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.”

India: Cops Halt Church Prayer Because Hindu Group Alleges Conversion: Democracy, Really?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES)

In Uttar Pradesh, cops halt church prayer after Hindu group alleges conversion

INDIA Updated: Apr 08, 2017 07:49 IST

Abdul Jadid
Abdul Jadid
Gorakhpur, New Delhi
Yogi Adityanath

People inside the church on Friday. Eleven US nationals were also present in the church. (HT Photo)

Police stopped a prayer attended by more than 150 people, including 11 American tourists, at an Uttar Pradesh church on Friday after the right-wing Hindu Yuva Vahini complained that the event was a cover for religious conversion.The youth group, set up by chief minister Yogi Adityanath in 2002, filed a complaint against Yohannan Adam, the pastor of the church at Dathauli of Maharajganj district.

The organisation accused him of converting Hindus to Christianity, a charge the pastor denied.

“No prior permission was taken before the meeting. We stopped the meet after a complaint was registered. A probe is underway and appropriate action will be taken if the charges are correct,” said police officer Anand Kumar Gupta.

The US tourists were let off after police checked their visas and relevant documents.

“The presence of US nationals indicates that innocent and illiterate Hindus were being converted by the missionaries, who lured them with money to change their religion,” said Krishna Nandan, a Hindu Yuva Vahini leader who surrounded the church with his supporters in the afternoon.

They dispersed after police promised a probe and adequate action, though Nandan was not happy that the Americans were cleared.

The church authorities dismissed the conversion allegations.

“The charges are absolutely baseless. The people were attending a prayer meeting voluntarily. We prayed. Nothing else was done,” pastor Adam said.

The Hindu right wing has been at loggerheads with Christian missionaries, accusing them of converting people through coercion and allurement to their faith.

Several Hindu organisations have conducted ghar wapsi or homecoming of such people, which minority groups say is a couched term for re-conversion.

Earlier this year, Hindu Yuva Vahini activists attacked the Full Gospel Church in Gorakhpur, accusing it of religious conversion.

India: Murders Hide Behind Religion And The Holy Cow

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES)

Rise of gau rakshaks: Don’t hide behind euphemisms, this is murder, writes Barkha Dutt

COLUMNS Updated: Apr 08, 2017 08:09 IST

Gau Rakshak

As the list of people murdered by ‘gau rakshaks’ continues to rise, it is time to call murder by its name, instead of cloaking it in euphemisms such as manhandling and vigilantism. (Nitin Kanotra / HT Photo)

End the euphemisms. Call it by its name- Murder. Not manhandling. Not vigilantism. And stop saying, ‘gau- rakshaks,’ please.The men who dragged Pehlu Khan out of his vehicle on the Alwar highway in Rajasthan, flung him on the roadside and lynched him so brutally that he died four days later, are not ‘protectors’, self- appointed or otherwise; they are not even ordinary criminals. They are thugs, who driven by blind religious prejudice, and emboldened by an environment that will justify the perpetrator instead of standing with the victim, brazenly killed an innocent man.

It didn’t matter that Pehlu Khan, a trader from Haryana, pleaded with his assaulters that the cattle he was transporting was with legal documentation and had been purchased at a fair in Jaipur. Quite frankly, even if he were a cow-smuggler it was no one’s business but that of the state police to enforce the law. That the Rajasthan home minister- the man who is meant to be a custodian of the law- sees “two sides” to a singular horrific truth is what is frightening.

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In the India of 2017, we are asked to see these murderous mobs as men whose intent is pure and ennobling, even if their actions are not. In the noisy debates over ‘cow-protectionism’, we gloss over the fact that it is Indian Muslims and, in some cases Dalits, who are being repeatedly targeted. And that bigotry, and not some misguided sacred zeal, is the subtext that ties all the attacks together. The lynch mobs count on two things – the ifs and buts ambivalence of government response as illustrated in the rationalisations of Rajasthan’s home minister and our short, fickle memory that is either too numbed or too distracted to stay focused on the issue.

