India: Kerala turns to PM Modi after Karnataka closes its borders

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF INDIA’S HINDUSTAN TIMES)

 

Coronavirus update: Kerala turns to PM Modi after Karnataka closes its borders

After Karnataka blocked all roads leading to Kerala, many areas in the state witnessed scarcity of vegetables, fruits and other essential items.

INDIA Updated: Mar 29, 2020 09:56 IST

Ramesh Babu
Ramesh Babu
Hindustan Times, Thiruvananthapuram
PM Modi
PM Modi(PTI photo)

Kerala on Saturday approached Prime Minister Narendra Modi after Karnataka closed its border points even as the state reported its first Covid-19 related death, two months after the virus was detected in the country.

After Karnataka blocked all roads leading to Kerala, many areas in the state witnessed scarcity of vegetables, fruits and other essential items.

“Karnataka’s actions are against the federal structure of the country. How can you block roads with boulders and sand? We sought the help of the Prime Minister. Despite the Center’s assurance, the situation remained same,” Pinarayi Vijayan, the chief minister, said.

He cited the death of a heart patient in Kasaragod after his vehicle was denied entry to a hospital in the port city Mangaluru in Karnataka.

“In such a crisis situation we never expected such an attitude from our neighbour. Union minister Sadananda Gowda intervened first. Later, the state chief secretary also approached the cabinet secretary,” the CM said.

Usually, people of north Kerala turn to Mangaluru, a medical hub, for treatment but after the closure of entry points many patients were left stranded at check posts. Besides the death of the heart patient, a pregnant woman gave birth in the ambulance after it was sent back.

“The PM talked in length about unity and solidarity at the critical juncture. But we haven’t got a fair deal from our neighbour and we hope it will be corrected at the earliest,” the CM said.

Pinarayi Vijayan added it was the responsibility of the Centre to find a solution before it develops into an interstate dispute.

After Karnataka witnessed violence over the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) a couple of months ago, many BJP leaders in the state had blamed some fundamentalist outfits from Kerala for inciting it. Two neighbouring states have been keeping an uneasy relation since then.

Meanwhile, state health minister KK Shailaja said despite doctors’ best efforts they could not save the life a 69-year-old man, who came back from Dubai in the UAE.

“Doctors tried their best to save his life. He had multiple complications. He died this morning at the Ernakulam medical college hospital. It is really sad,” she said.

The man, who had bypass surgery five years ago, came to the country on March 16 from Dubai. He was tested positive on March 22, six days after he returned.

At least 42 people from his apartment complex and 200 passengers, who travelled in the flight he took from Dubai, are also under observation. His wife and driver were already tested positive for the virus.

His body was buried as per the World Health Organization (WHO) protocol and only four of his family members were allowed during the burial.

The minister said the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has given its nod for rapid test and it will cut time.

Six new cases were reported in Kerala on Saturday, taking the total number to 165 in the state. Two of the new cases are from Thiruvananthapuram district, and one each from Kollam, Palakkad, Malappuram and Kasaragod districts.

Two patients from Kottayam and one each from Thiruvananthapuram and Ernakulam districts have fully recovered. This includes one foreign national.

At least 134,370 people are under observation in the state which reported the first case in the country in January.

India: Experts warn against ‘false hope’, say summer may not help tackle coronavirus

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES)

 

Experts warn against ‘false hope’, say summer may not help tackle coronavirus

Experts have warned against “false hope” following an analysis from China that said the number of cases decreased after average temperatures crossed 8.72 degrees Celsius.

INDIA Updated: Mar 10, 2020 01:26 IST

Sanchita Sharma
Sanchita Sharma
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Passengers in masks at the Guwahati railway station.
Passengers in masks at the Guwahati railway station. (ANI Photo)

The summer heat may not necessarily kill or significantly weaken Sars-CoV-2, the virus that causes the novel coronavirus disease (Covid-19), say some experts, who have warned against “false hope” following an analysis from China that said the number of cases decreased after average temperatures crossed 8.72 degrees Celsius.

Epidemiologists say that while rising temperature and humidity may lead to modest declines in the potency of Sars-CoV-2, countries should not depend on warm weather to slow transmission, as the new virus may not react to seasonal changes in the way that other seasonal viruses causing flu and common cold do.

The China study found that in cold regions, every 1°C rise in average temperatures led to an a cumulative increase in cases by 0.83, while in the higher-temperature group, every 1°C increase in the minimum temperature led to a fall in the cumulative number of cases by 0.86.

