End of the affair in Jammu and Kashmir: Why BJP dumped PDP

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES OF INDIA)

 

End of the affair in Jammu and Kashmir: Why BJP dumped PDP

The scale of security operations in the Valley, a deteriorating law and order situation, increased cases of attack on security personnel and feedback from party leaders made the BJP decide to pull out, sources say.

INDIA Updated: Jun 20, 2018 07:34 IST

Kumar Uttam
Kumar Uttam
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
BJP president Amit Shah in New Delhi on June 13, 2018.
BJP president Amit Shah in New Delhi on June 13, 2018. (PTI)

The decision of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to withdraw from the Jammu and Kashmir government stemmed from its desire to protect its “core support base”, especially in Jammu, avoid future “political costs” at the national level that would have come with staying on in the alliance in the run-up to the 2019 general elections, scale up “internal security operations” both in the state and “across the border”, and exercise direct control through
Governor’s rule, said two party leaders involved in formulating the BJP’s Kashmir strategy.

The BJP had two primary concerns, said one of the leaders quoted above, who is also a Union minister.

First, Mehbooba Mufti’s approach towards issues such as the scale and intensity of security operations was not in sync with the BJP’s, and the divergence was growing.

The ceasefire during Ramzan was announced at her instance and she wanted the gesture to continue even after Eid, he said. The BJP wanted to scale up operations; Mufti wanted to scale them down.

The BJP wanted a muscular approach towards Pakistan; she favoured talks with the western neighbour. A major point of disagreement was the space that security forces should be allowed while operating in the Valley.

The suspicion of foul play in a matter relating to Major Leetul Gogoi and a woman, reports about trouble-makers from the Valley being let off without much action, a deteriorating law and order situation, increased cases of attack on security personnel and feedback from party leaders made the BJP decide to pull out.

“2017 was largely peaceful and many terrorist were eliminated,” the minister said. “2018 turned out to the bad.” The government was, he said, carrying out offensives across the line of control, but the PDP was not forthcoming in dealing with the elements on this side of the border.

All this prompted the second concern in the BJP: the growing unease among its “nationalist” constituency in Jammu and outside that the party was going “soft”. The party, the second leader said, realised the need to reach out to this support base, which gave it an unprecedented 25 assembly seats in the November-December 2014 election.

“J&K is an emotive issue for our supporters – from Kanyakumari to Kashmir,” the second leader said. “Concerns of our support base, and its growing sense of hurt, were factored in before pulling the plug on the alliance,” the minister said.

Governor’s rule, which will bring the state under the Centre’s direct control, helps the BJP address both its concerns.

First, the first BJP leader and Union Minister said, the central political leadership will give security forces more elbow room to operate. The offensive will grow both “across the Line of Control” and “in the Valley”, to flush out troublemakers. “The ceasefire helped us identify who wanted peace, and who wanted to create trouble,” a senior government official said.

Any increase in the offensive against Pakistan, terror groups sponsored by it, the separatist and other terror outfit helps BJP address its second concern.

More direct control also helps the BJP in deciding how money is spent between the three regions of J&K: Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh. “In three years, the outgoing government could not spend even Rs 35,000 crore, out of total 1 lakh crore of the Kashmir package,” the first BJP leader said.

“We have ensured that J&K gets sufficient funds for its development projects and there is equitable distribution of resources between the three regions,” Jitendra Singh, a junior minister in Prime Minister’s office, said.

This motivation — of enabling unimpeded security operations to ramp up political advantage or “avoid political costs” — led the BJP to withdraw support and clear the way to bring Jammu and Kashmir under direct control of the Central government.

Low-income nations including Bhutan, Nepal spend more than India on health

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES)

 

Low-income nations including Bhutan, Nepal spend more than India on health

India spends 1% of its gross domestic product on public health. According to the National Health Profile 2018 report there is one allopathic doctor for 11,082 people in the country’s villages.

INDIA Updated: Jun 20, 2018 07:03 IST

Rhythma Kaul
Rhythma Kaul
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
A lone medical officer handling the emergency ward as well as the OPD at Bhagta Bhai Ka 30-bed community health centre in Bathinda district.
A lone medical officer handling the emergency ward as well as the OPD at Bhagta Bhai Ka 30-bed community health centre in Bathinda district.(Sanjeev Kumar/HT File Photo)

India’s public health expenditure — 1% of its gross domestic product (GDP) — may have witnessed a marginal improvement from 0.98% in 2014, but it is still way behind even the low-income countries that spend 1.4% on an average, shows National Health Profile 2018.

India is spending even less than some of its neighbours countries such as Bhutan (2.5%), Sri Lanka (1.6%) and Nepal (1.1%), according to the annual report released on Tuesday by the Central Bureau of Health Intelligence, the health intelligence wing of the directorate general of health services in the Union ministry of health and family welfare.

