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Imran Khan brands Narendra Modi and Nawaz Sharif ‘cowards’ for allegedly holding secret meeting

Nawaz Sharif and Modi held a secret meeting. Leaders do not need to hold meetings in secret. In fact Sharif is afraid of the (Pakistani) establishment and Modi of extremists in India.

Reuters
Pakistani cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan said that Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and Nawaz Sharif had acted “cowardly” by holding a “secret” meeting at the SAARC summit in Kathmandu last year which was denied by the Pakistan government. “A leader shows courage. He is not afraid of any one.Nawaz Sharif and Modi held a secret meeting. Leaders do not need to hold meetings in secret. In fact Sharif is afraid of the (Pakistani) establishment and Modi of extremists in India. That is why they held a meeting in secret,” Pakistan Tehreek- i-Insaf chief Khan said adding that by doing so the leaders had acted “cowardly” and lost credibility.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Addressing a press conference, Khan also termed both Sharif and Modi as “vision-less” leaders. Reacting sharply to Khan’s statement, Sharif’s spokesman Musaddaq Malik said, “Imran Khan should be ashamed of himself for levelling baseless allegations against Mr Sharif,” adding that no such meeting ever took place.”Modi got a wonderful opportunity to fight poverty but he chose some other path which is unfortunate,” Khan said adding leaders sell their vision to their people.He further said India and Pakistan hold immense potential to benefit from bilateral trade, citing the example of the European Union where the concept of borders is insignificant.He said the subcontinent is one of the world’s poorest regions so the leaders need to re-prioritise their priorities. “Through improved trade relations between Pakistan and India, and by implementing policies that aim to end poverty and resolve disputes like the Kashmir issue, our leaders can create peace in both countries. Few extremists who resist will always resist and need to be marginalised through public opinion,” Khan said.

No secret meeting held between Modi-Nawaz in Kathmandu: Government

On Tuesday, Pakistan’s Federal Government spokesman had also rubbished reports, saying no such meeting was held during the SAARC conference in Kathmandu

Sharif- Modi

The External Affairs Ministry on Wednesday trashed reports of a secret meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif on the sidelines of SAARC summit in Kathmandu last year.Spokesperson in the External Affairs Ministry Vikas Swarup called the reports based on a book as completely baseless. “The Report is completely baseless. NO such meeting took place in Kathmandu during the SAARC Summit,” he said in a tweet while responding to queries on whether the meeting had taken place or not.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>On Tuesday, Pakistan’s Federal Government spokesman had also rubbished reports, saying no such meeting was held during the SAARC conference in Kathmandu. Media reports quoting a book said that a year ago, Modi and Sharif held an hour-long secret meeting where the two leaders shared their constraints while agreeing they needed more time and greater political space to move forward with public engagements. Earlier in the day, the Congress sought a clarification from the government on the issue.”Did the Prime Minister at all have a meeting with Pakistan PM? If yes, then why did his government keep it secret? Was it for image? Optics? 56-inch-chest or for political deliverables?” party spokesman Abhishek Singhvi asked while talking to reporters. If it is yes, then did the Prime Minister consider the Ministry of External Affairs either incompetent or incapable as he had to engage an industrialist for the purpose, Singhvi asked.Asked for his reaction, a senior BJP leader said, “Anyone who understands the way Modi conducts his foreign affairs would realise that he believes in direct diplomacy. So, involving anyone else is almost out of the question.”

PM Narendra Modi’s ‘Mann ki Baat’ in sync with upcoming Paris climate change convention

“The world is concerned about climate change. Checking global warming is everyone’s responsibility and energy conservation is the best way to curb rising temperature,” Modi said.

Ahead of his visit to the 21st Conference of Parties of United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change –the COP21 in Paris–Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday drew the nation’s attention towards climate change and global warming in the 14th episode of his ‘Mann Ki Baat’. Talking about the recent floods in Tamil Nadu, which has claimed around 170 lives and caused massive property damage in the state, Modi in his bi-monthly radio address said the tragedy was a result of a growing global warming that is causing an unexpected climate change in the world. “It is painful when there are crises during festivals. I have faith in the strength of Tamil Nadu that the state will recover soon and will play its role in taking the country ahead,” he said in his 27-minute talk.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”The world is concerned about climate change. Checking global warming is everyone’s responsibility and energy conservation is the best way to curb rising temperature,” Modi said. Talking about increasing pollution levels in the country–another causative factor for climate change –Modi stressed on educating farmers on the ill-effects of burning post-harvest crop stubble. “Our farmers are no less than scientists, we need to train them and make them aware of the impact of burning crop stubble,” Modi said, adding that the top layer of the soil is damaged in the process destroying the fertility of the soil in the process. The leftover of farming is also of great use, it is a fertiliser and organic food in itself that can be used for better crop yield and will also be of use to farmers. It can also be used as animal food, he said. Modi was referring to the recent crop stubble burning by Punjab farmers that had submerged a major portion of northern India, including Delhi, in a thick haze for days. The incident had got international attention, with NASA taking note of the fires and the fog that added to Delhi’s existing pollution. As part of his climate change measures, he encouraged usage of renewable sources of energy, Modi gave an example of a Noor Jehan from Kanpur, who is using solar energy to provide light to the poor. “She has formed a committee of women and has set up a plant of solar energy lanterns. For a minimal cost of Rs. 100, she rents out the lanterns,” Modi said. The Prime Minister, who along with a 25-member delegate will leave for Paris in the later half of Sunday for the 12-day conference, talked about the meeting in a series of tweets, the first of which read, “Leaving for Paris, where I will join @COP21. In the Summit, we will deliberate on crucial issues relating to environment & climate change.He also said at the COP21, he would inaugurate the India Pavilion, “showcasing India’s harmony with nature, environment & commitment to mitigate climate change”, and that he would also jointly host a meeting of International Solar Alliance with French President Francois Hollande and attend the ‘Mission Innovation’ hosted by US President Barack Obama. India has set a target of availing 175 giga watt of power through renewable resources by 2022. Talking about rising natural disasters –another side effect of environmental degradation –Modi said SAARC nations should come together to work on disaster preparedness. “After the Nepal earthquake, I told Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif that the SAARC nations should conduct a joint exercise to prepare for natural disasters,” he said.

PM Modi calls on SAARC nations to join hands for disaster preparedness

“After the earthquakes in Nepal, I called Prime Minister Sharif and suggested him that all SAARC nations must hold joint exercises for disaster preparedness,” Modi said.

Modi calls SAARC nations to join hands for disaster preparedness

PTI
Stressing on the need of preparedness to deal with disasters in the South Asian region, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday said he had proposed to his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif that all SAARC nations must hold joint exercises for disaster preparedness.”After the earthquakes in Nepal, I called Prime Minister Sharif and suggested him that all SAARC nations must hold joint exercises for disaster preparedness. I am glad that Delhi saw a table talk exercise and a seminar workshop of best practices by all SAARC countries. This is a good beginning,” he said. Prime Minister Modi also expressed his concern over the floods in Tamil Nadu.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Related Read: PM Modi speaks about climate change, wants to turn ‘Ek Bharat Shresth Bharat’ into scheme “Low pressure over southeast Bay of Bengal brought rains to Tamil Nadu that claimed 184 lives. However, rains continue to lash many parts of the state, including Chennai and its suburbs. Kelambakkam (Kancheepuram) and Kodavasal (Tiruvarur) received the maximum of 4 cm and 3 cm of rain, respectively,” he said.”The state has already received a rainfall of 483.6 mm, which is higher than the total rainfall it receives during the entire northeast monsoon season, which was 440.4 mm which went up to December,” he added.Prime Minister Modi said Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa has announced a relief of Rs. 4 lakhs each to the families of the victims. The Prime Minister had on November 23 instructed immediate release of financial assistance of Rs 939.63 crores to deal with the flood situation in Tamil Nadu.

Strained ties between India, Pakistan affecting growth of South Asia: Manmohan Singh

Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday said strained ties between India and Pakistan have been coming in the way of development of South Asian region.

