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Kim Jong Un wants US pushed out of Asia, South Korea credits Trump for talks

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North Korea

As Asian countries are reeling under economic troubles and other disputes with their neighbours, China and North Korea are consistently pursuing to achieve their aim of becoming world power economically and militarily, while Kim Jong Un’s ultimate aim is to become number one nuclear power and achieve his granfather’s desire of Reunification of the Korean Peninsula.

Inter-Korean high-level talks were held at the “house of peace” in the South Korean side of the demilitarized zone, which has divided the two Koreas since 1953, in Panmunjom. The talks  were watched and different observations were made by the United States, China and other countries of the region.

North Korea has formal diplomatic relations with 164 countries but is not in favour  of opting for diplomatic resolution  with the US on its nuclear and ballistic missile programme.

During New Year address, Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un applauded the spectacular success of a super-powerful thermo-nuclear  weapon in 2017 as North Korea is on the verge of announcing its ambition and strategic goal of achieving full  nuclear capability.

Mike Pompeo, director of the CIA, has showed concerns  over North Korea’s government acquiring capability to hit the United States and said, “United States must prepare for North Korea  taking the “final step” to developing an intercontinental nuclear strike capability.”

At the talks, the north and south authorities discussed in earnest the principled issues arising in successfully holding the 23rd Winter Olympics in south Korea and improving the inter-Korean relations, and also issued joint statement.

Both sides had sincere discussions of the participation of a delegation of the north side in the 23rd Winter Olympics and Paralympics and the improvement of the inter-Korean relations in conformity with the desire and expectations of all the Koreans.

The north and the south agreed to proactively cooperate in ensuring that the 23rd Winter Olympics and Paralympics in the south side area would be successfully held, providing an occasion for enhancing the prestige of the nation.

Both sides agreed to open working-level talks with regard to the north’s dispatching of an advance party for a field tour beforehand and participation in the Winter Olympics, and agreed to discuss a schedule in the way of exchange of documents hereafter.

The north and the south agreed to make concerted efforts to ease the military tension, create a peaceful environment on the Korean peninsula and promote national reconciliation and unity. They shared the viewpoint that the present military tension should be ironed out and for this agreed to have talks between the military authorities. They agreed to promote national reconciliation and unity by invigorating contacts and travels, and exchange and cooperation in various fields.

The north and the south agreed to respect the north-south declarations and solve all problems arising in inter-Korean relations through dialogue and negotiations on the principle of By Our Nation Itself.

Kim Jong Un  is unwilling  to compromise with Washington on its nuclear  and intercontinental ballistic missile programme rather the Korean leader wants his nation to be recognised as the nuclear power equivalent  to that of other big powers  and desires to make north-east independent of United States influence.

The latest move by Kim to talk directly with Seoul shows that Pyongyang intends to ensure that there is no mediator or any outside power that may interfere in their bilateral matters.

Kim Jong-un, the youngest son of previous leader Kim Jong-il,succeeded his father in December 2011 and  over these years he has gained full control of his regime  and nuclear capability has legitimised his power.

But  South Korean President Moon Jae-in has credited U.S. President Donald Trump for helping to start the first talks between Pyongyang and Seoul in more than two years, and warned that Pyongyang would face sanctions if it continued with more provocations.

After continuous provocations in the form of testing ballistic missiles in 2017, latest UN sanctions were imposed that sought to drastically cut the North Korea’s access to refined petroleum imports and earnings from workers abroad.

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By: Arti Bali

Senior Journalist

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Aadhar, a surveillance program of Indians by government

The Aadhar project was launched for welfare of the people but it has been transformed into a surveillance program infringing upon the civil liberties of Indian citizens thus endangering freedom.

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Aadhar Card Enrollment Center

Aadhar is currently being debated a lot for massive amount of biometric data being breached by the hackers but the most crucial factor is the intrusion into the privacy of Indian citizens that infringes on the civil liberties of an individual from income to expenditure, from financial investments to properties and tracking of the citizens which is unconstitutional.

Aadhar was introduced in 2009 for the sole purpose of transferring the benefits of the government to the beneficiary thus removing the hassles of middle man.But now the Modi government is exploiting the use of Aadhar by bringing the Indian citizens finances under the government scanner. This has instilled fear among the citizens.

