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China will give back seized drone, criticises U.S. hyping up the issue | Reuters

By Ben Blanchard
| BEIJING

BEIJING China’s Defence Ministry said on Saturday it had been in talks with the United States about returning an underwater drone taken by a Chinese naval vessel in the South China Sea, but the U.S. was not helping by “hyping up” the issue.The drone was taken on Thursday, the first seizure of its kind in recent memory, about 50 nautical miles northwest of Subic Bay off the Philippines, just as the USNS Bowditch was about to retrieve the unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV), U.S. officials said.The Defence Ministry said a Chinese naval vessel discovered a piece of “unidentified equipment” and checked it to prevent any navigational safety issues, before discovering it was a U.S. drone.”China decided to return it to the U.S. side in an appropriate manner, and China and the U.S. have all along been in communication about it,” the ministry said on its website.”During this process, the U.S. side’s unilateral and open hyping up is inappropriate, and is not beneficial to the smooth resolution of this issue. We express regret at this,” it added.U.S. President-elect Donald Trump weighed in to the row on Saturday, tweeting: “China steals United States Navy research drone in international waters – rips it out of water and takes it to China in unprecedented act.”Without directly saying whether the drone was operating in waters China considers its own, the ministry said U.S. ships and aircraft have for a long period been carrying out surveillance and surveys in “the presence” of Chinese waters.”China is resolutely opposed to this, and demands the U.S. stops this kind of activity,” it said.

China will remain on alert for these sorts of activities and take necessary steps to deal with them, the ministry said without elaborating.Earlier, the Global Times, published by the ruling Communist Party’s official People’s Daily, cited an unidentified Chinese source as saying they believed the issue would be resolved smoothly.The United States says the drone was operating lawfully.”The UUV was lawfully conducting a military survey in the waters of the South China Sea,” a U.S. official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. “It’s a sovereign immune vessel, clearly marked in English not to be removed from the water – that it was U.S. property,” the official said.

The Pentagon confirmed the incident at a news briefing on Friday, and said the drone used commercially available technology and sold for about $150,000.Still, the Pentagon viewed China’s seizure seriously since it had effectively taken U.S. military property.”It is ours, and it is clearly marked as ours and we would like it back. And we would like this not to happen again,” Pentagon spokesman Jeff Davis said.

HEIGHTENED CONCERNS
The seizure will add to concerns about China’s increased military presence and aggressive posture in the disputed South China Sea, including its militarization of maritime outposts.A U.S. research group said this week that new satellite imagery indicated China has installed weapons, including anti-aircraft and anti-missile systems, on all seven artificial islands it has built in the South China Sea.The drone seizure coincided with sabre-rattling from Chinese state media and some in its military establishment after Trump cast doubt on whether Washington would stick to its nearly four-decades-old policy of recognising that Taiwan is part of “one China.”Those comments came after Trump took a telephone call from Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen on Dec. 2, prompting a diplomatic protest from China.President Barack Obama said on Friday it was appropriate for Trump to take a fresh look at U.S. policy toward Taiwan, but he cautioned that a shift could lead to significant consequences in the U.S. relationship with Beijing, as the notion that Taiwan is part of “one China” is central to China’s view of itself as a nation. (Additional reporting by Josephine Mason and Meng Meng; Editing by Ian Geoghegan)

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

First Published On : Dec 17, 2016 20:56 IST

Philippines’ Duterte ‘bye-bye America’ and we don’t need your money | Reuters

MANILA Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte told the United States on Saturday to prepare for repeal of an agreement on deployment of troops and equipment for exercises, declaring “bye-bye America”, and we don’t need your money.But Duterte suggested relations could improve under a President Donald Trump. “I like your mouth, it’s like mine, yes Mr President. We are similar and people with the same feathers flock together.” Returning his focus to the present U.S. administration which has criticised him over reports of extra-judicial killings in his campaign against drugs, he said:”We do not need you,” Duterte said in a news conference after arriving from visits to Cambodia and Singapore. “Prepare to leave the Philippines. Prepare for the eventual repeal or abrogation of the VFA.”

The Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), signed in 1998, accorded legal status to thousands of U.S. troops who were rotated in the country for military exercises and humanitarian assistance operations.”Bye, bye America and work on the protocols that will eventually move you out of the Philippines,” he said, adding his decision would come “any day soon” after reviewing another military deal, Enhanced Defence Cooperation Agreement.

The firebrand leader was visibly upset and vented his anger on Washington because of a decision by the Millennium Challenge Corp (MCC) board to defer vote on the re-selection of Manila for compact development due to human rights issues.

“We do not need the money. China said they will provide so many,” he said. “The politics here in Southeast Asia is changing.” (Reporting by Karen Lema, Manuel Mogato and Neil Jerome Morales; Editing by Alison Williams)

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

First Published On : Dec 16, 2016 18:01 IST

Legion claims to have hacked the email accounts of 74,000 chartered accountants, banks

Hacking group Legion now claims it has hacked into the emails of 74,000 chartered accountants across India, The Times of India said on Thursday.

The newspaper said that it has received a link from the hacker group during an interview over an encrypted chat platform, offering access to a list of emails and passwords of some major Indian institutions including banks and chartered accounts that the group claims to have hacked.

Representational image

Representational image

The newspaper quoted a member of the group as saying:

We have dumpz from all the major institutions…all the major banks and passwords…of all da chartered accountants in INDIA. And those that had the same pw on Dropbox? Too bad, they got owned and all the dox were dumped. The people they work for? Too bad for them too. Raw data brings chaos (sic).”

The group, the report said, would also release more raw data from the hack.

The hacker group, which goes by the name Legion (Legion Crew according to The Washington Post), has become a sensation in India after it claimed to have carried out the well-publicised hacks of some high profile Twitter accounts including former liquor baron Vijay Mallya, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi and journalists Barkha Dutt and Ravish Kumar. The group recently claimed that it has also hacked into the account of former IPL chief Lalit Modi, and would soon be releasing all the data on a public platform.

Just two days ago, the group in an interview with FactorDaily.com, said that it has hacked government emails hosted on Sansad.nic.in. The hacker group had also claimed to have dumped emails of journalist Dutt in the public domain.

Incidentally, there have been contradicting reports about the group’s identity and location; while some claimed it to be based out of eastern Europe, others including The Times of India and The Washington Post claimed the group to be based in India. The group in its various interviews has claimed themselves to be drug-loving, cyber criminals who just want to create chaos.

First Published On : Dec 15, 2016 15:31 IST

Fed hikes rate: Indian inflation may quicken, dollar inflows slow but growth is insulated

The raising of interest rates by the US Federal Reserve was more or less buffered in by the market this time. The reason is that there has generally been consistency in its approach to rate changes depending on the unemployment rate which is almost predefined at 4.6 percent which indicates that the economy is growing.

Growth is always positive for any economy and a rate hike cannot be justified except on grounds of inflation increasing or rather potentially displaying such tendencies. This is different in India where inflation is basically a cost side phenomenon and rarely do we have a situation where higher growth engenders high inflation in the range of say 10% which is almost always a food shock led rate.

The US Federal Reserve building in Washington. ReutersThe US Federal Reserve building in Washington. Reuters

The US Federal Reserve building in Washington. Reuters

What one can conclude here is that the Federal Reserve will continue to increase rates in 2017 and while 50-100 bps can be taken to be certain, higher threat of inflation can lead to a more aggressive stance. However such a conjecture can be checkmated by the new President Donald Trump who has pledged to push for growth with tax cuts and aggressive expenditure.

In such a scenario his view would run counter to the Fed and it will be interesting to see in case he pressurises the Fed to act in a different manner. Hence the test will really be whether or not the Fed can work independently from the government. This is an issue which comes up often in India about the central banks’s independence.

What are the implications of this rate hike for the rest of the world? Higher rates have an impact on two variables which no country, including India, can escape. The first is the flow of investment. Higher rates in the US automatically mean that debt earns better rates back home and with the US being the biggest investor the flow to emerging markets will slow down.

It may be recollected that the QE programmes of the Fed coupled with almost zero interest rates had caused investment to flow to emerging markets which were the faster growing ones. This was helped by the fact that growth was stronger in these countries. Now with growth prospects in the US being better, no support for QE which has been withdrawn and higher rates in the US to prevail, investment is bound to remain in the US with the possibility of reverse flow from developing countries also possible.

Second higher rates is symptomatic of a strong country which, in turn, makes the currency stronger. Hence if the Fed keeps increasing rates the dollar will keep strengthening. This is so as higher rates get in more dollars thus improving the balance of payments. This, in turn, will make other currencies fall.

What does this mean for India?

First there will be pressure on FPI flows. Investment in equities will be driven by other factors. But those in debt will be under pressure. This is so as our rates are coming down at a time when Fed is increasing rates. This will widen the rate differential for investors. Add to this a weaker rupee and the outflows from debt will start. At best there would be no outflow but inflows will slow down sharply.

Second is the issue of the rupee-dollar rate. The rupee will fall both because our fundamentals will weaken and that we have to keep up with the currency falls in other countries. The RBi will have a role to play here. In the past also we have seen similar challenges.

Third the RBI interest rate policy, however, will not be affected much as it is being driven by inflation trends. Hence there will be no impact on its policy formulation.

Hence, the Fed rate hike should not be looked at as a single measure. This is the start if a series of rate hikes which can be punctuated only by Donald Trump’s ideas. The dollar will strengthen and investments flow will reverse and move back to the US. India cannot escape both these repercussions though interest rate policy will remain independent. Inflation can rise if rupee falls sharply, but overall growth should be insulated given that ours is a domestic oriented and driven economy.

The author is chief economist, Care Ratings. Views are personal

First Published On : Dec 15, 2016 09:47 IST

Yahoo says one billion accounts exposed in newly discovered security breach | Reuters

By Jim Finkle and Anya George Tharakan

Yahoo Inc (YHOO.O) warned on Wednesday that it had uncovered yet another massive cyber attack, saying data from more than 1 billion user accounts was compromised in August 2013, making it the largest breach in history. The number of affected accounts was double the number implicated in a 2014 breach that the internet company disclosed in September and blamed on hackers working on behalf of a government. News of that attack, which affected at least 500 million accounts, prompted Verizon Communication Inc (VZ.N) to say in October that it might withdraw from an agreement to buy Yahoo’s core internet business for $4.83 billion. Following the latest disclosure, Verizon said, “we will review the impact of this new development before reaching any final conclusions.” A Yahoo spokesman told Reuters that the company has been in communication with Verizon during its investigation into the breach and that it is confident the incident will not affect the pending acquisition.Yahoo required all of its customers to reset their passwords – a stronger measure than it took after the previous breach was discovered, when it only recommended a password reset.

Yahoo also said Wednesday that it believes hackers responsible for the previous breach had also accessed the company’s proprietary code to learn how to forge “cookies” that would allow hackers to access an account without a password.”Yahoo badly screwed up,” said Bruce Schneier, a cryptologist and one of the world’s most respected security experts. “They weren’t taking security seriously and that’s now very clear. I would have trouble trusting Yahoo going forward.”Yahoo was tentative in its description of new problems, saying the incident was “likely” distinct from the one it reported in September and that stolen information “may have included” names, e-mail addresses, telephone numbers, dates of birth, hashed passwords and, in some cases, encrypted or unencrypted security questions and answers.

It said it had not yet identified the intrusion that led to the massive data theft and noted that payment-card data and bank account information were not stored in the system the company believes was affected.Yahoo said it discovered the breach while reviewing data provided to the company by law enforcement. FireEye Inc’s (FEYE.O) Mandiant unit and Aon Plc’s (AON.N) Stroz Friedberg are assisting in the investigation, the Yahoo spokesman told Reuters.The breach is the latest setback for Yahoo, an internet pioneer that has fallen on hard times in recent years after being eclipsed by younger, fast-growing rivals including Alphabet Inc’s (GOOGL.O) Google and Facebook Inc (FB.O).

Hours before it announced the breach on Wednesday, executives with Google, Facebook and other large U.S. technology companies met with President-elect Donald Trump in New York. Reflecting its diminished stature, Yahoo was not invited to the summit, according to people familiar with the meeting.The Yahoo spokesman said Chief Executive Marissa Mayer was at the company’s Sunnyvale, California headquarters to assist in addressing the new breach. Yahoo shares were down 2.4 percent to $39.91 in extended trading. Verizon shares were little changed from their close at $51.63. (Reporting by Jim Finkle in Boston and Anya George Tharakan in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Dustin Volz in Washington and Jessica Toonkel in New York; Editing by Savio D’Souza, Bernard Orr)

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

First Published On : Dec 15, 2016 05:54 IST

DNA Morning Must Reads: VVIP chopper scam lands ex-IAF chief SP Tyagi in jail; Russia helped Trump win White House; and more

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>1. VVIP chopper scam lands ex-IAF chief SP Tyagi in jailCBI arrested the ex-air chief, his cousin in Rs 3,726-crore AgustaWestland scam. Read more.2. With massive I-T raids held across country, CBDT seeks more manpower”It is the assessment of the intelligence community that Russia’s goal here was to favour one candidate over the other, to help Trump get elected,” the The Washington Post quoted a senior US official as saying. Read more.3. CIA says Russia intervened to help Donald Trump win White House: Report​Trump initially declined to accept his withdrawal. Read more.4. Junior Hockey World Cup: Samajwadi Party ‘goons’ threaten Japanese team in UPIt came as a shock to the Japanese team, having lost its second consecutive game to Spain 1-4 on Friday, as they were going back to their hotel from the Major Dhyan Chand Stadium. Read more.5. ATS sketches mystery man who recruited Thane youth for ISISATS identified the man who is believed to have indoctrinated Maharashtra youth to join IS as Ali. Read more.

‘Very impressed’ with Petraeus as he weighs top diplomat job – Trump | Reuters

By Steve Holland and Melissa Fares
| NEW YORK

NEW YORK President-elect Donald Trump stepped up his search on Monday for a new U.S. secretary of state, with the focus on David Petraeus, a former U.S. military commander in Iraq whose mishandling of classified information led to his resignation as CIA chief in 2012. “Just met with General Petraeus–was very impressed!” Trump said on Twitter shortly after Petraeus, a retired general, left an hour-long meeting with the Republican winner of the Nov. 8 election at Trump Tower in Manhattan.Trump’s consideration of Petraeus, who has also been mentioned as a contender for the top job at the Pentagon – adds a new layer of drama to his unusually public deliberations over the top diplomatic job for his administration. Petraeus, who led international forces in both Iraq and Afghanistan, was sentenced to two years’ probation and fined $100,000 last year for the unauthorised removal and retention of classified information.He admitted sharing classified information with his biographer, with whom he was having an affair. The scandal forced Petraeus to resign from the CIA in 2012.Petraeus said after meeting Trump that the New York businessman “basically walked us around the world” in their discussion. “He showed a great grasp of the variety of challenges that are out there and some of the opportunities as well,” Petraeus told reporters.Trump, who takes office on Jan. 20, plans to hold talks with Mitt Romney on Tuesday in his second recent meeting with the 2012 Republican presidential nominee.A Republican source close to the transition team said it had appeared late last week that Trump was leaning toward choosing Romney as his secretary of state but that the appearance of Petraeus at Trump Tower suggested the president-elect was still undecided and casting a wider net for the position.

U.S. Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani are also in the mix for the job of America’s top diplomat, Trump aides say.Frances Townsend, a national security aide during the administration of Republican President George W. Bush, also met Trump on Monday.PETRAEUS TROUBLES

Petraeus’ past mishandling of classified documents is unlikely to be an obstacle to Trump offering him a top government post, said a source who has advised the transition team on national security. That is despite Trump harshly criticizing Democratic rival Hillary Clinton during the election campaign for using a private email server while she was secretary of state.Trump often compared the prosecution of Petraeus with the lack of legal action against Clinton, who was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation but never charged with any offence.”Just based on his public statements, I think (Trump) sees Petraeus as a good man who made a mistake, who did a fraction of what other people have done and received a lot more punishment,” Among the Trump transition team, Petraeus and Romney are supported by Republicans looking for a candidate with gravitas who can unify the party, the source said.

Giuliani is favoured by loyalists who worked on the election campaign. Kellyanne Conway, his campaign manager, has said Romney would cause a backlash among his supporters.Ideological conservatives hope Trump picks John Bolton, the former ambassador to the United Nations, the source said. Corker is well regarded, but some in the Trump camp do not want too many senators coming into the Cabinet, the source said.Trump arrived back in New York on Sunday after several days in Florida for Thanksgiving. He caused a stir on Sunday when he alleged on Twitter that “serious voter fraud” had occurred in the presidential election in New Hampshire, Virginia, and California – states won by Clinton – but provided no evidence to back his assertion.The White House said on Monday there had been no evidence of widespread election fraud in the presidential contest, and all three states rejected Trump’s allegation. New Hampshire’s deputy secretary of state, David Scanlan, said: “There’s no evidence that we’ve seen that supports claims like that. Voter fraud does occur, but it occurs in isolated instances.”California Secretary of State Alex Padilla called Trump’s allegations unsubstantiated and Virginia Commissioner of Elections Edgardo Cortes said they were unfounded. (Additional reporting by David Brunnstrom in Washington and Julia Harte in Washington; Writing by Alistair Bell and Roberta Rampton; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Peter Cooney)

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

First Published On : Nov 29, 2016 04:02 IST

Fidel Castro’s death receives mixed response on Twitter

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Fidel Castro, the Cuban revolutionary leader who built a communist state at the doorstep of the United States (US) and for five decades defied US’ efforts to topple him, died on Friday at the age of 90, state-run Cuban Television said. The bearded leader took power in a 1959 revolution and ruled Cuba for 49 years with a mix of charisma and iron will, creating a one-party state and becoming a central figure in the Cold War. He was demonised by the US and its allies but admired by many leftists around the world, especially socialist revolutionaries in Latin America and Africa. Transforming Cuba from a playground for rich Americans into a symbol of resistance to Washington, Castro outlasted nine US presidents in power.Castro was famous for long, fist-pounding speeches filled with blistering rhetoric, often aimed at the United States. At home, he swept away capitalism and won support for bringing schools and hospitals to the poor. But he also created legions of enemies and critics, concentrated among Cuban exiles in Miami who fled his rule and saw him as a ruthless tyrant. In the end it was not the efforts of Washington and Cuban exiles nor the collapse of Soviet communism that ended his rule. Instead, illness forced him to cede power to his younger brother Raul Castro, provisionally in 2006 and definitively in 2008. Fidel’s death—which would once have thrown a question mark over Cuba’s future, seems unlikely to trigger a crisis as Raul, 85, is firmly ensconced in power.As expected for a leader mired in controversy, Fidel Castro’s death has sparked fierce debate on Twitter, with some celebrating the death of a tyrant, while others mourned the loss of a revolutionary idol. Both Indian President Pranab Mukherjee as well as Prime Minister Narendra Modi took to social media to express their sympathies. “Heartfelt condolences on the demise of Cuba’s revolutionary leader, former President and friend of India, Fidel Castro,” the President said on Twitter. Meanwhile, Modi wrote, “I extend my deepest condolences to the Government and people of Cuba on the demise of Fidel Castro. May his soul rest in peace. We stand in support with the Cuban Government and people in this tragic hour. Fidel Castro was one of the most iconic personalities of the 20th century. India mourns the loss of a great friend.” Even Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah piped up saying, “My condolences. He built a modern and socialistic sic Cuba against great odds.”Some Twitter users were not pleased by the remarks. “He murdered thousands and displaced millions, yes praise him some more!” wrote @Deplorable_Pel. “No offense,” said @TFerrandino, “But…why would you guys have been friends with that dictator?” Another, @AnaMyID, wrote, “Cuban Americans and political prisoners still rotting in Cuban jails might feel differently.” Indeed, Twitteratti around the world seemed to largely celebrate the leader’s death. “The one nice thing about Fidel Castro living a long life is that he got to see communism fail everywhere,” wrote John Henke, while another, Jarrod Bolin, said, “Fidel Castro imprisoned people for political reasons. He made ‘unauthorised news’ a crime. I won’t venerate him.” Tim young added, “Fidel Castro died… which marks the first time since the revolution that he’s done something to make Cubans happy.” —With Agency Inputs

Indo-US ties are too dynamic, pulling back not in interest of anyone: Biswal

Washington: Indo-US ties are so broad and dynamic that pulling back on any aspect will not be in the interest of anyone, a top American official has said while observing that the next administration may want to add their own new areas of focus in the bilateral relationship.

