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Column: Prime Minister sets the record straight – Spy’s Eye

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Modi in Leh

It is now clearly conveyed to the nation that India had put China on notice for its recent aggressive conduct on LAC and warned it of serious consequences of any further misadventure it might be planning against this country. Prime Minister Modi in his ”Mann ki Baat” on June 28, which is like an address to the countrymen, talked of India”s strong resolve in dealing with the military face-off with China on the LAC in Ladakh and gave out that ”a befitting reply had been given to those who cast an evil eye on India”s territory”. He added that ”India can handle friendly relations but also knows how to look into the eyes of anyone who challenged its sovereignty”.

Giving an insight into India”s strategy, the Prime Minister informed the people that among other things India was taking measures to become self-reliant in various spheres, including indigenous production of defence hardware to meet ”exigencies of national security and sovereignty”. India has since stepped up border infrastructure development on our side of the LAC as well as mobilisation of troops on the ground — apart from readying our Air Force and Navy for defensive action against any external aggression. The message given to China is loud and clear — stay off from giving any provocation by attempting to encroach on any point of disputed territory along the LAC. Defence of Ladakh is geared up in line with the declared stand of the Modi government that Aksai Chin had been illegally occupied by China and that this matter had to be set right. That India will stretch China on various fronts — economic and geo-political — is emerging as a strategic element of India”s long-term response to the current hostility of this neighbour.

While the situation on the LAC is still evolving, India has from its side confronted China with the demand of return to the status quo ante and engaged that country in border talks at the level of Core Commander on disengagement and deescalation. The government, meanwhile, is keeping up military and foreign policy endeavours to prepare for any aggravation. It is in this background that Prime Minister Modi, in a brief address to the nation on June 30, did not touch on China and confined himself to an announcement of extension of free ration scheme covering nearly 80 crore people for five months — till November end — giving them relief in a difficult time to see through Diwali and Chhat festivals. An added facility of using ration cards on an all- India basis was promised.

The Prime Minister reiterated the need for total caution during the Unlock-2 against corona. He came off as a compassionate leader who appeared to be giving priority to the internal scene relating to people in distress and by not bothering the latter with the issue of India-China tension on the border, also giving a message that his government was fully in control of things on that front. Since the majority of migrants belonged to UP and Bihar, what is the harm if the PM made a mention of the two major festivals of North India in his address to bring some cheer to this distressed lot? Hopefully, the sense of nightmare that crores of migrant labour experienced in the lockdown would be eased substantially — though the crisis of unemployment looming large for them would still confront them. Importantly, the Modi regime remains firm on building the economy indigenously by emphasising the idea of ”be vocal for local” and encouraging entrepreneurship and start-ups. Internal stability in India will be determined by the economic recovery.

Coming back to the issue of China”s aggressiveness on the border, it is clear that three aspects of the situation deserved to be taken note of in framing a long-term strategy of dealing with that country. First is the unmistakable fact that the intensification of cross-border terrorism in Kashmir by Pakistan and the military build-up on LAC started by China in the period following the abrogation of Article 370 by India, showed a new level of meeting of minds between these two allies against India — that was part of their bigger geo-political plan of acquiring a firm hold in the crucial Pak-Afghan-Kashmir tri junction. This territory anchored the superpower rivalry in the Cold War era for control of this region — a lesson China would remember as it positions itself as the other superpower in the present, conscious of the advantage it has of having Pakistan on its side. India has to weaken this alliance by carrying the anti-terror combat into the POK and damaging the CPEC where it would hurt China the most. China can create some more mischief on LAC in support of Pakistan but this is nothing that India”s army would not be able to handle.

Secondly, this is the moment for India to build the opinion of the entire democratic world against the dictatorial Chinese regime that was out to disturb world peace in chasing its blatant plans of dominating the world militarily and economically — as a new superpower. India must make it a point to highlight the role of Sino-Pak axis in fomenting terrorism of the Islamic radicals and using it as an instrument of political advancement through proxy wars and cross-border operations. For securing India”s interests in a peaceful and democratic Afghanistan, we should further strengthen bilateral relations with Russia, Israel and Iran in working for a place in the ”round table” convened to discuss that country”s future — at a time when the US is being expedient about accommodating the Taliban in power there. Fortunately, we have in the NSA and the EAM a very competent, experienced and knowledgable set of people who can achieve the international outreach that India presently needs to counter and override the challenge posed by the China-Pakistan combine.

