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Looking back at 2015: Activities of ISIS, action against NGOs kept Home Ministry busy

Even though a dossier prepared by India listed the don’s nine residences in that country, there has been no headway in bringing him back to face justice. Officially, the Home Minister Rajnath Singh said that government is committed to bring back fugitive ganglord to face law for his involvement in 1993 Mumbai serial blasts.

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PM Modi to inaugurate Afghanistan’s Parliament building built by India

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PM Modi and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani are expected to issue a joint statement after holding talks.

Narendra Modi and Ashraf Ghani

Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived in Kabul on Friday morning, a day after signing 16 major agreements in Russia. The Prime Minister will inaugurate Afghanistan’s Parliament building, which has been built by India.The PM’s day-long visit, his first to Afghanistan, since taking office – was not officially announced for security reasons, says NDTV, with several specific threats against Indian targets being received and some being foiled.Modi will address a joint session of the two Afghan Houses in the new Parliament complex.The Parliament building project was started by India in 2007 as a mark of friendship and cooperation to help rebuild Afghanistan after the wars. <!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>PM Modi and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani are expected to issue a joint statement after holding talks. PM Modi is also expected to meet former Afghan President Hamid Karzai.India has invested around $2 billion in aid and reconstruction in Afghanistan and trained scores of officers.India delivered three of four Russian Mi-25 helicopter gunships to Afghanistan on Thursday.Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday wrapped up his two-day visit to Russia, during which the two countries signed 16 pacts to expand cooperation in various sectors, including nuclear and defence.It is learnt that Prime Minister Modi was heading towards the Afghan capital Kabul from Moscow. The Kabul visit has not been officially announced but Modi was expected to make a stop-over in Kabul on his way back home.In Kabul, he is expected to inaugurate the new building of the Afghan Parliament constructed by India at a cost of about $90 million. During his stay in Russia, Modi held annual summit talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin and underlined the need for the world to unite against terrorism “without distinction and discrimation between terrorist groups and target countries.”As part of the 16th annual India-Russia Summit, Modi and Putin held a one-on-one meeting before they were joined by their respective delegations. Earlier in the day, Modi laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, a war memorial dedicated to Soviet soldiers killed in World War II, in Moscow.Last night, Modi was hosted for a private dinner and held a private tete-a-tete with Putin at the Kremlin. The meeting took place hours after Modi arrived in Moscow to a red carpet welcome.

Modi in Russia: PM Modi, Vladimir Putin begin annual summit talks

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After the talks, the two sides are expected to sign a number of pacts to expand cooperation in key areas, including defence, nuclear energy, hydrocarbons and trade.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin began the 16th India-Russia Annual Summit talks here on Thursday evening. “From inside the Kremlin! PM @narendramodi & President Putin begin the 16th Annual Summit with a restricted meeting,? tweeted Vikas Swarup, Official Spokesperson, Ministry of External Affairs. After the talks, the two sides are expected to sign a number of pacts to expand cooperation in key areas, including defence, nuclear energy, hydrocarbons and trade. The talks between the two countries, bound by special and privileged strategic ties, have been taking place alternately in Moscow and New Delhi since 2000. Besides bilateral issues, the two leaders are likely to deliberate on a number of global issues having political dimensions including the situation in Syria and ways to tackle terrorism. The talks between the two countries, bound by special and privileged strategic ties, have been taking place alternately in Moscow and New Delhi since 2000. It will be prime Minister Modi’s second summit with Mr Putin who had traveled to New Delhi last year for the 15th India-Russia Summit.

Got success in reducing influence of ISIS among youth: Manohar Parrikar

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On a query related to alleged involvement of army personnel in a suspected espionage case involving Pakistan’s spy agency ISI, he said “we had to tighten the security (intelligence) which we have already done”.

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on Thursday said the Centre has achieved success in reducing the influence of terror outfit Islamic State (IS) among Indian youth.”We are trying to reduce the numbers (of youths getting attracted towards the ideology of the IS) and we have achieved success in it,” Parrikar said when asked about influence of the IS on the Indian youth. He was talking to reporters after inaugurating the first cable-stayed bridge on Ravi river at Basholi in Kathua district situated on Dunera-Basholi-Bhadharwah road. On a query related to alleged involvement of army personnel in a suspected espionage case involving Pakistan’s spy agency ISI, he said “we had to tighten the security (intelligence) which we have already done”.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In the light of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s two day visit to Russia and the impending defence deal, Parrikar said that India’s relationship with Russia is not new.”We have never been away from Russia. Our relationship with Russia on the old contracts (Defence) were already there. Though new contracts were less but now they are taken care of,” the Defence Minister said.While speaking at the function, he also said that this year the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) has completely come under the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and its efficiency has increased. “Earlier it was under Ministry of Surface Transport but from this year, it has come completely under MoD. Now we don’t need to go to other ministries to seek funds,” he said. “This is the first BRO project that was finished before time,” Parrikar added.The Defence Minister said new and modern technology was being adopted in the construction of roads and tunnels in Jammu and Kashmir with 20-25 tunnels in the pipeline and a survey to be conducted on the Bhaderwah tunnel as well. Parrikar said the need of the hour was to provide 12 months connectivity to the areas affected by snowfall in winters.Apart from meeting demands of the people, these new routes would be of strategic importance too, he said. “These new routes can also help in the fast induction of the Army besides helping developing these areas,” he said.

PM Modi, Russian President Vladimir Putin to hold talks, sign pacts today on key areas

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The meeting took place hours after Modi arrived in Moscow to a red carpet welcome. Putin also hosted a private dinner for Modi.

Modi and Putin

PM Modi and Vladimir Putin will hold 16th India-Russia annual summit talks on Thursday at the Kremlin following which the two sides are expected to sign a number of pacts to expand cooperation in a number of key areas including defence, nuclear energy, hydrocarbons and trade.Prime Minister Narendra Modi was on Wednesday night hosted by Russian President Vladimir Putin for a private tete-a-tete at the Kremlin during which the two leaders touched upon issues of mutual interest for both countries.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The meeting took place hours after Modi arrived in Moscow to a red carpet welcome. Putin also hosted a private dinner for Modi.”Building Druzhba-Dosti over dinner. President Putin hosts a private tete-a-tete for PM,” External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Vikas Swarup tweeted along with pictures of the two leaders shaking hands.The talks between the two countries, bound by “special and privileged strategic ties”, have been taking place alternately in Moscow and New Delhi since 2000.In the nuclear energy sector, India is expected to offer a site in Andhra Pradesh to set up units five and six of Kudankulam nuclear power plant.The new plants will be in sync with broad principles of ‘Make in India’ initiative and a decision in this regard is likely to be finalised tomorrow.It is expected that both countries will seal a number of defence deals as well.Last week, India’s Defence Ministry’s top acquisition council had cleared the purchase of Russian S-400 Triumf air defence missile systems at an estimated cost of Rs 40,000 crore and there may be an announcement of the deal tomorrow besides a few others.Besides bilateral issues, Modi and Putin are likely to deliberate on a number of global issues having political dimensions including the situation in Syria and ways to tackle terrorism.It will be Modi’s second summit with Putin who had travelled to New last year for the 15th India-Russia Summit.

PM Modi optimistic about Russia visit; hopes to deepen economic, energy and security ties

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“My mind goes back to 2001. I had just assumed charge as Gujarat CM and had accompanied Atal ji to Russia. This was, perhaps, one of the first India-Russia annual Summits, a practice that goes on till date,”said Modi.

Ahead of his two-day Russia visit, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday expressed hope that the visit would deepen bilateral ties between the two nations.”Today I will commence my visit to Russia, my first bilateral visit after we formed the Government. I am very optimistic about the outcome of this visit. History is witness to the close ties India and Russia have had over the decades. Russia remains one of India’s most valued friends in the world,” he said in his Facebook post.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”My mind goes back to 2001. I had just assumed charge as Gujarat CM and had accompanied Atal ji to Russia. This was, perhaps, one of the first India-Russia annual Summits, a practice that goes on till date,”he added.He further asserted that his visit would deepen the cooperation between India and Russia in the economic, energy and security spheres.Also read: Here is PM Modi’s post on Russia visit”We also want to increase cooperation in science and technology, mining among other sectors. Trade ties between India and Russia can increase even further, to benefit not only our two nations but also the world,” he said.Prime Minister Modi pointed out that the visit would witness extensive deliberations with President Vladmir Putin.”There will be an interaction with Russian businesspersons to invite them to invest in India. I will also attend a ‘Friends of India’ programme. I am certain that this visit will substantially take forward the already strong people to people ties between our nations,” he said.Also read: In Russia, Narendra Modi will regale 3,000 ‘friends of India’Prime Minister Narendra Modi will embark on a two-day visit to Russia on Wednesday for annual summit talks with President Vladimir Putin that is aimed at further expanding the special and privileged strategic ties with a particular focus on nuclear energy, hydrocarbons, defence and trade.After the talks on Thursday, the two “time-tested” partners are likely to ink a number of pacts in a range of sectors including nuclear energy and defence. The talks between the two countries at the highest level have been taking place alternately in Moscow and New Delhi since 2000.Besides bilateral issues, Modi and Putin are likely to deliberate on a number of global issues having political dimensions including sthe ituation in Syria and ways to tackle terrorism.

In Russia, Narendra Modi will regale 3,000 ‘friends of India’

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi will embark on a two-day visit to Russia on Wednesday for annual summit talks aimed at further expanding the defence ties by signing $1 billion agreement to produce military helicopters in India and focus on nuclear energy, hydrocarbons and trade.

Determined to unveil mystery of the disappearance of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is set to seek cooperation of Russian President Vladimir Putin to request access to secret Russian files to probe the missing link. Many authors have alleged that under the instructions of India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, Russian dictator Jospeh Stalin had confined Bose in Siberia’s Yakutsk city, some 6,000km away from Moscow and he could have been buried there.Prime Minister Narendra Modi will embark on a two-day visit to Russia on Wednesday for annual summit talks aimed at further expanding the defence ties by signing $1 billion agreement to produce military helicopters in India and focus on nuclear energy, hydrocarbons and trade.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The two events, Modi has specifically included in his itinerary, are a detailed briefing at Emercom, Russia’s emergency response agency during disasters, to get an overview of tackling natural catastrophe, so frequent in India over past few years.The Emercom is world famous dynamic force, known in the field of humanitarian response and emergency relief operations. Further, while there is no significant Indian community in Moscow, to recreate the aura of New York’s Madison Square Garden, UK’s Wembly or Dubai’s cricket stadium buzz, ministry of external affairs has identified 3,000 Russians, whom they describe, ‘friends of India’ to listen to the Prime Minister at the Moscow exhibition ground. Weary about Russia warming up and even having agreed to supply military equipment to Pakistan, officials said the summit will provide an opportunity to both countries to look at regional and global issues. Russian ambassador in India few months ago had publicly expressed concern at India’s growing closeness with the United States and switching to alternative defence markets. But the foreign secretary S. Jaishankar said the envoy’s comments were in a context. “If the Russian ambassador does not promote Russian aircraft, whose aircraft he will promote? He is doing his job,” he said. Major challenge between the two countries is that despite being all-weather friends, trade has remained limited. Foreign Secretary said expanding economic ties would be a ‘very big priority’ Energy-starved India, the third largest oil importer after the United States and China, has been pushing for greater involvement in major gas and oil exploration projects in Russia. India is also likely to push for a Free Trade Agreement with the Eurasian Economic Zone and is sharing details of the study it conducted in this regard.Last week, the defence ministry’s top acquisition council had cleared the purchase of Russian S-400 Triumf air defence missile systems at an estimated cost of Rs 40,000 crore. It will be Modi’s second summit with Putin who was in India last year for the 15th India Russia Summit.On Wednesday, Putin will host a private dinner for the prime minister and the two leaders will interact with a group of Indian and Russian chief executive officers in Kremlin on Thursday.After the summit talks last year, it was announced that Russia will build at least 12 nuclear reactors besides manufacturing advanced dual-use helicopters. The two countries had signed 20 agreements in oil, gas, defence, investment and other key sectors.

Defence Acquisition Council okays purchase of Russian air defence missile systems

Defence Ministry sources said that the step has been taken to enhance the national air defence capacity.

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar
File Photo
AFP photo
Ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Russia, Defence Ministry’s top acquisition council on Thursday cleared the purchase of an estimated Rs 40,000 crore Russian S-400 Triumf air defence missile systems, besides giving the go-ahead to other projects worth over Rs 25,000 crore. Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), chaired by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, has decided to buy 5 units of the S-400 Triumf air defence missile systems that are capable of destroying incoming hostile aircraft, missiles and even drones within a range of up to 400 km.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Defence Ministry sources said that the step has been taken to enhance the national air defence capacity. “The price discovery will happen hereafter,” a source said when asked how much would the system cost.Industry estimates have suggested that the missile system will cost about Rs 40,000 crore. India will be the second buyer of the missile system after China if the deal goes through. It is expected that the deal would be a government-to- government one and could see a forward movement during Modi’s visit to Russia next week.The S400 Triumf is designed to knock down flying targets including those equipped with stealth technologies, at a distance of about 400 kms. It is also capable of taking out ballistic missiles and hypersonic targets.Compared with its predecessor, the S-300, the new S-400 has a 2.5 times faster firing rate. This is the most modern, air defence system in the Russian arsenal. The DAC also gave the Acceptance of Necessity to Army’s proposal for the purchase of six regiments of the Pinaka rocket system under the ‘Make in India’ category for Rs 14,600 crore. Each regiment of the Pinaka comes with 18 launchers and every launcher has the capability of firing 12 rockets at the same time.Tata Power SED, Larsen & Toubro and state-run BEML will be providing the system. The DAC also directed the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) to continue with its process of making improved Pinaka system as it has proved to be a potent and proud indigenous product.Army’s demand for 571 light bullet-proof vehicles to be used in counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism operations was also cleared at a cost of Rs 310 crore. The army currently uses Mahindra jeeps. The DAC also gave the go-ahead for the purchase of 120 trawls to be used on Russia-origin T-72 and T-90 tanks under “Buy Global” category for Rs 450 crore.DRDO has been tasked to field four sets of indigenous trawls by June 2017, the sources said.The DAC has also fine-tuned an already cleared proposal to built a five fleet support ships for Rs 9,000 crore. It was cleared in July last year. The DAC today nominated HSL shipyard to build the ships. The DAC also gave the go-ahead for digitisation of 24 Pechora Air Defence system for Rs 1,200 crore.The acquisition council also cleared a Rs 425-crore electronic warfare system, for the Indian Army to be deployed in the mountain region. This would be developed by the DRDO and produced by Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL). The DAC, set up in 2001 as part of the post-Kargil reforms in defence sector, approves the long-term integrated perspective plan for the forces, accords acceptance of necessity (AON) to begin acquisition proposals, and has to grant its approval to all major deals through all their important phases. It also has the power to approve any deviations in an acquisition, and recommends all big purchases for approval of the Cabinet committee on security.