Former PM Manmohan Singh

PTI
Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday said strained ties between India and Pakistan have been coming in the way of development of South Asian region.He also said the 21st century will be the era of rise of China and India and during this period “cooperation and competition” will go hand in hand.”Strained ties between India and Pakistan have been a major factor in preventing growth of cooperative regional development strategies in South Asia,” Singh said in his 25-minute speech at the conference organised by Centre for Research in Rural and Industrial Development (CRRID) in Chandigarh.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Singh also said that “there will be challenges posed by Pakistan’s current internal situation and the future situation in Afghanistan. Geo-politics of the Indian Ocean region will also be the fulcrum of India’s foreign policy.” He said that the primary focus of India’s foreign policy has to remain in the realm of economic diplomacy.Singh said,”In south Asia our attempts to build on our shared heritage and culture have often been impeded by geo-politics and by our failure to overcome the challenge of geographical and economic asymmetry.”Proximity and connectivity that should have been the foundation of building strong economic linkages to build SAARC as another ASEAN have eluded the nations of south Asia…,” he said. Singh said that scholars of south Asia need to ponder as to why “we in south Asia move so slowly in matters of strengthening trade and infrastructure linkages when the benefits to our people and governments are so obvious?”.He said that “India is on the threshold of change, provided the right policies are adopted”. “Domestic reforms are the key to putting India on a higher growth path and giving the country economic heft to conduct a pro-active foreign policy,” the veteran Congress leader said. He said that this century will belongs to China and India.”21st century will be the era of rise of China and India. As this happens, cooperation and competition will go hand in hand. We are already witnessing several manifestations of these trends in South China sea and the Indo-Pacific region as a whole.”The recent changes in Japan’s Constitution giving more leeway for the deployment of Japanese defence forces abroad is yet another indicator of this trend,” the former PM said. Singh pointed out that for India, “it is an era of transition and consolidation”.”Inclusive economic growth remains the bedrock of our country’s future. Infrastructure, education, development of skills, universal access to healthcare must be at the core of our national policies.”Being a strong and diversified economy will provide the basis for India playing a more important global role. Hence the primary focus of India’s foreign policy has to remain in the realm of economic diplomacy,” Singh said. “India and Pakistan need sustained engagement to realise the vast potential of benefits of liberalisation of trade and investment in the South Asian region,” Singh, a noted economist, asserted. He said that Central and South Asia are geographically contiguous but distant in terms of connectivity.”It is so utterly obvious that an energy deficient region like South Asia that is close to energy surplus region like Central Asia should become natural partners. Yet this has not happened though strenuous efforts have been made on the Turkemenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline project that could be a win-win situation for all stakeholders,” he said.Singh, who was accompanied by his wife Gursharan Kaur, was speaking at the concluding session of the international conference ‘Cooperative Development, Peace and Security in South and Central Asia’. Yesterday, President Pranab Mukherjee was the chief guest at the conference.The former PM said that south and central Asian nations are India’s natural regional partners and engaging them must be at the core of our economic diplomacy. “India’s policy planning structure has to be revamped for meeting these challenges and I hope CRRID will be at the forefront of institutions assisting such policy planning,” he said.He pointed out that connection of electricity grids has now provided benefits to Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal, “though not in equal measure”.”Railway connectivity is still work in progress, as are trade facilitation measures and regulatory issues. It appears that Pakistan has chosen to integrate with China via the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and looks westwards towards Iran for energy cooperation,” he said. The former PM said that the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project is being revived after the Iran nuclear deal and lifting of sanctions on Iran.”Pakistan has signalled that it sees much greater benefit in its northern and western economic linkages than under the SAARC umbrella. It is, however, difficult to forsee that Pakistan can ignore its links to the East,” he stated.Singh said that South Asia accounts for nearly 40 per cent of the world’s population (1.64 billion), yet its contribution to global GDP is mere three per cent. “Hence nearly 25% of South Asians live on less than US $1 per capita per day. The potential for growth is enormous. Yet the South Asia Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA) remains hobbled and bogged down in non-tariff barriers, negative lists for trade, phyto-sanitary restrictions and poor border trade infrastructure acting as obstacles to enhancing free flow of goods in the region.Continuing further, the former PM said “the uncertain political and economic conditions prevailing in Af-Pak region have impeded connectivity and left few options for increasing trade and economic linkages between these two regions. The International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) can help in developing these linkages but can this corridor compete with CPEC?Iran is yet to fully come out of the shadow of international sanctions and its participation is the key to the INSTC. India-Iran cooperation in developing the Chahbahar port in southern Iran must, therefore, be fast tracked”. Touching upon crucial issue of climate change, Manmohan Singh said “climate change and global warming pose yet another major challenge to world prosperity”.”This challenge has to be tackled creatively at the forthcoming Conference of Parties (CoP) scheduled to be held in December 2015 in Paris. “Among the whole host of issues, the most important would be financing arrangements and affordable access technology for developing countries,” he said.He also said that viable strategies for sustainable energy security, laying emphasis on renewable energy sources and clean coal technologies, have to receive much greater attention in controlling carbon emissions.”However, there can be no effective global arrangement without meeting the development needs of the majority of the world’s population.”National mitigation measures are important but ceilings on carbon emissions without legally binding arrangements for financing and affordable access to technology will be unacceptable to the majority of developing countries. “A global paradigm can be constructed and it is not beyond the reach if all stakeholders are on board. Inflexibility and ideological rigidity must not become deal breakers, particularly on the issue of Intellectual Property Rights,” Singh pointed out.On CRRID, Singh said the crucial role of think tanks and similar institutions in assisting governments to navigate the complex world of geo-politics and geo-economics in our contemporary world cannot be underestimated.”This is particularly important at a time when the current international order is in flux. The rise of China, since 1980, is a defining feature of the 21st century.”As the second largest economy in the world today, it has given China the wherewithal to implement widespread modernisation. It has also upgraded its military machine, providing growing capabilities for projecting power.”The challenge before the world is to create a global environment conducive to a peaceful rise of China,” Singh said. On the economic front, Singh said the establishment of institutions like the New Development Bank (BRICS Bank) and the Asian Infrastructural Investment Bank (AIIB) “indicate a new trend that seeks to take advantage of China’s greatly enhanced resource capabilities to dilute the influence of the Bretton Woods institutions that have so far ruled the roost in the post World War-2 era. India has rightly, in my view, decided to join both institutions”.”Other institutions like the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation are going to play an increasingly important role in the management of geo-political relations in Asia, with India and Pakistan joining the organisation. Engagement with the Eurasian Economic Zone will open new avenues for cooperation with the Central Asian countries,” he said.

PM Narendra Modi reviews key projects including Mumbai Metro

During the meeting, which lasted several hours, Modi laid stress on development of the solar energy parks in 17 states across the country and exhorted the state officials to be proactive in creating conducive policy framework for speedy implementation of the solar power projects.

Less that 24 hours after he returned from a a seven-day visit to the US and Ireland, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday reviewed key national projects, including the Mumbai Metro Project Line 3 (Colaba-Bandra-SEEPZ), their pace of development and status with the central and state officials in his sixth interaction with the ‘babus’ through PRAGATI (the ICT-based, multi-model platform for Pro-active governance and timely implementation). During the meeting, which lasted several hours, Modi laid stress on development of the solar energy parks in 17 states across the country and exhorted the state officials to be proactive in creating conducive policy framework for speedy implementation of the solar power projects. The PM expressed concern at the undue delay in processing of requests for patents and trademarks. He directed officials to bring these processes in line with global standards, within a reasonable timeframe. He also called for an overhaul of the patent application filing process, and a drastic reduction in the number of forms required for this process.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> Modi also reviewed the progress of the key infrastructrure projects in the Railways, Metro Rail, Roads, power and aviation sectors as also coal and iron ore mining. Officials said, the Prime Minister was keen to know the progress of implementation of the National Food Security Act, 2013 and Aadhar card enrollment across the country. He raised few questions and emphasized officials for speedy implementation so that citizens can avail the benefits of these initiatives. At the request of the Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhlesh Singh Yadav, he also reviewed the Lucknow Metro Rail Project (Phase 1A), and expressed satisfaction that several clearances have been given after the project was flagged for review under PRAGATI. The Prime Minister also reviewed the Khurda-Bolangir new Broad Gauge Rail link, on the request of the State of Odisha as also the project for new Pakyong Airport in Sikkim, describing it as a crucial project for connectivity and development of tourism in the state, and urged the state government to work proactively for its timely implementation. The PM also reviewed the progress of important Indian projects in Afghanistan, including the Parliament Building and the Salma Dam. The Prime Minister asked all concerned departments to ensure that development projects being implemented by India in the SAARC region, are implemented expeditiously, said officials, who attended the meeting.

NSA-level talks fiasco: Modi has a clear Pakistan policy, but will it work?

