Archive for ‘Politics’

24/08/2015

What the Indian and Pakistani Media Said About Canceled NSA Talks – India Real Time – WSJ

With talks set for Monday between India and Pakistan called off, the blame game is in full swing. Newspapers in both countries spilled a lot of ink on the vitriolic back-and-forth between New Delhi and Islamabad and tried to predict what would happen next.

India’s Amar Ujala, a Hindi-language daily newspaper, said Pakistan’s stubbornness had derailed the planned meeting between the two countries’ national security advisors.

The paper pointed to a joint statement by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart, Nawaz Sharif, when they agreed to the talks in July, saying the two sides would discuss terrorism. “If Pakistan had an objection, it should not have signed the joint statement,” the paper wrote.

“Pakistan took India’s sovereignty too casually,” said another editorial in Navbharat Times, one of the most-widely read Hindi dailies, referring to a Pakistani demand that its security advisor be allowed to meet separatists from the disputed region of Kashmir ahead of the talks. “Now it can’t expect India to show respect.”

Some in India’s English-language press took a milder tone.

The Times of India, India’s most widely circulated English-language daily described the cancelation of talks as a “temporary setback.” In an editorial, it described the days before the talks were finally called off as a “prolonged game of chicken to see who blinks first.”

 

“There’s a more than even chance Pakistan will seek to escalate tensions on the so-far quiet northern stretches of the Line of Control,” said the Indian Express in an editorial published Monday referring to the border which divides India-and Pakistan-held Kashmir. The paper advised both countries of the need for “maturity and self-reflection” which it said was “little in evidence this past week.”

On the other side of the border, some in the Pakistani media held India accountable for the failure of the talks.

In an editorial, Dawn, one of Pakistan’s biggest newspapers, said the Indian government’s anger against “a fairly innocuous and standard meeting” between Pakistan and Kashmiri separatists was a sign of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “true intentions.”

“He does not really want dialogue with Pakistan, but does not want to be seen rejecting talks outright in front of the international community,” Dawn said.

In Pakistan’s the Nation, an editorial said Pakistan’s decision to pull out of the talks mean it was “finally taking a stand” against India. “Enough is enough,” it said.

India was “not ready to settle” and Pakistan was now quitting its “good cop routine,” something the paper said Monday was the “right move.”

“India will make sure to repackage the situation as Pakistan refusing to talk, rather than India reneging on its promises. As the bigger country, as the more globally popular country, India will get away with that,” the paper concluded.

The Nawa-i-Waqt, a prominent national Urdu-language daily, said in an editorial Sunday that “from day one, it has been India’s policy to indicate its willingness to talk to Pakistan on all issues including Kashmir to deceive the world, but whenever the time nears for talks at any level, it makes some excuse to sabotage them.”

via What the Indian and Pakistani Media Said About Canceled NSA Talks – India Real Time – WSJ.

21/08/2015

India-Pakistan Talks Hang in the Balance Over Kashmir – India Real Time – WSJ

When rival neighbors India and Pakistan plan to meet, it often comes down to the wire – and this week is no exception.

Two days before Pakistan’s National Security Advisor Sartaj Aziz is scheduled to land in New Delhi for meetings with his Indian counterpart Ajit Doval, statements from India’s foreign ministry Friday morning cast doubt over whether the talks would actually take place.

The reason: another planned meeting between Mr. Aziz and separatists from the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir at a reception at the Pakistan High Commission on Sunday.

Through a series of tweets, a televised interview and a media statement, India hardened its stand against Pakistan’s decision to consult with Kashmiri separatists. The Kashmir region lies at the center of decades of enmity between India and Pakistan. Both countries administer parts of the territory but claim it in full.

Vikas Swarup, spokesman for India’s foreign ministry, said in a tweet posted on his verified Twitter TWTR -6.19% account on Friday: “India has advised Pakistan yesterday that it would not be appropriate for Mr. Sartaz Aziz to meet with Hurriyat representatives in India,” referring to a group of Kashmiri separatists.

