Posts Tagged ‘Modi’

Pakistan: Imran Khan continues to push for local government reform

September 24, 2018

Prime Minis­ter Imran Khan on Sunday granted yet another extension in the deadline for local government reforms, this time by 48 hours, and directed the Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa governments to fine-tune the new LG system, besides issuing orders for formation of a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) to probe into loss of Punjab’s official record in fire incidents.

During his second visit to Lahore since assuming the Prime Minister’s Office, Imran Khan also chided the Indian leadership’s arrogance and said: “If India hurls threats, it will be given a befitting reply by the Pakistani nation. However, he declared, “Pakistan wants peace, friendship and trade to develop the region.”

He asserted that Pakistan would never bow to any pressure, not even by any super power.

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Imran Khan addresses the Punjab cabinet on Sunday, September 23, 2018.

He expressed these views while addressing the bureaucracy after holding meetings with Punjab Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar and his cabinet members to review Punjab’s progress on the government’s 100-day agenda.

Says India will be given a befitting reply if it hurls threats though Pakistan wants peace, friendship and trade

Speaking to police officers and civil servants, Mr Khan said Pakistan wanted to have cordial relations with all nations and promote trade and economic ties to overcome the financial crisis. With a vital geo-strategic positioning, he said, Pakistan could attract massive foreign investment, provided it streamlined its governance system and win investors’ confidence. “I did not go to Saudi Arabia and the UAE to beg but to invite investment for Pakistan,” he explained.

De-politicisation of bureaucracy

In a tacit reference to the Pakpattan incident that resulted in the transfer of a district police officer, Mr Khan said he had allowed the bureaucracy to report any political meddling in official working to top bosses. He took serious note of complaints by two deputy commissioners and a police officer who, he said, had violated the chain of command. “Any move of making complaints public will not be tolerated from now onwards and will invite strict disciplinary action,” he warned.

He said the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government wanted to free bureaucracy from political pressure and asked the bureaucracy to seize the opportunity and deliver in the best interest of people. He urged the bureaucracy to shun political affiliations and perform their duties professionally for the well-being of people and the country.

Mr Khan said that PTI members had been instructed that any issue they would face at the hands of bureaucracy should be reported to the chief minister, who himself would eventually sort out matters with the chief secretary and police chief.

“The PTI legislators will not directly interfere in bureaucracy’s functioning,” he promised.

He said bureaucrats should think afresh and serve the masses on merit. “This new mindset actually means Naya Pakistan,” he said, adding that the prime minister and chief minister offices would establish complaint cells to address grievances of the masses.

Three points for new LG system

Following the PM’s meeting with the Punjab cabinet, a separate meeting with CM Buzdar, a senior minister and law minister on local government system, federal information minister Fawad Chaudhry told the media that Mr Khan had held a detailed discussion on new local government system and finalised three basic principles – the LG system should be simple, hold direct elections and ensure empowering elected representatives to serve the masses at the grassroots level.

As the village councils’ experiment in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa had rendered results, the PM wanted to resize union councils in Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan, he said. “Village council is a smaller unit catering to some 2,000 to 6,000 people, while each UC in Punjab covers around 30,000 people. The discussion is hovering around whether village councils be created or UC size be reconsidered,” he explained.

Besides, he said, there was a question whether the direct mayor election should be held at tehsil or district level.

Mr Chaudhry said the prime minister also assigned targets to respective ministers demanding that they should come up to the expectations to the leadership as well as the people of Punjab, who were looking towards them with a new hope. “The incumbent PTI government wanted to behave as a people-friendly government,” he said.

Audit reports of metro bus projects received

The information minister said the prime minister ordered investigation into all fire incidents that burnt important record in government offices.

He said reports of simple audit into metro bus projects in Lahore, Rawalpindi and Multan had been received but forensic audits would take time. “All these scandals will expose those involved in corruption and they will land in jails,” he asserted.

Answering a question, the information minister said ousted premier Nawaz Sharif’s political future was dark and now he should pray for his personal future as the Hill Metals Establishment case was near conclusion. He said the case found unaccounted for transactions worth Rs800 million to Maryam Nawaz and Rs160 million to a cook’s account. “Nawaz Sharif should bring nation’s money back to Pakistan,” he said.

‘Modi caught in scandals’

Answering a question about Pakistan’s offer and consequent Indian reply, the information minister said Pakistan wanted peace and wanted that the neighbouring atomic powers hold a dialogue on all longstanding issues. While India by cancelling the scheduled meeting of foreign ministers indicated its desire to weaken Pakistan, “this is not possible because only regions rise, not individual countries,” he said.

Mr Chaudhry said Indian premier Narendra Modi had been caught in an internal “Rafale scandal” involving $8 billion to $10 billion and wanted to shift public attention from internal to external politics to save his skin. He said Modi should contest his own case instead of shifting the blame on Pakistan.

Published in Dawn, September 24th, 2018

https://www.dawn.com/news/1434645

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India and Pakistan ratchet up war rhetoric over Kashmir

September 23, 2018

The Indian and Pakistani governments have accused each other of sabotaging peace talks in the latest spat over militancy in the Kashmir region. But where did it all go wrong for the proposed foreign ministers’ meeting?

    
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan and his Indian counrepart Narendra Modi

India recently canceled a proposed meeting between Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj and her Pakistani counterpart, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, which was set to take place on the sidelines of the annual UN General Assembly debate later this month.

New Delhi’s move was sharply criticized by Islamabad, which accuses Indian authorities of sabotaging regional peace.

The Indian foreign ministry said Friday it cancelled the talks following the “latest brutal killings of our security personnel by Pakistan-based entities” in Kashmir, and the release of a series of Pakistani postage stamps “glorifying a terrorist and terrorism.”

Earlier this week, Kashmiri militants reportedly killed a border guard and mutilated his body in the India-administered Kashmir. On Friday, three policemen were then found dead after being abducted in the same area.

Following these incidents, Indian authorities blamed Pakistan’s new premier Imran Khan for harboring an “evil agenda” and showing his “true face.”

Reacting to New Delhi’s move, Khan hit back at India on Twitter, calling it “arrogant.”

“Disappointed at the arrogant and negative response by India to my call for resumption of the peace dialogue,” he wrote. “However, all my life I have come across small men occupying big offices who do not have the vision to see the larger picture.”

Imran Khan

@ImranKhanPTI

Disappointed at the arrogant & negative response by India to my call for resumption of the peace dialogue. However, all my life I have come across small men occupying big offices who do not have the vision to see the larger picture.

Kashmir remains a bone of contention

Political commentators and social media users in Indian and Pakistan are now debating who is to blame for the cancellation of the planned talks.

While some Pakistanis argue India disrespected diplomatic protocol by pulling the plug on a meeting it had previously agreed to, Indians say that Pakistani Prime Minister Khan is backing terrorists.