Russia-led alliance tells India’s Muslims to back its fight against Islamic State

Participants at the Anti-terrorism Day function in New Delhi on Thursday
Manit
dna
Three decades ago when Russia invaded Afghanistan, it triggered a mobilisation in the Islamist world leading to the first modern jihad and initiating the birth of al Qaeda. Now with its military intervention in the conflict in Syria threatening to once again stoke Islamic extremism, Moscow is presenting its involvement as an effective and necessary step to fight the Islamic State group, whose trail of terror is threatening the whole world. The Russia-led alliance comprising Syria and Iran made a case in front of a gathering of Indian Muslim community to support its intervention against terrorism.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Speaking at an event labelled as “Anti-terrorism Day” organised by Anjuman-e-Haideri, a Shiite religious organisation based in Delhi, diplomats and ambassador from Russia, Syria, Iraq and Iran came together on one platform to vow to fight the militant extremist group of Islamic State of Daiesh. Both Iraq and Syria, which is currently fragmented with parts of its countries captured by the extremist group, also blamed the United States for its actions in fuelling the growth of IS.The militant group which came in power in June 2014 and declared a Caliphate thereafter became a target of airstrikes by the United States in Iraq. Since then more than seven countries have attacked the IS held territory, the latest being the United Kingdom.Since October, Russia aligned with the Syrian government in power headed by President Bashar al Assad to begin air strikes against rebel opposition groups and the IS. The Russian Air force is supported on the ground by pro-government alliance of the Syrian Armed Force and Iran backed foreign Shiite militias.Evgeny Bezeka, second secretary, Russian embassy said that Russia’s decision to fight against IS was followed after the invitation of the Bashar government. “We are fighting under the aegis of the international law with allies who understand the threat of IS.’’ Russia’s actions have been 100 per cent more effective in two months to contain IS, than the international coalition’s strikes from last one and half years.Syria’s ambassador Riaz Kamel Abbas and Iraq’s charge d’affairs Mohammad Sabri Rashid claimed that the US was not serious in its intervention to rid the region of IS. “Two decades ago, there was no terrorism in Iraq, after 9/11 and the invasion by US things changed. Even when IS infiltrated to capture parts of northern Iraq and began killing civilians, the US army stood with folded hands.’’Abbas added that the US coalition strikes has helped the militant group grow in size and capture more terrorism. “It is important to fight Daiesh but before that it’s important to know who is the power behind the group.’’India’s Muslims cannot be terroristsThe event had religious heads and representatives from the Christian, Hindu and even Sunni Muslim community. All the speakers condemned terrorism being fought under the guise of religion. “IS should first prove they are Muslims and then talk about Islam,’’ said Maulana Tauqeer Raza Khan from Bareilly. He also said that terrorism attacks in India had no involvement of Muslims and it has added a blot on the community. Acharya Pramod Krishnam said India’s Muslims were targeted as terrorists and told to go to Pakistan. “They are here in India not by chance but by choice.’’

Russia dismisses reports of striking off India from ‘safe travel’ destinations

Issuing a clarification this evening, the Russian Information Centre (RIC) head Ekaterina Belyakova stated that “First Deputy Speaker of Parliament of the Russian Federation, Ivan Melnikov offered to convene a ’roundtable’ to make proposals to improve the availability of new, safe tourist destinations for Russians such as Cuba, south Vietnam and southern China.

The purported decision of Russia was considered as a major blow to Goa as most of its foreign tourists comprise Russians.

The Russian Information Centre in Panaji on Sunday dismissed media reports which claimed that India and Goa have been ‘struck off’ from the list of ‘safe’ travel destinations recommended for Russian citizens, saying its earlier statement was “misconstrued”.Issuing a clarification this evening, the Russian Information Centre (RIC) head Ekaterina Belyakova stated that “First Deputy Speaker of Parliament of the Russian Federation, Ivan Melnikov offered to convene a ’roundtable’ to make proposals to improve the availability of new, safe tourist destinations for Russians such as Cuba, south Vietnam and southern China.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”Our statement did not have any information regarding removal of India from the list of ‘safe’ countries or including India in the list of ‘unsafe’ countries as was mentioned in several reports and headlines published in Indian media…The name of India and Goa may have not come up often during the discussion but that does not mean that Goa or India has been declared unsafe. The focus was to show that prospective avenues will open if Goa becomes an alternative destination instead of Egypt and Turkey,” Belyakova told PTI.The reports had quoted Belyakova as saying that “both India and Goa were not considered as good destinations for Russian travellers”.According to reports, which quoted the RIC’s statement, a revised travel advisory has been formulated after the black-listing of Turkey and Egypt. The reports quoted a Russian news agency to claim that “Unfortunately, both India and Goa, were not discussed as a promising direction for Russian travellers”.They claimed that Russian President Vladimir Putin had cancelled all flights heading towards Egypt after the explosion of a Russian passenger plane over the Sinai peninsula. The purported decision of Russia was considered as a major blow to Goa as most of its foreign tourists comprise Russians.

In a major blow to Goa, Russia strikes off India from safe travel destinations list

Russia also stated that the removal of Goa from the safe destination list is not because of terror attacks but due to the local incidents.

Tourists in Goa

Russia has struck off India from the list of safe travel destinations recommended for Russian citizens, according to a report by a Russian news agency. The decision will be a major blow to Goa as most of its foreign tourists comprise of Russians. Goa is already witnessing a reduction in the arrival of Russian tourists after the devaluation of rouble. The Russian information centre in Goa on Saturday released a statement saying that a revised travel advisory has been formulated after the blacklisting of Turkey and Egypt. <!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Russian President Vladimir Putin had cancelled all the flights heading towards Egypt after the explosion of a Russian passenger plane over the Sinai peminsula. He also urged the citizens of Russia to cancel their vacations in Turkey after a Russian fighter et was shot down by Turkish missiles in Syria.Commenting on Russia’s decision, head of the Russian information centre, Ekaterina Belyakova said, “Both India and Goa were not considered as good destinations for Russian travellers.” Among the destinations which are tagged safe for Russian tourists now include, Cuba, Southern China and south Vietnam.Suggesting how acutely the decision will impact the economy of Goa, Belyakova said, “Both India and Goa were not considered as good destinations for Russian travellers,” said Ekaterina Belyakova, head of the Russian information centre. It’s not just a blow for the Russian tourist whose options for sunny climes has shrunk further but for Goa’s economy as well. “Over the past few years, the number of Russian tourists was not less than 50% of all foreign tourists visiting Goa. Since 2002, the number of Russian-speaking tourists has grown steadily. In 2013, the number of Russian tourists visiting Goa was 250,000,” an English daily reported.Clarifying Russia’s decision, First Deputy Speaker of the Parliament of the Russian Federation, Ivan Melnikov said that the country mainly focused on Cuba, China and Vietnam as new travel destinations for its citizens because these countries have “excellent infrastructure, friendly atmosphere and warm weather in winter”. INTERFAX reported, “Unfortunately, both India and Goa, were not discussed as a promising direction for Russian travellers.” Russia also stated that the removal of Goa from the safe destination list is not because of terror attacks but due to the local incidents.

Firstpost Salon: India is in a unique position to broker world peace, stop Third World War, says Tarek Fatah

India should realise her potential, play global peacemaker and stop going after Aamir Khan, advised Tarek Fatah, who identifies himself as an Indian born in Pakistan; a Punjabi born in Islam; an immigrant in Canada with a Muslim consciousness.

The Canadian writer, broadcaster, and liberal activist was at his sharpest as a guest on Thursday evening at Firstpost Salon, educating and entertaining the audience with his erudition shorn of all political correctness.

Tarek Fatah during the Firstpost Salon. FirstpostTarek Fatah during the Firstpost Salon. Firstpost

Tarek Fatah during the Firstpost Salon. Firstpost

During the course of the conversation with former founder-CEO at Natgrid and senior fellow at Observer Research Foundation Raghu Raman, Fatah expressed surprise that no one in India seems to have registered the fact that a global crisis is at hand and India is uniquely placed as the only country to stop an imminent Third World War.

“It seems that no one in India knows that Turkey and Russia have a problem. First time since the Second World War, a Nato western aircraft has shot down a Russian jet. That’s not the end of it.

“Then, it’s inside Syria. Not just that, they sent jihadis in to kill the parachuting pilots. That’s a war crime. And then a helicopter sent there to rescue the pilots is shot down! India in the meantime is discussing what Aamir Khan has said and what Kiran has replied,” he said.

“Either the Indians are so introverted that they don’t know what’s happening around them or they are busy looking for coals in a goldmine.”

Taking a dig at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Fatah said he should focus his energies in brokering world peace instead of going around the world speaking to fellow Indians.

“India is very close to Russia. Quite friendly with Turkey. India has no obligations, no ally. Nothing against any country. She is uniquely positioned. Instead of going to Singapore and talking about food and trains, Prime Minister Modi should call the ambassadors of both countries and hold a conference, asking them to cool it,” Fatah said.

“Remember these are nuclear powers in the Balkans and should anything go awry, millions of people in Europe would be affected.

“India is letting Turkey trigger a war between Russia and USA so that ISIS may stay alive!”

And in the bargain, India would legitimately stake a claim in the Security Council, felt Fatah.

“India should broker peace between the US and China. You need to create the claim where people say of course India should be at the Security Council. India has pulled millions out of poverty, moved ahead of famines which were a regular feature in 60s and 70s.

“So many people including cab drivers have mobile phones. In their own humble way, India should make its presence felt as global peacemaker,” felt Fatah.

On the question of rigidity in religion, Fatah opined that Hinduism is naturally pluralistic with its multiplicity of religious texts whereas Christianity or Islam are monolithic.

“If there is one book, and that’s the word of god, can you imagine someone criticising it and staying alive?”

“You can do a PK in India which becomes a multi-crore blockbuster due to Hindus’ tolerance and self-deprecating humour but it’s impossible to do such a movie in Pakistan.”

“If I were to attempt making even an ‘OK’ instead of ‘PK’ in Pakistan, I wouldn’t stay alive to watch that movie.”

On being a true Muslim, Fatah said: “A Muslim is essentially a Jew who has adapted Judaism to Arab pagan culture.”

Calling for a return to the Muslim ethos, Fatah said a “true Muslim cannot lie. And he doesn’t believe in hijab, naqab, jihad or other such un-Islamic practices.”

On ISIS gaining a foothold in the subcontinent, Fatah, true to his form, had an unconventional take:”ISIS mentality is already here. Wiping out an ethnicity (Hindus from Kashmir) is ISIS mentality. You have wiped out the original inhabitants of Kashmir and made them refugees in their own country.”

Fatah also weighed in on the ‘intolerance’ debate, saying “the present intolerance debate is political, but in India everything is.”

“Real intolerance is not religious intolerance but the fact that nobody would share their dinner on the same table with their driver or chauffer. That’s always been there in India.”

When it comes to calling spade a spade, there is no one better than Fatah.

I never saw myself as a Western or an Indian, but as a Muslim: British-Indian fighter

Abu Baseer

A British fighter of Indian origin in the ranks of al Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al Nusrah is the latest casualty from the armed opposition in the conflict in Syria. Known by his nom de guerre of Abu Baseer al Hindi, the fighter was killed in a battle in the coastal Latakia Governarate largely held by the Bashar al Assad led government but partly contested by rebel groups and Syrian armed forces supported by Russia and Iran.The information was recorded on social media where several fighters and supporters of Nusrah wrote about Abu Baseer’s death. The exact details of his death are not known. However, he is believed to have died in the battle for control of Al Zahi mountains in Latakia’s northern countryside. Backed by Russian airforces, over 25 rebels of Nusrah and Free Syrian Army’s 1st Coastal Brigade were killed in the combat. He is the 60th British national to have been killed in the ongoing conflict in Syria.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Amarnath Amarsingham, a postdoctoral fellow at Dalhousie University, Canada has been researching on the phenomenon of foreign fighters to Syria and Iraq and had been in touch with Abu Baseer. According to Amarsingham, Abu Baseer had Bachelors degree in sociology and law from UK where he had a normal upbringing in a Muslim family. “He did not seem to me like he was displaced. He was part of more radical Islamic activism in the UK as well. He was quite committed to the idea that jihad, particularly when faced with a situation like we have in Syria, was a religious obligation for him. He needed to go help his brothers and sisters in Syria.’’Amarsingham recalls that Abu Baseer told him that while he was born in UK, he is of an Indian origin. But he said, “I never saw myself as western or Indian. But a Muslim through and through.’’In a video released by his friends from Nusrah shot earlier in the year, Abu Baseer is seen recounting his time on the front-line. Dressed in military fatigues with a mask covering his face and an overgrown beard, he is seen in a pit with his Kalashnikov. In a noticable British accent, he says he is honoured to be here (in Syria) to “defend Muslim blood”. At one point he adds that while attaining shahada (martyrdom) is his dream, on the front-line one can’t be reckless while standing guard to protect the villages of the civilians.Many fighters on Twitter wrote tributes to Abu Baseer for his anti-IS views and for his drive to genuinely help the Muslims. “He left his well-paying job to come to Syria,’’ wrote one.As of now more than 700 British nationals have made this journey. Britain, which is home to a diverse immigrant population from the erstwhile colonies including India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, has seen a large number of members of its Muslim community including converts travel to Iraq and Syria to join the militant groups or to live in the Caliphate declared by the Islamic State. One of the influential case of a British Indian origin jihadi is that of Siddharth Dhar who goes by the name of Abu Rumaysah. Dhar a Hindu convert to Islam, jumped bail while facing terror charges and fled UK with his wife, four children to the Islamic State. He later posted a picture of him holding his newborn son and an AK47 with the hashtag #GenerationKhilafah. Dhar last published an e-book called ‘A Brief Guide to the Islamic State’ [2015]’ a kind of tour guide providing details of the life in Caliphate to prospective recruits.

