India air pollution at ‘unbearable levels’, Delhi minister says

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)

 

India air pollution at ‘unbearable levels’, Delhi minister says

In the smog, a large crowd of Hindu worshippers entering the River YamunaImage copyright REUTERS
Image caption Worshipers braved the smog to enter the polluted River Yamuna as part of the Hindu religious festival of Chatth Puja

Air pollution in the north of India has “reached unbearable levels,” the capital Delhi’s Chief Minister Arvid Kejriwal says.

In many areas of Delhi air quality deteriorated into the “hazardous” category on Sunday with the potential to cause respiratory illnesses.

Authorities have urged people to stay inside to protect themselves.

Mr Kejriwal called on the central government to provide relief and tackle the toxic pollution.

Schools have been closed, more than 30 flights diverted and construction work halted as the city sits in a thick blanket of smog.

A sign reading "Keep Delhi clean" with a thick smog in the backgroundImage copyright AFP
Image caption Only cars with odd or even number plates can drive on given days in a bid to reduce pollution

Delhi Health Minister Satyendar Jain advised the city’s residents to “avoid outdoor physical activities, especially during morning and late evening hours”.

The advisory also said people should wear anti-pollution masks, avoid polluted areas and keep doors and windows closed.

How bad is the smog?

Levels of dangerous particles in the air – known as PM2.5 – are far higher than recommended and about seven times higher than in the Chinese capital Beijing.

An Indian health ministry official said the city’s pollution monitors did not have enough digits to accurately record pollution levels, which he called a “disaster”.

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Five million masks were handed out in schools on Friday as officials declared a public health emergency and Mr Kejriwal likened the city to a “gas chamber”.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says a third of deaths from stroke, lung cancer and heart disease are due to air pollution.

“This is having an equivalent effect to that of smoking tobacco,” the WHO says on its website.

How are people reacting?

Mr Kejriwal’s most recent comments are unlikely to please government officials, reports the BBC’s South Asia regional editor Jill McGivering. She said Indian politicians were blaming each other for the conditions.

On Sunday young people in Delhi came out to protest and demand action.

“You can obviously see how terrible it is and it’s actually scary you can’t see things in front of you,” said Jaivipra.

A protester holding a sign that says: "Can't decide whether air quality or economy is falling faster"Image copyright AFP
Image caption Angry protesters compared the pollution to India’s sluggish economy

She said she wanted long-term and sustainable anti-pollution measures put in place.

“We are concerned about our futures and about our health but we are also fighting this on behalf of the children and the elderly who bear the biggest brunt of the problem here,” she said.

Some ministers have sparked controversy on social media by suggesting light-hearted measures to stay healthy.

Harsh Vardhan, the union minister for health and family welfare, urged people to eat carrots to protect against “night blindness” and “other pollution-related harm to health”.

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Meanwhile, Prakash Javadekar, the minister of the environment, suggested that you should “start your day with music”, adding a link to a “scintillating thematic composition”.

“Is that the reason you have turned deaf ears to our plight on pollution?” one Twitter user responded. “Seems you are too busy hearing music that you are not able to hear us!”

What’s caused the pollution?

A major factor behind the high pollution levels at this time of year is farmers in neighboring states burning crop stubble to clear their fields.

A row of police wearing facemasks to protect themselves from the toxic smogImage copyright AFP
Image caption Police are wearing face masks to protect themselves from the toxic smog

This creates a lethal cocktail of particulate matter, carbon dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide – all worsened by fireworks set off during the Hindu festival Diwali a week ago.

Vehicle fumes, construction and industrial emissions have also contributed to the smog.

Indians are hoping that scattered rainfall over the coming week will wash away the pollutants but this is not due until Thursday.

Media caption Residents have been donning high-grade masks to counter the smog

PM Narendra Modi leaves for home after concluding visit to Saudi Arabia

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

 

PM Narendra Modi leaves for home after concluding visit to Saudi Arabia

PM Narendra Modi, held wide-ranging talks with Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz and powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, during which a Strategic Partnership Council was established to coordinate on important issues.

INDIA Updated: Oct 30, 2019 06:26 IST

Press Trust of India
Press Trust of India

Riyadh
Prime Minister Narendra Modi meets H.M. King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi meets H.M. King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.(PTI photo)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi concluded his visit to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, during which he held extensive talks with the top Saudi leadership and addressed a key financial forum here.

Modi, who arrived here Monday night, held wide-ranging talks with Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz and powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, during which a Strategic Partnership Council was established to coordinate on important issues.

