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PM seeks justice for TN woman whose hand was chopped off by Saudi employer: Sushma Swaraj

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his recent meeting with Saudi ruler Salman Al Saud in Turkey sought justice for Kasthuri Munirathnam the woman from Tamil Nadu whose arm was chopped off recently by her employer in Saudi Arabia, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said in Lok Sabha during Question Hour.

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj. PTIExternal Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj. PTI

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj. PTI

PM Modi met the king Salman Al Saud in Turkey on the margins of the G20 Summit on 16 November.

The 56-year-old maid hails from Mungileri village near Katpadi in Tamil Nadu. She has returned home since the brutal attack in Riyadh in October.

Swaraj said when the incident of Munirathnam came to light, the Indian Embassy immediately contacted the Saudi Arabian authorities and insisted on registering an attempt to murder case,”However, I am pained to say that the Saudi authorities soon issued a statement saying she fell down while trying to flee the house of her employer… We have not accepted this and continue to pursue the case to get her justice.”

The External Affairs Minister said the government was working with several Gulf countries to stop the exploitation of Indian labourers in those countries.

Swaraj, who is also Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs, said that it was a common complaint that many employers in Gulf countries seize the passports of their Indian employees to ensure that they do not return home easily.

To help such distressed Indian workers, she said, Indian missions often hold public grievance meetings to help them and try to retrieve such passports from their employers…If these efforts do not bear fruit, such distressed Indians are given emergency exit permit for their return.

The Minister said the government has already decided that all Indians going abroad as domestic help must go through government-registered recruitment agencies so that no exploitation takes place.

Swaraj futher added that those who go abroad through unregistered recruitment agents in an unscrupulous manner would be held under human trafficking and that the government is trying to bring such activities under the ambit of Anti-Human Trafficking Act.

PTI

Bilateral talks, solar energy, innovation summit: Here’s what Narendra Modi did in Paris

Paris: Prime Minister Narendra Modi had a packed schedule at the  Monday the COP 21 summit in Paris as he addressed the conference, launched the International Solar Alliance with French President Francois Hollande, spoke at the Innovation Summit with other world leaders and held bilateral talks with several leaders including US President Barack Obama and Japan’s Shinzo Abe. Modi also had a conversation with his Pakistan counterpart Nawaz Sharif on the sidelines.

Addressing the COP 21 summit, he cautioned against any unilateral steps that will lead to an economic barrier in the battle against climate change as he hoped that the developed countries would mobilise $100 billion annually by 2020 for mitigation and adaptation.

“The principles of equity and common but differentiated responsibilities must remain the bedrock of our collective enterprise,” Modi said, adding that there should be aggressive mitigative action by developed countries by 2020.

Modi also underlined the need for a national will and genuine global partnership while taking steps to hammer out a climate change deal.

PM Modi speaks at the launch of the International Solar Alliance. PTIPM Modi speaks at the launch of the International Solar Alliance. PTI

PM Modi speaks at the launch of the International Solar Alliance. PTI

“We look to the developed countries to mobilise 100 billion US Dollars annually by 2020 for mitigation and adaptation,” he said.

Noting that conventional energy was still needed, he said it should be made clean and an end to its use should not be imposed. “And, there should be no place for unilateral steps that become economic barriers for others.” Modi called on the developed nations to fulfil their commitment in a credible, transparent and meaningful manner.

As negotiators from over 190 countries sit down over the next few days to hammer out an agreement, Modi said developed nations, which have a larger carbon footprint, should take the lead in addressing the climate change issues.

“It is not just a question of historical responsibility. We hope advanced nations will assume ambitious targets and pursue them as they have the most room for impact,” Modi said at COP 21 plenary.

At the start of his address, Modi refereed to the horrific Paris attacks earlier this month that claimed over 120 lives.

“The pain of Paris is yet to heal. So, I speak in admiration for your resilience and resolve. And, I salute the world for standing, in full strength, with France and Paris,” Modi said.

India’s role

The Prime Minister also told the audience that democratic India must grow rapidly to meet the aspirations of 1.25 billion people, 300 million of whom are without access to energy.

“The prosperous still have a strong carbon footprint but the world’s billions at the bottom of the development ladder are seeking space to grow,” Modi said.

“We will succeed if we have the wisdom to craft a collective partnership that balances responsibilities and capabilities,” he said.

Modi asserted that conventional energy was needed but it should be made clean.

He noted that over next few days, nations will decide the fate of this planet.

“We do so when the consequences of the industrial age powered by fossil fuel are evident, especially on the lives of the poor,” Modi said.

Asserting that the choices are “not easy”, Modi said, “we have awareness and technology. We need now national will and a genuine global partnership.” Modi also listed India’s ambitious targets to tackle climate change. By 2030, India will reduce emissions by 35 per cent of 2005 levels, and 40 per cent of its installed capacity will be from non-fossil fuels, he highlighted.

“We will achieve it by expanding renewable energy — for, example, by adding 175 Gigawatts of renewable generation by 2022. We will enlarge our forest cover to absorb at least 2.5 billion tonnes worth of carbon dioxide,” Modi said.

“We are reducing dependence on fossil fuel through levies and reduction in subsidies; switching sources of fuel where possible; and, transforming cities and public transportation,” he said.

Modi stressed that climate justice demands that, with the little carbon space that is still available, developing countries should have enough scope to grow.

“This also means aggressive mitigation action by developed countries before 2020, including ratification of 2nd Commitment period of Kyoto Protocol, removing conditions and revisiting targets,” the Prime Minister said.

Responsibility of Developed Countries 

He asserted that equity means that national commitments must be consistent with the carbon space nations occupy.

He said there was a need for a strong agreement on adaptation and loss and damage.

“Developed countries must fulfil their responsibility to make clean energy available, affordable and accessible to all in the developing world. This is in our collective interest,” Modi said.

“Energy is a basic human need. So, we need an ambitious technology initiative, driven by a public purpose, not just market incentives. For this, we need to scale up Green Climate Fund that will improve access to technology and intellectual property,” he said.

Modi highlighted that the presence of 196 countries gives a message that there is a chance to unite behind a common purpose.

“We will succeed if we have the wisdom and courage to craft a genuinely collective partnership that balances responsibilities and capabilities with aspirations and needs. I am confident that we will,” he concluded.

Paris Climate Conference will for the first time in over 20 years of UN negotiations, aim to achieve a legally binding universal agreement on climate, with the aim of keeping global warming below 2°C.

Launch of International Solar Alliance

Earlier, Modi and French President Francois Hollande launched the International Solar Alliance and pledged India’s assistance of $30 million for the initiative that brings together developed and developing countries.

Modi also announced that India will host the initiative in the premises of the National Institute of Solar Energy in Gurgaon, Haryana.

He said that India will provide land and contribute about $30 million to build the Secretariat infrastructure.

“We will support operations for five years, and together we will raise long terms funds to achieve our goals,” Modi said.

“This is an alliance that brings together developed and developing countries, governments and industries, laboratories and institutions in a common enterprise,” he said at the launch of the International Solar Alliance.

“This day is the sunrise of new hope — not just for clean energy, but for villages and homes still in darkness; and for our mornings and evenings filled with a clear view of the glory of the sun,” the Prime Minister said of the launch of the initiative supported by over 100 countries.

Modi said that as the developing world lifts billions of people into prosperity, the hope for a sustainable planet rests on a bold global initiative.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with French President Francois Hollande during the International Solar Alliance in Paris. PTIPrime Minister Narendra Modi with French President Francois Hollande during the International Solar Alliance in Paris. PTI

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with French President Francois Hollande during the International Solar Alliance in Paris. PTI

He stated that advanced countries need to leave enough carbon space for developing countries to grow. “That is natural climate justice,” Modi asserted.

Hollande lauded Prime Minister Modi’s initiative as a paradigm shift.

Modi said, “to my long cherished dream of International Solar Alliance, President Hollande responded with immediate support.”

UN Secretary General also hailed Prime Minister Modi’s initiative saying, “I welcome the initiative of PM Narendra Modi, the UN will work to make it a success.”

Importance of solar energy 

To highlight the importance of solar energy, Modi said that in Indian tradition, sun is the source of all forms of energy.

“As Rig Veda says, Sun God is the Soul of all beings, moving and non-moving. Many in India begin their day with a prayer to the Sun,” he said.

“Today, when the energy sources and excesses of our industrial age have put our planet in peril, the world must turn to Sun to power our future,” he added.

Modi highlighted that India has a capacity of 4GW and has set a target of adding 100 GW of solar power by 2022. “By the end of next year, we would have added 12 GW.”

The idea of solar alliance was mooted by Modi during the the India-Africa Forum Summit last month.

Noting that energy sources and “excesses” of industrial age have put the planet in peril, Modi said the world must turn to sun to power the future.

A book on quotations about nature whose preface is written jointly by Modi and Hollande was also released. The Prime Minister dedicated the new edition of his book Convenient Action to the French President.

“I am honoured to co-author the preface with him,” Modi said, adding that, “since ancient times, different civilisations have given a special place to Sun.”

Modi called on advanced countries to leave enough carbon space for developing countries to grow as he said this would mean a growth path with lighter carbon footprint.

“So, convergence between economy, ecology and energy should define our future. The vast majority of humanity is blessed with generous sunlight round the year. Yet, many are also without any source of power. This is why this alliance is so important,” he said.

“We want to bring solar energy into our lives and homes, by making it cheaper, more reliable and easier to connect to grid. We will collaborate on research and innovation. We will share knowledge and exchange best practices,” he added.

Investments in the solar project

Modi said as part of the initiative, countries will cooperate on training, building institutions, discussing regulatory issues and promote common standards.

“We will attract investments in the solar sector, encourage joint ventures and develop innovative financing mechanisms. We will partner with other international initiatives on renewable energy,” Modi said of the alliance.

“There is already a revolution in solar energy. Technology is evolving, costs are coming down and grid connectivity is improving. It is making the dream of universal access to clean energy has become more real,” Modi said.

“I am delighted with the industry response. As you put clean energy within the reach of all, it will create unlimited economic opportunities that will be the foundation of the new economy of this century,” he said.

Officials said that there are over 100 countries which are solar-rich, lying fully or partially between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn.

These countries, all potential members of the ISA are united by a shared vision to bring clean, affordable and renewable solar energy within the reach of all, they said.

Solar energy also is a practical and efficient way to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions.

With this in mind, countries have been invited by the objective of significantly augmenting solar power generation in their respective countries with a view to contributing to global, sustainable development.

On Sunday, Power Minister Piyush Goyal had said at this conceptual phase, around 50 countries will attend the launch.

He had said that there will be an international steering committee which will deliberate on Wednesdays on the contours and framework of this alliance.

There are around 15-16 countries which have expressed interest to part of the committee.

Innovation Summit

Developed nations must leave enough room for developing countries to grow, PM Modi also said, asserting that the life of a “few” should not crowd out the opportunities for the many still on the initial steps of the development ladder.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks at Mission Innovation in Paris on Monday as French President Francois Hollande, US President Barack Obama and Bill Gates watch. PTIPrime Minister Narendra Modi speaks at Mission Innovation in Paris on Monday as French President Francois Hollande, US President Barack Obama and Bill Gates watch. PTI

Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks at Mission Innovation in Paris on Monday as French President Francois Hollande, US President Barack Obama and Bill Gates watch. PTI

Noting that innovation is vital for combating climate change and ensuring climate justice, Modi also urged the world to come together in a partnership to bring clean energy within the reach of all.

“We have to ensure, in the spirit of climate justice, that the life of a few does not crowd out the opportunities for the many still on the initial steps of the development ladder. The advanced countries must leave enough room for developing countries to grow. We must strive for a lighter carbon footprint on our growth path,” Modi said at the Innovation Summit on the sidelines of the Conference of Parties (COP 21).

“For that we must come together in a partnership to bring clean energy within the reach of all. Innovation is vital for combating climate change and ensuring climate justice. We need research and innovation to make renewable energy much cheaper, more reliable and easier to connect to transmission grids,” he said.

Noting that there is a need to make conventional energy cleaner while developing newer sources of renewable energy, Modi said this is a global responsibility for the collective future.

“Our innovation initiative should be driven by public purpose, not just market incentives, including on intellectual property. That also means strong public commitment by suppliers to developing countries,” Modi said.

“That will make clean energy technology available, accessible and affordable for all. This partnership will combine the responsibility of governments with the innovative capacity of the private sector. We will double our investments in research and innovation and deepen collaboration among ourselves,” he said.

Modi observed that there should be an international network of 30-40 universities and labs focusing for next ten years on renewable energy and said innovation must be backed by means to make it affordable and ensure adoption.

“We have very successful models of public-private partnership with many countries present here. India is also building renewable capacity in developing countries, including small island states,” he said.

“The progress on clean energy technology and costs is impressive. If we raise the level of our efforts, we can transform the world. We will also lay the foundation of a new economy in new low carbon age,” Modi asserted.

“We will restore the balance between ecology and economy, and between our inheritance and obligation to the future. And, live up to Gandhiji’s call to care for the world we shall not see,” he added.

Modi highlighted that a vast section of humanity lives at the edge of poverty and in darkness after the sun sets and they need energy to light up their homes and power their future.

“They are also the most vulnerable to the consequences of an industrial age powered by fossil fuel. Access to energy and a better life is a universal aspiration. So are clean environment and healthy habitats. As the world’s majority works its way to prosperity on a planet left with very limited carbon space, we have to do many things,” he said.