“India-US relations will have to move beyond government to government. India-US relations are global, but they should also be local,” Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Nisha Desai Biswal told a Washington audience.

Speaking on the occasion of launch of “US-India State and Urban Initiative” by Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a top American think-tank, Biswal stressed on building state to state relationships.

“Every successive administration is going to add some new areas of cooperation. The US-India relations are so broad, so complex, and so dynamic that pulling back on any aspect will not be in the interest of anyone,” Biswal said.

“The next administration will understand that, and might want to build on, and might want to add their own new areas of focus. That doesn’t mean that they will move away from what has already been built,” Biswal said in response to a question.

“The demand in India for new technologies and capital is high, and the desire in many places in the US to seek new areas of partnership with India is also high,” she said pointing out that India-US economic ties are responding to demands that already exist.

Representational image. News 18Representational image. News 18

Representational image. News 18

Amos J Hochstein, Special Envoy in the State Department’s Bureau of Energy Resources, said India and the US are working together on addressing regulatory issues.

“The issues are plenty. Steady goals are extremely important to set the direction of where the country is going. But beyond setting the goals, there have to be follow ups. You can’t simply say that I am going to create 175 GW of renewable energy if you cannot solve some of the fundamental problems that do not allow that to happen,” he said.

“India is the best place in the world to invest in renewable energy. But the regulatory environment and all the issues related to financing will have to be resolved for that to happen,” he asserted.

“Just like the US where the regulatory authority of the federal government is rather limited…the states in the US have all the power. They will decide the future of their own state. The same is true in India. In addition to what central government is doing, what is happening at the state and local levels are also very important,” Hochstein said.

First Published On : Nov 20, 2016 18:57 IST

Google, an Obama ally, may face policy setbacks under Trump | Reuters

By David Shepardson, Malathi Nayak and Julia Love
| WASHINGTON/SAN FRANCISCO

WASHINGTON/SAN FRANCISCO Alphabet Inc’s Google faces a tougher regulatory landscape as U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s incoming administration looks poised to reverse Obama administration policies that often favored the internet giant in the company’s battles with telecoms and cable heavyweights, analysts say.Google had close ties with outgoing Democratic President Barack Obama’s administration, and its employees donated much more to defeated Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton than to the Republican Trump.In the most concrete sign yet that the tech policy balance may be tipping in favor of telecom firms ahead of Trump’s presidency, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission on Wednesday halted action on contentious regulatory reform measures opposed by companies such as AT&T Inc and CenturyLink Inc.In addition, the commission is now expected to reject FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s high-profile proposal to open up the $20 billion market for rented pay-TV set-top boxes, according to two people with knowledge of the matter. That measure would have dealt a big blow to cable companies and created an opening for firms such as Google and Apple Inc.Obama had thrown his support behind the initiative, a move AT&T decried as an improper intervention on behalf of what it called a “Google proposal.””Google has been much more actively involved in this than Apple has,” said Jan Dawson, analyst at Jackdaw Research. “I’m not sure it’s critical to Google’s business at all that it be allowed to provide these next generation set-top boxes, but there was a business opportunity there.”Cable companies have expressed concerns that rivals like Google or Apple could create devices or apps and insert their own content or advertising in cable content.The FCC’s moves came a day after Republican lawmakers urged Wheeler, a Democrat, to avoid any contested regulations in the waning days of the Obama administration, saying new rules would be subject to review by the incoming Republican-led Congress and Trump’s administration and “could create confusion if reversed.””The question is how far will the pendulum swing back” in favor of telecom companies, said Hal Singer, senior fellow at the George Washington Institute of Public Policy. “It has swung in Google’s direction under the FCC and Chairman Wheeler.” Among other regulations, Trump’s Nov. 8 election has increased the chances that Obama’s net neutrality rules, adopted by the FCC in early 2015, could be rolled back, analysts said.

Most Republicans strongly oppose net neutrality, which requires internet service providers to treat all data equally and bars them from obstructing or slowing down consumer access to web content. The rules were a victory for internet firms like Google and Netflix Inc that have advocated an open internet.Jimmy Schaeffler, telecom industry consultant at the Carmel Group, said that “the bottom line is that things will change and there will be less optimism among and fewer opportunities” for companies like Google that do not own the internet networks.”That’s going to impede their success and those that rely on what they do,” Schaeffler added.Republicans in Congress or at a Republican-controlled FCC under a Trump administration could also pare back new privacy rules adopted in October that subject internet service providers to stricter rules than those faced by Google and other websites.Since Trump’s victory, Alphabet shares have fallen 2.4 percent, Netflix shares have dropped 5.9 percent and Amazon shares are down 2 percent. AT&T Inc and Verizon Communications Inc shares have been relatively unchanged, while Comcast Corp shares have soared 7.7 percent.

Google did not respond to requests for comment.EXTENSIVE TIES
During Obama’s presidency, more than 250 people moved between jobs at Google or related firms and the federal government, national political campaigns and Congress, according to a report this year by the Campaign for Accountability watchdog group’s Google Transparency Project.Eric Schmidt, Alphabet’s executive chairman, was seen at Clinton’s Election Night party wearing a staff badge in a widely circulated photo.

In the stolen and leaked emails of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta disclosed by WikiLeaks, an adviser wrote a memo to Clinton in 2014 that said “working relationships with Google, Facebook, Apple, and other technology companies were important to us in 2012 and should be even more important to you in 2016, given their still-ascendent positions in the culture.””We have begun having discreet conversations with some of these companies to get a sense of their priorities for the coming cycle,” the adviser wrote.Telecoms and cable companies have accused Wheeler of favoring Google at the expense of cable companies. Responding to the criticism, Wheeler said in May: “I hear that allegation, and I scratch my head. I don’t get that charge.””Certainly the sort of cozy relationship that Google enjoyed with the Obama administration is not going to continue with Trump,” Jackdaw Research’s Dawson added.Some analysts and former Google lobbyists noted that the company similarly faced a set of challenging regulatory dynamics when it opened its Washington office in 2005, with Republicans controlling the White House and both houses of Congress and the young tech firm widely perceived to have a liberal bent.”They have a tailwind (in the Obama administration), and that does end now,” a former Google employee at the company’s Washington office said. “But I think in the long run Google is going to be just fine in Washington. In many ways, its whole operation was built just for moments like this.” (Reporting by David Shepardson and Malathi Nayak in Washington and Julia Love in San Francisco; Additional reporting by Diane Bartz, Editing by Soyoung Kim and Will Dunham)

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

First Published On : Nov 17, 2016 23:24 IST

US election 2016: Eight things common between Narendra Modi and Donald Trump

File images of Narendra Modi and Donald Trump. PTI and AP

File images of Narendra Modi and Donald Trump. PTI and AP

Narendra Modi is not India’s Donald Trump. Nor is Trump the American version of Modi. As their personalities go, both are the polar opposite of each other. While Modi whispers, Trump bugles across oceans. And unlike Modi who packs in subtle metaphors to make a point, Trump has no qualms about mouthing vulgar words (f**k and p***y). While Trump was an electoral greenhorn and a businessman, Modi had seen and won elections before and had been an ideologue, even though his ideology raises the hackles of many.

But there were many commonalities — I see at least eight — during the run-up to their respective campaigns for the office of the prime minister of India and the White House.

Both had a message

Unlike their rivals, both Narendra Modi in 2014 and Donald Trump in 2016 had a message to deliver and an agenda to unravel to the voters. Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton was so busy rebutting Trump that she forgot to offer a meaningful to-do list of her own for the Americans. Likewise, the leaders of the Congress and Modi’s other rivals spent most of their time painting him as a communalist who could only divide the nation. But undaunted, both Modi and Trump dished out what mattered to the voters: jobs for instance. They persuaded voters to give them a chance.

Both hated status quo

That’s what the voters adored about them. The Indian voters had no doubt that the Congress, if elected again, would offer them nothing more than the status quo as prevailed during UPA-1 and UPA-2 which, to them, largely meant scams. And Hillary looked to be no more than the continuation of the Barack Obama legacy which left large sections craving for more. Trump and Modi vowed to shake up the status quo, promising a change and a better tomorrow, which was what voters in both countries wanted.

Even their victory tweets stuck to this theme of change:

They spoke against corruption

During the 2014 poll campaign, one of Narendra Modi’s main chants was corruption, which he described as a termite that was eating away the Indian system. He said the BJP “is for a mission and the Congress is for a commission”. By repatriating black money stashed abroad, by simplifying tax regime and by expanding e-governance, Modi promised to reduce corruption. This seemed to make sense to many voters. Now they know they weren’t wrong.

As for Trump, he thundered at a rally: “Real change also means draining the swamp of corruption in Washington… If we want to make America great again, we must clean up this corruption.”

For the blue-collar white workers who think of the Washington-driven system as an epitome of corruption and wheeling-dealing, Trump seemed to be the man with a large broom to tidy up things.

Both are considered “outsiders”

A billionaire property tycoon who had never held an office, Trump is deemed to be an “outsider” to the system. So was Dwight Eisenhower who became the President in 1953. Washington Post writer EJ Dionne Jr said: “…Insiderism is unpopular this year. But, because of who Trump really is, his phoney outsider-ism is a far bigger threat to our country.”

Considering that Trump’s own financial reputation was not lily-white, many wonder whether he really is an “outsider” to the corruption that oils the American political machine. But the voters — at least half of them — thought he was. Better still for Trump, they thought he was an “anti-establishment rebel”.

Modi too is an outsider, at least to Lutyen’s Delhi. In an interview to Network18 Group Editor Rahul Joshi on 2 September, Modi said: “In Delhi’s power corridors, there’s an active group of people, which is dedicated to only a few. It could be because of their own reasons or personal gains…”

Dividers and disrupters

Modi was accused of having an agenda against minorities which his rivals said would divide India horribly. All that Modi spoke up against was the appeasement of minorities which, of course, was interpreted by rivals as the rattling of the communal sabre.

On the other hand, Trump openly spoke not only against Muslims but also included in his sweep of razor-sharp comments the immigrants, the LGBT community and even women in a way that stunned the US and the world. Trump also promised to be a disrupter when he raved against trade and other agreements starting with NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement). Whatever the reason why each was called a disrupter and a divider, both Modi and Trump picked up votes.

Media didn’t get along with both

The media didn’t get along with both Trump and Modi in their respective countries. Forget the “liberals” who populate the American media, the press there has a lot against the President-elect: Xenophobia, misogyny, gropings, cuss words, tax evasion, financial wrongdoing in his real-estate business. But the Indian media hadn’t proven any allegations against Modi, at least as yet.

If Modi got away with the Indian media, it’s also partly because the hostility is more or less confined to some English newspapers and channels. And Trump got away with a bad press because voters apparently didn’t care much for it.

Branding of voters

All those who voted for Modi were branded as communal. Similarly, all those who plumped for Trump are being called racist. The American liberals, be they in media or politics, are making the mistake of not investigating the real reasons why Trump got votes.

In the case of Modi, India’s liberals never asked themselves why so many people voted for a man whom they had portrayed as the personification of evil.

The ticking of doomsday clock

Trump-baiters were quick to announce after his election that the doomsday clock was ticking, as did the anti-Modi lobbies. Well, Modi is halfway into his term, and India is still in one piece. Though the man himself maintains a sphinx-like silence, the Hindu voice, both of the sane and insane kinds, is louder now, but India is not doing badly. He has just scrapped Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes.

As for Trump, wait and watch.

Views are personal. The author tweets @sprasadindia

First Published On : Nov 11, 2016 21:06 IST

Rs 500, Rs 1000 ban: IMF supports demonitisation but cautions against disruptions in economy

Rs 500, Rs 1000 ban: IMF supports demonitisation but cautions against disruptions in economy

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Washington: The IMF said on Friday that it supports India’s efforts to fight corruption through the currency control measures announced this week, but stressed taking care to minimize disruptions in the economy.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

Indian banks reopened on Friday for the first time since the government’s decision to withdraw the two largest denomination notes from circulation in a shock move designed to tackle widespread corruption and tax evasion.

“We support the measures to fight corruption and illicit financial flows in India,” IMF spokesman Gerry Rice told reporters.

“Of course given the large role of cash in everyday transactions in India’s economy, the currency transition will have to be managed prudently to minimize possible disruptions.”

Some banks in the capital New Delhi had received the new 2,000 rupee ($30) bill and a number of ATMs were working again on Friday, two days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the 500 and 1,000 rupee notes would no longer be legal tender in a blitz against tax evasion and corruption.

Five Russian banks hit by cyber attacks

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

‘Defence, counter-terror to be key to Indo-US ties under Trump’

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Defence and counter-terrorism would be two key pillars of Indo-US strategic ties under Donald Trump, his top military advisor has said while asserting that India will be “absolutely critical” to the Republican candidate’s foreign policy as president.”This is a country that shares our values, this is a country that shares a lot of geo-political interest and I think, his (Trump’s) work is going to be continuing the tradition of Bush Administration which made a lot of progress in that regard,” said Alexander Gray, a senior military advisor and author of several of the ambitious defence policies of Trump.”We (Trump Administration) would be looking to strengthen not just the cultural and economic aspect, but also on the defence side there is so much common ground with India. At a time when India’s foreign policy is changing because of China and Pakistan, because of Islamic terrorism, we need to be there to greet them with open arms. I think, the Trump Administration is ready to do that,” Gray said giving an insight into the India policy of a possible Trump administration.Trump is the only presidential candidate to have addressed a meeting of Indian Americans and directly spoken about a strong India-US relationship.Gray, who has emerged as a key player in evolving the defence and military policies of the Trump Campaign, said India would be “absolutely critical” in Trump’s foreign policy.Co-author of a major policy paper on ‘Donald Trump’s Peace Through Strength Vision for the Asia Pacific’ which was published in the prestigious Foreign Policy magazine, Gray said India is “on top of the list” of Trump’s Indo-Asia Pacific policy to which the defence aspect would be an important pillar.”Strengthening defence relationship with India would be at top. This is what the Congress has been looking at for a long time,” he said, indicating that a Trump Administration would be looking at legislative changes towards strengthening India- US defense ties.”The Trump Administration would not give a passage to what China is doing in South China Sea, what it is doing in East China Sea, what it is doing along the border in India,” Gray said in response to a question.A strong partnership with US would deter China from making any aggressive posture against India, said Puneet Ahluwalia, a member of the Trump’s Advisory Committee on Asian Americans.”A strong US defence with India would give India much dependable ally to fight of threats from its neighbours and from terrorism by creating strong navy and latest technology in cyber and other areas,” he said.Ahluwalia, a Washington DC-based lobbyist, said he will work aggressively with the Trump Administration and the Pentagon to remove the obstacles in regards to transfer of technology and enhance defence trade and develop the blue economy.

Meryl Streep to get Golden Globes lifetime award | Reuters

Meryl Streep to get Golden Globes lifetime award | Reuters

Updated: Nov 3, 2016 22:06 IST

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LOS ANGELES Meryl Streep, regarded as the finest actress of her generation, will get the Golden Globes lifetime achievement award at the annual ceremony in January, organizers announced on Thursday.Streep, a three-time Oscar winner, will be presented with the Cecil B. DeMille award in recognition of her 40 years in the industry.”She has always taken roles with strong female leads, creating art by showing vulnerability and portraying truth on the big screen. Simply put, she is a trailblazer, having paved the way for women in television, film and stage,” Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) President Lorenzo Sofia said in a statement.”For shattering gender and age barriers, all with finesse and grace, the HFPA is humbled to bestow this honor upon her,” Sofia added.

The HFPA organizes the Golden Globes awards for film and television, one of the biggest ceremonies in Hollywood’s long awards season. The 2017 ceremony will take place in Beverly Hills on Jan. 8.Streep’s most recent film was the 2016 comedy “Florence Foster Jenkins” in which she plays a rich, elderly American with no talent for singing but big ambitions.

The 67 year-old actress won Oscars for her performances in “The Iron Lady,” “Sophie’s Choice” and “Kramer vs. Kramer.” She has received a record-setting 19 Oscar nominations during her career.

