Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Salwinder Singh to be questioned by Pakistan JIT

Singh, his cook Madan Gopal and friend Rajesh Verma reached the NIA office where the JIT will question the three in the presence of National Investigation Agency (NIA) officials, informed sources told IANS.
The three were questioned by the NIA on March 26 in the national capital and have been living under the agency’s supervision since then, the sources said.
Singh has claimed that he, Verma and cook Gopal were abducted by four or five heavily-armed terrorists near Punjab’s Kolia village on January 2.
The terrorists later attacked the Pathankot Indian Air Force base in which seven security personnel were killed. The Pakistani terrorists were later killed in a shootout.
The Pakistani team is in India to probe the Pathankot attack, which New Delhi says was masterminded by Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Maulana Masood Azhar.
On Monday and Tuesday, the NIA submitted evidence to the five-member Pakistani team on the terror attack.
According to NIA sources, the evidence show that the Pathankot operation was planned by elements in Pakistan.
The visiting team comprises among others Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) official Lt. Colonel Tanvir Ahmed and military intelligence officer Lt. Colonel Irfan Mirza.

Rajbala Verma is new Chief secretary of Jharkhand

Verma succeeds Rajiv Gauba, who moves to urban development department of the central government.
Until her new appointment, Verma was additional chief secretary in charge of the road department.
Verma is the second woman to have become the chief secretary of Jharkhand.

Assam polls: BJP woos Manipuris in Lakhipur constituency

The party has not only fielded a Manipuri candidate, Lairikyengbam Thoiba, in Lakhipur, but has also sent a team from its Manipur unit, led by legislator Khumukcham Joykishan, to canvass the voters in the Barak Valley.
“This is the defining moment. Thoiba is going to win this seat,” Joykishan told IANS on Thursday over phone from Lakhipur.
Out of Lakhipur’s 140,000 registered voters, about 50,000 are Manipuris, R.K. Shivachandra, the spokesman of the BJP’s Manipur unit, told IANS.
In the past, three Manipuris were elected in the Assam assembly from Lakhipur constituency, he said.
“That was 35 years ago. This time Thoiba will win hands down. The way our party has given ticket to a Manipuri in Assam will go a long way in BJP’s advance in not only Assam but also Manipur,” Shivachandra said.
The BJP team from Manipur has been conducting house to house election campaign in the constituency, which represents one of the 15 seats in the Barak Valley in the 126-member Assam assembly.
The Barak Valley has three districts — Cachar, Karimganj and Hailakandi — with Silchar as its nerve centre.
Manipuris in Lakhipur, Sonai and Udharbond constituencies have given the visiting BJP team a warm welcome, said Joykishan, who has become the first laemaker from Manipur visiting these parts in Assam for electioneering.
“I tell them (Manipuris) to preserve their culture and tradition. And they realise that the people in Manipur have not neglected them,” Joykishan said.
After electioneering in the Barak Valley, the BJP team from Manipur will go the Brahmaputra Valley which is going to polls on April 11, Shivachandra said.
“The team will first go to Hojai where there are a large number of Manipuris. They will also go to Manipuri Basti in the Guwahati city and other Manipuri villages,” he said.
Thounaojam Chaoba, president of the BJP’s Manipur unit, said: “The Congress in Assam would be rejected this time by the people. The outcome in Assam will have a direct bearing on the elections in Manipur in February next near.”
Chaoba alluded to the opinion polls that suggest that the Congress, which has been in power in Assam for three consecutive terms, may be decimated this time.