Pakistan says these men must be consulted before India and Pakistan hold discussions concerning Kashmir. India resists the involvement of groups that have clashed with the Indian establishment for decades, boycotting elections and stoking tensions in the Kashmir Valley. Security officials in New Delhi accuse them of facilitating militancy in the region and colluding with Pakistan-based terrorist groups.

If India cancels the hard-won meetings over the issue of Kashmiri separatists, it won’t be the first time. In July last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi called off planned talks between the countries’ foreign secretaries after separatist leaders met with Pakistan’s ambassador to India, in defiance of New Delhi’s warnings not to do so. By cancelling the meet, Mr. Modi sought to set new ground rules of engagement between India and Pakistan – one Islamabad appears not to have been willing to accept.

Mr. Swarup repeated India’s concerns publicly Friday, taking a stand that could threaten the upcoming talks unless Pakistan yields. He said a meeting between separatists and Mr. Aziz “would not be in keeping with the spirit and intent” of an understanding between Mr. Modi and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif at a meeting in July – when the NSA talks were firmed up — “to jointly work to combat terrorism.”

His statements are a second warning shot, after Indian authorities in Jammu and Kashmir temporarily detained separatist leaders on Thursday in an apparent signal of New Delhi’s objections. But Pakistan has so far given no indication it’s in the mood to compromise. Pakistani foreign ministry officials said the reception would go on as scheduled.

 

The meetings may also fall apart over another disagreement: What will the two sides talk about?

Pakistan has said the dispute over Kashmir will figure on the agenda when the countries’ top security officials get together. India says the meetings will focus only on terrorism.

India accuses Pakistan of harboring militants who launch attacks on India and wants to press Pakistan further to take stern action against such groups. Pakistan denies allegations it backs militants, saying it too is grappling with terror against its citizens.

In recent days, Pakistan has stepped up efforts to draw attention to the Kashmir dispute, raising hackles in New Delhi. It pulled out of organizing a conference of Commonwealth countries that was scheduled to begin next month saying it didn’t want to host lawmakers from the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. Pakistan’s foreign ministry said on Thursday that Islamabad would “raise all issues during the meetings in India, including Kashmir.”

In an attempt to clarify its position, Mr. Swarup said in another tweet Friday that India has “sought confirmation of our proposed agenda for the NSA level talks” – a typically behind-the-scenes detail whose public declaration by Mr. Swarup points to the lack of trust and widening gulf between the two sides.

via India-Pakistan Talks Hang in the Balance Over Kashmir – India Real Time – WSJ.

15/08/2015

Modi’s Independence Day Speech – The Numbers – WSJ

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s second Independence Day speech on Saturday morning was peppered with numbers – most measuring the success of initiatives launched since he took office, and others earmarking targets that he hopes the country will reach in the future.

English: Image of Narendra Modi at the World E...

English: Image of Narendra Modi at the World Economic Forum in India (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here are some of the figures that Mr. Modi used in his one-and-a-half hour long speech at Delhi’s iconic Red Fort.

1.25 billion Indians

It was hard to keep count on the number of times Mr. Modi invoked the unified power of India’s 1.25 billion people during his speech. “This is Team India, a team of 125 crore Indians. This is the team that makes our nation and take our nation to new heights,” he said in the first few minutes, using the Indian unit, crore, for 10 million. Mr Modi said that advancements made by his government in the 15 months since he took office as prime minister, were the “achievements of Team India.” He even set a target for the team: to make India a developed nation by 2022, the year that India celebrates 75 years of independence from British rule.

425,000 toilets

All schools should have toilets with separate amenities for girls, Mr. Modi said during his speech last year, setting a one-year deadline for the target. In his address on Saturday, Mr. Modi declared that 425,000 toilets had been built in over 200,000 Indian schools in the past year. It wasn’t immediately possible to verify this claim. According to India’s federal human resource development ministry, by 2014, about 91% and 85% of government-run schools had separate toilets for girls and boys respectively.