Also read: Here’s why coronavirus testing takes 15 minutes in China and a day in India

There may be a best temperature for the viral transmission and the virus’s sensitivity to high temperature could prevent it from spreading in warmer countries during the summer, concluded the study, after analysing the cases from around the world from January 20 to February 4, against meteorological data for January from China and the capitals of the affected countries.

The study from Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou in Guangdong province was published on February 22. It is yet to be peer reviewed.

Another study from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, however, points to sustained Sars-CoV-2 transmission in diverse climate conditions, from cold and dry provinces to tropical locations even within China. Kerala, the state with the first cases in India and where further transmissions were reported this week, has humid weather and a maximum temperature of around 32 degrees Celsius.

“Weather alone, such as an increase of temperature and humidity in spring and summer in the northern hemisphere, will not necessarily lead to decline in case counts without implementing extensive public health interventions,” said the Harvard study, which is also awaiting scientific review. “If Sars-CoV-2 behaves like other betacoronaviruses, it may transmit more efficiently in lower temperature than in the summer heat, but the size of the change is expected to be modest, and not enough to stop transmission on its own,” said Marc Lipsitch, professor of epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health, and one of the co-authors of the study.

Also read: IAF sending C-17 Globemaster to bring Indians back from coronavirus-hit Iran

“It’s a false hope to say it will disappear like the flu [in the summer] … we can’t make that assumption. And there is no evidence,” said Mike Ryan, executive director of World Health Organistaion Health Emergencies Programme, in a statement.

“We cannot depend on temperature alone. Rising temperatures lower the survivability of viruses on surfaces, but this is a modified virus that has started infecting humans. We don’t know how these changes will affect the survivability of the virus with changes in temperature or humidity,” said Dr Lalit Kant, former head of epidemiology at Indian Council of Medical Research, and communicable disease adviser with Public Health Foundation of India. “Screening, contact tracing, testing, isolating cases, quarantining contacts and social are the way to control infection,” he added.

Massive containment efforts, and not rising temperatures, helped end the 2003 outbreak of Sars-Cov, the virus closest to Sars-CoV-2. “Sars (severe acute respiratory syndrome) did not die of natural causes. It was killed by intense public health interventions in mainland China, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Thailand, Canada, and elsewhere… but in Toronto, Sars resurged after the initial wave and precautions were discontinued. The resurgence confirms that it was control measures that stopped transmission the first time,” said Lipsitch.

With little evidence on how this new virus will behave, epidemiologists are falling back on the behaviour of coronaviruses, particularly Sars-CoV, with which it shares the most similarity among the six other human coronaviruses, including Sars-Cov and seasonal coronaviruses OC43, HKU1, 229E, and NL63, which cause the common cold.

“Seasonal flu outbreaks show new viruses don’t follow seasonality associated with the common cold and flu viruses as people have no immunity against novel viruses, which makes infection in the first wave more potent. This makes it is difficult to predict behaviour. As infections reach a critical mass, people build herd immunity and the symptoms get milder. In countries like India, along with the seasonal peaks, we get flu and common cold cases throughout the year,” said an epidemiologist with the health ministry on condition of anonymity.

India: Veteran firefighters being missed as Parliament stuck in a deadlock

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

 

Veteran firefighters being missed as Parliament stuck in a deadlock

In the Winter Session, the government agreed to just one debate under the rule, according to Trinamool Congrees Lok Sabha leader Sudip Bandopadhyay.

INDIA Updated: Mar 06, 2020 05:09 IST

Saubhadra Chatterji
Saubhadra Chatterji
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
The ongoing Budget Session of Parliament is stuck in a deadlock for the past four days over the Opposition’s demand to immediately discuss the Delhi riots. With the BJP in no mood to relent , legislative business has suffered.
The ongoing Budget Session of Parliament is stuck in a deadlock for the past four days over the Opposition’s demand to immediately discuss the Delhi riots. With the BJP in no mood to relent , legislative business has suffered. (PTI photo)

In July last year, the first session of the 17th Lok Sabha saw 33 bills (excluding the Finance and Appropriation Bills) being cleared in the Lok Sabha. The opposition leaders backed the government business — bypassing the standing committee scrutiny in several cases — but wanted an assurance from the government floor managers that they would be allowed to debate at least one issue a week under Rule 193 (a debate that ends without voting). That wasn’t forthcoming, and not one such debate under Rule 193 happened.

In the Winter Session, the government agreed to just one debate under the rule, according to Trinamool Congrees Lok Sabha leader Sudip Bandopadhyay.

Many senior leaders in opposition parties say this, more than anything else, underlines the inability of the government when it comes to floor management.

