Archive for ‘India alert’

19/03/2019

Govt asks banks to save Jet Airways, avoid bankruptcy: Report

The government has also nudged its 49 percent-owned National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF)— created to invest in stalled and new infrastructure projects — to buy a stake in Jet, a separate government source said.

BUSINESS Updated: Mar 19, 2019 15:53 IST

Reuters
Reuters
New Delhi
Jet Airways,Jet bankruptcy,Naresh Goyal
Saddled with more than 1 billion dollars of debt, Jet is struggling to stay aloft.(REUTERS)

The government has asked state-run banks to rescue privately held Jet Airways without pushing it into bankruptcy, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeks to avert thousands of job losses weeks before a general election, two people within the administration told Reuters.

The finance ministry has in the past year sought regular updates from the banks, led by State Bank of India (SBI), on Jet’s financial health, the people said. In recent months, the banks have provided weekly updates about a revival plan and also sought government advice, the people added.

“Top officials at the finance ministry seek regular updates on the issue,” said an official at one of Jet’s lenders, who did not want to be identified as discussions are private.

Details of the discussion between the finance ministry and bankers on bailing out Jet have not been previously reported.

New Delhi has urged state-run banks to convert debt into equity and take a stake in Jet in a rare move in India to use taxpayer money to save a struggling private-sector company from bankruptcy. The two people plus one more source, however, said this would be “transitory” and lenders could sell the stakes once Jet revives.

Also read:Civil aviation minister Suresh Prabhu calls emergency meeting on Jet Airways crisis

The government has also nudged its 49 percent-owned National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF) – created to invest in stalled and new infrastructure projects – to buy a stake in Jet, a separate government source said.

Saddled with more than 1 billion dollars of debt, Jet is struggling to stay aloft. It has delayed payments to banks, suppliers, employees and aircraft lessors – some of which have begun terminating lease deals.

The world’s biggest democracy is gearing up for an election next month and its booming aviation sector, which employs close to a million people, has been one of the job-creation success stories that Modi can point to as he seeks a second term.

It is crucial for India that Jet revives as the fall of its second-largest airline could have “disastrous consequences for the investment climate” in the sector, a top government official told Reuters.

The official is concerned that if Jet collapses it could drive up airfare in a fast-growing market, wiping out efforts to bring low-cost air travel to India’s hinterland.

A chaotic end could also make it more difficult for the government to sell a stake in Air India, at least in the short run. Last year, it failed to sell part of its stake in the indebted carrier which currently relies on taxpayer money.

If the government’s plan for Jet succeeds, then state-run banks including SBI and Punjab National Bank (PNB) as well as NIIF would together own at least a third of the airline until they find a new buyer.

Currently, Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways is Jet’s largest shareholder with a 24 percent stake.

India’s finance ministry, SBI, PNB and Jet Airways did not respond to requests for comment.

KINGFISHER’S COLLAPSE

Most companies in Jet’s financial condition would be placed by creditors into India’s new bankruptcy process, two bankers said. However, memories of the chaos sparked by Kingfisher Airlines’ demise in 2012 have prompted the government to seek a more sober road to rescue, they said.

Kingfisher’s bankruptcy caused job losses, lessors lost millions of dollars and banks took massive writedowns.

Putting what is essentially a services provider like Jet through the bankruptcy process would diminish its value because it owns no major assets, unlike a manufacturing company, as most of its planes are leased, said another government official.

Also read: Jet Airways delays interest payments, grounds 4 more planes

If it is pushed into bankruptcy and lessors start pulling even more planes out of service, there would be nothing left for any potential investors, the official said. Already 41 planes have been grounded by lessors in the past three months, leading to flight cancellations.

While on the surface Jet’s future still hangs in the balance with its main shareholder Etihad at loggerheads over the final terms of any deal, behind-the-scenes support from the government means there is likely to be a bailout.

But there are no easy options, one of the sources said, adding that the lenders do not have the expertise to run an airline so they have to decide what to do once they convert their debt into equity.

New Delhi is also backing a proposal for Jet’s founder and Chairman Naresh Goyal to step down if it means saving the airline, another official said. “Saving Jet is not equivalent to saving Goyal,” the official said.

RISING AIRFARE

Jet, with its fleet of 119 planes, once controlled a sixth of India’s domestic aviation market. The 25-year-old airline is also one of only two full-service carriers that flies to international destinations. The other is Air India.

