST

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India top country of origin of international migrants: Pew research

Washington: India is the top country of origin of international migrants, with 15.6 million Indians living abroad, according to a Pew research which said international migrants make up 3.3 percent of the world’s population.

Ahead of the International Migrants Day, Pew Research said as of 2015, nearly 3.5 million Indians lived in the UAE, the world’s second-largest migration corridor.

Unlike the Mexico-US corridor, the number of Indians living in the UAE and other Persian Gulf countries has increased substantially during the past decade, from 2 million in 1990 to more than eight million in 2015, Pew said.

“Most have migrated for economic opportunities in these oil-rich countries,” it added.

Representational image.  Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

Authored by Philip Connor, the report said if all of the world’s international migrants (people living in a country that is different from their country or territory of birth) lived in a single country, it would be the world’s fifth largest, with around 244 million people.

“Overall, international migrants make up 3.3 percent of the world’s population today,” it said.

The top origins of international migrants are India (15.6 million), followed by Mexico (12.3 million), Russia (10.6 million), China (9.5 million) and Bangladesh (7.2 million).

Among destination countries, the US has more international migrants than any other country.

It is home to about one-in-five international migrants (46.6 million), it said.

Other top destinations of migrants include Germany (12.0 million), Russia (11.6 million), Saudi Arabia (10.2 million) and the United Kingdom (8.5 million), Pew said.

First Published On : Dec 16, 2016 12:28 IST

With China’s ‘technical hold’ about to expire, India hopeful of Masood Azhar being designated global terrorist

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Ahead of expiry of the Chinese “hold” against designating Pakistan-based JeM chief Masood Azhar a global terrorist by the UN, India said on Thursday that the “ball is in the court” of Sanctions Committee and expressed hope that it will eventually see the “logic”.External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Vikas Swarup also said that India’s application seeking sanctions against Azhar was submitted in March and was before the UN’s Sanctions Committee which has 15 members, who are also in security council. “Ball is in their (Committee’s) court. We remain hopeful that eventually logic of Masood Azhar (not) remaining outside the ambit of the committee when the organisation which he represents has been proscribed for many years would be seen,” he said.China had in October extended its “technical hold” on India’s move to get Azhar banned by the UN. The current extension will expire on December 31 and if China does not raise further objection, the resolution designating Azhar a terrorist could stand passed automatically.Swarup also said the recent visit of Foreign Secretary Jaishankar to the US was only in the context of raising UN-related issues with the Secretary General-designate Antonio Guterres and he did not interact with any member of the Trump Administration. In the past he has had some interactions with a few senior members of the Administration, he added.On increasing cooperation between Pakistan and Russia, Swarup said, “We do not comment on relationship between third countries. Our own relationship with Russia is a special and privileged partnership which has been reinforced by the recent visit of President Putin to Goa in October 2016. We do not see any downward trend in our bilateral relationship. “However, in so far as the Taliban is concerned, they have to respect the internationally agreed red lines, give up terrorism and violence, sever all ties with al Qaeda, agree to follow democratic norms and not do anything which will erode the gains of the last 15 years. Ultimately it is for the Government of Afghanistan to decide whom to talk to and how.” On the situation in Syria, the Spokesperson said India will welcome any reduction in violence and cessation of hostilities. He also stressed on an inclusive Syrian-led political dialogue, saying there can be no military solution to the conflict.”Protection of civilians should be priority number one. We have always stood for Syria’s territorial integrity. At the same time, selective approaches to dealing with terrorist groups have had negative effect as has been proved around the world,” Swarup said.When asked about the appointment of Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson as the new US Secretary of state, Swarup said,”We have seen the reports about his appointment by US President- elect Donald Trump. We will continue to closely follow the developments leading towards firming up of his team.”

Trump dismisses reports Russia helped him in U.S. election | Reuters

By Doina Chiacu and Howard Schneider
| WASHINGTON

WASHINGTON U.S. President-elect Donald Trump rejected as “ridiculous” reported U.S. intelligence findings that Russia intervened in the presidential election on his behalf through targeted hacking, saying he did not believe it, according to an interview on “Fox News Sunday.”The Republican president-elect’s comments casting doubt on reported U.S. intelligence findings pits him against some leading foreign policy voices in the U.S. Senate from his own party who on Sunday expressed alarm about election meddling by Moscow.”I think it’s ridiculous. I think it’s just another excuse. I don’t believe it,” Trump said in the interview, which was taped on Saturday.He blamed Democrats for putting out the media reports and said he did not believe they came from the Central Intelligence Agency.Trump’s dismissal was perhaps aimed at squashing doubts about whether he won the Nov. 8 election fairly. However, his comments could also portend conflicts between the new president and the intelligence agencies he will command and feed criticism that his administration will be soft on Russia.The Republican real estate magnate was expected to appoint as secretary of state Exxon Mobile Corp Chief Executive Rex Tillerson, who has close ties with Moscow and has spoken out against U.S. sanctions on Russia.

U.S. intelligence agencies have told Congress and the administration of President Barack Obama that Russia has grown increasingly aggressive in Syria and Ukraine and has stepped up activities in cyberspace including meddling, sometimes covertly, in European and U.S. elections.A senior U.S. intelligence official told Reuters intelligence agencies have concluded with “high confidence” that not only did their Russian counterparts direct the hacking of Democratic Party organizations and leaders, but they did so to undermine Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. The Republican president-elect questioned whether the Central Intelligence Agency was behind the reports that indicated Moscow wanted him in the White House. “I think the Democrats are putting it out,” he said in the interview.

Two leading Republican voices on foreign policy in the U.S. Senate, John McCain and Lindsey Graham, joined two Democratic senators on Sunday in expressing concern over possible Russian interference in a U.S. presidential election.”For years, foreign adversaries have directed cyber attacks at America’s physical, economic, and military infrastructure, while stealing our intellectual property. Now our democratic institutions have been targeted,” the senators, including Democrats Chuck Schumer and Jack Reed, said in a statement.”Recent reports of Russian interference in our election should alarm every American.”

“This cannot become a partisan issue. The stakes are too high for our country,” the senators said in a statement. Reince Priebus, the Republican Party leader Trump picked to be his chief of staff in the White House, attacked the news reports for relying on unidentified sources and denied a New York Times report that the Republican National Committee was hacked. He was speaking on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”Russian officials have denied all accusations of interference in the U.S. election. (Reporting by Doina Chiacu and Howard Schneider; Editing by Mary Milliken and Phil Berlowitz)

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

First Published On : Dec 11, 2016 21:11 IST

Russian doping conspiracy benefited over 1,000 competitors | Reuters

By Mitch Phillips
| LONDON

LONDON More than 1,000 Russian competitors across more than 30 sports were involved in an institutional conspiracy to conceal positive doping tests as Moscow ‘hijacked international sport’, an independent WADA report said on Friday. The second and final part of the report for the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) by Canadian sports lawyer Richard McLaren provided exhaustive evidence of an elaborate state-sponsored doping scheme operated by Russia’s Sports Ministry.It included switching and changing samples by opening “tamper-proof” bottles – using a method devised by the Russian secret service – and numerous other methods to bypass and cover up drugs tests.”We are now able to confirm a cover-up that dates back until at least 2011 that evolved from uncontrolled chaos to an institutionalised and disciplined medal-winning conspiracy,” McLaren told a news conference on Friday. “It was a cover-up of an unprecedented scale and this report shows the evidence that increases the number of athletes involved, as well as the scope of the conspiracy. “We have evidence revealing that more than 500 positive results were reported as negative, including well-known and elite-level athletes and medal winners, who had their positive results automatically falsified.”Over 1,000 athletes competing in Summer, Winter and Paralympic sport can be identified as being involved in or benefiting from manipulations to conceal positive tests.”WADA president Craig Reedie called the findings “alarming” and said the report would be of immediate value to sporting bodies responsible for punishing doping cases.But Russia showed no sign of accepting the report’s conclusions.The Sports Ministry said it would study the WADA report and cooperate fully with anti-doping bodies, but “denies that any government programmes exists to support doping in sport”.”UNFOUNDED ACCUSATIONS”

Athletics chief Dmitry Shlyakhtin declined to comment directly on the report because he said he had not seen it. He conceded that Russian athletics’ problems “did not start yesterday”, but said it had now fulfilled all the demands made of it.The International Olympic Committee (IOC) on Wednesday extended provisional sanctions against Russian sport over the scandal, and an international ban on its track and field athletes remains in force pending a reform of its anti-doping programme.Yelena Isinbayeva, double Olympic pole vault champion and newly-elected head of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency supervisory board, said shortly before the report was released: “It is well known to us that many foreign athletes have a history of doping but compete at an international level with no problems.”If we want to clean up world sport, let’s start … we don’t need to concentrate on just one country.”Dmitry Svishchev, a member of parliament and president of Russia’s Curling Federation, said: “We haven’t heard anything new. Unfounded accusations against us all. If you are Russian, they accuse you of all sins.”McLaren accepted that there could be widespread doping elsewhere, though not on the same level as in Russia, the sole focus of his investigation.

McLaren pointed out that Russia had won 24 gold, 26 silver and 32 bronze medals at London 2012 and no Russian athlete had tested positive.”Yet the Russian team corrupted the London Games on an unprecedented scale, the extent of which will probably never be fully established,” he said.”For years, international sports competitions have unknowingly been hijacked by the Russians. Coaches and athletes have been playing on an uneven field.” Forensic investigations by his team detailed how a bank of clean urine samples was kept in a Moscow laboratory, where salt and coffee were added to try to fool officials testing “B samples” in supposedly tamper-proof bottles. DNA MISMATCHES

The report included evidence of DNA mismatches, where a tampered B sample did not match the DNA of previous specimens, and of samples that contained a mixture of male and female urine. It added that analysis of the samples from four Russians who won gold in Sochi had shown salt readings that were physiologically impossible, while there was evidence that the samples of 12 Russian Sochi medallists had been tampered with.More than 1,100 items of evidence contained in the report have now been made available to the public at the website here, including details and pictures of how microscopes were used to detect the tiny scratch marks made when opening the “tamper-proof” sample bottles.Friday’s report provided extensive evidence to support the original July report, which said Moscow had concealed hundreds of positive doping tests ahead of the Sochi Winter Games in 2014.The IOC declined to impose a blanket ban on Russia competing in the 2016 Rio Olympics, letting international sports federations decide which athletes should be allowed to compete. Only athletics and weightlifting banned the entire Russian teams.The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) did ban Russia completely from its Rio games, however, and said on Friday the full findings of the report were “unprecedented and astonishing” and “strike right at the heart of the integrity and ethics of sport”.McLaren accepted that Russian authorities had taken many steps since his first report, removing several officials who had been involved in the cover-up, setting up a new anti-doping commission and proposing a “gold standard” doping control regime.However, when asked about the comments of Svishchev and Isinbayeva, he said: “The findings are not challengeable … my impression is that there is a certain embedded cultural aspect to what has been going on, so there probably does need to be cultural change.”That doesn’t mean change won’t occur, but it might take longer than a few months or a year.” (Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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

First Published On : Dec 9, 2016 21:05 IST

Demonetisation has embassies unhappy; Modi government must take stock of diplomats’ woes

Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced on 8 November that his government has rendered Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes as illegal, citing the drive as an effective solution for an economy riddled with black money, counterfeit currency, and to counter terrorism. Many didn’t know what to make of it, some called it a “masterstroke”, others a “foolish idea”. As the days pass on his 50-day waiting period, and economists, policy watchers have had time to reflect on the demonetisation move, the side-effects are becoming more apparent.

How will demonetisation affect foreign policy?

A recent PTI report claimed that the demonetisation move is taking a toll on Indian diplomacy because Russia lodged a “strong protest over cash shortage affecting the functioning of its embassy in Delhi and threatening retaliatory action.”

Representational image. PTIRepresentational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

Before we give into theatrical imaginations, a “retaliatory action” would be that the issue will be escalated to Moscow and the Indian ambassador in Russia will be called in. What seems to be the issue, you ask? There has been a restriction on withdrawal imposed on embassies for about Rs 50,000 per week. Russian ambassador Alexander Kadakin wrote to the Ministry of External Affairs that such an amount “totally inadequate as regards (to) the embassy’s salary and operational expenditure requirements.”

The official quoted in the PTI report also suggested that other retaliatory options would include putting a similar restriction on cash withdrawals for Indian diplomats posted in Russia.

Russia, however, is not the only country expressing its frustration with demonetisation — not so much with the move, but with the withdrawal restrictions.

According to The Times of India, Hans Dannenberg Castellanos from the Dominican Republic, ambassadors of Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Ethiopia have also sent letters to the MEA.

“The worst hit are Nepal and Bhutan where Indian currency is a legal tender,” says the report. The disgruntled diplomat group, led by Russia is hoping for increased ceiling for withdrawals, dedicated bank windows in bank branches and removal of cash curbs for foreign visitors.

The government, according to a report in Business Standard, has set up an “inter-ministerial task force” to ease the problems of diplomats.

Now, the most obvious impact that one can ascertain from the way things are going is that this hurts the goodwill between nations, at a very individual level.

The Narendra Modi government has maintained the necessary optics in terms of foreign policy and diplomacy. As argued in this Firstpost piece, foreign policy has been the most visible dimension of this government’s term so far. But the government’s negligence in taking care of the growing dissatisfaction and negative impact of demonetisation on embassies and for diplomats will mar the good reputation that India has built so far.

The BJP government has prided itself on turning the focus of its international efforts towards India’s neighbours — the “neighbourhood first policy” might get off course as countries like Myanmar, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and Nepal — where the Indian rupee is a legal tender and use of which is actually encouraged.

Handshakes, press conferences, signed MoUs, photo-ops are all great, but if the people working behind the scenes — foreign bureaucrats, diplomats and embassy workers — are unhappy, the shiniest jewel in the BJP crown could lose some of its sparkle.

First Published On : Dec 8, 2016 12:04 IST

Demonetization: Russia lodges protest, says cash shortage affecting working of its Mission

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Russia has strongly protested with India on cash shortage affecting the working of its Mission after demonetization, and wants a quick resolution of the issue, failing which it may explore other options including summoning Indian diplomat in Moscow.In a letter, Russian Ambassador Alaxander Kadakin has raised the issue of diplomats not being able to withdraw enough money hampering the normal functioning of the mission and sought intervention of the External Affairs Ministry so that the withdrawal restrictions for diplomatic staff are lifted.”We are awaiting a reply from the MEA and hope that this is resolved quickly. Otherwise, we will be forced to explore other options which may include raising the issue in Moscow with your Embassy by summoning Indian Minister Counsellor,” a senior Russian embassy official said here.Other options may also include restriction on the cash withdrawals for Indian diplomats posted in Russia, the official indicated.There are approximately 200 staffers in Russian mission here.There was no immediate reaction from the Indian side on the complaint.Earlier, the Dean of Diplomatic Corps had also raised the issue, complaining about the problems faced by the missions.It is also understood that some other countries like Ukraine and Kazakhstan have also protested to the ministry.After the demonetization last month, MEA had said it has approached Department of Economic Affairs over three or four types of requests including those related to maintaining sufficient flow of funds to diplomatic missions following the demonetization and was awaiting a decision from it.

India likely to step up efforts for Pakistan’s isolation at Heart of Asia conference

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Amid heightened tension with Pakistan following yet another brazen terror attack on an army base, India is likely to step up efforts to corner it diplomatically and mobilise support for concrete action against state-sponsored terrorism at the two-day Heart of Asia (HoA) conference beginning in Amritsar on Saturday.Afghanistan, which has also been witnessing increased attacks from terror groups operating from Pakistani soil, is set to push hard for a regional counter-terror framework with binding commitment at the annual meeting of Heart of Asia Istanbul Process, a platform set up in 2011 to assist the war-battered country in its transition.Top officials of the 14 member countries will meet on Saturday to discuss key challenges facing the region including from terror groups and explore ways to bring lasting peace and stability to Afghanistan. On Sunday, the main conference will be jointly inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani where both India and Afghanistan are likely to corner Pakistan on terror.
ALSO READ Pakistan-backed terror to be focus of Heart of Asia conference, say India, AfghanistanPakistan Prime Minister’s Foreign Affairs Advisor Sartaj Aziz will represent Islamabad at the conference and all eyes will be on whether an Indo-Pak bilateral meeting takes place on the sidelines. Ahead of Aziz s visit in Amritsar, India had on Thursday said it will never accept continuing cross border terrorism as the “new normal” in bilateral ties with Pakistan while making it clear that talks cannot take place in an atmosphere of “continued terror”.India had called for isolating Pakistan diplomatically after the Uri attack on an army establishment and it is likely to continue efforts in that direction at the Heart of Asia conference. At the BRICS summit in Goa in October, India had called Pakistan the “mother ship” of terrorism globally.Aziz is scheduled to arrive in Amritsar on Sunday and is expected to return the same day.The entire holy city, which is not far from Indo-Pak border, has been decked up, while multiple layers of security have been put in place. Strong vigil is being kept along the Indo-Pak border in Punjab. It was clear that dealing with terrorism will be a major focus at the conference as both India and Afghanistan earlier this week called terror emanating from Pakistan the “greatest threat” to regional peace and stability.Afghanistan has been pushing for an effective counter- terror framework and the matter will be discussed at length at the conference being attended by representatives from over 30 countries including China, the US, Russia and Iran. The Indian delegation will be led by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in the absence of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, who is ill. “Terrorism is the greatest threat to the region and we expect the HoA to approve the regional counter terrorism framework that has been drafted by Afghanistan and circulated to HoA countries. We hope the conference will adopt it,” said Afghan Ambassador Shaida M Abdali. A declaration will be issued at the conclusion of the conference and is expected to focus on ways to deal with terror.The conference, whose theme is security and prosperity, will also deliberate on major connectivity initiatives including Chabahar project, a five nation railway project. There may be deliberations on TAPI (Turkmenistan Afghanistan-Pakistan India) gas pipeline project.Ghani is scheduled to arrive on Saturday and he and Prime Minister Narendra Modi will have a bilateral meeting where the Afghan President is likely to push for supply of military hardware by India to his country. India has already provided nearly US $2 billion to Afghanistan for reconstruction activities but has been adopting a cautious approach in providing weapons.The Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process was launched in 2011 and the participating countries include Pakistan, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, China, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan and the United Arab Emirates. Swaraj had attended last year’s conference in Islamabad.The platform was floated to encourage security, political and economic cooperation between Afghanistan and its neighbours. The countries which support the initiative are Australia, Canada, Denmark, Egypt, France, Finland, Germany, Iraq, Italy, Japan, Norway, Poland, Spain, Sweden, Britain and the US. Four countries Uzbekistan, Latvia, Bulgaria and Austria are attending the conference as guest nations.

Demonetisation exercise becoming fractured? Too many theories, no clarity

Every time I feel I want to hug the Prime Minister for lugging $30 billion into the treasury in the first fourteen days of his turning big money into ruddi (garbage), someone rains on my parade.

I was sitting next to an economist on a plane, and he said that the Rs 2,000 note expedites the new black money surge by cutting the time to replenish it by half. By sheer volume, goes his argument, it will amass that much faster so what we should have done was bring out the Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 notes in the same size and different colour.

Look at the people in the queues, he said, they are not millionaires there, just staff being ordered to stand in line divvying up the spoils of the wealthy.

Money exchange companies are not giving out foreign exchange remittances, they are sitting on the money.

The Rs 2,000 note doesn’t work (because the colour runs) and no one is taking it at the common person’s level because no one has suitable change. Then he bites into a biscuit and says this whole thing has been done to infuse saline into ailing banks and raise their liquidity.

All this money they are putting into the banks will now be given as loans to the creamy rich so that the fiscal enslavement of the common man is guaranteed for another generation. The top ten loan takers have taken more than what’s come in and they are not standing in line.

People queuing up outside ATM in New Delhi. PTI

People queuing up outside ATM in New Delhi. PTI

That’s the beauty of it, he says, the people are grateful and they are running around like mice with their tails cut shoving money into the bank and getting nothing for it. But they don’t realise they are the targets, the next step will be very easy loans even for them on very harsh interest rates. Trap, trap, entrap, are you with me?

Am I? Are we? Everyone is making sense of some sort and every theory is bed-rocked in a kind of twisted logic and what has happened is most of us are so thoroughly confused we have lost track of what is good, bad or ugly.

I try to defend it all by saying the world has acknowledged it as the feat of a maestro, a stroke of genius.

He nods wisely. Why wouldn’t they, he smiles wryly like he is talking to a money moron (which he is) you think the US, Russia and China want us to be a superpower? No way. If this was such a stroke of genius they would have criticized it, they will praise it to the skies, it is a fiscal oligarchy, we will stay poor as a nation and finally point 5 percent of Indians will own 95 percent of the economy.

Tell me, he says, which western media organ praises India unless they wish to push us into the abyss?

He is now on a roll. Says, people are being hired to open accounts under Rs 2.5 lakhs, many of them are ignorant, illiterate, sent by dispatch, but they will feed the banks their master’s money through proxy because legally there is no stereotype, no line in the sand, you cannot be stopped because that would be racist and casteist and against our Constitution. The poorest of the poor can have a bank balance of that sum and it all adds up.

