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India to work closely with Asean to build Regional Cooperation, says Minister of State for External Affairs V.K. Singh

Asean has evolved into a role model for regional cooperation, India on Thursday said it was working closely with it for building regional cooperation.

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Amb Rizali,& delegates of National Resilience Institute met Minister of State for External Affairs Gen (Retd) V.K Singh. Twitter

New Delhi, Jan 20, 2017: Observing that Asean has evolved into a role model for regional cooperation, India on Thursday said it was working closely with it for building regional cooperation.

Addressing the second edition of the international conference on ‘Asean-India Cultural and Civilisational Links’ in Jakarta, Minister of State for External Affairs V.K. Singh said that to mark the 25th anniversary of the Asean-India Dialogue Partnership, a host of events including a Commemorative Foreign Ministers’ Meeting and a Commemorative Summit will be held, an official release here said.

“Asean has evolved into a role model for regional cooperation. Today, it is appreciated for the stability it has brought to the region and its immediate neighbourhood. We look forward to working closely with Asean to weave a mutually beneficial legacy which would be cherished by future generations,” Singh added.

Other than Commemorative Summit and Commemorative Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, Singh said a Youth Summit and a host of other events including Asean-India Cultural Festivals, business events, policy seminars, public competitions, a car rally and sailing expedition across the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) member states will be held.

Singh said India’s Act East Policy lays significant focus on Asean-India relationship aimed at building a deeper engagement with South East Asia by expanding and comprehensively documenting India’s civilisational links with Asean countries.

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Singh also hailed the Asean India Centre in New Delhi for contributing towards Asean-India Strategic Partnership through its studies in areas of mutual interest.

“Another major project underway is the re-establishment of the Nalanda University, once a world-renowned knowledge hub where scholars from around the world, including South East Asia and India, exchanged knowledge and ideas.

“India is working to recreate a similar world class university in the 21st century, with the support of its South East Asian partners, and has offered scholarships to students from CLMV countries to study there,” Singh said.

“Contemporary popular culture in the form of music, Bollywood movies and TV soap operas, is forging a new understanding between us. The human element is vital in contemporary discourse. Our youth, our future generation, must engage and bond in a more systematic way and at a deeper level,” Singh added. (IANS)

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US Embassy in Jakarta Presents Security Warning for Americans in Indonesia

The American Embassy also warned of ongoing demonstrations at several offices related to the elections and around several public places in downtown Jakarta

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Police anti-terror unit escort suspected militants before a press conference in Jakarta, May 17, 2019. Police say they have arrested suspected militants following a tipoff about a possible attack during the announcement of presidential election results next week. VOA

The American Embassy in Jakarta has issued a security warning for Americans in Indonesia, citing concerns over the official announcement of the results of the Indonesian presidential and legislative elections on May 22 by the General Election Commission (KPU).

“Indonesian police officials have publicly cited a heightened risk of terrorism in connection with the finalization of election results, and media has reported recent arrests of Indonesians on terrorism charges,” the embassy posted on its website on Friday.

Be aware of demonstrations

The American Embassy also warned of ongoing demonstrations at several offices related to the elections and around several public places in downtown Jakarta, including offices of KPU and the General Elections Supervisory Board (BAWASLU). Demonstrations are also expected in several other cities, such as Surabaya in East Java and Medan in North Sumatra.

embassy, security warning
American Embassy in Jakarta has issued a security warning for Americans in Indonesia. Wikimedia Commons

The warning coincided with an announcement by Inspector General Mohammad Iqbal of the National Police Public Relations Division, who said at a press conference that nine people had been arrested earlier in the week in connection with a plot to bomb several unspecified locations during the current election period.

The suspects, aged between 24 and 45, are from a Jemaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD) terrorist cell in Central Java. Arrested Tuesday, six of the suspects had returned home after traveling to the Middle East to join the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, according to authorities quoted by the Straits Times.

68 suspects arrested since start of year

Since January, Indonesia’s Anti-Terror Detachment-88 has arrested 68 terrorism suspects, including the nine taken into custody this week, Iqbal said at the press conference. Seven were shot dead and one died after blowing himself up as he was about to be arrested in Sibolga, North Sumatra, Iqbal said, adding, “This group will take advantage of the democracy momentum because for them democracy is not in line with their understanding, and for them it is a target for their actions.”

embassy, security warning
The American Embassy also warned of ongoing demonstrations at several offices related to the elections and around several public places in downtown Jakarta. Pixabay

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On April 17, Indonesians voted in the first simultaneous elections since the country began democratic elections, with 193 million voters going to more than 810,000 polls. The first democratic presidential election took place in 2004.

The results, according to early returns, showed that incumbent President Joko Widodo defeated his opponent, Prabowo Subianto, a retired military general associated with the traditional political elite, who had vowed to challenge the official results if they confirmed that Widodo would have a second term. Widodo is the first Indonesian president from outside the Jakarta elite. (VOA)

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Atal Bihari Vajpayee: A Peace Visionary and a Man Who Believed in India’s Destiny and was Ready To Fight For It

It was precisely this persona of Vajpayee -- one merged in Hindutva ideology yet seemingly not wholly willing to bow to it -- that won him admirers cutting across the political spectrum.

