China Again Backs JeM Chief Masood Azhar, Defies Naming Him As ‘Global Terrorist’

In India’s bid to name Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar as a global terrorist, China again on Wenesday defied from supporting it. It has succeeded in putting a technical hold on a proposal in the UN Security Council to ban him. 

A diplomat at the UN told PTI that China put a “technical hold”.

The proposal to designate Azhar under the 1267 Al Qaeda Sanctions Committee of the UN Security Council was moved by France, the UK and the US on 27 February, days after a suicide bomber of the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) killed 44 CRPF soldiers in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama, leading to a flare-up in tensions between India and Pakistan.

The Ministry of External Affairs, while reacting to China’s decision, said that it was “disappointed by this outcome”.

“This has prevented action by the international community to designate the leader of (JeM), a proscribed and active terrorist organisation which has claimed responsibility for the terrorist attack in Jammu and Kashmir on 14 February 2019.”

MEA said in a statement, as per ANI. 

The Al Qaeda Sanctions Committee members had 10 working days to raise any objections to the proposal.

Fourth Bid in 10 Years

The no-objection period deadline was scheduled to end at 3 PM local time (New York) Wednesday, (12:30 AM IST Thursday).

Just before the close of the deadline, China put a hold on the proposal. The diplomat said China asked for “more time to examine” the proposal.

The proposal was the fourth such bid at the UN in the last 10 years to list Azhar as a global terrorist.

The Committee makes its decisions by consensus of its members.

All eyes were on China, which has in the past blocked India’s bids to get Azhar listed as a UN-designated global terrorist thrice.

According to the listing rules of the Al Qaeda Sanctions Committee, if no objection is received by the end of the no-objection period, the decision will be deemed adopted.

As it has done in the past, Beijing put a technical hold on the proposal just as the deadline was about to end.

China Always Adopts a Responsible Attitude

An inkling of China’s stand on the issue came during Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Lu Kang’s press conferences on Monday and Wednesday in Beijing when he was asked about the proposal to list Azhar as a global terrorist by the UNSC.

“The UN Security Council and its subsidiary bodies are run on strict rules… We already stressed China’s position on the listing of terrorist organisations and individuals in the UN Security Council 1267 Committee on many occasions,” Lu said on Monday.

“China will continue to adopt responsible attitude and participate in the deliberations in the UNSC 1267 Committee,” Lu said on Wednesday.

On the issue of listing Azhar, he said, “I want to say that China always adopts a responsible attitude, engage in consultations with various parties and properly deal with this issue.”

“The discussions, I want to say must follow the rules and procedures of the relevant bodies and only the solution that is acceptable to all sides is conducive for resolving the issue,” he said, indicating that Beijing may again block the move to list Azhar as a global terrorist.

According to sources, the statement of the case of the latest proposal by France mentioned that JeM had taken responsibility for the Pulwama suicide attack on February 14 in which 40 Central Reserve Police Force personnel were killed.

Japan Space Agency, Toyota Motors Agree On International Space Exploration

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and Toyota Motor Corporation announced their agreement to consider the possibility of collaborating on international space exploration. 

Initially, JAXA and Toyota have reached an agreement to further cooperate on and make going their current joint study of a manned, pressurized rover that employs fuel cell electric vehicle technologies. 

Such a form of mobility is deemed necessary for human exploration activities on the lunar surface. Even with the limited amount of energy that can be transported to the moon, the pressurized rover would have a total lunar-surface cruising range of more than 10,000 km.

The concept proposal for the pressurised rover being studied by JAXA and Toyota is the size of two microbuses. It’s 6 metres long, 5.2 metres wide and 3.8 metres in height. It will be capable of accommodating two people and even four people in case of an emergency.

JAXA President Hiroshi Yamakawa, “Having Toyota join us in the challenge of international space exploration greatly strengthens our confidence. Manned rovers with pressurized cabins are an element that will play an important role in full-fledged exploration and use of the lunar surface. Through our joint studies going forward, we would like to put to use Toyota’s excellent technological abilities related to mobility, and we look forward to the acceleration of our technological studies for the realization of a manned, pressurized rover.”

Manned, pressurized rovers will be an important element supporting human lunar exploration, which has been envisioned to fall into place by 2030. This lunar rover from Toyota will likely be ready by 2029. Lunar gravity is one-sixth of that on Earth, while the moon has a complex terrain with craters, cliffs, and hills. Moreover, it is exposed to radiation and temperature conditions that are much harsher than those on Earth, as well as an ultra-high vacuum environment. For wide ranging human exploration of the moon, a pressurized rover that can travel more than 10,000 km in such environments is a necessity. Toyota’s ‘space mobility’ concept will address all these concerns.

