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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)

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

Afghan migrants taken to hospital as Croatia arrests Bulgarians over trafficking | Reuters

BELGRADE Dozens of migrants, mainly from Afghanistan, have been taken to hospital in Croatia after police stopped a van carrying 67 people, and arrested two Bulgarian citizens suspected of human trafficking, the police said. The van, with British licence plates, was halted on the highway between the Serbian and Slovenian borders on Saturday evening during routine traffic control, according to the police. Forty-two migrants were taken immediately to hospital and some were treated for carbon monoxide poisoning, health minister Milan Kujundzic was quoted by the Hina news agency as saying. He said two of the 42 were boys aged 10 to 12, while the others were between 15 and 20. “Some of them were unconscious, some vomited when they were found,” Kujundzic said. “They were in serious condition, dehydrated and apparently have not eaten for five days.”

Some 650,000 people passed through Croatia from September 2015 to March this year on the so-called Balkan route used by migrants, mainly from Syria, heading towards western Europe, especially Germany.The route was largely shut down in March after a series of border closures.

Many migrants have turned to smugglers to help them cross borders illegally.

Austrian police found 71 dead migrants locked into a lorry in August 2015, and many officials fear another similar disaster. (Reporting by Ivana Sekularac; Editing by Andrew Bolton)

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First Published On : Dec 18, 2016 19:24 IST

New American research study reconfirms distressing state of education in India

The recent report of New York based PEW Research Centre has analysed an inter-country comparison on the state of education, focusing on educational attainment among the major religions of the world. The Centre, part of the John Templeton Foundation, describes itself “as a non-partisan think tank that informs the public about the issues, attitudes and trends shaping the world, while not taking any policy positions”. In possibly a first of its kind analysis, the report focuses on average number of years of schooling among the various religions of the world – it concludes that Jews average 13.4 years of schooling, compared to the international Christian average of 9.3 years, 7.9 years for the Buddhist – the depressing finding is that the Muslims and Hindus of the world undergo 5.6 years of schooling, as against the global average of 7.7 years.

The startling conclusion is that Hindus continue to have the lowest level of ‘educational attainment’ among other major religions of the world, despite substantial educational gains in the recent decade. “Hindu adults (age 25 and older) in the youngest generation analysed in the study have an average of 3.4 more years schooling than those in the oldest generation” – the good news stops there. ‘41 percent of Hindus have no formal education of any kind. Despite large gains by Hindu women across generations, Hindus still have a largest educational gender gap of any religious group’ – these are some of the findings of the 160 page detailed report of PEW Research Centre entitled ‘Region and Education around the World at Large’.

Representational image. Reuters.

Representational image. Reuters.

The report measures ‘educational attainment’, but does not assess the quality of education, using four broad levels of attainment and categories based on Unesco’s International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED). The focus of the study is on shares of population with no formal schooling coupled with post-secondary education, along with the average years of schooling to express the “level” of ‘educational attainment’ in the country’s population in a single number, based on a methodology created to capture cross-country comparison of educational attainment. The report groups 151 countries and territories, with available education and religious data, also listing the data sources used for each country, along with a comment on the challenges associated with measuring change in educational attainment across generations.

The vast majority of the world’s Hindus live in India (94 percent), or in Nepal and Bangladesh. In India, Hindus average 5.5 year schooling while in Nepal and Bangladesh the average is 3.9 and 4.6 years respectively. By startling contrast, the Hindus living in the US have 15.7 years of schooling, on average a full year more than the next most highly educated US religious group (Jews) and nearly 3 years more than the average American adult (12.9 years); Hindus in Europe also are highly educated, average 13.9 years of schooling, according to the report.

All this depressing news can well be generally collaborated by the recent similar studies by other international groups. Without going into the academic nitty-gritty, the broad picture emerging is the same. Various reports sharply highlight the abysmal state of education in India, in comparison with other countries; pointing to the public policy neglect that this sector has suffered over seven decades of our democracy. It is disturbing to note that as against the education of total world population of 7.9 years of average schooling, the advance country’s average 11.3 years of schooling, all developing country’s average 7.2 years of schooling – India trails behind at 5.6 years, at the very bottom of the pile. The only possible consolation is that India is only marginally ahead of Sub-Saharan Africa in this regard, trailing behind every region of Europe, Central Asia, Middle East as well as Latin America and the Caribbean. These findings are quite consistent with other international comparisons, including the ‘Legatum Prosperity Index’ of countries, in which India is close to the bottom. It is noteworthy that the European PISA Index, widely used as a measure of educational attainment and quality, which covers over 80 countries, does not include India in its study – anecdotal information refers to Tamil Nadu and Himachal Pradesh inviting PISA for the study in the first decade of this century, which resulted in India being ranked second-last among the participating countries, just ahead of the last-placed Kirgizstan – surely this was ‘bad’ news; it is easier to shoot the messenger than receive bad news – thereafter India has had nothing to do with the PISA measurement system, labelling it irrational and unsuitable for India! The latest Barro-Lee Harvard findings in respect of South-Asian countries in relation to the other regions are apparently consistent with the above picture.

At Independence, the literacy rate in India was 11 percent. In the mid ‘40s, India as a founder Charter member of the post-war created United Nations, participated in the Declaration of Universal Right to Education. It took India six more decades to translate this internationally announced intention to domestic policy, through the enactment of the Right to Education (RTE). The RTE primarily stresses increased enrolment, with focus on school infrastructure – it has paid little attention to the critical issues of educational quality, and also on inclusivity which is an extremely important element in the Indian scene, relating to the economically and socially backward classes. There is no doubt that education now is much more widespread, and there are major gains in school participation over the past decade, along with noticeably improved gender balance, which are major gains. However, the good news ends here.

The NGO Pratham has been bringing out its Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) since 2005, on the basis of extensive household surveys conducted to assess children’s schooling status and basic reading levels in arithmetic. The 2000 survey covered 577 rural districts, and found that nearly half of the grade V students were not able to read at grade II level; and nearly the same proportion of grade V students did not have the basic arithmetic skills which they would have learned at the end of Grade II. The National Council of Research and Training (NCERT) has been conducting National Achievement Surveys periodically since 2001 for Classes III, V and VIII, covering all states. The latest NAS survey results which came out a couple of months back indicate a sharp fall in science, maths and English standards in comparison with the previous period. Clearly educational standards have fallen across the board, particularly in government schools all over the country. ASER 2014 also found that over 75 percent of children in Class III, over 50 percent in Class V and over 25 percent in Class VIII could not read text meant for the Class II level. At the all India level, the number of children in rural schools in Class II who could even recognise letters or the alphabets increased from 13.4 percent in 2010 to 32.5 percent in 2014. In the last year of the primary education in Class V, almost 20 percent of the children could only read letters, and are not literate even at this level; 14 percent could read words but not sentences; and 19 percent could read sentences but longer texts. Reading levels for children enrolled in government schools in Class V show a decline between 2010 and 2012. The gap in reading levels between children enrolled in government schools and private schools appears to be growing over time. Close to half of the children will finish eight years of schooling, but will still not have learned basic skills in arithmetic. While the PEW study focuses on number of years of schooling, the current fall in quality levels in India is a double-whammy – the current situation cannot be categorised as anything but catastrophic.

One additional word on the quality of the data which is recovered from the field will add to this disturbing portrayal. In 1994, the District Information System of Education (DISE) was introduced, designed to capture information from every school, routing it through the block level and aggregating at the district level for final compilation at state headquarters. U-DISE is now the ‘official statistics’; all other parallel connections for information is now discontinued. In concept, U-DISE is an extremely powerful instrument for gathering data, but its validity depends on the reliability of data being fed in the system. Since less than 10 percent schools have computers and reliable source of electricity, most of the data are generated manually and collated at block or district level. The reliability of the total data base at the state or national level is highly questionable, with wide variations among states.

The entire picture turns out to be one of great worry and concern. On the one hand, the average Indian gets less schooling than nearly every child in the world; even the existing data on average schooling and dropout rates are highly questionable. The quality of education at primary level, and indeed at all levels, is abysmal. All of this makes a terrible picture.

Indeed should this be so? As the PEW report points out, the child of Indian origin living in the US has higher educational attainments than any other ethnic community; the Indian child in Europe is among the most educated in that continent. There is enormous talent in the most backward regions of the most backward parts of India. There is sufficient evidence that the Indian child is as good a learner, given the opportunity, compared to any other in the world. In a relatively unknown experiment, the VidyaGyan school system of the Shiv Nadar Foundation, over the past eight years has been providing primary and secondary education to talented village children, selected only from rural government schools, coming from Below Poverty Line (BPL) families, and training them through good education and provision of minimal health care, leading up to the CBSE examinations – the results are amazing. Indeed in the 2016 CBSE Board examinations, every child passed the examination in the First Class, and most of them obtained merit admission to prestigious higher education institutions in India and abroad, some with full fellowship. No further proof is required of the potential to be educated – all that is required is give them basic coaching with decent nutrition facilities. It is a measure of the failure of governance over seven decades, that this fundamental aspect of human development in a democracy has been totally neglected.

This can be reversed in a decade. A new approach, with focus on quality, importance to the student and the teacher as opposed to the current accent on glorifying the politician and the bureaucrat in the field, with appropriate linkages with technology can transform the education scene. It is a tragedy that the critical importance of reforming the education sector has not yet been realised by our policy makers – the existing dispensation is apparently still under the illusion that continuation of existing policies, with incremental sporadic band-aid intervention is adequate. The PEW report is a reminder of our colossal blunders, and more importantly a call for urgent new action, if our democracy is to have a future.

First Published On : Dec 18, 2016 11:48 IST

China upset as Dalai Lama meets President Pranab Mukherjee | Reuters

BEIJING China expressed dissatisfaction on Friday after exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama met President Pranab Mukherjee, saying it hoped India would recognise the Nobel Peace Prize winning monk as a separatist in religious guise.Mukherjee hosted the Dalai Lama and other Nobel Peace laureates at a conference on children’s rights at the presidential palace on Sunday.Those who attended, and spoke, included Princess Charlene of Monaco and the former president of East Timor, Jose Ramos-Horta.The Indian government had ignored China’s “strong opposition and insisted” on arranging for the Dalai Lama to share the stage with Mukherjee, and meet him, Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a daily news briefing in the Chinese capital. “China is strongly dissatisfied and resolutely opposed to this,” he said, adding that the Dalai Lama used the guise of religion to engage in separatist activities and China opposed any form of official contacts with him.

China wanted India to recognise the “anti-China, separatist essence of the Dalai Lama clique and take steps to banish the negative impact of this incident” to avoid disrupting ties between the Asian giants, Geng said.While the Dalai Lama has had private meetings with Indian leaders, Sunday’s conference was the first public event, said the political head of the Tibetan government in exile based in the hill town of Dharamsala. “There are many European governments shying away from hosting His Holiness,” he told Reuters. “Here you have the president of India hosting His Holiness. I think is a powerful message to the world, and particularly to Beijing.”

China regards the Dalai Lama as a separatist, though he says he merely seeks genuine autonomy for his Himalayan homeland Tibet, which Communist Chinese troops “peacefully liberated” in 1950.The Dalai Lama fled into exile in India in 1959 after a failed uprising against Chinese rule.

China also expressed displeasure with India this month over the visit to a sensitive border region of another senior Tibetan religious figure, the Karmapa Lama, Tibetan Buddhism’s third-most-senior monk, who fled into exile in India in 2000.India is home to a large exiled Tibetan community. (Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Additional reporting by Sanjeev Miglani in New Delhi; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

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First Published On : Dec 16, 2016 16:29 IST

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)

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

India’s southeast coast braces as cyclone approaches | Reuters

India’s southeast coast braces as cyclone approaches | Reuters

Dec 11, 2016 19:09 IST

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MUMBAI India’s weather office called on Sunday for fishermen to stay ashore hours before a very severe cyclone storm was due to strike the southeast coast, including Chennai, one of the most populous Indian cities.The cyclone “Vardah” is moving in from the Bay of Bengal and will landfall along and off Chennai on Monday afternoon with wind speed of 100 kmph, the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) said in its latest bulletin.From Sunday evening coastal areas of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh will start getting heavy rainfall and extremely heavy rainfall is likely over Chennai and adjourning areas on Monday, the IMD said.

India’s cyclone season generally lasts from April to December, often causing dozens of deaths, evacuations of tens of thousands of people from low-lying villages and widespread crop and property damage.

In 1999, a “super-cyclone” battered the coast of the eastern state of Odisha for 30 hours with wind speeds reaching 300 kmph. It killed 10,000 people.

(Reporting by Rajendra Jadhav; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

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First Published On : Dec 11, 2016 19:09 IST

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LIVE India Vs England Live Score

IND vs ENG | Dec 8th, 2016

ENG 182 6 47.3

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India close in on victory after Kohli’s third double ton | Reuters

By Sudipto Ganguly
| MUMBAI

MUMBAI India captain Virat Kohli struck a sublime double century before his bowlers picked up six England wickets to put the hosts on course for a series-clinching victory in the fourth and penultimate test at the Wankhede Stadium on Sunday.Trailing 2-0 in the series, England needed a win in Mumbai to keep alive the series but the tourists now require something extraordinary to even save the match following Kohli’s batting masterclass.India piled on 631 in their first innings on the fourth day, a lead of 231 runs over England, after Kohli’s third double century of the year.The touring side were 182 for six in their second innings at stumps, still trailing by 49. Jonny Bairstow was unbeaten on 50 with nightwatchman Jake Ball falling for two in the last over before the close.Paceman Bhuvneshwar Kumar dismissed first-innings centurion Keaton Jennings for a golden duck and left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja sent back England captain Alastair Cook for 18 and Moeen Ali for nought to leave England tottering at 49-3 at tea.Joe Root and Bairstow hit brisk fifties during their stand of 92 for the fourth wicket before the former fell leg before to off-spinner Jayant Yadav for 77.The wickets of Ben Stokes, who made 18, and Ball to off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin towards the end further dampened England’s hopes of saving the match.

Bairstow was given out by umpire Bruce Oxenford first on 32 and then on 37 but the England wicketkeeper managed to overturn the decisions both times on review.KOHLI DOUBLE
Earlier, the 28-year-old Kohli was out for a career-best 235 and added 241 for the eighth wicket, the highest for India, with Yadav, who scored 104, his maiden test hundred.

Kohli, who was on 147 overnight, and Yadav continued to torment the England bowlers who went wicketless in the first session after India resumed on 451 for seven.The right-handed batsman has now scored a double hundred in all three series India have played in 2016 — in West Indies, against New Zealand and now against England.Kohli, who has already scored 640 runs in the series at an average of 128, drove Ball for a straight four on the fifth delivery of the day to get past 150, signalling another harrowing session for the England bowlers.

Kohli, who hit 25 fours and a six in his knock, got past his 200 with a single to mid-wicket off leg-spinner Adil Rashid but his celebration was quite muted compared to when he completed his hundred on Saturday.He raised both his hands while completing the run and took off his helmet before acknowledging the applause from the sizeable Sunday crowd at the ground, overlooking the Arabian Sea.Kohli accelerated after the fall of Yadav and was out caught at the cover boundary off Chris Woakes. Yadav, whose previous highest score was 55, hit 15 boundaries in his knock and looked in discomfort only against a couple of short deliveries from the England fast bowlers.Rashid finished with four wickets. (Editing by Amlan Chakraborty and Clare Fallon)

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First Published On : Dec 11, 2016 17:02 IST

India’s industrial output unexpectedly contracts in October | Reuters

India’s industrial output unexpectedly contracts in October | Reuters

Dec 9, 2016 17:44 IST

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NEW DELHI India’s industrial output INIP=ECI unexpectedly fell 1.9 percent in October from a year earlier, driven down by a contraction in manufacturing and mining sectors, government data showed on Friday.Economists surveyed by Reuters had forecast a 1.0 percent growth in output compared with a 0.7 percent year-on-year rise in September.

(Reporting by Rajesh Kumar Singh; Editing by Malini Menon)

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First Published On : Dec 9, 2016 17:44 IST

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LIVE India Vs England Live Score

IND vs ENG | Dec 8th, 2016

IND 146 1 52.0

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LIVE Australia Vs New Zealand Live Score

AUS vs NZ | Dec 9th, 2016

NZ 147 10 36.1

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Exclusive: Bangladesh panel finds insiders negligent in central bank heist | Reuters

By Serajul Quadir
| DHAKA

DHAKA A Bangladesh government-appointed panel investigating the cyber-heist of $81 million from its central bank in February found five officials at the bank were guilty of negligence and carelessness, the head of the panel told Reuters on Thursday.In his first detailed comments on the inquiry since a report was submitted to the government in May, former central bank governor Mohammed Farashuddin said the officials were low to mid-level and were not directly involved in the crime. “They were negligent, careless and indirect accomplices,” he said in an interview in his office. “The committee came to the conclusion that the heist was essentially committed by external elements.”Bangladesh has so far refused to make the inquiry report public saying it wanted to deny perpetrators knowledge of the investigation into one of the world’s biggest cyber-heists.It was not immediately known if Bangladesh had shared the report with the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, the main agency investigating the crime.Farashuddin did not name the officials he found were negligent. A senior central bank official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said no action had been taken against any employee since the inquiry report had not been made public.Bangladesh Bank spokesman Subhankar Saha declined comment.

Although over 10 months have passed since the heist, there have been no arrests and no word on who carried out the complex heist. Hackers used stolen credentials to try to transfer nearly $1 billion from Bangladesh Bank’s account at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York through the SWIFT transaction system. Many of the transfer orders were blocked or reversed but $81 million was sent to accounts in a branch of Rizal Commercial Banking Corp (RCBC) in the Philippines.The money eventually went into the sprawling casino industry in the Philippines and most of it remains untraced.