You could hire a whole village, truck in people from the slums, so much saved. As for the ATMs don’t be naïve, no government is so foolish they did not think of recalibrating the mahcines for a change in the size, it is part of the plan, don’t you see, you cannot withdraw from the machines so it is all controlled. You could take out Rs 25,000 a day now it is gone, more money to stack up the bank coffers.
But you cannot deny that people have thrown sacks of money into rubbish bins, I said, holding my valiant own.

He laughs the laugh of the learned and said, that is all the counterfeit stuff, who would throw away their notes regardless of how much they have, show me anyone who has flung even one note into the garbage, it is against human nature.

As we go into descent he says, the bankers are falling over with glee imagine nearly every Indian with lakhs in his account, no tax, just fields of green, lush clover to give to the big boys for loans they never return, it is the game of the century.

Yes, but we have sucker punched the gangs, the racketeers, blocked funding to terrorists, stopped hawala and hundi, come on, the underground mafia is in upheaval.

He agrees and then spoils it all by saying, by 30 December they will have made their arrangements.

We part with a sigh of regret from my side but I truly don’t get it. It has become so that you don’t know who to believe or which theory to run with. The moment I convince myself that the right thing has been done for the right reason and I feel that a warm embrace is warranted someone sends a message or writes an email or prints an indepth article dissing the whole thing.

The latest is that brokers have stepped in and become middlemen…just received one of those pass on messages. You have to pay them to jump the queue and they are taking Rs 1,000 notes. Another friend writes and says he ‘bought’ five Rs 100 denomination notes for Rs 600 using a Rs 500 note.

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. The more things change the more they stay the same.

First Published On : Nov 18, 2016 21:11 IST

Rs 500, Rs 1,000 ban: It’s our turn to play soldier; present discomfort a small price to pay

If the India Today report on the selling of a set of printing presses from Nasik in an open auction with the dyes intact has even 10 percent truth in it, it’s is horrific.

Although the Rs 1,000 note went into service in 2000, the first report that the Indian currency was being printed across the border came in 2003 and the presses were activated under Al-Qaeda control, and it is said that as much as Rs 30,000 crores have been generated. Over Rs 3,000 crores were being used annually to finance terror operations against India.

Representational image. PTIRepresentational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

There were vague arrests and some investigations, but how was it okay to sell currency and a stamp paper printing system when dismantling and destroying it and throwing the pieces to the winds was the obvious thing to do. How could good quality currency be printed in massive numbers across the border without these machines and who helped in getting them there.

When you think of the possibility that for over a decade we have had the mickey taken out of us, this decision to make these two notes illegal tender is actually a war of the 21st century and each one of us is a soldier.

Suddenly, we have an army of 1.2 billion men, women and children, and with the confirmations coming in that much of the money was being used to kill our people and our soldiers, our present discomfort is really a small price to pay.

My whole thinking has transformed in a day.

We’ll manage for a week, two weeks, whatever it takes and only hope that the infirm, the elderly and the very young are not denied medical facilities.

Here is our turn to play that soldier seriously and help the neighbours.

But that emotional outburst aside, it is vital, nay mandatory, that the whole gut wrenching, sickening slimy trail of corruption that led to the sale of the printing presses is focused upon again and every individual who was party to it called upon to explain.

I know India signed a deal with Komori, a Japanese firm after its agreement with Russia cracked up and created the first surge of counterfeiting as a cottage industry, but I don’t believe many of us had any clue that older machines had been auctioned.

If so, we need to reopen this investigation on all fronts and ask why, for 13 years, this awareness that imitation Indian money was being funneled through diplomatic pouches, from Nepal and Bangladesh and was of such great quality being printed on our supposedly auctioned presses that it was tough to detect their flaws.

It is so mind boggling to even consider that between the bureaucrats at that time and the governments and their collective awareness they actually allowed presses to be sold and not destroyed.

It is alleged there is a guy in a Bengaluru jail called Abdul Karim Telgi, who was one of the midwives for these deliveries. Let’s wake him up and begin to follow the clues and no matter who gets caught in the net or which party he or she belongs to we deserve to know how these presses were sold.

First Published On : Nov 11, 2016 18:14 IST

India won’t achieve anything till women get empowered: RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat said India will not be able to realise its potential and glory and act as guiding force to the world for peaceful coexistence till its woman power comes forward. “Till India’s ‘matra shakti’ (women power) turns active and comes forward, India will not be able to achieve its potential and pristine glory and act as a guiding force to the world to show it the new path of peaceful coexistence,” he said while speaking at the inauguration of the 3-day training camp of Rashtriya Sevika Samiti, the women wing of RSS. Bhagwat said India through its rich traditions has the potential to act as a guide to the world and that can only be realised when Hindus, including women, unite and get together.The RSS chief added that in this fast-emerging world where science is progressing rapidly, India has the potential to show the world the path to future where there is peace and coexistence without discrimination of any kind.”India has the potential to take the world forward and no other nation,” he said.Bhagwat said while the world order changed from being bipolar to unipolar, America’s supremacy was waning and Russia was again emerging and China was also fighting with the two in this competition to outdo each other, but lamented that no one talks about India as of now. “But India has the potential to emerge. It may not be visible today, but it will emerge,” he said. “India does not just follow tolerance, its rich traditions also follow the principles of acceptance and respect,” he said. He added that while the world is full of conflicts and “fault lines” continue to exist in the fast-emerging world and India has the potential to lead the world and show it the future path. H also called for a world free from conflicts Talking about technological and scientific advances, he said, today the Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes have turned defunct and tomorrow a new world may emerge where there could only be financial transactions through electronic or cashless mode. He said a time may come when 90 per cent of the work may be done through instruments of technology. The RSS chief said fanaticism and communalism give rise to conflicts and the world has to realise the goal of peaceful coexistence. PTI SKC

Five Russian banks hit by cyber attacks

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A massive cyberattack has hit at least five of Russia’s largest banks, Moscow-based internet security giant Kaspersky said. The country’s largest lender, state-controlled Sberbank, said it had been hacked into on Tuesday but managed to neutralise the attack automatically without disturbing its operations. Kaspersky said in a statement that the distribution of denial attacks (DDoS) began Tuesday at 1830 IST and targeted “the websites of at least five well-known financial institutions in the top 10” in Russia.The attacks were still continuing. Most lasted around one hour but the longest lasted almost 12 hours, Kaspersky said. DDoS attacks involve flooding websites with more traffic than they can handle, making them difficult to access or taking them offline entirely.These attacks saw as many as 660,000 requests being sent per second using a network of more than 24,000 hijacked devices located in 30 countries. More than half the devices were in the United States, India, Taiwan and Israel, Kaspersky said. Contacted by AFP, Russia’s central bank confirmed that it had identified “attacks on a number of large banks,” describing their intensity as “medium” and saying they did not disrupt access to banking services.It said the attacks used botnets made up of the “Internet of things” — electronic devices such as CCTV cameras or digital video recorders plugged in to offices and homes worldwide.A senior executive at Sberbank, Stanislav Kuznetsov, told Interfax news agency that the bank had suffered 68 such attacks this year and that the latest was among the biggest.Kaspersky said that DDoS attacks “have long been one of the most popular instruments used by criminals to attack businesses.” Such attacks have grown more frequent in recent years with the development of online banking but also in the context of heightened tensions over the crisis in Ukraine with attackers targeting the sites of the Kremlin and NATO. Most recently Washington accused Russia of using cyberattacks against the Democratic Party to attempt to disrupt this week’s presidential election.

Russian Defence Minister meets Parrikar, says ‘double standards’ cannot defeat terrorism

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Coming together against terrorism, India and Russia on Wednesday said the menace cannot be defeated with “double standards” and there is a need for “zero tolerance” and collective efforts to combat terrorism. Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar held a detailed meeting with his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu in New Delhi during which the issue of terrorism was also discussed.Parrikar also made it clear that Russia is India’s time tested and closest partner and it will continue to remain primary defence partner.”One of the key security challenges faced by India is that of cross-border terrorism. We appreciate Russia’s consistent and unwavering support for India in our efforts to eliminate this menace, which is a manifestation of the continued presence of terrorist groups in India’s neighbourhood,” Parrikar said as he co-chaired the Indo-Russian Inter Governmental Commission on Military Technical Cooperation meeting. He noted that Russia has also been actively engaged in efforts to eliminate terrorists in West Asia.”We both recognise that the menace of terrorism cannot be defeated with double standards. There is a need for zero tolerance and collective efforts to combat terrorism,” he said.On his part, Shoigu said at times there is unacceptable “double or even, at times, triple standards” in fight against terrorism. “What is absolutely unacceptable in terms of the fight against terrorism is the use of the double or even, at times, triple standards. The serious consolidation of all reasonable powers is necessary to fight this 21st century’s evil,” he said.Shoigu also alluded to the problem of distinguishing between terrorists and moderate opposition, which hindered the collaboration between Russia and the United States in Syria.Both leaders are also understood to have discussed deeper military co-operations, especially focusing on joint production of fifth generation fighter aircraft, upgradation of Su-30 MKI planes and firming up the contract for the Triumf air defence system.”Russia is India’s time tested and closest partner and it will continue to remain our primary defence partner,” Parrikar said. He said that while military technical cooperation is progressing well, he feels that the traditional military- to-military cooperation needs more focus.”The pace and depth of our exchanges at the level of Chiefs, training of personnel in each other’s institutions, joint military exercises between all armed forces should be enhanced. We could mutually work out the modalities of increasing the military-to-military cooperation and draw up a roadmap for implementation,” he said.

NSG membership: Not just China, India must work on convincing other countries with reservations

India needs to change tack in its quest for membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). Apart from concentrating on China, which had blocked its entry earlier this year, it also needs to focus on the half a dozen or more countries that had reservations over the admission process. The objections of these NSG members to making an exception for India for the second time without laying down a procedure for membership remain a major challenge for Indian negotiators.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with President Xi Jinping. Reuters

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with President Xi Jinping. Reuters

New Zealand, Ireland, Switzerland and Austria were among the handful of countries that had called for setting the criteria for admission of countries that had not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Most of them were not opposed to India’s entry but were in favour of drafting guidelines or conditions for membership. India is not a signatory to the NPT.

Though India had blamed China for thwarting its bid at the NSG plenary meeting in June 2016, these countries too had a significant role in ensuring India’s application was not taken up at the meeting. Pakistan’s last minute application for membership to the NSG gave an added cause for their reservations.

India has begun its preparations for the next meeting of the NSG that is likely to take place in late November. The NSG plenary meeting in Seoul had ended with an agreement that a special meeting would be held before the end of the year. It was also decided that Argentinian envoy Rafael Grossi would undertake informal consultations to build consensus on the criteria for admission.

The campaign to muster support within the NSG membership began gathering momentum at the time of the Brics summit in Goa earlier this month. Four of the Brics countries – Russia, China, Brazil and South Africa are members of the Nuclear Supplier’s Group. Russia backed India’s candidature at the Seoul meeting. In keeping with his personalised style of diplomacy, Prime Minister Narendra Modi personally took up the NSG issue in his bilateral meetings with the Brics leaders.

Modi spoke to Brazil’s new President Michel Temer for support at the NSG, but Brazil remained non-committal with Temer merely stating that he “understood” India’s aspiration to be a member of the NSG. There was no positive reference to NSG after Modi’s meeting with South African President Jacob Zuma. Chinese President Xi Jinping assured Modi that the second round of talks between China and India on non-proliferation would be held soon.

China had proposed that the top disarmament and arms control officials of India and China meet to discuss the nuclear issue. The first round of talks was held in late September. At the same time, China is going ahead with its support to Pakistan on its NSG membership. China held a round of arms control discussions with Pakistan in late September just a few days after its talks with India. Following the talks, Beijing had suggested a two-step process to explore a ‘non-discriminatory formula’ that would be applicable to all non-NPT states seeking to join the NSG.

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key’s arrival in Delhi on Tuesday evening for a four-day state visit would be another occasion to put forward India’s case. New Zealand is a staunch supporter of nuclear non-proliferation and has been at the forefront of international moves calling for progress towards disarmament. It was a founder of the New Agenda Coalition, comprising Brazil, Egypt, Ireland, Mexico and South Africa that gave a call for a nuclear weapons free world. It also has a strong public movement against nuclear weapons that took strong roots when the US and later France had conducted nuclear tests in the South Pacific region.

Brazil has indicated that though it supported India, it favoured a laid down process for entry. This was on the same lines as other countries that were not in favour of yet another exception being made for India, instead of evolving criteria that would apply to all new members.

India’s diplomatic offensive has to work on parallel processes to convince China as well as the other NSG members querying the admission process. India had misread the signals emanating from several capitals before the Seoul meeting. It had banked on the fact that the 48-member NSG had approved of a special exemption for India in 2008 to allow it access to nuclear technology. In that context, it had underestimated their depth of concern over altering the NSG norms on NPT and not expected it to be a major hindrance to its candidature.

India has to find a way to address the reservations expressed by the NSG members. With Pakistan’s application in the background, backed by China, it would not be an easy task to convince the NSG members to change their stance.

Pakistan and JNU: India’s bauddhiks never had it so good in their war on bhakts

Leave the alleged bhakts alone for a bit. They have taken enough of a beating. Let’s take a look at the ones who are giving them the beating. They are the bauddhiks — or intellectuals. So it’s ‘bauddhiks versus bhakts‘.

All bauddhiks are not of the same ilk, although all of them are united in their crusade against bhakts. There are bauddhiks and bauddhiks and bauddhiks. Some swear by the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty. Some fashion themselves as liberal citizens. And there are some pretty good ones: Ordinary mortals with a love for secularism and with doubts about the government’s commitment to it.

Though bauddhiks come in different hues, those coloured red stick out prominently like monarchs looking over minions. The red ones are the bauddhiks among bauddhiks — or intellectuals among intellectuals. They are the Great Left Indian Bauddhiks (GLIB).

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

You would imagine that, according to bauddhiks, a bhakt is a Hindutva extremist. You’ve got it all wrong! The GLIB definition of a bhakt includes in its sweep all Indians who are not bauddhiks. That’s when things begin to get messy.

And the GLIB brigade never had as marvellous a time in the past as they are having now. They are kicking themselves with utter delight and exploding with wild laughter. That’s because the current India-Pakistan tension has presented them with unique opportunities to spit out their GLIB theories about everything that is awfully wrong with bhakts in particular and India in general.

They are almost grateful to Pakistan’s military boss Raheel Sharif; they must be mentally saluting him. If he didn’t despatch his jihadist goons to attack Uri, the “surgical strikes” and whatever followed them wouldn’t have happened. And it wouldn’t have helped bauddhiks prove to us that they are made of superior stuff. And it wouldn’t have led to the following GLIB questions.

“Were they really surgical strikes?”

“Weren’t such strikes done earlier during the Congress regime?”

“What good can such things do anyway? Will that stop terrorists from attacking India?”

“Shouldn’t Narendra Modi put an end to the Kashmir problem first?”

“Has Modi really isolated Pakistan?”

“Wait a minute! Isn’t it India that has been isolated by the threesome of Pakistan, Russia and China?”

Bauddhiks are always bursting with questions. They seldom run out of questions. When they do, one of their own ilk, like Najeeb Ahmad, drops out of sight in JNU. That sparks more questions beginning with: Why aren’t all the bhakts behind bars if they make men with lily-white innocence like Ahmad disappear?

Yet the GLIB brigade accuses Modi of stopping them from asking questions. You can see that they have the freedom to question why they can’t ask questions. That’s another matter.

And when some bhakts say really nutty things like RSS ideology was the driving force behind surgical strikes or that artistes from Pakistan should be bashed up and kicked out of India or that Chinese products must be avoided like the dengue, the bauddhiks are publicly furious but secretly delighted. That blesses them with fresh opportunities to debunk the bhakts and re-establish their cerebral one-upmanship. And between sips of coffee or scotch, they go on vomiting out their superior wisdom laced with morbid humour in bursts of 140 characters on Twitter.

So, like the Niagara Falls, the torrent of questions is unstoppable. But bauddhiks have no answer when you ask them how come they had never had so many questions in the past before or during the earlier UPA governments. Like, for instance, when the media dropped many stories or killed exposés under some pressure or own editorial judgment, or when India made many preposterous moves against Pakistan, or when people were massacred in West Bengal by Marxist thugs. And, of course, there are never any questions when Maoists butcher villagers, though there are plenty when the police gun down Maoists.

Now you know. Bauddhiks cherry-pick each question to embarrass only one man, and their fascinating quest for truth is targeted against that one single man.

You find that their enmity is not with terror, or Pakistan that exports terror, or with China that backs Pakistan, or with Russia that backs China, but their quarrel is with that one, single man.

You find that what they hate are words like America, Israel, India, Hindu and bourgeois; and what they admire are China, Russia, themselves, and anyone who makes jokes about nationalism and anyone who shouts for Kashmir’s freedom.

You find that, though some of their questions do make some sense, you feel a bit queasy because they are wrapped in GLIB ideas.

You find that they make it look as if Modi came to power by a military coup and not because India voted for him.

You find that they believe every Indian who had voted for Modi is a bhakt, which is false, and they refuse to accept that between bauddhiks and Hindutva extremists are a vast number of Indians who backed Modi.

You find that bauddhiks, who infest the Indian newspapers and social media in a big way, corrupt young minds by telling them that “Hate Modi” is the first commandment in “true” journalism.

You find that the bauddhiks have taken upon themselves a noble task of being the media watchdogs, but that their critiques are limited to a few English channels where bhakt voices are louder.

And then finally you find that bauddhiks are as nutty as some bhakts.

The author tweets @sprasadindia

Pakistan will attend Heart of Asia conference in India: Sartaj Aziz

Islamabad: Adviser to Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz has confirmed that Pakistan will be attending the upcoming Heart of Asia conference scheduled to be held in India.

Aziz on Monday confirmed Pakistan’s participation during a press conference here, Dawn online reported.

File image of Sartaj Aziz. AFPFile image of Sartaj Aziz. AFP

File image of Sartaj Aziz. AFP

The Heart of Asia conference will be held during the first week of December in Amritsar, India.

“We have started an effective campaign for the cause of self-determination of Kashmiri people,” said the foreign affairs adviser.

The announcement came amid growing tensions between the two neighbours following the 18 September attack on an Indian Army base in Jammu and Kashmir’s Uri town that killed 19 Indian soldiers.

Foreign ministers from 14-member countries, including Russia, China and Turkey, are expected to attend the day-long conference meant to discuss the current Afghan situation and possible initiatives the immediate and extended neighbours of Afghanistan could undertake to restore long-term peace and stability in the war-torn country, Daily Pakistan reported.

Senior officials from 17 supporting countries, including the US, will also participate in the meeting to be jointly presided over by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process was established in 2011 at the initiative of Afghanistan and Turkey. Its main objective is to foster efforts for regional cooperation and connectivity with a view to promoting long-term peace and stability as well as progress and development in Afghanistan, and the region.

Pakistan hosted the last Ministerial Conference in December 2015 which was also attended by Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.