The government is incapable of ensuring safety of biometric data and there have been scores of incidents where the massive amount of data was leaked. Modi government compelled to use Aadhaar-enabled Payments System (AePS), and made it mandatory for numerous purposes for bank account, pan card etc.

The Aadhaar project has a vulnerability to identity fraud, even identity theft as fingerprints impressions can be reproduced. For instance a kidnapper can force the hostage for his fingerprints and withdraw the amount from his bank account thus facilitating crime.

Sr Advocate Shyam Diwan submitted that “there are so many regulations and notifications in this case.” Now, the rural population of India is unaware of the loopholes of Aadhar card and there is likelihood of bank fraud.

Another point is that it is also linked with ration so who has not Aadhar cannot take ration because she’s living in a remote area.

The re-verification have also came with all the existing mobile users for stricting the use of money laundering.In India, where several people are unable to afford one meal a day, how they will afford a mobile phone for having the Aadhar card.

There are scores of people who never filed their IT return or opened their bank accounts and neither have Aadhar cards.senior advocates Shyam Diwan argued that Aadhar is also connected with 139AA of income tax act thus connecting your bank accounts, policies and mobile number.

Diwan had argued in the Supreme Court in April 2017 that gathering of biometric information violates bodily integrity Further, the giving of biometrics is associated with crime.

LPG connection, The Jandhan Yojna is also linked with Aadhar. Diwan submitted that “It is also mentioned that the Adhar is voluntary till there is no judgment on it. “Bench said are you going to challenge the Aadhar programme first? Advocate Diwan stated “We have to make it clear that what is the purpose of Aadhar project”

This project can track all the citizens and their activities. Firstly it was voluntary. And state issues a number and those numbers can be accessed by government for tracking citizens and the state is empowered to switch it.

Diwan stated “We are challenging this project because of the collusion of a policy and technology. It is a giant electronic mess.”

The constitution makes a balance between laws and life of citizens but the Aadhar creates a mess between all this. Even banking is also connected so government can track our money expenditure and all.

There are some points which is there:
*Tracking banking and expenditure
*Right to privacy
*Identification of personal things like iris and fingerprints
*Adhar database is secure or not for national security

The Aadhar project was launched for welfare of the people but it has been transformed into a surveillance program infringing upon the civil liberties of Indian citizens thus endangering freedom. First, Modi government tarnished the country’s image by saying that demonetisation will hurt the black money owners, in a way showing that corrupt money is in circulation in India itself and not stashed abroad in safe havens. Now, Aadhar is being used to scrutinize Indians.

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By: Arti Bali

Senior Journalist

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Haj 2018 likely to be costlier, but not because of subsidy abolition

Union Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi on Tuesday announced the abolition of Haj subsidy from this year.

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Haj 2018

Haj 2018 is likely to be costlier than last year but not because of the abolition of subsidy that the government announced on Tuesday.

The cost is likely to go up thanks to rise in expenses incurred in Saudi Arabia during the Haj such as accommodation, transport, food and the like. Notably, the government subsidy did not cover these expenses and was limited to the airfare.

Haj Committee of India (HCI) Chairman Mehboob Ali Kaiser told IANS that it was bargaining hard with Saudi authorities to keep the cost in check but local factors may result in the rise of Haj expenses this year.

In 2017, the HCI charged Rs 200,000 for Haj with ordinary accommodation (Azizia) and Rs 234,000 for deluxe accommodation (Green), which is closer to the Haram in Mecca.

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“Over the last year, the electricity tariff in Saudi Arabia has shot up three times. Also, the petrol prices have doubled. The accommodation cost is also going up. These factors may result in a hike in the total Haj cost this year,” Kaiser said.

At this point, it is difficult to predict the final cost to each pilgrim for Haj 2018, he added.

“It will be unfair to expect the same costs for everything in Saudi Arabia after a threefold rise in electricity prices and doubling of petrol prices. Secondly, the Saudis are cussed bargainers and we have to really haggle hard with them for every riyal.

“Nevertheless, we are trying our best and bargaining hard with them to ensure that the cost does not go up drastically,” Kaiser said.