Modi talks tough on terror, says UN risks its relevance

In an address to Indian diaspora in Belgium on Wednesday night, Modi regretted that the world had not come up with a proportionate response to terror despite the huge threat it posed to humanity.
“The world has failed to understand the threat of this hideous monster,” he told the euphoric Indian crowd at the Brussels Expo here, finding fault with countries which differentiated between “good terrorism” and “bad terrorism”.
Modi explained how how India had been battling terrorism for the last 40 years. “When we raised our concern, we were told it is a mere law and order problem — until 9/11 happened.
“And when the earth shook beneath their feet, they began to understand what terrorism is,” he said, speaking days after terror attacks in the Belgian capital killed more than 30 people, including an Indian techie.
He, however, said that the UN had not been able to fully understand this “new challenge of the new era”.
“The United Nations knows everything about a war and how to stop it. But if you ask about terrorism, even the UN doesn’t know. The world body of such a grand stature has failed to perform its responsibility,” he said.
He said that India had been requesting the UN for years to come up with a resolution that defines “who a terrorist is and which country is a terrorist nation”.
“I don’t know when this will happen but the way situations are changing, it won’t be too late when this organisation will become irrelevant.”
He said India had never bowed to terrorism and will never do so and offered “deepest” condolences for the March 22 Brussels terror bombings.
He recalled the global Sufi conference held recently in New Delhi where scholars from the Muslim world denounced terrorism.
He said this approach was essential to stop radicalization and a right atmosphere had to be created to end terror.
He said he had spoken to many world leaders and emphasized “the need to delink religion from terror”.
“No religion teaches terrorism,” he said as he wound up his busy Belgian trip. Modi has left for Washington and will later fly to Saudi Arabia.

President’s Rule in Uttarakhand assault on democracy: CPI-M

“Coming after the imposition of President’s Rule in Arunachal Pradesh, the (Narendra) Modi government has shown that it will … topple non-BJP state governments, utilising any opportunity available,” said an editorial in the CPI-M journal “People’s Democracy”.
The Communist Party of India-Marxist said Article 356 of the constitution had been a weapon in the hands of the central government to arbitrarily dismiss elected state governments and to advance the political interests of the ruling party at the centre.
“A patently undemocratic and authoritarian clause, Article 356 requires only a report from the governor to say that there has been a breakdown in the constitutional machinery in the state.
“The central government has used pliable governors appointed by it to get such reports whenever required and act upon it.” it said.
The CPI-M reiterated its demand that the Article 356 should be scrapped and replaced with a suitable clause which will not give the freedom to the central government to act arbitrarily.
The CPI-M pointed out that President’s Rule was imposed in Uttarakhand a day before the chief minister was to test his majority on the floor of the assembly.
The nine Congress legislators who had defected to the Bharatiya Janata Party had been disqualified by the speaker under the anti-defection law.
“When it became clear that the chief minister would get a majority in the house after this disqualification, the union cabinet hurriedly met the day before the vote and recommended imposition of President’s Rule.

Amit Shah to launch NDA’s campaign in Kerala on April 9

“Shah will start the campaign at Pathanamthitta at 4 p.m. on April 9,” state BJP spokesperson J.R. Padmakumar told reporters here.
Kerala goes to polls on May 16.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has yet to open its account in the 140-member Kerala assembly.
“Shah will meet workers in Thalassery on the 9th and after the inauguration of the poll campaign at Pathanamthitta, will leave the same day,” said Padmakumar.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, his cabinet colleagues, Deputy Chief Minister of Goa Francis D’Souza and his fellow party legislators are all arriving to campaign for the BJP in Kerala.
The party has been heartened by recent poll results. It doubled the total number of seats in the last year’s local body polls as compared to its performance in 2010 polls.
The BJP’s total seats doubled from the 2010 local body polls to reach about 1,100 out of the total 21,871 seats across the three-tier local body structure in the state. Its vote share touched 14 per cent.
In the 2014 LokSabha polls, the BJP’s vote share for the first time touched double digits at 10.83 percent, up from 6.03 per cent in the 2011 assembly polls.
The state unit of the BJP has fielded its top leadership and has also managed to rope in former Indian cricketer S. Sreesanth, who will contest from the Thiruvananthapuram assembly constituency.

Flyover tragedy: Kolkata police seals city office of IVRCL

“The office of the construction company here have been sealed and we will take strong action against them,”said Police Commissioner Rajeev Kumar.
Earlier, following instructions from Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, police had lodged an FIR against the Hyderabad-based company, whose chief termed the mishap as an “act of God”.
At least 21 people died and over 70 got injured after the flyover in the congested Posta area of northern Kolkata crashed, crushing scores of unsuspecting people.