2 million cooking-gas subsidies

Since January, 2 million Indians have forfeited their cooking-gas subsidies–offered to all households–under a campaign called “Give It Up.” The initiative, launched by the federal ministry of petroleum and natural gas, urged affluent Indians to give up the perk—amounting to about $4 on every cooking-gas cylinder—if they could afford to. The government hopes the plan will make gas available as a clean energy for the millions who still rely on firewood and biomass for cooking. The poorest section of Indian society receives only 15 percent of this subsidy, according to a 2014 report by Council on Energy, Environment and Water, a Delhi-based non-profit. On Saturday, a website for the campaign, givitup.in, showed that 2,101,977 people had voluntarily surrendered the subsidy.

170 million bank accounts

Mr. Modi said his push to widen access to financial services for the poor through a program called Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana—or the Prime Minister’s People Money Scheme, announced in his Independence Day speech last year, had shown progress. He said 170 million new bank accounts have been opened under this program and that the total amount deposited in the accounts amounts to 200 billion rupees ($3.07 billion.) The amount reflects “the richness of the poor,” he said. The government said in April that 135 million new bank accounts were opened in the eight months since the scheme launched.

65 billion rupees

That’s the amount of unaccounted, or “black money,” sitting in international accounts held by tax-avoiding Indians that has been declared to authorities in the past two-and-a-half months, Mr. Modi said. In July, following new legislation aimed at combating tax avoidance, and combating so-called “black money,” the government opened up a three-month window for law breakers to disclose their foreign assets and incomes, pay due taxes and settle the steep penalties imposed for evading taxes, to avoid prosecution. The punishment for stashing “black money” to evade taxes is 10 years in prison.

18,500 villages

Despite a number of ongoing campaigns, Mr. Modi didn’t shy away from setting another target: to provide electricity to 18,500 villages that don’t have power supply in the next 1,000 days.

via Modi’s Independence Day Speech – The Numbers – WSJ.

15/08/2015

Modi Uses Independence Day Speech to Hit Out at ‘Termite-Like’ Graft – India Real Time – WSJ

At the end of a week in which Prime Minister Narendra Modi failed to push broad measures aimed at boosting the economy through Parliament, the Indian leader sought in an Independence Day address to draw attention to his efforts to make the machinery of government more efficient and less corrupt.

In a 90-minute speech delivered from the ramparts of New Delhi’s Red Fort on Saturday, Mr. Modi didn’t focus on sweeping policy changes or big, new plans. Instead, he spoke of trying to enforce change in the Indian government bureaucracy, a system he characterized as riddled with “termite-like” graft and inertia and accustomed to inordinate delays.

“What government doesn’t make big declarations?” Mr. Modi said. “The test is whether we are able to implement the promises we make. We have stressed a new work culture.”

Under attack from political opponents who have tried to portray him as pro-business and anti-farmer, Mr. Modi didn’t once mention his “Make in India” campaign to encourage foreign and domestic investors to set up factories in India, nor did he directly address weeks of opposition protests that stalled a major tax overhaul in Parliament.

via Photos: Modi Uses Independence Day Speech to Hit Out at ‘Termite-Like’ Graft – India Real Time – WSJ.

13/08/2015

Politics Gets in the Way of Modi’s India Overhaul – India Real Time – WSJ

Political calculations and parliamentary gridlock are putting the brakes on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s already-incremental plans for economic revitalization 15 months after Indian voters gave him an overwhelming mandate for change.

Following nearly a month of partisan bickering, lawmakers ended a parliamentary session on Thursday without passing a centerpiece of Mr. Modi’s agenda—a constitutional amendment to replace a thicket of differing state taxes with a more business-friendly nationwide levy.

 

The Indian leader, worried about political opposition and a backlash from rural voters, also effectively abandoned efforts to win approval for another development measure—legislation that would have made it easier for the state to acquire land for infrastructure and industry, government officials, some ruling party and opposition lawmakers said.