Like Bangladesh police investigators, Farashuddin said the inquiry panel also found the hackers may have exploited loopholes in the bank’s online security when technicians hooked up the central bank’s local money transfer system with SWIFT’s international payments network late last year. SWIFT has denied charges that its technicians were responsible for exposing Bangladesh Bank’s systems to hackers.Reuters has reported earlier that Bangladesh Bank had not protected its computer system with a firewall, and used second-hand $10 electronic switches to network computers linked to SWIFT, weaknesses that the hackers may also have exploited.Farashuddin said that RCBC was responsible for allowing the stolen funds to be withdrawn and disbursed into the casino industry. Bangladesh has said it wants RCBC to compensate it for its losses.

RCBC has said Bangladesh Bank was “negligent” in letting the initial security breach take place there, and hence the Manila-based bank need not pay any compensation. So far only about $15 million of the stolen funds have been recovered.Farashuddin said his personal opinion was it would be better to make the inquiry report public, since it would make clear that some local officials were negligent but not responsible for the heist.”If the government would publish, then Bangladesh Bank’s position would be strengthened,” he said.Bangladesh’s law minister said earlier this week that his government would share the findings of the inquiry with Philippine authorities. (Writing by Krishna N. Das; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

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First Published On : Dec 8, 2016 20:51 IST

Callers for dollars – Inside India’s scam call centres | Reuters

By Rajendra Jadhav, Euan Rocha and Rahul Bhatia
| MUMBAI

MUMBAI In late September, a woman in National City, California, received a voice message on her phone saying she was in trouble with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) over “tax evasion or tax fraud”.Panicking, she rang the number and told a man who said he was from the IRS: “I can pay $500,” half the sum demanded. “I could do a payment plan. I just can’t pay all of it at once.””Ma’am, you can pay $500 today itself. You can do that?” the man asked, adding that lawyers would look at her accounts and work out a monthly payment plan, but she had to pay half now.In transcripts of the conversation that investigators shared with Reuters, the man told her to keep the phone line open and drive to a nearby grocery store, where she bought $500 worth of iTunes gift cards and gave the ‘agent’ the redemption codes.She had just been scammed – one of at least 15,000 people the U.S. Justice Department says lost more than $300 million in an “enormous and complex fraud” running since 2013. The department last month brought grand jury charges against 56 people in India and the United States for “telefraud” scams run from fake call centres in India.Investigators have arrested 20 people in the United States, and Indian authorities have made 75 arrests following October raids on three premises in the Thane suburb of Mumbai. Charges include conspiracy to commit identity theft, impersonation of an officer of the United States, wire fraud and money laundering.Indian police say they are looking for Sagar Thakkar, a man in his early 30s also known as Shaggy, who they believe masterminded the scam. Thakkar was also among those named by the U.S. Department of Justice. Reuters was unable to contact Thakkar for comment; he is not known to have a lawyer, and police believe he fled to Dubai last month.”We are trying to complete the procedure to issue a red corner notice for Thakkar,” Parag Manere, a deputy commissioner at Thane police, told Reuters, referring to an Interpol arrest warrant.Police said Thakkar led a lavish lifestyle, frequenting 5-star hotels and driving expensive cars with proceeds from the scam. He gave one, a 25 million rupee ($365,000) Audi R8, to his girlfriend. “We have seized an Audi car, and are trying to find other assets of Thakkar,” Manere said.The FBI, which is involved in the investigations, declined to comment. The Department of Justice did not respond to requests for comment for this article. At a news conference last month, Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell said the U.S. would seek the extradition of suspects in India, and warned others engaged in similar schemes they could face jail terms.In interviews before the U.S. charges were filed, police, suspects and call centre workers in India told Reuters how the scam was run. Training materials and taped conversations, which investigators believe were made by call centre instructors for training purposes, shed some light on an operation aimed to exploit the aged and gullible.

“TAUGHT TO BE TOUGH”
“The revenue was unpredictable. Some days were good, some were bad,” Haider Ali Ayub Mansuri, who said he managed operations at one fake call centre, told Reuters as he was returned to jail in India last month after a court extended his custody. He is among the 75 arrested by Indian police.”On a good day, we extracted as much as $20,000 from a single U.S. citizen,” he said.In India, the sheer scale of the operation surprised many.For months, hundreds of young men and women worked nights at several call centres in Thane. Callers posed as IRS officers and threatened their victims, often newly-arrived immigrants and the elderly, into paying fictitious tax penalties electronically – sometimes by buying gift cards and turning over the redemption codes, Indian investigators said.

“They used to blast out pre-recorded messages to thousands of citizens who were asked to call back. When they called back, there was a centre just like this,” said Manere at Thane police.Acting on a tip-off, police raided premises in early October as call centre workers settled in for their shift. The buildings housed seven call centres, and over a few days more than 700 people were detained. Most have since been released, but told not to leave the city.Callers bullied their victims with the threat of arrest, jail, seized homes and confiscated passports.”There was one instance where an old lady was crying,” because she didn’t have the money to pay, said a former call centre worker who spoke only on condition of anonymity. “But we kept insisting on the money. We were taught to be tough,” he told Reuters.On a follow-up raid in Ahmedabad, 500 kms (310 miles) north of Mumbai, police uncovered what they believe was “a nerve centre for these centres,” said Manere. “A lot of money has been transacted. It’s been going on for a few years.”The police raids found little in the way of documentation, beyond some training materials. Another former worker said this was likely because call centre managers stopped employees from bringing pens and phones to work.

Reuters was unable to independently confirm the accounts provided by call centre workers.WEEKLY INCENTIVES
Another former worker, an economics graduate, told Reuters she took a job without knowing what the centre did. The 12,000 rupee ($180) monthly salary was well below the going rate for a graduate, she said, but it was a job, and “people aren’t hiring.”She said several of her colleagues looked as though they had just left high school.Her first week was spent in training with floor managers. While callers spoke to their victims, she said dozens of trainees squeezed in around the room, and had to memorise pages of dialogue for use on calls.Another former employee said his instructors told him his work was illegal, but there was “nothing to worry about.”Callers made “fast money”, another former caller told Reuters. In comments confirmed by investigating officer Mukund Hatote, the worker said: “For every dollar you brought in, you were given 2 rupees (around a third of a U.S. cent).”People wanted to leave rather than be involved in something they suspected was illegal, he said, but carried on because managers offered weekly incentives, such as cash or gadgets, for meeting their targets.($1 = 66.7200 Indian rupees) (Reporting by Rajendra Jadhav, Euan Rocha and Rahul Bhatia; Writing by Rahul Bhatia; Editing by Ian Geoghegan)

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First Published On : Nov 29, 2016 23:05 IST

Ravindra Jadeja has no regrets about missed ton | Reuters

By Amlan Chakraborty
| MOHALI, India

MOHALI, India Ravindra Jadeja had no regrets after falling 10 runs short of a rare test century by a number eight batsman on Monday.The 27-year-old all-rounder had shown great restraint during a partnership with Ravichandran Ashwin that swung the third test against England India’s way, but he suddenly went on the attack and perished trying to hit Adil Rashid for six.”The shot that I got out to is my pet shot,” Jadeja told reporters.”I can hit six anytime with that shot. I had the confidence, but the ball came rather slow off the wicket and that’s why I didn’t get the required impact. I am not disappointed that I got out to a shot like that.” After 22 tests and constant speculation about whether he was worth a place in the team, Jadeja arrived at the crease with India in some trouble at 204-6.

England attacked with a heavily-packed off-side field and he was largely content to nudge the ball around until he got into the 70s when he suddenly went on the attack.He moved outside his wicket to smash Chris Woakes for the first of four boundaries in one over and charged down the pitch to try to launch Rashid over the ropes, only to be caught by Woakes in the deep.”They were bowling boring lines. It was only outside the off stump, off-stump, off-stump and off-stump,” said Jadeja who has never made a test hundred.

“I was not running out of time. In fact I had enough time. I just thought ‘let’s disturb the bowler by going outside off-stump’. There were only two fielders on the leg-side. That’s what I was trying and luckily I got four boundaries in that over.” Jadeja brought up his third test fifty in 104 balls, marking the achievement with his trademark bat-swirling celebration.”It’s a traditional Rajput style. I can’t bring a sword into the ground, so have to make do with the bat,” he said.

Former India captain Sourav Ganguly is among those who believe Jadeja is a better test batsman than his 23.5 average suggests and the all-rounder does not lack self-belief.”It’s not that I consider myself as a batsman, I am a proper batsman,” said Jadeja, the first Indian to hit three triple centuries in first-class cricket.”I’ve been scoring runs in first-class cricket….Of course this is my longest test knock but I knew I can play and pace my knock. I was not in a hurry. I knew once I settle, I can accelerate after 50-60-70 balls.” (Editing by Ed Osmond)

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First Published On : Nov 28, 2016 19:41 IST

Facebook builds censorship tool to attain China re-entry: NYT | Reuters

Facebook Inc has quietly developed a censorship tool that could persuade China to allow the world’s biggest social media network to re-enter the world’s second largest economy after a seven-year ban, the New York Times reported on Tuesday.Facebook developed the software, which suppresses posts from appearing in people’s news feeds in specific geographies, with the support of Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg, the newspaper said, citing unnamed current and former employees. Zuckerberg in March met China’s propaganda tsar Liu Yunshan who said that he hoped Facebook could strengthen exchanges and improve mutual understanding with China’s internet companies, according to state news agency Xinhua.”We have long said that we are interested in China, and are spending time understanding and learning more about the country,” Facebook spokeswoman Arielle Aryah said in an emailed statement to Reuters. “However, we have not made any decision on our approach to China. Our focus right now is on helping Chinese businesses and developers expand to new markets outside China by using our ad platform.”

Foreign companies in China, especially in media, face political pressure from a range of regulations. The country’s military newspaper calls the internet the most important front in an ideological battle against “Western anti-China forces.”China, which has the world’s largest population of internet users, banned the website following the Urumqi riots in July 2009 in an effort to stem the flow of information about ethnic unrest which left 140 people dead.

Though Facebook has developed the new tool, it does not intend to suppress the posts itself, NYT said.Facebook would instead offer the software to enable a third party to monitor popular stories and topics that gain visibility as users share them across the network, according to the Times. The third party partner would have full control to decide whether those posts should show up in users’ feeds.

There is no indication Facebook has offered the software to the authorities in China, the Times said. It is one of many ideas Facebook has discussed with respect to entering China and it may never see the light of day, it added.Facebook, which has struggled in recent months to combat allegations that it unfairly removes certain content on its service, aims to continue to grow in developing nations where it currently has smaller penetration rates. (Reporting by Ismail Shakil in Bengaluru; Editing by Andrew Hay)

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

First Published On : Nov 23, 2016 06:46 IST

Murray to take aura of invincibility into new year | Reuters

By Martyn Herman
| LONDON

LONDON Forget the latest addition to Andy Murray’s creaking trophy cabinet, the $2.4 million cheque and the adulation of a nation, the most significant upshot of his ATP World Tour Finals victory over Novak Djokovic is the aura it brings.Murray, the new king of men’s tennis, will take that rare commodity which few achieve in sport into the new season in spades.It is an unquantifiable weapon and one that can sustain lengthy periods of dominance even when form is fickle.Scroll through the annals of sport and there are some striking examples.Steve Waugh’s Australian cricket team had it, winning 16 consecutive tests between 1999 and 2001, so too have various New Zealand rugby union sides. Spain’s national soccer team achieved an aura of invincibility between 2008 and 2012.Individually, Michael Schumacher had it while winning seven Formula One drivers titles, as did squash great Jahangir Khan who was unbeaten between 1981 and 1986. Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt exudes it every time he steps on to his blocks.Murray knows only too well the debilitating effect it can have on opponents.He has played and suffered in an era graced by Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Djokovic who, at various times over the past decade, have had rivals mentally beaten before a point was even played.

EPIC SEMI-FINAL
It looked that way on Sunday when Murray, exhausted after his epic semi-final victory over Milos Raonic when he saved a match point, walked on court to face Djokovic in a showdown for the end-of-year number one spot.Dressed in his now familiar military-grade kit and industrial-strength footwear, the granite-calved Murray looked like an indestructible machine while Djokovic, so often the Scot’s master during their career-long rivalry, appeared lightweight and unsure of himself.Murray duly won 6-3 6-4 and, despite a late Djokovic fightback, played like he knew the outcome was never in doubt.

“There was no serious chance for me to win today’s match.” Djokovic said. “From the very beginning we could see that. He was just a better player all in all.”Murray, 29, is undefeated since September, has won 24 matches in succession and his win-loss record since losing to Djokovic in the French Open final is 53-3.In the last week of the season he beat world number five Kei Nishikori, number four Stan Wawrinka and number three Milos Raonic before swatting aside second-ranked Djokovic with an ease bordering on contempt.And the iron-willed Murray is unlikely to relent.

The sweat had barely dried on Sunday and he was talking about his December training camp and January’s Australian Open where Murray will start as favourite to win a fourth grand slam.Former world number one John McEnroe, another player who at his peak in the 1980s had opponents cowed before battle, said Murray will be well aware that aura, so long in the making, can vanish quickly.”Murray is an amazing athlete. He’s going to try to take advantage of this time because it’s limited, we all know that,” the American told the BBC. Djokovic will need no reminding.”If you had told me six months ago that this would even be an issue, I would have said you’re crazy,” McEnroe said of Djokovic’s sudden vulnerability.”At some point you’re going to hit a wall of some kind, But when it comes, people are surprised, but it always happens.”You just don’t know how long it will last.” (Editing by Ed Osmond)

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First Published On : Nov 21, 2016 19:34 IST

Mallika Sherawat assaulted in Paris – media | Reuters

Mallika Sherawat assaulted in Paris – media | Reuters

Nov 17, 2016 21:57 IST

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PARIS Bollywood actor Mallika Sherawat and her partner were assaulted in Paris last week, AFP and other media reported on Thursday, just over a month after U.S reality TV star Kim Kardashian was attacked and robbed in the French capital.The assault on Sherawat took place on Nov. 11, AFP said. “Sherawat was punched in the face and sprayed with tear gas by masked attackers who tried to steal her handbag,” the French news agency said, citing a police source.

The attackers fled without taking anything, a source close to the investigation told AFP.

Nobody was immediately available to comment at the Paris prosecutor’s office. A police spokesman declined to comment.

(Reporting by Matthias Blamont; Editing by Louise Ireland)

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First Published On : Nov 17, 2016 21:57 IST

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India’s cooling retail inflation bolsters rate cut hopes | Reuters

India’s cooling retail inflation bolsters rate cut hopes | Reuters

Updated: Nov 15, 2016 19:14 IST

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NEW DELHI India’s retail inflation eased for a third straight month in October, helped by smaller rises in food prices, boosting the chances of an interest rate cut by the central bank next month.Consumer prices INCPIY=ECI rose by an annual 4.20 percent last month, their slowest pace in 14 months, government data showed on Tuesday.The figure matched the median consensus in a Reuters’ poll of economists. Retail prices were up 4.39 percent in September on the year.Food inflation was 3.32 percent, lower than 3.96 percent recorded in September.The data comes days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi ordered the withdrawal of large denomination banknotes from circulation, in a shock “demonetization” drive to fight tax evasion, corruption and forgery.The sudden move to cancel old 500-rupee and 1,000-rupee banknotes, which accounted for 86 percent of the cash circulating in Asia’s third-largest economy, has caused huge disruption to daily life, depressing consumer demand. People struggling to get new bills are holding back on spending, except for immediate and urgent needs. The price of fresh produce has collapsed in food markets, leaving farmers and traders sitting on rotting stocks.

Once the initial shock wears off, the formal economy is likely to expand at the expense of fly-by-night traders who deal in cash. That in turn may improve the efficiency of markets and make it easier for the Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) to hit its medium-term inflation target of 4 percent.”The ‘black money’ drive will increase the pace of deceleration, specifically in the service sector, which has a lot of cash transactions,” said Soumya Kanti Ghosh, chief economist at State Bank of India. “I expect a rate cut in December and that won’t be the end.”

The RBI’s recently formed monetary policy committee (MPC) is due to review rates on Dec. 6 and 7.The monetary panel cut the repo policy rate by 25 basis points last month to a near six-year low of 6.25 percent.While the odds have increased for another rate cut, some analysts reckon an impending interest rate increase in the United States could force a status quo until February.

The Federal Reserve is widely expected to raise interest rates at its meeting on Dec. 13-14, the first hike in a year.There is also a worry that the demonetization drive could hit winter crops as farmers are facing problems in buying seeds and fertilizers. “The situation is fairly fluid in the early days (of) post-demonetization,” said Aditi Nayar, senior economist at ICRA. “The MPC may choose to observe the evolving growth-inflation dynamics and defer a rate cut till the February 2017 policy review.” (Reporting by Rajesh Kumar Singh; Editing by Douglas Busvine, Clarence Fernandez and Richard Balmforth)

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First Published On : Nov 15, 2016 19:14 IST

Hamilton wins to take title battle down to the wire | Reuters

Hamilton wins to take title battle down to the wire | Reuters

Updated: Nov 13, 2016 19:34 IST

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SAO PAULO Triple world champion Lewis Hamilton won a stop-start, wet and chaotic Brazilian Grand Prix on Sunday to take his Formula One title battle with Mercedes team mate Nico Rosberg down to the wire in Abu Dhabi.The Briton’s third win in a row from pole position and first in Brazil left him 12 points behind Rosberg, who finished second, with the pair both on nine victories each for the season.Rosberg need now only finish third in two weeks’ time to clinch his first title, even if Hamilton wins again.

In a crash-filled thriller that was twice stopped and re-started, with five safety car periods and lengthy delays, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen finished third with a sensational performance in the wet.