The Sensex fell by nearly 1600 points on Monday; the rupee touched a two-year low against the dollar. Pity there is no index to measure the direction of India-Pakistan relationship. Had there been one, it would have shown a new low, even a free fall after the acrimonious end to the fiasco over NSA-level talks.

The only safe prediction about India-Pakistan ties is that they will remain unpredictable. We have seen so many flip-flops, bizarre U-turns and somersaults in the past two years that nobody can say with certainty what will be the next big event in India-Pakistan diplomacy.

Representational image. AFPRepresentational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

Pakistan is lucky that Narendra Modi is not the leader of the opposition in India. Had he been in opposition, Modi would have ripped apart Pakistan for the continuous firing on the LoC, repeated incursions on the border, its support to Kashmiri separatists and incurable habit of wriggling out of talks and negotiations.

Thankfully for Pakistan, the Indian Prime Minister is bound by various compulsions — domestic as well as international — and he can’t afford to have a rigid Pakistan policy. Instead of having a long-term plan, Modi has to resort to ad-hocism, react to events, blow with the wind and fine-tune India’s diplomacy on the go. Modi has to take turns being a peace dove, probably under international pressure, and a hawk, certainly under domestic compulsions and because of impending elections, like the ones facing him in Bihar.

During the 2014 election campaign Modi berated Pakistan at every available opportunity. But he surprised everybody by inviting Nawaz Sharif to his swearing-in, conveying, like British prime minister Neville Chamberlain in 1938, hopes of ‘peace for our time’. A few months later Sharif and Modi were seen sulking at the SAARC summit so much that they didn’t even bother greeting each other publicly. And then the two met at Ufa and announced resumption of dialogue, only to cancel it because of disagreement over the guest-list and the menu.

Knowing Modi and Sharif, hope is just a volte face away. For all we know, India may soon send a shawl for the women in Sharif’s household, eliciting a box of mangoes as return gift. There is still ample scope for a bilateral exchange that could lead to a selfie at the SAARC summit in Islamabad, where Sharif expects Modi next year, if not on his own volition, then at least after some prodding by the US.

Unlike Chamberlain, we can still be hopeful of peace in our time.

But, at the moment, everybody is confused. “Sitting on this side of the border, one cannot fathom what the Indian leadership is thinking…In Pakistan, the general feeling is that India is not interested in talks. In fact, many pundits had earlier predicted that New Delhi would call off the talks before anything could be discussed on the table. We believe here that India wants to call the shots but we are unwilling to give in,” writes Kamal Siddiqi, editor of the Express Tribune.

Many in India echo his sentiment. Former Indian high commissioner to Pakistan, Satyabrata Pal, laments in Thewire.com the “sad farce that has played out over the past few days in Delhi shows once again how wise the man was who warned that one should never underestimate the predictability of stupidity.”

Could there be a method to this farce? Some experts believe that Modi has a clearly defined Pakistan policy, with two objectives. One, to address the domestic constituency by raising the bogey of Pakistan intermittently and satiating the anti-Pakistan feelings of his core voter by humiliating the neighbour publicly.

The second objective, according to believers in the Modi-has-a-Pak-policy theory, is to isolate Pakistan in the international fora and in the sub-continent. Indian strategic affairs expert C Raja Mohan writes the Modi government might be betting on a favourable outcome based on “the premise that the balance of forces in the region and beyond are turning India’s favour and that Delhi can be more assertive on cross-border terrorism in Kashmir.” But, he concludes by warning that if Modi’s bold gamble on Pakistan fails, India will have to pay a huge price, especially in Kashmir.

Kamal Siddiqi notes the recent efforts Modi has made to mend relations with Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and the Emirates. He argues that Pakistan needs to win back old friends and make new ones to ensure Modi doesn’t get other leaders to go along with him.

Can India isolate Pakistan and rub its nose in the ground by avoiding negotiations? It will be possible only if Modi makes China, Russia and the US acquiesce to the policy of keeping Pakistan away from the discussion table unless India sets the agenda and the neighbour agrees without a whimper of protest. He will succeed only if the global community’s sees Kashmir as more important than Pakistan’s strategic value vis a vis Afghanistan? More importantly, his plan would be viable only if India is able to deal with the fallout of increased hostility in Kashmir, where the ground is fertile for radicalism and unrest.

Of course, when everything else fails, he can go back to the shawls and mangoes.

No alternative to reconciliation between India and Pak: PDP president Mehbooba Mufti

The ruling Peoples Democratic Party today said the heightened tensions along the Line of Control (LoC) should remind India and Pakistan about the “inevitability of dialogue” to find a just and pragmatic solution to all the contentious issues.

Mehbooba Mufti

The ruling Peoples Democratic Party today said the heightened tensions along the Line of Control (LoC) should remind India and Pakistan about the “inevitability of dialogue” to find a just and pragmatic solution to all the contentious issues.Asserting that there was no alternative to reconciliation between the neighbouring nations, PDP president Mehbooba Mufti underlined the importance of finding a solution to the jolt received by the peace process, in the wake of a series of ceasefire violations by Pakistani troops in the recent past.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”PDP visualizes and is striving for a space of dignity and opportunity for the people of Jammu and Kashmir in a larger paradigm of friendship between India and Pakistan. We cannot visualize any alternative to reconciliation and dialogue between our country and Pakistan.”The hostility between the two countries has hit the people of the state the hardest and the incidents on the borders and LoC should keep reminding the two countries the inevitability of sitting across the table to find a just and pragmatic solution to all the contentious issues,” she said.Mehbooba was addressing a party workers convention in Anantnag district of south Kashmir. She expressed grief and shock over the recent civilian killings in Balakote sector of district Poonch in shelling from across the border.”While I extend my heartfelt condolences to the families of innocent victims of cross-border shelling, I would request the stakeholders to de-escalate the tension and allow the people of the state to live in peace,” she said.The Anantnag MP reiterated that attempts are being made to subvert the peace process in the Valley and asked the Prime Minister to step up his efforts in the wake of such attempts.”With a decisive mandate at his back, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has the opportunity to revive the process of reconciliation in the sub-continent. The prevailing alarming situation along the borders in Jammu and Kashmir necessitates the urgency of reviving the composite dialogue process,” she said.Mehbooba said the significant reconciliatory measures taken between 2002 and 2005, when PDP was in power for the first time, in and around Jammu and Kashmir, both on internal and external fronts, had not only helped improve the security scenario in the region, but within the state as well.”At a time when we are envisioning free movement of people and goods across the borders in south Asian region, J-K can’t afford to slide into another gloomy era of uncertainty and devastation,” she said. The PDP president said after decades of agony, people had started seeing a ray of hope in the peace process, which “unfortunately is under severe threat today”.”I hope that the dark shadows of pessimism cast over the peace process will not jeopardize the region’s security and stability as any such scenario would have disastrous consequences for the people living in the region,” she said.Welcoming Modi’s vision to boost intra-SAARC physical connectivity, Mehbooba said, the forum for South Asian Cooperation can’t realize its full potential unless India and Pakistan end their decades old hostilities and build a cooperative relationship around Jammu and Kashmir.”J-K could become a bridge in this new paradigm of intra-SAARC connectivity instead of remaining a bone of contention in the region. By boosting connectivity between South Asian countries, SAARC will not only gain relevance but strength as well,” she said.”The fulfilment of SAARC’s vision can’t happen in isolation and necessitates a cooperative relationship between India and Pakistan with Jammu and Kashmir becoming a hub of new economic collaboration in the region,” she added.The PDP president said the plethora of problems facing the state today, including security concerns, cynicism, alienation, lack of connectivity, economic deprivation, rebuilding of flood-hit infrastructure, resource constraints, unemployment and social corrosion have to be taken head-on.The country’s leadership will have to take bold political and economic initiatives to address the security and developmental concerns of the people of Jammu and Kashmir and liberate them from the psychological and geographical siege, she said.