The ISIS mirage

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In the muggy summer of April 2015, almost a year after self-anointed Caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi urged Muslims to immigrate to the land of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Tamil Nadu-native Subahani Haja Moideen sold his land and boarded a flight from Chennai to Turkey to perform hijrah—a Muslim’s duty as a faithful. According to investigating officers, the 30-year-old class XII graduate was not particularly religiously inclined; he was married and a low-skilled worker, sometimes in a store, sometimes in garment factories. Like millions of other Indians, he had access to the Internet. That is where he found religion, in the slick, sophisticated propaganda that ISIS is known for putting out in the hopes of adding recruits to its cause of expanding the so-called Caliphate. In what is now widely recognised as an ISIS tactic, Moideen also met a woman online—she claimed to be Swedish—while searching for guidance on hijrah. Moideen was a ready convert to the cause. Like thousands of others, he had spent time consuming the group’s propaganda and videos. In 2015, he made contact with ISIS supporters via the instant messaging app Telegram. Chats with accounts in the name of Abu Naisha al Maghrabi and Abu al-Swedi assured Moideen that if he travelled to Turkey, they would arrange his journey inside IS territory in Syria.It was just the push Moideen needed. He sold ancestral property for Rs 1.8 lakh, paid off debts, and flew to Istanbul, Turkey. His family thought he was going for umrah—the pilgrimage to Islam’s holiest site, Mecca. In the chosen land In Turkey, Moideen contacted handlers who took him to a safe house in Istanbul where foreign fighters from Morocco, the UK, Russia and Pakistan were awaiting their journey to the Caliphate.Two days later, when they reached the town of Tell Abyad on Turkey-Syria border in Raqqa, Moideen was enrolled in a training camp for a 21-day basic course providing military, political and Sharia insights. In a second, 15-day round of training for physical combat, Moideen injured his knee and was unable to complete the course. “His training commander told him from the start, his performance as a fighter was poor,’’ said an investigating officer. Not accustomed to the gruelling physical endurance required, Moideen couldn’t keep up. “After taking a gun in his hand, his heroism faded away. His commanders made him guard tents in the camp,” an investigating officer said. He spent the next few days doing chores, with a monthly salary of $100.In June, as Kurdish forces advanced into ISIS territory and seized the town of Tell Abyad, Moideen saw for the first time the horrors of battle in real-time as opposed to social media videos that portrayed ISIS as ‘baqiya wa tatamaddad’ (‘remaining and expanding’). While the Kurds were on ground, the US coalition forces were providing assistance from the skies. In one such attack, a drone-fired bomb hit a building where Moideen hid with other recruits. Two of his training comrades were charred to death. “This made him question his choice,” the officer said. This is reportedly when Moideen asked for his passport to leave Syria. Upon arrival into ISIS territory, foreign fighters are required to hand their passports to leaders. Since the beginning of the armed conflict in Syria, an estimated 40,000 foreign fighters from over 100 countries have joined ISIS, al Qaeda and other jihadi groups in the region. The large chunk of mercenary fighters are the life blood of the group, deployed on frontlines and in suicide attacks.The souring Filled with the religiousness of jihad and lured by foreign fighters, it was only a matter of time before Moideen realised there was nothing Islamic about the state formed in the name of Islam, say investigators.Illustration: Gajanan NirphaleIn September 2015, Moideen became the second Indian ISIS recruit to return back home, dejected and disillusioned, a mere five months later. Investigating officials who interrogated Moideen say his is a classic case of social media indoctrination. “It did not take him much time to realise there is a difference between the way ISIS portrays itself in its videos and how it operates on ground. He made attempts to flee from the very first month,’’ said a senior officer. Police officers from Tamil Nadu said Moideen did not take part in any armed conflict either in Mosul or Raqqa, because he was physically inept and also because he questioned IS strategies.“From what he saw on the ground, ISIS maintained some form of Islamic law on its territory, but it was also killing civilians. There was no clarity on who the enemy is—the Assad government and Syrian military forces, other rebel groups or fellow Muslims,” an officer said. As a result, recruits like Moideen who came looking for a jihadist utopia to live an Islamic life have been shattered by the reality on ground. Killings of fellow Muslims, Shias, Sunnis as spies, capturing Yazidi women as sex slaves, atrocities against civilians for crimes such as smoking cigarettes, not performing prayers, corruption, and religious differences has led to many foreign fighters deserting ISIS. Those caught trying to escape have been jailed.The flight Following Tell Abyad’s seizure, ISIS fighters, including Moideen’s group, fled to Mosul. He continued with security duties while pleading to be let go. Instead, he was jailed for up to 40 days, first in Raqqa and then in Mosul (Iraq). Moideen told interrogators that ISIS commanders suspected him to be a spy. For days, he was questioned about his motives. After confirming his innocence, senior ISIS leaders took Moideen along with other prisoners to an undisclosed location.With other fighters in this group, Moideen realised he was not alone in wanting to return home. They had heard stories of other deserters. Moideen found allies in fighters from UK, Morocco, Tajikistan and Russia. A Russian fighter—likely a spy sent before Russia officially intervened militarily in Syria in the same month—had a GPS and knew the route from another fighter who had safely made it to Turkey a few days prior. They pooled in savings and used $600 as a bribe to a truck driver to another town. After walking for over 8 km, they reached Gaziantep, a Turkish border city. Once inside Turkey, the members went their own ways. With no other options, Moideen made his way to the Indian consulate in Istanbul. He did not disclose what he did since his arrival in Turkey five months prior. ISIS advises recruits travelling to Syria via Turkey to have a return ticket and if caught by security forces, to pretend to be just another tourist vacationing in resort towns.At the Indian embassy, Moideen, too, pretended to be an Indian tourist who had lost his passport and luggage. The Indian embassy, after checking his background, issued him an Emergency Certificate that allowed him to travel back. He returned on September 22 to Mumbai and headed to his village in Kadayanallur in Tamil Nadu’s Tirunelveli district. Although the Intelligence Bureau has issued a circular that states should be notified about any EC issued to any of their residents, senior officials from Tamil Nadu police said they were in the dark about Moideen’s journey to Syria and his return. Home, sweet home?Once back, Moideen claimed his time with the ISIS frightened him. Fearing that security forces would catch up with his past sooner or later, he confided in his family and assured them he would start afresh. After settling back into a routine life, Moideen revived his encrypted Telegram account. The NIA alleges that Moideen was “planning to collect explosives and chemicals from Sivakasi at their (ISIS’) instance” and was conspiring on a terrorist attack. Tamil Nadu police officers who also interrogated Moideen say his testimony only reveals a motivation to make some money. “He was in extreme financial distress and thought he could get some money from the Islamic `brothers’ as help. He belongs to a poor family and had already sold his land,” a police officer said. ISIS social media supporters consider themselves a part of the baqiya (enduring) family. Researcher Amarnath Amarsingham, who co-directs a project on studying Western foreign fighters joining the conflict in Syria and Iraq at the University of Waterloo in Canada, finds them “a deeply connected group of youth who find a sense of community online”. Mushtaq Komari, another ISIS fighter from India on the app, offered aid. Coordinating with a contact in Chennai, Komari told Moideen to collect Rs 20,000. Moideen made the trips, but was not able to find the middleman. This was because the entire encrypted communication was done without making phone calls. On the third attempt, Moideen picked up Rs 20,000 cash kept under a statue in City Park, Chennai. On October 6, he was picked up by the NIA, becoming only the second known Indian to have returned home.

We are an ally who stood by India in darkest hours: Russia

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>With deals over US $12 billion in kitty this month, including leasing of a second nuclear submarine, Russia hopes to bag more projects as it termed itself as not just a business partner but an “ally” who stood by India in its “darkest hours”.Russia is eying the multi-billion dollar deal for P75-I project of India under which six conventional submarines are to be built with Air Independent Propulsion systems and the next aircraft carrier project besides the deal to jointly develop a fifth generation fighter aircraft. Asserting that there is no limit to what India and Russia can do together, a top Russian defense official claimed the US and Europeans can never give what Moscow can and has offered.”We are ready not just to deliver most serious weapons, most important weapons but continue to give our state of art technology,” Sergei Chemezov, CEO of Rostec State Corporation, an umbrella organisation of 700 hi-tech civilian and military firms, told PTI. “Russia is a friend, an ally and not a business partner.Russia stood by India during its darkest hours. Next year will mark 70 years of our relationship. It is a long time,” he said and noted that Russia had stood by India when it faced sanctions after the 1998 nuclear tests. “Not so in the recent past, when India was under sanctions, we were pretty much the only partner for India. “Russia has been a partner not only in every day military supplies but also most sensitive and most important supplies including a nuclear submarine which was rented to India for you to use,” said Chemezov who is also a close aide of Russian President Vladmir Putin. “Come to think about it, I would not imagine any other country to do that, he said. Not in the past or in the future.I cannot imagine US or Europe giving India such a strategic asset,” he said when asked about the tough competition that US and Europe are giving to Russia in the Indian defence market. Not only did Russia lease out a nuclear powered submarine, it actively helped in the building India’s first indigenous nuclear weapon carrying capable submarine INS Arihant which has been inducted into the Indian Navy.Chemezov said “it is a very special year for us and will be marked by major projects and things are starting already.” He, however, admitted that from a third person’s point of view, there might have been some decline in some areas of defense between the two countries. US and some European countries have managed to strike mega deals with India which the Russians were also competing for. “It is not a linear sort of relationship. We feel that ties are definitely developing and increasing,” he said.Giving example of the deadly BrahMos missile, Chemezov said that not only has Russia delivered high value equipment but has also collaborated with India on developing strategic assets. He pointed out that in late 1990s, Russia had transferred technology for Su30 MKI, India’s frontline fighter aircraft. “At that point of time, it was our most modern equipment, our most modern plane. When we had actually signed that agreement, Russia did not even equip its army with this.”This was basically our newest highest technology. That shows and speaks about our relationship with India,” he said. He also gave the example of T90 tanks, saying they are “not in anyway less but in many way, modern than any advanced US or European technologies”. He said there is scope for cooperation in the P75-I and the aircraft carrier project.”There is definitely scope for both of those. There is pretty much no limit to what we could do together. Anything that is within our realm of things and possibilities, means it is the same with India,” he said. Chemezov said that Russia has already submitted its proposals for both projects.

While lists of debit card holders were being stolen, nation’s ‘chowkidaar’ was sleeping: Congress on Modi

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Congress, on Friday, latched on to biggest debit card breach in India to take pot shot at the Narendra Modi government telling the Prime Minister that he should take credit for this first ever “surgical strike” from hackers in the US and China.”In China, Russia, Indonesia, the US, there are hackers who have stolen lists of 65 lakh card holders. While these lists were being stolen, the nations ‘Chowkidaar’ (watchman), Narendra Modi was sleeping,” party spokesman Ajoy Kumar told reporters. Demanding that the government make a full disclosure on the extent of this “theft”, he wanted it to inform all those affected by this leak and ensure that the banks compensate all card holders for their loss.”There are very few occurrences of this magnitude in the world. And these lists were stolen on Modiji’s watch. This government has a habit of saying that it is the first government to do anything. Well it is the first government to let lists of cardholders get stolen,” he said suggesting that it should take credit for this ‘surgical strike’. He lamented that instead of the NDA government fulfilling its promise of depositing Rs 15 lakh in each citizen’s account by bringing back black money stashed abroad, “money is being taken out of the people’s account in Modi’s India”.

India, China discord among issues that could capsize BRICS: China

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>India-China differences and their discord over Pakistan are among differences in the BRICS that could “capsize” the grouping if the member nations fail to address competition and disagreements among them, Chinese media said. BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) nations, “while achieving substantial benefits through their joint efforts, must also face up to the divergence in their interests, which has given rise to concerns that the group is losing its shine”, an article in state-run Global Times on the Goa BRICS summit said. “Territorial disputes between China and India have been an obstinate disease between the two sides. Additionally, some Indians believe that China supports Pakistan, which is viewed as tantamount to supporting terrorism,” it said. “It has been argued that the BRICS members face three key issues: the lack of a solid foundation for shared interests, a weak cooperation mechanism and external pressures. If the member countries aren’t careful enough, they might capsize while sailing around the world,” the article said. In regards to shared interests, “competition and disagreement between the BRICS nations have been an impediment”, said the article titled ‘BRICS need to address challenges to strengthen ties’ written by a think-tank from Renmin University. “The five emerging countries all value exports and foreign investment, resulting in inevitable collisions and friction as they compete for resources, market footholds and foreign investment inflows,” it said. Accusing India, Brazil and South of Africa “sending signals of trade protectionism”, it said the three “often seek to launch anti-dumping probes against China”. “India and Brazil have been among the countries that have implemented the biggest number of protectionist measures against China,” it said. Yet another impeding factor is the divergent political and economic pursuits among BRICS states, it said. Brazil and South Africa hope that cooperation within BRICS will boost their regional influence both politically and economically, while Russia cares more about the BRICS’ political and strategic importance, it said. “The second risk that BRICS faces is an insufficient cooperation mechanism. In addition to the recently concluded eighth annual BRICS summit in Goa, many ministerial meetings are held annually. “However, the grouping of BRICS remains a loose union lacking stability. There is yet to be any institutions such as a secretariat or any guidelines and procedures designed for BRICS cooperation,” it said. “Ever since the launch of BRICS, Western countries have never ceased courting or alienating individual BRICS countries or elbowing them out from participating in the global governance. India has always been a target for the US to contain BRICS members within the club of emerging powers. By launching the Trans-Pacific Partnership, Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and Trade in Services Agreement, the US aims to isolate BRICS countries, putting more pressure on developing countries,” it said.

Talks of Russia ditching India for China is a case of over-exaggeration

A veteran journalist says that is “mad” at Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s failure in incorporating the name of Pakistan in the joint declaration of the just concluded Brics summit in Goa. Under normal circumstances one would not have taken the comment of this journalist (who also happens to be a habitual Modi-baiter) seriously, but one can’t ignore the fact that the inability of the Brics leaders in naming Pakistan as a source of global terror in the “Goa declaration” is being perceived by many in India as not only a failure of Modi’s foreign policy but also as a strong signal of Russia moving away from India, and towards China.

India Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Chinse President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin in a file photo. PTIIndia Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Chinse President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin in a file photo. PTI

India Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Chinse President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin in a file photo. PTI

But then perceptions are not necessarily true. As a student of international relations, I have rarely come across joint declarations of a multilateral summit mentioning any non-participating country specifically unless that country (in this case Pakistan) is at war or under some grave natural calamity. Therefore, in my considered view the perception that Russia is moving closer to China deserves more attention. It is a fact that Russia-China relations, particularly in the security sphere, have been in an upswing over the last few years. The two have been conducting many “provocative” joint military drills, including those in the disputed South China Sea. Russian arms sales to China have increased phenomenally.

However, this does not mean that Russia is contemplating to ignore India for the sake of China. On the other hand, Russia has been systematically trying to promote what is called a strategic triangle of Russia, India and China.

Though former Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov was the first Russian leader to use the words “trilateral cooperation” among Russia, India and China, the concept has been spearheaded by President Vladimir Putin. The pattern was set during his first term as president when Putin held summit meetings with Indian and Chinese heads of government, in short intervals. The idea of Russia-India-China initiative was talked about on the eve of eve of Putin’s visit to India in October 2000. It followed Russia-China summit (between Putin and Chinese President Jiang Zemin) in July that year at Moscow. In 2002, the idea was again talked about during Putin’s visit to Delhi, which took place immediately after his trip to Beijing; in fact Putin had combined his China and India visits together and landed in Delhi straight from Beijing.

It was at Putin’s behest that the first trilateral summit involving the three countries took place in St Petersburg in July 2006. It was argued that Beijing and New Delhi accepted Russia’s proposal to hold trilateral summit because “it was beneficial to boosting the cooperation among the three countries as well as maintaining multipolarity in the world”. Of course, it is to be remembered that the St Petersburg meeting took place on the sidelines of the G-8 summit, which Russia had hosted for the first time and former India Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Chinese president Hu Jintao had attended it as special invitees.

However, since then “Russia, India and China process” (RIC process) — that is how India “officially” describes the development — has also involved regular meetings of foreign ministers of the three countries, the last of which, incidentally the 14th in the series, was held in Moscow on April 18, 2016. The Moscow meet resolved that “Russia, India and China (RIC), as countries with important influence at international and regional levels and emerging market economies, need to further strengthen practical coordination on global and regional issues in the spirit of openness, solidarity, mutual understanding and trust. They (the foreign ministers) emphasised that cooperation between their countries is conducive to maintaining international and regional peace and stability, and promoting global economic growth and prosperity”.

In promoting the RIC process, Russia seems to have been guided by three developments. First, Russia’s inability to impede the eastward expansion of NATO. Its frustration over NATO’s unilateral military action in Kosovo forced Moscow to seek closer strategic understanding with China and India. Russia also found commonality with India and China in the perceived US bid for global hegemony, which was in direct conflict with their preference for a “multipolar world.”

The second reason from Russian point of view is that the three countries have problems with Islamic militants. India fights border problems everyday against radical Islamic fighters infiltrating from Pakistan into Kashmir. Besides Pakistan, India sees Afghanistan as a breeding ground for Islamic militants, a view fully shared by Russia. Moscow is concerned about the growth of Islamic fundamentalism in the five Central Asian Republics of the former Soviet Union (which Russia still sees as its sphere of influence). China’s problem with Islamic guerrillas focuses on the Muslim Uighar separatists in Xinjiang, an area of China rich in mineral resources. Beijing suspected that outside forces emanating from Afghanistan were feeding the disturbances, and Russian help on the border was needed to cut off that aid. Besides, as multi-ethnic states, Russia, China and India are concerned about the prospects of growing ethnic nationalism and Islamic fundamentalism in the region.

The third common interest is the arms trade. China and India account for nearly 70 percent of Russia’s arms exports. As it is, one of the important features of the Russian strategic and military blueprint is that Moscow will continue to assign the country’s military-industrial complex the responsibility of ensuring a considered presence in the world market of high technology Russian products and services. And, one of the goals of the military-industrial complex is to improve the system of intergovernmental cooperation in the military field. In this scheme of things, both India and China are extremely important, since both buy billions of dollars worth arms from Russia.

But the problem is that at times both India and China demand the same weapon systems with the same features. Because of special circumstances, India has always enjoyed a special status as an importer of Russian arms. Russia sends weapons of more value and substance. These weapons are not only latest but also those which are not even commissioned into the Russian armed forces.

Obviously, India will not like China to get the same features and facilities from the Russians. It is all the more so when there is a chance of some of those weapons finding their way to Pakistan. In that sense, by suggesting the concept of a Russia-China-India triangle, Moscow wants to appease the Indian sensitivities, with the hope that the idea will remove mutual suspicions between Delhi and Beijing.

But will this Russian policy succeed? It is extremely doubtful that it will, and that, in turn, is the reason why one does not see great virtues in India showing enthusiasm about the “triangle”. From Indian point of view, for any triangular relationship, China has to vacate the countervailing strategic space in favour of Pakistan. Since China is part of the strategic nexus with Pakistan aimed at India, how can India be part of a coalition in which two of its potential antagonists are inter-twined?

Secondly, given the anti-American overtone of the “triangle” concept, India may find it difficult to be associated with it, particularly when over the last few years Indo-US relations have witnessed unprecedented improvements, the Pakistan-factor notwithstanding. In fact, even China will not like any ganging up against the US for similar reasons. All told, the Chinese economy is crucially dependent on the American market. Whatever the ideologically oriented pro-China experts may say, the fact remains that China is excessively dependent on the international market both for resources and revenue generation. Just imagine what will happen if the Americans, particularly American-Chinese, stop investing in China and the US refuses to open its markets for Chinese goods.

Even otherwise, though Moscow advocates a durable and long-term framework of shared interests with India and China, unlike Indo-Russian relationship, the Sino-Russian link is controversial among influential Russian policymaking elites. Russia shares a long border with China and a long history of often bitter and complex relations. Besieged with a growing problem of demographic decline, many Russian analysts fear that Siberia and its far east would soon be over-run by migrant Chinese labour. This fear is genuine as anybody familiar with Chinese history will admit that Chinese territorial claims all over Asia often followed its emigrants. Likewise, the Russians are not comfortable with the growing Chinese activities in Central Asia, which Moscow always considers to be falling under its sphere of vital interests. Besides, it is also felt in Russian strategic circles that China, with ex-Soviet Union scientists and engineers working in its defence facilities, is producing weapons by reverse-engineering the Russian products and exporting them in the international market, particularly in Pakistan and North Korea.

Viewed thus, the RIC process, though a grand idea, has its obvious limitations. The conditions under which it was initiated are not exactly the same now for its real blossoming. Therefore, strategic partnerships among Russia , China and India are likely to remain strictly bilateral, that is, Russia-India, Russia-China and India-China. And when one comes to bilateral relations between India and Russia, the potentials are immense, to speak the least.

Brics Summit in Goa: Vladimir Putin’s ‘screw’ remark proves he is Russia’s Donald Trump

There was something that happened at the Brics summit in Goa last weekend that escaped the attention it deserved.

Asked by a small group of Russian journalists covering the summit about the threat of more sanctions on Russia by western countries, President Vladimir Putin said that they could “screw themselves”.

A file photo of Vladimir Putin. ReutersA file photo of Vladimir Putin. Reuters

A file photo of Vladimir Putin. Reuters

Whether Putin meant the western nations can “screw” themselves or the sanctions can “screw” themselves is not clear. What is clear is that he did use the s- word, and apparently the faces of a couple of Putin’s aides present at his interaction, turned red with embarrassment. Not surprisingly, Kremlin pulled down this remark from the Russian government’s website.

And this should confirm to us why US Presidential candidate Donald Trump has taken a shine to Putin. Like birds of the same feather, men of the same tongue hit it off famously. But let’s talk about Putin first.

“… Putin saw his usual statesman-like demeanour crack..(in Goa),” said The Moscow Times. But many Russians, familiar with Putin’s singular lack of linguistic finesse, are aware that he doesn’t find it easy to keep up his “statesman-like demeanour”.

In fact, the dialect of Russian that Putin speaks is called Fenya. Russians would tell you that Fenya is the kind of language that thieves use. Some Russians not only frown at Putin’s choice of words but even his grammar. And Putin’s work as an undercover KGB agent in East Germany before he entered politics obviously did nothing to hone his language skills.

Putin’s 1999 promise that he would destroy terrorists wherever they are found— “including toilets” — is still remembered in Russia and the West with a grimace. So is his comparison of the US to a “hungry wolf” which “eats and listens to no one”.

Why Deve Gowda used the ‘screw’ word

This reminds me of the day in 1996 when Deve Gowda, then India’s Prime Minister, caused a flutter by mouthing the screw word. Later, he himself was surprised that he had said something like it.

“Don’t screw us,” he thundered to a stunned audience at the World Economic Forum at Davos, taking exception to the protectionist policies of developed nations. If Gowda’s outburst was dismissed as an innocuous slip of the tongue, it was because, unlike Putin and Trump, he had had no history of using the s- and f- words even in private conversations. Besides, it was an open secret in those days that Gowda was still taking English lessons to perfect his language.