New Delhi says it canceled the talks following the July release of Pakistani postage stamps commemorating Burhan Wani, a Kashmiri militant shot dead by Indian troops in 2016. Analysts say it was only after the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan news agency ran a story on Wani’s stamps that New Delhi decided to cancel the proposed meeting.

Naila Inayat

@nailainayat

The postage stamp glorifying Burhan Wani was issued by Pak Post on July 12. Associated Press of Pakistan, govt news agency, ran a report on stamps two months later and strangely within 12hrs of India agreeing to Foreign Ministers’ talk. Just a coincidence? PM Khan should inquire.

Since 1989, Muslim insurgents have been fighting Indian forces in India-administered Kashmir — a region of 12 million people, about 70 percent of whom are Muslim. India and Pakistan have fought two of their three wars since independence in 1947 over Kashmir, which they both claim in full, but rule in part.

Read more: The Islamization of Kashmir’s separatist movement

Kashmir remains a major bone of contention between the two South Asian nuclear-armed states. Analysts and activists also said that Pakistan cannot win India’s trust on peace while glorifying Kashmiri militants.

Taha Siddiqui@TahaSSiddiqui

Glorifying Burhan Wani, a militant frm Hizbul Mujahideen which is a terrorist org as per US, EU & India & is even banned in Pakistan while Khan offers dialogue is hypocrisy. If Pakistan truly wants peace, GHQ must stop sponsoring militancy so tht India has no excuse to not talk

But Shireen Mazari, Pakistan’s minister for human rights, says India was never interested in forging peaceful ties with her country.

Shireen Mazari@ShireenMazari1

Clearly India is in no mood to talk peace with Pakistan! The belligerent statement by Indian Army chief was bordering on a war cry! Irony is while he refers to Pak Army’s alleged “barbarism”, the real face of barbarism was Indian Def Min gloating over beheading of Pak soldiers!

On Saturday, Indian media quoted army chief Bipin Rawat calling for “stern action to avenge the barbarism that terrorists and the Pakistan Army have been carrying out.”

In response Pakistan’s military spokesman said his country was “ready for war.”

“We are a nuclear nation and we are ready for war but in the interest of the people of Pakistan and the neighbors and the region we want to walk the path of peace,” Major General Asif Ghafoor told local media.

“The statement from the Indian army chief is irresponsible,” he added.

Read more: What is Pakistan’s militancy issue all about?

Imran Khan, the ‘army puppet’

Some Indian and Pakistani analysts say Khan’s twitter response to the cancellation of the foreign ministers’ meeting was “uncalled for” and “undiplomatic.”

Farhatullah Babar@FarhatullahB

Indian FO directly naming Imran Khan says his ‘true face exposed’. Within no time Imran Khan personally retorts and, alluding to Modi, says ‘small men occupying big offices’. New low in diplomatic exchanges anywhere in civilized world. Disgusting.

Commentators also picked on Khan’s dig at Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and said that Khan has no right to criticize the Indian premier when he himself is a “powerless” leader, and a “puppet” in the hands of his country’s military generals.

Kapil Mishra

@KapilMishra_IND

Obviously , what else can you come across in Pakistan

Larger picture shows an army puppet with a large begging bowl sitting on Pak PM chair

Bhains bechkar mulk chalane ki naubat aa gayi

Bhikhari agar badtameez ho to bhookha marta hai khan sahab

Imran Khan

@ImranKhanPTI

Disappointed at the arrogant & negative response by India to my call for resumption of the peace dialogue. However, all my life I have come across small men occupying big offices who do not have the vision to see the larger picture.

Liberal analysts in Pakistan accuse their military of rigging the July 25 general election in Khan’s favor in order to keep former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif our of power. Experts say Sharif became a threat to his generals due to his moves to improve ties with New Delhi.

Read more: Sharif’s release spells trouble for Pakistani PM Khan

Pakistan’s military establishment considers India to be the biggest threat to the country’s security.

Khan has largely supported the military’s narrative on India and Afghanistan, a country where New Delhi has increased its clout in the past decade.

Domestic politics

Some are also of the view that Khan, a populist politician who came to power to bring about a radical change to governance, has not lived up to expectations since taking charge as prime minister last month. War rhetoric against India is a tried and tested formula to distract the public, they say.

The same could be applied to Indian Prime Minister Modi, who seeks to be re-elected next year.

Many observers say Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is ratcheting up anti-Pakistan sentiment to conceal its inadequate economic performance.

Controversy over a jet deal with France has also piled pressure on Modi.

On Saturday, India’s opposition accused Modi of corruption over the 2016 Rafale jet deal. The charge comes after French ex-President Francois Hollande said Modi asked Paris to pick an Indian billionaire as partner in the deal.

Read more: Arundhati Roy: ‘India is colonizing itself’

Time to move forward

Peace activists in India and Pakistan are urging their governments to restart peace talks and bury the hatchet. They say the dispute over Kashmir and terrorism has held back the progress of the two countries for decades.

While former Pakistani Prime Minister Sharif and his Indian counterpart, Modi, were largely on the same page over the economic benefits of an Indian-Pakistani friendship, Khan has yet to come out with a comprehensive plan on the issue.

Shivam Vij

@DilliDurAst

Never understood this business of cancelling talks as an answer to terrorism. Never seen Pakistan go, “Let’s not do terrorism, they won’t talk to us.” It’s because you have problems that you need to talk. When India talks to Pakistan it does favour only to itself.

Shivam Vij

@DilliDurAst

I have the same view of India-Pakistan bilateral talks as of India-Pakistan cricket. Do it all the time, all round the year, regardless of terror and peace, make them institutional and even banal.

Or don’t do them at all. This episodic nonsense is neither here nor there.

India’s Finance Minister Arun Jaitley: Rafale deal is clean and will not be cancelled

September 23, 2018

As the controversy over Rafale deal rages on, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Sunday rejected all allegations of a “scam” in the deal. In an interview with ANI, he said that whether the planes are bought at a higher rate or not is a matter for the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) to examine, while asserting that irrespective of the allegations, the Rafale deal will not be cancelled.

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Finance Minister Arun Jaitley

“The Rafale deal is clean and there is no question of cancelling it,” Jaitley said in an exclusive interview to ANI. He asserted that the present Rafale aircrafts are cheaper than what Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government had negotiated and added that all these facts and figures will be placed before the CAG.

“Fortunately, there is pricing, and for security interest, that pricing can’t be disclosed in detail. But I have come as close to this. If you take a weaponised aircraft as of 2007, add the same two things to it again and bring it to 2016 level, the 2016 level is 20 percent cheaper. Now the CAG will go into pricing. They may not eventually disclose it, but about being nine percent and 20 percent cheaper or not, they are looking into it. Congress has submitted a memorandum. The truth will come out,” Jaitley said.

Rejecting the possibility of scrapping the Rafale deal in view of the controversy and allegations of corruption against the government, Jaitley asserted that these jets will come to India as they are needed for security and defence of the country.

