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Modi-Sharif meet likely at TAPI pipeline ceremony in Turkmenistan

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New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi is likely to meet his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan on December 13 on the sidelines of a ceremony on much-anticipated $10-billion TAPI gas pipeline.

The proposed pipeline will supply gas from Turkmenistan to Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, The Express Tribune reported.

Construction of Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline will begin from December 13 in Turkmenistan, said an official of Interstate Gas Systems Private Ltd. on Tuesday.

TAPI project will commence next week, some 25 years after the inception of the project, Dawn online quoted Mobin Saulat, managing director of IGSP, as saying.

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif along with Afghanistan and Indian leaders will attend the groundbreaking ceremony of the $10 billion project in Asghabat.

Saulat said the dialogue to import gas for energy-starved Pakistan was initiated with Turkmenistan in 1990, and added that work on the pipeline will finally commence next week.

Pakistan’s Interstate Gas Systems, along with Turkmenistan’s Turkmengas, Afghanistan’s Afghan Gas Enterprise and India’s Gail Ltd., has equal shareholding in the TAPI Pipeline Company Limited (TPCL).

Gas supply to Pakistan via TAPI project will begin in 2019, Saulat said.

According to Saulat, Pakistan and India will get over 1.3 billion cubic feet per day of gas from TAPI while Afghanistan will get 0.5 billion cubic feet.

India will pay $200-250 million in transit fees to Pakistan while Pakistan will pay the same amount as transit fees to Afghanistan, he said.

Pakistan and India have both purchased five percent shares of the TAPI project, Saulat said.

The pipeline has a stretch of 1,800 km and is likely to cost more than $10 billion.

Turkmenistan media said the government expects the gas link, with an annual capacity of 33 billion cubic metres, to be fully operational by the end of 2018.

The TAPI project could help ease growing energy deficits of Asian giants Pakistan and India.

The project is politically complex, requiring cooperating governments, and logistically challenging, as the pipeline would pass through areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan plagued by Taliban and separatist insurgents.

(With inputs from agencies)

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Re-arrest Hafiz Saeed: USA tells Paksitan

Hafiz Saeed was designated a terrorist by the U.S. Justice Department, which has a $10 million reward for his capture or killing. He was released from house arrest before dawn Friday. After being freed, Hafiz has vowed to fight for Kashmir.

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Hafiz Saeed
Hafiz Saeed, head of the Pakistani religious party, Jamaat-ud-Dawa, gestures outside a court in Lahore, Pakistan, Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2017. A Pakistani court has rejected the government’s plea to extend for three months the house arrest of the former leader of a banned militant group allegedly linked to 2008 Mumbai terrorist attack. (AP Photo/K.M. Chaudary)

The United States has issued a statement condemning the release of Hafiz Saeed by Pakistan authorities, the mastermind of Mumbai terrorist attacks and has asked that he be rearrested and charged for his crimes.

Pakistani authorities have released a U.S.-wanted militant cleric who allegedly masterminded the 2008 attacks in Mumbai, India, that killed 168 people.

On Wednesday, a court in Pakistan rejected the government’s plea to extend the house arrest of Hafiz Saeed for three months and ordered his release, saying the government had failed to substantiate the charges of terrorism.

Saeed was designated a terrorist by the U.S. Justice Department, which has a $10 million reward for his capture or killing. He was released from house arrest before dawn Friday.

Saeed ran the Jamaat-ud-Dawa organization, believed to be a front for the Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group that was behind the attack in Mumbai, India.

Pakistan put Saeed and four of his aides under house arrest in Lahore in January following increased U.S. pressure on Islamabad to rein in militant groups. Saeed’s aides were released earlier.

On Thursday, India condemned the decision of the Pakistani court to release Saeed from house arrest.

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Cleaning of Ganga is not impossible, but it is very difficult.

The holy river is also one of the most polluted river

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Ganga in Haridwar
A pile of garbage lies on the riverbank along the Ganges riverfront known as "Har ki Pauri," the most sacred spot in the Hindu holy town of Haridwar where devotees throng. VOA

– Saket Suman

About five years ago, when Financial Times journalist and author Victor Mallet began living in Delhi, he was shocked to discover that the Yamuna — “this beautiful river of Indian legend and art” — was chocked with untreated sewage and industrial waste after it had passed through the city on its way to Mathura, Agra and on to join the Ganga at Allahabad He wondered “how a river so sacred to so many Indians could also be so polluted and neglected” and then set out to record the plight of the Ganga.