In World Health Organisation’s South-East Asian Region, which includes 10 countries, India finishes second last, above only Bangladesh (0.4%), when their health expenditure is compared. Maldives spends 9.4% of its GDP to claim the top spot in the list, followed by Thailand (2.9%).

India’s National Health Policy 2017 proposes raising the public health expenditure to 2.5% of the GDP by 2025.

“We are working on it and are hopeful of meeting the target. It won’t happen overnight but we are on the right track. If you look at the healthcare indicators such as maternal and infant mortality rate, we are improving at a greater rate than the global target,” Union health minister Jagat Prakash Nadda said.

Shortage of doctors is still a problem, with one allopathic doctor for 11,082 people in the country’s villages, as per the report.

The report also shows reduction in the number of deaths due to malaria, a mosquito-borne disease, with 104 people dying in 2017 compared to 331 death reported the previous year.

31 killed in Eid suicide bombing, grenade attacks in Nigeria town

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES OF INDIA)

 

31 killed in Eid suicide bombing, grenade attacks in Nigeria town

Two blasts ripped through the town of Damboa in Nigeria’s Borno state targeting people returning from celebrating the Eid al-Fitr holiday, in an attack bearing all the hallmarks of Boko Haram.

WORLD Updated: Jun 17, 2018 17:44 IST

Press Trust of India, Kano (Nigeria)
The toll is expected to go up as many of the injured may not survive, officials said.
The toll is expected to go up as many of the injured may not survive, officials said.(Reuters)

Suspected Boko Haram jihadists killed at least 31 people in a twin suicide bomb attack in a town in northeast Nigeria, a local official and militia leader said on Sunday.

Two blasts ripped through the town of Damboa in Borno state on Saturday evening targeting people returning from celebrating the Eid al-Fitr holiday, in an attack bearing all the hallmarks of Boko Haram.

Following the suicide bombings, the jihadists fired rocket-propelled grenades into the crowds that had gathered at the scene of the attacks, driving the number of casualties higher.

“There were two suicide attacks and rocket-propelled grenade explosions in Damboa last night which killed 31 people and left several others injured,” militia leader Babakura Kolo told AFP.

Two suicide bombers detonated their explosives in Shuwari and nearby Abachari neighbourhoods in the town around 10:45 pm (2145GMT), killing six residents, said Kolo, speaking from the state capital Maiduguri, which is 88 kilometres from the town.

“No one needs to be told this is the work of Boko Haram,” Kolo said. A local government official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, confirmed the death toll. “The latest death toll is now 31 but it may increase because many among the injured may not survive,” he said.

“Most casualties were from the rocket projectiles fired from outside the town minutes after two suicide bomber attacked,” he said.

The jihadist group has deployed suicide bombers, many of them young girls, in mosques, markets and camps housing people displaced by the nine-year insurgency which has devastated Nigeria’s northeast.

On May 1, at least 86 people were killed in twin suicide blasts targeting a mosque and a nearby market in the town of Mubi in neighbouring Adamawa state.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari came into power in 2015 vowing to stamp out Boko Haram but the jihadists continue to stage frequent attacks, targeting both civilians and security forces.

The militants stormed the Government Girls Technical College in Dapchi on February 19, seizing over 100 schoolgirls in a carbon copy of the abduction in Chibok in 2014 that caused global outrage.

41 Killed In Kashmir, Halt Of Anti-Terror Operation Is Not Working

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES OF INDIA)

 

41 killed, violence spiked during halt on anti-terror operations in Kashmir

Mehbooba Mufti had hoped that Rajnath Singh would continue with the ceasefire decision even after Ramzan, but the ground reality was different. There was an abrupt spike in violence as militants ignored the Centre’s gesture.

INDIA Updated: Jun 18, 2018 07:17 IST

Mir Ehsan
Mir Ehsan
Hindustan Times, Srinagar
Kashmiri youths through stones during clashes between protesters and security forces in Srinagar on Saturday.
Kashmiri youths through stones during clashes between protesters and security forces in Srinagar on Saturday.(AFP Photo)

A record 20 grenade attacks, 50 militant strikes and 41 killings took place in Kashmir during the month-long suspension of security operations in the Valley, officials said on Sunday.

This surge in violence forced the government’s hand which on Sunday ordered the forces to take all necessary actions against militants.

When home minister Rajnath Singh on May 16 announced the unilateral decision to halt operations during the holy month of Ramzan, chief minister Mehbooba Mufti was first to welcome the move with a hope it would break the cycle of daily killings.

Mufti had hoped that the Centre would continue with the decision even after Ramzan, paving the way for negotiations at a later stage. But the ground reality was different. There was an abrupt spike in violence as militants ignored the Centre’s gesture.

From May 17, the day operations were suspended to June 17, the day they were ordered resumed, the Valley saw 41 killings, a huge surge, records show.