Election Commission bans exit polls in poll-bound states

“Exit polls cannot be conducted and publicised by means of print and electronic media or dissemination in any other manner starting from April 4 at 7 a.m. to May 16 at 6.30 p.m,” said an Election Commission release said.
Assam (126 seats) will vote on April 4 and 11, and West Bengal (294 seats) on April 4, 11, 17, 21, 25 and 30 and May 5. Kerala (140 seats), Tamil Nadu (234 seats) and Puducherry (30 seats) will go to the polls on May 16. Counting of votes in all five states will take place on May 19.
Noting that polling hours in Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry will be from 7 a.m. and 6 p.m., it, citing relevant provisions of the Representation of People Act, said that “displaying any election matter including results of any opinion poll or any other poll survey in any electronic media would be prohibited during 48 hours ending with the hour fixed for conclusion of poll in each of the phases”.

Kejriwal launches ‘Greening Delhi'; roads to be vacuum cleaned

“Apart from restoring greenery at road sides and central verges of 1,260 km of roads, the cleaning of roads will be carried out by vacuum cleaners,” Kejriwal said. He planted trees at ITO Chowk here.
The Aam Aadmi Party leader also tweeted: “Congrats Delhi. Vacuum cleaning and greening of Public Works Department (PWD) roads begin. Greening will (be) completed by October, vacuum cleaning on all roads in two months.”
Delhi’s Public Works Department (PWD) minister Satyendra Jain said ‘Greening Delhi’ initiative was taken by the horticulture wing of his department.
Under the initiative, greening of about 120 acres of roadside areas has been planned.
“At present, the PWD is maintaining about 1,260 km of roads including central verges, side verges and the ‘kutcha’ portion under flyovers. Many bald patches on central verges as well as in the side verges need to be greened to reduce pollution,” an official statement said.
The Delhi government move comes ahead of the second phase of the odd-even scheme for vehicles, set to return for a fortnight starting April 15.

Modi: Drop notion that ‘his’ terrorist is not ‘my’ terrorist

“Terrorism is globally networked. But, we still act only nationally to counter this threat,” he said at a working dinner hosted by President Barack Obama Thursday night to kick off the two-day Nuclear Security Summit.
“Nuclear security must remain an abiding national priority,” Modi told the world leaders meeting in the shadow of Brussels and Lahore terror attacks. “All States must completely abide by their international obligations.”
“Without prevention and prosecution of acts of terrorism there is no deterrence against nuclear terrorism,” he warned lamenting that while “the reach and supply chains of terrorism are global, genuine cooperation between nation states is not.”
Obama, who is hosting his fourth and last such summit to discuss how to prevent terrorists and other non state actors from gaining access to nuclear materials, was flanked Modi to the right and Chinese President Xi Jinping on the left.
The “dinner table” ran along the circumference of the East Room of the White House. In the middle were three big boxes of flowers, according to a pool report.
Modi, who has come to Washington after attending the India-EU summit in the Belgian capital said, “Brussels shows us how real and immediate is the threat to nuclear security from terrorism.”
“Terror has evolved. Terrorists are using 21st century technology. But our responses are rooted in the past,” he said asking the leaders to focus on three contemporary features of terrorism.
“First, today’s terrorism uses extreme violence as theatre. Second, we are no longer looking for a man in a cave, but we are hunting for a terrorist in a city with a computer or a smart phone.
“And Third, State actors working with nuclear traffickers and terrorists present the greatest risk.”
By putting spotlight on Nuclear Security, Obama has done great service to global security, Modi said and “this legacy of President Obama must endure.”
Earlier, in an opinion piece in the Washington Post Thursday Obama said, “of all the threats to global security and peace, the most dangerous is the proliferation and potential use of nuclear weapons.”
Outlining how to make the vision of a world without nuclear weapons a reality, he wrote: “We’re clear-eyed about the high hurdles ahead, but I believe that we must never resign ourselves to the fatalism that the spread of nuclear weapons is inevitable.”
“Even as we deal with the realities of the world as it is, we must continue to strive for our vision of the world as it ought to be,” Obama wrote.
Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz co-hosted a separate working dinner for other members of the visiting delegations.
“In recent years, 13 countries, plus Taiwan, have given up weapons-usable plutonium and highly-enriched uranium entirely,” Kerry noted. “An additional 12 countries have decreased their stockpiles of nuclear materials.”
Since 2009, through various lines of effort, we have removed or eliminated enough weapons-grade fissionable material to supply nearly 7,000 nuclear bombs,” he said.
India and other participating nations will present their national progress reports on steps taken by them to strengthen nuclear security since the last summit on Friday.
The first of these biennial nuclear security summits was held in Washington in April 2010 followed by the summits in Seoul in March 2012 and The Hague in March 2014.