UAE visit: Nine major things PM Modi said to Indian diaspora in Dubai

During his 75 minute speech Modi spoke about various issues. The Prime Minister spoke on a range of issues including ties with Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Maldives, Bhutan and steps for bolstering connectivity and trust among SAARC countries.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday addressed a gathering of around 50,000 Indians at the Dubai International Cricket stadium.During his 75 minute speech, the Prime Minister spoke on a range of issues including ties with Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Maldives, Bhutan and steps for bolstering connectivity and trust among SAARC countries.Modi, the first Indian Prime Minister to visit UAE in 34 years, said, “Wherever my Indians are, we never see the colour of the passport, their link with the motherland is enough.” He wound up his 70-minute speech by asking the crowd to chant after him “Bharat Mata ki Jai” with raised arms.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Here is what Modi saidAbout TerrorismPitching for a “decisive battle” against terrorism, Modi asked countries to choose if they are with sponsors of the menace or against them as he underlined that dialogue is the only way to resolve all issues with neighbours.Message to PakistanModi, without naming Pakistan, said that India wants good relations with all neighbouring countries. “I keep telling all neighbouring countries that like all people who have chosen the path of violence will have to come to the dialogue table at some point of time, similarly dialogue is the only way to resolve issues.””Samajnewale samajh jayenge. Akalmand ko ishara kaafi hai (Those who need to understand will get the message. Signal is enough for them. Those involved in terrorism must be punished and this message has come out clearly from here,” he said while referring to the India-UAE joint statement which talked about collective fight against terrorism.”Terrorism does not have any boundary… Everyone will have to decide whether they are with terrorism or against it,” Modi said.He said “false distinction” between good terrorism and bad terrorism will not work and action must be taken against all those involved in perpetrating violence.”Good Taliban, bad Taliban. Good terror, bad terror…This won’t work. Time has come now for a decisive battle between those supporting terrorism and those believing in humanity,” he said.Swipe at UN Security CouncilWhile talking about terrorism, Modi took a swipe at UN Security Council, saying that it has not been able to define terrorism and which country should be declared as “terrorist state”.In this context, he said a proposal on Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism has been pending for long and the UAE has backed India’s stand on the matter.Reference to Naga Peace AccordGiving the example of recent Naga peace accord, Modi said all those who are on the path of violence should shun it and come to the national mainstream.”Howsoever serious a problem may be, at the end talks is the only way to resolve it. Whether you come to the dialogue table after fighting for 10 years, 20 years or 40 years, you will have to come for talks. I want to tell those who have chosen the wrong path that violence does no good to anybody,” Modi said amid chant of “Modi-Modi”SAARC Connectivity On efforts to boost intra-SAARC connectivity on the pattern of European Union, Modi said that “some people” had problems, in oblique reference to Pakistan which was not forthcoming in finalising a pact.”Should we stop because some people had problem. Let them stay where they are. We are moving ahead. India, Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh have signed a pact for building connectivity.It is a major decision which will have implication in the long run,’ said Modi.The Prime Minister said India will next year launch a SAARC satellite which will provide free services to SAARC countries, meant for common people.”A new life has been infused in SAARC which was earlier a forum for sparring and efforts to corner India. Our dream is to take development of SAARC nations to newer heights,” he said adding “Trust is important in international relations.”Takes dig at previous governmentThe Prime Minister spoke on a range of issues including ties with Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Maldives, Bhutan and steps for bolstering connectivity and trust among SAARC countries.Taking a dig at earlier Indian governments, Modi said there were 700 weekly flights between India and UAE but it has taken 34 years for a Prime Minister to visit the important Gulf country.Recalls VajpayeeHailing the Indian diaspora, he recalled that the NRIs had overwhelmingly responded to Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s call for contributions the world imposed sanctions on India in the wake of nuclear tests 1998.Wishes KeralitesMuch to the delight of many Keralites in the audience, Modi wished them in Malayalam on the occasion of their new year’s day. He also assured the diapora com munity that his government will address their grivances and difficulties.Various measures for the welfare of diasporaTaking on board complaints of expatriates, the Prime Minister said an e-migrant portal has been set up to deal with such issues and the India Mission has been told to rectify technical hitches within a month.”A welfare fund for diaspora is to be set up for their benefit, to help them legally so that they can deal with problems,” Modi said while addressing a gathering of over 50,000 Indian expats in the Dubai Cricket Stadium here.Modi noted that Indian mission in UAE has set up an e-migrant portal to help Indian migrant workers and an online platform ‘MADAD’ to assist the diaspora.

New life has been infused in SAARC: PM Narendra Modi at Dubai

Earlier it was a forum for sparring and efforts to corner India, says PM Modi.

Earlier SAARC was a forum for sparring and efforts to corner India, says PM Modi.

Photo Courtesy: ANI Twitter
The Prime Minister spoke on a range of issues including ties with Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Maldives, Bhutan and steps for bolstering connectivity and trust among SAARC countries. On efforts to boost intra-SAARC connectivity on the pattern of European Union, Modi said that “some people” had problems, in oblique reference to Pakistan which was not forthcoming in finalising a pact. “Should we stop because some people had problem. Let them stay where they are. We are moving ahead. India, Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh have signed a pact for building connectivity. It is a major decision which will have implication in the long run,’ said Modi. The Prime Minister said India will next year launch a SAARC satellite which will provide free services to SAARC countries, meant for common people.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”A new life has been infused in SAARC which was earlier a forum for sparring and efforts to corner India. Our dream is to take development of SAARC nations to newer heights,” he said adding “Trust is important in international relations.”Taking a dig at earlier Indian governments, Modi said there were 700 weekly flights between India and UAE but it has taken 34 years for a Prime Minister to visit the important Gulf country.Hailing the Indian diaspora, he recalled that the NRIs had overwhelmingly responded to Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s call for contributions the world imposed sanctions on India in the wake of nuclear tests 1998.Much to the delight of many Keralites in the audience, Modi wished them in Malayalam on the occasion of their new year’s day. He also assured the diapora com munity that his government will address their grivances and difficulties. Taking on board complaints of expatriates, the Prime Minister said an e-migrant portal has been set up to deal with such issues and the India Mission has been told to rectify technical hitches within a month from today. To help Indian workers who are in large numbers here, he said instructions have been given to the Indian embassy to set up counsellor camps at places where the Indian community is concentrated in large numbers to deal with grievances.Additionally an Indian Community Welfare Fund has been established to help Indians in distress.

Sartaj Aziz confirms date for NSA-level meet: What to expect from his talks with Ajit Doval

Finally, the confirmation has come from Pakistan’s national security advisor Sartaz Aziz himself that he will be traveling to India for talks with his Indian counterpart Ajit Doval. Firstpost had earlier reported that Pakistan had no option but to go ahead with the NSA-level talks as per the dates proposed by India.

This will be the biggest diplomatic assignment for Doval, the legendary spy modern India has produced. The upcoming NSA-level talks in New Delhi on 23-24 August will set the tone and tenor of India-Pakistan engagement and decide if at all the two nuclear armed neighbours would resume a bilateral dialogue or would continue their sabre rattling against each other.

Ajit Doval and Sartaj Aziz. PTIAjit Doval and Sartaj Aziz. PTI

Ajit Doval and Sartaj Aziz. PTI

The talks will be extremely significant as the interlocutors will be top security bosses of the two sides. Obviously, the two NSAs are the most competent authorities to discuss what is ailing in India-Pakistan bilateral relationship and what needs to be done to take the dialogue trajectory to a meaningful level.

Structured talks under the NSA format, scheduled for the first time, will bring all contentious and core issues on the table. From the Indian point of view the talking points would include Pakistan’s continued support to terror activities in India, recent spurt in cross-border firing and infiltration attempts from Pakistan to India and other terror-related issues involving non-state actors in Pakistan.

From Pakistan’s perspective, the first and foremost point on the mind of Sartaz Aziz would be to make a strong pitch for the Kashmir issue to make up for the diplomatic attrition Pakistan faced at the Ufa summit between the two prime ministers Narendra Modi and Nawaz Sharif where the K word was conspicuously absent from the joint statement issued after the summit.

Sartaz Aziz can be expected to start a statement blitzkrieg on the Kashmir issue. If that were to happen indeed it would be indicative of turbulence ahead. India would then have to match the Pakistani shenanigans. However, this would be bad atmospherics. After all, a diplomatic process between two countries cannot be driven by media statements before the talks as it generally happens in the India-Pakistan context.

India will obviously be keeping a close tab on statements emanating from Pakistan. It will be equally important to see what kind of rhetoric Pakistan resorts to before the NSA-level talks.

Sartaz Aziz, Pakistan’s old fox who is well versed with the diplomatic and security environment in the India-Pakistan context as well as the regional context, can be expected to come up with a long list of Pakistani concerns vis a vis India. It has already been widely reported that Sartaz Aziz would be arriving in India with a “dossier” of Pakistan’s complaints against India, including India’s alleged activities in Pakistan’s Balochistan province and the alleged lack of progress in the Samjhauta Express case trial.