Streep joins Denzel Washington, George Clooney, Woody Allen and Jodie Foster as recipients of the Cecil B. DeMille award. (Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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

Dalai Lama is free to travel any part of India: BJP

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Saturday expressed that Dalai Lama is free to travel to any part of the country and added that these allegations by the China would not help Bilateral relations. “As far as whoever wants to visit any part of India, they can do so and these kinds of comments are uncalled for and they do not help in Bilateral relations in any way,” BJP spokesperson Nalin Kohli said.China on Friday warned India that bilateral ties may suffer “damage” and peace and stability of the border areas could be affected if it allows Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama to visit Arunachal Pradesh, which Beijing claims is part of southern Tibet. China considers Arunachal Pradesh as part of southern Tibet and routinely objects to visits by Dalai Lama, Indian leaders as well as foreign dignitaries.The border dispute covers the 3,488-km long Line of Actual Control (LAC). India asserts that the dispute covered Aksai Chin area which was occupied by China during 1962 war.On October 24, China took exception to the visit by Richard Verma, the US envoy in India, to Arunachal Pradesh which it claims as southern Tibet, saying any interference by Washington in the Sino-India boundary dispute will make it “more complicated” and “disturb” hard-won peace at the border.

China-Russia-Pakistan axis looks real: What course will Delhi chart vis-a-vis Islamabad?

Before it becomes a ‘universal truth’, driven by the echo-chamber effects of mass media, it is time to challenge a notion that is of late gaining huge traction in India — that post Uri, Pakistan now lies boxed in a sulky diplomatic corner.

Subscribers of this view point to recent Indian success in leading five Saarc nations into boycotting the host Islamabad. The Narendra Modi government’s efforts to boost Bimstec (Bay of Bengal Initiative For Multi Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) ties — a regional realignment excluding Pakistan and comprising Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Bhutan and Nepal — and the decision to invite the leaders during the recent Goa Brics Summit have been lauded as a diplomatic masterstroke that further reinforced Pakistan’s isolation.

Though Brics and Bimstec declarations refrained from taking Pakistan’s name, Indian foreign policy experts have pointed to the meaty stress on terrorism, from what are essentially geo-economic alliances and have interpreted these as more proofs of Pakistan’s growing ostracisation.

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

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Brics leaders in Goa. PTI

If anything, China has masterfully sought to fuel this impression. In its state-run mouthpiece Global Times, it accused India of using Brics-Bimstec Summit to “outmaneuver and force Pakistan into becoming a regional pariah”, conveniently forgetting its own role in influencing Russia against checkmating India’s almost every move of cornering Islamabad.

As usual, the truth is layered and infinitely more complex. Behind India’s ceremonial triumphalism and China’s smoke-and-mirror game lies the fact that Pakistan is no more isolated on international stage now than it already was before Uri. If anything, the shifting sands of global power and realigning of regional forces indicate that Islamabad now sits more smug than ever due to its close relationship with the world’s newest superpower — China.

It was seen as little more than a frustrated bluff from Pakistan when one of Nawaz Sharif’s 22 envoys recently visited Washington to ‘apprise the world on India’s brutalities in Kashmir’ and ended up threatening the US over its growing coziness with India. He finished with a typical rhetorical flourish that Pakistan simply doesn’t care if US chooses to side with its enemy, because China is on its side. And yet, Special Kashmir Envoy of Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Mushahid Hussain Syed, who talked aggressively of a new China-Russia-Pakistan axis, wasn’t far from truth.

A barely reported fresh development on South China Sea that promises to have far-reaching consequences has gained little attention in India. As we remained fixated on Pakistan, Philippines — America’s oldest strategic ally in Asia and among its staunchest — cut off (or at least threatened to) its umbilical cord with US and fell onto rival China’s lap like an overripe fruit.

This was a move so little anticipated, dramatic and profound that it left China squeaking in delight like a kid in candy shop and triggered deep tremors in Washington. Consider the significance. It was Philippines, under former president Benigno Aquino III, who dragged China into the international tribunal for its territorial claims and military-strategic advances on South China Sea. And it was only in July this year that Beijing was handed a sound thrashing for breaking international maritime laws.

For Philippines, therefore, to effect what Foreign Policy calls an abrupt “vertigo-inducing change in Manila’s orientation” is beyond staggering. It may totally reshape the regional alignments where plucky Philippines set the tone for Malaysia and Vietnam to take on China’s increasingly assertive and aggressive dominance. With the biggest US ally moving towards Beijing, China’s hegemony on the crucial passage of South China Sea, which facilitates the passage of $5 trillion worth of trade each year, is only going to become near total.

China’s sleight of hand was evidently on display by the way it dangled the booties

Strategists in Washington are at a loss to explain Filipino president Rodrigo Duterte’s move. Explanations have ranged from his congenital dislike of Barack Obama (he insulted the US president as ‘son of a w**re’) to China’s dangling of a slew of economic carrots which proved irresistible for Manila. Be that as it may, the very fact that Duterte, during the just-concluded visit to Beijing, warmed up to China like a moonstruck lover and talked of Xi Jinping as ‘elder brother’, point to China’s growing clout.

As PTI reported from Beijing last Thursday, after a meeting with Jinping, Duterte perhaps shocked even the room full of Chinese and Filipino business delegates themselves by declaring: “I announce my separation from the United States. Both in military, not maybe social, but economics also. America has lost… I’ve realigned myself in your ideological flow and maybe I will also go to Russia to talk to [President Vladimir] Putin and tell him that there are three of us against the world — China, Philippines, and Russia. It’s the only way.”

In Foreign Policy, Max Boot details the history of US-Filipino relationship: “The US ruled the Philippines as a colonial power from 1899 to 1942 and implanted its culture in the archipelago. In World War II, US and Filipino troops fought side by side against the Japanese occupiers. In 1951, Washington and Manila signed a mutual defence treaty. For decades afterward, the Philippines hosted two of the largest US military installations overseas at Clark Air Force Base and Subic Bay Naval Base… In 2014, President Barack Obama signed an agreement with then-president Aquino III that would allow US forces more regular access to bases in the Philippines and increase the tempo of training exercises and military cooperation between the two countries.”

So this wasn’t just an indication of China’s growing clout; it was also an unequivocal symbol of how smaller powers align themselves to whom they feel would better protect their interests. After the Modi government’s NSG ambition was vetoed by Beijing, triggering deep resentment in India, China offered a piece of advice to outraged Indians. It said that if India wishes to become a global power, it must first figure out how the big boys operate. China’s sleight of hand was evidently on display by the way it dangled the booties.

A report in Bloomberg points out: “China will provide $9 billion in soft loans, including a $3 billion credit line with the Bank of China, while economic deals including investments would yield $15 billion, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez told reporters in Beijing on Friday. Preliminary agreements in railways, ports, energy and mining worth $11.2 billion were signed between Philippine and Chinese firms.

And The Economist writes: “Duterte wants lots of infrastructure, particularly railways. China is offering cheap loans. He wants the country to export more. China is offering to reopen its markets to Philippine fruit. He wants help with the war on drugs. A Chinese businessman is building a big rehab centre. And he wants Filipino fishermen to be able to return to their traditional fishing grounds around the Scarborough Shoal. China has told Philippine officials that it is open to an accommodation.”

Suddenly, the pieces seem to be falling in place. Given the way Russia — now increasingly indebted to Chinese capital, investments and even to tourists from world’s most populous nation — has shown every sign of cozying up to Beijing and has even opened new military-strategic ties with Pakistan, that China-Russia-Pakistan axis now looks like an increasing possibility.

India shouldn’t count its chickens. Yet.

Trump ramps up voter fraud claim, digs in against women accusers | Reuters

By Doina Chiacu
| WASHINGTON

WASHINGTON Republican candidate Donald Trump said on Monday he expected widespread voter fraud in the Nov. 8 U.S. presidential election, ramping up his warning of a rigged election without providing any evidence and despite numerous studies that show the electoral system is sound.Trump has tried to whip up fears of a flawed election as he has fallen back in opinion polls against Democrat Hillary Clinton. He is also strongly denying allegations from multiple women that he has sexually assaulted or otherwise behaved inappropriately with them.”Of course there is large scale voter fraud happening on and before election day. Why do Republican leaders deny what is going on? So naive!” Trump said on Twitter on Monday.Trump, a New York businessman making his first run for public office, has worried a number of Republicans over his allegations of election fraud. Some of them have urged him publicly to show proof or drop the assertions. Early voting and voting by mail have begun in many states.While Trump’s vice presidential running mate, Mike Pence, and his campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, have tried to reshape the candidate’s comments as being aimed at an unfair news media, Trump’s own words have targeted the legitimacy of the election system.Even after Pence said in a televised interview on Sunday that Trump would accept the results of next month’s election, Trump tweeted that the “election is absolutely being rigged by the dishonest and distorted media pushing Crooked Hillary – but also at many polling places – SAD.” Trump has tried to portray Clinton, a former U.S. senator and secretary of state, as a corrupt lifelong politician who is vested in preserving the status quo. His campaign pounced on the release Monday of FBI documents that cited an FBI official as saying a senior State Department official sought to pressure the bureau in 2015 to drop its insistence that an email from Clinton’s private server contained classified information. Clinton’s decision to use a private server while secretary of state from 2009-13 has drawn criticism that she was careless with national security.REPUBLICANS BALK AT TRUMP FRAUD CHARGES

The country’s top elected Republican, House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan, has tried to counter Trump’s message about election fraud. Spokeswoman AshLee Strong said on Monday that Ryan “is fully confident the states will carry out this election with integrity.” Ryan last week distanced himself from Trump, saying he was going to focus his election campaign efforts on trying to preserve the Republican majorities in Congress.In the traditionally closely fought state of Ohio, the top elections official, a Republican, said concerns about widespread voter fraud were simply not justified. “I can reassure Donald Trump: I am in charge of elections in Ohio and they’re not going to be rigged, I’ll make sure of that,” Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted told CNN. Numerous studies have shown that voter fraud in U.S. elections is very rare, according to the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law. In a report titled “The Truth About Voter Fraud,” the center cited voter fraud incident rates between 0.00004 percent and 0.0009 percent.

An August study by The Washington Post found 31 credible cases of impersonation fraud out of more than 1 billion votes cast in elections from 2000 to 2014. Arizona State University studies in 2012 and 2016 found similarly low rates.”Despite this overwhelming evidence, claims that voter fraud is rampant consistently garner media attention, because perceived threats to electoral integrity — even those with no basis in fact — frighten voters by striking at the core of our democracy,” Brennan Center counsel Jennifer Clark wrote in a blog last month.’NOT RIGGED’
Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook told reporters that Trump’s assault on the voting system was an act of desperation.

“He knows he’s losing and is trying to blame that on the system. This is what losers do,” Mook told reporters. “It’s not true. The system is not rigged.”The RealClearPolitics average of national opinion polls put Clinton currently leading Trump by 5.5 percentage points, at 47.7 percent support to his 42.5 percent.Trump’s campaign has been struggling with sexual misconduct allegations from several women since a 2005 videotape emerged on Oct. 7 showing him boasting about groping and making other unwanted sexual advances on women.”Can’t believe these totally phony stories, 100% made up by women (many already proven false) and pushed big time by press, have impact!” Trump said in another Twitter post on Monday.Trump has repeatedly denied the allegations but has not provided any proof they are false.On Sunday, night Trump blamed “animals representing Hillary Clinton” and Democrats in North Carolina for an overnight attack on a local Republican Party headquarters in Hillsborough.Local, state and federal investigators were sifting through evidence on Monday, trying to narrow the time frame of the incident and looking for clues about who was behind the attack. (Additional reporting by Luciana Lopez and Jonathan Allen in New York, Susan Heavey and Susan Cornwell in Washington; Editing by Frances Kerry)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Representational image. AFPRepresentational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pak asks World Bank to settle dispute over Kishanganga hydroelectricity project

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Amidst escalating tension, Pakistan has demanded that the World Bank set up a Court of Arbitration to hear its objections over the Kishanganga hydroelectricity project by India, which has asked the international lender to appoint a neutral expert to settle the dispute. According to sources, Pakistan has raised objections over the design of the hydel project in Jammu and Kashmir, saying it is not in line with the criteria laid down under the Indus Water Treaty between the two countries.India has, however, asserted the project design is “well within parameters” of the treaty and urged the World Bank to appoint a neutral expert as the issue is a “technical matter” as suggested in the treaty.”Pakistan has requested the World Bank to set up a Court of Arbitration… India demands that the matter be looked into by a neutral expert as it is a technical matter. The treaty says the same,” one of the sources said, adding a technical expert like an engineer can understand the issue better than a legal expert.The sources said that both India and Pakistan presented their respective facts relating to the project separately to the World Bank on September 27 in Washington.”They (Pakistan) have objected to the design of the project. Under the treaty, there are design criteria which say the design of the project should be like this.”We firmly believe that our design is well within the parameters laid down in the treaty. But they think otherwise.They believe India’s design of the project will affect flow of the river to Pakistan,” the source said.Pakistan, a lower riparian state, had flagged the issue relating to the project, which will divert water from the Kishanganga River to the power plant in the Jhelum river basin, in the past too and approached the International Court of Arbitration in 2010.It had claimed that the project will affect the flow of Kishanganga, known as Neelum in the neighbouring country, “adversely”.Pakistan had also claimed that power generation capacity of its Neelum-Jhelum hydropower plant, located downstream of Kishanganga, will also be affected by the Indian hydel project, work on which had begun in 2007.The matter though was settled in India’s favour in 2013.Notwithstanding the fresh objections raised by Islamabad and beginning of the dispute resolution process, India can continue its work on the hydel project, estimated to generate 360 MW electricity, the sources said.”Unlike the popular perception, nowhere in the treaty it is written that the work has to be stopped when the dispute resolution process is going on. The work can go on,” the source said.The sources though claimed that the Washington meeting has nothing do with the recent aggression along the Line of Control and that it was scheduled well before the Uri terror attack and Indian Army’s surgical strikes on terrorist launch pads in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

I would have counter-threatened India: Musharraf reacts to tough-talk from Indian leaders

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Former Pakistan army chief Pervez Musharraf, who was the architect of Pakistan’s Kargil aggression in 1999, has said he would have counter-threatened India in response to the strong statements by Indian leaders in the aftermath of the Uri terror attack. “I would be counter-threatening India,” Musharraf said in response to a question. The former Pakistani military dictator was referring to the statements made by Indian leaders and military officials after the Uri terror attack on September 18.Asked about his suggestion of “counter-threatening”, Musharraf said, “Yes, because they are threatening us that they are going to strike us at the time and place of their choosing. Now, this has been said by nobody less than Prime Minister, Defence Minister and the military general, the director general military operations. This is a very serious matter,” Musharraf, while speaking at the Washington Ideas Forum on Thursday, stated that he has said in an interview that threats like striking at the time and place of choosing should not be made. “What will Pakistan do? Obviously, we will strike at the time and place of our choosing,” the former President said. “That will escalate the war. So don’t do it. I think the war hysteria that is being created in India, I repeat, India, not in Pakistan, is an issue. They do that always. This is not the only time. Every time they do that,” he alleged.

Terror attack like the one in Uri escalates tensions: US after India’s surgical strikes

Washington: A terrorist attack like the one on an Indian Army camp in Uri “escalates tensions”, United States have said, asking Pakistan to take action against UN-designated terrorist outfits and delegitimise them.

“Obviously, an (terrorist) attack like that (in Uri) escalates tensions. What I don’t want to do is try to get into, you know, some sort of broad characterisation one way or the other but obviously an attack like this is horrific and…,” the State Department Spokesman, John Kirby, told reporters in Washington on Wednesday.

John Kirby. Reuters

John Kirby. Reuters

The spokesperson was interrupted by a reporter mid-way that her question was about India’s response to the 18 September Uri attack.

“But the Indian response is that — is that the kind of escalation that Secretary Kerry was warning against?” the journalist asked referring to the telephonic conversation between the Secretary of State John Kerry and the External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj earlier this week.

Kirby was quick to clarify that he was referring to the Uri terrorist attack.

“Oh, I thought you were talking about the Uri attack,” the spokesman said.

On 27 September, Kerry spoke with Swaraj. For technical reason, the conversation was spread over two separate calls.

“I can confirm for you that the secretary spoke with — on the 27th, so earlier this week, with Indian External Affairs Minister Swaraj and reiterated his strong condemnation of the September 18 Uri attack.”

“He condemned terrorism in all its forms and he cautioned against any escalation intentions,” he said.

Responding to questions, Kirby called for de-escalation of tension between the two countries.

“We’ve seen those reports (of Indian surgical attack), we’re following the situation closely as I think you can understand.”

“We also understand that the Indian and Pakistani militaries have been in communication,” he said. “We believe that continued communication is obviously important to reduce tensions.”

“We’ve repeatedly expressed our concerns regarding the danger that terrorism poses to the region and we all know that terrorism in many ways knows no border,” Kirby said.

“We continue to urge actions to combat and de-legitimise terrorist groups like LeT, and Haqqani Network, Jaish-E-Mohammed.”

“So, this is something that we’re obviously keenly focused on,” Kirby said in response to a question.

Counter-terrorism co-operation, he said, is something that the United States is always working at with its partners in the region.

“We’re always trying to get better at combating terrorism in the region.”

“There are many ways you can do that, you know, through information sharing regimens and increasing communication between all parties involved,” he said.

But he refused to entertain question on if there was any co-operation between India and the United States on the latest Indian operation.

“I don’t have a specific laundry list here to read out to you because, frankly, it’s something that we’ve been constantly working at with our partners in the region,” he said.

Kirby said America’s message to both sides has been the same in terms of encouraging them to increase communication to deal with this threat and to avoid steps that escalate the tensions.

“I think I’m not going to get into characterising each and every step along the way there.”

“But obviously, what we want to see is increased cooperation against what is a very shared common threat for both countries, and to see steps being taken to deal with it by all sides,” Kirby said.

Meanwhile, the US Ambassador to India, Richard Verma, who was in Washington DC, has rushed back to New Delhi.

“As far as I know, he’s returning to New Delhi. My understanding is that he believed that it was appropriate for him to go back.”

“He has got a big job. There a lot of responsibilities that come with it. And, obviously it’s a very dynamic situation and he felt it was prudent to go back. We support that,” Kirby said.

