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Leaders of Afghanistan and India Vow to Deepen Cooperation in Fighting Terrorism

India is funding several infrastructure-related projects in war-ravaged Afghanistan

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Islamic Terrorism worldwide. Wikimedia Commons

The leaders of Afghanistan and India have vowed to continue their joint efforts to “overcome terror and extremism” facing the two nations.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi reiterated the resolve Monday during a video conference inaugurating the newly-restored Storay (Star) Palace, which is the office of the Afghan president in Kabul.

Lack of proper maintenance and decades of war damaged the nearly century-old building, which is seen as a symbol of Afghanistan’s foreign diplomacy. India’s government funded the nearly $6-million restoration project.

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“Let me assure the people of Afghanistan that in your quest to build a prosperous Afghanistan and to bring peace, security, and stability to your society, the 1.25 billion people of India will always be on your side,” Modi told the video audience.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Image source: Wikimedia Commons
Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

India is funding several infrastructure-related projects in war-ravaged Afghanistan. It has poured around $2 billion into Afghan reconstruction efforts, making it one of the largest donors to the war-ravaged nation.

In June, Afghanistan and India inaugurated the nearly $300-million Salma Friendship Dam in western Herat province. New Delhi also funded the construction of a new Afghan parliament building at a cost of $90-million that Ghani and Modi jointly inaugurated last December.

“Friends, Afghanistan is a close friend. Our societies and people have had age-old ties and links. It, therefore, saddens us to see that your proud nation continues to be challenged by externally sponsored instruments and entities of violence and terror,” Modi said in a veiled reference to rival Pakistan.

Afghan leaders allege Pakistani security institutions are covertly supporting the Taliban insurgency to try to retain their influence over affairs of the neighboring country and curtail India’s growing influence in Afghanistan. India also blames Pakistan for being behind terrorist activities on its soil.

Former Afghan president Hamid Karzai. Image source: Wikimedia Commons
Former Afghan president Hamid Karzai. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Addressing Monday’s ceremony, President Ghani thanked New Delhi for helping in the Afghan reconstructions efforts, saying it has strengthened historical bonds between the two countries.

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“We are decisive to show that we are ready to spare no effort in protecting peace, overcome terror and extremism and work for the prosperity and happiness of our nations,” vowed the Afghan president.

“This is not only a victory of two nations, Afghanistan and India, but also a victory of friendship over animosity, a victory of cooperation over sabotage, a victory of building over destruction and a victory of wisdom and foresight over superficiality and fanaticism,” Ghani added.

India’s growing ties with Afghanistan have raised concerns in Pakistan. Officials in Islamabad recently accused New Delhi of using Afghan soil for terrorist attacks, particularly in the southwestern Pakistani province of Baluchistan, which borders Afghanistan. India denies the charges.

India and Afghanistan’s relationship expanded under former Afghan president Hamid Karzai, which strained Kabul’s ties with Islamabad.

After assuming office in September 2014, Ghani took a political gamble by putting distance between Afghanistan and India as a confidence building measure with Pakistan.

But Ghani has publicly complained Pakistan has not reciprocated his overtures, blaming Islamabad for intensified insurgent attacks across Afghanistan.

Pakistan denies Ghani’s assertions and says it is working for peace and stability in Afghanistan because it is linked to Pakistani security and stability. (IANS)

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Richard Thaler Supported Demonetisation, there is More to the Story

Demonetisation is what Richard Thaler had long supported. However, he remarked "Really? Damn," when he was informed about the introduction of Rs. 2,000 notes in place of the discontinued Rs. 500 and 1,000 notes thereby highlighting how his joy of seeing a step towards a cashless economy and reduction of corruption was momentary.

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Richard Thaler
Richard Thaler won the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences on 9th October.Wikimedia

When Prime Minister Narendra Modi decided to scrape Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes last November, Nobel Prize winner Richard Thaler supported demonetization describing it as a policy that he had long supported.

Dr. Richard Thaler, a Professor of Economics and Behavioural Science at the University of Chicago won the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences on 9th October.

Did Richard Thaler really support demonetization in the way BJP took it? There is more to the story than what meets the eye.

As soon as Thaler was declared the Nobel Prize winner, members of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) started sharing Thaler’s tweet regarding demonetization on social media affirming that the move which was severely criticised by the members of the opposition was actually supported by a Nobel Prize winner. The BJP IT cell head Amit Malviya retweeted the old tweet within a fraction of a second.

However, Richard Thaler remarked “Really? Damn,” when he was informed about the introduction of Rs. 2,000 notes in place of the discontinued Rs. 500 and 1,000 note thereby highlighting how his joy of seeing a step towards a cashless economy and reduction of corruption was momentary.

It was not only the BJP supporters but also a large number of BJP leaders who were flowed away with incomplete picture depicted by Malviya and tweeted about it.‬ This included Union Minister Giriraj Singh, former BJP IT Cell Head Arvind Gupta, and many others.

Soon after, twitterati realized that the full picture of Thaler’s statement on demonetization was rather hidden.

