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China flexes its muscle in South China Sea, launches first domestically-built aircraft carrier

BEIJING, April 26: China launched its first domestically-built aircraft carrier, boosting its blue-water naval capabilities amidst the Communist giant flexing its muscles in the strategic South China Sea and growing regional tension over nuclear-armed North Korea.

The 50,000-tonne new aircraft carrier, which will join an existing one bought from Ukraine in 1998, was transferred from a dry dock into the water at a launch ceremony in northeast Dalian shipyard of the China Shipbuilding Industry Corp (CSIC) amid streamers and champagne.

The as-yet unnamed vessel was towed from Dalian Shipyard, Liaoning, to a nearby wharf, China's Ministry of National Defence said.

The launch came three days after the 68th anniversary of the People's Liberation Army Navy on Sunday, and against the backdrop of a rising China's efforts to beef up its navy to project the world's second largest economy's growing clout abroad.

The carrier is touted to be a significant upgrade from the 'Liaoning', which was built more than 25 years ago and is a refurbished Soviet ship bought from Ukraine. China began building its second carrier in November 2013.

Dock construction started in March 2015. However, the carrier is not expected to enter active service until 2020.

Putting the carrier into water marked progress in China's efforts to design and build a domestic aircraft carrier, state-run Xinhua news agency commented.

After the launch, the new carrier will undergo equipment debugging, outfitting and comprehensive mooring trials, the defence ministry said.

A blue-water navy is a maritime force capable of operating globally across the deep waters of open oceans.

The launch was timed with US sending a naval battle group headed by aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson to the Korean peninsula in a big show of strength. North Korea has been provoking the US and its neighbours like South Korea and Japan by conducting nuclear and missile tests.

The launch ceremony was attended by General Fan Changlong, Vice Chairman of the the powerful Central Military Commission, China's top military body.

China has the second largest military budget in the world, estimated at USD 148 billion after a seven per cent spending increase announced in March 2017.

China's new aircraft carrier is larger than India's INS Vikaramaditya which is already operational.

The launch of the aircraft carrier comes amid China's assertiveness in the resource-rich South China Sea. China claims almost all of the South China Sea, despite objections from the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Vietnam. China has also created artificial islands in the area, outfitting some of them with military features.

The launch also comes amid heated rhetoric between the US and North Korea in recent days. The US has deployed warships and a submarine to the Korean peninsula, prompting an angry reaction from North Korea. China, a close ally of Pyongyang, has urged for calm.

China's military is also eying more aircraft carriers to enhance its capabilities. Recently state-run People's Daily quoted military experts as saying that the third aircraft carrier to be built in Shanghai may be nuclear-powered.

Earlier reports said Chinese navy which now has an expanded role among the military is set to raise its marine forces from 20,000 to one lakh as it started setting up logistic bases in Gwadar port in Pakistan and Djibouti in Africa.

China's military build-up has unsettled its neighbours and the US, particularly as Beijing has taken a more robust stance in territorial disputes in the South China Sea. The new vessel still lags behind its US counterparts technologically, but senior fellow at Sydney's Lowy Institute Sam Roggeveen told CNN it is likely just a "stepping stone" to China's next generation of aircraft carriers.

"It's probably been designed to just get China in the aircraft carrier game, and while this design was just an incremental advance (on the country's first carrier), with the next carrier, which could already be under construction, it will be much closer to a US carrier," he said.

According to Yvonne Chiu, an assistant professor at the University of Hong Kong, China's navy is trying to enhance its ability to operate globally across open oceans.

"China seeks to become a major world power, and one of the hallmarks of such a status is blue-water capability and the ability to project military might globally," Chiu said.

Li Jie, a Chinese naval expert told the state-run Global Times daily recently that "it will take about one to two years to carry out functional debugging of its devices, weapons and equipment. The new aircraft carrier can begin sea trials by early 2019.