Mr. Modi shot to prominence with a landslide electoral victory and impassioned vows during visits to world capitals to reset India’s economy. But blocked by the opposition and reluctant to take risky political steps, his liberalization project is languishing.

“The slowdown in the reform momentum has taken away the type of optimism we saw when Modi was elected in 2014,” said Chua Han Teng, an India specialist at London-based BMI Research. “It hurts investor confidence.”

via Politics Gets in the Way of Modi’s India Overhaul – India Real Time – WSJ.

07/08/2015

China’s Unsinkable Aircraft Carriers – China Real Time Report – WSJ

What should the U.S. do about China’s increased assertiveness in the South China Sea? As the Brookings Institution’s Michael O’Hanlon writes:

Beijing claims almost the whole sea—land formations, seabeds and open waters alike—and of late has been literally creating new facts on the ground, constructing 2,000 acres of artificial islands where only shoals or sand bars once existed. Beijing now says those efforts are nearly complete but acknowledges plans to place military assets on the islands, some of which may include substantial airfields.

Washington is deeply concerned and should continue pushing back against any Chinese enforcement of its “nine-dash line” claim to 85% of the region’s map. But the U.S. can’t stop China from building or modestly militarizing its new islands, nor should it try. Even if it rattles nerves from Tokyo to Manila, Hanoi and Washington, Beijing’s campaign is little more than an asymmetric way of establishing regional military presence—and one that even mimics American behavior over the years.

via China’s Unsinkable Aircraft Carriers – China Real Time Report – WSJ.

30/07/2015

India hangs Yakub Memon for 1993 Mumbai bomb blasts | Reuters

India hanged Yakub Memon on Thursday for his role in the country’s deadliest bombings, which killed 257 people in Mumbai in 1993, after the Supreme Court threw out his final plea for a stay of execution.

Memon was convicted as the “driving spirit” behind the serial blasts in India’s financial capital Mumbai, then known as Bombay. He spent two decades in jail before going to the gallows on his 53rd birthday in a jail Nagpur.

The execution drew wide public support but has stirred controversy about whether the punishment adequately reflected the help Memon gave authorities in solving the crime.

Critics question whether Memon’s death serves India’s larger interests, saying it sends the wrong message to potential collaborators with justice agencies.

In the days before his execution, it emerged that Memon had helped Indian intelligence crack the case and establish a link to neighbour and arch-rival Pakistan over the bombings.

“It’s extremely sad that India has gone ahead, we had been hoping India will now call for a moratorium,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director for Human Rights Watch.

“But it’s very welcome that now there seems to be a growing debate around this in India.”

In a dramatic sequence of events, a Supreme Court panel held an unprecedented hearing in the early hours of Thursday, before rejecting Memon’s last-ditch plea for a 14-day delay in execution. Several previous pleas had also been rejected.

Police consider Memon’s brother, “Tiger” Memon, and mafia don Dawood Ibrahim to be the masterminds behind the attacks, intended to avenge the destruction of an ancient mosque by Hindu zealots in 1992. Both men remain in hiding.

Memon’s body was released for burial in Mumbai, with police deployed in riot gear to guard against possible street protests and security tightened at the family home.

via India hangs Yakub Memon for 1993 Mumbai bomb blasts | Reuters.

29/07/2015

Why the Punjab Police Station Attack Was Waiting to Happen – India Real Time – WSJ

Six people were killed and at least seven injured in the Indian province of Punjab on Monday after gunmen dressed in military uniforms opened fire at a bus station and later turned their weapons on a police post.

According to Indian officials, security forces killed three of the attackers; three police officers also were killed in the violence in Gurdaspur district, which is close to the Pakistani border. The death toll could have been much higher; five bombs were reportedly found on train tracks nearby.

Many Indians and South Asia analysts, myself included, have feared for some time an eruption of the sort of violence that unfolded Monday. Reasons include:

* With most international troops out of Afghanistan, numerous militants that had been fighting foreign forces in Afghanistan could be looking for new targets—and might see ones in neighboring India.