Himachal government stable, says minister

Taking a jibe at the BJP in the assembly, he said: “The BJP is demoralised and disappointed. They are thinking that things may go like Arunachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand in Himachal Pradesh too.
“But we must tell them that the Congress is united under the leadership of Sonia Gandhi and Virbhadra Singh. We will take them (BJP) on unitedly,” the minister said.
His assertions came after BJP members walked out of the house on the plea that the government on Thursday had accepted a cut motion on health, which meant that it did not have the right to stay in power.
Kaul Singh said the Bharatiya Janata Party was talking about fresh assembly polls just to create confusion.
“The elections will be held at per schedule in 2017. And we will repeat our performance and the BJP will again stay in the opposition.”
He said the BJP members were not aware of parliamentary practices.
“When we were in the opposition, we also used to raise issues. But we never disrupted the question hour like they are doing.”
After the budget for 2016-17 was passed in the assembly on Thursday, opposition leader Prem Kumar Dhumal said the cut motions brought by the opposition were neither withdrawn nor rejected.
“Technically the government has fallen as it has lost majority and they have no right to continue,” he told reporters here.
Two-time chief minister Dhumal has also said that Congress legislators were unhappy with the chief minister and were in touch with him (Dhumal), and an Uttarakhand-like situation can’t be ruled out in Himachal Pradesh.

HC seeks response from UP government on Yash Bharti awards

Hearing a petition filed by Indian Police Service officer Amitabh Thakur, a bench of Justice A.P. Sahi and Justice A.R. Masudi asked the government to state under which financial head the award money was given and other expenses paid.
The award comprises Rs.11 lakh, a shawl and a certificate for contribution by the recipient in the fields of art, culture, medicine, literature and sports.
The court also sought to know the criteria and the process adopted for the selection of awardees.
It also asked whether the awards were in conformity with the constitutional provisions about abolition of titles.
Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav conferred the awards on 46 eminent personalities from different fields at the Ram Manohar Lohia Law University on March 21.
Thakur said in his petition that the way 22 names were chosen surreptitiously, 12 more added twice at the last moment, and the fact that Chief Secretary Alok Ranjan’s wife Surabhi Ranjan too was one of the recipients clearly showed that the awards were given arbitrarily.
He prayed for the cancelling of the awards already conferred and selection of recipients through a fair and transparent procedure.

NIA team to visit Pakistan

“We told them we want to send a team to Pakistan. They have welcomed the idea,” National Investigation Agency Director General Sharad Kumar said.