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Atal Bihari Vajpayee,
Atal Bihari Vajpayee, India's peace visionary. Image: Flickr

Atal Bihari Vajpayee was a man of moderation in a fraternity of jingoistic nationalists; a peace visionary in a region riven by religious animosity; and a man who believed in India’s destiny and was ready to fight for it.

Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee (93), who died on Thursday, will go down in history as a person who tried to end years of hostility with Pakistan and put development on the front burner of the country’s political agenda. He was also the first non-Congress Prime Minister to complete a full five-year term.

Even though he lived the last 13 years of his life in virtual isolation, dogged by debilitating illnesses and bedridden, he has left an enduring legacy for the nation and the region where he was much loved and respected across the political spectrum and national boundaries, including in Pakistan.

Vajpayee, former Indian Prime Minister
Vajpayee stunned the world by making India a declared nuclear state. Image: Wikimedia Commons

In the tumultuous period he presided over the destiny of the world’s largest democracy, Vajpayee stunned the world by making India a declared nuclear state and then almost went to war with Pakistan before making peace with it in the most dramatic fashion.
In the process, his popularity came to match that of Indira Gandhi, a woman he admired for her guts even as he hated her politics.

He also became the best-known national leader after Indira Gandhi and her father Jawaharlal Nehru.

After despairing for years that he would never become Prime Minister and was destined to remain an opposition leader all his life, he achieved his goal, but only for 13 days, from May 16-28, 1996, after his deputy, L.K. Advani, chose not to contest elections that year.
His second term came on March 19, 1998, and lasted 13 months, a period during which India stunned the world by undertaking a series of nuclear tests that invited global reproach.

Although his tenure again proved short-lived, his and his government’s enhanced stature following the world-defying blasts enabled him to return as Prime Minister for the third time on October 13, 1999, a tenure that lasted a full five-year term.

When finally he stepped down in May 2004, after an election that he was given to believe he would win, it marked the end of a long and eventful political career spanning six decades.

Vajpayee had gone into these elections riding a personality cult that projected him as a man who had brought glory to the nation in unprecedented ways. The BJP’s election strategy rested on seeking a renewed mandate over three broad pillars of achievement that the government claimed — political stability in spite of the pulls and pressures of running a multi-party coalition; a “shining” economy that saw a dizzying 10.4 percent growth in the last quarter of the previous year; and peace with Pakistan that changed the way the two countries looked at each other for over 50 years.

The results of the elections could not have come as a greater shock to a man who was hailed for his achievements and who was named by Time magazine as one of the 100 influential men of the decade.

Success didn’t come easily to the charismatic politician, who was born on Christmas Day in 1924 in Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh, into a family of moderate means. His father was a school teacher and Vajpayee would later recall his early brush with poverty.

He did his Masters in Political Science, studying at the Victoria College in Gwalior and at the DAV College in Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh, where he first contested, and lost, elections. He began his professional career as a journalist, working with Rashtradharma, a Hindi monthly, Panchjanya, a Hindi weekly, and two Hindi dailies, Swadesh and Veer Arjun. By then he had firmly embraced the ideals of the Hindu nationalist Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS).
But even as he struggled to win electoral battles, his command over Hindi, the lingua franca of the North Indian masses, his conciliatory politics and his riveting oratory brought him into public limelight.

Also read: For Modi, Road To 2019 Will Be Steeper

His first entry into Parliament was in 1962 through the Rajya Sabha, the upper house. It was only in 1971 that he won a Lok Sabha election. He was elected to the lower house seven times and to the Rajya Sabha twice.

Vajpayee
Vajpayee spent months in prison when Indira Gandhi imposed Emergency rule in June 1975. Image: Wikimedia Commons

Vajpayee spent months in prison when Indira Gandhi imposed Emergency rule in June 1975 and put her political opponents in jail. When the Janata Party took office in 1977, dethroning the Congress for the first time, he became the foreign minister.

The lowest point in his career came when he lost the 1984 Lok Sabha polls, that too from his birthplace Gwalior, after Rajiv Gandhi won an overwhelming majority following his mother Indira Gandhi’s assassination. And the BJP he led ended up with just two seats in
the 545-member Lok Sabha, in what looked like the end of the road for the right-wing party.

In no time, Vajpayee was replaced and “eclipsed” by his long-time friend L.K. Advani.
Although they were the best of friends publicly, Vajpayee never fully agreed with Advani’s and the assorted Hindu nationalist groups’ strident advocacy of Hindutva, an ideology ranged against the idea of secular India.

Often described as the right man in the wrong party, there were also those who belittled him as a moderate “mask” to a hardline Hindu nationalist ideology. Often he found his convictions and value systems at odds with the party, but the bachelor-politician never went against it.

It was precisely this persona of Vajpayee — one merged in Hindutva ideology yet seemingly not wholly willing to bow to it — that won him admirers cutting across the political spectrum. It was this trait that made him the Prime Minister when the BJP’s allies concluded they needed a moderate to steer a hardliner, pro-Hindu party.