A memorandum of under standing was also signed to roll out RuPay card in the Kingdom – making Saudi Arabia the third country in the Persian Gulf after the UAE and Bahrain to introduce India’s digital payment system.

Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Raveesh Kumar tweeted, “Leaving with a marked upswing in bilateral relations. PM Narendra Modi departs from Riyadh after steering the India-Saudi relationship on a upward trajectory pointing towards greater collaboration in future.” Prime Minister Modi also delivered a keynote address at the high-profile Future Investment Initiative (FII), dubbed as ‘Davos in the desert’, where he pressed for the United Nations reforms while expressing regret over some “powerful” countries using the global body as a “tool” rather than an “institution” to resolve conflicts.

At the fort, he said that India will invest a USD 100 billion in oil and gas infrastructure to meet energy needs of an economy that is being targeted to nearly double in five years. He also sought investment from the oil-rich Saudi Arabia and other nations to boost supplies.

India’s relations with Saudi Arabia have been on an upswing over the last few years based on burgeoning energy ties. India’s bilateral trade with Saudi Arabia was at USD 27.48 billion in 2017-18, making Saudi Arabia its fourth largest trading partner.

This was Prime Minister Modi’s second visit to the country. During his first visit, King Salman conferred Saudi’s highest civilian award on him. The Crown Prince visited India in February 2019, giving a further fillip to the bilateral ties.

Saudi Arabia last month said that it was looking at investing USD 100 billion in India in areas of energy, refining, petrochemicals, infrastructure, agriculture, minerals and mining.

First Published: Oct 30, 2019 06:13 IST

5 Most Populous Cities in India

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRIP TRIVIA)

 

5 Most Populous Cities in India

With a population of 1.34 billion people, India is the second most populous country in the world. Statistically, one in six people on Earth is from India. There are 46 cities with over 1 million people, compared to just 10 cities within the United States. And these are the five most populous of them all. Population numbers are 2019 estimates according to World Population Review.

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5. Chennai

Photo of a colorful Indian temple covered in statues
Credit: Jayakumar / Shutterstock

Population: 10.7 million

Chennai is a coastal city on the Bay of Bengal. It is well known for its artistic, religious, and culinary traditions. With such a long and rich history, Chennai is a popular travel destination for tourists and is one of the most visited cities in the world.

The city is also famous for its healthcare services and boasts of its medical tourism industry. People flock from across the world to get medical care for a fraction of what it would cost in their home country. More than 10.7 million people live in the city of Chennai.

4. Bangalore

Aerial photo of the city of Bangalore, India
Credit: Noppasin Wongchum / Shutterstock

Population: 11.9 million

Officially called Bengaluru, Bangalore is located in southern India on the Deccan Plateau 3,000 feet above sea level. It is a melting pot of many different cultures and religions. In the city alone, there are over 1,000 Hindu temples, 400 mosques, 100 churches, 40 Jain derasars, two Buddhist viharas, and one Parsi fire temple.

Because of its diversity, Bangalore is one of India’s most progressive cities and offers artsy cafes and modern shopping malls. It has been dubbed the “Silicon Valley of India” because of its numerous new tech startups. There are many parks and lakes scattered throughout the city. As far as Indian cities go, Bangalore is among the easiest to live in — just ask one of the almost 12 million people who call it home.

3. Kolkata

Photo of a busy street in the city of Kolkata
Credit: Mazur Travel / Shutterstock

Population: 14.8 million

Kolkata is located in eastern India on the bank of the Hooghly River. The river empties out into the Bay of Bengal, making Kolkata a hub for manufacturing, transportation, and commerce. The city was originally built in the style of a European city but has since managed to combine East and West to create its own unique identity.

The city was originally named Calcutta, which was the British version of what the locals called it: Kalikata. Kalikata referred to the goddess Kali and was a combination of the three cities that combined to make the metropolis. In 2001, the name Kolkata was officially adopted. The city covers 40 square miles and is home to almost 15 million people.

2. New Delhi

Photo of a busy street in New Delhi
Credit: Steve Photography / Shutterstock

Population: 16.3 million

The city of Delhi is made up of two parts: Old Delhi and New Delhi. Old Delhi is a historic city that reaches back into the 6th century and beyond. New Delhi was created under British colonization as the capital of India and the capital of British India. More than 16.3 million people live in New Delhi alone, making it the second most populated city in India.

If you count Delhi as one unified city that includes both New and Old Delhi, the population jumps to nearly 30 million, doubling the population of Kolkata! Because of its massive population, pollution is a major issue for both air and water quality.