Toyota President, Akio Toyoda said, “Going beyond the frameworks of countries or regions, I believe that our industry, which is constantly thinking about the role it should fulfil shares the same aspirations of international space exploration. Furthermore, cars are used in all of Earth’s regions, and, in some regions, cars play active roles as partners for making sure that people come back alive. And I think that coming back alive is exactly what is needed in this project. I am extremely happy that, for this project, expectations have been placed on the thus-far developed durability and driving performance of Toyota vehicles and on our fuel cell environmental technologies.”

Manoj Bajpayee Says He Is Used To The Fact That His His Highly Acclaimed Films Don’t Get Mainstream Nominations

Manoj Bajpayee, the National Award-winning actor on Wednesday said he is now used to the fact that all his highly nationally and internationally acclaimed movies never nominated in the “so-called big mainstream awards”.

Manoj on Wednesday tweeted a poster of his 2018 movie “Gali Guleiyan” and wrote: “So used to the fact that all the films of mine which are highly acclaimed nationally and internationally don’t even get a place in the nominations list of so called big mainstream awards here, forget about winning. Creative pursuit and exploitation continue! Gali Guleiyan.”

The 49-year-old actor’s tweet comes after the nomination list for the 64th Vimal Filmfare Awards 2019 were announced on Tuesday. 

“Gali Guleiyan”, which follows the journey of a man who is trapped in the city walls, premiered at the 22nd Busan International Film Festival and was also screened at the 2017 MAMI Film Festival, Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles, Atlanta Film Festival, 42nd Cleveland International Film Festival, Chicago International Film Festival and the 2018 Indian Film Festival of Melbourne.

The psychological drama film is directed by Dipesh Jain. It also stars Ranvir Shorey, Neeraj Kabi, Shahana Goswami and debutant Om Singh.

Brexit Deal Goes Through Rejection Second Time, Will Likely Need New Approach

Several questions remain attached with the Brexit issue. This comes aftee MPs on Tuesday rejected the withdrawal agreement proposed by Prime Minister Theresa May over nearly three years after the 2016 referendum.

The pound took another beating and business organisations expressed frustration and more over the continuing uncertainty over the way forward beyond March 29, when the UK is due to leave the EU.

Carolyn Fairbairn of the Confederation of British Industry said it is “time for parliament to stop this circus…Enough is enough. This must be the last day of failed politics. A new approach is needed by all parties. Jobs and livelihoods depend on it.”

The revised agreement package, reached in Starsbourg on Monday evening, was rejected in the House of Commons by 391 to 242; its previous version was resoundingly voted down in January. The continuing impasse threw up a range of options, including another referendum.

May said after the defeat: “I profoundly regret the decision that this House has taken tonight. I continue to believe that by far the best outcome is that the UK leaves the EU in an orderly fashion with a deal, and that the deal we have negotiated is the best and indeed the only deal available.”

There are two immediate next steps: MPs will be asked to vote on Wednesday whether the UK should leave with or without an agreement. Then, on Thursday, MPs will vote on whether the May government should seek an extension beyond March 29.

May added: “But let me be clear. Voting against leaving without a deal and for an extension does not solve the problems we face. The EU will want to know what use we mean to make of such an extension. This House will have to answer that question.”

“Does it wish to revoke Article 50? Does it want to hold a second referendum? Or does it want to leave with a deal but not this deal? These are unenviable choices, but thanks to the decision the House has made this evening they must now be faced.”

After the defeat, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn demanded that May call a general election to resolve the impasse: “The government has been defeated again by an enormous majority and it must accept its deal is clearly dead and does not have the support of this House.”

China May Again Block JeM Chief Masood Azhar’s Listing As UN- Designated Terrorists

The UN Security Council is to take up a resolution on naming the Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar as a global terrorist. Prior to this, China on Wednesday gave hinta that it is likely to block the decision again, saying only “the solution that is acceptable to all sides” is conducive to resolve the issue. 

The fate of the proposal to designate Pakistan-based Azhar as a global terrorist by the UN Security Council will be known in less than 24 hours when the deadline to raise objections to the bid expires. 

The proposal to designate Azhar under the 1267 al-Qaida sanctions committee of the UN Security Council was moved by France, UK and the US on February 27. 

“I could reiterate that China will continue to adopt responsible attitude and participate in the deliberations in the UNSC 1267 Committee,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang told a media briefing here.

China, a veto-wielding member of the UNSC, has blocked the move by India and other member nations three times in the past to designate Azhar. 

China has been insisting that the solution should be acceptable to all. 

