Sunday October 22, 2017
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Modi to Address both Houses of Congress in The US Next Week

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U.S. President Barack Obama and India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi (R) talk as they have coffee and tea together in the gardens of Hyderabad House in New Delhi January 25, 2015. REUTERS/Jim Bourg/File Photo

NEW DELHI/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Two years ago there were questions over whether Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi could get a visa to enter the United States. Next week he visits Washington as one of President Barack Obama’s closest international allies.

Obama invited Modi for one of the last big visits by a world leader before his term ends in January. Although the trip won’t feature a lavish state dinner, the Indian leader will address both houses of Congress, considered a rare honor.

This will be their seventh meeting since Modi became prime minister in May 2014, an impressive tally for a U.S. president and a leader who is not a formal ally, said Ashley Tellis at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington.

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi (L) and U.S. President Barack Obama watch India's Republic Day parade from behind rain streaked bullet proof glass as they stand in the rain together in New Delhi January 26, 2015. REUTERS/Jim Bourg/File Photo
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi (L) and U.S. President Barack Obama watch India’s Republic Day parade from behind rain streaked bullet proof glass as they stand in the rain together in New Delhi January 26, 2015. REUTERS/Jim Bourg/File Photo

“The personal relationship between the president and the prime minister … is really one of the unanticipated surprises of the past two years,” said Tellis, an expert on India.

The developing relationship is seen as an Obama foreign policy success. Washington views India as an important part of its rebalance to Asia and as a counterweight to China.

The two countries are finalizing agreements that would make it possible for their militaries to cooperate more closely, and for U.S. defense manufacturers to both sell and make high-tech weaponry in India.
A deal on logistics would govern issues such as how the two countries account for costs of military exercises. Another involves encrypted communications and geospatial data transfer.

A history of colonial rule followed by decades of non-alignment has, however, made New Delhi wary of an embrace by the more powerful United States, which has overtaken Russia as India’s top arms supplier.

“It is neither a strategic partnership nor an alliance,” said Nitin Gokhale, founder of defense portal Bharat Shakti. “It can be a long-term arrangement, but to call it a strategic partnership would be premature.”

There are frustrations, too, on the U.S. side.

The two countries reached a civil nuclear agreement in 2005, but it has yet to yield any contracts for U.S.-based companies. Only now is Westinghouse, a unit of Japan’s Toshiba, approaching the finish line on a deal to build six reactors in India.

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The visit gives Modi a chance to network with U.S. lawmakers who may feature in a Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton administration but, as it coincides with the California primary, he is not expected to meet either.

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Modi is generally popular with U.S. lawmakers, who extended his invitation to address Congress. But they criticize what they see as lingering unfriendliness to U.S. firms and a stifling bureaucracy, and question New Delhi’s record on human rights.

“The economic engagement between our two countries should increase and it should be more accessible for U.S. companies,” Senator Bob Corker, the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a telephone interview.

Obama and Modi are expected to discuss India’s desire to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), a 48-member club of nuclear trading nations.

India was shut out for decades because of its weapons program, and the civil nuclear agreement with the United States gave it access to foreign suppliers without giving up its arms.

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Obama administration officials have said they backed India’s desire to join the group, but the idea faces resistance among some on Capitol Hill, as well as from China, an ally of India’s arch-rival Pakistan.

“Existing NSG guidelines were established to guard against nuclear proliferation, and we should not create exceptions for particular countries,” Corker said.

There is lingering concern in Washington over Modi’s handling of communal riots in 2002 that killed at least 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, in Gujarat.

Modi was chief minister of the state at the time and, though a court-ordered inquiry found insufficient evidence to prosecute him, the issue prevented him from getting a U.S. visa for years.

Ben Cardin, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, raised human rights on a visit to New Delhi this week, saying the two largest democracies had “special obligations” to set the highest standards.

Congress’ Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission has scheduled a hearing on India for June 7, the day Modi arrives in Washington and the day before his address to the combined House of Representatives and Senate. He leaves the United States on June 8.

Corker promised to ask Modi about India’s record on human trafficking, which he brought up recently in an emotional Senate hearing with Obama administration officials.

“The country we believe has 12-14 million slaves, which is close to half the number we believe exists worldwide,” Corker said. “It’s obviously a very significant issue and when he’s here, it’s one I certainly plan to raise.”

 

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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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4 Ships Banned From All Ports For Violating North Korea Sanctions

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South Korea's naval ships
South Korea's naval ships take part in a military drill for possible attack from North Korea in the water of the East Sea, South Korea. voa

The U.N. Security Council has banned all nations from allowing four ships that transported prohibited goods to and from North Korea to enter any port in their country.

Hugh Griffiths, head of the panel of experts investigating the implementation of U.N. sanctions against North Korea, announced the port bans at a briefing to U.N. member states on Monday. A North Korean diplomat attended the hour-long session.

Griffiths later told several reporters that “this is the first time in U.N. history” that the Security Council committee monitoring sanctions against Pyongyang has prohibited ships from entering all ports.

He identified the four cargo ships as the Petrel 8, Hao Fan 6, Tong San 2 and Jie Shun.