World Bank has committed to fulfil obligations under Indus treaty: Pakistan

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> Pakistan on Wednesday claimed the World Bank has “committed” itself to “timely fulfilling its obligations” under the Indus Water Treaty while remaining neutral as Islamabad approached the international lender amid reports that India may revoke the 56-year-old deal.A Pakistani delegation led by the Attorney General for Pakistan, Ashtar Ausaf Ali, met with senior officials of the World Bank at the World Bank Headquarters in Washington, to discuss matters relating to the Indus Waters Treaty that was brokered by the World Bank. They discussed “the formation of Court of arbitration for resolving the matter of water disputes especially those related to construction of hydropower projects”, Pakistan’s Ministry of Water and Power said in a statement.”The World Bank will be deciding the issue in the next few days,” it added. “In the meeting with the Pakistani delegation, the World Bank committed itself to timely fulfilling its obligations under the treaty while remaining neutral,” said a statement issued by the Pakistani Embassy in Washington. Under the treaty, which was signed by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and Pakistan President Ayub Khan in September 1960 and brokered by the World Bank, waters of six rivers – Beas, Ravi, Sutlej, Indus, Chenab and Jhelum – were to be shared between the two countries.Its Article IX deals with arbitration of disputes between the parties concerning the interpretation or application of the treaty or the existence of any fact which, if established, might constitute a breach of the treaty.The treaty provides specific design criteria for any hydro-electric power plants to be built by India. On 19 August, Pakistan had formally requested India for settlement of outstanding disputes pertaining to India’s construction of Kishenganga and Ratle hydroelectric plants on rivers Neelum and Chenab respectively, by referring the matters to the Court of Arbitration as provided in Article IX of the Treaty.Under the treaty, the World Bank has an important role in establishment of the Court of Arbitration by facilitating the process of appointment of three judges, called Umpires, to the Court, while each country appoints two arbitrators. The Pakistani officials met with senior officials of the World Bank to insist on early appointment of the judges and empanelment the court, it said.Pakistan’s Ambassador to the US Jalil Abbas Jilani and World Bank’s Executive Director for Pakistan Nasir Khosa also participated in the talks.The World Bank was represented by Senior Vice President Anne-Marie LeRoy; Vice President for South Asia Annette Dixon; Deputy General Counsel for Operations Alberto Ninio; Chief Counsel for South Asia Melinda Good; and Senior Counsel for International Waterways Victor Mosoti. Earlier, Prime Minister’s Advisor on Foreign Affairs and Security, Sartaj Aziz said an attempt by India to block Pakistan’s water could be seen as “an act of war.” Prime Minister Narendra Modi met with officials to review provisions of the Indus Water Treaty with Pakistan. In that meeting it was decided that India will “exploit to the maximum” the water of Pakistan-controlled rivers, including Jhelum, as per the water-sharing pact.The meeting came as India weighed its options to hit back at Pakistan in the aftermath of the Uri terror attack that left 18 soldiers dead, triggering demands that the government scrap the water-sharing deal to mount pressure on the country.

PM Modi interfering in Islamabad’s internal affairs: Pak Foreign Secy Aizaz Chaudhry

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Pakistan Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry has hit out against Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent statement in Kerala warning of action against the Uri terror attack in Jammu and Kashmir, saying that it violates all United Nations and international charters against non-interference in internal affairs of other countries.In an exclusive interview to Dawn, Jalil Abbas Jilani, Pakistan’s Ambassador to Washington, stated that the Prime Minister’s statement shows India’s ‘nervousness’ with the situation in Kashmir.Responding to his address in Kerala, the two diplomats asserted that several UN resolutions recognised Pakistan as a party to the Kashmir dispute and India too recognised that status, however, adding that India has no justification for interfering in Pakistan’s internal affairs.Stating that it was unfortunate the Indian leadership ‘continues to indulge in a vilification campaign against Pakistan by making provocative statements and hurling baseless accusations’, Chaudhry said that such display of behaviour at the highest political level was regrettable.”It is evident that, as an act of desperation, India is trying to distract world attention from the atrocities perpetrated by its occupation forces against innocent and defenceless Kashmiris, including women and children,” he said.Further accusing India of continuing to sponsor terrorism in Pakistan directly through its ‘state apparatus’, the Foreign Secretary said that the arrest and confessional statement of intelligence operative, Kulbhushan Jhadav, had proved India’s involvement.He also pointed out that the international community had taken notice of ‘human rights violations’ in Kashmir, with concern expressed by several countries as well as the UN and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.Ambassador Jilani said that by making such statements, Indian leaders were trying to hide the atrocities against the people of Kashmir.”We reject the statement. This is highly irresponsible. The content of the statement is a distortion and counter-intuitive. With such statements, they cannot draw a curtain on their brazen acts of terrorism and crimes against humanity in Kashmir,” he said.Meanwhile, during their interaction with world leaders at the UN General Assembly in New York this week, Pakistani diplomats dismissed the notion of a war with India.”There will be no war. We have no intention of starting one and India also realises that a war at this stage will destroy its economy,” said one diplomat.

India’s High Commissioner to UK Navtej Sarna appointed Ambassador to the US

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>India’s High Commissioner to UK Navtej Sarna was appointed as Ambassador to the US on Thursday, a high-profile posting where he will face the task of engaging with a new administration in Washington following the November 8 Presidential poll.Sarna, an Indian Foreign Service (IFS) officer of the 1980 batch, was serving as Secretary (West) in the Ministry of External Affairs before he was posted in London in January. He succeeds Arun Singh, who is due for retirement. The 59-year-old diplomat was among the longest-serving spokespersons of the MEA. He had held the post between 2002 and 2008. “He is expected to take up the assignment shortly,” the External Affairs Ministry said.Government has also appointed 1988-batch IFS officer Taranjit Singh Sandhu as the next High Commissioner of India to Sri Lanka. He will replace Yash Sinha. In Washington, Sarna’s main task will be to ensure continuity in Indo-US relations when a new dispensation takes charge.Sarna has authored many fiction and non-fiction books, with the most recent being ‘Second Thoughts: On Books, Authors and the Writerly Life’ released last year. He was also India’s Ambassador to Israel from 2008 to 2012. For two years from August 2012, Sarna had served as additional secretary in-charge of international organisations in the MEA.Sarna had served at various Indian missions including in Moscow, Warsaw, Tehran, Geneva, Thimphu and Washington.Yash Sinha, tipped to be Indian High Commissioner to the UK, is a seasoned diplomat and, in his career spanning 35 years, he has handled several important assignments at the MEA and in Indian diplomatic missions in South Asia, the Middle East, Europe and South America.

Uri attack and after: India makes some diplomatic gains but can we really trust the US?

More than 72 hours after the audacious Uri attacks on Sunday that resulted in the death of 18 jawans and the maiming of 20 more, it is fairly certain that India won’t launch any military offensive against Pakistan, at least in the immediate to short term. New Delhi continues to insist that ‘all options are open’ and the Army has declared it ‘reserves the right to respond at a time and place of our own choosing’, but it looks increasingly likely that Indian response will be limited to mounting another diplomatic offensive to inflict global isolation on Pakistan.

Whether or not junking military retribution against a rogue state perennially at war against us and stretching the “strategic restraint” further will meet India’s objectives vis-à-vis Pakistan has been discussed ad infinitum in the strategic, political and media circles, post Uri assault. This isn’t the subject of this article. Whether New Delhi, as Hindol Sengupta writes so beautifully in The Shishupala Principle, is bound like Lord Krishna and must pardon Pakistan’s perfidies a 100 times before beheading it with a sudarshan chakra is anybody’s guess.

I wouldn’t bet on it.

File image of Indian soldiers rushing to the attack site in Uri on Sunday. PTIFile image of Indian soldiers rushing to the attack site in Uri on Sunday. PTI

File photo of Indian soldiers rushing to the attack site in Uri on Sunday. PTI

Chances are that New Delhi’s “strategic patience” is actually an euphemism for military incapability. Be that as it may, since “diplomatic offensive” is Narendra Modi government’s answer to Pakistan-backed terrorists’ roasting alive of 17 Indian soldiers, it would be pertinent to check just how effective this weapon would be against Islamabad.

Straight off the blocks at the United Nations General Assembly, it would appear that India has drawn first blood in what is going to be a long and arduous battle.

As PTI has reported from the UN, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, on Tuesday, during his final address as UN chief refrained from taking up the Kashmir issue, despite Pakistan’s repeated requests. Ban referred to a host of global conflict zones and pressure points, including the Syria refugee crisis, the Palestinian issue, the situation in Myanmar, Sri Lanka, tensions in the Korean Peninsula in the wake of North Korea’s testing of nuclear warheads, the Middle East, South Sudan, Yemen, Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan to the Sahel and the Lake Chad Basin. The only thing missing in his speech was a reference to Kashmir.  The UN has toed India’s line in maintaining that Kashmir remains a bilateral issue.

Though this is a positive development, the game isn’t over yet. Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is expected to spend the better part of Wednesday whining against India, and Kashmir would be the focal point of his speech. India, of course, will get the chance for a rebuttal when Sushma Swaraj leads India’s reply, but there have been other developments in our favour already.

Apart from the world condemnations of Uri attack with statements from France, UK, US, and even China, Russia has called off the joint military exercises with Islamabad in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

As The Times of India reports, of the five permanent UN Security Council members, Russia and France outright named Pakistan or Pakistan-based organisations, US and UK toed India’s line without directly naming the rogue nation and China expressed “shock”. These may not appear much, but in the world of diplomatic pabulum, these are not insignificant either.

The more unqualified support came from Afghanistan, whose envoy told NDTV that all countries in the region should join hands to boycott the Saarc summit in Islamabad in November to send an unequivocal message to the chief destabilising force.

“We have to make sure that we bring the maximum number of countries… most South Asian countries are in line with what we think. The effort should be comprehensive and we should single out a country that spoils our unity and regional peace,” Shaida Mohammad Abdali said in an interview.

But by far the most interesting development came from Washington DC, where a bipartisan group of two US lawmakers introduced on Tuesday an act in the US House of Representatives to designate Pakistan a ‘State Sponsor of terrorism’.

Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif with US Secretary of State John Kerry. APPakistan PM Nawaz Sharif with US Secretary of State John Kerry. AP

Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif with US Secretary of State John Kerry. AP

The ‘Pakistan State Sponsor of Terrorism Designation Act’ (HR 6069) was moved by Republican Poe along with Congressman Dana Rohrabacher of the Democratic Party, who is ranking member of this influential Congressional Committee on terrorism.

“It is time we stopped paying Pakistan for its betrayal and designate it for what it is: a state sponsor of terrorism,” said Poe. “Not only is Pakistan an untrustworthy ally, Islamabad has also aided and abetted enemies of the US for years,” he said in a statement while announcing the bill, according to the report.

Though a largely symbolic gesture, the bill is akin to India in the coming together of BJP and Congress for a bipartisan cause, and reflects a slight hardening of US stance vis-à-vis Pakistan. There is little chance of it being made into a law though, which would have meant crippling and debilitating sanctions against a bankrupt nation, which practically survives on US aid.

In tune with this development, Pakistan received another setback when US Secretary of State John Kerry practically admonished Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif during a recent meeting on the sidelines of the UNGA. As Chidanand Rajghatta writes in The Times of India, “verbal finesse could barely couch the dressing down that Sharif, regarded as a stooge of Pakistan’s ruling military junta, got from John Kerry, long seen as sympathetic to Islamabad.”

Kerry asked Sharif to prevent Pakistan from becoming a safe house for training, nurturing and housing terrorists of all shapes and sizes and also made a pointed reference to Uri attack, with an additional advice on exercising “restraint in nuclear weapons programs”, according to the report.

On the face of it, these appear to be important gains for India in its effort to isolate Pakistan globally. And such an impression would be blatantly wrong. Let’s explore why.

To begin with, India’s “diplomatic offensive” against Pakistan, in effect, really stands for New Delhi’s effort to leverage its relationship with Washington. If India manages to influence the US into slapping economic sanctions against Islamabad and/or stopping the line of credit that keeps Pakistan’s terror overtures alive, that would be a significant achievement with far-reaching consequences. But what are the odds of US initiating such a move?

Pretty slim, as it would appear.

The US recently made it clear that it has no plans of imposing any sanctions against Pakistan for not taking actions against terrorist groups. “Suggestive of any kind of sanctions, we’re not there,” US State Department deputy spokesman Mark Toner said on 7 September, during a media briefing. “I don’t think we’re even at that point,” he had said.

And what about billions of dollars that US keeps pouring into Pakistan as part of its deeply-flawed Af-Pak policy that the profligate south Asian nation uses not to curb but to foment more terrorism in the region? Fat chance of it being rescinded too.

Countless experts on the topic, including author, strategist and Georgetown University Professor C Christine Fair have time and again warned US against pursuing this self-defeating policy. In one of her countless articles on the topic, she writes: “The United States must get over this idea that Pakistan can be a force for good in the region when the preponderance of evidence speaks to the contrary. Once the US rids itself of this preposterous notion, perhaps it can finally fix its approach to Pakistan.”

Pakistan received another setback when US Secretary of State John Kerry practically admonished Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif during a recent meeting on the sidelines of the UNGA 

But that has not stopped, nor will it ever stop US funds from sustaining Pakistan’s defence program that is tuned to be hostile towards its immediate neighbours India and Afghanistan. Doesn’t the US know it? It does.

But, as Gurmeet Kanwal points out in Daily O: “There is a broad consensus in Washington, DC that cuts across the policy community, think-tanks and academia, that it is necessary to continue to support and strengthen the Pakistan army because… If it implodes, nuclear weapons will fall into Jihadi hands.”

To Pakistan’s credit, it has been successful in exploiting its unique geopolitical positioning and instability into predicting an apocalyptic future for South Asia were the US funds cease to pour in, and to America’s discredit, it has fallen hook, line and sinker to this blackmailing tactic.

Short of such meaty blows, the US chiding of Pakistan amounts to precious little beyond pacifying India and ensuring that it doesn’t start a military offensive against its rogue neighbour. Already, US policymakers have warned India that any military attack would mean end of honeymoon with the US.

Therefore, all India has in its hands despite a mounting “diplomatic offensive” is a symbolic gesture and, as Sukumar Ray wrote in Abol Tabol, a pencil.

Air India reaches out to pilots who were sacked in 2012 strike

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Air India plans to reverse poach senior pilots and commanders, who had switched to other Indian and foreign airlines earlier and on whom the state-run carrier had spent a lot of money to train them. As part of the strategy to hire over 500 pilots, the public sector carrier would also focus on hiring those who had left it in the past for various reasons and moved to other carriers, sources said.The move, which has the “consent” of Air India Chairman and managing Director Ashwani Lohani, is aimed at saving both money and time as these already trained pilots can be deployed for operations immediately, they said. Air India has already offered jobs to 13 pilots it had sacked for participating in a two-month strike in 2012, sources said, adding most of them were “considering” the proposal though three pilots are not willing.As many as 173 Air India pilots have resigned from the national carrier since 2012 till last year, with most of them being those operating the narrow-body Airbus A320 family of aircraft, as per official figures early this year.A recruitment drive to hire 534 A320 pilots is currently on. Air India also needs around 150 wide-body pilots to expand its international operations further, including planned flights to Washington and several European destinations.”We have immediate requirement of around 150 wide-body pilots, besides the over 500 pilots being hired for the A320s, for medium and long haul operations. If we take back those pilots who have left us in the past, we will not only be saving huge cost on training them but also save a lot of time which goes down in the induction process,” sources said.At present, the cost of training a pilot for an Airbus A320 family of planes stands a little over at Rs four lakh per pilot while the type rating cost per pilot comes to nearly Rs 23 lakh.While those who join the Dreamliner fleet from B-777 wide-body planes are imparted a 4-5 week training costing around Rs 25 lakh per pilot, pilots coming from the narrow- body planes (A320 family) are given a three-month training at a whopping cost of Rs 80 lakh per pilot, according to sources.”We have not been able to finalise the Washington and other proposed international flights because of shortage of B-777 and B-787 pilots only. If the plan to hire such pilots materialises, we can commence these destinations in a short time,” they said.Madrid, Barcelona, Copenhagen and Stockholm, besides Washington, are the destinations that Air India is looking at as part of its international expansion plans, Air India Director for Commercial Pankaj Shrivastava had said sometime back.

Rajnath Singh to visit US September-end for security dialogue

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Enhancing anti-terror cooperation, sharing intelligence inputs and offering easy travel to each other’s citizens would be high on the agenda during the visit of Home Minister Rajnath Singh to the US next month.Singh will lead the Indian delegation at the Indo-US Homeland Security Dialogue to be held in Washington in September-end with the US team to be headed by Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Charles Johnson. The new dates have been fixed after the bilateral dialogue was postponed last month as Parliament was in session and the Home Minister was busy with the proceedings, official sources said.Further cementing anti-terror cooperation, real-time sharing of intelligence inputs, cyber security and critical infrastructure protection, countering illicit finance, global supply chain security, megacity policing and science and technology are some of the other key issues to be discussed at the strategic meeting.This senior-level exchange between India and the US will reinforce the strategic homeland security partnership and enhance operational cooperation in investigations, capacity building, and countering threats, sources said. Upcoming law enforcement engagement proposals include sharing lessons learned and best practices in police training and responding to mass casualty exercises, improving both nations’ capabilities to respond to terrorist incidents and natural disasters.Besides, there will be discussions on two key recently- signed agreements — Global Entry, a US Customs and Border Protection programme that permits speedy clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travellers upon arrival in America; and the Homeland Security Presidential Directive-6 (HSPD-6), which allows access to information on terrorists.The US has been pressing for India’s inclusion in the Global Entry so that high dignitaries like former presidents, former prime ministers, former Union ministers, film stars, top industrialists and frequent flyers could visit America without any hassle.There will be extensive discussion on the Global Entry during the dialogue, the sources said. Initially, the names of around 2,000 prominent Indians could figure in the coveted list, which would be expanded gradually after proper background checks of each individual. Incidents like brief detention of Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan recently at the Los Angeles airport would be avoided when the Global Entry will be implemented.