According to officials, there were 18 incidents of terror between April 17 to May 17 and the figure rose to more than 50 during the suspension of operations. The gunning down of senior Kashmiri journalist Shujaat Bukhari and his two personnel security officers on June 14 pointed to a deteriorating security situation. The three unidentified gunmen made an easy escape from the highly guarded Press Colony. A fourth suspect even managed to steal a weapon of one of the policemen.

Also among the dead were 24 militants and most of them were killed in the frontier district of Kupwara. The militants were from the Lashkar-e-Taiba, Hizbul Mujahideen, Jaish- e -Mohammad and Al Badr groups and had recently sneaked into the Valley, the army and police said.

“The militants or infiltrators killed in operations were highly trained and had been launched recently from PoK ,’’ an army officer posted in north Kashmir said.

Nine security men, including four army jawans, were killed during the period. Last week, militants abducted and gunned down a Rashtriya Rifles jawan, Aurangazeb, as he was heading home for Eid. The militants also killed three civilians.

There was a surge in grenade attacks as well. The 20 attacks that left 62 civilians and 29 personnel injured were the highest for a month in two years, officials said. “The reason for the surge in grenade attacks was that militants were trying to sabotage the ceasefire,’’ a police officer said .

The only drop was in the number of civilians deaths at the hands of security forces. Four people were killed during the month, two of them in the last two days. Police say Sheraz Ahmad, who was killed on Saturday, died in a grenade attack. The streets were relatively calm, with 60 incidents of stone-pelting reported compared to 200 during the Ramzan last year.

In weaving India and Israel together, challenges loom

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

In weaving India and Israel together, challenges loom

Officials see plenty of potential for closer ties both in trade and on the strategic front, but getting there may be more complex than Netanyahu’s whirlwind tour of India suggests

Joshua Davidovich

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, uses a spinning wheel as his wife Sara Netanyahu, center, and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi look on during a visit to Gandhi Ashram in Ahmedabad on January 17, 2018. AFP/SAM PANTHAKY)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, uses a spinning wheel as his wife Sara Netanyahu, center, and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi look on during a visit to Gandhi Ashram in Ahmedabad on January 17, 2018. AFP/SAM PANTHAKY)

MUMBAI, India — Mumbai’s Gateway of India, a hulking structure looking out over the city’s harbor, was built to commemorate the landing of British King George V and Queen Mary in 1911.

The royal couple never actually got to see the structure, which was only finished in 1924, but it remains to this day as a reminder of the city’s colonial past and as a testament to the grandeur with which rulers were once greeted.

Over 100 years later, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took a quick whirl around the site just before heading to the airport after five days in India during which he was afforded a welcome seen by some as almost as impressive as the building of the massive gate.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara are greeted by Indian dancers at the airport in Mumbai, India, on January 17, 2018. (Avi Ohayon/GPO)

Unlike the gateway, remnants of Netanyahu’s visit — the Israeli flags the kids waved, and the giant billboards of the Israeli leader gracing every city he visited — will quickly fade. What’s more important, though, is whether the relationship spotlighted by the carefully choreographed displays can withstand the many external pressures bearing on it.

As it stands, the Israel-India trade relationship is estimated to be less than $5 billion and most of the commerce is in diamonds and arms, with official Indian figures putting the number at just under $3 billion, making Israel its 39th-largest trading partner. By contrast, India trades over $7.2 billion annually with Iran. But what officials on both sides see is potential, both for more trade and a closer strategic relationship, and the rub may be getting both to work together.

The stated goal of the trip Netanyahu and over a hundred businesspeople took to India was to diversify and expand business ties and highlight what is seen as an already growing diplomatic relationship. “The sky is the limit,” Netanyahu said on more than one occasion, a sentiment echoed by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who accompanied Netanyahu on several legs of the visit, including to his home state of Gujarat.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, left, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, center and his wife Sara arriving in Ahmadebad, India on January 17, 2018. GPO)

At event after event, officials played up the closeness of the Indian-Israel relationship, the kinship between the countries and the fact that “both of us are surrounded by enemies.” The amalgamation of Israeli tech and Indian creativity was another theme voiced repeatedly during the visit, as Netanyahu met with officials, business leaders, young entrepreneurs and farmers helped by Israeli aid.

But while optimism was omnipresent, there were also signs that the countries did not see eye-to-eye on everything relating to both trade and any strategic/security relationship.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, right, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pose for photographers after the Israeli leader arrived at the Air Force Station in New Delhi January 14, 2018. (PRAKASH SINGH/AFP)

As the country with the second-largest Muslim population in the world, and with a long-trained relationship with Israel and continuing strong trade ties with Iran, India’s supposed love affair with Israel is more complex than the Netanyahu-Modi bromance on display would indicate.

