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Syed Akbaruddin appointed as India’s next Permanent Representative to UN

New Delhi: Senior diplomat and former high-profile spokesperson of the External Affairs Ministry Syed Akbaruddin has been appointed as India’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, succeeding Asoke Mukerji.

A 1985 batch IFS officer, Akbaruddin, currently serving as an Additional Secretary in MEA, is credited with bringing a whiff of fresh air into the Ministry’s External Publicity division during his three-and-half year tenure as the spokesperson.

Syed Akbaruddin. Image courtesy: FacebookSyed Akbaruddin. Image courtesy: Facebook

Syed Akbaruddin. Image courtesy: Facebook

He had also brought an effective mix of social and digital media into the External Publicity division.

As India’s Permanent Representative to the global body in New York, Akbaruddin’s main task would be to push for India’s bid to gain permanent membership of the UN Security Council as well as to strongly advocate its position on key issues.

Akbaruddin was Chief Coordinator of the recently-held Indo-Africa Summit here which was participated by heads of state and government of 41 countries from African continent.

He had served at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Geneva and is considered an “expert” on the West Asia where he had served in various capacities.

Vikas Swarup, author of best-selling novel “Q&A” which formed the basis for Oscar-winning movie “Slumdog Millionaire”, had replaced Akbaruddin as MEA spokesperson in April.

PTI

Akbaruddin Owaisi denied permission to hold rally in Pune ahead of civic polls

Akbaruddin Owaisi is known to make controversial remarks, especially on issues concerning minorities.

An FIR was lodged against Owaisi by the Kishanganj District administration for allegedly making an inflammatory speech at an election rally.

File Photo
The Pune Police on Saturday denied permission to AIMIM leader Akbaruddin Owaisi for holding a rally at Kondhwa region on October 26 ahead of the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) polls. The police have reportedly denied permission to prevent any untoward incident during the Kondhwa by-election, which is scheduled to be held on November. Akbaruddin Owaisi is known to make controversial remarks, especially on issues concerning minorities.Earlier this month, an FIR was lodged against Owaisi by the Kishanganj District administration for allegedly making an inflammatory speech at an election rally. According to reports, Owaisi’s speech had violated provisions of Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CRPC) and an FIR has been lodged under Sections 153A and 188 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) at the Kochadhaman police station.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>He had allegedly used abusive language against all members of parliament except his elder brother Asaduddin Owaisi, who is the AIMIM chief and an MP from Hyderabad. He also allegedly made provocative remarks against BJP leaders.

FIR against Akbaruddin Owaisi for his speech at Kishanganj

Owaisi’s speech violated provisions of section 144 of Crpc and an FIR has been lodged under sections 153A and 188 of IPC at Kochadhaman police station.

File Photo

An FIR was today lodged against All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul Muslimeen (AIMIM) legislator Akbaruddin Owaisi by Kishanganj district administration for allegedly making inflammatory speech at an election rally. The police are also probing whether damage to idols at two temples in the town, which were discovered this morning, was a fallout of the speech, Superintendent of Police Rajiv Ranjan said.Owaisi’s speech, he said, violated provisions of section 144 of Crpc and an FIR has been lodged under sections 153A and 188 of IPC at Kochadhaman police station. Section 153A deals with promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony, while section 188 deals with disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant.The FIR has been lodged on the basis of magistrate’s report, the SP said.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Owaisi had yesterday addressed an election meeting at Sontha haat village under Kochadhaman assembly constituency in Kishanganj district from where AIMIM state unit chief Akhtarul Iman is contesting.He had allegedly used abusive language against all members of Parliament except his elder brother Asaduddin Owaisi who is AIMIM chief and an MP from Hyderabad. He also allegedly made provocative remarks against BJP leaders.The police are probing if the damage to idols of goddess Kali in two temples in Nepalgarh locality had any connection to the speech. The SP said idols were found damaged in two adjacent temples this morning and created tension in the town and protests. District administration sought to maintain peace by talking to people of the two communities, he added.

