Holds Bilateral Talks With Several World Leaders On CHOGM Or Commonwealth Heads Of Government Meeting Sidelines

London:  Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday had a series of bilateral meetings including discussions with Seychelles President Danny Faure and his Mauritius counterpart Pravind Kumar Jugnauth on the sidelines of the multilateral Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in London.

“Friend in an extended neighbourhood! PM @narendramodi and President of Seychelles, Danny Faure met on the sidelines of #CHOGM18 and discussed cooperation in areas of trade and investment and other bilateral issues,” Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Raveesh Kumar tweeted.

The bilateral talks between Mr Faure and PM Modi assumes significance after Seychelles ordered an inquiry into the leak of a highly classified agreement signed with India to develop infrastructure on Assumption Island, which lies southwest of the mainland of Mahe.

The opposition in Seychelles has decided not to ratify the pact because of Assumption’s relative proximity to Aldabra atoll, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is home to the world’s largest population of giant tortoises.

Cementing close friendship with Mauritius, Prime Minister Modi met his Mauritius counterpart Jugnauth and talked about cooperation in trade and investment, maritime cooperation and people-to-people ties, Mr Kumar said.

The “pull-aside meetings” with world leaders included an interaction with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, Gambian President Adama Barrow, Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, St. Lucia Prime Minister Allen Chastanet and Prime Minister of Solomon Islands, Rick Houenipwela.

PM Modi also interacted with President of Kiribati, Taneti Maamau, and Prime Minister of Antigua & Barbuda, Gaston Browne.

Sheikh Hasina is set for an interaction with PM Modi, their first meeting since the Bangladeshi Prime Minister’s visit to New Delhi last year.

Some of the other world leaders expected to have one-on-one deliberations with PM Modi include Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades and Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Michael Holness.

Additionally, PM Modi is likely to interact with Dr Keith C. Rowley, Prime Minister of Trinidad & Tobago.

“The summit offers ample opportunity for leaders to interact in meeting rooms for bilateral discussions on matters of mutual interest as well as cooperation over Commonwealth issues,” a senior official said.

Officials had earlier indicated that no meeting or interaction has been requested or scheduled with Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi.

The bilateral talks took place as the formal heads of government meeting got underway in London today, following a formal launch by Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace.

Prime Minister Modi was scheduled to address the second plenary meeting of the heads of government during the closed-door executive session of CHOGM.

At the launch of the CHOGM executive session at Lancaster House open to the media, British Prime Minister Theresa May said: “The great strength of the Commonwealth is that all our members have equal status, an equal voice, and an equal right to make that voice heard. So, as we tackle these challenges, I want to hear from everyone, and everyone will have chance to speak. We face many challenges in the world today. But the Commonwealth is a unique organisation and, at this summit, we have an opportunity to deliver lasting change that benefits all of our 2.4 billion people.”

Later today, the 91-year-old monarch will host a dinner for all 53 heads of government at the palace.

“I had not been able to visit the last summit and this time, it was an honour that Prince Charles came personally to India last year to invite me for it. The Queen herself wrote a personal letter to me, a matter of great pride for India,” PM Modi had said during his ‘Bharat Ki Baat, Sabke Saath’ diaspora event in London last evening.

An Indian Prime Minister is attending CHOGM, held every two years, after a hiatus of nearly a decade, having skipped CHOGMs in Perth, Colombo and Malta since 2009. The Indian government has said that this symbolises the country’s wider efforts to step up its role across global forums.

The executive session of the summit today will be followed by a retreat at Windsor Castle tomorrow, when the leaders get together in an informal setting without any pre-set agenda or being accompanied by their close aides.

The summit concludes tomorrow when leaders will issue their communique and a leaders’ statement after their retreat.

CHOGM takes place every two years in different Commonwealth countries, with the next host country also to be announced at the end of this summit.

Following the retreat, PM Modi will head back to India after a brief stopover in Berlin, Germany for his meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel.



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PM Narendra Modi’s “Cavalier” Conduct Of Foreign Policy Hurting India’s National Interests: Congress’ Anand Sharma

PM's 'Cavalier' Conduct Of Foreign Policy Hurting India's National Interests: Congress

PM Modi interacted with the Indian diaspora at the ‘Bharat Ki Baat Sabke Saath’ event (File)

New Delhi:  The Congress on Thursday hit out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi over his “cavalier” conduct of foreign policy at the Commonwealth Summit and bilateral meeting with British counterpart Theresa May, saying it is “hurting” India’s national interests.