“These jets are coming to India… They are required for Indian defence. They will enhance the combat ability of the Indian Air Force (IAF)… This is a clean government-to-government deal. Modi government is the cleanest government in the history while the UPA government of 2004-14 was the most corrupt government,” the minister said.

Jaitley also questioned the timing of former French president François Hollande’s reported statement that Dassault Aviation did not have a choice in selecting its partner in the Rafale deal. The statement came just days after Congress president tweeted about “some big bunker buster bombs in the next couple of weeks”, which Jaitley alleged it was not a mere coincidence that the Opposition leaders of the two countries were speaking in one voice on the controversial Rafale issue.

Connecting Hollande’s reported statement, and a tweet by Rahul Gandhi on 30 August, Jaitley said that the two statements may have been “orchestrated” as they are in perfect rhythm with each other.

“I think he (Rahul Gandhi) is in some kind of a revenge mode. I won’t be surprised if the whole thing is being orchestrated. On 30 August, why did he (Rahul) tweet ‘Just wait for a while, some bombs are going to be burst in Paris’? And then what happens is in perfect rhythm with what he predicted,” Jaitley said.

When pressed further to clearly state if he is alleging that the Opposition of both France and India were in cahoots with each other, Jaitley added: “I don’t know. But I see a perfect coincidence in the rhythm between his tweet on 30 August and what happens when a statement is made which is found to be inaccurate and, therefore, the next day itself, Hollande goes and starts backtracking it.”

Mediapart, a French language publication, had quoted Hollande as saying, “It was the Indian government that proposed this service group, and Dassault who negotiated with Ambani. We had no choice, we took the interlocutor who was given to us.” When asked who selected Reliance as a partner and why, Hollande replied, “We had no say in this regard.”

However, later when asked whether India had put pressure on Reliance and Dassault to work together, Hollande told AFP that he was unaware and “only Dassault can comment on this.”

In the interview with ANI on Sunday, Jaitley also said, “Merely because somebody can resort to untruths and vulgarity is no reason for the prime minister to participate in a debate of this kind.”

His statement comes a day after Rahul questioned Modi’s silence over the issue and asked him to clarify if Hollande is speaking the truth. “The prime minister is completely silent. Not even one word has come out of his mouth after Hollande’s statement,” Rahul  had said in a press conference on Saturday.

With inputs from agencies

https://www.firstpost.com/india/rafale-controversy-arun-jaitley-says-deal-will-not-be-cancelled-rejects-all-allegations-of-scam-5242101.html

Updated Date: Sep 23, 2018 12:37 PM

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Former French president fuels Rafale fighter jet controversy in India

September 22, 2018

Former French president Francois Hollande has fuelled controversy over India’s multi-billion-dollar 2016 purchase of 36 Rafale fighter jets, saying that France was given no choice on the Indian partner for manufacturer Dassault.

His comments on Friday stoked debate over a subject which has gained significant traction in India in recent weeks, since the opposition Congress party accused Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi of favouring a private conglomerate over a public company in the aircraft deal.

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The party alleges Modi gave preferential treatment to industrialist Anil Ambani, the billionaire chairman of Reliance Group, to the detriment of state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).

Officials in India and France say Dassault had freely chosen to partner with Reliance, despite Ambani having no previous experience in the aeronautics sector.

“We did not have a say in that,” Hollande told investigative website Mediapart.

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Former French president Francois Hollande

“It was the Indian government that proposed this service group (Reliance), and Dassault who negotiated with Ambani.”

“We did not have a choice, we took the interlocutor who was given to us,” added Hollande, who was president of France from 2012-2017.

French firm Dassault had spent years negotiating a deal for 126 fighter jets to be manufactured in India with HAL, but talks had stalled.

On taking office, the Modi government cancelled the negotiations and decided to directly purchase 36 jets made in France.

Hollande denied any conflict of interest with Reliance, which partially financed a film produced by his girlfriend Julie Gayet in 2016.

“That is why, moreover, this group (Reliance) did not have to give me any thanks for anything. I could not even imagine that there was any connection to a film by Julie Gayet.”

Speaking to AFP on the sidelines of a meeting in Canada on Friday, the former French leader insisted that France “did not choose Reliance in any way”.

When asked whether India had put pressure on Reliance and Dassault to work together, Hollande said he was unaware and “only Dassault can comment on this”.

‘The PM has betrayed India’

Contacted by AFP, France’s embassy in New Delhi did not comment.

India’s defence ministry wrote on Twitter that neither the Indian nor French government “had any say in the commercial decision”.

The French foreign ministry later issued a statement saying that “the sole obligations of the French government were to assure delivery and the quality of the equipment”.

Paris was “in no way involved in the choice of Indian industrial partners,” it added.

For its part, Dassault Aviation said in a statement on Friday that the contract was “a government-to-government agreement”.

Congress President Rahul Gandhi, who has led the opposition’s focus on the deal, wrote, “Thanks to Francois Hollande, we now know he (Modi) personally delivered a deal worth billions of dollars to a bankrupt Anil Ambani.”

“The PM has betrayed India. He has dishonoured the blood of our soldiers,” Gandhi added.

Foreign manufacturers obtaining arms contracts in India are obliged to reinvest a portion of the sums collected in India.

Under the Rafale deal, France must spend amounts totalling around half the eight billion euros ($9.4 bn) paid by the Indian government.

Dassault has invested more than 100 million euros in its joint venture with Reliance.

India — the world’s largest defence importer — has been investing tens of billions in updating its Soviet-era military hardware to counter long-standing territorial disputes with its nuclear-armed neighbours, including a strengthening China.

It intends to use compensations payments such as in the Rafale deal to create a local defence industry.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1434322/former-french-president-fuels-rafale-fighter-jet-controversy-in-india

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How Modi’s Rafale Defence Deal Left India lagging China, Pakistan

September 22, 2018

India puts defence preparedness on the back burner as a result of the controversy over the purchase of Rafale fighter aircraft, even as regional rivals continue to arm rapidly

BY AJAI SHUKLA

The Indian government, rattled by a vocal opposition campaign that has charged it with financial wrongdoing and endangering national security over the purchase of 36 Rafale fighter aircraft from French company Dassault, is now soft-pedalling the purchase of other weapons badly needed by its overstretched and ill-equipped military.

In March, a senior general testified before a parliamentary defence committee that more than two-thirds of the army’s equipment was obsolete, while only eight per cent was state-of-the-art. The navy and air force were only slightly better off. Yet Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government, which faces general elections next year, is loath to risk the political controversy that it fears might stem from buying more weaponry abroad.

Defence Ministry sources have ruled out early tendering for the announced purchase of 110 medium fighters, worth an estimated US$15 billion to US$18 billion. This means the Indian Air Force (IAF) must make do with just 31 squadrons of fighter aircraft – 11 short of its authorised 42 squadrons, which planners believe are essential for a “two-front war” against regional adversaries China and Pakistan, if they were to join forces.

