Modi Calls For Calm As 20 Killed In Delhi Riots

Congress Party workers shout slogans against Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a protest in Amritsar on February 26, 2020. NARINDER NANU / AFP.

 

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for calm Wednesday after Delhi’s worst sectarian violence in decades left at least 20 people dead and calls for a military curfew.

This week’s battles between Hindus and Muslims have seen mobs armed with swords, guns and acid raze a northeastern district of the Indian capital.

The clashes, which also left almost 200 injured, were triggered by protests against a citizenship law seen by many critics as anti-Muslim and part of Modi’s Hindu nationalist agenda.

They exploded into brutal violence on Monday and Tuesday, with residents forced to flee their homes after seeing their homes destroyed and a mosque attacked.

“I appeal to my sisters and brothers of Delhi to maintain peace and brotherhood at all times. It is important… calm and normalcy is restored at the earliest,” Modi tweeted on Wednesday.

Delhi’s chief minister, Arvind Kejriwal, a political opponent, called for the army to be deployed and for a curfew to be imposed over the flashpoint areas.

“Police, despite all its efforts, (are) unable to control situation and instil confidence,” Kejriwal tweeted.

– Fear, anger –

Sunil Kumar, the director of the hospital where many of the wounded were taken, told AFP on Wednesday that almost 60 had gunshot injuries.

On Wednesday morning residents cleaned out the blackened interior of a trashed mosque, including a charred Koran, burned out during the violence in the Ashok Nagar area.

A video circulated on social media and verified by AFP showed men ripping off the muezzin’s loudspeaker on top of the mosque’s minaret and installing a Hindu religious flag.

Locals accused the police of doing nothing to help — or worse.

“We tried to make many calls to the police… that people are entering our neighbourhoods chanting ‘Jai Shree Ram’,” said Naeem Malik, referring to a popular Hindu chant.

“But police did not help us at all. We tried to save the women at the protest site but instead policemen started beating us up,” Malik said, showing wounds on his leg and hands.

Elsewhere a fire engine tried to put out blazes from the previous night, the air thick with smoke from still-smouldering cars, motorbikes, shops and homes.

“They say we are not Indians but we are Indians by blood,” Farhat, 22, a student in Islamic studies, said in her father’s shop as police looked on.

“We are afraid, we left our homes. There is no police in the streets at night, just during the day.”

The area is home to mostly poorer economic migrants living in many shanty neighbourhoods, and some fled on Wednesday ahead of more expected clashes.

“It is better to leave than to stick around here. Why would we want to die here?,” a tailor told AFP, adding that he was returning home to his village in northern India.

– ‘Politics of hate’ –

The unrest comes amid growing concerns at home and abroad about the direction of India and the future of its 200 million Muslims since Modi’s Hindu nationalist BJP swept to a second term last year.

Sonia Gandhi, president of the opposition Congress party, on Wednesday accused BJP figures of giving “inflammatory speeches spreading an atmosphere of hatred and fear”, including in Delhi city elections this month.

Congress “appeals to the people to reject the politics of hate,” Gandhi said, calling Home Minister Amit Shah, Modi’s close ally, “responsible” for the riots.

Since winning a second term, Modi’s government has revoked the partial autonomy of Kashmir, India’s only Muslim-majority state, and said it wants to conduct a nationwide citizens’ register to weed out “infiltrators”.

Together with the citizenship law, which fast-tracks claims for persecuted non-Muslim religious immigrants, this has stoked fears that Modi’s master plan is to remould India as a Hindu nation, something he denies.

The citizenship law has sparked months of nationwide protests as well as clashes that killed more than 25 people in December.

In recent weeks sit-ins, mostly by women, have sprung up.

The flare-up in violence occurred as US President Donald Trump visited India and held talks with Modi in Delhi on Tuesday. But Trump left as scheduled on Tuesday and his visit was not visibly interrupted by the violence.

AFP

America Will Always Be Faithful To The Indian People – Trump

US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump disembark from Air Force One at Palam Air Force Base in New Delhi on February 24, 2020. Prakash SINGH / AFP

 

US President Donald Trump got a rapturous and romantic welcome to India on Monday, addressing a huge rally and holding hands with his wife at the Taj Mahal, in a maiden official visit big on photo opportunities but short on concrete results.