Russia says downing of its jet won’t deflect it from Syria mission | Reuters

ISTANBUL/NIZHNY TAGIL, Russia Russia sent an advanced missile system to Syria on Wednesday to protect its jets operating there and pledged its air force would keep flying missions near Turkish air space, sounding a defiant note after Turkey shot down a Russian fighter jet.

The downing of the jet on Tuesday was one of the most serious publicly acknowledged clashes between a NATO member and Russia for half a century, and further complicated international efforts to battle Islamic State militants in Syria.

Russian officials expressed fury over Turkey’s actions, and spoke of retaliatory measures that were likely to include curbing travel by Russian tourists to Turkish resorts and some restrictions on trade.

But the Russian response was also carefully calibrated. There was no sign Russia wanted a military escalation, or to jeopardise its main objective in the region: to rally international support for its view on how the conflict in Syria should be resolved.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu spoke by phone with Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov on Wednesday. Turkey’s foreign ministry said they would meet soon but Russia’s Interfax news agency said Lavrov had not agreed to meet.

“We have no intention of fighting a war with Turkey,” Lavrov said. Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan also said Ankara had no intention of escalating tensions with Russia.

Speaking on a trip to the Ural mountains city of Nizhny Tagil, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the despatch of an advanced weapons system to Russia’s Khmeimim air base in Syria’s Latakia province.

“I hope that this, along with other measures that we are taking, will be enough to ensure (the safety) of our flights,” Putin told reporters.

The despatch of the weapons, which officials later said would be the S-400 missile system, is likely to be viewed as a stark warning to Turkey not to try to shoot down any more Russian planes.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia was forced to fly missions close to the Turkish border because that was where the militants tended to be located. “(Russia’s) operations will continue without doubt,” he said.

Russian forces launched a heavy bombardment against insurgent-held areas in Syria’s Latakia province on Wednesday, near where the warplane was shot down, rebels and a monitoring group said.

The Russian Su-24 jet downed on Tuesday was hit by missile fire from Turkish aircraft as it flew a mission over Syria near the Turkish border, where the Russian air force has been bombing rebel targets.

Turkey said the plane had encroached on Turkish air space and was warned repeatedly to change course, but Russian officials said the plane was at no time over Turkey.

The crew ejected, and one pilot was shot dead by rebels as he parachuted to the ground. A Russian marine sent to recover the crew was also killed in an attack by rebels. Syrian state media reported the jet’s second pilot had been rescued.

Russia’s foreign ministry issued a protest over the incident to the Turkish ambassador in Moscow, according to a Russian foreign ministry source.

PATIENCE TESTED

Speaking at a business event in Istanbul, Erdogan said Turkey had made a “huge effort” to prevent an incident like the downing of the Russian aircraft, but that the limits of its patience had been tested.

“We have no intention of escalating this incident. We are only defending our own security and the rights of our brothers,” Erdogan said.

Turkey has been angered by Russian air strikes in Syria, particularly those near its border targeting Turkmens, who are Syrians of Turkish descent.

It had repeatedly warned Russia over air space violations and last week summoned the Russian ambassador to protest against the bombing of Turkmen villages.

Erdogan questioned how those Russian strikes squared with Moscow’s assertion it is in Syria to combat Islamic State.

“It has been said that they were there to fight Daesh,” he said, using an Arabic acronym for Islamic State.

“First of all, the Daesh terrorist organisation does not have a presence in this region of Latakia and the north where Turkmens are based. Let’s not fool ourselves.”

TRADE TIES

Russia and Turkey have important trade ties, and these could be affected in the fallout from the plane incident.

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev called the downing of the aircraft a “senseless criminal act.”

“The direct consequences could lead to our refusal to take part in a whole raft of important joint projects and Turkish companies losing their positions on the Russian market,” Medvedev said in a statement.

Russia is a major exporter of grain and energy to Turkey, and it sends over four million tourists each year to Turkish resorts, second only to the number of German tourists.

The Russian government has already said it will discourage Russian tourists from travelling to Turkey, though the immediate impact will be limited because Turkey is now in the off-season.

Russia imports large volumes of Turkish food products and textiles, and Turkish firms are active in the construction and drinks sectors.

Shares in Enka Insaat, which has construction projects in Russia and two power plants in Turkey using Russian gas, fell for a second day on Wednesday.

Brewer Anadolu Efes, which has six breweries in Russia and controls around 14 percent of the market, also saw its shares fall on Tuesday.

SPONSORING TERRORISTS

Medvedev alleged Turkish officials were benefiting from Islamic State oil sales, a relationship that Russian officials say helps explain why Ankara is not tougher on the militants.

Senior Turkish officials have in the past vehemently denied accusations that Turkey has in any way supported the radical Islamist group. The government says it is doing its best to combat cross-border fuel smuggling, and that it has been able to curb the trade.

The Russian foreign ministry source said the downing of the Russian jet would have an impact not just on bilateral ties but also on multilateral efforts, especially international talks in Vienna to try to find a political solution for Syria’s conflict.

“We will without doubt strengthen our anti-terrorist efforts even more and, most importantly, we will more precisely and more specifically ask questions and press for information about who is sponsoring which terrorist organisations and in what way,” said the source.

That issue is likely to further complicate the Vienna talks, where Russia and its partners on one side and the United States and its allies on the other have been unable to agree on what constitutes a terrorist group in Syria.

The United States and allied countries have supplied arms and other help to some groups fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad which Russia has been bombing on the grounds it considers them terrorist organisations.

(Additional reporting by Humeyra Pamuk, Can Sezer and Ayla Jean Yackley in Istanbul, Seyhmus Cakan in Yayladagi, Turkey, John Davison in Beirut, Maria Kiselyova in Moscow, Paul Carrel and Madeline Chambers in Berlin; writing by Christian Lowe; editing by Philippa Fletcher)

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Nuclear club eyes Indian inclusion, but risks Pakistan’s ire | Reuters

NEW DELHI Diplomats have quietly launched a new push to induct India into a club of nuclear trading nations, but rather than increasing stability in South Asia, the move could escalate strains with rival Pakistan.

The chairman of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) visited New Delhi recently to meet Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj as part of a diplomatic “outreach” that seeks to build a consensus to admit India at its annual meeting next June.

Membership of the 48-nation club would bring India into the nuclear fold 41 years after it tested its first nuclear bomb, and give the nation of 1.25 billion a vested interest in curbing the world’s most dangerous regional arms race.

“It’s a very delicate process, but I think there is less and less justification for the impasse,” Rafael Grossi, the Argentinian ambassador to Vienna who heads the NSG, told Reuters in an interview.

Yet there are doubts. For one, India has not signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty, or NPT, which seeks to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons.

And Pakistan, an ally of China, also aspires to join the NSG. With a history as a proliferator, Pakistan’s accession would be a tough sell.

Because the NSG operates by consensus, admitting India alone would mean it could then bar its western neighbour from the club, potentially pushing Pakistan further to the fringes.

Meanwhile, Pakistan has been testing missiles that can reach all of India, and very short-range missiles that it insists could be used only if Indian troops cross onto Pakistani soil.

A seat at the NSG would strengthen India’s geopolitical clout and help it capitalise on nuclear trade and technology transfer opportunities, while also raising concern in Pakistan.

“India has a nuclear deal with the U.S., with France, it will soon have deals with Australia and Japan. So all this will of course complement its effort to get into NSG,” said a senior Pakistani security official with knowledge of nuclear issues.

“But people don’t understand that India will use all this additional fuel (through civil nuclear deals) to make energy and have a lot more left over to use to make weapons.

“So at the end of it, the need for even more deterrence from our side will grow, not decrease.”

UPPER HAND

Pakistan sees a nuclear lead as vital insurance against possible aggression by its larger neighbour, and it appears to be gaining the upper hand over India in the nuclear contest.

Analysts Toby Dalton and Michael Krepon estimate Pakistan is producing 20 nuclear warheads a year to India’s five.

Yet defending that lead is a “losing proposition” that imposes huge costs on Pakistan’s economy and strains its social fabric, they said.

In a report for the Carnegie and Stimson think tanks, Dalton and Krepon argued Pakistan should abandon its goal of “full-spectrum” deterrence against India and satisfy itself with “strategic” deterrence, or the ability to launch an effective counter-strike in the event of an attack.

India and Pakistan have fought three wars since independence and partition in 1947, two over Kashmir. Their disputed frontier is one of the world’s most heavily militarised regions. Border clashes and incursions pose a constant risk of escalation.

The U.S. State Department declined to comment on specific discussions over Pakistan, but an official said Washington had not entered into talks on a civil nuclear pact with it. Nor was it seeking a waiver for Pakistan to trade with the NSG.

The United States was continuing to integrate India into the “global non-proliferation mainstream”, this official also said, adding that Washington supported India’s membership in the four multilateral export control regimes. One of those is the NSG.

COMFORT LEVEL

India’s long road to nuclear legitimacy began with a bilateral deal with the United States in 2005 that, three years later, yielded an exemption allowing it to trade in sensitive nuclear technology with NSG nations.

New Delhi expressed its interest in 2010 in formally joining the nuclear club.

But India’s lobbying has met with scepticism from European countries like Austria and Switzerland, who have questioned its refusal to sign the NPT and give up nuclear weapons.

Indian negotiators now detect a change of tone, and are focusing on winning over European sceptics. That, in turn, could bring round China, they calculate.

“We are optimistic; there is a desire within the NSG to bring this process to a conclusion sooner rather than later,” one Indian diplomat told Reuters. “People are comfortable with India.”

Despite two summit meetings between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping, Beijing has yet to signal its assent and may not agree, analysts caution.

Despite those concerns, India is upbeat: “France joined the NSG before ratifying the Non-Proliferation Treaty,” said the Indian diplomat.

“It’s not about arms controls. It’s about export controls.”

(Additional reporting by Mehreen Zahra Malik in Islamabad, Idrees Ali in Washington and Adam Rose in Beijing; Writing by Douglas Busvine; Editing by Mike Collett-White)

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India steps up Islamic State threat quotient, issues advisory

The government has ordered stepped up protective measures at foreign missions, including that of the US and France, warning that the intent of IS was clearly to expand the area of terror.

Rajnath Singh

The 13/11 Paris terror attacks seem to have changed the mindset of Indian government towards IS as it is now being considered more than just a virtual threat even though not a potent threat.The government has ordered stepped up protective measures at foreign missions, including that of the US and France, warning that the intent of IS was clearly to expand the area of terror.In an advisory to the states, the union home ministry said, “Available inputs about IS activities should be immediately reviewed to identify plans, targets, areas vulnerable to attack and appropriate action taken to neutralise potential threat if any.”<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Union home minister Rajnath Singh said, “India is alert about IS.”The advisory said, the recent multiple attacks in Paris clearly indicate the intention of the outfit to expand the area of terror beyond the core area of Iraq and Syria. “It is therefore necessary that security establishment is kept on high alert,” it said.Accordingly, suitable preventive measures may be taken at and around foreign missions and other establishments or symbolic sites including synagogues, ‘Chabad houses’, tourist spots and community facilities frequently visited by foreigners.”The security arrangements for the diplomatic establishments of France, US, UK, Germany, Russia, Australia, Turkey and Israel may be particularly reviewed and strengthened,” it said.

Ericsson sees video driving tenfold rise in mobile data by 2021 | Reuters

STOCKHOLM Swedish telecoms network gear maker Ericsson raised its forecast for mobile data traffic, in a further boost to companies that benefit from rising numbers of consumers viewing online videos on platforms such as YouTube and Netflix.

Ericsson, the world’s top mobile network equipment maker, expects a tenfold surge in mobile data traffic globally between 2015 and 2021 as the number of smartphone subscriptions rise. In its mobile industry report in June it forecast that growth would be eightfold between 2014 and 2020.

Inge Heydorn, fund manager at Sentat Asset Management, which invests in telecom and IT shares globally, said Ericsson is aiming to attract telecoms operators to invest in its networks by showing how much data traffic is expected to grow.

Heydorn said the inexorable rise in mobile data benefits telecoms operators more than it does Ericsson, which reported a 7 percent drop in sales this year despite the growth in smartphones.

But content providers, such as Netflix, Facebook and YouTube owner Google are the biggest winners from the increase in data traffic, he added. Ericsson last week trimmed its market growth forecast for the next few years, indicating no clear correlation between mobile traffic and telecoms operators’ investments.

“Technology development and price pressure move faster than the increase in data traffic,” said Bengt Nordstrom, head of telecoms consultancy Northstream.

YouTube accounts for up to 70 percent of all video traffic in many mobile networks, while Netflix’s share of video traffic can reach up to 20 percent in markets where it is available, Ericsson said.

Video is expected to grow by around 55 percent annually through 2021, increasing its share of total mobile traffic in 2021 to 70 percent, up from around 50 percent in 2015, Ericsson said.

In it twice-yearly Mobility Report, Ericsson said it expected there to be 6.4 billion smartphone subscriptions globally by the end of 2021, up from 3.4 billion in 2015, due to greater affordability in developing markets.

It repeated its expectation that fifth-generation mobile telephony, which will facilitate self-driving cars, will be commercially deployed in 2020.

“In 2021, South Korea, Japan, China and the U.S. are expected to have the fastest uptake of 5G subscriptions,” Ericsson said, predicting 150 million 5G mobile subscriptions by 2021.

The new generation of mobile phone technology is expected not only to bring higher data speeds, but also to better accommodate a wide variety of connected devices.