* There was a resurgence in 2014 of anti-India militant leaders who had been quiet in recent years. These include Masood Azhar, head of the Jaish-e-Mohammed group, whose voice was heard in a recorded broadcast last year at an anti-India rally in Pakistan. Mr. Azhar had threatened to assassinate Narendra Modi if he became prime minister.

* The India-Pakistan relationship is at one of its lowest points in years. The Pakistani military controls its country’s relations with India, and army leaders are fundamentally opposed to the idea of peace with New Delhi. Mr. Modi’s conservative, Hindu nationalist government sees no reason to pursue full-fledged talks with Pakistan’s civilian government, which is more sympathetic to reconciliation but lacks the power to pursue it. This fraught environment offers useful pretexts for attacks.

It is not yet clear who staged Monday’s assault; some Indian officials have alleged the involvement of Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Pakistani anti-India group responsible for the 2008 terror strikes on Mumbai. Lashkar-e-Taiba is known to have ties to the Pakistani security establishment. Notably, Islamabad has condemned the attack—a goodwill gesture made with the knowledge that, whoever staged the attack, someone in India would invariably accuse Pakistan.

Although Punjab province is close to the tense Kashmir region, terror attacks are unusual in Punjab. In decades past, it has been a hotbed of separatist—and at times violent—activity led by Indian Sikhs, though this movement—which many Indian commentators believe is supported by Pakistan’s intelligence service—has been quiet in recent years (grievances of the past, however, remain entrenched, I was told repeatedly while in Punjab last year). Some Indian commentators have questioned whether Monday’s attack marks a “revival” of the movement. Others wonder if Pakistani terrorists are simply opening new fronts beyond Kashmir.

If India concludes that the attack originated in Pakistan, the subcontinent could be in for some very turbulent times. Mr. Modi is not likely to be as restrained in the face of Pakistani provocations as his predecessor Manmohan Singh was.

Whoever was behind the attack, Monday’s death toll reminds us that amid talk of al Qaeda affiliates and Islamic State wreaking havoc across the Middle East and North Africa, South Asia’s subcontinent remains a dangerous–and nuclear-armed—place.

via Why the Punjab Police Station Attack Was Waiting to Happen – India Real Time – WSJ.

28/07/2015

Confucius says, Xi does | The Economist

TWO emerging cults are on display in Qufu, a city in eastern China where Confucius was born. One surrounds the ancient sage himself. At a temple in his honour, visitors take turns to bow and prostrate themselves before a large statue of Confucius seated on a throne. For each obeisance, a master of ceremonies chants a wish, such as for “success in exams” or “peace of the country”. On the other side of the city the tomb of Confucius is the scene of similar adoration—flowers adorn it as if he were a loved one recently lost.

The other cult in Qufu surrounds the country’s president, Xi Jinping. People still recall with excitement the trip he made to the city in 2013. It was the first by a Communist Party chief in more than two decades; in fact, though Mr Xi has visited Qufu he has not, since becoming China’s leader, paid respects at the birthplace of Mao Zedong at Shaoshan in Hunan province. Today plates decorated with Mr Xi’s image are for sale in Qufu’s trinket shops. His beaming face is on display on a large billboard outside the Confucius Research Institute, together with a quotation from the modern sage: “In the spread of Confucianism around the world, China must fully protect its right to speak up,” it begins.

Since he came to power in 2012, Mr Xi has sought to elevate Confucius—whom Mao vilified—as the grand progenitor of Chinese culture. He did not go so far as to pay homage at the Confucius temple in Qufu, where Mao’s Red Guard mobs once wrought havoc (one of their slogans, “Revolution is not a crime”, still survives daubed on a stone tablet). Neither did his few published remarks include explicit praise for Confucian philosophy, which still raises hackles among party hacks brought up to regard it as the underpinning of “feudal” rule in premodern China.