At a joint statement following an official sit-down, neither premier mentioned the Palestinians, with Modi even saying that the land Indian soldiers helped liberate in World War I was “Israel.” (It may have been a slip of the tongue, but Netanyahu followed his lead, saying they had liberated “Israel, the land of Israel.”)

But on Thursday morning, just hours after Modi paid his last farewell to Netanyahu, news leaked out of the Indian leader’s plans to visit Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in a matter of weeks.

Just weeks before Netanyahu’s trip, India backed a UN resolution condemning US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, though both countries insisted that the vote would not affect ties.

Modi’s visit to Israel in July, the first ever by an Indian prime minister, did not include a visit to Ramallah. In somewhat similar fashion, Netanyahu’s visit, only the second by an Israeli prime minister after Ariel Sharon’s short and ill-fated jaunt in 2003 — he had to return home to deal with a terrorist attack — didn’t include a meeting with opposition leader Rahul Ghandi of the left-leaning Congress Party.

India’s opposition Congress Party president Rahul Gandhi, center, is presented with a garland, during a meeting in Ahmadabad, India, December 23, 2017. (AP/Ajit Solanki)

While Ghandi’s faction had for years blocked ties with Israel and led the anti-Israel bloc at the United Nations, it did maintain mostly positive ties with Israel in the government led by Manmohan Singh preceding Modi’s rise to power in 2014, making the omission all the stranger.

The lack of a Netanyahu-Gandhi meeting and the fact that the prime minister only visited states ruled by Modi’s Hindu nationalist BJP party, even avoiding business hub Bangalore despite the trade orientation of the trip, raised questions as to whether the positive ties forged between Israel and India under Modi would survive his eventual fall from power.

“Confining Netanyahu’s itinerary only to BJP-ruled states is a short-sighted move,” Jawaharlal Nehru University prof. P. R. Kumaraswamy wrote in The Indian Express daily. “Since relations were established by Congress Prime Minister P. V. Narasimha Rao, consensus building has been the hallmark of Indo-Israeli relations.”

Strategic relationships could also be hampered by a reluctance to take a stand against each others’ enemies. Despite Israel’s push to isolate Iran over its nuclear program, Tehran and Delhi maintain a close trading partnership, especially in oil, a relationship Delhi is unlikely to give up without more incentive than a few water purification plants.

A cartoon in the Hindustan Times on January 16, 2018. Joshua Davidovich/Times of Israel)

On the other side, Israeli officials indicated they had no interest in trying to join India in pushing back against Pakistan and China. A cartoon in a popular newspaper during the visit showed Netanyahu and Modi piloting a drone as Pakistan and China cowered in fear, but Israeli officials insisted it was not representative of reality.

“It’s not a zero-sum game,” one Israeli official said, regarding balancing ties with India and ties with China (Israel has no relations with Pakistan).

However, an Indian official noted that the relationship could be affected if Israel’s ties to China moved from the economic to the strategic, with India viewing China — with which it fought and lost a bitter border war in the 1960s — as a major threat.

Arun Singh, a former Indian ambassador to Israel, wrote during Netanyahu’s trip that Jerusalem’s willingness to keep a door open to forging ties with Pakistan and improving ties with China could put a damper on improving the India-Israel relationship.

“There are limits on convergence of interests, as is inevitable between any two countries, especially those with differing histories and dissimilarities in their geopolitical challenges,” he wrote on the Indian website The Print. “We should unhesitatingly consolidate our bilateral relationship with Israel, where it serves our national interest. But we should also remain mindful of limits of the convergences. Israel’s approach to China, Iran and Pakistan are indicative.”

Speaking to reporters during the trip, Netanyahu said he “understood sensitivities” surrounding building of ties with Delhi while both were unaligned on other geopolitical matters.

“Improving ties is not meant to be against any specific country,” he added.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and his wife Sara pose for a photograph at the Taj Mahal in the Indian city of Agra on January 16, 2018. ( AFP PHOTO / STR)

But trade and politics are often intertwined, as evidenced by the desire for a direct flight between Delhi and Tel Aviv over Saudi Arabia, which became a major theme of the trip.

Amid reports of talks over brokering such a route for Air India, Netanyahu at a business forum called for a “simple, direct flight.” Later that day, an Indian food exporter confirmed that the lack of such a flight was hurting business ties.

Politics also seeped into Israel’s bid to boost tourism by attracting a Bollywood film, highlighting the potential pitfalls of developing a larger business relationship in any sector. According to reports, a trio of top Muslim Bollywood stars, Aamir Khan, Salman Khan, and Shah Rukh Khan, known as “the Khans of Bollywood,” boycotted a gala event held in Mumbai Thursday night to protest Netanyahu. A fourth Bollywood Khan, Ajaz Khan, criticized director Karan Johar on Twitter for attending the event, and posted a tirade against it on YouTube.