Li also said the launch of the new carrier represented only modest progress of China's military modernisation, given the huge technological gap between the PLA Navy and its most powerful rival in Asia-Pacific, the US Navy.

"While China is celebrating the launch of its first home-grown aircraft carrier, the country should also be mindful that the United States is possibly deploying its most advanced Ford-class super-carrier to the Asia-Pacific," Beijing-based naval expert Li told the Hong Kong based South China Morning Post today.

The Chinese defence ministry said last month that that it the vessel would carry China's J-15 aircraft along with other planes, and that it would use conventional rather than nuclear propulsion.

The 001 uses the ski-jump method of taking off from a ski ramp on the front of the carrier just like Liaoning, rather than more advanced catapult technology used by US aircraft carriers. China is looking into catapult technology and the technology will likely be adopted on the 002, China's third aircraft carrier, Li said.

"In other words, 002 is entirely different from the Liaoning (001) and 001A, and it will look like US aircraft carrier rather than a Russian one," Li said. China's state-run media has increasingly targeted India's aircraft carrier programme as well as its defence capabilities.

"New Delhi is perhaps too impatient to develop an aircraft carrier. The country is still in its initial stage of industrialisation, and there will be many technical obstacles that stand in the way of a build-up of aircraft carriers , an article in the Global Times said two days ago.

"New Delhi should perhaps be less eager to speed up the process of building aircraft carriers in order to counter China's growing sway in the Indian Ocean, and focus more on its economy," it had commented.

Another article in China Online, the official website of the Chinese defence ministry said, "as a major country by the Indian Ocean, India believes its security and prosperity depends on its control of the Indian Ocean".

"And as long as it controls the ocean, it will be able to dominate the ocean and countries along it, and control the vast area between the Mediterranean Sea and the Pacific Ocean".

It said though India acquired aircraft carriers earlier than China, India lacked indigenous research and development which has affected its plans to have three aircraft carriers.

"The Indian navy's dream of having three aircraft carriers has fallen flat because it overestimated its R&D capability and the country's overall strength, and undertook an excessively massive strategy that eventually got stranded", it had said.

"India mistook the deterrence of aircraft carrier for combat capability and was possessed with the "carrier complex", it said.

The lessons China can draw from India was that it should attach great importance and provide continuous support to the development of aircraft carriers, the article said.

But at the same time China should continue to reinforce its innovation and R&D capability, it said.

Unlike China, India operated the aircraft carrier since 1961. INS Vikrant which was purchased as an incomplete carrier in 1957 played key role in enforcing the naval blockade of the East Pakistan in 1971 before it was decommissioned in 1997.

Its successor INS Virat was commissioned in 1987 was recently decommissioned after an eventful four decades of service. It was succeeded by INS Vikramaditya a modified version of Russian ship Admiral Gorshkov which became operational in 2013. The second INS Vikrant being built in Cochin Shipyard was expected to be ready by 2018.

Emmanuel Macron: France’s presidential candidate who is neither Right nor Left

PARIS, April 24: “Neither of the right, nor the left” in his own words, Emmanuel Macron is a 39-year-old former banker whose sensational political career, unorthodox marriage and promises to modernise France have captivated the country.

Running in his first ever election, he was projected to win about 24% in the first round of the presidential poll on Sunday, guaranteeing him a place in a run-off vote on May 7, for which he is favourite against far right National Front leader Marine Le Pen.

“We’re turning a page in French political history,” Macron said shortly after the estimates were released.

Macron would be the youngest French leader in modern history, upending tradition that has usually seen voters favour experience in their powerful presidents.

The result of Sunday’s vote is a vindication of his decision to quit the government of unpopular Socialist President Francois Hollande in August last year to concentrate on building up his own centrist political movement “En Marche” (“On the Move”).

“We can’t respond with the same men and the same ideas,” Macron said as he launched his presidential bid in November at a jobs training centre in a gritty Parisian suburb.