Finally, it is in the realm of economic relations that India has to find ways and means of scuttling the economic power that China had tried to wield against its opponents, including India. In fact, the tough response of President Donald Trump on the US-China trade imbalance and the more recent US-led campaign against China”s alleged culpability in hiding information relating to corona pandemic from the world — India being on the side of the US in these matters — substantially accounted for the precipitate hostility of China towards India. India”s rightful offer to the businesses seeking to shift away from China, to relocate here added to the Chinese desperation which was reflected in the aggression on LAC. Tension on the borders was intended to project India as a land of conflict and distract global investors from this country. As important as the marshalling of defence preparedness against China, therefore, are the moves of India to battle with the latter on the economic turf. India has set the ball rolling by banning some 59 Apps of Chinese origin and linking it with the call for development of indigenous products and services to make India self reliant in all fields, including defence production.

Prime Minister Modi has clearly embarked on a comprehensive strategy of military consolidation, economic recovery and deeper collaboration with friendly powers to deal with the emerging challenges — particularly the threat posed by China in the immediate and long range. India”s relations with China of Xi Jinping can become irreversibly antipathetic unless China strikes a peace chord by retracing its steps in Galwan valley. People must rally behind the effort of Modi regime to safeguard national security and integrity — at a time when the corona pandemic has compounded the problems of the common Indian at home. Prime Minister Modi in his address on June 30 acknowledged the silent contribution of the farmer and the tax payer to the well-being of the nation. It is a matter of satisfaction for the nation that the Prime Minister has shown a rare capability of handling multiple crises with calm and confidence.

(The writer is a former Director Intelligence Bureau)

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Newsprint paper manufactures voice concerns

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New Delhi, Aug 13 : Indiscriminate import and dumping of newsprint paper is threatening the very survival of the domestic newsprint industry, says the Indian Newsprint Manufacturers Association (INMA), the apex body of newsprint manufacturers in India.

In the first quarter of the current fiscal year, as much as 85 percent of domestic demand for newsprint paper was met by imports while the country has adequate manufacturing capacities to meet the demand both in terms of quality and quantity. In a SOS communication to the Prime Minister, INMA has asked for urgent remedial measures to safeguard the interests of the industry.

“The adverse impact of dumping is so serious that currently no good orders are in place to keep the plants running, resulting in severe financial stress, endangering the continuity of the mill operations and retaining employment,” INMA has said in a statement.

“Domestic newsprint production capacity was 2.6 million tonnes in FY 2014-15 but has come down to 2.2 million tonnes in view of continued challenging environment leading to closure of mills. However domestic capacities are still adequate to meet the domestic demand. There is an urgent need to curb dumping and other unfair trade practices operating in the industry,” states INMA.

Due to imports being cheaper than the domestically manufactured newsprint product, during FY18 and FY19, domestic sales of newsprint stood at 1.2 million tonnes per annum which reduced drastically to 0.7 million tonnes in FY20 in view of dumping.

According to INMA, against the import price of $800 per tonne of newsprint in FY18, the news print is currently being dumped by exporters at $390-400 per tonne which is almost $250-300 per tonne cheaper than their home country sales price. With Covid pandemic leading to demand reduction worldwide, market intelligence points to dumping of newsprint paper at $350 per tonne.

INMA says it is not against legal import by actual users but against unfair trade practice being adopted by the exporters. As an urgent measure, INMA has asked for imposition of a five-year moratorium on newsprint imports, among other asks.

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Pilot stays in hunt for bigger role, to be rewarded in 2021 by high command

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Sachin Pilot

Jaipur/New Delhi, Aug 11 : The can may well have been kicked down the road in Rajasthan but the vexed leadership issue remains wide open. Contrary to popular perception, former Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot, who camped in Gurugram these past few days, has not beaten a hasty retreat.