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin; Editing by Mark Lamport-Stokes)

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First Published On : Nov 13, 2016 19:34 IST

US election: How Donald Trump, like Narendra Modi in 2014, won despite a hostile media

Donald Trump’s electoral victory on Wednesday, making him the 45th President of the United States, has many implications. But the one implication that should be noted in particular is the lesson that it provides to journalists or the media as a whole. This lesson is significant to Indian journalists as well, particularly the political pundits, now that they will be covering the upcoming Assembly elections in important states like Uttar Pradesh and Punjab.

This lesson, however, is not exactly new. It was the takeaway from our last General elections in 2014, that resulted in Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s unprecedented victory. This lesson has now been re-validated by Trump’s ‘against all odds’ victory. In fact, there are many commonalities between Modi’s 2014 victory and Trump’s recent triumph.

The lesson is that the media should observe, report and analyse the polls as dispassionately as possible, and not become an active player in the polls by furthering the causes of a particular candidate (or party) – by demonising his or her rival.

File image of US president-elect Donald Trump. Reuters

This lesson is vitally important for the credibility of the media. Reuters

This lesson is vitally important for the credibility of the media itself, because the candidate it demonises eventually succeeds, as was the case with Trump. But this lesson also has a corollary; the standard tools used by most journalists (and academicians) in explaining such elections need a fine-tuning.

Almost all the major media houses in the United States (including the British magazine the Economist, that sells the most in America) had formally “endorsed” Hillary Clinton through their respective editorial boards. And their reporters had gone to every possible length to demonise Trump.

It has now come to light that a senior CNN analyst had leaked the questions of the Presidential debate to Hillary wee in advance. In fact, another analyst of the same channel cried live on television when Trump overtook Hillary during the vote count.

It is also noteworthy in this context how a well known Indian TV anchor, who was covering the US elections for her channel, had tweeted how “thrilled” she was about Hillary’s impending victory and how she was eager to hear her “D-Day” speech!

Invariably, the mainstream US media highlighted how Hillary had a distinguished service to the country as first lady, as a senator from New York, and as Secretary of State; thereby enforcing that she had “every right to be taken seriously as a White House contender.”

In contrast, the media lambasted Trump, saying that he was not a man of ideas and had no record in public service and no qualifications for the job. In an article published in The Atlantic, it was said that, “ His (Trump) affect is that of an infomercial huckster; he traffics in conspiracy theories and racist invective; he is appallingly sexist; he is erratic, secretive, and xenophobic; he expresses admiration for authoritarian rulers, and evinces authoritarian tendencies himself. He is easily goaded, a poor quality for someone seeking control of America’s nuclear arsenal. He is an enemy of fact-based discourse; he is ignorant of, and indifferent to, the Constitution; he appears not to read.”

In other words, for the mainstream American media, Trump’s major drawback was the fact that he was never a part of the ‘New York-Washington establishment’; he was a complete outsider having no political, electoral or intellectual experience.

The ‘New York-Washington establishment’ comprised seasoned Democrats as well as Republicans, media, think-tanks, bureaucrats and academic elites; much like our “Delhi establishment” that includes many veteran Congress, BJP leaders.

For the American media, Trump was a highly “divisive figure” based on his views on immigrants, Muslims and Women (see the way they tore into Trump for a private comment on women, way back in 2005). And here, Trump’s ‘disqualification’ was compounded by the fact that he was opposed by the top leadership in his own Republican party.

Did we not witness a similar trend in India in 2013 and 2014? No other prime ministerial candidate in India had ever been subjected to such rigorous public and judicial scrutiny as Modi was for his alleged role in the Gujarat riots in 2002.

File image of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. PTI

Modi then and Trump now did end up winning, meaning that they fought the odds by evolving a campaigning style that negated conventions. PTI

Modi’s critics within the party, let alone his enemies outside, systematically fed the overwhelming sections of the national media to propagate the theory that Modi was a deeply divisive figure and that he would be a political disaster for the BJP outside Gujarat.

There was a similar vitriolic campaign suggesting that BJP would disintegrate if Modi became the prime ministerial candidate. It was also said that allies in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) would desert if he was chosen.

In fact, certain anti-Modi elements in the BJP did misguide the Janata Dal (United) (one of the BJP’s longstanding allies) leader and now Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, to part ways with the party over Modi, thinking that by so doing his anointment as the prime ministerial candidate of the alliance would be stalled.

But Modi then and Trump now did end up winning, meaning that they fought the odds by evolving a campaigning style that negated conventions. They travelled to every nook and corner of their respective countries. They held massive rallies instead of focusing on door-knocking and get-out-the-vote operations.

Most importantly, they did not seek votes on the basis of people’s identities – they talked of “all”. That would explain why the standard or conventional analysis that Hillary would easily win because of the support of women, blacks, Muslims and Hispanics proved to be so off the mark.

And that also explains why in Modi’s case, the limitations of the often lauded identity politics of caste, creed and region were badly exposed. The results of the 2014 election proved beyond any shadow of doubt that people do not necessarily vote on the basis of caste lines.

In fact, this is the precise reason why the theory that in the forthcoming election in Uttar Pradesh, Mayawati will get all the Dalit votes or the BJP will not get any Muslim votes or all the Yadav votes will go to the ruling Samajwadi party, doesn’t necessarily hold true. Voting behaviours the world over are changing and this needs to be looked at afresh by the analysts, who, in turn, must look beyond the conventional theories.

There is another striking similarity between the 2014 elections in India and the just concluded elections in the United States. That the dominant sections within both the Indian and American intelligentsia, including the media, glorify identity politics. They talk of minorities and groups, and laud the phenomenon as consolidation for their respective rights. If somebody opposes this trend, he or she is branded as communal and racist. Viewed thus, voting for a Modi or a Trump, people at large seem to have rejected this phenomenon and its champions.

Though we all must be proud of our multi-cultural and pluralistic values and cherish them at all cost, you cannot afford to do that by degrading and insulting the majority community and concentrating all the time on the minorities and groups.

And that brings about an important point. Some American journalists seem to be quick learners and have started admitting to their mistakes. Margaret Sullivan, a columnist for The Washington Post, just wrote an article titled, “The media didn’t want to believe Trump could win. So they looked the other way.”

In her piece she said, “To put it bluntly, the media missed the story. In the end, a huge number of American voters wanted something different. And although these voters shouted and screamed it, most journalists just weren’t listening. They didn’t get it. They didn’t get that the huge, enthusiastic crowds at Donald Trump’s rallies would really translate into that many votes. They couldn’t believe that the America they knew could embrace someone who mocked a disabled man, bragged about sexually assaulting women, and spouted misogyny, racism and anti-Semitism.”

Journalists in India should take cues from their American counterparts, particularly those covering the upcoming Assembly elections.

Islamic State losing ground but still a threat: analysts

Paris: The Islamic State group has been eroded by international efforts to crush the jihadist group but its ability to mount devastating attacks on the West remains very real, defence and security experts say.

As France prepares to mark the first anniversary of the Paris attacks by the group on 13 November, analysts say military defeats in its strongholds in Iraq and Syria will almost certainly not make its Western targets any safer.

“Depriving ISIS of control over population centres and sanctuary to raise funds and train fighters, and breaking it up as key organisation, matters,” said Anthony Cordesman of the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), using another name for the group.

Kurdish Peshmerga fighters drive vehicles at the front line during a battle with Islamic State militants. ReutersKurdish Peshmerga fighters drive vehicles at the front line during a battle with Islamic State militants. Reuters

Kurdish Peshmerga fighters drive vehicles at the front line during a battle with Islamic State militants. Reuters

“Defeating it in any practical sense, however, will not begin to deal with the lasting threat,” he added.

It was in June 2014 that IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghadi proclaimed the creation of a caliphate in land the group had seized in Iraq and Syria and urged Muslims who shared the group’s vision to join them.

Thousands of foreigners answered his call, among them several French and Belgian men who would go on to slaughter 130 people in a Paris concert hall and at bars and restaurants.

The bloodshed in Paris contributed to strengthening the resolve of the West to fight IS.

A year on, Iraqi forces backed by the air power of the United States and countries including France are locked in fierce fighting to re-take Iraq’s second city of Mosul from the jihadist group.

On Sunday, a US-backed Kurdish and Arab force said it had begun an assault on the city of Raqqa, IS’s stronghold in Syria.

Recruits drying up

These military efforts have led to a sharp reduction in the number of foreigners making the trek to join IS forces in Iraq and Syria. The Pentagon says from 2,000 a month in early 2015, the figure is now just 200.

Tighter controls on the Turkish border — the main gateway to Syria — and improved surveillance by European intelligence have also helped stem the flow of foreign recruits.

The military onslaught on IS has also slowed the production of the slick, blood-drenched propaganda which has played a prominent role in attracting recruits.

The number of articles or videos posted online by the jihadists’ official media outlets dropped by 70 percent, from 700 items in August 2015 to 200 a year later, according to a report by the Combating Terrorism Center (CTC) at the elite US West Point military academy.

The author of the report, Daniel Milton, said while IS’s main selling point was the creation of its self-proclaimed caliphate, it was now “struggling to maintain the appearance of a functioning state”.

Most experts agree, however, that crushing IS’s hopes of establishing the caliphate will not diminish its ability to launch attacks against the West.

‘Powerful magnet’

“In the minds of supporters in the US, EU, North Africa, and elsewhere, the appeal of the Islamic State has not dissipated with its territorial losses. For some, the group remains a powerful magnet that attracts violence and a sense of belonging,” the US-based Soufan security analysis group said recently.

It is possible that the group’s losses in Mosul and elsewhere “could lead to an increase in external support, and a corresponding increase in the threat of terrorism around the world,” it added.

While IS may now find it harder to launch complex operations such as the Paris attacks, Western governments fear an increase in attacks by individuals who are merely inspired by the group.

“We are probably in a phase with fewer spectacular operations but more individual acts, with inspiration coming through from the Internet,” said Didier Le Bret, who was France’s national intelligence coordinator until September this year.

French authorities, for example, suspect a French-born IS propagandist, Rachid Kassim, guided an attack in July in which an elderly priest was murdered. Kassim, who is thought to be based in Syria, used the encrypted message system Telegram.

Another growing threat is the return of foreign fighters to their countries of origin as IS’s territory shrinks.

Joby Warrick, the American journalist who won the Pulitzer Prize this year for his book Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS, believes 40,000 foreigners have gone to Iraq and Syria to fight.

He told AFP some will come home and try to resume normal lives. “Others will be, perhaps, these Trojan horse-type figures, ones that will be interested in carrying out terrorist attacks,” he said.

The challenge for law enforcement and for intelligence agencies would be “to separate those that have terrorist ambitions from the ones who just want to get on with regular lives, and perhaps be helpful, in the sense that they can counter the ISIS message,” Warrick said.

Le Bret meanwhile said regardless of its military defeats “IS retains its main strength — weakening our society from the inside”.

The group has proven adept at exploiting social divisions in France, where both the Paris attacks and the assault on the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in January 2015 hardened attitudes in some quarters towards the Muslim community.

And the jihadists have also sought to destabilise North African countries such as Tunisia, believing that weakening their economies is the best way to create new supporters.

U.S. acts to block North Korea access to financial system | Reuters

U.S. acts to block North Korea access to financial system | Reuters

Updated: Nov 4, 2016 20:05 IST

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WASHINGTON The United States on Friday formally prohibited U.S. financial institutions from opening or maintaining accounts created on behalf of North Korean banks, extending sanctions imposed on the isolated Asian country over its nuclear and missile programs.The U.S. Treasury Department said North Korea was using front companies and agents to conduct illicit financial transactions to support the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and to evade international sanctions.“Such funds have no place in any reputable financial system,” Adam Szubin, the department’s acting under secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence said in a statement.It said that while U.S. law already generally prohibited transactions with North Korean financial institutions, the move would support international sanctions and better protect the U.S. financial system from illicit North Korean activity. 

A Treasury Department order requires U.S. financial institutions “to apply additional due diligence measures to prevent North Korean financial institutions from gaining improper indirect access to U.S. correspondent accounts.” The move comes after the Treasury in June declared North Korea a “primary money laundering concern” and proposed the steps to further block its ability to use the U.S. and world financial systems to fund its weapons programs.

Friday’s announcement comes as the United States is pushing for tougher United Nations sanctions against North Korea after its latest nuclear test on Sept. 9.China’s support is crucial for the sanctions to be effective but Beijing has appeared to push back on U.S. efforts to tighten restrictions on North Korean exports.

Beijing expressed concern when the U.S. Treasury plans were announced in June, saying it opposed any country using its domestic laws to impose unilateral sanctions on another country. (Reporting by David Brunnstrom; Editing by James Dalgleish)

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British PM’s passage to India poses dilemma on trade, migration | Reuters

By Douglas Busvine and Kylie MacLellan
| NEW DELHI/LONDON

NEW DELHI/LONDON Prime Minister Theresa May will find that the trade-off between market access and migration applies not just to Brexit when she visits India for her first non-EU bilateral trip since Britons voted to quit the bloc.Leading Brexiteers in May’s government have locked on to India’s $2 trillion economy and market of 1.3 billion people as a chance to diversify trade and cushion any blow that a “hard” exit from the EU market could inflict.It won’t be possible to cut a bilateral trade deal until Britain has left the EU, but May and host Prime Minister Narendra Modi will have an opportunity to stake out opening positions during her Nov. 6-8 visit.The process will not be easy. In addition to any eventual trade deal, India will want May to welcome more of its students and skilled workers, and that would require an unlikely U-turn from the tough line she has taken on immigration.”Immigration is one of the things India is going to push for,” said Dhruva Jaishankar, a foreign policy fellow at Brookings India. “But May is in a bit of a bind – if she gives in, the people who voted for Brexit will say: what did we vote for?”Take students: the number of study visas issued to Indian nationals fell from 68,238 in the year to June 2010 to 11,864 five years later, British figures show.Over the same period the number of visas Britain issued to Chinese students nearly doubled.The solution, says businessman and member of the British parliament’s upper house Karan Bilimoria, is to exclude foreign students from Britain’s statistics on net migration, which May vows to cut to below 100,000 annually, from 336,000 in the year to June 2015.”It just doesn’t make economic sense to send out the wrong message to international students, and that’s exactly what we are doing,” said Bilimoria, the chancellor of Birmingham university who as a young migrant from India went into business and launched the Cobra beer brand.

Indian companies, including in the growing IT services sector, want Britain to make it easier for their staff to visit on business. Bilimoria, who will travel with May, urged her to offer the same deal as it did to China – three-year multiple entry visas for less than 100 pounds.FAITH IN FREE TRADE
May and Modi will likely address the prospects for business cooperation at a high-profile technology summit in New Delhi on Monday.But, behind closed doors, Indian officials are expected to sound her out on the terms of the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union and what it will mean for Indian firms that treat Britain as a gateway to Europe.

“At this juncture, she has the obligation to explain how Brexit could change our ties,” said one senior Indian diplomat who requested anonymity because he was not authorised to speak on the record.India has struggled for years to strike a free trade deal with the EU, with officials saying the bloc is a difficult partner to deal with because its leaders tend to deliver contradictory messages and often strike a tone they see as moralising.Anglophiles in New Delhi see the opportunity in Brexit for a win on bilateral trade. But experts caution that India, which has a history of foot-dragging at the World Trade Organization, is no standard-bearer of open markets.”In general, things move slowly in India,” said Alan Winters, director of the UK Trade Policy Observatory at the University of Sussex. Experience shows that dealing with India “is a bureaucratic and rather slow moving process”, he added.Bilateral trade in goods and services has moved sideways in recent years, totaling 19 billion pounds ($23.7 billion) in 2014, when Britain ran a deficit of 1.5 billion pounds.

UK foreign direct investment into India declined, meanwhile, to 3.6 billion pounds in 2014 from a peak of 13.6 billion in 2011.Any Brexiteers inclined to lapse into misty-eyed nostalgia about the common history and language of the two countries would be well advised not to.The Commonwealth that groups countries with historic ties to Britain has limited utility in the eyes of New Delhi, which considers itself a rising 21st century power and is looking for support in addressing the threats it says it faces.Those include Pakistan, India’s arch-rival that Modi recently branded as “the mother-ship of terrorism” following an attack on an Indian army base in September that killed 19 of its soldiers. Pakistan has denied any role.Analysts say May would do well to reprise the words of her predecessor, David Cameron, who on a 2010 visit said Pakistan should not “promote the export of terror”.”It’s a sensitive point in UK-India relations – we are seen as being too close to Pakistan,” said Shashank Joshi, a senior research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute in London. ($1 = 0.8012 pounds) (Writing by Douglas Busvine; Editing by Mike Collett-White)

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Help us! Women in Indian mill pen letter describing sexual abuse at work | Reuters

By Anuradha Nagaraj

DINDIGUL, India (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – A letter from six women at a spinning mill in Tamil Nadu, describing the sexual harassment they face at work and asking for help, exposes the widespread exploitation of women in the multi-billion-dollar textile industry, campaigners said.”He forces himself on us, constantly hugging us and squeezing our breasts,” the women write, describing the behaviour of their male supervisor.”Any worker who resists his advances loses part of her salary. We need this job and don’t know who to talk to about the abuse we face everyday. Please help us.”Sent to the social welfare officer in Dindigul, a district in Tamil Nadu, the eight-page letter dated Aug. 29 is a plea for help from abused and exploited women, rights campaigners said.”Women normally share their experiences only after quitting their jobs,” said S. Thivyarakhini of the all-women Tamil Nadu Textile and Common Labour Union.”This is the first time, we have such raw details of ongoing exploitation. The letter has exposed the underbelly of the textile industry in the region.”The mill management said they were unaware of the letter and had not received any official complaint.