1. Mumbai

Photo of the Mumbai city skyline
Credit: Towering Goals / Shutterstock

Formerly known as Bombay, Mumbai is the financial, commercial, and entertainment capital of India. It is the largest as well as the wealthiest city in the country. The city is home to 37 billionaires, making it the city with the tenth most billionaires in the world. One of the most expensive private residences on Earth is also located in Mumbai. The 27-story, 400,000-square-foot palace is considered second only to Buckingham Palace in terms of cost and size.

While there is immense wealth in Mumbai, that wealth is not spread evenly across the population of almost 20 million people. More than half of the city’s inhabitants live in slums, most without access to clean water or electricity.

Credit: Kriangkrai Thitimakorn / Shutterstock

Spain: 350,000 protesters flood Barcelona for separatist ‘freedom’ rally

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

 

350,000 protesters flood Barcelona for separatist ‘freedom’ rally

Shouting: “Occupation forces, out!” and “The Spanish flag, out!” they hurled hundreds of multicolored plastic balls and marbles at the riot police guarding the building, who did not respond despite the rising tension.

WORLD Updated: Oct 27, 2019 07:02 IST

Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse

Barcelona
Catalan pro-independence demonstrators attend a protest against police action in Barcelona, Spain on Saturday.
Catalan pro-independence demonstrators attend a protest against police action in Barcelona, Spain on Saturday. (Reuters Photo )

Around 350,000 people rallied in downtown Barcelona on Saturday, turning the streets into a sea of independence flags in the latest mass protest against Spain’s jailing of nine separatist leaders.

The turnout figure was given by the local police as vast crowds packed into a wide avenue running between the waterfront and the city’s towering Sagrada Familia basilica, which was closed to visitors.

But as night fell, thousands joined a separate demonstration called by the radical CDR, massing along Via Laeitana outside police headquarters, whose windows were shuttered and the main entrance sealed off with plastic sheeting.

Shouting: “Occupation forces, out!” and “The Spanish flag, out!” they hurled hundreds of multicolored plastic balls and marbles at the riot police guarding the building, who did not respond despite the rising tension.

Catalonia has been gripped by unrest since the October 14 Supreme Court verdict which unleashed a wave of protest that quickly turned violent, with masked demonstrators clashing nightly with riot police.

More than 600 people have been injured in the protests, 367 of them civilians and 289 police, official figures show.

The crisis began two years ago when the region staged a banned referendum on October 1 that was marred by police violence, then issued a short-lived declaration of independence, triggering Spain’s worst political crisis in decades.

Saturday’s main rally was called by the ANC and Omnium Cultural, the region’s two biggest grassroots pro-independence groups that have organised some of the largest separatist protests in recent years.

Marching down the spacious boulevard, demonstrators chanted “October 1, we won’t forgive, we won’t forget”, breaking into loud boos and whistling as a police helicopter flew overhead, an AFP correspondent said.

“I feel really angry,” said computer technician Marc, 26, who did not give his surname.

“The violence doesn’t sit well with me but it’s normal to have a bit of upheaval like we’ve seen in Chile and Ecuador,” he said of a wave of mass protests in Latin America.

“There are different ways of protesting but we have one objective: independence.”

‘Not an option’

But Catalans remain sharply divided over the question of separating from Spain, with polls showing 44 percent in favour and 48.3 percent against.

Speaking to reporters at the rally, Catalonia’s separatist president Quim Torra said his government was with the people “because it is what they want. We will go as far as they want”.

He had earlier pledged to push ahead with the controversial independence drive after meeting 800 local mayors who expressed support for secession.

“The show of unity we’ve seen this week shows the next step that we all must follow… We must all push ahead and exercise the right to self-determination.”

Torra has made repeated appeals for dialogue with the Socialist government of Pedro Sanchez with the aim of securing Madrid’s agreement for a referendum on independence, but they have fallen on deaf ears.

“What we will not talk about is the right to self-determination,” Carmen Calvo, Sanchez’s deputy, told journalists on Saturday.

“If.. the aim is to break up Spain’s territorial unity and separate Catalonia from Spain, we simply cannot talk,” she said. “Unilaterally breaking the rules of the game is not an option.”

Counter rally on Sunday

On Sunday, Catalans who want to remain part of Spain are planning a massive counter-demonstration to raise the voice of the region’s so-called “silent majority”.

“Those who oppose independence are a majority,” said Fernando Sanchez Costa, head of Catalan Civil Society (SCC), telling AFP the unrest was causing a lot of damage to Catalan society.