Casting a cloud over Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s welcome, however, a policeman and at least three civilians were killed in clashes in New Delhi over a contentious citizenship law hours before the US president was due in the Indian capital.

At the world’s biggest cricket stadium in Modi’s home state of Gujarat in western India, Trump heaped praise on the Indian right-winger as an “exceptional leader, a great champion of India”, before a crowd of around 100,000.

“America loves India. America respects India, and America will always be faithful and loyal friends to the Indian people,” Trump told the ecstatic crowd, many in Trump-emblazoned baseball caps.

Name-checking Bollywood films and Indian cricketers, Trump — with an eye on elections in November — paid tribute to the four-million-strong Indian-American diaspora as “truly special people”.

“President Trump’s visit opens a new chapter in our relationship — a chapter that will document the progress and prosperity of the people of America and India,” Modi said.

“The whole world knows what President Trump has done to fulfil the dreams of America.”

Excited spectators had queued from 4:00 am for the “Namaste Trump” rally, reciprocating a “Howdy Modi” event in Houston last year where Trump likened Modi to Elvis.

‘Tariff King’ 

Workers rushed to finish the stadium and erect a wall along the route that locals said was to hide a slum. Stray dogs, cows and monkeys were also kept away.

“Events like these will galvanise people to start to cooperate in new initiatives,” said Pramit Maakoday, an Indian-American in the stadium.

Before the speech, Trump and First Lady Melania visited independence hero Mahatma Gandhi’s ashram, where Modi gave him a “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” three wise monkeys statue.

Later Trump and Melania — in an off-white jumpsuit and sash alongside her husband in a buttercup-yellow tie — flew to the Taj Mahal for a pre-sunset tour.

Then they headed to Delhi ahead of the main talks on Tuesday.

Parts of the Taj Mahal, the marble monument to love that UNESCO calls a “jewel of Muslim art”, were given a mud-pack facial to remove stains, while efforts were made to lessen the stench of the adjacent river.

Behind the platitudes and blossoming bromance between the two leaders lies a fraught relationship as Trump’s “America First” drive collides with Modi’s “Make in India” mantra.

Trump has imposed tariffs on Indian steel and aluminium and suspended duty-free access for certain goods, prompting India to raise duties on the US to produce such as almonds.

The US leader has called India the “tariff king”, and said before his visit that Asia’s third-largest economy had been “hitting us very, very hard for many, many years”.

Rather than a wide-ranging trade deal, reports said Trump and Modi may instead sign smaller agreements covering products such as Harley-Davidson motorcycles and US dairy products.

“We are in the early stages of discussions for an incredible trade agreement,” Trump told the rally, calling Modi a “very tough negotiator”.

“I am in no rush,” he told reporters later.

US pressure 

With the US and India sharing concerns about China, the two men were expected to sign a number of defence deals during the visit and to discuss the supply of six nuclear reactors.

Russia, however, remains India’s biggest supplier in arms, with India having agreed to buy Moscow’s $5.4-billion S-400 missile defence system despite the threat of US sanctions.

The US has pressured India to stop buying Iranian oil, while US businesses have raised concerns over New Delhi’s plans to force foreign firms to store Indian consumers’ personal data inside the country.

India has bristled at Trump’s offer to mediate in the Kashmir dispute with Pakistan which a year ago again brought the two nuclear-armed neighbours close to war.

In Washington, India has faced criticism over its clampdown in restive Kashmir, and the recently passed citizenship law that has led to protests across the nation, including in New Delhi on Monday.

A senior US administration official told reporters Trump would raise concerns about religious freedom in the Hindu-majority nation during the trip, “which is extremely important to this administration”.

Trump ridiculed Modi last year for “constantly telling me he built a library in Afghanistan”.

“That’s like five hours of what we spend,” Trump said.

Modi Concedes Defeat In Key New Delhi Election

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks during a rally in New Delhi on December 22, 2019. 
Prakash SINGH / AFP

 

Followers of an upstart Indian political party danced in the streets Tuesday after inflicting a crushing defeat on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s right-wing party in a key election in the capital. 

The poll was the first electoral test for Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party after it passed a controversial nationality law which opponents say is anti-Muslim.

Aam Aadmi Party supporters cavorted to bhangra music and set off fireworks as the vote count showed they had crossed the 36 seats needed to secure a majority in the 70-seat regional assembly.

Hindu-nationalist Modi, whose party swept to power in national elections last year, congratulated AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal, the incumbent Delhi chief minister.