But Doval is no push over and the entire politico-military establishment of Pakistan knows that.

It is important for both the sides to ensure positive atmospherics for the upcoming NSA-level talks. It will be no less than plucking the moon to expect the two NSAs to wield a magic wand and set everything right on 23-24 August. Nobody is expecting that to happen. However, if no negativities emerge that in itself will be a very important positive.

This is eminently doable. The two NSAs can agree to disagree on anything and everything but their mission would be fairly successful even then if only they agree to stay engaged and inject a few confidence building measures to prepare a solid base for future engagement at different levels.

Pakistan has an added responsibility to ensure that India-Pakistan bilateral relations are not derailed any further because it is to host the next SAARC summit. Though no firm date has come about for the next SAARC summit, this writer understands that 3 July may be the likely date if all eight SAARC leaders confirm it.

Since SAARC charter stipulates that a summit can take place only when leaders of the countries are attending it, it would be difficult for Indian prime minister to travel to Pakistan if a major tension were to erupt between the two sides.

India will have to be on its guard all the more in the run up to the 23-24 August talks and be ready to deal with terror attacks as the past pattern shows an uptick in terror violence in India before any major bilateral engagement with Pakistan.

ISRO earns $100 million for launch of 45 foreign satellites

Indian Space Research Organisation has launched 45 satellites from 19 countries generating an income of $100 million.

Getty Images
India has earned about $100 million launching 45 foreign satellites till date and revenue from its commercial space missions is poised to grow with another 28 foreign satellites planned to be put into orbit between 2015 and 2017.This information was given by Science and Technology Minister Jitendra Singh in a written reply in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday while providing details of revenue earned by Antrix–the commercial arm of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO)–from launch of foreign satellites.Singh said Antrix has signed agreements for launching 28 satellites of six countries–Algeria, Canada, Germany, Indonesia, Singapore and the US during 2015-17. Until now, 45 satellites from 19 countries have been launched by the ISRO and the income generated through this amounts to around $17 million and 78.5 million Euros($85 million), he said.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Singh also informed that the government has sanctioned 15 smaller PSLV launchers worth Rs 3,090 crore which would be built during 2017-2020.In a response to another question, Singh elaborated on the initiation of chalking out a roadmap for the country’s space programmes in addressing short-term and long-term areas. On other issues, Singh said the expenditure on the ground system of the proposed SAARC satellite project will be borne by the regional bloc countries while India will bear the expenses on its building and launching.”While the cost towards building and launching a satellite will be met by the government of India, the cost towards ground system is expected to be sourced by respective SAARC countries,” Singh said in his reply.”The objective of this project is to develop a satellite for the SAARC region that enables a full range of services to all our neighbours in the areas of telecommunications and broadcasting applications like television, DTH, tele-education and disaster management,” he added. Incidentally, India has maintained that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ambitious SAARC satellite project was a “gift” by the country to its neighbours.

Easing norms: Will India extend Open Skies policy beyond Saarc nations?

New Delhi: The Ministry of Civil Aviation is finally at least thinking in bold terms, never mind if these thoughts eventually translate into some sort of policy action going forward or die a premature death at the discussion table itself. Minister A Gajapathi Raju today confirmed that there is some discussion within the ministry on extending the Open Skies policy beyond the Saarc region. Put simply, if the Open Skies policy is extended to other countries, it could mean easing of present restrictions on flights to and from other countries.

Union Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju. Image courtesy PIBUnion Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju. Image courtesy PIB

Union Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju. Image courtesy PIB

Will the ministry propose easier flying norms for carriers from Asean countries? Perhaps the Gulf region? No one is yet clear on what the proposal will be. But one thing is abundantly clear: the very fact that the ministry under a new secretary is even discussing a possible extension of Open Skies beyond Saarc is heartening. Specially since till a few weeks back, indications were that it will continue with restrictive stance on Indian airlines wanting to fly abroad, force our own airlines to mount flights to remote and regional areas by imposing a needlessly complicated Domestic Flying Credits formula and generally do everything else possible to stifle growth in the Indian aviation sector.

Raju said on the sidelines of a Ficci event on tourism today that “Open Skies is good….we can allow Open Skies if our airlines promise increased connectivity to tier 2 and tier 3 cities”. His deputy, Minister of State for Civil Aviation Mahesh Sharma also said there is a proposal to open up Indian skies.
A source in the know said Open Skies was one of the hottest debated topics in two marathon meetings the ministry officials have attended this month on preparing a draft Civil Aviation policy. But discussing Open Skies without a decision on removing the restrictive 5/20 provision, which bars Indian airlines from flying abroad without five years of domestic flying and 20 aircraft, makes little sense.

As per the present policy, India signs bilateral air services agreements (ASAs) with other countries. These agreements specify where all carriers from a particular country land in India, how many seats they can offer each week and some other similar specifications. In 2005, India signed an open skies agreement with the US which meant unlimited seat quotas between the two countries. The 2005 agreement also provided for seamless code-sharing between Indian and US carriers. A similar arrangement seems to be in place for flights coming in from SAARC countries but its details are not available with us. Raju admitted today that Indian airlines are not using seats allowed under the existing bilateral ASAs with many countries. He also repeated his stance on the 5/20 rule: “it needs to go”.

So will the ministry surprise everyone by simultaneously opening up Indian skies to foreign airlines and allowing Indian airlines free access to at least some international markets without any restrictions? This seems too optimistic, given the acrimonious debate over both these issues seen in the ministry meetings this month. According to sources, there were many reminders to all present about powerful, well-funded foreign airlines coming in the moment India opens its gates. Some of those present in the meetings also warned of Indian airlines dying if foreign airlines are allowed unlimited access to Indian passenger traffic. There were also fears about foreign airlines coming in to set shop in India and driving local carriers out of business if our skies open up.

Kapil Kaul of global aviation consultancy CAPA says, “Thinking of open skies without removing 5/20 is not feasible and realistic. Need unconditional removal of 5/20 and without adding any further complexity like DFCs. How can we have a policy which promotes open access for foreign airlines and is closed for Indian carriers?” Kaul says he does not see ‘Open Skies’ moving beyond discussions and drafts. India has to liberalize (not open skies), “We first need a rule based and transparent bilateral framework after serious inter ministerial consultations. So, government must focus on developing a bilateral framework that works and is outcome based.”

Has an Open Skies policy with the United Stated, now in place for a decade, lead to domination of the Indo-US routes by US carriers? Has a similar liberal stance for SAARC countries lead to Indian airlines being nudged out of lucrative routes? Will dismantling 5/20 actually urge airlines like Vistara (a joint venture between Tata Sons and Singapore Airlines) feed international hubs like SIngapore instead of benefitting local hub airports like the one in Delhi?

These are some of the questions that need to be answered before a comprehensive Civil Aviation policy is drafted by the ministry.

In the midst of all this, another related issue also needs pondering: Should the Indian government continue to put the blame on states for taxing Aviation Turbine Fuel to death, without itself looking at options to reduce the tax burden? In India, ATF — which accounts for anywhere between 35-45 percent of an airline’s operational costs — is significantly more expensive than in places like Dubai, Singapore etc.

Congress slams PM Modi’s Pakistan and China policy, says "bull has become bear"

The party described as “confusing” the government’s policies vis-a-vis the two neighbours, saying “diplomacy is not a sound and light show” in evidence during his visits abroad but needs “hard-nosed strategic planning”.
File Photo
dna Research & Archives
Accusing Prime Minister Narendra Modi of being soft on Pakistan and China, Congress on Monday said, “the bull has become a bear”.The party described as “confusing” the government’s policies vis-a-vis the two neighbours, saying “diplomacy is not a sound and light show” in evidence during his visits abroad but needs “hard-nosed strategic planning”.”Total confusion prevails. Diplomacy is not a sound and light show. It is hard-nosed strategic planning. This government lacks both experience and understanding. The ‘bull’ has become a ‘bear’,” senior party leader Kapil Sibal told reporters.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Recalling Modi’s frequent attacks on Pakistan during the Lok Sabha poll campaign, Sibal wondered how he had done a “U-turn” after becoming the Prime Minister.”You are now even willing to go to Pakistan and talk to Nawaz Sharif during the SAARC Conference….This government’s confusing signals have not only confused Pakistan but also confused our own people,” said Sibal.Congress has been targeting Modi since his meeting with his Pakistani counterpart Sharif on the sidelines of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit in Ufa, Russia, earlier this month where the two leaders decided to re-engage.Sibal said Modi’s foreign policy with regard to China is “even more confusing.””Chinese presence in the Indian Ocean stares us in the face. China has signed agreements for use of Gwadar port in Pakistan, Chittagong in Bangladesh, Hambantota in Sri Lanka and Sittwe in Myanmar. What is Modi’s response to it? Silence. China is wooing Maldives and Seychelles,” he added.Sibal insisted the “high-profile visits, sound and light shows” publicised in the US, China, Australia and the one proposed in the Silicon Valley may be good for publicity but hardly represent the protection of the country’s vital interests through a well thought out foreign policy.

