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NATO summit: Europe skeptical about Tillerson-Russia meet

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Trump weighs lifting Russia sanctions

It is still uncertain if US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson attends North Atlantic Treaty organisation (NATO) summit which is scheduled for 5-6 April 2017 and there is still more anxiety among the allies of United States about the Trump’s administration commitment to the 70 years old alliance because at the same time he will be meeting China’s core leader  and Russian authorities.

It is also speculated that NATO foreign ministers have rescheduled the meeting on March 31 to accommodate the US secretary of State. As US plays a leading role in the alliance its presence is therefore incumbent.

There exists unanswered questions about how Trump will reconcile his desire to have better ties with Moscow and at the same time support NATO which aims at securing Europe against the growing Russian threat especially in the context of Baltic region.

Chinese leader Xi Jinping is expected to visit Trump at his Florida golf resort in 6-7 April and Tillerson will also be attending that meeting.

The two important summits of NATO and US-Russia meet  come after Chancellor Angela Merkel meeting with Donald Trump, US President after summing up the meet,took to twitter  to claim that germany owes ” vast sums of money to NATO and the United States” reminding his allies that US allies will have to foot their bills for their security.

During a joint press conference with German Chancellor Merkel, Trump reiterated the US commitment to NATO but said allies must pay their fare share for defence.

Moreover The relationship between the Trump 2016 presidential campaign and Michael Flynn with Russia will also cast shadows and create distrust and suspicion in the European alliance.

Nato Deputy Secretary General Rose Gottemoeller said that NATO is adopting to adapting to the change circumstances  and has transformed itself to meet the challenges of the world including Islamic State terrorism. Hungarian troops will be deployed to the Baltics in 2017 and support the alliance Multinational Framework Brigade in Romania as part of Forward Presence in the Black Sea region.

NATO considers Baltic Sea region the coming target of Russia’s aggression. Russia has meantime announced its intention to maintain a military presence in the Atlantic Ocean. According to Russia’s Maritime Doctrine, The Atlantic regional direction encompasses the Baltic Sea, the Black Sea, the Azov Sea and the Mediterranean.

On the issue of Paying for the alliance, all NATO countries including Germany have committed  to spend 2% of GDP on defence by 2024 and 5 out of 28 NATO countries agree to do so. Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said that Romania is on track to spend 2% target in 2017 while Lithuania and Latvia are expected to follow suit by 2018.

arti bali

By : Arti Bali

Senior Journalist

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Look, who is talking about diminishing the authority of the judiciary

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The Supreme Court of India
The Supreme Court of India. (File Photo: IANS)

There is no procedure under the law except through an impeachment motion to remove an errant judge. When all processes are politicised and the media is held captive with its key players enlisted as spin doctors for the government, then no process will succeed. A key person in the government has said the motion represented politics of revenge. I would like to ask — “revenge against whom”? It is the obduracy of the system to ensure that there is no inquiry that makes the government’s motive political, and not the motive behind the motion. The charges against the Chief Justice of India (CJI) have nothing to do with politics. No person who appreciates the nature of the charges can allege that the motion has been moved for political considerations.

There was no politics of any political party behind the statement of four distinguished judges of the Supreme Court, who were obviously so frustrated with the goings on in Court that they considered it their constitutional duty to address the nation. The minister cannot possibly suggest that the judges had some ulterior motive except to ensure that the independence of the judiciary is preserved. They must have found it extremely uncomfortable to watch this government’s constant interference in judicial processes, which is why they publicly stated that if they did not speak out, future generations would have said they had sold their souls. The fact they went on to say that democracy is in peril suggested that the independence of the judiciary is in peril. Any member of the Cabinet analysing the sentiment behind these statements would understand that this had nothing to do with politics, but represented indignation at the brazen attempt of the government to influence the judiciary for their partisan ends. It is this government that is playing politics with the judiciary.

Now the charges.

First, in the case of Prasad Education Trust, a sitting judge of the high court is being prosecuted and along with him, a retired judge of the Odisha High Court and two others who conspired to bribe the judge. The taped conversations, a portion of the transcripts of which were placed on record with the motion, would make it clear to any reasonable person that the conspiracy was much wider and that if any government is committed to root out corruption from the judiciary, such government would welcome a probe to find out who all were involved in the conspiracy. The fact that this government does not want the probe speaks volumes of the intent behind this position.

Second, the extraordinary step of a Constitution Bench rising at 12 noon, knowing that in another court a matter was mentioned and was listed for hearing, to preempt the hearing.