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Nor is early movement likely on the Indian Navy’s global procurement of 57 fighters, or an aircraft carrier that is to be built in the country. Meanwhile, the US$6 billion purchase of the S-400 Triumf air defence missile system from Russia, which was earmarked to be signed during an India-Russia summit next month, is likely to be postponed.

Also shifted to the back burner is the US$6 billion purchase of six conventional submarines and army equipment such as armoured vehicles and assault rifles.

By contrast, China and Pakistan are continuing to arm rapidly. Beijing is selling Islamabad its increasingly sophisticated fighter aircraft, warships and ground systems, building up Pakistan as its cat’s paw in South Asia. The capability gap between Indian and Chinese armed forces, already worrying for New Delhi planners, is growing inexorably. Even Pakistan, which once feared an existential threat from India, now talks confidently of halting the Indian military without having to trip the nuclear threshold.

Alleged corrupt practices relating to the Rafale deal have sparked protests in New Delhi. Photo: EPA

The controversy over the Rafale has further tilted the regional military balance against India.

Since the turn of the century, military planners in New Delhi have grappled with the question of how to replace hundreds of obsolete IAF MiG-21, MiG-23 and MiG-27 fighters that have been steadily retired from service. They were to be replaced by the indigenous Tejas fighter but, in 2001, with the fighter’s development significantly delayed, the IAF backed Dassault’s offer to shift an entire production line to India to build large numbers of the Mirage 2000 fighter, which the IAF already flew and rated highly. However, the BJP government of that time, apprehensive of controversy over single-vendor procurement, ordered a global tender for 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft, of which 108 would be built in India by public sector firm Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).

Click to enlarge

By 2007, when the IAF framed its requirements and issued the tender, the Congress Party-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) was in government. Over the next four years, the IAF flight-tested six fighters: Boeing’s F/A-18 Super Hornet, Lockheed Martin’s F-16IN Super Viper, Saab’s Gripen C/D, the Russian MiG-35, Eurofighter’s Typhoon, and the Rafale. In 2011, the Typhoon and the Rafale were found to have met the IAF’s performance requirements. In January 2012, Dassault’s bid was declared lower than Eurofighter’s and the Rafale became India’s combat aircraft of choice.

Extended negotiations over the next two years remained inconclusive, with Dassault reluctant to take responsibility for the Rafales that HAL would build. In May 2014, the BJP returned to power and negotiations continued for another 11 months. A breakthrough seemed imminent in March 2015, when Dassault chief, Eric Trappier, announced in India that he expected the deal to be finalised soon.

At this delicate juncture, Prime Minister Narendra Modi sprang a bombshell. Taking the IAF and his own officials by surprise on a state visit to Paris, Modi announced that he had asked French President Francois Hollande for 36 Rafale fighters in “flyaway condition”. The Modi-Hollande joint statement noted that the Rafales would be cheaper than what Dassault had quoted in the tender, but would have the same configuration. This amounted to a death knell for the tender, and New Delhi duly announced its cancellation.

The Indian Air Force fields just 600 fighters against the 2,000 China and Pakistan can marshal between them. Photo: Reuters

For the IAF, which fields just 600 fighter aircraft against the 2,000 that China and Pakistan can marshal between them, the cancellation of the 126-aircraft tender and its replacement by a contract for just 36 fighters leaves it short of 90 fighters. And with the government going slow on further procurements, this deficit is likely to deepen.

Late last year, the Congress party, led by Gandhi family scion Rahul Gandhi, launched a multi-pronged attack on the Rafale contract. Its centrepiece was the charge that the government had compromised national security by replacing a near-complete 126-Rafale purchase with a deal for just 36 fighters. The government has argued variously that negotiations were stalled on the 126-fighter tender, that HAL was incapable of building the Rafale in India, and that Modi had pushed through the purchase of 36 fighters to meet the IAF’s urgent requirements, and more would follow later.

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But those claims are contradicted by two inconvenient facts: the “emergency purchase” will be fully delivered only by 2022; and, with the more recent tender for 110 fighters still stalled, no further aircraft are in sight. The opposition is also charging the government with paying three times as much per Rafale than what the UPA government had negotiated in the 126-fighter contract. The government’s response that the fighters it has bought are more capable runs up against the fact that the Modi-Hollande joint statement stipulates an equivalent configuration.

The government could simply prove its claims by releasing details of both the tender and the current contract. Instead, it has raised suspicion by first promising to release the details and then backtracking, citing a confidentiality agreement with France. When asked in March on a visit to India whether the confidentiality agreement covered commercial details, French President Emmanuel Macron dodged the question, stating it was up to the Indian government to decide what it would release.

The opposition has accused India’s government of paying three times as much per Rafale fighter than originally negotiated. Photo: EPA

Paris and New Delhi are firmly aligned on tamping down the Rafale controversy. Until 2015, the Rafale was the world’s worst-selling production fighter. With no export orders, budget constraints had forced even the French military to slash its initial commitment to buying the Rafale from 336 to just 272 aircraft. Actual orders have been placed for just 180 fighters.

To keep the Rafale production line rolling in the wait for more orders, Dassault had slowed production to just 11 fighters annually. Some relief came when Egypt – the first foreign buyer – contracted for 24 Rafales in February 2015 and a Qatari order for another 24 followed in May. Even so, an order from the Indian Air Force, internationally known as a hard customer to please, was important for the fighter’s credibility. Further, having the Rafale inducted in service and its components going into initial production in India would position it nicely for competing for the IAF’s 110-fighter procurement and the Indian Navy’s separate 57-fighter tender.

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The opposition also alleges Modi’s 36-Rafale contract abandons even the pretence of domestic manufacture and the opportunity for boosting India’s aerospace capability. Cutting out HAL, Anil Ambani – a businessman from Modi’s home state, Gujarat, who is widely regarded as being close to the BJP – emerged as Dassault’s key partner for discharging offset liabilities, an Indian counter-trade arrangement that requires arms vendors to plough back a percentage of their earnings into the Indian defence industry.

Although Ambani’s Reliance Group has never manufactured a single aerospace component, it formed a joint venture with Dassault called Dassault Reliance Aerospace Limited (DRAL), which Ambani admits will benefit from close to a billion dollars in offset-related manufacture. Unsurprisingly, the opposition has charged Modi with crony capitalism, a charge the government counters by pointing out that offset rules allow Dassault to choose its own Indian “offset partner”.

Hollande on Friday added to the controversy by saying New Delhi had forced Dassault to pick Ambani. “We did not have a say in that,” Hollande, who was president from 2012 to 2017. told investigative website Mediapart.

“It was the Indian government that proposed this group (Reliance), and Dassault which negotiated with Ambani.We did not have a choice, we took the interlocutor who was given to us,” he said.

Police officers detain an activist of the youth wing of India’s main opposition Congress Party during a protest over the Rafale deal. Photo: Reuters

Modi is also facing criticism for announcing the Rafale buy without due procedure, which requires major defence procurements to be cleared beforehand by the military, the defence ministry and the union cabinet. His party counters that clearance was obtained before the contract was inked, but the opposition says it should have preceded Modi’s big announcement.