Earlier, thousands gathered in Madrid in defense of Spain’s unity at a rally organised by the far-right Vox party, which has taken a very tough line on Catalan separatism and wants all regional pro-independence parties banned.

Although the faction only entered parliament in April, polls indicate it might become the third-largest party following the November 10 election.

First Published: Oct 27, 2019 07:01 IST

India, China coordinate patrolling of disputed area 

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

 

India, China coordinate patrolling of disputed area

Fish Tail-I and II are in the easternmost corner of Arunachal Pradesh. Fish Tail -I is largely glaciated terrain, and patrols from either side are few and far between.

INDIA Updated: Oct 26, 2019 08:57 IST

Sudhi Ranjan Sen
Sudhi Ranjan Sen

New Delhi
India and China are for the first time patrolling Fish-Tail II,  one of the 13 disputed areas along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in south-east Arunachal Pradesh. (Representative Image)
India and China are for the first time patrolling Fish-Tail II, one of the 13 disputed areas along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in south-east Arunachal Pradesh. (Representative Image)(PTI)

India and China are for the first time patrolling Fish-Tail II, one of the 13 disputed areas along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in south-east Arunachal Pradesh, in coordination with each other in an attempt to build mutual confidence and maintain peace along the border, a senior official in the security establishment said on condition of anonymity.

Fish Tail-I and II are in the easternmost corner of Arunachal Pradesh. Fish Tail -I is largely glaciated terrain, and patrols from either side are few and far between.

The proposal for “coordinated patrolling” was made by India at a high-level meeting between the Chinese People’s Liberation Army and the Indian army in June in the run-up to the informal summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Mamallapuram,Tamil Nadu, earlier this month.

The two sides met in Arunachal’s Kibuthu, one of the seven designated border personnel meeting points. The Indian side was led by the commander of theDinjang (Assam)-based 2 Mountain Division of the III Corps of the Indian Army, the senior official cited above said.

China agreed to the Indian proposal, leading to structured “coordinated patrolling” along Fish-Tail II, the first time that such an exercise has been undertaken by the two countries, the official said.

“One of the key takeaways of the 2018 Wuhan summit, which followed the 73-day-long standoff between the Chinese People’s Army and the Indian army at Doklam, was to give strategic guidance to both armies to reduce border tensions. The coordinated patrolling is a step in that direction,” a senior ministry of defence official said.

The standoff at Doklam, in the India-Bhutan-Tibet trijunction, began on June 16, 2017, when the PLA entered the area in a bid to alter the status quo in violation of Beijing’s existing understanding with both India and Bhutan. The issue was eventually resolved with the disengagement of border personnel on August 28 that year. India had suggested “coordinated patrolling” of the border earlier too, but found no takers in Beijing. “Coordinated patrolling would mean both sides would inform the other about their outgoing foot patrols, and the areas that the patrol is likely to go and the duration of the patrol,” a second senior official who did not want to be named said.

Patrols from either side go up the designated “claim-line” and mark their presence before returning. “When patrols come face to face, each have to challenge the other,” the third official said. Recently, Indian and Chinese troops came face to face on the disputed Pangong Tso Lake in Ladakh, leading to a scuffle, according to some reports, the defence ministry official said.

Fish-Tail -I &II are among the most remote areas along the LAC and India’s road infrastructure is extremely poor in this area. India, however, regularly sends patrols, some of which take up to a month to reach their destination. The PLA undertakes sporadic patrols in the region.

“Given the terrain, connectivity and security implications, it’s basically a low hanging fruit where coordinated patrolling can be done. And it may be a good idea and place to experiment with coordinated patrolling and used in other areas too,” the first senior official cited above said, explaining the move.

In response to a detailed questionnaire, the Indian army did not comment on “coordinated patrolling” of Fish Tail -II or on the road through Bisa to the LAC being constructed by the Chinese PLA. But it did underline that borders have not been “demarcated,” leading to “differing perceptions” of the border. Northern Army Commander Lieutenant General DS Hooda (retd), who handled several India-China standoffs in the past, said, “If handled maturely and with respect for each other’s security concerns; it is a good concept.” The arrangement holds the promise to negate incidences witnessed at the Pangong Tso Lake between the two armies.”

First Published: Oct 26, 2019 03:52 IST

India: Another trucker, his helper shot dead in Kashmir; toll reaches 5

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

 

Another trucker, his helper shot dead in Kashmir; toll reaches 5

It is the latest in a series of attacks targeting the fruit industry, one of the economic mainstays of the Valley, and non-Kashmiris, following the change in the constitutional status of Jammu & Kashmir.