Third, when the matter was called for hearing before that bench, an order that in the circumstances appears to have been antedated, informed the judge not to deal with the matter. Obviously, what is happening within the judicial system today is unprecedented. Such unsavoury goings on have not happened since our Republic was born. For a minister to brush aside such serious happenings and allege there are political motives behind the motion is, in fact, evidence of the extent to which the political process will go to ensure that the truth doesn’t emerge.

Fourth, that a false affidavit was filed to obtain allotment of land does not need any proof. The fact that the CJI surrendered the plot only in 2012 when elevated to the SC also does not need any further proof. How can a motion which seeks to delve into these matters be called political?

And last, that sensitive cases were sent to particular judges, which was also the refrain of the four judges addressing the press, was surely not the result of any politics by the Opposition. Therefore, the suggestion that the Opposition is playing politics is ex facie laughable. The truth is the government is playing politics to ensure that there is no inquiry that will embarrass the government.

The MPs who have signed the motion know that the motion, even if the charges are proved, may still be lost because the voting will be motivated by politics. One must be cognisant of the fact that there is no other way to deal with an errant judge except through such a motion. If we deny an inquiry, it will send a message to the entire judicial system that no matter what the charges against any judge, this government will save that judge. This is the unprincipled stand of persons who in Parliament have previously made speeches to the effect that the “premise of the utmost impartiality, free from aberrations, under which the institution of judiciary was created, is no longer available”. If the premise of impartiality is no longer available, then this government must explain why it is compromising with alleged misbehaviour.

It is this government that is diminishing the institution of the judiciary. We have seen recommendations blocked. We have seen a previous CJI lament of a “lock out” of the judiciary by refusing to accept recommendations of the collegium. We have seen a previous CJI breakdown, which was evidence of the attitude of this government towards ensuring that judges of their choice are appointed. It is better to stand on principles knowing that a motion may be defeated than play politics knowing the judicial system needs surgical attention. This is a wake-up call for the country.

Courtesy: This article is published in The Indian Express dated 26th April 2018

The writer is senior congress leader and MP from Rajya Sabha

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Xi-Modi Summit: China regional power, India to remain cautious

The Modi-Xi Jinping Wuhan summit could be as significant as the one between former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and then leader of China Deng Xiaoping in 1988, the meeting can be as significant as the one in 1988… and will set the course for bilateral ties.

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Modi Xi

There should not be high expectations from the informal summit between PM Modi and President Xi in the Wuhan on the banks of Yangtze as India has already bowed to please regional power China by cancelling the events of Dalai Lama in New Delhi.

Prime Minister Modi and Chinese President Xi jinping are likely to discuss US President Donald Trump’s “protectionist” trade policy, changes in the world order, bilateral issues including China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

India and China have been competing for political, economic and strategic influence in the region.

Moreover, Prime Minister Narendra Modi who is desperately searching for a new slogan to win the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, is eager to enter into elite club of 48-member NSG Nuclear Suppliers Group and China remains biggest obstacle as it has been opposing India’s bid primarily on the grounds that Delhi is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

China has knitted close ties with countries in India’s neighbourhood and invested billions of dollars in the economies of Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka and the Maldives. In Addition, Beijing has been pursuing territorial and maritime claims.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who invited the leaders of SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional cooperation) countries and Mauritius to attend his swearing-in ceremony to convey the message that he is the leader of this region and foreign policy remains his top priority. But, alas, his foreign policy has failed so miserably that China, not only influences this region but also through One Belt, One Road project, China has inarguably increased its global influence, social and cultural cooperation.

Xi Jinping’s ambitious Silk Road Economic Belt has three routes connecting China to Europe (via Central Asia), the Persian Gulf, the Mediterranean (through West Asia), and South Asia.

Beijing and New Delhi are rivals and are already engaged in territorial disputes and the India-China border covering the 3488 KM-long Line of Actual Control (LAC) is disputed between the two sides and notably, Beijing claims Arunachal Pradesh to be the part of its southern Tibet. The territory, a key focus of a 1962 war fought between the Asian giants.

Another hotly contested territory by both countries is Aksai Chin, which New Delhi considers part of its Jammu and Kashmir state while China believes the zone belongs to its Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region.

Talks to resolve the boundary dispute have been stalled but standoffs between the Indian forces and the Chinese PLA has emerged as a common phenomena. China has taken the 72-day military confrontation in 2017 on the Doklam plateau at the trijunction of Bhutan, India and China seriously and President Xi Jinping vowed to protect “every inch” of his country’s territory in a nationalistic speech at the annual National People’s Congress in which he claims that his nation was ready to “fight bloody battles” against its enemies.