Narendra Modi became PM due to Congress ‘inefficiency’: AIMIM

Akbaruddin, younger brother of AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi, referred to the 2002 Gujarat riots, when Modi was the chief minister of the western state, and said “had Congress acted swiftly with an iron fist against Modi and filed a charge sheet against him… he would not have become prime minister”.
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dna Research & Archives
AIMIM accused Congress on Sunday of being “responsible” for the demolition of Babri Masjid and blamed its “inefficiency” for Narendra Modi’s ascent to power.”It was the Congress’s inefficiency due to which Modi could reach the post of prime minister,” All India Majlis-e- Ittehad-ul Muslimeen (AIMIM) leader Akbaruddin Owaisi said at a rally in Kishanganj in Bihar.Akbaruddin, younger brother of AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi, referred to the 2002 Gujarat riots, when Modi was the chief minister of the western state, and said “had Congress acted swiftly with an iron fist against Modi and filed a charge sheet against him… he would not have become prime minister”.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Further targeting Congress on the Ram Temple issue, he charged, “The party was responsible for opening the lock of the temple and subsequent demolition of the mosque (Babri Masjid).” However, he did not elaborate on the matter.Akbaruddin also took potshots at Modi, saying, “Fifteen months have lapsed, where is ‘achhe din’. Modi has become a non-resident PM. He is beating drum at one place while at another, he is giving Gita… Our country’s holy book is the Constitution of India.”The Telangana MLA was addressing an election meeting at Sontha Haat under Kochadhaman Assembly constituency in Kishanganj district from where AIMIM’s Bihar unit chief Akhtarul Iman has entered the poll fray.Training his guns on the grand secular alliance of Congress, JDU and RJD, Akbaruddin said that although they sought the votes of Muslims, these parties had done nothing for the betterment and uplift of the community. He also slammed Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, saying that “he does not have any problem with BJP; rather he has personal animosity against Modi”.”If BJP declares LK Advani as prime minister, Nitish would not think twice about joining hands with the saffron party,” claimed Akabaruddin.Bihar Assembly elections will be held over five phases between October 12 and November 5. The results will be announced on November 8.

PM Modi meets Canadian business leaders, seeks investments

Modi, who arrived in Canada on Wednesday on the last leg of his three-nation tour, has made a strong pitch for ‘Make in India’ initiative.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with major Pension Fund managers of Canada at a breakfast meeting in Toronto on Thursday.

PTI
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday met managers of Canada’s major pension funds and sought investments from them in India’s infrastructure sector.”Business before breakfast PM @narendramodi meets bankers, pension fund managers & pitches for investments from Canada,” Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin tweeted after Modi held a roundtable conference with them.”Demand to do business with India has gone up exponentially; India now on top of our list – Canadian investors to PM,” he said.”Modi will meet Canadian bank and pension fund managers in an effort to attract capital for infrastructure development,” India’s High Commissioner in Canada, Vishnu Prakash, had said on Wednesday.Canada’s pension funds include some of the world’s biggest investors.”They are looking for avenues where they can get secure and safe returns over the long term. They realise India is one of the countries that offers what they are looking for,” Prakash had said. Modi, who arrived in Canada on Wednesday on the last leg of his three-nation tour, has made a strong pitch for ‘Make in India’ initiative. The bilateral trade increased to USD 5.18 billion in 2013-14 from USD 4.83 billion in previous year.Modi said on Wednesday that environment is changing in India and highlighted that various international agencies including World Bank and IMF have said that India is the fastest growing economy. India is focusing on the manufacturing sector and Canada has raw material, Modi had said.

India expects ‘movement’ to seal Rafale deal with France

French nuclear reactors in Jaitapur in Maharashtra,Rafale fighter deal among key issues India seeks to get a move on during Modi’s France visit.