The ongoing Budget Session of Parliament is stuck in a deadlock for the past four days over the Opposition’s demand to immediately discuss the Delhi riots. With the BJP in no mood to relent , legislative business has suffered.

Opposition leaders say that in the previous Lok Sabha, senior ministers of the BJP such as the late Arun Jaitley, the late Ananth Kumar or Venkaiah Naidu (now the country’s vice-president) managed the floor deftly.

In January 2016, when the fate of the GST bill and some other legislative business looked bleak, Naidu, then the parliamentary affairs minister, met Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi seeking her support to run the House — something which no other BJP leader had done before. Within the following few days, Jaitley and Naidu arranged a meeting between PM Narendra Modi and Gandhi and former PM Manmohan Singh to thrash out differences on the GST bill. The bill was finally passed in August 2016.

“Leaders like Jaitley maintained an excellent equation across party lines. Inter-personal equations play an important role… Also, he had the authority; if he promised something to Opposition leaders, they knew it would be done,” said a seniorOpposition leader who asked not to be named.

In 2014, Jaitley, the leader of the Upper House, took the final call on the Opposition’s demand for form a select panel on the Insurance Bill to review the clause on increasing FDI in the sector. While the Opposition was in a majority in the Rajya Sabha, he and Naidu also managed to negotiate their way to a panel that finally included members from both the ruling and the Opposition side said a senior RS official on condition of anonymity

In the UPA era, finance minister Pranab Mukherjee (who was also the leader of LS) handled negotiations with the Opposition. When Nitin Gadkari became the BJP president, Mukherjee quickly included him in his weekly meetings with LK Advani and Leader of Opposition in LS , the late Sushma Swaraj. It helped Mukherjee get a clearer picture of what the BJP wanted and also helped arrive at solutions on parliamentary issues.

The government doesn’t have anyone who can do this today, say analysts.

One of the best stories of parliamentary negotiations goes back to the Atal Bihari Vajpayee era. The BJP had stalled the patent bill brought by the earlier Congress government in 1995. But in 2002-03, India started facing trouble in the World Trade Organization and the NDA’s commerce minister Murosoli Maran moved the same patent bill with just two changes: the name of the minister presenting the bill and the date of introduction. The bill was later cleared.

“When Kamal Nath (the parliamentary affairs minister) used to hold luncheon meetings with members from opposition parties every week. But today the top leaders of the BJP do not negotiate…,” said a senior Congress leader requesting anonymity.

Dabholkar murder case: Norwegian divers recover pistol from seabed

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

 

Dabholkar murder case: Norwegian divers recover pistol from seabed

The weapon has been sent for a forensic examination to establish if it was indeed used in the murder of Dabholkar. CBI, in August 2019, informed a Pune court that it needed to scour the sea at Kharegaon Creek near Thane to look for the weapon.

INDIA Updated: Mar 05, 2020 02:31 IST
Neeraj Chauhan and Shalaka Shinde
Neeraj Chauhan and Shalaka Shinde

Hindustan Times, New Delhi/Pune
CBI) has recovered a pistol that may have been used in the killing from the Arabian Sea with the help of Norwegian deep-sea explorers and technology.
CBI) has recovered a pistol that may have been used in the killing from the Arabian Sea with the help of Norwegian deep-sea explorers and technology.(File photo)

In a significant breakthrough in the murder of rationalist and social activist Narendra Dabholkar, who was shot dead by unidentified men in Pune in August 2013, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has recovered a pistol that may have been used in the killing from the Arabian Sea with the help of Norwegian deep-sea explorers and technology, two senior officers aware of the development said.

The weapon has been sent for a forensic examination to establish if it was indeed used in the murder of Dabholkar. The agency, in August 2019, informed a Pune court that it needed to scour the sea at Kharegaon Creek near Thane to look for the weapon.

Seven people, including Virendra Tade, an ear, nose and throat (ENT) surgeon, advocate Sanjeev Punalekar, Vikram Bhave, Sharad Kalaskar and Sachin Andure, were named by CBI as the key accused in the murder of Dabholkar, who was shot dead while on a morning walk.

“We have found a pistol after days of exploration. The ballistics experts will now examine it with the bullet size/type mentioned in the post mortem report of Dabholkar,” one of the two senior officers cited above said on condition of anonymity.

Dubai-based Envitech Marine Consultants, engaged by CBI for the exploration, transported its machinery from Norway for finding the weapon. The experts used a magnetic sledge to explore the area near Kharegaon Creek as part of an exploration survey called ‘Topographical and Level Survey’, in which the silt top and silt depth levels were checked, said the officer.