Congress senior spokesperson Anand Sharma said the Prime Minister’s “boastful” claims on surgical strike neutralising cross-border terror is “embarrassing” as India continues to be exposed to multiple terrorist strikes from across the border, losing officers and soldiers.

“Prime Minister Modi’s cavalier conduct of foreign policy at the Commonwealth Summit in London and the bilateral meeting with the British Prime Minister is hurting India’s national interests. He needs a firm reminder that India engages with its strategic partner countries with maturity and gravitas and does not take sides or make an uninformed statement on issues of disputes between two strategic partner countries,” he said in a statement.

Hitting out at the government’s policy towards Pakistan, Mr Sharma said it has been a “disaster” and it was “unbecoming” of a Prime Minister to speak out the way he did.

“The BJP government’s Pakistan policy is a disaster. It is both unfortunate and unbecoming of him to say that India’s prime minister speaks to Pakistan in its own language,” he said.

Mr Sharma said Pakistan is home to a terror syndicate that targets India and its people.

India, therefore, has the moral high ground and every right to take firm action to confront and defeat terrorism, he said, adding that the entire nation stands united behind the armed forces in fighting terrorism.

PM Modi told his British counterpart yesterday that there would be no dilution in the importance of the UK to India after it leaves the EU, as the two leaders agreed to infuse new energy into bilateral ties post-Brexit.

Later at an interaction with the Indian diaspora, the Prime Minister talked about surgical strikes on Pakistan to demolish terror training camps and warned Pakistan that India will not tolerate those who like to export terror and will respond to them “in the language they understand”.

The Prime Minister, during the ‘Bharat Ki Baat, Sabke Saath‘ programme at the iconic Central Hall Westminster, said when “someone has put a terror export factory in place and makes attempts to attack us from the back, PM Modi knows how to answer in the same language“.



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BJP May Rope In Swami Aseemanand To Work In West Bengal

BJP May Rope In Swami Aseemanand To Work In West Bengal

Aseemanand’s younger brother, Sushanta Sarkar, is presently secretary of the BJP’s Hooghly unit (File)

Kolkata:  The BJP in West Bengal is planning to rope in preacher Swami Aseemanand, who was acquitted in the Mecca Masjid blast case earlier this week, to strengthen its base in the state, a senior party official said on Thursday.

“I have personally known Swami Aseemanand for a long time. I will talk to him and try to bring him to West Bengal so that he can work here. For a long time, he has worked among the tribals in Bengal. He can help us in a lot of ways,” BJP state president Dilip Ghosh told PTI.

A special anti-terror court on Monday had acquitted the 66-year-old self-confessed monk and four others in the 2007 Mecca Masjid blast case, holding that the prosecution failed to prove “even a single allegation” against them.

Aseemanand’s younger brother, Sushanta Sarkar, is presently the secretary of the BJP’s Hooghly unit.

Mr Sarkar said he would be happy if his brother returned to the state for work.

“Our entire family is dedicated towards the Sangh Parivar. If my brother comes to Bengal and wants to work here, we will be very happy,” Mr Sarkar told PTI.

Aseemanand, who was born as Naba Kumar Sarkar at Kamaarpukar in West Bengal’s Hooghly district, completed his graduation in science in 1971. The self-confessed monk is known for his fiery speech and anti-minority stance.

He became involved with right wing groups from school, going on to work full time with the Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram in Purulia and Bankura districts in the state.

It was at the Ashram that Naba Kumar Sarkar was christened Swami Aseemanand in 1981.



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Willing To Pay Price For Standing Up For My Belief Says Smriti Irani

Willing To Pay Price For Standing Up For My Belief Says Smriti Irani

Ms Irani came under attack after I&B Ministry amended guidelines on accreditation of journalists. (File)

New Delhi:  Union Minister Smriti Irani said today she was willing to pay the price for standing up for her beliefs, asserting that the “true mettle” of politicians is determined on whether they are able to stick to their stand in the face of criticism. 

The comments by the Information and Broadcasting Minister came in the backdrop of her ministry withdrawing its contentious press release on fake news following a directive from the Prime Minister’s Office after wide-spread criticism by media and opposition parties.

“I felt that if belief systems change as per political convenience then what kind of a leader or what kind of a Parliamentarian will that make you? So for me, what is tough possibly is to believe in something, and at times there is cacophony which goes against your very belief,” the minister said at a panel discussion.