Modi arrives in France

Ahead of talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and French President Francois Hollande, India today said it expects “movement” on a proposal for setting up French nuclear reactors in Jaitapur in Maharashtra as well as Rafale fighter deal, both of which are pending for long. These issues, along with trade, will be high on the agenda of substantive discussions between the two leaders amid India’s keen interest to get participation of French companies in the ‘Make in India’ programme. Terrorism, against the backdrop of an attack here three months back, will also be discussed. <!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”India and France are strategic partners. In this context, the issues of civil nuclear and defence cooperation will be discussed. The issues you referred to will also be discussed. We expect movement on these issues,” External Affairs Ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin said here when asked whether the two leaders will talk about Jaiitapur nuclear project and multi-billion dollar Rafale deal. “There will be substantive discussions on defence and nuclear issues. Wait for the outcome,” he added.The spokesman said India expects French companies to participate in ‘Make in India’ programme in the field of defence as well as civil nuclear energy, “where India can make some nuclear installations with France.” The Jaitapur project, where French company Areva is to set up six nuclear reactors with total power generation capacity of about 10,000 MW, is stuck for long because of differences over the cost of electricity to be generated. Similarly, the deal to supply 126 Rafale fighter planes is also deadlocked because of differences over price. Modi, who arrived here today on a four-day visit, will also address two meetings with French CEOs – one on infrastructure and another on defence. He will also have ‘Naav pe Charcha’ (chat on boat) with Hollande when they go for a cruise on Seine river which passes through Paris.

India accepts Pakistan’s offer to bring back 11 Indians from Yemen by special plane

New Delhi: India on Tuesday night accepted Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s offer to send by a special plane 11 Indians who were evacuated by a Pakistani Navy ship from strife-torn Yemen to Karachi.

India will end its air evacuation operation in Yemen. PTI

India will end its air evacuation operation in Yemen. PTI

The Indians, who were taken out of Al Mukallah on Saturday by Pakistan Navy’s Aslat along with 171 Pakistanis, are now in Karachi and will be flown to New Delhi on Wednesday by the special plane following Sharif’s gesture.

“Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif offers Indian High Commission Islamabad a special aircraft to take 11 Indians (evacuated from Yemen) from Pakistan to India,” the Pakistan High Commissioner to India said in New Delhi. Shortly after Sharif’s offer was conveyed by the Indian High Commission in Islamabad to New Delhi, External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin announced that India has accepted the offer.

“India accepts Pakistan’s offer to fly back from Karachi by special plane 11 Indians evacuated by Pakistani naval ship from Yemen,” he said. It is understood that India’s acceptance came after a nod from the political leadership.

India had also accepted help from other countries like the US, Bangladesh, and Iraq for evacuating its citizens from Yemen, according to Indian Express.

According to Pakistan Foreign Office last week, the 11 Indians along with 171 others were evacuated by the PNS Aslat from Yemen’s southeastern city of Mokallah, which is now almost entirely under control of al Qaeda militants.

Indian authorities had also evacuated Pakistani nationals from the Yemeni port of Al Hodeidah last week along with citizens of several other countries.

Moreover, after evacuating around 4000 Indians from Yemen, India has decided to end its air evacuation operation.

However, the government might continue with evacuation by the sea route for some more time, according to Indian Express.

PTI

After Yemen rescue, calls grow for permanent Indian crisis staff

India’s evacuation of more than 3,000 nationals from Yemen has been a triumph of improvisation, but some officials in Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s government say a slow response to the crisis has underlined the need for a full-time staff to protect Indians abroad.

On Monday, India rescued more than 1,000 people by plane and ship, the most on a single day since Saudi Arabia launched air strikes against Iran-allied Houthi rebels in Yemen on March 26. India has been asked by 26 nations – including the United States – to help get their citizens out of the conflict zone.

454 Indians rescued from Yemen landed in Mumbai. Image Courtesy: Sitanshu Kaur/Twitter454 Indians rescued from Yemen landed in Mumbai. Image Courtesy: Sitanshu Kaur/Twitter

454 Indians rescued from Yemen landed in Mumbai. Image Courtesy: Sitanshu Kaur/Twitter

Yet New Delhi struggled for several days to ramp up its rescue effort and had to hire a ship to make the first evacuation of its nationals from the port of Aden as fighting escalated there.

Government insiders draw unfavourable comparisons with China’s swifter evacuation of 570 nationals on warships that was completed on March 31. An Indian navy patrol vessel made a first evacuation only on the following day.