(Reporting by Olof Swahnberg; editing by Louise Heavens)

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French Ambassador ‘saddened’ by Samajwadi Party Azam Khan’s remarks

Samajwadi Party leader Azam Khan condemned the terrorist attacks in Paris but simultaneously raked up the issue of action by the US and Russia in Arab countries, saying “killing of innocents” anywhere is “not justified”.
File Photo
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French Ambassador to India Francois Richier on Monday said he was “saddened” by Uttar Pradesh Minister Azam Khan’s remark that the Paris terror attack could have been a “reaction” to the “killing of innocents” in Arab countries by “superpowers” including the US.”I am saddened,” Richier told reporters here while reacting to Khan’s statement.Khan, a senior Samjawadi Party leader, condemned the terrorist attacks in Paris but simultaneously raked up the issue of action by the US and Russia in Arab countries, saying “killing of innocents” anywhere is “not justified”.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”Whatever the terrorists did in Paris was wrong. But, attack on Arab countries and killing of innocents there by US and Russia is also not justified,” he said.”We need to look who killed whom first, after that who retaliated. This is a debatable issue. You strike bombs through drones to kill the innocents… History will decide who is a terrorist and who is wrong. If this attack is a reaction then the superpowers must think about it. What action led to this reaction and whether their action was justified? They need to think otherwise there is apprehension that the situation will get worse. I think the world is heading towards another World War,” Khan had said on Sunday.Reacting sharply to Khan’s remarks, BJP demanded action against him and dared the Samajwadi Party leadership to make public its stand, saying it would otherwise be construed that it supports terrorism.Three teams of extremists belonging to the militant outfit ISIS carried out coordinated gun-and-suicide bombing attacks across the French capital on November 13 that left at least 129 people dead and 352 injured, attracting condemnation from an entire spectrum of world leaders.

Obama vows effort to eliminate Islamic State as G20 seeks common Syria strategy | Reuters

BELEK, Turkey U.S. President Barack Obama vowed on Sunday to step up efforts to eliminate Islamic State in Syria and prevent it from carrying out attacks like those in Paris, while European leaders urged Russia to focus its military efforts on the radical Islamists.

Speaking at a G20 leaders summit in Turkey, Obama described the killings in Paris claimed by Islamic State as an attack on the civilised world and said the United States would work with France to hunt down those responsible.

The two-day summit brings Obama and fellow world leaders just 500 km (310 miles) from Syria, where a 4-1/2-year conflict has transformed Islamic State into a global security threat and spawned Europe’s largest migration flows since World War Two.

“Traditionally the G20 has been a forum primarily to discuss economic issues facing the globe … (but) the sky has been darkened by the horrific attacks that took place in Paris just a day and a half ago,” Obama said in a statement after meeting Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan.

“The United States and its allies will redouble efforts to find a peaceful solution in Syria and prevent Islamic State militants from perpetrating attacks like those in Paris.”

Obama and his Western allies now face the question of how the West should respond after Islamic State again demonstrated it posed a threat far beyond its strongholds in Syria and Iraq.

Washington already expects France to retaliate by taking on a larger role in the U.S.-led coalition’s bombing campaign against Islamic State.

But European Council President Donald Tusk said Russia too should focus its military operations on Islamic State, rather than on the Syrian opposition battling President Bashar al-Assad, urging cooperation between Washington and Moscow.

“It should be our common aim to coordinate our actions against Daesh (IS) and for sure the cooperation between the United States and Russia is a crucial one,” he said.

OBAMA-PUTIN HANDSHAKE

Russia joined the conflict a month and a half ago with air strikes in Syria, but has been targeting mainly areas controlled by the moderate Syrian opposition fighting Assad, its ally, rather than Islamic State, its critics say.

Turkey and Western allies, by contrast, want Assad out.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he welcomed the renewed sense of urgency to find a solution to the war in Syria after the Paris attacks, adding the world had a “rare moment” of diplomatic opportunity to end the violence.

Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin have no formal bilateral meeting planned. As the leaders moved into place for a group photo on Sunday, Putin approached Obama and they shook hands, exchanging words for only a few brief moments.

Obama is also seeking to coax other European and Middle Eastern countries into more tangible steps to show their military commitment and will hold a bilateral meeting with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, U.S. officials said. In a call late last month, the two leaders affirmed the need to cooperate in fighting Islamic State.

Obama said he had also discussed in his meeting with Erdogan the progress made by foreign ministers in Vienna, who on Saturday outlined a plan for a political process in Syria leading to elections within two years, although differences over Assad’s fate still remained.

MIGRATION CONCERNS

The coordinated attacks by gunmen and suicide bombers in Paris on Friday puts Obama and other leaders of the world’s major economies under increased pressure to find common cause.

It remains to be seen, however, whether Washington itself has an appetite for much deeper involvement after already stepping up air strikes and committing small numbers of special operations troops to northern Syria to advise opposition forces in the fight against Islamic State.

The Paris carnage, in which 129 people were killed in attacks on a concert hall, restaurants, bars and a sports stadium, also poses a major challenge for Europe, with populist leaders rushing to demand an end to an influx of refugees and migrants from the Middle East and Africa.

In a diplomatic coup for Europe and for Turkey, the G20 leaders will agree that migration is a global problem that must be addressed in a coordinated way, according to a draft communique seen by Reuters, although it has yet to be accepted by all and is due to be published only on Monday.

Europe and Turkey, the most heavily hit by the crisis, had been pushing for the G20 to recognise the issue as a global problem and help to deal with it financially, despite opposition from China, India and Russia. A million migrants from the Middle East and Africa are expected to come to Europe this year alone.

According to a separate statement due to be released later on Sunday, a draft of which was also seen by Reuters, they also agreed to step up border controls and aviation security in the wake of the Paris attacks, which they condemned as “heinous”.

The summit follows not only the Paris attacks but also comes two weeks after a suspected bomb attack on a Russian airliner killed 224 people in the Sinai Peninsula.

It also comes just over a month after two suspected Islamic State suicide bombers blew themselves up in Ankara, killing more than 100 people in Turkey’s worst such attack.

(Additional reporting by Lidia Kelly, Denis Dyomkin, Jan Strupczewski, Dasha Afanasieva, David Dolan, Humeya Pamuk, Orhan Coskun, Asli Kandemir; Writing by Nick Tattersall; Editing by Keith Weir)

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Rosberg wins in Brazil | Reuters

SAO PAULO Nico Rosberg won the Brazilian Formula One Grand Prix for the second year in a row on Sunday to deny Mercedes team mate and triple champion Lewis Hamilton a first success in the homeland of the Briton’s late boyhood hero Ayrton Senna.

Hamilton, who has now failed in nine attempts to win in Brazil, finished 7.756 seconds behind for Mercedes’s 11th one-two in 18 races so far this season.

The pole position to chequered flag victory in the season’s penultimate race was Rosberg’s fifth win of the year, second in a row and 13th of his career, and secured the German second place in a championship already won by Hamilton.

Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel finished third for his 79th podium finish.

(Writing by Alan Baldwin, editing by Justin Palmer)

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Russian woman acid attack: Accused held, victim shifted to Delhi

“I threw acid on her in a fit of rage as she was not willing to talk to me,” said the accused.

The accused in an alleged acid attack on a Russian national in Nand Nagar colony area, has been arrested here even as the victim was shifted to Delhi for better treatment. Siddharth Srivastava, who had fled to Allahabad after committing the crime, was nabbed yesterday when he came back to visit the 23-year-old victim in the hospital here, Varanasi SSP, Akash Kulhary said. Addressing a press conference here today, Kulhary clarified that the victim had dual citizenship of Russia and Bulgaria and was living with the accused as his friend, and not as a paying guest. A guilt-ridden Srivastav who was also present at the conference said, “I really feel shameful for my act, I don’t know whether I would ever be able to meet her in my life.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”I threw acid on her in a fit of rage as she was not willing to talk to me. I was disappointed with her decision to go back to her nation. Though she had turned down my marriage proposal, I was fine with it, but I did not want her to go away,” he said.Meanwhile, the victim, who suffered 46 per cent burn injuries on her face and body in the attack, has been shifted to New Delhi for better treatment. “The foreign national, who was undergoing treatment at Sir Sunder Lal Hospital of BHU, has been shifted by an air ambulance from Varanasi airport this evening to Safdarjang Hospital in Delhi,” Varanasi District Magistrate Rajmani Yadav told PTI. He said her health condition is stated to be stable.The District Magistrate also said Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav sanctioned Rs 5 lakh from the CM Relief Fund for the woman’s treatment, adding that the state government was ready to support her financially. The woman was shifted after consultations between the Russian Embassy, the state government and the Centre to provide her better medical care, said Yadav.

Rosberg fastest on first day of practise | Reuters

SAO PAULO Nico Rosberg turned the tables on Mercedes team mate Lewis Hamilton with the fastest lap in Brazilian Formula One Grand Prix practise on Friday.

After triple world champion Hamilton had set the pace in the morning with a lap more than half a second faster than the German, Rosberg ended the afternoon 0.458 quicker than the Briton with a lap of one minute 12.385 seconds on soft tyres.

Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel was third fastest in both sessions.

With both titles already decided, Hamilton having won his third world crown in Texas last month, teams used the morning session to work on developments for 2016 with aerodynamic sensors prominent on bodywork.

“Times in the afternoon were not showing the real picture as Lewis drove in different engine modes to me,” said Rosberg, last year’s winner at Interlagos who will be chasing his fifth successive pole on Saturday.

“He was also very quick today and it looks like we will have a great battle again this weekend,” Rosberg told reporters.

Fernando Alonso brought out red flags early in the afternoon, in what looks like being another difficult weekend for the Spaniard, when his McLaren stopped on the track with smoke coming from the engine.

Hamilton, who had delayed his arrival in Brazil due to a fever and following a car accident in Monaco in the early hours of Tuesday morning, has never triumphed in Brazil in eight attempts but is hoping to break that run.

“They’ve changed the kerbs quite a bit. Before we could abuse them a little bit more but now you need to go around them,” he said.

Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo, using the latest specification Renault engine, was fourth and fifth respectively in the sessions.

FAMILIAR GUISE

Mercedes drew a lot of interest for a prominent bulge on the nose that was rumoured to be an ‘S Duct’, a device helping to channel air from under the car to the top surface of the front section.

The car ran in the afternoon in more familiar guise.

Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen, who was fifth and fourth fastest, saw his rear brakes lock into turn four and he tracked across the mud and gravel without further incident.

“Overall it was a difficult day,” said Vettel who can still finish second overall in the championship. “I tried to do the best I could but maybe I wasn’t quick enough. The car was moving around and sliding quite a lot.”

Lotus reserve Jolyon Palmer, who will be one of the team’s race drivers next year, was involved in the morning’s other moment of near drama when his car was released from the garage into the path of McLaren’s Jenson Button who braked.

Hamilton’s return to the track came amid headlines about his party lifestyle with the 30-year-old, whose helmet this weekend carries a tribute to his late boyhood idol Ayrton Senna, recognising he had been overdoing things.

“Heavy partying and not much rest for a week and a half,” said the Briton.

“I am a bit run down. I have been non-stop and trying to fit training in at the same time and not getting a lot of sleep.”

(Writing by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Ed Osmond)

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Indo-Russian joint training begins in Bikaner

The 14-day training schedule is focused on training on ‘Counter Terrorism Operations in the backdrop of Desert terrain under a United Nations Mandate’.

Representational Image

The seventh Indo-Russian joint training exercise INDRA-2015 commenced on Monday at Mahajan field firing range here. The two contingents presented a parade before the senior officers in the ceremony with unfurling of the National Flags of both the countries. The Russian contingent from an Independent Motorised Brigade comprising 250 Military personnel along with supporting staff landed at Bikaner directly from Russia on November 7, according to defence spokesperson Lt Col Manish Ojha.The 14-day training schedule is focused on training on ‘Counter Terrorism Operations in the backdrop of Desert terrain under a United Nations Mandate’. The opening ceremony was held at Mahajan Field Firing Ranges where Major General PC Thimmaya, General Officer Commanding-Red Eagle Division welcomed the Russian contingent and urged both contingents to strive to understand each others’ battle drills and procedures so as to achieve optimum cohesion and enhanced inter operability between the two forces, the spokesperson said in a release.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”He stressed upon the importance of free exchange in ideas, discussion of concepts and assimilation of best practices between the troops of the two nations. Enhancing mutual confidence and inter operability between the two armies would be a priority,” he stated. Cultural programmes were also held at the ceremony. The exercise is scheduled to finally terminate on November 20.

Russia stance on Assad suggests divergence with Iran | Reuters

MOSCOW Russia does not see keeping Bashar al-Assad in power as a matter of principle, the Foreign Ministry in Moscow said on Tuesday in comments that suggested a divergence of opinion with Iran, the Syrian president’s other main international backer.

Fuelling speculation of Russian-Iranian differences over Assad, the head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps suggested on Monday that Tehran may be more committed to him than Russia, saying Moscow “may not care if Assad stays in power as we do”.

While Russia and Iran have been Assad’s foremost foreign supporters during Syria’s four-year-old war, the United States, its Gulf allies and Turkey have insisted the president must step down as part of any eventual peace deal.Talks in Vienna on Friday among the main foreign players involved in diplomatic efforts on Syria failed to reach agreement on Assad.

Asked by a reporter on Tuesday if saving Assad was a matter of principle for Russia, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said: “Absolutely not, we never said that.”

“We are not saying that Assad should leave or stay,” RIA news agency quoted her as saying.

But another regime change in the Middle East could be a catastrophe that “could simply turn the whole region into a large black hole”, she added.

Zakharova said Russia had not changed its policy on Assad and that his fate should be decided by the Syrian people.

But her remarks appeared to suggest a difference of approach compared with Iran, which has sent forces to fight alongside Assad’s military and ordered in fighters from the Lebanese Hezbollah group, which it controls.

Russia “may not care if Assad stays in power as we do”, the head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari, was quoted as saying by the Tasnim news agency on Monday. But he added: “We don’t know any better person to replace him.”