Earlier, Modi and Obama met as part of “Mission Innovation” which was announced by the US earlier.

It is an initiative to dramatically accelerate public and private global clean energy innovation to address global climate change, provide affordable clean energy to consumers, including in the developing world, and create additional commercial opportunities in clean energy.

Departure for Delhi

PM Modi left for New Delhi on Monday night after wrapping up his two-day Paris visit which included the crucial climate change conference and launch of the India-mooted International Solar Alliance.

Modi also met US President Barack Obama on the sidelines of the climate conference and held a bilateral meeting with Japanese Premier Shinzo Abe.

Modi also met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, Mongolian President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj, Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena and a host of other world leaders.

Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif also had a “casual meeting” on the sidelines of the climate summit, warmly shaking hands before sitting down for a brief chat.

Just before the Prime Minister departed for New Delhi, External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup tweeted:

With inputs from PTI

Pakistan invites External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj for key Afghan conference

Islamabad: Pakistan has invited External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj for a crucial regional conference in Islamabad on Afghanistan, a move that could provide an opportunity for the two neighbours to mend their frosty ties.

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj. AFP

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj. AFP

The ‘Heart of Asia’ conference will be held on 7 and 8 December, where representatives from Azerbaijan, China, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan and the UAE are expected to attend.

Pakistan has also sent an invitation to Swaraj, the Express Tribune reported.

“A formal invitation has been sent to India and 25 other countries for the Heart of Asia ministerial meeting on Afghanistan to be hosted by Pakistan,” a senior Foreign Office official was quoted as saying by the paper.

An Indian diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed New Delhi has received the invitation but said the decision on whether the External Affairs Minister will attend the conference has yet to be taken, the paper said.

He said India is likely to send a high-level delegation headed by the minister given the conference’s importance.

The meet provides a moment to unfold the process for a dialogue between the two countries after recent hiccups in their ties.

Indo-Pak ties are going through a chill particularly after cancellation of NSA-level talks following differences over the agenda proposed by Islamabad, and a planned meeting between Kashmiri separatists and Pakistan’s National Security Adviser Sartaj Aziz.

India has also accused Pakistan of repeated ceasefire violations and of having a hand in recent terror incidents in Jammu and Kashmir.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi, who were staying in the same hotel during their stay in New York in September for the UN General Assembly, did not meet on the sidelines of the summit.

Modi and Sharif had last met in Ufa, Russia, in July on the sidelines of the BRICS and SCO summits.

It is believed that Prime Minister Modi may be ready for talks with Pakistan after Bihar elections, where his party could not repeat the success it had in Kashmir last year, the paper said, citing analysts.

The Afghan conference will discuss the current situation in Afghanistan with particular focus on helping the war-torn country’s economy.

PTI

Kerala House beef ‘raid’: Oommen Chandy writes to Modi seeking action against incident

Thiruvananthapuram: Slamming the “raid” at Kerala House in New Delhi over an allegation that beef was being serve there, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy on Tuesday shot off a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi terming the episode “highly objectionable”.

Charging that Delhi Police had overstepped their brief, he asked Modi to take strong action over the incident.

And, even as criticism was voiced by Congress and Left parties in the state over the matter, two key Kerala MPs vowed to raise the issue in Parliament during the Winter session.

Congress Deputy Chief Whip in Lok Sabha, KC Venugopal, and CPI(M) Deputy leader in Rajya Sabha, KN Balagopal, said they would take up the incident and raise the issue of killings in the name of consumption of beef when Parliament meets next month.

Kerala CM Oommen Chandy. PTI

Kerala CM Oommen Chandy. PTI

In his letter to the Prime minister, Chandy termed “highly objectionable” the raid by Delhi Police at the canteen at Kerala House and sought stringent action against those responsible for the action at the state-run guest house.

“I feel that the action by Delhi Police is highly objectionable and they have clearly overstepped their brief,” the Chief Minister said.

Detailing the incident, Chandy charged that a few unidentified persons accompanied by Delhi Police officials on Monday evening came to Kerala House and conducted a raid on the staff canteen.

They disrupted the functioning of the canteen alleging that cooked cow meat was being served, Chandy claimed, adding that the complaint was based on “wrong information”.

Delhi Police officials questioned the staff regarding the food items served at the canteen and Chandy said that the “raid” was conducted without any permission or prior information to local state government officials, he said.

Kerala government has already lodged a complaint with the Delhi Police Commissioner in this regard, he said.

Chandy told the Prime Minister that the Kerala House canteen served authentic vegetarian and non-vegetarian state cuisine and the items on the menu were in accordance with and “entirely within the confines of the existing law”.

He wanted Modi to instruct the Union Home Minister to take action against those responsible for the act and also ensure that such incidents are not repeated.

Meanwhile, among the political leaders who slammed the incident were former Defence Minister AK Antony, state Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala, KPCC President VM Sudheeran and LDF leaders.

Chennithala said the police action was an infringement on the powers of the state while Sudheeran termed the issue a challenge to the “Federal set up of the country”.

Congress leader Antony said that the freedom of an individual to eat and wear what he or she felt like should not be infringed upon.

CPI(M) Politburo member Pinarayi Vijayan alleged that the police action at Kerala House was part of Sangh Parivar agenda as he sought to attack the BJP-led government at the Centre.

“There is neither any ban on beef in Delhi nor any restriction to cook or sell it at Kerala House. Delhi Police’s illegal action is part of the Sangh Parivar agenda,” Vijayan, former CPI-M state secretary said in a Facebook post.

In Kochi, Venugopal said the Prime Minister would have to answer in Parliament for the “searches” at the guest house.

“Who gave authority to Delhi Police to conduct searches at Kerala House? I condemn the Prime Minister’s inaction against the fascist elements trying to interfere with the food habits of crores of people of the nation,” said Venugopal.

Accusing the prime minister of “keeping silent for days” after the Dadri lynching, Balagopal said, “Modi will have to answer us in Parliament about violent incidents occurring under his rule in the country over consumption of food.

“Delhi Police was acting at the behest of the forces trying to infringe upon the fundamental rights of the people of the country.”

The Rajya Sabha MP further told PTI in Kochi that the issue will be raised in Parliament when it convenes for the Winter Session “because it is a question of the fundamental rights of Malayalees”.

PTI

PM Modi’s Mann Ki Baat: Unity will take country forward, diversity is India’s beauty

New Delhi: Against the backdrop of incidents of violence with communal and casteist overtones, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday said diversity of religions and castes is the beauty of India and that the ‘mantra’ of unity should be carried forward through thinking and expressions.

PM Narendra Modi. Reuters

PM Narendra Modi. Reuters

Invoking Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel ahead of his birth anniversary, he strongly batted for ‘unity in diversity’ while asserting that peace, harmony and unity are the key to progress.

“The mantra of unity should always be the medium of our thinking, our behaviour and expression,” Modi said in his monthly radio programme ‘Mann Ki Baat’.

“India is full of diversity. It has different sects, different religions, different languages and different castes. There are so many diversities in our India and this diversity is our beauty,” the Prime Minister said in his 35-minute programme.

He said if this diversity was not there, “we would not have been able to feel proud. Therefore, diversity is the mantra of unity.”

Mentioning the upcoming birth anniversary of Patel on 31 October, Modi said, “Let us pay tribute to Sardar (Patel) Sahab. Take the unity mantra forward.”

His comments assume significance as recently there have been incidents of violence lynching of a man over beef-eating rumours in Uttar Pradesh and burning of a Dalit’s house in Haryana, which had communal and casteist overtones.

Referring to the ‘Run for Unity’ organised every year on Patel’s birth anniversary, Modi said these are actually the ‘run for progress’.

“In other words, the run for unity is the guarantee for run for progress,” he said, while noting that earlier he used to get a chance to participate in this event.

In an effort to reach out to Dalits, the Prime Minister invoked BR Ambedkar, saying he was feeling excited about his upcoming visit to the UK where he will visit the ‘Ambedkar House’, where the architect of the Constitution lived. The property was recently acquired by India from the British government.

“A day after Diwali, I am going to Britain. This time, I am excited about my visit to Britain and the reason for it is special. A few weeks back, I had gone to Mumbai to lay foundation stone for a big memorial for Ambedkar…

“Now, in London, I will formally inaugurate the house where Dr Baba Sahab Ambedkar lived, which recently became Indian government’s property and a place of inspiration for 125 crore Indians,” he said.

He noted that the issue related to acquisition of this complex had been entangled for several years and now it is the property of 125 crore Indians.

“When Ambedkar’s name is associated, you can imagine how much happiness people like me have,” Modi said.

He said Ambedkar was an inspiration for the dalits, the oppressed, the deprived, the backwards and all other Indians who live a difficult life that if there is will power, one can make progress in life and get educated. “This is the place (in London) where Ambedkar did his devotion.”

The Prime Minister said the central government also encourages capable Dalit youth.

During the programme, he also announced abolition of the practice of interview for Group D,C and B posts in government jobs from 1 January, next year. He also said several important schemes will be launched ahead of Diwali.

He also talked about how the ‘Swacch Bharat’ Abhiyan is being carried forward by media and common people, the importance of organ donation, progress of the ‘MP Adarsh Gram Yojana’ as also the festivals of Navratra, Eid and Diwali.

PTI

On a high after Obama meet, Nawaz Sharif threatens to take ‘deterrent’ measures against India arms build-up

Washington: Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Friday kept up his attack on India and warned that Pakistan will have to take “credible deterrent” measures in the face of Indian “arms build-up” and “dangerous military doctrines”.

Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif. Reuters

Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif. Reuters

“While refusing dialogue, India is engaged in a major arms build-up, regrettably with the active assistance of several powers. It has adopted dangerous military doctrines. This will compel Pakistan to take several counter measures to preserve credible deterrence,” Sharif said in his address to the US Institute of Peace (USIP), a US Congress top American think-tank.

Sharif claimed that after coming to power two-and-a-half years ago, he has made several “sincere efforts” to improve relationship with India.

“I accepted his (Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s) invitation to attend his swearing-in ceremony New Delhi,” he said.

The momentum this generated was scuttled when India cancelled the NSA-level talks on “flimsy excuse”, he alleged. In his address, Sharif blamed India for narrowing the talks to just one issue of terrorism after his meeting with Modi at Ufa, Russia in July.

“The cancellation of NSA-level talks have been followed by increased ceasefire violations by India across the Line of Control (LoC) and the working boundary, and a stream of hostile statements by Indian political and military leadership,” he alleged.

The NSA-level talks scheduled for 23 August in New Delhi were called off at the last minute, after India made it clear that Pakistan’s insistence on holding discussions on Kashmir and a meeting with separatists will not be acceptable to it.

Sharif also said anti-Pakistan actions by Hindu extremist groups in India have exacerbated the present tension in the region.

He was apparently referring to incidents targetting Pakistanis in India by Shiv Sena activists, who stormed the BCCI headquarters in Mumbai and forced cancellation of a meeting between the cricket chiefs of the two countries.

Earlier, they threatened organisers of a show by legendary Pakistani singer Ghulam Ali in Mumbai, forcing them to cancel the event.

“In my address to the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), I proposed a new peace initiative comprising four specific and feasible steps that could serve as the basis for progress towards normalisation.

“Unfortunately, India’s response was not positive,” he said.

During his address to the UNGA on September 30, Sharif proposed a 4-point “peace initiative” with India which includes demilitarisation of Kashmir and unconditional withdrawal of forces from Siachen.

India, however, had said de-militarising Kashmir is not the answer for achieving peace but “deterrorising” Pakistan is.

In his address today, Sharif also said a normal and stable relationship between Pakistan and India can be build by adherence to the principle of the UN charter, especially the principle of sovereignty, equality of States and non-interference in internal affairs and the right of people of self-determination.

“There is no alternative for the two countries but to resume a comprehensive dialogue to resume all outstanding issues including the core issue of Jammu and Kashmir,” the Pakistani Prime Minister said.

Sharif had raised the Kashmir issue during his talks with US President Barack Obama and the two leaders called for a “sustained and resilient” Indo-Pak dialogue process to resolve all outstanding issues.

In a joint statement, the two leaders had emphasised the importance of a “sustained and resilient dialogue process” between India and Pakistan to resolve all outstanding territorial and other disputes, including Kashmir.

However, the US firmly ruled out any role for itself in Indo-Pak peace process unless both the countries jointly asked for it.

Notwithstanding the US’ stance, Sharif on Friday renewed his appeal for its intervention in normalising Indo-Pak ties.

The visiting premier asked the US to review some of its “existing assumption and analysis”.

He added that paying greater attention to Pakistan’s views and interests would be useful for the US to play a “very constructive role in preventing the ever present danger of escalation” and promoting stability in South Asia.

Observing that the focus of his foreign policy is “peace for development and peace for neighbourhood”, Sharif said one of the first steps he took after assuming office was to send a “message of peace to all our neighbours including Afghanistan and India”.

He, however, pointed out that there exists a “real and present threat” to peace and security in South Asia.

“The international community can no longer pretend that it does not exist. It must play a role to stop the slide towards a dangerous Pakistan-India crisis by preventing India’s belligerent actions rather than Pakistan’s defensive responses,” Sharif added.

Senior Pakistani officials have claimed that India had created a gap in the capabilities of the two countries through its cold-start doctrine – developed for use in a possible war with Pakistan that involves various branches of India’s military conducting offensive operations.