“The Chinese were way ahead in the rescue process,” said one senior foreign ministry official, requesting anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter.

India’s rescue effort got off to a false start, with planes commandered from Air India sitting idle in Muscat, Oman, because it was impossible to negotiate the opening of a safe air corridor with the Saudis.

Things only really got moving with the deployment of foreign office minister V.K. Singh – a retired army chief – to a forward operations base in Djibouti, on the other side of the Gulf of Aden, from where Indian Air Force C-17 transporters have been picking up evacuees brought out by Air India from Aden and flying them home.

A second official said the challenges of evacuating thousands of Indian nationals from fighting in Iraq last year had shown that a full-time staff was needed to rescue overseas Indians in times of crisis.

“We were late in assessing the crisis – and this was exactly the same case during the Iraq crisis,” this official said.

The scramble jars with Modi’s ambition to boost India’s global clout, by increasing the military’s ability to project power and connecting with a large and widely dispersed diaspora that was long neglected by New Delhi.

The Ministry of External Affairs has, however, rebutted criticism that it was slow to warn more than 4,000 Indians living in Yemen to leave, saying it issued the first of a series of advisories in January as the security situation deteriorated.

Foreign ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin declined to comment on calls for a permanent evacuation staff, saying the rescue had gone remarkably well in difficult conditions.

“It was much more perilous, the circumstances were more turbulent, and diplomatically it was a tightrope walk,” said Akbaruddin.

No Indians have been reported killed or wounded in the fighting in Yemen.

FOREIGN ASSETS

There are 21 million people of Indian origin abroad and they send home an estimated $70 billion a year in remittances – more than any other country receives from its overseas workers.

One-fourth of these overseas Indians are in the Middle East, mainly nurses, construction workers, drivers and hotel staff. India evacuated 7,000 citizens from Iraq last year, and nearly 18,000 from Libya in 2011, as fighting swept these nations.

Modi, since sweeping to power last year, has pressed for higher pay for migrant workers in the Gulf and cracked down on private recruiters who charge big up-front fees to place medical staff abroad.

Yet India’s embassy in the Yemeni capital Sanaa has a full-time staff of just 10, making it tough to track citizens there – some reluctant to leave even in the face of danger because losing their jobs would spell financial ruin.

Many of those still in Yemen are nurses from Kerala, in southern India. The state’s chief minister called on the federal government on Monday to instruct its embassy to intervene to get their passports back from employers so that they can go home.

“There is pressure growing from below,” said foreign policy expert C. Raja Mohan, a distinguished fellow at the Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi, who has called for a “well-staffed permanent mechanism” for Indians abroad.

“India needs quite clearly a mechanism (for rescue missions) that can look at the full spectrum of issues and bring the military in,” said Mohan.

Reuters

Slumdog Millionaire author Vikas Swarup to take over Syed Akbaruddin as MEA spokesperson

Celebrated novelist Vikas Swarup, author of bestseller debut novel “Q&A” (on which Slumdog Millionaire was based) and career diplomat, has been appointed as the new official spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs. He will take over on 18 April. The appointment order was issued late evening on 25 March.

Akbaruddin is due to be promoted as additional secretary very soon. Keeping that in view, he has been appointed as “Chief Coordinator” of the India-Africa Forum Summit. There will be a “Coordinator” as well and a joint secretary will fill that slot.

ReutersReuters

Reuters

The India-Africa Summit is scheduled to be hosted by New Delhi on 29 October. After this event, Akbaruddin is likely to given a high-profile ambassadorial assignment. He may well be India’s next High Commissioner in London, a post currently held by former foreign secretary Ranjan Mathai who completes his stint at the end of the year.

Akbaruddin is a 1985 batch Indian Foreign Service officer who is considered an expert on West Asia issues in India, and has served in various capacities in that region including being consul general at Jeddah from 2000 to 2004. He was the director at Foreign Secretary’s Office of the Ministry from 2004 to 2005. He has rich experience in nuclear-related issues and was on deputation at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna for four years.