“There were unsubstantiated allegations against the same person around a year back by a woman worker,” said K.R. Shanmugavel, senior manager at the Rama Spinning Mills.”We gave him a warning and also terminated the (employment of the) woman worker to avoid further problems.” India is one of the world’s largest textile and garment manufacturers. Many of the workers employed in this $40-billion-a-year industry are trapped in debt bondage, face abuse or are forced to work long hours in poor conditions, activists said.

Traditionally, the dyeing units, spinning mills and apparel factories have drawn on cheap labour from villages across Tamil Nadu to turn the cotton into yarn, fabric and clothes, most of it for Western high street shops.More than 2,000 units employ an estimated 300,000 people, most of them young women from poor, illiterate and low-caste or “Dalit” communities.There are around 100 women working in the Rama Spinning mills near Nallamanarkottai village in Dindigul district. “There is constant use of vulgar language and other male workers are also encouraged to seek sexual favours from us,” the letter states.

“Some desperate women go along with the exploitation and they are exempt from over time work. But those of us who resist are forced to complete the work orders. Any show of protest results in wage cuts.”The women said that they were unable to communicate their problems with the mill owner, who lives in a different city and relies on the manager for feedback.”We don’t mind the wage cuts and the overtime work. It is the sexual harassment that we cannot bear,” the women wrote in the letter. “It is something we cannot talk to our families about. We dread going to work every day.” Dindigul social welfare officer G. Shanti told the Thomson Reuters Foundation that they were in the process of putting together an enquiry committee to inspect the mill premises and look into the allegations. (Reporting by Anuradha Nagaraj, Editing by Ros Russell; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking and climate change. Visit www.trust.org)

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Force India could take time over second driver | Reuters

Force India could take time over second driver | Reuters

Updated: Oct 29, 2016 00:41 IST

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By Alan Baldwin
| MEXICO CITY

MEXICO CITY Force India could take weeks to decide who partners Mexican Sergio Perez next season, deputy principal Bob Fernley said on Friday.The British-based Formula One team have one of the most desirable seats remaining on the grid after Germany’s Nico Hulkenberg decided to leave for Renault.There is no shortage of candidates but Fernley told reporters at the Mexican Grand Prix that there was no deadline either.”It’s (co-owner and principal) Vijay (Mallya)’s decision and we’ll start those discussions probably when we get back next week,” he said.”I think we’ll take our time, have a look at what offers are on the table, Vijay will make his decision and then we’ll announce it.”

Pressed further, he said it could be “next week or the week after or even the week after that.”Force India are currently fourth in the constructors’ standings with three races remaining, including Mexico, and on course for their best ever performance.

Renault drivers Kevin Magnussen and Jolyon Palmer have both been linked to Force India if they are not kept on as Hulkenberg’s future team mate.Manor’s Esteban Ocon and Pascal Wehrlein are both contracted to Mercedes, who provide Force India’s engines, and there has been paddock speculation that either could be promoted up the grid.Sauber’s Brazilian Felipe Nasr and Sweden’s Marcus Ericsson, who have yet to score a point for the Swiss team this season, have also hinted at an interest with the former considered a more likely prospect.

Fernley said 2017, when the technical rules undergo sweeping changes, promised to offer Force India the chance of a “reasonably level playing field” for the first time.”I’m very optimistic that the team will be very competitive in 2017,” he said. (Reporting by Alan Baldwin; Editing by Andrew Both)

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‘Indian call centres stole $300 million from Americans’: US Homeland Security

Washington: The five Indian call centres charged with defrauding thousands of Americans, stole more than USD 300 million from their victims, US Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson has said.

The official on Thursday said an inter-agency effort resulted in the indictment of all five call centers and 56 people, including 31 from India, as well as the arrest of 20 others in the US, most of whom are Indians.

Johnson said these were “engaged in defrauding thousands of victims, stealing more than a total of USD 300 million.”

Policemen coming out of the call centre. ReutersPolicemen coming out of the call centre. Reuters

Policemen coming out of the call centre. Reuters

The scheme involved a network of call centers based in Ahmedabad, where associates of the ring would call victims in the US impersonating Department of Homeland Security, Internal Revenue Services, or other government officials, demanding payment in order to clear fictitious arrest warrants, orders of deportation, or unpaid income tax, Johnson said.

The five Ahmedabad-based call centers that made calls to people living in the US are Hglobal, Call Mantra, Worldwide Solution, Zoriion Communications and Sharma BPO Services.

The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice, the Internal Revenue Service and the Federal Trade Commission announced the indictments, the result of a three-year investigation that was the largest single domestic law enforcement action connected with the impersonation scam.

“To date, more than 1.8 million people have reported to TIGTA that they have received an impersonation call; more than 9,600 victims reported that they paid the impersonators a total amount that exceeds USD 50 million,” TIGTA Inspector General J Russell George said.

“The largest single amount paid as a result of the IRS impersonation scam as charged in the indictment is USD 136,000, paid by a victim in California,” George said.

The US Senate Aging Committee, that studies issues related to older Americans, received more than 1,100 calls from senior citizens across the country on its fraud hotline in 2015.

The most common complaint reported to the fraud hotline continues to be the IRS impersonation scam.

India to expel Pakistani diplomat seized at Delhi Zoo for spying | Reuters

India to expel Pakistani diplomat seized at Delhi Zoo for spying | Reuters

Updated: Oct 27, 2016 21:50 IST

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By Tommy Wilkes
| NEW DELHI

NEW DELHI India said on Thursday it would expel a Pakistani diplomat based in New Delhi who allegedly ran a spy ring that collected sensitive information about Indian security operations along its border. The allegations come amid heightened tensions between the nuclear-armed arch-rivals over the disputed region of Kashmir.Police in the capital said the diplomat was caught on Wednesday outside the gates to Delhi Zoo, where he had met two Indian associates whom police believe he had recruited to spy for him. The Indians and the diplomat, who reportedly worked in Pakistan High Commission’s visa section, were found with forged documents, defence-related maps, deployment charts and lists of officers working along India’s border with Pakistan, police said in a statement.”There was high probability that the information passed on by these anti-national elements to PIO (Pakistan intelligence operative) is being used against the national interests and could be highly detrimental for national security,” the police said, adding they had been trying to break the spy ring for six months.

An Indian foreign ministry spokesman said the man, who was released from custody under diplomatic immunity rules, must leave the country by Saturday.Pakistan’s High Commission in New Delhi rejected the allegations, saying in a statement it “never engages in any activity that is incompatible with its diplomatic status”.

India’s foreign ministry said the diplomat had been declared “persona non grata for espionage activities” and they had summoned the Pakistani high commissioner to make their case.India and Pakistan have been at loggerheads since a group of gunmen killed 19 Indian soldiers in September at an army camp in Kashmir, an attack India blamed on Pakistan-based militants.India said it had sent special commandos into Pakistan-controlled Kashmir to kill militants in a retaliatory operation that sharply soured relations between the neighbours.

Pakistan says the operation never happened and accuses India of inventing it to distract attention from its crackdown on protests in the part of Kashmir it controls.Indian and Pakistani troops face off against each other along the de facto border in divided Kashmir – a region they both claim in full but control in part – and have exchanged fire several times this week in cross-border shelling. (Reporting by Tommy Wilkes; Editing by Tom Heneghan; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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Pakistani militants say they worked with Islamic State to attack police college | Reuters

By Syed Raza Hassan and Saud Mehsud
| QUETTA/DERA ISMAIL KHAN, Pakistan

QUETTA/DERA ISMAIL KHAN, Pakistan A faction of the Pakistani militant group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) cooperated with Islamic State this week in an attack on a police college that killed 63 people, the group’s spokesman told Reuters on Wednesday.The confirmation of a link between the two groups will stoke fears that Islamic State, based in Syria and Iraq, is building a presence in Pakistan.Islamic State claimed responsibility for Monday’s attack in the city of Quetta and released photographs of the purported gunmen who killed cadets during a raid that lasted nearly five hours.Pakistani authorities, who in September said they had crushed Islamic State’s efforts to enter Pakistan, pinned the blame on Al-Alami, a faction of LeJ.Al-Alami spokesman Ali bin Sufyan told Reuters by instant message: “We have no direct link with Daesh (Islamic State), but we have done this attack together.”He declined to give specifics, saying only: “We will provide help to anyone who asks against Pakistani security forces, and we will also accept help for this.”ACCUSING INDIA
Provincial government spokesman Anwar-ul-Haq Kakar said the death toll from the attack had risen to 63, and that Islamic State’s claim of responsibility was “part of Indian design to malign Pakistan that this terror group has emerged in our soil”.

Pakistan has previously accused India of fomenting unrest in the province of Baluchistan, of which Quetta is the capital. A spokesman for India’s Foreign Ministry said: “We reject this baseless allegation completely.” Concern has been growing in Pakistan that Islamic State will seek to exacerbate long-standing sectarian tensions that have flared up in recent years.The Sunni Muslim LeJ has carried out some of the worst sectarian attacks in Pakistan’s history, including several major bombings in Quetta, and has often targeted the Shi’ite Hazara minority. Analysts have long speculated that Islamic State would strike up a partnership with LeJ, even though the Pakistani group is affiliated with Islamic State’s rival, al Qaeda.LeJ has claimed responsibility for a slew of attacks in Pakistan’s commercial capital Karachi, though officials doubt that all the claims are true.

In August, Pakistan announced a 5 million rupee ($48,000) reward for information leading to arrest of Syed Safdar, the head of al-Alami, who goes by the nom de guerre Yousuf Khorasani.INTERCEPTED CALLS
General Sher Afgun, a senior military commander in Baluchistan, told media that intercepted calls suggested the gunmen had received orders from across the border in Afghanistan.

Afghan officials have consistently denied sheltering anti-Pakistan militants, but the border is not fully under government control.The Quetta attack has also reignited a debate in Pakistan about the need for authorities to target all militant groups, not only those who are actively fighting against the state.Pakistan has for its part been accused of harbouring leaders of the Afghan Taliban in Quetta as well as several militant groups opposed to the Indian government, something Islamabad denies.Critics say that, by not stamping out radical groups and their ideologies, Pakistan is making itself a recruiting ground for Islamist militants.”It may not be far off the mark to assume that militants in the country have assistance from across the borders. But this cannot change the fact that they essentially have roots within our own soil and that these have grown over the decades,” The News, an English-language newspaper, said in an editorial.Dawn, another English-language newspaper, said: “Blaming sanctuaries across the border or even foreign support is a political game when strong action is called for.” ($1 = 104.7100 Pakistani rupees) (Writing by Drazen Jorgic; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

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Islamic State claims attack on Pakistan police academy, 59 dead | Reuters

By Gul Yusufzai
| QUETTA, Pakistan

QUETTA, Pakistan Militant group Islamic State said on Tuesday that fighters loyal to its movement attacked a police training college in Quetta in southwest Pakistan in a raid that officials said killed 59 people and wounded more than 100.Pakistani authorities have blamed another militant group, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), for the late-Monday siege, though the Islamic State claim included photographs of three alleged attackers.Hundreds of trainees were stationed at the college on the city outskirts when masked gunmen stormed in. Some cadets were taken hostage during the raid, which lasted nearly five hours. Most of the dead were cadets.”They just barged in and started firing point-blank. We started screaming and running around in the barracks,” one police cadet who survived told media. Other cadets spoke of jumping out of windows and cowering under beds as the attackers hunted them down. Video footage from inside one of the barracks showed blackened walls and rows of charred beds.Islamic State’s Amaq news agency published the claim of responsibility, saying three IS fighters “used machine guns and grenades, then blew up their explosive vests in the crowd.”Mir Sarfaraz Bugti, home minister of the province of Baluchistan, whose capital is Quetta, said the gunmen attacked a dormitory where cadets rested and slept. “Two attackers blew themselves up, while a third was shot in the head by security men,” he said.A Reuters photographer at the scene said authorities carried out the body of a teenaged boy who they said was one of the attackers and had been shot dead by security forces.Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Army chief General Raheel Sharif travelled to Quetta and took part in a special security meeting on Tuesday afternoon, the prime minister’s office said.General Sher Afgun, a senior military commander in Baluchistan, told media that calls intercepted between the attackers and their handlers suggested they were from the LeJ, a sectarian Sunni militant group.”We came to know from the communication intercepts that there were three militants who were getting instructions from Afghanistan,” Afgun said, adding the Al Alami faction of LeJ was behind the attack.LeJ, whose roots are in the heartland Punjab province, has a history of carrying out sectarian attacks in Baluchistan, particularly against the minority Hazara Shias. Pakistan has previously accused LeJ of colluding with al Qaeda.Authorities launched a crackdown against LeJ last year, particularly in Punjab province. In a blow to the organisation, Malik Ishaq, the group’s leader, was killed in July 2015 with 13 members of the central leadership in what police say was a failed escape attempt.

“Two, three days ago we had intelligence reports of a possible attack in Quetta city, that is why security was beefed up in Quetta, but they struck at the police training college,” Sanaullah Zehri, chief minister of Baluchistan, told the Geo TV channel.The Hakeemullah Mehsud faction of the Pakistani Taliban also claimed responsibility for the attack in an emailed statement, but when members of the group were asked about the statement, they could not confirm it was authentic.ISLAMIC STATE
Pakistan has improved its security situation in recent years, but Islamist groups continue to pose a threat and stage attacks in the mainly Muslim nation of 190 million.Islamic State, which established a self-proclaimed Muslim caliphate in parts of Iraq and Syria, has sought to make inroads over the past year, hoping to exploit Pakistan’s sectarian divisions.

Monday night’s assault on the police college was the deadliest in Pakistan since a suicide bomber killed 70 people in an attack on mourners gathered at a Quetta hospital in August. That attack was claimed by IS, and also by a Pakistani Taliban faction, Jamaat-ur-Ahrar.The military had dismissed previous IS claims of responsibility as “propaganda”, and last month said it had crushed the Middle East-based group’s attempt to expand in Pakistan.A photograph of the three alleged attackers released by IS showed one with a striking resemblance to the picture of a dead gunman taken by a policeman inside the college, and shared with Reuters.Analysts say Islamic State clearly has a presence in Pakistan and there is growing evidence that some local groups are working with it. “The problem with this government is that it seems to be in a complete state of denial,” said Zahid Hussain, an Islamabad-based security analyst.The White House condemned Monday’s attack, and said the United States would support Pakistan in its fight against terrorism.

HIDING UNDER BEDS
Wounded cadets spoke of scurrying for cover after being woken by the sound of bullets.”I was asleep, my friends were there as well, and we took cover under the beds,” one unidentified cadet told Geo TV. “My friends were shot, but I only received a (small) wound on my head.”Another cadet said he did not have ammunition to fight back.Officials said the attackers targeted the centre’s hostel, where 200-250 police recruits were resting. At least three explosions were reported at the scene by media.Quetta has long been regarded as a base for the Afghan Taliban, whose leadership has regularly held meetings there.Baluchistan is no stranger to violence, with separatist fighters launching regular attacks on security forces for nearly a decade, and the military striking back. Militants, particularly sectarian groups, have also launched a campaign of suicide bombings and assassinations of minority Shias.Attacks are becoming rarer, but security forces need to be more alert, said Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan.”Our problem is that when an attack happens, we are alert for a week after, ten days later, until 20 days pass, (but) then it goes back to business as usual,” he said.”We need to be alert all the time.” (Additional reporting by Syed Raza Hassan in KARACHI, Saud Mehsud in DERA ISMAIL KHAN, Mehreen Zahra-Malik and Asad Hashim in ISLAMABAD, and Mohamed el Sherif in CAIRO; Writing by Drazen Jorgic; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and Ian Geoghegan)

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At least four killed in India-Pakistan cross-border shelling | Reuters

At least four killed in India-Pakistan cross-border shelling | Reuters

Updated: Oct 24, 2016 19:11 IST

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By Asad Hashim and Fayaz Bukhari
| ISLAMABAD/SRINAGAR, India

ISLAMABAD/SRINAGAR, India Shelling across the border between India and Pakistan killed two Pakistani civilians, an Indian soldier and a boy, military officials from the two sides said on Monday, as tension between the nuclear-armed neighbours simmers.Pakistan’s military said the shelling hit the sectors of Harpal, Pukhlian and Charwah along the disputed “working boundary”, which separates Pakistan’s Punjab province from Indian-administered Kashmir’s Jammu region.India’s military said the firing occurred in the Pura, Pargwal and Kanachak sectors.Both countries have claimed the disputed Kashmir region in full since partition and independence from the British in 1947, but administer separate portions of it. They have fought two of their three wars over the territory.

Tensions have been strained since July, when Indian forces killed a young Kashmiri fighter, prompting mass protests in Indian-administered Kashmir. The resulting crackdown by security forces has seen at least 80 Kashmiri protesters killed.Relations plummeted even further in September, when gunmen stormed an Indian military base in Uri, killing 18 Indian soldiers, the largest such attack in 14 years.

India blamed Pakistan for the attack, and in response said it had launched “surgical strikes” across the de facto border in Kashmir on Sept 29 to target Kashmiri fighters based there. Pakistan denied any incursion had occurred on its territory. Pakistan’s military said a one-year-old child was among the dead in Pakistan in the village of Janglora. Pakistani forces responded to the Indian firing and an exchange of fire continued through the night.