But why is Putin angry?

The very mention of America gets Putin’s adrenaline pumping. If he is furious with the US more than ever before now, it’s because of the sanctions against Russia that followed his country’s intervention in Ukraine and later in Syria. The sanctions are hurting Russia.

Putin’s “bravado” in Goa only hides his fear of sanctions, says Kyiv Post, a popular Ukrainian paper. It said: “President Putin is indeed screwing someone over, but it’s not the West; he is screwing over his own people, over and over again, millions of whom are paying the price for their leader’s personal ambitions and interests.”

Donald Trump loves Vladimir Putin

Yes, he does. He has been saying so himself—well, almost.

Trump suffers no qualms about degrading women with his lewd, loud and crass comments and thinks nothing of using the f- or even p- words. “Grab them by the p***y,” he once said. “You can do anything.”

Trump perhaps finds that Putin is the only world leader who appreciates the language.

Trump said on Monday that America was “too tough” on Putin and that, if elected, he would meet the Russian leader even before he stepped into White House.

Earlier, there was an important tweet. It was one from Russia with love.

In the final US presidential debate on Thursday, Hillary Clinton dubbed Trump as Putin’s puppet.

But Hillary Clinton fails to see what binds Trump and Putin: The two men speak the same language. Trump and Putin are two sides of the same dollar—or ruble.

Is Putin Russia’s Trump?

There has been some silly talk about whether Trump is the American version of Modi—or whether Modi is India’s Trump. There is no comparison between the two.

Modi is more like Chinese President Xi Jinping. Both are ambitious and fanatically loyal to their countries. And their avid reading has tempered their language, if not politics. Xi can tell Putin things about Tolstoy’s War and Peace and leave the former KGB spy gaping in surprise. Forget Modi and Xi.

What’s more relevant to ask is whether Putin is Russia’s Trump. Or, if you like, whether Trump is the American edition of Putin.

Trumps and Putins stump media

When I reported Deve Gowda’s use of the screw word in the Davos speech, the Mumbai edition of The Times of India deleted it. But other editions kept it.

The New York Times is famously allergic to such vocabulary. The best example is from a 2004 story. Dick Cheney, then the US vice-president, told Senator Patrick Leahy on the floor of the Senate: “F**k yourself.” The Washington Post reported it verbatim, but the NYT had it this way: Cheney used “an obscene phrase to describe what he thought Mr Leahy should do”.

No wonder, the New York Times hates Trump. It’s recent editorial The Sleaziness of Donald Trump tells you why.

And no wonder Trump and Putin have become members of a mutual admiration society. Let the media screw itself.

Author tweets @sprasadindia

Brics a damp squib: Narendra Modi govt should check its obsession with Pakistan

The Brics summit and the overlapping Bimstec outreach meet of regional powers in Goa over the weekend were hyped up beyond expectation to deliver unrealistic results. “It was a damp squib,” said former Cabinet Secretary Naresh Chandra. While terrorism was part of the Goa Declaration, Pakistan was not named. This had to do with China, and Russia did not try to overrule President Xi Jinping either. In its obsession with Pakistan, India overlooked the obvious: China would play its hand.

Beijing had done so on the issue of Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and over Masood Azhar in the UN Security Council. Why did India believe that China would change its views? That is a question both Indian diplomats and the government must answer.

Goa was to play a pivotal part in India’s diplomatic efforts to isolate Pakistan. Terror emanating from Pakistan was to be the main focus at both these meets. Ever since the Uri attack, Indian diplomacy has got stuck on a one point agenda: get the world to side with you and condemn Pakistan. This is all very well, but at a time when Indian ambitions of being a global player under Prime Minister Narendra Modi is soaring, the constant focus on Pakistan is bringing the country down to the India-Pakistan sub continental matrix.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Image courtesy: PIB

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Image courtesy: PIB

This is something successive governments had fought against for decades. Delhi would be piqued, if visiting dignitaries, especially from the US and other western nations, would also visit Pakistan. India wanted to break away from this with its connotations of the South Asian context. After Uri, India’s entire foreign policy seems to be entirely focused on Pakistan.

“The Goa meet is a textbook lesson on how not to conduct India’s diplomacy,” said the former bureaucrat who has a good hold on foreign affairs. He was also India’s ambassador to the US when India conducted its nuclear tests in 1998. Considering that the Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa grouping of the emerging economies is more a trade body, it was not a forum to hammer home the point about Pakistan and terror. India’s diplomatic surge in Brics was ill-timed.

Much more important is the fact that with China batting for Pakistan all along, it was to be expected that no anti-Pakistan statement would be reflected in the communiqué at the end of the Summit. Indian diplomats are well aware of the changing relations in world politics. Russia’s ties with the US has reached rock bottom. It is almost as if the Cold War era is back.

On Syria, Russia and US are on opposite sides. Washington has accused President Vladimir Putin’s men of trying to influence the US elections by hacking into sensitive email accounts. Putin is now the villain, much like what Iraq’s Saddam Hussain was before the Iraq invasion. Putin is smarting under the US insults, which are thrown at him every single day. He is coming closer to China and in the equation, China for the moment is calling the shots. At the same time, Moscow cannot but be unaware of India’s growing closeness to the US. Moscow’s overtures to Pakistan, including holding of joint military exercises, may also be due to China’s prodding.

According to Chandra, Russia is keen to be a part of the China-Pakistan economic corridor. This may one day also extend to Afghanistan. In these circumstances India would have been day dreaming if it wanted a strong anti-Pakistan statement. Islamabad will be crowing that the two major powers, China and India’s old friend Russia had refused to turn Brics into a anti-Pakistan platform.

India’s ultra nationalist media has also played into the narrative. Either a country is with India or against India. There are no shades here. Other countries national and strategic interests are of little importance. Condemn Pakistan and make it pay for its sponsorship of terrorism. India is delighted with phrases describing Pakistan as the ivy league of terror, a fountain head of terror. But in the end except for pleasing the domestic audience, what does it achieve? Precious little.

Much was made of a young Indian diplomat being fielded at the UN General Assembly to reply to Nawaz Sharif’s Kashmir-centric speech, but what did that achieve really. Again the domestic constituency was thrilled, but what else. Perhaps this is what the government is hoping to impress ahead of crucial elections in pivotal states like Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Manipur early next year.

India has been more successful with the Bimstec countries. Bangladesh and Bhutan are with India. So is Sri Lanka, though the government is coming under criticism for pulling out of Saarc, at what is seen as following India’s diktat. Nepal’s Prachanda is also under fire. The smaller regional powers may well be with Delhi but that is neither here or there, when Russia and China have stood by Pakistan.

Brics Summit: Goa Declaration did not reflect India’s high-pitched effort to isolate Pakistan

As the dust settles down after the high-profile Brics Summit and its outreach meeting with Bimstec leaders, it is time to take a look at what India gained from the gathering of leaders.

Terrorism dominated the summit in Goa. From the media coverage, especially television, it seemed that the sole issue on the agenda for the Goa meetings was terrorism. More specifically – cross-border terrorism – a catchphrase for Pakistan-sponsored terrorism. In the heightened sentiment after the attack at the Uri army base and the retaliatory surgical strikes together with the government’s campaign to isolate Pakistan, it was natural that the issue of terrorism would draw the most attention in India.

Did India manage to put Pakistan in a spot during the summit with the emphasis on terrorism? Prime Minister Narendra Modi minced no words in referring to Pakistan as the ‘mothership of terrorism’. But the outcome of the Goa summit did not come up to India’s expectations. The Goa Declaration did not reflect India’s position.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with other Brics leaders in Goa. PTI

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with other Brics leaders in Goa. PTI

While the summit declaration called for action against all UN designated terrorist organisations, it named only the Islamic State and the Al-Nusra. The two organisations threaten Chinese and Russian interests in Afghanistan and Syria. But there was no mention of Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad. The only indirect allusion to cross-border terrorism came in the leaders agreeing on the “responsibility of all states to prevent terrorist actions from their territories”.

In his separate bilateral meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping, Modi spoke about cross-border terrorism. But the Chinese President, in his address at the summit, spoke of the need for “political solutions” to “regional hotspots” – a likely hint to the situation in Kashmir. Later, a Chinese spokesperson said that Pakistan had suffered and made sacrifices in the war against terrorism. Putin did not mention terrorism in his address at the plenary session at all.

The high-pitched Indian effort during the Goa summit brought out the fact that none of the other countries shared the same views on Pakistan. Combating terrorism is an important issue for India, but to inflate its significance in India’s foreign policy priorities meant that India lost the chance to put its stamp on the larger economic integration agenda of Brics. It did this without achieving its purpose of isolating Pakistan.

Brics was set up in 2006 as a group comprising Russia, China, Brazil and India – all large, fast growing economies. South Africa joined in four years later. Brics has a strong agenda on trade, economic development and building institutions. But Modi’s prime economic concerns were lost in the hub-bub on terrorism.

This brings us to the other question of whether there was a possibility that India could turn the heat on Pakistan at the Brics summit. China is a close ally, all weather friend of Pakistan and is ready to defend Pakistan’s interests. Russia is an old friend of India, but it has been cultivating its ties with Islamabad, including holding joint military exercises. Moscow can be expected to back India when its strategic interests are concerned, but it will not gratuitously alienate other countries in the process. Terrorism does not have the same salience for Brazil and South Africa. In these circumstances, it was a misjudgment to expect the Indian stance to prevail.

Bimstec includes Bangladesh, which has faced horrific terror strikes. It was more forthright in its condemnation of terrorism, describing it as the single most significant threat to peace and stability in the region. It said that the fight against terrorism should identify, hold accountable and take strong measures against states that encourage, support and finance terrorism and provide sanctuary to terrorists. “There should be no glorification of terrorists as martyrs,” said the Bimstec statement.

The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (Bimstec) was set up in 1997 with Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, India and Sri Lanka, with Nepal and Bhutan joining it later. The regional body has languished through the years, having held only three meetings. India has now given it a boost by including it in the Brics outreach meeting. As Saarc remains mired in Pakistan’s reluctance to cooperate with India, India has clearly elevated the significance of the Bay of Bengal grouping. It has signaled its intention to rejuvenate the moribund organisation for greater economic engagement.

Saarc has become non-functional; none of the initiatives of the past couple of years have made any progress. The Saarc summit stands postponed. Whether Bimstec can take over the place Saarc has held, is an open question. But India lost out by giving the impression that it had a single issue agenda for the Brics summit.

INS Arihant ‘quietly’ commissioned into service: Is India sending out a subtle message?

India’s first indigenously-constructed nuclear submarine INS Arihant was quietly commissioned into service in August and it has been operational since then, according to recent reports.

It was launched in 2009 by then prime minister Manmohan Singh and has undergone a series of vigorous tests since then. Some sources told The Times of India that the vessel is “not yet fully ready” to be deployed for “deterrent patrols” with nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles in its four silos. It was formally commissioned by Navy Chief Admiral Sunil Lamba and with its commission, India has quietly completed its nuclear triad.

The Hindu cites some defence sources as saying that to maintain secrecy, the vessel is still not being called INS Arihant. INS stands for ‘Indian Naval Ship’ and is used as a prefix only after a ship has been inducted into the navy.

Arihant is India’s first nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine and is propelled by an 83 MW pressurised light-water reactor at its core. Russia helped scientists at the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) in miniaturising the reactor to fit into the 10-metre-wide hull of the nuclear submarine.

It is capable of carrying nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles, the class referred to as Ship Submersible Ballistic Nuclear (SSBN). These are designed to cruise the waters carrying nuclear weapons and provides a nation, The Hindu report adds, with an assured second strike capability, which, put simply, is the ability to retaliate after taking a nuclear hit.

The vessel will be armed with the K-15 missiles, which can carry nuclear warheads to a range of 750 kilometres, and with K4 missile, which has a longer range, according to a Business Standard report. The K-4 ballistic missile has a range of 3,500 km and Arihant has four vertical launch tubes. It can either carry 12 K-15 missiles or four larger K-4 missiles.

The design of Arihant is based on the Russian Akula-1 class submarines, of which the best-known example is the INS Chakra. It will weigh around 6,000 tonnes.

India is set to join the elite squad of countries like Russia, China, France that possess nuclear-powered submarines.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

What is a nuclear triad?

A nuclear triad gives a country the ability to launch nukes from land, air and sea. CNN quoted Florida senator Marco Rubia as saying that the triad is the ability to conduct nuclear attacks using airplanes, missiles launched from silos from the ground and from nuclear subs.

Each leg of the triad is supposed to be large enough to have a deterrent effect. The theory behind a triad is that, as Slate points out, a first strike against a country could not hope to destroy all three legs of the triad at once, “and even if two of the three legs of the triad are destroyed, the third can still inflict a retaliatory strike.”

Moreover, the report explains that having three legs protects against the risk that a new technology could threaten the viability of a single delivery system.

Interesting, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has no idea about the three legs of US’ triad. When asked about his priority in the triad radio host Hugh Hewitt of Salem Radio Network, he replied, “For me, nuclear, the power, the devastation, is very important to me.”

Clearly.

India creating ‘fear of the unknown’

The presence of Chinese nuclear submarines in the Indian Ocean region has become a major source of concern for India, as The Economic Times reports. The is a notable addition to India’s capabilities to counter the threat of China advancing into the Bay of Bengal as well. Beijing also keeps a tab on Indian military activities through its surveillance posts in Myanmar. India needs a minimum of four-five nuclear submarines to maintain round-the-clock operational readiness in the Indian Ocean, according to Mumbai think-tank Gateway House. The commissioning of Arihant might be a step in that direction.

It will perhaps help transform Indian Navy into a force with regional reach and replace the aging vessels, which is of priority now. It will also aid in modernising the Indian military and making it more technology-friendly.

In addition to this, Pakistan’s ambiguous nuclear weapons policies coupled with the growing tension between the two nations has increased the anxiety of more possible attacks from Islamabad. Arihant will strengthen India’s standing in the region. It is a way of sending out a message to the world that India possesses the means to fire a nuclear missile.

“Defence sources” coming out and talking about Arihant months after it was commissioned into service might be a strategic move in the wake of the threats from Pakistan and the rising hostility between the two countries. The mystery created around the vessel may also be part of a well thought-out process to instigate speculations and a ‘fear of the unknown’ among other nations, particularly one to our North-West.

With inputs from IANS

India joins ‘Nuclear Triad’ club with INS Arihant

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>With the INS Arihant now becoming fully operational, India has joined the ‘Nuclear triad’ club of superpowers who can launch nuclear weapons from sea, land and air-based systems, reports News X.INS Arihant, a 6,000-tonne submarine, is country’s first indigenous nuclear submarine and can launch nuclear weapons from underwater. The vessel was declared as ready for operation in February 2016. It was built under the Advanced Technology Vessel Project at the Ship Building Centre. In August 2016, INS Arihant had been commissioned by PM Modi into the Indian Navy.An advantage of such a submarine is that they are harder to track and destroy than land and air nuclear launch platforms.India has now joined group of five other elite countries – USA, UK, France, Russia, China – to have developed nuclear-armed submarines. INS Arihant gives India the power to hold the threat of a ‘second strike’ in a nuclear counter attack, even if the country is completely destroyed. This finds relevance in India’s ‘No First Strike’ policy in contrast to Pakistan’s “First strike” policy. The ‘First Strike’ policy allows Pakistan to use nuclear weapons against India even if India does not.

Essar Oil-Roseneft deal: Why it is a lost opportunity for Indian companies

India India’s debt-laden Essar Group confirmed on Saturday that it has agreed to sell a 98 percent interest in its Essar Oil unit to a consortium led by Russia’s Rosneft, giving the energy giant a gateway into the world’s fastest growing fuel market.

The deal will see Rosneft, along with its partners Trafigura and United Capital Partners (UCP), pay $10.9 billion for Essar’s refining and retail assets. Separately, $2 billion will be paid toward the acquisition of the Vadinar port in the western state of Gujarat, along with certain import and export facilities.

Here are all the key facts about the deal:

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

What are the key aspects of the deal?

The deal will give Rosneft a 49 percent stake in Essar Oil, with 49 percent being split equally between Trafigura and UCP. It has been carefully structured to avoid falling foul of western sanctions against Russia over its role in the Ukraine crisis. According to a Reuters report, Rosneft will not get a controlling stake, partly because of sanctions.

The all-cash deal will give Rosneft and its partners control of Essar’s 20 million tonne refinery in Gujarat, and its retail fuel outlets in India, where growth for refined petroleum goods in the next five years is expected to be in the 5 percent to 7 percent range.

It is also the biggest foreign acquisition ever in India and Russia’s largest outbound deal, according to Thomson Reuters data.

How will the deal impact Rosneft and Trafigura?

According to Chief Executive Igor Sechin, the deal gives Rosneft entry into one of the most promising and fast-growing world markets. It gives “unique opportunities for synergies” with its existing assets. Separately, Rosneft said it would use Venezuelan crude to supply the Vadinar refinery.

According to Vandana Hari, energy sector analyst, the deals is a feather in the cap of Rosneft and Trafigura. “Given that the purchase gives them control of the entire downstream business of Essar Oil, the companies are getting a relatively new and sophisticated refinery and retail network, which will continue to play a critical role in serving a fast-growing captive market at home, besides being well-placed to compete in the export markets,” she said.

Hari reckons that at a Nelson complexity index of 11.8, the 20 million mt/ year Vadinar refinery is capable of turning the dirtiest of crudes into high-quality Euro IV and V-grade refined products, assuring it relatively healthy refining margins.

How will it impact Essar?

The Essar group, with a presence in oil and gas, steel, ports and power, has been under pressure from its lenders to reduce its debt burden. The group, according to this report in Baron’s Asia, has loans Rs 1.2 lakh crore debt. The deal will be help the group reduce its debt burden by Rs 75,000 crore, Essar director Prashant Ruia has told The Business Standard.

Apart from this, the group’s assets will reduce by 30 percent with this deal and revenue by $10 billion to $17 billion, Ruia has told the BS.

The group will now focus more on its other businesses such as steel and ports, says a report in The Economic Times.

Why are Indian banks happier than Ruias, Roseneft, Trafigura and UCP?

Indian banks’ stressed assets stands at Rs 8 lakh crore. Of this, five sectors, namely steel, power, teelcom, infrastructure and textiles, account for 61 percent. Banks have a mandate to clean up their balance sheets by March 2017 and have been pushing debt-laden companies to sell assets to repay loans.

Essar’s debt has been one of the highest and the development has to be seen in this context. Welcoming to the development, Chanda Kochhar of ICICI Bank said, “This deal is also a significant step in the process of deleveraging the balance sheets of Indian corporates. ICICI Bank has been closely working with various companies including the Essar Group to help them deleverage their stressed balance sheets. We will continue working towards this objective with others.”

However, IDBI Bank’s MD Kishor Kharat has been more measured in his reaction because as part of the deal the debt of Essar Oil will now become Trafigura or Roseneft’s. “That is why I am saying that we need to understand how they are going to structure it entirely because if it is all cash deal and they are going to settle the lenders, it will be a different situation but if it is only the equities taken and then all debts are going to be transferred to new buyers, promoters, perhaps the situation will be different,” he told CNBC-TV18 in an interview.

But did Indian Inc lose out?

As Kochhar of ICICI Bank says, the deal definitely means Indian energy sector is attractive. But that also means Indian companies lost out on a golden opportunity. “While the deal makes good sense for the buyers and the Ruias, who will now be able to pay off a substantial part of the Essar Group debt, I think India Inc. looses. The country is essentially going to allow some foreign companies to profit from its downstream oil industry growth story,” says Vandana Hari.

Why could that opportunity not have been exploited by the Indian refiners? she asks.

Data contribution by Kishor Kadam

With inputs from Reuters

PM Modi holds bilateral talks with Brazilian President Michael Temer

Mon, 17 Oct 2016-12:50pm , Benaulim , PTI
<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Prime Minister Narendra Modi held bilateral talks with Brazil’s President Michel Temer on Monday. The two leaders discussed the entire spectrum of bilateral relations and ways to deepen ties between the two countries. “Bridging distances with Brazil. PM @narendramodi and President @MichelTemer of Brazil lead delegation level talks,” Spokesperson in the Ministry of External Affairs Vikas Swarup said in a tweet. “Day 3 in Goa set aside for another Bilateral Summit. PM @narendramodi welcomes President @MichelTemer of Brazil,” he said. This was the last round of bilateral talks Modi held with BRICS leaders from major emerging national economies – Brazil, Russia, China and South Africa.

Viewpoint: Brics sees rekindling of India-Russia romance

During the Brics summit, India sought to re-engage Russia more substantively after some recent turbulence in the relationship, writes Harsh V Pant.

Brics Summit: PM Modi slams Pakistan, calls it the ‘mothership’ of terrorism

The issue of cross-border terrorism remained a focal point in all the speeches of Prime Minister Narendra Modi as he urged the Brics nations to work together in their fight against the global menace.