Better known as Akbar, he returned to India in 2011. On 7 December 2011 he was named as the new spokesperson of the MEA. He had a month-long overlapping stint with the then Joint Secretary of the External Publicity Division of the MEA, and official spokesperson, Vishnu Prakash. Akbaruddin formally took over as the new JS (XP) on 7 January 2012.

Swarup, who is a 1986 batch IFS officer, was born in Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh to a family of lawyers. He did his schooling at Boys’ High School & College, Allahabad and pursued further studies at Allahabad University in Psychology, History and Philosophy.

Swarup is best known as the author of “Q&A”, a debut novel that was a runaway success and an international bestseller that was translated into 43 languages. It was subsequently made into the Hollywood film “Slumdog Millionnaire”. The film was released in January 2009 and won eight of the ten Oscars it was nominated for, the largest number of Oscars won by any film since The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King which won 11 Oscars in 2004.

Swarup’s subsequent novels “Six Suspects” and “The Accidental Apprentice” also proved to be runaway hits.

Swarup has been working in the MEA headquarters in New Delhi as Joint Secretary (UN-Political) since September 2013. His previous postings include stints in Ankara, Washington DC, Addis Ababa, London and Pretoria and as Consul General in Osaka-Kobe, Japan.

The post of MEA spokesperson is a hot seat and a live wire. Incidentally, MEA is the only ministry that has a full-fledged spokesperson who holds regular briefings.

This post assumes even more importance as Prime Minister Narendra Modi neither has a spokesperson nor a media advisor. Of late, JS (XP) has invariably been informally functioning as an extension of the PMO spokesperson.

Akbaruddin leaves very large boots for Vikas Swarup to fill, and has been the MEA’s best known and most efficient spokesperson yet.

‘Slumdog Millionnaire’ author Vikas Swarup to succeed Syed Akbaruddin as MEA spokesman

Celebrated novelist Vikas Swarup, author of bestseller debut novel “Q&A” (on which Slumdog Millionaire was based) and career diplomat, has been appointed as the new official spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs. He will take over on 18 April. The appointment order was issued late evening on 25 March.

Akbaruddin is due to be promoted as additional secretary very soon. Keeping that in view, he has been appointed as “Chief Coordinator” of the India-Africa Forum Summit. There will be a “Coordinator” as well and a joint secretary will fill that slot.

ReutersReuters

Reuters

The India-Africa Summit is scheduled to be hosted by New Delhi on 29 October. After this event, Akbaruddin is likely to given a high-profile ambassadorial assignment. He may well be India’s next High Commissioner in London, a post currently held by former foreign secretary Ranjan Mathai who completes his stint at the end of the year.

Akbaruddin is a 1985 batch Indian Foreign Service officer who is considered an expert on West Asia issues in India, and has served in various capacities in that region including being consul general at Jeddah from 2000 to 2004. He was the director at Foreign Secretary’s Office of the Ministry from 2004 to 2005. He has rich experience in nuclear-related issues and was on deputation at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna for four years.

Better known as Akbar, he returned to India in 2011. On 7 December 2011 he was named as the new spokesperson of the MEA. He had a month-long overlapping stint with the then Joint Secretary of the External Publicity Division of the MEA, and official spokesperson, Vishnu Prakash. Akbaruddin formally took over as the new JS (XP) on 7 January 2012.

Swarup, who is a 1986 batch IFS officer, was born in Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh to a family of lawyers. He did his schooling at Boys’ High School & College, Allahabad and pursued further studies at Allahabad University in Psychology, History and Philosophy.

Swarup is best known as the author of “Q&A”, a debut novel that was a runaway success and an international bestseller that was translated into 43 languages. It was subsequently made into the Hollywood film “Slumdog Millionnaire”. The film was released in January 2009 and won eight of the ten Oscars it was nominated for, the largest number of Oscars won by any film since The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King which won 11 Oscars in 2004.

Swarup’s subsequent novels “Six Suspects” and “The Accidental Apprentice” also proved to be runaway hits.

Swarup has been working in the MEA headquarters in New Delhi as Joint Secretary (UN-Political) since September 2013. His previous postings include stints in Ankara, Washington DC, Addis Ababa, London and Pretoria and as Consul General in Osaka-Kobe, Japan.

