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Vijay Jolly Promotes India Across 13 Nations in 2017; Culminates with Successful Malaysia Tour

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, Dec 13: Senior BJP leader Vijay Jolly travelled 1,00,058 kilometers across 13 nations in year 2017 to promote and strengthen "India's Foreign and Economic Policy" with several heads of states. These visits were undertaken to Promote People to People Friendship.

The tour focused on highlighting some of the recent affective fiscal measures taken by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in combating black money thru demonetization in 2016. And also highlighted economic benefit to India's GDP post 2018 era due to the recently implemented Goods & Service Tax (GST). And firm commitment to weed out terrorism.

Jolly profusely praised BJP President Amit Shah for leading 100 million strong BJP workers political party in India and Sushma Swaraj as Best Foreign Minister of India in modern times.

Jolly met several heads of states and persons of eminence. Prominent among them were namely Nepal PM Pushpa Kamal 'Prachanda', National Security Advisor South Korea Chung Eui-yong, Cambodia Prime Minister Hun Sen, Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, Malaysia Prime Minister Dato' Sri Najib Abdul Razak and King of Bhutan Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck. Meetings were also held with Ministers, Parliamentarians, Mayors, Ambassadors, Counselors, Journalists, Women, Youth & Religious leaders besides Social media activists.

The countries visited were South Korea (twice), Turkmenistan, Nepal (twice), Thailand, Cambodia, Fiji, Great Britain, Netherlands, China, UAE & Malaysia.

Recently Jolly attended the UMNO General Assembly meeting of Malaysia ruling party.
Jolly presented BJP lotus saffron scarf to Malaysian Prime Minister Dato' Sri Najib Abdul Razak & UMNO Gen. Sec. Tengku Mansor. OFBJP Malaysia President and Secretary Pradeep Batra and Nabhesh Khanna also honored Jolly at Kaulalumpur. Indian High Commissioner T.S. Tirumurti warmly received Jolly at India House in Kuala Lumpur and Indian community leaders interacted with him during his Malaysian sojourn.

Pak tells India don’t drag us into your Gujarat electoral debate, win on own strength

NEW DELHI, Dec 10: Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s allegations that Pakistan was trying to influence the outcome of the assembly elections in Gujarat was “utterly baseless and irresponsible”, the neighbouring country has said.

“India should stop dragging Pakistan into its electoral debate and win victories on own strength rather than fabricated conspiracies, which are utterly baseless and irresponsible,” spokesperson of Pakistan’s ministry of foreign affairs Mohammad Faisal tweeted on Sunday.

Modi on Sunday referred to a Facebook post by the former director general of the Pakistan army Sardar Arshad Rafiq, saying that senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel should be the next Gujarat chief minister. The post was covered by a section of the Indian media.

The Prime Minister also attacked Congress’ suspended leader Mani Shankar Aiyar over the latter’s “neech aadmi” (low-class man) jibe at him. Modi drew a connection between Aiyar’s remark and Pakistan’s interference.

“There were media reports yesterday about a meeting at Mani Shankar Aiyar’s house. It was attended by Pakistan’s high commissioner, Pakistan’s former foreign minister, India’s former vice president and former prime minister Manmohan Singh,” Modi said.

“The next day, Mani Shankar Aiyar said Modi was ‘neech’. This is a serious matter,” he said adding that they met for almost three hours.

The Congress was quick to deny the charges and asked Modi’s government to repatriate Pakistan’s top diplomat in the country if he was indeed meddling in an Indian election.

“It’s a foregone conclusion that he has abdicated the politics of development in both action and words. But does it befit the stature of the Prime Minister to rely on canards, rumours & lies just for an election? This is very sad,” Patel, Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s political secretary, tweeted.

This was not the first time the BJP has referred to Pakistan in an election campaign. Last year, ahead of the Assam election, which it won, the BJP said if the Congress won, fireworks would go off in celebration in Pakistan.