We have already moved on from Mohammad Akhlaq who was killed in Uttar Pradesh over rumours that there was beef in his house and whose son, a corporal in the air force continued to believe his country would grant him justice. And I can confidently wager that not too many people would even know, leave alone remember, who Majloom Ansari and Inayatullah Imtiaz Khan are. In March 2016 they were found hanging from a tree in a Jharkhand village, their hands tied together by the nylon chords used to hold cattle. Imtiaz was only 12 years old. A school-going child, he was accompanying Ansari to a cattle fair in the hope of making a few extra bucks for his family. Later it emerged that Ansari had been threatened just a few days earlier by a gang of extortionists who asked him for a 20,000 rupee bribe money to ferry his oxen. The National Commission of Minorities team that investigated the killing reported a “brazen communal bias” in the police handling of the lynching and said that complaints by Muslim traders against the so called cow-protections groups had been ignored. A few months later the Jharkhand Chief Minister declared that “If India is your country; the cow is your mother.” But no mother would allow murder in her name.

If we barely remember Ansari and Khan, we didn’t even pay marginal attention to the death of Zaid Ahmed Bhat, a young man in his twenties who died in a Delhi hospital after being attacked with petrol bombs on the highway in Udhampur, Jammu & Kashmir. His body was unable to recover from the 60% burns the flames had inflicted. And once again the rumours of cow slaughter turned out to be unfounded.

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Now Pehlu Khan joins this growing list of (forgotten) victims. His murder will occupy the news cycle till another story bumps it off. He will be a talking point in Parliament till the next deal has to be negotiated between the government and the opposition. There will be outrage and analysis; we will tell you how cow hide is used in other parts of our life, from leather to musical instruments. The opposition will urge the Prime Minister to break his silence and make a statement. He may even do so, as he did in 2016 after four Dalits were flogged in Gujarat. Back then, he eviscerated what he called the ‘gau-rakhshak business” underlining that nearly 80% were “anti-social” elements hiding under the cover of cow protection. Yet, several BJP leaders of Uttar Pradesh had rallied behind those accused in the Dadri lynching, demanding punishment for Akhlaq’s family instead for eating beef. The opposition outbursts will be replete with hypocrisies as well. (After Dadri, Congress leader Digvijaya Singh boasted that the Congress had banned cow slaughter in 24 states and was even open to a debate around a nationwide ban). And the BJP will fulminate in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Gujarat- where a law was just passed on life imprisonment for cow slaughter- but reject any idea of a beef ban in the north-east where it is looking to expand its political presence.

Soon enough the debate will go off the front pages and the prime time headlines and we will all get on with our lives. Till the next murder. In the meantime, the ‘cow’ards will thrive. This has become the New Normal.

Barkha Dutt is an award-winning journalist and author

The views expressed are personal

India Slams Pak Plan To Give Fifth Province Status To Gilgit-Baltistan Region

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES)

India slams Pak plan to give fifth province status to Gilgit-Baltistan region

INDIA Updated: Mar 16, 2017 22:49 IST

HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi

A committee headed by Pakistan’s foreign affairs advisor Sartaj Aziz reportedly proposed fifth province status for the strategic region.(AFP File )

India on Friday reacted strongly to an attempt by Pakistan to declare the strategic Gilgit-Baltistan region, bordering disputed Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK), as its fifth province, saying such move is “entirely unacceptable.”There are reports that a committee headed by Pakistan’s foreign affairs advisor Sartaj Aziz has proposed status of a province to Gilgit-Baltistan.Responding to the reports, external affairs ministry spokesperson Gopal Baglay said any such step would not be able to hide the illegality of Pakistan’s occupation of parts of Jammu and Kashmir, which it must vacate, forthwith.

“The entire state of J&K is an integral part, has been an integral part and will be an integral part of India. No attempt or unilateral attempt or step to change that would have any legal basis, whatsoever, and it will be entirely unacceptable,” the spokesperson said.

The move will not be able to “hide the tremendous, very concerning human rights violations and denial of freedom” that has been going on in parts of J&K controlled by Pakistan for the last 70 years, he said.

Gilgit-Baltistan is treated as a separate geographical entity by Pakistan. It has a regional assembly and an elected chief minister.

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At present, Pakistan has four provinces — Punjab, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan.

It is believed that China’s concerns about the unsettled status of the strategic region prompted Pakistan to explore change in its status.