Since then, he has rarely been out of the headlines, building up his movement to more than 250,000 members and confounding critics who said he would appeal to a narrow band of young, urban professionals.

With frustration at France’s political class running high, Macron has tapped into a desire for wholesale change that also propelled far-right candidate Le Pen into the second round.

“I’m here because he’s young, he’s dynamic. It’s like a breath of fresh air,” 23-year-old shop worker Marine Gonidou said at a rally in Brittany in January.

Although positioned as an outsider, the brilliant student followed a well-worn path through elite French universities including ENA, which has groomed many French leaders.

After going into investment banking, where he earned several million euros at Rothschild, Macron became an economic advisor to Hollande in 2012 and then economy minister two years later.

Despite the efforts of his opponents, “he seems to have escaped his association with the government,” said Dominique Reynie, head of the Foundation for Political Innovation think-tank in Paris.

Throughout the campaign he insisted that France was “contrarian” -- ready to elect a pro-EU, pro-globalisation liberal at a time when rightwing nationalists are making gains across the world.

As well as wanting to improve the business environment, Macron stresses the need to boost education in deprived areas and has spoken out against stigmatising Muslims with France’s strict rules on secularism.

His championing of tech firms and the “Uber-isation” of the economy, in which people increasingly work as independents rather than as employees, has helped burnish his image as a moderniser.

“I want us to be able to start a business more easily, to innovate more easily” is one of his mantras, explained in depth in his pre-election book “Revolution”.

Opponents still dismiss him as deliberately vague, with Le Pen landing a blow during a televised debate in March when she attacked him for waffling.

“Mr Macron you have an amazing talent, you’ve spoken for seven minutes and I’m unable to resume your thinking. You’ve said nothing!” she said.

In politics as well as his personal life, Macron has also broken traditions.

The theatre lover from a middle-class family in northeast France fell in love with his secondary school drama teacher, Brigitte Trogneux, in a story that has captivated the French media.

Trogneux, a mother of three children 25 years older than him, went on to divorce her husband and marry the young prodigy in 2007.

“At the age of 17, Emmanuel said to me: ‘Whatever you do, I will marry you!’,” Trogneux told Paris Match magazine last April.

Some have found the relationship difficult to believe despite numerous appearances together in glossy magazines, forcing Macron to repeatedly laugh off rumours he is gay.

While at ease among ordinary voters and charismatic, Macron has been accused of being condescending in the past, whether referring to “illiterate” abattoir workers, “alcoholic” laid-off workers or the “poor people” who travel on buses.

In an infamous exchange, when confronted by a protester in a T-shirt in May last year, he lost his cool, saying: “The best way to buy yourself a suit is to work.”

India strongly condemns Ontario assembly resolution on 1984 anti-Sikh riots during Jaitley-Sajjan meeting

NEW DELHI, April 18: India on Tuesday strongly condemned the recent Ontario assembly motion that described the 1984 anti-Sikh riots as "genocide", with defence minister Arun Jaitley telling his visiting Canadian counterpart Harjit Singh Sajjan that it did not augur well for bilateral relations.

Defence ministry sources said Jaitley very clearly conveyed to Sajjan, during the delegation-level talks, that the Ontario province resolution on April 6 had used "unreal and exaggerated language" which did not reflect the ground reality and conditions in India.

Jaitley also said the resolution with "such critical references to India", questioning its human rights record and democratic credentials, militated against the desire of the two countries to expand their bilateral ties with a new thrust in the defence arena.

"Jaitley said there was considerable amount of disquiet in India over the resolution. Expressing concern, he said India did not expect something like this from a fellow liberal democracy," said a source.

Sajjan, who later in the day also discounted charges of being "a Khalistani sympathizer", in turn, hoped India would not read too much into the resolution because it was "not the position" of the Justin Trudeau government in Canada.