‘Step in the right direction’: Indian govt removes names of 225 Sikh-Americans from blacklist

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Calling it a “step in the right direction”, Sikh-Americans in Washington have welcomed the Indian government’s decision of removing the names of 225 Sikhs from a blacklist. “This is a step in the right direction and a promise fulfilled by the Modi government,” said Jasdip Singh Jasse, founder of Sikhs of America, at a joint news conference with the Overseas Friends of BJP-USA, which was attended by leaders of Sikh American community.Last year, a delegation of Sikh-Americans led by Singh had submitted a memorandum to Prime Minister Narendra Modi when he visited the Silicon Valley. Singh, along with a delegation of OFBJP-USA, had also submitted a similar memorandum to Home Minister Rajnath Singh last year. Names of 225 Sikhs, chronicled in the government’s blacklist for their alleged involvement in subversive or anti-India activities, have been removed over the last four years.The pruning has been done in a list of 298 Sikhs which was prepared at different levels by security agencies since 1980s.

Pramila Jayapal poised to become first Indian-American woman to go to US House of Representatives

In less than 80 days, the United States will hold general elections. While the focus is obviously on the combative and controversial Presidential race, for the Indian-American community a bit of history could be in the making in the city of Seattle and its suburbs.

Pramila Jayapal. FirstpostPramila Jayapal. Firstpost

Pramila Jayapal. Firstpost

That is where Washington State’s 7th Congressional district is located and on the night of 8 November, as votes have been counted, it could propel the first-ever Indian-American woman into the House of Representatives: Pramila Jayapal of the Democratic Party, who is currently a state senator in Washington. (Fellow Democrat Kamala Harris, the favourite to win a US Senate seat from California, has a Chennai-born mother but is widely identified as African-American).

Three Indian-American men have so far been elected to the House – the late Dilip Singh Saund from California, Bobby Jindal from Louisiana who went on to become that state’s Governor, and Ami Bera, who is up for re-election from his California seat.

Meanwhile, 51-year-old Jayapal is well placed to make her breakthrough. In a telephone interview, Chennai-born Jayapal, whose family is originally from Kerala, said, “It is important we have more Indian-Americans and very important that we have a woman (in the House). We are equally qualified and it’s a battle not only for Indian Americans but, in general, women are not represented at the levels they should be. Then you add race or ethnicity on to that and it gets even worse in terms of representation. I think it’s very significant. I’ve seen it and I’ve heard it: Indian-American women who say to me, ‘If I see you doing this, I can do this too’.”

As the primary for the seat was held earlier this month, Jayapal captured 42 percent of the vote to lead the nine-candidate field. In fact, she polled double the votes of the runner-up, who she will encounter again in November. “Looks very good,” she said of her prospects. “Anything can happen in a general election but we are very very well positioned and we are going to get right back to work so we run the same kind of phenomenal campaign for the general.”

If elected, Jayapal will replace incumbent Jim McDermott, a former co-chair of the House India Caucus and considered one of its founders. Jayapal says she will maintain that tradition of her district: “I hope to not just join it but to be a leader.” Jayapal visits India every year as her parents live in Bangalore.

Pramila Jayapal in her campaign office at the moment she learnt she won the primary. Image courtesy J. ToscanoPramila Jayapal in her campaign office at the moment she learnt she won the primary. Image courtesy J. Toscano

Pramila Jayapal in her campaign office at the moment she learnt she won the primary. Image courtesy J. Toscano

Jayapal, though, is careful when it comes to discussing Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government in New Delhi. As she says, “I will say, I was concerned and I do want to watch very carefully for myself that the (Indian) government is not in any way trying to suppress religious opportunity and religious freedom for any group and I think there are times when I would have liked to see the Prime Minister taking a stronger stance.”

Jayapal actually attended Modi’s speech to the US Congress this summer as the guest of US Senator Patty Murray. “I went to hear what he had to say and I thought he did a good job,” she says, of that experience. But, questions linger in her mind: “In his speech in Congress, which I attended, he said many of the right things, but it’s a question of when something happens, can we count on the government to really protect religious minorities and I think we’re going to have to continue to push and make sure that’s the case. At the same time, we have to do that here in the United States as well.”

Pramila Jayapal with her husband Steve Williamson. Image Courtesy Jin-Ah KimPramila Jayapal with her husband Steve Williamson. Image Courtesy Jin-Ah Kim

Pramila Jayapal with her husband Steve Williamson. Image Courtesy Jin-Ah Kim

Those concerns are hardly surprising as Jayapal has a background in social justice activism. She arrived in America aged 16, got her undergraduate degree in English Literature, and after a couple of years working on Wall Street, went to Chicago’s Northwestern University for an MBA. But it was 9/11 that proved her political awakening: “When 9/11 happened, I ended up starting this non-profit organisation and taking on the Bush Administration over illegal deportations and civil liberty abuses. That was sort of the entry point into the political world and after doing that for 15 years and trying to make policy changes happen on the outside, I decided it was time for me to actually go on the inside.” In her first run for elected office, she won her state senate seat last year.

Seattle, of course, is also a place where Indian-Americans have found much success, especially in the technology sector. In its suburb of Redmond, Satya Nadella leads Microsoft. It could deliver another first for the community this November in sending Jayapal to the US Congress.

Canada confirms will give troops for eastern European NATO force | Reuters

OTTAWA Canada confirmed on Thursday that it would provide troops to help establish a new 4,000-strong NATO force on Russia’s border to act as a deterrent against a possible show of force by Moscow.

A statement from the Canadian defense ministry gave few details, but NATO diplomats say the Canadians will be based in Latvia. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is due to provide more information at a NATO summit in Poland next week.

“Canada stands side by side with its NATO allies working to deter aggression and assure peace and stability in Europe,” Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan said in the statement.

He announced the move a day after U.S. President Barack Obama gave a speech in the Canadian Parliament and told Canada it needed to make a bigger contribution to NATO.

Earlier this month, Reuters reported that Washington would turn to Canada for help to establish the new force, given a lack of enthusiasm by other members.

The United States, Britain, Germany and France have all committed to providing troops.

(Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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

India’s entry into MTCR result of deal with Italy on marine issue: Congress

Congress on Monday claimed that India became a full-member of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) as a result of a “deal” with Italy by the Narendra Modi government on the issue of two Italian marines.Party spokesman Kapil Sibal claimed that India’s entry into the MTCR followed a “deal” with Italy by the Modi government on the issue of the marines charged in a case of killing two Indian fishermen. He said while India was becoming a member of the MTCR, Italy was the only country opposing its entry and the “ghar wapsi” (sending back home) of the Italian Marines paved the way for the agreement.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>India today joined the MTCR as a full member and said its entry would be mutually beneficial to enhance global non-proliferation norms. Marking India’s first entry into any multilateral export control regime, Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar signed the instrument of accession to MTCR in the presence of France’s Ambassador-designate Alexandre Ziegler, The Netherlands’ Ambassador Alphonsus Stoelinga and Luxembourg’s Charg d’Affaires Laure Huberty.India’s entry into MTCR comes days after it failed to get NSG membership due to stiff opposition from China and a few other countries. Asked about the Prime Minister’s veiled attack on the Congress over the GST issue, Sibal said that Modi instead of going to Washington seven time to meet Barack Obama, should have at least once visited drought-hit Marathwada to meet poor farmers then “We would have believed him that he thinks of poor”.He was asked to react on Modi’s reported remarks that GST Bill will benefit the poor and there is only one political party which is not allowing it to pass.

Senior jounalist Syed Nazakat elected member for GIJN

Senior award-winning journalist from India Syed Nazakat has a huge task in hand –to promote and educate people about investigative journalism in India, and 26 other countries. Nazakat has recently been elected to the board of directors of Washington DC-based Global Investigative Journalism Network (GIJN), a prestigious global media body, for a two-year term and will be representing the Asia Pacific region. <!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Nakazat, who is also the editor-in-chief of the Centre for Investigative Journalism, a non-profit organization promoting the cause of watchdog journalism in India, agrees that investigative journalism at present is restricted just to select media organisations at present.“The situation is the same is most countries, including India, Pakistan and its neighbouring countries,” Nazakat told dna. He added that most people complain that the atmosphere is these countries is not conducive to investigative journalism and stiff government resistance to media. “But the truth is how many journalists file RTIs, go through audit reports an the huge chunks of data available? My aim will be to spread more awareness on the subject,” he said.However, he said in India there has been remarkable work done by the India media in terms of breaking reports on the Augusta Westland scam, the Adarsh scam, among others.Last year, Nazakat had also set-up a data journalism start-up called DataLEADS which conducts data analysis, boot camps and runs India’s first data-driven website dedicated to healthcare reporting, called Health Analytics India. Nazakat said he is currently looking forward to an worshop on investigative journalism at Nepal in September this year, where training on investigative journalism will be provided to jounalists. Aside that, he periodically conducts trainings across colleges and professionals, a recent one included a workshop for IIT engineers. The Global Investigative Journalism Network (GIJN) is an international association of more than 100 media organisations in 50 countries. GIJN holds conferences, conducts trainings, provides resources and consulting, and strengthens and promotes watchdog reporting worldwide. GIJN’s second Asian Investigative journalism conference will be held in Kathmandu on September 23-25, 2016.GIJN reserves six board seats for Africa, Asia/Pacific, Europe, Latin America, Middle East/North Africa, and North America.

India ‘inching closer’ to NSG membership; entry will shake strategic balance in South Asia: Chinese State media

Acknowledging that India is “inching closer” to get membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group, Chinese official media on Thursday said if New Delhi is admitted into the elite grouping, “nuclear balance” between India and Pakistan will be broken.Stating that India’s entry into Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) will “shake strategic balance in South Asia and even cast a cloud over peace and stability in the entire Asia-Pacific region”, an article in the state-run ‘Global Times’ however said China could support India’s inclusion in the 48 member nuclear club if it “played by rules”.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Written by Fu Xiaoqiang research fellow with the state-run think tank China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, the article a second in as many days by the same daily highlights China’s strident and vocal opposition to India’s entry into NSG and concerns that its all weather ally Pakistan will be left behind because “entry into the NSG will make it (India) a ‘legitimate nuclear power’.” “New Delhi seems to have inched closer to NSG membership after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi gained backing from the US, Swiss and Mexico in its bid to join the elite nuclear club earlier this month,” the article said mentioning for the first time India’s progress in getting support from Mexico and Switzerland. “Becoming a member of the NSG, a bloc that governs civilian nuclear trade worldwide, will grant India global acceptance as a legitimate nuclear power,” said the article titled “Beijing could support India’s NSG accession path if it plays by rules”.A commentary in the same daily on June 14 had said that India’s admission into NSG would “jeopardise” China’s national interest and touch a “raw nerve” in Pakistan. “If it joins the group, New Delhi will be able to import civilian nuclear technology and fuels from the international market more conveniently, while saving its domestic nuclear materials for military use,” said the article in the Global Times, a tabloid daily which is part of the ruling Communist Party of China group of publications headed by People’s Daily.”The major goal for India’s NSG ambition is to obtain an edge over Islamabad in nuclear capabilities. Once New Delhi gets the membership first, the nuclear balance between India and Pakistan will be broken,” it said.”As a result, Pakistan’s strategic interests will be threatened, which will in turn shake the strategic balance in South Asia, and even cast a cloud over peace and stability in the entire Asia-Pacific region,” it said.The reason why India has scored a big win in garnering support for its NSG membership from some countries is because Washington has started to treat New Delhi as part of the US alliance, the write-up said. “It was only several years ago that Modi could not even get a US visa, but now he has visited the US more often than any other country during his two years in office,” it said.The US recognised New Delhi as a “major defence partner” during Modi’s recent visit, meaning that the White House has given India the treatment as a US military ally, it said. The article said that over the years, the US has been “bending the rules” to back India’s nuclear projects.”Against the backdrop of Washington’s accelerated pace of promoting its pivot to the Asia-Pacific region, it will be highly likely to keep supporting New Delhi’s nuclear ambitions, in order to make it a stronger power to contain China,” it said. The attitude of the US has had and will undoubtedly have an impact on some other nations. For those countries which also wish to put a finger in the pie of India’s market, many of them begin to back India’s NSG membership, or at least not oppose it, the article said in apparent reference to majority of the countries in the NSG supporting India’s entry.”However, as a country that has signed neither the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) nor the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), India is not yet qualified for accession into the NSG,” it said.”That’s why the bloc is still divided over the case, and countries including New Zealand, Ireland, Turkey, South Africa and Austria have expressed their firm objections to India’s membership,” it said.The article made no mention of problems faced by Pakistan in getting into the NSG due to its past record of proliferating the nuclear technology to Iran and North Korea, where as India is seeking entry into group based on clean non-proliferation record.”As a crucial defender of the international system against nuclear proliferation, China does not wish to see the political and legal foundation of global nuclear security to be challenged by any party who does not abide by rules,” the article said without referring to Beijing’s own nuclear power cooperation with Islamabad in supplying a number of nuclear reactors, including two 1100 mw reactors currently under construction in Karachi.”For those countries that are developing nuclear technology without the acceptance of the international community, perhaps counting them into the non-proliferation mechanism will better safeguard nuclear security,” it said.But at the same the article said China backs India’s entry if a fair and just principle is worked out through consensus.”Yet before that, a fair and just principle must be made through common consensus of all current members of the NSG, rather than the US and India’s reckless pushing at the cost of rule-breaking”.”So far, all NSG members have signed the NPT. So the question is, if any non-signatory of the treaty wants to join the group, under what condition can it be accepted? If such a standard is to be made one day, then it will be possible for both India and Pakistan to become part of the group,” it said.”Beijing welcomes New Delhi playing a role as a major power in global governance, including producing positive effect in a nuclear non-proliferation organisation,” it said.”As long as all NSG members reach a consensus over how a non-NPT member could join the NSG and India promises to comply with stipulations over the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons while sticking to its policy of independence and self-reliance, China could support New Delhi’s path toward the club,” it said.

More talks needed to discuss India’s NSG membership: China

Even after strong backing from the United States, the UK and France, India might have to wait for the entry into the 48-member Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), with China on Sunday explicitly stating that more talks were needed to build consensus to allow new countries to join the elite nuclear grouping. Now all eyes are set on the summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), scheduled to be held in Tashkent on June 23 and 24, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi will have an opportunity to interact with the Chinese top political leadership. The SCO at this summit will witness its first expansion since its establishment 15 years by admitting India and Pakistan. The US President, Barack Obama, and Modi will also have another opportunity on September 4-5 to convince Chinese leadership on the sidelines of G-20 Summit at Hangzhou, the capital city of Zhejiang province on China’s southeastern coast.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>China is leading opposition to the US move to include India in NSG, though some other countries like New Zealand, Turkey, South Africa and Austria have also voiced their opposition. “Large differences remain over the issue of non-NPT countries joining the NSG,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said in an online statement. Diplomats here said that India is already enjoying most of the benefits of membership under a 2008 exemption to NSG rules granted to support its nuclear deal with the US. “With regard to what to do on the issue of non-NPT signatories joining (the NSG), China consistently supports having ample discussion on this to seek consensus and agreement and come to a unanimous decision,” Hong said. “The NPT is the political and legal basis for the entire international non-proliferation system,” Hong said, adding that China would support the group in further talks to come to a consensus at an early date.Opponents argue that granting India membership would further undermine efforts to prevent proliferation. It would also infuriate Pakistan, which responded to India’s membership bid with one of its own and has the backing of its close ally China. A day after PM Modi’s Washington visit, Pakistan PM’s advisor on foreign affairs Sartaz Aziz told a high-level US delegation comprising ambassador Richard Olson, US special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan and Peter Lavoy, senior adviser and director for South Asian Affairs at the National Security that maintaining effective nuclear deterrence is critical for Pakistan’s security. “Our second requirement was that the US should take our security interests into consideration, because if their (US) growing relationship with India upsets the regional balance in South Asia, we would not be able to take this strategic relationship much further,” Pakistan Foreign Office spokesman explicitly cautioned.The NSG was created in the aftermath of India’s 1974 nuclear test to deny it access to nuclear technology. Its membership will also allow India, supply of uranium, therefore helping a shift to nuclear power from current dependence on fossil fuel. An NSG summit is scheduled forJune 23-24 in Seoul, where the crucial decision will be taken.Former diplomat and disarmament expert Rak­esh Sood says, since 2008, when US lobby had granted India a waiver from the NSG, the situation was now different. The difference is while Pakistan is also in the scene, having applied to be a member, China, also has made its position clear.

China says more talks needed to build consensus on nuclear export club | Reuters

BEIJING China said on Sunday that more talks were needed to build a consensus on which countries can join the main group controlling access to sensitive nuclear technology, after a push by the United States to include India.

China is seen as leading opposition to the U.S. move to include India in the 48-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), but other countries, including New Zealand, Turkey, South Africa and Austria also oppose Indian membership, according to diplomats.

The NSG aims to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons by restricting the sale of items that can be used to make those arms.

India already enjoys most of the benefits of membership under a 2008 exemption to NSG rules granted to support its nuclear cooperation deal with Washington, even though India has developed atomic weapons and never signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the main global arms control pact.

“Large differences” remain over the issue of non-NPT countries joining the NSG, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said in an online statement.

“With regard to what to do on the issue of non-NPT signatories joining (the NSG), China consistently supports having ample discussion on this to seek consensus and agreement and come to a unanimous decision,” Hong said.

“The NPT is the political and legal basis for the entire international non-proliferation system,” Hong said, adding that China would support the group in further talks to come to a consensus at an early date.

Opponents argue that granting India membership would further undermine efforts to prevent proliferation. It would also infuriate India’s rival Pakistan, which responded to India’s membership bid with one of its own and has the backing of its close ally China.

Pakistan joining would be unacceptable to many, given its track record. The scientist that headed its nuclear weapons programme ran an illicit network for years that sold nuclear secrets to countries including North Korea and Iran.

A decision on Indian membership is not expected before an NSG plenary meeting in Seoul on June 20, but diplomats have said Washington has been pressuring hold-outs.

Most of the hold-outs oppose the idea of admitting a non-NPT state such as India and argue that if it is to be admitted, it should be under criteria that apply equally to all states rather than under a “tailor-made” solution for a U.S. ally.

(Reporting by Michael Martina; editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

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

Modi notches Rajya Sabha gains, eyes Uttar Pradesh battle | Reuters

ALLAHABAD, India Prime Minister Narendra Modi has notched up gains in elections to the Rajya Sabha, and is seeking to drive home the advantage when his nationalist ruling party meets to devise a strategy to win Uttar Pradesh, India’s biggest state.