“Wishing them the very best in fulfilling the aspirations of the people of Delhi,” Modi tweeted.

The BJP had launched an aggressive campaign to win the city of nearly 20 million people from the AAP, using the election to rally support for the law easing citizenship rules for religious minorities from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan, but excluding Muslims.

At least 25 people have been killed in protests over the legislation so far.

But the AAP, which swept to power in 2015 after it was launched three years earlier by former tax officer Kejriwal, retained control in an impressive showing.

The defeat in Delhi is the latest in a string of setbacks for the BJP at regional elections over the past two years.

Kejriwal, 51, fought the election on local issues such as subsidised water and electricity, as well as the safety of women.

“This win has given birth to a new type of politics — the politics of work,” he told cheering supporters at party headquarters.

“This is the type of politics that will take the country forward in the 21st century.”

Yogendra Yadav, an academic who was a member of the AAP executive until 2015 and now has his own party, said the result was a clear rejection of Modi and his party’s angry campaign.

“The BJP indulged in one of the most vitriolic, communal hate-mongering campaigns as a desperate electoral gamble,” he told AFP.

“If this succeeded, it would have become a template for everyone else to follow.

Congress, led by the storied Gandhi-Nehru dynasty and the main opposition at the national level, was set to draw a blank in another low for a party that ruled Delhi for 15 years before AAP took over.

Final results from the Election Commission of India were not expected until late Tuesday.

AFP

India’s Modi Assures Muslims Over Citizenship Bill As Deadly Protests Swell

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks during a rally in New Delhi on December 22, 2019. Modi fired up delirous party supporters on December 22 as a wave of protests and clashes that has killed at least 25 put the Indian leader and his Hindu nationalist government under pressure like never before.
Prakash SINGH / AFP

 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi sought Sunday to reassure India’s Muslims as a wave of deadly protests against a new citizenship law put his Hindu nationalist government under pressure like never before.

At least 25 people have died in 10 days of demonstrations and violence after Modi’s government passed the law criticised as anti-Muslim. More protests took place Sunday.

Addressing party supporters in New Delhi — who cried “Modi! Modi!” at the mention of the law — the 69-year-old said Muslims “don’t need to worry at all” — provided they are genuine Indians.

READ ALSO: Thousands Of Protesters Storm Iraq’s Street As Deadline For New PM Looms

“Muslims who are sons of the soil and whose ancestors are the children of mother India need not to worry” about the law and his plans to carry out a national register of citizens, Modi told the crowd of thousands.

Accusing the main opposition Congress party of condoning the recent violence by not condemning it, Modi said opponents were “spreading rumours that all Muslims will be sent to detention camps.”

“There are no detention centres. All these stories about detention centres are lies, lies and lies,” he said.

Hindu Nation

The demonstrations have been largely peaceful but protesters have also hurled rocks and torched vehicles, while heavy-handed police tactics including the storming of a Delhi university a week ago have fuelled anger.

Tens of thousands of protests gathered late Saturday in the southern city of Hyderabad, while other protests were held elsewhere. Yet more took place or were scheduled on Sunday, including in Delhi and Kolkata.

The law gives religious minority members — Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Parsis, Christians and Buddhists — from three neighbouring Islamic countries an easier path to citizenship, but not if they are Muslim.

Islamic groups, the opposition, and others at home and abroad fear this forms part of Modi’s aim to marginalise India’s 200 million Muslims and remould the country as a Hindu nation, something he denies.

Authorities have imposed emergency laws, blocked internet access — a common tactic in India — and shut down shops in sensitive areas across the country in an attempt to contain the unrest.

More than 7,500 people have either been detained under emergency laws or arrested for rioting, according to state officials, with 5,000 in Uttar Pradesh state alone where 17 people have been killed.

Some 500 people have also been injured in Uttar Pradesh including 263 police, while two people were shot dead in the southern state of Karnataka and six died in Assam in the northeast last week.

In Assam, opponents of the legislation fear it will enable large numbers of Bengali-speaking immigrants, many of whom are Hindu, to settle there.

But elsewhere, opponents say the law has made religion a test for citizenship ahead of a nationwide register that Modi wants to carry out by 2024 to remove all “infiltrators”.

The US State Department this week urged New Delhi to “protect the rights of its religious minorities in keeping with India’s constitution and democratic values”.