As part of the survey, several methods — known as Electronic Distance Measuring, Angle Measurement, and Level Measurement — were used, he added.

The central agency arranged the whole operation, starting from getting permission from the state government to securing environment clearances. It even got customs duty worth around ~95 lakh waived for bringing the machinery from Norway.

The cost of exploration operation is estimated at Rs 7.5 crore. CBI is committed to taking the case to its logical conclusion, the officer said.

CBI and the Karnataka and Maharashtra Anti-Terror Squads (ATS) are likely to jointly bear the cost of exploration as three murder cases in the two states — Dabholkar in Pune, and Gauri Lankesh and MM Kalburgi in Karnataka — are linked.

“I must, at this point, say that I cannot comment on portion of investigation that has not been presented in the court. But if indeed such a development has occurred, I hope by April or in the next 10 days, they should start the trial. I personally do not know when the divers came and the process happened. Interestingly enough, the search has been going on for a year. It is not an ocean, just a creek. I fail to understand why it took so long. Only after Dharmadhikari resigned, a statement was made by the investigation authority that we will complete the investigation by March-end,” said advocate Virendra Ichalkaranjikar, a defence lawyer in the Dabholkar case.

Bombay high court justice Satyaranjan Dharmadhikari, who had been hearing the Dabholkar case, had tendered his resignation last month citing personal reasons. Justice Dharmadhikari had issued multiple orders in the case pulling up CBI for the slow pace of investigation.

Dabholkar was shot dead by two bike-borne assailants on August 20, 2013, on the Omkareshwar bridge in Pune around 7.30am. In 2014, the investigation was handed over to CBI.

The first charge sheet in the matter was filed on September 6, 2016, naming Virendra Tawade as the main conspirator and Sarang Akolkar and Vinay Pawar as the shooters. A supplementary charge sheet in the case was filed on February 13, 2019, naming Sachin Andure and Sharad Kalaskar as the two shooters. Another charge sheet was filed on November 20, 2019, against advocate Sanjiv Punalekar and his aide Vikram Bhave, naming them as co-conspirators in the murder. Of the seven people named in the case, Tawade, Kalaskar, Andure and Bhave are in jail. Akolkar and Pawar are yet to be arrested. Advocate Punalekar and Bhave were arrested on May 25, 2019. Punalekar was granted bail on July 5, 2019.

Kalaskar and Andure are being investigated by the CBI in the Dabholkar murder case as well as the Karnataka special investigation team probing the Gauri Lankesh murder.

India: Centre to push development schemes for individuals in J&K, Ladakh

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

 

Centre to push development schemes for individuals in J&K, Ladakh

Earlier this week, cabinet secretary Rajiv Gauba chaired a meeting on social schemes for the two new UTs. Move aims to highlight government’s intent on development for the regions’ residents.

INDIA Updated: Mar 01, 2020 16:26 IST

Saubhadra Chatterji
Saubhadra Chatterji
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
A Kashmiri coppersmith working inside a workshop in the downtown of Srinagar.
A Kashmiri coppersmith working inside a workshop in the downtown of Srinagar.(ANI)

The Union government will sharply focus on government schemes aimed at individuals, such as scholarships or houses, in the Union territories of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh, in an effort to push its development narrative in the region.

Earlier this week, cabinet secretary Rajiv Gauba chaired a meeting on social schemes for the two new UTs. According to two officials who attended the meeting, it was decided that the schemes must see 100% coverage with no potential beneficiary being excluded for lack of funds. The meeting, attended by secretaries of home affairs, minority affairs, tribal affairs, rural development and officials from Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh focused on the two main issues involved — challenging conditions on the ground and the financial implications of covering everyone. For instance, the two officials said, one of the participants pointed out how the limited availability of 3G network in the valley makes the enrollment process difficult.

The emphasis on schemes that touch individual beneficiaries comes from the belief that this will have a perceptible impact on the ground, and highlight the government’s intent on the development front to residents. Indeed, this has been one reason consistently put across by the government to support its decision of August 5, 2019 to scrap constitutional provisions that had given the erstwhile state of Jammu & Kashmir special status and its citizens special privileges — the ability to ensure people in the region benefit from welfare schemes as much as those in the rest of the country have.

“Proper implementation of individual schemes can directly improve people’s lives,” one of the two officials said on condition of anonymity.

Individual beneficiaries have been a key element of the National Democratic Alliance government’s social schemes and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party made special efforts to carve out a vote-bank out of the 220 million who benefited from various schemes in the run-up to the 2019 national polls, reaching out to them through dedicated campaigns and interactions.