Modi to pay key bilateral visit to Saudi Arabia

This will be the first prime ministerial visit from India to the Gulf kingdom after the visit of then prime minister Manmohan Singh in 2010.
During that visit, the relationship between the two countries was elevated to “strategic partnership”.
This was after the Delhi Declaration made during then King Abdullah’s historic visit to India in 2006, the first by a Saudi monarch in five decades.
There are four key aspects to India’s relationship with Saudi Arabia: energy cooperation, the nearly three million-strong expatriate Indian community, Haj pilgrimage and security cooperation.
Saudi Arabia is India’s largest crude oil supplier accounting for one-fifth of the total imports. In 2015, India imported $21 billion worth of crude oil from that Gulf nation.
Saudi Arabia is also India’s fourth largest trading partner with exports to that country exceeding $11 billion.
At over 2.96 million, Indians form the largest expatriate community in Saudi Arabia and are crucial to the Indian economy as they send over $10 billion in remittances every year.
Over 134,000 Indians go for the Haj pilgrimage every year and almost 300,000 for Umra.
A key aspect of the strategic partnership between the two countries is the defence cooperation agreement signed during then Crown Prince Salman’s visit to India in 2014.
With Saudi Arabia upping the ante against terrorism, security cooperation also has become an important cornerstone of the relationship. In recent times, Riyadh handed over to New Delhi key terror operatives like Abu Jundal and Abdul Aziz alias Gidda.
“India’s ties with Saudi Arabia are special,” Prime Minister Modi said in a statement ahead of his departure from New Delhi.
“Robust people-to-people ties constitute a key component of our engagement. I plan to work with the Saudi leadership to expand and deepen our bilateral relations. Discussions on the regional situation would also be on the agenda,” he said.
The prime minister also said that he wanted Saudi businesses to partner in India’s development plans.
Soon after his arrival in Riyadh on Saturday afternoon, Modi will visit the historic Masmak fortress.
The fortress was taken over by King Abdulaziz in 1902 in a sudden attack which marked the start of the history of the third state of Saudi Arabia.
Thereafter, Modi will meet with members of the Indian community which will be followed by a visit to the L&T workers’ residential complex.
L&T is doing $2 billion worth of work on the $600-billion Riyadh Metro Project.
On Sunday, the prime minister will visit the Tata Consultancy Services’ (TCS) all-women IT centre.
“It is a very happy thing that he will be doing because this centre provides employment opportunities to Saudi women and this is empowerment of Saudi women,” Mridul Kumar, joint secretary (Gulf) in the external affairs ministry, said at a media briefing in connection with the visit.
“When the centre started two or three years back, there were 80 people in that centre. It has now grown to over 1,000,” he said, adding that 80 percent of the workers there were local Saudi girls.
Stating that this was the first BPO operation by any company in the world in Saudi Arabia, Kumar said that “it is a very important statement that we will be making there”.
After this, Modi will meet with select top Saudi business leaders.
The official ceremony at the Royal Court will start in the afternoon when King Salman will receive the prime minister
King Salman will host a lunch in Modi’s honour in which key Saudi ministers and other leaders will be present,
This will be followed by a delegation-level meeting and signing of agreements.
The prime minister will leave for New Delhi late Sunday afternoon.

Make odd-even ‘permanent’, boxer Vijender Singh tells Kejriwal

Vijender, who has now become a professional boxer, met Kejriwal at the Delhi Secretariat here and congratulated him over the success of the odd-even formula in Delhi in the past and said it needed to be reintroduced.
“The odd-even (scheme) was a huge success and relief. It must be made permanent,” Singh said.
He also invited the chief minister to watch his professional boxing match slated to be held at the Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium here on June 11. Kejriwal accepted the invitation.
The next phase of the odd-even formula will be launched from April 15 to 30 in Delhi. It was last implemented in the national capital from January 1 to 15.
Under the scheme, four-wheelers with odd and even registration numbers can ply on alternate dates. CNG vehicles, ambulances and certain other categories are exempt from the scheme.

Trump doesn’t know much about foreign policy: Obama

“The person who made the statements doesn’t know much about foreign policy or nuclear policy or the Korean Peninsula or the world generally,” Obama said at a news conference on Friday during the closing of the two-day Nuclear Security Summit, here.
Obama described the US nuclear umbrella for Japan and South Korea, in place of their own arsenals, as “one of the cornerstones of our presence in the Asia Pacific,” which has provided the US peace, prosperity and flowing commerce, CNN reported.
“It has prevented the possibilities of a nuclear escalation and conflict,” he said, adding “You don’t mess with that. It’s an investment that rests on the sacrifices that our men and women made” in the Second World War.
“We don’t want someone in the Oval Office who doesn’t recognize how important that is,” Obama added.
The summit came as the Republican front-runner to replace Obama in the White House made several controversial nuclear proposals this week.
Trump said that nuclear proliferation is the world’s biggest challenge, but also suggested at a CNN town hall on Tuesday that it may be time for Japan and South Korea to develop their own nuclear arsenals so the US can pull back from Asia.
Trump has also suggested re-drawing US security relationships in other regions, arguing that Germany and Saudi Arabia need to do more in their own defence or pay the US more for the protection it offers.
The summit, the final of four Obama has held during his presidency since 2010, drew over 50 leaders from around the world to discuss ways to prevent the use of nuclear weapons and better secure nuclear materials, especially from the threat of nuclear terrorism.
Obama said global efforts to improve nuclear security have removed from circulation material that is equivalent to 150 nuclear weapons, safeguarding it from extremists.
At the opening of the nuclear conference’s Friday session, Obama said the summit’s work — mostly done quietly behind the scenes in the months between high profile gatherings — served the crucial purpose of reducing the chances that nuclear materials could be stolen.

