Indo-Pak Stalemate: Testy Ties

Above: Sikh pilgrims at the Maharaja Ranjit Singh mausoleum in Lahore/Photo: UNI India and Pakistan continue to have frosty relations as visiting Sikh pilgrims in Pakistan are denied access to the high commissioner ~By Seema Guha Despite efforts last year to bring about warmth in Indo-Pak ties, the narrative remains unchanged. And it will continue to be so unless each country has stakes in the other. With no business or direct trade ties at present, there can be little hope of any breakthrough, more so because the peace constituency in both countries has considerably shrunk in the last year or more. The volley of accusations and countercharges by politicians and foreign officers of both countries continues. All this despite secret meetings between India’s National Security Adviser, Ajit Doval, and his Pakistani counterpart, General (Retd) Nasser Khan Janjua, in Thailand last year and their frequent telephonic conversations. One wonders what they talk about when nothing changes on the ground. Hopes raised after the two sides agreed to follow the Geneva Protocol guidelines for diplomats in letter and spirit were soon belied with the latest round of intimidation of Sikh pilgrims visiting Pakistan. It is difficult to comprehend who is right and who is wrong with the nationalist press on both sides taking the cue from their respective foreign offices.…
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India’s Tripping Point

Above: Indian Army jawans taking position near the site of a gunbattle with militants in Jammu and Kashmir The annual budgets for the armed forces have shown declining outlays for modernisation, thus affecting new projects. It is more to do with the government’s mindset   ~By Col R Hariharan Prime Minister Narendra Modi is probably happy to see leaders of foreign governments, one after the other, making a beeline to New Delhi because it indicates increasing recognition of India as an important global player. Modi has partly succeeded in preventing India’s strategic influence from being overwhelmed by China’s increasing power play in South Asia and the Indian Ocean Region. The Maldives slipping into China’s fold, disregarding India’s objections, has shown that India fulfilling its strategic dream is still in the making. The Chinese dragon will continue to roll on because President Xi Jinping is trying to live the China dream. His strong global pitch is not only backed by deep pockets but also the People’s Liberation Army’s military muscle to defend China’s increasing global assets. Though India has overtaken China in its GDP rate of growth, surprisingly its armed forces are still to make up their decades of deficiencies even in meeting the essential needs to defend the country, let alone safeguard the country’s increasing global assets.…
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Cabinet approves Agreement for Avoidance of Double Taxation and Prevention of Fiscal Evasion between India and Iran

The Union Cabinet has approved an Agreement for the Avoidance of Double Taxation and the Prevention of Fiscal Evasion with respect to taxes on income between India and Iran. The Agreement will stimulate flow of investment, technology and personnel from India to Iran & vice versa, and will prevent double taxation. The Agreement will provide for exchange of information between the two Contracting Parties as per latest international standards. It will thus improve transparency in tax matters and will help curb tax evasion and tax avoidance. The Agreement is on similar lines as entered into by India with other countries.  The proposed Agreement also meets treaty related minimum standards under G-20 OECD Base Erosion & Profit Shifting (BEPS) Project, in which India participated on an equal footing. Insofar as India is concerned, the Central Government is authorized under Section 90 of the Income Tax Act, 1961 to enter into an Agreement with a foreign country or specified territory for avoidance of double taxation of income for exchange  of information  for the  prevention  of evasion  or avoidance of income-tax chargeable under the Income Tax Act, 1961. Cabinet Tweet The post Cabinet approves Agreement for Avoidance of Double Taxation and Prevention of Fiscal Evasion between India and Iran appeared first on SCC Blog.…
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A Question of Trust

Above: Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale with Chinese minister Wang Yi/Photo Courtesy: Twitter Though the foreign secretary’s visit to Beijing was meant to get ties back on the rails, Doklam-type incidents are likely to take place again as China pursues territorial claims  ~By Seema Guha India’s new foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale’s weekend visit to China recently is an obvious attempt by Delhi and Beijing to get relations back on track after last year’s Doklam stand-off. Though the two sides reached an agreement then, relations remained testy. Prime Minister Narendra Modi travelled to China for a multilateral meet afterwards. Now both the Asian giants are actually hoping to repair the damage and get bilateral ties moving again. Modi is scheduled to be in China in June for the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit. Now is as good a time as any to start work on getting the optics right for future high-level visits. ASIAN RIVALRY India and China share a complex relationship and are natural rivals in Asia. Though China is far ahead in both economic and military might, and is angling to take on the US, it will first have to stamp its dominance in Asia. India, an equally large and populous nation, is an obvious challenger, though it is neither as rich or as powerful as China at the moment.…
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THE ACHHE DIN OF BILL & MELINDA