According to data provided by the National Scholarship Portal, Jammu and Kashmir has received 517,000 new proposals for pre-metric scholarship in the academic year 2019-20 but money has been disbursed in just 8,294 cases.

Similarly, as on February 26, against a total target of building 62,932 houses for the rural poor in the region, only 36,780 have been sanctioned and just 122 have been completed, according to the data available with the rural development ministry.

In the meeting, it was decided that the schemes such as scholarships, gas connections under the Ujjwala programme, and housing for the poor must start with a 100% offtake with complete enrolment and funding. “This is an important step. The government has targeted 100% saturation in social programmes earlier too. But this time, 100% offtake is also envisaged, making it a special case for J&K and Ladakh UTs,” said the second official, who too didn’t wish to be named.

One of the other challenges discussed at the meeting was data on potential beneficiaries. The data provided by Union territories officials didn’t match with that of the Union home ministry and the latter has been asked to devise an online mechanism for data reconciliation.

Former rural development secretary Jugal Kishore Mohapatra underlines that J&K has very low poverty indices and so the welfare programmes must focus on skill development and employment . “Livelihood programms would do very well in J&K. I remember in his first Pragati meeting with secretaries, the PM had reviewed J&K livelihood programme and sought its continuation. While some schemes such as housing or scholarships must target individual beneficiaries, entry point for livelihood schemes has to be in groups.”

Delhi riots: As the dust settles, scale of tragedy starts to unfold

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

 

Delhi riots: As the dust settles, scale of tragedy starts to unfold

DFS data accessed by HT shows that Tuesday was the worst day of the riots and alone witnessed 89 incidents of arson.

DELHI Updated: Feb 28, 2020 07:33 I ST

Anvit Srivastava
Anvit Srivastava

Hindustan Times, New Delhi
People mourn next to the body of Muddasir Khan, who succumbed to injuries that he suffered on Tuesday.
People mourn next to the body of Muddasir Khan, who succumbed to injuries that he suffered on Tuesday.(Photo: Reuters)

At least 79 houses, 52 shops, five godowns, four mosques, three factories and two schools were set ablaze between Monday and Wednesday morning during the riots in north-east Delhi that claimed 38 lives and left about 350 injured.

A rough estimate by the Delhi Fire Service (DFS), which attended 218 calls related to arson during the riots from Monday to 8 am on Thursday, suggests that more than 500 vehicles, including two-wheeler’s, were burnt between Monday and Thursday morning.

DFS data accessed by HT shows that Tuesday was the worst day of the riots and alone witnessed 89 incidents of arson. While Wednesday saw 57 incidents of arson, 23 took place on Monday. Fourteen incidents of arson also took place between midnight and 8 am on Thursday, the data shows.

Most of these buildings and vehicles were burnt using petrol and kerosene by the raging groups moving around with no fixed plan, but armed with torches and petrol bombs.

Officials said a majority of these buildings and vehicles had been gutted completely.

Fire services chief Atul Garg said that despite the arson, only one death was reported due to fire.

“We had to remove a burnt body of an elderly woman from a building near Khajuri. She was trapped in her house when the rioters set it afire. She may have lost consciousness due to asphyxiation, after which her body was burnt. There was no other casualty because of fire,” Garg said.

The director said that from Monday till Thursday afternoon, more than 100 of their firefighters remained deployed in north-east Delhi at four fire stations in the region. “The fire stations that fall in the riot-hit areas are Gokalpuri, Shastri Park, Tahirpur and Shahdara. Usually these fire stations have two fire tenders each, always ready to respond. We increased these numbers to at least six to eight fire tenders in each fire station, as the phones in our control room just did not stop ringing,” said Garg, who led the fire fighters in the riot-hit areas on Tuesday.

However, many residents said they received no aid from the fire fighters when their houses and shops were burnt by raging mobs.

Bilkis Khatoon, who lives right behind the mosque in Ashok Nagar that was burnt, said the mob also set her house on fire.

“My house was completely damaged. There is nothing left. Had the firefighters reached in time, they could have saved my belongings and valuables,” she said, in tears.

An HT reporter who was in Gokalpuri during the riots on Tuesday said that around 11 am, when a tyre and bike accessories market in Gokalpuri was burnt, a fire tender could not reach the spot because it was stopped near Gokalpuri Metro station by a violent mob, and its personnel thrashed.

The fire tender was also destroyed.

Director Garg said five firefighters were injured in the violence. “While on our way to the spots, we had to face severe stone-pelting and vandalism. On our request, the police had given us two teams that cordoned us through the violent mob every time. We tried attending every call that we received. In most incidents of fire, the occupants of the buildings were either rescued by neighbors or they managed to escape in time,” he said.