The government ideally wants four to six major airlines to ensure fares are competitive and passengers have greater choice, according to the top government source.

Also read: Not paid salaries for months, Jet Airways pilots seek govt help

India plans to build 100 new airports costing about $60 billion which would need a steady stream of flights to sustain them, and that is possible only if there are enough airlines, a separate official said.

“The investment in these airports will solely depend on operators willing to have regular flights at affordable prices and one operator going bankrupt does not help,” he said.

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19/03/2019

Man detained in connection with Pulwama terror attack dies in police custody

The 28-year-old, identified as Rizwan Asad Pandith, worked as a teacher at a private school. Police said that he was an activist of the banned Jamaat-e-Islami in the Pulwama area of South Kashmir.

Violence erupted in downtown Srinagar and Awantipura areas when a man, who was detained for interrogation in connection with the terror attack in which 44 CRPF personnel were recently killed, died in police custody on Tuesday.
The 28-year-old, identified as Rizwan Asad Pandith, worked as a teacher at a private school. Police said that he was an activist of the banned Jamaat-e-Islami in the Pulwama area of South Kashmir.
Rizwan was picked up by the police three days ago in connection with the terrorist attack and died around midnight yesterday. A magisterial inquiry under Section 176 CRPC has been ordered into his death.
IGP (Kashmir zone) SP Pani has confirmed that the teacher died in police custody and the cause of his death was being investigated. The police, too, separately initiated a probe in the jurisdictional area of incident.
Incidents of stone-pelting were reported in downtown Srinagar and Awantipura as news about death of the teacher spread. Police fired teargas shells to disperse the stone-pelters, who were demanding action against the NIA and policemen interrogating Rizwan.
Reacting to the death of the teacher, National Conference chief Omar Abdullah tweeted, “I had hoped custodial deaths were a thing of our dark past. This is an unacceptable development & must be investigated in a transparent, time-bound manner. Exemplary punishment must be handed out to the killers of this young man.”
In another tweet, Omar said, “Midnight raids, crackdowns, rampant arrests, custodial murders, denial of democratic right to choose a government. Kashmir continues to suffer the fallout of the disastrous PDP-BJP alliance and from the Modi government’s muscular approach to J&K.”
PDP chief and former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti tweeted, “Innocent men hauled up from their homes for interrogation return home only in coffins now. GOI’s repressive approach leaves young educated men vulnerable who are forces to take up arms. Stop using Kashmir to exhibit your sick chauvinistic nationalism. We have suffered enough.
The National Investigation Agency (NIA) is investigating 14 February terror attack case in which an explosive-laden SUV driven by a suicide attacker of Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) rammed into the convoy of CRPF.
The NIA is learnt to have scanned the mobile phones that were operating in the area at the time of the terror attack. Five top JeM terrorists have been killed in encounters with security forces after the incident.
Source: The Statesman
18/03/2019

India election 2019: Is India’s bullet train on time?

Modi and Abe with bullet trainImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES

India has undertaken an ambitious project for a bullet train to run between two of the country’s major cities.

A deal was signed in 2015 with Japan, which is helping to finance its construction.

The project is part of the government’s commitment to revitalise the country’s creaking 165-year-old rail network.

In the run-up to the Indian election, which gets under way on 11 April, BBC Reality Check is examining claims and pledges made by the main political parties.

Presentational grey line

Claim: India will have a bullet train service running by August 2022. This will run down the west coast, connecting the cities of Mumbai and Ahmedabad.

Verdict: Passengers may get to experience a modern high-speed train on just a small section of line by 2022. It looks unlikely the promised bullet train will be fully operational by then or even by the following year.

Presentational grey line

The bullet train project was officially launched at a ceremony in September 2017 attended by the Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe.

That year, the Indian Ministry of Railways said “all-out efforts” would be made to complete the high speed rail project by 15 August 2022.

However, officials involved with the plan now estimate that only a small part of the route will be completed by this time, with the rest finished in 2023.

The Congress opposition leader, Rahul Gandhi, has described it as a “magic train” that will never be completed.

Why is it needed?

India’s vast rail network offers a cheap and vital transport service for 22 million people a day on about 9,000 trains.

But travellers have long complained of poor services and a lack of investment in modernisation.