Modi drew standing ovations from U.S. lawmakers this week on a visit to Washington D.C. but, like President Barack Obama, has faced a struggle in his two years in power to get legislation through a hostile second chamber.

That job may have become slightly less difficult after his nationalist the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its allies added five seats in Saturday’s Rajya Sabha polls, but with 74 seats in the 245-chamber they remain in a minority.

BJP leaders were due to meet later on Sunday to finalise their strategy to win the 2017 election in Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, knowing that defeat would handicap Modi and sap his chances of winning a second term.

“We have to win Uttar Pradesh to change the destiny of India,” BJP national secretary Sidharth Nath Singh said to Reuters ahead of the two-day meeting in Allahabad, eastern Uttar Pradesh.

The opposition Congress alliance lost three seats to 71, with regional parties holding the balance of power, according to media tallies. With Congress down but not yet out, Modi will still have to cut deals to pass tax, labour and land reforms.

Modi swept Uttar Pradesh in the 2014 general election, helping him to claim the biggest Lok Sabha majority in three decades. But he is unlikely to repeat that result against tough opposition from regional parties.

A senior BJP official said Modi’s closed-door brainstorming session would mobilise grassroots activists to consolidate the majority Hindu vote base and devise a formula to play up Hindu-Muslim polarisation and caste politics.

(Editing by Douglas Busvine and Christian Schmollinger)

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

In Kamathipura’s lanes, legalisation of prostitution seems like a faraway debate

On 26 May 2016, Amnesty International released a proposal calling for decriminalising the sex trade, highlighting the rape, violence, discrimination and extortion faced by sex workers all over the world. In the time since, the proposal has launched a charge debate, with former US president Jimmy Carter penning an (also much discussed) opinion piece for The Washington Post, presenting an alternate model of punishing those who buy sex, rather than those who sell it.

That debate seems a long way away, however, from the narrow lanes of Kamathipura — Mumbai’s red light district (Asia’s second largest, right after Sonagachi in Kolkata).

On the day that I visit Kamathipura, its narrow lanes are crammed with the usual businesses and people common to any other neighbourhood in the city. But then you see what sets it apart from those localities — the presence of heavily made-up women, waiting for their customers.

It may be the world’s oldest profession, but prostitution continues to be riddled with all sorts of problems — from trafficking, HIV/AIDS, to violence. And even after the passage of so many years, little advances have been made for the betterment of sex workers.

A sex worker, Raksha, readies for a performance during an event organised in Kamathipura by an NGO. Image from ReutersA sex worker, Raksha, readies for a performance during an event organised in Kamathipura by an NGO. Image from Reuters

A sex worker, Raksha, readies for a performance during an event organised in Kamathipura by an NGO. Image from Reuters

Shumi, 25, migrated to Kamathipura from Kolkata. She has now been working here for two years, and even though she claims customers are good to her and she’s doing this of her own accord, the hesitation in her demeanour is clear. Shumi had to leave her husband and two young children, but intends to go back next year as soon as she manages to save enough money. “I want to save money for the welfare of my kids in the future,” she says.

The prospect of leaving one’s children behind may be brutal, but when faced with extreme poverty many women have little choice. It’s no wonder then that most sex workers come from India’s poorest states, including West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh. However, by large, the sex trade knows no boundaries.

Arjun (name changed), 23, has been living in a building opposite Kamathipura since he was six or seven. He drives a silver Jaguar and evidently comes from a far different socio-economic background than the other people I encounter. Yet he knows the area inside out. “Girls from Mumbai go to Kolkata and Delhi. Girls from Delhi go to Kolkata and Mumbai. And girls from Kolkata go to Mumbai and Delhi,” he explains. In other words, sex workers travel as far as possible to avoid the brunt of their family and acquaintances’ censure back home.

Unfortunately, as is the case in most countries in the world, prostitution is still a source of shame and as such, falls into one of those grey areas of legality.

The legal standing of prostitution is at the very least, ambiguous in India. There are many loopholes in the law, but consecutive governments have preferred to ignore the situation than to seek a long-term solution to address the issues surrounding the trade. Trafficking of minors and forced sex is of course illegal, but when it comes to consensual sex between two adults, the situation is different.

Officially, a sex worker can’t legally solicit clients in public, but if she does so in a private home then she isn’t technically infringing the law. Brothels and pimps are banned on paper, yet they somehow manage to coexist amongst businesses and even when there is a police unit in the vicinity.

For some young men in India, sleeping with a sex worker is almost a rite of passage. “If they have cash in their pockets, they will not hesistate. If it’s my birthday or someone else’s, rather than giving a treat in a restaurant, this is preferred,” confesses Arjun.

The women in Kamathipura seem to be a long way off from the debate around legalising prostitution. Image from ReutersThe women in Kamathipura seem to be a long way off from the debate around legalising prostitution. Image from Reuters

The women in Kamathipura seem to be a long way off from the debate around legalising prostitution. Image from Reuters

Dr Nayreen Daruwalla, programme director for the Society for Nutrition, Education and Health Action (Sneha), believes there are multiple dilemmas sex workers confront due to their status, which is why she is adamantly in favour of legalisation. “I think prostitution should be legalised. Sex workers are doing it behind people’s backs, so what is the whole point? Just give them that legal status,” she says.

And legalising may help with one issue that many sex workers testify to: harassment from the police, for bribes. “I think if prostitution becomes legal, the police might harass them a bit less…and the women might have a more respectable position,” says Dr Daruwalla.

There are an estimated 2-3 million sex workers in India, but due to the lack of registries and sex trafficking, the figure is probably even larger. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, human trafficking, estimated at US$ 32 billion, is the fastest-growing criminal industry in the world. But when the stakes are so high, it’s an industry that’s hard to halt.

Aastha Parivaar is another of the many NGOs which caters to sex workers. Seema Sayyed, the manager of the organisation, believes great strides have been made since the time she first started working with prostitutes. However, there are few other forms of livelihood to which a sex worker can resort. “We are not here to stop the profession, because that cannot happen. If I enter a brothel and ask a madam to shoo away a girl and stop working, then what are they going to do? We don’t have an option for them,” she says.

Perhaps it is time we acknowledged — in India and elsewhere — and acknowledged the fact that sex workers are like any other human beings. They need protection but also have obligations. And the only way to uphold these rights — and duties — is through legalisation.

‘Modi Doctrine’ overcame ‘hesitations of history’: Top US official praises PM’s vision

Describing the just concluded US visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi as “historic”, the Obama administration has christened his vision of Indo-US ties that has overcome the “hesitations of history” and working for the betterment of the global good as “Modi Doctrine”.”The most important outcome in my mind of the visit this week and of the years of effort that preceded it is the clear and compelling vision that was laid out by Prime Minister Modi before joint session of the US Congress,” Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Nisha Desai Biswal said. “This vision which I have come to call The Modi Doctrine laid out a foreign policy that overcomes the hesitations of history and embraces the convergence between our two countries and our shared interests,” Biswal told a Washington audience.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Biswal, the Obama Administration’s point person for South and Central Asia, said this at a discussion on ‘Security and Strategic Outcomes from the Modi Visit’ organised yesterday here jointly by the Heritage Foundation – an American think- tank – and India Foundation, a New Delhi based think-tank. Modi, she said, in his speech furthered his bold vision of India-US partnership that can anchor peace, prosperity and stability from Asia to Africa, from the Indian Ocean to the Pacific and help ensure the security of the sea lanes of commerce and freedom of navigation on the seas.”This Modi Doctrine notes that the absence of an agreed security architecture creates uncertainty in Asia and reiterates India’s adherence to and calls for others support for international laws and norms,” Biswal said.India, she said, is now key element of Obama Administration s rebalance to Asia, a strategy which recognizes that America s security and prosperity increasingly depend on the security and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific.”The joint strategic vision which was issued last year laid out our mutual goals and interests in the Indo-Pacific and across the global commons. We are now implementing a road map that sets out a path of co-operation to achieve those goals and protect those interests,” Biswal said.In his remarks, US Ambassador to India Richard Verma said the US welcomes and shares the Prime Minister s vision. “We have made a clear and strategic choice to support India’s transition to become, as Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar has articulated, a leading power. Our actions, as security partners in every sense of the word, speak to this endeavor,” he said.”We envision India as a leading power that can uphold international norms and support what Defence Secretary Carter called last week a ‘principled security network’ in Asia. A leading power that can grow its economy while at the same time demonstrating global leadership on clean energy and climate,” he said.”And a leading power that joins likeminded partners to safeguard the global commons. Realising this vision will require diligent work on part of the bureaucracies in both Washington and Delhi and resilience to overcome obstacles that may arise,” Verma said.

PM Modi returns home after 5-nation tour

After visiting USA, Mexico, Afghanistan, Qatar, Switzerland, PM Modi returned home early morning on Thursday.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi returned home today after a five-nation tour whose highlight was his meeting with US President Barack Obama and address to US Congress in Washington.During his six-day tour, Modi also visited Afghanistan, Qatar, Switzerland and Mexico with an aim to bolster ties.He returned home early this morning from Mexico which was the last stoppage of his trip.Before leaving for home, Modi had tweeted, “Thank you Mexico. A new era in India-Mexico ties has begun and this relationship is going to benefit our people and the entire world.”<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”Five days, five countries! After a productive visit to Mexico, the last leg of his journey, PM departs for Delhi,” External Affairs Minister Vikas Swarup had tweeted.
ALSO READ Modi in US: Full text of PM Modi’s speech in US Congress Besides addressing a joint sitting of the US Congress, Modi received the backing of two key Nuclear Suppliers Group members – Switzerland and Mexico – for its bid to secure the membership of the 48-nation bloc.He also held wide-ranging talks with President Obama at the White House following which the US recognised India as a “major defence partner”.

From New York Times to POLITICO: How US media covered PM Modi’s speech

A host of US media outlets covered Narendra Modi’s speech to US Congressmen at Capitol Hill. A lot of Congressmen hailed the speech, House Speaker Paul Ryan called it ‘eloquent’ and several members even clamoured for autographs, reminiscent of the time Bill Clinton spoke to the two houses of the Indian Parliament in March, 2000.Here’s how prominent media outlets reacted to Modi’s speech:<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The New York Times The New York Times, which carried the photo of Modi surrounded by autograph-seeking politicians on its front page, wrote in an article titled ‘US and India Mark a New Moment in Relations as Narendra Modi Speaks to Congress’: “Mr. Modi made clear that he intended the speech to hail a new moment in relations between the United States and India when he told Congress at the outset that he had started his visit to Washington with a trip to Arlington National Cemetery.”The NYT observed that past Indian leaders were sceptical of American military power and critical of the Vietnam War and other military interventions. The article said: “Celebrating American war dead, though, was a telling signal of what both sides say is a very different relationship between the two countries.”Read the full article.NYT’s front page on June 9, 2016.Washington Post Meanwhile, the Washington Post focussed on Modi evoking Martin Luther King Jr in a piece titled ‘Addressing Congress, Modi calls for closer relations between India and U.S.’. The article observed: “Modi struck a different tone Wednesday, hailing Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy of nonviolent civil disobedience and its influence on the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., drawing a standing ovation from members of Congress. Modi said the proximity of the King memorial and the statue of Gandhi on Massachusetts Avenue “mirrors the closeness of ideals and values they believe in.””The article also spoke about Modi addressing Congress as ‘a temple of democracy’ and stressed on the importance of the US-India strategic partnership.Read the full article.USA TodayIn a piece titled ‘India’s Modi tells Congress that U.S. is ‘indispensable’ partner’, the USA Today observed that Modi called “USA ‘an indispensable partner’ in creating a stronger, more prosperous India that is in the best interest of both nations”. They added: “Modi, who was interrupted frequently with enthusiastic applause from lawmakers, also urged Congress to work more closely with India to combat the terrorists that threaten both countries.”They touched upon Modi’s rise from poverty, and observed that both nations “share concerns about China’s growing military clout, especially that nation’s apparent construction of military installations in disputed territory in the South China Sea”.Read the full article here.CNN In a piece titled ‘Modi addresses Congress as U.S.-India ties bloom’, CNN remembered the time Indo-US relations had a hit an all-time low thanks to Devyani Khobragade issue in 2013. They wrote: “It would have been hard to imagine three years ago, when U.S.-India relations were in tatters over the arrest and strip search of an Indian diplomat in New York for visa fraud and underpaying her housekeeper.”Adding that the tide had turned after Modi’s election in 2014, they observed: “With the Indian leader’s election in 2014, the tide has definitively turned — thanks to determined effort, a growing strategic alignment and the striking odd-couple chemistry between the barrel-chested, bear-hugging Modi and his cool, often restrained American counterpart, President Barack Obama.”Read the full piece here.POLITICOIn a piece titled, India’s Modi expresses confidence U.S. ties can weather ‘cycle of elections’, wrote: “Modi’s address to the joint session caps a U.S. trip intended to fortify ties between the world’s two largest democracies. The Indian prime minister mostly stayed away from election year politics in his address, except to express confidence that the progress made in forging a U.S.-Indian connection will not be undone by either presidential candidate.”The piece also observed: “Modi sprinkled a handful of laugh lines into his address, especially when drawing cultural connections between the two nations and praising America’s large Indian community as a “dynamic bridge”.”The article also called India’s pledge to ratify the Paris climate agreement by the end of the year, the ‘tangible process to emerge from his visit’.Read the full article here.

Modi in US: Magic of Modinama, the answer to India’s long wait for a global leader

Way back in March 2000, when US President Bill Clinton finished his address to a joint session of Parliament in New Delhi, and walked down the aisle in Central Hall, a number of MPs cut across party lines from both Houses of Parliament, jumped over benches and jostled for space to somehow shake hands with him.

More than what the visiting dignitary spoke about, the honourable parliamentarians’ over-enthusiasm and joy to meet the visiting dignitary — including those who till the other day had never missed an opportunity to deride America and its leadership — made the news.

A decade later, in November 2010, when President Barrack Obama was to address a joint session of Parliament, the MPs were especially told to “behave in a dignified manner” during and after his address. The advisory was official, sent by the parliamentary affairs ministry to leaders of all parliamentary parties to ensure that “decorum and dignity” of India’s temple of democracy was maintained.

The decision to send that advisory was guided by the spectacle that was created during Clinton’s visit and the leadership in the UPA government keen to avoid that.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses a joint meeting of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington. APPrime Minister Narendra Modi addresses a joint meeting of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington. AP

Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses a joint meeting of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington. AP

It was also the occasion when those sitting in the audience — in the visitors and media gallery in Central Hall of Parliament — wondered if ever an Indian leader would possess the same oratorical flourish and energy to speak like a world leader at such forums.

It was also informally debated then, among media persons, that whether Obama had spoken extempore or was making a smart use of a teleprompter to read his speech and make it appear like extempore.

Jump to 8 June, 2016, the United States Capitol, Washington DC. The occasion: Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s address to a joint session of the US Congress.

The manner in which Modi spoke, the substance and flourish of it, despite the fact that he spoke in a (English) language which for a long time in his life must have been alien to him, and the kind of rapturous applause he received from the US Congressmen, would make every Indian feel happy and confident of oneself and the nation, whether in India or abroad. On Wednesday, Modi accomplished something that a vast majority of Indians had only dreamed about for long.

The thunderous applause when he finished, continuing for over a minute from all corners of the hall in the Capitol, was comparable to the one Modi received at BJP’s National Council meeting at the Talkatora Stadium in New Delhi in 2013, after then BJP President Rajnath Singh had almost made it clear that Modi was going to lead and be the face of the party in the 2014 parliamentary polls.

A clearly overwhelmed Modi kept waving at the audience in all corners, accepting the cheers with gratitude. The two places were thousands of kilometres apart — in two different continents — but at both the places, there was recognition that Modi had arrived as a leader and was here to stay; at the national level back then, and now on the global platform.

If over a decade and a half ago, Indian parliamentarians had vied to shake hands with Clinton, a number of American Congressmen and women, or their aides on Wednesday (as Mani Shankar Aiyar claimed that such Joint sessions of Congress are attended not just by Congressmen but by their aides as well) took turns to take Modi’s autograph and shake hands.

If something like this had happened during 2000-2010 (in between Clinton and Obama’s addresses to the joint sessions of the Indian Parliament) then the Parliamentary affairs ministry in consultation with the Speaker wouldn’t have considered issuing an advisory to the MPs to maintain decorum as it did in the year 2010. Full marks to Modi on that count.

One lost count of the number of times Modi received a standing ovation from the US Congressmen. The number of times they stood to applaud him, and the number of times they clapped and cheered could not just have been for courtesy. They felt for him and for what he spoke. All this in a country that had denied him a visa, just two years ago.

Only the now-famous “Modi Modi” chant was missing.

When the chant had begun, first in Ahmedabad after he was elected as chief minister for the third successive time, and subsequently all over the country in the run-up to parliamentary elections, and later at Indian diaspora meets abroad, there were many in the BJP and outside, who suspected that a group of specially-hired and trained youth had been planted to do so.

They could never make out the difference between spontaneous cheers and a rehearsed drill. What would his critics say now, following his reception by the US Congress?

Yes, the key issue here, domestically, is the delivery of goods to people at large in a fair and transparent manner. He spoke of his dream on that count. The fact that his successful five-nation tour has coincided with the ‘two years in office’ celebrations at home has boosted the morale of his party cadre, and enthused those in the government.

That he did say things that the American leaders would have loved to hear from him is also true: “Today, our relationship has overcome the hesitations of history. Comfort, candour and convergence define our conversations. Through the cycle of elections and transitions of administrations the intensity of our engagements has only grown. And, in this exciting journey, the US Congress has acted as its compass. You helped us turn barriers into bridges of partnership.”

He said what millions of Indians wanted to hear him say, on terrorism and Pakistan, without mincing words in front of the US Congress — which for long has pampered Pakistan. “Not just in Afghanistan, but elsewhere in South Asia, and globally, terrorism remains the biggest threat. In the territory stretching from West of India’s border to Africa, it may go by different names, from Laskhar-e-Taiba, to Taliban to IS.

“But its philosophy is common; of hate, murder and violence. Although its shadow is spreading across the world, it is incubated in India’s neighbourhood. I commend the members of the US Congress for sending a clear message to those who preach and practice terrorism for political gains.  Refusing to reward them is the first step towards holding them accountable for their actions,” Modi said.