“Your true mettle as a politician or a leader is then determined as to whether you are swayed by that cacophony or whether you still stand your ground. And I am willing to pay the price for it and I am,” Irani said, without elaborating, . 

Ms Irani was responding to a query by Hero Enterprise Chairman Sunil Kant Munjal who asked how difficult it was for her to get her daily work done when she holds on to her guns despite opposition to her beliefs or action.

She said “I think, in our every day life, all of us irrespective of our professions or vocations, obviously believe in something. We have the confidence to go that extra mile to implement it.

“Success is not guaranteed, but at least for myself I always said that there will not be any moment where I will be caught not having fulfilled my destiny because of want of that desire to make it or that desire to achieve that goal,” she said.

Ms Irani had come under attack earlier this month after I&B Ministry amended guidelines on accreditation of journalists for, what it said, to check fake news.

The amended guidelines had stated that if the publication or telecast of fake news was confirmed, accreditation of the journalist would be suspended for six months in the first violation, for one year in case of a second violation and permanent cancellation in case of a third violation.

The guidelines were withdrawn following a directive to do so by the PMO.



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Jammu High Court Bar Association Tells Supreme Court It Did Not Support Lawyers’ Protest In Kathua Case

Jammu High Court Bar Association Tells Supreme Court It Did Not Support Lawyers' Protest In Kathua Case

The Kathua rape case resulted in nation-wide anger and fuelled protests (File Photo)

New Delhi:  The Jammu High Court Bar Association on Thursday told the Supreme Court that it did not support lawyers’ protest in connection with the Kathua gangrape and murder case.

The Bar Council of India told a bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra that they have constituted a team, headed by a former high court judge, which will visit Kathua to assess the situation relating to lawyers protest.

Meanwhile, the Kathua District Bar Association told the bench, comprising Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud, that they have already withdrawn the strike on April 12 itself.

Advocate Shoeb Alam, appearing for the state opposed the tagging of plea filed by the victim’s father, who is seeking the transfer of case from Kathua to Chandigarh, with the suo motu matter related to lawyers’ protest there.

The bench, while clarifying that the administration of justice can’t be interfered with, asked the Jammu High Court Bar Association, BCI and others to file their affidavits by April 24 and listed the matter for hearing in the next week.

The top court had on April 13 took serious note of lawyers obstructing the judicial process in the Kathua gangrape and murder case and initiated a case on its own accord, saying such impeding of the process of law “affects the delivery of justice”.

The top court had said that lawyers’ bodies have solemn duty to not obstruct advocates representing the accused or the victims’ family in the courts.

The minor girl had disappeared from near her home in the forests next to Rasana village in Kathua, on January 10.

Her body was found in the same area a week later.

The Crime Branch of police which probed the case filed a main charge sheet against seven persons and a separate charge sheet against a juvenile in a court in Kathua district earlier this week.

The charge sheet revealed chilling details about how the girl was allegedly kidnapped, drugged, raped inside a place of worship before being killed.

Jammu has been on tenterhooks since the brutal incident. The bar associations have been opposing the action against the accused, alleging that the minority Dogras were being targeted.

Lawyers took to the streets shouting slogans and trying to block the road outside the court where the charge sheets have been filed.



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People Abroad Under Impression That Liberals Unsafe In India: Bombay High Court

People Abroad Under Impression That Liberals Unsafe In India: Bombay High Court

Bombay High Court is hearing petitions filed by families of Narendra Dabholkar and Govind Pansare

Mumbai:  In stinging remarks on the situation in the country, the Bombay High Court said on Thursday that people abroad are under the impression that “liberal, open-minded and secular people cannot be safe in India and that they are bound to be attacked”.

“Anywhere we go (outside of India), we have to answer this barrage of questions… The image of India is suffering due to the acts of a few people,” Justice SC Dharmadhikari observed while hearing petitions filed by the families of rationalists Narendra Dabholkar and Govind Pansare to monitor the probe into their murder.

A division bench, consisting of Justice SC Dharamadhikari and Justice Bharati Dangre, also added that the rest of the world was hesitant now to engage with India over educational or cultural issues due to the situation.

Advocate Abhay Nevagi, who is arguing the case in the Bombay High Court, agreed with the observations made by the court. 

Rationalist Dr Dabholkar killed four years back. Govind Pansare was killed more than three years ago. Professor Kalburgi two and half years ago and still CBI, NIA, Maharashtra police are unable to nab shooters and that too after around 25 hearings in High Court which  is a  mockery of rule of law,” he told NDTV. 