He brought into governance measures that created for India a distinct international status on the diplomatic and economic fronts. In his third prime ministerial stint, Vajpayee launched a widely acclaimed diplomatic initiative by starting a bus service between New Delhi and Pakistan’s Lahore city.

Its inaugural run in February 1999 carried Vajpayee and was welcomed on the border by his Pakistan counterpart Nawaz Sharif. It was suspended only after the 2001 terror attack on the Indian Parliament that nearly led to a war between the two nuclear-armed neighbours.

The freeze between the two countries, including an eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation on the border for nearly a year, was finally cracked in the spring of 2003 when Vajpayee, while in Kashmir, extended a “hand of friendship” to Pakistan. That led to the historic summit in January 2004 with then President Pervez Musharraf in Islamabad — a remarkable U-turn after the failed summit in Agra of 2001. Despite the two men being so far apart in every way, Musharraf developed a strong liking for the Indian leader.

His unfinished task, one that he would probably rue, would be the peace process with Pakistan that he had vowed to pursue to its logical conclusion and a resolution of the Kashmir dispute.

He was not known as “Atal-Ji”, a name that translates into firmness, for nothing. He could go against the grain of his party if he saw it deviate from its path. When Hindu hardliners celebrated the destruction of the 16th century Babri Mosque at Ayodhya, he was full of personal remorse for the apocalyptic action and called it — in a landmark interview to IANS — the “worst miscalculation” and a “misadventure”. He even despaired that “moderates have no place — who is going to listen to the voice of sanity?”

In his full five-year term, he successively carried forward India’s economic reforms programme with initiatives to improve infrastructure, including flagging off a massive national highway project that has become associated with his vision, went for massive privatisation of unviable state undertakings despite opposition from even within his own party.

While his personal image remained unsullied despite his long innings in the murky politics of this country, his judgment was found wanting when his government was rocked by an arms bribery scandal that sought to expose alleged payoffs to some senior members of his cabinet. His failure to speak up when members of his party and its sister organisations, who are accused of killing more than 1,000 Muslims in Gujarat, was questioned by the liberal fraternity who wondered aloud about his secular proclamations. He wanted then Chief Minister — now Prime Minister, Narendra Modi — to take responsibility for the riots and quit but was prevailed upon by others not to press his decision.

A day before his party lost power, Vajpayee was quoted as saying in a television interview that if and when he stepped down he would like to devote his time to writing and poetry. But fate ruled otherwise. The man who once rued that “I have waited too long to be Prime Minister” found his last days in a world far removed from the adulation and attention — though across the nation people prayed for his well-being — surrounded only by care-givers and close family whom he even failed to recognize. (IANS)

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Aadhaar Helpline Mystery: French Security Expert Tweets of doing a Full Disclosure Tomorrow about Code of the Google SetUP Wizard App

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Google comes up with a new feature

Google’s admission that it had in 2014 inadvertently coded the 112 distress number and the UIDAI helpline number into its setup wizard for Android devices triggered another controversy on Saturday as India’s telecom regulator had only recommended the use of 112 as an emergency number in April 2015.

After a large section of smartphone users in India saw a toll-free helpline number of UIDAI saved in their phone-books by default, Google issued a statement, saying its “internal review revealed that in 2014, the then UIDAI helpline number and the 112 distress helpline number were inadvertently coded into the SetUp wizard of the Android release given to OEMs for use in India and has remained there since”.

Aadhaar Helpline Number Mystery: French security expert tweets of doing a full disclosure tomorrow about Code of the Google SetUP Wizard App, Image: Wikimedia Commons.

However, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) recommended only in April 2015 that the number 112 be adopted as the single emergency number for the country.

According to Google, “since the numbers get listed on a user’s contact list, these get  transferred accordingly to the contacts on any new device”.

Google was yet to comment on the new development.

Meanwhile, French security expert that goes by the name of Elliot Alderson and has been at the core of the entire Aadhaar controversy, tweeted on Saturday: “I just found something interesting. I will probably do full disclosure tomorrow”.

“I’m digging into the code of the @Google SetupWizard app and I found that”.

“As far as I can see this object is not used in the current code, so there is no implications. This is just a poor coding practice in term of security,” he further tweeted.

On Friday, both the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) as well as the telecom operators washed their hand of the issue.

While the telecom industry denied any role in the strange incident, the UIDAI said that he strange incident, the UIDAI said that some vested interests were trying to create “unwarranted confusion” in the public and clarified that it had not asked any manufacturer or telecom service provider to provide any such facility.

Twitter was abuzz with the new development after a huge uproar due to Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) Chairman R.S. Sharma’s open Aadhaar challenge to critics and hackers.

Ethical hackers exposed at least 14 personal details of the TRAI Chairman, including mobile numbers, home address, date of birth, PAN number and voter ID among others. (IANS)

Also Read: Why India Is Still Nowhere Near Securing Its Citizens’ Data?