India, Bangladesh ink 3 pacts on nuclear energy
India signed three pacts with Bangladesh in the field of nuclear energy, second such deal with a South Asian neighbour.
The pact entails knowledge sharing and training of Bangladeshi personnel in the area. The first agreement is the general cooperation pact for peaceful uses of nuclear energy. The second one was signed between the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) of India and its Bangladeshi equal Bangladesh Atomic Energy Regulatory Authority (BAERA), which calls for exchange of technical cooperation and sharing of information in the field of nuclear safety and radiation protection.
The third agreement focuses on Indo-Bangla collaboration regarding nuclear power plants in Bangladesh.
Source: PTI, April 8, 2017
Increase Palk Bay patrol, Colombo tells New Delhi
Sri Lanka on Friday asked India to increase the patrol of the Palk Bay to prevent Tamil Nadu fishermen from trespassing into Sri Lankan waters, even as it expressed positive signs on the likely release of detained Indian trawlers.
“We are happy that India is really committed to its assurance of phasing out bottom trawlers and has taken constructive steps. We are very hopeful of finding a permanent solution together,” a senior officer from the Sri Lankan delegation told after official teams met as part of an initiative to jointly address the Palk Bay fisheries conflict, involving fishermen of Tamil Nadu and northern Sri Lanka.
After the island’s civil war ended in May 2009, fisher folk living in the Tamil majority Northern Province have been expressing serious concern over the loss of livelihoods due to relentless bottom trawling — a destructive fishing method — practiced by Indian fishermen, reportedly, in the Sri Lankan waters.
The long-running conflict has resulted in the arrest of several hundred Indian fishermen since 2009, and at times, sparked violence at sea. The Sri Lankan Navy has also confiscated trawlers used by the fishermen.
Officials from New Delhi and Tamil Nadu also updated the Sri Lankan side on the initiatives taken, including the construction of two fishing harbours in Mookaiyur and Poompuhar in Tamil Nadu at a cost of over Rs.250 crore, to phase out bottom trawling and encourage fishermen to consider alternative methods.
To the Indian side’s request for the release of the seized trawlers, numbering nearly 150, the Sri Lankan officials expressed the willingness to consider it soon. Owners of the vessels, based in Tamil Nadu, have been demanding that the Sri Lankan authorities release them. However over the last few years, Sri Lanka has followed a policy of retaining seized Indian trawlers, while releasing arrested Indian fishermen swiftly. It appears that Colombo may release at least some of the trawlers, especially those seized in 2015, in the near future.
Source: The Hindu, April 08, 2017
US, Afghan Forces Promise to Finish IS and Contain Taliban in 2017
The United States military, in partnership with Afghan forces, has promised to eliminate Islamic State terrorists in Afghanistan this year and contain a resurgent Taliban, citing recent battlefield successes against the two groups.
U.S. counter-terrorism airstrikes in support of Afghan operations against IS strongholds in the eastern border provinces of Nangarhar and Kunar have killed more than 200 IS militants in March alone, Navy Captain Bill Salvin told a joint news conference Thursday in Kabul.
Salvin, however, said that counter-terrorism operations, with Afghan forces in the lead, have since reduced IS-controlled territory by “two-thirds” and the number of its fighters by “more than 50 percent.”
He estimated that currently there are fewer than 800 IS loyalists in Afghanistan and they remain under military pressure.
The U.S. military estimates that the Afghan government is in control of less than 60 percent of its territory, while the Taliban control 10 percent and the rest is contested. Most of the poppy-growing Afghan province of Helmand is controlled by insurgents. Helmand is among several provinces bordering Pakistan.
Source: Voice of America, April 06, 2017
Russians Visited ‘Taliban Training Centers’ In Waziristan
Following reports of a Russian delegation’s visit to northern Waziristan in Pakistan, a senior Afghan police commander claimed the Russian delegation along with Pakistani military had visited a number of ‘Taliban training centers’ in the remote region across the Durand Line.
“They have been seen at Taliban training centers along with the Pakistani military,” said General Assadullah Sherzad, commander of 303 Police Zone, overseeing the entire police force in eastern Afghan provinces.
“People who have come from there (other side of the Durand Line) have said they have seen the delegation with the Taliban. But there is no information on whether the delegation promised help the Taliban or give them weapons,” said Nadir Khan Katawazi, an MP from Paktika.
The Russian embassy in Kabul and Pakistani government have not reacted to the claims. Moscow has previously confirmed that they are in ‘contact’ with the Taliban.