First SAARC satellite will be launched by 2016, says ISRO chairman

Thiruvananthapuram: ISRO Chairman AS Kiran Kumar on Monday said the Indian space agency is planning to launch the first SAARC satellite by the end of next year.

Representational image. AP

Representational image. AP

Kumar said that there was a one-day meeting with SAARC nations on 22 June in which five representatives from each participating country, including Pakistan, took part.

“By December next year, we are expecting to launch this (SAARC) satellite,” Kiran Kumar told reporters at Akkulam near here.

Spectrum finalisation for the satellite is being worked out, he said.

Proposing satellite diplomacy with a view to playing a key role in the development of the region, Prime Minister Narendra Modi last year had asked ISRO to develop a SAARC satellite which can be dedicated as a ‘gift’ to the neighbours.

Modi had asked the scientists to work on a satellite that would provide full range of applications and services to all of India’s neighbours.

PTI

PM Modi to meet Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif in Russia tomorrow

Prime Minister Narendra Modi exchanged pleasantries with his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif in Ufa on Thursday on the eve of their first meeting in over a year.

PTI
Prime Minister Narendra Modi exchanged pleasantries with his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif in Ufa on Thursday on the eve of their first meeting in over a year.The two leaders briefly met each other at a dinner hosted by Russian President Vladimir Putin, host of the BRICS and SCO summits.Modi and Sharif will meet officially in Ufa on Friday morning after more than a year, a period that witnessed ups and downs in Indo-Pak relations over Islamabad’s attitude towards elements instigating terror against India.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>During tomorrow’s meeting on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Summit, Modi is expected to voice concerns over cross-border terrorism and discuss the state of bilateral ties and their future direction.Modi and Sharif met for the first time in New Delhi in May last year when the Pakistani leader came to attend the swearing-in ceremony of the Indian Prime Minister.The two leaders were last together in Kathmandu in November for the SAARC Summit but they did not have a bilateral meeting because of the acrimony between the two countries at that time over Pakistan’s envoy in New Delhi engaging with separatist Hurriyat leaders which led to the cancellation of Foreign Secretary-level talks.The two leaders will meet in a much-anticipated development during which the Indian leader is expected to voice concerns over terrorism and other cross-border activities.Setting the tone for Friday’s formal meeting, Modi and Sharif tonight exchanged pleasantries and chatted briefly when they came face-to-face at a dinner hosted by Russian President Vladimir Putin for leaders of five BRICS countries and 10 SCO nations in Ufa.The two leaders, who are here to attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Summit, are expected to discuss the status of the bilateral ties and the future direction.”It is confirmed. PM @narendramodi and PM Nawaz Sharif will have a bilateral meeting in Ufa tomorrow at 9.15 am (9.45 am IST) on sidelines of SCO Summit,” External Affairs Ministry spokesman Vikas Swarup tweeted.The confirmation came hours after Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar said that the “possibilities are always there” that the two leaders could meet.Officials said the two leaders would be reviewing the relationship and all issues could be on the table.”Terrorism for India is a major concern,” an official said, indicating that the issue could be taken up by Modi at tomorrow’s meeting. In Islamabad, Pakistan Foreign Office spokesman Qazi Khalilullah said bilateral issues of importance will be discussed in the Modi-Sharif meeting.”India has proposed a meeting and Pakistan has positively responded to it,” the spokesman said. Indian officials, while insisting that expectations should not be raised on tomorrow’s meeting, likened India- Pakistan relations to a cricket match. “You never know how the match will progress till it ends,” a senior official said.The official was commenting while contending that there have been positive gestures in India-Pakistan relations in the recent months, like Modi calling up Sharif to greet him on Ramzan which was followed by release of fishermen by both the countries.Earlier, Pakistani navy evacuated some Indians from war-torn Yemen while India evacuated some Pakistanis from quake-hit Nepal, he pointed out. When pointed out that in between Pakistan was angry at some remarks made by Modi in Bangladesh with regard to Pakistan, the official said, “sometimes a cricket match is disrupted by rains.”Modi and Sharif were last together in Kathmandu in November last for the SAARC Summit but they did not have a bilateral meeting because of acrimony between the two countries at that time.

Modi, Sharif to meet tomorrow morning in Russia

“It is confirmed. PM @narendramodi and PM Nawaz Sharif will have a bilateral meeting in Ufa tomorrow at 9.15 am on sidelines of SCO Summit,” External Affairs Ministry spokesman Vikas Swarup tweeted.

File picture

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif will meet in Ufa on Friday on the sidelines of the SCO Summit, an official confirmed on Thursday.”It is confirmed. PM @narendramodi and PM Nawaz Sharif will have a bilateral meeting in Ufa tomorrow at 9.15 am on sidelines of SCO Summit,” External Affairs Ministry spokesman Vikas Swarup tweeted. The confirmation came hours after Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar said that the possibilities are always there that the two leaders could meet.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Modi and Sharif had last met in Kathmandu in November at the SAARC Summit where they did not have a bilateral meeting. Earlier at the beginning of the holy month of Ramzan, Prime Minister Modi had called Sharif and extended his best wishes while stressing the need for having peaceful and bilateral ties.During his telephonic conversation, Modi had also conveyed to his Pakistani counterpart India’s decision to release detained Pakistani fishermen on the occasion of Ramzan. The call was seen by many as an attempt to reach out to Pakistan after leaders from both sides exchanged sharp comments after Modi’s critical remarks about Pakistan during his Bangladesh visit and in the wake of India’s military action in Myanmar.

India rejects Pakistan’s offer to assist in SAARC satellite project

Modi, during last SAARC Summit in Nepal in November, had announced India’s decision to develop the satellite which will benefit all SAARC countries in various fields including telecommunication and tele-medicine.

Representational Image
File Photo

India has rejected Pakistan’s offer to provide “technical” and “monetary” support to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ambitious SAARC satellite project, maintaining that it was a “gift” by the country to its neighbours. During a meeting of space experts from SAARC countries to discuss the modalities of the project last week, India also did not favour suggestions that it should be brought under the ambit of SAARC, asserting that deliberations at bloc level would delay the launch of the satellite on December 8, 2016, the SAARC Day when the government intends to do so.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> Modi, during last SAARC Summit in Nepal in November, had announced India’s decision to develop the satellite which will benefit all SAARC countries in various fields including telecommunication and tele-medicine. After giving “cold response” to the project, an eight- member Pakistani delegation attended the Space Technology meet on June 22 which saw the presence of experts from all SAARC member states. Among the South Asian nations, Sri Lanka and Pakistan have fairly advanced space programmes. “There was a proposal from the Pakistani side that it was ready to offer monetary and technical support. We politely declined it as the project is a gift from India to its SAARC neighbours,” said a senior government official. It has also declined demands from Pakistan that the satellite project should be taken up at the regional level. India said since it was a “gift” to its neighbours, it did not want to make it a “SAARC project”.”This would have meant deliberations and opinions from other countries and that would have taken time. The Prime Minister has specifically said that it was India’s gift to its neighbours. “There are so many other aspects that are involved. For instance, with the project comes the cost. Not all countries would be able to pay the cost and that would have held up the project. And we intend to complete by December 8, 2016, the SAARC Day,” the official said. However, the official said India was very much “open” to consultations from other SAARC nations on their requirements from the project. Several countries have given their “wish list”, but the satellite would primarily be for communication purposes, the official added. Also Read: SAARC satellite: India and other member countries hold talks

Centre to invest upto Rs 30,000 cr to double up highway stretch in West Bengal: Gadkari

Haldia: The centre is planning to add another 2,000 km of highway to the existing 2,000 km in West Bengal which will attract an investment of Rs 25,000-Rs 30,000 crore, Nitin Gadkari said in Haldia on Wednesday.