Vande Bharat leaving DelhiImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionIndia’s Vande Bharat train – the fastest currently in service

Currently, India’s fastest train is the Vande Bharat Express, which has reached 180km/h (110mph) during trials.

The Japanese bullet train is almost twice as fast, capable of speeds up to 320km/h (200mph).

Once completed, the $15bn (£11bn) high-speed rail route will connect India’s major business and financial hub of Mumbai with important business centres in Gujarat state such as Surat and Ahmedabad.

The 500km-long journey now takes about eight hours.

That’s expected to drop to well under three hours, with the fastest journey times estimated at just two hours and seven minutes.

Map of bullet train route

When will it be finished?

Some experts think even the current deadline given by officials, of December 2023, is overly optimistic.

“I am not sure – considering how slow things are moving,” Debolina Kundu, an associate professor at the National Institute of Urban Affairs, told BBC News.

“And there are bureaucratic hurdles.”

Presentational grey line

Read more from Reality Check

Presentational grey line

The main obstacle is land acquisition.

The train project needs to acquire more than 1,400 hectares (14 sq km) of land, most of it privately owned.

The National High Speed Rail Corporation had been aiming to complete this process by the end of last year but has recently said it will continue until mid-2019.

In February, it told BBC News there were now agreements with more than 1,000 landowners – out of an estimated total of 6,000.

New Delhi railway station queueImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES

One barrier to the land sales has been dissatisfaction with the amount of compensation being offered to the owners.

There have been protests in some areas over plans for land acquisition – and multiple petitions filed in the courts.

And in India, court cases challenging land acquisition can drag on for years.

But those running the project say they are paying compensation of 25% above the legal requirement.

Another potential barrier is the need for wildlife and other environmental clearances, as the train will pass through three wildlife areas and coastal regions.

It will also cross areas classified as forest – and this land can be acquired only once environmental impact studies have been completed and reforestation plans drawn up.

Source: The BBC

18/03/2019

India, Pakistan threatened to unleash missiles at each other – sources

NEW DELHI/ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – The sparring between India and Pakistan last month threatened to spiral out of control and only interventions by U.S. officials, including National Security Advisor John Bolton, headed off a bigger conflict, five sources familiar with the events said.

At one stage, India threatened to fire at least six missiles at Pakistan, and Islamabad said it would respond with its own missile strikes “three times over”, according to Western diplomats and government sources in New Delhi, Islamabad and Washington.

The way in which tensions suddenly worsened and threatened to trigger a war between the nuclear-armed nations shows how the Kashmir region, which both claim and is at the core of their enmity, remains one of the world’s most dangerous flashpoints.

The exchanges did not get beyond threats, and there was no suggestion that the missiles involved were anything more than conventional weapons, but they created consternation in official circles in Washington, Beijing and London.

Reuters has pieced together the events that led to the most serious military crisis in South Asia since 2008, as well as the concerted diplomatic efforts to get both sides to back down.

The simmering dispute erupted into conflict late last month when Indian and Pakistani warplanes engaged in a dogfight over Kashmir on Feb 27, a day after a raid by Indian jet fighters on what it said was a militant camp in Pakistan. Islamabad denied any militant camp exists in the area and said the Indian bombs exploded on an empty hillside.

In their first such clash since the last war between the two nations in 1971, Pakistan downed an Indian plane and captured its pilot after he ejected in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir.

Hours later, videos of the bloodied Indian pilot, handcuffed and blindfolded, appeared on social media, identifying himself to Pakistani interrogators, deepening anger in New Delhi.

With Prime Minister Narendra Modi facing a general election in April-May, the government was under pressure to respond.

“NO GOING BACK”

That evening, Indian National Security Adviser Ajit Doval spoke over a secure line to the head of Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), Asim Munir, to tell him India was not going to back off its new campaign of “counter terrorism” even after the pilot’s capture, an Indian government source and a Western diplomat with knowledge of the conversations told Reuters in New Delhi.

Doval told Munir that India’s fight was with the militant groups that freely operated from Pakistani soil and it was prepared to escalate, said the government source.

A Pakistani government minister and a Western diplomat in Islamabad separately confirmed a specific Indian threat to use six missiles on targets inside Pakistan. They did not specify who delivered the threat or who received it, but the minister said Indian and Pakistani intelligence agencies “were communicating with each other during the fight, and even now they are communicating with each other”.