Asked about Pakistan having expressed concern over acquittal of Assemanand in Ajmer Sharif blast case, Baglay said India completely rejects Pakistan’s “efforts and intention to meddle” in the country’s internal affairs, including in the Indian judicial process.

“We also totally reject the ulterior link which is sought to be established by Pakistan with any other matter under the purview of the Indian courts. A strong Indian democracy and justice system obviously need no self-serving sermons from anybody much less from a country like Pakistan,” he asserted.

The spokesperson also advised Pakistan to refrain from interfering in the internal affairs of India and not to deny the reality of terrorism emanating from its soil, which was affecting not only India but the entire neighbourhood and beyond.

Baglay also reiterated India’s demand that Pakistan should dismantle terrorist infrastructure in its own territory or the territory under its control, and bring to justice the terror masterminds who still operate and continue to enjoy freedom on its soil.

Pakistan foreign office had last week summoned India’s deputy high commissioner J P Singh to express its concern over acquittal of right-wing activist Swami Aseemanand in 2007 Ajmer Sharif blast case.

ISIS Demons Threatens Attacks Within India And On The Taj Mahal

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES NEWS AGENCY)

Pro-Islamic State group warns of attack on Taj Mahal

INDIA Updated: Mar 16, 2017 22:17 IST

Rezaul H Laskar
Rezaul H Laskar
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Islamic State

Security agencies say about 75 Indians have joined the IS. This includes 45 who went from India, mostly from Maharashtra, Kerala and Karnataka.(Site Intelligence Group)

A pro-Islamic State media group has warned of attacks in India and published a graphic depicting the Taj Mahal as a possible target.The graphic by the Ahwaal Ummat Media Center was posted on a channel of Telegram, the encrypted communication app, on March 14, according to Site Intelligence Group, which tracks jihadi activity on the web.

The graphic features a fighter in combat fatigues and black headgear armed with an assault rifle and a rocket-propelled grenade standing near the 17th century monument to love in Agra.

An inset in the graphic features another image of the Taj Mahal within crosshairs with the words “New target” below it. There is also an image of a van with the Arabic text “Agra istishhadi” (Agra martyrdom-seeker) written in English, implying the threat of a suicide attack.

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This is not the first time a pro-IS group has threatened attacks in India. After terror suspect Saifullah was killed by police in Lucknow on March 8, another pro-IS channel on Telegram had incited attacks in India.

That channel had also posted a photo of Saifullah and described him as a “soldier of the Khilafah from India”.

Indian security officials have said they are yet to procure proof that Saifullah was directly linked to the IS. They noted the photo of Saifullah posted on the Telegram channel was one released by Uttar Pradesh Police and not an image procured by the group before his death. They also said Saifullah was “self-radicalised”.

According to security agencies, some 75 Indians have so far joined IS. This includes 45 who went from India, mostly from Maharashtra, Kerala and Karnataka, while the remainder were Indians living abroad. About 37 more were apprehended while they were making their way from India to territories controlled by IS.

Security agencies have stepped up efforts to prevent the radicalisation and recruitment of youngsters via the internet and communication apps, which are extensively used by the IS.

The US state department too has noted the threat to India from IS.

US Embassy New Delhi warns of an increased threat to places in India frequented by Westerners, such as religious sites, markets..

An advisory for American citizens issued last November said: “Recent Indian media reports indicate ISIL’s desire to attack targets in India.” The advisory warned Americans of “an increased threat in places in India frequented by Westerners”.

China’s Communist Government Trying To Force Its Will On India Over Dalai Lama Visit

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES)

Dalai Lama’s Arunachal visit will cause serious damage in ties with India: China

WORLD Updated: Mar 04, 2017 07:46 IST

Sutirtho Patranobis
Sutirtho Patranobis
Hindustan Times, Beijing
China-India ties

File photo of Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, at an international conference of Tibet support groups in Brussels, Belgium, in September 2016. (Reuters)

Bilateral ties will be seriously damaged if India allows the Dalai Lama to visit Arunachal Pradesh in the coming weeks, China warned on Friday while reiterating its contention that the Tibetan spiritual leader is a “separatist”.The warning from China’s foreign ministry came soon after the country’s former chief negotiator on the border issue, Dai Bingguo, said there should be some give and take to settle the dragging boundary dispute.