Garg said five fire tenders were also damaged. While one was completely burnt, four others were vandalized and are repairable, he said.

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Taking out his iPad, PM Modi made on the spot trade presentation to Trump

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF INDIA)

 

Taking out his iPad, PM Modi made on the spot trade presentation to Trump

According to those present at Hyderabad House, PM Modi took upon himself to remove the misgivings of US President Donald Trump that India was treating his country unfairly with little effort being made to address an adverse trade deficit.

INDIA Updated: Feb 28, 2020 12:57 IST

Shishir Gupta
Shishir Gupta
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks to US President Donald Trump during a meeting at Hyderabad House in New Delhi.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks to US President Donald Trump during a meeting at Hyderabad House in New Delhi.(REUTERS)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi used his favorite gadget, an iPad to make an impromptu presentation to US President Donald Trump on Tuesday at Hyderabad House in an effort to dispel all misgivings on bilateral trade with India. He also used a time-window before lunch was served at Hyderabad House to explain both the Citizenship Amendment Act and the nullification of Article 370 of the Constitution to the satisfaction of the US president.

Trade is one of the big outstanding issues between the two countries, which couldn’t agree on a widely anticipated trade deal that was expected to be signed during this visit. However, both say they are working on a larger deal.

According to those present at Hyderabad House, PM Modi took upon himself to remove the misgivings of US President Donald Trump that India was treating his country unfairly with little effort being made to address an adverse trade deficit.

Watch what Donald Trump said on CAA debate, Pakistan terror, at Delhi briefing

It is learnt that PM Modi took out his iPad and showed President Trump what India had done during his tenure to reduce the trade deficit from $31 billion in 2014 to $24.2 billion in 2018—a decline a 22% over four years. PM Modi also showed that India’s hydrocarbon imports from the US went from zero in 2013 to $9 billion now and likely to reach $12 billion by the end of the year, with the US exporting oil, coal and liquefied natural gas to India.

He revealed that Indian students in US were contributing nearly $ 6 billion each year to the American treasury by spending dollars in education. PM Modi then pointed out to the growing military hardware imports to India during President Trump’s tenure with more multi-billion dollar defense deals in the pipeline. India is buying $3 billion worth of helicopters this year, for instance. President Trump indicated to PM Modi that his country is willing to supply any top-of-the-line defense equipment including armed drones and fighters to India and that New Delhi was free to buy from anyone provided that the equipment was better in comparison to American hardware. Both PM Modi and President Trump spoke about bilateral trade in comments to media at Hyderabad House.

On CAA, PM Modi explained to the US president that the proportion of those belonging to minority communities in Pakistan and other Muslim nations in India’s neighborhood, including Christians, has fallen and that the law is aimed only at providing security and dignity to those mistreated in the neighborhood. He explained that CAA was not aimed at depriving any one of citizenship rights, the people present during the meeting said.

On the issue of J&K, Modi explained how despite all his efforts, Pakistan was targeting India through terrorists, the people added.

Interestingly, even as Modi pointed out the security challenges that India faces from Pakistan, President Trump repeated his willingness to mediate between the two estranged neighbors, the people said. According to them, PM Modi heard out President Trump.

Donald, Melania, Ivanka, and Jared Visited the Taj Mahal. Their Poses Spoke Volumes

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE DAILY BEAST)

 

Donald, Melania, Ivanka, and Jared Visited the Taj Mahal. Their Poses Spoke Volumes.

TOGETHER FOREVER

Donald, Melania, and Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner posed in front of the Taj Mahal, joining a long tradition of celebrities using the historic site to promote their own image.

Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty

Melania Trump stood in front of the Taj Mahal, built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan as a symbol of devotion to his wife, Mumtaz, and watched her open-mouthed husband bellow to photographers.

Her high-necked, ivory jumpsuit matched the exterior of the famed marble mausoleum (CNN’s Kate Bennett identified the one piece as made by Trump’s stylist, Hervé Pierre). It came with a moss green sash made of “vintage Indian textile” that slightly clashed with her husband’s canary yellow tie.

Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty

Still, the First Lady—known for looking absolutely miserable when out with her husband—appeared happy, or at least flashed a few more step-and-repeat smiles than normal. One tabloid described the pair as “loved-up,” which is as big of a stretch as the notion that burger-loving Trump enjoyed his meatless Monday in India. Still, the Trumps were able to hold hands for a while, and they stood close while watching a flock of birds fly away, like two characters from a gothic poem.