Syria’s deputy foreign minister rejected the idea of a transitional period sought by Western states that want Assad removed from power, saying during a visit to Iran that an expanded government was being discussed.

“We are talking about a national dialogue in Syria and an expanded government and a constitutional process. We are not at all talking about what is called a transitional period,” Faisal Mekdad said.

Russia intervened militarily at the end of September to support Assad by launching bombing raids on rebel groups trying to overthrow him.

DIPLOMATIC EFFORTS

But Moscow has also shown increasing flexibility as it steps up diplomatic efforts to resolve a conflict that has killed 250,000 and displaced millions.

Syrian government officials and members of the country’s splintered opposition could meet in Moscow next week.

“Next week, we will invite opposition representatives to a consultation in Moscow,” Interfax news agency quoted Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov as saying.

“The meeting … will possibly be with the participation of government representatives,” Bogdanov said. He did not say which opposition members might attend, but the invitation appeared to suggest a change in tone from Moscow, which has until now dismissed such groups.

Moscow’s goal was not to support Assad, but to save the Syrian state and defeat terrorist groups, a Russian analyst said. “It is the beginning of a political process,” said Irina Zvyagelskaya, a Middle East analyst at the Russian Academy of Sciences.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will meet U.N. Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura in Moscow on Wednesday to discuss attempts to start a dialogue between Damascus and the opposition, Moscow’s foreign ministry said.

At the talks in Vienna, where Russia was the leading player, Moscow said it wanted opposition groups to participate in future discussions on the Syria crisis and exchanged a list of 38 names with Saudi Arabia.

The list included mostly former and current members of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces (SNC), Syria’s Western-backed political opposition bloc, Kommersant newspaper reported on Tuesday.

Among those named were former SNC head Moaz al-Khatib and incumbent president Khaled Khoja, the daily reported, as well as representatives from a diverse range of political, religious and ethnic groups including the Muslim Brotherhood and a Christian pro-democracy movement.

Khoja said last week the Russian air strikes were intended to prop up Assad and had helped Islamic State militants who have taken control of large areas of the country.

The SNC has been accused of slipping into virtual irrelevance on the battlefield as Islamist and Kurdish groups have grown stronger. But it remains one of the main parties in international discussions to end the war.

The coalition boycotted peace talks held in Russia in January and April, distrustful of the Kremlin and dismissing Damascus rivals who attended as token opposition, but it sent a delegation to Moscow in August.

REBEL ADVANCE

On the battlefield, a newly-formed U.S.-backed Syrian rebel alliance advanced against Islamic State in the northeast province of Hasaka on Tuesday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said.

In the west, Russian warplanes carried out airstrikes in Hama province while unidentified jets bombarded the outskirts of the Islamic State-held city of Raqqa in the north.

Syrian government forces and allied militia clashed in fierce battles with Islamic State fighters southeast of Aleppo city, the Observatory said.

(Additional reporting by Tom Perry and Sylvia Westall in Beirut; Writing by Giles Elgood; editing by David Stamp)

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BrahMos missile test fired from INS Kochi

BrahMos is a surface-to-surface missile jointly developed by India and Russia.

Image Credit: ANI Twitter

Commissioned on September 30, Indian Naval Ship (INS) Kochi successfully test fired the supersonic BrahMos missile on Sunday morning. The firing from this newly-commissioned indigenous guided missile destroyer was conducted at an undisclosed location in the Arabian Sea off the West coast of India.BrahMos is a surface-to-surface missile jointly developed by India and Russia and is among the fastest cruise missiles in operations around the globe. “This is a significant step in the operationalisation of the Navy’s guided missile stealth destroyer,” said an Indian Naval officer.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The target for test firing was a decommissioned warship of the Indian Navy, at a range of 290 km from INS Kochi. The vessel was Alleppey, which was decommissioned on March 13 this year after having served in the Indian Navy since 1980 as a minesweeper.INS Kochi is second in the series of Kolkata class vessels. In August last year, INS Kolkata was commissioned by prime minister Narendra Modi. The next would be INS Chennai, which is under production. Production of these three stealth destroyers were approved one and a half decade ago, that is May 2000 under Project 15A with Mazgon Dock Limited.

BrahMos missile test-fired from new naval ship, hits target

“After two successful test trials from INS Kolkata in June 2014 and February 2015, today s test firing from INS Kochi has validated the newly commissioned ship’s systems.

The warship has the advanced capability of carrying a total of 16 BrahMos missiles in two 8-cell vertical launch systems. (Representational Image)

Supersonic cruise missile BrahMos, with a strike-range of over 290 kms, was on Sunday test-fired from the navy’s newest stealth destroyer INS Kochi successfully hitting a decommissioned target ship in the Arabian Sea. The second of Project 15A ‘Kolkata-class’ guided missile destroyers test-fired the advanced missile system as part of ‘Acceptance Test Firing’ during a naval drill being conducted along the country’s west coast. The world’s fastest cruise missile, after performing high-level and extremely complex manoeuvres, successfully hit decommissioned target ship ‘Alleppey’ located at a distance covering nearly the full range of the missile with high precision, defence officials said.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”After two successful test trials from INS Kolkata in June 2014 and February 2015, today’s test firing from INS Kochi has validated the newly commissioned ship’s systems. BrahMos as the prime strike weapon will ensure the warship’s invincibility by engaging naval surface targets at long ranges, thus making the destroyer another lethal platform of Indian Navy,” Sudhir Mishra, CEO and MD of BrahMos Aerospace said. The navy commissioned INS Kochi on September 30, this year. The 7,500-ton indigenously developed warship incorporates new design concepts for improved survivability, stealth, sea-keeping and manoeuvrability.The warship has the advanced capability of carrying a total of 16 BrahMos missiles in two 8-cell vertical launch systems, besides other sophisticated weapons and sensors. BrahMos missile having supersonic speed of Mach 2.8, a very low-cruising altitude of 10 metres at terminal phase and pin-point accuracy, will make the warship one of the deadliest in the Indian Navy fleet, the officials said. The two-stage BrahMos missile has been jointly developed by India and Russia. It has been in service with the Indian Navy since 2005.Today’s launch was the 49th test-firing of the missile.

Russian airliner with 224 aboard crashes in Egypt’s Sinai, all killed | Reuters

ISMAILIA, Egypt/CAIRO A Russian airliner carrying 224 passengers and crew crashed in Egypt’s Sinai peninsula on Saturday after losing radar contact and plummeting from its cruising altitude, killing all aboard.

The Airbus A321, operated by Russian airline Kogalymavia under the brand name Metrojet, was flying from the Sinai Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh to St Petersburg in Russia when it went down in a desolate mountainous area of central Sinai soon after daybreak, the aviation ministry said.

A north Sinai security source said initial examination showed the crash was due to a technical fault, but gave no detail. The plane, he said, had landed in a “vertical fashion”, explaining the scale of devastation and burning.

The Russian Embassy in Cairo said it had been told by Egyptian officials the pilot had been trying to make an emergency landing at El-Arish.

“I now see a tragic scene,” an Egyptian security officer at the site told Reuters by telephone. “A lot of dead on the ground and many who died whilst strapped to their seats.

“The plane split into two, a small part on the tail end that burned and a larger part that crashed into a rock. We have extracted at least 100 bodies and the rest are still inside,” the officer, who requested anonymity, said.

Sinai is the scene of an insurgency by militants close to Islamic State, who have killed hundreds of Egyptian soldiers and police and have also attacked Western targets in recent months.

Russia, an ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, launched air raids against opposition groups in Syria including Islamic State on Sept. 30. Security sources said there was no indication the Airbus had been shot down or blown up.

TELEPHONES RINGING

Egyptian Prime Minister Sherif Ismail was heading to the crash site in the Hassana area 35 km (22 miles) south of the Sinai Mediterranean coastal city of Al Arish with several cabinet ministers on a private jet, the tourism ministry said.

Russian television showed film of anxious relatives and friends waiting for information at St. Petersburg’s Pulkovo airport. A middle-aged woman was shown weeping and crying out.

Russian President Vladimir Putin declared a day of national mourning for Sunday. The passengers included 214 Russians and three Ukrainians.

Speaking at a news briefing in the central Asia republic of Kyrgyzstan, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry described the crash as a tremendous tragedy and loss.

The A321 is a medium-haul jet in service since 1994, with over 1,100 in operation worldwide and a good safety record. It is a highly automated aircraft relying on computers to help pilots stay within safe flying limits.

Airbus said the A321 was built in 1997 and had been operated by Metrojet since 2012. It had flown 56,000 hours in nearly 21,000 flights and was powered by engines from International Aero Engines consortium, which includes United Technologies unit Pratt & Whitney and Germany’s MTU Aero Engines.

Emergency services and aviation specialists searched the wreckage for any clues to the crash. One of two flight recorders was quickly found, but wreckage was scattered over a wide area.

The security officer said 120 bodies had been found intact.

“We are hearing a lot of telephones ringing, most likely belonging to the victims, and security forces are collecting them and putting them into a bag,” he said.

Russian state-run television station Rossiya 24 reported that officials were searching the Kogalymavia airline’s offices in Moscow and had seized some documents.

Interfax news agency said Russian state transport regulator Rostransnadzor had found violations when it last conducted a routine flight safety inspection of Kogalymavia. But after the inspection, in March 2014, the airline remedied the breaches.

Kogalymavia was founded in 1993, and was earlier called Kolavia. Its fleet consists of two A320s and seven A321s.

Russia and other former Soviet republics have relatively poor safety records, notably on domestic flights.

Some Russian air crashes have been blamed on the use of ageing aircraft, but industry experts point to other problems, including poor crew training, crumbling airports, lax government controls and neglect of safety in the pursuit of profits.

The aircraft took off at 5:51 a.m. Cairo time (0351 GMT) and disappeared from radar screens 23 minutes later, Egypt’s Civil Aviation Ministry said in a statement. It was at an altitude of 31,000 feet (9,400 metres) when it vanished from radar screens.

Accidents at cruising altitude are one of the rarest categories of accidents but also among the most deadly, accounting for 13 percent of fatal incidents but 27 percent of fatalities since 2005, according to Boeing.

Investigators would be looking into, among other things, the weather at the time, the pilots’ experience, maintenance records, signs of a stall and any evidence of an explosion.

Experts consistently warn air accidents are usually caused by a cocktail of factors, both human and technical.

According to FlightRadar24, an authoritative Sweden-based flight tracking service, the aircraft was descending rapidly at about 6,000 feet (1,800 metres) per minute before the signal was lost to air traffic control.

(Additional reporting by Ehab Farouk, Jason Bush in Moscow, Tim Hepher in Paris; Writing by Michael Georgy; editing by Ralph Boulton)

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Iran backs six-month Syria transition at Vienna peace talks | Reuters

VIENNA/BEIRUT Iran signalled on Friday it backed a six-month transition period in Syria followed by elections to decide Bashar al-Assad’s fate, a proposal floated at peace talks as a concession but which the president’s foes rejected as a trick to keep him in power.

Sources who described the Iranian proposal said it amounted to Assad’s closest ally dropping its insistence on him remaining in office.

But Assad’s enemies say a new election would keep him in power unless other steps were taken to remove him. His government held an election as recently as last year, which he easily won. His opponents have always rejected any proposal for a transition unless he is removed.

Iranian officials attended international peace talks on Syria for the first time on Friday in Vienna, a month after the balance of power in the 4-year-old civil war shifted in Assad’s favour with Russia launching air strikes against his foes.

Iran appears to be adjusting its stance in ways that could create more ground for compromise with Western countries that are coming to accept Assad cannot be driven from power by force.

“Iran does not insist on keeping Assad in power forever,” Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Amir Abdollahian, a member of Tehran’s delegation at the Syria talks on Friday, was quoted by Iranian media as saying.

A senior official from the Middle East familiar with the Iranian position said that could go as far as ending support for Assad after the transition period.

“Talks are all about compromises and Iran is ready to make a compromise by accepting Assad remaining for six months,” the official told Reuters. “Of course, it will be up to the Syrian people to decide about the country’s fate.”

Syrian opposition figures, already bristling from having been excluded from Friday’s talks about the fate of their country, dismissed the reported Iranian proposal as a ruse.

“Who is mad enough to believe that under these circumstances in Syria, anybody can hold elections?” said George Sabra, a member of the Western-backed political opposition, the exiled Syrian National Coalition, told Reuters. “Bashar al-Assad and his regime is the root of the terrorism in Syria.”

They say any fair vote is impossible in wartime conditions in which nearly half of the country is displaced.

“In the shadow of this anarchy there will not be real elections, therefore we reject them absolutely,” said Ahmed al-Seoud, a fighter in the rebel 13th Division which has been fighting in the western Hama province.

Abu Ghaith al-Shami, a spokesman for the rebel Alwiyat Seif al-Sham group which is fighting in the south, said Assad’s participation in an election was unthinkable: “The fate of Assad and all criminals should be in court following the massacres committed by him and those with him, towards the Syrian people.”

NEW UNDERTAKING

Nevertheless, a commitment from Iran to a defined time limit for a transition could be viewed as a significant new undertaking, potentially forming a basis for future diplomacy at a time when Assad’s position has been strengthened by Russia’s decision to join the war on his side.

A senior U.S. official and other delegates said a new round of Syria peace talks could be held as soon as next week.

All previous efforts to find a diplomatic solution to Syria’s civil war have collapsed over the insistence of the United States, European powers, Arab states and Turkey that Assad agree to leave power.

In the past, Iranian delegations were excluded for refusing to sign up to U.N.-backed proposals that called for a transition of power in Damascus. Tehran has long said it was not committed to Assad as an individual, but that it was up to Syrians to decide his fate, a position that amounted to an endorsement of election results that confirmed him in office.

Russia’s participation in the conflict on Assad’s behalf creates a new incentive for a diplomatic push to end a war that has killed more than 250,000 people and driven more than 10 million people from their homes. Western countries that have called for Assad’s removal from power appear to have accepted that he cannot be forced out on the battlefield.

In the latest violence from the battlefield, a local rescue group operating in rebel-held areas said more than 45 people were killed by a government missile strike on a marketplace in a town near Damascus.

