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India, Nepal relations on downward spiral

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Oli, Modi

New Delhi/Kathmandu: Nepal’s diplomatic offensives against India over issues ranging from border disputes to the coronavirus pandemic indicate that Kathmandu-New Delhi relations are on a downward spiral.

In his first speech in Nepal’s Parliament on Tuesday since the global disruption due to the coronavirus pandemic, Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli asserted that his government would get back “at any cost” the contentious area of Kalapani-Limpiyadhura-Lipulekh from India. He also held India responsible for the spread of the Wuhan-originated coronavirus pandemic in Nepal.

However, sources at the ministry of external affairs in New Delhi on Wednesday trivialised the latter part of Oli’s offensive related to the coronavirus saying that his speech was mistranslated by the media.

The exact literal translation of the excerpt of Oli’s speech related to the coronavirus, sources said, is “The virus which came from Wuhan is not so tough. The virus came from Italy was also not so tough, from Dubai also was not so tough. But the infection is seen tough in the infected who came from India.”

Oli appears to have used it in the context that the infection that came from India is widespread, sources said.

Some media reports in Delhi had said that Oli in his speech said that “virus from India looks more lethal than Chinese and Italian.” He was quoted by media saying, “Those who are coming from India through illegal channels are spreading the virus in the country and some local representatives and party leaders are responsible for bringing in people from India without proper testing. It has become very difficult to contain COVID-19 due to the flow of people from outside. Indian virus looks more lethal than Chinese and Italian now. More are getting infected.”

Though New Delhi tried to do damage control over Oli’s coronavirus remark but the relationship with Kathmandu has been deteriorating for some time now.

In 2008, the new Maoist-led government expressed its intention to revoke Nepal’s 1950 treaty with India, making it evident that its abandoning its traditional balance between the two Asian neighbours and moving closer towards China.

Since Oli took over in 2015, Kathmandu-Beijing relation has further strengthened as China made heavy investments in infrastructure development in Nepal. As against India, Nepal has joined China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative.

Since Beijing drew wrath of Washington over its attempts to cover up the Covid-19 pandemic and its failure to prevent its spread outside China, the Xi Jinping government has been mounting pressure on its allies like Nepal to needle India.

Recently, Nepal issued a new political map which included Limpiyadhura, Lipulekh, and Kalapani, areas which have been part of Indian territory. On May 8, after Defence Minister Rajnath Singh inaugurated a new road connecting the Lipulekh pass in Uttarakhand with Kailash Mansarovar route in China, Nepal protested against it and also threatened to put up a security post in the disputed territory.

India and Nepal share an 1,800 km-long open border. However, Nepal has disputed India’s claim over 400 sq km area at India-Nepal-China tri-junction in western Nepal and 140 sq km area of Susta in southern Nepal. The Lipulekh Pass is a mountainous pass in the Kalapani area. In 2015, Nepal objected to an India-China agreement on trade through the oass, claiming that it violated its territorial sovereignty.

With the latest objection over the inauguration of the road, tensions between New Delhi and Kathmandu have escalated. India has said the road going through Uttarakhand’s Pithoragarh district “lies completely within the territory of India” and it follows the pre-existing route used by the pilgrims of the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra. The government argued that the road has been made “pliable for the ease and convenience of pilgrims, locals, and traders.”

However, on Tuesday, Oli reiterated that the “issue of Limpiyadhura, Lipulekh, and Kalapani won’t be covered up, a conclusion will be drawn regarding it.” He said his government won’t let this issue fade out and “the territories will be reclaimed” indicating that his relationship with Xi Jinping is stronger than before.

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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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