Ivanka, too, arrived with Jared Kushner in tow, though she kicked her husband out of her own picture. In a poppy-patterned turquoise dress, which matched the reflection pool she stood in front of, Ivanka mugged with her vacant-eyed but determined smile.

If you have any doubts about any future political aspirations for this “presidential adviser,” then (take a deep breath and) look at her Taj Mahal photo op. Despite all those “Unwanted Ivanka” detractors, just like the building itself, she endures. In Ivanka’s words, such resilience is “awe inspiring.” Others might call her seemingly ceaseless, free vacations (thinly) disguised as diplomacy, a horror scenario.

Ivanka Trump

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The grandeur and beauty of the Taj Mahal is awe inspiring! 🇺🇸 🇮🇳

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The Taj Mahal was completed after ten years of construction in 1653, outlasting threats from the Japanese Air Force in World War II and Pakistan’s bomber pilots in the late ’60s. But the historic site, frequently referenced as a Wonder of the World, has succumbed to one thing: the rich and powerful using it as a backdrop to make coded statements to the world.

The tradition began in earnest with the 1992 image of Princess Diana on a marble bench, her body a lithe strip in a cherry red blazer, nearly dwarfed compared to the gargantuan building behind her. She went to the site alone, without her husband Prince Charles, implying a fissure in their not-so-storybook romance.

But Diana was not the first celebrity photo op at the Taj Mahal. In 1962, Jackie Kennedy took a solo trip to India and Pakistan, at a time when First Ladies did not often dabble in foreign diplomacy. For her pilgrimage to the spot, she wore a preppy blue and green sheath, projecting the Camelot-era’s sunny confidence.

Four years later, George Harrison snapped a selfie in front of the site, looking very anti-Kennedy in his counterculture duds: an unbuttoned cotton shirt and dark sunglasses.

Since then, plenty of other young and famous men have come to the mausoleum in search of themselves, or at least a performative version of it.

In 2015, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said the Taj Mahal was an example of “what people can build—and what love can motivate us to build,” using the elegant language of a good copywriter to plug his company after paying respects. That same year, Leonardo DiCaprio visited too, while in the country working on a climate change documentary. It was a “secret trip;” DiCaprio asked tourists not to take pictures, because he was working.

In 1995, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton also sat on one of the Taj Mahal’s benches for photographers, sitting close and smiling, visual code for girl power. Five years after that, the first daughter would return with her father, Bill.

Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty

In wide-angle snapshots of Donald and Melania strolling in front of the Taj Mahal, the yuge building’s scope leaves the pair looking tiny, nearly as tall as the shrubs which line the monument’s grassy aisles. Trump, who’s got a thing for screaming about his own bigness, might not appreciate how tiny he looks.

But for a man who views the presidency as just another prize to show off that he’s won, the Taj Mahal visit was a success. The man whose legacy was once a knockoff-named casino now has got his photo in front of the real thing, joining the star-studded ranks of those who came before him. And as we’ve seen from this optics-obsessed administration so many times before, the facade is all that matters.

Shooter Of Nobel Prize Winner Malala Escapes From Prison In Pakistan

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

 

Man responsible for shooting of Nobel Prize winner Malala escapes from prison in Pakistan

It would be a big blow to Pakistan and its campaign to eradicate the remnants of Taliban if the clip is proved to be authentic.

WORLD Updated: Feb 07, 2020 07:04 IST

Press Trust of India
Press Trust of India

Islamabad
Ehsanullah Ehsan, the Taliban terrorist responsible for shooting Malala Yousafzai and killing over 132 students in 2014 Peshawar Army School has escaped prison.
Ehsanullah Ehsan, the Taliban terrorist responsible for shooting Malala Yousafzai and killing over 132 students in 2014 Peshawar Army School has escaped prison. (Twitter/@IhsanTipu)

Ehsanullah Ehsan, the former Pakistan Taliban spokesman who was responsible for the shooting of Malala Yousafzai in 2012 and carrying out the deadly Peshawar Army school terror attack in 2014, has escaped from prison, according to a audio clip released by him.

In the audio clip, which surfaced on social media on Thursday, Ehsan said that he escaped the confinement of Pakistani security agencies on January 11, claiming Pakistani forces failed to keep their promises made to him during his surrender in 2017.

“With the help of God, I succeeded to escape on January 11, 2020 from the confinement of the security forces,” he is heard saying in the clip.

It would be a big blow to Pakistan and its campaign to eradicate the remnants of Taliban if the clip is proved to be authentic.