Last month, Army Chief Gen Dalbir Singh said India is prepared for “swift and short” wars in the future as he accused Pakistan of using “new methods” for creating unrest in Jammu and Kashmir and extending the arc of violence to other areas.

In his address on Friday, Sharif said: “Obviously, the Pakistan-India relationship poses the most difficult and urgent challenge.

“Pakistan’s priority is to defeat TTP (Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan),” he added.

Noting that radicalisation emerges from multiple sources, Sharif said “we” must address the root causes.

“One of the key pillars of my government is to promote regional integrity and connectivity,” he said and referred to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, which he called the most promising element of this policy.

Sharif arrived in the US on Tuesday on his second bilateral visit. During his four-day stay, he met top American leadership, including Obama at his Oval Office on Thursday during which he committed himself to take strong action against Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Haqqani network.

In all his meetings, Sharif told the Pakistani media that he raised the issue of Kashmir and sought US intervention.

Sharif also met US Vice President Joe Biden besides holding talks with Defence Secretary Ashton Carter at the Pentagon, among others.

When the Secretary of State John Kerry called on him on Wednesday, he handed over a set of three dossiers to the top American diplomat about alleged Indian “subversive activities” in Karachi, Balochistan and FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas).

The US has said it has not yet reviewed the contents of the dossiers.

At the start of his speech, Sharif faced a protest from an individual identified as Ahmar Musti Khan of the Free Baluchistan Campaign USA.

He raised slogans of “Free Balochistan” and “You are friend of Bin Laden” before being taken out of the auditorium by security personnel.

PTI

India’s arms build-up will force Pakistan to take deterrent measures: Nawaz Sharif in US

Washington: Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Friday kept up his attack on India and warned that Pakistan will have to take “credible deterrent” measures in the face of Indian “arms build-up” and “dangerous military doctrines”.

Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif. Reuters

Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif. Reuters

“While refusing dialogue, India is engaged in a major arms build-up, regrettably with the active assistance of several powers. It has adopted dangerous military doctrines. This will compel Pakistan to take several counter measures to preserve credible deterrence,” Sharif said in his address to the US Institute of Peace (USIP), a US Congress top American think-tank.

Sharif claimed that after coming to power two-and-a-half years ago, he has made several “sincere efforts” to improve relationship with India.

“I accepted his (Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s) invitation to attend his swearing-in ceremony New Delhi,” he said.

The momentum this generated was scuttled when India cancelled the NSA-level talks on “flimsy excuse”, he alleged. In his address, Sharif blamed India for narrowing the talks to just one issue of terrorism after his meeting with Modi at Ufa, Russia in July.

“The cancellation of NSA-level talks have been followed by increased ceasefire violations by India across the Line of Control (LoC) and the working boundary, and a stream of hostile statements by Indian political and military leadership,” he alleged.

The NSA-level talks scheduled for 23 August in New Delhi were called off at the last minute, after India made it clear that Pakistan’s insistence on holding discussions on Kashmir and a meeting with separatists will not be acceptable to it.

Sharif also said anti-Pakistan actions by Hindu extremist groups in India have exacerbated the present tension in the region.

He was apparently referring to incidents targetting Pakistanis in India by Shiv Sena activists, who stormed the BCCI headquarters in Mumbai and forced cancellation of a meeting between the cricket chiefs of the two countries.

Earlier, they threatened organisers of a show by legendary Pakistani singer Ghulam Ali in Mumbai, forcing them to cancel the event.

“In my address to the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), I proposed a new peace initiative comprising four specific and feasible steps that could serve as the basis for progress towards normalisation.

“Unfortunately, India’s response was not positive,” he said.

During his address to the UNGA on September 30, Sharif proposed a 4-point “peace initiative” with India which includes demilitarisation of Kashmir and unconditional withdrawal of forces from Siachen.

India, however, had said de-militarising Kashmir is not the answer for achieving peace but “deterrorising” Pakistan is.

In his address today, Sharif also said a normal and stable relationship between Pakistan and India can be build by adherence to the principle of the UN charter, especially the principle of sovereignty, equality of States and non-interference in internal affairs and the right of people of self-determination.

PTI

Breaking new ground: PM Modi to lay foundation for Andhra Pradesh’s new capital Amaravati

Vijayawada: The stage is set for the for the foundation stone laying ceremony of new Andhra Pradesh capital Amaravati on Thursday.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will lay the foundation stone at at Uddandarayunipalem village in Guntur district on the occasion of Dussehra.

Elaborate arrangements have been made for the gala event, which will be attended by ministers from Singapore and Japan, ambassadors from various countries, several central ministers, chief ministers and governors of various states, top politicians and business leaders.

File photo of Pm Modi with Chandrababu Naidu. PTIFile photo of Pm Modi with Chandrababu Naidu. PTI

File photo of Pm Modi with Chandrababu Naidu. PTI

Police have taken control of the venue, where more than two lakh people from different parts of the state are expected to gather.

The prime minister along with other dignitaries will perform rituals at 12.35 p.m. to formally lay the foundation stone.

Soil and water brought from all 16,000 villages of Andhra Pradesh will be sprinkled all over Amaravati from helicopters. Water brought from holy places of all the religions will also be used for the foundation stone.

Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao will be attending the ceremony. This will be his first visit to Andhra Pradesh after bifurcation of the state last year.

Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu personally met Rao in Hyderabad on Sunday and invited him for the ceremony.

Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, Andhra Pradesh Governor ESL Narasimhan, Tamil Nadu Governor Rosaiah, Assam and Nagaland Governor Padmanabha Acharya will attend the event.

YSR Congress party chief YS Jaganmohan Reddy, who is the leader of opposition in Andhra Pradesh, has decided to boycott the ceremony. He wrote an open letter to Naidu, asking him not to invite him. Jagan alleged that fertile lands were forcibly taken from farmers for the capital.

The government, however, claimed that farmers had voluntarily donated over 30,000 acres of land for the building the capital. Some of the farmers will be felicitated at the foundation stone laying ceremony.

Naidu has promised that it will be a world-class and ‘people’s capital’. He had invited prime ministers of Singapore and Japan for the event but the ministers from the two countries are expected to attend.

While the government of Singapore has prepared masterplan for the capital, Naidu is seeking partnership of Japan in building the city.

Naidu is also hoping that Narendra Modi will use the occasion to announce special status and a package for the state. He has been pressing for special category status to undone the ‘injustice’ done to the state with the bifurcation.

Naidu, whose Telugu Desam Party (TDP) is a partner in BJP-led NDA government at the Centre, is under fire from the opposition for failing to get the special status despite the promise made by Modi during poll campaign.

The chief minister also wants the Centre to extend help in building the capital. “We need the handholding by the Centre till the state develops on par with other neighbouring states,” said Naidu ahead of Modi’s first visit to the state after bifurcation.

IANS

Pakistan plan to import electricity from India stalled due to extremist sentiments, says report

Islamabad: Energy-starved Pakistan’s plan to import up to 4,000 megawatts of electricity from India has been stalled amid rising anti-Pakistan and extremist sentiments in India, a media report said.

Representational image. IBNLive

Representational image. IBNLive

“How can we push for electricity import [from India] when those at the helm of affairs in India are taking an extremely anti-Pakistan posture?” a senior official from the Ministry of Water and Power told Dawn newspaper.

The Narendra Modi administration is not only taking a hawkish stance against Pakistan, but is also refusing to come to the negotiating table and is encouraging extremist groups to attack Pakistani visitors, including singers, writers and sportsmen, he said.

Water and Power Minister Khawaja Asif told the Senate last week that Pakistani and Indian officials had discussed plans for importing 500 MW from India in April 2012.

Two years after these discussions, officials from Adani Enterprises Ltd of India visited Pakistan in April 2014 to discuss matters related to the import.

In the written statement, the minister detailed how AEL had submitted a draft to the ministry, proposing the export of 500-800MWs in two-three years as a starting point, recommending an eventual scale-up to 3500-4000MWs.

“But no further progress was made in this regard,” Asif said.

Pakistan is facing shortfall in in electricity and planning to also import electricity from Iran and the Central Asia.

It is believed that import from India would be cheaper and fast due to short distance and similar infrastructures on both sides of the border.

PTI

Deeply disappointed with PM Modi’s response to Dadri lynching, says AAP

New Delhi: AAP on Wednesday deplored Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s response to the Dadri lynching incident and terming of the opposition attack as “pseudo secularism”, and said it doesn’t behove a Prime Minister to make such “pseudo statements”.

PM Narendra Modi. Reuters

PM Narendra Modi. Reuters

AAP leader Ashutosh said Modi is behaving like he is the Prime Minister of the BJP and not the country.

“After reading the interview, I feel deeply disappointed. At least we are not expecting such a statement from a Prime Minster. It seems that Narendra Modi thinks himself as the Prime Minister of BJP, not the country’s PM,” said Ashutosh.

He was referring to Modi’s interview to a Bengali newspaper. Breaking his silence Modi described the Dadri lynching and opposition to Ghulam Ali’s concert as “undesirable and unfortunate” and made clear that his government had nothing to do with them but accused the opposition of indulging in “pseudo secularism” and politics of polarisation.

The PM also charged that the opposition was using minorities as vote bank by raising the bogey of communalism.

Ashutosh claimed the PM has never condemned what happened in Dadri village in Uttar Pradesh where a 57-year-old man was murdered over rumours of beef consumption. He said he also didn’t assure to the country that such incidents would never happen again in the future.

“It’s a pseudo statement and the whole country should realise that the Prime Minister who talks about secularism, is basically practicing pseudo statements and this is more dangerous in that sense,” he added.

Taking a dig to the controversial statements made by Union Tourism and Cultural Minister Mahesh Sharma, the AAP leader said the Noida MP is a part of the Modi cabinet and that the PM can not shirk off the responsibility.

AAP leader Sanjay Singh said the Prime Minister reacts to whatever things happen around the world, but he is reluctant to react on what happens in his country.

PTI

Two Assamese writers to return Akademi awards to express disapproval of ‘growing intolerance’

Guwahati: Joining the growing band of protesting writers, noted Assamese authors Nirupama Borgohain and Homen Borgohain on Tuesday announced that they were going to return their Sahitya Akademi awards to express disapproval of the “growing intolerance” and Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s “silence” in this connection.

The Sahitya Akademi logo. Image courtesy: Official website

The Sahitya Akademi logo. Image courtesy: Official website

“Religious intolerance has reached extreme level. But the leader of the country, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has not assured us to stop it and he is remaining silent. It is as if he is encouraging fascism to grow,” Nirupama Borgohain told PTI in Guwahati.

She said that as Modi was not doing anything to curb the “religious fanaticism”, she is returning her Akademi award to lodge her “symbolic protest” against the current state of affairs in the country.

Nirupama Borgohain won the prestigious award in 1996 for her novel ‘Abhijatri’.

Another eminent writer Homen Borgohain also announced return of his award.

“I have decided to return the award,” he said.

Homen Borgohain made his decision public through a column in an Assamese newspaper today and said a silent protest was going on inside him since the Dadri killing took place.

The eminent author, who won the award in 1978 for his novel ‘Pita Putra’, said he wanted to express his protest and seeing the other awardees returning their awards, he also decided to return the same.

The veteran journalist said in the article that he was returning the award not only in protest against Dadri killing but also for expressing his anguish over the growing fascist tendency in the country.

PTI

Quotas, Art 370: Why BR Ambedkar would not recognise our Constitution today

It is perhaps just a coincidence that around the same time when Prime Minister Narendra Modi emphasised the permanency of the quota system in India, the Jammu & Kashmir High Court claimed that Article 370 was not a temporary provision in the Constitution, but a permanent one.

Modi, possibly with an eye on the Dalit and OBC vote in the ongoing Bihar elections, said in Mumbai on Sunday, “We believe in the principles of Dr Ambedkar and his teachings of inclusive growth. The reservation policy is something Dr Ambedkar has given to the country, and no power can take it away.”

BR Ambedkar. AFP

BR Ambedkar. AFP

It is worth recalling that BR Ambedkar never intended the Constitution’s provisions to be cast in stone – especially provisions that are not central to basic values and fundamental rights. But even he may not have realised how making things super-flexible could end up subverting the core liberal ideas behind the original Constitution. With 100 amendments in 68 years, what we have today is not Ambedkar’s constitution. It is closer to Stalin’s ideals than Ambedkar’s.

It is one thing to focus on uplifting the poor and backward, quite another to presume that permanent reservations and continued extension of the quota system to more and more communities is the right, or even the only, way to achieve social justice. With every community now demanding quotas, including the Patels of Gujarat and even some Brahmins, in due course the quota system will soon become a monster at odds with the basic principles of social justice. Modi may not be able to tinker with the quota system much, but quotas cannot be the only medicine for social injustice.

The J&K High Court last week pandered to another political constituency – the Kashmir Valley’s fixation on Article 370, which gives the state special powers that other Indian states do not enjoy. “Article 370, though titled ‘Temporary provision’ and included in Para XXI titled ‘Temporary, Transitional and Special Provisions’, has assumed a place of permanence in the constitution,” the high court bench said on Saturday (10 October). The court added for good measure: “It (article 370) is beyond amendment, repeal or abrogation in as much as the constituent assembly of the state, before its dissolution, did not recommend its amendment or repeal.” (Italics mine)

This interpretation is truly a travesty. If the word “temporary” can be equated with “permanent”, we might as well burn all dictionaries, as every word can be given the meaning any individual desires to give it. No one can then understand what anyone else is saying.

