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Modi-Sharif ‘secret’ meet: Why now, Barkha?

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So renowned journalist Barkha Dutt’s much-awaited debut book is out wherein she has reportedly made some startling revelations about an hour-long secret meeting in Nepal between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif in 2014.

The secret rendezvous was allegedly facilitated by Indian steel magnate Sajjan Jindal, brother of former Congress MP Naveen Jindal, in the former’s hotel room in Kathmandu during Saarc summit in November 2014, or so claims Barkha Dutt in her book ‘This Unquiet Land — Stories from India’s Fault Lines’.

Dutt writes Modi called up Jindal from Nepal and asked him to take the earliest flight to Kathmandu. “Jindal was asked to discreetly reach out to his ‘friend’ across the border”. The two leaders then met quietly “in the privacy of Jindal’s hotel room”, where they spent an hour together, reported The Hindustan Times.

All this happened while the two leaders publically ignored each other or pretended to do so during the public events of Saarc 2014.

At this juncture, we are not in a position to confirm the veracity of the claims made by Dutt as neither Modi, Sharif or Jindal have denied nor confirmed the meeting yet. Assuming that their tête-a-tête actually did take place, it was an important issue of national importance and the public had every right to know what was happening behind the closed doors.

Dutt, being a well-known Television journalist with NDTV, was in the know of the secret encounter between the two premiers in 2014. It’s been over a year since the meeting. Did she have to wait for her book to reveal this issue of national security and importance? That’s the question worth pondering over. I understand controversy sells and people do all kinds of stuff to publicize their books. The more the sensational claims, the more controversy it is likely to generate.

Most of these books by noted personalities are published around elections and in the times to float or support an existing agenda.

Sanjay Baru’s book is an apt example in this regard wherein a lot of muck was hurled at former PM Manmohan Singh in an apparent bid to damage his reputation. Shiv Sena smeared Sudhendra Kulkarni with ink at former Pakistani foreign minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri’s book launch function in Mumbai. Kasuri also made ‘startling disclosures’ in regard to backchannel Indo-Pak talks.

I can understand a politician like Kasuri would want to reveal this information in a book considering his constraints. But for a reputed journalist to withhold the information of national importance from the public seems unethical to me. Allow me to elucidate why.

One year is a long time and much water has flown under the Indo-Pak bridge since then. People should have been informed that despite public hostility, PM Modi was secretly meeting with Sharif and all talks were being facilitated by Indian businessmen, as claimed by Dutt.

However, Dutt chose to hold back the information for her book, an apparent disservice to the profession of journalism. Besides, this episode reveals the futility of all these books written by noted journalists and bureaucrats. People do not understand what these people are trying to achieve by making ‘startling revelations’ in their books. This story of such a secret meeting could have made headlines and impact on the national political discourse had it been revealed last year itself.

What has Barkha Dutt achieved by denying this ‘news’ to the public? Increased book sales, probably.

(Image: NDTV)

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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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Dalai Lama says that India and China have great potential

The spiritual leader feels that both the countries are doing compassionate works

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Dalai Lama talks about India and China
Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai says that India and China can work together. VOA

New Delhi, Nov 19

Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama on Sunday said India and China have “great potential” and they could work together at a “practical level”.

“I think, a great potential… India and China combined are doing more compassionate work… At a practical level also. Imagine two billion people working together,” he told reporters here after inaugurating Smile Foundation’s initiative, The World of Children.

The spiritual leader, who has lived in India in self-imposed exile since 1959, said neither country had the “ability to destroy the other”.

“Whether you like it or not, you have to live side by side,” he said.

Underlining the ancient spiritual connection between the two countries, he said Chinese Buddhist Hsuan Tsang visited Nalanda (now in Bihar) and brought Nalanda Buddhist traditions to China.

“All thinkers of Nalanda are Indian. So Nalanda’s tradition is India’s tradition,” he said.

The Nalanda traditions had turned Tibetans, who were warriors, into more compassionate, peaceful and non-violent nation, he said.

“So sometimes in Delhi, teasing my Indian friend, (I say) if Tibet still remained in the previous way of life, like Mongols, Chinese invasion may not have taken place,” the Dalai Lama said in a lighter vein.

He said nobody in the world wanted violence but it was happening “because our minds are dominated by destructive emotions due to short-sightedness”.

“Nobody wants problems. Yet, many problems are our own creation.”

The Dalai Lama said the existing modern education was oriented to material values. India can take lead in improving the education system by combining modern education with ancient knowledge, he said. (IANS)

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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)