Prime Minister Modi declared that the motivation behind scrapping Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes was to promote cashless economy and reduce corruption. This decision was severely criticised by different sections of the society putting on Modi the ultimate responsibility for heralding economic deceleration. Demonetisation pulled down India’s GDP growth rate to a mere 6.1% in 2016-17.

Some highlighted that the introduction of Rs 2000 note was an ephemeral panacea for remonetization and that its printing has been terminated.

-Prepared by Mohima Haque of NewsGram, Twitter: mohimahaque26

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India Demands Data on UN Staff Misconduct, Use of Immunity

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United nations
India has demanded the secretariat disclose information about misconduct by UN staff. Flickr

United Nations, Oct 7: In an attempt to break the wall of silence around the crimes and UN staff misconduct and those on its assignments, India has demanded the secretariat disclose information about such cases and the immunity invoked against prosecutions.

Yedla Umasankar, the legal advisor in India’s UN Mission, touched a raw nerve here by criticising the UN on Friday for not vigorously following up allegations of serious wrongdoing by its employees who enjoy the equivalent of diplomatic immunity, a prized possession of its staff.

“It appears that the UN system itself may be reluctant to waive immunity even for serious misconduct carried out by its personnel while serving on its missions, so that such cases can be prosecuted by the host governments,” he told the General Assembly’s committee on legal affairs.

“Even a few of such instances or allegations of crimes committed by UN personnel is highly damaging for the image and credibility of the United Nations system and its work around the world,” he added.

His statement also touched on the practice of some countries that protect their wrongdoers at the UN.

Umasankar demanded that secretariat disclose how many cases of serious misconduct by UN personnel were registered and the number of cases where the UN refused to waive immunity to allow their prosecution.

He also wanted to know in how many cases the host country wanted the immunity waived so it can prosecute those accused; the number of times the UN asked the host country or the country that sent them to prosecute them; how many times it consulted countries before waiver of the immunity of their personnel and how many of them refused UN’s request to waive their citizens’ immunity.

The information he wanted does not cover the diplomats sent by member countries to represent them at UN bodies and enjoy diplomatic immunity with the nations hosting the UN facilities.

After scores of serious allegations of sexual misconduct by peacekeepers, especially exploitation of children, the UN vowed to uphold a policy of zero tolerance and began publishing data on such cases in peacekeeping operations including how they were dealt with.

Starting with the year 2015, it began identifying the nationalities of those accused.

However, it has not made public a roster detailing all the allegations and proven cases of serious misconduct across the entire UN.

While the focus has been on sexual exploitation and abuse reported on peacekeeping operations, Umasankar said that “at a broader level, the issue of accountability has remained elusive in some cases”.

He attributed it to “the complexities of legal aspects relating to sovereignty and jurisdiction”, the immunity or privileges that may be necessary for UN operations, and the capability or willingness of countries to investigate and prosecute the accused.

He noted that the UN itself cannot make criminal prosecutions.

While Indian laws has provisions for dealing with crimes committed abroad by its citizens, not all countries have them, he said.

Those countries should be encouraged and helped to implement such measures, he added. (IANS)

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Indo-Pak Peace Talks Futile Unless Islamabad Sheds Links with Terrorism, says Study

A Study by a U.S. think tank calls India and Pakistan talks futile, until Pakistan changes its approach.

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India and Pakistan
India and Pakistan. Wikimedia.

A Top United States of America (U.S.) think tank, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace called the relations between India and Pakistan futile, unless Islamabad changes its approach and sheds its links with Jihadi terrorism.

A report “Are India and Pakistan Peace Talks Worth a Damn”, authored by Ashley J Tellis stated that such a move supported by foreign countries would be counterproductive and misguided.

The report suggests that International community’s call for the India and Pakistan talks don’t recognize that the tension between the two countries is not actually due to the sharp differences between them, but due to the long rooted ideological, territorial and power-political hatred. The report states that these antagonisms are fueled by Pakistani army’s desire to subvert India’s powerful global position.

Tellis writes that Pakistan’s hatred is driven by its aim to be considered and treated equal to India, despite the vast differences in their achievements and capabilities.

Also ReadMilitant Groups in Pakistan Emerge as Political Parties : Can Violent Extremism and Politics Co-exist? 

New Delhi, however, has kept their stance clear and mentioned that India and Pakistan talks cannot be conducted, until, the latter stops supporting terrorism, and the people conducting destructive activities in India.

The report further suggests that Pakistan sees India as a genuine threat and continuously uses Jihadi terrorism as a source to weaken India. The report extends its support to India’s position and asks other international powers, including the U.S., to extend their support to New Delhi.

Earlier in September, Union External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj in the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) slammed Pakistan for its continuous terror activities. She attacked the country by saying that India has produced engineers, doctors, and scholars; Pakistan has produced terrorists.

Sushma Swaraj further said that when India is being recognised in the world for its IT and achievements in the space, Pakistan is producing Terrorist Organisations like Lashkar-e-Taiba. She said that Pakistan is the world’s greatest exporter of havoc, death and inhumanity.

-by Megha Acharya  of NewsGram. Megha can be reached at @ImMeghaacharya.