~By Inderjit Badhwar Bill and Melinda Gates, the known universe’s richest power couple—until they recently surrendered that position by a hair’s breadth to Amazon Czar and Czarina Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos—don’t seem to share the prevailing pessimism about where our world is headed. Given the daily overdose of news about climate change, increasing violence, war and pestilence, the rapid destruction of the rule of law under authoritarian jackboots, resurgent racism, terror…most of us seem to take for granted that we are on a one-way ticket to hell. But, surprise, surprise…the Microsoft wunderkinds Melinda and Bill don’t seem to think so. In fact, they put their money where their mouth is by investing more and more of their wealth into charity, in particular the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation which has a large presence in India, a country of which Gates is a personal fan and unabashed admirer because of its ingenuity, scientific temper and the high-tech orientation of its younger generation. A hallmark of India is its investment in the thoughtful application of scientific and technological advances to meet the needs of the poorest populations, Gates believes. On a recent visit to India, Bill Gates explained why he is “an optimist about India”.…
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Crossing the Line

Above: Union Minister for Defence Nirmala Sitharaman laying a wreath on the mortal remains of Captain Kapil Kundu killed on February 4, 2018 along LoC, in New Delhi. Chief of Army Staff General Bipin Rawat is also seen/Photo: PIB The death of an army captain and three soldiers last week was another grim reminder of the human cost of the near-constant cross-border firing by Pakistani and Indian forces ~By Praful Bakshi The constant conflict of attrition on the Jammu and Kashmir border with Pakistan along the Line of Control (LoC) and International Border (IB) is not a recent phenomenon as many of us may believe. The seeds of this crisis were sown in 1947-48, when the Razakkars/ Kabaylis raided Kashmir under the pol-itical orders of the newly formed government under Mohammed Ali Jinnah. Since then, Pakistan’s aim to bleed India with a thousand cuts has led to the present situation. Today, there is a conflict in the form of constant firing along the 780 km of the LoC and 180 km of IB. The ceasefire violations in 2017 alone have been 860 and 180, respectively. The intensity of the cross border violations is so much that in the last five weeks, there have been 241 ceasefire violations and nine armed forces personnel have been martyred, including an Air Force commando.…
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Cooking up a Storm

~By Dilip Bobb In kitchens all across India, there is a bubbling and stewing and the shrill whistling of pressure cookers as a storm is stirred up over the alleged proposal to make khichdi the national dish. Other contenders have been in a stew and sparks are flying. Here’s how the culinary clash unfolds. Pav Bhaji: There has not been a bigger crisis since British restaurants started ad-ding ketchup to curry. This is an anti-national act. Khichdi was invented for Englishmen with weak stomachs and for patients recovering from major surgery. How can it qualify for the title of national dish? This is a cooked up story. Aloo Paratha: It is indeed a hot potato. It is an attempt to rewrite history. First, the politicians make a khichdi of everything they touch and now they are trying to turn the tables and force this hospital food down our throats. I have a long and distinguished culinary history, and I will not stand up and salute something as bland and tasteless as a mixture of rice and dal. Sambar Vada: What is there to say, Sirji? Khichdi is comfort food for comfortable people. Not like us in south India. Vada sambar is a contrast of taste and flavours.…
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Osama and his ‘Indian’ Connection

Above: Osama bin Laden Osama bin Laden closely followed developments in Kashmir and the trial of Pakistani-American terrorist David Coleman Headley in the 26/11 Mumbai attacks case, indicated the documents seized during the 2011 US raid on a Pakistani compound that killed the Al-Qaeda founder. The Central Intelligence Agency on Thursday (November 2) released 4,70,000 additional files seized in May 2011 when US Navy SEALs burst into the Abbottabad compound and shot dead Laden. An Indian Express article titled ‘Omar Sheikh’s Pak handler Ilyas Kashmiri also handled Headley’ was found from the computer of Laden in Abbottabad. The article was dated November 16, 2009. An article ‘Fears of air-borne terrorists strikes in India, UK’ published in Sri Lanka Guardian was also found in a separate file on Laden’s computer. A PTI story, Al-Qaeda helping Taliban to destabilise Pak Government: Gates, dated February 9, 2010, was also found on Laden’s computer. Another article found on Laden’s computer was about the coded communications between Headley and his Harkat-ul-Jihad-al Islami (HuJI) links. The news article was published by The Times of India on November 15, 2009. Laden also saved on his computer another PTI article, titled ‘India to send magistrate to US to record Headley’s statement’.…
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Offshore Deposits: The Flight from Swiss Banks