Wonderful evening, a honour and a privilege, meeting an occupier of Palestinian land and killer of unarmed protesters including women and children in Occupied Territories.shame on u Karan https://twitter.com/karanjohar/status/954087461700775936 

At the event, keynote guest Amitabh Bachchan spoke of the allure of Bollywood films and their ability to bring people together. And the very next morning, Bollywood news was on the front page, but for the opposite reason. Riots were threatening to break out over the film “Padmaavat” after the Supreme Court ruled that states could not ban the controversial historical drama based on a 16th century poem about a queen.

The case was just another example that sweet words, like those uttered by Modi, Netanyahu and other officials from both sides about the great Indian-Israeli relationship, were sometimes more complicated than they were made out to be from the dais.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (unseen) at an Israeli-Indian Economic Conference in New Delhi, India on January 15, 2018 (Avi Ohayon/GPO)

Indian businesspeople at many of the events hosted by Netanyahu talked up the strength of the economic relationship, though when pressed, they admitted that Israel was only a blip on the map of potential business ties.

After all the talk of Indian-Israeli business ties, the name “Israel” was not mentioned once in the 12-page business section of the Hindustan Times on Friday, the day Netanyahu left.

A close-up shot of the Tammuz missiles mounted on an armed personnel carrier (Photo credit: Courtesy: IDF Spokesperson’s Unit)

Free trade talks remain moribund, by all accounts, and the biggest business news to come out the trip was the reviving of a deal for India to buy Spike anti-tank missiles (known as Tammuz in Israel) from the Israeli firm Rafael. However, it seems it may be for less than the original $500 million price tag, to say nothing of the fact that it does nothing to diversify the business relationship or grow it, since Israel thought the deal was in the bag until recently anyway.

Still, ties between the countries are growing unmistakably closer. It’s impossible to overstate the length the Indians went to in order to welcome Netanyahu, with outlandish routines that sometimes seemed almost embarrassingly obsequious — a sign that to a large degree, Israel has a giant on its side, even if it is one that is still largely focused on raising up hundreds of millions of people out of dire poverty, and it is largely thanks to Netanyahu’s emphasis on expanding diplomatic ties around the world.

At the same time, it seems it’s easy to get sucked into exaggerating the importance of that relationship. While Netanyahu was sweet-talking the Indians, behind the scenes he was distracted with working on repairing another diplomatic relationship: with Jordan, which is one he and the rest of the country likely view as more strategic than ties with Delhi.

Indian children wave to a vehicle carrying Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi as they arrive at Sabarmati Ashram or Gandhi Ashram in Ahmadabad, India, Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018. (AP/Ajit Solanki)

In India, the cheering crowds and adulation were likely a welcome respite from home, where the prime minister is constantly dogged by political intrigue and criminal investigations that are casting a pall over his continued rule. Moments before taking off for Delhi over a week ago, he briefly spoke to reporters, looking dejected as he addressed his son Yair’s strip club tape scandal, which was roiling the country.

Landing back home almost a week later, he sat relaxing in his first class seat as staff, security and journalists disembarked, scrolling through his phone and looking carefree as ever.

Less than an hour before he landed, a major rainstorm had passed over the country, but as his plane touched down, the clouds over the airport cleared and for a brief moment, the sun was shining.

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India miffed as Palestine envoy shares stage with Hafiz Saeed in Rawalpindi

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES)

 

India miffed as Palestine envoy shares stage with Hafiz Saeed in Rawalpindi

Photos of the Palestinian ambassador to Pakistan, Walid Abu Ali, sharing the stage with Hafiz Saeed and addressing the rally organised by the Difa-e-Pakistan Council at Liaqat Bagh in Rawalpindi were circulated on social media on Friday. The rally was organised to condemn the US move on Jerusalem.

INDIA Updated: Dec 30, 2017 08:30 IST

Rezaul Hasan Laskar
Rezaul Hasan Laskar
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Walid Abu Ali (L), Palestine ambassador to Pakistan, seated next to Hafiz Saeed at a rally in Rawalpindi.
Walid Abu Ali (L), Palestine ambassador to Pakistan, seated next to Hafiz Saeed at a rally in Rawalpindi.(Photo: Twitter)

India reacted with anger after Palestine’s envoy to Pakistan joined Lashkar-e-Taiba founder Hafiz Saeed at a rally organised by jihadi groups on Friday, just days after New Delhi backed a UN resolution that denounced the US decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Photos of the Palestinian ambassador to Pakistan, Walid Abu Ali, sharing the stage with Saeed and addressing the rally organised by the Difa-e-Pakistan Council at Liaqat Bagh in Rawalpindi were circulated on social media on Friday. The rally was organised to condemn the US move on Jerusalem.

The development triggered an angry response from the external affairs ministry, with spokesperson Raveesh Kumar saying in a brief statement: “We are taking up the matter strongly with the Palestinian ambassador in New Delhi and with the Palestinian authorities.”