“Unfortunately, this country in India’s neighbourhood embraces and radiates the darkness of terrorism. Terrorism has become its favourite child, and the child in turn has come to define the essential nature of its parents,” said Modi at the Brics-Bimstec Outreach Summit. Modi had earlier dubbed Pakistan (without naming it) the “mothership” of terrorism to which terror modules around the world were connected.

Modi at the Brics-Bimstec Outreach Summit also said that a clear message must be sent to those who nurture philosophy of terror and seek to dehumanise mankind; they should either mend their ways or be isolated in a civilised world.

The two-day Brics Summit concluded on Sunday with the heads of the participating countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) pledging stronger business ties and cooperation on fight against terrorism.

Benaulim: Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Russian President Vladimir Putin, South African President Jacob Zuma and Brazilian President Michel Temer posing for a group photo before the BRICS meeting in Benaulim, Goa on Sunday. PTI

Benaulim: Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Russian President Vladimir Putin, South African President Jacob Zuma and Brazilian President Michel Temer posing for a group photo before the BRICS meeting in Benaulim, Goa on Sunday. PTI

Modi also urged the member countries to act together against the threat posed by terrorism. “Brics must speak in one voice against this threat. We need to act individually and collectively to defeat terrorism,” he said on Sunday, adding that a selective approach against terrorism will not only be futile but also counter-productive, according to PTI.

Modi also articulated India’s concerns over terrorism emanating from Pakistan during his bilateral talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping on Saturday as well.

The Prime Minister stressed that those supporting terrorism have to be “punished, not rewarded”. “The growing arc of terrorism today threatens Middle East, West Asia, Europe and South Asia,” he said. “Its violent footprint puts at risk the security of our citizens and undercuts our efforts aimed at economic growth,” he added.

In his concluding speech on Sunday, Modi said that the leaders were unanimous in recognising the threat that terror, extremism and radicalisation present to regional and global peace, stability and economic prosperity. “We underscored the need for close coordination on tracking sources of terrorist financing and target the hardware of terrorism, including weapons’ supplies, ammunition, equipment and training,” he said.

The Goa Declaration

The five member countries of Brics also signed a joint declaration on Sunday asking 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.

In the declaration, the Brics said it reaffirmed commitment to the FATF (Financial Action Task Force) international standards on combating money laundering and the Financing of Terrorism and Proliferation. The FATF is an inter-governmental organisation founded in 1989 on the initiative of the G7 to develop policies to combat money laundering. In 2001, the purpose expanded to act on terrorism financing.

It also called for swift, effective and universal implementation of FATF on combating terrorist financing, including effective implementation of its operational plan.

Stronger multi-lateral trade

The world leaders also stressed on the need for greater co-operation in business and trade between member states to drive stronger growth back home, and putting the global economy back on track.

On the achievement of Brics, Modi said the footprint of intra-Brics engagement has expanded over time to include large areas of economic activity. “The scope of our partnership today stretches from agriculture to industry and innovation; trade to tourism; environment to energy; films to football; skill development to smart cities; and from fighting corruption and money laundering to securing our societies,” he said on Sunday.

China President Xi Jinping also shared similar views as he stated that innovation holds “the key to leapfrog” development in Brics countries and urged businesses to follow this path for a steady and sustainable economic development.

Admitting that 2008 credit crisis has not only “slowed down Brics economies” but they are still “facing challenges” even after eight years of the worst recession since the 1930s, Jinping stressed that the “potential and the strength” of the grouping is “unchanged” and they continue to remain positive from a long-term perspective.

Jinping also underlined the need for “result-oriented” cooperation among the Brics countries and also asked the Business Council to explore the idea of joint implementation of big projects.

The Chinese leader said the New Development Bank, which began operations in Shanghai last year, is the outcome of a similar result-oriented approach and affirmed Beijing’s commitment to fully back its activities.

Newly-appointed Brazilian President Michel Temer, who came to power after his predecessor Dilma Rouseff’s impeachment a few months back, said his administration will speed up economic reforms by creating more jobs in an anaemic economy and also affirmed his commitment to maintain the ecological concerns.

The largest South American nation will streamline its bureaucracy so that work gets implemented faster, Temer said, and declared that his administration has identified as many as 34 projects in the roads, highways, ports and oil sectors to boost an anaemic economy which has been degrowing of late.

He claimed that the largest Latin American economy, which recently hosted the Rio Olympics, already sees signs of the recovery being underway.

Russian President Vladmir Putin said business plays an important role in both sustainability and accelerating growth and underlined that Brics members are home to some of the most promising consumer markets in the world.

South African President Jacob Zuma said the activities of the Brics Business Council over the past three years have reached a stage where it can play the role of a catalyst for growth.

Zuma also outlined the areas where partnerships are needed, including insurance and re-insurance, a Brics seed bank, infrastructure including power generation and transmission, aviation and large-scale manufacturing so that massive number of jobs can be created. The largest African economy has an official unemployment level of 25 percent while the actual joblessness is much higher.

Modi said there was also a clear need to build norms, create structures and pool capacities to stop tax evasion, and fight against black money and corruption.

NDB to double its commitment in Brics nations

Multi-lateral trade between Brics nations was a major highlight at the Brics Business Council meeting. The New Development Bank (NDB), which was formed by the Brics nations last year, announced its plans to more than double its commitment to support infrastructure projects to the tune of $2.5 billion in 2017. “We are targeting incremental lending of $2.5 billion over next year and we believe it will be largely in the sustainable and green infrastructure,” KV Kamath, the NDB president, said on Sunday.

Keeping the commitments and the actual lending in mind, Kamath also said that the NDB has drawn up a plan to raise $1.5 billion from multiple sources next year. He also urged the Brics leadership to recommend the NDB as an observer at the UN General Assembly.

Russia-India to strengthen tie

Modi’s statement on Saturday, “one old friend is better than two new friends” was not just a sign of India recognising its alliance with long-time partner Russia, but also a commitment to strengthen it. The two countries met for bilateral talks on the sidelines of Brics where India and Russia signed 16 agreements and made three major deals. One of the major wins for both countries was the $5 billion S-400 “Triumf” deal, which will aid India’s security against neighbours, whereas Rusian takeover of Essar oil will help Russia’s ailing oil business. Keeping up with Modi’s Make in India plan, Russia also agreed to domestically manufacture 200 Kamov helicopters in India.

The two sides also signed Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) on developing smart cities, transport logistics, shipbuilding and railways in Andhra Pradesh, and cooperation in oil and gas among others. The two leaders also announced the launch of phase two of the Kudankulam nuclear reactor, done via video conference, as well the foundation stone for phases three and four.

With inputs from PTI

Brics Summit as it happened: One country in India’s neighbourhood embraces and radiates terrorism, says PM Modi

Full statement of PM Narendra Modi’s address

Your Excellency President Vladimir Putin,

Distinguished members of the Russian and Indian delegations,

Members of the media,

It gives me great pleasure to welcome President Putin, an old friend of India, here in Goa today.As they say in Russian:

Excellency Putin, I am aware of your deep affection for India. Your personal attention has been a source of strength in our relationship. And, in the complex and changing global context, your leadership has provided stability and substance to our strategic partnership. Ours is a truly privileged and unique relationship.

Friends,

Since the last two Annual Summits, the journey of our partnership has seen renewed focus and drive. President Putin and I have just concluded an extensive and useful conversation on the entire spectrum of our engagement. The highly productive outcomes of our meeting clearly establish the special and privileged nature of our strategic partnership.They also lay the foundations for deeper defence and economic ties in years ahead.The agreements on manufacturing of Kamov 226T helicopters; constructions of frigates; and acquisition and building of other defence platforms are in synergy with India’s technology and security priorities. They also help us achieve the objectives of Make in India. We have also agreed to work on an annual military industrial conference that will allow stakeholders on both sides to institute and push collaboration. These projects are new chapters in a long history of strong and diverse defence partnership that both sides can take much pride in.

Just minutes ago, with dedication of Kudankulum 2 and laying of foundation concrete of Kundankulum 3 and 4, we saw the tangible results of India-Russia cooperation in the field of Civil Nuclear Energy. And, with proposed construction of another eight reactors, our wide ranging cooperation in nuclear energy is set to bring rich dividends for both of us. It also fits in with our needs of energy security, access to high technology and greater localisation and manufacturing in India. Last year in Moscow, I had said that we would be enlarging our presence in Russia’s Hydrocarbon sector.In last four months alone, in a clear expression of our strong and deep engagement in the Hydrocarbon sector, Indian companies have invested close to US Dollars 5.5 billion in Russia’s Oil and Gas sector.

And, with President Putin’s support, we are ready and willing to expand the scope of our engagement further. We are also undertaking a joint study of a gas pipeline route between our two countries. A combination of robust civil nuclear cooperation, LNG sourcing, partnership in the Oil and Gas sector, and engagement in renewables can construct a promising ‘Energy Bridge’ between our two countries.

Friends,

With an eye on the future, we also agreed to set up a Science and Technology Commission. Through this, our societies will reap the benefits of joint development, transfer and sharing of cutting edge technologies in different fields. As with the last Summit, we also continue to expand, diversify and deepen our economic engagement.Businesses and Industry between our two countries are connected more deeply today. Trade and investment ties are on the upswing.

And, with President Putin’s backing, we hope to fast track India’s association withEurasian Economic Union Free Trade Agreement. The Green Corridor and the International North South Transport Corridor will serve to strengthen trade facilitation, logistical links and ensure better connectivity between our countries. Our efforts for early setting up of the Investment Fund of US Dollars 1 billion between National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF) and Russia Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) will help advance our infrastructure partnership. We also want our economic linkages to connect the regions and states in both countries.

Friends,

The success of this Summit shines a spotlight on the abiding strength of India-Russia strategic partnership. It also highlights our strong convergence of views and positions on pressing international and regional issues. Russia’s clear stand on the need to combat terrorism mirrors our own. We deeply appreciate Russia’s understanding and support of our actions to fight cross-border terrorism, that threatens our entire region.We both affirmed the need for zero tolerance in dealing with terrorists and their supporters.

President Putin and I noted the similarity of our views on the situation in Afghanistan and turmoil in West Asia.We also agreed to work closely to respond to the challenges posed by the unsettled nature of the global economic and financial markets.Our close collaboration at the United Nations, Brics, East Asia Summit, G-20, Shanghai Cooperation Organisation makes our partnership truly global, both in its scope and coverage.

Excellency Putin,

As we approach the seventieth (70th) anniversary of the establishment of our diplomatic ties next year, India and Russia are celebrating and building on the achievements of our past. We are working to model a partnership that befits our common ambition and meets our shared goals for the twenty-first (21st) century. Our close friendship has given clear direction, fresh impulse, stronger momentum and rich content to our ties.In the emerging regional and global landscape, it has been a source of strength and substance, a driver of peace and a factor of stability.

As one would say it in Russian:

इंडियाई रस्सीया-रुका अब रुकु व स्वेतलोय बदूशीय

[India and Russia-together to a bright future.]

Thank you! Thank you very much.

Lessons from Brics 2016: Old friends are good, but China is keen to contain India

If one cuts past the specific agreements, the Brics summit in Goa reveals three basic geo-strategic facts. The third is the most significant, but the first and second are more obvious.

Most obvious is the fact that the post-Cold War churning in geopolitics is still underway. In that light, the highlight of the summit was that India sought to restore its tried-and-tested relationship with Russia, from which it had moved decidedly away after the Soviet Union collapsed.

That was a mistake. It is all good that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is moving closer to President Vladimir Putin. It’s not just that they are arguably the two most identifiable strong men on the world stage. There are long-term strategic interests. The Soviet Union had supported India since its independence. And after China tested a nuclear weapon in 1964, it identified India as a lodestar of its foreign policy. In the more-than-half-century since then, these three countries and the US have emerged as the four most important in the world.

Benaulim: Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Chinese President Xi Jinping after a group photo at the start of the BRICS Summit in Benaulim, Goa on Sunday. PTI Photo by Subhav Shukla (STORY DEL 17, 26) (PTI10_16_2016_000030B) *** Local Caption ***Benaulim: Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Chinese President Xi Jinping after a group photo at the start of the BRICS Summit in Benaulim, Goa on Sunday. PTI Photo by Subhav Shukla (STORY DEL 17, 26) (PTI10_16_2016_000030B) *** Local Caption ***

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Chinese President Xi Jinping before the start of the Brics Summit in Goa. PTI

Only Brazil, Japan, Indonesia and Pakistan compare in population size, but not in military might. Some had speculated soon after (and before) the Soviet Union collapsed that the European Union could emerge as a world power — an economic counterweight to the US. But the EU has teetered on the edge of collapse for some time now.

Hyphenation remains

The second fact about current geopolitics to emerge in the backdrop of the Brics summit is that south Asia is a major key to the relationship between the four big world powers. Despite India’s best efforts to ‘de-hyphenate’ India and Pakistan, the two countries’ relations have influenced the way India, Russia and China have warily circled each other, like hefty kabaddi players.

Indian strategists must get used to the fact that the Partition created platforms on India’s flanks that can be manipulated to destabilise the subcontinent — unless India goes the extra mile to strengthen subcontinental ties, as the visionary former Prime Minister Vajpayee sought to do at Saarc’s Islamabad summit in 2004.

The fact is that Russia’s recent military exercises with Pakistan were at least partly responsible for India reaching out to its old ally; ‘an old friend is worth two new ones’, Prime Minister Modi told his joint press conference with Putin in Goa.

To seek close strategic relationships with the US and Russia simultaneously at a time when something close to Cold War tensions have developed between them over Syria is, let us say, bold. But it is well worth doing. In fact, the face-off over Syria is all the more reason why neither would want to antagonise India.

Pakistan has become even more pivotal to Sino-Indian relations than to India-Russia or Indo-US ties. China’s blocking of India’s attempt to add Masood Azhar to the UN’s list of terrorists highlights the extent to which it backs Pakistan. Its blocking of India’s membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group too stems from Pakistan’s desire to be included alongside.

Whatever satisfaction Indian strategists derive from Moscow and other world powers, it would be unwise to underestimate the threat potentially posed by Beijing

The future is here

The third geopolitical fact that has emerged is less obvious. In fact, some might dispute it. And that fact is that China already sees India as its chief rival. Most geopolitical analysts still see China and the US as the world’s main competitors. But most also agree that China and India are likely to be the world’s big powers in a few decades. China’s strategic moves make it clear that its chief objective is to hobble India.

It’s as if two catch-up races were being run in tandem — only the one in the lead in each race is trying to block the one running behind it with a sort of ring of fire. While US moves to hem in China (in the South China Sea, for example) have had limited success, China is moving even more vigorously to encircle India in south Asia. The fate of the Chinese economy in the near future will have an impact on India’s future.

Whether or not Saarc moves forward, and how potential alternatives to Saarc develop, is a major part of China’s game of encirclement. China has invested a range of resources in the subcontinent.

The big surprise of the Brics meet came a day before it began — when China committed a whopping $28 billion to Bangladesh during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit there on Friday, en route to Goa. Just a couple of weeks ago, Bangladesh had taken the lead to have the Saarc summit in Pakistan postponed, following the attack at Uri. The new Chinese alliance is likely to weaken Bangladesh’s coordination with India against Pakistan. We will have to wait and see how much more damage that Chinese investment might cause India.

Other than China’s attempt to throw a ring of fire around India, it is much harder to explain such massive investment in Bangladesh than it is to explain China’s $46 billion commitment to Pakistan. For, the latter investment is earmarked for the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Likely to become China’s major trade route to the world, the CPEC is of great advantage to China. Surely Bangladesh’s gas reserves could not be worth that much.

Of course CPEC causes Sino-Indian conflict far more directly than China’s investments elsewhere: the trade corridor passes through parts of the state of Jammu and Kashmir under Pakistan’s control — which India claims juridically. Chinese troops have been in those parts of the state for some time for the security of the highway, railway and other CPEC projects.

Whatever satisfaction Indian strategists derive from Moscow and other world powers, it would be unwise to underestimate the threat potentially posed by Beijing.

India-Russia summit strengthens the strategic partnership

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The 17th India-Russia annual summit in Goa lived up to its billing with the two countries concluding a raft of defence deals which indicates political intent on both sides to give more ballast than before to their strategic partnership.A total of 19 agreements were either signed or adopted on the occasion, including a joint venture for production of Ka-226T helicopters in India, the purchase and construction of four additional frigates and procurement of S-400 air defence system.India and Russia also agreed to organise a military industrial conference later in 2016 and create a bilateral science and technology committee. The joint statement issued after the delegation-level talks between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin says the Indo-Russian military industrial conference will address military equipment-related issues, including spares, repair, and maintenance of Russian-supplied equipment and co-production. Private players would be invited to participate under the Modi Government’s ‘Make in India’ initiative.The talks also dwelled on energy cooperation including a proposal for a gas pipeline from Russia to India, using the International North-South Corridor that runs via Iran and is potential for India’s cooperation with the Eurasian Economic Union.Prime Minister Modi noted that, “Russia’s clear stand on the need to combat terrorism mirrors our own.” He appreciated Russia’s understanding and support of India’s “actions to fight cross-border terrorism”, which can be interpreted as alluding to the September 29 surgical strikes conducted by Indian special forces along the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir.The joint statement amplified it by saying that the two countries “stressed the need to deny safe havens to terrorists and the importance of countering the spread of terrorist ideology as well as radicalisation leading to terrorism, stopping recruitment, preventing travel of terrorists and foreign terrorist fighters” in addition to strengthening border management.Modi and Putin witnessed the commencement of civil works for the construction of the third and fourth nuclear power reactors being built with Russian assistance at Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu.That India values its “special and privileged strategic partnership” with Russia can be had from Prime Minister Modi’s remark; he quoted a Russian proverb that means ‘an old friend is better than two new friends’.

Narendra Modi’s BRICS bilaterals throw no surprise

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>They came, they saw, but didn’t concur! Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping on Saturday met for the ninth time in over two years but the salubrious Goa weather did not appear to bridge the chasm that divides the two Asian neighbours.Modi and Xi agreed to disagree on issues of immediate concern to India, namely India’s Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) membership and the proposed UN ban on Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar.Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesperson Vikas Swarup told reporters that Modi spoke “frankly” about the need for finding a common ground on the proposed UN ban on Masood Azhar. China has proposed that a second round of consultations on the NSG issue will be held soon. Also, Chinese State Councillor Yanj Jiechi can be expected to hold talks with National Security Adviser AK Doval. India, he adds, has had a “continuous dialogue” with China on terrorism and it remains hopeful of China’s cooperation on these and other issues of interest to Beijing and New Delhi.Modi has pursued high-velocity diplomacy, logging frequent flyer miles along the way but his attempts to forge a modus vivendi with Beijing has come unstuck, and, in the process, exposed the limits of his personalised diplomacy. In fact, in the run-up to the Modi-Xi meeting in Goa, Beijing pre-empted New Delhi by iterating its positions on NSG and Masood Azhar, partly in deference to the sentiments of its all-weather ally Pakistan but also as a lever to pin India down geopolitically in South Asia.Modi’s first meeting with Xi after coming to power was at the BRICS Summit in Brazil in July 2014. Thereafter, he invited Xi to Gujarat in September the same year, in an apparent effort to extricate the Sino-Indian ties from a diplomatic cul-de-sac and introduce an element of personalised diplomacy into India’s foreign policy.Although Modi has met both Xi and President Barack Obama of the US eight times each, his personal chemistry with Xi couldn’t really take off. This, in spite of Modi and Xi sharing some similarities. For one, both have risen to the pinnacle of their political careers around the same time. Both appear to revel in popular nationalism.As Avinash Godbole writes in a paper for the New Delhi-based Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA), Xi and Modi enjoy a significant mandate as leaders of their respective constituents. “There is also the case of overlapping foreign policies that focus on neighbourhoods and a vocal approach to engagements,” Godbole points out.However, Modi’s engagements with Putin stand in sharp contrast to Xi. Modi and Putin share some personality traits, including their penchant for a muscular approach to diplomacy — Ukraine in the case of Putin and Pakistan insofar as Modi is concerned. It helps that India’s ties with Russia stand on a different pedestal than China.As Foreign Secretary Jaishankar points out, Russia has been a time-tested partner and friend of India and it is reflected in Putin’s “unequivocal condemnation” of terrorism against India. Diplomats everywhere are not seldom given to making off-the-cuff remarks, so when Jaishankar uses the phrase “a meeting of minds” to describe the Modi-Putin talks, it assumes a significance of its own.

BRICS development bank to lend $2.5 billion next year | Reuters

BRICS development bank to lend $2.5 billion next year | Reuters

Updated: Oct 16, 2016 06:27 IST

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By Douglas Busvine
| GOA, India

GOA, India The development bank set up by the BRICS group of emerging economies will ramp up lending to $2.5 billion next year after making its first loans to back green projects, its president KV Kamath told Reuters.The BRICS – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – agreed to create the New Development Bank (NDB) in July 2014 with initial authorized capital of $100 billion. The lender was officially launched a year later.”The second year is scaling up, concentrating on people, getting all the skillsets in,” said Kamath, a veteran Indian banker appointed as the first head of the Shanghai-based NDB.He was speaking on the fringes of a weekend BRICS summit hosted in the Indian resort of Goa by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The gathering seeks to add substance to the group that grew out of an acronym devised by Goldman Sachs economist Jim O’Neill back in 2003 that projected a long-term boom and global power shift in their favor.