With the Automatic Exchange of Common Information kicking in from 2018, unaccounted wealth in banks in Switzerland is being withdrawn and parked in the US, Dubai and Singapore  ~By Rashme Sehgal in Geneva There has been a large flight of capital from Swiss banks even before the introduction of the Automatic Exchange of Common Information (AECI), which will kick in from 2018. It has been signed by over 50 countries who are members of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Developments (OECD). The Swiss banking system has paid a heavy price for handling these unaccounted-for offshore deposits, especially as several of the smaller banks in the country had specialised in handling them. The blanket of secrecy surrounding Swiss banking transactions had ensured that they look after deposits of largely unaccounted wealth from well-heeled clients across the globe, including India. But this is not going to be the case any longer. SHUT SHOP Pressure on the Swiss government to provide details of all account holdees has resulted in the outflow of millions of dollars of deposits from these banks, thereby causing many of the smaller Swiss banks to shut shop. One such high-profile Swiss bank that was forced to file for bankruptcy was Hottinger and Cie which was founded in 1786.…
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Independence Day Memories

~By Dilip Bobb   Each year, on August 15, we turn to the Red Fort to hear what our leader of the day has to say about freedom and our future. The speeches are usually, as Donald Trump would say, full of “fire and fury’’. Since the original Independence Day, we have heard 13 prime ministers give us their idea of India with varying degrees of oratorical impact. Some were deserving of high office, others imposed by circumstance and political expediency, but all made immortal at the ramparts of Red Fort. Seventy years down the line, here’s what we remember from our leaders. Jawaharlal Nehru: Many years ago, we made a tryst with destiny. At the midnight hour, India awakes to a new dawn and new friendships. Hindi-Chini bhai-bhai. Nehru-Edwina bhai-behan. India clings to me, as does my daughter, but history beckons us. History is always written by the victors or rewritten, even erased. Beware of strong leaders, of Caesars, they must be checked. Be alert. Aaram haram hai! Lal Bahadur Shastri:  There comes a time in the life of every nation when it stands at the cross-roads of history and must choose which way to go. But for us there need be no difficulty or hesitation, no looking to right or left.…
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Ram Nath Kovind becomes 14th President of India

Above: Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulating Ram Nath Kovind after his election as the next president of India. Photo: PIB Former Bihar Governor Ram Nath Kovind, a BJP candidate of the NDA and a virtual unknown a few days back, will be the 14th President of the Republic of India. Kovind scored a huge victory over UPA’s nominee, former Lok Sabha speaker Meira Kumar, getting over 65 percent of the Electoral College votes on Thursday (July 20). LJP supporters celebrating the election of Ram Nath Kovind as the 14th President of India in Patna on Thursday. Photo: UNI The returning officer said that Kovind (71) received 2,930 votes with a value of 7,02,044, making him the second Dalit to hold the top constitutional post of the country. Meira Kumar got 1,844 votes with a value of 3,67,314. Incidentally, she is also a Dalit. Kovind will be sworn in on July 25. After his victory his reaction was: “I realise it is a great responsibility.” —India Legal Bureau var VUUKLE_EMOTE_SIZE = "90px"; VUUKLE_EMOTE_IFRAME = "180px" var EMOTE_TEXT = ["HAPPY","INDIFFERENT","AMUSED","EXCITED","ANGRY","SAD"] The post Ram Nath Kovind becomes 14th President of India appeared first on India Legal.…
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THE POWER OF BEING SOFT

~By Inderjit Badhwar India has always been a powerful soft power. This attribute is a muscle the nation has used effectively in dealing with the world to make it more accommodating to its permanent geopolitical interests. But we are coming perilously close to losing this hitherto effective weapon of winning friends and influencing people. As against “hard power”, which is brute military strength and capability of the type America, China, Russia and NATO possess, “soft power” is the ability to get our way through appeal, acceptance and desirability rather than jingoism and military coercion. Nobody realises this better, perhaps, than Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and yet he appears not to notice when people who profess to be his most ardent followers commit acts which undercut this strength. Actually, in today’s world, soft power is an essential corollary of hard power. Take the example of America: Its absolute might is unquestioned. Its troops are stationed in some 130 countries around the globe, and no opposing army would dare to challenge it on a level playing field, observes Joseph Nye Jr, former Dean of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. But the central paradox of American power is that even as its military superiority has increased, “its ability to persuade is at low ebb in many parts of the world, even among its oldest allies”.…
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