Fifteen civilians were wounded in the firing, Pakistan said.In India’s Jammu region, a Border Security Force (BSF) soldier was killed by the Pakistani firing, while another was wounded, a BSF spokesman told Reuters. A boy, one of five civilians also injured, later died of his wounds, he said. (Writing by Asad Hashim; Editing by Drazen Jorgic and Toby Chopra)

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Williamson ton sets up New Zealand’s thrilling win | Reuters

Williamson ton sets up New Zealand’s thrilling win | Reuters

Updated: Oct 20, 2016 22:44 IST

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NEW DELHI Captain Kane Williamson struck the first hundred for New Zealand on their tour of India to set up a thrilling six-run victory in the second one-day international and end his side’s winless run.Chasing 243 for victory, the hosts were reduced to 183 for eight in the 41st over but all-rounder Hardik Pandya (36) and number 10 batsman Umesh Yadav (18 not out) added 49 for the ninth wicket to take their team close.But Pandya fell in the penultimate over and then Tim Southee bowled out last man Jasprit Bumrah in the final over for his third wicket as India folded for 236 with three balls to spare.The 26-year-old Williamson, New Zealand’s batting mainstay, hit a measured 118 off 128 balls to anchor his team’s innings after India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni won the toss and opted to field.Williamson’s eighth ODI hundred had put New Zealand on course for a big total but the hosts, who won the first match of the five ODI series after blanking the tourists 3-0 in the tests, pulled things back brilliantly in the last 10 overs.

The skipper added 120 for the second wicket with Tom Latham (46) after New Zealand had lost Martin Guptill without scoring in the opening over but the side could manage only 40 runs for the loss of six wickets from their final 10.Paceman Bumrah and leg-spinner Amit Mishra picked up three wickets each for the hosts.India’s chase got off on the wrong foot in the face of some disciplined bowling by New Zealand who picked up wickets at regular intervals to put pressure on the batsmen.

Dhoni (39) and Kedar Jadhav (41) steadied the innings with a 66-run stand for the fifth wicket after the side had been reduced to 73 for four in the 20th over.But after Dhoni fell to a superb one-handed return catch by Southee, the chase seemed to be out of India’s reach.

New Zealand’s grip on the match tightened after Axar Patel and Mishra fell in the same over to Guptill’s part-time off-spin before Pandya, the player of the match in the first ODI, and Yadav took India to the brink.The third match of the five-ODI series will be played at Mohali on Sunday. (Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly in Mumbai,; editing by Pritha Sarkar)

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Pakistani government defends travel ban on leading journalist | Reuters

Pakistani government defends travel ban on leading journalist | Reuters

Updated: Oct 13, 2016 21:19 IST

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By Asad Hashim
| ISLAMABAD

ISLAMABAD The Pakistani government on Thursday defended its decision to place a travel ban on a prominent journalist over an article he wrote about an alleged rift between the the country’s powerful military and its government.Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan told reporters that Cyril Almeida would not be allowed to leave the country until the completion of a government committee’s inquiry into the story, which authorities have repeatedly denied.The committee would decide if anyone was to be prosecuted in relation to the story.Almeida, a leading columnist and assistant editor at one of Pakistan’s most respected English-language dailies, filed a story on Oct 6. that gave an account of a tense, high-level security meeting between civilian and government officials.Quoting anonymous sources, the story said civilian government officials called for the military not to interfere if law enforcement authorities tried to arrest members of anti-India militant groups such as Jaish-e-Mohammed and Lashkar-e-Taiba.The government has issued three denials of the story, and on Thursday Khan reiterated them. Almeida’s newspaper Dawn stands by the story, saying it was verified with multiple sources.

The government placed a travel ban on Almeida late on Monday under the Exit from Pakistan (Control) Ordinance 1981. Khan said the step was taken to prevent Almeida from leaving the country while the inquiry was ongoing.Calling the committee “informal”, Khan said it was gathering evidence and would complete this task in about four days.”If this committee feels that there is enough evidence to prosecute, then a formal (law enforcement) committee will be made.”

Khan said Almeida’s name could be removed from the Exit Control List once the inquiry committee had presented unspecified “evidence” to him to respond to.”We do not want to pressure him – if he says he does not want to share his source, then should we extract it from him with a stick? No,” said Khan.”But we want to share some evidence with him, whether he owns or disowns it.”

Khan said the travel ban was placed on Almeida because he was due to fly to Dubai on Oct. 11, suggesting that he was fleeing the country.Almeida told Reuters his travel plans to Dubai had been made a month in advance, and were for a family vacation.Pakistan ranks 147th of 179 countries on Reporters Without Borders’ World Press Freedom Index. At least 59 journalists have been killed in targeted attacks since 1992, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. (Writing by Asad Hashim; Editing by Mike Collett-White)

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Samsung scraps Galaxy Note 7 over fire concerns | Reuters

By Se Young Lee
| SEOUL

SEOUL Samsung Electronics Co Ltd (005930.KS) scrapped its flagship Galaxy Note 7 smartphone on Tuesday less than two months after its launch, dealing a huge blow to its reputation and outlook after failing to resolve safety concerns. Samsung announced the recall of 2.5 million Note 7s in early September following numerous reports of the phones catching fire and on Tuesday it finally pulled the plug on the $882 device in what could be one of the costliest product safety failures in tech history.The decision to scrap the Note 7 came after fresh reports of fires in replacement devices prompted new warnings from regulators, phone carriers and airlines.”(We) have decided to halt production and sales of the Galaxy Note 7 in order to consider our consumers’ safety first and foremost,” the South Korean firm said in a filing to the Seoul stock exchange.Samsung said earlier it asked all global carriers to stop sales of the Note 7s and the exchange of original devices for replacements, while it worked with regulators to investigate the problem. The company is offering to exchange Note 7s for other products or refund them. Samsung’s decision to pull Note 7s off the shelves not only raises fresh doubts about the firm’s quality control but could result in huge financial and reputational costs.Analysts say a permanent end to Note 7 sales could cost Samsung up to $17 billion and tarnish its other phone products in the minds of consumers and carriers. Investors wiped nearly $20 billion off Samsung Electronics’ market value on Tuesday as its shares closed down 8 percent, their biggest daily percentage decline since 2008. “This is the first time that I have seen a product recall go this badly wrong,” financial analyst Richard Windsor said in a note to clients. “When it comes to the damage that it will do to Samsung’s brand, we are in uncharted territory”.The premium device, launched in August, was supposed to compete with Apple Inc’s (AAPL.O) latest iPhone for supremacy in the smartphone market. Well received by critics, its first problem was a shortage as pre-orders overwhelmed supply.But within days of the launch images of charred Note 7s began appearing on social media, in the first sign that something was seriously amiss with the gadget.

FILLING THE VOID
Samsung, the world’s top maker of smartphones had nearly twice the global market share of Apple at mid-year, having shipped 77.6 million phones in the second quarter alone, said Neil Mawston, an analyst at research firm Strategy Analytics.The South Korean company was counting on the Note 7 to replace its previous flagship model, the Note 5, which had sold around 15 million units over the four quarters ended in June, according to Strategy Analytics data. Instead, Samsung will be forced to count on existing models such as its Galaxy S7 edge, which has a slightly smaller screen but is also slightly less expensive.The void left by the demise of Samsung’s flagship phone leaves the door open to rivals like Apple, which last month introduced its latest iPhone 7 line and Google (GOOGL.O), which is set to launch its new Pixel phone later this month.

However, the most likely beneficiaries are other high-volume Asia-based makers of premium-priced phones based on Google’s Android operating system, Mawston said.”The gap is likely to be filled by rivals including Apple and Google Pixel, although probably Oppo, Vivo, LG Electronics (066570.KS) and Sony (6758.T) stand to benefit the most,” Mawston said.Oppo and Vivo are distinct smartphone brands owned by privately held Chinese electronics giant BBK Electronic corp., while the other rivals are classic global rivals of Samsung.CAUSE UNKNOWN
The South Korean firm did not comment on whether it had identified the cause of the fires in the replacement devices, although officials in Seoul said it was looking at several possibilities including the batteries.

“It is more difficult to analyze the cause of the accidents this time because of various patterns of the accidents,” an official with the Korean Agency for Technology and Standards, which met with Samsung and experts on Monday, told Reuters. China’s quality watchdog said Samsung would recall all 190,984 Note 7s sold in the mainland. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission said Samsung was making the right decision by halting sales and exchanges of the device.”No one should have to be concerned their phone will endanger them, their family or their property,” CPSC Chairman Elliott Kaye said in a statement. The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and South Korea’s transport ministry added their voices to concerns from the aviation industry, saying no Note 7s should be used or charged inside airplanes.Verizon Communications Inc (VZ.N), the largest U.S. wireless carrier, said it may shift marketing away from the Note 7 heading into the critical holiday selling season.”We have the new iPhone, we’re about to launch the new Google Pixel, which is exclusive to us. We’ve got great phones from Motorola as well,” Verizon spokeswoman Kelly Crummey said. “I think you’ll see our marketing focused on those devices because there is certainty on those at this time.” (Additional reporting by Eric Auchard in Frankfurt, Deborah Todd in New York, Hyunjoo Jin in Seoul; Writing by Lincoln Feast; Editing by Miyoung Kim, Muralikumar Anantharaman and Alexandra Hudson)

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Pujara, Ashwin lead India to series sweep | Reuters

Pujara, Ashwin lead India to series sweep | Reuters

Updated: Oct 11, 2016 17:36 IST

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INDORE, India Cheteshwar Pujara struck his eighth test century and off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin engineered another spectacular batting collapse to help India crush New Zealand by 321 runs in the third test and complete a 3-0 series sweep on Tuesday.Ashwin, who claimed 6-81 in the first innings, resumed his role as New Zealand’s wrecker-in-chief, claiming 7-59 as the tourists, chasing 475 for an improbable win, were dismissed for 153 to lose inside four days.After Umesh Yadav dismissed Tom Latham to earn an early breakthrough, Ashwin spun a web around the batsmen as New Zealand lost nine wickets in the final session.Ashwin dismissed captain Kane Williamson (27) for the second time in the match, ended Ross Taylor’s breezy 32 and sent back Luke Ronchi to rip out the Kiwi top order before returning to blow away the tail.Fittingly, Ashwin caught Trent Boult off his own bowling to end New Zealand’s innings with career-best bowling figures.The spinner finished the series with 27 wickets and was the obvious choice for the man-of-the-match and man-of-the-series awards.

“Could not have asked for anything better,” India captain Virat Kohli said at the presentation ceremony.”The bowlers have responded beautifully in the series every time we’ve been under a bit of pressure. Every time the Kiwis had a partnership, someone put his hands up and brought those breakthroughs for us.”Earlier, Gautam Gambhir struck 50 on his test return and Pujara scored 101 not out as India declared their second innings on 216 for three around an hour before tea.

Resuming on 18-0, the hosts lost opener Murali Vijay cheaply but Gambhir, who had retired hurt with an injured shoulder on Monday, returned to score fluently.Gambhir hit six boundaries before completing his 22nd test fifty off 54 balls but was dismissed when he drove off-spinner Jeetan Patel to Guptill at cover.

Patel removed Kohli (17) lbw for the second time in the match but Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane (23 not out) added 58 quick runs before India declared.”It was important that we get a big total in the first innings but it was not to be,” Williamson said.”Credit to India, obviously they’re the number one in the world now. A fantastic effort and well-deserved.” (Reporting by Amlan Chakraborty in New Delhi; Editing by Ed Osmond)

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Indian police seek kingpins in tax scam aimed at Americans | Reuters

By Rajendra Jadhav and Rahul Bhatia
| MUMBAI

MUMBAI Americans were swindled out of tens of millions of dollars in an alleged tax scam that was run for about a year from call centers on the outskirts of Mumbai, a senior investigator said on Thursday, predicting more arrests on top of the 70 made so far.Assistant police commissioner Bharat Shelke told Reuters the alleged scammers posed as U.S. Internal Revenue Service officials and left victims voicemails accusing them of tax evasion and threatening them with arrest.”Fearing arrest, some used to call back, and employees at the call center then demanded a few thousand dollars to settle the case,” he said. In lieu of cash, employees also accepted alternatives such as numbers from unused iTunes and gift cards.The 70 people arrested were among more than 700 detained when police raided makeshift call centers – a bungalow, an office building and a shopping center in the Mumbai suburb of Thane – late on Tuesday. Shelke said an estimated $36.5 million was extorted from U.S. residents. On Thursday, a court granted police custody of all 70, including the owner of one of the call center buildings, until Oct. 10. But police said they have not yet captured the ring leaders of the scheme, which they suspect was run out of the western Indian state of Gujarat.Authorities say callers were trained to switch their Indian accent for a passable American one. They studied a script six pages long that explained how conversations would develop, with tips on tackling doubts and suspicions. According to training documents seen by Reuters, if targets asked for permission to speak to an attorney, workers were told to reply (sic): “This would be termed third party discloser, as per the federal law and if you go ahead and do that IRS will have completes right to go ahead discloser to national television, local newspaper and your employer. Moreover, it would be a penalty charges up to 50,000$.”

A police official said several of the call center workers were high school graduates who were “very convincing in recorded conversations.”UNLIMITED BONUSES

Callers were paid between 10,000 rupees ($150) and 70,000 rupees ($1,050) every month, police said. An advertisement placed on Aug. 30 by one of the companies raided by police said it was a seeking a “call centre executive” to handle calls to the United States and Australia. Experience was not necessary. The salary was described as a “good hike” and the bonus “unlimited.” Tax agencies in countries including the United States, Canada and Australia have all issued warnings over scam callers. Last year, a Pennsylvania man who helped coordinate a fraud in which India-based callers preyed on vulnerable Americans by pretending to be U.S. government agents was sentenced to 14-1/2 years in prison.Police told the court on Thursday that employees applauded when victims transferred large sums electronically to the call center. “Employees were aware of the fraud, but since they were getting a good salary, they remained silent,” Shelke said.

The organizers of the scheme were cautious about paper trails, said another police official, Mukund Hatote. “Workers did not receive employment letters … and [the organizers] rented office space without paperwork.” The 70 detainees were driven to court in large vans. Most were young men who walked with heads bowed, their faces obscured by a raised hand or a tied kerchief. Inside, the judge heard arguments from about two dozen defense lawyers who insisted their clients were following orders, and that the scheme’s masterminds were still at large.”I got to know we are doing illegal things within a week after joining,” one defendant told Reuters as he returned to a police van, “but I saw many getting good performance bonuses. So I didn’t leave.”($1 = 66.7391 Indian rupees) (Additional reporting by Devidutta Tripathy, Danish Siddiqui, Swati Bhat Shetye in Mumbai; Editing by Euan Rocha and Mark Trevelyan)

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India, Canada committed to deepen economic and financial ties: Arun Jaitley

Toronto: India and Canada are committed to deepen the economic and financial relationship and enhance strategic partnership, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has said as he invited Canadian investment in India’s infrastructure sector.

“Both countries are committed to strengthen economic ties as there is a positive environment. Negotiators from both countries will meet soon to resolve sticking points,” he said.

On Monday Jaitley met his Canadian counterpart Bill Morneau and Canada’s International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland and reviewed progress in India Canada relationship including proposed Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) and Foreign Investment and Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA).

“Both countries are very keen to finalise both the proposed agreements,” Jaitley said.

He said that the two countries have also agreed to enhance strategic partnership.

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

A file photo of Arun Jaitley. PTI

The minister also held a series of meetings with Canadian pension funds, bankers, financial sector companies.

“Foreign Direct Investment by Canadian Investors was about 12 billion dollar in India in the past 24 months. This does not include portfolio investment by Canadian investors,” he said.

“India has a good story to tell and is moving much faster than rest of the world. The likely return on investments in India is much higher and the risk is much less than other nations,” he said.

Canadian Finance Minister Morneau in a statement said, “I am pleased to build on Canada’s longstanding relationship with India by exploring ways to deepen our economic and financial ties. It is important that Canada continues to engage with the world to create more opportunities and prosperity for the middle class.”

The two ministers will travel to the US later this week to attend the Annual Meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank Group as well as a G20 meeting.

As co-chairs of the working group responsible for G20 growth strategies, both ministers are expected to highlight the importance of seizing the opportunity to invest in people and infrastructure to build a strong and prosperous global economy.

Canada and India have longstanding bilateral relations, built upon shared traditions of democracy, pluralism and strong interpersonal connections with an Indian diaspora of more than one million in Canada, Morneau said.

Building on this strong relationship, Morneau highlighted the Canada-India Finance Ministers Dialogue as an important initiative to deepen the economic and financial relationship between the two countries.

Two years of Swachh Bharat: As South Asia goes on open defecation free drive, personal choices can make the difference

As the whole of South Asia goes on a commendable open defecation free drive with the People’s Republic of Bangladesh leading the way, I am left wondering what kind of thoughts and sensitivities will determine the choice of latrine in the millions of new entrants to “closed” defecation spaces. And I looked back at my own evolution and engagement with such spaces.

I was in a conference on visual perception in Barcelona recently, when I encountered a problem I haven’t had in a very long time. Where I was staying, the latrine room had a commode, a toilet paper roll but no other external water source. I am a Bengali, born and brought up in Bengal, in a home and a family, where after passing “doing the needful”, I have learned to use my hand and some water to clean myself up and thereafter clean by hand with water and soap. In certain situations, especially earlier in my ancestral village, I have been taught to use coal ash in place of soap. That was the training. Till about age 12, I had never sat on a commode. I was used to squatting. Around 12 years of age, we moved to our new place in the same neighborhood. That new place had 2 bathrooms – one had a commode and the other had a squat latrine. I have always preferred squatting but at certain times I did use the commode. In my early commode days, I used to prefer to squat on the plastic flap rim of the commode itself and once I did fall down unable to maintain that delicate balance on a thin rim not meant to squat upon. In time I learned to use the commode well. I sat on it ‘like a chair’ but didn’t squat. The water supply was there. So was the water mug and nearby tap. Things were fine.