“Modi is back to the same old Pakistan bogey. It was Mian Musharraf in 2002 … Sir Creek issues in 2012, and now he’s talking about Pakistan’s interference in Gujarat polls. If Modi thinks that Pakistan is meddling in Gujarat polls, why doesn’t he expel the Pakistani high commissioner in India?” the party’s national spokesperson Manish Tewari asked.

Abhishek Manu Singhvi, another Congress spokesperson, said Patel himself had dismissed recent rumours that he would be made chief minister if the Congress won.

The Congress also came out in defence of Singh and pointed out that as the prime minister he never went to Pakistan in 10 years.

“Is Modi suggesting Singh and former VP Hamid Ansari are untrustworthy people? It’s not Singh but PM Modi who went to Lahore and we got (the) Pathankot terror attack” Tewari said.

The first phase of the Gujarat elections ended on Saturday; 89 seats went to the polls. The second phase, for 93 seats is on December 14 and campaigning ends on December 12.

The BJP has governed Gujarat for 22 years. The Congress is hoping to unseat the BJP by tapping the angst over the agrarian crisis and the implementation of the goods and services tax, and on the strength of a coalition it has built with Patidars, some other backward classes, and Dalits.

The BJP is hoping to retain power on the strength of the popularity of Prime Minister Modi, who was chief minister of the state for 13 years, and its record of development and governance.

Analysts expect it to be a close fight, although the BJP has maintained that it is confident of bettering its tally of 119 seats in the 182-member assembly in 2012. Opinion polls give the Congress anything between 37 and 85 seats, and the BJP 92-141.

India, Russia, China resolve to step up counter-terror co-operation

NEW DELHI, Dec 11: India, China and Russia on Monday resolved to step up cooperation to counter terrorism, including choking terror funding and dismantling terrorist infrastructure, as the Indian side flagged concerns over increasing acts of terrorism by Pakistan-based terror outfits such as Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).

During the 15th Russia-India-China (RIC) trilateral, the foreign ministers - Sushma Swaraj, Wang Yi (China) and Sergey Lavrov (Russia) - also underlined the primary and leading role and responsibility of states in preventing and countering terrorism and extremism, a joint statement said.

They also reiterated that all states should take adequate measures to prevent terrorist activities from their territory, it said.

"While discussing terrorism, I put across my view that significant rise in acts of terrorism by terrorist organisations like Taliban, Daesh (Isis), al-Qaida, and LeT directly undermine international peace and security and endanger ongoing efforts to strengthen the global economy and ensure sustainable growth and development," Swaraj said.

However, the RIC joint statement did not name Pakistan unlike the joint document issued after the Brazil-Russia- India-China-South Africa (BRICS) meet in Xiamen in China in September.

Condemning terrorism in all its forms and manifestations including the recent heinous terrorist attacks around the world, the leaders reaffirmed their determination to prevent and counter terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.

"We reaffirm that all acts of terrorism are criminal and unjustifiable irrespective of their motivations, committed wherever and by whomsoever," the statement of the RIC leaders said.

They called for greater unity, stronger international partnership and concerted actions by the international community in addressing the menace of terrorism in accordance with international law and the UN Charter, including the principles of sovereign equality of states and non-interference in their internal affairs.

The leaders also emphasised the need for a comprehensive approach in combating terrorism.

The statement said in this context, they resolved "to step up cooperation to prevent and counter terrorism and radicalisation, combat the spread of terrorist ideology and propaganda, stop sources of terrorist financing, prevent travelling of and the supply of arms to terrorists, dismantle terrorist infrastructure."

They also resolved to enhance cooperation to disrupt recruitment and the flow of foreign terrorist fighters and prevent misuse of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) for terrorist purposes, it said.

Swaraj, Wang and Lavrov also stressed that those committing, organising, inciting or supporting terrorist acts must be held accountable and brought to justice in accordance with the obligations under international law, including the principle of "extradite or prosecute" as well as the applicable domestic legislations.

"We agree to strengthen cooperation to take decisive and concerted actions against globally proscribed terrorists and terror entities. We condemn all forms of terrorism and all terrorists, terror entities and organisations listed by the UN Security Council," the statement said.

