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US wants accountability from Pakistan on 26/11

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The US has reiterated that it wants accountability from Pakistan on the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks that left 166 people dead, but ruled out sanctions on the South Asian country for failing to weed out terrorists.

“We want to see accountability and justice in the case of the Mumbai attacks… there were American citizens who lost their lives in those attacks,” US State Department deputy spokesperson Mark Toner said in a daily press briefing on Monday.

Toner made the remarks in response to a question about Secretary of State John Kerry’s mentioning about US’ efforts to bring to justice the perpetrators of the attacks in which 10 terrorists targeted numerous sites in Mumbai.

Kerry was in New Delhi to attend the Second India-US Strategic and Commercial Dialogue on August 30.

According to Toner, the US has “long encouraged and pushed for greater counter-terrorism cooperation and the sharing of intelligence between India and Pakistan” in regards to the attacks, believed to be carried out by Pakistan-based terrorist organisation Lashkar-e-Taiba.

“That continues; those efforts continue. As I said, we want to see full accountability for these terrible attacks.”

However, Toner also said the US was not considering sanctions on Islamabad and that Washington had “very frank conversations with Pakistan… about the need to take more efforts on all the terrorist groups… operating from within Pakistani soil”.

“Well, again, you’re asking me — and the question was whether we’re looking at sanctioning Pakistan. No… we’re working with Pakistan, we’re making our concerns clear that they need to go after all the terrorist groups,” he said.

“We have seen some efforts to make progress in that regard. We’re going to continue to have those conversations with them as we move forward,” Toner said.

Ajmal Kasab, one of the 10 terrorists, who carried out the four-day attacks starting from November 26 in 2008, was captured alive and put to death under the Indian justice system while the other nine were killed by security forces.

Responding to a question regarding the need to impose sanctions on Pakistan, Toner said: “I don’t think we’re even at that point. We continue to have… conversations with the highest level of the government of Pakistan. And our basic point in all of these conversations is that Pakistan must target all militant groups, including those that target Pakistan’s neighbours, and eliminate all safe havens.”

“But the suggestion of any kind of sanctions, we’re not there,” he added.

The deputy spokesman was responding to a question about former US Ambassador to the UN and Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad’s statement that since Pakistan is not taking enough action against these terrorist networks, the US should consider taking some kind of sanctions against Pakistan.

According to Toner, Pakistan had assured the US of their intentions to target all the militant groups on its soil.

“We’re going to continue to work with them to increase those efforts and apply more pressure to these groups,” he said.

Pakistan, however, maintained that India did not provide sufficient evidence against the terrorists and that any action was possible only after such evidence had been provided “through diplomatic channels”.

On April 9, 2015, the foremost ringleader of the attacks, Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, was granted bail in Pakistan against surety bonds of 200,000 Pakistan rupees ($2,000).

IANS

India

Sabarimala Temple opens for the third time after Supreme Court verdict

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Sabarimala temple

Thiruvananthapuram, Nov 16: Amid tight security, the Sabarimala temple opened for 62-day long MandalaPooja-Magaravilaku annual pilgrimage season on Friday. 

The doors of the Lord Ayyappa shrine opened for the third time since the Supreme Court’s September 28 verdict, which allowed the women and girls aged between 10-50 years to offer prayers at the temple.

As a precautionary measure,  section 144 (prohibits assembly of more than 4 people in an area) has been imposed in Nilakkal, Pamba, and Sannidhanam.

Meanwhile, after 13-hour standoff at Kochi airport, activist Trupti Desai agreed to return to her hometown Pune tonight.

She had written to Kerala government seeking security for her visit to Sabarimala Temple.

Speaking to media, Desai said “We reached Cochin Airport at 4:30 am. Protests were being held outside. We booked Taxi 2-3 times but drivers have been threatened that their vehicle will be vandalised if they offer us a drive. Police have said that we can’t go outside now”.

“Police tried to evacuate us from another gate but protesters were there as well. Protests being held here. Does this mean protesters are scared that we’ll reach Sabarimala once we reach Nilakkal, or, are they trying to scare us? We won’t return until we have ‘darshan'”, she added.

On the hand, BJP leader MN Gopi, who was outside the Cochin airport, told media that “Won’t allow Trupti Desai to go out from airport using police vehicle or other govt means.Airport taxies also won’t take her.If she wants, she can use her own vehicle.There will be agitations all along her way even if she goes out from airport”.