Union Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi on Tuesday announced the abolition of Haj subsidy from this year.

Kaiser said that the HCI “knew it was coming and were sort of mentally prepared for it”.

“In any case, the withdrawal of subsidy will not affect the airfares from major cities such as Mumbai, Delhi, Ahmedabad and Bengaluru — but fares from smaller embarkation points such as Srinagar, Gaya may go up. But people from these states may now embark from any other place from where fares are low, such as Mumbai, Delhi or Ahmedabad,” he added.

However, in the coming years, the Haj cost is expected to come down as the Indian government is already working in the direction of reviving the sea route to Jeddah.

Naqvi said that the government has already taken active steps in this direction and once it is implemented, the fares would come down drastically.

Giving the genesis of the Haj subsidy, senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said that it started in the 1980s (when Azad was a member of HCI) when the ships which were used to ferry the Haj pilgrims started ageing.

“The government was not disposed to spend money to buy new ships due to budget constraints. So, it was decided to fly the pilgrims to Jeddah. But the airfares were four times higher than the ship’s fare. So the government decided to cover some of the cost through a subsidy,” Azad said.

The sea route was discontinued in 1995.

(Mohd Asim Khan can be contacted at [email protected])

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Islamabad-Delhi DGMO level talks under study as ISIS increases footprints in Pakistan

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India-Pakistan

After US President Donald Trump’s severe criticism of Pakistan’s double standards in combating terrorism, Islamabad is considering growing Indo-Israel defence cooperation as a threat to regional peace.

As per the media reports, Pakistan is thinking whether to resume confidence building measures including the DGMO-level talks with India for reducing tensions along the Line of Control. The new development comes a day after Pakistan said four of its soldiers died and five others injured in cross-border firing by Indian troops across the LoC. The Indian Army, however, said seven Pakistani soldiers were killed in its retaliatory firing.

Pakistan-India DGMOs had last met four years ago at Wagah. The Wagah meeting took place after a break of 14 years.Pakistan is concerned and watching Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s six-day tour of India very minutely, who discussed with India ways to strengthen security cooperation against the menace of Islamist extremism that both democracies faced.

Already terror groups operating in the region including Al Qaeda and ISIS are taking advantage of the bitter battle between Pakistan civilian government with Indian government and Afghanistan government.

Islamic State has intensified its presence in Pakistan and there is an increased convergence between its fighters particularly in areas along the country’s border with Afghanistan, the Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS) think tank stated in their report.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision of suspending an estimated $1 billion in security aid for Pakistan over harbouring terrorist groups such as Afghan Taliban, al-Qaeda and the Haqqani network.

It will be tough for Pakistan to counter terrorism as the entire scenario has become more challenging.

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Pentagon Chief Spokesperson Dana W. White

Pentagon Chief Spokesperson Dana W. White said “ISIS is a broken, and has been fractured. But the work still continues. So anti-ISIS coalition are going to continue our operations because we ultimately have to ensure that we have the conditions on the ground .”

Joint Staff Director Lt. Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr. stated “There are two dimensions. First is the physical caliphate in the central Euphrates River Valley. And, certainly, we’re coming to — we’re coming to probable closure on that.Although, I think it’s difficult to forecast the way military events are going to turn. We seem to be having some success there, with our allies and partners. But I’m not going to — I wouldn’t put a timeline on that.”

Further added, “There’s also an enduring global element to it, the franchisement, if you will, of ISIS. Even though they’ve failed as a caliphate, there are global — global manifestations of their brand that we see pop up.”

White said, “US believe that Pakistan has the ability to address this threat. And we — and this is an opportunity for them to take decisive action, and we look forward to working with them to — to encourage them to do so.”

American Gen. John Nicholson, the top commander of U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan had stated in November that ISIS-K is recruiting from the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan,”. About 1,000 ISIS jihadists are in Afghan provinces that border Pakistan, including “600 to 800” in Nangarhar, considered the group’s primary bastion in the region.

Recently there have been attacks in Afghanistan that were claimed by ISIS and worried over the increasingly volatile situation, Afghan Defense Minister Dawlat Waziri said he would seek Iran’s assistance in cracking down on the ongoing insurgency in the war-torn state.

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By: Arti Bali

Senior Journalist

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