With Russia, Brazil and South Africa on the economic skids and China slowing, the initial euphoria has faded, yet Kamath said the BRICS had much to gain by deepening their cooperation.”The fact is that these countries, collectively, have for the last few years contributed to more than 50 percent of incremental economic wealth that has been generated globally,” said Kamath. “I don’t see that changing.”The NDB, headquartered in Shanghai, will expand its staff to 300 over the next three years but run a tight operation that seeks to take quick decisions and transfer experience across all five BRICS member states.

It has already approved loans totaling $900 million to green projects in each member state. It has also started a renminbi-denominated borrowing program, issuing a 3 billion yuan ($450 million) bond.Kamath, 68, said there was plenty of room for new lenders like the NDB and the Chinese-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), in addition to established institutions like the World Bank.

“Infrastructure alone has needs globally of $1-1.5 trillion a year – all the multilateral banks put together can do maybe 15 percent of this,” said Kamath, who ran India’s ICICI Bank Ltd (ICBK.NS) from 1996 until 2009.”The phrase I would like to use is cooperate and work together, rather than compete. I don’t see competition as a key challenge in this context.” (Reporting by Douglas Busvine)

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

Syria talks in Lausanne end without breakthrough | Reuters

By Lesley Wroughton and Alexander Winning
| LAUSANNE, Switzerland

LAUSANNE, Switzerland Syria talks convened by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in the Swiss city of Lausanne on Saturday evening failed to agree on a common strategy with Russia to end the conflict in Syria, now in its sixth year.Kerry was seeking a new path to peace after failing to secure a ceasefire in direct talks with Moscow, one of Syria’s key backers, amid mounting international outrage over the Russian and Syrian bombardment of rebel-held eastern Aleppo.Kerry hosted Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and seven foreign ministers from the region – from Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar, Jordan and Egypt – weeks after the collapse of a painstakingly crafted U.S.-Russian ceasefire plan that many saw as the last hope for peace this year.Kerry told reporters there was consensus on a number of options that could lead to a ceasefire, but conceded that there had been some tense moments during Saturday’s talks.”I would characterize this as an example of what we wanted, which was a brainstorming and a very candid first-time discussion,” he said. “A number of ideas came from the number of different ministers as we hoped that might be able to shape some different approaches.”But the meeting failed to come up with a joint statement or a shared vision on how to move forward.Lavrov, who had said he had “no special expectations” for Saturday’s meeting, said ministers had discussed several “interesting ideas”, without elaborating. MEETING IN LONDON

Europe was not represented at the meeting, held in a luxury hotel on Lake Geneva. But France’s Foreign Ministry confirmed that Kerry and foreign ministers of like-minded nations planned to meet in London on Sunday to discuss Syria.Kerry said parties to the Lausanne talks would contact each other on Monday to follow up.Since the breakdown of U.S.-Russia cooperation, long the backbone of efforts to end the war in Syria, U.S. officials have worked on a number of ideas.Although no breakthrough had been expected on Saturday, a senior U.S. official said before the meeting that the regional format to the talks could be the basis of a new process.

However, a former Western envoy in Syria told Reuters: “I don’t understand (why) the Americans are asking the Russians to talk again. They have made zero concessions. Do the Americans believe Moscow was shaken by the break-off last week and will change behaviour now?”Separately, a Western diplomat in Lausanne said the meeting appeared ill-prepared and vague in its goals, and the list of invitees had been clarified only at the last moment. Earlier, Kerry met separately with his Saudi counterpart Adel al-Jubeir and with Lavrov to discuss the logistics of the meeting.It was the first meeting between Kerry and Lavrov since the collapse of a second attempted ceasefire in September. The impending end of the Obama administration is likely to mean a hiatus in U.S. diplomacy while his successor, whether Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, takes up the reins.

ACCUSATIONS
At the same time, pressure is rising for a halt to a ferocious, three-week-old Syrian government offensive to capture the eastern zone of the city of Aleppo, where the United Nations says 275,000 civilians still live and 8,000 rebels are holding out against Syrian, Russian and Iranian-backed forces. Western powers have accused Russia and Syria of committing atrocities by bombing hospitals, killing civilians and preventing medical evacuations, as well as targeting an aid convoy with the loss of around 20 lives. Syria and Russia counter that they are only targeting militants in Aleppo and accuse the United States of breaking the ceasefire by bombing scores of Syrian troops fighting Islamic State insurgents, over which the United States has expressed regret.A senior rebel commander said on Friday that Syrian government forces would never be able to capture Aleppo’s eastern sector, but a military source said the operation was going as planned.The United Nations has said food, fuel and medicine are running out in eastern Aleppo and there will be no rations to distribute from the start of next month. (Additional reporting by Stephanie Nebehay, Tom Miles, Marina Depetris, John Irish and David Alexander; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Mark Heinrich)

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

Top 10 highlights from PM Modi’s joint statement with Russian President Vladimir Putin

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Asserting that ties between New Delhi and Moscow served as a driver of peace and a factor of stability, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday stressed that Russia’s clear stand on the need to combat terrorism mirrored India’s views, adding that both nations affirmed the need for zero tolerance in dealing with terrorists and their supporters.Here are the top 10 highlights from the Prime Minister’s joint statement with Russian President Vladimir Putin:1. “Agreements on manufacturing of Kamov 226T helicopters, constructions of frigates, and acquisition and building of other defence platforms are in synergy with India’s technology and security priorities.”
ALSO READ BRICS summit 2016: Defense security, counter terrorism to dominate in Indo-Russia talks – MEA2. “We have also agreed to work on an annual military industrial conference that will allow stakeholders on both sides to institute and push collaboration.”3. “These projects are new chapters in a long history of strong and diverse defence partnership that both sides can take much pride in.”
ALSO READ India to mount diplomatic offensive against Pak at BRICS meet4. “Our wide ranging cooperation in nuclear energy is set to bring rich dividends for both of us.”5. “Indian companies have invested close to $5.5 billion (around Rs 36,692 crore) in Russia’s Oil and Gas sector.”
ALSO READ BRICS Summit 2016: Will Modi-Putin meet restore old ties?6. “A combination of robust civil nuclear cooperation, LNG sourcing, partnership in the Oil and Gas sector, and engagement in renewables can construct a promising “Energy Bridge” between our two countries.”7. “With an eye on the future, we also agreed to set up a Science and Technology Commission.”8. “With President Putin’s backing, we hope to fast track India’s association with Eurasian Economic Union Free Trade Agreement.”9. “We deeply appreciate Russia”s understanding and support of our actions to fight cross-border terrorism that threatens our entire region. We both affirmed the need for zero tolerance in dealing with terrorists and their supporters.”10. “We are working to model a partnership that befits our common ambition and meets our shared goals for the twenty-first century.”

India to buy S-400 anti-missile defence system from Russia for $5bn

Benaulim, Goa: India on Saturday announced that it will buy the S-400 Triumf air defence systems from Russia, worth over $5 billion, and collaborate in making four state of art frigates besides setting up a joint production facility for making Kamov helicopters.

The S-400 'Triumf' long-range air defence missile system has the capability to destroy incoming hostile aircraft, missiles and even drones at ranges of up to 400 km. Reuters

The S-400 ‘Triumf’ long-range air defence missile system has the capability to destroy incoming hostile aircraft, missiles and even drones at ranges of up to 400 km. Reuters

The deals were announced following talks held between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the 2016 Brics Summit being held here.

The development comes as Russia hopes to stave off tough competition from the Americans and the Europeans to continue being India’s foremost defence supplier.

The most strategically important decision is the Inter Governmental Agreement for the purchase of S-400 ‘Triumf’ long-range air defence missile system which has the capability to destroy incoming hostile aircraft, missiles and even drones at ranges of up to 400 km.

India and Russia have been in talks for over a year for the purchase of at least five systems of S-400 that will be a game changer in the region.

It is capable of firing three types of missiles, creating a layered defence, and simultaneously engaging 36 targets. If India signs the deal, it would be the second customer of the prized missile system after China which had struck a $3 billion contract last year.

Another important deal is for four Admiral Grigorovich-class (Project 11356) guided-missile stealth frigates.

Under this deal, two vessels will come from Russian and while the other two will be built in India with Russian collaboration.

No decision has been made on the selection of the Indian shipyard.

This is in furtherance to the six Talwar-class frigates that Russia built for the Indian Navy between 2003 and 2013.

The complex agreement for production of 200 Kamov 226T helicopters domestically under a nearly $1 billion deal to replace the country’s aging Cheetah and Chetak choppers is yet another important defence deal between the countries.

Brics summit in Goa: Modi, Putin begin bilateral talks as part of annual India-Russia meet

Benaulim: Prime Minister Narendra Modi and visiting Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday began a closed-door bilateral meeting ahead of Brics heads of states meet in Goa.

The two leaders are meeting as part of the annual India-Russia summit following which the two countries are expected to sign key defence, energy and agriculture-related business deals.

External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Vikas Swarup said Modi and Putin “will discuss on a range of issues including defence, counter-terrorism”.

File photo of Vladimir Putin and Narendra Modi. PTIFile photo of Vladimir Putin and Narendra Modi. PTI

File photo of Vladimir Putin and Narendra Modi. PTI

Earlier, Putin arrived at the Dabolim airport to a red carpet welcome after which Modi, on Twitter, greeted the Russian President saying: “India welcomes you, President Putin! Wishing you a fruitful visit.”

Top bureaucrats from the Russian defence, energy, trade and industries ministries are accompanying the President.

Modi and Putin via video conference will also participate in foundation-laying ceremony of the third and fourth power units at the Kundakulam nuclear power plant.

The two leaders are expected to hold discussions over lunch and issue a formal statement to the media following the summit.

Talks between India and Russia for setting up units 5 and 6 of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KNPP) are also expected to culminate into a general framework agreement.

This could be announced after talks Modi-Putin.

An official of the Russian atomic energy corporation Rosatom, the builders of KNPP, told IANS on Friday that negotiations for units 5 and 6 had been expedited so that an announcement could be made during the Brics leaders summit in Goa on 15-16 October.

BRICS summit 2016: Defense security, counter terrorism to dominate in Indo-Russia talks – MEA

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>With Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin meeting here ahead of the BRICS summit, both nations are expected to cover a host of areas in their bilateral talks including defence and energy, trade and investment. Speaking to ANI here, Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) official spokesperson Vikas Swarup on Saturday said that India expects very substantive and fruitful discussions on a whole range of issues. “The India-Russia partnership covers a whole host of areas and not just the defence and energy but also trade and investment ties will be a major focus. Infrastructure, greater partnership on the energy side as well and of course defense security, counter terrorism are expected to dominate,” Swarup said. Further stating that the two leaders are also going to witness the laying of the foundation of Kundankulam Nuclear Power Plant Unit 3 and 4, he added that a joint statement can be expected between India and Russia and a number of agreements are expected to be signed. “The Prime Minister is expected to have two more bilaterals. The first is with the president of China and then with the President of South Africa. Then the leaders will have a group photo with the BRICS under 17 football team captains,” Swarup said. The MEA spokesperson asserted that the photo op with the football captains was a very important initiative, which contributes to greater people-to-people ties between the BRICS nations.Earlier today, Prime Minister Modi took to Twitter to welcome President Putin saying that, “India welcomes you, President Putin! Wishing you a fruitful India visit. Later in the day, both leaders held restricted talks which were then followed by delegation level talks. Both countries are likely to sign a multi billion deal for the S-400 Triumf long range air defence missile systems. The Prime Minister will also hold bilateral talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping and President of South Africa Jacob Zuma in the evening on the sidelines of the five-nation BRICS Summit and BIMSTEC outreach meet.

Brics summit in Goa: Russian president Vladimir Putin’s arrival delayed due to fog

Panaji: Russian President Vladimir Putin’s arrival in Goa on Saturday to attend the Brics Summit was delayed due to poor visibility with thick fog making it difficult for his plane to land in the coastal state.

The Russian President was first scheduled to arrive at 1 am at INS Hansa base, which is adjacent to the Dabolim Airport, but his arrival was delayed due to thick fog in the region, sources in the naval base told PTI.

File photo of Russian President Vladimir Putin. APFile photo of Russian President Vladimir Putin. AP

File photo of Russian President Vladimir Putin. AP

Putin’s flight, which was supposed to land at 3 am, was rescheduled to 7 am but even at that time it could not arrive.

However, due to security reasons it was not stated as to where his plane has been diverted.

Heavy security was in place along the road connecting INS Hansa base to the summit’s venue hotel in Benaulim village.

Several Union and Goa government officials were also camping at the base since Friday night to welcome Putin.

“The arrival of President of Russia has been delayed. The exact rescheduled time of his arrival has not been given to us,” Deputy Superintendent of Police Suchita Desai said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived in Goa last night and was welcomed at the INS Hansa base by Governor Mridula Sinha, Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar and Deputy Chief Minister Francis D’Souza.

The Prime Minister was later taken to the venue hotel by road in Benaulim where he was welcomed by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.

India is not taking TB seriously, says new WHO report

Geneva: Tuberculosis (TB) kills about 5,000 people every day globally with India continuing to take more than a third of the global burden of the disease, new estimates by the World Health Organisation (WHO) reveal.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

The TB epidemic is larger than previously estimated reflecting new surveillance and survey data from India, according to the 2016 Global Tuberculosis report released on 13 October.

India’s TB data are far from flattering by most counts.

In 2015, there were an estimated 10.4 million new TB cases worldwide of which six countries accounted for 60 percent of the total burden led by India (25 percent), followed by Indonesia (10 percent), China (10 percent), Nigeria (5 percent), Pakistan (5 percent) and South Africa (4 percent).

Of the new TB cases last year, about 56 percent (5.9 million) people were men, 34 percent (3.5 million) people were women and one million were children. People living with HIV accounted for 1.2 million of all new TB cases.

In India, 4,80,000 people were killed by the deadly disease (not counting those with HIV and TB). It affected 28,40,000 people (HIV and TB combined) of which 9,95,000 were females and 18,50,000 were males.

Although there has been a 22 percent reduction in TB deaths between 2000 and 2015, it killed an estimated 1.8 million people around the world. Of them 0.4 million were co-infected with HIV. A curable disease like TB — which is caused by a bacteria called Mycobacterium — was one of the top ten causes of death worldwide in 2015. It was responsible for more deaths than due to HIV and malaria.

India had a case fatality ratio (the proportion of cases of a disease which were fatal) of between 10-19.9 percent.

One of the biggest challenges in tackling the disease is the huge gap in testing for TB and reporting new cases.

Poor notification is still a problem

In 2015, the gap between notifications of new and relapse cases and the best estimate of the number of incident cases was 4.3 million, reflecting a mixture of under-reporting of detected TB cases, especially in countries with large private sectors; and under-diagnosis, especially in countries where there are major geographic or financial barriers to accessing care, the UN’s global TB report says.

2016 Global Tuberculosis (TB). Image courtesy WHO

2016 Global Tuberculosis (TB). Image courtesy WHO

“Some of them (people living with TB) are in fact, never diagnosed, we know that. We are in rural areas, we are perhaps in Mumbai’s poorer areas, yet they go to the private sector or Ayurveda doctors who do not report. So, you don’t even know what the story is,” Dr Mario Raviglione, director of Global TB Programme at WHO said.

In India, the non-National Programme for TB (NPT) public sector providers contributed to 16 percent of the total TB notifications while the private sector notified only 11 percent of the TB cases in India.

India had the largest gap between new and relapsed notified cases and best estimates of TB incidence in 2015.

Multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) remains a public health crisis — WHO estimates that 4,80 000 people fell ill with MDR-TB in 2015. However, again, the geographic distribution of these cases is highly disproportionate with three countries — India, China, and the Russian Federation — carrying the major burden of MDR-TB, which together account for nearly half of all cases globally.

“MDR-TB is [what] we keep calling a crisis, which unfortunately, is not being taken seriously enough. Of the new cases, an estimated 3.9 percent have MDR-TB. Roughly, half a million people fell ill with MDR-TB in 2015,” Raviglione added.

For the first time, the UN has also done an estimate of MDR and Rifampicin-resistant TB (MDR/RR-TB), defined as resistance to Isoniazid and Rifampicin, the two most powerful anti-TB drugs, for which patients need a second-line regimen. This is significant because it pushes up the total number of people living with drug-resistant TB significantly from previous estimates.

Globally, 1,32,120 cases of RR-TB were detected and notified in 2015, and 1,24,990 were enrolled on treatment.

2016 Global Tuberculosis (TB). Image courtesy WHO

2016 Global Tuberculosis (TB). Image courtesy WHO

India has a 74 percent success rate of TB treatment, which is much less than the global average of 83 percent, and is behind the BRICS group and other poorer countries of the world. China has a success rate of 94 percent. Even Mozambique (89 percent), Pakistan (93 percent), Tanzania (90 percent) and Vietnam (91 percent) showed better results.

Additionally, it has only 46 percent success rate in treating RR-TB.

Need more expenditure in healthcare

Despite these glaring figures, India relies heavily on international funding for dealing with this public health challenge and its national health budget is much lower than the WHO-recommended levels.

In 2014, government expenditures on healthcare were less than the WHO benchmark of at least six percent in 150 countries.

India has one of the lowest spending on the healthcare sector globally with a public spending of around one per cent of GDP as compared to three per cent in China and eight per cent in the UK.

India’s NTP budget is also one of the lowest among the BRICS group of countries with a spending of about $280 million, only 30 percent of which comes from domestic funding. Compare this with Russia, which has a funding of $1,385 million for countering TB among its population with zero international funding.

“It is expected that they (countries with high TB burden) will spend domestically. Four countries out of the five (highest burden BRICS countries) are almost entirely domestically funded. India, that has the largest burden, still requires lot of international support because 60 percent of their funding today is international,” Raviglione said.

Two of the indicators reflecting the state of universal health coverage (UHC) are total government spending on healthcare as a proportion of gross domestic product (GDP) and out-of-pocket (OOP) expenditures as a share of total health expenditures.

OOP is used as a proxy measure to ascertain the extent to which people lack financial protection to treat TB. OOP as a proportion of total health expenditure as recommended by WHO is at most 15 percent.

This proportion is almost 65 percent for India, higher than all BRICS countries and Pakistan.

The way ahead

WHO lists limited patient coverage, wide variability across states and localities on TB specific-support packages, weaknesses in administration, and no formal links of NGOs as some of the major weaknesses in the Indian counter-TB approach.

The world’s available money for spending on TB prevention, diagnosis and treatment in low- and middle-income countries in 2016 was $6.6 billion which is still $2 billion less than the estimates’ requirement for this group of countries in the UN’s Global Plan.

At least $2 billion per year is needed for TB research and development but this rate never exceeded 0.7 billion between 2004-2014.

The Bacille-Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccine, which was developed almost 100 years ago and has been shown to prevent severe forms of TB in children, is widely used. However, there is currently no vaccine that is effective in preventing TB disease in adults, either before or after exposure to TB infection. There are 13 TB vaccines in Phase I, Phase II or Phase III trials.

In addition, the rate of reduction in TB cases remained static at 1.5 percent from 2014 to 2015. This needs to accelerate to 4-5 percent by 2020 to reach the first milestone of the World Health Assembly-approved End TB Strategy.

Governments have agreed on targets to end the TB epidemic both at the World Health Assembly and at the United Nations General Assembly within the context of the Sustainable Development Goals. They include a 90% reduction in TB deaths and an 80% reduction in TB cases by 2030 compared with 2015.

In 2016, four diagnostic tests were reviewed and recommended by WHO.

“There must be a massive scale-up of efforts, or countries will continue to run behind this deadly epidemic and these ambitious goals will be missed,” said Dr Margaret Chan, WHO Director General in a press statement.

India, Russia finalise agreement for setting up units five and six at Kudankulam

New Delhi: Scaling up cooperation in the atomic energy sector, India and Russia have finalised a general framework agreement and credit protocol for setting up units five and six at the Kudankulam nuclear plant.

The formal announcement of the pact and the credit protocol is likely to be made after bilateral talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday in Goa on the sidelines of Brics Summit.

“Russia and India finalised ‘General Framework Agreement’ and a ‘Credit Protocol’ for Units 5 and 6 and are planning to announce it in Goa,” Russian sources said.

Vladimir Putin and Narendra Modi. PTIVladimir Putin and Narendra Modi. PTI

Vladimir Putin and Narendra Modi. PTI

They said the two countries are also planning a ceremony of “first pour” of concrete to the foundation of Unit 3 and 4 and a ceremony of inauguration of Unit 2 of the Kudankulam nuclear plant.

Both ceremonies will witness the participation of Putin and Modi as well as Kudankulam engineers in Tamil Nadu via video-conference, they added.

On 10 August, the first unit of the Kudankulam Nuclear was dedicated to the nation jointly by Modi and Putin who had participated at the ceremony from Moscow via video-conferencing.