The group, Syrian Civil Defence, posted a picture on its Facebook page of about a dozen bloodied bodies laid on the ground. It linked to a video showing people tending to survivors in a chaotic scene of blackened rubble and fire.

“Utterly heinous that while world leaders meet for peace in Vienna, attack(s) against civilians continue in Syria,” the group said on Twitter.

HOPE FOR COMPROMISE

The United States has said it is looking for signs of compromise from Tehran and Moscow at Friday’s conference, defending its decision to talk directly to Iran about the Syrian conflict for the first time.

The conference will also be attended by European powers, Turkey and Iran’s arch enemy in the region, Saudi Arabia.

“I am hopeful that we can find a way forward,” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters shortly before the meeting began on Friday morning. “It is very difficult.”

Iranian and Russian officials have repeatedly said the priority for Syria should be the defeat of Islamic State militants, who have seized large areas of Syria and Iraq.

The divide between Assad’s allies and Western and Arab nations seeking his ouster has deepened since Moscow began air strikes against opposition forces in Syria a month ago.

Russia says it is bombing Islamic State, but most of its air strikes have hit other groups opposed to Assad, including many that are supported by Washington’s allies.

The United States is leading its own bombing campaign against Islamic State, the world’s most violent jihadist group, but says Assad’s presence makes the situation worse. Washington has said it could tolerate Assad during a short transition period, but that he would then have to exit the political stage.

Assad’s latest seven-year presidential term runs until 2021. He is believed to control a quarter or less of Syrian territory, but that includes the main cities of Western Syria which are home to the bulk of people still inside the country.

Assad’s office said on Tuesday political initiatives could not work in Syria before terrorism had been wiped out, his long-held position.

(Additional reporting by Louis Charbonneau, Francois Murphy, Matt Spetalnick, Sabine Siebold and Vladimir Soldatkin in Vienna, Tom Perry in Beirut, Michelle Nichols in New York and Doina Chiacu in Washington; Writing by Peter Graff)

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Geeta arrives home after 13 years in Pakistan | Reuters

NEW DELHI A deaf-mute Indian girl stranded in Pakistan for 13 years after wandering over one of the world’s most militarised borders arrived home on Monday but failed to recognise the family she has identified from photographs.

The story of Geeta, a Hindu woman in her early 20s, has captivated people in both countries at a time of heightened tension and border clashes between the nuclear-armed rivals.

“It doesn’t matter if we find her parents or not, she is a daughter of India and we will take care of her,” Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj told a news conference.

Geeta was about 11 when she crossed from India into Pakistan. Exactly how is not clear but Geeta mimes an explosion and shows how she ducked and ran before being caught by armed men.

(Geeta in Pakistan | See pictures here)

At first, she was kept at a children’s home in Lahore, where she was given the Muslim name Fatima.

She would point at maps of India, especially to an area in the south of Jharkhand until she was able to finally communicate she was from India, not Pakistan.

Early on Monday, Geeta left the charity bound for the airport in the city of Karachi for a flight to New Delhi.

Wearing a traditional red outfit with her head covered by a loose scarf, she smiled and waved to television cameras after leaving the airport in New Delhi.

(Geeta comes home | See pictures here)

“Geeta stayed with us for 13 years. Now it’s time for her to go home,” said Faisal Edhi, son of the founder of Edhi Foundation, a Pakistani charity that looked after the girl.

She headed to meet a family from Bihar whom she says she recognised from photos sent by the Indian High Commission in Pakistan.

Swaraj said if a DNA test proves the family is not hers she will be sent to a temporary home run by a charity and the search for her parents would continue.

Hostilities have kept apart many families since majority-Hindu India and Muslim Pakistan became separate countries in 1947.

Geeta’s arrival came after Indian and Pakistani forces exchanged fire along a 100 km (60 mile) stretch of their frontier overnight, an Indian Border Security Force spokesman said.

Her story attracted much attention following the release this year of a film called “Bajrangi Bhaijaan”, in which an Indian man finds a mute Pakistani girl and tries to reunite her with her family.

The scriptwriters were unaware of Geeta’s story but the movie led to a surge in interest.

(Additional reporting by Syed Raza Hassan in Karachi and Fayaz Bukhari in Srinagar; Editing by Robert Birsel)

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Mamata Banerjee-trumped Narendra Modi does a volte-face, decides to declassify Netaji secret files

After an hour-long interaction with 35 members of Netaji’s family, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that he sees “no reason to strangle history” and “those nations who forget history also lose the power to create it”.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi being presented with a portrait of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose by the latter’s family members at his official residence in New Delhi on Wednesday

PTI
Trumped by West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, who announced declassification of files on Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose last month, the BJP government at the Centre followed suit by announcing staggered declassification of secret files that it has in its possession.After an hour-long interaction with 35 members of Netaji’s family, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that he sees “no reason to strangle history” and “those nations who forget history also lose the power to create it”.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Prime Minister declared that the process of declassification of files will begin on January 23, next year, that happens to be the birthday of Netaji.According to speculations, the disclosure of secret files could lead to embarrassment of the Congress party for keeping Netaji’s life, particularly those relating to his mysterious disappearance, under a veil of secrecy.Grapevine also claims that it could put a question mark on India’s first Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru’s conduct vis-a-vis Netaji.However, to the credit of Congress, it has already made clear that it has nothing to fear about any disclosure and the government should take its own call on declassification.Incidentally, the decision comes as a volte-face by PM Modi’s office, as only in November 2014, toeing the line of previous governments, it refused to disclose Netaji files citing that “the files would prejudicially affect relations with foreign countries”.In reply to RTI activist Subhash Chandra Agarwal, the PMO further said that these files are exempt from disclosure under section 8(1) (a) of the RTI Act.It says “information, disclosure of which would prejudicially affect the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security strategic, scientific or economic interests of the state, relation with foreign state or lead to incitement of an offence.”However, it remains unclear whether the Central government will declassify all the files it has on Netaji in its possession or will keep some files wrapped in the secret cover that could keep the controversy surrounding Netaji’s disappearance simmering.As per the RTI reply, PMO has 39 secret files in its possession. Besides, there are some more files that are in the possession of the union home ministry. A decision will be taken once the union home ministry finishes vetting all the secret files.Modi also agreed to the suggestion of Netaji’s family to initiate the process of getting hold of files with foreign governments and declassify them too.Modi told the family members that he would not only write to the governments of foreign nations that were visited by Netaji, but also take up the matter during his meetings with foreign leaders, beginning with Russia in December.As Netaji had travelled to several countries including China, Taiwan, Singapore and Russia during tumultuous period close to India’s independence, the PM is expected to write to all these countries soon. He may also write to UK that had most of the information, being the ruling colonial power.

Loud blast heard in Afghan capital, casualties feared | Reuters

KABUL A loud explosion rocked the centre of the Afghan capital on Sunday after an apparent suicide attack against a convoy of foreign troops, a security official said.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said initial reports suggested a suicide attack.

“It was during rush hour and there are casualties,” he added.

The attack in Kabul came during a period of heightened tension following intense fighting between government troops and the Taliban around the northern city of Kunduz, which fell briefly to the insurgent Islamist movement at the end of last month.

(Reporting by Hamid Shalizi; writing by James Mackenzie; editing by Nick Macfie)

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Islamic State closes in on city of Aleppo in Syrian fighting | Reuters

BEIRUT/ANKARA Islamic State fighters have seized villages close to the northern city of Aleppo from rival insurgents, a monitoring group said on Friday, despite an intensifying Russian air-and-sea campaign that Moscow says has targeted the militant group.

The Russian defence ministry said stepped-up air strikes on rebel positions in Syria killed 300 anti-Assad rebels and that it hit 60 Islamic State targets over the last day. There was no independent confirmation of the death toll.

About 200 insurgents were killed in an attack on the Liwa al-Haqq group in Raqqa province while 100 died in Aleppo, the defence ministry said. Two Islamic State commanders were amongst the dead in Russia’s most intense raids since it launched strikes in Syria 10 days ago. In previous updates Russia has reported hitting 10 targets daily.

However, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the fighting, said there had been no significant advances by government forces backed by allied militia in areas where ground offensives were launched this week. “It’s back and forth,” said Rami Abdulrahman, director of the Observatory.

Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard Corps said separately one of its generals had been killed near Aleppo, once Syria’s most populous city. Iran, like Russia an ally of President Bashar al-Assad, says it has advisers in the country.

Islamic State is now within 2 km of government-held territory on the northern edge of Aleppo which has suffered widespread damage and disease during the four-year civil war that erupted in the wake of protests against Assad.

Syria’s military, backed by Russia, Iran and allied militias, has launched a major attack in Syria’s west to recapture land lost to non-IS rebels near the heartland of Assad’s minority Alawite sect, an area vital to his survival.

A senior regional official close to the Syrian government said: “The Iranians are at the heart of the battle, with strength and effectiveness. Yes they are participating.”

As the operation in the west pushed ahead, Islamic State said its fighters had captured five villages in its northern offensive and killed more than 10 soldiers or militiamen.

The British-based Observatory said it was the biggest advance by Islamic State since it launched an offensive against rival rebels in Aleppo near the Turkish border in late August.

“DAESH EXPLOIT RUSSIAN STRIKES”

“Daesh has exploited the Russian air strikes and the preoccupation of the (rebel) Free Syrian Army in its battles in Hama, and advanced in Aleppo,” said one rebel commander with fighters in the region, using an Arabic name for IS.

Russian warplanes and warships have been bombarding targets across Syria in a campaign Moscow says is targeting IS fighters, who control large parts of eastern Syria and of Iraq.

But the campaign, which has dramatically changed the landscape of the war, appears to have mainly struck other rebel groups, some of which had been battling to stop the Islamic State advance across Aleppo province.

U.S. and Russian warplanes are now flying missions over the same country for the first time since World War Two risking incidents between the two air forces and their fast jets.

The United States announced on Friday it would overhaul its failed efforts to support moderate Syrian rebels battling Islamic State, saying it would provide arms and equipment to vetted rebel leaders and their units.

The U.S. announcement marked the effective end to a short-lived multi-million-dollar program to train and equip units of fighters at sites outside Syria, after that programme’s disastrous launch this year fanned criticism of President Barack Obama’s war strategy. Future training will be greatly scaled back, with the apparent U.S. focus on providing weaponry.

Seeking to underline the dangers of the Russian operation, U.S. officials said four Russian cruise missiles fired from a warship in the Caspian Sea had crashed in Iran which drew a swift denial from Russia.

U.S. Defence Secretary Ash Carter said, however, on Friday in London that the United States had indications that Russian cruise missiles did malfunction.

French Rafale warplanes attacked an IS training camp in their stronghold of Raqqa overnight. “We struck because we know that in Syria, particularly around Raqqa, there are training camps for foreign fighters whose mission is not to fight Daesh on the Levant but to come to France, in Europe to carry out attacks,” said French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian.

France launched its first air strike in Syria on September 27, destroying an Islamic State training camp near Deir al-Zor in the east of the country. Le Drian said that Islamic State was France’s “main enemy” and that Russian strikes were mostly hitting Assad’s opponents in Syria and not IS targets.

The Observatory reported a new wave of Russian air strikes in the west on Friday morning on Hama and Idlib, apparently in support of the ground offensive against anti-Assad rebels.

ALAWITE HEARTLAND

The offensive has focused around the Ghab Plain, next to Syria’s western mountain range which forms the Alawite heartland and the important strategic main north-south highway running north from Hama towards the cities of Idlib and Aleppo.

Securing those areas would help consolidate Assad’s control over Syria’s main population centres in the west of the country, far from the Islamic State strongholds in the east.

Abu al-Baraa, a fighter with the Ajnad al-Sham rebel group, speaking to Reuters via Internet messenger from the Ghab Plain, said: “The regime has been trying since yesterday to advance … and tried many times, with Russian jets paving their way, but … most of the attacks are repelled. Also a number of heavy regime vehicles have been destroyed in the Ghab region.”

Alongside the Russian air-and-sea campaign, regional officials have told Reuters that hundreds of Iranian troops have arrived in Syria since late September to support the Syrian army and Lebanese Hezbollah fighters.

Senior Iranian officials have been in Syria for several years as military advisers, while Moscow has maintained a naval facility in the Syrian Mediterranean port of Tartous which it is using to supply its forces along with a base at Latakia.

The IRGC said a senior general, Hossein Hamedani, was killed near Aleppo late on Thursday. Hamedani was a veteran of the Iran-Iraq war and was made deputy chief commander in 2005. Several senior Guard commanders have been killed in Syria.

The Observatory, which monitors Syria’s conflict through a network of sources in the country, said Hamedani was killed near Kweires air base, about 20 miles (35 km) east of Aleppo. Kweires has been besieged by IS fighters.

Turkey said on Friday it was concerned about a possible fresh wave of Syrian migrants arriving at its border as a result of Russian air strikes. The conflict has killed 250,000 people, causing a refugee crisis in Europe and neighbouring nations.

The violation of Turkish air space by two Russian warplanes last weekend brought the Syrian conflict across NATO’s borders, but the government said that, as yet, no Russian delegation had been sent to Ankara to provide information on the incursions.

(Additonal reporting by Tom Perry in Beirut; Writing by Peter Millership; Editing by Giles Elgood)

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

Russia backs Syrian forces in major assault on insurgents | Reuters

BEIRUT Syrian troops and militia backed by Russian jets mounted what appeared to be their first major coordinated assaults on Syrian insurgents on Wednesday and Moscow said its warships fired a barrage of missiles at them from the Caspian Sea, a sign of its new military reach.

The combined assault hit towns close to the main north-south highway that runs through major cities in the mainly government-held west of Syria, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based group which tracks the conflict via a network of sources within the country.

Ground attacks by Syrian government forces and their militia allies using heavy surface-to-surface missile bombardments hit at least four insurgent positions and there were heavy clashes, the head of the Observatory, Rami Abdulrahman, said.

The Iranian-backed Hezbollah militia took part in the fighting, a regional sourc said.