Indeed, a more deliberate consideration might well have concluded that, instead of allowing Dassault to negotiate from the favourable position of a single vendor, competition could have been injected in the bidding by introducing Eurofighter GmbH into what was effectively a fresh procurement. The Eurofighter Typhoon had, like the Rafale, met the IAF’s performance requirements; and, in June 2015, Eurofighter had written to the government offering to reduce by 20 per cent the price it had quoted for the Typhoon.

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The Rafale procurement is now before the Comptroller and the Auditor General, India’s top auditor, which will scrutinise the process for procedural correctness. The opposition, visualising this as a political opportunity, wants to bring the issue before a joint committee of parliament. Either way, the “Rafale scam” has become the latest phrase in India’s rich lexicon of defence procurement controversies. The BJP is understandably worried.

In 1989, after the apparently crooked procurement of artillery guns made the Swedish arms manufacturer “Bofors” a byword for corruption in arms deals, the then-Congress government was voted out of power. Now in the opposition, the Congress is looking to make Rafale the BJP’s Bofors-scandal equivalent.

For India’s military, caught in the political crossfire, this can only be bad news.

https://www.scmp.com/week-asia/geopolitics/article/2165161/how-modis-rafale-defence-deal-has-left-india-lagging-china

In Pakistan, Chinese Money Grapples With Karachi-Lahore Divide — China ready to set up special economic zones

September 17, 2018

A new administration in Islamabad is spooking Beijing with its calls for transparency over the US$62 billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor, but it may be a reflection of internal rivalries that have long been a problem

BY TOM HUSSAIN

In 2007, a hurriedly arranged ceremony took place at Gwadar, an Arabian Sea port financed by Beijing and built by Chinese state firms. But the keys to the port were not handed over to the Chinese state port operator by the Pakistani government, as was anticipated. Instead, they were handed over to the local representative of PSA Corp, the Singapore port authority. There were few Singaporeans at the event; the deal was sealed with their local partner Aqeel Karim Dhedhi, a self-made billionaire widely viewed in Pakistan as the blunt edge of powerful business interests centred in Karachi.

In one fell swoop, the Karachi business lobby prevented China from breaking the city’s iron grip over Pakistan’s international trades. Working in concert with United States-backed military dictator General Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan’s president at the time, the lobby also did a massive favour to the US and European governments, on whose export markets and preferential tariff regimes it had depended since the 1960s.

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Eleven years on, as a new Pakistani government led by World Cup-winning cricket captain Imran Khan settles in, West-dependent interests are leading the pushback against the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the US$62 billion showcase project of President Xi Jinping’s “Belt and Road Initiative”. They have secured key cabinet slots. Abdul Razak Dawood, a scion of Pakistan’s biggest business house, Dawood Hercules, has been inducted as Prime Minister Khan’s special adviser on the economy, investment, trade and textiles. He works closely with Finance Minister Asad Umar, a key Khan aide and the previous chief executive of Engro Corp, a business owned by the Dawood dynasty.

The usually media-shy Dawood granted his first official interview to the Financial Times as Wang Yi, China’s foreign policy tsar, flew into Islamabad last weekend to engage the Khan administration in talks about the future of the CPEC.

The port of Gwadar was financed by Beijing and built by Chinese state companies. Photo: Xinhua

“The previous government did a bad job negotiating with China on CPEC – they didn’t do their homework correctly and didn’t negotiate correctly so they gave away a lot,” Dawood said in the interview, published as the Chinese team left for home. “Chinese companies received tax breaks, many breaks and have an undue advantage in Pakistan; this is one of the things we’re looking at because it’s not fair that Pakistan companies should be disadvantaged.”

While subsequently rebutted by the ministry of commerce as having been taken out of context, Dawood’s comments echoed what he had said in January to Dawn, Pakistan’s leading English-language newspaper, in his capacity as chairman of Design Engineering Services and Construction (Descon), a billion-dollar company with a 40-year track record of building major energy and infrastructure projects.

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The interview drew a rare public response from the Chinese embassy in Islamabad. Although it accepted the government’s version of events and criticised the Financial Times, the Chinese ambassador to Islamabad visited the true arbiter of political power in Pakistan, army chief of staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa, the day after the report was published. Instead of the usual good-humoured chat between “iron brothers”, official photographs showed a dead-serious ambassador Yao Jing talking, and Bajwa listening attentively.

Andrew Small@ajwsmall

This stark FT interview with Abdul Razak Dawood on CPEC – just as Wang Yi wraps up his Pakistan visit – gives further grounds for thinking that the initiative will now be on go-slow mode: https://www.ft.com/content/d4a3e7f8-b282-11e8-99ca-68cf89602132 

The accompanying official statement issued by the Pakistani military said Bajwa “reiterated that CPEC is the economic future of Pakistan and its security shall never be compromised”. But it was obvious the Chinese diplomat had raised some tough questions about the contradictions between what was discussed by Wang and his Pakistani counterparts, and what Dawood was telling the media.

“This stark FT interview with Abdul Razak Dawood on CPEC – just as Wang Yi wraps up his Pakistan visit – gives further grounds for thinking that the initiative will now be on go-slow mode,” tweeted Andrew Small, author of The China-Pakistan Axis.

“According to the news in the last few days, they have been extending it, expediting it, slowing it down, prioritising new elements, prioritising existing elements, renegotiating it, and definitely not renegotiating it.”

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan meets visiting Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi in Islamabad on September 9. Photo: Xinhua

Mohiuddin Aazim, an independent economic analyst based in Karachi, said Dawood’s statement and its subsequent retraction should be viewed in the context of the talks held during a brief stopover in Islamabad by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the day before Wang arrived. Pompeo recently warned that the US would ensure tightened conditions in the event of a widely anticipated Pakistani application for an International Monetary Fund balance of payments bailout, so American taxpayers’ money did not end up paying off Islamabad’s CPEC debts.

“CPEC has attained greater importance in the backdrop of Pompeo’s visit. Before Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi visits Washington, Khan’s government wants to signal to the US that CPEC is as transparent as it should be. It also wants to signal to Beijing that CPEC implementation will be carried out keeping the interest of local companies in mind,” Aazim said. “The presence of American and other Western corporate interests in Pakistan, and the need to accommodate Chinese business interests here, means the government will continue to face internal pressure about ‘right posturing’ on CPEC from time to time.”

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Dawood is a major source of such pressure. He is a prominent member of the richest of Pakistan’s “22 families”, which asserted their business dominance in the 1960s, encouraged by military dictator Ayub Khan who needed them to transform the US’ cold war largesse into a political success story. As the local partners of the world’s biggest multinational corporations, these family-owned business houses also enjoyed extraordinary sops from subsequent American-supported dictators – General Mohammed Zia-ul-Haq in the 1980s and Musharraf in the 2000s. Dawood and his fellow tycoons also occupied cabinet positions during their rule.