Asked to clarify whether the issue has been listed for discussion for March 13 and China is in talks with all the parties concerned, Lu said, “First I want to clarify that I don’t recall saying anything about the deadline about the UNSC committee and other UN subsidiary bodies”. 

On the issue of listing Azhar, he said, “I want to say that China always adopts a responsible attitude, engage in consultations with various parties and properly deal with this issue.”

“The discussions, I want to say must follow the rules and procedures of the relevant bodies and only the solution that is acceptable to all sides is conducive for resolving the issue,” he said. 

Recently, China’s vice foreign minister Kong Xuanyou travelled to Pakistan and held talks with Prime Minister Imran Khan and Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa and other officials. 

India on Saturday said all UNSC members were aware about the JeM training camps and the presence of terror group’s chief Masood Azhar in Pakistan, and urged them to designate him as a global terrorist. 

The JeM, headed by the 50-year-old Azhar, carried out many terror strikes in India and was involved in the attack on Parliament, the Pathankot air force base, army camps in Jammu and Uri. It also claimed responsibility for the February 14 Pulwama suicide attack which left 40 CRPF personnel dead.

BJP Secures ‘Grand Alliance’ With Parties In Northeast Prior To Lok Sabha Polls 2019

After significant deliberations on Tuesday between the Bharatiya Janata Party and its allies in the northeast have led to the formation of a ‘grand alliance’. 

BJP national general secretary Ram Madhav announced the development on his Facebook page early on Wednesday morning claiming that the alliance has the potential to win at least 22 of the 25 Lok Sabha seats from the northeast.

In another development, after parting ways two months ago in protest against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) forged a pre-poll alliance with the BJP late on Tuesday night.

“While the opposition is still talking and talking about ‘Mahagathbandhan’ (grand alliance), we already have ours in place in the northeast and the rest of the country,” Madhav wrote.

Madhav held meetings in Dimapur and Guwahati with chief ministers of BJP-led governments Assam, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and the heads of coalition governments in Nagaland and Meghalaya before sealing the deals.

While Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP) heads the government in Nagaland, National People’s Party (NPP) is the majority partner in Meghalaya.

Besides chief ministers Sarbananda Sonowal (Assam), Neiphiu Rio (Nagaland), Conrad Sangma (Meghalaya), N. Biren Singh (Manipur), Pema Khandu (Arunachal Pradesh), senior Assam minister and convenor of North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA) Himanta Biswa Sarma was also present in several of the meetings.

Leaders from Bodo People’s Front (BPF), BJP’s coalition partner in Assam and AGP were also part of some deliberations.

“The BJP, NPP, NDPP, AGP and BPF will fight together in Assam, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh with the mission of defeating Congress party in the hustings,” Madhav wrote.

The BJP leader also stated that the party would fight the election together with the Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura (IPFT), its coalition partner in Tripura and will contest from Sikkim in partnership with the Sikkim Krantikari Morcha, the main opposition party in the state.

“This alliance has the potential of winning not less than 22 out of the 25 seats in the region and playing an important role in seeing Modiji as the PM once again,” he wrote.

No details are yet available on how many of their own candidates will BJP field in the region. Assam has 14 seats, Manipur, Meghalaya, Tripura and Arunachal Pradesh has two seats each and Mizoram, Nagaland and Sikkim have one seat each.

For Assam, despite several senior leaders of the state unit denying possibility of any tie-up with AGP, the BJP high command decided to forge an alliance with the regional partner once again.

Of the total 14 seats, AGP is expected to field candidates in 2-3 seats, while BJP will give tickets to its candidates on 10 seats. BPF has already announced Assam minister Pramila Rani Brahma as the alliance’s candidate for the Kokrajhar seat.

SC Slams Assam Government On Deportation Of Illegal Immigrants

The Supreme Court today slammed the Assam government saying that it was not treating the issue of deportation of illegal migrants seriously enough.

“This has gone too far. This has become a joke,” the court said.

During the course of the hearing, the court questioned the solicitor general Tushar Mehta regarding the whereabouts of the foreigners, whether the foreigners tribunal was functioning and whether the state’s law and order machinery was functioning to implement the tribunal’s order. The court gave the Assam government time till May 27 to submit a detailed report on the functioning of the foreigners tribunal in the state.

“How seriously Assam is considering this matter is quite evident from the absence of any officer to brief you in the matter. An officer sitting here (resident commissioner) files affidavit on detention centres in Assam,” says the bench led by CJI

Recalling a 2005 order on the issue, the Supreme Court said, “You must have gone through the order passed by this court in 2005 where this court has said Assam is facing the threat of external aggression… We would like to know what Government of India and Assam has done about it to meet this threat of external aggression.”