The foreign ministry said it is “gravely concerned” about reports that the Dalai Lama will visit the northeastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh in the near future.

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The Dalai Lama’s visit will cause “serious damage” to China-India ties, foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang told a regular news briefing. “China is strongly opposed to Dalai Lama visiting disputed areas,” he said.

“China’s position on eastern section of China-India border dispute is consistent and clear. The Dalai-clique has long been engaging in anti-China separatist activities and its record on the border question is not that good,” Geng said.

Meanwhile, India on Friday dismissed China’s warning over the Dalai Lama’s proposed visit to Arunachal Pradesh, saying that New Delhi’s position on the matter is well-known.

“The government’s position is well-known and has not changed,” external affairs ministry spokesperson Gopal Baglay said in response to a query.

China claims Arunachal Pradesh as part of its territory, calling it south Tibet. The state comprises the eastern sector of the nearly 3,500-km disputed border between India and China. The town of Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh is an important seat of Tibetan Buddhism and is located 400 km from Lhasa, the capital of China’s Tibet Autonomous Region.

Geng avoided a direct comment on an interview by Dai Bingguo, China’s Special Representative for border talks with India till 2013, in which Dai had said: “If the Indian side takes care of China’s concerns on the eastern section of the border, the Chinese side will respond accordingly and address India’s concerns elsewhere.”

Dai didn’t mention specific sections of the border where China could address India’s “concerns”.

“The disputed territory in the eastern sector of the China-India boundary including Tawang (in Arunachal Pradesh) is inalienable from China’s Tibet in terms of cultural background and administrative jurisdiction,” Dai told China-India Dialogue magazine that is part of the official China International Publishing Group.

Dai was the Special Representative for 15 rounds of talks with four Indian counterparts – Brajesh Mishra, JN Dixit, MK Narayanan and Shivshankar Menon.

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Without directly commenting on the interview, Geng said it is in “the fundamental interest of the two countries” to reach an “early solution” to the border issue. This is also an “important consensus” reached by the two sides, he added.

“At present the two sides have reached a roadmap to find a solution based on political parameters and guiding principles. They have also reached the important consensus that they are committed to an equitable, reasonable solution acceptable to the two sides,” Geng said.

“China would like to work with India to work relentlessly on negotiation process and find a solution that is equitable, reasonable to all parties,” he added.

Geng was more emphatic about China’s displeasure on the Dalai Lama’s visit to Arunchal Pradesh. Indicating that India is deliberately allowing the Dalai Lama to visit the region despite knowing China’s expected reaction, Geng said India is aware of the sensitivity of the matter.

“India is fully aware of the seriousness of the Dalai issue and the sensitivity of China-India border question,” he said.

“Under such a background if India invites Dalai to visit the mentioned territory it will cause serious damage to peace and stability of the border region and China-India relations.”

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Geng said China had conveyed its displeasure and concerns to India about the impending visit through formal channels.

“We have expressed concerns to the Indian side, urged India to stick to its political commitments and abide by important consensus the two sides have reached on the boundary question, refrain from actions that might complicate the issue, not provide a platform to the Dalai-clique and protect the sound and stable development of China-India relations,” he said.

China had strongly protested against the Dalai Lama’s meeting with President Pranab Mukherjee at the Rashtrapati Bhavan in December, saying it opposes any form of contact between the Tibetan leader and officials of other countries.

(With agency inputs)

INDIA: UP Minister Accused In Gang Rape Of Mom And Teenage Girl Has Disappeared

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES)

Airports across the country were on Friday alerted about the possibility of rape-accused UP minister Gayatri Prasad Prajapati trying to flee the country even as chief minister Akhilesh Yadav promised all help in the case.While the minister continues to elude police, a relative of the woman has said a UP Police officer who recorded the victim’s statement threatened to kill them.

Yadav and his Samajwadi Party are facing the heat over the missing minister as the state holds sixth round of voting on Saturday.

The case, the BJP said, was a pointer to the worsening law and order situation in Uttar Pradesh.

A letter of cancellation would soon be opened against Prajapati and all airports were alerted to prevent the 49-year-old from fleeing the country, official sources said.