The support of the Karachi business lobby has been an important factor in Khan’s rise to power.

This lobby has not been happy since democracy was restored to Pakistan in February 2008 because the politicians who took turns in power, President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, were serious business competitors who sensed great opportunities arising in China.

A hoarding showing pictures of (from left) Pakistan’s then-President Mamnoon Hussain, China’s President Xi Jinping and Pakistan’s then-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif during the 2015 launch of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor. Photo: AP

By paying an extraordinary 29 visits to China during his five years in office and handing control of the Gwadar port to the China Overseas Port Holding Company in February 2013, Zardari laid the foundation for CPEC to connect Xinjiang to the Arabian Sea. His rival, Sharif, followed through after being elected three months later. By the following year, Islamabad was awaiting the arrival of Chinese President Xi Jinping to sign the agreement for the showcase programme of his “Belt and Road Initiative”.

They were made to wait a year by Khan, who emerged after two decades in the political wilderness to lead a five-month siege of the government district in Islamabad by a few thousand activists, who were emboldened by the military’s refusal to intercede on the Sharif administration’s behalf. The siege marked the beginning of a challenge, backed by the powerful military and politicised judiciary, to the entrenched political dynasties led by Sharif, Zardari and their regional allies.

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Whereas Zardari was happy to partner his fellow Karachi-based businessmen, Sharif represented their major rivals in his native Punjab, Pakistan’s most populous and relatively well-off province. He had no intention of doing business with rivals like Dawood, who was appointed commerce minister by Musharraf after he deposed Sharif in an October 1999 coup d’etat.

Sharif ensured that Punjab and its business lobby, rather than Karachi, benefited most from the CPEC’s US$18 billion worth of early harvest phase energy and infrastructure projects. Chinese state firms were granted tax exemptions and generous guaranteed rates of return on the projects they undertook with export credits from Beijing’s banks.

China’s economies of scale effectively excluded competition from Karachi-based companies. Dawood’s Descon had bid for the engineering, procurement and construction contracts of five CPEC power projects, but were undercut by Chinese firms. “We didn’t get even a single job because we were expensive. They [Chinese companies] were cheaper because they got certain tax benefits that were not on offer for us,” Dawood told Dawn. “It is not a level playing field.”

China’s economies of scale allowed its firms to undercut Karachi-based companies bidding for CPEC projects. Photo: Reuters

Instead, Sharif’s administration ensured that Punjab-based businesses made a fortune by working as sub-contractors for Chinese project developers and providing them with cement and other building materials. Mian Muhammad Mansha and other Sharif-allied tycoons based in Lahore and Faisalabad formed new ventures with Chinese partners in the automotive, cement, power generation and textile sectors.

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Chinese firms also encroached on the home turf of Karachi’s business lobby. The China Financial Futures, Shanghai and Shenzhen stock exchanges in December 2016 took a controlling stake in the Pakistan Stock Exchange, previously dominated by a coterie of stockbrokers including Dhedhi, the erstwhile partner of PSA at Gwadar.

Around the same time, Shanghai Electric launched a US$1.77 billion bid for ownership of K-Electric, the monopoly utility in Karachi, which sources a significant proportion of its power from the Hub Power Company, an independent producer co-owned by the Dawoods.

But the tide was soon to turn. Sharif was dismissed from office last July by the Supreme Court on convoluted legal grounds. Although his Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz party remained in power until the completion of its tenure last May, Sharif’s hand-picked finance minister Ishaq Dar, a Lahore businessman, was replaced under pressure from the courts and the military. His successor was Miftah Ismail, a Karachi-based confectionery manufacturer brought in to placate the major business interests based in the city, and China’s business development plans began to suffer major delays.

Beijing’s next priority for the CPEC is to create special economic zones where Chinese industrial ventures would enjoy tax holidays. Photo: AFP

Beijing’s priority for the next phase of CPEC, which runs until 2030, is the development of special economic zones, where Chinese industrial ventures would enjoy tax holidays, potentially at the cost of established businesses co-owned by Karachi’s businessmen and their multinational partners. The project remains in limbo as Khan’s administration weighs its options, although it is likely to get the go-ahead because he wants to create millions of jobs for his youthful followers.

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The K-Electric deal had languished while the government weighed up unspecified national-security interests. The cabinet finally granted its approval in April, but by then the project’s Dubai-based owners, Abraaj Group, were in serious trouble with regulators in the United Arab Emirates, and Shanghai Electric withdrew its bid. Analysts, however, said China should not be overly concerned at the Khan administration’s change of direction and its calls for greater transparency in CPEC projects.

“The importance of CPEC and, consequently, the importance of the Chinese take on Pakistan’s economic issues would continue to grow in effect and acceptance in Islamabad,” said Aazim, the economic analyst.

“At the same time, concerns regarding over-reliance on China may also be voiced more forcefully by those seeking some balancing act on the part of Khan’s government.”

https://www.scmp.com/week-asia/geopolitics/article/2163956/pakistan-chinese-money-grapples-karachi-lahore-divide

Indian rupee drops to near-record low despite new import curbs

September 17, 2018

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The Indian rupee weakened sharply on Monday despite government measures to curb the import of “non-essential items” imposed in a bid to reduce India’s current account deficit.

The rupee weakened 1 per cent to Rs72.6 per dollar in Asian trading, taking the currency back within reach of the all-time low of Rs72.9 it hit on Wednesday.

India’s finance minister said on Friday that the decision to curb “non-essential imports” was part of a broader policy and that a list of affected items would be developed by the relevant ministries.

The announcement comes after India’s foreign currency reserves fell to $399bn on Friday as the central bank worked to halt the currency’s fall.

Sue Trinh, head of Asia foreign exchange strategy for Royal Bank of Canada, said the market was looking for “more aggressive measures” and that the steps to date announced “will disappoint”.

The government is probably holding back more measures depending on market developments, but we would likely need to see further significant Rupee depreciation/underperformance.

https://www.ft.com/content/54ece0f8-ba2c-11e8-94b2-17176fbf93f5

India: Opposition parties stage protests against high fuel prices

September 10, 2018

School, colleges and businesses shut and highways blocked as part of nationwide strike organised by opposition parties.

by
Protesters shout anti-government slogans in the eastern city of Kolkata [Rupak De Chowdhur/Reuters]
Protesters shout anti-government slogans in the eastern city of Kolkata [Rupak De Chowdhur/Reuters]

New Delhi, India – Schools and colleges were shut, roads and highways blocked and businesses shuttered in parts of India on Monday as over 20 opposition parties participated in “Bharat Bandh” (nationwide strike) against a sharp increase in fuel prices.

Protests in eastern Bihar state turned violent in the capital, Patna, where vehicles were vandalised while highways were blocked by burning tyres in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state of Gujarat.

Protests have been reported in the states of West Bengal, Maharashtra, Odisha, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and northeastern state of Assam, where train services were disrupted.