Representational Image. ReutersRepresentational Image. Reuters

Representational Image. Reuters

The first time I went to a place that didn’t have any water source for cleaning myself up, I didn’t know what to do. What I did was that I took a huge amount of rolled paper before I got into the act, got outside and drenched the paper in water, and then cleaned myself up with that very moist sloppy mush of toilet paper, hoping to do a clean job. The problem was that at times some tiny bits of paper stuck around adamantly after I did this. I would only get to clean up with water after I got home. Since this no-water, only-paper scenario happened very, very rarely, it wasn’t really a problem. Nor was it a problem in airplanes where the drench method worked in cooped up mid-air privacy. It still does. I also went to Japan where they like us Bengalis. They appreciate the value of water near their latrines. But that didn’t prepare me for the USA.

When I went to the USA to do my PhD, things changed radically. In my first year, I lived in the PhD student dormitory of Harvard University, where the floor had a common bathroom-latrine complex for men. The latrines were separate stalls but since the footfall was high, I was embarrassed to take this glob of drenched toilet paper into the stall with me. This embarrassment came from standing out, may be of being looked upon as an uncivilized brown that did weird things in the latrine, may be trying to ‘fit in’. Looking back, I feel that trying to fit in and integrate has never been popular in the USA, which integrated with native tribes by conquering their lands combined with physical annihilation – one of the least talked about genocides of the recent past. As a mark of their “integration” to the new continent, the English named the slice of land that they had newly grabbed, as simply “New England”. Very imaginative and integrationist indeed. But I digress. I tried to do things the dry way, with the nagging dirty feeling making me scrape harder than I should have. I ended up with an infection leading to a very painful fistula that required two bouts of surgery and a long convalescence period. I had learned my lesson. From the second year, I lived off-campus, in a place that had a latrine with a nearby tap. I look upon those “dry days” of mine with horror. When I had discussed this issue with a friend who was trying to get ‘civilized’ at break-neck speed, taunted me and said “You want to go back to squatting?” with a tone that put me as a crouching chimpanzee and him as an upright not-yet-but-soon-to-be white man. I had gathered up my brown confidence and said, “Yes”. One of the things that Europe was introduced to, due to the Crusades, was soap! I wasn’t going to take cleanliness lessons from paper-people.

When I had discussed this issue with a friend who was trying to get ‘civilized’ at break-neck speed, taunted me and said “You want to go back to squatting?” with a tone that put me as a crouching chimpanzee and him as an upright not-yet-but-soon-to-be white man. I had gathered up my brown confidence and said, “Yes”. One of the things that Europe was introduced to, due to the Crusades, was soap! I wasn’t going to take cleanliness lessons from paper-people.

Now I work in Bengal. My workplace has both squat and sit options, both with strategically placed hand-held water nozzles. I have always preferred the squat latrine over ‘The Thinker’ sitting latrine. My parent’s new home has only sitting option. After a lifetime of squatting, their muscles are now not strong enough to sustain that. I am thankful to my workplace for providing me with a choice. Most ‘diversity’ totting, cosmopolitan places don’t. But this Euro-American cosmopolitanism has always been a way to gate-keep malleable coloured folks from the rougher ones. To some, the distance of their behind from the floor is a measure of progress, class, refinement and upliftment such that once ‘uplifted’ and ‘papered’, they can’t dream of choosing to squat down and water up. The personal can be political.

Hillary Clinton fears suicide nuclear bombers from Pakistan

Washington: Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton has expressed concern over the possibility of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons falling into the hands of jihadists, which she said was “a threatening scenario”, according to a media report.

“Pakistan is running full speed to develop tactical nukes in their continuing hostility with India,” the former secretary of state told a closed-door fundraiser in Virginia in February, The New York Times reported, citing 50-minute audio being hacked from the Democratic Party’s computers.

“But we live in fear that they’re going to have a coup, that jihadists are going to take over the government, they’re going to get access to nuclear weapons, and you’ll have suicide nuclear bombers. So, this could not be a more threatening scenario,” the daily quoted Clinton as saying in the audio that appeared on The Washington Free Beacon website.

During the fund raiser, responding to a question on modernisation of nuclear weapons, the daily said, Clinton went beyond the question to warn of an emerging nuclear arms race, naming Russia and China as well as Pakistan and India.

“This is one of the most dangerous developments imaginable,” Clinton said.

Such remarks from the former secretary of state gains significance in view of an interview of Pakistani Defence Minister Khwaja Muhammad Asif to the local TV channel in which he threatened to unleash nukes against India.

“If our safety is threatened, we will annihilate them (India),” Asif had said.

The United States appears to have taken a strong note of Asif’s recent statements on use of nuclear weapons.

“Nuclear capable states have the responsibility to exercise restraint regarding nuclear weapons and missile capabilities,” a state department official told PTI when asked about the statements being made by the Pakistani leader.

Earlier, Defence Secretary Ashton Carter had said while India has generally shown responsible behaviour with nuclear technology, China conducts itself professionally, nuclear weapons in Pakistan are entangled in history of tensions.

Meanwhile, in an opinion “Consequences of Pakistani Terrorism: Raids signal that India won’t tolerate more attacks in Kashmir”, The Wall Street Journal warned that Pakistan increasingly risks becoming a “pariah state” if it continues with such policies.

It said if Pakistan wants to prevent an escalation of violence it needs to shut down the terror groups it continues to support. “That should start with Jaish-e-Mohammad and Lashkar-e-Taiba, two major jihadist groups that operate openly in Pakistan and are prime suspects in these attacks,” it said.

“Both groups are supported by its military despite being on United Nations lists of terrorist organisations,” the daily said in the hard-hitting opinion piece, a day after India carried out surgical strikes in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir against terrorists planning to sneak into the country.

The Journal noted that the Prime Minister Narendra Modi has consistently offered closer economic and diplomatic ties to Pakistan as long as it stops supporting terrorism.

Pakistan, it argued, needs a new vision centered on improving the lives of its people.

US National Security Advisor calls Ajit Doval, condemns Uri terror attack

Washington: US National Security Advisor Susan Rice called her Indian counterpart Ajit Doval and condemned the Uri terror attack, saying the White House expects Pakistan to take “effective action to combat and delegitimise” UN-designated terrorist groups.

Ajit Doval. AFP

Ajit Doval. AFP

“Ambassador Rice reiterated our expectation that Pakistan take effective action to combat and delegitimise United Nations-designated terrorist individuals and entities, including Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, Jaish-e-Muhammad, and their affiliates,” Spokesperson of National Security Council Ned Price said.

In the telephonic conversation with Doval, the first after Uri terror attack, Susan strongly condemned the 18 September cross-border attack on the Indian Army Brigade headquarters and offered condolences to the victims and their families.

“He affirmed President Obama’s commitment to redouble our efforts to bring to justice the perpetrators of terrorism throughout the world,” Price said.

“Ambassador Rice discussed our shared commitment with India to pursue regional peace and stability and pledged to deepen collaboration on counter-terrorism matters including on UN terrorist designations,” Price added.

Charlotte clashes: Third night of protests in US city remain peaceful amid curfew

Charlotte: Protesters took to the streets for a third night in the US city of Charlotte amid heavy security aimed at preventing more clashes over the fatal police shooting of a black man.

Hundreds marched to the city police station carrying signs saying “Stop killing us” and “Resistance is beautiful,” but the atmosphere was far calmer than the previous two nights. Pressure was growing on police to release video of the shooting of Keith Lamont Scott, a 43-year-old African American, whose killing on Tuesday sparked the unrest.

Scott’s death was the latest in a string of police- involved killings of black men that have fueled outrage across the United States.

Police fire tear gas into the crowd of protesters on in Charlotte, NC. A black police officer shot an armed black man at an apartment complex Tuesday, authorities said, prompting angry street protests late into the night. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department tweeted that demonstrators were destroying marked police vehicles and that approximately 12 officers had been injured, including one who was hit in the face with a rock. APPolice fire tear gas into the crowd of protesters on in Charlotte, NC. A black police officer shot an armed black man at an apartment complex Tuesday, authorities said, prompting angry street protests late into the night. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department tweeted that demonstrators were destroying marked police vehicles and that approximately 12 officers had been injured, including one who was hit in the face with a rock. AP

A black police officer shot an armed black man at an apartment complex Tuesday, authorities said, prompting angry street protests late into the night. Approximately 12 officers have been injured, including one who was hit in the face with a rock. AP

North Carolina’s governor has declared a state of emergency in Charlotte, and several hundred National Guard troops and highway police officers were deployed to reinforce local police protecting city infrastructure and businesses.

An overnight curfew was also in place. “We are going to be a lot more proactive,” Charlotte police chief Kerr Putney told a news conference. “We made 44 arrests last night because we are not going to tolerate the behavior.”

A protester shot by a civilian in Wednesday night’s protests died in hospital on Thursday, local media reported. Scott was shot and killed in an apartment complex parking lot on Tuesday during an encounter with police officers searching for another person wanted for arrest.

Conflicting versions of what happened — police say Scott was armed with a handgun while his family says he was holding a book — fueled the angry protests. The authorities have so far refused to release police video of the incident.

However, members of Scott’s family watched the footage on Thursday, raising “more questions than answers,” their lawyers said.

No gun is visible in the video, which shows Scott stepping backward when he was shot, one of the lawyers told CNN.

“His hands are down by his side. He is acting calm,” Justin Bamberg said. “You do see something in his hand, but it’s impossible to make out from the video what it is.” Putney has said a handgun was recovered at the scene, and that no book was found, contrary to the family’s assertion.

The video footage “does not give me absolute definitive visual evidence that would confirm that a person is pointing a gun,” he told CNN. But the footage indicates the officer identified as having shot Scott — Brentley Vinson, who is also black — was justified, he added.

A handful of protesters confronted police last night. However, many marched past officers who posed a less intimidating presence on the streets despite their greater numbers.

Member who blocked India’s entry into NSG will be held accountable: US

New Delhi: A week after India failed to get entry into Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) due to China-led opposition, the US on Wednesday said one country can break consensus in the atomic trading bloc and insisted that such member should be held accountable.

US Under Secretary for Political Affairs Tom Shannon asserted that the US is committed to ensuring India’s entry into the NSG while expressing “regret” that Washington was unsuccessful in making India a member of the bloc in its pleanary in Seoul last week.

Representational image. News 18

Representational image. News 18

“We understand that in a consensus-based organisation, one country can break consensus. But in order to do so it must be (held) accountable not isolated.

“I think what we need to do going forward is, for both of us India and the US, sit down and take a call what happened in the Seoul, take a close look at the diplomatic process which is significant and see what more we can do and how we can ensure that next time we are successful,” he said during an interactive session at the Foreign Service Institute.

Calling India an “anchor of stability” in the Asia Pacifc region, US Under Secretary for Political Affairs Tom Shannon also said what China was doing in South China Sea is “madness” and it wants New Delhi to play a major role in the Indian Ocean.

Shannon said managing the rise of China was a major challenge and that the US wants to work with India to have a strong and comprehensive presence in the Indian Ocean.

Describing India a responsible and important player in the sphere of nuclear non-proliferation, Shannon said, “We are committed to having India join the Nuclear Suppliers Group. We believe that through the kind of work we have done, the civil nuclear agreement, the way India conducted itself, it is worthy of this.”

On India’s NSG bid, he said the US would continue to work for India’s inclusion in the group.

Shannon, who met Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar earlier in the day, said India’s recent entry into the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) highlighted that the country is a “responsible and important player in the road to non-proliferation.”

“We regret, in Seoul we and India, were unable to open space necessary to allow India to move into the NSG at this moment,” he said.

When asked whether he thinks India will ratify the Paris climate deal before Obama administration’s tenure got over and, at the same time, it will become a member of the NSG, he said “I hope so”.

He said India has given a commitment to ratify the climate deal.

Shannon said that Indo-US civil nuclear cooperation was a very important symbol of friendship between the two countries.

“Just a few weeks ago, President Obama and Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi welcomed the start of preparatory work on a site in Andhra Pradesh for six AP 1000 reactors to be built by an American company.

“This is expected to provide jobs in both countries and bring clean, reliable electricity that will help meet India’s growing energy needs while reducing reliance on fossil fuels,” he said.

Might visit India if invited for Global Entrepreneurship Summit: Obama

Washington: US President Barack Obama on Friday said he might visit India next year if invited for the Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES).

US president Barack Obama. AP

US president Barack Obama. AP

“You know, I’ll try to stop by, if I’m invited,” Obama said in his address to GES at Stanford University in California.

GES is a personal initiative of Obama to bring entrepreneurs from across the globe on one platform.

After meeting Obama at the White House early this month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced that India would host the next GES.

The Obama Administration has thanked India for continuing Obama’s legacy.

“It is really fitting that we are all gathered here for this, the final gathering of the GES under President Obama. But it will continue, and as you all know, will take place next year in India,” the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, had said in his address to the summit yesterday.

The first GES was held in the US in 2010 thereafter it has been hosted by Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, Morocco and Kenya.

Over 700 entrepreneurs and more than 300 investors from 170 countries are attending the 2016 Global Entrepreneurship Summit. India has also sent a large contingent.

During his visit to the US early this month, Modi had invited Obama to India.

Obama is the first American president to visit India twice.

A senior administration official said Obama is unlikely to visit India in the remaining seven months of his presidency, but did not rule out his travel along with that of the First Lady after they leave the White House next year.

India seeks to purchase patrol drones from US for protection of maritime assets

Washington: India has sent a letter of request (LoR) to the US seeking to purchase patrol drones for protection and vigilance of its maritime assets in the Indian Ocean, sources said.

Representational image. AP

Representational image. AP

The letter of request (LoR) sent by New Delhi last week comes less than a fortnight after India was inducted into Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) and recognised by the US as a “major defence partner” after the meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Barack Obama, earlier this month.

This is part of Modi Government’s effort to fast track its goal to secure the country’s maritime assets particularly in the Indian Ocean and detect any untoward intrusion like Mumbai terrorist attack.

The letter seeks purchase of state of the art multi mission maritime patrol Predator Guardian UAV’s (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) from General Atomics, they said.

It provides high altitude wide area and has long endurance maritime ISR capability which will help India to safeguard its maritime assets in the Indian Ocean, both east and west coast.

Flying at an altitude of 50,000 feet these drones have the capacity to fly non-stop for more than 24 hours and monitor the movement of objects as small as a football, sources said.

India had previously shown interest in purchasing these drones from the US, but the Obama administration was unable to process these request as India was not a member of MTCR.

After India got the MTCR membership earlier this month, the US has started looking into the proposal and is believed to be moving ahead with the next phase of letter of acceptance.

“Earlier this month, President Obama and Prime Minister Modi affirmed their support for US-India cooperation in promoting maritime security,” they said.

The issue of drones was discussed by the Prime Minister with President Obama who gave a favourable response.

Referring to the India-US joint statement on 7 June at the White House, the sources said the two leaders reiterated the importance they attach to ensure freedom of navigation and overflight and exploitation of resources as per international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, and settlement of territorial disputes by peaceful means.

It is estimated that India could be looking at over 250 UAV’s over the next few years estimated at over USD 5 billion.

“Its Ground Moving Target Indicator (GMTI) mode provides a quick and easy method for locating moving vehicles,” Dr Lall, an aerospace scientist said.

“The radar’s Maritime Wide Area Search (MWAS) mode provides the capability to complete a variety of maritime missions successfully, including coastal surveillance, long-range surveillance, small target detection, and search and rescue operations. These are also equipped with an Automatic Identification System (AIS) for identifying vessels at sea,” he added.

Days after RBI chief Rajan steps down, India eases foreign investment rules | Reuters

NEW DELHI India announced on Monday sweeping reforms to rules on foreign direct investment, clearing the way for Apple to open stores in the country and announcing easier terms for investors in sectors ranging from civil aviation to pharmaceuticals.

The move comes two days after central bank governor Raghuram Rajan, a darling of financial markets but under pressure from political opponents at home, announced he would not seek another term, a surprise move that raised concerns about whether reforms he set in motion would stall.

“These changes are fairly significant, particularly if you look at them in the context of what happened over the weekend with Governor Rajan’s decision to step down,” said Shilan Shah, India economist at Capital Economics in Singapore.

“It might be the government’s way to illustrate its commitment to reforms and mitigate any investor fallout.”

Prime Minister Narendra Modi hailed the changes to foreign direct investment (FDI) rules, tweeting they would make India “the most open economy in the world for FDI” and provide a “major impetus to employment and job creation”.

Modi, 65, has pitched to global business to come and “Make in India” since winning power two years ago. His government has touted a 29 percent rise in FDI to $40 billion in the fiscal year to March as proof the policies are gaining traction.

Yet, with India ranking 130th in the World Bank’s latest Ease of Doing Business index, multinationals remain cautious amid lingering concerns about bureaucratic red tape and unpredictable tax officials.

The last time Modi loosened FDI rules was after his nationalist party suffered a heavy defeat in a state election last autumn.

Some companies welcomed the news, but others and industry analysts said changes in several industries appeared limited and the headline-grabbing announcement was more about seeking to wrest back control of the economic narrative.

For example, while the new rules allow 100 percent FDI in civil aviation, investment by foreign airlines in domestic carriers remains capped at 49 percent.

Another new rule allows foreign companies to invest up to 74 percent in ‘brownfield’, or existing, pharmaceuticals projects without government approval. But previous rules allowed 100 percent foreign ownership if government approval was obtained, and analysts doubted the change would have a big impact.

BENEFICIARIES

The new rules, however, do offer relief for single-brand retailers such as Apple and furniture giant IKEA that are finding it tough to meet India’s requirement for them to sell at least 30 percent locally sourced goods.

CEO Tim Cook visited India last month on a mission to expand Apple’s presence in the world’s fastest-growing smartphone market, at a time when sales in the United States and China have slowed.

Under the relaxed norms, Apple would have three years to meet the sourcing rules with an extension of another five years if its products are judged “state-of-art” and “cutting edge”.