"Sajjan said only 34 legislators had voted for the private member's bill in the provincial assembly, which had happed in the context of the elections there and did not reflect the thinking of the province, the Canadian government or the people," said the source.

But the fact remains that the private member's motion was moved by Harinder Malhi, who belongs to the Liberal Party of Canada led by Trudeau, and India had lobbied hard to prevent it from being carried by the Ontario assembly.

Despite opposition from BJP ally Akali Dal, the external affairs ministry on April 7 had held that India "rejected this misguided motion which is based on a limited understanding of India, its Constitution, society, ethos, rule of law and the judicial process".

So, in effect, the much-touted visit of the Indian-origin Sajjan, his first to India as Canada's defence minister after taking charge in November 2015, has been completely overshadowed by the controversy over the Ontario resolution as well as charges against him of being pro-Khalistan.

Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh has already declared he will not meet Sajjan during the latter's visit to Amritsar and Chandigarh since he was among the five Sikh ministers in the Trudeau government who were "Khalistani sympathizers".

"I have been given many labels in my life...but one has to be judged by one's actions. I do not want to promote the break-up of any country, nor get sucked into the internal politics of any province or country," said Sajjan talking to journalists later in the day.

Rubbishing Amarinder Singh's statement, he added, "I am not going to get into any petty politics of one chief minister of a province... I am very proud of my Indian roots and heritage, and my actions speak for myself. I do not have any problem if he does not want to meet me. Nobody can take away my village (in Hoshiarpur district), my parents. These things do not bother.

India abducted retired Pakistani army officer to secure Kulbhushan Jadhav’s release: Officials

ISLAMABAD, April 18: A Pakistani retired army officer was lured to Nepal with a job prospect before being seized by Indian intelligence, which hopes to use him to secure the release of an Indian agent sentenced to death by Pakistan, security officials said Tuesday.

According to two senior security officials, Indian agents abducted Lt Col Mohammad Habib, who went missing on April 6 after arriving in Nepal. They said Habib’s abduction was aimed at pressuring Pakistan to release Kulbhushan Jadhav, an Indian naval officer convicted of espionage who was sentenced to death on April 10.

Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to reporters about the case. Indian officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

One of the officials said records show that Habib “arrived at the Kathmandu airport on April 6. An Indian national took him to a hotel after receiving him” at the airport.

The second official also confirmed the account, saying Indian spy agency Research and Analysis Wing planned Habib’s abduction.

The two Pakistani officials said Jadhav has been linked to 1,345 deaths in acts of terrorism in Pakistan. They told The Associated Press that he joined India’s Naval intelligence in 2001 and was later posted in Iran, from where he made secret trips to Pakistan using fake ID documents before his 2016 arrest.

The officials claimed that Jadhav had confessed to espionage and terror-linked activities during his interrogation. He has the right to appeal to a military appeals court or petition the army chief for mercy. Also, under the constitution, Pakistan’s president could pardon Jadhav.

Pakistan and India have a history of bitter relations, and Jadhav’s death sentence has further strained ties. India has denounced Jadhav’s trial as a farce, insisting he was abducted from Iran and that his subsequent presence in Pakistan was never credibly explained.

Canada’s Defence Minister to visit India

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, April 17: Canada’s Minister of National Defence Harjit Singh Sajjan will visit India from April 17 to 23. During his trip, the Minister will travel to New Delhi, Amritsar, Chandigarh and Mumbai.

While in India, the Minister will be meeting with his counterpart Arun Jaitley, Minister of Finance, Defence and Corporate Affairs, the Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj, and with other leaders and senior officials.

In Delhi, he will give a speech at an event hosted by the Observer Research Foundation. In Punjab, Minister Sajjan will visit the Golden Temple and civil society organisations, and in Chandigarh, he will inaugurate the new office of the Consulate-General of Canada. In Mumbai, Minister Sajjan will visit the Mumbai Port, and meet several business and industry leaders.