To emperors, who were regular visitors to Qufu, Confucianism was practically a state religion. “Uncle Xi”, for all the mini-cult surrounding him, does not seem keen to be viewed as a latter-day emperor. But like leaders of old, he evidently sees Confucianism as a powerful ideological tool, with its stress on order, hierarchy, and duty to ruler and to family. Unlike the party’s imported, indigestible Marxist dogma, Confucianism has the advantage of being home-grown. It appeals to a yearning for ancient values among those unsettled by China’s blistering pace of change.

Though the party has quietly been rehabilitating Confucius for some time, under Mr Xi the pace has quickened. In February 2014 he convened a “collective study” session of the ruling Politburo at which he said that traditional culture should act as a “wellspring” nourishing the party’s values. Official accounts of the session made no mention of Confucius, but party literature made it clear that the values Mr Xi spoke of—such as benevolence, honesty and righteousness—were those espoused by the philosopher. In September Mr Xi became the first party chief to attend a birthday party for Confucius (who turned 2,565). China, he told assembled scholars from around the world, had always been peace-loving—a trait, he said, that had “very deep origins in Confucian thinking”. In May state media reported that the link between Marxism and Confucianism, which some might consider rather tenuous, was the “hottest topic” in the study of humanities in 2014.

Add plenty of sage

Under Mr Xi the party has tweaked its ideological mantras to sound more Confucian. At the party congress in 2012 that marked Mr Xi’s assumption of power, slogans about “core socialist values” were distilled into 12 words, each formed by two Chinese characters and plastered all over Beijing and other cities. The ideas are a hotch-potch. Some are strikingly Western, such as democracy, freedom and equality. There is a nod to socialism with “dedication to work”. Others, such as harmony and sincerity, look more Confucian. Zhang Yiwu of Peking University notes a similarity with the “shared values” adopted by Singapore’s government in 1991. Authoritarian Singapore, where officials hold Confucianism in high regard, has been an inspiration to China, Mr Zhang says.

via Confucius says, Xi does | The Economist.

27/07/2015

How Police and the Indian Army Are Dealing With Punjab Attack: In Pictures – India Real Time – WSJ

At least three gunmen stormed a police station in northern India near the border with Pakistan Monday, killing six people—including two policemen—and injuring seven others, in a standoff that continued hours later, a senior Indian counterterrorism official said.



It is such terrible news and I always think back to seeing Roger and Hilary at their home and having a picnic in their garden. They are/were such lovely people. I had the greatest repsetc for Roger and I am only sorry that I didn’t stay in touch.

Punjab police fired to counter the attack on Monday. Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

H.S. Dhillon, head of intelligence for Punjab state police, said the attackers were suspected to have crossed the Indian frontier early Monday.

The deadly incident comes as hostilities between India and Pakistan have worsened in recent weeks, even after a meeting of the countries’ premiers earlier this month sparked hopes of a thaw.

Indian army personnel stood in Dinanagar town, July 27, 2015. Narinder Nanu/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

India has long accused Pakistan of harboring and aiding militant groups that launch attacks on India, particularly in the northern state of Jammu and Kashmir. Pakistan denies allegations that it supports militant activities against India.

Army personnel take position in Dinanagar town, July 27, 2015. Narinder Nanu/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

But Monday’s killings were unusual, analysts said, because they occurred in Punjab, where militant attacks have in the past two decades been rare, and could signal an expansion of militancy beyond Kashmir.

Punjab police took position during the attack. Narinder Nanu/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

Police personnel took aim during the attack. Narinder Nanu/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

The gunmen, who were wearing military uniforms, opened fire on a bus in Punjab’s Gurdaspur district before heading to the local police station, according to Mr. Dhillon and an eyewitness. The attackers exchanged fire with police inside the station and a standoff that continued into Monday afternoon, Mr. Dhillon said.

via How Police and the Indian Army Are Dealing With Punjab Attack: In Pictures – India Real Time – WSJ.

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