The statement noted that the Palestinian envoy had been seen at the rally “organised by the JuD chief and mastermind of the Mumbai terror attack Hafiz Saeed”.

Officials said a strongly worded demarche would be sent to the Palestinian government.

The external affairs ministry was especially angered as the development came less than 10 days after India joined 127 other members of the United Nations to back a resolution criticising US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The countries disregarded Trump’s threat to cut aid to countries that voted for the resolution.

India’s decision to back the resolution prompted a protest from Israel, a key ally in defence and security matters.

New Delhi explained the vote by saying its position on Palestine is “independent and consistent” and “shaped by our views and interests, and not determined by any third country”.

The “Tahafuz Baitul Maqdas” rally organised by the Difa-e-Pakistan Council (DPC) in Rawalpindi featured several jihadi leaders condemning the US decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The event was attended by thousands, including members of the Jamaat-ud-Dawah.

Photos on social media showed the Palestinian envoy seated next to Saeed and addressing the large gathering. Several speakers at the gathering, including Saeed, also referred to the Kashmir issue and made anti-India remarks. Saeed also called on Muslim nations to act in the defence of Jerusalem.

The DPC is a grouping of some 40 extremist and jihadi groups that was formed by Hafiz Saeed and other extremists in 2012. It has campaigned for long for snapping ties with India and the US.

88 schoolgirls in India forced to strip as punishment by teachers

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE PAKISTANI NEWSPAPER ‘DAWN’ WHO IS OBTAINING INFORMATION FROM THE INDIAN NEWSPAPER THE ‘HINDUSTAN TIMES’)

 

Scores of schoolgirls in India were allegedly abused earlier this month as they were forced to strip in front of other schoolfellows at a girls’ school in India’s Arunachal Pradesh state, Hindustan Times reported on Thursday.

Around 88 students studying in class VI and VII were subjected to the worst humiliation as a punishment for allegedly writing vulgar remarks against the head teacher.

According to Hindustan Times, it was assumed that the remarks were written by an unidentified student and that she was present among those students who were forced to strip in front of other schoolfellows.

The news report further added that three teachers of Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya, Tani Happa (New Sagalee) in Papum Pare district forced the girls to undress on November 23.

Police officials said that the matter came to light four days later when a student body approached the police and filed a First Information Report in this regard, it added.

The complaint alleged that two assistant teachers and a junior teacher subjected the students to humiliation after the teachers recovered a piece of paper with vulgar remarks on it about the head teacher and a girl student.

Tumme Amo, a Superintendent of Police, confirmed the FIR and said that the case had been forwarded to the women police station. “The officer-in-charge of the [women] police station said the victims and their parents along with the teachers will be interrogated before registering a case,” Amo said.

All Papum Pare District Students Union (APPDSU) said in a press release that a team of the union had met the students and teachers on Tuesday, and found that an unidentified student had used vulgar words in a piece of paper mentioning the name of the head teacher and a student.

Subsequently, the teachers demanded an explanation from all the students of the two classes and later made them undress, it added.

“The school authorities did not speak to the parents of the students before punishing them,” APPDSU president Nabam Tado was quoted as saying.

Pakistan Expels South Korean Man For Preaching The Gospel Of God

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CHRISTIAN POST)

Pakistan officials say a South Korean national who it accused of using a business visa to preach the Gospel inside the Islamic republic has been expelled from the country.

(Photo: Reuters)

The news comes after two Chinese nationals believed to be associated with the South Korean were killed last month by Islamic militants affiliated with the Islamic State terror group.

“Investigations have revealed that the South Korean national went to Pakistan on a business visa, set up an Urdu academy in Quetta and got involved in illegal preaching activities,” a Ministry of Interior official told ucanews.com this week. “We have revoked his visa and asked him to leave the country.”

According to World Watch Monitor, the South Korean national is Juan Won-seo. Pakistani officials told ucanews.com that 24-year-old Lee Zingyang and 26-year-old Meng Lisi, who were abducted and killed last month, were preaching Christianity under Won-seo’s guidance.

(Photo: Twitter/@usmanmasood44)Lee Zingyang and Meng Lisi of China were killed by Islamic militants affiliated with the Islamic State terror group in Pakistan in May 2017.

However, the Hindustan Times reports that South Korea has rejected Pakistan’s claims that Lee and Meng, who were in the country on the premise that they were Mandarin teachers learning Urdu, were preaching Christianity. A South Korean official told the news outlet on June 14 that there is no evidence from Pakistan to backup the claim that they were proselytizing under the leadership of the South Korean.

World Watch Monitor notes that Lee and Meng were only two of a dozen Chinese nationals in Pakistan for Urdu classes but Chinese media has claimed that the school is “merely a front for conducting religious activities.”

According to World Watch Monitor, a Chinese student interviewed by a Chinese government-sanctioned English news outlet claimed that South Koreans recruit Chinese “teenagers to conduct missionary activities in Muslim countries.”