It assumes significance as China has been blocking the international banning of UN-designated terrorist group Jaish- e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar, the mastermind of Pathankot terror strike.

The three countries also agreed to intensify cooperation in multilateral fora including FATF and FATF-style regional bodies (FSRBs) so as to cut the flows of funds, and other financial assets and economic resources to individuals and entities involved in terrorism including those proscribed under the relevant UN sanctions.

They stressed the need for joint, integrated and balanced approach to deal with drug menace, its illicit production and trafficking including new psychoactive substances in accordance with the UN Conventions and principles of international law.

The grouping also called for an early adoption of the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT) in the UN to establish the much needed comprehensive international legal framework to address the growing global menace of terrorism.

Expressing deep concern about the threat of WMDs falling into the hands of terrorist groups, including the use of chemicals and biological agents for terrorist purposes, they said they would cooperate to prevent proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems and to deny access to such weapons by non-state actors, including terrorists.

"We need to address the threat of nuclear, chemical and biological terrorism through intensified meaningful work in international fora," they said in the statement and expressed firm determination to explore actively the modalities of elaborating a mandate in this regard.

Pak minister’s presence at Chabahar port opening indicates shift in ties with Iran: Report

ISLAMABAD, Dec 11: The participation of a Pakistani minister at the inauguration of the first phase of Iran’s Chabahar port - even though the country is not part of the strategic project - represents a “significant shift” in the two neighbours’ ties, a media report said on Monday.

As Iranian President Hassan Rowhani inaugurated the first phase of the Chabahar port last week, Pakistan’s minister for ports and shipping Hasil Khan Bizenjo was standing next to him.

“This was no coincidence, as Hasil Khan Bizenjo was asked to stand next to Rowhani in a carefully choreographed move,” the Express Tribune reported regarding the minister’s presence on the occasion despite the fact that Pakistan is not part of the project.

“The objective behind this move was clear - Iran wanted to send a message that it would not allow India or any other country to use Chabahar against Pakistan,” a senior Iranian diplomat reportedly told the daily on condition of anonymity.

Such a firsthand account of close cooperation between Pakistan and Iran is unusual and represents a significant shift in the two neighbours’ ties, which have often been marred by a trust deficit and mutual suspicion, the paper commented.

The turnaround is also important when seen alongside Pakistan’s participation in the Saudi-led counter-terrorism coalition, it said.

Iran, which is not part of the grouping, considers the initiative an attempt to further Saudi Arabia’s agenda in West Asia.

That is one of the reasons that Pakistan has been treading a careful path on the issue as it has the potential to undermine ties with Iran, the report said.

Pakistan, according to official sources, has assured Iran that Islamabad would not become part of an initiative that targets Tehran.

Tehran, in return, has pledged that it would not allow any regional country, including India, to undermine Pakistan’s interests, the report said.

The Chabahar port opens a new strategic route connecting Iran, India and Afghanistan, while bypassing Pakistan, and reflects growing convergence of interests among the three countries.

The port is considered a gateway to golden opportunities for trade by India, Iran and Afghanistan with central Asian countries besides ramping up trade among the three countries in the wake of Pakistan denying transit access to New Delhi.

The port in Iran’s Sistan-Balochistan province on the energy-rich nation’s southern coast is easily accessible from India’s western coast and is increasingly seen as a counter to Pakistan’s Gwadar, which is being developed with Chinese investment and is located around 80 kms from Chabahar.

Saudi Arabia lifts ban on movie theatres

RIYADH, Dec 11: Saudi Arabia on Monday lifted a decades-long ban on cinemas, part of a series of social reforms by the powerful crown prince that are shaking up the ultra-conservative kingdom.

The government said it would begin licensing cinemas immediately and the first movie theatres are expected to open next March, in a decision that could boost the kingdom's nascent film industry.

Reviving cinemas would represent a paradigm shift in the kingdom, which is promoting entertainment as part of a sweeping reform plan for a post-oil era, despite opposition from hardliners who have long vilified movie theatres as vulgar and sinful.