Pakistan said it would counter any Indian missile attacks with many more launches of its own, the minister told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“We said if you will fire one missile, we will fire three. Whatever India will do, we will respond three times to that,” the Pakistani minister said.

Doval’s office did not respond to a request for comment. India was not aware of any missile threat issued to Pakistan, a government official said in reply to a Reuters request for comment.

Pakistan’s military declined to comment and Munir could not be reached for comment. Pakistan’s foreign ministry did not respond to a Reuters request for comment.

TRUMP-KIM TALKS

The crisis unfolded as U.S. President Donald Trump was trying to hammer out an agreement with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi over its nuclear programme.

U.S. security advisor Bolton was on the phone with Doval on the night of Feb 27 itself, and into the early hours of Feb 28, the second day of the Trump-Kim talks, in an attempt to defuse the situation, the Western diplomat in New Delhi and the Indian official said.

Later, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who was also in Hanoi, also called both sides to seek a way out of the crisis.

“Secretary Pompeo led diplomatic engagement directly, and that played an essential role in de-escalating the tensions between the two sides,” State Department deputy spokesperson Robert Palladino said in a briefing in Washington on March 5.

A State Department official declined comment when asked if they knew of the threats to use missiles.

Pompeo spoke to Doval, the Indian and Pakistani Foreign Ministers Sushma Swaraj and Shah Mahmood Qureshi, respectively, Palladino said.

U.S. Indo-Pacific Command Admiral Phil Davidson told reporters in Singapore last week that he had separately been in touch with the Indian navy chief, Sunil Lanba, throughout the crisis. There was no immediate response from Lanba’s office to a question on the nature of the conversations.

U.S. efforts were focused on securing the quick release of the Indian pilot by Pakistan and winning an assurance from India it would pull back from the threat to fire rockets, the Western diplomat in New Delhi and officials in Washington said.

“We made a lot of effort to get the international community involved in encouraging the two sides to de-escalate the situation because we fully realized how dangerous it was,” said a senior Trump administration official.

The Pakistani minister said China and the United Arab Emirates also intervened. China’s foreign ministry did not respond to requests for comment. The government of the UAE said Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan held talks with both Modi and Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan.

India has not given details, but has said it was in touch with major powers during the conflict.

On the morning of Feb 28, Trump told reporters in Hanoi that he expected the crisis to end soon.

“They have been going at it and we have been involved in trying to have them stop. Hopefully that is going to be coming to an end.”

Later that afternoon, Khan announced in Pakistan’s parliament that the Indian pilot would be released, and he was sent back the next day.

“I know last night there was a threat there could a missile attack on Pakistan, which got defused,” Khan said. “I know, our army stood prepared for retaliation of that attack.”

The two countries have gone to war three times since both gained independence in 1947, the last time in 1971. The two armies are trading fire along the line of control that separates them in Kashmir, but the tensions appear contained for now.

Diplomatic experts said that the latest crisis underlined the chances of misread signals and unpredictability in the ties between the nuclear-armed rivals, and the huge dangers. It still was not clear whether India had targeted a militant camp in Pakistan and whether there were any casualties, they said.

“Indian and Pakistani leaders have long evinced confidence that they can understand each other’s deterrence signals and can de-escalate at will,” said Joshua White, a former White House official who is now at Johns Hopkins.

“The fact that some of the most basic facts, intentions and attempted strategic signals of this crisis are still shrouded in mystery … should be a sobering reminder that neither country is in a position to easily control a crisis once it begins.”.

Source: Reuters

18/03/2019

Mayawati snubs Congress over its 7-seat offer, says don’t create confusion

The BSP leader’s statement came a day after the Congress said it was leaving seven of the 80 Lok Sabha seats in Uttar Pradesh for the SP-BSP combine

LOK SABHA ELECTIONS Updated: Mar 18, 2019 14:38 IST

HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Mayawati,Bahujan Samaj Party,Samajwadi Party
Bahujan Samaj Party president Mayawati has said that the SP-BSP combine was strong enough to defeat the Bharatiya Janata Party in Uttar Pradesh and that they did not need the support of the Congress.(PTI file photo)
Bahujan Samaj Party president Mayawati, in a strong snub for the Congress, said on Monday that the SP-BSP combine was strong enough to defeat the BJP in politically important Uttar Pradesh in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.
The BSP leader’s statement came a day after the Congress said it was leaving seven of the 80 Lok Sabha seats in Uttar Pradesh for the SP-BSP combine, which recently formed an alliance and had left two seats – Rae Bareli and Amethi – for the Congress.
“The Congress is free to put up candidates in all Uttar Pradesh seats, our alliance is strong enough to defeat the BJP. The Congress should not create confusion about any alliance with us,” Mayawati tweeted.