“Compared to Chinese, more South Koreans have been killed abroad due to risky missionary activities in conservative Islamic regions,” the student was quoted as saying. “Some Chinese voluntarily join in the dangerous missionary activities in countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq after being converted by South Koreans.”

However, critics have warned that China’s placing the blame on South Korean missionaries is an attempt to “mislead the Chinese people.”

“Most Chinese Christians have become Christian through Chinese evangelists. It has been very difficult for foreign citizens to proselytise in China. China does not have a visa category for religious clergy or missionaries,” Yang Fenggang, the director of the Centre on Religion and Chinese Society at Purdue University in Indiana told the Hindustan Times. “Some foreign students, professionals and business people may do evangelistic work within China, but evangelistic activities are restricted.”

Carsten Vala, an associate professor of political science at Loyola University in Baltimore, Maryland, told the Hindustan Times that Chinese nationals have also been “eager to go abroad as missionaries.”

“At least one Chinese church leader I interviewed reported that his congregation had sent missionaries to Pakistan, Afghanistan, and other Arabic-speaking countries,” Vala said.

Both China and Pakistan are listed as two of the worst countries in the world when it comes to the persecution of Christians. Open Doors USA’s 2017 World Watch List ranks Pakistan as No. 4 and China as No. 39.

Syrian president Bashar al-Assad says news of gas attack ‘100% fabrication’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES NEWS)

Syrian president Bashar al-Assad says news of gas attack ‘100% fabrication’

WORLD Updated: Apr 13, 2017 20:51 IST

AFP
AFP
Damascus
Assad on chemical attack

In the interview, Assad asked: “We don’t know whether those dead children were killed in Khan Sheikhun. Were they dead at all?”(AFP)

Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad said a suspected chemical weapons attack was a “fabrication” to justify a US strike on his forces, in an exclusive interview with AFP in Damascus.The embattled leader, whose country has been ravaged by six years of war, said his firepower had not been affected by the attack ordered by US President Donald Trump, but acknowledged further strikes were possible.Assad insisted his forces had turned over all their chemical weapons stocks years ago and would never use the banned arms.

The interview on Wednesday was his first since a suspected chemical weapons attack that killed dozens of civilians in the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhun.

“Definitely, 100 percent for us, it’s fabrication,” he said of the incident.

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“Our impression is that the West, mainly the United States, is hand-in-glove with the terrorists. They fabricated the whole story in order to have a pretext for the attack,” added Assad, who has been in power for 17 years.

At least 87 people, including 31 children, were killed in the alleged attack, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor.

But Assad said evidence came only from “a branch of Al-Qaeda,” referring to a former jihadist affiliate that is among the groups that control Idlib province, where Khan Sheikhun is located.

Images of the aftermath, showing victims convulsing and foaming at the mouth, sent shockwaves around the world.

But Assad insisted it was “not clear whether it happened or not, because how can you verify a video? You have a lot of fake videos now.”

“We don’t know whether those dead children were killed in Khan Sheikhun. Were they dead at all?”

He said Khan Sheikhun had no strategic value and was not currently a battle front.

“This story is not convincing by any means.”

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has begun an investigation into the alleged attack, but Russia on Wednesday blocked a UN Security Council resolution demanding Syria cooperate with the probe.

And Assad said he could “only allow any investigation when it’s impartial, when we make sure that unbiased countries will participate in this delegation in order to make sure that they won’t use it for politicised purposes.”

He insisted several times that his forces had turned over all chemical weapons stockpiles in 2013, under a deal brokered by Russia to avoid threatened US military action.

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“There was no order to make any attack, we don’t have any chemical weapons, we gave up our arsenal a few years ago,” he said.

“Even if we have them, we wouldn’t use them, and we have never used our chemical arsenal in our history.”

The OPCW has blamed Assad’s government for at least two attacks in 2014 and 2015 involving the use of chlorine.

The Khan Sheikhun incident prompted the first direct US military action against Assad’s government since the war began, with 59 cruise missiles hitting the Shayrat airbase three days after the suspected chemical attack.

Assad said more US attacks “could happen anytime, anywhere, not only in Syria.”

But he said his forces had not been diminished by the US strike.

“Our firepower, our ability to attack the terrorists hasn’t been affected by this strike.”

World’s biggest bombs: India’s SPICE no match for America’s MOAB or Russian FOAB

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES)

World’s biggest bombs: India’s SPICE no match for America’s MOAB or Russian FOAB

INDIA Updated: Apr 14, 2017 12:03 IST

Rahul Singh
Rahul Singh
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
US

A Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB) weapon is prepared for testing at the Eglin Air Force Armament Centre in March 11, 2003. (REUTERS)

Less than three months after Donald Trump took over as President, an MC-130 aircraft operated by the United States Air Force Special Operations Command dropped one of the biggest conventional bombs in country’s arsenal in eastern Afghanistan on Thursday.Deployed by the US military for the first time in combat, the GBU-43 Massive Ordnance Air Blast Bomb (MOAB) is one of the most powerful non-nuclear weapons in the possession of any military worldwide. The 21,000-lb MOAB’s sheer destructive power has earned it the nickname ‘Mother of All Bombs’.

