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Jaitley questions Hollande’s claims, says erroneous to suggest partnership in Rafale deal

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New Delhi, Sep 23 : The slugfest over the Rafale deal continued on Sunday with Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley citing conflicting media reports on Francois Hollande’s claims regarding a private firm becoming an as offset partner in the jet deal at the instance of Modi government and asserting that there was “no partnership as suggested by the former French President”.

Riding on Hollande’s remark to French website Mediapart that that the Indian government had proposed choosing a private firm as an offset partner, the opposition has been gunning for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) regime with Congress president Rahul Gandhi even claiming that the former French President had called Prime Minister Narendra Modi a “thief”.

While both the Defence Ministry and Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad have maintained that the Indian government had no role in the choice of the offset partner, Jaitley took to social media to reiterate the assertions and pointed to Hollande’s “contrasting remarks”.

“A controversy is sought to be created on the basis of a statement made by Hollande, that the Reliance Defence ‘partnership’ with Dassault Aviation was entered at the suggestion of the Indian GOvernment.

“In a subsequent statement the former President has sought to suggest that Reliance Defence emerged on the scene after the agreement with the Indian Government was entered into. He has, in a subsequent statement, said that he is ‘not aware’ if government ever lobbied for Reliance Defence and that athe partners chose themselves’. Truth cannot have two versions,” wrote Jaitley in a blogpost.

Jaitley also cited the French government and Dassault Aviation (makers of the Rafale jets) of having “categorically denied the correctness of Hollande’s first statement” (made to Mediapart)

“The French government has stated that the decision with regard to the offset contracts of Dassault Aviation are taken by the company and not the Government. Dassault Aviation itself has suggested that they have entered into multiple contracts with several public sector and private sector companies with regard to the offset contracts and the decision is entirely theirs,” he said.

“Without commenting on the correctness or otherwise of a controversy in the French media, it may be mentioned that the former French President Hollande, is countering statement made against him with regard to a conflict of interest in his dealing with the Reliance Defence.

“The accuracy of the statements made by the individuals may be questioned but circumstances never lie,” said Jaitley, addin that “there is no ‘partnership’, as suggested by the former President with regard to the 36 Rafale aircraft”.

Contending that it was a “government to government agreement” with no manufacturing is to be done in India, Jaitley said it was “erroneous for anybody to suggest that there is a partnership in the supply of the 36 Rafale aircraft”.

Citing a media report that quoted Hollande as saying that “France did not choose Reliance in any way”, Jaitley said: “His (Hollande) second statement in Montreal, Canada, to AFP makes the veracity of his first statement even more questionable”.

“One Reliance Group was a part of this deal since 2012. It dropped out of defence production. The other Reliance Group was already in defence. They are not partners in the Rafale deal. They have no contract with either the government of India or of France. They were not selected as one of the many offset partners by any government.

“‘The partners (Dassault and Reliance) selected themselves’ as former President Hollande now says. This contradicts his first questionable statement which the French government and Dassault have denied. The facts contradict the same,” he said.

The AFP report claims Hollande as saying that he was “unaware” about if India had put pressure on Reliance and Dassault to work together and said “only Dassault can comment on this”.

Jaitley reiterated that neither the French or the Indian Government has any say in selecting the offset partner and targeted Gandhi over the issue.

“The former French President’s first statement rhymes with Rahul Gandhi’s prediction.

The Congress Party’s official handle on 31.8.2018 had carried the tweet of one of its leader “It is evident that Anil Ambani bribed President Hollande through his actor-partner to get the Dassault partnership”.

“For the Congress Party to allege that a former President had been bribed by an Indian business group and then use him as a primary witness, particularly when he is facing criticism for an alleged conflict of interest within his own country.

“Rahul Gandhi has made an absurd suggestion that the interest of Indian soldiers has been compromised with. By whom? The UPA which delayed the acquisition which would have added to the Military’s combat ability or the NDA which expedited the same at a lower cost,” he added.

Notwithstanding the contradictory report by the AFP, an India media house (NDTV) has reported that Hollande’s office has reiterated that the former French President stands by his statement that the Indian government proposed Reliance Defence as the India partner for the 36 Rafale jet deal.

Health

AIIMS JPNATC MS replaced after report on journo’s death filed

The journalist worked for a Hindi daily and lived with his wife and two children in northeast Delhi”s Bhajanpura.

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Harsh Vardhan

New Delhi, July 11 : Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare Harsh Vardhan ordered immediate replacement of Medical Superintendent of AIIMS Jai Prakash Narayan Apex Trauma Centre (JPNATC) after a 4-member inquiry committee constituted to examine the suicide of journalist Tarun Sisodiya submitted its reported.

The report submitted by the committee on Friday said that no malafide intent was found in the death of the journalist.

“Directed that an expert committee be constituted to suggest suitable changes in administration, for AIIMS as well as JPNATC. The report, along with its recommendations, shall be submitted before me by July 27, 2020,” Harsh Vardhan tweeted.

“The committee did not find any malafide intent in the death of Mr Sisodiya. It also did not find any lapses in the treatment protocol of #Covid19,” he said.

Earlier, a 37-year-old journalist undergoing treatment for COVID-19 at the AIIMS Trauma Centre in Delhi since June 24 died after allegedly jumping off the fourth floor of the hospital building on July 6.