Modi’s government, re-elected in May, has defended the law saying it is meant to help “persecuted” minorites from Muslim-majority Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan.

AFP

India Space Agency Loses Communication With Moon-Landing Craft

This screen grab taken from a live webcast by Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) on August 6, 2019 shows Vikram Lander before it is supposed to land on the Moon.  AFP

 

India’s space programme suffered a huge setback Saturday after losing contact with an unmanned spacecraft moments before it was due to make a historic soft landing on the Moon.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi sought to comfort glum scientists and a stunned nation from mission control in Bangalore, saying India was still “proud” and clasping the visibly emotional space agency head in a lengthy hug.

Blasting off in July, the emerging Asian giant had hoped to become just the fourth country after the United States, Russia and regional rival China to make a successful Moon landing, and the first on the lunar South Pole.

But in the early hours of Saturday local time, as Modi looked on and millions watched nationwide with bated breath, Vikram — named after the father of India’s space programme — went silent just 2.1 kilometres (1.3 miles) above the lunar surface.

“The Vikram lander descent was (going) as planned and normal performance was observed,” Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) chairman Kailasavadivoo Sivan said.

“Subsequently the communication from the lander to the ground station was lost,” he said after initial applause turned to bewilderment at the operations room. “The data is being analysed.”

The Chandrayaan-2 (“Moon Vehicle 2”) orbiter, which will circle and study the Moon remotely for a year, is however “healthy, intact, functioning normally and safely in the lunar orbit”, the ISRO said.

 Consoler-in-chief 

Freshly re-elected Modi had hoped to bask in the glory of a successful mission, but on Saturday he deftly turned consoler-in-chief in a speech at mission control broadcast live on television and to his 50 million Twitter followers.

“Sisters and brothers of India, resilience and tenacity are central to India’s ethos. In our glorious history of thousands of years, we have faced moments that may have slowed us, but they have never crushed our spirit,” he said.

“We have bounced back again,” he added. “When it comes to our space programme, the best is yet to come.”

Other Indians also took to Twitter to offer words of encouragement. “The important thing is we took off and had the Hope and Belief we can,” said Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan.

Indian media offered succour by quoting a NASA factsheet that said out of 109 lunar missions in the past six decades, 48 have failed.

Chandrayaan-2 took off on July 22 carrying an orbiter, lander and rover almost entirely designed and made in India — the mission cost a relatively modest $140 million — a week after an initial launch was halted just before blast-off.

ISRO had acknowledged before the soft landing that it was a complex manoeuvre, which Sivan called “15 minutes of terror”.

It was carrying rover Pragyan — “wisdom” in Sanskrit — which was due to emerge several hours after touchdown to scour the Moon’s surface, including for water.

According to Mathieu Weiss, a representative in India for France’s space agency CNES, this is vital to determining whether humans could spend extended periods on the Moon.

That would mean the Moon being used one day as a pitstop on the way to Mars — the next objective of governments and private spacefaring programmes such as Elon Musk’s Space X.

‘Space superpower’ 

In March Modi hailed India as a “space superpower” after it shot down a low-orbiting satellite, a move prompting criticism for the amount of “space junk” created.

Asia’s third-largest economy also hopes to tap into the commercial possibilities of space.

China in January became the first to land a rover on the far side of the Moon. In April, Israel’s attempt failed at the last minute when its craft apparently crashed onto the lunar surface.

India is also preparing Gaganyaan, its first manned space mission, and wants to land a probe on Mars. In 2014, it became only the fourth nation to put a satellite into orbit around the Red Planet.

AFP

Macron To Meet India PM Modi Over Kashmir

French President Emmanuel Macron/ AFP

 

French President Emmanuel Macron will discuss tensions in the divided region of Kashmir with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi when the two meet in Paris this week, a French official said on Tuesday.

The two leaders are set to sit down for a working dinner at the Chateau de Chantilly outside Paris on Thursday ahead of a G7 summit in France this weekend, to which Modi has been invited.

“Of course it (Kashmir) will be on the agenda,” the French diplomat said on condition of anonymity. “We have a strategic partnership with India, that means having confidence in each other. We are not going to be aggressive towards India, but we expect the Indian prime minister to explain how he sees things.”

On August 5, Modi’s Hindu nationalist government scrapped the autonomy of Indian-controlled Kashmir, a divided Muslim-majority region that has enjoyed special status in the Indian constitution since the country’s independence in 1947.