Minister Sajjan said: “I look forward to my first trip to India since becoming Canada’s Minister of National Defence. This visit will further strengthen Canada and India’s bilateral defence cooperation, and expand our partnership in the security and defence sectors.”

High Commissioner of Canada to India, Nadir Patel said: “Minister Sajjan’s visit is an ideal opportunity to highlight strong links between Canada and India, and to boost our people-to-people ties. There continues to be enormous potential for more cooperation in all areas of the bilateral relationship.”

Pakistan Army Denies Consular Access To Kulbhushan Jadhav

ISLAMABAD, April 17: Paksitan's army on Monday ruled out consular access to Kulbhushan Jadhav, days after India had made a strong case for the access to the former Navy officer, who was sentenced to death by a Pakistani military court last week. The sentence evoked a sharp reaction in India which warned Pakistan of consequences and damage to bilateral ties if the "pre-meditated murder" was carried out. Pakistan has denied India's request for consular access to Mr Jadhav over a dozen times over the course of one year.

"Under the law, we cannot give consular access to Kulbhushan," claimed Pakistan military spokesperson Major General Asif Ghafoor.

However, Indian officials in New Delhi maintained that there was no communication from Pakistan on the denial of consular access.

On Friday, Indian High Commissioner in Islamabad Gautam Bambawale had met Pakistan Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua and demanded a certified copy of the chargesheet as well as the army court order in the Mr Jadhav's case, besides seeking consular access to the retired Indian navy officer.

Addressing the media in Rawalpindi, Mr Ghafoor claimed that Mr Jadhav was involved in anti-state activities.

"It was duty of the army (to apprehend and punish him). We have not compromised on it and awarded him punishment. We will not compromise on this issue in future also," he said.

The Pakistani official claimed all legal requirements were fulfilled in the trial of Mr Jadhav which resulted in his conviction.

"The court martial is based on such evidence which cannot be refuted at any forum," he claimed.

Mr Ghafoor said Mr Jadhav can appeal against the judgement in Pakistan's army appellate court and then to the army chief against the decision of the appellate court. The spokesperson further said Mr Jadhav can also file an appeal to Pakistan's Supreme Court and President.

"We will defend his conviction at every forum," he said.

Pakistan claims its security forces had arrested Mr Jadhav from Balochistan on March 3 last year and alleged that he was "a serving officer in the Indian Navy." The Pakistan Army had also released a "confessional video" of Mr Jadhav after his arrest.

However, India denied Pakistan's contention and maintained that Mr Jadhav was kidnapped by the Pakistan authorities.

Narrow win for ‘Yes’ camp in Turkish referendum

ISTANBUL, April 17: Turkey’s Opposition Monday called for the annulment of a referendum giving President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sweeping new powers, as international monitors voiced concern over the campaign and vote count.

With political tensions once again escalating in Turkey after a result that opponents fear will hand Mr. Erdogan one-man rule, German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for dialogue to seek calm.

The referendum was seen as crucial not just for shaping the political system of Turkey but also the future strategic direction of a nation that has been a NATO member since 1952 and an EU hopeful for half a century.

The ‘Yes’ camp won 51.41% in Sunday’s referendum and ‘No’ 48.59, according to near-complete results released by the election authorities.

But the Opposition immediately cried foul over alleged violations, claiming that a clean vote would have made a difference of several percentage points and handed them victory.

The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) said they would challenge the results from most of the ballot boxes due to alleged violations.

“There is only one decision to ease the situation in the context of the law — the Supreme Election Board (YSK) should annul the election,” the Dogan news agency quoted CHP deputy leader Bulent Tezcan as saying.

The Opposition was particularly incensed by a decision by the YSK to allow voting papers without official stamps to be counted, which they said opened the way for fraud.

The referendum has no “democratic legitimacy”, HDP spokesman and MP Osman Baydemir told reporters in Ankara.