The new regime also seeks to attract defence contractors hitherto reluctant to transfer technology to India. They would be able to own local operations outright, with government approval, up from a cap of 49 percent previously – although again some industry sources said this did not mark a big change.

Saab, the Swedish defence and aerospace company that recently re-pitched its Gripen fighter jet to the Indian Air Force, welcomed the announcement.

“We think this is a very good move and this decision by the government only encourages us to start our business in India,” said Robert Hewson, Saab’s Asia-Pacific head of communications.

(Additional reporting by Aditi Shah, Rupam Jain; Writing by Douglas Busvine and Rajesh Kumar Singh; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman and Mark Potter)

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United States urges NSG members to support India’s membership

Washington: The US has urged members of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) to support India’s membership into the elite grouping.

“The United States calls on Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) participating governments to support India’s application when it comes up at the NSG plenary, which I think is next week,” State Department Spokesman John Kirby told reporters at his daily news conference yesterday.

President Barack Obama and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. ReutersPresident Barack Obama and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Reuters

President Barack Obama and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Reuters

“I’m not going to get ahead of how that’s going to go or hypothesise and speculate about where it’s going to go, but we’ve made clear that we support the application,” Kirby said in response to a question.

During the US visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi last week, US President Barack Obama welcomed India’s application to the 48-member grouping.

The US has been pushing for India’s NSG membership.

Earlier, ahead of a meeting here US Secretary of State John Kerry had written a letter to the NSG member countries which are not supportive of India’s bid, saying they should “agree not to block consensus on Indian admission”.

A joint statement issued after talks between Modi and Obama said the US called on NSG participating governments to support India’s application when it comes up at the NSG Plenary later this month.

India, though not a member, enjoys the benefits of membership under a 2008 exemption to NSG rules for its atomic cooperation deal with the US.

The NSG looks after critical issues relating to nuclear sector and its members are allowed to trade in and export nuclear technology. The NSG works under the principle of unanimity and even one country’s vote against India will scuttle its bid.

The US support has come a day after China’s official media expressed concern about India’s entry, saying it will “shake” the strategic balance in South Asia and make India a “legitimate” nuclear power.

China spy ship shadows U.S., Japanese, Indian naval drill in Western Pacific | Reuters

OKINAWA, Japan A Chinese observation ship shadowed the U.S. aircraft carrier John C. Stennis in the Western Pacific on Wednesday, the carrier’s commander said, as it joined warships from Japan and India for drills close to waters Beijing considers its backyard.

The show of U.S. naval power comes as Japan and the United States worry China is extending its influence into the western Pacific with submarines and surface vessels as it pushes territorial claims in the neighboring South China Sea, expanding and building on islands.

China has been angered by what it views as provocative U.S. military patrols close to the islands. The United States says the patrols are to protect freedom of navigation.

The Japanese government on Wednesday said a separate Chinese navy observation ship entered its territorial waters south of its southern Kyushu island. China said it was acting within the law and following the principle of freedom of navigation.

“There is a Chinese vessel about seven to 10 miles away,” Captain Gregory C. Huffman, commander of the Stennis, told reporters aboard the carrier after it recovered its F-18 jet fighters taking part in the exercise. The Chinese ship had followed the U.S. vessel from the South China Sea, he added.

Separately, an unidentified U.S. official played down the significance of the shadowing, saying the Stennis had been followed by Chinese vessels in the past and the action in itself was not provocative.

“We are getting used to operating in close proximity of Chinese vessels,” the official said, speaking on deep background.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said he was unaware of the situation.

China views access to the Pacific as vital as a supply line to the rest of the world’s oceans and for the projection of its naval power.

The Stennis joined nine other naval ships including a Japanese helicopter carrier and Indian frigates in seas off the Okinawan island chain. Sub-hunting patrol planes launched from bases in Japan are also participating in the joint annual exercise, dubbed Malabar.

DEEPENING ALLIANCES

The Stennis will sail apart from the other ships, acting as a decoy to draw it away from the eight-day naval exercise, a Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force officer said, declining to be identified because he was not authorized to talk to the media.

Blocking China’s unfettered access to the Western Pacific are the 200 islands stretching from Japan’s main islands through the East China Sea to within 100 km (60 miles) of Taiwan. Japan is fortifying those islands with radar stations and anti-ship missile batteries.

By joining the drill, Japan is deepening alliances it hopes will help counter growing Chinese power. Tensions between Beijing and Tokyo rose after a Chinese warship for the first time sailed within 24 miles (38 km) of contested islands in the East China Sea.

The outcrops, known as the Senkaku in Japan and the Diaoyu in China, lie 220 km (140 miles) northeast of Taiwan.

Wary of China’s more assertive maritime role in the region, the U.S. Navy’s Third Fleet plans to send more ships to East Asia to work alongside the Japan-based Seventh Fleet, a U.S. official said on Tuesday.

For India, the gathering is an chance to put on a show of force close to China’s eastern seaboard and signal its displeasure at increased Chinese naval activity in the Indian Ocean. India sent its naval contingent of four ships on a tour through the South China Sea with stops in the Philippines and Vietnam on their way to the exercise.

China claims most of the energy-rich South China Sea through which about $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year. Neighbors Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims.

(Additional reporting by Megha Rajagopalan in Beijing and Idrees Ali in Washington.; Writing by Tim Kelly in TOKYO.; Editing by Nick Macfie and Steve Orlofsky)

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Ensure territory not used for planning attacks in India: US to Pakistan

Washington: The US has asked Pakistan to ensure that its territory is not used for planning attacks in India, after Prime Minister Narendra Modi said terrorism is being “incubated in India’s neighbourhood”.

“This is one of the steps that the US is encouraging Pakistan to do for the improvement of its relations with India,” a State Department spokesman said on Thursday.

Representational image. AFPRepresentational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

“We believe that Pakistan and India stand to benefit from practical cooperation and encourage direct dialogue aimed at increasing cooperation and reducing tensions,” State Department Deputy Spokesman Mark Toner said.

“And that includes steps by Pakistan to ensure that its territory is not used to plan attacks in India and that Pakistan takes steps to address or to go after, I think, all the terrorist groups that are currently using its territory,” Toner said.

“That continues to be an area of collaboration and cooperation that we pursue with Pakistan is its counterterrorism operations,” he said in response to a question.

Responding to a question, Toner said Pakistan was one of the issues discussed between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Barack Obama.

“Certainly that was one of the discussions, frankly, that was raised at the – or one of the issues, frankly, that was raised in discussions with Prime Minister Modi. They talked about a wide range of regional issues, in fact,” he said.

“Our bilateral relations with India and Pakistan are separate and stand on their own merits, and so I don’t think we – it’s not prudent for us to view our security cooperation in the region in kind of a zero-sum game – or zero-sum terms, rather.

“I think it’s important for the countries of the region that they all have constructive security relationships with each other. And that’s Pakistan, that’s India, and it’s also Afghanistan,” Toner said.

In his address to the joint sitting of US Congress here, Modi had said terrorism has to be fought with “one voice” as he commended the American Parliament for sending out a clear message by refusing to “reward” those who preach and practice terrorism for political gains, an apparent reference to the blocking of sale of 8 F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan.

Modi terms India ‘new engine of growth’; USIBC sees $45 bn investment

Washington: Observing that the world needs a new engine of growth, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday said India is poised to contribute as the new engine of global growth and asserted that a larger Indian economy has “multiple benefits” for the world.

“This is the time when the world needs new engine of growth. It would be nice if the new engines are democratic engines,” Modi said in his address to the American business community at the annual gala of the US India Business Council (USIBC).

File photo of PM Modi during a visit to the US. PTIFile photo of PM Modi during a visit to the US. PTI

File photo of PM Modi during a visit to the US. PTI

“Today India is poised to contribute as a new engine of global growth. A larger Indian economy has multiple benefits for the world,” the Prime Minister said as he listed out the achievements of his government in economic reforms and liberalisation of policies.

As a result, India has now emerged as the one of the fastest growing economies of the world and urged the American businesses to come and invest in India, set up efficient manufacturing units.

“India is much more than a market,” he said, adding that it is a “reliable partner”, as he listed out the key features of a resurgent Indian economy that is geared to become “driver of global economy”.

The Prime Minister said that a larger Indian economy has multiple benefits for the world.

The Prime Minister said as India marches ahead on the path of development, it needs to learn from the America experience, in particular its entrepreneurship, technological advancement and products which ranges from drugs to drones.

“Indeed, to me America is not just has a great past, but it is a country with an exciting future,” the Prime Minister said.

Modi exuded confidence that Indo-US partnership would benefit both the countries.

Modi said his government has taken decisive steps to curb corruption.

“We would continue to have disciplined and prudent macroeconomic policies,” he told the US corporate leadership.

“We would continue to improve the investment climate and ease of doing business,” the Prime Minister said, adding his government wants to make India a destination which not only welcomes businesses but also it is easier to do business.

Modi urged developed countries to open their market.

“We see this as a win-win situation,” he said.

He assured the US corporate world to make its taxation system transparent.

India, he said would continue to open up the defence sector.

“We are exploring a simpler and transparent licensing system. The purchase of six nuclear reactors from Westinghouse which would mark a new era in the field nuclear energy in India,” the PM said.

Clean Ganga campaign is on the verge of taking off. It is a high priority of the Modi government, he said, adding that his aim is to restore Ganga to its pristine glory.

“We have begun our journey to transform India,” he said, adding that this would transform the world and other countries also.

Earlier, Vikas Swarup, spokes person of the ministry of external affairs, tweeted that USIBC has indicated that its members are on track to invest $45 billion more in India.

A statement tweeted by Swarup cited USIBC chairman John Chambers as saying that 20 percent of its members have invested $28 billion in India in less than two years.

Over the next 2-3 years, this momentum is likely to increase as 20 percent more members are likely to make investments in the country, he said. This, he says, means that the investment will be an additional $45 billion, which is a conservative estimate.

“Given Prime Minister Modi’s tracj recors towards implementing Digital India and key economic reforms, we are optimistic that this number will be dramatically exceeded, perhaps even doubled,” Chambers was quoted as saying in the tweeted statement.

With PTI

India clears final hurdle to join Missile Technology Control Regime, diplomats say | Reuters

NEW DELHI The members of the Missile Technology Control Regime, an international anti-proliferation grouping, have agreed to admit India, diplomats said, in a win for Prime Minister Narendra Modi as he met U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington on Tuesday.

Diplomats with direct knowledge of the matter said a deadline for members of the 34-nation group to object to India’s admission had expired on Monday without any raising objections.

Under this ‘silent procedure’, India’s admission follows automatically, diplomats from four MTCR member nations told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

Obama was expected to say he was looking forward to India’s “imminent entry” into the MTCR when he and Modi address the press after their seventh bilateral meeting, sources aware of its agenda said.

Admission to the MTCR would open the way for India to buy high-end missile technology, also making more realistic its aspiration to buy surveillance drones such as the Predator, made by General Atomics.

ARMS EXPORTER

India makes a supersonic cruise missile, the Brahmos, in a joint venture with Russia that both countries hope to sell to third countries, a development that would make India a significant arms exporter for the first time.

Membership of the MTCR would require India to comply with rules such as a maximum missile range of 300 km (186 miles) that seek to prevent arms races from developing.

 

The BrahMos weapon systems are displayed during a full dress rehearsal for the Republic Day parade in New Delhi January 23, 2015. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi/Files

The BrahMos weapon systems are displayed during a full dress rehearsal for the Republic Day parade in New Delhi January 23, 2015. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi/Files

Italy had objected to admitting India but, after an unrelated bilateral dispute was resolved, did not object this time within a 10-day deadline after the group’s chair, the Netherlands, wrote to members suggesting India be welcomed.

An Italian marine, held for four years at the country’s embassy in New Delhi over the killing of two Indian fishermen in an anti-piracy operation in 2012, was recently allowed to return home.

A U.S. congressional source confirmed that India’s membership in the missile control group was expected, as Modi visited Washington. “In my mind, the hurdle was the Italian veto over the Indian arrest of the Italian marine. Now that the marine has been released, I think it appears that yes, admission will be granted,” he said.

No formal meeting is required for India to complete its entry into the group, set up in 1987 to limit the spread of unmanned systems capable of delivering weapons of mass destruction.

The MTCR is one of four international non-proliferation regimes that India, which in recent decades has gone from being a non-aligned outsider to a rising nuclear-weapons power, has been excluded from.

New Delhi has also applied to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), a 48-nation club that governs trade in commercial nuclear technology and was originally set up in response to India’s first atomic weapons test in 1974.

Joining the NSG will be much more difficult because China is a member and has backed the membership aspirations of Pakistan, its ally and India’s arch-rival.

Still, the breakthrough on the MTCR will be welcomed in the U.S. Congress, which Modi will address on Wednesday. Congress ratified a civilian nuclear agreement with India in 2008 that seeks to build commercial ties, while at the same time binding New Delhi into the global security order.

Ahead of the summit, U.S.-based nuclear reactor maker Westinghouse, a unit of Japan’s Toshiba Corp, has made progress towards a deal to build six reactors in India’s southern state of Andhra Pradesh. A deal, if completed, would be the first to stem from the civil nuclear accord.

(Reporting by Douglas Busvine Additional reporting by Patricia Zengerle in Washington; Editing by Mark Trevelyan and James Dalgleish)

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Djokovic and Murray eye milestones in blockbuster Paris final | Reuters

PARIS An 18-year rivalry will play out its next gripping chapter at Roland Garros as Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic eye up a French Open final in which milestones galore will be on the line.

Will Murray become the first British man to lift the French Open trophy in more than eight decades? Or will Djokovic have enough energy left in the tank after playing four days in succession at the rain-ravaged claycourt grand slam to become the first man in almost 50 years to hold all four majors at once?

What is certain though, is that the Musketeers’ Cup will have a new name engraved on it come Sunday — weather permitting — after Djokovic pulled rank on a player he described as “a leader of a new generation” to reach his fourth Paris final in five years.

The world number one’s 6-2 6-1 6-4 win over Austrian tyro Dominic Thiem on Friday had to be staged on the secondary Court Suzanne Lenglen after a week of rain derailed the tournament’s usual schedule.

That left Murray and defending champion Wawrinka to grab Centre Court billing and while the Swiss conjured some blazing backhands to whip the noisy crowd into a frenzy, the winners were rare as he surrendered his Roland Garros crown with a 6-4 6-2 4-6 6-2 defeat by the British second seed.

“I knew today if I wanted to win I was going to have to play one of my best claycourt matches. Stan was playing better every match,” an emotional Murray, who became the first British man to reach the Paris showpiece since Bunny Austin in 1937, told the crowd with a quivering voice.

“I am extremely proud. I never expected to reach the final here, I always struggled on the clay. I played one of my best claycourt matches today… I hope I can put on a good match on Sunday.”

GUNNING FOR HISTORIC WIN

Before that final takes place, Serena Williams will be gunning for grand slam title number 22 on Saturday when she takes on the last woman who beat her at Roland Garros — Spanish fourth seed Garbine Muguruza.

Day 13 of the championships is traditionally men’s semi-final day but after one of the wettest weeks on record in Paris, the women were forced to contest their last-four clashes a day later than expected.

Williams seemed listless, bored and completely out of sorts as she finally clipped the wings of flying Dutchwoman Kiki Bertens 7-6(7) 6-4 to reach her 27th grand slam final.

No doubt feeling rather fed up at having to play a third match in as many days, the American appeared to move in super-slow motion between the points, surrendered her opening service games in both sets and sprayed 31 unforced errors long and wide.

None of that stopped her from winning though.

“I feel like you have to be still mentally alive, and obviously you need to be physically alive and ready for everything,” said the world number one, who will be looking to draw level with Steffi Graf’s professional era record of 22 majors.

Muguruza, who like Djokovic was demoted to Suzanne Lenglen Court for her semi, ended the run of 2010 runner-up Samantha Stosur with a no-nonsense 6-2 6-4 win in front of thousands of empty green chairs in the 10,000-seater arena.

The fans, including one dressed as a bizarre green-horned dragon, could not be kept away once Murray and Wawrinka came out for their highly anticipated semi-final.

With Murray having failed to win a set off Wawrinka in any of their previous three battles dating back to 2013, many expected the Swiss third seed to knife Murray’s French Open dreams with his wondrous backhands — just as he had done to Djokovic in the final 12 months ago.

But in front of an audience that included Rod Laver, the last man to hold all four titles at once when he completed the Grand Slam in 1969, Murray heeded his own war cries of “Let’s go” to give himself a chance to become the first British man to win the Paris title since Fred Perry in 1935.

(Reporting by Pritha Sarkar, editing by John Stonestreet)

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Sri Lankan refugees in India intercepted trying to board boat to Australia | Reuters

CHENNAI, India (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Refugee activists have called on the state of Tamil Nadu to ease restrictions on Sri Lankan refugees living in guarded camps after police intercepted a group who had escaped and were attempting to migrate to Australia.

Campaigners said the case showed how desperate Sri Lankan refugees were to flee India where they have been confined to closed camps for years and have no right to work.

“They are desperate people looking for a dignified life,” said P Pugalenthi, a lawyer who represents refugees in Chennai.

“They are practically imprisoned in camps with no freedom of movement. They need permission to step out of the camps. They cannot buy property, start a business or even legally have access to a mobile phone.”

Over 100,000 Sri Lankans are estimated to have sought refuge in southern India, particularly Tamil Nadu, during the conflict between separatist rebels and the Sri Lankan army which lasted a quarter of a century and ended in 2009.

The Tamil Nadu government runs 109 special camps, housing around 60,000 refugees. They receive an allowance, food and education. Some have been in the camps for two decades and many were born there.

The refugees say if the Indian authorities won’t grant them citizenship they should at least be given the right of free movement in the country.