The post of MEA spokesperson is a hot seat and a live wire. Incidentally, MEA is the only ministry that has a full-fledged spokesperson who holds regular briefings.

This post assumes even more importance as Prime Minister Narendra Modi neither has a spokesperson nor a media advisor. Of late, JS (XP) has invariably been informally functioning as an extension of the PMO spokesperson.

Akbaruddin leaves very large boots for Vikas Swarup to fill, and has been the MEA’s best known and most efficient spokesperson yet.

India justifies vote against benefits for same-sex partners

India does not want UN Secretary General to decide on the benefits given to its nationals working in the UN.

Representational Image
File Photo

India on Wednesday justified voting against benefits for same-sex partners working at the UN, saying countries were “not consulted” on the plan. Asserting that India does not want UN Secretary General to decide on the benefits or perks given to its nationals working in the UN, External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said, “It was a complex issue of nationals of a state should be governed by their laws or governed by decisions of others.” India was among the 43 countries along with China, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar and Saudi Arabia that voted in support of a Russia-drafted resolution that proposed removing benefits for same-sex partners of UN staff. But the resolution failed to pass in the General Assembly committee after 80 nations opposed it. Reacting to a query on India’s voting choice, the Spokesperson said, “The UN had until recently a system whereby they will decide on sort of emoluments or privileges for partners of spouses depending on the law of the country from which that individual hails.” “In the sense it was that what governs you as an individual in your country will be the basis on which the UN would give you those benefits or perks or those entitlements. This was the established practice and had been approved by the UN General Assembly and accepted by every UN organisation,” Akbaruddin said. “What happened more recently was the UN Secretary General of his own accord changed that. So, our objection was one of change by the secretariat without consulting countries concerned about this…It is a complex issue of our nationals of a state governed by their laws or governed by decisions of others. “I think that’s what was the basis on which a decision was taken to vote on that resolution. That’s the substantive interpretation or substantive explanation of why we have voted on that resolution in the manner we did,” he said. The resolution would have had UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon withdraw his policy laying out the UN current rules for the personal status of staff members for determining their benefits and entitlements. The policy made by Ban last summer had recognised same- sex marriages of all UN staffers, allowing them to receive UN benefits. However, in India the same sex partners have no legal sanctity.Also Read: India joins Russia in anti-gay rights stand at United Nations

VK Singh attended Pak Day function after govt’s considered decision: MEA

New Delhi: External Affairs Ministry on Wednesday said its Minister of State VK Singh attended the Pakistan National Day function after a “considered decision” by the government.

“I want to make it very clear he (Singh) went there as government representative. He went there based on a considered decision. He went there based on our understanding of how we approach these things…

File photo of former Army Chief and now MoS for External Affairs General VK SinghFile photo of former Army Chief and now MoS for External Affairs General VK Singh

File photo of former Army Chief and now MoS for External Affairs General VK Singh. PTI

“This was a carefully considered decision, a calibrated decision. A decision taken well in time,” Spokesperson in the External Affairs Ministry Syed Akbaruddin said.

However, the Spokesperson did not comment on Singh’s cryptic tweets which generated a political controversy, saying “The best person to explain this is the minister of state himself. He has articulated his views repeatedly… And that is the last word on that.”

The former Army Chief had been deputed by the government to represent it at the Pakistan National Day reception at the High Commission on Monday where Kashmiri separatist leaders were also present. He stayed for a brief while only.

An hour later, the minister issued a series of tweets such as “#DUTY- The force that binds one morally or legally to one’s obligations. #DUTY- A job or service allocated. #DISGUST- To offend the moral sense, principles, or taste of. #DISGUST- To sicken or fill with loathing.”

And then later he blamed the media for “twisting” the issue with a tweet “#’Disgust’ed to see how certain sections of the media are twisting this issue.”

Asserting that Singh was not the first Minister of state to go there and he certainly will not be the last Minister of State to go on such occasions, the Spokesperson said, “There is a carefully calibrated approach that we follow on such matters and government nominates a person to go on such occasions. On this instance it was Minister of State for External Affairs Mr V K Singh.”