Just as Modi should not presume that any idea inserted into the original Indian Constitution – beyond fundamental rights – is inviolate, there is absolutely no need to think Article 370 is cast in stone. Of course, it is possible to argue in favour of more powers for all states, but a plain reading of Article 370 leaves us with no alternative but to assert that it was inserted only as a temporary measure.

Unfortunately in India, bad ideas – even when accepted temporarily – tend to become permanent in a constitutional scheme of things as even minuscule minorities have the power to block good legislation, but not the power to act positively in the national interest. The Constitution, as it now stands, thus needs a complete overhaul.

Much as we would like to pretend that whatever Ambedkar did with the Constitution was the last word in law-making, the great man himself had no illusions about what he had created. Speaking in a debate in parliament in 1953, he made it plain that much of what was written into the Constitution was the result of a broader consensus. His precise words were that he did what he was asked to do. This is what he said in reply to a member: “Now sir, we have inherited a tradition. People always keep saying to me ‘oh, you are the maker of the Constitution.’ My answer is I was a hack. What I was asked to do I did much against my will.”

Later on, he said quite clearly: “My friends tell me that I have made the Constitution. But I am quite prepared to say that I shall be the first person to burn it. I do not want it. It does not suit anybody…”.

If Ambedkar could have said this barely three years after the Constitution was ratified, surely he would be the first one to take a matchbox to it. This is not to say he will want the Constitution or quotas to be dumped; just that he believed the Constitution could be changed when needed if it did not serve any purpose.

Ambedkar gave India a flexible Constitution partly because he felt that he should not tie the hands of future generations, when the needs of the country may be different from the one he was preparing the initial Constitution for. His mistake, if any, was possibly to make amendment of the Constitution too easy, and in just over 68 years of independence, we managed 100 amendments, with another couple of scores of them being lined up for the future. The US, after 240 years of freedom, has managed all of 27 amendments.

Any Constitution must be built on two ideas: a bedrock of values (like free speech, free association, freedom to carry on a profession, trade or business, equality before the law, etc) that must remain fairly unalterable over long periods in a country’s life; we can also have other (good to have) constitutional or legislative amendments that can be added or subtracted over time (right to food, education, etc) provided these do not transgress any of first set of basic values and fundamental rights of citizens. The right to quotas and free food belong to the latter category. They are not central to our constitutional scheme of things. The right to dignity and affirmative action to help the historically disadvantaged does not mean a permanent right to quotas.

But what we have seen is a consistent effort to devalue fundamental rights even while we have proliferated laws, including constitutional amendments, to further the cause of non-freedom and politically-induced freebie culture.

The first amendment to the Constitution, which put a limit on free speech, came even before the ink had dried on Ambedkar’s document. Since then, we have whittled down rights (privacy rights, property rights), even religious rights of the majority community, with the state meddling in the same. We are now a free Republic with little chains attached to every limb.

As Shruti Rajagopalan, Assistant Professor of Purchase College, State University of New York, noted, the pursuit of socialism has had the net effect of curtailing the rule of law and fundamental rights. In a paper titled “Incompatible institutions: socialism versus constitutionalism in India,” she says that the “formal institutions of socialist planning were fundamentally incompatible with the constraints imposed by the Indian Constitution. This incompatibility led to frequent amendments to the Constitution, especially in the area of Fundamental Rights. Consequently, pursuit of socialist policies gradually undermined the Constitution. The contradictory mixture of socialism and constitutionalism led to economic and political deprivations.” (You can hear her views on Youtube here.)

By passing 100 constitutional amendments in the name of socialism and the poor, what we essentially have today is not Ambedkar’s original tome, but a mish-mash of illiberal ideas masquerading as pro-poor law. It bears no resemblance to what was originally intended by our founding fathers.

Many of these amendments were carried out when the Congress party ruled both houses of parliament and in most of the states. They thus emasculated states, reduced the citizen’s rights to equality, and ground the rule of law to dust. The judiciary was thwarted with the creation of the Ninth Schedule (laws put into this schedule cannot be constitutionality challenged). During Indira Gandhi’s emergency, parliament even inserted two new ideas in the preamble to the Constitution – the words “Secular” and “Socialist.” Even if one need not quarrel with the word secular, surely socialism cannot be decreed to be an over-arching goal for the Republic? Freedom is incompatible with state direction of economic activities.

So what we essentially need today is a new Constitution that protects basic values strongly, and also realigns it to new realities. For example, it makes no sense to have a concurrent list where both Centre and state can legislate. The grey area of concurrent legislation ensures that only the worst laws will find a consensus between Centre and states – like the UPA’s Food Security Act, and Right to Education Act, the Land Acquisition Act etc – which are politically difficult to repudiate.

Our Constitution needs a complete overhaul from the ground up, with socialists mangling it out of shape. We should honour Ambedkar’s innate wish that new realities call for a new Constitution.

Decoding Nawaz Sharif’s invite to Geelani: It’s a ploy to keep Indo-Pak talks scuttled

As the old saying goes, “you can awaken a sleeping person, but you can never awaken a person faking to be asleep.” This cannot be more applicable to anyone than Pakistan that does everything to keep the India-Pakistan hostility alive.

While Pakistan keeps saying that it is for dialogue with India, it comes up with such proposals that are contrary to what it says. The latest such act being the invitation extended to Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani.

Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif. AP

Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif. AP

The letter from Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif, handed over to Geelani’s representatives by Pakistani High Commissioner Abdul Basit, reportedly speaks the Pakistan Army Chief’s recent language that Kashmir is an unfinished agenda and Pakistan was morally and diplomatically with Kashmiris.

The present act of Pakistan is just another effort to ensure that the dialogue process does not commence. This follows the two similar recent attempts of Pakistan in this direction. One being the 2014 talks, which India called off as a result of Pakistani envoy talking to the Hurriyat and the more recent one being the talks between the NSAs of the two countries after the Ufa promise, when again Pakistan insisted on talks with the Hurriyat leaders.

There is an unreasonable comparison between India sympathising with the demoralised Baloch leaders, which the whole world does, and Pakistan patronizing and instigating Kashmiri separatists. One tends to completely forget that India has never demanded resolution of Baloch issue as a precondition for any dialogue between the two countries. Indian has neither interfered in Baloch affairs nor has been involved in waging a war against Pakistan and spreading violence as Pakistan is doing in Kashmir, though Pakistan has been claiming the same at every opportunity with no proof and with no one even attempting to hear them at the international platform.

International community should take note of the Pakistani behaviour and be sensible in deciding who is against a dialogue. India has always been a peace-loving country and will continue to be so. On the other hand, Pakistan, the origin of which was based on religion, continues to be a religiously fanatic country with wanted international criminals like Hafeez Saeed and Lakhvi enjoying State patronage.

Pakistan’s continued attempts at sabotaging India’s every effort for talks is a clear indicator that it chooses to not finding a solution for peace and wants to maintain a status quo of instability and animosity.

By inviting Geelani and not Mirwaiz Omar Farooq, the Chairman of the Hurriyat, Pakistan has unwittingly let its intentions of sabotaging dialogue apparent. Geelani is a known Pakistani mole while Mirwaiz is a moderate leader ready for talks with New Delhi. By not giving the importance that Mirwaiz deserves, Pakistan has scored a negative point for itself. Such lapses do occur when your approach is nothing but negative. No marks on this to the immature policy planners of Pakistan and the Pakistan army which directs them to do so.

The so-called powerful and influential nations and organizations of the world who control the policies of other nations, should rise above their petty strategic gains and join hands in checking the activities of countries like Pakistan, which has gained notoriety of being the terror hub of the world.

Pakistani ghazal maestro’s concert cancelled after Shiv Sena threatens to disrupt show

Mumbai: The proposed live concert of Pakistani ghazal maestro Ghulam Ali scheduled for 9 October in Mumbai was cancelled on Wednesday after Chitrapat Sena, the Shiv Sena’s film wing, met the authorities at Shanmukhanand Hall, the venue of the concert, and handed them a letter asking them to cancel the event.

Representational image. IBNLive

Representational image. IBNLive

“Through this letter, we want to convey to you that if you invite the Pakistan artiste to the show you will have to face the Shiv Sena’s wrath…Which is why we ask you to prohibit the Pakistan artist from coming to the programme, or else you will have to face the anger of Shiv Sena’s and the patriotic people of the country,” Chitrapat Sena Vibhag Pramukh Mangesh Satamkar said in his letter.

“We are completely against any form of cultural ties with Pakistan. The country is against us and kills our soldiers, so there’s no point why we should let their singer perform here. If the concert is not called off, we will protest in our own style,” said Akshay Badrapurkar, general secretary of Chitrapat Sena.

Another Sena leader said though his party was in the government, it would not allow the concert in Mumbai. “We have always opposed the performance of Pakistani artists in India to protest its ceasefire violations along the Line of Control (LoC),” said Mangesh Satamkar, senior Sena leader.

The concert was a tribute to late singer Jagjit Singh on his fourth death anniversary and had been brought to India through ‘Ek Ehsaas‘ concerts.

In April this year, Ghulam Ali, 74, who lent voice to a number of Indian film songs, had held a concert at the famous Sankat Mochan temple in Varanasi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s constituency. Incidentally, Shanmukhananda Hall, has been a favourite venue for all major Shiv Sena functions for several decades.

“We have asked the organisers to submit an undertaking by today evening along with the supporting letters from senior police officials. If they fail to do so, then we will cancel the concert. I don’t want any ruckus here,” Leo Francis, the hall booking manager of the Shanmukhnand Hall, had earlier said.

However, following the Shiv Sena’s threat, the BJP, which holds the ministry of Home, said action would be taken against anybody who tries to take law into their hands. “The organisers or the management of the Shanmukhananda Hall have not lodged any formal complaint as yet. Once they do, action will be taken. Law will take its own course,” said Ranjeet Patil, Minister of State Home (Urban).

In New Delhi, Union minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi voiced disagreement with Sena’s threat, saying, “This is not justified. Ghulam Ali is a messenger of peace. Such messengers of peace should not face restrictions of boundaries. Boundaries should not be fixed for those giving the message of peace.”

This is not the first time that the Sena is opposing Pakistani artists performing in India. Earlier, it had protested against Pakistani singer Atif Aslam’s concert and the Pakistan cricket team playing in India. It had also protested against the inclusion of Pakistani television host and cross dresser Begum Nawazish Ali and actor Veena Malik in a reality show and disrupted the press conference of a Sufi music band in Mubmbai last year.

(With inputs from PTI)

‘Building I-ways is as important as highways’: Modi promotes Digital India in Silicon Valley

San Jose: Pitching his pet Digital India initiative with the titans of the IT world, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday promised to make governance more accountable and transparent while assuring data privacy and security.

Speaking before a gathering of Silicon Valley CEOs, Modi announced plans to create more public WiFi spots including at 500 railway stations across India and an aggressive expansion of the National Optical Fibre Network to take broadband to 600,000 villages.

“As our economy and our lives get more wired, we are also giving the highest importance to data privacy and security, intellectual property rights and cyber security,” he said at a dinner interaction attended among others by Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayan, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and Qualcomm executive chairman Paul Jacobs and Google CEO Sunder Pichai.

PM Narendra Modi with tech CEOs at the Digital India dinner. Image courtesy: @MEAIndia/Twitter

PM Narendra Modi with tech CEOs at the Digital India dinner. Image courtesy: @MEAIndia/Twitter

“We will transform governance, making it more transparent, accountable, accessible and participative,” Modi said, adding that E-Governance is foundation of better governance – efficient, economical and effective.

In a nation of one billion cell phones, M-Governance or mobile governance has the potential to make development a truly inclusive and comprehensive mass movement. “It puts governance within everyone’s reach,” he said.

“I see technology as a means to empower and a tool that bridges the distance between hope and opportunity. Social media is reducing social barriers,” said the Prime Minister.

“Today, technology is advancing citizen empowerment. Technology is forcing governments to deal with massive amount of data and respond in not 24 hours but 24 minutes,” he said.

Modi said Digital India was born out of conviction that it was possible to rapidly transform the lives of people on margins and touch the lives of the weakest, farthest and the poorest citizen of India as also change the way our nation will live and work.

“We will connect all schools and colleges with broadband. Building I-ways are as important as highways,” he said.

“We are expanding our public WiFi hotspots. For example, we want to ensure that free Wi-Fi is not only there in airport lounges, but also on our railway platforms. Teaming up with Google, we will cover 500 railway stations in a short time,” he said.

The government, he said, wants to free citizens from the burden of excessive paper documents in every office.

“We want paperless transactions. We will set up a digital locker for every citizen to store personal documents that can be shared across departments,” he said.

Setting up of Ebiz portal has made approvals for businesses and citizens easy and efficient, technology is being used to impart scale and speed to development, he said.

Calling for bridging the digital divide and promoting digital literacy, Modi said in the same way that we seek to ensure general literacy, technology must be accessible, affordable and value adding.

Modi said that by using space technology and internet, 170 applications have been identified that will make governance better and development faster.

“Today, technology is advancing citizen empowerment and democracy that once drew their strength from Constitutions. Technology is forcing governments to deal with massive volume of data and generate responses, not in 24 hours but in 24 minutes,” Modi said.

To achieve the vision of Digital India, the government must also start thinking a bit like corporate world, he said.