Islamic State militants have seized much of Syria since civil war grew out of anti-government protests in 2011, but the areas targeted in Wednesday’s combined assault are held by other rebels, some U.S.-backed, fuelling allegations by Russia’s critics that its real aim is to help the government.

Moscow says it shares the West’s aim of preventing the spread of Islamic State, and Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu told President Vladimir Putin during a televised meeting that four Russian warships in the Caspian Sea had launched 26 missiles at Islamic State in Syria earlier in the day.

The missiles would have passed over Iran and Iraq to reach their targets, covering what Shoigu described as a distance of almost 1,500 km (900 miles), the latest display of Russian military power at a time when relations with the West are at a post-Cold War low over Ukraine.

The terrain-hugging Kalibr cruise missiles, known by NATO by the codename Sizzler, fly at an altitude of 50 metres and are accurate to within three metres, the Russian defence ministry said.

The air campaign in Syria has caught Washington and its allies on the back foot and alarmed Syria’s northern neighbour Turkey, which says its airspace has been repeatedly violated by Russian jets.

Ankara summoned Russia’s ambassador for the third time in four days over the reported violations, which NATO has said appeared to be deliberate and were “extremely dangerous”.

Turkey said Syria-based missile systems harassed its warplanes on Tuesday while eight F-16 jets were on a patrol flight along the Syria border.

IRAQ LOOKS TO RUSSIA

Syrian state television quoted a military source as saying the missiles fired by Russian ships targeted 11 Islamic State positions in Raqqa, Aleppo and Idlib.

The missiles destroyed destroyed bomb-making factories, command posts, weapons and ammunition and fuel depots, as well as “terrorist training centres”, the TV said.

Russian air strikes destroyed the main weapons depots of a U.S.-trained rebel group, the Liwa Suqour al-Jabal, their commander said.

In conversation with Shoigu, Putin said it was too early to talk about the results of Russia’s operations in Syria and ordered his minister to continue cooperation with the United States, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Iraq on the crisis.

However, U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said the United States would not cooperate militarily with Russia in Syria, although it was willing to hold discussions to secure the safety of its own pilots bombing IS targets in Syria.

Calling Moscow’s strategy “tragically flawed”, he renewed accusations that the strikes were not focused on Islamic State. The Russian defence ministry accused the U.S. air force of not always bombing Islamic State targets itself.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said only two of 57 Russian air strikes in Syria so far had hit Islamic State, while the rest had been against the moderate opposition, the only forces fighting the hard-line insurgents in northwestern Syria.

But in Iraq, the head of parliament’s defence and security committee said Baghdad may request Russian air strikes against Islamic State on its soil soon and wants Moscow to have a bigger role than Washington in fighting the group.

Iraq’s government and powerful Iranian-backed Shi’ite militias question the United States’ resolve in fighting Islamic State militants, who control a third of the country, saying U.S.-led coalition air strikes are ineffective.

“We might be forced to ask Russia to launch air strikes in Iraq soon … and that depends on their success in Syria,” Hakim al-Zamili told Reuters.

AIR SUPPORT ONLY SO FAR

Russia’s military build-up in Syria included a growing naval presence, long-range rockets and a battalion of troops backed by Moscow’s most modern tanks, the U.S. ambassador to NATO said.

“There is a considerable and growing Russia naval presence in the eastern Mediterranean, more than 10 ships now, which is a bit out of the ordinary,” Douglas Lute told reporters ahead of a meeting of alliance defence ministers in Brussels.

Abdulrahman said Russia appeared to have stuck to air support on Wednesday. The assault followed a report by Reuters last week that allies of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, including Iranians, were preparing to recapture territory lost by the government to rebels in rapid advances this year.

“There is no information yet of any (government) advances on the ground, but the air strikes have hit vehicles and insurgent bases,” Abdulrahman said.

The regional source, who is familiar with the military situation in Syria, said forces including Hezbollah fighters were taking part in the ground attack against four rebel-held areas in western Syria.

Hezbollah-run al-Manar television said in a newsflash that “an operation by the Syrian army started in a number of villages and towns in the northern countryside of Hama province”.

A video posted by the media office of an opposition group in Hama province on YouTube purported to show heavy rocket strikes by pro-government forces on Wednesday hitting an areas in the northern Hama countryside. “>here

Other footage from Hama showed rebels from the Free Syrian Amry firing firing anti-tank missiles and hitting two army tanks.

(Additional reporting by Laila Bassam in BEIRUT, Alexander Winning in MOSCOW, Phil Stewart and Crispian Balmer in ROME and Michael Georgy in BAGHDAD; writing by Philippa Fletcher,; editing by Peter Millership and Giles Elgood)

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

dna must read for the evening: Mahesh Sharma, Naxals, Nobel Prize and Russia

dna evening Must Reads

dna webdesk
Here are some of the must read stories on dna for the evening:1) Mahesh Sharma booked for inflammatory remarks in Dadri lynching case: The police has filed a case against Union Minister Mahesh Sharma, BJP leader Sangeet Som and and BSP leader Naseemuddin Siddiquifor inflammatory remarks over the Dadri killing. Mohammad Akhlaq, a Dadri local was killed by a mob of over 200 over rumours of consuming beef. <!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>2) Three TDP leaders held captive by Naxals in Andhra Pradesh: Three local Telugu Desam Party (TDP) leaders have been held captive allegedly by Naxals in Visakhapatnam district, police said on Tuesday.3) Is cow slaughter becoming the Hindutva equivalent of drawing the Prophet?: The Dadri incident isn’t just heinous because of the fact that a man was mercilessly beaten to death for allegedly consuming beef. What’s more worrying is the reaction from the political class. It all started with the forensic team testing the meat to see if it was actually beef and the victim’s daughter asking: “Will they bring my father back if it isn’t beef?”​4) 2015 Nobel Prize for Physics: Japan’s Takaaki Kajita and Canada’s Arthur B. McDonald won the 2015 Nobel Prize for Physics for their discovery that neutrinos have mass, the award-giving body said on Tuesday.5) NATO rejects Russia explanation on Turkish air space: NATO on Tuesday rejected Moscow’s explanation that its warplanes violated the air space of alliance member Turkey at the weekend by mistake and said Russia was sending more ground troops to Syria.

Goa tourism industry unhappy with time restrictions at airport

The time restrictions at the airport, which doubles up as an airbase of the Indian Navy, can affect as many as nine flights daily, including the international ones, as well as the chartered flights which mainly come from Russia.

Concerns have been raised by the tourism industry over the closure of runway at Goa’s Dabolim Airport between 10 PM to 4 AM everyday for repairs, as the move has come at a time when the tourist season is about to start.The time restrictions at the airport, which doubles up as an airbase of the Indian Navy, can affect as many as nine flights daily, including the international ones, as well as the chartered flights which mainly come from Russia.The restrictions imposed by the Navy which came into effect from Thursday and will be in place until November 29.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”This is a very bad move at the start of the tourism season. Combined with the economic slowdown in Europe and especially in Russia, it is a very bleak news for the tourism industry,” said Nilesh Shah, vice-president of Travel and Tourism Association of Goa (TTAG). TTAG has taken up the issue with the state tourism department as well as Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar who is here over the weekend.Runway repairs, the second this year, should have been postponed until the end of the tourism season or should have been conducted during the time the Navy reserves the runway for itself, some industry representatives said.On normal days, the airport is closed for civilian operations between 7 AM to 1 PM every day. Earlier a delegation of representatives of Pegas Touristik, Russia’s largest charter tourism operator, had called on the state tourism minister. Besides seeking relaxation in airport time, it also sought reduction of aircraft handling fees at Dabolim.

Despite PM Modi’s pitch, here’s why India will only get a permanent UNSC seat in 2020-25

Prime Minister Narendra Modi did well to make a strong pitch for a permanent seat for India in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), but he should know that at the global level, it is real power that matters. His pitch is fine, but he will reach his goal only by demonstrating real power. And in the 21st century, power boils down essentially to economic power. Mere population size is not good enough to ensure a seat at the high table (excluding powerless talk shops like the G-20 or G-8).

So here’s my prediction: India will get its permanent seat on the UNSC somewhere between 2020 and 2025 — the earlier date if we grow at rates above 8 percent on an average, and the latter date if we grow slower (which seems likely). So if Modi were to get a second term in 2019, he might well be there to celebrate India’s final arrival at the global power table.

It is, of course, true that the current permanent membership of the UNSC — the US, Russia, France, UK and China — represents the power structure as it existed at the end of the Second World War. In fact, power was actually divided up based on which side you were on, and not necessarily economic power. The Permanent Five of the UNSC were the victors in the war, and they initially included the puny Chiang Kai-shek’s Republic of China and excluded the Communist-overrun mainland China which had a superior claim to representing the nation. The defeated nations were specifically excluded from this power structure. India, then an un-free country, was excluded because Britain was its then ruler.

PM Modi during his UN speech. PTI

PM Modi during his UN speech. PTI

One myth about Jawaharlal Nehru throwing away India’s chance for a permanent seat needs to understood in its full nuance (read this paper here). It is being argued that Nehru declined the US’s offer to replace China with India on the UNSC in 1950, but the rejection was not entirely without reason. While Nehru clearly was a poor student of realpolitik — as was later demonstrated in how he lost the China War of 1962 — his policy should also be seen as an extension of his efforts to stay equidistant from the two superpowers in the emerging Cold War. Moreover, there was also his genuine belief that replacing China in the UNSC would have made it a permanent enemy of India.

That Nehru was wrong on both counts stands proven today by the continued underlying hostility of China towards Indian interests, but that would be hindsight. It would, however, not be fair to presume that he willingly compromised India’s interests on the altar of pure morality. The truth is India in the 1950s got feelers from both the US, and the then USSR for permanent membership of the UNSC, but we were simply not powerful enough to deserve the seat on the basis of genuine military or economic power. We had only moral clout, and it was not enough.

That is changing now, but not fast enough. In a post-Cold War world, which is rapidly slipping again into local hot wars, including proxy wars that were characteristic of the Cold War period, the power balance is changing again with China replacing Russia as the pole opposite the US.

In this new structure, if India has to stake a claim to permanent membership, it has to singlemindedly focus on economic growth, with concomitant military might.

As things stand today, India is a middling power economically, with a national GDP of around $2 trillion. All the current permanent members of the UNSC, barring Russia, are bigger than India economically, with the US at $17.4 trillion, China at $10.3 trillion, the UK at $2.9 trillion, and France at $2.8 trillion (all figures from the World Bank for 2014). After the breakup of the USSR, the rump Russian Federation has fallen below India at $1.8 trillion. It is the only one deserving of replacement right now, but that won’t happen for Russia is a nuclear power.

On the other hand, three big global players — Germany, Japan and Brazil — with economies bigger than India’s at $3.8 trillion, $4.6 trillion, and $2.3 trillion respectively, have an even better claim than India to be permanent members. Logically, Germany and Japan should have been in the UNSC even earlier, but they were the defeated powers in World War II. Later, when Germany and Japan rose again as peaceful nations, China’s opposition to Japan stymied their entry. India’s entry now will face a similar Chinese blackball as long as India remains an emerging power, struggling with a weak currency and a $2 trillion economy.

The unstated threshold for entry will thus be $4 to 5 trillion. Getting there will take India around 10 years at the current 7 to 8 percent potential annual growth rate, which is what looks feasible at this point of time, given internal quarrels over economic reforms. India will become a $3 trillion economy in five years, and a $4 to 4.5 trillion economy in 10. That means the world will be unable to deny an entry to us somewhere between 2020 and 2025.

The reason for this is simple: While it is technically possible for India’s enemies to keep us out now and even in the future (any one of the Permanent Five can keep us out by wielding the veto), when we are a $4-5 trillion economy, Germany and Japan are $5-6 trillion and Brazil around $3.5-4 trillion, the group can force a decision as it will collectively be bigger than the US or China right now in terms of economic clout. A $18-20 trillion bloc will get its way.

Just as a $10 trillion Chinese economy can create its own global lending bank to rival the World Bank, as a $4-5 trillion economy, India along with today’s midi powers will be in a position to demand its rights or threaten to create its own rival power structure. This is why China would like to slow us down by constantly getting Pakistan to trip us up. and Pakistani terrorism aimed at India has China’s tacit support for the same reason.

Funny as this may sound, the fact is India’s entry into the UNSC depends on overturning the results of the Second World War. It is only when the former Axis powers — Germany and Japan — grow to rival the current Big Two of the UNSC in terms of economic power that India can get permanent membership.

Netaji may have backed the wrong horses in the last global war, but history has a weird way of proving him right.

Netaji’s kin want foreign countries to declassify files too

Kolkata: Family members of Subhas Chandra Bose on Sunday said the Prime Minister must ask governments of other countries to declassify files in their possession about his disappearance, as they feared that some secret documents that could have solved the mystery might have been destroyed.

“I am not too sure whether the existing files with the central government can reveal everything about what happened to Netaji after he went missing in 1945. The files may have already been destroyed by the past governments,” Netaji’s grand-nephew Chandra Bose told PTI.

He said that even the Mukherjee Commission had stated that four files had been destroyed during the time of Indira Gandhi.

To connect all the dots relating to his disappearance, he said his family would appeal to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to write to the heads of the countries of Russia, Japan, China, America, UK, Japan, Singapore and Malaysia to declassify all Netaji files lying with them.

Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. Reuters.

Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. Reuters.

“Netaji was in touch with people in all these countries. They all have classified files relating to him. We want to take this movement of declassification to the global level to get all the clues,” the Netaji kin said.

The family members said that the issue of global declassification of Netaji files would be on the family’s agenda when they meet Modi next month in Delhi.

“Our main focus, however, would be on declassification of all Netaji files held by the government of India. If we do not have our own files declassified, then how can we ask other nations to do it?” Abhijit Ray, Netaji’s another grand-nephew, said.

In his monthly radio programme ‘Mann Ki Baat’, Modi on Sunday said he would host over 50 Bose family members at his residence next month.

“We got a call from the PMO yesterday asking us to prepare an agenda for the meeting. We will demand the constitution of a high-powered committee under the leadership of the Prime Minister himself to release all the files with the Centre,” Chandra Bose said.