A letter of cancellation is a technical term for alerting immigration authorities about the possibility of a suspect leaving the country.

The Sashastra Seema Bal, which guards Uttar Pradesh’s border with Nepal, too, was on an alert.

An FIR was recently registered against the minister for allegedly gang-raping a woman and molesting her daughter. The FIR was filed on the directions of the Supreme Court.

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CM promises help

“The matter is in the Supreme Court…The government will fully cooperate and go by its order,” Akhilesh Yadav said to a question at a hurriedly convened press conference in Lucknow.

When his attention was drawn to a tweet by state BJP president Keshav Prasad Maurya that said Prajapati was hiding in the chief minister’s house, Yadav asked the mediapersons to check for themselves.

Prajapati is the SP’s candidate from Amethi, which voted on February 27.

‘Murder threat’

A relative of the woman allegedly raped by Prajapati and his aides alleged that a police officer who came to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in Delhi to record the victim’s statement, threatened to kill them in a fake encounter.

In a complaint filed at the city’s Hauz Khas police station, the relative alleged that a DSP-rank officer on Thursday barged into the ward where the victim’s 16-year-old daughter is admitted and threatened them. The officer also snatched their mobile phones.

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The victim’s daughter, who was also allegedly sexually assaulted by the minister, is being treated in a restricted ward of AIIMS.

“The lady officer pushed the girl who is undergoing treatment and pestered the mother to record the statement.

“When we objected to it, the officer threatened to get us killed in a fake encounter,” said the complainant, who claimed to be a cousin of the victim.

Delhi Police sources said a team went to AIIMS but found nothing to back the claims made in the complaint.

“We have received a complaint from them and it is being examined. In case something comes out in the investigation, we will register an FIR,” a Delhi Police officer said.

Deputy superintendent of police Amita Singh had recorded the statement of the victim and her daughter amid opposition by their family members at AIIMS.

tag

Kansas Shooter’s Actions Cannot And Do Not Speak For How Vast Majority Of Americans Believe

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES NEWS)

Kansas shooter’s actions cannot and do not speak for US

WORLD Updated: Feb 26, 2017 07:05 IST

Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times, Washington

Kansas

Srinivas Kuchibhotla (right) with his wife Sunayana Dumala in Iowa. Kuchibhotla was shot at a bar in Olathe, Kansas.(AP File)

Sri Srinivasan’s family moved to Kansas when he was only four. He grew up a basketball fanatic, going to the same high school as a future star of the sport. And eventually went on to become the first Indian-American judge of a court of appeals, roughly like India’s high court, and was a top contender for a vacancy that fell open on the US supreme court bench in 2016, which would have been historic in many ways — as the first Indian-American, the first Asian-American and the first Hindu American named justice to the highest court in the country.Judge Srinivasan, as he is called, grew up in Lawrence, a 30-minute drive from Olathe, where an apparently inebriated US navy veteran killed Srinivas Kuchibotla, an IT engineer from Hyderabad, past Wednesday mistaking him for a Middle-Easterner, and telling him to “get out of my country”. Investigators are still trying to determine the exact motives of the shooter, Adam Purinton, but he will not be the first American to feel that way about people from the Middle-East, specially after the September 11, 2001 attacks.

But does the shooting make the United States less of a destination for anyone with dreams of making it big as Satya Nadella, Microsoft CEO from Hyderabad, Sunder Pichai, Google CEO from further south Chennai, or Vinod Khosla, co-founder of Sun Microsystems from Delhi? Less safe? After all, how could a drink at a bar with a colleague after work end so badly?

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Is President Donald Trump’s America any less safe? While condemning the killings, the White House has dismissed any links to the president’s rhetorics as has been suggested by some, but there are worries and concerns arising out of a surge in ethnic, religious and racial tensions in the aftermath of his election.

But Purinton cannot, and does not speak for Kansas or the United States. Judge Srinivasan has never complained about racial slights he or his family might have faced growing up in Kansas and local news publications had covered his elevation to the appeals court and his possible move to the Supreme Court with unrestrained pride.