INDIA Updated: Oct 25, 2019 05:44 IST

HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent

Hindustan Times, Srinagar
A driver covers a supply truck loaded with apples on a highway near Qazigund in south Kashmir's Anantnag district, October 17, 2019. Picture taken October 17, 2019. REUTERS/Danish Ismail
A driver covers a supply truck loaded with apples on a highway near Qazigund in south Kashmir’s Anantnag district, October 17, 2019. Picture taken October 17, 2019. REUTERS/Danish Ismail(REUTERS)

Suspected militants on Thursday shot dead a truck driver and his associate in south Kashmir’s Shopian district, taking the death toll of people from outside the state killed by militants to five in two weeks, the police said.

Another driver, who was injured in the incident, was rushed to a hospital in Srinagar. The truck drivers had gone to ferry apples.

“Terrorists killed two civilians in Shopian and left one injured, who has been shifted to hospital,” a police spokesperson said.

It is the latest in a series of attacks targeting the fruit industry, one of the economic mainstays of the Valley, and non-Kashmiris, following the change in the constitutional status of Jammu & Kashmir. The Centre, in August, effectively revoked Article 370 which gave special status to the state, and bifurcated it into two Union territories — J&K and Ladakh.

The police have called these attacks attempts to intimidate the people against resuming normal life in the Valley.

The incident also comes on a day when the Block Development Council polls were held for the first time in the history of the state ahead of its bifurcation on October 31.

Jammu & Kashmir director general of police Dilbagh Singh on Thursday said militants stopped three trucks with registration numbers from Haryana, Rajasthan and Punjab, and opened fire at the drivers near Chittargam in Shopian. They also torched two of the trucks, causing partial damage.

Security forces rushed to the spot after the attack to cordon off the area.

One of the truck drivers killed by militants has been identified as Iliyas Khan, a resident of Alwar in Rajasthan, while the identity of his associate is being ascertained. The second driver injured in Thursday’s attack has been identified as Jeevan Singh from Punjab’s Hoshiarpur.

Last week, a fruit trader from Punjab was killed and another was critically injured after militants opened fire at them at Trenz village in Shopian.

The same day, on October 16, a brick kiln worker from Chhattisgarh was gunned down by militants in south Kashmir’s Pulwama. Two militants, including a suspected Pakistani national, killed a truck driver from Rajasthan and assaulted an orchard owner in Shopian district on October 14.

Fearing violence, the Jammu & Kashmir administration placed restrictions in the Valley after the August 5-6 move to revoke Article 370. Curbs have since been eased in the Valley since, with the state taking out newspaper advertisements asking people not to be afraid of militant threats and resume their businesses even as heavy deployment of security forces continues.

After the attacks, DGP Singh visited Shopian and chaired a high-level meeting, after which an advisory was issued to non-local drivers “not to lift apples from deep inside villages”.

According to state officials, eight lakh metric tonnes of fruit has been exported from the Valley in the last three months, to various fruit markets of the country.

(With inputs from PTI)

First Published: Oct 25, 2019 01:20 IST

India: 18 terrorists killed, JeM launch pads destroyed in PoK strikes by Indian army

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

 

18 terrorists killed, JeM launch pads destroyed in PoK strikes by Indian army: Officials

The officials added that all the terror launch pads housing Jaish-e-Mohammed and other jihadists were destroyed in the pin-point artillery firing by the Indian army – retaliatory action to indiscriminate and unprovoked Pakistani firing along the Line of Control.

INDIA Updated: Oct 23, 2019 09:25 IST

Shishir Gupta
Shishir Gupta
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
The site of Indian Army’s assault on Pakistani terror camps.
The site of Indian Army’s assault on Pakistani terror camps.(Photo: HT/ Special arrangement)

Officials in Indian security agencies that have assessed the impact of the Indian Army’s artillery assault on terror launch pads in Neelum Valley and three other places in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK), said on condition of anonymity that at least 18 terrorists were killed along with 16 Pak Army personnel on October 19 and 20. The army hasn’t confirmed the number of dead. Hindustan Times couldn’t independently authenticate the numbers.

The officials added that all the terror launch pads housing Jaish-e-Mohammed and other jihadists were destroyed in the pin-point artillery firing by the Indian army – retaliatory action to indiscriminate and unprovoked Pakistani firing along the Line of Control.