The journalist worked for a Hindi daily and lived with his wife and two children in northeast Delhi”s Bhajanpura.

Following the incident, Union Health Minister then asked the AIIMS Director to set a panel to probe the matter.

He was making significant recovery from COVID symptoms. He earlier underwent a surgery for frontal lobe meningioma (a type of brain tumour) at the G B Pant hospital in March 2020.

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United Nations chief wants Sathankulam killings in Tamil Nadu investigated

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Antonio Guterres

United Nations, July 11 : UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres wants the death of a father and a son from Sathankulam in Tamil Nadu while in police custody with alleged signs of torture investigated, according to his Spokesperson Stephane Dujarric.

“Every death of all these cases as a principle need to be fully investigated,” Dujarric said on Friday when he was asked about the deaths of P Jayaraj and his son J Fennix, allegedly due to torture by police after their arrest on June 19.

Human rights organisations have called for ensuring police accountability in India.

Human Rights Watch South Asia Director Meenakshi Ganguly said, “As the world responds with horror at the killing of George Floyd, it is important for authorities in India to also embark upon robust efforts to ensure police reform, accountability, and putting an end to the culture of impunity.”

The killing of Floyd by police in Minneapolis has sparked a nation-wide movement in the US that has brought out into the open long-standing tradition of police brutality against minorities. The protests have spread to several countries around the world leading to an examination of police conduct, particularly towards minorities, and demands for reforms to end impunity.

Ganguly said about the Sathankulam case, “Despite numerous court directives and arrest procedures, the two recent deaths in Tamil Nadu has exposed yet again how police officers believe not only that they have the right to ‘teach someone a lesson’, but as was reported in the magistrate’s inquiry, that they will not be held accountable.”

Amnesty International India Executive Director Avinash Kumar said, “The deaths of Jayaraj and Fennix once again signal towards India’s continuing failure to hold its police accountable.”

He noted that “according to the 2018 National Crimes Record Bureau data, Tamil Nadu accounted for the second highest deaths in custody”.

“The Tamil Nadu State government cannot continue to turn a blind eye to the torture meted out by its police officers. It must show firm resolve by punishing the police officers involved and ensuring that Jayaraj and Fennix’s families get justice.”

Although torture has been outlawed in international law for over three decades, they are still not recognized as distinct crimes under Indian law, he said.

“India signed the UN Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment in 1997, but has not yet passed domestic legislation that will enable it to ratify the Convention,” he said.

The Prevention of Torture Bill was passed by the Lok Sabha in 2010 but has lapsed without the Rajya Sabha passing it.

The arrest of Jayaraj and Fennix, who ran a mobile phone shop, was reportedly related to the COVID-19 regulations on store closings.

They were taken to jail in Kovilpatti and Jayaraj died on June 21 and his son the next morning with signs of torture.

Merchants in Tamil Nadu held a one-day protest and there were other sporadic protests in Tamil Nadu but demonstrations were dampened by COVID-19 restrictions.

The Madras High Court has ordered an inquiry by police and six police personnel have been charged, with at least six arrested.

(Arul Louis can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter at @arulouis)

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India, China are partners not rivals: Chinese Ambassador

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H E Sun Weidong and JP Nadda

New Delhi, July 10 : Amid ongoing tension along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh, Chinese Ambassador to India, H.E. Sun Weidong, on Friday said that India and China should be partner and not rivals.

Weidong released a video message talking about the recent stand-off between the two countries in Galwan region in eastern Ladakh.

The Ambassador said that the June 15 violent clash in Galwan Valley, which caused casualties on both sides, was not seen as coming by either China, or India.

Weidong also said that Chinese frontline troops were disengaging from the ground in accordance with the consensus reached.

On July 5, China”s Foreign Minister Wang Yi and India”s National Security Advisor Ajit Doval had talked over the phone and reached a positive consensus on easing the border tension.

The Ambassador added that some quarters in India have raised doubts about the consensus reached by the leaders and have a wrong perception about China-India ties.

These have brought disruptions in the bilateral relations. “In this regard, it is imperative for us to clarify some fundamental points,” he said.

He pointed out that India and China should be partners rather than rivals, and both the countries have a history of friendly exchanges of more than 2,000 years.

He also said that during the Wuhan Informal Summit in 2018, President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Narendra Modi had stressed that the two countries provide each other with development opportunities instead of posing threats, which the two sides should adhere to.

“This is the fundamental judgment on China-India relations charting the course for the development of our bilateral relations,” he said.

The Ambassador pointed out that he has noticed some emerging opinions in recent days, which repudiate the essence of China-India relationship due to the border-related incidents, make false assumptions about China”s intentions, exaggerate conflicts and provoke confrontation.

He said, “It is not the fact. It is harmful indeed and not helpful. China and India have jointly advocated the five principals of peaceful coexistence and uphold independent foreign policies. We should naturally see each other as positive factor in the changing global landscape and as well as partners in realising our respective dream of development.”

The Ambassador said that the two countries should not allow differences to interfere with bilateral relations.

He added that since the boundary question has been left by history, it is now necessary to find a fair and reasonable solution that is acceptable to both countries through consultation and negotiations.

“In the absence of the ultimate solution, both the countries agreed to maintain peace and tranquility in the border area,” he said.

The Ambassador pointed out that for China, peace was of paramount importance.

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