“So, from creating infrastructure to services, from manufacture of products to human resource development, from support governments to enabling citizens and promoting digital literacy, Digital India is a vast cyber world of opportunities for you,” he said.

Also Common Service Centres will be set up in villages and towns as also use information technology to build smart cities. “We want to turn our villages into smart economic hubs and connect our farmers better to markets and makes them less vulnerable to the whims of weather,” he said.

Stating that access means content being made available in local languages, he said that affordability of products and services is critical for success.

“We will promote manufacture of quality and affordable products in India. That is part of our vision of Make in India, Digital India and Design in India,” he said.

“Since my government came to office last year, we have attacked poverty by using the power of networks and mobile phones to launch a new era of empowerment and inclusion: 180 million new bank accounts in a few months; direct transfer of benefits to the poor; funds for the unbanked; insurance within the reach of the poorest; and, pension for the sunset years for all,” he said.

Stating that Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are the neighbourhoods of the new world, he said if Facebook were a country, it would be the third most populous one and the most connected.

“Google today has made teachers less awe-inspiring and grandparents more idle. Twitter has turned everyone into a reporter. The traffic lights that need to work the best are on CISCO routers,” he said.

“The status that matters most is not whether you are awake or asleep, but whether you are online or offline. The most fundamental debate between our youth is a choice between Android, iOS and Windows,” he said in a lighter vein as the audience applauded and laughed.

Technology is helping a mother in a distant hill village save her new born infant and giving a child in a remote village better access to education, he added.

A small farmer is more confident about his land holding and getting better market price. A fisherman on the sea has a better catch. And, a young professional in San Francisco can Skype daily to comfort her sick grandmother in India, Modi added.

“When you think of the exponential speed and scale of expansion of social media or a service, you have to believe that it is equally possible to rapidly transform the lives of those who have long stood on the margins of hope,” Modi said.

He said Digital India is an enterprise for transformation on a scale that is, perhaps, unmatched in human history.

“For nothing else will do in a country with 800 million youth under the age of 35 years, impatient for change and eager to achieve it,” said the Prime Minister.

“We have set up Ebiz portal to make approvals for businesses and citizens easy and efficient so that they concentrate their energy on their goals, not on government processes. We are using technology to impart scale and speed to development,” he said.

Information, education, skills, healthcare, livelihood, financial inclusion, small and village enterprises, opportunities for women, conservation of natural resources, distributed clean energy – entirely new possibilities have emerged to change the development model, he said.

“But for all this, we must bridge the digital divide and promote digital literacy in the same way that we seek to ensure general literacy. We must ensure that technology is accessible, affordable, and adds value,” he said.

The government, he said, wants its 1.25 billion citizens to be digitally connected. “We already have broadband usage across India go up by 63 percent last year. We need to accelerate this further,” he said.

“For me, access also means that content should be in local languages. In a country with 22 official languages, it is a formidable, but an important task,” he said.

“Affordability of products and services is critical for our success. There are many dimensions to this. We will promote manufacture of quality and affordable products in India. That is part of our vision of Make in India, Digital India and Design in India,” Modi said.

Pointing out to Shantanu, John, Satya, Paul and Sunder sharing the stage with him, Modi said, “If there was ever a gathering under one roof that could claim to be shaping the world, it is this.”

“It’s a great pleasure to be here in California. It is one of the last places in the world to see the sun set. But, it is here that new ideas see the first light of the day,” he added.

(With inputs from PTI)

Excited to announce that PM Modi will be visiting Facebook headquarters: Mark Zuckerberg

New York: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Sunday announced that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit Facebook’s headquarters in California for a townhall question and answer session on 27 September.

Mark Zuckerberg (left) with PM Narendra Modi.

Mark Zuckerberg (left) with PM Narendra Modi.

During the visit, Modi and Zuckerberg will discuss how communities can work together to address social and economic challenges.

“I’m excited to announce that Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India will be visiting Facebook HQ later this month for a Townhall Q&A,” Zuckerberg wrote in a post on Facebook.

Zuckerberg asked Facebook users to send in their questions for the session and said, “Please ask them in the comments below (the post) and we’ll try to get to as many as possible.”

The live video of the session will be available on Zuckerberg’s Facebook page and also on PM Modi’s official page in the social media website.

Recalling his meeting with Prime Minister Modi in India last year, the Facebook CEO wrote, “…it’s an honor to have the chance to host him here at Facebook.”

India has the largest Facebook userbase outside the US. In June, the company had said 125 million users of its global base of 1.44 billion come from India.

Last year, Zuckerberg had made his maiden trip to India. The young billionaire had called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi to discuss digital expansion in the country.

PTi

PM Modi regrets ‘inconvenience caused to citizens in Chandigarh’ on Twitter

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday regretted the inconvenience caused to citizens in Chandigarh during his visit, especially shutting of schools, and said a probe will be ordered to fix responsibility.

PM Narendra Modi. Reuters

PM Narendra Modi. Reuters

Modi said the inconvenience faced by the citizens was “totally avoidable”.

All government and private schools were on Thursday ordered to be closed on Friday by authorities in Chandigarh in the wake of Modi’s visit to the city.

Wide traffic restrictions were put in place in Chandigarh city in view of Modi’s visit which saw commuters, particularly those coming from Panchkula and Mohali, finding it difficult to travel to work.

For the PM’s visit, the parking lot at the main crematorium in the heart of the city was turned into a parking space for Modi’s rally nearby, reported NDTV.

During his brief visit, Modi inaugurated the state-of-the-art new civil air terminal building, addressed the 34th Convocation of Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER) and a public rally.

“The inconvenience caused to citizens in Chandigarh, especially shutting of schools due to my visit is regretted. It was totally avoidable.

“An inquiry will be held & responsibility will be fixed for the inconvenience caused to the people of Chandigarh,” Modi said in two tweets.

This, however, is not the first time the people of Chandigarh were inconvenienced due to the visit of a VVIP. In November 2009, 32-year-old Sumit Prakash Verma died after the vehicle carrying him could not enter the emergency area of the PGIMER in time for treatment because of security measures in place for the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh‘s visit.

Verma’s relatives had alleged that their vehicle carrying Verma from Ambala, 45 km from Chandigarh, was stopped at different gates of the institute due to which crucial time was wasted.

(With agency inputs)

Infographic: How Bihar will vote in five-phased Assembly election 2015

Assembly elections in Bihar will be fought in five phases between 12 October and 5 November, announced the Election Commission in a press conference on Wednesday.

Counting of votes will be held on 8 November, just three days before Diwali and the locally significant Chhath puja that follows the festival of lights.

The term of the current Assembly expires on 29 November. According to the Election Commission, out of the 243 constituencies, 38 are reserved for Scheduled Castes and two for Scheduled Tribes. A total of 6,68,26,658 voters will exercise their right to franchise in 62,779 polling stations.

The battle for power in Bihar assumes significance in the context of Prime Minister Narendra Modi leading the NDA charge after BJP’s debacle in the Delhi assembly polls early this year. Recently Modi announced a Rs 1.65 lakh crore package for Bihar.

The BJP and the ruling JD(U) ended the alliance after eight years in power when Nitish Kumar parted ways over Modi being anointed NDA’s prime ministerial candidate for the Lok Sabha elections.

Noting that a number of important festivals like Dussehra, Eid, Muharram, Diwali and Chhath will fall in the election period, Zaidi said the Commission will ensure communal harmony and peace.

Bihar

(With inputs from PTI)

PM Modi clarifies on VRS issue, says all defence personnel will get OROP

Faridabad: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday slammed people trying to “mislead” the armed forces over the government’s OROP decision and made a veiled attack on Congress, saying the party has no right to raise questions since it did nothing in 40 years.

PM Narendra Modi also criticised the Congress over the delay in implementing OROP. Reuters

PM Narendra Modi also criticised the Congress over the delay in implementing OROP. Reuters

A day after the government announced implementation of one rank-one pension (OROP) which will have a recurring expense of around Rs 8,000 to Rs 10,000 crore, Modi said it was a “difficult” decision which could have ramifications which are yet to be ascertained.

He said some people are trying to “mislead” the armed forces, particularly on the issue of premature retirement and the setting up of a commission as proposed in the decision.

“Jawans in the army have to retire after 15-17 years of service. A few people think they will not get OROP….they are misleading you by terming it as VRS (voluntary retirement scheme)….

“But if anybody gets OROP, jawans will be the first….Those injured, those who had to compulsarily leave they will get OROP. And the Prime Minister who loves the army cannot even think of depriving such people of OROP benefits,” he said at a rally in Faridabad.

Noting that around 85 percent of the army constituted of jawans, he said that those who have to compulsarily retire after 15-17 years will benefit the most from this decision. “There is no need to be misled.”

Referring to the commission proposed to be set up, he again said that the armed forces should not be misled on the issue also as this is not any pay commission.

“This commission is there to address any shortcomings, if any, to see if any small changes are needed,” he said, adding the commission is proposed to be set-up as the issue is complex.

“Even those who proposed Rs 500 crore for OROP could not understand the issue,” he said in an apprent reference to the previous government.

In an apparent attack on Congress, he said, “Those who did nothing for 40-42 years, do they have any right to ask questions? They only misled you and committed sins. They want to score political points….Oneupmanship will not help the nation,” he said.

“There’s a new fashion that when the government takes a good decision it is questioned by those who do not want development,” he said.

Modi recalled that the issue was pending for the last 42 years and so many governments came but none found a way out.

“Only lip service was provided. It was difficult to implement. For me also it was not an easy decision but I have high respect for the armed forces. Whatever promise I had made is being implemented….the ramifications it will have are yet to be known,” he said.

He noted that he had made the pledge while addressing a rally of ex-servicemen in Rewari in Haryana on September 13, 2013 as BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate.

“The previous government proposed Rs 500 crore. We thought may be it could go up to Rs 600-700 crore but while calculating new things came up. While I untangled every aspect of the issue we calculated that there would be an expense of around Rs 8,000-Rs 10,000 crore.”

Attacking those criticising his government, Modi said he came to power on May 26, last year and was responsible only since then while some people were misleading.

This decision is inspired by patriotism, he said, telling the armed forces that the government “is yours, is there to look into your grievances and will stand by you whenever required”.

The Prime Minister said the nation will not progress by only indulging in politics but through national policy.

“The country cannot develop through conflict but by dialogue. Elections will come and go. If there is only one solution to our problems it is development. We are working on only one point, one mantra, one objective, one path and one goal — that is development,” he said.

“It would have been better if the work of development had been completed in last 60 years. A lot of work is pending. But only criticising previous governments will not help. Our responsibility is to look for ways for development,” he said.

PTI

Interaction with children very close to my heart: PM Modi ahead of Teachers’ Day celebrations

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday said he was looking forward to interact with students on the eve of Teachers’ Day on Friday, describing his engagement as very close to his heart.

“As a part of Teachers’ Day celebrations, tomorrow at 10 am I will attend a programme very close to my heart – interaction with school children,” Modi tweeted on Thursday night.

He further tweeted that such interaction with school children is “refreshing” and that the enthusiasm of children and their curiosity is always gladdening.

His tweets were re-tweeted by HRD Minister Smriti Irani, who would be present at the interaction on Friday, the second such event after Modi became the Prime Minister in May 2014.

Eight hundred students and 60 teachers from various schools here would interact with the PM on Friday on the eve of Teacher’s Day along with students from across the country who have excelled in various activities.

PM Narendra Modi. PTI

PM Narendra Modi. PTI

The PM would interact with students at Manekshaw Auditorium from 10 am to 11.15 am and with students outside through the video conferencing mode, which would be broadcast live by Doordarshan and All India Radio.

He will also release a commemorative coin of Rs 125 denomination and a circulation coin of Rs 10 denomination in the honour of Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, former President and educationist, teacher and philosopher, on the eve of his birth anniversary.

He will also launch the website for Kala Utsav, which is an initiative of the HRD Ministry to promote art in education, said a government statement.

Shortly after the PM’s interaction, President Pranab Mukherjee will also interact with teachers and teach students of Sarvodaya Vidyalaya inside the President’ Estate.

The Delhi government has asked all schools to ensure that the children view the live telecast of PM’s address from 9.45 am to 11.45 am. “After the PM’s address, children will remain seated and watch the President’s class with students of government schools starting at 11.45 am,” its circular said.

Separately, CBSE has asked all affiliated schools to make necessary arrangements so that “children may get an opportunity to learn from the Prime Minister’s interaction”.

The events are being held on 4 September as the next day – Teachers’ Day – is a school holiday and the country would also be celebrating Janamashtmi.

While nine crore students had participated in the interaction last year, the attempt is to scale up the numbers significantly this time, the officials said, adding that states have been asked to ensure both public and private school students listen to the Prime Minister.

PTI

PM Modi calls for concrete outcome on UNSC reforms at upcoming meet

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday pitched for concrete outcomes to the long-pending issues of UN Security Council reforms and a proposed treaty to counter terrorism at the upcoming session of the world body as he met Mogens Lykketoft, President-elect of UNGA’s 70th Session.

PM Narendra Modi. PTI

PM Narendra Modi. PTI

Modi, while telling Lykketoft that he was looking forward to participating in the Summit on 25 September, emphasised that the 70th Session of UNGA was a crucial moment for the United Nations.

It would be important to ensure that the UN meets the high expectations of the people, he said, according to a PMO statement.

In this regard, he called for securing concrete outcome on the long-pending issue of reform of the UN Security Council and strengthening the legal framework to combat terrorism through early finalization of the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT), it added.