His exhaustive journey led him to various key locations on the river, including its source at Gaumukh and Sagar Island and the Sunderbans at its mouth in the Bay of Bengal. This culminated in the publication of “River of Life, River of Death” (Oxford University Press/Rs 550/316 pages).

“My conclusion is that it is not impossible (to clean the Ganga) — but it is very difficult. Narendra Modi is the latest of several Indian prime ministers to announce plans to rescue the Ganga — in fact, I would say he has been the most fervent — but like his predecessors, he has struggled to implement these plans despite the availability of funds from India itself and from international donors such as the World Bank and Japan.

“Clearly, the Ganga has enormous problems of physical pollution from sewage, industrial toxins and pesticide run-off. Too much of the water is diverted for irrigation in the dry season, which can leave parts of the river without water before the monsoon. But with political will and public support — I don’t think anyone in India objects to saving the river — it can be done,” Mallet told IANS in an email interview from Hong Kong.

The important thing, he maintained, is to change mindsets and he noted in this context that it is quite common among devout Hindus to say: “Ma Ganga is so spiritually pure that nothing we throw in the river will sully her or make a difference.”

The author said that sensible holy men and environmentalists who care for the Ganga term this as nonsense — and the reason it’s not true is that the Ganga’s very spiritual power arises from its physical properties as a life-giver, as a provider of water and fertility.

“That’s why rivers have always been worshipped in ancient times, including in England. So if you destroy the river’s life-giving qualities through pollution, you destroy the source of her spiritual importance,” he added.

In the book, he also states that it is not impossible to clean the Ganges, “as river clean-ups in Europe and America have shown”.

Elaborating on this, he said: “When I was a child living in London, my mother always told me not to fall in the Thames because the river was so filthy that if I fell in I would have to go to hospital and have my stomach pumped! Yet today the Thames is clean — muddy, but virtually free of industrial pollution and untreated sewage — because successive governments and water and sanitation companies have stopped the pollution.

“The same is true of the Rhine in continental Europe and the Chicago river in the United States. The great thing about rivers is that you don’t have to scrub them clean — you just have to stop polluting them and the natural flow of the river does the rest.”

Mallet maintained that the record on the Ganga has so far been disappointing in terms of implementation, but hoped that there will be a change now that there is a new minister in charge.

“If you clean the Ganga by improving sanitation, you not only save the goddess, you also create thousands of jobs in infrastructure development, and save the lives of thousands of children who die each year because of bad water, poor hygiene and stomach bugs. Likewise, if India curbs its greenhouse gases — and this seems to be happening anyway because alternative energy such as solar power is now very competitive on price — then that will also help it to reduce the kind of air pollution that has recently been afflicting Delhi and the whole of North India,” he maintained.

Mallet went on to add that he learnt a lot about the mythology and the history of the river — and the history of India — in the course of his research for the book.

“In a way, India is so rich in civilisations and stories that you can never say you have completed your work as a researcher and writer. You can at least make a start, and also explain the contemporary political, social, religious and environmental issues that affect the river and the country as a whole,” Mallet said. (IANS)

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‘World’s Oldest’ Buddha Statue Unearthed in Pakistan During Excavations

A centuries-old sleeping Buddha statue has been unearthed during excavations near Bhamala Stupa in Haripur district of Pakistan's Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

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Buddha Statue
Buddha Statue is found excavated in Pakistan. Pixabay.

Islamabad, November 17: A centuries-old sleeping Buddha statue has been unearthed during excavations near Bhamala Stupa in Haripur district of Pakistan’s Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Directorate of Archaeology And Museums Director Abdul Samad told Dawn News: “The 48-feet-long sleeping Buddha statue dates back to the third century, which makes it the world’s oldest sleeping Buddha statue.”

He said that archaeologists found the statue, with its head intact, during excavations near the Bhamala Stupa.

“We have discovered more than 500 Buddha-related objects during excavations, in addition to the 48-feet long ‘sleeping Buddha’,” he said.

The latest discoveries by the archaeologists have opened new chapters in the history of the ancient Taxila Valley Civilisation.

“This is one of the few sites in the world to have the cruciform Stupa, which was reserved for Buddha himself,” Samad had said. (IANS)