"Commercial cinemas will be allowed to operate in the Kingdom as of early 2018, for the first time in more than 35 years," the culture and information ministry said in a statement.

"This marks a watershed moment in the development of the cultural economy in the kingdom," the statement quoted Information Minister Awwad Alawwad as saying.

Saudi Arabia is expected to have more than 300 cinemas – with over 2,000 screens – all across the kingdom by 2030, the ministry said.

Like most public spaces in the kingdom, cinema halls are expected to be segregated by gender or have a separate section for families.

Hardliners, who see cinemas as a threat to cultural and religious identity, were instrumental in shutting them down in the 1980s.

Saudi Arabia's highest-ranking cleric warned in January of the "depravity" of cinemas, saying they would corrupt morals.

But authorities appear to be shrugging off the threat, with some comparing Saudi Arabia's reform drive to a fast-moving bus – either people get on board or risk being left behind.

Saudis themselves appear quietly astounded by the torrid pace of social change, which includes the historic decision allowing women to drive from next June.

Saudi Arabia in recent months has organised music concerts, a Comic-Con pop culture festival and a mixed-gender national day celebration that saw people dancing in the streets to thumping electronic music for the first time.

The social transformation chimes with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's recent pledge to return Saudi Arabia to an "open, moderate Islam" and destroy extremist ideologies.

Saudi filmmakers have long argued that a ban on cinemas does not make sense in the age of YouTube.

Saudi films have been making waves abroad, using the internet to circumvent distribution channels and sometimes the stern gaze of state censors.

Iraq PM says war against Islamic State has ended, enemy ‘defeated’

BAGHDAD, Dec 9: Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said on Saturday that Iraqi forces had driven the last remnants of Islamic State from the country, three years after the militant group captured about a third of Iraq’s territory.

The Iraqi forces recaptured the last areas still under IS control along the border with Syria, state television quoted Abadi as telling an Arab media conference in Baghdad.

“Commander-in-Chief @HaiderAlAbadi announces that Iraq’s armed forces have secured the western desert & the entire Iraq Syria border, says this marks the end of the war against Daesh terrorists who have been completely defeated and evicted from Iraq,” the federal government’s official account tweeted.

“Our forces are in complete control of the Iraqi-Syrian border and I therefore announce the end of the war against Daesh (IS),” Abadi told a conference in Baghdad.

“Our enemy wanted to kill our civilisation, but we have won through our unity and our determination. We have triumphed in little time,” he said.

In a separate tweet later, Abadi said: “Our heroic armed forces have now secured the entire length of the Iraq-Syria border. We defeated Daesh through our unity and sacrifice for the nation. Long live Iraq and its people.”

The US-led coalition that has been supporting Iraqi force against Islamic State tweeted its congratulations.

“The coalition congratulates the people of Iraq on their significant victory against #Daesh. We stand by them as they set the conditions for a secure and prosperous #futureiraq,” said the tweet. Daesh is the Arabic name for Islamic State.

Last month Iraqi forces captured Rawa, the last remaining town under Islamic State control, near the Syrian border.

Mosul, the group’s de facto capital in Iraq, fell in July after a gruelling nine-month campaign backed by a US-led coalition that saw much of the northern Iraqi city destroyed.

Islamic State’s Syrian capital Raqqa also fell to a US-backed Kurdish-led coalition in September.

The forces fighting Islamic State in both countries now expect a new phase of guerrilla warfare, a tactic the militants have already shown themselves capable of.

Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who in 2014 had declared in Mosul the founding of a new Islamic caliphate, released an audio recording on Sept. 28 that indicated he was alive, after several reports he had been killed. He urged his followers to keep up the fight despite setbacks.

He is believed to be hiding in the stretch of desert in the border area.

Driven from its two de facto capitals, Islamic State was progressively squeezed this year into an ever-shrinking pocket of desert, straddling the frontier between the two countries, by enemies that include most regional states and global powers.

In Iraq, the group confronted US-backed Iraqi government forces and Iranian-trained paramilitary groups known as Popular Mobilisation.

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