The move has enraged many Kashmiris and led to tensions with nuclear-armed neighbour Pakistan, which also claims the region.

India resents any outside interference in Kashmir and its Western allies have historically avoided taking public positions on the dispute, despite allegations of human rights abuses there.

The French diplomat recalled France’s position that Pakistan and India should resolve their differences between themselves and that both sides should avoid raising tensions.

Modi has been invited to this weekend’s Group of Seven meetings of major economic powers in Biarritz and is seen by France as a crucial ally in the fight against climate change.

Macron is hoping the newly re-elected Indian leader will announce new pledges to curb Indian carbon emissions and will also sign up to a coalition of countries to tackle pollution from so-called HFC gases used in refrigerators and air-conditioning.

AFP

Pompeo Hails Modi’s Re-Election As India PM

India To Send Manned Mission To Space By 2022 - Modi
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi/AFP

 

 

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo hailed on Wednesday Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “wonderful” re-election, vowing both sides will overcome a number of spats that have dogged relations under President Donald Trump.

“I am confident that we have the benefit of building on a strong foundation between two of the world’s great democracies. We saw this in the election, we saw this incredible democratic vigour lead to a wonderful outcome,” Pompeo said after meeting Modi in New Delhi.

READ ALSO: Two US Soldiers Killed In Afghanistan

As a democratic heavyweight in a region dominated by authoritarian China, India is a natural US bedfellow but Trump has irked New Delhi with measures aimed at reducing the trade imbalance under his “America First” mantra.

Washington, in turn, is unhappy at what it sees as India’s well-developed protectionism, often expressed through tariffs and red tape that makes life difficult for US firms competing in the huge market of more than a billion consumers.

With Trump calling India the “tariff king”, Washington has refused to exempt India from higher steel and aluminium tariffs and has ended India’s preferential trade status that allowed the Asian giant to send America $6 billion in goods duty-free every year.

India retaliated earlier this month with tariffs on 28 items imported from the US, including almonds, apples and walnuts — products close to the hearts of voters in Trump’s rural base.

 G20 groundwork 

But Pompeo — preparing the groundwork for talks between Modi and Trump at the G20 in Japan later this week, when the president’s myriad trade battles will loom large — suggested relations could be fixed.

“There are tariffs and counter-tariffs and we said we’re going to do our best to make sure that all the right people get in all the right places and work through these problems, so that we can get out of this and get on with the business of growing each of our two economies,” Pompeo told a news conference.

This was echoed by Indian Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar, who said he was “optimistic about where our economic relationship is going”.

But he appeared to stick to India’s guns that it intended to buy the S-400 missile defence system for $5.2 billion from Russia despite the threat of US sanctions slapped on countries buying Moscow-made military kit.

Russia has long been a major arms supplier to India, but New Delhi’s use of its hardware complicates US efforts to bolster regional security cooperation to counter China, as well as its push to pressure the Kremlin.

“I think Secretary Pompeo knows, and I have explained to him in some detail, we have many relationships with many countries… We will do what is in our national interest,” Jaishankar said.

He also said Pompeo was “receptive” to Indian worries that any US-Iran conflict might interrupt the flow of oil from the Middle East and endanger the large Indian diaspora there.

Pompeo “understands that this is today the world’s fifth-largest economy, which imports 85 per cent of its energy, a large part of it from the Gulf… He gets what our interests are,” Jaishankar said.

“We all know that we need to keep that waterway open,” Pompeo said, referring to the Strait of Hormuz.

“And we also know that Iran is the world’s largest state sponsor of terror. We know how Indian people have suffered from terror around the world.”

AFP

Modi Set For Landslide Victory In Indian Election

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (L) and president of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Amit Shah gesture as they celebrate the victory in India’s general elections, in New Delhi on May 23, 2019.  Money SHARMA / AFP

 

Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi vowed an “inclusive” future for all Indians on Thursday after a landslide election victory that crushed the Gandhi dynasty’s comeback hopes once again.

“Together we grow. Together we prosper. Together we will build a strong and inclusive India. India wins yet again!,” Modi tweeted as delirious supporters of his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) celebrated nationwide.

“The faith placed in our alliance is humbling and gives us the strength to work even harder to fulfil people’s aspirations,” he said before arriving at BJP headquarters flashing victory signs with both hands and being showered in petals.