She made it clear that the SP-BSP combine had no poll understanding with the Congress anywhere in the country. “Our supporters should not fall for doubts being created by the Congress,” the former chief minister of Uttar Pradesh said.

Watch: Congress leaves 7 seats for SP, BSP and RLD in UP for Lok Sabha polls

LS polls: Congress leaves 7 seats for SP, BSP and RLD in UP
Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee chief Raj Babbar announced that Congress will not be contesting on 7 seats in UP. Congress will leave those seats for the SP-BSP-RLD alliance in the state.

Minutes later, Samajwadi Party leader Akhilesh Yadav tweeted a similar message saying the SP-BSP- RLD alliance in Uttar Pradesh was capable of defeating BJP. “Congress should not create any confusion,” he added.

The Congress had on Sunday announced that it would not be contesting Mainpuri, Kannauj and the seats from where BSP chief Mayawati and RLD leaders Ajit Singh and Jayant Chaudhary will contest the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.

At the press conference UPCC chief Raj Babbar said, “We are leaving 7 seats vacant for SP, BSP and RLD. These include Mainpuri, Kannauj, Firozabad and whatever seats Mayawati ji & RLD’s Jayant ji and Ajit Singh contest from. We will also give two seats to Apna Dal – Gonda & Pilibhit.”

Mayawati has time and again made it clear that her alliance has nothing to do with the Congress. A week back she had said: “It is being made clear again that the Bahujan Samaj Party will not have any electoral alliance with the Congress in any state.”

This drew a sharp retort from the Congress with its Uttar Pradesh unit spokesperson saying, “We don’t need her.”

Uttar Pradesh will go to polls in all seven phases starting April 11 and ending on May 19. Counting of votes will take place on May 23.

Source: Hindustan Times

18/03/2019

PM Modi leaves for Goa to pay tribute to Manohar Parrikar

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday morning left for Goa to attend the last rites of Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar who passed away on Sunday evening due to pancreatic cancer.

 

SNS Web | New Delhi | 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday morning left for Goa to attend the last rites of Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar who passed away on Sunday evening due to pancreatic cancer.

The PM left for the coastal state after attending a Union Cabinet meeting in which the demise of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) icon was condoled.

Meanwhile, thousands of people from across the state thronged the BJP office in Panaji where Parrikar’s mortal remains have been kept for tributes from party workers.

The truck carrying the 63-year-old Chief Minister’s body, wrapped in tricolour, travelled 5 km from his private residence in Dona Paula to Panaji during which hundreds of people tried to catch a last glimpse of the beloved leader who knew even the commonest man in Panaji by name.

The scene at the BJP office was of grief. People emotionally recollected the simplicity of the man who was the first IIT-ian in India’s history to become both an elected MLA and, eventually, a Chief Minister.

His body will be taken to Kala Academy for public tributes that will continue till 4 pm.

From Kala Academy, the funeral procession will proceed to Miramar, where Parrikar’s mortal remains will be consigned to flames at 5 pm. He will be accorded a state funeral with full military honours.

The cremation will be held next to the memorial of Goa’s first chief minister Dayanand Bandodkar, who was also cremated at Miramar beach.

Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari, who reached Panaji on Sunday evening, offered his last respects to the mortal remains of Parrikar at the state’s BJP headquarters on Monday.

According to reports, Gadkari arrived in the coastal state to negotiate with regional parties and independent MLAs for the formation of a new coalition government following Parrikar’s death. But there was no breakthrough despite the meeting continuing until 4.30 am.

Parrikar passed away following a long battle against pancreatic cancer that left a visible impact on his health.

The four-time Goa Chief Minister also served as India’s Defence Minister from 2014 to 2017. He is credited with turning the military into a lean fighting machine with key defence purchases and policy decisions within a short time.

The central government has announced national mourning on Monday. The state government announced a seven-day mourning.

Source: The Statesman
17/03/2019

India, Pakistan threatened to unleash missiles at each other – sources

NEW DELHI/ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – The sparring between India and Pakistan last month threatened to spiral out of control and only interventions by U.S. officials, including National Security Advisor John Bolton, headed off a bigger conflict, five sources familiar with the events said.