On Sunday, Army Chief General Bipin Rawat briefed Defence Minister Rajnath Singh twice about the Indian Army fire assault on PoK launch pads with the latter congratulating the former on the resolute action, the officials said. Asking General Rawat to go public on the artillery firing, Rajnath Singh said that while no terror launch pads should be spared, care should be taken to ensure that the innocent civilian population is not targeted.

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Defence ministry officials said on condition of anonymity that ammunition and ration depots of the Pakistani Army were also destroyed by 155 mm guns using precision long range ammunition. While four launch pads in Neelum Valley were hit, launch pads in Jura, Athamuqam and Kundalshahi were also decimated in the fire onslaught on wee hours of October 20, they added. The Indian response came after the Pakistani Army targeted Indian positions and civil localities in Karnah sector killing two Indian soldiers and one civilian on Saturday night.

Hindustantimes

On Sunday, the army mounted the artillery attack in retaliation to ceasefire violations meant to assist infiltrators, inflicting heavy terrorist casualties.

The counter-offensive measures come weeks after multiple intelligence agencies warned the government that at least 60 terrorists have infiltrated into Jammu and Kashmir recently and another 500 are waiting to infiltrate, according to the army.

Hindustantimes

Ground intelligence and communication intercepts from PoK suggests that the jihadists and their army handlers were taken by surprise by the pin-point firing and the fact that the Indian Army knew about their locations. “Intelligence about 18 terrorists and 16 army personnel killed have been corroborated on ground with hard intelligence. Many have been injured,” said a senior Indian Army official who asked not to be named.

“ By taking out the launch pads near LoC in PoK, we have sent a message that retaliation will come if any infiltration attempt is made in Jammu and Kashmir,” said a senior official in a security agency.

First Published: Oct 22, 2019 23:43 IST

India: DRDO starts work on ‘next-gen’ hypersonic weapon

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

 

DRDO starts work on ‘next-gen’ hyper-sonic weapon

Hyper-sonic weapons are specifically designed for increased survivability against modern ballistic missile defense systems. These missiles are capable of delivering conventional or nuclear payloads at speeds not imagined hitherto over long ranges.

INDIA Updated: Oct 21, 2019 05:47 IST

Sudhi Ranjan Sen

Sudhi Ranjan Sen

Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Hypersonic weapons are specifically designed for increased survivability against modern ballistic missile defence systems. Image used for representational purpose only.
Hyper-sonic weapons are specifically designed for increased survivability against modern ballistic missile defense systems. Image used for representational purpose only. (Photo: MIB_India)

The Defence Research and Development (DRDO) has started work to produce a hyper-sonic weapon – missiles that travel at five times speed of sound, or a little over a mile every second. A wind tunnel to test and fine tune the technology will be operational soon, senior government officials who did not want to be named said.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh is expected to inaugurate the facility soon, they added.

“A hyper-sonic weapon system is one of the many niche technologies we are exploring seriously,” one of the officials said, asking not to be named.

Billed as a “next-gen” weapon system, the race to acquire hyper-sonic weapons technology is heating up. China, Russia, and the United States are testing hyper-sonic weapons of various types to enhance strategic nuclear deterrence and strengthen front-line combat units.

Existing intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) re-entry vehicles also travel at those super fast speeds, but the hyper-sonic glide vehicles now in development are far more maneuverable, making their tracking and interception nearly impossible.

Hyper-sonic weapons are specifically designed for increased survivability against modern ballistic missile defense systems. These missiles are capable of delivering conventional or nuclear payloads at speeds not imagined hitherto over long ranges.

In a bid to boost defence manufacturing in India, the DRDO is also offering 1,500 of its patents, including critical missile technology, life sciences, and naval technology, for use by Indian Industry, DRDO chairman G Satish Reddy said.

The patents can be accessed by free of cost even by start-ups and medium and small manufacturing enterprises.

Some of the patents offered for free include technologies to manufacture “man-mounted air-conditioning system”, aircraft arrester barrier system, a sliding mechanism for missile containers, lightweight high strength broadband microwave absorbing rubber, silicon-based lubricants for wide temperature range applications, low-density carbon foam, and anti-corrosive paint for application under immersed conditions, among others.

“DRDO is determined to encourage industry to develop advanced defense equipment thereby making the Make-In-India programmer a success. We have today an 1,800-industry basewe are determined to enlarge this base and take the technological capability to a higher level,” Reddy said, explaining the reason behind offering patents at no cost.

Indian industry will not have pay “license fee or royalty” for any of the patented technologies, said a second senior DRDO official who did not want to be named. “DRDO won’t be just offering the technology but will also be hand holding the industry and help them produce the product,” he said.