READ ALSO: Trump Walks Out On Democrats As Impeachment Talk Heats Up

Although final results were yet to be published, a rolling vote count by the election commission showed the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) increased its majority with 302 out of 543 elected lower house seats.

The BJP’s main rivals Congress were on just 51 seats, with Rahul Gandhi — the great-grandson, grandson and son of three premiers — conceding defeat and congratulating Modi.

In an added personal humiliation Gandhi, 48, also admitted he had lost Amethi, a seat long held by his famous family, to a former television star running for the BJP.

The BJP’s headquarters in Delhi erupted in celebration with drummers, firecrackers, dancing and singing as hundreds of party faithful thronged the yard and nearby streets waiting for Modi.

“Modi will make India great again. Modi is the strongest prime minister India has ever had and will get. We need to support his policies to prosper,” said one supporter, Santosh Joshi.

At Congress headquarters, a handful of dejected supporters sat in groups under the shade of trees.

“We are sad but we will rise again. Modi won because of his lies and false promises. The country is in danger now,” Rajesh Tiwari, a Congress supporter, told AFP.

India’s main Sensex index breached the 40,000-point level for the first time as the count pointed to a Modi win, following strong gains since Monday.

 Fake news 

The vast size of India — stretching from the Himalayas to the tropics, taking in polluted megacities, deserts and jungles — made the world’s biggest election a marathon six-week endeavour.

The campaign, estimated to have cost more than $7 billion, was awash with insults — Modi was likened to Hitler and a “gutter insect” — as well as fake news in Facebook and WhatsApp’s biggest markets.

Gandhi tried several lines of attack against Modi, in particular over a French defence deal and high unemployment and saying Modi was dividing the officially secular country.

Lynchings of Muslims and low-caste Dalits for eating beef and slaughtering and trading in cattle have risen, with critics saying extremists have been emboldened by the BJP coming to power.

Several cities with names rooted in India’s Islamic Mughal past have been renamed, while some school textbooks have been changed to include references to Hindu right-wing ideology, culture and history.

The watchman 

But Modi, 68, managed to deftly turn the election into a referendum on his rule while depicting himself, often in the third person, as the only one able to defend India.

In this he was given a major boost when a suicide bombing, claimed by a Pakistan-based militant group, killed 40 Indian paratroopers in Indian-administered Kashmir on February 14.

Doubts abound about the efficacy of India’s subsequent air strikes on Pakistan, but the action enabled Modi to style himself the “chowkidar” (“watchman”).

“We have shown the world that India is a great country. We have shown Pakistan that they cannot mess with us,” said Vishal Sharma, a BJP supporter in Delhi.

“Congress sold the country for all these decades. Now is the time to rebuild the nation.”

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday congratulated Modi and said he looked forward to working for “peace, progress and prosperity in South Asia”.

His message came just hours after Pakistan’s military said it tested a surface-to-surface ballistic missile capable of carrying conventional and nuclear warheads — a day after an Indian missile test.

But while Pakistanis consider Modi a hardliner, analysts say his victory could improve relations between the arch foes.

“The expectation in Pakistan is that there will be an incremental improvement in Pakistan-India relations as Modi’s attitude would be more relaxed,” retired Pakistani general Talat Masood told AFP.

AFP

Nude Protest, Black Flags Greet India’s Modi In Assam

This handout photograph released by India’s Press Information Bureau (PIB) on February 9, 2019 shows Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurating development projects, in Agartala, Tripura.

 

A second day of protests on Saturday tainted Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to northeast India where proposals to change a nationality law have sparked outrage.

Protesters waved black flags and burned effigies of the Hindu nationalist prime minister while some students staged a nude protest outside the state government complex in the Assam capital of Guwahati.

Media reports said the nude protesters were detained while Assam student groups said police baton charged another group of activists.

Black flag protests — considered a strong insult — greeted Modi when he arrived in Guwahati on Friday night to start the tour of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Tripura as he prepares to call a national election.

READ ALSO: Court Jails Seven Jihadists Over 2015 Attacks On Tourists In Tunisia

His nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has faced a severe backlash in the region over a proposed change to a 1955 citizenship act which would give Indian nationality to Hindus and other minorities who have fled the neighbouring Muslim countries of Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

Assam, a state of 33 million, has been plagued by decades of tensions between local tribal and indigenous groups and settlers from outside, including many Muslims and Hindus from nearby Bangladesh.