Without revealing his current location, Ehsan said that he would make a detail statement about the days of his confinement in the coming days as well as about his future plans.

Malala, 22, the youngest Nobel Peace prize winner, was shot by a gunman for campaigning for female education in 2012 in Pakistan’s Swat Valley.

Ehsan was also involved in the one of the most gruesome attacks on children anywhere in the world when 8-10 suicide attackers wearing paramilitary Frontier Corps uniforms on December 16, 2014 entered the Peshawar’s Army Public School and went from classroom-to-classroom shooting indiscriminately, killing 149 people including 132 students.

Ehsan in the audio clip said that he surrendered to the Pakistani security agencies on February 5, 2017 under an agreement but the forces failed to keep their promise made before the surrender.

“I followed the agreement for about three years. But these shrewd security institutions put me in prison along with my children in violation of the agreement,” he said, adding that he finally decided to flee from the forces. The authenticity of the audio and veracity of the Ehsan’s claim was not verified by the security forces or the Pakistani government.

27 Islamic terrorists now being trained at Balakot for attack on India

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

 

27 terrorists now being trained at Balakot for attack on India, says Intel

According to the counterterror operatives, out of the 27, eight are from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. They are being trained by two instructors from Punjab, Pakistan and three from Afghanistan.

INDIA Updated: Feb 07, 2020 08:20 IST

Shishir Gupta
Shishir Gupta
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
The camp, targeted by the IAF as a reprisal for the suicide bombing in Pulwama by a Jaish terrorist, and also to prevent further attacks against India, is currently headed by Yusuf Azhar, kin of Maulana Masood Azhar
The camp, targeted by the IAF as a reprisal for the suicide bombing in Pulwama by a Jaish terrorist, and also to prevent further attacks against India, is currently headed by Yusuf Azhar, kin of Maulana Masood Azhar(ANI )

The Balakot camp of terror group Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), targeted by India in an air strike last February, is active again and currently training 27 terrorists, with the plan being to use them to launch terror attacks in India, intelligence and counterterror operatives said.

The camp, targeted by the Indian Air Force (IAF) as a reprisal for the suicide bombing in Pulwama by a Jaish terrorist, and also to prevent further attacks against India, is currently headed by Yusuf Azhar, kin of Maulana Masood Azhar, and is currently providing terror training to 27 extremists for launching attacks against India.

According to the counterterror operatives, out of the 27, eight are from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. They are being trained by two instructors from Punjab, Pakistan and three from Afghanistan. The operatives, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that the intelligence at their disposal suggests that the training will be completed within this week, after which the terrorists will be ready for insertion into India. At the time when India launched strikes at Balakot, there were no less than 300 terrorists being trained there, according to the operatives.

The preparations for the terror offensive come even as around 40 JeM functionaries including Abdul Rauf were arrested on January 22, as part of Pakistan’s compliance with the Financial Action Task Force, an inter-governmental agency which combats money-laundering and terror financing. Even as Rawalpindi GHQ does this, the Indian operatives say, it may also launch a full-fledged information campaign to actually project the February 26, 2019, Indian Air Force strike at Balakot as a victory for the Imran Khan regime.

According to them, the aim of such a campaign would be to boost public confidence in the political and military leadership, lift the morale of Kashmiris, counter the Indian narrative on both Balakot and Kashmir, and present India internationally as a threat to global peace and security.

The fact is that Pakistan’s terror factory is alive and kicking with no less than 32 foreign terrorists belonging to both JeM and fellow jihadist group Lashkar-e-Taiba being gunned down by Indian security forces from January 1, 2019, to January 31 this year. Three LeT terrorists were apprehended and no less than 102 Pakistani terrorists are still active in Kashmir valley, the Indian officials added. Available records show that out of 102, 59 belong to LeT, 37 to JeM and 6 to Hizbul Mujahideen.

Yet the Pakistani narrative is designed to establish that Balakot was a victory for Islamabad as the military shot down an Indian MiG-21 Bison fighter and captured Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman. The Imran Khan government is expected to use the media to propagate that Pakistan is all for peace but ready for war. The propaganda is designed to convey that the Pakistani leadership was strong as it “defeated” India in battlefield and at global forums. And it will use the wing commander’s return to substantiate its claims that it did so out of a desire for peace and from a position of strength.

The officials said that Islamabad was forced to hand over Abhinandan after India signalled its readiness to follow up with a missile strike.

Interestingly, the officials said that the Imran Khan government will also try to highlight that for the first time India was brought under international pressure over Kashmir, despite Islamabad’s continued failure to do so at the United Nations.