Asked if government has adopted a soft approach towards talks between Pakistan High Commissioner here and Kashmiri separatist leaders, he did not give a direct answer and said, “In diplomacy, contextual specificities are of importance.”

“We carefully examined the situation. We take responses based on our understanding of the contextual situation and we have taken this decision based on contextual situation including the reciprocity of who had come to the Indian Republic Day celebration sometime ago,” he added.

PTI

Sri Lankan PM threatens to shoot intruding Indian fishermen: Why India needs to stay calm

After the recent high of Sri Lanka suspending a $1.5 billion Chinese real estate project in Colombo – a development that brought cheers to India – the Maithripala Sirisena government has waved a red rag in India’s face.

Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe has come up with an unusually hard and provocative statement suggesting that Indian fishermen would be shot if they were to intrude into Sri Lankan waters. The Premier’s remark came ahead of his talks with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, who just concluded her first two-day bilateral visit to the island nation on Saturday.

Wickramasinghe’s remark, coming out of the blue, is unhelpful to the cause of India-Sri Lanka bilateral relations. Moreover, its timing is suspect as it comes barely a week before Prime Minister Narednra Modi’s visit to the country. Modi will be the first India Prime Minister since 1987 to visit Sri Lanka.

Sushma Swaraj in Sri Lanka on Saturday. PTISushma Swaraj in Sri Lanka on Saturday. PTI

Sushma Swaraj in Sri Lanka on Saturday. PTI

The frequent arrest of Indian fishermen by Sri Lankan authorities is a highly emotive issue in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu and no Indian Prime Minister can ever ignore this issue. What Wickramasinghe said was technically right, but politically incorrect. It was best avoidable. The harsh language the Sri Lankan premier has used to drive his point home while talking to Tamil Thanthi TV just ahead of Swaraj’s visit is a matter of concern for New Delhi.

Wickramasinghe alleged that Indian fishermen were taking away the livelihood of Sri Lankan fishermen. Here’s what he said:

“If someone tries to break into my house, I can shoot. If he gets killed…Law allows me to do that… Fishermen of Jaffna should be allowed to fish… As far as we are concerned, even today the northern fishermen are shouting why the Navy isn’t defending us…We have a job explaining to them. Look these are territorial waters, but we still have to go and talk to India and sort it out… Why are you coming into our waters? Why are you fishing in our waters? Stay on the Indian side…There will be no issue…No one will shoot anyone else … You stay on the Indian side, Let our fishermen stay on the Sri Lankan side…Otherwise don’t make accusations of human rights violation by the Navy. You came in there,” he said.

However, India must understand that what Wickramasinghe has said is not unjust though he should have refrained from using harsh language to drive his point home.

For her part, Swaraj met Wickramasinghe in Colombo on Saturday and discussed the issue of Indian fishermen with him. She told him that the issue of fishermen was a humanitarian one and much different from the Italian marines episode in India.

The Indian side has taken Wickramasinghe’s remarks in its stride and is committed to deal with the issue diplomatically.

This is evident from Indian foreign office spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin’s statement that the two sides were keen on finding an interim solution while the countries work to find long term solution.

“Both EAM and PM Wickramasinghe are satisfied that this (fishermen) issue is to be addressed in a humanitarian manner and through dialogue,” Akbaruddin said on record. He said that as a first step the two sides had agreed that after PM Modi’s visit to Sri Lanka next week the two countries’ fishermen association will meet to take the matter forward.

Much is at stake for India and Sri Lanka. In both countries new governments have been installed. Ties between India and Sri Lanka are currently at an all-time high and the two governments are committed to keep the momentum going.

It is all the more important for New Delhi and Colombo to forge closer ties bilaterally at a time when China has been upping the ante. Just last year Chinese warships and nuclear submarines had docked in Sri Lankan ports, much to the chagrin of New Delhi.

But that was during the tenure of previous President Mahinda Rajapaksa. President Sirisena has vowed to reverse this. His government has dropped enough hints that Sri Lanka will be pursuing an “India-first” policy.