There were also concerns among certain quarters over whether or not he would reflect on an important issue — intolerance, which has been a much debated issue among many in India and abroad.

Broadly, he began with the same theme that he had spoken on at a gathering of Christian priests at Vigyan Bhawan in New Delhi recently. “India lives as one; India grows as one; India celebrates as one. For my government, the Constitution is its real holy book. And, in that holy book, freedom of faith, speech and franchise, and equality of all citizens, regardless of background, are enshrined as fundamental rights. All the 1.25 billion of our citizens have freedom from fear, a freedom they exercise every moment of their lives.”

For those who for long had thought (rightly so) that Indian leaders did not have a sense of humour, Modi went on a different take: “I am informed that the working of the US Congress is harmonious. I am also told that you are well-known for your bipartisanship. Well, you are not alone. Time and again, I have also witnessed a similar spirit in the Indian Parliament, especially in our Upper House. So, as you can see, we have many shared practices.”

Speaking on the practice of Yoga, he said, “And, no Mr Speaker, we have not yet claimed intellectual property right on Yoga”.

India-US relationship has overcome hesitations of history: PM Modi in US Congress

Washington: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi told Congress Wednesday that his nation and the US have overcome “the hesitations of history” and called for ever-stronger economic and defense ties between the two countries.

“Let us work together to convert shared ideals into practical cooperation,” Modi said in a speech that lauded both nations’ common democratic principles and hailed two heroes of nonviolence, India’s Mahatma Gandhi and civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.

“In advancing this relationship, both nations stand to gain in great measure,” he said.

Modi’s address followed years of being shunned in the US because of religious violence in his home state. Underscoring the turnabout, it came a day after a White House meeting with President Barack Obama and preceded a lunch Modi will have in the Capitol with congressional leaders and a reception hosted by the House and Senate foreign affairs committees.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses a joint meeting of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington. APPrime Minister Narendra Modi addresses a joint meeting of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington. AP

Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses a joint meeting of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington. AP

“Today, our relationship has overcome the hesitations of history,” he said. “Comfort, candour and convergence define our conversations.”

Modi drew laughter from the lawmakers crowding the House chamber for the joint meeting of Congress with a tongue-in-cheek description of the rough and tumble politics of the US.

“I am informed that the working of the US Congress is harmonious. I am also told that you are well-known for your bipartisanship,” he said. “Well, you are not alone.”

When Modi evoked US-India cooperation on climate change, Democrats rose in applause, but most Republicans stayed seated.

He also emphasised the common cultural ties between the two nations.

Modi cited estimates that “more Americans bend for yoga than to throw a curve ball.” And he described the achievements of Indian-Americans, saying they are among the US’ best business executives, scientists, “even spelling bee champions.”

When Modi applauded the sacrifices of soldiers from “the land of the free and the home of the brave” in the service of liberty, he clapped his hands above his head, prompting a standing ovation.

Modi said his nation’s 1.25 billion people made India an “ideal partner” for US businesses. He said his goals include strengthening his country’s rural economy, bringing electricity to all of the country’s households and improving transportation systems, all achieved “with a light carbon footprint.”

Citing the rising threat from the Islamic State and other extremist groups, he said, “We have both lost civilians and soldiers in combatting it. The need of the hour is for us to deepen our security cooperation.”

At his meeting with Obama, the two leaders consolidated strong bilateral ties but fell short of major outcomes.

India, the world’s third-largest carbon emitter among nations, said it would strive to formally join a global climate deal this year — as the US and China have said they will do — but it gave no ironclad commitment.

There was also some progress on a landmark civilian nuclear agreement between the US and India that was reached in 2008. The two governments said that U.S.-based Westinghouse Electric Co is preparing to build six nuclear reactors in India, but it has yet to finalise a contract.

Though the two countries’ ties are growing stronger, there’s also a sense in Congress that the relationship has yet to deliver on its promise and some lawmakers have criticised the Modi government’s record on religious tolerance and combating human trafficking and slavery.

Modi is the fifth Indian leader to make a speech to Congress since 1985. The last was by his predecessor, Manmohan Singh, in 2005.

Coincidentally, it was that year that Modi was denied a visa to visit the U.S. over suspicions about his possible role in religious riots that killed more than 1,000 Muslims in the western state of Gujarat, where he was then the top official.

American officials largely avoided contact with Modi until he became prime minister in the 2014. Since then, he has visited the US four times.

His tenure has seen an improvement in the bilateral relationship, particularly in defense. While India resists the notion of becoming a US ally, the two militaries conduct more drills with each other than with any other nation. They share concern over China’s rise and over freedom of navigation in the Asia-Pacific region.

Modi is also seen as a pro-business leader. There’s been some easing of foreign investment restrictions, and trade has grown at a fair clip in recent years, but lawmakers have complained about continuing bureaucratic hurdles and investment limits and over the halting pace of liberalisation in India.

India clears final hurdle to join missile control group, diplomats say

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 US 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.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>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 EXPORTERIndia 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.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 US 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 US 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, US-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.

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)

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

India may join Missile Technology Control Regime ‘very quickly’: US Official

India may join the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) “very quickly” as there are no longer any major obstacles and things are moving positively, a senior US official has said.”We do expect that India will join MTCR very quickly. I think things are moving positively,” a senior Obama administration official told PTI when asked about the possibility of India joining the 34-member group.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”There are no longer any major obstacles that we are aware of,” the official said yesterday.
ALSO READ Ahead of Modi’s visit to Washington, India joins global ballistic missile proliferation regimeUS President Barack Obama has strongly backed India’s membership into the MTCR and three other export control regime – Australia Group, Nuclear Suppliers Group and the Wassenaar Arrangement.The move will boost India’s efforts to purchase Predator drones from the US and export its high-tech missiles to friendly nations.However, on India becoming a member of Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) where China is openly opposing it, the Obama administration is keeping its fingers crossed for the moment.”On NSG, there is a process that is still ongoing. I do not think the NSG plenary is not meeting until later in this month. Let’s see how it goes but the US is absolutely, categorically, unreservedly committed to India’s membership in the NSG.”The US and India and other friendly countries are working actively together to see that India get there,” the official, who requested anonymity, added.Established in April 1987, the voluntary MTCR aims to limit the spread of ballistic missiles and other unmanned delivery systems that could be used for chemical, biological, and nuclear attacks.The MTCR regime urges its 34 members, which include most of the world’s key missile manufacturers, to restrict their exports of missiles and related technologies capable of carrying a 500-kilogramme payload at least 300 kilometres or delivering any type of weapon of mass destruction.Since 2008, India has been one of the five countries that are Unilateral Adherents to MTCR.After MTCR’s announcement, India and the US are expected to fast-track their discussion on sale of predator series of unmanned aircraft for the Indian military.

US will aid India’s defence whether or not it chooses to operate with us: US

Washington: The US is “committed” to help India build its defence capabilities until it can be the “net provider of security” in the Asia-Pacific region, a senior Obama administration official has said.

“There is a recognition that as India grows and develops the capacity to protect its interests, not just in immediate region, but also broadly throughout Asia Pacific particularly in the Indian Ocean region. It is in the US interest to build India that capacity until it can truly be the net provider of security,” the official told PTI.

Modi on his arrival at Washington. The Indian PM is on a two-day tour to US. PTIModi on his arrival at Washington. The Indian PM is on a two-day tour to US. PTI

Modi on his arrival at Washington. The Indian PM is on a two-day tour to US. PTI

“Whether India decides to operate with us or not, we are committed to help India develop that capacity to protect its own interest and to ensure that the Indian Ocean region is free from the kind of threats to maritime transport, shipping, the way it is being in the South China Sea,” he said.

Enhanced global co-operation with greater role for India, strengthening of defence and security relationship and initiating steps to boost bilateral trade are believed to be on top of the agenda for US President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Narendra Modi when they meet at the White House on Tuesday.

The official said the India-US relationship has now “emerged at the world stage” and is no longer a “restricted to narrow” South Asia or subcontinental set of issues.

“This level of engagement between an American President and an Indian Prime Minister is absolutely unprecedented,” the official said.

India recognises that it now has a tangible and active role to play in protecting its interest, the official said moments after Modi landed at the Andrews Air Force Base for his three-day visit to Washington. So “it drifted away” from previous governments insisting on values and ideals like disarmament, non-discrimination to being “much more practical” in really reaching out protecting that interest.

The first manifestation of this was at the Paris Climate Change Summit last November.

The summit was successful largely because “Modi made a personal decision” to shift away from the integrated north-south narrative to one of really joining in with other world leaders to solving these problems, the official said.

“I think the President and the Prime Minister are likely to talk about how they continue their co-operation on world problems. That would come up in the meeting on different issues. And that would be reflected in the joint statement as well,” said the official.

“Secondly the other major convergence that has taken place in recent years is in the realm of security. Again you have a country that historically was non-aligned, probably more closely aligned to the Soviets than with any other country. The US on the other hand was a major cold war protagonist and preferred operating with close alliances,” the official said.

“What we have seen from the joint strategic vision from last year is that there is really a strong convergence of perspectives on security matters including regional security matters,” the official added.

At the same time, the officials conceded that the convergence is not complete yet.

“There are areas where US still prefers to operate with partners and do operations together as we do elsewhere in the world. India is still hesitant to operate with any other country. It prefers to be autonomous and truly non-aligned,” the official said.

“There was a statement made by one of our military commanders that created kind of push back, blow back inside India. But that is the kind of issue where we are on the edge where our co-operation is today. But I think in the years to come, we would look back at this period and say well we managed to get that through as well,” observed the official, who is privy to the discussions between the two countries.

The official also conceded that America’s security partnership with Pakistan over the years still poses challenge to India-US relationship.

“But even there you would see there is going to be a much greater convergence again that no country should allow territory to use to launch terrorist attack against neighbours. And I think that is a very strong point of convergence between these two,” said the senior administration official.

Economic front is one area, where there is less convergence as compared to security and global issues, the official said.

“On economic front, historically we had a socialist command economy in India and US promoting global liberalised trade. This is an area where convergence is far from complete,” the official said.

“I think, as US is working with other countries in the Asia Pacific region, trans-pacific partnership, we have envisioned of a liberalised high standard trade and investment system in the Asia Pacific region. And India is not yet comfortable with that,” the official said.

“It (India) still has an approach that is more protectionist which is internally oriented to advance its own industry and make its own industry more competitive. Of course, we understand that. But we are working and we are intensifying discussions including in the Oval Office on Wednesday between the President and the Prime Minister, how we can come on board and find areas to c-operate on in the trade investment area,” said the official.

From US Congress address to meeting with biz heads: Here’s PM’s US itinerary

Prime minister Narendra Modi arrives in the US capital today (6 June) afternoon as he and US president Barrack Obama are scheduled to meet at the Oval Office, their sixth after Modi assumed power.

The White House views Modi’s visit as a highlight of the growing collaboration between India and the US and their “shared leadership” on the world stage.

File image of Narendra Modi on an earlier visit to the US. Twitter @MEAIndia

File image of Narendra Modi on an earlier visit to the US. Twitter @MEAIndia

“This visit celebrates the remarkable transformation in US-India ties. Over the last seven years, the United States and India have cemented an enduring bond of friendship, built on democratic values, open societies, and a respect for a rules-based order,” a senior administration official told PTI.

“Modi’s visit to Washington offers a chance to reflect on how much the strategic partnership between the US and India has grown over the course of this Administration following through on President Obama’s goal to establish a ‘defining relationship for the 21st Century’ that will directly benefit our almost 1.6 billion citizens and increase cooperation to sustain and strengthen the global rules-based order both countries care deeply about,” a State Department spokesman told the news agency earlier.

Here’s the itinerary of the prime minister in the US:

June 6: After meeting Swiss President Johann Schneider-Ammann in Switzerland, PM arrives in Washington by afternoon

June 6 evening: Meeting with heads of Washington think-tanks

June 7: Wreath Laying at Tomb of Unknown Soldier and Space Shuttle Columbia Memorial, Working lunch with President Barack Obama

June 7 at 5 pm: Keynote address to US India Business Council’s 41st Annual Leadership Summit

June 7 evening: Meeting with US business delegation

June 8: Address to the Joint Meeting of the US Congress

June 8: Lunch and reception with members of Congress

June 8: Reception with Indian Americans

June 8: Leaves for Mexico on a brief working visit on at the invitation of President Enrique Pena Nieto.

He returns to India on Thursday, June 9.

With PTI

If Gandhi was alive he would be pleased with India but not satisfied: Senator Ben Cardin ahead of Modi’s US visit

Being a democratic country, India has a responsibility to ensure that human rights of its people are not violated, a key US Senator, who has been vocal about alleged human rights here, said today.On the issues of alleged human rights violations, religious intolerance and extra-judicial killings in India, Senator Ben Cardin said if Mahatma Gandhi were alive, he would be “pleased with the progress made by the country, but not satisfied”.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>He said he would continue to stress on areas in which his country and India can “improve”.”When you are a democratic country, you have to lead. We have certain responsibilities and as you see today, people who are not able to fully benefit from all the opportunities, we have a responsibility to do more and make sure they can,” he told reporters when asked about the US repeatedly suggesting India on “doing more” on human rights issues.Cardin, a ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, made the remarks during his visit to Gandhi Smriti.When questioned whether he was satisfied with measures taken by the Indian government with regard to protecting human rights, Cardin reiterated he is “encouraged” by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s statement of having “zero tolerance” for violation of one’s rights.The Senator also welcomed the Indian government’s proposed anti-human trafficking law and made a strong pitch for its uniform enforcement across the country.”But as I said earlier, we would like to see not only law is passed, but we would like to see the maintaining of funding and enforcement uniformly around the country. So, it’s too early to judge, but I know that the Prime Minister has made the right commitments,” he said.On his remarks that he will take up the issues of alleged human rights violation, religion intolerance and extra-judicial killings in India with Modi when the latter visits US next week, Cardin said he will “continue to stress” on areas where Washington and New Delhi “can improve”.”If Gandhi was with us today, he must be very pleased with the progress seen in India, but he would not be satisfied.(If) Dr Martin Luther King was in the US, he would be proud of the progress we have made in our country, but he would not be satisfied. So, I am going to continue to stress (on) areas where I think my country and India, two great democracies, can improve,” he added.Cardin said the US is looking forward to Modi’s visit to his country. He showered praises on Mahatma Gandhi, describing him as “very inspirational and incredible individual” who had much influence on the development and social progress in the US. “He inspired many of us including President John F Kennedy and Martin Luther King Junior…So, this was particularly important moment for me to be here,” he said.Cardin was yesterday sharply critical of India on alleged human rights violations, extra-judicial killings and religious intolerance, and said these were “national challenges” that the country faces.

U.S. moves to reduce salt in restaurant, packaged food | Reuters

WASHINGTON The United States moved on Wednesday to cut the amount of salt in packaged and restaurant food in a bid to reduce the number of heart attacks and strokes linked to consuming too much sodium.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued draft guidelines for major food manufacturers and big chain restaurants that are aimed at reducing salt in foods such as soup, pizza, deli meat, dips, hamburgers, baked goods, snack foods and more.

The agency’s move is aimed at lowering the average American’s salt consumption by a third, saying people in the United States consume almost 50 percent more sodium than recommended by most experts.

Many U.S. food companies, including Campbell Soup Co, General Mills Inc and Kraft Heinz Co, have already cut salt levels to some extent in anticipation of the guidelines, which have been in the works since 2011.

The FDA proposed a daily sodium intake target of 2,300 milligrams a day, down from the current average adult intake of about 3,400 milligrams a day.

The agency will discuss the draft with the public and industry before making the guidelines final, and that daily target may be modified.

“Like others inside and outside of government, we believe additional work is needed to determine the acceptable range of sodium intake for optimal health,” said Leon Bruner, chief science officer at the Grocery Manufacturers Association, the industry’s biggest lobbying organization.

“This evaluation should include research that indicates health risks for people who consume too much sodium as well as health risks from consuming too little sodium,” Bruner added.

FDA Commissioner Robert Califf acknowledged on a conference call with reporters that there is controversy about the impact of sodium on health and what levels are considered safe for public health, but said the agency’s goal is to get the overall salt intake down to “reasonable levels.”

Different food categories will have different targets, and some products have more room for reductions than others. The agency singled out salad dressing as an example, saying the amount of sodium ranges from 150 mg per hundred grams to more than 2,000. Wheat bread ranges from 220 mg to 671 mg, it said.

Increased sodium intake is linked to high blood pressure, which can lead to heart disease and stroke, two major causes of death in the United States. (1.usa.gov/282RWBD)

About half the money spent by Americans on food goes toward food eaten outside the home, according to government figures.

The guidelines were issued less than two weeks after the FDA said it planned a major overhaul of the way packaged foods are labeled to reflect the amount of added sugar and specific serving sizes.

(Reporting by Toni Clarke in Washington and Amrutha Penumudi in Bengaluru; Editing by Will Dunham)

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

Italian marine Girone returns home: Will India now get entry to the Missile Transfer Control Regime?

Now that Italian marine Salvatore Girone has returned home after four years in Indian custody, will Italy relent? Last year, Italy blocked India’s entry to the Missile Transfer Control Regime, because of strained ties with India over the marines.

The 34-member group which makes up the MTCR works by consensus. Despite US and other major powers backing, India’s attempts were thwarted by the Italians. Ever since the arrest of the two marines in 2012, India’s ties with Italy has taken a nose dive. With Girone, who was spending his time cooped up in the Italian mission in the capita is back in Italy, will India’s path to the MTCR be smooth? The MEA is certainly hoping there will be no more hiccups.

Italy had blocked India's entry. AP

Italy had blocked India’s entry to the Missile Transfer Control Regime, because of strained ties with India over the marines. AP

India applied for membership to the MTCR in June 2015 after making sure that all key powers were on board. The process had started not now, but with the previous government. The hope was that during the meeting of the MTCR plenary in Oslo last October, India would be admitted. The US , France, Germany, UK were all for it. China incidentally is not a member. The unexpected jolt came from Italy.

Its veto had nothing to do with India’s proliferation record, but the Italian government’s frustration with India over the arrest of the two marines. The incident of 2012 was a major embarrassment for the ruling government in Rome and India unnecessarily took a rigid stand. The matter soon become entangled with Kerala politics. So much so that even after the UN arbitration tribunal asked Italy and India to approach the Supreme Court for bail for Girone, the two sides waited until the Kerala elections were over before approaching the apex court. The other, Italian Massimiliano Lattore, had left India because of a health problem in 2014.