Saying that the court did not think that the problem was being tackled, the bench said, “Assam will have to inform the court about the number of persons declared foreigners by the tribunals, number of persons detained at the detention centres and number of persons sent back to the country of origin. Assam also had to inform the number of foreign tribunals in the state are considered to be adequate and precise number of additional tribunals required immediately and near future.”

The Assam government informed the Supreme Court that more than 50,000 migrants had been declared as foreigners in the past 10 years.

The Assam government also informed the court that around 900 migrants who had been declared foreigners were being kept in six detention centres in the state.

The Assam government’s submission came on a January order by the court directing the central and Assam governments to provide it with details of the number of people who had been declared as foreigners in the north-eastern state in the last 10 years by the Foreigners Tribunal and the number deported.

The court had also asked the state to file an affidavit on the total number of detention centres in the state and how many inmates they had.

Air India, Arm Lessens Gap With Jet- Etihad

India witnessed 6.3 crore international travellers in 2018, which was 7.3% higher from 5.9 crore in 2017. Although Jet Airways remained the single largest airline for carrying people in and out of the country, its financial problems alongwith the dropping of partner Etihad saw the two airlines together account for 1-crore-six-lakh international travellers, down from 1.1 crore in 2017. 

In fact, the Air India and AI Express together flew almost as many people in and out of India last year as the Jet-Etihad combine, with the latter ahead by just 18,892 passengers! Incidentally, the AI-AI Express carried more than 1 crore international passengers for the first time last year. 

Last year saw some significant shakeups in the top 10 list of standalone airlines for international travel. While Jet, AI and Emirates retained the top three positions in 2018 like 2017, IndiGo pipped AI Express to become the fourth largest international player in India last year. Thanks to adding a-plane-a-week in 2018 and deploying additional capacity on international routes, IndiGo saw its overseas passengers number swell 48% to 41.8 lakh from 28.3 lakh in 2017. AI Express swapped places with IndiGo and became the fifth biggest player.

SpiceJet moved two places up from number 9 in 2017 to seventh spot in 2018 by overtaking Qatar Airways and Oman Air for international travel to and from India last year. The silent rise of Sri Lankan, which is successfully replicating Gulf airlines’ model of flying people between India and rest of the world through their hubs, appeared in the top 10 list by occupying the number 9 slot. Qatar Airways, which was the seventh largest international airline in terms of flying passengers to and from India in 2017, is now at number 10. 

GoAir became the sixth Indian carrier to start flying abroad (after AI, AI Express, Jet, IndiGo and SpiceJet) last October. It saw 42,478 international flyers last year. The request of Tata Group JV airlines, Vistara and AirAsia India, to start flights abroad is being reviewed by the government.

The massive rise of IndiGo’s overseas passengers with all other Indian Airlines (except Jet) seeing their share of growth — along with India not hiking the bilateral or flying rights of any other country except Saudi Arabia’s very recently — has pushed up the share of desi airlines in international traffic to and from the country. In 2018, Indian carriers accounted for 40% of the international passengers to and from India, up from 38.6% in 2017. 

“The 7.2% growth of international travel could have been much more buts constrained by two factors. One was India not hiking flying rights of major airlines like Emirates, Qatar Airways, Singapore Airlines and Turkish. And second was the slot constraints at Indian airports, especially three metros — Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore — which makes it very difficult to add flights there. As a result, we have seen a rather subdued growth,” said a senior airline official.

Rupee Surges Higher Against Dollar

The rupee surged by 8 paise to 69.63 against the dollar in opening trade on Wednesday, taken forward by sustained foreign fund incomings and higher opening in domestic equity market.

The rupee opened at 69.71 at the forex market then gained further ground and touched 69.63, displaying gains of 8 paise over its last close. The rupee on Tuesday had strengthened by 18 paise to close at 69.71 against the dollar.

Forex dealers said, selling of the American currency by exporters and positive opening in domestic equities supported the rupee. Besides, fresh foreign fund inflows also aided the uptrend. However, rising crude prices restricted the upmove.

Meanwhile, foreign investors (FIIs) remained net buyers in the capital markets, putting in Rs 2,477 crore on a net basis Tuesday, as per provisional data.

Brent crude futures, the global oil benchmark, gained 0.27 per cent to USD 66.85 per barrel.

Meanwhile, the benchmark BSE Sensex was trading higher by 78.22 points, or 0.21 per cent to quote at 37,613.88 while the NSE Nifty was trading at 11,319.70, up by 18.50 points, or 0.16 per cent.