In a related development, DRDO has also tweaked its policy for “Transfer of Technology” (ToT) to the industry. No, ToT fee will be charged from the industry, DRDO Development Partners developing systems or sub-systems for military applications. And, for other industries, the ToT fee is reduced to 5% against an earlier rate of 20%. Also, no royalty is charged for supply to Indian Armed forces and other Govt departments. A nominal royalty of 2% will be charged for supply in the commercial market and for exports.

“Hyper-sonic weapons will become very critical in the near future. China has demonstrated that it has the technology. Others like US and Russia may already possess such weapons. It’s time that India also starts looking at these technologies,” Lieutenant General(retd) Vinod Bhatia, former Director General of Military Operations said.

First Published: Oct 20, 2019 23:50 IST

India: India seeks 10% advantage over China in tariff removal

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

 

At RCEP meet, India seeks 10% advantage over China in tariff removal

This advantage for India will mean that its exporters can access 10% more Chinese product lines without facing tariff barriers.

INDIA Updated: Oct 19, 2019 03:10 IST

Rajeev Jayaswal
Rajeev Jayaswal

Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Farmers during a protest against the plan to join the Regional Comprehensive Economics Partnership (RCEP).
Farmers during a protest against the plan to join the Regional Comprehensive Economics Partnership (RCEP).(Sameer Sehgal/Hindustan Times)

India has bargained a nearly 10% advantage over China in tariff elimination during the ongoing Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) discussions in a move aimed to placate the domestic industry and pave the way for New Delhi to conclude negotiations ahead of PM Narendra Modi’s visit to Bangkok next month, three people familiar with the matter said on Friday.

This advantage for India will mean that its exporters can access 10% more Chinese product lines without facing tariff barriers

Indian negotiators and experts are stationed in Bangkok to fine tune commercial and legal issues pertaining to the RCEP, said an official with direct knowledge of the matter. They are expected to iron out key issues before commerce and industry minister Piyush Goyal arrives in Bangkok early next month ahead of Modi’s scheduled visit on November 4, the official said.

The Indian leadership is determined to protect the interests of the domestic industry, agriculture and farm sectors before concluding any FTA (free trade agreement), according to the people cited above.

“India will not repeat the mistakes of the past. The Asean FTA has been tilted in favor of countries like Vietnam and Thailand. India’s trade deficit with Asean has soared since the FTA has become operative in 2010,” one of the officials said.

According to official data, while India’s exports to ASEAN grew 9.56% to $37.47 billion in 2018-19, imports surged to $59.32 billion in the same period, a whopping 25.87% growth.

India is determined to bargain hard on the principle of equity, which was perceived to have been sacrificed while signing the Asean FTA, the official said.

“India’s concessions to countries such as Vietnam and Indonesia are disproportionate under the Asean FTA, which is against the principle of equity. While India agreed to eliminate more than 74% of tariff lines, Indonesia agreed to about 50% and Vietnam 70%. Such tilts are the main cause of concern for the Indian industry,” the official added.

An agreement between India and China is the key for successfully concluding the RCEP because New Delhi already has FTAs with most of the other members.

The RCEP is a proposed FTA covering 16 countries: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam — the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and its six FTA partners — China, Japan, India, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand. India has FTAs with Asean, Japan and South Korea. FTAs are arrangements between two or more countries that primarily agree to reduce or eliminate tariff and non-tariff barriers on substantial trade between them.

The RCEP will not be fully successful without India’s participation, which is one of the main reasons why other members agreed to allow time for further negotiation even as the last ministerial (October 11-12) was expected to conclude the deal before the 3rd Leaders Summit scheduled on November 4 this year in Bangkok, an official said.

According to the domestic industry, the FTA with Asean did not bring the desired gains for the Indian industry in terms of enhanced exports.

“India’s trade deficit with Asean, which was approximately US$12 billion in 2010-11 jumped to over US$22 billion in 2018-19,” said Chandrajit Banerjee, director general, Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).

A NITI Aayog report that reviewed various FTAs, including the one with Asean countries said India has been a net loser in almost all, except with Sri Lanka. The report, ‘A Note on Free Trade Agreements and Their Costs’, said the Asean FTA saw the greatest reduction in Indian import tariffs.

“FTA covers 75% of the two-way trade. India offered around 9,000 products for tariff elimination out of about 12,000 tariff lines, 1,800 lines in sensitive track and almost 1,300 lines in exclusion. Thus India kept around 10% of their tariff lines in exclusion, Thailand, Philippines, Myanmar, Brunei and Vietnam kept more number of tariff lines under exclusion compared to India,” it said.