The Opposition had already complained of an unfair campaign that saw the ‘Yes’ backers swamp the airwaves and use up billboards across the country in a saturation advertising campaign.

The referendum campaign was conducted on an “unlevel playing field” and the vote count itself was marred by the late procedural changes that removed key safeguards, international observers said.

“The legal framework... remained inadequate for the holding of a genuinely democratic referendum,” the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) monitors said in a joint statement.

“Late changes in counting procedures removed an important safeguard,” said Cezar Florin Preda, the head of the PACE delegation, referring to a move by the election authorities to allow voting documents without an official stamp.

Erdogan’s victory was far tighter than expected, emerging only after several nail-biting hours late Sunday which saw the ‘No’ result dramatically catch up in the later count.

“On April 17, we have woken up to a new Turkey,” wrote pro-government Hurriyet columnist Abdulkadir Selvi.

“The ‘Yes’ was victorious but the people have sent messages to the government and opposition that need to be carefully considered.”

The new system is due to come into effect after elections in November 2019.

However the Parliament faction chief of the ruling Justice Development Party (AKP), Mustafa Elitas said Mr. Erdogan would this month get an offer to rejoin that party he founded but had to leave when he became president.

In a bid to get back to business, Mr. Erdogan was on Monday to chair a cabinet and security meeting at his presidential palace that could extend the nine-month state of emergency brought in after the July 15 failed coup, Turkish media said.

India announces $5-billion line of credit to Bangladesh, 22 pacts signed

NEW DELHI, April 8: India announced a $5-billion loan to Bangladesh on Saturday and signed bilateral pacts to step up nuclear and defence cooperation between the neighbours, though the contentious Teesta water sharing-deal remained elusive.

The line of credit was the biggest offered to any country at one go by India and underlined New Delhi’s efforts to wean away Dhaka from China, the biggest supplier of defence equipment to Bangladesh for many years.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi kept hopes alive for early signing of the Teesta pact after a 90-minute meeting with his Bangladesh counterpart Sheikh Hasina, who is on a four-day visit to India, her first since the BJP government came to power.

“I firmly believe that it is only my government and...your government, that can and will find an early solution to Teesta water sharing,” Modi said at a press briefing.

Bengal chief minister Mamat Banerjee was opposed to the pact which is seen as vital for millions of farmers in Bangladesh. A deal was aborted at the very last minute during former Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Bangladesh in 2011.

In 2015, Modi signed a historic land border pact with Dhaka, removing a major irritant and infusing a new warmth between the two countries that share a 4,097 kilometre-long porous border.

While 22 pacts were signed on Saturday, the two countries are expected to sign another 12 business deals which would entail investments of $9 billion.

Out of the $5 billion credit, $4.5 billion is for infrastructure such as roads, ports, airports and setting up power transmission lines. The other $500 million is for buying defence equipment from India.

This took India’s total line of credit to Bangladesh to $8 billion in the past six years.

“India has always stood for the prosperity of Bangladesh and its people. We are a long-standing and trusted development partner of Bangladesh,” Modi added.

“We want to build cooperation in new areas, especially some high-technology areas that have a deeper connect with the youth in both our societies.”

The Prime Minister also said both sides agreed that peace, security and development for people of the two countries and for the region will remain central engagement between the two neighbours.

On her part, Hasina said her government will take all necessary steps to ensure peace and security along the Indo-Bangla border and asserted that there will be zero-tolerance against terror.

Her comments came amid a spate of attacks on the Hindu community in Bangladesh.

Later at a function, Hasina honoured 1,661 Indian soldiers killed during the Bangladesh’s war of liberation from Pakistan. India’s intervention on behalf of Bangladesh’s independence fighters proved decisive in that conflict.

Hasina, whose Awami League is historically seen as more sympathetic to India than its arch-rival Bangladesh Nationalist Party, said the two countries will jointly produce a documentary on the 1971 War of Liberation of Bangladesh, a move that is likely to irk Pakistan.