The observation came after Ashok Mundargi, the lawyer for Maharashtra’s Crime Investigation Department which is probing the killing of Govind Pansare who was shot dead during his morning walk like Narendra Dabholkar was in Pune, told the high court that there was little hope now of achieving anything substantial from any further field probe.

In October last year, the Bombay High Court had made similar observations saying that there has been a “dangerous trend” of eliminating all opposition and liberal values, which is giving the country a bad name, while apparently referring to the killing of journalist Gauri Lankesh in Bengaluru.

Mr Dabholkar was shot dead on August 20, 2013, in Pune while on a morning walk. Mr Pansare was shot at on February 16, 2015 in Kolhapur and succumbed to injuries on February 20. The court is hearing petitions filed by the families of Mr Dabholkar and Mr Pansare, urging it to monitor the investigations in both the cases.



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Opposition Parties Likely To Meet Tomorrow To Discuss Political Situation

Opposition Parties Likely To Meet Tomorrow To Discuss Political Situation

The opposition parties will also discuss how to defeat BJP in upcoming elections. (File)

New Delhi:  The leaders of opposition parties will meet tomorrow in Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad’s chamber in Parliament and are likely to discuss the issue of the Supreme Court verdict rejecting multiple pleas for an independent probe into the death of special CBI judge B H Loya, sources said.

The issue of moving an impeachment motion against Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra is also likely to be discussed tomorrow, in the wake of the Judge Loya case judgement.

The Opposition has been working on bringing various parties on board for a larger consensus on bringing the impeachment motion against the CJI.While the Left parties, the NCP and the Congress are on board for moving the impeachment motion, some parties that have already signed the petition have backed out.

During the meeting convened by Mr Azad, the sources say, the opposition parties will also discuss the idea of having a broader consensus on how to defeat the BJP in the upcoming Assembly and Lok Sabha elections.



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PM Narendra Modi Served An Uncomfortable Message By IMF Boss Christine Lagarde

On Women, PM Modi Served An Uncomfortable Message By IMF Boss

IMF chief Christine Lagarde said PM Modi needs to pay more attention to women

NEW DELHI:  Indian authorities, starting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, should pay more attention to women in the country, Christine Lagarde, the IMF chief, said at a media conference in Washington on Thursday.

This is the second time in four months that she has called out PM Modi on the condition of women in the country. At the World Economic Forum meet in January, Ms Lagarde said she had told PM Modi that he did not mention the women of India enough in his speech to the summit and “it’s not just a question of talking about them”.

“I was hoping he would have said a bit more. Wish he had talked a bit about girls and Indian women,” she had then told NDTV. That nudge was grounded in economics as well. She believes economies do better when its women do better.

Ms Lagarde’s fresh reminder to the Indian authorities to take care of its women comes against the backdrop of reports about an eight-year-old in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kathua was kidnapped, drugged and held for several days while she was raped repeatedly and then murdered.

The Indian Monetary Fund managing director called it a “revolting” crime.

“What has happened (in India) is just revolting. I would hope that the Indian authorities, starting with Prime Minister Modi pay more attention because it is needed for the women of India,” she told reporters when asked if India’s economic reforms were inclusive enough.

The horrific details of the suffering that the young girl had endured before her death in January emerged this month when the police filed charges against the eight accused, evoking national outrage.

PM Modi was also criticised by activists for his silence and reluctance to reign in BJP leaders who were seen to supporting the accused. This case had coincided with news about another minor fighting for justice, blaming the police for not acting against a BJP lawmaker Kuldeep Singh Sengar who had allegedly raped her last year.

PM Modi did make a fleeting reference to the rapes at an event last week but many activists insist that he needs to speak, and do more.

Protests to demand that the government take concrete steps to check sexual violence against women followed PM Modi to London. One of them, Navindra Singh, an Indian-born lawyer who lives in Britain, told Reuters that the government was “doing nothing, and you feel sorry for the families because of the total injustice of it all”.

PM Modi, who in the run-up to the 2014 elections had campaigned against the previous Congress-led coalition for crimes against women, had yesterday asked political parties to not politicise the crime.

“When a child is raped… we cannot compare these incidents in numbers for different governments. Rape is rape… How can we accept this?” PM Modi said at an event on Wednesday. A UK-based student group denied entry to this event had claimed that they didn’t get the final invite because they wanted to ask him about steps that he was taking to protect women.