India to finally join nuclear security ‘gift baskets’

Addressing a media briefing here as the summit got underway, Amandeep Singh Gill, joint secretary (disarmament and international security affairs), said that India has decided to join some gift baskets, including those on counter nuclear smuggling and sharing best practices.
Gift basket diplomacy involves an approach to a crucial issue where, if consensus is not reached till the lowest common denominator, then those willing can join in. In other words, it is a system of getting around the system of universal consensus at any multilateral summit.
The US had first introduced the gift basket diplomacy during negotiations in 2011 for the Second Nuclear Security Summit.
Fourteen such gift baskets were put up in the summit held in Seoul next year.
India, which had so far refrained from joining any of these gift baskets, has finally decided to go for it.
Gill said India would join the Trilateral Initiative which is the joint statement of the previous three co-chairs of the nuclear security summit which has been circulated in the form of a document in the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
“So, this group of countries which India is joining are committed to holding the bar high on nuclear security,” the joint secretary said.
“We will also be joining three other gift baskets in priority areas like counter nuclear smuggling, the sharing of best practices through centres of excellence such as GCNEP (Global Centre for Nuclear Energy Partnership), and finally NSS follow-up through contact group in Vienna,” he said.
In Friday’s summit, Prime Minister Narendra Modi would underline that India would continue to reflect its nuclear obligations to the international community through its national actions, Gill said.
In the national progress report on the work India has done in terms of nuclear security in the two years since the last summit, Modi would underline the continued priority the country attached to nuclear security at home.
“Second, the prime minister will underline the continued priority we attach to the technology direction of nuclear security,” he said.
As leaders of over 50 nations met for the biennial summit, Prime Minister Narendra Modi also held bilateral meetings with British Prime Minister Cameron and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
“My meeting with PM @David_Cameron focused on defence cooperation, @makeinindia& other key issues,” Modi tweeted.
The meeting assumes significance as Tata Steel, after having suffered nearly $3 billion in losses on its British operations, is exploring to put its entire portfolio there up for sale, some 10 years after it forayed into Europe by acquiring Anglo-Dutch Corus for over $8.1 billion.
With around 40,000 jobs at stake, Cameron was expected to take up the matter with Modi during the meeting, according to media reports.
Earlier in the day, Modi met with Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau and invited Canadian faculty members to teach at institutes of higher learning in India for short stretches.
“He (Modi) said that Canadian professors and teachers, including retired faculty members, could consider coming to India during the harsh winter months in Canada and teaching at Indian universities for periods ranging from three to six months under the GIAN (Global Initiative of Academic Networks),” external affairs ministry spokesman VikasSwarup said at a media briefing here following the meeting.
GIAN is a programme under the union human resources ministry that aims at tapping the talent pool of academia and scientists internationally to encourage their engagement with institutes of higher education in India.
Trudeau, according to Swarup, said that there was “real potential for harnessing the opportunity of helping so many young people in India get better skills and Canada would also be happy to provide help in education and infrastructure support”.
Modi also invited Canadian companies to participate in India’s flagship development programmes such as the smart cities project and in India’s new policy for hydrocarbon sector, in particular for deep sea and high temperature exploration, that came into effect on Friday.
On the sidelines of the summit, Modi also had informal meetings with Swiss President Johann Schneider-Ammann, Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
This year’s summit is the fourth and final edition of the biennial affair.
The first summit was held in Washington in 2010 which was followed by the summits in Seoul in 2012 and The Hague in 2014.