The Kudankulam 1 has been jointly built by the Nuclear Power Corporation of India and Russia’s Rosatom and it had started generating electricity in 2013.

The agreement for the project was inked by former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and then Soviet Union President Mikhail Gorbachev in 1988 but actual work on the ground started only in 1997.

The unit 1 and 2 of Kudankulam plant were built at a cost of Rs 20,962 crore. A major share of power generated in the plant goes to Tamil Nadu, followed by Karnataka, Kerala and Puducherry.

Each of the units has a capacity to generate 1,000 MW of power.

BRICS Summit 2016: India, Russia to sign over 15 agreements tomorrow

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Asserting that India is delighted to host the 8th BRICS Summit in Goa followed by a first-ever BRICS-BIMSTEC Outreach Summit, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday extended a warm welcome to all nations participating in the event and said that India looks forward to finding common resolve and solutions.Taking to Facebook to post a welcome message for the arriving delegations, the Prime Minister said that he is honoured to receive Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Michel Temer of Brazil for a bilateral visit. India and Russia will sign more than 15 agreements on Saturday during the summit.Russia and India will also sign a multi-billion dollar deal for S-400 ‘Triumf’ long-range air defence missile systems on Saturday following talks between Putin and Modi, state media in Moscow reported on Thursday. The system has the capability to destroy incoming hostile aircraft, missiles and even drones at ranges of up to 400 km. If India signs the deal, it would be the second customer of the prized missile system after China which had struck a $3 billion (Rs 20,054 crore) contract last year.The S-400, an upgraded version of the S-300, had previously only been available to the Russian defence forces. It is manufactured by Almaz-Antey and has been in service in Russia since 2007.”President Putin’s visit will give us an opportunity to consolidate and reaffirm a unique time-tested friendship and partnership with Russia. President Temer’s visit will open up new areas for cooperation with Brazil, an important strategic partner,” he said.He further stated that he looks forward to useful conversations with his fellow leaders from China, South Africa, Brazil and Russia on addressing pressing international and regional challenges that stand in the way of their goals. “As Chair of the BRICS this year, India has embraced a stronger emphasis on promoting people-to-people linkages in diverse fields including trade, sports, education, films, scholarship, and tourism. It is anchored in the belief that our people are pivotal partners in our effort to craft responsive, collective and inclusive solutions,” the Prime Minister said.Emphasising on the new initiatives that will be launched in Goa during the Summit, Prime Minister Modi expressed his optimism that the BRICS Summit will strengthen intra-BRICS cooperation and advance our common agenda for development, peace, stability and reform. He further said that he is happy that India is facilitating an outreach Summit with the BIMSTEC leaders of Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar, Nepal, Sir Lanka and Thailand.”Representing nearly two thirds of humanity together, we hope to tap the potential for cooperation and the dividends this will bring. India looks forward to building bridges to new partnerships and finding common resolve and solutions to our entrenched problems,” the Prime Minister said.

Brics Summit: India must note Russia is still its most important strategic partner

Russian President Vladimir Putin is commencing his four-day visit to India on Friday (14-17 October). His visit assumes significance since serious doubts have clouded, of late, on the nature of Indo-Russian relations, particularly in the wake of growing ties between Moscow and Islamabad.

Putin’s visit is two-pronged. He is attending the 8th Brics summit that is being held in Goa, from 15 to 16 October. But earlier on Saturday, at Goa, Putin will meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi in what is going to be the 17th India-Russia Annual Summit. Annual India-Russia summits are held alternatively in India and Russia, thanks to the declaration of “the India Russia Strategic Partnership”, signed in October 2000. It was the brainchild of none other than Putin, who sincerely tried to restore the traditional warmth and vibrancy to the bilateral relationship that was lost during Boris Yeltsin’s presidency after the disintegration of the Soviet Union.

PM Narendra Modi (left) with Russian President Vladimir Putin. PTI

PM Narendra Modi (left) with Russian President Vladimir Putin. PTI

Of course, it is unusual that the India-Russia annual summit, an important bilateral feature, is being formally held on the sidelines of an international summit. But then, we have witnessed some other unusual developments on the Indo-Russian front. The other day, India’s Ambassador to Russia Pankaj Saran had publicly aired his concerns over the adverse impact on the bilateral relations if Moscow continued to expand military relations with Islamabad. “We have conveyed our views to the Russian side that military cooperation with Pakistan, which is a state that sponsors and practices terrorism as a matter of state policy, is a wrong approach. It will only create further problems,” Saran told Ria Novosti, the Russian official news agency.

And it was another unusual event when Russia and Pakistan held their “first-ever” joint military exercises from 24 September to 10 October, in Pakistan’s Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province. It was code-named “Druzhba-2016” (Friendship-2016). The Russian military contingent consisted of more than 70 servicemen of the 34th mountain motorised rifle brigade of its “Southern Military District”. Pakistan has gone to the town in projecting the military exercise as a “historic development”. Pakistani premier Nawaz Sharif’s special envoy on Kashmir Mushahid Hussain Syed has boasted at the Atlantic Council, one of the top American think-tanks, that as the United States was no longer a global power, Pakistan would be closer to China and Russia. “There has been slow and steady building of relationship between Moscow and Islamabad,” he said, referring to the joint military exercise between Pakistan and Russia, and then adding “the Russian government has for the first time agreed to sell arms to Pakistan.”

However, now is the time for a reality check. The “first-ever” description, used by Russian and Pakistani officials regarding these military exercises, is not correct in the strict sense of the term. Russia and Pakistan had already conducted two naval exercises — “Arabian Monsoon – 2014” and “Arabian Monsoon – 2015.” Though unlike “Druzhba-2016” (a proper military exercise), these two exercises focused on combating crime groups and blocking drug traffic, the fact remains that the navies of the two countries were involved. Secondly, notwithstanding all talks about Russia-Pakistan defence cooperation, there have not been major arms purchases as yet by Pakistan from Russia; the two have only “finished talks” on four transport helicopters that Russia will sell to Pakistan.

Thirdly, and this is the most important, when Russia was conducting joint military exercise with Pakistan, it was also carrying out a far more sophisticated joint military exercise with India. Called “INDRA-2016”, this exercise took place in the Ussiriysk district in Vladivostok from 23 September to 2 October. Over 500 servicemen, 50 units of equipment, a group of UAVs, and assault and army aviation took part in the drills. 250 soldiers of the Kumaon Regiment represented the Indian contingent. The Russian Armed Forces were represented by 250 soldiers from the 59th Motorised Infantry Brigade. Main focus of this joint exercise was on counter-terrorism operations in semi-mountainous and jungle terrains.

If this is the reality, then how does one explain the Russian policy at present towards Pakistan? Going by the Russian officials, there are two reasons behind Moscow’s behaviour. First, and here I am quoting Russia’s Ambassador to India, Alexander Kadakin, Russia’s military cooperation with Pakistan will teach the “Pakistani army not to use itself for terror attacks against India.” This will also help to fight “terrorism and drug traffic coming from Afghanistan” (as Anatoly Antonov, Russia’s Deputy Minister of Defence, had said in 2015). That the joint military exercise was not against India has been stressed by the Russians. They say that because of India’s sensitivities, Russia did not agree with Pakistan to conduct it in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), including Gilgit and Baltistan.

Secondly, the Russians argue that with the end of the Cold War in general and gradual withdrawal of the American troops from Afghanistan in particular, Pakistan should be viewed as a normal country with which Moscow can do normal business. And since it is normal interaction any sovereign country will do with another normal sovereign country, there is nothing anti-Indian about it. Russians dismiss the theory that by coming closer to Pakistan, they are reacting adversely to India’s growing proximity with the United States in recent years.

However, one may not agree with the Russians on this score. All told, the United States has replaced Russia as India’s largest military supplier, causing a lot of consternations to Moscow, whose substantial export items happen to be the military products (other than oil and gas). But, it will be an exaggeration to cite the Pakistan-factor in undermining the importance of the strategic dimensions in Indo-Russian relations in general and the military component in this relationship in particular.

Even today, Russia provides India around 70 percent of its defence needs. And importantly, the defence cooperation is not exactly restricted to a buyer-seller relationship; it includes now joint design, research and development, joint production, training, and service-to-service contacts. Russia is always prepared to share its most sensitive and newest developments in technology to India that the United States and other Western nations have been reticent to do. Brahmos missile system is a shining example of this type of collaboration. Presently, several similar joint development projects in areas of cutting edge and frontier technologies are being pursued, the most important being the joint development of a fifth generation fighter aircraft (FGFA).

In fact, when Modi and Putin meet on Saturday, they are expected to clinch the deal worth a billion dollar deal to manufacture 200 Kamov-226 T helicopters under the ‘Make in India’ programme. Besides, they will negotiate over the possibility of India acquiring five S-400 ‘Triumf’ long-range air defense missile systems and upgraded models of the Sukhoi 30-MKI elite fighter jet. These possible deals could fetch Russia at $6 billion. The S-400 missile system, it may be noted, is capable of destroying missiles, drones, and incoming fighter jets within a range of 250 miles (400 km).

Even otherwise, Russia will continue to remain India’s most valued ally for many more years to come. As strategic partners, India and Russia share the same global outlook that the existing architecture of global security, including its mechanisms based on international law, does not ensure the equal security of all nations. This has been emphasised by Russia’s “military doctrine” (February 2010) and “security strategy” (May 2009). The essential features of these two highlight clearly that Russia is not happy with the eastward expansion of Nato, proposed Europe-based missile defence systems, secessionist insurgencies in its territory supported by external elements, rise of Islamic fundamentalism in the neighbouring regions such as Central Asia and South Asia, and the spread of global terrorism fuelled by religion and drugs etc. Needless to point out that almost all these features are also matters of great concern when India plans its overall security within the framework of a multipolar world that shuns unilateralism.

Besides, the fact remains that though Russia may have lost its position as a superpower in Cold War equations, it is still a big power if one goes by any possible definition of the elements that constitute power. It is huge and possesses the largest landmass of the earth as a single country. It strategically abuts on Central Asia, China and Iran, an area of political, security and economic interests to India. Russia is endowed with enormous natural resources, technological capacities and trade potential. It still is the most important military power in the world after the United States. Most significantly, Russia, perhaps, gives a higher priority to India in its foreign policy and strategic calculations than the United States or other power centres of the world, their acknowledgment of India’s rising importance notwithstanding.

All told, Russia never hesitates to transfer its most sophisticated technology to India. It is Russia, which gives its nuclear submarines on lease to India. It is Russia, which has unhesitatingly cooperated with India in its march towards becoming a major space power. It is Russia, which has unhesitatingly established nuclear power stations in India, something that cannot be said of the United States even after the conclusion of civilian nuclear deal. And it is Russia, which has provided the most vocal support for India becoming a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council.

India has invested heavily in Russia’s hydrocarbon sector. One of India’s most significant overseas investments (2.8 billion dollars) has been in Sakhalin—I (Siberia) for extracting oil. But this is not all. India has also invested more in that region through ONGC Videsh Limited—2.1 billion dollars was the investment for buying a British company called Imperial Energy in the Tomsk region in Siberia. India has been discussing with the Russian side on several more investments where ONGC Videsh Limited is willing to go along with Russian oil and gas majors like Gazprom and Rosneft to invest in different regions of Siberia and even North Russia. In Siberia the regions are Sakhalin-III and there is a region on Timan Pechora, as also there is an interest on the Indian side in the Yamal peninsula, which is a gas-rich area in Northern Russia.

Of course, in today’s world nothing is free and Russia has its own reasons to ensure that India remains its close ally as well. Russia, of late, might have increased its ties manifold with China, India’s principal strategic competitor. It might also open more for Pakistan in days to come. But then the fact remains that Russia needs India as much as it needs China. Likewise, India might have improved its equations with the United States, of late. But then the fact also remains that India needs Russia as much as it needs the United States. Modi-Putin summit on Saturday will reflect this reality.

Brics summit in Goa: Forget Hindi-Chini bhai-bhai and get tough with China

Dealing with Pakistan’s export of terror is difficult enough for India. Add to this tragedy a third player, China, which not only backs Pakistan but even plays nasty economic games against India, and then it’s quite a tough job to handle.

That’s what Prime Minister Narendra Modi must remember as he hosts the summit of the five-nation Brics and a retreat for the leaders of the seven-nation Bimstec this weekend in Goa. Pakistan is part of neither Brics nor Bimstec but will be at the back of Modi’s mind when he talks to President Xi Jinping of China in Goa.

India must reconcile to the fact that, in foreseeable future, both Pakistan and China will continue to be its adversaries. Having already made enough gullible attempts to turn both those countries into friends, India must now begin to find ways to “manage” its relations with the rogue country on the west and its ally on the east in a manner that would be to its best advantage.

India’s recipe to fight China must have more of economics than diplomacy. Then as a spin-off, India can hope for a more sober Pakistan, though there is no guarantee of that since nobody knows who is — and who will be, in future — in charge of Pakistan’s affairs.

What makes the cash route a better bet to fight China is the slow-down in China’s economy. The dragon is breathing less economic fire now, and though it’s not ready to have its wings clipped, it’s more vulnerable than ever before.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

But it would take only a fool or a jingoist to believe that India is better off than China. Though India’s economy is showing impressive signs of improvement, Chinese economy, even with its present mess, is still many times larger than India’s, and the Chinese military much stronger.

It’s also preposterous to even suggest that India must curb trade ties with China, in retaliation for the latter’s brazen backing for Pakistan. Economically, India needs China as much as China does India.

Western economists differ on whether China’s economic troubles are subsiding, and their assessments are not proving to be reliable. Yet the stories that continue to come out of China of job losses, unemployment and salary cuts are good news for India.

That’s what India must leverage to perk up its own economy and to bring down its own unemployment and poverty levels, say some well-meaning experts.

Like India has replied to Pakistan’s terror in its own langue with surgical strikes, India must deal with China by employing the same methodology of chicanery that the eastern neighbour has made itself notorious for: by dropping a subtle hint here and there, and by making it clear that India will do business with China on its own terms.

Brics is a good place to start, and China is already getting the right message not only from India but other countries of the bloc as well. Media reports suggest that India, along with other Brics members, are showing no interest in a “Brics Free Trade Agreement” that China wants to peddle to them at this week’s summit. This proposal is designed in a way to further China’s own interests, not anybody else’s.

Paying for its past follies, China is indeed a desperate nation today.

AFP reported on 10 October that China’s foreign exchange reserves, the largest in the world, have fallen to a five-year-low to less than US $3.18 trillion this week. But India’s reserves — $371.2 billion this week, though a fraction of China’s—are showing an upward trend.

But that’s not the point. What matters more is what the world thinks of the Chinese and what India should do to rein the Communist nation that has no respect for international rule of law, human rights, treaties or the global fight against terrorism, and for whom transparency is a dirty word.

But even China—where most things are shrouded in a sinister secrecy and where the very composition of its foreign reserves itself is a state secret—can occasionally be candid. That, again, perhaps is part of the Chinese passion to surprise the enemy.

On 5 October, a Xinhua report quoted a Chinese official as having made an oblique confession that the world at large thinks of the Chinese as fraudsters who are unreliable to do business with.

The official said China’s trade remained under heavy downward pressure, partly due to “increasing trade frictions” with nations around the world

In the last eight months, he admitted, 20 countries including the US launched 85 “trade remedy probes” against Chinese deals worth US $ 10.3 billion, almost double the amount for the same period last year. These relate to patent or trademark infringement, misappropriation of trade secrets, false advertising and violation of antitrust laws.

A recent Reuters report said: “China’s offshore ambitions have come under increasing scrutiny this year by governments in Europe and the United States.”

The Chinese are learning, though slowly, that their policies could one day lead to their isolation in the world. Already, China finds itself to be somewhat of a pariah within Brics, though not to the same extent as Pakistan is in Saarc — yet.

Among Brics members, India suffers from a trade deficit of $ 52.7 billion with China. This means China’s exports to India far outstrip its imports from India. Russia has its own $-12-billion trade deficit with China. Though Brazil and South Africa enjoy trade surpluses with China, all four countries are suspicious of any move that China makes that they think can even remotely affect the balance unfairly.

Pakistan may be a vassal state of China, but Brazil, Russia, India and South Africa are not. They would be ready to call China’s economic bluff, though the four countries together don’t present a pretty picture of unity themselves.

There are some who argue that India must do more business with China to offset the security threat from Pakistan. One of them is, Niti Aayog’s Vice-Chairman Arvind Panagariya, who told India Today: “… our economic engagement with China can trump the security engagement of China with Pakistan.”

But those like Subhash Kapila, former Indian diplomat in Japan and the US, don’t agree. Kapila argues in this article: “The China-Pakistan Axis with strategic underpinnings pointedly aimed at India is also an established strategic reality. India vainly keeps hoping that economics would ultimately prevail and modulate China’s patent targeting of India’s strategic rise in Indo Pacific Asia.”

The way to grapple with the China problem lies in both politics and economics in right proportions. While using its own significant economic clout, India must raise its voice against China’s hypocritical and hegemonistc advances in the region.

It is clear that, whatever Modi does or says in Goa this week, a meek surrender to the Chinese blackmail is not an option. The days of Jawaharlal Nehru’s gullible Hindi-Chini bhai bhai are long gone. Having called Pakistan’s bluff, India must now call China’s.

The author tweets @sprasadindia

On the sidelines of three day BRICS Summit in Goa, PM Modi to meet 10 world leaders for bilateral talks

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Prime Minister Narendra Modi will have nearly ten bilaterals, including an annual summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, in three days in Goa from October 15 on the sidelines of the five-nation BRICS Summit and BIMSTEC outreach meet.Prime Minister Modi will meet Putin on Saturday for the annual summit and the talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping are expected to be held later that day. His summit with Brazilian President Michel Temer is scheduled for Monday. While issues such as terrorism, economy and connectivity are expected to dominate the deliberations at the multilateral-level, bilateral meetings will see India exploring ways to enhance cooperation in key areas of security, defence, energy and investments, officials said.Apart from holding meetings with leaders of BRICS (Brazil -Russia-India-China-South Africa), Modi will have talks with Prime Ministers of Bhutan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand. He will also have a bilateral with State Counsellor of Myanmar Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who is arriving in India on October 16 on her first visit to the country after assuming the office.
ALSO READ BRICS Summit 2016: PM Modi, Russian Prez Putin to discuss defence, tradeDuring Modi-Putin meeting, key issues of defence, security, civil nuclear cooperation, trade and investment are expected to dominate the talks. Significantly, Indian envoy to Moscow Pankaj Saran had said that India has conveyed its views to Russia over its joint exercise with Pakistan, a nation which “sponsors and practises terrorism as a matter of State policy”, and that it will create further problems.The bilateral summit also comes at a time when India is undertaking large-scale defence modernisation programme involving replacing old Russian equipment with modern ones from the country itself and from other nations. Some of the most important defence deals currently under discussion are purchase of 5 S-400 ‘Triumf’ long-range air defence missile systems, Kamov-28 helicopters and upgradation of the Sukhoi 30-MKIs.
ALSO READ India conveys its opposition on Russia-Pakistan military exercise to Moscow On nuclear cooperation, the two sides are working to finalise a General Framework Agreement and a Credit Protocol for unit 5 and 6 under Kudankulam project and negotiations for the same are likely to be concluded during Putin’s upcoming visit, officials said.During Modi-Xi meeting, issues such as India’s NSG membership bid and China blocking the banning of terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammed’s chief and mastermind of Pathankot attack Masood Azhar by the UN are likely to be discussed by the Indian side, according to officials.Ahead of their meeting, China has indicated that it will not remove the technical hold it has placed in the UN Sanctions Committee on banning Azhar as it was opposed to anyone making “political gains in the name of counter- terrorism”. However, on NSG, Chinese government has said it was “ready” to talk.Prime Minister Modi and Chinese President Xi had last met on the sidelines of G-20 in Hangzhou in September.

India, Russia to sign Kamov 226T deal: All you need to know about multi-use helicopters

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian president Vladimir Putin are expected to sign the crucial agreement for the production of 200 Kamov 226T helicopters domestically on the sidelines of the Brics summit from 13 to 16 October in Goa.

Kamov 226T will replace the aging Cheetah and Chetak choppers. “The complex agreement to set up a joint production facility of Ka-226T helicopters is expected to be signed at the Brics forum,” said a statement by Rostec State Corporation, an umbrella organisation of about 700 Russian firms founded in 2007 to promote the development, production, and export of high-tech industrial products for civil and military purposes.

File image of Ka-226T. Russianhelicopters.aero

File image of Ka-226T. Russianhelicopters.aero

This agreement conforms to Modi’s ‘Make in India’ vision because it will promote indigenous defence manufacturing, according to a report in The Financial Express. The report also quotes Russian Helicopters, which makes Kamov, as saying that “the light multipurpose helicopter is designed for work in difficult conditions of high mountains, hot climate and on marine areas. It allows for reconnaissance, targeting and monitoring of transportation (up to 1500 kg)”.

The chopper can carry about seven paratroopers and has a maximum take-off weight of 3,600 kg. The agreement was signed by India and Russia during Modi’s visit to Moscow in December. The preliminary contract was signed by the head of Rostec Sergei Chemezov, CEO and Modi in December last year.