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Manish Chandela, BJP Youth Leader, Allegedly Admits Burning Rohingya Camp in Delhi, Complaint Filed

BJP Youth Leader Allegedly Admits Burning Rohingya Camp, Complaint Filed

Manish Chandela (right) deleted his Twitter account after the tweet was widely shared.

New Delhi:  A Muslim body on Thursday wrote to Delhi Police Commissioner Amulya Patnaik seeking action against a BJP youth wing leader after the latter allegedly admitted on social media to burning down a Rohingya refugee camp in the capital earlier this month.

“This is to bring it to your notice that Manish Chandela, who is a member of the BJP’s youth wing Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM), has openly claimed on his Twitter handle ‘@Chandela_BJYM’ that ‘Yes, we burnt the houses of Rohingya terrorists’,” the All India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat (AIMMM), an umbrella body of various Muslim organisations, said in the letter.
 

manish chandela rohingya tweet

Manish Chandela tweeted admitting to burning down the Rohingya camp in Delhi.

The AIMMM also attached the screenshots of Chandela’s tweets wherein he claimed to have set the Rohingya refugee camp in Kalindi Kunj area ablaze. Chandela had tweeted at 2.16 a.m on April 15. Again, on April 16 at 5.42 p.m, Chandela posted on his Twitter handle: “Yes, we did it and we do again #ROHINGYA QUIT INDIA.” Chandela’s account has since been deleted.A fire had broken out at the refugee camp near Kalindi Kunj in south Delhi on the night of April 14 -15 that quickly engulfed the whole camp in which more than 200 residents of the camp lost all their belongings, including identity cards and special visas issued by the United Nations.
 

manish chandela twitter

Manish Chandela’s Twitter account has since been deleted.

“The open claim on social media by the culprit is a challenge to the Delhi Police and all other law enforcement agencies. The tweet was posted immediately after the fire in the refugee camp… We demand immediate arrest of Manish Chandela under appropriate sections of the IPC,” the Mushawarat said in the letter signed by its president Navaid Hamid.

The Rohingyas are mostly Muslim ethnic in Myanmar, who are fleeing the northwestern province of Rakhine where they are facing persecution.



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Not Sure If Aadhaar Is Best Model To Accord Benefits Says Supreme Court

Not Sure If Aadhaar Is Best Model To Accord Benefits Says Supreme Court

The bench said that the state should go to the individual and give him benefits. (File)

New Delhi:  The Supreme Court today said it was not sure whether bringing people “face to face” with authorities through Aadhaar was the best model as the State should reach them to accord the benefits of the welfare schemes.

A five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, hearing a clutch of petitions challenging Aadhaar and its enabling 2016 law, was told by the counsel for the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) that the 12 digit national identifier brought the citizens face to face with the service providers for getting the benefits.

“We are not sure if that is the best model. The individual should not be a supplicant. The State should go to him and give him benefits,” the bench, also comprising Justices A K Sikri, A M Khanwilkar, D Y Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan, said. 

The bench observed that the UIDAI says Aadhaar is a means for identification, but the “only caveat to that is that there should be no exclusion”.

Senior advocate Rakesh Dwivedi, appearing for UIDAI and the Gujarat government, said the development was necessary to ensure that people are freed from poverty.

Liberating people from poverty is at one end of the spectrum and the right to privacy is on the other, the bench observed.

The UIDAI referred to social ills like manual scavenging and prostitution and said that despite laws, these evils were rampant in the society and the apex court should strike a balance while dealing with the competing fundamental rights of citizens.

Referring to apex court judgements, the senior lawyer said it has been held that to save the freedom of speech and expression, the right to reputation of a citizen under Article 21 cannot be crucified.

The apex court, besides being the protector of fundamental rights, is also a “balancing wheel” to ensure that competing fundamentals co-exist.

Mr Dwivedi then referred to a verdict by which a HIV positive rape victim was denied the permission to abort the foetus after a doctors’ panel gave the report that it could be fatal for the woman.

“The court balanced the rights in the case where fundamental right to life was involved,” he said, adding that in the present matter, the issue merely pertained to identification.

“What is being done under section 7 of the Aadhaar Act covers human rights of a lot of people of our country. This court should act as a sentinel to ensure that right to privacy is balanced with all the other rights under Article 21 that Aadhaar covers,” Mr Dwivedi said.

The counsel for Mr Dwivedi would resume his submissions on April 24. 

Earlier, the bench had said that if biometric authentication is attached to every transaction entered into by a person, it would “form a wealth of information” necessitating the need for data protection.



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