At least 100 supporters of the opposition Congress party were arrested in the northeast state of Arunachal Pradesh where the state police have said protesters were unruly. In Udupi city in Karnataka, state police imposed prohibitory orders until 6pm local time (12:30 GMT) after clashes.

The leader of the main opposition Congress party, Rahul Gandhi, attacked Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his silence on the issue.

Rahul Gandhi, left, during a protest against record high petrol and diesel prices in New Delhi [Adnan Abid/Reuters]

“Narendra Modi ji is silent, he has not spoken a word on rising prices of fuel, or condition of farmers, neither on atrocities against women,” Gandhi said while addressing protesters in New Delhi.

At least 22 political parties have held united protests criticising the government for failing to rein in rising fuel prices, a politically sensitive issue. These are the first signs of a joint political campaign by the opposition with the country going to the general elections in less than nine months.

In the capital, New Delhi, petrol prices are up about 14 percent this year. In the financial hub of Mumbai, petrol price has surged to $1.21 (88 rupees) a litre.

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Prices vary across Indian states but most cities are reeling from petrol prices as high as over 80 rupees ($1.1).

‘Mass protest of the common people’

Fuel prices have been raised almost daily across India over the past few weeks. India, which is the third-biggest oil importer in the world and buys about 80 percent of its oil needs, is more vulnerable to higher global oil prices.

Brent crude oil price rose to $77.77 per barrel in August from its 2016 lows of under $30 per barrel.

Left leader Sitaram Yechury, who marched with protesters in New Delhi, called it “economic violence” by the government.

“It’s a mass protest of the common people. The prices of petrol, diesel and cooking gas are sky high, the rupee is on a nosedive and the government is in the lap of big corporates, so the people have to come out on the streets to raise their voice,” left leader Dipankar Bhattacharya, told Al Jazeera.

Police detain a protester during the nationwide strike against rising fuel prices in Ahmedabad, Gujarat [Amit Dave/Reuters]

“The issue of price rise and big-ticket corruption catapulted Modi to power, now it’s boomeranging against his government,” he added.

Fuel is heavily taxed by India’s state and federal authorities, accounting for about 50 percent of the cost of petrol and 40 percent of the diesel price.

These taxes are a major source of income for the state exchequer. But many, including the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) legislators like Subramanian Swamy, are calling upon the government to review the taxation of fuel.

Economist Prasenjit Bose said there is disproportionate stress on revenue generation from this essential commodity.

“If you compare the prices of petrol and diesel in India with neighbouring south-Asian countries, they are much higher. The government can reduce these taxes, if it wants to.

“Why is one commodity accounting for over 60 percent of your entire excise tax collection?” Bose asked.

Congress

@INCIndia

The Modi Govt has completely failed in keeping its promises to the people of India. The need of the hour is for different parties to set aside their differences & come together: Former Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh at the protest.

‘Violent protests’

While the ruling BJP has reaped the benefits of the biggest global crude price crash in a generation since coming to power in 2014, oil is recovering as India gears up for elections in early 2019.

The BJP government criticised the opposition for spearheading “violent protests” on Monday and blamed the fuel price on global factors, including the crisis in oil-producing Venezuela.

A motorcyclist rides past burning tyres put up on fire by supporters of Congress party in Guwahati, Assam [Anuwar Hazarika/Reuters]

“The BJP believes that in spite of some momentary difficulties, the people of this country are not supporting this shutdown,” Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad told reporters in New Delhi on Monday.

Adding to the government’s woes is the rupee fall – more than eight percent this year. The weakness of the Indian rupee has pushed up prices of imported items, including petroleum products.

“The government is sensitive to the issue. The current escalation in prices is on account of global factors and basically temporary in nature,” BJP spokesperson Nalin Kohli told Al Jazeera.

“The government has consistently been relief-oriented to the people evident from the benefits to citizens through various tax benefits and other measures,” he said.

The opposition is seeking to exploit Modi’s failure to deliver on his promise to create jobs for tens of thousands of youth, a lacklustre economy and a broader decline in law and order.

Rising oil prices pose the biggest risk to India’s economy, a Reuters poll of economic analysts showed earlier this year.

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES

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https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/09/india-opposition-parties-stage-protests-high-fuel-prices-180910090315348.html

India: Rahul Gandhi Hits Out at PM Modi Over Economy — Road blockade causes child’s death

September 10, 2018

 Bharat bandh (Protest) called by Congress and other opposition parties to protest rise in prices of essential commodities. The bandh will be observed from 9.00 am to 3.00 pm

2 year old girl dies after vehicle carrying her to hospital gets stuck in road blockade

A two year old girl has died after the vehicle carrying her to Bihar’s Jehanabad civil hospital got stuck in road blockade by bandh supporters, according to a report by News18.

Her parents said if they were allowed to move ahead, their daughter’s life could have been saved, the report adds.

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  • The Shiv Sena took a jibe at opposition parties, stating their nationwide bandh against the rising fuel prices should not look like a sudden act undertaken after waking up from a “long sleep”.

    The BJP’s bickering ally said it has been carrying the burden of opposition parties on its shoulders for long and it now wants to see where these outfits stand on pro-people issues, according to a PTI report.

    “We have been carrying the burden of opposition leaders so far and we now want to see the strength of the opposition. People’s interests are protected when opposition parties perform (their duty) with efficiency,” the Sena said in an editorial published in its mouthpiece ‘Saamana’.

  • Sep 10, 11:59 AM (IST)

    ANI UP

    @ANINewsUP

    The BJP government is so proud of themselves that even today when the Opposition has called for a ‘bandh’ they have increased fuel price in some places. Government can even say that inflation will bring development: Former UP CM Akhilesh Yadav

  • Sep 10, 11:41 AM (IST)

    Speaking at the protest in Delhi, Congress President Rahul Gandhi said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has not spoken about rising prices of fuel, condition of farmers and atrocities against women.

    “Fuel prices are rising, incidents of crime against women are on a rise, farmers are distressed, but there is not a word from PM Modi,” Gandhi said.

    “PM Modi said that he will do in 4 years, what did not happen in 70 years. It is true, what has not happened in 70 years, has been done by him in 4 years,” Gandhi added.

  • Sep 10, 11:30 AM (IST)

    Petrol prices at record high: Check how much it costs in India when compared with the world

    Petrol prices at record high: Check how much it costs in India when compared with the world

    On September 10, petrol prices hit a fresh record at Rs 88.12/litre in Mumbai and Rs 80.73/litre in Delhi. Here’s a look at 10 countries where it is the cheapest and most expensive.

  • Sep 10, 11:22 AM (IST)

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    ANI

    @ANI

    Madhya Pradesh: Congress workers vandalise a petrol pump in Ujjain during protests

  • Sep 10, 11:13 AM (IST)

    Manmohan Singh hits out at Modi government

    Former prime minister Manmohan Singh has lashed out at the Narendra Modi-led government, saying it has done a lot which is not in the interest of the nation and has now crossed all limits.

    Singh made these remarks at an opposition protest against rising fuel prices here.