India is an aspirant for the permanent membership of the expanded Security Council.

Lykketoft acknowledged that India, as one of the largest democracies in the world and one of the biggest contributors to the UN Peacekeeping Operations, should have a greater role in the decision-making bodies at the UN, the statement said.

Modi reiterated India’s commitment to continue supporting the UN peacekeeping operations.

The Prime Minister noted that many of the Sustainable Development Goals, which form the core of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, were already being implemented by India through flagship programmes such as Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan, Make in India, Digital India, Skill India, Smart Cities and Jan Dhan Yojna, the PMO statement said.

The two leaders exchanged views on issues related to climate change and, in this context, expressed the hope that the COP-21 Conference in Paris would come up with productive outcome to the satisfaction of developing countries.

At the outset, Modi congratulated Lykketoft on his election as the President of the landmark 70th Session of the UN General Assembly which would begin with the UN Summit for the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Lykketoft briefed Modi on his priorities for the 70th Session of the UN General Assembly.

In this regard, he specifically mentioned his priorities as renewing global partnerships for implementation of SDGs, climate change issues; improving the effectiveness of the UN contributions to international peace and security and improved response to humanitarian situations.

PTI

Will NSA-level talks with Pakistan be held on coffins of innocents, Congress asks PM Modi

New Delhi: Against the backdrop of death of six persons in firing by Pakistani troops, Congress on Monday asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi whether he would go ahead with the NSA-level talks with the neighbouring country on the “coffins of the innocent people”.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

“Congress wants to ask whether these NSA-level talks would be held on the coffins of these innocent people who are dying due to Pakistan’s aggression,” party spokesman RPN Singh told reporters.

Singh said while Congress stands by any move to normalise relations and deter escalation of violence between India and Pakistan, the Prime Minister should walk the talk as his present policy in regard to the neighbouring country has “failed” India.

He insisted that an unprecedented situation has arisen at country’s western border where Pakistan is indulging in heavy shelling and violating the ceasefire repeatedly.

“The Prime Minister did not send a tough message to Pakistan from the ramparts of the Red Fort on Independence Day. Infact in his 1.5 hour long speech, Modi did not speak a syllable about foreign policy or cross border terrorism,” he said.

Last month, there were 19 ceasefire violations in which four persons, including three jawans, were killed and 14 others injured, he said.

There have been more than 850 ceasefire violations from the Pakistani side since the Modi Government took office.

“While Congress always supports any initiative to annihilate cross border terrorism, it would like to draw the attention of the Prime Minister that his Pakistan policy in the present state has failed India,” he said.

The National Security Advisers (NSA) of the two countries are due to meet in New Delhi on August 23.

To a specific questions whether the talks should be held, he said it is the prerogative of the government.

PTI

PM Modi warns against ‘outside interference’ in Middle East ahead of his visit to UAE

Abu Dhabi: Ahead of his talks with the Emirati leadership, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said the Gulf region is vital for India’s economic, energy and security interests and he wants to see the UAE as the foremost partner in trade and countering terrorism.

PM Narendra Modi. Reuters

PM Narendra Modi. Reuters

Noting that both India and UAE have a range of common security and strategic concerns in the region, including terrorism and extremism, the Prime Minister said he is keen to foster a strategic partnership, particularly in the security, energy and investment sectors, with the fastest growing Arab economy and its visionary and pragmatic leadership.

Asked what role India, which has good relations with all the countries in Gulf and Middle East, can play given the built-up tension in the region, Modi said though India was “saddened and worried” to see violence and instability in the region it believes in principle of non-interference and he strongly believes that the problems in this region can only be addressed by the collective efforts and constructive engagement of all countries.

“India is uniquely blessed to have good relations with all countries in the region. Therefore, we are saddened and worried to see violence and instability in the region. I have always believed that regional or bilateral problems are best solved by the countries involved.

“We have often seen the consequences of outside interference. India has always abided by the principle of non-interference in other countries and has consistently supported dialogue as a means to resolve all issues,” Modi said.

He also warned against “outside interference” in the Middle East. Modi also described the UAE as a “Mini India”.

Modi, the first Indian Prime Minister to visit UAE in 34 years, will have talks with Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, and Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the vice president and Prime Minister of UAE, a day after his arrival in Abu Dhabi.

“We have a range of common security and strategic concerns in the region, including terrorism and extremism. So India and the UAE have everything to be a top priority for each other. This is the way I look at the UAE. The Gulf region is vital for India’s economic, energy and security interests,” Modi said in an interview to Khaleej Times newspaper.

Noting that he has begun his regional engagement with the UAE which reflects the importance that he attaches to the country, Modi said he would like to see a truly comprehensive strategic partnership evolve between the two countries.

“I want to see the UAE as our foremost trade and investment partner. We would build regular and effective cooperation in a full range of security challenges. Our armed forces would engage with each other more. We will work together more closely in international forums and in addressing regional challenges. There are no limits to our relationship,” Modi said.

“I have been hearing about the progress made by Dubai for years… This would be my first visit to the country. I always thought how this paradise could come up in a desert? What vision! What remarkable skill!” said PM Modi.

Asserting that terrorism poses a grave danger to humanity, he said all those countries who believe in humanity, must stand together without delay as it was extremely necessary to challenge the forces of terrorism.

“As far as the Indian community is concerned, the languages that are spoken in India, are all spoken in the UAE! In a manner of speaking, the UAE is a ‘Mini India’. The way the two communities work together represents a special bond,” the Prime Minister said.

He said the Indian community was not only contributing to the progress and development of the host country, but also participating in the economic development of India through their remittances.

“I have no doubt that with the overall economic reform programme in progress, they will find India an attractive, stable and secure destination for their investment and savings,” Modi added.

There are about 2.6 million Indians, who constitute nearly 30 percent of the population of this country.

Observing that globally, between countries, it is governments which first forge close relationships, and development of people-to-people contacts follows, he said, however, in the case of the UAE, while India has close people-to-people contacts, there was a certain distance between the governments.

“I think this was a mismatch. From a diplomatic viewpoint, this just does not seem right. This must change. I am confident that my visit will be successful, and I express my heartfelt gratitude to the Rulers of Abu Dhabi and Dubai for extending this kind invitation to me,” Modi said.

“I strongly believe that the problems in this region can only be addressed by the collective efforts and constructive engagement of all countries. Regional peace and stability is in the interest of all.

“I always advocate this approach to every country in this region and others who have stakes here. When we have such serious problems of terrorism and extremism as we see in the region, it is incumbent upon all nations in the region to work together to address this common threat to regional stability, peace and prosperity,” he added.

He also hoped that the Iran nuclear agreement will not be a cause of instability in the region, but will start a process of consultation and cooperation in the region that will enhance mutual trust and confidence, and lead to durable peace and stability in the region.

PTI

India wants UAE as a top partner in trade and counter-terrorism: PM Modi

Abu Dhabi: Ahead of his talks with the Emirati leadership, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said the Gulf region is vital for India’s economic, energy and security interests and he wants to see the UAE as the foremost partner in trade and countering terrorism.

PM Narendra Modi. Reuters

PM Narendra Modi. Reuters

Noting that both India and UAE have a range of common security and strategic concerns in the region, including terrorism and extremism, the Prime Minister said he is keen to foster a strategic partnership, particularly in the security, energy and investment sectors, with the fastest growing Arab economy and its visionary and pragmatic leadership.

Modi, the first Indian Prime Minister to visit UAE in 34 years, will have talks with Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, and Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the vice president and Prime Minister of UAE, a day after his arrival in Abu Dhabi.

“We have a range of common security and strategic concerns in the region, including terrorism and extremism. So India and the UAE have everything to be a top priority for each other. This is the way I look at the UAE. The Gulf region is vital for India’s economic, energy and security interests,” Modi said in an interview to Khaleej Times newspaper.

Noting that he has begun his regional engagement with the UAE which reflects the importance that he attaches to the country, Modi said he would like to see a truly comprehensive strategic partnership evolve between the two countries.

“I want to see the UAE as our foremost trade and investment partner. We would build regular and effective cooperation in a full range of security challenges. Our armed forces would engage with each other more. We will work together more closely in international forums and in addressing regional challenges. There are no limits to our relationship,” Modi said.

Asserting that terrorism poses a grave danger to humanity, he said all those countries who believe in humanity, must stand together without delay as it was extremely necessary to challenge the forces of terrorism.

“As far as the Indian community is concerned, the languages that are spoken in India, are all spoken in the UAE! In a manner of speaking, the UAE is a ‘Mini India’. The way the two communities work together represents a special bond,” the Prime Minister said.

He said the Indian community was not only contributing to the progress and development of the host country, but also participating in the economic development of India through their remittances.

“I have no doubt that with the overall economic reform programme in progress, they will find India an attractive, stable and secure destination for their investment and savings,” Modi added.

There are about 2.6 million Indians, who constitute nearly 30 percent of the population of this country.

Observing that globally, between countries, it is governments which first forge close relationships, and development of people-to-people contacts follows, he said, however, in the case of the UAE, while India has close people-to-people contacts, there was a certain distance between the governments.

“I think this was a mismatch. From a diplomatic viewpoint, this just does not seem right. This must change. I am confident that my visit will be successful, and I express my heartfelt gratitude to the Rulers of Abu Dhabi and Dubai for extending this kind invitation to me,” Modi said.

Asked what role India, which has good relations with all the countries in Gulf and Middle East, can play given the built up tension in the region, Modi said though India was “saddened and worried” to see violence and instability in the region it believes in principle of non-interference and he strongly believes that the problems in this region can only be addressed by the collective efforts and constructive engagement of all countries.

“India is uniquely blessed to have good relations with all countries in the region. Therefore, we are saddened and worried to see violence and instability in the region. I have always believed that regional or bilateral problems are best solved by the countries involved.

“We have often seen the consequences of outside interference. India has always abided by the principle of non-interference in other countries and has consistently supported dialogue as a means to resolve all issues.

“I strongly believe that the problems in this region can only be addressed by the collective efforts and constructive engagement of all countries. Regional peace and stability is in the interest of all.

“I always advocate this approach to every country in this region and others who have stakes here. When we have such serious problems of terrorism and extremism as we see in the region, it is incumbent upon all nations in the region to work together to address this common threat to regional stability, peace and prosperity,” he added.

He also hoped that the Iran nuclear agreement will not be a cause of instability in the region, but will start a process of consultation and cooperation in the region that will enhance mutual trust and confidence, and lead to durable peace and stability in the region.

PTI

PM Modi makes promises easily but fails to fulfil them: Rahul Gandhi on demand for OROP

New Delhi: Accusing Prime Minister Narendra Modi of not fulfilling his promises, Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi on Friday demanded a definite date for implementing the long-pending One Rank One Pension (OROP) for ex-servicemen as he joined their agitation in New Delhi.

Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi. PTI

Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi. PTI

Gandhi drove to Jantar Mantar where the Delhi Police tried to evict the ex-servicemen, holding protest for two months pressing for OROP, and disapproved of the police action, saying those who had protected the country must be respected.

“The reality is that our Prime Minister makes promises very easily but he fails to fulfil them. He had promised jobs to youth but ‘Make in India’ did not succeed. He had promised to clean India. But Swacch Bharat did not yield results.

“He had promised his corporate friends that he will get them the Land Bill approved. But it did not happen. Similarly, he had also promised to implement OROP but it has not materialised,” Gandhi told reporters after meeting the agitating ex-servicemen.

The Congress vice president insisted that the Prime Minister should have thought of technicalities in implementing the OROP before making the promise.

“The Prime Minister had promised that he will implement the OROP. It is a very simple matter, the Prime Minister must give a date now, if he says that on this date the work will be done, then this entire agitation will be over.

“The Prime Minister made a promise over OROP and now he just has to say one line, that I will get this work done by this date,” said Gandhi.

Earlier in the day, police tried to evict the ex-servicemen from Jantar Mantar in the heart of the capital on the ground of security ahead of the Independence Day celebrations. Later, Police Commissioner BS Bassi said they have been allowed to continue with their protest.

“They have guarded the borders all their life. They are protesting here, they are not doing anything wrong. There should be no use of force on them, they should not be evicted from this spot,” Gandhi said.

The Congress vice president said that his party had fulfilled the promise it had made on OROP, claiming that the UPA government had already decided on it.

“As far as the technicalities go, the government should have taken those into consideration before making any promises, not after the promises have been made,” said Gandhi adding that Congress was lending its support to the agitators and will ensure that OROP is implemented.

The Modi government has been maintaining that it is committed to OROP, a key promise made during Lok Sabha polls.

Close to 22 lakh ex-servicemen and over six lakh war widows stand to be immediate beneficiaries of the scheme, which envisages a uniform pension for the defence personnel who retire in the same rank with the same length of service, irrespective of their date of retirement.

Currently, the pension for ex-servicemen is based on the Pay Commission recommendations of the time when they had retired.

PTI

Sartaj Aziz ‘confirms’ NSA-level talks, India says it’s yet to receive official note from Pak

New Delhi: National Security Advisers of India and Pakistan will meet in New Delhi on 23 August to discuss all issues connected to terrorism for the first time, according to Pakistan Prime Minister’s Advisor on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaz Aziz. Islamabad described this as an “ice-breaking” move.