On the contrary, the official Chinese media commented, “The Modi-Xi Jinping Wuhan summit could be as significant as the one between former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and then leader of China Deng Xiaoping in 1988, the meeting can be as significant as the one in 1988… and will set the course for bilateral ties.”

Modi government had criticised President Xi Jinping’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative but how Xi is going to convince Modi for a India-Nepal-China economic corridor. China has proposed a India-Nepal-China economic corridor with multi-dimensional connectivity through the Himalayas after Nepalese Foreign Minister held talks with his Chinese counterpart.

Ahead of Xi-Modi summit on April 27-28, Chinese officials have made enough positive signals : promised to resume the Kailash Mansarovar yatra through the Nathu La route for pilgrims and data sharing on rivers such as Brahmaputra and Sutlej which originate in China and flow into India and to consider India’s major concerns seriously.

Meanwhile, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, during her address at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Council of Foreign Ministers meeting also attended by Pakistan Foreign Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif, raised the issue of global terrorism and protectionism.

Terrorism is an enemy of the basic human rights: of life, peace and prosperity, the criminal terrorist militias are not impeded by borders as they seek to destroy the architecture of international stability and build walls of fear in societies that believe in pluralism, Sushma said.

“We strongly believe that our fight against terrorism should not only seek to eliminate terrorists but should also identify and take strong measures against States that encourage, support and finance terrorism and provide sanctuary to terrorists and terror groups without mentioning any country”, Sushma said.

It is pertinent to mention that Delhi has also embraced the Trump Administration’s concept of Indo-Pacific and revived the quadrilateral security dialogue with Washington, Tokyo and Canberra.

While North Korean leader Kim Jong un’s friendly meeting with Xi Jinping in Beijing has brought China into a central position by reinserting into the diplomatic negotiations.

India is trying to reset relations with Beijing but China’srise as Asian great power status  and influence in the region has diminished India’s geographical advantage.

While rolling out its “free and open Indo-Pacific strategy at the US-India-Japan trilateral dialogue, US official Alex Wong said “it is in the US’ interest that India plays a more weighty role in the region.”

US President Donald Trump initiated US-China trade war which has wider implications as US Department of Commerce banned American companies from selling components to state-owned Chinese phone maker ZTE for a period of seven years.

India, which is an ally of US and after it signed an agreement on sharing military logistics (Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement), it will be interesting to watch the outcome of Modi-Xi summit but Prime Minister should be cautious to safeguard national interests as it should not give ammunition to the Opposition that may attack the BJP led NDA government for any wrong decision.

Blog : By Arti Bali,
arti

(Senior Journalist)

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86% NCR residents cite lack of severe punishment for sexual harassment: Study

For the survey, 5,221 responses were collected from Delhi, Gurgaon and Noida to understand the factors and possible remedies of sexual harassment against women and girls in public places.

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sexual harassment

New Delhi, April 24 (IANS) Lack of severe punishment is considered as the most rampant cause of sexual harassment by 86 per cent respondents in the NCR region, as per as study.

The study, done by Indian Institute for Integrated Women and Child Development (ISI-WCD) and released by the Women and Child Development Ministry, was one of 18 projects the ministry had sponsored, between 2015-17, in areas like economic empowerment of women, skill development, child trafficking, nutrition management and others.

For the survey, 5,221 responses were collected from Delhi, Gurgaon and Noida to understand the factors and possible remedies of sexual harassment against women and girls in public places.

According to the survey, 84 per cent of the responsdents think that availability of pornographic materials on mobile phone is also a cause of sexual harassment in NCR region while 83 per cent believes it is because of easy access to social media site Facebook or the internet.

“Revealing dresses of women has been seen as the reason for sexual assault by 53 per cent, 35 per cent and 37 per cent by residents of Delhi, Gurgaon and Noida respectively while informal behaviour of women has also been seen as the reason by 49 per cent, 30 per cent and 70 per cent from the three locations respectively,” the study notes.

The study also revealed that 35 per cent of men and 50 per cent women have perceived sexual aggression in men as responsible for sexual harassment of women.

It is also found that 70 per cent of the respondents have said to face sexual abuse from work partners or colleagues, 63 per cent from office seniors, 48 per cent from friends and 38 per cent from teachers.

According to the study, 87 per cent respondents agreed that women suffer from verbal abuse, 88 per cent have suffered from physical abuse and 94 per cent stated that they are being stared at.

On enhancing safety for women in public places, 96 per cent respondents suggested that crowded buses or stations should be under constant camera surveillance, 93 per cent wanted public places well lit, 90 per cent prefers frequent police patrolling, 94 per cent said legal punishments should be made harsher while 92 per cent said judicial disposals should be made quicker.

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