On Thursday, officials intercepted a truck in Tiruvallur near Chennai where they found 33 refugees missing from four government-run camps. The refugees, including six women and six children, were planning to take a boat to Australia, police said.

“The journey they were going to embark on is very dangerous. They are just being duped by agents, who have been arrested and will be booked under both trafficking laws and the national security act,” coastal security group head Sylendra Babu told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Police said there had been four or five similar attempts by refugees to board boats to Australia in the last three years.

There have been reports of several suicides in the camps this year as well as protests over alleged harassment by authorities.

“They don’t see a future in India with all the existing restrictions,” said V Suresh of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties rights organisation, a human rights organisation.

“Most of them are sitting in camps with no work permits or means to upgrade their skills. Living here has robbed them of their self-respect and they want to escape.”

Smugglers charge 100,000 rupees ($1502) for a one-way journey to Australia, according to investigating officials.

India has hosted many refugees from neighbouring countries over the years but it has no law to define refugees and the status of the Sri Lankan refugees remains ambiguous.

The U.N. refugee agency, which has a limited mandate in India, does not have access to the camps in Tamil Nadu.

Most refugees have refused to go back to Sri Lanka saying the government there has not come up with a clear plan for their reintegration. Many lost everything in the war and cannot see how they would restart their lives. 

($1 = 66.58 rupees)

(Reporting by Anuradha Nagaraj, Editing by Emma Batha; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking and climate change. Visit www.trust.org)

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Family says boy who fell in Cincinnati gorilla area ‘doing well’ | Reuters

CINCINNATI The family of a 3-year-old boy who fell into a gorilla enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo, prompting the killing of the endangered animal in order to rescue the child, said on Wednesday the boy is doing well and suggested donations in the gorilla’s name.

The family, whose name has not been released by police, said it had been offered money, without specifying what the funds were intended for, but said it would not accept financial gifts.

“If anyone wishes to make a gift, we recommend a donation to the Cincinnati Zoo in Harambe’s name,” it said in a statement to Cincinnati NBC affiliate WLWT.

Harambe, a 17-year-old, 450-pound (200-kg) Western lowland silverback, was shot by officials after the boy fell into its enclosure on Saturday. Police are investigating to determine if charges should be filed against the child’s parents.

Witnesses said the boy had expressed a desire to get into the enclosure and climbed over a 3-foot (1-meter) barrier, falling 15 feet (4.6 m) into a moat. Zookeepers took down gorilla after he violently dragged and tossed the child, officials said.

The boy’s mother previously said on Facebook that he suffered a concussion and scrapes but was otherwise fine. In its statement on Wednesday, the family said, “Our child has had a checkup by his doctor and is still doing well. We continue to praise God for His grace and mercy, and to be thankful to the Cincinnati Zoo for their actions taken to protect our child.”

Mounting outrage over Saturday’s killing of Harambe sparked criticism of both the zoo and the child’s parents. Online petitions at change.org drew more than 650,000 signatures demanding “Justice for Harambe.”

The death of the gorilla also prompted the animal rights group Stop Animal Exploitation Now to file a negligence complaint on Tuesday against the zoo with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The group is seeking the maximum penalty of $10,000.

(Writing by Suzannah Gonzales; Editing by Scott Malone and Bill Trott)

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Manchester United appoint Mourinho as manager – Sky Sports News | Reuters

LONDON Manchester United have appointed Jose Mourinho as their new manager, Sky Sports News reported on Thursday.

The 53-year-old Portuguese replaces Dutchman Louis van Gaal whose two-year reign at Old Trafford ended on Monday, two days after United lifted the FA Cup.

The self-styled “Special One”, Mourinho was sacked by Chelsea in December, ending his second spell in charge of the London club. He has also managed Porto, Inter Milan and Real Madrid.

(Editing by Ed Osmond)

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Tata Steel says evaluating bids for UK asset sale | Reuters

MUMBAI Tata Steel Ltd is evaluating bids for British assets it has put on sale, India’s biggest steelmaker said on Wednesday, reporting a smaller fourth-quarter net loss of $478 million.

In March, Tata Steel said it wanted to sell its loss-making operation in Britain, putting 15,000 jobs at risk and highlighting the impact of cheap Chinese imports, high energy costs and a global supply glut.

Earlier on Wednesday, UK Prime Minister David Cameron, who is under pressure to save local jobs, said Tata had received an “encouraging number” of offers but also warned that there were no guarantees of a successful conclusion.

Tata Steel Group Executive Director Koushik Chatterjee told a news conference on Wednesday that the bid deadline was last Monday, but did not comment on the bidders or the timeline of a sale.

Tata Steel posted a consolidated net loss of 32.14 billion rupees ($478 million) for the three months to March, compared with 56.74 billion rupees a year earlier.

Net sales during the fourth fiscal quarter fell 12.5 percent from a year earlier to 291.6 billion rupees.

($1 = 67.2962 rupees)

(Reporting by Promit Mukherjee, writing by Himank Sharma; Editing by Ruth Pitchford)

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Pakistan says can’t confirm Taliban leader Mansour killed in U.S. drone strike | Reuters

ISLAMABAD Pakistan’s interior minister said on Tuesday he could not confirm that Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour had been killed in a U.S. drone strike, and described Washington’s justification for the attack as “against international law”.

U.S. President Barack Obama said on Monday that Mansour had been killed in the drone attack, and the Pentagon said separately that Mansour was plotting attacks that posed “specific, imminent threats” to U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

On Tuesday, Pakistani Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan told reporters that the body recovered near the Afghan border was charred beyond recognition, adding that DNA samples would be tested against a relative who had come forward to claim the body.

“The government of Pakistan cannot announce this without a scientific and legal basis,” Khan told a news briefing.

He did not identify the relative or say whether he or she claimed to be related to the Taliban leader or someone else.

Khan criticised U.S. statements that the drone strike, which he said hit a car on Pakistani soil but was fired “from another country”, was justified because Mansour was plotting attacks.

“For the U.S. government to say that whoever is a threat to them will be targeted wherever they are, that is against international law.

“This could have serious implications for the Pakistan-U.S. relationship,” Khan said, adding that decisions would be made once Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif returned from abroad.

Pakistan and the United States have been uneasy allies in the war against Islamist militants in the region.

U.S. critics accuse Pakistan of allowing the Afghan Taliban’s leadership to take shelter on its territory, something that Islamabad has denied.

The militant movement has made territorial gains and carried out a series of deadly attacks across Afghanistan since NATO forces officially wound down their combat mission at the end of 2014, undermining the Western-backed government in Kabul.

(Writing by Kay Johnson; Editing by Mike Collett-White)

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Bank of India sees better year ahead after Q4 loss | Reuters

MUMBAI Bank of India, the country’s third largest state-run lender by assets, reported a fourth quarter loss, but hopes a gradual upturn in the economy will help to ease the burden of bad loans in its new financial year.

The quarterly loss, at 35.87 billion rupees ($529.92 million), was the third in a row for the Mumbai based lender as it set aside more money to cover a surge in bad loans. It made a net loss of 561.4 million rupees in the same quarter last year.

Including Bank of India, 12 state-run banks have now posted combined losses of 206.43 billion rupees in the March quarter due to a surge in provisions for bad debt after a clean-up ordered by their regulator, Reserve Bank of India.

Melwyn Rego, who took over as Bank of India’s chief executive in August, said it was “cautiously optimistic” about an improved performance in the current fiscal year that began in April, adding the lender’s asset quality was stabilising.

Bank of India’s gross bad loans as a percentage of total loans rose to 13.07 percent in the quarter ended March, from 9.18 percent in December. Provisions, including for loan losses, more than doubled from a year earlier to 54.70 billion rupees.

Stressed loans, which include bad loans and restructured loans, stood at 575.86 billion rupees or 15 percent of total loans as of end-March, the bank said.

Rego also said the bank was lowering exposure to companies and was instead growing its comparatively safer retail loan book including housing loans.

“Our recovery efforts have moved up substantially,” Rego said.

The bank aims to recover 175 billion rupees in the current fiscal year ending March 2017 from some of its bad loans and by upgrading some weak accounts to performing ones, compared with 109.2 billion rupees the previous year, Rego said.

Bank of India also aims to sell 10 billion rupees worth of non-core assets in the current fiscal year.

It is looking to raise as much as 85 billion rupees of capital this fiscal year, including up to 50 billion via share sale, Rego said.

($1 = 67.6900 Indian rupees)

(Writing by Suvashree Dey Choudhury and Devidutta Tripathy; Editing by Mark Potter)

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

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

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

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

(Reporting by Julien Pretot)

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US House of Representatives approves move to bolster defence ties with India

Washington: The US House of Representatives has approved a bipartisan legislative move to bolster defence ties with India and bring it at part with other NATO allies in terms of sale of defence equipment and technology transfer.

Representational image. News18

Representational image. News18

“It seeks to promote greater defence trade and encourage additional military cooperation between the United States and India,” Congressman George Holding said on the floor of the House of Representatives in favour of the amendment in this regard in the National Defence Authorisation Act (NDAA)-2017.

The amendment (Enhancing Defence and Security Co-operation with India) was sponsored by Holding and Ami Bera (House India Caucus Chairs) and Chair and Ranking Member of House Foreign Affairs Committee Ed Royce and Elliot Engel, respectively.

“I believe that by requiring our government to take actions such as strengthening Defence Technology and Trade Initiative and encouraging combined military planning with India, we can make certain that the US-India defence relationship endures,” Holding said.

“Mr Chairman, given the dynamic nature of the Indo-Pacific region and its importance to our own national security and future economic growth, now is the time to build on recent successes and propel the US-India strategic partnership forward,” Holding said.

For the US, it encourages the executive branch to designate an official to focus on US-India defence cooperation, facilitate the transfer of defence technology, maintain a special office in the Pentagon dedicated exclusively to the US-India Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI).

It urges the US government to enhance India’s military capabilities in the context of combined military planning, and promote co-production/co-development opportunities.

For India, it encourages the government to authorise combined military planning with the US for missions of mutual interest such as humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, counter piracy, and maritime domain awareness.

Senators Mark Warner and John Cornyn, the Senate India Caucus Chairs, introduced a similar bill earlier this week in the Senate.

Senator Marco Rubio, the former Republican presidential candidate, became its co-sponsor this week.

It is only when it is passed by the Senate and the House as part of the NDAA-2017, it will head to the White House for US President Barack Obama to be signed into law.

The move has been welcomed by the US-India Business Council (USIBC).

“Now that we have bipartisan support from the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the House India Caucus, we believe this amendment has a good chance of making its way into the House’s version of the defence authorisation bill,” said USIBC president Mukesh Aghi.

Among other things, the House legislative approval requires the Secretary of Defence and Secretary of State to jointly take such actions as may be necessary to recognise India’s status as a major defence partner of the US.

It calls for approving and facilitating the transfer of advanced technology, consistent with US conventional arms transfer policy, to support combined military planning with the Indian military for missions such as humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, counter piracy, and maritime domain awareness missions.

“The Secretary of Defence and Secretary of State shall jointly, on an annual basis, conduct an assessment of the extent to which India possesses strategic operational capabilities to support military operations of mutual interest between the United States and India,” it said.

Sharapova may not play again, says Russia’s Tarpishchev | Reuters

MOSCOW Maria Sharapova may not play again after testing positive for the banned substance meldonium, the president of the Russian tennis federation was quoted as saying on Thursday.

Shamil Tarpishchev told the R-Sport news agency that Sharapova’s situation was “bad”.

The five-times grand slam champion faces a possible ban of up to four years for failing a drugs test at the Australian Open in January.

British media reported that she had been due to attend an International Tennis Federation (ITF) anti-doping hearing in London on Wednesday.

There has been no subsequent comment by the ITF.

Sharapova stunned the world in March when she said she had returned a positive test for the Latvian-made heart medication which was added to the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA’s) banned list from Jan. 1.

The world’s highest-paid sportswoman claimed to have been taking meldonium on doctor’s orders for 10 years and had failed to note that it had become a banned substance until hearing of her failed test at the year’s first grand slam.

She was provisionally suspended on March 12 pending the hearing, and has lost a number of her lucrative sponsorship deals.

She said at the time that she hoped she would be allowed to play again.

The World Anti-Doping Agency WADA said in April, after hundreds of athletes had tested positive for meldonium, that bans might be overturned due to a lack of clear scientific information on how long the drug takes to be excreted.

(Reporting by Alexander Winning; Writing by Dmitry Solovyov/Alan Baldwin, editing by Pritha Sarkar)

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Fed signals interest rate hike firmly on the table for June | Reuters

WASHINGTON U.S. Federal Reserve officials said it would appropriate to raise interest rates in June if economic data points to stronger second-quarter growth as well as firming inflation and employment, according to minutes from their policy meeting last month.

That view, expressed by most of the Fed’s policy-setting committee at the April 26-27 meeting, suggests the U.S. central bank is closer to lifting rates again than Wall Street had expected.

The policymakers said recent data made them more confident inflation was rising toward the Fed’s 2 percent target, and that they were less concerned about a global economic slowdown, according to the minutes, which were released on Wednesday.

“Most participants judged that if incoming data were consistent with economic growth picking up in the second quarter, labor markets continued to strengthen, and inflation making progress toward the committee’s 2 percent objective, then it likely would be appropriate for the committee to increase the target range for the federal funds rate in June,” according to the minutes.

Prices for futures contracts on the Fed’s benchmark overnight lending rate implied that investors saw a 34 percent chance of a rate increase next month, up from 19 percent shortly before the release of the minutes, according to CME Group.

U.S. stocks pared gains and the dollar .DXY extended gains against a basket of currencies after the minutes were released. Treasury yields rose, with the yield on 30-year U.S. government debt rising to a two-week high.

“They are ready to pull the trigger on a rate increase in June,” said Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at BMO Private Bank in Chicago.

Some policymakers at the April meeting expressed concern about a slowdown in U.S. economic growth during the first quarter, when gross domestic product expanded at an annual rate of 0.5 percent, a two-year low.

But others argued that ongoing robust job growth suggested the economy had not gone off the track and that the growth data could be flawed.

“Most pointed to the steady improvement in the labor market as an indicator that the underlying pace of economic activity had likely not deteriorated,” according to the minutes.

Some policymakers said they were concerned financial markets could be roiled by a possible British exit from the European Union in a vote next month or by China’s exchange rate policies.

At its April meeting, the Fed kept its target overnight interest rate in a range of 0.25 percent to 0.50 percent. It hiked rates in December for the first time in nearly a decade.

A global equities sell-off and the tightening of financial markets earlier this year largely due to concerns of a slowdown in China prompted the Fed in March to dial back rate increase expectations for the year.

Even so, the Fed signaled at that time that it would likely lift rates twice this year. Investors have been betting on just one hike.

(Reporting by Jason Lange and Lindsay Dunsmuir; Additional reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak in New York; Editing by Paul Simao)

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Sri Lanka landslide buries three villages; death toll unknown | Reuters

COLOMBO A landslide in Sri Lanka, triggered by more than three days of rain, buried three villages in a central district and the death toll is yet to be determined, government officials and area residents said on Tuesday.

Torrential rains have forced more than 137,000 people from their homes so far and killed at least 11.

Rohan Dias, a deputy police inspector, said rescue operations at the villages in the central district of Kegalle was continuing in the night.

“There were about 150 families in those villages and we don’t know how many survived,” Dias told Reuters.

“There are about 800 people gathered in the nearby temples including the people from the neighbouring villages fearing their villages could also be affected. There are another 400 people in the roads who have come to see their relatives.”

W.M. Abeywickrema, Kegalle district secretary, told a local private channel that around 400 people had been rescued so far.

“I saw a whole rock came down and buried many houses. There are people inside,” one middle-aged woman told the channel.

Military Spokesman Jayanath Jayaweera said 174 service personnel and 8 army officers had been deployed to the rescue area in Aranayaka in Kegalle district.

Troops also have launched rescue operations in inundated areas of the Indian Ocean island, with boats and helicopters pulling more than 200 people trapped in the northwestern coastal district of Puttalam to safety, officials said.

“This is the worst torrential rain we have seen since 2010,” said Pradeep Kodippili, a spokesman for the disaster management centre. Nineteen of Sri Lanka’s 25 districts have been hit.

Heavy rains have also struck the neighbouring Indian states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala. More than 100 houses were damaged in coastal Kerala and about 50 families had been shifted to a relief camp in the state capital, Thiruvananthapuram, a state official said.

The weather department has forecast heavy rains across Tamil Nadu over the next two days and warned fishermen not to go out to sea.

Flooded roads and fallen trees led to traffic jams in the Sri Lankan capital, Colombo. Trains were halted as water submerged railway tracks, officials said.

Flooding and drought are cyclical in Sri Lanka, which is battered by a southern monsoon between May and September, while a northeastern monsoon runs from December to February.

(Writing by Shihar Aneez; editing by Ralph Boulton)

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Bangladesh Bank heist probe finds three hacker groups – Bloomberg | Reuters

Investigators probing the cyber theft of $81 million from Bangladesh’s central bank have discovered evidence of unidentified hacking groups from North Korea, Pakistan and one other place inside the bank’s network, Bloomberg reported, citing two people briefed on the progress of the bank’s investigation.

FireEye Inc (FEYE.O), the company hired by the bank to conduct the forensics investigation identified digital fingerprints of the hacking groups, the two people told Bloomberg.

It was the third group, whose identity and country of origin is unknown, that pulled off the heist, Bloomberg reported.

Reuters was unable to independently confirm the findings.

FireEye has not found enough data to determine whether the third group, described by the company as the actual culprit, was a criminal network or the agent of another nation, Bloomberg reported.

FireEye spokesman Vitor de Souza declined to comment.

(Reporting by Anya George Tharakan in Bengaluru; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty)

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