At one stage, India threatened to fire at least six missiles at Pakistan, and Islamabad said it would respond with its own missile strikes “three times over”, according to Western diplomats and government sources in New Delhi, Islamabad and Washington.

The way in which tensions suddenly worsened and threatened to trigger a war between the nuclear-armed nations shows how the Kashmir region, which both claim and is at the core of their enmity, remains one of the world’s most dangerous flashpoints.

The exchanges did not get beyond threats, and there was no suggestion that the missiles involved were anything more than conventional weapons, but they created consternation in official circles in Washington, Beijing and London.

Reuters has pieced together the events that led to the most serious military crisis in South Asia since 2008, as well as the concerted diplomatic efforts to get both sides to back down.

The simmering dispute erupted into conflict late last month when Indian and Pakistani warplanes engaged in a dogfight over Kashmir on Feb 27, a day after a raid by Indian jet fighters on what it said was a militant camp in Pakistan. Islamabad denied any militant camp exists in the area and said the Indian bombs exploded on an empty hillside.

In their first such clash since the last war between the two nations in 1971, Pakistan downed an Indian plane and captured its pilot after he ejected in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir.

Hours later, videos of the bloodied Indian pilot, handcuffed and blindfolded, appeared on social media, identifying himself to Pakistani interrogators, deepening anger in New Delhi.

With Prime Minister Narendra Modi facing a general election in April-May, the government was under pressure to respond.

“NO GOING BACK”

That evening, Indian National Security Adviser Ajit Doval spoke over a secure line to the head of Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), Asim Munir, to tell him India was not going to back off its new campaign of “counter terrorism” even after the pilot’s capture, an Indian government source and a Western diplomat with knowledge of the conversations told Reuters in New Delhi.

Doval told Munir that India’s fight was with the militant groups that freely operated from Pakistani soil and it was prepared to escalate, said the government source.

A Pakistani government minister and a Western diplomat in Islamabad separately confirmed a specific Indian threat to use six missiles on targets inside Pakistan. They did not specify who delivered the threat or who received it, but the minister said Indian and Pakistani intelligence agencies “were communicating with each other during the fight, and even now they are communicating with each other.
Pakistan said it would counter any Indian missile attacks with many more launches of its own, the minister told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“We said if you will fire one missile, we will fire three. Whatever India will do, we will respond three times to that,” the Pakistani minister said.
Doval’s office did not respond to a request for comment. India was not aware of any missile threat issued to Pakistan, a government official said in reply to a Reuters request for comment.
Pakistan’s military declined to comment and Munir could not be reached for comment. Pakistan’s foreign ministry did not respond to a Reuters request for comment.
TRUMP-KIM TALKS
The crisis unfolded as U.S. President Donald Trump was trying to hammer out an agreement with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi over its nuclear programme.

U.S. security advisor Bolton was on the phone with Doval on the night of Feb 27 itself, and into the early hours of Feb 28, the second day of the Trump-Kim talks, in an attempt to defuse the situation, the Western diplomat in New Delhi and the Indian official said.

Later, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who was also in Hanoi, also called both sides to seek a way out of the crisis.

“Secretary Pompeo led diplomatic engagement directly, and that played an essential role in de-escalating the tensions between the two sides,” State Department deputy spokesperson Robert Palladino said in a briefing in Washington on March 5.

A State Department official declined comment when asked if they knew of the threats to use missiles.

Pompeo spoke to Doval, the Indian and Pakistani Foreign Ministers Sushma Swaraj and Shah Mahmood Qureshi, respectively, Palladino said.

U.S. Indo-Pacific Command Admiral Phil Davidson told reporters in Singapore last week that he had separately been in touch with the Indian navy chief, Sunil Lanba, throughout the crisis. There was no immediate response from Lanba’s office to a question on the nature of the conversations.

U.S. efforts were focused on securing the quick release of the Indian pilot by Pakistan and winning an assurance from India it would pull back from the threat to fire rockets, the Western diplomat in New Delhi and officials in Washington said.

“We made a lot of effort to get the international community involved in encouraging the two sides to de-escalate the situation because we fully realized how dangerous it was,” said a senior Trump administration official.

The Pakistani minister said China and the United Arab Emirates also intervened. China’s foreign ministry did not respond to requests for comment. The government of the UAE said Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan held talks with both Modi and Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan.