Terrorism Mentality Blocking Development: Modi

NEW DELHI, April 8: Prime Minister Narendra Modi took a veiled dig at Pakistan on Saturday, saying it breeds, inspires and encourages terrorism.

In an oblique reference to Pakistan, a joint statement issued after his meeting with Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said the fight against terrorism should also identify, hold accountable and take strong measures against States and entities which encourage, support and finance terrorism and falsely extol their virtues.

“There is one thought in South Asia which breeds, inspires and encourages terrorism. The thought whose priority is not humanity, but extremism and terrorism,” Modi said, without naming the neighbouring country.

He was speaking at a ceremony where families of martyrs of the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War were felicitated.

Hasina, who is on a four-day visit to India, too paid tributes to Indian soldiers who died in the Liberation War that gave birth to her country.

“Our region is defined by three ideologies, which are a reflection of the thinking of the society and government. One thought is focused on economic development, to take all social groups along. Bangladesh is an example of this,” Modi said.

“The second thought is ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas’ (bringing everyone together for development). Every neighbouring country of India should also prosper. Development of India alone will be incomplete,” he said.

In a reference to Pakistan, he said there was a third type of mentality that keeps terrorism above humanity.

“The main aim is to spread terrorism. A mindset in which policymakers feel terrorism is bigger than humanity, destruction is bigger than creation and betrayal is bigger than trust. This mentality is the biggest challenge to peace, social harmony and development. This mentality obstructs development in whole region,” Modi said, adding that both India and Bangladesh were its victims.

“We wish that citizens of all countries move towards development. But for this terrorism, and terrorist mentality has to be abandoned,” he added.

The joint statement devoted a substantial part on terrorism.

“The conviction that the fight against terrorism should not only seek to disrupt and eliminate terrorists, terror organizations and networks, but should also identify, hold accountable and take strong measures against States and entities which encourage, support and finance terrorism, provide sanctuary to terrorists and terror groups, and falsely extol their virtues”, the statement said.

They also shared the view that there should be no glorification of terrorists as martyrs.

India rejects Ontario assembly motion on Sikh riots

NEW DELHI, April 7: The legislative assembly of Ontario has passed a motion extending the official recognition to the 1984 riots as Sikh "genocide" in India, which has strongly rejected the move terming it as "misguided".

External affairs ministry spokesperson Gopal Baglay said India's views have been conveyed to the government and political leadership in Canada.

"We have noted the passage of a private members' motion in the legislative assembly of Ontario on April 6. We reject this misguided motion which is based on a limited understanding of India, its constitution, society, ethos, rule of law and the judicial process."

"Our views have been conveyed to the government and political leadership in Canada," he said.

He was replying to a question regarding passage of a private members' motion in the legislative assembly of Ontario.

The motion by Harinder Malhi, a Liberal member of provincial parliament, reads "That, in the opinion of this House... should reaffirm our commitment to the values we cherish - justice, human rights and fairness - and condemn all forms of communal violence, hatred, hostility, prejudice, racism and intolerance in India and anywhere else in the world, including the 1984 genocide perpetrated against the Sikhs throughout India, and call on all sides to embrace truth, justice and reconciliation."

Uzbek man arrested over Swedish truck attack that killed four

STOCKHOLM: Swedish police arrested a 39-year-old Uzbek man on suspicion of ramming a hijacked beer delivery truck into crowds in central Stockholm, killing four people and wounding 15 in what they called a terror crime.

Police were increasingly confident they had detained the driver of the truck that ploughed down a busy shopping street and smashed through a store front in the heart of the capital on Friday, but did not name him.

“Nothing points to that we have the wrong person, on the contrary, suspicions have strengthened as the investigation has progressed,” Dan Eliasson, head of Sweden's national police, told a news conference.

“We still cannot rule out that more people are involved.”

The man had previously figured marginally in intelligence material, but had not been linked to extremists.