Meanwhile, Activist Rahul Easwar joined the protestors blocking Bhumata Brigade founder to leave for the temple visit.

Sabarimala Karma Samithi also held protest against Desai in Kerala’s Trivandrum.

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India has Rs 1,500 cr bank guarantee on offsets in Rafale deal

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Rafale deal scam

New Delhi, Nov 16: India has secured a bank guarantee for about Rs 1,500 crore from Dassault in the Rafale jet deal as a safeguard against any violations of the offset policy prepared in accordance with the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP), a leading financial daily said on Friday.

A special clause in the deal, which mandates that five per cent of the total offset value be kept as a buffer in case of non-performance, was invoked after officials insisted that the safeguard was needed to protect interests, it added.

According to The Economic Times, this was in line with similar provisions that are in place when it comes to direct government defence deals with the US.

The 185 million euro bank guarantee has been deposited and will remain valid for seven years, the report said citing people familiar with the deal.

This is in addition to the “letter of comfort” given by France that would underwrite the sale of 36 Rafale fighter jets.

The government had told the Supreme Court earlier this week that there was no sovereign guarantee from France in Rafale deal but there was a letter of comfort.

The report said that the Defence Ministry would reserve the right to cash the bank guarantee if it feels that the offset guidelines have been violated or that the French manufacturers have not executed them in the quantum promised.

It said that the special clause was put in place as per the 2013 DPP that mandates that the vendor shall be required to furnish a performance bond equal to five per cent of the offset obligation, which is required to be fulfilled during the period of the main procurement contract.

The report said that offsets have been a part of most major defence deals since 2006 but the ministry has faced major problems in implementing the offsets policy, mostly due to the large quantum to be discharged and a rigidity of rules that do not give flexibility to foreign vendors.

It said that the US companies Lockheed Martin and Textron have been slapped with penalties for failing to meet offsets.

These penalties were recovered from the five per cent bank guarantees that had been secured at the time of the contracts.

The deal to purchase 36 Rafale fighter jets was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visit to France in 2015.

The Indian Negotiating Team (INT) held 74 meetings in 12 months from May 2015 to April 2016, including 48 internal meetings and 26 meetings with the French side and the proposal was presented to the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) thrice for getting approvals on various aspects of negotiations.

The proposal to purchase the fighter jets under an inter-government agreement (IGA) was approved by the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) in August 2016.

IANS

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Andhra Pradesh bars CBI officials from entering state without permission

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Chandrababu Naidu

Amaravati, Nov 16: In an unprecedented move, The Andhra Pradesh government has barred the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) from conducting raids or carrying out investigations in the state without its permission.

The Telugu Desam Party (TDP) government issued the orders withdrawing ‘general consent’ to CBI officers to exercise jurisdiction in the state to investigate corruption charges against officials of central government and private persons.

The move by THE Chandrababu Naidu government came amid the continuing crisis in THE CBI in the wake of allegations of corruption against its director Alok Verma by his deputy Rakesh Asthana.

The Principal Secretary (Home) in Andhra Pradesh, A.R. Anuradha, issued the orders dated November 8, exercising powers under Delhi Special Police Establishment (DSPE) Act, 1946,

The state government on August 3 this year had issued orders giving its general consent to the CBI to exercise its powers and jurisdiction in the state. The same has now been revoked as per Section 6 of the DSPE Act.

It is under this Act that CBI exercises its jurisdiction in states. The state governments every year issue notifications to give ageneral consent’ to the investigating agency to probe corruption cases.

Official sources said the move was necessitated by the fact that CBI had lost its credibility and integrity in the wake of recent developments.

The latest move by the TDP government is seen as another flash-point between the state and the Centre after TDP pulled out of BJP-led NDA in March this year.

TDP President and Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu had been accusing the Modi government of misusing central agencies to target TDP leaders for demanding special category status to the state.

There have been a series of Income Tax searches at the offices and residences of TDP leaders in recent weeks. TDP leaders had also voiced the apprehension that the Centre could use CBI and other agencies to target top leadership of the party.

Following the recent developments in CBI, Naidu had targeted Modi government for what he called damaging the credibility of the premier investigation agency.

Naidu, who is trying to mobilise all opposition parties to form a front against the BJP, alleged that Modi was weakening the central institutions.

IANS

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