India’s stand on “free” but “fair” trade has been reinforced recently at a high-level internal meeting on the RCEP in New Delhi. The meeting took place ahead of Goyal’s vist to Bangkok to attend the ministerial (October 10-12).

“The government is also conscious of the fact that the RCEP agreement would be fully operative some time around 2021-22 and its impact will be felt in 2023-24, which will be the time when the government would be seeking a fresh mandate. Hence, it cannot afford to sign a hasty deal as was done in the past,” the second of the people cited above said.

“The industry is opposing the RCEP because of historical blunders in FTA negotiations. For example, India gave more than proportional access to some of the member countries such as Vietnam and Indonesia,” said Ram Singh, professor, Delhi School of Economics. “Now India should negotiate trade deals in favour of its industry and extract more concessions from countries like China before signing the RCEP. This will win the confidence of Indian industry and improve balance of trade for the country.”

Sharad Kumar Saraf, president, Federation of Indian Export Organisations (FIEO), said, “When you go to negotiate any FTA, there is always some give and take. Important is to strike a balance. A 10% edge is reasonable. It will help India’s exports.”

“Some local industry could feel the heat. But, the government can help them by providing assistance, such as duty-free imports of components that can make them competitive,” he said.

First Published: Oct 18, 2019 23:57 IST

India, Pakistan trade barbs over deadly Kashmir clash

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF AL-JAZEERA NEWS)

 

India, Pakistan trade barbs over deadly Kashmir clash

Several soldiers and civilians killed on both sides, as India and Pakistan blame one another for ‘unprovoked’ firing.

Relatives and friends mourn next to bodies of victims in cross border shelling in Pakistan's Neelum valley [Sajjad Qayyum/AFP]
Relatives and friends mourn next to bodies of victims in cross border shelling in Pakistan’s Neelum valley [Sajjad Qayyum/AFP]

India and Pakistan blamed one another for cross-border shelling in the disputed Kashmir region which killed and injured soldiers and civilians on both sides and made it one of the deadliest days since New Delhi revoked Kashmir’s special status in August.

India said there was heavy shelling by Pakistan across the border in northern Kashmir’s Tangdhar region late on Saturday night, killing two Indian soldiers and one civilian.

A spokesman for the Pakistani Armed Forces said one of its soldiers and three civilians had died and that India had violated the ceasefire.

There was an unprovoked ceasefire violation by Pakistan, Indian defense spokesman Colonel Rajesh Kalia said.

“Our troops retaliated strongly, causing heavy damage and casualties to the enemy,” Kalia said.

Pakistan’s army, meanwhile, claimed that India’s attacks in Jura, Shahkot and Nowshera sectors was “unprovoked” and deliberately targeted civilians.

Major General Asif Ghafoor, a spokesman for the Pakistani Armed Forces, said Pakistan responded “effectively”, killing nine Indian soldiers, injuring several others and destroying two bunkers.

DG ISPR

@OfficialDGISPR

Indian unprovoked CFVs in Jura, shahkot & Nousehri Sectors deliberately targeting civilians. Effectively responded. 9 Indian soldiers killed several injured. 2 Indian bunkers destroyed.
During exchange of fire 1 soldier & 3 civilians shaheed, 2 soldiers & 5 civilians injured.

9,779 people are talking about this

Islamabad has summoned the Indian envoy in protest over the shelling and killings, and offered to have diplomats from the United Nations Security Council’s five permanent members, including the United States and Russia, visit the border and see that no rebel camps exist there.

Both sides accused each other of violating a 2003 ceasefire accord.

Border clashes

Sunday’s clashes came days after Pakistan’s foreign ministry protested against similar incidents from across the heavily militarized Line of Control (LoC) by Indian forces that killed three civilians and wounded another eight on October 15.

Deadly border clashes have spiked over the past few weeks which have seen Indian and Pakistani forces target frontier posts as well as villages, leading to casualties among soldiers and civilians on both sides.

Tensions between the neighbors have remained high since India revoked Kashmir’s autonomy on August 5 and imposed movement and communications restrictions to quell unrest.

Islamabad has warned that changing Kashmir’s status would escalate tensions but India said the withdrawal of the special status is an internal affair and is aimed at faster economic development of the territory.

Pakistan and India both control parts of Kashmir, but each lays claim to the entire region since the countries gained independence from Britain in 1947.

India and Pakistan have fought two of their three wars over the region.

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES

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