Modi insisted that his government will ensure that the amended law does not harm Assam and neighbouring states, however.

Addressing one public rally, he said the bill, which still needs approval from India’s upper chamber, was a “national commitment” to the minorities.

“The passage of the bill will ensure that those people who… love India more than their lives will be accommodated in India. It is a responsibility of India to accept those people,” he said.

Modi said citizenship will only be granted after thorough checks on each applicant.

While groups in Assam want to block all outsiders, human rights activists have condemned the government law for not covering Muslims. They say it will be the first time religion has been a criterion for nationality in India, which is officially secular.

Last year the Assam government released the first draft of a state citizens’ register that rejected four million mainly Muslim residents who were unable to prove they were living in the state before 1971 when millions fled Bangladesh’s war of independence.

Modi said that his government was speeding up efforts to seal the India-Bangladesh border.

An election is expected to be called for April-May and the BJP’s hopes in the northeastern states have been badly damaged by the new law, analysts said.

AFP

India To Send Manned Mission To Space By 2022 – Modi

India To Send Manned Mission To Space By 2022 - Modi
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi gestures while delivering his speech as part of India’s 72nd Independence Day celebrations, which marks the 71st anniversary of the end of British colonial rule, at the Red Fort in New Delhi on August 15, 2018. AFP

 

India will send a manned mission into space by 2022, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced Wednesday in a speech to the nation.

“India will send into space — a man or a woman — by 2022, before that if possible,” Modi said in a marathon address at the Red Fort in New Delhi for the country’s Independence Day.

The astronaut would be “carrying the national flag,” Modi said.

The conservative prime minister said that India would be only the fourth country — after Russia, the United States and China — to launch its own manned space mission.

Stepping up its rivalry with China, India has invested heavily in its space programme in the past decade.

It is aiming to send an unmanned mission to the moon in January 2019, the Indian Space Research Organisation announced last week.

The Chandrayaan-2 orbiter will aim to put a craft with a rover onto the moon’s surface to collect data. Design changes to the craft forced the space body to push the launch back from this year.

Chandrayaan-1, launched in 2008, orbited the moon and sent a probe to the surface which made a controlled crash landing.

India also launched an orbiter to Mars in 2013 which is still operational and in 2017 launched a record 104 satellites in one blast-off.

AFP

US, China Ratify Paris Climate Agreement

Barack-Obama-Xi-JinpingThe United States and China have officially ratified the Paris agreement to curb climate-warming discharges.

The world’s two biggest economies confirmed this on Saturday, saying the ratification could help put the pact into force before the end of the year.

UN Secretary-General, Mr Ban Ki-moon, who is in China to witness the declaration, received the plan to join the agreement from American President, Mr Barack Obama and his Chinese counterpart, President Xi Jinping.

A senior adviser to President Obama, Brian Deese, observed that the joint announcement should push other countries to formally join the deal.

“The signal of the two large emitters taking this step together and taking it early, far earlier than people had anticipated a year ago, should give confidence to the global communities and to other countries that are working on their climate change plans, that they too can move quickly and will be part of a global effort,” Reuters quoted Deese as saying.

Obama’s aide hinted that the US President was expected to meet the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, on the sidelines of a Group of 20 nations meeting in Hangzhou, China, this weekend.

Gunmen Attack India Air Force Base

gunmenAt least four gunmen have been killed in an overnight attack on an Indian air force base.

Officials said that two soldiers at the Pathankot base were also killed in a gun battle lasting several hours.

Operations at the base continued with some reports saying gunmen were holed up in the base.

The incident came days after the Indian and Pakistani leaders, Narendra Modi and Nawaz Sharif met in Lahore to launch a surprise peace initiative.

The whole of India’s Punjab state has been placed on alert.

The base is on the main highway leading to Indian-administered Kashmir.

In August, seven people were killed in a similar attack when gunmen stormed a police station in nearby Gurdaspur district.

The three attackers in Gurdaspur were killed after a 12-hour standoff with police.

Pathankot air force base is about 430km (270 miles) north of the Indian capital, Delhi and is on the road linking Indian-administered Kashmir with the rest of the country.

Indian-administered Kashmir has seen a long-running insurgency against rule from Delhi, and Kashmir has been a flashpoint in relations between Pakistan and India for nearly 70 years since independence.