India has not given details, but has said it was in touch with major powers during the conflict.

On the morning of Feb 28, Trump told reporters in Hanoi that he expected the crisis to end soon.

“They have been going at it and we have been involved in trying to have them stop. Hopefully that is going to be coming to an end.”

Later that afternoon, Khan announced in Pakistan’s parliament that the Indian pilot would be released, and he was sent back the next day.

“I know last night there was a threat there could a missile attack on Pakistan, which got defused,” Khan said. “I know, our army stood prepared for retaliation of that attack.

The two countries have gone to war three times since both gained independence in 1947, the last time in 1971. The two armies are trading fire along the line of control that separates them in Kashmir, but the tensions appear contained for now.
Diplomatic experts said that the latest crisis underlined the chances of misread signals and unpredictability in the ties between the nuclear-armed rivals, and the huge dangers. It still was not clear whether India had targeted a militant camp in Pakistan and whether there were any casualties, they said.
“Indian and Pakistani leaders have long evinced confidence that they can understand each other’s deterrence signals and can de-escalate at will,” said Joshua White, a former White House official who is now at Johns Hopkins.
“The fact that some of the most basic facts, intentions and attempted strategic signals of this crisis are still shrouded in mystery … should be a sobering reminder that neither country is in a position to easily control a crisis once it begins.”.
Source: Reuters
16/03/2019

India election 2019: The mystery of 21 million ‘missing’ women voters

Indians, including a woman, at a polling boothImage copyrightAFP
Image captionMore than half of India’s “missing” women voters are from three northern states

Indian women got the right to vote the year their country was born. It was, as a historian said, a “staggering achievement for a post-colonial nation”. But more than 70 years later, why are 21 million women in India apparently being denied the right to vote?

It is one of India’s many social riddles.

Women have been enthusiastic voters in India: voter turnout among women will be higher in this year’s general election than that of men. Most women say they are voting independently, without consulting their spouses and families.

To make them secure, there are separate queues for women at polling stations and female police officers guarding them. Polling stations contain at least one female officer.

More than 660 women candidates contested the 2014 elections, up from 24 in the first election in 1951. And political parties now target women as a separate constituency, offering them cheap cooking gas, scholarships for studies and bicycles to go to college.

‘Major problem’

Yet, a truly astonishing number of women – equal to the population of Sri Lanka – appear to be “missing” from India’s voters lists.

In their upcoming book, The Verdict: Decoding India’s Elections, poll experts Prannoy Roy and Dorab Sopariwala find that the available data on women points to this.

They looked at the number of women above the age of 18 in the census, extrapolated it, and compared it to the number of women in the latest list of voters. And they found a sizeable “shortfall” – 21 million to be exact – in the number of female voters.

Three states – Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and Rajasthan – accounted for more than half of the missing female voters. Southern states such as Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu fare better.

India women votersImage copyrightAFP
Image captionMore women are expected to vote than men in the 2019 elections

What does this mean?

More than 20 million missing women, analysts say, translates into 38,000 missing women voters on average in every constituency in India. In places like Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous and a key bellwether state, the figure swells to 80,000 missing women in every seat.

Given that more than one in every five seats are won or lost by a margin of fewer than 38,000 votes, the missing women could swing the results in many seats. The absence of a large number of women also means that India’s electorate would be higher than the 900 million people who are eligible to vote in the summer elections. If the sex ratio in a constituency is skewed against women and the average voter is male, the preferences of female voters are likely to be ignored.

“Women want to vote, but they are not allowed to vote. This is deeply worrying. It also raises a lot of questions. We know that there are some social reasons behind this problem. But we also know that by controlling turnouts you can control results. Is that one of the reasons? We really need to investigate further to get to the truth,” Prannoy Roy told me.

Presentational grey line

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Presentational grey line

With a sex ratio that is skewed in favour of men, India has had a problem of missing women for a long time.

Last year, a government report found that 63 million women were “missing” from India’s population because the preference for sons led to sex-selective abortions and more care was given to boys. Separately, economists Shamika Ravi and Mudit Kapoor estimated that more than 65 million women – some 20% of the female electorate – were missing. This included women who were not registered to vote and women “who were not in the population because of gross neglect” (worsening sex ratio, which reflected the gross neglect). So elections, they said, were “revealing the preferences or the will of a population that is artificially skewed against women”.