Pakistan NSA Sartaj Aziz. AFP

Pakistan NSA Sartaj Aziz. AFP

The confirmation for the talks by Pakistan comes amid simmering tensions following terror attacks in Punjab and Jammu & Kashmir and incidents of ceasefire violations resulting in causalities, prompting strong diplomatic protests from both sides.

“Yes, I can confirm it that I will be going to India on (August) 23rd for talks,” Aziz told reporters in Islamabad.

The announcement on Thursday by Aziz came after considerable dilly-dallying by Pakistan, generating speculation that the army was against it as it was unhappy over non-inclusion of Kashmir in the statement which was issued after the meeting between the Prime Ministers of the two countries in Ufa.

On the other hand, India said it was yet to get a “confirmation” from Islamabad on the NSA-level talks, hours within Aziz announced that he will travel to New Delhi on 23 August to hold the dialogue.

“On NSA talks, we have no confirmation (from Pakistan),” Spokesperson in the Ministry of External Affairs Vikas Swarup told reporters. He was asked to comment on Aziz’s announcement in Islamabad to visit India for the talks.

According to the Ufa statement, the two sides agreed on a “meeting in New Delhi between the two NSAs to discuss all issues connected to terrorism”.

After the meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif last month, India had proposed 23-24 August for the meeting between National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and Aziz in New Delhi.

“Our Prime Minister has always believed in dialogue. It was India which suspended the meeting which was scheduled between the two Foreign Secretaries on August 25 last year. And then at India’s request the two Prime Minister’s met in Ufa, Russia, on 10th July and they agreed that the two NSAs will meet in Delhi,” Aziz said.

“It (upcoming meeting) is not a breakthrough in terms of composite dialogue on all issues. But at least it is ice-breaking on some issues. And let us hope that it would lead to further more comprehensive dialogue on all the issues between the two countries. So we do believe in dialogue to resolve the issues,” he added.

Officials said the decision for the Aziz-Doval meeting was taken after the final nod by Sharif, who returned last night from his three-day visit to Belarus.

Last week, Aziz had said that Pakistan is preparing the agenda for talks.

He had said Pakistan wants a constructive, sustained, unconditional and result-oriented dialogue with India on all issues of mutual concern including the core issue of Kashmir.

A Pakistani Foreign Office official had said Pakistan is aware of India’s agenda to highlight the issue of terrorism and planning is being done to counter it.

With India suffering two terror attacks in Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir in the recent past, Doval is expected to make India’s case forcefully in the talks over the issue, including the alleged involvement of Pakistani nationals in these attacks and the bail to 26/11 accused Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi.

India has said they have arrested a Pakistani national for carrying out an attack on Indian forces in Kashmir though Islamabad has denied that the attacks were perpetrated by terrorists who had infiltrated from its territory.

There have also been 19 ceasefire violations along the Indo-Pak border in July in which four persons, including three Indian soldiers, were killed. Pakistani troops had targeted forward Indian posts along the LoC on multiple occasions in August also.

Earlier, the two countries had exchanged a war of words over a “spy” drone which Pakistan alleged was being used by India for aerial photography near the Line of Control (LoC), a claim dismissed by New Delhi.

PTI

PM Modi announces ex-gratia relief or Rs 2 lakh for Madhya Pradesh derailment victims

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday announced an ex-gratia relief of Rs two lakh for the kin of each of those killed in the twin train derailments in Madhya Pradesh as he expressed distress and pain over the loss of lives in the mishaps.

PM Narendra Modi. AFP

PM Narendra Modi. AFP

The ex-gratia relief was sanctioned from the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund and will be in addition to the relief assistance already announced by the Railways, a PMO statement said.

An ex-gratia relief of Rs 50,000 has also been sanctioned from the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund for those who were seriously injured in the derailment of Kamayani Express and Janata Express – near Harda in Madhya Pradesh late Tuesday night, it said.

“The two train accidents in Madhya Pradesh are deeply distressing. Deeply pained over the loss of lives. Condolences to families of deceased,” Modi tweeted.

“My prayers with the injured. Authorities are doing everything possible on the ground. The situation is being monitored very closely,” Modi said in another tweet.

PTI

Too early to speculate on timing of my visit to India: Pakistan NSA Sartaj Aziz

Islamabad: Amid escalating tensions at the Indo-Pak border, Pakistan’s national security advisor Sartaj Aziz has said it is “too early” to speculate on the timing of his visit to New Delhi to hold talks with his Indian counterpart as agreed at Ufa.

Pakistan NSA Sartaj Aziz. Reuters

Pakistan NSA Sartaj Aziz. Reuters

Aziz also said that he did not not want to “vitiate the atmosphere” by commenting on India’s strong reaction to the firing incidents at the border.

“It is too early to speculate on my visit’s timing,” Aziz told the News International of his planned visit to India to hold talks with India’s National Security Advisor Ajit Doval.

In their first bilateral talks in over a year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif had met in Ufa on the sidelines of the SCO summit earlier this month and decided that Doval and Aziz will meet in New Delhi either next month or in September to discuss “all issues connected to terrorism”.

Aziz declined to comment on Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar’s statement yesterday, warning Pakistan of “effective and forceful” response to unprovoked firing and cross-border terrorism.

“I don’t want to vitiate the atmosphere by reacting to the statement that I have already seen,” the Pakistan Prime Minister’s Adviser on National Security and Foreign Affairs said.

Aziz termed it as “mischief” to suggest that tension was cropping up between the two countries and that could fizzle out his plan to visit New Delhi.

He claimed that Pakistan was out to reduce the tension.

Asked about India’s rejection of Pakistan’s allegation that an Indian spy drone entered its air space in violation of international law, Aziz said the army would be in a better position to offer comments about it since the earlier information was also provided by it.

The paper quoted sources as saying that the meeting of two National Security Advisers would not be possible this month.

India is to suggest the schedule of the visit of Pakistan NSA and it is unlikely that it would come up with any schedule any sooner as it has not talked to the Pakistan mission in New Delhi as yet, the daily said.

There have been a series of ceasefire violations along the LoC in Jammu and Kashmir by Pakistan which has resorted to mortar shelling of Indian areas over the past two days.

India has responded in kind and both sides have said they had suffered casualties.

Pakistan has also claimed to have downed a “spy drone” belonging to Indian security forces. India has rubbished the allegations, saying the drone appeared to be of Chinese design and is commercially available off the shelf.

PTI

Shashi Tharoor sings, slams media and opens up on Sunanda: 5 key moments from Firstpost Salon

Away from the humdrum of road politics or a maddening crowd of television crews chasing him for quotes, Congress leader, author and Lok Sabha MP from Thiruvananthapuram, Shashi Tharoor was a relaxed man at the Firstpost Salon. Sharing his views on a medley of issues from professional to personal aspects of his life, Tharoor kept his listeners all ears for over an hour that he spent with them at the venue.

From his views on cricket and demonstrating his singing skills to his perspective on the Modi sarkar, Indian media and the extremely controversial Sunanda Pushkar case, Tharoor answered each question asked at the Salon unhesitatingly.

Here are some of the most memorable moments from the Firstpost Salon with Shashi Tharoor:

On the Sunanda Pushkar case

Shashi Tharoor has been in the news for the last few months mainly because of the Sunanda Pushkar case. Arguably the most memorable moments of the Firstpost Salon were when Tharoor talked about his perspective on the case and what he thought about the way the issue was portrayed by some sections of the media.

Shashi Tharoor at the Firstpost Salon. Anshu Lal/Firstpost

Shashi Tharoor at the Firstpost Salon. Anshu Lal/Firstpost

Criticising certain sections of the media, Tharoor said, “I thought about taking legal action (against some media groups).” He added that the only reason he did not take legal action was because his lawyers advised him against it.

“Some deeply obnoxious anchors have taken it upon themselves to be not only the witness, but judge and executioner as well,” Tharoor said. He also said that even if the police conclude their work and it is concluded in a court of law, there would be a lingering whiff of suspicion that would remain about the case against him.

“I knew I had done nothing wrong,” he said, while explaining his silence following the controversy. He added that he was so shocked after his wife’s death that he couldn’t speak to anyone for three weeks.

“I have co-operated with the investigation throughout…I have even given the police access to my emails. I believe that in a fair-minded probe, there is no way that I will be found wanting,” Tharoor said.

On Modi sarkar and achche din

Achche din aane waale hain, abhi toh nahi aaye hain (Good days are yet to come, they certainly have not come now),” said a smiling Shashi Tharoor when asked by a member of the audience on his thoughts about ‘achche din‘.

Talking about NDA’s foreign policy and Modi’s frequent trips abroad, Tharoor said, “There is no doubt that Mr Modi has brought a lot of energy into the MEA.” He quickly added that the Modi government’s foreign policy was a success because of the continuity of the previous government’s foreign policy rather than a change in the same.

“It is important to stress that there is almost an overwhelming amount of continuity in foreign policy…If the BJP has done the right thing, it is despite the positions they took when they were in the Opposition and it’s something that the party’s supporters should acknowledge,” Tharoor said.

Tharoor also said that the recent statements made by Pakistan on the Lakhvi issue showed that “not a lot of research was done before the (Modi-Sharif) meeting at Ufa.”

The Thiruvananthapuram MP called the notion of an empowered bureaucracy under the Modi government a “myth”. “The gossip I’m hearing is that empowerment is a myth,” he said. He said that he had heard that everything the bureaucrats did went to the PMO and they were just aiding an overburdened PMO.

He also said that political categorisation was peculiar in India and that BJP, in terms of its economic policy, was not right-wing. “BJP is a nativist party that isn’t truly a right-wing party when it comes to economic policy,” Tharoor said.

On the state of media in India

Tharoor’s views on the Indian media were not just limited to his criticism of the way in which the Sunanda Pushkar case was covered. “We have a media culture now where breaking news is everything,” he said.

Even as he talked about considering legal action against certain sections of the media, Tharoor said, “I would much rather have media direct our lives than courts directing us.”

“What one wants is better journalism that is fair,” he said. “I’m not the only victim of trial by media. There are many other victims.”

“Journalists have come and told me that even they were forced to do what they were doing in the name of journalism by their seniors,” Tharoor said, adding that those journalists also apologised to him for the questions that they were allegedly forced to ask.

He also said that the term of “cattle class” was purely a case of him using a term that was widely used in the West when asked about it by a journalist.

Tharoor also said that the hunger for TRPs or readership was not just limited to TV journalism but was also present in print journalism. He also talked about how there was a general lack of depth in the digital media these days. “There is a lack of depth in digital media. Paradoxically, digital media has no restriction of space,” he said.

Tharoor also talked about how the digital media had given people a platform to express views openly while maintaining anonymity, which often led to trolls on the internet. “I’m not aware of any Congress troll,” said a smiling Tharoor.

On his time at the UN, being a political outsider and Macaulayputra

Tharoor also spoke fondly of his time at the United Nations and said that he had learnt a lot from that experience and had been greatly influenced by it.

“I learnt a lot from my time at the UN,” he said. Tharoor added that it influenced him a lot and there was a lot of pressure on him and his colleagues at the UN as sometimes, the “weight of a government” lied on them.

On being asked about how he felt about not being chosen the UN Secretary-General, Tharoor said that he had no regrets and always followed the Bhagvad Gita, in which one of the messages that he followed was to work without any expectations.

Tharoor also said that he did not consider himself to be an insider in politics because he did not have the kind of experience which most of the other politicians had. “I would never gain the level of acceptance as most of the others in politics. I’m not an insider,” he said.

“I’m operating in a political world where 99 percent of the people have been active in politics for a very long time,” Tharoor said.

On being asked whether he considered himself a Macaulay putra, Tharoor jokingly said, “Well I’ve heard the word.”

“Some would argue that the concept of Macaulay putra is not authentic. But that doesn’t mean nothing good comes out of it,” he said. “I don’t have any desire to identify myself as Macaulay putra. But the fact is that English is my first language.”

On personal life, cricket and singing abilities

Finally, Tharoor very candidly spoke about some aspects of his personal life and even surprised the audience with his singing skills as he sang a couple of paragraphs of a song he says he last sang when he was in his early teens.

Answering a question about his thoughts on love and relationships, Tharoor said, “You never fall in love in a frivolous way, you fall in love in a serious way.” He added that the sadness of the failure of his past relationships did not take away the value of the joy he got from those relationships.

He also said that he was not bad at imitating cricket commentators, thanks to his love of listening to cricket matches on radio. He also said he did not think test cricket was in the danger of dying out in today’s times. “The number of eyeballs on a cricket match has gone up considerably,” he said.

Tharoor also talked about his time at St Stephen’s College in New Delhi, adding that he set up the Wodehouse Society in the college, which even allowed practical jokes after consent from the college.

PM need not react on everything: VK Singh on Lalit Modi controversy

New Delhi: Dismissing criticism over Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s silence on the Lalit Modi controversy, Union Minister VK Singh on Monday said it is not necessary for the Prime Minister to react to everything and he will speak when the right time comes.

VK Singh said PM Modi need not react on the Lalit Modi row. PTI

VK Singh said PM Modi need not react on the Lalit Modi row. PTI

“Why do you want to force upon him that he should speak and speak? It is not appropriate to react to everything. If a news channel is running something, is it right on the part of the Prime Minister to speak on that? When the right time will come, the Prime Minister will speak,” Singh said.

In reply to a question that the Ministry of External Affairs has not responded to an RTI query on Lalit Modi, he said RTI has some rules and the Ministry must have given answer in accordance with that.