The recent release of 64 files by West Bengal government has revealed that the Indian government had snooped on Netaji’s family even after 1945, when he was believed to have died in an air crash.

There are many theories surrounding his disappearance doing the rounds since then. Most of the family members have debunked the air crash theory.

“A story that he escaped to Russia has been there for sometime but the Bengal government files show that there could be a new Chinese angle to the story. And then some say he came back to India in disguise as ‘Gumnami Baba’. We do not have clinching evidence to prove any of these theories,” Bose said.

His sister Madhuri has recently got hold of 4-5 files from the British government but none of them present clinching evidence on Netaji’s fate.

Another issue on the family’s agenda during their meeting with the PM would be to ensure that Netaji gets his due in history books across schools.

“Netaji has no place in NCERT books. We want people to know about his freedom struggle and also about the role of the Indian National Army (INA) and the Azad Hind provincial government which was formed under his leadership. History should be written by giving due credit to him,” Ray said.

PTI

What is the UN General Assembly negotiation on UNSC reform and why it is important for India?

In a significant development, the UN General Assembly on Monday unanimously adopted a negotiating text for the Security Council reforms, setting the stage for talks on the long pending process at the 70th session of the global body which commences tomorrow.

What is the UN Security Council?The UNSC is the body responsible for maintaining international peace and security. As per the UN charter’s direction, the body can take actions on its behalf with regards to global peace. During disputes and threats to international peace and security, the body can ask to probe into issues, ask members to apply economic sanctions and take military action on the aggressor.UN peacekeeping operations is one of its major responsibilityWho forms the UNSC?The UNSC has five permanent members and ten non-permanent members. China, France, Russia, United Kingdom and United States form the five permamnent members while the the non-permamnent members change every two years in order to provide representation to all continents in the world.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Why the need for reforms are imperative to India?While other organs of the UN can make recommendations, the UNSC body can alone make decisions which the members have to follow.However, while the the council can make a decision, the resolution that it passes for the same can be vetoed by the permanent members. However, this isolates the power in their hands. Often the permanent members are blamed for using the vetoes in operations related close to their allies.What are the reforms being proposed?One is to expand the council and include non-nuclear members in it. India has aspired to be a permanent member and hence the decision to adopt an irreversible negotiations draft is a small step towards it.However, there are also reformative suggestions to remove permanent membership all together.What is the current decision to use text-based negotiation?So, a negotiation text where the positions and proposals of all UN members were taken, which will be used for further discussions, has been unanimously accepted by them. However, Russia, US and China abstained from sending their position on reforms negotiation.

Path to become permanent UNSC member bit easier for India: MEA on reforms negotiations

However, the US, China and Russia did not contribute to the text, a move which was seen as an attempt to thwart India’s bid for permanent membership of the global body.

Though the US and Russia have been supporting India’s bid, China has been against any expansion of the Security Council.

India on Monday described as a “significant development” the UN General Assembly’s decision to adopt text-based negotiations for the Security Council reforms that is expected to provide momentum to the talks on the long-pending process. “This is a significant development as after more than two decades, we can now commence text-based negotiations so that the long-pending reforms of the UN Security Council can be achieved,” Spokesperson in the External Affairs Ministry said.Nearly 200-member countries of the UN have agreed that during the 70th session of the UNGA, which commences tomorrow, they will have text-based negotiations on reforms in the Security Council, the top decision-making body, which has 15 members including five permanent members- China, Russia, the US, the UK and France. <!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>However, the US, China and Russia did not contribute to the text, a move which was seen as an attempt to thwart India’s bid for permanent membership of the global body. Though the US and Russia have been supporting India’s bid, China has been against any expansion of the Security Council. UNGA President Sam Kutesa, who convened a plenary meeting to take action on the draft decision on the “Question of equitable representation on and increase in the membership of the Security Council and related matters”, also circulated letters containing the positions of key countries including Russia, the US and China which refused to contribute to the negotiating text.Once the draft is agreed upon by the UN member countries, it will be put to vote at the General Assembly, where a two- thirds vote is needed to pass it.

No proposal for PMs Nawaz Sharif and Modi to meet in New York: Pakistan

To a question about re-scheduling the NSA-level talks, he said it is for India to indicate its position over the talks.

PM Modi and Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif at Ufa, Russia.
File Photo
PTI photo
Pakistan on Thursday said that so far there was no proposal for a meeting between Prime Ministers of Pakistan and India in New York on the sidelines of the annual session of the United Nations next month.”There is no such proposal on the table,” said Foreign Office spokesman Qazi Khalilullah. Khalilullah, however, confirmed to reporters that a meeting between the chiefs of Pakistan’s paramilitary Rangers and India’s Border Security Force will take place in New Delhi next month.”Rangers and BSF officials have met in the past as well. They will be meeting again next month to discuss ceasefire violations at the LoC and the Working Boundary,” he said.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Over the weekend, India-Pakistan ties hit a new low after Islamabad decided against sending National Security Adviser Sartaj Aziz to New Delhi to hold discussions with his Indian counterpart Ajit Doval. The proposed talks were called off because of differences over the agenda proposed by Islamabad, and a planned meeting between Kashmiri separatists and Aziz.The decisions on the meetings between the NSAs and the heads of border guards were taken during talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif in Ufa, Russia. He said Pakistan has already briefed senior UN officials “about the circumstances under which it was not possible to hold the meeting of the NSAs of Pakistan and India.” Khalilullah said Pakistan would keep the UN informed about all issues of concern with India.To a question about re-scheduling the NSA-level talks, he said it is for India to indicate its position over the talks.”As far as Pakistan is concerned, we had very clearly stated that preconditions for talks were not acceptable,” he said.On reports of underworld don Dawood Ibrahim’s presence in Pakistan, Khalilullah said Pakistan’s consistent position on Dawood has been that he is not in Pakistan.”In this regard, I would like to draw your attention to a statement by Indian Minister of State for Home Affairs given in the Parliament a few months ago that whereabouts of Dawood Ibrahim were not known. His statement vindicated our position,” he said.When asked if Pakistan plans to raise the Kashmir issue and India’s involvement in Pakistan, during Sharif’s address to the UNGA, he said such speech always contains a reference to Kashmir as an outstanding dispute, that need to be settled peacefully through dialogue. He said that composition of a Committee for Constitutional reforms in Gilgit-Baltistan is under consideration. It will be headed by Aziz.

Pakistan shouldn’t have deviated from agenda set in Ufa: Rajnath Singh

It was decided that there will be no third party in the NSA-level talks, he added on Pakistan’s insistence on meeting Kashmiri separatists.

It was decided that there will be no third party in the NSA-level talks, he added on Pakistan’s insistence on meeting Kashmiri separatists.

Asserting that India has always been in favour of friendly ties with neighbouring countries, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Sunday expressed disappointment with the cancellation of the NSA-level talks and said that Pakistan should not have deviated from the agenda set in Ufa, Russia. Singh said Pakistan’s move to cancel the talks is extremely unfortunate and added that India was ready for the talks.”It has been India’s thinking from the very beginning that we must have cordial relations with our neighbouring countries. We will always make attempts in this regard. Pakistan should not have deviated from the agenda set in Ufa during the meeting between the two Prime Ministers. Pakistan called off the talks, India did not cancel it,” Singh said.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”It was decided that there will be no third party in the NSA-level talks. There was no decision taken that people from different levels will come and talk. Pakistan should have talked based on the agenda which was decided,” he added.Pakistan called off the NSA-level talks with India late on Saturday night. A statement issued by the Pakistan Foreign Office said the proposed talks will not serve any purpose if conducted on the basis of what it called preconditions.” laid down by India.

Never the twain shall meet: India, Pakistan and the peace talks facade

Peace talks between India and Pakistan collapsed on Saturday hours before they were scheduled to start, as the nuclear-armed rivals showed that they were unable to overcome deep-rooted mutual mistrust.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Pakistan’s Nawaz Sharif agreed to the talks when they met in Russia last month. But the countries failed at the last minute to agree the agenda for the meeting of their national security advisers (NSAs), due to start on Sunday, with Pakistan accusing India of imposing “preconditions”.

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj at the press conference in New Delhi on Saturday. PTIExternal Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj at the press conference in New Delhi on Saturday. PTI

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj at the press conference in New Delhi on Saturday. PTI

Pakistan pulled out after India’s foreign minister, Sushma Swaraj, said the talks would not take place if Pakistan’s NSA Sartaj Aziz did not drop plans to meet separatists from the disputed region of Kashmir.

Swaraj also said India would only discuss terrorism-related issues, whereas Pakistan wanted a wider agenda that would, among other things, discuss the Kashmir question.

On Hurriyat, for example, while Swaraj said, “Don’t talk to Hurriyat, no place for third party. Respect Simla pact.” Aziz, on the other hand, had a radically opposite view: “Hurriyat represents Kashmiri people. Respect UNSC resolutions.”

The agenda too was a matter of dispute. While Swaraj mentioned that the NSA talks will be only on terrorism, Aziz wanted the talks to be on all outstanding issues, including J&K.

Even their understanding of the UFA statement widely differs. Pakistan believe ‘outstanding issues’ also includes the K-word while India says ‘outstanding issues’ is the preamble.

And then, of course, there is always terrorism. It is Pakistan’s firm belief that R&AW (Research and Analysis Wing) is responsible for a lot of trouble in Balochistan and other areas. They wanted to give a dossier to India’s National Security Advisor Ajit Doval or to the UNGA in New York. Swaraj’s riposte was simple: “If they can give dossiers, we can produce a living terrorist from Pakistan.”

The collapse of the talks, though, raises some important questions and prime among them is whether the talk about the talks is always a facade. The trouble started soon after Modi and Sharif agreed to the talks when they met in Ufa last month. By the time, Sharif reached Islamabad, criticism back home was mounting.

At that point, Firstpost editor R Jagannathan had written: “It is premature and wholly illogical to term the decisions announced after the Narendra Modi-Nawaz Sharif meeting in Ufa, Russia, as either a ‘breakthrough’ or even the breaking of a ‘deadlock’.”

“India is not going to ease up on Kashmir or Siachen, and Pakistan is not going to play ball on any issue of vital interest to India – especially jihadi terror fostered by the Pakistani Deep State (army, ISI), or even the trial of 26/11 mastermind Zakiur Rahman Lakhvi. References to terrorism and the trial are just there for the optics – which may be worth having, but it won’t mean anything on the ground. Modi’s proposed visit to Pakistan next year may be great for photo-ops, but that’s about it.”

And that is exactly what has happened. It is important for both sides to show the international community that they are ‘trying’ to talk; that they are ‘trying’ to sort issues out on their own. If anything, this is a facade that both sides try their hardest to keep up but perhaps they need to ask themselves if it truly is worth it?

Many in Kashmir would ask whether one can talk of terrorism in India without actually talking of Kashmir itself. Isn’t that the bone of contention? Hasn’t it always been? So when India and Pakistan talk about ‘outstanding issues’ shouldn’t they both have been more specific if they were truly serious about the talks. But then again, maybe they wanted this grey area to exist because it gives them an escape route.

There is no way that the Modi government didn’t know that the K-word wouldn’t be mentioned during the talks but they deliberately chose to let it remain vague. It hurt no one and even allowed BJP to claim the UFA talks as a major victory for Modi, after all he went out of his way to contact Sharif.

In India, at least, we know the buck really stops at Modi. So if he wants to adopt a muscular policy then that is what the Army will do. But in Pakistan, Sharif is weakening and whether he can truly push others to agree to his agenda seems more unlikely with every passing month. So increasingly, his words count for less.

According to a report in the Economist, ‘Early in office, Mr Sharif would not consult the army on any policy.’ But that has changed rather radically and there is no way that he agreed to talks at UFA without the blessings of General Raheel Sharif. Still maybe the General wanted to just paint the PM in a bad light.

Both sides also knew that sooner, rather than later, Kashmir was going to enter the argument. Honestly, the grey area was there to account for exactly that.

India made it clear to Pakistan that a meeting between the separatists and Aziz was not appropriate, Pakistan reacted strongly to insist that it would not depart from the “established past practice” of interacting with separatist Hurriyat leaders. It almost felt like a set-up and a reason to dismiss any further dialogue between the two countries as a mirage; an optical illusion caused by our wants rather than reality.

This is why it is difficult to trust either side. This is the cloak and dagger stuff that politicians refer to as diplomacy. But as things stand, it isn’t going to help India; it isn’t going to help Pakistan and nor is it going to help the people of Kashmir.

And if there is one question that Modi and Sharif need to truthfully answer, it is this: Is the breakdown of talks what they truly wanted? If it wasn’t, then they needed to do more to ensure that the talks didn’t collapse this easily because in reality all that has happened could easily have been foreseen and accounted for.

— With inputs from Reuters

India talks tough, advises against Pakistan NSA Sartaj Aziz meeting separatist leaders

India today made it clear to Pakistan that it should not go ahead with the meeting of its NSA Sartaz Aziz with Hurriyat representatives here when he comes to hold talks with his Indian counterpart Ajit Doval, saying it will not be “appropriate”.

India today made it clear to Pakistan that it should not go ahead with the meeting of its NSA Sartaz Aziz with Hurriyat representatives here when he comes to hold talks with his Indian counterpart Ajit Doval, saying it will not be “appropriate”.In a clear message to the Pakistan High Commission, which has invited hardline Kashmir separatist leaders Syed Ali Shah Geelani and others separatists, India said such a meeting would not be in keeping with the spirit and intent of the understanding reached at UFA, Russia to jointly work to combat terrorism.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”India has advised Pakistan yesterday that it would not be appropriate for Sartaz Aziz to meet with Hurriyat representatives in India,” spokesperson in the External Affairs Ministry Vikas Swarup said in a tweet. He tweeted that India has sought confirmation of its proposed agenda for the NSA-level talks that was conveyed to the Pakistani side on August 18.The two NSAs are scheduled to meet in New Delhi for talks on terrorism-related issues for the first time on August 23, as decided in a meeting between Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and Nawaz Sharif last month in Ufa in Russia.