The Italian government was literally roasted by their opposition for failure to protect the two marines, who had been part of the security time of the cargo boat, when the incident happened. The Somali pirates was a menace for ships at that time, and various governments deployed marines for protection against hijacking. The Italians had shot dead two Indian fishermen off the Kerala coast mistaking them for pirates. The opposition’s scathing attack as well as the bad media coverage showed Rome in bad light. Blocking India’s entry to MTCR was one way for Italy to hit back.

When the India-US civil nuclear agreement was signed there was also the promise that India would be integrated into the global non-proliferation system and harmonise its processes with that of the member states. These are the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), the Missile Technology Control Regime, the Wassenaar Arrangement and the Australia Group. So far not a single door has opened. At the moment India’s focus is on the MTCR and the NSG.

It is important for India to be part of the MTCR because as former ambassador to the US, Naresh Chandra explained, accessing dual technology is much easier. “It is not that dual-technology is always denied if you are not part of the MTCR,” Chandra explained. “But a country needs to go through a long process in the US. If you are a MRTC member, there is the presumption of approval for your request, otherwise you have to start from a presumption of denial,” said Chandra.

As none of the 34-member countries in the MTCR had any objections to India’s entry, save Italy, New Delhi is hoping that it does not have to wait till the plenary in October. Indian diplomatic efforts will be focused in the next few weeks to ask member countries to push through the formalities once Italy gives the green signal. When Prime Minister Narendra Modi is in Washington he will push this with President Barak Obama. The US has already made it clear that it backs India in both the MTCR and the NSG.

India’s admission to the MTCR will have positive implications for its domestic missile production. It will help India to access better technology, including sensitive dual-use technology long denied to the country.

At one time the non-proliferation groups were aiming their guns on India. Russia was once prevented from exporting cryogenic technology to India by the MCTR. However, nobody even at that time could charge India of exporting technology or not following the non-proliferation agenda.

But there has been a sea change in world opinion since India signed the civil nuclear deal with the US. So much so, that when India applied for membership last year, this is what Foreign Policy, the prestigious US publication focuses on global affairs wrote:

“While India has always remained committed to non-proliferation of sensitive items covered by the MTCR, it has updated its domestic laws as well as its Special Chemicals, Organisms, Materials, Equipment, and Technologies (SCOMET) List in the last five years, harmonizing them completely with the MTCR guidelines. This has been recognized by the US and all other like-minded partners.”

Members too believe that entry will help India to better contribute to the global non-proliferation regime. By the looks of it, India’s entry to the MTCR will be easy, once Italy is on board. The question is whether this will happen before the plenary which is around October. For India, getting into MTCR will also smoothen the path to NSG membership. China will be a formidable force at the NSG and unlikely to be swayed by US pressure considering its irritation over what it regards as unnecessary interference by Washington in the South China Sea.

Two years of Modi govt: India at forefront of global affairs, not ‘standing in a corner’, says PM

Ahead of his Washington visit early next month where he is set to meet President Barack Obama and address a joint session of the US Congress, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has in a veiled reference to India’s traditional non-aligned stand in the world stage said “India is not standing in a corner.”In an interview to Wall Street Journal (WSJ) Editor-in-Chief Gerard Baker on the eve of his two years in office, Prime Minister Modi said, “Today, unlike before, India is not standing in a corner.”<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The leading New York-based daily said the ties between both sides have been growing stronger over the last decade despite India’s traditional stand of being a non-aligned country, which had remained reluctant to play a prominent role in global affairs.The WSJ said the US wants India to emerge as an ‘economically strong’ and ‘credible counterweight’ against a rising China, adding this has led to deepening of defense cooperation between the two countries.The international daily further stated that Prime Minister Modi downplayed any friction with China and instead pointed at increasing trade and diplomatic exchanges between the two nations.He asserted that all countries need to cooperate and respect international norms in order to ensure a collective success in an ‘interdependent world’.”Relationship between China and the US, there are areas where they have substantial differences but there are also areas where they work closely. This is the new way. If we want to ensure the success of this interdependent world, I think countries need to cooperate, but at the same time we also need to ensure that there is respect for international norms and international rules,” the WSJ quoted Prime minister Modi as saying.The Prime Minister refrained from commenting on US Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and his proposal to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the US”These are issues of debate in the election. A government shouldn’t respond to that…As a part of the election debate many things will be said there, who ate what, who drank what, how can I respond to everything?” he said.Prime Minister Modi will travel to the US for a bilateral summit with President Obama in the first half of June. President Obama had reportedly invited the Prime Minister for a bilateral summit when they both met briefly during the Nuclear Security Summit.

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)

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

Pakistan says ‘seriously concerned’ by India’s missile tests

Pakistan is “seriously concerned” by India’s recent test of anti-ballistic missiles which media reports say could intercept incoming nuclear weapons, a senior foreign ministry official said on Thursday, warning Pakistan would upgrade its defences. India’s defence and foreign ministries did not respond to requests for comment and the defence ministry has not stated whether any test was conducted. India has not announced these tests in the past.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Islamabad views its nuclear arsenal as a deterrent against India’s much larger conventional military. Sartaj Aziz, foreign affairs adviser to Pakistan’s prime minister, told the senate that India’s latest test, as well as recent tests of nuclear capable submarine-based ballistic missiles, was “leading to nuclearization” of the Indian Ocean. “Pakistan has serious concerns over these developments and will take all necessary measures to augment its defence capabilities,” Aziz said. Pakistan alleges India is building large nuclear-powered submarines capable of carrying nuclear-armed missiles. Aziz said that India’s actions were upsetting the strategic balance in South Asia and affecting the maritime security of other Indian Ocean nations. “We are not oblivious to our defence needs and will have to upgrade our defensive capabilities through suitable technologies without entering into an arms race,” Aziz said, according to a foreign ministry statement. Indian officials have in the past also voiced concerns about Pakistan’s various missile tests. US President Barack Obama in October urged Pakistan to avoid developments in its nuclear weapons programme that could increase risks and instability. Washington has been concerned about Pakistan’s development of new nuclear weapons systems, including small tactical nuclear weapons, and has been trying to persuade Pakistan to make a unilateral declaration of “restraint.” But Pakistani officials have said Islamabad will not accept limits to its weapons programme and argue that smaller tactical nuclear weapons are needed to deter a sudden attack by India.

China demands end to U.S. surveillance after aircraft intercept | Reuters

WASHINGTON/BEIJING Beijing demanded an end to U.S. surveillance near China on Thursday after two of its fighter jets carried out what the Pentagon said was an “unsafe” intercept of a U.S. military reconnaissance aircraft over the South China Sea.

The incident, likely to increase tension in and around the contested waterway, took place in international airspace on Tuesday as the plane carried out “a routine U.S. patrol,” a Pentagon statement said.

A U.S. Defense official said two Chinese J-11 fighter jets flew within 50 feet (15 meters) of the U.S. EP-3 aircraft. The official said the incident took place east of Hainan island.

“Initial reports characterized the incident as unsafe,” the Pentagon statement said.

“It must be pointed out that U.S. military planes frequently carry out reconnaissance in Chinese coastal waters, seriously endangering Chinese maritime security,” China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei Hong told reporters.

“We demand that the United States immediately cease this type of close reconnaissance activity to avoid having this sort of incident happening again,” Hong said.

Speaking at a regular press briefing, he described the Pentagon statement as “not true” and said the actions of the Chinese aircraft were “completely in keeping with safety and professional standards.”

“They maintained safe behavior and did not engage in any dangerous action,” Hong said.

The encounter comes a week after China scrambled fighter jets as a U.S. Navy ship sailed close to a disputed reef in the South China Sea.

Another Chinese intercept took place in 2014 when a Chinese fighter pilot flew acrobatic maneuvers around a U.S. spy plane.

The intercept occurred days before President Barack Obama travels to parts of Asia from May 21-28, including a Group of Seven summit in Japan and his first trip to Vietnam.

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

Washington has accused Beijing of militarizing the South China Sea after creating artificial islands, while Beijing, in turn, has criticized increased U.S. naval patrols and exercises in Asia.

The Pentagon statement said the Department of Defense was addressing the issue through military and diplomatic channels.

China’s Defense Ministry said in a fax that it was looking into reports on the incident.

“DANGEROUS INTERCEPTS”

In 2015, the United States and China announced agreements on a military hotline and rules of behavior to govern air-to-air encounters called the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES).

“This is exactly the type of irresponsible and dangerous intercepts that the air-to-air annex to CUES is supposed to prevent,” said Greg Poling, director of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative at Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies think-tank.

Poling said either some part of China’s air force “hadn’t gotten the message,” or it was meant as a signal of displeasure with recent U.S. freedom of navigation actions in the South China Sea.

“If the latter, it would be very disappointing to find China sacrificing the CUES annex for political gamesmanship.”

Zhang Baohui, a security expert at Hong Kong’s Lingnan University, said he believed the encounter highlighted the limitation of CUES, and shows that Chinese pilots would still fly close to U.S. surveillance planes if needed.

“Frankly, we’re always going to see these kinds of incidents as China will always put the priority on national security over something like CUES whenever it feels its interests are directly threatened,” he said.

While the precise location of the encounter is not yet known, regional military attaches and experts say the southern Chinese coast is a military area of increasing sensitivity for Beijing.

Its submarine bases on Hainan are home to an expanding fleet of nuclear-armed submarines and a big target for on-going Western surveillance operations.

The Guangdong coast is also believed to be home to some of China’s most advanced missiles, including the DF-21D anti-ship weapon.

The Pentagon last month called on China to reaffirm it has no plans to deploy military aircraft in the Spratly Islands after China used a military plane to evacuate sick workers from Fiery Cross Reef, where it has built a 9,800-foot (3,000 meter) runway.

In April 2001, an intercept of a U.S. spy plane by a Chinese fighter jet resulted in a collision that killed the Chinese pilot and forced the American plane to make an emergency landing at a base on Hainan.

The 24 U.S. air crew members were held for 11 days until Washington apologized for the incident. That encounter soured U.S.-Chinese relations in the early days of President George W. Bush’s first administration.

Last month, the Pentagon said that Russia had intercepted a U.S. Air Force aircraft over the Baltic Sea in an “unsafe and unprofessional” way.

(Additional reporting by David Brunnstrom in Washington, Greg Torode in Hong Kong, and Michael Martina in Beijing; Editing by Mike Collett-White and Tom Brown)

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

Euthanasia debate: All you need to know about how other countries dealt with ‘right to die’

One of the first countries that decided to promote the cause euthanasia was Switzerland. The Swiss Criminal Code, which became effective on 1 January 1942, penalizes assistance in suicide out of selfish motives. If no ulterior are given, no offence is done.

That could also explain why the first organisation that decided to promote assisted suicide for the terribly distressed – often ailing on account of an incurable painful existence – was in this country. Dignitas is a Swiss group – founded in 1998 —  helping those with terminal illness and severe physical and mental illnesses to die, assisted by qualified doctors and nurses.

When Dignitas began promoting the concept of assisted suicides, there was a hue and cry.  Many people claimed that  permitting such an organisation to exist would open the floodgates to suicides and crimes.  However, the record of the past two decades shows that this has not been the case, though Dignitas welcomes patients from anywhere in the world. To date, it has helped 2127 people to die since its inception (see chart). More details about Dignitas can be found at here.

Screen shot 2016-05-17 at 5.40.49 PMScreen shot 2016-05-17 at 5.40.49 PMDignitas provides assisted suicide for people provided that they are of sound judgement and submit to an in-depth medical report prepared by a doctor that establishes the patient’s condition, as required by Swiss courts.

A person who wishes to die meets several Dignitas personnel, in addition to an independent doctor, for a private consultation. The independent doctor assesses the evidence provided by the patient and is met on two separate occasions, with a time gap between each of the consultations. Legally admissible proof that the person wishes to die is also created, in the form of a signed affidavit, countersigned by independent witnesses. In cases where a person is physically unable to sign a document, a short video film of the person is made in which they are asked to confirm their identity, that they wish to die, and that their decision is made of their own free will, without any form of persuasion. This evidence of informed consent remains private and is preserved only for use in any possible legal dispute.

During the past two decades, more countries have opted for end-of-life laws and solutions. Many more countries have allowed what is often referred to as Advance directive or Living will.

The Living Will allows a person to state in advance that he should not be put on life support systems should the need ever arise.  It is based on the simple logic that any person has the right to decide whether he wants to be operated upon or not, even to be treated or not.  The living will can even specify the types of treatment that the patient would be willing to permit for himself. This is because a doctor cannot administer to a patient any treatment (medical and/or surgical) without the patient’s informed consent. The patient is fully within his rights to refuse the treatment, even if this refusal can result in death.

If a person has that right when he is in full possession of his mental faculties, why should he not be allowed to exercise the same right for himself (not for others) should he lose his mental faculties or is in a vegetative state when he is unable to express himself.

It is based on the simple logic that any person has the right to decide whether he wants to be operated upon or not, even to be treated or not.

An Advance Directive can either be in the form of a Living Will, or it can be as a power of attorney drawn in favour of someone the patient trusts – a doctor, friend or a relative to decide on the course of treatment the patient might have wanted if he were in full possession of his mental faculties and his ability to communicate his wishes. That person or persons can jointly or severally instruct the doctor or the hospital about what should be done with the patient.

Representational image. AFPRepresentational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

In both cases, the doctor is granted immunity from the decisions taken, or the course of treatment followed.

Most developed countries accept the legal sanctity of this Advance Directive, or the Living Will or both.  But they have yet to be given legal status in India.  However, the Supreme Court is currently hearing petitions which seek to give the Living Will a legal status in this country.

Doctor assisted euthanasia is different from giving legal status to a Living ill.  In this case a doctor, or a group of doctors, advises a person, on the best way to end his or her life. Switzerland allows it, and during the past two decades some other countries have also introduced legislation and rules to permit this under very strict conditions.  Here is the list.

The Netherlands made this effective from 1 April, 2002. The legislation, called the ‘Termination of Life on Request and Assisted Suicide Act’ (Wet toetsing levensbeëindiging op verzoek en hulp bij zelfdodin, WTL) regulates the ending of life on explicit request by the individual (voluntary euthanasia) as well as accompanied suicide.  

Almost immediately thereafter came Belgium. It permits and regulates the ending of life by physicians on request by the individual who wishes to end life. The law became effective on 22 September, 2002.  This piece of legislation is supplemented by a law on patient’s rights and a regulation on palliative care. Luxembourg introduced a law on this subject with effect from 16 March 2009.  It allowed for palliative care, patient’s advance directive and assistance in dying, as well as a law on assisted suicide.

The battle in the US to allow assisted suicide has been fierce.  The first state to introduce such a law was the State of Oregon. In 1998, the ‘Death with Dignity Act’ came into force. It regulates physician-assisted suicide for terminally ill patients who have a life-expectancy of not more than 6 months. 

The US soon had another champion for assisted suicide the State of Washington. Since 2008, a similar law exists like the one in the US-State of Oregon, also called ‘Death with Dignity Act’. 

A third US state soon followed the other two – the State of Vermont. The Parliament of Vermont supported, “an act relating to patient choice and control at the end of life” and approved a law similar to the “Death with Dignity Act” in the US-States Oregon and Washington. The law offers terminally ill competent individuals a procedure which allows them a self-determined end of life by ingestion of medication provided by a physician. But the Act was implemented only partially.  The legislation dealing with “death with dignity” and immunity for physicians is expected to come into force by 1 July 2016 ( HYPERLINK “” n _blankWebsite of the Department of Health, with text of the law, forms, etc.  Then a fourth US state joined in – California. On 5 October, 2015 physicians assisted suicide for the terminally ill became legal through the End of Life Option Act. 

The fifth US state to join the ranks was the State of Montana. It legalised physician-assisted-suicide through a single-case Court decision: On 31 December 2009, the Supreme Court of Montana ruled that, under the Constitution of Montana, Article II, paragraph 4 and 10, terminally ill Robert Baxter had the right to a dignified death and at the same time that his physician had the right to being protected from prosecution. Even though the right to physician assisted dying was not guaranteed by the Constitution of Montana, such assistance, taking into consideration court cases and the law, was not in conflict with public interests and therefore not illegal. The decision was done by 5 : 2.  After Montana, New Mexico is another State which, in theory, legalised physician-assisted suicide through a single case Court decision: New Mexico State law provides a fundamental right to a terminally ill, competent patient to choose a physician’s aid in getting prescription medications that will allow a peaceful death.

Two years ago it was the turn of Canada.  One of its provinces Québec, introduced a bill on 5 June, 2014, which allowed for: An Act respecting end-of-life care. The purpose of the Bill was to ensure that end-of-life patients are provided care that is respectful of their dignity and their autonomy and to recognise the primacy of wishes expressed freely and clearly with respect to end-of-life care.

Australia flirted with the idea.  It introduced a bill for end-of-life but later withdrew it.

All eyes are now on India to see which way it decides.  But more on this in the next part.

(Disclosure: The author is a senior journalist with Firstpost and is also Hon. Secretary of the Society for the Right to Die with Dignity)

The Firstpost series on Euthanasia will include more anecdotes and views.

Part I: Relieving a human life from agony is not Himsa

In Part III, find out what India must do about the Euthanasia bill. 

Relationship with India, Pakistan not a ‘zero-sum game’: Pentagon

Washington: The United States views its relationships with India and Pakistan individually and not as a “zero-sum game”, the Pentagon has said.

“The United States views the relationship with Pakistan as not a zero-sum game with regard to India. We look at these relationships individually,” Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook told reporters at a news conference on Monday.

Representational image. AFPRepresentational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

The issue was clarified by US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter during his trip to India last month, Cook said.

“We have an interest and Pakistan has an interest in going after terrorist groups in that country. We’ve talked about it at length, and that is the focus of that security relationship with Pakistan,” he said.

“At the same time, we have security interests with India that stand alone and stand apart,” he said adding that Carter feels very strongly that the relationship can be enhanced further.

“We have made significant strides in the last few years with regard to that, last few months, even. And he sees that continuing to build, and he does not see those two issues, if you will, not getting in the way of each other,” Cook said.