Incidentally, in the same media interview Wickramasinghe has underlined his country’s policy vis-a-vis India and China, and said Colombo was keeping its ties with New Delhi and Beijing separate.

The Sri Lankan premier made it clear that his government did not like the way the previous Sri Lankan government was trying to “play India off against China”.

Sample the following very significant remark of Wickramasinghe: “What we did not like was the attempt at the time of the Rajapaksa regime to play India off against China. Play China card with India, India card with China. That is not a wise policy. India also helped us. Without the help of India, President Rajapaksa could have not wiped out the LTTE. He got that help and he agreed to give concessions even beyond the 13th amendment…But he did not do so.”

We can expect to hear a great deal more on these lines in India-Sri Lanka bilateral engagement during PM Modi’s upcoming visit to the island nation.

Jaishankar arrives in Bhutan on first leg of Saarc yatra

Thimphu: Foreign secretary S Jaishankar today called on Bhutanese Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay soon after arriving in Thimphu on the first leg of his ‘Saarc yatra’.

Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar. Image courtesy PIBForeign Secretary S Jaishankar. Image courtesy PIB

Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar. Image courtesy PIB

“Jaishankar SAARC Yatra begins. Foreign Secy Jaishankar in Thimphu,” external affairs ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin tweeted.

His Bhutan trip will be followed by Bangladesh on 2 March, Pakistan on 3 March and Afghanistan on 4 March.

During the visit to the Saarc apitals, Jaishankar will review various initiatives for the region, including Saarc satellites and regional university, as were proposed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visit to Nepal for Saarc Summit last year.

Jaishankar will travel to Pakistan seven months after India cancelled foreign secretary-level talks because the Pakistan High Commissioner in New Delhi held consultations with Kashmiri separatists.

PTI

Pak boat: Will put forth evidence in due time, says government

The Ministry of External Affairs on Thursday said that Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar will disclose all the information and evidence to prove the terror angle in the Pakistani vessel incident in due course. To a question on Pakistani government saying that India did not have substantial evidence to back its claim that the occupants of the vessel were suspected terrorists, MEA spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said the Defence Minister would disclose the evidence in due course.”Defence Minister, in his earlier statement, indicated a time-frame in which he would provide the information. Just wait for it. He would bring all the information into public domain to substantiate what he has said,” Akbaruddin, who was addressing the media during Pravasi Bhartiya Diwas program here, said. On January 2, the Defence Ministry had claimed that a boat carrying explosives from Pakistan was intercepted by the Indian Coast Guard in the Arabian Sea on the intervening night of December 31 and January 1 but it sank after the crew set it on fire.On January 5, Parrikar had said that “circumstantial evidence” indicated that the occupants of the vessel were “suspected or possible terrorists”.

Pakistan not showing commitment in dismantling terror groups: Ministry of External Affairs

Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin
File Photo

The Ministry of External Affairs on Monday said that India does not believe that Pakistan is showing enough commitment to dismantle the bases of operations of terror organisations like the Lashkar-e-Taiba. “How the government of USA decides to spend US taxpayers’ money is entirely its own prerogative. However, India does not believe that Pakistan is showing either sustained commitment or making significant effort or ceasing support or dismantling bases of operations of the Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Jaish-e-Mohammad, the Haqqani network and quite possibly the Al-Qaeda,” said Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin. He added that increased sightings of Punjabi, Urdu speaking elements operating with terrorist groups inside Afghanistan posed a significant threat to members of the international community working in the strife-torn nation. “Also, with increasing sightings of Punjabi, Urdu speaking elements operating with terrorist groups inside Afghanistan, we now also know that these very groups also pose a significant threat to members of the international community working in Afghanistan, including to Indian diplomatic personnel working in the Indian embassy and our four consulates there,” added Akbaruddin. The MEA’s stern message came after United States Secretary of State John Kerry praised Pakistan for its action against terrorist organisations like the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM). He also signed off a certification that made Islamabad eligible for an aid package, reportedly in the region of USD 500 million. Also Read: External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj dismisses Pakistan allegations, writes to Sartaj Aziz