Meanwhile, Nahid Farid, an MP said on Wednesday the recent activities of Russia in Afghanistan could threaten Afghanistan’s security in the future if not managed properly.
She said Russia is on the verge of entering a proxy war in Afghanistan.
“Russia unfortunately enters into a proxy war in Afghanistan – a proxy war which Afghanistan has been a victim of for many years. We have been victims of a proxy war for four decades and this war is among regional intelligence agencies. This is a conspiracy which now Pakistan is trying to bring Russia into,” she added.
Source: Tolo News Afghanistan, April 5, 2017
Ten Years From Now, China Will Still Own Sri Lanka’s Hambantota Port
The Chinese firm that owns the port agreed to divest a maximum of 20 percent from its initial shareholding of 80 percent to a Sri Lankan party within a decade from the date of effectivity. This deal leaves Beijing with a 60 percent stake, and therefore, full control the Hambantota port, and a naval outpost in the Indian Ocean.
Source: Forbes April 5, 2017
Trade Union activists in Sri Lanka protest life term to Maruti Suzuki workers in Manesar
Trade union activists in Sri Lanka has held a protest outside Indian High Commission here against life imprisonment to 13 former employees of Maruti-Suzuki India in a case of violence and rioting at the company’s Manesar plant, in which a senior officer was burnt alive.
The trade union activists claimed that the life sentence awarded to 13 workers by a court in Haryana is “unjustified”. “Their imprisonment was due to a planned action by the management,” union activist Duminda Nagamuva claimed.
During the protest, the Sri Lankan activists also accused the government of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe of curbing workers rights in Sri Lanka.
On March 18, a Gurgaon court awarded life sentence to 13 former employees of Maruti-Suzuki India, who were found guilty of murder. Violence had erupted at Maruti Suzuki India’s Manesar plant in August 2012 over disciplinary action against an employee during which agitated workers had gone on the rampage, torching a part of the factory, setting senior human resource manager Awanish Kumar Dev on fire, and beating up and bludgeoning with rods 100 others.
Source: The Economic Times, April 04, 2017
Balochistan: Six Baloch youth abducted from Pasni
Pakistan forces have abducted at least six Baloch youth from Pasni region of district Gwadar Balochistan on Sunday. Pakistan officials and news sources confirmed the arrest of eight men and alleged that they had links with banned outfits.
However, Baloch activists and local sources reported that Pakistan forces attacked Ward #6 of Pasni and abducted at least 7 Baloch youth.
The abducted men have been named as Asif son of Khalid, Arif son of Khalid, Faisal son of Sawali, Ahmad son of Sawali, Majid son of Fakir, Saleem, and of the abducted men could not be immediately identified.
Source: Balochwarna News, April 4, 2017
Trump tells Sisi ‘US, Egypt will fight Islamist militants together’
“I just want to let everybody know in case there was any doubt that we are very much behind President Sisi. He’s done a fantastic job in a very difficult situation. We are very much behind Egypt and the people of Egypt,” Trump said in an Oval Office meeting with the Egyptian President.
The trip was Sisi’s first official U.S. visit since being elected president in 2014. Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, never extended an invitation.
Obama froze aid to Egypt for two years after Sisi, then a general, overthrew President Mohamed Mursi in mid-2013 after mass protests against Mursi’s rule.
The one-on-one meeting between Trump and Sisi, followed by a separate gathering with top aides, showed how intent the new U.S. president is on rebooting the bilateral relationship and building on the strong connection the two presidents established when they first met in New York last September.
“I just want to say to you, Mr President, that you have a great friend and ally in the United States, and in me,” Trump said. Sisi said he appreciated that Trump has been “standing very strong to counter this evil ideology.”
The joint statement said Trump and Sisi agreed that Islamist militants could not be defeated solely by military force. It said the leaders “agreed on the necessity of recognizing the peaceful nature of Islam and Muslims around the world.”
Source: Reuters, Apr 4, 2017
Subway Bombing in St. Petersburg Kills 11 During Putin Visit
A subway bombing in St. Petersburg killed 11 people and injured dozens more during a hometown visit by President Vladimir Putin, officials said, renewing fears of terrorism in Russia’s biggest cities less than a year before presidential elections.
A homemade device filled with shrapnel detonated inside a train between two central hubs, the National Anti-Terror Committee said. Footage from the Sennaya Ploshchad station about a mile from the Hermitage Museum showed carriage doors blown open, with bloodied and dazed passengers lying on the underground platform.