“Those who have to criticise, will do it anyways. So there is no need to talk about that because often unnecessary things are blown out of proportion. These things have no ground,” he said on the sidelines of 9th Statistics Day in New Delhi.

VK Singh is Minister of State for External and Overseas Indian Affairs apart from holding independent charge as Minister of State for Statistics and Programme Implementation.

“Some channels have been running news on Lalit Modi episode for over half a month now and they must have been acting at someone’s behest,” he said in reply to a question that the MEA is hiding information.

“The channels have been doing this for the last 17 days. I ask them who has given them a contract for that,” he said.

On the demand for resignation of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje before commencement of monsoon session of Parliament, he said it is the job of the opposition to speak and let them speak.

Swaraj and Raje have been facing the heat from various quarters, including from within the BJP, over their alleged role in facilitating travel related documents to former IPL Commissioner Lalit Modi, who had fled to London in 2010 citing threats to his family’s safety.

Lalit Modi is being probed by the Enforcement Directorate for his alleged role in embezzlement of funds and breaking code of conduct.

PTI

VP wasn’t invited to the Yoga Day event: Hamid Ansari’s office responds to Ram Madhav

New Delhi: Vice President Hamid Ansari’s office said on Sunday night that he was not invited to the Yoga Day event in the capital after his absence was questioned by senior BJP and RSS leader Ram Madhav.

Vice President Hamid Ansari was criticised by BJP's Ram Madhav for not attending the Yoga Day event. Reuters

Vice President Hamid Ansari was criticised by BJP’s Ram Madhav for not attending the Yoga Day event. Reuters

Madhav had deleted a tweet questioning Ansari’s absence and then apologised to him saying he later learnt that the Vice President was unwell.

The Vice President’s office said that was not correct. “Vice President was not sick. He was never invited for the yoga programme,” it said, adding, “the Vice President only attends those programmes in which the Minister concerned invites him as per protocol”.

Madhav also accused Rajya Sabha TV, the public service broadcaster run by Parliament’s Upper House, of blacking out live telecast of the Yoga Day event “completely” despite being run on taxpayers money. As Rajya Sabha Chairman, Ansari is the controlling authority for the channel.

This was contradicted by Gurdeep Singh Sappal, CEO of Rajya Sabha TV. “Baseless rumours. RSTV not just did live telecast of Rajpath event. But also had 3 documentaries, 1 special report today on Yoga”, he tweeted.

As the topic trended, Madhav deleted both the tweets, including his apology.

Later, in a statement, Rajya Sabha TV CEO Gurdeep Singh Sappal said that the channel had carried live coverage of all major Yoga Day functions.

He said that the channel had broadcast live two functions attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, from Rajpath and Vigyan Bhavan, and also aired the UN function attended by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.

All these programmes and special shows on yoga are available on YouTube as well, he added.

“The campaign against RSTV is motivated,” said Sappal.

“Apart from live coverage of important functions, RSTV’s Yoga Day fare also had three documentaries on Yoga and a Special Report on AYUSH,” he said.

PTI

Yoga beyond asanas: PM Modi, Ramdev need to get rid of their biases to become true yogis

Correct branding is essential to project oneself in public life. And Prime Minister Narendra Modi is a master when it comes to marketing himself. Along with his friend Ramdev, the PM has managed to position himself as the champion for the cause of Yoga, India’s oldest cultural heritage and largest export.

PM Narendra Modi needs to get rid of biases to know the true meaning of yoga. AP

PM Narendra Modi needs to get rid of biases to know the true meaning of yoga. AP

One of my most favourite books is Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra. What makes Patanjali unique is that he is absolutely scientific. He never assumes and he never denies. Patanjali says God is one of the many ways to reach the ultimate. But it is not necessary to believe in God to reach your destination. God is a path. Some may choose that path, others may choose another. The path is not important, the goal is. God is just one of the paths.

Yoga is a science. It is neither theistic nor atheistic. And Patanjali did not create a religious ritual. In fact, far from it. Patanjali, like I said, earlier was absolutely scientific. In fact, he says one can be Godless.

The Yoga Sutra never insisted on a concept. Patanjali describes Yoga as ‘Chitta Viriddhi Nirodha’ or the opening up of the closed mind. The aim of Yoga is to reach one’s true self and to reach the goal, one has to let go of biases and prejudices.

India’s other oldest legacy, the Ayurveda, pescribes meat and fish prepared in certain ways. It understands that nature is diverse and in snow covered lands or in deserts, there may not be enough vegetation. Therefore Shiva, who we consider the greatest Yogi, and who lives on the snowy peaks of Mount Kailash at the Himalyas, is a non-vegetarian. In fact, even alcohol, is offered to him in many of his temples.

Both the Prime Minister and his friend Ramdev have often spoken out against non-vegetarian food. The Prime Minister has been very comfortable with certain meats being banned. But does this have anything to do with purity or reaching your goal? Yoga certainly doesn’t say so. All that the Yoga Sutra teaches, is that one has to drop all the biases to reach the ultimate truth. Like those against non-vegetarian food or even the ones against homosexuals.

Again, the PM and his friend Ramdev, have not been pro-homosexuals. To the extent of using the Patanjali name, Ramdev sells medicines to ‘cure’ people of the ‘ disease’ of homosexuality. With the platform he has, there will be many who will be influenced to think, that being a homosexual is impure, it is a disease. Strangely the concept of disease does not exist in Yoga. In Yoga Sutra, Patanjali writes, Yoga is about creating harmony to reach the ultimate destination.

So ancient Indian scriptures accepted and understood that homosexuality is natural. Today science concurs, that homosexuality is documented in several animal species. In ancient India, we not only accepted it but even celebrated it. So Krishna, another great Yogi, turns into Mohini and spends a night with Arjuna’s son, who had to be sacrificed, so the war could be won, but he did not want to die a bachelor and in the morning, Mohini wails and mourns for her ‘husband’ like a widow would. Or Shiva who transforms into a gopi to dance the Leela. ‎

Indian mythology has several examples of different sexual choices and to date in many cultures in India this choice is celebrated.

So when the Prime Minister ensures India votes with Russia, Pakistan and Iran, or Ramdev calls the homosexuals diseased or between them, they encourage the ban on certain foods, because to be pure and reach your destination one needs to not eat meats, one suspects that they may have perfected the asanas and branded themselves superbly with their show of the pranayamas, but if they still have prejudices, they have not yet mastered the art of Yoga.

(Tehseen Poonawalla is an entruprenuer, life coach and a student of Indian mythology.)

Onus of improving Indo-Pak ties lies on Pakistan: Jaitley

New York: The onus of creating an environment for improving Indo-Pak ties and normalising the bilateral relationship is more on Pakistan and depends on the kind of “provocation” that comes from that country, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said on Thursday.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the onus of improving Indo-Pak ties lies with Pakistan. PTI

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the onus of improving Indo-Pak ties lies with Pakistan. PTI

“With Pakistan, the border frequently becomes tensed, where there are exchanges on that border. I think the message in the context of Pakistan is that India is interested in improving the relationship with Pakistan and therefore the onus of the responsibility for creating an environment in which the relationship can grow would also depend much more on Pakistan and the kind of provocation that comes from there,” Jaitley said in New York.

“The message that we are interested in normalising our relationship with them or at least improving our relationship with them and the onus is on Pakistan for this purpose has been loud and clear,” he said at the New York-based think-tank Council on Foreign Relations.

Jaitley, who began his 10-day visit to the US on Wednesday, made the remarks while responding to a question on India’s foreign policy. He went on to elaborate on India’s ties with its neighbours.

Pakistan and India have been involved in a war of words recently with leaders from both sides exchanging sharp comments after Prime Minister Modi’s critical remarks about Pakistan during his Dhaka visit and in the wake of India’s military action in Myanmar.

Prime Minister Modi had called up his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif earlier this week to greet him on the holy month of Ramzan.

PTI

Pakistan releases 113 Indian fishermen on Ramzan in a goodwill gesture

Karachi: Pakistan on Thursday released 113 Indian fishermen lodged in a jail in Karachi in a goodwill gesture, days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi called up his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif to greet him on the holy month of Ramzan amid a war of words between the two countries.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

“We have got orders from Islamabad that the fishermen have been released from Malir jail as a goodwill gesture on the occasion of the holy month of Ramzan starting tomorrow,” deputy jail superintendent Muhammad Hussain Sehto told PTI.

The 113 Indian fishermen will travel to Lahore by Karakoram Express and will be handed over to Indian authorities at the Wagah border tomorrow.

On their release, Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF) and jail authorities presented the traditional gift of Ajrak (blockprinted shawls) to the fishermen.

The Indian fishermen were released after Modi on 16 June called up Sharif to wish him on the occasion of Ramzan and stressed the need for having “peaceful” and “friendly” bilateral ties.

In his telephonic conversation, Modi also conveyed to Sharif India’s decision to release detained Pakistani fishermen on the occasion of Ramzan, a move seen as a bid to lower tensions between the two countries.

Pakistan and India have been involved in a war of words recently with leaders from both sides exchanging sharp comments after Modi’s critical remarks about Pakistan during his Dhaka visit and in the wake of India’s military action in Myanmar.

India and Pakistan regularly arrest fishermen who venture into unmarked territorial waters of the two countries.

Last February, around 172 Indian fishermen were released from Malir jail.

PTI

Modi’s phone call to Sharif reduces India-Pak tension, say reports

Islamabad: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s phone call to his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif has helped reduce tension between the two countries, a daily said on Thursday.

Daily Times, in an editorial “Modi’s overture”, said that Modi’s call has “helped reduce the rising temperature in India-Pakistan relations due to aggressive rhetoric by both sides”.

A file photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and (L) Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. PIB

A file photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and (L) Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. PIB

“It was a positive overture by the Indian prime minister to ease ongoing tensions that ensued after the exchange of barbs between both sides during the past few days. During the five-minute call on Tuesday, both leaders agreed to stop issuing controversial statements.”

The daily said that in the wake of the Indian army’s raid on the camps of northeast Indian militants in Myanmar, “a junior Indian minister suggested that the Myanmar incident could set a precedent for other cross-border raids, including Pakistan-controlled Kashmir”.

While the Indian premier’s comments that he had played a part in the break-up of Pakistan in 1971 fired up defence functionaries in Pakistan, “the reaction by top government officials was uncalled for and lacked wisdom”.

The editorial said there should have been a “more cool and sophisticated approach”.

“There was no need to fly into a rage at the slightest provocation. More sense should have been applied while responding to the utterances of the Indian leadership. In the backdrop of these verbal tussles, PM Nawaz acted prudently and never retaliated with a harsh tone. Rather he urged the Indian side to give peace a chance and not spoil the peace process,” it said.

Describing as positive, Modi’s initiative to contact the Pakistan PM, the daily said: “It is high time that both the rival states should not be distracted by peace spoilers and all contentious issues should be resolved through a meaningful dialogue process.”

“Peace is the only option and way forward. Only a more positive approach to the relationship can give good results for both the neighbouring countries as well as for regional peace. There is no way out as both India and Pakistan are nuclear states and they cannot afford any warfare that would result in complete destruction,” the daily said and called for “an end to provocative statements and irrational reactions”.

IANS

Modi’s remark against Pakistan in Bangladesh unfortunate, says Pak official

Islamabad: Pakistan on Tuesday described as “unfortunate” the remarks made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Bangladesh where he had accused it of creating “nuisance” and constantly troubling India by promoting terrorism.

PM Narendra Modi. PTI

PM Narendra Modi. PTI

The “characterisation of bilateral relations by the Indian prime minister as ‘nuisance’ is unfortunate,” Pakistan Foreign Office spokesperson Qazi Khalillulah said.

He said that Pakistan believes in peaceful co-existence and maintaining good neighbourly relations with India.

Pakistan aaye din (constantly) disturbs India, jo naako dum la deta hai (creates nuisance), terrorism ko badhawa (deta hai)…ki ghatnaayein ghatthi rehti hain (promotes terrorism and such incidents keep recurring),” Modi had said on Sunday in his address to Dhaka University during his Bangladesh trip.

Recalling that 90,000 Pakistani prisoners of war were in India’s captivity during the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War, Modi had said, “if we had a diabolic mindset, we don’t know then what decision we would have taken.”

Khalillulah said that Prime Minister Modi’s statements “only confirmed Pakistan’s stance on India’s negative role against a sovereign neighbouring state.”

“It was regrettable that the Indian politicians not only indulge in actions that are in violation of the UN’s Charter but also take pride in recalling their interference in the internal affairs of other states,” he said.

The spokesperson reiterated that the people of Pakistan and Bangladesh are bound not only by the strong bonds of religious affinity but also by the history of their struggle for independence against colonial rule.

“Indian attempts to sow seeds of discord between the two brotherly nations of Pakistan and Bangladesh will not succeed,” he stressed.

Pakistan also called upon the international community to take note of Indian acknowledgement of its interference in East Pakistan – now known as Bangladesh.

PTI

Bangladeshi media describes PM Narendra Modi’s visit as ‘historic’

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Modi leaves for two-day visit to Bangladesh, land boundary agreement likely to be taken forward

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Google apologises after Modi’s images turn up in ‘top 10 criminals in India’

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India’s response to Nepal earthquake shows its growing leadership: US

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Rs 100 crore award for whoever arrests PM Modi, says Pakistani party Jamaat-e-Islami chief Haq

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Congress urges Centre to grant citizenship to Hindu migrants from Bangladesh

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