“The agreement on manufacture of Kamov 226 helicopter in India is the first project for a major defence platform under the ‘Make In India’ mission,” MEA spokesperson Vikas Swarup quoted Modi as saying, according to a report in The Economic TimesThe report also quotes sources as saying that Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) will be a primary partner for the choppers. Viktor Kladov, Head International Cooperation of Rostec told The Hindu that the first 40 helicopters will be assembled in Russia for faster deliveries and the rest will be done in India.

The Ka-226T underwent testing in India as part of the Reconnaissance and Surveillance Helicopter (RSH) acquisition programme, which was cancelled by the Indian authorities in 2014. The helicopter out-performed its Western counterparts during flights in India’s hot conditions and mountainous areas, according to airforce-technology.com.

The heads of the state corporations will conduct a series of negotiations on development in the area of Russian helicopter export and after-sales servicing. Chemezov will head Rostec’s delegation to the 2016 Brics Summit.

“The contract for export and joint production of 200 Ka-226T helicopters is one of the key projects in the framework of trade and industrial relations between Russia and India. We plan to expand them in both military-technical and civilian areas,” Chemezov said.

Rostec is currently in negotiations with the Defence Ministry here for a long-term contract for after-sales servicing of Russian-made helicopters, which are widely used in India.

“We are expecting to set up an after-sales service in a profoundly new format. There is an array of other projects, where we see perspectives for mutually beneficial cooperation, which we plan to discuss at the Brics Summit,” Chemezov said.

Ka-226T specifications

The Ka-226T is a light, twin-engine multi-role helicopter for military and civilian purposes. The military version helps in hard-to-reach conditions, according to Russian Helicopters.

The Ka-226T copters are fitted with high-visibility nose and a new rotor system. Its rotors are made from composite materials. The low height of the rotor makes it necessary for the passengers to approach the chopper from the rear, when the rotors are turning.

The multi-role helicopter also boasts of incredibly precise hovering ability, excellent maneuverability and high safety standards.

An unusual feature of this helicopter is that it has an interchangeable mission module, attached to its bubble-shaped cockpit, instead of conventional cabin, according to military-today.com.

Fuselage of the Ka-226T has a length of 8.6 m, while its width is 3.2 m and it has a height of 4.1 m. The diameter of its main rotor is 13.2 m.

The cabin measures 2.35 metre long, 1.34 metre wide and 1.4 metre high. It offers a volume of 5.4 metrecube and is fitted with mooring equipment for securing cargo and folding seats for accommodating troops.

With inputs from PTI

Brics Summit: Vladimir Putin states grouping’s importance in face of ‘Western unilateralism’

Moscow: Brics reflects the member-countries’ commitment to uphold international law when some Western countries are trying to promote unilateral approaches, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday.

And cooperation within Brics — which clubs Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — was already yielding practical results, Putin told IANS and Sputnik news agencies in an interview ahead of his visit to Goa to attend the Brics Summit.

Putin described Brics as one of the key elements of the emerging multipolar world.

“The five (member) countries have consistently reaffirmed their commitment to the fundamental principles of international law and promote the central role of the UN,” he said in response to questions from IANS.

“Our countries reject the policy of coercive pressure and infringement upon the sovereignty of other states. We take similar stances on urgent international issues, including the Syrian crisis and the Middle East settlement.”

The Russian leader said the Brics summits’ final declarations reaffirm “our shared commitment to the fundamental principles of inter-state communication, particularly, to the observance of international law with the central coordinating role of the UN.

File photo of Russian President Vladimir Putin. AP

File photo of Russian President Vladimir Putin. AP

“With some Western countries attempting to promote their unilateral approaches, this position becomes even more relevant,” Putin said, adding that the Goa Summit would be no exception to this rule.

Traditionally, the declarations of Brics leaders outline fundamental consensus-based stances on a wide range of issues and identify short-term development goals for the five nations, he said.

This, he added, would serve as a target for follow-up steps aimed at strengthening strategic partnerships among the five countries in various spheres.

“As for rendering practical interaction among the five countries more substantive, I would like to stress that today, there exist more than 30 formats for inter-agency cooperation in the political, economic, humanitarian, security and law enforcement areas.”

Putin said the establishment of the New Development Bank (NDB) and the Brics Contingent Reserve Arrangement with a total capital of $200 billion was one concrete example of this cooperation.

“I am convinced that, as the bank gets stronger, its output will only increase, including by means of projects that promote integration among the Brics countries.

“The NDB started its work in 2016, having approved the first projects in all five countries.

“The priority at the current stage is renewable energy. In Russia, this implies the construction of small 50 MW hydropower plants in Karelia worth $100 million.”

Putin said the Brics countries actively cooperated within the Group of 20 and sought to systematically converge their stand at the WTO to improve the rules and spur multilateral negotiations within the organisation.

“This is why I think the cooperation within Brics has already begun to yield practical results. It is essential to continue work on consolidating these results and on identifying areas of common interest.

The Russian leader said the participants in the Brics Summit in Goa would look at the initial results of implementing the Strategy for Brics Economic Partnership adopted in Ufa and finalise the draft of Brics Roadmap for Trade, Economic and Investment Cooperation until 2020.

“We intend to establish new formats and mechanisms to cooperate with our partners, in which concerted measures aimed at developing our ties in various fields will be elaborated.

“At the same time we intend to focus on addressing issues related to strengthening international security and stability, enhancing the competitiveness of our economies and the promotion of international development.”

Putin said Russia supported the initiatives put forward by the Indian chairmanship in such fields as Brics collaboration in agriculture, railway transport, sports, tourism and building people-to-people contacts.

The bittersweet India- China deal

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In school, during skits or presentations we make groups with whom we are comfortable with or have a chance to win or do well. Similarly, countries too form groups to help in each other’s progress, whereby there is equality and mutual benefit. One such group is the BRICS. Brazil, Russia, India and China are the original members of BRIC, which took shape in 2006. The first summit meeting was held on 16th June 2009. The aim is to improve the global economic situation by cooperating with each other and making trade easier. The eighth annual BRICS summit will be held in Goa from 15-16 October 2016.Vying for the no1 spotThe two big giants of the group, China and India have the highest growth rate in the world. It is essential for India and China to maintain good relationships. However, the two countries haven’t shared the best of relationships and instead stood on opposing grounds. After the 1962 war against India, China had supported Pakistan by providing supplies. A key factor to India’s Nuclear Suppliers Group membership was also denied by China’s vote. Recently after the attacks in Kashmir, China has remained neutral on the attacks by saying that it is in contact with India and Pakistan and hoped that the countries would jointly enhance communication.Trade mattersThe political relations may be strained but economically the two countries trade worth was $70.73 billion in 2015-16. India exports iron, steel, leather, cotton, tin, plastic etc. and China exports telecom instruments, computer hardware, fertilizers, chemicals etc. BRICS countries exports to rest of the world were $3.48 trillion in 2014. Between 2006 and 2015, BRICS’s trade increased 163 percent from $93 to $244 billion. Thus it is essential for India and China to build their relationship as they make up an important part of the trade world.The plan for 2016The BRICS summit meet held each year helps to discuss the changes that need to be brought in to improve the relationship between the member countries and also benefit the nations. This year’s theme being Building, Responsive, Inclusive and Collective Solutions. The plan for this year is to deepen the cooperation between the nations, implementing decisions of previous summits, finding better policies and methods and continuing the policies of the past. China has proposed a free trade area (zone where there would no government restrictions and tax on imports), which would be discussed during the meet. China is also ready to hold talks with India regarding its entry into NSG, which would boost India’s prospects of getting a membership.The BRICS summit is crucial as there is a need to balance the India-China relationship, which not only affects the BRICS nations but also the economy of the world.

India conveys its opposition on Russia-Pakistan military exercise to Moscow

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Ahead of their annual bilateral Summit, India has conveyed its opposition to Russia over its joint exercise with Pakistan, a nation which “sponsors and practises terrorism as a matter of State policy”, saying it will create further problems.”We have conveyed our views to the Russian side that military cooperation with Pakistan which is a State that sponsors and practises terrorism as a matter of State policy is a wrong approach and it will only create further problems,” Indian Ambassador to Moscow Pankaj Saran said in an interview to Russian news agency Ria Novosti.Saran’s remarks come ahead of the bilateral meeting in Goa on Saturday between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin, who will be arriving in India on October 14. Apart from bilateral Summit, Putin will attend the Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa (BRICS) meet on October 16.India has been communicating its unhappiness to Russia over its joint military exercises with Pakistan. However, these concerns have been played down by the Russians who maintain that they hold similar military drills with other countries of the region as well.Saran also said, “There are some burning issues before the world today which the BRICS countries will certainly address and this includes the question of terrorism and the threat of terrorism faced by all the countries in the BRICS group. So this will be a major item of discussion during the Summit apart from the regional conflicts and the global situation.”On Indo-Russia ties, the envoy said as far as India’s relations with Russia are concerned, the two countries share a special and privileged strategic partnership.”We see no change in this. On the contrary, this has only strengthened in all areas, including in the field of military-technical cooperation. This partnership is an anchor of peace and stability in the region and the world.”We have a regular system of military exercises with Russia. We have been holding these exercises for the last few years with Russia and we will continue to do so. The plan for these exercises is drawn up between the relevant agencies of the two sides. This will continue even next year,” he said.Saran also talked about the cooperation in the field of civil nuclear sector, trade and investments.Russia had held first-ever joint military exercise with Pakistan in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa region in September.Saran said as far as nuclear cooperation was concerned, the ties were “historic”.”We have five other units for Kudankulam project. Unit-2 is in the process of achieving criticality and work on Units 3 and 4 is in the process of beginning. As far as Units 5 and 6 are concerned, we are working with the Russian side to finalise a General Framework Agreement and a Credit Protocol,” he said, hoping to conclude the negotiations to mutual benefit for the two countries.On commercial ties, he said the two sides were “actively” working to meet the bilateral trade target of USD 30 billion by 2025.

BRICS Summit 2016: PM Modi, Russian Prez Putin to discuss defence, trade

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Cooperation in key areas of security, defence and trade will be discussed when Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin hold talks on Saturday after which the two sides are expected to conclude “important bilateral agreements”.Announcing Putin’s four-day visit to Goa from October 14 to 17, External Affairs Ministry said besides attending BRICS Summit on Sunday, he would also hold 17th Indo-Russia Annual Summit where the leaders will review the entire gamut of bilateral ties including the progress made since their last Summit meeting in Moscow in December 2015.”Important bilateral agreements are expected to be concluded and a joint statement released at the end of the Summit,” the ministry said.The meeting between the two comes in the backdrop of the the first ever joint Russia-Pakistan military exercise recently. It also comes at a time when India is undertaking large-scale defence modernisation programme involving replacing old Russian equipment with modern ones from the country itself and from other nations.Besides discussions to boost cooperation in crucial areas of defence, security and trade, the two leaders will exchange views on regional and international issues.Some of the most important defence deals currently under discussion are purchase of 5 S-400 ‘Triumf’ long-range air defence missile systems, Kamov-28 helicopters and upgradation of the Sukhoi 30-MKIs. Another project under focus would be the long pending joint development of the fifth generation fighter aircraft (FGFA).India is also looking at leasing an Akula-class nuclear submarine from Russia. The ministry said given that the year 2017 marks the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries, a number of commemorative celebrations are planned.

Chinese President Xi Jinping to attend Brics summit in India, visit Bangladesh

Beijing: Chinese President Xi Jinping will visit Cambodia and Bangladesh and attend the eighth BRICS summit in India from 13 to 17 October, it was announced in Beijing on Monday.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said Xi was invited by Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni and Bangladesh President Abdul Hamid to pay state visits to the two countries. Xi will then attend the BRICS summit, to be held in Goa, at the invitation of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Lu said.

File image of Xi Jinping. APFile image of Xi Jinping. AP

File image of Xi Jinping. AP

In Cambodia, the Chinese President will meet King Sihamoni and call on the Queen mother, former Queen Norodom Monineath. He will also hold talks with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen during which cooperative agreements are expected to be signed.

Xi’s visit to Bangladesh will be a “milestone”, Lu said, noting that both sides would conclude agreements to improve bilateral relations. During the visit, Xi will meet Bangladesh President Abdul Hamid, National Assembly Speaker Shirin Sharmin Chowdhury, and hold talks with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

At the BRICS summit, leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa will exchange in-depth views on BRICS cooperation and other global and regional issues, Vice Foreign Minister Li Baodong said.

The BRICS leaders will also hold a dialogue meeting with leaders of some countries in the region and meet business leaders. The BRICS grouping comprises Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

Chinese President Xi Jinping to visit India to take part in Brics Summit in Goa

Beijing: Chinese President Xi Jinping will visit India, Cambodia and Bangladesh this week during which he would take part in the Brics Summit in Goa.

File photo of Xi Jinping. Reuters

File photo of Xi Jinping. Reuters

During his 13-17 October visit, Xi will first go to Cambodia followed by Bangladesh and later travel to Goa to attend the Brics Summit, Chinese Foreign Ministry said on Monday.

In Goa, Xi will meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi and a host of other leaders, including heads of the Bimstec (Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Thailand) countries who have been invited to the Goa Summit.

In all, 11 Heads of State from Brics (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) and Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (Bimstec) countries will attend the meeting.

The Brics Summit will start on 15 October and will end the next day, following which there will be a retreat, in which Bimstec countries will take part, according to officials.

Xi’s visit to Bangladesh is regarded as significant as it is taking place after 30 years. The last visit at that level took place in 1986,

The two countries are expected to sign important agreements, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Li Baodong, who briefed the media here on Xi’s visit, said.

While Xi is skipping a visit to Nepal which was put off after the election of Pushpa Kamal Dahal alias Prachanda, he would meet him on the sidelines of the Brics Summit, officials said.

Reports earlier said his visit to Nepal was put off as China was upset over the delay in implementation of agreements by the new government to link both countries.

Li said China regards Goa Summit of the Brics countries important because it will provide an opportunity for the leaders of the five-member bloc to meet and interact with the leaders of Bimstec.

Every country has the right to defend its territory from terrorism: Germany backs India’s surgical strike

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>German Ambassador to India Martin Ney said that Germany will stand with India in its fight against terrorism. Responding to a query on the recent surgical strikes by the Indian Army across LoC, he told reporters here, “There is a clear international norm that every state has the right to defend its territory from international terrorism.” “Let me put it this way..it is absolutely clear that there are two norms in international law governing this issue (cross-border terrorism). The first clear norm is that every state under legal occupation should ensure that no terrorism is emanating from its territory. “Secondly, there is a clear international law that any state has the right to defend its territory from any form of global terrorism,” Ney said. “When it comes to counter terrorism, Germany stands side by side with it its strategic partner (India). And these (statements) are not empty words. It is quite clear in the political declaration signed by Prime Minister Modi and Chancellor Merkel,” he said. “I can assure you standing with India side by side against terrorism are not empty political words but backed with concrete projects,” Ney said. On the bilateral trade between India and Germany, the German envoy said his country was the sixth largest partner of India and the largest trading partner in European Union. Ney was speaking at a function held here to appoint Cyient Ltd Founder and Executive Chairman and former NASSCOM Chairman BVR Mohan Reddy as the Honorary Consul of the Federal Republic of Germany.Earlier Russia also backed India post the surgical strike. Russia’s Ambassador to New Delhi Alexander M Kadakin also said his country had always been with India in fighting cross-border terrorism. “Greatest human rights violations take place when terrorists attack military installations and attack peaceful civilians in India. We welcome the surgical strike. Every country has right to defend itself,” Russian embassy quote d Kadakin as having told a news channel. He also assured India that it does not need to worry about Russia-Pakistan joint military exercise, saying it did not take place in “Pakistan-Occupied Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir”.Last week, a Russian Foreign Ministry statement had said Russia stands for “decisive struggle” against terrorism in all its manifestations. “We are concerned with the aggravation lately of the situation along the line of control between India and Pakistan. “We are calling on the parties not to allow any escalation of tension and to settle the existing problems by political and diplomatic means through negotiations. We stand for decisive struggle against terrorism in all its manifestations.”We expect that the Government of Pakistan should take effective steps in order to stop the activities of terrorist groups in the territory of the country,” the statement said.Earlier, Russia’s foreign ministry blasted Pakistan in a strongly worded statement. Speaking about the LoC incident, the Russian Foreign Ministry put out a statement saying: “We are concerned with the aggravation lately of the situation along the line of control between India and Pakistan. We are calling on the parties not to allow any escalation of tension and to settle the existing problems by political and diplomatic means through negotiations. We stand for decisive struggle against terrorism in all its manifestations. We expect the government of Pakistan to take effective steps in order to stop the activities of terrorists’ groups in the territory of the country.”Other world powers, who seem to side with India over the surgical strike include the USA who said terrorist attacks like Uri obviously escalates tensions. “Obviously, an (terrorist) attack like that (in Uri) escalates tensions. What I don’t want to do is try to get into, you know, some sort of broad characterisation one way or the other but obviously an attack like this is horrific and…”, the State Department Spokesman, John Kirby, told reporters.The spokesperson was interrupted by a reporter mid-way that her question was about India’s response to the September 18 Uri attack. “But the Indian response is that — is that the kind of escalation that Secretary Kerry was warning against?” the journalist asked referring to the telephonic conversation between the Secretary of State John Kerry and the External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj earlier this week.Kirby was quick to clarify that he was referring to the Uri terrorist attack. “Oh, I thought you were talking about the Uri attack,” the spokesman said.On September 27, Kerry spoke with Swaraj. For technical reason, the conversation was spread over two separate calls. “I can confirm for you that the secretary spoke with — on the 27th, so earlier this week, with Indian External Affairs Minister Swaraj and reiterated his strong condemnation of the September 18 Uri attack. He condemned terrorism in all its forms and he cautioned against any escalation intentions,” he said.Responding to questions, Kirby called for de-escalation of tension between the two countries. “We’ve seen those reports (of Indian surgical attack), we’re following the situation closely as I think you can understand. We also understand that the Indian and Pakistani militaries have been in communication,” he said. “We believe that continued communication is obviously important to reduce tensions. We’ve repeatedly expressed our concerns regarding the danger that terrorism poses to the region and we all know that terrorism in many ways knows no border,” Kirby said.”We continue to urge actions to combat and de-legitimise terrorist groups like LeT, and Haqqani Network, Jaish-E-Mohammed. So, this is something that we’re obviously keenly focused on,” Kirby said in response to a question.Counter-terrorism co-operation, he said, is something that the United States is always working at with its partners in the region. “We’re always trying to get better at combating terrorism in the region. There are many ways you can do that, you know, through information sharing regimens and increasing communication between all parties involved,” he said.But he refused to entertain question on if there was any co-operation between India and the United States on the latest Indian operation. “I don’t have a specific laundry list here to read out to you because, frankly, it’s something that we’ve been constantly working at with our partners in the region,” he said. Kirby said America’s message to both sides has been the same in terms of encouraging them to increase communication to deal with this threat and to avoid steps that escalate the tensions.”I think I’m not going to get into characterising each and every step along the way there. “But obviously, what we want to see is increased cooperation against what is a very shared common threat for both countries, and to see steps being taken to deal with it by all sides,” Kirby said. Meanwhile the US Ambassador to India, Richard Verma, who was in Washington DC has rushed back to New Delhi.”As far as I know, he’s returning to New Delhi. My understanding is that he believed that it was, appropriate for him to go back.”He has got a big job. There a lot of responsibilities that come with it. And, obviously it’s a very dynamic situation and he felt it was prudent to go back. We support that,” Kirby said.Earlier, Afghanistan’s Ambassador to India, Shaida Mohammad Abdali applauded New Delhi for ordering counter terrorism operations across the Line of Control (LoC) on Wednesday and Thursday.‘I applaud Prime Minister Modi for his boldness and his seriousness to fight terrorism more effectively, and all other countries should support him, so that we can be free from terrorism,’ Abdali said. Condemning the countries giving refuge and support to terrorist organisations, the Afghan envoy said should be should be dealt with strongly and taken out from wherever they exist.On Islamabad’s consistent rejection of the charge that it was harboring terrorists, Abdali said ‘Deniability has a limit. This cannot be denied if there are facts on the ground on how they exist and how they operationalise their activities.’South Korea also supported India’s stance against terrorism emanating from Pakistan as Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan apprised its President Park Geun Hye about the surgical strike carried out by the Indian army at the terror camps across the LoC. The issue came up when Mahajan, who is leading a Parliamentary delegation, called on the President.During the discussions, the Speaker informed the Korean President about the “strong action” taken by India against terrorism, said a statement issued by the Lok Sabha Secretariat, referring to the cross-LoC surgical strike.Apprising Park about the continuous terrorist activities being carried out from the territory of Pakistan, Mahajan told her that “India believes in non-violence and peace, but it will not hesitate to use its retaliatory power to safeguard its interests,” the statement said. “While supporting India’s strong views on terrorism, Park condemned terrorism of every type,” it added. The President said India and South Korea stand together against terrorism.With agency inputs

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