Neither India nor Pakistan nor even China possesses non-nuclear bombs that are in the league of MOAB, developed in the early 2000s. In fact, their stockpile doesn’t come anywhere close to MOAB-like munitions.

Read | US drops GBU-43 bomb in Afghanistan: What we know about the ‘mother of all bombs’

The rare strike against Islamic State fighters with a weapon of this size has turned the spotlight on the world’s biggest and largest contemporary non-nuclear bombs, primarily held only by the militaries of Russia and the US.

Here’s a quick look at some of these deadly air-delivered monster munitions whose efficiency and power almost match nuclear weapons, and the smaller bombs that the air forces of India, China and Pakistan hold in their inventories:

Aviation Thermobaric Bomb of Increased Power: Also known as the ‘Father of All Bombs’ (FOAB), it is the Russian answer to the American bomb. Moscow successfully tested the weapon in 2007; four years after the US developed the MOAB. It is reportedly the world’s most powerful non-nuclear bomb, capable of unleashing 44 tons of explosives compared to 11 tons in the GBU-43 MOAB. At 15,650 lb, the FOAB is lighter than the American bomb but the former’s significantly higher blast yield makes it far more lethal.

GBU-43 MOAB: Designed to destroy underground facilities, caves and tunnels, the US had developed the GPS-guided bomb for the 2003 invasion of Iraq but it was never used in combat until Thursday evening. Just like the Russian bomb, the 30-foot MOAB detonates before hitting the ground and causes unthinkable destruction by sending deadly shockwaves up to a distance of over a mile in all directions. The GBU-43 MOAB, however, is not the heaviest conventional munition in the American arsenal.

GBU-57A/B Massive Ordnance Penetrator: Known by its acronym MOP, the 30,000-lb American bomb is perhaps the heaviest conventional weapon in the world. However, the bunker buster bomb’s explosive power doesn’t match that of the MOAB or the FOAB. Manufactured by US defence giant Boeing, the GBU-57A/B MOP is designed to obliterate underground nuclear facilities and deeply buried enemy targets.

GBU-28 Hard Target Penetrator: The air forces of Israel and South Korea have the 5,000-lb GBU-28 bunker buster munitions supplied by the US in their inventories. The bombs were deployed by the USAF during Operation Desert Storm to carry out strikes against Iraqi bunkers, military installations and high value strategic targets in 1991. The GBU-28, a variant of the Paveway III bomb, can reportedly blast through six metres of concrete.

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GBU-24 Paveway II bombs: The French Air Force’s Rafale omni-role fighters can carry a number of bombs from the US Paveway family of munitions. The heaviest air-to-surface conventional weapon the fighter can be equipped with is the GBU-24 Paveway II 2,000-lb laser-guided bomb.

INDIA

SPICE: The Israel-manufactured SPICE (smart precise impact and cost effective) bomb is the biggest conventional bomb that can be delivered by the Indian Air Force. Manufactured by Israeli firm Rafael Advanced Defence Systems Ltd, the 2000-lb precision guided bombs are used on the French-origin Mirage 2000 fighters.

The IAF’s Jaguar deep-strike penetration aircraft can be fitted with 1,000-lb bombs for destroying the enemy’s ammunition dumps during combat. In one configuration, a Sukhoi-30 MKI fighter can carry 26 bombs of 550-lb class to destroy a concentration of enemy armour and personnel. The fighter can also carry 1,000-lb HSLD (high speed, low drag) bombs to destroy enemy airfields. Indian fighter planes can also drop indigenously produced 1,000-lb bombs fitted with Israel Aircraft Industries-produced Griffin laser-guided systems

CHINA AND PAKISTAN

The People’s Liberation Army Air Force has a variety of conventional bombs ranging in the 500 lb to 3,000-lb class. Most of these general purpose bombs have been developed by the China’s North Industries Corporation. Most of the designs are reportedly based on bombs earlier imported from Russia.

Some of the designs also reportedly draw inspiration from the US Mk 80/82/83/84 bombs. Some other bombs in the Chinese inventory are also suspected to have been copied from Western designs. The conventional bombs with Pakistan Air Force are in the 250 lb to 2,000-lb class, with the design again based on the US Mk 80 series bombs and mated to laser guided systems of American origin. Former IAF vice chief Air Marshal KK Nohwar told HT on Friday, “India, China and Pakistan largely have a similar stockpile of lighter non-nuclear bombs. It’s nowhere close to the mega bombs that the Russians and the Americans can deploy in combat.”