“We received intelligence last year, but we did not see any links to extremist circles,” Sapo security police chief Anders Thornberg said.

Mr. Eliasson said there were “clear similarities” to an attack last month in London in which six people died, including the assailant who drove a hired car into pedestrians on a bridge.

Vehicles have also been used as weapons in Nice and Berlin in the past year in attacks claimed by Islamic State.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack in Sweden, which has so far been largely immune from any major incidents of this kind, and police said they tightened security around the nation.

“I think it was just a matter of time, but still one doesn't think it will happen,” Cecilia Hansson, a 25 year-old nurse, said. “It's still unreal when it happens this close.”

Police said they had found a suspicious device in the vehicle but said they did not yet know if it was a homemade bomb, as reported by public broadcaster SVT.

SVT said the bomb may have partly exploded, burning the driver, who escaped in the ensuing chaos after mowing through crowds and ramming into the Ahlens department store.

Local authorities in the capital, where flags flew at half mast on buildings including the parliament and royal palace, said that 10 people including a child were still being treated in hospital, with two adults in intensive care.

A gaping hole in the wall of the store showed the force of the impact from the truck, which was removed overnight for examination by forensics experts, and dozens of people gathered to pay their respects and leave flowers, stunned by the attack.

Crown Princess Victoria was among them, laying a bouquet of red roses. “I feel an enormous sadness, I feel empty,” she told Aftonbladet TV, urging Swedes to unite in their grief.

Prime Minister Stefan Lofven also visited the site and struck a defiant tone. “All of us feel anger over what has happened, I also feel the same anger, but we also need to use that anger for something constructive and go forward,” he said.

“We want - and I am convinced the Swedish people also want - to live a normal life. We are an open, democratic society and that is what we will remain.”

The attack was the latest to hit the Nordic region after shootings in the Danish capital Copenhagen killed three people in 2015 and put the country on high alert and the bombing and shooting in 2011 by far-right extremist Anders Behring Breivik that killed 77 people in Norway.

Although Sweden has not seen a large-scale attack, a failed suicide bombing in December 2010 killed an attacker only a few hundred yards from the site of Friday's incident.

Swedish police said it was especially difficult to identify "lone wolf” attackers in an open, Nordic society.

“It is very hard if it is a single individual who is not part of a wider conspiracy or a more organised planning," Mr. Thornberg, head of the Sapo security police, told Swedish radio.

“But we have to find these individuals as well.”

Police in Norway's largest cities and at Oslo airport will carry weapons until further notice following the attack.

Al-Qaeda urged its followers to use trucks as a weapon in 2010 and Islamic State claimed responsibility for an attack in Nice, France, in July 2016, when a truck killed 86 people celebrating Bastille Day, and one in Berlin in December, when a truck smashed through a Christmas market, killing 12 people.

In last month's attack in London, a man drove into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge near Britain's parliament and then stabbed a policeman to death before being killed himself. Six people died in total.

In February U.S. President Donald Trump falsely suggested there had been an immigration-related security incident in Sweden, to the bafflement of Swedes.

Neutral Sweden has not fought a war in more than 200 years, but its military has taken part in U.N. peacekeeping missions in several conflict zones, including Iraq, Mali and Afghanistan

11 killed in St. Petersburg metro blast

MOSCOW, April 3: At least 11 people were killed and several more injured Monday after an explosion rocked the metro system in Russia’s second city Saint Petersburg, according to authorities, who were not ruling out a possible terror attack.

President Vladimir Putin said investigators were looking into all possible causes for the explosion -- “accidental, criminal and first of all ... terrorist.”

Pictures screened on national television showed the door of a train carriage blown out, as bloodied bodies lay strewn on a station platform.

Above ground, emergency services vehicles rushed to the scene at the Technological Institute metro station, a key transport hub in the city centre.

 
Cosmetic Dentist New Delhi India

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