    Singh also urged opposition parties to shed their differences and unite to save democracy in the country, according to PTI.

  • Sep 10, 11:03 AM (IST)

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    ANI

    @ANI

    : MNS workers in Mumbai forcefully shut down shops and establishments at Bharatmata Junction Naka, Parel

  • Sep 10, 10:52 AM (IST)

    AAP leaders protest at Jantar Mantar; no disruption reported in Delhi

    AAP leaders staged a protest at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar against the fuel price hike.

    The Arvind Kenriwal-led party said that it is supporting the “cause” but has not expressed support for the Congress-led bandh.

    Senior party leader Dilip Pandey said unrest against Narendra Modi-led government is growing and the opposition cannot remain silent to the plight of common man affected by issues like fuel price hike, corruption and unemployment.

    Offices were opened on time and official work was not affected at the Delhi Secretariat due to Bharat bandh, an official said.

    Schools and colleges also had classes on time though students experienced difficulties in finding transportation, according to PTI.

    However, a transport department official said the DTC buses and cluster buses were running as usual and no reports of disruption were received so far.

  • Sep 10, 10:35 AM (IST)

    MNS workers damage state transport bus in Pune: Report

    Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) workers damaged a State Transport bus in Pune’s Kumthekar road area earlier in the day, according to a report by The Hindu.

    The Raj Thackeray-led party is supporting the bandh.

  • Sep 10, 10:19 AM (IST)

    East Coast Railway Zone cancels 12 trains

    East Coast Railway Zone has cancelled 12 trains because of Bharat bandh. The cancelled trains include Bhubaneswar-Howrah Jan Shatabdi Express and Bhubaneswar-Visakhapatnam Inter City Express, according to news reports.

  • Sep 10, 10:18 AM (IST)

    Congress workers staged rail roko at Andheri railway station in Mumbai. President of the Mumbai Regional Congress Committee Sanjay Nirupam was also present.

  • Sep 10, 10:15 AM (IST)

    swaraj@swarajsb

    Attempted disruption at Dadar (western). Police quickly managed to foil the attempt. @moneycontrolcom

  • Sep 10, 10:11 AM (IST)

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    ANI

    @ANI

    Delhi: Sonia Gandhi and former prime minister Manmohan Singh join Congress-led opposition parties supported bandh protest against fuel price hike.

  • Sep 10, 10:08 AM (IST)

    Former prime minister Manmohan Singh and former Congress president Sonia Gandhi have joined the protest in Delhi.

  • Sep 10, 10:01 AM (IST)

    TDP, TRS not supporting bandh

    N Chandrababu Naidu-led Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and the K Chandrashekar Rao-led Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) are not supporting the bandh. Congress workers were seen protesting in Hyderabad.

    Telangana Pradesh Congress Committee (TPCC) President N Uttam Kumar Reddy had appealed to the people to support the bandh.

Will avenge border deaths, Pakistan warns India after US snub

September 8, 2018

General Bajwa’s comments came while addressing the Defence Day ceremony in Rawalpindi on Thursday to mark the 53rd anniversary of the 1965 war with India

INDIA Updated: Sep 07, 2018 23:22 IST

Imtiaz Ahmad
Hindustan Times, Islamabad
Pakistan,Imran Khan,India-Pakistan ties
Pakistan’s Army Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Qamar Javed Bajwa arrives to attend the Pakistan Day military parade in Islamabad, Pakistan, March 23, 2017(REUTERS File Photo)

Pakistan Army chief Gen Qamar Bajwa has pledged to “avenge” the deaths of troops on the frontier, an apparent reference to clashes with Indian forces on the Line of Control (LoC), even as Prime Minister Imran Khan said the country “won’t fight the wars of others” in what appeared to be a reference to a $300-million cut in security-related aid from the United States.

The leaders made the remarks at an event held at General Headquarters in Rawalpindi late on Thursday to mark Defence Day, observed every year to commemorate the defence of Lahore by Pakistani forces during the 1965 war with India.

Bajwa also raised the Kashmir issue, paying tributes to “the brothers and sisters of occupied Kashmir, who are writing an unparalleled history of bravery and sacrifice”.

Though he didn’t name any country, Bajwa apparently referred to clashes with Indian forces along the LoC in Kashmir when he said he wanted to assure the people that the “blood of martyrs wouldn’t be spilled in vain”.

“The blood that has been spilled on the frontier, the blood being spilled on the frontier, we will take revenge for this blood,” he said, speaking in Urdu.

Khan’s remarks during his speech at the same event appeared to be a riposte to the US demand for “sustained and decisive” action against terrorists threatening regional peace. The demand was made by secretary of state Mike Pompeo in his meetings with Pakistan’s civil and military leadership on Wednesday.

“I was opposed to the war on terror, I didn’t want Pakistan to get involved in someone else’s war,” Khan said, in Urdu. “I pledge today that Pakistan won’t fight someone else’s war.”

“Our work is to stand for our people and we will have a foreign policy that works for the betterment of Pakistanis,” he said.

The remarks came on the day a joint statement issued by India and the US after their two-plus-two talks in New Delhi mentioned Pakistan twice in the context of “cross border terrorist attacks”. The statement even referred to the 26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai, raising the hope that the Trump administration will walk the talk on ramping up diplomatic pressure on India’s neighbour to rein in terrorist outfits.

Khan defended Pakistan’s military and intelligence agencies, saying no one had done more to defeat terrorism within the country. The remarks were significant in view of sustained US criticism of the Pakistani military’s failure to rein in terror groups such as the Taliban and Lashkar-e-Taiba that operate from its soil.

He insisted there was no civil-military divide in Pakistan. Khan described the military as the “only merit-oriented organisation in Pakistan” and said he wanted to bring “meritocracy” to all institutions so that other organs of the state can become disciplined and established like the armed forces.

Meanwhile, Pakistan’s information minister Fawad Chaudhry said the civilian and military leadership were keen on dialogue with India to foster regional peace but the new government hasn’t received a positive response from New Delhi.

Chaudhry told BBC Urdu that Prime Minister Khan had given several indications to India for holding talks but there was no “positive answer”. He noted that Khan had said in his first speech after his election victory that if India takes one step for peace, Pakistan will take two.

Asked how the new government’s policy towards India would be different from that of the previous administration, Chaudhry said the biggest difference was that all state institutions were on the same page and had adopted a united stance on foreign policy.

Both Khan and Bajwa believe no single country can develop on its own and it is important for the region to develop, Chaudhry said. “And both of them think that if there is no peace in the region, then everyone will be left behind,” he added.

After Khan’s electoral success, Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated him over the phone. According to reports, Modi hoped that “Pakistan and India will work to open a new chapter in bilateral ties”. Khan, for his part, thanked Modi for his wishes and emphasised that disputes should be resolved through dialogue.

https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/will-avenge-blood-flowing-on-the-border-says-pak-army-chief-gen-bajwa/story-Tb2N0MrrNbZysbd4BtMERM.html