“We want to add another 2,000 km of national highway to the existing 2,000 km in the state”, Union Minister of Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari said at an event in Haldia.

Union Minister Nitin Gadkari. AFP

Union Minister of Road Transport and HIghways Nitin Gadkari. AFP

He was inaugurating a bio-diesel dispensing unit at the Haldia Dock Complex. The bio-diesel for the unit will be supplied by Emami Agrotech.

He said at least Rs 25,000-Rs 30,000 crore will be pumped into West Bengal by the centre on account of the additional 2,000 km highway.

Gadkari said he has plans to meet state’s Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and ask for her suggestions and proposals on the same.

In December 2014, the centre had already announced a Rs 6,000 crore road development package for West Bengal.

The network of efficient highways will ensure seamless connectivity in east India and can help the country to increase its freight carrying capability as well as related logistics in its plans for the SAARC road connectivity plan.

The SAARC road connectivity plan between India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan will enable quicker movement of people and goods across the borders which will benefit the entire region.

IANS

Onus on Pakistan to create environment for improving ties: Arun Jaitley

India has said its message to Pakistan is “very loud and clear” that it is interested in normalising ties but the onus of creating an environment for improving relationship depends on the “kind of provocations” that comes from its neighbour.

File Photo
PTI
India has said its message to Pakistan is “very loud and clear” that it is interested in normalising ties but the onus of creating an environment for improving relationship depends on the “kind of provocations” that comes from its neighbour.Addressing investors, analysts and business executives at the think-tank Council on Foreign Relations here on Thursday, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently spoke to his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif.”(With) Pakistan, the border frequently becomes tensed where there are exchanges on that border. I think the message in the context of Pakistan is that India is interested in improving the relationship with Pakistan and therefore the onus of responsibility for creating an environment in which the relationship can grow would also depend much more on Pakistan and the kind of provocations which come from there,” he said.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”This message that we are interested in normalising our relationship with them or at least improving our relationship with them and (that) the onus is on Pakistan for this purpose is very loud and clear,” he said during the discussion with former US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, who asked him about India’s foreign policy priorities.Pakistan and India have been involved in a war of words recently with leaders from both sides exchanging sharp comments after Prime Minister Modi’s critical remarks about Pakistan during his Dhaka visit and in the wake of India’s military action in Myanmar.Jaitley brought the issue of Pakistan at the end, after listing India’s “excellent” ties with its other neighbours such as Bhutan, Nepal, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.”There was a time, not so long ago, where India was in the midst of a disturbed neighbourhood and a number of problems of that disturbed neighbourhood was spilling into India,” he said, adding that Modi took an unprecedented decision to invite the heads of government of the SAARC nations for his swearing-in ceremony at New Delhi last year.”This turned out to be a very correct and a very positive move and since then we have not looked back,” he said.On India’s relations with China, Jaitley said Modi has particularly developed an “excellent relationship” even with the Chinese leadership.”We have a boundary issue with them and the boundary issue is unresolved. There are other several issues relating to China which are issues of our concern but at least the tense situation around the boundary does not exist,” he said, adding that economic and trade relations with Beijing have also become “fairly normal.”

India inks landmark cross border pact; more Saarc nations to join

Thimpu: India on Monday achieved a milestone with the signing of a motor vehicles pact with Bhutan, Nepal and Bangladesh enabling seamless transit of passenger, cargo and vehicles with the first stage of the $8 billion road connectivity project set to begin in October.

Besides, Myanmar and Thailand have agreed to develop a motor vehicle pact on lines of the draft Saarc Motor vehicle agreement, which will pave the way for greater economic cooperation in the ASEAN region.

Union Minister Nitin Gadkari. PTIUnion Minister Nitin Gadkari. PTI

Union Minister Nitin Gadkari. PTI

Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari on Monday signed the Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal (BBIN) Motor Vehicle Agreement (MVA) for Regulation of Passenger, Personal and Cargo Vehicular Traffic along with transport ministers of the other three nations here.

The BBIN MVA will not only reduce transport costs, but also foster development of multi-modal transport and transit facilities, enabling increased connectivity and promotion of greater trade between the four countries.

Transport Minister Gadkari addressing the conference at Thimpu said: “This MVA, which would eventually allow motor vehicles of all categories registered in our countries to move freely in the region, is a first and small but substantial step endorsing the commitment of our national leaders to deepen regional integration for peace, stability and prosperity.”

As per the agreement, the four countries will carry out a six-month work plan from July for the implementation of the BBIN MVA in accordance with the preparation of bilateral, perhaps trilateral or quadrilateral agreements and protocols, installation of the prerequisites for implementing the approved agreements, among others.

The staged implementation of the historic pact will begin in October this year.

In order to promote development of land transport that will connect supply and demand centres in the BBIN countries, a meeting of the Transport Secretaries of the four countries identified 30 priority transport connectivity projects with a total estimated cost of over $8 billion.

Gadkari said that India will work on signing a similar motor agreement with Myanmar and Thailand.

“I am happy to share with you all a significant initiative to strengthen connectivity of our sub-region to ASEAN. In this regard, a major breakthrough has been achieved between India, Myanmar and Thailand.

“Three nations have agreed to develop a similar framework MVA on the lines of draft SAARC Motor vehicle agreement,” he said.

Secretary level discussions were successfully concluded in Bengaluru this month and consensus has been reached on the text of the agreement, he added.

“On conclusion of this agreement, our sub-region will get access to the larger ASEAN market through seamless passenger and cargo movement,” the Minister said.

Transforming transport corridors into economic corridors could potentially increase intra-regional trade within South Asia by almost 60 percent and with the rest of the world by over 30 percent.

The corridors and their related routes were determined as per an analysis of regional and international trade patterns.

Gadkari said the MVA is the “over-arching” framework to fulfil the commitment to enhance regional connectivity. This will need to be followed through with formulation of required protocols and procedures in the shortest time possible to realise free movement of people and goods in the region.

This would need to be supplemented through building and upgrading roads, railways and waterways infrastructure, energy grids, communications and air links to ensure smooth cross-border flow of goods, services, capital, technology and people, he added.

“The agreement that we have drawn up gives ample flexibility to each country to take steps to operationalise the agreement as per the need and comfort of each nation.

“This endeavour was also actively supported by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), which functioned as the interim secretariat for the four-countries,” Gadkari said in his speech.

He further said: “I am informed that ADB is also ready to invest in road infrastructure projects…”

Progress and economic development of the countries in the region are inter-linked and an enhanced regional activity will give a boost to trade and commerce among the nations and with other regions through intra-regional and inter-regional trade.

Besides Gadkari, Bangladesh Minister of Road Transport and Bridges Obaidul Quader, Bhutan’s Minister of Information and Communications Lyonpo D N Dhungyel and Nepal’s Minister of Physical Infrastructure and Transport Bimalendra Nidhi represented their respective countries.

All the four countries agreed on a six-month work plan for the BBIN MVA, from July to December.

It includes formulation, negotiation, and finalisation of the necessary legal instruments and operating procedures for implementing the agreement.

It also includes installation of the pre-requisite systems and infrastructure for carrying out the approved arrangements, such as information technology systems, and tracking and regulatory systems.

The Saarc MVA was expected to be signed during the Saarc Summit in Kathmandu in November 2014, but it could not be signed due to Pakistan’s reservations.

The declaration at the then Kathmandu Summit encouraged member states to initiate regional and sub-regional measures for connectivity. Hence, a sub-regional MVA among Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal was considered.

PTI

Move over land border agreement; in Modi-Hasina era, it’s all about shipping

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PM Modi advised to visit Pakistan soon; BJP’s NE meet to hint at Pak policy

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been given a suggestion from political quarters to embark on a bilateral visit to Pakistan – a seemingly outlandish idea, but he has not rejected it.

A cooling off phase in India-Pakistan relations was already hinted by this writer here. Modi is well aware of the high risks involved and what the last bilateral prime ministerial visit by Atal Bihari Vajpayee to Pakistan in 1999 brought forth – Kargil War.

Though Vajpayee had traveled again to Islamabad in January 2004, this time on a multilateral agenda for attending SAARC summit in Islamabad, the impact of the Vajpayee government’s dalliances with Pakistan in the failed Agra Summit and the flopped Lahore bus journey was enough for his successor Manmohan Singh to be doubly circumspect about Pakistan.