Optically, he may have lost the skirmish, but he is very much in the game. This was a battle in a long drawn-out war. A war based on principles and one of anger over maltreatment.

Sources close to developments told IANS that his meeting with the Gandhi siblings – Rahul and Priyanka – at the former’s residence was one where he did not merely reveal his state of mind and reservations but was equally given cast iron assurances about the future.

Pilot, it is believed, didn’t hanker for any position but told them that belittling him by levelling charges of sedition was nothing short of outrageous. The Special Operations Group and Anti-Corruption Bureau charges were a travesty and he was pained and appalled at the charges levelled against him.

IANS has gathered that Pilot did not want to be a Deputy CM with a car and a bungalow for he had worked hard on the ground over the last six and a half years to help the Congress storm back to power in the state in the late 2018 election. To be viciously targeted by his own government was an abomination, according to him.

Apparently, he was given a fair hearing and while a decision on the party leadership in Rajasthan may have been kept in abeyance for the time being, a view will be definitely taken on this issue in early 2021. This assurance was given to him.

What is more is that Pilot has managed to get a fair and equitable settlement for all his followers, particularly those who camped with him in the last few days when they went underground. In a mockery of democracy, these MLAs were spied upon by the state CID which kept them under daily surveillance under Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot’s orders. This was intolerable for Pilot.

These things rankled with Pilot and while he was adamant that he won’t join the BJP from the outset, he was clear that he would stay with the Congress. All he wanted was a proper hearing and a just recourse to the problems and issues that he and his followers were facing in Rajasthan.

The Gandhi siblings have also come to realise that their footprint continues to shrink with the BJP trying to topple their state governments, the most recent case being Madhya Pradesh.

They didn’t want the BJP to take advantage of the fluid situation and hence sought closure. Once Pilot had given his side of the story, it was appreciated by the siblings.

It is clear that the Congress will want to hit the ground running with a young Pilot at the helm in the race for the state in 2023. It appears that Pilot may well become Chief Minister of Rajasthan in early 2021 to prepare for the battle in late 2023.

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Political circles mourn Rahat Indori’s demise

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Rahat Indori

New Delhi, Aug 12 : Condolences have poured in for noted Urdu poet Rahat Indori, who passed away on Tuesday after suffering a cardiac arrest. The poet had also tested positive for Covid-19.

Offering his condolences, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh tweeted in Hindi, “I am deeply saddened by the news of the demise of noted poet Rahat Indoriji. He was an ardent personality of Urdu admiration. He has left an indelible mark on the hearts of people by his memorable poetries. It is a great loss for the literary world. I extend my condolences to his loved ones in this hour of grief.”

“My heart sank after I got to know about your demise. It has created a vaccum in the literary world which will be difficult to fill,” Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan tweeted in Hindi.

Quoting pne of Indori’s couplets, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi tweeted, “Ab na main un na baki hai zamane mere, phir bhi mashhoor hai shahron mein fasane mere… Alvida Rahat Indori sahab.”

Leader of Opposition in the Upper House, Ghulam Nabi Azad, said in his condolence message, “He will be remembered for his free, fair and fearless poetic expressions.”

“India has lost a great Urdu poet; I salute the departed soul of Rahat Indori, the voice of millions of Indians,” Azad tweeted.

Indori, a poet and painter, taught Urdu literature at the Indore University before foraying into Bollywood as a lyricist.

Among the many memorable verses he created for Hindi films are “Neend churayi meri” and “Dekho dekho jaanam” (“Ishq”), “Chori chori jab nazrein mili” (“Kareeb”), “M bole toh” and “Chhan chhan” (“Munna Bhai MBBS”), “Dil ko hazaar baar” (“Murder”), “Tumsa koi pyaara” (“Khuddar”) and the title song of “Sir”.

His popular books include “Do Kadam Aur Sahi”, “Maujood”, “Chand Pagal Hai”, “Mere Baad” and “Naraz”.

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