Adam Purinton of Olathe, Kansas, who shot Indian engineer Srinivas Kuchibhotla. (REUTERS)

He was one of them, and they wanted to celebrate his achievements as they would of anyone else. He might have, as all immigrants, faced stereotyping — Indians are mocked, often by Indian comics — for nodding their head excessively as they listen; their accent, and they may have all faced one time or another intended or unintended slights.

Things can get worse, and have gotten worse for some. Balbir Singh Sandhu, an immigrant from Punjab, became the first victim of the backlash after the September 9, 2001, terrorist attack. He was shot dead at his gas station in Arizona by a man who mistook him for a Middle-Easterner. Six men and women were gunned down by a white supremacist an attack on a Wisconsin gurudwara in 2013. But Sandhu’s relatives chose to stay, and so have those of Wisconsin victims.

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And it may not be pointed out to those feeling uncertain, don’t forget Ian Gillort, the Kansas man who was shot by Purinton trying to save Kuchibotla and his colleague Alok Madasani. “No, it’s not like that,” Grillot said in a vide about being hailed as a hero. “I was just doing what anyone should have done for another human being. It’s not about where he was from or his ethnicity. We’re all humans. I just felt I did what was naturally right to do.” His sister has said he wishes he could have done more.

It is reasonable to feel unsafe and insecure after every such incident, but, as a young immigrant from India, said Friday, “People back home must realize the US is no less safe today than it was yesterday or the day before, or tomorrow.”

Nepal Government Trying To Curb Alcohol Abuse

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES)

The Nepal government has approved a stringent policy to regulate the sale of alcohol, including mandatory pictorial health warnings and an age bar for buying liquor, sparking a debate in the country.The National Policy on Regulation and Control of Alcohol 2017, cleared by the cabinet on February 20, will now be sent to Parliament for its endorsement. Under it, Nepal will adopt a zero-tolerance policy against drinking alcohol in public functions, weddings and other social and cultural events.

The policy requires producers to mandatory display a pictorial warning depicting liver cirrhosis and effects on other organs that will have to cover 75% of the packaging of alcoholic beverages.

Nepal will be first country to introduce such a warning for alcohol.

People below the age of 21 and pregnant women will be restricted from purchasing and consuming alcohol. Alcohol will no longer be served at government-sponsored events and it will not be sold at public places such as heritage sites and sports complexes. There will also be a total ban on alcohol advertisements.

The policy will also decrease the availability of alcohol by restricting sales to specially licensed shops for certain hours. Sales will be prohibited from 5 am to 7 pm, and every person will be able to buy only one litre a day.

The health ministry said it was forced to impose such restrictions because of health problems caused by excessive drinking, but there have been calls that the social and religious aspects of consuming alcohol should not be overlooked.

Selling alcohol is not perceived as a mere business in Nepal, as liquor forms an intrinsic part of religious functions for many ethnic communities.

Though the policy has been cautiously welcomed by various stakeholders, some have questioned how it will be implemented, given the country’s weak administrative structure, and how the market will respond. Others have noted the policy is silent on controlling moonshine, the sale of which is rampant in the countryside.

The health ministry has proposed a new mechanism to monitor the policy’s implementation and to take legal action against violators.

The multi-billion rupee liquor industry is in a dilemma as it cannot be seen as opposing a “noble cause” taken up by the government, a senior industrialist told Hindustan Times. The industry will wait till the policy is fully implemented before coming up a reaction, he said.

The tourism industry will back the move, said Biplav Poudel, who runs luxury hotels in Pokhara and Chitwan. He told Hindustan Times that the measures would not affect tourism as almost all tourists drink inside their hotels and not in public places.

The policy also includes income generation programmes and alternative employment opportunities to discourage the production and sale of domestic liquor.

But Gopal Krishna Siwakoti, a prominent rights activist, gave the example of Andhra Pradesh in India, which lifted a ban on alcohol in 1997 after enforcing prohibition for two years. “Such measures are not successful due to leakages within the state and from across borders and this is a lesson for Nepal,” he said.

Unlike in India, selling and consuming alcohol is not restricted in Nepal and experts say this has contributed to health problems. A WHO report of 2014 said around 50 people die of alcohol abuse in Nepal, while the health ministry has estimated 17.8% of the population of nearly 27 million drink every day.

Nepal banned drink-driving in 2012 to reduce road accidents and the move was widely successful.

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