It’s not that election authorities haven’t worked hard to get more women to vote.

The Election Commission adopts a rigorous statistical method – gender ratios, elector-population ratios and ages of voters – to make sure that eligible voters are not left out. There is doorstep verification of voters and a substantial number of officials involved in this exercise are women. In villages, child welfare workers and women’s self-help groups are roped in. State-run TV and radio programmes motivate women to register. There are even polling stations dedicated exclusively to women.

An Indian policewoman on election dutyImage copyrightAFP
Image captionPolicewomen are deployed at polling stations during elections

So why are so many women still missing from the rolls? Is it because many women shift residence after marriage and fail to register anew? (Less than 3% of Indian women aged 30-34 are single.) Is it because families still refuse to provide photographs of women to officials to publish in voters lists? Or does this exclusion have something to do with the “dark arts of voter suppression”?

“There is some social resistance, but it doesn’t explain such large scale exclusion,” says Dr Roy.

People who have helped organise elections in India say there is no reason to panic. Former election commissioner SY Quraishi told me that the enrolment of women had gone up steadily over the years. “There is social resistance to enrolling women still,” he says.

“I have heard of parents not registering their daughter because they don’t want to reveal her age, because they feel it will end up hurting their prospects for marriage. We have also been sometimes indifferent in our outreach to rope in more women voters,” he said.

With the 2019 elections barely a month away, there’s no time to fix this problem. Dr Roy believes there’s only one way out – to let women vote even if they are not registered.

“Any woman who comes to a polling station and wants to cast her vote, and can prove she is 18 years old, must be allowed to vote,” he says.

Source: The BBC

16/03/2019

China says willing to hold more talks with India on blacklisting Kashmir attacker

BEIJING (Reuters) – China said on Friday it was willing to have more discussions with all parties concerned including India on blacklisting the head of Pakistan-based militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), which claimed responsibility for the attack on an Indian paramilitary convoy in disputed Kashmir in February.

China prevented a U.N. Security Council committee on Wednesday from blacklisting JeM founder Masood Azhar.

In a statement faxed to Reuters late on Friday, China’s Foreign Ministry reiterated that the “technical hold” on the blacklisting was to give more time for the committee to have further consultations and study on the issue.

China hopes the committee’s actions can “benefit reducing the tense situation and protect regional stability”, the ministry said, responding to a Reuters question on the boycott calls in India.
“China is willing to strengthen communication with all parties, including India, to appropriately handle this issue,” it added, without elaborating.
The United States, Britain and France had asked the Security Council’s Islamic State and al Qaeda sanctions committee to subject Azhar to an arms embargo, travel ban and asset freeze. The 15-member committee operates by consensus.
China had previously prevented the sanctions committee from sanctioning Azhar in 2016 and 2017.
The Feb. 14 attack that killed at least 40 paramilitary police was the deadliest in Kashmir’s 30-year-long insurgency, escalating tension between the nuclear-armed neighbours, which said they shot down each other’s fighter jets late last month.
Western powers could also blacklist Azhar by adopting a Security Council resolution, which needs nine votes in favour and no vetoes by Russia, China, the United States, Britain or France.
Blacklisted by the U.N. Security Council in 2001, JeM is a primarily anti-India group that forged ties with al Qaeda.
Source: Reuters
16/03/2019

Special Police Officer shot dead by unknown gunmen outside her home in Jammu and Kashmir’s Shopian

A special police officer has been shot dead by unknown gunmen outside her house in Jammu and Kashmir’s Shopian.

INDIA Updated: Mar 16, 2019 16:27 IST

Indo Asian News Service
Indo Asian News Service
Shopian
SPO shot dead,jammu and kashmir,khushboo jan
A special police officer has been shot dead by unknown gunmen outside her house in Jammu and Kashmir’s Shopian.(ANI)

Militants killed a woman Special Police Officer (SPO) on Saturday in Jammu and Kashmir’s Shopian district, police said.

The terrorists shot dead Khushboo Jan from close range while she was on her home village, Vehil.

“She suffered critical bullet injuries around 2.40 p.m. and was rushed to a hospital where she succumbed,” the police added.

A cordon and search operation was underway to trace the assailants.

The SPOs represent the lowest rung of police officials below the state constabulary that is adequately trained to handle weapons and are also issued service weapons.

Source: Hindustan Times

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