According to MarineTraffic, a maritime database that monitors vessels and their moments, Petrel 8 is registered in Comoros, Hao Fan 6 in St. Kitts and Nevis, and Tong San 2 in North Korea. It does not list the flag of Tong San 2 but said that on Oct. 3 it was in the Bohai Sea off north China.

Griffiths said the four ships were officially listed on Oct. 5 “for transporting prohibited goods,” stressing that this was “swift action” by the sanctions committee following the Aug. 6 Security Council resolution that authorized port bans.

That resolution, which followed North Korea’s first successful tests of intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching the United States, also banned the country from exporting coal, iron, lead and seafood products. Those goods are estimated to be worth over $1 billion – about one-third of the country’s estimated $3 billion in exports in 2016.

The Security Council unanimously approved more sanctions on Sept. 11, responding to North Korea’s sixth and strongest nuclear test explosion on Sept. 3.

These latest sanctions ban North Korea from importing all natural gas liquids and condensates, and cap its crude oil imports. They also prohibit all textile exports, ban all joint ventures and cooperative operations, and bars any country from authorizing new work permits for North Korean workers-key sources of hard currency for the northeast Asian nation.

Both resolutions are aimed at increasing economic pressure on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea – the country’s official name – to return to negotiations on its nuclear and missile programs.

Griffiths told U.N. diplomats that the panel of experts is getting reports that the DPRK “is continuing its attempts to export coal” in violation of U.N. sanctions.

“We have as yet no evidence whatsoever of state complicity, but given the large quantities of money involved and the excess capacity of coal in the DPRK it probably comes as no surprise to you all that they’re seeking to make some money here,” he said.

Griffiths said the panel is “doing our very best to monitor the situation and to follow up with member states who maybe have been taken advantage of by the tactics deployed by DPRK coal export entities.”

As for joint ventures and cooperative arrangements, Griffiths said the resolution gives them 120 days from Sept. 11 to close down.

But “in a number of cases, the indications are that these joint ventures aren’t shutting down at all but are on the contrary expanding _ and therefore joint ventures is a major feature of the panel’s current investigations,” he said.

Griffiths also asked all countries to pay “special attention” to North Korea’s Mansudae Overseas Project Group of Companies, also known as the Mansudae Art Studio, which is on the sanctions blacklist and subject to an asset freeze and travel ban.

According to the sanctions listing, Mansudae exports North Korea workers to other countries “for construction-related activities including for statues and monuments to generate revenue for the government of the DPRK or the (ruling) Workers’ Party of Korea.”

Griffiths said Mansudae “has representatives, branches and affiliates in the Asia-Pacific region, all over Africa and all over Europe.” Without elaborating, he added that “they’re doing an awful lot more than producing statues in Africa.” (voa)

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Las Vegas Massacre Begs the Question: Who Regulates Gun Selling?

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Lass Vegas massacre
Las Vegas Metro Police and medical workers stage in the intersection of Tropicana Avenue and Las Vegas Boulevard South after a mass shooting at a music festival on the Las Vegas Strip in Las Vegas, Nevada, Oct. 1, 2017. VOA
  • By Salil Gewali

Oct 08, 2017: Money can do any harmful thing. Yes, now it seems that one can buy lethal weapons as easily as he buys his bread and butter from a store and the recent las vegas massacre proves this. How many have such violent cases happened in a couple of years? They are countless. They all have instantly extinguished the lives of endless innocent people. Sometimes Mississippi, Newtown, Texas, Las Vegas, and sometimes France, Kuwait, Manchester, Landon Bridge, Lahore…! In each case, if we go deeper, the big boss America is directly or indirectly responsible.

Well, as to the rise of gun culture in the USA, I totally blame its Government. The very recent Las Vegas massacre shocked the entire the world. How can the US Government allow Tom, Dick, and Harry to purchase the weapons? The police have found a stockpile of arsenal from the possession of perpetrator Stephen Paddock who killed 59 people, leaving 527 wounded. How did he procure this all deadly stuff? And what had stopped the government from totally banning gun selling in any manners in the wake of the cruel instances of shootings at various spots? Small kids are shooting themselves, schoolboys shooting their classmates for fun, sons gunning down fathers and mothers in a rage, wives shooting their hubbies over petty issues.

Las Vegas Massacre
Assault weapons and handguns are seen for sale at Capitol City Arms Supply in Springfield. VOA

Also Read: Las Vegas Mass Shooting Reignites Gun Debate in US Congress 

This is how the most advanced country in the world is now virtually reeling from a stream of horrific tragedies. Are not the leaders and business houses insanely stupid who all have been resisting the gun control legislation? They have not realized yet the “evil” also roars from gun barrels. Bluntly speaking, can these leaders give sharp daggers to their own kids? It is exactly like that. People may have grown up but their minds are cluttered with gory thoughts and sadism. And, the results are nowhere to make the world shudder with fear and anguish.

One wonders, how much more such dangerous tragedies should strike the mankind before the leaders come to sense and then act sensibly. No one should gamble with the life of the innocent. Explosive America cannot hit the jackpot for the humanity.

Salil Gewali is a well-known writer and author of ‘Great minds on India’. Twitter @SGewali