So much so that the Pakistan-born Manmohan Singh did not visit Pakistan even once during his ten-year prime ministerial tenure, bilaterally or multilaterally. He genuinely tried to do so several times but was halted in his tracks by the ground situation in India-Pakistan relations.

But the examples of Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh are not that relevant in today’s context as unlike them PM Modi enjoys a road-roller majority in the Lok Sabha. PM Modi has much bigger political heft than what was available to his two predecessors.

PM Narendra Modi. PTIPM Narendra Modi. PTI

PM Narendra Modi. PTI

Moreover, there is another first in Modi’s case which is working more favourably for him than it did ever before in the history of independent India: the fact that Modi’s BJP is in power in Jammu and Kashmir.

BJP’s teething troubles with its Jammu and Kashmir coalition partner People’s Democratic Party (PDP) have not been repeated by the PDP for weeks.

Now let’s return to the point made upfront — that PM Modi has been given a suggestion from political quarters that he should undertake a bilateral visit to Pakistan.

This is a suggestion made at the political level only. The Ministry of External Affairs is not in the loop yet.

This writer understands that PM Modi wants the issue to be discussed in closed doors at the party level before it is brought in the government domain. More importantly, this exercise has already begun.

Obviously no decision has been taken yet. It is too early.

This writer spoke on off-the-record basis to several key diplomats who would eventually be responsible for taking this policy further if the Modi government were to eventually arrive at a decision. They naturally said they were not aware of any such move from the government.

However, if the Modi government were to take a decision to engage with Pakistan at the summit level and that too in Pakistan, these diplomats hinted at several prerequisites, considering the important fact that nothing has changed on the ground from India’s perspective in the Pakistan context.

First and foremost, PM Modi will have to come up with a calibrated Pakistan strategy, taking into account not only the bilateral issues but also the regional and international dynamics that influence India-Pakistan relations.

Second, concrete deliverables will have to be planned and executed to perfection if PM Modi were to travel to Pakistan on a bilateral visit.

Last but not the least, it will have to be ensured that there is no repeat of the two major fiascos suffered by the previous NDA government led by Vajpayee – the Lahore bus journey (February 1999) and the Agra Summit (14-16 July 2001).

Pakistan has been an itch of several former Indian prime ministers like IK Gujral, Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh. Perhaps at the back of the mind of each one of them was a burning individual ambition of resolving the vexed Pakistan issue and possibly winning the coveted Nobel Peace Prize along with their Pakistani counterpart.

But even for PM Modi who has a clear majority in the Lok Sabha, unlike all his three predecessors named above, Pakistan will virtually be a mission impossible as the two nuclear armed neighbours have deep seated distrust for over 67 years.

Pakistan is scheduled to host SAARC Summit next year, though the dates are yet to be announced.

An argument can be that Modi should hold his horses and visit Pakistan during the SAARC summit if he wishes to experiment with his ideas about improving relations with Pakistan.

But then everyone knows that SAARC summits are invariably bogged down by India-Pakistan issues. If SAARC agenda has to be brought to a meaningful fruition – and PM Modi is indeed pro-actively engaged towards that endeavour – then India-Pakistan ties have to be normalized as a prerequisite.

The BJP’s national executive meeting in Benagulru on 3-4 April will provide a hint about the Modi government’s Pakistan policy. The nuances of the BJP resolution to be adopted on foreign policy issues, particularly Pakistan, will have to be watched very closely. This should provide a clue about the Modi government’s forthcoming engagement with Pakistan.

Pakistan, India need to start ‘new chapter’ in ties: Nawaz Sharif

Islamabad: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Tuesday said it is imperative that the leadership in Pakistan and India should rise to the expectations of their people and the two nations need to start a “new chapter” in ties by working towards resolving all outstanding issues through dialogue.

Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. ReutersPakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Reuters

Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Reuters

Sharif made the remarks when Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar called on him during his Islamabad visit as part of the ‘SAARC yatra’ he is undertaking on the directions of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Sharif said it is important to establish good neighbourly and cooperative relations between India and Pakistan which is consistent with his vision of a peaceful neighbourhood in South Asia.

Jaishankar flew-in this morning as part of his “SAARC yatra” and held extensive talks with his Pakistani counterpart Aizaz Chaudhary besides calling on Prime Minister Sharif and his Advisor on Foreign Affairs and National Security Sartaj Aziz.

According to a statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office in Islamabad, Sharif expressed confidence that Tuesday’s talks between the Foreign Secretaries of the two countries will result in charting the way forward in bilateral relations.

“Both the countries need to start a new chapter in their relationship by working towards resolving all outstanding issues through dialogue,” he said.

Sharif stressed that it is imperative that the leadership in the two countries should rise to the expectations of the two peoples.

“We must think together, act together and move forward with the spirit of bringing the two nations closer to each other. The two countries should lend a hand of cooperation to each other to improve the standard of living of 1.5 billion people,” Sharif said.

Noting that the South Asian region has suffered enormously due to tensions and unresolved disputes despite being blessed with enormous resources, Sharif said the people deserve to live in peace and reap the benefits of economic development.

He said it would be important that the bilateral discussions, whenever held, would seek to address each other’s concerns in areas where the two countries differ and work together in areas where both the countries agree.

Jaishankar’s parleys today appeared to have provided the two sides to move ahead on the road towards resumption of their dialogue which was interrupted seven months ago when India called-off foreign secretary-level talks at the eleventh hour because the Pakistan High Commissioner in New Delhi held consultations with Kashmiri separatists.

PTI

Pakistan to offer new CBMs during foreign secretary-level talks: Report

Islamabad: Pakistan is expected to propose a series of new confidence-building measures, including the restoration of the 2003 ceasefire agreement to end hostilities along its border with India, during foreign-secretary level talks in Islamabad on Tuesday, according to a media report.

AFPAFP

AFP

Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar will arrive in Islamabad on Tuesday on a two-day trip as part of his ‘SAARC Yatra’ to hold talks on a range of issues.

Islamabad will be Jaishankar’s third stop after visiting Thimphu and Dhaka. He will also travel to Afghanistan.

The new CBMs to be offered by Pakistan include a proposal to restore the 2003 ceasefire agreement between the two countries along their borders where outbreak of hostilities have hampered ties recently, the Express Tribune reported.

Pakistan would offer an end to months-long hostilities along the LoC and the working boundary, a senior official was quoted as saying by the daily.

“The proposal is part of CBMs Pakistan intends to put forward during the foreign secretary-level talks in Islamabad,” the official.

Other proposals include an understanding to avoid public statements against each other at the official level.

“It really vitiates atmosphere when strong statements are issued at the official level,” the official said.

An agreement on not issuing statements against each other would ensure diplomacy between the two countries was not conducted through the media, the official said.

Meanwhile, last week senior Indian officials said they were not expecting any dramatic results from Foreign Secretary’s visit to Pakistan. They had emphasised that his visit was a “SAARC yatra and not a Pak yatra”.

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

The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) — an economic and geopolitical grouping of eight countries located in South Asia — includes Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka as its members.

PTI

Saarc diplomacy: India’s foreign secy calls on Bhutan King, PM

Thimphu: Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar on Sunday held talks with Bhutan’s top leadership and called on King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck here as he began his ‘SAARC Yatra’ to firm up India’s ties with members of the grouping while reviewing regional and bilateral cooperation.

The Foreign Secretary called on Bhutanese Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay soon after arriving here on the first leg of his ‘SAARC Yatra’.

“Foreign Secy’s SAARC Yatra. Discussions in Thimpu on SAARC coop; BBIN (Bangladesh,Bhutan,India,Nepal) sub-regional coop;& bilateral ties,” External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin tweeted.

India's foreign secretary S Jaishankar. Photo courtesy MEAIndia's foreign secretary S Jaishankar. Photo courtesy MEA

India’s foreign secretary S Jaishankar. Photo courtesy MEA

Thimphu is the first stop for Jaishankar who will travel to three other countries, including Pakistan, during the yatra.

During his visit here, Jaishankar also called on Bhutan King Wangchuck.

“Foreign Secy’s SAARC Yatra. 1st stop Thimpu. Meetings with PM @tsheringtobgay & HM the King & HM the 4th King,” Akbaruddin said in another tweet.

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

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

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

The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) — an economic and geopolitical grouping of eight countries located in South Asia — includes Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka as its members.

PTI

Govt says 27 Indian satellites are operational in space

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