Source: Bloomberg, April 3, 2017
Former ‘Salwa Judum’ member killed by Naxals
Modiam Somlu (50), an ex-member of the erstwhile anti-Naxalite movement Salwa Judum, was fatally attacked by the Maoists at Loharpara village in Bijapur early this morning, a district police official told PTI. Somlu, a native of Pundri village, had gone to Loharpara, located around 400 km from Raipur when a group of armed rebels stormed there. The Naxals pumped bullets into him and also stabbed him with sharp-edged weapons, he said. Somlu had earlier served as sarpanch of Pundri.
Salwa Judum, an anti-Maoist civil militia, was disbanded in 2011 in Chhattisgarh following a Supreme Court order declaring as illegal and unconstitutional the deployment of tribal youth as special police officers in the fight against Maoist insurgency.
Source: The Hindu, April 3, 2017
Sri Lanka, India to develop Trincomalee oil tank farm
Sri Lanka and India have, in principle, agreed to jointly operate the World War-era oil storage facility in Trincomalee, the strategically advantaged port town located on the islands east coast.
“We are currently negotiating the specifics of the joint venture,” said Sri Lanka’s Petroleum Minister Chandima Weerakkody. Both the nations are hoping to firm up the deal before Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s scheduled second official visit to the island in early May.
The tank farm in 850 acres of land has 99 tanks each with the capacity to hold 12,100 metric tons of oil. Indian Oil Corporation subsidiary Lanka IOC, engaged in bunkering operations, runs 15 out of the 99 storage tanks in the lower oil tank farm in Trincomalee.
The proposed joint venture pertains to the remaining 84 tanks in the upper farm, but Sri Lanka would retain 10 of those for use by the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation and most of the tanks – built by the British during the World War years – are in good condition, he added.
Source: Colombo Page, April 9, 2017
India sends water, rice as Sri Lanka faces severe drought
With Sri Lanka staring at one of the worst droughts in the last four decades, India has provided an emergency assistance of water and rice to the Island country. The government has already handed over eight water bowsers to the Sri Lankan authorities and the consignment of rice would be delivered soon.
“In response to a request from the Government of Sri Lanka for drought relief assistance, Government of India has announced the decision to provide 8 water bowsers and 100 metric tonnes of rice to Sri Lanka. The supply of these items is in the nature of emergency assistance to augment relief measures undertaken in the wake of severe drought faced by Sri Lanka,” External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj told Parliament in a written reply.
The lorry-mounted water bowsers were given to the Government of Sri Lanka on March 21. “India has always been among the first to respond to requests from the neighbouring countries in times of crisis. The current gifting of the water bowsers and rice is part of that policy,” Swaraj added.
Sri Lanka is suffering from the worst drought in 40 years with over a million people facing acute water shortages. The Island country has experienced prolonged dry season with some districts having 60-70 percent less rainfall. The local wells and reservoirs are running dry.
The harvest of rice is going to be hit due to water shortage and the prospect of rice shortage later this year is looming large. The Sri Lankan government has also taken slew of measures to contain the fallout of the rice shortage. It has already waived off taxes on rice imports and is expected to increase rice imports to meet the demand at home.
Water shortage has also compounded problems for the energy sector of the country that depends on hydro-power.
Source: New Indian Express, April 9, 2017
Trafficking on Indo-Nepal border on rise
A steady increase in cases of human trafficking from across the Nepal border and Indian towns in the vicinity has prompted security agencies to undertake new measures to effectively check the menace.
Official data by SSB stated that while a total of 33 victims, both Indian and Nepalese, were apprehended by the Indo-Nepal border guarding force SSB from these areas in 2014, the figures went up to 336 in 2015, 501 in 2016 and till March this year, 180 boys and girls have been rescued by it.
Similarly, the number of traffickers apprehended from along the 1,751-km-long open and porous border on the country’s eastern flank have risen from 8 in 2014 to 102 in 2015, 148 nabbed last year and 51 traffickers caught till March this year.
Prompted by the spurt and steady increase in these numbers, the Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) has called for a day-long workshop between multiple stakeholders mandated to curb this crime which includes state police forces of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and others, railway police, NGOs and top police officials of cities like Mumbai, Bengaluru and from Punjab which are the destinations for these trafficked children.
“We want to involve each and every stakeholder who is instrumental in curbing the menace of human trafficking. It is not enough to just intercept such instances and let the police be handed over the investigation. It is essential to find out the source and supply destination of trafficking and hit at the illegal act in a comprehensive manner,” said SSB Director General Archana Ramasundaram.
Source: PTI, April 8, 2017